Em & Lo: Sex. Love. And Everything in Between. » Confessions http://www.emandlo.com Your daily dose of advice, news, and stories about sex, love, and other important stuff. No yoga mat required. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:59:39 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 4 Early Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/4-warning-signs-of-a-toxic-relationship/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/4-warning-signs-of-a-toxic-relationship/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:00:51 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=28220

Reader Pigeon said the following in response to our post, “Your Call: I Finally Escaped a Toxic 13-Year Marriage. Now What?” What warning signs of a toxic relationship would you add to this list?

Have a bit of time to enjoy your freedom — just remember that you are still young and you don’t have to be married. Find new hobbies and just really get to know yourself in every sense of the word! And take some time to write down what you would consider “warning signs” for a new partner… things like:

1. Isolation: Feeling separated from friends and family.

2. Pressure: Feeling like you’re being pressured into anything, either by force or guilt.

3. Physical: Any form of non-consensual physical contact. This could be a range from actually hitting to grabbing and manipulating you into sex.

4. Sense of Self: If you feel like you’re being made to do what he wants all the time and that you’re losing your own interests just to keep them happy.



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Comment of the Week: A Cautionary Tale About Shame http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/comment-of-the-week-a-cautionary-tale-about-shame/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/comment-of-the-week-a-cautionary-tale-about-shame/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:00:45 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=28110 photo via Flickr

An Em & Lo reader told the following cautionary tale in response to our post “Dear Dr. Joe, Can You Break Your Penis During Sex?” Just one more reason why we need be better, shame-eradicating sex education in this country:

Dr. Joe, very informative post. I’ve always heard that you cannot break it; however, early in high school, I had an injury on a band trip: short version, this girl, an older classmate, started holding my hand and I became so hard, with tight pants on, something broke/popped. I had to be carried off the bus and just said I had stomach pain. The pain was excruciating. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, including my parents, so I wasn’t examined or treated in anyway. I spent the next several years trying to gradually straighten my penis back to normal. It finally healed back to maybe 80%-90% straight. Unfortunately, my erect penis size since that accident has remained maybe 3/4, at most, what it was before. It may be even more like 1/2 but too long ago to really remember.


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The Three Make-or-Break Issues In Every Relationship http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/the-three-make-or-break-issues-in-every-relationship/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/the-three-make-or-break-issues-in-every-relationship/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 11:00:20 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=28043

Reader Blah Blah Blacksheep (best username ever, by the way!) said the following in response to our post Your Call – He’s Kinky, She’s Vanilla, Is the Relationship Doomed?

Money, sex, and kids are the three make-or-break things in every relationship. A spender will have a hard time being with a saver. Two dominants or two submissives will have a hard time getting along in the bedroom. A breeder with a non-breeder usually won’t work out. And … a vanilla will have a hard time being with a BDSM’er.

If you are not happy in all three of those major categories (money, sex, kids/parenting style) then there will be major clashes and it won’t last.

It’s better to break it off early, amicably.

Find someone else you click with on those 3 things. Everything else you get along on is just icing on the cake.


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What Made Your Marriage Fail? http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/what-made-your-marriage-fail/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/what-made-your-marriage-fail/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 11:30:28 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=27925

Are you separated, divorced, or on your way there? If so, we want to hear from you. (We promise complete anonymity!) We’re working on a new project about happy-ever-afters… and not-so-happy-ever-afters… and we want to interview couples, over email, about the thing that caused their marriage to fail.

If you’re interested in sharing your story anonymously — it’s a chance to vent, or to put it all down for posterity, or to help others avoid the same pitfalls — then send us a message via our contact form here. And we’ll tawk!

Oh, and if your marriage is a gloriously happy one? Or at least reasonably satisfying? No discrimination: We want to hear from you, too. Again, anonymity is guaranteed. Just send us a message via our contact form here.

Thanks, as always, for sharing…. and over-sharing.


