Liberate your senses!
This week, Karen’s interview from our live February 2020 show with Dr. Pia Holec about desire discrepancy in couples. Dr. Pia offers us a challenge of self-touch — did you try it? Let us know what you discovered! Chicago leatherworker Emma Alamo tells a story about losing her dick virginity from our May 2019 show. In a new segment, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?, we talk about terms in the sex field that may need further discussion. This week, Karen and sex educator Logan Pierce talk about CISGENDER, gender identity and expression, and beyond. Karen closes the show with a Sermon on the Pubic Mound® on the ongoing journey into new sexual experience.
Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
#03 | Sensation Liberation
[Wild & Sublime theme music]
EMMA ALAMO: [Music under] I am a girl on a mission. I will touch my first dick this semester, so help me God.
LOGAN PIERCE: Or maybe someone is open about their identity of, you know, my name is Logan, I use he/him/his pronouns, but you know what, I do feel most comfortable in a dress. That doesn't change the fact that I'm Logan and I use he/him/his pronouns.
DR. PIA HOLEC: It is just beautiful how much people can change over time and explore themselves and... and create sexual experiences that they never thought possible.
KAREN YATES: Welcome to Wild & Sublime, a sexy spin on infotainment, no matter your preferences, orientation, or relationship style. This podcast is based on the popular live Chicago show. Each week I'll chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex-positivity, with spicy additions from storytellers and musicians. I'm Karen Yates.
Episode Three. This week I chat with Dr Pia Holec about desire discrepancy among couples, and methods that can open up more sexual possibilities. Plus, we're debuting a new segment: "What's Up With That?" where we tackle new or confusing words in the sexual vocabulary. We'll also hear from one storyteller as she sets a firm goal on losing her dick virginity. And, my Sermon on the Pubic Mound. Keep listening.
Wild & Sublime is sponsored in part by Uberlube, long-lasting silicone lubricant for sex, sport, and style. I highly recommend it. Go touberlube.com.
I wanted to thank all the folks around the world who have been downloading this podcast since we began. I'm seeing downloads in Uganda, in France-- Clichy, you were the second download-- Netherlands, Spain, Stockholm, Sweden, a ton of folks in Canada, and of course the U.S. Thank you so much.
[Music ends] So today we're launching a new recurring segment: "What's up with that?" A while ago a show guest, Ren Grabert, a crowd favorite and my favorite-- I absolutely adore Ren-- suggested that we start a segment where we talk about terms that people might find confusing, and I thought that was an awesome idea. So today we're gonna be going down the gender road, and we're gonna be starting with the word cisgender. C-i-s gender, cisgender. It can be hyphenated, it can be one word. And to kick off this new endeavor we've brought on Logan Pierce. Logan is the program coordinator of Trans Mentor-- the first mentorship program for trans youth in the United States-- at Lurie Children's Hospital here in Chicago. Through Laurie Logan frequently teaches sexual health education, facilitating gender inclusivity training and leading groups for transgender, non binary, and gender expansive youth.
KAREN YATES: Hey, Logan!
LOGAN PIERCE: Hi, hello. Thank you for having me today. I'm very excited to be here.
KAREN YATES: I'm super excited to have you on. So, cisgender. What's up with that?
LOGAN PIERCE: Cisgender? I'll say there's a lot that's up with that. [laughter] And I would love to dive into that, but I think there are two other phrases or terms that I would love to dive into first before going into cisgender.
KAREN YATES: Okay, what... and what are those terms?
LOGAN PIERCE: Yeah, so that first one is going to be gender identity.
KAREN YATES: Gender identity. Okay, what does that... what does that mean?
LOGAN PIERCE: So gender identity... when I teach our kiddos-- and even our adults-- I like to point to my head, because this is going to be your deeply felt sense of self.
KAREN YATES: Okay.
LOGAN PIERCE: This is who you are, how you see yourself. And I always give that example... when I wake up in the morning, or when you wake up in the morning, you know yourself, and that is going to be your gender identity.
KAREN YATES: Okay, so, um, when I wake up in the morning, I'm... I... I know who I am, it's... it's how I relate to myself internally and it has nothing to do with how I'm projecting myself outward and into the world and how people are seeing me.
LOGAN PIERCE: Absolutely, absolutely. Couldn't have said it better myself.
KAREN YATES: Okay, gender identity. Got it.
LOGAN PIERCE: Which brings me to the next term, which is going to be gender expression. Gender expression.
KAREN YATES: Okay. And I have a sense where you're going with this, but let me know.
