Q: I’m a 25-year-old student living with my wife at my dad’s place. My parents got divorced a couple of years ago (he had an affair), and my wife lost her job about four months ago. My dad graciously offered to let us stay with him for a few months.
The other day, I had the house to myself. I went to put a movie in the VCR. There was already a tape in there, so I started it up and couldn’t believe what I saw: My wife emerging from the shower. The image repeated itself several times. Then there was more footage of my wife changing her clothes in our bedroom, looped over and over. There was even footage of my wife and I screwing in our bedroom! I freaked out, grabbed the tape and broke it into a thousand pieces. When my dad got home from work, I walked out before he got out of the car and threw the pieces in his face. He was shocked and insisted we talk about it in the car. He got really upset and apologized over and over, saying he was lonely. Then he begged me not to leave or tell my wife. I didn’t leave — how could I? I was in school, my wife wasn’t working and we had no money for rent. So we just agreed never to speak about it again and left it at that. I never told my wife, but I kept a very close eye on my father. Four months and two new jobs later, we’re finally moving out.
This whole thing has really freaked me out. When I try to get intimate with my wife, I think of that goddamn tape, the hidden cameras and my father getting off on all of this. It just leaves me completely limp. I am ashamed of my father for doing it and I’m even more ashamed of myself for not preventing it. My wife has noticed my “performance” problem and can’t figure out what’s going on; she thinks I may be having an affair!
I don’t see the point in telling my wife now, and I don’t really want to discuss it again with my father, so what do I do? Oh, and my wife’s parents are dead and she loves my father like her own. —Limp & Shamed
A: Tell your wife what happened. You can’t go on letting your wife think you’re cheating on her to protect your father from your wife’s bad opinion. Of course your wife won’t be looking up to your dad as a substitute father once she hears the news. But think about it, L&S: If you were your wife, what would you rather think? That your husband’s can’t get it up because he’s having an affair? Or that he can’t get it up because his dad did something creepy?
Before I get to the meat of my advice, I want to say this: Your dad is one sick fuck. There you were, feeling grateful and indebted to him, and all the while he’s violating your privacy and beating off to this videotape. Worse yet, once you discovered what he was up to, your economic situation required you to pretend that nothing had happened and remain in your father’s house. Ugh. Your father put you in an awful position. What an asshole.
Having said that, I am now going to go out on a very long, very brittle limb. Brace yourself, L&S ...
OK, is what your dad did really so bad? Don’t get me wrong: it’s bad — really, really bad. But is it so bad? By which I mean, is it so bad that you have no choice but to let it destroy your relationship with your father and your wife?
Let’s break it down: There are two issues in play — or, I should say, two transgressions. First and foremost, your dad made That Damn Videotape. Second, he was jerking off to That Damn Videotape.
Let’s begin with the lesser transgression: Your dad was beating off to images of your wife and, nauseatingly enough, to images of you and your wife together. I hope I’m not shattering any illusions, L&S, but men and women are constantly masturbating about people they can’t or shouldn’t or won’t ever have. I’m sure you’ve jerked off thinking about women you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t ever have, just as I’ve jerked off about men I can’t or shouldn’t or won’t ever have. Are you still with me? Good.
Assuming that your wife is hot, it’s a simple fact that men are masturbating about her constantly. All of the time, and all kinds of men — strangers, co-workers, and, yes, even relatives. You’ve jerked off about hot women you can’t/shouldn’t/ won’t ever have yourself, right? So in the back of your mind, L&S, you knew it was possible that your dad was beating off about your wife. Of course there are things we know because they can be assumed or inferred them and things we know because we’ve witnessed them or stumbled over irrefutable evidence. Thanks to That Damn Videotape, what once lurked in your subconscious is now banging around your head 24/7. But come on, L&S, knowing that your dad was getting off to images of your wife (and of you) might be highly creepy, but it shouldn’t be completely debilitating. Had your dad been a decent person and stuck to mental images of your wife, you would never have found out for sure that he was beating off about her. But he didn’t stick to mental images, which brings us to the larger of his two transgressions: That Damn Videotape.
What did you really find out when you found the tape, L&S? Something you kinda already kinda knew. Your wife is hot, your dad is straight and, like a lot of other straight men, your dad was beating off thinking about your wife. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he wasn’t into your wife because she’s your wife, but merely because she’s hot. And let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he didn’t want to fuck you, but was only living vicariously through your performance on That Damn Videotape.
If all of this sounds like a series of massive rationalizations — that’s because it is. These rationalizations and assumptions are in your own best interests, L&S, because they’ll help you get to a place, as Dr. Phil might say, where you can forgive your dad and successfully fuck your wife again. To review ...
Step one, tell your wife. She needs to know what happened, so that she can stop worrying about the affair you’re not having.
Step two, move. I have every confidence that your performance problems will clear up once you’re no longer living in your father’s house. Every time you’ve attempted to be intimate with your wife since you found That Damn Videotape you’ve been making love at the scene of the crime, with a little voice in your head was no doubt worrying about hidden cameras and a drooling dad watching the instant replay. It’s no wonder you had a hard time keeping it up.
Step three ... after a good, long chunk of time has passed, after you’ve fertilized the above rationalizations with a little denial, you should be able to forgive your dad and pretend that nothing ever happened.Contact Dan Savage at email@example.com