Monthly Archives: January 2014

Savage Love Re-Answer: The B in LGBT

This is an oldie, originally published at Savage Love on December 23, 1999, but it really encapsulates Savage’s biphobia-which hasn’t mellowed over the years.

Question: You recently gave this advice to a gay man involved with a married bisexual man: “DON’T MESS AROUND WITH BISEXUALS.” You went on to say he shouldn’t mess around with married men, either. Staying away from people who are in committed relationships is sound advice. But condemning all bisexuals as poor relationship material is prejudiced, biphobic, and hurtful.

Most condemnations of bisexuals are made on the basis of their presumed inability to be monogamous, a generalization that is in many cases false. But you yourself admit that most gay men are equally unable to be monogamous. Therefore, the only possible explanation for your anti-bisexual response is pure, irrational bias. You do all your bisexual readers a disservice, along with the gay and straight people who love them, by allowing your prejudices and fears to color your otherwise valuable advice.

Jennifer Coderre, Co-Founder, Bisexual Insurgence

450px-Bi_flag.svg

The Bi Pride Flag

So, obviously, this is in response to a previous question answered at Savage Love, and per my policy of not intentionally giving him traffic, I won’t provide a link. You can search for it in the archive if you really want to.

What Dan said to the original reader was that he shouldn’t have gotten involved with a bi guy who was married to a woman, because he was always going to choose his female partner. The problem, as Dan saw it, was the bisexuality of the dude with whom the reader was involved, rather than the desire the reader had to be his boyfriend’s primary partner when there was already a primary partner in the picture. I wonder how Dan would’ve answered had bisexuality not been a factor?

Dan Savage’s main thought on bisexual folks, particularly bi guys, is that they will always choose a long term partner who will afford them heterosexual privilege, and so they are not a good choice of partner for gay men. Consequently, stay away from them if what you want is a long term, primary partner. The best you can hope for is to be a side bizzle (as my friend Keeana might say), or a trick.

There is so much wrong, and this is so full of Dan Savage’s own personal hangups, it’s tempting to just say, “BELIEVE THE OPPOSITE OF WHATEVER DAN SAYS ABOUT BISEXUAL FOLKS,” and call it a day.

That’s pretty good, actually. Do that. But I won’t quite call it a day. Here’s a list, as those seem quite popular on the internet.

1. Bi folks, when they want to be, are quite capable of monogamy. Monogamy may not be their cup of tea, but it’s not a lot of other folks’ either. Better advice on this point is: date people who have similar views/hopes around monogamy or polyamory as you do. Talk about that shit before it presents itself as an issue. Seriously, don’t make assumptions.

2. Bi folks, like the rest of humanity, fall all along the Kinsey scale. Some may never even act on same/similar gender attraction, and some may act on it almost exclusively. It’s not a compulsion, and it’s ridiculous to imply that eventually, that bi boyfriend of yours is going to have to hook up with a woman, and will choose her over you because privilege.

3. Bisexuality is a valid sexual orientation. Some folks are attracted to all  of the gender possibilities. I heard a friend once describe her own bisexuality as being attracted to a person, not their genitals. Other folks might just enjoy a variety of genitals. Either way, or in any other way, it’s valid.

4. Dan Savage doesn’t want to hook up with bi guys, so bi guys, stay away from Dan Savage.

Cardinal Rule: Bisexuality is truth for many people, and they aren’t inherently scoundrels incapable of long term same gender relationships. Don’t make assumptions about what your partner expects, talk about it.

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Strike a Match or Slam the Door: Can I Rekindle a Friendship with a Rapist?

Question: Hello! I’ve never written in to anyone for advice before but I’m feeling overwhelmed and scared and I figured I’ll give this a shot.
The basic situation is this, about a year and a half ago I found out from a former high school friend that an incredibly close friend of mine had raped her when we were in high school. I didn’t know how to deal with the situation (and I still don’t, thus writing in to you).
My initial response was to cut him out of my life. I didn’t tell him anything about why I was no longer contacting him and why I stopped responding to his texts and e-mails. I just cut him out cold turkey. I went from spending at least one night a week hanging out with this person to absolutely no contact. I didn’t think I could deal with anything else.
 

