The Pubic Issue, Non-Monosexuality 101, and The Cool Gay Auntie
by Lindsay Miller
So… I need pubic hair advice. I’ve been considering sleeping with women, and in my imagining of it, there’s a lot more oral sex than I’ve typically had with men. Which I’m totally down for, but I’m really turned off by the idea of such close encounters with hair around the labia on myself or my partner. In your experience, do most queer chicks shave/wax for this reason? Or is this an aversion I’ll eventually get over if I decide I’m queer? This has weirdly been a big mental hurdle for me.
First of all, you should be aware that oral sex is not actually a requirement for girl-on-girl action. It’s common, sure, but common doesn’t mean mandatory. If giving or getting head isn’t your thing, don’t let anyone tell you that makes you less queer. I mean, you probably can’t physically prevent people from saying stupid shit, but definitely don’t sleep with anyone who tells you that.
In my (admittedly limited and anecdotal) experience, a completely hairless crotch is, if anything, less common among lesbians than among straight women. I suspect that, because many of us know firsthand exactly how much fun vulval razor burn isn’t, we are less likely to demand that sacrifice of our partners; conversely, having once experienced the extent to which pubic hair is not a deterrent to getting down and can, in fact, be really sexy, we are often less motivated to continue putting time and energy into removing our own.
Assuming that the main way you’ve encountered naked female bodies so far is in Hollywood or porn, I can understand why pubic hair doesn’t yet have a place in your fantasies, but remember that those images are idealized and sanitized and far removed from the actual experience of sexing up another person. In real life, people have body hair and moles and scars and stretch marks and crow’s feet and gray hairs, and they sweat and make weird faces and can’t quite bend that way and stop and giggle and start again, and if you’ve had an active sex life with men you’ve probably already experienced that this is awesome, and the ways in which the interactive experience differs from the consumable image are the exact ways in which it is thrilling and surprising and joyful and fucking hot. In other words, pubic hair on its own might be off-putting, but pubic hair attached to a gorgeous woman who is into you is actually kind of rad.
If you start fucking women, there’s a good chance that hair is something you’ll have to get used to. And if you only fuck women who shave or wax regularly, you’ll have to get used to that too; sensitive skin that has had hair removed has its own particular texture. It’s not better or worse than a full bush, it’s just different, and it’s one of the many awesome new things you’ll get to experience in your queer adventures. Just try not to let this mental hurdle dissuade you from pursuing something (or someone) you really want to do. Don’t overthink it; just dive in (sorry) and enjoy yourself. And whatever you do, don’t ever demand that a woman shave before you sleep with her; anyone who does that automatically goes to Lesbian Hell, where you watch the last 15 minutes of Kissing Jessica Stein over and over on a loop for eternity.
How do I address people’s questions when I mention that I’m not just into dudes? I keep getting, “since when do you like girls,” but I just never talked about it, and am kinda over defending myself.
OK, I want to address your concern, but first I need to ask: Are you literally me from seven years ago? Is time travel real? Did I somehow email myself in the future? What is the world?
I really feel where you’re coming from on this. I tried to be super casual about the whole coming-out thing, but it was years before people stopped asking me, “Wait, you’re gay? Since when? Didn’t you used to be straight? So how many girls have you dated? How many guys? So you’re like 60 percent gay, then? And your gayness has been trending upward about 15 percent per year?” And so on and so forth for all of eternity.
For whatever reason, people really struggle with bisexuality being a thing. Unless you drop it into every conversation — “As a bisexual woman, I wish it would stop snowing.” “I’m feeling really overwhelmed and bisexual with all these work deadlines” — they will assume, ignore, and forget. If you date a dude, they’ll figure you’re straight. If you date a lady, they’ll be like “Wait, now she’s gay? So weird!” And even people who should goddamn know better are not immune — I’ve been gently corrected twice recently for assuming that women in long-term relationships with men are straight. Humanity, what is our deal?
Until we can all collectively get our shit together, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do about this except take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone, and maybe get some classy business cards to hand out. But definitely don’t feel like you have to be ready to teach Non-Monosexuality 101 all the time when you really just wanted to gush about the cute girl you met at the bookstore. You don’t owe anyone an explanation; if clarification is demanded, respond as briefly as possible (“Yeah, I like girls too; always have”) and return without further ado to the topic at hand. If you treat it like a non-issue, hopefully other folks will take the hint and do the same.
Dear Queer Chick, I think my 13-year-old cousin might be on the verge of coming out. This is super-exciting because I’ve been the only one out in my family for years, and I’ve been waiting for one of the babies to come up. I don’t want to scare her, but I really want to give her some books and music that might nudge her oh-so-gently into an aha moment. Kind of a cross between an “I’m your cool, safe auntie who totally knows and you can come to me” and the books that gave me crushes when I was 13. The problem with all the books I read when I was 13 is that most of the major characters either died or suffered horribly (lookin’ at you, Annie On My Mind) because Kill Your Gays is an actual trope thing. I want to believe we’ve done way better since. What should I give her?
I have to admit I’m not that up on the current state of queers in YA lit. I’ve only read a few books in that niche in recent years, although I did really like The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock, which has an interesting, non-stereotypical gay teenage character, though he’s not the protagonist. I can offer some of the things that were crucial to my survival when I was a 13-year-old proto-queer trying to figure out, not only whether I wanted to make out with girls, but generally how I should deal with my life. Sleater-Kinney’s All Hands On the Bad One was the soundtrack to my life that year, and I read and re-read Girl Walking Backwards by Bett Williams (although I don’t know that I’d recommend you give that to your niece, as it’s pretty rife with sex, alcohol, and drug use). However, it’s not necessarily a given that what I loved as a 13-year-old in the year 2000 will necessarily speak to the junior-high queer of today. You might find some good suggestions by perusing the Diversity in YA Tumblr, which highlights books with LGBTQ characters as well as those featuring people of color and people with disabilities; you could also try asking your local librarian for recommendations.
