What does LGBTQIA stand for?
What is Asexuality?
Am I Asexual? Online Quiz
Leah Holland’s Anti-Masking Tattoo
Muxe Community in Mexico
Questions for Reflection
Each episode we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars Podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:05):
We have honest conversations about things that make us different. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:09):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:10):
I've been in recovery for 14 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about my mental health struggles, experiences, and faith.
Beth Demme (00:17):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:23):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together, and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as cohost.
Beth Demme (00:30):
I didn't hesitate to say yes because I learned a lot from honest conversations with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:35):
We value honest conversations and we hope you do too.
Beth Demme (00:38):
That's why we do this and why we want you to be part of what we are discussing today. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, Is Steph Asexual?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:47):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with questions for reflection, where we invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Beth Demme (00:55):
So this, and in fact, every single episode we do, we do with each other's permission and consent.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:01):
Beth Demme (01:02):
And we always talk about what we're going to talk about. We have our fancy spreadsheet where we have our talking points and we take this very seriously. We do advanced planning. So before we have a conversation, I would like for you to reassure folks that you are comfortable with us having this conversation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:23):
Yes. We don't normally mention this but I have gotten some feedback lately where it's like, "Wow, Beth asked you some personal questions." So just spoiler alert, we have either pre-talked about some of these things, or in the moment as we're talking like right now, we'll discuss it and we'll cut that part out of us discussing should we discuss this.
Beth Demme (01:45):
Right. By the way, what you're hearing right now isn't live. This has been recorded and edited. And in fact, we get to decide if we want to edit things out and each time we have edited something out.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:59):
Yes, and by we, Beth means me.
Beth Demme (02:01):
Oh, that's true. Yeah, no, Steph totally does all the editing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:04):
We break apart responsibilities. One of mine though is editing.
Beth Demme (02:08):
But if I wanted something edited out, I would be comfortable saying to you, "Hey, could you take that out?" And I'm sure you would.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:13):
Yes. So just for future reference, everything that we discuss, we are both consenting to
Beth Demme (02:18):
So why are we having this conversation? Why this question, is Steph asexual?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:25):
It's definitely an interesting title. I will tell you this is something that I have never really thought/wondered if I'm asexual, never really put any kind of thought into this. But a couple weeks ago, we did an episode called Love Actually, and a really good friend of mine listened to the episode and she texted me this question and this was very appropriate. We're very good friends, she said in a very loving way. I have no problem with this question. I think if you listen to our podcast, you would know that we don't have problems answering tough questions. I mean I specifically don't. If it's said in the right way and if it's asked in the right way from the right person, I have no problem with these kind of questions. But she asked me, she said, "Have you ever looked into asexual? Have ever considered if this describes you? Do you feel connected to this kind of thing?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:26):
She sent me a website link and I kind of looked it over. It was interesting that she asked me this because I thought if she's asking me this maybe there's other people that might think way. And again, as you've told me, "This no one's business."
Beth Demme (03:44):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:44):
And yes, but I think it's important to discuss uncomfortable conversations, not for shock value but for this might be something that other people could benefit from. And so that's why we're having this conversation and it's not to be shocking and it's not to put judgment on any other person. This actually felt like a way to really lead into another conversation, so stick with us because we're going to go somewhere that you might not expect. But we will go there too.
Beth Demme (04:18):
And even the fact that the idea of discussing asexuality would create discomfort is worth considering, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:26):
Beth Demme (04:26):
Like what are the signals? What are the inappropriate assumptions and prejudices? All of that, I think is interesting. Your life is quite literally an open book, right? You have published your memoir, Discovering My Scars, so I think it's great that we're going to be able to have this conversation today.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:44):
And I will say in the original edition of my book, there was a lot more of this kind of content in it because I thought because it was part of my story. But I realize it didn't super connect to everything, the biggest parts of my book, and so I did take it out. And it wasn't because I didn't want to have it in there, but I also was told by my publisher that the shorter the better. The most readable size of a book the better. So I really tried to focus it on the specific story that's in it and not add too much extra fluff that couldn't fully connect to that. And also, all that could be in another book as well.
Beth Demme (05:24):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:24):
So, save time for that, save room for that second book.
Beth Demme (05:28):
The advantage of writing your first memoir when you're young because there's more to come.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:31):
Yes, exactly. It's the middle chapters. There's still more.
Beth Demme (05:35):
So asexuality is part of the acronym I guess is what we would call it. So, LGBTQIA, so lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual. Asexual is part of that. So from your research, how would you describe what asexuality is? And we're going to get around to answering this question, is Steph asexual? We're not there yet. But can you just help us understand what it is?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:10):
I read the website that my friend actually sent me and from it, I actually was a little bit more confused. So I don't think I'm the authority on what asexual is. I will read you just quickly what it says on there so you can be in the same confusion as me. Asexual is a sexual orientation that is characterized by a lack of sexual attraction towards any gender. That would be the definition of asexual.