LOGAN PIERCE: [laughter] Yeah. So, I mean, you kinda hit it on the head with the last one, but... so gender expression is going to be how I show myself to the outside world, how I express myself to the outside world. That could be in the way that we dress, in the way that our hair looks, in the way that, you know, we are perceived by others also plays into that as well.
KAREN YATES: Okay, so I might wake up in the morning and... every day, and feel internally like I'm a man or that I have an identity of a man, but because, say... of societal norms that people view me as a woman, I might still put on a dress, or still put on fingernail polish, where I might actually really want to be putting on, like, a suit.
LOGAN PIERCE: Yeah!
KAREN YATES: I mean, is that kind of... is that kind of where...
LOGAN PIERCE: That's definitely one way to look at it. And one way that someone could say, "Hey, my identity doesn't match up with my expression."
KAREN YATES: Okay.
LOGAN PIERCE: There could be a lot of reasons. Because of the society we grew up in, saying, you know, even before our births, saying "this is for boys, and this is for girls, and there's really no in-between," when there actually is a very large in-between. And then, not only that, but it could be for reasons of safety, right?
KAREN YATES: Sure.
LOGAN PIERCE: Or maybe someone is open about their identity of, you know, my name is Logan, I use he/him/his pronouns, but, you know what, I do feel most comfortable in a dress. That doesn't change the fact that I'm Logan and I use he/him/his pronouns.
KAREN YATES: Right.
LOGAN PIERCE: But, it's an assumption you might make about me.
KAREN YATES: Of course, yeah, cause it's like, there's... because what we were talking about just a moment ago is really traditional ideas of expression. And... and like really kind of these two poles of masculine/feminine, or things that are ascribed to those expressions. But yeah, you can... you can... it's... so gender expression... I think what I hear you saying... it can be a very creative way to express self.
LOGAN PIERCE: Absolutely, absolutely.
KAREN YATES: So, let's move on. Where do you wanna go next?
LOGAN PIERCE: Let's talk about cisgender. And just to give a brief description of what that is, cis is going to be Latin for "same side as," so that is where that term comes from, cisgender. And the most basic definition of cisgender I can give is going to be that you align with, you agree with, the sex that was assigned to you at birth.
KAREN YATES: The sex that was assigned to you at birth, and... and usually it is a doctor that is assigning that... leaving... talk... talk about this "assigned at birth."
LOGAN PIERCE: So, "sex assigned at birth," that's something we might have heard before from a doctor, maybe on our birth certificate, things like that. The word that I wanna pay attention to in "sex assigned at birth" is "assign."
KAREN YATES: Okay.
LOGAN PIERCE: This is going to be an assignment from one human to another human, typically-- not always-- but typically, based on limited information, typically the appearance of the outside genitalia of that baby.
KAREN YATES: And... and we all know that genitalia is... has huge varieties to it.
LOGAN PIERCE: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, right away, right then and there, we are cutting out a whole category of people as well. We are disregarding the intersex community by saying "it's a boy, it's a girl, or nothing else." Right.
KAREN YATES: Okay, so you just threw out another term: "intersex."
LOGAN PIERCE: Intersex. Yes, I love the terms. I'm here for all of them.
KAREN YATES: Folks, you didn't realize that actually this one word was gonna lead to a lotta other words. What's intersex?
LOGAN PIERCE: Yeah, so intersex is someone who is born, and for a variety of reasons, they don't line up with that "male assigned at birth" or "female assigned at birth." Could be for a variety of different reasons... ambiguous genitalia, ambiguous meaning that, you know, the doctor took a look, and right off the bat, they didn't say, you know, "it's a boy" or "it's a girl." This could also be down to someone's chromosomes, internal body parts. Maybe they believe that they're going to go through puberty one way, and they start to go through puberty in a different way. There's a lot of different ways that someone can be in that category of intersex.
KAREN YATES: Okay, so to come back to "sex assigned at birth," cisgender means you are in agreement with what sex was assigned to you at birth.
LOGAN PIERCE: Correct.
KAREN YATES: And there's no conflict, you're like, this is... this... yeah, "this is who I am." This is what... this is, you know, "I was assigned female, I'm female bodied. I recognize myself as female."
LOGAN PIERCE: Right, yeah. We always say the doctor delivered a baby, or whoever delivered the baby, because there's more people than just a doctor that can deliver a baby. But, someone delivers the baby, the doctor goes, "It's a girl!" That person grows up and goes, "I'm a woman." Cisgender.
