Dive Deeper with Leah Carey
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.
What happens when a girl grows up in purity culture and gets married to the first boy who pays attention to her, just so she can have sex? Is purity culture religious abuse?
In this episode we hear that story from Gabby. She is a 34-year-old cisgender female. She describes herself as white, straight but open to exploring, currently non-monogamous with three recurring partners. She has two sons, is pre-menopausal, and describes her body as curvy.
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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. What happens when a girl grows up in purity culture and gets married to the first boy who pays attention to her, so she can have sex? Today, we’re going to hear that story from Gabby. She is a 34-year-old cisgender female. She describes herself as white, straight, but open to exploring, currently non-monogamous with three recurring partners. She has two sons, is premenopausal, and describes her body as curvy. So, let’s get this party started. I am so pleased to introduce Gabby!
Gabby, I’m thrilled to talk to you. As you know, I always love a listener who writes in and says that they want to be a part of the podcast. So, thank you so much for doing that.
GABBY: Thank you. I’m so thrilled to be talking with you. I really look up to you.
LEAH: That’s lovely. I know you said before we started recording that you’re feeling pretty nervous. How are your nerves now?
GABBY: I think just being able to talk to you and hear your friendly voice that I listen to every morning has helped.
LEAH: That’s sweet. All right. You know the first question that I ask everyone is what’s your first memory of sexual pleasure?
GABBY: I was three and I was humping my blanket buddy.
GABBY: And I was like, “This feels really good.” And then, my mom took it away and hid it on top of the TV unit.
LEAH: Because she saw you doing that?
LEAH: So, that was right there from the beginning a little bit of sex shaming for you.
GABBY: Right away, you just knew that wasn’t okay. And it was a comforting thing for me.
LEAH: Yeah. Did you at that point come to something you would recognize now as an orgasm or was it just the thrusting gave you that happy feeling?
GABBY: I would say it was probably a clitoral orgasm. Yeah. I remember that feeling and I remember knowing it the next time I had an orgasm.
LEAH: And so, were you doing this out in public? Is that why your mom knew to take it away?
GABBY: It was at home in the living room. So, it was in a family area. This is me guessing, but I think she probably didn’t know what to do. You see your very young child in the 1980s doing something that you would equate only with sex and you go, “Oh my gosh.” Because it wasn’t as wildly know as far as I know that it was normal for kids to do that. It wasn’t talked about.
LEAH: Frankly, I think a lot of parents now who don’t even understand that it’s okay and there’s still that shame thing that’s wired up for so many people. Yeah. So, did you find a replacement for that blanket buddy?
GABBY: I got him back before I went to bed because otherwise, I wouldn’t go to sleep. So, I did get him back. And then, I just learned to do that in my bedroom when people couldn’t see me.
LEAH: So, you continued?
GABBY: Oh, yeah. And as I got older, I found other things to help.
GABBY: A pillow with a rolled-up blanket on it, it’s fabulous.
LEAH: You’re an industrious child.
GABBY: Whatever worked.
LEAH: Yeah. So, you were masturbating it sounds like from a very young age consistently. Is that true?
GABBY: Yes. I think maybe at some point, I would stop because if I had been caught or if there was some shaming going on surrounding sex at church or at home, I would stop because I’d be like, “I’m sinning. This is bad. I shouldn’t do this.” But pretty consistently from a young age. I had no idea it was masturbating until I was maybe 13 and I read a book. And then, I thought masturbating was just playing with yourself with your fingers because that’s what the book said. And so, I thought I was doing it wrong.
LEAH: Oh my god, that’s amazing. Right.
GABBY: I can’t do it that way. That’s apparently not the way you’re supposed to do it. And so, I tried to do it the way the book showed and I was like, “Nope. That doesn’t work.” So, I went back to what worked.
LEAH: I have so many questions, but the very first one is when you masturbate now, do you use your fingers or do you still use objects?
GABBY: I usually use objects. I’ve tried fingers and a partner’s fingers, I love that. My own, it doesn’t do it for me, but I love penetration too. Yeah.
LEAH: Wow. Oh my gosh. I love this so much.
LEAH: So, you mentioned church and I know that church was a big part of your growing up. So, what kinds of messages were you getting in your home and in your church about sexuality and about being female in general?
GABBY: Sex was for marriage. It was my job as a female to keep myself pure and my dad’s job to keep me pure to protect me. I had a purity ring when I was eight. My dad and I signed a contract together saying that I would allow him to guard my heart and that before I would date anyone or anyone courted me, they had to talk to him first and get his permission. This was all messaging that he and my mom were receiving from our faith and our home school group at the time. And I also was told that it was my job to dress modestly. If I wasn’t dressing modestly, I was causing my brother to stumble.
LEAH: Wow. So, they even made it about your brother?
GABBY: Yeah. You would say in the church, your brother. So, anyone who is a follower of Christ is your brother. So, I was causing a brother to stumble. But my dad and my brother, it was their job to check my outfit before I left the house.
LEAH: That’s a little creepy.
GABBY: But they were told. This was the messaging they were given too. Now, my dad would be like, “Yeah, no.”
GABBY: But at the time when I was 16, if I came down the stairs and my pants were too tight, “Back upstairs. Change your pants.”
LEAH: I can see how a parent would take that responsibility on, but for your male sibling to take that responsibility, that is creepy to another level for me.
GABBY: Yeah. And I think that was just what we were taught. I think because he was male and so my mom would be like, “If he’s feeling like that’s too tight, then that means it’s too tight.”
LEAH: Did you and your brother have a good relationship?
GABBY: Yes. We’ve always had a very close relationship. We got along very well.
LEAH: So, it wasn’t like a power struggle of him being like, “I’m going to send you upstairs” kind of thing?
GABBY: No. He’s my younger brother. Yeah. He’s my younger brother.
LEAH: Oh my god, he’s your younger brother, Jesus. Okay.
GABBY: Yeah. He’s two years younger than me.
LEAH: I’m just having a moment here.
LEAH: Okay. While I regather my head here, you said you signed your purity contract at eight years old. I’ve certainly heard about these, but I equate that with being a young to mid-teenager. Eight sounds really young.
GABBY: I think that when my parents were given this information, we joined a home school organization out of Tennessee when I was seven. And so, they would have received all of this information about purity culture around that time. And my dad was also going to a men’s group at that time that was also talking about purity culture. But also, that was when my mom started sex ed with us. I was eight and she read us a book about the birds and the bees and the mommies and daddies are puzzle pieces. So, I don’t know if it was because she knew that we were both curious children or if it was something that they were told. Yeah, we were really young.
LEAH: So, was your family not previously in the church?
GABBY: My father grew up not in the church at all. My mom grew up United, which is a much more liberal organization. And then, she became a Pentecostal when I was a baby and that’s a more evangelical fundamentalist part of the church. And my dad became a Christian when I was five. And then, they decided to home school us when I was seven.
LEAH: And that’s when you entered this more evangelical phase?
GABBY: Much more fundamentalist. The homeschool organization that we were a part of was from Tennessee and so it had a lot of those very strict evangelical fundamentalist beliefs about sexuality and women honoring men, women submitting to men. Yeah.
LEAH: So, when you say your mom started some sex education with you, what did that look like?
GABBY: She found a book from the library that was age appropriate and she took us to the science center. And we sat in the area where they had the babies and the uteruses and it showed how a baby grew. And so, she mostly talked about how a baby is conceived and given birth to and how a mom and a dad have to work together to do that. So, it wasn’t like a lot of details about the actual act. But I remember after that playing with my Barbies like, “This is how you do it.”
LEAH: So, it sounds like you were left with more questions.
GABBY: It was like, “Okay. Obviously, something happens where they fit together.” Barbies, you have to fork them, so is that how it works?
LEAH: Yeah. Actually, that sounds relatively age appropriate for eight years old.
LEAH: Was there continuing conversation about sexuality as you got older?
GABBY: Yes. So, my mom even though she was very evangelical, was very open about bodies and about sex. My parents were very careful to make sure that we saw them being affectionate with each other like appropriately affectionate. And we knew that we couldn’t go into their bedroom without knocking, so that was their private space.
So, we always knew that there was some special thing about being married that meant you got to share a bed and that kind of thing. By the time I was 11, I had my first period and she had never hidden her periods from us. My brother and I both knew about what you had to do. So, when I had my period, I was like, “Mom, I need a pad” because I knew what it was.
GABBY: So, I was never in the dark about that. She bought me a book about a young girl’s body. That’s where I learned about masturbating. And she made sure if I had any questions, I could talk to her. She was not a fan of the masturbatory questions.
GABBY: She’s like, “No. That’s for your husband.” I was like, “How am I supposed to know it works if I don’t practice?”
