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Struggle Session: Dan’s Too Mean, Dan’s Too Nice, Dan’s Just Right — And More!

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The burning question of the week: Was I too hard on WORSE? He’s the 40-something straight guy who was upset to discover that the 21-year-old woman he’d just fucked was actually 16- or 17-year-old girl. His letter opened this week’s Savage Love, and there’s a roaring debate — in the comment thread and on Instagram — about whether I was too hard on WORSE or not hard enough.

Not hard enough says Gee

No sympathy for WORSE....

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...k’s Savage Love, and there’s a roaring debate — in the comment thread and on Instagram — about whether I was too hard on WORSE or not hard enough. Not hard enough says Gee… No sympathy for WORSE. While I suppose simply hooking up with someone 20+ years younger is not uncommon, my question is WTAF do you talk about? There are no points of reference. If you ask someone, “Where were you on 9/11?”, and they respond, “How should I know what I was doing last September?”, how do you engage on an emotional level? Someone might call me out for being ageist or say something along the lines of “love knows no age” but that’s bullshit. As a therapist in practice for over twenty years, I’ve yet to see a happy April-May-June & December relationship. This week alone I’ve been befuddled by two separate cases with age gaps of 25+ years. I feel like shaking these people and saying “What did you expect?” There are exactly six years between my spouse and myself and many of these issues have shown up in our marriage, especially as we’ve aged with one working and the other retired. Only six years and we are at such different places in life! Do happy couples see therapists? And are therapists with preconceived notions/prejudices about age-gap relationships predisposed to see an age gap as the source of the problem when something else might be wrong? (Therapists are not immune to confirmation bias.) Now, I may have a bias here myself, seeing as my husband is seven years younger than I am and my boyfriend is 22 years younger than I am. Weirdly, the subject of where we all were on 9/11 rarely comes up (my husband was at home with me, my boyfriend — whom I hadn’t yet met — was in middle school), but we still have plenty to talk about. And while shared references are great, being with someone whose reference points are different has its moments, too. Okay, back to WORSE… S.O., via Instagram, let me know I was too hard on him… I agree with those who think you were a little too harsh with this guy. I’m actually quite surprised that this was your response. As someone who has defended age-gap relationships in the past, I would have thought you would be more “understanding.” I am mostly against age-gap relationships because of situations like the writer’s. I would imagine that this man has encountered women over the age of 21 who look much younger than they are, and if this girl was a good enough liar and looked older, I can see how he could fall for it. According to Ben, I wasn’t too hard or too soft… You were right, Dan. If you’re in your 40s and the people you date are young enough that there’s a chance they could be older teens, you have 100% of the responsibility. This could have been much worse — his only consequence is his own conscience, which should be his cue to change. Too hard, actually, says Bouncing… Okay, I’m joining the “WORSE, we actually pretty much DO all have sympathy for you” chorus, and I think Dan should let WORSE know that there are a lot of people in this comment thread who, even with a variety of opinions, have sympathy for him and in fact care about him — because I’m sure WORSE had already imagined that everybody on Earth in 2023 would be rushing to castigate/cancel him, even before Dan put that thought into his head. WORSE, if you’re reading this, the most important fact I think you should know is: You’re not alone. MOST people I know who use apps have at some point found themselves talking to a person who claimed to be old enough to be on the apps but actually wasn’t. Not too hard, says HangOnToYourself… Nope. Your wisdom is intact. “Raise the fucking floor,” indeed. And over on BlueSky… Thumper was surprised by how hard I came down on WORSE, Jesse pointed out that there’s no un-fucking that teenager (but there is making sure something like that doesn’t happen again), and Grunion agreed that WORSE needs to “raise the floor.” Confession time! I wanted to respond to WORSE’s letter the moment I read it. Not because I wanted to beat him up, but because I genuinely felt bad for him. Which I think this paragraph in my response makes pretty clear: And while there isn’t a lot of sympathy for straight guys who accidentally fuck teenage girls, if things went down the way you described them, WORSE, and you had sex you wouldn’t have consented to if you hadn’t been misled… then you have a right to feel violated. “Rape by deception,” obtaining someone’s consent to sex under false pretenses, is a hotly debated area of law, and cases likes yours — much older men fucking teenage girls — aren’t usually cited by advocates for making “rape by deception” a crime. But you were deceived, your consent was obtained under false pretenses, and you were violated. I felt pretty bad for WORSE… but you had to read between the lines to see it. I said there wasn’t a lot of sympathy for straight guys in his shoes “out there,” I didn’t say there was no sympathy for him in the room where I sat alone writing my