Savage Love

Lotion Up

Comments

1
Great column Dan!
2
I missed my chance to be first, but I thoroughly enjoyed the column. I think he was a little hard on GRIND, lotioning up and mentioning sexy undies aren't totally the wrong direction.
3
Re Hate:

What the fuck??!

Re SAW:

Going through that scenario with my at the time GF was one of the worst, soul sucking experiences I've had. I do NOT recommend ignoring it and hoping it will "go away", because it won't. You are starting in the right direction by asking for help; living with this on your own can only hurt you AND him. Better luck in your next relationship!

Peace
4
Nice one this week, and GRIND's was particularly snickerworthy.
5
While I have no idea what's actually up with BBW's girlfriend, it's possible his "mostly truthful" answer came with flashing neon signs reading HE'S HIDING SOMETHING HE DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW. Which led to some "geez, is he into really scary stuff, or weird stuff?" until she snooped* to find out which it was.

A time machine would be the answer, where he'd confidently reply, "Yeah, I look at pretty standard vanilla porn of women of all shapes and sizes" either when she first asked, or after she checked the recent browser history. As so often happens, it's the cover-up that's doing BBW in.

*Which, Dan has said, is normal in a relationship viz a viz the occasional e-mail or text peek, so I will happily stick porn history in there.
6
Is it possible for a Savage Love column to turn one Japanese?
7
Re snooping: I've never snooped through my husband's e-mails, phone, or browser history, and I believe he has never snooped through mine. However, we HAVE gone through each other's stuff in the sense of "where is the painter's contact info?" or "I need to pull up that financial aid website you had open earlier, let me go through the browser history." It's the nature of an intimate shared relationship with someone that this new version of "look through the mail on the counter for that thing I need" will come up. So if there's something you wouldn't want a partner to see, be discreet about it. Private browsing, people.

I also think it's normal and healthy to have a gap between fantasy and things you want to try in real life. Someone can like porn of threeways or bbw or whatever without that being The Thing They Want for real life, just one thing they enjoy thinking about. Every item in your partner's browser history is not a bucket list of missed experiences for which they resent you.
8
RE SAW:

In the "Open It" Savage Love of the Day I commented on maintaining lack of boredom in a good way. The whole suicide threat thing is my personal definition of lack of boredom in a BAD way.

Peace
9
@7 IPJ,

"Every item in your partner's browser history is not a bucket list of missed experiences for which they resent you.".... Definitely a "First World" problem.

Peace
10
Just to put it out there: not every man is sexy while lotioning up. Some can definitely be hot, but others are unconsciously grunting, cursing to themselves, and concentrating on moisturizing their crusty heels. Also, as in the case of the LW, they could just be kind of a dick.

Ophian @6: Mon chapeau rose! It's been too long! For the record, I am sure you are stunning during post-shower lotioning.
11
@2 Too hard on someone whose complaint boils down to, I want my girlfriend to initiate sex more often, but she's only willing to initiate sex when she actually is in the mood for sex, how do I get her to initiate when she doesn't want it too? And it's not like her libido is amazingly low - she'll initiate after a few days. But he wants sex more often than that, and she is willing to oblige. But waiting a few days for her to actually desire sex is too much for him. So, yeah, you're not going to get someone initiating sex that often if they are already having sex more often than they are naturally inclined to. And, on top of that, he never even asked her to.
12
Christian fundies love to play the victim. They'll twist reality beyond recognition to make themselves look like the aggrieved party. If you stop them from oppressing those they hate, they say you're infringing on their religious freedom. "All we want is our God-given freedom to beat the shit out of fags in parking lots! Why won't you give us our freedom?!"
13
Dear Dan,

My boyfriend has this weird habit where he makes this huge deal out of lotioning up in front of me. I mean, he reeeeally gets into it. What is up with that, Dan? Is my boyfriend gay?

signed,
Mixed Signals
14
One wonders whether GRIND wears a red T-shirt the day after his girlfriend wears a red sweater as a way of sending a coded message that he wants her.
15
SAW: Next time he threatens suicide for ANY reason, forward his messages to the local suicide prevention authorities to get him identified as a suicide risk and if possible have him protectively interned for a few days. Don't give him any attention other than that, just show that you "take him seriously" by getting his ass locked up in the ward. I give him one, two episodes tops, to break this shitty habit.
16
I entirely approve of Mr Savage's deferral on the podcast to the suicide expert; he ought to be in Parliament with that sort of loyal opposition.

The first LW seems like a Martian trying to figure out the secret Venutian code. The third LW seems admirably skilled in entrapment and ought to be put to better use. As nobody in either of those letters is doing anything so egregious as to deserve to be forced to marry immediately, both relationships should be terminated at once.
17
How is BBW porn not "vanilla"? Isn't it kind of insulting to fat people to imply that they're attractive only as fetish objects? just wondering. Minor details though - Dan's advice is mostly solid.
18
@Dan:

I think you got GRIND's gender wrong. Not only did GRIND not specify his or her gender, but I get the distinct impression from their letter that she's actually a she.

1. Lotion. Like really, I don't know any guys who put lotion all over themselves. Unless they're really really smooth naturally (I know, that *does* happen on occasion) and they shave their legs on a regular basis, putting lotion on body hair is not particularly effective or pleasant. But then, maybe just because I'm a particularly hairy guy, I don't know any better? Also, the expectation that this is sexy to other people... that's a girl thing.

