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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to queer Black polyamorous feminist and Parenting Is Political podcast co-host Jasmine Banks about the role of kink in healing sexual trauma, the beauty of going through a second adolescence with partners you trust, teaching our kids about sex and gender and pleasure and joy, and how masturbating first thing in the morning can save lives.
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Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Today, we're talking to Jasmine Banks, pronouns she and her. Jasmine is a queer Black feminist living her best polyamorous life in Arkansas. She's a nonprofit executive director and one-half of the parenting podcast Parenting is Political. Yes, it is. Hey, Jasmine.
Jasmine Banks: Hi. What up? How is everyone doing?
Erica: We are great.
Kenrya: Thank you for coming on.
Jasmine Banks: You're most welcome. It's my pleasure.
Kenrya: Now, it's time for us to get in your business.
Erica: I know. So, like Kenrya said, we're just going to jump straight into your junk. When do you first remember masturbating?
Jasmine Banks: Oh, when I was somewhere around six or eight. There was a Teddy Ruxpin with a very hard plastic nose, and I would just grind the shit out of his face.
Erica: Our parents thought they were doing something sweet, buying us these big-ass stuffed animals, and you're like, "No, you just bought me a boo."
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, yeah. It was definitely interchangeable between Teddy Ruxpin, or I had these Care Bears that also had the hard plastic nose. They don't do stuffed animals like they did. Right now, my kids, they have embroidered stuff, and it's different material, but it's a hard-ass plastic nose-
Erica: Yes, I remember.
Jasmine Banks: ... and really firm stuffing.
Erica: Because if you get hit in the face with it, like if your cousin likes swinging the legs and knocking on your face, you can lose something.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, yeah, and I remember getting into a fight and throwing those stuffed animals and hitting my grandma's glass coffee table, trying to hit my cousin Shaniqua, and it landed face forward. So, the nose clinked on the glass, and she got her flyswatter, but yeah, it was firm, a substantial stuffed animal, and I took full advantage of it.
Erica: So, was that your preferred technique or did you have a different preferred technique as a baby Jasmine?
Jasmine Banks: It was pillows, stuffed animals. That was it.
Kenrya: That's a common thing what we’re doing.
Jasmine Banks: It was like Pretty Ricky “Grind On Me.”
Jasmine Banks: And Teddy Ruxpin was marketed as an educational toy, but they didn't know what kind of lengths this Virgo child would take that education to.
Erica: You're like, "Oh, we're going to learn a whole lot."
Jasmine Banks: Yes, I am nothing if not resourceful, like I put a little ABC tape in his belly, and he would talk to me, and then I would reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle. You know?
Jasmine Banks: We'd learn together and then...
Erica: We learned together.
Kenrya: Learned together.
Jasmine Banks: Teddy Ruxpin after dark on my futon bed.
Kenrya: I love it.
Erica: I love it.
Jasmine Banks: My mom was like, "You're so attached to him. You'd never wanted to get rid of him when you were younger."
Erica: Like, yeah, boo. It's under this link like, "Boo."
Kenrya: Here's why. So, how old were you when you had your first kiss?
Jasmine Banks: I was nine, and it was with my godbrother. I was raised with two really incredible godmothers, Lee and Orlanda, and they were Black lesbians that lived up the street, and they had... Lee had a son from a prior marriage and that was Brandon, and we spent time together all the time, and we just wanted to see what it was like to kiss, and I remember kissing in the front room, and the parents had gone to something because back then, they were like, "We're just going to leave the babies. Just don't answer the door or the phone."
Erica: Yeah, all the time.
Jasmine Banks: All the time, and there was some uncle that was somewhere in the room not even paying attention to us.
Erica: Oh my God.
Kenrya: That's our house.
Erica: You've completely described my home, like our situation.
Jasmine Banks: He was watching BET or Matlock or something random. I just remember. In the room, it was one of those touch lamps that have three different levels, and then Lee and Orlanda's room was to the left, and there was beads on the door, and we were right by the front door, and one of those black midnight... I can't remember exactly the name, but it was one of those cone incense was just burning and the kiss-
Kenrya: You can't see.
Jasmine Banks: I really thought I was in love with Brandon.
Erica: And now, you look at him like, "Ooh," family.
Kenrya: Proximity will do that to you.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, I'm like, "That was my family," but even though I have Black community in my school, the social setting was predominantly white. So, I was already starting to get those message of like, "That's not your real family because it's not biological."
Erica: It was like-
Jasmine Banks: Which I don't even know why white people even be talking like that because they know that it'll be biological, and they still be kissing their cousins and enjoying it. So...
Erica: Oh, well. We have whole dynasties. They have whole dynasties built upon that, but-
Kenrya: Keeping it in the family.
Erica: ... they ain't ready for that conversation. Isn't that what the young people say?
Kenrya: Let me know when we going to talk? So, y'all don't want to hear that.
Erica: Yeah, we ain't ready to talk about it.
Kenrya: But bitch, you just started the conversation. Okay. You just made me feel old.
Erica: How old were you when you had a sense of your gender identity?
Jasmine Banks: I have a very interesting story, and I don't even know if K knows this because I'm not super public about it, but in the spirit of giving y'all the juicy content, I was assigned female at birth, and then about eight or nine, I started having developmental issues, and I lived female at birth. My gender was girl. So, sex, obviously different than gender, but it does definitely inform so much about how you perform gender, about how you come into gender conversations. So, around 12, I had this period. My period started, and it didn't stop, and it didn't stop for six months, and I got really, really sick and anemic, and my mom had to take me to the emergency room.
Jasmine Banks: So, they did an X-ray on my abdomen, and they were like, "Something is not right here." So, they gave me some meds to stop the bleeding, and then I went into emergency surgery, and then whenever I came back from emergency surgery, they said, "On your right ovary, part of it was filled with cysts, and we're going to diagnose you with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and then the other section of your right ovary was actually an internal gonad, and you have hyperandrogenism," and they told me at that time that chromosomally and hormonally, I was more male than female, but my sex designation on my birth certificate didn't change, and I continue to feel like very affirmed as a woman and knowing that hormonally and chromosomally, I am more toward the male end of the spectrum of the sex assignments than the female.
Jasmine Banks: Then for part of my life, I went on hormones to increase my female presentation, like growing breasts and fighting hair and finding different things, and then they told me I would never have children because I was making too much testosterone internally to be able to ever fertilize an egg or be compatible with semen, but I surprised them and have four of them little niggas.
Kenrya: Yeah, you do.
Jasmine Banks: With one ovary.
Erica: I know.
Kenrya: That ovary be working hard.
Erica: God is my witness. We going to have a baby.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, yeah, and it came as quite a surprise to me because I was not trying to get pregnant, and after I had that initial period of menstruation, I never menstruated again, which was a part of being intersex is what it's called, and so yeah, and the only way that I could really menstruate at that point was if I gave myself the hormones because my testosterone level, and all of my androgens are just through the roof, which makes me stronger, and I have more of a sex drive than a lot of hormonally typical assigned female folks, and there's just lots of dynamics that play into it. It's quite interesting.
Erica: Answer this if you'd like, or if not, shut up, bitch. We'll be fine. Are you still on meds? How does that affect now?
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, so I tried to go on birth control to level out some of my body dysmorphia that I experienced around the follicle, like PMS menstruation cycle, and because I have so much testosterone, whenever I went on synthetic estrogen, my body... The hormonal response was just to make even more testosterone and then even more estrogen and then even more progesterone, which caused me all types of issues. So, my endocrinologist was like, "Please don't ever try that again."
Erica: Just you.
Jasmine Banks: Like, "You're intersex. Just be intersex," and the only thing I have to do if I want to get pregnant is I have to supplement progesterone, so it lowers my testosterone levels a little bit so that my body doesn't become a war zone for a fetus.
Erica: Yeah, no. Right after surgery, but before I started chemo, I had to do the egg preservation steps, and baby, like-
Jasmine Banks: Them shots.
Erica: I had to chemo any day. Those hormones, bitch. I remember I was in a nail salon crying and cussing a nigga out over nail polish like, "You don't fucking understand." Those hormones would do something to you, so I'm glad you're able to just live without it.
Kenrya: She already a Gemini, so...
Jasmine Banks: And what?
Kenrya: And she's already a Gemini. Look at her looking at me.
Erica: Shut up, bitch. You're bringing up old shit just to—fix your face. I thought we was homies. I thought she was a homie.
