Shana is a 41-year-old, cisgender woman who describes herself as biracial (half black/half white), heterosexual, monogamous and currently in a relationship.
Major themes explored in this episode include healing from old hurts, learning about consent, and discovering our own pleasure, rather than just focusing on pleasing our partner.
EPISODE TRANSCRIPT (CLICK TO OPEN)
LEAH: Hi, I’m Leah Carey and this is Good Girls Talk About Sex. This is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. Before we get started, I want to tell you this. 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 the things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: Welcome to the first episode of Season 2 of Good Girls Talk About Sex. I’m so excited to be back! In today’s episode, we’ll meet Shana, a 41 year old cisgender woman who describes herself as biracial, half-black, half-white, heterosexual, monogamous, and currently in a relationship. I apologize for the fact that there are some clicking noises throughout this interview. We’ve done our best to mitigate them and appreciate your patience with what remains. I’m so pleased to introduce Shana!
I am incredibly pleased to have you here. We’ve talked a little bit about your dating experiences over the last several months. And I’m excited to learn a lot more about you and where you came from and hear what’s going on in your life now because it sounds like you have some exciting recent news.
LEAH: So thanks for being with me.
SHANA: Oh, thank you for having me.
LEAH: Let’s start from the very beginning. How did you discover the concept of sex? Do you remember?
SHANA: How did I discover the concept of sex? I do remember. My parents had a philosophy around always answering questions honestly and clearly even if they were uncomfortable for adults. So I don’t remember how old I was but I was pretty little, I think 4 or 5, and they got me a book and because I apparently asked some questions. I still have the book, which described sex, having babies. It was very straightforward and honest, but also it was also a little golden glow around it.
LEAH: Sure. [LAUGHTER]
LEAH: Do you remember your first real interest in sex as something that you wanted to do?
SHANA: Yes. That was middle school. I can’t say that I wanted to expressly want to have sex but I started experiencing desire for boys. And I remember, actually I still sometimes feel this, I used to have this habit of if I liked a boy, I would learn his class schedule and I would make sure I was in his path as he was going from class to class. So I would pack up all my stuff and run, race across to the other side of the school so I could stand casually in the hallway and pretend to ignore him.
SHANA: But most of my life, I was very uncomfortable with ever being vulnerable so I couldn’t express that I actually liked him, whoever it was. But I would put myself in his path over and over and over again hoping that he would be aggressive enough to push past those walls and so everything had to be timed exactly right. And so if I was running a little late, packing up my bag, I would feel this intense sort of physical reaction like a strong, I don’t know, is there a better word than horny?
SHANA: Like a tingle, a very strong feeling. And I still get it when sometimes if I’m late in a dream, it’s erotic. And I’m like, “That’s interesting.” That’s what I trace it back to in my mind. I’m not sure if that’s exactly right.
LEAH: That’s fascinating.
SHANA: Yeah, it was because it’s like, “Oh, I’m going to miss my shot at seeing this guy that I have this incredible crush on.” So that’s the first time I remember paying attention to men, or boys at that time, and it being associated in some way with a physical desire.
LEAH: And so you said that you were hoping that one of them would be aggressive or assertive enough to do something about it. Did that ever happen?
SHANA: Yeah. Definitely. The problem was that when you are cool and aloof and the other person has to be aggressive, you end up with men who are sometimes too aggressive or stalkers I can’t get rid of.
SHANA: It took some time to find the right balance.
LEAH: Yeah, so what did it look like when you found the right balance? SHANA: Well, I think I just got there.
SHANA: I think that my capacity to express interest grew over the years, certainly, but I started noticing the pattern like, “Oh, wait. I’m requiring this immense amount of energy on behalf of the man who is pursuing me, and then this is what it’s ending up looking like in the relationship.” Like, “Hmm, let’s do something about this.”
And over the years, I did a lot of personal work to try to push my vulnerability boundaries so that I could end up in more of an equal place. It was always a struggle for me though and it wasn’t a calculated decision. I remember vividly being in a very intense conversation with someone who I was very much in love with actually in high school and my first love. And he was trying to get from me what I felt about him. And he’s like, “I don’t know how you feel about me. And if I don’t know that, then I can’t move forward. And here’s this other girl and she’s crazy about me and she tells me all the time. How do you feel? What do you want?”
