I recently got back in touch online with an old friend who I am genuinely excited to be reconnecting with after more than a decade. I knew him when we were both in our late teens. He was fun to be around, but a mutual (male) friend described him as “needy.” I was glad to hear that this characteristic of his was not just in my head, and that he made this impression on men too. He had this way of making you feel really bad when you said no to him; it’s not that he would pressure you, exactly, but his disappointment would become this entity that lived in the air between you and him. I don’t know how else to describe it. Despite this quirk we were good friends; he obviously had a thing for me, but he was one of those dudes who obviously had a thing for all of his female friends. (I should mention that he never used the Disappointment Monster to try to get sex; he was more of a generic attention vacuum.)
Through Facebook I know that he is now openly poly and involved in kink and tantric sex communities and that sex is very important to him. And that is great! I don’t think people should feel bad about being open about their sexuality! But.
As we’ve been reconnecting, we’ve done a bunch of discussing what is going on in our lives, and he brings up sex, briefly, all the time. Like, the list of what he’s been up to lately is sex and work and hobby X. I tend to just ignore it (“hobby X? I love hobby X! Let’s talk so much about hobby X!”), but it still makes me vaguely uncomfortable; I’m significantly more private about my sexuality. I can’t tell whether it would make me uncomfortable if anyone were to work sex into every conversation, or if it specifically has to do with the Disappointment Monster and his history of wanting more from me, or both. I think to him, sex is not only something that he likes to do / talk about, but a big part of his identity in a way that it isn’t for me. I’d feel bad telling a friend not to talk to me about their (non-sexual) interests, and of course I wouldn’t ask a friend who was a sexual minority to “stop shoving their sexuality in my face.” (I realize that the situations are not exactly analogous, but I worry that essentially that’s the kind of bigoted request I’d be making if I tried to set some sort of boundary in this area.) He isn’t pressuring me for anything– we don’t even live in the same city. The thought of asking him to stop makes me feel hypocritical and sex-negative, but I can’t deny that I’d prefer he stop. Should I try to get over this, or ask him to change?
Dear Sex Neutron,
Whether your friend’s “needy” past makes him, specifically someone you don’t feel 100% comfortable talking about these things with, or whether he’s doing that oversharing thing that people do sometimes when they discover the One True Way To Come, or whether he’s deliberately testing your boundaries to see if you’d be willing to sleep with the New, Improved, Sexier Him (distance is not always an obstacle to the horny heart, so definitely don’t discount this as a motive), or whether you just have different styles and comfort levels around what is private information, your strategy of zeroing in on the stuff that you are interested in and gently redirecting the conversation is excellent and probably exactly what I’d do in your shoes.
When you do that, what does he do? How does he react? Does he get it, and change the subject, or does he always manage bring it back to sex?
Because if you said “Sounds fun, but honestly, my sex life is the only sex life I’m interested in” or “Hey friend, it sounds like you’re really enjoying that and I’m happy for you, but I tend to be really private about sexy stuff and I’m not really one for hearing about other people’s adventures in detail” and he said “JEEZ, SEX NEGATIVE MUCH?” that sounds suspiciously like you trying to set a boundary and your friend trying to typecast* you in order to get you to ignore your boundary and keep listening to his stuff that you said you didn’t want to hear more about. If you ever find yourself being accused of being sex negative, having no sense of humor, not understanding jokes, being a ______ kind of person, etc. when you try to enforce a boundary, try agreeing with the person about the characterization and then restating your boundary. “I agree, I probably am very sex-negative or whatever you say. Also, I don’t like discussing sexy topics with you, so stop, thanks.”
But if he were like “Oh, ok, I’m sorry, I just get really excited sometimes, but of course I don’t want to make you uncomfortable!” and (more importantly) stopped bringing it up so much, that’s probably a dude you could hang with. He could be forgiven for being hurt to find out that you are not as close friends as he thought you were, or for having an initial reaction of “Wow, why didn’t you tell me? Now I’m so embarrassed” to which you could say “It’s okay, I understand being excited and wanting to find other people to talk about that stuff with, but I’ve figured out that I’m not the right audience for that. Let’s just reset, ok?”
If he’s grown up into someone great, I hope you have a long and productive friendship. If Captain Sulks-A-Lot re-emerges, or if he keeps incessantly bringing up sex, you now have some information that will help you decide how much you want him in your life. If he can’t hang with someone who doesn’t want to know all about his sexual journey, then he has some decisions to make about whether you are compatible as friends. Fair is fair!
As to your other worries, there are people who really enjoy talking about sex with their friends and telling all the dirty details, and people who really, really don’t. In fact, there are people for whom relentless sexualization, sexy chat, sex positivity, “heh, I’d do him/she’s hot/my body is ready” and other Notes From A Boner are downright triggering. And there are friendships where you yourself may be more comfortable talking about that stuff, and other friendships where it’s all filed under NOPE. You are the boss of which friendship is which, and you are allowed to negotiate that on a case by case basis. When my long-ago roommate, M., decided to creepily display her sex toy collection and her photo album from her many visits to the Folsom Street Fair to dinner party guests of mine, the problem was not “sex negativity” or anti-BDSM sentiment. The problem was that she didn’t know anyone well enough to know what they were into, and that she was doing a creepy power play to get off on their discomfort and then make fun of them for being “repressed” when they were like “can u not, total stranger.”
In summary, dear Letter Writer, I don’t think there is anything wrong with you for being leery when “Friend Who Was A Lot To Take At Times” becomes “Friend Who Brings Up Sex In Every Conversation” with you. That’s a volatile combination. It’s okay to create some distance – redirect him, change the subject, say “Hey did you see where I changed the subject back there?” and see how he reacts. Your comfort matters here, as does your consent. A good friend is not going to want to make you squirm about this.
*Someday, if I have a TARDIS or other Wayback Machine, I am going to use it to zero in on the words “I thought you were more mature/cooler/could handle this/don’t be such a buzzkill” that older dudes use to skeeve on younger girls. Throughout space and time I will travel to the place where that is being said at the moment it is being said, and I and my companions will jump out of said TARDIS, and we will say unto the girl, “You do what you want, because you are the boss of you, but I bet that you will be happier if you tell this dude to shove it and get out of here. Need us to wait with you while you find a ride home?”
Comments closed 1/30/2015 5:38 pm CST.
157 thoughts on “#654 Am I “sex negative” if I don’t enjoy it when my friend brings up sex in every single conversation with me?”
Much much love for you and your Tardis plans.
LW, I think you’d be sex-negative if you were against other people having consensual sex. It doesn’t sound like you’re against that. You’re maybe also in favor of consensual talking about sex lives. And, if he’s taking the redirection to hobbies well, then maybe that’s what’s happening here; he’s continually asking if you’d like to talk about it, and continually ok that you say no you’d like to talk about something else. But, you’re doing being asked and he’s not picked up on it, and I hope that clarifying your needs goes really well for you and him..
This is a nice article that helped me think about the difference between sex positive and sex-in-your-face: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/11/a-pornographer-and-atheist-explains-why-the-science-guys-shirt-crash-landed/
“he’s continually asking if you’d like to talk about it, and continually ok that you say no you’d like to talk about something else. ”
That’s kind of not okay though, right? I mean, there has to be a limit to the number of times it’s okay to try to talk to someone about sex and have them change the subject before you’re reasonably expected to take the damn hint and cool it with the sex talk, no? I feel like yes…
Yeah, I agree. In the same way that it’s ok to ask someone if they want to do That Sex Thing, and if they say no it’s ok to check in some time later to see whether their answer is still the same, but it’s not cool to go, “Sex Thing? No? How about now? How about now? Have you changed your mind yet? Sex Thing? How about now?” At some point, polite requests definitely become pestering and ignoring boundaries.
But as ever, some people don’t take the hint off inexplicit boundaries, and it’s sometimes at least worth trying explicit ones.
I’ve totally been the oblivious person who didn’t notice persistent subject changing. If it turns out that that’s the case with this dude, he will probably be grateful you brought it up, because it’s really embarrassing. Nobody wants a reputation as the sex-obsessed weirdo! Definitely consider the friendship if it continues after that point/you have no responsibility to educate someone on social skills etc… but if you like this dude it might be worth a try to mention it really explicitly and see what he does. I certainly changed my ways after my friend brought it up with me
I don’t know if a moral line was crossed here. I can see arguments both ways. I don’t know how much the LW is hiding their discomfort. I don’t know if it should be obvious that they don’t want to talk about it because it is making them uncomfortable, which is a kind of harm (as opposed to just disinterest, which the other person could reasonably interpret as not harm).
I think it definitely warrants being clearer in boundaries if another person doesn’t seem to be noticing the boundary. I think it even justifies just walking away if something you need in a friend is the ability to pick up on hints about boundaries (which is a very reasonable need!). I think that you can do either of those things without the other person’s behavior crossing a moral line. I think repeatedly asking for sex would be clearly crossing a moral line, because of the risk factor you’re putting on the other person (because its really dangerous to be in a room with someone who won’t take no for an answer around sex). I don’t think repeatedly bringing up your own sex life obviously crosses that line in the same kind of intuitive way for me, but I’m also not in the LW’s situation and maybe body language or other cues DO make it clear that said line has been crossed so I’m not going to say that the line hasn’t been crossed because I just can’t know.
But, regardless of if the other person has crossed a moral line, I think the actions available to the LW are the same, so maybe it doesn’t matter?
Totally not directed at the LW, sorry.
LOL – I loved the part where CA talked about the Embarrassing Dinner Party Photos. Most of my friends and I are in our late 30s, early 40s. We had this one friend who was 25 at the time of this incident and was excitedly discovering her sexuality or something. She brought a total stranger over to my house where I was having a gathering of friends and the two of them proceeded to aggressively talk about sex, their sex lives, BDSM, kink, and other such things while lightly making out with one another on my couch.
The rest of us were all, “um. Yeah. So.” And these two Sexual Pioneers quite clearly thought that we were repressed and actually increased the amount and vigor of the sex talk/making out because they thought we were all sex-negative people. They said and did things that indicated that they believed that they were making us uncomfortable, and that they enjoyed making us uncomfortable because we were Repressed Fuddy-Duddies.
But what was really going on was that we were all quite “been there, done that” about everything they were talking about and doing (having all been 25 ourselves) and their conversation was boring. After putting up with this for fifteen minutes we rather aggressively steered the conversation away from sex/BDSM/kink etc. and onto something else the rest of us wanted to discuss. They left. The total stranger never came back, and the young friend, well, long story, but we don’t see her very much any more either.