response; I said very few people would see him as the victim, I didn’t say I didn’t see him as the victim, etc. So, if I felt bad for WORSE and wanted to help him, why did I frame my advice for WORSE the way I did? Bouncing nailed it (and me) in his response: I was worried everybody on Earth 2023 would rush to castigate/cancel me if I was too nice to a forty-something straight dude who fucked a teenage girl. So, I leaned into — I centered — the negative reaction I assumed some/most people would have to WORSE and downplayed (to the point of omitting) the sympathy I felt for him. Another issue raised by WORSE’s question: teenagers who look much older than they are. (Indeed, teenagers who pass for 21 was something I raised in my response.) Says D. via Instagram… I was 35 when I met a woman who acted and looked like the 23-year-old woman she said she was. She had a professional job in an office and an I.D. for when she got carded. After sleeping with her three times, she passed out drunk at a party and her best friend came to find her. That’s when I found out she was 16. Technically legal, but definitely not what I was looking for. So, I know how this guy feels. Says IS… I’ve known guys who started balding in their teens, or started to gray by early 20s. I went through four years of college with a woman who strangers thought was too young to drive. So, it’s not surprising that someone could get an age wrong, especially when the other party was actively trying to deceive them. Says Reality Bites… I used to work for a company where one of our trainers picked up a young employee (15 or 16) at a company wedding. They didn’t know each other. He was over 6 feet tall, hairy chest, deep voice and was already going bald. No one meeting him would ever take him for younger than mid-20s. Says John K… I once had an employee who was 17 and could easily pass for 30. I attributed it to her already having a multipack a day habit and that she started smoking at 12. In a world with tall, hairy-chested, balding sixteen-year-old boys and gravel-voiced, nicotine-stained seventeen-year-old girls in it… what’s the best way to avoid sleeping with someone who’s too close to the age of consent for comfort? A lot of people in the comments suggested carding all new sex partners just to be safe — and if you don’t have it in you to card a new sex partner, take them out for a drink and let the bartender card them for you. A caller on the Savage Lovecast was upset about what she was learning about her father from his porn collection… which it fell to her to dispose of after his death. Says @TyroneWalden on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter… Given some of your recent answers about parents oversharing/boundary crossing with adult children, similarly, it’s a good idea for aging parents to make sure that things their kids wouldn’t want to see are trashed before they pass away. After my parents died, I found out that they were problem gamblers, from information relayed to me and from personal effects I received after they passed, and I didn’t need to know any of that. Learning that your parents were problem gamblers has to be upsetting — especially if they burned through an inheritance you were counting on — but it can’t be as mortifying as sorting through your parents’ porn or discovering your mom’s dildo collection or disposing of your dad’s bondage gear. A new dad with triplets called in to complain that his nipples were so raw that he can’t get any enjoyment from them. He’s not breastfeeding — imagine how much worse things are for mom — but his three infants have powerful little hands and they’re always grabbing at and twisting his nips. Cara offered some reassurance on Instagram… For the parent on Episode 875 with the grabby triplets: Tape your nipples with plasters (you call them bandaids over there) and you can safely wear a t-shirt again without those nubs tempting those tiny hands. This is what some mums who have nipple-twiddling breastfeeders do. Oh, and don’t worry about the loss of enjoyment in nipple stimulation. The joy will return once those tiny humans stop being so attached to your body. For nearly two years I was at the point of shouting at my partner if he went near my nips. Six months out from the end of breastfeeding and they are fully back in play! A recent caller to the Lovecast didn’t know what to do — she didn’t know what to say — after meeting up with a man in person  and realizing 1) the pics he’d sent her were old and 2) he’d gained a lot of weight since they were taken. She wondered if sending out of date, inaccurate, or unrepresentative pics was a form of catfishing. Says Andrew… Important to delineate the TWO issues. 1) The guy lied, and 2) he is fat. Caller frames the problem as 1), but I ask her to reflect on whether that is the real issue. If he’d shown up bottle blond, would it be a problem? No. Which means her issue is 2), and she should be honest with herself about that. Okay, sure. The caller might wanna reflect on her fatph0bia. We should all reflect on our fatphobia. But the guy who sent the caller skinny pics needs to reflect on his own fatphobia. What is he saying about himself — what is he saying about fatness — when he doesn’t share accurate photos? About the same call, DJGeeJ says it wasn’t catfishing. It was something worse… Catfishers never intend to meet their catch. In the case of your caller, the way-out-of-date-pictures guy is COUNTING on the fact that she won’t say anything because she’s too nice or doesn’t want to seem shallow. It’s a shitty manipulative thing to do. Sometimes people fuck people they