You Need Help: Four Special Questions

Hello and welcome to another rousing installment of You Need Help! This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.

For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today we’re gonna talk about how to be a proper straight girl, the politics of strap-on sex and how normal your lady bits are. Here we go!

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Q:
My girlfriend has lots of body issues, including with the way things look ‘down there’. She’s even considered surgery. I feel sad and frustrated because no matter what I say, she won’t believe that nothing’s wrong. What can I do or what can I try to get her to read?

A:
This would be frustrating, yes. And saddening. It’s really hard to make someone believe that they look/taste/feel/smell/are TOTALLY NORMAL because the rest of society, for the past like, 2,000 years, has actively done everything in its power to ingrain in us the exact opposite of that truth. You’re not just fighting your girlfriend’s body image issues, you’re fighting hundreds of centuries of patriarchy and pure evil itself! You’re like a brave knight! A Knight of Vulval Confidence and Truth Empowerment. You deserve a sword.

Enforcing body confidence is a covert, subliminal activity that requires a special kind of bludgeoning finesse. You can’t just say “your vulva looks TOTALLY NORMAL!” That would backfire, because then she’d have a) the body issues and b) the pressure to make you happy via not having the body issues. So it’d be like she failed twice, you know?

So avoid making her feel like she should love her body and instead just love it for her. Love her enough for the two of you until she catches on. Have you ever been with someone who never ever fucking ever told you that your outfit was cute when you were about to leave the house? Like, ever? Don’t be that girl. Stuff like that actually matters more to overall confidence than you think it would. Be the girl who loves the outfit so much that she can’t stop herself from saying something about it, and then love everything else, too. Try to be as genuine as possible, but also it’s pretty easy to find something positive to say about almost anything.

Basically we — Riese and I — agree that having someone give you constant positive reinforcement eventually seems to nudge even the most body-conscious person toward acceptance and confidence, at the very least within the confines of that relationship.

Honestly though, I  think a lot of the negative feelings women have about their vulva come from thinking that you’re the one person who looks different and everyone else looks the same/similar. It’s isolating, and I’m not entirely sure how to make someone feel less isolated without physically showing them that they’re not the only ones who look the way they do.

In that vein, the book I’ll Show You Mine, edited by Wrenna Robertson, might be a good, albeit blunt way to get your message across.

“The book contains 120 photographs of 60 women, with all women photographed from the same two positions. Each woman was photographed in exactly the same conditions and the photos are shown in the book in true-to-life size and color, as this is the best method to accurately display the diversity of female form. Accompanying each woman’s photos is text written by the woman, detailing her challenges and/or successes as pertains to her relationship with her genitals. The photos in the book demonstrate and celebrate the wonderful diversity of the vulva; the stories illuminate the range of experiences that women have relating to the genitals in a world where mass media and pornography increasingly set the standards for sexuality and the look of all body parts, even our genitals.”

Also they have neat swords at Legoland, so you should get yourself one of those.

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Q:
I love my gf of 3.5 years, but some things [eg. heavy weed user, low libido] bother me. I don’t think I could/should change her but how do I just decide (a) those flaws are OK forever, let’s get married or (b) forget all the wonderful stuff, goodbye.

A:
Aaaaaaahhhh this made us feel a lot of feelings! I don’t even know where to start.

Was she always like this? Has she always smoked pot and had a low libido? Because if so — like, if this isn’t a new development that could possibly signal a greater problem — I think it’s as simple as deciding what’s important to you in a relationship and in a person, and then acting accordingly. It’s possible that you’ve grown tired of the little things that used to be just mildly irritating and now seem overwhelmingly problematic, and that’s normal. I mean, that’s a thing that happens for sure. I think that’s everyone’s fear, actually — that what used to be ok will eventually be an issue.

