Chandra grew up in the 7th Day Adventist church, which she equates to a cult. She faults the church for being an educational, social, and religious system that neither acknowledges nor teaches that consent exists for women. She became (mildly) rebellious, experimented with illicit hand-holding, got married, got out, and then embarked on a season of experimentation.
Chandra is a 29-year-old, cisgender female. She grew up in the 7th Day Adventist Church in the United States and describes herself as mixed race including Black, white, Chinese, and east Indian. She is bisexual, single, and has no children. She said her preferred relationship style is “honest.”. She describes her body as average.
EPISODE TRANSCRIPT (CLICK TO OPEN)
LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk About Sex. I am sex and intimacy coach, Leah Carey, and this is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex. If anything about the previous sentence offends you, turn back now! And if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going it to get it from me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: Hey friends. Welcome to our new every other week schedule. And it’s hard to believe, but we’re just two episodes away from our 100th episode. And I’d love for you to be part of it. I get so many amazing emails and DMs about what you’ve learned, how listening to this show has made a difference for you. And I’d love to feature some of your voices during that 100th episode as a celebration of all the amazing conversations we’ve had in this space.
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And one more reminder before we get into the meat of the episode, I’m currently working on the second draft of the memoir of my sexual healing journey and I’ve decided to let you read the book as I’m working on it. Every other week, I’m sending a few pages of the book out to my email list. This is the first time anyone outside my very small circle gets to read about my journey from repression to healing. If you’d like to be a first reader, go to leahcarey.com/book and enter your email address. I promise your address is safe with me.
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Okay. Now let’s turn our attention to today’s guest, Chandra. I’ve talked before about my fascination with people who’ve left cults. Chandra hosts a podcast called Cult Evaded where she talks about her childhood background in extreme religious environments. You can find a link to her podcast on the Show Notes.
Chandra is a 29-year-old cisgender female. She grew up Seventh-day Adventist in the United States and describes herself as mixed race including black, white, Chinese, and East Indian. She’s bisexual, single, and has no children. She said her preferred relationship style is “honest” without particular parameters on what that might look like. She describes her body as average. I’m so pleased to introduce Chandra!
Chandra, I am really excited to talk with you. We’ve met through a podcasting group, but we’ve had virtually no conversation on this topic, so I absolutely have no idea what stories you’re bringing to the table today and I’m very excited to have conversation with you.
CHANDRA: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
LEAH: Awesome. Let’s start where I start every conversation which is what is your first memory of sexual desire?
CHANDRA: It’s a jumble for me. I don’t remember a specific instance coming out strongly. I more so remember curiosity and the idea that there was something more, but not knowing what it was and not being able to get a clean answer from anybody on what this mystery was.
LEAH: How old were you when you started having that curiosity?
CHANDRA: I was probably six.
LEAH: Yeah. Do you remember what kinds of questions you might have been asking? What was your way of trying to get information from the adults around you?
CHANDRA: I asked the standard where babies come from. I remember asking a question that didn’t have anything to do specifically with sex, but all of the adults avoided it like the plague and I couldn’t figure out why. And so, it just made me more curious. I didn’t really realize what I was asking though.
LEAH: Do you remember what that question was?
CHANDRA: I was asking about love and relationships and why people got married and the standard when two people love each other came up, I was like, “Oh. Got it. Super clear on this. So, if a man and a man like each other and they really care about each other, they can get married. If a woman and another woman love each other, they can get married.” And all of the adults panicked, “No, no, no.”
CHANDRA: And I just was like, “I don’t understand why.” And everyone was handling it as they were because they didn’t want to tell me what they were leaving out.
LEAH: Yeah. So, before we started recording, one of the questions I always ask is if there’s a religion that you grew up in that had a significant effect on you. And you did grow up in a religious community, so I assume that that has a big impact on how people were responding to you.
CHANDRA: Absolutely yes.
LEAH: So, can you talk a little bit about what the religion was and what the messages around sexuality were for you?
CHANDRA: Yes. I was raised Seventh-day Adventist and there was virtually no information on sex available to us growing up. It was not something that we ever spoke about which was part of the reason when it came up in this conversation, everyone was so uncomfortable and afraid to talk about it. But it was only spoken of in regards to being married man to woman, woman to man as a couple after dating or rather courting, but specifically, that person. And it wouldn’t really be talked about before that aside from being wrong or taboo or what kind of person would talk about that even.
LEAH: It was that shameful for you.
CHANDRA: It was very shameful.
LEAH: Yeah. And so, was there a time at which in your growing up people did start talking about it in order to prepare you for what to expect when you got married or was that just not a topic at all ever?
CHANDRA: No. We watched a lot of nature shows, so I understood it within the context of the animal kingdom. But we also didn’t study science in the conventional terms. It was creation science and it was very limited in scope. So, I understood animals do that, but I didn’t connect that to people.
In the history documentaries we watched, I remember one specific one that was talking about a queen who was very comfortable with her sexuality and my parents freaked out and turned off the TV and told us to go straight to bed, which made me even more curious because she was, of course, married. If she was married, she couldn’t do anything wrong. That was the understanding that I had. These things you could only talk about when you’re married, but when you’re married it’s okay, so why couldn’t we talk about that? Why couldn’t we understand what was going on?
LEAH: So, if you look back at that now from your adult vantage point, what’s the answer to that question? Why could you not talk about it in the context of marriage?
CHANDRA: In my opinion, I know that show was not appropriate for our age group. But I think that could have varied if we could have been prepared with another conversation outside of the media. If we were already aware of the facts of life and procreation in general, it wouldn’t have been an issue. It simply would have been historical information.
LEAH: Sure. So, you mentioned that you studied creationism, was there any human reproduction or human biology that was included in those science lessons?
CHANDRA: No. The only time I could remember studying any form of reproduction was in high school. I was 17 and a sophomore and we discussed how flowers reproduce and create seeds. That was the first time I remember having any discussion around reproduction even in a classroom setting.