2. The behaviour exhibited, and the expectation that the other person clue in because she's being soooo obvious about what she wants. Even if this isn't an *inherent* girl behaviour, it's most certainly a socially enforced one.

That aside, I think you're spot on with your advice. Nobody is a mind reader, even other women, for whom (apparently) all this is supposed to just be obvious. That's what girls keep saying, anyway (until they grow up).
19
(Edit: I realize that it was BBW, not Dan, who used the term "vanilla." I probably would have called him on it, though.)
20
SAW if your boyfriend is enrolled in college contact the school's division of campus life. You can do this anonymously, just call and tell them his name and your concerns.
21
My question about SAW's letter-- With the information we're given, do we really think the ex is a suicide risk?

If he is, then notifying people in a position to help him (mother, hotlines, whatever) in the city where he lives is the way to go.

But I'm not sure he is. I think he's continuing to be a manipulative bastard. In which case the thing to do is to change contact numbers and ignore him.

My worry is that he's so controlling that his controlling tendencies will turn to violence against her, but she said this was a long distance relationship which puts me a little more at ease.
22
@Ven, GRIND describes himself as a "no beat around the bush kind of guy"
23
I work in psych. That girl needs to call the local PD to do a wellness check on him. Being taken in by the police and being put on a 72 hour hold might convince him that it's not appropriate to make threats like that. You've hedged your bets this way. You did the responsible thing (making sure he's not at risk, taking suicide seriously) without getting sucked back into his drama.
24
@ 6 Ophian - is your post short because your hand is busy - now that you're turning Japanese?
25
Oh no - is "lotioning up" something women are supposed to find sexy? I didn't get that memo.
26
@MinnySota, I'm not sure how psych holds happen in your state, but a long-distance ex-gf calling about a suicide threat definitely isn't enough for a 72-hour hold here in WA. Unless when the cops come by he's mid-attempt... Either way, when the mental health professionals come by to talk to him about it and he denies any suicidal ideation, then he's free to go, simple as that.
27
Wait, his girlfriend will only initiate sex after a couple of days? Like, twice a week? And this is horrible why? Pretty sure it's a bit miraculous anyone is initiating sex with this guy. No matter how well lotioned he may be.
28
@21: SAW should circle the wagons whether the threat is authentic or not. If it is, he'll be forced to at least begin treatment and his family and friends will be have been put on notice. If not, the 5150 hold should be an effective deterrent to him pulling that kind of manipulative bullshit in the future.
29
@gromm:

GRIND is a guy. He says so in the letter.
30
Speaking of "Values Voters", if you are in or know anyone in Virginia, please take note of the upcoming gubernatorial race, in which one candidate is the truly awful Ken Cuccinelli, who wants to bring back sodomy laws in Virginia:
http://www.newser.com/story/176222/in-va…

I'd written Dan before suggesting a new word, but I guess he's not into that so much anymore. Anyhow, my suggestion was that if this Cuccinelli asswipe wants to clean up dirty oral and anal sex, I really think it's "just fittin'" that his name be honored in
that effort!

cuccinelli, n: A tissue, wet-wipe, or wash cloth used to clean up before or after a sex
act. "Ew, grab a cuccinelli and wipe off that santorum before it gets all over the
sheets!" "If you expect oral sex from me, you better be taking a cuccinelli to that
thing first!"

p.s. If you can't stomach either major party offering, the Libertarian candidate sounds pretty good:
http://www.robertsarvis.com/issues/marri…
"I want to lead the fight now—in this election—to recognize same-sex marriages in Virginia."
31
but she hardly ever initiates sex with me.

First of all, you'll have to excuse Dan (and Lolorhone) for getting lost in the specifics of your attempts to entice your girl. Yours isn't the sort of problem that gay men often face.

Second, your girlfriend obviously isn't the initiating type, so do yourself a favor and stop looking for symmetry in your sex life. That will only lead to disappointment.

If your girlfriend gets a boner for you, it will be because you've taken her on a getaway to a really nice, expensive, and romantic place. Or it will be in response to something you'd never anticipate, and whatever you did to trigger it won't likely have the same effect the next time.

The best you can do is ask her directly (as Dan suggested), and you'll probably need to give her some specific direction on how you'd like to be seduced. If she follows through, you're still the initiator technically speaking, but I suggest you not dwell on that fact.
32
seandr @31: I'll gently remind you that, aside from lotioning not being universal code for "let's bang", the problem as I saw it was that his other attempts at seduction made him sound like a tool ("What you're wearing now isn't doing shit for me but if you step your game up tomorrow there's gonna so much dick in it for you" ain't smooth on any planet I've heard of). The "specifics" in this case are pretty indicative of why he's failing.
33
@ LW #@/SAW: when I was in my early 2's, I was in a LD friendship that had some flirting, but not a relationship. The guy was very manipulative emotionally. & although I wasn't wise to that, all the red lights went on in my mind when he told me he was thinking about "ending it all", he went on at great length. Apparently this was supposed to win me over. I don't play with that line in the slightest, having known people who committed suicide. I told him I had to switch phones to call him back, called the police department in his town, asked them to go check on him (it was a smaller town & I was reasonably sure they weren't gonna hassle him unduly, then called him back & kept him on the phone until the cops arrived. He was chagrined but he never pulled that trick again. (BTW he'd apparently used this line on other ladies with more luck.)

Huh, now that I think about it, that or a slight variant happened with two other friends, one was kind of an ex. Ah, early 20's. I may wish I had that body again, but I'm happy to have better taste in friends now.

