As a child, Cathy experienced extended molestation, which caused her to dissociate from her body and feel huge shame about her body. As she grew older, she also gained weight, which left her feeling like no one would ever want her.

In this interview we talk about those early experiences, plus the healing she has done and why she now feels passionate about helping others know that they are lovable and acceptable just as they are.

Cathy is a 52-year-old, cisgender female who describes herself as white, pansexual, polyamorous, and single with playmates. She describes her body as “round.”

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT (CLICK TO OPEN)

LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk About Sex. I’m sex educator and sexual communication coach Leah Carey and this is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex. If anything about the previous offends you, turn back now! And if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!

[MUSIC]

LEAH: Today, I’m excited to introduce you to my guest for two reasons. First, she’s a woman who I greatly admire and I’m excited for you to know her. Second, I just spoke with her about a week ago, so we were able to talk about how quarantining alone and therefore without any physical touch is affecting her.

I’ve mentioned that I have interviews already recorded to get us through at least October but I realized that talking about physical touch and skin hunger during quarantine was so important that I needed to bump this episode up and release it immediately.

So Cathy is a 52 year old cisgender female, who describes herself as white, pansexual, polyamorous, and single with playmates. She describes her body shape as round. Cathy is the founder of The Intimacy Dojo which you can find at the intimacydojo.com.

As a child, Cathy experienced extended molestation which caused her to dissociate from her body and feel huge shame about even having a body. As she grew older, she also gained a lot of weight which left her feeling like no one would ever want her. In this interview, we talk about those early experiences plus the healing she has done and why she now feels passionate about helping others know that they are lovable and acceptable just as they are. Throughout this interview, you’ll also hear Cathy mention the name Reid Mihalko. He is a popular sex educator, someone who she and I have both worked with and I’ll put his information in the Show Notes. I’m so pleased to introduce Cathy!

I am absolutely thrilled to be talking with you today. You are one of my favorite people. Before we started recording, I was saying to you that I would walk over hot coals to work with you.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: Thank you so much. I love what you’re doing here so thank you so much for having me on. LEAH: Thank you. It’s my pleasure. So let’s just jump right in. The first question I ask everyone is what is

your first memory of sexual pleasure?

CATHY: My first memory of sexual pleasure was very confused. I was having pleasure but it was during abuse. And so I was abused as a child for a number of years. I was so confused by what my body was doing and I was too young. There wasn’t Sex Ed and I felt ashamed and I wasn’t sure why my body was responding the way it did and why it felt good. I think it took a long time for me to decouple that because even when I’m masturbating, I had associated sexuality with abuse or power struggles or not having control over my body. So even masturbation, it was pleasurable, the fantasies in my head were not very pleasurable because that’s how I was kind of my system. I was confused about how to have that pleasure around sexuality.

LEAH: So how old were you when you started having those pleasurable feelings?

CATHY: I think I imagine I was about 5 is the closest I can tell. I just remember one time I was sitting on the couch and just the arm of the couch with my legs on either side and I remember that as a 5 year old. I also remember being touched and being very confused about that and about my body’s responses and wondering why it was reacting the way it did.

LEAH: I’m so sorry. How long did that abuse go on? CATHY: Until I was about 11.

LEAH: It’s a long time.

CATHY: Yeah.

LEAH: And did your bodily experience of it change over those years?

CATHY: It did. Humans are amazingly adaptable. We’re to stay in quarantine right now and we’re all stay at home, shelter in place or whatever you’re calling it and humans do adapt. We learn to make do with what’s happening to us. It just got sort of like I expected it and I was able to take a little more pleasure out of it and it still felt awful in a lot of ways.

I’m not advocating anybody thinking, “Oh, people just get used to it.” It was very traumatizing and very harmful for me and I think that there was a certain regularity and comfort to it in a way. My family life was a little chaotic so having some of that ability to have a connection because our family didn’t hug. It wasn’t touchy feely and I’m someone who is very touch is one of my biggest love languages so I was a

little starved for that. So again, very confusing and then I wasn’t sure how to get my needs met in a healthy way for many years.

LEAH: So I want to just pause here for a second because as you know this is not uncommon for children who are in abuse situations to have pleasurable or pleasure responses because your body has autonomic responses and that doesn’t mean that you somehow asked for it or that you perpetuated it in any way.

CATHY: Yeah, it doesn’t make it okay or wanted. I remember reading the book Courage to Heal, which is one of the only books that were out when I first started healing from abuse. And they were talking about how if a doctor hits you in the knee in the spot that makes your foot kick, it’s the same thing. You can literally not control that. Your body is going to respond and it doesn’t mean you wanted it or asked for it or deserved it in anyway.