LEAH: That’s actually a really great question for a teenager to have. How did she respond?
GABBY: I think she just went, “Okay” and just left it at that. She didn’t really engage after that. She was just like, “All right. You do you.” Yeah.
LEAH: So, it sounds like your home while it was conservative was not repressive.
LEAH: But it sounds like maybe your church experience was a bit more repressive. So, what was going on in that space?
GABBY: So, in the church space and the religious space, it was definitely more about boys and girls can’t mix. In youth group, you couldn’t be alone with a boy. There were dress codes for girls, even when we went on mission trips or if we went away for youth retreats. It was like there was a lot of focus on girls and what they were doing and how they were presenting themselves. And not as much focus on boys and how they were behaving. And the church in general, there was just a lot of shame around sex. And the big message is, “Save yourself for marriage, save yourself for marriage, save yourself for marriage.”
LEAH: And when they say save yourself, I know that that ends up having a lot of different interpretations for different people. Some people think that means, “I can’t kiss until we get to the altar or until we’re engaged.” Some people think that some range of activities is okay, but no genital contact. Other people think that anal penetration is okay as long as it’s not the vagina. So, where did you come down on all of that?
GABBY: So, I remember being very confused about it when I dated my husband. So, first thing, I wasn’t allowed to call it dating. We called it courting and when I was 16, I was given a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris and it was all about how you should only court. Because if you’re courting, then you’re preparing your heart for marriage and you’re not going to cause someone else to have a broken heart. You’re not going to sully your purity emotionally or otherwise.
LEAH: So, for someone who is completely uninitiated, what is the distinction between courting and dating?
GABBY: So, his distinction in that book was that dating was meant to have fun and you were just hanging out and you’re just being together casually because you liked each other. Whereas courting had an intention of building a relationship that would result in a committed marriage that is the recognized by God as holy.
LEAH: So, you don’t spend time with somebody unless you already know you are willing to marry them?
GABBY: Yes, definitely not alone or romantically. Yeah.
LEAH: Wow, which in my world, the reason to spend time with somebody is to find out if you are interested in becoming committed with them and how would you know that before you spent time?
GABBY: No. This was a huge movement in the 1990s in the evangelical church, the purity culture movement, the True Love Waits movement was big. And since then, actually Joshua Harris has come out and denounced his faith and apologized for the book.
LEAH: Wow, really?
GABBY: He has made huge apologies. He actually even made a documentary series about going and talking to the people who his book affected adversely because it was a big deal that he left the church last year, a big deal.
LEAH: Oh, this was just recent?
GABBY: Yeah. He renounced his faith last year and divorced his wife, which was also a big deal.
LEAH: Okay. Getting back to the story, my mind just keeps getting blown over and over.
LEAH: So, you’re learning to court. Does that feel authentic to you? Was courting something that you wanted or did you want that dating experience?
GABBY: I only knew courting because from the age of eight, it was like if a boy is interested in you, not if you’re interested in a boy. If a boy is interested you, then he will maybe approach you and if he wants to do anything more than just hang out in a group of friends, you need to ask him to talk to your dad. And this was meant to protect me and it was done out of love on my parents’ part.
They were like, “We want to make sure you’re not getting hurt. We want to protect your heart.” But nobody gave my dad a formula for how to do this. So, what it did at the beginning was great when I was too young to date like when I was very young and maybe shouldn’t be dating. It allowed me to say, “Sorry. You have to talk to my dad” and let me pawn off the responsibility, and then boys would run in the other direction.
GABBY: But when I got older and I finally met someone who at this point, I thought people just aren’t interested in me because no fifteen-year-old boy wants to go talk to your dad and date you for marriage. That doesn’t happen. So, by the time I was 18, then I met my future husband and he actually was not afraid to talk to my dad. And then, my dad didn’t know what the hell to do.
GABBY: He’s like, “We’ve never gotten to this point before. What do I do?”
LEAH: Okay. So, a couple of questions.
LEAH: It sounds like you were not living in a religious community because if you were, the boys would have had the same expectation.
GABBY: So, the way my parents and our home school comrades and some of the other people in my youth group were was this purity culture, but a lot of other people in my youth group were not from the church or not from the same kind of purity culture belief system. So, some people adhered to it and some people didn’t. Yeah.
LEAH: I see. Would you have been interested in somebody who was in that same faith tradition?
GABBY: I had a few crushes and I would say that I actually dated a boy for almost six months, but we didn’t call it dating.
GABBY: He actually worked for my dad. And he was 18 and I was 16. So, he would sleep over at my parents’ house because he would have to work early in the morning at the pig farm and we lived in the pig farm. And so, we’d stay up until 12 o’clock in the morning talking and he would always give me the front seat in the car and kick his best friend in the back. So, I was priority.
GABBY: He’d hold my hand, that kind of stuff. But he knew that I was extremely sheltered, rigidly sheltered. So, one time we were sitting on the couch. We had a movie day where we each pick three movies to watch at Blockbuster. That’s how old I am.
GABBY: And we sat on the couch and we watched these six movies together for the whole day with my mom sitting behind us. And he put his arm on my leg and I didn’t know what to do and I freaked out. And I went to the bathroom and when I came back, I went and sat on the opposite couch because I didn’t know if that was okay. I didn’t know what I felt about it. I was like, “Do I need to tell him to talk to my dad? What does this mean?” And then, he hugged me goodbye that night and said, “I don’t think you’re ready for this,” and then never came back.
LEAH: Oh, no. How did you feel?
GABBY: I was devastated. I didn’t know what I’d done. I didn’t even realize that that had made him feel rejected. I was just so, so naïve I had no idea that what we were doing was even dating until I was talking to a friend. And she’s like, “Gabby, that was dating. You guys were dating.”
LEAH: Yeah. So, in the drive to keep you safe and not get you hurt, you had so little information that you ended up getting hurt.
GABBY: And my parents were floundering. They didn’t know what they were supposed to do. They just knew that they were supposed to keep me safe and that was what they were told. And then, they were like, “Oh, this isn’t working.” Because you can’t protect a teenager from getting their heart broken.
LEAH: Of course, that’s the point of being a teenager to some extent, I think.
GABBY: It is.
LEAH: Yeah. So, at what point did you have your first kiss?
GABBY: With my husband on our one-month anniversary of courting. And I wasn’t sure if I was ready because I had never kissed anyone. I was 18 at this point and we were outside in my parents’ front lawn and I was sitting on our old rope swing. And he came up and I could tell he was going to kiss me. And I was like, “I don’t know if I know how to kiss anyone.” And he’s like, “Let’s find out.”
LEAH: Was it his first kiss?
GABBY: No. He was 25. And yeah, he had had previous partners. He grew up outside the faith, and then became a Christian when he was 22.
LEAH: Okay. And did you enjoy it?
GABBY: I did. I am a really good kisser and I love kissing.
GABBY: Ask my partners. They all agree. I’m a good kisser.
LEAH: I like a woman who knows her strengths.
LEAH: Okay. So, you have your first kiss. It’s fun and yummy. What next?
GABBY: Oh, we would make out in the car.
LEAH: And is that technically acceptable?
GABBY: So, there weren’t a lot of details given to me about what was acceptable except don’t have sex before you get married. Be a virgin on your wedding night. So, he had had experience before and I had had none. So, after he had asked my dad if he could court me, and then a month after we had our first kiss, and then we started making out in his car or making out in my bedroom, holding hands. Yeah. My parents were at this point, I think they were like, “You’re 18. You’re an adult.” But nobody told me that.
GABBY: So, I was still adhering to the rules of being a teenager and they left us alone. They let us be. So, we could have done whatever we wanted, but I would always stop before penetration.
LEAH: Were you getting naked together?
GABBY: I believe at one point about a month before we got married, I would allow him to take my top off. But never my underwear. I don’t think I allowed him to touch any part of my vulva or any area down there. Even one time, he touched the top of my thigh and I didn’t realize this was an issue for me until looking back when men touched the top of my thighs, it would cause me to all of a sudden feel concerned. It was like a trigger. Yeah. So, I was fine with playing with my breasts. I was fine with humping his leg until I could orgasm.
LEAH: So, there were orgasms?
GABBY: There were orgasms, just no penetration.
LEAH: Yeah. Okay. And what about his genitals? Did you have any contact with them?
GABBY: I would touch them through his underwear. But I didn’t like to see them yet. I wanted that to be for our wedding night. So, here we are. We’re doing all this. And I am not letting him ejaculate.
LEAH: I was going to ask. Was there any ejaculation?
GABBY: So, he would probably wait until I left, and then masturbate. I feel so bad now thinking about it. I’m like, “Oh, man. I had no idea.”
