Kitty Love: Sex & Relationships WVI

This week Katt answers questions on body image and sexual intimacy, STDs and relationships and polyamory. Credits: GreggMP

This week Katt answers questions on body image and sexual intimacy, STDs and relationships and polyamory. Credits: GreggMP

Hello again! And welcome to another instalment of ‘Kitty Love’ – Get Real.’s only agony aunt queer-advice column!

I gather this week has been a bit ‘urgh’ for quite a lot of people, what with week 5 blues, the heteronormativity of valentines day, lack of sleep, too much stress… but I’d just like to draw attention to that wonderful poem…

‘Roses are red,
Gender is performative,
Mass market romance
Is heteronormative’

All I can say is #hellyes

And now onto this week’s questions …

I know that polyamory is a thing, but it’s not for me. How do I tackle commitment issues to be able to work within the frame of monogamy better?

As I said in my initial article on polyamory, sometimes the philosophy used to tackle and engage in issues within a poly context is actually a very useful way of dealing with the issues encountered in monogamy too.

‘Commitment issues’ could mean a lot of different things, so it’s hard for me to know what to offer you in terms of advice. However, if I’m to interpret your question as referring to fears of commitment, I’ll say that in my previous article on polyamorous relationships, I pointed out that expecting one person to fulfil all your needs could put a lot of pressure on that person. The same works vice versa, whether you’re in a monogamous or polyamorous committed relationship.

The huge pressure of fulfilling all of someone’s needs is one reason a lot of people get scared. If you’re in the midst, or the start, of a relationship, the best thing to do would be to have a conversation about what you both expect to get out of the relationship and establish yourselves outside of the clichéd Hollywood-esque impossible image of perfect monogamy. That clichéd idea of ‘one person is your everything’ can only be bad news – it’s unhelpful and damaging to the possible emotional commitment and connection that could be open to you.

On top of this, it can be good to cultivate independence – have other close friends that you love and cherish and with whom you can pursue activities, hobbies, or other enjoyable things which aren’t part of your relationship. Decentralise a little, because pinning all your hopes on one person won’t be good for either of you. That way, with a lessened pressure on being an ideal image of yourself, you have more time and space to cultivate something between you and the person you plan to be committed to. Vulnerability happens whatever you do, and you will always have to accept limitations, but if you can embrace that vulnerability and work out what you want between yourselves, it can feel a lot less scary than trying to shape yourself into something which is not you – well, at least a more productive kind of scary.

And now I’m done with smashing clichés, time for a motivational poster quote from George Addair. I feel this actually makes a surprising amount of sense:

“Everything we want is on the other side of fear.”

I used to suffer from anorexia and I still have issues with disordered eating but for the most part I am fine. My partner knows about this issue and tells me I’m beautiful but I’m finding feeling sexy and wanting him to touch very hard atm. I feel ugly and fat and I don’t know how to say it to him or how to feel better again

The best step towards feeling more comfortable with your partner sexually is to feel more comfortable talking to him about these insecurities. If you don’t know how to explain these things to him its unsurprising that you feel uncomfortable in intimacy, which is something that throws you head first into a giant vat of everything you’ve been insecure about – not only does someone see your body naked, they also touch your body naked and you spend the whole time praying they’re enjoying your body naked….

Start with the inside of you, with your feelings, and once you’ve opened up and feel comfortable with communicating that, then maybe it’d be great to take small and gentle steps with being intimate, each time establishing comfort and feeling sexy before moving on. If you just try and dive in when you don’t feel ready for that, it’s only going to drive that sense of discomfort further home.

It’s also possible to start blaming yourself for finding it so difficult, and end up on some downward spiral of insecurity (I hate to say, I’ve been there). The basic point is, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone about your deepest insecurities, how will you feel comfortable showing them and letting them touch what has been the object of all of those insecurities for a significant portion of your life?

I was recently diagnosed with HSV II (genital herpes). one thing I’m struggling with is how and when to tell potential partners. “hi, I’m ___ and I have herpes, nice to meet ya!” seems ridiculous, and i would feel manipulative if i waited until things got hot and heavy. any suggestions?

This is a tough one, and there are a lot of resources on the internet that might do a much better job than me at explaining. That said, the basics are: use all protection available, all of the time, and don’t have sex when sores are visible or you feel an outbreak coming on (general unwellness etc.) It’s also recommended that you refrain from sexual activity for a week after the sores have healed. However, there’s still a possibly of spreading the infection through ‘shedding’, where skin sheds the virus contagion without any visible sores.

Despite the rarity of this, there’s still a basic ethical obligation to let all partners know before having sex with them. I think there might be a balance struck between including such information in your introduction and letting your partner know just before you start having sex. If it seems like things are going that way, that might be the time to start the conversation. Perhaps you’re walking back to your room with them, or have begun kissing in a potentially intimate space.

It’s good practice to check-in anyway at this point, and communicating openly right from the start of a sexual involvement could foster a great future for whatever follows. Casual sex will never be as smoothly executed, and there is no secret that will save you from discussing these things at some point which might at first seem to ‘ruin the flow’. That said, a lot of people felt that way about asking to use a condom, and for many this has now become an acceptable part of pre-sex interaction. Conversations about STIs or sexual history could become an important part of the process.

It’s an unfortunate situation to be in, and you have my sympathies. But, on the more optimistic side, your moral obligation to speak about these things might lead to a more open and communicative approach to sex. This outcome can only be a good thing.

Katt Parkins (GR. Columnist)

If you have any questions about sex lives or relationships and you’d like to send them to Katt please fill in this form

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