Melissa experienced childhood sexual abuse and is dealing with its long-term impacts. She has a complicated pleasure response and is working on reframing how she views sex after abuse.

Melissa is a 40-year-old, cisgender female who describes herself as Latina, heterosexual, monogamous, married with 3 boys.  She grew up in the United States and currently lives with her family in Australia.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT (CLICK TO OPEN)

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

[MUSIC]

LEAH: Today, we’ll meet Melissa, a 40 year old cisgender female who describes herself as Latina, heterosexual, monogamous, married with 3 boys. She grew up in the United States and currently lives with her family in Australia.

When I put the call out for more women of color to feature on the podcast, Melissa responded, and I’m excited to share her story. As you may have already noticed, this episode is a bit longer than usual. That’s because Melissa’s story is so important and she tells it so well that I couldn’t bear to cut more out of it.

Sometimes when people are preparing to do an interview with me, they’ll write out the pieces of their sexual history that they think are the most important and send them to me ahead of time. I appreciate the care they put into sharing their stories but in all honesty, I almost never read these emails. I don’t want to know a lot about a person’s sexual history before we start talking. That way I get to discover it along with you the audience and hopefully ask the questions that you’re also wondering. Things come up that the guest wouldn’t have thought to include if we’ve been following a scripted narrative.

This interview is a perfect example of why this is so important to me. Had Melissa and I talked a lot about her history prior to her interview, she might have well have told that there was childhood sexual trauma in her background and she didn’t want to talk about it. And I, in wanting to maintain those boundaries and respect for her, would have twisted myself into knots trying to lead an authentic conversation without ever mentioning it.

Instead that exchange happened while we were recording and you’ll get to hear it in the first couple minutes of the interview. And we were able to allude to the trauma in important and authentic ways while also being mindful and respectful of Mellissa’s boundaries. As an interviewer, I find that tremendously satisfying way to have a conversation because I believe it allows the listener to be part of the process.

So let’s get to it. I am so pleased to introduce Melissa! Thank you so much for being here with me today. I’m really excited. We don’t know each other at all. So I’m really excited to hear your story and find out how you became who you are today and who you are as a sexual being so welcome.

MELISSA: Thank you. No. Thank you for having me. I mean I was excited because I saw exactly my demographic in terms of race and I thought, “oh my God! I got to help, that’s me.”

LEAH: Awesome, thank you. So the first question I ask everyone is what is your first memory of sexual pleasure?

MELISSA: Well, let’s see. So in terms of that, I would say maybe being I don’t know if I was 15 or older but 16 maybe and just having a moment to myself where I was able to feel good about it. So huge difference between sexual pleasure versus sexual experience. I would say that’s a huge difference for me. It actually felt good and it was something that was part of me exploring and it was very brief because I don’t really do much in terms of it. Sometimes I feel like a starfish to be honest. I may rely too much on my husband.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: And so yeah, I would say 16. That was when I explored that one day that I remember right now.

LEAH: Yeah. That’s an interesting distinction you make between pleasure and experience. I’m gathering from that that you had some experiences before this moment that you recognize as pleasure, is that correct?

MELISSA: That I don’t recognize as pleasure so things that are just not too comfortable for me to share. LEAH: I won’t ask you to dig too deeply in this but it sounds like you had some nonconsensual traumatic

experiences prior to that? MELISSA: yes.

LEAH: Okay. Do you remember what happened at 16 that you were able to flip that switch for yourself and sort of take it back?

MELISSA: I think it was just I had privacy. I grew up in a very small apartment and I remember it was like 650 square feet or so and you never had time alone really. And so maybe it was that day that I felt safe like, “Okay I’m here for myself. I could watch something on TV. I could explore that.” It was a normal moment I guess is what kind of opened me up to it and I wouldn’t get in trouble. So normal moment, safe, no one’s coming around and I can explore.