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LEAH: So, how quickly did you progress from first kiss to proposal to actually being married?
GABBY: Okay. So, we started courting in July of 2005. We were engaged February of 2006 and married May 2006.
LEAH: That’s actually not as quickly as I thought you’re going to say.
GABBY: Okay, because it was less than a year from the time we started courting.
LEAH: It’s fast, no question.
LEAH: Especially for someone who’s never been kissed before, but yeah, I think my assumption is that if sex is not on the table until you get married, that you move through those phases very quickly.
GABBY: And I feel like that was quick and definitely I was moving it along because I was like, “I want to have sex. That’s why I’m getting married. I want it.”
LEAH: Yeah, that’s a question. Was that a primary factor in getting married?
GABBY: For me, definitely. I had always been interested in sex. I started watching porn when I was 14.
LEAH: Where did you have access to it?
GABBY: So, I convinced my mom that because I was a night person, I should be allowed to do my math and school at night while they were sleeping.
GABBY: And then, sleep during the day.
LEAH: Oh my god, you were brilliant.
GABBY: So, we had Bell ExpressVu and there were channels after midnight, you could get free porn. So, I would watch that and do my math. And then, masturbate. And then, finish my math.
LEAH: Oh my gosh. Were there particular kinds of porn that you enjoyed?
GABBY: I preferred anything that was more romantic that had a story. I didn’t like the bow-chika-wow-wow.
GABBY: The ones that were all about blowjobs, although I did learn how to give a blowjob because I watched a lot of porn.
GABBY: I think I surprised my husband when I knew how to give one.
LEAH: I bet.
LEAH: You get married relatively quickly, so that you can have sex. Were you a good match?
GABBY: In some ways, yes. And I would say at that point, it wouldn’t have mattered. I think probably at that point, the first person who actually had the balls to ask my dad I would have stuck to like glue because I thought I wasn’t desirable. Because obviously, most boys in their teens are not going to ask a girl out if it means a commitment. They’re teenagers. That’s not reasonable. So, when my husband asked my dad, after that, he tried to break up with me twice and I wouldn’t let him. I was like, “No, we have to work through this because courting was for marriage and marriage was forever.”
LEAH: So, there was not really an exit strategy if the courting was not going well.
GABBY: Right. Nobody said, “If either of you are feeling that it’s not a good fit for marriage, you can stop.” And I’m a first born. I’m an A type personality. I’m like, “This is what I’m doing. I’ve set my mind to it. I want to have sex. You are the only person who’s asked my dad. And now that I’ve kissed you, I have to marry you.”
LEAH: Right, yeah.
GABBY: So, we were not an ideal match at all and that became more and more apparent the longer we were married.
LEAH: So, how long were you married for?
GABBY: 15 years this May, and hopefully I will be divorced in June.
LEAH: Oh, wow. So, wedding night. The long-awaited moment has come. How was it?
GABBY: Oh my gosh, it was awful.
GABBY: The poor man has been blue balling it for nine months. He knows what he’s missing. I don’t. He knows what he wants to do. I kind of understand it. He specifically said we have to leave our wedding reception by 10 PM because we are going to have sex.
LEAH: Of course.
GABBY: He made up a song leading up to our wedding where he would just look at me and be like, “Bam, bam, bam, sexual relations.”
GABBY: He was so excited. So, we get to the hotel and he’s like, “We should both shower.” We take all the pins out of my hair. We get in the shower, and then I’m like, “What do I do?” Now, I’m naked and wet.
GABBY: My body is, not the other areas. My vagina was dry as a bone.
GABBY: I was nervous and I had no idea what to do. And so, we just awkwardly start making out. And then, it was like no foreplay because he’s so excited. He tried. He tried to wait and then it was just like, bam, penetration, pain. He was large too. He was not small and I’m only 5’4. I’m not tall and it was not comfortable and it was fast and he came right away.
LEAH: Of course, yeah.
GABBY: I think I was laying there going, “Okay. I knew it was supposed to hurt.” And I wanted to enjoy it, so I made myself like, “Okay. This is supposed to be how it feels. Where’s the enjoyment in this? Find the enjoyment. Find what you’re liking. Do you like the friction? Do you like this?” And I was like, “Okay. It’ll get better the more we do it. I have to let my body get accustomed to it.” But here’s the thing with convincing young women they have to wait until their wedding day for sex, do not then book a family brunch the next morning. Okay?
GABBY: Don’t do it. Because I had to walk in there cross-legged, going, “I can’t sit down properly right now.”
LEAH: Because it was uncomfortable?
GABBY: All my aunts knew why. They all knew why.
LEAH: No, I’m sorry that happened.
LEAH: Did it ever get better?
GABBY: It took a long time for it to be comfortable. As I said, he was very large and I didn’t realize that because it was the only penis I had ever seen. So, I didn’t know it was large-ish. And I’m a smaller person. I was a virgin. I was young and he had a hard time waiting until I was properly ready.
LEAH: And that’s something I was going to ask you about because in a situation where there is so much focus put on the actual penetration, that you spend all of these months waiting and waiting and waiting to get to the penetration, then I think once the penetration has happened, you never go back and focus on that early stuff again. At this point, the entire purpose of sex becomes penetration. So, was there ever a point at which you got back to go back and do the fun stuff again?
GABBY: I would ask him. Okay. So, on our honeymoon, we were like, “We’re going to have marathon sex. This is going to be awesome.” It was actually pretty good because you were just focusing on figuring it out and finding what worked and trying new things. As long as he waited for me to be ready, it was good and I enjoyed it.
But then after our honeymoon, we got back to our apartment, which I had just moved into after our wedding because we had not lived together. And I was so excited to be married and having sex and I would try to imitate every night and he would shut me down. And I think we maybe only had sex once or twice a month after that, after our honeymoon.
LEAH: Do you know why that is?
GABBY: So, I thought it was because he was on meds for his mental health and I just threw it to that. Because every time I would ask him, he would say he’d have a headache or he wasn’t feeling good. And then, when we had been married for 12 years, I think it was maybe 10, 11, we were going through a really bad rough patch and it was not good. And I said to him, “If we don’t get help, I’m leaving. I can’t do this anymore.” Because I wanted to have sex and wanted to be physically intimate with a person who I was supposed to live the rest of my life with. And he at one point told me I was too much work. It was too long. It was too hard to do, and so I thought it was something wrong with me.
LEAH: Yeah. Of course.
GABBY: I thought I wasn’t attractive enough. I was too fat. Something must be wrong with me that I take that long, which is not that long. When I’m aroused, it is not that long.
GABBY: And it was at about year 12, we went to a marriage conference, a Christian marriage conference, and they had a whole night that was just about sex. And then, they send you out to your hotel rooms. They were like, “Okay. Now, you’re all excited. Go do this homework and talk to each other about your sexual past and things that might be hang-ups for you and what each of you want.” It was acutely pretty good. And this is where I was introduced to Sheila Wray Gregoire was at this and she was actually really fantastic and really said, “Women, you can have a high sex drive and your partner might not.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s me. Oh my god.”
GABBY: So, we went back to our room and we were doing our homework. And it said, is there something that has happened in your past that may have caused a roadblock in your sexual desire? Because I said my biggest thing was that we were not physically intimate and he was not even physically attentive in non-sexual ways. My love language is touch and I need that for me to feel loved. And he said, “Remember on our honeymoon that one day we were making love and I smelled something that smelled really bad. And then, after that I just couldn’t have sex with you.”
LEAH: Oh my god.
GABBY: And I said, “What? If it was that repulsive to you, you could have asked me to go have a shower or something. What was it that would be that bad that it turned you off of sex for 10 years?” And he was like, “I don’t know. I was afraid you’d get mad at me.” And so, again it was something on me that I took personally as something I was doing wrong. So, then after that, we decided that we would plan sex. You know what? We’re going to plan it. We’re going to know what night it’s going to be and it might not be romantic, but that way, we’re doing it.
Then he would try to initiate and I would be turned off because we had all this other stuff going on our marriage. So, then he would say, “Now, you don’t want to have sex.” And then, he would tell me that I needed to initiate if I wanted to have sex. So, it got to a point where it was just both of us were afraid to ask the other one to do anything. The one thing I will say for him he was always very good when we actually did have sex, that he would make sure that I had an orgasm, and he wanted to make sure that I felt good before he finished. But then it was like, “Roll over, go to sleep.” And that is not how I like to make love I’ve learned.
LEAH: Do you think there’s any possibility that he’s gay?
GABBY: You know what? His sister actually asked me that the night that I asked him to move out. I went over to her house because he was going to live with her for a little while and I wanted her to know my side of what was going on. And I told her some of this stuff that had happened between us and she’s like, “I really do wonder if he’s just super suppressed gay.”
