Leah shares how she ended up appearing as a featured guest on the #1 sex and relationship advice podcast Savage LoveCast, and why it is such a big deal for her.
Savage Lovecast episode – https://savage.love/lovecast/2022/01/04/a-study-of-hypno-porn/
Read excerpts of Leah’s memoir-in-progress –
Sex and Intimacy Coaching with Leah – https://www.leahcarey.com/coaching
Iyanla Vanzant and the Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development – https://www.iyanla.com
Savage Love from A to Z – https://www.powells.com/book/savage-love-from-a-to-z-9781632173829
Dan Savage Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/dansavage
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!
LEAH: Hey friends,
Surprise! It’s a special bonus episode!
If you follow me on social media, you already know: I was a featured guest last week on Dan Savage’s Savage LoveCast. It was a dream come true, and people have been asking how it happened, so I thought I’d give you the history of how Dan Savage has impacted my life and how we got here to me being on his show.
This story starts waaay back in 2007. I was in a two-year training program with Iyanla Vanzant, who you may know from her show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Iyanla Fix My Life.
As a student at Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development, I was locked in fierce battle with the ghost of my father’s voice telling me I was undesirable and no one would ever love me.
He had already been deceased for 7 years at that point, but I kept dredging his voice up to torture myself. He had told me many terrible things about myself, but for some reason the one that stuck the hardest for me was “Boys only like girls who have pretty legs.”
It was a devastating indictment because I had inherited my mother’s heavy, Eastern European peasant legs. Logic might have told me that my body shape had been in my family for many, many generations and each of those women had found partners, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. But I was also deep in my father’s assertion that through enough positive thinking and exercise, I could fundamentally change the shape of my body. Spoiler alert: it’s not true.
I’ve done a ton of work in my life and his voice is now a bit quieter than it used to be. But back in early 2007, he was still screaming in my ear every waking moment.
One day I stood up in class and finally said the words that had been playing in my head for decades. “I’m fat and ugly and I don’t think anyone will ever love me.”
Iyanla looked right at me and said, “Okay, so you’re fat and ugly. Does your fat ugliness cost you extra to get on the bus?”
That response may sound cruel to some of you, but for me it was exactly what I needed. I would never believe anyone’s assurances that I was pretty – actually the opposite. Any time someone told me I was attractive, I assumed they were making fun of me.
What Iyanla did was allow me a side door into reconsidering my self-perception. I saw myself as a victim of my fat ugliness. She was telling me that I could emerge from victimhood, even if I never saw myself as gorgeous.
“No, it doesn’t cost me extra to get on the bus.”
“Do you have to pay more on your taxes because you’re fat and ugly?”
“No, I don’t have to pay extra on my taxes.”
“Who made you fat and ugly?”
Given that this was a spiritual training program, I immediately knew where she was going.
“God made me fat and ugly.”
“So why don’t you let God worry about your fat ugliness and you go on with your life being the best fat and ugly person you can be?”
I knew immediately that she had found a crack in my armor. And in quick order, I found the voice that would help open that crack a little further.
That was Dan Savage. He had just begun an audio version of his popular love and sex advice column, Savage Love. At that point it wasn’t even called the Savage LoveCast yet, and it didn’t have the catchy jingle yet.
I was working a job where I could put on headphones and listen to his voice piped straight into my brain for hours on end. I quickly exhausted the back catalog and began eagerly anticipating a new episode dropping each week.
I couldn’t have told you what I was listening for at the time – I was curious about sex and I liked hearing someone talk about it so openly. I had no inkling that sexual freedom was a possibility for me because I still deeply believed that I was sexually broken.
But through the questions people asked and Dan’s answers, I began to question the truth I had believed for so long: that my body was completely unworthy of love.
I remained a loyal listener until about a year and a half later when I got involved with a man who seemed to like my body. Listening to the Savage Lovecast fell to the side as I nurtured a new relationship, graduated from my two-year training with Iyanla, got my coaching certification, self-published a book, and more.
But sex with that man was never good, and there were aspects of our relationship that bordered on emotionally abusive. I thought that, given my sexual brokenness and general unworthiness as a partner, I should stay with him because he was the best I could do.
