Q: I’m a 24-year-old gay man with a 31-year-old bi boyfriend. I’ve known that he’s a lot more sexually experienced than I am, but it’s never been a big deal before now. This weekend he met my parents for what we thought would be the first time. But it turns out that ten years ago, during his “big bi slut phase” (his words), they had a threesome. I recognize that no one did anything wrong—they were three consenting adults—and it’s not like anyone could’ve known that he and I would get together in the future. But also, my boyfriend fucked my parents! I’m mortified, he’s mortified, they’re mortified, and I may never be able to look at my parents again. Please help us find a way to move past this!
—I Knew He Was Into Blonds

A: I’ve been writing Savage Love for almost 30 years—it’ll be 30 years this September—and I rarely get letters that surprise me anymore. But after reading your letter today . . . and then laying in a dark room with a cool washcloth over my eyes for six hours . . . I came to a few realizations.

First, I can still be surprised. Thank you for that. Second, if couples in their 40s with teenage children at home are gonna have threesomes with guys in their 20s—and some are—there will always be a hard-to-quantify-but-nevertheless-ineliminable risk that their children, once grown, could wind up meeting and fucking and even falling in love with one of the guys their parents had a threesome with back in the day. Third, since I helped create a world where 40-something couples with kids sometimes have MMF threesomes with 20-something bisexual dudes, IKHWIB, this is all my fault, oh my God, what have I done, can you ever forgive me?

With that said, IKHWIB, do you know who I think should weigh in on this? The former mayor of Minneapolis.

“If they’ve been able to laugh about this, that’s a good sign,” said Betsy Hodges, who was the mayor of Minneapolis from 2014 to 2018. “It might be a while before he can look at his boyfriend and not think about his parents having sex. That’s a tough thing to navigate, but laughter helps.”

It may seem kind of random that the former mayor of Minneapolis is giving you sex advice, IKHWIB, but Hodges reached out to me after I posted your letter to Twitter, where I told my followers—the former mayor of Minneapolis among them—that I was going to run your letter in my column even though I didn’t have the faintest idea what to tell you. Betsy Hodges, on the other hand, knew exactly what to say.

“He has to ask himself if the boyfriend is worth it,” said Hodges. “Everything really depends on the strength of their connection—which will have to be weighed against whatever tension now exists between IKHWIB, his boyfriend, and his parents. Can they navigate that tension? If any of them feel bad (as opposed to mortified) about what happened and they aren’t motivated to work through this and don’t have the tools for doing so, this will go sideways.” The Honorable Betsy Hodges suggests that the four of you have a conversation about what happened and how you want to handle things going forward.

“Having that conversation—which I know sounds dreadful—could actually help them think about this less,” said Hodges, “especially if they get to a point where they can laugh about the insanity and awkwardness of the situation they’ve all found themselves in.”

You can laugh about this until you pass out, IKHWIB, but if you can’t suck your boyfriend’s cock without thinking about your dad sucking your boyfriend’s cock, you may not be able to get past this. If you can’t look at your mom without thinking about her sitting on your boyfriend’s face, you might not be able to get past this. If you can’t take your boyfriend’s load without thinking about the load he dropped in dad or your mom or both (21-year-olds have great stamina and such short refractory periods), you might not be able to get past this. You might be able to, like Hodges said, think about this less.

While I’m doubtful there’s a memory hole out there big enough to stuff this in and tight enough to prevent it from falling right back out, IKHWIB, perhaps your parents have already shown you how it’s done. I know when I came out to my mom, IKHWIB, she had a really hard time being around any guy I was dating due to the unwelcome mental images that plagued her when she saw me with a boyfriend. She could look at my sister and her boyfriend without picturing her little girl sucking that boy’s cock, but she somehow couldn’t look at my boyfriend without picturing that brute sodomizing her little boy. It took some very awkward conversations, some raised voices, and, yes, some laughter before my mom successfully willed herself to stop conjuring up mental images of me getting my ass fucked. Maybe with some time, some awkward conversations, and a little laughter you’ll be able to purge all those unwelcome mental images of your boyfriend railing your parents from your mind too.

My point is, if the parents of gay and straight kids can pretend not to know what they damn well do know, i.e., that their grown children are sexually active adults now, and if they can learn not to torture themselves with unwelcome mental images of our partners fucking the shit out of us, IKHWIB, seems to me that we should be able to do the same for them: recognize that our parents are sexual beings and at the same time expunge all unwelcome mental images from our minds. Yours is a much heavier lift than most, I realize, but if your boyfriend is worth it, IKHWIB, you at least gotta try.

P.S. Perhaps this verse by poet Philip Larkin will help put things in perspective:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

You’re not the first person whose parents . . . well, let’s not say your parents fucked you up. Instead let’s say you’re not the first person whose parents were a little extra. Good luck.  v

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