Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New York Comic Con Edition

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Nei, 28

What do you do?
I'm a professional colorist, and I've started to do my own work for comic covers as well.

It seems like you specialize in drawing women. What kind of female characters inspire you?
I like strong women, ones that can hold themselves very well and exude confidence. Definitely more glamorous. I'm not so much into the superhero-type thing. I guess it's just mostly personal taste. I don't do too thin; I like women to be voluptuous and natural.

Does any of your personal life influence your art at all?
Yeah, I suppose, because I have a couple of guy friends, and we go to a lot of strip clubs. We do a lot of conventions, and we try to go almost every time we're out of town.

Where are you from?
I live in Los Angeles.

What's the dating scene like in Los Angeles?
I've actually never dated in Los Angeles. I've been with somebody in a long-term relationship for four years. He's also a colorist. He's very stoic and doesn't really talk much, but he's got a really great heart.

Is he into strip clubs as well?
No, he actually doesn't like them. Or maybe he just tells me that because I'm the girlfriend. I've tried giving him money, but he doesn't want to go up to the strippers, so…

Are you the more adventurous one when it comes to sex?
Yeah, I would say so. There's certain stuff I've been curious about or interested in trying.

Can you share any of the stuff that you're into?
Being a submissive. Not super-extreme — some bondage play and things like that. Paddles.

Is there stuff that you've experimented with and you were like, "Meh, I'm not really into that"?
Flogging. Not into that! That's definitely too much for my taste.

What's the bondage scene like in L.A.?
There are a lot of clubs that you can go to and be handcuffed and spanked. Well, not a lot. There's one that we frequent.

Do you find that it's a safe space?
Very much so. They call them "players." You go upstairs. The main guy that does it, he's a professional, and he's been doing it for a long time. Everybody's having a good time, and they're comfortable.

Is there anywhere else you've dated besides L.A.?
South Dakota. Slim pickings! 

 

Stephen, 40

What do you do?
I'm an animator, and I do video editing.

What's your relationship status?
I'm married, since 2002. She's very supportive of the things I do. It's love.

How did you meet her?
She was my boss. I worked at Walmart. I was a cashier, she was my supervisor. At the time, I thought she was dating someone else, but it turns out he was gay.

Who asked out whom?
Well, she found out through her friends that I was interested in her, and they put us into a position where I was the one who asked her out.

What was that like, since you were in a boss/employee relationship?
We had to keep it on the down low. And after a while, people figured it out and didn't say anything overtly. But they did things like, "Well, we're going to schedule you for this time, and you for that time." That didn't seem to work out to keep us apart, so then they transferred me to a different department so I wasn't her subordinate anymore.

Was there a sexy aspect to that, the fact that she was your boss?
Kinda. It was kind of a power thing for me. I don't know about for her. It was kind of an interesting relationship. And then she quit Walmart, and eventually I quit Walmart, and we worked at different places. And then we continued our relationship and then got married.

What was your dating experience like before you met her?
Really bad. Didn't really have a girlfriend for too long. In fact, before her, I only had three girlfriends. My first girlfriend, I was eighteen. I was really shy. Since then, I've come out of my shell, as you can probably tell.

These three other girlfriends that you had, how long did they last? What was it like?
The first one, it was high school, so there was a dance — a winter formal. So I asked her out to that. That was from November to just about Valentine's Day, when she broke up with me. So that was the first relationship. And of course, being eighteen, I was just happy kissing. That was the extent that I went with a girl back then. It wasn't for another three years until I had another girlfriend. And then — I'm not even sure how that happened… oh, I know! Chevy Chase.

Chevy Chase?
Remember Earth Day? Chevy Chase said, "Save water. Shower with a friend." So I repeated that to someone. And, oh my God, it worked! That relationship lasted about two years. And then there was quite a big dry spell — five years — until I had another girlfriend. And that only lasted about six months. I think that one was all based on sex. That's not a good thing to base a relationship on. They don't tend to last very long.

Do you think you had been in love at any point before you met your wife?
I think I was rather depressed. I was so depressed that I was going around telling everybody that I was an asshole, just to make sure that I didn't get my heart broken. And then I met her, and all my defenses just kind of went away. She already had a kid. She had a previous marriage. In fact, when I met her, she was technically still married, although she was in the divorce proceedings when I met her. I love her son, and we have a daughter now too. And everything is just awesome! I come to things like Comic Con, and she wants to follow and do the things that I do, which is great. She shares my interests; I like doing some of the things that she does. I always encourage her to have fun and go out with the girls whenever she can. And we go out to Renaissance Faires and do all kinds of fun stuff like that. And she doesn't just stand back and watch — she takes part and dresses up in costumes and does all the fun stuff.

