She Dares To Say
She Dares To Say
#28: Authenticity Arena – No. 13
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#28: Authenticity Arena – No. 13

‘A’, 33, pansexual, Black (mixed Black Ghanaian and white British), woman (cis), consensually non-monogamous relationships, Manchester

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[Image description: Text ‘Authenticity Arena No. 13’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke highlighted segment]

This month we’re doing away with anonymity and I’ve switched roles for the final interview in the series, as I’m sure that many of you are curious about my thoughts and feelings regarding how I experience my own sexuality. So, last month I sat down for a video call with Edem Barbara Ntumy, who’s not only a friend, and Decolonising Contraception Collective colleague (with whom I’d already shared some details of my sexual biography while hanging out when we both lived in London pre-pandemic, and then, also, when we both found ourselves in Accra, Ghana in 2021 and 2022), but also has great interviewing energy and an infectious laugh.

The audio recording (above) and transcript (below) represent 17 minutes from a 55-minute chat Edem Barbara Ntumy had with me, Almaz Ohene. At present, I identify as a pansexual, Black (technically mixed; Black Ghanaian and white British) woman (cis), and at the time of interview in January 2023 I was 33, (turning 34 tomorrow, actually, so if you’re into special occasion gifting, I’d be extra happy to receive a donation towards this ‘She Dares to Say’ project via PayPal), engaging in a few consensually non-monogamous relationships and living in Manchester.

Edem Barbara and I chatted extensively about why we so deeply cherish our sexual and reproductive freedom and why we’re committed to advocating for sex positivity. We agreed on how bewildering it all can often be; admitting that we’ve found our years and years and years of dating a whole lot of fun, yet, simultaneously, exasperating and fraught.

The extract I’m sharing here picks up a thread where we share how we feel that the work we do in sexuality education has made us hyperaware of the ways in which we respond to perceived sexual cues. And I reveal how I experience maddeningly visceral crushes that can impede my ability to do deep thinking and intellectual work.

Almaz note: Please do listen to the audio extract, while simultaneously following the text transcription, as it makes for a richer experience.

Edem Barbara – 25:01mins
Okay. All right, all right. Shall we move on?

Almaz – 25:05mins
Yes. Yes, let’s move on.

Edem Barbara – 25:07mins
Okay, cool. All right. So, I’m moving on to question 22, when they asked: “How do you think your own sexuality is perceived by others?” 

Almaz – 25:27mins
Yeah.

Edem Barbara – 25:27mins
I really feel like this is something that I massively relate to, right [laughs].
You put: “Because of my work, I’m perceived as someone who’s very into sex”, and you’re like, “which is true […]”

Almaz – 25:29mins
[chuckles]

Edem Barbara – 25:29mins
“[…] but sometimes it can feel like there’s lots of pressure to be excellent at each and every sex act”. So, talk to me about that [chuckles].

Almaz – 25:39mins
Yeah, yeah. Wow [sighs]. Well, yeah, so, I’ve summed it up in the written answer in that people do know that I’m into sex and that I love sex. So, I think people expect me to be into quite fringe sex stuff. And actually, my sex life doesn’t really involve that much kink stuff.

Not because I’m not into it, but I’ve just always been fairly vanilla, and, like, really enjoyed all the stuff that I’ve been doing in a vanilla-ish kind of way. Urm, I think sometimes what I notice happening is, especially now, in that people that I’m seeing know what my work is, I think sometimes some people rely on what I do for my work, to bring that knowledge into our particular intimate situation.

Edem Barbara – 27:12mins
Mmm.

Almaz – 27:12mins
So, maybe, rely on me to do a lot of the work in finding out how someone likes to be touched, or how they like to get in the sexy vibe. I feel that I’m often not in a situation where I’m being asked those questions first. Yeah, so, sometimes it can feel like, because of the work that I do, I, by default, have to take a lot of responsibility for how good the sex is. And sometimes, you know, sometimes sex might not be that good. It might be a bit average. And then… So, I always get in this mindset where… Okay, well, if the particular sexy evening I’m having is a bit average, I then get in my own head and I’m like, “Oh no. Is this person going to be like, ‘Oh, Almaz is a self-styled sexpert and this evening that we’ve had hasn’t even been anything memorable?’”

Edem Barbara – 28:20mins
Mmm-hmm. 

Almaz – 28:20mins
Yeah, so, I think I’m just hyper-aware of some of the potential… not necessarily conflicts… I think I’m hyper-aware of some of the potential misfires that can happen in a sexual experience. 

Edem Barbara – 28:42mins
Mmm.

Almaz – 28.42mins
And actually, sometimes that can take me out of the moment, actually. I do really try to be embodied and in the moment, but sometimes I think we can all just get in our heads. 

