How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t worry, we won’t use names.
Dear How to Do It,
I live with my partner of 10 years in a happy, committed relationship. My partner is a fantastic person and very considerate and giving in bed. So what’s the problem? I desperately want to have sex with other people. Every time we have sex or I masturbate I think only of other people. Everywhere I go I get crushes: subway passengers, my bank teller, co-workers, the gamut. I can’t imagine a better partner in life for myself and I really don’t want to break up over this, but I also know that suggesting we open up the relationship would be devastating. I should have known this was going to be a problem before, because even in the beginning it wasn’t his physical appearance that attracted me to him, but we fell in love anyway and have now built a life together. How do I manage this? It’s not going away, and it feels like I’m cheating.
—Eyes for All
Dear Eyes for All,
There’s enough love in this one-paragraph summary of your relationship to make me feel comfortable in being completely earnest for a moment: You touched me. You’ve been putting up with an unsatisfying sex life for the sake of your partner, whom you love so much that by merely facing the reality of your desire, you feel unfaithful. Truly, this sounds like something to hold on to.
But I’m not surprised that your wandering eye is not going away, nor do I think it will. There’s no meeting halfway here, lest you actually cheat. Our bodies have a way of deciding these things for us, even when we think we know better. You’re going to have to talk to him about how you feel, and why you aren’t satisfied. It will hurt him, but I suspect that allowing things to continue the way they are much longer will hurt him even more in the long run if your relationship is as emotionally solid as you portray.
It’s rare to find a partner who can fulfill your every need. And it’s not a contradiction or even particularly uncommon (especially after 10 years) that you find yourself both wanting to continue this loving relationship and extracting little sexual satisfaction from it. It sucks, but you can manage. You can remain in your state of permanent heat and make best friends with porn (porn that will never show up to your tuba recital or lie about loving your cooking), or you can do what you clearly need to do and have the conversation about opening up your relationship.
It will require patience, sensitivity, and flexibility—all of which I’m fairly certain you possess. I’m not sure why the suggestion should be devastating. In fact, if he is so considerate and giving, (now I’m stage whispering) he probably already knows something is up. He may already be expecting such a discussion. He may actually have similar feelings, as it’s no fun for an empath to have sex with someone who isn’t having fun. Or maybe it will be a genuine shock. Whatever the case, tread lightly as you embark on this necessary journey toward the great sex that you deserve.
Dear How to Do It,
I have an embarrassing question I can’t ask friends, and I need your help. I’m a woman in my mid-20s, and I’ve never had a boyfriend before. Sex has never been on the table for me. However, recently, there have been some changes in my life and it looks like I might have a boyfriend in the near future. There’s one problem: I have a giant hemorrhoid on my ass.
It’s an external hemorrhoid I’ve had for at least seven years. I’ve learned to live with it at this point, and it doesn’t hurt me much at all. It’s a protruding tab of skin a little bit bigger than a jellybean. It’s unfortunately conspicuous enough that you will definitely see it if you’re looking … there.
I could get surgery to take it off, but it would take me out of work for at least three days. It’s also expensive and, from what I’ve heard, extremely painful. In the event me and this future boyfriend have sex for the first time, will this protruding piece tab of skin be a deal-breaker? Do people consider it disgusting? Should I take the time off work and spend the money to get it removed so I don’t lose the first boyfriend before I have him?
Dear Small Issue,
I’ll tell you what: Anyone who could consider something as common and insignificant as a hemorrhoid disgusting isn’t worth sleeping with. So congratulations, what you have hanging off your butt is actually a little barometer. It allows you to gauge reactions to it and judge accordingly, filtering out those unworthy of said butt. To completely pervert the words (but not general sentiment) of Maya Angelou: When someone shows you who they are in relation to your hemorrhoid, believe them the first time.
But it’s unlikely that a dude would reject you for a hemorrhoid, anyway. Boners are generally very forgiving. I have found that when guys want to bang, they want to bang—ain’t no mountain high, ain’t no valley low, ain’t no protrusion pulsating enough, baby. You portray your hemorrhoid as visible from even a cursory glance, but it’s not like it’s cascading from your labia or in possession of a larynx, so it’s not going to get in the way or literally call attention to itself or anything. If you’re too self-conscious about it to enjoy butt stuff, don’t do butt stuff (as a butt-stuff enthusiast, though, I hope it won’t stop you from experimenting down the road). If you just keep your sex front-facing, then your hemorrhoid is none of his worry anyway.
