relationships

How to Tell Your Girlfriend You Still Talk to Your Ex

This handy heap of advice was originally published on GQ.com

Deep breath in, then exhale: It’s not cheating if you still talk to your ex girlfriend. Phew!

If you’re like, “Her? Gross! Meg broke my heart. Why would I want a reminder of that period I pretended to like Dave Matthews Band? I don’t WANT to talk to her”—great, you’re in the clear. But perhaps you shared a deep love with your ex and even though the relationship didn’t work out, you still want to catch up every once in a while. That’s totally chill.

Which is to say, it’s totally chill if your current partner knows you’re still talking to Meg. If she has no idea, you’re being a sneaky dick. Sorry. So here are three tips for telling your current partner about your friendship with your ex in a manner that will allow you to keep them both in your life.

1. Make Sure You’re Over Meg

Here’s the thing: Women know everything. I’m not going to tell you how, but it’s true. If your girlfriend doesn’t already know you’re secretly waxing poetic with your ex via late night text messages, she will soon. So be up front about it. First thing’s first: Why are you up late texting Meg “Crash Into Me” lyrics? Are you miserable in your current relationship and perhaps harboring some unresolved romance for the one that got away? If so, you need to have a larger conversation. But maybe you’ve just had a late-night recollection of the time the Dave Matthews Band tour bus shit all over Chicago and you want to tell Meg because you know she’ll laugh. Go for it! We should never stop talking about that great moment in American history. But even if you just want to be friendly with Meg and maybe get lunch with her when she’s in town, you still have to tell your partner. If you’re wondering if the nature of your friendship with your ex is appropriate, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if it would make you uncomfortable if the situation were reversed.

2. Don’t Tell Her, Ask Her

As stated, your new lover probably already knows that you’re talking to Meg. So just be chill, upfront, and honest about it, as soon as possible into your current relationship. Say this, casually: “Hey Sasha, after Meg and I broke up we kept in touch. She won’t be a huge part of our lives or anything, but we text from time to time and occasionally we grab lunch or coffee and catch up. Does that bother you?” Chances are Sasha won’t be thrilled, but if she’s an understanding, mature human, she’ll understand and allow it. Asking her if she’s okay with you and Meg keeping in touch gives her an opportunity to be Cool Girlfriend. (She’s probably also been in touch with her exes, and your honesty will guilt-trip the crap out of her.)

3. Never mention Meg again.

Never.

3 Easy Ways to Impress Your New Girlfriend’s Friends

Illustration by Cécile Dormeau, originally published in GQ.

It happened. After seeing each other for a few months, your girlfriend has invited you to meet her friends, and you’re apprehensive. They’ve heard all about you (yeah, they know what your dick looks like). You’ve heard all about them: Ashley intimidates you. You’ve already met Molly through other friends and are worried you made a pass three years ago at a holiday party. You like your girlfriend—maybe you even love her. Now you need her friends to like you, too. Here’s how:

Show Up

Once I was dating someone we’ll call Trevor, who didn’t want to meet my friends. I was young and in denial. Of course, it turned out he had another girlfriend in another New York City borough. Before I figured this out, my friends warned me: “We haven’t met Trevor—is this an actual relationship? Are you sure he’s real?” Then one day, when I was taking Trevor to buy a coat (which is a major girlfriend request from someone playing me, by the way, Trevor), we ran into one of my friends on the street. She said out loud in complete disdain, “Oh, my God, you are real. Nice to meet you.” Women are smart. It’s a major red flag if someone doesn’t want to meet your friends. Don’t be like Trevor, who has since been banished from the city. If you’re exclusive and/or have been going out for more than a few months, you have to show up when your girlfriend invites you to meet her friends. And once you’ve shown up (on time), really show up: Make some jokes, ask sincere questions about her friends’ interests, and act affectionate toward your girlfriend. They’ll love you.

