Dive Deeper with Leah
I have been through the fire and come out the other side. Now I’m here to walk with you as you do the same.
I will help you take a stand for yourself, your desires, and YOUR PLEASURE.
Joy talks about taboo territory like incest porn, being HSV-2 positive, and trying out “water sports.” She has early memories of non-consensual experiences, which led to weak boundaries and a tendency towards dissociation and passivity. A hysterectomy and genital changes further changed her body and libido. She’s always enjoyed masturbation and has been unpartnered for some time; she’s ready to explore again.
Joy is a 44-year-old cisgender female. She describes herself as white, monogamous, bisexual. She is post-menopausal and has had ovarian cancer and a full hysterectomy. She describes her body as pear-shaped and wears hearing aids.
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. Today’s episode gets into some really juicy territory, including some fetishes that have not come up before on this podcast. Joy is also our first guest to talk openly about having herpes. So, let’s jump in. Joy is a 44-year-old cisgender female. She describes herself as white, monogamous, bisexual, and currently unpartnered. She is post-menopausal and has had a full hysterectomy due to ovarian cancer. She describes her body as pear-shaped and she wears hearing aids. I am so pleased to introduce Joy!
Joy, thank you so much for getting in touch with me and saying that you wanted to do an interview. I’m looking forward to this conversation, so thanks for being here.
JOY: Thanks for having me. It’s really special that you allow space for this kind of a conversation. I’m glad to be here.
LEAH: You know because you’re a listener to this show that I start every interview the same way. What is your first memory of sexual pleasure?
JOY: Yeah. So, my first memory, I don’t know if I would have thought of it as sexual at the time, but when I was about 8 or 9, I would lay on my bed when I was alone and cuddle up with a pillow between my legs. And it was a new sensation for me and I loved it. It wasn’t even masturbation. It was just laying as still as possible with a pillow between my legs.
LEAH: So, you liked the pressure of the pillow up against your mons pubis?
JOY: I did. Yeah.
LEAH: Was there a point at which you started grinding or humping against it or was it always that stillness?
JOY: I don’t remember grinding or humping. At some point, I heard another girl talk about letting running water in the bathtub run over her private parts and I thought, “Oh, huh.” So, I tried that.
JOY: And then, I did learn to orgasm that way. But it was sometime after that, so I had quite a relationship with my bathtub for a couple of years.
JOY: But then, it was after that that I moved towards using my hand or any other object.
LEAH: When you were in the bathtub, were you coming to something you would recognize now as an orgasm?
JOY: I was, yeah.
LEAH: What do you think prompted you to switch or to add your hand?
JOY: After a while, it occurred to me that if the running water could stimulate me that way, then my hand should be able to.
JOY: And at first, I don’t remember it being that successful. But I thought, “If I keep working on this, I should be able to figure it out.” And at some point, I did. So, I was a little bit older when I started manually stimulating myself with my hand. So, from the pillow when I was about 8 or 9, to the bathwater when I was probably 10 to 13, and then it was after that when I was a teenager that I started exploring masturbation in other ways.
LEAH: When you moved onto your hand, did you continue masturbating under the water faucet in the bathtub?
JOY: I did after some time. I don’t remember when I stopped doing that, but I think we moved houses. Because when I first started, we had a closet tub that I could really put my legs over the edge easily.
JOY: And then, it became more awkward in a different house.
LEAH: Yeah. I’m familiar with the awkward bathtub situation.
LEAH: Yeah. So, at what point did you decide you wanted to add another person into this equation that maybe someone else could touch you in that way?
JOY: Yeah. So, I didn’t have good boundaries as a child. And most of my sexual experiences were initiated by a man. And many of them I considered consensual, but I didn’t feel a lot of agency. And I don’t know that I really participated that much. So, the first time I had partnered sex that I remember was when I was about 14 with a boy my age who I had liked and we had kissed and I was excited by him.
But then, it moved really quickly to intercourse and I dropped my pants and we went from there. And I really dissociated during the experience. So, the thing that I remember most vividly is the tree that was blooming outside the window. Yeah. So, I didn’t really invite a partner in. I just felt like it moved really quickly into somebody being interested in me. And then, if they wanted to go to sex, I would nominally consent. But I was in my 20s when that happened with somebody. But then, we had an ongoing sexual relationship and I started engaging with them and experiencing pleasure.
LEAH: You said that you dissociated that first time when you were 14. Had you had a previous experience of non-consensual assault?
JOY: I have a lot of signs. I don’t have any memories. So, when I was about 4 or 5, we lived in a house with a whole bunch of teenagers. I have two older brothers. So, it was them, but my mom’s boyfriend and then he had four kids that were my brothers’ ages. So, I was like 4 or 5 and then, there were maybe 8 teenagers in the house.
So, one of these teenagers came back and tried to molest me. He didn’t live in the house, but he came back home for a little while. And I do remember that incident. But we moved out as soon as my mom learned about that and I don’t remember him getting undressed during that experience. But his father may have molested me and I don’t remember the bedroom. I don’t remember. I just have emotional reactions like that man, I’ve met him as an adult and he’s one of the few people that I’ve really very actively disliked. So, I suspect. And then, I’ve also had experiences where I lived with a man for a couple of years and I would have things that would trigger me into terror. So, I suspect, but I don’t remember.
