How to Do It

I’m Weirded Out by My Boyfriend’s Porn Fetish

Is this what he wants in our real sex life?

Shirtless man looking at laptop in bed, surrounded by a stylized neon flame outline
Animation by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Roger Wright/Getty Images.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.com.

Dear How to Do It,

My boyfriend and I recently had a casual conversation about our porn preferences, and it was intimate and nice. But one particular preference of his surprised me: He likes cuckold videos. I realize those are pretty common, but I can’t get it out of my head. Does that mean he really wants to do that? Does porn in general align with real-life desires? He does get jealous (and, I guess, turned on by jealousy?), but cuckolding is far beyond what I thought was both of our comfort zones.

—Cuck

Dear Cuck,

What we watch isn’t necessarily what we want to do, but it can provide insight into what turns us on. Porn can also be a catalyst for understanding what we don’t want, which may be part of what you’re experiencing. I think you should consider digging into that—watch some different cuckold videos by yourself and see how they make you feel. Ask yourself if any aspects of the videos are appealing or arousing. Does anything you’re seeing disturb you or contain a hard no? Do your feelings shift as you watch more?

Once you have a grasp on what cuckolding can—and can’t—mean to you, you’re ready to sit down with your boyfriend for another intimate chat. It sounds like you know how to set one of those up for success: Pick a time where you aren’t rushed, are sober, and can hear each other well. That’s the best way to get your answers about your boyfriend’s sexuality and preferences. Find out whether he imagines himself as the cucker, cuckee, or simply enjoys watching cuckoldry scenarios. Ask him if he’s ever fantasized about being cucked (or cuckolding someone). If, after he answers, it still makes sense to ask, broach the subjects of real-life desires and how jealousy comes to bear on both the fantasy and real-life possibility. In the event that your partner does want to act out a cuckolding scene to some degree, you’ll be prepared to share your own boundaries because of that research and introspection. You never know what you’ll find.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m 38 and in an open relationship with my wife for the past six years. She has her thing with a female co-worker, and I’m allowed to find a female companion of my own. It’s been slow-going: In the past six years, I’ve physically met only three people, and nothing’s worked out. Recently, however, I was on a social-media app, struck up a conversation with a lady, and hit it off. She was very attractive, smart, funny, and charming. She said she’s in an open relationship as well—similar ages, similar points of life. Best of all, she only lived a few miles away. When we first met in person for drinks after three weeks of online flirting, we both agreed we had amazing chemistry: We ended up making out in the parking lot very hot and heavy. It was some of the best kissing I’ve ever had. Both of us agreed we had something strong together.

A few days ago she came over for “coffee,” which quickly led to sex. It was, in my opinion, great sex. She seemed to get off multiple times during two hours, she certainly got me off, and she said she’d like to play again. But about an hour after she left, she messaged me, said thank you, that I’m a great guy, but we’re not compatible and she doesn’t want to see me again. This completely shocked me. I thought we had a great connection and compatibility, and it was a 180-degree reversal from when we parted just an hour ago. I responded, told her I respected her decision but asked her why she thinks we are not compatible. She then blocked me. Ever since, I’ve been in a funk. I feel betrayed that this person I let so close into my life just suddenly and unexpectedly pulled the plug on our relationship. It really bothers me that she just blocked me. I would have happily continued to be her friend. I have her cell number, and it’s a small town, so we are bound to cross paths again. Part of me wants to reach out to her and at least see what she feels didn’t work or see if we can work it out, but part of me thinks this is a mistake. Which way should I go?

—Blocked

Dear Blocked,

You didn’t give me the direct quote, so I’m working with less-than-complete information here, but it seems very possible that your compatibly question felt like a search for an opening to talk her out of her decision. She doesn’t owe you an exit interview, or friendship, or open access to message her phone. Definitely do not contact her further. It’d be rude, pushy, and at some point, harassment. If you see her around town, give her space.

You’re on the outer edge of millennial age, but perhaps you’ve heard of “ghosting”: In certain circles, it is considered totally OK to disappear without even the courtesy message you received. The social norms around dating have changed, as they tend to do, and you should probably adjust your post-coital expectations accordingly. Three weeks of digital flirting, a make out, and an afternoon of sex do not add up to you knowing her well enough to guess what happened, nor do they require an explanation. She might have decided the physical intensity was more than her primary relationship could accommodate. She might have realized something about you, post-afterglow, that she didn’t notice in those heated moments. It could be something else entirely. You have to put it out of your mind, because blocking someone is a clear signal that further communication is undesired and would be inappropriate.

