Danielle is a therapist who has also graduated from the school of life. Her earliest sexual experiences were non-consensual and impacted her for long after the events happened in implicit, explicit, and confusing ways. She found healing within a happy marriage, then suffered a miscarriage with its own series of impacts. She’s doing well now, and still loves a Reverse Cowgirl.
Danielle is a 35-year-old cisgender female. She describes herself as straight, monogamous, married, and pre-menopausal. She describes her body as athletic.
EPISODE TRANSCRIPT (CLICK TO OPEN)
LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk About Sex. I am sex and intimacy coach, Leah Carey, and this is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex. If anything about the previous sentence offends you, turn back now! And if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith 9in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: Hey friends. Welcome back to the final in our series of uncut interviews. As I’ve told you, this last year and a half of isolation and constant stress has been wearing on me and I’ve needed a break. That’s why I’ve taken a couple of months off from making fully produced episodes to give myself some room to breathe. This is the last of the episodes I recorded about a year ago that never got to air. I’ve been offering them in their unedited state, so it would take a bit less effort on my part to get them to you. So, here’s the good news. Next week, we’ll be back with a regular episode.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s settle in for today’s conversation with Danielle. There are a couple of things you should know about this conversation. First, this was recorded early in quarantine when we were all still trying to adjust to a new way of living, so you’ll hear noise from Danielle’s life in this interview including her barking dogs. Also, Danielle is a therapist. While her identity isn’t revealed in this interview, there are still places where she felt that because of her position, it wouldn’t be appropriate to share some things and I support her in that. Danielle is a 35-year-old cisgender female. She describes herself as straight, monogamous, married and premenopausal. She describes her body as athletic. I’m so pleased to introduce Danielle!
Danielle, I am so pleased to have you here.
DANIELLE: Thank you so much for having me, Leah. And I apologize in advance to your listeners for my dog Sydney, who is making his presence known.
LEAH: It’s okay. We are recording during the time of pandemic isolation and this is just what life looks like right now.
LEAH: All right. Let’s get started. The first question I ask everyone is what is your first memory of sexual pleasure?
DANIELLE: My first memory of sexual pleasure. Guide me if this doesn’t exactly answer your question. But I remember the first movie that I sat through all the way from start to finish and it was a love story. It was Cinderella and I remember being so sucked in this world, and will they? Won’t they? Will they find the slipper that fit? And I remember feeling that rush of seeing characters that I had fallen in love with share their first kiss and I was like, “Whoa. What is this?” And then, I started making all my Barbie and Ken dolls do that because I was like, “I need to understand what this thing is.” I was probably four or five.
LEAH: I love that. Yeah. So, was that something that you then started watching movies or paying attention to television looking for that feeling or that experience?
DANIELLE: Yeah. That’s another really good question. There were certain aspects of movies or TV shows what I now understand are the points of tension, so either the inciting incident or the payoffs or a great adventure, wherever there was the most excitement, the most pleasure or the most extreme, I was really curious about that as a little person. So, I would reenact maybe dangerous moments. And by dangerous, I’m saying in movies like All Dogs Go To Heaven or Aladdin like I would roleplay those scenarios and I would also reenact either in my mind or with my toys the romantic elements of those stories too.
LEAH: Yeah. And at what point did you take that from solo play, solo reenactment to wanting to act that out with another person?
DANIELLE: Yeah. So, I wouldn’t call myself boy crazy, but I’d always been interested in boys. And I don’t know how much of this is my own memory or how much of this is memory that I’ve adopted through my parents retelling of it. But I had a boyfriend named William when I was in preschool and kindergarten. But as my boyfriend, we would sit next to each other during show and tell. Sometimes, he would share an extra apple slice with me and I remember feeling emotionally looking back now, what I now know, it was very validating to feel chosen in that way. And I think pretty much from that point on, it was either I had a boyfriend or I didn’t have a boyfriend. But if I didn’t have a boyfriend, I was interested in one.
LEAH: Oh, interesting. From a very young age then you were coupling up.
DANIELLE: Yeah. And there hasn’t been in my adult life and there wasn’t either when I was young, there was always that sense of loyalty like this is my boyfriend even if that lasted three weeks like this is my boyfriend for these very committed three weeks. And then, that might change and that might be a different boyfriend, but I’d be very committed to that one too.
LEAH: And so, at what point did it go from it sounds like more innocent sharing apple slices kind of boyfriend to the, “I want to maybe do more than hold hands. I maybe want to make out with this boyfriend?”
DANIELLE: My first kiss I think it’s interesting because I remember certain moments, but my very first kiss I don’t have a strong emotional attachment to because I think it was playing spin the bottle at camp and I think it was with a person that I wasn’t overly enthused by, so I was like, “Oh, I did that.” I remember the first person I was excited to kiss like my first real, real kiss when I liked them and they liked me and I hoped it would happen, but I didn’t know if it would happen, I had all that tension built, was I’m pretty sure my sophomore year in high school. I think I had little moments here or there, but none that have a strong memory. But the one in my sophomore year, I was like, “Whoa. Body shocks, electricity.” Yeah.
LEAH: And was this someone who you had already been dating for a while or was this a brand-new person?
DANIELLE: So, it’s hard to call it dating because we didn’t go anywhere.
