Dive Deeper with Leah
I have been through the fire and come out the other side. Now I’m here to walk with you as you do the same.
I will help you take a stand for yourself, your desires, and YOUR PLEASURE.
In this episode, Leah begins answering the Lowdown questions – with a twist!
To date, she has done well over 60 interviews, most of which have included an in-depth Q&A. As she answers each Lowdown question, you’ll hear a chorus of voices answering the same question. The goal is to remind you, once again, that no matter what your answer is, you are completely normal and you are not alone.
In the second half of the show, she answers an “Am I normal?” question about feeling attractive after major surgery.
Body image is tied to feeling lovable in our culture, and the specific body image (young, thin, smooth, and perfect) that we hold as the standard actually rarely occurs in the population. So, most of us feel like crap—and the uber-positivity message of “love every inch of your skin no matter what” rings false and seems impossible to achieve. Body neutrality takes a different approach.
Check out some of these Instagram accounts to see a variety of bodies enjoying life:
Love and vacations in a wheelchair:
Life after breast cancer:
Fat yoga / Curvy girl yoga:
These are some of my favorite Instagram accounts that are working in the field of body neutrality:
LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk About Sex. I’m sex educator and sexual communication coach Leah Carey and this is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex! If anything about the previous sentence offends you, turn back now! And if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: Hey friends. Two weeks ago, I promised to dive on my own Lowdown Q and A with a twist. And today, it’s time to reveal the things I’ve hidden up my sleeve.
To date, I have recorded well over 60 interviews. Most of which have included an in-depth Q and A. As I answer each of the Lowdown questions, I’m going to share a chorus of voices from the past and even if future episodes that haven’t aired yet. The goal is to remind you once again that no matter what your answer is to each of these questions, you are completely normal. You are not alone and your needs, wants and desires, are perfect exactly as they are. So let’s jump in. The first question is do you have sex during your period? I’ll tell you my answer at the end.
SPEAKER 1: Yes, now that is something that I came into as I got older. I used to be kind of squicky about it. He was always like whatever, put down a towel, we got a shower. I was a little more “meh” about it but part of the opening up that my partner and I had was definitely going all in. And for me, it was dropping some of the kind of shame and worry I had about certain things and really accepting his acceptance of me because it was complete and it always had been. I just wasn’t really able to accept that.
SPEAKER 2: No.
LEAH: Because you don’t want to?
SPEAKER 2: Because my husband doesn’t want to.
SPEAKER 3: I was in college and I did the Depo shot and I was on my period for 6 straight months after I took that damn shot and so who is going to go for six months without having sex? So we got really great at having sex during my period because I was on my period for like ever. And so now, we do not shy away from that at all. Actually, my husband kind of likes it and I kind of like it too because it seems like there’s a little bit more sensation going on. There’s a little bit more going on there.
SPEAKER 4: Yes and in fact, I don’t know if I’m the only one but I notice orgasms are better on my period.
SPEAKER 5: Yeah like a spiritual experience for me. It’s really awesome, so big hell yes to that.
SPEAKER 6: I really don’t have one anymore. When I did have one, I did not though. Well pretty much exclusively because I didn’t want to because I’m a stormy monster who doesn’t want to be touched.
SPEAKER 7: I had sex on my period once. It was fine.
SPEAKER 8: Rarely.
SPEAKER 9: I just think it’s gross and don’t want to deal with the clean up. I know he doesn’t care so it’s not my preferred choice.
SPEAKER 10: Unless I’m having cramps because if I’m having cramps then get the fuck away from me.
SPEAKER 10: If it’s a painful period, I’m like I know you don’t care and I know that I like it but nuh-uh, give me some chocolate and run.
SPEAKER 11: I had an ablation when I was 45 so I haven’t had periods since almost 45.
SPEAKER 12: We will do some things but no insertion because I just can’t handle the mess but otherwise as long as there’s not going to be a blood flow situation, then yes.
