Savage Love Nov 22, 2017 at 4:00 am

Public Players


DESPAIR: You don't mention your gender but from the sex booths in porn shops, which is mostly male-male action, I'm guessing you are half of a gay couple?

If so, before you take Dan's advice, do you live in a state where marriage was legal long ago? And in a "blue" area, a big city -- if so, good chance the divorce laws will treat you and your parenting rights fairly.

BUT if you're in a backwards state or red rural part of a blue state, even though on paper you have legal protections, functionally the divorce courts may screw you. So seek legal advice first, doubly so if you're financially dependent on your husband.

If you didn't have a kid, Dan's advice makes sense, but with a kid!! and 15 years in together of which "Everything else" is "great"!! counseling FIRST, divorce ultimatum SECOND, divorce papers THIRD. Methinks Dan had his pot too early in the day before answering your letter!
OT, but wouldn't it be funny if was revealed this week that our beloved Dan Savage was a serial groper, too?

No, wait. That would suck.

Enjoy the thought experiment, folks!
I can't believe what an asshole the second LW's partner is. To find someone even willing to give that a try is already amazing. And then to shit all over that person when they didn't like it, and not take the option to do it with someone else? A true case of DTMFA. Here's hoping it's financially feasible for the LW.
LW2, you know what you, your kids, pets, etc don't need? You all don't need an entitled brat stomping around the house because he not getting his way. You've spent 15 years of your life with this manipulative skidmark. Time to stop accommodating and start demonstrating that your desires are an equal priority and if he can't wrap his leaden head around that, he doesn't deserve another moment of consideration.

From someone who spent 17 years with an emotionally abusive spouse who also knew when to say "all the right things".
'Everything else in our relationship is great'. In your _relationship_? Or just in your life?

You're telling us things you need to say to your husband. E.g. 'is it really your view that I contribute nothing else to the relationship?' i.e. you don't contribute childcare, financial support, companionship, love, household management--cleaning, cooking, maintenance? What does your husband (and what do you) understand by 'relationship'? There has to be more in it than gratifying his kink.

The other thought is that you've told him all of this. Had these discussions. And got nowhere with him. I would have to think in this case that his selfishness has become normalized for you. He is monumentally selfish and self-deluded if he thinks that you're not pulling your weight--and this is irrespective of how financially dependent you are on him. As you consider your next steps, you have to let this sink in, first of all--to see that you have acted thoroughly lovingly and decently, and that--unequivocally--he is the person who is unreasonable.
OK, I know Dan is busy, and not everyone reads the SLLOTDs, and it's not as if we regulars are paying customers, but if SL is going to have recent re-runs, could those maybe be the last letter of the weekly column instead of the first? It's disappointing to get to Wednesday and not see new material above the fold.

Re DESPAIR, wow. Here's one person I think we could all agree deserves the MF in DTMFA.

Twitter @3: Who wouldn't consent to be groped by the illustrious Dan Savage? :)
BDF @7
Who wouldn't consent to be groped by the illustrious Dan Savage? :)

You're joking, but that is probably what many of those actual "gropers" thought about themselves.
We all understand that ALL emotionally abusive people say all the right things, right?

"He says all the right things" is like red flag #1 that you are with an emotionally abusive asshole.

@2: LW is a woman. Sex clubs are a heterosexual phenomenon. Gay men have clubs.
@2: Unless there’s a factor I’m missing, they are het?

“he respects me, he knows a relationship is a two-way street, etc.—but he is constantly furious with me about this. He tells me I don't contribute anything to our relationship and that we don't have a true partnership”

There is so much wrong with this. I’d exhaust the sex-positive couples therapist option (that he won’t agree to objectively or sincerely) and gtfo.

@9: I imagine there’s still plenty of down-low action at booths, but otherwise agreed. The husband in question must have little respect for her to think she’s so ignorant, if she’s not comfortable with public sex, she’d be more comfortable at a glory hole?
DESPAIR, after you've gotten rid of the asshole, you also need to consider therapy. Fifteen years with this jerk has overridden the internal alarms that tell you when your boundaries are being crossed and when you're being abused and taken advantage of. You need to reset those alarms before you start dating again, and talking all of this over with a therapist is the easiest way.
DESPAIR read as female to me, but there's nothing in the letter that would preclude them from being male. Doesn't really matter. Husband is still an abusive asshole who needs dumping immediately if not sooner.

