Fraught discussion of my sexual history with current partner
October 25, 2014 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm a mid-20s dude in a solid, fulfilling relationship with a woman in her early 20s, who we'll call G. G and I see eye-to-eye on pretty much everything important, but one sticking point has come up with regards to my sexual history that's bothering us both quite a bit. [Details are probably NSFW]

Some background: G found out some details of my sex life with a former partner (FP) from a friend of mine who G's become quite close with (why this was a topic of discussion I'll never know). This came as a bit of a shock to G since it was something a lot of people consider outside the bounds of 'normal' hetero sex, and raised some questions about my sexual history for her.

In the course of that conversation it came out that I'd also engaged in anal sex with FP, and that's become a point of argument between us recently. G contends that it's an inherently degrading, misogynistic act and it was wrong of me to consent to it (and that FP's interest was a product of internalized misogyny). In fact, she says she would have broken it off with me if she'd found out sooner. I believe that it can be part of a good, healthy, respectful sex life if both parties are interested and well-informed. I also think it's deeply wrong to judge anyone based on their sexual history, and I find her attitude toward the act troubling because it shames people for enjoying the 'wrong kind' of sex (she's referred to it as 'deviant').

This is the only thing we've ever actually argued about, and it bothers her quite a lot that I won't express regret for doing what she believes is a shameful and repugnant act. Our relationship is otherwise wonderful, loving and supportive (and our sex life is great) but I'm feeling unfairly judged about this and have a hard time not being defensive. I want to put this argument to rest, but we don't seem to be able to see eye-to-eye on the issue, and I'm reluctant to express shame/regret for something I don't believe is shameful. FWIW, I've never suggested any kind of anal play and have made it clear that I'm perfectly happy with it off the table.

I'd really like to resolve this without compromising my morals. What should I do here, AskMe? I know this community tends toward sex-positivity, but if anyone can help me understand the other side of this argument I'd appreciate that too.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (67 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

She is wrong. Flat-out. Leaving aside the ethics of grilling third parties about your SO's sexual history, it is absurdly paternalistic to question someone else's ability to consent to any sex act, let alone such an innocuously mainstream one.

This is 100% her hang-up.
posted by 256 at 3:32 PM on October 25, 2014 [130 favorites]

I believe that it can be part of a good, healthy, respectful sex life if both parties are interested and well-informed. I also think it's deeply wrong to judge anyone based on their sexual history, and I find her attitude toward the act troubling because it shames people for enjoying the 'wrong kind' of sex (she's referred to it as 'deviant').

For what it's worth, I agree with you.

She doesn't. You're unlikely to change her mind. No matter what the genders of the people involved, my advice would be the same. "You can accept me for who I am, and how I treat you, and we can stay together. If you can't, we can't."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:35 PM on October 25, 2014 [34 favorites]

Wow, I think she's waaaaaaay out of line here. I don't want to slag your girlfriend or anything, but telling you she would have broken up with you for engaging in a pretty common consensual sexual act that had nothing to do with her...well, I'll just say that you're 100 percent in the right and she's 100 percent in the wrong on a whole lot of levels, most of which probably beyond the scope of what you're asking. One woman's view.
posted by holborne at 3:37 PM on October 25, 2014 [15 favorites]

She's speculating about FP's mind-set and sounds, frankly, like a teenage SJW on tumblr---"Ewww, anyone who likes butt sex is a bad feminist and icky!"
What you did in the sack before you met her isn't any of her business.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:38 PM on October 25, 2014 [10 favorites]

Why is she making this her business? I'd be seriously questioning my relationship if my boyfriend wouldn't leave something like this alone with me. It is none of her business what you did with former partners.

You consented, your ex consented, case closed. That is what I would say if she asks again. Don't let her badger you about this. It's really boundary-crossing.
posted by sockermom at 3:38 PM on October 25, 2014 [14 favorites]

G is being unreasonable. Is this some religious thing? What could possibly be scandalous in this day and age about anal sex besides santorum stains?
posted by benzenedream at 3:38 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

The butt is full of nerve endings and dudes and ladies alike enjoy having their butts penetrated. There's nothing inherently degrading about anal sex; it's all cultural baggage.

It's not G's place to judge anyone else's preferred sexual practices or assume they're somehow mistaken in liking what they like - that's bananas. I get where she's coming from, but she's 100% in the wrong.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:48 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nthing how wrong she is, and if she can't let it go I would consider letting her go. That she slaps the misogyny label on something that makes her uncomfortable just makes my blood boil. I would count on her using it in future arguments. Dirty pool.
posted by Koko at 3:49 PM on October 25, 2014 [18 favorites]

I don't think it is relevant who is right and who is wrong here. She's upset and it doesn't sound like she is going to change her mind anytime soon. She has the option of breaking up with you and moving on to someone who agrees with her on this issue, or changing her mind. If you want to attempt to change her mind (which I don't think would be successful, but is an option), I would suggest that you find feminist books, blogs etc. on this topic for her to read. Most feminists do not agree with her point of view.

She's speculating about FP's mind-set and sounds, frankly, like a teenage SJW on tumblr

There are plenty of teenage feminists on tumblr who would not agree with her on this point.
posted by Librarypt at 3:51 PM on October 25, 2014 [34 favorites]

No sex act is "inherently" anything when engaged in between consenting adults.

She apparently has a boundary (anal sex or play) that you are perfectly willing to not cross; she needs to recognize your boundary - that there is nothing shameful in the acts you engaged in with a willing former partner - and let it go. She doesn't need to agree in her heart or anywhere else that it's a wonderful and perfectly moral act; she does need to not badger you about it, and she needs to come to terms with the reality that if she can't reconcile her ideas of what's moral and your sexual history, that that is on her and not on you. This is her work to do, not yours. She may not be able to reconcile this, in which case she should break up with you. If she can't reconcile it and continues to hold it against you, you ought to break up with her.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on October 25, 2014 [15 favorites]

Agreed with all the above, G is being super wrong here. I could understand her having issues with doing it herself, because it's not everyone's thing. I could understand her being scared/triggered by it if she had a sexual assault in her past. But her blanket insistence that anyone who does it/has done it is either a misogynist pig or a victim of one is ridiculous and obnoxious.

If she continues to insist that you are a vile human being for engaging in consensual sex acts with a former partner then I don't see much reason to stay with her; why would you want to spend time with someone who thinks you are disgusting?
posted by poffin boffin at 3:54 PM on October 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

G is well within her rights to feel however she wants to feel and think whatever she wants to think about anal sex, when it involves her. She has the ability to judge others for engaging in it (obviously), though perhaps not the right to judge others for engaging in it.

However, given the fact that what consenting adults do when she's not around is none of her business, I think she ought to back off. She is free to not like the idea of anal sex. She is not free to judge other people for engaging in it. She is not free to tell someone else they were degraded for engaging in it.

