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I find that jokes are often a manifestation of a similar feeling to that of the grumbling. “Straight people jokes” more often than not flip the script on the expectations of how we talk about sexual orientation. They draw attention to the ways that queer folks are stereotyped or misunderstood by pointing out how absurd those same lines of reasoning are when applied to people whose identity is seen as the default rather than deviant. Laughing at messed-up ideas is in many ways a tool for people who are marginalized. It both diminishes the power of the idea by mocking it and allows some relief from all the unpleasantness that’s the result of that idea. Because sometimes the choice is between laughing at the ridiculousness of someone asking “who’s the man?” in a lesbian relationship or tearing your hair out in frustration. And many people prefer a good laugh to premature, self-induced baldness.

The latest from our “Sexualities in Color” series.


Illustrations from Scarleteen article DIY Sex Toys: Self Love Edition

You’re not happy in your romantic relationship, and you haven’t been for a while. You or the person you’re with is not getting what you want or need. Some big issues have been getting in the way of what used to be something good. However you got to this point, you’ve been starting to wonder if you should stick with this or move on, and you don’t know which to do. Sometimes, this can be an easy choice, like if you haven’t been in a relationship long, if it’s just really crap, or if you have an opportunity for something you think is going to be better.

But more times than not, we grapple with these decisions. We’ll often feel torn about which choice is going to hurt us or someone else more. We hear from many of our readers who, even when a relationship is downright awful and everything that can be tried to fix it has been tried, have a hard time letting go and leaving. No matter what choices we wind up making, facing any of them can be intimidating and we may get stuck in inaction because we’re afraid that whatever choice we make will be the wrong one.

"My partner and I have been dating for over a year now and have just begun to hit some rough patches. We used to have a lot of (what I thought was) really great sex. Then one day he told me that all that sex had been only mediocre for him. I was mortified and also ashamed because it felt like maybe he had never really want to have sex with me, he was just doing it because he knew I wanted to. Recently, he says that he might be asexual, but he isn’t sure. He’s trans and in the middle of transitioning, so he says his body is changing. He says masturbation ”works wonders” for him, and he feels no sexual desire for me whatsoever. I’ve researched a/sexual relationships - the options are 1) me learning to like masturbation - I do, but it’s not enough for me 2) him compromising to have sex, which reeks of non-consent and grosses me out 3) an open relationship, which isn’t an option for either of us. I’m sexual. I want to feel sexy and desired and to have sex and everything that goes along with it. But if he isn’t, what am I supposed to do? Right now the solution feels like I should just repress my libido so I won’t need to have sex any more, but I don’t even know if that’s possible. I’m at an age where I’m being told left and right to assert myself as a woman, as a sexual person, as a queer person - but it seems like all of that’s stopping now. If I’m not a sexual woman any more, I don’t even know if I can consider myself a woman. That’s right, this is potentially gender identity rocking for me. Please give me any and all advice. I’d appreciate it. - Sad, Confused, Terrified.”

Heather Corinna replies:

Before I say anything else, I want to address about those feelings of shame and inadequacy you had — from the sounds of it, are still having — when your partner told you his feelings about your sex life.

Someone feeling like their sexual life or interactions with someone else aren’t satisfying, or not feeling desire for them, doesn’t mean that other person is not performing or servicing the other person properly (and hopefully the ooky-way all of that even sounds will tip you off to how much it just isn’t the way to go), that the other person isn’t sexual anymore, isn’t “enough” per their sexuality or gender, or that something is wrong with them, period. How this person feels with all this is primarily about this person: not you.

And in this situation, particularly, it sounds to me like your partner has some stuff going on that you can’t — and shouldn’t try to — “fix” or change with any kind of sex you may have with them. He sounds to me like he’s clear that some of this is about where he’s at with his transition, as well as a possibility of him simply not having an interest in sex with others, period. Too, you also are in no way responsible for this person only telling you now how they feel about sex they have been engaging in with you the whole time this far along. Sometimes people fake interest or satisfaction in the sex that they’re having. That obviously stinks for everyone, including the person they’re doing that with, but even if a con isn’t the intent, in some ways, it’s like one in that the person being conned isn’t the person responsible for being conned: that’s on the person, even if their causes or reasons are something we can understand or feel sympathy for, doing the conning.

Too, it’s not like it’s unusual for one person to have sex and find it great, and the other person to feel lackluster about it. I know the ideal is that when we have great experiences, the other person is, too, but because we’re all different people, that just isn’t always going to happen. In fact, I’d say people being sexual together even one time and both feeling the exact same way about it is more uncommon than common. It is okay that you had what were great experiences for you that were only okay for the other person. And again, it’s not on you, and may not even be about you — unless you have been doing anything to keep your partner from feeling safe being honest, which I doubt, as that just doesn’t sound like the kind of person you are — that they withheld the truth from you.

I truly, deeply, hope you can start to let those feelings of shame or inadequacy go and eventually just pitch them in the rubbish bin full-stop. They’re not going to help you, they’re only going to bog you down and make you feel more crummy, scared and confused. They also are not likely to lead you to choices and solutions that do work for you.