RE @8: And therein lies the problem: the "eye of the beholder" issue. You're right that most, if not all, gropers believe that their gropees want to be groped. Either by themselves personally or generally (believing that people want to be groped indiscriminately would indicate one is projecting, or a misogynist, or both). The problem is that often -- very, very often -- they're right. Being groped by someone we are hoping to have sex with is part of the seduction process. In order for kissing to progress to sex, which almost all of us want to happen under the right circumstances, someone has to cop a feel. That someone is expected to read the body language of the person they want to grope, and hope that such an act would be consensual. Because really, who says, "may I squeeze your bum now?" Even if sex isn't the end goal, cheeky bum- or boob-grabs are often welcome amongst friends or flirtees in environments like nightclubs. Certainly, I've done it, both as intended foreplay and as a bit of fun with people I had reason to think would take it in the spirit intended. (I've also been the recipient, and yes, sometimes I found it welcome, other times not so much.)

In this climate, must everyone err on the side of never engaging in touch they feel would probably be consensual, or propositioning someone who may or may not want to progress a flirtation?

It's tricky. Harassment is bad, but so is the idea of a society where organic hookups never happen because everyone is hoping the other person will initiate touch, but not initiating themselves, lest they be the "evil groper."
@12: I think there are plenty of legitimate verbal and non-verbal cues to let someone know you're interested. And using words doesn't have to mean that organic hookups never happen. You don't need to say, "may I squeeze your bum now?" but you don't have to reach out and squeeze someone's ass out of the blue. Or when they're a stranger and posing for a photo with you, a famous person (G.H.W. Bush, Al Franken, et. al.)

If you have considerably more power than the person you're considering groping, particularly if you have power over that person, you should be aware that what you might want to consider consensual flirting might well be that person behaving deferentially out of obligation or shock or fear. But these guys know that already. Charlie Rose wasn't groping his peers; he was harassing subordinates. Harvey Weinstein wasn't behaving that way towards women in his social circle--just people who worked for him or wanted to work for him -- or just wanted to work in his industry.

If you are a total stranger, you should know better than to reach out and help yourself to a squeeze of some stranger's body. That's not going to put the kibosh on organic hookups.
BDF @12
Because really, who says, "may I squeeze your bum now?"

You may think that that would be weird (and so would I), but on another sex/relationship advice website, with a generally younger public than here, there were some commenters of the opinion that flirting with someone without explicit verbal consent is sexual harassment. So, the correct way to go about flirting is asking "may I flirt with you?", and, after receiving a "yes", proceed with the flirting.
We all understand that ALL emotionally abusive people say all the right things, right?

"He says all the right things" is like red flag #1 that you are with an emotionally abusive asshole.

@2: LW is a woman. Sex clubs are a heterosexual phenomenon. Gay men have clubs.
DESPAIR-- Dump him. Dump him as soon as possible. And by "as soon as possible," I mean as soon as you've discreetly lined up a safe place to go when he flies into one of his rages over the fact that he's losing control of you. And by "as soon as you've lined up a safe place to go," I mean put some money aside because assholes like him will control you with money too. Also, some documentation couldn't hurt. Get him to say what he wants in email, and save the email. Assholes like him will twist everything you say. They'll lie. (He's already lied about this being a one time thing.) They'll manipulate. They'll wheedle. Get the hell out.
Nocute @13: I think the egregious examples are obvious -- a bum-squeeze should never be an opening gambit, for instance. (Is returning a snog consent for a tush-caress? Is returning a bum-grope consent for a boob-grope? Etc?) The power thing is a good point. Although many people are, in fact, attracted to powerful people; Dan walking into a gay bar seems a good example. I guess a good guideline here is that they should make the first move, although often they are intimidated. I've found this even from a DJ/musician perspective. And "don't shit where you eat" would seem to apply when there is a supervisory relationship of any sort present.

