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My Boyfriend Might Be Gay. Should I Care?

Hi Yana,

I recently began “dating” my best guy friend over this winter break. He’s told me that he was raised by a super religious mom and that when he was younger he “rebelled,” and experimented with other men, which he blamed on his homophobic upbringing. He told me he’s had sex with another man, but has since concluded that he was straight. I didn’t ask many questions other than, “So, do you think you’re gay?” to which he responded, “No, I’m not gay.”

The night after this conversation, I invited him to dinner with my friends and he brought a male friend. During dinner, they both mysteriously disappeared to the bathroom for over 10 minutes and returned within seconds of each other. When we all went back to my house to hang out, they spent most of their time close together, making flirtatious eye contact, and practically cuddling on the couch. All of my friends noticed these intimate exchanges, too.

The thing is, my boyfriend isn’t really my boyfriend officially, though we have had conversations about being “exclusive.” We’re best friends first, so if he’s gay or bisexual, I’ll deal with it, but I don’t understand why he’s hiding it from me.

Am I being paranoid? Should I talk to him about this? Is he flirting with this guy in front of me because he wants to get caught? I’ve already asked him if he’s gay, and he said no, so why am I obsessing over his sexuality, and how do I deal with the potential fact that the guy I love may be identifying as straight, but secretly hooking up with his male friend?

— Boys Will Be Boys?

Dear Boys,

There’s a lot happening here, made more complex by cultural norms that sort of approve of straight women hooking up with each other, but condemn any and all sexual experimentation between men. Other things that make this situation complex are his experiences in his earlier years, which don’t seem to have given him the permission to explore the differences between his sexual experiences and sexual identity.

It’s totally possible to identify as straight and still hook up with men. That’s something people do and are entitled to do as everyone’s sexuality is theirs to define. Similarly, people are entitled to identify as bisexual even if they’ve never experienced sexual acts with someone of the same or different gender. Your identity isn’t a passport, you don’t need a stamp to prove you’ve been there. But knowing this for yourself requires permission to explore, which maybe hasn’t been granted to your boyfriend.

I want to propose a different, possibly unpopular, way of looking at this situation: Rather than playing sexuality investigator and making it your mission to figure out “who he really is,” view this issue as a communication and boundaries problem. Though figuring out your boyfriend’s sexuality certainly feels important right now, it also isn’t entirely necessary to resolve your particular situation…continue reading…

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My 2-Minute Orgasm

So, I was masturbating last night and set a timer. It took me under two minutes to orgasm. However, when someone else in involved, it takes forever or doesn’t happen at all. I can count the times it’s happened on two hands.

Every time I masturbate it’s like clockwork, and I wish I could experience that with a partner! I’ve heard from various ladies and witnessed firsthand that orgasming seems easier for them with partners than it is for me. Is this why some women fake orgasms? Is this something I need to see a psychiatrist about or just live with? Or is it some Kinsey situation where my vaginal measurements aren’t conducive to orgasming? Help!

— Clit Out of Luck

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, probably for the rest of my sex educator career: your vagina is not broken! It’s the metaphorical vaginal “user manual” we’re handed via school sex ed, social stigma, and our peers!

That manual is seriously flawed – it’s stained, ripped, even missing whole chapters. Our current sex education system pretends that our clitoral and/or vaginal orgasm is unimportant or non-existent. Our social system convinces our sexual partners that asking us outright how best to pleasure our clits and vaginas is not the sexy or slick or cool thing to do. Simultaneously, this same system shames us into not speaking up about our own desires or how exactly to do our bodies right.

Yes, these flawed systems are why some women fake orgasms. Yes, these systems have convinced you that you have to see a psychiatrist to “fix” yourself and/or smoosh yourself into an outdated concept of “ideal vaginal measurements,” a la Kinsey.

But you, COOL, are perfect! Your experience of sexual pleasure is perfect. Your two-minute self-curated climax is perfect.

So, if our formal and social sex educational systems are screwing it up so hard, who’s supposed to do the real educating about your orgasms to your partners, COOL?…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Help! My Boyfriend Hates My Vagina

Hi Yana,

I’m a straight 20-something lady and have been with my boyfriend for two years. We have a great sex life and we’re totally in love! He doesn’t seem to have much of an interest in my vagina — and my vagina, in my mind, is kinda the main thing that makes me a female sexual being. He likes my breasts and loves my butt, but he (literally) never goes down on me and I get the feeling that he only fingers me because he knows I like it, not because he does. He also prefers anal sex to vaginal sex.