LEAH: Yeah. So that was really brave of you to take that risk not just because of the enclosed space that you lived in but also because you really were going from, and I don’t want to make too many assumptions, but your body being used by others to allowing yourself to explore for yourself. Do you

remember sort of what the thoughts and feelings were that you had going through your body and your mind?

MELISSA: I don’t know if I thought to myself this is mine. And I should enjoy it but it was definitely for sure like a control kind of idea, kind of like, “Wait a minute.”

You hear in high school, people having fun, people going on dates, doing things they’re not supposed to be doing in Catholic high school. Obviously, it’s in places where you have more restraint, people are saying, “No, sex is bad. Don’t have it before you get married.” It is high schoolers, they do it even more frequently. And so it was that allure of positive hint to it.

Why would you do it if it’s bad? Why would you do it if it’s not a pleasure? So there was like maybe that curiosity and then obviously TV. People seemed to be really into this thing called sex. So there’s got to be something to it that clearly has not been part of my life. It just was super curiosity and having that moment and just feeling like, “Okay, I need to figure this out.” But it wasn’t like a frequent moment. It was like one little snippet of time. And then I would go back digging my head in the books really.

LEAH: So you mentioned that you went to Catholic school, what kind of Sex Ed were you getting at school, if any?

MELISSA: Well, yeah. It was like those old videos. I was in school in the 90s or so it were like those old videos that were even older than the 90s so like we’re watching 1980s videos, maybe 70s videos and it was super biological. I cannot imagine being in these classrooms, studying and thinking to myself, “Oh they’re using this for pleasure when it comes to sex.”

It was really biological. It was like maybe conversation, I don’t remember being put the fear of God in me like, “Don’t ever do it or if you kiss someone, you’re going to get pregnant,” I didn’t need that frankly given my background. I got that message, “Don’t do it” from my dad for example. I knew. I didn’t even have to ask. It was like if you get pregnant, you will be in trouble.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: And so for me it was like such an easy thing because of the trauma background to not do it. It was easy like, “Why the heck would I do it?” So it was like, “Okay, can’t see the real benefit.” And so it was just kind of like layers upon layers. Either don’t do it because you’re going to be hated by everyone around you in terms of if you have a baby or if you do it, it’s never been a great thing so why are you going to start doing it? So lots of cognitive dissonance to say the least in terms of my experiences.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: Yeah. So before we started recording, you were asking me how I got into this and I sort of gave you the very cliff notes version of it talking about how I also have a trauma background and that while people sort of fall anywhere on the spectrum, there’s no hard and fast rule. But two of the things that can happen are people go to one of two extremes with a trauma background.

Either they go all the way to having tons of sexual experience in order to try to reclaim their bodies for themselves and their own pleasure or they go to the other extreme and become very sexually repressed and just shut down that whole aspect of their lives. I was one of those who went to repression and I’m curious, did you go to that same place on the spectrum? Did you go to that end of the spectrum?

MELISSA: For sure. I would say in terms of dancing for example, dancing I would say is where I would release some of that sexual energy. And so whether it’s dancing in privacy to myself and I think back then when I was 16, 17, maybe even 14, 15. I remember dancing and I felt very sexual. And so dancing by myself to myself, I can’t really say it was very age appropriate because of context in the sense that I’m going to say that I was sexualized way too early and that’s the reason why. But that’s like one way. The other way I would say in terms of being repressed. For me, the interesting thing is yeah, repression, for sure.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Repression 101 here because I said I had all those layers like familiar layers like if you have sex, you will have a baby. I was just like the consequences forget about the conversations about protection. I remember in college, I remember my roommate having her first experience and going to her mom to like get the pill and stuff like that. And I just remember thinking to myself in college, I was like in my brain, “That’s not a conversation I would have with anybody in my family”, but then I thought that’s super new age. I thought that was kind of interesting. I was like, “Huh, that’s really happening in the world?”