A year into the relationship, as a direct result of how unhappy I was with him, I began gaining weight. At which point he hit me in my most sensitive place: he told me I was getting fat and ugly (not exactly his words, but close enough to touch my deepest wound.)
It took another year for me to finally find the self-respect to leave that relationship, but it sent me into another tailspin. Would there ever be another person who found me attractive enough that they’d want to have sex with my body?
Imagine some tinkly time fast-forward music here as we jump to the winter of 2016.
My mom had passed away and I was settling her estate. The United States had elected a reality television star as president, and I was spiraling hard.
I began working again with a therapist trying to identify why the election had triggered me to the point that I no longer felt functional. For the record – in the years since, I’ve spoken with numerous therapists and every one of them says the same thing: they saw a massive jump in women seeking therapy as a result of their old traumas being triggered by the election. If that was you, too, you’re not alone.
For me, the answer was that, while my father was infinitely smarter, they had the same behaviors, mannerisms, and bullying tactics. Watching the former president on television and hearing him on the radio was facing the specter of my father again every day and it totally overwhelmed my nervous system.
I stopped watching the news and listening to the radio, except for a few carefully curated programs that gave me the news I needed without sending me into overwhelm.
With my therapist Susan’s help, I began planning the around-the-United-States trip that would become the Freedom Tour.
It was during our very last session when she said, “We have 15 minutes before we’re done and you go off on your grand adventure. Are there any last things you want to talk about before we finish?”
And I gathered up all my bravery to ask the one question I hadn’t been able to give voice to before: “I don’t have sensation during sex. Is that something we can deal with?”
She didn’t laugh me out of her office for asking such a gigantic question with 15 minutes left before we never saw each other again.
Instead, she did me the favor of saying, “That’s not my area of specialty. But while you’re traveling, I bet you’ll be somewhere that you could set up an appointment with a sex therapist.”
Well, it turns out Dan Savage was that sex therapist. I began listening to the Savage LoveCast for hours on end once again as I drove. I subscribed to the Magnum edition and gobbled up episodes. I listened as other people asked many variations of the same questions I had: was it true someone could love me in this body? Was it true that if I didn’t have the kind of sensation I wanted, it didn’t mean I was broken? Was it true that good sex was possible, even if I’d never experienced it yet?
Over hundreds of hours, through thousands of questions and answers, I heard him say clearly over and over again: Yes. All of those things are possible.
When the possibility opened for me to see a sex worker and experience a tantric massage, I heard Dan’s voice telling me that sex workers could be incredible healers. I took a chance and did it, and it was the experience that set off my whole journey of sexual healing.
By the way, I’m in the midst of writing the memoir of my journey of sexual healing, and I’m sending out excerpts every other week to people on my email list. If you want to read along while I’m writing the first draft, click the link in the app you’re listening on now to sign up.
As I was having all of the wild adventures that constituted my year of sexual healing, I was sharing them with a group of female friends online. In turn, they started telling me their own stories of sexual exploration, trauma and adventures. Those conversations – and their questions about their own sexuality – were what led to this podcast. I realized I’d never heard anyone have the kind of conversations I was having with my girlfriends, and I wanted to make those available for others who were searching.
If you get anything out of the work I do today, you have the hundreds of hours I spent listening to Dan Savage to thank. He is the reason I was able to ask my therapist the question that opened all the doors. He is the reason I was brave enough to visit a sex worker. His show was a large part of my inspiration to start my own.
Since starting this podcast, it has been a dream to appear as a guest on his. And last week, that dream came true. After a quick break, I’ll tell you about how it – including all the jumping up and down and screaming that happens when someone you admire so much contacts you.
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?” Well, that’s where personalized sex and intimacy coaching comes in.
When you work with me, I promise to help you feel safe exploring your sexuality. I promise that your sexuality is not shameful. And together, we’ll help you see yourself, your needs, and your desires without judgment. Now, I’m not going to tell you what you should do or feed you answers. That’s not what coaching is about. Instead, I’m going to walk with you in the process of discovering what’s right for you in a way that respects your emotional needs, your boundaries, and the pace that’s right for your nervous system because going too fast can send you into shutdown while going too slow can be infuriating and exhausting. The goal is to find the right pace for you.