Jasmine Banks: My wife's a Gemini.
Erica: God bless you.
Erica: You know how to love a complex creature.
Jasmine Banks: My oldest daughter is also Gemini.
Erica: That was training.
Kenrya: Is she?
Jasmine Banks: Yeah.
Kenrya: Oh. I'm surrounded. Between Erica and my daughter, they just here. My daddy's a Gemini.
Jasmine Banks: You got to love them.
Kenrya: I do.
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Ding, ding, ding. Ding, ding, ding.
Kenrya: They are lovable. They just got a lot going on.
Erica: We have a lot of angst in our spirits.
Jasmine Banks: They just need us in their life.
Kenrya: That's true. So, how old were you when you first started experimenting sexually with other people?
Jasmine Banks: Nine. No. Was it nine? No, 13.
Erica: I need the story behind it because your face was just... I need to know what made that happen to your face.
Jasmine Banks: Well, her name was Sarah, and she lived in Tulsa, another neighbor, and we were really good friends, spent all summer together. I think we went to different schools, but we definitely had a lot of summertime interaction, and we were the only kids. Well, there were only three families that had children on our street. So, I would spend the night at her house. Her father had these magazines stacked up in their playroom where we would play with the Barbies. It was like right whenever Skipper's little sister came on the scene in Barbie, and you could squeeze her belly, and she'd pee in the potty.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, so we got this set up. I'm very specific. I be like archiving my life. So, I have journals detailing this-
Jasmine Banks: .... pretty well. Yeah.
Erica: This is a Virgo.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah. So, Sarah and I are in his hunting room, which has this little play section, and all of these magazines just has sports magazines and on the tops of all of them, it's just about deer and bird hunting and fishing, and he was an outdoorsman, and at one point, we were trying to move the magazines to create a mansion or neighborhood for our Barbies, and the magazine stack slid, and underneath it was Drew Barrymore's Playboy Edition, and I was like, "What is this?"
Erica: Now, we bout to play.
Jasmine Banks: So, I unzip my Care Bear onesie and shove the magazine in there, and we run to her room, and we looked at Drew Barrymore's butterfly tattoos and her playboy centerfold, and that led to lots of experimentation and touching and dry humping and grinding, and Sarah was the first person that I had sexual contact with. Consensual sexual contact with, I think is important to delineate.
Kenrya: Absolutely. Well, actually, the next question is, can you tell us about your first time having partnered sex? So, I don't know if y'all actually ended up having what you would term sex or if that would be another situation.
Jasmine Banks: I mean, there was digital stimulation. There was oral stimulation. There was climax. I would call it-
Kenrya: Yeah, sounds like sex to me.
Jasmine Banks: ... partner sex. Yeah. We were like 12, 13, somewhere in that range, and then we became girlfriends. I don't think we called each other girlfriends, but that's what we were, and I lived there for two and a half years, and we had a regular sexual relationship, and my mom would be like, "Yeah, you could have a sleepover. Just no boys allowed," and I was all, “Bet.”
Jasmine Banks: “Bet. No boys allowed.”
Erica: Like, "No problem." That ain't no problem. That ain't no problem.
Jasmine Banks: When she would come over to my house for a sleepover, I had one of those attic rooms that had been turned into a room, so it had the stairs going up, and it had an attic fan, but it was a whole door situation, and I was like, "Let's turn up Usher really loud, and you just lay on your back," and just dry hump for hours.
Erica: Look, I call him our good friend. I call them our good friend dry humping because once we started having sex, we left dry humping in the past, but-
Kenrya: ... dry humping can be a very useful thing.
Jasmine Banks: Well, in the queer community, it's not separate than penetrative sexual expression and practice. It's actually called tribbing. So, it's useful in the toolbox of sexuality because not everybody's genitals are the same, and most people think of intercourse as P and V penetration, and there's just—sex is so expansive, and sex doesn't require penetration or climax for it to be sex. So, I think if we framed it that way socially, a lot of us would be more honest about how young we were actually having sex.
Erica: So, what about an orgasm? When did you first have an orgasm with a partner?
Jasmine Banks: With Sarah, yeah. Our parents were either just negligent or super chill. I guess it depends on like-
Erica: Depending on the director of the movie.
Jasmine Banks: Right. It depends on if my PTSD is triggered, if I frame it as how I frame the story, but they were cool with me and Sarah taking showers together, and they're like, "Oh, they're just friends." I mean, my mom wasn't naïve because my mom, I came out to her when I was eight. I was like, "I think I'm gay," and she's like, "Okay, girl. Eat your food."
Erica: “What's for dinner?”
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, so we were allowed to do all sorts of things even though my mom had drag queens as friends and folks in that period of time that identified as transsexuals and folks that were just gay men. My mom had a lot of really good friends who were impacted by HIV/AIDS. So, she was having conversations with me about sex and sexual identity very, very early on, and I knew about masturbation as one of the first... She framed it as like, "If you don't know how to please yourself, can't nobody else please you, so you better start practicing, Jasmine, and know what feels good to you," which is really interesting in juxtaposition with some of her other parenting practices, but suffice to say, I think she probably knew what was going on and was laissez-faire about it, whereas Sarah's parents were like country-ass white people who were like, "They're just friends taking showers together."
Jasmine Banks: Anyway, so my first orgasm was in the shower with a removable shower head with Sarah. We figured out how to turn it on the high-pressure vibration mode, and I just held it at her, and it worked.
Erica: I still haven't done the shower thing. We-
Kenrya: Yeah, we were talking to somebody else doing a, "This is your sex life," and she was saying that that's one of her tools, and we were both like, "We never do that."
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it became an issue for my mom whenever I used it as a young person because she'd be like, "Other people have to use that to shower, little nasty girl," but Sarah was the first person that I realized that I could use that medium to achieve climax, but what I didn't realize is when you have that really intense experience for the first time and you're not prepared for it, your legs start shaking and you get weak and in a slippery bathtub is probably not where you want that to happen.
Kenrya: Poor baby.
Jasmine Banks: So, I'm standing in the back and pushing myself back onto the tiles so that she can do what she needs to do with the shower head, and I climax, and my legs fall out from under me, and I just... like strike me and Sarah in the shower, but I don't think any of us have unclumsy sexual experiences no matter what age.
Erica: None of us.
Kenrya: Makes it fun.
Erica: Yeah, when you're older, it makes it a little more dangerous because those body parts aren't as rubbery as they were when you were younger.
Jasmine Banks: That's so funny. Yes, that's true. That's very true.
Kenrya: So, what three words would you use to describe sex in your teens?
Jasmine Banks: It was confusing. It was painful. Gosh. I feel like I'm such a buzz kill now in this part of the interview.
Jasmine Banks: And it was about safety.
Kenrya: Do you want to expound on any of that or do you want to move on to your 20s?
Jasmine Banks: Sure. So, around the time that I moved away from that neighborhood, with Sarah, I moved into a community called The Colony, which is for single mothers who are widowed or divorced who have been homeless because my mom had gone through multiple domestic violence situations, and we lived in domestic violence shelters. So, anyway, we landed in this place that was my most stable home, and it was in very much influenced and proselytized by the churches that were in that area. So, as a part of going to school with a white majority, junior high and high school, and being a part of this community that was preyed upon of like, "Oh, you're a widow and you're a single mom, and you should come to this event," I started going to youth group.
Jasmine Banks: So, I went from having this really fringe radical Black, queer, Native experience as a young person into this very white cisgender heterosexual Christian patriarchal frame, and there was a lot of social motivation for me to not identify as Black, but to identify as mixed, for me to ask Jesus to be my Lord and Savior and get rid of all of the sinful things that, obviously, because she was a single mother, she had... my mom had thrust upon me. So, I went through a period of really rejecting all the things that my mom taught me around sex and positivity in the best way that she could because she felt like she wasn't empowered and adopted a lot of the True Love Waits movement, which was Joshua Harris and a part of the white evangelical church.