LEAH: Yeah. Obviously, you can’t tell anybody what their preference is and what their orientation are and certainly not after 10 minutes of conversation once removed. With that said, the things that you’re saying sound very much like the actions of somebody who is trying really hard to suppress what they think they want, but also think that they are wrong for wanting.
GABBY: Even if he is heterosexual, I think and this is just me, I don’t know any of this, but for me, I was evaluating going, “I wonder if he wanted things that he didn’t feel comfortable asking for because he was ashamed of sex himself.” After we would finish, I would want to talk and snuggle and he would roll over, he’d be like, “Don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me.”
And one night, I finally said, “We just shared something that is beautiful and physically intimate, why don’t you want to talk to me?” He said, “I feel icky after I ejaculate. I feel gross.” And so, I’ve tried to address with him where this shame was coming from. And so, I think it could be a shame of wanting to have something that he felt was sinful in either direction.
LEAH: Yeah, sure. This is not something that I know anything about, so please don’t take this as any sort of information that one should go out and think is true.
LEAH: But I have heard that there are people who go into a disgust response after having an orgasm that that is something for some people is the norm. But again, it’s not something that I know anything about. The way that I heard it described had something to do with evolutionary biology. And after you’ve spilled your seed, then the body shuts down. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m talking about.
LEAH: But it’s interesting. There’s a lot there to unpack that obviously is not ours to unpack because it’s not our experience.
GABBY: Yes, exactly. But what took a long time to unpack for me that this was not just about me because I was taught if your husband isn’t happy, that’s something you have to fix as a wife and that was a teaching in a lot of marriage books for Christian women. Just respect him more, submit more, give him more sex. Make him happy. And so, I was like, “I’m not doing it right.”
LEAH: And the assumption is it’s the man who wants more sex and the woman who wants less because that is our gendered stereotypes, but as we see in your story that is not always the case. And it’s not helpful for you to just submit more and give him more sex. That’s not the problem.
GABBY: No, it is not the problem at all.
LEAH: I’m interested also by a couple other details, which is that he wanted the two of you to shower together that first night, which is interesting when he then says that the smell was an issue. I don’t know that that means anything at all, but it’s just interesting to me. And the other is one of the questions I’ve had through this whole conversation is what causes a 25-year-old man to commit to courting an 18-year-old woman when he knows he cannot have sex with her until they’re married?
GABBY: I think it was for me, knowing him, a very low sense of self-esteem and I was the first girl in a very long time who had shown interest in him. And right away, there was this Florene Nightingale complex for me, I wanted to fix him. I wanted to look after him. I wanted to show him that he was worthy of love and affection because he had a very low view of himself.
He had just started having panic attacks and anxiety and hadn’t been able to go out in public for months and had just begun going out in public after receiving medication. He was like, “This is probably the only girl who’s ever going to want to marry me.” So, we both had that story in our heads. We’d never be attractive to someone else. This is probably as good as it’s going to get. And I think that brewed discontent with each other, but at the same time a codependency. My worth comes from the fact that you’re the person who chose me.
LEAH: Yeah, absolutely. So, let’s move forward because I know that you are no longer with him. So, what precipitated that? And I also believe that you’ve left the church. Was that all part of the same thing or were those separate circumstances?
GABBY: So, I believe I started my journey away from religion about five years, maybe a little longer, maybe a bit before that. I started asking more questions and I started feeling like a lot of what I saw and knew to be true from my interactions with people did not line up with what I was being taught through the church.
So, what I first started doing was saying, “I just don’t know. Maybe we’re misinterpreting what God is saying or what the Bible is saying.” And then, I was like, “No. I think these things that are being said from the Bible are wrong. They don’t match up. They don’t align with what is needed today. This is an ancient text written by men.”
And then, when I started saying that, my ex-husband became very upset with me because the Bible is infallible. It is truth and every single word in it is the truth. And if you question it, then you are disobeying God. And what happened is every time we would try to have a discussion about our marriage or I would come to him to talk about something going on with our family, which was extremely dysfunctional at the time, and he also had mental illness. He was dealing with a lot and I was dealing with a lot. I would come to him to talk about these things and he would turn it into a sermon about where I was failing God.
So, that drove a big wedge between me and religion because I was like, “I don’t want to be adhering to this. If this is your God, if this is the God I’m supposed to be following because I’m supposed to submit to you, I can’t follow that God.” So, then I started deciding, I can follow the God that I feel comfortable with, which is the God who loves everyone. And I still attend the Bible study actually of women who are older than me and very devout, but also very open and I hold a lot of views that are not super popular in the church.
GABBY: I am feminist. I am pro-choice. I am pro-LGBTQ. I am an advocate. And he hated that. And he would flay me and yell at me about it and say that I was teaching our sons that men were inherently evil by telling them about consent. And there was a lot of things that just pushed me further and further away. We had a very, very big final fight and he basically said that it was a woman’s fault if she got raped. And he had said this before and I had tried to reason with him. And the fact that he had brought it up again knowing it was a very painful topic for me because I had been sexually assaulted as a young child by a pastor’s son.
LEAH: I’m sorry.
GABBY: Thank you. I’ve done this before. I’m not going to do that. It wasn’t okay. I’m not going to justify his actions. So, he knew that this was a big deal for me when he would bring this stuff up and he did it anyway. And I said, “You need to leave.” And after he finally left and went to his sister’s, I closed the door and I felt a sense of relief that I hadn’t felt ever in my entire life.
And I knew that I could finally drop the religious parts of me that I was holding onto for me and because I was trying to please him. I identify as agnostic currently. I believe there could be something. It could be a Judeo-Christian God and that’s the tradition I identify with. That’s the context that I grew up in. So, I allow myself to participate in that from a traditional standpoint, but I just leave the stuff that does not help me grow as a human being.
I still really appreciate some of the communities I’ve found within the church. There are some beatify people that I’ve gotten to know who have supported me through all of this, including my separation and my divorce, women and men who have been extremely kind and caring and understanding and did acknowledge that what I was in was an emotionally abusive relationship and a religiously abusive relationship, which I didn’t know was a category until I called to get counselling. And I was talking to a man and he said, “Oh, yeah. That’s a thing.”
GABBY: And I was like, “That’s a thing?” He’s like, “Yes, that’s religious abuse.” I’m like, “Oh my god.”
GABBY: So, that’s when I finally had the permission from myself to leave the religious part of church. I’ve still maintained my small community of people who I am safe with, but with COVID being isolated, you aren’t going to church anyway. You aren’t attending these groups and Bible studies. So, it’s given me space as well to deconstruct and reconstruct the new me outside of an abusive marriage.
LEAH: Yeah. I want to talk about your post-separation, but first I want to ask how are the two of you doing it co-parenting?
GABBY: Surprisingly, we are navigating it well, better than we ever did married. Because I have to let him be a father in his own way and he has to allow me to be a mother in mine. And we can be friends now and we can have a common goal of raising our children, but we don’t have to have common interests. We don’t have to have common faith. We don’t have to have common living space. And that’s been a huge game changer for us.
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LEAH: So, you have been apart for 10-ish months now?
GABBY: Yes, 10 months.
LEAH: And what has happened during those months for you?
GABBY: First, I started by deconstructing my faith, which then led me to deconstructing purity culture and thinking about what about when I’m ready to start dating. If I date someone, I’m an adult. He’s an adult. He’s going to want to have sex. Am I ready to have sex with someone who’s not my husband? That’s what I wanted.
GABBY: I used to stand in my kitchen sobbing asking God to allow him to die, so I could marry someone else and have sex. That’s how bad it was. When it’s that bad, you need to just leave and it’s okay. But I was trying to think this through. I was part of a group of previous Evangelicals who were all deconstructing on Facebook. So, one woman brought this up. She was like, “I’m trying to figure out. I just left a marriage and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to go about dating because I’m trying to figure out if I still agree with purity culture.” I was like, “Same here.”
And so, we had a really great conversation and it led me to think, is this what I believe or is this a belief that was inserted on me? What do I believe about sex? Where does sex belong in my life? Where do other relationships belong in my life? And I started seeking out other single women and talking to them, listening to Christian podcasts and non-Christian podcasts about relationships, about divorce, about sex. And I did a lot of repair work with my kids. I started going to counselling. So, that’s from June to September. There were nine single moms who all finally had a night out. We were drunk, so drunk.
GABBY: So, the birthday girl, she had lost her husband. He had passed away five years before and her friends were all like, “Girl, get back there. You’ve got to download a dating app. Get a dating app on your phone.” So, they’re all showing us their dick pics that they’ve collected.
GABBY: And I was like, “This is a thing? What?” It blew my mind.
GABBY: I was like, “People just send you this?”