Also though, the framework you’ve laid out here (“those flaws are ok forever, let’s get married or forget all the wonderful stuff, goodbye”) is a little extreme? There are a lot of fun times to be had in the space between everything and nothing. But maybe that’s where you’ve been for the last 3.5 years and now you’re ready for something new. So many questions for you!

unrelated panda imagery

I’ve discussed this at length with MKO and Riese because we’re all sitting here in the living room and we have different feelings about what you should do. I think this is ultimately leading to a breakup because I can’t think of many things worse than having mismatched desires for sex. Being with someone who doesn’t want to have sex when you do has only ever succeeded in making people feel like shit, right? Because like, otherwise you may as well go hang out with your art teacher or your dad or something — someone you don’t even want to have sex with — so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

But MKO says I’m too quick to give up on things maybe. She suggests you try to get to the bottom of her low libido and see if there’s a solution to that issue. Riese mostly agrees with her I think. So, is your girlfriend depressed? Does she want to have sex with other people and not you? Has she stopped taking care of herself health-wise? Is there anything you can do? If you’ve exhausted all the possible solutions without any success, you weigh out the importance of sex/minimal drug use vs “all the wonderful stuff.”

Also Riese points out that some people just plain don’t have high sex drives and they still manage to have fulfilling relationships with people, so it’s possible that I have no idea what relationships look like outside of my own and therefore am not the best person to ask.

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Q:
So my girlfriend doesn’t like strap-on sex, and I love it. We’ve only tried it a few times, and each time was a little tricky, but in my opinion, totally worth it. How do I get her to see the light?

A:
Does she not like being fucked by it? Or wearing it herself? Because I have different feelings for each of these things.

If this is about her being the fucker, she doesn’t actually have to see the light, you know? She just has to a) want to get you off and b) know that you like fucking strap-ons. What gets you off doesn’t necessarily have to get her off, and working on the assumption that everything you do naked should be equally enjoyable to both of you is kinda selfish and narrow-minded.

However! Some girls have serious hangups when it comes to strap-ons or just sex in general, so maybe you should TALK TO HER about her feelings and your feelings and see if a middle ground can be reached. If you want to stack the deck a little, you could make a habit of telling her how much you like whatever style of sex you guys usually participate in, so she knows you still love her just the way she is.

If this is about you being the fucker, you have to see the light. She has to like it in order for it to happen and it’s not really about you anymore. You just can’t put a strap-on in a girl who doesn’t like having strap-ons inside her and expect it to go well. So hopefully you’re not asking about these particular circumstances.

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Q:
I’m straight. my BFF just came out and is now in a serious relationship with a girl. She hinted she had a crush on me before. No more friendly cuddling? No more sleepovers? I want to be respectful of their relationship. Any special rules I should follow?

A:
You’re SUCH a good straight girl! This is how I want all the straight girl BFFs to be. I mean, I’m  maybe we should make an official award for people like you. Yes! There are special rules you should follow! They go like this:

1. You’re not allowed to flirt with her. If you feel confused about whether or not a certain thing could be misinterpreted as flirting, IT CAN and it probably will, so don’t do it!

2. You can hug your friend, but there can be no cuddling. What kind of hysterical ragey depression spiral would you go down if your boyfriend was cuddling with the same female best friend that he used to have a crush on?? Ok then.

this, for example, will get you fired

3. No sleeping in the same bed. You knew this already, right? Please tell me you knew this.

4. You can’t be jealous or possessive. You’re probably used to your BFF treating you like her girlfriend, to some degree, but now she has a real actual girlfriend, so you can’t expect her to drop everything one afternoon to bring you something from In-N-Out. That’s what boyfriends are for (in your case).

5. You’re not allowed to talk about her crush on you. Why would you need to talk about that now? You wouldn’t. Don’t talk about that.

I’m sure our comment friends will have some extra advice for all of you! But probably especially you, straight girl. Hey! I’ve italicized quite a bit in this post, so I hope everyone’s found that pleasurable. You guys are going to yell at me about the importance/unimportance of sex, aren’t you? I feel like you are.

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Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 913 articles for us.