What do you think it was about her that helped you lower your defenses?
I think it was more or less because she was shyer than me, and someone had to step up and take charge. It made me just want to take care of her.

 

Abby, 36

What do you do?
I write graphic novels.

I see that you write about queer teens. Is any of that inspired by your personal life?
I always wanted to present gay characters in a realistic, three-dimensional light, as opposed to the way they'd been presented before. I just try to add more realism or sympathy for everybody's humanity. I didn't have a homophobic upbringing.

Where did you grow up?
Connecticut. It's sort of conservative, but when I was in high school, I was friends with an alternative crowd. I was into punk and goth stuff and new wave. I had a couple of out gay friends in high school that I hung around with. We had problems with the jock types, but I found that to be pretty typical at that time and place. I'm sure it was a lot better than some other places, but worse than others, so probably in the middle. Now, high schools have gay-straight alliances and things like that. I think we were kind of moving towards that direction, but we didn't quite make it.

Did you consider yourself a gay activist growing up?
Somewhat. I don't think of myself as being terribly political, but I did go to the Pride March and things like that. It's hard for me to say; the art I make, hopefully, will give people perspective.

How do people respond to your art, considering that it deals with sexuality?
I've had a really positive response. When I first started doing one of my comics, it ran in the magazine XY. It's a magazine for young, gay males. And a lot of times, they thought I was a guy, based on the storyline. I'd get fan mail. Sometimes people would ask me out on dates. One of the characters attempts suicide, so I got suicide letters. I was able to respond to them and give them hotline information and stuff, which the magazine had handy because they got a lot of letters like that.

Wow.
Of course it was really disturbing, but it made me realize that art can really be life-changing and reach people when they're in a really dark time in their lives and help them.

Do you see yourself continuing to explore gender and sexuality?
I think so. My more recent book, "Dolltopia," deals more with gender roles. It's about dolls being tired of being controlled by humans, so they start their own society. And there's not actually any sex in it because they're dolls, but it's about relationships and identity. I have a G.I. Joe army doll, and he decides to get a makeover and he doesn't want to be a tough guy anymore. There's a plastic-surgeon doll, so people can change their parts.

So what's your relationship status now?
I have a long-term partner — boyfriend. He's a cartoonist.

Before you were in a relationship, was there a type that you gravitated towards?
I like guys who are my height. It's hard for me to date really tall guys because it gives me a neck ache. I like to be on a more equal level with them physically. I also like people that are more slight; I don't like really muscular guys. I like it when I can feel like I'm on someone's same wavelength.

Enrica, 31

You're a comic-book writer?
A comic-book writer with a brand new series, Azteca. One of the characters in the story is a very powerful, evil woman. I'm interested in taking a bad woman but making her sympathetic and showing how she got there.

Do you draw upon your personal experiences for that?
Not at all.

What have your personal dating experiences been like?
I think when you're young and having fun and experimenting you become aware of — I don't want to say it's a double-standard, but if I were a guy messing around with a bunch of different people, it would be a completely different situation. I was a girl who got some attention and was enjoying it, but I learned really quickly how that was perceived, how that was going to be taken by the other people around me.

What's your relationship status?
Married. I was teaching English in Korea, and my husband's in the army and was stationed there. We met in a bar.

And before that?
I went to school out in California. Berkeley.

What did you think of the dating scene there?
That's a good question. I was always dating older guys, not college students. Ten years older, or a little more. I was always dating someone long distance, so it's hard to say much about the dating scene.

Was there a certain type that you were drawn to?
When you're in that kind of setting, you're kind of pitting your brain against other people all the time. It's a wonderful opportunity to get intellectual, get into debates, kind of slam your brain against someone else's. So any time you could get into a really good conversation, a really heated argument over dinner, that was foreplay.

Have you ever been propositioned because, you know, you're a woman in the comics industry?
No. Officially, no. Being a woman, you're going to get some attention. What's interesting to me is the assumption that, because I'm a woman, I'm going to somehow do better. It's weird. They believe that because there's a sexual dynamic, I can use it — as if that's a superpower that I have. But, ultimately, I still need a boost. If you look at some of the featured comics-industry professionals, it's an entire page of men and their pictures. There are a bunch of women on the list, but the pictures are all guys. So there's still this imbalance, but somehow I have a supposed advantage because I'm a woman and I can be sexy.

