by Dan Savage
I regard this column, gentle readers, as a sacred calling and I would never intentionally do anything that would cause you to question my judgment. Sound judgment, after all, is the professional advice columnist’s most precious commodity.
Nevertheless, I have—once again—stupidly auctioned off the right to give advice in this space. Every once in a while some do-gooder gets me shitfaced and the next thing I know I’m raising money for some dumbass charity. (This week’s column is feeding the homeless—you know, in addition to clothing them.) Auctioning off the column is a risky business because what if the winning bidders are assholes? What if they spew bullshit? What if they cruelly abuse readers seeking my counsel?
And what if they’re better at all of that than I am?
Because being an asshole, spewing bullshit, and cruelly abusing readers is my goddamn job. And it’s not in my best interest to create the impression that just anyone can do this shit.
Meet the winning bidders: Steve Lippman and his lovely wife, Marla Russo. Steve is a 37-year-old Jewish dude who does advocacy work for a socially responsible investment firm that I’m not allowed to name in my skeezy advice column. Marla works in public health and was raised Catholic. For the sake of the folks whose letters they’re responding to, I’m hoping Steve and Marla are good at this. But for the sake of my own job security, gentle readers, I’m hoping Steve and Marla totally suck.
I hope you post this note as a warning. I recommend that everybody stay away from Craigslist. When I started looking at the personals on Craigslist, I was fascinated (there are some freaks out there), but I was also looking for pictures with bare female flesh. After I exhausted the pages for cities in the U.S., I started looking at ads posted in other countries. That’s when I noticed that the same hot babe in Finland posted the same picture in six different U.S. states and four different countries.
She wasn’t the only one posting the same ad in many different places. When I realized that all these offers for NSA sex were scams, I lost interest in even looking at the pictures. Your readers should know that hot anonymous sex is unlikely to occur—at least through Craigslist—and focus their efforts elsewhere.
Don’t Be Fooled
STEVE: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. On the internet, that applies to: (1) offers for creams to help men “grow extra inches”; (2) chain e-mails claiming that if you forward them, you’ll get cash from Bill Gates/a big pharmaceutical company will give free drugs to a poor kid with cancer; and (3) Craigslist ads for no-strings-attached sex posted by women with pictures that look remarkably similar to porn stars or Lindsay Lohan.
But there are real women on Craigslist. Some of them post for NSA sex in the Casual Encounters section, and many more post in other categories, like Women Seeking Men, Women Seeking Women, and Missed Connections. I know this because five years ago I met my own “too good to be true” wife by answering her Craigslist ad (which I want my in-laws to know was NOT a posting for NSA sex).
MARLA: SA sex is fun, too.
DAN: Okay, that wasn’t too bad—although it would be nice if Marla would shut the fuck up and let Steve get a word in edgewise. But Steve and Marla weren’t nearly abusive enough to DBF, who comes across like a total douche. A true advice professional would call attention to DBF’s total douchebaggery. Grade: B-.
I’m sure you’ve answered a question like this before or have refused to answer on principle, but… where can you find down-to-earth, laid-back gay men? I’m trying to avoid the online-dating thing because it’s not really romantic, but trying to meet guys in a large room with a remix of a remix bouncing in the background isn’t working either.
Little Or No Effort
STEVE: In less than five minutes of internet searching, I found the Steel City Skiers, a group for gay skiers and snowboarders in Pittsburgh; Gapers Block, a Chicago book club for gays and lesbians who read books about the Windy City or by authors from that area; Bottom Dwellers, a gay-and-lesbian scuba-diving club in Seattle; and OUTdoors KC, “a gay-inclusive club for those interested in biking, hiking, walking, camping, and other outdoor recreational activities in Kansas City.” Point is, even if you don’t like online personals, with little or no effort you are only a few clicks away from finding a group of gay men who live near you and like whatever scene you do.
MARLA: Nice job, Steve.
DAN: Blah blah, Marla! Let the man talk! But Steve really pounds his point home—and even works LONE’s sign-off into his response. B+.