LEAH: Wow. And was that a public high school or was that a church-based high school?
CHANDRA: It was not church-based. It was separate and independent of the conference, but everyone there was of the same faith.
LEAH: Got you. So, it’s a subject that would have been carefully avoided.
CHANDRA: Yes. In a strange sense as well because we also had purity week at school which was a private weekend where the boys would be separated from the girls and each would just basically be shamed for their sexuality or any interest in it separately, so that it could be appropriate and in a nice safe container.
LEAH: So, I know that certain Christian denominations have purity rings and have a little contract that they sign. What did that look like for you with this purity week in the Seventh-day Adventism?
CHANDRA: At that point, I had already started experimenting, so I knew enough not to tell anybody I had experimented at all. And I just sat in the back and was the bad kid who laughed at everything that was going on in class and was just like, “Don’t try to tell people.” Like, “Hey, if you’ve done stuff, you don’t want to tell anybody because then they’re going to watch you and make sure you’re not talking to anybody that they feel you shouldn’t be.” They put you on a separate list of people who were sexually active potentially.
LEAH: Okay. Let’s walk through the door that’s just been opened. When did you start experimenting?
LEAH: And how did that happen for you?
CHANDRA: Individually, I was six-ish when I started to become curious of my own body. I didn’t really start experimenting until I was 11. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just like, “This is my body and this is interesting or curious, but I can’t talk to anybody about it.”
LEAH: So, just to clarify, it sounds like around six, you became aware that there was something going on in your body? Around 11, you actually started touching your body in what we would call masturbatory ways, but it sounds like you probably weren’t coming to something that you would now call an orgasm at that point? Is that true?
CHANDRA: Right, yes.
LEAH: And at what point did you start to get a handle on how to touch ourself and in what ways and in what times and all of that, so it actually brought you a lot of pleasure or did you?
CHANDRA: It wasn’t until I was probably 15 or 16.
LEAH: So, during those years when you were touching yourself, but not knowing what you were doing, was it pleasurable?
CHANDRA: I think I had a lot of anxiety around it. I felt that it was bad or that I was a freak because no one had ever mentioned that this was a thing before. And I also had the feeling that I would get in trouble. So, I couldn’t ask about it like, “Hey. Am I normal? Does this happen to everyone? Am I a bad person? Am I sick?”
LEAH: Yeah. I’m sorry. That just sucks. That sucks for every little girl and every little boy who goes through that. It sounds like you had siblings. Were any of them older? Could you watch them and take any clues from them?
CHANDRA: My sister’s 15 years older than I am, so she was not at the house at this point in time. And we had limited contact because my parents deemed her a bad influence and would not allow us to communicate without supervision. And my brother was very quiet and aloof, so we didn’t interact or talk about stuff like that. He was very into history and subjects of that nature. He was just like, “Leave me alone.” There was no dialogue around it.
LEAH: Yeah. I’m going back to what you said a minute ago about being in purity week and sitting in the back of the classroom knowing you had experimented. And when you said that, I assumed that you meant that you had been having sex with other people, but it sounds like when you say experimented what you’re talking about is masturbation?
CHANDRA: Initially, yes. But by the time I reached high school, I was sexually active.
LEAH: All right. So, just the masturbation itself was so shameful that you would need to not let anybody know because then they’d be watching you and then it continued from there? Yeah.
LEAH: So, at what point did you start interacting with another person?
CHANDRA: I was 12.
LEAH: Okay. And what happened?
CHANDRA: It was not consensual. I didn’t know what consent was in order to give it. I didn’t want to participate, but I also didn’t know how to say no and I knew that if I told my parents that I would be in trouble.
LEAH: Yeah. Was it a peer? Was it an adult?
CHANDRA: It was a peer. He was three years older than I was, so kind of but not really.
LEAH: Yeah. The rule of thumb that I have picked up and I think that there are lots of ways that this can vary, but the rule of thumb is that when kids are playing together about two and a half to three years is the age spread that you would consider okay in terms of little kids like, “I’ll show you mine. You show me yours.” And after that, that age spread becomes too great because the power differential is too great. And when you’re talking about 12 and 15, yeah, that’s a pretty big power differential.
CHANDRA: Yes. It was.
LEAH: Were you interested in something and then it went too far or were you not interested in anything and it happened anyway?
CHANDRA: I was not interested in him. I was definitely interested in something, but I was not interested in him.
LEAH: And how did he approach you? Did he ask you on a date? What happened?
CHANDRA: No. He told me we were going to be friends with benefits.
LEAH: He told you, did he?
CHANDRA: Yes. And I was like, “What are these benefits?” And he was like, “I’m going to teach you how to kiss.” And I was like, “I don’t really want that.” But he had something of mine. Now, I suspect he took it intentionally to get me away from everyone else and to get it back, I had to kiss him.
LEAH: Yeah. That is coercion verging on assault for sure.
LEAH: And did that happen more than once?
CHANDRA: Yes, in different ways. He didn’t continue to take things for me, but he socially manipulated the situation because I was the new kid and he was established. So, whatever he said, that’s what everyone went by.
LEAH: So that’s another level of power differential there. Yeah. How long did this go on for?
CHANDRA: About a year.
LEAH: Wow. How did it end? How did it finally stop?
CHANDRA: My dad wasn’t at home a lot. He worked on the road. And one time, he came back and as we all lived on this campus, he came in and saw this boy riding away on his bicycle. And he asked me about it and I lied. And I said he just came to see if my brother had something. I don’t remember what I said. And he didn’t push me about it, but he didn’t like him nosing around the house. And I think he knew he wasn’t going to get the truth out of me and he decided that was not best for our family to remain there and we moved away.
LEAH: Wow. How did that leave you feeling?
