Thursday, March 3, 2011

Good, giving, game.

I like Dan Savage, for the most part. He's funny, he's unflinchingly sex-positive, and he provides a voice for queer and kinky sexualities in some surprisingly mainstream venues. So this is not a "Dan Savage said a bad thing and now everything he ever wrote sucks retroactively." But Dan Savage did say a bad thing.

I'm a 24-year-old straight male. For the past six months, I've been dating an amazing GGG girl. We have amazing sex. The other night, after a week of no sex, I came on to her in bed. She turned me down and said that she was okay with me masturbating on the other side of the bed so she could sleep. After a very unsatisfying orgasm, I told her I understood her need to sleep, since we had an early engagement the next morning, but that this was difficult for me. She said we'd have great sex the next day, which we did. Which one of us needs to be GGG in this scenario, should it happen again?
Fucking Early Engagement Botches Lovely Evening

A week is a long time to go without at your age and at six months and prekids, I realize, but it sounds like the girlfriend more than made it up to you the next day. As for who needs to be GGG in this scenario, should it happen again (and it will)...
GGG demands a little something of both of you. GGG requires you to stop whining about having to wait 24 whole hours for awesome sex, FEEBLE, and GGG requires her—if she isn't completely exhausted (and it appears she wasn't, as she was still awake when your "very unsatisfying orgasm" was over)—to come through with a loving assist when you're desperate and she's not feeling it, i.e., lie with you, talk dirty to you, stick a finger up your butt—whatever—for the 5 or 10 minutes it takes you to drain your sack.

Okay, so the letter writer is patently ridiculous--oh no, we didn't have sex one whole night, how can I go on--and Savage does get that. He probably picked the letter specifically because it was so ridiculous. But then we get into the creepy area of "GGG." This is Savage's pet acronym for "good, giving, game," and was originally created to symbolize the idea that people should be willing to try things their partners are into, even if it's not their cup of tea, because giving is part of a relationship. Which, okay. Could use a little more "unless it's a limit for you," but I generally agree--"we'll do your fetish tonight" is on some level the same kind of good and necessary relationship giving as "I'll get the dishes tonight." Except this dishwashing involves doing things to intimate parts of your body that could be disgusting or painful for you, so, you know, not exactly the same.

But GGG seems to have undergone a disquieting metamorphosis into the sensitive new-age sex-positive way to say "partners are obligated to satisfy all sexual demands." And it seems to have been co-opted by assholes--"c'mon, baby, be GGG!" is the new "you can't leave me with blue balls!" It's just a cheap guilt trip used to override a "no." Maybe most dangerously, it seems to have been turned around, from something you decide to be to your partner, to something you demand that your partner be. "I'm GGG, so I'm putting on the diaper for you" is a very different thing from "you need to be GGG and put on this diaper."

I propose an alternate theory of dealing with unilateral desires or fetishes: LAHTW. Lead A Horse To Water. In other words, you communicate your desire, and... that's it. Once they know what you want, they go where they go with that knowledge.

So my advice for the letter writer:
"Hey, girlfriend, want to have sex tonight? I do!"
"No, but it's fine with me if you masturbate."
"Oh, okay."

I think a lot of people are opposed to such blunt constructions of consent because it conjures up the fear "but then I'll never get laid!" But, as I say so often, women are horny. If your girlfriend is having sex with you so much that a whole week off seems like an eternity, then she's probably horny for you. She probably wants to make you happy sexually (most of the time and within her limits). And if she doesn't, if she really doesn't care about your pleasure or if she just can't get into the things you're into, then a cute acronym and a guilt trip aren't going to change that.

This is the same reason I can't get jealous in relationships. If someone I love wants to love me, awesome, and if they don't, well, fuck. It ends there. Once I've communicated that I want to be close (and acted all sweet and wuvable to them), there's nothing more I should--or ultimately, can--do to ensure that. Trying to make "no fair falling out of love with me!" rules is either unnecessary or hopeless.

I've been on both sides of the "nope, but your exciting consolation prize is a handjob!" negotiation. It's not an invalid compromise. But it's not an obligatory one. Sometimes no means not even a little bit. Or sometimes no means "eh, rather not" rather than being a giant "ABSOLUTELY NOT IT WOULD KILL ME" line in the sand, and if your partner feels comfortable doing this and if you respect it, that's a really good sign for the relationship.