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Not my world. Because of the desire, I suspect my libido was very affected. I just didn’t feel like I needed it so it wasn’t like, “Oh, do it.” And I remember taking a shot at, and this wasn’t sex, I was thinking about this very differently because of my age, but I just remember just wanting to have a boyfriend. Forget about the sex piece of it but I remember asking a boy in elementary school. I remember being rejected at that point. I was just saying he was cute. I wasn’t talking about even anything further than that.

Getting that rejection, I was like, “Okay, that was step 1.” For me, I associated sex as in like when you have sex, it is with someone else and not me on myself and so that was my shot. So repression, I didn’t have anything to let it out. Again, stuck in the books, my escape, if I can get an education, I can escape this situation. And then in high school, I asked one kid.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: I don’t even remember what I asked him but again I was rejected there. So for me, it was like feeling bad in hindsight, not really. I felt hella bold for having asked, but I was rejected. So for me it was kind of like, “okay, next.”

And then finally, college, I gave myself another shot and I remember then that’s where I ended up meeting my husband. And so, he didn’t reject me. He did reject me but I didn’t listen to him because I

asked him to dance basically and I just didn’t believe that he didn’t know how to dance, so I basically pulled him and made him dance with me.

And so it worked out in the sense that it kind of eased my way into sexuality because we both technically were virgins so it was very different I imagine than what I’ve heard happened in these modern days and times. So repression, again with that, in college I was like definitely repressed even when I had a boyfriend because for me, “Well, okay, I need to finish college.” I didn’t want to risk being pregnant. So for me, I had a constant nagging thought other than sex is negative, it was like. “If you have sex, you could screw your future.” That was my thought, my thinking, so good for my parents, I guess.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: So you said you met your husband in college. Was he the first person who you really dated?

MELISSA: Yeah, thank God, finally.

LEAH: Finally.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: How old were you?

MELISSA: I was 17 I think. At the time, 17, yeah.

LEAH: And so freshman year of college?

MELISSA: My freshman year.

LEAH: And have you ever dated anybody else? So the two of you got together and stayed together?

MELISSA: No. Yup, we did.

LEAH: Wow. My goodness. So what was it like for you when you finally started interacting with another person?

MELISSA: It was interesting because first of all I started with an attraction like a physical attraction because I saw him the week before I approached him and so when I saw him across the room, it was very theatrical.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: It was like a back to school thing. Not his back to school but my first week I was like, “Oh my god he’s so hot” and I was just excited by him, by his physical appearance and so that was awesome. It kind of made me feel, “Oh wow.” It just made me feel good like I felt good. I felt the butterflies and everything.

And then when we started dating, again, repression as I said, it was a dread. It was super simple for me not to go very far for like a really long time because again in the back of my mind, “I don’t want to get

pregnant” and things like that and the negativity around it, but when we started doing things like whether it was oral sex or anything like that, it was familiar, as in not good familiar but then also, “Oh wait, this is okay.”

I had to constantly tell myself that. “Oh wait, this is okay. This is okay.” And so I would probably assume that it would have been way more fun if I didn’t have to say that but that was my journey.

LEAH: So you had old experiences that sort of came forward that you had to remind yourself you’re no longer what you’re actually experiencing? Do I understand that?

MELISSA: Yeah, even now. Even now, it’s like I have to believe from an energetic perspective I feel like I have finite energy and so part of it right now, it’ll just be like, “Okay this is okay” and then the other part is pleasure.

LEAH: Oh that makes so much sense to me. I’ve never heard anybody describe it quite that way but not only does it make sense to me, I can recognize what you’re saying for myself. There is a portion of my brain that is always involved in this is okay you’re safe you’re okay and then whatever’s left over is for the pleasure.

MELISSA: Which kind of sucks. [LAUGHTER]

LEAH: Yeah. It does.

MELISSA: It’s funny because I would hear people that I would work with. I remember this one girl telling me that she was dating this guy. She was like, “Oh sex is so fun” and I was like, “I want that.” In my brain, I want that. We’re not totally there but we’re like a lot closer.

LEAH: Have you done any therapy around these issues?