LEAH: I’m so glad that this is coming up because I do talk to women who have such confusion even 30, 40 years later about “Why, what’s wrong with me that I found that pleasurable?” I think it’s so important. Something you said when you first started talking was that you could have sexual pleasure but the fantasies were not pleasurable. I’m really curious to know more about that.

CATHY: I think because my only view of sexuality at all was we had a dairy farm so I would see the animals not treated very respectfully in terms of reproductive choices and things like that. I remember early on seeing they were trying to mate a mare with a stallion and then the mare was not ready and they didn’t let her have a choice about it.

And then I was experiencing so many things with my own not having choices and being held down mixed in with that pleasure and a connection with someone I cared about so it was very confusing to me. And I think my fantasies just grew out of that. I do know that there are a lot of people that are into BDSM and like more violent fantasies, it took me probably 40 years to figure out what was naturally, what felt authentic to me, which is what was “nurtured.”

And what my experiences created for me because the only time I felt sexual pleasure was when it was out of my control and there was violence sometimes. I love how Reid Mihalko talks about sensual versus erotic and that was really big for me. What is sexual is what we actually feel in our bodies and enjoy versus what’s erotic is what is in our heads so our fantasies. And so separating that for me is really big because I was like maybe I somehow wanted the abuse or attracted the abuse because I had these fantasies and being able to separate that “Oh, I do like it when my partner sometimes tells me, I’ll hold you down and do whatever I want to do with you.” But if they actually did it to me, I’d be very very mad.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: Yes. This is something that I talk about a lot that your fantasies are often, it’s okay for them to stay fantasies. They don’t have to be brought into reality. And sometimes talking about them is like super erotic but if we actually take the next step into doing them, it wouldn’t be good for us.

CATHY: Some fantasies I really enjoy doing and some I haven’t. So I think that around sexuality is, “Let’s try a baby step in that direction does that feel good or not?” And if we find partners who are willing to experiment with us and not judgment and willing. One of the things that I’ve seen is a lot of people aren’t willing to stop if they’re going down a path that’s a turn on for them. And to find partners that are willing to have enough thought to say, “Oh this is turning me on but if you want to stop, it’s totally okay.” Yeah, I’m finding that’s a gift.

LEAH: Yes. So you said that abuse stopped around age 11, how did it stop?

CATHY: Like again, the memories are very confused about it but I think I started developing. I was starting to get boobs and hair down there and stuff and I think that was just not a turn on for that person.

LEAH: Oh, interesting. So they really wanted the child’s body? CATHY: As far as I could tell, yeah.

LEAH: How did that affect your relationship with your body?

CATHY: I felt a lot of shame. I associated it with being bigger. I was quite slender and then when I started developing boobs, girls naturally put on a little more weight around their hips and their breasts. At that point, I was really in great shape. I worked out in the farm all the time or working all the time. But I associated it with shame. My body wasn’t desirable. Someone wasn’t even forcing me anymore. There’s so much shame in general about my body. I was very confused.

LEAH: So that’s so interesting that the abuse stops which is a positive thing except that it can be associated as a negative thing because, “Oh, I’m not desirable anymore.”

CATHY: Because I was also getting some touch needs met and I was so ashamed of my body that I felt I wasn’t desirable. I felt shame my entire life around my body I think and I didn’t understand it. I felt like this really dangerous place to be. I lived in my head or above my head for a long time I was so dissociated.

And I do remember in 7th grade, the chorus teacher’s daughter was in my class and she brought in one of those torrid romance books that she had found in her mom’s room. We went behind the bleachers and we were reading it to each other. And it was so interesting. There was a lot of rape and force and overcoming her resistance and she liked it. And so my poor brain was trying to figure out what was normal and I’m hearing this thinking, “Oh, I guess that’s really what sex is about.” Because it wasn’t that

different from what I’d experienced and the overpowering, not listening to people saying no. But I do remember that I was masturbating pretty frequently and that’s not uncommon for people who are sexualized early. There’s a lot of sexual curiosity I think and so I love that I could feel that pleasure but I also felt very, very guilty about it. I felt like I’m doing something wrong. I shouldn’t want this pleasure. If I was a good person, I wouldn’t be doing these things.

LEAH: When you masturbated and you came presumably to something you would call an orgasm, was it a pleasurable orgasm? And the reason I ask is because for me also, my abuse story is different from yours but also having a lot of confusion and shame around all of that. I was so stuck in my head that even though my body quaked and the things happened, I didn’t have a sense of release. I mostly had a sense of guilt and I called them sort of like my genital sneezes like it didn’t feel like anything in particular and I’m curious what your experience to that was.

