Savage Love

Oct. 18th, 2017 09:18 am
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Posted by Dan Savage

Parental Controls by Dan Savage

My only child is 16 years old. He was curious about sex from a very young age and very open with me, so his interest in sexual matters gave me ample opportunity to talk with him about safety and consent. He went through a cross-dressing phase when he was small—mostly wanting to wear nail polish and try on mascara—and I felt like I navigated those waters pretty well, but his father made attempts to squelch those impulses. (He and I are divorced. He has since remarried and is less involved.) That's the background. I've always accepted that he is who he is and done my best to help guide and educate him. Then last year, I caught him trying to shoplift a pair of panties. I'm not the sort of mom who freaks out, but I made him put them back and talked to him about his actions. When I asked him why he stole them, he refused to tell me. I asked: "Did you want them to masturbate with? Did you want to wear them?" He said he wanted to try them on. I told him that if he wanted to explore, he needed to do that with a legal purchase and in the privacy of his own room. Today, I found a girl's bra in the laundry. He says he doesn't know whose it is or how it got there, but this isn't my first rodeo. What on earth do I do? If I send him to a therapist and this is about being trans or cross-dressing tendencies, I'm afraid that will shame him. However, this is now something of a criminal/ethical concern, and I want to nip that in the bud. He is in every way a wonderful human: kind, smart, funny, athletic, no drugs. Is this just the same kid who has always been curious about sex? Or are these warning signs of some sort of sexual deviance? Please help.

Mom In Sleepy South Carolina Lovingly Educates Offspring

Take a deep breath, MISSCLEO, or take two—take however many you need until you're back in touch with your inner mom, the one who doesn't freak out.

Your son may be a cross-dresser or he may be trans or he may find bras and panties titillating because women wear them and he wants to sleep with women (not be one). (Lots of gay boys are titillated by jockstraps—but a closeted gay boy can collect 'em all without freaking out his mom.) We can't know whether your son is a cross-dresser, trans, or merely titillated, MISSCLEO, but he's clearly exploring and wants to do so privately. So while he could go to his mom and ask for a pair of panties and let her know exactly how he intends to use them, he doesn't want to ask his mom for a pair of panties or share his uses for them with his mom. He knows you've always accepted him for who he is (but a reminder never hurts), so if this is about his gender identity, well, you'll have to trust that he'll share that with you when he's ready. But if this is about a kink, he may never share that info with you, because why on earth would he? Kinks are for sharing with lovers, not mothers.

Give your son some space, including the space to make his own mistakes. As teenage misbehavior goes, swiping a single pair of panties isn't exactly a crime spree. If you suspect he snuck into the girls' locker room and made off with a bra (there has to be an easier way for a guy to get his hands on a bra!), you'll want to address that with him—not the "Why do you want a bra?" part, but the risk of getting caught, suspended, expelled, or worse. There are too many prosecutors out there looking for excuses to slap the "sex offender" label on teenagers—especially in the Bible Belt.

My hunch is you don't have a sex offender on your hands or a kid drifting into organized crime. You have a slightly pervy teenage boy who's curious about sex and who may, like millions of other men, have a thing for women's undergarments. You should emphasize the Not Okay–ness of shoplifting panties from stores or stealing bras from classmates (or the siblings of friends or Laundromats or thrift stores) and the possible consequences should he get caught—theft charges, suspension/expulsion, losing friends, coming into the sights of a sex-negative prosecutor. (Seriously: A man like Harvey Weinstein gets away with assaulting women for decades, but prosecutors across the country are throwing the book at teenagers who got caught sharing pics they took of themselves with their BFs/GFs/NBFs.) But otherwise, MISSCLEO, I'm going to advise you to back the fuck off. Your son knows you love him, he knows he can talk to you about anything, and he'll confide in you if and when he's ready—if, again, this is something he needs to discuss with you at all.