In the future, communicate your needs to potential partners before having sex. Try “I’d like to go further with you physically, but only when we have a certain level of commitment” or intimacy or whatever the important piece is for you. Just let them know upfront that you take sex seriously, because that isn’t something you can reasonably expect others to assume. And remember that you are a happily married adult. Crushes happen, as do disappointments, even in the poly scene.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 30-ish woman who has had three kids in five years; the youngest is 8 months old. Currently, my sex drive sucks. Between working and breastfeeding and life, I’m tired and have no sex drive. When I talk myself into having sex with my husband about once every 10 days or so, I enjoy it, but I would like to want to have sex more often. I miss the drive of my early 20s. Is there anything I can do?

—Not Like the Old Days

Dear Not Like the Old Days,

Sexuality tends to change as we grow and age, not to mention after multiple pregnancies. Start by talking to your primary care doctor or obstetrician—they’ll be in a position to evaluate any medical factors like postpartum depression or other potential problems.

If you rule out any greater issues—and it is entirely possible there aren’t any—there are a few options to try. Do you know how to breathe into your diaphragm? Try breathing past your belly and into your pelvic floor. Tense your Kegel muscles when you exhale and relax them when you inhale. Take a page from Betty Dodson and masturbate. Find a place where you can be alone (like the bathtub?) and fantasize. See what you can do to reconnect with your body and stoke your own desire.

Access whatever level of child care help you can afford. If this is a nanny, great! If it’s your parents babysitting for a weekend, awesome. You’ll know who you can rely on to watch your kids while you focus on yourself and your husband for a few hours. If your husband doesn’t know what’s going on with you, tell him. Arrange to spend some time with him doing actively nonsexual touching. Stroke, pet, hug, massage, snuggle, cuddle, whatever feels good. The goal here is to make space for your desire to build.

Most important, be gentle with yourself. One child is a huge life change. Three in five years is enormous. You’re working on top of that, your body is a food source for your youngest, and, well, you don’t have superpowers. The drive of your 20s may not return, but I’m confident you can make space to want sex and enjoy it.

Dear How to Do It,

During my first semester of high school, I was violently attacked in a somewhat sexual nature during a woodworking class. Very long story short: A false rumor that I was gay had moved over from junior high and made it to this new crop of jerks. One day, a classmate, asking me, “Is this how you like it?” took a long piece of lumber and thrust it at my butt, hitting deep enough to cause a great deal of pain and quite a bit of emotional trauma. I immediately left that class and never returned.

That experience turns every intimate moment into confusing fits of anxiety. My first sexual encounter was a hookup, and I didn’t feel particularly safe and felt completely vulnerable but could never really explain why. At 22, I started dating my first girlfriend. The relationship lasted about nine months, and though I physically enjoyed the sex, I never felt comfortable or fully safe (and I felt she manipulated me into the relationship). We broke it off about eight years ago, and I have been single and celibate since then. I haven’t even kissed anyone aside from a few stage kisses as an actor. All of my friends seem to be getting married and having kids, but I can’t even begin to consider dating. I tried the dating sites and apps, but I wasn’t interested in anyone. I know that I need to find my way past this if I ever want to move forward and have a family. I’ve been in therapy since I was a little kid and that hasn’t really helped me with this issue. I’ve been treated for PTSD and anxiety, but that has only scratched the surface. There were never consequences for the guy who attacked me or the teacher, so there wasn’t closure or a sense of safety. Is this the job of a sex therapist? The right partner? How do I move on?

—Moving Forward

Dear Moving Forward,

This sounds very stressful, and I’m sorry you’re going through it. You say the assault was of a “somewhat sexual nature,” but it sounds like clear sexual assault. I worry you’re still minimizing it.

Were you successfully treated for PTSD, or simply treated? Sometimes different therapies work for different people. How’s your relationship with your therapist? Have you been seeing the same one since you were a kid? Have you tried a few different people, with different specialties? If it’s difficult for you to build a rapport with someone, you might be better off working through this with the person you’re already seeing. But if you’ve been stagnant with your current provider, it could be a good time to start searching for someone who specializes in sexuality and can help you work through this more directly.

The right partner might help, too, but I want to tell you a story first. One time, in the throes of PTSD, I hooked up with an attractive man. We made out, and then he penetrated me. Instead of having an orgasm, I vomited. I had a panic attack on his penis. Fortunately, he’s sturdy and—years later—seems untraumatized, but that was a lot to spring on a new sexual partner. So I caution you to remember it isn’t a partner’s job to fix you, to have the right therapist already in place before you start anything romantic or sexual with someone, and to disclose as much as you’re able to so your partner isn’t surprised if things get wacky.

As for finding a partner, dating apps aren’t for everyone, and you might have a better experience getting out into the world and meeting people in real life—when you’re ready.

—Stoya