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My friends prefer me to be the wounded puppy

Dear Faye, I’m ready to explore my sexuality, but my friend’s judgement keeps getting in the way!

Design by Alexandra Francis @alexefrancis

In this instalment of Role Model in Training, Faye offers some tips on exploring kinks; how to deal with discouragement and judgement from friends; and how to embrace sex positivity within yourself.

Dear Faye,

Last year I got out of a long, committed, straight relationship, and it took a long time for me to get over it. In 2024 I want to start going to sex parties and exploring my kinks for the first time. I was so excited, and a bit nervous, but then I told my friends and they were not supportive. They were amazing when I was going through heartbreak, but now they’re suggesting that they find it laughable and “not me”. It’s like they preferred me to be the wounded puppy and now I want sexual agency/exploration they are not interested/try to tell me i’m being crazy. How do I show them that their response is hurtful, and even if kink-curiosity is not their bag, they should support my decision to explore it?

Anxiously Autonomous

Dear Anxiously Autonomous, 

Damn. It’s awful when it’s the people in your life you actually care about who are shutting you down. If you just had to deal with strangers running their mouths, you could probably just ignore their concerns and go about your happy, sex-posi life – but the fact that the discouragement is coming from the people who are supposed to have your back has got to be frustrating. You’re in a hard spot. Hopefully I can provide some of the support that your friends are very much failing to provide. Thanks for writing in and trusting me! 

I think it’s fair to assume that some people’s knee-jerk reaction to this situation would be something along the lines of ‘FUCK your friends if they’re not supportive! Dump ‘em all! Move on!!!’ – But, I’m not gonna go down that road here. 

Divorcing a friend group is no easy task, and besides, it’s not what you asked for help with. It doesn’t seem that you want to sever the ties here – you’re trying to salvage this. 

So, I think it makes sense to start by trying to consider where they’re coming from. For more help in this arena, I contacted two sexuality professionals I deeply trust: Dirty Lola, a performer and pleasure educator with her hands in a variety of massively impactful sex ed programming, and Carly Pifer, creator of AURORE, a space for confessional erotica. Both are deeply embedded in a world of pleasurable, fantastic kink and sex exploration, and both have learned how to carve out supportive, fulfilling communities in a world that’s not always understanding. 

Illustration by Tinuke Fagborun @tinuke.Illustration

From speaking to them and from my own vantage point it seems like there’s three reasons your friends could be unsupportive: they might think you’re genuinely putting yourself in danger; they’re haters; or they’ve been socialised (like almost everyone else), to be wary and critical of any sexual desire. 

Considering that A) you’ve been thinking about exploring your kinks for a while, and it’s not just an impulsive thing B) they’re approaching your new lifestyle as ‘laughable’ C) they have a track record of being kind and loving and supportive, I think we can rule out the first two options and focus on the third. 

Your friends, quite simply, are not familiar with the world of kink! In their mind it’s just a big sweaty pile of degenerate leather wearing weirdos – while you and I know that’s only one small piece of it. 

I have some solutions for you, I promise, but let me be a sociologist for a second and zoom out. As an advice columnist, I have a unique advantage of objectivity. I can look at people’s problems from a bird’s eye view, and it’s easier for me to contextualise personal affronts inside larger systemic issues. 

Right now, I gotta say, the situation you’re in feels deeeeeeppplllly situated in the Madonna/Whore complex, or, in your words, the wounded puppy/crazy complex.  Your friends, consciously or not, are subscribing to very old, very entrenched sexual norms that equate modesty with purity and goodness. That’s why it’s easier for them to comfort someone sad and broken-hearted than support someone excited and sexually adventurous. 

Carly seconded this point – noting that, “unfortunately, you will find that not everyone in your life will be comfortable with your exploration, and this typically has much more to do with their internalised shame or fears around sex/kink/their bodies than actual judgements about your interests.” 

To me, that seems to really be the core of this. Our entire culture is really shaped around upholding sexual shame and fear, and for many people, the idea of someone who embraces their sexuality in any way is just too big and scary to not tear down. I think the reason they think your new choice ‘isn’t you’ could have less to do with your personality traits and more with their associations and biases around the type of people who live kinky lifestyles.

Without a doubt, I think your friends are approaching your experience from a very standard but deeply problematic anti-sex perspective. It’s a bummer, and unfortunately, somewhat of a common one in the mainstream world. 

But something Lola noted made me think about this a bit differently – she pointed out that, “We all want our friends to see us for the humans we are and the ones we are becoming, but it’s important to remember that what feels like slow incremental change for us can look and feel like a sudden change to others, especially when those changes are outside of the interests you once shared.”  

Though I feel very confident in diagnosing your friends with a bit of standard sex-negativity, I also wonder if their very inappropriate dismissal also stems from the surprise at seeing their previously monogamous friend express something more out of the box. 

When you approach your friends, you might want to ask them why they think kinky exploration is so out of character for you. Maybe just even be like, hey, so I was thinking about that convo the other week, what do you think sex parties are like? Do some detective work. 

What’s their idea of the kind of person who goes to kink events? What traits do you have that are supposedly incompatible with this? You’ll get them to consider their biases, and then it’ll make it easier to introduce why your feelings were hurt. And, FWIW, I do think they’re totally in the wrong here, but for the sake of mediating rather than fanning flames, as you get into the meat of the convo, try to frame the situation with how you felt, not what they did.  I think this will be a crucial moment, where you figure out if they were just reacting carelessly or are truly of a different mindset. 

At the end of the day, you’ll have to figure out how to go forward in your new lifestyle. Boundaries will deffo come into play – depending on how your friends react, you’ll have to start considering how much you’ll share with them. Lola and Carly each suggested delineating your kinky life and your life with your current friends: how you split up that time is up to you. 

Consider this advice from Lola and see how it resonates with you:

“While it’s valid that you want to share your new adventures with people you trust and love, it’s also valid that those people may not want to hear such intimate details about you. However, it’s not okay for them to be disrespectful or dismissive when talking to you about it. If I were in your shoes, I would let my friends know that I feel hurt that our friendship space is not a space where I can share ALL of the things that are going on in my life, but I respect that maybe they don’t want the nitty-gritty details. I would enact a don’t ask, don’t tell policy; if they want to know how things are going, they’ll need to inquire about it directly, and I’d work on finding kinky friends to share the details of my journey with. You may find a friend or two in your current friend group who are actually curious and may be okay with having conversations about it separate from the group, but I wouldn’t depend on that outcome. Part of the fun in finding new things about ourselves is finding new people into the same things. I’m sure with a little time and continued exploration of your local kink community, you’ll find friends who want to hear all about your new adventures.” 

I want to wrap this up by deeply encouraging you to follow your path of sex-ploration, despite all this initial tension. It’s our relationships with others, sexual or platonic, that bring out our deepest insecurities and pleasures. Sometimes it’s a sex party, sometimes it’s an hours-long debrief with the besties that bring you deep pleasure, affirmation, feelings of closeness, strength, and clarity. Unfortunately, only of these two interactions are stigmatised, and culturally, we have a long way to go before everyone regards sex with such curiosity and open-mindedness. 

The sex-positive community is special because it honours these nuances. Carly noted that “the stigma around sex is exactly why so many sex-positive businesses and spaces are very serious about building (and protecting their) community – it’s vital in a world where openness and pursuit of pleasure on your own terms is shunned.” 

So, in short, the world’s a big place, and you will find people, in or outside of your current friend group, who offer you the support you got in your breakup even when you’re happy, slutty, and curious. Give yourself a lot of generosity in these times – navigating all these relationships is not for the weak!

All my love,

Your role model in training, Faye

Ask Faye

What can you do?

  • Lina Dune, who describes herself as a “a 24/7 collared submissive, kink writer, and, most imp ortantly, a fairy submother to all who seek her advice” hosts a podcast, ask a sub, that’ll be right up your alley. She has thoughtful and in-depth episodes about stigma, meeting IRl, and play parties. 
  • On that note, you might also want to check out the work of Venus Cuffs, the former Dominatrix and current “nightlife jack of all trades,” Venus hosts sex events and is also interviewed frequently about her practice. This interview with HypeBae where she explores the nuances of her job and the events she throws is informative and entertaining.   
  • Finally, one more podcast: this episode from Evoke Therapy comes recommended from a mental health professional I trust. Appropriately, it focuses on the SKILL of setting boundaries, and suggests setting them for what you need, instead of doing it the ‘right way.’ A beautiful quote in it: “boundary work is the beginning and end of a healthy self.”  
  • Want to learn more about the history of sexual stigma? I know I keep recommending feminist books, but that’s because they’re truly helpful here. Spectrum Boutique’s selection is particularly focused on how stigma has developed over time, plus it offers both memoirs and non-fiction guides that outline how to find pleasure within a community. 
  • Read my previous columns HERE
  • Other articles you might enjoy:
Design by Alexandra Francis @alexefrancis
Ask Faye
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