Doing 7 should solve her problem with 6.
Oh, man. I do not miss my early 20s
If she's dating other 20-yr olds, it's also possible some of the guys don't really know what it means (and doesn't mean) to be a feminist
There are a lot of self-identified feminists out there that don't really know what it means (and doesn't mean) to be a feminist.
4 might have included a look at the difference between a preference and a requirement, but no quarrel with what was stated.
Also, if she's dating dudes in their early 20's, most of them haven't yet been broken of the expectation (that comes, in particular, from porn) that ladies are things to stick your dick in. So, if she's finding that they're assholes, she's probably right. They're not all unredeeming assholes, and many will improve as they get real experience with real women.

I think her curiosity and frankness is really touching, and I think she's got a good head on her shoulders. The next few years might have its ups and downs, but I think she'll do alright.
3. I found pre-come to taste slightly sweet, because there is glycerin in it to lubricate the urethra in advance of ejaculation. But yeah, hard to notice -as Dan points out- unless you are specifically trying to check out the taste of pre-come. Which I actually recommend as a foreplay activity. Have fun! ;>)
How much of a turnoff is it for a twenty-year-old female to identify as a feminist?

I assume any women I might find myself socializing with identifies as a feminist.

However, "feminism" is a very broad term that includes a wide variety of perspectives, some of which are implicitly or explicitly hostile to men and thus tend to appeal to women who, when it gets right down to it, are man-haters.

So, probably a good idea to qualify what specifically that term means to you if you are going to hitch your identify to it.
Dan, do you often get Novella-length letters like this, or has there been an uptick in them recently?
Unfortunately for young women who may need to visit a free or subsidized clinic for a routine exam, the doctors/nurses there do not always set patients at ease or even take the time to discuss the exam with them before jamming something up there. For people who have no other place to go, this can be a very intimidating experience because you *need* care and you cannot get it elsewhere even if you are treated very poorly.
I would replace Dan's advice on #8 with the advice to politely but firmly explain before you allow the doctor/nurse to touch you that you still have a hymen and that you would like them to use extra caution/lube/time etc. If at any point during the exam you feel too much discomfort, insist that they stop and give you a moment or explain what is happening.
A *good* doctor/nurse will do this anyway (and I recommend Planned Parenthood as a good place to go) but unfortunately not everyone is good at caring for their patients and this disproportionately (and sometimes traumatically) affects people who have no choice as to where they can go.
The only missing question was "what is the meaning of life"?

Dan has a lot more patience than I have. Sheesh!
People project a lot of assumptions about the word "feminism," I think. The word "egalitarianism" is probably more accurate to what most feminists are, but "feminism" is the common parlance for historical reasons. Unfortunately, the right has associated the crazy misandrist lesbian separatists of the 70s and 80s with mainstream feminism, so some otherwise reasonable people have an poor opinion of what they believe to be feminism.
@10 Not true at Planned Parenthood. I have never been treated so well by any gyno before or since. And gynos in general routinely do gyno exams on children (for whatever reason every girl at my school got one automatically at 14), it's not a problem. There are different size speculums so just ask for a small one, they'll probably use it by default if they know she's a virgin.
Also, the bf or gf or whoever can do her the favor of stretching out her hymen with their fingers (will happen anyway of course) so she doesn't tear when she does do PIV or similar. Since she's never tasted cum I imagine at this point she's going to want to spend some time exploring and messing around for a while first which means there'll be lots of opportunity for this to happen even unintentionally.
Feminism is like Zionism.

Zionism essentially means a belief in the right of Jewish people to self determination in the land of Israel. Given that definition, most Americans would identify as Zionists. But Zionism, for better or worse, has become synonymous with the more radical elements of Israeli nationalism (thanks U.N.) If I were to tell someone I was a Zionist, it would cause many people to judge me as an extremist.

Similarly, feminism at its core is an essentially is a belief is equality of the sexes. But many people associate feminism with the radical components.

