I work in an office tower in downtown Seattle. From time to time, I go to a bathroom on a mostly deserted floor, go into a stall, and rub out a quick one. Usually, no one comes in.
Today, just as I was blowing a load into a handful of TP, someone came into the bathroom. This person walked up to the stall and stared through the door crack. This person stood there for a second before walking over to the urinal. He finished and left. I flushed and washed my hands and left. A security guard came around the corner while I was waiting for the elevator. He rode the elevator down with me but said nothing. At the lobby, I got in the elevator that takes me back to my floor. As the door closed, I heard someone say, "See that guy?"
I am paranoid that security is going to confront me. But have I done anything illegal? I may have exercised poor judgment and been squicky, but is it illegal to masturbate in a closed bathroom stall on private property? —Suddenly Pensive About Noontime Kicks
It isn't, SPANK, at least not in Seattle.
"There is an expectation of privacy in a bathroom stall," says Seattle Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Sean Whitcomb. "So obviously, what people do there is their personal business."
If things went down exactly as you described, SPANK, you're not in any legal danger, as you were doing your own private business in the privacy of a bathroom stall. The guy who peered into your stall, however, could be in trouble.
"Here's the irony: The person peeping into the stall is the person we'd be interested in talking to," says Whitcomb. "You don't need to be peeping into the stall to see if someone is using it, and looking into a stall long enough to make a determination as to what the person is doing in that stall, exactly, is an indication that you've been looking a little longer than you need to."
So, yeah, if anyone is going to jail here, SPANK, it's the peeper who reported you to the office tower's crack security team, not you.
HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA! Forgive me for laughing, SPANK, but I'm having a hard time keeping a straight face. If someone called the actual cops about a toilet wanker — and not, say, the Seattle Police Department's polite and reasonable spokesperson — it's the wanker who'll wind up in handcuffs, not the caller. Beat cops don't generally give the benefit of the doubt to guys rubbing 'em out in public toilets. They'll assume you were cruising the toilet or, worse yet, that you're the kind of perv who gets off to the sounds and smells of other men taking craps, and they'll arrest you.
I'm stumped, Dan. In the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which has been the subject of much discussion due to its controversial subject matter (a young woman gets involved in a BDSM relationship), the term "canning" is used numerous times. Despite my best efforts, I cannot find a definition for this practice. Who else can I turn to but you? —Confused And Naive, New Era Definition
It's not canning ("a method of preserving food in which the food contents are processed and sealed in an airtight container"), it's caning ("a form of corporal punishment consisting of a number of hits with a single cane usually made of rattan").
I don't know if the author of Fifty Shades of Grey dropped that extra "n" in there, CANNED, or if you did. But here's hoping that millions of women all over the world aren't fantasizing about having themselves canned by kinky billionaires. A person can survive — a person can even enjoy — a good thrashing. But being sealed in an airtight container? Not so much.
Full disclosure: I may be the only sex writer on earth who has yet to read Fifty Shades of Grey. While I plan to avoid reading Grey, just as I've avoided watching "2 Girls, 1 Cup" (and for similar reasons, i.e., I'm easily nauseated), I think it's wonderful that this book is inspiring a whole new generation of American women to get their kink on.
I'm a 43-year-old woman, married for 19 years, and I need your help! Like most middle-aged moms, I read Fifty Shades of Grey. I understand that it is fiction. But it has motivated me to spice things up in the bedroom. The problem is that my husband is a dud. He's not open to trying anything that isn't missionary or doggy. That's the extent of it. I feel as if I've tried everything. He's happy with the way things are. Period. What do I do? —Woman Has Interesting Perversions
Here's what you do: Get in a time machine and go warn your younger self not to make the same mistake that so many women make in their 20s. That is, dumping guys with relatively harmless, easily indulged kinks — the foot fetishists, the guys who wear panties, the guys who want their girlfriends to wear superhero costumes while they peg their ass — because kinky guys are "weird," "not normal," or "probably gay."
Backing way the hell up for a moment: I've been writing about sex and relationships, men and women, kinky sex and vanilla sex for 20 years. It is my informed opinion that men typically become aware of their kinks — they typically become hyperaware of them — when they're teenagers. Many women, on the other hand, don't seem to become aware of their kinks until they're in their 30s or 40s. Maybe it has something to do with the sexual peak, which men are believed to hit in their teens and women in their 30s (and which many people believe to be bullshit), or maybe it simply takes women longer to overcome the misogynist slut-shaming that they're subjected to as girls and to openly embrace their sexualities and sexual interests.
Whatever the cause, I've seen it happen again and again: A woman tosses aside a series of decent but somewhat kinky guys until she finds a guy whose sexual interests are "normal," e.g., missionary, doggy and no-hands-on-the-back-of-the-head oral. And that's the guy she marries. Then, 10 or 20 years later, she develops some "weird," "not normal," "probably gay" sexual interests of her own. Now she wants to spice things up, but — fuckadoodledoo — 20 years ago, she dumped a nice kinkster and married a total sexual dud instead.
So here's what you do: Get in a time machine and go tell your twentysomething self not to dump someone because he's kinky, WHIP, because one day you're going to come into your own kinks. And when that day comes, you'll want to be able to say something like this to your husband: "So, hey, you know how I've been jerking you off with my feet" or "letting you wear my panties" or "dressing up like Aquagirl and fucking your ass for the last 19 years? It's been a lot of fun, honey, and you know I love you and you know I love your kinks. But it's payback time. I just finished reading this book, and it really turned me on and now I wanna get canned and you're going to can me."
If you don't have access to a time machine, WHIP, tell your husband that while he may be happy with the way things are, you're not. Which means things have to change.
Confidential to the president of the United States of America: Thanks, man.
Find Dan Savage's weekly podcast every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage. Send letters to email@example.com.