I need a longer break than I anticipated, so in order to keep giving you new content, I’m releasing a handful of interviews in their uncut form.
Donya started getting sexual attention very young because her body developed early. As a teenager and adult, she has experienced a wide range of relationship styles and partners. After having a child and settling into the closest thing to commitment outside of marriage, she received a breast cancer diagnosis.
Donya is a 46-year-old cisgender female who describes herself as white, bisexual, monogamous, and in a committed relationship.
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 it 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!
LEAH: Hey friends. A few weeks ago, I let you know that I was going to take a couple of weeks off because I was feeling overwhelmed. Well, as soon as I gave myself a moment of downtime, I discovered that I was even more exhausted than I realized. So, I need a longer hiatus than I originally thought. But sometimes the universe has perfect little gifts for us and this is one of them. I have a handful of interviews that got caught in a time warp a while back.
At the end of 2019 and early 2020, I got out ahead of my sched and recorded way more interviews than I could reasonably process for release on the show. I put myself on an interview hiatus for a few months to catch up, but even so, I had so much more material than I could get through. And then, the world started exploding, the pandemic, the racial justice movement, economic inequality issues, etc. and it became clear to me that I needed to work much harder to increase the diversity of stories I was telling on this show.
Not just racial diversity, though that’s part of it, but all types of diversity. People in different size and shape bodies, people in bodies of different abilities, people of different ages and economic brackets, etc. As I’ve pushed those stories forward, I still had this cache of interviews from a year ago that had never been published. They are no less interesting and no less worthy than any other story. But due to my shifting focus, they fell through the cracks.
So, now, it feels like the perfect time to share them with you. In order to keep giving you new content while also giving myself a break, I’m going to release these interviews in their uncut form. You’ll get to hear all of the stumbles and unfinished thoughts and speaking over each other that get cut out of a fully produced episode. So, let’s jump in to this real and raw interview.
Donya is a 46-year-old cisgender female who describes herself as white, bisexual, monogamous, and in a committed relationship. When I interviewed Donya, apparently, I was not yet asking people to describe their body shape and size and many of the Lowdown Q&A questions were different. It’s interesting to see how much has changed over a relatively short period of time.
I’d love to hear from you. Are there shifts in the interviews that you like better the way they were or things you love the way I’m doing now? What keeps you coming back to this podcast and what conversations would you like to hear going forward? Drop me an email at email@example.com or find me on Instagram @goodgirlstalk and let me know what you’d like to hear. Thank you so much for being a part of the Good Girls Talk community. And now, I am very pleased to introduce Donya!
Donya, I am so excited to have you on today.
DONYA: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
LEAH: So, the first question that I ask everybody is what is your first memory of sexual pleasure?
DONYA: Oh, that’s a good question. I’m not sure I have a clear first memory. There’s an awareness that all runs together. I was probably nine or 10 and I found someone’s book of erotica and started reading it and felt aroused. And I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure. I knew it was physical, but also it was mental. And I was aware of that connection all the way from the very beginning, which I think is interesting.
LEAH: Oh, that’s interesting.
LEAH: Can you tease apart what was physical and what was mental for you? How did you understand that distinction at that age?
DONYA: Well, I think I recognized that the physical arousal came from the reading and it wasn’t happening just randomly.
DONYA: And I’m sure that I explored masturbation around that time. I don’t remember exactly how that happened if I experimented with masturbation thinking about the book or actually reading the book, I really don’t remember those details. But it was definitely tied into the story, which I was a big reader when I was a kid. So, reading was a very mental activity for me. So, I guess that was how I got to that connection.
LEAH: Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody distinguish those two things as a child and only recently am I really teasing those two things out for myself as an adult. The physical turn-on versus the mental turn-on is actually something I’ve been talking a lot about with my therapist this last week.
DONYA: Awesome. Good timing.
LEAH: It’s fascinating that you should bring it up.
LEAH: So, you just mentioned masturbation. Do you remember your first experiences with masturbation and what that was like for you?
DONYA: Again, not really specifically. I think for very many years of my life, my sexual experience has been on the borderline between feeling ashamed and feeling good and that was my experience with early masturbation too. It felt good and it seemed like something that felt good I should do and it was just me and it was private. It didn’t seem like it was a bad thing, but also, I had a sense that that was something maybe I shouldn’t be doing or I shouldn’t know about or if someone found out, I was going to get in trouble. I always had a sense of it wasn’t quite okay.
LEAH: What were you hearing in your childhood home about sex and sexuality, if anything?
DONYA: It was not talked about a lot. My parents were divorced when I was nine. And my mom got remarried. I’m just trying to think through the timing. My mom got remarried to someone fairly quickly and he was not emotionally open. He wasn’t a good talker. This was not someone that we were going to have open conversations about pleasure or sex or any of that.
DONYA: I remember some conversations about, and I don’t remember if it was from my mom or from my dad, but I remember some conversations. My parents were involved in the SCA when they were young, before they had me.
LEAH: What is that?
DONYA: The Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s an organization of people who roleplay medieval times. So, it’s been up and down in popularity, but in the 1970’s, I think it was a pretty popular thing to do. So, men and women dressed up and had rivalries and jousting fights and stuff like that, a little bit like the Renaissance fair, but they had their own events and organization.
And so, my parents were pretty involved with that before I was born. And there was a little bit of commentary at some point, I don’t remember at what age, that my mom was a vixen. That was the word that I think my dad used, that my mom was a vixen. And I remember looking up the word and a female fox like what does that have to do with anything?
DONYA: Really not getting the context. But my experience of my mother was that sex was a not topic. We don’t talk about it. We don’t explore it. We don’t refer to it. It’s just not discussed. So, there was that disconnect between my father. And it sounded like when he said it, it sounded like it was a positive thing. It was fun. It was part of the enjoyment of their life together, their experience of this group that they both really enjoyed. And yet with my mom, it was like, “Do not go there.” So, it was very confusing.
LEAH: So, where were you learning about sexuality if it wasn’t at home?
DONYA: Yeah. Probably books.
LEAH: Yeah. Me too.
DONYA: I probably just sought it out myself. Yeah. I do remember finding a copy of, what was the name of that book? It was so popular at the time. The Joy of Sex, in my mom’s side cabinet after she got married to my stepfather. I found a copy of that book and I remember just pouring over it and being like, “Wow. This is fascinating.”
DONYA: But I wouldn’t have asked her about it.
LEAH: That book plays a big role in my life, which my parents had copies, multiple copies, if I remember correctly.
LEAH: But it wasn’t something I looked at, at home. But one day, it was, I think 5th grade, a group of us were at the town library after school and I was very, very shy and introverted and they were all gathered around a copy of The Joy of Sex that they had found on the library shelves.
DONYA: That’s a pretty progressive library.
LEAH: And I was standing on the outside of the group because I was too shy to be pushing way into the group. So, they put the book down after a few minutes and I went over and picked it up to see what it was. And the head boy, the leader of the pack, looked at me and went, “What are you a sex pervert?” And I, at 10 years old, took that in. And that moment I think had a huge amount to do with how repressed I became because I was afraid any interest in sex whatsoever meant that I was perverted, ignoring the fact that they had just been looking at it.