Beth Demme (06:36):
That makes sense because when we add that letter A to things as a prefix, that's sort of what it means, is without. So, it's without sexual desire.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:45):
On the website though, they do have a quiz that you can take with 10 or 15 questions that you can answer to see if you're asexual. We're not going to go through all of them because it's a lot.
Beth Demme (06:55):
It's a lot.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:56):
But, Beth, you picked out a couple that you were going to ask me.
Beth Demme (07:00):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:00):
And I will tell you, we did pre-talk about this episode but I have not answered any of this.
Beth Demme (07:05):
She's withholding, you guys. She's been withholding information from me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:07):
I have not told her anything because I wanted her to be surprised on the podcast with my answers to stuff or not surprised and think that she knows exactly what I'm going to say to these things.
Beth Demme (07:19):
All right. Let's do the quiz. This is from whatisasexuality.com's Am I Asexual page. Have you ever really like anyone in that way? That's how they said it. I think they mean in a sexual way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:34):
Beth Demme (07:35):
Number two, do you never or very rarely think people are hot or sexy?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:39):
I guess the answer's no. If I do think people are hot or sexy, right?
Beth Demme (07:44):
Right. That's a good point. It's sort of worded weirdly because it's do you never. So, maybe it would be ...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:52):
Have you ever thought someone is hot or sexy?
Beth Demme (07:56):
Or how often do you think people are hot or sexy?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:59):
20% of the time. Yes, I do think people are hot or sexy but that's not based just on physical appearance alone. So I don't know if that makes me asexual or not. But I have to hear you talk and know ... Like Hugh Jackman, for example, I think he's super hot not because of Wolverine and all that, but because he's a Broadway guy. I saw him on Broadway '04 and it was amazing. I was, oh, my gosh. He's the coolest. Because I was never really into the movies he was in and so I love all the Broadway stuff he does. He was in The Greatest Showman.
Beth Demme (08:38):
Oh, right. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:40):
So I think that's really hot when hear them talk and see what they're passionate about.
Beth Demme (08:45):
Yes. All right. So far, we've asked two questions and they both have been on the not end of this. These are questions about am I asexual, so far it's no. Have you had relationship after relationship fall apart because you simply weren't interested in sex?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:03):
Beth Demme (09:05):
Have you ever wondered what's supposed to be difficult about abstinence or celibacy?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:09):
Beth Demme (09:10):
Have you not had sex for months or years, possibly never at all, and it doesn't bother you one bit?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:16):
I don't like the work bother. I don't know what that means. What does that mean, that you're bothered by it?
Beth Demme (09:23):
I think if you're bothered by it then it would be something that you think about, something that you might want to change. And so I think what the question-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:31):
You're stressed about it.
Beth Demme (09:32):
Maybe. I think what the question is sayings is do you care?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:35):
Or, it's not okay with you.
Beth Demme (09:36):
Yeah, not okay with you. That's exactly right. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:39):
Almost like do not care.
Beth Demme (09:40):
Have you not had sex for months or years, possibly never at all and you don't care?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:45):
I'm going to abstain from this question until we discuss further because I don't like how it's worded.
Beth Demme (09:54):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:55):
So can you still make a decision on whether I'm asexual based on the other questions?
Beth Demme (10:00):
Based on our extremely scientific and psychological quiz, I'm concluding officially that you are not asexual.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:11):
Is it the Hugh Jackman thing? Is that what pushed it over the edge?
Beth Demme (10:15):
No, I think it's the fact that you ... Maybe it comes down to just questions number one even, have you ever really like anyone in that way? You have, so I don't ...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:23):
This really tough because there very, I don't know, I don't really like these questions.
Beth Demme (10:29):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:30):
But I think overall, having read the website, if I didn't instantly feel oh, my gosh, this is describing me. So for example, I talked about this in my book but for years I was really struggling, having flashbacks to the mental hospitals and all these kind of things, and I finally got help for it, and right away when I discussed it with my psychologist, she said, "Oh, you have PTSD." And right away, instantly everything clicked. It made so much sense for me. Right away when I heard just that word PTSD, everything clicked and it was just this weight lifted from me. And it was so empowering for me to have that label because then I was able to focus on this is what it is and this is how I can help with it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:16):
There can be healing and help in labels. I also think that we are a society that are very much looking for labels for everything. We want to be able explain who someone is and this is how we explain it. Do I think it's anyone's business, someone's sexuality, someone's whatever? No, it's not our business. Actors that are in the closet and then never come out, that is their choice and there's not responsibility to us to know what your sexuality is. Do I think it's important to discuss if you're willing to? Yes.
