Q: My new boyfriend told me he sometimes likes to dress up in women’s lingerie, and he wants to share this with me as part of our sex life. I’m not sure I can deal with this. It doesn’t seem manly, and I am not attracted to women. What if I don’t like it? What if I am unattracted to him afterward? I’m scared. What should I do?
A: First of all, you should know that there is a difference between a man who occasionally enjoys dressing in lingerie because he finds it fun and erotic, and a man who does so because he feels he should have been born female or because he fetishizes these objects.
Your task, as you decide whether or not to stay in this relationship, is to determine which kind of man he is and whether or not either is acceptable to you.
In the bedroom, many people try on other identities. This is a perfectly normal part of lovemaking. Men may fantasize about indulging their feminine side while women fantasize about being the aggressor. This can go along with wearing costumes or some sort of clothing usually associated with the opposite sex. It’s all part of the fun and excitement.
If your boyfriend wears lingerie on occasion because he has an active fantasy life and is comfortable expressing it, you could be in for a fun and exciting time. He may be a wonderful lover who is comfortable with many kinds of sex.
So if you really care about this man, you might give it a whirl. There’s a good chance that, despite your apprehension, part of you wants to try some variety. If so, go ahead.
Try not to be scared of your own sexual excitement. You may be held back by your own conflict at being aroused by something out of the ordinary. Some women — and men, for that matter — feel that any sex not done in the missionary position is wrong or scary.
But there are some men for whom an interest in lingerie is more intense. It might be a manifestation of his yearning to be a woman or his conviction that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body.
If, for example, your boyfriend were to continue down this road — wanting to wear women’s clothing all of the time, to grow breasts, and to increasingly live in the world as a woman — he is probably a transsexual.
Another possibility is that he has a fetish. Some people get excited about some kind of object, like lingerie or shoes, and cannot get excited without the object. The need for this item can hinder a more varied sexual relationship.
At this point, your boyfriend may not be revealing the full extent of his sexual secrets to you. For example, he might tell you he “only occasionally” wears lingerie when he’s actually testing the waters to see if you might be accepting of more extreme behavior.
If you are really put off by his requests, or they escalate to a point where you are, you must ask yourself whether you feel deeply enough about him to continue the relationship.
Be open-minded, but don’t force yourself to experiment. Yes, there is a risk you won’t be attracted to him after you share his fantasy. Like many other factors that doom a relationship, he may just not be the guy for you.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: This is one of those cases where you need to follow the beat of your own drummer. You may find your new boyfriend’s unusual sexual request to be worth trying, or it might feel extremely uncomfortable. As always, the more knowledge you possess, the more armed you will be to make an informed decision.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her new book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was recently published by Riverhead Books. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2005 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.