Being feminist doesn't necessarily make you anti-male any more than being a Zionist makes you anti-Palestinian. But many people will associate that declaration with the potential for extremist positions.
Dan, your next book really needs to be a primer for young adults. There are already lots of "what's happening to my body?" guides to puberty out there - but not a lot for the next step: high school and college students making their first stabs at a sex life. You could show them the ropes about relationships, dating, and - yes - sex! from your uniquely non-judgemental viewpoint. Sort of an expansion of the questions you handled on "Savage U" (is that ever coming back, BTW?).
AWESOME answer about feminism by one of my favorite speakers and writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:…
No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys' Fault I’m Not Popular!
I agree that Planned Parenthood's gynos are often some of the most sensitive around, but whoever TAB sees for her first pelvic exam, she should be frank about her intact hymen and her concern. She already sounds like a young woman who is good at self-advocacy, so this should stand her in good stead. She can ask about ways to stretch or break/remove the hymen if she's scared of intercourse because she's afraid of pain.

I think it's great that she's trying to get the answers to a lot of different questions, some more serious than others, and my one concern is that her friends seem to be shutting her down a lot--telling her that her physical preferences are invalid because she's "fetishizing" an ethnic type, suggesting that she's too picky and that she should expect less than basic respect from a man, and that it's a turnoff for her to identify as a feminist.

TAB, it sounds to me like your friends' responses to you are grounded in their own insecurities. It's okay to like what you like and want what you want. A few men may not want to treat you decently, but that doesn't mean that your holding on to that as a base-level standard is unrealistic or too picky.
Awesome response. I admit I was getting apprehensive about the general reaction to the letter around question number four, but once again everyone here (excluding the wonderfully absent troll SB) have been absolute sweethearts (especially Dan).
@19 Yeah, 11-27 year old females can be kind of lacking in support when it comes to dealing with guys/sex/relationships. At least TAB's taking the initiative to deal with things solo in a very rational, healthy manner.
@19- I wouldn't have been so kind- her friends sound pretty dumb, shallow, and insecure- but don't worry! (Most of them) will get better as they get older! Try hanging around other quirky people who aren't too wrapped up in what everyone thinks, or in their own egos, as a general rule- quirks aren't a bad thing, they're just part of what makes you you. So, not saying your friends are bad people, but you seem a little ahead of them in the maturing department- take their advice with a bunch of salt for now.

Also, I've totally been this girl, though I never wrote a novella questionnaire for an advice columnist. Especially, I never dated in high school or had random crushes on boys like my friends did. It honestly took me hanging out with groups of friends to meet guys on neutral ground, where I got to know them a little first, before I started having any thoughts of "something more" like a date. I'd say- don't be afraid to just hang out with new people and see who is fun to talk to. If you click really well in a conversation with someone, and find them non-repulsive, ask them out. The only criterion I had for an early date was: am I interested in hanging out one-on-one with this person for a few hours? Do I want to know more about them? And then you'll start to recognize when one of these interesting people does something more for you. For me, it was when I didn't want them to leave at the end of a date- not about sex, just that I wanted them to stay because I liked them being there (and the making out was nice, too). That was the signal for me that I was really into someone. This method worked fine for me, and maybe thinking through the baby steps will make the whole attraction thing seem less mysterious.

Good luck!
8. Often "tear" is an appropriate verb, because that's actually what's happened to the membrane, but you can also make it less obstructive by stretching it over time (I post in a menstrual cups community and that's what a lot of the virgins have done). Doing so could make things easier for you and would make you feel less tense at the doctor's, so start working on it if you want to. You don't have to, there are extra small speculums for virgins, but you'll probably find the experience easier if you go in knowing that your vag can handle it.

Get some lube (KY Jelly is perfectly good for this sort of thing) and put some pressure on your hymen every day or week or whatever. If you can find some kind of tapered toy that might help, since fingers aren't that comfortable due to the knuckles. While you're doing this, pay attention to any sensations you get from not having enough lube: if it's all over you'll feel a general tightness and resistance, if it's in one spot it'll be like pinching or pulling. I was sexually active before I stated having vaginal exams, but it took years more experience before I learned to recognise the feeling of excess friction in that context. I haven't had an uncomfortable exam in years now that when necessary I can ask for more lube where I need it.
I didn't even finish reading Dan's reply, but I had to stop at this: "no girl likes the taste of Guinness the first time" WTF?? am I the only one who instantly likes/dislikes things and then that doesn't change throughtout her life? And I loved Guinness from the first sip, otherwise why would I keep on drinking it?? And somehow there's also the delusion that these kind of "taste-acquiring" thing only happens to girls (was it so difficult to write "people" instead of "girls"?). Dan, what happened to you?
Sorry for my rant, but as soon as I read that, I felt the strong need to call bullshit.
1. Buy a recent, used college textbook on human sexuality. Or take a course. Or look at wikipedia. Or read Paul Joannides Guide to Getting it On.