Know When to F*ck Off

Avoiding meeting your girlfriend’s friends is suspect, but not knowing when to step back and give her time sans boyfriend is even more annoying. No one likes a significant other who comes to every single happy hour or brunch. Sometimes women can be complicit in dragging their boyfriend everywhere, and if that’s the case, talk to her about it. She needs alone time with her friends. You need alone time with your friends. One of the secrets to a successful relationship is having time with your buddies to bitch about said relationship. Don’t be the clingy boyfriend at all social events wearing an Apple Watch that alerts you whenever your girlfriend tweets (I’ve seen this happen, and the relationship did not work out).

Know That They’re Watching You

Regardless of how amazing you are, your girlfriend is going to talk about you. There are glass-half-full people who can’t stop raving about their perfect relationship, but most of us are cynical assholes who only open our mouths when we want to bitch about something. If she finds out you’ve been texting with your ex, her friends will hear about it. If you come home after taking mushrooms with your friends and start humming “Your Body Is a Wonderland” during a hand job, her friends will hear. A measured appreciation of early-aughts John Mayer is normal. So is getting into a tiff over an ex. However: Acting controlling or overly jealous, or screaming at her, is neither healthy nor normal. If you act like that, she will tell her friends and they will tell her to dump you, regardless of how good your jokes were at brunch. The real secret to winning over your girlfriend’s friends is treating her with respect.


How to Date a Rape Survivor – Latest Article for VICE Broadly

Originally published in Broadly.

We’ve all got baggage. Adding an extra layer to the muddled waters of dating is the highly common and formidable post traumatic stress disorder that can arise from a sexual assault. For me, help came through medical cannabis and a partner down to go down on me while I watch Planet Earth and sip valerian root tea while listening to the calming voice of David Attenborough. RAINN estimates an average of 293,066 Americans (age 12 or older) are victims of sexual violence each year, so it could happen to you or your partner as well.

“Chances are very good that they will date a sexual assault survivor because the rates are so high,” says psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg. “When you are dating or having sex with somebody, you’re interacting with them on the same level which they were violated. So that makes it so tricky.” While all relationships, individuals, and healing processes are different, there are certain general things one can do when dating a survivor of sexual assault.

First and foremost, believe them. “When people tell you their stories, believe them,” says Dr. Greenberg. “The likelihood of someone making that up is probably very, very low. Listen and believe them, and don’t feel like you have to fix things for them, or that you can fix things for then…Let them speak.” In other words, shut the fuck up a bit and let them tell their story – in their own time. “If you love someone, or even if you don’t love them and you’re just trying to have a positive sexual experience with them, you need to let them really sort through it at a pace and level of detail that’s comfortable for them,” says Emily Lindin of The Unslut Project and UnSlut: A Documentary Film which explores sexual shaming, including interviews with the family and friends of Rehtaeh Parsons. Parsons was a 17-year-old Canadian student who reportedly hung herself after sexual bullying resulting from photos that surfaced of her alleged gang rape.

When it is appropriate to chime in, it’s important to ask the right questions. “The right questions are not: ‘What happened? Where did you get touched? Where were your parents? Were you drunk?’ Not any accusatory or judgmental questions. Don’t ask about details, ask about triggers,” says Dr. Greenberg. It’s important to go over triggers to prevent a survivor from having to relive an experience. A trigger is something that can remind you of the assault and cause flashbacks. It could be anything from seeing someone on the subway with a similar tattoo to your assaulter, or hearing a word or phrase they used during the attack, or being touched in an unintentionally similar way. It’s shitty for everyone when during sex you’re trying your hardest not to spiral into full panic attack because your boyfriend accidentally did something that surfaced flashbacks from your assault, and it’s also really frustrating to have to listen to them whine about how usually they are so great at getting chicks off with the exact move that’s causing your flashback.

When dating a sexual assault survivor, sometimes you just have to be patient and learn not to take things personally. “This is a tough one, but you really have to work on not taking it personally. Because it’s due to the trauma and not you,” says Dr. Greenberg. “You have to be patient. You’re going to learn how to be gentle, to avoid the triggers, and how to make it a safe and lovely experience. And be forgiving… as they trust you more, things will become easier.”