I wonder how many young people mistake negative reactions in older people as sex-negativity?
And in my experience, asking this type of over-sexed extrovert to tone it down does absolutely no good. Because it becomes about YOU and YOUR problem! You’re just no FUN! You need to be more FUN! You’re the one who needs an intervention! You need a FUN-tervention! And they’re just the person to bring that FUN to your life!
This is why Super Soakers were invented.
*PSSH PSSH PSSSSSSSH* Cool it off, you two! [turn away] So back to Sherlock…
It works in the opposite direction too. If someone is legitimately uptight, sex negative and a prude, making out on their couch is unlikely to trigger their journey toward enlightenment. They’re more likely to just think sex positive types are jerks as well as deviants.
And even if someone is a “prude,” it’s still not OK to drown them in TMI when they’ve asked you not to because then you really are being a jerk.
Yeah, what exactly makes someone a prude or uptight? These things are hard to define, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them applied when someone wasn’t being forced into that role by someone else.
I got called prudish a lot when my peer group was at that evangelistic age because I was sludging my way through PTSD related to sex (details irrelevant, I’m sure we can all figure out what that means). Funny thing is, I’m still a prude after years of successful therapy. Turns out I’m demisexual. If you are not my close and trusted partner in life, your sexuality is about as interesting to me as a hamburger that fell into the dishwater–and if you persist in talking about nothing but sex to me, I am going to find you borannoying.
(Ran out of nesting.) “Prude” does have an unfortunate history, but I’ve yet to find a better term for “person who uses their personal aesthetic distaste for [certain kinds of] sexual activity as a licence for passing judgement on those who engage in said activity while simultaneously considering their distaste to be evidence of superiority as a moral being” – and I’ve met a pretty generous number of those. In my dictionary, saying “I don’t like BDSM” or “I don’t want to have sex with you” does not make one a prude; “kinksters are filthy perverts” and “people who have sex before marriage deserve to go to hell” does. (And you still shouldn’t be staging a scene in their living room against their will.)
It really does suck when people use “prude” to mean “someone who doesn’t cheerfully do whatever I want sexually”, and I’ve been there too. I also wish people would stop using calling their opponents Nazis in political discussions, but that misuse doesn’t negate the existence of the actual Third Reich.
I certainly don’t advocate for forcing conversation topics or PDAs on people, but for the “what makes someone a prude or uptight” I would count the person who upon receiving a brochure for sex toy parties (from a woman-centric company that does Tupperware type parties) for their workplace, rather than throwing it away as something that’s not appropriate for their workplace or their cup of tea, they send a letter telling the company that they are revolting and should not exist.
Or people who can’t hear mention of the existance of unmarried mothers or couples living together without going on a rant about how disgusting they are. Or people who just get extremely judgemental if they detect a whiff of other people being open and comfortable about their sex lives.
I don’t like the word “prude”, but anti-sex/uptight/whatever you want to call it people exist. Note how the judgement is key here: asexual people =/= anti-sex.
And in no universe does “I don’t want to talk about/do this here, now, and/or with you” make anyone a prude.
surprisingly, if you’re being a jerk, people will tend to think you’re a jerk. your personal disapproval of other people’s standards (because you, of course, are the person who gets to decide them) does not make it acceptable to ignore their boundaries on purpose.
I agree with this so hard I think I just created a rip in the fabric of reality.
Younger people have fewer identities so they tend to put greater passion into them. A 23 yo Poly, Feminist, Business major can be forgiven for evangelizing.
The 43 yo project administrator who is a mother of three children with her two long-term partners, in the middle of converting their garage into an in-home daycare for the partner who cares for their special-needs toddler, and volunteering twice a month with a non-profit org that helps entrepreneurial women create business plans and secure funding isn’t as invested in converting people.
The change in focus from talking about one’s ideals to living them, is sometimes mistaken for abandoning the cause, or getting ‘old and boring’, when it’s really integrating all your identities in a cohesive self.
This is a really insightful way of putting it, and I’d never thought about it in quite that way.
What a great comment! That is all.
This puts some of the conversations I’ve had with younger colleagues/acquaintances who saw me as a “project” into better perspective. Thanks.
Just WOW. Thanks for a really astute observation
That’s really coherent and thoughtful. Thank you.
That is…very insightful, actually, and something I’m beginning to see in myself as 30 approaches. 🙂
“They said and did things that indicated that they believed that they were making us uncomfortable, and that they enjoyed making us uncomfortable because we were Repressed Fuddy-Duddies.” Really harkens back to that awful “I’m the only one that knows how society really is and people are just uncomfortable because I’m RIGHT!” phase I went through around 15-17.
I think most of us went through that phase at around that age.
I am so glad to read this. I have the same “whatever” reaction to the hoopla surrounding FiftyShadesofGray. I’ve been through the scandalous shock titillation omg etc etc etc (Remember the Beauty series?). FSoG is so much like another loaf of bread.
a sub-par loaf of bread, it must be said.
Chiming in to say that having boundaries about how much you want to talk about sex (especially specific details about someone’s sex life) is not *at all* an anti-sex/sex-negative move. I like “sex positivity” as a concept, in theory, but in practice I feel like a LOT of people use that to push past other people’s discomfort or need for privacy around sexual matters. There’s a HUGE difference between shaming others for being sexual and saying “that’s great but I’d rather not hear all the details.”
Just like with other sex-related activities, practicing consent around explicit sex talk is important too! I’ve known people who seem to get off on sharing very private details with others, but there’s a point at which you’re basically forcing other people to participate in your kink or your sex life against their will, and that’s not ok.
The conversations I have about sex look radically different depending on context. I do youth sex ed work and pretty much *no* mention of my private sexual life comes up there, because my job isn’t to share personal details or Hot Sex Tips but to provide information. When I’m talking about sex with friends I’m often comfortable sharing pretty personal details, but I’m only doing that in a situation where everyone’s on board with the conversation. And I try to be aware of my audience and circumstances and might tone things down juuust a bit if I’m in a cafe vs. sitting in my home with friends.
I know some people who I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing any intimate details with, and that’s ok; I have different relationships with my various friends. LW, even if it IS just this one guy you feel weird discussing sex with, that’s just fine. Your feelings are valid no matter how many people they apply to!
And you just said better what I tried to say in my comment… 🙂
Aw shucks, thanks. But you said it just fine too, and I figure it never hurts to have folks say the important things more than once!
Seconding all this. You can absolutely be sex-positive and sex-private. Not every conversation about every topic needs to be had with every person. Most of us are conscious of a need to filter, depending on our audience. I wish I had the kind of mother who I could talk to about sex and relationships, but I don’t. I wish I could get an engaged audience to chat for hours about cross-stitch patterns. Also, not appropriate for everyone.
The only people who don’t filter are 1) the people who aren’t aware they need to; 2) the people who take pride in not using whatever filter they have; or 3) the people intentionally trying to push your boundaries or bait you. So for the moment assume #1, and like the Captain said, try making him aware that he needs to filter. If he doesn’t from that point on, he’s either #2 or #3, in which case #2 is obnoxious (and thus limiting quality time together is a good idea) and #3 is uberobnoxious, and I’d advise you to far more drastically limit contact or cut it off entirely.
A side note: the kink scene can be very sub-culture, and sometimes can feel almost hobbyesque, what with the various groups and fairs and online communities, etc. As you mentioned, he may not be bringing it up as a way to reinitiate romantic interest, but because it is a big part of his identity. There may not be ulterior motives here. But even if there aren’t you certainly are within your rights to assert a comfortability boundary and ask him to steer convos back to topics you *both* enjoy talking about.
Sex-private! What a fantastic term. I wish that had been in my vocabulary about five years ago.
I like the term “sex-private” too. Also, I would totally chat for hours about cross-stitch patterns, and also my brain likes to combine things so now I’m imagining a conversation about sex- and relationship-related cross stitch patterns. (“Check out this awesome pattern of the reproductive system I found! I think I’m going to do the ovaries using this nifty sparkly floss I found on ebay.”)
Yeah I think the whole concept has been hijacked a bit. I’ve noticed on many of those “creeps of online dating” blogs that the term “sex positive” on someone’s profile seems to get translated by others as “I want to hear about your genitals in the first message!” in much the same way that “I’m interested in casual sex” gets translated as “I will bang absolutely anyone who asks and will never say no.”
I suppose I could call myself sex positive, because I’m all for people having happy consensual sexy times of whatever kind works for them, but it’s such a blanket term that I instinctively shy away from it. It feels as though having claimed it I can’t be critical/skeptical about anything sex-related.
For me, the very base of the sex positive movement and philosophy is consent and respect, not “woo hoo sex is awesome and everything goes”.
So it involves respecting the boundaries of people who want little or no sex, or who easily feel incomfortable about it. It also involves condamning explicitely any form of sex that is not completely consensual.
The sex positive movement has that warm and fuzzy side of “let’s free ourselves from the shame and explore our glorious bodies, peace and love, woo”. But I don’t think this can exist without making sex safer and fighting sexual violence, so in my opinion sex positivity is intrinsically also a fight for sexual rights.
This. LW, people who identify as sex positive AND are decent people WANT to respect your boundaries. They would be embarrassed and ashamed to realize that they were going on and on about sex in a way that was super uncomfortable for you. They would not try to erase those boundaries by suggesting that you shouldn’t have them.
People who ignore your boundaries, don’t want to hear about them, or try to convince you that you are uptight, prudish, sex-negative etc are fucking assholes, and whether they are also sex-positive assholes or some other variety of assholes is beside the point.
Yes, thank you. Whatever freely consenting adults want to do with each other is fine by me, even if I personally think “ew, squicky.” But if you’re waving your willy-nillys at someone all willy-nilly, it’s not really consensual.
I feel like if someone is using their so-called ‘sex-positivity’ to deliberately shame or embarass someone who likes sex to be private and intimate, something doesn’t make sense. Surely true ‘sex positivity’ means embracing and respecting the different (ethical and consensual) ways people experience sexuality, and NOT shaming people for prefering something different than you do. Going around telling people they’re prudes or have something wrong with them because they value privacy and intimacy in sexual relationships doesn’t sound so ‘positive’ to me.
For sure. I think it’s an easy term (just as many other positive or value-neutral terms & identities are!) to co-opt for Asshole Purposes.
okay, but regardless of whether that makes sense to you, that’s still a real thing that’s happening. saying “that’s not TRUE sex positivity!” doesn’t help the people who’ve been hurt by the actual creeps who actually identify as sex-positive. stopping creepy behavior and learning to recognize common manipulation tactics does.