KAREN YATES: Okay. So, anything else to say on this? Because we're gonna be getting.... we're gonna be getting into more segments with Logan in upcoming episodes. What would you... what else would you like to say, Logan, as we wrap this up?
LOGAN PIERCE: I think in the terms of cisgender, it's important that we have this word, because it couples with another word that we're gonna be talking about in just a little bit: "transgender." Transgender... the simplest definition I can give for that is someone that does not align with the sex they were assigned with at birth. These are just two different ways to identify as a human.
KAREN YATES: I love it. You know, you're reminding me that when I was studying to be a somatic sex educator, we did these kind of internal journeys of our gender identity. And what was so interesting when we got together in groups to talk about it... we all discovered that there were many, many times in our journey of life, when we didn't necessarily feel internally that we were the sex that was assigned at birth, that it was a very fluid... part of it was fluid... part of it was like, at various points in our lives, how did we express our gender? How did we not? And, it really opened up for me that this... the area of gender and looking at gender is an amazing fertile, incredibly... on a rich excavation. So I really appreciate that you were on today, Logan, thank you so much.
LOGAN PIERCE: Thank you so much for having me.
KAREN YATES: You'll find more information about Logan and Lurie Children's Hospital in our show notes, along with a transcript of this entire episode.
And if you're interested in what Wild & Sublime is all about, check out our website at wildandsublime.com. It's chock-full of articles, show pictures... and I'm happy to say, it actually looks like we know what we're doing. Or, as Julia Williams, our associate producer, said "We fully appear to have our shit together, 'appear' here being the operative word."
Our next segment is on desire discrepancy. Desire discrepancy is when one person in an intimate relationship has a different level of sexual desire than the other, or a differing type of desire. You'll be hearing a recording from our February 2020, show where I talked with a Chicago sex therapist on one approach that can bring couples together. Known on Instagram as @sexdrpia, Dr. Pia Holec creates 60-second "just the tip" Tuesday videos where she delivers quick, digestible, and funny content. Have a listen.
DR. PIA HOLEC: [Applause and laughter] Hello!
KAREN YATES: Hello! How are you?
DR. PIA HOLEC: I'm well, how are you?
KAREN YATES: It's so nice to see you. I've been... I've been wanting you to come on the show for quite some time. And now it's happened.
So, we are going to be talking tonight about couples when desires are different in the relationship. So I'd like to start by having your take on... what essentially do you see as the main differences between new couples versus established couples? And how are the issues around getting on the same page different?
DR. PIA HOLEC: Yeah. So, the thing is, most people aren't talking about sex before it's happening. And a lot of what I see is... new couples, they might be more willing to try things because they're like, "okay, there might not be this, like, judgment coming in. This person doesn't have my history, they don't know all of this information." So they might be a little bit more open to it. Now on the other hand, it might be, "I'm too shy, I don't know what this person might be thinking, they might be more experienced than I am..." Etc., right.
And then more established couples... sometimes they get kind of stuck in a rut, stuck in their ways, right? And if they want to try something new, they might say, like, "My partner is gonna freak out if I, you know, bring something new into the bedroom, or if I express a desire, even, what might they think about me?" Or it might even be, "We've been together for 20 years, like, there's nothing new to do here." There's no... there's no desire to even explore more options, or even recognize that more options are available. But the thing is, they're not talking about it.
KAREN YATES: When is the best time for people to talk about issues?
DR. PIA HOLEC: See, here's the thing: outside of sex. So many people come into my office, and they're like, in the middle of sex, they're saying, you know, "this isn't working for me," or they're shutting down, or they're arguing, etc., or they're trying to explain something right in the middle of the act, and people aren't gonna be receptive to that. There's not gonna be, you know, a give and take in those moments. So it's best to have these conversations before even making it to sex, right, so that we can talk about sex-pectations. We can talk about wants, needs, desires. We can talk about consent, we can talk about safety, we can talk about all of these different things, right. And it's also really good to have communication after the act has happened too, to talk about what went well, and maybe what didn't go so well.
KAREN YATES: So, you do something called "sensate focused therapy." What is that?
DR. PIA HOLEC: Yeah. So sensate focus therapy is great, because it removes the expectation from sex, the expectation that we're supposed to have an orgasm, that it's supposed to happen in a certain amount of minutes, that it's supposed to happen in a certain way, and that we're supposed to always receive pleasure, right. So a lot of these things get in the way for people, and it causes a great deal of anxiety. And so what sensate focus therapy does, is it causes you to focus solely on sensation of touch, looking at three things: temperature, texture, and pressure.
KAREN YATES: Okay, temperature...
