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‘My friend makes sexual jokes to me when we’re alone and I’m confused’

‘It’s a kind of gross-out humour with the guys and it’s almost like dirty talk at this stage’

Dear Roe,

I have a friend who makes gay jokes all the time. He used to do it with the whole group but then one of the other guys said it was gross. So now he just does it when it’s me and him. At first, I laughed everything off because that’s what everyone was doing. It was kind of gross-out humour with the guys. But now it’s just me when he says things and it’s almost kind of like dirty talk now. 

I think I’m bisexual and I don’t want anyone knowing this yet. Maybe I’m overreacting but I feel like he can sense it in me and that’s why he still does it with me and not the others. One of the last times he did it, I got a physical reaction to what he was saying and had to go to the toilet. I’ve told him to stop but he doesn’t take me seriously. I don’t know how to get him to stop without seeming strange about it. Lately I just feel guilty about the whole thing.

This is a really important time for you as you explore your sexuality, and no matter what your orientation, it’s important to be surrounded by people who make you feel supported, accepted and celebrated – and right now, this so-called “friend” is not one of those people.


Making homophobic jokes publicly, then being admonished for it only to continue making them privately, shows that this person is immature, disrespectful, and engaging in homophobia. He’s also singling you out and targeting you. This may be because he senses you’re not straight, or just because he thinks you’re vulnerable, but either way, he is harassing you in ways that are making you uncomfortable, and that’s unacceptable.

(It is possible that this person is also bisexual or gay, but by making these “jokes” and presenting sex between men as a disgusting joke, he is still engaging in homophobia; internalised and externalised.)

What concerns me the most is that you are internalising the shame and guilt and secrecy around this dynamic, when you have done nothing wrong. Being targeted by someone’s jokes is not your fault. Being confused about how you feel about these jokes is not your fault. And having a physical reaction to someone making sexual comments to you does not mean that the comments are acceptable, your fault, or that you have consented to them. He is sexually harassing you, and that is not your fault.

I’m also worried that you may start to conflate all these feelings with your sexuality. Instead of experiencing your sexuality as something wonderful and joyous and safe that you can explore at your own pace, this person is making you think your sexuality is something to be joked about, something “gross”, something that is used to violate your boundaries, something to make you feel guilty and shameful. The only thing shameful here is his behaviour.

You deserve to feel safe and respected, and you deserve to experience your sexuality in ways that are consensual, empowering, joyous and fun – and I promise you, there are people out there who will make you feel these things.

You can and will make friends of all orientations who respect you. You will find people who you are attracted to and who you will want to explore dating and sex with, who don’t make you feel uncomfortable and violated and unsafe. You do not need this person and his toxic behaviour in your life right now.

Tell him clearly that what he’s doing is disrespectful, homophobic, and that you’ll no longer hang around with him if he doesn’t have a major overhaul in his attitude and behaviour. Please also tell your other friends what is going on, immediately. They have already set boundaries with him and can help you do the same. (I don’t know what age you are, but if you know this person through school or college or work or a team, you can also tell someone in charge.)

You deserve to feel respected. Please don’t let this person convince you otherwise.