I think it’s helpful to reassure people who (like the OP) are worried they might be ‘sex negative’ because they don’t want to be subjected to tales of other people’s sexytimes, and let them know that people who are truly ‘sex positive’ won’t force them to participate in conversations they’re uncomfortable with. It’s easier to recognise what’s going on when you know what’s sex positivity and what’s asshattery.
1. “people who are truly ‘sex positive’ won’t force them to participate in conversations they’re uncomfortable with.” except they do. there are real people who identify themselves as sex-positive who do that and worse. arguing over whether they’re “truly” sex-positive instead of doing something concrete about their behavior is useless.
2. you don’t have to sit and figure out whether john doe set the fire on purpose or accidentally before you get out of the burning house.
Yeah as a Survivors someone who at times feels very alienated by Sex-Positive approaches and has been verbally attacked and harassed by Sex-Positive people I am made really uncomfortable with the whole “No True Scotsman” approach to problems within the Sex-Positive sphere.
It’s not either or, hopefully! I certainly agree that it’s important to learn to recognize creepy or manipulative behaviour, and find tools to stop it.
However if you start believing the person telling you you’re a ‘prude’ or ‘repressed’ or ‘hate sex’ or ‘want to repress other people’s sexuality’, then that very much causes its own problems and personally I find it really does help (me at least) to understand that none of that is true. It can be a giant relief when you understand that. Not only can it help you feel confident in your own sexuality and how you see yourself, but it can help you feel more confident in setting your boundaries.
i see what you mean. personally, i took the path of “and even if i am, i still deserve basic respect as a human being” – but lw might appreciate your way.
Yep agreed. Isn’t sex positivity all about celebrating consensual sexual expression in all its diverse forms? It’s kind of contradictory to think it’s ok to put someone in a position where they have to participate in a sexual conversation without their consent… and then shame them for having ‘different’ sexual boundaries.
Agreed. There is no sex-positive way to shame people about sex.
Him talking a lot about his sex life is sort of like bringing people into his sex life. So talking a lot about sex should involve the goal of enthusiastic consent from the people he’s talking to (i.e. they respond with interest, and possibly contribute their own details to the conversation). If instead he’s getting subject changes or minimal response, he ought to stop talking so much about it.
“Him talking a lot about his sex life is sort of like bringing people into his sex life.”
This is really similar to how I feel about talking about sexual topics with people. Whenever someone I know starts sharing personal details of their sex life / sexual taste I feel they involve me in their sex life against my will. My counsellor says it’s not necessarily the case, but I can’t stop feeling this way about it. I probably (over?)react like this because of my life-long sex-related PTSD.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that your counsellor may be wrong here. I can’t think of a situation outside of a doctor-patient thing where telling someone all about the details of your sex life uninvited (or without a history of it being ok in a given relationship) isn’t rude and invasive. I don’t think for a second you’re overreacting, some of us are just more private about sex than others and having that violated feels really, really, really gross.
I feel the same way to be perfectly honest.
Interesting People Who Are Good at Friend-ing(TM) are capable of discussing more than one topic and they are aware/sensitive their chosen topic of conversation makes someone else uncomfortable. In fact, Interesting People Who Are Good at Friend-ing can intelligently discuss many topics of conversation. They might even ask you a question or two about your interests or what’s going on in your life. It’s not that this guy is overwhelming in his sex positivity. It’s about the fact that he’s a sucky friend and a worst conversationalist.
You say that you’re excited to be reconnecting with this guy, but I’m seeing very few things to be excited about. He makes you uncomfortable. He doesn’t care that he makes you uncomfortable. He lets his disappointed boner feelings become a sentient entity. Mostly, I’m seeing red flags in the shape of a Disappointed Boner Poltergeist.
Please go out and find other people are Interesting and Good At Friending.
❤ for image of the Disappointed Bonergeist
He probably haunts the House of Evil Bees.
Dunno about you, but I see a Disappointed Bonergeist as a greyscale wrinkly flaccid penis with googly, downcast eyes and a Wilford Brimley mustachioed scrote, voiced by whoever voices Eeyore.
I’d also think that if your gay friend was talking to you, you’d be ok listening to their dating/relationship stories but would likely still ask them no intimate-sex-act-details-thanks?
There’s a huge difference between denying/suppressing/ignoring a friend’s sexuality and not wanting the explicit details of said sexuality.
Can I be first on your list when you find that time machine? My life would have been so different if someone would have told much younger me that boundaries are good and people ignoring them are not good.
LW – don’t let past history control your feelings and actions. If he’s creeping you out, there’s a really good chance he knows it and is testing those boundaries. Stand firm. You deserve to be listened to and respected over what you would rather not hear. And if he doesn’t respect that, then perhaps what he has to offer isn’t so great.
It’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made to continue not having sex with someone who really wanted it when I just wasn’t ready. He took no for an answer in terms of not pressing things physically, but attempted to convince me that he was right and I was being a variety of unaccommodating things, for the next three hours. Even to the point of invalidating my gender identity. I’m really glad that I was able to hold my ground even if I couldn’t put my finger on why the whole conversation was so awful (older dude typecasting young impressionable trans me, check).
It would be a more powerful image if I hadn’t dropped a word on the last line.
OP, please go out and find other interesting people who talk about topics you enjoy discussing.
(Also, squee! I’ve never gotten a response from the Captain on one of my comments before.)
Definitely NOT intending this as a comment to start debate a over sex-positivity vs. sex negativity (there’s plenty of that debate elsewhere on the internet), but sex-negativity (as a concept, not just a default box that people somehow fall into for not wanting to talk about sex all the time) is something that a lot of people identify with and find important. I have a good number of friends for whom it’s a defining facet of the way they see themselves.
Only bringing this up to say that even if you WERE someone who was explicitly like, “I am a sex-negative person,” you would still have a right to set boundaries in conversations with your friends. Not because sex-negativity is better than sex-positivity or cancels it out, or vice-versa, but because all people have the right to set boundaries about what they want or do not want to talk about.
There are people who are asexual in some form and they should NOT have to participate in this “everybody talk about sex all the time” anyways.
I’m asexual but wouldn’t call myself sex negative. I guess it depends on how you define “sex-negativity” – I personally understand that to mean an attitude that makes people shame others for having sex or be judgmental towards them, both things I’d never do – it seems to me like both you and panda flannel have a different understanding of the term though. I actually think we’re all agreeing, I just wanted to point out that all kinds of combinations of sexual identities and sex-positive/negative self-identification are possible.
I actually have no problem whatsoever with talking about sex but I’m also not overly interested in it. I’m not sure if that is because of my relative lack of sexual attraction towards others or just because of how I am not overly interested in a lot of things. LW’s situation would really annoy me.
I think the term we’re looking for here is “sex-repulsed” or “sex-averse,” which is a certain flavor of asexual wherein the person has negative feelings toward sex, versus “sex-indifferentl” asexuals who have no interest one way or the other, versus asexuals who like having sex, for which there is a term I cannot google, apparently. Any of those people may have different feelings regarding sex talk from their friends, and it is different from being “sex-negative,” which here means that they feel that sex is bad and wrong and shameful.
actually from what I hear, people define themselves as “sex negative” when they’re critical of sex – ie “not all kinks are okay even enthusiastically” (for example, some holders of these views think race play is never okay, or written fiction depicting and sexualizing torture is just plain wrong even tagged explicitly). You don’t have to be asexual to describe yourself as “sex negative”!
Asexual does not equal sex-negative. I’m ace, and I’m all for people having consentual sexy times… I just won’t be participating, thankyoukindly.
As an asexual kinky person I just want to politely remind people that we exist and asexual doesn’t always mean “I am not participating in any of this”, although it totally can!
that’s not just for ace people. just because a person has a sex drive doesn’t mean they want to hear about yours. boundaries: good for everyone!
Very true. I’m ace and although I’m not currently interested in reclaiming “sex-negative” I know some people who are and get where they’re coming from; I also don’t consider myself sex-positive. (I also don’t want to start a debate but anyone who’s really confused at the idea of identifying as sex-negative might want to check out The Ethical Prude: Imagining an Authentic Sex-Negative Feminism, for example.)
Anyway! LW, you absolutely have the right to say “I’m not comfortable with listening to you talk about explicit sex” for any reason at all. Your boundaries in this regard are not something you should be expected to sacrifice on the altar of sex-positivity and anyone who implies otherwise can STFU.
I have more than one friend who is big into sexytimes and public sex and poly stuff and kink and whatnot. I am not super into discussing these things, even where I have shared interests, and my friends are grown-up adults who know how to behave and to put that stuff behind a cut if they’re putting it on their blogs, or not talk about it unless there’s a reason (like I ask advice, or we’re discussing an article that’s relevant, or something). They’re comfortable talking about it with me, they just know that in general if I ask “so whatcha been up to” I do not mean “what’s going on in the pants department”.
They are good at boundaries and communication, which is part of how they stay happy in a poly/kink life arrangement, because that stuff seems (to me, from the outside) to not work out at ALL if you aren’t good at boundaries and communication.
So is your friend good at boundaries and communication? No way to know without setting a boundary, really. Best of luck.
I have had the same experience with poly/kink/sex worker friends. It still remains a part of their lives but doesn’t actively feature in our conversations.
On the other hand, I have encountered people who are into activities that also aren’t my thing but who can’t handle that fact. If, say, I’m not into dogs it translates in their mind into my personal hatred of their pet. I’m crossed off their potential friend list even though we may still have lots in common. If they forced their pet on me after I’ve made my discomfort clear, they are crossed off mine.
LW, I hope you can make your friendship work.
Seems to me that there’s a giant, ginormous, great big gulf between sex negative and plain ol’ TMI. Yay for him for having all the Sexytimes he likes, but I’d like a No Thank You Portion on the Overshare, thanks.
It’s like kinda not wanting to discuss computer science because it frustrates you or something and the dude won’t stop talking about it and then calls you anti-compsci for asking him to stop. Like what.
LW, I have struggled with this a lot. Not with a particular person, the way you’re doing right now, but just in general. I don’t like hearing about people’s sex lives, desires, libido, any of it. This is just a thing that Is Not Done in my family culture, and it feels really weird and invasive to discuss those things. It took a while for me to overcome the feeling that I was being sex-negative.
Here’s what helped me: try mentally replacing sex with any other topic people might not want to talk about. If I didn’t want to talk about a friends bowel movements, would I be “toilet negative?” Of course not. Viewing something as private does not mean you think it’s inherently negative. I have no problem with the fact that people poop, but I still don’t want to hear about it.
I am into kink and semi-/periodically active in my local kink community.
