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Should I Date Someone I’m Not Attracted To?

Dear Yana,

I met a girl on a dating app. It was sort of an accidental swipe, but we started chatting and met up. She was really cool to hang out with, but physically, I didn’t find her very attractive. We kept talking and started spending time together.

Now it has been a couple of months, and I’m having some reservations. Even though we really enjoy spending time together, I’m just not attracted to her physically, and it is starting to take a toll. She’s getting more attached, but this is becoming more of a mental block for me. I feel like Shallow Hal, and if it wasn’t for the lack of physical attraction, things would be great.

How do I get over this? Am I just being shallow?

— Getting Too Deep in the Shallow End

Dear Too Deep,

For most people, attraction is an instant, uncontrollable urge that tends to be physically motivated. Emotional attachment and intimacy, however, is usually a slower burn. If your initial attraction sticks as you get to the know the person, it can fan those emotional attachment flames, or perhaps your automatic attraction will fizzle and fade over time.

Or maybe you’re like so many of us in the Happy Valley, and you sleep with a lot of your friends, as friendship ripens to sexual attraction — the kind of attraction that creeps up ivy-style between you and your bros when you least expect it (even though, let’s be real, everyone else around you totally expected it).

Let me get to the point: It’s okay not to be attracted to someone. And it’s okay to feel attracted to a person initially and have that desire grow or fade over time.

But there is something inside of you that’s not sitting right, Too Deep, a little piece of you that feels like maybe you’re being an asshole. I’m guessing that this woman you speak of does not nestle neatly into the box labeled “beautiful” by conventional standards?

Are you an asshole if you dump this girl? I’m not sure if that’s for me to decide. But I can tell you how I make sure that I’m not being an asshole…continue reading…

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Does That Guy Ask Everyone Out?? & How Do I Poly?

Hi Yana,

Where is the line between “If you like someone, ask them out!” and “Oh, that guy asks everyone out”???

— Master Dater

From your question, it sounds like you like a lot of people. Maybe you’re getting some flack for that from friends or foes? True, you don’t want to make your potential dates feel somehow unspecial because they saw you on campus asking out everyone else around you — and left them as the 24th person you’ve asked out in a day. Then again, if you like someone and want to go on a date with them, you should ask them out!

So, where’s the line? I’d draw my line around the borders of “Am I asking everyone out for genuine reasons?” and “Am I attempting to fill a void or accomplish something that has nothing to do with the human I’m asking out?” Meaning, are you on an asking-out rampage because you genuinely want to go out with these individuals? Or are you trying to put a finger in your emotional dam and any old finger will do?

Of course, you can finger as many emotional dams as you want. You know me, as long as everyone going out with each other is consenting to your dynamics and what y’all are doing together, then there’s nothing wrong with going out with a bunch of people just for fun. Not every date, hook-up, or relationship has to be goal-oriented and meaningful. But your dates should know if that’s your outlook.

As far as what everyone else thinks about your dating habits, you can never achieve 100-percent approval when it comes to sex and dating. As long as you keep your creep-factor low (like maybe don’t ask someone out, get rejected, turn to their best friend standing next to y’all, and ask her out) and respect the people you’re asking out for the unique reasons you like them as individual people, then you can forget the haters and get on with the daters!

***

Hi Yana,

I want to be able to have a polyamorous relationship. How do I find people who want to have the same thing?

— Pursuing Poly…click here to read the response…

 

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Should I Dump My Triad?

Hi Yana,

I’m a bisexual woman and I’m the third wheel to a married bisexual male couple. We’ve been dating for about a year-and-a-half and so far things have been running pretty smoothly. We see each other two or three times a week for dates, group sex, and just regular hanging out. I have casual sex with other people and am available to date, but just haven’t done that with anyone else yet.

Okay, so here’s the issue: Sometimes I feel sort of left out of their dynamic. But like, in a weird way. I don’t want to be married, at least definitely not right now, but I might at some point. I’m not jealous of their relationship, but I sort of feel like an unnecessary extra to them which makes me feel insecure, or like maybe like I shouldn’t be “wasting my time” with a married couple and should be out there finding my “real” partner? It’s weird because I don’t really think that I have to be doing these things, but then part of me does. Is this just another “succumbing to societal pressures” moment or should I remove myself from this three-way and get on my own single freeway?

— Is Three Good Company?

