Dear Dan: My brother is 22 years old and mentally ill, with social anxiety on the scale of agoraphobia (officially diagnosed). He's made significant progress in the past few years, but he's stuck on the fact that he's a virgin and is convinced that he's not going to make any real social progress until that's no longer a fact. His particular problem makes it impossible to reason with him — he's a little Asperger's-y — and he is convinced that he will only be able to pursue a job, have a social life and tackle other obstacles after he loses his virginity. Financially, it would be easy for me to drive him to Nevada and eliminate the virginity issue. He's asked our mom to do so. My family isn't hung up on "purity" where sex and virginity are concerned, so we're open to this. I don't have any illusions that this will solve his problems, but my mom and I are hopeful that it would eliminate an excuse that's keeping him from taking positive steps forward. Should I offer to take him, or force him to sort it out on his own despite his crippling social issues?
Socially Interactive Sister
Dear SIS: "I want to commend SIS for considering the services of a sex worker in such a positive and non-judgmental way," said Siouxsie Q, a San Francisco-based sex worker and the creator and host of The WhoreCast, a weekly podcast that seeks to humanize people working in the sex industry. "And I want to reassure her that the right provider is out there for her brother."
Some will object to your hiring a sex worker to help your brother out, but you can tell those people to go fuck themselves — or you can tell them to rent The Sessions. In that acclaimed 2012 film, John Hawkes plays a poet who is paralyzed from the neck down. Helen Hunt plays a sexual surrogate — a clinical/glorified sex worker — that the poet, with the blessing of his priest, hires to take his virginity. No one had a problem with the sex-work aspect of The Sessions because Hawkes's character is so profoundly and obviously disabled that audiences sympathized with his plight: It would be difficult, if not impossible, for him to get laid any other way.
While Hawkes's disability was immediately apparent, your brother's disability is no less real for being invisible. So I don't see why anyone should object to your brother getting a little professional assistance with his plight.
So hire a sex worker for your brother if you think it will help — even if it just eliminates an excuse that's blocking his progress — but there's no need to drive to Nevada. Siouxsie suggests you look for an "experienced" (read: somewhat older) escort with an online presence in your area. A sex worker who's over 25 or 30 and maintains her own website — and has write-ups on escort review sites — is not just far less likely to be trafficked or exploited; she's far more likely to be experienced and patient. She may have even worked with men like your brother before.
"A friend had a client who used her services to 'practice' dating," Siouxsie said. "Over time, the client gained enough confidence to start dating. I hope SIS's brother has a wonderful experience that boosts his confidence and helps him move forward in his life, too."
So what do you do once you locate a prospective sex worker in your area?
"Send an e-mail explaining the situation and your brother's special needs," said Siouxsie. "There are sex workers out there who specialize in working with clients with disabilities, and many have experience working with clients who might be very similar to her brother" — and with a little searching, you should be able to find one. If the first woman you contact doesn't work with men like your brother, she may be able to refer you to someone who does.
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Once you find your local Helen Hunt, SIS, prep your brother for the experience. "Give him a pep talk," said Siouxsie. "Let him know about etiquette and protocol: no haggling, no prying for personal information, his personal hygiene needs to be impeccable, and he should know the basics on protection and STI transmission. Above all, he needs to treat her with respect."
Dear Dan: I'm a 23-year-old bi female from Vancouver, and I've been heavily sub-identified since I started having sex nine years ago. (The age of consent was fourteen then!) But lately, with the helpful guidance of my lovely boyfriend, I've been realizing I have a very pronounced Dom streak. Do you have any pointers on starting out? I read The New Topping Book, by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, and it was helpful, but I was wondering if you had any tips. I'm pretty uncomfortable topping my boyfriend; he's always been the top, and I'm nervous about doing it wrong.
Another Novice Top
Dear ANT: Give yourself permission to do it "wrong." Not "wrong" in the accidentally-injure-or-kill-the-boyfriend sense of doing BDSM wrong; "wrong" in the go-your-own-way sense. You'll be less nervous about topping if you relax and give yourself permission to be yourself — i.e., nervous and inexperienced, a little awkward in your new role. Remember: You don't have to be the perfect snarling dominatrix the very first time you pick up a crop. You don't have to be a snarling dominatrix ever if that's not who you want to be. Check out the wonderful beyondthevalleyofthefemdoms.tumblr.com for some insight on being your own dominant woman, not a FemDom porn cliché. Good luck!