There are some friends whom I feel comfortable discussing this with; some friends I just wouldn’t discuss it with (similar to how I wouldn’t discuss vanilla sex details/intimate relationship details/super-sad breakup details with); and some who would fall in between depending on the particular situation/topic of conversation. There are some people in the kink community who are my friends that I talk to very freely. There are also players whom I would not talk with, because I don’t like them or they make me uncomfortable or I’ve heard negative stories about them.
Generally though, I guess like most hobbies, I talk kink with fellow kinksters. This makes sense to me as we mostly share an understanding of terminology, we often go to the same parties/know the same people, perhaps play together, we would generally think that we have a shared interest in it to a degree etc.
In my experience and from what I’ve read more generally, there can be this really unfortunate thing that happens in dialogues around kink where people can be rude, invasive, etc., ignore general politeness, and a person is positioned as “uncool” if they’re upset or refuse to accept it. I think it’s part of some kink communities/culture that Cliff Pervocracy refers to as the Sexcalator – where the goal is to be and to look hardcore and to play hard and to increase intensity/ability to withstand pain/mad rope skillz/whatever your kink is over time, and to be brazen/shameless/open/visibly cool with talking about it with anyone and everyone. That’s fine and good for some people when it’s what they’re looking for, but I think it can lead to a weird competitiveness where people are vying for ‘kink cred’, get super defensive or precious in response to any boundaries being set, but also hypocritically don’t react well when others get defensive about not wanting to hear it. Or they take joy in ‘scandalising’ so-called “‘nilla’s”.
An example is when I went to a kink party with a partner who was completely new to kink and played with him. A dungeon monitor/organiser who I was also friends with at the time came up to my partner later and asked him if he’d gotten off, to which my partner’s response was a very flat “excuse me?” My partner was uncomfortable and nervous in a very different environment, playing publicly for the first time. He didn’t know this guy from Adam, and this guy had no knowledge of my partner and what was OK and what was not OK to ask him. This was at best a faux pas and at worst a very intrusive, boundary-pushing question from someone who is in a position of power in the community as a DM. I had my partner’s back, made sure that he knew that he didn’t have to engage with the guy/come to such events again/etc. Small comment though it was, it messed up a really good night for both my partner and I, messed up my friendship with the guy and I took a bit of a break from community events to reset. It was Not OK.
Your friend might be still in the enthusiastic evangelical stage, or he might be more experienced now and wanting to be looked at as a key player in the kink community, etc. Whatever. It’s not really that different a situation from anyone else who might be trampling on your boundaries conversationally.
The point is, if he responds well when you state your boundaries, then there’s hope here and you guys can reset the conversational dynamic. (I would hope that he would be a bit mortified from a consent perspective that he was engaging you in conversation that makes you uncomfortable and would make a serious effort to do better in future). If he responds badly, then he’s a garden-variety dickhead and you should feel free to disengage or tell him to step off or however you want to handle it.
Finally, “sex positivity” is not just being all YAY about all sex and all things sexy (especially all the things you personally find sexy), as Cliff Pervocracy covers very well when he talks about a wider view of the term. It’s also being positive, respectful and compassionate when people are not having sex/do not want to have sex/do not want to hear about your sex.
(I would totally link you to Cliff’s Sexcalator post and post/s about sex positivity definitions, but I’m at work)
Oh my god YES. “Kink cred.” I’m into BDSM myself but don’t go to parties because I don’t actually like watching other people have sex at all and don’t want them to watch me at all. But even so, in kink forums I notice this weird EXXXTREEEME-ism in the community. Like you gotta be at the far end of the pool all the time. What if I wanna just hang out in the shallow end and bob around a little bit? Feh.
Omigod, totally THIS. I got put off the kink community because I’m not poly and SO many people in it are. Which is fine except for how they were so evangelical about it. “It’s the only mature way to have a relationship. You’ve obviously got major issues if you want to be monogamous. Stop being so repressed!” People are so weird about sex stuff. You don’t see them going “Mashed potatoes? What the hell is wrong with you? If you don’t prefer baked potatoes, you’re a freak!”
UGH. In the same way that I was wailing “stoooop talking about sex with folks who don’t want to hear it” on twitter last night after this post went up, I feel like I am often wailing the same thing about Poly Evangelists. I *am* poly but really bristle at any variation on the “it’s more enlightened” bullshit; all it seems to accomplish is making everyone else irritated and creeped out. It works for me, not for others, and that’s it – there’s no value judgment to make.
I have quite a few friends who are poly (ffs, I sound like “I’m not racist, I know black people”) and it works well for them, but I tried it and it just didn’t fit me. I’ve seen a lot of “my kink is better than your kink” attitude on Fetlife etc as well. I find it really sad that people who are in a relationship which is often judged negatively can themselves be so judgemental. Maybe some of it’s defensiveness.
I have the opposite problem leading to the same result. I do like watching, so I want to have some say in when and with who I indulge that particular kink. When BDSM became a big thing in the local goth crowd there were people who would come to parties and just start a scene in the middle of the freakin’ room. It pissed me off no end because it feels like I’m being dragged into a sexual situation without my consent.
The funny thing is, when I encounter someone who does this, I don’t assume that they are hardcore and liberated or that I am a prude (even though I’m pretty restrained about anything pertaining to sex or bodies due to Unfortunate Experiences As A Child And Young Adult and really very, very rarely talk about anything sexual with anyone); I assume that they’re trying to assert power and trying to show off. If they seem socially inexperienced and naive, I generally try to gently redirect because they may not know that they’re being rude and thus may end up alienating people they’d rather not ; if they seem experienced and intentional, particularly if they’re men, I get rude right back to them and ask them if this is some kind of patriarchal aggressive thing that they like to do in conversation. (Patriarchal because it seems usually to be about asserting dominance in very gendered ways – both when it’s men being aggressive and when it’s “loudness and bluntness are better than mutuality in conversation, also we need to establish who is dominant every time we talk”, because both those things are about Teh Patriarchy. It’s pretty much the same as when some grad student jerk corners you at a party and proceed to interrogate you about whether you’ve read enough Lacan or whatever.
In general, if someone says, “Hey, do you mind not talking about xyz?” and the response is, “What! You unacceptably weird person! That is completely unreasonable! Your desires are not legitimate in my view so I will ignore them and do exactly what you just said you dislike!” or something similar, instead of, “Oh, sorry about that, I didn’t realise it bothered you. Won’t happen again. Anyway, about abc…” then that person is a horrible person. It doesn’t matter what the topic is at all. Something completely innocent to one person (and to society in general) can be triggering to another person.
Everyone gets to set boundaries for themselves. Anyone who doesn’t immediately respect those boundaries is a nasty awful pile of doodoo. The respectful, civil, adult thing to do (if someone has a boundary you don’t like or can’t stick to) is to end the discussion and/or relationship. Dial things back. Not go and do what someone has said they dislike. If a person’s boundaries are truly too strict, they’ll find out for themselves through a dearth of relationships. It isn’t your problem to “fix”. Steamrolling over them is absolutely not the thing to do, ever, no matter what the boundary is. If you’re in their home and this comes up, you excuse yourself and leave. If they’re in your home, then they do the same. Whatever the situation, you end things. You know, just like humans who have the bare minimum level of human respect required to make you not awful people.
People who get off on the discomfort of others by doing this are really horrible. It is a massive deal-breaker for any kind of relationship. “I know better than you so I get to disregard your stated wants/needs” is a mindset that allows very dark things.
We had a variant on that crop up in a writer’s group that I was part of many moons ago. One of our regulars wrote about sex. Not porn, per se, but every character in every story thought about sex. Every poem was about sex. Even the short story about a sapient purple walrus was primarily about his disappointment because he couldn’t get a supermodel to bone him.
We were an open genre group, so people could write whatever they wanted, but the continual pounding of sex, sex, sex in all his work got very old. Nonetheless, I think I personally wouldn’t have had any real trouble with him being in the group beyond not much caring for his stories (to which, meh – there were several writers there who weren’t my cup of tea), except that when I made a mild comment once about this tendency of his – I think something along the lines of “do your characters ever think of anything that doesn’t have to do with sex?” and got a blank stare followed by “Thinking about sex is thinking about life! Everybody does it all the time!” He literally couldn’t imagine a waking moment that wasn’t at base about sex. And from that point forward he clearly considered me the weird, repressed prude lady, which reflected in how he reacted to my writing. Rather ruined the group for me.
That’s always a toughie. One of the people in my writing group was working on a novel about a dominatrix. Some of the people in the group were into the subject matter, some weren’t. I wasn’t big on it, but I read with an eye toward improving and critiquing the writing, same as I would any other work. But one of the people in our group was giving feedback like, “This is disgusting,” and “I feel like I need a shower after reading this.” Rather non-constructive. I get that it was outside his comfort zone, but it really hurt the writer’s feelings and was shutting her down. That individual decided to exit the group until we were done with the critiquing of that work, and he never really participated again. I still felt like he owed us for the critiquing we’d done of his Golden Age sci-fi novel, which honestly was dreadful. He never took anyone’s input on it, either.
Ugh. I kind of feel that way about people who write nothing but horror, but having to read nothing but sex sex sex in every story would get old. Real old.
I had one of those in a poetry class in college. Every poem had something about anal sex and something anti-Christian, no matter the form or genre. Sonnets, villanelles, haikus? Anal sex and anti-Christian sentiment. Narrative, epic, prose, aubade? Anal sex and anti-Christian sentiment. It was relentless. I’m a slash-writing atheist and I was uncomfortable with all the anal sex and anti-Christian sentiment. He was a terrible writer, too, bless his heart.
The question arises: could he have been a decent writer if he didn’t insist on shoehorning his views on anal sex and Christianity into everything?
As a poly, kinky, queer, sex-positive person – sex positivity is not at ALL about forcing people to listen to your sexual escapades despite them being uncomfortable about it. For me sex positivity is about understanding that there are lots of different ways to do and feel about sex, that some people love sex and that’s fine and some people hate it and that’s fine and some people are ambivalent and that’s also fine. “Sex negative” is not really a thing, or if it is a thing, it would probably take the shape of shaming minorities about the way they choose to feel about sex – for example, shaming a woman for not feeling comfortable listening to detailed tales of sexual adventures.
I have a lot of asexual friends, and some of them are sex-repulsed, which means that sexy talk of any sort is very much banned when they are around. I have friends who are survivors of rape and molestation, and forcing them to listen to sexy talk would be very unethical. I also have a lot of fellow poly kinky friends who like to talk in detail about sexy stuff. The difference is that we are all aware of each other’s boundaries and comfort levels.