If she can't deal with the fact that you and another person engaged in a consensual sexual act that she wouldn't want to engage in, then it sucks to be her, I guess. For the sake of your relationship, she either needs to deal, or just shut up about the fact that she can't deal. Assuming that you've made it clear that it was consensual, you've done as much as this person thinks you need to. It's on her now to either put up or shut up.

Trying to make your intimate partner feel bad is a big red flag.
posted by Solomon at 3:57 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

If I were dating someone who told me that a sexual act I enjoy, an act performed and enjoyed by MILLIONS OF PEOPLE EVERY DAY, was a terrible thing that is bad and wrong and that my esteem is somehow reduced in their eyes because I have done this thing and liked it, and that if they knew before we got involved that I had done this thing and liked it, I would dump them immediately, because someone who does that is an asshole. Straight up, they are an asshole. Decent people do not shame their partners for engaging in a consensual sex act with a previous partner.
posted by palomar at 4:01 PM on October 25, 2014 [22 favorites]

She's allowed to believe what she wants, but she's lost respect and trust in your approach to sex.

The "otherwise" positive stuff in your relationship is not going to keep up if she doesn't respect you or trust how you'll treat her during sex, especially if while engaging in sex with you she's constantly worried that you're getting off on degrading her.

Her big mistake is probably talking to you about what she thinks, if you think it's boundary crossing and "mean." Then again, she's trying to express some kind of fear she has about you in your approach to sex with her. I don't think she's trying to make you feel bad; I think she's feeling bad and afraid and her feelings about you are changing knowing this.

Sounds complicated, and too complicated to unfold. Your ex shouldn't have shared the information. It's going to poison your relationship.

Maybe next time date women who aren't close friends of your exes.
posted by discopolo at 4:08 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is kind of an example of people who eavesdrop never hearing anything good of themselves, only backwards. She got into a discussion of your sex life with someone else, in the past, which she had no business investigating and the other person had no business disclosing.

What she thinks of buttsex in principle is nothing to do with your relationship with her, since you're not proposing to do it with her.

Any squick she feels about "ew, I know where that's been, and it's not going in me" is kind of invalidated by the fact that she shouldn't know you did this in the first place.

I don't know how you can get past this, other than by putting your foot down and saying you don't agree that you should have a criminal record in her eyes, for consensual acts done in past relationships that are none of her business, and you don't want her to bring it up again.

I would also suggest telling the other person you don't appreciate her blabbing intensely private information about you and it better not happen again. What a nerve!

Your GF may still decide that, on principle, she doesn't want to be with someone who thinks particular sex acts are okay even if he's not doing them with her. That's up to her, too, if that's the case, and I wouldn't criticize her for that any more than I'd criticize you for your sexual history.

But short of outright dumping you, she's putting you in a difficult position whereby you can't change the past, and you don't want to say something you did in the past was wrong because you simply don't believe that to be true. I have to think that being close to one of your exes is putting a strain on her, whether or not this issue is a stand-in for that, and that there's a lack of boundaries going on if this became a topic for discussion in the first place. I'd google the Karpman Drama Triangle if I were you.
posted by tel3path at 4:09 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would stop engaging in any intimate activity with her whatsoever. When she asks why, explain to her that you don't want to offend or appall your future girlfriend or wife in case this person feels what you do in your current relationship might be degrading in her eyes. That's as ridiculous as your girlfriend is being, I can't think of any other way to drive the point home.
posted by Jubey at 4:10 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

You should be deeply trouble she was discussing your past sexual history with a third party.

I would explain to both parties that they violated your privacy and that their judgements are profoundly inappropriate. Let them decide if they will stay in your life.

Ultimately, I think the romantic relationship is over, but not because of any sexual acts you've enjoyed.

The relationship is over because your partner gossiped about your sex life with someone else. That's such a huge violation of your trust and privacy.

I'm sorry you've been betrayed like this. I really think it is time to gently suggest breaking up. How can you trust her after this? How will you ever forget she spoke about your private life in this manner??

(Obvs this is a bit sarcastic at the end, but I hope you get my point. Best to you moving forward.)
posted by jbenben at 4:17 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

At base she's likely threatened that you've enjoyed something with another woman that she doesn't want to engage in or understand. So try to sympathize with her fear even if you don't understand how she feels.
If you reassure her that you don't expect her to engage in this sex act, don't miss this sex act (or are happy to forgo it indefinitely), and are totally happy with how things are, and she keeps bringing it up and getting into fights with you about it then you need to break up. You shouldn't have to admit/concede that it's morally wrong to resolve this conflict.
Imo she just sounds young and insecure.
posted by lafemma at 4:19 PM on October 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm a big-time feminist and I disagree with G. She is assuming that your former partner didn't want to do it and she seems to think you must've been the one to push for it to happen. I get that sex is the kind of thing where either you are into something or you find it gross, but she is misplacing her own aversion to anal sex and conflating it with issues of misogyny and projecting that onto all women's desires.

I'm sure there are some men who push their girlfriends into doing things they don't want to do and I would say that is degrading, but it doesn't sound like that's what you did here. It sounds like you have been respectful of her boundaries and her needs. Maybe G's experience with that particular sex act is that it's something exes have tried to push her into, or she is so disinterested in it that she can't fathom a woman would actually be into it. That's her deal, but she needs to understand that not every woman wants the same things out of sex that she does. To me it sounds like either bad prior experiences or lack of prior experience are affecting her narrow-mindedness here.

I think the best you can do is keep communicating that you are receptive to her desires and her boundaries and you would never try to get her to do anything she wasn't comfortable with. If you are a respectful partner, she may eventually realize that respectful partners can actually engage in consensual sex acts that are not of the basic variety.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:22 PM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't be able to tolerate this. If you want to continue the relationship and come to an understanding and resolution, you may want to have her read the work of sex-positive feminists like Violet Blue, Susie Bright, or Tristan Taormino. But, if she feels like her feminism trumps the free consent given by another woman (quite bit of gymnastics there to get to a point where her ideology undermines her respect for another woman's free decision about what to do with her own body), I'm not sure what can override that. She seems to have a major hang-up and feels like it's legit to be a judgey jerk to you over it. You did absolutely nothing wrong.
posted by quince at 4:22 PM on October 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

... G contends that it's an inherently degrading, misogynistic act and it was wrong of me to consent to it ...
To consent to it. As though it is some horrific thing. Some horrific thing that your ex-gf was almost forcing you to do. Absolutely ridiculous.

... and that FP's interest was a product of internalized misogyny ...
I actually burst out laughing here. I'm so glad I came into this thread, I needed a good laugh.

She's nuts. Like, totally wacko. And she's completely out of line.

Get out. This is where the Fatal Attraction stuff starts happening; you're going along, everything is fine, everything is fun, then out of nowhere comes this lunacy.

