DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 21 year old guy from the UK and I’ve been reading your site for about a year and a half. During that time I’m happy to say I’ve made some great improvements to my life; I’ve become conscious about my diet and started working out with a friend, have been building my confidence and have started dressing much better than ever. Unfortunately, I’ve hit a wall with women because I’m not comfortable talking about sexual subjects. At all. With anyone. I even find it difficult to talk about hot celebrities with my guy friends, that’s how bad we’re talking. I should be specific here and point out that I’m not (to the best of my knowledge) insecure about my sexuality. I used to be but after reading up and becoming more educated I’ve grown comfortable and believe, as far as mentality goes, I’m secure in my sexuality, I don’t find myself worried about any thoughts or fantasies I have and hearing other people talk about sex doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable, it’s strictly me voicing opinions and thoughts that I struggle with.
For some context I was generally a loner when I grew up, I’m an introvert so I’ve always been the most comfortable in my own imagination. In primary school I only really had about three friends and my best friend had autism (I don’t hold that against him, he’s a great guy) so it wasn’t really much of a talkative social group to grow up in. At high school I had it pretty rough, I was bullied a great deal by a great many people, both the usual variety, and stuff like girls fake flirting/touching me because they knew it would make me uncomfortable. I should also point out I was a late bloomer puberty wise, I only really started getting interested in girls when I was 14, and most of my friends started at around 12, so I was mostly alone in the dark when they started talking about the girls in class. I eventually fell in with a new group of friends after a few years but by then I already had a pretty toxic personality, I’d decided that crushing any thoughts or feelings I had was better for me given how I’d been treated. I used to hate seeing other guys stress or worry about impressing girls and thought I was superior for rising above that and being alone, even when I had a fairly well known crush on one of the girls in class.
Needless to say this resulted in me never really getting comfortable talking about sex or girls, and now even though I’m making real progress with other aspects of my life this hang up is a real problem. It is impossible for me to flirt or even give a compliment to a girl, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve considered online dating but I think this will just cut out the approaching angle and leave me unable to flirt or be sexual on a date, after all how am I supposed to be flirtatious with a girl when I feel awkward telling my friends how hot Emilia Clarke is?
So, any advice to help me build my comfort and ease myself into talking about sex? I’d appreciate any help or advice you had.
DEAR TALKING BAD: Let me ask you something, TB: what, specifically is it about sex that causes the hang-up? Is it that you feel like one of the a
holes who bullied you or the showboaters who were bulls
tting about the sex they clearly weren’t having? Is it a case of you don’t feel like you have the vocabulary to talk about it? Are you worried about being judged on the opinions you have? Maybe it’s a case of worrying that you’ll come across like Steve Carell in The Forty Year Old Virgin? Or do you not feel like you have the right to express those feelings after you spent so much time trying to pretend you didn’t have them?
If your guy friends are, say, talking about hot celebrities, do you just clam up because you don’t know what to say? Or is there more of an anxiety-response; you feel your throat close and your heart start racing while everybody else is talking about so-and-so’s boobs? Are you able to say “no, you’re right, she is hot?” Or do you just try to avoid the topic altogether? If it’s a really deep-seated issue, then you might want to talk to a therapist in your area. A sex-positive therapist can help you work through feelings of worthlessness or drill down to the source better than I can – after all, Doctor NerdLove is not a real doctor.
It may help, when you’re among your friends, to make small advances and contributions to the conversation. You don’t have to go into why you think Emilia Clarke is sex on toast, but just a “yeah, she’s hot” or “Nah, I really like Kat Dennings” or something might be enough to ease you in. You don’t need details, you don’t need to justify things; something as simple as “Yeah, I think she’s cute” or “She looked great in X” can be enough to help you feel like it’s at least possible.
Or it could just be that you’re the sort of person who’s not comfortable talking about sex in general and that’s just part of who you are. If that’s the case, you may be better to just accept it and roll with it. You don’t have to be going verbally gaga over a great pair of norks to fit in.
At the same time: I think you’re overestimating how much flirting needs to be sexual. While yes, some flirting can be hot and heavy, you can talk with attractive women, even signal your interest without having to be explicitly sexual about it. If you watch, say, The Flash, you can see an example of guys flirting – even getting girlfriends – without so much as talking about sex or breaking Standards and Practices. And even if you’re a little awkward when it comes to, say, going for the kiss or asking if she wants to take it further… well, a lot of women actually find that endearing. There’s a reason the term “adorkable” exists after all.
I think a lot of this may simply be a matter of becoming comfortable with the idea of being a sexual person and having a right to those feelings and desires. I think the more you get distance between you and the person you used to be – and you have to let that be your past, not the ghost that keeps haunting you – the more at ease you’ll feel. You may never be the Voltaire of dirty talk… but you don’t need to be, either.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org