Ultimately, I don't believe the old saw about "Relationships are about compromise!" Relationships are about doing what you want to do, and discovering to your delight that what you want to do is make your partner happy. If that want isn't there, no set of imposed rules--not GGG, not The Rules, not even the Standard Western Heterosexual Relationship Unwritten Rules--is going to make up for it.


  1. Dan makes it pretty clear whenever someone asks something that involves limits that GGG only means "Go as far as it's okay to go." It's more "put in an effort to help execute fantasies" than "do everything you're told". And I thought the advice here was spot-on -- It's never okay to say (without prior negotiation) "It's NOT okay with me if you masturbate" and if you're not sleeping until they're done with that anyway you may as well cuddle with them rather than rolling to the other side of the bed. (I know my boyfriend's helped me out with this on quite a few late nights.)

  2. I think the problem with this advice in particular, Pig, is that Dan suggests that the concept of "GGG" requires someone who isn't interested in being sexual for one whole night (maybe she had an upsetting day at work, whatever), to indulge her partner by sticking a finger up his bum, for instance, or by talking dirty to him. He suggests that the rules of relationships say that she has to do sexual things that she's totally not interested in doing, without delay, anytime her partner says the word. One of the problems with this is that I can imagine starting to resent someone who seemed to think that it was my obligation to gratify him sexually even if I was totally wiped out (but not literally unconscious). The concept of "GGG" doesn't erase this reality. Someone who treats sex as if it were a "GGG" obligation turns sex into a chore for his partner.

    That's not the whole issue, but it's part of it.

  3. Nothing that is a law works all the time, because it's the nature of the world to be granular, not really sharp, and full of endless details and nuances. So even though I get the point of your criticism to Dan in this particular interaction -- you can't make GGG into a duty -- I must hasten to add that the solution you give has precisely the same problem: it can also be used to do things other than what it was designed to do, things that go along the spectrum of manipulation.

    GGG was meant to be a way in which people can show that they care about their partners; as you point out, this makes sense only when it's voluntary, and it involves being open (not 'bound by duty') to sacrifice. LAHTW is designed to make 'voluntariness' the pivot of the whole interaction: what is it that you want to do?; and as such it can be used to make people shy away from any responsibility whatsoever in the situation of the other. Just as GGG can become emotional blackmail, LAHTW can become a shield with which to justify lack of empathy.

    The 'I can't make him love me if he doesn't' part of LAHTW is also similarly deeply true and amenable to misuse. The good, deeply true side is indeed that love cannot be bought. The misuse is when it leads us to forget that love must be worked on, it is a work-in-progress. The misuse would be giving up on the work because 'whatever I do, I can't make him love me anyway.' This misuse would lead us to forget the truth that somemties less-than-perfect, even borderline dysfunctional relationships can prosper and grow into something good, with work and dedication -- like everything else.

    If used adequately and responsibly, both GGG and LAHTW can work wonderfully. Respect yourself; respect your partner. Feel his/her feeling; feel also yours. The bad part of GGG -- seen as a duty that can be used to shame a partner into cooperation -- it is manipulation. (But can any of us cast the first stone? and does the tale end right there?...) The good part of LAHTW is knowing that love is a gift, that it is neither 'deserved' nor 'guaranteed' -- which is why it should be highly valued. The bad part of LAHTW is inertia and laziness, even selfishness.

    These two bad parts are misuses. But there it is: because life is granular and infinitely detailed; anything can be misused. So maybe we should simply remember our yin-and-yang relations with reality, strive for balance, self-knowledge, and an open heart.

  4. "I don't believe the old saw about "Relationships are about compromise!" Relationships are about doing what you want to do, and discovering to your delight that what you want to do is make your partner happy. If that want isn't there, no set of imposed rules--not GGG, not The Rules, not even the Standard Western Heterosexual Relationship Unwritten Rules--is going to make up for it."

    This is true, as far as it goes. So is, curiously, its opposite; because the want whereof you speak comes from somewhere, may go away for a week and come back, and is indeed sometimes influenced by what our partner(s) do(es). There is a lot of truth in this somewhat sad vision of relationship as a coincidence -- if taken to extremes: "I look at you, you look at me; either there is something there, or then there never will be" -- but there is also truth in the opposite vision: the relationship is today no longer what it was, because what I want -- and what you want -- has changed through time, among other reasons, because of the interaction between our wants. What I wanted changed what you wanted, and what you wanted changed what I wanted; ideally at many levels and in many ways, so that we feed each other. (There are, of course, less healthy possibilities as well.)

