You don’t worry about having a bathtub masturbation addiction. Leah answers a listener’s questions about whether she has a porn addiction, and why she can’t orgasm with her husband. She talks about identifying the function of porn, not taking on shame, and navigating a relationship agreement around it.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT (CLICK TO OPEN)

LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk About Sex. I am sex and intimacy 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 sentence 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.

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LEAH: Hey friends. I’ve got two “Am I Normal?” questions from a single listener to share today. And before I do anything else, I want to apologize to the listener who sent these in. Between taking a break over the holidays and doing the coaching episodes I’ve shared over the last couple of months, these “Am I Normal?” questions have been sitting on my hard drive for longer than I’d like, waiting to be answered. Because all calls are anonymous, I didn’t have a way to contact you and let you know, I see you. I hear you. I have not forgotten about you. So, let me say to you today, I do see you. I hear you and I’m so glad you called in.

Okay. So now, let’s jump in. I’m going to play both voicemails for you first, then answer them both because the things in the two messages are interrelated.

QUESTION: Hi, Leah. I love your podcast. I’ve been listening to it for the last, I don’t know, six months. I have struggled with sexual intimacy forever. And my question is I can’t seem to have an orgasm during sexual intercourse with my husband and we’ve been together for ten years. I get so wrapped up in my head and I think that if I don’t have an orgasm that he’s going to feel bad or some other thing. And I’ll either fake it or I won’t. Is that normal? And if it’s not, how do I take this? My husband is willing to help try to figure it out, but it never seemed to go anywhere. So, yeah, am I normal?

Hi, Leah. I actually left a message earlier, but it’s another “Am I Normal?” I am a thirty-year-old woman who’s been married for ten years and I have a porn addiction. And my husband is very, very anti-porn and it makes him very insecure and sad and upset when I have told him that I’ve watched it and he’s asked me not to. I can’t seem to stop and it seems to be only way that I can reach an actual orgasm. Am I normal? Do women actually have porn addiction problems and talk about it? Am I normal?

LEAH: Dear listener, thank you for your bravery in laying all of this out. I can hear the uncertainty in your voice and the first thing I want to say to you is yes, you are completely normal. Let’s start with your difficulty orgasming during intercourse. This is a thing that many women experience.

For some, it’s an anatomical thing. Every person’s nerve endings are distributed in slightly different ways, so penis and vagina thrusting may not be a way that your body receives or experiences pleasure. For other women, it’s a mental thing. They’re so busy making sure that their partner’s needs are being taken care of that there isn’t room for their brain to focus on their own pleasure. One way this shows up frequently is what I call performing pleasure. When her partner does something, she knows is supposed to make her feel good, she moans and rides as if it feels good, but she’s so busy performing the expected sounds and movements that she’s not actually feeling any sensation that might be there.

Other versions of mental blocks are not being able to stay present, things like making a grocery list during sex. Those mental gymnastics keep her from feeling what’s going on in her body. For some women, it’s an emotional thing. They’ve experienced some hurt or trauma that puts their body on high alert during sex, which gets in the way of feeling sensation or pleasure. And for many women, it’s a combination of each of these and more.

Now, in your message, you said I get so wrapped up in my head, which seems like it points to it being a mental gymnastics thing, but that’s just a guess based on the limited information you’ve shared. One other speed bump that could be getting in the way of you experiencing orgasm during intercourse is technique. Many, many, many women aren’t having pleasure because they don’t know what their own pleasure needs are. It’s not something that we encourage women to explore because as a society, we’re so focused on a man’s pleasure. You can’t ask for what you don’t know exists, so there’s no way to communicate your needs to your partner if you’re not sure what your needs are yourself. And if you do happen to know what you need, but you’re not comfortable communicating it to your partner, then he’s still flying blind and guessing at what you need.

Neither is a pathway to the two of you having really connected, fulfilling, and mutually satisfying sex. And this segues into your second question about porn. Now, you’ve found something that works for you sexually. That’s porn and we’ll talk about that more in a minute. But when you’re shamed for your porn usage by your husband. And yes, the way he has expressed this to you is shaming, that can create a break in trust that gets in the way of the connected, fulfilling, and mutually satisfying experience you would want when you’re having intercourse. If you see some part of yourself as unacceptable to your partner and you feel judged for it, how could you possibly open up the rest of yourself?

And what really great connected sex requires is for us to be open to each other. So, for instance, in an episode earlier this year, I gave you a pretty raw and unfiltered look into my pandemic sex life with my partner. I talked about his alcohol use and how it caused him to be emotionally violent with me. Even in the moments when he was sober and kind, I was still preparing myself for the next time he went off the deep end. That was not a conducive atmosphere for me to feel connected and intimate with him. If you feel unsafe in one part of your relationship, it’s going to affect how open and vulnerable you’re able to be in the bedroom. What that means is him shaming you for having orgasms with porn makes it less likely that you might have orgasms during intercourse with him.

