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Fun sex is healthy sex

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Why isn’t that on the curriculum?

by Lucia O’sullivan

Damn—we forgot to teach our kids how to have fun sex.

Most news covers the sex lives of young people in terms of hookups, raunch culture, booty calls and friends with benefits. You might think that young people have it all figured out, equating sex with full-on, self-indulgent party time.

Despite my decades as a researcher studying their intimate lives, I too assumed that the first years of consensual partnered sex were pleasurable for most, but got progressively worse over time. How else to explain the high rates of reported by adults? I was wrong.

Our research at the University of New Brunswick shows that young people (16 to 21 years) have rates of sexual problems comparable to those of adults. This is not just a matter of learning to control ejaculation timing or how best to have an orgasm. Their sex lives often start out poorly and show no improvement over time. Practice, experience and experimentation only help so much.

This project came to be after a former colleague at my university’s health centre told me that many complained of pain from vulvar fissures (essentially tearing) from intercourse. The standard of care is to offer lubricant, but she began to ask: Were you aroused? Was this sex you wanted? They would look at her blankly. They had been having sex without interest, arousal or desire. This type of tearing increases a young woman’s risk of STIs, but also alerted my colleague to a more deep-seated issue: Was sex wanted, fun and pleasurable?

What emerged from our first study was verified in our larger study: Low desire and satisfaction were the most common problems among followed by erectile problems. Trouble reaching orgasm, low satisfaction and pain were most common among young women.

Was this a select group? No. Overall, 79 per cent of young men and 84 per cent of young women (16-21 years old) reported one or more persistent and distressing problems in sexual functioning over a two-year period.

Parents focus on disaster

Despite what you might think from their over-exposed social media bodies, today’s youth start sex later and have fewer partners than their parents’ (and often their grandparents’) generation did. A recent U.S. national survey found that young people have sex less often than previous generations.

Did years of calamity programming in the form of “good touch/bad touch,” “no means no,” and “your condom or mine” take a toll? Perhaps that was intended as so much of our programming is designed to convince young people of the blame, pain and shame that awaits them in their sexual lives. If we really believe that young people are not supposed to be having sex (that it should just be reserved for adults in their reproductive years and no others, thank you), it might as well be unpleasant, dissatisfying or painful when young people have sex, right?

Young people are over-stressed, over-pampered and over-diagnosed. They are also under-resourced for dealing with challenges in their sexual lives. This is how a bad sex life evolves.

Parents make efforts to talk to their children about sex and believe they get their messages across. Yet, their children typically report that parents fail to communicate about topics important to them, such as jealousy, heartbreak, horniness and lack of horniness. Parents’ messages are usually unidirectional lectures that emphasize avoiding, delaying and preventing. Young people dismiss these talks, especially in light of media portrayals of sex as transformative and rapturous.

Sex in Canada’s schools

Canada’s schools deliver fairly progressive sex education across the provinces. But they do not resemble the comprehensive approaches offered in countries such as The Netherlands and Switzerland. Those countries have teen pregnancy rates as low as 0.29 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19. Canada’s rate is 1.41 per cent, far higher than many European countries (such as Italy, Greece, France and Germany) but consistently lower than the United States. Thankfully.

These rates are a general metric of youth sexual health and key differences in the socialization and education of young people. They reflect the extent to which we are willing to provide a range of sexual information and skills to young people. More progressive countries reinforce messages that sex can be a positive part of our intimate lives, our sense of self, our adventures and connection. Young people in those countries have healthier and happier sexual lives. They know how to enjoy sex while preventing infections and unwanted pregnancy.

Many countries, including Canada, are swayed by a vocal minority who strongly believe that teaching young people about the positive components of sexuality will prompt unhealthy outcomes, despite all evidence to the contrary. When parents and educators fail you, and peers lack credibility, where else are you to turn?

Porn – lessons in freak

Enter porn. Young people turn to porn to find out how things work, but what they learn is not especially helpful. Porn provides lessons in exaggerated performance, dominance and self-indulgence. The relationships are superficial and detached. Producers rely heavily on shock value and “freak” to maximize viewer arousal, distorting our understanding of what is typical or common among our peers.

Of course young people turn to porn to find out how sex happens. It’s free, easily accessible and, for the most part, private. One young man in our interviews said, “I learned a lot about what goes where, all the varieties from porn, but it’s pretty intimidating. And, I mean, they don’t look like they’re loving it, really loving it.”