LELAH: But somehow looking at it alone was different.
DONYA: It was different.
LEAH: Yeah. So, I have feelings about that book.
DONYA: Yeah. My complicated feelings around it were that I did not get along with my stepfather and I very much wanted him to go away, and then I found this book in my mom’s cabinet, which inferred to me that they were having sex, which was ugh.
DONYA: But also it’s like, “Oh, but if she’s having sex with him that must mean she loves him or likes him at least. And so, he’s not going anywhere.” So, I had a different set of complicated feelings about it. And I also remember that her diaphragm was in that drawer and I did get brave enough to ask her about the diaphragm, but not the book.
DONYA: She must have known I’d found both, but we did not discuss the book. And she did tell me factually what the diaphragm was, but she was so uncomfortable that we didn’t take that conversation any further.
LEAH: Well, that was actually very brave because presumably in order to ask her about the diaphragm you had to say you were snooping in the drawer.
DONYA: I must have had a reason. I don’t even remember, but I must have been cleaning in her room or something or she left it. Maybe she left it on the top. I don’t know.
DONYA: I don’t remember feeling like I had to admit I had been snooping in her drawer, so it must have been something else.
DONYA: No, it must have been a while after that because I was sexually active by the time this happened, but she sent my dad who only had parttime custody of us, we only really saw him every other weekend. She called my dad up and asked him to give me the sex talk but at this point, it must have been years later because I was already on the pill. I’d lost my virginity. I was like, “Too late. You got here way too late.”
LEAH: The horse was out of the barn by then.
LEAH: So, what were your first sexual experiences with another person as opposed to with a book?
DONYA: Yeah. I don’t know why my memories about this are so fuzzy. You’d think they’d be really clear, but I developed very early and I am very curvy and have large breasts. And I was a dancer, so I was often wearing clothes that really showed my body a lot. And I got a lot of sexual attention pretty young. So, I had this pretty young, probably 11 or 12, and it wasn’t overt sexual attention compared to probably what 11- or 12-year-old girls experience these days. It was probably very innocent, but I was definitely aware that boys were paying attention to me in a way that they were not paying attention to other girls and that they wanted to be around me in a way that was different than what I saw my friends experiencing and it felt powerful.
It didn’t really feel negative. It felt powerful, a little bit dangerous because I didn’t quite understand it, but it felt like I had something they wanted and therefore, I had power over them. And also, I had this experience from being younger and having my sexual pleasure be good. It felt good. So, I knew that there was this connection between things that people could do together that felt good and this interesting fruition of I had something they wanted and I didn’t quite know what I had.
DONYA: So, probably my youngest encounters were ironically through youth group events because that was the place where I was in the company of boys most often. When my parents divorced, my mom started going to an episcopal church and my brother and I started attending with her and we went to youth group events. It was a fun social activity. I never really had any particular faith in the church. I feel that you have to start that younger if it’s going to stick.
DONYA: So, for me, it was just a social activity and we went to weekend long things and we were teenagers that were all about being good Christian kids. And of course, we were all fooling around in the sidelines.
DONYA: Because that’s what teenagers do. So, there was a lot of kissing and chaste groping, chaste-ish groping.
LEAH: When you say chaste, you mean like over the clothes?
DONYA: Over the clothes, yeah.
DONYA: And there were a couple of boys I really liked and a couple of boys I really liked that didn’t like me and boys that I liked that did like me.
DONYA: And so, there was that part of it going on and I had a couple boyfriends. I had a pretty serious boyfriend for quite some time who we explored a lot with our clothes on and I remember having orgasms during that period with my clothes on. And I waited a long time. He really wanted to have sex and I waited a pretty long time to say yes to that. I knew I was 16 the first time and I think we had probably been seeing each other for 7 or 8 months or longer than that.
LEAH: Do you remember what activities you were doing that brought you to orgasm with your clothes on?
DONYA: Just rubbing.
LEAH: So, was he putting his hand there? Were you rubbing clothed genitals? Do you remember?
DONYA: I think it was either his hand or his leg probably most of the time. Yeah. It was always in the front or the back seat of the car.
DONYA: Parked somewhere. He was about a year older than me, so he had a driver’s license.
LEAH: And hormones at that point are so rampant that a hair trigger, I’m sure.
LEAH: Yeah. Go ahead.
DONYA: Well, what I was going to say is what was so interesting to me was that the reason I finally said yes was because it felt good. It felt good to fool around and I was having orgasms, but then once we started having real sex like actual intercourse, I didn’t have orgasms anymore and I was like, “This is so disappointing.”
DONYA: Because I didn’t know, he didn’t know how to really pleasure me. It’d been sort of accidental, I think that I had been having an orgasm and I’m not even sure he was aware of them the way I was. So, he didn’t know. He wasn’t particularly attached to my pleasure. He was much more attached to his own pleasure. I didn’t know or have the courage or strength to say, “Hey. Wait. Hold up. This is what I need.” I didn’t learn that for years, many years. So, it was very disappointing to actually have sex and I remember thinking, “I’d really like to go back to what we were doing before.”
LEAH: We don’t get taught the words or even the concept, so it’s like once you got to sex, there’s no way to introduce the concept of how to go back to the prior activity that would have brought you pleasure.
DONYA: No and it was like either the phrase you used earlier like the horse is out of the barn. I felt like once I’d said yes, I could not say no. And that was really disappointing and frustrating for me because I actually didn’t like it.
LEAH: It’s such an interesting thing too in your particular dynamic with clothes on you were having orgasms and presumably he was not. As soon as clothes came off, he was having orgasms and you were not. It’s like you didn’t have the skills or the tools or the language to get to a place where you could both have orgasms.
DONYA: Right. Yeah.
LEAH: And that is sad.
DONYA: Yeah. Definitely language was an impediment and courage. I really think it was courage too.
LEAH: Were you getting any kind of sex ed in school?
DONYA: I think we did. I do remember this would have been 4th grade, so much, much younger. There was a sex ed class, but it was really about how to deal when your period comes and how to not get an STD, which was basically don’t have sex. So, it wasn’t really sex ed, even though that’s what they called it.
DONYA: And what I’ve heard actually from friends my age who went through the same California educational system was that the boys were getting some level of sex ed. They were talking to the boys about ejaculation and intercourse a little bit and the girls were getting how to deal with your period. It’s so disappointing.
LEAH: Yeah. I go on this rant fairly frequently how sex ed basically teaches that boys have wet dreams, get hard-ons, and ejaculate and girls get their period and are miserable. And so, yeah, we pay more attention to boys’ pleasure because we don’t know that girls are capable of pleasure based on the education we’re getting.
DONYA: Yeah. And in fact, I remember the literature that they gave us included how to put on a Kotex pad that had the belt. It was so out of date. It was hilarious. Even in fourth grade, I was like, “That is not what they look like.”
DONYA: I’ve seen that stuff in my mom’s cabinet. There’s no belt. And I remember even at the time like, “How useful is this?” It made me doubt everything else they said because I knew that it was so completely out of date that it was probably not useful to me.
LEAH: So, with that first boy, how long were you sexually active with him once your clothes came off?
DONYA: I think we were together for a few more months after that. I really think my feelings for him cooled at that point because, of course, that was all he wanted to do.
