By Steven Petrow
Q: Even though my good friend Letisha lives with her girlfriend, she is not out to her family. At least she wasn’t until last week. Right after the holidays I posted a lovey-dovey photo of the two of them on my Facebook page, tagging both. Then, of course, bam! The photo was automatically uploaded to Letisha’s Facebook page and suddenly her whole family knew she was gay. Now Letisha won’t speak to me because she says I outed her. I say it’s her fault that she kept such a big secret from her family. Who’s right?
A: Every day I get more and more questions about Facebook gone awry. It’s so easy to stumble on some social faux pas that didn’t even exist before. However, from what you write, there’s enough blame to go around in this situation. First off, here’s my advice to you: No matter what, don’t tag people without asking their permission. Maybe you’re at the beach and unaware that your Facebook friend has called in sick from work. Maybe you’re photographing someone who is underage and the photo has caught him drinking. Or maybe your friend isn’t out. On the other hand, Letisha does need to wake up and face the fact that everything about Facebook is viral. No matter how you set your privacy settings, you can’t protect your privacy 100 percent. Lastly, a special note for your friend: Please don’t ask others to be complicit in your secrets. It’s certainly your right to stay closeted, but as you can see, it gets mucked up when you’re asking friends to be accomplices. (And a technical pointer: Remember that you can always de-tag yourself from a photo.)
Confronting a cheater
Q: I really need some advice. I think my boyfriend is cheating on me and sleeping with other guys behind my back. When we first got together we decided that we weren’t going to have an open relationship. Recently he said he would have no problem if I wanted to sleep with other guys – as long as I told him first. That made me suspicious, so I did something I probably shouldn’t have: I logged into his Facebook account and found an incriminating message. I know we need to talk but I am really bad with confrontation. What should I do?
A: Very few of us like the idea of confrontation, but when it comes to questions about monogamy and sexual health, you really have no choice. This doesn’t mean you need to come at him like a bat out of hell, but you do need to express your point of view and ask the important questions. The ability to do so is really important for your own self-respect. Perhaps there’s a middle ground that you’d be comfortable with? Many couples create rules in situations like this: No tricking in your own bed, for instance; it’s OK if one of you is out of town; or the number of liaisons is limited to prevent a romantic attachment. On the other hand, you may have no interest at all in anything but monogamy – as per your original agreement. Either way, you need to talk together and make some mutually comfortable decisions. If you do agree to have some new openness in your relationship, by the way, remember that you’ll need to come to some clear understanding of what each of you considers safer sex; there are about as many different definitions of that as there are couples. As for your logging into your boyfriend’s Facebook account: That’s a form of cheating, too. Leveling with him about your actions may help him to do the same.
He’s never had sex before
Q: I’ve been going out with a guy who’s never had sex before with a man and is more than a little apprehensive. We’re really into each other, but to tell you the truth I’m a little nervous myself at the thought of initiating a virgin. I just want to make sure to handle things right. Do you have any advice for me?
A: There’s a special responsibility in being someone’s “first.” I don’t know about you, but I still remember my very first time – and let me just say I was a nervous wreck. Since you already know that your fella is anxious, see if you can tease out what’s on his mind. Often a first timer’s main concern is that he’ll do something “wrong.” If you can help your new lover realize that it’s not about technical performance but rather emotional connection, you’ll both benefit. Also, let him know that he can determine the pace. Still, there will likely be some teachable moments as he tries new things on for size. I wouldn’t make corrections or suggestions in the heat of the moment, but instead maybe chat a bit later on if you feel the need. One last thing: Be sure to lead by example when it comes to the topic of safer sex.