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Long distance becomes distasteful when other aspects are disturbing

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aspiring phoenix asks:

Dear Scarlet(een),
I live 1500 miles away from a guy I've been seeing. Without planning it, our travels have brought us to the same cities a couple times in the past few months. Unusual for me, but fun.

We're not dating, but I guess he likes me because he seems to be trying to hold things together between us.

I like him...sometimes.

Problem is he's SERIOUSLY weird and on top of it has waaay more experience than I do. I don't know if I can handle an ongoing physical relationship with him anymore - even if I'm 1500 miles away most of the time.

Yesterday while I was visiting him he told me he was sending porn to a female friend who wanted to see the evolution of his tastes from ages 18-25. Then he said he thought of all porn as art and an uncomfortable discussion followed when I disagreed. Guess I'm down for the count on that subject since I don't watch porn usually.

Lena replies:

aspiring phoenix's question continues here:

Later he made a joke about vaginal discharge and starting talking about cervical fluid and fisting his ex, which she apparently loved. He segued into telling me about having seen similar-looking substance after pounding a guy's a**. (I already knew he had sex with men.) Then he started talking about watching the ecstasy on a girl's face as he watched her feed a 3 ft bendable dildo up her butt.

I didn't know how to respond. The images are so graphic in my head!

I am a combination of shocked, grossed out and uncomfortable with his history (there's more than I wrote) and I am beating myself up because I feel so narrow-minded. This is not the first conversation we've had like this. He doesn't say he wants that from me or insinuate that I lack something because I don't share his perspective/experience. Still, even though I know there is nothing wrong with me for not exploring sex the way he has, I feel inadequate. Even though we are only 3 years apart I feel so much younger, so naive and inexperienced and SOOOOO vanilla.

My history looks boring and bashful compared to his, and I don't want to feel ashamed and unable to accept my own preferences because they are less sensational. I worry I am going to starting bullying myself into doing sexual things I wouldn't do otherwise.

I don't know how to begin to talk to him. I don't see where our minds would meet and am afraid that if I bring it up he will just feel unappreciated. I also don't see how I could be satisfying for him for long.

He is helping a friend move today and so we left his place together at 8am. She called him while we were walking to the train to say she'd pick him up. He told me this friend was his ex-gf of two years who he recently split after a long, drawn-out break. He said he wasn't sure it was a good idea for me to be around when they met. Five minutes later he said goodbye, gave me a quick hug and ran down the block and around the corner.

AAARGH. I don't know what to do. I am in way over my head. I don't even know how to get any of my issues on the table - or even figure out what they are! I almost want to call it quits. Help!

aspiring phoenix, It makes me sad to read what you're describing because I can tell this: You are a smart, eloquent, extremely open-minded, and independent woman. (And, yes, it shines through in your response and I truly do believe it!)

As for this guy, however, I'm not going to beat around the bush: He sounds like a downright jerk.

I am not criticizing you for going out with him. Certainly, there have been some very good moments that have kept you meeting up. Plus, this isn't some all-encompassing relationship either, but something of mutual convenience that has continued to work out. (I use the term "partner" quite often, as well as "this guy" and "he" and a few other words; I am not looking to label you and your [sexual] relationship but rather mix up terminology. My apologies if any of this makes your uncomfortable or incorrectly sums up your interactions.)

Here comes the tough response: I realize it, unfortunately, may come across as a bit preachy at times. That is unintentional, because I mean it out of genuine solidarity. However, the tone of what you describe affects me so greatly that I cannot hide my grave concern.

To mix things up -- for better or for worse -- I have referenced some Motown hits as headers to guide through my reply. Those songs may be old, but their words still ring true today. I hope you like oldies, too; if not, please bare me with me!

"You had better stop and think"

That Aretha Franklin lyric is directed towards your partner, not you, because what he's doing just doesn't seem right to me. Admittedly, my answer is quite biased, but for the following reason: A lot of us at Scarleteen have had personal experience with bad boyfriends (or girlfriends.) We want to help others get out of and avoid going through the same, especially when they describe something that seems off or uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a lot of great people out there, too; they say "you better shop around" for a reason, right?

