Note: I've made several attempts at writing letters to people like Dan Savage, Dr. Drew, Tristan Taormino and others in the past, but I always delete them. This is a letter that I wrote over several days following a very emotional couple of weeks. I won't bother sending this to Dr Ley, but if he stumbles upon it, I'd welcome his thoughts.
Dear Dr. Ley,
I would like to apologize in advance for the long-winded note that follows. I know your time is valuable and to be honest, I don't expect a reply. I do think though that what I'm going to tell you may be of interest to you for your next project, or for consideration in you practice. Or perhaps, this is all normal stuff.
I first heard about you and your book, Insatiable Wives, on the Savage Lovecast. Since buying your book, I think I've listened to you on at least a half dozen other podcasts including Chris Ryan, Tristan Taormino, and others. I feel like your message has been both consistent and informative, and most importantly, reassuring to me.
I'm a married bi man, 52, been married for 32 years and for a good portion of that marriage my wife and I have "played" with a few select others. Our current situation is that she has a friends with benefits arrangement with a married guy we've known for over two decades. It is working out wonderfully, and is consistent with some of the more successful hotwife/cuckold couples you used as examples in Insatiable Wives. We are by all accounts an otherwise normal, successful married couple with two very well adjusted adult children.
There is no question that I was the one to introduce this concept into our marriage, and it was her who who finally gave in after a few years of fantasy talk and suggested we "just get it over with" the first time we had a threesome with a friend. That first experience quickly led to a second and third.
I've often wondered if my desire for this arrangement was the result of being bisexual (I consider myself to be hetoro-normative/bi-sexual to borrow from Dan Savage) or if perhaps there was some deeper issue. Was I abused as a child; was I secretly gay and this arrangement allowed me to offload some of the husbandly duties? The Internet was only in its infancy when we started and at that time, I thought there were just a few men like me. Later, sites like OurHotWives.org and others made me see there were couples all over the world engaged in this activity. But reading your book and also Chris Ryan's Sex at Dawn has given me comfort that this kink is fairly common.
Of course, common or not, we are not wide open about our arrangement. I am honest about being bi and if asked, I've never hidden the fact about our marriage and the extra player in the bed, but in truth, I've been very secretive otherwise. The kids don't know, the neighbors don't know, etc.
Until recently I wrote a sex blog where I discussed these topics and just generally discussed sex and such, from my perspective. During the course of my ten year blog/journal (I was not well known, had only just over 100 followers and probably got about 200 visits a day at jfbreak.blogspot.com), I often wrote very introspectively wondering about why I was the way I am. Why did I crave sharing my wife? Why did I crave sharing my secrets anonymously with other bloggers? Why did I crave secretive arrangements purely to discuss sexual topics?
This last issue, the secrets, is what has caused me some recent issues. In spite of our marriage arrangement, my blog and the majority of the people I communicated with were unknown to my wife. I've been having an affair with the Internet. I have also, for years, gained the trust of selected friends and co-workers with the sole purpose of gaining a confidante with whom I could share my intimate sexual details. My wife may know these people but she does not know the conversations we have.
I have always been thrilled to learn other people's secrets, but in looking back, I have always gotten more of a thrill when exposing my own sexual behaviors to them. In fact, in almost all cases, the initial discussions where I reveal the first secret (a confession that I'm bi) is not only sexually arousing, there is an adrenaline rush that I get.
Looking back, I have exposed intimate details about my sexuality to dozens of people in person, and in spite of the fact that I've done this most often in the office environment; due to being very selective and deliberate with vetting people, I've never had any work related issues or blow back. I know, I'm not the poster boy for the HR department, but the truth is, everyone I've shared my secrets with has in turn revealed intimate sexual details about themselves. Who knew so many people were perverts? Well, probably you did.
Back to the problem about secrets. It isn't that I was discovered by my wife. Instead, a lifelong friend, a much younger married woman who I began emailing after a few revealing chat sessions on Facebook, suddenly became convinced that my secretive behavior is the result of my having been sexually abused as a child, something I have no memory of, though admittedly have wondered about.
During our conversations, we did bring up the fact that I had these unanswered questions that I kept trying to explore in my mind. I explained that there were only a few stand-out moments that seemed to fit any scenario that perhaps I was molested. One scenario involved my father that seems unlikely to have been an issue. Camping with the family, my father took me to the public restrooms for a shower. I remember seeing him nude and that was fascinating, but no negative memory. Another possibility, an older neighbor invited me into his garage where he gave me candy. Sounds sketchy for sure, but I don't have any further memory. Both of these memories are from probably age three. I started playing "doctor" and show and tell games with other kids my age probably around kindergarten.
For me, my only questions surrounding potential childhood abuse was not that I feel broken or have some history of wanting to in-turn abuse others, but that I was so very interested in exploring sexual things as a child, and I keep reading that the only way a child at that age (think under five or six) shows such an interest is if that was learned behavior. Dr. Drew Pinsky is adamant, it seems, whenever a caller to one of his shows describes these behaviors in a child, the only answer is that the child was either abused or witnessed this behavior and is now repeating it.