DR. PIA HOLEC: Mm-hm. Hot or cold.
KAREN YATES: Hot or cold.
DR. PIA HOLEC: Mm- hmm. Texture...
KAREN YATES: Texture.
DR. PIA HOLEC: So soft or rough.
KAREN YATES: Okay.
DR. PIA HOLEC: And then pressure: firm or soft.
KAREN YATES: Okay, pressure.
DR. PIA HOLEC: Yeah. And so, the thing with that is, a lot of people we're... we're gonna talk about desire, right?
KAREN YATES: Yeah.
DR. PIA HOLEC: And so, it's hard to cultivate desire, right? Like, if you don't like chocolate, I can't say, "Here, eat this chocolate and you're gonna like it, you're going to love it," right. You have to have a.... a want to even wanna do that. So a lot of folks, if they've never had a positive experience from sex, then they don't wanna try, they don't wanna explore, they don't wanna masturbate, they don't wanna engage in self-touch, cause it's kind of like, "What's the point?" So, with these exercises, you begin to touch your body from head to toe, focusing again on temperature, texture, and pressure, and you allow yourself to only notice the sensations that come up. So you're not going into the exercise with any expectation other than, "what am I experiencing?"
KAREN YATES: Now, do you do this by yourself?
DR. PIA HOLEC: So, it's a three step process.
KAREN YATES: Okay.
DR. PIA HOLEC: So in the beginning... and this is the hardest thing for couples, is that when we're doing the protocol, just as it's supposed to be, sex is off the table, okay, at first. And the person who's maybe having more of an issue cultivating desire, they're gonna explore them... their body on their own, from head to toe. So when I tell folks, like, set aside a designated amount of time, I feel like 10 to 20 minutes. Set the mood, get the temperature right in the room, get the lighting good, and just really allow yourself to explore your body. So in the first week, you're gonna have like, underwear on, or a bathing suit, and you're not gonna touch the breasts or the genitals, you're just gonna stroke the body from head to toe, temperature, texture pressure.
The following week, you can remove clothes, still avoiding the breasts and genitals. Third week, you can touch breasts and genitals, just no insertion. And then after that, you can begin self-insertion for yourself. Then, you can begin to incorporate a partner. At this point, there's going to be a toucher and a touchee. And the thing that's great about sensate focus, is that it teaches us to touch for our own recognition, versus just pleasuring a partner, or getting a partner to experience... like, happiness, right. So, when we're touching to explore for our own desire and for our own exploration, we're able to provide a different experience for both ourselves and our partner.
KAREN YATES: What I like... what about... the thing that I like about what you're saying is, this idea that you're... you... you're basically working through these phases of clothing-on, clothing-off, because I think we are so genitally-obsessed in society, that... and also a lot of trauma comes up...
DR. PIA HOLEC: Absolutely.
KAREN YATES: ...around the super sensitive areas of our body that have been sexualized... that to begin the exploration with some clothing on, really allows the mind to open...
DR. PIA HOLEC: Absolutely.
KAREN YATES: ...to go to a new place that maybe you've never had to go before, cause you've never... maybe it hasn't even occurred to you that, "Wow, if I touch my face and my hair, I might find some sort of pleasure there."
DR. PIA HOLEC: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I'm glad that you brought that up, because this really works great with people who've experienced trauma, because they've been conditioned to think any type of sexual touch leads to, you know, flashbacks or negative experiences. And so, like you said, when we're avoiding those areas first, we're able to cultivate pleasure on our own, without that conditioning that we've previously experienced, right, that schema that we've experienced.
KAREN YATES: Yeah. So my question to you is, I think... I think I heard you say-- correct me if I'm wrong-- that basically the partner that has the desire issue is the one that does this.
DR. PIA HOLEC: So it... it could be both, right...
KAREN YATES: Okay, yeah.
DR. PIA HOLEC: ...cause it could be... there could be a mismatch in desire as well. But if there's one person in particular, they're gonna start this exercise on their own first, and then that gives them the sense of control, that they feel like they have a sense of agency, then they can incorporate their partner into the exercise, and then they will swap touching one another.
KAREN YATES: Okay. Yeah, because I was just wondering, because one... one of the things we were talking about is, people... some people don't... they think they know what they're into, but in some regards... like describing what they're into is pretty elusive. Right? Like, not even... you don't even have the vocabulary, right?
DR. PIA HOLEC: Exactly, exactly.
KAREN YATES: Right. So... so go on.
