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Dear Miss Information,
I'm a twenty-something heterosexual male, and I'm still a virgin. Every romantic advance I've ever made on a woman has been thoroughly rebuffed, and about four years ago I just gave up entirely, accepting the likelihood that I would die a virgin. I decided that the traits women are looking for — good looks, alpha-male personality, and financial security — are things I just don't and most likely never will possess. To be honest, I now feel like peers in my age group are so much more sexually experienced than me that I would be viewed as completely inept sexually. I'm now terrified of the prospect of physical intimacy.
In the past year or so, however, I've started having some disturbing and persistent sexual fantasies and dreams that I can't seem to control. In these fantasies I'm raping or otherwise sexually assaulting women. At first the fantasies and dreams were infrequent, so I didn't worry too much. In the past few months, however, they've become a daily and nightly occurrence. What especially freaked me out was when I caught myself considering what resources would be needed to build a secure, hidden rape dungeon in my house.
I feel terrible about myself. The fact that I can't stop these fantasies makes me feel no better than predators I abhor. I have no plans to act out any of these fantasies, but I fear that if I don't get them in check soon I may become the worst sort of person.
I'm worried that my involuntary celibacy may be triggering these fantasies. I've thought about hiring a prostitute or seeing a sex therapist, but I have the money for neither. Is the human sex drive so strong as to turn an otherwise normal, functioning member of society into a rapist? — Time Bomb
Dear Time Bomb,
I'm not going to get into advanced rape theory. I'll leave that to Nerve's overeducated and astoundingly brainy group of commenters. I will say that the motivation has been the subject of debate since forever and a Betty White ago. Theories range from evolution (Darwin made me do it) to childhood gender socialization (Hot Wheels made me do it) to rape culture (Maxim made me do it) to drugs and alcohol (Jack Daniels made me do it and also this enormous blunt). It's an incredibly complex issue, and "Will you or won't you become a rapist?" is not a question I can answer in this column.
But I can attempt to challenge some of your preconceptions, the first being that you're a hopeless case at the tender age of twenty-something years old. Comedy badass Tina Fey was twenty-four years old when she lost it. Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima was almost thirty. I doubt you'd kick either out of bed.
Up next, these "traits women are looking for." Good looks, I'll give you. But bear in mind that's incredibly subjective. For every woman who finds you unappealing, there's another who thinks you're hot stuff. This "alpha-male personality?" Applesauce. It sounds like someone's been reading too much pickup-artist methodology and USA Today pop science. Be careful with that stuff. It'll rot your brain. As for financial security, sure, it's nice, but a requirement? Looking on a macro level (women are closing the wage gap and even pulling ahead) as well as on a personal level (I've consistently earned more than the men I've dated for close to a decade now), I'd say the answer is no. Finally, does having more partners make you a better lover? Not always. I'd rather take my chances with you than with a guy whose last girlfriend condoned slobbery ear licking.
Now that I've questioned some of your core truths, I have to say that I'm not too worried about these so-called "deviant" thoughts. I think your insecurities and imagination are conspiring to fuck with your sense of self. I don't know how much you know about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but your problem sounds textbook.
From WebMD: "Symptoms of the disorder include obsessions. These are unwanted thoughts, ideas, and impulses that you have again and again... They get in the way of your normal thoughts and cause anxiety or fear. The thoughts may be sexual or violent."
From the National Institute of Mental Health: "Some common obsessions include having frequent thoughts of violence and harming loved ones, persistently thinking about performing sexual acts the person dislikes..."
OCD, if that's what you have, is treatable. There are medications, self-help manuals, and doctors. Sometimes just recognizing what it is, reading up on it, and learning some control techniques is enough to relieve it in its mild forms.
I know you say you can't afford a shrink, but I encourage you to rethink that. You pay your taxes like everyone else and you deserve whatever free services you've got coming to you from the government. If you earn too much to qualify, then you need to start prioritizing. People always have money for what feels comfortable but are suddenly broke when it comes to that which scares them. Do you want peace of mind or Call of Duty 4?
Dear Miss Information,
I am separated and waiting for a divorce from my husband, who turned out to be a serial cheater. Although I am moving on emotionally, my ego is bruised. One silver lining is that I am bisexual and excited at the chance to date a woman. My experience in that realm is limited, but the one meaningful, ongoing encounter I've had was great. I put up a Nerve profile in hopes of meeting a lady, and it's been a few months now with only one response! I met my husband on here, and used to get messages from men all the time when I was single. Perhaps I don't know how craft a profile to attract a woman, or maybe women just don't find me attractive? My profile is very "me," and I don't like the idea of putting something fake out there. Is there something wrong with my profile that I'm not seeing? — The Girl That Apparently No One on the Planet Wants to Date
Dear Girl That No One Wants to Date,
I checked out your profile. I'd certainly get with you, if that means anything. Even turning off my redhead-equals-triple-
1. Change your status from "Separated" to "Single." I know you don't want to be fake, but the truth is that many people will see that word and use it as an excuse to move on. They won't understand that there's no way in Hades you're going back to your ex-husband and are just waiting for the paperwork to process. It's better to let them get to know you a little, see what a standup gal you are, and then make the full disclosure. Note that I'm not talking about the seventh date. I'm talking first or second date, tops. To those who say that's unethical, I say lighten up. There are people who hide spouses, children, and more. Bending the truth a little to widen your applicant pool is not going to permanently scar anyone.
2. Your face. I can't see it very well. I can see your bod, which is aces. Maybe get some more head-focused shots? I don't know if you're trying to maintain the illusion of privacy, but if you are, you may as well get over that right now. There is no shame in online dating. If you do it, people are going to find out. Chances are, the girl next to you at work is on the same site, as is the guy the next row over. Would you rather they see you looking like a regular person, or like an anonymous victim on a Russian escort site?
The final advice is to contact people. Women, especially the bi-to-straightish type you're going for, are used to men contacting them. It may not be gender equity, but it's reality. Spend some credits. Write some letters. Take some time to craft some custom responses. The divorce is a no-no. Clever banter is a yes-yes.
Consider whether you want to be on more than one site. Most people have a few they're on at once. Sometimes the action ebbs and flows. One site will be hot one week, another the next. It's an inexact science. Don't forget about alternate non-dating sites like Meetup.com and community boards on bisexual websites. Just Google your town + bisexual and you're on your way to Girlville.
Readers, any tips on approaching gay and bisexual women online? Do you think our redheaded letter writer should use a different approach than she would if pursuing a guy, or is it all the same?
Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.