The Parents' Guide to Doing It

Welcome to our Sex & Parenthood series!
We’re so glad you’re here. It is high time we talk about this topic in the bold, head-on way that it deserves. We’re kicking off the series with some real, actionable (and NSFW) sex advice with Dan Savage and Jane Marie. Find out about the rest of the series here.

Why sex advice for parents? Everyone knows those two things don’t go together.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, sex doesn’t come easily when you have kids. But there are tricks to getting around the exhaustion, the breastfeeding, postpartum pain, and those I’m-just-a-mom blahs. And in this episode, our experts tell all.

P.S. Most of their tips are super helpful for non-parents too!

Dan Savage

Dan Savage

Jane Marie

Jane Marie

Who are Dan Savage and Jane Marie?
Dan Savage is a writer, TV personality, and activist best known for his political and social commentary, as well as his honest approach to sex, love and relationships in his sex advice column Savage Love and his podcast Savage Lovecast. In September 2010, Dan created a YouTube video with his husband Terry Miller to inspire hope for LGBT young people facing harassment, which launched the It Gets Better Project. Dan lives in Seattle with his husband Terry and their teenage son DJ. He wrote about adopting DJ in his book The Kid.

Jane Marie is a former This American Life producer. She went on to co-edit the Hairpin where she created the How to Be a Girl beauty series and instructional videos. She now writes for Rookie and Cosmopolitan.com, where she has a column called The Secret Life of Marrieds. Jane lives in Los Angeles with her husband Julian McCullough (from our episode 37) and their daughter Goldie.

Resources for a healthy sex life
Well, for starters, you should, of course, check out Dan’s column, listen to his podcast, and read his book American Savage.

Dan recommends Esther Perel’s book Mating in Captivity to get a better handle on why longterm domestic relationships are the enemy of eros, and what you can do about it. He encourages women with extended pelvic pain (and their partners!) to check out an article that Dr. Lori Brotto contributed to Savage Love about why pelvic pain may persist even after it has been treated. Pelvic pain, by the way, is the topic of our next episode in this series, so we will have loads of resources on that to come. If swinging is your thing, Dan says Swingland by Daniel Stern is a good primer.

UPDATE: For more books that will help moms reclaim their sex lives, check out this post.

Jane likes the blog (with NSFW GIFs) Orgasmic Tips for Girls, which has lots of how-to’s and tips that’ll just make you feel like orgasms are normal. Which brings me to the resource at the top of her list: talking. With your partner, your friends, a therapist, anyone. “People don’t like to do it for some reason,” she says, “but it’s crucial. I feel like the discourse online is either meant to scare or shock or condemn or sensationalize this very, very normal part of our lives.” Bravo, Jane! I couldn’t have said it better. Really, that’s the whole point of this series.

And so. Let’s talk about sex & parenthood.
We need YOU to help keep this conversation going. *Please* leave a comment with your own experiences (anonymous is fine!). Tell us what has worked for you. What hasn’t worked? What resources do you like? And respond to each other, too. Let’s change the online discourse about sex & parenthood! You. And me. And all of us.

Dan Savage headshot: LaRae Lobdell; Jane Marie headshot: Amy Touchette

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259 thoughts on “EPISODE #48: The Parents’ Guide to Doing It

  1. As a childless single lady, I feel a lot of empathy for women who have been injured during childbirth, and still have one lingering question/frustration with this episode. Is the clitoris injured during childbirth? I imagine not. And I understand that if your vulva has been injured and you are breastfeeding, probably you don’t even want to think about sex. But technically, if the clitoris is functioning, couldn’t you get off through masturbation and/or using a vibrator? I am deeply offended at this idea of all these labor-injured and low-libido women giving endless blow jobs and hand jobs without any reciprocation. Seems like once the injuries heal, it’s the perfect time to pull out a vibrator or for the husband to get really good at clitoral stimulation, and have a mutual masturbation fest with lots of dirty talk. Is Dan Savage right, that most cis gendered straight men still think that vaginal intercourse is the only “real sex”?

    1. Hi Lucy! LST producer here. Thanks for your honest reaction and questions. Childbirth injuries are different for every woman. Unfortunately the clitoris does sometimes tear and sometimes the healing process changes sensation forever. And I don’t think anyone is suggesting that new mothers should only give and not receive – these pieces of advice are for women who aren’t interested (for various emotional and hormonal reasons) in receiving for a period of time, but still want to give sexual pleasure to their partners. We’d love to hear from you if you have more questions! We’re gearing up for another episode of sex advice and it would be great to have some questions from childfree people. You can email us at hello [at] longestshortesttime [dot] com. Thanks!