2. Methinks Dan was asleep on this one. Huge variety of vagina and cock/ball smells. Not everyone has stanky armpits -- go google dry ear wax genes and sweat glands.

3. Pre-cum is high in fructose and so is actually salty/sweet like delicious taffy. Hello, Dan, how could have you missed this? Pre-cum is God's ambrosia. :-)

Plus it's spelled pre-cum not pre-come. Did too much blow in LA to celebrate your new TV show?

Cum can taste sweet, can taste sour, varies widely depending on the dude and what he's been putting in his body (food, drugs, etc.). Likewise with vaginal secretions.

4-8 +1 on Dan.
@16 a Savage book for young adults -- nah, Paul Joannides Guide to Getting it On is pretty good on both sex and relationship stuff, very popular on college campuses.

Mr. Savage has moved on in his books to bigger and more important political issues like gun control, health care policy, and writes incredibly well on those topics, better than on sex to be truthful where he's starting to phone it in at times.

e.g. Dan's essay "Extended Stay" in American Savage, about the moral and emotional issues around physician assisted suicide. It's told through the story of his mother's death and brought me to tears. It's one of the most powerful defenses of the right to choose how we die that I've read, should be mandatory reading for all politicians and voters who oppose this.
Adorable set of questions! Let me add a bit of input on some of them:

4. I think that you've done a good job of examining your preferences. Here's one thing to think about though - it's sometimes not that sexy for people to hear "I'm into you because you are my type." If you end up meeting the Asian boy or girl of your dreams, and tell them that you like them because of the physical characteristics you associate with their race, they would be perfectly within their rights to be creeped out and run away. You're allowed to have preferences for sure, but always approach people as individuals!

6. Don't change yourself in order to be able to date people. Yes, men in their early 20s may often expect that of you, but you don't have to do it. Being single is definitely better than playing coquette for some domineering jerk.

7. Identifying as a feminist can be great. People who are freaked out by that are probably misinformed.

8. Make sure to let the doctor know in advance that your hymen is intact. You may also have what's called a "tough hymen" that is too thick to easily go away on its own. For that, there's a very simple remedy - getting it snipped. Takes about 2 minutes, involves local or general anaesthesia and is not a very big deal at all. Take it from me, former owner of a tough hymen.
2. A healthy vagina has a smell and a taste. It varies in intensity during the month. The taste seems to recognizably change one or two days before menstruation, according to my monogamish partner - I can't spot that change but he can. Very useful for people with irregular menstruations.

@delta35 Actually, Dan has Casanova's backing on this. In the foreword of his Story of my Life, he explains : "j'ai toujours trouvé que celle que j'aimais sentait bon, et plus sa transpiration était forte, plus elle me plaisait" which translates as "I always found that the one I was in love with smelled good, and the strongest her perspiration, the more I liked her". The word perspiration here probably includes vaginal secretions, which Casanova sometimes describes - "she was flooded by her own distillations" - but never formally gives a name to.

3. To me pre-cum or pre-come (how is it really spelled ?) tastes good, salty/sweet and is more tasty than saliva. To me cum or come smells exactly like the blossom of chestnut trees, and doesn't taste nice. My prefered way to dispose of it, is to kiss my partner and let him swallow it - that's in condomless monogamish sex ; with condom sex the taste of semen is not an issue.
8. An obgyn has a special tool for virgins, and will not break your hymen. In my country, no need to mention you're a virgin - the doctor sees it right away on your vulva, and changes for the virgin tool instantly. I went to an obgyn before becoming sexually active too, because in my country only obgyns can prescribe the pill.

