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Struggle Session: Varsity Level Kinks, Incomplete STI Screenings, Murderous Fantasies, and More!

On Thursdays I respond to comments, emails, DMs, and tweets from readers and listeners. Struggle Session posts are exclusively for Magnum Subs. So, if you’re already one of my Magnum Subs, THANK YOU and read on! If you’d like to become one of my subs — which gets you access to the Magnum Lovecast (more guests, more calls, no ads), the Maxi Savage Love column (more Qs, more As), the Sex & Politics podcast, Struggle Session, and Savage Love Live — subscribe here!

This week’s Struggle Session — which I can never use the initialism for because that would be bad — is going to be a little shorter than usual, as Beyoncé is playing in Seattle tonight and I have two VEH (“very excited homos”) to help get out the door.

Austin, via the bxd plxce, asks…

I wanted to listen to the episode that I seem to remember you did where the guest talked about how to tailor your diet to help...

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...ia the bxd plxce, asks… I wanted to listen to the episode that I seem to remember you did where the guest talked about how to tailor your diet to help one be more ready for anal without the need for fasting in advance. Was that a thing I remember correctly? You’re thinking of my interview with Alex Hall from The Bottoms Digest, which was on Episode 843 of the Savage Lovecast. Also via the bxd plxce, Steven asks… Can I please get a definitive definition of what “varsity level” means? Been hearing it from you for so long that I just realized now that it’s next to undefined and googling the term didn’t help as it all seemed to lead back to YOUR usage. Help! I’ve long used “varsity level” to refer to kinks with a high degree of difficulty — meaning, kinks that can be physically or emotionally risky. (And judging from Steven’s fruitless googling, I’m apparently the only one who uses “varsity level” this way.) Putting a dog collar on someone and leading them around on a leash? Anyone can play. Suspending someone? Varsity level. Some strictly literal and/or descriptive dirty talk? Anyone can play. Brutally degrading dirty talk that makes someone feel sexybad before, during, and after but doesn’t make them feel badbad before, during, or after? Varsity. Fingering? Anyone can play. Fisting? Varsity. Spanking? Anyone can play. Single-tail whipping? Varsity. A reader recently suggested I might want to retire “varsity level” (for reasons) and another reason suggested “double-black diamonds” instead (also for reasons), and I actually thought was a great idea — and said so in Struggle Session. But old habits die hard and I’ve gone right on referring to things like CBT and DP as “varsity-level” kinks. But thanks to your question, Steven, I’m going to make an effort to start using “double-black diamonds” instead. Says Kent Tisher via Instagram… Dan, you missed a trick this week on the chlamydia question. A lot of medical providers don’t test for anal or throat gonorrhea or chlamydia (which requires a separate test, and is more likely to be asymptomatic). It’s an entirely plausible scenario that the caller picked up genital chlamydia from one of their partners’ throats, and then when they partner “got tested,” they only had their genitals checked. In this scenario, the person with the throat chlamydia still has it, but thinks they are not infected because the wrong test was done. Unless the provider is taking a detailed sexual history and asking what you did, they don’t have enough information to order the right tests. For the record: Kent is a palliative care doc (and an opera singer!) and I’m a lowly theater major (and a musical theater queen), so Kent knows what he’s talking about here and I so appreciate — no snark — Kent sharing his expertise. In my defense: I’ve pointed out a million times that people can have chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in their throats and/or butts; additionally, people with oral and anal STIs are much less likely to have the kind of symptoms that prompt them to seek treatment and can unknowingly pass an infection. If I was going to assign the blame for this error to anyone — we live in blame-assigning times —  I would blame my awesome gay doctor: When he does STI screenings, everything get tested: junk, butt, throat. I’ve been seeing him for so long that when the caller said her partners all got tested, I just assumed their docs tested them the way my doc tests me. But as Kent (and others) wrote in to point out, that’s not always the case. Coolie thought my advice for VOID in this week’s Savage Love was solid… LW1: “But what if things don’t get better? What if this is it? Are you willing to stay in this relationship, as-is, for the rest of your life?” Very