don’t wanna fuck to avoid the awkwardness of rejecting someone. Sometimes people knowingly send out dated or unrepresentative photos in hopes of getting in the room with someone who will fuck them to avoid the awkwardness of rejecting them. My Facebook followers also weighed in with suggestions of how to address this. Says Anna… The inability to be honest about the change… the using old pictures to “trick” someone… is a much bigger turn-off than the weight. He may be in denial about the change or at least be understandably sensitive about it… but what other things does he feel it’s his right to lie (fib, deny) about? Cheryl thinks she can soften the truth… This definitely happens. I would generally just say, “Thank you for the date, but I just don’t think we have chemistry. Take care.” If you really feel you want to make a point of it, you can add, “You might want to think about updating your pics.” Jay thinks this calls for the Campsite Rule… For those that are saying you don’t need to say why, you should remember Dan’s campsite rule: leave it as good or better than you found it. By being honest for the reason for rejection, he may change his picture and be more upfront for the next person. He may not even realize it’s an issue. So, a caller on this week’s show really, really wants to suck her husband’s cock to completion and swallow his load — and he really, really wants her to — but the caller really, really hates the taste of cum, and she’s really, really sure she’ll puke in her husband’s lap if she lets him come in her mouth. I had some suggestions for her — and, yes, “go ahead and puke in his lap” was one of them — but Chet had a better one… Have him wear a condom! Find the most sensitive/thinnest one, get some fun flavored lube, make it a whole thing. It’ll barely make a difference for him but it could totally be a game-changer for the caller. Your recommendation of Lorals for the cake girl was spot-on, Dan, so I was surprised you didn’t give this similar solution for this couple. After all, what’s good for the moose is good for the member! As someone who used condoms for oral during the 1980s… as perhaps the only gay man out there who used condoms for oral sex into the 1990s… it’s not great. Sucking on a latex-covered cock, even if the cock is covered in very thin latex, doesn’t have the same mouthfeel. And being sucked with a condom on… also doesn’t feel as good. It can work, of course, meaning you can get someone off during oral with a condom on — but it requires a pumping fist. It’s less blowjob and more handjob. (All blowjobs are part handjob, of course, but a blowjob with a condom is majority handjob.) Also, people have been trying to make flavored condoms happen for a long time and… they’re not going to happen. Maybe if they brought out a line of Timothée Chalamet or Tom Holland flavored or Idris Elba flavored condoms, flavored condoms might happen. But we’ve tried strawberry and cherry and watermelon and on and on…  and they aren’t happening. (The moose?) Another satisfied customer… Thank you, Dan! Your considered description of the bisexual male experience to the caller who assumed her boyfriend is really gay was spot on. As a bisexual man who grew up in an evangelical Christian house in the 1970s, I can tell you there’s tons of shame and fear when you realize that you’re into all the bodies. And being able to say it out loud and be met with acceptance and support is such a relief. Thank you for highlighting our experience in such an elegant manner. Speaking of dildo collections, a caller on this week’s Lovecast was concerned when her friend found out a 14-year-old neighbor was running around town stealing women’s sex toys as well as credit cards. The caller wasn’t sure how her friend should handle this. Call the police? Talk to him with his mom? My Facebook followers were equal parts horrified and protective — protective of both the caller’s friend and the boy. Says Ramona… I would say the caller isn’t equipped to help in this situation. I would ask the mom if she feels equipped, if she has enough support and also suggest she join a group called “changes” if she hasn’t already. I say this because the mom sounds like she’s out of her depth and needs support in next steps, and next steps are needed and it’s really tricky. A child this age can be helped depending on the issues, but tbh there isn’t a huge amount of good reasonably priced help, and by the credit card spending I’d say they are probs also experiencing poverty. Says Caro… He’s 14, don’t call the police. That goes triple if he’s a POC. Parental chat and maybe therapy? Don’t put a 14-yr-old in the system. Says Dave… There’s an argument to be made to allow the parents to handle the sex toy stealing behavior and get him into counseling, and yes this should happen regardless. My sympathy for the kid ends with the stealing and using of the credit card — that’s just straight-up theft for monetary gain and has nothing to do with shaming or not shaming him for his sexually-motivated activities. And finally… this came in via Instagram… Are you aware that there’s a bicycle seat company called GGG? I chuckled and thought of you when I riding behind one on Venice Beach! Everyone knows the best rides are GGG — but who knew there was a bike company out there making GGG rides?!? (They’re called 3G Bikes, and they make a lot more than just bike seats. I want a t-shirt!) Before you go, we’re bringing an expert onto the Lovecast to chat about navigating sex while sober. If you have a sex-and-sobriety Q, send it in now:

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