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.
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Laina is a 33-year-old cis-gender woman who describes herself as Chinese, heterosexual, married, and monogamous.
Laina has one child and struggles with body image. She believes that nobody would want to have sex with her, and that her husband only does it because she’s his only option.
Major themes in this episode include body image, libido, and changes in sexuality after giving birth.
LEAH: Hello friends. I want to give you a quick programming note. Usually this podcast drops into your feed on Thursday mornings, but next week in the United States, Thursday is Independence Day and many of you may be travelling or visiting with family and friends. So for one time only, next week the episode will drop into your feed on Wednesday. You don’t need to do anything different. It will just be there ready for you to listen as usual except it’ll be on Wednesday. Now, here’s the show.
LEAH: Hi, I’m Leah Carey and this is Good Girls Talk About Sex. This is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. Before we get started, I want to tell you this. 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. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have your faith in your ability to deal with the things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: In today’s episode, we’ll meet Laina, a 33 year old cisgender woman who describes herself as Chinese, heterosexual, married, and monogamous. Laina was born in Hong Kong, went to school in England, and arrived in the United States eight years ago. She has one child and struggles with body image. She feels that nobody would want to have sex with her and that her husband only does it because he’s required to. I’m so pleased to introduce Laina!
Thank you so much for agreeing to do this.
LAINA: Thank you, Leah. I’m so excited and it’s such an honor. And this is such a wonderful podcast. I like to think for most of my life, I tried to be the good girl but I had not talked about sex.
LEAH: Well, now you get to be the good girl and talk about sex. [LAUGHTER]
LEAH: So let’s go back to the very beginning. I know you grew up in another country, so what kinds of things did you hear about sex when you were growing up?
LAINA: When I was growing up and I didn’t know this until much later when I’m grown up and spent time in a different country. But I feel like where I came from, the issue of objectifying the female is very prevalent. It’s not the case in other countries but where I came from it’s a lot more and sometimes now when I watch shows from my country, I would be like, “Wow that still happens.” That’s on TV, where the woman, basically the value of attractiveness of the woman is a lot based on their appearance and their body shape.
LEAH: And you grew up in Hong Kong?
LEAH: how did you discover sex? Do you remember? [LAUGHTER]
LAINA: I think when I was quite little perhaps 7 or 8. My mom told me about it. I asked her and what she told me was that the basic mechanism of what sex is. But I think it’s just from seeing TV and movies that I masturbated from an early age kind of before I knew what that was. But one of the things that struck me after I became an adult is that pleasure was not taught in sex, the female pleasure. It’s not part of the education.
LEAH: Yeah. So what kind of sex education did you get in Hong Kong?
LAINA: I was there until I was maybe 11 so nothing of school yet. But I mean just watching shows and in the media, there’s a lot that we could have found just watching that. And then in secondary school, I was in a different country for that and it was all the mechanics and the safety and birth control, so really not a lot.
LEAH: Yeah, something that I have started talking a lot about is that we have this thing at least in the United States that we call sex education that has nothing to do with educating kids about sex. It is purely disease prevention and pregnancy prevention. It has nothing to do with sex and pleasure and how to have a healthy sexual relationship.
LAINA: Exactly. It was still reading Fifty Shades of Grey that was for me like, “Wow.” I mean there’s a lot of things in there that is still messed up.
LAINA: But at least the pleasure part of that and kind of for the first time made me realize that wow the women’s pleasure can be a big part of sex and sex life.
LEAH: So that was not something that you had been really familiar with before that?
LAINA: Right, definitely not because much of the sex and sexual interactions that I’ve seen in the media is all based on men being attracted to the women and the women kind of win by having that attention and having men who want to have sex with them.
LEAH: You mentioned that you discovered masturbation pretty early. Do you remember how you figured that out for yourself?
LAINA: So I think sometimes I like to have my blanket between my legs and then so at some point, it just happened, maybe moving around, and then pleasure sensation happened. So I did not know what it was but sometimes I would do it because it felt good.
LEAH: At what point did you connect that up to sex and sexuality? Like you said, it was just this thing that felt good, at what point did you make that connection?