Back to you, SAW: listen to Dan. I'm sorry you are dealing with this, & I hope your moving-on continues apace. From someone who's been there, make sure to let people know. If he's just trying to guilt you OR he actually needs help, friends/family should know what he's saying.
34
@ 32: Mr. LoLorhone - truth, as regards LW #1. If that's how he's trying to get her to initiate, he needs to up his game. I lived with a guy once who did the lotioning trick. Took me a few times for me to grok that he didn't have eczema or something, he wanted *help* with the lotion application.

Plus talking, talking usually works. Awkward at first, results better later. Positive comments: "I really love that red sexy thing you wear!" works better than negative & trying to schedule a time for wearing XYZ sexypants.
35
Re: Letter #1

Do you guys think that having such asymmetry in libido, that can lead to frustration, is likely to doom the relationship?
36
Ms Blackwood - I agree that Mr Gromm's post was in a style similar to mine. Now, given the editing we've seen lately, I'll admit to wondering whether we can be sure even the admissions of gender are accurate (although I have my doubts about the poster who claimed to have submitted a gender-neutral question which was given a female label when published).

Mr Rhone/Ms Hopkins/Dr Sean - Perhaps it's an opposite-sexer thing (although here Ms Hopkins and Mr Ophian may well prefer not to be included), but somehow I can't bring myself to put any couple in which arousal is dependent upon the correct lingerie in Joan Plumleigh Bruce's top drawer. I do think Dr Sean might deserve half a point for recognizing that Exotic Travel is likely to work (as might jewelry). I'd always put lotioning in a similar category to going to bed slathered in face cream, but accept that it might be different for those of the human persuasion.
37
@Ven, I saw Gromm's comment below yours and switched the names given the similar style. It's true, I guess even if someone submits a totally gender neutral letter, the name they are given in the column may erase that neutrality. In this particular case, I'd rather believe that LW is indeed male, if only because that kind of communication issue is thought to be exclusively a female problem, which makes the whole situation funnier and gender non-conforming, in a way.
38
GRIND is upset that his girlfriend does not initiate sex for DAYS! One day he'll look back at this relationship as "the good old days".
39
@Texans - Right?!? "Days!" As opposed to hours.
40
Re Single and Worried. My son DID commit suicide after the tenth time his girlfriend broke up with him. Sure, it was stupid and manipulative for him to hang himself, but who is the victim here? The advice given by the Suicide Prevention organization is good and right, but one further piece of advice might be: "If you jerk somebody around long enough, maybe you will eventually goad that somebody into killing himself." If you break up, break up, don't keep coming back for hugs and kisses and a place to live and all that and then run off with the first pretty face that offers to give you shinier hugs and kisses. And call the suicide prevention line when somebody threatens. Call the relevant police if the threat is right now. Every time. Especially in the middle of the night.
41
wanderlust @26: I don't know anything about "psych holds," but it's not just a call from a long-distance ex, it's also voice mails, text messages, and e-mails "threatening" suicide.
42
Oh, Kohz, so sorry she has to put up with all those calls (doesn't she have caller ID?), voice mails (delete delete), text messages (block or delete), emails (delete or send them to a mailbox she doesn't read). How awful! Poor baby! The ex's mother, in contrast, may have to put up with a funeral and handling her kid's estate, plus no grandchildren or son at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But you're so right. Suicide is so "manipulative." // Come on! Woman up! Suicide hotline. Police. Every time. If he's not serious, it will get him to think about whether she's really worth the grief. If he is serious, it may save his mother and father a llfe-long memory of a son who died unnecessarily. SUICIDE THREATS SHOULD ALWAYS BE TREATED SERIOUSLY.
43
"call the local PD to do a wellness check on him." Minnysota, you're absolutely right. The police will come, even if it's the 30th time there's been a threat. I'm surprised nobody here is mentioning being on the rejection of a horrible breakup and how it really does make you want to end it all. It feels like shit. It feels so painful you do want to die. It isn't a trick or being manipulative, though it may be a sign of mental health problems. // I'm not saying the rejector should come back. That isn't possible. But take the threat seriously, because it may well be.
44
I had a GF, once, who insisted that porn was cheating because "THAT is a PERSON!"

I guess she's kind of a glassy, two dimensional person (mostly, there are 3D boobies on the web but they're still not soft and warm).

I think I would have had some trouble working with her over the nudist hot spring stuff I enjoy, but I never tried and she was gone pretty quick because THAT was a CRAZY PERSON.

The Great Love Of My Life reads Dan, goes to the springs with me (to be naked, not to touch other people) and views porn at will. So BBW, if you can't educate her, you *can* upgrade.
45
@lolorhone: "What you're wearing now isn't doing shit for me but if you step your game up tomorrow there's gonna so much dick in it for you"

Um, OK, except this doesn't even remotely resemble anything he said. I highly doubt his girlfriend jumped to such a grouchy, defensive, and far-fetched interpretation of his comment, and if she did, she needs therapy.

That's not to say his attempts at enticement aren't laughable, but that's simply because he's mistakenly assuming what works for him might also work for her. And believe me, if your girlfriend strips naked and starts rubbing lotion on her body while looking at you suggestively, that is in fact universal code for "let's bang", and as her boyfriend, you'd do well to respond appropriately.
46
@ 7: I also think it's normal and healthy to have a gap between fantasy and things you want to try in real life. Someone can like porn of threeways or bbw or whatever without that being The Thing They Want for real life, just one thing they enjoy thinking about.