CATHY: Well, it was really quiet and all my sexual experiences where I was supposed to be quiet anyway so I didn’t make any noise. I’ve been trained out of that and I think most humans are because there’s a lot of shame around masturbation. Mom and dad don’t say, “Okay honey. Go to masturbate. It’s a private thing. Close the door. But please feel free to make as much as noise as you want as long as we know you’re okay.” That’s not what happens.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: People are sneaking off and feeling guilty about it. So I was really quiet and I didn’t have a sense of release like it would feel pleasurable but there was an immense guilt about it. So I would feel that pleasure but it was nothing like how I have orgasms now with playmates that know what they’re doing and I’ve released a lot of shame so I enjoy that a lot more. Now I have much more intense orgasms. But there was this sense of release, but there would also be this deep shame. And I think it was because I felt shame, I turned that as proof that I was a bad person. Those bad feelings of shame that, “Oh look, I’ve done something bad.”

LEAH: Yeah. So at one point did you start engaging in your sexuality with another person?

CATHY: I lived in Mainland China for a year as an exchange student as a sophomore year in college and that was really the first time I had a boyfriend. So one of the other exchange students and I started dating. It was interesting and I finally felt I had a boyfriend and I’m okay. This is proof that I’m not undesirable. Someone can want me.

LEAH: And you said that you had built up this idea from your own experience and then the book with your girlfriend under the bleachers that sex was probably mostly about him pushing and you saying no until he took what he wanted and then you found pleasure. Did that dynamic show up in that relationship at all?

CATHY: Not so much actually it was more the other way around and so we’re still good friends to this day and he’s gay. He’s very gay, not just a little bit gay.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: But he didn’t want to be gay. He was Catholic. He’s still a Catholic as far as I know. And so it was kind of we were really good friends and I think that there was a deep mutual liking. And I wanted to be sexual because that would be proof that I was desirable and I wanted him to kind of overpower me to prove that I was desirable but he didn’t. So there was that I felt cool like I have a boyfriend finally.

It made me feel like I had status and value. And there was that lacking of he wasn’t overpowering me or pushing me for sex though both of us were very curious and we tried a lot of things. We were like, “I wonder if we enjoy this” and that was really, really fun to get to explore different things.

LEAH: I’m grinning because my first boyfriend was when I was a senior in high school. We only dated for three months but I don’t think he ever even touched my boob. I think all we did was kiss but I remember I was a very practical kind of responsible teenage girl and so I was like, “We should have a conversation about sex.” And so, we had a conversation about whether we were going to have sex and his response was, “Well you’re the one who has the most to lose so I think you should choose.” And I was like, “Wow, that does not make me feel desired at all.” And then it turned out he was gay.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: I was like, “Oh, that’s why.”

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: So once that relationship ended, what happened next for you in terms of your sex and sexuality?

CATHY: Well, it was really interesting because I lived with him for a while partly we had a lease. But I was also incredibly shy person and I was dealing with the abuse. It was really coming up a lot so I needed a roommate that would be there for me so I lived with him and his boyfriend for a year and a half.

LEAH: Oh wow, after the two of you were done. CATHY: After we broke up.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: It was very painful at the time but like he was supportive too like we cared about each other so that was interesting. But then I went with him a couple times to a gay bar, a gay bar in Ithaca that he went to because I was curious because I was like, “Well if this is my friend and he’s doing it I just want to

see what this place is.” And I really loved it because I could go there and I felt really comfortable there. And so I started hanging out there more and more and one night I got super drunk and he introduced me to some friends, some lesbian friends from work. I spent three hours telling them how straight I was and then about half an hour making a pass at one of them.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: And I really loved kissing her. We fooled around a little bit and then we kissed and I was just like, “This is the best thing ever.” I didn’t feel afraid because there wasn’t that power dynamic that I had experienced with men so I was convinced I was a lesbian. If you like kissing a woman, you must be a lesbian, right? And that was my story.

LEAH: Mine too for a while.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: So I went through the whole coming out lesbian for several years. [LAUGHTER]

CATHY: Yeah and Ithaca was pretty militantly, the lesbian community there was very much like if you like women. Or the patriarchy kind of won at the time, but I’m sure it’s changed since then. But after a while, I think I still liked men too and I really felt like I got kicked out of that community. I got excommunicated because I was like, “I don’t think I just like women.”

