Navigating consent: When the teacher becomes the violator

Last year I found myself in the middle of a shitstorm for daring to expose a community leader's abusive behavior. Today I tell the whole story.
Good Girls Talk About Sex
Good Girls Talk About Sex
Navigating consent: When the teacher becomes the violator
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Episode art "When the man teaching consent is the one violating you"

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In 2023 I found myself in the middle of a shitstorm for daring to expose a community leader’s abusive behavior. Today I tell the whole story.

The backlash was immediate and intense, with DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender) tactics used to paint me as the problem. Suddenly, I was not just standing as a representative of this man’s abuse, but also receiving harassment and ostracization from those I once considered my community. Sharing this story isn’t just about telling you what’s going on; it’s about shining a light on the dark corners of abuse and systemic failure. It’s a call to action for change, support, and understanding for those who have had their voices silenced.

ALSO: I clarify my coaching variable pricing structure and how I serve people with financial challenges. Click here to learn more about my coaching.

 

BEYOND PERMISSION classes:
www.beyondpermission.com

Apply for a free coaching session:
www.goodgirlstalk.com/session

Work with Leah:
www.leahcarey.com/coaching

Who Is Your Sex & Relationship Alter Ego?
www.leahcarey.com/quiz

Support the show:
www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex

In this episode we talk about

  • Trigger Warnings
  • Safe spaces
  • Brave spaces
  • Power dynamics
  • Consent
  • Abuse and trauma history
  • Boundaries and boundary violations
  • Power and privilege
  • Power differentials
  • DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender)
  • #MeToo era
  • Accountability process
  • Reduced earning potential as a result of sexual abuse
  • Capitalism and access to care

Resources

BEYOND PERMISSION classes – www.beyondpermission.com

  • Tuesday, March 5 – Sex toys show & tell with Leah
  • Thursday, March 7 – Ask a couple with Danielle & Adam
  • Tuesday, March 12 – What’s wrong with my libido? with Leah

Reid Mihalko’s Accountability processhttps://medium.com/reid-mihalkos-accountability-process

Reid Mihalko’s “How To Throw a Successful, Kick-Ass Play Party for Your Friends, the online course” – https://reidaboutsex.mykajabi.com/store/HzahFDyZ

Studies about the connection between childhood sexual abuse and reduced earning potential:

Full episode text

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 in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!

 

[MUSIC]

 

LEAH: Hey, friends. A couple bits of housekeeping before we get into the episode. I’m going to be teaching a sex toy for vulvas show and tell next Tuesday, March 5th on Zoom. I’ll be showing you different kinds of toys, what they do, how they operate, where you put them, and also how you might decide which one is for you. So, you can go to www.beyondpermission.com to register. My friend and co-presenter Danielle Silverstein from the Marriage and Martinis podcast will be doing an Ask Us Anything with her husband Adam next Thursday, March 7. Then we’ll be rounding out this series of Beyond Permission classes on Tuesday, March 12th, with me talking about libido and why it may not be the issue you think it is. All of the classes are at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific, and there are recordings available for people who register but aren’t able to make the live class. Registration for all of these classes is at www.beyondpermission.com, and I’d love to see you there.

 

Also, it’s time for me to record some more coaching sessions for the podcast. Do you have something you want to get clarity on or an issue that’s been holding you back from enjoying the sex life you desire? If so, I would love to talk to you. Go to www.goodgirlstalk.com/sessions and drop me a note. The sessions are about 30 minutes, they’re free, and you’ll be completely anonymous. You’ll not only get support where you need it, you’ll be helping others as well, because I promise you, you are not the only one dealing with whatever it is that you’re dealing with. Again, that’s www.goodgirlstalk.com/sessions. And those links are in the show notes on the app you’re listening on now. Okay, on to the show!