MELISSA: Oh yeah, for sure. For sure, I would say in college when I met my husband, it was also like a relief. I had to tell someone so I told him and so once he heard, he’s like, “You need help”, so it was like a year of help and now again, more help.

LEAH: That was really brave of both of you. Brave of you to say that to him to tell him the story and then brave of him to hear it as a young man and to be able to respond in that way. That’s a big deal.

MELISSA: Oh yeah, it was a big deal. It was a big deal because it was like years of quiet, years of secrets, years of lying, years, years, years and so for me it was like, “Wow I have to tell this dude” not what I want to say, but it just was like this guy doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my family, and it was pretty early too. I don’t even know if it was months into it or something. I had to share it.

[MUSIC]

LEAH: I’ve spoken to some women who had childhood trauma to cause them to leave their body and then childbirth reconnected them to their body for the first time. Others say that childbirth felt like an

additional further trauma. I asked Melissa about her experience with childbirth and how it left her feeling about her body. She said that having kids has changed her relationship with her body and with sex.

If you’re a Patreon supporter, you can hear that discussion at patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex. If you’re not yet a community supporter, follow that link the podcast player you’re listening on right now and get lots of great extras including that conversation about childbirth and the full lowdown Q and A for this episode. Go to patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex in the app you’re listening on now to hear all of that and support me in producing these conversations.

[MUSIC]

LEAH: Do you remember the first time that the two of you had intercourse? MELISSA: Yeah, so in terms of repression, like I said, a parent’s dream. [LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: I would say we were together two years. Two years. It was like my flag back in the day was oh, I can make a man wait basically. He’ll wait for me. If he’s good enough, he’ll wait for me. If he loves you enough, he’ll wait for you. That was also a message that I got which just enforced the whole never have sex I guess, ever.

But I was believing it and the emotions weren’t ready to have that experience with this guy plus on top of that it’s the beginning of my journey. So it was a lot of going on. The first experience because it was so monumental in the sense that it took two years for me to be okay with this. And I’m talking about intercourse, not oral sex, was Thanksgiving. It was Thanksgiving and it was like what a thing to give thanks for, right?

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Honestly, so we still to this day always commemorate it in a way. [LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: So it’s particularly memorable. So here’s the thing it wasn’t this perfect production obviously. You’re like in college, you’ve got dorms and stuff but I remember being in my college dorm and I remember at least for me but I don’t know if physical sensation is having for others but it’s a point where your life might be tightly close together for two years and then all of a sudden you make this space. And then I remember just my boyfriend at the time just being flabbergasted like, “Oh my god, this could really happen, like holy cow.”

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: And I remember him kind of being like you and me, me and you? It was like this straight up weird situation but weird good more for him just because of my background but it wasn’t bad at all. It

was just again in terms of energy that I’m talking about like finite use my brain capacity, that moment I did have to be really into myself and just be like, “Okay, this is okay, this is okay, this is okay.” But the pleasure piece was not there. It was more technical.

LEAH: Yeah, sure. So you mentioned that you had already been having oral sex before that? Were you having pleasure like actual pleasure from oral sex?

MELISSA: Well, I’m sure there should have been but no. No.

LEAH: I don’t think there’s any should, it is just we have our bodily experiences.

MELISSA: Yeah like from a biological perspective, there were indicators like orgasms here and there but I wouldn’t say that mentally, joy like, “Yay, amazing.” It was more like, “Oh, okay, I did my job.” That’s how I saw it. I did my job. Okay, how do you keep boyfriend happy? It was totally warped but given all my background, it makes sense. It makes total sense.

LEAH: Totally. So you just named a couple of things that I think are so important that I just want to pause here for a second and put a pin in them which is first that our bodies have autonomic responses which are just these automatic things as sort of the word sounds like that. Automatic things, when we are physically stimulated in a certain way, at some point our body is likely to have an orgasmic response. That does not always mean that the woman is having pleasure. It means that her body is going through the sort of physical responses, the tightening and releasing, the quaking, the sort of arching of the back, all of those are physical, autonomic responses. But pleasure is not always the same thing. And I think it’s so important for people to hear that because I like you didn’t know for the longest time. I was like okay, I guess and I think it’s why I hear so many women say to me when I say are you able to orgasm and they’re like I guess, kind of.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: It’s because we don’t understand that there’s this sort of distinction that you can have physical orgasm without having the pleasure.

