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January 2, 2013

Advice: Savage Love

Easy exit

More than 1,000 people showed up for a recent Savage Love Live event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It goes without saying that the students submitted more questions than I could answer. As promised, Madison, here are some bonus answers to questions I didn’t get to.

Q: Can an open relationship work if it’s this type: dating two people, separately, both serious, neither relationship is the “primary” one?
A: Define “work.” Most people define “work” — in the context of a relationship — as “a loving, lasting, long-term relationship that ends only with the death of one or both parties.” But I define “work” as “a loving relationship that makes the people in it happy, whether that relationship lasts for the rest of their lives or whether both parties — or all parties, if we’re talking about a poly or open scenario — decide at some point to end the relationship amicably.” So, yes, I do think the relationship you’ve described can work. Whether you’ll be in this relationship for the rest of your life remains to be seen. You may wind up getting more serious about one person, or you may move on from both and find someone else, but if you’re happy, and if they’re happy, then your relationship is working.

Q: What would you say to Ann Coulter, who said that if her son told her he was gay, she’d “tell him he was adopted”?
A: Parental rejection of a gay child (which doubles a gay kid’s already quadrupled risk for suicide), the implication that adopted parents are less emotionally invested in their children and that adopted children are loved conditionally — only Ann Coulter could pack so much hatred, malice and emotional violence into a single “quip.” I’m not sure what I would say to Coulter — I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her — but I can’t imagine that any child of Coulter’s, gay or straight, would be on speaking terms with her anyway, so I’d probably tell her that her feelings about her hypothetical children are irrelevant.

Q: I have been treated badly in several past relationships. I am now in a great one, but I have a hard time believing nothing bad will happen. How can I get over this?
A: Something bad is going to happen — believe it. Sooner or later, your new squeeze will do something bad and you’ll get hurt. Hopefully the bad that happens won’t be as bad as the bad you experienced in the past — no physical or emotional violence, no unforgivable betrayals, nothing that requires you to end this relationship — but your new partner will behave badly toward you at some point. And you will behave badly toward your new partner. There’s some bad even in the best relationships. You’ll experience less dread if you can accept that.

Q: How and when is it good/best to use whipped cream?
A: We’ve covered this before: Whipped cream is NOT A SEX TOY. Two minutes after you put it on your nipples — or two minutes after you fill your belly button or ass crack or armpits with it — you begin to smell like baby puke. It’s not sexy. And it’s not like you’re not getting enough dairy in your diets, Wisconsinites. Save the whipped cream for your ice cream, and if you want to lick something off your partner, work up a sweat and lick that off.

OK! Thanks for a great event, Madison. We have one more letter this week. It wasn’t a question asked at the talk, but it does have a Madison connection …

I met you briefly in Madison, Wis., a long time ago. As a physician, I’m usually impressed with your savvy advice and medical accuracy. And your It Gets Better Project is a contribution to the mental and physical health of adolescents and young adults. Now for a quick medical comment: I agree with your suggestion that doctors give “flared-base” advice to patients who use anal toys. But there’s a simple way for a person who didn’t get that advice to remove an object stuck in the rectum. They should squat — do a deep knee bend — stay still, relax, breathe, and voila! The item will pop out. No probing or uncomfortable procedure necessary. After learning about this technique from a very wise woman physician (who recalled the history of women giving birth in that position and applied the same principle to relaxing), I used this with young adult patients who would come to my clinic in an embarrassing predicament. The result was simple and comfortable for both patient and physician.

Find the “Savage Lovecast” every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.