October 29, 2020
EP. 30 — Shadeen Francis
This week, we answer listener questions on feeling sexy (or not sexy) during quarantine, how to manage mismatched libidos in a relationship, the first steps to understanding vaginismus, the journey of healing after sexual assault, and finding connection as an asexual person, with marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis.
Afrosexology’s worksheets bundle – https://www.afrosexology.com/shop/sexquisite-a-collection-of-afrosexologys-worksheets
Bex Caputo’s worksheet – http://www.bextalkssex.com/yes-no-maybe/
30 — Shadeen Francis
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of “I Weigh” with Jameela Jamil. I hope you’re doing better than I am. I have just been in the back of an Uber for 25 minutes and that is a situation in which you cannot for the sake of your own health and the sake of the driver’s health take off your mask. And it was only about 5 minutes into the Uber ride I was like, fuckin’ hell, this really, this car really stinks of piss, really stinks of piss. So I open my window and just for a second, lowered my mask, for a split second, and then realized the car doesn’t stink of piss. It’s actually my mask, which means that I can only deduce that my six month old puppy has done a, done some marking. He’s marked my mask. Because he wants me, he wants me to think of him. He wants to, to remind me of him at all times. And so I spent 25 minutes, honestly, I feel high. I’ve just been breathing in, breathing in puppy piss. So if any of you out there are annoyed with me for anything I’ve done recently or in the past, you can feel satisfied that I’m being punished. This is karma for something that I’ve done. Maybe just not even giving him enough treats. So, yeah, that’s what’s going on. Just domestic bliss. My and my dog, and not much else to report. I think I’ve calmed down slightly from last week’s slight kind of moment of meltdown, which I don’t feel ashamed of. I think it’s important. Sometimes we need to break all the way down to build ourselves back up. Maybe with a clearer perspective. But I’m definitely feeling, I’m definitely feeling slightly sturdier. I think my rage is back. Which is always a healthier place for me to exist rather than feeling despondent or just kind of helpless. I. Yeah, I’m, I guess it’s I’m on, I’m back on the rollercoaster of how our emotions are, you know, supposed to feel given this world that we live in. But I thank you for all the wonderful messages of support from my intro on last week’s episode before Busy Philipps. You were so kind and you made me feel so much less alone. And I read so many of your messages, more than probably is healthy, but I just adore you. And I learned so much from you. And so I love the fact that after these episodes, you interact with me and you interact with my guests, and they always, always call me to say how much they appreciate what a thoughtful and kind audience I have. So thank you so much. I am endlessly proud of this community that we’re building together. So I, I am excited to bring you today’s guest. I’m, I think I’m madly in love with her. She is so cool and so special. I found her on Instagram by just typing in “sex therapist” because I was looking for someone to come on and just have a no punches pulled conversation with me about sex and love. Someone from a professional background. And I found her and she is this incredible sex and relationship counselor. And she is a young woman. She’s young to have such a busy practice. She’s very, very busy and difficult to get hold of because she’s so popular. And she is also a young black woman and she identifies as queer. And so therefore comes at, at this conversation from an angle in which we rarely see, especially in the mainstream. We often see older, white, predominantly men, straight men. So this was just, ah, she’s just a joy and she’s got the best voice and the best perspective. And she’s so open and makes it impossible for you to feel any kind of awkwardness or shame around any of, sometimes the hardest conversations. And what I did is before this episode, I put out a post to all of you saying, I’m talking to this woman. What do you most want to know? And you flooded my inbox and my comments section with requests. And I asked her as many of your questions as I possibly could. And she answered so many of them. I mean, I have to get her back because there’s still more to cover before I get into the episode, I just want to give you a trigger warning that we do talk about, you know, the impact of sex or a relationship after sexual trauma. And so if you are someone who is perhaps sensitive around that subject, maybe give this one a miss. But for those of you who are ready to hear that or have that conversation. She talks about it again in a way that is just so loving and supportive and, and informative. So please enjoy one of my favorite human beings I’ve ever come across as an adult. Truly, I just, I’m obsessed. I am the, the founder of her fan club. This is the excellent Shadeen Francis. Good Lord, I have so much to talk to Shadeen Francis about. Shadeen, welcome to “I Weigh”. How are you?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:05:11] Hi, I’m great. How are you?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:13] I’m good. Would you kindly tell my audience what it is that you do?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:05:17] So I am a licensed marriage and family therapist that specializes in sex therapy. So at its simplest, I really help people live lives of peace and pleasure. Right? I want people to feel well in their relationships, including their sexual relationships.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:33] Wonderful. OK, so we’re just going to have to get straight into it, because when I posted yesterday on Instagram that I was going to be talking to you and I asked people if they had any questions, I have truly maybe never had more comments on a post before.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:05:47] Wow.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:05:47] Or more incredibly personal and meaningful DMs. It was wild. I think I was on my phone for about 10 hours yesterday, sifting through, finding out which were the most kind of common themes that we could go through. And so, frankly, I’ve got no time to get to know you today. And also, we’re friends. I can vouch for her. She’s a wonderful, incredible woman. A life changing human being who I am so excited to know and to work with.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:06:11] Thank you, Jameela, thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:11] And the reason, and the reason I know Shadeen is because I found her on the Gram when I was looking for a relatable and warm and interesting and just divine therapist to start to introduce to the “I Weigh” community to talk about these sometimes stigmatized subjects. And so I reached out to you in like January. And-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:06:34] Maybe, maybe.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:35] Yep, we met in February and we filmed something together for the “I Weigh” YouTube channel. And since then you have become a staple love of the “I Weigh” community. They have sent very personal questions in, and we’re just going to go through them. I’m not going to read anyone specific questions because I think a lot of people had anxiety around their other partner or their friends maybe recognizing their story.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:07:00] Mmhmm.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:00] So we’re just gonna go for kind of vague themes and I’m gonna throw them at you right now.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:07:06] Yeah, I’m ready. I’ll catch them, I promise.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:08] OK. So you have been working throughout lockdown, right?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:07:12] I have.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:12] And can I ask you what some of the most common themes you have come up with, with people coming to talk to you around their relationships in lockdown? Because from what I’m seeing from my friends, a lot of people, some people have come closer together. Some people have met someone during lockdown and are falling in love in this, just this sort of weird dystopia, but also a kind of utopic amount of time to have together.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:07:35] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:36] But a lot of the long term couples, especially those with kids, are just, they’re, they’re kind of wit’s end with each other. And there are so many issues starting to surface for the first time ever. And so are you seeing that in your practice?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:07:53] Yeah, right, the stresses are so high and I think a lot of people are really surprised that, like, this isn’t the sexiest time of their life. Right? I think most people just sort of operate under the default assumption, like, oh, if we spent more time together, you know, then we would be having more sex. It would be more passionate. We’d be like getting along, we’d be super besties or whatever. And I think a lot of people have really found ways in sort of the structure of their lives to come together. Right? That I’m noticing especially, you know, to now I’ve been quarantined for six months or sheltered in place, rather, for the last six months. And so, yeah, you know, a lot of people have found ways to acclimate and really find a way to, like, collaborate really well with their partner. Right? Figure out some things logistically, but it’s still really hard for a lot of folks to feel sexual in this time. Right? That comes up over and over and over again. That’s probably sort of the primary stress or concern that I’m hearing around sex right now from folks is like, why am I not more into this? Why am I not more excited about sex right now? And then the other one is just a lot of people trying to figure out how do I keep things sort of connected or intimate or erotic if now I’m suddenly apart from my partner. Right? So going two, two sides of the spectrum, people who are kind of trapped together, really not feeling a lot of sexual chemistry or sexual energy, then people who maybe are further apart who are saying how do we, you know, find each other there too?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:26] And you’ve kind of straddled both of those lines because you have yourself been in a long term, long distance relationship. And also now you are, you’ve gone from that dynamic seeing each other, very kind of structured points throughout the year to suddenly being on top of each other for months on end. So I’m sure you’ve got your own personal insight into how to shift and manage those dynamics. I think it’s really important to talk about that, because I did get the sense from all of the messages that each person who wrote to me felt as though they were the only person going through that, which is, I think, the point of this podcast, but also the point of this episode to make people realize how normal all of these issues and thoughts are and how not alone you are. I cannot tell you how many common threads there were, including a ton of messages from people who were still virgins at or in their 30s. You know, I wanted to be able to tell each one of those people who messaged me that there are so many other people saying the exact same thing. And people who are asexual, people who are survivors of assault, who now are carrying that into their current day relationships. You are so, so not alone. And we’re going to get into all of those subjects together today in a way that helps you understand that this is not, there is not something wrong with you. You’re just human-ing. And, and that’s great.