LEAH: Yeah. I want to be clear also that I asked that question because you said the first time you had sex, you dissociated. It seems like a question that should be asked at the same time having sex at 14 that you’re not entirely ready for is enough to cause that sort of dissociation.
JOY: Yeah, but I don’t remember penetration being difficult. I was on my period at the time and so I can’t tell if I got bloody. It was a little bit bloody anyways.
JOY: But there was nothing particularly difficult about the sexual act that first time physically.
LEAH: So, you said that that first time was at 14. And you were in your 20s the first time that you were in a relationship where things started to become pleasurable. Were there other experiences in those intervening years?
JOY: There were. I had a girlfriend for the last couple of years of high school. Most of our sexual interactions were making out and that kind of thing. But we did go as far as stimulating each other’s genitals a couple of times. But both of us had a tendency to dissociate. And so, I think we were both comfortable not going there very much. There were a couple of other men in my late teens and early 20s who I had one-time sexual interactions with that they initiated, but I didn’t feel pleasure. They weren’t painful, but I didn’t feel pleasure.
LEAH: So, something that you’ve told me that hasn’t come up is that you have hearing loss.
JOY: That’s correct, yeah.
LEAH: Is that something that you’ve dealt with since you were a child or is that more recent?
JOY: Yeah. I’ve grown up with hearing loss. I had meningitis when I was a baby. It was diagnosed when I was in pre-school that I had a hearing loss.
LEAH: And how much hearing do you have?
JOY: In the high-frequencies, I have severe hearing loss. So, consonants and bird songs, things like that are in the higher frequency, women’s voices. In the low frequencies, so like a bass drum or an airplane, I have almost normal hearing loss. So, just very mild hearing loss and it goes in the diagonal from there. So, in the mid-range, where most speech sounds are, I just have a moderate hearing loss.
LEAH: Has that ever affected your relationships or your ability to be intimate with people?
JOY: I think so. I think for one thing, hearing loss is a very isolating condition. And so, I do have a tendency to seek reassurance through touch and comfort and reassurance. So, there’s this loneliness that arises from my hearing loss. The other thing is that I really listen through my eyes. And so, I do have an intense way of really listening to someone and they think they’re the center of the world for me.
JOY: And so, I’ve had to learn to in context where that could be misinterpreted as sexual attention or sexual interest to tone that back a bit.
LEAH: That’s interesting. I can totally see that because so many of us have the experience of just smiling and making eye contact with a man and having that interpreted as, “You must want to fuck me now.”
LEAH: And so, that must just be exponentially more true for you.
JOY: I think so.
LEAH: Wow. When you say you tone it back, does that mean that you don’t look as much? You are more careful about your looking or that you actually have to say to people like, “I want you to know that I’m looking at you carefully,” that kind of thing?
JOY: I’ve never been that explicit about it, but just breaking eye contact, not looking quite as intensely. Yeah.
LEAH: Wow. Okay. So, we were in your teens. You had a series of experiences including a girlfriend. What was that first experience with a female like for you?
JOY: Oh, exquisite. She was the most beautiful person.
JOY: Yeah. The sex, the time where we went into genital sex, it wasn’t that great, but there was electricity when we were kissing or touching each other in other ways.
LEAH: I’m glad you had that experience. Was there any discomfort for you in the fact that it was a female?
JOY: No, I was a teenager, I would say rather, in the 1990s and at the time there was a lot of political stuff. There were some ballot measures that were anti-LGBT. I don’t think we had Q in our vocabulary at that time, much less IA.
JOY: And so, I was in a subculture where we were very vehemently it’s okay to be gay. My parents split when I was quite young. And in my mom’s house, that was perfectly fine. My dad was pretty conservative Christian and his church was hosting some of the political groups that were canvassing for these anti measures. So, I was also thumbing my nose at my dad. So, it was a little bit of a rebellion, but I don’t remember it feeling weird for me.
LEAH: So, at your mom’s house, it sounds like things were pretty open and accessible. What kinds of messages were you getting from your dad and his church about sex and sexuality and being female?
JOY: I didn’t have a good relationship with my dad. When he got remarried when I was 11, I really felt that I lost him in many ways because my stepmother became the primary person I interacted with in that relationship. And so, there was an expectation that I would not have sex and definitely not with a woman and that I would look forward to a monogamous relationship, getting married, and I would be probably in my early 20s. And that the man would be the head of the household and call all the shots, so very patriarchal setup.
LEAH: Did you father know that you were dating a woman in high school?
JOY: So, I wrote him a long letter once and I don’t remember if I told him I was bisexual or if I told him I had a girlfriend, but he never talked about it. So, I think he knew. And then, maybe two years ago, I had a conversation with him again and he had come to the point where he could say, “I love you no matter what.”
JOY: Yeah. So, I don’t think he would have been able to do that when I was a teenager.
LEAH: So, you and I are close to the same age. Today is your 44th birthday as we’re recording.
LEAH: So, I’m just about two years older than you. It’s interesting to me to hear you say, “I don’t know if I called myself bisexual or not as a teenager.” Because for me, that was a concept that didn’t show up until my mid to late 20s. When I realized that I was attracted to women, that meant I must be a lesbian. So, I wonder if you always knew yourself to be bisexual or if there was some mental gymnastics you had to do to get there.
JOY: I remember having crushes and fantasies about people of either gender. And at that time, I really did think of people as men or women. So, I had not learned very much about biology or about intersex people or about transgender people at that time. So, I may have used the word lesbian, but I was aware that my attractions were not limited to one gender.