The high school friend who he had raped would have no qualms with my directly bringing the issue up to him. I know, because I discussed this with her at length at the time. Now it’s been a year and a half and I miss him. I miss the friendship I had with him.

 

I want to believe in redemption, so part of me thinks I should contact him. But I don’t really know if that’s a good idea. So I guess my questions are, should I contact him? If so how would I even begin a dialog? Is there any hope for that friendship or should I just count it as a done deal and try to forget him?

 
Sincerely,
Conflicted and Confused
Hey, C&C.
I am very sorry that your friend was raped. I am glad she told you, and I am glad you showed her support.
So, you talked to your friend, the survivor, who said she would be okay with you talking to him about what happened. I am wondering how she would feel if you were to rekindle your friendship with him-have you asked her that? I would let her decide, if you are still in touch with her, and I would check back in with her about talking to him directly about what happened. She may feel differently now. Because you are talking about her life, and something done to her that was very likely traumatic, she may be in a different place about having it shared. There are, of course, ways to discuss it with your old friend that don’t disclose what the survivor has shared with you.
Rekindling your friendship with this guy really does need to be predicated on some level of accountability. Most rapists rape more than once. Some advocates assert that all rapists are serial rapists, we just don’t know about it.
I bring this up because if you rekindle your friendship with him, and the issue is never raised-you never tell him why you stopped communicating, you never tell him that what he did was wrong, etc.-you are effectively giving him your permission to continue to behave in that way. Silence is tacit approval in the mind of a rapist, who is often seeking validation for his choices. And I am sure  you do not want to be complicit in the rape of someone else.
It’s reasonable to be nostalgic for an old friend, but it’s important to ask yourself if you really think the old friendship could return, given what you know now. Are you going to trust him? What will happen when/if he sexually assaults or rapes someone else? Reconnecting with this guy would mean a new kind of friendship, and he may not want one where he is expected to be accountable, and doesn’t have your complicity anymore.
In the best of circumstances, he’s gotten some help and worked through what he needs to do to be accountable. In that case, he won’t mind letting you see what that means to him, and he won’t mind you demanding accountability from him. I hate to say this, but in my experience, this is just not likely (POSSIBLE, just not likely).
Of course, he could also try to convince you that the survivor is lying, he’s a good guy, he would never do such a thing, blah blah blah. If your intention is to be a good ally to survivors in general, and your friend specifically, remaining close to him when he rejects any and all accountability brings us right back to tacit approval. Could you really continue your friendship with someone who won’t admit to this level of wrongdoing?
Cardinal Rule: It’s likely that your friendship with this guy is lost, unless he’s demonstrating accountability and you have faith that it’s real. The friendship is going to be different, and perhaps really what you should seek is closure. Check back in with your survivor friend, and ask her what would feel supportive. Being her ally is what’s most important, as she’s the one who has been harmed.

Friends in Low Places

Question: I moved with my then boyfriend to the pacific northwest 2 years ago. I was really lonely at first, so I took advantage of meetup.com and went to several different groups. I’m a crafter so I started with a local yarn crafting group. I’ve made a lot of friends in this group. We laugh, share our lives, and just generally have a good time. The organizer of the group stood up for me when I married previously mentioned bf. We are really good friends. Unfortunately, the group has had some problems recently. Back in June the organizer started her own yarn business and really became too busy to keep up with organizer duties on her own. She added a group member who has said some really hurtful things to and about me (behind my back) as a co-organizer and this person has taken the opportunity to really mess up the group dynamics. It started with little things at first, then it escalated. At the most recent meetup, a member was gone and the c0-organizer lead the group in a personal attack on the absent member. Another member of the group (who is my friend) made it clear that she wasn’t going to sit and listen to the hour long bashing session anymore. The co-organizer then proceeded to scream at her and kicked her out of the group. The group’s original organizer wasn’t there for this incident and because of that hasn’t done anything about this. When I tried to bring it up to her she defended the co-organizer and basically brushed my concerns off. I don’t know whether I should go back to the group or not. I don’t want to cut ties with the friends that I’ve gained and I feel like leaving the group would force me to do that. Do I stay and hope things get better? Or do I cut my ties and hope for the best?