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:10:49] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:49] And we’re all human-ing. And, you know, Shadeen and I will do our best to, to bridge that gap. OK. So. Talk to me first and foremost about how to argue in a healthy way. So many people would like to know how to fight in a way that will not end up in any kind of prison sentence.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:11:13] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:13] Because, you know, I think suddenly we are being confronted with all of the things that, all these habits that we didn’t know about our partners. Like I don’t think that my boyfriend knew that if given the opportunity, I would not change my t-shirt for six months and he had to stage an intervention. He had to sit me down and just like asked me if I was OK and if I had any intention of changing, at any point before next year. So it wasn’t a big fight. I was very defensive. But, you know, he has seen my kind of inner teenage sloth. I feel like my inner teenager has fully resurfaced during this time.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:11:53] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:53] I just don’t give fuck, and I really enjoy that. It’s like a kind of rebellion against so much time of just being expected to be presentable and professional and an adult. I think I’ve just kind of rejected all of it. And so, you know, I think a lot of people are realizing how messy their other half is or how disorganized or how they are shit at house work, housekeeping and cleaning and all of that. And so how does one approach, and, especially in a situation where you can’t, if things were to go a bit wrong and get a bit salty, you can’t just go somewhere else. So you can’t even necessarily even go for a big, long walk in some cities.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:12:36] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:36] What’s your advice for learning how to approach an argument?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:12:41] Especially during this time, I think it’s really important for people to remember, like this is not normal life. Right? Like this is not how we are meant to live, like the happily ever after story for most people, isn’t and then you are trapped in a house together nonstop for six months, and you cannot go anywhere or see anyone or touch anything. Right? Like, that’s, that’s not, that’s, that’s not the life that you probably signed up for. And so, yeah, when we are constricted and we are restricted, it can absolutely make us feel more tense. We are more edgy. We have less patience. A lot of us are scared. A lot of us are stressed. A lot of us are bored. A lot of us are annoyed. Right? I’m a big introvert. As much as I love people, I also love being by myself for like hours and hours and hours at a time. And so to be, you know, in a home for anyone who just needs more space, whether you’re an introvert or not. And to not necessarily have free access to that can be really, really challenging. And I think the thing that your partner did really well with something that might have been concerning or frustrating for him was to be curious about it. Right? Like asking. Like so, so about this T-shirt.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:52] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:13:53] You know, what’s? What’s going on?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:56] It’s covered in food, like I am always covered in food. And it looks like I’ve just been freshly jizzed on but I haven’t. It’s just yogurt.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:14:05] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:05] Anyway, as you were saying.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:14:06] I would imagine, I would imagine he would have some questions about that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:09] Yeah. Nobody asked for that detail.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:14:13] What the heck happened?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:13] But as you were. Yes, he asked about it.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:14:16] Yeah. This is, this is, this is a space where we can talk about safe details, yeah. So really, I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to share that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:23] Hey.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:14:24] Yeah. And so being able to lead with, you know, what is actually, like what are you interested in knowing. Right? Because if we come out the gate, like take off that f-ing t-shirt. Like that’s not, that’s not a conversation.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:37] No.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:14:38] That’s not a conversation. And so I think whatever we’re noticing that we’re feeling frustrated, first even checking in with ourselves around like, OK, what is the feeling? Right? What’s the emotional place that I’m coming from in this conversation? Right? And just state that. Right? Like I’m feeling, and then insert feeling word in blank. Do not use words like “like” or I’m feeling that. Right? Then we’re cheating. If you’re going to say I am feeling, follow with an emotion word. I’m feeling disappointed. I’m feeling scared. I’m feeling concerned. I’m feeling jealous. I’m feeling whatever.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:09] Insecure, overburdened, however that may be. Yeah. I talk a lot-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:15:12] Whatever it is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:13] I talk a lot about Marshall Rosenberg who completely transformed my relationship and probably my entire life where-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:15:20] Nonviolent communication.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:22] Exactly. Nonviolent communication. And I really, really strongly suggest that people out there go and investigate this. I mean, he has some very wacky tactics of teaching his methods. Really.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:15:32] The jackal.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:33] Hilarious. Yeah. But he, he is trying to make sure that we, we, I guess, inspire empathy in the person that we are talking to or complaining to. We’re talking about something difficult to. He’s trying to make sure that we don’t go in with, you’re doing this. We don’t immediately put up their defenses, which makes it so hard for them to hear us. He believes in making sure that we say, I feel this. What you are doing is making me feel this. So it’s having this impact on me. You make it about yourself in a way that forces them kind of to try to empathize with you. It puts them immediately in your shoes rather than them feeling like all of the lasers are pointing at them. And so-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:16:13] Yeah, it just makes a lot more space.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:16] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:16:16] Right? It makes a lot more space for people to actually hear what you’re trying to communicate.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:20] OK, so give me a specific one. Like, OK, so not to use horrendous gender stereotypes, but let’s say a man is not doing the housework and you would like his girlfriend to be able to approach him about that or indeed his boyfriend or nonbinary lover.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:16:36] Yeah. So these are two people who are in a relationship and one person is not sort of doing their fair share of the work. And we’re going to assume for this scenario that they’ve both been clear about what their expectations are for how the work is divided and that they’ve actively agreed on doing that. That if we were to take like the nonviolent communication framework, which I actually really love, and so I absolutely recommend people to look further into, as you said. But back to the scenario. Right? Starting off by saying, OK, look, what are we talking about? First and foremost. So when I notice that the house is messy or when the dishes go unwashed or when we don’t divide up chores evenly, you know, when the dishes stay in the sink overnight, whatever it is, that’s actually sort of getting you in the moment. I feel, insert feeling, maybe you’re disappointed. That’s often what happens when we’re not sharing labor well. Right? I feel disappointed.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:35] You feel, you feel undervalued, maybe, or taken advantage of.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:17:39] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:39] Yeah. Taken for granted.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:17:40] Right, and some, some of those, some of those are judgments, right? Because we’re assuming what the other person is thinking. Right? I am thinking that you don’t value me. Right? And so we can actually take that one step deeper. How does that make you feel to think that. Right? So even as I, you know, we might say, I feel undervalued. But what does undervalued or believing that your partner doesn’t value make you feel? Right? We, I really try and encourage people to drop right down, kind of as deep into the core as we might get. Right? To find that like emotion word, right? That emotion word, because that’s easier to connect with. Because if I say I feel undervalued, then your partner’s response is going to be to try and prove that they don’t undervalue you, to prove that they do value you. But that’s not actually getting to like, but I feel sad. I feel scared. I feel hurt. Right? We’re still kind of too cerebral. So when the dishes stay in the sink overnight, even though we’ve agreed that, you know, that you do them at the end of dinner, I feel really disappointed because it’s important to me that we live in a place that’s tidy that we both contribute to, right? And so we say kind of what, what the significance of this conversation is, because any disagreement that we’re having could just really be stuff, but it always represents something deeper. That’s why we can have really heated, intense arguments about trivial things. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:13] Yeah, I agree. I-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:19:14] Like dishes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:15] Yeah. And I really think it’s important to utilize this moment of somewhat stillness, you know, for those of us who are still in lockdown. Also, there’s a strong chance we might be going into a second wave at the end of the year. Try not to run too far away from what might come up, because plenty of things have been surfacing for a lot of people this year about their partners, about their lack of partners, about themselves. And I think that you would do yourself a great service to take advantage of that moment and lean into the difficult, awkward conversations which are just so much less difficult when you approach them carefully and you try to, like, sit with yourself first, maybe even write it down.