Edem Barbara – 28:59mins
Mmm.

Almaz – 28:59mins
So, yeah, I aim for playful, explorative, embodied sex, but that doesn’t happen all the time.

Edem Barbara – 29:13mins
Yeah. Urm, 100% agree with you. It’s… ha ha…very tricky to do what we do sometimes…

Almaz – 29:25mins
Yeah.

Edem Barbara – 29:25mins
… and meet new people. I mean, I fall short. Sometimes, I’m telling people what my job is…

Almaz – 29:32mins
Mmm.

Edem Barbara – 29:32mins
… I can just immediately see the alarm bells going off, right? Because, like, people’s automatic and immediate reaction is: “Well, if this is your job, you must be…” I mean, I don’t think it’s necessarily just good. It’s just immediately people look at you differently…

Almaz – 29:45mins
Mmm.

Edem Barbara – 29:45mins
… “Oh no, here we go.”

Almaz – 29:50mins
Mmm, mmm, yeah.

Edem Barbara – 29:50mins
[Laughs] And you’re absolutely right, especially when… if you have, like, a sexual encounter with someone that is not, you know, off the charts, flying about everywhere…

Almaz – 29:58mins
[chuckles]

Edem Barbara – 29:58mins
… you are like, “Oh, God”, you know…

Almaz – 30:00mins
Yeah.

Edem Barbara – 30:01mins
This… This… You know... And I feel like sometimes people look at you and they’re like, “Oh, what happened?” And I’m just there like, “Well, it takes two, you know.”

Almaz – 30:09mins
Yeah.

Edem Barbara – 30:09mins
“It’s not just me”, you know, sometimes the vibe is just off. So, yeah, no, I definitely agree with you, but I think that the flip side is, as well, for some people, it can also be very exciting. I think, like, somebody that I really like and want to have sex with knowing, what I do and being, like, excited about it…

Almaz – 30:29mins
Mmm.

Edem Barbara – 30:29mins
… can also, like, create a really, like, you know, sensual…

Almaz – 30:33mins
Mmm.

Edem Barbara – 30:33mins
… really heightened, a really nice experience, too. I feel like it can go both ways.

Almaz Ohene – 30:39mins
Yeah.

Edem – 30:42mins
I’m with that.

Almaz – 30:43mins
Yeah. [chuckles]

Edem Barbara – 30:48mins
Okay. So… [chuckles] Yes.

Almaz Ohene – 30:48mins
Can I just pause you?

Edem Barbara – 30:52mins
Yeah. 

Almaz – 30:52mins
I just want to acknowledge how brave everyone has been with me when they’ve been telling their story, because I’m finding this [splutters] really hard.

Edem Barbara – 31:06mins
[laughs]

Almaz Ohene – 31:11mins
I’m sweating! [laughs] Ah, God! So, thank you everyone, for sharing yourself with me. I’m… gosh, it’s… I’m finding this very hard [sniffs].

Edem Barbara – 31:20mins
[chuckles] Okay. Okay, we’re not gonna grill you for too long, Almaz.

Almaz – 31:26mins
[chuckles] 

Edem Barbara – 31:26mins
I think we’re in the final, final stages. Yeah. So, I wanted to move on to the question about guilt and shame around desire. 

Almaz – 31:35mins
Yeah, yeah.

Edem Barbara – 31:35mins
And particularly, I wanted you to talk to me a little bit because in your answer, you said that the last time you “felt guilt around desire, sex and pleasure was in 2007.” I don’t know if you want to share a little bit about that? But that’s okay, because you put the details in the survey, so…

Almaz Ohene – 31:56 mins
Yeah.

Edem Barbara – 31:56mins
… I don’t know how you feel?

Almaz – 31:56mins
So, I was reflecting on how I went through the whole of secondary school without having a sexual experience with anyone. And how at parties I used to go up to guys I fancied being like, “Oh, do you wanna snog? Like, do you wanna touch?” I mean, I wasn’t doing it all the time.

Edem Barbara – 32:24mins
Mmm. 

Almaz – 32:24mins
But if there was someone that I liked, I would… Yeah, I’d be flirting with them at a party. And then at some point, I’d just be like, “Oh, like, if you wanna do…?” I mean, I can’t remember how I would have phrased it when I was, like, 17… 

Edem Barbara – 32:39mins
[laughs] “Stuff”. [laughs]

Almaz – 32:41mins

Yeah! Yeah! But, like… [sighs] I don’t know. But I just remember always getting rejected and it making me feel really bad… 

Edem Barbara – 32:55mins
Mmm.

Almaz – 32:55mins
… that people didn’t want to do fun sex stuff, like, I don’t know, you know, like, making out, snogging, blow job, fingering, you know, just all stuff that, like, teens do, and have a really good time. I mean, I do all of that stuff now and love it!