Don’t Go Cutting My Yarn

Hey, Yarn, what a tough spot! I can certainly understand not wanting to lose the few good friends you’ve made being part of this group.

As you describe her, the co-organizer seems like a manipulative jerk who is feeling inordinately powerful in her new role, and there seems to be at least a few people enjoying her power trip and meanness. That’s really too bad, and immature on all of their parts, but you don’t have any control over their behavior so it may not be worth your time or the emotional cost to talk to her/them.

If you feel strongly that you need to say something to the co-organizer, do it privately and directly. She might react less harshly if there isn’t an audience to entertain. She still might not care or change, but if you feel up to trying, who knows? She may surprise you.

Alternatively, I bet you can cut ties to the group and still keep the good friends you’ve made. It sounds like the friendships have already transcended the group (which was your goal in joining, right?). Tell your friends, including the original organizer, that it’s time for you to leave the group but that you still want to be friends with them. You can tell them it’s because of the new dynamic, or you can just say you want to move on, or whatever reason you’d like, that’s up to you. Except: don’t gossip, tell them your feelings if you choose to elaborate.

Cardinal Rule: You went to a meet up, you met some good friends. Chances were high that there would be one or two in the group who wouldn’t become your pal. It’s okay to cut your losses, and cut your yarn somewhere else, with people you actually want to be around.

I Owe, I Owe, So Off to the Bedroom I Go? Nope.

content notes for sexual coercion, sexual assault, disregard for autonomy

Melissa and I snuggling.

Melissa and I snuggling.

My friend Melissa McEwan, of Shakesville, has asked me to address…well, here’s her question:

One of the positions Dan Savage has taken which has received widespread criticism is that romantic partners essentially owe each other sex.  Can you address that assertion, and why it’s a total piece of shit?

One of Dan’s oft-cited rules is the “GGG”: a partner must strive to be good in bed, be giving of equal time and attention and be game for anything (within reason). There is some science out there that has been interpreted to back up Dan’s rule, and ostensibly, GGG is about being caring and open about your desires with your partner, and as such, is reasonable advice.

But it doesn’t stop there. Dan Savage is, as Melissa pointed out, in the habit of dishing out this advice to mean that we are obliged to have sex with our partners/dates, and we are obliged to indulge all of their fantasies and fetishes without regard to our own comfort.

To be frank: this is bullshit of the highest order. Melissa brings up the very real harm that Dan Savage’s crappy advice can do. The way Dan presents it, GGG means that no one has a right to say no to their partners, and if we want to be a good partner with a lasting relationship, we will acquiesce to all of our partner’s sexual desires. He is saying this without regard to the ways that abusive partners use language like the GGG rule to manipulate and control their partners, and without regard to a rape culture that privileges the sexual desires of men to the point of entitlement.

We are never under any obligation to have sex with anyone, at any time, for any reason. Nor are we under any obligation to have whatever kind of sex our partner wants to have.

To put it another way, my body belongs to me. I will choose how and when I am sexually intimate with anyone, including my partner. I am not being selfish if I don’t want to have sex. My partner’s body belongs to her, and she will choose how and when to be sexually intimate with anyone, including me. She’s not being selfish if she doesn’t want to have sex.

When I do relationship education with young people, one of the exercises I use is a collective brainstorm of the qualities we want in a partner. The lists are long and varied. Funny, kind, ambitious, smart, hard-working, etc. I help them see that we all have different lists, different qualities that are most important. But there are three that are non-negotiable: Respectful, Trusting/Trustworthy and Safe. If we want a partner to bring these things, we must also give them.