For some women (and yes – men can be sexual assault survivors too) you’re dealing with persistent old scars that just don’t want to fade. For others, like Kara*, who survived a rape in the past month, her and her boyfriend Jon* are having to navigate triggers bubbling up from a very fresh wound. “What’s so disheartening is that she’s blaming herself, and that she’s responsible for it, or maybe she didn’t do enough stuff,” Jon told me. “I have to encourage her that it’s not true.” The root keeping Kara and Jon strong is that, when they discuss her rape, he remains respectful and reminds her of the number one rule – it wasn’t your fault. Period. “He’s been really helpful, because I’ll sit here and get upset and blame myself and he actually reasons with me,” says Kara.

“When we brought [Kara] to the emergency room, she was covered in bruises, like big hand print bruises,” said Jon. “She [said] ‘I don’t know maybe I didn’t do enough… I bruise easily,’ and I was like, ‘We wrestle, all the time. In bed.’ I’ll put my butt on her face to fart on her. And I was like, ‘You try really hard not to let me fart on you, don’t you?’ And she goes, ‘Yeah, I try my best.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah every time we wrestle you’re trying really hard, but you’re not left with any bruises on you. So when you were in this struggle obviously you were fighting very hard not to leave these bruises.”

As Boyfriend of the Year as Jon seems, he understands that to get through this, Kara will need to see a professional trained in treating assault victims. “He’s been trying to get me to talk to a counselor, which, I will…” says Kara. In order to encourage her, Jon said, he “bribed her with a kitty.” “He did, he’s like you can get a kitten…but you can’t talk to it like your counselor, you have to actually go. It’s a really tiny kitty I think it will help just to take care of something. Putting the love and energy into it,” said Kara.

“You’re going to need to go to therapy and see a crisis counselor – as soon as possible. Because the sooner you see a crisis counselor the less likely you are to get post traumatic stress disorder. They found that with trauma victims are helped immediately they’re much more likely to have a positive outcome,” explains Dr. Greenberg. The healing from a sexual assault is a lifelong process. Even with patience, respect, and time, surviving a rape is something you have to carry with yourself for the rest of your life. Yet, you’re still you. You still want to drink herbal tea while your boyfriend eats you out, or you’re still are going to have to smell your boyfriend’s smelly farts. Life stops for nothing.

“Acknowledge that it is a really important part of their history, [and let] them know that you’re ready to listen when you’re ready to talk, and that you respect them,” says Lindin. “I think it’s important to remember that sexual assault survivors don’t stop being adult humans because they went through this.”

The Post-SSRI Orgasmic High

New for Broadly.

I have been on and off various forms of antidepressants since college. A class of antidepressants (Zoloft, Lexapro, and Prozac) called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) is often the first line of pharmaceutical treatment for depression and a safer and less addictive solution than benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin) for anxiety and panic disorders. The problem is, as if trying to date while depressed or anxious isn’t shitty enough, taking SSRIs, which work by blocking serotonin receptors in the brain so that levels of the chemical in the brain stay higher, can basically cause chemical castration.

“The current thinking is that serotonin and dopamine are something like the brakes and the gas when it comes to sex,” explains Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist and the author of Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking. “Too much serotonin seems to make it hard to flip the switch over to orgasm. When women are in a lower serotonergic state, as when they are closer to their periods (PMS) or if they’ve taken MDMA the day before and are temporarily depleted, it’s easier to climax. When women take SSRIs, it’s not only harder to climax, but for many women, it’s harder to feel sexual pleasure or get horny. I have patients tell me they’re less interested in sex, their pelvis feels numb, or it’s nearly impossible to climax.” 