I’m hoping you can give me some advice. I’m a happily married 27-year-old female. The problem is that I’ve never been able to have an orgasm. I had several relationships before my husband and none of those men were able to get me to orgasm. I’ve tried to masturbate several times, but am not able to reach orgasm. Are some women physically incapable of having an orgasm? Do you have any advice for me? This is upsetting my husband, and he feels like he’s failing.
Not Coming Around
MARLA: It’s a commonly cited statistic that 70 percent of women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone, so one question is whether your husband and previous sex partners have provided you with enough clitoral stimulation with their hands, mouths, plush toys, etc., for you to orgasm. You haven’t given yourself much clitoral stimulation either if you’ve only masturbated a few times.
Putting pressure on yourself with expectations from you or your husband isn’t going to help the situation any. But putting pressure on yourself with a Hitachi Magic Wand or other vibrators may help a whole lot! Vibrators are so popular these days that it’s only a matter of time until Apple comes out with cute white iVibes that let you listen to music, make cell-phone calls, send e-mail, and watch YouTube videos all while stimulating your clitoris. Until then, there are great options available online at www.babeland.comand www.goodvibrations.com.Take some time to experiment on your own with what feels good. If that works for you, you can incorporate it into sex with your husband.
STEVE: If you still can’t orgasm, you should talk to your doctor because there are a few hormone disorders, medications you may be on, or other medical conditions that can prevent orgasm. Some might say to start with this step, but quality time with a new vibrator is more fun than talking to your doctor about this issue, and might just be the cure. Plus, you can get a vibrator delivered to your door faster than you can get an appointment with most HMO doctors.
DAN: Marla and Steve’s joint response to NCA was exhaustive, helpful, and informative. Hell, I learned a thing or two. A+. But their response lacked the bile, invective, profanity, tangents, and poop jokes that are the hallmark of a true advice professional at work. My job is saved!
Read on for more from Marla and Steve—Marla explains why breastfeeding is the “best” birth-control option; Steve and Marla lay into one total douche
I was browsing the Planned Parenthood website and something totally surprised me. In their birth control (BC) section, they quote the percentage of women who get pregnant during the first year of using a particular method. The interesting part: The breastfeeding method (mothers who are full-time breastfeeding, haven’t had a period, less than six months after labor) has a 2 percent BC failure rate for “typical use” (Wikipedia echoes PP on this one), while condoms have a 15 percent failure rate! (The “typical” condom user appears to be reluctant to put it on when the box says you should—with “perfect” use the rate goes down to 2 percent.)
Breastfeeding method better than condoms?! They’ve got to be kidding me! In my largely breastfeeding home country, doctors hammer it into women’s heads that breastfeeding as a BC method is a myth. PP says you are not supposed to use the method if you have had a period—but I would think the first ovulation happens before the first period, not after, and that’s when the unsuspecting new mother would get into trouble.
Plus, it would seem all too easy for her to miss her first period, with all that post-labor stuff that comes out. Supposedly the method works due to the fact that “continuous breastfeeding… stimulates the hormone prolactin” which “can postpone ovulation”—but then how is it possible that so many women get their periods while they are breastfeeding? To top it off, I even know somebody for whom this method failed. So, maybe it works sometimes, but a 2 percent failure rate sounds ridiculously low. Because of how their failure rates are defined, can this low value just be due to the fact that new mothers have sex much less often than other women? If so, these low failure rates are misleading for those who actually try to rely on it (I never would).
So maybe you could you sort out all this breastfeeding business, Mr. Savage, the Wise One, for the purposes of public education? If it ever comes to it, please sign me…
What The Fuck
MARLA: WTF, those stats aren’t only on Planned Parenthood’s website, they are published in smarty-pants medical journals like the Lancet; so I think they are right. I’ve spent my career as a sex-ed and health educator, used to manage a Planned Parenthood clinic, and am a big proponent of condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. But because of lame sex ed, there are lots of people using condoms who don’t use them correctly. The biggest reason for the 15 percent failure rate for condoms is that “typical use” includes people not using them every time. It’s also true that old condoms that have sat in a guy’s wallet for months can and do sometimes break.
