Doc, I was hoping you could help me with something. I’m a 30 year old guy who was sexually abused as a child by a woman. When I was younger, dating and even flirting with women brought about anxiety and a vague sense of dread. A few years ago, I got myself into therapy, started being more mindful of things that trigger me and subsequently got much more confident around women. I’ve been doing the online dating thing for the last couple of years and it’s generally been a good experience. Even when the women haven’t been a good match for me, I’ve generally enjoying meeting and talking to new people. As a result of my abuse though, I’m not really capable of physical intimacy with women until I get to know them a bit and feel comfortable around them. I usually tell them that, “I just want to take things slowly,” since I don’t feel like disclosing my abuse to people that I’ve just been on a date or two with. Unfortunately, many of the women are totally baffled by a guy who turns down sex and they often get upset. The last girl I went on a few dates with actually called me a faggot for not wanting to sleep with her. Is there a way that I can communicate my boundaries while making it clear that I’m still interested? Thank you Dr. NerdLove you’re my only hope!
Don’t Know What to Say
First of all, DKWTS, I’m sorry for what you went through and I’m proud of you for not only having survived it but for having been strong enough to get help and work through your issues. It’s entirely understandable that you have scars from your experience – after all, you went through some hellish shit! – but those scars aren’t something to be ashamed of. They’re proof that you’ve been through the shit and came out on the other side.
So far, you’re doing the right thing for you: taking your time and establishing a level of comfort and trust with the women you’re interested in and that’s good. You’ve got every right to want sex on terms that make you the most comfortable and feel safe. From the sounds of things, it sounds like you’re having two issues. The first is communication. It’s a social trope that all guys are horny at all times and can’t wait to bone. Sometimes when a guy wants to take things at a slower pace, this gets read by others as “not actually interested”. Now you don’t say where your limits are and depending on how you’ve set them, this may cause some confusion; if you’re uncomfortable with, say, kissing or making out, it’s understandable that – even when you say you want to take things slowly – that women may feel as though they’re getting mixed signal, especially on the first couple date. If there’s no sign of physical chemistry, even a good night kiss, then your date may think you’re just not interested in her at all or that you’re only interested in her as friends. If you’re setting the bar towards heavy fooling around (mutual masturbation, oral, etc.) or penetrative sex, then it’s a bit easier to explain.
Either way: you want to say more than just “I want to take things slowly”. Frame it as being part of who you are, not anything about them. Say “Hey just so you know: I think you’re amazingly hot and incredible and I’m attracted to you, but I really prefer to go slow when I’m with someone I really like. It’s just my thing.” And you leave it there. It’s short, simple and respectful. It won’t be a big deal because you’re not treating it like a big deal, and others will take your lead. If they push for details, just reiterate: “Its just my thing”. You don’t need to explain or justify it. The women who are right for you will understand and respect that. When you do have that level of trust and comfort, you’ll have established that attraction and you’ll seem like you’re just practicing restraint or are the sort of person who has a slow-burn rather than not being interested. When you know them better and feel comfortable with them, you can explain. But until then: “It’s just my thing. It’s just how I am. That’s all. No big deal.”
And by the by, DKWTS, thank whatever gods you believe in that you didn’t sleep with that last girl you mentioned. Between tossing “faggot” out as an insult and berating you for having boundaries, you very clearly dodged a massive bullet. Her shitty attitude and behavior is on her, not on you. That woman volunteered her status as an asshole right up front and life is too damn short for dealing with (or dating) assholes.
But you see: that’s the great thing about having boundaries: you filter out the assholes who don’t respect them or try to push past them.
I just read your article about Michael Douglas and HPV. Here’s the thing: I’m a 23 year old virgin who would love one day to experience some dating and romance in his life. I feel pretty confident in myself that I can achieve this. That being said when I read articles like the one you posted about hpv it scares the daylights out of me. It make me feel like you’d have to be crazy to want to have any kind of sex with all of the life altering diseases and viruses out there. Is this just crazy thinking? My mind has been worked up over this. I mean sex is such an important part of life and from reading things like that it feels like “stay alive and well or get laid”. Could I be a carrier for something without sex? Should virgins test for these things too? Any thoughts on this would be wonderful.