Dear Good Company,

I’ve written a lot about the “Relationship Escalator” this year as alternative relationships are becoming increasingly common. In a nutshell, the Relationship Escalator is what the stereotypical suburbs are made of: boy and girl date, get engaged, get married, have a couple kiddos, and put up that signature white fence. Escalator ride complete.

You can certainly be logically on board with a non-monogamous, escalator-free life and also have a lived experience that’s a little more confusing than that. Relationships are hard work no matter what the style, and primarily dating two people leaves you with little time to seriously date others.

It seems like your current ambivalence is being impacted by uncertainty you’re feeling about your role in their future life. After about a year, the Relationship Escalator really starts rolling in traditional, monogamous relationships and couples might start considering moving in together or getting engaged, etc. So perhaps this clock is ticking in the background, nagging you to get some clarity about what’s to come next with your married men. Perhaps you’re feeling wary that your time is up considering that we have few role models for long-lasting and healthy relationships that involve more than two people…continue reading…

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Am I Queer? Or a Fraud?

Hi Yana,

Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about my sexuality. Recently, I came across the term “heteroflexible” and immediately, I felt like I identified with it more than any other sexual orientation I previously knew about.


However, I continue to feel invalidated by my lack of sexual experience with people who are the same gender. I know sexuality isn’t defined by our experiences but by what we think and how we feel. But I can’t help but continue to feel like a fraud (to myself) because I’ve only ever been with men. I also feel like because I’m in a serious, long-term heterosexual relationship, people just assume my sexuality and wouldn’t take me seriously going by any other label. In a way, I feel like I don’t belong. When I’m with my straight friends, I feel like the “most gay,” but when I’m with people who identify as gay/lesbian/queer, I feel like the “most straight” person in the room.


I pretty much let my friends believe that I identify as 100-percent straight to avoid confusion, judgment, and having to explain myself. I feel very happy in my monogamous heterosexual relationship. It’s not that something is “missing” regarding my relationship. I think this is more of an identity dilemma.


How do I become more comfortable and confident in my sexuality? How do I talk to my friends about being sure of my sexuality without the experience to back it up?


— Feeling Flexible

 

Dear Flexible, 


When I first learned the term “bisexual” in high school, bisexuality was trending in whatever way that was possible well before hashtags and tweeting. While the term made me think, “Yes! That’s it!” I saw other young women performing bisexuality — typically at parties for the enjoyment of high school boys — and it made me unsure that this label was for me, after all.


I continued dating boys until college when I finally had my first ever girlfriend and I too felt like a huge phony. In a ridiculous twist of living in the liberal valley, when I came out as publicly dating this woman and formally affixing the label “bisexual” to myself, men I had dated on campus spread the rumor that I was “actually NOT bisexual.” I questioned my already questioning self, felt ashamed at my lack of “real experience to back it up,” and ultimately ended up in relationships with women for the next decade (so joke’s on those dudes).


All of which is to say, Flexible, that there are two types of validation we receive: validation from others and validation from ourselves. Both are important in identifying who we are and how we feel supported in that process. Identity is an ever-evolving process and our labels can change as we do.


Find people who validate you. Public figures who are out as heteroflexible or bisexual, media that represents you, friends who understand the difference between the straight man you’re dating and your sexuality, and even new community spaces like queer events or organizations that are unlikely to make assumptions about you at all.


Most importantly, validate yourself. Sexuality is often developed within someone long before she is sexually active with anyone. It’s only once we become horribly category-obsessed adults that we start to fret about the proof and experience of who we are.


You say you’re heteroflexible, and so you are. There’s no application or passport stamps necessary to certify you.

 

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The V-Spot: Will Our Mixed Desire Dating Last?

 

Hi, Yana!

I recently started dating somebody who ticks (nearly) all the right boxes for me. This is the first time since breaking up with my sweetheart of over two years that I’ve felt this way, and it’s really exciting. There’s only one hiccup: he seems to be grey-a and I’m about as allosexual as it gets. He prefers to cuddle; I’d have sex twice a day if I could.

We talked about this shortly after we started seeing each other, and it seems like things are workable, at least for now — he says he’s game for non-monogamy and I have other partners who are excited to have the kind of sex that excites me. He’s my only local partner, though, and I can’t help but wonder if this sort of arrangement is sustainable. I’m really wary of implicitly pressuring him into being more sexual than he’d like, but I also can’t help the fact that I’m super horny basically always.

