Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sex & Relationship Advice

Let me start by saying I am not a mental health professional, I hold no advanced degrees in counseling or psychology, and I don't take payments of any kind from people whose questions I answer. My background, if you must know, is in creative writing and political science. I have always been very open about my credentials, or lack thereof as a sex advice/relationship advice columnist/blogger/tweeter. I am someone who has had a lot of sex and someone who is in a healthy long-term relationship. Most, if not all, of the questions I get are innocuous and are answered with reassurances and never with medical advice which I am not qualified to give.

Part of why I think I get sex advice question and why sex advice is actually something fairly common in the U.S. is that the sex education in this country sucks. I came out at 14, so I went through the vast majority of high school as an out lesbian. Do you know how much sex education in high school dealt with LGBT issues? None. Gay teen boys in my high school didn't know the first thing about the risks of anal sex and lesbian girls weren't told word one about dental dams. Never mind that the straight students weren't properly advised on safe-sex (we were an abstinence only sex ed school so we had TONS of pregnant teens and STDs). I don't advise teenagers, I don't know how to set up sex education programs, but with the current state of things, it's not remotely surprising to me that many of the questions I get are from 18-20 year old lesbians who have no idea what is going on. I advocate for a more inclusive, more comprehensive, and more preventative system of sex-education in this country, but I do not include freelance sex advice columnists in this equation.

I've often made the joke that the only difference between a sex advice columnist and a loud-mouth slut was only one of them had a publisher willing to print what they said (Thank you Sass Magazine!). My advice is based on my experience and belief of what is healthy sexual practices for adults and how to maintain healthy relationships. My views do not encompass all lesbian or female opinions and I'm always open when I know very little about something and will usually do the necessary background research to inform myself before answering (even if it means watching gushing videos...which I did, and I'm scarred). The beautiful thing about this is, I invite other opinions and answers on these blogs and my column at the magazine. There's a comment section for both. If anyone thinks they can answer the question better, by all means, answer and give the reader another choice to consider; I won't delete anyone for disagreeing with me. If people want to ask a dozen sex advice columnists, their personal therapist, and spiritual guru and then pick their top three favorite answers, that is fine by me. I do not pretend to know everything and I won't claim I have the one true answer to any question.

What I hope people will get from my columns, blogs, and tweets is entertainment and much-needed reassurance and direction in pursuing sexual and relationship fulfillment. I like to think I'm at least a little bit funny in text, I have an extremely active sex life with my partner that includes tons of experimentation, and I'm just offering a perspective I think might be missing from the overcrowded landscape.

To quickly cover a couple of questions I've received through Twitter:

The first question came from a first time bisexual/potential future lesbian who was just now experimenting with her first possible girlfriend in her early twenties. She was concerned because, in the past, her male lovers had failed to bring her any real satisfaction or pleasure (I'm hoping this was a big tip off that she might be gay). So she expressed a concern that she didn't want to be the same lousy lay her boyfriends were in the past. She wanted to know what she should do to make sure she brought pleasure to her new partner, and asked me for advice on how to do that. (By the way, this is the question I get most often)

Valid question and valid concerns. I can just hear all the other lesbians in my readership pulling out their frustrated hair about yet another "bisexual" college girl who is sick of men and deciding to experiment with women. Ladies, take a moment, calm down, and let's give the benefit of the doubt. Let's also give me a little credit...>:)

My very first advice is: go down on the girl. In fact, this is a requirement. Let's call this one of the true litmus tests for bisexuality or lesbianism. If you like eating pussy, you're at least in the running. Having a girl eat you out is not going to cover experimentation and it certainly won't help in the quest to please your partner. My dear, you must eat pussy in your first sexual encounter.

Second piece of advice is to make use of your natural home-field advantage. You have a pussy and breasts and so does she, so you have at least a starting point to figuring out what she likes by starting with what you like and adjusting from there. You also know what a clit looks like and where it is, so you've already got a head start over the boyfriends who couldn't get you off.