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 and sexual relationships, dipping your toes into BDSM or consensual non-monogamy, exploring sexuality for later in life virgins, recovering from infidelity, and so much more.
I believe this work is deeply important and should be available to every woman regardless of your financial situation. That is why I know offer variable pricing. Whether you’re experiencing financial challenges, or financially stable, or have some extra to pay it forward, there’s an option for you. And I give the same level of care and support to you regardless of the pricing level you choose. For more information and to schedule a discovery call, visit www.leahcarey.com/coaching. That’s www.leahcarey.com/coaching. Now, let’s get back to the conversation.
LEAH: At the beginning of October 2021, Dan Savage came to Portland, Oregon, to do a reading for the release of his new book “Savage Love from A to Z.”
I was SO excited to have a chance to see him in person! I got my ticket, put on my mask, and went to my first indoor event in over a year and a half.
The ticket price included a copy of the book, and after the reading (which wasn’t a reading at all, but rather Dan telling stories and shooting the shit with the audience for an hour or so, which was amazing) we were invited to get in line to have Dan sign our books.
I made my way to the back of the line and started thinking about what I would say to him when I got to meet him. I knew it would be 30 seconds or less, and I knew there was no way to express to him the depth of what his work has done for me. And by the time I was at the front of the line, I was no closer to having those words.
Which is how I ended up standing in front of Dan, crying and choking out, “You’ve changed my life.”
I’m sure he hears that dozens of times a week, but I appreciated that he seemed genuinely touched by the sentiment. He signed my book, we did an elbow bump, and it was over.
Except it wasn’t! I had shared a few pictures on IG stories from the event and tagged him, and he shared them in his own stories. Which left me in paroxysms of delight, of course!
The next day, I wrote a post on Instagram about how deeply moved I was by getting to meet this man who has meant so much to me. I tagged him, and once again he shared my post to his stories … and then he followed me! Let me tell you, I about lost my friggin’ mind!
There was jumping up and down involved.
All that happened a little over three months ago. Since then, I’ve continued to tag Dan occasionally when it’s appropriate and, of course, have remained a committed listener.
Fast forward to 3 p.m. on Dec. 29. I was sitting on the couch working on some podcast-related stuff. My partner was off work for the week between Christmas and New Year, and he was just settling in to take a nap on the other end of the couch.
My phone dinged with a DM from Instagram. I glanced down, determined to not be distracted since I had finally gotten focused on the work I was doing.
And I saw the name “Dan Savage” on the message. That didn’t make any sense, so I clicked in to see what was going on.
There it was – an invitation directly from Dan to join him on the LoveCast and answer a listener question. His DM ended with four words that still strike me as absolutely hilarious: “if that sounds appealing.”
Does that sound appealing? To join the biggest name in the sex advice world, the man who has helped me to profoundly change my relationship with sexuality? Appealing? Um, sure. I guess.
Through my squealing, my partner kept asking, “What’s going on?” The more I tried to calm myself to tell him, the less I was able to speak, and the bigger the look of delighted confusion was on his face.
Finally I got the words out – “Dan Savage just messaged me and he wants me to be on the show!”
At which point it became clear my partner wouldn’t be getting a nap that afternoon.
I managed to quell the shaking in my hands enough to type back, “HELL YES! Let me know when, and I’ll be there!”
Within a couple minutes, Dan got back to me, asking if I’d be available 45 minutes later.
I have to admit – after asking me to be on the show, the next biggest gift was not giving an opportunity to freak myself into an anxiety episode. I had enough time to listen to the call I’d be responding to a few times, take a shower, and get myself set up.
I reminded myself that the worst thing in the world was for me to try to sound “smart.” The interviews I’ve done that I’ve been least pleased with over the last few years are the ones where I’ve been so consumed with sounding “smart,” I completely forgot to say anything intelligible or relatable.