Our research makes painfully clear how few messages young people have learned about how to have fun, pleasurable, satisfying sex. They may seem self-indulgent to you, but then nobody took on the task of saying, “Sex should be fun, enjoyable and a way to connect. Let’s talk about how it all works.”

Fun sex as safe sex

Did anyone teach you these lessons? A friend and esteemed fellow researcher told me that he learned how sex worked by viewing his dad’s porn magazines. The only problem was that in his first sexual encounter he did not realize that there was movement involved.

Without a platform of positive communication with our youth about sexuality, and specifically about how sex unfolds and can brighten life and improve health and well-being, there is no room for them to address new challenges in the sexual realm. The World Health Organization’s alarming report of the rise of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea, for instance, will sound like another dire warning from an endless stream. Nobody is consistently motivated by threats.

We must talk to young people about how to have fun sex. This will help to offset the chances that struggling with problems in their sexual lives now will develop sexual dysfunctions and relationship strain that distress so many adults. These lessons will arm them with the information and skills required to keep them safe and to seek effective solutions when problems emerge. Best of all, they will be healthier and happier now and as adults as a result.

Complete Article HERE!

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A new way to love: in praise of polyamory

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Polyamory isn’t monogamy and it isn’t swinging, it’s being open to having loving relationships with different people of different sexes at the same time, and in that way learning to love yourself, too

‘It’s like any normal relationship, except with more time management’: Elf Lyons.

By Elf Lyons

I have never enjoyed typical monogamy. It makes me think of dowries and possessive prairie voles who mate for life, and historically all monogamous relationship models have owned women in some way, with marriage there for financial purposes and the ownership of property.

For the last few years I’ve defined myself as a polyamorist. Friends before defined me as a “friendly philanderer”. I love to kiss people. Friends usually, or women who wear polo-necks. Polyamory is consensual non- monogamy. It’s a philosophy. Rather than the active pursuing of multiple partners in a lascivious way, it’s the embracing and understanding that it’s possible to fall in love, and have relationships, with more than one person at the same time.

Alongside developing CEO-worthy skills in multitasking, polyamory is the most empowering way of loving that I have encountered. It gives women more autonomy than other relationship models ever have. Although monogamous relationship models work for many, they’re not the only way to have relationships in society. In non-monogamous relationships, their success relies on everything being on the table from the start. I believe that it could be the huge relationship revolution that the feminist movement needs.

Many think it’s about sex – it’s not. It’s not swinging. It’s not Pokémon Go, you don’t have to catch them all. It’s about the freedom to be honest about the evolving ways you feel. It opens up the boundaries between friend and lover in a safe and transparent way.

‘As a teen I questioned what it was to be adulterous. I saw infidelities on a different level to other friends’: Elf Lyons.

As a teen I questioned what it was to be adulterous. I saw infidelities on a different level to other friends. When partners mentioned they found other people attractive, I never minded. It made sense. “Why wouldn’t you want to kiss Stephanie? She’s a legend!” Apparently that was not considered a normal way to react.

If I had known as a teenager it was possible to love more than one person, it would have saved so much anxiety, guilt and time spent writing awful poetry. I spent years beating myself up about it. It often caused me to end relationships rashly, giving excuses like “I’m not ready to be in a relationship,” or “I have commitment issues,” or “I’m not into Warhammer as much as you think.” I didn’t want to end the relationships, but admitting how I felt seemed a worse betrayal, so I would lie, breaking friendships in the process.

I discovered polyamory when I was 23. I met a parliament of poly performers at the Adelaide Festival who were hippyish, liberal and kind. These performers spoke about their partners, children, poly-families. There were ex-couples who were working together on shows while their other poly families toured elsewhere, married couples who had live-in partners, triumvirates where they all balanced an equal partnership. I was entranced by their openness. It seemed symbolic of our changing global world, and most peoples developing nomadic lifestyles where we travel for work and find love with others on the way.

So when I went to study at theatre school in Paris (fresh out of a relationship with a 45-year-old French father of three), I decided to embrace my inner Barbarella. And the reality? Non-monogamy is rather ordinary and occasionally dull. Stereotypes of weird Eyes Wide Shut sex parties and Sartre/de Beauvoir/Olga ménages à trois aside, it’s like any normal relationship, except with more time- management, more conversations about “feelings” and more awkward encounters with acquaintances at parties who try to use you as their “Sexual Awakening Friend Bicycle”, ie that shy girl from book club will get drunk and put her hand on your leg, before leaning in to kiss you, hiccuping: “I really loved Orange Is the New Black…”

‘Sexual awakenings do not mean the absence of consent’: Elf Lyons.

