ADVICE from BENT's own Bear

Everybody knows what bears do in the woods—they sit around telling each other their life's stories and giving one another advice. What else would those big, hairy beasts do when they get together for their Teddy Bear Picnics?

Inspired by the wisdom of my fellow growlers, I'm here to give advice, when asked. So, if any of you have questions you'd like answered by someone who's been around the block a couple of times, please send them to

And in case you're worried that you might have to censor your thoughts, please remember that my walks around the block were often done while dressed in kinkwear and with a thought or two about who I might encounter along the way.

So let me know what's on your mind. If it's a Big Unanswered Question (or even a little one), let me have a crack at it. It is, after all, what bears do best.


"Hard Bitten "

Dear Max,

I've been disabled since birth and I think my parents overprotected me so my sexual experience has been pretty limited. In the past couple of years I've been trying to get more experience. Last week I went to bed with a guy and things were OK. I was enjoying it until he started to bite my nipples. I told him to stop. He did, but then he started doing it again a few minutes later. I told him to stop again and he did. I like the guy and want to see him again and I didn't want to scare him away by being negative, but this frightened me. Am I too nave to enjoy sex? What should I do?



Dear Mel,

I've said it before—nobody, no matter what his disability or prior experience, should be denied having the kind of sexual experience that is mutually pleasing to both himself and his partner or partners. Everybody has to start somewhere, so I am glad that you have overcome your early overprotection and have decided to pursue the sexual satisfaction that is your due.

I have discovered that overprotection sometimes results in a negative byproduct, which is not fully understanding the complexities of social interaction, let alone the even more complex interaction of sexual contact and social interaction in a sexual context. But the fact that you have recognized something was not quite right with your most recent experience tells me that you are well on your way to achieving that understanding.

By saying that things were "OK," rather than "great!" or "wow!" like a television commercial for cell-phone service, shows that your less-than-glowing review of the event might indicate you were disturbed enough by the nipple biting to lay the blame on yourself (for being "too nave to enjoy" sex) instead of where the blame really lies, on your over-ethusiastic playmate. Even if you have nipples the size of lag-bolts, nobody should assume that you want them manhandled, let alone bitten. Getting rough or even inflicting pain might be desirable, but only if both partners agree that it is.

For that reason many encounters in bed begin with a question like "so, what do you like to do?" As corny as it sounds, it can prevent a lot of subsequent misunderstandings. Even if you were to answer that you've had too few experiences to say definitively what gets you motivated, your bedmate should not assume that that's the green light to begin experimenting on your body parts as if you were Frankenstein's monster.

An aware partner might rattle off a list of his own likes and dislikes and gauge your reaction to them. An enlightened partner might even say something like "OK, let's experiment and if I do anything you don't like you just tell me and we'll move on to something else." Once you tell him that you dislike something, he should stop doing it and not try to push your limits. If he's gone beyond enlightenment into the category of "sex god," he might even know how to expand you limits and ease you into new areas of exploration without even letting you know that he's expertly guiding you, but it sounds like your partner was nowhere near that stage.

If he has had a lot of experience, maybe he failed to grasp that what might seem child's play to his usual partners could be scary and painful to someone with a lot less experience. One touch should have given him a clue about your level of nipple sensitivity. It shouldn't have taken a second "no" to tell him that he had gone too far . . . again. That doesn't mean that you should give up on him, but you need to let him know that you were uncomfortable with his pectoral attack and want a rematch only if he files down his fangs. If this scares him away, then he's not worth a rematch in the first place.

Too many people with disabilities have been made to feel like passive players in their own lives. Being overprotected is part of that. In the bedroom, don't feel that you need to be grateful for any attention, even if it stings. That kind of self-putdown is more of a psychological sting than any nipple-bite could be. But you, I think, nipped it in the bud (ouch!) by asserting yourself, and I hope you enjoyed being assertive. But don't think that if he can't deal with your demand for pain-free sex that the fault is yours and not his.

If this guy can't respect your preferences I hope you will try again with someone else, putting to use the knowledge you've gained about technique and communication. Getting to know a partner sexually can be almost as rewarding as the act itself. Finding out what excites you both can be a form of foreplay, especially if the minute either one of you tells the other what you like you act it out between the sheets. You don't need to be apologetic about being a beginner, either. Being in bed with a novice can be an exciting experience for someone more seasoned. It gives the more sophisticated partner a chance to demonstrate what an amazing thing sex between two people can be. And even if new and possibly kinky elements are brought into the hookup, there should always be some communication before, during, and after, to gauge how both of you like it or don't.

Lack of sexual experience should never scare anyone away. Instead, it can offer an opportunity for both people to learn from each other, whether it's about sex techniques, using patience, or just understanding something about what kind of communication is needed when two or more people have sex. Standing up for your limits is not being negative, it's being smart and assertive. It's also being sensible, especially when one partner could literally have a physical advantage over the other.

Nobody learns all there is to know about sex from one or two experiences or maybe even from a hundred. You just learned one very good lesson, that you have rights even in bed, including the right to give and receive pleasure and to not be treated as if your body is a testing ground for your partner's erotic whims. Let's hope he's learned something, too. And if he hasn't, well, just bite the bastard back!

© 2004 Max Verga


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MAX VERGA has been an activist ever since getting a call from a friend reporting that he'd been in a riot at the Stonewall Bar only hours before. His work is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories," edited by Bob Guter and John R. Killacky (Harrington Park Press, 2003). For more about Max, see his longer biography.


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/July 2004