Edem Barbara – 33:09mins
[chuckles]

Almaz – 33:12 mins
So, yeah, so, I used to feel a lot of shame about being sexually rejected. And I was actually reflecting on maybe it was because, at that time, there wasn’t really any language that teens were using to express desire for each other. 

Edem Barbara – 33:40mins
Mmm.

Almaz – 33:40mins
And how to, kind of, progress through a sexual situation. Like, it was very much, kind of, like, okay, people go to a party, there’s probably a bit of alcohol, people, like, disappear in corners. And, like, we’d call it… what’s the word we used? … and then lots of, like, ‘fumbling’. And then people wouldn’t speak about it afterwards, but people will be aware that “Oh, so-and-so was in the corner, doing some sexual stuff.” 

So, I was just thinking that maybe a lot of the people that I was… no, I wasn’t even propositioning them, but, like, having an open dialogue with, like, “Shall we do some stuff?” Maybe that whole approach was just so alien that they just didn’t know what to do. Urm… So, that’s that.

So, okay, then, guilt and shame. Umm, I don’t know, I think I’ve always enjoyed having, urm… I’ve always enjoyed my own fantasy sexual realm, and all the stuff that would just, like, be happening in my head as, like, a child and a teenager. I just always really enjoyed it. And none of it seemed weird or bad to me. So, I’ve never really felt guilt around having this interior sexual realm. 

Urm, I was brought up [coughs] in the Church where you’re not really supposed to do sex before marriage. But because I used to watch so many romcoms and, like, teen romcom where people do have sex, I knew that, in wider mainstream popular culture, having sex before marriage was fine. So, I knew that having sex before marriage was something that I would be doing. Urm… Sorry, I’ve lost my train of thought now. 

Ah, yeah, so, although the message I was getting from the Church was “Oh, no sex before marriage”. I had, kind of, already disregarded that tenant of the Church [scoffs] just because of mainstream popular culture. 

Edem Barbara – 35:59mins
Mmm.

Almaz – 35:59mins
And then when I did have sex with my first boyfriend…

Edem Barbara – 36:02mins
Mmm-hmm.

Almaz – 36:02mins
… when I was a week before being 19, I was on a gap year. Oh yes, let me just do a small digression! [chuckles] 

Edem Barbara – 36:13mins
Okay, go for it. 

Almaz – 36:13mins
Part of the reason I had a gap year was I couldn’t face the concept of going to uni and being in Freshers Week while still not having partnered sex. So, I was like, “Okay, well, I’m on a gap year. Let me try and, like, have sex with someone [scoffs]. So, I was working in a bar… 

Edem Barbara – 36:34mins
Mmm-hmm.

Almaz – 36:34mins
… and started dating one of the other bar people. And yeah, we had sex and it was really, really great. I think we’d been dating for, like, three or four weeks. And I don’t know, we just had sex one time. And it was just so good! And I remember thinking, “Yes! This is why people are so fascinated by it, because it feels amazing!” [chuckles] And then…

Edem – 36:57mins
There is nothing quite like it! Honestly. Like, nothing comes close to that feeling!

Almaz – 37:03mins
Yeah, yeah! 

Edem Barbara – 37:04mins
Nothing!

Almaz – 37:04mins
Yeah, yeah! Yeah, so, we just… we just were having sex a lot, as you do when you’re a young person. But no, I never felt any shame around that. Yeah, I don’t know… I just have never really understood this concept of shame around physical pleasure. So, I mean, that’s why I do the work that I do, because I don’t really have that, urm… shame doesn’t come from sex and pleasure for me, like, shame for me comes from other things.

Edem – 37:56 mins
Yeah, okay. All right. Okay, I think that is all my questions, if I’m being honest, I feel like that’s all my questions. Unless you feel there is anything else you wanted to talk about? Because I feel like I’ve covered pretty comprehensively, without going through every single question, the essence of the survey, but do correct me if you think I’m wrong.

Almaz – 38:26mins
I just want to talk a little bit about the concept of crushes…

Edem Barbara – 38:33 mins
Okay, yes. go for it! You have the floor, Almaz. 

Almaz – 38:38mins
[chuckles quietly]
… and how, even now as a grown woman, I’m someone who I still get really intense crushes on people. And sometimes it can be quite debilitating [scoffs]. Like, the last time I had a debilitating crush was maybe, like, four or five years ago. And it was on a person who… Right, I’ve got to be very careful what I say because this is a public… This is gonna be a public interview and the person is likely to see it. 

Edem Barbara – 39:11mins
[chuckles]

Almaz – 39:11mins
But I could not get this person out of my head and I used to… Thoughts of the concept of me and them going out on dates and snogging would distract me at work. And sometimes…

Edem Barbara – 39:26mins
Mmm.

