DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 23-year-old cishet man with very little experience in sex and dating. Throughout high school, I was a shy guy who had little confidence in myself and it wasn’t until college that I finally got the courage to tell my crushes how I feel. I’ve experienced many rejections since then, got my first kiss when I was 21, and finally lost my virginity at 22 (although I didn’t cum). So very little experience overall. I really want a romantic relationship but fear that my anxiety around women and my inexperience with sex will lower my chances. And there’s also a big problem with my sex drive that I fear will f--k me up in dating.
I have a sneezing/big nose fetish.
I’ve known that I had it since I was 10 years old. I don’t know why, but I do. And ever since I first started masturbating, sneezing porn/ big nose porn is the only reliable thing that gets me off. Lately, I have tried jerking off to regular porn, but it’s really hard to feel the same pleasure. And I don’t get hard when I simply look at a naked woman (boobs, butts, etc.) but I do get hard when I look at a girl with a big nose, or a girl sneezing. It’s really embarrassing, and it’s a part of myself I’m deeply ashamed of, if I’m being honest.
My first sexual partner, I was not able to orgasm with her because I thought it would be weird if I played with her nose. Of course, I was also under a lot of anxiety, so that might have been a factor, and it was also that anxiety that led me to break things off with her, despite the fact that she really liked me.
I really just want to be able to have sex just from looking at an attractive woman, but it seems that the only porn that gets me off is my fetish-y porn. I should mention that “sparks” and general intimacy arouses me, but I don’t know if it’s so much to do with the woman’s body as it is just the good feelings of the chemistry between us. Which may be a hopeful sign, maybe I’m just demisexual.
I don’t know, Doc, I am so confused. Have I ruined my potential sex life forever by exclusively jerking off to fetish porn my entire adolescent and adult life? Or is it still possible for me to find sexual pleasure in the way most guys do?
Would really appreciate your advice if you have any. I rarely ever tell anyone about this, but I’m a huge fan of your advice so I hope you would have some wisdom.
Gonzo The Great
DEAR GONZO THE GREAT: So before I get to your question, GtG, let’s talk a little about fetishes and kinks. One of the interesting quirks of the human psyche is how polymorphously perverse we can be. We as a species are able to get aroused by… well, damn near anything, honestly. One of the oldest jokes on the Internet is Rule 34: if it exists, somebody has made porn of it. There is almost literally nothing that exists that hasn’t caught someone’s attention and made think think “Hmm… I could masturbate to this”.
And I do mean literally. People get off to women popping balloons by sitting on them, women smoking or coughing, being consumed whole, tickling or being tickled, robots, zombies, mythological creatures, or even unusually-sized, non-sexual body parts… including big noses. In fact, a search for “nose fetish” on Porn Hub brings up literally thousands of videos. While having what’s known as a paraphilia — defined as an intense sexual arousal caused by or in response to atypical objects, situations, fantasies, behaviors, or individuals — may seem unusual, far, far more people have paraphilias that the general public would suspect. In fact, in his book Perv: The Sexual Deviant In All of Us, author and sex researcher Jesse Bering suggests that this sort of sexual deviation is actually much closer to the norm than being outré or unusual.
So, while Gonzo’s letter sounds made up — and who knows, it could still be; it’s still worth talking about — a sneeze fetish is, in fact, a real thing, and one that’s surprisingly common.
Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about your issues, GtG.
First and foremost: no, you haven’t ruined your sex life forever by getting off to fetish porn. Despite what dodgy research and even more dodgy subreddits will tell you: no, masturbating to porn doesn’t create a weird resistance where you have to keep getting more and more extreme just to get off. The issue here is that you have a paraphilia; in this case: you’re turned on by large noses and sneezing. Porn that doesn’t have these features isn’t going to be quite the same to you because hey, that’s not necessarily what arouses you. Someone who’s exclusively or primarily attracted to folks with vaginas isn’t going to get as aroused by porn that’s all penises and nothing else.
(I say AS aroused because hey, some folks do. Human sexuality is a veritable smorgasbord.)
Is this a thing you could train yourself out of? Not necessarily. You could try starving yourself of fetish porn for a few months until your brain is so desperate to get off that standard mainstream porn gets you close enough, but that’s not going to “cure” your fetish. Fetishes aren’t things that go away; people may develop new ones, but they rarely get rid of old ones. But honestly, having a fetish — especially one that’s relatively harmless, like yours — isn’t automatically a problem. It can be a problem if the fetish is physically dangerous or revolves around people or creatures who can’t give consent. But something as minor as noses or sneezing? That’s not that much of an issue; everybody sneezes and there’re plenty of folks out there with noses that don’t conform to the Western European physiognomy or beauty ideal.
The place where this could be tricky is whether this is what’s known as an “optional” or “preferred” paraphilia — that is, one that gets you off or one that you would rather have, but you don’t need in order to become aroused — or an exclusive one.
Now, from what you describe about your first time, it doesn’t sound like you have an exclusive paraphilia; you were aroused by your partner, you were able to have penetrative sex, you just didn’t actually get off. While it’s not impossible that this was because you need a little nose-play, I suspect that nerves had far, far more to do with it. Dicks tend to be divas; if things aren’t perfect, they’ll often refuse to perform as needed. Having a bad case of nerves, especially if you’re feeling weird or ashamed of your fetish, is a great way to ensure that you’re not going to be able to orgasm for love nor money. You’re too caught up in your own head and your own worries to actually be in the moment with your partner. Get too wound up about “oh god, she’s going to think I’m a freak and hate me if she knew what I was really into,” and yeah, you’re probably not going to be going anywhere near orgasm.
On the other hand, if you had a partner who was cool with the fact that you were into sneezing? I rather imagine you wouldn’t be having any problems whatsoever. The same goes for if you were able to accept that hey, this is just who you are and what you’re into. It’s a little unusual, but hardly unknown or even all that weird. Hell, sneezing is physiologically similar to orgasm; you have the initial sensitivity that builds to the plateau, followed by the muscle contractions and release. The purpose isn’t exactly the same, but the build up of tension and the sudden release are pretty damn close.
If you start just being willing to own that these are the things you’re into and all they do is make you uniquely you, I think you’ll be much happier. It also means that you’ll want to prioritize finding a partner who’s what Dan Savage calls “GGG”: good in bed, giving of pleasure and game for trying different things within reason. Someone who’s willing to throw back a little pepper on occasion or who’s charmed by a sneeze being your equivalent to “Tish! You spoke French!” is going to be a much better partner overall than someone who thinks that your being turned on by sneezes is creepy or weird.
All that being said: you don’t exactly explain what “playing with her nose” would mean in terms of sex. That might be were you’re going to find some resistance; someone sticking a finger or tongue up their nostril may well be more than they’re willing to try. If that’s an absolute must have, that may well limit your dating pool. If it’s something that you would like but don’t need? Then that’s something you may be able to discuss a little later on, when you and your future partner have built up trust and openness. However, there’s absolutely nothing that says that can’t be part of the video playing in your head while you’re having sex; whatever goes on between your ears while you’re banging is your business, not theirs.
And incidentally: while nobody likes to be reduced to a single body part or set of body parts, there’s a lot to be said for finding a person who’s into you because of the thing that makes you unique, sets you apart or that other people insist makes you less attractive… like, say, a nose that’s not a perfect, dainty ski-slope.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com