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Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013

How Can I Overcome My Insecurity and Meet New Sexual Partners?

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I would like to find a way to have a sexual relationship with members of the opposite gender, and I would like for the sexual relationship not necessarily to be within the scope of an emotional relationship. This is difficult for me because I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. In other words, even though I would oftentimes like to politely ask a sexy stranger for sex, I frequently feel too ugly and so seldom do.

I have tried a lot of Internet dating, but that doesn't seem quite right because most people there want relationships. Also, I attended several "swinger" meet-and-greets, but I was intimidated because the people seemed too self-centered about their sexual preferences to accommodate my emotional insecurities. 

What is a good way for me to get what I want? Is there such thing as a local swingers club with training wheels, where ugly people can feel more comfortable?

There seem to be two issues at play here: first, the mental health issues you mention that make it difficult for you to connect with other people, and second, your question about how to find swinging resources that are comfortable for newbies. I feel I would be doing you a disservice by simply answering the question about swinging without also addressing the mental health side of your situation.

I chatted with Rebecca Steinmetz, MSW, who is both a therapist and a sex-positive educator (one who accepts and affirms all types of sexual identities, kinks and relationships). Rebecca had this to say about how your Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder may impact your sexual relationships:

“Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) are two mental health issues that should never be diagnosed or treated without seeing a professional with additional training in these areas. BPD affects three areas of one’s life: how you feel about yourself (often very negatively, misunderstood or without a sense of self; BDD fits into this area), how you relate to others (tumultuous interpersonal relationships and disproportionate reactions to perceived slights or even small misunderstandings) and how you behave (having difficulty controlling impulses and strong emotions). Unlike depression and anxiety, BPD cannot be treated with medication. The only proven treatment for BPD, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, takes years of diligently learning and working on your interpersonal and emotion-regulation skills alongside specially trained therapists in order to see progress in your condition.

“It sounds like you have an end goal of enjoying casual sex with someone. I would encourage you not to do this. I don’t think casual sex is a good idea considering how BPD effects how you relate to others and how you behave. I also don’t think that pursuing the swinging community is the best way to achieve that goal. But I do believe everyone has a right to sexual pleasure. Masturbatory self-love is the direction I’d encourage you to go. Because of the seriousness of BPD and how it affects your personal life, working on your treatment will pay off with better interactions (sexual or otherwise) in the future.”

I think Rebecca’s advice is solid, but since many people often ask me about swinging, I would like to provide some information about that here that might be useful to you following therapy and may also be useful to people who have not been diagnosed with BPD or BDD, but feel insecure or awkward about approaching potential sexual partners. To answer your question about swingers clubs and meetups, I talked to Cooper Beckett, the founder of Life on the Swingset, a podcast and website by and for sexually open and non-monogamous folk (one of their most recent podcasts is on building confidence, which might be relevant to you given the nature of your question).

Cooper says, “Swingers clubs, in my experience, are home to some of the most diverse and eclectic people I've ever encountered. All ranges of body type and attractiveness are on display. Those who are successful in these environments are the ones who are willing to take risks, make the approach. You never know what the response will be, and if you decide you're going to get a no before you ask, then you're going to have a 100% failure rate. 

“For you, I'd recommend something a bit less intimidating. Give OK Cupid or Kasidie a try. Be honest and upfront about yourself, your situation and what you're looking for. I find that many times people with unique situations try to downplay or hide them, and this only leads to questioning and issues. The more upfront and open you can be about who you truly are, the more likely you are to find that person (or persons) who fit.”

I completely agree about being honest and upfront, and I would also like to add that rejection is a normal part of seeking out sexual partners. Rejection is something that gets easier to handle with practice. You are not going to be interested in every potential sexual partner, and they are not going to be interested in you. Approaching people respectfully and politely and handling rejection with grace and kindness is an important skill to learn. You can’t learn this skill if you don’t attempt to talk to people you are interested in. There is an added layer of difficulty here for you because of the mental health issues that you have described, and I would strongly encourage you to follow Rebecca’s suggestion about working with a therapist to address BPD and BDD before attempting to join a swinging community.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.