Yeah. I have a friend who says, whenever this comes up, "Owning a copy of Die Hard doesn't mean he actually wants to walk barefoot on broken glass." For some reason, when talking about porn, people forget they know that.

@21: My question about SAW's letter-- With the information we're given, do we really think the ex is a suicide risk?

I know of a lot of people who threatened suicide when they got dumped, and I know of one or two people who committed suicide after getting dumped, but I don't know of any who did both.

That said, I agree with VLiaTW: Having the cops check in on him in lieu of a response from the ex will either save a life or provide him with some much-needed knowledge.
47
@45: And believe me, if your girlfriend strips naked and starts rubbing lotion on her body while looking at you suggestively, that is in fact universal code for "let's bang", and as her boyfriend, you'd do well to respond appropriately.

In my experience, if your girlfriend does that, she thinks she is initiating.
48
@vennominon: somehow I can't bring myself to put any couple in which arousal is dependent upon the correct lingerie in Joan Plumleigh Bruce's top drawer

GRIND is hardly the first straight male to fantasize about his girlfriend showing up unannounced in a hot, slutty outfit, ripping off his clothes, and proceeding to fuck his brains out.

If Hollywood and Cosmo are to be believed, some women actually do this once in a while of their own initiative, but my experience is that if you're a guy who is waiting for this to happen, you'd do better to ask.
49
VLiaTW Your anger is palpable but you can't blame the shitty gf entirely for your son's death. He chose to stay in that relationship and chose her to begin with. Which means he probably was in trouble before the whole thing even began, and clearly wasn't well after taking her back the fourth or fifth time. It is never the responsibility of other people to prevent someone from suiciding - because it is impossible to prevent someone else from suiciding. Yes threats should be taken more seriously. Yes most people who suicide do tell others, often multiple others, of their intent before they do it. Usually months or years in advance. But it is far more often used as a bullying tactic by assholes, so especially in circumstances like this it is really understandable that an ex would ignore it. Most people ignore suicide threats even under much clearer circumstances. Suicide threats are also common coming from abusers. It is definitely commonly used as a manipulative tactic, because it's highly effective. Call the cops once, twice maybe, then disengage, because at that point the guy is clearly out of his damn mind, refusing treatment, and verging on the dangerous to the ex even if he's not seemingly aggressive. And the police showing up on the 30th threat? Not around here. And certainly not quickly.
50
@Vanilla Lady in a Technicolor World, I'm so sorry for your loss.

51
@seandr et al. re initiating --

I think it helps to avoid looking at this in a binary way. If you find yourself keeping track of who has initiated how often, you're on the wrong track.

Instead: sit down and have a conversation about wanting to feel desired. Talk about what gets each of you in the mood. And think of yourselves as a team, where each person contributes to building the mood so that sexy times can happen.

And, yes, if she tells you about the porn she was reading waiting for you to get home, or if she strips naked and looks at you suggestively, please put those in the "she desires me" category, rather than the "she always waits for me to initiate" category. It's a dance -- it takes two.
52
@18: Were it not for the LW's use of the word "guy" I too would have thought the LW is female. The application of lotion post-shower and the expectation to glean a paragraph of information out of a single sentence is, in my experience, something you're more likely to encounter with a woman than a man.
53
If people have even a small difference in how often they want sex, it can seem like a larger one -- e.g., if A wants sex about four times a week and B wants sex about three times a week, it's almost always going to be A initiating, until that gets to be the pattern in the relationship. To change that, you have to be conscious about it and actually communicate.
54
@ 51: I think it helps to avoid looking at this in a binary way. If you find yourself keeping track of who has initiated how often, you're on the wrong track.

While I largely agree with you--and think your call here is basically correct--this part sounds just the slightest bit suspect coming from straight women--the group who, as a class, have offloaded the risks and costs of initiating onto their partners. As such, they have obvious ulterior motives in wanting to steer the conversation away from "who initiates and who doesn't."

It's like if a straight man wanted to steer the "who's turn is it to make dinner" conversation away from the topic of who cooks dinner the most often. In 1955.

I think men who complain that their partners don't initiate are telling their partners what they need in order to feel desired. It's not all that different from what most women need: to have a partner who initiates regularly.

55
Are we sure GRIND is a dude?
56
Ah, yes we are. Weird.
57
You know, there's probably a context for GRIND's expectation that lotioning up is a signal for sex. Maybe his girlfriend has told him that she just can't resist touching his smooth, sexy skin when it's all soft, and he thinks this is a cue.

But that's beside the point. The point is that he expects her sexuality to replicate his and in some ways he expects his own behavior to reliably mimic hers in that he wants her response to his behaviors to be what his would be to her if she performed the same.

He initiates sex when he is horny. So does she; except that she gets horny every few days, and it sounds like he gets horny more frequently. It's pretty hard to initiate something you don't especially feel like doing. It's much easier to respond to something you didn't especially feel like doing because you love the person who wants it or because once things get underway you're enjoying them.

As Eudaemonic pointed out, signals like wearing sexy lingerie and making sure you are seen wearing it, putting lotion on in front of a partner (well, not so much, to me, but I get the point) and in other ways presenting oneself as attractive and available are often seen as more active acts of seduction/initiation when performed by straight women. Often, that's all a woman has to do to signal that she wants to have sex. So the idea that the person who uttered the first sexual suggestion, or touched the other one first, or planted the first kiss is the initiator is incomplete. If I make sure my bf sees something usually covered or if I make sure he sees that I'm doing something to make my body more appealing to him, I'm likely to think that I'm doing at least part of the initiating. This might be a "problem" from a gender-equality issue, but the idea that a woman's effort consists of making herself desirable as an object is pretty ingrained.