Expecting that our partners owe us sex is not respectful, and it’s not safe. No one is entitled to sex.

Repeat, for effect: SEX IS NOT AN ENTITLEMENT.  Not even when you’re married, living together, have had sex 8,345 times, or you’re just really, really randy.

The other aspect of the GGG that disregards consent and autonomy is the idea that we should be game for anything our partner has in mind (which Dan adds a “within reason” to, but who is he kidding? I am sure a lawyer told him to add that.). Any kink they want to try, we should be open to trying.

I am not one to yuck someone else’s yum, unless it’s coercive, illegal or whatnot, but that doesn’t mean I am obliged to try out all the yums my partner might fancy. We are not obligated to participate in sexual activity that we do not want to, period.

A better piece of advice is to be game to listen to your partner’s desires. Be open to hearing what turns your partner on in his or her fantasy life. Don’t judge, but be honest with your desires. Express them, and respect your partner’s response. That’s safe, and trusting, and respectful.

Cardinal Rule: Sex should be fun, safe and consensual EVERY SINGLE TIME.  Sex is not an entitlement, nor an obligation.

Tanked Desire: Does No Sex = The End of My Relationship?

Content Notes for sex, juvenile humor, and medical issues.

Question: Other than a recent, brief and dissatisfying encounter, my SO and I haven’t had sex in a very long time. At the beginning of our relationship, we were very sexually active but my desire over the course of the last few years has completely tanked. I still very much love and am attracted to my SO, but I worry about our future. How do I regain my mojo and how do I know if this is a sign that our relationship is reaching the end?

Signed,

Worried About The End

Dear WATE,

Oh, man. I wish I had a magic pill for you to take, or a guaranteed to work recipe. This is tough, and I am sorry.

First, are there any physiological or psychological reasons for the decline in libido, like perimenopause, actual menopause, or even depression or other illnesses? You might want to investigate the side effects of medication you are on. Many common anti-depressants, for example, can cause a decrease in libido.

Second, are there environmental reasons? Did a new little person join your family in the last few years? Are you super-stressed out because of work or school or money? These things can all change our sex lives, sometimes dramatically.

And sometimes, we’re just in a rut or we just don’t want to have sex. Or,  we don’t want to have sex with the person we’re with. All of these things are okay, you are okay, and it’s normal. As far as I know, this is the least freaky thing about you. Probably.

If you’re in a rut, I suggest starting with a conversation with your SO. Does ze feel like something is amiss right now? What are the other ways the two of you find intimacy with one another? Can you identify what barriers you see or feel?

Sex is just one of the many possible ways to express and experience intimacy with a significant other, and we are all different.  Try exploring some other avenues to intimacy. What you may find is that a lack of intimacy is why the sexy times have been hard to come by. Heh. Sorry.

birds2For real, though, look for opportunities to be intimate every day. Cuddle before bed. Have dinner by candlelight, share and listen. Give each other back rubs. Play a board game. Hold hands while driving or walking around. Run errands together. Ask “getting to know you questions”, even if you think you know everything about each other.

Many of us have these romantic visions of what our sex lives are supposed to be like: spontaneous, plentiful, void of drama or misunderstandings, and perfectly matched in libido to our partner(s). That just ain’t reality, especially for the long haul. I say this as preamble to my next suggestion: plan it.

Plan a date, full of whatever is romantic for both of you, as elaborate as you want or can afford, and that you both agree to. Of course, the date may come and one or both of you is not into having sexy times, and that’s okay. But still have some romance, and keep trying. It might not be super-organic, this jump starting process. That might not feel good. Then again, maybe scheduled sexy times is just what you both want most of all! Just always keep it consensual, knowing that either one of you can change your mind or the calendar any time.