SPEAKER 13: Occasionally, my husband is totally fine with it but I’m like yeah, let’s do it in the shower.
SPEAKER 14: I never did it before like my whole life, I didn’t. But now with this current partner, he’s just up for anything. He doesn’t care about blood. Just get a bunch of black towels and so he did. He had his own collection of black towels and he just layered them underneath us.
SPEAKER 15: No, I’m kind of a clean freak so I can’t. I just don’t want to deal with having to wash the bedcovers.
SPEAKER 16: Uh-huh. It’s one of the ways you can get rid of cramps.
SPEAKER 17: If I’m like on my period then I would prefer to have a vibrator.
SPEAKER 18: I usually like it at the very beginning or the end, but not in the middle.
SPEAKER 19: I don’t really get a period anymore which is actually a whole other thing. Hormonally speaking, I’m kind of a disaster at the moment but I did when I had it as long as the other person was super, super into it, as long as they really didn’t care.
SPEAKER 20: Yeah, all the time, all the time.
SPEAKER 21: No, I used to, but there have been several times when I had sex on my period and then my period stopped and it freaks me the fuck out.
SPEAKER 22: If I’m not all crampy, yeah. It’s not the first day, sure.
SPEAKER 23: No, I think I may have done it once or twice and it may have been towards the end but I don’t know it just seems messy.
SPEAKER 24: I do. I actually really enjoy it. I tend to get very, very horny during that time so yes, yes, and yes.
SPEAKER 25: No, my periods are heavy and rather intense and I feel very tired. They take a lot of energy out of me. Forget sexual desire, there’s no desire of doing anything other than consume chocolate and live under a blanket.
SPEAKER 26: Yeah, sometimes, if the period is not that heavy.
SPEAKER 27: I’ve done it before and ugh, I’m not a fan.
SPEAKER 28: Hell yeah.
SPEAKER 28: It’s like the best time because you can feel so much and it’s so much more open and lubricated.
SPEAKER 29: Yes, for sure. I feel like I get hornier like right before I get my period. Make sure you don’t stain anything. Give yourself more work.
SPEAKER 30: No, I do not. I think I would freak out.
SPEAKER 31: Usually no, though I told you we have sex in interesting ways so we might not use the vagina, but still do other things.
SPEAKER 32: I’m willing to. Yes.
SPEAKER 33: Yes. If the gentleman in question was willing, often they weren’t.
SPEAKER 34: No. I still think I have this uncleanliness hang up. I remember one time I was on my period and my husband at the time had his hand kind of down there and he goes, “Oh my God, I just touched your string” and I felt gross and horrible and that stuck with me.
SPEAKER 35: Yes, lots.
SPEAKER 36: Look, it stops when you’re fucking so it’s fine.
SPEAKER 37: I think we did at some point a long time ago. We haven’t in the last 5-6 years.
SPEAKER 38: No, I haven’t but I want to try.
SPEAKER 39: Not opposed to it. It hasn’t happened a lot. I did like it but I also was like self conscious about it. The person I was with said they really liked it so that made me feel better.
SPEAKER 40: No, at least not purposely. I don’t like it. First of all, I don’t want to be the one to clean it after and I don’t want anybody else cleaning it after. So I don’t want to be in a hotel and leave that for somebody else and I don’t want to deal with the aftermath.
SPEAKER 41: I do and that’s new with this partner. For the first time in my life, I’ve actually enjoyed it is with my current partner. He doesn’t judge. He doesn’t get weird about things. He’s just like whatever, it’s just blood. Whatever.
SPEAKER 42: Yes, actually I tend to be incredibly horny the night before. Yeah, put down a towel, some old sheets on and have a grand old time.
LEAH: Do I have sex during my period? Occasionally. This is a really new thing for me. I’m one of those women who learned to be ashamed of their period early on.