CHANDRA: At this point, I’d become emotionally attached, so I was angry because I couldn’t talk to my parents about that. And he’d implied that we were at this point dating, but he was dating a bunch of people according to him. So, now I’m like, “Oh, I’ve been basically soiled and now I’m not going to be here to defend whatever it was and I was very conflicted about it.”
LEAH: Yeah. How far had things gone with him?
CHANDRA: He had tried to initiate sex and that was where I drew the line and there were consequences for that. I don’t remember them clearly. I just remember something happening socially afterwards and I was like, “Oh.”
LEAH: So, you mean he made consequences for you socially because you had said no?
LEAH: Oh, wow. I’m sorry. What a hell of a way to be brought into the world of adult relationships.
LEAH: Yeah. So, your family moves away. What did this leave you feeling about yourself? You just said that you had been “soiled.” Is that something you took in and owned as an identity or was it something you left behind when your family moved? How did that work for you?
CHANDRA: It was strange because in one regard, I knew how people would view me externally within the church. On the other hand, at this point, I had become a bit more rebellious within the standards of the church, so I didn’t mind it that much. I started to take it on as more of a badge of honor then being bad. I wasn’t a goody good anymore and I was happy about that, but I wasn’t happy about the way that it happened.
LEAH: Yeah. Were there other ways that you were rebelling?
CHANDRA: I had started to listen to music.
LEAH: For shame.
CHANDRA: I know. It was dreadful.
CHANDRA: I had started watching movies.
LEAH: Oh my goodness.
CHANDRA: I was hiding things. I would journal not nice things about my parents. Just really living on the wild side.
LEAH: You’re a terrible teenager.
CHANDRA: I was. I was dreadful.
CHANDRA: I think I even had a little bit of makeup and nail polish at this point.
LEAH: Oh my god.
CHANDRA: I know.
CHANDRA: It was clear, but how dare I?
LEAH: How dare you? You’re a tramp.
LEAH: So, as high school goes on, you move to another community. I assume you’re in a different school.
CHANDRA: No school for us.
LEAH: No school at all?
CHANDRA: We were homeschooled and I used that term very loosely because we were mostly just left at home with books.
LEAH: Are you aching to explore new vistas of your sexuality, but you’re not quite sure how to proceed? Are you wondering if your desires are normal? Are you afraid you’ll have to blow up your existing relationship to have the kind of sex you want? Or maybe you’re hearing these conversations every week and thinking, “I understand what she’s talking about. I just don’t know how to do it in my life?”
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I work with clients who are motivated to explore many different areas of sexuality including things like learning how to talk about your sexual desires with current or future partners, learning to date after a long time out of the dating pool, questioning if you might be queer, challenging body image insecurity in sexual relationships, dipping your toes into BDSM or consensual nonmonogamy, exploring sexuality for later in life virgins, recovering from infidelity, and so much more.
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LEAH: At what point did you have another interaction with another person?
CHANDRA: I think it was about a year from then. I want to say summer camp. I had a boyfriend and I held his hand.
LEAH: Oh my god.
CHANDRA: I know.
CHANDRA: All the girls in my cabin thought that I was just so rebellious.
LEAH: At this point you’re what? 15-ish? 14-ish maybe?
CHANDRA: Yeah, about 14.
LEAH: Yeah. And did it stay at holding hands or did it go any further than that?
CHANDRA: He lived in one state and I lived pretty far from him, so we wrote each other letters until his parents found out and were like, “No. This is very bad, very wrong indeed.”
LEAH: And what happened next?
CHANDRA: I was mad at him because he wrote me a letter breaking up with me because his parents said we couldn’t date and I was like, “Oh, you’re just going to listen to them? That’s ridiculous”
CHANDRA: I was very careful to check the mail before my parents did, so they didn’t know. They knew I had pen pals, but they didn’t know that any of them were boys.
LEAH: Yeah. Did you have access to email?
LEAH: So, that was forbidden in your community?
CHANDRA: Yes. We couldn’t even get access to it. We lived in such a remote area. We could only get dial-up and we didn’t get that until I was 15 or 16.
LEAH: Got you. Because I know you’re no longer in the church, how old were you when you started thinking about leaving?
LEAH: And were you still living at home at that point?
CHANDRA: At that point, I was married.
LEAH: Okay. Well, let’s talk about that then.
LEAH: How and when did you get married?
CHANDRA: So, I went to boarding school and there was a guy there that I had a conflicted relationship with. He had been dating someone else. She moved away.
LEAH: Was this a church school boarding school?
CHANDRA: Everyone there went to the church, but it was not affiliated with the conference.
LEAH: Okay, but it was still religious in school?
CHANDRA: Yes, very religious.
LEAH: Okay. Go on.
CHANDRA: So, he was the class president. He was a senior. I was a sophomore. His girlfriend had moved away, which was strictly forbidden and they were having issues. And out of the midst of that, he eventually broke up with her, I think. One of them broke up with each other and we started talking and then we started dating. I realize now a lot of that was out of spite.
CHANDRA: But I had such limited experience of relationships. I thought this was true love. He graduated. I didn’t go back. I dropped out and took my GED. And we kept dating and got married about two years later.
LEAH: Did you drop out in order to be with him or was that coincidental?
CHANDRA: It was a factor, but not exclusively. I didn’t want to be a 19-year-old senior. I had wanted to take my junior and senior at the same time because it was a work study program and they said that they would not allow it. And I was like, “Well, that’s stupid. I’ve seen you do it for other people.” And they were like, “We’re not going to do that.” I was like, “Cool. Well, have a nice life.”
LEAH: So, was there a premium in your community in your household in getting married early or was that unusual?
CHANDRA: My parents got married around the same age. My mom was 19 as well. I thought it was expected. I figured I’d better hurry up and do it myself before they found an arranged marriage for me.
LEAH: Oh, was that a part of that culture?
