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Each of us is free to identify however we wish, and to apply the labels "identity" and/or "orientation" however we please.

At a dinner party, a straight man put a question to my boyfriend and me. He assumed that we, being gay men, would have an answer. We did not. So what happens to one if one has to fart while one is wearing a butt plug?

Gays Are Simply Stumped, Yes And Sincerely So

If one is wearing a butt plug ("wear: to carry or to have on the body or about the person as a covering, ornament or the like"), GASSYASS, then one may pass gas, as one is wont to do, because a butt plug worn as a hat or a brooch or an epaulet presents no impediment. But if one has fully inserted the bulbous end of the butt plug into one's rectal cavity, and one's sphincter muscles are gripping the neck of the butt plug, as they are wont to do, thereby ensuring that the bulbous end remains lodged in the rectal cavity while the flared base remains outside, what would then happen if one attempted to pass gas? The force of the gas would either dislodge one's butt plug, sending it flying across one's room, or, if one's butt plug failed to dislodge, cause one to simply explode.

A friend who is an emergency-room physician told me about removing something — I can't remember what — from a gentleman's ass. My immediate response was to ask whether he had the flared-base talk with the gentleman. His response? "What are you talking about?" I explained that if the gentleman had used a butt toy with a flared base, he wouldn't have been in the circumstances that brought him to the hospital. My partner is a physician and has treated patients with anal "encumbrances." He gives the flared-base advice to anyone who seems like they might benefit from it — but he tells me this isn't something they go over in med school. You should use your column to bring this to the attention of medical-school administrators.

Conscience Cleared

I am sharing your letter in the hopes that doctors all over the world incorporate your advice into their practice. If they don't, well, then we will just have to conclude that flared-base advice isn't given to patients because doctors secretly enjoy digging various foreign objects out of the variable rectums of various gentlemen.

I'm a 19-year-old bisexual male. I've been in a relationship with a girl who has a low sex drive, so we are in an open relationship and I occasionally have sex with guys. I really liked the last guy I got with and enjoyed having sex with him a lot. The problem was, I couldn't get hard. Is the problem that I'm still trying to figure out who I am and what I want? Or could it be guilt, even though my girlfriend is OK with it?

Bisexually Oriented Nervously Experiencing Reversal

You say you "occasionally have sex with guys," BONER, which means this guy isn't your first. He's just the first guy — perhaps the first person — that you couldn't get hard with. Let me guess: This has never happened to you before. Of course it hasn't — you're 19. But it happens to every guy sooner or later, and you're much likelier to attach some deeper meaning to it the first time it happens. Don't waste your time. Sometimes a soft dick is just a soft dick. If it keeps happening, you may have a problem. But if you obsess about an isolated incident — perhaps brought on by nerves (you liked this guy, right?) — you run the risk of creating a problem.

As I was reading the letters in the last Savage Love, it occurred to me that the debate over polyamory as a "sexual orientation" is primarily one of definitions. Some folks who are poly see that as just as "core" to their nature as their gender preference. Therefore, I propose the following framework. We all have a sexual identity composed of four components:

1. Our gender identity ranging from cis to trans.
2. Our sexual orientation ranging from homo to hetero.
3. Our sexual exclusivity ranging from purely monogamous to purely polyamorous.
4. Our sexual interest ranging from asexual to highly sexual.

In my view, these four components are things that we are rather than things that we choose. While it is possible to choose a lifestyle that deviates from one's sexual identity, doing so entails stress, cognitive dissonance and some degree of self-loathing. Like all conceptual frameworks, this one is not necessarily complete. It fails to include sexual interest in animals, particular age groups, or any of several hundred kinks, all of which seem to be more identity than choice. That said, I do think there is something universally applicable in the four-component scheme.

Just My Thoughts

I like your model, but at a certain point, debates about sexual identity, gender identity, sexual orientation and sexual interest take on the flavor of those how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin debates that obsessed theologians in the Middle Ages.

For the record: Each of us is free to identify however we wish, and to apply the labels "identity" and/or "orientation" however we please. If a particular person isn't trying to take anything away from you, then the fact that the person holds slightly differing views on identity or orientation isn't an enormous deal, is it? And, in my opinion, those who spend time debating, classifying, and unpacking sex and identity run a very real risk of disappearing up their own ass in a puff of santorum. Which is my way of saying ...

No, I won't be giving a column over to letters from buttsore people who feel that D/s is their sexual orientation, despite the fact that last week I suggested that, from my point of view, D/s is a sexual identity, not an orientation, and I gave a column to angry poly folks so it's only fair and blah blah blah.

Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.

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