December 9, 2023

Spif Panel

Think Shopping & Women

One Woman’s Quest for an Orgasm

21 min read

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Katharine Smyth is 39 years old and has never, to her knowledge, had an orgasm. This fact didn’t worry her very much until her 30s, when a divorce and a series of dates with frustrated men made her think she might never find love again. So she embarked on a quest—diving deep into an industry designed to solve her problem, searching for a feeling that’s been a fixation of science, pseudoscience, politics, and philosophy for centuries.

“The metaphor that came to me is that it’s kind of like a Rorschach test, where it’s this abstraction that all of these doctors and scientists are projecting their own worldview upon. And it’s almost always to the benefit of men.”

This week on The Experiment: A personal quest for sexual fulfillment reveals centuries of mythmaking about female pleasure.

Further reading: The Tyranny of the Female-Orgasm Industrial Complex

Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at [email protected].

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Stef Hayes. Sound design by David Herman.

Music by infinite bisous (“Lost in Translation /2,” “Why Should I?”), r mccarthy (“Fine,” “Jyoti,” “She’s a Gift Giver, She’s a Giver of Gifts”), Parish Council (“Same Cake”), Safa Park (“Loose Yams”), Laundry (“Lawn Feeling”), Keyboard (“Staying In”), water feature (“a paradise”), and Nelson Bandela (“No Dummms 6860,” “Hoop Dreams”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional music by Brian C. Chapman (“Casual Sex”) and Claude Debussy (“Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune”). Additional audio from MGM Studios, Sweet Alice, Film&Clips, Fox News, Miramax, and VCX Classics.

A transcript of this episode is presented below:

Julia Longoria: Just a quick note—this week’s episode is definitely PG-13.

(After a beat, birds chirp, sheep bleat, and a flute-led symphony builds as if emerging into some idyllic, sun-dappled pasture in the middle of the forest.)

Katharine Smyth: You know, I do wonder … Sometimes I think that I maybe have had them in—in dreams.

Longoria: Hmm. [A moment.] What happens in dreams?

Smyth: It’s such a hard thing to talk about, right? Because it’s like, how do you describe it? Um … It’s just that feeling of, like, a rush and a flush and a real, intense pleasure that feels like it—it has an end and a crest.

(Monkeys screech. A lion roars. After a moment of musical climax, the symphony cuts out.)

Longoria: There’s a certain kind of pleasure that Katharine Smyth has never felt before.

Smyth: I had always sort of enjoyed sex, and really liked sex, but I had never had an orgasm.

(A drum-kit beat tumbles into a smooth, modern, lo-fi hip-hop track.)

Smyth: What happens is that either the pleasure kind of really builds and builds and then plateaus and dissipates without any kind of real climactic moment, or it becomes a very painful sensation where I can’t keep going, ’cause it hurts.

It’s just not the rapture or release that, you know, I imagine is what it must be like.

Longoria: Somewhere around 5 to 10 percent of women say they’ve never reached climax. It’s considered a dysfunction—called “anorgasmia”—when it causes distress. It’s been linked to physical and psychological issues. And, overall, straight women, like Katharine, say they reach climax during sex less often than others.

Smyth: I would talk to friends about it in the same boat. One friend, she was like, “Is there a chance that we actually have, and we just don’t realize it? Maybe orgasms aren’t that great.” [Longoria laughs, and Smyth joins in.]

It’s just like, I just don’t think that could be it.

Longoria: At first, it didn’t really feel to her like a problem.

Smyth: In my early 20s, men didn’t really seem to care or notice, you know? [Both laugh.] So I think because they weren’t especially focused on it, I also didn’t think that much about it.

(The music loses its higher pitches—a pulsing beat plays without treble under the narration.)

Longoria: Until she fell in love.

Smyth: When I met my ex-husband, I was so attracted—and, I think, vice versa [Laughs nervously.]—that I suddenly became so frustrated, because I was getting so close and not quite being able to sort of, you know, [Chuckles.] no pun intended,  get over the hump. [Longoria laughs.] And so that was my first foray into thinking like, Oh, maybe I’m going to take active steps to do something about this.

(The treble reenters with a funky electric-guitar line, beachy and mellow.)

Longoria: So, this week: the story of a quest for orgasm that takes writer Katharine Smyth deep into a whole industry designed to solve her problem—a “problem” that’s been a fixation of science, pseudoscience, philosophy and politics for a very long time.