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:19:53] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:53] How angry you are, so you can look at it first and analyze like how much of this is me and how much of this is them or us.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:20:01] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:01] And so, you know, utilize this moment.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:20:03] And what is it about. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:06] Indeed.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:20:06] What is it about? And then I like people to end with a request. Right? If we just give the feedback, people don’t really know what to do with it. Right? So I hear you’re having a feeling, but sort of then what? Right? What we actually are wanting is change.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:23] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:20:23] And how can we be clear about what change that we would like? And can we ask for that?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:27] Yeah. I used to be incredibly immature around relationships when I was much younger and that I would tell them how I felt, maybe. But when I did tell them how I felt, I would want them to take the initiative of meeting all of my needs. Which, you know, you can understand kind of logically. But really, I’m expecting them to be psychic. And I’m expecting them to figure out and I’m considering that an act of love. Whereas actually now, I’ve thought about what my act of love is, which is just giving them the clear fucking instructions, to just at least try to do something that would make me happier. And I now communicate only in that way. And I ask people to communicate that way with me. Which is just tell me what you fucking want. Life is difficult, alright? I got to figure out what to watch on Netflix. Go figure out how to change the fucking t-shirt. I’ve got to do the dishes. Just tell me what you want. And I think if we were to do that instead of these kind of weird, passive aggressive tests that we maybe learn when we’re younger. Life is so much simpler. OK, we have to move on because so many things to cover.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:21:25] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:25] So mismatched libido. The number one thing that came up, truly, in every single thread that I found, that is the thing that most people are struggling with. And it has all these kind of interesting sub layers as well, where a lot of people are finding in lockdown, you know, they’re no longer passing like ships, like passing ships in the night, they’re no longer being able to kind of blame the fact that they’re not sleeping together as much on work or on life or on kids. This, that and the other. So they are finding, most awkwardly, that they are more hyper aware of how maybe little they are having sex or maybe how mismatched that desire for sex is. And on top of that, there is an overwhelming amount of women who have been saying to me that they feel embarrassed about wanting more sex than their male partner, because we’ve been conditioned to believe that men have higher libidos and therefore there is something wrong with these women for wanting more sex than a man. And also, they’re feeling extra rejected because we’re programed to think that men just want sex all day, every day. And so therefore, if their partner doesn’t want sex with them constantly during lockdown, they’re also feeling rejected.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:22:38] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:38] So I have thrown 700,000 things that you. Go.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:22:41] Boom. Right, so let’s start with-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:44] Mismatched.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:22:45] How? Yeah. How, wait how nerdy can I get?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:48] I would love for you to nerd all the way out, please.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:22:51] OK, cool.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:51] Thank you.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:22:52] So let’s, let’s start a little bit with the physiology of desire. Right? That when we think about how we are hardwired, we are wired first for survival. Right? So, like, stay alive. And the next for connection. If you think of something like if anyone’s familiar with like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you can kind of see that on the pyramid. We start with our sort of primary foundational needs like food, shelter, right, safety, and then we move into layers and layers and layers of connection. And so what happens to our bodies when we are under stress is that we go right back down to the beginning to take care of those basic survival needs. And this is a very stressful time. People are trying to figure out how to homeschool their kids. People are trying to figure out what stores they can go to to get groceries, you know, with minimal exposure. People are unemployed, underemployed, right? Trying to make plans and we have no idea kind of what’s going to happen next. So it’s a very stressful time, so our bodies are not in a state where we are very primed to just be like, like this isn’t sexy for most people. Right? To be worried and stressed out. And what our bodies do when we are under stress is that we start to sort of shift, like yes, it’s, it’s a kind of arousal. But we’re probably outside of kind of our, our window of arousal that actually can allow us to connect to other people.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:18] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:24:18] So we have to start shutting down or worse, we’re sort of so, you know, our bodies are just so tight and so tense that we’re not relaxed enough to be in that nice sort of flow around sex.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:32] Mmhmm.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:24:32] And so it’s important for people to even just to know that, to know that there’s nothing wrong with me, my body is working the way it is supposed to. Right? I’m supposed to stay alive in order to be able to then be available for sexual connections to myself and, or sexual connections to other people.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:49] You once said to me that you, you gave me this wonderful analogy when we were talking once in a different interview. Will you give me your appetite analogy, just to further reassure people?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:25:01] Yeah. Sure. Yeah. And so that transitions into us recognizing or I hope that we can also recognize that some of this is also cultural. Right? And so we put a lot of stress and pressure on people being the same in relationships in all of these really odd ways. We aren’t expected to like need as much sleep as each other. And the example that I shared earlier is about appetite and hunger. Right? That we, we’re not expected to like want to eat at the same time or eat as much as each other. And that’s not like a deep relational crisis. Right? And so if I’m hungry at a time when you’re not hungry and you invite me to a meal and I’m like, no, thank you. You’re not like, ugh, you hate me now and I’m obviously just like ugly and undesirable and like not interesting. Right? But when it comes to sex, all of a sudden it’s personal. Right? The things that are happening in your body, in your mind, in your desire, in your availability, somehow are like a direct message of me. Or maybe I might turn it around and shame you, well, like you haven’t eaten since like this morning. Like why aren’t you hungry yet? Like everybody else has dinner at least seven days a week. And yet here you are, only wanting it like six. That’s really weird. You should get that looked at.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:22] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:26:22] Like we don’t do that. I’m sure someone is dealing with that and so I have empathy for that experience. Please leave them. But that’s not an experience that we’re accustomed to where people are shaming us for our other drives and desires.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:37] I agree. I, when you and I were talking about it last, about this slight shift in appetite, I was saying that if your partner is hungry when you are not, then perhaps they could take themselves to the bathroom and have a little snack.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:26:51] Well said.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:51] By themselves. Or you could feed them a bit of their snack, meaning you can wank them off. And so I think that that’s also something that really has to become acceptable. I think we get a lot of this programming from film and from TV because we never see these moments. I mean, not, we never even see the condom moment.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:27:10] Right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:10] But we never see someone just being like, oh, you know what? I’m actually not in the mood, but I’ll, I’ll wank you off or, or I’m gonna go to bed now and you just do you. In fact, in the rare incidences where we’ve seen someone maybe just wanking while the other person’s asleep in the film or on the TV, that person wakes up is horr-, like horrified.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:27:33] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:33] As if you’ve been caught doing something absolutely horrific rather than just, you know, scratching an itch, essentially.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:27:39] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:39] And so-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:27:39] Like how dare you eat without me?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:41] Yeah, exactly. And so I think that, that’s a, that’s been like a good part of my growth as a human woman to realize that you know, as well as the fact that we don’t see a lot of realistic relationship ideals, we also don’t see a lot of what is realistic about women and our sexuality, because everything has come to us through this very male, straight, patriarchal gaze of like for so long, I was having sex the way that, you know, I was almost like looking at porn to how I was supposed to act and move during sex, which meant I was so detached from my own actual physicality because I’m essentially putting on a show without realizing. And I also used to feel guilty that it would take me a little minute to get ready for sex because in the films they would burst through the door and the woman already had her WOP. She’s sort of like fully, fully flowing. Clearly.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:28:31] Yeah, Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:32] And he’s just straight in, one pump.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:28:34] Just macaroni in a pot. Just all over the place
