Q: I was watching “Dr. Phil.” He was talking to a woman who discovered, after marrying, that her hubby was a cross-dresser. Dr. Phil told her to leave the man because of his “perversion,” and told her that no one could ever be sexually satisfied with a cross-dresser for a husband because he would always be masturbating while wearing her underwear, instead of pleasing her. The woman had three kids with this guy so obviously they got it on occasionally, and she didn’t say that they didn’t have sex, only that he had brought up the idea of wearing her clothes and she was repulsed. Then he got the husband on the phone and yelled at him for being dishonest. I thought that lots of people with fetishes live happy, productive, sexually fulfilling lives. If I like blow jobs and my wife doesn’t, are we sexually incompatible? How is this different? Or is he projecting? —Perverts And Nylon Tights
A: Dr. Phil is doing what daytime TV talk show hosts are paid to do: Tell the audience exactly what they want to hear. He’s telling the wife of a cross-dresser and, by extension, all the wives of all the cross-dressers watching at home, that their husbands are dishonest perverts, that the wives are wronged innocents, and that their husbands’ ho-hum fetish is grounds for divorce. Yes, in an ideal world people would make a full disclosure of their secret sexual fetishes before getting married. But most straight people with “shameful” sexual fetishes deny and suppress them for years in what almost always proves to be a futile attempt to control and deny their sexual desires and live “normal” lives. (Out gay people, as a rule, don’t suppress their kinks. Compared to a desire for same-sex sex and love, a desire for leather, dress socks, Ashton Kutcher, etc., just isn’t that scary.) Eventually straight guys with fetishes realize that it’s impossible to suppress their sexual fantasies and then make the difficult decision to tell the wife. And why do straight guys with bizarre sexual fantasies and fetishes try to keep them secret? Why do they suppress them? Hide them from their potential mates? Because the Dr. Phils of this world tell people that anyone with a sexual fantasy wilder than whipped cream on the wife’s nipples is a freak. It’s the Dr. Phils who spread the lie that people with wild sexual fantasies are not interested in “normal” sexual activity, no matter how much “normal” sexual activity they’ve had in their long lives. It’s the Dr. Phils who tell women with small children that the discovery of a run-of-the-mill sexual fetish is grounds for divorce.
It seems to me that the damage of divorce for all involved (especially kids!) is so great that the wife of a cross-dresser might want to take a stab at accepting or accommodating her husband’s fetish before filing for divorce. And perhaps the woman on Dr. Phil’s show might have gone there if the not-so-good doctor had taken the trouble to do a little research before he stuck his big, bald head up his big, white ass. (Which he did right there on television, which is kinda perverse, don’t you think?) Then Dr. Phil could’ve told her that cross-dressing is a common fetish among straight men, and that most cross-dressers are only interested in indulging themselves from time to time. Dr. Phil could’ve told her that most cross-dressers are capable of having normal sexual relations with their wives. He also could’ve told her that there are numerous support groups for the wives of cross-dressers, books, and Internet chat rooms. And he could’ve told her that while it may not be pleasant to contemplate her husband in women’s clothes (where is it written that he has to wear her clothes?), there’s no reason she has to contemplate it all the time. If she can give her husband permission to indulge on his own during solo masturbation sessions, and if his occasional indulgence takes nothing away from their shared sex life, she should be encouraged not to dwell on the whole husband-in-panties issue.
Q: I got pregnant in June — intentionally and very happily, with my husband of almost five years. Since then, he’s been totally uninterested in sex. There are no medical reasons why we can’t be intimate. I’ve asked my husband about it and he doesn’t want to talk. I’ve passed along books and articles about how sex during pregnancy is a good and healthy thing that won’t hurt the baby. I’ve approached him while naked or suggestively wrapped in a towel (sexy underwear doesn’t really come in maternity sizes), I’ve snuggled up to him when he comes to bed and in the morning when we wake up, I’ve told him how much I love him and want to be intimate, and the only result I’ve gotten is that he comes to bed after I’ve gone to sleep and leaps out of bed when the alarm goes off. This morning I finally managed to lure him back under the sheets (for the first time in almost a month!) and after he’d gotten me off he got up and left, telling me I should be happy because he’d given me, “what [I] wanted.” Well, hell, that’s not what I want — I want us to enjoy each other before we get completely overwhelmed with kid stuff! I’m tired and frustrated and hurt. I don’t understand what his problem is and I’m afraid that he’ll keep behaving this way after the baby’s born, which is not going to make for a happy marriage. Aside from the sex thing I feel very close to him, but, well, “the sex thing” is kind of a biggie. —Mama Violates Poppa?
A: In the spirit of telling women what they don’t want to hear, has it occurred to you, MVP, that your husband might not be attracted to you at the moment? While there’s no medical reason you can’t be having sex right now, there are men out there who simply aren’t attracted to their wives’ pregnant bodies and/or men who can’t quite get past the “presence” of their unborn children. If your husband isn’t attracted to your body right now or is turned off by the thought of his unborn child floating in a pool of Daddy’s semen, there’s nothing books and articles and nudity and towels and advice columns can do about it. So what do you do? Accept that your husband isn’t up for sex now and take comfort in the thought that your sex life will return to normal once the baby comes. (Yes, yes: You’ll be busy when the baby comes, but resourceful couples can always carve out time for sex — and you sound pretty resourceful, MVP.) In the meantime, throw away the books and the articles and stop waltzing around the house naked. If that stuff hasn’t worked yet, well, it’s not going to work at all. And you’re unlikely to get any physical intimacy out of him — no cuddling, no lingering in the morning — if he feels like every move you make is an attempt to initiate sex. So tell your husband that nothing is expected of him over the next few months but that you do need to be held and that you need a certain amount of physical intimacy for the remainder of your pregnancy. He may not want to have sex but it’s cruel to deny you any physical intimacy at all. Once he feels like you’re no longer trying to initiate sex every time you come near him (at a time he fears he won’t be able to perform), perhaps he’ll start coming to bed before you go to sleep and linger a bit longer in the morning. There. It’s answers like that one that will prevent me from ever having a daytime TV talk show of my own.Contact Dan Savage at email@example.com