Just Like Riding a Bicycle

My name is Alexander Cheves. My nickname is Beastly. I write about sex. I wrote a book.

Have a question? Email askbeastly@gmail.com or go here.

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Hi Beastly,

I love your blog! I am in my mid-thirties, a woman, and married to a man. We haven’t had sex in over two years and even before it was never particularly satisfying. We love each other very much and I don’t want to do anything that could jeopardize that.

I know that I am bisexual and have known for about a decade. But I have only recently truly been truthful with myself: I dream of sex with a woman. I never have and I cannot imagine that I could anytime soon. I have female friends who I feel deeply connected to but not necessarily in a sexual way.

Recently I’ve been feeling a certain level of urgency. Like my life is going by me and I won’t ever feel truly alive without exploring this part of myself.

I am afraid that it is only so strong now because I’m not having sex with my husband and I’m just one more white, straight woman looking for a bit of excitement. And yet to me, it feels like the key to living a full and truthful life.

I would love to hear your input.

Hi friend,

I understand your feelings of urgency. It’s never a bad idea to take stock of one’s life — including and especially one’s relationships — and try to figure out what is next.

The idea that your growing urges — your bisexuality — are the result of boredom in your marriage is likely a little insulting to the bisexuals of the world. Bisexuality is not a way to spice up a sexually dissatisfying marriage — it’s real, authentic, lovely, difficult, and just as valid as all other sexual orientations. If the idea of having sex with a woman feels like “the key to living a full and truthful life,” you should try it as soon as possible.

Sex with your husband has not been great lately (it sounds like it never really rocked your world) but you love him. That’s valid, too — you can love someone independent of sex with them. But your dissatisfaction in the bedroom didn’t make you bisexual, and that idea feeds into the widespread negative myths of bisexuals, that they are “greedy,” seeking pleasure with whoever before getting bored and moving on. Let’s do away with that idea because it’s not true. Many people discover their bisexuality in the midst of rich and exciting sex lives. It’s likely that these feelings were always with you, waiting in the wings. Now they’re just coming onto the main stage.

There’s no roadmap for this journey, but you know you have to tell your husband about these feelings at some point. I recommend doing this before doing anything else. If you can’t confess thoughts and desires to your partner for fear of his response, that tells you all you need to know about your relationship with him (that it’s not sustainable long-term). If he reacts to this news with general surprise but understanding and is willing to talk about how to move forward, you’re with a good one. If he lashes out, shames you, threatens to leave you, or otherwise responds harshly to your raw honesty, your relationship with him is likely at its end and needs to be.

You need to tell him that you must have sex with a woman at some point — or, if you’re interested in the possibility of romance with a woman, which may or may not include sex, open the discussion of polyamory. You can find posts on this blog about non-monogamy and polyamory, which include tips on broaching the subject, and I recommend this post I wrote in The Advocate. Compromises are inevitable in these situations and must be negotiated kindly and gently. You’re also allowed to set a POA (price of admission) — a requirement, something you need in order to stay.

POAs are not negotiations — they’re ultimatums. As such, they are risky moves and work best only when you know exactly what you want and refuse to not have it. When you’re exploring untried urges, you don’t know exactly what you want, so the freedom to explore is rarely a POA — exploration can be a beautiful thing to navigate intimately with your partner, making compromises and agreements along the way. For more in-depth help on this, I encourage you, your partner, and everyone else to read The Ethical Slut.

Needs and desires change along the journey. Your question is evidence of that. You may at first think that you’re content with occasional threesomes with a woman shared by you and your partner, then, a few months later, you might realize that is no longer enough for you. At every step, with every new need and desire, communicate your thoughts kindly but honestly to him if you want this relationship to survive this necessary journey in your life.

Two things happen in the lives of every queer and LGBTQ person, and these events happen so closely that they are effectively the same event. First, you realize your feelings and give them a name — you say the word “bisexual” for the first time and give these nebulous desires a label. Pretty soon after — maybe even the very next instant — you grasp the startling idea that this label makes you a political being, an agent in a culture war you may not know much about but are nevertheless part of. And that can be very overwhelming.