You get off the meds, and then you quite literally get off.

knew that during high school I would masturbate an average of three times a day, and while I had to use my hand to rub my clit sometimes, I also knew I had gotten off during oral, vaginal, and anal sex without using a vibrator. (There’s no shame in using a vibrator during sex; I think more women should. But what if you’re up against the fence at Williamsburg Waterfront and just don’t have it on you?) Yet when I was on Lexapro, a commonly prescribed SSRI, I did not know that girl. Sex became something I did because I knew I was supposed to, rather than because I felt my clit would explode if I didn’t have that hot man in me right this second. “I guess when you’re super depressed your sex life seems not that big of a deal, but when you’re a functioning human being and part of society again you’re like, ‘No, this is actually a pretty key thing that I’m missing out on,'” says Claire, a 29-year-old living in Brooklyn who has also experienced the SSRI chastity belt via Prozac. “I would have sex with the men I was dating because I thought, This is what you should do in a relationship, but it wasn’t really fulfilling. You kind of forget what sex is like. Then you go back [get off the meds] you’re like, ‘I remember!'” 

You get off the meds, and then you quite literally get off, which is exactly what happened to me when I finally weaned myself off Lexapro over the course of a month. Unfortunately, my sex drive came back just around the time my relationship was ending. My ex had often complained that he didn’t always feel we were on the same page sexually and he hated that he couldn’t get me off, so it was a shame he left just as my orgasms were coming back full force. 

“It would have been different. It definitely would have been different,” says Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist from the Kinsey Institute, when I ask about whether going off Lexapro earlier might have changed our sexual chemistry. “Orgasm is really important for a relationship. It makes you like the person! It makes you trust the person; it makes you want to be with the person; it makes you feel warmth towards the person; it evolved for very obvious reasons, which is to make you want to do it again to be close to somebody and hold somebody. When you’re hugging somebody and holding somebody, oxytocin is going up in the brain. Oxytocin is associated with feelings of attachment and calm, and right before orgasms there is a spike of norepinephrine and dopamine that is going to give you feelings of optimism, and energy, and focus, and motivation, and then of course after orgasm there’s a real flood of oxytocin again and that gives you a feeling of deep attachment to a partner. So there’s a reason that men want women to have an orgasm,” explains Dr. Fisher. 

Ross, a 32-year-old New Yorker whose girlfriend took 20mg of Lexapro, agrees. “You can understand it’s science, but it [was] still hard not to take it personally when I couldn’t get her off,” he says. 

Before I regale you with the joy that is the second puberty experienced when flushing all those nasty orgasm police pills out of your system, it’s crucial to note that they do save lives; quitting cold turkey without discussing with your doctor is a no-no. “Some people really need these drugs,” says Dr. Fisher. “They need them to get out of bed in the morning, to make the effort to go find a sweetheart.” 

However, this is not always the case. “Data shows that 70 percent of people who are on these drugs don’t really need them,” Fisher says. “They [get] back on their feet, and they [keep taking them] because they have the feeling of calm and stability, so they stay on them long-term. [But] when you stay on them, you can jeopardize yourability to fall in love and stay in love.”

Yes–there’s more than sex at stake here. SSRIs could be screwing up what humans are already very bad at: finding and maintaining a loving relationship. “If you aren’t interested in having sex, or you’re having less pleasure when you do have sex, it’s going to affect your relationships, obviously. There is even some suggestion that it affects whether women make themselves available for sex when they’re dating, or whether it can affect that angsty/horny feeling when you fall in love with someone,” says Dr. Holland. “Human female subjects on antidepressants spend less time poring over faces of potential male dating partners than the women who are unmedicated.”

SSRIs could be screwing up what humans are already very bad at: finding and maintaining a loving relationship.

Over the course of the month that I quit Lexapro, it felt like a sexual re-awakening. “My patients who have weaned off their SSRIs are happy to report they can climax more easily,” says Dr. Holland. “It’s nice to be able to enjoy sex again, and to connect with your partner on that physical, and often spiritual, level.” Skylar, a 28-year-old from Richmond, knows what the doc is talking about. After giving Zoloft a shot for anxiety attacks, she stopped using it because she decided she’d rather be anxious and having orgasms. “Within a matter of a few weeks I was back to normal in the sex department,” says Skylar. 

Claire, the 29-year-old Brooklynite who was on Prozac, concurs. “I noticed [my sex drive return] more when I was just masturbating by myself, because I [was single] at the time. [I would be] watching porn and using my vibrator and being like, ‘This is amazing!”’ 