Personally, I’m super into my guy’s penis and I love going down on him; it’s one of our main bedroom activities. The fact that he has zero interest in going down on me makes me feel like he thinks my vagina is gross. I’ve mentioned it to him a few times, sometimes teasing but often serious. Just the other night I said to him, “I wish you liked going down on me. I love going down on you, and it makes me feel hurt and left out that you don’t.”

He actually didn’t say anything … no response, as if I hadn’t said it at all. It hung in the air and now it’s just making me feel terrible. I guess I thought he’d at least deny it. Sometimes I feel like he thinks I’m sexy because of the sexy things we do together, not because I (myself, my body) are sexy to him. It’s not the best feeling. What’s a girl to do?

— Trying to Get Ahead

Dear Trying,

I’ve been teaching strangers about sex for 10 years now and just celebrated my sixth year as a sex columnist. I’d like to consider myself quick-witted, resourceful — a dame that can get any dick out of a sticky pickle and any vagina more blissed-out than a babe at Burning Man. But damn, this is tough!

You’ve done great work already — telling him how hot you find him, clearly stating your desire (“Cunnilingus, please!”), and then sharing your feelings (“Hurt and left out”).

You’ve also got valuable tools to use: you’ve got high self-cuntfidence (so if he confirms “Yes! I hate your vagina!” it seems like you can process this hurtful reveal and bounce back), you’re not afraid to talk about sex, and you’ve got great insight.

Use these tools to get some answers. While he’s entitled to his own body and desires, you do deserve information that impacts your shared sexual and loving relationship. Invite your boyfriend to tell you the truth: tell him why it’s so important for you to know how he feels about your vagina and reassure him that whatever he has to say will likely hurt you less than continuing to receive radio silence.

Don’t set him up to fail by asking “You do like my vagina, right?!” in a way that communicates in tone and delivery that if he doesn’t say “OMG, babe, of course, I love it” that he’s in deep trouble. Instead, ask him blunt, unavoidable yes/no questions in baby-steps: “Do you dislike vaginal sex?” “Do you dislike vaginal sex with me in particular?”…continue reading…

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The Intern Investigates: Asexuality & Allosexuality

The Intern Investigates: Asexuality & Allosexuality

by: Emmett DuPont

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Sexuality, the great human equalizer, that draws towards wild, loving, delicious sex is something we all share… or something we all want to share, right? This might not be as true as most people think.

What does it mean to be asexual, and what does it mean to be allosexual? Sexuality, a person’s capacity or desire for sexual activity or feelings, is a spectrum just like all human experience. Some of us feel sexual desire for complete strangers, I mean, did you see that tinder profile? Some of us don’t feel sexual desire until we know someone intimately well. Yet others have no sexual desire whatsoever. All three of these examples of (a)sexuality have labels to describe them. So let’s break it down, I’ll bust out my funky dance moves while you read.

On one end of the spectrum are people who are allosexual. Allosexuals experience sexual attraction and desire at a level that is considered normative in our society, which is pretty subjective. The majority of people are allosexual. Allosexuals may experience sexual desire for intimate partners as well as dat hottie on the street. For people who are allosexual, sexual intimacy is usually a part of intimate partner relationships, and is often a necessary part of the connection shared with boo.

Somewhere in the middle is gray asexuality. Gray-ace  (ace = asexual), 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. The experience of gray asexuality can be widely varied, so if a friend or partner comes out to you as asexual or gray-ace, inquire about their experiences and feelings.

Some asexual folks experience absolutely no sexual desire or attraction. Yeah, like, completely zero. Goose egg, as my grandma would say. Some allosexual people might find it hard to imagine being completely asexual, but some asexual people might find it as difficult to imagine allosexual life! Although plenty of aces don’t masturbate, some might find it to be a physical necessity, or a good way to relax, relieve tension, and get some good alone time, many of the same reasons anyone might masturbate. 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 sexual acts to meet the needs of a partner. Consent is important in any relationship, and asexuals who are disinterested in sex are capable of giving consent, too!

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Asexuality Myth Busting!

We’ve already busted myths like asexual people don’t masturbate, have sex, or ever experience sexual attraction. But let’s do our ace friends a favor and burst four of the most common stereotypes we didn’t cover earlier!

Asexuality is a phase

Just like any aspect of life, sexuality can, and often will change over a person’s lifetime. Evolution doesn’t mean falseness. I don’t identify as asexual today, but that doesn’t mean my sexuality won’t change in the next decade. Many asexual people will identify as asexual all their lives, whereas others might experience fluctuations.

Asexuality is a symptom of abuse

This is simply not true. Although sexual abuse can change a person’s sex drive, diminished sexual activity or desire because of trauma is completely different than asexuality. Asexuality is not something that necessarily can or should be treated with therapy, and although sexual abuse and asexuality can overlap within a person’s life, never assume that someone’s asexuality is a symptom of a problem.

