Women Who Stray

Notes on the history and current practice of female infidelity

What You Masturbate to Doesn’t Matter

An open letter to Donald Glover

Talented actor Donald Glover admits fear - can you?
Dear Donald,

The letter you posted on Instagram, about why you are leaving the show Community made me want to reach out to you. You’re afraid. I hear that. Lots of us are afraid these days. It’s scary times. Government shutdowns, wars, healthcare, economic struggles, porn that warps your brain (not really) and Oreos that are addictive. It's especially terrifying when there’s lots of pressure riding your shoulders. It’s okay to be afraid, sometimes if you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention.

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The things you fear, that success is fleeting, that things might not go exactly right in your life and love, that you might fail, these are all scary things. And they are things that many of us fear.

For some reason, people want us, and you, to be afraid. Fear feeds the media, and they feed us fear, in a circle of terror that drives a culture of consumption—you're afraid? That's okay—just watch this show or buy this widget. Sex and perfection are two of the ingredients they salt with fear, because they know these are two things we can never have enough of. Your life won’t be perfect, it can’t be, and truth told, you don’t really want it to be. We grow, through striving towards ideals. Relationships and lives are filled with overcoming odds, with accommodation and negotiation, with acceptance.

Are you also scared of people finding out your secrets?
What you masturbate to isn’t scary to me. Penguins humping nuns? That’s okay, I’ve seen it. Oh, worse than that? That’s okay, that’s not scary either. Look, people fantasize. About lots of things. And those fantasies? We don’t know that there is any real connection or meaning to those fantasies. Over the past few decades, we’ve learned that people, men and women, have lots of fantasies and sexual desires that they keep secret for fear of judgment and social rejection. And in fact, we’ve learned that these fantasies are nothing more than just fantasy. There is no certain link between a person’s fantasies and their actual choices in life. The things a person fantasizes about don’t truly say anything about what, or who that person is, or what he will do in his life.

Masturbation is healthy, and so is sex. So is fear. To a point. The bravest thing a man can do is admit that he is afraid. You’ve done that. And survived it. Now you get to live in a world, where people know that you’re like the rest of us: imperfect, afraid, struggling to keep our heads above water, and desperate that no one notices. It’s not a bad place to live. Now, you don't have to worry about people finding out your secrets, or worry that you can't be yourself. The truth is out, you are human, and afraid to fall on your face, but now you know you're strong enough to pick yourself back up when needed. You can learn about yourself, your hopes and fears, and those of the people around you in the bargain. Welcome to the circus. Come on in, the water’s fine.  

David J. Ley, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Insatiable Wives, Women Who Stray and The Men Who Love Them, available from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

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