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.
In a special crossover episode, Leah talks with Jessi Kneeland on the This Is Not About Your Body podcast about how body image and sexuality intersect; body image in partnership; advocating for your own needs; and much more.
Register for Fall in love with your sex life – A year of sexy secrets – A full year of live, online classes to help you love your sex life. The Spring Series classes are:
Enjoy the full series or choose just the individual classes you want. Recordings available.
Did you miss a class you want to take now? I’ve got you covered! Get replays of previous classes here!
Fall in love with your sex life in 2023 – register for “Tune In To Your Turn Ons”: www.leahcarey.com/classes
Support the show: www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex
Coaching with Leah: www.leahcarey.com/coaching
Jessi Kneeland, body image coach: www.jessikneeland.com
This Is Not About Your Body podcast: www.listennotes.com/podcasts/this-is-not-about-your-body-jessi-kneeland-s6mpfJiAIYn
LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk about Sex. I’m sex educator and sexual communication coach, Leah Carey and this is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex. If anything about the previous sentence offends you, turn back now! And, if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: Hey friends. I’m excited to share today’s episode with you because it’s a great conversation I had recently with Jessi Kneeland, the body image coach, who helped me recalibrate my relationship with my body during my sexual healing journey. But before we get there, I want to tell you about this month’s class coming up on Sunday, April 23rd.
Are you feeling like your partner should just know what you want in bed without you having to tell them? The truth is no one is a mind reader, and the key to better sexual experiences is learning how to express your desires. Join me for the April entry in the Fall In Love With Your Sex Life In 2023 class, Talking About Sex With Your Partner.
We’ll take what you learned last month about what your turn-ons are, and build on that to help you have productive conversations with your partner or partners about how to incorporate those things into your life. We’ll explore why talking about sex can feel so daunting – even dangerous! – and I’ll offer you some ways to calm your nervous system so that the conversation feels less terrifying.
I’ll even give you some specific language you can use to help your partner stay excited and engaged in the conversation. This class is perfect for anyone who struggles with the idea of talking to their partner about sex, or who wants to break down the patriarchal myth that talking about sex isn’t necessary if you truly love each other.
This class is open to all gender sexualities and experience levels. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, this class will provide you with valuable tools and techniques to improve your sexual communication. All registrations include a recording of the class, and this is part of a year-long series.
Other upcoming classes include Mars and Venus Are Bullshit; Tie Me, Spank Me, Talk Dirty To Me part 2, and Exploring Non-Monogamy. Go to www.leahcarey.com/classes to get your ticket for the April 23rd class and Fall In Love With Your Sex Life in 2023. Don’t miss out on this transformative experience. Go to www.leahcarey.com/classes to sign up today.
Okay, now let’s get into today’s conversation. Jessi Kneeland’s podcast is This Is Not About Your Body. In it, Jessi explores the intricacies of body neutrality, body positivity, and body image in general. During our conversation, we talked about how body image and sexuality intersect. Spoiler alert: they’re completely intertwined.
We explore body image in partnership, advocating for your own needs, and much more.
I’m so grateful to Jessi for allowing me to share this episode with you. I highly recommend signing up for Jessi’s Transparent Tuesday emails. I read them every week and they give me a lot to think about, and I’ve also recently joined Jessi as an occasional guest writer, so if you join, you might get to see some stuff from me as well.
I am so pleased to share This Is Not About Your Body.
JESSI: Hello, everyone. And welcome to This is Not About Your Body. I am Jessi Kneeland. And today, I have a very special guest, Leah Carey, who is a sex and intimacy coach and the creator of the podcast Good Girls Talk About Sex. And Leah and I met many, many years ago when Leah came to me for body image coaching and now I consider her a very dear friend as well as a truly unique and invaluable resource for folks struggling to access the kind of sexual pleasure and sexual satisfaction. So, welcome Leah.
LEAH: Thank you, Jessi. It’s great to see you for the fifth time because we’ve been having technical difficulties.
JESSI: We have been struggling.
JESSI: Okay. So, I would love to have you introduce yourself and your story.
LEAH: Yeah. So, you are a prominent character in this story. In 2017, I had a bunch of life stuff happen that left me in a place where I was able to just take a break from real life and travel around the country for 6 months to a year. I wasn’t sure even how long I would be gone, but I left. I sold everything, put some stuff in storage, and just took off in my little four-door sedan around the United States.
And my entire goal was to figure out the next place I wanted to live. That was the only thing I had on my radar. But because I had left everything and everyone behind, I was suddenly very much on my own with no distractions.
And that led me to this place of realizing I have no hope for love. I have no hope for partnership. I have no hope for the kind of sex life I’ve always wanted to have because I was so convinced that my body was deeply unacceptable. I would look in the mirror and all I would see was an elephant. That was the word that I had in my head. And just for people who are listening and not watching, I am a perfectly average size 14.
LEAH: But this was what my brain was telling me because my father had told me from the time I was young that my body was not acceptable and he specifically told me that nobody would be attracted to me because I didn’t have pretty legs. And that message lodged really, really deeply in my brain, this idea that my legs made me unlovable.
And my relationship history to that point had borne that out because I was certain that I wasn’t lovable. I had only accepted love from people who were some version of emotionally abusive. That’s all I thought that I deserved. Sex was terrible. It was always boring and often painful.
In my head, I had all these ideas of what sex could be and should be, but I thought that my body was too broken to experience it. And nobody was going to love me anyway, so why even bother trying to heal the brokenness because I would just be healing something that nobody would ever want?
JESSI: So many layers to that. I also just want to go back and acknowledge what an absolutely messed up thing that was. It’s totally inappropriate, not just inappropriate because of body shaming, but just an inappropriate thing to say to your child.
It’s so upsetting to hear something like that. And I unfortunately know that so many people listening had stories like that and that the idea that not being conventionally attractive enough means you are excluded from the possibility of being loved is a very, very common story.
LEAH: Yeah. And my father had no sense of boundaries, which is why something like that seemed to be an acceptable thing for him to say. Not that I’m making excuses for him, I’m not. Anyway, so I’m out on the road. I’m alone. I get to the moment where I think I don’t want to live this way anymore.
And I’m just piecing this together over the last few days as I was getting ready to talk with you. I think the thought that I was working with in that moment was I wanted to at least come to peace with the idea that my body is so ugly that it’s unlovable.
