Savage Love

My girlfriend of four years cheated on me, and told me about it. Should I do the same to her?

By Dan Savage

My boyfriend and I are in college and doing the long-distance thing until June 2013. Over the years, he’s granted me increasing amounts of freedom to be intimate with women — I’m female, and date women while we’re apart — but I still don’t have full autonomy. It’s much better than it used to be, but lately another one of my “needs” has been eating at me: my masochism. He’s repeatedly refused me permission to let someone lay into me with a flogger. That’s all I ask!

In order to abide by the rules of his jealousy, am I missing out on a huge facet of the best years of my life? I don’t even want to have anything sexual with the person who flogs me! I just want them to beat me! And this might be relevant: he has the freedom to do whatever he wishes but — God only knows why — he never indulges in anything more than the odd vanilla woman here and there.

Also, I’m not allowed to attend fetish clubs because he knows I’ll make bad choices if I do (I’ll play!), but the burner and fetish scenes are converging here in Los Angeles and I’m going to get in trouble soon!

University Pain Slut

You’ve given your boyfriend permission to do who he wants, what he wants, when he wants. But you’re not allowed to do half of humanity — the male half — or get your ass beat at a BDSM club?

That hardly seems fair, UPS.

But my knees don’t automatically jerk when I hear about a couple with an arrangement that appears to be “unfair” on its face. If Person A enjoys more “freedom” than Person B, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Person B is being wronged. Some people get off on the tension that an erotic power imbalance creates, and nothing says “you’re in charge” quite like your partner having the freedom to do people and things that you’re not allowed to do. Or maybe the idea of you being with other men makes the boyfriend feel threatened and insecure, while the idea of him being with other women turns you on. If that’s the case, UPS, then you’re not doing something that makes him unhappy (sleeping with other men) while he’s doing something that makes you happy (sleeping with other women).

For me, UPS, it comes down to this: if you’re happy — if you’re getting off on your unfair deal — then I’m happy.

But are you happy? Or are you still happy? If this deal isn’t working anymore, UPS, then it’s time to negotiate a new, perhaps slightly fairer deal. His insistence that you mess around only with other girls while you’re apart is understandable — I don’t think it’s fair, UPS, but I can understand it — but the “no flogging” rule seems ridiculously arbitrary. Battle your sexual submissiveness and negotiate from a position of strength: tell your boyfriend that you’ll continue to stick to his no-other-dudes rule on the condition that he lift his silly flogging ban.


I’m a twenty-one-year-old college student living in San Diego. I have some sex-related issues/questions that I’d like to talk with a counselor about. These issues are complicated — porn consumption, sex work, ability to orgasm, etc. — but I hesitate to go through my insurance; since I’m still on my parents’ plan, that would involve me talking to my parents about this. They are very nosy and also very traditional, so I can only imagine the shitstorm. What are my other options? Is my university health care something that would cover this? Would my university report back to my parents about what I was seeking counseling about? I’m getting along fine, but this is negatively affecting my sex life and I’m tired of it.

Uneasy Collegian Seeks Discretion

Rules about patient confidentiality apply even to college students, UCSD, so your student health center is not going to rat you out to mom and dad. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

“I want your reader to know that care provided at UCSD Student Health Services and the Counseling and Psychological Services is confidential,” writes Regina Fleming, director of Student Health Services at the University of California, San Diego. “We don’t bill insurance for visits to Student Health, though sometimes the cost of lab tests are put on the student’s account; these charges do not specify what type of tests were done. [And] all services at our Counseling and Psychological Services are free.”


My girlfriend of four years cheated on me. I’m in college now; we’ve been dating since high school. She and a male friend hooked up four times when they were both drunk. This guy was supposed to be her best friend, and it turns out he was into her. I asked her once about their relationship, and she assured me that nothing had or ever would happen between them. That was a few weeks after she cheated on me. She rationalizes the events in a manner that makes her seem like she’s not to blame and she constantly tells me how much she really loves me. Do I hook up with another girl and tell her about it?

Cucked Over College Kid

No, COCK, you don’t hook up with another girl. You ask yourself this question: how many adults — people over thirty — do you know who are still with and/or married to their high-school sweethearts? The answer is either zero or approaching zero. A breakup was inevitable-ish all along, COCK, and now seems like a pretty good time to pull the plug. And while your girlfriend is telling you she loves you, and while she may still have feelings for you, she’s slamming her hand down on the self-destruct button because — consciously or not — she wants out, too.


In your advice to The Straight Best Man, you suggested that the first gay couples to legally wed in both Canada and the United States ended up divorcing and that this fact was largely unknown because anti-divorce and anti-gay marriage evangelical Christians have essentially dodged the issue in a bid to divert attention from their own spectacularly high rates of marriage implosion.

While the first American same-sex marriage ended in divorce, I can happily report that the first legal same-sex marriages in Canada are still going strong ten years later. A gay couple, Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa, and a lesbian couple, Anne and Elaine Vautour, were married in a joint ceremony on January 14, 2001, at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCCT). At that time, the government was still refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. To solve this problem, the church, on advice from their legal team, did an end run around the pre-authorized license requirement, using the ancient, but perfectly legal, Christian tradition of proclaiming the banns of marriage. While the government refused to register the marriages as valid, on June 10, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared that the marriages had been legally performed, and ordered the Province of Ontario to register them immediately. The court also ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and ordered the province to begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that same day.