And we were standing on the stairwell and I can remember it so vividly. And I felt this very powerful internal barrier almost like I sort of imagined it as a wall around my heart that I could feel my heart pushing against to be able to say anything to him and I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I just physically could not.
And so, I expanded my boundaries over time, but it was a struggle for a long time. As I’ve looked back on it, I think that what’s become clear to me is that being protected or safe or strong are very, very strong values in my family, especially for women. And that the sort of narrative is that people will try to hurt you. You have to be more stronger and more dangerous than them if you want to stay safe. And so, being vulnerable, even being able to say something like, “That hurt my feelings” or “I have a need and this is my need” was not allowed or acceptable. And that wasn’t an explicit instruction that anybody gave me, I think it was just my interpretation of the overall rule which is “Be strong, be safe.”
LEAH: Do you have a sense that that is a messaging that developed out of your racial background or is that a personality thing that came down during the generations?
SHANA: That’s a great question. I do associate that with the black women in my family and part of that is being a strong, independently minded, powerful personality, black women in the South in the times that they were. And so yes, I think is part of it is racial.
I think part of it is the history of relationship dynamics also in my family and what women are supposed to be like, what men are supposed to be like, what men can get away with, the ways that women maintain control, which actually I think in some ways are present on both sides of my family. I mean people find each other because their wounds are connected, so it doesn’t surprise me that that it shows up in both places.
LEAH: Yeah, yeah. So let’s talk about your first sexual experience and you get to define what sexual means in this context, what was it like for you?
SHANA: Not my first time having sex but my first sexual experience was with a guy I was not in a relationship with but was dating over an extended period of time my freshman year in high school. And he used to come over in my house after school. I lived two blocks away. And I would look out the
window and see him pulling up along the side of the house and that’s how I would know he was coming over and we would make out for like a hundred years.
SHANA: And we never took our clothes off. We would just make out and so I think that of that as my first sexual experience. We never had sex.
LEAH: How old were you?
SHANA: I was 14 and I really liked him. And he stopped coming over one day. I mean we never had a conversation about what was happening between us or whatever. He stopped coming over one day. He was a white guy and he stopped coming over and then the next thing I knew he had a girlfriend who was one of the golden girls, not in the sense of the show but one of the beautiful white girls in the school.
So that taught me two things. One, it reinforced that you have to be a certain kind of girl to be treated with value by a man and two, that white men were going to choose white women over me and then I was going to be a secret and they were going to be public.
LEAH: And have you experienced that in later relationships?
SHANA: I never had any other relationships with white men after that and I never really connected that to him. I have this, I guess no better word for it than hang-up, that I feel like having any sort of sexual interaction with a white man feels like I’m indulging his slave shack fantasy, which could be the furthest thing from the truth or it could be real. But I don’t know, I can’t relax and I find it very difficult even though I’ve had a good friend who was a white man, who I would have loved to be in a relationship with and I couldn’t make myself do it.
LEAH: So it doesn’t necessarily preclude attraction to a white man but it does preclude involvement with a white man?
SHANA: Yeah. I can’t imagine. Again, this is my shit. This is my hang-up. [LAUGHTER]
SHANA: But I can’t imagine. It’s hard for me to imagine being truly partnered with a white man and I wonder if that’s because I’ve never seen it. I knew it wasn’t in my family structure or because of some of those early experiences.
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LEAH: Those early explorations sound really sweet and very lovely. SHANA: They were.
LEAH: Did you derive pleasure from that like actual sexual?
SHANA: That’s a good question. I don’t think. I think it was a long time before I thought about me deriving pleasure from sexual interactions with boys. I think that at that time, I was thinking of holding a boundary, making sure we didn’t have sex, and pleasing him. And I think I held onto that focus on pleasing my partner for a very long time. Yeah, I think I was in college before I had great sex.
LEAH: And what made it great? SHANA: He had a great dick.