JESSI: Yes. I actually think I remember that kind of language, yeah. It was like, “I’d like to properly give up and make peace.”
LEAH: It’s not about learning to love my body. It was about coming to peace with the fact that my body was unlovable. So, I would stop wanting what I wanted. And thank God, you were you. And you were like, “Let’s put a pin in that.”
LEAH: And we worked together for a year, a year and a half I think. And it was astonishing work. I had no structure in which to understand what the work was that we were going to do together.
LEAH: And this is a longer story. I’m writing my memoir, which is the story of this journey. Again, you’re a very prominent figure in that story in my writing. But what ended up happening was that as I traveled around the country, I started looking for opportunities to experience my body with other people.
And oddly, it felt much more doable when I was in these cities where I didn’t know anyone. I was going to meet people who I had never seen before andI would never have to see again. So, if they had some thoughts about my body, I wasn’t going to have to really deal with them. We could get together, have a night of fun, which was probably all I was good for anyway. And then by the time that they actually started to process any thoughts they had about my body, I’d be gone. And you were very supportive of this type of exploration.
LEAH: I remember I was in Washington DC. I will never forget this moment. I was in Washington DC. I’d had a date with this man who I met on an app. It was a perfectly fine first date, just we went out for coffee. And he said as we were getting ready to leave, “How much longer are you here? I’d like to see you again.”
And so, I got on the phone with you. I happened to have a session with you the next day. I got on the phone with you and I said, “Is it terrible that I’m considering having sex with this guy who I don’t know on a second date?” And your response was, “I’m really interested why you would ask, is it terrible instead of would it be fun?” Mind-blowing.
And so, over the course of that year, I started putting myself very intentionally in spaces where people would see my body. Sometimes, that included finding people online, apps, Craigslist at the time was a thing to have dates with.
And then, when I got out to the West Coast and now I settled in Portland, Oregon when I got here, I found a sex positive community that actually has events that are centered around us being naked in a room together and that was really exciting for me. The sexual piece of it was really edgy for me, but the naked part of it was for a long time the most important part because I got to be in a room with other people without any clothes on and discover that they weren’t telling me that I didn’t belong there.
JESSI: That blew up the myth of exclusion completely, yeah.
LEAH: Completely. And there are so many layers to this. Because I’m comparing myself to other women, so I’m looking at all the other cisgender women in the room and saying, my body is not actually that different. Yes, some are skinnier, some are fatter, some are shorter, some are taller, but none of us have this perfect body. There’s just no such thing in this room. And every one of us is the object of desire from somebody. Every one of us has somebody seeking to be our partner.
And so, that then blew up this myth for me that there was a body that was somehow the ideal and no other body was acceptable. And so, I tell this story, and I know that there are women who live in fat bodies, small fat, medium fat, infinifat, whatever, and they’re listening to this story and saying, “Yeah, that’s fine for you. You’ve already said you have a size 14 body. It wouldn’t be true for me.” I can honestly say I have seen your body in these rooms and your body is just as desirable as every other body.
JESSI: I love that.
LEAH: I can promise you there are people who want to love you in your body, not 50 pounds from now. Not a face lift from now, literally as you are today.
JESSI: I was just having a conversation with someone in an infinifat body who I did a podcast. Her name is Angel Austin and we were talking about this idea of there’s so much body acceptance even in the body positivity movement, but it has this limit. It’s like I accept all bodies unless it’s too big. And that mindset haunts people.
LEAH: Yes. I accept big bodies as long as they have the kind of body with a flat stomach, the round stomach.
JESSI: Right, as long as the proportions or something, yeah. And so, you were saying you have been naked in rooms in which bodies like inifinfat, round bellies, all of the things have been objects of desire, accepted, embraced. Incredible.
LEAH: I’ve been in rooms where there are people with chronic illnesses. I’ve been in rooms with people with chronic pain. Literally, every body.
JESSI: Yeah. I’m so stoked that people get to hear this.
JESSI: Because most people probably realistically won’t go to those rooms. Though I think it’s just so powerful to hear this experience being the person willing to do the thing and enter the room and come back and report to the world, “Hey, guys. There’s some cool shit happening.”
LEAH: And then, I was like, “Hey, Jessi. I think maybe I want to go to a Jamaican sex resort.”
LEAH: And you’re like, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.”
JESSI: Yes, I love it.
LEAH: And I went to that Jamaican sex resort. For anyone who’s curious it’s called Hedonism II. It’s a swingers’ resort. Not my cup of tea in terms of the sexual activity that was going on there, but I spent 5 days naked on that beach and again in a space that you would assume is dedicated to the “perfect body” bodies of literally every size, shape, age. There was a woman on a walker who was there with her partner who absolutely doted on her. Every body.
JESSI: So, obviously we just don’t see representation of naked bodies in this way anywhere and there’s very much this idea that you’re not allowed to, that you have to cover up. You could go to a nude beach, but you should be the one wearing a muumuu anyway.
But I also think there’s this idea. Imagine a sex resort in Jamaica, I feel like people are imagining Love Island. 30 people under 25 who are so, so lean, but no, it is exactly what you’re describing. It is all human bodies are worthy and accepted and celebrated in a space without clothes. That’s it.
LEAH: Yeah. And the reason that you don’t want to go, and I’m making some broad generalizations here, is because you’re afraid your body won’t be accepted. And so, there are fewer bodies of that type in those spaces, but the people in the bodies who are not conventionally thin and attractive and whatever who go into those spaces have this experience.
Again, I have this conversation with my girlfriends all the time about how COVID was really hard on a lot of our body image issues because we weren’t able to be in those nude spaces and remind ourselves, remember, yeah, my body’s just like everybody else’s. And so during COVID, I had a real significant dip in my body image that they’re opening up again. We’re starting to go to events again and I’m starting to get back to that place of, right, my body’s okay. It’s just like everybody else’s, yeah.
JESSI: Oh my gosh. So, it seems like a silly question, but how much are clothes obscuring our ability to understand that human bodies are just human bodies? You know what I mean?
LEAH: That’s an interesting question.
JESSI: It doesn’t seem like a t-shirt and jeans are hiding so much, but then it’s so powerful to go into a space like that.