If you are really concerned that this might be the end of your relationship, what else is going on to make you feel that way? It’s quite possible to love and be attracted to someone and not want to share your life with them, or even have sex with them. A partner is so much more than an attractive person to have sex with, a partner is a complement to our lives, a companion, sometimes a co-parent, and a lover (by which I mean a person with whom one has intimacy which may or may not include sexy times in the traditional sense). A relationship is over when it is deficient in multiple areas and the efforts earnestly put toward repair don’t work.

Cardinal Rule: Prioritize intimacy over sex, and be sincere in your efforts. If  the end is nigh, you probably already know. Be gentle with yourself.

Good luck, my friend.

Savage Love Re-Answer: “Double Trouble”

Dan Savage originally answered this question at Savage Love on October 21, 2010, and he did a piss poor job of it. His answer was fraught with victim-blaming, shaming and unnecessary judgment. I have a policy of not linking to his site, but you can do an archive search at Savage Love if you really want to see the original.

Question: My husband and I have had an open marriage for the last two years. Up until five months ago, it was working beautifully. At that point, however, I was sexually assaulted by a former partner. Since that incident, I cannot stand sex with my husband. I completely flip out when he tries to initiate sexual contact. My skin crawls. I become panicked and feel repulsed. I just cannot handle it. Those times when I go along with it anyway leave me feeling enraged and disgusted.

I don’t think this is completely unheard of for someone who was relatively recently assaulted, and I am considering therapy to help me work through it. The immediate “problem” is that I have no difficulty having sex with my boyfriend. In fact, the sex with him is amazing and leaves me feeling loved and whole and wonderful.

This is breaking my husband’s heart. He has become incredibly jealous of my relationship with my boyfriend. He’s depressed. He’s angry. He accuses me of no longer loving him, and he wants me to stop sleeping with my boyfriend until our marriage is back to normal. I feel like a horrible person, but I just can’t do that. I need that outlet. I need that support. And I admit I have a hard time heartbelieving that my husband and I will ever be able to go back to the way things were before.

I feel like I’ve already lost my former partner (fucked-up though that may seem) and my husband. It kills me to think about cutting out the one positive relationship remaining. On the other hand, I do love my husband—very much—and watching him suffer like this is unbearable.

Potentially Traumatized Sexual Deviant

Dear PTSD,

Wow, I am so sorry. This all sounds so difficult, and it’s great that you are asking for help.

First things first, I strongly encourage you to seek out a trained sexual assault counselor to help you start the journey to healing. Most sexual assault service agencies provide counseling that is based on an empowerment model, and best of all:  it’s usually free for survivors. You can find out what agency serves your community through RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE. I’m not 100% in support of all of the things RAINN does, but they can connect you, immediately, to the local sexual assault service agency.  Even if you don’t have time to sit down with a counselor, you can use the crisis and support hotline.

For the affiliated troubles, it sounds like you have some hard decisions to make about your relationships with both your husband and your boyfriend. It also doesn’t sound like your husband is being very supportive (and perhaps your boyfriend is), and maybe he is feeling wounded because his wife was sexually assaulted. I have no patience for that. It didn’t happen to him.

It’s reasonable that he would have feelings like sadness or anger about the sexual assault, but it’s not reasonable for him to hold you responsible for those feelings, as if you did something to him. What does he hope to get  if you stop the sexual relationship with your boyfriend? Does he think it’s a magic fix? If you are feeling repulsed by the idea of having sex with your husband, that doesn’t have anything to do with your boyfriend. It has more to do with your husband, and his reaction to your ex sexually assaulting you.

There are  places he can seek support as the SO of a sexual assault survivor, FYI.

CARDINAL RULE: You don’t owe your husband sex, but you should probably be honest and direct. If you are feeling unsupported, say so. Let him know what might be supportive. If you are committed to staying married to him, being honest about how his demands make you feel might just be a good start to a new chapter in your lives. Maybe there is room for compromise on your sexual relationship with your boyfriend, If he’s not willing to hear it, then it may be time for some marriage-related navel-gazing for both of you.

Good luck, and again, I am so sorry that this happened to you. Keep me posted.

Cristy