DANIELLE: We didn’t do anything, but I think notes were passed and there were awkward exchanges near our locker. And then, we would walk down the hallways, but I remember he invited me over at his parents’ house to watch a movie and that was before I knew, “Want to come over and watch a movie?” meant, “Want to fool around?”
DANIELLE: So, I was like, “Sure. Yeah. Let’s watch.” I think we watched The Devil’s Advocate with Keanu Reeves.
LEAH: Oh my gosh. I only saw that movie recently for the first time and it’s sexy, intense.
DANIELLE: Let me tell you we probably only saw the first five minutes.
DANIELLE: And then, the rest was just kissing. I think it was kissing on the floor at the foot of his bed because his parents had a rule that het door had to stay open, so we had to get really crafty about where we could have privacy and he was a perfect gentleman. He asked me. He asked for consent before that was even a thing. He was like, “Is it okay if I kiss you?” And I said, “Mm-hmm.” And then, it was a good kiss.
LEAH: It sounds like it was a good make out session, not just a kiss.
DANIELLE: Yeah, very true. Very true.
LEAH: And how long did the two of you continue that relationship? I don’t know if you want to call it a relationship.
DANIELLE: His first name was Eddie. Your question about whether or not I was monogamous, Eddie, I think he was monogamish and I found out shortly thereafter that he was also making out with other girls. And so, I was like, “Thank you next, Eddie.” It was still a great moment. And it’s funny I think it just showed how emotionally invested that I probably wasn’t because I was more like, “Ugh. That’s a bummer, on to the next.”
LEAH: It sounds like it didn’t affect your sense of self like, “I’m not enough or why didn’t he love me the way that I loved him?” in that 15-year-old way.
DANIELLE: Not this one. I’d definitely had those, but no. This one didn’t. It was a really good sweet innocent first make out session and that was pretty much it.
LEAH: Yeah. And so, what happened next? We don’t need to go through every boyfriend, but what was the next big milestone for you?
DANIELLE: Sure. So, I didn’t have a lot of boyfriends or boyfriend-ish in high school. I remember thinking at the time, “Why did it seem like people were coupling off and not me?” And probably because I had a boy that was a friend that I would call my “boyfriend.” And I was doing air quotes during that time. I don’t know why. This isn’t a visual medium.
DANIELLE: That back and forth with boys always seemed to just happen when I was really young. And then, it felt like it came to a screeching halt around 7th or 8th grade year and then I didn’t really have a boyfriend until my junior year, yeah. My junior year, I was 16 and I’m not going to use his first name because it’s pretty distinctive. So, we were in a theater production together. Yeah. He was a grade below me and he was this misunderstood, artistic punk kid and what I realize the qualities that I thought were so interesting then really were he was just an asshole.
DANIELLE: But I was like, “Wow. He doesn’t care what people think.” And now I understand too that’s also the dynamic between co-dependents and narcissists. What we perceive as confidence is really a lack of empathy and I’m not calling this person in my life a narcissist, but I’m just drawing a maybe correlation to something else that I’ve learned over time. But basically, he seemed very confident and very aloof and different than I was as someone who was very much eager to please, liked to hit all my marks, and do things the right way. And I cared about what people thought about me and he just was the opposite of that.
And then at the end of the production, I found out he liked me and we started hanging out. And I remember he sent me a note in school that was a picture of Will Smith and the note was like, “Will you,” I think it was a picture of a horseshoe, it was a series of really funny pictures, but it was basically asking, “Will you date me?” And we did and we dated what felt innocently and fun for maybe a month and then my first sexual experience was forced intercourse with this person.
LEAH: I’m sorry.
LEAH: Are you willing to talk about that a little bit more?
DANIELLE: Sure. I’ll just police myself as I feel like I need, but yeah, feel free to ask questions absolutely.
LEAH: What led up to that encounter? Were you alone? Had you been talking about having sex? Where were you emotionally?
DANIELLE: Yeah. I don’t think I’d ever thought about that actually. We were making out a lot. I’d say a lot of heavy petting, not more than that. And we hadn’t had a conversation about sex, so when it took that turn, it really took me by surprise. And I don’t have much memory of the actual event itself, but what I do remember is shortly thereafter trying to make sure and, of course, knowing what I know now, that makes sense. It can be a common trauma response, but I remember wanting to reassure him and making sure he was okay because he seemed to be upset or have guilt and be really concerned.
And I focused a lot of energy right afterwards reassuring him because during what I also remember is he was saying things to me like, “I love you” during that. And so, either he didn’t know what he was doing or he did. Either way he had a very different experience in that moment than I did. And I get this question a lot and I actually work with a lot of assault survivors in the work that I do, but a question I’ve been asked before was, “Did you say no?” And the honest answer is no I didn’t. I withdrew and I cried the whole time. I didn’t move. I didn’t react. I didn’t response. I just froze inside myself and then emotionally detached. I just disassociated and then came back in my body shortly after it was done.
LEAH: Yeah. So, obviously in your work you know this, but I’m just going to pause here for a second to affirm that just because we don’t say no does not mean we have given consent that it is still an assault. It is still a non-consensual act even if it’s not violent. The only consensual act is one which you are actively and enthusiastically saying yes. Just because you haven’t said no doesn’t mean that you have said yes. And it sounds like that’s very much what happened. And I can really relate with that myself. All of the experiences I’ve had, I would have told you at the time that I was consenting because I wasn’t saying yes. But now as I look back, a lot of those were non-consensual experiences.
