Savage Love Jan 14, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Sub Space

joe newton



"(T)oday only 41 percent of high-school students have had sex by age 18."

Mind blown


@1 WA-HOOOOO!!! Congrats, saxfanatic, for scoring the much sought after "FIRDT" spot in this week's SL! Savor the glory. :)


@1 saxfanatic re Dan's response to ASS: "(T)oday only 41 percent of high school students have had sex by age 18." That statistic caught my attention, too.


It IS really irritating to hear people go on about not having had sex in FOREVER and how they LITERALLY don't think they can survive much longer when it turns out it's been mere months or even weeks. Less so when it's teenagers or people in their early 20s, as a year is proportionately a much larger amount of the time they've existed and which they have for reference, and one's perception of time is generally condensed more as one ages. We see a similar pattern with younger people who can't imagine being away from a lover for a summer break or a semester or 6-12 months when starting a new job elsewhere while move logistics for onself are arranged etc. We should still probably be recommending therapy for them, too, because people who truly can't stand sex droughts will inevitably assault others if they can't find willing partners.


"people who truly can't stand sex droughts will inevitably assault others if they can't find willing partners."??? Citation needed.


@3 As a parent of three teenage girls in Seattle Public Schools this doesn't surprise me. We talk about sex with them in that parental kind of way. They gossip about their friends. Maybe they are just really putting one past me, but kids just seem a lot less focused on sex than when I was their age. Kids who are hooking up seem like the exception rather than the norm.


"And take heart: For every letter like yours I get from a straight guy, ASS, I get an identical letter from a straight woman. Which means there are a lot of women out there who are just as inexperienced, self-conscious, and lonely."

Why would this make the LW feel any better whatsoever? Like name a single reason


"Listen, John. I know you're in a POW camp and you've had your legs broken and teeth pistol-whipped out of your skill and you've been beaten so badly you'll have permanent neurological trauma, but take heart: some people are in Gulag's right now!"


Oh goodness, ASS, bless your heart.

You need therapy and you need it to NOT focus on sex. If your anxiety is so bad that you can’t chat with a person online, that’s a major problem that will hold you back from any kind of interpersonal relationship.

Along the way to that goal, you may need to make lifestyle modifications to help address specific aspects of your anxiety. That might mean dietary changes, a sane/reasonable/achievable exercise goal, weighted blanket to sleep, sleep hygiene routines, and so on. As a basic example, if your anxiety is worse when you don’t sleep well, finding ways to improve your sleep is a high priority. A good therapist should be able to help you with this.

As for sex, well. Stay FAR FAR AWAY from anything related to incels, men going their own way, pickup artists, and red-pill types. Women are not the cause of the relationship problems you are experiencing. Your Anxiety Jerkbrain is. Women you meet who pick up on Total Dick Anxiety Jerkbrain—who is NOT YOU!!! but is the anxiety talking — and back away are doing the rational, safe thing for themselves. They can’t address the problems That Jackass Anxiety Jerkbrain is causing you. It’s no more fair to expect that of women than it is to magically expect yourself to one day just not have anxiety anymore. Work on yourself first.

Something else you may consider (again, perhaps with a therapist on your team) is getting regular non-sexual massages. The goal there is to get kind, gentle human touch. There’s clinical research that lack of touch can cause mental health problems: If you are interested in massage but don’t want to feel like you’re asking for sex, consider chair massages, pedicures from ethical salons, or reflexology massages where you typically lie on a couch wearing normal clothes save for your feet. Chair and reflexology massages are typically less expensive than your standard Swedish or deep-tissue table massage.

Good luck. Hope you are able to get a handle on things.


SCARRED, despite the flaws in the movie Secretary, there’s something that stands out for me re the worries that you have. Leigh doesn’t trade in one kind of pain for another. Before she ever receives a spanking from Mr Gray he communicates his understanding of why she might be self-harming and instructs her to stop, which she agrees to. It’s part of her journey toward greater control in all areas of her life, including expressing her sexual submissiveness.


I lost my virginity at 23. (No one in my conservative high school was getting laid.) I turn 32 in a few days. I've had my ups and downs. He can read think pieces on the soidisant sex recession to see that there's a definite 80/20 rule going on here.

I'm probably in the 20%...despite feeling line a late bloomer. (Most my friends were married by his age!) I've had a fairly higher number of sexual partners and encounters. Didn't cure my anxiety. No real substitute for doing the work.


Yeah I work with teens and the cultural shifts around me too, consent, insane college prep pressure, screen time, and relative embracing of alternatives to hetero-dominance mean that few of them seem to rush to an 80s movie style "get laid at all costs." Apparently college is much less the dating training ground it was until the 2000s. (I went to a religious college and dated a lot, but have the feeling that even that atmosphere has been affected by the rise of the apps. My younger siblings are both single, and older relatives seem baffled.)


@7 Are you just obtuse? Dan is clearly saying that there are other people like this guy out there so (if he gets his shit together) he won't have only super experienced and confident people to deal with. He'll also have the ability to find women with a similar lack of sexual experience and confidence as him, which will likely make it easier for him to start forming connections. That is good news for this writer. In the same way that someone who did have all the hyperbolic things you described happen to them might actually take some comfort from knowing that they aren't alone in their experience, that others might understand where they're coming from. That's what the whole human social experience is about, not feeling like you're some outlier, making connections.

And that was obvious. You were looking for something to get pissy about. Grow up and learn to actually listen.


@7 Sporty

I think the obvious reasons include: so that the LW doesn't feel alone or uniquely flawed + knows there are potential partners out there who will understand how he feels + doesn't worry that all the women he might date are more experienced / less lonely than he is.

