I've been reading your column for years. Until recently, I never really thought I would ever need to specifically ask for your advice, since I liked to think I'd absorbed enough "Savage Love" to have a decent intuition on how to run my sex life. But here I am.
I'm a 27-year-old single gay woman. I spent the last two weeks doing a backcountry hike with a guy I had met a few months ago. He was doing it for work (freelance travel writer), and since he didn't set off my
sketch-alarm, and as I'm not employed at the moment, I thought it'd be a fun adventure so I said yes when he asked if I wanted to come. Since I had known him for such a short period, I asked around our mutual larger social circles to see if it was a blatantly stupid idea. Everyone thought it was a fine plan.Sponsored
And it was fantastic. The hiking was amazing, I loved the wilderness, we wound up having lots of heart-to-heart conversations.... you see where this is going, right?
I have issues with personal space, especially with men, and I was really proud of myself when I got to the point of not flipping out whenever our elbows scraped against each other. I was also happy when the thought of sharing one small tent stopped setting off small panic attacks. And then sharing one small air mattress. Because normal people can do that, right? Apparently not, because sharing an air mattress led to cuddling, which led to making out, which led to cunnilingus, which led to screaming orgasms.
Keeping your philosophy in mind, I was as honest as I could bear to be. I was open about my past experiences with men (more than 5 years ago) and that they all ended uncomfortably at best and severely
traumatic at worst. I made it clear that while I very much enjoyed making out, there are some (okay, lots of) things I just can't do with him. He was okay with all of that! In fact, our various sexual quirks seemed to make us a good match. He is, without a doubt, the most tender, giving and least demanding sexual partner I've had. By the end of the trip, it was getting increasingly clear that he had fallen for me pretty hard, and I was also less sure of my own feelings.
I guess this all boils down to two questions. One, how bi am I? I'm really not particularly aroused by his body, not that there's anything wrong with it, as much as I'm aroused by naked ladies. But the way he touches me, I end up coming like a banshee. Two, what's the ethical thing to do at this point? He's very much infatuated, which honestly is very flattering. I think he's a really cool guy, and I want to be friends with him. But is that motivated simply by my desire to keep having fantastic orgasms?
Help me, Dan Savage, you're my only hope. I can't talk to my friends about this. They're all lesbians and they'll give me shit about going straight.
Do I Really Need An Acronym?
My response after the jump...
This one's for all the lesbians freaking out about The Kids Are All Right...
I have a hunch that you're just bi enough to accept cunnilingus—and screaming orgasms—from a dude, DIRNAA, but not so bi that you find men, or men's bodies, or relationships with men, particularly appealing. Perhaps you would be a bit more bi—or likelier to identify as bi—if your sexuality hadn't been complicated by other issues and/or experiences with men that left you feeling more conflicted about 'em and more panicky around 'em.
Setting those issues aside, DIRNAA, you're clearly not so bi that you're disqualified from identifying as a lesbian. Which is not to say that you won't ever find yourself in a relationship with a man. You seem to be in one now. And before we get to what you need to do about that...
This is old news but here it bears repeating: Women are much more fluid, sexually-speaking, than men; studies have shown that women respond to erotic images of both males and females regardless of their sexual orientation, while gay and straight men respond to images that align with their professed sexual orientations. Here's the takeaway from a long, stupid CNN story about one of these studies:
In a 2004 landmark study at Northwestern University, the results were eye-opening. During the experiment, the female subjects became sexually aroused when they viewed heterosexual as well as lesbian erotic films. This was true for both gay and straight women. Among the male subjects, however, the straight men were turned on only by erotic films with women, the gay ones by those with men.
"We found that women's sexual desire is less rigidly directed toward a particular sex, as compared with men's, and it's more changeable over time," says the study's senior researcher, J. Michael Bailey, Ph.D. "These findings likely represent a fundamental difference between men's and women's brains."
So, DIRNAA, being capable of responding sexually to a man is not evidence that you're not a lesbian. It's evidence that you're a woman. And instead of regarding your innate-but-not-compulsory-or-universally-experienced-by-all-women-everywhere sexual fluidity as a problem, DIRNAA, you should view it as a superpower. You may not be interested in anything long-term with a man, but you were able to have an amazing time with this guy, and enjoy some amazing oh-so-wrong-but-still-amazing orgasms, thanks to your amazing superpowers of sexuality fluidity. Lucky you, huh?
So what to do about him? Well, if you've made it clear that you're not capable of ever truly loving him or any man, and you've made it clear that your thing, whatever it is, is going to be limited in scope, emotionally-speaking, and that it can't last forever, then I don't see any reason why you can't continue to enjoy this connection. Ethically, DIRNAA, you're covered.
Lesbians and straight men can be friends... and they can be friends with benefits. Enjoy.