Wave her goodbye.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:24 PM on October 25, 2014 [24 favorites]

If the goal were to conciliate her, I'd say you should focus on reassuring her that it's not something you miss, that you're satisfied with your sex life, and that you have no interest in hurting her or other women. Your other gal liked it, that's why you did it, and it has nothing to do with G.

However, I tend to agree with most of the folks here, that conciliation isn't a good goal for you. You might want to just go ahead and dump G for making the accusations she's making. It would be one thing if she were just threatened and disgusted and had to take time to process that something she views as gross was part of your love life. But that's not all that's happened here. She is accusing you of being a misogynist. She is gaslighting you, and it's a giant red flag.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:29 PM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds like there is something more behind her feelings about anal sex. Was she in a relationship previously where she was pressured to do it or had some other sort of negative association with it? Does she not believe that women could find it pleasurable? Because if she concedes that it could be physically enjoyable for a woman, then that seems to counter the argument that it's inherently misogynistic or even misogynistic at all. Why wouldn't a woman want to do something that feels good to her? It's pretty much as simple as that. Maybe tell her to take a poll of her friends and see who enjoys anal sex, that might give her some alternative points of view. Ask her to explain to you how it is misogynistic… if her only answer is "it just IS" then, well… you would think she would see that her side in this argument is pretty weak.

Quite honestly though I personally would not try to investigate the matter further or get her to see the error of her ways. It sounds like too much work for something that may not pay off because she is so closed-minded on the subject, and her behavior suggests that she doesn't have a respectful attitude about communication or sex in general, so it's just not worth it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:29 PM on October 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would guess this is more about jealousy than feminism - she may be secretly afraid that she isn't adventurous enough for you, so she's turning it around on you. Or she's just uncomfortable with what she now knows and how she found out, and is putting a moral spin on it. Or, she has some past experience with anal play that was negative.

I don't hold out a lot of hope for you two moving beyond this, but - have you asked her why she believes anal play is misogynistic?
posted by bunderful at 4:30 PM on October 25, 2014 [17 favorites]

To go back to your original question, OP, I don't think anyone here is going to be able to give you a definitive answer about what "the other side of the argument" is in this situation. But that's irrelevant, because she hasn't made an argument; she's just (from the way it sounds) shamed and ranted at you.

There are a lot of reasons why someone might be morally or aesthetically repulsed by anal sex (sex-negative upbringing, previous trauma, religious/cultural beliefs, overdeveloped sense of danger, ideas about hygiene, what bunderful said, or just a sincere personal preference taken to extreme degrees), but if you look over all the answers you've gotten so far, I think you'll notice they have two things in common.

1) Everyone agrees she's entitled to feel however she feels about anal sex, and even to judge people harshly for engaging in it or to refuse to date anyone who has engaged in it.

2) Everyone agrees she's completely out of line trying to force you to express regret and shame for a consensual sex act that had nothing to do with her, after you've already agreed you won't try it with her.

And she is.

But the fact that you seem to have no idea why she feels this way is, to be honest, a little puzzling. It suggests one of two things: either there's some big insecurity, or something big in her background that you don't know about (which isn't a great sign about the level of trust in your relationship, or about her psychological health and level of self-awareness); or this is just a weird, random, one-off hangup she has that's inconsistent with the rest of her character (which is less of a big deal.)

So one way you might defuse the issue with her is just to call her out on how confusing this is to you. The next time she goes after you for this, tell her you have no intention of apologizing, but that you do care about her and you want to try to understand why it bothers her so much. If she just comes back with "it's disgusting," that's not a reason. It's a wall of defensiveness, and a pretty good sign that this isn't someone who's capable of being in adult relationship right now.
posted by urufu at 4:32 PM on October 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

I agree with almost everything that has been said so far, but I would encourage you to be sympathetic towards her feelings--simply because a (the?) prominent cultural narrative surrounding anal sex is misogynistic. I do agree that she's wrong that it's inherently so, but she just might not be able to separate the act and the cultural narrative in her mind.

I wouldn't approach her like she's crazy. I think she's wrong but at the same time I can see where she's coming from. She might even have negative past experiences. It might help you navigate this situation if you can empathize with her.

Either way, I agree with everyone else that you shouldn't apologize for doing something consensual with a previous partner that she shouldn't have known about in the first place. Not only is it less than honest (you have nothing to be apologetic for), it disrespects your previous partner. The best that you can do is tell her that it was mutually consensual and that you would never pressure someone (her) into it.

It sounds like she doesn't accept that, though. If she doesn't--if she won't--then I don't think there is a good way to settle this problem.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:34 PM on October 25, 2014 [21 favorites]

I'll preface this by saying that in principle I agree with others that she is out of line. People are not going to like this response because it puts the burden on you and we don't think you're wrong, but you asked for practical advice and I'd prefer to address reality, not principle.

100% this is about her feeling insecure in your relationship now, for reasons folks have already mentioned. If you love her, remember that it's not really about what you did with someone else, it's about how she feels now, which is insecure, hurt and scared. Be empathetic and reassuring, and understand it may take a long time for her to get over this, but I believe she can if you are sensitive and reassuring. If you don't have that amount of patience and sensitivity in you, that's OK too (it's exhausting); feel free to break it off. That said, breaking it off might also just prove to her exactly what she's afraid of - that she's not enough for you. It's a tough one.
posted by curtains at 4:47 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

You know, i came to this with quite a bit of sympathy for the potential point G might be making. A lot of similar thoughts were expressed(and some in similarly really stupid ways) in the FPP about the sex worker in new york who had a weird transactional view of sex blowjobs. What pushed this in to lala land though was this language:

the 'wrong kind' of sex (she's referred to it as 'deviant').

There's something more going on here. That phrase is the kind of thing i heard from the diaspora of the kids from the kind of catholic school i attended, and like religious homeschoolers and stuff that i grew up around. The misogyny angle here almost seems like a socially relevant and up to date fig leaf if she's really going to bust out the "wrong kind of deviant sex" thing. Because that sort of sentence, and specifically the deviant thing, is usually surrounded by "that the lord doesn't approve of" sort of language.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that approaching this from the misogyny angle is sort of burying the lede. There's more going on here.

This definitely isn't just about it being degrading for "feminist" reasons, this is about it being some sort of foul sullying sinful act or something. That's REALLY weird language to use if you're just approaching it from that point, to the level that i just can't believe that's all that's going on here.

And to directly answer your question, i don't know how you'd solve this. It almost seems intractable. You are 100% in the right that you shouldn't have to be ashamed of something you and a previous partner did that you both consented to. And it's pretty paternalistic and fucked for G to say, and presume that your previous partner somehow was incapable of giving real consent to it.