Why bring it up? Because the LW specifically states he has massive social anxiety that cripples his ability to talk to women and that he feels like a freak about it.


can't sex workers help LW2 get over his anxiety?


SCARRED- our kinks may seem scary and many of us might be worried where they come from, what are they compensating for, what’s the “real” reason underneath it all and, most importantly, can I be “cured”?
Mass media portrayal of everything different often comes with a guilt trip and some sort of punishment, simplistic reasoning and a resolution that almost always adheres to the happily ever after “cured” hetero-normative ending. Those choosing to continue as non-adhering folks, especially women, often pay with their lives.

“Looking a fear in the eye and then being able to back away from it at will and end with a cuddle and a check-in with your play partner can make you feel more powerful, not less” will be my epitaph. If we make it, we can all sit back and laugh.


My own advice to the LW is that his fatalistic approach is part of the problem. He is asking how he can get over being horny rather than how he can get over the crippling social anxiety which seems unhealthy & backwards to me.

Without any other info, I don't know what advice anyone can give other than Dan. What sort of hobbies, jobs, friends, interests does he already have? How can he build those?

It's going to be impossible to keep his life exactly the same and only add sex to it since he's unable to communicate with people to arrange it, even online. And it's not a solution to try to get rid of his natural sexual desire.

If he wants things to change, he's going to have to work on other aspects of his life. My guess (but we don't have enough info to know) is that he needs to work on building confidence socially and the best way to do that is practice, and the best way to practice is to join stuff where he's likely to have some valued role to play in a community, and that's pretty damn hard to do if you don't already have any interests/skills/hobbies/social networks where you can do that. It means having to build it, and without any further info, I don't see how we can advise him on it. Experiences aren't going to come to him.

Beyond that, the only thing I can offer is some very general advice that I used to tell people I worked with:

First off, if you are socially awkward, then just ignore all the bullshit advice about being yourself. You don't want to lie either- I'm not saying that- but you're going to have to be a bit more meta about how you act and deliberately do things that might not be natural to you. Ask your roommate or someone else about your behavior and actually listen to their advice. After you do better on first, second, third impressions, after you have a network of friends, then they will be more accepting of your more natural self or you can find other outlets for that (I ramble online so my family doesn't have to hear it for example)- this isn't about changing who you are but rather about showing that you are thoughtful enough to play well with others. It's not natural for most of us.

Second, most people really like to talk about themselves. If you are feeling awkward around new people, ask them lots of questions about themselves, ask follow up questions, act as if you are interested even if you don't care really about the topic. One good thing about this is you'll learn a lot.

Third, find something you can get involved with in which you are actually doing stuff with others rather than just meeting people socially for no point other than being social. It takes the edge off because you can work with others on something rather than be required to just talk. Like: music, sports, physical activities, games, community projects, political stuff- find a volunteer group to join, find an outdoor sport to take up, etc. I'm not saying this will get you laid (though it can only increase your chances) but it's the best way to get social practice, build confidence.

Finally, people who have problems socially tend to be more stuck in their own heads about it and sometimes they become resentful or fatalistic, avoid that toxic shit. The truth is that social interaction does not come naturally to a lot of us- the US in particular has an epidemic of alienation and anxiety and it sucks.


I am going to disagree with @Dan and his expert:

Secretary seeks to provide a window into a consensual 24/7 D/s relationship, which for most people is an entirely foreign concept. Whether the relationship is predicated on D/s alone, or incorporate a 24/7, 1950s household, domestic discipline dynamic, when a man engages in impact play and humiliation / degradation play, among other D/s kinks, with a female partner with whom he is in an intimate relationship, to vanilla persons this appears to be no different than domestic violence. Moreover, vanilla people will wonder what psychological damage can a woman have that she is willing to engage with her partner in this manner, and how depraved is a man who enjoys striking his female partner with his hands or implements until she is crying. How can you degrade someone whom you are supposed to love and care.

Secretary seeks to show audiences a glimpse of what D/s is in reality by showing what D/s is not: D/s is not self-harm, nor is D/s domestic violence (remember Lee Holloway's father is shown physically assaulting her mother during an argument). It is for this reason that self-harm is introduced into the story line. It is also worth noting that her implements of self-harm and the box in which they are stored are clearly objects of a young girl. While it appears that Lee ends her self-harm at the direction of Mr. Grey, I think that link is not accurate. When we see Lee letting go of these objects at the bridge, we see a woman who has grown personally, and is no longer in a place psychologically where she is drawn towards self-harm; this is her choice.

I have yet to meet a submissive woman who is not disappointed with this aspect of Lee Holloway's character arc, but when properly understood, it serves an important narrative purpose. Given this, my advice to SCARRED is that if you are confident that self-harm is in your past, and that you are in a consensual, loving D/s relationship, you do not need to see a therapist because of the movie Secretary.


One additional point about Secretary for SCARRED: at the end of the movie Lee Holloway watches as her now husband drives off to work. She then looks directly at the camera and clearly breaks the fourth wall to interact with us, the viewer. Her gaze is intense, confident, and challenging. With a look she says to us that she has made her choice, and defies us to question her. She also challenges those who live in conventional sexual relationships to question their choices. If you can look others in the eye as Lee does at the end of the movie and confidently own your submission, you don’t need the approval of a therapist to tell you are healthy.