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Confession: The Problem with Bisexuality http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/confession-the-problem-with-bisexuality/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/04/confession-the-problem-with-bisexuality/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 09:35:46 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=27970

Yesterday, Nathaniel Frank gave us a male perspective on bisexuality; today, we’re getting a female perspective. In honor of the culmination of Bisexual Awareness Month yesterday, our long-time contributor Ariel E.M. Servadio wrote the following article on her recently relaunched Cephaloblog about her own bisexuality, which she’s graciously allowing us to reprint here today. 


Make up your mind already.

My problem with bisexuality is not that “they just can’t decide.” My problem is not that “they’re confused.” My problem is not that “they’re being greedy”. My problem is that “they” are me, and you probably didn’t know that.

Really, it’s just not fair – bisexuals can live under the guise of being straight, and therefore conform more nicely into society somewhat unintentionally, if they just happen to only meet and date people of the opposite sex. I know this, because it’s what I’ve done all of my life.


It makes me feel guilty. In a culture where LGBTetc. rights are finally getting the respect and legal recognition that they deserve, and more people than ever are truly “out and proud,” I am hiding in plain sight. I guess I’m not out – but truthfully, I was never really in. Because I’m gay. And I’m straight. Once, in complimenting my outfit, my friend told me “You kind of look like a lesbian”1 and I replied, “that’s funny, because I am kind of a lesbian!” Jokingly, I’ve described myself as half-lesbian, or half-gay.

Growing up, I just thought I was very open minded. I felt that for me personally, it was more about the person inside than their genitalia. I realize that’s not the case for everyone and that’s fine – that’s just how I’ve always felt. But it never really occurred to me that that person would ever be a woman, because I was only ever attracted to and dated men. Although I occasionally found myself sexually attracted to women throughout my post-pubescent life, no one needed to know about it, because I had no intentions of acting on it. I never met a woman I wanted to date. It just didn’t happen. Once, much later, I finally did meet a woman that I wanted to date, and we ended up becoming great friends instead.2

And this is really where the problem with bisexuality comes in: the truth of the matter is, I have a choice.

Let me affirm that I do not believe sexual orientation is a lifestyle choice in any way, shape or form. To quote Lady GaGa, “I was born this way, baby.” But I do, perhaps to the detriment of our already quavering reputation, think that bisexuals have a choice in the way they live their lives. Regardless of whether I’m born with an attraction to both men and women or not, if I only seek romantic relationships with the opposite sex out of societal conditioning, convenience, fear or utter cluelessness, I can live an easier, more socially acceptable, straight life.

I could spend the rest of my life choosing not to pursue romantic relationships with the same sex and live as a heterosexual, as far as everyone else knows. If federal and state laws don’t go my way and don’t respect homosexuals as human beings that deserve the same rights as all other human beings, no sweat – I can marry a man, adopt a child with him, whatever I want, and everyone will be 1) none the wiser and 2) never disgusted by how I live my life.

And that’s just not fucking fair.

You can’t help who you fall in love with, that is true – I mean, hey, I’m as big a fan of Chasing Amy as anyone. But is it unrealistic to think that I can, and have, influenced my sexual orientation over the years by unconsciously not considering women dateable? Being straight is so easy, so smiled upon, so normal – who would choose to live any other way?

No one would, and that is why it is a certainty that sexuality is inherent. I guess in a sense, we all do have a choice when it comes to sexuality: to be happy and live as who we truly are, or to be unhappy and socially acceptable. And anyone who chooses unhappiness, despite how much society shits on you otherwise, is choosing wrong. Your happiness is everything. The entire point of life is to be happy – why choose anything else?

What my problem ultimately comes down to is this – if I never date and fall in love with a girl, I could live the rest of my life as a straight woman. But I’m not going to. Because whether I ever end up doing so or not, I know that I would, and I won’t limit myself with a binary label. I’ve made up my mind: I’m bisexual.