(A moment of music.)

Longoria: I’m Julia Longoria. This is The Experiment.

(The music slowly fades out with no narration.)

Longoria: Somewhere in New York, newly in love with a man whose name we won’t bother here to remember, a frustrated young writer—Katharine Smyth, 25 years old—set out to solve her body’s problem.

She started in a sensible place: with a medical professional.

Smyth: The first person that I ever really spoke about it with seriously was this sex therapist—this sort of plump, elderly woman. And she had a very tasteful office, where everything was sort of gray and muted and hushed.

Longoria: What were you hoping to get from her?

(A wash of sound plays up, synthesized with plucky electric guitar over it.)

Smyth: I mean, an orgasm, really. (Both laugh.)

(The music plays up for a moment.)

Smyth: You know, she was just full of these really bonkers tips, like, “You’ve got to eat more dark chocolate.” “You’ve got to go off birth control.” “You’ve got to start watching female-centric porn.” “You’ve gotta be masturbating all day long.” “I’m gonna write you a prescription for Viagra.”

(A low, indistinct vocal line joins the music.)

Longoria: Huh, Viagra?

Smyth: Viagra. Yeah. For—for men. But the thing is, is I came home and I really did feel so energized. I started masturbating regularly.

Cheesy-porn actor 1: What do you girls do?

Cheesy-porn actor 2: Well, I do movies, and my friend’s a model.

Smyth: She sent me home with these DVDs that were literally from—I wanna say—1988.

Actor 2: Why don’t you come over and, uh, sit down in front of the fire and play backgammon?

Actor 1: That sounds great!

Cheesy-porn actor 3: I’m sorry, I just can’t help it! Whenever I climax, I just start to sing. I don’t know what comes over me.

(The music changes tone as an electric-guitar loop plays in circles.)

Smyth: The outfits that these people were wearing were just ludicrous. It was acid-washed jeans and, like, bleach-blond hair, and, um … So I watched those. I—I went off the pill. I, you know, took my Viagra.

(Slowly, the music fades out.)

Longoria: I actually didn’t know women could—could take Viagra.

Smyth: Well, I mean, they can physically put it in their mouth. (Both laugh.) Right.

Smyth: Swallow it.

Longoria: Does it do anything? What did it feel like?

Smyth: I did not notice any difference whatsoever. And so I did all these things.

Longoria: And yet, no luck.

Smyth: The thing is, like, it’s exhausting, and a little boring sometimes. And I just gradually lost interest and was like, You know what? I’m having great sex. I’m really happy with my sex life. This isn’t a problem I have to solve.

(Weird tinny music staggers in, happily plinking along.)

Longoria: For some women, success is possible with medical professionals, like therapists or pelvic-floor specialists. But not for Katharine. She lived out the rest of her 20s, got married, and felt like she could live happily without climax. But then, she got divorced.

Smyth: My marriage did end up ending, but not for anything to do with sex.

Longoria: She was 34 when she dipped her toe back in the dating pool. And the men she was dating … wanted to help.

Smyth: Men, I guess, had gotten more quote-unquote “enlightened,” and it became very much something where they were like, “Did you … ?” or, you know, “What do you like?” Like, “What can I do for you?”

There was this one guy—let’s call him Chris—I thought that we were having this, like, really great sexual connection. But I was very honest about the fact that I didn’t have orgasms.

Um, he was kind of like, “You know, I’m really bothered. For me, sex is goal-oriented, and I’m just not going to be able to enjoy it if you can’t come. Like, I just don’t feel like I can be with a woman who can’t let go. If I’d been your husband, I would have had you seeing the best sex therapist out there,” which was really a line. And I—I got so upset, and I was kind of like, “Well, don’t you just understand, I’m enjoying it? And if I’m enjoying it, and I’m having a great time, like, why can’t you just kind of trust in that?”

But he was just like, “You know, I think for me, it’s—it’s kind of, um, a deal breaker.”

Longoria: And then another man—a guy she got pretty serious with; she thought she was going to marry him—told her:

Smyth: “I know that if I married a woman who couldn’t have an orgasm, I would cheat on her.”

Longoria: (Breathlessly.) What?

Smyth: And I was like, “What?!” [Both laugh.] You know, he was like, “I think it’s the closest connection that two human beings can share.”

