How to Do It

My Catholic Friend Keeps Talking to Me About Sexuality, and I … Think He Has Something to Tell Me

A man before a cross.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Lane Smith/Unsplash.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Every week, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

I have a close friend whom I was once intimate with who asks me questions about sexuality, specifically bisexuality and bi-erasure in the LGBTQ community. He’s in his late 30s, and was raised in a homophobic Catholic environment. I am a woman, also late 30s, but am openly bi and queer. I think my friend is looking to me for acceptance of latent bisexuality, but I don’t know how to provide that support if he can’t admit it to himself. I am in a position of trust with him. I want to help him, but he is too shy to ask outright and deeply introverted, so I don’t think I can bring a third-party bisexual man into our friendship to demonstrate the possibility of the life he could choose. He frequently turns our conversations toward my lifestyle and talks about the people who are attractive on television, of all genders. I have a deep appreciation of him as a human being and see him going through a deep personal reckoning. How can I best be supportive without any kind of confrontational outing? I really value this friendship and care for him. I’d like to help him open the closet door, and he seems to be asking me to be there for that, but I don’t know exactly what to do. I’m going to be his friend and support him no matter what, but I don’t understand what I should do regarding encouragement or any bigger kind of help.

—Willing Hinge

Rich: Our writer asks, “How can I best be supportive without any kind of confrontational outing?” Well, I think that she is in fact being supportive without any kind of confrontational outing. And it almost feels like … she wants permission to be slightly more confrontational or help him make progress, at least.

Stoya: More isn’t always better. I deeply empathize with her desire to do more, but I don’t think that’s useful here.

Rich: I’m slightly confused about his level of shyness. She says it’s so much that he can’t ask for help outright, but he’s continually engaging this line of discussion. Maybe … this is his way of asking? If we presume our writer’s intuition correct, he’s dancing around the subject in such a way that it wouldn’t be unnatural for the conversation to make its way to his feelings and experiences. I agree with you about prying, and as someone who interviews people regularly, prying comes as second nature to me, so I have decided bias here. Buuuut I’ve, for example, had conversations with straight-identified guys about sex, during which my own sex life is discussed, and then I ask them about their own same-sex attraction/experiences. Just outright asking that might seem intrusive, but in the greater context of the conversation it makes sense. I feel like there’s a way to kind of wind around to that, but it depends on her suspicion being true, that he’s actually eager to talk about this stuff but just can’t find the words. And that’s a big but.

Stoya: What’s the risk here if he isn’t eager to talk?

Rich: That she offends him, causes him to retreat, and/or harms their bond by overstepping.

Stoya: I’m wondering if there’s a book she could give him, or maybe offer to read it with him. My bisexual male literature knowledge is poor. But I’m hoping there’s some memoir that could serve as an example.

Rich: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room certainly has an element of bisexuality, though to what degree the narrator’s is innate or merely functional is up for interpretation. Also, that book presents a rather fraught picture of queerness. Still, it’s so good that I think everyone should read it, including possibly bisexual men.

I think that being there for him and letting him set the tone feels like the safest way to handle this. Given the purview of their conversations, it’s not ridiculous to nudge the subject into his experiences/desires. She could further illustrate her support by discussing the queer men she knows. Also, when queer bars/clubs open again, she should take him to one. Let him dip his toe in the scene.

Stoya: Yeah, just be there, be his friend, listen to what he does feel comfortable sharing.

Rich: From what she writes, she’s doing a great job as is! It’s about keeping it up, and if she wants to push the conversation forward, doing so tactfully.

More How to Do It

I’m a woman in her 50s. After my husband left me, I started to have good sex for the first time—often with the help of some drugs. After my family expressed concern, I stopped the drugs. But with my new boyfriend, I’ve missed them, so I’ve found a happy placebo: When my boyfriend finishes in my mouth, I discreetly spit it into a glass, and later use a dehydrator and spice grinder to make it into a powder. I then snort it before our next encounter. I realize this is unusual, but it’s my happy placebo. Is it dangerous? And is it OK to do this without my boyfriend knowing?

Listen to Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins discuss their feelings about hot men in bad movies.