Beth Demme (11:56):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:56):
So that's why we are having this conversation. I guess my point is if for me reading that website did not make me feel connected at all, and so whether I am asexual or not, is not a factor for me. It doesn't matter. It doesn't change things for me. I didn't feel like, oh, my gosh, now I have a label that I can run with and now I can have the knowledge to go forward. So whatever my answers are to the question, I think overall, since I didn't feel any instant connection to it, I wouldn't say that I'm asexual if somebody was to ask me and was to try to understand me. I'm sorry, if you can't understand me. I'm going to try my hardest to explain myself but I don't the clear simple process to, well, this is I'm this way because of this, and here you go. I'm sorry, I haven't been able to simplify it for you.
Beth Demme (12:50):
And I think that we want labels because we just want things to be easy to put into a box and be able to define things. But I think what you're saying about the PTSD, how that was really helpful to you, I think that are probably times when the LGBTQIA designations are helpful for folks and that it brings a sense of freedom or belonging, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:12):
Yeah. But I guess the question is, who is it helpful for? Is it helpful for society or is it helpful for the individual?
Beth Demme (13:21):
Right. Well, I hope it would be helpful for the individual.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:23):
I do too.
Beth Demme (13:23):
That would be the time when it would matter to me. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:26):
I think recently I've some people, like actors, that have identified as gay, previously, or lesbian, previously, now are coming out as transgender. There was just a show recently that I saw that had a transgender character who had previously when they were younger, they had been portraying roles as the gender they were born as. I don't want to use the wrong words. But they were born male but were female, like they knew they were female and transitioned into female, or transitioned into female who they feel they were born really as.
Beth Demme (14:06):
Right. So when she was younger, she had played male roles and now she plays female roles.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:11):
As a gay male. She was a gay male.
Beth Demme (14:13):
Oh, I get what you're saying. Okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:14):
She played gay male roles but technically, she's a-
Beth Demme (14:17):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:18):
... straight female. Exactly. So even within LGBTQIA, she was identified as a gay male and now she identifies as transgender, completely moving within that. And I read a little bit about her. I'm sorry, I don't have the name, but she always felt like she was being deceitful, like it wasn't really who she was but that's who society saw her as. And I remember her, she was a young actor. I remember her in male roles and thinking, wow, he's very gay. I remember thinking that, not that it mattered but he would play these very gay young boy characters. And so now seeing her play her true self as a female, she's perfect. I mean she was great in all her roles. But even within ... I think she was looking for a label to be able to help society understand her when she was a child, which I can't even imagine what that must be like as a child trying to help.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:24):
And I don't know if she identified with being a gay male or if society identified it for her and so that's the role that she played until she could truly come out as who she was. Saved By the Bell, that's the show it was, the reboot.
Beth Demme (15:40):
Oh, in the reboot. I don't think I've watched any of the reboot episodes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:43):
Yeah, it's really good. Yeah, it's the ... I don't know what her name is, but she is one of the main characters. She's kind of like the sassy not nice girl but really is nice because she's had bad things ...
Beth Demme (15:56):
I was watching this show called, I think it was called Long Way Up, and it's the guys who plays in Star Wars, he's the one who says, "These are not the droids you're looking for."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:10):
Beth Demme (16:11):
Ewan McGregor. Yes, that what it is. He and his friend, Charlie, drive motorcycles from the southern tip of South America all the way up to California. They're electric bikes. They're electric Harley Davidsons and it's this whole thing. And they've done other trips like this. But one of the things that I learned watching the show is as they were coming up through Mexico, they stopped in a community, and I'm going to spell it because I don't remember how it was pronounced. It's M-U-X-E. It is recognized in this community as a third gender. They're transgender people. They're usually assigned a gender of male at birth but they really live as women. But there's this community that they created for themselves, really, where they can be safe and they can be who they really are.
Beth Demme (17:04):
Anyway, it just helped me to see the way that another culture was creating space for transgendered folks. In that situation, I think that the label might be helpful because it creates a sense of community and belonging for them, which is not always what happens with labels.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:22):
Yeah. I mean, I think the label if the label helps the individual, I think that's perfect. But an individual searching for a label for society's purposes, I think that's not something that we need to continue, forcing people to try to find labels to find themselves so society can understand them.
Beth Demme (17:42):
Right. And when your friend asked about this particular label for you, she was not trying to box you into a label.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:48):
Beth Demme (17:48):
She was wondering if you find a sense of understanding there somehow.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:53):
Connection. Yeah, exactly. I'm not questioning her asking that in any way shape or form. I'm just talking in the bigger picture when we're trying to look for labels for people. Because it's a trusted friend, I really did examine this, and thought about it, and I looked into it. And then I realized the factor that ... This is a friend that I assume has healthy relationships and has had a good upbringing. Actually, I realize I don't really talk to my friends about sex much. I can't think of actually having brought that up. Maybe they're all married and they don't want to talk to their single friend about it. Now, I'm going to ask them on our weekly Zoom.