    Maybe nothing is true without making its opposite simultaneously true.

  5. I think Dan has been very clear when he's described the GGG concept that it refers to the way a particular person should behave if s/he wants to be an excellent sex partner, ~not~ a set of behaviors that you can demand of other people. If you (hypothetical person) have a total foot fetish and your girlfriend refuses to try letting you suck her toes, maybe she's being unreasonable, but it's up to you to either drop the issue or end the relationship. You don't get to browbeat her into following the "rules" of GGG.

    I've seen this point made quite explicitly in various Dan Savage columns. It didn't come through as clearly in this one; revising the offending sentence to say "if she isn't completely exhausted or otherwise or otherwise uncomfortable with the idea" would remove any ambiguity. But if people are using "GGG" as an excuse to make sexual demands and not take no for an answer, they're wilfully misreading.

  6. Holly, thanks for this - I felt uncomfortable reading that column and then to see that you had chosen to write about felt like a gift. Or else like you are reading my mind, but I'm going with the former. I can't say what Dan intended in this response, but it isn't the first time he's treated sex as an obligation in a relationship. Obviously partners expect sex from each other, and obviously they are entitled to do so IN GENERAL. I start having problems with the idea when it's attached to a particular moment - like in this letter. Perhaps Dan's advice was nothing more than a counsel of perfection - this is what the gf would do to be GGG, not what the relationship obligated her to do - but the potential for misuse by jerks is, as you note, blatant.

    I also very much agree with Anonymous at 5:58 - the potential for resentment and seeing sex as a chore is something I've experienced and, I think, the reason that I was uncomfortable with Dan's response this week. If being GGG makes the giver unhappy, then it's pretty much defeated its own purpose right there.

  7. I've stopped reading Savage Love, I think I've outgrown him. He can be pretty good, but the straw was one column where a recovering anorexic worried about her boyfriend getting fat and unattractive.

    Which is a hard question to answer, admittedly. And his answer seemed...not great. Lacking nuance, let's say.

  8. AscendingPig - I think the reason she wasn't sleeping was that he was ostentatiously huffy about not getting laid. Also, sex is something you do when you want to, not something you do because you have no excuse not to.

    Ashpe - Yes, relationships require work, but ultimately that work has to be based on continuing desire, not on abstract responsibility. And I mean "desire" in the grown-up way that includes "I'm mad at you today or not hot for you today, but I still want to be together." If that desire goes away big-time and long-term, any further "work" you do is CPR on a corpse.

    If you secretly want to screw over your partner--to have a one-sided sex life and to ignore them emotionally--then get out of the relationship. You shouldn't need to be fighting your own internal evil at every step. "I suppress my lack of empathy for you, baby" is no basis for staying together.

    Maybe nothing is true without making its opposite simultaneously true.
    Nope! Some things are in fact truer than others, or black is white and we're gonna get killed at the next zebra crossing.

  9. Asehpe said...

    Maybe nothing is true without making its opposite simultaneously true.

    There are trivial truths, and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true. - Niels Bohr

  10. Okay, the only thing that's true is that I (dunno bout you) am conscious. Can't really draw any conclusions beyond that.

    However, when we get to describing the physical world, yeah, there are things that are truer than others.

    When you're describing the ethical world, when you're bringing "should" into the picture, nothing is exactly true, but I think some things are righter than others, else why bother talking about it?

  11. Dan Savage has a reputation in the ace community for seeing people who aren't interested in sex, whether temporarily or permanently, as problematic. I'm not familiar with too many of his columns, but I'm not surprised to see that bleeding over here.

  12. I think the key distinction is that as the person who wants Fetish X, you should be LAHTW, but if you're the person whose partner wants Fetish X, you should be GGG. Because GGG is a primarily internal thing, your partner doesn't necessarily know whether Fetish X is a hard limit or a "meh". (After all, even if you communicate, you might have a partner who treats every "meh" as a hard limit.) Therefore, you honestly can't tell from an outside perspective wehether someone is being GGG.