 

[MUSIC]

 

LEAH: Hey, friends. Happy leap day! I can’t say that I’m exactly leaping for joy over this episode, but it feels like it’s finally time to tell part of my story that I’ve been handling privately for the last year. I haven’t been prepared to share it before now for a bunch of reasons, but the biggest one is that the traumatized little girl inside me was telling me a lot of stories about why I needed to stay quiet so that I’d be safe. Of course, ultimately, I know that’s not true.

 

Instead, what I was doing was protecting someone with power, just like I did when I was a little girl. Back then, I had no other choice because that was the person who was responsible for feeding and housing and clothing me. But today, I am a grown woman who can make my own way in the world. And as a grown woman, I believe that what I have to share may be of service to many of you. Because I’m concerned about making all of this as accurate as possible and not going deep into the weeds, you should know I’ve prescripted most of what I’m going to say here.

 

So, as I was gathering my thoughts for this episode, which I admit has taken quite a while, I came across a bit of word pedantry that I didn’t realize was going on. But of course, it is, because the meanings of words seem to change by the day lately. That’s a conversation for another time. Specifically, I saw that the term safe space is being used in a way I didn’t understand. People apparently are using it to mean a place where no one will be triggered.

 

Quite frankly, to me, that idea that such a space could even potentially exist is complete bullshit. While one person might have warm and fuzzy memories of grandma every time they smell warm chocolate chip cookies, that same smell could send someone else down a rabbit hole because they were abused in a bakery. There is literally no way to cover everything. You hear me say at the top of every episode, if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from me because I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you’ve experienced. And I have faith in your ability to deal with things that upset you, because we cannot completely avoid things that upset us.

 

Part of the reason that I say that is because it’s impossible to account for every individual person’s triggers. There’s no way that I could offer a trigger warning broad enough to cover everything that might come up for someone in the conversations we have here. And I honestly believe that offering trigger warnings puts people in this mind of, I’m not going to get triggered. And so, if anything happens that it’s somebody else’s fault.

 

But triggers, these things that we’ve come to call triggers, I see them as little flags. They’re the places in our hearts and minds where unhealed stuff lies. And when we get close to them, we start to feel the heat rise, and it’s one or more of those little flags signaling, hey, there’s something here to look at. Think of it like magma rolling around inside a volcano. Not looking at it doesn’t make it go away. At some point, that stuff is going to blow, and it’s going to be all the more explosive and destructive for having been pushed down and pressurized for so long.

 

The other thing that can happen when we don’t look at our triggers, when we see the trigger warnings and we step back and we say, nope, not doing that, is that we stop believing that we can handle hard things. We begin to see ourselves as victims of our triggers rather than looking at them as information. Yes, it’s an unpleasant delivery system for the information, but it’s useful nonetheless.

 

There are people who live with such high levels of trauma that they absolutely need to be careful, lest they spiral into a true mental health crisis. But those people are the exception, not the rule. And please don’t hear me stigmatizing that at all. I’m just saying that the level to which we have come to expect trigger warnings makes me think that we all believe we are one hairsbreadth away from a mental health crisis. For most of us, that’s not true. We might be a hairsbreadth away from feeling really fucking crappy and having to look at our feelings, but that is not the same as a mental health crisis.

 

And chances are really good that if you’re listening to this podcast, you are not one of those people who is on a hair trigger to be put into a state of mental health crisis over discussions of sex and sexuality. Again, not stigmatizing any of that. People’s mental health issues are real, they’re valid, and they deserve to have support and empathy. That doesn’t mean that we all need to live in that space of believing that we are the person who is that hairsbreadth away.

 

And at the same time, because two things can be true at the same time, none of this means that it’s okay to be cavalier about people’s tender points. It is possible to not buy into the idea that people need to be protected from their own feelings and also sensitive to their feelings.

 

I hope that in listening to this podcast, you get that feeling of bravely looking at our shit in a way that leaves us feeling more whole instead of more damaged. And sometimes, that means gently prodding the points inside us that make our temperature rise. So, defining safe space to mean a place where no one will be triggered is to my mind, blatantly fucking ridiculous.