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:35] Yep, exactly. So it’s, you know, they come in, in, you know, but also, like they don’t, you, they come quickly, I guess. But sometimes you see the, you know, you hear talk about someone being able to go for an hour. So I would have the worst UTI if I was constant-, I personally was shagging for several hours. I’d, we are conditioned to think we are supposed to want that. And then that makes, that creates so much tension for very, for different genders in different ways. And also, I think it has misinformed a lot of young men in our generation that they don’t have to do that much work, that they aren’t the ones who have to wear anything particular or, you know, look a certain way, do any kind of preening or make an effort to make a woman ready for sex.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:29:21] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:22] So I think that’s really, that’s been something that’s been interesting for me to learn of the last kind of 10 years.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:29:27] Yeah. If this, it’s a really big educational issue. Right? So often I’ll end up teaching med students. Right? And unfortunately, like, even our doctors get very little sex education even as a part of their course training. Like we’re looking at sometimes as low as like three hours over the course of medical school Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:47] Wow.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:29:47] But you might be looking at 8 hours or 32 hours. But if you think of the fact that many people are seeing people in their entire age range, right? Like how deficient that is, how insufficient that is. And so, so much of us gets so little information and so little support around any of this, and so how is anyone supposed to know? And so if anyone is learning anything in the course of this conversation, I feel like I’ve done the work that I’ve come to do because we get so little information and then we start looking to media for education, when we don’t do that anywhere else. You don’t watch NASCAR to learn to drive. You don’t, you know, watch, I don’t know, like, you don’t watch TV to, like, learn how to live the full entirety of your life. It’s entertainment. And sure, there’s edutainment, but there always has to be more conversation. There has to be room for questions. There has to be, you know, an intention and an integrity from the source.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:41] And room for individuality.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:30:43] Absolutely.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:44] Room to understand that we are all different. We all work differently. We all have different triggers, traumas and, and habits. So, yes, I think that that’s a really important thing, is that if you are out there and you are feeling to pleasure yourself because your partner isn’t in the mood, do not feel ashamed or dirty or even rejected. I think it’s a great act of love to sort of take yourself off, meet your own needs for a minute.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:31:06] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:06] I think it’s important for that not to always have to be the case, but I think when someone else isn’t in the mood, it’s important to never project too much of our like own feelings on rejection. Onto all of those things, especially not at a moment like this.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:31:22] And the thing I want to say about discrepant desire, because, you know, it’s a question that comes up so, so often. I want to say, first, that it is absolutely normal if you didn’t hear us say that already. Right? That you do not need to want sex or anything else at the same time as your partner, all of the time, it is totally OK. Right? That you want things differently in different ways. And that is in most relationships. And it hasn’t happened already. It will happen over time. Right? And that it’s not actually a sexual issue because everyone is, tends to personalize it. Right? Like is there’s something wrong with me? I want sex too much. I’m, a lot of people worry about being like a predator actually. Right? They feel kind of predatory. Right? Pursuing someone for sex and then getting rejected a lot. It can feel either like I am unwanted or like I’m harming the other person. Or the other person feels a lot of shame because we’re like, why don’t I want this more? And it’s hard for us to disappoint another person. And so I want people to know that this isn’t actually a sexual issue. Right? It’s a relationship opportunity. Right? Because what is actually happening here is it’s an invitation for each of you to notice. OK, what is it that I want and need? Can I listen to myself and believe myself and honor what it is that I want to need? Can I hear my partners requests for what they want and need and acknowledge those without feeling pressure to do it just because they want to? And can I, can we negotiate for experiences that feel good together? So a mutual snack, maybe you eat without me, right? Do I do enough to make sure that my stress levels are low enough that I can even be receptive? Right? And stress is not sustainable long term.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:15] No.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:33:16] So it’s, it’s more a relational opportunity than like, oh, we’re not doing sex right.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:22] And another thing that’s coming up so often is that, you know, during this time in particular, but I’m sure that this is sort of evergreen. There are, there are so many different things that impact our sex lives. You know, so many different things like malnutrition. I know that whenever I was starving myself the most because I was trying to look fuckable, look more fuckable, I would say, regarding what I thought society standards were. I hadn’t, my estrogen levels had dropped through the floor. My hormones were all over the place because I was so busy starving myself to try and look more attractive, that actually when suitors would line up at the door, which didn’t, didn’t happen actually that often, but still occasionally when someone would consider smashing. I didn’t have the energy to. I was not, during the worst years of my eating disorders, I will always go years without even holding someone’s hand because I just couldn’t be fucked. I was so, literally, I couldn’t, I couldn’t be bothered. And so I think your food, how you’re eating, I think how you’re feeling, your depression, maybe that you have during this time or any other time, and also, we’re going through this like sort of epidemic of body shaming right now where some people are maybe eating a bit more. Or they’re moving a bit less because you can’t go outside or maybe your cortisol levels are up, which changes the way your insulin digests sugar and therefore you are gaining weight, even though you haven’t changed what you’re eating that much. All these things happen. And then because of the pressure on us to look a certain way, in particular women, but I think this goes across gender, especially among the LGBTQ community. Maybe your body’s changing. And so there’s a part of you that inherently feels guilty about that. It feels like you don’t want to be naked in front of your partner. That is something that you must not keep to yourself. You have to, ’cause so, so many times I’ve projected that onto a partner in the past. And they’ve just, when I finally said something, after months of avoiding them and coming up with all kinds of excuses as to why I didn’t want to be naked in front of them, I just tell them in tears and they have no idea what the fuck I was talking about. They hadn’t noticed or they were thrilled because my boobs or bum was bigger. So it’s important to try to, and if you feel like you’re in a relationship where you cannot even be that vulnerable, then, then that is another, like little conversation, maybe, you need to have with yourself about that relationship. But give it a shot. Tell someone if you’re feeling shy or self-conscious or why you might not be in the mood. I think the worst thing we can do is, is leave someone to their own devices to figure out how we are feeling, because I don’t know if you agree, but I feel like it’s human nature that we always think the worst case scenario. You know, like when someone doesn’t text you back, you’re never like, well, it’s probably just because they’re busy or maybe they just like me too much. It’s always that. Oh, my God, they hate me. They don’t want to be friends with me. I’ve been bothering them, they’re ghosting me. We just tend to fill the gaps, sometimes, I think with a more negative assumption.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:36:11] Yeah, that’s definitely a learned pattern, we learn to do that. Right? Because, again, we’re required for survival first. So that’s safety. It would actually be better for us to assume the worst and be prepared for it than to be surprised by it. Right? When we’re surprised by something that is negative, especially if it’s like intense and painful. That’s actually trauma, right? That is what trauma is. It’s, it’s a deep, it’s an impactful negative experience that you were not prepared for.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:40] Oh, that’s fucking fascinating. I’ve never thought about it like that. That’s so interesting to kind of put, to humanize pessimism quite like that. OK, so we have to keep going. But yes. Around the mismatch libido, and also, I would love for you to just discuss the shame women have when they have a bigger libido than their partner.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:37:01] Yeah. Yeah. Especially, and we can tie this into body shame too. Right? So the only thing less sexy than stress is shame. Shame lives in our bodies and it makes us feel like I am not worthy, I do not deserve. And so imagine wanting something and then also simultaneously feeling like I do not deserve it. Right? That, of course, you’re not going to get it. And when you get it, you’re not going to feel good. And so we have this self-perpetuating cycle, right? Where I want something and I feel bad about wanting something. And so I’m, I will also find ways to work myself out of it. And I also find ways to distance myself from it. And there won’t really be very much reinforcement that anyone could do to support me around really experiencing pleasure, and that’s that’s what sex is for.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:53] Yeah, I think that’s really important. And, and for women to just stop feeling like there’s something wrong with them if they have a higher libido. So many of my female friends feel guilty or like dirty or bad or, you know, they think that there’s something wrong with them, that they have some sort of sex addiction just because they have a higher libido than the men they’re with. I also feel like there isn’t that much conversation that I ever got to learn, you know, through mainstream or magazines or school or parents or whatever, obviously, about how to handle that moment of rejection, how to, how to be vulnerable enough to even instigate, because I think instigating is a huge issue where some people are just so afraid of their, of the chance that someone to be like, oh, sorry, I’m actually not in the mood, and will be so mortified by that, that even if it happens just once, or it’s never even happened, we will be too afraid to approach sex. And I think women have again an extra shame about initiating sex because they feel that they must always be the hunted. They must always be the prey. They must always be the one who is approached. And I was saying on that YouTube interview that we did that, you know, my boyfriend and I just have a sort of system of a gentle sort of tug on the other one’s clothes. And then that is, exactly, we just pull on the sleeve or the trouser leg, it is a little gentle tug. Just to let the other one know my light is on and the other person then has the opportunity to respond and if they, if they don’t feel like it, they’ll just be like, oh, now isn’t really a good time or I’m not, I’m not ready or I’ve got something that I need to do. But that to me just feels like a very friendly way of being able to put yourself out there in a way that doesn’t involve, like fully just like, I’m just whipping my vagina out. I’m not saying that anyone does that out there, but I’m not just like, woo! You know, I just, it’s a little gentle tug.