DANIELLE: Yeah. I think to protect myself for about two, two and a half years after what I told myself because there’s also a lot of things that we’re told about sex before it happens particularly in school like we’re told it’s painful. We’re told that you bleed. We’re told that it could be awkward or uncomfortable. We’re handed a set of expectations and also a lot of expectations that boys are supposed to want it more and girls are supposed to desire less. And so, it fits a lot of the stories that I was told about what that experience would be. And he was someone that I really liked and I really cared about and he told me he loved me. I’m like, “Gosh. If he told me he loved me, then that must be what this was” because the alternative would mean that I got really hurt and it was easier at that moment in time to write that off as just up-lip and a really uncomfortable experience than to actually process what that meant and I spent a lot of time after the fact, a lot of processing of value.
LEAH: So, in the aftermath of that, did you remain in relationship with him or did you break up with him? You did?
LEAH: And that also is not uncommon.
DANIELLE: Knowing what I know now, I needed to make it okay for myself and also staying with him meant for whatever reason, it meant I wasn’t a victim. And something that I’ve articulated later too to different people that I’ve worked with through my years through my own healing like my own therapist and counselors, friends, mentors is that for me, I wasn’t conscious of this at the time, but it felt like he had taken something from me and I needed to get that back from him. And that meant either from getting his approval or getting him to remain interested in me and it really took me a long time to realize that the thing that I thought was gone was really never taken from me in that my healing and I wasn’t going to find anything more about myself through him or any other person. But that took time. That took significant time for me to learn.
LEAH: Yeah. So, how long did the two of you remain together?
DANIELLE: I believe he broke up with me about a month after that and then we still we did an on-again off-again back and forth for about maybe two, three, four months after that. It would be off for a period of time and on for a period of time. He got this really played out this tortured artist thing, so I remember one of the ways where he came back when he drew a picture of me as a solar system and I was like, “Oh my god. He’s so deep. He just gets it.” Ugh. Thinking about it now, it makes me sick.
LEAH: Yeah. I’m sorry. And I assume you were continuing to be sexual with each other through that time?
DANIELLE: A few more times, yeah.
LEAH: Yeah. Would you in today’s understanding call those other times consensual?
DANIELLE: Oh, yes. I would call them consensual. Because the first time my arms were held. I was pinned down and that wasn’t the case the other previous few times.
LEAH: Not being pinned down doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve consented though. It could still be very coercive.
DANIELLE: Here’s what I’ll say. So, my body responded to those interactions. It responded, it had pleasant response. But knowing what I know now about healthy, wholehearted mind body, all of that connected wonderful sex, knowing what I know now about it, I wouldn’t call those great sexual experiences even after the fact. Yeah. But I think it’s too hard for me to answer that honestly because I was trying to so hard each time after that first assault, I was trying so hard to prove to myself that I was okay. So, I don’t know if I can really honestly answer that.
LEAH: Yeah. It’s super confusing and I think that that’s actually really important to put out there and just normalize the fact that that happens for trauma survivors. And also, to say that just because your body has an autonomic pleasure response does not mean that you are actually consenting. Those two things, it is possible to have a non-consensual experience in which your body goes into an orgasm response and that is deeply confusing because our assumption is if I had a pleasure response, that must have meant that I was asking for it and that’s not necessarily the case. Our body has automatic autonomic responses and often when we’re being assaulted, that’s not going to happen, but sometimes it does. And it does not mean in any way that you were party to your assault.
DANIELLE: I actually didn’t know that that even was possible until I actually heard I can’t remember what year this was, early 2000s, Tyler Perry was interviewed on Oprah back when she had her original Oprah Winfrey Show and he talked about his own sexual abuse and sexual assault when he was a young little boy. And he talked about how he felt like his body failed him or betrayed him because as a young, young boy, his body would respond in the way that your body when it’s stimulated. And I remember that to this day it was like a lightning bolt just shot through my nervous system that that was even possible. Yeah. That was just a really powerful validating thing to hear because I didn’t know until that moment that that was even a thing because I think I was in college then. And so, I was nowhere near in a mental track, so yeah.
LEAH: So, after things finally ended with this boy, what was the next big event in your romantic and sexual life?
DANIELLE: I went through a series of I think I armored up and went on the offensive with guys. If boys showed me interest or acted interested in me, I would act really tough. I would act aloof. I did the opposite of vulnerability and people pleasing. What I understand now too is that was my shame coming through. Something must be wrong with you if you’re interested in me. But it almost became like a game like I wanted the attention and then I would push it away when I got it.
And I didn’t let anyone else get close until maybe freshman year of college was the first boyfriend I had had since then and again knowing what I know now, he was probably my first true boyfriend like true sweet innocent love, incredibly generous heart, incredibly generous just emotionally, physically, and all of those ways. He wanted to take care of me and honor me and it was during that relationship I think that I came to terms with what my first experience was and how wrong it was. And unfortunately, that relationship, I think he took the brunt of a lot of my pain coming to the surface that I had spent the rest of high school stuffing down.
