Q: My best friend, who is a dyke, is always coming on to me even though she knows I'm straight. I feel like there's a lot of tension, and I'm not sure what I should tell her.
A: The mere fact that you're asking this question says a lot. If you were flattered, you probably would say so—as well as "no thanks." If you were turned on, you'd likely acknowledge that and talk about your options. So I'm wondering if maybe you're not entirely sure about your own sexuality. Our culture is so focused on labels: gay, straight, bi (or for that matter Republican, Democrat, Libertarian) that we easily forget about the shades of gray inherent in sexual identity. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, author of the highly regarded Kinsey Reports, wrote: "The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories... The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects." All of which is to suggest that you might take this occasion to reflect on your own desires and assumptions.
Meantime, I'm curious what you mean when you say your lesbian friend is coming on to you. Is it possible that you're misreading acts of friendship or kindness as sexual advances? Or is this a simple case of the "awkward crush," when a dyke becomes attracted to an unavailable straight woman? If so, there's no harm done unless it continues to be tense and begins to affect your friendship. At which point, you may need to initiate a conversation of some kind to get things in the open. Try "I need to talk to you about something that's making me uncomfortable" and see where it takes you.
Q: In one of my late-night sessions of Facebook stalking, I ran across this really cute girl and decided to friend her. By reading her profile, it seems like we have a lot in common; we're both fans of Rachel Maddow and Repeal Prop 8. And, even better, she lives only a few minutes away. Is it OK to ask her out even though I just found her on Facebook?
A. Well, you certainly wouldn't be the first to chase down a lover that way. Casual stalking of potential dates (and friends) is implicit in the design and purpose of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. And it's amazing what you can discover about someone in two shakes of a lamb's tail: full name, birthday, e-mail address, not to mention all the photos and list after list of favorite activities, music, interests, books and TV shows.
Just remember this: The information you pick up on social networking sites is not the same as what you find out by getting to know someone directly. So before you go ahead and ask this complete stranger out, strike up an online conversation. Be cautious in how much you reveal that you know about her—even if she's posted all that information. Just because you know from her profile that she's loves The Cure and has four cats doesn't mean it's OK to mention it. If all goes well, however, there's no reason not to proceed from online chatting to the phone and finally to an in-person rendezvous (in a public place to start off). If she's matched pace with you this far, she's likely to be equally as interested in you.
Q: I'm having a gnarly debate with my two best friends. I say that when I'm at a sex club, I don't need to tell anyone that I'm poz. There are hardly any words as it is. My friends think I need to let my sex partners know my status beforehand. Who's right?
A: Generally, I think assuming responsibility for our own sexual health and that of our partners is critical. For those who know they are HIV positive, it's even more important that you take care of yourself and prevent transmission to others. But in this case—at a sex club, a dark alley or in a back room—it's hard to imagine such a conversation taking place. So while you're off the hook for offering full disclosure, if asked about your HIV status, how could you not say you're positive?
However, I completely agree with Dr. Joel Gallant, author of 100 Questions and Answers About HIV and AIDS, when he writes that your mantra should be: "This infection stops with me." So in this scenario, what you say is less important than what you do: Practice safer sex all the time. (Please take note: HIV infection rates continue to rise for young gay men.) Still, it's wise for your partners to assume such kinds of sexual encounters are high-risk and to protect themselves accordingly.
Steven Petrow is the author of The Essential Book of Gay Manners & Etiquette.
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