LEAH: Yeah. I remember I went through the same period. [LAUGHTER]

LEAH: And I was at a party with a group of lesbians and there was all this talk about how they were all cat lovers. I mean it’s such a cliché but they were.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: And that no female cat wanted to have sex. Every conception was always rape. And I was like, “That just doesn’t feel true from an evolutionary biological standpoint. That does not feel true to me.”

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: And I don’t feel like this is my community. [LAUGHTER]

LEAH: But it was the same thing. You were either all in or you were out. And that was never comfortable for me either.

CATHY: Yeah. It’s sad because I felt like I had broken through one box to get to a place where, “Oh, I can enjoy women’s bodies a lot”. But there was another box there like I couldn’t. I’m still trying to contain or control my sexuality at that time.

[MUSIC]

LEAH: At this point in this conversation, Cathy and I talked extensively about that first relationship including the fact that he was having unprotected sex with other men at the height of the AIDS crisis and not telling her and the boundaries she wasn’t able to establish then that she would now.

It’s a wonderful conversation and I want you to hear it. I also know that this is a hard time financially for a lot of people so I’m putting this and other extras from this week’s episode over at Patreon free for everyone regardless of whether you are a subscriber. If you have a few extra dollars to pledge, of course, I’m always grateful for the support. But if you don’t, I absolutely understand. I’ve seen a number of patrons drop off because their financial resources are stressed right now and I honor you in taking care of yourselves. And remember, a great way to support the podcast is always to tell a friend about it.

[MUSIC]

LEAH: So let’s jump back in to the timeline where we were which was you in grad school, you’re macking on ladies at the gay bar.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: And telling them I was straight.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: So after your bisexuality or pansexuality, if you are ready to call it that, has re-emerged, what’s sort of the next thing that happens in your story?

CATHY: I think I was bisexual. I didn’t even understand pansexual at that point. I was just like, “Oh, I think I like many women”, thinking that gender was binary in the way that I was brought and conditioned.

I was in grad school and I had a horrible crush on one of the other women in the department and she was dating a guy so of course I felt like, “Oh, she’s straight. I should just leave her alone.” We got to be friends. We’d do studying together and one night we were hanging out at my house and I invited her

over because I was like I need to start making more friends. This is just as friends, invited her over and we had dinner and we were just hanging out. I was showing her the rest of the place. I had a water bed and she’d never seen one so she was kind of like bouncing on it. And I had a teddy bear nearby and she was making the teddy bear talk like she was holding its little arms and making it talk. And she bopped me on the nose. She was totally flirting with me but I did not get it at all.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: I’m like, “No, she’s straight. Isn’t it cool that my new friend is playful with me?” [LAUGHTER]

CATHY: I was probably missing all of it. And we ended up wrestling with the bear and kissing and then we ended up making love and it was beautiful and she had a boyfriend. And I was like, “Here I am corrupting innocent people.” And years later, we’re still friends too. I talk to her and she’s like, “No, I’m totally flirting with you.”

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: In my head, I had totally corrupted this innocent person.

LEAH: Well, that doesn’t surprise me given your background thinking that there’s something wrong with you and that you all this stuff. That’s just the next step in that logical scenario is, “I’m the one who’s corrupting people and making them bad like me.”

CATHY: Yes. And I still had a lot of innate homophobia too. It’s just in so deep even though I’d fooled around with a number of women, I’d come out in the lesbian community, it took decades for me to get rid of most of my homophobia. So I felt like I had corrupted her and led her down the path that was not good.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: But we ended up having kind of an affair for a while and then she broke it off because she felt really guilty because her boyfriend. But we were friends and then we kind of slipped every once in a while and have sex.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: And it was so fun like I really enjoyed it. I felt really good about myself when we were sexual together because she was someone I thought was really attractive and really funny and really smart and just really enjoyed her. And I also felt guilty because we were doing something that we weren’t supposed to. I felt like I should have been supporting her and saying, “No, we’re not going to do this.”

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: And then eventually she broke up with her boyfriend and we dated for a couple of years. LEAH: What is your relationship with your body through this time?

CATHY: I still had some shame. I’m still doing therapy but I was ashamed of being bigger. I thought that I should be size 6 or whatever and very fit and I wasn’t. I felt ashamed of my desire. If I felt attracted to someone, I felt like I was shaming them or harming them in some way so I would try to hide it, which made it harder for people to figure out if I wanted to do date them or not.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: If I was interested.

LEAH: Oh my God. That resonates so hard for me, yeah, either I never let anyone know I was interested in them because either I was going to make a fool of them or I was going to be made a fool of if I expressed any interest.