Jasmine Banks: So, there's purity balls and there's like throwing away your secular music and don't be a sexual temptress, and then that really required me pressing down my identity as a queer person, and at that point, I identified as a bi person. So, I confessed those evil sins to my youth pastor and all of my other student leaders, and I made a commitment to be celibate, and I threw away any kind of idea around non-monogamy, and I was on the straight and narrow, and during a religious trip to the Cherokee Nations, family camp revival, that was happening in my senior year, I met a white man who was part of a worship group who had come to the Cherokee nation to do a mission trip over spring break, and he ended up being... I was 18, and he ended up being the first person I married.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, so I spent the last part of my teenage years with him, and the safety layer of that is that when you're told at, like my mom is an unenrolled Cherokee, which means that she's not actually allowed to claim Cherokee citizenship even though her father's mother is on the Dawes Rolls. We're currently in the process of applying for citizenship so people can stop telling me that I'm not Cherokee because I can't handle it. So, when you're not Black enough, you're not Cherokee enough, you're not straight enough, you're not queer enough, you're the single mom, you're homeless, really, you look for safety, and anti-Blackness in the form of cishet patriarchal society, particularly of the white Christian persuasion, offers a lot of faux safety.
Jasmine Banks: But what you trade for your safety is compliance and shedding your identity. So, I did that in my teen years, my junior high and teen years, in order to feel some stability and normalcy. The short version of the end of that story is it didn't fucking work.
Kenrya: Okay, good. So, what three words would you use to describe sex in your 20s?
Jasmine Banks: Sex in my early 20s was unfulfilling, was about power, and was just about reproduction and getting my babies.
Kenrya: You want to dive into any of that?
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, so, by the time I was 20, I had married this white man from an upper-class family and a very Southern Baptist background, and I was trying my best despite all of my feminists and Black feminists and radical ideology and proclivities to be the good Christian wife, and we were in ministry together in church ministry around worship, and then I did children's ministry. So, I didn't really have a very fulfilling sexual life because he was not able to come to a space with partnered sex that was liberatory and open because of how his Southern Baptist upbringing had really caused so much damage around sexual identity, and then on top of that, I didn't know that he was an abuser, and that it was an underground situation.
Jasmine Banks: So, sex then just became about like, "How do I negotiate power with him? How do I have children because I know I want to have children, if I'm going to have children?" Because I'd already had one by accident, which was Zara, and then I knew I wanted her to have siblings, but the writing was clearly on the wall that we were not going to be together, and I didn't, and I hadn't yet discovered that he was a pathological sexual predator. So, yeah, it was just more about, like let's just figure out how to survive in this marriage and get my needs met. By the time Zara was born, I was still in undergrad, and he had tried to pressure me to not keep the baby, or if I kept the baby to drop out of school, and I just knew sort of intuitively that I needed to push through school, and I was like, "No, you drop out, and I will stay," and then I had a lot of non-sexual deeply intimate same-sex relationships through my 20s where there was cuddling and erotic connection, but there was never intercourse.
Jasmine Banks: So, I didn't feel sexually deprived, but I was coming to terms with the fact that I either need to have an open marriage, or I need to admit that I'm more queer than what I can stand, and also I'm just not a good Christian wife, but by the time I was 20... Yeah, 25 was the first time I discovered that he was a sexual predator and had been assaulting women and hiding it from me, and he went to sex rehab. So, then sex just became like, "What the fuck?" It was good that my mom taught me to masturbate because I did a lot of that and a lot of non-partnered sex. Am I so bumming y'all out?
Erica: No. Not at all.
Kenrya: Not at all.
Erica: I was just thinking like, "Damn, this is interesting as hell," and the fact that... I mean, I hate that super positivity where it's like, "Man, you've been through so much," and you're still so positive. I hate that, but at the same time, you understand where that's a simple way of summing up how I'm feeling right now like, "Goddamn." These experiences have made you into just an interesting little layered person that I am like, "How much time we got here? Because I want to go back to... " It's amazing how all these experiences have just built up to make you who you are, and I think it's dope as fuck.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, so the end of my 20s was... As far as like relationally, I was working on confronting that my children who I found out were sexual assault survivors by the hands of their biological father and fighting for their right and navigating my own. When you're in intimate violent situations, sex is also a component of how the abuser brings you back and controls you or creates shame narratives. So, I was working through all of that, but by the time the end of my mid-20s rolled around, I was able to have a community to really help me emancipate myself from that chaos, and then I was able to start doing sexuality on my terms that was absence of the constraints of a predatory abusive connection.
Jasmine Banks: So, the end of my 20s was a really, really fun time of catching up on all the things my True Love Waits period of life had kept me from experiencing.
Kenrya: I just think about the ways that sex was used as a weapon within my marriage all the time and how overwhelming that is and how it contributes to my PTSD and how it stands in the way of... It doesn't have to, but it threatens to jump in the way of having healthy relationships after the fact and all that it takes to do that and loving the fact that you've been able to do that and create a life with Mo and y'all's kids, and it's just-
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, Mo and my other partners who have done a tremendous amount of dharma and labor around helping me transform, and there was a pretty good year where when Mo and I would have intercourse, particularly penetrative intercourse, where if I climaxed, I would spend the next hour in a ball having a panic attack. So, it really required having a gentle partner who could hold me and not personalize whenever I had that dissociative experience around sex and body, and we don't often talk about the ways in which those of us who have survived childhood sexual assault become enmeshed or entangled with folks who are predatory with their sexual choices and behaviors because they target us, not because we find them, but because they target us, and then that dynamic plays out, which is a part of that intergenerational work we have to do around our sex and our sexual identities and expression, but yeah.
Jasmine Banks: I think that oftentimes when we're talking about the salacious juicy parts of sex that we like to cut away how trauma has played a part of that or how struggle has played a part of that because we've been socialized to want these very linear narratives and themes like, "Oh, yeah, like all of my sex is really bomb," and people are like, "You have BDSM. You're BDSM. You're a kink practitioner. That must be so... " People get excited about it, and it's arousing, and then I say things like, "Yes, and actually, I am a kink practitioner because it has been a vehicle for healing the sexual assault and trauma," and they're like, "Awww man. You ruined it. It's not so sexy anymore."
Kenrya: But it’s fucking life.
Jasmine Banks: But it is, like what is more sexy than consent practices and negotiation of desire and openness that helps to heal wounded places in us and helps us access who we have been all along that violence and trauma kept us from being able to live in that truth? That's sexy as fuck.
Jasmine Banks: Y'all both said, "Mm."
Erica: I've always been a sexual person. Someone told me like, "You're the type of person that just gives that off," and for that reason, I've always been a sexual person. I give it off. I receive it, all of that, but doing this show has taken it to another level that has combined my love for fucking and a good orgasm and pleasure, with also just recognizing how it is freedom and a path to liberation. So, the more I hear from people like you and the more I learn, I am just taking it all in because it's amazing that... Everyone says like, "Do what you love. You never have to work a day."
Kenrya: Yeah, that's bullshit, but okay.
Erica: Yeah, but I feel like I am finally at a point where it's like all of these things that I enjoy are coming together, and not only do I enjoy it, but I see its purpose in the world, and that gets me so fucking horny.
Jasmine Banks: I mean, it's all right. If sex is about a joy and pleasure practice in some of its layers, then it makes so much sense that this is working for you and that this is hitting at a core part of who you are that is deeply linked with feelings of liberation because those of us whose histories emerged from enslavement and settler domination have not had the freedoms too. So, hoe culture, you being ratchet with your sexuality in the face of stereotypes like the Jezebel and Sapphire and the Mammy is... It's like that's powerful work, and it's political work. So, I definitely appreciate where this sits for you in the constellation of your life.
Jasmine Banks: As a polyamorous person I feel in the same way that a person who's just really guided me in my critical polyamory, which is Kim TallBear, she talks about in a podcast she recently did around how sex really needs to be taken off of the shelf, like it needs to stop being commodified. It's not like some special ornate thing. What makes it special is the meaning we make of it in the moment, but as far as a global frame, like it's not unique. It's no different than me choosing to cuddle with someone as intimacy because I can fuck someone and not feel an intimate connection with them and not feel anything. It can be exchange or extraction, or yeah, an extractive relationship, and the church has done a really good job in particular of attaching so much meaning around morality and ethics to sex and what we do to our body and that was just another way, another vehicle for controlling and criminalizing the Black body that when we choose to be like, "Yeah, I have a platonic friend that sometimes I let eat me out," and we're still platonic friends, and we high-five and just kick it.
Jasmine Banks: That is a powerful thing in the face of a nation that says, "In order to be a good citizen, you have to not have sexual intercourse so that you keep everyone healthy, and you only have one partner, and you track your children, and they're registered with the state," and you have a picket fence, right? We know that Black and Indigenous folks have never fit in that lens, and it's intentional because that is a social construct that will always keep us as other because our ancestors and our practices call us to a deeper, more abundant, more generous version of family and sex and expression.