I think I'd say to ASS that asking himself the demanding, binary question, 'have I got laid recently?' is only going to tend to his anxieties. (He hasn't gotten laid, but it will do no good to dwell on it). Instead, think of some less white-knuckle, make-or-break things you'd like to do with people you're attracted to. Play scrabble, maybe, or a strategy game, or badminton, or go for a jog or nature walk. Once you do this, either other feelings don't begin to develop--in which case, good; you've managed the low-stakes thing--your head hasn't fallen off--or these feelings do develop--in which case you have another problem--but it's a better one than the one you have.

There's isn't really any categorical difference between the kind of self-possession and confidence needed for dating--and fucking--and the ordinary self-confidence according to which we're efficacious in a job, or conscientious in looking out for friends or a child. There's just lack of practice. And maybe lack of self-belief.

By all means go to therapy if you want--but not in the spirit of thinking there's something wrong with you, or that it will 'cure' you. It may be better for you to think there are things you can't do that you want to, than to think--unhappily--that there's something wrong with you.


Granted I'm not a sub, but my initial reaction to SCARRED's letter was, probably, and isn't that a good thing? She has a need to experience pain, and instead of doing it in a way that is harmful to herself, she's doing it in a loving relationship. Yay?

I wasn't surprised by the 41 percent statistic. In my day, while 98 percent of high school students claimed or at least tried to give the impression that they were having sex, the actual number was much smaller. I felt like a bit of a chump later, when I discovered 17 wasn't a late bloomer after all. I'm surprised Dan didn't suggest a sex worker or sex surrogate, if he can afford one. Or if he can afford that, perhaps he can afford to move. And was anyone else thinking we could introduce him to our CalliopeMuse?


SCARRED asks herself a genuine question--is she using the pain 'lovingly' inflicted by her Dom as a means of working through the bad, self-punitive impulses that found an outlet in her self-harm?. This isn't a question to brush aside at once, or scotch; but I'd think the answer's 'no', in that the negotiated, in-a-relationship context of her sexualised sensations is very different from the context in which she harmed. Good answers from Dan and his expert.


@Dan and Lina Dune: thanks a lot for your advice, as so many times it was spot on!
One thing to add: as a hypnotist I would disagree with the statement "It's not like she's in a trance when she's with her Dom". Most definitely she is in trance while being with her Dom. The only difference is that trance does not mean being powerless or "having lost all control" which I agree is the complete opposite of what show hypnosis is trying to convey. In that sense show hypnosis is comparable to your description of the movie characters: it's fictional and only for entertainment purposes but should not be overinterpreted.
Trance in contrast is a good thing and most probably one of the reasons why SCARRED enjoys this play and the inherent healing part so much.

Similarly to ASS: in case that's something for you, you might want to try hypno therapy to overcome the social anxieties. The advantage is everything can be experienced and re-learned in small steps and in a controlled environment (i.e. in an imagined situation in your mind) and the brain is able to learn from these experiences too. With a little repetition it gains the ability to deal with the anxieties in a manner that better suits you. Good luck!


@21. Bi. Calliope has been silent. Don't embarrass her!

I think the act of writing to Dan, or commenting, is often a step along the path to someone overcoming their problems, or 'becoming who they want to be'. (It has been in my case; I hold much less onto being recognised as a woman than I did 2-3 years ago, when I began commenting; and I feel less that cisnormativity is bent on denying me that status). So without being any more embarrassingly explicit, I hope this general guidance is an encouragement to people struggling with partnered sex like ASS!


John @4, wow. No, it's not inevitable that people who are horny will assault others if they don't get consensual sex, jeez. Also, haven't you been sexually active long enough that if you're getting sex regularly, not getting any feels a hell of a lot more frustrating than not getting any when you're used to not getting any? These people are just venting; their worst crime is being insensitive to listeners who are in far longer droughts than they are.

Slinky @9, very well said. Thank you.

EmmaLiz @17, I'm going to suggest board or role-playing games as a hobby ASS could take up. The reason being that these activities are chock full of geeks, and he'll probably find it far easier to fit in with them than with musicians or jocks, which will boost his confidence in connecting with other people. He can branch out from there. ASS, my heart goes out to you and I wish you luck.

Sublime @18-@19, thank you for those thoughtful posts.

Harriet @20, but there is something wrong with him. He has anxiety that is "so crippling, in fact, that I can't even get to know people online." He gets panic attacks hearing his roommate have sex. These are not issues a pep talk or a walk in the woods will solve. Again, "get therapy" is not an insult; this young man will not be helped by being told to man up and solve his problems on his own.


Harriet @24, Calliope may not even be awake in her time zone. I've had other commenters suggest fixing me up with LWs and did not find that embarrassing at all, nor was that my intention. Calliope, I apologise if I embarrassed you. If you took it in the spirit intended, then Harriet, I'll wait for your apology to me.


BDF@ 21: Yeah, I am in no way an expert on these things, but if a little pain is what you need to blow off steam, and you get it from getting spanked (or working out, martial arts sparring, sad/scary movies, whatever) good for you? Doesn't seem like a problem.

JorgeL @23: I believe it's called "subspace."

As for Calliope, believe it or not, sometimes people just have better things to do than comment on internet sites. S/he's probably just busy with her job, kids, grocery shopping, other internet sites, etc.


@5 incelopeedia, patriarchypedia, conservapedia

(sadly there really is a conservapedia!)


@21 +1 ethical independent sex worker for ASS, along with therapy. A sexual surrogate would be even better but they can't easily be found in USA


@sloggers - what is "that weird come scene" in Secretary that SCARRED references? Wikipedia says nothing! Please edit it if any of you are in the know and are wikpedians.