What is the other thing you just said? You said something else that was important. Oh, the job, yes. Thank you. That so often because of the way little girls are socialized to take care of people, to be pretty, to show up and make everybody happy, a lot of women get into the habit of performing pleasure which I think is what I’m hearing you say. Like I’m doing my job, I’m showing up, I am letting my partner have access to my body, I’m going through the physical motions and okay, I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. And in that process, maybe I moan a little so that he knows that he’s doing the right thing or I ride a little bit or I perform pleasure as opposed to experiencing pleasure. It’s so common.

And so I just wanted to really highlight those two things you just said because I think they’re so important for women to hear and know that not only are those things really common, but that there’s nothing wrong with them but I want us to all be aiming higher.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: That performing pleasure is not the only pleasure that there is. [LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Yeah. It’s really interesting because I kind of parallel between what you just said versus the workplace. Right now, people are going through the motions, they’re reaching those KPIs, those key performance indicators, however pleasure let’s say in the workplace, true joy, true “I’m there because I want to be there”, “I’m there because I’m going to personally feel amazing because of the work that I do.” It’s totally lacking too and so it’s so interesting how you want people to aim higher in your life and your craft and I want the same too in terms of my life and my craft and for me personally, so they say, you can’t give what you don’t’ have and so it’s an interesting insight that I just got out of this right now.

LEAH: Yeah. That’s fascinating. Yeah, really interesting, and obviously we’re not identifying you with your full name but people can take away from that that you are in the corporate world and you have a lot of knowledge in that space.

MELISSA: Totally. Yeah.

LEAH: Yeah. So let’s talk about you and your husband it sounds like have been together for 20 plus

years, how has your sexual relationship developed and changed over that time?

MELISSA: I mean it’s been I don’t know to call it, kind of like it changed in spurts. There’s moments where I would say that I feel super connected. I’m calling it connection that’s how he identifies it and so for me it’s interesting because there’s definitely things that I would say I absolutely love about it and it’s going to be less the physical acts and more like the words that he says. It’s like oh my God, if I could just put that in a Mason jar and just carry around the positivity and all of the love notes for lack of a better thought. That would be amazing during the sexual act. So I would say that idea of positive reinforcement or something definitely continued over the course of all these years. I’ll say that is my favorite part of the entire experience. Hearing authentic love, it’s like wow.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: So that keeps me coming. That keeps me there. [LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Then I would say in terms of exploration and things like that, I guess as I continue to do work on myself, I’m more open like I’ll open the door to certain ideas. It could be simple ideas for someone that hasn’t had trauma but for me it’s kind of not. So for example, having music while having sex, it’s like soft and gentle music, no curse words and objectifying women music. So for me it’s like okay, he’s into this maybe I could try it, explore having certain kind of music during the act and not see it as something bad, not appropriate. That’s one exploring there.

And then the other one that I would say is in terms of just being open to who initiates. So that’s the funny part I would say. Because of trauma, I actually feel more comfortable initiating. It’s that control.

It’s like who’s in control now? And it turns out to be a great thing for my husband but then at the same time, I would love it to come from him.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Again with the thought in my mind, persistent thought, “It is safe, it is okay, he’s your husband.” Because I have to be reminded of this being having been with him for 27 years, it feels logically awkward but rational given my experiences.

In terms of initiating, I do that a lot but I also feel that because of my background that I’m probably stand offish kind of so if he’ll initiate I’ll be like, “Oh, I’m tired” or “Oh, just rub my back” or “Oh, I’m busy” kind of head in the books thing is now kind of head in the work thing.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: I’ve just replaced it. But I will say this because of therapy, because of even this conversation being a nice catharsis sort of thing, it’s like “Damn, I got to give myself credit. I’m opening up in different ways.”