LEAH: Yeah. So, let’s talk about this relationship you had in your 20s when you started experiencing some pleasure. How did that come about?
JOY: So, this was somebody who was a roommate. It’s a complicated situation. He was promiscuous. He was a bit older than me. I would say maybe 10 or 15 years older than me, completely different culture. He was Hispanic. And so, he had a little bit of the macho like, “I get to chase after all the women and it’s their job to say no to me” kind of an outlook on the world and we were just friends.
I didn’t have any romantic interest in him in terms of dating or anything like that. And he initiated sexual engagement, kissing, and going a little further. He made sure I said yes, but I think mostly at first, it was about his own pleasure. But he was a good lover and I started to really enjoy it. It was never painful. But I think at first, I was just very passive. But it was so freeing because we were friends and there were no other relationship expectations. And he’s the only sexual partner I’ve had that it’s been an ongoing sexual relationship without any of the other attachment or relationship expectations. So, we met up about once a week and had a lovely sexual time and that was it.
JOY: I became more attached over time and we ended up spending the night together regularly for a little while.
LEAH: How long did this go on?
JOY: it felt like it went on for a very long time. Looking back at it, I think it was just for one summer.
LEAH: And were you dating other people during that time?
JOY: I don’t think so. He had one friend who I think wanted to get back at him for something who decided to try and seduce me and I was like, “The guy I was sleeping with was sleeping with whoever he wanted to, so why not?”
JOY: And so, I did which was a very unmemorable experience.
JOY: But then, the guy I was sleeping with got really upset about it.
JOY: So, it was not really me dating anybody. There was that one incident that happened.
LEAH: It sounds like this was a really great experience for you to have that friends with benefits experience. Were you also wanting to have a relationship or were you satisfied with that setup?
JOY: I was wanting to have a relationship. And at that time, I think I did still have the expectation that sex occurs in the context of a monogamous relationship potentially leading to marriage. So, even though I didn’t frame it as a religious moray, it wasn’t something that I was consciously choosing or not choosing, but it was still the framework that I was thinking of sex.
LEAH: So, the way you phrased that makes it sound like you have changed your thoughts about that. So, what happened?
JOY: So, I haven’t really changed my thoughts about that. I think looking back at that experience where that was one of the most wonderful sexual experienced that I had, it made me realize that maybe those moral boundaries that I have I could consider not retaining.
JOY: I am still in a religious context where sex is considered to be a powerful thing that should only happen within a monogamous covenant relationship.
LEAH: Okay. So, that has stayed with you?
JOY: That has stayed with me and I don’t know that I personally subscribe to that. I consider myself sexually active, but I haven’t been partnered for about seven years. So, it really hasn’t been an issue.
LEAH: So, when this summer long relationship ended, what happened next for you?
JOY: It was my early 20s. So, my timeline gets a little bit confused because I also had a one-night stand with somebody else. I was working in Sturgis, South Dakota for a week at the Harley-Davidson Festival.
JOY: And ended up hooking up with a guy at the neighboring camp and I ended up getting herpes from that experience. And that’s one experience I regret because it wasn’t great. And I ended up with this, it was an infection that I will be living with.
LEAH: Let’s just pause here for a second at the herpes. How has that affected your sex life? Because as you said, it’s an ongoing infection. So, how have you dealt with that going forward?
JOY: Yeah. So, I basically ignored it and ended up falling into another relationship where I infected that partner. We were together for several years. We lived together. And I’ve had a couple of other partners since then where as far as I know, they haven’t been infected and I’ve been open with them about it. But I haven’t been very conscious about communicating about it. I know that I need to not have sex when I have an open infection and that barrier protection’s easy when there is a penis going into a vagina, but I haven’t had a partner to explore other ways of doing safer sex with the herpes infection.
LEAH: What’s the treatment protocol that you’re on, if any?
JOY: For a while, I was taking antiviral medication. I didn’t like the side effects of it and now the outbreaks are not that frequent. So, I’m not doing anything.
LEAH: So, when you have a new partner, somebody who you’re sleeping with for the first time, what does that conversation look like for you? How do you broach the subject with them and how much do you tell them?
JOY: So, I haven’t been good about that and that’s one of the things that I need to get better about is talking upfront with a partner because in my history, it’s mostly been someone being sexually interested me, making some moves and then we go straight into the sex.
JOY: And I don’t like that pattern. So, that’s part of why I haven’t had a sexual partner for quite a while now. But the last person I was with, I right upfront in our very early on, I don’t remember if it’s the first conversation we had, but when we were just starting to date, I disclosed that I had herpes and that I wouldn’t have sex when I was having an outbreak and that we needed to use barrier protection. But I always felt awkward and anxious.
LEAH: Have you listened to the STARS conversation episodes of this podcast?
JOY: I did, yeah. I love that. Yeah.
LEAH: Yeah. It’s a great way to frame that conversation because there is a part of it that is specifically about STIs. And what I love about it is that it approaches it in a really non-judgmental way. It’s not like, “Oh my god. I have this huge thing that I have to tell you that’s going to make you never want to see me again.”
LEAH: It’s like, “Here’s the thing. Here’s the treatment protocol I’m doing. Here are the things you need to know. Would you like to still do this?” Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever had somebody on the podcast who spoke openly about herpes. So, let me just ask you a couple more questions about it, if you’re okay with that.