1. She sincerely meant this in the best way possible – she loves lesbians. 

2. This can be a problem with women, I’ve found – real crushes can turn into friend crushes which can turn into incredible friendships with no romantic possibility, ever. Sigh, the sapphic life. 

Craig Ferguson perfectly articulates my feelings about coffee, tea and bisexuality:

Craig, where do yo come down on the tea vs. coffee debate?
There is no tea vs. coffee debate!
You're making it up!
I like tea, I like coffee!
I like milk chocolate, I like dark chocolate!
I like penises, I like vaginas!
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Confession: (My) Bisexuality Is Really Not That Complicated http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/confession-my-bisexuality-is-really-not-that-complicated/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/confession-my-bisexuality-is-really-not-that-complicated/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 13:54:15 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=27964

In honor of the last day of Bisexuality Awareness Month (it’s sort of ironically fitting, given how overlooked bisexuality so often is, that we only just realized March was Bisexual Awareness Month), we’re publishing an essay by our friend Nathaniel Frank, originally posted on Slate. He is best known as the author of the book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, and was an expert witness in two Constitutional challenges to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” whose success helped end the policy. And though he’s been a friend for years, until he published this essay, we’d always assumed he was gay. Which is one of many reasons why we wanted to publish it…

Bisexuality has been the subject of chatter lately, since the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story on the quest to prove it exists. There was a time when I used to dread this topic. I’m one of those people who, when pressed, identifies as bi, but far more often says I’m gay. And I’m not alone: When surveyed, a majority of LGB people say they’re “B,” but how many self-identified bisexuals do you know? Most Americans have gay or lesbian friends and associates, but many fewer seem to have bisexual ones that they know of, despite their statistical ubiquity among LGB people.

Why don’t bisexuals like me come out more? Part of it is laziness. But you don’t find many gay or straight people identifying as something other than who they really are just because they’re lazy. Part of it is stigma. As discussed in (and, some say, perpetuated by) the Times Magazine piece, bisexuals get little respect, not only from the world at large, but specifically from gays and lesbians, some of whom have long insisted they don’t exist. There is a widespread belief that those who identify as bi are either in a transitional stage or are lying (to themselves or others)—trying to savor the status of straightitude while enjoying the pleasures of gaydom. And this suspicion of the enduring reality of bisexuality contributes to “bisexual erasure,” which the Times piece defines as “the idea that bisexuality is systematically minimized and dismissed.”

But stigma doesn’t really explain it either. The brighter line than gay vs. bi is the divide between straight and not, and the ability of so many gay and lesbian people to come out makes it hard to attribute the bi closet, at this point in history, to stigma alone.

There’s something about bisexuality that seems to lend itself to erasure, and not just by an oppressor class but by bisexuals themselves. I think some of the reason is contained in the bright-line distinction mentioned above: Our culture is so infused with assumptions of heterosexuality that crossing that line—between heterosexuality and everything else—becomes a far more meaningful act for many LGB people than where, exactly, we land on the other side.

But the territory on that other side is now taking on new importance in a world where so many gay rights battles are being won. And so it seems an apt time for a closer look at broader questions about the spectrum of sexuality.

A great deal of confusion around bisexuality seems to stem from the crucial but often-misunderstood distinction between identity and behavior. Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern critiques the Times piece—and bi activists—for insufficiently defining bisexuality as an “identity,” and for leaving the impression that it’s largely “something you simply do” rather than someone you are. If this is true, bisexual erasure is to be expected. Whatever our feelings about monogamy may be, and whatever our success rates in achieving it, most of us, at some point, hunker down with a single partner. If bisexuality is acts-based, it can seem largely irrelevant to say you like both sexes when you’re partnered with one.

