How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to email@example.com.
Dear How to Do It,
About a year ago, I confronted my husband of more than 10 years with evidence that he had surreptitiously set up a web camera in our bedroom, with the intent of watching me masturbate while I was home and he was elsewhere. He admitted it, and it has been an extremely difficult year working through the anger, betrayal, and feelings of violation. After several months of joint and one-on-one therapy, I chose to stay in the marriage. We are doing OK and are at a point where some days I can almost forget what he did. However, he is increasingly seeking physical and sexual affection that I cannot bring myself to engage in. We have kissed, cuddled, etc., but the thought of anything further makes me want to vomit. We had an amazing sex life before this, built on a foundation of a decade of trust and exploration, and I cannot get myself back to that level of intimacy and vulnerability. Part of me thinks I need to rip the Band-Aid off, get drunk, and let it happen in order to move forward. Part of me never wants to have sex with him again.
I realize I am still processing a trauma, but what do I do? In my most negative moments, I feel like I’m supposed to have sex with the person who sexually assaulted me, and I don’t know how to move forward.
—Unwilling Cam Girl
Dear Unwilling Cam Girl,
I think you need more time, and that you should take it. And then take some more. By deceiving and violating you, your husband knocked the center of power way off balance in your relationship, and you deserve all the time you need to restore it. I don’t need to tell you that he did something terrible to you, but I want to emphasize just how much everything needs to be on your terms for now. Your husband should devote his life to deferring to you.
I understand that you want to maintain this relationship, and I trust that you’ve done a lot of work in therapy and with your husband to reach that decision, but wow are you signing up for a herculean task. I imagine getting to a place of normalcy with your husband will be about as easy as climbing a mountain in roller skates. Resuming a sexual relationship with someone who was the cause of trauma can’t have much of a success rate (or much of an attempt rate for that matter). It still would be extremely reasonable to listen to the part of you that never wants to have sex with him again, but since you decided to stay, I hope your therapy is ongoing and I recommend working on this very issue with a professional. Maybe the answer is to focus on what attracted you to him in the first place; maybe you have to build a whole new image of him in your head to move forward sexually. I think it largely depends on your specific needs and it will be a matter of (very careful) trial and error.
Whatever method you decide on, I hope it isn’t ripping the Band-Aid off and thrusting yourself back into a sexual relationship—exposure therapy isn’t really something you want to fool around with or self-administer. You could retraumatize yourself and for what? Him? He’s taken quite enough already.
Dear How to Do It,
Gay man in his early 30s here. I’ll just cut right to the chase—I take forever to orgasm from being the active partner in intercourse, if I do at all. In fact, I can think of only two instances when someone else got me over the finish line. I do have a spot that gets me done in like 90 seconds flat, but it’s accompanied by me masturbating. My usual rhythm if I’m topping is to go till the other person is finished, and then they go for my spot, and I’m done. I have an erection the whole time, and I’m enjoying myself, but it just won’t go.
Now, most partners have no qualms about it. But every so often I get snide remarks or, in the case of my last ex, a serious projection of his own insecurities onto me (e.g., “You clearly don’t find me attractive”). And I consistently worry that when I do find myself in a long-term relationship, he’ll be bored to tears. Is there anything I can do?
—I Wanna Go
Dear I Wanna Go,
You could certainly try dissociating and thinking about porn or other hot sex that you’ve had in the moment, but I don’t really recommend it because I think you should be as present in sex as possible. Have you tried stimulating your prostate with a toy or help from your partner? What about playing with your spot while you’re topping? Sometimes poppers help people relax and come? Have you tried abstaining from masturbation for a few days before sex to make you hornier?
These suggestions are technical, and while they may be potentially fun to experiment with, it may very well be impossible to override the way you are wired with bells, whistles, and butt plugs. I don’t really think this is a huge issue—you aren’t fazing most of your partners, and those whom you have sound too unpleasant to be worthy of your concern. That ex of yours sounds like a real piece of work, and I’m glad you don’t have to deal with his blaming himself for your functioning because that’s exhausting and you have better ways to exhaust yourself. (No offense if you love and miss him.)
