• The ‘no-pandemic’ challenge

    Image of Dan Savage
    Each week, Dan Savage is here to answer your burning sex questions.

    Q: Your last two columns and your last two podcasts were all about the pandemic. Everything everywhere is all about the pandemic right now. Can you give it a rest? For maybe a week? Could you answer some questions that aren’t about the pandemic? Did any fun kink questions come in this week? I could all use a break from the pandemic, Dan, and I’m not alone.

    – Columnist’s Oeuvre Vividly Instills Dread

    Some kink questions did come in this week, COVID, and I’m happy to answer them. But the pandemic does come up in the second one, which you should feel free to skip.

    Q: I have a kink/fetish that’s been giving me a lot of anxiety over the last few years. I inadvertently discovered that I’m turned on by big bellies, weight gain, and stuffing. It’s actually been there since I was a little kid, though I didn’t understand it until now. 

    If it’s relevant, I’m a female in my mid-20s, in a heterosexual monogamous relationship. 

    My problem is that I have a lot of trouble getting off without looking at pictures or at least thinking about my kink. I believe the common guidance is, “If it’s not hurting anyone, it’s fine.” But I feel super gross and ashamed. Neither my partner nor myself is large and we both value our health and fitness. I have absolutely no desire to participate in this activity with a real person. Every time I finish masturbating, I feel embarrassed and disgusted with myself. 

    Some part of my brain obviously craves the kink, but the rest of my brain HATES it. I keep telling myself I will stop, but I have such a hard time getting off with other porn (or without porn) that I always return to it. 

    I genuinely enjoy having vanilla sex with my partner. I feel turned on and I have fun. But I’m often not able to come. It sometimes makes him think he isn’t doing a good job when in reality he’s doing great and I’m just frustrated with my body. 

    So I guess I’m wondering: Does continuing to watch belly porn reinforce the kink in my brain? Should I stop watching it and force myself to find other ways to come? Should I somehow find a way to embrace the kink instead?

    – Big Belly Woes

    Six years ago, I roped Dr. Jesse Bering, author of “Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us,” into answering a question from a dad who was worried about his teenage son’s sexual interest in Pokémon. (Yes, Pokémon.) Dad wanted to know if there was anything he could do about his son’s “pathetic” sexual obsession. 

    Bering explained that his kid’s kinks – that everyone’s kinks – are hardwired. “Nobody knows why some people are more prone to developing unusual patterns of attraction than others,” Bering said. “But whether it’s a penchant for Pokémon, feet, underwear, or spiders, the best available evidence suggests that some people – mostly males – have a genetic predisposition for being ‘sexually imprinted’ during development.”

    “You can’t starve out your kinks by refusing to think (or wank) about them, BBW, and you can’t pray your kinks away anymore than I could pray my gay away.”

    And once our erotic imaginations have seized on something, once we’ve imprinted on Pokémon characters or big bellies or wrestling singlets, there’s not much we can do about it. Before we’re adults – before we hit puberty – our kinks, as Bering put it, are “pretty much fixed, like it or not.” 

    For all we know, the teenage boy with the Pokémon fetish was completely comfortable with his own niche sexual interests. The dad wrote in, after all, not the kid. (But if you’re a 23-year-old Pokémon fetishist and your dad routinely invaded your privacy when you were a teenager and heaped shame on you about your kinks, please write in with an update!) 

    But I have heard from people who, like you, weren’t comfortable with their own kinks, BBW, and desperately wanted to know what could be done. Most sex scientists and researchers agree with Bering: There’s really nothing you can do and masturbating to the porn that turns you on doesn’t “reinforce” your kinks. You can’t starve out your kinks by refusing to think (or wank) about them, BBW, and you can’t pray your kinks away anymore than I could pray my gay away. Embracing your kinks and exploring them with other consenting adults – or if your kinks can’t be realized for ethical reasons, enjoy them through solo or partnered fantasy play only – is the only realistic option.

    ““I think you should send him that package – but wear gloves while you pack it, don’t send it overnight (your scent will keep for a couple of days), and make sure your boyfriend immediately washes his hands after opening and discarding the package.”

    That said, some doctors have prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), aka antidepressants, to people who were uncomfortable with their kinks. Those drugs don’t selectively eradicate kinks, BBW, they crater a person’s libido. Taking SSRIs would mean sacrificing the vanilla sex you enjoy with your partner on the same altar with the kink that stresses you out. I can’t imagine you want to go down either of this route, BBW, which brings us back to embracing your kink and coming clean with your partner.

    The risk you run telling a partner about your kink is no doubt the forefront of your mind, BBW, because the consequences could be immediate, i.e. he might dump you. But not telling your partner about your kink – and leaving him to wonder why you can’t get off with him but have any trouble getting off alone – isn’t risk-free either. If he feels inadequate if he feels like you’re hiding something from him if he feels like he can’t satisfy you … he might dump you.

    So share your kink with your boyfriend, BBW, and kinks should always be presented as crazy and endearing – and potentially really fun – quirks, not as tragedies. You have a thing for big bellies, BBW, you don’t have leukemia. And you can explore your kinks without gaining weight or stuffing your partner until he does. A little big belly dirty talk could help you get off with your partner, BBW, and even the fittest person can push their tummy out and create the illusion of a rounded belly. Have fun!

    Q: My boyfriend and I live in San Francisco where we’ve been sheltering in place. We are unfortunately unable to shelter together, which means that we cannot have physical contact, especially since he lives with a parent who’s at heightened risk. (It’s not an option for him to stay with me for the duration.) We’re as frustrated about having to abruptly end the physical aspect of our relationship as you might expect. We go for (distanced) walks during the week, we talk every day, and we jerk off in front of webcams together, but that only goes so far. 

    I was thinking about giving him some of my worn panties for him to do whatever he wants with. My question is this: If I were to wash my hands and be cautious while putting together a pervy care package, is there much of a risk of spreading the virus around by doing this? I’m currently in good health, but I know that people can be infected but asymptomatic and we’re being really careful to keep both of our households as safe as possible. Can the virus be spread via pussy juice?

    – Very Aromatic Gift

    COVID-19 hasn’t been detected in vaginal fluids, VAG, so your pussy juice by itself doesn’t constitute a threat. But the virus, which is usually transmitted through the air (by people with the virus coughing, sneezing, or even exhaling), can survive for hours or days on different kinds of surfaces, including clothes. The virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard, VAG, which means it’s the package, not the panties, that are potentially a danger here. If the last person who handled your care package – think the UPS guy who dropped it on his porch – had COVID-19, your boyfriend could wind up exposing himself by touching the box and then his face before washing his hands. 

    But I think you should send him that package – but wear gloves while you pack it, don’t send it overnight (your scent will keep for a couple of days), and make sure your boyfriend immediately washes his hands after opening and discarding the package.

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