SHANA: You know when someone just has a great dick like it just happened to really fit, match me. And he was extremely masculine. And I’m tall, I’m strong, I have a strong personality, I’m a powerful woman. And I am drawn to a man who can make me feel like he’s in charge or make me feel small, physically small because I’m usually bigger than most other people.
SHANA: Yeeha, so he was very masculine and I felt very attracted to him. Even before we had sex, he just ignited that in me. He was aggressive. I really liked that then and I didn’t love him and so I wasn’t as concerned about what was this doing to our relationship. Was he happy? Did he love me? What was going to happen? Were we going to stay together?
I came to love him and we did enter a relationship but when we started having sex, it was my attempt to try to engage in a more of a casual “this is what kids do” type of thing. I’d always been in a relationship and it was so much better than it ever was before or since.
Now, it’s a different situation. Before or for a long time after, it was a unique experience because it wasn’t tied up with a bunch of emotion for me. I have had this “Aha!” moment of recognizing that I had never chosen to have sex with anybody that I had had sex with up until that point. Now, I was 38 when I met him and I’ve been having sex since I was 16 and all in, almost exclusively in consensual, loving relationships.
But the beginning, the first time was always like “Oh, we were making out and it went too far or it sort of happened accidentally or it went so far that you had to or he did it and I wasn’t expecting him to.” It was never an “I chose, I’m ready, let’s do this.” And when I thought about it, I traced it back to my first time actually having sex, which I said I have been sort of having these sexual explorations with my first love and then he graduated and went to the army.
And I started dating this other guy who the relationship hadn’t gone that far, but we were officially boyfriend and girlfriend, whatever that means when you’re 16 years old. And we were making out in the car before we were supposed to go to the movies and he sort of maneuvered himself to be on top of me in the passenger half seat of the car and I’d done this a dozen times with my first love and he always stopped and said, “Do you want to? Or is it okay?” Or whatever, and I would always say, “No.”
SHANA: Like, “I told you in the beginning, that wasn’t going to happen. You can keep asking, but no.” [LAUGHTER]
SHANA: So it just didn’t even occur to me that he would just do it and he asked me. I can’t remember exactly the question that he asked me. I think he said, “Put it in” and I said, “No.” And he just pushed in anyway.
And I’d wanted to have sex already at that point for years. I was deciding that I wanted my first time to be a certain way, that I wanted to be loved and respected, that I wanted a certain kind of experience and I was holding that on purpose. And so, there’s really a not strong of a word for how devastating or disappointing that moment was. And at the same time, it was done and he was my boyfriend so when he finished, I pretended like it was okay like I was happy and we continued our relationship. It didn’t last much longer. I mean I can’t say he wasn’t a great person. He was 16 years old and he’s gone through a lot but he wasn’t good to me.
LEAH: So looking back at that experience from an adult point of view, what would you call it? Would you call it nonconsensual? Would you go so far as to call it rape?
SHANA: I’ve never comfortably called it rape because I didn’t push him away and I didn’t say anything more strongly than no. It was not consensual. I did not want to have sex. Yeah, but it’s hard too. One, I don’t want to tell the story, so I’ve told it three times in my life maybe. And I have always been afraid that anybody who heard it would be like, “Of course, you don’t really have a stand on here. You shouldn’t have let him position yourself between your legs”, which looking back on it, after you’ve had sex, of course you know that. There’s no other reason for someone to be there but before, I just hadn’t had that experience. I didn’t really know that, and I had had this protracted, sort of caring, making out thing for a long time where sometimes that did happen, but it was still my choice.
LEAH: Yeah, I’m so sorry that happened to you and I think it’s really important to affirm that it doesn’t matter how someone is positioned or where they are or what has happened yet that you have until the moment it happens, the right to say, “No, this isn’t what I want.” And even after it has happened to say, “Stop, I want this to stop.”