In fact, that is exactly the dynamic GRIND is relying on when he said he says to his gf: I'll say something like "I wanted to fuck last night-maybe you can wear one of your sexy bras and thongs one day soon?" He sees her wearing her sexy bra and thong as her (successful) attempt at initiation. She knows it. And he knows she knows it. So when she wears unsexy undergarments, he sees it as signaling her lack of interest, which may be true. Of course, it may also mean that she just wants to be more comfortable. But if she knows that he equates her wearing "sexy" bras and thongs with a statement that she wants to have sex, she also knows that he interprets wearing comfy white cotton underwear as a signal that says "not interested now." And she's choosing what she wants to wear, so in a sense she is sending that signal.

Then GRIND is appropriating at least one of these "feminine" behaviors (putting on lotion in front of the gf) and expecting her to behave in the correspondingly male way ("ooh, he's sending me the signal that he wants me to ravish him"). She doesn't, because either the signal is too subtle for her, or she wasn't in the mood, so it didn't ping for her.

I did find the statement "I'm a no-beat-around-the-bush kind of guy, but I realize that this can be a sensitive topic, and I don't want to scare her by saying, "Please initiate sex more often!" So I do small things to coax her and let her know that I want her to initiate" first funny and then sad. Everything this guy is doing and saying screams of beating around the bush. But the fact that he is afraid he'd "scare" her by bringing up the topic of initiating more explicitly suggests that in his past, someone, perhaps this gf herself, has gotten upset at his attempt at direct communication.

He would be fine with her efforts of "initiation" being limited to wearing sexy lingerie--as long as that happens often enough for his libido. So I am assuming that when she wants sex, she signals it, initiates, if you will, according to this couple's set of expectations, by wearing the underwear they both know he finds sexy. But asking someone to initiate sex when s/he's not in the mood is unreasonable. Expecting someone to respond on occasion even if s/he's not in the mood for the sake of the other partner, on the other hand, is completely reasonable. But you can't just complain that the partner with the lower libido isn't putting enough effort into initiation.
58
@Vanilla Lady in a Technicolor World: Let me add my condolences. I'm sorry to hear of your loss.
59
@54, agreed that the proposal is suspect, coming from me. But I think the alternative is dangerous: initiating becomes a chore, and the woman feels guilty for not initiating on a "fair" schedule, and she starts avoiding sex altogether. Don't tell me that doesn't happen to marriages.

>> It's like if a straight man wanted to steer the "who's turn is it to make dinner" conversation away from the topic of who cooks dinner the most often. >>

Maybe the man in your story could bring home take-out, and the wife should accept that that's what "making dinner" looks like on his nights. If the wife mandates that dinner has to look a certain way, she's setting him up for failure.

Similarly, if you (generic you) want your partner to be more involved in initiating, then you have to compromise a little on what that looks like. Maybe Partner comes and gives you a backrub, maybe Partner pats your butt on the way to the bedroom. It's not going to look exactly the way you might want it to.
60
@55 (and others):

When gender isn't specified in the letter, as printed in the column, but Dan goes ahead and refers to the LW in a gendered way, it's taken as given that there's enough information somewhere in the original letter as sent to as to definitively indicate the gender of said LW.

See The Advice Columnists Guidebook Sec. 3-120 Chapter 5 Optech glitch 93-0.
61
@54 also:
>> I think men who complain that their partners don't initiate are telling their partners what they need in order to feel desired.>>

Not if they complain to Dan but don't bring it up to their partners explicitly. Also, "complaining" isn't the approach I would recommend. Try "communicating" and "brainstorming" instead.
62
I don't get the impression from GRIND's letter that he is wanting his GF to "initiate" sex for it's own sake, both because he does get sex when he puts the effort in and because it would still count as her initiative after he sent her "start wooing me now" signals.

At that point, what he is really wanting is some combination of not having to put in so much effort "initiating", or being given more reassurance from his GF that he is lovable and sexually desirable.
63
Dang, everything was fine until the very end, where you had to promote *socialism*, and then suggest that I send money. Guess I'll have to send more money to anti-socialist causes.
64
@EricaP:
Maybe the man in your story could bring home take-out, and the wife should accept that that's what "making dinner" looks like on his nights. If the wife mandates that dinner has to look a certain way, she's setting him up for failure.
This is perhaps the single most important lesson for both partners to learn if they want their relationships to be successful.

Wife: My husband never helps with the dishes.
Husband: Every time I washed the dishes, my wife told me I was doing it wrong. Eventually I stopped.

Husband: My wife doesn't initiate sex often enough.
Wife: I wear uncomfortable, has-to-be-washed-by-hand lingerie twice a week when I'd rather be in my Fruit of the Looms. What's he complaining about?

Years ago, a friend of mine who used to make elaborate dinners for her family every night and was resenting the time and effort that she alone put into the task told her husband she wanted him to commit to making dinner once a week. He thought he knew what her expectations of "dinner" were, based on what she prepared, and said, "okay, but it's going to be scrambled eggs, then." To which she replied, "scrambled eggs sound wonderful."
65
@55 and others, and 60: Plus the letter writer calls himself a "guy."
66
@63 Fine then, join the company of Hitler and the Koch brothers. The rest of us will stay here and enjoy our health care, public facilities, etc.