While most women return to orgasm-land with a vengeance after being on SSRIs, however, some never come the same again. Post-SSRI sexual dysfunction (PSSD) is a nightmare in reality, in which patients’ sex drives and functioning can take years to return to normal after being on SSRIs. Some patients never feel the same again.

“It’s frustrating that they haven’t found a pharmaceutical cocktail that can be so beneficial for anxiety without those side effects,” Skylar tells me. The good news is there is one antidepressant that can actually promote sexual desire and function: Wellbutrin. “Well, the makers of Wellbutrin don’t really cop to the mechanism of action of their antidepressant, only describing it as ‘non-serotonergic,'” says Dr. Holland, “but it seems as though [it has] an action that increases dopamine levels.

“For many of my patients, they are much happier with the effect of Wellbutrin on their sex lives, over the SSRIs,” Dr. Holland continues. “Wellbutrin can also help to cut appetite and improve focus and concentration. Where it’s weak is in treating anxiety, and especially treating obsessive symptoms. The SSRIs are much better for that.” Not to long after I stopped taking Lexapro, I tried Wellbutrin and had three orgasms during sex on my yoga mat–two clitoral, and one cervical, which until then I didn’t actually believed existed. (Thank you, makers of Wellbutrin.) I stopped Wellbutrin because, as Dr. Holland says, it sucks for anxiety, which is my main enemy at the moment.

After a fuck ton of therapy, quitting drinking, and developing a mindfulness practice (seriously), I’ve earned the bragging rights to say that now, sans SSRI or Wellbutrin, I’m just a little bit nuts. The renewed ability to orgasm is probably helping to keep me so fucking cheery, too. “Orgasms do create a bit of a ruckus with neurotransmitters and hormones,” Dr. Holland says. “In particular oxytocin and endorphins, though the endocannabinoid system may also be involved. They do help to relieve stress, obviously, which is likely therapeutic. And yes, there is a study showing that sperm, when deposited in the vagina, can have antidepressant effects. 

“Much of the brain even shuts down when you’re having an orgasm,” she continues. “It’s a very deep experience.”

Is My Sex Life Emotionally Scarring My Cats?

I wrote this for Broadly. Image by Kat Aileen.

Dating is terrifying and breakups are agonizing, but thankfully humans have friends and the pharmaceutical industry (actually, cats have that too) to help us get through it all. I live with two marmalade tabby cats, Major Tom Cat (Tommy) and Mama Cat. You’ve got to be a very attractive person to lure me out on a Friday night when I could be home with them and a plate of nachos. Recently I went through a rather traumatic breakup and am back in the saddle (OkCupid). I know I eventually will be fine, but what about my cats? Are they doomed to a life of personality disorders and abandonment issues? To learn more, I spoke to Elise Gouge, MPH, owner of Pet Behavior Consulting, LLC and certified animal behavior consultant and trainer. I refrained from asking her about why Mama Cat sometimes tries to curl up on my legs when I’m using my vibrator, as I assume it’s simply because she wants a massage too.

Broadly: I co-adopted Tommy with an ex-boyfriend, who was a major part of his life until recently–how can divorce/break ups/the absence of one partner affect cats’ behavior?
Elise Gouge: Cats form strong attachments with their caretakers, and the loss of one or both can have a profound impact on behavior. It’s not uncommon to see grief behavior and distress such as vocalizing, searching behavior, restlessness, loss of appetite, changes in litter-box or grooming habits, and general malaise.

In the past month my cats have taken to licking and swatting me awake at night– is there usually any cause for this behavior other than wanting food?
Changes in behavior may be due to wanting more attention or needing more enrichment. If the cats were used to a certain level of activity, and that has now decreased due to one person leaving the home, they could be frustrated or stressed. The licking and swatting could be attention-seeking behavior or stress-related to the changes in the environment.

Can cats pick up on your emotions–in this case being very sad and hurts with lots of crying because you were dumped?
Absolutely.