On the surface, there’s something perfectly reasonable about defining bisexuality as acts-based. That’s what we do with other identities. Bakers are bakers because they bake. Firemen fight fires. Criminals commit crimes. So bisexuals sleep with both genders, right? But from this simplistic understanding, sloppy stereotypes too easily emerge: Bisexuals must desire both genders equally or they’re not really bi; and if they desire both genders equally, they’ll never be satisfied with monogamy, because they must sleep with someone of each gender consistently to be identifying as bi. Openness to both genders gets redefined as needing both genders. And having a range of desires—which, as Freud pointed out, is the most obvious way to characterize all humans—is reconverted back into the binary our culture just can’t shake: You can like one sex or you can like two equally, but none of this weird spectrum crap.

This is silly. Some feelings and beliefs, as opposed to acts, are considered so profound and enduring that people identify around them regardless of how they behave. Romantic desire may be one of these things. You’re straight or gay even if you’re a virgin. So why not bisexual? Faith is another source of enduring identity, and many religions have their own internal debate about this. Some people don’t consider you a Christian if you don’t, as an act of will, believe in Jesus. Yet I’m a Jew no matter what I do.

I’m also bisexual, no matter what I do—and I don’t have to renew my bi card by sleeping with a woman every 10 years. I don’t scream it out, but I refuse to exorcize that part of myself when the question comes up. I suppose my bisexuality is not as politically or socially useful as my gay identity, accounting for the difference in how I bother to identify publicly. But it’s there nonetheless.

To the extent that I care about bisexual identity, it’s obviously on me that, by too often failing to identify as bi, I’ve contributed to bisexual erasure. And there are some good reasons to care. As Zack Ford points out over at ThinkProgress, “affirming bisexuality is a public health concern,” since bi-identified people face disproportionate mental and physical health challenges, including greater partner violence and harassment.

This is an obvious concern. At a personal level, however, my concern is simpler: I don’t want my feelings negated. It’s not that I need to let it all hang out and be affirmed; I just don’t like people telling me that I don’t (or didn’t) feel what I feel. Especially not if it’s because they have too limited a view of how the world works—there is a narcissistic aspect to the belief that others must have the same sexuality as you do, an inability to step outside of the self to contemplate genuine difference.

What’s it like to have feelings for both sexes? In high school, I was uninitiated and inexperienced in the ways of love. I had crushes on straight boys that went nowhere and did nothing to help deepen my understanding of how to navigate a viable relationship. But I also had sustained crushes on girls. I figured one day I’d have a wife, and I didn’t often stop to contemplate whether that would mean forgoing the kind of sex that excited me even more than the kind you could have with girls.

Had this been as far as I went with women—that is, not far at all—I may never have bothered to identify as bisexual then or since. But it wasn’t. In college and throughout my 20s, I pursued relationships with women (along with more furtive ones with men). A few became serious, lasting on and off for years. We had romantic dinners, long talks, and extremely satisfying sex. Some aspects of those relationships I’ve never matched since. They were deep, intimate, sexual, and satisfying. No matter how you look at them, they were real.

Still, they ultimately didn’t satisfy me enough. I longed for both the male body and connection with what I once described to a therapist as a man’s “himness.” And when it came to sex with women, I was a bit icked out by some sex acts—not really so different from other folks who are icked out by this or that form of sex. A rather analytic person, I agonized for years over what it was about men that I really pined for, something a wiser me later came to appreciate as a mystery better left unsolved.

What’s most notable to me about these experiences is how similar they are to those of non-bi people, even as our culture insists that sexual identity, but not other identities, conform to limiting binaries. Tons of people have relationships with someone who isn’t ultimately right for them, and we don’t say they were faking it for selfish gain. A guy whose strongest attractions were always for leggy blondes could fall for a short brunette, only to leave her for someone more to type. A Jewish girl committed to marrying another Jew could find herself deeply in love with a non-Jew and struggle through a relationship that brings great joy but is ultimately not satisfying (or is). Were these relationships fake, or built on lies?

I’m more drawn to men then women. But the more-than-platonic feelings I had for women (and could let myself have again if I weren’t happily engaged) were real. Gay men don’t have these feelings, so in that one, wholly neutral, and not very interesting way, I am different from gay men. I’m bi. That’s part of my past and, therefore, part of who I am.

I must say, I can’t blame people who worry about dating bisexuals. Given the pressure to be straight that still lingers in our culture, it seems quite reasonable to wonder if a bisexual person of the opposite sex is with you in an effort to be straight, and if you’re dating a bisexual of the same sex, it’s reasonable to wonder if that pressure will eventually get the better of him or her. That’s why our task in life involves knowing ourselves and seeing each other for who we are. And working to avoid the perpetration of unnecessary stigma, which exacerbates this problem. If more of us would focus on those things and less on boxing each other in, we’d all be a bit better off.

Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire and a visiting scholar at Columbia’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, is writing a book called The Anti-Gay Mind. This article originally appeared on Slate.com.


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Tell Us Your Viagra Story! http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/tell-us-your-viagra-story/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/tell-us-your-viagra-story/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 18:48:57 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=27955

Does your partner use Viagra for erectile dysfunction or just recreationally? Have you used it yourself, for whatever reason? If so, we want to hear from you! We’re working on an article for a new national health and wellbeing magazine about the pros and cons of Viagra use in relationships and marriages. ANONYMITY GUARANTEED! If you’ve got some experience with this drug, please write to us via our contact form, selecting “Interview Me for Your Article!” from the pull down menu — and be sure to include your age, relationship-status, a sentence or two about your experience, and your email address so we can reach you directly (we will not share your address with anyone). Looking forward to hearing from you!

Share your Viagra story with us!

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Comment of the Week: BDSM Destroyed My Marriage http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/comment-of-the-week-bdsm-destroyed-my-marriage/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/comment-of-the-week-bdsm-destroyed-my-marriage/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 11:00:49 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=27916 photo via flickr

Reader Nancy told the following heartbreaking story in response to our post, “Your Call – He’s Kinky, She’s Vanilla, Is the Relationship Doomed?” Sometimes, it turns out, love just isn’t enough…

I have been married for 17 years and recently discovered my husband’s infidelity. He started with a porn addiction which affected our sex life negatively and now is in pretty deep in the BDSM world–of course never communicating to me about his desires. I knew something was “up” for about six months, and then started having him followed. Such a sad way for me to discover his alternative lifestyle. I had to have answers for his behavior and mood changes so I am not really sorry I did the surveillance thing.

His personality changed in a negative way. He became very disengaged from our children and myself. Irritable, self-centered and defensive about any kind of inquiries about his life. (I realize these are behaviors that anyone would demonstrate if having an affair). After I confronted him about his activities, we had huge communication sessions about what led up to this. We love each other dearly and have three wonderful children who deserve both parents in a loving household. It probably won’t be possible to continue with our relationship. He cries and says he wants a committed, loving, monogamous relationship with me, but knows in his heart the BDSD charge is very strong and admits it will be next to impossible to maintain fidelity in our marriage.

I am sick about this, but don’t have an answer for any of it. I was sexually, emotionally, and verbally abused much of my childhood by an abusive stepfather. My mother was an extremely submissive person who “looked the other way” and accused me of lying when I would complain. I have worked extraordinarily hard to overcome the scars and damage from this. I am proud of myself for who I have become. I look for the light and positive in everything I do. My life is devoted to helping other people. BDSM has cast a very dark shadow over my children, my marriage and my future.

Yes, I did try and be open to my husband and play the “sub role.” It sucked. Sorry, I don’t want to be spanked, tied up and blindfolded. I don’t want my husband to stick his penis in my mouth when I am in a vulnerable position. Doesn’t do it for me. I am not excited by the “confusion” that BDSM brings into the complicated division of “power” between a man and a wife. So, we will be divorcing soon. It is a no-win situation. My husband cries every day and says he knows he will not find happiness with a sub, but he is “just in too deep.” I have a hunch he is not going to make BDSM a lifetime commitment. I am looking forward to getting out of this mess and beginning a life either on my own or with someone who will love me in a way that shares gentleness, warmth, care light and love. I want my children to experience what a relationship looks like from that perspective.