Beth Demme (18:32):
She's coming for you ladies and she wants details.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:35):
No, no details. I'm good. You can. I mean I'm not against it. You can share whatever you think is helpful. But anyways, and you, obviously, are married and have had very, I'm assuming, healthy relationships and healthy relationship with your sexuality. Although, we don't talk about it either.
Beth Demme (18:56):
Right. We haven't talked about it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:57):
So I have to assume. But one of the things that I think is hard for people to understand in my case that I've definitely talked extensively about in my book but don't bring it up on a regular basis because it just doesn't come up. But when I was two-years-old, I was sexually molested, assaulted, whatever the word you want to use, at two. And again, at five-years-old, I had a very violent sexual attack happen to me, and that changes a person.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:31):
God created us to be sexual beings. He wants us to experience fully all that life has to offer and I believe that. A lot of that was taken from me when I was a kid. And it's interesting because I was talking to my psychologist about this, and she said rape crimes and sexual crimes happen so often to women and it's one of the only crimes where it's a horrible crime against you, traumatic and life-changing event. But it's also something that is looked in our society as a beautiful wonderful thing to experience. And those women that have been traumatized and hurt by being raped, then are told it's a great thing. Sex is great. Experience it. Love it. This is a great thing. And so they're having to re-experience that even if it's with a loving great relationship.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:29):
I mean, for me, having experienced PTSD from the mental hospital, I still experience flashbacks when certain things happen in my life. So I have to assume women that have had those things happen to them have flashbacks during the good sex. They're still having those traumatic experiences. And she told me, she's like, "Steph, you're not asexual." She specializes in women issues and women that have been sexually abused. And she knows plenty of women are married, have been married for years, and still don't enjoy sex. They do it because that's part of their commitment they made to their husbands but that's not something they super enjoy because of all that have happened to them.
Beth Demme (21:18):
Yeah, the effects of trauma and abuse are complicated. It also complicates things when we try to put labels on because we really want things to be straightforward and easy and in a box. But that's not reflective of people.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:33):
Yeah, so I think a lot of times we try to spend time trying to figure out, okay, is this person gay, is this person asexual, are they transgender? We try to spend all this time and we try to encourage people to figure out which box they fit in. And the fact is that sexual abuse in this country is rampant. It happens so often. I think, is it one in four, I think.
Beth Demme (21:56):
I'm not sure but that sounds right. It's a lot.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:58):
It's an incredible amount. And we spend all this time trying to put people in categories and I don't hear it being discussed. Why don't we discuss your past? Why don't we look into what may have happened? And why don't we start to heal that before we try to answer these questions that don't even really matter? And so for me, when someone asks, "Oh, are you asexual?" no, I'm a girl that was born straight, and I'm attracted to males, and I would love to find a male that I feel 100% safe with to have a healthy sexual relationship with one day. I would love that. That's something that I want. I don't sit in my room and cry about that I don't have that. I do feel bummed about it sometimes. Who doesn't want to feel loved and have that safety? So I definitely am a human lady in that respect.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:53):
I guess my point would be, when you're trying pigeonhole someone and trying to explain somebody, kind of step back and wonder what life experience has led them to where they are today.
Beth Demme (23:08):
And how can reviewing those or working on those experiences bring each of us to a better sense of self and a better level of emotional health separate and apart from any labels?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:22):
Yeah, and maybe the conversation with a friend that's 35 and not married, maybe the conversation is not how do find you a man or a lady, whichever you chose, whichever ...
Beth Demme (23:33):
In your case, it would be a man.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:35):
Yeah. But yeah, I'm just talking in general.
Beth Demme (23:38):
Because you know you are 35 now. I don't know if we made that clear.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:42):
Yeah, I'm 35.
Beth Demme (23:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:44):
So instead of having the conversation, oh, we need to find you a man-
Beth Demme (23:47):
So, are you in your mid-30s or late-30s? I guess this is still mid-30, huh?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:53):
I'd say middle.
Beth Demme (23:54):
Middle 30s, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:56):
So maybe the conversation is not, oh, man, we need to find you a man, it's maybe encouraging your friend to do some work and to examine their life, and maybe that's the first step of how you find a loving relationship is to love yourself and know yourself first. So I've dated a lot of guys, never had anything long-term. And I think a big part of that was, especially it was when I was in college and my 20s when I was living in Orlando, I think a big part of that was I didn't know myself. I didn't know the trauma I had experienced as a child. That wasn't information I learned until I moved back to Tallahassee, was in Celebrate Recovery. So there was a lot of me that I saw what society said is, you want to find a man that you can fall in love with, and get married, and have kids with. This is our God-given right and this is what we want to do.
Beth Demme (24:50):
This is what should do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:52):
This is what you should do. And so I wanted that. I saw it on TV shows, I want that. Like, look, everyone's happy. That's what I wanted so I was actively looking for that but I never found it and I could never feel comfortable with a man enough to have a super committed relationship with, and I never knew why. And I guess that's why I failed relationship after relationship. As we're talking about asexual but we're pretty much gone past that. When we were talking about this episode, you had mentioned that you were uncomfortable with this, that we would be talking about my sex life. And that was like, oh, my goodness.