LEAH: I want to just back up to the first half of that answer for a moment where you’re talking about wanting the attention but then pushing it away when it came. I think you and I can both recognize that as a trauma response and it is very much what the boy on the other side of interaction will experience that and then shame the girl for being a cock tease. And I think it’s interesting that’s the first time that’s clicked in for me in quite such a concrete way that this thing that boys experience and shame girls for is often actually a trauma response in the girls, but nobody has language for that.
DANIELLE: And thinking about that a little bit more too, looking back at just about everyone I dated after that first, I was no longer interested in the dark and mysterious guys.
DANIELLE: I want them bright, shiny, borderline on an improv comedy true. I wanted the bubbly effervescent, the sweeter, the more wholesome, the better because knowing what I know now, I was really craving safety. Yeah. Bad boys, tall dark and mysterious, no. I haven’t actually thought about that until this moment, but I didn’t want a mysterious, ugh, even saying that, if someone’s got that brooding like James Dean, that dark, misunderstood, I’m like, “You need therapy.”
DANIELLE: It’s just, “Ugh. I don’t have time for you.”
DANIELLE: There are probably many threads that connect back to my own experiences that made that.
LEAH: That’s really interesting, yeah. So, with that first boyfriend in college, you said that he bore the brunt of a lot of that. What did that look like in your relationship?
DANIELLE: A lot of crying, crying after sex or needing to stop sex to cry and not knowing where it was coming from. And bless him, he never guilted me or shamed me, made me feel like there was a problem. Our relationship could be summed up as just a big bear hug. He just was really sweet and generous. He was completely confused. He had no idea really what was going on or what was wrong, but I think he maybe had more intelligence that I’m giving him credit for because he knew enough to know that probably what I just needed was to be held and let it out.
LEAH: That’s pretty amazing for a man in his late teens and early 20s. Yeah. Had you shared with him your earlier experiences? Were you cognizant enough of your own experience to be able to share it?
DANIELLE: Not until that relationship and actually I remember really the awareness. It went from a suppressed realization to in the front of my consciousness when Kobe Bryant was accused of assault however many years ago that was, maybe 15 years ago. And I remember working in retail and I was in the break room. I used to work at Coldwater Creek.
LEAH: I love that store.
DANIELLE: They’re not here anymore, but the women who would sell the merchandise on the floor who knew the product, but they always hired a couple of young whippersnappers to run the registers, so that was what I did. But the place was always filled with the best baked goods in the break room.
DANIELLE: So, I remember being in the break room and I overheard a group of women on their break talking about this event that they were hearing about on the news and they all had a different take. And I remember one woman in particular was just really indignant. She was, “What did that woman think was going to happen if she went up to his hotel room?” And there was just a lot of really strong opinions and I remember feeling stuck. I couldn’t physically move and I just started to perspire heavily. It was running down my face and they looked like tears. But it definitely wasn’t tears. It was perspiration and I felt stuck and frozen and I was sweating. And then I felt nauseous.
It may have been close to a panic attack. I don’t think it fully got there, but my whole body has this physical visceral response. And I had this thought clear as day, “Oh my god. I was assaulted. Oh my god.” And there were just waves after waves after waves of, “Oh my god. This is what happened to me. Oh my god. This happened to me. This happened to me.” And then I didn’t know that that happened to me. And that was the second wave of shame that came quickly after the first crash.
The second crash was, “You didn’t know it. You didn’t say. You didn’t talk about it” because when I was really, really young, maybe gosh, I don’t know, 7 or 8, I was pinned down by some boys behind a playground at a daycare center. And luckily, one of the daycare providers caught what was happening before it escalated too far. But I remember in that moment, telling my parents and went to the police and made a police report. And so in my mind, it is particularly too what we understand about assault in the media like you’re supposed to be really solemn and you’re supposed to look a little broken and act a little broken and bruised and then you have to stand up for it and you have to fight. You’re in a court room or make a police report and it had to tick these boxes for it to be real or for it to be valid.
And so, I felt I was actively grieving and processing that experience and also feeling like there was nowhere to put it. I didn’t have a place. I didn’t have a report to make. I didn’t want to care to find him or if I could find him like, “You did this to me.” And so, the boyfriend relationship I was in at that time, he just sat and listened to whatever I felt like sharing at that time or whatever I needed to share, kind of helped me through it.
LEAH: Something I didn’t ask you about from your younger years is masturbation. Did you discover masturbation at some point during your earlier years?
DANIELLE: Yeah. I don’t remember my exact age, but yeah, I did. And my parents did a really good job at least I feel like, I mean, I’m biased, they’re my parents, but I feel like my parents did a really good job of making as much as they could making sex and my sexual body parts an open topic of discussion. It was open if I had a question or if I was confused about something or wanted to understand something. I felt like they were a safe space, both of them. My dad at different times and my mom at different times.
And so, I don’t remember us talking about masturbation, but I remember when I did discover it and when that became a part of my sexual makeup, I never remember feeling shame or secretive or this was wrong. And I don’t even remember because I often hear this something with clients or even friends too of how kids have their own heliocentric view of, “Oh my gosh. I must be the only one who’s doing this or the only one who knows about this.” I didn’t feel weird or unique or different in any way by that. It just was, “That was fun. Let’s go do something else now.”
