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My boyfriend cheated on me with a much younger woman. How can I believe him when he says he's still attracted to me?
By Dan Savage
I’m a man who recently started seeing a wonderful woman. Like me, she’s divorced. While my ex-wife left me for another man, my girlfriend’s ex-husband was controlling and abusive. Our relationship is the opposite — emotionally, psychologically, and sexually.
Here’s the thing: his abusive behavior is my kink — spanking. In all my past relationships, spanking was light, playful, and consensual; with her ex, it was about pain and humiliation to the point of tears and bruising. She knows about my kink (as a Savage Love reader, I knew to bring it up after a couple of weeks) and understands that my motivations around spanking are completely different from her ex’s, but she has zero interest in anything approaching fetish play — and that’s fine, because I feel so connected to her that I don’t need my kink indulged to feel fulfilled. But I find myself feeling guilty for having the kink in the first place. The thought of her enduring what she did brings me to tears. How do I get past this?
— Lacking A Clever Acronym
If your girlfriend’s ex-husband had manipulated or bullied her into vaginal intercourse — if he had repeatedly and brutally raped her vaginally during their terrible, awful, no good, very bad marriage — would you feel guilty about an interest in consensual, vanilla, missionary, penis-in-vagina intercourse? No. You would hopefully have reacted in a similarly compassionate manner, LACA, after learning about her sexual history. You would have been willing to stick to oral, mutual masturbation, and whatever else your new girlfriend was comfortable exploring and capable of enjoying. And you would have looked forward to the day when she felt ready to enjoy sensuous, consensual, and mutually pleasurable vaginal intercourse again. And if that day never arrived, well, then perhaps you would have been willing to forgo vaginal intercourse for the rest of your life to be with her.
But you wouldn’t be sitting there feeling like some sort of monster for being aroused by — and for having enjoyed — consensual, vanilla, missionary, penis-in-vagina intercourse with other women.
Your willingness to drop your harmless kink is evidence that your priorities are in order, LACA, your heart is in the right place, your cowboy hat is white, etc. Any time you start feeling bad about your kink, just remind yourself that consensual kink isn’t abuse for the same reason consensual vaginal intercourse isn’t rape: Because it’s consensual. You can love this woman, LACA, and make this relatively small sacrifice for this woman (spanking ain’t vaginal), without having to shame yourself or retroactively define all your past spanking experiences as abusive.
My boyfriend of five years had a one-night stand with a much younger woman. In some ways, it’s a good thing—we’re having conversations we should have had a long time ago, he’s seeing a therapist to deal with his issues (his idea, not mine), and somehow I know more than ever that I want to be with him (I’ve always been the one in every relationship with one foot out the door).
1. I recently hit the age where I’ve started to worry about looking older, and it’s been devastating to know that not only did he cheat on me, but that he did so with a much younger woman. He assures me he’s attracted to me, but how can I believe that now?
2. The younger woman sent me — and other people in our lives — an explicit, lengthy e-mail detailing everything they did. (I hate to paint this as “bitchez be crazy,” but sometimes, bitchez be crazy.) It’s not how I found out, but it certainly hasn’t helped. Ironically, our sex life has only gotten better since I found out exactly what they did — it turns out that we are both far more GGG than the other ever knew. But sometimes we’re in bed, and I’ll flash on something she wrote and the vivid mental images her letter cooked up in my head, and it sears me. Dealing with that pain out of the bedroom has been hard enough. It’s devastating that it’s now with me in the bedroom as well. How can I deal with this?
— Salve It, Please
1. LTRs are only possible if we’re willing take “yes” for an answer. He says yes, he loves you, and you will yourself to believe him; he says yes, he’s having sex with you because he’s attracted to you, and you will yourself to believe him; he says he strayed and is sorry and swears he won’t do it again… and you will yourself to believe him. And while the passage of time makes monsters of us all, SIP, it can strengthen a sexual connection even as sex itself becomes less important when weighed against everything else your LTR is or should be about. In the words of singer-songwriter Tim Minchin: “Love is made more powerful by the ongoing drama of shared experience and synergy and symbiotic empathy, or something like that.”
2. Angry cheated partner: “You did what with that person? I would’ve done that with you! And I have kinks and fantasies, too, you know!”
Contrite cheating partner: “I was afraid to ask you to do that! I was afraid you would hate me — wait, you have kinks and fantasies? What are they?”
Conversations like that one are why affairs — if the relationship survives the betrayal — sometimes kick-start a couple’s sex life. With all the kink-and-whatever-else cards on the table, the couple starts going at it like they have nothing to lose — because in that moment when breaking up is on the table, they actually don’t have anything to lose.
As for those troubling mental images: The passage of time is your body’s enemy on the physical-perfection front — and his, too — but it’s your best friend on the searing-mental-images front, SIP. The more time you two spend doing, enjoying, and perfecting X, Y, and Z sex acts, the more X, Y, and Z becomes about you two and your connection. As you take ownership over X, Y, and Z, and over each other again, the mental images will come to you less often, they’ll be less vivid, and gradually they’ll cease. Give it time.
A letter in a recent column was from a guy who’s trying to figure out how to get into gay BDSM. You suggested some advice from a gay BDSM blogger — Ben In Leather Land — and it was awesome. Do you have any suggestions of similar blogs for women into BDSM?
— Looking Lady
Sex writer, blogger, thinker, and haver Tristan Taormino, who is publishing a new book about BDSM and kinky sex (The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge), recommends fetish icon Midori’s column in SexIs magazine for women who are just beginning to explore kink.
HEY, EVERYBODY: We’re seeking sordid and tragic stories of holiday sex for an upcoming episode of the Savage Lovecast. Ever been caught having sex at Mom and Dad’s over the holidays? Ever put a “For Grandma, from Santa!” card on a wrapped box that contained a sex toy you bought for someone else? Did your older brothers stick your vibrator in the tree before a Christmas party, and you had to leave it there because reaching into the tree to remove it would only attract attention to it? Call and record your story at 206-201-2720! Please keep it under three minutes, if at all possible!
Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.
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