DONYA: And it wasn’t so enjoyable for me and it got to a point where I felt like he only wanted to be with me to have sex and we weren’t enjoying each other’s company anymore and I wasn’t enjoying the sex. So, why bother? But that was also around the time, so he was older than me, I think he may have graduated high school that year and he lived in another city. So, there was distance. We were at different points in our education. I think he maybe graduated from high school, and then he wasn’t sure if he was going to go junior college or not and I had opinions about that. I thought he should go to college and he didn’t want to. So, I got a little judgy.
DONYA: And then, I think I met somebody else that was at my high school like teenage relationships. They’re volatile.
DONYA: But it wasn’t like it was any one thing with him. It was just not feeling it with him anymore.
LEAH: Yeah. And so, when you entered your next sexual relationship, was it any different? Did you have pleasure? Was there maybe even some desire to not get to naked sex because of your prior experience?
DONYA: Yeah. I think that I did. I don’t even remember who came after that. I think I did have a sense that I did not want to be having sex so soon. And always in my relationships I’ve been the one who’s like, “Let’s go slow. Let’s wait a while.” But I also felt like now I understood the thing that the boys wanted from me like now I understood the power dynamic and I remember that it felt good. And so, there was part of me that was like, “Well, maybe with someone it’s going to feel good. Maybe I just haven’t found the right someone yet.” So, there was a little bit of an inner disconnect with me where it was on one hand, I didn’t want to do it because I wasn’t enjoying it. On the other hand, I was like, “Somewhere, it’s got to feel good” and also there was that book called The Joy of Sex.
DONYA: Someone must enjoy this. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the teaching in that book. I might have enjoyed it more.
DONYA: Yeah. I think I went back and forth with partners after that and I also started dating much older guys. And I don’t remember exactly why that was, but some of it was just maturity level. I think I was just more mature than the guys I was in high school with. And I was beginning to be at the cusp of high school to college, so I started dating older guys and, of course, they had a lot more experience because they were older and had been having sex longer. And so, their expectations were more like, “Oh, yeah. We just will.”
LEAH: So, during that period, were you still masturbating and learning your own body’s pleasure responses or had that gone by the wayside for partners?
DONYA: Yeah. I think I did. I honestly don’t remember, but I’m sure I did. I’m sure what happened is I would come home from a date and be totally frustrated, and then I would probably masturbate before I went to sleep.
DONYA: But I don’t actually remember one way or the other. Yeah.
LEAH: Do you remember the first time that you had a sexual experience with another person, PIV intercourse, penis in vagina intercourse, where you did have pleasure?
DONYA: It must have happened at some point, but I don’t remember. I do remember a lover that I had much, much later who was very, very focused on my pleasure and that was so notable that I wanted to be with him all the time.
DONYA: Yeah. I had a boyfriend. He was a long-term boyfriend. We were together for quite a long time and he made a big deal about wanting me to have an orgasm every time. But it was also when he figured out the one way to make me cum, then that was the only way we ever did it and that wasn’t very exciting either.
DONYA: It worked, but it was not super pleasurable.
LEAH: In that situation where he was really focused on, “I’m going to make you cum,” did you feel like it was about you or did you feel like it was about his ego?
DONYA: At the beginning, I thought it was about me, and then after time, I realized it was much more about him and it was about his image of himself as a good lover. Yeah.
LEAH: Yeah. I think that happens so often for so many of us. So, let’s talk about the lover who was super focused on your pleasure.
LEAH: What was that experience? What did he do differently?
DONYA: So, that was during the period that I was in an open relationship and I was big into goth scene. So, we were going out clubbing a lot and it was very costumey, so we would get dressed up to go the club and I’d be wearing corsets and layers of dresses and I think that was a piece of it was that there was all this costume involved. And he was one of the DJs and he was younger than me, so there was a little bit of excitement just about he was one of the cool people, which I’ve never considered myself to be.
DONYA: And he was young and I was 26 or 27 by then, so he was probably 23 and my partner was several years older than me. And I was already noticing men’s sexual response changes as they get older even though that’s not a major amount of time, but this guy was on all the time. He was always ready.
DONYA: I don’t know how much of that was his personality and how much was his age, but it was novel. It was fun.
DONYA: And so, because it was an open relationship, I had to schedule a time with him, so I had to clear it with my boyfriend, and then schedule time to be with him and he had other lovers too. So, it was always this complicated thing, and then we had no pretense of doing anything but sex. So, we weren’t dating. We were just fucking.
DONYA: And I think that the focus on that gave us the freedom to just be totally open and what feels good? This feels good. And he loved giving oral sex and I’d never met a man who really enjoyed it. I’d met men who would do it and be reasonably good at it, but this guy, it was his favorite thing to do. And he was very good at it.
DONYA: And I think that that component that he really enjoyed it really made it different for me because it wasn’t about his ego. It was actually just something that he enjoyed and it was almost like I could give him this gift of, “Here you go. Let me lay down for you.”
DONYA: And it was so awesome for me. It was something that he enjoyed and I enjoyed it too. And I don’t know. It was just a completely different experience. I feel like a lot of my sexual experiences up to then had been a little bit transactional like, “You do this for me, and then I’ll do that for you.” And with this particular man, it was just fun and I had never really experienced that way of being before.
LEAH: So, you mentioned that you were in an open relationship at that point. How did you come to being in an open relationship? Because that is so not the cultural norm. How did you come to that? How did you negotiate it?
DONYA: Yeah. It was not my choice. It was not my preference, but I really cared for this particular guy and he told me early on, “I’m not monogamous. I don’t want to be in a monogamous relationship.” And I was like, “Well, that’s not really my thing, but I’ll try it. I’ve never tried it before, maybe it’s okay.” And then, by the time I realized it wasn’t really my thing, I was in love with him and it was late.
DONYA: So, it was partly just that’s how he came into the relationship, So, if I wanted to date him, I had to try it. And he and I also were in the Renaissance fair scene and there is a huge amount of polyamorous relationship happening behind the scenes, at least in the Northern California fair scene, maybe everywhere, but that’s the only one I have experience with. Lots of bisexual people, lots of light BDSM, lots of poly, it’s just the norm in that world. So, everybody around me was doing it. So, if I wanted to be in that scene, I was going to be bumping up against it and I felt like a prude saying no and also, I didn’t really have an experience that made me say, “That’s definitely not for me.” So, I felt like I should try it.
LEAH: And then coming out of it, did you know that’s definitely not for you?
DONYA: Yeah. I guess I should say yes. Yes. I knew it was definitely not for me although I had also learned to understand that there were many ways to be poly, some of which were healthier than others.
LEAH: That’s one way to say it.
DONYA: Yeah, even with permission, even in a relationship where you have good communication and permission, there are ways to be healthier with that relationship than others. And I had met people who had what I saw as very solid primary relationships and very healthy communication and I really respected them for that. It was not something that I had ever experienced myself and also I knew that it just didn’t feel good for me in any way that I had tried it. But even observing how they did it in a healthy way, I was just like, “I don’t think that’s for me.”