 

Instead, apparently those of us who work in these realms where people are facing their own challenges, old beliefs, biases, etc., should be offering “brave spaces.” So from this day forward, let us define this podcast and all of the work that I do as a brave space. It’s a place where you are welcome to dismantle your old belief structures knowing that you won’t be chastised or vilified or rejected. There is literally nothing you could say to me that would make me judge you as a person who is not worthy of my respect. You’re welcome to ask all of your questions here, because even if they feel dumb to you, they’re not. That is just the culture and the patriarchy doing its bullshit. This is a place to expose the parts of yourself that you’ve always hidden for fear of being shunned and to do it with the faith that instead of being shunned, you’re going to be honored for your bravery.

 

So, that was a long tangent, but I felt like I wanted to talk about that today because I’m choosing to expose another piece of myself and my journey, and this one is still tender. Before I dive fully into it, I want to give you the parameters of what we’re going to talk about in this brave space today.

 

I’m going to talk briefly about a non-consensual sexual experience I had several years ago. I’m not going to go into any graphic details, but I want you to know in advance that hearing the manipulation involved in this experience might be uncomfortable. That is, in fact, the entire point of the story. And I encourage you to let yourself feel the discomfort to whatever extent you’re able to. I’m going to talk about being ostracized from my community for telling the truth about what happened to me. And then finally, I’m going to talk in some more general terms about the financial implications for those of us who experienced sexual abuse or mistreatment. Okay. So, now that we’ve defined the boundaries, let’s get into the story.

 

In January of 2018, I had been on the road on my freedom tour for about six months. I was in Portland, Oregon on what I expected to be a six-week travel hiatus because I’d been on the road driving for so long that I wanted to just be in one place for a little while. I imagined about six weeks before I hit the road again. I did not yet know that I was going to settle in Portland permanently. I had found a local group of sex positive people. And they very quickly just pulled me in as one of their own. It’s a massive reason why I did settle in Portland, because they made me feel so at home. I was part of a community almost immediately.

 

And as part of that community, I got to attend classes and events. And I was going to things like three or four times a week, sometimes more. There were often classes, educational classes on weekdays, and then actual touch events on the weekends. And I was doing a mighty battle with the asshole in my head that constantly told me that nobody would ever find me attractive or desirable. Despite consistent evidence to the contrary, because I had lots of people who were interested in playing with me, but I still couldn’t get past that voice that said, “This is all a mirage, or they’re all lying to me.”

 

So, I was starting to open up to more sensation during touch, but I was still finding it really hard to get out of my own head and experience the pleasure. This allowing myself to be present to pleasure is a fundamental piece of the trauma that I experienced as a child, and it will probably be with me forever to some degree or another.

 

One weekend evening, I went to an event that was designed to turn the cultural assumptions upside down. The men were there to serve the women’s every desire, and it could be as sexual or non-sexual as we wanted. I could ask a man to read me poetry while he brushed my hair or I could ask somebody whatever sexual thing.

 

So, throughout the evening, I paired up with several men and asked them to touch me in a variety of different ways. And it was fun, because I got to experience a bunch of different kinds of touch in one evening and in a place where I felt safe. I really like these facilitated, structured spaces because I know what’s expected of me. In any given moment, there are very clear guidelines. And in this space, all I had to do was ask and then relax into receiving, which was wonderful.

 

Near the end of the evening, I paired up with a man who I knew was near the top of the pecking order of the organization. He frequently hosted and facilitated events, and he held a lot of power and social capital in the group. In fact, one of my first touch events had been a day-long event he held where I found him to be really encouraging and kind, and I had a good feeling that maybe he would be able to facilitate some portion of the sexual healing journey I was on.

 

I viewed him as a teacher, a guide, a mentor. What I did not ever see him as was a lover. I am pretty picky, to be perfectly honest, about the people who I allow into that space of lover. Because to me, that requires a certain emotional bond. And I don’t want to have that emotional bond with every Tom, Dick and Harry, if you will.