LEAH: Yeah. Also, how much time and money do you put into that t-shirt and jeans so that it looks exactly right on your body? And that in itself is a privilege because people who don’t have that kind of money or time end up putting on clothes that don’t fit them, that don’t accentuate their bodies. And so then, we’re othering them and saying, they don’t care how they look, yeah.
I don’t know that I have an answer for your question except that I have seen over and over and over again with me, with my friends, with my clients who, like you said, most of them do not go into nude spaces like this, but we go up to whatever their limits are. I’ve seen this happen again and again and again when you put yourself in those positions, scary, terrifying as it is, you end up on the other side like, holy shit, I just did that and it was okay. And I survived.
JESSI: So, the really important thing about that I struggle I think sometimes to communicate to people is the importance of a lived experience in your nervous system of that, okay, I’m safe, convincing yourself that you’re safe using your thoughts or even your feelings.
I think a lot of people work really hard to like their bodies and accept their bodies without ever teaching their nervous system that their body is okay. So, what you’re really talking about is it sounds drastic, but ultimately, you’re just teaching your nervous system that your body is safe over and over.
LEAH: Yeah. And so, the email that went out today is from me and I talk about exactly that in the email that when I started working with you, I had been in and out of therapy for decades. If I could have talked my way out of all these beliefs, I would have done it. I couldn’t. I had to experience my way out of these beliefs.
Had I done this on my own without support, I think it would have been a travesty. I think I would’ve gotten myself into some serious emotional trouble. But because I was able to do it with support, I was able to say, I’m not going to try and convince myself. I’m just going to go out and do the thing and see what happens.
And every time, it was fucking terrifying. There was not a moment at which I was like, I got this. I’m good. Every time I did a new thing, it was terrifying. And not all of them were great experiences, but every time I came out the other side saying, damn, I did it. I did that thing and I no longer have to be afraid of it.
JESSI: So, first of all, I want to reflect that having support was part of teaching your nervous system that you were safe because even if something went wrong, even if you were rejected, you came back to me and I said, “I’m so proud of you. You’re so brave,” because that was the culture we cultivated between us. And so, you really couldn’t get so dysregulated the way that you can when you’re alone and you can spiral. We humans need each other for that kind of thing. Support is nervous system regulation. Support is the ability to say, I did it and I survived even if it went badly.
And so, to connect to the I survived part, so I think that’s just so important to recognize why some people listen to this being like, “I could never do that.” Maybe not. Maybe you don’t have the support yet to be able to feel safe trying the real risk taking scary stuff because the other thing I want to say I call this death work because it feels like you’re going to die.
LEAH: Oh my God. It does.
JESSI: This is not in your head. Your body and your brain are screaming. If you get naked in front of these people, you will cease to exist. Your whole human tribe will kick you out and you’ll be alone forever. You’re going to die.
LEAH: I remember the night that I went to my first “play party,” which is basically a facilitated sex group orgy thing.
LEAH: Depending on the facilitator and the space and the people, it could look lots of different ways, but this was my first play party. And I sat out on the street in my car watching people go in that door for 45 minutes before I was finally like, okay, I’m going to walk to the door. I don’t have to ring the bell. But I at least have to walk to the door.
And then, I get a few steps away from the door and I’m like, okay, I’m going to ring the bell. I don’t have to walk through the door, but I have to ring the bell. And then, I walked through the door and I said, okay, I’m going to stay here through the opening circle for the first 20 minutes. And then, as soon as sexy activity starts, I’m out.
So, I stayed through the first 20 minutes and I started thinking, okay, I’m okay. Maybe I can just sit and watch for the rest of the evening. I don’t have to participate. And they’d made it very clear that as we say in this community, observation is participation. So, I was like, okay, I can sit and watch. I don’t have to participate. And then, within a few minutes, I was participating. It was like every single step felt like it’s own little mountain that I had to climb.
JESSI: And it would have been legitimately a success if you had left at any of them. You would’ve rang the doorbell and left. That would have just given you the ability to go back next time and walk through the door. The best way to look at it is that you really can’t lose when you’re choosing to be brave in this way. All of those negotiations really have to be acceptable to both sides for the work.
LEAH: Yes, absolutely. And I always knew that I had you on the other end of the email or the other end of the phone going, “Holy shit. I’m so fucking impressed. I’m so proud of you.”
JESSI: And I was. It was so fun to see your journey unfold this way. I sometimes feel like it’s such a great example of how if someone says, “How does it work? How do you get body acceptance?” to be like, it looks so many different ways. I can’t tell you.
JESSI: Because it’s everything from going to sex parties to just the most mundane-sounding fear-facing, it depends on what scares you. It depends on what your underlying fears and shame is. And yeah, just not everybody will have to do this, but it is such a powerful and creative and expansive version of this journey.
LEAH: Today is the day that the new Patreon is launching. If this podcast has opened your mind so you can talk about sex more openly and honestly; if you’ve gotten answers to questions that you could never ask anyone before; if you feel more confident and well-informed as a sexual person, you can support this podcast that has provided so much support for you.
And at the same time, you’ll be getting some amazing benefits and gift. Beginning today, patrons can choose rewards including: monthly voicemails from me reminding you about your lovability, the rules of consent, and other core lessons from the world of Good Girls Talk About Sex; after-the-interview videos where I turn on my camera immediately after recording a conversation to share my thoughts with you; and free entry into my 2023 series of online monthly classes.
But that’s just the beginning. I am thrilled to be teaming up with my dear friends and sex-positive craftspeople, Gretchen and Louis of Shackleton and Shanks to offer you exclusive, patron-only, wood-burned gifts. You can choose handmade items like Good Girls magnets, bookmarks, and key chains that are only available to patrons.
There are customizable charms that you can use as a fun and flirty necklace showcasing your feminism or, if you’re collared, you could even use it as a tag for your collar. And for our most ardent supporters, we’ve got a beautiful handcrafted spanking paddle. As a patron, you’ll be supporting open and honest conversations about female sexuality, and 10% of all proceeds are donated to ARC Southeast, an organization that supports women in the Southeast United States to access reproductive services that are now either illegal or heavily legislated.
Join the Good Girls Talk About Sex Patreon community at www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex for these amazing perks and the knowledge that you’re helping to spread sex positivity in a world that desperately needs it. Visit www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex and become a patron today.