JOY: Sure, yeah.
LEAH: What is a herpes outbreak like for you?
JOY: So, I have both genital and oral herpes. They’re both HSV-2. The type of virus is more comfortable in the genital area, so they actually look different. I assumed they were different strands of herpes for a long time until I got a blood test and it was confirmed. It goes in a wave. So, the first sign of an outbreak is usually tingling. And then, often that will proceed to blisters and I get bigger blisters in my genital area on my vulva than I do on my mouth. So, they’re just tiny little blisters on my mouth. And then, that will usually last a few days and be really painful. Sometimes, the blisters will burst and then the sores will take maybe another week to heal.
LEAH: You talked about not having genital contact when you have an active infection. I imagine it would not even be comfortable to have genital contact when you have an active infection?
JOY: No. But sometimes the tingling actually is a little bit arousing just because it feels like my vulva’s tingling, so it can be very easily confused for excitement. But I know that I’m infectious during that period, so that’s a sign not to have sex during that time. So, that would be the only period where it would be tempting.
LEAH: Yeah. Thank you for being willing to talk about that. I really appreciate it.
LEAH: Are you aching to explore new vistas of your sexuality, but you’re not quite sure how to proceed? Are you wondering if your desires are normal? Are you afraid you’ll have to blow up your existing relationship to have the kind of sex you want? Or maybe you’re hearing these conversations every week and thinking, “I understand what she’s talking about. I just don’t know how to do it in my life?” Well, that’s where personalized and intimacy coaching comes in.
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I work with clients who are motivated to explore many different areas of sexuality including things like learning how to talk about your sexual desires with current or future partners, learning to date after a long time out of the dating pool, questioning if you might be queer, challenging body image insecurity in sexual relationships, dipping your toes into BDSM or consensual non-monogamy, exploring sexuality for later in life virgins, recovering from infidelity, and so much more.
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LEAH: You said that you haven’t been in a relationship for about seven years. So, what was that relationship that you were in previously?
JOY: That was a guy that I was dating. And we had a wonderful dating relationship and we were sexually active with each other, but it was pretty vanilla in a lot of ways.
LEAH: And you’re looking for something that’s not so vanilla?
JOY: I am. So, backwards a little bit to my mid-20s where I lived with a guy for about four years. We did a lot of really kinky exploration and that was so wonderful. Yeah.
LEAH: What kinds of stuff?
JOY: We explored bondage. I like being tied up. We explored some really, I want to say gentle, but that’s not quite the right word, some spanking and hitting and a little bit of whip, stuff like that. Let’s see. We did some water sport, so playing with some urine, which surprised me. It didn’t even occur to me.
JOY: And he one day came up and was like, “Oh, would you be willing to even think about trying this with me?” I was like, “Sure.”
JOY: He wanted it.
LEAH: He wanted to receive the urine?
JOY: He was fine either way, whatever I would be willing to do. He wanted to experiment with it and he had never done it before. And so, I was like, “Well, let’s do it in the bathtub and we’ll see.”
JOY: I wasn’t sure I would like it. And so, he was like, “Okay. How about you do it to me first?” And he really liked it and I didn’t mind it. And his pleasure was really exciting for me. And so, we did both. Then, he peed on me some too and that was fine.
LEAH: Was it fine as in, “I’ll do this because you enjoy it” or was it, “Fine, this is fun. I like it?”
JOY: It was some of the things, “Okay, whatever.” But some of it was like, “Yeah. This feels really good.”
JOY: That’s probably the kinkiest thing I’ve done, that I’ve enjoyed.
LEAH: So, it sounds like that is the kind of activity that you’d like to do again going forward. Is that true?
JOY: So, probably not the water sports, I could take or leave.
JOY: But yeah, I really like a little element of pain, not a lot. Just a little element of pain and I really like the being tied up. I would love to explore that a little more.
LEAH: Have you had that experience with any of your other sexual partners?
JOY: I have not. No.
LEAH: So, it’s just been with this one guy and your memories and fantasies of that?
LEAH: Does that fuel a lot of your fantasies now?
JOY: It does.
LEAH: Wait. I want to get the timeline correct. So, the relationship with the guy that was not vanilla was in your 20s. Correct?
JOY: Yeah, mid-20s.
LEAH: Mid-20s. And then, you had a relationship with somebody who was a little too vanilla for your preferences in your 30s.
JOY: So, yeah, in my early 30s, I actually had another relationship with an older man in another country actually for some time. So, when I was there, he actually came here once. So, that was the really wonderful sexual relationship as well.
LEAH: So, it was long-distance?
JOY: It happened when I was there or when he was here and we had some long-distance correspondence, but it ended badly. I’m basically friends with everybody afterwards. If we’ve had that kind of intimate long going relationship, I’m still friends. Yeah. So, I had that relationship in between. So, there was a freedom just of me being outside of my own context in that, but he didn’t want to be in a dating relationship. So, there as a secrecy element to that relationship as well.
LEAH: And was the secrecy fun and exciting or was it challenging for you?
JOY: It was both. Yeah.
LEAH: In what ways?
JOY: There was a freedom in the secrecy like we were not bound by being known together as a couple. So, I felt quite a bit of freedom in that. But I also felt like I was being held at arm’s distance and there was a little bit of a shame in that like, “Oh, this isn’t really okay for me to be doing this.”