 

So, rather than asking him for anything sexy, I asked him to cuddle with me. And he enthusiastically obliged. Very quickly, he started commenting on how attractive he found my body. It wasn’t what I had asked for, but hearing those words from someone I wasn’t attracted to opened up a really deep well of grief in me wondering, why had I never heard those words from someone I was attracted to? And I started sobbing. He held me, and he started a constant stream of words about how, “Your sounds of grief are welcome here just as much as your sounds of pleasure are.”

 

I did not need or want his words. In fact, they started to feel irritating pretty quickly, but I wasn’t yet at a place where I knew how to say, “Please stop talking and just hold me.” I told myself, in fact, that I was being ungrateful for the attention he was paying me. After all, he is saying the words I want to hear, so why can’t my brain just shut up and accept them? So, in my mind, what was going on was very much a me problem. And it had nothing to do with him.

 

At the end of the event, he approached me to offer his services as a sexual healer. He called what he did sacred spot massage and claimed that it had been incredibly healing for so many women that he had worked with. And, important point, he offered to do it for free because he really appreciated my presence and my openness. I had no idea what sacred spot massage was, had never heard of it, and I had no idea how it was supposed to help me, but I jumped at the chance because I was excited that this man who stood in such high regard in the community had chosen me as someone worthy of his attention. And he saw so much potential in me that he wasn’t even going to charge me money for it.

 

So, we set up a session for a few days later. Over email, we had a conversation about my background and my abuse history, some of which I now realize was probably not necessary for the work that he was doing, but it gave him information about where my soft spots were. He explained what the session would entail. It was a full body massage, then he would penetrate me with his fingers to do an internal massage. And then, there would be a period of relaxation afterward for me to integrate what had happened during which he could cuddle me or not as I chose.

 

And I need to pause here for a minute to talk about the ethics of this work, because it can absolutely be done ethically and in a way that brings transformational healing to the client. But in order for that to happen, there have to be extremely clear boundaries in place. The practitioner has to be extraordinarily vigilant in maintaining those boundaries because the client is frequently not in a space where they can accurately judge their own needs or speak up to enforce their boundaries. This can happen either because the client is having so much pleasure that they go into sex brain or because they have old traumas coming up to be processed, and they’re unable to access their conscious adult mind.

 

So, we had the conversation that I believed was setting the boundaries for the experience, and I was fine with everything he described. The session followed the map that he had laid out. And at the end, he asked if I wanted to cuddle, and I said yes, because I am basically a golden retriever. And if you ask me to cuddle, I will. The cuddling marked the end of what had been negotiated.

 

So, my expectation was that we’d cuddle for a few minutes, then I’d get up and go. And because this man was one of the people who taught about consent and boundaries, I had every reason to believe his grasp on consent and boundaries would be solid. That is not what happened. Instead, as we laid there, me naked, him either fully naked or partially, I can’t remember exactly, he asked, “Would you like me to teach you how a man likes to be touched?”

 

As soon as I heard the question, I immediately froze. So, you’re probably familiar with the fight and flight response. Those are the well-known responses that happen automatically when we sense danger. But there are two others as well. There’s also the freeze and the fawn response. So, the four are fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. What that means in very non-scientific language is when our brains perceive that something poses a threat to us, our nervous system jumps into action automatically. We don’t even have time to think about it. In fact, unless we are deeply attuned to our nervous system, we can’t think about it because our brains are too busy jumping into action.

 

So, most of us have one or two responses that we’re conditioned to jump to because we’ve done them so often that we’ve created neural pathways to those automatic responses. When I sense danger, I freeze. And it’s important to define what I mean by danger, because it’s rarely a physical threat. We don’t live in a time of lions stalking us. And I’m privileged to live in a place where I’m rarely if ever faced with physical violence, but the vast majority of the harm and abuse I’ve experienced has been emotional. I have a hair trigger to freeze in the face of emotional violence, especially when it has anything to do with sex or sexuality.

