PODCAST: Can My Vagina Have a Brain? Let’s Talk Mind-Body Connection!

by | Dec 2, 2021 | Podcasts, Uncategorized | 27 comments

Arousal Non-Concordance Podcast
Merchandise is Here!

Let’s jump in with our embodiment series on the blog–and the podcast!

This month we’re going to be talking about embodiment, leading up to Christmas. Our bodies are important. Jesus took on human form to live among us. He resurrected bodily, as will we. He showed in his miracles that our physical selves matter to Him.

And God created us to experience relationship not just with our feelings or our souls but also with our bodies. 

So how do we live our feelings through our bodies? How do we learn to inhabit our bodies more? Join us as Rebecca and I jumpstart this series, and then Keith and I get all scientific about arousal non-concordance and mindfulness!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

 

Timeline of the Podcast

1:00 The Concept of Embodiment
6:15 C-Section Backlash?!
10:45 The Value of Other Perspectives
25:10 RQ: My Physical and Mental state aren’t connecting during sex!
37:10 Keith joins to talk science!
47:00 Using mindfulness as a key to orgasm
54:30 Encouragement

Main Segment: Why Our Bodies Matter

Rebecca and I jump in to what embodiment means, and why our bodies matter.

And then we address some concerns that came into the blog from women expressing dismay that we were happy that Rebecca had a C-section rather than a natural birth. We wanted to point out that the C-section saved her and her baby’s life, because things went bad very, very fast, including ruptures. 

And then we’d like to address how often we downplay what other people experience physically because we haven’t experienced it as badly. So someone says they have bad cramps, and we assume we understand–but do we? 

Reader Question: I feel distant from my husband but I get aroused and I don’t want to

Here’s a question that ties perfectly in with what we want to talk about today: 

Mid-forties, Married a decade and a half. I grew up in a Christian home but sex was never discussed. Growing up I was told that sex came after marriage. In college, boys introduced me to sex with plenty of alcohol. As I matured I re committed to abstinence until a relationship really felt committed. In the early years of my relationship with my husband sex was fun and enjoyable but not mind blowing like others describe. We have several children (beyond the toddler years). We were farmers 24/7 until relatively recently. My husband has always said the kids were my responsibility and the farm was his. But I was expected to work as hard as him on the farm plus all the childcare and housework. He never changed a single diaper or got up in the night with a child. Obviously sex was not frequent but it was pretty regular. I considered it part of my marriage committed and he got what he wanted with coercion/guilt. I rarely enjoyed it at all and was going through the motions. Sex is sometimes painful for me and I would close my eyes and bare it. Currently he works 12+ hour days 7 days a week. I work full time and handle kids activities and 2-3 hours of barn chores. Sometime in the last little while I started telling him no more often than yes. I’m trying to figure out why sex is so bad for me. It feels like my head and heart separate from the rest of my body. He enjoys the things my body will do and I can’t control it or stop it. When my body responds to his touch he feels like I enjoy it. I just wish my body would stop responding. I don’t enjoy it. I tolerate it when he really makes me feel guilty for saying no. This is a long, hard story to tell. Do other women ever describe the separation between how they think/feel and how their body naturally responds to touch/sex? I need help.

That does sound normal, and it’s called…

Arousal Non-Concordance: what it is and what we should know

After discussing the dynamics of the reader question, Keith jumps on the podcast and he and I discuss arousal non-concordance and what the research says–when your body and mind don’t sync up when it comes to arousal. I explained it in detail in yesterday’s post on arousal non-concordance, and in the podcast I summarize that post, so check it out for all the studies and links!

And then Keith and I talk about a new study on Mindfulness which shows that the key to re-establishing the mind-body connection is learning to practice mindfulness while you’re making love. And it helps with her orgasm, too! This is something we go over at length in the Orgasm Course as well. 

The Orgasm Course is Here to Help You Experience Real Passion!

Figure out what’s holding you back. Open the floodgates to orgasm.

We’re almost at 1,000,000 downloads of the Bare Marriage podcast!

We need roughly another 40,000. Can you help us get there by the end of the year? Subscribe to the podcast and download it onto your phone! Tell others about the podcast! Let’s have a big celebration when we get there.

(Just playing it or watching on YouTube doesn’t count, unfortunately. It’s wonderful to do, though! I likely have about 3 times as many plays as downloads, but download where you can and help push us over the edge!)