LAINA: At some point, it was still kind of around that age before 10, I had already known. So I also kind of became curious and attracted to just kind of erotic images. And it doesn’t have to be explicit. I remember seeing something on TV where a man is seeing a woman, down the leg and shoulders and the idea is there, but it didn’t show very much. But I got the idea and that kind of thing turned me on.
I am heterosexual but I’m very attracted to the female figure and I think part of it is that we are conditioned even women are condition to kind of look as a man, the male gaze towards women. We are conditioned to see that and we’ve learned that this is attractive kind of thing.
LEAH: Yeah. It took me a while to recognize that I was actually bisexual versus just like this is how we are sexualized to find the female form attractive because that’s what we see everywhere, selling everything. There was some confusing for me around that.
LAINA: And I don’t know. I’ve been confused about that a little bit but I have not looked at a real life woman and felt attracted to her. It’s only in images so I don’t know. Who knows? Who knows what will happen?
LEAH: Yeah, absolutely. So at what point did you start engaging with other people sexually? How old were you and what happened?
LAINA: I was 14 or 15. I started dating. I didn’t like it. The first time my boyfriend at the time touched me, I felt weird and I tried to avoid it but I also didn’t say no because it kind of felt like it’s supposed to happen if you’re dating. And it wasn’t real dating. We dated for a few days and then okay, we don’t really like each other.
LEAH: Do you think that your lack of interest in touching or your lack of pleasure from touching was related to not being attracted to him or was it that you weren’t ready for that kind of activity yet?
LAINA: I wasn’t ready. So even though I’ve been masturbating, I didn’t really know my sexuality yet either. I really wanted to have boyfriends and start dating and I always had crushes on guys throughout school but I never felt sexually attracted to anybody. I don’t know maybe it sounds weird but I have not looked at a man and felt sexual attraction. I could be attracted but it wouldn’t feel sexual, not something that I feel in my body.
LEAH: So is that true even to today?
LAINA: Today, so I think married and being with my husband for over ten years, I think I feel more now these days. If we start to touch, then I would feel sexual urges but not by sight. From watching movies and things like that it seems like some women are attracted to men sexually by sight but I had never felt that.
LEAH: There’s something that’s starting to come into the more popular cultural narrative, this idea that not everybody is the same level of sexual. Some people are what is called demisexual which means they maybe spend long periods of time without a sexual attraction and then something in particular triggers it, but it’s not like an always present thing. Or maybe somebody has to be in a certain circumstance in order for those sexual feelings to be triggered.
And then there are people further along the spectrum that would be called asexual meaning they would just basically don’t have a lot of sexual drive. All of that can be completely separated from somebody’s romantic drive so you can have a great deal of romantic feeling for someone and desire to be close and to cuddle and to spend time together without necessarily having that big sex drive that we have come to think of as “normal.”
And that’s something that’s only just starting to be talked about and I think it’s really important. I hope to have more people on this podcast who can speak to that because I think it’s something that’s really important for people to hear that it’s okay to have various levels of sex drive that you are not broken or wrong for not having that thing that you see and hear other people have.
LAINA: Oh, that’s so interesting. It makes sense and I’m glad you told me that. Otherwise, I’ve always been a little perplexed or confused about what’s going on. It’s not like I don’t have sexual urges, I do but not really towards men or specific people.
LAINA: Sex life has been difficult. We had it okay before I got pregnant. Pregnancy and childbirth basically led us to not have sex anymore. And it’s been three years since I’ve gave birth and during these three years, we probably had sex once a month in fact, which I was worried about because that seems like a long time.
I read on the Internet about, “It’s okay, he’ll come back.” But it’s been three years, so. And I understand the part of it we’ve also been going through rough times so our relationship was on the rocks so that doesn’t help at all. So it’s really been transformation. I have a different relationship to sex now. Before, I see sex as something mostly that he wants to do and that I will do it for the same of him. Sometimes I enjoy it, most of the time, it’s fine. It’s okay. I’ll go with it and I know it will be over soon. And it’s never horrible or anything. It’s just okay like “Meh.”