And I think we get caught up because as young girls and young women, we haven’t really been told, at least in our generation, maybe it’s changing now, I’m not really sure. But we were taught to be very acquiescent and to not say everything that was in our mind and so we were not given the skills to say “No, stop.” And so there are a lot of women walking around thinking, “Well, it’s my fault that I didn’t stop it.” When it’s not, we did not have the words, we did not have the skills and that’s not on us to have to then prove that somehow this was a bad actor and it doesn’t matter if the other person is a bad actor, what matters is that you had an experience that you didn’t want and that in itself is terrible, and I’m sorry.
SHANA: Thank you. Yeah, it is helpful to see it from an adult point of view and to say, especially now, with all the conversation that’s happening with consent, I think part of that is what helped me see, “Oh, I definitely didn’t give consent.” And that’s a relevant fact here.
SHANA: Not just like, “I didn’t say no loudly or strongly enough but I definitely didn’t say yes”, so that has helped I think. Just witnessing the kinds of conversations that are happening in the larger society for women and for girls around consent and around the discussion of what should be taught to boys I think has been helpful for me. Anyway, I tell that story to say over the years, I never tried to control it again whether we were going to have sex or not.
LEAH: So I know that you have relatively recently started dating someone new. Can you talk a little bit about what this relationship is like? You and I have spoken some before you started this relationship about how to communicate your needs and desires with a new partner. So I want to know a little bit about how that has played out for you.
SHANA: Yeah, so after that breakup, breakthrough, breakdown. [LAUGHTER]
SHANA: I was single for two and a half years. I just wasn’t ready. When I first started dating, the first person that I got serious enough with to have sex with. One, it was a little bit of curiosity for me because I’m like, “Hmm. Here I am, a different person. I’m more vulnerable or at least vulnerability allowing version of myself and what will that be like? What will I be attracted to? What will I bring in? What do I want?”
So it was an interesting first time in that way and he was very caring, but it felt to me like the doors of communication were not open. We never talked about it. After sex, we never talked about it. If I asked him questions, it was hard to get him to say anything. We had a robust sexual relationship but it wasn’t expressed in the verbal side of our relationship and we had a very robust verbal side of our relationship in terms of communicating, so it just seemed strange like there was a strange sort of wall there. Hence, our conversation.
SHANA: How do I merge this? And it was also interesting to see that that hesitation or tentativeness present in me as one who feels like, “No, I’m a powerful woman.” Like I know how to get what I want out of the world and I have demonstrated that many, many times to still have the sort of hang-ups in this most intimate space demonstrated to me how deeply ingrained they are.
And I think something that we’ve talked about before, the expectation that women aren’t really supposed to ask for anything. That really is supposed to be about pleasing him and the angst I felt around, “Oh my goodness, how do I tell him? This doesn’t work for me and what I really need is this.” And will he fall apart, and will it blow things up or whatever?
For reasons that had nothing to do with sex, that relationship didn’t work out and I later started dating this other man, the man I’m in a relationship with now. And it had a very different energy right from the beginning, very organic, very easy, also kind and loving and a caring person but I think the first time we
had sex, afterwards, he just turned to me very casually and easily and just lying there in bed and was like, “Is there anything that I’m not doing that you want me to be doing more of?”
LEAH: Oh my goodness.
SHANA: And I was like, “What?” [LAUGHTER]
SHANA: I had a worksheet about this. [LAUGHTER]
SHANA: Let me get my worksheet, hold on. [LAUGHTER]
SHANA: But I mean what struck me, of course he was very sweet, something like that happened almost every day where I’m like, “Oh, you’re so amazing”, but the ease of it was what struck me. He felt at ease asking me. He was clearly, genuinely interested in how to get better at pleasing me. That was a top priority for him, and it gave me a different level of confidence and ease so that I could ask for things. And when I did, he’d be like, “Hop to it, yes! I’d love to do that.”
SHANA: Yeah, so I think hallmark of what struck me about that was ease. It just felt easy. And I reflected on it a little, I think it’s still in the early days so it’s still too fresh for me to have completely analyzed it but I think the key is I’m completely clear that his interest is in serving and pleasing me and that he wants to be good at that wherever he gets the information. It’s not connected to his ego.
