I don't like strip clubs

My boyfriend wants me to go with him to watch lap dances, and he asks for things in bed I don't want to do.

Published March 27, 2003 8:15PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

My boyfriend, "Leighton," has been pressuring me to do things that I'm uncomfortable with. Shortly after we began dating, he told me that he likes to frequent strip clubs. Many of my male friends do as well. However, their attendance is limited to bachelor parties and post-breakup cheering-up sessions. It turns out that Leighton likes to go more often than that. Going to a strip club is one of his favorite activities, and he will even go alone if he can't find an available friend. This makes me uncomfortable, but I am willing to accept it. I'm not interested in making anyone change. People aren't made of clay to be sculpted in accordance with my preferences.

Unfortunately, Leighton doesn't feel the same. He wants me to go with him. I have told him that that is something that I would never do. I don't wish to see flesh-and-blood women turned into sexual objects. I don't wish to see a naked woman writhing on someone's lap a few feet away. I don't want to witness my boyfriend lusting after someone else. Ick! I live in Canada and apparently our strip clubs are very raunchy, more so than in the United States. Leighton keeps insisting that I go. He says that he wants to share his favorite activity with his significant other.

This next part is why I'm asking advice from a stranger. I can't bring myself to mention this to my friends -- it's too embarrassing. Here it goes, down to brass tacks:

He also keeps insisting that I have anal sex with him. I'm not ready to do that yet, maybe in a few years. Once when we were in bed together, he told me to close my eyes while he excused himself for a moment. When he returned, he put handcuffs on me (without asking) and told me that he could do anything that he wanted to. Even have anal sex with me. He didn't. I was furious and scared. I felt completely helpless, and not in an exciting or enjoyable way. After, he said that his restraint demonstrated that he could be trusted. He says that if I really trusted him, I would satisfy his desires. He compares me to his other girlfriends, who all apparently accompanied him to strip clubs and let him in the back door. He says that I am uptight and that I should get over my inhibitions. He says that if I loved him, I would do what he wanted. He says that there is something wrong with me.

I've only had one other sexual relationship. "Steve" and I started dating when I was 19 and we shared eight happy years together. Over the years I went from being a girl who might like to be a mother to a woman who definitely did. Steve went from a boy who wasn't sure if he wanted to be a father to a man who definitely did not. Now we are great friends. We had wonderful, exciting, inventive sex. We didn't experience the boredom that many couples complain of. I still wanted to rip off his clothes even after eight years.

Being with someone new is different. I'm not sure what's right. Am I obliged to do something I find distasteful just to satisfy my boyfriend? Do I sound uptight? Do other people routinely compare their new lovers to the old ones? Why am I expected to behave like them? How will doing something I find demeaning or undesirable prove my love? I don't think it's a fair thing to ask. I'm confused. Are Leighton's demands typical? They feel controlling and manipulative. Am I overreacting? I've never been asked to do anything sexually that I wasn't willing to try. I don't know how to respond.


Dear Confused,

This boyfriend is dangerous. He is seeking physical control over you. If you play along with him, you stand a good chance of being injured psychologically and physically. You need to break up with him.

You don't have to tell him why you're breaking up with him. In fact, he is likely to become defensive, argumentative and manipulative if you tell him your reasons. The important thing for you is not to win the argument but to get out of this relationship. So I would suggest you simply tell him that you don't want to see him anymore. Just leave it at that. There may be some discussion and arguing, but you don't have to prove a case to him. You don't have to be mean or accuse him of anything or tell him he's hurt your feelings or say there's no future between you two or anything. You can tell him your reasons are private. Don't get drawn into a discussion or a debate. If it's easier to do it on the phone, do that. The important thing is that you get out of the relationship.

Here is why I think this: His little trick with the handcuffs borders on the criminal. It doesn't sound like play at all. It's a serious breach of trust; what's worse is that he has tried rhetorically to twist this utter betrayal of trust into a demonstration of trust. That makes it even creepier. It's as if he had pulled a gun on you and then said, "See, I didn't shoot you. I can be trusted."

You obviously have good instincts. Your first relationship sounds great, and you ended it in a principled and loving way because you differed on the issue of having kids. Your desire to raise kids is all the more reason to break up with this guy: He is not the kind of man who should be raising kids. To raise kids, you have to have a pretty healthy tolerance for opposing views. Ideally, you'd have a deep reverence for the sanctity of another being who did not come into being to please you but to fulfill its own destiny. That destiny may have nothing to do with you. Still, it's your job to be a steward of that destiny. If you can't even get over your girlfriend not wanting to have anal sex with you, how are you going to deal with a 4-year-old who smacks you in the face with a soup bowl?

After you break up with him, I think you need, for your own good, to get into contact with someone from the women's movement, to come to just a basic understanding of the ways men wield power over women. Do some reading. Go to a women's bookstore, or look on the Web about rape and violence against women. Because your instincts are good, but without a framework of knowledge, you're in danger of being pressured and manipulated by the next Leighton that comes along.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.

By Cary Tennis

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