Dear Prudence

Of Human Bondage

Jury duty ruined my fantasy of rough sex.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online at to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Dear Prudence,
I am a woman who has always liked the fantasy of rough, forceful sex. It’s not the only thing I think about when aroused, but occasionally the fantasy crossed my mind. I know that some might find it repugnant, but one doesn’t choose these things. The problem is that this week I served on jury duty of a trial of sexual assault. Not for one moment did I find the evidence enticing. But it has begun to enter my thoughts at home. I find I cannot engage in any type of sex without thinking about the trial and what the victim was forced to do. I’m now having trouble climaxing. Will this go away? I am fine moving on from the rough sex fantasy but what do I replace it with?

—Jury Duty

Dear Duty,
It’s unfortunate that your fantasy confronted reality in all its brutal ugliness. First of all, accept that having to sit in a jury box and see both victim and perpetrator and hear the details of a sexual assault would temporarily cool the ardor of just about any decent person. Keep in mind that the trial did not enlighten you to the fact that women are victims of sexual crimes. But this reality is separate from your own thoughts of sexual domination. Be comforted that it’s a common female fantasy—The Story of O was the Fifty Shades of Grey of its day. I once read a psychology book that described the case of a young black woman who could get aroused only while engaged in bondage. She felt oppressed by this, and also guilty because she believed her desires dishonored her ancestors who had been put into bondage against their will. She spent years in therapy trying to extinguish this aspect of her sexuality, to no avail. A new therapist helped her reframe her fetish. She came to see it as a way of connecting with her history. She decided that she would celebrate that as a black woman she was now free to choose when and how she was dominated. In your situation, you must give yourself time to process what you went through. Acknowledge the testimony was painful, and that it’s normal to feel disturbed by it. Understand that the stories you make up are entirely different from an actual sexual assault. In your case, no one is being hurt, and you control everything. As humans we have a vast imaginative capacity, and the movies we create in our heads are private and personal works of art. You don’t have to replace your go-to fantasy. Delight in the fact that you are a woman who has a rich, complex, and satisfying erotic life.


Dear Prudence: Office Going Down the Tubes

Dear Prudence,
I am a twentysomething who has been working for a nonprofit less than a year. In my very small department, there is a large disparity in age between myself and most of my colleagues, save for one. “Mary” has been working for the organization for five years and is considered a star. She’s just a few years older than I am. She is constantly praised for her helpfulness. Recently, I was given project work with her. Unfortunately it has not been the learning experience I had hoped for. Small oversights are treated as if I am lacking in general common sense. She rolls her eyes and speaks to me in a patronizing manner. Finally, she came over to my desk, asked me to open up one of the documents I had been working on, leaned over and proceeded to ask me condescending questions like, “When you look at this, does something look wrong?” She then made me play a game of “try and find the mistake.” I was so upset by the tone and the manner in which she spoke to me, I had to fight back tears. I know I come off as rather meek, but I’m not sure if this is why she takes liberties with me. I have a lot of work left to do with her, and I’m dreading it. It reminds me of being bullied in high school. Am I being overly sensitive? Should I talk to my boss? Should I address the issue with her directly? If so, how?


Dear Intimidated,
First of all, review the things you might have done that have Mary rolling her eyes and talking to you as if you’re an idiot. Maybe they’re the kind of mistakes that you should have caught and she’s frustrated you don’t have the necessary attention to detail. It could also be that Mary has long enjoyed being the office’s young star, and she’s not interested in sharing the attention. Whatever the case, Mary is presenting you with a useful life challenge, even if it doesn’t feel that way now. Let’s say Mary is finding flaws in your work. Sit down with her and tell her that you appreciate her superior knowledge about your workplace, and that you want to do a great job. Explain that the way you learn best is to have problems pointed out early and directly. Practice this conversation with a friend playing Mary or do it in front of a mirror. When you talk to her, you want to be confident and nondefensive, especially if your normal demeanor is meek and tearful. If after that she starts the “Where’s Waldo” game, calmly look at her and say, “Mary, please point out the error so that I can fix it and avoid repeating it.” Don’t go to your boss and say, “Mary makes me feel like I’m back in high school being bullied!” Because then you’ll make everyone think that emotionally you never really left.