Asexual people don’t have healthy intimate relationships

Many asexual people date and have intimate relationships, sometimes with other asexual people, but also with allosexual people, too!

Asexual people don’t need community around sexuality

Not so, my hypothetical friend! Asexual people need community to talk about the unique experiences, joys, and struggles of being asexual in a sexual world. Asexual people often must come out to friends and partners and navigate difficult conversations, so it is important to make room for asexual folks to celebrate asexuality!

Want more information and support around asexuality?

AVEN, The Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

Find community with Pioneer Valley Aces on Facebook and Meetup!


Emmett DuPont, Sex Educator InternEmmett DuPont (they/them), Sex Educator Intern, is a first-generation college student at Hampshire College and a lifelong unschooler. Emmett lives at intersections of queerness, transness and disability, and is an enthusiastic educator around these and other topics. Read more about Emmett & their internship here.

Ask Emmett!

To ask Emmett a sex, relationship or other relevant advice question for them to answer here on the blog, send us an email with the subject ASK THE INTERN.

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Help! I Think My Orgasms Are Broken!

I’ve had a sexual concern for the longest time: I have trouble feeling orgasm during sex and masturbation. At first I thought it might be my partner not knowing my spots too well, but I realized I’ve never had any ejaculations by myself either. I’m worried that my body isn’t sensitive enough to feel orgasm and that’s why I can’t be sexually satisfied.

My summer beach book has been Come as You Are, the brilliant New York Times best seller about female sexuality and sexual response by Smith College wellness education director, PhD, and smart sex educator Emily Nagoski. As someone who writes and reads and teaches about sex for a living, I’m all “Oh, another sex book? Whatevs,” but Nagoski’s book has re-inspired me about the hows and whats of female orgasm.

Nagoski highlights the crushing pressure of the female-pleasure-phobic world we live in and how it comes to hinder our coming. I don’t want to give away too much because you (and everyone who either owns or touches a clitoris) should read it, but I want to draw attention to the book’s exploration of the context in which women come.

Thinking about sexy, orgasmic context might bring to mind mood music, candles, a hot partner, maybe a favorite vibrator. This might make a dent, but more importantly, women need to consider their mental context (stressed about work? parenting children?), physical context (PMSing? managing chronic pain?), environmental context (worried about waking the neighbors? the baby?), relational context (is this partner trustworthy? is consent actively practiced?) and then, THEN there’s the social context, which pushes down on women in big in small ways, labeling some women as “sluts” if they enjoy sex, “frigid” if they don’t, and, in your case, BBB, “broken” if their sexual response doesn’t match that of their partners.

The sexual response of male bodies and brains has been more widely studied mostly because their orgasms make the babies and their sexuality is socially sanctioned. Because of this, female sexual response is compared to male sexual response; if our orgasms don’t follow the same path as their orgasms, we must be broken…continue reading…

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Bi-curious at Bedtime

While I don’t think labeling one’s sexuality is always necessary, I’ve always considered myself a heterosexual woman. I’ve been attracted to members of the opposite sex for as long as I can remember. During puberty, I plastered my bedroom walls with magazine cutouts depicting boy band members and only developed crushes on my male classmates. However, nearly all of my recent erotic dreams are of me performing a variety of sexual acts on females. I always wake feeling aroused.

I’ve heard that dreams are manifestations of things we see throughout the day. Could this be a result of living in a society where the female body is hyper-sexualized? Is this bi-curiosity? I’ve considered the possibility of being bisexual with an open mind. However, I don’t feel capable of having feelings of romantic love for another woman.

I’m currently in a loving and committed relationship with a man and I don’t feel as though anything is missing, sexually or otherwise. Because of these dreams however, I sometimes can’t help but wonder: is there a part of my sexuality that I’m not exploring?

Traditional stage theories of identity development dictate a linear story of same-sex sexuality identity: girl meets boy and falls in love; girl goes to liberal arts college; girl starts watching the L-word; girl makes out with her “lesbian friend”; girl breaks up with her boyfriend; girl gets short haircut; girl is now a lesbian; the end. This implies that once someone achieves a full awareness of her sexual desire, stability occurs.