Don’t panic. You don’t need to set a hard identity now or present yourself differently to anyone. There’s no pressure to come out, choose a label, or tell your friends and family (though in time, you may feel more comfortable with the idea of coming out, and going public with what you’re into makes it easier to find others who can offer friendship, advice, and sex). The label you first connect with — “queer,” “bisexual,” whatever — might change, and that’s normal. Labels, like the desires they attempt to define, are fluid things, ever in flux. Labels are tools to use to your benefit, not restrictive boxes you have to live inside. You are starting a journey without a clear destination, and that’s exciting. That’s what life is all about.

Love, Beastly

Hello Beastly!

This is Andrew (He/Him). I’ve always wanted to try to be sexually active, but I have negative views about my own appearance and I’m not sure if anyone would find themselves attracted to me. Additionally, I’m a virgin (I think a bottom), so I worry that I will only set myself up for rejection when I go on apps like Grindr. Do you have any tips for trying to find a way to get out there?

Hi Andrew,

I’ve learned something from giving advice over the years: I cannot give anyone confidence.

This is hard because I see so many good, beautiful people who have much to offer, but they don’t see that in themselves, and there’s next to nothing I can do about that.

I dove into sex recklessly and, in the beginning, had lots of sex with little knowledge of protection and STI prevention. I was not emotionally ready for the amount of sex I had when I went to college. This course of action would not be recommended by most therapists. I was lucky to have STI testing resources, guiding adults, and social privileges (whiteness, maleness) that made what consequences I faced pretty mild — at least compared to others I’ve known. The emotional lessons were harder — they were trial-by-fire. They were very dramatic and painful, and I learned quickly how complicated, overwhelming, and messy premature hypersexuality can be.

But it worked out for me. For better or worse, diving hard into sex, with no confidence or real sense of self, gave me the confidence and insight I needed over the course of some brutal years (turning HIV-positive at age 21 was the most brutal and important lesson on that journey). I cannot, in good conscience, recommend my journey to anyone — the risks and dangers are too great — but I also can’t deny its benefits or lessons. The alternative course would have been to wait until I felt ready, and I’m not sure I would have ever felt ready — I had low self-esteem and bad feelings about my body, and I started using sex as a salve for my insecurity, as a social crutch. I had sex indiscriminately, drank too much, went home with bad people, and had some scary nights, all in the years before I tested positive at a young age. I am marked by my mistakes, but they made me who I am. And if I was to speak confessionally, with total honesty, I’d admit that I am glad I did it that way. My mistakes made me…me.

To spare you some of the harder things I went through, I’d recommend a middle road between those extremes (reckless hedonism and the “wait-till-you’re-ready” approach). You might have to dive into sex without feeling fully ready — no one ever feels fully ready. You might have to use some chemical courage (booze, pot, whatever) to quiet those voices in your head telling you no one wants your body. You might use sex recklessly, go home with bad people, and get scared a few times. You need to learn some lessons through trial-by-fire. You might drink too much.

But your mistakes — and you will make them — will be buffered by the fact that you have waited. You have a greater amount of knowledge and more resources at your disposal — along with, I imagine, a bit more maturity than I had when I first started. You’re not going in blind as I did. You know the health risks (if you don’t, here’s a post about them). It sounds like you know a bit more about the gay scene than I did (I knew nothing except that I could meet guys at bars who might take me home if I got drunk enough).

Even with this increased knowledge, you will not have overnight confidence, and what confidence you develop will take a blow with every rejection. But I promise this: Some experience, some hard lessons, and some sex will give you a confidence boost and make you feel powerful as nothing else can. The sex will not be fantastic in the beginning, but it will get better, and you will get better. Put all your preconceived notions about sex out of your mind and stop worrying if you’re a top or bottom because you really have no idea. Treat the whole enterprise like your queer comrade’s bisexual journey above: an adventure with no roadmap or endpoint.

Be gentle with yourself and remember that growth is not linear — you will have ups and downs, good nights and bad, feel powerful and then weak again, and every now and then, someone will come along who makes you feel shitty. When that happens, own your feelings. Feelings exist inside your body and you are fully in control of them — no one put them there, and feelings have no power (or tangible existence) outside your own head. No one has the power to make you feel terrible unless you give it to them.

I treat sex the way my dad taught me to ride a bike. He put me on the seat, told me how to pedal and brake, and gave me a good push. I would fall or ride, but either way, I had to learn fast.

Love, Beastly

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