DR. PIA HOLEC: Yeah. So, when you're incorporating the partner, this is done non-verbally, cause to your point, we don't often have the verbiage to say what we like, where we like it, how we like it. So what we teach couples to do, or individuals as well, is to engage in what's called handwriting. So placing your hand over top or underneath your partner. And if they're an area that you're enjoying, like, allow the hand to stay there, give a... give a, you know, physical indication that I'm enjoying this, I like what's happening. If it's touching an area that's too sensitive, or that you're not enjoying, you can move the hand away. And so that can help to take away some of this sense of awkwardness, and again, like we said, we're not going to be talking during the sexual act and giving feedback in that way. So that's a really nice physical way to get feedback.
KAREN YATES: Mm-hm. Mm-hm. So that's temperature, touch...
DR. PIA HOLEC: Texture...
KAREN YATES: Texture.
DR. PIA HOLEC: And pressure.
KAREN YATES: And pressure.
DR. PIA HOLEC: Mm-hm.
KAREN YATES: So when it comes down to... so let's... let's work through this a little bit more, with temperature... what is... what is a person doing?
DR. PIA HOLEC: Yeah, so I say get creative. Think of different ways to incorporate hot or warm, and cool or cold. So whether that's getting some ice cubes and rubbing that around your body, getting a really hot washcloth, or using some warming lotions, or you know, if you're playing with fire, or candles, or wax, or you know, just different things like that... liquids get involved, just get creative.
KAREN YATES: Okay. What... what do you see happen with folks that have... begin trying this? Like, what... what is your experience with... with having people start down this path?
DR. PIA HOLEC: Yeah, it's super hard.
KAREN YATES: [laughter] Okay!
DR. PIA HOLEC: Like, people don't want to say, you know, "I'm coming in here cause I'm having an issue with sex... now you want me to take sex off the table? Like, how is this supposed to work?" Like, this sounds counterproductive, right? And so when we take that away, you're able to crave it more, right? So it's oftentimes that one person's like, "Alright, I'm down to do these exercises, I'm... I'm on board," and the other person is pressuring them, right. They're saying, "Are you doing the exercises? Are you spending the amount of time? Is it working yet? Like, how much longer do we have to go?" So sometimes that can take a bit of time to process together and get everyone on board.
And afterwards, when people are agreeing to this and they're really doing the exercises, right, it is just beautiful, how much people can change over time and explore themselves, and... and create sexual experiences that they never thought possible. So it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience, but it can end up being a really well-rewarding experience.
KAREN YATES: Is there... because you... you've just taken us through this pretty large idea of sensate focus therapy... is there a... a cool exercise you can give the audience to try at home? Something that's kind of doable as a first step?
DR. PIA HOLEC: Yeah! So, I... I say folks, you do not have to take sex off the table, but just go home and touch your body, head to toe, behind your knees, behind your elbows, like when's the last time someone explored the back of their knee? Oftentimes people say they've never done that. And think about temperature,texture, pressure. Try something different in terms of temperature, whether that's getting, like I said, a candle, or getting something warm, getting an ice cube. In terms of texture, try something different-- a feather, the back of a hairbrush, the back of your fingernails. And then in terms of pressure, vacillate between something soft or something firm.
KAREN YATES: Cool. Anything else you wanna say?
DR. PIA HOLEC: Well, I think it's just important that we're talking about sex, because like I said, it's not happening enough, and that is what is causing the conflict between desire and expectations. When we have the ability to be honest and transparent, that's where beautiful sex happens.
KAREN YATES: Just one... taking the first little step.
DR. PIA HOLEC: First step.
KAREN YATES: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
DR. PIA HOLEC: Thank you! Thank you.
KAREN YATES: Dr. Pia! [applause]
KAREN YATES: I wanna begin doing something that was a feature of the live show. When an audience member entered the theater, they were always handed a piece of paper and a golf pencil, and then asked to answer a specific prompt. We'd collect them at intermission, and I'd read them from the stage, and it was a great way of seeing how different and how alike we are to one another. So you just heard Dr. Pia's interview and the exercise she gave at the end, to touch yourself from head to toe, changing temperature, texture and pressure. Now, I'm gonna ask you to do that exercise, and then answer the prompt: "I was surprised to discover..." I was surprised to discover. And this answer can be just a sentence or two. This is nothing complex. Send an email to info at wildandsublime.com, or a voice memo under 30 seconds to the same email address, and we will play it or read it aloud. All answers are confidential. I hope to hear from you.
Next episode, dropping in a week, I discussed with a very knowledgeable panel on how to ask for extra naughty things in bed. If you want a playbook, this episode delivers. Definitely have a listen.