38 Comments

  1. For the girl with the weed-smoking girlfriend: Try to get her to switch to Sativa strains if she isn’t already (I know it can be tricky to find dealers who sell by strain depending on the illegality of weed in your state). Basically, indica = downer, laziness, lets-just-cuddle, sativa = upper, creativity, dear-god-get-your-pants-off. Although I find if I smoke a lot my sex drive goes down overall, but weed is one of those weirdly individual things, y’know?
    (It sounds bad, but maybe buy her some ciggarettes/cigarillos if you want her to cut down. I’m quitting and although I miss being high, I miss the act of smoking more, just as a personal indulgence. I smoke cherry cigarillos when I really just crave smoking something cause plain cigs are nasty)

    • Thanks! I just checked her stash and she totally already uses Sativa. She also vaporizes instead of smoking. She insists the libido isn’t related to the pot. As a quitter, anything a straight edge girlfriend could have told you to make you want to cut down?

  2. wonderful advice across the board, but in regards to the answer about body-conscious gfs: this is so full of win oh man you guys are so smart. every person with body conscious people in their lives (particularly activity partners to borrow from the laneia lexicon) listen up because THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU SHOULD DO. i know bc i was that person and all the “you look fine!” “you look normal!” “omg shut up youre ridiculous!” did nothing. in fact it made it worse. the only thing that ever truly helped me was having an amazing partner who thought i was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen and when she said it, i knew she meant it. she never indulged my insecurities and she barely even reacted when i brought them up. but every time she saw me naked she acted like it was the best moment of her life. so yes, do what laneia et al. have said to do and just forget about allllllll the reassuring that you maybe want to do because it doesnt really help. it will start to slowly fade away if you consistently look her in the eye and say “all i want to do is look at your vulva because it is fucking miraculous” and really mean it.

  3. I have been the girlfriend in situation #4. I was dating a girl, and although I’ve never had a crush on my straight best friend, I definitely didn’t follow the rules. We cuddle all the time, sleep in the same bed (once I chose to sleep in a bed with my friend instead of my girlfriend, but that was because there were other people around that were uncomfortable with that). It ultimately led to the demise of our relationship. However, the friend was always more important to me than the girlfriend, so I don’t think I made the wrong choices. I didn’t know I had rules to follow, though. Are all my relationships going to end in smoke and yelling if I cuddle my friends?

    • I don’t think it’s a problem as long as you and your girlfriend are on the same page about cuddling. Like, me personally, I am a jealous bitch. So I wouldn’t be OK with my hypothetical girlfriend cuddling her friends. But I have friends who are touchy feely with EVERYONE and wouldn’t mind their SO getting cuddly with other people. It just depends.

    • perhaps the no cuddling rule applies only to girls that the girlfriend used to h ave crushes on. that’s how i read the rules anyway, specific to this situation, namely, the former straight girl crush.

      • yes caitlin! it does only apply to girls you used to have crushes on. plain old friends are a different story. i think it’s just a matter of respect for your current relationship/girlfriend to have some boundaries when it comes to exes and ex-crushes.

        also i want to propose that ex-crushes can be just as important/hard to get over/life-altering as ex-girlfriends, just in different ways, so it’s important to understand and respect the journey from crush to no crush in the same way you would with ex-girlfriends and that requires boundaries, physical boundaries certainly being among the most important.

    • I was… actually appalled that this said not to cuddle or sleep in the same bed as your best friend. if she had a crush on you, whatever! crushes come and go and it’s very possible that she had misplaced feelings about being gay and loving a girl like a friend. regardless, if my friends ever said to me “I don’t want to share a bed with you now that you’re gay” or “We can’t cuddle anymore” I would take it as a huge act of homophobia. I guess it just is a case by case thing because I’m sure some people would have to follow these rules.. but isn’t always the case. Or maybe you can’t cuddle today but you will be able to in the future. I definitely believe that.

      I think to some degree I had a crush on a lot of my now girl friends of over 10 years. But I was 13, soooooo.