Dear Prudie,
I have stuttered moderately for 30 years, and many speech therapists tried to help me solve the problem. I talk reasonably well and work happily as a college professor. I am now seeing a new speech pathologist and following a new approach: I stutter, I always have, and I likely always will. Instead of worrying about it constantly, carefully mapping out whatever I say in advance, and concentrating so hard on my “techniques” that I can barely remember what I’m saying, I’m just going to let myself stutter. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this change in mindset has already improved my speech markedly. I would appreciate advice, though, for those moments when I am stuck in a bad stutter and just can’t get out what I want to say. I would like some quick comment, preferably funny and disarming, that doesn’t apologize and won’t make my face redden. I’ve tried saying, “I stutter, just give me a sec and I’ll get there.” But do you have anything better to recommend?


Dear Larry,
I like the approach of your speech pathologist—it sounds like a form of mindfulness therapy, in which instead of trying to fight the distressing and repetitive thoughts all of us sometime have to deal with, you accept that they happen, don’t focus on them, and let them pass. Since a new semester is beginning, I think you should deal with this on this first day. When you’re standing in front of the students and introducing yourself, after you describe what the class will consist of and something about your background, add that you want them that know that sometimes you stutter. With a smile, you can say when this happens they should just bear with you for a moment because the words will soon come out. I spoke with Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation (which has many resources for those who stutter), and she said this upfront approach can defuse the discomfort of both the stutterer and listener in all sorts of settings. Remember that many of the young people sitting before you are struggling with their own difficulties, so you will be teaching an important lesson not on your syllabus about accepting the imperfections in all of us.


Dear Prudence,
My husband and I have four nephews by his brother, and they live in another state. Two of them have graduated from high school, and when they did, we sent a nice-sized check. The oldest nephew never acknowledged the gift in any way. Neither did the second. When my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and their sons came to visit us a while ago, I made a comment to the second son about his being able to use the gift to buy things on the trip. He was completely confused and said he never got anything from us. I knew the check had been cashed and I was concerned about it being pilfered. His mother finally admitted that she intercepted the graduation check, cashed it, and kept the money. She didn’t even show him the card! Their third son will be graduating this year, and I have no idea what to do about his gift. We can’t attend the graduation and I’m leery of sending another check. My parents-in-law live in the same town as my brother-in-law and his family, but sending it to their house will cause us some problems with my sister-in-law. What should I do?

—Baffled Aunt

Dear Aunt,
Thank you for solving the problem of why almost no relatives get thank you notes for the gifts they send the kids. It turns out larcenous moms are intercepting them. Now all we have to do is lock up the miscreant mothers and the epistolary gratitude will start pouring forth across the nation. But in case your case is unique, you have to make sure the check gets to the boy. So just before you mail it, your husband should contact his brother and tell him that a gift for his third son is coming. Say you want to make sure it actually gets into the hands of the graduate and you’d appreciate hearing that it arrived and went into your nephew’s bank account. Who knows, this may even result in your getting a heartfelt note of thanks.


Discuss this column with Emily Yoffe on her Facebook page.

More Dear Prudence Columns

The Only One—Or Else: My girlfriend has a fit whenever I mention my late wife. What should I do?”
Bed Bug: My husband invited a homeless woman to live with us. Should I divorce him?”
My Mother the Identity Thief: My mom has been running up credit-card debt in my name. What do I do?”
Confessions of a Favorite Daughter: My parents’ blatant favoritism made me a narcissist and my sister depressed. Is it too late for me to stop it?”

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

My Life as a Sugar Baby: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman on whether to stay mum about having dated rich men for money.”
Tongue Oppressor: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend obnoxiously licks her face.”
My Creepy Keeper: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose brother-in-law “watches over her” by peeping through her bedroom window.”
Don’t Look, Ma!: In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose wife refuses to hide a nude print the next time his mother comes over.”

Check out Dear Prudence’s book recommendations in the Slate Store.