And I was like, “Well, I mean, what does that mean? That 10 percent of women are just incapable of the closest human connection [Laughs.] that two human beings can share?”

Longoria: It’s sort of, like, a weird view of intimacy as this video game—that you have to reach the high score.

Smyth: Well, that’s what he said! He was like, “Maybe there’s a way that I could sort of see it as a challenge, like reaching a really high level in a video game.”

Longoria: (Cracking up.) He literally said that?

Smyth: (Anticipating the question.) He literally said that!

Longoria: Katharine’s problem was back and felt bigger than before—because this time, the men she wanted to be with wouldn’t accept her for it.

Smyth: Oh my gosh. Is this going to be some kind of existential threat to finding love? Maybe this means I’m undateable, you know, or maybe this means I’m unlovable.

Longoria: It turns out that these men who were judging Katharine for her sexuality and her lack of pleasure? They come from a long line of such men.

Smyth: What became clear as I was reading up on this is that the female orgasm has been the subject of this, like, massive misinformation campaign [Laughs.] over the centuries.

Longoria: She went looking for the origin story.

Smyth: Well, sorry, do you want to go way back? Like, to Aristotle? Or … ?

Longoria: (Both laugh.) Yes, actually!

Smyth: Or are you more meaning … ?

Longoria: Yeah!

(Mid-tempo music plays, bright, but not distracting.)

Smyth: Aristotle—his two cents were that only women of “a feminine type” ejaculate and that, you know, women of more masculine appearance don’t.

Longoria: Why would Aristotle feel like he needed to opine on this? Like, “Do you know what …”? (Chuckles lightly.)

Smyth: And that’s actually been misquoted throughout the years, where people thought that he said that only blondes ejaculate. But that’s not true. He—he does talk about fair-skinned versus dark women, but not their hair color. So …

Longoria: (Laughing awkwardly.) Truly, spectacularly awful. [Smyth laughs deeply.] Oh my God! Okay.

Longoria: And so began a long tradition of mythmaking about women’s bodies.

Smyth: It was really interesting to see how the female orgasm had been [Laughingly.] batted around by all these men over the centuries. And, you know, the metaphor that came to me is that it’s kind of like a Rorschach test, where it’s this abstraction that all of these doctors and scientists are projecting their own worldview upon.

And it’s almost always to the benefit of men.

For, really, most of history, people were basically under the impression that women’s reproductive organs were the exact inverse of a man’s, and that, therefore, women could only become pregnant if they orgasmed.

And so, up until 1730, it was just understood that if you had become pregnant, that you had therefore had an orgasm.

And you would think that that would be to the medieval woman’s advantage in that the man would have to be kind of, like, paying attention to her needs, right?

Longoria: Yeah! An incentive to … care. (Both chuckle.)

Smyth: But then it became kind of really convenient for rape apologists, who would say that if you became pregnant, then it couldn’t have been rape,  because—therefore—you must have enjoyed it.

(A change in tone as the background music morphs into a quiet, somber single-note drone.)

Longoria: Unfortunately, versions of this myth are still with us.

Todd Akin: It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors …

Smyth: I don’t know if you remember Todd Akin, a congressman who ran for Senate. He said:

Akin: If it’s a legitimate rape, uh, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something …

Smyth: That’s just left over from this belief. And, thankfully, that tanked his candidacy.

(A moment of quiet.)

Longoria: Back to yesteryear. In the mid-1800s, finally, Western anatomists started to get some things right.

Smyth: They actually developed a sort of very detailed diagram of the clitoris. [Laughs.] It’s very much not the inverse of the penis, as was originally thought.

And the clitoris is, like, a really fascinating organ, because it’s the only human organ that is built solely for pleasure. You know, it has over 8,000 nerve endings.

But, again, right, where you might think that this sort of new knowledge about female anatomy would be good for females [Chuckles.] and for women and for progress, now that the female orgasm wasn’t necessary for procreation, it kind of was relegated, along with female pleasure. So that, by the 1850s, it was generally believed that women were actually incapable of climax.

Longoria: Incapable of climax—or really just not particularly interested in sex at all. This all changed in the 1950s. Biologist Alfred Kinsey published survey data and found that women were quite interested in sex, even on their own.

Smyth: The revelation that 62 percent of American women had masturbated—which, I think, just, like, blew men’s minds [Both laugh.]—I think that that was a big turning point.