LEAH: So, the reason why I wanted to go back and pick that up is a question about whether during this time that you’re working out the old trauma response with the following boyfriends, were you continuing to have sexual pleasure in either partnered sex or in masturbation solo sex?
DANIELLE: So, no. I think that shut down until my first college relationship, yeah. No, in those push pull, there weren’t any trysts or sexual encounters with other people and I hope I’m an accurate historian in this because I don’t feel like I did. But to be honest with you, it’s very possible that I might have, but I don’t think so.
LEAH: I don’t think any of us is a really accurate historian.
LEAH: But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the feelings that we recorded and the experiences we recorded.
DANIELLE: I think I was more interested in the attention and the power that I thought I had than sex at that time. I felt powerful when someone was interested and I felt powerful when I could push it away. And probably because I didn’t feel powerful in that moment where my choice was taken away, I think I was reclaiming that power or that artificial sense of dominance, but I don’t remember that translating in more sex.
LEAH: At what point do you feel like you were able if at all to really fully reclaim yourself as a sexual being?
DANIELLE: That’s a good question too. If I’m being as honest as I can be in this moment, I don’t think it was until I met my husband actually because I understood I think love in a relationship in a deeper way. And I was at the beginning and it just continues to evolve that way, just that deepened sense of safety and intimacy. And I hope I’m not speaking for him too much, but I do think that one of the joys we have found in our committed relationship because we’ve been together now, in total our relationship we’ve been together ten and a half years and we’ve been married for five that by continuing to look within ourselves and to each other and our relationship, this deepened sense of intimacy has made that part of our relationship better. I think frequency and there’s definitely been ebbs and flows and flubs.
DANIELLE: We’ve had accidents too.
DANIELLE: But yeah, I don’t think I fully reclaimed all of that and all that sex can be until I met him.
LEAH: So, it sounds like you have a pretty fulfilling sex life. Is that an accurate representation?
DANIELLE: Yeah. I think we both wanted more.
DANIELLE: I think we both wanted more. I think for both of us, there’s a big element too. We feel desire with each other like we feel desire for each other and that is I think in terms of ego or esteem, it’s esteem building to feel wanted. And I think we both have I don’t know if it’s a personality trait or exactly what it is, but we both can get tunnel vision with our goals. And so, I think sometimes what happens is we feel so secure in our relationship like, “Oh, we’ve got this. This is good.” So, we’ll just put this over here and then we’ll just direct all of our energy and attention into careers or goals or jobs or this. And I think when that happens too long or that process goes unchecked for too long, we start to feel that ache like we’re missing each other. And so, we try to recognize that and tend to that as often as we can because then you feel like you’re taking each other for granted and that doesn’t feel good. Yeah.
LEAH: Yeah. Before we started recording, you mentioned that you did have a miscarriage. Was that during this relationship with your husband?
DANIELLE: Yeah. It was last year last June.
LEAH: I’m sorry. So, is trying to get pregnant an active part of your relationship?
DANIELLE: Yeah. It is. It was for about eight months when we discovered we were pregnant and then I was pregnant for 13 weeks before we miscarried. And then just about as soon as I was physically able, but my body wasn’t. My body really wasn’t. I think back to hormones back to balance for probably 10 to 12 weeks after the fact. I was so surprised it took that long because I thought for sure that first month, we’re just going to get at it, do this. That was probably me also managing my own anxiety and grief just trying to feel like I could gain control of it again. But that’s been a part of our intimate life for a while now actually now that I think about it.
LEAH: And how does that affect your sex life?
DANIELLE: It definitely felt like pressure in the very, very beginning. We both felt the pressure in different ways and sex became scheduled. And I almost said scheduled and scripted, it didn’t go scripted, but we followed a calendar. We were tracking and taking tests and then, “Is there something wrong with me? Is there something wrong with him?” Luckily, thankfully, it’s a blessing and also a frustrating question mark when you have control issues, but we both are healthy as far as any test has shown. That was a lovely moment. I love it when you can see the little boy come out in grown men, but it was like he came home with the best report card.
DANIELLE: Like, “Babe, my motility and my count, yes! Let’s tack this up on the fridge!”
DANIELLE: I’m like, “That’s good, babe. Good for you.”
DANIELLE: No, I think that definitely impacted things more so in the first six months and it probably still plays a role now. But again, I think there’s some things that when you look back upon reflection and get more clearer than they are presently and so, how it may be affecting this currently, I don’t know if I’m a good judge of that. It feels easier than it did in the beginning.
LEAH: So, it’s not that same like, “We have to do it today because today is the day at 3 PM?”
DANIELLE: We’re still tracking my ovulation cycle, so that’s still a part of it. But I think because in an odd way, we’ve had it and lost it, I think in a way, a silver lining that I painted for myself is that, “Okay, we know we can do this. We’ve done it once. We know we can naturally.” We didn’t have any assistance the first time we conceived. So, I think we’re dancing or rather maybe I’m dancing between uncertainty and trust, so there are moments where I’m uncertain how and why this is so challenging and then there are moments where I’ve stepped into, “We’ve done this once. We’ve had it. We’ve gone through a terrible experience and we’ve come out the other side too. We can do this. We’re going to get through this.” So, I think it ebbs and flows between both spaces.
