I’m a 23-year-old cishet man with very little experience in sex and dating. Throughout high school, I was a shy guy who had little confidence in myself and it wasn’t until college that I finally got the courage to tell my crushes how I feel. I’ve experienced many rejections since then, got my first kiss when I was 21, and finally lost my virginity at 22 (although I didn’t cum). So very little experience overall. I really want a romantic relationship but fear that my anxiety around women and my inexperience with sex will lower my chances. And there’s also a big problem with my sex drive that I fear will fuck me up in dating.
I have a sneezing/big nose fetish.
I’ve known that I had it since I was 10 years old. I don’t know why, but I do. And ever since I first started masturbating, sneezing porn/ big nose porn is the only reliable thing that gets me off. Lately, I have tried jerking off to regular porn, but it’s really hard to feel the same pleasure. And I don’t get hard when I simply look at a naked woman (boobs, butts, etc.) but I do get hard when I look at a girl with a big nose, or a girl sneezing. It’s really embarrassing, and it’s a part of myself I’m deeply ashamed of, if I’m being honest.
My first sexual partner, I was not able to orgasm with her because I thought it would be weird if I played with her nose. Of course, I was also under a lot of anxiety, so that might have been a factor, and it was also that anxiety that led me to break things off with her, despite the fact that she really liked me.
I really just want to be able to have sex just from looking at an attractive woman, but it seems that the only porn that gets me off is my fetish-y porn. I should mention that “sparks” and general intimacy arouses me, but I don’t know if it’s so much to do with the woman’s body as it is just the good feelings of the chemistry between us. Which may be a hopeful sign, maybe I’m just demisexual.
I don’t know, Doc, I am so confused. Have I ruined my potential sex life forever by exclusively jerking off to fetish porn my entire adolescent and adult life? Or is it still possible for me to find sexual pleasure in the way most guys do?
Would really appreciate your advice if you have any. I rarely ever tell anyone about this, but I’m a huge fan of your advice so I hope you would have some wisdom.
Gonzo The Great
So before I get to your question, GtG, let’s talk a little about fetishes and kinks. One of the interesting quirks of the human psyche is how polymorphously perverse we can be. We as a species are able to get aroused by… well, damn near anything, honestly. One of the oldest jokes on the Internet is Rule 34: if it exists, somebody has made porn of it. There is almost literally nothing that exists that hasn’t caught someone’s attention and made think think “Hmm… I could masturbate to this”.
And I do mean literally. People get off to women popping balloons by sitting on them, women smoking or coughing, being consumed whole, tickling or being tickled, robots, zombies, mythological creatures, or even unusually-sized, non-sexual body parts… including big noses. (Link is NSFW for obvious reasons). In fact, a search for “nose fetish” on Porn Hub brings up literally thousands of videos. While having what’s known as a paraphilia — defined as an intense sexual arousal caused by or in response to atypical objects, situations, fantasies, behaviors, or individuals — may seem unusual, far, far more people have paraphilias that the general public would suspect. In fact, in his book Perv: The Sexual Deviant In All of Us, author and sex researcher Jesse Bering suggests that this sort of sexual deviation is actually much closer to the norm than being outre or unusual.
So, while Gonzo’s letter sounds made up — and who knows, it could still be; it’s still worth talking about — a sneeze fetish is, in fact, a real thing, and one that’s surprisingly common (Again: link is NSFW for obvious reasons).
Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about your issues, GtG.
First and foremost: no, you haven’t ruined your sex life forever by getting off to fetish porn. Despite what dodgy research and even more dodgy subreddits will tell you: no, masturbating to porn doesn’t create a weird resistance where you have to keep getting more and more extreme just to get off. The issue here is that you have a paraphilia; in this case: you’re turned on by large noses and sneezing. Porn that doesn’t have these features isn’t going to be quite the same to you because hey, that’s not necessarily what arouses you. Someone who’s exclusively or primarily attracted to folks with vaginas isn’t going to get as aroused by porn that’s all penises and nothing else.
(I say as around because hey, some folks do. Human sexuality is a veritable smorgasbord.)
Is this a thing you could train yourself out of? Not necessarily. You could try starving yourself of fetish porn for a few months until your brain is so desperate to get off that standard mainstream porn gets you close enough, but that’s not going to “cure” your fetish. Fetishes aren’t things that go away; people may develop new ones, but they rarely get rid of old ones. But honestly, having a fetish — especially one that’s relatively harmless, like yours — isn’t automatically a problem. It can be a problem if the fetish is physically dangerous or revolves around people or creatures who can’t give consent. But something as minor as noses or sneezing? That’s not that much of an issue; everybody sneezes and there’re plenty of folks out there with noses that don’t conform to the Western European physiognomy or beauty ideal.
