Where did you grow up?
Brooklyn and Long Island, New York.
Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?
Raised Jewish but reformed, mostly secular.
Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?
No, I had a happy childhood, a not abnormally moody adolescence.
Were you ever embarrassed about your development/puberty? If so, why?
I developed breasts early, around 4th or 5th grade, so yes, I did feel embarrassed when boys teased me or asked me if I could touch my elbows behind my back. Yes, I fell for that one.
Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you?
I had a fairly happy childhood.
That shaped your sexuality?
Perhaps, but I can’t be sure as it is difficult to psychoanalyze myself – it’s easier to see in others. I was sexually molested by relatives when I was 10 and 17, neither of which cases were violent, invasive or penetrative physically. I now objectively deem them more a violation of space and freedom, as both incidents involved older male relatives in seclusion where I felt unable to extract myself from the situation because of the power inequality and circumstance. I never really thought much of either of these incidents throughout my life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they did not contribute to my developing identity as a woman and sexual being.
When did you become aware of your gender?
Before I was born, my parents were hoping for a boy, but instead I was the third girl. There was never a time when my gender was not part of how others were thinking of or reacting to me, so there can also be no defined time of gender awareness within me, only a for-ness and against-ness to what has been prescribed for me.
When did you become aware of your own sexuality; were there any key moments?
Going through early puberty at around age 10, I became aware of my sexuality in about fourth or fifth grade when I developed breasts and discovered how that changed me from invisible to visible. This was also about the same time I became interested in boys.
What, if any, are the obstacles you’ve overcome on your path to womanhood?
I grew up in the seventies and so have negotiated a path between militant feminism and third wave lipstick feminism, which has created some work in my mind with alleviating guilt for not being ‘enough’: powerful, feminine, or active. It was difficult to get away from the prescribed notions of a ‘proper woman’ and finally be able to settle into just being me. I’m still working on it after 54 years.
Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so, why?
Plenty of times – being groped by a passing stranger in the street, being ogled in public by men, being criticized by men and women alike for baring parts of my body, both in youth and older age. Regardless of whether I have felt embarrassment or rage in response, both reactions spring from the same source of adopting a position, defensive or offensive, with respect to my own sexuality through the lens of others’ expectations and judgment.
What is the image you think you project every day?
I’m oblivious to my own image projection, but I have been described as intimidating.
What is the image you would like to project?
What do you think the image other people perceive is?
I am almost always absorbed in my own thoughts and to-dos. I am busy. People see that distraction and perceive it as disinterest or aloofness.
How would you describe your personal experience, existing in the way you do, each day?
A practice, every day is a practice to get something right. Right, to me, is staying present, observing how my mind, body and emotions work. It takes practice to judge less, feel compassion and gratitude more. It is not a natural state for me.
What is your political stance on women’s reproductive rights?
Women have the right to privacy in decisions they make with their health care providers regarding their bodies.
Are you pro-life or pro-choice?
I don’t believe in that characterization of any public debate. Roe v. Wade was decided on the grounds of privacy. I believe it should not be overturned.
What are your feelings about contraceptives? Their availability, cost, stigma, usage?
They should be widely disseminated, cost-effective and part of education (even indoctrination) in responsible sex.
What are your feelings about casual sex?
I am a ‘to each his or her own’ sort of gal, so long as all parties are informed and consenting adults.
Are you in a relationship(s)?
What are your feelings about marriage?
It’s a wonderful institution and option, a contract that teaches parties to test their mettle and stretch themselves to their limits in safety. It is not for everyone, and it is only as solid, sacred or comforting as the parties who comprise it. There is no one size fits all image or formula.
What are your most positive relationships with other women?
My mother and sisters have been my strongest connection to other women; we have relationships based on love, loyalty and friendship.
Right, to me, is staying present, observing how my mind, body and emotions work. It takes practice to judge less, feel compassion and gratitude more.
And your negative?
My attitudes toward women have spanned the spectrum of disinterest to pedestalizing. In my youth, I felt the women I met were petty, cruel and insubstantial. My friends were men, mostly. When I met women who intrigued me, I was intimidated by or mystified at their openness or beauty. It took a long time to get to know myself and thereby feel comfortable with other women.
What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?
Being. State of mind. Identity.
What are your feelings about monogamy?
I’ve enjoyed it at times in my life.
I’ve enjoyed it at times in my life.
Do you feel your choice to participate or not participate in consensual sex is at all affected by societal influence?
Yes. Society lives in my head and drives my opinions and actions unless I actively question and contest my motives.
How do you feel about products marketed to women?
They’re gender-stereotyped mostly.
How do you feel about feminine hygiene products’ portrayal in the media?
Were you always aware of what your body could do sexually and mechanically?
No, I came late to learning about my body; turned 30 before I learned about orgasm.
Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?
If not, what would you have done to make it so?