Also, lol@ you "having money".
67
GRIND, you've got the wrong person applying the lotion. Hand her the bottle.
68
@65 Yeah, there's that, too.

And the fact that Lesbian Bed Death is generally not caused by a lack of slutty thongs and sexy lingerie...
69
@ 57: Everything this guy is doing and saying screams of beating around the bush. But the fact that he is afraid he'd "scare" her by bringing up the topic of initiating more explicitly suggests that in his past, someone, perhaps this gf herself, has gotten upset at his attempt at direct communication.

This, too. I wish he'd gone into more (or any) detail about why he's afraid that it would "scare" her; it seems like that would make a huge difference here.

@59: But I think the alternative is dangerous: initiating becomes a chore, and the woman feels guilty for not initiating on a "fair" schedule, and she starts avoiding sex altogether.

True enough, but initiation is already a chore. The dangers there are from making it a shared chore, rather than a mutually-beneficial chore that one partner is exclusively expected to do because of gendered expectations. Initiation takes effort, and carries emotional risks (which is why the people who don't have to do it typically place the entire burden on their partners).

That said--yes. The reasonable solution is (as it often is) "work out with your partner what you both want, and what you can do about it." But we shouldn't assume that someone is creating a chore just by refusing to do all of it because they're male or female.

Maybe the man in your story could bring home take-out, and the wife should accept that that's what "making dinner" looks like on his nights. If the wife mandates that dinner has to look a certain way, she's setting him up for failure.

Yeah. I was thinking more of the situation in which the husband and the wife are both starting from the assumption that it's the wife's job to provide dinner for both of them, seven days a week, just because she's a woman. And that the husband entirely fulfills his duty by eating it--when and if he finds it satisfactory.

I'm pretty sure that most of the men who complain about having to do 100% of the initiation, 100% of the time would be thrilled with the equivalent of takeout.

...Which is not to say that I necessarily trust the men's assessment of the situation regarding who's initiating, since it's pretty easy for couples to have sex and both think they're the one who initiated it.

Not if they complain to Dan but don't bring it up to their partners explicitly.

I completely agree. I'm really curious why he thinks it would scare her.
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nocutename @57 - I missed your post before, but wanted to say that it's really good. I loved your analysis of the role lingerie plays in their relationship.
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@ericap and @nocutename - thanks for the reminder... this is something that I'm still working on. Husband and I have different expectations for where to prioritize sex and house cleaning and cooking and work and this needs to go in my periodic file for "how to not fuck up so much" :-)

For GRIND - try talking. And with her libido lower than yours, you may need to recognize that if you want her to initiate, the price of admission (tm) is a couple of days without sex.
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@Eduaemonic: initiation is already a chore. The dangers there are from making it a shared chore, rather than a mutually-beneficial chore that one partner is exclusively expected to do because of gendered expectations. Initiation takes effort, and carries emotional risks (which is why the people who don't have to do it typically place the entire burden on their partners).

I don't think initiation is necessarily a chore, if you expect that your advances will be joyfully accepted. Of course, it depends on what constitutes "initiation" between any two partners. (I'm talking about relatively ltr here) As others have pointed out, everyone wants to feel themselves to be the object of lust and desire in a relationship, and the other person in a couple can find myriad ways of expressing that. If one person makes the other one feel sexy, desired and desirable, and communicates the strong sense that any advances will be welcomed, I don't think the partner that has to make the literal first move will feel anywhere near the sense of obligation and burden that s/he would feel if s/he wasn't sure of the response. But of course, part of feeling desired and desirable is proved when the other person makes a move, so it's kind of an intertwined thing.

73
My experience with the mental health industry: Patient tearfully tells psychologist of suicidal feelings. Psychologist decides Patient is manipulative, offers prozac, shows Patient the door. If Patient does not follow through on suicide, great! Psychologist was correct that Patient was manipulative. If Patient does follow through with suicidal attempt, great! Fact that Patient was not successful proves that Psychologist was correct that Patient was manipulative. Otherwise Patient would have succeeded. If Patient successfully commits suicide, great! Patient was manipulative to do such a selfish horrible thing.
74
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76
Thanks, EricaP.
77
She initiates when she's horny/sexually frustrated, but she obviously has a lower libido than you do and gets horny/sexually frustrated at intervals that leave you frustrated.

I actually feel like Dan is being too quick here to subscribe to the stereotype that women have lower libidos than men.

LW has explicitly said that his girlfriend always responds positively when he initiates sex, but doesn't initiate, herself, unless it's been an abnormally long time since they've fucked and she's getting frustrated.

This could mean that she has a lower libido. Or it could mean that her libido is just as high as his or higher but she's just not comfortable initiating for whatever reason. Maybe initiating just doesn't occur to her. Women aren't exactly trained by society to be sexually aggressive.

And so maybe when bf stops initiating sex for a while, gf is in fact thinking "Goddamn, I'm horny. Buuuut, if bf wanted sex, he'd start something up, so I guess he's not in the mood and I should try to respect that." Then a few more days go by and she's so horny she just snaps, overrides what she thinks is her bf's lack of interest, and jumps him.

There's no way of knowing what's actually going on in her head unless her boyfriend uses his words and asks her what's going on there.
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72: I don't think initiation is necessarily a chore, if you expect that your advances will be joyfully accepted.