GABBY: So, all of the other women are downloading different dating apps onto her phone. So, what do I do while I’m trying to get sober? I download Tinder.
LEAH: Of course.
GABBY: It’s a great idea. Why not? 2 AM on a long weekend, download Tinder on your phone.
GABBY: So, I’m thinking, I put up a few pictures and I’m swiping away. I’m like, “I’m just doing this to see if I can even talk to anyone, if anybody even likes me because I think I’m disgusting. I’m not desirable. I’m a 34-year-old single mom who’s overweight and I’m not rich. I don’t have any money.” So, I’m telling myself this story about myself. And then, I’m getting matches. And I was like, “Oh, great.” And the first three, it’s the middle of the night. It’s like, “Hey, baby. Come over to my house.” I’m like, “Ew, no.”
GABBY: But then, two nights later, I got this ping on Tinder and I have a new match. And I had bene talking to someone else on Tinder. We were doing sexting just for fun because I was like, “This, I can do.” I knew how to sext because after I had my first son, I actually was so depressed about not having sex with my husband that I had found an online sex chat room and had learned how to have sex chats with strangers and that was an outlet for me.
And then, my husband found out about it and was extremely upset understandably and he actually threatened to get a divorce at that point. But we went to marriage counselling and we made it work. We talked about it. So, I knew how to sext and I was like, “This is fun. I can do this. This is COVID-safe. Great.”
GABBY: And then, I get a message from this guy who I had swiped right on and I was like,
“There’s no way. He’s 28. He’s ripped. He’s exactly my type. He’s a ginger. He’s super smart. He works at the hospital.” Oh my god, there’s no way and he swiped right. And I said, “Hey. I like gingers.” And he messaged back right away, and he said, “Really? Nobody ever says that.”
GABBY: And we continued to chat until 6 o’clock in the morning and we were flirting. And he was saying, “Oh, there’s a thunderstorm here.” I said, “Me too.” And I said, “I live on a lake.” He asked me if I was afraid of thunderstorms, all of this banter that I hadn’t had ever really. I had never really been able to enjoy that part of starting something like that. And he then asked, “Oh, you’re a hairdresser, would you trade a haircut for a date?”
GABBY: And I was like, “Sure.” And he’s like, “Oh, I didn’t think it would be that easy.”
GABBY: And then, I was like, “Oh, man. He’s 28. He’s driving an hour to get here for a date. This isn’t just a date. This is Tinder. Oh my god, am I ready to do this?” Because I had told myself this story. It had to be sex. That’s the only reason he would want to meet me. So, I made it into this big thing in my head and we met and it was amazing.
He was a beautiful human being. We met and there was instant connection. He held my hand right away. We went for a walk. And after months of not having that, it was huge to have that human connection, someone who was being nice to me. I didn’t even realize how much I had not recognized that I needed someone to be nice to me. I didn’t acknowledge that and he was super nice to me. We had very similar interests. He let me TMI to death, that poor man.
GABBY: Oh my god. He was an introvert, I found out after. And I was like, “Oh, how did you deal with me?”
GABBY: And I just assumed where this is leading is sex, so I brought him back to my place. My kids were not at home. And I was freaking about that because of COVID. I was like, “Should I be doing this? We’re in a safe zone. He gets tested every week. I’m okay with this.” So, he came back to my place and we snuggled on the couch and that was something I had missed so much. And he knew how to hold me and he knew how to touch me and he knew how to talk to me. And I felt so comfortable with him and I thought I would feel nervous and I didn’t. And I brought him into my room and we had sex. And I didn’t orgasm. It was the first time.
GABBY: Both of us were like, “Oh, wow. We’ve never done this before.”
GABBY: Because I had found out he had never done that. So, then I realized I didn’t feel ashamed afterwards. I felt exhilarated and I felt happy and I felt happy for the first time in a very long time. And I thought it was because of him, so I immediately fell in love with him.
LEAH: Of course.
GABBY: And then I told myself, “I’m not in love with him. It’s okay. I’m an adult. I can have an adult relationship that is about sex and nothing else. This is fine.” And so, he agreed to friends with benefits because I hounded him right after he left because I had never done this before. And he drove all the way here for a quickie and I was like, “Oh my gosh. I’m worthy of a 2-hour drive for a quickie.” That was huge for me.
So, then I realized I was wanting a lot more commitment. I was so excited about him because I hadn’t had anyone be kind to me. And he was not at that place. He was not there and he was very honest with me about it. He was so kind. So, then I had another friend who was talking to me and he said, “Gabby, you do not need to be jumping into another relationship right now.” And he is an open marriage, so he has an agreement with his wife about having partners outside of the marriage for him. And so, he was talking to me about that, about polyamory, about his experiences and he was like, “You do not need to be finding one person right now. Let this be time for you, explore you, figure you out.” And so, then I told him I had slept with this guy and that I was so excited and he said, “Okay. You sound attached. Are you okay?” And I was like, “Oh, I’m not attached. I’m fine.”
GABBY: And he was like, “Uh-huh.” And he’s much older than me. He’s in his 50s and that night, he left after getting a haircut and he sent me a message. And he said, “I just want to put in an application to be one of your lovers.”
GABBY: And I didn’t know how to respond. I’m still in monogamous mindset. And I’m going, “I’m seeing this guy and I really like him.” And this guy kept saying, “Gabby, other people will like you. You can go see other people.” And so, I was talking to my older friend and messaging back and forth and I said, “I don’t know if I’m comfortable with seeing two people at the same time, especially with COVID. I’m not sure how I feel about that.” And he said, “No problem. If you just want to text and we can send stories back and forth, I’m fine with that.”
Because I also didn’t know if I was attracted to him sexually. I talked to a couple of my girlfriends and they said, “Gabby, you could just go for this and you could learn something. If you feel like trying it, try it. This could be good for you.” So, I was thinking about it and then I matched with someone else on Tinder and he was younger.
GABBY: And he was Indian. And he was really sexy and when I couldn’t get a hold of the first guy and he was distancing himself because I think he recognized, “You’re not ready for this.”
GABBY: So, I messaged this other guy and I was like, “Okay. Do you want to meet?” And he said, “Sure.” And we met and we became FBWs and I felt good about it and I didn’t think I would. And then, I messaged the other gentleman, the older man, and said, “Do you want to be my lover?”
LEAH: I love it.
GABBY: So, I was honest with all three of them from the beginning. I told first Tinder guy who I nicknamed Ginger. I said, “Ginger, just so you know, I have found two more people because I’m realizing I need a lot of experience and touch. I need a lot more than what I can expect from you.” And he said, “Good for you. That’s awesome.” And then, two weeks later, he messaged me and said, “I’m just going to remove benefits off our table, but I’d like to remain your friend.” And it made me sad, but I was talking to my older friend who my dad nicknamed Silver Fox because yes, I told my parents about all of this.
LEAH: Wow, goddamn.
GABBY: Yes. This is who I am. And they approved and they encouraged me in it, which was beautiful for me because I’m very close with my family. So, my dad nicknamed him Silver Fox, older guy. Silver Fox, I told him that Ginger had taken benefits off of the table and he said, “Thank him and know that you can leave that open. And if he comes back to you, he comes back. And if he doesn’t, he doesn’t.”
And I had never thought of that. I was so afraid of losing people in my life I would hang on so tight and I realized that’s what I did with my marriage until I let him go. And I told him, “I thank you so much for being the right person for me for that first time. You were exactly what I needed.” And it was beautiful and it was lovely. And then, he came back into my life for a little bit, and then he left again.
And I actually am so grateful to him and to Silver Fox for teaching me a lot. And then, I had two people and I was quite happy with that. And then, Silver Fox and I had a falling out over a misunderstanding, a miscommunication that I was actually proud I stood up for myself and I said, “No, that’s not okay,” which I had not done before.
LEAH: Good for you.
GABBY: And so, I ended up with one person.
GABBY: And then, I realized that wasn’t enough. So, Brownie, who’s my East Indian friend, that’s what he asked me to call him. I am not being racist. He requested that nickname.
GABBY: All of my white friends are appalled at me, but he was quite happy to be last man standing.
GABBY: Because he grew up Pentecostal as well. So, he was going to be in an arranged marriage in a few years. And so, he only wanted an FWB, but he wanted an exclusive one. And so, he thought he had finally gotten that. And then, I said, “No. Actually, I want to keep things open. I want to keep exploring.” And he was like, “Okay.” And then, he put conditions on our relationship. And I said, “Actually, I’m not okay with those conditions. I can understand why you need them, but I’m just going to say I’m going to step back.” And that was hard for me because I didn’t know how to do that.
GABBY: I was like, “You don’t have to hang on to this. It’s not a marriage.”