This is also like the platonic ideal of the kind of thing that even if you reassure her and you both eventually come to terms with, she will never actually let go and you'll hear about it til the end of time when she's really mad at you, or if that ex ever comes up. I'm not going for some "lol women are like that" thing here either, seriously. Every partner i've ever had who had a truly weird hangup like this(since there really is more to this than meets the eye, as i said), or any that friends have had that we've discussed that i can think of have encountered that type of behavior. With partners of any gender. Once you go full weird about something, you never really un-weird 100%. People who do are the exception to the rule.
posted by emptythought at 4:57 PM on October 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

It's entirely possible that her narratives of anal sex are matching up with this research. Which then suggests there is a whole lot of fear and shame in her response, moderated through feminist concerns about ethics and sex. It is hard to have a conversation when you're drowning in a fear response though, and she is perpetuating it by continuing to focus on your sexual history and not the future she is sharing with you.

I mean, if that's the narrative she believes, or has experienced, it's kinda easy to see where her fear comes from. Particularly if she had previously felt 'safe' that you were not interested - now she finds out (and what that conversation actually revealed about the context of anal sex you don't know) from your ex that you are so suddenly you're a risk factor. And the refusal to apologise for it means that fear probably won't go away.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:11 PM on October 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't mean to imply you should apologise! Just that the refusal to disavow it means you'd remain a risk factor if that coercive/abusive/unsafe narrative of anal sex is her understanding of it.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:13 PM on October 25, 2014

I hang out with a lot of people who describe themselves as all sorts of feminists, and I have never heard someone make this argument seriously. Which is not to say nobody has, but it's not a common thing. On the other hand, this is a thing where a lot of people have individual "ew" hangups, and, you know, maybe it's just one of hers. This isn't something where I'd try to talk the other party around. Either she can be okay with it or she can't. I don't think she really needs to be told that she can be a feminist without believing this--she almost certainly already knows that. It isn't one of the major principles of feminist thought or anything. Give her a little time to work through it on her own, see how she feels, be ready to move on if you have to.

Everybody's got baggage, sometimes you turn out not to have a matched set.
posted by Sequence at 5:16 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I believe that it can be part of a good, healthy, respectful sex life if both parties are interested and well-informed. I also think it's deeply wrong to judge anyone based on their sexual history, and I find her attitude toward the act troubling because it shames people for enjoying the 'wrong kind' of sex (she's referred to it as 'deviant').

Yep. I, like most people here, agree with you. Other modifying concerns.

- There's some truth to the fact that buttsex that you see in straight porn is often less-excellent than it can be in real life, there's often a "this is degrading" or "she doesn't really want this but I'm doing it anyhow" theme that plays out. This has about as much to do with real life as all the other parts of porn but people get their sex information from odd places, so if you're not familiar with this then it's worth pointing out
- Similarly there are strain of "sodomy is always wrong" that go through some cultures even though it doesn't sound like that's where G is coming from there may be some cultural stuff she's having trouble shaking off, potntially

Basically the "You need to apologize about this or we're through" conversation is a non-starter. It's not a good way to move forward in a relationship. I'm sorry G feels bad, there are other ways to approach this conversation but if this is her line in the sand, then I'd be comfortable telling her that it's inappropriate and you're here for her if she's not tossing down ultimatums but not going anywhere with this.

But, you can try to have a "What's this really about?" conversation with her without this specific issue. Because I think you're also right that being judgmental about a partner's past is its own sort of not-cool no matter what the thing was. Optimally your feelings for your partner should help you reframe the thing you thought was awful in a new way. So why isn't she reconsidering anal sex (not for her personally, it's fine if it's a not a thing she's into as you seem to understand fully) in light of the fact that she now knows you've done it? That's the question for me. So I'd try to open a conversation about it without being all "I'm never apologizing!" (even if true) so you can tease you what this is about. Because it may really be that now that she knows this about you she's done, but its unlikely and would be sort of not that awesome of her but her feelings are her feelings. But if it's NOT that, there should be some path between you abjectly apologizing (don't) and her leaving the relationship. I wish you the best finding it.
posted by jessamyn at 5:27 PM on October 25, 2014 [16 favorites]

Tell her about bottom shaming, then tell her about agency, then tell her to fuck off.

She's a hypocrite and you can do better.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:30 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a feminist. I'm also someone who does not dig anal sex (tried it, didn't like it, not interested in trying again).

I'm also someone who would have ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER if I found out someone I was dating had done anal sex with someone else before me. So long as they were cool with my not digging it (as opposed to nagging me to try it ever five minutes), I'd be cool with the fact that they'd done it. Because sexuality is highly personal, and everyone has different things they dig or don't dig.

So long as everyone in the room is capable of consent and is cool with what's happening, then it's all good - and there is nothing "shameful", "hateful", or "misogynistic" about anything.

The MOST I would do in terms of talking this over with her is to firstly, make it clear that you respect that she doesn't care anal sex; and that you also don't need for her to give that to you.

But by the same token, she has to accept that this was something in your past. And in fact, it was a part of your past from the very moment she met you. You're still the same person you were before she found out you did this, and she liked you fine before she found it, didn't she? You haven't changed.

But there is nothing wrong with you or what you did, and she is overreacting wildly. But that overreaction may be coming from just as personal a place, so be sensitive to that. But she has to be sensitive to the fact that this is something you did, and accept that you did it, even though you're not asking her to do it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:40 PM on October 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

Bail. Life is way too short to be judged this way. This tiny seed of discontent is going to bloom to a poisonous plant that will choke the both of you.

Here are the danger signs:
1) digging into your past;
2) harsh judgement of a past that does not impact her present e.g., you are not demanding anal sex;
3) untenable ultimatum.

If you falsely apologize for your past, trust me, this is the first step of many compromises that will make you hollow. Judgmental people, usually, don't ease up when they feel the "guilty party" has "confessed"; there is no redemption, just a future incident for judgement to be passed.
posted by jadepearl at 6:08 PM on October 25, 2014 [14 favorites]

if anyone can help me understand the other side of this argument I'd appreciate that too.

I'm so glad you asked.

Young women of today grow up surrounded by narratives of sex that we didn't, and one of the major narratives is porn. Mean, brutal, hateful porn in which women are shoved and spat on and choked and violated and they're meant to be grateful for the experience, if their feelings are considered at all. (There's a lot of consent issues around this stuff, too.) Anal sex has moved from something taboo to something commonplace, but being seen through this twisted lens, it becomes not a pleasurable experience for both partners but yet another prize for men to score.

Your girlfriend doesn't live in a vacuum. One of society's cruellest tricks is that it's incredibly sex-negative towards young women on the aggregate, yet expects them to be sex-positive on an individual level. Your girlfriend has internalised the negative messages around anal sex, and that's understandable, because those are the messages society is giving out! So I can see why she's struggling with the idea that you, a guy she loves, a guy who seems very respectful towards her and women in general, would participate in an act that society is constantly telling her is used by men to degrade women for their own enjoyment.