Almaz – 39:26mins
… I wouldn’t even be able to do my work because I was so enjoying this fantasy of potentially dating this person. Oh, God! Even now thinking about that now makes my breath catch in my throat.

And then I remember being a young girl, and a teenager, and having such visceral crushes on, like, TV stars and, like, I don’t know, like, men that were… young men that I knew, like, in my town and things like that. And I would, kind of, concoct all these situations to, kind of, happen upon these people in my town [chuckles]. Like, I’d find out…

Edem Barbara – 40:20mins
Mmm-hmm.

Almaz – 40:20mins
… where they worked and I’d, like, go and, like, hang near, like, the pub or the shop where they worked, so that they’d, like…

Edem Barbara – 40:30mins
Mmm-hmm.

Almaz – 40:30mins
… see me, and I was just very canny about putting myself in their sight line. 

Edem Barbara – 40:40mins
Mmm-hmm.

Almaz – 40:40mins
Yeah, so, um, yeah, I just wanted to mention that I’m someone who crushes very hard. 
[both laugh]

Almaz – 40:47mins
To my detriment!

Edem – 40:50mins
No, it’s very cute! It’s very adorable. I like it. When you say to your “detriment”, what do you mean?

Almaz – 41:01mins
Well, when I say “to my detriment”, I think I’m referring to the time when I did the self-imposed celibacy and dating fast…

Edem Barbara – 41:20mins
Mmm-hmm.

Almaz – 41:20mins
… in that, because I wasn’t putting myself… No, because I wasn’t allowing myself to think too much about those kinds of things, I had a lot of time to do lots of deep thinking about other stuff. And, like, intellectual stuff. But I find that when I’m in the throes of a crush…

Edem Barbara – 41:38mins
Mmm-hmm.

Almaz – 41:38mins
… my ability to do deep intellectual thought really diminishes.

Edem Barbara – 41:48mins
Wow.

Almaz – 41:49
I know! I know, I know. 

Edem Barbara – 41:52 mins
That’s incredible. 

Almaz – 41:57mins
Yeah. 

Edem Barbara – 47:58mins
Very interesting. 

Almaz – 41:58mins
Yeah, yeah. And then sometimes the crushes turn into, like, infatuations, and then I know I’m really in trouble. Like, I can’t do any work. And then it’s, like, all the furious sessions of masturbation [chuckles] And then it’s just, like, “Oh God!” [chuckles]

Edem Barbara – 42:17 mins
Okay. [chuckles]

Almaz – 42:22mins
Ahh. Yeah, so, I try to avoid becoming infatuated in that way.

[CONVERSATION CONTINUES FOR ANOTHER 10 MINUTES]

[Image description: White speech box with black border shadows. Black text ‘As part of my research for my book, I’m running an anonymous online sexuality survey’. Dark orange text ‘bit.ly/ao_sexsurvey’. Black text ‘Anyone over 18 can fill it in, wherever you are in the world.’ Picture of coloured rectangles placed at angles with black border shadows. White text ‘Do you have guilt or shame around desire, sex or pleasure? Why/why not? Do you support compulsory sex and relationships education?’ on top rectangle]

The sexuality survey is still open, so in the meantime please do fill in/share it as all of the responses are helping me make connections between the ways in which we’ve been socialised and our relationship to sexuality.

Take Survey

I’ve actually filled in the survey myself three times so far, once in Feb 2021, which fed into mailout ‘#03: On writing realistic sex scenes’; again in May 2021 after I’d become comfortable in my rural, quiet and celibate life in Ghana; and most recently just last month in preparation my interview with Edem Barbara. Note: Paid subscribers will receive the ‘Postscript’ email as usual next Wednesday, which will feature my latest written responses to the survey questions. To upgrade to a paid subscription and receive all ‘She Dares To Say’ mailouts click here.


[Image description: Text ‘POSTSCRIPT’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke]

The ‘POSTSCRIPT’ segment for paid subscribers will drop on Wednesday 8 February. To receive this extra mailout, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid subscription.


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I’m Almaz Ohene, a Creative CopywriterFreelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
Follow me on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook

Recent work:
(This has actually been out for a while, but I’ve only just seen it…)
– I was brought in by content agency hub.tv to re-work the storyboard and write a new script for an inclusive corporate campaign video for investment bank Janus Henderson.

Available for commissions. Info via almazohene.com/contact-faqs.


This content is free, but it takes time to create and upload each piece. I know that hundreds of you open and read these mailouts month after month, after month (as Substack provides stats reporting), so if this project is something that you value, please consider becoming a paid subscriber of ‘She Dares to Say’.

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You can also show your enjoyment without spending £££, by liking, commenting or sharing 😃


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