In contrast, with continuous breastfeeding (AKA the Lactational Amenorrhea Method or LAM) there’s a hungry crying baby to remind you to breastfeed every few hours, which is one reason pregnancy rates for “typical” and “perfect” use of this method are so similar and so low. Also, women have to discontinue this method as soon as they begin menstruating again, so they’ve got a red flag (literally) when it’s no longer going to be effective. The method is only recommended for the first six months after childbirth. How many parents of an infant have any time or energy for sex in the first six months after childbirth is an interesting question that I don’t know if these studies answered.
STEVE: Maybe we’ll punt to the Wise One whether there are studies out there of pregnancy rates in new moms using LAM versus those using condoms, which would take into account frequency of sexual activity. We didn’t find any, but we’re not getting paid the big bucks.
DAN: And I am? Is that what you mean to imply, Steve? Well, it’s true, I am—and I’d like to keep it that way, thanks very much, so I’m thinking no more auctions. You guys are making me look like a total fucking slacker. That response earned you both an A, and frankly, I’m starting to sweat a little. Knock it off, will you?
My wife and I were married for five years before I left her. She claimed to be a sexual person, frequently told me how attracted she was to me, and we both fully enjoyed all the other great things about our relationship, including mutual respect and great conversation. The problem: She rarely showed that claimed attraction to me. The pressures of an unfulfilling sex life (and numerous failed attempts to correct the problem) eventually became too much and I left, fully realizing why I should have never married her in the first place.
So then I was a 30-year-old, healthy, intelligent, good-looking, financially stable, socially comfortable bachelor in a huge city surrounded by single women. Perfect, right? Not really. This is where it gets weird. I have an uncanny ability to attract women who claim to be “very sexual,” profess how attracted they are to me, and want to make out a lot, but stop short of actual sex, much less the uninhibited exploration I’d love to get. The most obvious explanation would be that I somehow scare them away by moving too fast, but I’m very aware of my impact on others and I really don’t think I come across that way. I’m not a slut; I must be attracted to someone and trust her before I’ll have sex with her. I’m talking about weeks and weeks of dating without these “very sexual,” liberal, thirtysomethings removing more than their shirts. I’m very comfortable with sex, been told over and over again that I’m a great kisser, and I’m surrounded by “interested” cuties, but it’s been five months since I’ve had so much as a blowjob. I’m very good at connecting with them through conversation—conversation that can last for hours. So here’s my question: Is it possible that by fulfilling the emotional and intellectual needs of women too well, I’m hurting my chances at fantastic sex? Why would the 30-year-old liberal crowd be so guarded about having a good time in bed? What am I missing here? Do nice guys finish last even in their 30s?
Learning About Sexy Teasers
STEVE: Hmmm, what do all these encounters with lots of different “interested, very sexual women” have in common, besides a failure to get past second base? You. So if you want to generalize about liberal women in their 30s, you can’t say they don’t want to have sex, just that they don’t want to have sex with you. Why? I’m guessing that your “long fulfilling conversation” shtick doesn’t work as well as you keep hoping it will. It’s time to try a different approach.
MARLA: Right, you don’t really want great conversations anyway, which you had with your ex-wife whom you left to get more nookie. No, you want to get laid and your dates probably see right through your “I’m intellectually and emotionally deep, so let me get in your pants” act. I think that’s the problem, not your theory that women are soooo satisfied by their emotional connection with you that they don’t need/want to have sex. Lemme clue you in: If a woman finds her date’s conversation stimulating, she’s more—not less—likely to want other stimulation from him, too.
Honestly, I don’t really want you to get laid, but I’ll offer advice anyway. You’ll boost your odds if you relax and have a good time instead of working so hard to demonstrate your sensitivity and conversational prowess. Toward the end of fun date number three or four, say “I’d love for you to stay over tonight if you’d like to,” instead of spending hours in a coffeehouse talking about the time you cried when your first dog died, or whatever else you think women want to hear. Whether she answers yes or no, it’ll save you both time.
DAN: Okay, that’s it. A+, well done, both barrels, you totally douchebagged that douchebag. But this column is over! No more auctions! It’s making me look bad!
But, hey, let’s hear it for Marla and Steve—they fed the homeless and made me look like a useless tool in the process! Priceless!
A new Savage Love podcast is available for download every Tuesday at www.thestranger.com/savage.