This content is free, but it takes time to create and upload each piece. If you enjoy this project would like to support it, please consider becoming a paid subscriber of ‘She Dares to Say’.
If you would prefer to make a one-off donation, feel free to send a contribution via PayPal.
You can also show your enjoyment without spending £££, by liking, commenting or sharing 😃
[Image description: Text ‘Authenticity Arena No. 04’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke highlighted segment]
Almaz note: Please do listen to the audio extract, while simultaneously following the text transcription, as it makes for a richer experience.
The audio recording (above) and transcript (below) represent eight minutes from the beginning of a 45-minute chat I had with ‘E’, who’s a straight, mixed (white British and Arab) woman, who at the time of interview in March 2021 was 33, with a male partner and toddler, and living in London.
‘E’ wanted to share her adolescent experiences of sexual feelings with me as she’d recently been re-evaluating what sex means to her now that she’s a mother. In this extract ‘E’ describes the fraught relationship to the concept of sexual activity she had as a young woman.
‘E’ – 01:15mins
All right. I think the guilt or shame around desire section… pleasure… I’ve been, sort of, thinking about quite a lot, because I suppose I came to sex quite late. And I’ve been, kind of, questioning why that is. I have thought for, like, quite a while. And I think I was, like, really… I think I was just scared about having sex.
Almaz – 01:50mins
‘E’ – 01:50mins
And for, like, a long, long time, when… Well, I suppose from when my friends started doing it, so from, like, mid/late teens, I’d always just been, like, I just wanted to be in a relationship with somebody to have sex with them. For the first time, at least, which seems like probably quite a normal, reasonable thing…
Almaz – 02:12mins
‘E’ – 02:512mins
… to think. But then sort of went through all the things where, like, “No one fancies me”, but loads of people did fancy me. So, there was definitely, like, a resistance…
Almaz – 02:27mins
‘E’ – 02:27mins
… that it was like not letting myself get to that point.
Almaz – 02:30mins
‘E’ – 02:30mins
And anytime that there would even be an inkling, or something, I’d kind of really remove myself, or feel a sudden disgust, like, with that person. So it’d be, like, I might like them a bit before. And then be like, “[Wretches] No, gross”, as soon as they showed any interest me.
Almaz – 02:51mins
And do you think that’s disgust with their personality? Or physically? Or with the concept that you might engage in sexual activity?
‘E’ – 03:05mins
It’s almost like I couldn’t even let myself imagine getting there. Like, it’s like there’s so much disgust there’s almost like a complete shutdown. And it would be the, kind of, their personality than sexually how they looked like. But it’s, like, I couldn’t even think about what the possibilities…
Almaz – 03:38mins
‘E’ – 03:38mins
… might be. It was just, like, a shutdown: “I don’t want to do that.”
So that might happen with somebody who, you know, says to me, “Oh, do you want to go for a drink sometime?” And I’d be like, “[Wretches] No”, before I’d think, “Oh, it’d be so lovely to go and have a drink with them”.
Almaz – 03:46mins
‘E’ – 03:46mins
Well, there was someone who actually is, I think, sort of, part of the reason why I didn’t really, sort of, engage with anyone else. I really liked this guy – he was, sort of, a bit older – for a long time. And, like, he was really gross [scoffs]. I look back at it, I’m like “Why was he” I don’t know, “wasting his time”. Not wasting his time. “Why is he wasting my time”, is what I want to know.
So there was lots of, like, dragging along with him. So I, like, I was really, sort of, infatuated with him for, like, a good couple of years or so. But then I did, like, kiss him quite a lot. And but whenever I did, like, the next day, I’d be, like, “Disgusting. This is so gross.”
Almaz – 04:34mins
‘E’ – 04:34mins
But then I’d, sort of, get over it. I can’t think about… I can’t, like, pin it on a reason why this is, or where this has come from. And certainly when I got to the point, like, you know, when I did have sex for the first time, in my, sort of, early twenties, it was, like… it just wasn’t a thing anymore. Like, I was almost so unbothered.
I was like, “Okay, well, here we are now, we’re in the sex”. So, I’m also not really sure what let me open up…
Almaz – 05:09mins
‘E’ – 05:09mins
… to it. I can’t think about that there. But I’m sure it’s kind of tied in to, kind of, I don’t know, I was quite, sort of, scared about leaving home and things like that. So I went to university and I still stayed at home, ‘cause I went to university in London. And I would be like, “Oh, because it’s about money”. But it wasn’t about money at all. It was just sort of, it’s probably just being comfortable…
Almaz – 05:37mins
‘E’ – 05:37mins
… and thing things. And I think, also, maybe my relationship with my parents in that, like, my dad is quite… I suppose quite protective in a way. So, like, he’d always have to know where I was. And it’s a bit like, I don’t know, “I’m 18/19. You don’t need to know where I am all the time, please.”