  13. A lot of times, the context for Dan saying that people should be GGG is that they are in a committed, monogamous relationships. Usually the argument is that if you want someone to exclusively have sex with you for the indefinite future, you should be willing to make that enjoyable for them. If you don't want to fulfill an important desire of your partner's, let them do it with someone else. A lot of times he actually tells people to open up their relationships to some degree, rather than have sex they don't want to (for example, BDSM at play parties without the partner, if the partner doesn't like BDSM). In that sense, I don't think it's incompatible with LAHTW at all.

    In this column, yeah it was poorly applied.

  14. Anon 10:24

    I think that's something that makes me uncomfortable with a lot of his columns.

    I like sex, I love orgasms, and I'm generally game for experimentation--but I'm not under some kind of contractual obligation to provide sexual favors. I'm willing to be generous in bed, but only on the condition that when I don't feel like it, me decision is respected, unequivocally and without whining.

  15. agreed, Holly.
    I think it's weird that Dan focuses on the fact that the girlfriend was still awake enough for the boyfriend to tell her how difficult it was for him after he'd masturbated. That doesn't mean she wasn't exhausted, it just means the boyfriend was noisy and keeping her awake. Been there.
    Even if she wasn't exhausted, it's still her right to say no (that part is of course obvious to everyone reading this) and I also really can't see how it's imposing any stress in the relationship, given that they had great sex the next day. It's not like she was deliberately withholding sex (again, absolutely her right, but possible grounds for a breakup) or even being inconsiderate to his needs & wishes. I just can't see anything she did wrong.

  16. I don't know why anyone even takes that idiot seriously.

  17. I hate the idea of someone wanting to get laid so badly that they'll purposely deprive their partner of sleep...and I don't like that Dan seems to think the exhausted person should stay up and humour the horny person in any way. Humans need sleep in order to live. They do not need orgasms in order to live. Therefore, sleep trumps orgasms.

    Mind you, I'm a chronic insomniac and my entire fucking life seems to revolve around trying to get enough sleep to function properly, so it's kind of a hotbutton for me. I've told my bf in no uncertain terms that it is DOUBLE-PLUS UNGOOD to delay or interrupt my sleep in order to git it awwwwn. He's been good about respecting my wishes.

  18. Basically, anything that's a good thing to do can get problematic when it's turned into a responsibility.

    It's a nice thing to give a homeless person twenty bucks, but you aren't a bad person if you don't.

    So when Dan says "You should do this thing which is good" it can be read as "You need to do this or you're bad" because of the way it's phrased. And I think the way he qualified exhausted with completely didn't help either. I mean if she's plain old exhausted I think that's more then sufficient to not expect any help.

  19. Sometimes one person in a partnership is not in the mood for whatever reason. That's okay. The concerned writer quoted sounds like a whiney-butt. I've never heard of Dan Savage before. He doesn't strike me as the kind of person that I would like. Now I'm coming across as cranky and getting nowhere near my point.

    *sigh.* K, heregoes... I've gone months and months without sex before. In a monogamous marriage that I'm still in no less. This was due to my wife not being in the mood. I feel like I did an excellent job being patient and understanding within the limits of personal sanity. I did express to my wife that this situation would not be acceptable in the long run and I perceived it to be a large problem. As far as we can tell it was the birth control that she was on and now she has a libido like a freight train.

    Additionally there are some things that I would like to try that she is simply not into. I like her to try some of them and she has but I don't want to nag or wheedle her. As others have said this should not be a chore. It should be fun for both partners if you are doing it right.

    My point is that you can't really say "demands are wrong" as an all-inclusive statement. My wife expects me to not have sex with other people. In exchange for my fulfillment of that I expect for her to sleep with me. We have the understanding that it will work the other way as well. It's not at all that we are making "demands" of each other or that one of us is subjugating the other. It is a mutual agreement that we came to when we defined the terms of our relationship when we decided to make it permanent.

    I thought I had more to say but it's coming out all funny and I keep backspacing through. So that's it I guess.

  20. To one of the commenters: Dan is harsh on no-sex people when they're trying to be monogamous with sex people. I've got to say I'm with him on that. There's nothing wrong with being uninterested in sex, but your "no" will always trump my "yes", and if we're monogamously together, my legitimate sexual needs will go unmet. There's nothing wrong with your "no", but it makes us a terrible pair.