So it’s like I anticipate that opening up in different ways is going to help someone listening to this but then help me. Period. Help me just be, ”Okay, it’s okay to talk about this.” And what if you talk about this and it’s not associated with trauma? What if you talk about this and it’s associated with pleasure? Dare I say, fun, excitement and so again, back to that coworker that I had like when she associated sex with fun, I was like so jealous. I was like, “Yes, I want that. I want that.” We’re not there yet.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Not a hundred percent. But I feel the energy a little bit of a shift from this is safe to not having to think about it every single act.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: So do you know what you’re turn ons are? Is this something that is even part of your internal thought process to think about here are the things that I really enjoy that get me juiced up? Or are you primarily working to stay present and respond to your husband’s turn ons?

MELISSA: No, I think I know what my turn ons are for sure and in terms of certain things that I’ll see. For example, pieces of his neck, his shoulders, his back, just by visually just looking is like a turn on for me. Or I’m thinking about something like I don’t know like a hot guy or something.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: It’s like a turn on or if I just saw something in TV obviously something like a rom com or something, I’ll get excited by the plot and I’ll be interested and so that’ll be a turn on. And it’s funny sometimes my husband has played with that. He’ll literally find a rom com and be like let’s watch this.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: Smart man.

MELISSA: And it just depends on time of day. I’m an early riser so if we watch it, I might fall asleep and

there goes that. [LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: So it’s just a matter of am I in the headspace basically to allow myself to be turned on in that moment because sometimes also I think as a mom to three little people and not having locks by the way.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Not by choice. It just makes it a little bit more strategic in terms of wanting to be turned on and then also having the time to execute on that feeling. But I will say this. The moments that I have had the intention of turning myself on and then having the sexual experience, those moments I feel like I do have to say less in my mind, this is okay, it’s safe. That’s what I notice.

LEAH: So how old are your little ones now? MELISSA: So the twins are 5 and the eldest is 8.

LEAH: So what is your sex life like today? So have you come back to, I imagine it’s not the same as prior to kids but, have you come back to wanting to have sex?

MELISSA: I have. And I would say that it’s okay. So we relocated and so being in a very part of the world has made it interesting in the sense that I’ve always associated being in different parts of world with exploration and adventure. And so it has a positive connotation to me and I don’t know if it’s subconsciously that’s helpful in the sense of in the bedroom, so I would say that now at this point, it’s good. I really wish it was joy, fun but right now well it’s good.

It still has the job connotation that you had mentioned before and I thank you for that because that’s really good for me to know that I’m not the only one that felt about it that way. But I wish it wasn’t because then when I think of the mom/business owner and just yesterday when I was calculating the hours that I spend on the low end.

When I think about the hours, it’s 70 hours of work over the course of 5 days, which is completely full. I don’t hand my kids over to someone on Saturday and Sunday and I also do work on the sixth day so that’s just 5 days and when I added those hours if I start thinking about sex as work. Holy cow, who the hell wants to have even if it’s 45 minutes more or whatever who the hell wants to add their work hours? So but now I would say because of the therapy that I have put myself in, because of joining the gym that’s something else that has really helped me. Joining the gym where we relocated because I turned 40 so that was like my thing.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: And that helped me because then I was able to get a six pack on my stomach. I still have the thin skin but at least now that that it’s, “Holy cow, I can actually have the six pack if I work at it and with the therapy. Holy cow, I can actually release my anger, my rage, all of these things associated with trauma.”

And it’s all of that together I would say makes it almost a total ground for even better sex life. So it’s frequent from my definition like for me I know it might sound calculated, once a week for me is like about right. If I had the word fun associated with it, I would want it more maybe twice or three times or something. But I do have the word work associated with it, who the hell would want that more. So I don’t think anyone would.

LEAH: What is a question or concern that you have about sex in general or your sex life in particular? MELISSA: I think I have more questions than anybody on this planet.