LAINA: I’m kind of getting to know my body all over. We weren’t in a good relationship so I actually think about, “Do I want to have sex right now?” And I was being a new parent, you feel so tired. You need to catch up with sleep. That’s a good experience, but the main thing is I really started to check in with myself whether I wanted it. Maybe he wants it but I don’t. And I start to control or not respond or putting it off in a way basically but I let myself refuse it.
LEAH: And how does he respond when you say no?
LAINA: He’s totally fine, which I’m really grateful about. He has not given me a hard time about our
sexless marriage. Because he understands that we’re tired and it has been my decision. LEAH: So there’s not a lot of conflict in your relationship about sex?
LAINA: It seems that way. I remember I tried to talk to him about that, “We’re not having a lot of sex. How are you feeling? Are you doing okay?” And he’ll say, “Yes” and he says he understands why and he understands all that.
But lately we actually did have a conversation where for the first time he told me that he’s unhappy and that he wishes that he and I have more sex together. And basically that he feels lonely and that’s sort of his personality to be a caretaker and making it all about me and not him or what he wants. So the conversation was hard because he sort of said “It’s all about you whether we have sex or not. It depends on your mood, how tired you are, what time it is.” So he was not happy. He said that it was all about me and I don’t know if I agree with that. I am grateful that he takes it into consideration and he respects but “I’m glad that you’re talking about this. I’m glad that you’re telling me that you’re unhappy because I didn’t know.”
LEAH: Do you have any sense of how things might change in the aftermath of that conversation?
LAINA: On my part, I do want to make more effort so when I do feel horny that I would try to engage and initiate sex. And most of the time, especially when we weren’t in a good place with each other or I wasn’t in a good place with him, then I go to masturbation. That’s where I get pleasure but now I’ll try it and engage him instead.
And of course now I know during the past few years where I let myself say no to sex, I have also found myself saying yes even when I maybe didn’t plan it and maybe we just cuddle and then I feel my body responding and my body saying yes and then I would kind of just go with it. So I think now I have a better sense of my body and my sexuality.
LEAH: That’s something that I have found with my partner that now I see has always been true but I didn’t realize it until recently. That for me, turn on doesn’t necessarily happen in the course of the day or walking through the kitchen and seeing him with his shirt off, the kinds of things that I hear other women talk about aren’t necessarily a turn on for me.
But for me, laying and cuddling with my partner and just having that time to fully relax and be at ease in his space that for me is a turn on. And I’m really lucky and grateful that he is somebody who is very accepting of that and who understands that and is open to it. I haven’t actually heard a lot of women talk about that in the past since I’m curious to know if that’s something that a lot of other people experience that the turn on comes from having the opportunity to just relax in each other’s presence first.
LAINA: That’s so interesting. I haven’t put that in words myself but when I think about it that seems to be how I get turned on. It’s just kind of like a nice, cuddling, warm environment and we’re about to kiss and then yeah, the body kind of takes over. I don’t get turned on just seeing my husband walking around or doing things. I mean there are moments where I’m like, “He’s so smart, he’s so comforting and being a good guy” but I’ll feel like this is a good person and kind of adore him and feel attracted to him, but maybe going back to the point where we have different levels of sexual attraction. I feel more romantic attraction and that doesn’t always translate into sexual.
LEAH: If you get a lot of out of listening to open and honest conversation about female sexuality, please show your support by heading to Apple Podcasts and leaving a rating and review. Knowing that you appreciate these conservations keeps me motivated to continue producing them. Miss Maya wrote, “This podcast is everything. I was smiling the entire time listening to the conversations. The discussions are so relatable and real and I felt totally validated. It’s sex talk without being vulgar or raunchy. Good girls do talk about sex and this is totally the place to talk about it.”
It is the place to talk about it. And you can hear even more good girls talking about sex at Patreon.com. This week’s rewards at the 5 dollar a month level, Laina and I talking more about demisexuality and the confusions she feels around her sexual urges. At the 7 dollar a month level, you get 20 plus questions in 17 minutes of Q and A. And as always, at the 10 dollar a month level, you get all that, plus a monthly ask me anything.