And a minute of searching for "Secretary cum scene" / come scene just turns up clips of guys blowing loads on female admin assistants' faces. Curse the patriarchy!!


Delta @28, hmm, upon further reflection perhaps what John @4 was trying to say was that droughts aren't unbearable otherwise we'd all be running around raping people, which we aren't, so we should shut up and stop annoying him about it. Not very well said, if that was indeed what he meant.

Delta @30, other people have better memories for movies than I do, but I thought it was a reference to when she comes to his office, demands to be spanked, he turns her over his desk and pulls her panties down and wanks over her instead. (Which I had to explain to my partner at the time, hence why I remember it!) Any other theories?


@4 John Horstman
"people who truly can't stand sex droughts will inevitably assault others if they can't find willing partners."

Leap. John, nothing in your comment was about people who truly couldn't stand droughts. Just about people who feel and say they can't, which /does/not/ inevitably mean assault.


LW2: I feel your pain. I lacked confidence and had a lot of social anxiety throughout high school and my first years in college. (Full disclosure: I'm gay, but was not out until later) I did date a few girls but it was very hard to get myself to take the chance and kiss them. About my third year I became tired of the depression, the anxiety, and the lack of confidence, so I made the choice to seek out counseling through the Psychology Dept. at my school. I actually connected with my first counselor, one who was insightful and with whom I felt comfortable talking (you don't always luck out the first time. If you're not comfortable with the person you're working with, move on to another until you find one you do feel comfortable with). The year after this I transferred to the large flagship school in my state. I ended up meeting people I knew at the other school who also transferred there and they introduced me to others. Within the first two weeks, at 22 years old, I lost my virginity to a nice young woman and carried it on for a short time. Then things dried up. I slowly descended back into depression and anxiety again for well over a year but was beginning to see the problem was not that I couldn't attract a woman, it was that I was not attracted towards women in a romantic or sexual way. In addition, exposure to gay men and lesbians were making it very apparent that I needed to address my romantic and physical/sexual desires, my fears and insecurities. Again, I turned to the Psychology/Counseling department and was placed with a wonder counselor, Bruce M., who was about my age. I felt very comfortable with him and began taking a chance and began talking about my gay feelings (FYI: this was in the late 70s). Bless him, he told me there was nothing wrong with me in an way, that many people are attracted in different amounts to people of their own sex. He also had me join a group discussion group he conducted where there were several gay men, To summarize, I began to accept myself for the real me, not what people wanted me to be. It was still about a year and a half before I had my first sexual experience with a man (but by then I had both straight friends, male and female, that already recognized me as gay and encouraged me to stop sitting on the fence and reach for what I wanted. In addition, I got a part time job waiting tables at a pizza place, which helped me get over my shyness and lack of confidence; I became confident talking to all types of people and made some wonderful, supportive friends in the process. By the time I had my first sexual encounter with a man, I was ready for it and for pursuing others after that. So, my recommendation: consider therapy and work to determine why you lack confidence and methods for overcoming them. Talk about what you fear, what YOU want in relationships, why you feel reluctant initiating a sexual relationship. Stop flogging yourself psychologically for not being in sexual relationships. And just an FYI: Most of us, gay and straight, go through sexual dry spells during life, more so as you get older. It's nothing to worry about, unless you're sabotaging yourself as a means of avoiding something you fear or find painful.


The "sexual frustration -> rape" line is more than just unsupported, it actively erases the real experience of rape and assault of women, which the majority of the time takes place in the context of an intimate relationship.

Rapists and domestic abusers aren't "incels". For the most part they're just shitty, shitty partners.


I think it's useful for people who self-harm and/or enjoy bottoming in kink to think about their motivations. Are they trying to damage a body (or self) they loathe? Are they trying to feel something intense & mostly pleasurable? Are they trying to get a quiet vacation from a too-busy life or over-active mind? Or something else?

Counseling might be useful, but look for a therapist who isn't freaked out by the idea of consensual kink.


...and yes, I'll chime in as another gay guy empathizing with LW2. And let me tell you, ASS, when you can't manage to hook up as a gay man living in San Francisco, you REALLY feel like there's something wrong with you.

Now it's twenty years later and I'm happily partnered, but it took, yeah... It took decades.

So relax and enjoy what's good in your life right now. There's hope, but there's no quick fix and there's no magic formula.


SCARRED, I'm so glad to hear you're no longer engaged in self harm. Be proud that you've overcome an addiction that is just as hard to step away from as nearly any other drug addiction.

As for your concern about masochism and BDSM in light of your history of self harm, you have your own answer in your letter when you describe it as "healthy and positive."

But to address your concerns, my armchair opinion is that you can use a measure similar to warning signs of alcohol abuse when it comes to whether the pain you're experiencing is "healthy and positive" as opposed a warning you're returning to self harm. With alcohol, having a few drinks with friends is fine, but if you get home from those drinks with friends and follow them up 6-10 more is a problem. In your case, sessions with your dom indulging in safe masochism are fine, but if those make you want to go home and cut yourself, that's a problem.


@13 @14 He doesn't want to find people at his level of experience - he wants to be OK with not having sex. That a million other people are in his boat with him is not especially relevant to his stated question/desire. Going back to the Gulag, does it make you feel better the more people are suffering with you? Seriously folks, finding pleasure or value in other people's misfortune is not anything a decent person should do OR BE ENCOURAGED TO DO holy fucking shit. Are you two even human?


BDF @ 26
As a late bloomer myself I remember friends' attempts to fix me with potential mates coming across as embarrassing as well as condescending. There’s a difference between pointing out common preferences shared by experienced folks as opposed to insinuating, intentionally or not, that “you need help.”