LEAH: Yeah. Any sort of non-monogamy and I have a lot of friends who are non-monogamous, whether they are in open relationships or poly relationships, that’s a huge portion of my friends circle at this point. In order to do it well, you must have good communication. There is no replacement for good communication if you are doing something that is outside the cultural norm to begin with, but also if you are in a position where there are multiple relationships and multiple people’s feelings and timelines and schedules involved. And there is such a thing people think, “Oh, if I’m in an open relationship, I can do absolutely anything I want.” No. You still have to have boundaries and negotiations and it is still possible to cheat inside an open relationship if you have certain boundaries and you violate them.
DONYA: Right. Yeah. And toward the end of that relationship, he did cheat. And I was like, “We’ve been together for 7 years and we’ve had all these boundaries and I’ve been pretty flexible and still you cheat? That’s beyond the pale.” But the biggest thing that I’ve realized in that particular relationship and that particular person was one, he wanted to be non-monogamous because he just didn’t have the ability to be committed and that was his own stuff that he had not processed. So, that was good because I realized it was not about me, which I thought it was about me for a long time. But the piece that made me think about that was about me was that the other women he wanted to be involved with always looked like the 10-year younger version of me and that was really hard because it just felt really hurtful that I wasn’t somehow cute enough, young enough, available enough, whatever, that he wanted the younger version of me and it just hurt.
LEAH: Yeah. What did cheating look like inside your particular relationship agreements?
DONYA: So, the situation that happened was that there was another woman in our community, actually I think she was not in an open relationship, I think she was in a monogamous relationship, so they both cheated. But he started to have feelings for her and our rules were first he had to talk to me first and I had to be his primary. And so, if it was someone that he felt that would threaten our primary status, then that was a hard no for me.
And so, first of all, he got involved with her, not physically involved with her first, but he started getting to know her and he wasn’t telling me about it. And then he told me all this later, he realized he was starting to have strong feelings and he didn’t tell me about. And then, he did ask me if he could get together with her and I was like, “I don’t know something feels off about that.” So, I said, “No.” And he did it anyway. So, it was layers of red flags that happened. And then, he ended up ending our relationship because she didn’t want to be non-monogamous. She wanted to be in a monogamous relationship, so he ended his relationship with me. so that he could be with her and she dumped him, so it was like ha-ha.
DONYA: That didn’t work out the way he wanted.
LEAH: Karma’s a bitch.
DONYA: But I was pretty done with the whole situation by then. So, we were past time to be on our own at that point.
LEAH: Yeah. You told me before we started taping that you were bisexual. We haven’t really touched on that at all. I guess I’ll throw those doors wide open. At what point did you discover that and what is that dynamic for you?
DONYA: Yeah. So, it was during that period of non-monogamy that I came out as bisexual. And so, I think it was part of being around that scene of people where everybody was sleeping with everybody.
DONYA: And I don’t mean that in a negative way. It was just like it was very fluid that there were bisexual men and bisexual women and we were all using condoms, but it was you could not really tell who was paired with who sometimes and it may change day by day. And my partner was really intrigued by the idea of having two women at the same time and I was curious, but not brave enough to approach a woman by myself. So, we tried it. We experimented with it and I was like, “Wow. This is cool. I like this. Could you leave, boyfriend?”
DONYA: But we did not have the same taste with women, so that came out pretty early that the girls that he wanted to go out with were not the girls I wanted to go out with because they all looked just like me and I didn’t really want to have sex with myself.
DONYA: I have a different taste. But thinking back on it, I really think that I had been attracted to women for a long, long time and I had no context for it. So, I just chalked it up as that’s a weird feeling and didn’t ever try to pursue it. I knew about lesbian relationships when I was younger although I didn’t know any lesbians in my small town. I don’t remember ever meeting a gay or a lesbian couple. But I did not know that bisexuality was an option. It had never occurred to me that you could be someone who liked both men and women. I thought either you liked your own gender or you liked the opposite gender and it was just a binary situation.
So, it wasn’t until that period that I was in this relationship, and then living in a community where there were all sorts of ranges of attraction. There were people who were very lesbian and people who were very gay and people who were all across the range, the Kinsey scale that I realized that there were actually a lot more options in that I could explore other things.
And after that relationship, after my boyfriend broke up for this other woman, I did wonder if maybe I actually was a lesbian because our sex life had been very bland for a long time. So, I started dating women exclusively for a little while, but I realized pretty quickly that that wasn’t really my thing either. I like women a lot, but I also liked men.
LEAH: It’s so interesting to hear you say that about not knowing bisexuality was an option. I had exactly that same experience and have never heard anybody else share that story. We had a lot of gay people around in my childhood, so I always knew that that was okay. That was never a question for me. But I thought you either had to be straight or gay. I had no container whatsoever for anything other than that. So, as soon as I started developing attractions for women, my only container for that was, “Well, I must be a lesbian.” But I was still attracted to men and I had a lot of shame around that because I thought I was the weird broken perverted one.
DONYA: Right, which goes back to that first story of looking at The Joy of Sex. Yeah. Exactly. And I live in Santa Cruz, which I was later married to a woman, so we can come back to that in a second. But she describes Santa Cruz as Lesbian mecca.
DONYA: She moved here from the East Coast because, “Oh my God, there are lesbians in Santa Cruz.”
DONYA: And there are. There are a lot of lesbians in Santa Cruz, so when I thought, “Well, maybe I’m a lesbian.” I just fell into the lesbian community and what I discovered very, very quickly at least at that point in time, I’ve heard it’s different now, but at that point in the mid-2000s, bisexuals were not welcome there. So, if I was going to date women in Santa Cruz, I had to be a lesbian. I couldn’t be bisexual and they men-bashed a lot.
And there was a lot of butches and femmes, which I also think has changed in the queer community. There’s a lot more fluidity in gender expression, but at that time, we had butches and we had femmes. And there were a rising number of butches who were transitioning to be men. And so, there was a lot of backlash in the lesbian community that they were turning into men, “Oh my God. We hate men.” So, that was really weird. And I would get offended a lot by the male bashing because I still loved men. I had men that I had been in relationships that I had loved. I had a brother and a father. I had friends that were men that I loved. And I just thought it was not cool and I was not taken well.
LEAH: You were so speaking my language.
LEAH: During my period of believing that I was lesbian, for part of that, I was living in Boston and I went to a center where they had some groups. And one of them was for lesbians and I went and I remember there being a woman in the group that looked around the room and said, “Even in this room, I feel like I have to come out as bisexual and know that I’m not going to be accepted.” And then, I was like, “Oh my God.” I didn’t quite have the self-knowledge at that point that, “Oh my God. Yeah. Me too.” But I knew that I was super attracted to her and her way of thinking. And then, later I was living in New Hampshire and while Northern New Hampshire is not a good place to try to date women.
LEAH: But I went to a lesbian meetup and they were watching movies and every time a man came on the screen, there was booing and hissing. And there was this whole conversation about how the reproduction cycle for cats, there’s no such thing as cats having mutual intercourse. The girl cats are always raped and I was like, “Something about that makes absolutely no sense to me.” It was really confusing and disturbing to me that there was so much animosity towards men. And to some extent, I can understand when you are the “men run the world” and “men make life really difficult in some ways.” I’m getting off track in a way that’s really uncomfortable because I don’t like making generalist speaking.