LEAH: And so, we’re recording this during the time of isolation and pandemic. I can’t ask you how it’s affected your hormone levels because that’s probably not something you know.
LEAH: But do you feel like the stress of this situation is affecting your ability to be really present to baby making?
DANIELLE: Yeah. So, yes and no. So, I think in a way that I couldn’t have predicted because what we were doing for the last two months, we were doing a process where I would take basically an estrogen boost. I almost said COVID. Oh, geez.
DANIELLE: I think it’s called Clomid. It’s Clomid. And so, it’s like an estrogen boost and I would take that from day four to day nine of my cycle, my monthly cycle and that’s supposed to send all of these good juices to my ovaries and make what I would jokingly call a super egg. So, this egg is ready to go because what my doctor believes is that part of what this could be is more of a timing issue than anything else. So, it might be a delayed cycle, so trying to hit the bullseye is more what we’re focusing on. So, anyway, the Clomid gets the egg ready and then I administer a trigger shot to myself and that gives us a 12 hour window of, “Okay. We have to do this in this time frame because there’s a good chance that an egg drop is going to happen then.”
So, we did two months of that and March or April, I’m losing track of time, would have been month three of that. But that had to get put on hold because of the social distancing and doctors need to protect themselves and this is not essential in the eyes of medicine. But to bring this back to your original question, in a way, I actually think I don’t know if I could have given myself permission to take that month off of putting my body through that, but that decision being made for me I feel in this moment is actually a big blessing.
Because the first time we went through that treatment, I completely convinced myself, “This is it. This is the missing link. This is the missing ingredient and this is the thing that we’re going to need that’s going to make this work.” And it didn’t and that was devastating. It was a different round of grief. And then, the month after that, we did it and I was a little less attached to the outcome, but still really hoping to see that plus side on the test and we didn’t. And so, I don’t know again if I could have had the strength to say, “You know what? I just think I need some time off of this rollercoaster.” But that choice is made for me and I feel grateful for that.
So, this month, we’ve focused feeling good together and making the experience just more of a pleasure and connection. And as far as my hormones, I guess here’s my gauge to that. I feel more grounded and centered. I tend to run on the anxious side. I haven’t felt as anxious, but I also think too something that I think is a gift from my grief from last year taught me was that when there’s something so acute and so loud, for me, what it does is it dampens the head chatter. It dampens all that noise, that background noise. And in a way, this cultural climate, it was so loud outside of me that my internal environment got a lot quieter and I got more still thankfully.
But again, I’m going to check myself because I’ve watched a couple of nature documentaries recently and sometimes things don’t go so well in nature and sometimes the cute little fuzzy animal gets snatched in its dinner for a toothier animal. And I lost it. When I mean lost it, it was like watching Sophie’s Choice for the first time. I may not be as self-aware as I’m presenting.
DANIELLE: Or it might be displacing, I might be displacing my fear and my anxiety and all my emotions into nature documentaries because I don’t have a channel for them in my day-to-day. So, that’s my answer.
LEAH: I love that self-awareness.
LEAH: What is a question or concern that you have about sex in general or your sex life in particular?
DANIELLE: So, a question or concern that I have about sex or my sex life in general, hmm.
LEAH: You don’t need to force it if there’s not one.
DANIELLE: Yeah. No. So, one thing that I’ve not experienced, but I know that I’ve seen in other people is the ability to deeply, deeply love and cherish and care someone that they’re with and also develop very strong feelings and arguably equally strong attachment to someone else too and hold space for both. I have clients that are in open relationships. I have clients that are very fluid. I’ve seen it modelled either in my professional experience or even in my personal experience, my dear close friends, but there is definitely a spectrum and a range of what commitment feels like to one person versus what commitment feels like to another or what love and desire, permission, all of those things, yeah. So, I guess it’s not even really a question. It’s just more of that’s an area of relationships that I’m curious about, maybe open to your thoughts on. But again, it’s not really a great question. Mine wasn’t because I didn’t really offer one.
LEAH: I think it’s an interesting place for thought experiments because the truth is that just like some people are gay and some people are straight and a lot of people are somewhere in between and you only really have specific knowledge of where you are on the spectrum, that same thing is true about spectrum for monogamy to polyamory and everything in between.
I know that during my time of sexual exploration and sexual adventure, I went full board into non-monogamous dating and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the opportunity to date and have fun and have sex with whoever presented themselves to me as an attractive possibility and to maybe have sex with three different people in a week or whatever. And ultimately, that was not a life choice that I could make. It became very clear to me that I am a primarily monogamous creature. I was able to do that because I wasn’t investing fully in any of those relationships and once I met someone who I really wanted to invest with, it became very easy to let all of those other relationships go.
And a significant portion of my friends are polyamorous. And so, I watched them navigate in this and it is very clear that those multiple connections, those multiple investments are extremely real. I think that because monogamy is the expected cultural this is the way it’s supposed to be, that it’s common for monogamous people to look at polyamorous people and be like, “They just have commitment issues or they’re just fooling themselves” or some version of saying those aren’t real relationships. And that is absolutely not the case.
