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Self-mutilation takes cut into sexual self-worth

By Dan Savage · June 9th, 2004 · Savage Love
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I know this isn't a sexy or even remotely enjoyable subject, but I could really use your advice. I'm an 18-year-old girl, though I can easily pass for 25. I'm pretty attractive (though I think everyone has things about them they would change), thin and altogether relatively normal, although I graduated high school early. As a result, I have plenty of opportunities to go out with guys. My problem is this: Although I'm not in any rush to lose my virginity, I can't even bring myself to take my clothes off in front of other people because of the long, self-inflicted, crisscrossed scars that cover parts of my legs. Yeah, I know, I should see a therapist. Well, I'm already in therapy and have been since I was 12. I'm not crazy, and I've been making great progress.

Because I was only around 5 when I started cutting myself, I never thought about what it would be like when it came time to take my clothes off in front of anyone. Over time, these scars have become incredibly difficult for me to hide, and the few times I've tried to explain them to people I've been met with less than understanding words. Given my young age, my family situation (which is a whole other story and probably propelled my cutting) and my terror at the thought of people seeing my legs, I'm incredibly scared of what could happen when I finally show someone.

-- Sometimes Looks and Speech Hurt

So let's say you show someone, SLASH -- what's the worst that could happen? The guy will freak out, toss around some less than understanding words and leave. But the guy who freaks and splits is doing you a favor. You wouldn't want to be with someone who couldn't handle it or would react so cruelly anyway, right? More important, only by risking telling/showing people are you ever going to learn that most straight guys are decent and any straight guy that likes you will be a great, big, understanding doll about your scars.

And I do think most guys will be understanding about it. People have a way of forgiving and/or overlooking imperfections in people they're attracted to. Also, part of dating and mating is making yourself vulnerable to another human being, putting your trust in them and showing them your literal and figurative scars. Any guy you show and tell will want some reassurance that you're not cutting yourself anymore, you've gotten some help, you're not made of glass and that you're looking for a boyfriend, not a therapist.

You can provide all that.

You say that you've been "met with less than understanding words" the few times you've tried to explain your scars. I would hope that you're healthy enough now to make a distinction between truly hurtful words (i.e., malicious comments) and words that are hurtful simply because the person you've told is ignorant. Take it from a fag who had to come out to friends and family who were ignorant about homosexuality: You can collapse into tears when someone you've just come out to about your scars says something ignorant or you can take a deep breath and seize the opportunity to educate someone. But if someone does say something hurtful out of malice, well, you should take a deep breath and deck the motherfucker.

And finally, SLASH, you never know when you might run across a scar fetishist....

Please tell Stripes, the woman with stretch marks who's looking for someone with a stretch-mark fetish, that we actually do exist. I'm afraid that I'm happily married, but if I'm into stretch marks, someone else out there must be. I'm also into other minor scarring as well.

As for Stripes taking care of her kid before running off with a stretch-mark fetishist, at 6 months her kid might be just starting to really sleep through the night. And, after six months of being a mom, she's probably ready to indulge in something for herself. All parents can use an outlet, and sex is a fine one in my book.

-- Stripes Thrill Me

Thanks for sharing, STM.

I'm a mostly hetero male who's recently been hit upon by a gay male, and I don't know how to respond. My problem is that while I'm attracted to some men, I love pussy and will eat it at any opportunity. But tonight I was hit upon by a cute male bartender and I don't know if I should go back and see him. I really don't want to lead him on, but I am curious. I don't want to bang a stranger, but I also don't want to lead anyone on. He's attractive, but I really don't want to get involved without knowing how to present myself without my hetero side showing through.

-- Confused in Quebec

The man who hit on you is a bartender, CIQ. A bartender! While I don't mean to traffic in hateful bartender stereotypes, odds are good that this guy just wants to get all up in your ass crack, kiddo, not run off to Boston with you for a big, gay wedding. My advice: You can get to know him as a person, if you like, but he's probably not interested in you as a person. If you want to give gay sex a whirl, tell him you're curious but not homosexual, experienced or interested in anything long-term. Based on the gay bartenders I've known over the years, it's highly likely this guy will be more attracted to you with your hetero side showing through, CIQ, not less.

Dan, I read your advice to Dirty Old Man about the age of consent, should he feel the need to have sex with one of his 16- or 17-year-old coworkers. While you were right about the teacher/coach thing, you neglected to mention another important branch to the 16 rule: In most states the age of 16 as the age of consent is accompanied by a "no more than four years older" clause, meaning that the 16-year-old can't have sex with anyone older than, say, 20. I'm not trying to be a party crasher, Dan, I'm just looking to keep DOM out of trouble.

-- Future Lawyer of America

In the state where DOM lives there isn't a "no more than four years older" clause. But I'm glad you brought up DOM's letter, FLOA, as I should have given greater emphasis to the fact that I was talking to DOM about the laws in his state (which he asked me not to reveal), not the laws in all states. People should look into their own state's laws before having sex with anyone under the age of 18 -- not that anyone should have sex with anyone under the age of 18, of course, because that's just a dirty, rotten, low-down thing to do. But if you, like, wanna anyway, a good place to start is www.ageofconsent.com.

And while we're on the subject of last week's column, I mentioned a story about a religious couple who didn't know they had to have sex in order to get pregnant. It turns out the story is a hoax. Or as one reader put it, "Congrats on being the latest fucking retard sucked in by the infertile German couple urban legend. You're in good company, Savage, right up there with Fox News!"

For a full rundown on just how freakin' stupid I am, go to www.snopes.com/pregnant/nosex.asp.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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