LEAH: And I’ve been talking about the body piece of it, but the sex part of it was also a big piece because I thought my body was too ugly for anybody to want to have to sex with it and too broken for me to enjoy any sex.
JESSI: And do you want to give us a definition of broken here, what do you mean by that?
LEAH: I was convinced that my nervous system was not capable of feeling pleasure because I had had so much bad sex that again, painful, boring. And there was this additional thing that is true for me, which is that if somebody touches me like this on the arm, I can feel it. But if somebody begins to stroke me sensually on the arm, in certain headspaces, I go numb and I cannot feel their fingers on me.
And I bet some people listening to this are going to recognize this because it’s not uncommon. And for me, it has a lot to do with how safe I feel. So, I’ve gotten to the place where if I feel safe with somebody, I can feel them stroking my skin. If I’m in an unsafe space, I still go numb. And so, that can be for me one of the really important markers of am I safe and do I feel okay?
JESSI: Which by the way is such a powerful piece of moving towards body acceptance is recognizing that your body was protecting you. It’s talking to you. It’s saying, whoops, I don’t feel safe to feel that. And now, you can work with it instead of against it and say, I can’t feel pleasure. I guess I’m broken. You’re like, I’m not safe. Maybe I slow this down.
LEAH: Yeah, exactly. And so, I went through this long process of just allowing people to touch me. And so, at this point, I was in Portland, Oregon. I had found this community of sex positive people where it’s so funny, one of the things that we laugh about is I don’t know what most of these people do for work. That’s always the first question that everybody asks.
LEAH: “This is Suzy. What does she do for work?” “I have no idea. Does it matter?”
LEAH: All that matters is that we connect and that I enjoy my time with her. But I started reaching out to people in the community who I had met at events who I felt safe with and saying, “I really enjoyed that exercise that we did together.”
And all of these events are facilitated. So, they were not just wild, crazy sex parties. I was having very specific experiences of learning how to feel. And so, I remember in particular that this one guy who I contacted after an event, I was like, “It seems like we had a really good rapport. I’m not suggesting that we become girlfriend, boyfriend, but would you be interested in just trying some of those exercises on our own?” And we did.
And there were times when I’d be like, “Okay, in this session, I just want to tell you what I want.” And he does it. And then, in another session, he tells me what he wants. And I do it. And I began to learn that part of my inability to feel sometimes is because there’s too much going on. My brain can’t focus on both giving and receiving at the same time.
So, for me, sex now looks like giving for a while and then receiving for a while. It does not look like two-way touch at the same time because when that happens, I space out. I can’t feel it. It’s like all of this experimentation and for the most part all of it was disconnected from the idea of I need this person to fall in love with me. I need this person to want to date me because that was too much pressure for me. That was a whole other mindfuck.
JESSI: So, you were seeking pleasure healing, touch healing, nudity healing, all these things step by step by step, but one of the ways that it actually felt tolerable was to not ever let it be, am I worthy of love? It was, am I worthy of touch? Acceptance in my naked body, touch, pleasure, but none of it yet was love.
LEAH: Yeah. And what happened was what allowed me to start believing that maybe I wasn’t hideous was that I started hearing totally disconnected people say the same things to me over and over and over. So, people in different parts of the country are saying, “Oh my god, I love your hips. Your ass is amazing.” And I think maybe there’s a great conspiracy and The Truman Show is real and I’m Truman.
LEAH: But the likelihood is that there was not a worldwide memo that went out that told everybody that these were the words they were supposed to say to me. Actually, I think they were saying it because they actually meant it.
And so, the first step for me was not, oh my God, all these people love me, so obviously I must be amazing. It was if all of these different people are saying this thing to me, chances are pretty good that they’re not lying. So, I’m going to choose to believe in this moment that they’re not lying to me. I cannot get there with them.
JESSI: Which by the way, it is huge for people to believe that someone is lying to them about how they’re desirable or attractive or whatever. This is a common story among people struggling with body image.
LEAH: Of course, my husband says that. He has to say that. He’s married to me, yeah.
JESSI: Yeah, everyone says that. He has to say that.
LEAH: He has to say that. Never mind that he’s probably aching for you to believe it or she is. It’s part of the compliment cycle, it’s not just giving the compliment. It’s knowing that the other person can receive it and hear it. And so, when we give compliments that aren’t accepted, it feels incomplete. It feels dissatisfying to the person giving the compliment.
JESSI: Hurtful over time.
LEAH: Yes. You don’t see me. You don’t hear me. Why don’t you believe me and trust me? I am your partner.
JESSI: I feel that there’s something beautiful in your story, which it really highlights how it’s not about being convinced. A lot of women, a lot of my clients will say, “My partner says I’m beautiful or that they want me. They desire me. I just don’t believe me. I can’t figure out how to believe theme. They can’t convince me, whatever.” I’m like, “Right. No one’s ever going to convince you of something like that because it has to come internally.”
And for you, you are allowed to because of the volume of these experiences all together. You are allowed to see a bunch of data and go, it really wouldn’t make sense for everyone to be lying and for them all to be lying about the same thing. It just doesn’t make sense. So, I myself now have to come to the conclusion they’re probably not lying. So, nobody convinced you individually because that’s not how it works. It had to come from inside, the data of others to get there.
LEAH: And you know what I find fascinating is that my partner now he and I have been together for about 5 years and he is not one to give physical compliments. He’s not one to say, “I love your body or I love your ass,” or any of those things. And there was a point at which I said to him, “I need this. This is part of what I need from this relationship.” And he said, “I’ve spent so long trying to tell women how much I appreciate them and them rejecting what I was saying that I just stopped doing it.”
JESSI: That’s heartbreaking.
LEAH: And so, we have come to a space now where if I need that validation, I will ask him for it and he will give it to me. But we train them and by them, I mean any of our partners regardless of gender, regardless of whatever, to not give us what we’re seeking because we reject it when they give it to us.
JESSI: Yeah, wow. That’s intense. That’s such an intense thing to think about, the harm, the hurt that is caused and it’s so opposite of what everybody wants.
LEAH: Yeah. And I feel this is true around sex too. And so, again I’m going to make some broad sweeping generalizations here and I’m going to use the word men and women with the understanding that there’s so much of a gender spectrum than that, but just to keep things simple. I totally just forgot what I was going to say.