CATHY: Yeah, the mocking, you think I would date you kind of that fear or that I was shaming them by liking them.

LEAH: So at what point did you have more sexual connections happening again?

CATHY: I ended up dating two different women. They both knew that I was dating them but one was very sane and together and had her own house and had a good income and I really enjoyed her. And the other was a drug user, alcoholic, no job. And of course I dumped the sane one for the crazy one.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: The one that was having lots of issues. So I had a lot of sex with the two of them. It was really fun and it was really nice to have two different women wanting me like it was really messing the part of my brain that had just decided that I wasn’t desirable.

LEAH: I want to pause for a second on the statement you just made. Again, resonates so hard for me. It messed with the part of the brain that believed that I was undesirable. Can you talk about what that experience was for you?

CATHY: Yeah. I was so used to not being wanted and again, just like you said before, I was hiding that I liked anyone so it was even the people who were attracted to me, I was giving none of the signals out. It took a very, very confident person or very, very drunk person to actually make a move on me.

So I really kind of enforced the self reinforcing because I wasn’t giving off any signals that I was interested. No one was making moves on me or trying to flirt with me so that just reinforced that I wasn’t desirable. And here I am, all of a sudden, I’m dating two different women that in my imagination was they’re both very high stat.

I saw them both as high status or high value, popular in the community and my brain just didn’t know how to deal with that. It was very confusing and I just remember going home one night, I’d had a date with one and then I’d had gone from that to the date with the other and we had sex on both of them. And I went back to my apartment afterwards, the room that I was renting there. And I was just laying on the bed, just staring at the ceiling like, “I don’t understand this. What just happened?”

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: It was very confusing. It didn’t fit my paradigm of myself and it was really good in some ways to start shaking that.

LEAH: Yes. So my experience was I was in the midst of my sexual awakening so I have started to have figure out that maybe my view of myself was skewed that nobody wanted me was maybe not entirely true but it still had not penetrated.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: That is a very strange word to use in this situation. [LAUGHTER]

LEAH: But I was at a party one night. It was a small party. There were maybe ten people. I knew all of them except two people and when I walked in, I was like, “Oh, they’re the beautiful people.” They’re the ones that everybody wants to know. Everybody wants to sit next to. Everybody wants their attention and I was like, “I don’t know either of them and they clearly have no reason to pay attention to me and so I’m just not even going to try.” And then, during the course of the evening, both of them made a point of coming over and kissing me.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: And I was like, “I don’t understand this.” And then, one of them was a man and one of them was a woman and they were sort of connected and she said to me, “Before things really got started, we were out on the porch arguing about which of us was going to get to go home with you tonight.” And I was like, “I’m sorry. That makes no sense to me.”

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: And I literally I had a lot of fun that night but the next day, I had a complete meltdown because I was like, “This makes absolutely no sense to me. I have no place in my head to put this.” It took weeks and weeks for me to sort of like come to some place where my energetic system could maybe begin to potentially deal with that.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: Yeah, it kind of felt like the computer part of my brain was like, “Does not compute, error.” LEAH: Yeah, right.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: It’s just going to meltdown into a core of metal.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: So one of the things that I’ve heard you talk about very eloquently is that you really believed that you could not be desirable or lovable. And that a lot of that had to do with your body. And that you went through some really profound healing and came out the other side as somebody who is advocating for pleasure for all people. And I’d love to have you talk a little bit about that experience.

One of the things that I talk about a lot is that no matter what your body size is, no matter what your body shape is, there is somebody who wants to love you. And I also know that 6 years ago, I would not have been able to hear that because I wouldn’t have believed it because I would have said, “Well that’s nice for somebody else to say but they don’t know me. They don’t know my body. They don’t know how undesirable I am.” And so I think it’s really important for people to hear from someone who not only has been there and lives in the body that you live in that you are now actually an extremely desired person.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: One thing I do want to say is it’s a process of a journey. There are still days where I’m like, “No one can possibly want me in this body.” And there are other days where I have playmates and I’m like, “Oh this is so much fun. They’re enjoying my body. I’m enjoying my body. What’s wrong with this?”

I think that we’re so acculturated to looking first for slender people to have sex with and we’re looking for status rather than pleasure. And so for me, it’s a journey and there’s days where I get it really well and there’s days where I’m tired or feeling overwhelmed and I just suck at it. So I do want to normalize that.

LEAH: Thank you.