I always wonder if people that are so enthusiastic about BDSM would want their children involved with this. Would you really want your daughter being a sex slave or sub to a dom? Would you want your son whipping his wife? Not me. Life is so full of wonderful things that include kindness and gentleness. I have walked both sides of the fence and there is nothing to me more exciting than a gentle caress, a supportive hug, a loving gaze, a meeting of the eyes while love-making, my husband’s head on my breasts, an equal say in decisions involving the household etc. It is not a boring vanilla lifestyle to experience these things, I promise you.


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What Makes YOUR Marriage Work? http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/what-makes-your-marriage-work/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/what-makes-your-marriage-work/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 11:00:46 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=27803

Are you happily married? If so, we want to hear from you! We’re working on a new project celebrating happy-ever-afters, and we want to interview you over email to find out what makes your marriage a happy one. You can stay completely anonymous, we promise! (Unless you’d care to brag.) If you’re interested in sharing your story — think of it as helping to make the world a happier place, one relationship at a time — then send us a message via our contact form here. And we’ll tawk!

Oh, and if your marriage failed miserably? Or is in the process of failing miserably? No discrimination: We want to hear from you, too. Assuming, that is, that you’re willing to let complete strangers learn from your mistakes. Again, anonymity is guaranteed. Just send us a message via our contact form here.

Thanks, as always, for sharing…. and over-sharing.



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Comment of the Week: Why the Labia Jokes Have Got to Stop http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/comment-of-the-week-why-the-labia-jokes-have-got-to-stop/ http://www.emandlo.com/2014/03/comment-of-the-week-why-the-labia-jokes-have-got-to-stop/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:00:12 +0000 emandlo http://www.emandlo.com/?p=27767

At what point can we all agree that jokes about protruding inner labia are (a) way past their sell date (seriously, Dane Cook? A “box of cow tongues”? A “high school play curtain”? Are you working from the junior high book of jokes here?); (b) douchey in the extreme; and (c) seriously damaging to women’s self-confidence. Guys, if you really want women to enjoy sex more, then stop criticizing their labia. Stop comparing their labia to roast beef, or slices of ham, or any other kind of meat. If you insist on recycling material from seventh grade, then stick with fart jokes, please. For those just getting with the program, this week’s comment by Thee (abridged; you can read the comment in full here), in response to our post, “Wise Guys: Do Men Care What Labia Look Like?”  should seal the deal. Hint: Even if a woman is laughing at your “joke” — in fact, especially if she’s laughing — doesn’t mean she’s not dying a little inside.

I really am not fond of my labia. At all. Like someone else said, I don’t remember them growing, I just know that at some point I realized they were large. I was just looking at them one day thinking all kinds of things. “Why are they stretchy looking? Why are they brown? Why aren’t they like tucked in? What the hell is a vagina typically supposed to look like anyway? Is this right? I wonder how many other girls look like this? Did I go years unconsciously pulling at myself or something? They hang. Why? Guys are going to have to adjust their eyes when they see my (Dane Cook large labia reference here) high school play curtains. They’re so ugly. And wrinkly. I need them chopped.” These things still go through my head when I’m changing in a mirror.

I go back and forth between those things and thinking to myself, “It’s not a big deal. The guys you’ve been with have NOT EVER complained. Your ex bf said he liked them a lot, you’re fine. Shut up.”

But I hear so many negative jokes about them. The other day my guy friends were talking about lip size. I just ha-ha’d and stayed balls deep into my phone like I didn’t care about the subject, but I was listening quite intently. The guys never came right out and said they prefer porn-like pussies (“pretty in pink” or “tucked away” as I think of them). They just made jokes about larger labia. The play curtain joke came up, as well as the beef curtain joke. I forced myself to laugh, but I felt so abnormal and insecure about myself.


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