It's easy to be dismissive. It's much harder to be empathetic. Your question displays a real emotional maturity, OP, and those skills will serve you well, both in this relationship and any future ones. I hope that you and your girlfriend can reach a place of understanding.
posted by Georgina at 6:45 PM on October 25, 2014 [105 favorites]

My guess here is that she has had bad experience(s) in the past with boyfriends pressuring her/guilting her/nagging her/etc. about anal sex. In my experience, this type of behavior is incredibly common. I have had multiple partners who were otherwise fantastic, amazing, respectful guys be total assholes about anal sex. So, I think she is probably transferring those past experiences to you.

On the one hand, there's a lot of bad behavior on her part here. For one thing, she should not have been asking anyone about your past sexual experiences. And, if it is the case that her response is being influenced by past bad experiences, then she shouldn't be transferring that to you.

On the other hand, TO ME neither of those things would be automatic deal breakers. One can get too far into a conversation with a good friend and end up hearing something they don't want to without being an evil person. And it's impossible to delete all our past experiences and start truly anew with each partner. I think it is fine if you can't accept these things, but I do think they're possible to overcome if you want to work on it. I would approach is by asking her what's really going on here - what are her past experiences here and why is she making the assumption that anal sex could never be something a woman would actually enjoy/want/consent to/etc. Definitely don't apologize as you've done nothing wrong, but I think you can try to understand why she's having such a strong reaction and reassure her that you are really really really not interested in/going to pressure her about anal sex now or in the future.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:21 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

If my husband and my friend got together and asked each other what me and my ex did in bed together, not only would neither of them have a clue, but I can imagine the conversation would be horribly creepy and awkward. Why? Because that's not a conversation mature, respectful adults are interested in or engage in. It's such a horrifying violation of privacy I can't even.

The thing that gets me about the whole thing is that it wasn't even that she found out about this through your ex, she found this out through someone else altogether - so two people whom you never even shared this sex act with somehow know all about your previous sex life, in intimate detail and are talking about it. I mean, shit, who ELSE knows the nitty gritty about what you do in bed?! Your girlfriend is comfortable enough chatting to friends about it, so chances are her friends now know too.

Your gf didn't feel comfortable asking you about it, though, but she feels quite fine in shaming you for consensual sex you had before you even knew she existed. I understand it's not her bag but the fact that she's not adventorous/comfortable enough for this doesn't give her the right to ask for an apology from those who are. And the gossiping - that's unforgivable even if you can get past her shaming you for the rest of it.
posted by Jubey at 7:38 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Our responses here are naturally going to be skewed because we're hearing about your relationship from the perspective of this one problem. But even given that, I'm sorry to say this sounds to me like a serious relationship conflict - not one I could tolerate.

I'm not seeing her gossipping about your past as the issue some other posters see it as. But her insisting you express *regret* for, and her applying the word "deviant" to, anything consensual in your past (much less something as common as anal sex) is a severely bad sign. It is really heartening to see how clear you are that it's not something you should be ashamed of and that judging anyone based on their sexual history is deeply wrong. I'm sorry to say I think this is a sign of a core incompatibility.

I think what you should do, since that's your question, is keep being perfectly clear that having had anal sex isn't something you're ever going to regret or apologize for - and if she's really giving an ultimatum based on her expectation that you should, I think that will be an answer for both of you.
posted by kalapierson at 8:02 PM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I will go out on a dissenting limb and say that people talk about what they do in bed and people talk about what they like to do in bed, and sometimes, people who have shared sexual partners talk about what they've done in bed. On first pass I thought you said that former partner and G were the ones talking, which has totally happened in my friends group where some of us have common past partners. To me, this is not something super terrible. It's less okay that it was a friend of FP and G, to me. However, in my friends group, it would be normative for people with shared past partners and where we're all still friends to occasionally have these sorts of conversations, in context. It doesn't sound like this is the hill you're dying on, and it's one some folks are focussing on.

On the other hand, I've had a lot of good times in a lot of good ways with a lot of folks (in ways that I'm guessing G would find patently not okay), and if someone ever asked me to apologize that, they'd get told point blank that I'm not apologizing and that I am who I am and I've done what I've done, and they can either be happy about who I am with them within our mutually negotiated boundaries and comfort zones, or they can be happy without me. I don't normally do ultimatums, but this would have to be one.

So you can tamp things down and apologize, which is likely to cause more issues down the road. You can be all "look, you're nuts, we're done." You can try to talk to her, get her to understand that what y'all did was in the context of a consensual happy relationship and that what y'all did in bed was what y'all wanted to do, and that you're not going to pressure her to do anything she doesn't want to do, and see what happens. This last route is perhaps the best for your relationship, but it's a hell of a lot of work, and may or may not going anywhere, if she's stuck on getting an apology.

The whole thing sucks. Good luck. Life's too short to settle for someone who's not willing to do the work to be compatible with you, though. I'm not saying DTMFA, but... value yourself to find someone who is willing to work to be compatible. Hopefully, it's G. Good luck. (I found mine; she's my wife and I never ever have to apologize for who I am and who I've been, and it's awesome.)

(On preview, what kalapierson said.)
posted by joycehealy at 8:16 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is disturbing that she is basically asking, when she is asking for this apology and denunciation of your former sex life, for you to admit to sexually mistreating your former partner. She is saying that you did something to your FP that was intrinsically degrading and harmful to her, which sounds, at least from your post, like it is blatantly untrue. I don't know what is going on with your current girlfriend-- if she has personal trauma surrounding this sex act, religious indoctrination, or the media trauma of seeing it used as a cultural trope to degrade women. The best you can do is to make it clear that you respected your FP's boundaries and consent, which included anal sex, and you respect your current GF's boundaries and consent as well, and will never push her into any sexual act she isn't comfortable with. But no, do not make this apology.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:02 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Respectfully, this:
...and sometimes, people who have shared sexual partners talk about what they've done in bed.

Does not apply here.

Going outside of the intimacy of a relationship to a 3rd party and gathering intel on your intimate partner's past intimacies, which is then used against the partner, is not sharing between friends. It is gossiping.

Everybody talks about sex! I accidentally overheard a conversation tonight where 2 girlfriends were sharing stories (courtyard building, loud drunky talk, LOL) that was absolutely friends sharing secrets in the best way possible. (Frankly, it was adorable;))

I'm inviting the OP to frame this not the way his GF has from her perspective, and see it objectively from the outside.

At it's barest bones, 2 people not included in the intimate act at the time were talking about what happened in the OP's private time with an ex.

It's gossip. Used against the OP.

If I want to know about my beloved partner's past sexual experiences, I go to them with my curiosity. This is how people who respect their partner's behave. If during drunky talk I overstep such a boundary, I at least would have the good sense not to use such info in a confrontation because - yuck.
posted by jbenben at 9:08 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Honestly it sounds to me like she is starting with a conclusion (she has hangups about buttsex) and working backwards to come up with reasons why, and she found a reason with enough heft behind it that she's (almost certainly on an unconscious level) hoping you'll have sufficient guilt about the possibility of being misogynist to cede the argument. I don't think she's doing this to be manipulative or conniving or anything. I think people have huge blind spots about their own motivations on a pretty regular basis.