There's no human on Earth whose advances will always be joyfully accepted, so anyone initiating runs a risk of rejection, and will experience rejection if they have to routinely be the one to initiate. So initiation is a chore: it requires courage and energy, and will sometimes result in being hurt. That's a chore. That's more of a "chore," I think, than most actual chores are. (Straight guys: Which/how many additional chores would you take on in exchange for your partner taking sole responsibility for initiating regularly and often? All of them? Thought so!)

That's the problem here: this risk always exists, and will damage a normal person's self-esteem. The fact that gender roles traditionally offload the entirety of this risk onto one person doesn't mean it disappears.

But of course, part of feeling desired and desirable is proved when the other person makes a move, so it's kind of an intertwined thing.

That's kind of what I'm getting at. If your partner says "I desire you, but I will make no effort and take no risks to demonstrate it, and I will never overtly display it, but I will nonetheless expect you to do all of these things all of the time," you're probably not going to feel very reassured about the "desire" part...

I mean, it's like a lot of things: all relationships have power balances, but if one partner's constantly getting those imbalances rubbed in their face, they're probably going to start to feel like they're having power imbalances rubbed in their face. And I could be wrong, but my study of humanity so far is making me think that's not what they want rubbed in their face.
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@77: There's no way of knowing what's actually going on in her head unless her boyfriend uses his words and asks her what's going on there.

You make good points, but in fairness, if people in relationships communicated using words instead of gendered assumptions, Dan would be out of a job, and the rest of us would be frightfully bored.
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@77 (perversecowgirl): Good point: This could mean that she has a lower libido. Or it could mean that her libido is just as high as his or higher but she's just not comfortable initiating for whatever reason. Maybe initiating just doesn't occur to her. Women aren't exactly trained by society to be sexually aggressive.
But I don't think that the gf thinks "if bf wanted sex, he'd start something up, so I guess he's not in the mood and I should try to respect that." I think she is used to relying on those traditional gender roles of who should be the agent and who is the object and how one signals sexual interest. Maybe she feels like she needs him to signal more explicit desire for her and if she doesn't get that, she fears rejection if she were to make the more traditional first move, as Eudaemonic points out in #78.

It is kind of astounding that people in long term relationships need almost constant assurances that they are still desirable to their partners, but there you go; it seems that all humans do require it.
81
seandr @45: You have heard of being facetious, haven't you? The point of my jokey exaggeration was to emphasize his wholly unsuccessful and wholly ridiculous seduction techniques (direct and indirect). Indirectly, he's moisturizing without an audience when he could simply open his mouth and ask. Directly, he's asking her to dress up tomorrow in a way that suggests he's put off by (or just uninterested in) what she had on last night.

P.S.

He never said he was looking at her while he lotioned, just that he did so in front of her- which could easily be mistaken for standard-issue intimacy.
82
How do I figure out who initiates the sex in my relationship?

I am a straight (ish) lady in a (more than 1 year, less than 5 year) relationship with a dude. I would have sex with him LITERALLY any time, and he knows it. I am not being hyperbolic; I am at work right now, and if he asked me to leave and go bang him in the parking lot, I would. Over the course of our relationship, I have never NOT had sex when he has indicated his interest.

But that doesn't exactly count as initiating, does it? Because he still has to be the one to make a move, right? Anyone have any tips to make sure he feels appreciated without making him feel nagged for sex?
83
@BBW: There's no good alternative to self confidence when it comes to worrying about appearance. If she doesn't like her body, she will try to find reasons why you might not like it either. It tends to be the insecure types that really don't want their boyfriends looking at porn.

If she is OK with her body and you are physically attracted to her, then you can get to the point where you can honestly say things like "I like you but I also like looking at other body types/boob sizes/etc." without starting an emotional shitstorm.

Not sure how to get there, but very happy to be in a relationship where the latter is (mostly) true.
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@81(lolorhone): You're absolutely right that lotioning oneself post-shower in front of one's long-term partner could most easily and usually be read as a gesture of intimacy, not as a a "come hither" statement. Which is why I suggest this particular act or the smooth skin which is associated with it has particular significance for this couple. There's some background the lw's leaving out, but which is significant for him and his gf there.
85
@InsignificantReader (82): Why do you conflate initiating sex or expressing a desire for it with nagging?
Does your bf ever complain that you never seem satisfied with the amount of sex that he likes to have?

As for your question. I would text the following to him right now: "I know we're at work now, but if you were to ask me to leave and bang you in the parking lot, I'd be there in a heartbeat. Looking forward to the next time we're together . . ."

86
@ 80: It is kind of astounding that people in long term relationships need almost constant assurances that they are still desirable to their partners, but there you go; it seems that all humans do require it.

I guess it doesn't seem too surprising, on reflection: people change, and people's desires change. Without some level of constant reassurance, how would you know your partner hasn't stopped desiring you?

I think it's relevant that being in a relationship with someone who no longer desires you is a seriously bad outcome, so it's reasonable to take that risk similarly seriously.

@ 82: I would have sex with him LITERALLY any time, and he knows it.

Out of curiosity, how do you know he knows it?
87
Also, InsignificantReader @82, when you said: Because he still has to be the one to make a move, right? I want to know why. Does he feel like he needs to be the one to initiate? Does your initiating somehow make you less feminine to him? Have you ever initiated sex? If so, did you get a response that leads you to this attitude?

Or are you echoing (or perhaps questioning) the standard gendered division of labor/sex roles?

Try initiating and see what happens.