There can be asshole doctors, but there can also be malpractice suits ; an obgyn has absolutely no right to break your hymen, no more than of breaking your finger.
Damn bitch u need to suck some dick n stfu. You can practice on me and my boys while we smoke a 4gram blunt.
27: I don't think I like your advice of "don't change yourself." I understand the sentiment, but it is a good thing to try to correct one's own flaws. Becoming a better and more virtuous person should be everyone's life goal, and part of that involves changing in ways that make us better lovers and companions. That said, those character quirks that help make us who we are should be something we embrace. We shouldn't pretend to like or not like something to please someone else (unless you like Twilight or Nickleback, or something, in which case you should probably learn to have better taste) but we should work to be more selfless, caring, and so on.
@31 - 27 didn't say "don't change," but "don't change so you can date people". That seems like good advice. Correcting one's flaws is a good idea, but the main motivation should be (and in the case of the LW seems to be) internal, not external. And if it's external, it should be about being a better partner in a relationship, not about being more appealing on a first date.

and re: feminism: at least for (straight, male) me, a woman _not_ identifying as a feminist is a huge turn-off. Either she's stuck in the 1950s, or she's painfully unaware of gender politics in the US, both of which are pretty unattractive to me.
Being unsure and curious is a far better trait than being willingly ignorant.

I love the "how exactly do they tuck their penis?" question - As a teen, I was as clueless and at least as curious about girl bits and their proper handling.

If she can be as forthright with her future partners, she'll do fine. Who doesn't appreciate an honest partner and want to help them out? (A total asshole, that's who - you show them the door and date someone else.)

She seems a bit the science geek (all the acid and alkaline distinctions). I'd love to see an "What-if" comic done in response to her questions.
I don't know if someone said, but cum tastes very different on different guys, with changes in diet, etc. All in the same alkaline class, but can vary from truly truly strong to quite delicious, depends. Precum really doesn't taste like much just kinda lightly spunky. Usually not noticeable unless you are sampling it specifically. You don't have to swallow if you don't want. And with the speculum (and cock, dildos, etc.) it does help to, well, kinda want it. Relax and try to take the thing in. Don't clench. Push out a little maybe if anything. Also, two fingers is about all I can do and I can take cock just fine, you'll be able to too. It's different. First few times you might be a bit tense though which can make things more difficult, don't let that discourage you, you'll relax into it, helps if he/she makes you cum (esp. a few times) first and you are totally comfortable with them. Also, dildos are harder to take than cock even if they are the same size, it's a rigidity/texture thing, so don't get distressed if you can't handle a small dildo - you'll still be able to handle an average to largish cock. I also remember cock seeming terrifyingly large in the beginning (and from time to time still honestly), don't worry you are built to handle it. You can take a forearm. Push a baby through that thing. Just a matter of prep and wanting it. Also had a friend whose hymen never broke - guys said it was like fucking a virgin every time, but she could handle anything that came her way so again, not a big deal. I do wish there was some sort of cultural rite where women did break their own hymens - it would be nice not to have to deal with the psychological burden of it, virginity bullshit, etc., but I think for the vast majority of women, if you are really into it, with a person you like, and super turned on - it's hard to feel pain then anyway, endorphins are through the roof, and it's not a big deal. I was more concerned for the guy, who found it difficult going. Thought I might hurt him! About a minute or two in, not a problem anymore. No pain.
@16, How To Be a Person, by Dan and the rest of The Stranger staff. My 18 year old daughter and her friends loved it.
@30: Obviously you're here because nobody will fuck you.
@15: "Feminism is like Zionism."

Way to make Feminism look like a zero-sum game. That's a pretty shit analogy that turns MRAs into Palestinians.

Feminism is not just a "rightful place for Jews", but a greater peace in Israel and happiness/security for all [women and thus happier men]. It's at nobody's expense.
God, I remember my first pelvic exam; I had a raging, horrible yeast infection and at the time you couldn't get that medication over the counter. I had never had anything in my vagina aside from a finger or two--well, I had tried tampons and found them painful and awful. And the nurses were totally unsympathetic, never asked me beforehand what my vaginal history was, despite my age (18), and only kept telling me to relax. Relax! Relax! Gee whiz, stupid nurses, I'll stick a speculum up your nose and see if you can relax.

(Just had to get that off my chest. It's been 25 years and I'm still affronted by it.)