Who's your favorite X-Man?
Favorite X-Man? Gambit. There's something very romantic about a Southern gentleman. 

 

John, 25

What do you do?
I'm a computer tech.

Does that get you a lot of dates?
It does when women think you're smart. It does help. Most women like smart guys. But I don't just go, "Hey, I'm in computer tech." If they ask, I tell them.

Is there a type that you go for?
Actually, no. I'm basically a geek. So I go for women who are interested in that.

What's your relationship status now?
Actually, it's kind of complicated because I was single and I met this girl, and we're trying to work things out.

What is it like? Is it an open relationship?
Something like that. I'd like it to be closed, but something like that.

I assume you've had long-term relationships in the past?
Yeah, I have. Some went well, others didn't go as planned. In the good relationships, they accepted me for who I am — just a big old nerdy geek. The ones who didn't working out were the ones who were trying to change me. I want someone who will be herself. Don't try to pretend. Be yourself and be honest, and all is well.

Do you have any dealbreakers?
Actually, I do. It's basically the three-strike rule. Piss me off three times, and you're gone. One thing I don't like is drama. Some conflicts I can deal with, but some make me think, "You know what? I need a bottle of Advil to carry with me…"

What kind of girls were you into in high school?
Oh, geez…Well, in high school, I was picked on so much that I didn't even have time to worry about it. I was worrying about, "Can I get from point A to point B without getting my butt kicked?"

So there was a lot of bullying?
Yeah, but then I learned how to fight back.

 

Rachel, 20

What do you do?
Hula-hoop! I make hula hoops and sell them, and I also do pinup for Steampunk Betties — steampunk, steamfunk, Victorian-era, pinup style.

Are you totally comfortable modeling as a pinup?
Yes, completely. I've always been pretty comfortable dressing in little or no clothes, as you can see. I think the female body isn't meant to be clothed.

What's your relationship status right now?
Single, and I'm happy with that. I don't really feel the need for relationships because I'm young, and I want to taste the colors of the rainbow, so to speak. I love to travel. I just got back from Costa Rica, I've been to Africa, I'm going to Israel. If I put a man into the mix, he'd have to definitely be down for my lifestyle and not be jealous. Just a lover and a friend.

Has what you do ever interfered with someone you were dating?
No. Actually, the guy I'm involved with right now met me because of the hula-hooping. He found it so attractive, and he started talking to me. He loves when I go out and I hula-hoop. He likes it when guys hit on me — because then they get to buy my drinks, not him! [laughs]

So he doesn't get jealous at all?
No. Well, at least he doesn't show it. He might get a little jealous, but he goes and does his own thing, too. And I tell him, "If you can get a girl to buy you a drink, go for it!"

What's he like? Is he also a performer?
No, he's actually a crazy hairstylist. He does my hair for me. He does hair and makeup better than I do! I tell him, "Hey, I'm going out. I'm going to Comic Con. Do my hair." He's just down to earth and has a lot of the same theories and beliefs and values that I do. And he feels the same about relationships.

I feel like a lot of people in the U.S. are pretty conservative with their relationships. It's all about exclusivity…
…commitment, yeah. When I was super-young, I was in a relationship. I was, like, a kid; I was twelve when I started dating someone, and I dated him for five years. At that age, you waste a lot of your exploration time. And now I'm just ready to explore. I don't believe that there's one soul mate for everyone. I believe that you can have lots and lots of soul mates. It's finding them, and finding people who you can love and will love you back. Why do we need to put conditions on love?

So that relationship that you had when you were twelve — was it a real relationship? A sexual relationship?
Yeah, from twelve to seventeen. I guess I have no regrets; everything is a lesson. But it was definitely a hard lesson.

Was he your age?
No, he was, I think, two years older than me.

Was that weird? Because when you're a kid, it's such a huge difference.
No, it wasn't that weird. I've never really gotten along with guys my age. Now, the guys who I see are in their mid- to late-twenties, so they all have a significant age gap on me. I started growing up when I was really young; I moved out when I was sixteen, so I've always been attracted to people I could relate to more.

Is there a type that you gravitate towards?
My type is trouble!

Want to talk to strangers in your town? Email submissions@nerve.com.