LEAH: I remember what the general topic was. It was about men in the bedroom.
JESSI: Nobody’s getting what they want.
LEAH: Nobody’s getting what they want. Yes, thank you. So, I have female clients come to me and say, “I just don’t want my husband to ever touch me again. I just can’t stand it when he asks me for sex.” And we have the conversation. “Okay, is it true that you never want him to touch you again? Let’s just go down to the basics of the words here. Is it true that you don’t want touch?” And the answer universally is, “No, that’s not what I want at all.” “Okay, so what is it that you don’t want then?” “I don’t want him to keep touching me the way that he touches me.” “Okay, so what do you want?” “I don’t actually know. I just know that I don’t want what he’s giving me.”
We can deconstruct that in a coaching session. We can have that conversation, but in the rest of life, the way that comes out is men are just so clueless and don’t know how to touch a woman. Men just care about one thing. But you know what? I also have male clients and what I hear from them is, “I crave connection, but I don’t know how to get it because my role in the bedroom is I’m just supposed to know. My partner doesn’t want to have to tell me because if you really love me, then you’ll just know how to touch me.”
JESSI: Yeah, and because of the cultural expectation that they’re the drivers. And so therefore, there’s this invisible labor around driving properly, and yeah, there’s very little actual information.
LEAH: Yes. There’s virtually no conversation about this very important piece of our relationships that requires at its very base a lot of communication. And we have somehow learned in this culture that there should be as little communication about it as possible.
JESSI: That’s so true.
LEAH: Which is why when I started coaching, I was calling myself a sexual communication coach. Nobody could understand what that meant. So, I changed it, but for me, that’s my biggest focus is, “Let’s get the two of you talking to each other so that you can actually get what you want instead of just being like trains missing in the night.”
JESSI: Yeah, absolutely. Also, I just wanted to say that the thing that probably drove this home the most for me is being bi and exploring sex and dating with women and feeling like if no one else has the assignment, what the hell do we do? Oh my God, what do we do? I don’t know how to, and all these things. It was so overwhelming.
JESSI: It made me really appreciate that, oh my God, I’ve been outsourcing labor without even realizing it.
LEAH: I love that way of saying it.
JESSI: Yeah. It just hadn’t really occurred to me that it was labor until I was put in a position where if nobody was going to do it automatically, nothing was going to happen.
LEAH: I literally was having this conversation the other day. So, my partner and I have over the last year opened our relationship. So, we are ethically non-monogamous. And I started dating this woman and we were just having this conversation literally a few days ago where we were talking about the dating apps and what a total hellscape that is.
LEAH: And she was saying, “Yeah.: She’s exploring the HER app, which is exclusively women, femme-identified, raised AFAB, assigned female at birth. And also, I think transwomen. And this is exactly what she said, “It’s like I’m tired of it because nobody makes the first move. Nobody knows what to do.”
JESSI: It’s like a joke to all the women that I know. I feel like if you’re lesbian, have always been lesbian, there’s no question in your life, maybe it’s a little bit different because you learned younger. The world is changing very quickly around sexuality and gender and openness around this stuff. I feel like what is happening is a lot of people who just assumed they were straight and played into those roles most of their lives are discovering, actually, I’m not. I’m somewhere else on the spectrum.
And then, they start to explore and like me, way later in life feel like a middle schooler being like, how do I make this happen? How do I make it clear that I want to do something? And all of that stuff becomes so obvious because we were following a script without even realizing we were following a script.
LEAH: Yeah. And this is a conversation I have, again most of my girlfriends are non-monogamous and bisexual, I say girlfriends, what I mean by that is my female friends. Not really who I’m dating, just to be clear.
LEAH: But we have this conversation all the time about how when you’re bisexual and you have this experience of men hitting on you and not necessarily taking no for an answer and making you uncomfortable and all that stuff that we don’t ever want to make another woman feel that way. So, nobody makes the first move. Nobody even expresses interest.
JESSI: Right. I find myself often drawn to or having them drawn to me other women who have very little to no experience with women. And so, that puts me immediately in the leadership role.
JESSI: And so, I’ve had quite a few women be like, “I’m very interested in exploring this stuff. I don’t know how to make it happen.” I’m like, “I can totally understand. I relate. I feel that I’m being very forward.” And then, at a certain point, I’m like, “Are you interested? Because I can’t tell.” And they’re like, “Oh my God, of course. Yes, definitely.” And I’m like, “That was not clear.” Even a woman that I was sleeping with, for a while, every time I was like, “Are you feeling a vibe right now?”
Because the information that you get from a woman in that space compared to a man in that space tends to be so, so different.
LEAH: Do you wish your partner would touch you differently, but you’re not sure how to bring it up or what to say?
I get it. Until a few years ago, I couldn’t imagine asking for anything I wanted. I thought I wasn’t allowed to have wants or needs. I thought good girls laid back and accepted what they got. I thought if I asked for something outside the regular repertoire, it would make my partner think that I was open for anything and then they’d start pressuring me for more extreme things I definitely didn’t want.
I built it up in my head to the point that it was hard for me to communicate at all during sex. Instead, I played the dead fish game, laying on my back and waiting for it to be over.
Even those times when someone said, “What do you want?” I was so used to not speaking that I didn’t know how to ask for anything. And I was pretty sure they wanted an answer that could be done for 30 seconds before they got on to whatever they wanted to do.
All of that changed when I started learning that I was allowed to have a voice during sex. That I wasn’t doomed to a lifetime of whatever anyone else wanted to do to me just because I was born female. I can help you take the same journey.
You deserve a deeply fulfilling intimate life and you can have it. I would be honored to be your coach on the journey.
I am queer, kinky, and non-monogamy friendly.
For more information and to schedule your free Discovery Call, visit www.leahcarey.com/coaching.
Book your free Discovery Call today at www.leahcarey.com/coaching. That link is in the episode description on the app you’re listening in now.
JESSI: So go back to your story and tell me what was going on in terms of the exploration of pleasure into sensation and sexual satisfaction with body image and then how because it did eventually shift into worthy of love.
LEAH: God, where do I even start?
JESSI: Or just dating. I think that was the next step.
LEAH: Yeah, I spent quite a while doing this. And the way I would say it was I’m just having all of the fun with all of the people. Anything that sounds fun, I’m going to do it. And there were no strings and no expectations. And eventually, I got to the point where I was like I’m having a lot of fun and I’m starting to feel the need for a more solid connection.
