Should I PhDump her?

Dr. Daley on Sex and Relationships

Should I PhDump her?

photo / Vikas GarG Girl, he ain’t gonna e-mail you 

Dear Dr. Daley: My girlfriend and I met while we were seniors in college. I’m in my first year of a PhD program while she’s working full time in a different state, and I feel like her expectation is that we will get married after I graduate. I don’t think I’ll be ready to get married then, but I do love my girlfriend and don’t want our relationship to end. How can I slow down this speeding train without derailing it?

If there is anything that will kill a relationship faster than graduate school, I do not know what it is. Besides being boring to the point of irreversible coma, grad school is also a black hole that sucks up infinite amounts of time, energy, and attention while you swing from deep exhaustion to paralyzing anxiety, becoming so thoroughly sick of your chosen area of study that you cannot fathom why you ever thought this would be an interesting career. Meanwhile, your significant other has learned to make do with a negative percentage of your time and attention and approximately 113.8% of all domestic tasks. Oh, and roughly the same proportion of financial support. (Grad school is a life choice that makes new mathematics possible, even managing to leave you hopelessly in debt with nothing more to show for it than a leather-bound term paper big enough to use for a doorstop and a diploma you cannot afford to have framed.)

I hate to sound suspicious, but because I myself personally am an outstanding liar, I can smell bullshit from a mile away. My evil self thinks you want to keep your sex life – sporadic and long-distance though it may be – without getting stuck in some pesky long-term commitment. Who cares that while you are up to your cojones in path analysis and the dog-eat-dog world of TA-ships and job searches, your darling sweetheart has subscribed to six bridal magazines and made down-payments on three different wedding gowns? You are living in two different relationships, and I think you are worried she might find out. No worries! The main thing is that you save yourself from the tedium of loneliness, excessive masturbation, and, ugh, dating during grad school.

Otherwise, see, you would take the radical step of telling your darling sweetheart the truth.

Nuff said.

Rubbed the wrong way

photo / Malingering Red hot, like fire 

Dear Dr. Daley: I’m a 22-year-old guy, and a few weeks ago I got pretty drunk at a party. Drunker than I’ve ever been. So drunk that I wound up going back to a friend’s apartment and passing out in her bed. I don’t remember much of what happened, but I have some clear memories of waking up for a few seconds at a time and seeing her naked on top of me. I honestly have no idea if we had sex, but I think we might have. Do I keep quiet, confront her, or let it go? I don’t even know how I feel about what happened, so I don’t know what I’d even say to her.

One time a very long time ago and never mind the circumstances, I spent a night with a girlfriend. Let’s call it a sleepover. Anyway, I was about to leave for the summer and she spent the whole night crying (I mean really crying) about how I wasn’t going to write to her while I was away. Every time I would drop off to sleep, she would shake me awake to holler at me some more. Having engaged in similar hysterics myself, I kept thinking, so this is what it’s like to be a man! I am getting a load of shit for something I haven’t even not done yet!

This is certainly not to make light of your situation, Dear Reader, only to say that you are now in a painful position to empathize with women in a way that has heretofore been impossible for you. You have been subjected to sexual contact without your full, free, and equal consent. We call that sexual coercion where I work. It sounds like you experienced sexual assault at the least, and at worst, perhaps even rape.

Oh. Oh. I forgot. There is no such thing as male rape in Texas. “Rape” in Texas seems to be defined as a penis penetrating a vagina. Therefore, statutorially speaking, you guys can only be sexually assaulted. Now, doesn’t that feel better?

When, when, when are we ever going to give up the idiotic notion that guys who get laid under any circumstances are lucky?

One thing that must happen is that guys are going to have to give up their own subscriptions to that idiocy. And one way you do that is by making noise. Now that this thing has happened to you, it belongs to you, and you get to decide what you want to do about it. Realistically, I doubt that a visit to the police station will be very helpful. For one thing, you run the risk of being laughed at - not right, just reality. You certainly could, and ought to, consult your local rape crisis center (in Austin, that’d be Safe Place: 512-267-SAFE) because they deal with sexual coercion regardless of the genders involved.

And I think you absolutely, positively owe it to yourself, your gender, and the world at large to confront the woman in question about what happened. I don’t to be soft about it, but a fair number of people who experience drunken sex are not really clear that it was sexual coercion. If this woman is truly your friend, you ought to be able to talk with her about the night in question, the meaning of consent, and how the whole episode has affected you. A quiet, rational confrontation could have an enormous impact on both of you; ultimately, we must solve the problem of this type of date rape one conversation at a time.

P.S. While we are on the subject of gender and assault, will all you guys who are being hit, kicked, slapped, scratched, bitten, beaten, and struck with inanimate objects by your sweetheart, will all you guys please do what you need to do and call Safe Place too?

About the author Dr. Nancy Daley is a licensed psychologist and adjunct assistant professor who teaches Human Sexuality at The University of Texas at Austin. If you would like to submit questions for her to answer in this column, please send them to drdaley at thatotherpaper dot com.

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