CHANDRA: Not specifically, but I knew my parents were very open to it. First of all, our social circle was so limited. The number of people I would meet would be very small and the people that they would have selected for me would have been not to my taste at all. So, I thought if I wanted to have any say in the matter, I’d better hurry up and do it before they had a chance to get involved.
LEAH: Yeah. Had the two of you had much sexual interaction prior to being married?
CHANDRA: Yes. We lived together for a little while. It was very secretive. My parents lived near there by that point in time and they tried to implement a curfew on me. And a lot of times it would be several nights a week that I would stay with him and from there, it just increased until I completely lived there.
LEAH: So, when the two of you were interacting sexually, were you having pleasure?
CHANDRA: Yes and no. There were times where it was painful or uncomfortable and there was nobody for me to talk to about that or figure out why. I became less enthusiastic the more painful it became.
LEAH: So, it became more painful over time?
LEAH: I can hazard a guess as to why that might have been, but I’m curious if you have any ideas about why that might have been?
CHANDRA: The more emotionally abusive he became, the less I wanted anything to do with him.
LEAH: Yeah. That makes complete sense. I would have guessed that the longer you were together, maybe the less attention he paid to whether you were part of the interaction and he just went for what he wanted. That is certainly a pattern that young men can get into.
LEAH: Yeah. So, once you were married, what were you thinking? I imagine that probably part of the church messaging is that once you get married, that’s it. You’re done. You don’t get divorced. So, when things turned hard with him, what were you thinking?
CHANDRA: I was going to make it work. My grandparents were married for more than 65 years. My parents have been married for more than 45 years. I was going to make it work.
LEAH: What did it take for you to change your mind?
CHANDRA: I had a “three strikes, you’re out” policy. When we got married, I was his first. He was not mine. He never had really a chance to experience anything outside of marriage or our relationship.
LEAH: So, he had a girlfriend before you, but they hadn’t done much?
CHANDRA: They hadn’t had sex. I can’t speak to how much they had experimented. According to him, they’d never had sex.
CHANDRA: I thought that he was frustrated because of that and I thought he needed space to experiment. And since that was something I had felt was treated like it was a taboo and it was so frowned upon, for me I thought maybe he was experiencing the same thing. And I was like, “Do what you need to do. Just be safe and don’t lie to me.”
LEAH: So, when you say experiment, do you mean go out with other people and have sexual interactions with other people?
LEAH: Okay. That’s very progressive minded of you especially given the circumstances you came out of. So, what happened?
CHANDRA: He started to experiment a little bit. I think he was very nervous about it. I think he wanted to see if I was actually going to get upset or not, but he also started to lie about it. And that’s when I started to get upset. I was like, “When I say go experiment, if it’s going to make you happy or it’s going to make you feel more like a complete person, do that. But don’t lie to me. The lying part starts to impact me and my safety. So, I need you to be honest and open.” And that wasn’t the case.
LEAH: What types of lies was he telling?
CHANDRA: The people he was talking to, where he was meeting people. If he couldn’t be honest about if he was meeting someone or anything like that, then how can I trust him to be safe?
LEAH: Yeah. I think that’s really fair.
CHANDRA: So, he had actually moved out and I was like, “Well, it’s been three strikes and he left. So, I now have justification according to the church to not have to take him back.”
LEAH: Oh, that’s interesting. Because he left you, is that what the justification would be?
CHANDRA: He left me and he was unfaithful, so now I have justification since that still matters to my parents.
LEAH: Interesting. So, you get out of the marriage with your previous husband, what happened next for you? Did you want to have a time of just being by yourself? Did you want to have a time being with lots of people and experimenting in lots of ways? What happened?
CHANDRA: I went off the deep end a little bit for myself for what was healthy for me. I experimented a lot. I was not very safe. I honestly don’t remember that much of that time period. I worked constantly and I would meet people. My best friend finally was like, “Girl, get it together. I love you and how you want to live your life is fine. That’s up to you, but you have to be conscious and aware that that’s a decision that you’re making, not doing it as a reaction to a situation.”
LEAH: What I just heard you say was, “I experimented a lot and I wasn’t very safe.” So, I want to dig a little bit deeper into what each of those things mean. When you say experimented, what does that mean to you? Were you having intercourse like penetrative sex with lots of people? Were you dating and kissing? How far were those things going?
CHANDRA: I was having sex with a lot of people for me. The fact that I didn’t know them well was the unsafe part. I was not careful about that. I didn’t always have someone know where I was or who I was meeting. It wasn’t something that was thought out and it wasn’t all the time, but whenever I did meet someone, it wasn’t, “Okay. I’m going to let my best friend know that I’m out with this person. Here’s their license plate number. Here’s a tracker on my phone.” I didn’t think those kinds of things through. That didn’t factor into the decision.
LEAH: Yeah. And when you say it was a lot of people for you, what are we talking?
CHANDRA: Six people in six months.
LEAH: Okay. When somebody gives a number, I always feel like I’m supposed to respond to that in some way and there’s no way to respond because the number is just a number. But it helps me to understand how you feel about yourself and your actions, so there’s no judgment on that number from me.
LEAH: How do you feel about it now looking back?
CHANDRA: I don’t feel like it was me. That’s not the way that I had relationships. I know a person better. I’m comfortable with the person socially. There’s an aspect of generally liking who a person is. And I didn’t have that. I didn’t have the awareness to like who another person was. I didn’t like who I was. If it had been a conscious decision and if I was like, “Wouldn’t it be fun if I hooked up with a new person every month?” I think that’s a very different headspace from what I was in.
LEAH: That’s fair.
CHANDRA: I don’t pass judgment on myself for that time period. I was in a lot of emotional pain and I wasn’t capable of making healthy decisions for myself and how I responded to that was to act out in the only way that was familiar to me.
LEAH: I really appreciate the fact that you have grace for yourself in that way. Yeah. You mentioned to me that you’re bisexual. So, at what point did women or other genders come into the picture for you?