If you are single and bring different men home, can the influx of strangers affect a cat’s mental health?
It depends on the cat. If a cat is by nature a social and friendly feline, then meeting multiple people will be exciting and fun. If you have a cat with a more reserved or shy temperament, having multiple strangers enter the home will be increasingly stressful.

It seems new partners can almost make a cat jealous! Is this a thing?
The concept of pets feeling jealousy is widely debated by animal behaviorists and consultants. Some feel that pets absolutely feel jealousy, and others believe that jealousy is a term that carries a lot of negative stigma that should be separate from how we define our cat’s behaviors. It is true that if your cat is used to spending 100 percent of his time with you and suddenly another person is occupying your time and the cat now only has access to you 50 percent of the time, he will most likely show some stress behaviors.

For cats, vying for your attention through vocalizing, knocking things over, scratching, etc. can be common. From the cat’s perspective, he is simply doing things that result in the desired goal of getting more attention from you. If a cat (or any creature) does a behavior and it creates a desired result, the cat is going to do it more often. This is called positive reinforcement.

When cats watch people having sex–do they know what’s going on?
Cats would be sensitive to the smells, the changes in energy, the sounds and motion. Sexual contact, heightened levels of emotional or physical arousal, are all things that can impact a cat’s behavior.

My older cat Mama has now had two different “fathers” (ex-boyfriends of mine) do such changes–along with moving apartments–have a detrimental effect?It depends on the cat’s temperament. In general, cats are not fans of change. They prefer things to stay the same. Some are better than others in adapting and changing as the environment requires.

My cat has seemed to like some men more than others! Should I consider this information when deciding to get serious with someone?
If you are a dedicated cat owner and plan to have cats in your life for many years to come, then I would advise making sure you pick partners that share your love of cats. Your cat will be happiest with a person who is genuinely fond of, delighted by, and interested in him or her.


It depends on the cat’s temperament. In general, cats are not fans of change. They prefer things to stay the same. Some are better than others in adapting and changing as the environment requires.

My cat has seemed to like some men more than others! Should I consider this information when deciding to get serious with someone?
If you are a dedicated cat owner and plan to have cats in your life for many years to come, then I would advise making sure you pick partners that share your love of cats. Your cat will be happiest with a person who is genuinely fond of, delighted by, and interested in him or her.

VICE – THE POLY LIFE iPHONE APP HELPS POLYAMOROUS PEOPLE ORGANIZE THEIR BUSY SEX LIVES

I’ve got some more sex tech for you. Or, in this case, both sex and love because it’s an app designed for poly families. Unlike swingers or those who practice an open relationship, polyamorous families both date and love multiple people. I interviewed the family behind The Poly Life for VICE, click the link to read the Q&A in its entirety.

They’re still trying to reach their financial goal to make the Android app happen, so calling all poly Droid users, click here!

What advice do you give newcomers to the community, who could benefit from the app?
It’s not easy. If you’re not a good talker, polyamory isn’t for you. It’s a lot of communicating with each other, especially if we start dating someone new. Jealousy and making assumptions were our biggest hurdles —they still creep up. Jealousy is a bitch. When we were swinging, it was purely sexual with little jealousy for either of us because we always went home together at the end of the night. But when you start talking about having feelings for someone else and spending alone time with them, that was a swift kick in the ass. Understanding that we didn’t love each other less, and the other partner more, was our biggest struggle.

Girl Talk: Dating As A Sex Writer – First post for THE FRISKY

For my first post for The Frisky, I wrote about what my poor boyfriends have to endure while dating a sex writer.

As a sex writer, I can attest to the usefulness of personal anecdotes in writing. (See: This article.) People tend to be more interested in learning about “sounding” (the practice of inserting objects up the urethra) when you can describe a British man exhibiting such a kink in your bed after a tea date than simply an interview with a sexologist on the practice standing alone. Less clinical, more relatable, with a punch of humor. “The truth is stranger than fiction” said Mark Twain, although I don’t think he was referring to pinkies up pee-holes. While the general population tends to appreciate such tales, the one reader group that grimaces, perhaps secondary to my parents, are my boyfriends.

Enjoy the article in its entirety here.