      1. The clitoris can tear from childbirth?????? Why on earth would anyone ever choose to have a natural birth then? This is turning my whole world upside down. I would love it if you had a pelvic floor expert on to explain how that happens and what recovery looks like. I was aware of pelvic pain in many women for all different kinds of reasons, and what the rehabilitation process looks like (placing a vibrator at the vaginal opening and gently massaging the tissue, along with keigel exercises). But wow, I never in a million years thought the clitoris could get hurt during labor. My mind is officially blown. I’m a 36 year old single woman who has up until this point wanted to find a partner and have a baby. And I’ve totally been one of those natural/home birth if possible people. But why should I consider having a baby if my clitoris might get torn in the process? How do other women deal with this? Why did I not know about this?

        1. Whoa– you’re confusing a bunch of things there. A natural birth doesn’t increase your odds of tearing. Coached pushing (way more common in hospitals /sometimes necessary in hospitals when women have been given drugs) ups your odds of tearing. And instrumental deliveries (forceps, vacuum) also result in genital trauma. All of those things are potentially part of a hospital birth, not a natural one.

          I personally chose to birth at home so I would have a better chance of avoiding all that. Some injuries cant be predicted or prevented, but many can with the right information and preparation on Mom’s part. Most providers in this country, regardless of type, don’t talk to women about things we can do to avoid genital trauma, so we have to educate ourselves. Also, we can’t rely on the doctor or midwife to take care of everything; they can’t feel it if something is painful in a particular spot that’s experiencing too much pressure. Only the birthing mother can know that, and reposition herself accordingly or ask for support. I spoke with my midwives as well as a doula on things I could do (learning about labor with my partner so I could relax; being affectionate with my husband and welcoming the sensual side of the experience so I could stay “open”; avoiding drugs that could block informative sensations; letting my body push when it’s ready, not according to a provider’s direction; ensuring I didn’t have an active yeast infection, which dries the vaginal tissue and makes it less supple; etc.). At my request, my midwife helped keep me lubricated while I pushed, and I touched my clitoris while pushing in order to help myself keep opening up safely and comfortably.

          One of my favorite reminders about this comes from Ina May Gaskin, who says something along the lines of “the same energy that gets the baby in, gets the baby out.” Embracing sensuality during labor is very helpful– vaginas may be doing more work than normal during birth, but they still work the same way they always do when we’re letting things pass through them. They need time to stretch, good feelings help them relax, lubrication is essential. It’s easier to do that at home than in a hospital, but I’m sure the right combination of an informed mama, helpful birth partner and doula could do a lot to mitigate the hospital issues that can impede that.

        2. Anyway, it’s definitely possible to come through labor without too much trauma or drama. Everyone is different and every labor is different, but it is possible to have a good experience! Between squatting and other relevant exercises before birth, and taking those other steps to educate myself and protect my lady bits, I gave birth to my baby boy without any vaginal drama. No tears, my pelvic floor recovered nicely, and within a few weeks we were having enjoyable sex again (when baby would actually sleep!). And my panties stay dry when I laugh and sneeze. Yay!

          Here’s a great link about how to work with the sensations of birth to protect yourself from tearing: https://thejoyofthis.com/2013/03/15/birth-sensations-and-protecting-the-perineum-through-it-all/

          1. Glad to hear some of you had the “perfect” birth. All my active birth prep was little help when I required an induction for reasons outside my control. So NO GUILT to those who did require medical intervention, did tear etc. My clitorus did NOT tear. It still doesn’t work like it used to. It has been harder to enjoy sex since my second child, who was a natural birth, no interventions . Perhaps it hormones (still breastfeeding), perhaps it’s sleep deprivation, perhaps it’s because I’m listening out for interruptions. Masterbation is not getting me to orgasim about 90% of the time. So mostly I don’t bother although I suspect I should because I think I need to learn my new self and new genitals. Sex can still be enjoyable with lube and gentleness. Tender touch is still lovely.

  2. I felt this episode so hard. Since giving birth to my beautiful son 2 1/2 years ago, my sex drive has been almost zero. I feel like I’d rather masturabte than be physical with my hubs. I love and am very attracted to him but it’s so hard to bring myself to actually have sex with him. I think it’s a combination of not feeling attractive and the fear of getting pregnant again! I love my son but he was not planned and I was on BC when it occurred. We use BC and condoms but I still feel that fear.

    1. Hi Lynn, thanks for sharing! I’m the producer of LST and I wanted to let you know that we’re gearing up for a NEW episode with sex experts. If you have a question you’d like to be considered, please email it in to hello [at] longestshortesttime [dot] com. Thanks!

    2. I’m right there with you- I’m in the midst of talking to my hubby about getting a vasectomy. I don’t think men really understand how much the fear of pregnancy affects women! EVen if they are very sensitive, understanding men!

  3. Hey probably your most conservative listener here! Mom to 5 yo girl and 3yo boy. My sex drive is totally gone out the window, in fact I dread it so barley do it. Extremely understanding husband but I feel bad! Will try some of Dans ideas was really a revelation that sex isn’t only penetration! I welcome further shows like this!
    Love your podcast!

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