[LAUGHTETR]

MELISSA: I mean for me is just turning it from work to fun and for me to also feel like how is it that I can start thinking about like what is sex? If he does not ejaculate, does that count? That’s my big thing because if I’m there and that’s my only goal, then that’s not really fair for me. So how can I think about it? How can I start the work that I need to do in order to not see that as my KPI for God’s sake in the bedroom? That’s my question for you.

LEAH: Yeah. That’s really important and actually one of the questions when we move to the Q and A portion is about how do you define sex for yourself because everybody has a slightly different definition of what they think sex is and I would suggest that sex equaling the male partner’s ejaculation is really common and radically unfair to everyone involved because it means that your pleasure is completely taken off the table. What happens if you have an orgasm and he doesn’t, is that still sex? Hell yeah, that’s still sex!

But we tend to measure it in terms of the male ejaculation. And frankly it goes all the way back to Sex Ed in schools for those of us who even got Sex Ed because a lot of people didn’t. But Sex Ed was taught basically as boys grow up and get to have wet dreams and ejaculate and girls grow up and get to get periods and suffer.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: So the male ejaculation has always been front and center in the conversation around sex and we really desperately need to reorient so that it’s about our connection with our partner as opposed to who gets to have pleasure and who doesn’t. Yeah, it’s a big deal and I’m really glad you gave voice to that.

MELISSA: Yeah, that’s the hardest part because then sometimes I’ll feel like, “Oh, did I not do my job?” LEAH: Yeah. Are there times where he says to you this just isn’t going to happen tonight?

MELISSA: Yeah, of course.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: For sure.

LEAH: And how does that leave you feeling?

MELISSA: Well then in my mind, I’m like, “Okay well then you can stop now. I don’t need this. You can stop now. Okay, so there we go. Let’s just stop.” And then it’s funny from his perspective he’s just, “But wait, you didn’t get something out of it.” And he’s super generous when it comes to this idea which is exactly what someone like me needs.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Someone who is generous and kind and giving. So yeah, there’s definitely moments that he’s just like, “It’s not going to happen” so like for me, it’s kind of like guilt, did I not do everything that I’m supposed to? Whatever it might be like fault, it’s like I place the blame on me, was this not the right time? Was I supposed to do it another time? Before he masturbated or did he masturbate and that’s bad in my brain. There’s a lot of stuff in this brain.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: And all with reason so it’s been a hell of a journey just that I have this journey it’s fucking brave of me but it’s a journey.

LEAH: Yes, thank you for acknowledging that because it’s huge.

MELISSA: Oh yeah. I’m all about breaking generational issues. That’s just me.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: Yeah.

[MUSIC]

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

[MSUIC]

LEAH: Do you have sex during your period?

MELISSA: Yes. For sure, again the thought “I’m not going to get pregnant” is for me out the door so it actually I feel like I get hornier right before I get my period. It’s going to be biological because you’re fertile so they say but sex during period, hell yeah. Make sure you don’t stain anything you’ll give yourself more work.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: But yeah, totally.

LEAH: Yeah. What’s the approximate number of sex partners you’ve had? MELISSA: 1.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: That’s an easy calculation.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: I don’t have a list anywhere. Yeah. 1.

[LAUGHTER]

LEAH: Do you prefer clit stimulation or penetration?

MELISSA: Clit stimulation. I prefer for sure.

LEAH: What is your favorite way to orgasm during sex?

MELISSA: I think it’s called doggy style just when he is penetrating but from the back. And I would say that I don’t know it doesn’t have to be fast getting the orgasm fast and I don’t want to use the words “getting it over with” because that sounds so negative. But if I’m honest it’s like holy shit that was a thought in my brain because it also means that I could go to sleep. I’m kind of tired.

[LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: At night, given my early morning but yeah, I mean technically yeah, I think it’s doggy style.

LEAH: Melissa, this has been absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for having this conversation with me. You’ve been incredibly brave and so open and I really want to thank you for showing u p this way.