Nervous In Newark
Aaaand this is why I hate the state of sex education in this country. There’s nothing like selling bullshit and ignorance to terrify people and making reliable, accurate information harder to get to.
Nervous, I’ve written a no-bullshit guide to STD’s here, but the long and short of it is: life has risks. Sex has risks like snowboarding and skiing have risks. Those risks can be mitigated through knowledge, proper use of equipment and care, but not entirely eliminated; it’s on you to decide whether the experience is worth the risks. Now that being said: we tend to overreact to the ideas of STI’s. STIs are simply not a big deal. Don’t get me wrong: they’re not pleasant and some when untreated can cause major health issues, but the panic over them stigmatizes the issue and makes it far less likely for people to get tested. If they don’t get tested, they (and their partners) can’t get treated. And most of the time, the treatment’s pretty damn simple.
Is it possible to have an infection without having had sex? Yes, actually. The common cold sore – which most people have – is the herpes SV1 virus and is spread via skin-to-skin contact while the virus is shedding. You can be exposed to an STI via non penis-in-vagina-or-anus sex by contact with sexual fluids like semen, pre-ejaculate or vaginal secretions. Should you worry about these? Well, there’s a point to being careful but it’s also possible to go from “careful” to “paranoid”. It all depends on the level of risk you’re willing to accept. The best things you can do is get tested regularly (ask for the full spectrum of tests; most standard STI tests only check for chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV) and use condoms religiously, every time you have sex – no excuses. The only time you don’t use condoms is if you’re in a mutually monogamous relationship and you’ve both been tested.
Look, I get that it’s scary. You’re picturing all the worst case scenarios and horrified reactions from other people. But it’s not that big of a deal. Keep your head about you, get tested, use condoms. You’ll be fine.
(Remember: Dr. NerdLove is not really a doctor. If you have questions about STIs, the best person to talk to is a medical professional. When in doubt, contact your local Planned Parenthood; they’ll be able to answer any questions you have.)
Please help me, Dr. NerdLove.
My now ex-husband and I had a threesome. It was always a fantasy of mine to be with a woman. I wanted him to just watch but he said I was being selfish so I said he can join. Not only did he penetrate but he also came inside of her and that tore me up. I did agree to the threesome but seeing him cum inside her was something I could never forget it. Was it wrong of me to feel like that if I’m the one who initially wanted it?
Oof. Remember what I said about assholes pushing past people’s boundaries earlier? This is what it looks like.
Conflicted, the way you feel is entirely correct. An important part of any successful threesome is establishing firm rules and guidelines before you’re in the bedroom – and preferably before you’re picking out your third. The reason for this is because you ideally want to avoid what happened here: people get hurt. Now you haven’t given me much information to work with – you don’t say whether you established that this was supposed to be about just him watching you be with another woman or you all decided this in the moment. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a bad idea to decide on rules while you’re all naked and horny; what seems like a great idea in the heat of the moment often is the cause for regret later on. But even if communication was poor, there’s a lot of badness involved here.
You established the rules for your encounter – you wanted your ex-husband to watch while you were with your third. Your husband decided in the middle of things that he wasn’t cool with this and demanded to be more active. This is a big no-no: no changing the rules in the middle of things. If you want to do things differently, you do it again. But changing things up before everyone’s had a chance to think it through is a bad, bad idea.
The fact that he was pressuring you into changing the rules – calling you selfish and implying that you owed this to him – is supremely shitty behavior on his part.
The other mistake made here was your husband finishing in your guest. This is a really bad idea for a couple’s first threesome, especially if they’ve been strictly monogamous up until now. The generally accepted rule for threesomes: the primary couple gets most of the attention – including his orgasm – unless explicitly and specifically negotiated otherwise. As you found out the hard way: making decisions in the moment can lead to people being hurt.
So, no Conflicted, it’s not wrong for you to feel hurt. Your husband’s actions were selfish and inconsiderate at best, actively shitty at worst and ended up causing you pain. Sounds like you’re well rid of him. If you decide to have another threesome again in the future – and honestly, I can hardly blame you if this experience turned you off them entirely – make sure it’s with people you trust and establish the ground rules long before your clothes come off.