How to Do It

My Husband’s Terrible Farts Are Ruining Our Sex Life

What should I do?

A woman scrunches up her nose with neon lights in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by innovatedcaptures/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.com. Don’t worry, we won’t use names.

Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I have been together for almost two decades and we still are very much in love. Two years ago he had a serious medical issue, which has now been resolved for the most part. The only remaining issue is his flatulence. He constantly has eye-watering gas, and I find myself not wanting to be in the same room as it’s so noxious smelling. I love him, but our intimacy is shriveling up and dying because I feel like I’m always under chemical attack. He says he can’t tell when it will happen so he can’t leave the room. He’s aware of the problem, he’s tried avoiding foods, talked to his doctor, etc., but nothing is working! I’ve installed air purifiers, but they don’t act instantly and it’s hard to stay in the mood when it smells like something died under the bed. What can I do?

—Noble Gas

Dear Noble Gas,

I’m electing to take this question seriously, despite my suspicion that it’s my own boyfriend writing in to, uh, air out old grievances in a new forum.

But wow what a pickle. Sorry to hear that your situation stinks so much (and so often). I don’t really think there is much you can do sexually to bypass this besides taking up fart fetishism, and I’m not sure how you teach yourself that (a Pavlovian sort of exposure to erotic imagery every time your man lets one fly?). God, how simple your life would be if you were innately such a fetishist. Everything you suspected about your compatibility with your partner—and more—would be confirmed silently (and deadly).

Fart jokes aside, I think this is less a sex problem than a physiological problem (as your perpetually tearing-up eyes would seem to confirm). You’re never gonna get to the front if you can’t fix the back, ya know? Your sex life is  suffocating in your husband’s Dutch oven. You say,
“Nothing is working,” but have you truly tried everything? Did he really impress upon his doctor how bad the problem is, or seek a specialist? I’ve seen a lot of anecdotal reports of reduced gas emissions with daily ingestion of psyllium husk fiber, although sometimes the contrary is true (I heard this from a, uh, friend …). Some people find probiotics like yogurt help with farting, and there’s also the option of taking activated charcoal caplets. (The latter option, I’ll note, doesn’t have a ton of science backing its effectiveness in this area, and it can interact with drugs, so please have your husband talk to his doctor before scarfing down a bag of briquettes.) There’s a ton of suggested yoga on the internet as well to help fight the farts, so you can have him give that a whirl, too.

Otherwise, I suggest you figure out a way to strategically ventilate—perhaps some kind of seat on a windowsill that he can sit in, so that the gas flows directly outside. It isn’t ideal, but neither is living life in a sulfuric haze.

Dear How to Do It,

I am a 36-year-old guy married for two years. My wife and I have a decent sex life. The concern I have is more on my side. I have observed for some time that I am ejaculating during sex earlier than I used to. This worries me for two reasons: I am not sure I am satisfying my wife’s sexual needs—when I ask her, she says she is OK—and I’m also not enjoying the sex. I’m getting to the destination without enjoying the journey. Physically I am similar to before, so I’m not sure that’s the problem. Is it in in my head? I have tried to think of something else during sex to last longer, but it does not help or, worse, makes me lose my erection. I have asked my wife to take it slow—we usually start with her on top; she’s pregnant at the moment—but she doesn’t really. We’ve tried different positions and incorporating toys, but they tend to fall by the wayside. I’m coming two or three minutes into penetration. What do you think is wrong, and how do I fix it?

—Just a Minute

Dear Just a Minute,

Typically when we talk about premature ejaculation, we’re talking about sex that lasts under a minute, so you don’t quite qualify for that if your reporting on your hang time is accurate. But because you’ve noticed a shift and can’t put your finger on why, this is something you should probably explore with your doctor, as there are a host of potential reasons for it, ranging from psychological (anxiety, depression, even worrying about the premature ejaculation itself) to biological (hormonal fluctuations, brain chemistry changes, prostate/urethral issues). I couldn’t begin to tell you what’s actually going on with you, but a doctor sure could.

For now, the most immediate fix is in your own hands. You say that you’re getting to the destination without enjoying the journey, so let me see your cliché and raise you one: You’re putting all of your eggs in the basket of penetrative sex. Make it your business to enjoy the journey while making stops along the way to the lands of oral and manual sex. Try getting into nipples and, what the hell, feet. Question the notion that intercourse is the end-all, be-all with your mind and your body.