Another thing to think about – do this dude’s sexual partners know that details about their sexytimes are being shared with a third party? Are they ok with that?
This dude sounds super gross. I wouldn’t start sexy conversations without establishing beforehand if that was ok, and your behaviour of “ok, hobby, let’s talk about hobby” rather than “wow, SEXY THING sounds really interesting!! Let’s talk more about SEXY THING!” should have let him know a long time ago that you were not interested in having these kinds of conversations with him.
— “Sex negative” is not really a thing, or if it is a thing, it would probably take the shape of shaming minorities about the way they choose to feel about sex – for example, shaming a woman for not feeling comfortable listening to detailed tales of sexual adventures. —
Hee hee, well put.
Just wanted to chime in as a survivor of a sexually abusive relationship who DOES find it meaningful to talk about kink and sex. Survivors are definitely not a monolith. That said, I find it meaningful to talk about kink and sex *with other people who find that sort of thing meaningful* and not with people who would prefer not to hear about it. Or with bad-boundaries dudes.
Oh of course I didn’t mean to imply that all survivors are anti-sex-talk – I’m a survivor myself. I suppose the key part in that sentence was the “forced” part, as in, if someone who is a survivor of sexual assault doesn’t want to talk about sexy things, then there’s a good chance it’s because it’s triggering, and stomping over their boundaries to talk about it anyway is particularly gross in that circumstance. In circles like mine (majority queer, trans, mentally ill, financially insecure), we’re a particularly at-risk community for sexual assault and rape, and you really have to have extra care about negotiating what everyone is comfortable with.
Sorry for not being clear 🙂
If he’s making you uncomfortable, he’s making you uncomfortable. Don’t judge yourself for having these feelings and these boundaries. Sex positivity aside, it is generally considered rude to talk about sex with people you don’t know very well, and considering that you two are just reconnecting, it’s pretty presumptuous on his part to go there. There’s also a not insignificant male/female dynamic going on here—there’s a reason that the definition of sexual harassment includes talking about your sex life or others’. I’m not saying that he’s sexually harassing you, just that clearly, this is not an unreasonable boundary for you to have.
I’m also wondering if his talking about his sexuality is more like, “yeah, last weekend I went to a BDSM meet-up and we played cards” or if it’s actual descriptions of sex he’s having? If either one is making you uncomfortable, it needs to stop, but I think the latter is way more ill-intentioned. I mean, if he’s talking about all the sex he’s been having with someone who sexually rejected him in the past? Yeah, that’s pretty transparent.
LW, in addition to all this excellent advice above — Even if I were somehow fine with that recently-renewed-friendship fella mentioning his sexual state of being in every conversation, good sexual relationships usually involve some degree of vulnerability. I am NOT in that kind of relationship with the other people with whom he is having the sex. I would not be okay with him giving me information on THEIR sex lives when they don’t know me from Bill O’Reilly.
And the solution to that is certainly not to introduce me to all his sexual partners; the solution is for him to tell me about the people important to him, but keep body part activities out of that description.
Oh, ew, that lady with the display of her BDSM stuff to strangers. I consider that harassment because she is forcing her exhibitionism (a form of kink) onto people who didn’t consent to being voyeurs. That’s sexual harassment. It pisses me off.
I think that there is a definite thing in kink communities where people try to use LOTS OF DETAILED DISCUSSION OF TEH SEXXXXXXXX as a fast track to intimacy in a friendship. It is not a thing that actually works as well as, like, being an open human being who is confident enough to let a conversation wander where it will and just express vulnerability when something about which they are vulnerable comes up, but it’s definitely a thing people do. Sometimes they forget that for it to work at all it has to be consensual.
Not wanting to engage with that does not make you into a Victorian matriarch standing on a stool clutching her pearls and screaming as the Terrifying Mouse of Kinky Sex scurries by. It means you’re rejecting a conversational tactic that is artificial, forced and often deeply annoying.
Now I want a plushie of the Terrifying Mouse of Kinky Sex!
I imagine it looks like that mouse growing the human ear, only with piercéd reproductive organs growing out of its wee back.
I like to imagine that it is carrying a very very small riding crop in its mouth.
Here you go: http://www.tinynibbles.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/gimpmouse.jpg
Also, there is a Kinky Mouse Tattoo shop in Finland. Ain’t Google wonderful?
lw, your “friend” is bristling with red flags. this guy has a thing for you and he doesn’t acknowledge “no.” you’ve already kinda seen that: “He had this way of making you feel really bad when you said no to him; it’s not that he would pressure you, exactly, but his disappointment would become this entity that lived in the air between you and him.” moreover, you’ve tried to change the topic multiple times and he keeps bringing it back to sex. this isn’t accidental. he just doesn’t care that you want to talk about not-sex.
don’t let him use sex positivity as a manipulation tactic. he isn’t your therapist, and is not certified to do exposure therapy; he doesn’t get to decide what your boundaries should be; and he does not get to guilt you into listening to all the gory details of his sex life, no matter what he says to try to do it.
(oh, and coming from a certified gay person? “who” is a different question than “how.” people are welcome to tell me who they’re dating, and i’ll be happy and excited for them. no one gets to tell me how they’re doing it.)
Yes, this is what I was thinking. If this is a guy who wants you to put out, of COURSE he’ll overshare about sex in hopes that you’ll say “Yes, I want to join in your orgy!”
Honestly, he sounds like a creeper/bad news to me from that first detail alone, and then this came along. It’s not about “sex positive,” it’s just another campaign to get you to fuck him.
Actually now that I think of it, I think part of my squeamishness towards “sex positive” comes from that experience of being a woman and finding that so many apparently fun and innocuous things are a trap when it comes to rape culture. Do I want to do xyz? That depends… Will there be klaxons and “Surprise! Your willingness to wear a skirt means that your lack of consent is no longer valid!” Am I sex positive? “Yeah, I guess… Why… Why do you ask? Is this somehow going to be used against me later?”
Ack! I know what you mean with this. I am very bad at flirting for this very reason. I make what I think is a mildly flirty comment and I get a hand up my skirt for my troubles, which, um, no. So I’d rather just avoid the whole thing. Which is not optimal, because innocent flirting should be fun and innocent, but I do indeed want to stay out of the trap.
I used to know a guy who once insisted that there was no conceivable reason why a woman who liked a man and was attracted to him would decline to go somewhere solitary and make out. I was accused of overthinking everything when I said that sometimes, you do the mental calculus and decide that making out just isn’t worth the risk that the guy will try to make you go farther. My actually being a woman and having been in this situation myself was, of course, discounted.
Note that I say I *used* to know this guy…
I think it kinda depends on how he’s bring sex into the conversation. If he’s pretty into the kink scene and is openly poly then some of that is going to fall under hobbies/dating as acceptable things to bring up when you ask him how he’s been. It’s unreasonable to expect him never to bring up kink/poly when you’re talking to him. It’s not unreasonable to not want to hear the details of what he’s into or how his sex life is going.
Like, if I got really into fishing and spent a lot of time in the fishing community and tried to go fishing at least once a week then that’s something that I’m probably going to at least mention in conversations. I’m probably not going to share any gory details with people who disapprove of fishing or are grossed out or bored by it but it’s not beyond the pale to mention that that’s what I did this weekend.
I agree with most of what’s been said by the Captain and others if he’s being explicit about his sex life in ways that make you uncomfortable. That’s a gross thing for him to do to someone unless he already knows they’re ok with it. But if he’s just mentioning kink/poly or talking about his general involvement in it (as opposed to what he’s specifically into) and you’re still not cool with that? That’s ok, it doesn’t make you a prude or sex-negative, but it does mean he’s probably not a good fit as a friend for you at the moment.
Yes! Thank you for articulating this.
There is a huge difference between “Well, I’ve been doing a lot of fishing stuff lately. Actually spent last weekend at a fishing retreat” and, “Yeah, last weekend I tried out [specific kind of fishing line] and, whoa, [graphic description of fish being caught].” The first, I’d want to be able to say to any friend; the second I’d save for someone I knew wanted to hear about it. (And I’d make a point, for my own sake, of seeking out friends who did want to hear about it.)
That said, there is something about the phrasing “sex and work and hobby X” that feels TMI or crass on its own–maybe because it sounds like bragging? Or paints a slightly too clear picture? In any case, I agree with the commenter above: if what this guy needs from his friends is to be able to say things like “sex and work and hobby X,” that doesn’t mean your boundaries should change. It just means you may not be the right friend for him at the moment.
Yeah, she also says he’s bringing it up “briefly, all the time” and the briefly part of that makes me think he’s maybe not getting too detailed or graphic but the “all the time” says he’s also not so great about listening to her or respecting it when she changes the topic. So maybe he’s just not a friend she needs to put much effort into reconnecting with.
“It’s unreasonable to expect him never to bring up kink/poly when you’re talking to him.”
I… don’t think it is unreasonable? Like, I have some work friends. And we talk about a bunch of our hobbies, etc, etc. But I would never bring up kink/poly stuff with them? You can maintain boundaries of information to be shared with different levels of friends, and while my boundary is “work friends = no sex talk”, the boundary this guy needs to consciously set is “this friend = no sex talk”.
I was thinking in the sense of “my girlfriend came over and she brought her girlfriend” or “my friend I met at a munch”.
He shouldn’t be rubbing people’s faces in his sex life but I neither do I think anyone should have to hide what seems to be an important part of their identity. If talk about kink makes someone uncomfortable but he’d be uncomfortable pretending it wasn’t part of his life then that simply makes them incompatible as friends. It’s just one of those things that happens.
I also think work friends are different because the consent aspect of the friendship is skewed. You have to deal with those people on a daily basis whether you like it or not. It’s in everyone’s interests to keep topics fairly neutral, even if that works in some people’s favour more than others.
OK, let’s say for a moment that you are super super super into hockey. You know all the stats about your favourite team. You go to see them as often as possible. You watch hockey on the TV. It’s funny, cos you never thought you’d be really into sport… but once you discovered hockey, you were hooked.
One day, you’re chatting to a friend and that friend says, “Dude, I know you love hockey, but can we not talk about it EVERY time we get together? It’s not that I don’t like the game, it’s just I’d like to talk about other stuff. We BOTH love X-Men – how about we talk about that?”
(a) Say, “Oh yeah, sorry, I do tend to go on about it.” Then change the subject and try to talk more superheroes in future conversations.
(b) Get in a huff, tell your friend that all normal people LOVE hockey, and try to steer the talk back it at every opportunity. “Colossus? He’d make a GREAT keeper, right?” If you mention it enough, your friend will surely start coming to games with you.