Kenrya: Yes, bitch.
Erica: Yes. Bitch, I'm coming over for conversation and cornbread when the world open back up.
Jasmine Banks: My poor kids are going to be like, "My mom was a Black feminist, and she would show her friends her vulva, and it was normal."
Erica: I always wonder what our kids will remember about... There are certain things about growing up that I remember, and I'm convinced that my son is going to remember this summer as a summer of me sitting on the porch drinking, eating chicken and talking about my body parts.
Kenrya: That is what you did.
Erica: I literally sat on my porch and ordered chicken every three days and talked about sex. So, it's the thing. Now, I'm raising great people.
Jasmine Banks: I think they're going to be great. I think as long as it's normalized, it's like, "I'm sorry that your little white friends have parents that never have sex, but we fuck," and not only do we fuck, but it'll be the middle of their Saturday and be like, "Watch the baby and lock the door. We're going to go have sex, and yes, you're probably going to hear us." I actually just started this other practice when they're like, "We don't want to hear about that all the time," because they're embarrassed of us and the social norms of their peer groups. So, we've been like, "We're going to go have a Bible study."
Erica: Your kids are going to be invited to an actual Bible study, and they're going to freak the fuck out.
Jasmine Banks: They're going to be like, "This is not what it sounds like. Who are we calling ‘Daddy’ during this Bible study? When do we say, 'Yes, Daddy'?" Then the Christians are going to be like, "Do you mean Father God?" And Addison's going to be like, "I don't think so."
Erica: I mean, I heard God say it, but I don't know if that's what they're talking about.
Jasmine Banks: They're going to be so fucked up around religion. I'm going to be like, "I was just being slamming the spirit, okay?" And then Zara's going to be like, "What did that have to do with your butt?"
Erica: And there'll be no answers.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, I actually just got one of our kiddos. They asked that we talked about masturbation very openly, and one of the kiddos was like, "I would some lube and a vibrator," and I was like, "Okay, yeah. Dope. I can get you one that's appropriate for your anatomy and for your age," and then they came back two weeks later like, "I need new batteries." I was like, "What the fuck?"
Erica: That's like keeping it under the pillow. Wait. I do. Let me shut up.
Kenrya: You do that.
Jasmine Banks: Like the Tooth Fairy will give you new batteries for your vibrator and mine.
Erica: But I think it's so important. I buy vibrators as graduation gifts for young girls now because... Well, I've only had an opportunity to buy it for young girls, but let's learn how to pleasure yourself, and this is just a thing that we do, and it doesn't have to be weird or gross or nasty or unless you want it to be. Unless you want it to be.
Jasmine Banks: The other day, the same kid had a really fantastic school trip and said, "Hey," and we talked about consent and all kinds of different, like how we negotiate space because we're a close-knit family, and we also know that privacy is important in how you practice masturbation. They announced, "I'm going to be in the bedroom for an hour, and it's going to be locked because I'm going to masturbate," comes back out, and I inquired, and I said, "Hey, it seemed like that was urgent, like you just made this declaration. What was going on?" The kiddo was like, "I had a really good day, and I just wanted to feel even better," and I was like, "I am done. Write papers on me. I am in the critical canon of teaching your child sexuality."
Erica: I love it.
Kenrya: Ooh, but it's interesting.
Erica: So, did a ribbon and a star dropp from the sky and get pinned to your shirt?
Jasmine Banks: Beyoncé came down and said, "I am so proud of you."
Kenrya: That was good.
Erica: I love it. That was good. You go, sister.
Jasmine Banks: She said, "I love you like you from Houston."
Kenrya: It was actually really good. Yeah, but the reality is, and I wonder if how much you do influence other parents, like I know for me, the first time that I had a conversation with my daughter about gender identity was off of something that you wrote online about how we need to talk to our kids about it. I think I've been having conversations with her about consent since she was very young in all of the ways, right? Not just framing it around sex, but when we go to the doctor's office, she has to give consent for them to be able to look at her body. For white people touching her hair, she has to give consent on whether or not she wants... because that was a whole thing.
Jasmine Banks: But she doesn't have to ask if she stabs them, like if she pulls out her shank-
Erica: No, she does not. She can do whatever the fuck she wants.
Jasmine Banks: They touch her hair.
Kenrya: [crosstalk 00:42:36] shank. Yeah, but we hadn't had any conversations about that. So, we did, and I asked her, "Who do you feel like?" She was like, "Well, what do you mean?" We had conversation. She's like, "Oh, okay. Yeah, no." She's like, "I'm a girl." I was like, "Okay, cool. I just want to check to make sure that I am living right and making sure that I'm taking care of you and providing the safety and the support that you need." So, I hope that you know that as you share your life with your kids and the way that you are open about sexuality and gender and sex with them that other folks and in your podcast, that other folks are absorbing that and learning from that.
Jasmine Banks: Yes, yes. So, we get messages all the time from Parenting is Political podcast listeners about like, "You're telling me to teach my child this? I didn't even know it about myself." So, we're doing this multi-generational transformation work, and I don't mean to say that we're intentionally, like it's planned and it's targeted, but I think that for me, when it came to... A lot of folks make meaning of what I share online and how I live my life so openly, and they frame it as though I'm attention-seeking, or I'm always looking for drama, or I'm trying to be some online celebrity, but I had to come to this place of reckoning around the accesses that I, like access points in my life, intersections in my life, and I'm light-skinned by I don't know what grace.
Jasmine Banks: I was the first-generation person to graduate from junior high or high school and neither of my parents have secondary or post-secondary education. I just have all these opportunities, and I'm sure a level of that is definitely colorism, and the level of that is also definitely having proximity to white family members, but when I thought about who I wanted to be in my life work around Black liberation, I knew that I had to make the choice to not be underground because those privileges that I had and the way that colorism is so fucked up, I could speak to audiences and hold and honor Blackness and still tell my story where some of my dark-skinned siblings can't do that, right? Does that make sense?
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jasmine Banks: So, I chose to be really intentional and measured. I'm not as much as I appear to be. I don't just go on the internet and vomit everywhere and just be haphazard about things. I am often very strategic about what I do and what I don't share and how I share it, but sharing and telling your story has been the only way that I have healed and transformed and found deeper joy and deeper liberations because someone else told their story, and every time I look around, I don't see people telling my story, and I believe that Audre Lorde taught us that, right? If you don't see yourself in books that have been written, you have to write one. So, I look at my social media engagement and the stories that I tell in person and through digital mediums in that way, and I have written a book, but it's not published, but it's written.
Jasmine Banks: But yeah, like I hope that someone... I was interviewing George Johnson from “All Boys Aren't Blue,” and they were saying the same thing. They were saying, "I never saw a story this about myself, so I wrote it," and George also has the same kind of social media that I have where they're really reflective, and they really share these things that most people would hold with shame, and I don't like Eminem for various reasons, but I love his rap tactics that he starts playing the dozens on himself before whoever's in the rap battle can, right? He's like, "Yeah, I'm white. Yeah, I'm from the trailer. Yeah, I can't fuck. Yeah, I'm skinny," right? I think there's some power in that, like what does it call when you take someone's gun away from them, right?
Jasmine Banks: When you take their ammo away from them, ammunition, and then you take back power by naming those things about you. So, yeah, I mean, it's been a defense strategy, it's been an offensive strategy, and it's been a strategy that I hope invites deeper community and conversation. I'm not trying to say I'm right because I've grown so much. I'm not the most expert on whatever critical analysis of X, Y, and Z, but I do practice every single day to be less wrong about the things that I think.
Kenrya: That's all you can fucking ask for, right?
Jasmine Banks: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and I'm a good lay.
Erica: Hey. Another gold star.
Kenrya: Which leads me to ask you what three words describe sex in your 30s.
Jasmine Banks: Sex in my 30s. What I just do with sex in my 30s is a hard question. It has been juicy and restorative. Man, you said three words?
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, and playful.
Kenrya: Yes, okay.
Erica: Fantastic because that sounds amazing, and I was about to say lit, L-I-T. Lit. That's what it says.