    There's some recognition, socially speaking, that different libidos is a bona fide relationship problem. But more often then not, it's presumed to be the Natural Course Of Things. You have a bunch of sex, you get married, you have kids, you stop having sex. Then what? You deal, you cheat, you get counseling, you get a divorce...

    But if you start out with radically different libidos, it's just going to get worse over time. If you know that you've got low or no libido, you've got to tell your partners, or they're going to be frustrated hoping for the day that will never come!

    It's terrible for both partners to be in a relationship with a huge variance in libidos. One feels pressured, the other feels unloved or unattractive; sexual desire becomes problematic in and of itself.

    Dan doesn't say you suck for not wanting sex; he says you suck if you want a long-term monogamous relationship with someone who does.

    I had a long wonderful comment that firefox ate about how *both* partners need to be GGG, and that in the column the dude would be giving by leaving his girlfriend alone. If she was just kinda droopy, well it would have been friendly for her to cuddle while he jacked it. And that couples have to negotiate in the moment who's going to be giving and who's going to be selfish, and that's just fine.

  21. @perversecowgirl - sometimes I have insomnia wherein I'm totally exhausted & the ONLY way I'm going to get to sleep is if I have a quick orgasm.

    If my lover's too tired, he doesn't mind my jilling off, but it does help me if he lends a hand. Minimal effort on his part = way better masturbation for me, and we get a bit of closeness. I think that's what Dan S. has in mind here? "A loving assist" as he said - not Sex when you're not in the mood.


  22. I commented at 5:58 to agree with the original post, and I've been following the conversation with interest, and in order to avoid the feeling that I've done a disservice to Dan Savage, I wanted to make the point that I agree with miette's characterization of Dan Savage's position. I even agree with Dan Savage's position to the extent that I believe that someone who consistently doesn't meet his or her partner's sexual needs can't rationally expect monogamy.

    On the other hand -- and I suspect that Dan Savage would agree with this -- it's seriously silly to try to blackmail someone into meeting your sexual needs. You're totally within your rights to break up with your partner for failing to meet your sexual needs (and you get to decide what constitutes meeting your sexual needs), but suggesting to your partner that the rules of good etiquette require them to meet your sexual needs is counterproductive.

    Like Holly, I agree with Dan Savage a lot of the time -- I agree with him, actually, almost all the time. I just think the idea that an "assist" is compulsory is kind of dumb. If your partner acts like the definition of GGG is that you have to finger him in the butt every time you don't want to have sex and he does want to have sex, you're still not going to want to have sex with your partner. If anything, you'll be less interested in having sex with your partner.

    Cuddling is nice, but by the same token, suggesting that your partner should cuddle you in order to behave in accordance with some abstract rule handed down from an external authority isn't going to make them want to cuddle you.

    I might be off-base here in my assessment of this guy, but I also kind of want to suggest that if he was capable of framing the request like a decent human being with decent social skills (he's the sort of person who writes to an advice columnist in order to pressure his girlfriend to be "GGG," so I'm guessing he framed the request like someone who felt entitled to immediate sexual attention), she'd probably be more inclined to cuddle him.

  23. Thank you Holly!

    A ex and I used to have arguments about things like this. I fell more on the "do as much as you feel up for/in to" side of the line, where as he fell on the "do everything you possibly ever could do for the person you care about" side of the line. Which eventually lead to him getting resentful and saying things like "But if I do xyz thing for you even until it hurts why can't you do zxy for me even though your uncomfortable/your neck hurts/you're exhausted?"

    And let me tell you, I was pretty damn "GGG" in that relationship. But I always felt like I was ultimately responsible for the things I said yes or no to - and expected the same of him. I never would have asked him to do more than he absolutely was happy to do for me, and trusted that he would say no to things that I asked for unless he absolutely wanted to do them.

  24. Flightless - I love when my bf assists with my orgasms, too, but if he was in bed and trying to sleep (like the girl in Savage Love seemed to be) I'd never ask him to stay awake and help me out.

    I'd start wanking and hope he decided to assist, though. And he always has, so far. But if he didn't, I wouldn't be mad that he opted for sleep and he wouldn't be mad that I shook the bed slightly with my activities while he was trying to doze off.