“You don’t have to be smart,” I kept telling myself. “You just have to respond to the question and have a conversation.”
Forty-five minutes later, my phone rang. I picked up and heard the voice I’d spent so many hours listening to from my car radio speakers.
“Hi Leah, this is Dan.”
My nerves were bubbling right at the surface and I think I may have over-corrected. Rather than sounding my natural bubbly self, I was tamping everything down so I wouldn’t sound like a lunatic and ended up sounding a bit subdued. When I listen back I hear that my voice is pitched a bit lower than my normal speaking voice – it doesn’t sound bad, but it’s noticeable to me as a marker of how much I was trying to keep myself “in control.”
Over the course of the seven-ish minutes that we spoke, I could feel myself calming down and settling into the rhythm of the conversation. I made some valid points that I’m happy with, while also not trying to sound overly smart.
When it was done, Dan told me that I’d been a great guest and he wants to have me on again. Jackpot!
I went back into the living room where my partner was just barely edging into sleep once again. I pounced on him, jumping up and down and squealing.
There are days when it’s easy to wonder if I’m making any difference in the world, but December 29th was not one of them. It was a day when the stars aligned and I got to speak as a colleague with the biggest name in the industry. And hopefully the stars will re-align so it will happen again many times in the future.
Here’s an interesting thing that happened after the episode was released last Tuesday, Jan. 4. I listened to the conversation, I shared it with everyone I knew, I celebrated for a while … and then I fell into a state of deep imposter syndrome.
Who am I to be offering advice to others? Why do I deserve this opportunity?
And even bigger than those questions: what if this is it? What if an opportunity like this never comes along again?
I’ve spent the last week reminding myself that this type of exposure is not a limited resource. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn multiple times over my sexual healing journey too. Every sexual experience I had felt overly important because I believed this might be the last person who ever found me attractive. As long as I treated affection and touch as a limited resource, I got more attached to people than was warranted and I got more upset than was appropriate when things went sideways.
As soon as I began to see that there were lots of people who wanted to have sex with me, and that touch and affection were NOT a limited resource, I started making better decisions about who to interact with because I knew that if I turned one person down, there would always be another person willing to take their place.
I keep reminding myself to look at this moment in time the same way: the opportunity to talk with larger audiences and have a bigger impact is not a limited resource. These chances will come more regularly the more visible I make myself. All I have to do is keep showing up.
The results are speaking for themselves: downloads of Good Girls Talk About Sex doubled overnight. I’m getting floods of messages from new listeners and followers and potential clients. I still have spots open for sex and intimacy coaching if you’re interested – I’ve made scheduling a Discovery Call easier, so go to www.leahcarey.com/coaching to get started.
So that’s the story of how I came to be on the Savage LoveCast. If you’d like to listen to my appearance on that show, it is episode 793 from Jan. 4, 2022, titled “A study of hypno-porn.”
If you listen to the free “Micro” version with ads, my segment starts at 36:16. If you subscribe to the Magnum edition, my segment starts at 37:44.
Thank you for joining me here and for your support and love. I look forward to talking with you again next week in our next regularly-scheduled episode.
LEAH: That’s it for today. Good Girls Talk About Sex is produced by me, Leah Carey, and edited by Gretchen Kilby. I have additional administrative support from Lara O’Connor and Maria Franco. Transcripts are produced by Jan Acielo.
And I’m incredibly grateful for the financial support from Good Girls Talk About Sex community members at Patreon. If you’d like to support me in telling these stories and answering your questions, head over to www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex. You can find Show Notes and Show Transcripts at www.goodgirlstalk.com. To ask a question about your sex life, your desires, or anything to do with female sexuality, call and leave a message at 720-GOOD-SEX.
And before we go, I want to remind you that the things you’ve probably heard about your sexuality are not true. You are worthy. You are desirable. You are not broken. I work with women just like you to reflect their true sexual nature back to them without the judgment, shame or fear that can get in the way of us seeing it for ourselves. As a coach and PJ party hostess, I will guide you in embracing the sexuality that is innately yours no matter what it looks like. I’m here to help you sink so deeply 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!
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