LEAH: Yeah. So, what’s your sexual life like now?
JOY: So, I masturbate maybe once or twice a week and that’s about it.
LEAH: Do you miss having partners?
JOY: I don’t or I didn’t think I did, but I’ve become obsessed with thinking about it. And then, when I discovered Good Girls Talk About Sex and I’ve been really exploring what do I want and what have my experiences been, it does bring up the question of, what’s missing? And I’m pretty comfortable where I am right now, but I’m starting to think about, it might be nice to explore some of these things with a partner.
LEAH: Yeah. What do you imagine would be your means toward a partner? Are you somebody who would date on online apps or meeting people through friends? What’s your way of dating?
JOY: So, my history has been somebody likes me and then we go from there.
JOY: So, random chance, which I don’t think is a good way to find somebody who actually suits me. I’ve never done online dating, but I like the idea of being able to put in writing with some distance like over the internet like. “This is what I’m looking for.” And then, be able to do some of that preliminary conversation before actually meeting.
LEAH: It sounds like that might be great for you just because it allows you some, what’s the word I’m looking for? You have some control over the interaction. You’re not just waiting for somebody to notice you. You’re actually saying, “This is who I want and I’m going to select through the options.”
LEAH: Yeah. It sounds like you haven’t really had that before.
JOY: I haven’t had that before.
LEAH: Yeah. That’s exciting.
LEAH: One other thing that you mentioned before we started recording was that you went through ovarian cancer several years ago. So, I wanted to ask you a bit about how that has affected your relationship with your body and your relationship with your sexuality?
JOY: It very much has. I went through a full hysterectomy. And so, both my ovaries and my uterus were removed. I had other risk factors, so I did not do the hormone replacement. So, my hormone environment completely changed. It was a couple of years before that really settled down, which means that my skin’s a lot drier. It means my mood’s more even now, but right afterwards, my mood was all over the place.
JOY: I think my libido has gone down. I’ve never been high libido, but my libido has gone down. And I noticed, I’m 44, but I’m getting older.
JOY: So, I noticed that sexuality isn’t always an undercurrent. There’s a lot more people that I’m interacting with where sex isn’t even an undercurrent in my mind. So, it’s hard to say if that just comes with age or if that’s an impact of the hysterectomy or menopause.
However, the biggest thing is that I did experience genital restructuring. So, my clitoris used to be visible. It used to be exposed underneath the clitoral hood, but there was a sore one day and it was yucky. But my doctor saw evidence of that and said, “Yeah, but it looks like it’s healing.” And then, over the period of a year, I experienced intense itching and my clitoris receded and my clitoral hood grew over it. So, that changed where my clitoris is and what sensations I experience from it.
And I used to have orgasms that I could feel all through my uterus and without my uterus there, it just feels different. There’s a missing sensation and my arousal and reaching climax response has changed. So, I used to build up really slowly and then be able to linger at climax. And then, I never multi-orgasm, but now it’s like build up, hit climax, and done. And so, there’s a really fine line between starting to get aroused and then tipping over the edge and then it doesn’t linger.
LEAH: Is that less pleasurable for you or is it just shorter? Do you have the same amount of pleasure in a shorter amount of time or do you feel like there’s really a qualitative difference in the amount of pleasure you have?
JOY: It’s a different pleasure and I wouldn’t say that it’s less, but it does feel like a loss. I think that there’s still more potential in what I’m experiencing now and I’m still a little bit stuck on what I used to be able to experience.
LEAH: Sure. When you’re masturbating is it external entirely or do you also enjoy penetration when masturbating?
JOY: So, I’ve actually had some conversations with my doctors because my annual checkup, the speculum is really incredibly painful, the penetration of the speculum even in a non-sexual context. And so, one thing that she said is with the vaginal canal, it’s a good idea if you want it to stay open and flexible to keep putting things into it.
JOY: So, she suggested that I get a vibrator that includes a dildo, but it’s not a dildo. It’s a vibrator.
LEAH: An insertion point, yeah.
JOY: It’s something I can insert of varying degrees of widths and depth. So, I do that and I don’t really enjoy penetration that much. I don’t have a lot of sensation and when I’m aroused, the size is not a limitation for me. Anyway, to answer your question, it’s clitoral stimulation that I prefer and that I do most of the time.
LEAH: Yeah. I actually just started seeing a new healthcare provider and I’m going to have her on podcast sometime soon because she was giving me so much great information. She was talking about how as we get older and hormonal changes happen, the skin in the vaginal canal and the vulva area thin just like the skin everywhere on our body. We get that thin papery skin as time goes on and that one of the best ways, I maybe putting words in her mouth if I say one of the best ways, a great way to help to hydrate and maintain that skin so that it doesn’t get small fissures and things like that during penetration is coconut oil. Lots of coconut oil, both when you’re penetrating yourself with yourself, with a toy, with a partner and also just in general. That can help to really maintain the skin. The other thing I would ask is your doctor using the smallest-sized speculum?
JOY: I listened to your podcast the other day where you’re talking about the baby speculum.
LEAH: Yes. For God’s sake, why don’t they just offer it?
JOY: I think she has when I said it really, really hurts, she’s gone to a different one.
LEAH: Why didn’t they just start there?
JOY: Just start there.
JOY: It never used to be painful for me, but since the hysterectomy, it has been.