There are misconceptions – a date once grabbed me for a kiss unexpectedly despite the fact I had made it clear I was in no way interested (my words were exactly: “This is not going to work. We have entirely different opinions on the EU and you have just told me I am ‘very funny for a woman’.”) When I pushed him away he was shocked. He believed because I was “sexually awakened” he could do what he liked. Luckily my experiences have meant that I am more vocal and confident, and able to stand up for myself. Yes I am open about my relationships and desires, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s allowed to touch me without my permission. Sexual awakenings do not mean the absence of consent.

I must admit, when I first dipped my toes into polyamory I misunderstood, went overboard with Tinder. The experience was stressful and would involve me asking awkward questions like: “Do you think crabs think fish can fly?” while wandering around the National Gallery for the third time that month. (There is no denying that polyamory suits the self-employed schedule). I learned that when people don’t know what polyamory is, they misunderstand it as another term for “hook up”, which it’s not. So previous partners have usually been friends I trust.

People often ask: “How can you truly love someone if you want to be with someone else?” and “Don’t you get jealous?” I think these statements enforce unhealthy relationship ideals. I feel it’s dangerous to think that you’re the only person that can complete someone else’s life, and be their confidant, their friend, their support network and their sexual partner. It’s too much pressure! When you take a step back, drop your ego and realise you’re one unique component of someone’s life, it’s liberating and freeing. Jealousy ebbs away and you realise that, of course, they may find another person attractive, because we’re all different pieces of a puzzle. This has made me more comfortable about myself – I am not holding myself up to standards about traditional female beauty, because I can experience it in a hundred different ways.

Of course, there have been tears, heartbreaks, existential crises and moments when I felt left out. I’ve wondered if it was actually making me more free, or more insecure, with jealousy popping up at the most inconvenient times. I’ve dated people who have lied and I’ve had relationships that have ended because they didn’t trust or believe in polyamory.

But, despite the downs, non-monogamy has revolutionised the way I view love. First, it made me less ashamed of my sexuality. I fancied girls way before I fancied boys. But as a teenager at house parties I remember being made to think that female sexual relationships were purely to turn men on. We’d all seen that scene in Cruel Intentions. I remember girls kissing at parties and the guys cheering. It was performative. Except, I wanted to kiss girls because I liked girls.

When I started getting to know people in the poly community it was as liberating as taking off an underwired bra. I have had partners of both genders. I didn’t have to “choose”: the people I met understood that it was possible to give infinite, equal love to both sexes. My confidence soared. I wasn’t hiding. Men and women had equal place in my life. I no longer felt like a pendulum, swinging from one to another. This refreshing awakening did result in many awkward conversations with my mum and dad though, which would go something like this:

Elf: “Mum and Dad, I am queer.” [Mum puts the hummus down.]

Mum: “What does that mean?”

Elf: “It means I have relationships with men and women”. [Mum picks the hummus up.]

Mum: “Oh! Well, I’m queer. Your father’s queer, your grandmother’s queer, we’re all queer darling!”

Elf: “No you don’t understand. I mean I have sex with men and women.” [Mum drops the hummus.]

Mum: “Oh Elfy… No wonder you’re so tired.”

Although I love sex, because of past unpleasant experiences I’m also mildly afraid of it. So when I started experimenting with non-monogamy the idea of being intimate emotionally as well as physically with more than one person was a challenge. But, the choice gave me a power and ownership over my wants which I felt I had lost and been made to feel ashamed about. I’m not saying I jumped in the sack with everyone I met. God no. I’m too busy. But through being less judgemental on myself, I relaxed, opened up to the people I trusted and started loving myself again. It forces you to be really honest, to live life with an undefended heart.

It’s not been plain sailing. But to quote RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love anyone else” – this is integral to non-monogamy. You can’t use multiple relationships to fill the void and give you the gratification that you should be able to give yourself. More love doesn’t mean better love. If you are dating multiple people in order to enhance your self-worth, you end up feeling like out-of-date hummus, feeling jealous anytime anyone chooses to spend time with anyone else, resulting in you treating your partners badly and without respect.