My father passed away suddenly. I had a very idyllic childhood and was close to my father and my mother (who is also deceased). Upon sorting through my father's stuff after his death, I stumbled upon his erotica collection. If it were just a stack of Playboys, I would have thought nothing of it—that's just men being men. However, his collection contained material that was quite disturbing to me, including photos depicting violent sexual acts and fictional erotica books and magazines with themes of incest. Additionally, there were letters from people with whom he was obviously having extramarital affairs, including during the time that I was a child and believed that we were a "normal" family. Since discovering this, it has been hard for me to come to terms with it and think of my father in the way that I used to. I can barely stand to look at a photograph of him. I consider myself to be a sex-positive person, and I realize that even parents are entitled to be kinky, but I simply can't get over this. Any suggestions for how to deal with what I'm feeling and how to try to get past it?

Parent's Arousal Really Ended Nice Thoughts

Sex-positive, huh? Could've fooled me.

Your dad was a kinky motherfucker—you know that now—and if you've been reading Savage Love for a while, you'll know that lots of people are kinky and, distressingly, lots of people out there "enjoy" incest porn. "Of the top hundred searches by men on Pornhub," Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes in his book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, "sixteen are looking for incest-themed videos." And it's not just men: "Nine of the top hundred searches on Pornhub by women are for incest-themed videos." That's cold comfort, I realize, and it doesn't make it any less squicky, but your dad's tastes weren't as freakish as you thought and/or hoped.

As for his affairs, your happy childhood, and your suddenly conflicted feelings...

Your mother isn't with us, PARENT, so you can't ask her what her arrangement was with your father. But it's unlikely you would have had such an idyllic childhood if your parents' marriage was contentious and your mom was miserable about your dad's cheating and his kinks. It seems likely that your mom didn't have a problem with your dad's sexual interests or she tolerated them or—and I hope you're sitting down—she was an active and happy participant. (Kinky women weren't invented in a lab in San Francisco in 2008.) If your mom didn't have a problem with your dad's kinks (which she had to have known about) or his affairs (which she might not have known about), I don't see why they should be a problem for you.


On the Lovecast, Dan chats with the creator of a naughty, naughty game: savagelovecast.com.

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Savage Love

Oct. 11th, 2017 04:00 am
[syndicated profile] savagelove_feed

Posted by Dan Savage

Poly third is feeling too low in the relationship hierarchy. by Dan Savage

I'm a 25-year-old woman currently in a poly relationship with a married man roughly 20 years my senior. This has by far been the best relationship I've ever had. However, something has me a bit on edge. We went on a trip with friends to a brewery with a great restaurant. It was an amazing place, and I'm sure his wife would enjoy it. He mentioned the place to her, and her response was NO, she didn't want to go there because she didn't want to have "sloppy seconds." It made me feel dirty. Additionally, the way he brushed this off means this isn't the first time. I go out of my way to show him places I think they would like to go together. I don't know if my feelings are just hurt—if it's as childish as I think it is—or if it's a reminder of my very low place in their hierarchy. I hesitate to bring this up, because when I have needs or concerns, they label me as difficult or needy. Is this part of a bigger trend I'm missing? Should I do anything to address this or just continue to stay out of their business and go where I wish with my partner?

Treated With Outrage

I'm having a hard time reconciling these two statements, TWO: "This has by far been the best relationship I've ever had" and "when I have needs or concerns, they label me as difficult or needy." I suppose it's possible all your past relationships have been so bad that your best-relationship-ever bar is set tragically low. But taking a partner's needs and concerns seriously is one of the hallmarks of a good relationship, to say nothing of a "best relationship ever."

That said... I don't know you or how you are. It's entirely possible that you share your needs and concerns in a way that comes across as—or actually is—needy and difficult. Our experience of interpersonal relationships, like our experience of anything and everything else, is subjective. One person's reasonable expression of needs/concerns is another person's emotionally manipulative drama. I would need to depose your boyfriend and his wife, TWO, to make a determination and issue a ruling.

That said... It's a really bad sign that your boyfriend's wife compared eating in a restaurant you visited with him to fucking a hole that someone else just fucked, i.e., "sloppy seconds." It has me wondering whether your boyfriend's wife is really into the poly thing. Some people are poly under duress (PUD), i.e., they agreed to open up a marriage or relationship not because it's what they want, but because they were given an ultimatum: We're open/poly or we're over. In a PUD best-case scenario, the PUD partner sees that their fears were overblown, discovers that poly/open works for them, embraces openness/polyamory, and is no longer a PUD. But PUDs who don't come around (or haven't come around yet) will engage in small acts of sabotage to signal their unhappiness—their perfectly understandable unhappiness. They didn't want to be open/poly in the first place and are determined to prove that open/poly was a mistake and/or punish their ultimatum-issuing partner. The most common form of PUD sabotage? Making their primary partner's secondary partner(s) feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.