CMD @39, I certainly wasn't trying to insinuate anything negative about anyone, just that this LW and one of our frequent commenters seem to have a lot in common. It was intended as light hearted and I'm sorry if it did not come across that way.


BDF- I have no doubt you meant no harm and sure hope the person in question will take it as you intended. Just pointing out that as a reserved, vulnerable person one may see things differently, which may have also been Harriet's point.


@ Sporty

Is this the first time you've ever heard of people feeling some relief to know that others experience the same hardships as they do? That they are not alone? Because this is a totally normal and widely known human experience, and if you are honest in not understanding that this exists, it says a lot about how you interact with and understand people.

I skipped your analogy the first time because it's so poor. I'll go after it now. #1 Being in a gulag is active torture and suffering - the positive presence of suffering as opposed to the negative lacking of a thing that would make you happy. They are both suffering, but the one requires someone else to inflict it upon you while the other has no external cause. So it's a poor analogy in the first place since the first requires someone to stop doing something while the second requires you to do something different and/or someone else to start doing something. But that aside, yes, cynically speaking, "misery loves comfort"- this is well known- and more generously speaking, there is a long history of people who are confined in camps or solitary or prison feeling uplifted by the solidarity of others in the same situation.

But more importantly, your analogy sucks because it's not about just knowing others are also suffering in the LW's case. He worries that he's a freak- this is a part of his problem of social anxiety which is literally causing him to not seek the relationships he's missing- and learning that others are exactly like him points out that he's not, in fact, a freak. He's not abnormal. And yes, Feeling less experienced than others (his words) is part of the reason he feels so nervous. So it directly responds to what he said to point out that loads of people are as inexperienced as him.


"misery loves company" I meant though surely it loves comfort too!

Back to the letter, I'm curious how "inexperienced" the LW really is? Like, maybe some of this is just a projection based on his anxiety? He is not a virgin. I wonder how his sexual experiences went before? If he was feeling sensitive already and the experience wasn't super positive, then it might've made an already anxious situation seem like something he'd want to avoid in the future?

I'm reminded of something I read (here I think?) that a lot of young people find that sex is awkward or disappointing at first, not pleasant, due to it not meeting their (porn-influenced?) expectations? Though maybe I'm mixing up memories.

Just wonder if his few encounters between 23 and 26 were positive or negative, awkward, etc?

I've mentioned this before, but I knew a couple late bloomers (men) who had a lot of anxiety around sex because they feared that their lack of experience would make them disappointing "bad" lovers and it seemed daunting to them to approach this topic at the beginning of meeting someone since people tend to expect sex early on in the dating, before you'd have developed a trusting relationship.

So spitballing, if that's the case, I wonder if it would be helpful for him to find someone who would like to take on training him? I have no illusions that this would be an easy thing to find and I have no idea how one would go about doing that if they were scared to even post online, but in fantasy land in which those problems are solved (a sex worker? fetlife?) would it be useful to have a half dozen "practice" sessions under his belt? Like no need to pretend anything, he can just say "hey I need help learning how to do this?" to get confidence?

But I don't know. Since he has anxiety around socializing also, not just sex, I might be missing the mark.


In quite a few of the past letters Dan's gotten from anxious LW's like ASS, he mentions others being like him in the context of it perhaps helping to find one of them to navigate forward together /with/. In fact I just sort of assumed Dan had worked that in there this time, but I see he didn't.

Anyway it might be a good suggestion. I was close to someone whose anxiety drove me nuts, and wondered if someone it didn't drive nuts might likely be someone on the same page as her.

But it also might not work I guess. When people are different instead of similar, there might be stronger opportunities to learn from each other.


@Sporty - in addition to what EmmaLiz said about it being a poor analogy to begin with, part of the reason there's such a stigma around mental health is because people tend to think that they alone are suffering, that other people have problems but are coping just fine, and therefore it's embarrassing to admit they have problems or seek help. Assuring someone that they're not alone (because they most likely aren't! We humans aren't as unique as we'd like to think we are) takes away that stigma, and therefore makes it much easier to find ways to make positive changes.

I know this from my own personal experience: I grew up in a very sexually-repressed culture where people didn't talk about even the most vanilla of sex and even holding hands was a pearl-clutcher, and for a long time I was ashamed and embarrassed of the sexual fantasies I had starting when I was a teenager. Then I read Nancy Friday's book, My Secret Garden: Women's Sexual Fantasies, and was relieved and shocked to find that, not only were my particular fantasies relatively common, they were extremely tame and even boring by most standards. Finding out I wasn't a whore or freak of nature took away the culturally-induced stigma around sex for me, and put me miles down the road to being a good sexual partner. That same principle is why people feel it's good for LW2 to know that he's not alone.

@LW2 - if it's any comfort, LIsa Kudrow (who played the kinky and sexually-open Phoebe on Friends) was a virgin until she was 25 years old. You're definitely not a freak; it's a lot more common than pop culture would have you believe.


EmmaLiz @43, I picked on the social aspects of his anxiety as well, and that’s why I suggested that he needs to focus on that before specific focus on sex. All partnered sex is a social interaction, but not all social interactions are partnered sex.

If merely hearing his housemate getting it on with a very special guest star is enough to send him into a panic attack, then even seeing the kindest and most compassionate sex worker is likely to give him more anxiety attacks and that strikes me as counterproductive.

Get professional help in getting the anxiety to a manageable level first, address sex once there.


Aren't we missing the main point here? God damn, Maggie Gyllenhaal was hot in that movie.