We shouldn’t feel ashamed about being socially and sexually confident. Women have been made to feel embarrassed for their desires for too long. It’s about having the trust to speak our minds and behave the way we want to. The moment you start to crumble you need to stop and ask exactly what it is you want and if it makes you happy. Being loved and loving multiple people should make you feel stronger, not weaker.

In a time of censorship on women, increases in assault and constant critiques on how we should behave, polyamory and its manifesto of embracing our evolving feelings, sharing responsibility and communicating and working effectively with people from all around the world could help revolutionise the way we tackle privilege, inequality and control of women’s rights.

I have an authority and a voice that I didn’t feel I had before. My friendships are better, my health is better. Through being polyamorous and being a part of the community I have been made aware of issues, both personal and political, that need to be uncovered and addressed.

The world would be a better place if everybody was more open to polyamory. As well as that traditional idea, that it takes a village to raise a child, it would mean we’d all love more, and love better. Loving different people at the same time is like learning a different language. There are different rules every time and it’s always open for discussion. You start to realise that love is infinite. Every time you say “I love you” to someone it takes on a new meaning. It’s retranslated, and it’s wonderful.

Complete Article HERE!

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How the Nazis destroyed the first gay rights movement

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‘Damenkneipe,’ or ‘Ladies’ Saloon,’ painted by Rudolf Schlichter in 1923. In 1937, many of his paintings were destroyed by the Nazis as ‘degenerate art.’

By

Very recently, Germany’s Cabinet approved a bill that will expunge the convictions of tens of thousands of German men for “homosexual acts” under that country’s anti-gay law known as “Paragraph 175.” That law dates back to 1871, when modern Germany’s first legal code was created.

It was repealed in 1994. But there was a serious movement to repeal the law in 1929 as part of a wider LGBTQ rights movement. That was just before the Nazis came to power, magnified the anti-gay law, then sought to annihilate gay and transgender Europeans.

The story of how close Germany – and much of Europe – came to liberating its LGBTQ people before violently reversing that trend under new authoritarian regimes is an object lesson showing that the history of LGBTQ rights is not a record of constant progress.

The first LGBTQ liberation movement

In the 1920s, Berlin had nearly 100 gay and lesbian bars or cafes. Vienna had about a dozen gay cafes, clubs and bookstores. In Paris, certain quarters were renowned for open displays of gay and trans nightlife. Even Florence, Italy, had its own gay district, as did many smaller European cities.

Films began depicting sympathetic gay characters. Protests were organized against offensive depictions of LGBTQ people in print or on stage. And media entrepreneurs realized there was a middle-class gay and trans readership to whom they could cater.

Partly driving this new era of tolerance were the doctors and scientists who started looking at homosexuality and “transvestism” (a word of that era that encompassed transgender people) as a natural characteristic with which some were born, and not a “derangement.” The story of Lili Elbe and the first modern sex change, made famous in the recent film “The Danish Girl,” reflected these trends.

For example, Berlin opened its Institute for Sexual Research in 1919, the place where the word “transsexual” was coined, and where people could receive counseling and other services. Its lead doctor, Magnus Hirschfeld, also consulted on the Lili Elbe sex change.

Connected to this institute was an organization called the “Scientific-Humanitarian Committee.” With the motto “justice through science,” this group of scientists and LGBTQ people promoted equal rights, arguing that LGBTQ people were not aberrations of nature.

Most European capitals hosted a branch of the group, which sponsored talks and sought the repeal of Germany’s “Paragraph 175.” Combining with other liberal groups and politicians, it succeeded in influencing a German parliamentary committee to recommend the repeal to the wider government in 1929.

The backlash

While these developments didn’t mean the end of centuries of intolerance, the 1920s and early ‘30s certainly looked like the beginning of the end. On the other hand, the greater “out-ness” of gay and trans people provoked their opponents.

A French reporter, bemoaning the sight of uncloseted LGBTQ people in public, complained, “the contagion … is corrupting every milieu.” The Berlin police grumbled that magazines aimed at gay men – which they called “obscene press materials” – were proliferating. In Vienna, lectures of the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” might be packed with supporters, but one was attacked by young men hurling stink bombs. A Parisian town councilor in 1933 called it “a moral crisis” that gay people, known as “inverts” at that time, could be seen in public.

