Sex & relationship advice from Patrick Califia
Patrick is a family therapist, writer, sex radical, and all-round font of erotic wisdom. If you've read his collected advice columns in The Advocate Adviser, or his trenchant personal/political essays in Public Sex, Sex Changes, or Speaking Sex to Power, you'll know that Patrick is well-informed about the vagaries of the human heart, the mysteries of the libido, and how to pursue your desires — whatever they may be — safely, responsibly, and passionately.
We also have an archive of advice columns from Sasha, whose column "Love Bites" appeared in Canadian weeklies for over 14 years.
Dear Patrick: You had this really stupid column about Asperger’s last month. Clearly you know nothing about Aspies, and you should not pretend to be an expert on us or on sex. You are telling people that Asperger’s equals no libido. I am a gay man with Asperger’s, and my sex drive is higher than normal. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I enjoy going to clubs where I can meet other guys who are also very horny. If you think I can’t have a relationship, wrong again! My husband and I have been together for three years. He is a very hot man who also has normal sexual desire, for me and for other guys. We are happy together and we are not socially awkward. If you met us, you would never be able to tell that I have Asperger’s. Instead of putting us down, you should be helping Aspies to be part of the same world that other people enjoy!—Mad at You
Dear Patrick: I have a pretty stressful job that was giving me awful headaches. But I love the excitement at my company and don’t want to quit. My doctor suggested that I start getting massage on a regular basis. This works very well, if I can get a masseuse who understands I really do want a MASSAGE and nothing else.
Like many straight man, I have experimented with prostitutes. I was younger, away from home, scared to be in the military, and very lonely. But paying for sex just made me even more lonely. Today, I still feel that there are worse things than going home by myself if a horny evening’s search for erotic opportunities is not successful. I want a woman who is interested in me and full of her own desire, not an actress who is counting the minutes until she can leave.
I have tried only calling massage ads that say the person is licensed. Then they turn up and want to jerk me off instead of giving me a massage. I say no, they accuse me of being gay, and they still want to be paid. I feel that I shouldn’t have to pay for services I have not received, or support false advertising. I wish the law would just let sex workers advertise honestly, so that if an ad says, “Licensed Masseuse, No Sex,” I could be sure she really meant it. How can I get around the use of “masseuse” as a euphemism for “prostitution”?—Pounding [Big] Head
Dear Patrick: My partner and I are in an open lesbian relationship. I knew from the beginning that she had fantasies about cis-gender men. She recently met, flirted with, and wants to start dating a bisexual man who is HIV-positive. She feels fine about this because his viral load is undetectable. I am not sure what that means, but I don’t feel okay about giving her permission to have sex without condoms with this man. He is very active with public sex with other guys and makes jokes about getting various STDs from them. I do not want this in our bed. Do I have the right to make some boundaries here?—Mad about the Boy
Dear Patrick: I have been married for eight years. My marriage was, I thought, a solid and loving one, even if it wasn’t very passionate. My husband was a good provider and supported me in my personal and professional goals. For a long time, I was sad about not having children, but now I am glad I do not have to explain my situation to a little one.
My husband has come to me and told me that he is a she. Apparently these feelings of being a woman are very strong, even though I never saw anything feminine about him. He has already made an appointment to see a doctor about beginning hormonal “treatment.” I did get invited to go and support him, which doesn’t make me feel better at all. I don’t understand why he has to go so fast.
When I try to see him as a woman, I can’t conjure up an image that isn’t, to be frank, freakish. He was a Marine, for heaven’s sake! I’m angry that I wasn’t told about these feelings before we got married. I am not sure that I can stay with someone who is making this kind of radical and selfish change.
My religious belief in the sanctity of marriage is very strong. I never thought I would be one of those women who got a divorce. My parents will be so ashamed of me. But if my husband is going to start wearing a dress around town, I don’t see any way to avoid hurting them. I also have no idea how we are going to live if he gets fired from his job. We are both employed, but being a social worker doesn’t pay as much as being an engineer.
Is there any kind of therapy that would help my husband to conquer this obsession with becoming a woman? Any way to make him see that he is risking everything he has? This would protect the happiness of so many people.—Sad Wife, Sad Life
Dear Patrick: I am lovers with a leatherwoman (masochist) who is in a ten-year relationship with another top who describes their relationship as one of ownership. But they don’t see each other very often due to living in different states. Shortly after I began dating this smokin’ hot bottom, all three of us discussed the situation because it was clear I wanted more than a one-night stand with her. Her owner decided it would be okay for us to continue, with the understanding that this other top comes first in her heart and life. If he says, drop it and run over here, she is supposed to do that without thinking.
Things between me and this girl have continued to deepen. We play every chance we get. But a few weeks ago, her other top showed up for one of their weekend visits and told her she was getting a permanent collar. It is not supposed to come off. Ever. I like to play with collars. But this thing is so fragile that I can’t lock a heavy chain around her neck. This is frustrating to me and interrupts the rhythm or pattern of a scene.