@4: John Horstmann: Gee, John. I was a virgin until age 23 and haven't had sex since my divorce. Coming up on 19 years later I still don't miss it. But then again, I'm happily asexual. :)
@45: Jina: That's a fun fact about Lisa Kudrow (a.k.a, Phoebe on Friends, and Michelle Weinberger in Romy & Michelle;s High School Reunion), I was a virgin until age 23. Lisa and I happen to also share the same birthday; she's a year older than I am. :)


@26. Bi. But you may have embarrassed Calliope inadvertently. I know you didn't mean to discomfit her. I don't know why you want an apology from me--but I'll give you one--something like 'sorry if you took my words the wrong way'--anyway.

@25. Bi. I know that generally 'get therapy' isn't an insult, and that in particular slinky @9 was, in suggesting therapy, offering encouragement and succor. Something can 'be wrong with you' in the sense of your having eg a herniated disc, or 'wrong with you' in the sense of your brain chemistry not being all there--as there's something wrong with a psychopath. My sense of the psychiatric establishment (in America, at least) is that, historically, it's confused passing psychological conditions with deep-rooted pathologies, and has called some things pathological abnormalities, defects and deficiencies when they were alternative forms of normal eg homosexuality. It would be good, to me, if ASS's anxiety could get better without his having to think about it as something deeply ingrained into his personality--if he came just to see it as a lack of experience, perhaps.

But if it can't? Then he should take systematic steps to get on top of it--which could well include seeing a therapist.


Harriet @49, Calliope has not checked in to give her opinion on my name check. CMD has offered more clarification on why it might have been an unwise move, and I've responded, so let's leave the topic unless Calliope herself has something to add.

ASS's anxiety sounds clinical to me. No, this level of mental dysfunction rarely gets better because someone merely changes their way of thinking about it. Based on his description, I suspect ASS will be among the millions of perfectly lovely people whose brain chemistry would benefit from meds. People with clinical depression, severe anxiety, bipolar etc are not psychopaths! Sure, it "would be good" if we could all logic our way to happiness, but that's not how the world is. Your attitude contributes to the stigma against mental health issues and the societal pressure for men, in particular, to adopt a stiff upper lip and just "get over it."


(a) Kudos to Mizz Liz for concentrating her advice to LW2 on steps he can take that are sure to be affordable. Given that LW2 appears stuck with a roommate he'd rather not have, other suggested measures, however good in the abstract, could have prohibitive costs. Those of the assembled company who have been around long enough may recall that neither the much-missed Mr Ophian nor I could ever afford Obamacare.

I'll offer a slightly different perspective on playing well with others. The exceptional few can win people over being true to themselves, but it is something for the exceptional few.

(b) The intent of the "take heart" section was not bad, given LW's freakish feelings, though the "you're not a freak" paragraph was better. Mr Savage did avoid "womenworsting". I'm not sure that citing a 1:1 ratio of letters on this particular problem indicates that the problem is equal, though, with so many more letters in general being written by women.

(c) I'd commend LW for not going down any of the bitter paths. On that front, the incels seem as numerous as ever, if not more so. From what I've heard, their spaces don't seem to make anyone feel much better about much of anything. MGTOWs seem to have vanished from the grid. Some of them had a few decent things to say about how to channel oneself in a productive direction, but the times haves become more polarized in the last three or four years.

(d) However important therapy may be for LW2, Mr Savage's breeziness about it was a little off-putting, though the rest of the reply largely seemed to compensate. Maybe he should have a Guide to Therapy pinned somewhere for reference, or which could be forwarded to LWs when appropriate, as Mr Savage doesn't have the space to produce responses like Mr Balz' every time. I'm torn about whether LW needs a therapist who would be specifically male-positive.


@50. Bi. And your attitude downplays the importance of a positive mindset and cognitive regime in facing up to mental health and defers getting better to pharmaceuticals and experts (or to the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries).

Though I suspect, in making it an argument, you (or we) are being needlessly polemical.


Venn @51b, we don't know how many letters Dan receives that he does not publish. He may indeed get an equal, or roughly equal, number of letters from lonely men and lonely women, and only publishes a few of them due to the repetitive nature.

Harriet @52, did I ever say LWs should not be positive? On the contrary, my posts in reply to people who are down in the dumps like ASS are always full of pep talks, positive advice and "good luck" wishes. We've discussed your bias against the psychological establishment before, yet it persists. And it's dangerous, which is why my objections to it are not "needless." No more needless than the rest of this comments section. Remember you're the one who starts the debate by disputing other commenters' (and Dan the expert's) recommendations for therapy, so if your "we" is the royal one. I'll agree with your second paragraph. My point is that very few of the people who would benefit from therapy, and are told so, actually get it; no one needs to be advised "don't get therapy," just as no one needs to be advised "don't dump the motherfucker."


@18 & @19

Yes. This. People are overtherapized. L-dub, you are in the process of figuring your shit out and creating a life that works for you, and you're making good progress, imo. Read up on other people's stories for sure, so you can see examples of how people dealt with similar experiences and predilections. But a therapist is just as likely to fuck you up as 'fix' you for something like this. Good luck!


I really wonder about ASS's life because there is so much missing from his letter. Does he have a job - a place where he can exhibit competence that leads to self-confidence? Or does he have a disability-based income or small trust that gives him enough to live on but only if he has a roommate?

If the roommate + sex situation bothers him to the extent that he has a panic attack, he might want to invest in a thick wall hanging to muffle the noise, move the position of his bed, and get a white noise device. Has he trued learning how to meditate … to go beyond the distractions of life?