LEAH: I am so fucking impressed.
LEAH: Seriously, this is amazing. Go on.
GABBY: It took a lot and it was a lot more complicated than that, but we don’t have six hours to sit here.
GABBY: But I was very proud of myself for finally putting my foot down and saying, “You know what? I actually do need this freedom.” And COVID was a concern for me, but we’re in an area where there are not a lot of cases and I tended towards finding partners who were tested regularly. So, I felt comfortable with that and I know that’s going to be difficult for a lot of people to understand, but I’m okay with it.
And so, currently I am seeing three people regularly and we all have an understanding. Actually, I have been using the STARS talk with everyone. And it has been fucking amazing and lifechanging. And how I learned how to identify as non-monogamous was because of your podcast. And I was like, “This is okay. I’m allowed to do this.” And I’m just very open. As soon as I match with someone and this is the thing for a long time, I was like, “I don’t know. What am I doing? How do I do this?” I enjoyed the rush of first matching with someone. And so, I would match with someone new and I would just put it all out there to say, “This is what I’m doing.” Because a lot of times, men are like, “You want to just hook up?”
GABBY: And I’m like, “Sure. Here’s my list of things. These are my rules.” And most of the time, they’re very eager and they get all super turned on by the STARS talk at first. When I’m talking it through with them, they’re like, “Oh, yeah. Turn-ons, this is great. Awesome. Sweet.” We get to where I share that I’m non-monogamous and I have multiple partners and they’re like, “Oh, okay.”
GABBY: And then, either they take the next step and they move forward because my rule is we meet outside for a coffee. And if I’m not feeling comfortable or I’m not feeling safe or I’m not digging you, that’s all it is. And that’s all it will ever be. And so far, everyone has been really great. I’ve been very lucky to have vetted out anyone who is not safe and not understanding. Because I do have kids to think about and myself. And recently, I just met someone who completely digs my entire lifestyle. He’s a neuroscientist undergrad and he is fascinated by how I have changed so quickly when I told him my story.
GABBY: And when I was telling him my journey about non-monogamy, he was like, “Oh my god, this is amazing. We need to talk more.” And then, he and I have become very close and he’s been at my house for almost a week.
LEAH: Wow, oh my goodness.
GABBY: And he’s the first person I would let meet my children.
LEAH: So, do you feel like you are moving toward a relationship with him whether it’s a monogamous or a non-monogamous committed relationship?
GABBY: Currently, yes. And I think what’s best about this is that we are both completely open wherever it goes and we’ve both said, “This could be something that flashes in the pan and is quickly gone.” We are very intense right now. We hit it off super quick, super-fast and we’re just connected. We have so many similar interests and so many ways of exploring the world that is similar. But both of us keep acknowledging we don’t need to have a roadmap or a plan.
And that’s new to me because the goal of a relationship is marriage. So, I’ve had to completely throw that out of my brain and continue to. It even snuck back in this afternoon. I was taking my dog for a walk and I was thinking about the future. And I was like, “Wait, wait, wait. Why do you need to think about the future? Enjoy what’s happening right now.” At first, we were worried. He even said to me after our first meeting, he was like, “I’m worried we’re both going to get a little obsessive. I know I’m feeling obsessive.” And I said, “You know what? This is a natural first part of a relationship. Why don’t we let ourselves be obsessive and acknowledge it’s not going to last?”
LEAH: Yeah. That’s the hormones. That’s the chemicals running and he’s a neuroscientist. He probably knows the actual chemistry of it. Yeah, that is absolutely the normal course of getting excited about a new person. We call it new relationship energy, NRE.
GABBY: Yes, new relationship energy. And I remember you talking about that on the podcast before and he’s like, “Gabby, I don’t expect you to stop what you’re doing. We just keep an open communication.” And he’s the first partner I’ve been with who doesn’t mind me being honest about my other partners and my other experiences. Sometimes, that makes other partners uncomfortable even if they say they’re comfortable. So, I try to respect that. But he said, “No, I benefit from every situation that you’ve been in. Every experience you have, I benefit from it. Why would I stop that?”
LEAH: I love that. I love it.
GABBY: He’s 11 years younger than me and it’s fabulous. I’m just going to say. If you are newly divorced, go find yourself a young man. It is amazing. Do it, so worth it.
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.
I appreciate every one of you whether you’re a client, a contributor, a social media follower or a silent listener. I trust you to know what’s right for you. Thank you for being here. You can find out more and become a community member at www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex. And if your finances are tight, but you still want to support the show, I would love it if you would take a screenshot of this episode on your phone and post it on Instagram. Tag me in your post and I’ll send you a personal thank you. Or send your favorite episode to a friend and invite them to chat about it with you. Use this show as a jumping off point to deepen your own conversations around intimacy and sex. Now, let’s get back to the conversation.
LEAH: How are you talking to your kids about sex?
GABBY: I’ve completely changed how I talk to them about sex now. So, a couple years ago, my older son asked me what sex was when he was about seven. And I have a rule that I never lie to them if I can help it, if I’m being aware. I started out with, “Sex is something that you share with someone you love, a mommy and a daddy. Wait, wait. No. Two people.”
GABBY: I had to change my own narrative in my head. And then, I almost said, “When you’re married.” And then, I had to change that narrative because I didn’t want to give that to him. I said, “That’s my baggage.” So, now they know that I am seeing multiple people, but they know that they don’t meet them except for this newest partner. And that was actually something that I was not expecting to happen and he and I both agreed that we were okay with it. And then, I asked my older son if he was okay with it and he said, “Yes.” And so, he knows. He knows when this man is sleeping over, he’s mom’s friend. It’s like a sleepover like we have, but we can’t go into your bedroom.
LEAH: And what does your ex-husband know? Do you have any concerns about your kids because they know what you’re doing, talking to your ex-husband?
GABBY: So, back in October, they walked in on me. I hadn’t told any of them. I told my parents about what I was doing. I hadn’t told my children or my ex-husband or any of his family. And my children walked in because my ex-husband brought them over without telling me. And I was sitting at the kitchen table with Brownie and we were both in various stages of undress.
GABBY: And all I hear behind me is my younger son saying, “Hi, mommy!” And I flipped out, I was like, “Oh my god. I’m ruining my children’s life.”
GABBY: I had a huge mental breakdown and credit to 26-year-old Brownie, he stayed and made sure I was okay for two extra nights and was like, “Are you going to be all right? I know this was something you were afraid of.” Anyway, after that, it opened up a conversation with my kids. And my ex then knew I had been seeing someone and I explained to him that it was not a long-term relationship. It was a friends with benefits relationship. This person was in my life for me, not for the kids. And I had told him ahead of that that when I started dating someone who was going to meet the kids, I would tell him. So, I’m not terribly concerned.
I think both my boys are also very aware that when their dad hears about things that I’m doing with other people, he is sad. So, in this case, currently with this current new partner, again I hadn’t really planned for him to meet my children. We agreed after we met that this felt right to do. And then, my older son agreed that he was okay with it. And then my younger son came home and he said he was okay with meeting him. And so, I didn’t get a chance to talk to my ex first.
And then, so I said to my older son, “I think I should call your dad and let him know that you have met this person.” And he said, “Mom, please don’t tell him yet. It’s my birthday and I don’t want him to be sad.” And he’s like, “He has a wet pillow that he cries on.” My heart broke. And I was like, “Oh my god. Okay. I can’t own his emotions, but I can respect your desire for me to wait a little bit before telling him.”
So, I said, “Okay. I will have to tell your dad because this person is now interacting with you and that was my agreement with him. So, I will do it after your birthday, but I will be telling him. So, if you’re concerned about him being sad, know that you don’t have to be responsible for that emotion. But you can have empathy for him and that’s okay. And you can also be excited about this new partner if you are and that’s okay.” So, we talked about that. And he’s known, he’s 12. He’s asking all sorts of questions inappropriate and appropriate.
GABBY: After they walked in on Brownie and I sitting at the kitchen table, he asked me the next day. I said, “Is there anything you want to talk to me about?” And he said, “No.” I said, “You just saw me and a man you don’t know sitting in my kitchen half-undressed and you don’t have any questions?” And he was like, “Are you dating?” And I said, “No, we’re companions. We’re here to be with each other when we’re feeling lonely and we do adult things together when you’re not here because I get lonely when you’re not here.” And he said, “Okay. What do you do?”
GABBY: And I said, “We watch movies and we drink wine and he brings me Indian food.” And he said, “What else do you do?”
GABBY: And then, he touches his two index fingers together and he goes, “Do you do this?”
GABBY: And you just know what he’s meaning and I said, “Yes. We do that.” And he’s like, “Ew. Okay. Talk done.”