If you say (a), congrats, you are a reasonable human being. If you say (b), you’re a clueless dick.
If you replace hockey with football, this is me. I just learned how much I freaking love football last year and have had to be very conscious of not talking about it for hours and hours with people who are not also fans. I remember how insanely bored previous me would get with football conversations when I neither understood nor liked the sport.
It’s actually cricket that’s my thing, but I know the majority of people on this site are from the US and cricket is a pretty odd sport even if you’re brough up with it. I figured more folk would know a hockey nut than a cricket one!
Are you one of my friends? If so, sorry, I’m trying to tone it down.
Pretty sure I’ve never fallen into B though. It’s not that hard to NOT be a clueless poop.
Haahahaha! You into superheroes?
It shouldn’t be hard to avoid B, but some people really seem to struggle. I get it that, with a new passion, you get all worked up about it and sometimes need people to tell you to STFU. That’s just over-enthusiasm. But if it’s obviously making a friend bored or uncomfortable, most sensible people should learn to tone it down.
i really like what the Captain said, and what others have been saying in the comments. Good advice! For myself, I tend to avoid overly needy people because my mother was a black hole of neediness. I’ve learned that no matter how much I give, it will never be enough. Constantly dealing with the Disappointment Monster is way too stressful for me.
It seems like the LW is worried that she is somehow oppressing this person because sex is such a large part of his identity, i wouldn’t worry too much about that, personally. if he’s a member of a kink or tantric sex community, then he already has people that he can talk about this stuff to. People who are just as passionate about it as he is, and who actually enjoy these conversations.
To use another analogy, a lot of people, myself included, consider being a parent a large part of their identity, but if all we ever talk about is what our kids are doing people probably wouldn’t want to spend too much time with us. If other people can compartmentalize, then this guy can too. There is nothing wrong with asking for the soft watercolor version of his dates instead of the paint-by-numbers version.
“There is nothing wrong with asking for the soft watercolor version of his dates instead of the paint-by-numbers version.”
That’s a great metaphor
“Need us to wait with you while you find a ride home?”
what? how about giving her a lift in the TARDIS? it’s not like there’s not enough room…
Yeaaaahhhhh… but working on the assumption that a person might want to call someone they know and trust to come get them is a good thing.
Yeah, this is a situation where, “Hey, get in this tiny box with us!” might not go over well. Even if it is bigger on the inside.
LW, I have a friend who sounds very much like you describe your friend. (Like, seriously. I am legit wondering if maybe you and I know the same person.) And while the constant sex talk doesn’t bug me so much, I find the Black Hole of Disappointed Sadness to be _profoundly_ irritating and obnoxious. And it seems to me like part of why you’re hesitating to ask your friend not to talk about sex so much is because you don’t want to have to face that black hole.
I would encourage you to state your boundaries/make your request, and let the chips fall where they may. Remember that his disappointment is _his_ disappointment, and you don’t have to take it on. You can ignore the pouting and carry on as normal, as if he’s not pouting. If he takes his cue from you and stops pouting then great, you can hang. If he semi-takes his cue (changes topics, but kind of keeps on pouting in the background), you can decide if you find that annoying, and just take off, or kind of hilarious (because it is kind of hilarious when a grown-ass adult is trying to keep a pout going throughout an unrelated conversation) and keep ignoring it. If he tries to draw your attention back to his pouting, then you know he is not a person who respects your boundaries even a little bit, and act accordingly.
But I really think that people employ the Black Hole of Disappointed Sadness as a (sometimes unconscious) manipulation strategy to stop others from asserting boundaries or saying no. Don’t let him get away with it. Say no anyway. Be okay with his sadness about it. It’s not your sadness.
This is of course anecdata, but I have known several guys when we were young who would manifest the Black Hole of Disappointed Sadness on a regular basis. Of those guys, the ones with whom I reconnected later were no longer doing exactly the same thing (although its ghost– perhaps a Disappointed Bonergeist– did hover over our interactions) but were all boundary-pushers in other ways.
I’m not saying that no one can grow up and stop doing this. But I am saying that people who have a history of doing this get less benefit of the doubt from me on other boundary-pushing behaviors than someone else might.
OHHhh. This is really a wise comment. Yes, LW, if you bring up a boundary explicitly, you will likely have to face the Black Hole of Disappointed Sadness, but B.H.D.S. is totally his thing, not “caused” by you. His reaction to you stating a boundary does not make you bad… even if he thinks you are bad, or sex-negative, or annoying, or whatever other insulting conclusion he manufactures in his mind. You are still great.
The fella is making you uncomfortable.
How would it be for you to say
“Friend, I’d rather talk about hobby, not sex” next time his lines go all sex, hobby, sex, dinner stuff, sex ?
Because sometimes a person has to state things explicitly (er, not his sort of explicit)
And if the thought of setting that boundary with him makes you uncomfortable maybe that’s an answer about how close you to can(‘t) be.
Oh another thing that occurred to me (I say “another” because my previous comment was caught in the spamtrap, but I have faith the captain will rescue it, and this one too if it gets trapped) is that, for better or worse, there are some topics that tend to be more emotionally fraught than others, and it’s okay to not want to talk about those all the time. Sex is one. Food/dieting is another. Also religion.
People who, every time I ask them what they’ve been up to, tell me about their latest weight-loss outcomes and diet restrictions are not people who I stay friends with for long. Some people will get mighty sick, mighty fast of people who talk constantly about their latest spiritual practice. These are things, like sex, that a few people will get very, very, very into, specifically _because_ they’re so loaded. But the rest of us still have a right to not want it in our face all the time.
That’s a super good point. Example: there are VERY few people I am willing to talk about what I eat/how much I exercise with, because: COMPLICATED AND PAINFUL EMOTIONAL HISTORY! Because I’m kind of fat, I think people assume I feel bad about myself, so usually I have a built-in out for that type of discussion, but it can be hard when you are dealing with a topic that we progressive folks vaguely feel that we are supposed to All Think Progressive Totally Unpainful and Uncomplicated Thoughts About. Like sex. Or religion. I have therapy-worthy feels about both these things! Do people seriously want to dig into them in a random place? IN PUBLIC???
It is not and never will be sex negative to prefer your conversations to revolve around things other than sex.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in being the perfect non-judgemental person that we sacrifice our own needs and make ourselves uncomfortable. Manipulators and abusers and inconsiderate jerks alike are all very good at using that desire so they get to have what they want and no-one else gets to.
If your friend wants to talk about sex, there are people for whom that is appropriate. If you tell him it makes you uncomfortable and he keeps doing it with you, he is being awful and deliberately ignoring your boundaries. That is not sex positive – it is gross and violatey and nasty.
Sex positivity: Everyone gets to feel what they feel about sex, and it’s not wrong as long as everyone involved is a fully consenting adult who understands what they are getting into.
Sex Negativity: Sex is bad and awful and bad and you are bad for having it in any way awful sinful ugh.
‘Sometimes we get so wrapped up in being the perfect non-judgemental person that we sacrifice our own needs and make ourselves uncomfortable.’
This comment is lovely.
Yes it is, and it EXACTLY describes my weakness. I REALLY want to be the unruffled, non-flustered person to the point that I stand there, drily narrating things, when the lava flow of someone else’s MASSIVE inappropriateness is glopping towards me. I’m getting better, but it’s work.
I tend to find the details of other people’s sex lives really dull, in the same way I find the details of other people’s acid trips and dreams to be insanely dull. I am not particularly acid trip- or dream-negative, just bored!
When I first got into kink/poly stuff, I very much overshared. I made people uncomfortable. It wasn’t cool.
I got over it eventually, thankfully. I found other things I was interested in. I got the memo that people did not want to hear about this stuff.
If you back away from this friendship, that doesn’t mean you are permanently pushing this person out of your life. Maybe at some point, he will become someone who is more capable of being a good friend to you. Maybe he needs another decade. (That doesn’t mean you have to revisit this later, or that he would be interested. But if you want to try, it’ll be an option.)
Me too! I was a polyvangelist, which is something I’m not proud of.
I was one of those jerks who was like “Ohhhh, clearly you’re just not ENLIGHTENED enough to understand poly! My sex life, of course you want to hear about it, it’s just FASCINATING!”
At some point (quickly, which was a relief to my friends), I stopped. It was, quite frankly, not a moment too soon.
LW, I don’t think your friend is going to do this. I think he wants everything to be All About Him. I think he’s always going to be a boundary pusher. And I think you have every right not to want to deal with that.
I still talk about poly and kink, but it’s in context of what’s going on in my life. My friends do want to hear that I went out to a club this weekend or that I hung out with one of my boyfriends. They DON’T want to hear about it in all the gory detail. Their desire not to hear “So then I xed into his y and after that I pulled out z and…” is a perfectly reasonable boundary! And so, LW, is your desire for him not to talk about it all. the. time.
Thank you for this post, Captain! I have had a similar problem with an old friend lately. It’s a bit different because *I* was the needy one in the past, till at some point we had long-desired (on my part) but not very good sex, and I realized I liked him much better as a platonic friend I could talk openly about sex with — and lo and behold, a few years passed and he suddenly seemed to be enjoying it too MUCH. I have no idea if it was that my boundaries tightened or his loosened but I suddenly found myself icked out, yet feeling guilty about “changing the rules” on him. Eventually I admitted that I was uncomfortable and you know what, he stopped and started talking about other things! But I only did it after YEARS, literally years, had passed, and even though he responded in the best possible way to my boundary-setting, I feel a lot of residual grossness and ickiness whenever he talks to me.
Moral of the story is that I wish I had done our long friendship the service of being honest when I first started to feel uncomfortable. I let guilt get in the way of setting good boundaries, and it kind of ruined our friendship, at least for now. Good people generally WANT to know if they are making you uncomfortable and so, if your friend is a good friend to you, you’re truly doing him a favor if you speak up about your discomfort. 🙂
Lots of commenters here reassuring the LW that she’s not sex-negative. I just wanted to say: even if you were sex-negative, that doesn’t change much here. Even if you have a mass of terrible feelings about sex generally, it would not be this friend’s job to fix you, and even if it was this friend’s job to fix you, he would not achieve that by ignoring your boundaries and making you uncomfortable with BonerTalk.
The Captain answers so many letters that basically say “This person’s behaviour is making me uncomfortable; how do I fix this without making the other person even the tiniest bit uncomfortable, and also, is it all my fault for being a human being with boundaries?” And I think this is another one of those letters.
Agreed. Whether you like sex or hate it or are totally indifferent to it is really irrelevent to the question at hand, which is, “I don’t want to know this much about Friend. How do I make it stop?”