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:39:41] Unless, unless that works.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:42] It’s the same method, no, for sure, who doesn’t love that? But I’m just saying that it might then feel like you’re less, you’re making yourself a bit less vulnerable. And they’re not then feeling, it, just it could be, just as a bit of advice if you are British and awkward as I am, that I find a little gentle tug, not, not of the genitals necessarily unless you’re allowed, but gentle tug of the, of the clothing are lovely.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:40:06] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:06] Says everything you need to say.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:40:08] I want to, I want to highlight, you know, the thing, a thing that I often really gently challenge people on, you know, like how much we work to avoid vulnerability.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:19] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:40:20] Right? Like, we create all sorts of structures to then avoid having to feel things when everything good in the world is a feeling, right? Everything worth having in the world creates a feeling. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:35] Sure.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:40:35] Most of the reason we even want sex, period, is about how it makes us feel and not just our bodily sensations of the feeling. Right? But also for a lot of people, like sex can feel like intimacy. It can feel like closeness. It can feel like appreciation. It can feel, right? Like all of these like emotional experiences that we actually have to be vulnerable in order to encounter. Right? So we, we just live in this world that really teaches us to be afraid to be impacted. Right? So none of us get any support in dealing with rejection. We have an entire culture that’s really organized around keeping us from feeling rejected. And if anyone has ever done any like online dating, you can see, like, how intensely we work around that. Right? Like to timing messages, because I don’t want to seem, you know, too interested or too available, ghosting, right? Like the ways we do or don’t put each other, put ourselves out there. Right? Like we have a culture that keeps us from, I’m going to wrap it all into the experience of grief. Right? Anything that brings up a loss, we are so resistant to it, because it’s uncomfortable. We’re, we’re not good at being uncomfortable. But that will limit our ability to have really free sexual pleasure. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:59] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:41:59] Like if we’re feeling really protective around the risk of being vulnerable. Right? Then we’re not actually going to be able to fully experience what it means to be deeply connected, not just to another person, but to ourselves, because we are cheating ourselves in part of the experience.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:14] Yeah, I think that’s really important. And another thing that came up so much was vaginismus.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:42:21] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:21] And that’s another thing that women can suffer with and feel such intense shame about and not often tell their partners about. I, I know so many women who have not told someone that they are having, in fact, you know what? As, as more of an expert of it than me. Would you explain what vaginismus is?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:42:40] So vaginismus is an involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles, right, and it usually is towards like the, for most people it’s towards the opening. Right? And so we’re looking at a few inches deep towards the actual opening of the vagina. Right? But it can actually be kind of anywhere, so up the vaginal canal. And it can be incredibly painful. Right? It’s really uncomfortable. It’s usually only experienced around penetration. So you might be fine, fine, fine, fine, fine. And then if anything was to try and penetrate you, that there is a tightening. And again, it’s, it’s involuntary. So, you know, the term that, you know, medical professionals might use, might be like psychosomatic. And so if that’s language that anyone’s heard, it just means that, you know, there is a link between mind and body that you might not be aware of. Something is happening in your, in your mind, in your brain, it doesn’t mean that this isn’t real. But it means that, like, I’m not contracting on purpose. It means, in the case of vaginismus, it’s usually around anxiety. Right? That there’s something about this experience in which I don’t feel safe. And it might not be about my partner in specific. It might be, you know, a trauma reaction. So something bad just happened. It might be just because it’s unfamiliar. So maybe I don’t have lots of experience, right? Maybe I’ve had an awkward experience, an uncomfortable experience. Maybe, you know, I’m just really stressed or overwhelmed for some other reason.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:10] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:44:10] But, but vaginismus is actually incredibly common, but wasn’t talked about for really long time because, you know, we sort of brushed it over with all kinds of, you know, sort of sexist tropes. You know, like frigidity was a really common one, right? So like, oh, you’re just, you know, frigid woman or wah wah. Right? We, we, we normalized women’s pain. Right? So even like first experiences, we’ve like normalized that like, oh, the first time is painful. Sex is not supposed to be painful. Right? At all. Even if it’s your first experience. Right? So just acknowledging that if you are experiencing pain, if the description of vaginismus sounds like you to know that there is support out there and a lot of it is about being sort of in, in your body in a mindful way, making sure that you are safe and comfortable, like, like feeling safe and comfortable and then being able to train some of that into your body. And so being able to go really slow with yourself and to allow your body to acclimate to maybe an unfamiliar sensation, right? ‘Cause pene-, like we don’t walk around kind of like being penetrated all the time.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:21] Ah, speak for yourself, Shadeen. Sorry.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:45:21] I was very liberal in that description there. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:28] Couldn’t be further from the truth.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:45:28] Maybe, maybe an unfamiliar, you know, sensation or maybe a sensation that had brought pain, you know, at some point or another, for some reason or another.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:40] 100 percent. And I think, again, that takes us back to the idea that once more women feel tremendous guilt in expecting someone to take their time in getting them to a place where they feel comfortable to be penetrated. You are welcoming something into your physical space, come in right into the most personal room in your home. And so it’s OK for someone to kind of earn their way in there, you know? And also, an unbelievable amount of us are carrying some sort of trauma. I mean, statistics like you just wouldn’t believe. The, I’d say the third most common thing that came up in all of threads were just the, truly, thousands of women in particular who came forward with a history of sexual assault. And so for anyone who might be triggered by this conversation, we are going to talk about sex, post assault, and how you maneuver your sex life when working through a trauma. So if that’s something you’re not ready for, then this would be the time to probably switch off. But for those who are interested, can you talk to me about how normal it is to have a physical response, post a trauma?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:46:58] Yeah. Our, our bodies want to protect us. They want to protect us. And so if we are experiencing changes in our sex lives after experiencing a trauma that while it might be sort of easy for us to shame or guilt ourselves and feel like something is broken or wrong, I hope that we can have some self compassion. Like my body is trying to keep me safe. My body is trying to keep me safe. And so sometimes what that means is that maybe we get a little dissociative. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:31] What does that mean?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:47:31] ‘Cause the last time I was in-. Yeah. So I’m, I’m not present. Right? I’m not, I don’t feel kind of in my body. Maybe I sort of feel myself like watching my body or there’s kind of like nothing. It’s blank. It’s fog or I feel numb. Right? There, there is an element of that, that is intended, our bodies trying to be healing in that, you know, maybe the last time or a significant time before, being present, right, wasn’t going to be good for us. Right? We, we, either, you know, saw some things. We felt some things, we did, we should not have been there. And so our body is keeping us safe from that. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:06] 100 percent.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:48:07] Maybe. Maybe we are tight and tense. And again, that’s us bracing for something. Maybe I’m, my heart is racing. Maybe I just don’t really want sex anymore. Doesn’t, it doesn’t, you know, I, I think there’s a difference between sort of desires, like the wanting and then arousal. So like the readiness. So we can have problems in either of those spaces, not just in sexual trauma. But, you know, very commonly in sexual trauma. And so what might happen is that, like I want it, ready to go, like, let’s do this. And your body is like, girl, no. Right? Or person, no. Right? No, we’re not. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel ready. And so-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:44] So what do you do in that situation when those two married?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:48:48] Yeah. When, when they’re not aligned, and it can also go in the opposite direction. Right? So, like, my body is giving all kinds of signals. But my brain is like, no, no, no, no, no, no.