It wasn't about a hymen, either. My vagina was always just really uptight and painfully sensitive until I had had PIV sex for maybe the 7th time.
@39- wow, that sucks. I would have yelled at them when they didn't listen to me when I told them it was uncomfortable or hurting, not to mention to be extra-gentle. Of course, my first exam I was 20, so at 18 I might not have known what to do. Doctors and nurses have so much power in their offices, or seem to when you're a young person wearing a gown and no undies, so standing up to them is a tough skill, and it's their responsibility to make sure everything is ok with you before doing anything, and let you know what's going on. Consider those nurses e-slapped on your behalf for being stupid and bad at their jobs! Karma!
@24 There ARE lots of acquired tastes in life, not only sexually. When I was a kid I used to hate all kinds of vegetables. Then I learned to like them. The same goes for sexual practices: there are things I didn't like when I was young which now are some of my favorites. So, I completely disagree with you. She may not like the taste once and bring herself to love it, just like the taste of gin. Plus, each person tastes different.
@38, very informative. Thank you.
@24: "am I the only one who instantly likes/dislikes things and then that doesn't change throughtout her life?"

The people who stubbornly refuse to give anything a further try, ever, for the rest of their lives are probably not that numerous.

Besides, we're referring to persons who aren't going to try things once and never again. We're talking about less fickle eaters :)
@43 who said anything about never trying again? The "trying again" part is precisely what confirms the fact that my preferences don't change, and therefore I wouldn't keep trying indefinitely if there was no need to do it. I could force myself to eat garlic everyday, I do eat it in occasions when I can't avoid it, that doesn't mean I started to like it, just that I can pretend it doesn't disgust me. I never liked running and I still don't necessarily enjoy it, but I do it in order to keep in shape. If I don't like someone's taste the first time, I probably won't like it the 100th time, but I'm not going to hurt my partner's feelings by showing my disgust. Maybe, most likely, a lot of people can/do genuinely change their tastes over time, and I envy them for that, but for me, it's just a matter of being polite and not showing my disgust to avoid offending others, but deep down my whole body is still saying "you're just kidding yourself!". Trust me, I wish I was one of those people who can easily adapt and change their tastes at their own convenience, sadly I learned that is not the case. Maybe it's hereditary bodily stubborness? My father has been trying the same drink several times over the years hoping that he's going to like it, and gets frustrated when, for some reason, he still can't adjust to the taste.
@44 So are you saying that (for example) you still like the same vegetables/fruits you did when you were 4 years old? Ask your mother, you are in for a surprise!
Aww, this advice was so sweet. I could have used it at that age.

Hell, I could still use it now.
@46 Wikipedia? Really? I was merely stating a fact about myself, while admiting to be quite particular, not saying certain things can't happen to other people. Of course I feel I confirm my own statements about myself, otherwise I would have multiple personality issues. Anyway, that was just a reflection about myself I only thought about when I read Dan's response, and from the rest of the comments, realized I was the only one who felt that way, which prompted me to comment. As someone who's always been this way, it was quite enlightening since I though the same thing happened to many people, apparently I was wrong. I liken it to when I started wearing glasses quite late and with a significant amount of correction, and people kept asking me "how come you didn't realize you couldn't see?" and my response was "I always had the same pair of eyes, how could I compare?".
These kind of experiences happen quite frecuently to me, I'm starting to notice as I type I must just be a very disconnected/ oblivious individual.
Anyway, I always enjoy your comments, so thanks for the response.
@48: The link is relevant, I'm saying that while people hating a particular foodstuff for all of their life isn't as common, the phenomena of not giving some things a fairer shake isn't.

The analogy seems pretty strained, as someone with extremely terrible and very corrected vision, I noticed it when I was in kindergarten. Granted, it probably took some adult explanation and coaxing at that point to getting me wearing the cokebottle lenses, but poor vision is something objectively measurable, hating brussels sprouts is a bit more subjective.

I really wish I could suck it up and myself to appreciate unaided vision the way I have with my least favorite childhood foods:)
@delta35, Dan's already weighed in (a few times) on the idiotic notion of having a different sex spelling for particular words. Here's one:…

My take: if you're talking about a teenage boy (or overgrown man-child) who's going to jerk his hips a couple of times, like a rabbit, and leave his partner unsatisfied, then spelling it in a short, immature way is illustrative. Otherwise, spell it "come".
@50: I so approve of this.