GABBY: But now, since he’s so nosy, he’s just like me. He’ll look over my shoulder and look at my phone and he’ll be like, “Who’s that one? Who are you talking to today?”
GABBY: And I’ll tell him their name and he’ll be like, “Oh, okay. Are you going to do the devil’s tango with them?”
LEAH: Oh, my goodness. Oh, that’s funny.
GABBY: And I say, “None of your business.”
LEAH: So, at 12 years old, do you think he’s watching porn yet?
GABBY: He has watched porn. He has told me. I was very open with him about my stance on making sure that you’re aware of what kind of things you’re taking in because that will change your brain chemistry. And I said, “I would prefer if we find other ways for you to learn about sex and learn about yourself. And I don’t want to shame you for watching porn, but I want you to be learning about your body and about sex safely and as healthy as possible because I want you to have a good sex life when you get older. And sometimes when you get down a rabbit hole, when you’re too young, it can cause shame.”
So, we had a very open conversation about it because I was concerned. I wanted to know. And so, he’s talked about it a couple of times and he brings things up that he’s curious about. And he’s very open about it with me. And I don’t know if he feels he can be as open with my ex. But he’ll bring things to me and when my new partner was here last weekend when the boys were here, he started saying things that were purposefully audacious to see how this new person would react.
GABBY: He was just like, “How do you know that?”
GABBY: And so, he didn’t get the reaction that he wanted, so he stopped.
LEAH: Yeah, that’s great. You got to love kids. Is there a question or concern that you have about sex or your sex life?
GABBY: Listening to your podcast, I literally listen to you daily and it helps me a lot with questions that I already have and then you answered them already. You answered all of them.
LEAH: That’s amazing. I love 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?
GABBY: Now, I don’t really get a period. So, yes, but my ex wouldn’t and I wanted to.
LEAH: Did you get an IUD? Is that why your period stopped?
GABBY: Yes, I have an IUD.
LEAH: What’s the approximate number of sex partners you’ve had?
GABBY: I keep a list and I am currently at 25.
LEAH: No judgment about numbers whatsoever. It is interesting that you had one up until 10 months ago.
LEAH: And how do you feel about that number given your background?
GABBY: At first, when I got to five, I got so down. And then, I was like, “Why?”
GABBY: And listening to your podcast, talking to other people who were sexually active, speaking to some of my partners who said, “Oh, I have friends who’s numbers are in the hundreds.” But I have had people who question me about that number, especially since it’s been such a short time.
I had one prospective partner who decided not to continue the conversation after he heard that number. It was less at that point because he said, “You’ve done that in the last eight months? Oh my gosh.” And I was like, “It’s pretty easy for a single woman if you go on Tinder and you know what you want. And that’s what I wanted and that’s what I did.” But at first, I felt like I had to brand myself with slut or something. And now, I am much more confident and I feel the only thing that I maybe feel reticent about is the fact that it is a global pandemic right now.
GABBY: And this is when I’m choosing to tap this number of people. That part is why I have asked for this anonymity.
LEAH: Yeah, sure. Have you ever had sex with someone with a different racial identity than your own?
GABBY: Yes. I actually live in a very small community that is primarily Caucasian and I don’t like to find my partners locally if I can help it because it causes some interesting feedback.
GABBY: You don’t want to be like, “Hey, come on over and find out that his sister is someone, and oh, hey, your kid goes to school with mine.” That’s a little awkward. So, I try not to do that. So, I actually find that I find partners from about an hour away, so it’s still in a circle around me, but in cities. And I am very attracted to people of different ethnicities because that is how I’m experiencing it. And so, I’ve had a man who was Nigerian. He was very lovely. My current partner is Chinese and I’m really enjoying it and the stereotypes are not true. I’m just going to put that out there, just saying.
LEAH: Do you have a favorite sex toy?
GABBY: When I first got separated, I went on Pinterest, what to do right after you get separated. And there was a top 10 list and the first thing was buy a vibrator.
GABBY: So, I went on Amazon and I ordered a wand. And that was my friend for a good three months until I started sexually opening up. And then, it got put in the closet for a bit. And then, I met a partner who’s really interested in using toys on me. And so, I’ve put an order in and I got a butt plug which I enjoy and a Jessica Rabbit, which is amazing, and I’m just going to say that. Love it.
LEAH: Excellent. What’s your favorite sex position?
GABBY: I have three. Cowgirl will get me off every time, every time. And I really love missionary with my feet up. It’s just so personal and connective and then doggy is actually really fun. I like to finish with doggy.
LEAH: All right. Do you prefer to initiate or for your partner to initiate in the bedroom?
GABBY: Right after my marriage ended, I wanted my partner to initiate because I felt like I had initiated for a very long time. So, I find it very sexy when someone else starts it. I like my partner to make the first move most of the time. But sometimes, with this current partner, “Get your butt over here. I am jumping you right now.”
LEAH: Are you generally more active or more passive during lovemaking?
GABBY: Active, and I have actually been praised for that.
GABBY: They’re like, “Oh my gosh. You move.” I was like, “Yeah. Who doesn’t move?”
LEAH: Do you prefer clit stimulation or penetration?
GABBY: Penetration. I do not cum easily from just clit stimulation. I find penetration with clit stimulation is great, but really the primary way that I orgasm is cowgirl on top and penetration.
LEAH: And you can orgasm without extra clit stimulation in that position?
GABBY: In that position, I lean forward and that stimulates everything and I can almost every time. It’s fabulous.
LEAH: Great. Do you enjoy having your breasts played with?
GABBY: Oh, yes, please. Like them.
GABBY: I have 34DDs. Utilize these babies. They are here for your enjoyment and mine. So, please use them.
GABBY: They’ve been neglected too long.
LEAH: Do you think it’s generally easy or challenging for you to orgasm?
GABBY: With the right partner, it is very easy. And if I am right phase in my cycle, extra easy. But if I am just before menstruation, I find it more difficult. Also, if I feel pressured to orgasm, basically if he’s like, “All I want to do is make you cum, then that just shuts it right off.” And I’m like, “Now, that’s never going to happen so we might as well just get you off.” If he’s loving and turning me on, yeah, no problem at all.
LEAH: Yeah. Have you ever faked an orgasm?
GABBY: I try very hard not to, but I am actress on the side.
GABBY: So, I have done it twice just to get it over with. Two times. And sometimes, it’s like you’re almost there and you’re like, “Okay. It almost happened and I don’t want him to feel bad that it went away, so I’m just going to pretend I finished.” But most of the time, I don’t have to. I don’t have to fake it and I try to be honest with my partner if I didn’t and still say, “I still had a good time. I don’t have to have a full-on orgasm to enjoy sex with you.”
LEAH: Yeah. Do you prefer the orgasm from masturbation or from sex with a partner?
GABBY: Sex with a partner 100%. It’s the connection.
LEAH: What kind of touch do you enjoy most?
GABBY: I like to start with kissing and caressing, but firm holding. If you give me a really good hug and you kiss me really nicely, and then gentle soft caressing, and then we can go heavy. I’m very happy for squeezing and slap my butt and spank me. Choke me. I am happy and then after, I want really soft beautiful touch again. I just want to feel total love again.
LEAH: What are your hard red lines, the things you absolutely don’t want to do?
GABBY: Because I’ve listened to you, piss, poop, and blood.
GABBY: Although I don’t mind pissing on someone if that’s what they’ve asked for. I had one partner, actually my ex, who loved that when he was really aroused and I didn’t mind.
GABBY: Yeah. This is part of what led me to the shame idea because it was a kink. And I didn’t mind doing it for him. I don’t want anyone to piss on me. Thank you. I’m good. You can keep that inside.
GABBY: But I didn’t mind doing that for me if that was what he loved. No blood at all and for me, no smacking my face. I’ve had one partner try that because he knew I liked spanking and I had to stop it right away. I was like, “No.” No derogatory language towards me and no slapping my breasts. I don’t like that feeling at all.
LEAH: Are there sexual things you’ve tried that you never want to do again?
GABBY: So far, no. There are things that I would want to do differently, but nothing that I would never want to do again. Yeah. Anal, I tried anal once and there wasn’t enough lubrication. So, I would want to try that. Yeah, that was bad.
GABBY: Always lots of extra lube.
LEAH: Lots of extra lube, all right.
GABBY: Extra, extra. You can cut that out if it’s gross.
LEAH: No. It’s real.
GABBY: It is.
LEAH: Do you have hair down there or are you bare?
GABBY: I change it up. So, I love to be hairy, but if I’m with a partner who really loves to go down on me and prefers it to be tamed, I’ll tame it. I’m currently not completely bare, but almost bare for my current partner. Otherwise, I get a terrible razor burn.