RE @14: Arrrgh, I should never have quit drinking. Flirting is difficult enough when sober, let alone talking about flirting. Anyway, I'm heartened by nocute's point regarding power: if a flirt falls flat (say that ten times fast), and the flirtee's just someone I know socially, it might be embarrassing but it won't be harassment or assault. (Why yes, I may have impulsively told someone "you're so lovely" and planted a peck on their lips last weekend... Dork, perhaps; predator, I certainly hope not!)
Why does everyone suggest dumping a man because he's abusive and a bully? Maybe he's selfish and doesn't care and just wants what he wants. That could be but it also maybe something else; maybe this is the only way he can get off decently?

Speaking from experience sex in public and private is dynamically different. The fear of being caught heightens the experience greatly.

Wife has been very GGG and sometimes sexual desires are not matched up when we get married; so we marry someone who wants more or less. The other person is always on the hook to either fulfill their needs or what gtfo? really?

Why can't we be more compassionate and understanding; and let's not forget she has power. Normally guys wont' kill you if you say no; so let's try and instead of giving the man everything he wants have a discussion?

> Hey I said this; you found a work around to this. This isn't what we agreed on; I agreed on x and I said enough. If you want this it's going to be on my rules and here is what they are:

Explain what her rules are to him; and he can either take shape and honor the relationship or she can find someone who will honor her when she says she is in pain.

My biggest problem is we give up too easily; relationships are hard work and sometimes you butt heads in the worst ways. But that doesn't mean you have to throw them out; give yourself a few hours to cool off and be grateful they are in your life.

Lastly; if someone listens to advice on a column to dump a person and does so. They are one weak person; because that is a decision only *YOU* can make.

DESPAIR- get out. NOW. By staying, you are teaching your child that this how relationships work. You’re fucking up your kid for life if you don’t get away from this abuser. Be a badass momma bear and protect your kid.
@18- it’s not the sexual activity, it’s the week-long temper tantrum and the emotion abuse heaped on her for not complying. That shit is ABUSE. It’s been going on for how long now? And she’s been telling him how awful it is for her, and he’s still pushing, and blaming, and breaking his promises...that’s a whole big bag o’ nope. She’s tried enough- time to go.
@18: “Why does everyone suggest dumping a man because he's abusive and a bully? Maybe he's selfish and doesn't care and just wants what he wants.”

Because those people make shitty partners for life.

Next asinine question?
@14: “on another sex/relationship advice website, with a generally younger public than here, there were some commenters of the opinion that flirting with someone without explicit verbal consent is sexual harassment.”

Initiating? No. Continuing beyond disinterest has been expressed and vocalized? Yes.

I suppose it determines what the person considers “flirting”. Touch and close proximity do require a great deal of consideration.
I cannot believe the sheer awfulness of your comment. It is a dumpster fire inside a nuclear bomb factory on the planet Venus. It is awful enough to immediately make me concerned for any partners and/or children you may have. I hope that the excoriation you get rivals only the excoriation given to the LW's husband.
@3, TwitterEgg, seriously?