Beth Demme (25:35):
Yeah, but so far, we really haven't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:37):
And so that's not something that I talk about and it's not something I don't talk about because I'm comfortable with it, it just doesn't really come up in conversation.
Beth Demme (25:48):
Right, and I'm the same way. I don't talk about my sex life because it just isn't relevant to the conversation. So I don't know why it would need to be relevant in your conversations either.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:57):
Exactly. Yeah. But as we were talking, you had some assumptions about my sex life that I actually wanted you to share.
Beth Demme (26:04):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:05):
And again, I feel there's validity in sharing this. This is not to be crude or to be outrageous but this is actually tying back to something so I do want you to give your explanation and then I want to share something that I haven't shared with you.
Beth Demme (26:18):
My assumption is that by age 35, you have had sex. That's my assumption.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:25):
And why were you fearful or uncomfortable for me to share this on the podcast?
Beth Demme (26:31):
I think that as we were talking about it, I was kind of hearkening back to some things that it turns out are kind of deeply ingrained in me related to purity culture, and that that puts this sort of cloak or veil of secrecy over sex. And so I was not wanting you to pull back the veil on that part of your life because you've never been married. So it felt like it was this especially high stakes for you to talk about it because I assumed that you had had sex outside of marriage.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:07):
And that is wrong and I'm going to hell. As a pastor, you would say that, correct?
Beth Demme (27:11):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:12):
Beth Demme (27:12):
That's what's so crazy about it. This is happening to me a lot in my work at the hospital too. It's like I'm operating out of these ideas that I don't actually believe, right? So I don't believe that if you have sex outside of marriage that you're going to go to hell. I just don't believe that. I mean, hell's another topic I guess.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:32):
Beth Demme (27:33):
So yeah, I guess I'm worried that if you talk about it and it turns out that you have had sex outside of marriage and you reveal that, that it will impact the way that other people see you because I do know there are people who think that. I think that's more the source of my fear than any sort of concern about your eternal life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:54):
Yeah. Well, as you know, I grew up in the church and I grew up with knowing what the Bible says and what the Bible doesn't say. This is what we do. This is what we don't do, and open-shut-case. The Bible says ... No, this is how I grew up. I'm not saying I agree with it now.
Beth Demme (28:15):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:15):
And I have a point to that. But I grew up with this is how the Bible says it. My family, my parents though, luckily, were never people that were like ... They were not strict in the sense of this is what the Bible says, if you don't follow it, you're ... That wasn't part of the conversation. But going to Sunday, going to church, I hear these things and this is what if I want to be a good person, these are the things I need to do. That's how I saw things. So very much when I was younger, things were black and white for me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:48):
As we've discussed on previous episodes, when I was about 14, learned about some stuff with my dad, realized nothing's black and white. But very much my viewpoints were very black and white. There is definitely things from the Bible that I don't follow. There's things that I think are unnecessary. There's things, whatever. But one of the things that I personally, very much felt connected to, and didn't really know why, but it felt connected to was that waiting till you're married to have sex. That was very important to me and I never really fully understood why, like there's other things I didn't connect to that I just thought, that doesn't make sense. But that was always in my head, is you don't have sex until marriage. And it wasn't that you don't have sex till marriage, but the reason you wait is because if you are going ... To me, sex is a big deal. That's like the ultimate and that's the ultimate comfort with something, vulnerability.
Beth Demme (29:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:55):
And so for me, it was if I'm going to have sex with someone, I want to truly be committed and truly connected and in love with that person, and that's only going to come through marriage. And so that's how I always looked at it. That's how I looked at it as a child. And there's a part of me that ... And overall, I do not judge people for having sex outside of marriage. That is their choice. That's the biggest thing for me is, I don't think anything is just black or white, like if you do this, you're going to hell, if not, no. I think that is what is harmful about the church and I think that's why people leaving the church because it's not meeting them where they are. That's crazy to me to tell people they can't do something because, of course, that's what they're going to do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:43):
So I don't think that's the right conversation at all. And I don't think having the conversation of abstinence is the answer, is the conversation that needs to be happening. I think safe sex is 100% what needs to be talking about, and what sex is, and what a loving relationship looks like, and the safety. Those are the conversations.
Beth Demme (31:01):
And healthy. Safe and healthy sex.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:03):
Exactly. Those are the conversations, not just don't have it. Discussion over. That's the wrong conversation. But overall, that is something I always felt very connected to, was that I am not supposed to have sex before marriage. And there was nothing that I felt that connected to really from the Bible, but that. And as I've gotten older, I have loosened that view in the sense of, I don't think if I was to have sex out of marriage that I would be going to hell. And I didn't even before that. I just felt like that makes sense to me because sex is a big deal and you need to be in a loving committed relationship. That's how I viewed it.