 

And this was exactly that situation. A man was propositioning me for sexual activity. I was in a vulnerable state from being naked and having just been penetrated. And probably most egregious, he had offered his time and attention without asking for money, but had not clarified whether he expected anything in return. So, whether or not he intended this offer for me to touch his body as a quid pro quo, that is very much how my brain interpreted it. I believed that I was required to say yes.

 

I dissociated, but I slammed back into my body when he moved between my legs and started to perform oral sex. He did not ask for consent for this. I hated every second of it, but I was too frozen to tell him to stop. Finally, I felt like enough time had passed that I could reasonably tell him I was touched out and wanted to leave. I left his home that day feeling really weird, but unable to identify why. I assumed it was because I was so broken that I was incapable of receiving the sexual healing that was available to me.

 

I even sent him an email to that effect, blaming myself for not having had a breakthrough. Over the next few months, I had two more sessions with him, hoping that I could overcome my own brokenness. He continued to talk at me, frequently reminding me about his part in helping me experience healing. Nothing untoward happened in any of those other sessions, but I was on high alert and never allowed myself to relax with him again.

 

It took me at least a year, maybe more, to recognize that the funny feeling I had wasn’t me being broken. What had happened that day in his bedroom was inappropriate. And I filed it in my head as a consent slip-up and told myself it wasn’t a big deal. He was the consent teacher, right? So, if anything odd happened, it must have been because I invited or allowed it.

 

And also, I had to make a choice. If I said something, I knew that it probably would mean separating from the community that had embraced me and made me feel at home. So, the alternative was to have him be a significant presence in my life as a regular event facilitator and to be in his home frequently because that’s where he ran his events. I chose to keep my community. The trade-off was seeing him several times a month, often in his home, and to do my very best to avoid him and not be alone with him while also trying to tell myself that I was the one who was acting weird.

 

It was another four years before I took that memory off the shelf to reconsider what had actually happened. A man with significant power and privilege had taken advantage of me, my traumatized brain, and my naivete in that particular arena to have non-consensual sex with me.

 

And I want to be absolutely crystal fucking clear about why his ask of, “Do you want me to teach you how a man likes to be touched?” was so incredibly inappropriate. Giving a yes to sexual activity when you fear negative consequences if you say no is not consent. Giving a yes to sexual activity because you don’t know how to say no is not consent. Giving a yes to sexual activity because the person has power over your money, food, or any other resources is not consent. Giving a yes to sexual activity because you’re afraid of losing the other person’s respect or attention or love is not consent. Giving a yes to sexual activity because the other person is physically stronger and you’re afraid of being hurt if you don’t go along with it is not consent. Giving a yes to sexual activity because you’re afraid the other person will turn against you or cause others to turn against you if you don’t is not consent. Giving a yes to sexual activity because you believe you owe the other person is not consent. Giving a yes to sexual activity because you are in a freeze or fawn response is not consent. And not saying no is not consent.

 

This man, who once again, let me remind you, teaches consent and the importance of ceasing activity when a partner is in a freeze or fawn response, either missed or willfully ignored that I had dissociated. He heard a yes and took what he wanted, even though I was not capable of giving true consent in that moment. And then, he took it a step further to perform oral sex, which he had not asked for consent for. And also, let’s be clear, I was there as a client, not as a lover.

 

So, I’m fortunate. This experience left me with a really enduring feeling of ick about this guy, but I didn’t experience any deep or lasting harm. It didn’t wound me in a way where I felt like something had been taken from me. I just felt like, ugh, I don’t want to be anywhere near him.

 

But there’s a reason why I’m sharing this story. I am a practitioner who helps clients sort through their history of trauma that often come from ambiguous consent situations. So, if even I could downplay and deny my own experience for five years, how many other people are out there who are still telling themselves that they’re overreacting or somehow brought unwanted attention onto themselves? It’s so much easier to see it for other people than it is to see it for ourselves.

 

We’ve heard numerous of those stories on this podcast. Teenagers feeling responsible for the advances of older men because they looked older than their age. Women blaming themselves for being violated because they didn’t say no the way they thought they should. Women who believed they deserved the violation because they were drunk or high. So many others.