Jasmine Banks: Yes. It has been lit. So, I’m married to Mo. It is a love marriage, but it also was a tactical marriage because we live in Arkansas and Mo is nonbinary and queer, and I'm queer, and we need some state protections in order to function in this community, especially because our daughter is trans and so it makes it even more complicated. So, Mo has been such a fun partner to experience a second adolescence with. So, queer people often don't have the room in our younger years, develop psychosocial development years to really unpack and experiment and play. There's so much social pressure about staying closeted or having shame or all kinds of variables, and I would say the same for Black folks, even Black folks who aren't queer. It's not safe for us often to experiment and go through those developmental milestones that white young people do at their little keg parties and whatever.
Jasmine Banks: So, I've been experiencing second adolescence with Mo, and that's been really, really fun, and then we transitioned into this more secure sex practice. That's less about experimentation and more about us developing our own deep identity. We'd be like, "Okay, so what was something that we tried that wasn't... " Oh, so in kink, there are folks who like to induce vomiting by deep-throating, like extreme deep-throating to the point where it introduces vomiting. So, that was one of the first things that we experimented with around kink because gagging was sexy for me, and we learned very quickly that gagging is nice. When things come up after the gagging, that's a no-go. That's like a-
Jasmine Banks: I'm not kink shaming, but that's something that we experimented with throwing away, and now, we're just practicing holding each other in a really incredible way in our sex play, and then with my other partners, it's just been so good. I have two other women partners that I... Mo’s nonbinary, but I have two other Black women partners that I have sexual experiences with, and I just broke up with my girlfriend because she was garbage, but we did have a really good sex life, but she just needs to get her life together. She's probably listening to this. Get your life together, Megan.
Erica: Oh, shit. Pow-pow.
Jasmine Banks: So, it's great because with each of my partners, I'm not expected to take on any kind of heteronormative role, right? People usually assume because I'm more femme-presenting that I'm the bottom or the person who gets penetrated in my relationship with Mo, but no, I'm Daddy in that relationship, and then I have another sexual relationship where we're both femmes. We're both high femmes, and it's just a completely different level. I have another sexual relationship where it's just all erotica, and it's all text, and I love writing and words and reading, and I just really, really love that medium. So, to have someone that I could have sexting with and then masturbate or not has also been really incredible.
Jasmine Banks: So, it's just very fun. COVID threw a wrench in lots of plans, but I'm learning that during a part of my life, I did some sex work, and I did some cam work as a part of that sex work, and I was like, "Oh, I have these skills. They're coming back. Okay."
Erica: It's like riding a bike.
Jasmine Banks: You ain't going to keep me down, COVID. So, that has been really fun, and then also with COVID, like distance play toys that have Bluetooth or function over, those have also been very helpful.
Erica: Tell us about a sexual experience that you remember fondly.
Jasmine Banks: Because of how I am a dom top in my BDSM life, I really, really, really appreciate bottoms and subs that that need extra care, aftercare. So, I had an experience with a person who was bottoming for me who had never really felt safe to have a climax because she was a squirter. So, part of the care that I was able to provide for her was around clean up and clean up for her and aftercare, and I bought a special mat and tool that helps to protect the bed, but doesn't make it feel like, "Oh, you're a medical case, and this is weird," right? It was seamless as far as the environment and the scene went, and she got to climax, and she ejaculated, and then we got to do this care work afterwards. That was really fulfilling for me.
Jasmine Banks: So, when I show up in BDSM space and get to do aftercare, it gives me this really lovely sexual high around nurturing and aftercare. If you're not familiar with BDSM, that might seem a little weird and confusing, but-
Erica: You know what? Actually, that's one of the things about BDSM that I find beautiful is the intentionality of the aftercare part. So, yeah, if you're not familiar with it, then you probably should be getting a little more familiar with this, so you're not just leaving your partner on the bed underneath the sheet alone. You know?
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, yeah, because subspace can be definitely hard, that rebound. It was with a different person, but another really fun one that I got to do was someone who really, really liked to be shocked, and I didn't realize how much I like to shock people, but I do.
Erica: Learn new shit every day.
Jasmine Banks: My rising is Scorpio, so that's what I thought I must have been channeling.
Kenrya: That makes sense.
Erica: That makes sense.
Jasmine Banks: Like the sting and the pain.
Kenrya: So, we have a pretty good idea of what your sex life looks like now, but on average, how many times do you have some sort of sexual contact in a week?
Jasmine Banks: Gosh. I talked to you about this for another piece that you did. It's had an uptick recently. Before whenever I was traveling and I could see my people in New York with my play partners, then I... That was multiple times a day. Now though, because of COVID, it's probably four or five times a week unless I have someone that comes to visit, or we do a video chat. Then it's a weirdly large number out of the typical norm because it's multiple partners.
Kenrya: Are there, I guess along those lines, certain times of day that you prefer to have sex? Like, "I like to have sex in the morning."
Jasmine Banks: I remember you telling me about that, and I was confused.
Kenrya: Why are you confused?
Jasmine Banks: Because I'm not a morning person, but I did have a sexual partner recently that made me motivated enough to wake up a couple of days out of the week to have morning sex with her. Today, Mo text me in between a meeting and was like, "Hey, do you have time to have sex?" That was really nice and fun. I like midday sex. At this point with homeschooling with COVID and working from home and the white supremacist in chief and everything else, like the race war that we all need to grab our machetes for very soon. I get tired at night. So, now, my sex life has shifted to the daytime, and if we don't get it in on the weekday, it's like our kids don't see us for a couple of hours on the weekends.
Kenrya: Got to make up time. That's why I like morning sex because I'm always really fucking tired by the end of the day, but also morning is not really for me.
Jasmine Banks: Okay. Well, you make the morning-
Erica: It's just first-thing-in-your-day sex.
Jasmine Banks: What does that mean?
Kenrya: Because on the weekends, it's like 10 or 11 o'clock, especially if my daughter is at her dad's.
Jasmine Banks: You get to sleep in until 11 o'clock?
Kenrya: If she's not home, which is only twice a month for 48 hours, but I take advantage of it.
Jasmine Banks: I'll trade that for a couple of my sex sessions. Let me sleep until 10:00, somebody.
Kenrya: Yeah. I mean, it doesn't happen often, but when it does, I take it, and then if I can roll over and have sex, it don't get too much better than that.
Erica: See? Just logistically, what about your breath?
Kenrya: We just don't breathe in each other's faces. I mean, shit. It's a lot of weight when you have sex that don't involve... on your nose. We're considerate, but I don't care. I want to-
Jasmine Banks: Also, bodies have smells, and it's whatever. You don't need to be so fresh and so clean, clean. Bodies just-
Kenrya: Listen, I wake up juicy. I like-
Erica: I've [crosstalk 00:58:11] now a marinated puss is-
Kenrya: Is a good puss.
Erica: A good puss. It's like baked over. It's been baking overnight like a warm baked potato.
Jasmine Banks: I still sleep with my hands between my thighs. I do. I've done it since I was a child. So, if I lubricate at all and I wake up, I just rub it on Mo's face.
Kenrya: Like, "Hey, good morning."
Jasmine Banks: And then because we're that crunchy queer couple, Mo be like, "It smells like you're about to ovulate." I'm like, "Shut the fuck up. That's not what you say."
Erica: I love it. I love it.
Kenrya: As do I. All right. Let's see. Oh, how long do your sex sessions typically last?
Jasmine Banks: Oh, man, if it's a scene, it can be a couple of hours. If it's just typical vanilla sex, that's usually shorter. That's an hour or less.
Erica: Okay. Where do you usually do it?
Jasmine Banks: Our scenes are usually in our room. If the kids are gone, it's like fair play game. I broke the car window because there was sex happening, and I broke the windshield with my foot because I was pressing on it hard.
Kenrya: I'm sorry. You didn't get hurt, did you?
Erica: So, when you break... Do you just commit at this point, just keep going or did you-
Jasmine: I mean, there ain't shit you can do about it right then, right?
Erica: Okay. Yeah, that's what I was thinking.
Jasmine Banks: What's been done has been done.
Kenrya: Yeah, you didn't get hurt.
Jasmine Banks: Mm-mm (negative). It didn't shatter. It just spidered it.
Kenrya: Oh, yeah.
Jasmine Banks: Now, I got to fix my wife's window.
Kenrya: I mean, that you can have sex.
Erica: Somebody was making it rain. A good hail storm. What's the best part of your sex life right now?