Which brings me to the third piece of advice: pay attention and ask questions. Physiological cues aren't exactly difficult to read. A bored look in the eye or screaming and bucking can tell you which direction you should go in and what you should do more of or less of. If you're getting confused by the body signs, for fuck sake, pull the vagina over to the side of the road and ask for directions. Odds are, she's just waiting for you to ask. If she's a shy girl who doesn't want to physically tell you, ask her to guide your hand or head, or simply emote in a certain way, "yes, yes, YES!" can be as clear of a message as "lick my clit in circles." She might find something new that she likes that no one has ever bothered trying with her in this type of sexual hotter/colder game too.

The second question I got was from a young woman who was looking for advice on how to start coming out to her family and friends this summer, which I thought was a lovely project to work on over the break. I also would love to see a society in the future that nobody would ever have to ask this sort of question because being gay wouldn't be so stigmatized that we had to have a potentially life-threatening and/or life-altering event like coming out. Of course, most of us live in a country where gay marriage bans are still getting voted into existence and gay hate crimes still occur on a daily basis, so I'll set aside my dreams of utopia and answer.

Step 1: Create a list - This list should evaluate everyone you need to come out to based on how they are likely to react. These are your friends and loved ones, so you should be able to assess in general terms what you think they might say or do. Also order who you need to come out to based on who can help you come out to the rest of the list so you can come out to them first and have some allies. Also figure out who is a giant blabber mouth who might come out to everyone for you in a really unpleasant, gossipy way and you can tell them last, the lousy snitches.

Step 2: Use your list wisely - As I said before, life-threatening is an increasingly rare side-effect of coming out, but by no means an impossibility. If you have someone on your list who has the potential to react violently, do your coming out in a public place or with defenders around. Protect yourself through preparation even if you only think someone MIGHT react badly. Don't sacrifice your safety for their feelings.

Step 3: Get your support system in order - This is going to be rough and emotional and draining and you are going to need some help. If you don't have much of a support system, find a Gay and Lesbian support group or center to help you out. These exist nearly everywhere and are plentiful online if you live in the boonies. This can also be accomplished by coming out to your biggest fans first (usually your mom and best friend) and then having them help you complete the rest of your list.

Step 4: Accept that you might lose people - Coming out isn't like the Navy SEALs or Avenger's League or whichever one doesn't leave people behind. You might run into family members or friends who are not okay with it and plan on making it known how not okay they are with it every chance they get. Let them know that you love them, you wish they would change their mind, but if they can't accept you for who you are, then they don't need to be in your life until they can. This is hard (see the support group you made in step 3 to help you through). Friends and family do not have eternal, unrestricted access to you just because they are your friends and family. If they're going to be dicks about it, you don't need to talk to or see them. Denying them access to you will preserve your sanity and emotional health, and will give them a good reason to change their attitude.

Step 5: Coming out doesn't have to mean to the world - Out and proud is great, and I encourage it, and I love living my life this way, but I'm not out to everyone simply because my 75-year-old Korean grandma living in Korea can just live out the rest of her days not knowing. It's a hassle I don't need, a strain on her she doesn't need, and it just doesn't come up often enough for it to be worth the inevitable explosion that would ripple out to rest of my family. If things change, I can change my plan, but for the time being, I'll let time and death do what time and death do. Make up your own mind on whether or not you have relatives you feel this way about, you may not, or you may think the blowup is worth it, I can't decide that for you, but I do think it is an option to leave on the table when making your list.

Step 6: Enjoy your new life as out and proud! It's a wonderful world and we're glad to have you in it.


Theresa said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I've already come out to 5 of my very closest friends, so I've got a support system in place. I will keep your advice in mind as I go about my "coming out tour" this summer! I'll keep in touch..


Cassandra Duffy said...

I'm so glad to hear you got a good start. Enjoy your summer of coming out!

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