good advice here — sometimes it DOESN’T get better. I’m sure we’ve all been there. I ended a 30 year marriage because it didn’t get better. It took asking myself these very questions AND my Dad nearly dying to realize the clock is ticking. I didn’t want to waste anymore precious time waiting for it to get better. And you know what? After leaving it DID get better — much, much better. This email came in for the dad who was freaked out about his kids listening to — and enjoying — ASMR recordings: What Dan said about calming the fuck down? 100%. ASMR is a sensory thing. Do some sensory things also have sexual components? Sure. But not all do. Did he never rub his kids backs as they were going to sleep? Or play with their hair? It’s the same sensation. Also though, he needs to acknowledge the fact that his kids ARE sexual beings,  especially pre-teens/teenagers. The disgust in his voice was concerning. I get that some parents get weirded out thinking about their kids and sex. But his puritanical attitudes around something that isn’t even a sex thing makes me worried about what kind of sex education they ARE getting in his home. Says Jen: About the ASMR — Dan I fully agree with your answer. I just want to share a fun little experience I have every night with my daughter, who uses these videos to fall asleep. I’m 100% sure she’s not seeing what I’m seeing. (This one goes out to the dykes in the crowd, starting about 10 seconds in. You’re welcome!) My Facebook followers agreed the caller should relax. Says Jeremiah…  Our doomed society can’t separate pleasure from sexuality. ASMR is like opium without the smell. It has been a great help managing anxiety. Let the kids relax, y’all. They have anxiety, too. Fiona takes it a step further… I’d rather teach my kids that satisfaction and pleasure are perfectly normal sensations. Why do we have to package it up with shame? Last week I took a call from a woman in an online-only BDSM relationship who was a little freaked out when her (again: online-only) master’s storytelling took a turn towards snuff, er, “play.” Is he a bad person? Should she be freaked out? Does she need to block him? My Facebook followers had a variety of takes. Bee isn’t concerned… This happens with dark edge play sometimes. If the aftercare is good and efforts are made to repair the rupture, I don’t see the concern. But Amon is… I don’t care if this is fantasy. I happen to believe that fantasy becomes reality sooner or later. Fantasy = thoughts = action. Now, I’m just as open-minded as anyone but when violent fantasy reaches a certain level of brutality it becomes psychopathy. It’s not healthy. It’s not harmless. It’s not love. Miranda thinks contradiction between kink and real life exists… My fantasies generally involve torture, dismemberment, and death. But my real life play ends at heavy bruising. I consider myself to be pretty healthy emotionally. Responding to Amon here: Considering the amount of murder and torture porn people consume every day — murder podcasts, murder documentaries, TV shows about serial killers, Saw movies, Hostel movies, horror movies, Game of Thrones, and on and on and on — I don’t believe a fantasy-to-thoughts-action pipeline exists. If it did, real life would look like a Purge sequel… and real life does not look like a Purge sequel. Still, I definitely think a sex partner fantasizing aloud about killing you is cause for concern, and the caller had every right to be concerned. But it’s too simplistic to say that someone who fantasized or fantasizes about something horrible will inevitably do that horrible thing. Always nice to hear from a satisfied customer: Denver STAN via email… Hey, Faggot! (Sorry for the old moniker!) Anyway, some married hetero friends recently opened up their relationship & started coming to me for advice. I just wanted to tell you that the majority of my advice is a regurgitation of your “Savage Love“ columns. Your advice has helped me immeasurably for its focus on communication between partnered & (more recently,) non-partnered people alike. I think that my ability to speak in a frank & caring way about sex & relationships has been SO heavily influenced by your intelligent & compassionate advice. You’ve given me a vocabulary! Thank you for being a terrific and tremendous teacher! You’re welcome, Denver STAN. and thank you for the very sweet email! Says El Dorko via Blue Sky… I don’t know who needs to hear this… ok, yes I do. It’s @dansavage.bsky.social who needs to hear this: Asterix is a French comic book character. Asterisk is a punctuation mark. Hey, leave DVE alone! (DVE = “Dan’s Vernacular English,” a dialect in which vulnerable only has one L and “risible” can be pronounced in six different ways.) And finally… our muppet-faced boy of the week.

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