And one of the ways that I have seen that so strongly is during this time of social isolation when my poly friends, those of them who are living with a primary or a nesting partner, are in a time of “forced monogamy” and that is really challenging for them because their connections with these other partners are very real and they’re having to mourn the fact that they cannot be with their other partners and spend quality connected time with them. So, it’s something that I find really interesting to be able to watch and learn about and explore while also knowing that that’s not a lifestyle that is appropriate for me.
DANIELLE: Yeah. I have the gift I think of being on a very intimate and confidential side of someone processing their life and their experience. And so, I definitely see enough, felt enough and experienced enough to agree with you fully that, yeah, these connections are real and powerful. I think maybe one of my own shortcomings or biases is wanting to feel like I can relate to everyone or wanting to feel like I can relate to every experience. And that is one that I have that I really can’t and I think it’s almost easier to or at least for me, it’s been if I don’t understand something to just dismiss it as not being credible as opposed to getting curious about it. And it’s lovely now to be at this stage of my life and doing what I’m doing to have those biases or limits in my own experience or limits in my makeup to be challenged and then my view to be broadened just because I love that. It just makes life more interesting.
LEAH: Yeah. I agree completely. Yeah. All right. So, I’m going to transition us into the Q&A. These are more pointed and more explicit questions.
LEAH: And you’re like, “What’s more explicit than what we’ve already talked about?”
LEAH: And I understand that there may be some of these that you’re going to choose not to answer. Okay. Great. All right. Do you have sex during your period?
LEAH: What’s the approximate number of sex partners you’ve had?
LEAH: Are you generally more active or more passive during love making?
LEAH: Do you prefer clit stimulation or penetration?
LEAH: And you’re welcome to expand on these answers.
DANIELLE: They don’t have to be rapid fire, yeah.
LEAH: No, it doesn’t have to be.
DANIELLE: It’s like chocolate or peanut butter? Give me a Reese’s cup please.
LEAH: Do you think it’s generally easy or challenging for you to orgasm?
DANIELLE: When I’m at my best, super, duper easy. That’s usually a good indication that I’m not in touch with something else that I need to pay attention to or at least that’s been the case for me in this stage of my life being 35.
LEAH: When it’s easy?
DANIELLE: When it’s challenging, when it’s just not happening or I’m finding myself struggling or getting frustrated with that usually means is that there’s some other area of my life that I’m not tending to that needs my attention. Yeah. That’s probably what I’ll say about that. Yeah, but it’s usually a good indication that, “Oh, you’re not on top of something else.”
LEAH: Got you. Have you ever faked an orgasm?
LEAH: Is that something that you’ve had to since you’ve been married or with your current partner?
LEAH: What is your favorite way to orgasm during sex?
DANIELLE: Favorite way?
LEAH: Yeah like is there a particular position or a particular activity?
DANIELLE: So, I just watched, there was this new comedy special on Netflix by Neal Brennan who is the writing partner of Dave Chappelle for The Chappelle Show. He has this great bit. It’s called 3 Mics. I highly encourage it. It’s really, really fun, but it’s also very poignant and touching and it’s a really beautiful comedic piece of art. But anyway, he does this one bit about how people talk about how there are 180 different sexual positions and, of course, the joke is like, “No, there’s not. There’s like five.” And so, he goes through the different basic positions. And my husband and I we were watching it together and we were just cracking up watching it. But I think probably my favorite is on top facing reverse is probably my favorite.
LEAH: Can you orgasm from intercourse alone without any other stimulation?
DANIELLE: I have and I can. It is less common that that’s how it happens though.
LEAH: Do you prefer the orgasm from masturbating or from sex with a partner?
DANIELLE: Hmm, gosh that feels like another peanut butter and chocolate question.
DANIELLE: Yeah. Sometimes, when it’s just me, I like that because it’s just about me, whatever feels good or whatever I’m in the mood for that time and then sometimes I want it to be an experience. So, yeah, I don’t think I prefer one over the other.
LEAH: What kind of touch do you enjoy most?
DANIELLE: I think not just sexually, but I think in all ways, I love massage. I love, love, love, did I mention love? Love massage.
DANIELLE: It’s a regular part of my self-care. Of course, not during quarantine and social distancing and all that, but I love massage. I love it when my husband massages me. My mom and I during holidays will trade neck rubs. We’ll give a pat on the other and then we’ll just swap trading neck rubs with each other. My girlfriends and I back before a lot of my friends started having kids, we would go on little trips together because a lot of them have very young kids right now, so we’ll get back to that soon. But anyway, we would do hair therapy where we would just play with each other’s hair, braid each other’s hair, just do that sweet little touch that I just love that’s not exactly massage, but just sometimes we would even trade neck rubs. At one point in my life, gosh, when was this? College? I think it was college. I think tried positioning like a theater exercise but I basically did a massage train.
DANIELLE: And that massage trains were my favorite. I could get a massage train and do any kind of social situation. I was doing a really good job.
LEAH: I love that. What are your hard red lines? Your absolute nos in sex?
DANIELLE: So, without getting into any of the specifics because I’m not comfortable getting too specific, but I will say that I don’t like the feeling of something being done to me or on me. If it’s not an experience with me and it’s not something we’re experiencing together, if it’s something someone wants to do to me then I shut off. And I’m like, “No. hard no.”
LEAH: Yeah. I get that. Are there sexual things you’ve tried before that you never want to do again?
LEAH: Moving on.