How common are successful allosexual/asexual relationships? What can we do to make sure that both of our needs are getting met? What can we do to make sure that we don’t hurt each other if/when our sexual desires don’t match up?

-Dating, But Not Mating

Dear Not Mating,

In any romantic and/or sexual dynamic with another person, it’s impossible that our desire will perfectly mirror our partner’s and many couples have extreme desire discrepancies. This particular dynamic with your Grade A, grey-a bae just has a slightly more disparate desire difference to negotiate.

First, let’s nail some terms, courtesy of my former intern Emmett DuPont who wrote a great blog post for my website about just this:

  1. Allosexual: You & the majority of people. Allosexuals experience sexual attraction and desire at a level that is considered normative in our society. For people who are allosexual, sexual intimacy is usually a necessary part of partner relationships.
  2. Grey asexuality. Grey-ace. Grey-A: Your boo. Emmett says: Grey-A is a term that people might use if they fall on the spectrum of asexuality, somewhere between completely asexual, and completely allosexual. For example, experiencing sexual attraction only after intimate friendships, or only occasionally”.
  3. Asexual: Emmett says: “Some asexual folks experience absolutely no sexual desire or attraction. Some asexual folks are sex repulsed, wanting nothing to do with any sexual experience, while other aces might find that they are perfectly happy to do certain, consensual sexual acts to meet the needs of a partner”.

So, how do you deal with such a desire discrepancy (besides consensual non-monogamy which, you’re already doing)?

In a 2014 interview with EverydayFeminism.com, David Jay, founder of Asexuality.org reminds allosexual partners that “It’s important to give asexual people a place to celebrate and talk about all their important relationships, not just sexual ones. Sexual people need to treat those kinds of intimacy as if they are as interesting and exciting as romantic/sexual intimacy because they are!”.

Which is to say, Not Mating, any implicit pressure for your partner to sexually perform at your allosexual level will likely come from inside of you. If you’ve made genuine peace with all that comes with enthusiastically consenting to dating a greysexual person in all of their glory, you will be less likely to inadvertently turn up the heat for more than they have to offer you.

Be clear about what you are truly okay with, too. In a mutually respectful relationship, there is no space for pity or charity. In fact, it may even disempower your partner’s already marginalized sexuality identity even further if you continue to date him because you want to prove to him or yourself that you can do without a certain level of sexual interaction. Especially if you can’t! Each of you are entitled to have, express, and be honored for your unique desire levels and identities.

Finally, avoiding hurt is something we all want in our relationships but may not be able to fulfill, especially in a relationship with inherently conflicting desires built into it. Though I can’t give you a percentage of success here, I can tell you this relationship will take some honest boundary setting, exploring, and work, as all desire discrepancies do!

 

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Am I in a Healthy Open Relationship?

Hi Yana –

I’m in a happy, long-distance monogamish relationship with the human of my dreams. Really; things are so good. This is my first time having an open relationship, and I think we talk through things really well and effectively. He has several partners (all of which I’ve met and adore) and I can say really genuinely that I’m happy that he has these other sexual relationships in his life.

The thing is, even though I was the person to suggest an open relationship, I’ve had yet to “take advantage” of our arrangement, if you know what I mean.

There are a few reasons for this. I have a lot on my plate; between school and work and volunteering, there are no days off in my schedule and limited “free” time. It feels like a lot to prioritize my friendships, let alone go through the work of introducing a new romantic/sexual partner into my social circle.

The few people I had periodical, casual sex with prior to starting this relationship are not comfortable continuing sexual relationships with me after I’ve started this relationship (a decision I understand and respect). And honestly, I think I harbor a little bit of lovesickness for my partner, and therefore I don’t want to put myself (and truthfully, another person) in a situation where I can’t be fully present in our sexual encounter because I’m wishing I was with my partner and not them, you know?

On some level, I know this is okay. But I can’t help but ask myself, am I doing “monogamish” right? Is it okay that for now, I like having the option to sleep with other people even if I don’t readily take advantage of it?

Sincerely,

Lovesick Monogamish

 

Dear Lovesick,

Leaving the proverbial door open even just a tiny crack on any and all tethers to one particular place, person, or thing makes a world of difference in my commitment to that place, person, or thing. It’s not that I want to flake on my responsibilities or relationships: it’s more that if it’s my choice to be here I will be here more and better than ever. On the flip side, if I perceive no breathing room or exit, you bet I’m going to spend my time clamoring to find and utilize one.

