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Stuff you should know about orgasms

We’re always on the look-out for free podcasts to fill the interminable gaps between new episodes of This American Life and RadioLab, and one of our new favorites is the Stuff You Should Know podcast from HowStuffWorks.com. The hosts, Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, are funny and smart and just the right amount of nerdy, and their meandering conversations cover everything from how Alcatraz works to how silly putty works. If you’re used to the tightly edited style of, say, This American Life, their loosey-goosey style will take a bit of getting used to. But unlike those high-budget shows, this one is updated every few days.

So anyway, we were thrilled to hear the recent episode, “What happens in the brain during an orgasm.” Imagine sitting next to two guys at a bar — two incredibly well read, sweet, dorkily funny guys –and listening to them discuss orgasms for 38 minutes. That’s kind of what this podcast is like. This time around, they had us from the intro, when they explain why they decided to go ahead with the episode despite having a lot of younger listeners: because in the past they’ve covered numerous gory topics, from cannibalism to Jack the Ripper to shrunken heads, and they didn’t want to fall into the puritanical trap of assuming that violence gets a pass where sexuality does not.

Suffice it to say, we learned a lot, and you will too. Like, for example, how cool it is that the vagus nerve, which is involved in orgasm, bypasses the spinal cord. As researchers (including G-spot goddess Dr. Beverly Whipple) have recently discovered, this means that paraplegics can still climax. And we love the fact that in discussing the vagus nerve, Josh and Chuck mention that this same nerve is involved in swallowing… and then they remember that they’ve discussed the nerve before, but they can’t initially recall if it was in the podcast about competitive eating or the podcast about sword swallowing. How much do you want them at your next cocktail party?  It’s more than enough to forgive them the occasional complete dork-out, like when Josh notes that Chuck is sporting a new haircut and says “Chuck got his ears lowered.” But hey, Ira Glass dorks out all the time too.

(By the way, for even more orgasm smarts, check out Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “Why Is Sex Fun?” — one of Discovery.com’s Curiosity episodes. Discovery is also behind HowStuffWorks…we have a whole new respect for Discovery now. We would say the same about Maggie G., except that we’ve long since known that she’s a superhero of sex positivity and women’s rights. Public breastfeeding? Check. Vibrator movie? Check.)

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photo via flickr

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