Dear Prudence

The Snore of Love

My wife hates sex so much she’d rather be asleep when we do it.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My wife hates sex. Over the years, her libido has gradually faded to nothing and she now finds even the thought of intercourse unpleasant. She loves me and tries to accommodate my desires out of a sense of obligation, but she would rather be doing almost anything else, including household chores. She would prefer a completely sexless marriage. We’ve tried everything we can think of to rekindle her interest and make sex more enjoyable, but nothing seems to work. I recently made a joke, just an off-color remark intended to make light of a frustrating situation, that the one thing we hadn’t tried was “slipping her a mickey.” She responded by taking this seriously. She takes a prescription sleep aid and is confident she could sleep through sex after taking it. She says she’s comfortable with the idea of me having sex with her while she was out, so long as she consented beforehand. Initially, I rejected the idea as creepy and weird but as my frustration grows, I’m beginning to reconsider. I’m not particularly excited by the thought of an unconscious partner but I’m wondering if we shouldn’t at least give it a try. I’m having difficulty mentally and emotionally sorting this out. Does it make me a creep for even considering it? What’s your perspective?

—The Sandman Cometh

Dear Sandman,
You are not a creep for considering your wife’s offer to let you come while she’s gone. Given your situation, I would understand if you, like the Jason Biggs character in American Pie, turned to baked goods for succor. We can thank Tiger Woods’ extramarital wanderings for introducing “Ambien sex” to the lexicon. Apparently this is a real thing, and throw a glass of wine into the mix and it’s a rutting, grunting thing. I wouldn’t know, because every time I take an Ambien about 10 minutes later I drop my book, and when I wake up the next morning my husband does not have a look of devilish satisfaction on his face. You say you and your wife have tried everything to rekindle the passion, but you do not say that your wife has had a thorough medical check. Something as simple as anemia or certain medications (such as antidepressants, or even the pill) can be libido killers. If she hasn’t already, your wife should see her gynecologist for a work up, and if necessary she should get a referral for someone with expertise in sexual dysfunction. Too often I hear from people whose partner—a previously enthusiastic sexual partner—declares being done with all that, leaving a spouse who does not want to cheat facing possible decades of celibacy. But bowing out of physical intimacy unilaterally changes the terms of the marriage, and the partner left behind is right to say that puts the entire relationship in jeopardy. But let’s deal with your immediate next move. I say you two should go ahead and have pharmacologically assisted sex, but you need to tweak your understanding of what’s being contemplated. This shouldn’t seem like an exploration of necrophilia on your part, but an episode of sexual craziness by both of you. Having a wild encounter with your wife might wake her up to the idea that there’s still a sexual being inside her waiting to be released.


Dear Prudence,
In January, I took a job working for a small international office of a state-owned Russian corporation. I love the job, which is rewarding, interesting, and extremely well-paid, and I enjoy travelling several times a year to Russia as part of the role. However, my wife and I are watching events in the Ukraine with increasing concern. She said to me the other day that she was uncomfortable with my working for the Russians and would like me to consider quitting and moving to another company. There are plenty of other jobs, but I’m unlikely to find one as well paid. My wife is newly pregnant and planning to stop working for a while in a few months. Nonetheless, I understand her sentiment and have been worrying about this myself recently. What’s your advice?

—Not Putin’s Friend

Dear Not,
It’s good you’re not Putin’s friend. As Masha Gessen writes, he is now a dictator, one who presides over a thoroughly corrupt government, who has dismantled both free press and free elections, engaged in killing, jailing, or exiling his opponents, and now he’s invaded Ukraine. Since he is the government, and since you work for a state-owned business, you’ve got one lousy boss. However, working for the Russians is not considered on the same scale as being employed by the Iranians, and at this point it’s unlikely to be harmful to your career. But things are not trending in a positive direction vis-à-vis Russia’s reputation. The decision about whether or not to continue working at this job, which is intellectually and financially fulfilling, could eventually be made for you if threats of increased sanctions eventually hit your firm. You and your wife are increasingly uneasy about your employment, and you say there are plenty of opportunities in your field. That means you have the time to look at your own pace, and I think you should. Even if you end up having to take a pay cut, that might be a small price for peace of mind.


Dear Prudence,
I work in a staff position at a major research university. To earn a little extra money, I freelance edit theses and dissertations for graduate students. Several times my clients have asked me to perform services that go beyond the standard technical editing realm. One doctoral student handed me raw data from a survey and said, “I’ve gone as far as I can go; the rest is up to you.” I was shocked that she expected me to analyze her data and write the dissertation. I ended that relationship, explaining that I was not expert in her field. In other situations, I’ve seen students plagiarize entire paragraphs. I have gently noted my concerns to the students in these cases. In situations of breach of academic integrity, is my allegiance to my client (or former client!), or should I inform the committee chair?

—Punctuation Maven

Dear Maven,
Since this is a moonlighting gig, you are in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose your clients. So pick people who are not asking you to abet academic fraud. I hope the student who expected you to analyze her data and figure out what her thesis was all about is not now running around insisting people call her “Dr.” As for the plagiarists—don’t be gentle. A U.S. senate candidate from Montana recently had to withdraw from the race after a scandal about his plagiarizing a paper for his master’s degree. When you see plagiarism, you should point it out and explain if such violations are caught—and they are more likely to be in the age of Google than ever before—it could cost them their academic careers. You should check your school’s honor code to see what your obligation is in such a situation. It might be that you have to tell your clients that not only will you refuse to work with them if they decline to make the necessary changes, but should they end up submitting work not their own you are required to report such violations to their committee chairs. This tough stance will not make you the most popular thesis editor, but it will make you a valuable one.


Dear Prudie,
My husband and I have tried hard not to reinforce negative gender stereotypes with our boys. Our 4-year-old is “all boy” for the most part (trucks, superheroes, etc.) and we’ve tried to balance some of that by making sure to not say what is “for boys” and what is “for girls.” Now, though, he’s testing our resolve. He (and I) love Frozen. The pro-female power message is one I approve of, and who doesn’t love the music? Now, he wants to be Queen Elsa for Halloween. I imagined making a blue pantsuit, but he really wants the blue princess dress. I don’t know what to do here. Will he be teased? Will the other boys wish they had been allowed to wear it, too? Help!

—He Wants to Be a Queen

Dear Wants,
I hope your “all boy” boy never outgrows his admiration for strong women. I don’t want to read too much into this letter, but maybe the world really is changing when a little guy who’s into trucks has no truck with the idea that he can’t dress up as his favorite queen. How perfect that he’s chosen a character who gains confidence in her powers, because if your son gets mocked for his costume, he’s going to need some Elsa-like resolve. (And let’s take this moment to note that Elsa is voiced by Idina Menzel, who didn’t let it bother her that her name was magnificently mangled at the Oscars by John Travolta.) You can tell your son that you will make the costume he wants. Although he is only 4, you do need to prepare him for the possibility some people will say a boy can’t dress as a queen. You can tell him he should just laugh and say they’re wrong, because here he is! If he does come home deflated by such flak (and let’s hope he comes home soaring), what a great opportunity for you two to sing the movie’s self-actualization anthem, “Let It Go.


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