Beth Demme (31:46):
Yeah. And I wonder if, on some level, you understood that you needed to feel safe. So subconsciously you equated marriage with safety and because of the unrealized trauma that had happened, it was you intuitively knew you were going to need to feel safe.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:05):
Exactly. So as I've gotten older and realized what's happened to me in the past, I realized that's why I was connected to that. Because God was placing that on my heart not because that's what he wrote in the Bible but because I needed that. And if it was something as simple as me believing it because it was in the Bible, that was enough. But it was deeper than that. It was God knew what had happened to me in that I might not ever recover from having sex with somebody that I wasn't fully committed to. So it's interesting because you and my mom, I've told you about this episode and you both were so concerned for me to share my sex life on the podcast. And maybe this is a horrible mistake to share this. But I have had not had sex. I have not. And I haven't found anyone that I would want to have sex with. I want to have sex with my husband. That would be great.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:12):
I also don't think ... There is a part of me that if I find someone that I am truly in love with and connected and I'm not married to them, I'm not saying that I wouldn't have sex. I don't know. I haven't found that person so I haven't been able to-
Beth Demme (33:24):
It's still hypothetical that it could happen.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:26):
Exactly. I'm not rigid in the views of, nope, we're not married. But that little something saved me.
Beth Demme (33:36):
Yeah, good point.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:39):
I can't imagine if I had sex before knowing my past, if that past came out during that experience, I can't imagine. So it's interesting that you guys are worried about my purity and sharing it, and, oh, my gosh, what if she shares? When I was younger, in the OTTs, there was all these teen magazines and my mom, she bought them for me. I asked for them I guess. We got them pretty cheap for some reason. She had some kind of ... part of some organization and she could get them really cheap. So I got Teen, and Seventeen, whatever, all those magazines. They're all ridiculous, whatever.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:21):
And I remember in the front, you could write and in and you could ask questions or something. And I remember reading those sometimes. And I remember one of them was like, "I'm a 25-year-old virgin and I'm just so embarrassed. I just need to get it over with." And I remember reading it and being like, oh, my gosh, it's so embarrassing that they're 25 and a virgin. Oh, my gosh. I can't even ... Wow. And seeing these things in like, The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Beth Demme (34:53):
Right, the movie. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:54):
I mean society tells us that you are less than if you're a virgin. And there was a big part of me for a long time that I felt less than for being a virgin.
Beth Demme (35:07):
That's the opposite of purity culture in someways, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:11):
Beth Demme (35:11):
Because purity culture really holds that up as a standard.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:15):
But once you hit a certain age, then it's just embarrassing. So there's a part of me that ... So it's interesting when you and my mom were worried about me sharing about my not purity, my hesitation was the fact that I was going to admit something that I had been embarrassed about for a really long time. I'm not embarrassed about it anymore. I've told my friends. They know. I think they're kind of like, okay. They're like, really? I don't feel less than as a person. I feel very privileged actually. That might feel weird, but I feel very privileged that God helped me through this and has kept me safe until I find the right person that I can be safe with.
Beth Demme (36:05):
People can probably hear the emotion in your voice and I can certainly see the emotion in your face. Is it a sense of gratitude that's boiling up? Is it fear of being embarrassed? What do you think it is that's boiling up right now?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:20):
I think it's something that I just don't really talk about and I never even truly put this kind of detail in the book, so I've never really fully gotten it out. I know, for me, when I verbalize hard stuff, it's emotional and so there's not part of me that is ... I'm not afraid to share this and I'm not embarrassed like I said, but it's heavy. It's a heavy thing to share. And if you've never, hopefully, you haven't been sexually assaulted in some way, I hope that hasn't happened to you. But I know statistically, people listening, it's happened to. It's more complicated than sex is great. It's more complicated and so it's heavier, and so it's hard to talk about and hard to share because everything tells us it's a great thing you need to experience, should experience all the time, and it's not so easy for me.
Beth Demme (37:21):
It's interesting that our inability, our unwillingness to talk about sex in a healthy way creates shame, whether you have sex too early or whether you, in some people's views, don't have sex early enough, right? This is really revealing our need to be addressing this in a healthier way, for sure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:45):
For most of my life, I had the same primary care doctor. And I didn't super love her. I just didn't super connect to her. But she was my doctor, that's who I went to and she covered our insurance. You know that. When you find a doctor that covers your insurance, there you go. And so I went to her, so I was going to her till I was in my 20s, and I remember, I was probably 18, 19, or 20 when this happened. And my mom used to go into my appointments with me because I had nothing to hide. And I remember my doctor asked my mom to leave and I was like, okay. And she asked me about my sex life. And I was like, "Well, I'm a virgin. I haven't had sex." And she's like, "Okay, well ..." Not believing me.