      Re: body issues. I have been in this situation and I think that the most important thing in part is yes to positively reenforce her but also lots of times that goes in one ear and out the other. The thing about eating disorders and body image issues is that many times someone struggling with that isn’t going to believe what you have to say and by constantly complimenting them they might feel patronized or just embarrassed. I just think that it’s problematic for us to think that we can change our girls’ minds about how they feel about their bodies. We can be supportive but what we really want is for them to learn to love themselves and feel some self-agency in the process. But yes. Love her good.

  4. Re: the no-cuddling. I cuddle with my friends all the time, and none of us are straight, and my girlfriend’s totally cool with it because we discussed boundaries. So like, no grabbing other people’s boobs/they’re not allowed to touch my boobs as a joke (this is a thing with my friends.) But sleeping in the same bed/cuddling? Totally cool. I think if you talk about it and agree on boundaries then it’s fine.

  5. It’s a little stressful thinking that my gf wrote the second one…

    Also, To strap-on girl: maybe she doesn’t like it because of the straps and the complications and the rubbing [personal experience speaking here]. You could try a strapless one like the Feeldoe!

    • It’s definitely not you! (My gf is not named Rachel, doesn’t read AS, and would never recommend the Feeldoe.) I would love to hear advice from your perspective, though.

  6. I cuddle and sleep in the same bed as my friends straight or gay. (I also sleep with one but that’s very different)

    Maybe you can talk to your friend about boundaries and she can talk to her girlfriend about them too so you know what’s okay because cuddling and sleeping in the same bed might not be a problem at all

  7. Regarding the second question: I’m a homoromantic asexual girl with a (non-asexual) girlfriend. Our sex drives definitely don’t match, but for us, the relationship is less about physical stuff (well, there’s lots of cuddling) and more about conversations and watching dumb movies and having adventures! I guess what I’m trying to say is that sex doesn’t necessarily need to happen in order to have a healthy relationship? But it depends on the people involved, and clear communication is really important.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I know there’s a lot more to this relationship than sex, but I can’t seem to help feeling awful and rejected. There’s the physical frustration of cuddling with someone hot who you really want to fuck, and the terrible memories of the lusting-after-my-best-friend years. I want to see it your way!
      When I say she has a low libido, I really just mean lower than mine – another way of framing the issue is that I’m a sex maniac and she’s normal. She wants once a week and I don’t even know how much I want because I’ve never gotten it, but I just spend the rest of the week wanting her and feeling jealous that she gets her pleasure from weed.

      • Very wise! This makes me feel better – I already am doing everything you suggest (talking with her, making efforts to keep insecurities down, having compromise sexual plans in effect), but as you say, it’s hard! This makes me feel like it will work if we keep trying hard enough.

    • @bhan and @jules – what you’re saying is totally valid and actually really fantastic. the difference between your situation and the question asker’s situation is that you’re not upset about yours, and she is, you know? if matching libidos didn’t matter to her and she was happy with very little or no sex, she obviously wouldn’t have included that in her question and framed it as a problem. if something — anything! — works for two people in a relationship, then of course i support it! my advice and feelings were for her and her situation and doesn’t devalue or speak to your situation at all. i’m happy for people who’re happy! 🙂 keep on keepin’ on etc!

  8. I just realized #4 are also really the rules of being friends with your ex, which kind of bums me out because I was looking forward to cuddling on the couch and watching the Doctor Who Christmas special like we have every year for the last four years. Also I know her gf has reservations about letting her hang out with me, which makes me want to be all “‘let’ her? You’re not her fucking master,” but I think that falls under the category of jealous/possessive and so I can’t do that either.

  9. Oh i totally agree about the importance of sex ! Sorry guys, but i cannot imagine relationship without it, it´s so true i could just hang out with my dad/dog/watch movies with this funny looking plant on my window…..

  10. I had the great pleasure of meeting Wrenna at a yoga workshop in Portland this September. She’s awesome! And her work on promoting a healthy attitude about our lady parts is amazing. I highly recommend checking out her book, or an exhibit if you’re lucky enough to catch one near you.