I did have a situation I do recall vividly and that was of a neighbor, an older boy of about sixteen or seventeen and his brother of thirteen or so, when I was about ten. Without question, these boys were grooming me for something. There were the secrets, the dares and the escalation of reasons to remain secret about the things we talked about and did.
They showed me a magazine of their fathers that contained child porn. Of course, to a 10 year old boy, I was fascinated but to be clear, I was never exposed to such material again, nor did I seek it. Later I witnessed the older boy semi-fondle a very young girl by tricking her into exposing her privates. His methodology was to point at the leg of her little shorts and with his finger, lift the shorts to expose her vagina while asking her the question, "What color are your shorts?"
From a distance, it could appear innocent that he was pulling the material to show her the color he was asking about, but even to a ten year-old, I knew this was him exposing her. I know for certain because he made eye contact with me before doing the trick again. At that age I was definitely aware that was wrong and I basically backed myself away from the friendship. I didn't say anything to her parents, but I avoided further contact with both brothers, This was all in a military housing area where we lived in town home-like buildings, so it was difficult to avoid them, but thankfully, their father was transferred soon after. and they moved away.
My friend has recently said that the way I learned this grooming behavior from these older boys is exactly how I meet potential new secret friends, or connect with people I know to escalate our conversations from vanilla to sexual. I lead with a secret, gain some trust, learn a secret, gain more trust then seal the deal. But the deal is, talking about sex. That's it. Not having sex, not asking for money like blackmail or anything, just a mutual sharing of our own experiences.
When you meet people via the Internet, you have a good idea of their interests based upon where you meet them. A forum like OurHotWives or some sex blog gives you a fair indication that you can share a conversation about sex, and the person you engage will be interested and likely share. For me, starting a conversation about sex with someone I only know from work or as a casual acquaintance requires a little bit of tiptoeing up to the line and backing off if there is no interest. My friend has translated this behavior which many others call normal adult testing of the waters, so to speak, more like the behavior of someone who is genuinely doing bad things.
I must tell you that when we had the conversation where she laid this all out, I was both surprised, but also relived. Relieved to have someone tell me that my behavior was proof that I had been molested or assaulted as a child, thus explaining my lifelong sexual behaviors. Lest you think I'm ashamed of my behavior, I'm not. I don't see anything wrong with the relationship my wife and I have, nor do I think my interest in talking about sex is just a horrible thing. But I was relived that I could at least point, in a way to some reasons.
I think I've always been open to receiving feedback about myself. That is to say, constructive criticism, down right accusations of being a jerk, or just helpful hints have been something I welcome and quickly attempt to evaluate and act upon in a positive way. That said, when I was told that my behavior was bad and it was because I was behaving in a way that I had been taught, the result of childhood trauma, I took it very seriously and immediately went into self evaluation mode.
For the first several days and probably a week or so, I think I was in shock. I had always wondered if I was a victim of some abuse. How else do you explain the early promiscuity? More importantly, I immediately began to evaluate each relationship I had been involved in. I divided friends and colleagues into two categories: secrets and no secrets.
I quickly recognized that the no secrets people were those that I have conversations with involving little or no honesty about anything personal. The secrets people were those I could share the most private details with. In my mind, I was imagining this as some evil plot.
But wait a second. Isn't that kind of normal?
Are there people who are so open with everyone that regardless of the level of trust, they will share any detail? I have some colleagues who are extremely religious. I don't hold that against them but I'm not going to walk up and describe the last blow job a gave.
When I did reach out to trusted friends to ask advice, to a person I was told I was over thinking things, I wasn't a monster, and that all adults vet their friends for levels of intimacy and trust.
I'm not shying away from the fact that I may have been abused in some way. I don't deny that my personality was impacted by the experience I had as a ten year old. I just don't think that I'm the horrible person I felt I was being made out to be.
I do acknowledge that I've played some people as a way of gaining trust. I agree that this is a shitty thing to do, though pragmatically, if the intent is not to harm but rather to become friends, how is this any different than the mating rituals men and women go through everyday?
Women routinely wear sexy clothes and spend an hour putting on makeup to be attractive. Guys will refrain from burping, farting and cussing; they open doors and buy flowers. They avoid telling about their failings and exaggerate their status in hopes of landing the right girl. We mask who we really are in hopes of gaining favor of the person we are attracted to. Is this not deceptive? Isn't it accepted as the norm?
I hate that over the last several weeks I've felt like I keep defending myself not only to people who will listen to me, but to myself. Like I'm trying to convince myself I'm not inherently a bad person.
To be sure, I have some things I need to work on. The biggest and clearest wrong thing I've done is that as a sex blogger, I've written about my wife and others without their knowledge. My only defense is, I use fake names and obfuscate personal details that would reveal our identities. Welcome to the Internet. But I guess to wrap this all up, the question, Dr Ley, am I a horrible person because I like to talk about sex? Am I a jerk for trying to first determine if I can trust a person before I divulge some of the specifics of my own sex life? As a guy in his early fifties, should I be concerned that, if I was the victim of some yet to be identified child abuse, I need to re-gear my entire personality to course correct?
I'd appreciate your views.