We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about myself and my sexuality and my romantic self. I can log on and easily find someone to fuck. I’m a bear-built top guy. There are ladies in my life who choose to share their beds with me. I can find subs to tie up and torture. (I’m kinky and bi.) What I can’t find is a long-term partner. The problem is that after I fuck/sleep with/torture someone, my brain stops seeing them as sexual and moves them into the friend category. I have friends that I used to fuck regularly, that now it’s a chore to get it up for. Sure, the sex still feels good, but it’s not passionate. And when it’s all said and done, they’re still in the “friend” category in my brain. Some of them have suggested being more, but I’ve recoiled. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re friends, not potential partners. I’m 32, and my siblings are married and having kids, and the people I grew up with are married and having kids. And here I am not able to find a long-term significant other. Am I broken? Should I just accept that, at least for me, sexual partners and domestic/romantic partners will always be separate categories? —Always Alone
What if you’re not like most everyone else? What if this is just how your sexuality works? What if you’re wired—emotionally, romantically, sexually—for intense but brief sexual connections that blossom into wonderful friendships? And what if you’ve been tricked into thinking you’re broken because the kind of successful long-term relationships your siblings and friends have are celebrated and the kind of successful short-term relationships you have are stigmatized?
If your siblings and friends want to have the kinds of relationships they’re having—and it’s possible some do not—they will feel no inner conflict about their choices while simultaneously being showered with praise for their choices. But what are they really doing? They’re doing what they want, they’re doing what makes them happy, they’re doing what works for them romantically, emotionally, and sexually. And what are you doing? Maybe you’re doing what you want, AA, maybe you’re doing what could make you happy. So why doesn’t it make you happy? Maybe because you’ve been made to feel broken by a culture that holds up one relationship model—the partnered and preferably monogamous pair—and insists that this model is the only healthy and whole option, and that anyone who goes a different way, fucks a different way, or relates a different way is broken.
Now, it’s possible you are broken, of course, but anyone could be broken. You could be broken, I could be broken, your married siblings and friends could be broken. (Regarding your siblings and friends: Not everyone who marries and has kids wanted marriage and kids. Some no doubt wanted it, AA, but others succumbed to what was expected of them.) But here’s a suggestion for something I want you to try, something that might make you feel better because it could very well be true: Try to accept that, for you, sexual partners and domestic/romantic partners might always be separate, and that doesn’t mean you’re broken. If that self-acceptance makes you feel whole, AA, then you have your answer.
I might make a different suggestion if your brief-but-intense sexual encounters left a lot of hurt feelings in their wake. But that’s not the case. You hook up with someone a few times, you share an intense sexual experience, and you feel a brief romantic connection to them. And when those sexual and romantic feelings subside, you’re not left with a string of bitter exes and enemies, but with a large and growing circle of good friends. Which leads me to believe that even if you aren’t doing what everyone else is doing, AA, you’re clearly doing something right. —Dan Savage
P.S. Another option if you do want to get married someday: a companionate marriage to one of your most intimate friends—someone like you, AA, who also sees potential life partners and potential sex partners as two distinct categories with no overlap—and all the Grindr hookups and BDSM sessions you like with one-offs who become good friends.
I knew my little brother had an odd fascination with rubber that would likely become sexual. He would steal rubber gloves and hide them in his room, and there was a huge meltdown when our mother found a gas mask in his room when he was 12. My brother is in his 30s now and has a closet full of rubber “gear” that he dresses in pretty much exclusively. (When he’s not at work, he’s in rubber.) All of his friends are rubber fetishists. When he travels, it’s only to fetish events where he can wear his rubber clothing publicly. He will date only other rubber fetishists, which seems to have severely limited his romantic prospects, and he posts photos of himself in rubber to his social media accounts. I read your column and I understand that kinks aren’t chosen and they can be incorporated into a person’s sex life in a healthy way. But my brother’s interest in rubber seems obsessive. Your thoughts? —Rubbered Up Baby Brother’s Erotic Rut
If your brother were obsessed with surfing or snowboarding and built his life around chasing waves or powder—and would date only people who shared his passion—you wouldn’t have written me. Same goes if he were obsessed with pro sports, as so many straight men are, or Broadway shows, as so many gay men are. The only “problem” here is that your brother’s obsession makes his dick hard—and to be clear, RUBBER, the problem is yours, not his. An erotic obsession or passion is just as legitimate as a nonerotic one. And even if I thought your brother had a problem—and I do not—nothing I wrote here would result in him liking his rubber clothes, rubber buddies, or rubber fetish events any less. —DS
I’m a 28-year-old straight man married to a 26-year-old straight woman. My wife and I were watching a video about sex and the female orgasm, and they were talking about how, unlike men, women don’t have a refractory period after orgasm. We were confused because we are almost the complete opposite. I have never experienced drowsiness, lessened sensitivity, or quickened loss of erection after orgasm. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t even like me kissing her bits after orgasm. She says they feel tender and sore afterward, and this feeling can last for hours. Is this normal? —Newlywed’s Orgasms Rarely Multiply
What you describe isn’t the norm, NORM, but it’s your norm.
Most men temporarily lose interest in sex immediately after climaxing. It’s called the refractory period, and it can last anywhere from 15 minutes (for teenagers) to 24 hours (for old-timers). It’s a hormone thing: After a guy comes, his pituitary gland pumps prolactin into his bloodstream—and prolactin blocks dopamine, the hormone that makes a dude horny and keeps him horny. But some men release very little prolactin and consequently have short refractory periods; a handful of men have no refractory period at all and are capable of multiple orgasms. You don’t mention the ability to come again and again, but you do sound exceptional in that you don’t lose your erection after you come. Your wife also sounds exceptional, NORM, since most orgasmic women are capable of having multiple orgasms—but most women all women. (I’ve always loved what groundbreaking sex researcher Mary Jane Sherfey wrote in 1966: “The more orgasms she has, the more she can have—for all intents and purposes, the human female is sexually insatiable.” Emphasis hers.)
But again, NORM, there’s nothing wrong with either of you. It’s just that your norm isn’t the norm—and that’s only a problem if you choose to regard it as one. —DS
Email your Savage Love questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.