LEAH: Yeah. Have you ever had a threesome?
GABBY: No, but I want to.
LEAH: And what would the gender makeup be of your ideal threesome?
GABBY: So, I’ve had a lot of discussions about this because that is one of the big questions new partners ask you.
LEAH: Wait. They ask you if you’re going to have a threesome, who would it be with?
GABBY: They ask if I would be open to it. Yeah, they do.
LEAH: Oh, my goodness.
GABBY: It’s a big thing. I’ve had four partners ask me that.
GABBY: Actually Brownie, that is one of his bucket list items and he wants two girls and I said that would be what I was more comfortable with at the time. Currently, I’m speaking with a partner about a foursome with a couple and my current partner and I was just discussing this today about would we want to have two men and a woman? Each of us individually. And I said, “I’m actually coming around to the idea of being with two men.” At first, I was like, “No. I don’t need that much cock. I’m good with one. I’m okay with just one.” But then, I was like, “You know what? If you are both open to also enjoying each other, I feel like that would be fun. It’s about the dynamic for me.”
LEAH: Do you enjoy giving blowjobs?
GABBY: I never did. My ex hated them. I thought I was bad at them. He was worried about cumming in my mouth. And so, he would ask me to stop. And so, I would say I sucked at them, but I thought I didn’t suck at them enough.
GABBY: So, my first partner after my ex, he was like, “Oh my god. That was the best blowjob I’ve ever had.” And I was like, “Really?” So, then I started trying it more and found out from a lot of men that they really enjoyed it. And I was like, “Okay. This is great.” But I wouldn’t swallow. And then, now I’ve learned I really like to do that. So, yes, I enjoy blowjobs.
LEAH: All right. Do you enjoy receiving oral sex?
GABBY: If you know what you’re doing and if you have a clean mouth.
GABBY: Because I’ve gotten so many yeast infections after oral.
LEAH: Oh, no.
GABBY: Yeah. I’m like, “No, go brush those teeth, boy.”
LEAH: Do you ever worry about your smell or taste?
GABBY: Occasionally because of my past with my ex. I don’t worry too much about my taste because I now kiss my partners after they go down on me and I don’t mind it. So, if I don’t mind it, then they probably don’t mind it. And I think I’m very conscious about how it affects them. I can tell when I’m not feeling well. I can tell by the smell. So, I’m like, “Time to go have some sleep and drink some water.”
LEAH: Yeah. How do you feel about receiving ass play?
GABBY: I am now learning how to do that and I am enjoying it. I’m enjoying the learning curve.
GABBY: I’m enjoying it. I really like the butt plug, just saying. It’s fun to try. Start with a small one.
LEAH: Yes, it is all about small steps.
GABBY: Small steps, baby steps.
LEAH: How do you feel about giving ass play?
GABBY: So, the first person who ever asked me for that was a bi friend of mine who I had never done it before so he showed me and taught me what to do. And I was like, “Oh, I enjoy that as long as everybody is consensual about it.” And I actually had someone ask me to do it to them for the first time in their experience because he was like, “Not any of my partners have been okay with it and I want to try it.” And it was fun. It was really fun letting him have that experience and giving that to him, it was cool.
LEAH: Great. What do you consider the kinkiest thing you enjoy with the understanding that everybody has a different scale for what is kinky?
GABBY: I think in my scale currently and I think my scale is changing quickly.
LEAH: It sounds like it.
GABBY: Because I’m exploring quickly. Currently, I think it’s still choking for me. And again, it’s not really air play or it’s not really breath play, it’s more pressure around the bottom of the neck so that it restricts my movement. I don’t like blood flow or air flow restriction, but to me, that’s still on the edgy side in some ways.
LEAH: So, that is.
LEAH: And I probably say this every time this subject comes up, but I think it’s important for people to hear it. Choking is the activity that aside from rope, has the highest risk profile. And I want to check in with you and find out what kind of safety protocols you have in place when you do play that way.
GABBY: So, so far, it’s never been anything extreme and I tell the partner at the beginning before we even start, I say, “I like choking, but this is how I like it. This is what I want from you and if I’m not liking it, I’m saying, no.” Because it’s never up here or around my neck, it’s at the base. And I said, “If it gets to a point where I’m not able to talk and I grab your arm, stop.” And most of the partners I’ve had so far have been very, very reticent to do that because it feels violent. And so, I’m just like, “Don’t do it. That’s totally fine.” But I had only one time I had to say, “Stop” and he immediately was like, “Oh my god.” And he pulled his arm back. That’s what currently we’ve found because I just want it to restrict my movement, not my air. And I usually practice with someone new and show them with their hands.
LEAH: I’m really glad to hear that piece. And something that I would encourage you to consider is that when something does go wrong during that play, it goes wrong very fast. And so, there’s not always time for you to have the wherewithal to say stop or to grab. So, I would encourage you to think about if you were to black out, how would you want your partner to respond? And then, make just an index card that you keep by the bed and when you’re saying to them, “Here’s how I want to do it and if something goes wrong, here are the instructions.”
GABBY: Oh, that’s great. Thank you, Leah. I would never have thought of that.
LEAH: Yeah, absolutely. Because when you’re in that crisis moment, you don’t want to have to figure out what to do.
GABBY: Thank you.
LEAH: You’re welcome.
GABBY: I appreciate that.
LEAH: Yeah. Let’s see. Do you enjoy dirty talk during sexual encounters?
GABBY: I do. I really enjoy saying dirty things and I love it when it turns my partner on. I tend to feel where they’re at and if they really love it, then I go for it. And if I’m not sure or if they haven’t said, “That’s a turn-on,” I start, “Oh, yeah. You like that wet pussy.” And then, if they don’t respond, I’m like, “Okay. No, you don’t.”
GABBY: I like dirty talk where it’s connective. I really love that. My current partner, oh my gosh, he’s amazing at that. He says things that are just so connective and, “Oh, I just love being inside you: and things like that, that they just get me. I don’t love derogatory stuff. I had one guy who was like, “Tell me you’re my slut.” And I was like, “No. I don’t like that one.” I don’t like dirty talk that has to do with owning someone or anything like that.
LEAH: Yeah, sure. Do you enjoy laughter during sexual encounters?
GABBY: Oh, yes. And I laugh a lot.
LEAH: I would have been shocked if you said no.
GABBY: You can tell. I have a very unique laugh and it does not get held back easily.
LEAH: Have you ever felt a sexual urge that confused you?
GABBY: That’s a really good question. I can’t think of anything, possibly when I was younger maybe like things that I didn’t even understand. I loved spanking and I didn’t know that that was something that other people enjoyed. But nothing that I can really pinpoint besides that.
LEAH: Yeah. What’s your favorite part of your body?
GABBY: My nose and my breasts. It’s weird, but I really like my nose.
LEAH: And what’s your least favorite part of your body?
GABBY: I’m trying to love it. I’m listening to my inner child and my partners who all love it, it’s my stomach. It flaps over because I’ve had two children. It sticks out because I love to eat.
GABBY: It has stretch marks, but every day, I try to give myself that love like, “Look what your body did. This is part of what your body did.” And so whilst it aggravates me when I look at the mirror and I see it sticking out, I’m also trying to give myself that permission not to hate it.
LEAH: I wonder because you are having a similar experience to what I had, which is very minimal partners, a lot of body image issues for a very long time, and then a lot of partners in a very short time. And for me, part of what was so profound about that was hearing different unconnected people say the same thing to me over and over and over that I was like, “Oh, maybe they’re not all lying to me.”
GABBY: Yes, exactly. And I don’t want to say that I get my affirmation only from others, but hearing and having multiple people, multiple partners love playing with my stomach, I had one partner who would love to just put his fingers right under where it would flap over and he would just hold it there and I was like, “You like that?” He’s like, “I love it.” And my current partner, he’s like, “I just love how squishy you are. You’re so soft and squishy.”
GABBY: And it makes me feel so good. I’m like, “Okay. I’ve told myself so long, this is what beauty is.” And now, I’m being told differently by the people who I thought I had to please by being skinny.
LEAH: Yes. I love it. I love it so much.
LEAH: What belief did you have about sex as a child or teenager that you wish you could go back and correct her on now?
GABBY: Oh my gosh, that sex was only for marriage, that it was dirty, that you should only be with one person ever. I would just say, “Girl, know yourself and love yourself first and then you will be able to be loved and make love.”
LEAH: Yes, I love it.
GABBY: And you don’t have to worry about controlling the amount of people or who it is when you know that about you.
LEAH: Yeah. Gabby, this has been so much fun.
LEAH: Thank you for having this conversation with me.
GABBY: Thank you for being a huge light in my life, Leah.
LEAH: Thank you.
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 Note sand 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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