But for now, however, I'd like to focus on what bothers me about this guy.

In the same line, you write that this guy, perhaps not a serious boyfriend but definitely a long-term sexual partner, is "seriously weird" and has "waaay more experience" than you.

While human sexuality can be healthfully explored and expressed in many ways and forms, the bottom line being mutual consent, his bragging about things that, clearly, make you very uncomfortable is inconsiderate and, in fact, quite cruel. That he uses his "so-called" sexual experience and prowess to make you feel "so naive and inexperienced and SOOOOOO vanilla" is total BS to me. You do not seem any of those things, but even if you were, why would that be a problem? And to throw a random curveball, some flavor "experts" believe that one's preference for the taste of vanilla does not mean that person is boring or bland, but rather possesses an acute and finely tuned sense of taste. You're welcome to disagree, but you could even interpret that in a positive sexual way, too.

"It was just my imagination... running away with me"

The Temptations are talking about daydreaming in a positive way there, but having your head stuck in the clouds can also be a bad thing.

Honestly, I am not even sure if I believe all this "experience" he talks about. Maybe it's for real but I have to wonder if he's confusing his, obviously extensive knowledge of porn and/or vivid imagination with his real-life experience. While I'm neither a medical doctor nor an expert on sex toys, the bit about about the three-foot dildo seems more than a bit unrealistic. So much so that I, in fact, I googled the term to see what was out there.

You know, I'm pretty open-minded, but I'll admit I was holding my breath (and wondering what this was going to do to my google cache) when I did it. That's because, to me, being open-minded means believing "to each, his (or her) own" while also being honest with myself as to my own personal tastes. I can be OK with stuff, sexual or otherwise, without being into it or even totally comfortable with it myself.

Back to the search results: Pretty much every site that came up was porn-related, to no great surprise. (Perhaps your boyfriend would recognize some of the titles?) I did find one adult sexuality site that mentioned the dangers of the deep penetration using even a 1.5-2 ft dildo and recommended a few safety precautions. That makes sense now, come to think of it. Porn stars are professionals in their field and, as with anything film-related, there tends to be a lot of airbrushing and special effects editing.

My point to all that: I think he may very well be fibbing. He might be making you feel bad, but he could very well be fooling himself, too. I have a feeling that Mr. Experienced-Beyond-Belief may be making a lot of this up in order to hide his, yes, his own feelings of (sexual) inadequacy. And you shouldn't have to do that in a relationship! Good relationships are about you being you at your happiest (at least more often happy than not) and make you feel good about exactly the person you are, no ifs ands or buts about it, rather than what someone else, or even you, wish you were. That you're not happy and feeling the need to walk on eggshells makes me sad, but it doesn't -- and shouldn't -- have to be that way!

There's nothing wrong with not having a lot of "experience"! Honestly, the concept of "experience" in a sexual sense doesn't mean much, because things are different every time, even with each partner: our mood, our hormones, our history, it's always changing. If anything, good experience show us this and reminds us to be a bit more patient, understanding, and modest. Someone can have had 100 partners but that's not saying much if it wasn't positive. To me, good sex is more about a good attitude, awareness of our desires and limitations, as well as those of our partner/s. This is best accomplished by, first, self-exploration and, later, communication with others. There may be a lot of words exchanged, but I'm not seeing good communication going on with you two and, chances are, nor was it there with his past partners.

Let's get back to why people lie: I believe that lying is often about this: People make stuff up because they don't feel adequate, good enough about who they really are. Therefore, in order to feel better or measure up, they feel they the need to embellish their pasts. This is unfortunate for them, because we're all OK as is. These lies become unfair and unkind when used to make others' feel bad, which could very well be what your boyfriend is doing now. I'm not the guy and I'm not a mind reader so I can't say for sure what's going on in my mind, but it could be the case.

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T"

OK, let's switch gears and assume that all he's said is true. That's fine and certainly possible. However, it's downright inappropriate and disrespectful for him to rub it in your face when it makes you unhappy and uncomfortable.