CHANDRA: I think I was six or so.
LEAH: Oh, so this has been a longstanding thing? Okay.
CHANDRA: Yeah. I would say that would fall into the experimentation phase when I didn’t know what I was doing. I never really think about it that way because it was my first consensual experience, but I didn’t know what consent was, but I wasn’t mad about it.
LEAH: Okay. How old were you?
CHANDRA: I think I was 8, maybe I was 8.
LEAH: And was this a girl in your community who you just went out with?
CHANDRA: Yeah. We were friends and there was no label on it. There was not really any jealousy or anything like that. We were just friends. We were just like, “Hey. What’s this about?”
LEAH: How often did it happen?
CHANDRA: Just whenever we could hide from adults.
LEAH: So, you knew it was something that needed to be hidden?
LEAH: Yeah. And how far did things go?
CHANDRA: Just touching and general curiosity of like, “Hey. Look at this. What’s that? Do you have this too? I have that too.”
LEAH: And so, once you started dating men, were you still thinking about that experience with a little girl or did men take over your field of view for a long time?
CHANDRA: Yeah. More so men taking over my field of view. It’s also harder to date women.
LEAH: Amen to that.
LEAH: But what do you mean by that?
CHANDRA: In the area which I live, there are people that I think they’re maybe not as open. The dating pool is pretty limited even if you are specifically interested in men. Women are just more complicated as far as figuring out what they are looking for, what do they want. It’s more ambiguous.
LEAH: I always think it’s hilarious when heterosexual women say, “It would just be so much easier if I were interested in women.”
CHANDRA: Would it though?
LEAH: Would it though?
LEAH: Yeah, goodness.
CHANDRA: Very true.
LEAH: Have you had adult experiences with women?
CHANDRA: Very few. Mostly because of that limited dating pool and just the amount of energy it takes to date women. I haven’t tried that hard.
LEAH: Yeah. Is it something you want more of or are you okay with it being in the background?
CHANDRA: I’m okay with it being in the background right now.
LEAH: Yeah. And so, what is your current/sexual life look like right now?
CHANDRA: I haven’t been dating a lot in the last couple of years. I’ve been very focused on some side projects. I write fiction. I read a lot. I’m very focused with work and just some of the experiences that I’ve had as far as dating in the last probably five years have been either traumatic or stressful and I’ve just been like, “Well, I have work to do.”
LEAH: Yeah, sure.
CHANDRA: Let me just focus on that.
LEAH: Do you miss it? Do you miss having a relationship?
CHANDRA: Right up until I start dating again. And then, the complications start to come back and then I think about, “Well, do I want to reorganize my bathroom to make space for another person?”
CHANDRA: You can have that really high shelf that I can’t reach.
CHANDRA: I need all of this counter space, every bit of it.
LEAH: Of course.
CHANDRA: And this is when I get up in the morning and I don’t like to talk for the first three hours of the day.
LEAH: Yeah. And so, how are you getting your touch needs met given that we are recording in the midst of the pandemic? If you don’t have a partner and you don’t I assume live with somebody, how are you getting your touch needs met?
CHANDRA: I don’t. I don’t really think about it that much. When I think about it the most is usually when I am hormonal and then I have systems in place to handle my emotions. That’s probably the hardest part for me, but also I’ve never really liked to be touched that much. When I am hormonal, usually I’m swaddled in a blanket with ice cream and chocolate and I’m having a good cry about it and that’s when I want a hug. But the rest of the time, I’m like, “This is okay.”
LEAH: So, you’re a person with a fairly low touch need just on an everyday basis, it sounds like.
LEAH: Yeah. All right. And do you masturbate now?
CHANDRA: Sometimes. It’s much more mood-based. I’ve found that as I’ve been single or at least living more so alone for the last five years, the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about that has decreased a lot just because it’s not accessible. And I’ve realized all the steps I’d have to go through in order to have someone around more frequently and like I’ve said, that for me is much more related to emotional connection and actually liking a person and the effort.
CHANDRA: This is probably fine.
LEAH: Yeah. So, when you look into the future, do you imagine wanting to have a long-term partner or do you think you’ll be happy being single?
CHANDRA: It could go either way. The biggest thing that I would want to be different about is I’ve always wanted children which is very strange because I’m self-described ogre when it comes to people.
CHANDRA: So, I’m like, “Why would I want children?” Nevertheless, I do. And so, I think about it within that context. But also from my relationships and the way that I grew up, I realized the biggest thing that I could give to my children is a supportive parent other than myself. And I feel like I’m not in a position to give that. So, if that’s not something that I can give to my children, then I don’t think I would have any. I might consider it an option, but I don’t think I would necessarily have biological children for those reasons.
LEAH: Friends, let’s talk about Patreon. It has been quite an evolution over the last two and a half years. For a long time, I took cuts from the episodes and put them on Patreon for people who financially supported the show. But by mid-2020, that no longer felt right because I was hearing from listeners who said they wanted to hear the Patreon extras because the show was making such a difference in their lives, but they couldn’t afford to donate. It really doesn’t feel appropriate to withhold this material in exchange for monetary support. That’s just not what I’m about.
So, from July 2020 through April 2021, I made all audio extras at Patreon free for everyone. And that has worked well. I’ve been pleased to see that my Patreon support didn’t drop when you were supporting the show because you appreciate it rather than paying to get something in exchange. And now, I’m evolving again. Instead of pulling clips out of the show for Patreon and keeping the main episode as close to 50 minutes as possible, I’m letting the conversations play out in full in the main episode.
If my work is meaningful to you and you have a few dollars to support it each month, I will gratefully accept your patronage at Patreon. If you have more than a few dollars, consider donating extra in honor of women who need this material, but aren’t in a position to contribute. And I donate 10% of all Patreon contributions to ARC-Southeast, an organization that supports women in the Southeast United States to access reproductive services that are currently being legislated out of existence.