DONYA: It’s interesting. Two things I want to say here. One is that in my work as a coach now, I talk a lot about the patriarchy and how harmful it is to women. And I don’t see that as male bashing because it’s hurting the men too. It’s not good for any of us and it’s hard when you’re raising children that the expectation that all the caretaking is going to be the woman and it’s hard on the woman when the expectation is the men brings home the money and the woman stays home with the baby. We’re naturally more caring or even that we want to be at home with the baby. Some of us don’t want to do that.
DONYA: So, yeah, I get what you’re saying about the larger container of the patriarchy being a problem and that men running the world is a problem. And also I see that as separate from male bashing in the way I saw male bashing in the lesbian community. But the other thing I want to say is that in that community, I recognize that many of those women had been violently injured by men. They had been raped. They had been beaten. They had been violently raped and I get that when that is your experience of manhood, you don’t want anything to do with it.
So, I had a lot of empathy for that, but I also don’t think that separatism helps. And I think it’s like frozen healing. They got far enough away so that they could live their lives, but they were not healing the wounds that they were carrying with them. And that they were never going to be whole people until they could accept that there could be good men and that bad men had done something bad to them, but that didn’t mean that all men were bad.
LEAH: That is so beautifully said.
DONYA: Thank you.
DONYA: I had an experience of dating a woman who had been pretty violently abused both beaten and raped by various different men in her life. And at that point, I had gotten strong enough to say, “I am bisexual” and be out about it. And I remember her saying to me once that she thought I was really brave and courageous because she wasn’t brave enough to say that she was bisexual. It was easier for her to identify as a butch lesbian and just leave it alone and never think about it than it was to admit that she was actually still attracted to men sometimes. And that was hard to hear because first of all, I didn’t think of myself as particularly brave, I was just pissed.
DONYA: I was like, “This isn’t fair.” But also, that she didn’t think she had the courage to even say, “Sometimes I like men.” That seems like such a fairly innocuous thing to be able to say, but she lived in a community where it was so negative to like men that she couldn’t even say it and that made me really sad.
LEAH: Yeah. So, you are now in a committed monogamous relationship.
DONYA: Yeah, with a man.
LEAH: With a man.
LEAH: And do you have kids?
DONYA: We do. We have an eight-year-old together. Yeah.
LEAH: Okay. So, what is your sex life like with your husband? Not your husband, you’re not married, with your partner?
DONYA: We are not married. Yeah. So, let me just speak to the not married part a little bit because it’s an interesting piece of the story. So, before him, I was married to a woman although not married because it was not legal at that time in California. We were married just before it became legal here. And he was married prior to me as well, and so we came to this relationship going, “Marriage is a mess. The institution of marriage is a mess.”
DONYA: So, we both came into it, saying, “I really like you. I’m really committed to you. We’re going to have a kid together. We’re going to buy a car together and a house. We’re going to do all the things, but let’s just not get married.” And over the years, we have come to a place where like, “Yeah. We could get married, but we already do all the things.” So, it’s become an interesting neutral for us.
DONYA: So, maybe someday we’ll get married.
DONYA: We also have this idea where we want to get married in Ireland in standing stones and that’s hard. The coronation is hard.
DONYA: Yeah. So, I’m now in this committed relationship. I knew that I wanted to be in a monogamous relationship. It’s been some time for me. I was in a monogamous relationship with my wife and that was a hard relationship in a lot of ways, but the monogamy was good. I liked that part of it. So, I knew that I wanted to continue that that was the right path for me. So, when I met my partner and he is a monogamous person, not even a question for him. He’s always been very monogamous. So, it was just not even an issue. We decided we wanted to be together and that was just how it was.
LEAH: And so, how has your sexual relationship developed over your years together?
DONYA: We have always had very good sex, the two of us. He is someone who is interested in my pleasure that does not feel like it’s about his ego. It feels like it’s part of his sexual pleasure for me to be aroused. So, like that young man in my youth where I was like, “I’m giving him a gift.” It feels much more like that, but we didn’t come together until we were in our 40s, so we came with a lot of skills.
DONYA: And that has been amazing for us. And not just skills, but self-awareness of our own pleasure, a willingness to have those awkward conversations that you have when you’re learning someone else’s body. Does this feel good? That feels weird.
DONYA: He is just so open and accepting. One of the things that I was attracted to in him in the beginning, we worked together, so I knew him for quite a long time before we started actually dating, but he is someone who just accepts you as you are, no questions asked, everybody. He’s curious about people. He doesn’t have judgement. He’s an unusual person that way.
And so, I always felt like with him, I could show up exactly how I was and that continued into the bedroom. So, I had come out of two long relationships in a row where I felt like I had to perform as the person my partner wanted me to be, both in the bedroom and out of it. And when I started seeing my current partner or even just getting to know my current partner, what I realized right away is that I didn’t have to be anybody except who I was and that was really interesting because it actually took me a little while to figure out who I was because I’d been performing for so long, but he gave me lots of space. And he just has that natural curiosity, so he was like, “Who’s in there? Let’s figure her out.”
DONYA: And so, that continues to the bedroom because I don’t feel like I have to perform. I don’t feel like I have to have an orgasm in a particular way or make particular noises or enjoy myself or not. On a day when I’m not feeling like it, that’s cool too. No pressure. So, we have a lot of easiness between us, I guess is what I’m trying to say and it’s not just in the bedroom. It’s like our whole relationship is like that, and so it extends to the bedroom.
LEAH: Having been in committed relationship with women and now being in a committed relationship with a man, I think there is a common belief that if you are bisexual, that means that you need to have both in order to be satisfied. So, what is your experience of that?
DONYA: My experience of bisexuality is that gender is a non-issue for me. So, I fall in love with the person and not their parts.
DONYA: So, for me, it’s not like I need the balance. And I know for some bisexual people, it’s different. So, this is just my personal experience, but I don’t need to balance one with the other. If I’m in love with a man, then I’m perfectly happy with man parts. If I’m in love with a woman, I’m perfectly happy with woman parts.
I do think that there was one anomaly with that and that was when I really, really wanted to become a mother and I was of an age where my body was reaching the end of the window of natural easy fertility. I did start getting attracted to men much more. And I was still in a relationship with a woman, but it felt outside of me in the way that sometimes hormonal does like, “Whoa. What’s happening? That’s weird.” And it didn’t make me want to have an affair with a man. It was just like I just started noticing men all over the place.
DONYA: And not even having interactions with them, just like, “Whoa. He’s hot.”
DONYA: And I remember thinking like, “Wow. My body.” It was like how in your cycle you have certain days when you’re super horny it felt like that where you’re like, “Whoa. What is this? This feels weird.” So, it may have been semi-intentional that my next partner was a man because I wanted to have a baby, but also he was the person that I really liked and he wanted to have a baby too. So, there were a lot of factors there that are hard to tease apart.
LEAH: So, how did your experience of sex changed if at all after having a child?
DONYA: It definitely changes things. So, I had a vaginal birth. So, that’s an important factor I think to mention because I think women who have a C-section or a particularly traumatic birth have different experiences. I had a very long labor, but not particularly traumatic in that I wasn’t injured. I didn’t have stitches. I did have to have pain medication, but I didn’t have surgery, so I recovered fairly quickly from the birth and I did not want to have sex for a long time.