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

 

Arousal Non-Concordance Podcast

What do you think? Does the concept of arousal non-concordance surprise you? Do you find a lot of judgment about your own medical conditions from others? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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27 Comments

  1. Meredith

    I had two natural births, one at home and one at a birth center. My older sister is a midwife. And it bugs the crap out of me when people think they have a right to judge how women give birth. You do what is best for you and your baby- period! C-sections save lives and we should be glad and grateful they exist. Congratulations Rebecca and Vivian, I’m so glad you’re both safe and healthy.

    Reply
  2. Anon

    Thank you for speaking about coercion, and how often our lowered sex drive is a response of our mind’s (and body’s) good judgement. We shouldn’t want sex with a partner who treats us poorly. We shouldn’t want sex where the underlying meaning is to keep our spouse happy with us and treating us right.

    I get so frustrated that most sex blogs and books for women with low desire just kind of gloss over this. They will talk about how it can feel like a chore, and that we’re just doing it to keep our husband “off our back.” But they don’t ask the question “Why is he on her back about it?” It normalizes the behavior that your husband (or higher desire partner) will be pushy, pouty, demanding, coercive, etc because then the switch is to talk about responsive desire and how you just don’t know how to tap into it and release your inner sex goddess. But often the sex we have on offer from our partner isn’t sex worth having because of the meaning behind it.

    And then the worst of them even then start doing some weird victim blaming, like saying you can’t expect him to treat you lovingly when you don’t give him sex (a cruse paraphrase, but the “what if he didn’t talk to you” analogy is an example of this.)

    I just wanted to say I appreciate you for calling it what it is.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Throughout my 2.5 year marriage, I lacked the desire for sex and wondered what was wrong with me. Well, like you mentioned this: We shouldn’t want sex with a partner who treats us poorly. We shouldn’t want sex where the underlying meaning is to keep our spouse happy with us and treating us right.

      My ex didn’t treat me well unless I was giving him enough sex. I just thought that’s the way marriage was. “Women give sex to get love and men give love to get sex” was something I heard from author Shannon Etheridge who wrote ‘Every Woman’s Battle.’ I think I heard this echoed by other authors as well, both inside and outside the evangelical authors’ circle.

      Reply
  3. A2bbethany

    I’m kinda going through this, but with a financial twist. It’s hard to think about wanting to be intimate, when we’re in disagreement about our situation. He got a job that tightened our budget to it’s tightest point and it’s terrifying me. But he’s determined to make it work until the baby comes. I’m seeing us being flat broke and with medical bills.so we’re just back in survival mode.

    Reply
  4. LinB

    Another fabulous podcast, packed with so much good stuff! I had not heard of the term “arousal non-concordance” (although I am a fan of L&O: SVU – I must have missed that episode(s) or just don’t recall the term!), but I do know & understand the concept. It completely makes sense & is definitely something I’ve experienced in the past…. especially if under stress about something (I’m talking about tasks that need to get done or remembering my Daughter needs a costume for school – in 2 days – simple life things) – it can be hard to turn off your mind & focus on being fully present with your husband! That’s something that TGSR did help, as well, to learn to let stuff go during love making & focus on my Husband & myself & to allow myself to just enjoy our time together! The worries will be there later to pick up… it’s wonderful to engage in an escape together.
    Rebecca, I am so sorry that some individuals tend to be so quick to judge others without even knowing ALL of the particulars of a situation. I had hoped for a “wonderfully natural” enlightened (I’m being sarcastic!) birth with my Daughter, but I was not progressing, cervix not dilating. After 2 hours it had only moved 1 cm, despite my major contractions & doing my best to walk the halls with my Husband. Well, they started a pit drip & of course, I then needed an epidural in the worst way!! Unfortunately, after that, my Daughter’s heart rate did drop & my BP crashed. At the hospital I was at, they called a “Code Silver” (I didn’t know that code existed!) – emergency C-section! I was frightened – I’m a RN, this wasn’t my plan, what did they mean I needed an emergency C-Section! My Husband was terrified. Anyhow, afterwards all I could picture in my mind was a big gentle hand & that my wee Daughter, my Husband & I were in the palm of God’s hand. I too, am thankful that God has given wisdom to Doctors to be able to help woman birth babies in 2 ways! I’m thankful that you & Vivian & myself & my Amber are alive!! God IS good! Congratulations on your wee Girl! There’s something so special about having a Daughter! I’m praying for your continued recovery. I know the first 2 weeks post-op I felt like H*LL, yet magically by the 3rd week I felt great! My wee girl is 6 1/2 now!
    To those who felt it necessary to send your uninformed, judgemental emails to Rebecca about your “expert” opinion on “natural birth” being best – please consider having all of the facts first. Even then, have compassion for someone else’s situation. Please examine yourselves. Is it truly necessary to expression your dismay to a newly post-partum Mom about her excitement of her Birth experience? Did your comments build up, or tear down?
    Yay! We grew babies & they were delivered successfully & we are alive! Praise The Lord!