And it just happened to be that at that moment, I met my partner who I’ve now been with for 5 years. And he was the right person at the right moment. In terms of worthy of being loved, it was such a gradual process. I’m not sure that I could write a map for anybody because it happened moment-by-moment, day-by-day.
I remember a time when my mind was blown to smithereens to the point that I literally was like I can’t process this. This makes no sense to me. I had gone to this event and it was the first time this event was being run. It was called a non-verbal consent party. And I was like I have no idea what that means. I’m in.
LEAH: And it was for people who had been through a lot of the consent-based activities and had an idea of how to navigate verbal consent. And now, let’s take that to the next level and say, okay, so how do you read people’s body cues? How do you read people’s energy so that you’re sure that you’re continuing to have consent while maybe you’re also not talking?
And so, I’m at this event and I think there were 10 or 12 of us who were participating and I knew everybody in the room except these 2 people. It was a man and a woman. And when I got there, I noticed that they were surrounded by people. Each of them had a cluster of people around them. And I was like, cool, they’re the beautiful people. They were both very attractive.
LEAH: They’re these beautiful people. Clearly, they’re not going to have any interest in me. They’ve already got plenty of attention from everybody else. So, I’m just going to stay over here in my corner, not even try and get in the middle of that. The event started and the very first thing we did was a super cool exercise where you paired up with somebody and you went to opposite sides of the room. And you started walking toward each other until you each had a sense that, okay, this is the right distance for us to be from each other.
JESSI: That’s interesting, yeah.
LEAH: And then you go back to the wall and we did that same thing for it had to be at least five or six times. And I ended up partnered with one of these beautiful people, the guy. I was like, that’s interesting, fairly random.
And we did this exercise and we started across the room from each other. And we get about halfway across the room and we’re like, okay, this is it. And then, we go back and we do the exercise again and we get closer and we get closer. And by the fourth time, we come right up nose-to-nose to each other and he leans down and he kisses me. And I’m like, that happened.
LEAH: I have no idea what to make of that, but cool. And it was a great kiss. And then, we go back to the edges of the room again and we come back together and he kisses me again. And I’m like, okay, he must do this with all the girls. I’m finding every way to explain away the fact that he’s kissing me. He must just do this to all the girls. So, then the leader says, “Okay, we’re going to do a different exercise. Change partners.” And he leans down to my ear and he says, “I want to do more of that later.” And I was like, “First of all, hell yes.”
LEAH: But second of all, he must say that to all the girls. This must be his line, his game. So, we change partners. I end up getting paired with the other beautiful person, the woman.
LEAH: And we do a completely different exercise where we’re sitting together touching each other. And I was convinced that she hated me on sight. She was just so cold to me that I was like, I don’t know what I did, but she clearly doesn’t like me.
And so, we’re doing this exercise and I’m feeling very I don’t even know how to engage with her because I don’t want to cross her boundaries since she hates me. And it’s another one of those exercises where we do the same thing over and over again several times. And I’m like the third or fourth iteration, she and I are making out. We’re all the way there.
And when that exercise was over, the facilitator said, “Let’s take a 10-minute bio break.” And so, she and I sit talking for a couple of minutes. And I was like, “I thought you didn’t like me. I thought that you actively disliked me.” And she said, “No.” Before the event, the guy who’s actually her partner, non-monogamous, so they’re both there ethically. But she and the guy had gone outside and had a conversation where each of them said, “You stay away from Leah. She’s hot. I want to play with her.”
I have no framework for this whatsoever. This makes absolutely no sense to me because I experienced myself as the invisible girl in the corner who nobody looks at, nobody pays attention to. The idea that you would be outside having a conversation about me and arguing about who got to be with me, what?
JESSI: Now out of curiosity, how did that translate to feeling like a cold energy, do you think?
LEAH: It’s exactly what we were talking about. This bisexual female you don’t want to hit on people unless you already know that they’re willing and interested. You don’t want to scare anybody off. You don’t want to make anybody uncomfortable. And so, a lot of us I think end up having standoffish energy, yeah.
JESSI: Totally. Do you know I can actually go back to and realize that some of the cold energy that I gave off just in regular social circles, not sexual and romantic spaces or anything around women was literally trying not to be weird. It was just bisexual trying not to be weird. God, you’re so pretty I’m going to not be weird. And then, that person would later be like, “I thought you hated me or you just seemed really like a bitch.” And I’d be like, “I know. Sorry about that.”
JESSI: But at the time, no one was then having the conversation of, “I’m bi, sorry to be weird, yeah.”
LEAH: Yeah. But to put a cap around that story, just in case anyone’s wondering, is I had the most exciting and satisfying threesome of my life that night. Yes, I know.
JESSI: Yes, everybody was wondering.
JESSI: So amazing. So, in that and there are so many stories like this, this was a volume game. You got to a place of what with your body?
LEAH: I am not going to say I got to a place of body acceptance and I love my body and I’m going to look in the mirror. No, I got to a place where I was willing to accept that other people were attracted to my body, that it’s still as far as I can go. Maybe 10 years from now, who knows?
LEAH: But the whole body neutrality thing of I’m just going to accept the fact that I have a body and other people seemed to appreciate it, cool. That’s as far as I can go still.
JESSI: Yeah. I remember you being mad when you first started dating your partner.
LEAH: That sounds like me.
JESSI: It was just such massive expansive breakthrough stuff over that year and a half and I remember you just being pissed that you now had to go deal with the internal piece of it.
LEAH: Yeah. What do you mean relationships?
JESSI: Yeah. There is all this other stuff I was hoping I could maybe avoid.
LEAH: Yeah, that sounds like me.
JESSI: Yeah. Whatever, Valentine’s Day, relationship, sex and intimacy, it’s also wrapped up. What would you say in terms of, did body image continue to evolve as your relationship grew compared to sex parties and all of the fun with all the people?
LEAH: So, yeah, it has been an ever-evolving thing and I think it probably will be for the rest of my life. I don’t expect that there’s an endpoint at any point. For a while, he and I were just having fun. It was fun. It was flirty. And for a while, we both were wary of becoming monogamous and he really resisted that for quite a long time. So, there was still a period of transition in there where I was seeing other people as well. But also, I don’t know if you’ve talked about NRE, new relationship energy.