LEAH: Yeah. There are also dilator kits, so that you’re not going straight to the full-size penetration. You can actually work your way up.
JOY: I think that’s what my doctor suggested. Yeah, because it starts with this really tiny little, it goes on top of the vibrator and then it has three or four different sizes put on top of that.
LEAH: Yeah. And there are dilator kits for both vaginal play and for anal play.
LEAH: But it might be something to explore if that’s of interest to you. On the other hand, if you don’t really enjoy penetration, then okay, cool.
JOY: Yeah. I think I just want to keep the options open because if I have a male partner who really enjoys penetration and I’ve had some really wonderful orgasmic experiences with penetration, not very many like two or three.
JOY: But I like to keep that as an option, but I do think sometimes about maybe penetration’s not something that’s important to me. And so, I think I’m a little undecided about that. So, I want to keep the option open.
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 fifty 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 dating extra in honor of women who need this material, but aren’t in apposition 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 very 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 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: Do you have any questions or concerns about sex in general or your sex life in particular?
JOY: I think the STARS talk was one thing. But for me, I have tended to fall into sexual encounters and so I don’t know if and when I start exploring partnered sex again, I need to be more active in terms of initiating, in terms of being present in my body. I know you’ve talked quite a bit about that. So, it’s not really a sex question, it’s more about how to be more present.
LEAH: That’s very much a sex question. It’s not a physical mechanics of sex.
LEAH: But it’s very much about how we experience sex and our sexuality. I have a download on my site called the Sensational Body Scan.
JOY: I haven’t done that yet. Okay.
LEAH: I think it’s a real good place to start. It’s a very simple exercise that helps to get in touch with literally the sensations in your body. I think that’s an important place to start. And then, the next part, this is a big question because there are so many reasons that you might not be staying in touch with your sensations. It might just be that you’re not getting touched. You’re not knowing to ask for the kind of touch that you need. It could be that your partner isn’t giving you the kind of touch that you need, even if you know to ask for it. It could also be that there are some mental or emotional blocks going on. There are so many different pieces to that.
And one of the things that I do is work with people through that. I have a client now who has a yoga practice and she has been asking me exactly this thing. This is exactly what we’ve been working on. She’s gone through the process of figuring out some of the things that she wants and actually getting brave enough to seek people out and go on dates. And all of that has been the thing and now she’s at the point where she’s actually actively engaging with some people and having sexual experiences and she’s finding that she’s having a hard time staying in her body.
And there are so many different things that we’ve talked about and that she’s tried. And none of them have quite fit. And then, a week or two ago, we had a conversation where I said to her, “If you had a yoga student who came to you to say, ‘I want to do this yoga even better, I get so caught up in my head that all my I’m doing is thinking about how I look,’ what would you say to them?”
And so, we were able to talk through that in terms of how she would talk to a yoga student because that’s how she understood it and it was about coming back to the breath and coming back to the sensations in the body because that’s what she teaches in yoga. So, I can give you that answer. It might make intellectual sense to you, but it might not hit that internal core that is exactly what you need.
JOY: I really like that you brought up the, “This is a coaching relationship. This is something that you’re offering.”
JOY: Sexual coaching could be really helpful both in that prelude to doing something new and brave, but also in exploring to find what might work for me in terms of what I might be encountering when I dissociate or if I’m not really doing or experiencing what I want and how to ask for it.
LEAH: Yeah, absolutely. Maybe I’ll ask her if it’s okay if I share that in the podcast.
LEAH: I wouldn’t want to do that without her consent.
JOY: No, yeah.
LEAH: Yeah. I hope that’s helpful.
JOY: I’ll look that up. You said the sensation?
LEAH: The Sensational Body Scan.
JOY: Sensational Body Scan. Okay.
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: I know you no longer have a period, but did you have sex during your period in the before times?
JOY: Yeah, I did.
LEAH: Did you enjoy it?
JOY: Yeah, a little more lubricated. If I was really crampy or bloaty, I wouldn’t want to engage in sex to begin with. But yeah, light flow and old sheets can go right into the laundry. I need a shower nearby. No problem.
LEAH: What’s the approximate number of sex partners you’ve had?
JOY: So, I usually count five or six, but I’ve had five or six additional that were just one-time experiences where I didn’t feel a lot of agency, but they weren’t non-consensual.
LEAH: Yeah. One thing I didn’t ask you was other than the woman in high school, have you had a lot of experiences with other women?
JOY: Not in person, she’s the only woman I’ve in person certainly have had fantasies and attractions.
LEAH: Is that something that excites you to explore going forward?
LEAH: Have you ever had sex with someone with a different racial identity than your own?
JOY: I have.
LEAH: What’s your favorite sex toy?
JOY: I have a rocket-style vibrator. I like the way it vibrates.
LEAH: Do you have a favorite sex position?
JOY: Not really.
LEAH: Do you prefer to initiate or for your partner to initiate during lovemaking?
JOY: I like both.
LEAH: Do you enjoy having your breasts played with?
JOY: I do very much.
LEAH: We’ve already talked about this a bit, but just in case it brings up any other thoughts. Do you prefer clit stimulation or penetration?
JOY: Clit stimulation.
LEAH: Do you think it’s generally easy or challenging for you to orgasm?
JOY: So, with myself, really easy. With a partner, because I really do struggle staying very present in my body, it sometimes seems like a challenge.
LEAH: Have you ever faked an orgasm?