    Reply
    • J

      My logical brain with a good deal of sometimes useless information got stuck on the phrase “code silver”. My mom worked in a hospital for 30 years. In the US, that has nothing to with a C-section. That’s the code to call security because a hostile person is armed with a weapon.
      Sorry. I’m also the one noticing that wrote the script for that medical scene in a show not known for medical scenes, may not have consulted anyone before writing “the lumbar puncture showed increased swelling of the brain”. I’m one of those painfully analytical types chock-full of odd trivia. (Between my mom’s line of work, and my late husband’s medical treatments, I have clearly spent too much time in hospitals. When you can decipher most of the codes…)

      On a non-trivial note, thank God for good doctors and wisdom. Glad all parties lived to tell the tale. (I was also delivered emergency C-section, but that’s another story for another day.)

      Reply
    • Lisa

      The book, “Come As You Are” discusses arousal non-concordance very well. It’s a good book to read.

      Reply
  5. Anon

    SO much good stuff here. Yes to the importance of listening to different experiences. I suffered with extreme period pain for YEARS because everyone (including doctors) assumed I was just making a fuss about ‘normal’ pain. After 15+ years, I finally found a doctor who listened, asked questions to establish what kind of pain and said ‘that’s not normal’. (And yes to making c-sections normal and shame-free. I get so angry when friends feel they have to apologise for not ‘managing’ a natural birth, as if they are somehow at fault. Or when someone says ‘oh, she did well – they wanted to do a c-section but she managed a natural birth instead’. NOOOOOO! If you’ve given birth by ANY means and you and the baby are safe and well, that is a good birth – we need to stop glorifying natural childbirth and shaming women who can’t have one)

    Regarding mindfulness and telling your husband what feels good – I’ve found it’s better to show him (moving his hand with mine) than tell him – as soon as I start telling, I go into analytical ‘explain’ mode, but showing has become instinctive, like scratching an itch!

    Reply
  6. Anonymous for this one

    Wow about the ape study! That makes me feel so much better. A local child was raped by a local man, and the news report actually described what the man did to the child. I felt a physiological response that absolutely shocked me and made me horrified and cry. I couldn’t understand why the report of atrocious rape against a child caused that reaction. I didn’t find it sexy, or hot, but it did seem arousing, though not pleasurably so. I was shaking and disgusted and felt like evil came upon me. I read no more and will read no more than headlines and maybe the first paragraph of any such news reports, or turn off audio.

    So, it was arousal non concordance. I’m not a bad person. I recognized the evil, and frankly, so did my body, in a confused/confusing way. Still, I wish we didn’t have to deal with that. It’s horrifying at times.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, indeed! It’s very interesting. I think it’s important to realize that this is likely a protective mechanism for women. We get physically aroused by a variety of sexual stimuli as well to protect us from internal injury during assault. So you can have grace with your body!

      Reply
  7. Melissa

    The stigma around c-sections drives me nuts. Not every c-section is a traumatic experience. If we didn’t have c-sections, imagine how many lives we would lose in childbirths with serious complications. After what Rebecca went through with her recovery from her first birth, I don’t blame her at all for feeling positive about a c-section. No woman should be made to feel she has to justify how her childbirths went. I will fight anyone who tries to make you feel bad.

    Reply
  8. Codec

    I have learned more about birth and females from your stuff than well probably anything.

    I am both fascinated and a little scared at the incredible stuff our bodirs do.

    Reply
  9. CMT

    I just started listening and I just got to the part where you guys started talking about why Rebecca needed a C section.