Jasmine Banks: The best part of my sex life harkens back to my history that doesn't feel coercive. It feels very held and free, and just I really love that Mo, the partner that I have most immediate access to, really likes eating my ass. That's so nice. I really love that, and then also because sex is about reciprocity and this third space you create between you. I really like that because Mo is a nonbinary person who's doing a lot of work for themselves around body and sexuality, coming also from Christianity, that I get to be a safe space for practice around experimenting how gender expression and identity intersect with sexual expression and identity. That has been really, really fun, and I love having a nonbinary partner because it never feels like I'm with a set gender or a gender at all.
Jasmine Banks: It's just like this is Mo's version of nonbinary, and we get to make of it what we want. So, if Mo's like, "Hey, can I get a dildo that squirts and can I cum on your face?" I'm like, "Yes."
Jasmine Banks: Let's do that.
Erica: Let's explore.
Jasmine Banks: So, it's great. I hope it's like what the future of sex is for so many of us that even those who are not queer or those who are not trans can figure out blueprints for play and erogenous experience. It's not just about all that boring stuff you see on Pornhub.
Erica: Yes. What's the most frustrating part?
Jasmine Banks: That I can't travel because I have people I need to fuck.
Erica: Fuck you, COVID.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, it gets to the point where I want to protect the herd and then also I need to go to Alabama to see somebody. I'm really, really trying to be a good relative and not travel and go places.
Erica: But it's just those junk has needs.
Jasmine Banks: Well, eight months is a long time to be away from a partner.
Erica: Yeah, for sure. How often do you masturbate?
Jasmine Banks: Every day.
Erica: Every day, yeah, and what's your favorite technique? Do you have one?
Jasmine Banks: I'm a friction kind of person, and it's always my hand. I have all kinds of toys and tools whenever I was active as a Just Jasmine blogger, which is still my blog, still exists. I would get all kinds of different free products, and then I just love sex shops, and I collect things, but I just have never found anything that I enjoy as much as my hands. Also, it might be just about logistics because I always masturbate first thing when I wake up no matter what, and I don't want to get up and walk to my closet and open a bin and figure out what I want. So, maybe it's also that I'm lazy. It's the Taurus in me. It's my Taurus moon.
Kenrya: Oh, yeah, I was married to a Taurus. That's the whole thing. Why every day? What does that do for you to start your day in that way?
Jasmine Banks: Honestly, it might be for everyone else because I'm nicer, less murderous. I feel energized. I'm ready to get up and do things afterwards. It's activating.
Erica: It's a power-up button.
Kenrya: Do you ever have any trouble turning off the day and focusing on bodily pleasure?
Jasmine Banks: Totally, totally. As a person who's survived childhood and adult sexual assault, dissociation is a huge part of how I balance things, and especially dissociating from anything that's about being in my body. So, I've had to create practices and norms where I invite myself to be inside my body, and masturbation has been one of those ways, and then lingerie and anything that's experiential and tactile that I can put on my body also is a meditative practice that calls me into space with myself. So, it's complicated. So, even if I don't have a busy day, that is definitely a learning edge that I have.
Erica: If you could snap your fingers and change one thing, what would you change about your sex life?
Jasmine Banks: I would be able to get people pregnant.
Erica: Babies for everyone.
Jasmine Banks: Wow, that's an interesting question. I don't know if I would really change anything. No. I would. Okay, so I would change how complicated it is to be a relationship anarchist, a person who's poly in my sexual expression in life because it often feels like that heterosexual vanilla couples just get such an easy script to follow, and they don't have these 4,000 fucking conversations with people in order to get some head.
Erica: But here's the thing. Part of the problem is that's what be fucking us up.
Jasmine Banks: That's true.
Erica: That's [crosstalk 01:06:14] us. That's what fucks it up. I think what makes it outside looking in, but I know it's like a, "Fuck. I got to... " But-
Jasmine Banks: Sometimes, I get a little tired. I'm like, "Is there a hand signal where I can just be like please?" I mean, I know we have sign language for it, but just a single-hand gesture like, "Let's do anal, but I don't want to be partners, and I'm not trying to steal your... I'm not trying to do anything nefarious. I just think you might be fun to do anal with.”
Erica: That would be... Okay. You got to come up with a-
Kenrya: Are you making up a...
Erica: I'm doing my Walter Machado.
Jasmine Banks: No. This is the... Anyway.
Erica: We have to have video for now [crosstalk 01:07:14].
Kenrya: We got to start using video.
Jasmine Banks: We're ridiculous. So, are y'all going to come to Parenting is Political to talk about sex and parenting?
Kenrya: Yes, if you'll have us.
Erica: Yeah, yeah.
Jasmine Banks: Cool, cool.
Kenrya: Before we do that, can you tell us what is a sex best practice that you want to share with our listeners?
Jasmine Banks: I have so many.
Kenrya: Give us what you want.
Jasmine Banks: Oh my gosh. This was my Miss America question. All right. So, I would say a best practice that I commit to is understanding that sex is about an experience, not a performance, and in so many ways, it doesn't have to be, "Did I do this good? Did I do this bad? Did you climax? Did you not?" And embracing these binaries, but checking in with people like, "Did you feel listened to? Did you experience pleasure that you could recognize? Did you feel as though you could communicate to me? Did you have fun?" Those things, like normalizing those questions doesn't make it any less sexy, and it actually opens up opportunities of deeper sex play and engagement because then folks feel safe and seen to give more details about what they want. It becomes even more juicy at that point.
Jasmine Banks: I have had partners in the past who when we tried those practices, we're like, "I just feel like we're doing an exit survey, and I don't like that, and it just feels like you're grading me or I'm grading you, and we shouldn't do that." So, normalizing an open communication is just really, really critical because it's that safety and communication that allows us to negotiate boundaries and consent and desire, and those are all foundational to having an enjoyable sexual experience.
Erica: Do you have any must-use tools?
Jasmine Banks: Uberlube is one of my favorites, and I think that folks who... How is it? Well, this is what I'm going to say. Cis women who are not queer definitely need to try an internal dildo. It's a dildo that has a hook or a bulb that you insert into your vaginal canal, and it can vibrate or can't vibrate, but I want cis women masturbating by putting the internal dildo and putting a shit ton of lube and rubbing the dong while literally stimulating and get into it. I think that is a must-have experience. We first introduced that tool to be supportive of some of the habits of Mo's dysphoria or some of the ways that Mo's dysphoria was showing up, but at one point, I was like, "Why is this just for a nonbinary person who needs to see themselves like gender expansive? I'm going to try this," and I masturbated with, and I was like, "Next level. Next level."
Kenrya: Next level?
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, so if you have the anatomy... Language is just so problematic, but say I'm talking to Erica, and I'm assuming you have a vulva, and I'm assuming you like to stroke dick, why not stroke your own while playing with your clitoris?
Erica: Girl, I'm online right now. I'm about to buy my own. Like bitch, I'm literally looking online right now to purchase-
Jasmine Banks: And then the bulb, which is used to secure the person who's wearing the internal dildo acts as a mechanism for you to feel full, and then it vibrates. It also hit your G-spot, and I'm like...
Kenrya: Yeah, we may need you to send us the link when we finish.
Erica: No, I'm looking, and you will approve before I press in. Thanks. Okay. Would you rather give up partner sex or masturbation?
Jasmine Banks: Partner sex, hands down.
Erica: Oh, yes.
Kenrya: [inaudible 01:11:57].
Erica: I'm lazy, but yeah. I like it.
Kenrya: Yeah, you're like, "You mean, they get to do the work? Yeah, I'll stick with partnered sex."
Kenrya: What do you hope that people learn from this walk through your sex life?
Jasmine Banks: I just hope that folks can take away that even those of us who have our bodies and our sexualities and our sexual experiences as sites of extreme trauma and suffering and even shame that we don't have to throw away sexuality and sexual experience and that in community and through embodied healing, we can transform and have different memories and different ways of being in relationship with our bodies and others and the intersections of sexuality and sexual practice. I really hope that comes through, and I also hope that it comes through that you can be a dope-ass parent and caretaker and really like to fuck and really like kink and really do all sorts of expansive things around sex.
Kenrya: Yeah, I think they're going to get that.
Jasmine Banks: I hope so.
Kenrya: Yeah, well done. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Jasmine Banks: Thank you for having me. I hope you're not jealous that Erica's my new best friend.
Kenrya: So, here's the thing.
Erica: Here's the problem. You say that, but then there's a lot of responsibility that comes with this. So, yeah, you're going to be like, "Damn." I mean, yeah. So, is this the one I need to be buying?
Kenrya: Those hormone shots she was getting, I was the one giving her them shits.