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LEAH: As you’ve recounted it, it does not sound like there’s been a lot of sexual pleasure in your life and I want to check in with you and see if that sounds correct to you or if we just missed those stories?
CHANDRA: I think we missed some of those stories. There were some after my divorce. I had some good times with some caring partners, but in the grand scheme of my life, it wasn’t the most fulfilling thing.
LEAH: Something you said before we started recording really caught my attention and I want to ask you more about it. When I asked you what your preferred relationship style and the standard answers that I roll off for people because a lot of people don’t even know what that means is monogamous, open, polyamorous, etc. and you took a moment to think about it and you said my preferred relationship style is honest. And I was like, “Wow. That’s really cool.”
LEAH: And hearing some of your story, it has made a lot of sense to me that you would say that, but I’m really curious from you exactly what that means to you.
CHANDRA: The style of relationship would depend on a lot on the partner and what their needs are because I’m so flexible within that. I’ve been monogamous. I’ve been in an open relationship. I’ve dated someone who is polyamorous. Jealousy is something that I don’t feel maybe in the same way that a lot of people do and I’m comfortable with working through it if I do feel it.
So, to say I would prefer one to the other, I feel even in a monogamous relationship, you could still feel jealousy. And perhaps it’s more frightening to me within the monogamous relationship because I don’t think there’s always that open container and safe space to talk about it. I’ve found that there’s a lot more emphasis on consent and each individual’s comfort level within the polyamorous community, not as much as in open relationships. I find that a lot of open relationships can be very secretive as well.
And that’s why I put the focus on honesty because if everyone is honest about how they feel and what they need out of a relationship, there’s a lot of work room and there’s the opportunity to say, “This isn’t good for me anymore.” And if that’s the case, you can step away and still have good friendships because you don’t go through all these things that end up fragmenting the relationship because it was held onto for too long.
LEAH: Yeah. I love that and I think you’re so right. I learned most of what I know about consent and communication within the polyamorous community because it is so vital in that community. And that doesn’t mean that everyone has to play in those waters. I am not polyamorous, but the lessons I’ve learned there are basic to what I now do, just the absolute core of it. Yeah.
How do you wish your religious upbringing had been different? Maybe that’s the better way to say it, how do you wish your religious upbringing had better prepared you for being a sexual adult?
CHANDRA: The two biggest things that stick out to me are consent and comfortability. I’m not even so much concerned with pleasure or anything like that. I think that people should know if sex is painful, there are things that can be done. There’s conversations that need to be had. There are real life reasons aside from medical conditions that can cause there to be pain. And the more comfortable you are, the more likely you are to have pleasure.
And I think it’s one reason it was avoided within the context of the church. As far as consent, I think it’s very important that boys and girls are taught consent at an early age. It wasn’t taught to me. It wasn’t taught any of the people around me. My ex-husband and I had a conversation early in our marriage where I had to explain to him that spousal rape was a real thing. Not because he was a bad person, but because religiously there is a text that would be quoted to basically say, “You can’t deny your husband for any reason.” And I don’t know how he feels about it, but I feel like that’s not a wife’s job to communicate that I can say no. I’m allowed to say no, but I also had to learn that and be able to share it because it’s not something that anyone ever said to me.
LEAH: Yeah. What is a question or concern you have about your sex life or about sex in general?
CHANDRA: I don’t know that I have a lot of questions. It might be more so in the moment where I’ll be, “Let me google that.”
CHANDRA: I’m the one friend who will google literally anything. My personal FBI agent must be so traumatized because between the fact that I’m a writer and I’m naturally intuitive, I’ve googled so many chaotic things.
CHANDRA: And I’ve found that whatever your question is, whatever you’re thinking or feeling about it, there’s someone who’s experienced something along those lines. I’ve actually found more so that my friends will be like, “Have you ever heard of this?” And I’ll be like, “Yeah. That’s totally normal.”
LEAH: I love it.
CHANDRA: “Let me just explain to you what this is. It’s totally fine.”
LEAH: You would be a great friend to have.
CHANDRA: I hope so. Maybe I traumatized them a little bit, but I get a slight kick out of that.
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.
LEAH: Do you have sex during your period?
LEAH: What’s the approximate number of sex partners you’ve had?
LEAH: Have you ever had sex with someone of a different racial identity than your own?
CHANDRA: Yes. It’s hard not to.
LEAH: Right because you are a mix of all the things.
LEAH: That’s hilarious.
LEAH: Do you have a favorite sex toy?
LEAH: What is it?
CHANDRA: I don’t remember what it’s called. I had a friend who worked at Amazon and was like, “You can order stuff out of Amazon.” I was like, “What?”
CHANDRA: So, I went and looked on there and there’s one that has a sucking cup on it. I was like, “That’s the one. I want that one.”
LEAH: The sucker is a brilliant innovation in the world of women’s sex toys.
CHANDRA: Whoever made that should get a Nobel Peace Prize.
LEAH: What’s your favorite sex position?
CHANDRA: It depends on the person. Yeah. I find however the partner’s most comfortable can be a lot more fun. It also depends on how tired I am.
LEAH: Do you prefer to initiate or for your partner to initiate in the bedroom?
CHANDRA: It depends. Sometimes I’m in the moods where I don’t want to be touched at all. And so, then that’s a little stressful I find if the partner’s not aware of that. If I’m a good mood and I’m not focused on something or tired or something like that, then I don’t have a preference.
LEAH: Are you generally more active or more passive during lovemaking?
CHANDRA: I would say it’s 50/50 and it also does depend on the person.
LEAH: Do you prefer clit stimulation or penetration?
LEAH: Do you enjoy having your breasts played with?
CHANDRA: It depends. If I’m hormonal, then no. But I’m pretty clear about that in advance.