I think maybe just a shift in perception could be useful—you’re a stud! Look at that stamina. There are plenty of power bottoms who’ve seen every romantic comedy anyway and will gladly take your marathon railing. Also, keep in mind that intercourse need not be sex’s pièce de résistance, no matter what porn often suggests by staging the climaxes as a result of penetration. You’re getting your partner and yourself off, and rather efficiently it seems. You’re already overachieving. Give yourself a break and enjoy it.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a late-50s straight man who just left a very long and almost sexless marriage. I have recently begun dating a somewhat younger woman—10 years younger—who is newly divorced after … a long and almost sexless marriage. Our dating is not sexless. At all. In two months, I have felt things that I never could have imagined, much less experienced in the past. I feel like I’m starring in my own porn movie. She is lovely beyond words, has a body a woman of any age would want, and is super into me.
Great, right? But seriously: We have lots of sex. We are super compatible, and I truly love getting her off over and over. But I sometimes can’t climax. She’s OK with it if it’s the second time, etc. Other times, I’m almost there but know I can’t orgasm and … I fake it. I’m afraid of being the guy who has a slightly lower sex drive than his super hot partner, with a slight case of ED (disclosed to her, and yes, I take the pill sometimes). This is so, so much better and more frequent sex than I’ve experienced, so even if I orgasm one-third of the times we are together—and she climaxes like three to five times per tumble—it’s a dream come true. But I don’t want her to think I’m not enjoying it. So: Is it OK to fake it? Is this sustainable? She seems to believe it. Women do it. We talk pretty openly about stuff and she always wants to please me more, but sometimes I just tell her I’m fine and am loving what I’m doing to her. I really mean it!
—Best Supporting Actor
Dear Best Supporting Actor,
I’m wowed by the virility in our male writers this week. The testosterone is so thick I feel like I’m in a locker room or standing in a cloud of BO in a leather bar. Nice work, boys.
You’re almost 60 and you’re bucking like a bronco in his prime. That you’re keeping up with your new mate is impressive in itself. You seem thrilled, she can’t stop coming—there’s nothing wrong here, only good.
So sure, you can fake your orgasms, and it’s a white lie that is in service of her pleasure (on top of the orgasms she’s already experiencing with you), thus it’s about as justifiable as white lies get. It’s a solution, I guess, and it may be the least disruptive way to foster mutual satisfaction, but it sure isn’t ideal. Regardless of the good intentions, it imbues sex, an activity that is for pleasure and bonding, with an element of deception—you’re messing with the good vibes, man. It also prevents a greater mutual enlightenment. Your body is proof positive that the journey is just as, if not more important than, the destination. You’re having a great time, orgasm or not—sex is so much more than a vending machine of climaxes. It would be great if you could be the working example that convinces your partner of this, as unconventional as it may strike her coming from a man. Your wording suggests that there’s some tension that comes from your periodic inability to climax. (Since she’s only OK with it “if it’s a second time,” I assume she’s not when you’re on round one.) Within your stoic penis is a teachable moment.
Dear How to Do It,
My husband and I are experiencing a problem, and I’m out of ideas. I am 40, he’s 45, and both of us are smokers, and maybe a few pounds overweight. During sex, when I am on top, for example, before hubby can reach orgasm, my muscles just get too tired and I have to stop. The same happens for him. And it just seems like a lot of other positions are awkward, and we can’t stay in it long enough to enjoy ourselves. What’s the fix for this?
—Up in Smoke
Dear Up in Smoke,
There’s a lot you can play with in practical terms: spooning, modified missionary, pillows placed strategically under the hips, even furniture. (I’ve seen people recommend using sofas for added stability and chaises longues for providing a wider array of position options.)
But let’s assume you’ve done so much experimenting in this realm that my gay ass isn’t going to blow your mind with some new method of penile or vaginal contact that you’ve not yet considered. In that case, one option is to look beyond penetration as the only kind of sex worth having. There’s a buffet of oral possibilities, boxes and boxes of toys at your disposal, and an inventor’s lab full of mutual masturbation options to pick through. When our practical facilitates fail us, it’s time to get creative.
That said, you have presented this difficulty in sex as a consequence of your lifestyle. In the gentlest of ways, I urge you to scour your habits for what you can feasibly improve upon. Are you physically active and eating healthily? Even small improvements would likely help improve your stamina for both of you, if you’re that concerned and inclined to put in the effort. And I would have my annoying ex-smoker card revoked if I didn’t tell you to quit smoking. Quit smoking. It’s taking so much from you, including sex, in your own estimation. That’s practically criminal. Let me know if you need some additional tips; I have a lot to share. If not, here’s one: Quit now!!!