I’m afraid I’ve ruined something. I don’t feel comfortable talking with my support team about this yet for reasons that will soon be apparent.
Backstory: I am a woman in my later twenties whose longest relationship ever lasted 6 months (and honestly it’s stretching it to call it a relationship). This is not the issue, as I’m totally cool with it. I’d rather be single than in a bad relationship. I have dated, and it’s all been a big pile of meh that ended after 2 months.
Recently, I met someone. We’ve gone out a couple of times, and I can’t believe things are going this well. He’s been a complete gentleman, smart and funny and sweet, no red flags, and the dates have lasted pretty long. He isn’t someone I’d normally pick out as my type, but when we’re close there’s something indescribably hot about him (though we’re taking it slow). I’ve been gushing to my friends and family about it because I was excited to finally have someone around that I liked! And maybe I could get my feet wet with having a longterm relationship?
But I did something stupid. I accidentally found a treasure trove of old information. Pressed “search all contacts” on a social media app, and he showed up, with all of his public info. I wasn’t looking for him when I searched, but I checked it out when I saw it.
At first glance, some things made me groan, though nothing horrible. But I had to play internet detective. And it took me all of 5 minutes to realize his ex is a furry. With a full body suit. Their relationship only ended in the last year or so, and it seems unlikely he didn’t know about that. If he’s one, that would be a deal breaker for me.
Even though this is all out in the public, I feel embarrassed for finding it. I don’t know what to do. Do I ask him about it? There’s something about wanting him to explain his ex’s lifestyle that doesn’t sit well with me, especially since we haven’t had any serious relationship talks on our own. It’d even be different if he brought it up himself. But I’m more afraid of ignoring it and becoming a ghost at the table that he’ll get bored, and I’ll lose something I enjoyed because I internalized a problem.
I can’t tell my Team Me about this because I don’t want to air dirty laundry when I don’t have the full story. He’d be hanging out with them at some point, and I don’t think he could come back from that.
Honestly, I’d like to keep seeing this guy. I wish I had never looked so things could have stayed light and fun. But I don’t know what to do now. How can I pretend this didn’t happen until it comes up on its own?
Can’t sleep because of this
Dear Can’t Sleep:
Sex with other people is a collaboration, and you make it up each time, with each new partner. We all have a collection of fantasies and preferences and history that we carry with us and that make up our identity. But one should never assume that because X partner enjoyed Y sex act, it will obviously be on the menu for everyone!
I think this is a source of a lot of people’s sexual insecurities, especially around exes. “But I am not as experienced as X!” “But X did That Thing and I don’t like That Thing, so you will leave me for someone who does That Thing!” “But you used to do and enjoy That Thing at one time, so obviously you need That Thing in order to be happy!”
Let me use my Slutty Years to do some good in the world:
- Exes are exes for a reason.
- Someone who is constantly thinking about their ex and comparing you to their ex during sex is a bad sex partner and a bad fit for you.
- To take that a step further, “My ex was into ______ sex act you don’t like, if you really loved me you’d do it, too” is a nasty sexual pressuring tactic and should be given short shrift however you fill in that blank, because that’s how bad, coercive partners behave.
- There is no ultimate & progressive Menu of Sex Acts, where sex with a new person must encompass everything you have ever done in your life to date + everything they have ever done in their life to date in order to be enjoyable, legitimate, hot, etc.
- Some people have very complex sex lives that require extensive production design and stage management (A costume budget! Perhaps membership in a club! The cultivation of a discreet and efficient dry cleaner!) Due to sheer logistics, safety concerns, and (fortunately!) a culture of explicit prior negotiation and consent, dedicated kinksters are unlikely to make assumptions about your desires or spring theirs upon you unawares. In order to get their needs met, they HAVE to bring them up directly and negotiate them explicitly.
- Most people are very capable of mixing, er, genres. There are some people who like only Cerebral Foreign Movies With Female Leads or Darkly Suspenseful British Crime Dramas but most of us can interrupt our marathon of the original Prime Suspect reruns with the occasional Buddy Cop Comedy With Impressive Torsos and Unrealistic Acts of Kicking Things.
- Speaking of genres, knowing what kind of wank-material someone reads or watches tells you little or nothing about what they actually enjoy doing, so please put aside the worry that your sweethearts all *really* want to be kidnapped by gay hobbit pirates who are really brothers and also wizards and who all speak in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch.
Which means, whoa, back up a little bit with the assumptions and the worry!
- You can’t assume that Curiously Hot Dude is a furry just because his ex was into that!
- Say he had a lot of furry-sex (furred? fursuited?) with his ex. Maybe he loved it! Maybe he was totally meh on it and was only doing it to make her happy. You don’t know! Either way, you can’t assume that any of that applies to you.
