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Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 33-year-old gay male crossdresser in a BDSM D/s relationship with an older Daddy. We have what might be considered a typical Daddy/sissy relationship. We have been together a few years, we live together, and our kink dynamic is full-time. He has been wonderful. I feel safe with him, which is so important. He’s supported me as I’ve embraced my feminine feelings. We have regular BDSM sessions for a few hours that include restraints, paddling, whipping, canning, sensory deprivation, etc.
About four months ago, we had a very long, very intense session that lasted an entire weekend. During this session, I cried a few times, once for what I think was an extended period of time. I’ve cried a couple of times before during sessions, so this wasn’t new, but it did feel more intense. Since that session, I have cried a lot. I cry when we start a session and he puts me in restraints. I cry when I see him. I cry when he comes home. And so on.
Since that first long session, we’ve had two more like it. I wonder if that much crying is normal? I know some crying is, but I think I now cry excessively, and don’t know if it’s healthy. I love him, and he likes my crying, mostly—he says it’s a show of my love for him. But, what gives?
—The Town Cryer
Dear The Town Cryer,
It does sound like your waterworks are raging compared to your average sub’s, but crying is not at all unheard of in (and especially after scenes). Here’s a thread in r/BDSMcommunity, in which people discuss their experiences with crying during scenes. And of course, the concept of “subdrop” generally refers to the kind of emotional crash (that may or may not involve tears) after the play is done.
I think the real issue here is the feelings that accompany the crying. Do you have negative-associated feelings like depression or distress? Or is the crying more of a release? Crying can be triggered by many different emotions—from happiness to sadness—and sometimes it’s multiple feelings simultaneously. In fact, crying alone isn’t a great indicator of what’s going on inside. The authors of a 2018 paper, “The neurobiology of human crying,” which was eventually published in the journal Clinical Autonomic Research, point out:
… Theorists have attempted to stake out two seemingly opposing views of human crying: (1) crying as an arousing behavior that typically accompanies distress, or (2) crying as a soothing behavior that promotes the reduction of arousal after distress. However, unpacking the peripheral psychophysiology of crying is a complex issue given that it is a complex behavior with multiple components.
Thus, they write, “the overall pattern suggests that the production of tears is both an arousing distress signal and a means to restore physiological balance (and perhaps also psychological), depending on how and when this complex behavior is displayed.” And also: “Mood benefits of crying for the crier depend to a great extent on how observers react to the tears.”
In a 2021 Men’s Health article, it’s noted that “some scientists suggest that crying— sobbing especially—can be cathartic because taking in big breaths might increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system.” That experts generally qualify these assertions with conditional terms, though, shows how fuzzy our knowledge about crying really is.
However, it seems to be working for your partner. The question is whether it’s working for you. If the release feels good, I don’t think you should worry too much about the frequency—you aren’t putting on a show for others in which you’re expected to be stoic all the time. However, you should listen to your body—perhaps it’s telling you that you’re less comfortable with the kind of scenes you’re engaging in than you think. Try focusing on the underlying memories or body sensations that come up when you cry. Your tears aren’t necessarily a trauma response, but trauma responses can manifest in disproportionate or confusing emotional reactions to things that aren’t actually threatening (like a safe BDSM scene with a trustworthy partner that you enthusiastically consented to). If you’re triggering a trauma response, you probably will want to work on that alongside a professional. Use the tears as data and go from there.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a mid-40s gal who hasn’t had sex for eight years. Prior to that, I had lots of it in casual and short term situations, as well as a couple meaningful relationships, and I consider myself very sex-positive. I stopped getting it because I acquired HSV from my last partner. I live in a small town where everyone knows your business, and was previously (not anymore) in a public facing job where many people knew who I was. The idea of having to disclose my HSV status was too much for me to deal with, on top of understanding and accepting my own feelings about having friggin’ herpes. My doctor and the dude who gave it to me are literally the only two people on the planet who know.
As such, I have shouldered the burden of the stigma alone. I am fortunate that I don’t have regular outbreaks—I have only had three since being diagnosed, and the last one was in 2018. And while I used to imagine myself in a long-term relationship with children, I have come to appreciate my quiet solo life. I have no desire to date—it’s just too much work.
I wouldn’t mind putting some P in my V, though. Or to feel the weight of a man on top of me (SATC reference, anyone?). I just want some transactional sex! The problem is, I really don’t know how to go about it, nor do I know how to disclose my HSV status for one-time-only situations. I have been out of the game for so long that I don’t really know where to begin. I hesitate with hookup apps, though I realize they might be the easiest way for me to get back on the dick. I am stuck on how to navigate a sex life w/ a STI in a small town. Help me, I’m horny!
—Horny With Herpes
Dear Horny With Herpes,
The sucky thing here is that being ethical may not be a means to your end. Sometimes you get treated badly for being good. In many cases, herpes stigma hurts worse than the virus itself and, as a result, some choose not to disclose. A piece that ran on this very site last year pointed out a paradox at the heart of the shaming: Genital herpes is stigmatized, but far more common is oral herpes, about which disclosure mores are fairly lax. Last year, a writer to this column walked us through their rationale to not disclose and you know what? Points were made!