In addition, for Season 2, 10% of all Patreon donations I receive are going to ARC-Southeast an organization that provides financial and logistical support to people seeking reproductive health services in Southeastern U.S. states where these services are currently being legislated out of existence. To learn more and become a community supporter, visit patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex. And please share this podcast with a friend!
LEAH: So I want to talk a little bit about your relationship with your body and how that impacts your relationship with sex. And I’m particularly interested because I put up a video recently about how I’m learning how to accept my body even though it doesn’t fit into that classic idea of thin and pretty. And you messaged me and you said that there was yet another aspect of that for you. And I’d love to hear you talk about that.
LAINA: Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up. And your question about how that affects my sex life is a very important one and I’ll talk about that. So I think your video talked about being thin and pretty and sort of the ideal that most women strive towards and my experience is that I’ve been lucky enough to be thin. So where I came from, the Hong Kong culture, they have very high standards. So not only would kind of the ideal woman be thin and pretty and have curves, boobs and such.
LAINA: And a little waist and like long legs. Very, very harsh standards. Very unreal. [LAUGHTER]
LAINA: And for me, my struggle, not that I don’t struggle with weight, I have had my years where I feel like I should diet and need to lose weight and I had a share in that too. But what bothers me most and it affects my sex life is that I feel ashamed about my small breasts basically. Like I said before, I like looking at images of curvy, sexy women kind of turns me on but also jealous at the same time, which is really hard. And how that plays out with my sexual relationship is that, and I was journaling the other day and what I wrote was that, I don’t feel like anybody would want to have sex with me but my husband, and my husband because he is my husband.
LEAH: So kind of like he’s required to because you’re his partner?
LAINA: Yeah, like he chose me knowing what my body is and he’s never complained so it’s nothing to do with how he sees me but how I see myself. Because of my small bust, no one would have sex with me and that even if they are attracted to him, as soon as I get naked, they’ll be disappointed. And then there’s childbirth, your body just changes too.
And so this is really heavy because after nursing, your boobs just lose their shape. And I didn’t have much to begin with and now they feel even less attractive according to the standards that have been conditioned to think are attractive. So actually a lot of times I don’t want to have sex because I don’t own that body. I don’t want my husband to see that my breasts are not as pretty, they’re now more saggy and I feel shame and kind of feel really self conscious when we have sex. I just kind of physically feel different about it now.
LEAH: And what kind of response does he have to your breasts? I know you said he’s never said anything bad about them but does he say anything nice about them? Does he interact with them as if he likes them?
LAINA: He definitely tried but he’s never said anything to me. And I think once or twice that I kind of felt brave enough to bring up this topic to him that I’m sad about my body is different now and I’m losing my figure and he’ll reply, “Oh, you’re still good. It’s okay.” But it’s brief so it’s nice that he said that but it’s just how I feel about myself, my shape, my figure. I’m not going to do plastic surgery. This is what I got so I think just maybe getting out of that space of thinking that sex, about our body being attracted to it and our body in that kind of lusty way, maybe it’s the way to go.
LAINA: I don’t know. I’ve only been thinking about for a little while. I don’t know how that works.
LEAH: I’m curious how your relationship with your body. You’ve addressed this a little bit but I’d love to hear if you have anything else to say. I’m curious how your relationship with your body has changed since giving birth? And being a parent to this little person for whom your body is their comfort and their nurturing.
LAINA: That’s a really great question. I feel like I own my body. My body is for me. Before, I see my body as an object for men to desire and I didn’t see it as a bad thing but just because thinking of whether I look good enough, do I look good enough according to a standard that’s been toxic conditioning from the media. Now to the experience of childbirth, I’d see the miracle and the power a body does, and what it’s for, and that it nurtures, and it is through my body that I can lift my baby and hold my baby and even when I’m tired, my body keeps going. It’s really a great ally of life, our greatest tool to be alive. And my baby doesn’t care what shape or size I am, she jumps all over me anyway and walk on me anyway.
LAINA: And she lays on me anyway even though there are no cushiony boobs for her to lay on. She’d still like it.