Maybe you just find comfort in knowing that if you want to experience sex with someone other than your long-distance love, you can. But that doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Just because you’re surrounded by delicious cupcakes doesn’t mean you have to eat them all or even swipe your finger through the frosting. But put you in a room full of desserts and tell you not to touch any of them and you might start feeling extra sweet in the tooth and/or resentful of whoever slapped that rule on you.

So much of what you’re saying here in regards to protecting other partners from your lovesickness, keeping strong boundaries around your friend/school/volunteer time, and being extra comfortable with his other partners all sounds like you’ve got a really healthy relationship-self balance going on here. Whether monogamous or not this is quite a feat in itself so pat yourself on the back!

Many folks who practice this style of non-monogamy, where their partner sees a lot of other people but they don’t, come up against extra skepticism from friends, family, and acquaintances. People can easier accept the novelty of “having your cake and eating it too” as long as it’s “fair” even though non-monogamous relationships that rely on tit-for-tat scorekeeping often crash and burn; faux fairness is often masking some deep-rooted not okay-ness with relationship agreements.

I would imagine that you get a little extra of this skepticism due to your perceived gender imbalance of him “being able to sleep around” and you “just letting it happen”. But it sounds like you know and feel much better than that. If it’s my stamp of approval that’ll tip the scales in favor of you internalizing the belief that if it works for you, him, and the rest of the crew then it’s A-OK then yes! You seem happy! Stamp! You’ve got it!

 

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The Rules of Attraction

I’m a single hetero guy in my 60s. Since my divorce some years ago, I haven’t dated much. What I truly want is a loving, long-term relationship with a partner and to be a loving, giving partner in return.

Here’s my problem: I’m short and not terribly good-looking (at least I don’t think so) and I realize that no matter how attractive a person’s character and values may be, or how fun they may be, if there isn’t at least a spark of physical attraction, there won’t be sexual attraction even if you might wish for it.

Whenever I find myself in the presence of a woman whom I find physically and sexually attractive, I shrivel up inside just a little, feeling, “Oh, she won’t be physically attracted to me.” Of course, this is just what can make you come across as even less potentially attractive than you might otherwise be.

Do you have advice for people who may have this problem? I had a physically and emotionally rejecting mother (working on these issues in therapy) and I know that’s got something to do with it, but when I look in the mirror, I’m not terribly happy with what I see.

Thank you for this tender question! Professional therapeutic help in working out some negative messages you may have received during your upbringing is a great step. In some ways, your thinking about this is right-on; assuming that you are not attractive or, worse yet, worthy of others’ attractions, won’t inspire attraction to you. But let’s shift some of this other negative thinking.

The consumerist culture we live in feeds off of our self-hate like a yeast infection feeds off of glycerin-laced lube. Mass media bashes us daily with limited views of beauty (in terms of body weight, height, wealth, skin color, etc.), telling us that if we exist outside of this particular, minuscule box called “beauty” we aren’t deserving (of attention, jobs, happiness, sex) and therefore we should buy, buy, buy in order to “fix” ourselves. You aren’t broken, Shy Guy — the way we’re taught to assign sexual value to our appearance is.

So let’s talk about physical attraction and sexual attraction. What we consider to be physically attractive in other humans is evolutionarily informed, with multiple studies showing the importance of subconscious influences such as a person’s smell, hormonal cycle, body posture, and facial symmetry to our level of attraction to them.

A 2014 study found positive personality traits to have an influence, too, when 120 participants rated photographs of female faces in neutral expressions as more attractive when associated with positive personality descriptions like “kind,” “honest,” “funny.”

Then, there’s sexual attraction, which you have mixed up with both physical attraction and simply wishing for it to be so. Come As You Are author Emily Nagoski has done incredible work to show the difference between desire and sexual response. Her Dual Control Model is digestibly illustrated in a comic by Erica Moen on thedirtynormal.com, showing the difference between our sexual response’s gas pedal (physical attractiveness, trusting your partner, falling in love) and brake (body image, trauma history). …continue reading on ValleyAdvocate.com…

 

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Can I Ask My GF to Stop Using Her Vibrator?

With previous girlfriends it’s been easier over time to bring them to orgasm as I get to know their preferences and bodies, however my current girlfriend owns a Hitachi Magic Wand that she has been using for nine months.