Actually, ASS, sex is not everywhere you look; it's your frustration that is making you see it everywhere. You don't appear to be isolated and do have friends; unfortunately, all they seem to do is talk about all the sex they're not having!

ASS, you need a new group of people to hang out with - people who talk about other aspects of their ives. You need to find activities and hobbies that create their own unique conversations. Definitely not a group skewed to all guys. And don't look at any woman who joins as potential sex on legs. People can sense desperation and frustration at a distance. Don't be that guy.


@55 Folks like ASS tend to be hyper competent. No amount of professional accolades or credit will fix his confidence, which stems from the belief that he's not desirable enough for anyone to want his child and thus his entire value as human, who will die, is called in to question.

There are literally millions and millions of guys like this - does anyone wonder how this occurs?


No Sportlandia, we don’t wonder because hello it’s the nature of an alienating culture to alienate.
It’s how to push thru that alienation, and though I see first hand how meds can help re kick starting positive brain chemicals, it’s not my expertise not being a medically trained person. However, like with any meds/ medical interventions etc, there can be side effects, esp over time.
Therapy is always a plus, because to different degrees we are all alienated in this culture. One which puts money above all else. One on one therapy is usually very expensive, so seek out support groups. Learn dance, go to a drama, walking etc group, book club. Find a place where you have to be with people, though it’s round a focused group activity.
This young man can see his issues, which is the first step, seeing where one’s problems lie. Then he’s got to find the courage to go out there and like so many of us stumbling thru our early sexual lives, learn by experience.


Ms Fan - You miss the point. Mr Savage has stated that the large majority of letters he receives come from women. In the case of OS people with this social debilitation, he cites roughly a 1:1 ratio of letters. If most of his letters come from women, then a 1:1 ratio on this particular problem suggests that it affects a higher proportion of letter-writing men than letter-writing women. The sticking point is whether that carries over.


Ms Lava - "Therapy is always a plus"?

I'm afraid that drive went into the lake, but you may have a mulligan. Or maybe we should call that a foot fault on the first serve.


Venn @58, that's fair but Dan never said "I get an equal number of letters like this from women, which means there are an equal number of women and men in your situation." He said, "Which means there are A LOT of women out there who are just as inexperienced, self-conscious, and lonely." A claim which is not untrue.


Ms Fan - True, but there was still a vibration more of Equal Problem than of Plenty of Fish in Your Lake (Even if Others Have a Whole Sea). We're probably dancing on pinheads by now, though.

This struck me as the flip side of assuming that a letter with no gender markers was written by a woman (or for that matter about an OS relationship) just on strength of numbers.


Clarifying for Ms Lava - When I posted, I was thinking of conversion therapy (definitely NOT a plus). I later thought of people who drew the short straw and got a therapist who wasn't [blank]-positive. Maybe that's why I was a little irritated with Mr Savage's breeziness in dismissing LW to therapy (as if it were nearly sure to cure him and if it didn't it would be his fault).


Venn @61, pin dancing indeed. I'm not opposed to a slight exaggeration if its purpose is to make someone feel better. For instance telling a LW mistreated by their partner that "you deserve better." It may have even been you who disputed this -- after all, who is to say what a complete stranger "deserves"? But that's beside the point when the whole purpose of telling someone they deserve better is to encourage them to leave a bad situation, which is what advice is all about. In this case, the purpose of the advice was to make ASS feel like less of a freak, so if Dan rounded up the number of lonely women, that's a sin I am happy to overlook.


Pin dancing, ok, but I'm not sure what Venn's point is.

If more women write Dan than men (which is probably true but I missed the time he said this), then Venn is correct that it follows that lonely women might be overrepresented in Dan's sample of letter writers.

But what this has to do with the real world is beyond me. I read it as Venn implying (though he's careful not to straight out say it) that it follows that there are actually more men experiencing this debilitating loneliness than there are women than one would assume given Dan's sample.

However this is wrong-headed. What is overrepresented in Dan's sample is the distribution of gender in the first place. There are more men in the real world than there are in Dan's sample. It's women that are over represented, not loneliness.

We can conclude nothing at all about the distribution of loneliness/social anxiety/sexual frustration across the actual population from Dan's sample, and this is before we even get into the second (should be obvious) issue with this way of thinking which is that the behavior of letter writing is itself just one of several responses to the problem of loneliness and therefore reveals nothing at all about the actual existence of the problem.

Therefore, in some ways Venn is correct that the inclusion of Dan's 1:1 ratio does not draw any conclusions either way about what is happening in real life. But that works both ways- it does not follow from there that there are not the same number of men or women experiencing this problem, nor does it follow that there is more or less of either gender.

Dan is not doing statistics- he made no great claims. He simply told the LW about the letters he gets.

I suppose he could've discussed the diseases of despair that are epidemic in our culture and any number of studies on how they mainfest in various demographics depending on age, income, race, gender, region, etc, but I think that would be boring and depressing and not what the LW needs to hear which is just that he's not a freak, this is a widespread problem for lots of people, women and men.


And this week's.......


....Lucky @69........




......IS (!!!!!!):......(see what Griz did here?)............


Me! Don't hate me for grabbing the opportunity.