That said... As you (probably) know (but if you don't, you're about to find out), poly relationships have all kinds of (sometimes incredibly arbitrary but also incredibly important) rules. If one of their rules is "My wife doesn't want to hear from or about my girlfriend," TWO, then your restaurant recommendations are going to fall flat. Being poly means navigating rules (and sometimes asking to renegotiate those rules) and juggling multiple people's feelings, needs, and concerns. You have to show respect for their rules, TWO, as they are each other's primary partners. But your boyfriend and his wife have to show respect for you, too. Secondary though you may be, your needs, concerns, feelings, etc., have to be taken into consideration. And if their rules make you feel disrespected, unvalued, or too low on the hierarchical poly totem pole, you should dump them.


My wife said she didn't care who I slept with soon after we met. At the time, I didn't want to sleep with anyone else. But we eventually became monogamish—it started as me texting her a fantasy while I was at work, and that fantasy was waiting for me when I got home—it was fun, but it wasn't something I needed. After a couple years of playing together with others in private and in clubs, she said she wanted to open our relationship. I got a girlfriend, had fun until the new relationship energy (NRE) wore off, and ended things. Then my wife got a great job on the other side of the state and I stayed behind to get our house into a sellable condition. Right now, we see each other only on weekends. I also got a new girlfriend. The NRE wore off, but we still really like each other, and we've discussed being long-distance secondaries once the move is complete. Here's the problem: Last night, my wife confessed to me that being in an open relationship was making her miserable. Not just my current girlfriend, whose monopoly over my time during the week could be a legitimate cause for concern, but going back to the previous girlfriend I saw only one night a week. I told my wife that I would break up with my girlfriend immediately. My wife is the most important person in my life, and I don't want to do anything to hurt her. But my wife told me not to break up with my girlfriend. I don't want to string my girlfriend along and tell her everything is fine—but my wife, who doesn't want to be poly anymore, is telling me not to break up with my girlfriend. What do I do?

Dude Isn't Content Knowing Priority Is Crushingly Sad

Your wife may want you to dump your girlfriend without having to feel responsible for your girlfriend's broken heart, DICKPICS, so she tells you she's miserable and doesn't want to be poly anymore, and then tells you not to end things. Or maybe this is a test: Dumping a girlfriend you didn't have to dump would signal to your wife that she is, indeed, the most important person in your life and that you will prioritize her happiness even when she won't. Or maybe she's watched you acquire two girlfriends without landing a boyfriend of her own.

But there's a middle ground between dumped and not dumped, DICKPICS: Tell your girlfriend what's going on—she has a right to know—and put the relationship on hold. Get the house sold, get your ass to your wife, and keep talking until you figure out what is going to work for your wife going forward: completely closed, open but only to sexual adventures you two go on together, i.e., "playing together with others in private and in clubs," or open with GFs (and BFs) allowed. Good luck.


I don't know if I'm poly or not. I mean, Jesus H. Christ, this has been so difficult. How do I know when to go back to monogamy?

Pretty Over Lusty Yearnings

I don't think you're poly, POLY, because I don't think anyone is poly. I also don't think anyone is monogamous. Polyamory and monogamy aren't sexual orientations, IMO, they're relationship models. And if the polyamorous model is making you miserable, POLY, it might not be right for you. But you should ask yourself whether polyamory is making you miserable or if the people you are doing polyamory with are making you miserable. People in awful monogamous relationships rarely blame monogamy for their woes—even when monogamy is a factor—but the stigma against nontraditional relationship models, to say nothing of sex-negativity, often lead people to blame polyamory for their misery when the actual cause isn't the model, POLY, it's the people.


On the Lovecast,Polyamory, Dom/sub relationships, and Wonder Woman: savagelovecast.com

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