Open communication in a sexual partnership is one thing; sharing each and every detail and experience is another. Disclosing one's sexual medical history is essential; talking about how past experiences made you feel is important, too. Additionally, some partners enjoy hearing about partners' past sexual escapades. Others are turned on by hearing, watching, or even participating in sexual activities with their partner and third part(ies). However, plenty of people do not feel this way and it sounds like you're one of them. Perfectly fine, and something he needs to recognize and respect. RESPECT! That's the key word here, just as Aretha sings it loud and proud. It's not about you being open-minded, because you certainly are, it's about his respecting your boundaries.

Scarleteen has an article on pornography (linked below) that explores different viewpoints on porn: The bottom line is porn is a personal decision, that's is OK as long as it doesn't get in the way of one's everyday life. That said, porn is fantasy and not meant to be a guide for partnered sex in real-life relationships. You may not be a fan of porn, but you aren't telling him to stop looking at it; to me, that's being open-minded and understanding. You are allowed to disagree, that it's not all art to you. Just as you accept he feels differently on the topic, he needs to respect your feelings on porn. This is the case for other relationship stuff, too: It's always OK to respectfully disagree. Ultimately, it's your -- or his -- choice to take it or leave the relationship, because of it, if it's that important. And that's OK, too.

"What's going on?"

Marvin Gaye may not have been singing about your boyfriend, but I have to agree: What is going on between this guy and the ex you mention? While it's technically fine for him to freely exchange information with friends, pornographic or not and regardless gender, that exchange does seems quite fishy based upon other things you describe here.

His ditching you all of the sudden to help a friend, who also happens to be an ex of questionable relationship status, whom he is secretive about, was an incredibly a crappy thing to do. Totally unacceptable in my book for a number of reasons. While we don't have to share all the nitty gritty details of our lives with our partners, we also shouldn't be hiding things from them. (His behavior here strikes me as especially odd, considering how he overshares so much other stuff with you!)

Long-distance relationships can be challenging in that they go from long-time-no-see to 24/7-togetherness. It's OK or even recommended to set aside some alone time during those visits, be it to do schoolwork, exercise, catch up with friends or just be alone. However, it's also recommended -- even important -- for you to get to know each other's family and friends. It helps you and your partner get to know each other better and share your lives, and those people tend to want to know their friend's special partner. Hiding a partner isn't a good sign.

"Does your mama know about me?"

Bobby Taylor may been talking about his girlfriend's mom, but I'm going to apply that to your boyfriend's ex. Unfortunately, I get the feeling here that he's not being honest with either of you-- you or his ex... and who knows who else! Plus, he isn't even all that smooth about it. Mature people are generally able to interact with their exes decently, assuming there wasn't abuse or bad air between the two of them. While some people need a long break from a former flame, others feel the importance of still being there to lend a hand. I can understand that your guy here wanted to help out, but it just doesn't add up.

What bugs me most, however, perhaps even more so than the apparent deceit, is that he left you all of a sudden. If he has to rush to help a friend in dire need due to an emergency, that'd be one thing (and you'd probably be able to go along.) Ditching you in a strange place all of the sudden for something premeditated is another.

"You keep me hanging on."

The Supremes speak of a boyfriend whom they realize is no good for them. Still, they can't seem to let go. You mention he works to keep you coming back when you're 1,500 miles away. Well, you do seem like a cool person who, yes, he is lucky to be with! However, to look at this in a less positive light, his wanting to keep you around isn't necessarily a good thing. It could be because he's manipulative, even a bit sadistic, and enjoys making you uncomfortable. Totally not OK. With good reason, you speak of his actions making you "almost want to call it quits." My question is what's holding you back? Again, I recognize that there are surely some good things in this relationship, but right now the bad things seem to totally outweigh those. You deserve better.

"Leavin' here"

Eddie Holland sings, "All you fellas better change your ways / they're getting sick and tired / They're leaving this town in a matter of days." He's talking about women done wrong by the men in their lives. Granted, this sweeping statement cannot be applied to all men or all women. However, I hope it applies to you.