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:55] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:48:56] And so, first and foremost, just being able to listen to yourself and honor that and to know, OK. I feel like I’m in danger. Right? We have body memories around age. I remember as a kid, I touched a light bulb, right, on a lamp that didn’t have a shade and burned my hand and I burned it pretty badly. And now, I kid you not, this is decades, plural, later. If I have to reach under a lampshade to like, turn the little switch, I start to sweat. Right? I’m like, fine. I’m not scared, but like my body still remembers. Right?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:26] Right.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:49:26] We only need to be impacted one good time for our body to be on alert. Right? So my body’s really invested in keeping me safe from future burns. And so can we honor that? Can we be in a place where we, at the very least, first and foremost, don’t add shame on top of, on top of a natural healing process? And then can we go slow and really practice intention around creating experiences that have more safety? And so what would it mean for me to have more safety in this space? So if this is about like what is happening on your body, how do I invite my body to relax and to feel safer? Right? And it doesn’t have to happen alone by myself or can that happen with a partner’s support? Maybe it’s, you know, sort of deep, tight squeezes. Maybe it’s hands off. Maybe it’s certain smells. Maybe, right? But thinking about like, oh, what can I do literally for my physical senses that might soothe me or sort of if I were feeling kind of numb, like kind of get me back in my body, so temperature can be a good one. And then around that brain piece, the wanting. Right? What gets in the way of me wanting pleasure? What gets in the way? And either of those, I think, it would be really great for someone to work with someone, because it can be hard for us to notice our own obstacles and then strategize around them. And so I invite people to work with a sex therapist in particular, because they’re going to be able to bridge the education kind of strategy piece. But then also the therapy, the very real sort of internal emotional healing that needs to happen when we’ve experienced lack of safety. But I want people to know that there is, there is life and there is pleasure after we’ve encountered pain.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:12] Yeah. Yeah. For sure. And I also, you know, Shadeen is very hard to get hold of, even just for a friendly phone call, because she’s so fuckin’ busy, because so many couples or individuals are going to her with these same issues. And I think because couples feel so much shame around that, they often don’t divulge that they are participating in that sort of help for their relationships. But we have doctors for everything else. So why can we not go to a specialist or a trainer or whatever who could help us with this incredibly, you know, meaningful part of some of our lives? Not for everyone, but for some people, it’s a meaningful part of their life. And so I really want you to know that, that there is nothing wrong with your relationship. Or nothing bad. Nothing to be ashamed of. If you just need a little bit of guidance like we all arrive with our own separate baggage, our own fight or flight triggers, we, we turn up and we meet this complete stranger and we have these whole backstories that often are so different to one another. It’s completely fine. It’s so practical. If anything, I feel like we should all have that. Someone to come in and just find a way to bridge all of the many different gaps that we have. So please don’t find any shame in that. I think it’s incredibly helpful. And, you know, and I, I really think what you keep saying about just listen to your body, honor your body, is so important. I didn’t do that for the longest time. I was assaulted sexually as a child. And then that stopped me from losing my actual kind of consensual virginity until I was 22 years old because I was so afraid of sex. And I, you know, we got so many messages of girls who’d said that they had been assaulted when they were younger and therefore they have lost their, they haven’t lost virginity yet in their late 20s or 30s. First of all, I want you to know that that is completely normal and that is fine, and that if you’ve taken a 10 year break from sex or you’ve never had sex and you’re in your 30s, you are, you are not broken. You are not going to forever maybe exist in this way if you don’t want to. That there is definitely like hope and recovery for you, but you just take as much time as you damn well need. And please just feel immensely proud of yourself, even that you’re still here and you’re able to acknowledge this stuff and talk about it, or even message me a complete stranger about it. I really, really feel so privileged that people feel the safety to share this. But I so want them to know that you are not, there’s no expectation for what you’re supposed to be able to achieve after assault. And so-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:53:38] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:38] With me, once I did start having sex, you know, so many years after having been assaulted. It was really, really difficult at times. And because I had no messaging, I had no Shadeen in my life back then. Where the fuck were you?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:53:55] In Canada.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:55] Yeah. Fair. And you were 12. So I, I would have sex that was painful to me because I was incredibly tense and incredibly tight and I felt too embarrassed to tell this person about this terrible thing that happened to me that wasn’t my fault that I should’ve carried zero shame about. But some part of me, so silly, I was so silly to think that I was damaged or I was wrong, you know? And so I, I would then have this sex that was painful. And because I was, you know, too tight and too tense, I would then get, I’d be the much more likely to get a pretty severe UTI because there’s been more frictional, or there’s been tears. And so then I would start to associate sex with UTIs. And it made me take years off of sex after that because I was so traumatized. And so, you know, amongst other things that happened. So I think that I ended up just setting myself back so much further for not having just owned my survival and owned my vulnerability and told this person that was a lovely person who probably would have been fine with me telling, and actually would have given me the support and empathy I needed that I denied myself in never telling him. And then I ended up getting hurt. And then that gave me a negative association with sex for years. And so I just found myself in this downward spiral. And from what I read on Instagram, I can see so many of you are doing the same thing. So we do just need to stop and listen to our bodies, our bodies are always so much more right than our minds. I feel.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:55:28] Yeah. I like folks to use them in tandem. Right? I think there’s wisdom that our bodies have that our minds haven’t figured yet. I think sometimes our bodies are just like, la la la, I’m going to do this. And I think some of our, you know, sort of-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:40] Not always practically, you’re right.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:55:41] Front, frontal lobe, you know, is like maybe that’s not a great idea. But, you know, I want to highlight some things, you know, and I really appreciate how vulnerable you always are with folks, really sharing your experiences and your stories, because that’s that’s really, really powerful. That as much as we will talk about how, what we all can do for ourselves, I really feel compelled to name also that we have a larger systemic issue at the same time. Right? So lack of education is not like a piecemeal issue, that is a structural cultural issue. Right? That systems of oppression. Right? Underlie all of this. Right? We’re talking sexism. We’re talking racism. We’re talking capitalism. So this way that we relegate all of, sort of our beingness, like productivity in these external sort of sources of pleasure and reinforcement. We’re talking ableism. Right? So even if I was to say just like be in your body and listen to your body, some of us have bodies that just like, hurt, a lot. Right? So I’m a person with chronic pain also. Right? So, like, being in my body is not always like a fun, pleasant thing. Right? And so I need to name as we have these conversations and for anyone who’s listening, that as you encounter experiences, as you experience pain or trauma, that that’s not just about you, and these are not about like personal failings. We also have systems to hold account. And so, yeah, we do the best that we can to take good care of ourselves so that we have enough, you know, to extend generously to take care of each other so that we can all come together and move collectively to dismantle the systems that created the problems in the first place. I know people create systems, but we are, we are far enough out that so much of this gets handed down and inherited without us even noticing. And so I think it’s important for us to trust our inner wisdom enough to have a place to start. And hopefully, you know, for the places where we’re saying that this hurts or this doesn’t work, that we trust that message, that something’s not right enough to seek the support of people who know more than us, people who will listen to us and believe us, people who we feel like we can trust and be safe around. And that might take a little bit of time to find. Right? I know for queer folks and for disabled folks and for people of color, we often have to look more for people who, you know, might really take care of us in a way that we can believe in. So I have to name, name that here, but I want that for folks. I deeply, deeply wish that for folks.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:12] Yeah, that’s beautifully said. And please, please, if you haven’t already done it, if you are someone who has, you know, gone through any kind of assault or harassment, anything that has made you feel traumatized, please go and seek help as well, just for yourself, because there is, there is only good to come from you reaching out for some support through what is, what can be a very difficult and scarring and damaging thing, and that there is so much hope for you. I never thought that I would get better. I never thought that I would be able to stop dis-associating. I never thought that I would be able to be in the moment or enjoy or be able to really participate in or want a sex life. And so, you know, I think that I fully attribute all of the wonderful people that I reached out to, be them friends or be it a therapist. I did, I talk about this every week. I think people think I have shares in EMDR now. But I found personally EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, very helpful for many things, including being able to stop associating sex with kidney infections, to stop associating sex with rape or all the different things that can, that I was associating it with. That it can just be what it is. So there is hope for you out there. Now, on the flip side of this, we have a lot of asexual people who receive their own immense kind of internalized stigma.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [00:59:37] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:37] And so many reached out to me. Numbers that I didn’t even expect because I just don’t hear about asexuality very much. And so that was super illuminating to me. And, and something that I now think about a lot of my friends and I realized maybe that’s what they’re going through and they just haven’t found the name or they’re afraid of that title. Will you explain what asexuality means and what it feels like? Generally.