Both couples remain happily married, having renewed their vows in a public ceremony at MCCT on the occasion of their joint ten-year anniversaries earlier this year.

Nice Thing To Be Wrong About, Eh?

I’m happy to stand corrected — I’m delighted — and I’d like to send my belated congrats to Joe & Kevin and Anne & Elaine on the occasion of their tenth anniversaries. Here’s to many, many more happy years together!

Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at

Commentarium (22 Comments)

Oct 26 11 - 9:01am

I love the story about the gay marriage in Canada that was spearheaded by a church. Take that, conservative Christians!

Oct 26 11 - 5:01pm

This is how marriage should be handled. The government should stay out.

Oct 26 11 - 10:58pm

Civil unions for everyone!

Oct 26 11 - 9:26am

Actually, I do know people over 30 happily married to their high school sweethearts. It's not the majority, but it does happen. These aren't the kind of people who write Dan Savage, though.

Dec 08 11 - 10:22am

He never said it doesnt happen. He said the number is 0 or close to it. And it is a fact that it is a VERY low percentage of people married to their highschool loves. its an even LOWER percentage of those married couples who are genuinely happy.

Oct 26 11 - 10:00am

I'm acquainted with a guy who married his high school sweetheart. They're a weird couple. It has nothing to do with when they met (though his self-righteousness about marrying his high school sweetie is annoying).

Oct 26 11 - 12:23pm

Marrying your HS sweetheart happens, but it's not the most likely outcome of such a pairing. Getting cheated on is a strong vote of no-confidence in the relationship. Let it dissolve and get the bets revenge by living well.

Oct 26 11 - 12:52pm

i would shoot myself in the face if i had married my high school sweetheart.

the first letter squicks me out- only because in college i "asked permission" from my boyfriend to do random stuff. wtf, college self? just go do that shit. who cares what he thought. granted, i didn't have the hugest amount of affection for the guy, but #1, it's your life, be thoughtful about who you let set the rules, and in the end, you're the final call on things you want to do- not him. go to your fetish party if it'll make you happy. will you regret missing it because he didn't want you to?

i know this is a really vanilla response to a dan savage column, but girl be true to yourself <3

Oct 26 11 - 1:58pm

Wow, is there anyone out there who DOESN'T want to get tied up and beaten with electrical cords or whatever anymore? It's starting to feel like vanilla is the new kinky.

Oct 26 11 - 2:05pm

I really want to write an article like, "By day, I was your average postmodern college chick, enjoying typical stuff like BDSM flogging parties, ponyplay conventions, and play rape scenes involving the Bulgarian national swim team. But by night, I had a secret, shameful engage in soulful, missionary-style vanilla sex with a monogamous partner."

Oct 26 11 - 6:29pm

^lol! I would so read that story.

Oct 26 11 - 8:24pm

Hehe, I was wondering the same. The thing about that first letter is you could swap their respective indulgences for something vanilla like him having poker nights with the guys and her playing mixed doubles at the tennis club with another dude and the essential issue remains the same. People will expand into, and push against, whatever structures and routines shape their lives, the fabric of those structures is only tangentially relevant.

Oct 26 11 - 3:36pm

I love Savage Love and I'm married to the guy I started dating at 18. And we're in our late thirties now. You can't find someone cool when you're young? Also, I get really tired of these 21 year old writing in about their lesbo-masochistic-poly-bi-latex-furry-lovin selves. I guess I'm getting old. It's just so---whatever. Just fuck already.

Oct 26 11 - 8:22pm
yo yo

The first one is a fake. No one would write in that tone if they were actually asking for advice. I think it is trying to point out the fact that Savage seems to be almost exclusively interested in encouraging individuals to build all their relationships around niche kinks and self-indulgent sexual exploration. I understand his viewpoint (that people should find sexual acceptance in consensual relationships), but as people have been pointing out, I don't think his sample is really all that applicable to most of the public.

Oct 27 11 - 12:24am
Trans Lesbo Back

Another week, still wondering about the existence of monogamous vanilla women lovin women out there. Is it time to become a nun yet?

As an aside, I know of no couples who lasted after their teens. Possible but rare. The last couple I knew of just divorced.

Oct 29 11 - 12:28pm
HS Luvva

I am 45 and have been with my high school sweetheart for a while now. The sex is incredible. If she goes to summer school, she should graduate next year.

Nov 04 11 - 9:29am

I'm not sure what Savage's deal with young love is lately... he's been saying that a LOT, about how "no one" is with their first love/high school sweetheart. So his primary advice to younger pairs having problems has been "break up, it's inevitable anyway." It's like some kind of mission of his.

Nov 07 11 - 6:16pm

My advice - UPS, you really have a lot of built up tension that looks like it needs to be explored. I think you should go explore. Be free young birdy. Let people flog you and such. But it looks like your poor boyfriend wants at least SOME stability. Let him go find that. Part ways.

COCK - seriously, she cheated on you 4 times and you don't know what to do? You look like a sucker. Leave and maintain SOME dignity.

That's all I've got.

Nov 20 11 - 11:05am

Way to go on this essay, hleepd a ton.

Nov 23 11 - 12:27am

To think, I was confused a mnitue ago.

Nov 30 11 - 1:24pm

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