DONYA: I remember my doctor saying that to not have sex for six weeks, which is I think is the standard guideline to not have intercourse for six weeks. And I remember being really like, “I don’t have to think about this for a while.” And we had had sex all the way through my pregnancy, so it wasn’t like we hadn’t been together and I wasn’t enjoying it. We’ve been having hot sex all the way up to my labor. In fact, I think my midwife suggested we have sex to get my labor moving because it was going so slow.
DONYA: I don’t think we did that because I was in a lot of pain, but we considered it. But once that baby arrived, she was my everything. She was my whole world. She was breastfeeding. She is very physical and clingy. Clingy is not really the right word, but she is a very close child with me. Our relationship is that she needs to be with me all that.
In fact, she’s eight years old now and this morning when I went to wake her up this morning, she smiled before she even opened her eyes and she said, “Mom. I tried to keep my face normal but I smile as soon as you open the door.” And I was like, “You have done that since you were a tiny baby. You used to wake up from your nap and the light had gone on in your face.” She’s like, “Yeah. You make me happy.” So, it’s all positive and sweet, but it meant that she was on my body 24/7. So, I was not interested in being touched at all.
DONYA: And I didn’t communicate that very well. So, in retrospect, I think that I should have communicated that better because there were definitely nights when we were co-sleeping when I would nurse the baby to sleep, and then he’d be like,” Hey, babe.” And I’d be like, “Ugh. All right. Let’s get it over with,” which is not the way that I want to have sex with my lover and that’s not the kind of sex we normally have.
LEAH: How long did it take you to get back to something you would call a regular sex life that you were enjoying?
DONYA: It was probably a year before it felt like I was regularly enjoying it. And there were definitely spots of I was more interested or less interested, but it was probably a good year. And I really think that that was breastfeeding, I think those breastfeeding hormones really make you focus on your baby and the hormones are there for a reason so you don’t get pregnant again. Your body’s nursing one baby. You can’t be nursing two.
LEAH: Yeah. Looking back on it, because I know these are things that you think about based on the work that you do, looking back on it, are there ways that you think you could have maintained intimacy with your partner while still feeling like, “I’m really not ready for you to touch me yet?”
DONYA: I think so, yeah. And also, I think that I could have parented differently also to foster that connection with him. So, as much as we both wanted to co-sleep, I regret co-sleeping. I think that I did not sleep well for a long time because the baby was in our bed and it certainly gave us no space that was adult space. And I think that even if she had just slept in a crib next to our bed, it would’ve been better for us to have our bed be adult space. So, that’s one thing.
I think also that there were other factors going on. He had a teenage son that lived with us that things were really bumpy between me and him, so there was a lot of fighting and stress going on in our house. But I think that I would have liked to just have more conversation with him like grownup conversation. I should say I did not do a good job, no. I’m not going to take all the credit for that.
DONYA: We did not do a good job of balancing our parenting roles in the beginning. I did not feel like I could ask for his help because I was the stay-at-home parent, so I thought I had to do everything. I had to do all the naps. I had to do all the bed times. I had to do all that stuff. And if I had asked, he would have definitely been happy to help me out in different ways. And I think he did not offer because I have the strong outspoken personality and he thought I was just doing it the way I wanted to do it. And I was just doing it because I thought I had to do it that way.
So, that has taken me years to unwind. So, I think that if I had asked for more help and felt more supported, I would have had more mental space to have more of a mental connection with him and that has always been a thing between us that is really important that I don’t want to have sex with him unless I felt connected with him and that comes through conversation. And so, we were not talking, hardly at all.
DONYA: Except about the baby, for three years. And so, that was really hard for us. We felt really disconnected from each other.
LEAH: And how did you come back together?
DONYA: Well, there’s a whole long complicated story that we probably don’t have to get into all those details, but in that period of time, he has an older daughter who does not have custody of and he has a very complex relationship with her mother and very unclear custody arrangement. So, there was a period of time where he was leaving us a lot to go see his daughter, not necessarily with my permission or my blessing. And then, I had a lot of illness. I’m trying to abbreviate the story because it’s a complicated story.
I had a lot of illness. We tried to have more babies. I had a couple of miscarriages. I had some other more serious illness. I was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer. And then, I had a year of treatment that was very intense for all of us. Our daughter was four when that happened. And at the end of that year, he for reasons I think either one of us didn’t entirely understand, but he chose to move out of our house for a while and go live with his ex, who he doesn’t have a relationship-relationship with anymore, but she won’t allow him to see their daughter unless he’s there physically.
So, he went to live with them for a while. And so, we were separated for two and a half years off and on. So, actually, we haven’t really come back together until just the last six months fully. So, he’s living at home again. We had some great sex in there.
DONYA: But the sort of sex that you have when you haven’t seen each other for a really long time and you’re really just mad at each other like that kind of great sex. It wasn’t all bad. We had some really good interludes in there, but we weren’t living together. So, it was far between and he’s moved back in now.
So, the bigger picture of what brought us back together was a lot of therapy, both individual and couples therapy, and really getting clear about what we wanted our life together to look like and really getting through talking about all those hurt places. And some of those hurt places were prior to our relationship like the hurt places we came to the relationship with and really airing that stuff out. So, that’s a lot, so people listening to this and are like, “Oh my gosh. My relationship is never going to get that point.” You might, but also not everybody needs all that like we needed it.
DONYA: But most relationships don’t have that much stuff going on. We had a lot of stuff going on that we had to overcome.
LEAH: Because you just brought up breast cancer, I would like to ask you some questions about that, but also want to be cognizant of the time because we’re running longer than I expected. Are you okay in terms of time or do you need to go?
DONYA: Yeah. No, I’m good.
LEAH: Okay. So, you just mentioned that you have gone through breast cancer. How did that affect your relationship with your body and therefore your relationship with sex?
DONYA: Yeah. So, in my case, it has not physically changed my body very much. So, the particular kind of cancer I had was not hormonal, so that’s important because that changes the kind of treatment that I had to receive. It was very aggressive, but it happens that this particular kind of aggressive protein is also very treatable, so the treatment was very hardcore. I started with chemotherapy. I had surgery. I had radiation. The chemotherapy was very intense. It was every three weeks for six months. I lost all my hair like my eyelashes and eyebrows and everything, nose hair, the things you don’t even know you have hair.
DONYA: But when I got to surgery, the tumor was fairly small to start with. And so, they had only ever recommended that I have a partial mastectomy, which is I did not lose my whole breast. And then when they did the surgery, they actually only found scar tissue and no more cancer cells, so that was the best-case scenario. So, my body is not really very different than before cancer. My breast is slightly flat on the bottom on one side, but I can wear the same bra. I don’t need a prosthetic. So, in that sense, I’m very lucky that I did not have to change my relationship with my physical body that most breast cancer survivors do. So, I just want to be clear about it that that my experience is very different from many breast cancer survivors.