MELISSA: Thank you. I mean clearly I don’t have this conversation every day. [LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: For a lot of big reasons but it’s definitely a way to stretch my brain a bit, the topic and of course, you think I want to help people who are in a similar situation and stuff and that’s a driving force but at the same time, it’s for me an indicator like if I get emotional, and I’m not even going into detail it’s like, “Shit can I be on stage and talk?” I’m not there yet.

LEAH: It’s okay. You’re doing awesome right where you are. [LAUGHTER]

MELISSA: Thank you.

[MUSIC]

LEAH: Thanks for joining me today on Good Girls Talk About Sex. If you’d like to be a guest on the show,

please e-mail me at leah@goodgirlstalkaboutsex.com

You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube at GoodGirlsTalk

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

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

Public Service Announcements:

Sex is not just about the male partner’s ejaculation, and the male partner’s ejaculation is not your job! For more on this, listen to our conversation at 42:05.

How Healing Happens:

After childhood sexual abuse, Melissa is determined to keep unpacking her experiences and shaping a sex life that feels like actual fun. She knows she is blessed with a good partner. She’s sought therapy, and pays attention. She just plain wants better. The search for real joy has become her driving force. “I’m all about breaking generational issues! That’s just me!”

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

  • 4:15 – Her first memory of sexual pleasure at 16 and having a moment alone that felt differently and purely “good.”
  • 5:50 – Melissa reveals that she experienced childhood trauma around sex.
  • 9:00 – Sex ed (in the 90’s) was mostly watching old (70’s/80’s) videos in school which were biologically oriented. She received a lot of negative messaging around sex—from parents about pregnancy, from her childhood abuse.
  • 15:40 – The repressive effects of growing up Catholic and of childhood sexual trauma continue into college.
  • 17:00 – Her first relationship is with the man who later became her husband; she met him at age 17 in college.
  • 18:10 – She didn’t have sex with her boyfriend initially but the activities they did remind her of something wrong.
  • 18:50 – Melissa describes what it’s like to be energetically divided within the sexual experience by past trauma—part of the brain being devoted to assuring herself she’s safe, and only whatever is left can experience the pleasure.
  • 20:00 – Her boyfriend/husband is the first person she opened up to about the abuse and he suggested getting therapy.
  • 22:50 – She had sex for the first time with her boyfriend (now-husband) 2 years into their relationship.
  • 25:25 – She describes in detail what the body detachment from pleasure was like to experience, and it turns out this is a common trauma response. Also that she performed the acts to please him, not herself.
  • 26:40 – Leah talks about autonomic responses, with or without the experience of actual pleasure.
  • 28:00 – Leah talks about how little girls are socialized into the habit of taking care of others and performing pleasure.
  • 32:50 – Melissa reconciles “ordinary” behaviors with her trauma behaviors, and through trust in her husband she’s able to try new things and through therapy to hold new ideas.
  • 36:00 – Melissa shares her sexual turn-ons.
  • 37:15 – She talks about the impact of timing and motherhood and having to shift mindsets for sex.
  • 38:18 – Sex currently in the marriage is “good” though not “yay” or “joy.”
  • 40:00 – Going to the gym, in addition to therapy, has helped Melissa with health and body image and reaching desired goals while releasing trauma. She’s also trying to consciously transition from thinking of sex as work to thinking of it as fun time.
  • 41:30 – She talks more about what it means to feel like sex is a job.
  • 42:05 – Is it sex if the man doesn’t ejaculate?

The Lowdown (45:33)

  • Do you have sex during your period?
  • What’s the approximate number of sex partners you’ve had?
  • Do you prefer clit stimulation or penetration?
  • What is your favorite way to orgasm during sex?

The Patreon extras for this episode are:

  • $5/month – How having kids has affected Melissa’s relationship with her body and with sex
  • $7/month – The extended Lowdown Q&A

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

Audio Editor – Gretchen Kilby

Music – Nazar Rybak