CATHY: I think there’s this sense of “Oh, we’ll get this and then we’ll be done” versus “Oh, there are good days and bad days and hopefully, it turns around faster as I go, as I keep doing this I catch myself.”

But it really was a journey I went through for a long time so that was a really big healing for me because you deal with shame so much and secrets that you’ve kept. So that was a really big step but it was years later that I started doing EFT because I was in a really bad place and the therapist I was seeing fired me at the end of a session. And he’s just like, “This isn’t working.”

And I was on a bunch of antidepressants and I just felt like I should die but I didn’t deserve to die. All the abuse stuff was open. And as he kicked me out of the office, he said, “You might want to try EFT.” He didn’t say EFT he said, “Energy psychology maybe that could help you.” And I dove in because it really made a difference for me. And because it’s something that connects with your body and you have to accept where you are and beliefs where you are for that.

That was a big step in my journey like, “Oh, this body has held so much pain for me.” So I started loving my body more because it was. I had to look at the fact that I had been through all this pain and my body had processed it for me. My body had held it for me and it was doing its best for me and that was a really big step forward but it was a journey of five years of just working on that. The EBT I went through was pretty intense so not everybody would have to take so long, and then just rediscovering pleasure without the shame. I don’t know how to describe it. It was so uncomfortable to enjoy my body without pain because I had no neural pathways for it.

Because the analogy that I have is 4 years ago, I almost died. I had double pneumonia and I was in the ICU for 21 days and when I came out, I couldn’t lift a 2 pound weight. Before that I had been doing 50 pound kettle bells regularly. And that 2 pound weight, that sense of “I can’t do this” was so strong and that kind of achy horrible feeling of trying to do something you don’t know how to do. And then my trainer would actually have to help me lift the 2 pound weight and that fighting through that sense of “I should just give up. This is too hard. I don’t know how to do this.”

But the more I tried, 2 weeks later I’m doing 5 pound weights. And then a month later, I’m doing 20 pounds and then gradually back to the 50 pounds. But that sense of “I really don’t know how to do this. I don’t know if I have the capacity do this. I don’t know if I have the muscles or the ability to do it” and just trying anyway. It was really, really hard for me. If anyone’s listening to this, the courage it takes to go through that, I just want to offer there is another side if you just keep trying, we can get there.

And again, I have good days and bad days because I started talking about it because I get so frustrated that our media and our society really they showcase people who are skinny all the time and there are so much status and value and sexuality placed on people that are skinny and also a lot of them are also feeling put in a box and constrained and they’re kind of taught they have to behave a certain way to be okay. So I started doing talks at some conventions just to kind of normalize it because I want to help break the stereotype.

I think if nobody speaks up, it just reinforces that only pretty people deserve sex and anyone else shouldn’t have sex and there’s something wrong with them if they have sex or it’s laughable as opposed to bodies have nerve endings. If it feels good for you to enjoy it, what does it matter what your size is? If both people are consensual, what does it matter?

LEAH: Yes. And there are people who want to love us and touch us and have sex with us no matter what. There are people.

CATHY: Yeah, when I started dating again, my best friend got tired of hearing me complain about not dating. He sent me an article that Reid Mihalko had written. And he got me dating in two weeks and he said, “Just put it at the top of your dating profile that I’m a big woman. If you don’t like dating big women, please don’t bother messaging.” And I said, “I don’t want to do this. No one will date me.” And I figured everyone was just going to pass me over. And he said, “Well, but you’re kind of scared of dating anyway so if everyone runs away, then you don’t have to date them.” And I was like, “Oh, I can’t defeat this logic.”

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: So I put it on top of my dating profile and I got so many responses of people saying, “I love how confident you are about your body, I love how upfront you are.” And I had more dates. I’ve never lacked dates now that I’ve put that on the top. Now if I want to go on dates, I can just start talking to people and people I would consider educated, thoughtful, nice people. I’ve had really good times so that was a big awakening for me. I think its shame that people find off-putting and so many of us are so ashamed of our bodies whether it’s 2 ounces of cellulite or 200 pounds of weight, whatever it is. It’s like we have so much shame and that is not attractive. I don’t know many people that are attracted to shame but the fact that we’re bigger, some people don’t care at all. They’re like, “I just want a cool person.”

LEAH: Yeah. It reminds me very much of early on in the podcast, I interviewed a transman named Tristan and he said that people’s responses to him when he was dating were very dependent on how he rolled out the information and when he rolled out the information as “I’ve got a different body and you get to play with it.”