JOY: I think so once or twice. Yeah. Out of the partners I’ve had, many of them didn’t pay that much attention honestly.
JOY: And the ones that did that actually cared would have been upset for me to fake it. So, I think one time, it was just going on and on and I was like, “I’m ready for it to be done.”
LEAH: Do you prefer the orgasm from masturbating or from sex with another person?
JOY: So, I’ve had a couple of really amazing orgasms like two or three really amazing orgasms with partner that if that’s what it always was with a partner, I would definitely prefer that. But for the most part, I know exactly when to change the way I’m touching myself to prolong the pleasure and not skip over it. So, I generally prefer myself.
LEAH: Yeah. Can you orgasm from intercourse alone without any additional stimulation?
JOY: So, one time that happened and it was amazing.
JOY: One time does not a pattern make.
JOY: So, I usually need clit stimulation. And that one time was probably just the way that it fit, so I probably was getting good clit stimulation.
LEAH: Yeah, exactly. What kind of touch do you enjoy most?
JOY: I really like a soft touch, so either like a featherlight teasing all over my body. But once I get into it, a firmer touch and even getting into spanking and that kind of thing, that can be very, very enjoyable.
LEAH: What are your hard red lines?
JOY: So, I’m pretty adventurous. If somebody wants to explore something I’m open to exploring things I never thought of before. I’m not interested in choking. I like to be able to breathe. For me, I also need no to mean no and yes to mean yes. So, that could change in the future if I was in a relationship where setting up a safe word and we had really good communication were to happen, I could see myself. So, it doesn’t feel like a hard red line. But right now, I just need to be able to let my signals be honestly what they are and to understand what the other person, so the pain sounds are pain sounds and pleasure sounds are pleasure sounds.
I don’t like humiliating or degrading talk even if I like power play. I don’t want it to go into shameful territory. And I don’t like a penis or a finger to touch me, so that it’s poking me either in the back of my head or in the small of my back. That really feels like a gun being held to me, so it’s one of my terror triggers where that’s really a no. So, no guns and knives would be another.
JOY: You talk about piss, poop, and blood and I think for me, the blood line would be no knives. I don’t particularly want to explore blood play, but I would be open it if it turned on a partner. But no knives.
LEAH: Going back for a moment to the issue of hearing loss, are there ways that that affects your play preferences like do you always need to be able to see your person’s mouth? How does that affect you?
JOY: Yeah. So, I think you have another question about dirty talk, but I have to stop and really be paying attention in order to understand what someone’s saying. So, in general, a conversation is not going to happen for me. So, I may have my hearing aids out during sex. I may have them in, but I’m likely to have them out. So, a conversation where I actually understand the words is going to have to be intentional. But that said, I can see intentions pretty well and I can hear sounds. So, if somebody’s saying, “Oh, yes,” I’m not going to have to stop everything and look at them in order to hear that.
JOY: Or “No, stop.” I’m going to understand the signals they’re giving me from their body language probably as much as from the tone of their voice.
LEAH: How do you feel about a partner masturbating without you being present?
JOY: Yes, please do.
JOY: I’m generally lower libido than my partner, so anyway they can find to satisfy themselves if they don’t need me, that’s great.
LEAH: How do you feel about a partner watching porn?
JOY: No problem.
LEAH: How do you feel about porn?
JOY: I enjoy it. I have a little bit of a feminist spent where I’m like, “Maybe I shouldn’t enjoy it.”
JOY: But I know that there is porn out there made by women that’s more empowering. I haven’t explored that much of it. But yeah, I don’t feel like it’s wrong. Yeah, when I’m reading erotica or watching porn, I tend to like incest kind of stuff and some more kinky things. I dated somebody who worked at a porn shop and we would rent things pretty regularly. That was my first foray into the world of porn.
JOY: That was pretty neat. Yeah, because it opens up the world of what’s possible.
LEAH: So, let’s just come back for a second to the idea of incest porn because that’s potentially going to be a new concept for some people and clarify that an interest in incest porn does not equal the desire to have an incestuous relationship.
JOY: Absolutely not, yeah.
LEAH: Absolutely not. So, can you talk about what is it that triggers for you? What’s the excitement for you there?
JOY: There is a little bit of excitement just in the power imbalance. So, I do like that. What really excites me though is that it’s a relationship with somebody who really knows and loves and cares. And so, there’s this really deep sense of an emotional connection that I imagine in that setting that it’s really wonderful and nurturing for me and exciting.
LEAH: Yeah. I really appreciate you being willing to even say those words out loud. Even within the taboo world of sex, that is something that people would find a step too far and it’s not. It is just as valid as every other fetish or kink out there.
JOY: Thank you for saying that because sometimes I’m like, “Why is this what I get off on?”
JOY: But it’s what I turn to pretty regularly and I’m like, “Okay. It’s where I’m going.”
LEAH: Not only are you not alone. I read a statistic and it’s been a while since I read this, so I don’t know if it’s still true or not, but the most searched for porn category on Pornhub is incest porn.
JOY: Really? Most searched for? Wow.
LEAH: Yeah. So, you are not alone, not by a long shot.
JOY: Wow. Thank you for saying that.
LEAH: Yeah, absolutely. Do you have hair down there or are you bare?
JOY: Yeah, I’ve got hair.
JOY: If my partner would prefer it to be trimmed, I can do that. I’ve explored shaving, but I don’t want to go totally bare.
