I am a 20-year-old woman going to school in New York. Recently I admitted to myself that I am either a lesbian or a strongly female-oriented bisexual, and ended my first-ever relationship with a boyfriend.
With the boyfriend gone and my social anxiety being dealt with in counseling, I am craving another woman’s company. But I have no idea how to meet women. I also worry because I have never had an actual sexual experience with a woman. I feel that I can’t guarantee to a potential date that I am “the real thing” rather than just a curious straight.—Lonely in New York
“There’s weird pressure in a big city to know exactly who you are,” said John Cameron Mitchell, the actor, director, and New Yorker, when we spoke on the phone about your letter. “You can wind up feeling more lonely because everyone else seems to know who they are.”
Mitchell was slapping me down for suggesting that you, as a relatively inexperienced young woman, were in the right place. I mean, New York Fucking City? Is there a better spot on the whole freaking planet for a woman to explore her sexuality? And isn’t Shortbus, Mitchell’s new film, a loving portrait of New York City’s sexual demimonde—complete with full-on, hardcore, integral-to-the-plot sex? I thought Mitchell would order you to get your ass down to the Village or over to Brooklyn or up to the Bronx or wherever hip sexual nonconformists are crawling up one another’s butts this week.
But Mitchell felt like you had some homework to do first.
“There’s this weird contradiction in her letter,” said Mitchell. “She says she’s finally admitted to being a lesbian, or at least bi, but at the end she says she can’t guarantee that she’s the real thing. She may need therapy more than she needs a list of lesbian bars in New York.”
Once you get your shit together and have a little clearer idea of just who and what you are, LINY, Mitchell does have a tip for you. “The most interesting lesbian and bisexual women I know,” said Mitchell, “are all into music and involved in the music scene. There are all kinds of interesting genderqueer and lesbian music acts around—Gossip, Robo Sapien, Bitch, Peaches. When you’re ready, check out GO NYC magazine, the biggest lesbian street rag—and get out there.”—Dan
I am a 24-year-old hetero woman. In college I was involved in sexual-health education and encouraged every woman I met to love her vag and teach her partner how to love it. My deep, dark secret is that I have never been able to convince myself of that. I’ve only tried masturbating twice and it just felt incredibly dirty. I don’t even like touching myself. It almost brings me to tears when my boyfriend asks to go down on me. I don’t want his or anybody’s face anywhere near it. I love penetrative sex (and can orgasm during it), but I think my vagina is ugly. Am I the only woman out there who feels like this? Help!
—Please Keep Me Anonymous
Mitchell’s first film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, made him a hero to sexual nonconformists everywhere, which is why I invited him to be a special guest expert in this week’s column. While I knew he’d give good advice, I didn’t expect that Mitchell, a gay man, would have firsthand—or first-face—experience with learning to love vag.
While making Shortbus, Mitchell told me, “I ate pussy for the first time.” Sook-Yin Lee, who plays Sofia, the couples counselor who is having relationship troubles of her own (including an inability to achieve orgasm), told Mitchell that since he was asking his performers to push their sexual boundaries, he should too. “I said, ‘Well, I’ll do something that I’ve never done, in a gesture of solidarity.’ And so I ate some pussy.” So how was it? “It was delicious, but I didn’t get turned on.”
Now if Mitchell, a gay man, is comfortable enough with vag to eat one out, how is it that a hip, liberated woman like you isn’t even comfortable with her own vag?
“Women internalize bad feelings about their bodies,” said Mitchell. “Even the woman I ate out was like, ‘Not all guys like this. You sure you want to do this?’ And she was shy even though she’s this very strong, forward, out-there woman.”
Why would even a strong, sex-positive woman be susceptible to these feelings?
“Because it’s a man’s world,” said Mitchell. “Women are taught that their genitals are dirty and bad because they have power over straight men. In some cultures, they literally cut it off, cut it away, to try and kill its power. But it’s no weirder than a penis,” said Mitchell, speaking from experience. “It’s just got more elements.”
Our recommendation for you, PKMA? Why, therapy, of course. Find a sex-positive shrink, open up about your secret, and get the help you’re going to need to get over your vag issues. Good luck.—Dan
I had a bland childhood. Mom and pop were hetero, something I inherited. I’m the very portrait of an average American woman, a vanilla kind of girl. Except for one thing: When I was in my early teens I used to have dreams about being bigger than my sexual partners, stronger and more powerful. Fast-forward to now, I’m obsessed with this “huge” fetish thing. I dream about towering over my male sex partners. I masturbate about it. I’ve searched online and found to my surprise that I am not the only one. I even found a magazine, Giantess, that was exactly what I have been fantasizing about. Unfortunately it’s no longer in print.
How the hell can I experience my fantasy when it is physically impossible? And how do you explain to a guy that you want him to be the size of a Ken doll so that you can have your way with him?—Big Girls Don’t Cry
“I’d say she had something more than a bland childhood,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes fetishes are a way for people to balance out certain aspects of their lives. I can’t think of the number of powerful politicians I know that are submissive during sex. A guy I knew was a sex worker and was flown down to Washington, D.C., to humiliate a Republican staffer who wanted to be called a dirty Republican. (I knew they felt guilty about it!) So as a young person perhaps she felt small and powerless, because as an adult she finds excitement in being in control and having power.”
But how can you realize your fantasy? You can’t, BGDC, except in fantasy role-play scenarios. You will never hold a 12-inch-tall man in your hands, but you can hold a Ken doll while engaging in dirty talk with a man who shares your giantess fetish.
And look on the bright side: “In a way she’s the luckiest girl in the world,” said Mitchell, “because she has a specialized fetish that appeals to a number of guys.” Which means you’ll be able to take your pick of the giantess fetishists. “And if that magazine is defunct, then start another one!”
Speaking of dirty Republicans: Lots of folks wrote in about Representative Mark Foley. You can read my thoughts at thestranger.com/savagelove/foley. Now go see John Cameron Mitchell’s brilliant new film, Shortbus (shortbusthemovie.com). And, hey, buy the new Scissor Sisters CD, Ta-Dah, on your way to the movie theater—it’s fucking brilliant, too.—Dan Savage
Dan Savage’s new book, The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family, is on sale now. Send your Savage Love questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.