In fact, my introduction to having a period is burned in my memory because it was so awful. It happened when I was preparing to go away to summer camp, the summer before 4th grade. Apparently, the application had a question on it about whether the camper knew what a period was in case she got it away from home. Rather than allowing my mother to have a sensitive conversation with me, my father decided to sit me down. At 8 years old, all I really needed to know was that when a girl gets a little older, she gets a period once a month. It’s nothing to be scared of. It’s totally natural and it probably won’t happen when you’re gone this summer. But if it does, you can go to a counselor and they’ll help you. A little conversation about how to affix a pad to my panties would have been more than enough.
Instead, my dad sat me down for an hour long lecture about the mechanics of the period. Way more information than I ever could have needed or wanted at 8 years old. But even that wasn’t enough. In addition to making a huge production out of the lecture, he made a joke about the words. Instead of talking about the mucus lining and bleeding, he kept referring to the “mucus” and the “blood”. Even today, almost 40 years later, the thought of that phrase makes me want to vomit. It was so incredibly invasive to have him talk about my body that way.
From that day on, I dreaded getting my period. When I finally did get it around age 12, I ignored it literally. I denied it was happening. For the first couple months, I was really just spotting so it was easy enough I suppose to pretend it didn’t exist but my mom did the laundry and she knew exactly what was happening. So eventually she came to me and had a conversation about pads and tampons. But I was already so ashamed by what my body was doing that I completely checked out at that conversation.
During middle school and high school, the cramps started. Sometimes they were so incapacitating that I had to lie down for the day. But my father’s response was, “Get up and go out for a walk. It’ll make you feel better.” He didn’t listen to me when I said standing up made me so lightheaded that I felt like I was going to pass out. He was utterly convinced that I was being lazy. I wanted to scream at him. “The first time you had your period, I’ll listen to your advice, but until then, fuck off!” But I never dared to say anything like that to him.
I grew to dread my period. I felt sick and gross and dirty when I had it. When I finally became sexually active, there was no way in hell I was going to let anyone touch me at all. Let alone interact with my genitals when I had my period. In my 30s, I remember fooling around with a man I was seeing. He wanted to stick his hand down my pants. I told him I had my period. He didn’t care. For the first time, I let someone touch me there during my period. When I saw the blood on his fingers, I sobbed and got pretty close to breaking up with him right there on the spot. I’m not sure how he managed to talk me down.
As I’ve moved to perimenopause, my periods have gotten visibly lighter and shorter. Now instead of bleeding heavily for 8 days, I bleed moderately for about 3 days. The cramps still happen but are merely annoying rather than incapacitating and I’ve been involved with a few men who seem utterly unconcerned by blood including my current partner.
So occasionally, I push against my own boundaries. It doesn’t happen often but once in a while, we’ll put a towel down and I’ll let him enter me. There’s something nice about the extra slipperiness and the feeling of extra fullness that only happen during my period but I have a hard time letting my brain stay present because as much as healing I’ve done, there’s still shame with this thing that my body does once a month every month. So there you go, that’s my first answer to the Lowdown. There’ll be more in two weeks.
LEAH: For this week’s “Am I Normal” question, let’s look at someone else who is ashamed of something going on with her body.
QUESTION: Am I normal because I’m sick and having surgery. How can I have sex ever again? Not feeling attractive by having surgery so that’s my question. Am I normal?
LEAH: Dear listener, I am so sorry that you’re having to go through this. Going through health issues and surgery is scary enough without having to worry about whether your body will be attractive enough to have sex when it’s over.
So first, yes, your concerns are completely normal. We live in a culture that is hyper focused on how things and people look. We’ve all been given the idea that the perfect female body is 22 years old, trim, smooth, tanned and without an extra ounce of fat. Anything other than that is derided as gross. But how many of us actually have that body? I’d guess about .01 percent of the population actually lives in that body and even the lucky young women that do are obsessing with something they think isn’t quite perfect enough.