LEAH: How do you feel about your partner masturbating without you?
DANIELLE: I encourage it. I encourage it.
LEAH: Do you have hair down there or are you bare?
DANIELLE: I’m going to pass. I have no problem telling you, but I’m just thinking about that being in the world, so I’m going to pass on that one.
LEAH: Yeah. All right.
LEAH: I’m actually going to skip a couple of these because, yeah, I feel like they’re probably going to be the same. Do you enjoy dirty talk during sex?
DANIELLE: Honestly, I get immature with that and I can’t even think of the last time I was in a situation where that came up, but I do get immature with it and then I just start to laugh, one or two times I remember that happening.
LEAH: Do you enjoy laughter during sex?
DANIELLE: Yes, always. I don’t take the act of sex too seriously. But I just find that the more laughter to me I think runs parallel to safety. If I’m laughing, I’m feeling relaxed in whatever it is I’m doing. And so, yeah, I think it just helps me to have that permission to, “Let me just change positions.” And then I slip a little and I like being able to laugh at that kind of thing.
LEAH: Yeah. What is your favorite part of your body?
DANIELLE: I like my neck and décolletage. I like wearing shirts or clothes or dresses that accentuate that.
LEAH: What’s your least favorite part of your body?
DANIELLE: It used to be my skin. I’ve had precancerous cells removed that basically they’re dysplastic nevus I think is what it’s called. It’s these cells that can turn into melanoma. And so, I’ve had to have several removed and biopsy and test it and gone back in to take more tissue. And before that, there was a lot of dealing with acne and hormonal acne, which ugh. I just hated that whole cycle. And so, I remember the first time I saw the movie Face/Off with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage and I was like, “God, if I could just swap skin with someone, I would do that.” I don’t feel that way as much now, but I would say, ayah, I guess that’ll be my answer because I don’t know if I want to go picking for a flaw.
LEAH: Yeah. I support you in that.
LEAH: What belief did you have about sex as a child or teenager that you wish you could correct her on now?
DANIELLE: So, as open as I said I felt like my parents were about talking to me about sex, there was this unspoken agreement not just in my home, but in the world which really speaks to the heart of I think why your podcast is so beautiful and important and the message it’s putting out to the world is fantastic. But that there were certain rules that I needed to ascribe to. It’s okay to explore, but don’t have too many partners. It’s okay to enjoy sex, but also make sure that you’re being safe. Don’t be risky. It’s okay to be provocative or explore your dress, but you don’t want to invite the wrong kind of attention. So again, that wasn’t explicitly in my home, but it’s a pervasive feeling and I think the qualifier of the word “too.” Don’t be too much. Don’t want too much. Don’t ask for too much. Don’t do too much, but don’t be inexperienced like lady in the street, free in the bed like that whole seesaw or teeter totter of what’s too much, what’s asking too much, what’s wanting too much. And I think trying to juggle all that and get off is impossible.
DANIELLE: So, I think if I could have just told my sweet innocent little sexually developing self, trust your pleasure. Just trust your pleasure and let that guide you. When you don’t feel safe, honor that. When it doesn’t feel good, say something. Just honor that gut instinct. Because I think when I didn’t honor that, it’s usually when I got hurt and that’s by no means me blaming myself at all, but I can look back and see that there were moments, there were these feelings where I’m like, “Gosh, I didn’t like the way he just said that to me” or “I didn’t really care for the way that interaction went” or “That felt a little harsh or disrespectful.” And I feel like trusting those little breadcrumbs and also following the things that feel good, it’s not just trusting the discomfort, but also honoring the pleasure. I’ll have more of that, please.
LEAH: Yes. I love that. Danielle, this has been such a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time and opening up in the way that you have. I really appreciate you being here.
DANIELLE: Thank you so much. This has been an absolute pleasure and I’m just honored to be able to be present with your listeners and your audience and thank you again for your time.
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!
- 3:10 – Danielle shares her first memory of sexual pleasure, watching Cinderella at age 4-5 and being sucked in by the “will they/won’t they” and the power of the first kiss. She recalls being seeking dedicated attention and commitment, even in pre-school.
- 8:00 – She has her first kiss. It’s magical until she finds out he’s kissing other girls too.
- 11:40 – She meets her first bad boy – a tortured-artist type. Non-consensual intercourse occurs. A lack of “no” is not a “yes.”
- 20:30 – The body can still have an autonomic pleasure response when there is abuse or coercion.
- 24:00 – Danielle talks about her first real love, her college boyfriend who is a deeply good human dude. A lot of processing of her past experiences ends up happening on his time. The Kobe Bryant assault coverage triggers her in the breakroom at work; she spontaneously recalls an assault by a group of boys at age 7. Waves of memory and pain break over her for a while.
- 33:27 – She opens up about what sex was like while she processed her trauma. She reclaims her sexuality within the safety and intimacy she finds with her husband.
- 38:10 – Danielle talks about experiencing miscarriage last year, her hopes for having children, and their marriage bed turning into a micromanagement project: how to make a baby when great sex isn’t enough, and how to prevent that from spoiling the great sex.
- 47:10 Danielle is curious about how people function in non-monogamous relationship styles and what this means about our ability to love and connect across the commitment and desire spectrums.
THE LOWDOWN (53:22)
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