JESSI: Not on here.
LEAH: So, it’s the idea that when you’re with somebody new that you’re really excited about. And this can happen with friends, it can happen with mentors. It doesn’t just have to be sexual relationships. But this is the easiest place for me to understand it. Your brain gets absolutely flooded with all of the happy chemicals and those chemicals are there to facilitate bonding. So, there’s a real reason for that. It’s really positive. Just a couple days ago, I had a client say, “That’s when I was in the pink fuzzy stupids.” I’m like, “Yes, exactly.”
LEAH: Everything looks beautiful. They have no flaws. You can’t imagine that you’ll ever fight.
JESSI: I feel like I can look at my partner in the early days and I couldn’t even see his face. He was just like this shining beam of joy.
LEAH: Yes, like the Instagram filters with all the things. And that’s new relationship energy where you just can’t keep your hands off each other. Everything is beautiful and perfect. And our brains are not built to maintain that level of chemical euphoria long-term.
So, for some people, it might be a couple weeks, a month, a couple of months. For some people, it could be a year. But at some point, those chemicals begin to wear off. I would say for me, it was probably 3-ish months that I was in that space, maybe a little longer.
And in that space, he loved my body. We were having sex all the time. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. It was all of that fun stuff. And then, as we settled into a more settled monogamous relationship, some of that started wearing off. And then, we began to, okay, so this is not a perfect relationship.
We actually have some issues we need to deal with. Are we actually compatible? Some of that included are we sexually compatible? And my body image absolutely was going up and down through that whole period. I don’t want to say that it was based on his response to me because I think that he can help to elevate my experience of my body, but my body image is not dependent on him. So, there were definitely ups and downs in how I was experiencing my body. And then, we were actually on the verge of opening our relationship in February 2020.
LEAH: And the pandemic happened. So, then we had the opportunity to cloister together and we went through both of us massive libido dip. We were hardly having sex at all.
JESSI: And you were quarantined together and everything?
LEAH: We had just moved in together, yeah. I also want to say this because this is something that I’ve heard a lot of people get concerned about, the quarantine was so stressful that our libido was supposed to go down. I hear everybody talking about how they just didn’t care about having sex because everybody was in sweatpants all the time, but I must be broken because my libido stayed the same or it went up. Totally completely normal. Everybody’s libido, everybody’s chemical hormonal system activates in different ways. And for some people, a higher libido is a very natural response to stress. It’s people who are like, “Yeah, let’s fuck it out.”
JESSI: Yeah. Just like some people will binge and others will skip meals. There’s absolutely both sides to every coping mechanism.
LEAH: Yeah, absolutely. So, between us not having sex, so me not feeling as connected to him and beginning at some point to feel like maybe he’s not attracted to me anymore and not being in those rooms where I could see my naked body in conjunction with other naked bodies, I went through a real serious dip in my body image.
And I’m doing the work now to come out the other side of that. And part of it is because he and I have opened our relationship, I am now able to date other people who because it’s new and it’s the fun part they are able to give me that feedback and help remind my brain, right, you have been in a space for a while that was not the optimal space.
JESSI: Yeah, right. Oh my gosh. Also, I just want to take a moment and commend you for, how do I put this? Not pathologizing any of it. I think it’s so, so easy and something I certainly hear a lot especially around the pandemic changes is people pathologizing and personalizing something that was actually a global trauma. I don’t know why. I can’t get myself to do what I used to do. I do.
LEAH: Yeah. I have to say that being a professional in the sexuality field was really helpful during the pandemic because I didn’t have to worry about, oh my God, the world, our relationship is ending. No, this is totally normal.
JESSI: Yeah, absolutely. But even around the body image stuff, it’s so obvious that you have an acceptance of the ups and the downs that you’re not expecting this to be, you reach a certain point and then you stay there forever. And I think that’s such a healthy approach. It’s such a necessary approach to a lifelong body neutrality certainly, but even just anything is better than body hatred.
JESSI: It really requires you to allow yourself to be human and that means allowing it to shift and change and morph and evolve and take influence from different things. And I just love hearing that.
LEAH: Yeah. So, one more epilogue to this story of the two beautiful people at the party, we had an amazing threesome that night. Life goes on. I meet my partner. We’re monogamous. When we opened our relationship, the first thing that I said was, “I would like to go back and contact that man. That man and I had something and I never really took the time to explore it the way I wanted to.”
So, he and I have been seeing each other now for a few months and we don’t get to see each other that often, just our schedules don’t match up real well. So, we see each other maybe twice a month, but sometimes once a month. So, it was maybe our third or fourth time together and we’re fooling around. And I had put on my sexy underwear so that when he took off my shirt, he’d be like, “Oh.”
LEAH: And so, he takes off my shirt. We have the “oh” moment. And then, a few minutes later, he starts to take off my pants and I had that moment where I was like, oh my God, he’s going to see my stomach. He’s going to see my legs. No matter he’s seen my stomach and my legs before and he’s totally fine with them, but I had that moment where I was like, nope. No, I can’t let him see. No, he’s going to reject me.
And I had to actually grab his hand and pull him up so that we were eye-to-eye and I said to him, “I know this is going to sound pitiful at this moment, but I have to ask, you like girls with curvy bodies, right?” And he looked at me and he said, “I like you. And I love the body that you’re in.”
JESSI: So huge.
LEAH: Yeah. Just to go back, there’s no such thing as a body that everybody loves. And there’s no such thing as a body that everybody hates. There’s somebody who wants to love you in the body that you’re in.
JESSI: Hell yes. And I think that the spaces that you’re talking about and the journey that you’ve been on really highlight also a huge, huge difference between attractive in the conventionally attractive sense like hot when we think of as classic look of guys like that or whatever, compared to desirable.
And I always say this to clients, especially who are partnered and are worried that their partners are no longer attracted to them for any number of things you’ve already covered, but I always say it’s so important to feel desired by them. And that is real and human and beautiful and healthy, but to want to be hot to everyone, those are completely separate camps.
One of them literally doesn’t even exist, but it also speaks to I don’t know there’s no connection in that one. I just want to be hot to everyone so that I guess my life is good. This one is that I want to be desired by someone either that I love or that I desire because I want to have experience with them. And I want to feel like I impact them in this particular way. And that is so good and juicy and healthy. And there’s such a huge difference I think when people say I just want to feel beautiful. We really have to get clear on which of these two camps we’re referring to.