However, I was very angry at my body and I lost faith in my body because I felt like it had turned on me in a way. And in addition, during my chemotherapy because I went into chemotherapy thinking that I wanted to have another baby post-cancer. I didn’t in the end, but I wanted to have the option. So, they put me into chemical menopause during my chemotherapy. And this is a whole other conversation, but because I was 44, 43, something like that, there’s not a lot of research about fertility and women in that age zone, so there’s an increasing amount of research on women going through chemotherapy who lose their fertility and they are developing lots of ways to help those women because chemotherapy can often just cause you to go into menopause and you never return.
There isn’t a lot of science about women who are close to menopause like I am, so they really didn’t know what was going to happen, so it was like, “Maybe you can have a baby, maybe not. We don’t really know what’s going to happen.” So, they put me in a chemical menopause and they said there was a good chance I would not come out of menopause even after they stopped the medication. But I did. My period came back right on schedule after they stopped medication. My cycle has changed. It’s six days shorter than it used to be, which is weird, but it’s regular. It’s fine. Maybe I’m fertile. I don’t know. I didn’t try to get pregnant, so I don’t really know.
DONYA: So, there was that whole piece of, “I have experienced menopause and now I’m back, not in menopause,” which is weird. So, sex during that period was a preview of what my later life is going to be and it was not awesome. I have this dread of when I actually hit menopause, sex may not be fun anymore, which I don’t think is true, but I have this belief about it that it’s not going to feel good. I’m not going to be able to get lubricated easily. It’s going to be super hard to have an orgasm, all of these things that happened, which I was also in chemo.
LEAH: Right. Exactly. You were going through things.
DONYA: My brain is in there like, “This is what menopause is going to feel like.” And hopefully, menopause is not going to feel like chemo. That would be awful. But yeah, I have that connection with it. So, that’s probably my main piece of how I feel differently about my body now because I did not have a hormonal type of cancer, I do not have to take those for the rest of your life medications that women who have a hormonal type of breast cancer have to basically go into menopause early to suppress the cancer returning and I didn’t have to do that. So, my body is back to my body. I got my body back.
LEAH: Good. I’m happy for you.
LEAH: Well, on that light note.
LEAH: I want to transition into the Q&A. So, like I told you before, this is more rapid fire, but please don’t feel like you can’t give full answers if you want to. You’re absolutely welcome to.
LEAH: All right. What kind of touch do you enjoy most?
DONYA: Gentle touch usually. Although I recognize that in my relationship with my partner, I am the strong one in our relationship and he’s the soft-spoken gentle person in our relationship. And in bed, I really like to reverse those rules, so that’s not necessarily touch, but sometimes I want him to be more firm with me than he would normally be, if that makes sense. Yeah.
LEAH: What are your hard red lines sexually?
DONYA: Pain when it is not invited, lying, and not responding to my no.
LEAH: Are there sexual things you’ve tried that you never want to do again?
DONYA: I can’t see myself being non-monogamous again, but who knows? I had a partner who really enjoyed being spanked. And although I could clearly see that it brought her a great deal of pleasure, it did not feel good for me.
LEAH: Do you have sex during your period?
DONYA: I do and that’s new with this partner. That’s the first time in my life I’ve actually enjoyed it. It’s with my current partner.
LEAH: Do you know what changed for you?
DONYA: I think it was mostly his comfort with it. And again, he doesn’t judge. He doesn’t get weird about things. He’s just like, “Whatever. It’s just blood. Whatever.”
DONYA: “Well, go get a towel. No biggie.”
DONYA: It was just a non-issue, which made me think like, “Oh, maybe it can be a non-issue.”
LEAH: Yeah. What’s the approximate number of sex partners you’ve had?
DONYA: Oh gosh, I have no idea. Probably somewhere between 20 and 30.
LEAH: Do you prefer clit stimulation or penetration?
DONYA: Clit stimulation, definitely.
LEAH: What’s your favorite way to orgasm with a hand, a tongue, a toy, a penis or strap on?
DONYA: I think it really depends on my partner because at various times, I think my favorite has changed, so that I feel like that’s dependent on who I’m with and maybe what their skills are, what our comfort is. Currently, with a vibrator and penetration.
LEAH: Being penetrated by the vibrator or vibrator externally?
DONYA: No, externally.
LEAH: Separate penetration.
LEAH: Can you orgasm from intercourse alone?
LEAH: Do you prefer the orgasm from masturbating or from sex with another person?
DONYA: Definitely sex with another person. I hardly ever masturbate anymore. I just find it to be lonely.
DONYA: I feel like I learned a great deal by masturbating. I learned a great deal about my body, but I have passed that knowledge on to my partner and I would really rather just have sex with him.
LEAH: I love that.
LEAH: Have you ever faked an orgasm?
DONYA: I have, probably quite many, many times.
LEAH: Do you have hair down there or are you bare?
DONYA: Now I have hair. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve been not completely, but partially bare.
LEAH: And you prefer hair?
DONYA: I have less hair than I used to post-chemo. Not all my hair grew back. I preferred bare because of how it felt for me, but after chemo, I didn’t bother starting to shave again. And my partner said he didn’t care and I didn’t have as much as hair, so it didn’t bother me as much as it used to. So, yeah, now it’s fine.
LEAH: I wonder if after the experience of losing all of your hair, you’re like, “I want all the hair I’ve got.”
DONYA: Maybe I’m more attached to it, yeah.
DONYA: Yeah. It’s possible. My hair didn’t grow back. It’s fine on my head. My eyelashes didn’t grow back. My eyebrows didn’t quite grow back all the way, so I actually do think there is just less of it.
LEAH: Yeah. Have you ever had a threesome or more?
DONYA: Yes, I have.
LEAH: Did you enjoy it?
DONYA: Yeah. I did. It was a little weird. It was self-conscious.
LEAH: Have you ever had public sex?
DONYA: I’ve had sex in a public bathroom, but it was in the middle of the night and nobody else was around. I don’t know if that counts.
LEAH: Well, it counts. Someone could have walked in on you.
DONYA: Someone could have walked in on us, but nobody did.
LEAH: Was it exciting to you for that reason?
DONYA: Yeah. So, when I was with my wife and I made her cum, so I was fully dressed and I was not the one who was being aroused. So, it was hot in that she was turned on by the thought of being caught, but I didn’t really feel like I was risking anything, if that makes sense.
LEAH: What was your first experience of porn?
DONYA: Well, I found those books of erotica when I was pretty young. That’s probably my first experience. Video porn, I think I had a partner who said, “Hey, this might be fun. Let’s watch it together.” So, it was in the context of a partnership.
LEAH: And was it fun?
DONYA: It was weird. I have always felt with porn that I find that I get aroused but it’s disconnected, so it’s like my body’s being aroused. I was talking about that mental and physical connection. It’s like I have the physical response without any mental response and it just feels very strange.
LEAH: Yeah. Do you enjoy giving blowjobs?
DONYA: Depends on the person, but yeah, generally.
LEAH: When you do, do you swallow?
DONYA: I have. It’s not my favorite thing, but I do.
LEAH: Do you enjoy receiving oral sex?
LEAH: How do you feel about receiving ass play?
DONYA: I’ve done it. I’ve enjoyed it, not part of my current sex life.
LEAH: Do you miss it?
DONYA: A little. Yeah.
LEAH: How do you feel about giving ass play?