The place where this could be tricky is whether this is what’s known as an “optional” or “preferred” paraphilia — that is, one that gets you off or one that you would rather have, but you don’t need in order to become aroused — or a exclusive one.
Now, from what you describe about your first time, it doesn’t sound like you have an exclusive paraphilia; you were aroused by your partner, you were able to have penetrative sex, you just didn’t actually get off. While it’s not impossible that this was because you need a little nose-play, I suspect that nerves had far, far more to do with it. Dicks tend to be divas; if things aren’t perfect, they’ll often refuse to perform as needed. Having a bad case of nerves, especially if you’re feeling weird or ashamed of your fetish, is a great way to ensure that you’re not going to be able to orgasm for love nor money. You’re too caught up in your own head and your own worries to actually be in the moment with your partner. Get too wound up about “oh god, she’s going to think I’m a freak and hate me if she knew what I was really into,” and yeah, you’re probably not going to be going anywhere near orgasm.
On the other hand, if you had a partner who was cool with the fact that you were into sneezing? I rather imagine you wouldn’t be having any problems whatsoever. The same goes for if you were able to accept that hey, this is just who you are and what you’re into. It’s a little unusual, but hardly unknown or even all that weird. Hell, sneezing is physiologically similar to orgasm; you have the initial sensitivity that builds to the plateau, followed by the muscle contractions and release. The purpose isn’t exactly the same, but the build up of tension and the sudden release are pretty damn close.
If you start just being willing to own that these are the things you’re into and all they do is make you uniquely you, I think you’ll be much happier. It also means that you’ll want to prioritize finding a partner who’s what Dan Savage calls “GGG”: good in bed, giving of pleasure and game for trying different things within reason. Someone who’s willing to throw back a little pepper on occasion or who’s charmed by a sneeze being your equivalent to “Tish! You spoke French!” is going to be a much better partner overall than someone who thinks that your being turned on by sneezes is creepy or weird.
All that being said: you don’t exactly explain what “playing with her nose” would mean in terms of sex. That might be were you’re going to find some resistance; someone sticking a finger or tongue up their nostril may well be more than they’re willing to try. If that’s an absolute must have, that may well limit your dating pool. If it’s something that you would like but don’t need? Then that’s something you may be able to discuss a little later on, when you and your future partner have built up trust and openness. However, there’s absolutely nothing that says that can’t be part of the video playing in your head while you’re having sex; whatever goes on between your ears while you’re banging is your business, not theirs.
And incidentally: while nobody likes to be reduced to a single body part or set of body parts, there’s a lot to be said for finding a person who’s into you because of the thing that makes you unique, sets you apart or that other people insist makes you less attractive… like, say, a nose that’s not a perfect, dainty ski-slope.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one that’s written in with issues regarding the Cororna-crisis going on across the world right now, but I’ve been trying to come to a conclusion with myself and I’m not entirely certain if I can. Not while the crisis is going on.
I’ve been going out with my girlfriend for almost three years now. We got along really well at first, and because of some life happenings we may have moved much faster than we originally intended. She had her living space essentially sold out from beneath her, moved in with a coworker who then kicked her out, and then I offered her a space with me. That worked out well enough, well enough that when I was offered a job in Silicon Valley I invited her to join me.
She accepted and we seemed to be doing well enough together, but there were already problems, and it feels like COVID has been enhancing those problems dramatically.
I’m 35, cis male, and she’s 28, cis female. However, I’m pretty much asexual. I still troll through reddit and whatever because I like the… idea… of sex… I guess, the fantasy? But I can quite literally go for months completely content without having any physical interaction with another human, and not really get upset about it. My partner, however, has a normal sex drive. When we do it, she seems to enjoy it quite a bit, and I try to be an active, caring, and attentive lover, but honestly I just don’t really get much from it. Not much more than simple masturbation… possibly less.
When my partner and I first met, she had just come off a fairly major relationship and in her efforts to recover from that relationship, she lost an incredible amount of weight and had been taking serious efforts to take care of herself. It was one of the reasons why I was attracted to her at first. However, since we’ve been together, especially since she moved in with me, the things that I liked about her — her drive, her “go for it,” attitude, her desire to change herself and bend the world around her — has… slowly died off. She has gained back almost all of the weight that she had lost, she’s disconnected from her business venture that she was heavily involved in when we first met, she’s not doing her art, she doesn’t take proper care of her dog, any number of issues and it’s been progressive. Getting worse and worse as time goes on.