“Far be it from me to want to turn to fascism,” the councilor said, “but all the same, we have to agree that in some things those regimes have sometimes done good… One day Hitler and Mussolini woke up and said, ‘Honestly, the scandal has gone on long enough’ … And … the inverts … were chased out of Germany and Italy the very next day.”

The ascent of Fascism

It’s this willingness to make a blood sacrifice of minorities in exchange for “normalcy” or prosperity that has observers drawing uncomfortable comparisons between then and now.

In the 1930s, the Depression spread economic anxiety, while political fights in European parliaments tended to spill outside into actual street fights between Left and Right. Fascist parties offered Europeans a choice of stability at the price of democracy. Tolerance of minorities was destabilizing, they said. Expanding liberties gave “undesirable” people the liberty to undermine security and threaten traditional “moral” culture. Gay and trans people were an obvious target.

What happened next shows the whiplash speed with which the progress of a generation can be thrown into reverse.

The nightmare

One day in May 1933, pristine white-shirted students marched in front of Berlin’s Institute for Sexual Research – that safe haven for LGBTQ people – calling it “Un-German.” Later, a mob hauled out its library to be burned. Later still, its acting head was arrested.

When Nazi leader Adolph Hitler needed to justify arresting and murdering former political allies in 1934, he said they were gay. This fanned anti-gay zealotry by the Gestapo, which opened a special anti-gay branch. During the following year alone, the Gestapo arrested more than 8,500 gay men, quite possibly using a list of names and addresses seized at the Institute for Sexual Research. Not only was Paragraph 175 not erased, as a parliamentary committee had recommended just a few years before, it was amended to be more expansive and punitive.

As the Gestapo spread throughout Europe, it expanded the hunt. In Vienna, it hauled in every gay man on police lists and questioned them, trying to get them to name others. The fortunate ones went to jail. The less fortunate went to Buchenwald and Dachau. In conquered France, Alsace police worked with the Gestapo to arrest at least 200 men and send them to concentration camps. Italy, with a fascist regime obsessed with virility, sent at least 300 gay men to brutal camps during the war period, declaring them “dangerous for the integrity of the race.”

The total number of Europeans arrested for being LGBTQ under fascism is impossible to know because of the lack of reliable records. But a conservative estimate is that there were many tens of thousands to one hundred thousand arrests during the war period alone.

Under these nightmare conditions, far more LGBTQ people in Europe painstakingly hid their genuine sexuality to avoid suspicion, marrying members of the opposite sex, for example. Still, if they had been prominent members of the gay and trans community before the fascists came to power, as Berlin lesbian club owner Lotte Hahm was, it was too late to hide. She was sent to a concentration camp.

In those camps, gay men were marked with a pink triangle. In these places of horror, men with pink triangles were singled out for particular abuse. They were mechanically raped, castrated, favored for medical experiments and murdered for guards’ sadistic pleasure even when they were not sentenced for “liquidation.” One gay man attributed his survival to swapping his pink triangle for a red one – indicating he was merely a Communist. They were ostracized and tormented by their fellow inmates, too.

The looming danger of a backslide

This isn’t 1930s Europe. And making superficial comparisons between then and now can only yield superficial conclusions.

But with new forms of authoritarianism entrenched and seeking to expand in Europe and beyond, it’s worth thinking about the fate of Europe’s LGBTQ community in the 1930s and ‘40s – a timely note from history as Germany approves same-sex marriage and on this first anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges.

In 1929, Germany came close to erasing its anti-gay law, only to see it strengthened soon thereafter. Only now, after a gap of 88 years, are convictions under that law being annulled.

Complete Article HERE!

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A Sexless Marriage

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Name: Tammy
Gender: Female
Age: 36
Location: Springfield IL
My parents were Laurel Canyon hippies of the first order, free love, drugs and all that stuff. I used to be disgusted by all the sex my parents were having with other people. I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t just want to be with one another or divorce and remarry someone else. As soon as I could, I left the west coast for the Midwest. Now all these years later my own marriage is in trouble. My husband unilaterally ended our sex life after the birth of our last child three years ago. I haven’t let myself go. I’m still very attractive and have even improved my body after the babies. But nothing I do brings him back to bed. He said that we have children now, and people with children don’t do that sort of thing!

To spite him for shutting me out, I turned to another man for sex. I just wanted to feel desirable again. I fear my affair will be found out and it will destroy my marriage. Funny thing, my parents with all their multiple sex partners remained happily married for 51 years till my father’s death two years ago. They were honest about their lives; I am not! I feel ashamed, but I am also having the best sex of my life and I won’t give it up.