Okay. Now, let’s specifically talk about your use of porn. Yes, women use porn. All sorts of women use all sorts of porn. There is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with you. This is totally normal and totally common. When I hear people use the term porn addiction, it sends up all sorts of red flags because I don’t believe there is such a thing. Let’s do a quick fact check. Porn addiction is not recognized by the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. AASECT, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, does not recognize porn addiction as a valid diagnosis. There have been studies that show porn doesn’t activate the parts of the brain involved with addiction.

And there is a huge amount of variation in how people would even define or quantify a “porn addiction.” I’ve heard people use the term to reference the very use of porn itself as an addiction, which is blatantly ridiculous. Just because you read a book a few times a week doesn’t mean you’re addicted to reading. There’s only one difference between reading a book and watching porn and that’s the shame and secrecy attached to porn.

Okay. So, now let’s talk about how porn functions in your relationship. In your first message, you said that it’s extremely difficult to orgasm during intercourse. In your second message, you said that porn is the only way for you to reach an orgasm. It makes total sense that you would seek out the thing that allows your body to relax into having a natural release. There is no shame in that. If you are able to have that sexual release while masturbating in the bathtub, you wouldn’t be afraid that you’re addicted to bathtub masturbation.

Masturbation, whether using porn or not, can be a highly effective tool for self-soothing. If you’re having anxiety about your sex life, this is a coping mechanism. If you’re having anxiety about your marriage, your finances, your job, your kids, the pandemic or anything else, this can be a coping mechanism. To go back to the reading example, reading can also be a highly effective tool for self-soothing. But if your husband walked in on you reading, he probably would not ask you to stop doing it, which leaves us with this question. How do you handle your husband’s response to your use of porn?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for this, but we need to start here. Your husband’s insecurity around porn is not your responsibility. You are not responsible for stopping what you’re doing in order to make him feel okay and because I’m sure some people are wondering, yes, I would say the same thing if the genders were reversed and it was a wife insecure about her husband’s use of porn. We do not get to police our partner’s activities, turn-ons, or kinks.

What we can do though is make relationship agreements. Those are boundaries around the things that we’re willing to engage in around those activities, turn-ons or kinks. For instance, your partner does not get to say that you can’t watch porn. But you might make an arrangement that you’ll do it when he’s out of the house or in a certain room of the house, so that he doesn’t have to hear it or you might make an agreement about the types of porn you watch. For instance, using feminist porn, which might feel a little less threatening to him rather than mainstream porn. There are lots of types of agreements you could make, so don’t feel limited to these.

What’s important is that you feel supported and not constrained by the compromise you make. It’s not going to work if you feel like you’re making an agreement to further hide and shame yourself. That will only lead to further tension and resentment. This kind of relationship agreement making and boundary setting can be challenging when you’re both already feeling heightened emotions. It could be helpful for the two of you to listen to this episode together as a way to start the conversation. This is also a place where a coach could help you find common ground. You can find my coaching offerings including sessions for couples at www.leahcarey.com/coaching.

And there’s one more thing I want to commend you for, listener. In your message, you said your husband is willing to help you figure this out, which suggests to me that you’ve been honest with me. So many women suffer through this alone. They don’t tell their partner because they’re afraid of being told they’re broken or a substandard partner and they don’t talk about it with their friends because they assume the conversation will confirm their worst fear that everyone else in the world is having amazing sex and they are alone in their presumed brokenness. So, kudos on being honest to your husband. And kudos on being brave enough to ask the question here.

And to the rest of the listeners, if you have an “Am I Normal?” question leave a message at 720-GOOD-SEX. That’s 720-GOOD-SEX. No one will answer the phone, so you can leave a voicemail in peace and I may answer it an upcoming episode and I promise I’ll try and do it sooner than the many months it took me to answer this one.

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LEAH: You’re in your comfiest, coziest pajamas drinking a glass of wine and talking about sex toys. That’s exactly what my PJ parties for grownups are all about. Fun, comfort, connection and lots of talk about all things sexy. And if the isolation of COVID has got you feeling not so sexy, we could have that conversation too. Even if you’re lucky enough to be isolating with a partner or other loved ones, the fatigue of isolation and the stress of this year of uncertainty has probably impacted your ability to feel deep connection and that can leave life feeling a bit flat.

Every time I host a PJ party, the participants talk about how nourishing it felt to spend time talking with other women about things they don’t have the space to talk about most days. One participant said that she talks to her partner about their sex life a lot, but she’d forgotten how much she misses talking to and getting support from other women.

My PJ parties for grownups are a place for you to have the kinds of conversations we have on this show to dish about the stuff that’s great in your sex life, commiserate about the things you wish were different and ask questions you would never dream to ask in the light of day. I facilitate the two-hour gathering, so it’s designed to help you feel safe, comfortable, and connected. Each PJ party is limited to seven people, so there’s plenty of room for everyone to participate. And because is consent is primary, you will never be pressured into talking about anything you’re not ready for. You can participate as much or as little as you’re comfortable with.