Long story short, it sounds to me like there's something going on here that probably doesn't have anything to do with you. The good news is that you didn't do anything wrong. The bad news is that since it has nothing to do with you, you can't really fix this. She's got hangups and she feels so sharply about it that she jumps right to trying to strongarm you into agreement. And the thing is, even if you could uncover what it is that's making her react this way (again, it's not you), it wouldn't change anything. Her outlook wouldn't change and your past wouldn't change, either.

If I were in your situation, I would probably see her reaction here as something of a red flag (not one of maliciousness, just a sign that we are not suitable partners), but if you want to try to put this argument to rest, you can flat-out tell her that you've done a lot of thinking about it and you just do not agree with her that the act of banging someone's dumper is inherently a misogynistic act (while acknowledging a lot of the good points made above that it certainly can play out that way, especially in porn), and that you are comfortable in the belief that you both gave and received enthusiastic, informed consent from the person you engaged in it with. Then restate that it is not an act you want to engage in with her and that it will never be expected or even asked of her.

At that point you can say that you've done all you can but if she's not willing to let the matter lie at that point, there's not much for it, really. I think the question of who's right and wrong here kind of takes a backseat to the fact that this seems very much like an irreconcilable difference between the two of you.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:02 PM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

By discussing your intimate life with a former partner, she and the person she spoke with violated your privacy resoundingly. I would be pissed off about that. I would not be conciliatory toward someone who invaded my privacy and then gave me hell about it. You engaged in consensual sex. My response would be Don't violate my privacy. You have no business judging me.

i am not optimistic about your future together.
posted by theora55 at 11:34 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Questions for her: Why does she want you to regret it? Because she wants to share a worldview with you ("that kind of sex is bad")? Because she thinks FP was maltreated and she wants you to make amends with FP? Because she's afraid that you are going to start acting misogynistic, deviant and degrading in your sex life with her? What is she concerned you might do? Finding these things out might clarifying your situation some.

Next, questions for you: Can you imagine explaining so-called "deviant" practices to her in a way that would make her relax on the topic? Would you be willing to try? Alternatively, if she agreed to disagree, i.e. you guys just dropped the subject, could you live with the way she's judged you? If so, then maybe I'd say something like this:

"I believe that anal sex can be part of a good, healthy, respectful sex life if both parties are interested and well-informed. I also think it's deeply wrong to judge anyone based on their sexual history, and I'm feeling unfairly judged, like you want to shame me for enjoying the 'wrong kind' of sex. I want to put this argument to rest. But it doesn't make sense for me to express shame for something of which I'm not ashamed. I understand your feelings on this issue and have no intention to ask for that kind of sex in our relationship. I care very much for you and I find our sex life deeply fulfilling. So: do you think we have enough mutual affection and trust to agree to disagree on this topic? Is there anything we can work out that will settle this topic? Or do you think we should part ways?"
posted by feets at 12:04 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

In fact, she says she would have broken it off with me if she'd found out sooner.

It's difficult to see this as other than seriously disproportionate. This seems to have triggered something for her that may be only tangentially related to anal sex and almost certainly has nothing to do with you.

Given how positive you feel otherwise about the relationship, you may wish to cut her some slack around that and try to work through it with her. However, if she feels like there is nothing to work through then your options are limited. You can't make others see things your way.

Everyone has their own values of course, but I find the idea of G and another friend discussing your sexual history to be a significant invasion of privacy (unless you tend to generally discuss your sexual experience openly and widely) and something I would be quite unhappy about with both of them. It's a conversation that should not have happened and given that it did, I think G has compounded the sin by bringing it back to you at all, let alone the way she did.

From my perspective, early 20s is very young and a time of life where one usually has a lot to learn about relating in a healthy, grown up way. If she is all the lovely things you believe she is, this may well be worth persevering with. I think you need to do it in a way that isn't entirely you accepting bad behaviour on her part though. feets' conversation suggestion above, is very much the kind of discussion I would be wanting to have.

This may also be the point where you begin to realise that she isn't actually all those wonderful things you thought she was. It takes a long time to get to know people and they're often not what we first think, because we (necessarily I think) make so many assumptions about those around us and it is sometimes years before those assumptions get tested.
posted by mewsic at 12:15 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

In fact, she says she would have broken it off with me if she'd found out sooner.

So she is saying this is a deal breaker for her. That's really all you need to know. Even if you apologized, you'd still be the guy who did this thing she considers a deal breaker and enjoyed it.
Don't stay with someone who tells you that they don't really want to be with you anymore.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:30 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think that Georgina has a beautiful and insightful comment.

I also think G's inquiries and response is a huge red flag, that shows your current partner has problems with trust, control, and boundaries. You could attempt to work through them with her, and hope she will change, but we know that old chestnut. I'd recommend an exit strategy.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 1:44 AM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

"or the media trauma of seeing it used as a cultural trope to degrade women."

Respectfully, this isn't just something seen in the media, nor is it a theoretical or intellectual issue. A lot of people are commenting from the premise that it's not commonplace for women to be degraded in individual real-life sexual situations and I wish that were true, but "consent culture" is a pretty new phenomenon.

None of which makes it okay for her to go digging into gossip about your past and demanding that you admit to mistreating a former partner when you haven't. Who is she, Angel Clare? Imagine a man demanding that a woman repudiate her sexual past because of what he's heard: all the nopes.

I do think that getting sexually mistreated/dubious consent *is* a thing that a normal woman needs to worry about (not suggesting she has to worry about it with you, OP!!!) and not something removed from reality. So I would like to offer that as empathy for where she may be coming from.
posted by tel3path at 2:11 AM on October 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

if anyone can help me understand the other side of this argument I'd appreciate that too.

A person doesn't have to be traumatized or have 'hang-ups' to take issue with anal sex (personally or even on a broader scale). I don't think it's outrageous to suggest that the mainstreaming of porn culture and perhaps a misreading of the GGG ethos might lead to a larger percentage of women having it than just those who really would like to (as e.g. in this study, which looks at young heterosexuals' experiences).
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:25 AM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm surprised that no one has explicitly said that attitudes towards anal sex are usually rooted in homophobia, not misogyny. It is supposed to be shameful to be the 'bottom' (not so much the top), and society pushes a narrative where men and women who enjoy it are supposed to be shamed for it. If they aren't, they are 'fags and sluts'.
Trying to make it shameful, and an unpleasant experience is what is misogynistic. There are men and women who enjoy it, many many lesbians enjoy it.

Who knows what is going on with your partner, maybe someone close to her was assaulted, maybe some incident in the past creeped her out.

See what she thinks of this thread, but, you seemed to imply there were other non-standard sexual activities you enjoyed with your former partner (bdsm of some kind?).
As you haven't said what they were, maybe it is the other activities that bother her, and anal is the tip of the iceberg that she is focusing on with her discomfort?
(And again, deviant? Yeah, that sounds more like subliminated homophobia etc. Are you sure she doesn't have a problem there?).