    That is what I think GGG should mean in this case. The dude in the column just sounds like a total douche.

  25. Hershele OstropolerMarch 5, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    GGG comes up for criticism a lot by people who interpret it as "the woman has to do whatever the man wants." Leaving aside that Savage has applied it to people who aren't women in het relationships, he doesn't usually say "GGG is less important than 'no means no'." I've always seen it presented as "if your partner wants X, and you don't want the absense of X right now, do X."

    And I'm not sure he's entirely wrong here. He's either being flip or overreaching when he suggests that she was perfectly able to participate in a small way because she didn't fall asleep before FEEBLE finished, but I think the conclusion does flow from the premises: if FEEBLE's girlfriend wants him to be happy, including sexually, and if she wasn't too tired to participate at all, eve if she was too tired to participate fully, then she was being a little cold not to do so, although he should have asked her to, it's unreasonable for him to expect her to volunteer.

    If being GGG makes the giver unhappy, then it's pretty much defeated its own purpose right there.

    I think that the problem GGG was intended to combat was people in long-term relationships only having the kinds of sex that turned everyone involved on, to the detriment of the kinds that turned some people on and didn't turn everyone off. So doing things that make you unhappy is outside the scope of being GGG -- people definitely say "you need to do this to be GGG, no matter how you feel about it," but I've never seen Savage say that. Not even here, if you grant his assumptions about how FEEBLE's girlfriend did feel about it.

    Dan Savage has a reputation in the ace community for seeing people who aren't interested in sex, whether temporarily or permanently, as problematic.

    That's an interesting reading of "aces cannot demand 'monogamous' commitments from sexual people." You don't have to have sex every night, or every time they ask, but you really can't be surprised when someone balks at "you may never have sex because I don't like it."

    I never would have asked him to do more than he absolutely was happy to do for me, and trusted that he would say no to things that I asked for unless he absolutely wanted to do them.

    I have no problem with saying "you're entitled to say no to anything even if you don't have a reason, but if you're in a relationship, your partner isn't being douchey for not liking when you do that, or not wanting you to do that." "I'm too tired" and "I don't feel like it" are both reasons.

  26. All the back and forth about "what GGG really means" does make me feel like the Niels Bohr quotation above -- that great truths are such that their opposite is also true -- also applies here.

    Anonymous: On the other hand -- and I suspect that Dan Savage would agree with this -- it's seriously silly to try to blackmail someone into meeting your sexual needs. You're totally within your rights to break up with your partner for failing to meet your sexual needs (and you get to decide what constitutes meeting your sexual needs), but suggesting to your partner that the rules of good etiquette require them to meet your sexual needs is counterproductive.

    The good part I see in the above statement is the attempt not to manipulate/pressure/blackmail others; and indeed it would be bad to do these things. The bad part I see there is the restriction on dialogue, which often involves words/situations that can be misinterpretable, half-meant, ambiguous, and so on.

    Anonymous' (and Dan's) idea is that a person is entitled to having his/her needs met, so if his/her partner won't spontaneously do it when asked, then monogamy is not a rational expectation. The other partner has rationally the right to seek others, or even to terminate the relationship, if his/her needs aren't being met.

    But if we think that this very fact can be used to manipulate the partner... either because the unsatisfied one says it out loud ('I'm going to find someone else if I can't get my needs met'), or -- if s/he thinks saying it out loud is still 'manipulative' -- because s/he actually does it. A lacrimose partner then says, 'OK, I'll do it; just don't leave me okay?'

    It could be quite... passive-aggresively done, too.

    In the end, it boils down to what 'legitimate negotiation' is, and what is 'non-legitimate manipulation' (assholery, self-entitlement, etc.). This things have not remained constant in the history of relationships, even their recent history; and even today people clearly differ in what they will place in one category or the other. And since the distinction between negotiation and manipulation, putting pressure and 'stating consequences'/'telling him/her what you will do' is as tenuous as a line in the desert during a sandstorm... the actual truth and good intention of this statement ends up becoming confused/united with its very opposite. The polar opposites come close to each other.

    Ideally people should indeed negotiate as adults, fully cognizant of each other's status as sentient beings with needs and urges, likes and dislikes, of all kinds. In practice there are gray zones, ambiguities... and we're all less than perfect. It ain't easy.

