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Messed Up

Joe Newton

I recently discovered that my on-again/off-again boyfriend of ten years has been using online classifieds to schedule encounters with men. He creates posts when he’s out of town for work and he’s very specific about what he’s looking for. The acts are punitive in nature (but consensual) and he is always on the receiving end of these punitive activities. I wish to note that I am not someone who snoops. Rather, I am the sort of person who notices patterns of behavior and things suddenly come to me when I’m cooking or on a walk. Based on the secular community my boyfriend grew up in, I suspect that his anonymous activities are the result of some early childhood trauma. Based on the activities involved, I believe he was either abused or witnessed abuse while his brain was still developing and these activities — along...

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...s still developing and these activities — along with his chronic use of pot (on top painkillers and a couple of drinks each day) — are an unhealthy coping mechanism. I don’t judge him for the acts themselves, nor do I judge him for his sexuality. But I am not okay with his lying and cheating and I very much resent his haphazard attitude towards my sexual health. He refuses to talk with me about this and the silence is further eroding my trust, to say nothing of the plans we made for our future together. Since he won’t discuss it, I have no way of knowing if he’s sought help, as he has in the past with other issues. I’ve spoken with one trusted friend about this, but I have otherwise kept it to myself. I love him and that will never change. But now what? Boyfriend Troubling Secrets Here’s what you know: there’s something about punitive (“inflicting, involving, or aiming at punishment”) theatrics makes your boyfriend’s dick hard — presumably — and he’s been seeking out other men who share his kink for consensual encounters. And here’s what you don’t know: why these punitive activities, whatever they are (spanking? flogging? flossing?), make your boyfriend’s dick hard… if they make his dick hard… which they may not. Backing up for a second: While you claim to have intuited these facts about your boyfriend — the realization came to you while you were making soup or something — the details you’ve shared are waaaaaay too specific for this to be a mere hunch. It sounds like you suspected something was up and snooped on his computer or his phone. So, while you may not like to think of yourself as the kind of person who snoops, BTS, you are the kind of person who snoops. (The proof is in the snooping.) And snooping is always wrong… except when the person who snooped finds something they had a right to know about, e.g., massive debts, a secret second family, sexual risk taking that puts the snooper at risk, etc. So, if your boyfriend is engaging in sex acts that place your health at risk and/or doing things that violate the spirit of your on-again monogamous commitment, your snooping was justified — retroactively — and you have grounds for going off-again. But was your boyfriend doing anything that put your health at risk? If spanking and/or flogging and/or some other mystery form of punishment (kneeling on marbles? writing out lines? watching the Met Gala?) is all he’s been doing with other men — no sexual activities, just punitive ones — he wasn’t putting you at risk, BTS, and your boyfriend may have rationalized his deceit for that reason. He may also have been reluctant to tell you because he thought you wouldn’t understand… and it’s clear from your reaction that you don’t. The proof you don’t understand: the huge, pathologizing leap you made from, “My boyfriend likes being spanked by other men,” to, “My boyfriend must have been sexually abused before his brain was fully formed.” Your boyfriend might have a history of childhood sexual abuse — many men sadly do — but not all kinky men were abused and not all men who were abused are kinky. And while his use of substances is concerning, his substance abuse and his kinks aren’t necessarily linked. You have a legitimate beef with your boyfriend: He’s been lying to you, BTS, and if his meetups with other men involved more than punitive activities — if spanking and/or flogging was followed up by sucking and/or fucking — he put your health at risk and he owes you an explanation, an apology, and some lab work. (And you have a legitimate concern: your boyfriend’s substance abuse.) If you can keep the conversation focused on what he was doing, BTS, and stop making up shit up about why, he’s likelier to open up to you about the what and the why. I broke up with my ex in February after four years together and he didn’t take it very well even though I was as caring about it as possible. It had just become clear to me that we had totally different goals and visions for how we wanted to live our lives. He is coming back to town next week for work — his boss told me —and he’ll be here a week. I want to see him. Should I ask if he would be willing to meet for coffee or something? I want