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: He would get really positive responses. Like “Look at how much fun you’re going to have” instead of, “Yeah, I’m different and I don’t know if you’re going to be cool with that.” Yeah, it totally makes a difference. Wow. So what is your dating/relationship landscape like now pre-quarantine? Where were you as of January 1st?

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: I have kind of taken a break from dating because I was finding there were some things that I wanted to work through personally and I had a lot of life transitions this last year. So last summer, I changed jobs, a lot of changes. And I just felt like I kind of wanted to take a break from it and just be with me. And I think that I don’t know that our society gets that either. It’s like, “Oh, you must be failing if you’re not dating or really can’t get good dates.”

I have people asking me out on dates and I’m just kind of like, “I think right now I want to be just solo and figure some stuff out for me.” And I kind of think this is a helix. We clear stuff and then we see it again from a different perspective and so I’m just honoring my need. I have a great community. I have a lot of great friends and I have some playmates. And I’m not really feeling like I want to have a relationship-relationship right now while I’m figuring out some things. I’m not sure what direction I really want to go in my life right now so I want to figure that out before I start trying to amend other people into that life.

LEAH: Yeah. And so we are talking now during the time of stay at home. And so how are you getting your touch needs met or how are you handling not having your touch needs met?

CATHY: I love that you’re asking that question. I think it’s challenging. I’m a research scientist so I did a lot of research on what people do. And one, I’m trying to be much more mindful and something that I’ve tried to do for the healing process too over the years is be mindful when I touch myself. So if I’m showering even or brushing my hair, I used to try to run the brush through really quickly, I’d be mad at myself that there were snarls and it was proof that I was a bad person and I kind of ripped the brush through and pull my hair and try to be done as fast as I could. And one of the things that I try to do now is move slower, be mindful, and just let myself enjoy my hair being brushed by myself or my body being washed by myself.

I have a cat. I pet her. She’s getting a bit annoyed now I think she’s spoiled and it’s going to be hard for her when I’m not here.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY: I pet her constantly. And just doing things in the sunshine, I have a private backyard so I have a hot tub. I can go out naked, just enjoying the sun on my body or the breeze on my body. And when I masturbate, I try to be mindful about it. There’s still times where I’ll just kind of for release, just get her done. But I’m trying to be more mindful and thoughtful about that.

[MUSIC]

LEAH: And now it’s time for the Lowdown, the things we’re dying to know but would usually be too polite to ask any good girl.

[MUSIC]

LEAH: Do you have sex during your period?

CATHY: Yes, actually I tend to get incredibly horny the night before and luckily, the playmates I’ve had lately. For me, if they don’t enjoy it, it’s not going to be fun. But if they don’t care or some of them just find it kind of different and different sensation so yeah, put down a towel and put old sheets on and have a grand old time.

LEAH: Awesome.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: Have you ever faked an orgasm?

CATHY: Absolutely. My first relationships often because I felt like they were taking too much time on me or I was too much trouble.

LEAH: Yes, I think a lot of people are going to be able to relate to that. What is your favorite way to orgasm during sex?

CATHY: Favorite, I mean orgasms feel great. [LAUGHTER]

CATHY: One of the things that I really like is because I orgasm so well right now, I like it when someone tells me I can’t and then I try to hold it off and then they tell me I can and that’s really hot for me.

LEAH: What kind of touch do you enjoy most?

CATHY: When I’m getting slightly turned on, I like gentle touch, kind of the fingertips kind of light touch.

I’m not into pain at all but when I get more excited, I tend to want more vigorous touch. LEAH: What are your hard red lines?

CATHY: Not into pain. Yeah, and I guess if I ever feel like the person is out of control, that’s something that’d be terrifying to me. I mean my playmates are all pretty savvy and I know they respect “no”s like if I hesitate in answering, they take that as a no. I feel really blessed about that.

LEAH: Yeah, for me you absolutely must be like in the room with me energetically so I’m a hard no to any alcohol or substances before coming into the bedroom. Not because I have a particular moral issue with it but because I need to know that you’re 100% present with me. What do you consider is the kinkiest thing that you enjoy?

CATHY: Oh, I love role playing like making up stories and fantasies and I’m pretending or pretending to be different people. It’s like kids playing a way like having stories and making up this fantasy and getting to improv of each other like studying certain criteria and then see what we come up with around that story.

LEAH: Nice. Do you have particular stories or scenarios that you enjoy most?

CATHY: I think because I never really got the chance to have that innocent sexual exploration, one of my favorite is like we’re in high school and we’re supposed to be studying. The parents are downstairs, so we have to be kind of quiet but we get to fool around and explore each other and that’s a really fun to me.