 

So, please hear this. It was not your fault. You did not deserve it. And we do not play trauma Olympics here. Your case doesn’t have to be worse than others in order for you to feel bad about what happened to you. You get to feel your feelings because they’re real for you. It does not matter how they stack up to anybody else’s.

 

[MUSIC]

 

LEAH: His boundary-busting behavior reminded me a lot of my dad’s behavior. And that’s why it doesn’t surprise me that it took five years for me to fully comprehend the magnitude of someone who teaches consent violating all the rules of consent with a client.

 

But at some point, I started sharing the story of what happened that day with some of my friends from the sex positive community basically to explain why I kept my distance from him. I was surprised to hear that many of them had similar experiences with the same guy. Clearly, there was a history of bad acting that might even border on predation. But I had my own demons that were keeping me from stepping forward to say something.

 

The only time I ever confronted my father about his inappropriate behavior with me, he turned it around on me, “I can’t believe you would ever think that I would do that to you,” he said in this incredibly hurt voice before walking out the door and giving me the silent treatment for weeks on end. That was his response to a lot of things, “I can’t believe that you would think that of me.” And then, it was my job to comfort him because I was such an ungrateful, hurtful child.

 

I want to pause here for a minute to talk about the concept of DARVO, D-A-R-V-O. It’s a term that was coined by Jennifer Freyd in 1997, and it’s an acronym that stands for deny, attack, reverse, victim, and offender. This is a really common abuse tactic and one that I experienced extensively with my father. Here’s a story from my own history to illustrate it.

 

My father makes a comment about how I’m gaining weight, and if I’m not careful, I’ll start looking like my mother. It’s said with a sneer, so I know it’s a bad thing. I’m about 11. He continues to harp on me saying that if I don’t start riding my bike with him several days a week, nobody will ever want me because I’ll be so unattractive. I remind him riding my bike hurts my knees, something that he had known for years. He continues ranting. When he finally comes to a pause, I excuse myself, leave the room, and go curl up in a big chair in my bedroom to cry.

 

I don’t know if he heard me crying or if my mother told him to come check on me, but either way, he comes in and sits down next to me. He nudges me with his elbow. That’s a signal that I know from years of experience that’s meant to say we’re now going to laugh and pretend that nothing happened. But I’m so hurt by the terrible things he’s just been saying to me that I can’t pretend.

 

And usually, I was pretty damn good at pretending. So, I think probably this caught him unaware. I say, “I need some time alone.” With absolutely no transition time, he starts yelling at me that all he wants is for me to be healthy. I’m completely ungrateful for everything he does for me, including getting me a bike that I never ride. What do I have to say for myself? I don’t have anything to say for myself. What could I possibly say? Because nothing that I say is going to be met with any level of acceptance or even listening.

 

So, I just curl tighter into a ball and try to be quieter in my crying. That makes him even angrier, “I don’t know why you do this to me. All I try is to be a good father and look what I get in return.” He storms out and then gives me the silent treatment for a week, literally pretending I don’t exist while we live in the same house together. Then at some point, you never know when it’s coming, but some point of his choosing, he comes up and nudges me with his elbow, this signal that it’s time to laugh and pretend that nothing has happened.

 

This is a DARVO cycle. He denies that he did anything wrong. He attacks me for being a terrible daughter. Then he makes himself the victim because I’m a terrible person. I only heard this term about six years ago for the first time, and it helped explain so much of my childhood. It also explains why I expect people to dismiss and ridicule me if I speak up.

 

The funny thing is that what’s so easy for us to see in others is almost impossible for us to see in ourselves. I can see and name these abusive tactics for anyone else, friends, clients, etc., but it took me decades to understand that I was not the bad guy in my own childhood home.