Beth Demme (38:32):
She didn't believe you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:32):
Beth Demme (38:32):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:33):
And she said, "Okay, we're going to need to start doing Pap smears." And I was like, "Okay, but I'm not having sex." And she's like, "We still have to do." And I was like, "Will you be able to do it?" And she's like, "Oh, yeah." So I had never had a Pap smear before.
Beth Demme (38:47):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:47):
Obviously, the women that have had one, who's probably most listening, you know what it's like.
Beth Demme (38:51):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:51):
So she proceeds to try to do a Pap smear. And guess what, she couldn't.
Beth Demme (38:56):
She couldn't do it. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:57):
She tried many ways and it was very traumatic.
Beth Demme (38:59):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:01):
Very traumatic because, well, because of abuse I hadn't even knew about at the time, and because I hadn't done anything like that with anyone and it was very uncomfortable. It was very traumatic. And I told my mom, I was like, "I don't want to go to her anymore. "
Beth Demme (39:16):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:17):
So I ultimately stopped going to the doctor for maybe five years.
Beth Demme (39:21):
Was that around the same time you started cutting?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:24):
Probably. Yeah, because it was when I was-
Beth Demme (39:28):
Could that be related?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:29):
I don't think it was the moment that it started but I think it could be a contributing factor for sure. But I stopped going to a doctor for five or six years. And I was like, I'm not going back to her. First of all, she didn't trust me, and then she put me through a very traumatic experience. So then my mom found a new doctor for herself years later. She said, why don't you ... And I was wanting to get back on some depression medicine, and so she's like, "Well, why don't you go see my doctor?" And I was like, "Okay." She was a doctor she knew from the church, which didn't mean anything to me. It was just like, okay, well, she knows her.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:08):
So I went to see Dr. Kathy. She's actually in my book. I've written about her. She's still my doctor today. And she asked me about my sexual history. I said, "I'm a virgin." And she said, "Okay." And I was like, "So do I have to do a Pap smear?" She like, "No, if you've never had sex, you don't have a Pap smear." I was like, "Really?" And she's like, "Yeah." And I was like, "Yeah." So to this day, I've never had a Pap smear because I'm not sexually active. And she said, literally, I don't have to have one. So whether that's accurate or not, I'm going with my doctor.
Beth Demme (40:38):
Right. I would totally follow your doctor's advice.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:40):
I'm following my doctor's advice. So if you're listening and you're like, "Oh, my gosh, you still have to have one," talk to my doctor about it because I've asked my doctor. And every single time I go, she never asks. She knows. We talked about it. She knows that if my history is changed that I will tell her. And I will because I trust her and she trusts me. And that's huge. As I've said, trust is huge with me.
Beth Demme (41:04):
One of the things that I was thinking about when we were talking about the asexuality, and it's almost, as I was reading the things about it and even as we were going through the questions earlier, like have you had relationship after relationship fall apart because you simply weren't interested in sex, it's like the lack of a sex drive, well that happens to many, many women at different phases of life but especially in menopause, right? And there's no correlation to menopause for men so it doesn't mean that they've become asexual. Well, maybe it does because I don't actually understand that label I guess.
Beth Demme (41:43):
But just that there's a lot more that goes into it than I think we really are comfortable, not you and I comfortable talking about it, but culturally that we're comfortable talking about it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:53):
Well, and I think the reason I don't like these questions is because, have you had relationship after relationship fall apart because you simply weren't interested in sex? Well, I think that's too limiting. I think my relationships fell apart because I couldn't fully trust the people I was dating. And so, no, it had nothing to do with sex. We weren't even at that point. I couldn't even trust this person. So I think that's just a very ignorant statement to say. And also the last one, have not had sex for months, or years, possibly never at all and it doesn't bother you, I don't like the word bother because I don't feel shame in it. I did for a while. I don't feel shame in it anymore, that I haven't had sex.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:31):
So this makes me think that if you have never had sex at all, that you should be overcome with-
Beth Demme (42:37):
You should be bothered at least.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:38):
You should be embarrassed. You should be constantly searching for someone to have sex with.
Beth Demme (42:43):
Yeah, that's the implication. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:44):
You should be tortured about it. No, I don't agree with that at all. I'm not tortured about it. Do I want to have sex? Yes. Am I stressing? Is that a major fact in my life? No. So I don't like that question because no, it's not bothering me because how small-world am I that that's something that would be my sole focus in life. It's not.
Beth Demme (43:10):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:10):
So, again, I don't connect with this. So, no, I'm not asexual.