Jasmine Banks: Yes, that's a great starter, and you see the ridges? It also can rub your... gets clitoral contact.
Erica: Yeah, they have another one. They have the little bunny, but I feel like I'd freak out with all that stimulation.
Jasmine Banks: Yeah, that, when that has the ridges is nice because it's got an angle that you can bend the shaft part a little bit away and get your hand down enough to give yourself the physical contact around clitoral stimulation. So...
Erica: Dink, dink.
Kenrya: Okay, send it to me.
Erica: Thanks, bestie. Sorry, Kenrya.
Kenrya: It's fine. Where can other people who want to be your bestie find you online?
Jasmine Banks: Well, applications for best friends are closed. I peaked at Erica. So, @ParentingIsPolitical on Instagram is the best place to connect.
Kenrya: And then the website is ParentingIsPolitical.org?
Jasmine Banks: That is correct, and we have all of our podcasts there and email and newsletter and people can subscribe and all that jazz, but people think that just because I be really personal that I want them to follow me on my personal social media, like my Jasmine, Instagram, and every once while, I get the streak of Virgo, I feel bad because I'm not being nice to people. So, I'll let them in, and then three weeks later, my list is cut down again.
Erica: Who the fuck is this? Who's this person? Yeah.
Kenrya: Yeah, so y'all head over to the Parenting is Political accounts and follow her there, and that's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. Thank y'all so much for listening. We'll talk to you next week.
Erica: Peace out.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. Now, you can support The Turn On and get off. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. Then drop us a five-star review, and you'll be entered to win something that's turning us on. Post your review and email us a screenshot at TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com to enter. Our Patreon page is also live. Become a supporter today and access lots of goodies, including two-for-one raffle entries. Don't forget to send us your book recommendations and sex and related questions and follow us on Twitter at @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram at @TheTurnOnPodcast. You can find links to books, merch, transcripts, guest info, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Thanks so much for listening and we'll see you soon. Holla.
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On Episode 8.5 of The Turn On, we interview therapist Chloé Cook about the ins and outs of relationships that form as the result of shared trauma.
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Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Today, we're talking to Chloé Cook. Chloé provides couples and family therapy from an emotionally focused perspective that helps her clients improve their communication skills, work through trust and fidelity issues, and build a healthy foundation that foster supportive partnerships. Chloé also helps folks in their relationships, and address sex and intimacy issues, including orgasm difficulties, unmatched and low desire, performance anxiety, and sexual empathy.
Kenrya: Chloé, thank you so much for joining us today.
Chloé: Thank you guys for having me. I'm so excited.
Kenrya: Me too. Before we get into the interview, as we always do, we always ask what your pronouns are.
Chloé: My pronouns are she and her.
Kenrya: Awesome. Ours are also.
Chloé: Thank you.
Erica: We'd like to start by asking all of our interviewees, tell us what you're doing, regular ass words.
Chloé: Well, I am a marriage and family therapist, so I help couples. I also help individuals though, and families, with life transitions, personality disorders, anxiety, things of that nature, in order to help live a better life.
Kenrya: Word. How did you start out as a therapist? Like, how did you come to this work?
Chloé: Okay, so actually this is a second career for me. I actually was an accountant, and I worked for a really large corporation.
Chloé: And I was unhappy. I was unfulfilled. I always felt like I was supposed to be somewhere else doing something helping people. And I just would think back to when I was in middle school and high school, I would always tell my friends that I was going to be a therapist. That's specifically when I-
Chloé: It's so weird. I remember telling my friends that, "I'm going to be a therapist." And specifically when I got to high school, I don't know why, I just ... Oh, sorry guys. I don't know why I specifically started telling people I was going to be a sex therapist. I think it was because I saw a show with Dr. Ruth on it, and I was like, "I want to do that."
Kenrya: You're like, "I can do what this white woman is doing."
Erica: I love it.
Chloé: But yeah, so I started thinking every day sitting at my desk like, "I can do this." I had gotten a divorce, and I was going through that life transition, and I said, "You know what? This is the time to do it. I've changed one part of my life, let me change another part of my life that's unfulfilling for me." So, I went back to school, and here we are, finally licensed, and very happy that I made that decision to change careers.
Kenrya: That's what's up.
Erica: That is so dope.
Kenrya: It makes me-
Erica: So, what's your favorite thing- Oh.
Kenrya: Oh, I was going to ask something unrelated. Well, kind of related. I'm sorry Erica. But I thought it was interesting that you said that you got a divorce and that you were like, "You know what? It's time for me to make other changes." Is that something that you seen a lot with your clients?
Chloé: Yeah, I tend to see people that are, especially when I have couples that come into my office, one or both of the individuals in the partnership are going through some sort of life transition, whether it's physically, or career wise, or with a family member, things of that nature, and they tend to start evaluating other parts of their lives. Because if you think about it, when one thing goes wrong, it messes everything else up too.
Chloé: So you start thinking about the other parts of your life that you want to correct when you get one part right. Like, "Hey, you know what?"
Erica: I did so well in this part. How can I-
Chloé: Yeah, exactly. And so a lot of things will come up in the session, not specifically relating to the one thing that they decided to come to therapy about.
Erica: Yeah, I found that it was very helpful as I went through my divorce and couples therapy to also invest as much time in just me.
Erica: Because you're looking at the whole, but you also need to look at that part of the whole.
Chloé: Yeah. I had to do the same thing. I decided, hey, what's going on with me? Why do I attract certain people into my life and what type of person do I want to attract in my life in the future? And it took some time, but I got there.
Erica: Cool. So as I was going to say, what's your favorite thing about your work?
Chloé: I would say when one of my clients verbalizes to me that they've had some change in a positive way. And so when I recognize... Sometimes I recognize that in them before they do or vice versa. I might think that I'm not helping them or they're just coming in everyday and we're not getting anywhere and all of a sudden they'll say, "You know what? After we had this session, I noticed this change." And that, when I hear that, it makes me feel I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. This is my life's purpose and this is what I worked so hard to do to help other people live the life that they want to live.
Kenrya: Right. So we talk about therapy a lot on this show, not just on the episodes where we talk to therapists.
Chloé: Well that's good to hear.
Kenrya: Yeah. It's every episode. One of our missions is to help black women, femmes, and our gender nonconforming family connect with mental health help. Because I think we all need it for various things, but we know that there's still a lot of folks who are just resistant to it. Why do you think that some folks refuse to engage with therapy? Especially, I guess in particular black folks.
Chloé: Yeah. And particularly in our community. That's, another reason, I have to add that, to why I wanted to become a therapist. In our communities, we still have that stigma of you're crazy if you go to a therapist. Or why are you telling a stranger your business? There's another side of it. Let me repeat what I just said, that you're telling a stranger your business. We tend to keep family problems and personal problems to ourselves.
Kenrya: And we don't air dirty laundry.
Chloé: Right? Don't air your dirty laundry. So we aren't in the habit of going to a stranger, so to say, to talk about the problems and issues that we're having in our relationships, in the workplace, with our families. And we keep that to ourselves. And that further makes the dysfunction even worse than what it already is.
Kenrya: Yeah. Because you're isolating yourself. Right? And trying to do with things on your own.
Kenrya: I feel like isolation can only make things worse.
Chloé: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And so another reason why I became a therapist is because we don't have as many black therapists as other races and particularly white therapists. And I think it's very important that black people are able to go to black therapists. When you can't identify with the struggle or with the things that we face on a daily basis, it's hard to have empathy, which all therapists must have in a session to understand what that person is faced with and the way it actually relates to the issue they're having.
Erica: Yeah. So on The Turn On, we like to bust myths, be it about sex or gender roles, whatever. So what's a myth about therapy that you want to bust?
Chloé: A myth about therapy? Let's see. Well, I guess the main one is we're not advice givers. We're not supposed to be giving you advice about what to do with your life. If a therapist is giving you advice and telling you what to do, you need to run. You need to find a new therapist. That is not the position that we're in. Yes, we can be in a position of being an expert on a topic because that's what maybe we got training in a specific topic, but we are not the expert of your life. You are the expert of your life. Only you can help fix the issues that are going on in your life. We're here as a catalyst for that change for you or to help you and educate you on certain things that you may not be aware of as far as emotional ties and bonds, what we might be talking about today and the way we grow up in the way we are raised in our families may affect our lives as adults today.
Kenrya: Right? Even when when we want them to tell us, I've definitely said to my therapist, "Just tell me. Just tell me what I should do in this situation."