 

So, when it came to this man and his boundary violations, I felt pretty certain that if I confronted him, I’d get a similar response. He would invalidate me, tell me I was crazy, then make sure everyone knew that I was the problem. I figured a better way to handle this than direct confrontation would be for a group of us to come forward together, just like we’ve seen with the public figures who’ve been taken down in the Me Too era, individual women had reported them and gotten radio silence back. But at some point, a critical mass comes forward together, and everybody wonders why it took so long to identify the asshole.

 

There have been some instances in the world of sex positivity where women have come forward to name bad actors. Some of these men have gone on to do an accountability process. That process is intended for them to learn about power differentials and why, especially in sexual spaces, they can be so easily abused. The goal is for them to recognize the harm they’ve done, take responsibility for their actions, then engage with the victims, if the victims so choose, to do restoration and healing work.

 

I am friends with a man who’s been through this process. His name is Reid Mihalko. I’ve spoken about him on this podcast a few times, and I’m consistently impressed with how he has handled himself through and after his accountability process. And I’ll include a link in the show notes to the archives of his accountability process for anyone who might be interested. I reached out to Reid and asked him questions about his accountability process, what had allowed him to participate so fully in it rather than rejecting it, and what protections I should put in place for myself before pursuing it.

 

That conversation gave me a lot to think about, especially whether I was prepared for the emotional backlash from my community for speaking up. This was early 2023, and I was at the time on the cusp of having a cancer scare which then precipitated all of the medical stuff that happened last year. So, I very quickly didn’t have the spoons to deal with this, finding a group of people, getting ourselves organized, putting together a process, etc., but I was hopeful that maybe once I had this simple little surgery that was going to take me off my feet for a few weeks, that would give me enough downtime to gather my thoughts and put things in place.

 

But that timetable was erased when one of my friends in the sex positive community had a public disagreement with this man on Facebook, and suddenly everything exploded. I’m going to be intentionally vague about some of this because it’s not my story to tell. And also, I don’t want to reveal anybody’s identifying information.

 

So, a small group of people came to my friend’s defense, agreeing that he’d been an asshole. He was infantilizing her, treating her badly. But there was also a fairly large group of people who showed up to tell her to sit down and shut up. And why was she making such a big deal out of such a minor thing? I was not ready to come forward, nor was I in a good mental space to do so, cancer scare and all, but I also couldn’t watch my friend being battered for speaking up when I had a story that corroborated the bad actions that she was talking about.

 

So, I wrote my story out and shared it with the community. Over a few days, a handful of other women came forward to also share their stories. What we experienced was an intense case of DARVO-ing from the community. I was told that I was making shit up. I was told that I was making something out of nothing, that I was villainizing a man who had been so good to me. I was chastised for comparing him to Harvey Weinstein, which by the way, I never did. And best of all, men started saying they were scared to take part in sexual gatherings now because who knows who might be accused next? Because obviously, men are the victims in all of this.

 

Every single one of us who reported on this man was harassed to the point that we left the community. It became very clear very quickly who my friends were and who was no longer safe for me to share space with. As a result, I’ve let my membership in the local sex positive communities lapse for now. I’m no longer attending organized functions because right now, I don’t have a lot of faith in any of the organizations. Instead, I go to private parties that are organized by people I know and people who I know love me.

 

In fact, the New Year’s party that I went to was a play party that was hosted by Reid Mihalko. And total side note, if you happen to be interested in organizing your own play party, Reid has a course on how to do that, and I think he’s fantastic. So, I’m going to put that in the notes as well. But anyway, I haven’t lost everyone. My close friends haven’t gone anywhere, and I’ve made new friends in the interim.

 

I don’t regret anything that has happened. I feel fine about the choices I’ve made. But this is why women don’t come forward. First, we brainwash ourselves into believing that it must have been our fault. Then we fear the repercussions we’ll face for speaking out against someone with power. And then, when we see someone who does speak out, they get harassed and ostracized, which only reinforces the messaging that coming forward isn’t a good idea, maybe even isn’t safe.

