Ashera is a Marriage and Family Therapist with an extensive background in sexual health education. You can ask her stuff anonymously and she won’t get weirded out. Seriously, try her. Send your queries through our anonymous contact form here.

Dear Smashera,

My entire life men have never taken me seriously or loved me but have instead given me crass sexual come-ons and treated me in a derogatory and sexual-only way. This was true back in my teen years and even now as a woman in my late 30s who is currently in a loveless marriage of convenience with a man whose heart has always belonged to an ex.

Mind you, nothing about me is overly sexual in the way I look, dress, talk, or act. I’m not drop dead gorgeous and don’t walk around in tight clothes and high heels while sucking on lollipops and winking at guys. I actually have a big heart and all I ever wanted in life was to be loved, but no man has ever said the words “I love you” to me ever in my life. The thing is, now at the age of 39, I still get trashy come-ons from men, both in person and online, from men I know well and don’t know well. I get offers to have affairs, guys begging to “fuck the shit out of me,” and a good amount of “dick pics,” but nothing implying these men take me seriously as a person.

Yes, it’s shameful but I still long for real “love” someday and I sometimes consider leaving my loveless marriage to pursue something more “real.” But it seems I’m somehow giving off crass sexual vibes but not “take-me-seriously” vibes and it worries me. The other issue is that the same men who treat me in such a cheap way, have often turned around a week later and been in a “serious” relationship with other women and confessing their love and commitment. Why are other women worthy of love and commitment but I’m only worthy of cheap come-ons and dick pics?

– Fuckable But Not Lovable?

Dear Fuckable,

I have a billion-dollar idea: an app that instills a bit of self-control in the person holding the phone. We would have far less trolling, dickpic’ing, and ex-texting, and the world may be better for it. Until one of my ultra-smart friends creates that app (and cuts me a check for it), it’s going to take more aggressive boundary-setting and maintaining for us all.

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As you’ve probably noticed, we’re in the midst of a giant cultural shift and it’s changing how people interact. There are metric crap-tons of articles and books examining “hookup culture,” and creepy messages are the nuclear fallout from that. The cyber catcall of the dick pic and come-on is something that nearly every woman with internet access is experiencing. I have witnessed (and tbh participated in) women kvetching about lecherous messages from randos and acquaintances alike. So, if it’s any comfort, it’s not just you. We’re in this together, sister.

I’m curious about how you see yourself. In your message to me, I notice a theme of feeling inadequate or maybe just a general lack of confidence. I don’t think that you’re doing anything to “invite” the unwanted attention you’ve describe. Predatory people have a real knack for picking up on insecurities and will try to push the boundaries of others when they think they can get away with it. How do you treat these come-ons? If you laugh it off when people violate your boundaries, they’ll learn that they can do it again (and they will).

If it feels safe, there are lots of things that you can do to diffuse these situations and let them know that they’re being rude AF. Simply blocking their number/profile online is a good option. In person, a well-placed audible, “excuse me?” might do the trick. I’m not suggesting that you put yourself in a dangerous situation or post screenshots of their tackiness for the world to see. Don’t get yourself in trouble. Deep down, you know that you are worth more, otherwise you wouldn’t have written me.

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Remember, you don’t have to take any shit.

One of my ultra-favorite resources, books, and writers is Akirah Robinson. Her book, Respected, helps people cultivate their sense of self-worth and build healthier relationships in the long run. It’s a handy tool to discover what a mutually respectful relationship would feel like for you. Cultivating self-love and confidence in yourself can help you attract the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with.

I’m concerned with your self-reported loveless marriage. Does your husband know that this feels loveless to you? It will take some soul-searching and a lot of personal work, but it’s important to understand how you experience love. Enter Gary Chapman’s writing on The 5 Love Languages to save the day. We all have different ways that we show a person that we’re loving all up on them and feeling loved in return. If one partner needs to hear words of affirmation, but their partner shows it through touch, the messages sent and received are incongruent.

As far as some people being more “worthy” of love than others? I don’t think that worthiness has much to do with it. While we have never met, I want you to know that you are 100% loveable. I fully believe that each and every person deserves love and has inherent worth and dignity, and you are no exception. No matter what you decide to do with your marriage, I sincerely hope that one day you find yourself in a relationship where you know that you’re adored.

Kisses,
Smashera