I am a woman, and can absolutely vouch for women who preferentially use butt plugs etc, especially while masturbating, because it just makes it easier to orgasm. Not for a partner, not because they are masochists, but just because it makes it easier to orgasm. Not for everybody, but for them.

Offer to read anything she suggests as to why it would be inherently degrading, and if she can't find anything reasonable online, that should be a clue.
posted by Elysum at 3:33 AM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Respectfully, this isn't just something seen in the media, nor is it a theoretical or intellectual issue.

I apologize for wording that poorly. The pressuring of women to perform misogynistic anal or other degradation-kink that they're not comfortable with is, yes, extremely common; it's something that I and many of my friends have had to deal with, and I in no way meant to imply that this is an intellectual or trivial issue. What I was trying to get across was that imo exposure to the pervasiveness of misogynistic porn can also be terrifying and legitimately traumatic for women who haven't had any direct, personal experience with coercion and sexual abuse, who do experience this as a social or cultural aggression rather than an intimate physical one. It's possible that OP's girlfriend, like many people are suggesting here, is having an intense reaction to her discovery because she herself has been abused in this particular way, but I was uncomfortable with the ease we seemed to be making those kinds of assumptions about her sexual history, and wanted to point out that there are many reasons for a young woman to have the views that she does about certain sex acts.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:02 AM on October 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

It's a cliche, but if you want to understand where she is coming from on this you are going to have to talk to her. Opinions here might be right or wrong; there just isn't enough information to go off of.

Lots of people have a list of things they'd find unacceptable in a partner's sexual past (eg being a sex worker, visiting sex workers, bisexuality, gangbangs, etc). In this case it seems that she is including a sexual act that many (but by no means all) people consider a normal and unexceptional thing, and compounding that you guys sound like you are having a communications breakdown on the issue.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:42 AM on October 26, 2014

I suspect this isn't about the sex. I suspect that her idea of "passion" is to cook up a conflict where she's the victim.

There's an off chance she has a hangup about this one thing. But - would have broken up with you if she had known and yet doesn't break up with you when she finds out AND she was fishing for info.

For both your sakes, I hope she's just retarded on this one issue (upbringing, bad experience, nonsense someone convinced her of.)

"Would have broken it off" is often shorthand for "I need you to walk on eggshells around me."

Based on the tone of your question and one available interpretation of the facts, my view is that this about her making sure all things are about her, repeated tests of loyalty (such as agreeing your former sex partner was a deviant with internalized misogyny), repeatedly appeasing her, and other emotional ordeals where you do all the work and she has all the fun.

I'd just drop this, and then she if she cooks up any other crazy accusations, there's your answer.

If she has ever been upset because after you took her to the Gilded Truffle, she found out that's the very same restaurant where you went with junior prom date, run like hell and don't look back.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:16 AM on October 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

She's a young girl. Young women get these scary, conflicting messages about sex from all corners of society all the time.

I mean, she's wrong, but I also feel for her because I remember not knowing anything about sex at one point in my life too.

-she's scared you'll eventually want it. Which, pardon me, if you actually really enjoy it, you probably will. I mean, not necessarily- maybe you really don't care. But tons of dudes out there are like "oh I'm different I won't pressure you" and then in a fight down the road, 8 months in, when things get boring, suddenly, oh hey, you're a frigid bitch and not giving him what he wants and what others have/will give him. You sound like a good guy but this is so common that I don't at all blame her for fearing it.

-a ton of anal sex, especially amongst young inexperienced women, really is like 90% the guy's idea and 90% the fault of porn. Let's not kid ourselves here, a LOT of young women do just "go along" for the guy. Not ALL obviously. But yeah, I see her perspective here.

-honestly a lot of people just think anal sex is gross before they've had much sex. Like a little kid thinks all sex is gross. Like "ew what? Where? Why??"

I would just chalk it up to "young scared girl."

She should not judge you so harshly however, but I think she just really doesn't understand.
posted by quincunx at 7:19 AM on October 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

Was she unaware that you were having sex with FP? I'm speculating here, but maybe she was bothered & jealous by your having any sex with FP, but didn't allow herself to admit to it bc that would have been unreasonable. But then she found out that you committed [insert act she thinks she's justified to freak out about] and she opened the flood gates of freak out land.
It would explain why she was discussing (???) your sexual history with FP.
It seems to me that this has little to do with anal sex and more to do jealousy.
But, if I'm wrong, then it's her decision if this is a deal breaker.
Good luck :/
posted by Neekee at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wait, different theory: Where did she grow up? Was it by any chance a super conservative community? Bible Belt? Midwest?
Because A LOT of WASP and Mormon girls in high school and early college were willing & seemingly eager to have butt sex to keep their boyfriends around, but would still be "virgins" so their religious parents wouldn't find out.

Maybe she associates anal sex with overly coercive (read: rapey) boyfriends. The kind that are conveniently unaware that their girlfriends didn't "want" to perform sexual acts after putting absurd amounts of pressure on them. Hence why she is not wrapping her head around the fact that FP could have actually wanted to have anal sex.
Makes sense to me.
posted by Neekee at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I grew up in a liberal area, with liberal parents and I can completely understand your girlfriend's point of view. I keep hearing that women love anal sex. These points of view seem to come only from men though or women on TV. I have never heard from a real woman who actually enjoyed anal sex. Usually, what I hear is that they just want to make their partners happy. Perhaps there are some women who enjoy anal sex, but I am guessing they are the minority.

To me, saying that most women enjoy anal sex, is like saying most women enjoy getting punched in the face. It just seems unfathomable to me. My experience with anal sex is having boyfriends attempt to (unsuccessfully) into it. I don't believe anal sex is "sinful" or "deviant," but I just can't imagine any women actually enjoying it and that most women who participate it in anal sex do it just to make their partners happy.

I'm guessing your girlfriend's narrative involves you trying to convince FP into having anal sex and then FP finally agreeing. Then, FP claiming she enjoyed it just to make you happy. I can see why your girlfriend would be bothered by this. Question for you, whose idea was it to have anal sex? That will tell you a lot.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:57 AM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have never heard from a real woman who actually enjoyed anal sex.

Hi. I'm right here. There. Now you've heard from a real woman who enjoys anal sex.

In stark contrast to your experience, I have NEVER heard that most women like anal sex. Every time someone finds out I actually do enjoy it, I get a nice little slut-shaming aimed my way, because they just can't fathom that someone might like something they don't personally enjoy, so I must not really like it. I must just be faking it to please someone else. I must be a liar. I must be the kind of skank that lies about their sexuality to make some sleazebag guy happy.

Sounds like more people than just the OP's girlfriend need to open their minds and try to see a different point of view.
posted by palomar at 10:08 AM on October 26, 2014 [25 favorites]

I have never heard from a real woman who actually enjoyed anal sex.