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:00:00] Yeah, generally. So depending on who you ask. Right? Some of these definitions will vary. So I leave space for communities to speak for themselves. It happens to be a community I’m not directly a part of. However, asexuality most broadly described as an umbrella term to really talk about people who maybe experienced little or no sexual attraction to other people. So that doesn’t mean that they don’t want sex, doesn’t mean that they don’t have sex, doesn’t mean they can’t have sexual relationships, but that they don’t have a personal connection to, some of that sexual desire that like deep motivation or that sort of pull that says like, ooh, like that, that is the thing that I want right now. But they absolutely still might have a great time having sex. They might still be absolutely receptive or enthusiastic around sexual experiences. And so there’s enough room in that sort of broad umbrella to give people lots of space to sort of self-defined and figure out for themselves like. OK, like how is it that I feel, right? Maybe I only want sex on like a full moon or maybe I only want sex from, right? Or like, maybe I only want sex, you know, if we’ve known each other for a really long time and I feel very emotionally invested in you or connected in you and so that-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:22] I’m that one.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:01:22] That might be another, yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:23] That’s the one I am.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:01:26] Right? So that’s within the umbrella. And some folks might call that demisexuality. Right? That there’s actually a label for that in the umbrella.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:01:33] Wow.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:01:33] People might talk about aromanticism. So people who might not want a romantic relationship or romantic partnership, or like a deep level commitment. And so if this is sounding like, you know, interesting or an alignment with anyone, I would invite you to, you know, do a little bit of searching around asexuality and, you know, listen to folks describe their experiences because they might be narrating something that you might say, like, oh, like, that’s me and there’s nothing wrong with you. Right? Sexuality is a spectrum.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:02] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:02:02] Sex is a spectrum.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:03] I, I found that a lot of the people messaging me were people where they, were within that umbrella, people who don’t want to have sex at all, they really just don’t have a desire, they don’t enjoy it. And what they were talking to me about was the fact that, you know, I think especially this is being highlighted during lockdown, but they are afraid that that means that they are going to have to be alone. And that is their fear, because asexual people are still, they can still be people who want love and companionship and someone to live with and someone to, they may even be asexual, but they may be a romantic person rather than aromantic at the same time.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:02:40] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:02:40] And so what advice do you have for someone out there who does not, is just not interested in sex? They never have been and they still want a partner. How do they communicate that to someone else? And do you think they have to find someone else asexual? Where, where do people, where might someone be more likely to find someone like that? Have you, have you experience with this? Not personally. I just mean.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:03:04] Yeah, my, my strongest, you know, suggestion for anyone who feels alone in any regard is to find community, to find community, because you’re not, you’re not alone. You might be the only person you know. You might be the only person like in your zip code or your postal code, right, your local area. But that doesn’t mean-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:03:22] Or who’s talking about it?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:03:24] Right, right. But that doesn’t actually mean that you are, that you are the only one having that experience. I cannot reinforce that enough. Right? That over and over and over again, I get messages from people, DMs from people, see people in my office who are like, I’m the only person who’s going through that. And like, literally, it’s, you know, not to diminish anything, but like, a lot of what people bring is literally textbook. Like there are literal textbooks written about people’s experiences. And so I invite people to find communities. Right? There are all sorts of forums. There are, the thing I love about social media is that it makes the world really small in ways that can actually be really beautiful and really helpful. And so literally like hashtag, like asexuality. Hashtag ace. Right? There are entire Reddit forums. There are entire Twitter pages. There are apps that are in development around just like platonic and romantic meetup and hookup spaces. Right? And so just looking for other people who are like you and I don’t think that you default have to partner with someone whose sexuality is the exact same as yours. But being able to own who you are will absolutely make it a lot easier as you are dating or connecting with people to feel out who is for you and who is not. Right? And so as you get to know people and as you share yourself with others, you’ll learn what it is that might work for you. Maybe it’s, OK, I have a, you know, a committed romantic partnership and they seek sex elsewhere. Maybe we’re both just not interested in sex. Maybe I’m cool to schedule sex like a certain number of times. Right? It’s not some, it’s not something that I’m like to woo, excited about, but like I’m fine to do it, right, in these context. Maybe we’re not a committed partnership, but we’re like really good friends. Right? But we’re also like romantic with each other sometimes. There’s so much nuance. There’s so much nuance. But I think it really starts with, first, who am I, what do I want, and can I just, like, own that and be clear with myself so that I can then share that with people? So that I have the experience of having people say yes to me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:27] Compromise is always possible. I think communication is always just the most vital first step is just telling someone. How do you tell someone what you want, what you need? If you want something different to what is currently being served in the relationship. Because, again, that’s something that I cannot leave this episode without covering is that there are a lot of people who have been in long term relationships and that desire is kind of waning.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:05:53] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:05:53] And, you know, they’re just, they love their partner. They don’t want to be with anyone else, but they just don’t have that same pull. They went from shacking six times a day to suddenly just kind of not really being that interested, and a month, two months, three months goes by. And you just don’t, you don’t feel an urge toward them, maybe you’re starting to feel an urge towards other people, what do you, what do you do in that situation?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:06:14] Yeah, yeah. There’s, there’s so many layers, so many layers. And any, any of these conversations could have been an entire podcast on their own, easily.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:06:22] 100 percent. We’re going to need to do our own mini-series together, I think.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:06:24] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:06:25] But truly, just like let’s just go for the most basic of that, which is-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:06:28] Yeah. Cool.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:06:28] How do you? How do you communicate to someone that perhaps you are not satisfied in the relationship? What would be your kind of, if you could give someone a rough template, a complete novice, in telling someone what they want? What advice would you give to them? How to introduce that? You know, sometimes tricky and delicate conversation.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:06:52] Yeah, I would invite it to be a check-in. Right? As you know, things have shifted for you, right? There might also be ways that things have shifted for the other person and they might also be in a similar place where, like, I’m not sure how to bring this up or I’m not sure how to initiate this conversation. And so this can be a dialog rather than just like, you know, a disclosure, you know? And it doesn’t have to be, you know, like, oh, I’m like confessing this like, horrible, terrible thing. But we’re actually doing is allowing our partners into our inner world. Right, remember, when we were talking about it’s so hard to be vulnerable. What most people want out of their relationships is intimacy and intimacy is being allowed into somebody’s innermost self. And so your partner wants to know this. They might not want the thing that you want. Right? But they, it is actually important for them to know how it is that you feel. And so how you might go about doing that is just having a check in. Hey, can we, can we check in about our relationship? You know, I’ve noticed for myself that these are the sorts of things that I’ve been thinking or these are the sorts of things that I am feeling. And so this isn’t about like you don’t do any more or, you know, but just letting people know where you’re at. And again, if you have a request, make the request. Right? I would, I would love if we could explore. Can we talk some more about? Like, have you read anything about blah blah? Can we read more about it? Right? Like really letting it be an invitation and the other person doesn’t necessarily need to decide in that moment because it might be a big surprise to them, whatever it is that you might be sharing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:08:31] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:08:31] But just being able to check-in with each other, sharing about what you’re thinking or feeling. Making a request if you have one and then inviting the information from your partner. How have you been thinking about this? How have you been feeling about this? What’s going on for you?
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:08:47] 100 percent. I have so many friends who have been in long term relationships who are considering leaving those long term relationships. Also I, don’t be worried if you’re listening to this, I don’t think any of them listen to my podcast, it might not necessary be your relationship.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:09:00] Everyone is like, oh no, it’s me.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:09:00] But, fuck.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:09:01] Everyone is scared, am I being dumped?
