I went to a friend’s wedding, a friend whom five years ago I would have called a “best friend.” I don’t know how to describe our friendship now, because we don’t talk or see each other much. I was reacquainted with her ex-boyfriend (she dated him for three months three years ago) at her wedding, and now I’m dating him. She’s pissed and claims that I am breaking the “Code”—the unwritten code of not dating your friends’ exes. I assumed that that ended if you got married. I have polled quite a few girlfriends to see what they think, and most say the Code is over when you marry, but some say it isn’t. I am curious what you and your readers think.—Ending the Code
Where I come from, you’re considered a model of self-restraint if you refrain from fucking your friends’ current boyfriends. Exes are entirely fair game. So maybe I’m not the best judge, ETC, but for what it’s worth, here’s my take:
If your friend had been traumatized by her relationship with this man and if the two of you were still so close that she would be forced to interact with him if you were dating him, then you should have refused to date her ex. But she clearly wasn’t traumatized by her relationship with this man—she invited him to her wedding!—and you guys don’t hang out much anymore. Any friends-don’t-date-friends’-exes fatwa would have to be considered inoperative under these circumstances. Your buddy has no right to make you feel guilty about going after her ex.
Finally, I suspect something else is going on here. Your friendship isn’t what it used to be: She’s not making time to see you; you’re not calling. Your friend may be, consciously or subconsciously, latching on to this supposed violation of some ridiculous code as cause to officially break with you. Some people find drifting apart harder to accept than blowing apart—hence your soon-to-be-ex-friend’s manufactured outrage. She wants to make herself feel better—heck, feel superior—about the end of your friendship, and your supposed violation of this goofy code is the best she can come up with.—Dan
The attached picture is the cover of a recent local magazine here in Boston, Mass. My girlfriend says the image is violent because the girl is tied up. I say it is not violent because the context (the alluring half-smile on the girl’s face, the hearts on the wallpaper) suggests consent. What do you think?—Dave
First, anyone curious about the image we’re discussing can go to link.thestranger.com/1154 and check it out.
OK, Dave: Whether this drawing represents an act of consensual bondage or an incident of sexual violence is a question only the artist who created the image can answer. We could hunt the artist down and ask him, I suppose, but it’s more interesting and more revealing to look inside our own hearts. When I see someone, a man or a woman, tied up with what looks like red electrical tape—available at your finer fetish shops—and that person has a half-smile on his or her face, I assume it’s consensual bondage play, not violence. You clearly had the same reaction. To the enigmatic smile and heart-patterned wallpaper, we can add the complete lack of any signs of visible stress. Her forehead is unlined; there is no fear in her eyes: She’s clearly enjoying an intense sexual experience, not dreading what comes next.
But your girlfriend can’t see past the bondage. While it can’t be denied that consensual erotic bondage is a kind of ritualized sexual violence, consent transforms even seemingly violent sex acts into hearts-and-bunnies-and-flowers sex. On the flip side, a lack of consent can transform the dullest vanilla sex into an act of sexual violence. Consent is always and everywhere the magic ingredient, and your girlfriend’s inability to see the implied consent in this image betrays her discomfort with kinky sex.—Dan
I’ll be blunt: I’m straight, I’m smart, I’m funny, and I’m cool. I appreciate art, I’m good at talking to people, and I’m the loneliest damn bastard I know because I refuse to tolerate people who aren’t as good as I am. Also, to my misfortune, I’m quite young—18 years young, in fact. This brings me to my questions: Thing 1: Where do I start the search to find my dream girl? Simply waiting around has not worked for me so far. Thing 2: How do I while away the time? I’ve tried burying my troubles in the random, pretty little bubbleheads who annoyingly populate my tiny, tiny world, but it just makes me that much lonelier when they can’t talk about Foucault when we cuddle. Should I abstain until I find someone I can appreciate?
Awaiting your response with bated breath,—Studied Thoroughly
Under der Derian
I’ll be blunt: Why would I give useful advice to an insufferable little shit like you? I may not want to sleep with women, STUDD, but I don’t have anything against them as a people. And while you claim to be straight, smart, funny, and cool, I have only your word on those qualities. I have in my possession, however, absolute proof in the form of your letter that you are an unbearable twat and an intolerable dickweed. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I gave you advice that might result in your actually landing a girl.
Your saving grace, STUDD, is your age. An 18-year-old asshole is just as repulsive as a 38-year-old asshole, but there’s still a chance—a slim one—that an 18-year-old can outgrow his assholery. There’s still time for you to learn that no one is perfect, yourself included, and that we are all damaged goods. Tolerating others is the price we pay for being tolerated ourselves. If you don’t learn these things, STUDD, and learn them soon, you deserve to be utterly alone.—Dan
I am a 21-year-old single mother. I’m about 5-foot-6 and weigh 103 pounds. I run every day and generally try to take care of my body by eating right. My problem is that I hate the way I look. I am actually repulsed by my body. I try to take very brief showers and avoid the mirror when I can. I’m not a prude. The sight of naughty bits doesn’t repulse me. But my avoidance of total nudity hinders my sexual encounters. I always want to wear a shirt or have the lights off. This is a problem with my current boyfriend because he says that if I trust him enough to sleep with him I should trust him enough to let him see me naked. He also has told me that we can’t continue seeing each other if he doesn’t get to see me naked. I have let him see every part of my nude body—just not all at once. So he knows I’m not hiding some monstrous deformity from him. I guess I thought my boyfriend would be more sensitive to my fear and let me stay covered up. Do I owe him nudity?—Wrapped Up
You see your boyfriend’s insistence on seeing you naked as evidence of his insensitivity, WU, but I see it as proof that he cares about you. Your hang-ups about your body are irrational, and they’re something you need to get the fuck over. Let’s hope his ultimatum will motivate you to get your ass to a shrink already. For while you don’t “owe him nudity,” WU, you do owe your boyfriend a partner who isn’t a complete nutcase.—Dan Savage
Dan Savage’s Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America (Dutton) is available at bookstores nationwide. Send your Savage Love questions to email@example.com.