LEAH: What is your favorite part of your body?

CATHY: It’s a tough one. It’s interesting because it used to be tough because there’s no part of my body I like. And now, it kind of just like most days it’s pretty awesome. I have so many cool nerve endings. I like to do fun things so I really like my boobs. I like my eyes. I like the fact that my lips and hands can bring pleasure.

LEAH: What’s the least favorite part of your body?

CATHY: I think that there’s still some like my belly and thighs because I have stretch marks and they’re bigger than “should” be. I think there are still days when that really still rears its ugly head, the old beliefs.

LEAH: Well that is it. We’ve done it.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: Cathy, thank you so much. Where can people find you?

CATHY: If they like to go to theintimacydojo.com, there are over a thousand videos. I’ve done interviews of different people and we have a couple that I got to get up there too with you, Leah. My idea was just to interview people and ask the question that I wanted to know and put it up for anyone. Because I know when I was first looking at this, I didn’t know where to go and so many people made it scary or frightening to look at, so I just wanted to normalize just having conversations about the things that people wondered about their bodies and relationships so that’s the best way to find me.

LEAH: And that’s why I love you so much. [LAUGHTER]

CATHY: I so appreciate your energy, Leah. This is gentle. It’s very vulnerable talking about a lot of these things and I love how you model and you share your own experiences back and I’m really, really touched by you offering this to the world.

LEAH: Oh, thank you so much. That means a lot to me. [MUSIC]

LEAH: Thanks for joining me today on Good Girls Talk About Sex. If you’d like to be a guest on the show, please email me at lleah@goodgirlstalkaboutsex.com. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube at GoodGirlsTalk.

I was only able to step outside my good girl box when someone I respected told me it was possible to do it. If you’d like to step outside of a box that’s no longer working for you, I’m here to tell you it’s possible and I’d love to work with you. Join my mailing list to receive tools that help name your desires and communicate them effectively to your partner or potential partners. Sign up at leahcarey.com.

I’m Leah Carey and I look forward to talking with you again next time. Here’s to your better sex life! [MUSIC]

She is the founder of The Intimacy Dojo, which you can find at www.theintimacydojo.com.

Here are some of the notable moments she shared with us:

  • 3:37 – Her first memory of sexual pleasure is confusing because she experienced pleasure around age 5 while being abused. The abuse was also confusing because it filled a need for touch and connection.
  • 7:15 – The body can respond autonomically to unwanted stimulation, which is confusing and can cause long-term emotional impact.
  • 7:45 – Cathy talks about how her fantasies to achieve pleasure were impacted by the childhood abuse and by growing up on a farm.
  • 11:00 – The abuse stopped around age 11 as her body developed, causing a new set of body issues (thinking she is no longer desirable in a more developed, larger, womanly body) and she feels shame about her body.
  • 14:50 – Cathy associated feeling the pleasure of an orgasm with guilt, even as she masturbated frequently in her early teens.
  • 15:45 – Her first boyfriend in college – they were able to explore with each other and he later came out as gay.
  • 20:00 – Her first experience with a woman was exciting because the power dynamics were different than with a man. She was convinced that she was a lesbian.
  • 25:00 – Further evidence of early abuse impact, when she crushes on a particular girl and ends up initiating a sexual experience with her, she assumes that she herself is the corrupting influence on the other innocent woman—there’s something wrong with her innate desires, and that she’s leading the other down a bad path.
  • 28:00 – the body shame associated with living in a larger body.
  • 30:00 – Cathy and Leah share their experiences of how confusing it is when you believe you are not desirable, yet other people express their attraction to you.
  • 36:00 – The discussion turns to healing around body image issues and embracing pleasure in any size and shape.
  • 43:00 – Cathy talks about her own efforts to break the stereotype that only thin people are worthwhile and sexually desirable, and her return to dating as a “big” woman.
  • 47:00 – She’s taking a break from dating to focus on personal transitions and personal growth.
  • 48:51 – Getting needs and touch needs met during quarantine.

Resources mentioned:

A lot of people are under financial strain right now, so I’m making all the Patreon extras available for free to everyone. Thank you to community members who continue to show your support through this hard time. The Patreon extras for this episode are:

  • Cathy’s first relationship, with a gay man who was having unprotected sex with men during the height of the AIDS crisis
  • The aftermath of childhood abuse and the therapies she tried, including EFT and Somatic therapy
  • A deeper dive into Cathy’s dating life
  • The extended Q&A

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Host – Leah Carey (website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, email)

Audio Editor – Gretchen Kilby

Music – Nazar Rybak