LEAH: Have you ever had a threesome or more?
JOY: I haven’t. I’ve fantasized about that, but I haven’t.
LEAH: What would be the gender makeup if you decided to have one?
JOY: So, I fantasized about two men, particularly if it’s two men focused on me.
JOY: A man and a woman would be great or, I don’t know, two women, it’s harder for me to imagine two women.
LEAH: Do you enjoy giving blow jobs?
JOY: Not particularly. Penises aren’t that exciting for me. But when it gives my partner a great deal of pleasure, I really like that. And there is an aspect of being a little bit submissive and going into adoration state that I have found very exciting sometimes in some relationships.
LEAH: When you give a blow job, do you swallow?
JOY: I don’t really mind either. I don’t think it’s come up that much. I don’t feel strongly either way.
LEAH: Do you enjoy receiving oral sex?
JOY: If it’s somebody who is sensitive to my signals and if they vary the kind of motions that they do. If they just sit there and do the same thing over and over and over and over, it’s like, “Okay. Let’s stop this.”
LEAH: Do you worry about your smell or taste?
JOY: So, in terms of vaginal fluids, no, not at all. But I do worry about, is my anus clean? I wonder if there’s bits of toilet paper. But for the most part, I figure if I smell weird or taste weird, that’s probably a sign that something’s going on and I would hope my partner would tell me. I really like the way I taste and smell.
LEAH: Okay. How do you feel about receiving ass play?
JOY: So, in certain context and done sensitively, it’s pretty wonderful. I do tend to tear a bit, so I had a partner we did a lot of ass play including penetration and I didn’t like the after effects that much. I would tend to be sore, have some bowel issues afterwards. So, I don’t like that part of it. But actually, in sex, it could be very enjoyable.
LEAH: Do you enjoy giving ass play?
JOY: I’ve never had a partner that really wanted me to do that. I think I would, but I’ve not explored that.
LEAH: We’ve also talked about this a little bit, but I’ll ask just in case. What do you consider the “kinkiest” thing you enjoy?
JOY: Maybe more than one time when my partner peed on my vulva and there was this warmth and wetness and clitoral stimulation all combined together. That was probably the kinkiest thing that I’ve enjoyed.
LEAH: Yeah. Do you enjoy dirty talk during sexual encounters?
JOY: Annoying just because I have to stop and listen like, “Okay. What are they saying?”
JOY: So, not really.
LEAH: Do you enjoy laughter during sexual encounters?
JOY: Sure. If it’s nervous laughter and it takes the place of communication, probably not. But if it’s just like our bodies are doing funny things, yeah.
LEAH: That’s a great distinction. I like that a lot. Have you ever felt a sexual urge that confused you?
JOY: I think the kinds of fantasies that I’ve had have confused me. But other than that, no, not really.
LEAH: What’s your favorite part of your body?
JOY: My eyes.
LEAH: What’s your least favorite part of your body?
JOY: I think my thighs. Yeah.
LEAH: What is something about your current sex life that isn’t as satisfying as you’d like it to be?
JOY: I knew you would ask this and I don’t have an answer right now.
LEAH: That’s okay.
JOY: I need a stronger sense of what I like, like really being able to say, “This is the kind of touch I like.” This is how I like because I would like to explore partnered sex again. But I know that there is self-exploration that I need to do and communication habits I need to build or skills, not habits, but communication skills before I can get there.
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?
JOY: I would like to correct myself about consent. You’ve talked about consent a lot and I did have the myth that if I said yes, I said yes to everything. But along with that was also the myth that men can’t control themselves. And I would really disabuse myself with that like, “If I say no, a man’s going to go out of control” or I was 18 or 19, somebody made a move at me. They touched my breast and I just froze and I couldn’t say anything, but I shook my head. And he withdrew his hand and he left. And that was absolutely mind-blowing for me at that time. So, it’s part of consent, but the fact that a man could control himself once he had made a sexual advance.
LEAH: Yeah. That’s important. So, I have one other question, which is that when we started this conversation you told me it’s your birthday today and that this was a fun way to explore on your birthday. So, I’m curious to know how this feels for you. What have you gotten out of it? Has it been what you wanted it to be?
JOY: Yeah. It is so empowering to really examine my experiences. A lot of this stuff, I’ve never talked with anybody about. And to name it in a context where I know other people will be listening and there will be similarities, there will be differences, but it’s very empowering.
LEAH: I’m glad. I’m very grateful that you did this. Not just because I’m so happy to have heard your story, but also because you were willing to name some things that I think would make some people nervous even in the context of this conversation. So, thank you for your willingness to be really open.
JOY: You’re welcome. Thanks for providing a safe space to make that happen.
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 and Show Transcripts at www.goodgirlstalk.com. To ask a question about your sex life, your desires, or anything to do with female sexuality, call and leave a message at 720-GOOD-SEX.
And before we go, I want to remind you that the things you’ve probably heard about your sexuality are not true. You are worthy. You are desirable. You are not broken. I work with women just like you to reflect their true sexual nature back to them without the judgment, shame or fear that can get in the way of us seeing it for ourselves. As a coach and PJ party hostess, I will guide you in embracing the sexuality that is innately yours no matter what it looks like. I’m here to help you sink so deeply into your true sexuality that the version of yourself that was scared to speak up for her own needs feels like a mirage from another lifetime.
Until next time, here’s to your better sex life!
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