But I want to advise against making a blatant “I know you’re gay; welcome to the club!” overture before you’re really, totally, 100 percent certain — as in, before she clearly and explicitly comes out. No one likes having their sexuality diagnosed by an outside party, and even if your niece is indeed queer, she may be mortified to learn that it was obvious before she chose to make it known.
Presumably she is already aware of your orientation, so if she wanted a gay mentor, she could come to you. If your relationship is close, and your suspicions are correct, it’s likely that she will come to you, as long as you don’t alienate her by pushing for a revelation she may not be ready for. If you’re not close, trying to present yourself as “the cool gay aunt who totally gets it” might just come across as disingenuous. Would you trust someone with your inner life based solely on the fact that you both like girls?
If you want your niece to feel comfortable coming out to you, spending time together will go a lot further than making coded gifts of literature and music. Take her to a movie, or hiking, or out for pancakes, or whatever, and listen to what’s on her mind. If she tells you she’s gay, then and only then should you hook her up with a copy of But I’m a Cheerleader.
I’m in my early 30s and have been single for a couple of years following a long and serious Real True Love (but often torturous in practice) relationship. I’m an only child with older parents, and spent years wrapped up in their extraordinary, claustrophobia-inducing drama. My mother’s untreated mental health issues made being her child more like raising a toddler — she is demanding and narcissistic and cruel, then will turn around and show an impossible sweetness. My father never really knew how to cope so I did most of the management work, and as an adult have continued to work with him to make their tricky retirement plans ourselves (because “there’s no point upsetting her”). There have been times when I wished for a mother I could talk to about my own problems (heartbreak, a miscarriage, etc) but I learned early that my emotions were not safe with her.
All of this big tangle of Love and Need and Guilt and Secrets translated into some… unfortunate ideas around sex and relationships. I spent a long time saying yes to things I didn’t want out of vague politeness, and even in my LTR struggled to say what I wanted, to even know what that might be. Now I’m single again and far better at saying no — I say it all the time! I’m very proud of that, and of enjoying single life so damn much.
But it’s been two years since I had any sexytimes and I vaguely remember them as fun. It’s nice to be touched, nice to not always sleep alone, and although I feel about 9,000 years old I recognize that really I’m not. It would be nice to get laid, I think, and although my libido is pretty shy at the moment I do remember what tingly used to feel like. I remember being excited about messing with gender and kink, and wishing I had someone to do that stuff with. I get offers, but from no one I’m really into — but then, I haven’t really been looking. And frankly I don’t even excite myself anymore.
So, for the question: How do I re-up my enthusiasm for all this mess of dating and excitement and vulnerability when I feel like I’ve already spent most my life in someone else’s bad relationship? How do I find someone great, explain I’d like to bone, and then get specific about the details? How do I start saying “yes,” hopefully with increasing volume?
You’ve already mastered what I think is one of the most important relationship skills: the ability to not be in a relationship. Some people never fully master the technique, but it’s really difficult to have a healthy, happy love life without it. If you feel like less of a person when you’re single, or like you owe it to your partner to stand by them no matter what, your ability to stand up for yourself in unacceptable situations is severely compromised. You, however, have figured out how to say “no” and how to be single, so you’re not going to get stuck in a hopeless mire of the wrong relationship while trying to find your way to the right one. Congratulations!
Starting with “no” and working your way back to “yes” is highly preferable to the opposite scenario, but you may find you have to spend some time in the middle of the spectrum first. You need to get comfortable with “maybe.” If you meet someone who might be sexy and interesting, you don’t have to be 100 percent sure you want to see them naked before you agree to a coffee date. Coffee gives your “maybe” time to develop in to a firm “probably” or a definite “I don’t think so.” (Not dinner; dinner is too much of a commitment if you’re feeling lukewarm. Only go to dinner with people you know you want to put the mack on.)
Don’t push yourself into anything that doesn’t sound like fun — trust your no — but be willing to try things when you feel uncertain. Sometimes you’ll come away knowing what you never want to do again; other times, ambiguity will develop into that good, old-fashioned tingly feeling, and you’ll realize that you want to take the next step — whether than means a chaste good-night kiss, a series of simultaneous orgasms, or renting a U-haul. The thing about that tingly feeling is that, especially when you’re still bouncing back from a series of bad experiences, it often takes a while to show up; but if you give yourself time and space to experiment, you’ll eventually find your way back to what turns you on.
Be honest with the people you date; let them know that you’re just getting back into the game, and that you haven’t yet decided what you’re up for. Have no truck with those who try to cajole you into things you don’t want, whether that’s sex or commitment; instead, save your maybes for people who show that they’re worthy by respecting your boundaries, and enjoy the time you spend together without pushing for more. You’ll know you’ve found a good one when you can say “maybe” easily, happily, with no pressure. And once “maybe” becomes second nature, you’ll be well on your way to that “yes” you so richly deserve.
Dear Queer Chick, I am in grad school and thus have no time for sexy activities. Unfortunately, this has led to me writing papers about how cakes are representative of sex in World War I-era posters. What do I do?
You make at least a little bit of time in your schedule — just a few minutes here and there, if that’s all you can manage — for the sexier side of life. Send a flirty text message, if you have someone to send it to, or just set aside a few minutes at the end of the day for yourself, a glass of wine, and your favorite Emily/Spencer fanfiction. And you try to get those cake papers published, because they sound awesome and we all want to read them.
Previously: Coming Out Late In the Game, Embracing the Inner Bridezilla, and Recharging Your Libido
Lindsay King-Miller is also on Twitter. Do you have a question for her?