Since we’re sharing, I’ll let you in on something: I have one, too. Have for years. It’s smaller than a jellybean, but when it pushed out a few years ago, like some little groundhog under my skin, I became a bit self-conscious about it. Giving up butt stuff is not an option for me (I’m too much of a hedonist) and for at least a year, every time it came up that a guy wanted to do something with my ass, I’d worry that he’d get turned off and stop. The thought still creeps up into my mind from time to time. But guess what? To my knowledge, it’s never stopped anyone. Guys dive in with zest. Men are usually simple, and that can be frustrating and debilitating in many contexts, so please appreciate this rare instance when male simplicity works to your benefit.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a man in my early 30s and only recently came out as gay after a long-term relationship with a woman. I missed out on dating and hookups in my 20s, and I honestly did not expect much in the way of opportunity from all the apps given my lack of experience and average looks. To my complete astonishment, my first hookup experience after coming out was with a much younger guy who is also a dead ringer for late-1990s/early-2000s television heartthrob Erik von Detten. (Yes, this really happened.)
That encounter absolutely confirmed my sexual attraction toward guys, but there is one major problem: I was so freaked out that I landed my dream hookup the first time that I couldn’t really focus. Every few seconds during sex I would look at Erik and think, “Oh my God, is this happening? I can’t believe this is happening.” After a half-hour, I wasn’t able to come and the guy had to leave. I’m really disappointed I didn’t get to have the mind-blowing orgasm with the doppelgänger of my boyhood crush that I hoped would happen, and I may never get the chance to see this guy again. What is wrong with me?
—Erik von Didn’t
Dear Erik von Didn’t,
Nothing is wrong with you! I think this is fairly common—I’ve certainly felt it—so much so that there should be sex-oriented truism similar to, “Never meet your heroes.” Something along the lines of: Never meet a doppelgänger of your boyhood crush who had memorable roles in Days of Our Lives, The Princess Diaries, and the Chuck Norris buddy-dog-cop flick Top Dog.
So early into your homo-frolicking you’ve been handed a prime example of fantasy not matching reality. Please keep this in mind going forward—sex so rarely turns out to be how we envisioned it. That can be overwhelming, but it’s also part of what’s awesome about it. It exists in its own universe where things we hold dear during our fully conscious state like logic and time don’t always apply or behave similarly.
I wonder how much this guy attempted to help you get off. Giving you only a half-hour is not the sign of a particularly generous lover. Maybe he was bad at giving head or triggering your prostate or whatever. But maybe he was great and you were just so distracted by how attracted to him you were. That happens, and it may happen again. So much of sex—particularly of the man-on-man variety—requires concentration on relaxing. It’s paradoxical that relaxing requires effort, but here we are, weird and human.
But I think mostly, it’s just that you’re new. The perpetual prospect of dick can be a very overwhelming thing. For now, it might suit you to hook up with guys that aren’t so physically distracting? You just need to work on your comfort level. There are a lot of ways to go about working through this, and all of them involve getting naked with another dude. What a fantastic problem to have to conquer.
Dear How to Do It,
My ex-boyfriend and I shared an iPad, and I took it in the “divorce.” It was logged into his personal iCloud account and I never bothered to log out. Recently I discovered that his photo stream seems to load every picture he takes with his phone automatically onto the iPad. And the man has been taking photos—of him having sex, in particular. He seems to have leaned into a particular fetish/type of play that I never took to, and I’m genuinely happy for him. (You can probably guess by that last sentence that I didn’t immediately delete the photos and indulged my curiosity for a few minutes before I stopped. Bad, I know.) The thing is, we’re still friends, and we have a beer or two regularly. How unwise is it to lightheartedly mention this, just to clear the air? He’s not shy about talking about his sex life, and I’m tempted next time to say, “I know, I … saw.”
Let’s not gloss over your invasion of his privacy: It is bad, the extent to which I’m not sure you know. I am not shy about talking about my sex life (look around this place!), but I sure as hell don’t want you looking at pictures of me naked and then some without my permission. Sign out of that iCloud immediately or the sex pictures will keep rolling in and your innocent glances become invasive spying or worse.
Should you mention this to your ex? I don’t know why you would! That you came upon these pictures by accident makes this a perfect what-he-doesn’t-know-won’t-hurt-him scenario. I guess if you run out discussion topics and literally cannot find it within yourself to form words that aren’t, “With my own eyes, I saw evidence of your foray into fetish sex,” go for it. But you’d be taking a risk there and threatening your bond over something that at least began as an innocent mistake. I don’t see what you’d gain from a discussion on the matter, but go ahead and tempt fate/a drink being thrown in your face if you’re really feeling adventurous.