It’s responsible of you as a partner to worry about whether your wife is satisfied, but you have no choice but to take her word for it here. Assume you’re doing great unless you hear otherwise, and if she’s somehow signaling beyond words that she isn’t, well, you’re just going to have to experiment and find a way to please her so that she is. It’s perfectly reasonable for you to keep going with your mouth when your dick gives out. It’s also possible that she likes quick sex? I think it’s hot when guys come quickly. It means they’re really into it, and you better believe that if they come before I do, I’m going to make it my business to get mine anyway. Given the choice of a responsive penis and an effectively apathetic one that takes hours to climax, I’ll take the former every damn time.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a bi woman in my mid-20s who just got an IUD removed a few months ago after four years with it. Right around the time I got the IUD—I swear this is relevant information!—I was coming to terms with my bisexuality and began dating women exclusively to explore this new area of my life. I met some amazing women and had a lot of fun, but I just couldn’t get into sex for the life of me, no matter how much I wanted to. This caused a lot of distress (Am I not really bi? Do I need a dick to be excited sexually? I really spiraled) and the lack of sex was ultimately the cause of a few breakups.

Here’s the thing: A month after I got my IUD removed, my libido came rushing back in full force, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m finding myself worried that the traumatic sexual experiences with women and self-blame for those experiences will ruin my future attempts. I love being bi and don’t want to just go back to dating only men because it’s comfortable and not tied to painful memories. I know the simple answer is to just get out there and go for it, but I’m terrified. Do you have any advice for getting past psychological hang-ups with sex?

—Trouble With Ladies

Dear Trouble With Ladies,

It sounds to me like you need to relax.
Pressuring yourself into having experiences with women could very well cause further trauma or at least yield awkward situations that will have you wishing you hadn’t bothered. It’s OK if you take a momentary breather—you’re still bi! It’s not a zero-sum game where a higher concentration of male partners at a given point in time will result in your bi license being revoked; this is not a tits-for-tat situation. You worry about going back to dating only men because it’s comfortable, but dating should be comfortable. You aren’t filling quotas; you’re living your life. Listen to your body, and let it dictate your journey.

If you want to challenge yourself and go out with women, I’d suggest taking it slow and letting them know that you’re doing so upfront. I suspect you’ll meet plenty who are sympathetic to your situation and who are willing to take it slow with you. I’ve found that when psychological hang-ups obstruct sexual pleasure, there’s nothing better than an understanding, patient partner to help me get over them and see that, as far as they are concerned, this is all no big deal. You may need one hell of a woman, then, to get you back into women, but that works out for you too because it means you won’t be settling. Win-win.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 40-year-old male, with little stress in my life—good career and finances, no kids or family drama, no health issues—who recently started dating the woman I have wanted to meet for the past four years. While she has issues—suffers from anxiety and depression, drug habit I could live without—I’m very happy with her. I have plenty of my own issues, so who am I to judge? Neither of us is concerned with ever having children or getting married. I just want a long-term loving relationship with someone I adore, and I really think it’s her.

The problem is that now that I have what I wanted, I’m getting into my own head. Half the time when we have sex, everything is fine, and we are both satisfied. The other half of the time I start worrying about my abilities, or whether she’s worth my time, or how she feels about me, and my erection goes away, with very little chance of a return. When this happens, she becomes very frustrated but never says anything. I had the same crisis of confidence and issues in my early 20s after a bad breakup, and some sessions with a hypnotherapist worked, so I tried that again, but the therapy only worked for a little while (whereas in my 20s it lasted years). Using marijuana works pretty well (it’s legal where I live), but I don’t want to become dependent on outside stimuli to handle my anxiety. We’ve only been together for two months—why am I sweating myself and everything else so much? Should I try therapy? It’s all mental, not physical. Why can’t I just relax and enjoy myself like I did with casual dates for the past many years? I never get overly anxious or nervous at any other time in my life—why just with this one woman?

—In Your Head

Dear In Your Head,

I don’t think there’s a cure-all here, but a system of small things you can do to make your sex better. The first is to be more present during sex. Do you meditate? The form of meditation I like involves training my mind to be as blank as possible. A thought comes in, I acknowledge it, and I push it out. Over and over. It takes practice, but the result is a terrific method of concentration and the ability to manage what once seemed like uncontrollable thoughts. I think you should try this so that you can push out all these ideas that have no business in your brain during sex. Laugh at me for sounding woo-woo (I can take it), but you need a more mindful approach to sex.

I also suggest you look into some help with your wood. I know you said that this is all mental and not physical, but a small dosage of E.D. medication and/or a cock ring could give you a little extra help when your mind does slip. Your boner is going to largely depend on your mind, which means even if you were eating from a trough of sildenafil, if your head isn’t in the game, your dick isn’t going to be either. So just think of it as a little safety net. You’re at the age when one is typically useful.

Of course, you wondering if this woman is “worth your time” during sex, after only two months, signals that she may not be. Anxiety and depression are one thing, but do you really want to be dealing with a drug habit at 40? That’s not the kind of thing that gets better over time without considerable effort. It’s tempting to wonder aloud if you have commitment issues, since your penis is not cooperating with the woman of your dreams when it did with women you didn’t think twice about before, but it seems to me like the particulars here beget more particulars. There’s a lot going on with you, and your dick might be telling you something or you might be telling your dick something or you’re both talking at the same time and neither of you is listening.

And so, in short, yes, go to therapy.

—Rich