CHANDRA: It’s the wrong time of the month.
LEAH: People can’t see the face you just made, but it was priceless.
LEAH: But during the other times of the month, you enjoy it?
LEAH: Do you think it’s generally easy or challenging for you to orgasm?
CHANDRA: It’s generally easy.
LEAH: have you ever faked an orgasm?
LEAH: Good job.
LEAH: Can you orgasm from intercourse alone without additional stimulation?
LEAH: Do you prefer the orgasm from masturbating or from sex with another person?
CHANDRA: It depends on the person.
LEAH: What kind of touch do you enjoy most?
CHANDRA: That really depends as well. I feel like if I’m wanting to be cuddled, then very gentle. But sometimes I like it to be a bit more aggressive and more rowdy.
LEAH: What are your hard red lines, the things you absolutely don’t want to do?
CHANDRA: Anal to mouth. I will not touch anyone’s butt. I should be more specific, butthole, not for me.
LEAH: Okay. When you say anal to mouth, you mean somebody taking their penis out of your anus and putting it in your mouth?
CHANDRA: Yeah, never going to happen.
LEAH: That’s just dangerous.
LEAH: Okay. It sounds like anal sex or anal penetration is on the table for you to receive, but you don’t give anal touch?
CHANDRA: That’s correct.
LEAH: Okay. Great. Anything else?
CHANDRA: I have a general thing of, “I’ll try anything once and we can talk about it at the very least and I won’t pass a judgment.” But it also does depend on the person.
LEAH: Are there sexual things you’ve tried that you don’t ever want to do again?
CHANDRA: No. I’m really surprised by that.
LEAH: How do you feel about a partner masturbating without you being present?
CHANDRA: It’s their body. They should be able to enjoy it too.
LEAH: How do you feel about your partner watching porn?
CHANDRA: As long as it’s not excessive. When I say excessive, it doesn’t interfere with our sexual relationship.
LEAH: And you’d be okay with various kinds of content?
CHANDRA: Whatever they are into, yeah.
LEAH: Okay. Cool. Do you enjoy watching porn?
CHANDRA: Sometimes, but it’s probably 50/50. It’s not very often for me.
LEAH: What types of porn do you enjoy?
CHANDRA: I’ll watch anything once as well.
CHANDRA: Sometimes it’s out of morbid curiosity. I’m not interested in this, but I’m curious and it’s not something that I would ever want to do, but I still want to know. So, I can’t put google down.
LEAH: Do you have hair down there or are you bare?
CHANDRA: It depends. I prefer to be bare sometimes. Just pandemic situations and I used to wax everything all the time and when the pandemic hit, then I totally stopped. So, now I’m headed back into that direction because I was like, “This is awful. I don’t know how I lived like this. This is very uncomfortable for me.”
LEAH: Have you ever had a threesome or more?
CHANDRA: No. It’s on the list, but that goes back to I’ve got to like everybody.
LEAH: Sure. We’ve got to get you to come here to Portland. I will take you around.
CHANDRA: Hold on. I’m booking my trip now.
LEAH: Okay. Maybe wait until the pandemic is over though.
CHANDRA: That is the good point. I keep forgetting about that.
LEAH: Do you enjoy giving blow jobs?
LEAH: When you do, do you swallow or not?
CHANDRA: Yeah. I do.
LEAH: Do you enjoy receiving oral sex?
CHANDRA: Sometimes. It can be a little uncomfortable because I tend to have more anxiety about that. If I’m more comfortable with the person, then yes.
LEAH: Do you ever worry about your smell or taste?
CHANDRA: Not really. That’s their problem.
LEAH: Well, that’s interesting because often when women say they have anxiety, it’s about their smell or taste. So, when you say that you sometimes have anxiety, what is that about?
CHANDRA: I’m always nervous that I’m going to pee.
LEAH: Okay. Do you feel like you’re going to pee when you have oral sex?
LEAH: And have you ever squirted?
LEAH: So, are you familiar with how pre-squirting feels versus pre-peeing for you?
CHANDRA: Yes. So, this is where it gets really complicated. I don’t like messes, so it’s from that. I’m completely aware of what’s happening and I’m fine with that. It’s the mess that stresses me out.
LEAH: Got you.
CHANDRA: I’m like, “Oh, gosh, this is going to be really messy. Let’s not even go there.”
LEAH: All right. So, what I would suggest is you go on Amazon and get a package of Chux and just put them down. And then, you can just throw it away when it’s over and there’s no mess.
CHANDRA: This is a solid plan. I probably could have googled that too.
LEAH: I love it. Let’s see. What do you consider the kinkiest thing you enjoy with the understanding that everybody’s scale of kink is totally different?
CHANDRA: I don’t know. I’ll try so much stuff and it’s hard to say if I enjoy it or the novelty of like, “This is something different, so that was fun and exciting” or is it I genuinely enjoy this thing because I feel like I’ve just tried a lot of stuff? And, of course, it’s different with each partner. So, one thing that might be really fun with one person is not so much fun with somebody else. It makes it hard to tell. I don’t think I can really honestly decipher the difference at this point.
LEAH: That’s fair. Yeah. Do you enjoy dirty talk during sexual encounters?
CHANDRA: Not really. Maybe I write too much to enjoy that.
CHANDRA: I’m like, “What did you just say?”
CHANDRA: “I’m not judging or criticizing, but maybe we could rewrite that. Try again.”
LEAH: Do you enjoy laughter during sexual encounters?
CHANDRA: Yes. I think if I’m comfortable with a person, there will be laughter and if there’s not, that’s probably a good sign that I shouldn’t be having sex with that person.
LEAH: I like that. Have you ever felt a sexual urge that confused you?
LEAH: What was it?
CHANDRA: It was something around rape which I was very confused about. I was like, “Why would I be into that?” That’s confusing.
LEAH: So, are you clear now that that’s actually super common and completely normal?