In convincing contrast to this, psychologist Lisa M. Diamond found in her 10-year study of female same-sex sexuality development that young women’s sexuality is particularly fluid. Specifically, her research revealed female same-sex desire to be more malleable than male same-sex desire, featuring drastic, often late-blooming, and seemingly abrupt changes in female sexual desire and attraction…continue reading…

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Related Reading: Don’t Wanna Be Straight Forever: My Bisexual Marriage Equality Freakout

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Don’t Wanna Be Straight Forever: My Bisexual Marriage Equality Freakout

The day national marriage equality passed I sobbed into my boyfriend’s shoulder in bed for half an hour. My shoulders heaved and my dog looked worried as he frantically tried to gain access to my tears so he could lick them away. When I managed to stifle my drooly crying hiccups for long enough, I lifted my head from his shoulder, a wobbly tightrope of snot connecting his clavicle to my septum ring. “I don’tttt — {drooly hiccup} — want to be straight — {drooly hiccup} — FOREVER!!”, I sobbed dramatically, before jamming my face back into my own snot-pool, now running down his arm.

Patrick and I had just gotten engaged — in fact, our engagement party was set to happen that very night. Though I had dated cismen up until I was 21, for the nine years prior to my meeting Patrick, I had primarily dated queer women — I even married one. Though I had found that one’s “bisexual” label magically turns into a “lesbian” label in the public eye once you have a “lesbian wedding”, this never bothered me much; I had always felt so special with my membership in this group of gender-fucking, pierced, half-shaved-headed hotties we call the LGBTQ community that I barely kissed the straight community goodbye when I left it in 2006. I more-so quietly stepped into my jeans and snuck out the next morning.

And then there was Patrick. He came out of left field to say the least (I mean, I met him when he was on a date with another woman) as did my borderline-insanity-inducing love for him. Four months later we were engaged and a month after that marriage equality was passed and I was smearing my boogers all over him, crying both from being overjoyed about marriage equality and from being overwhelmed about my forever-straight fate.

The Other Side of Bi

While I’ve always conceptualized the bisexual experience as a two-way swinging door, I’ve found that most people find it more enjoyable when you push that door towards women. The queer community is all “Cool! Welcome to the fold!” and the straight community is all “Ah, so French! So titilating!” as fantasies of bi-curious pillow fights abound.

When you decide to go back through the doorway however, back to cis-manlandia, people are more baffled than bisexually bewitched. The cis-dudes are all “WTF?! Since when do you date men? Why didn’t I get a shot?” and the queer women are all “Another one bites the dust” and the reception from the straight community is all *shrug*, without a welcome banner in sight.

The thing about bisexuality is that it’s often socially determined by the body parts and gender identity of your partner. No matter how many times you repeat “I’m queer. I’m queer. I’m queer.” to yourself in your head, when you walk through life holding your cis-male partner’s hand, your attempts at making meaningful eye contact with the only other queer couple at the party are failed, or your boyfriend’s friends are left scratching their heads all “I dunno man, I think Patrick’s girlfriend might be gay”. No matter who you date, half of your sexual identity, half of who you are, is invisible.

For many of my peers, coming out was a long, painful process, starting with the realization of same-sex attraction at an early age, followed by a well-planned-out coming out process. Many’s coming out histories involve violence and abuse both physical and psychological. In my experience, my same-sex desire developed within a larger culture of understanding and acceptance. I grew up in notoriously lesbian-friendly Northampton, Ma with liberal parents who already had many LGBTQ friends and by the time I started dating women, I was attending Hampshire College, also notoriously liberal with a thriving queer community already established.

In fact, “coming out” was never a process I really had to do — I simply brought my first girlfriend to a family party and introduced her as such, simply started holding her hand on campus without fanfare. I never felt that I had unspoken same-sex desires as a younger teen and if I did, I certainly never felt guilty or afraid of those feelings.

Living in these communities is a privilege. Passing as a dominant identity (whether it’s as male, as straight, as white, as wealthy) is a privilege stacked with socially constructed perks. My personal experience of coming out as queer without the pain and loss associated with so many LGBTQ people’s traditional coming out stories is a privilege. But the pain of watching nine years of my meaningful queer sexual and romantic history being erased and the loss of my social membership in the queer community when I started dating my now-fiancee was and is very real. Re-coming out as bisexual by starting once again to date cis-men is confusing.

Loving On & Bumming About Boys

Traditional stage theories of identity development dictate a linear story of one’s sexual identity: girl meets boy and falls in love; girl goes to liberal arts college; girl starts watching the L-word; girl makes out with her “lesbian friend”; girl breaks up with her boyfriend; girl gets a new short haircut; girl dates her first girlfriend; girl is now a lesbian; fin. Linear stage theories imply that once an individual achieves a full awareness and expression of her sexual desire, stability occurs and no more change happens. This is what the traditional coming-out model is based on. You realize you’re gay, you come out, and then you’re gay forever.