My husband is a decent man and a good father. How can I continue to live this lie? If I come clean it will likely break up my family and I’ll look like a cheating slut. Is there any other option? I wish I could have been more accepting of my parent’s lifestyle; maybe the karma wouldn’t be so rough now.

Ahhh, bad luck doll! That karma thing sure enough can be a bitch.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this same story from a frustrated and desperate man or woman trapped in a sexless marriage, I’d have enough money to lay down my keyboard, give up my status as the most fabulous and revered sexpert in the universe and retire to Maui. Unfortunately, by the time I hear from most of the people they have already suffered through years of abstinence, all the while begging and pleading for the sex they want and need. By the time they write to me it’s often way too late. The die is cast. They’re married with kids and often have a stray affair workin’ on the side. As you suggest, Tammy, it’s a pretty unbearable situation.

My first thoughts are that by the time things get to the point of sheer desperation, a happy ending is virtually impossible. A lot of people are gonna get hurt regardless of how this resolves it self. If that’s a given, maybe you should be asking yourself; what can be salvaged from the impending wreck?

Tammy, you write something very telling in your message when talking about your parents. You say, “They were honest about their lives; I am not!” In the end, if you can reclaim your integrity, regardless if it means the demise of your marriage and family, as you currently know it, you will have regained something of inestimable value.

I also want to address your comment: “If I come clean it will likely break up my family and I’ll look like a cheating slut.” Perhaps, but at least you’ll no longer be a lyin’, cheatin’ slut. Come on, how could what others think of you trump what you already think of yourself. You are down on yourself because you expect sex in your marriage. And when that disappeared, you didn’t shut down as a sexual being. Does that equation make you so bad, a slut even?

I wholeheartedly believe that married people deserve a rich and fulfilling sex life, unless there’s mutual agreement for another arrangement. Unilaterally depriving a spouse of a rich and fulfilling sex life is an act of sexual violence. It’s the kind of sexual violence that will cause frustration, anger and desperation. And inevitably lead to infidelity, which in turn destroys the marriage and traumatizes the kids. So Tammy, if you are a cheating slut, what does that make your husband? Neither you nor your old man is without blame. So time to buck up, darlin’, and do the right thing. Regardless of how the chips fall.

And one more thing, you say you were disgusted by your parent’s hippy, free love lifestyle — at least they were open an up-front with you about who they were. Consider the trauma your kids will experience when they learn dear old mom was bumping someone other than dear old dad. What kind of example are you setting for them? You see where the honesty thing is a good idea right from the get go, huh?

Ok, so I think there’s a consensus that the truth must be told. I suggest that you generously offer your husband the first right of refusal. He may not deserve it, but that’s the way to go nonetheless. Offer to stay with him and raise your kids together, but not in a sexless marriage. If he can’t bring himself to bone you the way you need it, when you need it, with vigor and passion; then he needs to free you up to find that bone in someone else’s drawers. And if he can’t live the cuckold life he ought at least to be man enough to leave the marriage with as little stink as possible.

Good luck

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Amputee Love: This Is For Real

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Name: Cade
Gender: Male
Age: 23
Location: Alabama
Awhile back you responded to an Iraq vet who was having trouble in his marriage because he couldn’t get it up due to his PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I want to thank you for discussing that. It was helpful to me too. I’m an Iraq vet. I lost my right leg, to just above the knee and three fingers on my left hand to an IED. I think I’m doing ok with the physical rehabilitation. My prosthesis is state of the art and I’m even learning to run again. I joke that I’m the bionic man. Here’s what’s freaking me out though. I’m getting hit on by some really hot chicks, the kind I never could score with before Iraq. I come to discover they are hot for my leg stump. And I’m gettin all skeezed out by it. I’m passing up getting laid because this is fucking with my head. What gives with this shit?

Dude, you’ve stumbled upon, no pun intended, a silver lining of sorts, of being an amputee. Honestly, I’m not pulling your leg here, your good leg that is. Ok, ok really this is for real, Cade. But I think you already know that, huh?

Let’s begin with a definition. There is a fetish, or a paraphilia, if you prefer, called Acrotomophilia, or amputee love. It’s relatively rare, but there is a sizable Internet presence. You need only do a search for “amputee love” to get you started. These folks, often called devotees, are turned on by the limbless among us.