[Music under] And, I'd love it if you checked out our Patreon membership site and considered joining our membership program. You'd be supporting sex positivity in a very cool, low-key kinda way. Now, I'm aware that not everyone can express themselves super sex-positively in everyday life. Some things are just not acceptable in watercooler culture. But, this is one way you can express your sex-positivity. So think about it. You'd be helping us out tremendously. The link is in the show notes. Thank you so much.
[Music ends] This next storyteller appeared at our May 2019 show with a tale of losing her dick virginity. When she's not appearing on stage, Emma Alamo is a leather worker who makes awesome bondage and fashion harnesses for folks of all shapes and sizes. Enjoy.
EMMA ALAMO: [Applause] I really love this dramatic lighting. Thank you. [laughter] So, are there any parents in the audience tonight? [applause] Cool. You're doing God's work. [laughter] I am not a parent, but I have a lot of experience being a child, so I'm gonna go ahead and give you a piece of unsolicited advice. If you have a daughter who gets diagnosed with OCD at age six, maybe like, don't teach her how to count calories to lose weight when she turns 10. It's not a good idea. Kids with OCD, we love to count things. It's like, kind of our thing. And it doesn't take us long to figure out that if you keep the calorie number really low, the number on the scale can get really low really quickly.
I don't fault my mom for making this mistake. Like me, she had been the fat kid in school and like me, she had been made fun of for it. She wanted my childhood to be better than hers, and her vision of a better childhood didn't involve ignoring the bullies or telling them to fuck off. The thing that she believed would have made her childhood better was being thin. So without realizing what she was doing, she packaged up her own body dysmorphia, and handed it down to me, thinking she was giving me a gift. This was par for the course where I grew up. I mean, in eighth grade, one of my friends was encouraged by her own mother to take laxatives after every meal so that she could better fit into her dress for the end-of-year formal dance. Several girls at my high school got breast implants as a graduation present from their parents. This was just the world we lived in. If your body doesn't fit into the cultural understanding of how a woman or a very young girl should look, you should change your body. Your body is the problem, not the culture. And by the way, I did grow up in Florida, in case anyone was wondering. [laughter] Great place.
When I say that I had an eating disorder in middle and high school, most people think this means I was super skinny, which was never really the case. I rocketed back and forth between binge eating and bouts of starving myself, and basically lost and gained the same 40 pounds over and over again, without ever quite achieving that one specific body type that I saw on TV and on billboards, and in the pages of CosmoGirl in 17. One of the fun side effects of hating my body was that I got to spend a lot of quality time with my virginity. And, it wasn't because I didn't wanna have sex. I mean, I really really wanted to have sex. From everything I learned from the erotic fiction I found on LiveJournal, sex sounded pretty cool. But I was way too detached from my body to figure out how to make sex happen. By the time I was eighteen, I was acutely aware that I was one of the few virgins left. By nineteen, things were starting to feel desperate. At twenty, I had a torrid affair with a woman who may or may not have been my little brother's babysitter, which is a dope-ass story, but it's not the one I'm telling tonight, unfortunately. So all I'll say about that is that live journal was totally right, sex is pretty cool.
When I left Florida to go to art college in Baltimore, I had this chance to totally reinvent myself and I... I decide that I wanna reinvent myself as a person who like, does sex on the regular, a... a sex person. I've lost my girl virginity at this point, but I figure I'm at least 50% straight, so I've got this whole other virginity that I need to get rid of. I need to lose my dick virginity. I have to lose my dick virginity! And at this point in my life, I'm taking a lot of adderall, so I am very goal oriented. I am a girl on a mission. I will touch my first deck this semester, so help me God. Just another pro-parenting tip: child with... with OCD... maybe don't let a doctor prescribe them adderall. Not great.
So I move into an apartment in Baltimore with a few other people, and a month or two in, we have a rager of a housewarming party. By two in the morning, there's just a few of us left, and we're drunk out of our minds, and we've moved into my bedroom, because my bedroom is like, the coolest room in the house. I am identifying as an installation artist at this point in my life, so I painted stripes on the walls, and rewired antique light fixtures, and built these crazy sculptural shelves to hold all of my precious trinkets, you know, like empty jars, and rusty tools, and beautiful pieces of trash. [laughter] My room looks like a page from an I Spy book. Like, I'm pretty confident that if I showed you a picture of my room at that point, you take one look at it and say, "Oh yeah, that's... that's definitely the room of an amphetamine-addicted artist who has OCD and has never even touched a dick." [laughter and applause] Maybe the weirdest aspect of my bedroom is my window situation. See, I don't sleep very often, but when I do, I need total darkness. But I want the option of having light sometimes. So, you know, I'm a creative problem solver, so what I do is, I build a complicated mousetrap-style shutter contraption to block out light as needed. I thought about showing y'all a diagram of this contraption. It was operated by magnets. But, ultimately, all that matters is that I built it at all, when I could have just hung curtains.