But I think what we’ve seen in the last 20 years is these sex-help books for men, where it’s repositioning the female orgasm as something the kind of enlightened male has a real responsibility to his partner to facilitate these orgasms.

Longoria: Which, again, seems like a good thing, right? (Chuckles lightly.)

Smyth: Yeah. And, I think, for many women, probably really is a good thing. For women like me, though, if the female orgasm was once seen as this sort of mythic thing, it’s been now kind of recast as a compulsory thing.

(A keyboard plays a slow, wavering, watery melody.)

Smyth: The female orgasm is basically kind of—just become, like, the primary purpose of sex in a way that’s like made it very difficult for anyone who either can’t or doesn’t want to orgasm.

The female orgasm then becomes wrapped up in men’s kind of virility and sense of honor and then the female pleasure actually becomes kind of secondary.

Longoria: Hmm. Yeah.

(After a few more notes, the music fades out.)

Smyth: So I started faking it.

(Bass-driven music whirs up.)

Smyth: Which is, like, the obvious solution, right? [Longoria laughs.] Um, I guess I’ve seen enough movies, where I was just like, You know, just use some, like, moaning.”

(A mishmash of orgasmic moans plays, gradually increasing in intensity and volume.)

Smyth: Who knows? Maybe I wasn’t fooling anyone. [Both laugh.] I don’t know.

No one likes the idea of faking it. But, honestly, for me, I actually found it really empowering.

For the first time, this thing that had been an issue just wasn’t an issue. And sex was so much more fun. It was so much less fraught. I felt like I was being seen for the first time the way that I saw myself. It wasn’t anymore that I lacked something, right? It was suddenly like, Oh, you know, here’s what I have to offer as a sexual being. And again, I imagine orgasmic women are getting these responses all the time, but, for me, that was a very new feeling.

(A gentle shift as the music becomes quieter and more introspective.)

Longoria: But after a while, faking it got old. It was a paradox. Because she started having more fun, it got more frustrating not to be able to reach a peak.

And so began Chapter 2 of her quest.

Smyth: I was like, I want to kind of continue on that journey that I started with the sex therapist all those years ago.

Longoria: Where things got weird.

(After a moment of musical conclusions and the twittering of birds, the break.)

(Discordant music plays for a beat, then cuts out.)

Longoria: And so what did you do?

Smyth: So the first thing [Laughs lightly.] I did was I—I made an appointment with a man named Dr. M. He is a sensual-touch therapist. [Both chuckle.] Um, you know them!

Longoria: Classic. One of the paths in med school.

Smyth: Yeah, exactly.

Longoria: Internal medicine, sexual-touch therapists …

Smyth: No, he’s been featured in a bunch of different magazines, and you send him an email, and then you set up this time to meet. It’s definitely a little, like, trepidatious, I would say. Um, you know “Find My Friend,” that iPhone app?

Longoria: Mhm.

Smyth: My best friend knew where I was. So I was like, “If you don’t hear from me in two hours, like …” (Both chuckle lightly.)

Longoria: Keep an eye out.

Smyth: Keep an eye out.

Longoria: I’m a little blue dot.

Smyth: Yeah, exactly.

Longoria: She met Dr. M at a Starbucks.

Smyth: He was like, “By the way, I’m not a real doctor.” (Both laugh.)

Longoria: He was up-front with that!

Smyth: Yeah. I was like, “Oh, I—I know. Don’t worry.”

(Softly funky synthesizer music starts to play.)

Longoria: He was a nondescript man who led her to his nondescript apartment.

Smyth: Total anodyne bachelor pad: brown leather couch, black IKEA bookshelves, Brooklyn Bridge poster.

Longoria: And he proceeded to give her a massage.

Smyth: And then he kind of, like, went, you know, down, and, like, pulled apart my legs and just like, you know, was doing whatever he was doing down there. (Both laugh gently.)

(A breath of music.)

Smyth: He had said, “Don’t focus on the orgasm.” But every new sensation, I was kind of like, “Oh! Is it happening? Is it happening?” [Both laugh.]

He was kind of like, “Well, we could do a little Magic Wand action.” I was like, “What’s that?!”

[Laughingly.] And he pulls out this, like, enormous white thing that looks like a cooking implement. And it was just, like, insane. [Laughs brightly.] It was, like, the crème de la crème of vibrators. But again, it was like, “Ahh!” It feels really good, but it’s too painful.