LAINA: So I would say that I did not have a relationship with my body before childbirth. And now I do, now I feel like it’s mine. It’s mine. I own it. It’s mine to do whatever I want it to do ant not for everybody else to do what they think what they want to do it and I can say no to sex and not feel guilty or feel bad about it.
LEAH: Before we finish up, let’s do the Quick Five. Five quick questions we’d usually be too polite to ask any good girl.
LEAH: Do you have sex during your period?
LAINA: No, I think I may have done it once or twice and it would be towards the end that I know this seems messy.
LEAH: What is a fantasy you’ve been wanting to try that haven’t yet?
LAINA: That’s an interesting question. I’m thinking and maybe a female driven kind of fantasy. I’ve been trying to rewrite my fantasies for when I masturbate. So in the past, kind of maybe probably right through my mid20s, that fantasies I have of most be like a man getting onto a woman, a man getting on to me and I thought of it then because that’s just mostly what I’d seen.
So now I try to rewrite my fantasies sometimes to the woman being in a driver’s seat getting a man to touch her in the places that she wants. So I’m very inexperienced so I’m saying all these things like a breakthrough to me. Probably it’s the norm for a lot of people. I don’t know.
LEAH: No, I think that’s a really big deal. I’ve actually never heard anybody use that phrase and I absolutely love it. The idea of rewriting your fantasies, that’s brilliant.
LEAH: How do you feel about the taste and smell of your own juices when your partner goes down on you and then kisses you?
LAINA: No. [LAUGHTER]
LAINA: It feels good but I’m way too self conscious about that. About smell and what it looks like down there. And this is no reflection on him. He has no problem. I’m just too self conscious.
LEAH: Have you ever felt a sexual urge that confused you?
LAINA: Probably the fact that I get most turned on by looking at images of women. Maybe I have something to add to that. I think part of that is sometimes it translates to me than looking at myself so if I get turned on by looking at images of women, I sometimes then go look at myself and sometimes I get turned on looking at myself.
LAINA: It’s by how I feel that my body isn’t attractive enough but sometimes I get attracted to myself and get turned on looking at myself. Sorry, that sounds weird.
LEAH: No, I love it. I think it actually sounds really, really healthy. LAINA: Okay.
LAINA: Thank you for saying that.
LEAH: Yeah. I understand that.
LEAH: Thank you Laina, I’m so happy to have had this conversation with you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you being willing to do this.
LAINA: Thank you so much for having me on here Leah. This has been awesome. LEAH: It’s very much my pleasure.
LEAH: After recording this interview, Laina contacted me and said she was concerned that her description of her getting turned on by her own image in the mirror might be too weird and not normal. After some discussion, she decided it actually might be helpful to others who have the same experience to hear about it so we’ve left it in.
Being turned on by the sight of your own body or by fantasizing about your own body is not at tall abnormal. It even has a name, autoerotic. However, it isn’t well known because we spend so much time focusing on partnered sex. Even secular culture makes masturbation a dirty secret. I wanted to provide links to online resources about autoeroticism, but what I found were articles in places like Maxim that make it sound salacious or abnormal. Or conversations on places like answers.com where uninformed people opine that it’s a sign of narcissism. Neither is the case.
So I’m not going to point you to the Internet. I’m simply going to say that if you get turned on by looking at the mirror or if you fantasize about your own body, you are not alone. It’s not uncommon and it’s not perverted or unhinged. I want to thank Laina for being brave enough to allow us to have this conversation.
LEAH: Thanks for joining me today on Good Girls Talk About Sex. If you have questions or comments about anything you’ve heard, or if you’d like to be a guest on this show, please email me at email@example.com.
I was only able to step outside my good girl box when someone I respected told me it was possible to do it. If you’d like to step outside your good girl box, I’m here to tell you it’s possible. And I can provide with tools to name your desires and communicate them effectively tot your partner or potential partners. If you’re interesting in working with me, visit leahcarey.com/coaching. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube at IamLeahCarey. You can find these links and any resources we’ve mentioned during the interview in the Show Notes. I’m Leah Carey and I look forward to talking with you again next week. Here’s to your better sex life!
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