LEAH: Yeah, I have been really blessed especially with my current partner because I’ve spent most of my life just trying to figure out how to please my partner and my pleasure not really being part of it at all. And now with my partner, his pleasure is entirely wrapped up in my pleasure like he gets turned on by seeing me turned on. He gets pleasure from seeing me orgasm even if he doesn’t orgasm. It’s such a different dynamic and I feel so fortunate to have found that.
SHANA: Yeah, I agree. I’m with you. I think I’m not going to say I didn’t really believe that existed and part of it is definitely me too. And I can’t say something drastic changed in me between the two partners I think it certainly was the work I was doing and trying to get more comfortable and confident and the image that I’m having in my mind is just like him sort of sweeping his hand in a space between us and being like, “Please, fill it with information about how I can please you better.” Just like sweeping that space open, just happily and similarly, just so enjoys and is turned on by my pleasure that it’s not incidental like, “I’ll let me finish you off”, but that he just loves it and I’m like, “Huh, okay. Thank you.”
SHANA: But it carries in it a thread in the rest of the relationship that he’s oriented towards that, towards serving, towards caretaking and that’s a role that I usually take and so it feels very weird. It feels very unusual but it’s also beautiful. And it’s more relaxing like it’s just, again, there’s just so much more ease.
LEAH: Yeah. And I want to make a clarification for anyone who is listening to this and thinking, “Wow. These men that they are talking about must be such pussies or they must be effeminate”, like that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
SHANA: No, no.
LEAH: I mean my partner is extremely masculine.
SHANA: Yeah, same.
LEAH: And that’s part of what I value about him is the masculinity that he brings while also being able to bring that tenderness and care.
SHANA: Tenderness, yeah, that’s a great word. I have three words that I sort of put out into the universe that I want my partner to be like, and tender was one of the three words. And I reflect on that about him a lot. One, he’s physically very large and imposing and so often I’m thinking like, “Wow, you are man.”
SHANA: And I’m like, “Everything you do, oh my God, you are man, like everything, you are so powerful.”
SHANA: And yet there’s this tenderness there. It isn’t effeminate at all. It doesn’t feel like it. I’m curious about that like where does that come from? How do you build it into someone? If we’re raising boys and what is that connection? There’s something there for me in that is like those two things are not connected in his system. He’s not proving anything.
LEAH: Oh, interesting.
SHANA: And so, there isn’t, whatever the button isn’t connected to something that means something about his worth or value. And so, there’s more space for it, there’s ease there as opposed to, “What do you mean? What’s wrong with you?” Yeah, we’re like working together on something like we’re both working on this orgasm and we’re going to get there.
SHANA: And I’m definitely going to get a reward and he apparently feels super excited about it too, so great.
LEAH: Before we finish up, let’s do the Quick Five. Five quick questions we’d usually be too polite to ask any good girl.
LEAH: What’s the kinkiest thing you enjoy?
SHANA: Public sex. Ugh, I love having sex in public.
LEAH: How do you define public sex like in a shaded place where people might catch you or in a sex club or how do you mean that?
SHANA: I mean like in a dressing room at the department store or a restroom at a restaurant. [LAUGHTER]
SHANA: In a parking lot, yeah, you might get caught but you probably won’t.
LEAH: How do you feel about the smell or taste of your own juices if a partner kisses you after oral sex?
SHANA: I love the smell. I love the smell. I’m not crazy about the taste but it doesn’t bother me. I think it’s more important to kiss them if they want to kiss you, intimacy wise. Something else that I never used to allow, having emotionally intimate sex but I can now.
LEAH: How do you feel when a partner loses or can’t get an erection?
SHANA: Very frustrated. I don’t demonstrate it, but it almost makes me angry.
LEAH: Angry at your partner or angry at yourself?
SHANA: Them. Yeah, it’s irrational because it’s not as if they control it but yeah, I think if I’m in the throes if I can’t have what I want, it feels very, very frustrating.
LEAH: So it’s about you getting your needs met but it’s not about feeling like you’re not sexy enough and twisting that to become angry at your partner?
SHANA: Oh, whoa. Maybe? Damn, Leah.