LW2, give your husband a dummy and tell him to self soothe. And yes, I join the chorus suggesting you leave this creepy manipulative man. Life is too short to put up with this behaviour.
Dum @18: What the other commenters said. Mr DESPAIR is not an MF to be dumped because he gets off on public sex. He's an MF to be dumped because, as you say, he's abusive and a bully. DESPAIR has tried to be GGG, suggesting the compromise of semi-public video booths, and even made the offer that Mr DESPAIR can go find someone else to fulfill his public-sex kink. Any decent human would accept these offers with gratitude. Instead, DESPAIR goes back on his promises (insists they go back to sex clubs after telling DESPAIR they wouldn't go back if she didn't like it), is "furious" when she says no to his unconventional requests, "storms around in a rage" for a week, and tells her she brings nothing to the partnership despite paying obvious lip service to "respecting" her. There are mature ways to deal with incompatible desires and Mr DESPAIR has refused. If he can only get off in public (which I highly doubt), it's on him to gently exit the relationship, which he should have done about 15 years ago, instead of dragging his poor spouse through a hell of guilt tripping and anger. Why can't HE be more compassionate and understanding? She has been, and look where it's got her.
Does every intimacy/ marriage/ family end up looking similar to the story in LW2. My husband got into these twists, and only after getting out of the marriage could I see how it was an emotional set up. Which ever way I jumped, I couldn't win. Of course I should have left, however, his stuff hooked into my stuff and off we went.
LW2, fifteen years is a long investment in a person, and you have a child. This tantrum type behaviour exhibited by your husband is pathetic. You see it, we all see it. Your husband needs to see it. Video/ record him during one of his meltdowns, and play it back to him when he's behaving like an adult man. Stand up to this behaviour, and see if he's willing to do some work on himself, or tell him you're leaving. If, as you say, the rest of your story is going ok, then see if he's willing to change. You too need to check why you've indulged this guy, so that he's now this pitiful creature embarrassing himself round his kitchen table.
After helping rear six humans, I could write a book. The experience can become a pressure cooker, and my take on bizarre behaviour from parents, is that the child/ren's ages can activate unresolved trauma/ conflict/ hurt from the parent's corresponding age. If the parent has extreme issues from childhood, then demons can be unleashed. Crying babies, tantrum throwing toddlers, sulky eight yr olds.. we all had those yrs too. And now as a parent, it's all going on again, except we are not the child this time.
“I Helped Rear Six Humans” makes a nice book title both for fellow humans and for selling to any intergalactic visitors. All you need is your kids’ consent.
Let me get this straight. They were together for 10 years before they got married and this issue just came up. Something just doesn't jive. This kind of serious kink doesn't materialize out of thin air. Either Mr. Despair has been suppressing it for all these years, which raises a whole slew of questions about their relationship, or Mrs. Despair has some kind of agenda or ulterior motive. I am in no way supportive of Mr. Despair (as he is described by Mrs.Despair) he definitely needs to see a therapist for anger management issues among other things. I jam having difficulty reconciling the behavioral issues with the length of the relationship.
DESPAIR ~ Ditto delta@2: counseling FIRST, divorce ultimatum SECOND, divorce papers THIRD.
Ditto therapy.

Only you know how much you have endured and only you have a good grasp on husband's potential to change. From your brief letter this guy sounds like a class one abusive asshole. But you've got a lot invested so I'd say give it one last real effort to save your marriage for you and your kids' sake. But don't stay a second longer if he won't make a genuine effort to consider your feelings and change things. Take it from me, it's not worth it, no matter the short term pain, everyone will be far better off if you start fresh. Being a single parent isn't easy, but neither is anything in life. And don't go jumping into another shitshow relationship the moment some other swinging dick comes along. Break the pattern!
I read DESPAIR as a woman because of 'I try to keep up', a joke / not a joke that's much more typical of a woman than a man (rather than any circumstantial details). She or he does need to get out of any genuinely abusive relationship.

I must be of the generation that thinks consent doesn't have to be explicitly verbal. But this will be situationally dependent. On a date, for instance, it should be clear, within certain boundaries, when it will not be an unwelcome surprise to lean in for a peck. Against this, in many situations any sexualized attention will be understood as an exploitation of power dynamics. The more powerful person at work, in any networking situation etc. needs to suppress any sexual urge or desire to dominate and try to shift the relationship into a more dating context.
Lava @26: "Does every intimacy/ marriage/ family end up looking similar to the story in LW2"?
Hell to the no. Some of us dump motherfuckers at the first sign of motherfuckery, and sometimes, decent people find other decent people to pair up with. It can happen!