DONYA: I have not done a lot of that. I’ve never been with a man who’s been interested and the women I’ve been with have been less comfortable with it, so a little bit of experimentation.
LEAH: Are you curious?
DONYA: Yeah. A little, but meh, sort of neutral.
LEAH: Yeah. What’s the kinkiest thing you enjoy?
DONYA: Well, I have to say that my sex life is way less kinky than it used to be, which is totally fine with me.
DONYA: So, what I enjoy now, I would not consider kinky at all. The kinky stuff I enjoy now is like slight pain to my nipples, which feels so vanilla. I don’t know. What have I enjoyed?
LEAH: It’s an interesting thing though. It’s all based on perspective.
DONYA: Totally, yeah.
LEAH: Because somebody who has had a very traditional “vanilla” sex life might find pain to their nipples to be kind of edgy and extreme, whereas somebody who has been in and around the BDSM scene would be like, “Yeah. That’s nothing.:
LEAH: it’s all based on perspective.
DONYA: Yeah. I’ve certainly tried kinky things that I didn’t particularly enjoy, so I feel like I’ve tried lots of kinky things, but I didn’t really get all that into them. I think I enjoyed restraint. I enjoyed being restrained and stimulated in whatever various ways.
LEAH: Do you miss that?
DONYA: Not particularly.
LEAH: Do you ever worry about your taste or smell?
DONYA: Hardly ever. Once in a while, but yeah, hardly ever.
LEAH: Do you think you orgasm quickly or take a long time?
DONYA: I feel like I take a long time.
LEAH: And what does that mean to you? What is a long time?
DONYA: Half an hour or longer. It’s interesting because this is something that has been coming up in my conversation with my partner because I have been feeling very self-conscious about it and he thinks it’s awesome.
DONYA: I keep saying, “I’m sorry. It took me so long to cum.” And he’s like, “Whatever.” So, that was great.
LEAH: Again, perspective.
DONYA: But I think the reason I’m self-conscious about it is because I feel like it has changed for me and I suspect that it is partly a side of an anti-depressant that I take. So, it doesn’t feel normal to me and that’s why it bothers me. But from a sexual partner pleasure perspective, apparently, it’s not an issue.
DONYA: And I’m still having orgasms. Yeah, it could be worse.
LEAH: That’s actually a topic I haven’t covered with anyone in these conversations is the effects of antidepressants. It’s something that I’m very familiar with as well. I’ve been on one for quite a while and it is actually a factor.
DONYA: Yeah. And it’s a factor for me because it’s frustrating because it feels like there are times when I am just like, “I don’t want to work that hard to have an orgasm” and that sucks.
LEAH: Yeah. I feel the same way and yet when I balance it against my emotional stability, I’m like, “Emotional stability wins.”
DONYA: Right. I could be crazy or I could take a long time to orgasm. All in all, it measures just fine.
LEAH: Yeah. Do you enjoy dirty talk during sexual encounters?
DONYA: Not particularly. I was just thinking that through. I’ve done it. I’ve had partners who do it and it’s not a turn off, but it’s not a particular turn on. But my partner now would not do that. It’s just not his personality at all and I’ve been with him now for 11 years. So, it just feels odd to me to even consider.
LEAH: Do you enjoy laughter during sexual encounters?
DONYA: Very much, yeah.
LEAH: Have you ever had a sexual urge that confused you?
DONYA: Yeah. I think during the course of my life, different things have confused me. Back from the very beginning of our conversation, just the fact that I got aroused by a book confused me. When I was first experimenting with anal play, that felt very confusing. Being attracted to a woman felt very confusing. Being in a sexual encounter with more than one person was confusing. So, yeah, there have been different things that felt confusing and sometimes the confusion was like, “Oh, actually, I enjoy this” and sometimes the confusion was like, “Actually, I don’t.” So, it always has been a marker for me to pay attention here. There’s something I need to learn.
LEAH: What is something about your current sex life that isn’t a 100% satisfying as much as you’d like it to be?
DONYA: Taking so long to have an orgasm.
DONYA: That’s really it.
LEAH: What is something you fantasize about but have never asked for in real life?
DONYA: The only thing I can think of is experimenting with pegging. And I don’t think my current partner has any interest in that. It may or may not ever happen, but yeah, that’s the only thing I can think of.
LEAH: What is a myth about sex that you’ve had to unlearn?
DONYA: So many.
DONYA: Again, a lot of this is perspective. So, there’s in some circles, people who are bisexual are promiscuous. There’s that one. And it’s not that I had to unlearn it. When I came out as bisexual, I was like, “Oh, I guess that means I have to have a lot of sex.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. I’m still me.”
DONYA: And I think there’s the deeper older ones that are part family story and part cultural story about what it means to be a woman who enjoys sex that you’re a bad girl, that you’re shameful, that you’re dirty. I’ve done a lot of work over my life unteaching those. So, I don’t know if that counts as a myth, but that’s what comes up when you ask that question.
LEAH: Absolutely. We have done it.
DONYA: Thank you. Sorry, it took me so long.
LEAH: Oh my gosh.
DONYA: No, I’m kidding.
LEAH: I enjoyed every moment of it.
LEAH: Truly this has been a delightful and fascinating conversation. Thank you so much.
DONYA: Yeah. Thank you. It’s been really interesting.
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 you’re your true sexuality that the version of yourself that was scared to speak for her own needs feels like a mirage from another lifetime.
Until next time, here’s to your better sex life!
- 4:48 – Donya shares her first memory of sexual pleasure, finding a book of erotica at age 9 or 10 and feeling aroused in a new way—both physically and mentally, at the same time.
- 7:58 – Sex was not discussed in the home; her parents divorced and her mother remarried a closed-off man. She finds her mom’s secret copy of “The Joy of Sex” at some point.
- 14:40 – Donya talks about being both busty and a dancer and receiving sexual attention from an early teen age. It’s an early experience of power and pleasure—especially at youth group. Dry humping becomes a favorite activity.
- 24:51 – Sex itself is fairly disappointing early on; Donya learns to exercise the power dynamic between using the appeal she has to get attention and wanting to go slow to actually find pleasure.
- 29:00 – Donya finally experiences a lover who is devoted to her pleasure. As part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, she tries to navigate the community’s culture of non-monogamy.
- 37:23 – Donya talks about the end of her primary poly relationship: yes, you can be poly and still cheat.
- 39:19 – Donya shares how she came out as bisexual and began to experiment, up to the point of marrying a “Santa Cruz lesbian” and seeing the inside of man-bashing culture.
- 50:19 – Donya catches us up on her current long-term monogamous male partner, with whom she has a child. They’ve been together 8 years and have a fully committed life; at first neither want to mess with marriage again, but it’s now on the table.
- 58:04 – Childbearing (and specifically vaginal birth) impacts her sexuality. So does being a mother to a young child, and the parenting style choices they make.
- 1:05:28 – Donya experiences a series of illnesses, and is diagnosed with breast cancer. She and her partner go through periods of separation. They’ve gotten therapy and are currently together.
- 1:08:22 – She talks about the details of her breast cancer journey. She feels like her body let her down, and fears bad sex in forced menopause.
THE LOWDOWN (1:13:52)
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