I have to admit that it pisses me off that nobody asked me about this before it happened. I had no warning. I just had to be gracious. There is no acknowledgment that this affects me. I am also hurt that my masochistic lover doesn’t seem to care whether she gets to wear MY collar or not. She is too busy showing off the permanent one.
In my heart of hearts, I suspect that I have no right to feel this way. I don’t want this creeping edge of jealousy to ruin what has been a really wonderful experience. I love this girl, and I am friends with her owner. He matters a lot to me. So—what are your thoughts?—Second String Hitter
Dear Patrick: I am about to get surgery for prostate cancer. Depending on how the surgery goes, I may be getting radiation treatments or hormone therapy or both. My cancer is aggressive, so all of this will be happening very quickly. My family is being supportive. All my children have arrived to help me and my wife to deal with this. But of course they are worried, and I am not sure how to be reassuring when the truth is, this disease could shorten my life.
I have not had a lot of privacy to discuss certain things with my wife, and I need more information before I can do so. I feel that my doctor is not being honest with me about what will happen to my sexual functioning as a result of this surgery and the other treatments. He actually commented that sex stops being important when you get older. I don’t know what his marriage is like, but my wife and I enjoy a really good sex life, and neither one of us will be very happy if that stops.
Can you give me the truth? I will get the treatment no matter what, but I need to prepare for life after cancer. I can’t do that if I am being kept at arm’s length with euphemisms and half-truths.
-On the Block
Dear Patrick: I am a teenage guy who has epilepsy. Is it okay for me to have sex? I am really worried that it might make me have a seizure. I am still living at home with my parents, and it’s usually my mom who takes care of me if I have one. I take the medication like I am supposed to even though I don’t like how it makes me feel. Someday I’d like to be able to live independently, partly because want to have enough privacy to be able to bring somebody home! Right now, when my girlfriend visits, it’s “keep your bedroom door open” rules. I’m 19, for heaven’s sake!
Dear Patrick: Due to an accident in childhood, my penis bends at a sharp angle about halfway up the shaft. I am in my early 20s and still have not experienced intercourse. Everybody else seems to like it, so I would like to see what all the hype is about, LOL. But I am afraid of being ridiculed if I take my pants off. I’m also concerned about whether my erection would hurt my partner. To be honest, I have never gone to a doctor about this. It is a very personal and embarrassing thing to discuss with a stranger. Can you give me any pointers that might allow me to have a normal sex life? (I realize “normal” is a problematic word, but I think you know what I mean?)
—Finally Facing It
Dear Patrick: What is the story with hepatitis vaccinations? If you are a sexually active man, should you be getting one?
—Straight Not Narrow
Dear Straight Not Narrow: The simple answer is “probably yes,” but this question brings up the whole topic of a disease that is sometimes sexually-transmitted and sometimes caught via other routes of transmission. You may not want to read everything that follows, but I am guessing some readers will be curious about the complex reality of these viruses.
Dear Patrick: My doctor says I am going through menopause. In the past, I enjoyed vaginal fisting a great deal. I never had any trouble safely taking a gentle partner’s well-lubricated hand. But now, every time I try to go there, I bleed. Not a lot, but enough to be visible. My girlfriend is freaked out by this and says we should stop fisting. Menopause is making me have a lot of emotional ups and downs, not to mention the hot flashes and night sweats. If I have to ALSO give up my favorite kind of sex, I think I will get very depressed!
—Big Bottom Dyke
Dear Patrick: I'm an abuse survivor who left a relationship two years ago and am ready to try sex again. During that long-term relationship I was denying there was anything wrong, pretending to like sex and waiting for that to happen. It never did and I developed an aversion. Now, I realize I'm a little different from other people. Part of me is looking for what turns me on (pain and probably masochism). Another part thinks I should at least try to associate sex with love and intimacy. In either case, I'm not interested in monogamy but rather sexploration. I'd appreciate some advice! Thanks
—Trying to Mix PTSD and Pleasure
Dear Patrick: Some of my girlfriends claim that you can tell how well-endowed a guy is by looking at certain parts of his anatomy...
Dear Patrick: My AIDS medications have taken my viral load down so far it is almost zero. My doctor says I am “undetectable.” Since I cannot possibly give this disease to anybody, do I still have to disclose that I am HIV-positive?
Dear Patrick: My spouse and I recently had a threesome with one of my female friends...
Dear Patrick: I like to be tickled! I don’t think this is a very intimidating desire. I’m not asking anybody to hurt me. I just want to be tickled until I lose control and can’t stand it any more. It’s easy to do, or so you would think. But you would not believe the trouble I’ve had persuading a lover to devote a little time to tickle games. Why? Do you understand this? Maybe if you talk a little bit about my fantasy, it will be less intimidating for my girlfriend.