Longoria: Again, no orgasm.

Smyth: I was getting dressed and—and ready to go. And then he just held out his arms, and he was like, “All right. Big hug?”

(The music goes quiet.)

Smyth: (Both laugh.) And I was just like, “Oh my gosh, you are just like someone’s dad.” Which is, I guess, creepy, but—but not in a creepy way.

I think I left feeling hopeful.

Longoria: And with that hope, she began to look for more options.

Smyth: These friends were like, “Try this; try that!”

Longoria: She was recommended new books …

Smyth: Come as You Are …

Longoria: Therapists …

Smyth: “The Orgasm Whisperer.” She’s like, “Orgasm is a skill, like skiing,” right? (Laughs.)

Longoria: Bodysex workshops …

Smyth: Try hypnosis. I think that seems obvious, or … (Dips under as next line comes up.)

Betty Dodson workshops: It’s like a group of women sit naked in a circle and genital show-and-tell. (Laughter.)

Longoria: Millennial sex-club parties …

Smyth: With, like, dominatrixes. Domin—is that … ? What’s the plural of dominatrix? (Laughingly.) I’m not sure.

Longoria: Some of those men she dated even recommended things to her.

Smyth: Something called OneTaste, a quote-unquote “orgasmic meditation” company. Like, $60,000 for a year-long membership. [Both laugh.]

The O-Shot. Have you heard of that?

Longoria: I have not heard of the O-Shot. What is the O-Shot?

Smyth: Um, so basically what they do is they take blood from your arm, centrifuge it, and then the platelet-rich plasma is then injected into your vagina.

Longoria: (Blown away.) What?

Smyth: Honestly, like, it felt so overwhelming and confusing, and—and ultimately really bad.

(As Longoria speaks, the music fades out.)

Longoria: The sex therapists, the gurus, the pseudo-doctors, they all presented different solutions to empower women to own their sexuality and solve their own problem. But sifting through these options, she couldn’t help but think back to the men that she’d dated.

Smyth: And so I was kind of curious about all of these things, but then, at the same time, I could also see that, in a way, like, they were kind of mimicking, or—or some kind of mirror of the men who were making me feel deficient.

They were saying, “There’s this thing that we can help you fix,” and implicit in that message is that there is something that needs to be fixed.

Longoria: This was the moment on her quest when she started to wonder if the problem she had was really her problem—or a problem with the men she was dating.

Smyth: But, you know, they’re always passing it off as if they are very enlightened, or they’re kind of feminists, right? Or they just care so much about pleasing women and really putting them first. I’m like, “No, you’re not putting them first! You’re putting you first!”

(An effervescent synthesizer landscape bubbles up under the dialogue.)

Longoria: By this point, she thought about giving up. She didn’t need to have an orgasm, if, ultimately, it was about the men anyway.

But then, a friend of hers who was anorgasmic … had one.

Smyth: A friend of mine texted me one day and she was like, “You have to see this guy. I just had a full-body, lobster-claw orgasm.” And I—like, I didn’t even know what that was, but I was [Laughs.] like, “Great,” like,Sign me up.”

She saw a tantric healer named Justin. I, you know, made an appointment. I think his rate is $600.

I had sent him a very lengthy intake form. My favorite question was “Do you love your genitals? Please describe.”

He shows up at my home, and he’s wearing black combat boots, and, like, yellow-and-maroon ikat balloon pants, and just a lot of amulet necklaces.

He was like, “Okay, I’m going to go prepare the bedroom.” Like, “Wrap yourself in this sarong, and”—uh, you know—“make a list of your intentions.”

He had drawn the blinds, and there were all these fake rose petals on the bed, and incense—electric candles flickering everywhere.

And he just kind of, like, looks at me very solemnly, and he says, “Enter, Goddess.”

(The music dissipates.)

Smyth: (Laughs.) And I was just like, “Oh gosh. Okay. Here we go!”

Longoria: You’re laughing now, but, like, in the moment, what was going through your head? Were you trying to really, like, engage and—and be present, or were you kind of, like, not able to—

Smyth: Well, I, you know …

Longoria: —stop laughing?

Smyth: Like, I can’t—I can’t take “Goddess” seriously. Like, I just can’t. So I really was keeping an open mind and—and, you know … But—but I was just like, This is very silly.

(A moment of just music.)

