Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Bisexual Boyfriend

Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the bisexual boyfriend.

Danny: so I think this letter writer can start off by going a little easier on herself

there are tons of ways that a straight partner can behave weirdly/inappropriately/creepily towards a bisexual partner, and I’m glad she wants to avoid them

Nicole: Oh, most definitely

She seems nice and also self-aware, and also a little surprised at this latest discovery about what she finds hot

Danny: but you do not need to feel guilty for thinking, “I like my boyfriend, and once I found out he had dated men, I was into it”

Nicole: Right!!

Danny: like—his sexuality isn’t why you sought him out

you haven’t said or done anything he’s uncomfortable with

you clearly liked him before you knew he’d dated men

Nicole: The question is now, I guess, if and how you want to talk to him about this

or just be quietly titillated

I think that there’s a huge spectrum of options between “tell me every detail of your experiences with other men for my amusement” and pretending it’s an utter nonissue

Danny: yes!

so I think the important thing here is to make it clear that like

if he’s saying, “Oh, my ex Mitch and I used to fight all the time about letting dogs on the furniture”

Nicole: Hahahahaha

Danny: to not try to turn that into a sexy story

but lots of couples share Sexy Stories™ from their past and it’s not inherently fetishizing or objectifying to do so

Nicole: As long as everyone seems to be enjoying themselves

Danny: and you can always say that you’d enjoy hearing him tell you about a previous hookup IF he’d be into the idea

and if he says, “I’d rather not,” you can back off and respect it

and you know, again obviously, don’t ask about a specific person or relationship, and don’t try to introduce Sexiness if he’s trying to talk about a serious relationship or a problem he faced with an ex

Nicole: I think you could be EXTREMELY transparent and say (not in bed, I think) “it surprised me that I got a little turned on when you mentioned x, but I did”

and then let him respond

this is so much a “keep reading the room” situation

Danny: yes

it will become clear if he is interested in hearing more about that or if he thinks it’s odd

Nicole: Right

Danny: and it’s just like, there are a LOT of bisexual people, and there are a number of different ways they feel about the prospect of discussing their bisexuality with partners, especially straight ones

he could have any number of different reactions, take his cue, follow his lead, etc, bring it up in a low-key and low-stakes way and make it clear that you’re not going to press the issue if he doesn’t enjoy talking about it with you

Nicole: Absolutely.

Danny: and even if he doesn’t want to talk about his past in a Sexy Way (™) with you

if he’s super into the fact that you’re into his bisexuality, there may be other ways you two can Sexily Discuss it that don’t involve bringing up specific men he’s been with, you two can talk about what you find attractive in men in general together, lust over hot male celebrities, whatever

Nicole: Yes, and if in fact he does not care to discuss it at all, you have discovered something fun and new about your sexuality which you can explore privately in your own brain

Danny: yep!

be respectful, don’t make assumptions, take his cue, don’t treat your erotic response as inherently dehumanizing or wrong, and you will do well, I think

Nicole: This is also a welcome change from “I am turned off by my boyfriend’s bisexuality,” which is all too common a letter. Not that it’s great to be objectified, but she’s being careful not to do that.

Things will be well, I sense.

Danny: right! between “I hate my boyfriend’s bisexuality” and “my boyfriend’s bisexuality means he is a source of on-demand, free erotica for me, no matter how he feels about it” there is a lot of room to be a good, caring, respectful person

Nicole: Amen