I still think that the ethical choice is to disclose, but given the typical symptoms’ lack of severity and the choice of many people who are infected to fly under the radar, I understand why people don’t disclose and can still sleep at night. This goes especially for the scenario you envision: With casual sex comes the tacit agreement of possible exposure. Someone who’s sexually free and chooses not to sleep with you because of herpes could then easily go on to sleep with someone who doesn’t know they have it or isn’t saying that they have it and, well, that’s the way casual sex goes.
Apps and bars that attract singles are going to be your best bet for finding partners, though you could also do so via hobbies, clubs, and other social functions. If you go the app route, I don’t recommend putting your diagnosis in your profile. Let people get to know you a little bit before you disclose. The more you can humanize yourself, the less likely you are to be rudely rejected as a walking virus container. I’m not saying that won’t happen even after hours of conversation, it’s just that time accrued will make some feel bad to be so dismissive. You could even wait until just before sex if it doesn’t come up in pre-meeting chats (that said, if someone asks you if you’re “DDF,” shorthand for “drug and disease free,” I think you are obligated to say then and there).
Consistent adherence to the prescription antiviral Valaciclovir will reduce the risk of transmission, as will condoms and dental dams. Suggest using them (and consider getting on Valaciclovir if you aren’t already). You may meet people who reject you anyway, and those who accept you (maybe even some who have HSV as well). You have to start somewhere, so give it a try and see how it feels. You may find that the kind of casual encounters you are after are actually too much hassle and you’re better off connecting with someone on a longer-term basis. This is your journey, so take it as slowly as you feel is necessary.
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Dear How to Do It,
I survived a big health scare and a long coma a few years ago. I was left partially paralyzed due to nerve damage, but I’ve recovered in many ways. Something that hasn’t recovered? My penis. It’s completely floppy and lifeless, and mostly feels nothing—even though I get plenty horny. Pills don’t work, and I’m nervous about the injections or surgery my urologist recommends. Despite this major bummer of a shlong, my girlfriend and I have an active sex life—I do what I can as best as I can.
My question: what can I do with a dangling dongle? God, I want to come with her. Or at least give her a more interactive time in bed. Any gear, techniques, or other suggestions?
—The Sun Also Rises
Dear The Sun Also Rises,
There are plenty of suggestions that could enhance your sex life that I’ll get to in a second, but I’d first like to urge you to consider your urologist’s suggestions. Your doctor knows better than you and I. I understand that injections and surgery are daunting, but if they’re going to help you in the long term, well, you already have the answer that you’re looking for. This stuff could improve your quality of life. Go back over it with your doctor and assess the risks.
Otherwise, I would like to refer you to a column that goes back to the first year that HTDI was operating. I interviewed sexual health educator Rafe Eric Biggs, who specializes in disabilities and is paraplegic, himself. The big takeaway, I think, is to expand your mind beyond orgasmic PIV being the be-all-end-all. Sex without orgasm can be extremely gratifying and, failing that, there’s more than one kind of orgasm to pursue. Biggs suggested looking into breath and energy orgasms via Barbara Carrellas’ book Urban Tantra. “Breath, imagination, and sound—work with those, and that can really increase the level of satisfaction when it comes to sex,” he said at the time. He also said that “pleasure-mapping,” or having your partner feel across your entire body to determine where sensation begins and ends, as well as what feels particularly good, is useful.
When I talked to Biggs, it had been 15 years since the injury that left him paralyzed, but he had regained sensation in his penis relatively recently—in the three or four years before our interview. It doesn’t happen with everyone who experiences paralysis, but it’s possible. Even before he regained sensation, though, he enjoyed the experience of intercourse on a visual level, as well as “the confidence that comes with knowing that you can get an erection.” If the injections you’re referring to are Trimix, well, the potential for this experience is what you’re missing out on by rejecting your doctor’s advice.
In terms of gear, you should lean into whatever you and your partner are already into. You could also look at harness-dildo combos for people with penises (you can check out some here in the ED section of this online store). There are also dildo harnesses made for thighs and faces if you want some variation there.
Incidentally, Biggs’ website Sexability, is a resource for sex with disability and he offers sex counseling via phone and Skype. There’s also the Sexuality and Disability Support Group on Facebook that Biggs moderates (or at least did at the time), which could provide you with even more guidance specifically tailored to your needs. Good luck!
I am the ongoing client of a professional escort. Over the three years I’ve known her, she’s shared her real name and much of her background. I respect her more than almost anyone I’ve ever met, and if I were 30 years younger, I’d be crazy in love with her. Here’s the problem: When she left for graduate school, she changed her working name and posted a Twitter and Tryst.link profile that clearly show her face, which she’d previously kept blurred. I think she is taking a horrible, unnecessary risk by doing that; one that could torpedo a promising career outside of sex work. I’m basically bankrolling her life—do I have any say over how she markets herself?