Where was I? So yeah, go ahead and picture this bedroom. This is the room we're all hanging out in at the tail end of this party, and one by one people are all leaving, until it's just me and this dude named Mitchell alone in my bed. We are leaning on each other and talking and giggling, and I do not pick up on the fact that he's trying to sleep with me, because the idea of someone-- especially a man-- finding me attractive is just so fucking foreign. I can't comprehend it. So, eventually I sent him on his way and it's not until my roommates spells it out for me the next morning that I'm like, "Oh, he was staying because he wanted to fuck me." And he's cute. I mean, this is like 2008, and he's way ahead of the curve on the whole lumber... lumbersexual thing. He's like, 6'3", big beard, flannel, the whole package, and I'm just thinking, "Yeah, okay, I'm gonna touch his penis."
So we throw another party the next weekend. I like straight-up Great Gatsby that shit and throw a big old party [laughter] with the sole intention of getting this one guy back into my home. And while I'm cleaning out my room in preparation for what may or may not go down in it, I cut the fuck out of my right hand on a beautiful shard of glass that I've been saving for some brilliant piece of art. It's a bad cut and my roommate has to like, wrap a bandage around my hand several times to stop the bleeding, so my right hand kinda looks like an oven mitt, but I do not let this deter me. I put on a low-cut mini-dress and black eyeliner, and I keep my eyes on the prize.
And sure enough, Mitchell comes to the thirst trap party [laughter] and he brings a handle... he brings a handle of rail vodka. And somewhere towards the bottom of that plastic bottle, I find my inner strength. And this time, at the end of the night, when it's just me and... there is a bug on my paper, Jesus [laughter]... and this time, at the end of the night, when it's just me and Mitchell in my room, I kiss him. I kiss him like a girl who kisses boys. I kiss him like the slut that I want him to think that I am. And he pulls down the straps of my dress and I unbutton his flannel, and he fumbles with the bra clasps on... with the class on my bra, and I unzip his jeans, and I touch his dick. [applause] With my left hand. [laughter] I... I have to navigate this whole new operating system left-handed, in the dark, drunk, but... but don't worry, because I am a natural. I am a dick whisper. [laughter] Everything goes amazingly.
The next morning, I'm awoken by a blinding column of light coming through the window. Yeah, in the heat of the night before, I'd forgotten to engage my window contraption. I am so hungover, and I have this pounding headache, and the light is just making it so much worse, and all I wanna do is shut that window so I can go back to bed. But I can't shut the window without getting out of bed, and getting out of bed in a sunlit room would mean that Mitchell could see me naked, and that is the most terrifying thing I can imagine. I mean, it's one thing to like, drunkenly let him touch me and inadequately eat me out in the dark [laughter], but letting him see like, my whole naked body with all of its glaring flaws, hell no. So after about half an hour of trying to will the shutter to move with my eyes, I accept that I'm gonna have to get out of bed at some point. There's... there's no way around it. So with my heart pounding, I move out from under the covers as carefully as I can, and I swear I can practically hear Mitchell's eyes open [laughter] as I run across the room and engage the window contraption, plunging the room into the sweet comfort of darkness.