I would read your book.
@24 Yes. SERIOUSLY. It's a worthwhile thought experiment. Have fun, and Happy Thanksgiving!
@DESPAIR: DTMFA! Your husband is a selfish, bullying, manipulative, controlling asshole who clearly doesn't deserve you. He sounds exactly like my ex. The sooner you leave his sorry ass, the better off you will be. Thank you, Dan and other commenters for beating me to it.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody (for those observing the holiday)!
@2 delta35: I hadn't thought of that. Seriously, though, I feel that DESPAIR and [their] child would be infinitely better off ending her unhealthy marriage and starting anew. Counseling is an excellent recommendation. DESPAIR's spouse sounds like he has serious anger management issues.
@28 StrangerMyself, no, I'm too lazy. One of my sons writes stories, he'd never ask before he'd include strange mother types.
Fan@ 32, you're lucky then, or less neurotic than some. Often the weirdest stuff doesn't arrive until after the kids are born, see@27.

Depends how intractable someone is. Change will only come when she stands up to him, maybe pack up the child and leave for a few days. Leave him alone with his tantrums. Give him a taste of what losing his family feels like.
@26: "Does every intimacy/ marriage/ family end up looking similar to the story in LW2"

Also chiming in with "no"

@36: "Often the weirdest stuff doesn't arrive until after the kids are born"

I think that's possible, perhaps not because having kids does that to a person, but a certain type of dreadful human waits until someone is "stuck" with the kids before deciding they're going to go full-on selfish because the partner won't be able to immediately leave :/

Still, happy you left, happy you've got a good relationship with your kids!
@27 LavaGirl: Let me know when your book comes out! I would buy it.
Lava @36: Oh, I've spent too long in relationships whose downturns I didn't want to admit were fatal. But never with someone as unredeemably horrible as Mr DESPAIR. There is growing apart, there is incompatibility, there are problems that can't be solved, and then there's abuse. But thank you for vindicating my lifelong commitment to not having kids. I remain stunned at how many people don't understand this decision when so many point out just how many bullets I've avoided.

Americans, hope you're all recovering well from your annual turkey splurge.
@18 Are fucking kidding me? The LW has been giving the abuser what he wants and it's making her miserable. When she god forbid stands up for herself he responds by a week long temper tantrum. Hell she even picked a compromise which he turned his nose up at. She even gave him permission to fulfill this kink with someone else. There is literally nothing else she can do except continue with the sex act she hates or divorce him

This isn't about public sex, it's about making his wife miserable. If she liked it or he was getting from someone who did he would seek out something else to hurt and humiliate her with.

Maybe with intensive therapy this guy could be a decent human being but we're reaching the point where we're stopping the 'catering to abusers' thing and I'm so happy.
@18: Add me to the number of people starting with @20 Bizaarmageddon, @21 undead ayn rand, @23 gatoverde, @25 BiDanFan, and @40 msanonymous responding to your comment. I am totally amazed by your ignorance regarding DESPAIR's situation! Have you never been bullied or threatened? Lucky you.
DESPAIR has done everything possible in her marriage to be GGG with this asshole, had a kid with him, and a lot of good it has done her. He's making her fucking MISERABLE! Such a home environment can't be good for their child, either.
In such a one-sided, toxic marriage, where threats, violence, and lives are in danger, sometimes leaving is not "copping out" or "giving up", but is the only sane solution left on the table for the health and safety of those being harassed, abused, and pulled through a meat grinder on an exhaustive daily basis, coping with being in survival mode. I know. I've been there.
I did everything I could could to stay married, however unwisely--for 9 years too long. My parents were amazed by how long I actually tried to make such a disastrous relationship work. My ex blamed me for everything, yet he was the one bawling like a baby when the divorce papers were served and finalized. Abusers claim they are the victims. It's a vicious Donald Trump's butt-ugly cycle that needs to be broken worldwide.
While it is DESPAIR's choice to stay or leave this relationship, ultimately she must choose what is best for her and her son. It will be more difficult for her to leave if she does, with a child to raise, and they would still have unpleasant ties to him (he will still have legal visiting rights until their son reaches age 18). I feel for DESPAIR. My only advantage from my previous situation was that, by doing my damnedest to remain childless in a bad marriage I could just walk away and start anew.
@39 Fan. Yes, bullets indeed. Let me name the ways.

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