88
nocutename @84: Really? I just thought he thought he was hot. He might, in fact, be hot- but in this relationship, it seems fairly obvious that he still needs to initiate explicitly.
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@86: I know he knows because I have explicitly told him exactly that on multiple occasions.

I guess my main concern is how to make sure that he doesn't come to the (erroneous) conclusion that I am unsatisfied with the amount of sex we do have. He is happy with an average of 2 to 3 times per week, whereas I could have sex multiple times a day. Now I know this looks like a kiss of death/mismatched libido sort of situation, but it's not as though I go around itching for sex constantly. It's just that I really, really enjoy getting it on with him, so why would I ever turn that down? To me it's like if someone was handing out free hundred-dollar bills...I would take every dang hundo they offered because cash is awesome, but it doesn't mean I am feeling impoverished just because I would always be down for more money.
90
I know he knows because I have explicitly told him exactly that on multiple occasions.

Ah. I asked only because that (like when a man talking about his sex life says "Of course I satisfy my wife completely" without saying how he knows), it often makes me wonder.

It sounds like you're in a pretty good spot, though, all things considered. Have you tried asking him (at some low-pressure, not-overtly-sexual time) how he likes initiation to work? If he's been secretly wishing he didn't always have to make the first move, he'll probably be willing to tell you what kind of move he'd prefer.

But if you're not feeling sex-starved (and not worried about getting that way), it sounds like you've got things worked out pretty well already. Of course, I thought GRIND is basically doing fine too (there are probably billions of men who'd kill to have a partner who would initiate on her own after a couple of days).
91
Great column, Dan. I have a comment regarding the last item, "HATE CRIME."

I always try hard to be tolerant of all kinds of people, no matter what opinions they hold and/or express and no matter how much I disagree or am shocked or appalled by their idiocy and/or hate. As I always say, it takes all kinds of stupid to make a world. But there are times, especially when I hear about a "shitbag" (your word) like the one at the Values Voter Summit, when I have to wonder if that person is just asking for someone to rip his leg off and beat him to death with it!

There. I'm glad I got that out of my system.
92
Like everyone else, I am laughing a bit at the idea of a man trying to woo his lady by "lotioning in front of her." While there are many things I find attractive about men, lotion application has NEVER been one of them. Maybe I've just been watching the wrong lotioners, but... it's just not a sexy activity for most men. It's actually kind of gross if LW is hairy.

I agree with Dan that LW should just suck it up and ASK HER to initiate sex more. Tell her it makes you feel less desirable when she doesn't initiate. Most women will understand that feeling. If that's just too hard, think about what she's said she's found attractive in the past, then do it.
93
I work in the mental health field as a licensed counselor.

LW#2 has done everything right so far by notifying his mother and avoiding all other contact with him. Unless the author of the second letter is a qualified mental health professional (which seems doubtful) she should immediately call the police any time her ex makes a threat to hurt himself or others. His motives do not matter-- as a college student she is not qualified to assess them and they need to be taken seriously. She can inform the police that he has made repeated threats and ask them to do a well check. If they feel that there is due cause to involve local mental health professionals they'll do that. In addition she should seek an order of protection against her ex so that he is no longer able to contact her in any way. I say this because changing numbers is good advice, but it's so easy these days to find out someone's number.

It's super stressful to be in her position. It's also super stressful to be the one who got dumped. But regardless of that her ex's behavior is no longer her problem. I congratulate her on ending this damaging and manipulative relationship and for taking such a firm stance in maintaining the separation.
94
@EricaP: I think we're saying the same thing, or at least consistent things.

As for whether my perspective is too binary, perhaps it is. I do think that for those of us in relationships where intimacy is expressed more or less according to traditional gender lines, it's a lot less painful if both parties can understand and accept their differences than it is to pretend they don't exist.

95
Ms Blackwood - Well, at least you won't bid a grand slam missing the ace of trumps.

Mr Rhone - You're right; he thinks he's hot. Again, relative term is relative, but I'll vote Not.

Dr Sean - Okay, so the correct lingerie is an opposite-sexer thing.

I always feel a little sad whenever I mention Joan Plumleigh Bruce here, as excellent a prototype as she is. It always reminds me of someone from Slate before they ruined their comment system who had a bigger crush on Rafe Gorse than Ms Cute has on Henry Tilney.
96
I can relate to GRIND's girlfriend in a way. I have no problem initiating, but it often feels like my husband only rarely gives me a chance to initiate in a timeframe that feels right to me. If he's initiating every day or every other day, that's really cutting into my opportunities to take on that role in a natural, organic way. I know that I've been planning on seducing him sometimes, but he beats me to it!
97
Mr. Ven, you are the only person in the whole world who recognized my Henry Tilney crush. Thank you for that!
98
As an avid Savage Love reader, and a proud Nova Scotian, I was touched to see Dan's note regarding Scott Jones. My thoughts are with Scott Jones and his family. Please consider going to his support page to help out.
99
seandr @94, I don't understand. Are you saying it's easier for you to just accept women don't initiate, and then you don't take it personally when she doesn't initiate? Before I thought you were saying women should fight their gender-training and step up and initiate.

(Me, I'm saying that people should accept pats on the butt, a lingering kiss at the door, or sitting on your lap while nuzzling your ear as signs of desire, rather than insisting that only if she touches your penis is she truly initiating.)

overalls @96, maybe start earlier in the day? if he usually initiates at bedtime, start after clearing the table?
100
THEY MAKE HAZMAT SPANX? Well I know what I'm getting for my Halloween costume.