It is your choice as to what you're going to do about this relationship. But because you asked, I recommend physically leaving as soon as you can -- can you catch an earlier flight or stay with someone else or in a hotel? -- and ending this relationship. [You could go to the message boards if you need some help with this or email back.] Normally, I'd recommend talking it out, discussing what you want and seeing what he wants, and how you're feeling about this all. However, I don't see that healthy dynamic present; in fact, I believe the relationship could even be abusive. As you said, you "don't even know how to begin to talk to him" and worry that, should you raise these very valid points, he'd disregard them and you'd feel "underappreciated." It shouldn't be that way... it's not your fault and not something to beat yourself up over, but I'd just make the move to end it here, once and for all.

Again, you don't even owe him an explanation if you don't feel comfortable giving him one. I do recommend, however, getting out of there asap once you do say it, because I'm concerned about his treatment of you. As you said yourself, you "worry" are you "going to starting bullying myself into doing sexual things I wouldn't do otherwise." That really, really worries me to hear, because that's a red flag in a relationship. You are smart to recognize a potential danger; please get out as soon as you can. I have included the Abusive Partner Checklist at the bottom; I am concerned about you.

"You make me feel (like a natural woman)"

Cheesy lyrics aside, good relationships should make you feel, to borrow from Aretha again, "so good inside." Right now I'm going to assume, or hope (as I said from the start, this is a very biased answer), that you will leave soon or even have left this guy already.

Let's talk about you and what we can do to help you feel good about yourself, in or out of future relationships.

I'd start by recommending you get a full STI screening; we recommend these for any and everyone who is sexually active; however, in your situation, I would give you an extra strong recommendation to do so. I'm saying this not because of his sexual orientation but because of what appears to be lying and deceitful behavior.

I also want to address your own sexuality and open-mindedness. You are perfectly fine as you are; you don't seem "boring" or "bland" or "close-minded" or "naive" at all! Even if you "were," it'd be perfectly OK, because it's important that we stay true to ourselves. My challenge is for you to reflect upon your own sexual preferences and views on sexuality, not so much about your past experiences but personal philosophy. I want you to get to a place where you feel good about who you are. I feel good about you and I'm sure many others do; this guy may not, but he's a jerk and his whole view is skewed. However, I realize that's all easier said than done.

Discovering and experiencing our sexuality is a lifelong journey. (Quick, cue the music!) I believe it's best started through education (please see the articles below), reflection (reviewing what you want and what you've had) and discussion (talking to helpful friends and family or even a professional counselor.) I'd also recommend taking a break from relationships for awhile while you're working on this.

"Reach out, I'll be there"

You truly do seem like a great person-- one who's stuck in an unfortunate situation right now, but not forever. Please do reach out to the resources available to you -- friends, family, the volunteers and users here, for starters -- we all want to see you happy and in healthy relationships, with yourself and others.

I would like you to give yourself credit for your strength and intuition. I understand that you're confused right now, quite rightfully so: This is a tough space to be in. Dealing with it is hard, harder than you or anyone should have to work for a relationship. However, I think you already know that in your heart of hearts. It's amazing how our gut can tell us when something seems wrong, even if our heart or head's telling us otherwise. Good luck, and please do stay in touch!

I've added a lot of links to articles here. There are quite a bunch, but just start with a few that look interesting and continue if you'd like- - they're all useful and applicable in different ways.

10 of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Sexual Self (at Any Age)
Abusive Partner Checklist (at the message boards)
Why I Deeply Dislike Your Older Boyfriend (I know this guy is just three years older but I see the unequal dynamics that make it worth mentioning)
Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
Blinders Off: Getting a Good Look at Abuse and Assault
Looking, Lusting and Learning: A Straightforward Look at Pornography
Potholes & Dead Ends: Relationship Roadblocks to Look Out For
Reciprocity, Reloaded
Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To
Safer Sex...for Your Heart
Seven Ways to Love Your Body
Sexual Negotiation for the Long Haul
Squirt: On Female Ejaculation
Supermodel: Creating & Nurturing Your Own Best Relationship Models
Testing, Testing..
To Be... AWESOME or Just Be –– Tips on Making the Most of Your Life Right Now!
Working the Kinks Out

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