In convincing contrast to this, Lisa M. Diamond, in her 2007 study of the development and expression of female same-sex sexuality, argues that multidimensional development theories such as Dynamical Systems Models more accurately represent the seemingly random spectrum of female same-sex sexuality development. Dynamical Systems Models were originally designed by mathematicians and physicists to model complex physical phenomenon in the natural world. These models are used to explain how complex patterns emerge, stabilize, change, and then restabilize over time. Diamond (2007) shows in her 10-year study of young, non-heterosexual women, that this is precisely what female same-sex sexuality development is likely to do.

In her study of 89 non-heterosexual-identifying women, Diamond found female same-sex sexuality to be particularly fluid. Specifically, her research revealed female same-sex desire to be more fluid than male same-sex desire, featuring drastic, often late-blooming, and seemingly abrupt changes in female sexual desire both in strength-of-desire (how attracted they felt to men or women) and object-of-desire (such as women moving from opposite-sex attraction, to same-sex attraction, and then back again).

Much research has shown that the male model of sexual orientation — which often features linear shifts in identity — cannot be simply overlayed onto the female sexual experience. However, our patriarchal, heteronormative concept of sex and sexuality continues to imagine female and male sexuality as two sides of the same coin. Studies of both adults and adolescents have shown that women are more likely to report bisexual attractions than to report exclusive same-sex attractions, whereas the opposite pattern is found in men. While many gay- or bisexual-identified men recall experiencing their first same-sex attractions a few years prior to puberty (similar to the age at which most heterosexual children recall their first other-sex desires), many women report that they didn’t experience same-sex attractions until adulthood, instances which are described by women as situational, interpersonal, and contextual rather than pre-determined or gradually developing as with men. Though many women’s same-sex attractions were described as emerging “suddenly” and “by accident”, two thirds believed they were born with their particular sexual orientation (only 18% believed their same-sex attraction to be a choice).

Even more interestingly, Diamond’s study found female sexuality to be defined by continuous change. By the end of her 10-year study, 10% of participants who had identified as lesbian had settled into long-term relationships with cis-men while 60% had experienced sexual contact with a cis-man and 36% reported romantic relationships with cis-men.

Women’s descriptions of their unexpected shifts back to straightsville were often illustrated as being similarly abrupt and as changes they had no control over. As one participant elaborated, going back to the cis-boys was a bit of a bummer: “I’ve kind of straightened out! I still call myself bisexual but I’m on the edge of heterosexual, which I’m not pleased about. I never really wanted to be heterosexual but I don’t have much choice in the matter…I think sexuality changes, but I don’t have any idea what causes those changes” (Diamond, 2007, p. 148).

Diamond herself reports that “women who reinitiated other-sex behavior typically described these experiences as feeling fundamentally different from the forms of heterosexuality they had pursued prior to ever questioning their sexuality. Hence, they did not perceive themselves as going back to men but, rather as moving forward toward new forms of sexual and erotic experiences” (Diamond, 2007, p. 148). Diamond’s study has shown me that I’ve been doing it all wrong. Bisexuality — and indeed, sexuality — is not a swinging door which transports us from one side or the other. In fact, female sexuality itself is more of a hallway, full of trap doors, entrances, exits, stairwells and maybe even the fire escape or two. There is no going back to old forms of sexuality and sexual identity, there’s only the new and exciting road ahead to traverse.

Bye Bi Binary

In the near-decade since Diamond’s study was conducted, the binary system of identity has been slowly dying. Binaries do nothing but attempt to stuff our multi-layered human experiences and identities into two rigid categories (gay or straight? male or female? kinky or vanilla?), leaving no room for variation when the human sexual experience is nothing but variant. The image of sexuality as a swinging door, with one side or the other, is broken and does nothing for our modern queer (or straight!) communities but make us feel like we don’t fit in. In its place thrives the spectrum of sexuality, sexual experience, gender identity, sexuality identity and even the meaning of bisexuality itself. Legal marriage, once defined by the binary of “one man and one woman”, is now celebrated by the entire spectrum of what makes up love and commitment.

My fiancee Patrick is one of those cis-dudes who’s a feminist dude who doesn’t need to tell you “I’m a feminist dude”. Patrick cried on marriage equality day, too, (actually all day long on marriage equality day), simply because of his sheer, genuine love of love and equality. I’m the luckiest lady alive to be marrying him, no matter what he’s packing in his pants, or what his preferred pronouns are. Gently breaking my snot-trapeze from his body, he laughs as he tells me “Babe, you’re not straight. You’re queer”. “Yeah, I know,” I sniffle, finally finding my way to a Kleenex. “For now”.