    I just wanted to jump over here and say I am so sorry that happened to you Rebecca, but I am so glad you got the care you needed and you and baby are fine. I know from direct experience how bad that situation could have gone.

    Can I just say, I am actually rather mad that you had to justify this to your audience? That is so intrusive and unfair that people are hassling you about it. It is NOBODY’s business but yours and your doctors how you have your baby.

    Reply
  10. Abby

    I can’t believe people would be upset about a c-section to protect mother and baby. I desired an unmedicated birth with my son but after 3 weeks of prodromal labor and 24 hours of active labor, the epidural was the right choice to give me rest and enable me to deliver my son safely. Medical interventions are there for a reason and I’m so glad Rebecca got the care she needed to keep herself and Vivian safe ❤️

    Reply
  11. Andrea

    I’d like to add something to the discussion of sex being more risky for women because of pregnancy. There is also the issue of experiencing pain and degradation during sex (this is only getting worse because of ideas porn spreads around). I’d like to recommend the work of Sarah McClelland on Intimate Justice. She interviewed men and women to ask them to describe an experience of bad sex. The scales were vastly different for heterosexual men and women. Men described bad sex as the woman not being hot or really into it, or they were nervous and couldn’t get it up so that was embarrassing, while the women described bad sex as experiencing pain, feeling used, having degrading and violent stuff from porn done to them… That’s how the scale of what constitutes “bad sex” is vastly different for men v. women, that’s how women have additional possible terrible repercussions from sex, even if pregnancy is being successfully prevented through birth control. I’d love to see a similar study among Christian women, what do they v. their husbands describe as “bad sex.”

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      Bad sex for men is usually the equivalent of “my pizza was cold and they didn’t have the toppings I wanted,” whereas for women, it can be “my pizza was poisoned.”

      Reply
  12. Jo R

    As for the reader question,, there are words used for both men and women who have sex without an emotional connection with their partners, and the words for the women are particularly nasty. What wife would be happy with her husband repeatedly putting her in that role? Why would she EVER want to have sex in that situation?

    In that vein, I’d like to know what dating and engaged couples are doing together, assuming they’re not having sex. Does he spend zero time talking, sharing, connecting with her? If so, why doesn’t she break it off, since the emotional connection is typically important to women? (And please, let’s not bring up the argument about an emotional connection as the basis for marriage being a recent invention. It is important because women have choices now that they didn’t have a century ago. When women were absolutely dependent on men for mere survival, yeah, women put up with a lot. But things have changed, and women can be completely independent of men, and can even thrive in education, career, and life generally.) If a man stays in a relationship and increases his emotional connection to the point of marriage, why does that connection so often disappear behind, and be subsumed by, sex? Was he in fact lying or, shall we say, bearing false witness to essentially trick the woman into what she may well find to be an unsatisfactory marriage?

    It makes complete sense that women would be much less aware of arousal than men, as erections are somewhat more noticeable than internal lubrication, so the research you reviewed is not really that surprising. I remember reading one commenter describing “a heartbeat in her clitoris” when she read Christian romance novels and wondering if that was arousal. How sad that women are expected to spend their whole lives hiding what’s going with their bodies (period flow and cramps, morning sickness, lactation difficulties, and hot flashes, among other issues–and in the 1950s, Lucille Ball couldn’t even say the word “pregnant” on TV) and we get so good at it that we have no idea how to reconnect to even give ourselves a chance to enjoy sex. 🙄🙄🙄

    Reply
    • Jo R

      Sorry, that should have been “how to reconnect ***to our own bodies*** to even give ourselves…”

      Reply
  13. Cynthia

    After having a traumatic loss with my first pregnancy, I found out that my second was in breech position and scheduled a c-section. I had been dealing with grief/depression from the loss, and was determined that nothing would be allowed to minimize my joy when the baby was born. She came via c-section, I had an amazing living baby and that was a miracle, period.

    My next two babies were c-sections as well, and I also had two more miscarriages. The last c-section was more difficult and had a longer recovery, but vaginal deliveries can also be complicated. I appreciate that I have 3 living children and there is nothing about that to regret.