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:09:10] I know, my god. But I know that a lot of them are in long term relationships where they, they are considering leaving because they would rather do that than hurt the person’s feelings by saying that they are no longer feeling this or wanting this.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:09:23] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:09:23] And I always give the advice of I think that is so much more of a disservice to avoid that one awkward or potentially slightly hurtful to the ego conversation, you are giving up on them without giving them the opportunity to respond.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:09:37] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:09:37] And I think that if there is something there that you think is worth fighting for, I always think it’s better to just go in and have the initial hard conversation, than also, both of you be, A, they’ll never know why you really left. But B, you will always potentially be haunted with what if. What if I just said something? What if I just told them how I felt? What could we have built together? What could we have negotiated around?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:10:00] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:10:00] What could we have opened up to ourselves? Did I just give up on something good because I was too scared to have that one difficult conversation? That one difficult conversation is so much easier than years of what if. So definitely please, and also before you go, because I’ve taken so much of your time and I know this is a long episode, but it fucking had to be, we’re going to need to have Shadeen back. But the BDSM community, who I used to be very fearful of, ’cause I was very judgmental and ignorant, and via doing a documentary, learned that they have some of the most interesting and eloquent and just sort of helpful approaches towards sex and differences and consent that I’ve ever seen. You know, I always thought of it just as just pain and humiliation, but really breaking down how the BDSM community works might be helpful for other people out there, which is that, you know, for example, with online dating and I’m not necessarily saying you have to explicitly do this, but people who are out and proud within the BDSM community send each other a menu early on with interact-, interacting with each other online of what they like sexually. And the other person will send them a menu back. And if they look at those menus together and they don’t correlate, then they don’t fucking bother meeting up. And there, there you go. Wonderful. They’ve had a nice, easy exchange. They’ve said what they like. They’ve been, they’ve kind of taken control of their autonomy and been integral to themselves. And then they haven’t had to go through the fumbling, oh, I’m too scared to say what I like. So I’m just gonna keep trying to, like, push the boundary and hope that that person, this completely different individual likes the same exact thing in that exact same moment. We have got to stop looking at talking about sex as draining of all spontaneity, because I feel like that’s sometimes where the damage comes in is in the unspoken. So I’ve definitely, after learning that, been way more, like I have my little menu of sex. I didn’t even know what my menu of sex was before I had that conversation, because my menu of sex was always whatever they want. That was my whole menu. I’ll just do whatever they are in the mood for and then they’ll think that I’m a good shag and then they’ll stay. And now-.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:12:06] Yeah, and that’s so unexciting.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:12:07] So unexciting. And so now I’ve actually, and, and they can feel a lack of connection when you’re not like 100 percent into it. So I now have that. Just go and make that menu of sex for yourself. That could be your first step, maybe. And figure out exactly what you want.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:12:23] And if that feels really daunting, you can look up, “Yes, no, maybe” lists. Right? Which are like the menu. You can absolutely Google those. There’s so many really great ones. My friends at Afrosexology make one, the sex educator Bex Caputo makes a really, really lovely, thorough one.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:12:41] I can link to some of those when this episode airs, so you can give me those resources.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:12:46] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:12:46] Maybe you and your partner, or your thruple, or your quadruple. Maybe you can all, whatever kind of relationship you’re in. Maybe you could, you know, in this kind of like sit down chat about what you both want. Maybe you can both fill one of those in beforehand and sit down and kind of make an evening of it. Get some wine, have some pizza and go through it. And remember that you were friends first.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:13:10] Right, but really, how do we negotiate that so that we if we are going to do this together, if we’re going to share this experience together, how do we make sure that we’re both satisfied?
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:13:19] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:13:19] That’s what, that’s what, that’s what we want out of sex. We want to leave satisfied.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:13:23] Agreed. I have plenty of friends who bring a vibrator to the day and don’t feel ashamed of it and shouldn’t feel ashamed of it because they don’t, they don’t reach orgasm in penetrative situation or maybe even with a partner or with just hands. It takes a certain device to be able to do that. And it took them a while to get into it, and finally, they were just like, OK, here it is. And the other person was so relieved. They were so relieved. That were like, oh great, because after an hour and a half, my hand is about to fall off. And I was worried that I was just never going to be able please you.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:13:55] The stamina.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:13:55] How fantastic that there is now a fun shortcut where we can now both guarantee that everyone leaves happier than when they came in. Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:14:03] And I want to name for people with, for people with vulvas that most people are not going to orgasm from penetration alone. So even if it feels great and even if you’re like cool, I’m done now, you might not orgasm, and that’s just anatomy. That’s not like there’s something wrong with me or I’m broken. It’s actually over two thirds of people with vulvas who do not orgasm from penetrative sex alone.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:14:27] Wow.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:14:28] Just, just to normalize that, ’cause that’ education people don’t get.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:14:31] Did not know it was two thirds of people. That’s fascinating.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:14:35] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:14:35] So many people messaged me about that being like, is there something wrong with me that I can’t receive orgasm during, I can’t reach orgasm during, during sex, penetrative sex.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:14:43] It’s that, it’s that penetrative sex is not the thing that gets most vulvas to orgasm. Right? And so notice the branding of sex. Right? So sex is penetrative and it’s a thing that most people with vulvas don’t orgasm from. Like think about who that serves and why there’s not more education around that. Right? So when I said, like, get to know yourself, communicate with each other. But then we have to address the systems because people don’t know that. That would be a really helpful thing for people to know so that no matter who it is, if anyone is having sex with or on a vulva like that, you know what to expect and that you don’t put unnecessary pressure expectations on anybody.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:15:21] Yeah, yeah, I think that’s great. Again, so many people were so worried like people, I think there were people from every gender or who do not subscribe to agenda, who were telling me that they have sometimes maybe never been able to reach orgasm during penetration or even with their hands, and were worried that there’s something wrong with them, that they never would be able to. I think it’s important to not set up too many rules for yourself, or for your body and to accept that it’s going to work the way it’s going to work and thankfully, we live in a time where there are, there is the Internet. And on that Internet, on that mysterious worldwide web, we can find different things that are made to meet our needs. Because so many people have those same needs.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:16:04] Yeah, yeah. We put so much pressure on orgasm. Orgasm in a sexual experience, like, if we’re just saying, oh, that we each get one. Right? You’re looking at anywhere from 5 to 48 seconds on average. And if we’re suppose to be having sex for hours and hours, like the ratio of time we spent, like focusing on like less than a minute, like it’s just very, it’s very absurd.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:16:25] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:16:25] It’s very absurd. We watched the entire movie for this literal, like Instagram clip, like preview moment.ed Like we watch the whole movie for this one little moment. Like, if we were to think about that, it, it just doesn’t make a ton of sense. Right? Did, did I enjoy the rest of it? Are we having a good time most of the time? Right? Yeah. Orgasms are cool. Don’t get me wrong. I like them. And the more pressure you put on this one little thing, right, I’m Caribbean. So the phrase is like, “A watched pot doesn’t boil”. Right? The more pressure-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:16:59] I always say a watched cock doesn’t boil, which is really gross and doesn’t make any sense.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:17:03] Yeah. I don’t think we want the cock to boil. If there’s boils we actually need to-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:17:07] Agreed.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:17:07] Take a step back. Right? But you know, we should watch it then.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:17:11] Yeah.
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:17:11] Keep an eye on it. We don’t want it to boil. Right? But just acknowledging that, you know, the more tension you put on this moment, the more stress that you put, and that when you go back to the beginning and thinking about like, oh, I’m not even in my body anymore. I’m too stressed to feel good. Right? But like, just acknowledging sex is about this satisfactory experience overall. Overall. So how am I being treated? How do I feel? Right? Does this feel good on my body? Does this feel good for my brain or my heart or my spirit or whatever you’re connected to? And if that happens to lead to an orgasm, super cool. And you can learn more about your body and figure out like. OK, like what are the places that feel the best? So that I might have one of these sort of peak moments, but to know that, like, literally it’s probably going to be like 28 seconds long. And so like, yeah, it’s really fun. Right? And it’s cool. But like it doesn’t have to be the entire point of the whole experience, and if that hasn’t happened for you at all or doesn’t happen for you often, or you have to work really hard for it, that doesn’t make you abnormal or broken. Right? It’s a very, very small piece of our very big lives.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:18:16] True. So well put. Oh, you been so great. You’ve already made me feel so much better about so many things. That I can imagine you, you’ve helped the many people who wrote in looking for your guidance. I will. I will, of course, be highlighting Shadeen’s work and show you where to find her. She’s one of my favorite people in the whole wide world and who I feel so grateful to have met this year and look forward to knowing for a long time. Before you go, Shadeen, will you please tell me, what do you weigh?
SHADEEN FRANCIS [01:18:43] I weigh peace and pleasure. Right? I weigh just a call towards helping people really trust in themselves and be able to live lives that feels good. To feel good.
JAMEELA JAMIL [01:19:05] Lovely. Well, I weigh this wonderful conversation. Thank you so much. And I took up so much of your time. Thank you for that. We covered so much. And we will figure out a time to do this again. You’ve been a joy. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. “I Weigh with Jameela Jamil” is produced and research by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music that you are hearing now is made by my boyfriend, James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate, review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. I really appreciate it and it amps me up to bring on better and better guests. Lastly, at “I Weigh” we would love to hear from you and share with you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 1-818-660-5543. Or email us what you way at IWeighPodcast@gmail.com. It’s not in pounds and kilos, so please don’t send that. It’s all about your just, you, you know, you’ve been on the Instagram. Anyway. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our listeners. From one of our listeners, they say, “I weigh my radical lack of religion and intense depth of spirituality. I weigh my courage to live well. I weigh my beautiful, powerful journey of motherhood and womanhood. I weigh strength and softness and blackness and freedom. Above all, I weigh peace.
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