But I’m sure, actually, that didn’t help. Like, maybe the idea of having to explain if I stayed over at someone’s, like, having to explain…
Almaz – 06:15mins
‘E’ – 06:15mins
… why I do that. Just that idea would just be awful. Even though, I could obviously just say, “I was at my friend’s.” Just maybe then knowing that maybe I wasn’t at my friend’s...
Almaz – 06:27mins
‘E’ – 06:27mins
… but I was just using that as an excuse. Yeah, so I’m sure there’s something there.
I used to have recurring nightmares as well. Where I would have to… I was in a play with Kevin Spacey. And we were playing lovers in the play, and we’d have to have sex on stage, and neither of us would want to have sex with each other. It’d have to be, like, real sex, and it’d be really horrible. And it was a recurring…
Almaz – 06:56mins
‘E’ – 06:56mins
… dream. And I’d wake up and be really panicked. I remember telling my mum about it. And then she was like, “I think you’re scared about having sex.” And I was like, “No! Shut up!” But, like, she was so right.
Almaz – 07:08mins
‘E’ – 07:08mins
Like, just constantly, I would have that dream. I’ve not had to since then. But I thought that was quite interesting. Very telling.
Almaz – 07:17mins
Yeah. And did you share those feelings of, like, being a bit scared? And, like, disgust with any friends, or parents or anything? Or was it just all going on in your self?
‘E’ – 07:37mins
I think it was mostly going on in my head. I think the thing is with being scared, I think it’s something I was, kind of, repressing, or didn’t want to admit.
Almaz – 07:47mins
‘E’ – 07:47mins
And it’s only looking back on it where I’m like, “Well, I was obviously scared.” The disgust? Yeah, like, if I made out with someone and the next day would be like “Eurgh, I think they’re gross!” I would tell my friends. And actually, they’d often be quiet, sort of, like, rolling their eyes and like, “Come on, give them a chance.”
So I think they, kind of, yeah, they probably knew…
Almaz – 08:14mins
‘E’ – 08:14mins
… I wasn’t letting myself do that, like, connect with anyone.
Almaz – 08:20mins
‘E’ – 08:20mins
Yeah, I wonder if it was, like, a connection thing that I was scared of, or worried about? I’m not sure. It feels like… well, I suppose it was quite a long while ago.
Almaz – 08:29mins
‘E’ – 08:29mins
But yeah, I do often think… Like, I’d love to just, sort of, go back with my… not that I’m a really confident person now, but with my confidence now and just like… God, I just think I’d have a lot more fun. And just realise these sort of things don’t matter.
Almaz – 08:49mins
Yeah. Yeah. And when you say “fun”, do you mean, physical fun? Or do you just mean being relaxed and more blasé about things?
‘E’ – 09:03mins
I think that being more relaxed and more blasé about things would probably lead to more physical fun, I guess. Because I wouldn’t be so uptight about it. And I think maybe I thought… had the thing over my head of “I don’t want to have sex with someone until I’m in a relationship with them.”
Because two of my best friends started relationships around the same time. So when they’re about 17. So they both just, kind of, lost their virginity around the same time. So I think I probably thought “Well that’s how I should be doing it.” And I wonder if I had friends who are less, like “This is how it should be”, whether I would have followed in that path.
[CONVERSATION CONTINUES FOR ANOTHER 35 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.
[Image description: Text ‘POSTSCRIPT’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke]
The ‘POSTSCRIPT’ segment for paid subscribers will drop on Wednesday 11 May. To receive this extra mailout, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid subscription.
[Image description: Text ‘PRODUCED BY’ on navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke]
I’m Almaz Ohene, a Creative Copywriter, Freelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
For dating app Feeld’s blog, I wrote about wrote about how we can spot, understand and change our negative dating patterns – sprinkling in info on how this connects with attachment theory. And also gave tips on the best boundaries for casual dating; from boundaries, you can set when you’re chatting via a dating app to emotional and sexual boundaries.
For Lust Zine, the uncensored mag by Erika Lust, I interviewed Professor Kathleen Lubey, English Professor at St John’s University, New York, who teaches and researches in the fields of the British eighteenth century and the history of pornography.
Available for commissions. Info via almazohene.com/contact-faqs.
If you enjoy this content and would like to support please consider becoming a paid subscriber of ‘She Dares to Say’.
If you would prefer to make a one-off donation, feel free to also send a contribution via PayPal.