    Reply
    • Cynthia

      To build on that a bit more…my first loss was a “missed miscarriage”, where I found out that the fetus stopped developing at 9 weeks but I had no sign that anything was wrong until 16.5 weeks. At that point, I was suddenly hit with the news that what I thought was a pretty easy and healthy pregnancy was actually a potentially life-threatening situation requiring emergency surgery. I realized that my body had both failed to gestate properly and then failed to show any signs that something was wrong. My grief over the loss was compounded by a lot of shame and blame directed at my body. I did a LOT of research, and realized that I did nothing wrong, my body didn’t “fail” me, and society was full of awful messages that caused women to keep problems with pregnancy secret and that gave the false impression that we had far more control over the process than we do.

      During that process, I came across advice that was marketed as being more “natural” that talked about our bodies’ natural wisdom in carrying and birthing babies, and that used words like “success” to describe a vaginal birth. That was triggering to me. If a wise body knew how to do this, was mine just stupid? Mentally recovering from the loss meant rejecting that sort of thinking. I also knew that I couldn’t put any expectations on my body, or judge “success” by something that could be out of my control. Beyond that, the idea that I could experience the birth of a living child as something other than a completely joyful event just seemed utterly wrong. It felt that someone was setting an arbitrary standard that I couldn’t meet, judging me/my body as a failure if I couldn’t meet it and injecting disappointment into the greatest moment of my life.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        So true! The messages that we give ourselves regarding childbirth can often be so toxic. And those who haven’t gone through trauma often don’t understand how those messages affect others.

        Reply
  14. Mark Hansen

    Sheila, I support your ministry and appreciate the contributions of your whole family. You are on the cutting edge of moving the discussion forward. I learn alot about women and what experiences they go through.

    I did have a comment for you to consider from today’s podcast. You and Rebecca talked about the best way to approach people when we have an experience or an opinion which might help them. I liked what you had to say on that.

    But, later as you discussed the reader question you mentioned that she had planned to go to a church counselor. I agree with you, that some are good and some are not.

    But, I feel that by telling her not to go to a church counselor, that you didn’t follow your previous advice.

    I think it would have been consistent with your advice to say to the woman that you have been disappointed in previous recommendations you have made, and that you are reluctant to refer people to church counselor again, but that her experience might be different.

    This, rather than just telling her not to based on the past problems you have had with church counselors.

    I trust you will think about this and learn from it, if it is helpful.

    Bless you guys,

    Mark

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m not sure you realize how HUGE a problem this is in the Christian world, Mark. I’d recommend that you spend some time just listening on the abuse advocacy blogs, and read what they say about biblical counseling, and also look at the curriculum that is used in many seminary courses. Love & Respect is actually a textbook. I have even looked at some materials about protecting kids from abuse at church where it says that it if you suspect something, you tell the pastor–not you call the police. It is really, really concerning, and quite frankly, the church needs to clean up its act.

      When there has been this much harm done, I simply have to tell people to try the safer route, which is licensed counseling. I hope you understand–and again, I’d suggest you talk to women getting out of abusive marriages, and hear their stories about biblical counselors.

      I know not all are like that. But the problem is that we have no way of knowing.

      Reply
      • Mark Hansen

        Thanks Sheila,

        I am hearing your heart on this and I agree with you that I have not been touched nearly as deeply as you in regards to the trauma and damage of abuse.

        Also, I don’t want to take up much of your time and energy commenting of my thoughts, because from my vantage point, I see you guys giving so much. And, the point I am raising is a small one.

        I’ll try to clarify, I was just wanting you to check that the criteria you suggested for commenting to others on things such as C-section was the criteria you were applying regarding whether to recommend a church counselor.

        I trust you will sincerely consider this, and no further response to me is necessary.

        Thank you all for your service to the church at large. Ministries like yours have helped my wife and I communicate about and enter into God given freedom and joy in sexual intimacy.

        Bless you.

        Reply
        • Jo R

          So in comparing (1) obstetricians deciding life-and-death childbirth situations, (2) college-educated, state-licensed counselors treating any kind of minor or major dysfunction, up to and including abuse, and (3) biblical counselors who might have as little training as a weekend seminar, we are supposed to consider (3) to potentially be just as qualified as (1) and (2)?

          Given the current state of the church in just the area of how it treats women in general, I don’t even trust pastors to handle the Word properly.

          Why would I want to take a potentially very serious individual or marital problem to a non-professional fellow church member, especially considering that the problem may well have been caused by bad church teaching in the first place?

          Reply

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