LEAH: Yeah. I periodically have men contact me on social media because I talk about sex and I’m female.
LEAH: But I periodically have men contact me and say some version of, “I’m afraid I’m not normal because I’m really attracted to women in big bodies.” And I have to have the conversation with them about, “No, you are completely normal. What you’re doing is saying, I’m not willing to accept the standard of what our culture tells me I’m supposed to want. I’m going to want what I actually want.” But there’s so much stigma on that that we believe nobody wants it. It is absolute bullshit.
JESSI: That makes me want to throw my computer out a window. The system is so broken. It’s so broken for everybody. Everybody’s listening.
LEAH: For everybody, exactly, because they’re going for women they’re less attracted to.
JESSI: Because they feel like they’re supposed to.
LEAH: Yes. They’re not getting what they want. And meanwhile, the women they’re actually interested in are feeling unloved and unlovable. It’s all just complete bullshit.
JESSI: It absolutely is. And on that note, I’m so, so happy to have you here. Is there anything else? We didn’t even talk about the stuff we had planned to talk about.
JESSI: Anything else that you want to cover today before we wrap up?
LEAH: I think that this is going to come out on Valentine’s Day, which is a day that has a lot of pressure on it. And so, to people who are single and wondering if your body is going to keep you from ever finding the love that you want, I promise there are people who want to love you. There are also people who are partnered in some version of a sexless partnership and wondering, is it my body that has made them uninterested in me? And I cannot speak for your partner. I’m not going to pretend that they are a perfect enlightened partner. But I can say that it is rarely your body. It’s almost never your body. It is a breakdown in communication that then gets blamed on your body.
JESSI: Actually, I’m going to take this up and say it is in fact never your body because even if it is your body, there’s other stuff at play. You know what I mean? Even if there was an actual lack of attraction that shifted for your partner, there’s so many other things at play in and around what they believe body changes mean.
LEAH: Yes, exactly. And then, finally there are people who are partnered and having sex with their partner and because it’s Valentine’s Day and there’s pressure on the sex that you have on Valentine’s Day, you may be thinking, what is the position that I can be in that will make me most attractive to my partner? Which way do I turn my body and accentuate my curves? That is all keeping you out of your body and in your head so that you cannot experience the pleasure that’s available to you.
And I guarantee you that it is more sexy to your partner for you to be experiencing pleasure than it is for you to look a certain way, I promise. And this is a long process, I’m not suggesting that your’e getting to hear this and you’re going to be perfect at it tonight.
LEAH: But the more that you can really focus on the feel of their skin on your skin, the feel experience of whatever it is that you’re doing together and the less that you can think about, “How does my body look in this moment?” the sexier that interaction is going to be.
JESSI: Agreed. And you and I both know how many men we talk to who express the frustration that we said before in terms of not being believed that they’re attracted to their partner, but also not wanting their sexual practice as a partnership to revolve around being given something. They want to have a connective, equitable, pleasurable experience and their partner is so bound up in trying to give them something that it frustrates.
They’re like, “I don’t want to keep receiving. I want you to be having a good time genuinely.” And so, I would also challenge anyone who feels like Valentine’s Day is a time where you have to give your partner a sexy, pleasurable, performative, whatever experience and actually think about what it might be to maybe even for the first time see it as an equal exploration of pleasure.
LEAH: Yeah. I would even take it a step further. If you are willing to get really edgy, here’s something I did with my partner just literally a few weeks ago. I said to him, “Tonight, I want our sex to be all about me.”
LEAH: And the way that I want that to look is, “I am going to tell you exactly what I want in each moment.” This was scary. Because I had to actually know what I wanted and be able to verbalize it, but that’s exactly why I did it.
JESSI: It’s hard.
LEAH: Because I needed to do that, but we had a really fun time. And at the end of the evening, I was like, “So, was that okay for you?” And his response was, “Oh my God, it was such a relief because I didn’t have to wonder what you wanted.” So, if you are willing to be really edgy, try that tonight.
JESSI: I love that. Okay, Leah. Thank you so much for being here. Tell everyone where they can find you.
LEAH: Yes. So, my podcast is Good Girls Talk About Sex where I interview people who were brought up as little girls plus transgender women about their sex lives. And then, you can find coaching information at www.leahcarey.com.
JESSI: And we will link to that in the show notes. I’ve also been on your podcast. So, if anyone wants to look those up, I’ve done two episodes, yeah, something like that, you can find those as well. And Leah, it’s just been an absolute honor and pleasure to have you here. This was so fun. Thank you for doing the festive Valentine’s Day podcast.
LEAH: Absolutely, my pleasure any time.
JESSI: Yeah. And I will talk to you soon. And anybody listening, you know where to find me www.jessikneeland.com or on Instagram @jessikneeland and thank you so much for listening and I’ll catch you next week!
As a member of the Good Girls Talk About Sex Patreon community, you’ll get exclusive access to behind-the-scenes content like after-the-interview videos where I share my personal thoughts and reflections on each episode. You’ll also receive monthly voice memos from me with reminders about the core tenets of sex positivity and consent.
I’ve also teamed up with the talented craftspeople at Shackleton & Shanks to bring you one-of-a-kind gifts that you can’t find anywhere else.
I donate 10% of all Patreon proceeds to ARC Southeast
Rate the pod – Leave a rating and review at www.ratethispodcast.com/goodgirls
Have a question or comment – Leave a voicemail for Leah at 720-GOOD-SEX (720-466-3739) – this is a voicemail-only line, so I promise you won’t have to talk to someone in person!
Be a guest on the show – I’d love to talk with you! Fill out the form at www.leahcarey.com/guest
Instagram – www.instagram.com/goodgirlstalk
Twitter – www.twitter.com/goodgirlstalk
YouTube – www.youtube.com/goodgirlstalk
Leah’s website – www.leahcarey.com
Podcast website – www.goodgirlstalk.com
Host / Producer – Leah Carey (email)
Audio Editor – Gretchen Kilby
Administrative Support – Lara O’Connor, Maria Franco
Music – Nazar Rybak
We publish episodes
EVERY OTHER THURSDAY