Parties are held the last Thursday of every month. Visit leahcarey.com/pjparty to register for an upcoming PJ party. Again, all the information and registration information is at leahcarey.com/pjparty and that link is in the Show Description on the app you’re listening on now. Spaces are limited for this month’s party, so register today!

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LEAH: We’ve covered some challenging topics today. So, this is the perfect moment to introduce you to the podcast Decide Balance, a 5-minute bilingual meditation by Yvonne Hernández. She has got a perfect voice to lead mediations and I absolutely love that she’s doing it in both English and Spanish. Here’s one of her 5-minute meditations.

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PODCAST CLIP (ENGLISH): I want you to get comfortable, then close your eyes. Place one hand on your tummy. Place the other hand on your heart. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Exhale through your mouth and get all the air out. Inhale filling up your tummy and feel it expand. Slowly exhale. Get all the air out. Feel the oxygen come in and out of your body as you inhale and exhale. Take your time to feel your tummy rise and lower every time you inhale and exhale. As you inhale, think to yourself, my mind is calm. Every time you exhale, think, my body is relaxed. Inhale. Feel your every muscle in your body relax. Exhale, feel your muscles relax even more. Inhale, then exhale, bringing peace to your body. Inhale, feeling up your lungs with peace. Exhale, releasing all the toxins. Feel the peace from the top of your head, moving down slowly into your face and your neck. Feel the peace going down your shoulders, down your arms and down to your fingers. Feel the peace going down your body, down to your legs, into your feet. Feel the peace at the beginning of each day. There’s peace in everything you see. There’s peace in everything you touch. There’s peace in everything that you smell. There’s peace in everything that you hear. There’s peace in everything you taste. Your body feels at peace and now, you’re able to share this peace with others. Peace with your family, your neighbors, your friends, your community and the world. The world needs you. The world needs your peace. Inhale peace. Exhale all that no longer serves you. Take a deep breath in. Exhale. Now, give yourself a great big hug filled with so much peace. When you are ready, you may open your eyes. Thank you so much for practicing with me today.

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LEAH: That was Decide Balance, 5-minute bilingual meditations by Yvonne Hernández. You can find her at decidebalance.com.

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LEAH: That’s it for today. Good Girls Talk About Sex is produced by me, Leah Carey, and edited by Gretchen Kilby. I have additional administrative support from Lara O’Connor and Maria Franco. Transcripts are produced by Jan Acielo.

And I’m incredibly grateful for the financial support from Good Girls Talk About Sex community members at Patreon. If you’d like to support me in telling these stories and answering your questions, head over to www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex. You can find Show Notes and Show Transcripts at www.goodgirlstalk.com. To ask a question about your sex life, your desires or anything to do with female sexuality, call and leave a message at 720-GOOD-SEX.

And before we go, I want to remind you that the things you’ve probably heard about your sexuality are not true. You are worthy. You are desirable. You are not broken. I work with women just like you to reflect their true sexual nature back to them without the judgment, shame or fear that can get in the way of us seeing it for ourselves. As a coach and PJ party hostess, I will guide you in embracing the sexuality that is innately yours no matter what it looks like. I’m here to help you sink so deeply into your true sexuality that the version of yourself that was scared to speak up for her own needs feels like a mirage from another lifetime.

Until next time, here’s to your better sex life!

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BOOKMARK MOMENTS:
  • 2:12 – “Am I normal?” A listener calls in with two inter-related questions: is it normal to be unable to orgasm through intercourse with my husband, and is it normal that I only can with porn?
  • 4:11 – Leah responds to the listener. Difficulty orgasming during is a thing that many women experience. There can be physical or mental causes.
  • 6:17 – How do you identify techniques that deliver pleasure if you don’t know what you want or what is possible?
  • 8:17 – Leah calls back to a recent share about being shamed by our partner. This creates an experience of break in trust.
  • 9:28 – Is there *actually* such a thing as porn addiction? We do a fact check.
  • 10:50 – Check in with how porn functions in your relationship. Is it what you need to physiologically relax?
  • 12:16 – Make a relationship agreement that supports you on how to navigate it—without being responsible for your partner or making yourself small.
  • 15:48-  PJ Parties for Grownups!
PODCAST RECOMMENDATION:

Don’t forget – ALL audio extras are FREE at Patreon!

PATREON:

As of July 2020, all Good Girls Talk About Sex audio extras are now FREE!  They can be accessed at www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex

I’ve done this because there are people who need this material but don’t have the financial means to access it behind a paywall.

But there are many costs associated with producing this show, so if you’d like to support the work I do, I am grateful for your contributions at www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex.

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EPISODE CREDITS:

Host / Producer – Leah Carey (email)
Audio Editor – Gretchen Kilby
Administrative Support – Lara O’Connor, Maria Franco
Music – Nazar Rybak