Here’s an interesting phenomenon, with the spike in seriously maimed vets returning from our numerous war zones and the media attention they’re getting these days — thanks the inadequate care some are receiving at our nation’s veteran’s hospitals — this fetish is growing by leaps and bounds.

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a conversation with a group of gay men. We were discussing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the horrific images we were seeing on the tube. Without missing a beat, a couple of the men in the group started to talk about the number of totally hot young vets they were seeing on TV. Sure they had missing limbs, but for some in the group that made them even hotter. A couple other guys were goin on and on about how they wanted to service these returning service men. Instead of the conversation weirding out the whole group, as I thought it might, most of the guys were like getting all into it.

I was being quizzed about the sexual issues, of course. Does an amputation affect a guy’s ability to get it up? …and things like that. I was totally blown away. Not by their questions, but by the fact that these men, who would otherwise be put off by a guy with a bad haircut; were beginning to fetishize seriously maimed vets. Then I thought to myself, OMG, I am watching the birth of some brand new baby devotees. And that, my friend, is how all fetishes begin.

I realize that you must be facing enormous hurtles, again no pun intended, to regain your sense of self after the disfigurement and amputations. It hardly seems fair to throw yet another curve ball your way. But, as we all know, life is supremely unfair. I suspect that you’re already feeling enough like an oddity without some chick — even a sizzilin’ hot one — coming on to you because of what you’ve lost. And that’s why I suggest you withhold judgment about all of this until you have a bit more information about this particular fetish and it’s practitioners.

Many amputees go through life without ever meeting a devotee. Others have intimate experience with these fetishists. One thing for sure, even though a devotee’s interest in you may creep you out; you can be certain that their interest is sincere. They are not like most of the other well-meaning people you’ll meet in your new life as a bionic man. A devotee will not pity or patronize you. Devotees, curiously enough, see you as more whole and desirable than those who have no missing parts. In other words, devotees are hot for you for how you are. This is not a “let’s pity fuck the gimp” sorta thing. I know this can be mind-bending, but I hope you can see the fundamental difference between the two.

Some amputee/devotee relationships are long-term, marriage and children included. Others are more recreational in nature. I suppose if you have your head screwed on right, you’ll be able to discern what might be best for you, if any of this appeals to you. Actually, in this realm, you’re absolutely no different than all your non-maimed peers. They too are trying to make sense of how love, sex and intimacy fit together.

I know some amputees are put off by devotees. They’re indignant that someone would objectify them for their stumps and not accept them as a human being first. Well, ya can hardly argue with that, can ya? But in reality, all of us do our share of objectifying. What about all the guys who flock around the blond with the big rack? You know they only see her tits and not her brain. Is the amputee/devotee thing any different? I think not.

You know how you are doing all this physical therapy to regain your ability to walk and run with your new bionic leg and foot? Well, there’s probably as much emotional and psychological therapy you need to do to adapt yourself to your new maimed-self. Part of this psychological adjustment may be embracing and celebrating the fact that you are now an object of desire for a whole new group of folks. So ok, your hotness is not the same hotness you may have had pre-Iraq, but it’s hotness nonetheless. You may not yet appreciate how a person could be sexually attracted to another person simply because of an amputation. Hell, the devotee may not even know why he or she is wired this way, but that don’t make it any less a fact. The confusion that can result from these desires or being the object of these desires can often sabotage a perfectly viable amputee/devotee sexual relationship.

Acrotomophilia, like all fetishes and paraphilias is learned behavior. Some devotees recall early childhood erotically charged encounters with women or men who were amputees. But just as plausible is that the fetish could have begun like the story I recounted at the beginning of my response — a group of people fantasizing about sex with a hot vet, who happens to be an amputee. You can see how just a little of that highly charged erotic reinforcement could turn anyone into a devotee. So it’s not so mysterious after all, is it?

I realize you didn’t choose this for yourself. But, for the most part, none of us is really in charge of what we eroticize, or what others eroticize about us. I know I nearly went to pieces the first time someone referred to me as a daddy. It wasn’t till I came to grips with the fact that I was no longer a young man, and that younger men might find me desirable, that the whole daddy thing settled in with me.

What you do with all this information, Cade, if anything, is completely up to you. Will you embrace your new bionic gimp hotness and let it take you for a ride? Or will you resist? Either way, at least you’ll be a bit more informed about what gives with this shit.

Good luck

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