 

And this is where I want to shift the topic a bit, to talk for a few minutes about the financial consequences of sexual abuse and sexual violations because we know without question that harassment and assaults on people of all genders are vastly underreported. And there’s research linking all of this to reduced earnings throughout our lifetime. So you know because I’ve often said I am not a scientist or a researcher, so I’m going to give you a basic overview based on my understanding, a link to some studies in the show notes. If you read them and find that I’ve mischaracterized anything, please let me know.

 

So, there have been a number of studies over the last five years that show a correlation between sexual abuse or harassment and decreased earning power. The numbers that are often quoted are that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. My guess is that number is far too low, especially for boys. So, I’m going to just say that it’s 1 in 10 boys to make it easy. So, let’s say 25% of girls and 10% of boys. Doing some quick napkin math, that brings us to about 17.5% of the general population having experienced some sort of child sexual abuse. That’s a staggering number if you think about it. And then, add on that that 17.5% of people are going through life not just with the mental and emotional after-effects, the trauma of having experienced that, but now, they’re also saddled with reduced earning potential throughout their life.

 

And the result is that the means for healing, therapy, financial counseling, etc.. are out of reach for many of us, especially in the United States. I am one of those people. I have a lifetime history of underearning. I often took jobs that were well below my skill set so that I wouldn’t have to prove to anyone that I was capable of more. I took jobs at lower pay, so I wouldn’t rock the boat. I’ll never forget the guy who quoted me $25 an hour during the interview, but then offered me $16 an hour for exactly the same job when he hired me, and I never said a thing. I also do not have a history of asking for raises.

 

Of course, capitalism is a huge boogeyman in all of this because the economy wants workers who are physically and mentally healthy and stable and fully functional. Those of us who started our lives with trauma and haven’t had the opportunity to get appropriate care are unlikely to be a good fit for the type of high-paying jobs that would cover the care we need.

 

Now, I was always motivated to heal, but I had limited access to things that could have helped because I lacked the financial means to pay for it. This is why I’m so passionate about making sure that people who need the type of work that I do and who are motivated to do it can get it. Insurance doesn’t cover coaches, plus insurance companies don’t see sex as an important part of your physical or emotional life. So, it’s unlikely they would cover sex coaches even if they did cover coaching.

 

So, that leaves it to us, the sex coaches, to find a way to make it accessible. And quite frankly, in general, we’re not doing a very good job of it. I promise I’m not going down another capitalism rabbit hole, but it is all connected. So, my personal contribution to equity has always been offering a sliding scale for coaching, but I have found that that can often be a barrier rather than a help because people get caught up in fear and shame about naming the amount of money that they can afford.

 

So, instead, I’m going to try variable pricing tiers. Full price is still $150 per session, and if you’re experiencing financial challenges, you can pay either $100 or $50 per session. No questions asked, no documentation required. I trust you to know what is reasonable for you. And if $50 is still too much for you, please let me know. I’m happy to chat to see what we can do. This applies to both individual and couples coaching because it isn’t just women who are affected by the under-earning that comes from abuse.

 

My coaching info is as always at www.leahcarey.com/coaching. And you’ll find a link on that page with info on variable pricing. If you have any questions, please email me at leah@goodgirlstalk.com. I would love to hear from you, so we can figure out what will work to get you the help that will make your life better. I firmly believe the world would be a better place when more people are able to throw off the stigma and shame they feel about their own sexuality and sex in general. I want to help you be part of that revolution because it helps us all. Okay. That’s a lot, and I think I’m done for the day.

 

So, if you’d like to have a free coaching session, go to www.goodgirlstalk.com/session and send me your info. I need to record some more of these for the podcast, so I’m eager for you to join me as a podcast client.

 

[MUSIC]

 

LEAH: If you have questions or comments about anything you’ve heard on the show, call and leave a message at 720-GOOD-SEX. Full show notes and transcripts for this episode are at www.goodgirlstalk.com.

 

Good Girls Talk About Sex is produced and edited by me, Leah Carey, and transcripts are produced by Jan Acielo.

 

Until next time, here’s to your better sex life!

 

[MUSIC]

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Host / Producer / Editor – Leah Carey (email)
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