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Savage Love

by Dan Savage on December 8, 2011

I’m a happily married woman. I have a great sex life with my husband of many years. He’s helped me discover things I didn’t know about myself sexually. The problem: Three years ago, my first love contacted me after 23 years. He was married at the time, although he didn’t want to be, and told me that he never stopped loving me. We have been having sexy e-chats ever since. My loving, GGG husband says that I can help my old flame out if I wish. What would you do in this situation?

—Chick With 2 Dicks

What would I do? Besides thank my lucky stars, kiss my loving, GGG husband, and fuck the shit out of the other guy?

A few things, CW2D.

I would think hard—brainhard, not junkhard—about the potential powderkegginess of the situation. Not the powderkegginess of the having-sex-with-someone-other-than-my-husband-with-my-husband’s-consent situation, but the possible-shitstorm-that-could-ensue-after-fucking-this-particular-someone-who-isn’t-my-husband situation.

This Particular Someone says he’s still in love with you, CW2D. That’s nice. Are you still in love with TPS? If not, what happens if fucking TPS reignites dormant feelings for TPS that, oh, three years (!) of texting and sexting haven’t? Even if you don’t feel any more strongly for TPS after fucking him, CW2D, what if TPS decides that you really are the one-and-only love of his life and that he absolutely, positively has to have you all to himself?

TPS isn’t some rando, as the kids say. You two share a history, CW2D, and TPS could present—or become—a threat to the stability of your happy, GGG marriage. So could a complete stranger you met on the street or online, of course, but the emotional stakes and potential for complications are much, much higher with TPS than they would be with some other dude.

So before you do TPS, CW2D, you need to think brainhard about these issues and discuss them at length with your husband. And if you decide to go ahead with it after hashing this shit out with your husband, CW2D, be clear with TPS about what it is you want. If all you’re interested in is a friendship, some affection, and a little non-cyber sex for old time’s sake—if leaving your husband, or being poly, is out of the question—TPS needs to know that before you “help him out.”

(A note to everyone already composing angry e-mails about the qualified “go for it” I gave to CW2D: Yes, yes: Every couple you know who’s ever had a three-way or OKed a fling wound up divorced. And that may be true—of the couples whose three-ways and flings you know about. You know lots of couples who’ve had three-ways and flings who aren’t divorced, but you don’t know you know them. Most married couples want to be perceived as monogamous even—especially!—when they’re not. So your friends who aren’t divorcing as the result of a disastrous fling, affair, swinging experience, three-way, etc., aren’t going to tell you about all the successful flings, affairs, etc., they’ve enjoyed.)

I am 22, standing in a bookstore on Castro Street—this is many years ago, just after I dropped out of Bible college and hitchhiked to San Francisco—looking at a gay BDSM magazine for the first time in my life, trying to hide my erection, reading a story about a Master who makes his naked slave carry to his Master’s friends a six-pack of beer that’s hanging from a rope that’s tied to his nuts. To my horror, I shoot a load in my pants without touching myself.

My problem: A bit older now, I’m still very much that boy in the bookstore. The things that turn me on are what my own mind—still brainwashed by Southern Baptists—deems “bad.” I tell myself it’s OK to embrace my “kinks.” I tell myself to stop analyzing why I’m turned on by forced-exhibitionistic-sex-slave fantasies and just accept them. The problem is that I perceive my fantasies as reactionary: They exist by definition in reaction to my upbringing. What is my hard-on but a big “fuck you” to the preachers, prudes, and family members who made me miserable?

What would turn me on if I could get free of the whole fucked-up system? Am I asking questions that shouldn’t be asked? Should I just enjoy the fact that I’m turned on by humiliation and seek safe and sane situations to act out my fantasies?

—Having A Rough Day

There are people who do not share your craycrayfundy/biblestudy life experiences, HARD, who are nevertheless turned on by the exact same things you are. Human beings are primates, our cultures and societies involve all sorts of overt and covert power dynamics, and almost all humans wind up eroticizing those power dynamics to greater or lesser extents. Some of us eroticize them in subtle ways (pleasure taken in “servicing” a partner, a desire to be held down, a mild foot fetish), others more baroquely (elaborate D/s scenarios complete with props, costumes, and clearly defined roles), but power, as a gross old man once observed, is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Even if we could determine that your kinks were shaped by your upbringing, HARD, the shit that turns you on is still going to turn you on. And if your kinks are a “fuck you” to the preachers, prudes, and family members who made you miserable—that’s a “fuck you” they earned. Let them have it. (I mean it: Take pictures. Mail ’em to that preacher.)

And remember: There are people out there having vanilla, hetero, missionary intercourse in unhealthy, abusive relationships, HARD. You can explore your sexuality in healthy or unhealthy ways, just like vanilla breeders can explore their sexualities in healthy or unhealthy ways, but you can’t escape who you are and what turns you on. So stop beating yourself up, HARD, and go find a nice, kinky guy who takes that responsibility off your hands. (Here’s some great advice for gay guys just beginning to explore BDSM: tinyurl.com/bensten.)

Reading your column made me a supporter of the LGBT community. I get your back in formal political debates and drunken bar discussions. The LGBT community deserves equal rights, just like any other group of citizens. Period. However, I must protest Kate Bornstein’s comments in a recent column. She said that sex-positive heterosexuals who support the LBGT community—guys like me and FRAUD—are not “straight” men, but “queer heterosexual” men.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to get people who are not gay to support LGBT equality because they’re afraid that someone will call their straightness into question. Don’t make it harder.

—Liberal And Straight

Being a big ol’ queer myself, LAS, I viewed Kate’s suggestion as a compliment. But your point is well taken, everyone gets to choose his or her own label, and you’re straight in my book.

DID YOU MAKE AN “IT GETS BETTER” VIDEO? If you identify as LGBT, you’re 18 years of age or older, and you made or appeared in an “It Gets Better” video, science—science!—wants to hear from you about your perspectives and experiences. If you have 15–20 minutes to spare, please take this survey: http://z.umn.edu/itgetsbetter.

ARE YOU MARRIED? Have you had successful flings, affairs, swinging experiences, and three-ways that your friends and family members will never know about? Send me an e-mail, share your story, and I’ll publish it in an upcoming column.

mail@savagelove.net

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Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.