And Friend may well Be Sad At You to try to get you to change your mind, in which case, I’d pull back. You don’t owe him an audience and people who do not respect your boundaries are not people you need in your life.
LW, I am about 100% positive that not wanting to hear about sexytimes and kink does not make you sex negative or kink negative or anything of the sort. I am 100% positive about this because I am a kinky, sex positive person who for a long time saw those as the most important parts of my identity that does not want to hear about sexytimes or kink from pretty much anyone unless we are both in a specific context in which it is immediately relevant. It took me a very long time to realize that “sex positive” does not mean “I can’t be annoyed that I hear you having sex through the wall when I told you I need to get up early and could you please keep it down tonight?”, nor does it mean “well I guess since I’m kinky I need to say yes every time a play partner asks me if they can come over and play otherwise I might not actually be kinky” or “Since you know I’m kinky I guess it’s totally fine for you to bombard me with questions and talk about your fetish via messenger every single time I come on facebook.”
I mean, heck, there are some kinks/fetishes that I do not want to hear about for any length of time, even a “I participate in this” because I find them extremely triggering. The people with whom I am comfortable having those sort of conversations with know this and don’t bring those specific topics up around me even though they participate in them, and this does not make me a kink-shamer or sex negative one iota.
Not wanting to be privy to someone else’s boner-town adventures does not mean there is anything wrong with you or that you are being in any way sex negative. If your friend is active in those scenes, then theoretically he has loads of people to talk to about this stuff that Are Not You, and they would be a much more appropriate outlet.
LW, you say you wouldn’t want to shy away from other non-naked hobbies any friend engaged in, except what if your friend had a hobby you found not especially offensive, but just fucking boring. Example: my fiancé whom I love dearly loves theoretical physics. He has no formal training so it’s more of a hobby than an actual study, but he can talk about it forever. Theoretical physics makes me want to stab my eyeballs out. I love that he loves it, so I listen….to a point. He can tell, because he cares enough to actually know how I feel and not just have an audience on whom to dump information, and so he will stop. I play roller derby. He feels the same way about roller derby as I do theoretical physics, and I can tell the moment he begins shutting down, and so I change the subject. You are allowed to not want to talk about things, or listen to them. And if the thing your conversational partner wants to talk about is so intrinsic to his or her personality that he or she cannot refrain from talking about beyond your level of comfort and interest, you should perhaps not be friends who converse regularly. Which is fine. It doesn’t mean that your friend is necessarily a jerk, and it doesn’t mean you are one – it only means that you don’t share enough common ground to be more than casual acquaintances. It’s when you have a clearly stated boundary that someone is violating that the person violating it goes from clueless to a jerk.
For me personally, I don’t have a lot of patience with people who are clueless. I feel like if I change the subject enough times, if you don’t pick up on that as a giant blinking sign that this conversational topic is not okay, then you are not paying enough attention. If we are not good enough friends that I am not comfortable being blunt with you, then it’s not going to hurt either of us much to part ways or dial it down. Unfair? Perhaps. Does everyone have to respond this way? Noooope. But if you feel like you *have* to stay friends with this guy because he hasn’t been warned enough, you don’t. Especially with his track record of palpable, living, breathing disappointment being the boner in the living room….if everyone agrees that this is a thing they felt with him, then it was a thing he did, and it is his responsibility to find the problem and fix it. Honestly, the fact that he isn’t trying really hard to make sure the friends he reconnects with don’t think he’s the same person he was, makes me think he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that there was a problem. My fiancé and I have been friends since middle school, and the beginning of our friendship was filled with, “How about sex? No? How about now? Is it later enough now? How about now? Do you want to have sex now? So not now. What about now?” When we hit adulthood and got some sense knocked into him by feminist friends, he finally got why that was annoying and uncomfortable for me, and made such an effort to go the other way that it was immediately apparent he wasn’t that person anymore, beyond even his acknowledgement of shitty behavior and apology. And it was so crazy, when I was finally not expending so much energy worrying whether a particular interaction would result in a “How about sex now?” I actually kind of wanted to have sex with him. YMMV, of course. And sorry, that’s a total tangent, just…if people are aware that their behavior makes so many people so very uncomfortable, they either go to great lengths to demonstrate that they’re more considerate, or they might just be assholes.
I’ve sort of been on both sides; I’ve been the person who talked about sex too much and there was a time that I didn’t want to hear a single thing about sex for a reason that doesn’t matter now. Several times in the past people asked me to please stop talking so much about sex because it was just too much or for personal reasons. I always felt a bit awkward but eventually appreciated it. Personally it always makes me feel more comfortable when I know people will set their boundaries in conversations. As Captain said he might be super excited about the topic but friendship should be possible without talking about sex all the time, or whatever topic that you don’t feel comfortable discussing.
Even if it’s just with him that this topic makes you feel uncomfortable it’s still find to set boundaries. Sex can be super personal and it’s fine if you decide who you talk about it with.
Also! Even if this guy really is super well intentioned and not trying to manipulate you or creep on you in any way, some people just aren’t meant to be friends. I know a guy who I like a lot, but probably once per conversation he tells me that he doesn’t want to talk about something I’m discussing. Not rudely at all, but it’s one of those things where I’m sort of like..ok, I’m glad he’s telling me, as I don’t like making people uncomfortable, but we are probably not destined to be best friends.
If sex is really *super integral* to his personality and he would feel like he had to hide a part of himself or had to consciously watch himself conversationally if you told him you don’t want to hear about it, then that’s cool but you guys probably just aren’t really likely to work well as friends.
Like, I don’t know, someone who swears reflexively and somebody who is really bothered by swearing, neither is doing anything wrong but they probably shouldn’t spend much time together.
This letter really resonated with me because a couple of years ago I got back into contact with an ex who I’d not seen in a long time because of neediness issues that had continued for like 20 years after we stopped being sexual together.
Since those days I’ve been doing some hard work on myself and one of my realizations is that I probably am asexual, maybe sex negative, and that’s okay. But for most of my life I’ve felt I had no choice but to go through the motions of being “sexy.”
One of the first things he told me is that he has diabetes and is now impotent, and he wanted to reminisce about sexy times we’d had in the past and that other people had had in the past.
Now that I’m no longer a teenager it was easier for me to tell him I didn’t want to talk about that and as usual he got pouty about not getting his way. We did have some good conversations about what we’re both doing now, but I made the mistake of trying to talk about some things he did when we were together that I now think were abusive. Of course he responded defensively, because it’s all about what he needed. I dropped it.
I have reasons for wanting him to be in my life, at a great distance, and the boundaries I set and keep setting make that possible.
Anyway, too much about me, but I want you to know you’re not alone and you can set boundaries. Good luck.
Anti-Polyamory vs. Politely Enforcing Personal Boundaries: A Helpful Illustration
Person A: So last Friday I had an awesome date with my partners, Fred and Ginger. We ate at this awesome new Italian place down the street and then saw this cool play. We had all been busy lately, so it was nice to have time all together.
Person B: Eww, gross, I don’t want to hear about your freaky, perverted sex life.
Person A: So last Friday I had an awesome date with my partners, Fred and Ginger. We had dinner and a show and then went home for sexy sex and [starts describing sex] …
Person B: What restaurant did you go to? There’s a cool Ethiopian place near you. Did you go there?
Person A: Why can’t you accept my relationships? You must be a prude.
In all seriousness, I think a lot of people who are poly or kinky or whatever go through a phase where that is a Big Deal (I know I did) before it gets integrated into their identity in a less showy way. But that doesn’t exempt us from appropriate boundaries, and if someone is uncomfortable with sex talk, you stop. It’s possible that he just doesn’t have too much else that he wants to talk about, in which case he may just not be a good friend fit. But not wanting to hear about your friend’s sex life is different from wanting them to hide their identity. Not wanting Sex Story Time every conversation isn’t oppressing them. Full stop.
Love these examples, this is dead on.
As an asexual, I am currently fortunate in having friends who don’t either get explicit about their sexual doings or spout any unsolicited theories about my lack of same. But it wasn’t always so.
In college, and admittedly this was many decades past, I was handed literary texts in which this or that was said to be a symbol for some sexual thing (often enough, it looked more violent than sexual, and never made any sense anyway) and I was too busy waiting for some other student to question this, to work up the nerve to do so myself. Some years later I was at another school and sought counseling for a learning problem; when this was helped, I kept going to that counselor because (I now realize) I just needed someone to talk to. All went well until this individual, hearing that I liked to write sf, wanted to read some. On doing so, the counselor started spouting the same idiotic Fraudian babble I had encountered before. I responded with alternative and more accurate interpretations–after all I was the one who wrote the thing. I was then told that the sexual stuff was from my subconscious–as if anyone else could know what was in my subconscious–and we went around and around until I with the help of Logic scored decisive shots. The counselor promised to drop the subject, but later broke that promise, for no discernible reason, putting on an act of aggrieved innocence when I protested and acting equally surprised when I called this behavior unprofessional. At which point I felt a bit out of my depth and took this to the head of counseling services. Said head called a conference with both of us and the result was that the counselor looked and sounded like a deflated balloon at the end and the department head actually thanked me because some other students had apparently had similar problems with other counselors. Although the one I saw never tried anything physically inappropriate, I still felt as though an attempt had been made to rape my mind. I’ll never know whether my actions saved anyone else from a similar fate, but I wouldn’t have felt right if I hadn’t done something about this creepy character.
This may seem a bit far from the accounts of the behavior of friends and acquaintances, but it seems to me that when unwelcome (stereotypic/vicious, or senseless) sexual talk is sanctioned by academia, in the guise of serious texts, that might make it seem more legit among non-academics.
LW, I have a possibly tangential comment for you, but what you said about the Lingering Disappointment Monster *really* resonated with me.
I had an old friend from middle school (!!) who got back in touch with me a few years back, and I was excited to see him, because he’s cool, even though he used to be a Rage Monster when he was a kid. It turned out that even though we wanted to hang out, it was too hard to actually do it, because (a) he still had the Rage Monster and (b) I had gotten too used to offering toxic, self-sacrificing bids to calm the Rage Monster. It wasn’t healthy, and I bailed.
I’m not saying that this is necessarily the case with you and your friend. But the fact that you brought it up makes me wonder if this is actually a major source of stress for you in this friendship. Reconnecting is hard! It takes work! and that’s because it involves *re*negotiating boundaries and figuring out how to avoid old traps. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving yourself permission to bail on that work in this case, especially if your friend doesn’t seem to be putting in the work himself.