  11. #1 C’mon, don’t we all have issues “down there”? One lip is longer than the other, the button is too big, yada, yada.
    #2 Have you been debating this for 3.5 years?
    #3 Maybe an illuminating “butterfly” will open her eyes…wide
    #4 How long does a it take for a hug to turn into a cuddle? My SO had a serious relationship and still talks to her daily because they are best friends, oh I know her too. I guess I trust her deluded in naivete

  12. Hmmm, the last question is familiar to me except I’m the BFF and the straight girl is actually bi. She has had a boyfriend for four year (who I’m friends with). I had/have had a crush on her for three years, although I’d really rather just be her friend… but there it is. We’ve broken all of those rules. >.> <.<

    • Same same same. My best friend is bi, but I only found out a month ago when I came out to her, even though I’d always wondered. It’s one of those weird situations where you’re not sure what you feel. It’s love definitely, but what kind? And yeah, I’d never act on it anyway, because she’s too important to me and I need her more as a friend.

  13. a related question that i wish would have been answered more is:

    if your girlfriend is suddenly not into having sex all the time like it used to be, what are you supposed to do say / do to bring it up without it being… well… i dunno. a part of me really wants to be all “you know i feel like you reject me when i try to have sex with you a lot of the time or make it clear you’re not interested and it makes me feel like shit” but then i feel like that makes the person who doesn’t want to have sex feel totally weird about NOT wanting to have sex all the time – and that’s a no no, because that’s valid.

    HOW DO YOU TELL SOMEONE YOU WISH YOU WERE HAVING MORE SEX Y’ALL

  14. Re question #1
    seen this exhibition from brighton? i was talking about this to my gf the other day. coincidences. I guess it’s like the book…. but um… on the internet and plaster cast?
    http://www.brightonbodycasting.com/design-a-vagina.php
    not only does it feature 400 x vagina but also some terrible web design and the artist occasionally sounding like #manarchistryangosling. true.

  15. anon-justl tell her, like you just bought some bread or stuff..it´s so normal ! Hey honey, I´d like to have more sex with you, what about it ? If she says she´s completely satisfied – good for you ! She can mabye try to do it more often, great…If she says something bad – well i cannot imagine what can she say ? Like i don´t want to have more sex with you ? Well that settled then, there is some other problem in the relationship, so…do you get it ? I just think it´s totally normal to talk like that and you can´t loose, the worst scenario is you can discover your relationship is not functional, which I´d like to know sooner better than later..and I still think this is not going to happen .-)
    so good luck !

    • I don’t think that one person having a lower sex drive necessarily means there is a “problem in the relationship,” besides the problem in the relationship where one person has a lower sex drive. It doesn’t always mean there’s something else going on. Some people want to have sex less, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them.

  16. Thanks, Laneia (and friends)! I was sitting here sad because she didn’t want to have sex with me after we had been apart for a week. It’s nice to know the answer isn’t obvious to you guys either, and that it stirred a hearty living room debate. In answer to some of the follow-up questions: She has indeed always been the way she is (but I didn’t quite realize the extent until we moved in together 6 months ago). I think my extreme all-or-nothing framework is valid since it has been years – we talk about marriage and puppies and babies, so I would like to be confident that I do want these things with her. As for looking into fixing the libido – she may be self-medicating some depression/anxiety with weed, but I don’t think she has a low enough libido to qualify as a medical problem; it just doesn’t match mine. Thank you thank you for thinking about this with me!

  17. hey about the weed ! do you know it just keeps your libido down ? like a lot ? i knew a fiend who was like sex-maniac in a lot of my friends opinions, but when he did not have a girlfriend, he just smoked weed and was fine…maybe this is the only key problem on this specific case…..

    • I had heard that! But in this relationship we are a doctor and a chemist, and we can’t find any scientific evidence for the weed-libido relationship. Anyone? Also, even if it all boils down to weed, she has no desire to quit.. Still, good food for thought.

  18. louvella – thats not what i wrote .-) if she has lower sex drive and is completely satisfied, everyone is the winner, but they can still talk about it….if she does not want to have more sex with this particular one person, then i think there is a problem.

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