@69 fubar: WA-HOOOO!!!! Congrats on scoring this week's Lucky @69 Award, fubar! Why would anyone hate you when you won it fair and square? Keep on rocking the house and savor the greatly envied glory. :)


On the topic of the first LW -- I don't have enough (any) sexual or kinky experience to effectively answer this question, but as someone with a history of self-harm (cutting, scratching, banging my head on the wall, etc.) who no longer does that (mostly) and who may have sub-ish tendencies (it's hard to tell having never actually had sex -- I think I may have switch-ish tendencies as well), it's certainly an interesting subject. I don't think I've really thought about any connection between my fantasies of being tied to the bed and my self-harm. Maybe that's because my fantasies are less about pain that about giving away power -- maybe there is a connection for the LW and not for me. Maybe there's a connection for both of us. Maybe there's no connection anywhere. It's certainly something to ponder, but as long as the LW is channeling these impulses in a healthy way, I see no issue.

As for whether it would be comforting for the second LW to hear that there are others like him -- it's certainly comforting to me. Not necessarily because it means I could find someone as inexperienced as me to be with, but just because it means I'm not such a weirdo, you know?

BiDanFan @21 Lol, I was thinking the same thing myself! I was going to say -- LW, any chance you're in the NY metro area?

Harriet_by_the_bulrushes @24 I was only silent because I've been an anxious mess getting ready for school to start tomorrow. Don't worry, I'm not embarrassed!

Traffic Spiral @27 I was indeed busy with finishing up my winter break Spanish course, but mostly I was being temporarily avoidant to things that usually cheer me up, like commenting here, because I'm nervous about school starting. I am a she. And I don't have kids (thank non-existent god -- it would have to be immaculate conception, seeing as I'm a virgin), so it's mostly school that keeps me busy. That being said, while I've (hopefully) snapped myself out of being avoidant, I am going to be very busy starting tomorrow, so I can't promise a continued presence here.

CMDwannabe @39 I took it as a joke! (And I probably do "need help," lol.) If any of you were actually part of my in-person life, I don't know how I would react to being set up, but online I'm fine with people joking about it. If you actually read this, don't feel bad, BiDanFan. I'm totally fine with what you said.

Harriet_by_the_bulrushes @49 I disagree that someone with such severe social anxiety that they can't even engage online doesn't have something "wrong" with them. The only metrics for whether something is "wrong" should be if such a thing detrimentally impacts someone's functioning in their life and/or if this causes them suffering. Someone who is homosexual, bisexual, has a non-conforming gender identity, etc., is still able to function and be happy in their daily life if the rest of the world stays out of their way. A mental illness doesn't mean someone is a bad person or not good enough or unfixable or anything (though not all mental illness can be completely managed), but it does mean there's a problem to work on. If someone has a broken leg, I'd say there's something "wrong" with their leg. If someone has severe anxiety there's certainly something "wrong" with their brain chemistry. Though maybe something "wrong with them" is different than something simply being "wrong" or specifically "wrong" with their body part and not them in general. Therapy is certainly not a cure-all (especially if you don't find the right therapist), and for someone with anxiety that severe, a prescription or two in addition to therapy might be necessary to help them attain their own reasonable goals, but suggesting therapy is certainly the right place to start. The idea that positive thinking can help someone get over severe mental illness (and anxiety that impacts one's life in the way this LW has described is certainly a mental illness!) is ridonkculous. It's a fallacy that many of us with mentall illnesses suffer from, and it makes getting to treatment harder. It might work for minor, transient issues, but when one has a severe problem that has followed them for their entire life, hearing that kind of thing can make them feel like they're not good enough because they should be able to solve their issues themselves, when the truth is that's impossible.

Helenka (also a Canuck) @55 As a virgin who is sometimes extremely frustrated by that fact, I can tell you that there is, indeed, sex every-fucking-where in this society. You just don't notice it unless you're frustrated or otherwise have heightened sensitivity to something about it. I agree that the LW might not be having the most healthy interactions with his friends about the subject, but for people with severe social anxiety, the idea of just making new friends can be extremely daunting. I would suggest instead setting firm boundaries with his current friends that the topic of their sex lives (or if their droughts are the issue, specifically that topic) is simply off-limits.


@71 Calli
Thanks for pointing us back to this many-splendored Comment!

I'm happy that you've (mostly) stopped self-harm, good for you and best wishes!


@71. Calliope. The question is at what level something is wrong. The person you describe--so anxious they can't interact online--is not functional; and that's a form of wrongness. But is something wrong with them in the way that there's something wrong with a sociopath with an empathy deficit? Or (this is maybe a different question, maybe not) will something always be wrong with them?


Mizz Liz - I said that one might reasonably assume the problem to affect a greater proportion of male letter-writers in an attempt to avoid erasing non-letter-writers. You are exactly right that we cannot conclude anything about the general populace from what we might deduce about people inclined to consult Mr Savage.

If I were forced to guess, I should guess that the problem is likely about equally spread among the general society and only possibly a higher priority for men so situated. It makes me think of how opinion was relatively evenly divided on same-sexer issues, only they were a higher priority for those on the anti side than on the pro side. I could theorize that socially awkward women have more pressing problems - it's possible even that many more women than men experience such difficulty (especially if one factors in a likelihood of women's being more self-critical and putting themselves in that category on slighter grounds).

I probably wouldn't have made my original point had Mr Savage's invited inference not been such bad bridge logic. Anyone who has ever had difficulties getting someone to understand the Rule of Restricted Choice (a bridge principle which has numerous applications away from the card table; Ms vos Savant once wrote a well-known column showing how the principle applied to Let's Make a Deal) can appreciate my thoughts, but there may be no such person among the assembled company.

At this point it feels a little like the discussion between Anne Elliot and Captain Harville about whether women or men love longer when hope or existence is gone. "It is no great distinction; you need not covet it." Whether OS men or OS women are more affected by social awkwardness is something I'd only try to determine if I saw important consequences hanging on the answer.

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