It’s significantly more difficult now to bring her to orgasm with only fingers compared with a year ago. Has she lost clitoral sensitivity through using it? It’s now even at the point where the Hitachi isn’t enough stimulation and orgasms seem to be harder to reach.

Also, since getting the vibrator her attitude toward sex has been to lie down, use it, and have me do the rest. I’m all for being dominating sometimes, but sometimes you just want mutual participation in sex. Is it okay to ask her not to use it?

Your question rings of many other questions I’ve gotten in my years as The Neighborhood Sexpert: Can I get addicted to my vibrator? Will the ultra powerful vibrations of the Hitachi ruin me for other types of sex? Will my girlfriend’s vibrator replace me?

Usually when a dude scoffs at my suggestion that he get his girlfriend a vibrator (“Pssh! She doesn’t need that — she has me!”) I put on my best mock-surprise face and exclaim, “Wow! Your dick vibrates? That’s awesome!” And often a dude’s aversion to his girlfriend’s sex toy pisses me off. But yours, FSH, doesn’t! Sex toys add a wonderful variety to our sexual stimulation repertoire that might not be available to us given our anatomy: Dildos offer us customizable sizes and shapes, vibrators allow us the concentrated clitoral stimulation necessary to reach orgasm, etc.

When used in a way that suits both partners, sex toys enhance sexual interaction, not detract from it…continue reading…

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Why Don’t I Want Sex With My BF?

I’ve been with my boyfriend for six years and he was my first and only sexual partner. Sexually we struggle. Well, I struggle. The thought of having sex is like a chore. I try really hard to do it even when I don’t want to because I know he needs that and it’s a necessary part of our relationship. He isn’t forceful or anything; I just feel bad. Once I can get myself past the initiation of it, it can be enjoyable. I’m career-oriented and my focus isn’t on the relationship. The sexual aspect of it just isn’t important to me and I don’t want to do it.

However, I think about sleeping with other people all the time and I even told him that. He told me if I wanted to have a one night stand I could if I never saw that person again.

This idea is appealing because I sometimes think I might be taking my boyfriend for granted, but I just don’t have much to compare him to. I don’t know that I could actually go through with it though. It’s basically an okay to cheat! He also says I couldn’t be mad if he does it as well. I might be fine with this because I know I don’t fulfill his needs as a man.

We love each other and talk about long term. So, why don’t I want to have sex with my boyfriend? Does sleeping with someone else put me in an open relationship or is that just a hall pass? Will it work or ruin everything?

This is A LOT! So here’s some quick-and-dirty advice:

1.) Open relationships can be great! But I don’t think it’s a viable option for you two at this time as there’s other work that needs doing here.

2.) Stop having this chore-sex that you outright say you don’t want to be having. Sex doesn’t need to be forceful in order to be nonconsensual, BotC. Being together for six years does not negate the need for consent — meaning, you and your boyfriend both saying an enthusiastic “Yes!” to the sex you’re both enjoying together and actively negotiating until you can get there.

3.) No one has ever died of blue balls and your boyfriend’s penis doesn’t need you. This antiquated, sexist, bullshit reasoning that women need to submit to men because men need to get off is a social set-up. In many ways it works against both men and women and certainly against consensual, loving, good sex and it’s a set-up that your boyfriend is (subconsciously or consciously) using to his benefit…continue reading…

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Hey baby, what’s your number?

Hi Yana,

  • What are your thoughts on how much/what of your sexual history you should divulge to your current partner(s)? I always ask about most recent STD/STI tests, but is your current partners’ number of present (and past) sex partners important to know?

    I recently watched Dan Savage’s “Savage U” (because I saw Tristan Taormino on your website and started listening to her podcast and he was on it) and the gender stereotypes and standards regarding this issue were nauseating — ie. women saying that if you’ve had less than 10 partners it’s fine to tell, but if you’ve had more than 10 you should keep it a secret.

    I’ve always told my partners my number, just because I’m not very sexually experienced and my number isn’t that important to me. But what do you do with this information once/if you have it? In addition, some people don’t keep a number and this also brings up the conversation of what constitutes “sex” — fingering? any/all of the “jobs?”

    Allow me to be blunt: Asking what somebody’s number is some outdated, slut-shaming, rigid boundary drawing, sexual claustrophobia-inducing bullshit.

    When you ask for someone’s number, you’re not just asking for a digit; you’re quantifying that person’s multifaceted, personal sexual experiences into an arbitrary numeral and applying all kinds of value-based judgments on that number…continue reading…