So now, we get into our 30s or 40s and our bodies aren’t perfect 22 year old bodies anymore if they ever were. We sag, we jiggle, we bounce. We have to push against cultural stereotypes and expectations to remind ourselves that we are still lovable. To believe our partner when they tell us they love us exactly as we are. To believe someone new could find us attractive. But then surgery happens and we have scars, maybe we lost parts of our factory installed hardware, a breast or a limb or our hair or maybe something gets introduced, a breathing tube or a wheelchair or a colostomy bag and you’re left feeling so far away from that perfect image that it’s almost impossible finding anything about yourself that you can appreciate.
I’ve talked before on this podcast about how I went to a Jamaican sex resort a few years ago. I didn’t have any sex. I just sat on the nude beach and looked at all the bodies walking around. There were fat bodies, scarred bodies, and arthritic bodies. There was every kind of body you can imagine. You know what there wasn’t? A perfect body. Not a single one of those sexy people took off their clothes to reveal a trim, smooth, tanned body without an extra ounce of fat. And yet every one of those bodies had someone looking at it with desire. This is where I began to shift my attitudes about weight and attractiveness and desirability. When I was surrounded by real bodies rather than bombarded with images of perfect bodies, I began to see my own body in a new light.
Now, I understand that the body image issues that I was dealing with are not the same as the post surgery issues you are facing, but I think there’s a commonality on how we can train ourselves out of believing there’s only one beauty ideal and if we don’t match it, we’re utterly and completely hideous. So here’s what I suggest. Instagram can be a toxic stew of influencers with perfectly filtered making and manicured living rooms but it can also be the place where you can see less than perfect people showing up to normalize exactly what you’re talking about whether it’s normalizing an ostomy bag like Anne Liseeva in Ostomy Diaries do. Or being in love and vacationing in a wheelchair like Naomi Fernandez does. Or Life After Breast Cancer like Lauren Elise Ox. Whatever it is you’re dealing with, I can almost guarantee there’s someone on Instagram taking you on a visual journey of them doing the same thing.
This isn’t about trying to fool yourself into adoring every inch of your body. It’s about learning the shape, size and normality of your body is one of the least interesting things about you. It’s a concept called body neutrality and it’s what I now strive for. In the Show Notes for this episode, I’ll include the accounts I mentioned a moment ago along with some of my favorite body neutrality Instagram accounts. I recommend you follow them and remember that your body is a vehicle for you to get around in, not a show car that’s only sailable if it’s in perfect condition.
LEAH: That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying the show, please take a moment to leave a 5-star rating and review on Apple podcasts or, if you’re using another podcast app, go to www.ratethispodcast.com/goodgirls.
And remember there is a treasure trove of audio extras available FOR FREE at Patreon. Go to www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex. While listening to those extras is free, producing this show is not. If my work is meaningful to you and you have a few dollars to support it each month, I’ll gratefully accept your patronage at Patreon. I donate 10% of all Patreon proceeds to ARC-Southeast, an organization that supports women in the Southeast United States to access reproductive services that are increasingly difficult to obtain.
Find out more and become a community member at www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex.
Show notes and transcripts for this episode are at www.GoodGirlsTalk.com.
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If you have questions or comments about anything you’ve heard on the show, call and leave a message at 720-GOOD-SEX.
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.
Before we go, I want to remind you that the things you may have heard about your sexuality aren’t true. You are worthy. You are desirable. You are not broken.
As your Sex and Intimacy coach, I will guide you in embracing the sexuality that is innately yours, no matter what it looks like. To set up your free Discovery Call, go to www.leahcarey.com/coaching.
Until next time, here’s to your better sex life!
As a member of the Good Girls Talk About Sex Patreon community, you’ll get exclusive access to behind-the-scenes content like after-the-interview videos where I share my personal thoughts and reflections on each episode. You’ll also receive monthly voice memos from me with reminders about the core tenets of sex positivity and consent.
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