- Say he is a furry and maybe wants to do that with you. He has a lot to risk by telling you (see: the reason you wrote to me vs. telling your friends), so he will probably not even bring it up without sussing out how you feel about it first. Watch for casual mentions of other kinky stuff where he gauges your reaction to it. And hey, he will be doing the exact same “Can I trust this person? What are my dealbreakers?” mental calculus that you are.
- Say he is a furry and it’s a necessary, core part of his sexuality. It’s pretty likely he’d be looking for partners on a site devoted to kinksters and not wherever it is you met, but even so, it’s not going to be something you’ll exactly have to pry out of him.
I think the main issues here are pretty routine “new relationship” anxieties. As in:
- You’ve only been on a few dates and you don’t really know him that well. You don’t know him well enough to know if you should trust him, if you could bring up uncomfortable topics with him, etc. Solution: Go slow, spend some more time together before making any big decisions or pronouncements.
- Despite not knowing him that well, you’ve oversold him a bit to your friends and family. It’s awesome to be excited about someone and feel like “This could be A Thing!” By all means gush about his sexiness and fine qualities to your people! But it needs more time, more trust, more knowledge before you really know whether it’s A Thing. I think some of your anxiety is coming from “But I just told everyone he’s great, what if we break up because: secret furry,” like, you would be letting them down in some way, or caught in a lie if the relationship didn’t work out. That’s too much pressure! Solution: Go slow, spend some more time together before making any big decisions or pronouncements.
- You brought up your lack of “real” relationship experience as a prelude. This dude is just a person. You may want to date him. You may decide you don’t want to date him. I know that basically every piece of cultural information everywhere tells us that a relationship of a certain kind and length is an achievement we unlock on the way to adulthood, and jousting against the metanarrative is hard work. But the decision here isn’t whether you get a “real” relationship at the end of this, the decision is does this Curiously Hot Guy delight you? Does spending time with him make you feel happy? Does he feel safe and comfortable and trustworthy? Does he call when he says he’ll call and show up reliably in your life? If you decide to have sex, is that sex making you happy? Solution: Go slow, spend more time with him before making any big decisions or pronouncements.
- You have something to lose, so you’re looking for ways to pick it apart before it falls apart. “Things are going really well! I know, I’ll look for the hidden flaw that must be present!” It pays to be wary and do some due diligence before giving your heart away to someone new, but if you try to prevent yourself from ever being hurt or trusting someone you also close yourself off to the possibility of connection. Solution: Go slow and spend more time together before making any big decisions or pronouncements.
You asked whether you should ask him about the information you found, and I think the answer is: Treat lightly, here. We should be able to talk openly about sex with people we’re contemplating having sex with, and yet? I think you are right to be uncomfortable with the idea of making him answer in some way for his ex’s sexuality. It’s not a photo of him, it’s not a photo he put on the internet, it’s not something he’s brought up with you or tried to make public in any way (or something he particularly tried to hide), so I think this one might be his to tell, not yours to discover.
Questions that affect sexual health are 100% within bounds: Testing, history, safer-sex practices, violence, coercion, a history of risky behavior, etc. A new sex partner who is casual about condom use with you is probably not careful on the balance. Someone who tests your stated boundaries, describes all exes as “prudes” and “bitches,” shows contempt for consent, uses guilt and manipulation = run away!
But it’s a voluntary reporting system. People can lie, of course, or keep secrets. Getting close to someone means making ourselves vulnerable, but risk doesn’t mean that we get to shine a light into all the corners of our partner’s sexual history and weigh and judge what we find there. It doesn’t mean we are owed an explanation for everything that happened in someone’s sexual past.
And hey, the heart (and the groin) don’t have to be fair. If the information you Googled for is all telling you “Nope!”, if it’s all too much to contemplate, then bail. However, if you’re looking for reasons to keep seeing him, I don’t think you learned anything all that damning in your searches. If he is that kind of bad, pressuring boyfriend who would try to get you to do stuff you’re not into, that would be a way bigger issue than “dated someone who has a kink that’s an easy target for ridicule,” in my opinion.
I think, if you like this guy and want to spend more time with him, that you should do so. Stop Googling, resist the urge to merge with him on every social media platform, stop selling yourself and your friends on the future, and pay attention to how he treats you now. Maybe, as you get closer, he will tell you of his time among the furries, and you can tell him “Actually, I Googled you back when we first met, and found a photo. I wanted to ask you about it, but I didn’t want to pry” which is a much better conversation than Please Explain This Thing I Just Found, Guy I’ve Been Out With Twice.
I wish you a good night’s sleep and at least a few more dates with Curiously Hot Guy before you make any big decisions.