But, I didn't move fast enough. In that split second before the magnets connected, Mitchell looked up. He looked up and he saw me, and he started laughing. And this is everything I was afraid of, right. I mean, I... I let myself believe for one night that I was attractive enough to like, hook up with this dude. And now he sees me in the light of day, and he's obviously so disgusted that he's laughing at me. That's... that's like, really what I think for a few seconds. I think that he's laughing at my body and not at, I don't know, the fact that I just used a magnetic contraption to shut out the sliver of light coming in through otherwise-tinfoiled-out windows in a bedroom that looks like a cross between a haunted junk shop and Pee-wee's PlayHouse. [laughter] It hits me for the first time then that there's... there's nothing wrong with my body. There are so many atypical things about me, but my body is just not one of them. I mean, my body should be the least of my concerns. And you know, it's funny because in the eleven years since then, I've... well I've done a lot of things. I... I touched many, many other decks. I touched one this morning, it was great. [laughter] I also got sober. [applause] And I started... I started... yeah, go ahead and give me a round of applause. [applause] It's just like we're at a meeting right now. [applause]
I also started a small business making leather harnesses, [laughter] and I mostly make them for AFAB people and... and women. So I'm talking... I'm talking to people about their bodies all day, and I do custom fittings for people all the time, and it's... it's crazy, it's like clockwork, as soon as I pull out a measuring tape, the person I'm about to measure starts apologizing for their body. They just immediately blurt out like, "Oh, I have a really weird body," or "My proportions are really strange. Like, I just wanna warn you." It's either like, "My tits are too big" or "My tits are too small," or it... it's just always something. All of us have, like, bought into this lie that we've been force-fed, that there is something inherently wrong with our bodies. It's just like, shoved... it's... it's just shoved into our brains everywhere we look, and we waste so much time worrying about it. I didn't even realize how much it still affected me until I started doing this, until like, I was measuring my own body and like, had to reckon with the fact that I'm... I'm not... I'm not... my body doesn't look the way that I think it does. Like, we all... everyone who is socialized as a woman has just carried this weight around with us and it's... it's bullshit. [applause]
And it's not like... it's not like it was like, a light bulb moment in my room with Mitchell eleven years ago. It's not like I suddenly recognize the absurdity of the situation, and like, realize, you know, like, "I'm great, everything's gonna be easy from now on." It was just sort of a flicker of the confidence that I would eventually develop when I was able to see how absurd the whole situation was, and I was able to start laughing too. Thank you. [applause]
KAREN YATES: Wild & Sublime is also sponsored in part by our Sublime Supporter, Chicago-based Full Color Life Therapy: therapy for all of you, at fullcolorlifetherapy.com. If you would like to be a Sublime Supporter, showcasing you and your business and supporting us at the same time, with plans starting at just $250 a month, contact us at .
[Music under] And now it's time for my Sermon on the Pubic Mound. In putting this episode together, Episode Three, [music ends] I started feeling a little anxious, like, "Woah, can I actually keep this up? Can I keep delivering the goods?" It's like sex, especially in a new relationship. You come hot out of the gate, you do your best tricks, you're hoping that you're blowing their mind. But you gotta then keep showing up sexually. And how do you do that? So, with this podcast, I realized I know some things, but I don't know everything. I've never made a podcast before. So what do I do? Well, I looked things up. I got some new ideas. Then I talked to people, and they gave me ideas. And of course, I listened to other people's podcasts. And so, with sex or with kink, you can look things up too. You can talk to people, like coaches or therapists, or if you're a kingster, you can go to munches and you can just discuss things, or you can take workshops online about sex. You can read books, there are some awesome sex books out there.
But at the end of the day, you need to discover what you like, because your body self is not going to lie to you. It... It's like the sensate focus segment we heard earlier. You need to learn what you actually like, not what everyone else is telling you to like. Now, in talking to folks and reading up on podcasts, I incorporated a lot of new ideas that I was happy with, and then I let go of the rest. The stuff I kept was the stuff that I liked. And of course, as I change, the podcast ultimately is going to be changing. And so, as you continue learning about yourself sexually with or without a partner-- and you don't need a partner to continue to learn about yourself sexually-- you'll be able to listen to yourself more deeply. Like, "Hey, that feels good, I wanna try this" or "Hey, that sounds kind of interesting. Let's look into that." The journey of sex really is a lifelong journey that never ends. And, it's an incredible adventure. So stay playful.
[Music under] Thank you for listening. If you know someone who might like this episode, send it to them. I'd like to thank Wild & Sublime Associate Producer Julia Williams, design guru Jean-Francois Gervais, who helps mightily in making us look like we fully appear to have our shit together, and intern Alice Asch. Theme Music by David Ben-Porat. Our media sponsor is Rebellious Magazine: Feminist Media at rebelliousmagazine.com. Follow us on social media @wildandsublime, and sign up for our newsletter at wildandsublime.com. And please, if you'd like what you heard, give us a nice review on your favorite podcast app. See you next week.
- WHAT’S UP WITH THAT: Defining “cisgender” (02:05)
- INTERVIEW: Dr. Pia Holec on how couples can get on the same page sexually (11:18)
- PERFORMANCE: Storyteller Emma Alamo (24:53)
- SERMON ON THE PUBIC MOUND: The ongoing journey into new sexual experience (37:35)
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- Dr. Pia Holec @ Instagram
- Emma Alamo
- TransMentor Program at Lurie Children’s Hospital
- Sensate Focus Therapy
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