  27. That's a really good point, Asehpe. Some of those thoughts occurred to me over the course of commenting (the possibility that the threat of being abandoned by a partner could function as a form of emotional blackmail; the potential for passive-aggression) and I'm glad you pointed them out, but I have no idea how to address them. The answer that Dan Savage seems to endorse is that couples with mismatched libidos should possibly reconsider monogamy if they're committed to maintaining the relationship, or possibly they should break up. (As you point out, it's pretty easy to imagine the threat of "cheating" having the same potential for abuse as the threat of breaking up.)

    I think the a mature response on the part of the person who feels unhappy about the situation would probably be to attempt to have a discussion about it and see whether the discussion is productive before mentioning stuff like breaking up or the possibility of seeing other (additional) people. Ideally this discussion would take place while everyone was fully dressed, during a moment of peaceful non-sexual intimacy. The specter of possible consequences shouldn't be raised at this point, but the extent of the unhappy partner's dissatisfaction should be made clear. (In order to avoid making anyone feel like they're being put on the spot, the conversation probably shouldn't happen when the partner with the higher libido is bursting to have sex immediately.)

  28. I actually agree with Dan here (as with many other things).

    He did make it clear that the writer should ideally have the presence of mind to be ok with waiting a day for interactive sex, and be ok with masturbation. He did invite the writer to own his own feelings and take a step up from codependence.

    But he also pointed out that in a perfect GGG world the writer's partner would realize her mate's need and do a caring thing.

    Sometimes it is possible to put off an emotional need. Sometimes it is hard, and can lead to feelings of alienation. Sometimes we need to feel loved, like, now.

    So sometimes, in a relationship, sleep has to wait, and tending to your mate takes priority. And this is not about sex - it could be staying awake to help your mate through food poisoning or a sore throat. It could mean waking up in the middle of the night to find your mate the victim of a nightmare and gasping for air, and then holding them tight and making sure they're alright. And sometimes it's sexual neediness, and then at the very least, if one is loving and decent and kind, one can curl up close to one's mate and express "I care about you" while they masturbate, so that the masturbation doesn't spell rejection, doesn't spell aloneness.

    This of course is understood to be something that would require balance, and would require reciprocity, and would require that the needy mate does not press this button too many times, too many nights, making it a burden for the other.

    My dos centavos for what it's worth.

  29. Greg - The problem here is one of perspective. "In a relationship, you should be willing to sometimes compromise to take care of your partner's sexual needs" is legit advice.

    "In a relationship, your partner should be willing to sometimes compromise to take care of your needs," however, is not the same thing at all.

    Let me put it this way: what about his ethical duty to compromise to meet her sleep needs?

  30. I hear ya Holly. The point is a good one.

    My thinking is that we humans sometimes has emotional funks that require addressing. And sex is an area where emotions can thrive, for good and bad.

    I don't believe either has an ethical duty in this scenario - it's simply a matter of who's feeling like being the nurturer and who's feeling like being nurtured.

    And in my eyes, there's an invisible tally board, where as long as it runs say, within a 20% error of margin as a balanced thing, neither would feel put upon. But if one finds him/herself being the nurturer more than 70% of the time, and nurtured less than 30% of the time, one would begin to think WTF.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the need for our partner to reach out and touch us is not always one of sexual gratification. Sometimes it's a need for togetherness, a need for validation of the bond, a need for confirmation of being wanted and being had. And such an emotional need can sometimes take an urgent tone, and when that happens I'm thinking it should ideally be quelled instead of postponed.

    It's a "I got your back" kind of thing.

    I think you made a wonderful point which is at the core of GGG in your quotes above. GGG is about what YOU are willing to do, not about what you expect OTHERS to do.

  31. [when you're desperate and she's not feeling it she should just go along with it half-heartedly...]

    buuut, that's not enthusiastic consent. It's more important for you to (a) control your horniness/accept it's you and your hand tonight and (b)for your partner to speak up about what they dont want THAN for the both of you to have a mediocre-to-bad sex session. I personally feel great when I state my boundaries and have them respected - a sexual favour does not come close to giving me that feeling. Come on, having sex is not the most important end goal evar. I don't think I like the GGG concept too much, if those are its ramifications.

  32. These comments are some of the most astute and insightful I've seen in a long time! Way thanks for making me think!