That said, I agree that the options you’ve presented here are some options you have. I also agree that with the exception of opening up the relationship — which you make clear one or both of you won’t consider, so it’s a non-option if that’s how one or both of you feels — those options are stinkers. By all means, him agreeing to have sex he doesn’t want, with someone he’s made clear he feels no sexual desire for, is, as you seem to agree, totally not an option at all. Doing that is, I agree, questionably consensual, but it also is nearly guaranteed to make you both feel shittier, not better. You don’t want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you (and you and I seem to feel the same way about that, per that taking even the idea of sex with them off the table if they feel that way is a given). Someone can also like masturbation all they want, but that’s not going to change their desire for sex with a partner, nor does having sex on your own really speak to the fact that you are in a sexual relationship with someone else, one that doesn’t allow you any others, but one that can’t really be a sexual relationship anymore since one person in it’s made clear they feel no desire to have that kind of relationship with you anymore, and even when they did, it wasn’t a good fit for them.

There is, however, another option you didn’t include: splitting up….

"Do you feel reluctant to put your limits out there because you have the idea being clear about not wanting sex means you’re a prude, sexually shackled or repressed? If so, please know that kind of awareness, assertiveness, self-care and self-determination is anything but.

Concepts of “sexual repression” or “sexual liberation,” are not universally defined, but are very arbitrary and personal. These aren’t things we can soundly just assign to people, nor things that we can know anything about just based on whether someone does or doesn’t want to have sex. Much like words for sexual orientation or gender, these are words best and most accurately expressed only by someone about themselves, based on their own feelings, experiences and introspection.

I think being as clear and strong about a sexual no as a yes is strong evidence someone is sexually liberated and empowered, not repressed. It’s people who do not (yet!) feel sexually empowered who feel they can’t say no. Someone who feels empowered sexually is usually someone who’s good at advocating for themselves in what they want and don’t, and at setting whatever limits and boundaries they have. Someone who feels sexually empowered tends to take real ownership of their own sexual wants, don’t-wants, needs and choices.

Liberation, of any kind, is centered in freedom, and freedom is centered in people having the power, ability and right to make their own choices. Empowerment is about a real feeling of power and agency in our own lives. So, if and when you want to opt out of sex or a sexual relationship, know that holding to that limit, regardless of what someone else wants from you, is something that supports liberation and empowerment, not something that opposes it.

By the way, some people choose to reclaim and use the word “prude” to express part of who they are without feeling crummy about it, just like some people do with “slut.” The origin of that word goes back around four centuries, originally meaning “woman who affects or upholds modesty in a degree considered excessive.” This may sound familiar: just like the word “slut,” it’s a term based in other people’s own standards, ideas and wants about other people as a whole and their sexuality — and what they consider too much or too little for someone else. It’s not about someone’s own ideas and standards about themselves, which is what we support with people’s sexual lives if we want them to be healthy and beneficial. You may find it’s powerful for you to reclaim terms like prude, swapping them from being something people use to try and control the sexuality of others into something you feel represents the sexuality you want. Who knows, maybe SuperPrude! is exactly the kind of identity that will help you flip the bird at people who doesn’t respect you for making your own choices, and feel like just the thing to support you in sticking to what it is you want.”

More here:

Gabbii777 asks:

I’m wondering what a good age to have a ‘relationship' is? I'm 13 and I've sort of began to have stronger attractions both emotionally and physically to boys. I'm not sure if I'm ready for a relationship and I'm scared that if it doesn't work (for example, if I'm frigid or something) it will ruin our friendship. I know it's not much of a big deal but I just want some help and reassurance.

Heather Corinna replies:

Hooray for thinking about what you might want or feel ready for in intimate or dating relationships before you pursue them! So often people just kind of passively fall into relationships and only then try and figure what they want and need. It’s not impossible to do it that way, and there are some things we can’t sort out until we’re actually in something. But taking the time to first get a general sense of what you want, need and feel okay about before getting into relationships is a much better foundation for good relationships you feel good about.

Getting into intimate relationships is a big deal. Same goes with choosing to start a brand new and complex area of your life. You don’t need to say it isn’t a big deal. You know it is — and I agree! — which is why you are asking what you are and have the concerns you do.

There really isn’t any good age (or bad age) for any given kind of relationship in a general way, because age is only one part of that and because people of even just one age — like 13 — are still so different.

A certain kind of relationship might feel just right for one person who’s 13, and so wrong for another person who is 13. You might find that dating one person feels like it’s not right for you at all, but dating someone else feels like the most perfect thing of ever, because who we’re in a relationship with, how we feel about them and and ourselves within that relationship and the whole context of our lives, and what that particular relationship is like is most of what determines, at any age, if a romantic or sexual (or any!) relationship feels right. When I say feels right, I mean that emotionally, we feel good about our relationships, our choices and actions in them; good about ourselves within the relationship, and what goes on in that relationship is what we truly want and also know we capable of dealing with and managing.

Read the rest here

A relationship doesn’t need to be perfect or blissful 24/7 to be healthy or happy, and won’t ever be, because people aren’t perfect or blissed out every waking minute, and relationships are made of people.

Conflicts, disagreements and problems do and will happen. We also won’t always get everything we want or need all the time. People change over time, so something that worked once, or worked one way once, won’t always stay working or keep feeling right, especially if the relationship doesn’t change and grow along with us.

Some relationships stay great despite the occasional problem or hiccup, even a big one now and then. Others won’t survive even little issues or will always have more conflict than harmony. Some conflicts can be managed and resolved while staying in a relationship; others can’t, won’t or maybe even shouldn’t be, like if people want and need very different things. Some relationships are worth staying in and working through conflict, while staying in others may not be worth the energy and time, or may hurt everyone more by staying than by parting ways.

Deciding if it’s best to stay or go can be a hard choice, but certain dynamics or feelings make clear a relationship is either likely to be worthwhile and good or likely to be crummy, a poor place to keep investing energy and will probably crash and burn, no matter what.

We can offer some help with that.