Hello, Internet! Welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column that's listed in Tobin's Spirit Guide, just after Evo Shandor.
This week, a reader is mourning the loss of his special lady. How's he supposed to find someone who can measure up after the way she introduced him to whole new worlds? Meanwhile another reader is dealing with some dating anxieties of his own...
It's time to cross some dating streams. Let's do this.
Dear Dr. Nerdlove,
I am in my early thirties and just came out of a pretty serious 1 year and some months relationship with a girl who I thought might be "the one". We were extremely compatible, but we met in the last year of my graduate school program and I had to leave to pursue my career no matter what. We tried to make it work long-distance but in the end just could not.
My issue is based around the relationship around sex we had. Before her I had engaged in more traditional vanilla and monogamous relationships which were very emotionally satisfying but often left me wanting as far as sexual experimentation, especially with kinky stuff (BDSM) and incorporating other people. I always chalked it up to me being a young guy who needed to sow his oats before settling down. In being with my latest girlfriend, I was introduced to a relationship that was mostly monogamous but also afforded us the opportunity to explore more kinky stuff and sex with other people (together). It was a revelation. Rather than making me feel jealous or insecure, those experiences brought us closer together and made us more intimate. Ultimately it was my pursuit of a career far away that drove us apart.
I feel as though pandora's box has been opened and I can't close it again. I'm afraid that she was a unique kind of girl and that I will have a very difficult time meeting someone who has the same open attitudes towards sex that I do while having all the caring, loving, and intellectually curious qualities I seek in a partner. How do I approach future dating situations and relationships knowing what I know now?
All Tied Up
Sounds like she was an awesome woman, ATU. But as amazing as she was, she's not exactly a unicorn, either. There are other amazing women out there, including kinky women who're interested in non-monogamous relationships.
The trick is finding them.
But hey, that's why I'm here. And, for that matter, so is the Internet. See, one of the great things about living in this connected age is that you have access to almost limitless information, right at your fingertips.
For example, you can start by finding and connecting with the kink community in your area. Most major cities will have at least one, if not several, kink-centered groups, and they tend to be organized and active online. Fetlife.com is, in many ways, the Facebook of the kink scene and can help you find groups where you live.
Many groups have regular meetings and get-togethers (called "munches") that are designed with socializing in mind. These are great opportunities to meet like-minded kinksters, to connect with the community and make new friends. Just meeting the other people who share your interests will not only help reassure you that no, your ex wasn't the only woman in the entire world who liked spanking and the occasional threesome.
Now I want to stress: munches are not - I repeat, not - for finding play partners or picking up kinky dates - especially if you're new. If you're rolling in like you're just trying to find Ms. Tie Me Up off the bat, you're going to end up offending people and risk getting a shitty reputation before you've even started. You're simply looking to make connections with the community, to get to know people and to generally just establish yourself as a cool, low-key guy who wants to learn more. Take it slow and easy, get to know the etiquette and the local rules.
Now why do you want to find a local munch if not to pick up a date? Because munches make a great place to meet up in person with other kinksters you may have been talking with online.
That's the other great advantage of the Internet: online dating is an excellent place to start finding single kinksters or other open-minded (and kink-curious) potential dates. There are BDSM-specific dating sites - although frankly, many of these themed sites are blatant scams - but your best options will frequently be PlentyOfFish, OKCupid and Tinder.
The first thing you'll want to do is craft your profile carefully; if you're looking for open-minded, sexually adventurous women, you want to make sure that you're presenting yourself as someone that they would be interested in as well.
The first rule is to make sure your profile is not only attractive but eye-catching. This means you need good photos - and your primary profile photo needs to be a clear shot of your face. It's also vital to practice good online dating SEO. Basically, do what you'd normally do to make a good online dating profile.
One thing to keep in mind: you may not necessarily find your kinky goddess right off the bat. Many women who are interested in kink keep their interest on the down-low; most of them have horror stories of men who either assumed that an interest in, say BDSM, meant that they were open to sex whenever and wherever or who sent creepy "I am your new dom, get on your knees" emails before they'd even said "hello". As a result, they're less likely to divulge that they're interested in adventurous sex until they've vetted you as a cool, sex-positive person who isn't going to slut-shame them.
Another thing to consider is that you may want to find someone who's caring, loving and intellectually curious but not necessarily kinky. To quote Dan Savage: there are two types of kinksters - the ones who are born kinky and the ones who fell in love with kink because they tried it to make their partner happy. You may have better luck finding someone who meets all of your other criteria but may not have taken the same walk on the wild side that you have.
