I’m a 25-year-old student living with my wife at my dad’s place. My parents got divorced a couple of years ago (dad had an affair), and my wife lost her job about four months ago. My dad graciously offered to let us stay with him for a few months.

One day I had the house to myself. I went to put a movie in the VCR. There was already a tape in there, so I started it up and couldn’t believe what I saw: my wife emerging from the shower. The image repeated itself several times. Then there was more footage of my wife changing her clothes in our bedroom, looped over and over. There was even footage of my wife and me screwing in our bedroom!

I freaked out, grabbed the tape, and broke it into a thousand pieces. When my dad got home from work, I walked out before he got out of the car and threw the pieces in his face. He was shocked and insisted we talk about it in the car. He got really upset and apologized over and over, saying he was lonely, and he begged me not to leave or tell my wife. I didn’t leave–how could I? I was in school, my wife wasn’t working, and we had no money for rent. So we just agreed never to speak about it again and left it at that. I never told my wife, but I kept a very close eye on my father.

Four months and two new jobs later, we’re finally moving out.

The problem is this: this whole thing has really freaked me out. When I try to get intimate with my wife, I think of that goddamn tape, the hidden cameras, and my father getting off on all of this. It just leaves me completely limp. I am ashamed of my father for doing it and I’m even more ashamed of myself for not preventing it. My wife has noticed my “performance” problem and can’t figure out what’s going on; she thinks I may be having an affair!

I don’t see the point in telling my wife now, and I don’t really want to discuss it again with my father, so what do I do? Oh, and my wife’s parents are dead and she loves my father like her own. Sorry about the length of this letter. –Limp & Shamed

Tell your wife what happened.

You can’t go on letting your wife think you’re cheating on her to protect your father from your wife’s bad opinion. Of course your wife won’t be lookin’ up to your dad as a substitute father figure once she hears the news. But think about it, L&S: If you were your wife, what would you rather think? That your husband can’t get it up because he’s having an affair? Or that he can’t get it up because his dad did something creepy?

Before I get to the meat of my advice, I want to say this: Your dad is one sick fuck. There you were, feeling grateful and indebted to him, and all the while he’s violating your privacy and beating off to this videotape. Eesh. Worse yet, once you discovered what he was up to, your economic situation required you to pretend that nothing had happened and remain in your father’s house. Ugh. Your father put you in an awful position. What an asshole.

Having said that, I am now going to go out on a very long, very brittle limb. Brace yourself, L&S.

Is what your dad did really so bad? Don’t get me wrong: it’s bad–really, really bad. But is it so bad that you have no choice but to let it destroy your relationships with your father and your wife?

Let’s break it down. There are two issues in play–or, I should say, two transgressions. First and foremost, your dad made That Damn Videotape. Second, he was jerking off to That Damn Videotape.

Let’s begin with the lesser transgression, the second one. Your dad was beating off to images of your wife and, nauseatingly enough, to images of you and your wife together. I hope I’m not shattering any illusions, L&S, but men and women are constantly masturbating while thinking about people they can’t or shouldn’t or won’t ever have. I’m sure you’ve jerked off thinking about women you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t ever have, just as I’ve jerked off thinking about men I can’t or shouldn’t or won’t ever have. Are you still with me? Good.

Assuming that your wife is hot, it’s a simple fact that men are fantasizing about her constantly. All of the time, and all kinds of men–strangers, coworkers, and, yes, even relatives. In the back of your mind, L&S, you knew it was possible that your dad was beating off while thinking about your wife. The concept might be highly creepy, but it shouldn’t be completely debilitating.

Of course, there are things we know because they can be assumed or inferred and things we know because we’ve stumbled over irrefutable evidence. Thanks to That Damn Videotape, what once lurked in your subconscious is now banging around your head 24-7. Had your dad been a decent person and stuck to mental images of your wife, you would never have been sure whether or not he was fantasizing about her. But he didn’t, which is why the larger of his two transgressions is That Damn Videotape.

But come on, L&S, what did you really find out when you found the tape? Something you already kinda knew. Your wife is hot, your dad is straight, and like a lot of other straight men your dad was beating off thinking about your wife. Let’s give dad the benefit of the doubt and assume that he wasn’t into your wife because she’s your wife, but merely because she’s hot. And let’s also assume that the fact that you ended up on That Damn Videotape didn’t mean he wanted to fuck you, but only that he was living vicariously through your performance.

If all of this sounds like a massive rationalization–or a series of massive rationalizations–that’s because it is/they are. But they’re in your own best interest, L&S, because they’ll help you get to a place, as Dr. Phil might say, where you can forgive your dad and successfully fuck your wife again.

To review:

Step one, tell your wife. She needs to know what happened, so that she can stop worrying about the affair you’re not having.

Step two, move. I have every confidence that your performance problems will clear up once you’re no longer living in your father’s house. Every time you’ve attempted to be intimate with your wife since you found That Damn Videotape you’ve been making love at the scene of the crime, and a little voice in your head was no doubt worrying about hidden cameras and drooling dads watching the instant replay. It’s no wonder you had a hard time keeping it up.

Step three: after a good, long chunk of time has passed–after you’ve fertilized the above rationalizations with a little denial–you should be able to forgive your dad and pretend that nothing ever happened.