Readers react to Dan's advice to Reconsidering In Toronto, who was shocked when a partner wanted to insert his balls into her:
I think you were hard on the lady whose first response was "What?!?" when her date suggested testicular sex. As things go, "What?!?" is a pretty tame response that might also have meant: "What are you talking about! I am surprised and confused!"
I'm saying it's pretty difficult, in a clutch situation, to have the first thing you say not be "What?!?"
If it was the guy writing, you would have berated him for giving up so easily. As well you should have! Imagine if everyone on earth gave up so easily! We would all be having heterosexual missionary sex without birth control.
I think you might have been too hard on the girl who said "What?!?" when the guy asked her if he could insert his testicles into her. My reaction would have been "What?!?" too, not because I think it's a shameful act or that it's shameful to be kinky or because I think it's a terrible thing, but because I'd be genuinely shocked that somebody had found a kink that I'd never even heard of.
Hearing you speak so casually about it, as if everyone's doing it, makes me think I'm more vanilla than I thought. But I hang around a lot of kinky people and have not heard of this. I guess I'd just like to say, a) this ball-insertion thing isn't exactly sweeping the nation the way your reply to her might have suggested, and b) "What?!?" doesn't always translate as "You should be ashamed"/"I'm not interested." Often it just indicates surprise, after which there might be a discussion. But guys, in my experience, seem to have a harder time talking about their feelings.
Women shouldn't be expected to control a natural surprise reaction to an unusual kink in the middle of sex. Communicate, men! If he'd communicated with her—if he'd explained what he was interested in doing—and then she'd said, "You're a sick, kinky freak," then I'd say it's her loss. Right now I'd say no one's to blame but missed communication.
Big fan and so on. That said: Why the hell did you go off on that poor woman so severely? Yes, you're right—it would be good to be 100 percent accepting and tolerant and totally up for everything all of the time. But in what universe is that completely possible? It's ideal, but it hardly seems like the person writing in was downright "sex-negative."
She could've responded better, sure, but it's hardly the most egregious offense you've responded to lately. Being spontaneously unnerved doesn't necessarily have anything to do with trying to assert moral superiority or exacting sexual/emotional leverage or any other thing. I don't know if other readers will find this kind of dressing-down a little over the top, but it seems like a reaction to something other than the e-mail as written (or at least as published).
Puzzled In Brooklyn
Don't you think you were overly rude and condescending to Reconsidering In Toronto? If she was genuinely surprised by her partner's request, I don't think it is "establishing her moral superiority" to exclaim "What?!?" Yes, everyone should be open-minded and sexually adventurous, but can't a person just be simply surprised and taken off-guard, instead of the reaction having to be part of some social power dynamic? Lighten up.
Reader And Fan
I read your answer to RIT this week about the dick-shriveling power of "What?!?" in response to a request.
My comfort zone has recently increased with the help of a more widely experienced friend. I think I react well to new suggestions, but sometimes I need some time to consider what has been proposed. So I just say I need to think about it instead of yes or no, so far always followed by yes. Maybe this is a good practice, maybe it just works in the situation I'm in currently? Can you give some general advice about how to react to new suggestions that may make you scared, curious, and excited all at the same time?
Learning Exciting New Things
They all can't be gems, people. And how many times have I mentioned the fact that I frequently write this column in an impaired state, i.e., in a bar, drunk, and/or stoned? Many, many times. That doesn't excuse botching my response to RIT—it only, you know, provides some context. Thanks to all for setting the record—and me—straight.