to know how he is doing and what his plans for the future are. I want to know he’s okay. But he refuses to talk to me. Maybe it’s still too soon? What do you think, Dan? Should I reach out or let him be? Wishing Him Well There’s only one thing — just one — that matters less than what you might want, WHM, and that’s what I might think. If your ex-boyfriend doesn’t want to see you right now, you don’t get to have coffee with him. And since I’m guessing your ex-boyfriend’s refusal to see you wasn’t unprompted — you’ve already reached out to him, he’s already told you to fuck off — you know how he feels about seeing you: he’s not into it. He might be devastated in the wake of your breakup, he might be doing just fine — either way, your ex-boyfriend is not obligated to make you feel better about your decision to end this relationship over coffee. If he changes his mind and wants to meet up and talk, you’ll hear from him. In the meantime, WHW, you’re gonna have to respect his expressed wants and needs: he wants you to fuck off, he needs you fuck off. P.S. What the fuck was his boss thinking?!? Employers shouldn’t be reaching out to their workers’ exes at all, much less sharing information with an employee’s ex about where he’s going to be and when! I’m a 33-year-old gay man emailing you because I have a kink that I enjoy but have always felt ashamed about. Earth-shattering, right? My kink is called “wet and messy” (WAM) and it involves getting covered head to toe in messy, gloopy substances. People who are into this usually have preferred substances; in no specific order my preferred substances are paint, mud, and pies. People enjoy WAM for a variety of reasons; some people like the humiliation aspect, but I just love the feeling of losing myself in the mess. It’s very primal and very freeing. I’ve done this with a couple of men I met through a website that caters to people who are interested in this, and I’ve even told my long-term boyfriend about it. He took it well and even offered to do it with me, but I shot him down. The problem is I feel ashamed about this on some level. I know it’s harmless, if a little weird, but I can’t shake the feeling of shame that keeps me from enjoying this part of my sexuality. I feel like I’ll be branded a freak forever if my boyfriend sees how much I enjoy this. This feels like as much of a struggle as coming out of the closet was. Any sage words? Getting Off On Pies I’ve talked with a lot of kinky gay men over the years — ahem — and more than one has described kink as their second coming out. That said, gay people who wanna come out to lovers and friends about kink have an advantage over straight people who wanna do the same: experience and perspective. However scary telling a lover about your kinks might seem, it’s a whole lot less scary than coming out to your parents about being gay; lovers that shame can be replaced, parents who shame are forever. As an openly gay person, GOOP, you already know how coming out as gay can improve your life and your relationships. Well, coming out as kinky has the power to improve your love life and your romantic relationships. So, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of exploring your kink with someone who cares about you and don’t deny your boyfriend the pleasure of giving you this pleasure. It doesn’t sound like he only offered because he doesn’t want you doing this with other guys — he’s not offering to grimly go through the motions to control you — but because he’s sincerely invested in your pleasure. And if your boyfriend is one of those guys who gets off on getting people off, letting him get you off will get him off too. And sometimes kinks are contagious, GOOP, even the “weird” ones: a guy gives his partner’s kink a try and something clicks and before you know it his boyfriend’s kink is his kink too. And your kink isn’t really that weird. While WAM, aka “gunging” and “sploshing,” isn’t my thing, I can easily wrap my mind around it. You find the sensation of paint, mud, and pies running down your skin arousing. Not for me! But easily understood! Additionally, you like being covered in gooey substances because it relieves you — temporarily — from the burden of being yourself. So, like a drone covered head-to-toe in rubber or a furry in a mascot costume or woman in a superhero outfit, you enjoy — from time to time — erasing and/or transforming yourself. What you find in goop, others find in rubber, fake fur, and Lycra. So, you are far from alone. If getting covered in slime gives you joy and doesn’t hurt anyone, take your GGG boyfriend’s yes for an answer! If you could learn to let go of the shame of being a cocksucker, you can let go of the shame of being a wet-and-messy player. Buy a kid’s pool, pick up a dozen pies at Costco, and tell your boyfriend you’re ready! Got problems? Email your question to Dan here! Or record your question for the Lovecast here! Follow Dan on Instagram and Threads @DanSavage. Follow Dan on BlueSky @DanSavage. HUMP! Part One is playing in cities across North America and Europe! Go to HUMP! 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