The concern I have is that it may have been me that killed off that part of her. I was in a long-term relationship (almost 10 years) before I met her and we started dating and I was attracted to my now-ex for much the same reasons. She was an artist, going to school, had a strong attitude and opinion about things and had a goal in life. But as time went on through that relationship those goals just kept falling to the side or being slowly strangled away.
Is it me? Am I just… toxic to the people that I get into a relationship with because I’m just attracted to my opposites?
Thank you for all your years of advice Doc,
On the one hand, CV, I’m a believer that when you’re running into the same issues in your relationships, you need to look for the commonalities. And sometimes the only thing all those relationships had in common is, well, you.
On the other hand, I’m also a believer that when you hear hoofbeats, you think “horses”, not “zebra”. And while it’s possible that you are somehow responsible for your past partners losing their drive and goals… it’s probably a good idea to look at other, more likely culprits first.
In the case of your current girlfriend, what you describe sounds a lot like symptoms of depression. People tend to think that depression is “the blues”, where you’re sad and mopey all the time. In reality, depression tends to feel a lot more like just being… numb, and empty. Like everything is pointless and the things that you used to enjoy simply don’t bring you pleasure any more. In fact, one of the most significant indicators of depression is a loss of energy and drive; you don’t really give much of a shit about anything because it doesn’t matter and it’s just not worth it.
(If you ever want to see one of the best representations of what depression looks like, check out Pixar’s Inside Out. The way Riley acts and behaves when Joy and Sadness fuck off the job is possibly one of the most accurate and realistic depictions of what life with depression is like that I’ve ever seen.)
And in fairness: your girlfriend has been through a lot. Having had one home yanked out from under her, getting kicked out from another living space and the disruptions and stress that come from life under quarantine, especially in an area that’s been hit pretty goddamn hard? Yeah, that’s going to throw even the most well-adjusted person for a loop. So if she was already dealing with depression — and people who seem to be doing great and have their life together can still wrestle with depression — I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if all that kicked her legs out from under her.
At the same time, you don’t give enough information about your previous girlfriend to really say one way or another. It could well be that as time moved on, her priorities changed, she had setbacks that changed her mind or she simply wasn’t able to make those dreams come true and she let them go. Is it possible that you somehow strangled her goals and dreams? Fucked if I know. Did you? Did you discourage her from doing the things she loved, tell her that she needed a backup plan, try to keep her away from the circles of friends who might have encouraged her or helped her pursue those goals? You tell me, hoss; I’m an advice columnist, not an oracle.
One area where you might be an influence is sex. You don’t mention whether your partners know that you’re asexual, which could be an issue. While you’re willing to provide for your partner in bed, if she feels like you’re just going through the motions… that can be a little dehumanizing. Especially if she doesn’t know that your libido is much, much lower than hers. If she feels like you’ve lost attraction to her, or feels like maybe you were never into her in the first place, that can make any feelings of depression worse.
On the other hand, if she knows that you’re functionally ace, but she also knows that while you may not get much from sex, you derive pleasure from pleasing her… that’s a different situation entirely. I may not dig fennel or green peppers, but making an amazing fennel, pepper and garlic stew for my partner would make me happy because of how much she loves it and I like making it for her even if I won’t have any.
But influence isn’t the same as “cause”. It might — and I stress might — be a contributing factor, but it’s not going to be the only factor even if it is. And if it is… well, first you deal with what’s making her miserable, then you work on compromises that work for the both of you.
All that having been said: there are two things that should happen here.
First: you should examine your relationships and how you behave with your partners. If you don’t trust your own judgement, try reaching out to friends whose opinions you trust, friends who know you and your girlfriend (or your ex) and have seen you together. How do they think you behave during relationships? Do they have concerns, or does everything seem ok to them? They may not be able to say definitively — God knows what looks fine and happy to people on the outside may be a goddamn nightmare to the people involved — but they may be able to at least give you some perspective.
Second: you should really encourage your girlfriend to talk to a counselor or therapist. Those changes you describe scream “depression” to me, and that’s not something that gets better on its own. Talking to a therapist can help root out whether this is an emotional or biochemical issue, help her find a course of treatment that will work for her, or possibly even direct her to a psychiatrist if she needs medical assistance. It may take time to find the most effective treatment for her; it may even take a combination of treatments and therapies. But if this is ongoing and progressive? Then it’s time to get a mental health professional involved, not just a loudmouth with an advice column.