CHANDRA: Yes. I feel like it’s not very talked about though.
LEAH: It’s not talked about. It used to be called a rape fantasy. That language has shifted now to be more a ravishment fantasy or some people will talk about it as consensual non-consent. And there are lots of reasons for it and I’m certainly not going to say, “Well, this is what happened to you that will make you feel this way.” But I can say that it’s very common for people who have felt like they’re somehow out of control like they don’t have primary control over their ability to consent to then later want to play that same scenario out in a way where they do have consent. So, I will play out this non-consensual experience I had with a partner who I trust where I know that if I safe word, they will stop.
That ends up allowing some people to reorient their brains and their own memories and start to create some new neural pathways. I also should say that it’s not always people who have some trauma in the background. We have a lot of messaging in our culture that shows us non-consensual experiences that are meant to look very romantic and gauzy and if he really loves you, then he can come after you for years. And when you finally give in, then it will be beautiful. There are lots of reasons it could happen, but it’s totally common and totally normal.
CHANDRA: I think that’s one of the things that you see in fiction that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that. But at the same time, it’s very interesting to see the context in which I’m comfortable with it and the context in which I’m not comfortable with it.
LEAH: I used to be a really avid reader and then my mom got sick and I was her caretaker and I went through a period of extreme stress and I stopped reading. And I’ve over the last year started reading again. I went back to some of my favorite authors from the past and discovered that I can’t read them anymore because their romance, their sexiness, is so based in non-consent that becomes consensual. Sandra Brown is the one that I can’t even stand now. It makes my skin crawl because almost every one of her relationships starts out with the characters disliking each other and at some point, the man pins the women up against the wall and being like, “I’ll take what I want.” And then at some point, she’s like, “I’ll just give it to you.”
LEAH: And then it becomes a great love story and it’s gross.
CHANDRA: Yes, it is.
CHANDRA: I started reading romance more so because I’ve typically avoided that genre. And I think the Dark Prince series, there was a book for free, so I was going to read everything up to that point to get the free book as one does.
CHANDRA: And I started the first book and I think I got in two or three chapters. And I was like, “I can’t do this. Free book or no, I’m not reading this series.”
LEAH: Yeah. That took us off on a long tangent.
LEAH: What is your favorite part of your body?
CHANDRA: I like my legs. I have good legs.
LEAH: What’s your least favorite part of your body?
CHANDRA: My stomach. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with it. I’m very critical of it though. And I don’t like to do crunches, but I’m still critical of it.
LEAH: You don’t need to do crunches.
CHANDRA: I’ve always had the opinion of if I dislike it enough, I have the awareness that I could do something different. I could have a tummy tuck or work out a lot or whatever, but I like food more than I like abs.
LEAH: I’m there with you on that one. What is something about your current sex life that isn’t as satisfying as you’d like it to be?
CHANDRA: I would say I don’t really have one right now.
LEAH: What belief did you have about sex as a child or a teenager that you wish you could go back and correct her on now?
CHANDRA: As a child, I didn’t realize that I could say no at any point. No always had consequences and if I had known that it shouldn’t and that if I was finding I was saying, “No” or “I’m not comfortable with this” and there were still consequences that there were people I could talk to who could help me in those situations.
LEAH: Yeah. Chandra, we have done it. This had been amazing. Thank you so much.
CHANDRA: Thank you.
LEAH: Yeah. I would love for people to know where they can find you, so please tell us who you are and what you do.
CHANDRA: My name is Chandra Arthur. My podcast is called Cult Evaded where I talk more about my childhood, background and extreme religious environments specifically in home church and self-supporting ministries. And you can find me anywhere that you listen to podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Apple Podcasts. Any of those, we are there.
LEAH: Terrific. And we’ll put your information on the Show Notes, so people can find you that way. Chandra, thank you so much. I really appreciate how open you’ve been. This has been a real delight.
CHANDRA: Thank you so much for having me.
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 seeing it for ourselves. As a coach and PJ party hostess, I will guide you in embracing the sexuality that is innately yours no matter what it looks like. I’m here to help you sink so deeply into your true sexuality that the version of yourself that was scared to speak up for her own needs feels like a mirage from another lifetime.
Until next time, here’s to your better sex life!
- 5:22 – Chandra shares her first memory of sexual pleasure, a generalized curiosity around age 6.
- 7:31 – Chandra talks about being raised Seventh Day Adventist, and what the conservative education around sex looked like. Nature shows were her best informer. The school taught Creationism and held a “Purity Week.”
- 12:56 – She starts experimenting around age 11, but doesn’t know what she’s doing. Pleasure mixes with anxiety. At 12 she has a non-consensual experience that turns into a year-long power abuse dynamic. Her father clues in and moves the family away.
- 26:29 – She moves on to rebellious hand-holding with a boy at religious summer camp. Then boarding school, and marriage. Sex becomes painful as she endures emotional abuse. She lets him experiment outside the marriage. Lies end the marriage; infidelity gives her a respectable way out.
- 36:14 – An experimental phase for Chandra begins. She gets reckless.
- 39:50 – Chandra explores her bisexuality. She tracks her attraction back to age 6.
- 42:50 – Chandra shares what her current dating life looks like, and the possibility of future parenthood.
- 50:15 – The discussion turns to pleasure, then relationship styles. Chandra says her preferred style is “honest,” and she finds that most often in the polyamorous community and its standard of open communication and consent.
57:00 – The Q&A covers period sex, interracial dating, toys, sex positions, initiating sex, roles, stimulations, orgasms, touch, hard red lines, porn, grooming, oral, squirting (PSA: buy Chucks!), dirty talk, laughter, rape fantasies, long legs, and unlearning childhood beliefs.
Cult Evaded podcast – https://anchor.fm/cultevaded
Clit sucking toys – https://www.google.com/search?q=clit+suction+toy
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