Beth Demme (43:18):
We have so much fun making this podcast and we've heard from some of you that you're wondering what is the best way to support us. So we've decided to expand the podcast experience using buymeacoffee.com. You can go there and buy us a cup of coffee, or for Steph, a cup of tea, or you can actually become a monthly supporter and that will give you access to PDFs of the questions for reflection as well as pictures, outtakes, polls, and more.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:43):
The kinds of things that we would put on social media if we had a social media channel but we actually don't for the podcast because we decided from the beginning that we didn't want to add to more white noise in your life. So one of the great things about Buy Me a Coffee is that you'll be able to actually get an email when we post new content. You can go straight there and you don't have to deal with ads or being bombarded with other content. You see exactly the content you're looking for without a bunch of distractions. We plan to post probably once or twice a week and we're excited to get your feedback as members on our By Me a Coffee page, which are lovingly calling our BMAC.
Beth Demme (44:15):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:17):
So you'll be able to find a link in our description to find out more and to sign up.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:27):
So, we talked about a lot of heavy things today but overall, I'm glad we had this conversation. I think we almost didn't have this conversation because of Beth probably, honestly.
Beth Demme (44:38):
Probably. It was probably me. Oh, and your mom.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:42):
No. She knows she gets no veto power on our topics. I just casually let her know what we were talking about, but no, no veto power. But I do want to mention that again if you want to know a little bit more about my story, I have written that all out in a book and it is available in paperback, ebook, or audiobook. It's called Discovering My Scars. You might notice it's similar to our topic, Discovering Our Scars. It's available wherever books are sold. You can also get it on my website at smkauthor.com.
Beth Demme (45:12):
So I have a funny news story for you. It's not like national news kind of thing, but I still thought that it was kind of funny so I wanted to bring it to you. There was this thing going around on TikTok where somebody was like, "Okay, tell me about your worst tattoo experience or show me your stupid tattoos." Like sometimes they're misspelled or something, no regurts or whatever. So this woman shared. She looks very young. Probably if I dug into this I could find out how old she is, but she looks like she's probably late teens, early 20s. On March 4th, 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic became a thing, not knowing what coming, she got a tattoo that says, "Courageously and radically refuse to wear a mask."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:05):
Oh, my God. What?
Beth Demme (46:07):
She meant it like be your true self, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:10):
Yeah. Is there a picture of it?
Beth Demme (46:12):
Yeah. I'll put it in the show notes. But, it's just text.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:15):
It's just a bunch of words. Yeah.
Beth Demme (46:16):
Yeah, it's just text.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:17):
And she's wearing a mask in the picture. Oh, my God.
Beth Demme (46:19):
So then on TikTok, she was like, "I just wanted everybody to know, I'm not anti-mask. That's not what this tattoo was about." But the timing of it just worked out to be terrible.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:28):
There's probably still healing when we're right in the middle of COVID. Oh, no.
Beth Demme (46:32):
Right. As the CDC is giving us conflicting information about wearing a mask and she just got this tattoo that's like "Courageously and radically refuse to wear a mask."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:40):
Oh, my gosh. That's really good. I like that. Thank you for sharing that.
Beth Demme (46:44):
Yeah. I guess tattoos are kind of on my mind too because recently went down to visit my son at college and found out that he had gotten another tattoo.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:53):
Beth Demme (46:54):
Yes. I knew he had one.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:57):
Beth Demme (46:58):
My dad, who passed away, he used to always call my son Pal. That was like their special nickname. And my dad always did puzzles. So my daughter actually designed a tattoo that's three puzzle pieces that fit together and each one is a different letter and it spells out Pal. So he had that over his heart. But then because he's living near Tampa and the Bucks won the Super Bowl, he decided he would get a tattoo celebrating that even though he's not a Buccaneers fan.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:29):
What? Was he drunk?
Beth Demme (47:30):
He was not.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:32):
Beth Demme (47:34):
And his friends affirmed that he was not. But three of them decided to go and get the exact same tattoo. So, yeah, it was pretty funny.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:43):
Did he even watch the Super Bowl?
Beth Demme (47:45):
Oh, yeah, 100%. He's a huge football fan. Football is a big part of his life and it is neat that he was living so close to where ... Because it was sort of, I hesitate to say historic because it is football, but for a team who is hosting or a city that's hosting the Super Bowl to have their team play in it and then win, I don't think that had ever happened before, so it is sort of historic in the sport, which is what he was trying to celebrate. But, anyway.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:11):
He's going to have a lot of tattoos if he celebrates everything historical.
Beth Demme (48:14):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:15):
Beth Demme (48:16):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:19):
At the end of each episode, we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between and you can pause and answer them to yourself our you can find a PDF of them on our Buy Me a Coffee page.
Beth Demme (48:33):
Number one, does it make you uncomfortable to talk about your sexuality? Why or why not? Number two, do you feel the need to find labels for the people in your life? How does that impact your relationships? Number three, has anyone ever asked if you identify with an LGBTQIA label? Have you ever asked anyone if they identify with one of those labels? Why? And number four, what is your experience with purity culture? How has it affected your views on sex and virginity?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:04):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars Podcast. Thank you for joining us.