QUOTING THE CAPTAIN
When my long-ago roommate, M., decided to creepily display her sex toy collection and her photo album from her many visits to the Folsom Street Fair to dinner party guests of mine, the problem was not “sex negativity” or anti-BDSM sentiment. The problem was that she didn’t know anyone well enough to know what they were into, and that she was doing a creepy power play to get off on their discomfort and then make fun of them for being “repressed” when they were like “can u not, total stranger.”
ACTUALLY ME NOW
Yes, yes and yes; THIS. I am currently doing some aggressive boundary-setting with a Gross Gross Guy in my own social circle and this is EXACTLY the variety of shit he pulled on me in the very first week we hung out. Thank you for summing that dynamic up so succinctly. Damn.
There are a LOT of replies here, so forgive me if this has been said, but this part of the letter: “I wouldn’t ask a friend who was a sexual minority to “stop shoving their sexuality in my face.” ” really stuck out to me. So, lets say you have a hypothetical gay friend. Asking this hypothetical gay friend to not be so gay around you is homophobic, as LW pointed out. If this hypothetical same-gender-lovin’ friend were talking about their sex life in every conversation and you weren’t into hearing about it, it would still be inappropriate. Not wanting to hear about someone’s proclivities in the bedroom isn’t homophobic. Usually when homophobes talk about wanting someone not to shove their sexuality in their face, they’re talking about gay people like holding hands or kissing their significant other in public and viewing that as a slippery slope to gay sex on every street corner. Same-gender-loving people’s relationships and identities aren’t solely about who they have sex with. If they were, the two would be analogous, but they’re not. This guy isn’t just talking about his significant others in conversations, he’s talking about his sex life specifically.
Hm. I think it really depends on what situation this is happening in. I’m guessing the OP is talking about one on one conversations, and at that point, I do think friends have a responsibility to listen to their other friends’ discomfort and generally try to be nice and steer conversations to reasonable topics. It’s not poor at all for OP to have a Come to Jesus talk with the friend about how he really needs to tone it down around her because that’s just not her thing, she doesn’t want to hear it, etc. It’d be one thing if she always talked about *her* sex life or something, but wouldn’t let him, but here she just wants the whole topic to go away. Which is a reasonable thing.
But I will say that in groups, I really think it’s up to the uncomfortable person to take themselves off. If there are 5 friends talking, and one of them is uncomfortable about sex, and the others are having an otherwise inoffensive conversation about it, the fifth friend just doesn’t belong in this conversation. Causing a group to bend to one person’s will is poor form. (Mostly saying this because I know some folks IRL that demand that all group activities be as inoffensive to each member of the group as possible in *extremely minor ways.*) Obviously if a group is being racist or something, “hey, knock that shit off” is reasonable. But for single-person issues like “wow, I really hate hearing about spiders because I’m super scared of them,” that’s your responsibility to avoid the conversation, not shut everyone up.
I’m guessing the OP’s friend is really just a socially desperate dude, not a predator or a skeevy dude trying to weasel sex out of her. She already said he didn’t guilt people into sex, and folks who otherwise lay on the guilt are going to go to their hammer for the nail if they really want to finagle sex out of somebody. (Har har.) This just sounds like a critically awkward person who doesn’t understand that you can’t always talk about whatever you want and who is practically begging society to hand him someone who is willing to sit there and listen to everything he says so he can feel like he has a friend.
I can’t fully agree with this, at least with respect to groups of people who are purportedly friends.
If I had a group of “friends” who repeatedly invited me to group activities but proceeded to start conversations about sensitive topics after I was already there, I would take it as a rather unsubtle hint that they did not actually value my company or my boundaries. The sensitive person is not being a jerk by failing to preemptively uninvite themselves.
Also, depending on the group activity in question, it may not be possible for someone to step away from the conversation unless they stop participating in the activity altogether.
I don’t know if you notice, but these arguments? Very mansplainy. If the one person is uncomfortable with your group sex talk, she’s just too sensitive! You don’t know her/his back ground. You don’t know if there is some history of rape of PTSD. You don’t see the privilege dimension – if you and your four friends are men and she’s a woman, this can be very uncomfortable. Sure, there is no law that says you can’t exclude the more sensitive person. It still makes you a bit of an asshole though.
And there is not mutual exclusivity between socially desperate guys and predators.
Maybe stay at this site and read up a bit?
If he’s into poly and kink, he should (no saying if he does, but he should) have a working understanding of consent, and can hopefully understand that you do not consent to being an audience for his sexscapades. Just like I don’t talk feminism with my misogynist elder brother, he too can learn to rein in his enthusiasm if he really wants to connect with you.
LW, my advice is to try and not focus, necessarily, on the question if you’re sex-neg or sex-poz or something else. Those ideologies are meaningful and interesting and important, yes, but the primary problem here is that you’re having trouble putting up this boundary/your friend isn’t respecting you.
I personally identify as sex-negative for a lot of reasons (I really dislike the culture of sex-positivity and ‘kink cred’ and moralized poly and so forth; I like sex-negative writers and identify more with their experiences and interpretations; I find it powerful to reclaim the image of spinster/prude; the only time I’ve ever found men who were interested in me to actually back off is by being aggressively prudish at them; it counteracts a lot of unhealthy self-objectification and internalized fetishizing for me; I feel this pressure as someone who was raped to become this ‘good for anything’ sexually charged person who ‘reclaims’ their traumas as kink, etc), but you don’t have to ID the same way or have the same background to have the right to your boundaries. If he doesn’t knock it off like a respectful, reasonable adult, then he’s in the wrong.
Anyanka, I’m curious about this I don’t know anyone who self-identifies as sex negative. Do you think all of us poly kinksters are going to hell, or unworthy of your platonic time and attention, or something? Or are you more of a “Do what you want just don’t involve me in any way whatsoever, including telling me about it,” kind of person?
FWIW, I think LW’s “friend” is involving her in his sex life without her consent (really not cool.) I’m still pretty new to the kinky community, but it seems to be a sometimes-stated rule that you don’t talk about it outside of kink-friendly forums–not just to preserve the relative anonymity of those who want to stay anonymous, but also because there are lots of people who just don’t want to hear about it, and forcing those people to hear about it is Not Okay.
By the way, this: “I feel this pressure as someone who was raped to become this ‘good for anything’ sexually charged person who ‘reclaims’ their traumas as kink” breaks my heart. I’m sorry for what you’ve had to survive, and I’m sorry that anyone tried to pressure you into healing in any way that isn’t right for you. I’m glad you’ve found what makes you feel powerful.
Kayla I’m obviously a different person and I don’t personally identify as Sex-Negative but I consider myself Sex-Critical and am heavily influenced by Sex-Negative writing. But I can offer at least my insight as someone who engages with Sex-Negative thought and has found it very helpful personally.
First of all, “Sex-Negative” does not necessarily equal “Negative about Sex”. I do not know a single person who is Sex-Negative who sit there thinking about how poly kinksters are going to hell.
Rather it often takes the form of heavy criticism of issues with the Sex-Positive movement and focuses on combating Compulsory Sexuality and questioning the way that society and oppressive forces shape and influence our sexualities.
Like Anyanka I am a survivor of sexual violence who has felt very alienated from Sex-Positive circles because I am not a “‘good for anything’ sexually charged person who ‘reclaims’ their traumas as kink”. I have felt shouted out of and unwelcome in spaces which are supposed to be for Survivors and Victims and do not feel that Sex-Positivity has a space for me as a survivor of sexual violence who is very critical of many aspects of our sexual culture.
I don’t think kinky poly types are all going to hell. I am not about to burst into their bedrooms and order them to put down that riding crop.
What I want is to be free from harassment and bullying and feeling like if I am not using kink as part of my healing process then I am wrong and broken and a prude. I also want to be able to be critical of various aspects of sexual culture from my perspective as a survivor of sexual violence without being attacked. I want to be able to stand up and say “this hurts me as a survivor” and be listened to and treated with respect and not bullying.
This article and the writings of Lisa more generally have been a big part of forming my approach to sex-negativity and have helped me hugely to grow and heal: https://radtransfem.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/the-ethical-prude-imagining-an-authentic-sex-negative-feminism/
Your first paragraph, Kayla, seems to be demanding that Anyanka justify herself to you. I think she’s already done that in a polite manner. You’re reading a lot of stuff into what she said that isn’t there, and thereby proving her point.
Ick. I find that my interest in repeatedly hearing about other people’s sex lives during casual conversations has a direct correlation to how much I personally want to have sex with that person. I no desire to have sex with my relatives, and thus I have no desire to think about their sex lives in any way. Same with the “friend” who keeps hinting he’d like to go out with me, despite my soft nos. The idea of being with him repulses me, and so hearing about sex he had would make me feel gross. However, the hot copy guy who I miiiiight have a little weekend fling with, if I were single? Sure, tell me about your hot sexy escapades during our lunch break, Kinko man! LW, perhaps since he’s interested in you, he feels more comfortable talking about sex with you, even unconsciously, and you feel LESS comfortable talking about sex with him, since you don’t return that interest, more so than if your respective degrees of sexual interest had never been an issue at all? If so, he may not have this issue as much with other people, and thus it’s not something that other people are likely to bring to his attention. Idk. Maybe he just constantly talks about his sex life to everyone and is “that guy.”
Also, everyone here has gone on and on about how not wanting to hear about his sex life doesn’t make you sex negative or judgey, and they’re totally right. He sounds like he’s being gross and needs to stop. But I wonder if part of his desire to talk about it more than he should is stemming from a desire to “normalize” those interests to society at large. (I realize that “normal” isn’t a good word for anything sexual – basically nothing is “normal,” sexually, if you really research individuals’ real interests and not media portrayals, etc., because interests are so broad and varied. I’m not sure the better word here, though.) Kink/ poly/ LGBTQ – all of that was super shamed by society until very recently, and in lots of places, it’s still very shamed. I can understand a desire to talk about his interests and activities as a way or promoting them, or making them public – sort of the same concept as “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” But the fact remains that he is not sharing with you his sexual identity, and then mentioning that he and his (insert non-conforming partner(s) here) did laundry last night, or made dinner, or that he’s excited about the new people that he met and wondering if things will go well with them. All of that would be normal and fine, I think. From you described, he’s discussing actual sex acts. Regardless of whether he is describing conventional missionary-style sex with his wife,his masturbation sessions, or the most unusual sex act known to man, those are private events that are not acceptable as constant conversational references. They’re private and appropriate only in certain conversations. It sounds like he is not aware that his conversations with you are not the proper place, or that he doesn’t care. Either way, back to the beginning of my comment… ick.
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