SHANA: Now I do blame myself. That’s too strong a word but that’s what I said so I’m going to stick with it. If they don’t cum, not necessarily lose the erection but just stop and which sometimes you just, same thing on my end, I’m just like look, “It’s not just going to happen today.” But in the times when they just stop like they’re tired or whatever, but they haven’t cum, that I do feel like, “Oh my God, what did I not do enough of? I should have been louder. I should have said more or whatever.” Yeah, I take that really hard, even though I know it’s not my fault.
LEAH: Do you enjoy dirty talk during sexual encounters?
SHANA: I do. It drives me crazy.
LEAH: Do you enjoy giving as much as receiving dirty talk?
SHANA: I enjoy receiving more but I am skilled at giving to encourage receiving. [LAUGHETR]
SHANA: Sometimes they won’t go there until you do. I also find that men, I mean I guess I can’t say this about men in general, but my partners have an idea about being loving that sometimes doesn’t allow for some of the “dirtier” aspects and I’m like, “We can be in love and we can make love and you can still say. It’s okay. We still love each other.”
SHANA: But they have this idea of what’s fucking versus what’s making love. And sometimes you want to fuck.
LEAH: Yeah. Do you orgasm from intercourse?
SHANA: I do now. I didn’t used to, and I always had this lecture that I would give people like only 30% of women orgasm from intercourse so that’s like a lie that porn is telling you.
SHANA: And still my most powerful orgasms come from clitoral stimulation but there’s like an internal kind that’s like a little deeper and more earthquaky that I’ve only recently noticed with the first guy I slept with after sort of re-entering the world.
SHANA: And I’m like, “What’s this?” [LAUGHTER]
SHANA: So that came from the rapid fire as you asked me about the difference between before my sort of breaking open and after, and I didn’t mention this, but it was one of the big features which is that before, I could not allow emotional intimacy during sex. I’m much more like a stereotypical man in that way that I didn’t like eye contact, kissing. The more we can do it doggy style, the better and it was a physical transaction to me.
And after, now that emotional connection is really important to me and so the kissing and the eye contact and the emotional responsiveness of the other person became not just allowable, but something that I really need. So I thought that was a really marked difference too that demonstrated to me that my own capacity for emotional intimacy had shifted considerably and I think that was another example of not being able to vulnerable.
LEAH: Yeah, well that’s really lovely and I’m really happy for you even though it took an incredibly painful experience to get there. I’m really happy for you that you are in this place where you’re feeling more broken open and able to be vulnerable and able to experience, that’s just beautiful.
SHANA: Thank you.
LEAH: Yeah. And thank you so much for doing this. This has been such an exciting conversation. I’ve
loved every minute of it, so thank you.
SHANA: Me too! And I had some “Aha!”s I’m going to have to go journal now. [MUSIC]
LEAH: Thanks for me joining me today on Good Girls Talk About Sex. If you have questions or comments about anything you’ve heard or if you’d like to be a guest on the show, please email me at email@example.com.
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 your good girl box, I’m here to tell you it’s possible. And I can provide you with tools to name your desires and communicate them effectively to your partner or potential partners. If you’re interested in working with me, visit leahcarey.com/coaching. You can find me on
Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube at IamLeahcarey. You can find these links and any resources we’ve mentioned during the interview in the Show Notes.
I’m Leah Carey and I look forward to talking with you again next week. Here’s to your better sex life! [MUSIC]
Here are some of the great moments Shana shared with us:
- 3:35 – How she came to relate running late to eroticism
- 9:48 – Her first sexual experience, and how it conditioned her to not trust white men
- 18:38 – The moment Shana first had intercourse and why it was so devastating … and why she pretended it was okay
- 21:30 – Why Shana has never felt comfortable calling that experience rape
- 27:27 – The expectation that women are supposed to please their partner and not ask for anything
- 28:18 – The conversation she had with her current lover after their first time having sex
- 32:00 – How tenderness and masculinity go hand-in-hand
- 34:30 – The Quick Five
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Editor – Gretchen Kilby
Music by – Nazar Rybak