Chloé: Yeah. And what does she say?
Kenrya: She say, "Bitch, you know I'm not going to tell you that."
Chloé: No, no. I'm not going to tell you what to do. I'm not going to tell you what to do. You have to figure that out. And now we can talk about, okay, what if you do this and what if you do that? And we can weigh the pros and cons about what what you think might happen if you make a certain decision on what to do regarding a workout in a situation that you may be in.
Kenrya: Word. That makes sense.
Erica: I think also that is why... I mean I've... So my therapist always says, "My goal is to have you not come to me anymore." Yeah, make me absolutely. And so I think there's so much a part of that journey and figuring out the what to do or how to respond, which is really the work and what you're coming there for to kind of train your brain and your psyche on how to come to these answers.
Chloé: Yeah. That was a perfect way to say that. Train your brain. A lot of times that's what you're doing when you recognize there's something that you want to change because our brains were meant to help us survive. It's helped us live and make it this far in the world from hundreds and thousands of years ago. And so we have to retrain our brain to not respond to things that have caused trauma to us in the past.
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: That's the whole word. And it's actually a really good transition because we asked you on because we read a book last week called Fire Baptized. And it features a couple and a pair of childhood friends who get close in the wake of traumatic events. And we figured that this was a really good opportunity for us to talk about trauma bonds and the different types of trauma bonds and how they can form. But first, can you tell our listeners what trauma bonds are?
Chloé: Okay. Trauma bonding is the misuse of emotions to entangle another person. So if you think about all the emotions that are involved when you meet somebody and there's an attraction and you begin a relationship. We talk about fear, excitement, and sexual feelings, and even the physiology of sexuality in a relationship. When a person misuses those feelings, they become entangled in a relationship and it creates a trauma bond. And this usually happens in abusive relationships.
Erica: So what are some signs that a relationship is held together by trauma?
Chloé: I would say when you notice yourself that something isn't right, but you can't seem to remove yourself from the situation. There's this feeling, "Okay, I know this isn't right." Or maybe you had a friend tell you and you agree with it. When... Let's see. When you want to leave, but you can't. That's a good sign. You want to leave because you know there's something wrong. You're being abused, whether it's physically or emotionally, and you try to leaving and you can't. There's this feeling of addiction there.
Chloé: When we think about addiction, we think about drugs, but you can actually become addicted to a person. I don't know if you've ever heard the term love addict, right? So you become addicted to that person because you're feeling all of those feelings that you want to feel in your brain. That fear and excitement I talked about in a relationship and all those feel good feelings that get our blood moving. We get addicted to that feeling. And so there's an inconsistency... This is another way to tell in the relationship. There's inconsistent with the amount of feel good feelings in the relationship and you hold onto that. That's part of the reason why you can't let go.
Kenrya: Oh cause you're chasing the good times, the highs?
Chloé: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And that's that addict type behavior. You're chasing the good times and those feel good feelings. And they're there, but very inconsistently. Just enough to keep you there and wanting to hold on to what you used to feel or what you feel every now and then.
Kenrya: Yeah, I've been there.
Erica: Girl. Would you quit talking... Shut up. Why you so loud?
Chloé: Quite a few people... I mean I would probably say the majority of people have been in some type of relationship where they feel that way.
Kenrya: It's interesting too because I'm thinking about... And tell me if this is not trauma bonding. But when you have been through... Well two different things I'm going to describe. One, when you form a relationship with someone because you both have a history of trauma and that brings you together. And then also when you've gone through a lot of things with someone and it feels like you need to stay together because y'all helped each other through this tough time.
Kenrya: Are those also types of trauma bonds?
Chloé: Those are trauma bonds too. And specifically because that rough time... You always see in the movies that there's some tragedy or they end up falling in love trying to get away from the killer or all that, whatever, right? We think about the movies we see. Those are trauma bonds too and those are created from that fear and excitement just like I was explaining in the beginning. So you get that rush of emotion and it mimics the feeling of being in love.
Kenrya: How? And you talked about some of the signs of it, how can this impact your relationship longterm? If you're bound together, whether it's trauma bonds in the form of an abusive relationship or trauma bonds because you are chasing that high that comes with having made it through this tough time together. How can that impact your relationship in the long term?
Chloé: Well, it can impact in the long term because that's not something that can be sustained. So if the relationship was brought on because of a tragedy and you guys were feeling this fear and excitement and you were clinging to each other to survive, remember you got to keep bringing the brain back into this. Our brains help us to survive. So we cling to each other to survive this tragedy. So that tragic moment isn't always going to be there. So some people that end up creating a bond during moments like that find that once things have finally died down, that that feeling isn't there any longer. So now feelings of confusion start to set in because now we're in reality.
Erica: So I think we're talking a lot about unhealthy trauma bonds and I'm wondering two things. One, are there such things as healthy trauma bonds? And two, do we have... And this kind of comes hand in hand, do we have to cut off those relationships that are built around trauma bonds?
Chloé: Initially the term trauma bond was not developed based on something healthy. The term was brought about because it is the creation of a relationship built on the misuse of emotions. So there's...
Erica: So like abusive relationships?
Chloé: Bingo. So even though a a bond can be established, a relationship can be established, through trauma, meaning two people can be experiencing a similar trauma, it's still unhealthy use of the emotions that are being experienced in the moment. So I'm clinging to you, I need you to survive this moment. Instead of managing the emotion yourself, you're clinging to the other person or you guys are clinging to each other. Not saying that that's wrong because we do have situations where... But keep in mind, if you create a partnership before the tragedy, it's okay because you already have a healthy foundation for the partnership in the beginning.
Kenrya: I wonder if, kind of expanding or complicating that question... So I grew up in a situation with family members who were drug addicted and that impacted the way that I grew up and the way that I'm looking at the world now. I have friends who grew up in similar situations and it's kind of how we came together because we understood those things about each other. Is that an inherently negative thing? Is it negative if it only stays at that level and you don't deepen your relationship around other parameters? What does that I guess clinging look like?
Chloé: What you're describing, I guess it can mimic trauma bonding, but what you're describing is creating a relationship based on commonalities in your past. And it only becomes unhealthy if you use each other in an unhealthy way in the relationship. So remember, the term trauma bonding was developed to be negative based on its definition. But if you create a relationship due to a mutual experience, that doesn't become unhealthy unless you guys are mistreating each other based on those emotions. Right? So I'm taking and pulling from you because I need this excitement and fear and understanding because you've been there before and then you do the same. So basically using each other. Sucking each other dry.
Kenrya: So question. We know that black folks in the United States experienced PTSD at higher rates than any other demographic group in the country, which means that there's a lot of us who are either dealing with or not dealing with trauma. To that end, it probably, I would imagine, especially since you just said that a lot of people who you come across have experienced this, make it difficult for us to create intimate relationships with people who also don't have trauma. So how can we make sure that we're keeping our relationships healthy when everybody's walking around with past trauma?
Chloé: That is a great question. And another reason why I'm so happy that you guys talk about therapy and are advocates for people of color, black people especially, to seek out therapy. Because that is the only way that we can overcome and start to establish healthier relationships with each other as we go along our lives meeting people. Because one thing to think about in trauma bonding, specifically when it comes to what you've experienced in your past and especially through your childhood, is that there's usually something that has gone wrong with one or both parents or somebody in your family that has created this emotional void, so to say, that you either are aware of and you're not. And so when we attract most often those people that we create these trauma bonds with them and get in abusive relationships with it's because we're really trying to fill that void and get a do over, if that makes sense.
So this is somebody that mimics a past experience and I did not get what I needed in that moment. Let me try again in this moment. And it's really a subconscious type of behavior that happens. And you can realize it through therapy, through discussion and talking about the way you grew up, your relationship with your parents or other guardians or family members that were close to you growing up and even past relationships that you had early on in adolescence and early adulthood that may be a contributor to why you continue to find yourself in abusive type relationships. Thank you guys for having me. I enjoyed it.
Kenrya: Thank you so much for joining us today, Chloé. It was great.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya. And edited by B'Lystic. The theme song is from Brazy. First, please leave a review in your favorite podcast listening app. For real, we want to hear from y'all. Send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions you want us to answer to firstname.lastname@example.org. And please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. Follow us on Twitter @theturnonpod and Instagram @theturnonpodcast. And find links to books, transcripts, guest info, and other fun stuff at theturnonpodcast.com. Bye.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.