Smyth: We did have a conversation about boundaries, where he was like, “So before we start, you know, do you have any boundaries?”

And I was kind of like, “I don’t think so.” [Laughs.] You know?

(The music fades out.)

Smyth: And he was kind of like, “Okay, well, how would you feel about, um, unprotected penetrative sex?” [Longoria laughs.] And I was kind of like, “Whoa!” [Both crack up.] “Oh, no! Yes, that is a boundary. You’re right. I don’t want that.”

But then we kind of, like, sat on the bed, like, cross-legged, and looked into each other’s eyes. And he was like, “Okay, like, breathe very deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth.”

(Resonant percussive music softly begins to play.)

Smyth: I lay down on my stomach. He took off the sarong so I was totally naked. And then, all of a sudden, rubbing my back and then I’ll—and I’m like, Oh gosh, he is also naked! [Laughs.] Which I was not necessarily expecting.

And I was just like, Oh my God, what—what have I done? [Both laugh.] Like, What—did I just hire myself a prostitute? Like, What is this?

Nibbling on my ear lobes. “You are strong; you are worthy, lovable, sexy.”

He took all this lavender oil. “Imagine the farm where this lavender was grown, the factory where it was turned into oil, the farmer who picked it. Imagine his life …”

The world is performing for you, and you don’t even know it.”

A lot of attention, like, lavished upon what he called “my sacred temple.” [Bursts out laughing.]

So for the next, you know, half hour, maybe longer, we just kind of lay there naked and entwined. And he was just, like, telling me all about his first tantra experience and how revelatory it had been. And he had, like, quit his finance job and sold his fancy car and moved—actually—to Miami to, you know, focus on healing women like myself. (Longoria laughs.)

(The music fades out.)

Smyth: And I was just like, Oh no, like, I didn’t hire a prostitute. I hired myself a boyfriend. [Both chuckle.] ’Cause he was kind of like, you know, “What did you think?” And I was like, “It was interesting. It was good.” [Laughs.] You know, “I enjoyed it.”

Longoria: But an orgasm? That, she did not have.

Smyth: He was shocked that I hadn’t had an orgasm. He texted me later and asked how I was feeling. And I think what I said disappointed him. ’Cause he then texted me back and was like, you know, “There might be a lot more revelations here than you’re kind of allowing yourself to realize. And—and I think your journey is really just beginning.”

Longoria: Over the course of her quest, Katharine tried a dozen different interventions—things that really can work for some women. But not for her. And the thing is, she continued to enjoy sex just fine most of the time. She couldn’t help but think that Justin the tantric healer was no better than Aristotle and all the people personally offended that she couldn’t reach a peak.

(A plunking sound, like water droplets, reverberates. Synthesized harmonies play underneath.)

Smyth: And the other thing I should say is, like, I also get it. I have dated some men who themselves have had trouble orgasming.

Longoria: Mhm.

Smyth: And I get why that can feel bad, or make you feel like you’re not enough, or that …

Longoria: Like it’s about you.

Smyth: Yeah, so it’s not like I don’t understand. But I also just think—to make it a deal breaker? The orgasm is such a small part of sex. There is what an orgasm actually is, and then there’s the myth of the orgasm, which sort of towers over it.

(A beat of music.)

Longoria: Have you experienced an orgasm through all of this journey?

Smyth: Oh! Uh, no! I don’t think so.

I actually—I am now dating someone and have been for the past year, who is, like, the most lovely and generous man. And, you know, we have a really great sex life, and it’s not at all a problem for him.

Maybe I do want to continue this journey, but it’s like, if I am going to continue it, it’s for myself. It’s not for someone else.

(An almost psychedelic rock-style melody plays, echoing in what sounds like an immense space.)

Gabrielle Berbey: This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and me, Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Stef Hayes. Sound design by David Herman. Music by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance.

Our team also includes Tracie Hunte, Natalia Ramirez, and Emily Botein. And a special shout-out to teammate and founding producer of The Experiment, Alvin Melathe. This is Alvin’s last week on the show—he’s off to chase his radio dreams. Alvin, thank you, and we’ll miss you.

If you liked this week’s episode, please be sure to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.

The Experiment is a co-production of The Atlantic and WNYC Studios. Thanks for listening.

(The psychedelic melody from before the credits moves back to center stage, gets caught in a loop, and then winds down as the episode ends.)

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