When you're meeting women, you can screen for the other qualities that indicate they may be kink-curious or open for trying new things. One of the things I recommend during the getting-to-know-you stages of meeting someone is to use screener questions that allow you to check for the personalities and interests that you want. For example, you use a low-investment question such as "Are you adventurous?" When they respond yes, you give a compliment - "Awesome, I love adventurous people!" - then follow it up with something to take it deeper, even a little flirty or teasing: "What's the craziest, most whacked out thing you've ever done and please don't tell me it was something lame like sneaking into a movie you didn't pay for…"
The good news is that - despite being a deeply troubling pile of badly-written shit - 50 Shades of Grey has generated massive interest in kink and bondage. As a result: the odds that you're going to find someone who may be kink-curious and looking to experiment are better than they've ever been before.
Just remember: when you talk about your interests, do not treat them like something to be ashamed of or that you have to apologize for. These are a bonus, this awesome fun thing that they're lucky to get to try.
And when they express some interest in the kink-scene? Well that's a great time to introduce them to the community via taking them to the next munch.
I have a very peculiar problem. How can i say... I can't get it up anymore. I am a 32 year old man in good health.
After splitting up with my ex wife, i was thrust into the dating world for the first time in my late twenties. I had varying success and met people and ended up in a relationship which went sour and lost all sexual confidence.
After this bad relationship, I've had more dates but my equipment has malfunctioned. I thought it was condom anxiety but I still fail without occasionally.
Now, i am in a relationship with a woman I previously dated but never slept with. At this point we live together but still haven't had sex. She suggested I watch some porn to get my mojo on since i had tried the nofap thing for so long.
I have grown to be anxious about something I used to enjoy.
Limp and Down
There's an old joke: the difference between concern and panic is that concern is the first time you can't get hard for the second time; panic is the second time you can't get hard for the first time.
And that panic is exactly your problem, LAD. Penises are sensitive little bastards and when things go wrong, they'll pick that inconvenient moment to quit working the way you want them to. And of course, the worst part of it all is that it quickly becomes a vicious cycle of impotence.
In your case: your self-esteem got kicked in the nuts by your last relationship. Small wonder that you're having a hard time rising to the occasion - when you've had your confidence ripped to shreds, it's going to affect your performance sexually as well. After things have failed to rise to the occasion once, you begin to worry that it's going to happen again… which in a fit of cruel irony becomes a matter of self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you worry about it, the more likely it is that you're going to end up with a deflated dong and an ever-increasing sense of panic.
The key to fixing this is that you have to break the cycle of anxiety and erectile disfunction. And because penises are powered as much by confidence and belief as blood and erectile tissues, you need to take away the very thing that's causing you anxiety: the possibility that a flaccid flogger is going to ruin your night.
First thing I would suggest: taking penetrative sex off the table for a while. Your anxiety about being able to get it up is what's keeping your dick down, so make the need for an erection irrelevant. Make out on the couch like a couple of horny teenagers. Roll around in bed. Play with one another like there's no tomorrow… but without the expectation that you're going to have sex. Just enjoy the sensations and the fun, knowing that getting hard isn't going to affect things one way or the other.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can also trick your dick with pills. Now, we're not talking about Viagra or Cialis - your problem is psychological rather than hydraulic. Instead, you need to hit your local GNC or Whole Foods and pick up some B2 supplements. Will they help? Yes...just as long as you think that they will. The placebo effect is incredibly powerful… even when you know it's a placebo. Taking a basic vitamin supplement can get you harder than Russian calculus if you believe it has the power to increase blood flow to your cock. It's the medical equivalent of Dumbo's magic feather for your penis.
However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that just because you can't get hard, it doesn't mean that you won't be able to please your girlfriend. You know what never goes limp at inconvenient times? Your fingers. Your mouth. Vibrators. Dildos. You have plenty of options at your disposal, all of which will do an amazing job at getting your partner off. A tongue and a can-do attitude will not only help ensure her satisfaction but it will help take the pressure off you to perform.
And the more at ease and relaxed you feel in bed, the more things will work when you want them to.
Have a story about a interest-specific dating site to share? Had your own experiences with inconvenient, uncooperative anatomy? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments and we'll be back in two weeks with more of your dating questions.
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku's bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr. Nerdlove. Got a question you'd like answered? Write firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Kotaku" in the subject line.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His new book Simplified Dating is available exclusively through Amazon. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby