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July 23, 2018 | by  | in Talking With My Dad About Sex |
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Talking With My Dad About Sex

Hi I’m Lena. My Dad is a sex therapist and I’m studying to be a sex educator – we’re here to talk relationships and sex, so send your queries and worries our way (sex@salient.org.nz).

Question:
“I’m a 19 year old girl who identifies as lesbian and I’m struggling with how affectionate some of my female friends can be with me. I can get flirty or even romantic vibes from them and find myself developing feelings, this a bit of an issue since they are straight. How could I mention these situations to my friends and still keep them as friends?”

Lena says: Ooo yep, you are certainly not alone in this struggle! Speaking to queer friends, and having been in somewhat similar situations with male friends as a hetero female, the majority of us chose the “keep the feelings to myself” option and that is totally valid — especially if you don’t feel comfortable mentioning the impact of their behaviour on you. However I did find that this choice led to prolonged suffering. So if you are able to be honest with your friends, I would encourage you to take the time to talk it through with them.
Sadly our society is still deeply heteronormative, which means it may actually be more important or necessary for you to articulate your feelings to your female friends. I say this because this notion of being straight as the default means the boundaries your hetero friends have with you are likely to be less clear than the boundaries that they set with their male friends. Basically, it’s really bloody hard to avoid feelings if your friends are giving you very similar signals to the signals they give people they are romantically interested in. So if you can, speaking to your friends is going to clarify your confusion, and perhaps even encourage your friends to examine how deeply their behaviour may operate on the assumption that everyone around them is straight.

One thing I would keep in mind when psyching yourself up to talk to a friend in this situation is that though this conversation may seem daunting, you are also saying to them that they are lovely and you enjoy being around them. It’s true that some people won’t take you needing to set boundaries well, but those who are understanding and respectful of your needs are the people you want to keep in your life anyway.

Dad says: This is a tricky situation for anyone, and there are all sorts of ways to deal with it. We all have friends at different levels of intimacy. So for your “inner circle” I think you want to always try and be as open as possible. Sharing is what makes them your close friends. So being real with them is important. Something like this, maybe: “Hey this is kinda awkward but y’know when you put your arm around me like that/make a joke like that/…. It’s a bit much for someone who’s attracted to women. I love that you don’t make a thing about me being queer, but is it okay if I tell you when things like that happen? I don’t want anything to complicate our friendship.”

I think with people who are less close you can just say “Hey, that’s a bit too touchy for me” or “That makes me feel uncomfortable” – without having to explain why. We are all entitled to set our personal boundaries where we want. You can also sometimes create more distance over time in a friendship without talking about it just by being more distant and reserved yourself.
The other approach is to remember that feelings are just feelings. If for some reason you don’t feel it’s safe or appropriate to name the impact of their behaviour on you, then don’t. It’s okay to have feelings of attraction to people who aren’t available or suitable and just not act on them. Not always easy but just one of the facts of life.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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