Plus: "Plus it's spelled pre-cum not pre-come. Did too much blow in LA to celebrate your new TV show?"

Wow, what an ass. People get really bitter over the possibility of losing their childish terms.
@50: I don't do twitter, so thank you for that. I love the "breakfast" and "plank" examples, but I actually would love to change the spelling to "pussay." I can hear it perfectly.
"Cum" is the stupidest-looking word I've ever seen, and there's no good reason to use it. Don't worry, folks, we know exactly what you mean even when you spell it out with the extra letter. We don't ever mistake it for the verb meaning "arrive." Because context.
I love this LW. And Dan's answer.
Most women have already had their hymen broken by the time of the LW's age, especially if they exercise often. So, I'm concerned that what the LW feels "in there" might not be her hymen at all. She might actually do (unnecessary) damage to herself by jabbing something into her cervix or vaginal canal. It might be hard to tell if any injury gets infected or when/how it has healed, and there's always the possibility that the LW starts to think that she didn't "get through it" and does it repeatedly... yeah. ugh.

Any 21-yr-old woman should have regular GYN exams (once a year). However, you should never, ever deal with a doctor that you don't trust or don't feel comfortable talking to. It's even more important for someone that you'll be sharing intimate details with. Ask for references from friends that you trust. You can also ask for someone to accompany you. (I asked for my husband come with me once to a place, and I got looks, comments, and weirdness from the staff, even though he was friendly and quiet through the exam. I never used that doctor again; it's their responsibility to make patients feel comfortable and be able to deal with benevolent patient supporters. What if this had been my first visit? What if I was a minor and wanted a parent with me? Anyway.)

Know what a standard exam should be: a history/Q&A session, a breast exam, an abdomen/vaginal exam (looking for ovarian cysts) and pap smear, and a quick rectal check. Of those, the worst is the pap smear, but it isn't bad at all if the doctor has a light hand with the speculum and swab. Ask questions about anything and everything, ask the doctor to go through each process verbally before they do anything, and speak up if you are worried, scared, or have any discomfort/pain. You are doing this for your own health. They are there to help you. And if you don't like what's going on, call for a pause, a stop, or end the exam. Remember, you are your own best advocate for yourself.
7: Dan covered the litmus idea, and others have advised you to get to know what feminism means to you.

As a late 20s feminist myself, I'll say that you should be prepared to continue to refine your ideas and feelings for a long while (probably forever!). Go out and find places, blogs, and communities that expose you to lots of variations and perspectives on feminism. You'll find out what you feel really strongly about, what you're not sure about, and what you've never thought about, and hearing from more and more people will help you define your own thoughts. You'll be challenged in lots of ways and also gain more confidence.

The great thing about doing this online is that it'll be easier to learn without getting into a lot of confrontation (unless you want to). It'll also be easier to hear what other people say without having to insert yourself into a conversation you're not informed enough to take on yet. Lurk!

Another side benefit is that this will also help you in the many inevitable situations when you will have to defend yourself.
@54 Also not only do they not have their hymens through breakage, etc. but also apparently the thing just gets reabsorbed. And I've never had a rectal check except once by a urologist who did it by surprise. I shit you not. I get his point and it truly was painless, quick and much less of an annoyance than the vaginal exam, but goddamn you think you'd warn a girl. I've never had a female doc not do the whole "I'm going to touch you here now" thing. Male docs, sure. Had one pull a tampon out of me without asking too. I guess they aren't as personally familiar with the vulnerability aspect of it? I bet the urologist warns the male patients. He'd get slugged otherwise.
@52, Pat Cadigan wrote a science fiction story called "Fifty Ways To Improve Your Orgasm" in which an alien race, studying humanity, does in fact confuse the two meanings of "come". But of course the point of the story is that these are aliens, who have never had a conversation with a human, and anyway, Rule of Funny.

On the same subject, another point against "cum" is that it has no proper past tense -- what would that be, "cummed"? Please. "I am going to come, I am coming, I came" -- those all follow neatly from one another. As does "...and then he lapped up my come."
@54, some girls are unlucky enough to have tough hymens. I was one, and the LW might be another.

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