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: I am a trans woman who got SRS nearly ten years ago. It was not done as well as the vaginoplasty techniques surgeons use today. I don’t have a clitoris or inner lips, for example. But I was very happy to have a more female appearance. The only problem was that my vagina was not very deep. No matter how often I dilated, it stayed the same. My tiny little cooter just wouldn’t work for intercourse. It was too painful.
But sex is a powerful motivating force, and I have learned how to please myself and my dark-skinned road warrior of a lover. Every once in a while, I enjoy teasing my man by oiling up his cock and putting only half of it in my pussy. I sit on top of him, hold him down, and tell him he can only have part of what he wants. It drives him crazy!
To be honest, I am not the kind of girl who holds men down. So we usually have a great time with vigorous anal sex. Unfortunately, the sex got so exciting last week that I had some bleeding that wouldn’t stop. (My lover’s cock is not average-size.) So I saw my doctor. He wanted to know why my rectum was bleeding. He sent my wise-daddy-better-half out into the waiting room. Had I been sexually assaulted? the doctor asked me. I assured him that I had not been raped, I was just not being as cautious as I should have been while I was lost in the screaming throes of toe-curling booty-destruction.
“But you have had SRS,” he told me (as if I wouldn’t know). “Aren’t you a heterosexual woman? Why would you want to have anal sex, like a gay man? I am frankly upset that anyone approved your surgery. It seems to me that you are ambivalent about your gender. No one should have genital surgery until they understand what it means to make a commitment to their true self.”
Where does he get off saying this? Okay, so sometimes I still DO feel a little like a gay man. That was an unhappy part of my life that is over now. I was always trying to let more of my femininity out, and my friends who were gay men were always telling me that these efforts were unattractive and weird. Now I can be myself, in a combination of masculine and feminine traits that are authentic because they come from MY steam-punk spirit and MY witchy self-expression. Nobody has a right to tell me that I am not an authentic woman. I have paid for the right to be a woman, literally in blood.
Anyway … my doctor gave me some ointment for my poor broken ass and told me to take it easy with the back-door banging. Then he sent me home. I crept out to the waiting room in tears, feeling slimy, and told my honey to get me home ASAP. I spent the rest of the night wrapped in a soft blanket watching “Vampire Academy.” It’s my soft lesbian porn, a country of intimacy and sexual pleasure that I have yet to visit.
There aren’t very many doctors in my area who treat trans folk at all. So I feel like I am stuck with this GP. But he really hurt my feelings and scared me. I think if he could have taken away my SRS, he would have revoked it! The questions he asked stung me like fire. I keep hearing them over and over again, and I just want to cringe.
I’m not sure why I am writing to you or what I want you to do. I don’t exactly need advice. Maybe you could check up on this guy and find out if he was sleeping all the way through his classes on human sexuality?—Randi the Natural Redhead
Dear Patrick: I am an FTM, a transgender man, who is sexually attracted to other men. In the past I have only dated other trans-fags. But I have met a man (non-trans) who is really cute, and he says he wants me to top him. In the past this has been a problem for me. It seems like all of my younger friends are cute boys who want a dominant guy to fuck them. I always enjoy hearing about their adventures, but this is not my idea of a good time. I like to run the fuck. Using a prosthesis has usually not been a problem with women, but I don’t know how gay men feel about this. Do you think I should throw this one back and keep on seeing what I can hook in the dating pond?—Top and Trans
Dear Patrick: Do you have any advice for two bears who would like to fuck, but don’t have the longest cocks in the world? We love each other’s furry bellies until they get in the way when we want to have sex. Ideas? Positions? Magic spells?—Not In Yet
Dear Patrick: My husband was out of town for an important job. This temporary assignment lasted for more than a year. We only saw each other once or twice a month. The sex was intense! He was saving up all his desire for me, and I was definitely needing his attention.
He is home again, and things are not so good. We are fighting more. The kids are having trouble adjusting and are playing us off against each other. And the sex has dropped off to a rare and boring event.
I just don’t understand how being separated could have made our marriage better. I missed him so much. I cried and swore that when this job was over, I would never let him out of my sight. Well, he’s home now, and I just want to take the broom and sweep him out the front door. Not permanently—just for, oh, two weeks?
Am I a bad wife? I think I still love my husband. I don’t want a divorce, I know that. What is going on?—Confused
Dear Patrick: I was recently part of a triad that was very romantic and sexually adventurous. Having two lovers was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. Unfortunately, they decided that they could do without me and got married to each other.
My heart has never been broken so badly before. I am still grieving. But I have been approached by a butch who seems like a gentleman. I think this person might help me to get over my blues. But I don’t want to be in an open relationship right now. I want a promise of exclusivity.
Of course, my previous relationship was the scandal of this small town. The three of us became advocates for polyamory. We did so much education, and yet when the breakup happened, all I heard was, “Well, what did you expect?” My friends have done everything but jeer and throw popcorn at me. I wonder, frankly, if they were jealous.
So the last thing I want to do is publicly advocate for anything, including monogamy. I don’t want to be told—again—that this is the only kind of relationship that lasts. You can look around for five minutes and see that’s a big lie. I don’t want a promise of eternity, I just want to feel a little more safe. But I feel guilty for wanting the security of being another person’s sole focus. Is it fair of me to ask another person to agree to this?
—Angel with Broken Wings
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...