Hi. I'm another woman who enjoys anal play. Just wanted to chime in here so that people understand that women don't just do these things for men. We are sexual too and enjoy all kinds of things and that is okay. It's just not talked about that much I think. In fact, in my relationship, I was the one to bring it up. Neither of us had tried it in prior relationships. He wasn't sure at first, but now we are moving forward and experimenting in that direction, we both consented, and I love it. Anyway, just my two cents.

Regarding the OP's girlfriend - she's 100% in the wrong here. Do not apologize to her for something you did in the past with a consenting partner. She has no right to try to shame you for this, and she's also in the wrong for gossiping with someone else about your prior sexual history.
posted by FireFountain at 10:27 AM on October 26, 2014 [14 favorites]

I heard a radio programme just the other day (maybe Women's Hour?) talking about British teenagers and their views around sex and consent. They discussed how a common narrative surrounding anal sex among male British teenagers is that it's something women don't enjoy, but that men do; that you can only get some by "tricking" a woman into it, like "oops wrong hole!" and that you've extra bragging brownie points if you manage it.

If this lady is familiar with anal sex viewed through this narrative, and if she thinks you also see it this way, then I'm not surprised by her conclusions. If you start from these premises then you can easily conclude that women who consent to anal sex are just desperate people with no self-respect, or something along those lines.
posted by emilyw at 4:04 PM on October 26, 2014

I have never heard from a real woman who actually enjoyed anal sex.

* waves *

It's totally fine to say "That's not my experience" but we're getting into weird territory with people making a lot of allegations and assertions about what the rest of the world is like. My experience is more like palomar's. I don't talk about it much because I'm tired of people presuming it's something I'm lying about for ... some reason? Our joke in college about a lot of guilty pleasures was "It's a lot like anal sex, no one admits to actually liking it but a lot of people like it."

Since I was in college, the generalized culture of what porn is like and what it's okay to admit liking/not-liking has changed a lot. There's also a lot more ability to observe other people's preferences both through more freely available porn but also observing other people's discussions both here and places like Reddit and other places where "surprise buttsex" is a thing people talk about as emilyw also mentions. If G is up for it, a broader discussion about this sort of thing might be helpful. I can definitely remember back before I knew much about a lot of different kinds of sex and it was easier to think something was weird (and potentially ungood-weird) if I hadn't done it and no one I knew had done it. I've grown up and the world has also changed but that doesn't mean that everyone else has changed along with it.
posted by jessamyn at 4:45 PM on October 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

As far as the actual discussion goes, is there a chance that the friend was actively trying to shock your partner? They're apparently not only close enough to know details about your sex life but to also get close to your current partner and are gauche enough to have this conversation - is it possible that the way they framed the conversation, the way they explained the anal sex, is contributing?

Everyone has leaped to your partner grilling this 'friend' but is it possible that she was confronted with the information in a way that shocked her even more? As in, was the 'friend' saying how "oh yeah he loves butt stuff and used to fuck Ex in the ass all the time" or something like that?

And I think there's a big gap between the way anal sex is presented in media - porn 'just stick it in' and 'bitches love to hate it' and wider media slut-shaming - and the way it is discussed in real life. I've had many an argument, mostly with men, that women can enjoy it and do, and it's not disgusting and they're not disgusting. I've also had experiences with men who had no fucking clue about prep or pleasure. So it is entirely possible for people to be getting opposing messages.

One's introduction to anal sex can be key as well - if she's had 'surprise buttsecks' and coerced attempts at penetration then there's a whole lot of ground to cover. Hell, I've been with my partner for 10+ years and he's never once tried it but I still flinch away if he touches me certain ways because those ways have been preludes to 'it's just a finger' and 'oops' moments of extreme pain and violation.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:13 PM on October 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

G contends that it's an inherently degrading, misogynistic act and it was wrong of me to consent to it (and that FP's interest was a product of internalized misogyny).

It sounds like she's both making you a victim here of something degrading and also blaming you at the same time. That dynamic concerns me. If it was such a horrible thing for you, does she also blame other victims for saying yes, or for not having the right level of condemnation of their victimization?

I know that you were not victimized. But she thinks it was such a horrible thing initiated against you that I'm surprised she isn't more concerned about your welfare rather than trying to make you somehow responsible. Why is she playing both sides of the coin?
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:30 PM on October 26, 2014

This "To me, saying that most women enjoy anal sex, is like saying most women enjoy getting punched in the face" makes my stomach turn in its offensiveness.

But it may be where your partner gets her viewpoint as well. Not being able to see that other people can have different experiences than her own. Not being able to see past her own point of view may be what is giving her difficulty. Has the ability to get along has been because you have fortunately seen most things with a similar point of view? Or so you still get along when topics come up that you don't share the same points of view? I think this may be insightful in terms of being able to resolve this.
posted by Vaike at 3:01 PM on October 27, 2014

> if anyone can help me understand the other side of this argument I'd appreciate that too.

I know someone who's only experience w/ anal was unpleasant from doing it wrong. Perhaps G doesn't know about receiver-in-control positions, too much lube is almost enough, and taking a lot of time. Unpleasant experience or stories could lead one to have a pretty dim view of the act.
posted by morganw at 7:18 PM on October 28, 2014

I think we're all getting bogged down in the wrong half of your question. I'mma try to re-direct, if I may.

It's well and good that you want to try to understand her perspective on this issue. In fact, it's commendable. However - we are not the right people to be asking for insight on her sexual life. We've given you a huge range of arguments, and any one of them could be right, but your girlfriend's sexuality is made up of an extremely unique combination of "things that have happened to her" and "things she is at her core being". So the only way to really understand her perspective on this is to ask her directly.

But you have a bigger problem first - and that's the fact that she's so violently opposed to a part of your sexual past, and that that's not fair to you. It's totally valid for her to not like anal sex, but it's not valid for her to be so scornful of the fact that you once did it.

I'd sit down and have a talk with her about what she finds so objectionable - not from any kind of "but there's nothing wrong with it, what's wrong with you for thinking that?" but more like, "I'd like to know what your specific concerns are, so I can better address them and reassure you." Talk her down off the ledge first - find out if it's a religious thing first, or maybe she had a bad experience, or maybe she saw bad porn or WHATEVER. But you need to find out what her objections to anal sex are first, and then address them ("oh, so someone tried to force you. Well, that's totally wrong to force anyone to do ANYTHING, and I'd never force anyone against their will; that's not part and parcel of anal, though, it's more a matter of forced sex, and I agree with you that being forced to do anything is wrong.")

THEN once you've gotten more of an understanding on that, then you can get around to "look, I understand now why you don't dig it, but it's not something I am embarrassed about, and I feel rejected when you shamed me like that. I'm not going to push you to do anything you don't want to do, but your threatening to break up with me just because of something you heard I did with someone else hurt."

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:53 AM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

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