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Savage Love takes a lesson from Bill and Monica

What to do when your private life has been made embarrassingly public. Plus: a slap at 20 does not a lifelong abuser make.



QI'm a bi male in my early 20s who until recently was in the closet. I've been exploring my sexuality for the past year; I didn't want to label myself and open a Pandora's box of oppression in the American south before I knew who I was for sure. I learned through my exploration that I have a few kinks, and I've been acting on those kinks, seeing what I am and am not into. I may have been too trusting, because someone I interacted with decided that he was having none of me. This person took it upon himself to find all the info he could about me, regarding kinks as well as my career and other aspects of my life, and compile it on a website. He then sent links to several of my friends and family members. He never gave an explanation for why he was doing this.

My family has been very supportive, and the few close friends I've spoken to have been great. But how do I talk to other friends when I see them? My life is out in the open now. I'm trying my best to roll with it and become more comfortable with myself, but it's a struggle. These people are close to me, and I value their friendship. I don't believe they think poorly of me, but I'm uncomfortable knowing that they have seen a part of me that I was trying to keep somewhat compartmentalized. How can I approach the situation without making it more uncomfortable and awkward? —­­­­Outed and Unsure

AYou're in your early 20s, OAU, which means you would've been all of seven or eight years old way, way back in 1998. So the first thing I want you to do—before you talk to anyone about what happened—is google "Bill and Monica" and then read the first few stories that pop up.

Here's the takeaway from the Bill and Monica story: An out-of-control special prosecutor appointed to investigate the suicide of a White House aide wound up "exposing" a series of blow jobs that then president Bill Clinton got from a White House intern. Problematic power differential, yes, but consenting adults just the same. Politicians and pundits and editorial boards called on Clinton to resign after the affair was made public, because the American people, they insisted, had lost all respect for Clinton. He couldn't possibly govern after the blow jobs, the rimmings, the cigars, the semen stains, and the denials ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman"). Clinton refused to resign and wound up getting impeached by an out-of-control GOP-controlled Congress. (Forgive the redundancy: a GOP-controlled Congress is an out-of-control Congress.) But guess what? The American people weren't pissed at Clinton. Clinton's approval ratings shot up. People looked at what was being done to Clinton—a special prosecutor with subpoena powers and an unlimited budget asking Clinton under oath about his sex life—and thought, "Jesus fucking Christ, I would hate to have my privacy invaded like that." People's sympathies were with Clinton, not with the special prosecutor, not with the GOP-controlled/out-of-control Congress.

I promise you this, OAU: Everyone in your life who has seen the website where that malicious piece of shit made your private and consensual sexual conduct public—everyone worth keeping in your life—had the same reaction that the American people had to the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton: "Jesus, I would hate to have my privacy invaded like that."

Their sympathies are with you.

So how do you address this without making things more uncomfortable and awkward than they already are? By acknowledging the discomfort and awkwardness (D&A) that has already been created while simultaneously and subtly drawing attention to the fact that said D&A are not of your creation. The conversations you're going to have with friends start with this premise: You've been victimized by this asshole, and so have they. Practice saying this: "You know more about my private life than you ever wanted to. I'm going to stuff it down the memory hole and pretend it didn't happen. I hope you will too." You also might want to memorize and riff on these wise words from two other people who have been similarly victimized:

"I started to [make] an apology, but I don't have anything to say I'm sorry for." —Jennifer Lawrence

"The real problem here was not me sending my pictures to someone, but rather, sending them to the WRONG someone. The real travesty is a misplaced trust." —Dylan Sprouse

You too trusted the wrong person, OAU, and you don't have anything to say you're sorry for. Look people in the eye when you speak about it—when you speak briefly about it—then change the subject.

Finally: Check to see if you live in a state that has laws against revenge porn. If you do, lawyer up, call the cops, and press charges.

QI'm a straight 20-year-old woman in a relationship with a straight 30-year-old male. We have been dating for a year and living together for seven months. There's a lot of love, but there has also been a lot of arguing. Our conflicts stem from issues of abuse and abandonment on his part and issues of poor self-esteem and anger on my part. We have started to go to couples counseling to address these issues and see what we can do to make it work. About a week ago, we got into a yelling match over his drinking (it's constant and a LOT) and over him arranging for me to go hang out with our downstairs neighbor (my interactions with the neighbor have not been positive due to parking issues) to smoke weed with her. To cut to the chase: We got in a screaming match that resulted in me slapping him. I really didn't mean to. It just came out of my body, and I immediately regretted it. He asked me to leave the apartment, and I've been staying with my mom for the past few days. We agreed to stay away from each other until our next therapy session. If he shows up, I know he wants to give me a second chance; if not, I have to pack my shit and leave. I guess what my question really boils down to is: Am I an attacker? Am I the female equivalent of a "wife beater"? Is there anything I can do to prove my regret and willingness to change? I love him with everything I have inside of me, and I don't want to lose him over such a stupid mistake. —Lost and Confused, Knowing I Need Guidance

ACouples who wind up in counseling before their first year together is up are, in my opinion, better off being counseled singly. By which I mean to say: being counseled as singles, not as a couple.

We don't have to be perfect to date, LACKING, but we do have to be in good working order. It doesn't sound like either of you two qualifies. His abuse and abandonment issues, your self-esteem and anger issues: I think you both should address your issues in counseling—with separate counselors—for your own sakes, not for the sake of this relationship. You get your shit together, he gets his shit together, and then you can either get back together or be in good working order for the next guy who comes along.

And finally, LACKING: one slap at age 20—one that was instantly regretted, one that the slapper has taken full responsibility for (no bullshit claims that the slappee provoked you)—does not a lifelong abuser make.

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