I rushed into sex young and without information from my mother as to how to deal with boys, what my body was capable of, how to navigate emotional readiness for sex, what to expect of another or myself, and/or how to obtain pleasure. I knew nothing and learned through what teenage boys taught me.
Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?
At night, on unknown streets, alone.
Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?
Do women treat you differently than men?
Yes, I think so, but I am not sure whether it is they who treat me differently or I who thinks they treat me differently based on sexual motivations or competition or camaraderie.
In what ways does being a woman make you vulnerable or exposed?
Physically and economically.
Would you consider yourself a feminist?
I am a ‘women should be paid equally to men for the same work’ feminist.
How do you define feminism?
Wherever women are still at an unfair and arbitrary disadvantage there is a need for feminism, which I consider to be both an awareness of those inequalities as well as an activism for changing them.
What do you think are positive ways the world views women?
Probably in the same ways men are viewed positively: for being able, confident, compassionate, grateful, just, attractive, and humorous – good human traits. Not sure whether this applies to the world, but I like that women are softer and curvier than men (for the most part).
And the negative ways?
Dehumanizing, pedestalizing, oppressing, and ignoring inequalities.
Do you think the world’s perception of women limits or benefits them?
What is your relationship to sex?
I have a healthy appreciation for it.
How do you define sex?
What does a sexual relationship mean to you?
It has multiple meanings. A relationship can be anywhere on the scale of platonic to sexual and the proportion or significance of sex accommodates those definitions. Some relationships are largely sexual in relation to other aspects of a relationship like friendship, day-to-day activities or romance. Other relationships are more emotional and stable for raising kids and maintaining a household, but far less sexual. The role of sex is not static. It wanes and waxes within each relationship in which it plays a role.
Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?
It depends on the partner. I haven’t always felt comfortable.
Have you found a balance of fulfillment with your partners?
Do you feel that YOUR desires are marginalised in the bedroom or are less important, if so, why do you think that is?
For most of my life they have been but I attribute that to my own ignorance and fear of rejection or of hurting my partner’s feelings, to the belief that my asking for something other than what was given to me would be perceived as criticism or failure.
Are you fearful of being openly sexual for fear of judgement?
Mostly, no. But it does depend on the circumstances.
Have you ever been in a position where your sexuality was used against you?
Have you ever been physically or verbally threatened because of your appearance?
I have been groped on the streets by passersby.
When you imagine sex, what is the visual/feeling you associate with it?
My mind and body as a warm viscous pouring in and out.
Is sex empowering for you?
Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?
Is there anyone in your world you undermine your principles for?
There have been in the past, but not any more. However, having children, I often think I might be capable of going against my principles to protect them if need be.
In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind/stand up for yourself?
What do you seek through sex?
Connection, touch, release, intimacy, calorie burn, fantasy fulfillment, emotional catharsis, fun.
How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women?
It’s awful. The questions powerful or popular women are asked would never be asked of men.
Are you satisfied with the women you see depicted in film, television & advertising?
No, I think they are stereotyped.
How do you think the world at large views women?
Depends on which part of the world, but the majority of the world still sees women as weak, nurturers, mothers, caretakers, emotional and unpredictable.
How do you maintain a sense of self?
I check in often, meditate, do yoga, and stay aware. It’s a daily practice.
What is something you deeply love about yourself?
Who are/what are your biggest motivators?
My intimate circle of family, friends and lovers motivate me, as do love and creativity.
Do you have people you look up to?
So many people to look up to, people doing wonderful things for others, themselves, society as a whole. I admire my mother most.
Do you ever feel overlooked in the workplace because of your gender?
I have always worked for myself, but having worked in a predominantly male-centered legal profession for many years, I have felt less respected and that outcomes were often skewed toward men.
Because of your appearance?
Yes, insofar as I was wearing a skirted suit, which delineated me as a woman.
I am direct. I speak my mind.
Do you find entering the work force as a woman has any bearing on how people will treat you?
Teaching is a female-dominated profession, so there I do not feel people treat me as gendered. As a lawyer, yes, I have been treated unequally even in pay despite the fact that I was a sole practitioner.
Have you ever experienced sexism or sexual harassment within a workplace?
None other than unspoken discriminatory attitudes in practicing law.
How have you dealt with conflict?
I am direct. I speak my mind.
Have you ever been verbally abused or threatened because of your gender?
Not directly, no. My father said chauvinistic insults to my mother when I was growing up.
If so, how did those in your life respond when you told them about it?
I have spoken to family members about it, and we all agree that it was detrimental to our self-esteem and sexual health, particularly because there were four of us daughters.
What are your feelings on motherhood?
It is one of the hardest but most rewarding of all endeavors of my life. My children are older teens now, and each chapter of their lives is another story for all of us to make and share. The gift of their presence is the greatest, and I will miss them when they are away on their own.
What are your biggest fears?
Cancer, captivity, unfulfilled potential, harm to my children.
Your biggest regrets?
Your greatest accomplishments?
I’ve lived happily for 54 years.
Anything else you’d like to add?