Mental help

May 13, 2009 at 12:00 am

Q: Over the past few years, my husband and I have realized that he has needs that I cannot meet. I do not begrudge him these needs, and I would fill them if I could. We discussed opening our relationship, but our therapist recoiled at the idea. If I can't help him and we can't have someone else help him, what can we do? We can't imagine breaking up, but if we're both unhappy, then I can only assume that we will split eventually or one of us will act out in resentment. We have been together for over a decade and love each other deeply. I am physically sick over this situation, and I don't know what to do. I don't know that I fully trust our therapist, and I would like to hear an informed second opinion. I value your advice. —Life Decisions

A: Here's an informed second opinion: Fuck your asshole therapist. And here's a better-informed bonus third opinion: "It's incredibly unfortunate that some therapists either aren't educated about open relationships or buy into common myths about them," says Tristan Taormino, activist, pornographer and author of Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. Way too many therapists, she says, "pathologize people who want to open their relationships and try to convince them that they have intimacy or commitment issues. The truth is you can be both intimate with and fully committed to more than one partner, or be committed to one partner and have sex with others."

Tristan interviewed scores of couples in successful open relationships, and she found that many initially opened their relationships because of an issue of sexual incompatibility.

"The scenario you present is not uncommon," she continues. "If both of you really are committed to giving it a go, I'd advise you to find a new therapist, one who has experience with — and not a prejudice against — nonmonogamous clients. The right therapist can help you figure out your limits, set boundaries, and make an agreement about this new type of relationship that works for both of you."

You can also check out the stories, advice, and references at Tristan's website Good luck, LD.

I've read and enjoyed your column for years and always found you to be well reasoned and kind. That's why your agreement with Perez Hilton (and your reiteration of his comments) on Miss California was so shocking. I'm a straight guy with a lifelong gay best friend. I'm totally for gay rights in all respects. Still, it's beneath you to call someone who disagrees with your position a "dumb bitch." You're better than that, Dan! Though Christian conservatives are either too scared or too puritanical to accept gay marriage at this time, it doesn't mean these millions of people are dumb. Change takes time. Don't you see that what you and Hilton are promulgating is hatred against a person for that individual's beliefs, something you both claim to abhor? —Basically On Your Side

A: I don't think Miss California is a dumb bitch for her beliefs, BOYS, but for her actions. ("Love the sinner/dumb bitch, hate the sin/dumb bitchery.") For the record: There are lots of reasonable folks out there who oppose same-sex marriage, and I can interact with them in a civil fashion. What sets Miss California apart from reasonable opponents of marriage equality, BOYS, is her opportunism coupled with her stupidity.

I thought Perez Hilton went too far when he called Miss California a "dumb bitch" after the pageant — and said so on my blog. But I started to come around to Hilton's point of view after Miss California, despite having said at the pageant that she thought it was "great that Americans are able to choose" gay marriage or "opposite marriage," joined a political campaign to deny marriage rights to gays and lesbians. Miss California is leveraging her spat with Hilton for her own personal financial gain. Ghostwritten books, speaking gigs at evangelical churches, a potential guest-host gig on The View — beats work, huh? And so what if it oppresses gays and lesbians?

And that's when I thought, "Hmm, I guess she is a bitch."

And then came her interview on Fox News: "You know what, Greta? I don't have the answers to everything," Miss California told Greta Van Susteren when she was asked about her position on civil unions. "I'm not running for political office. I don't have the answers to everything, you know, in the world out there." And when Van Susteren followed up by asking Miss California "what [she] thinks" about civil unions and gay people adopting children, Miss California responded, "I'm not a politician, so I can't give you an answer to that." So seeing as she's not a politician, Miss California can't be expected to know what she herself thinks about adoptions and civil unions.

And that's when I thought, gawd, she's dumb too — and that's when I had to concede that Hilton was right.

Q: I'm a 17-year-old girl who just became sexually active. My 16-year-old boyfriend doesn't like condoms, and I don't like birth control pills. Now what do we do? —Pregnancy Isn't Looking Likely

A: I'll be with you in a minute, PILL. But first. ...More stupidity and opportunism: Bristol Palin is now a spokesperson for an organization that encourages teenagers to abstain from having sex. "Regardless of what I did personally," Bristol advised America's youth last week, "I just think that abstinence is the only ... 100 percent foolproof way you can prevent pregnancy."

Here are a few other 100 percent foolproof ways to prevent pregnancy, Bristol, right off the top of my head: mutual masturbation, oral sex, anal sex (aka "saddlebacking" when practiced by Christian teens), outercourse, sex toys your partner can insert into you, sex toys you can insert your partner into, cybersex, phone sex, gay sex. There are actually lots of "foolproof" ways for teenagers (and adults) to be sexual and intimate without risking an unplanned pregnancy. It's possible for a teenager to have fulfilling sex, and the intimacy that comes along with it, without risking the "24-hour job and ... huge responsibility" that having a baby entails.

Instead of telling teenagers to say no to sex — which will work about as well as telling them to say no to drugs — we should tell them there are ways to be sexual that carry no risk of pregnancy. But if they do decide to have sex, of course, they're going to need to know about and have access to contraception and and, yes, abortion services. But if we continue to present being sexually active as an either-or decision, we're going to see more outcomes like yours, Bristol.

When you explain to nervous, inexperienced teenagers that they don't have to jump right into full intercourse — that there are degrees of intimacy and risk, and they can have enjoyable sexual experiences without vaginal (or anal) penetration — they're often relieved.

So, PILL, here's what you do: Enjoy outercourse, oral, masturbation and sex toys — and tell your boyfriend that these aren't consolation prizes for teenagers, but honest-to-God sex acts that adults enjoy — until you and your boyfriend find the condoms and lube that work for you.

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