How to Do It

My Wife Won’t Have Sex, so I Frequent Erotic Massage Parlors

Should I stop?

Photo illustration of a man getting a massage surrounded by neon X's and hearts.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Gubcio/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.

Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I stopped having sex regularly after our kids were born. It dwindled from almost daily sex to maybe once a month. She hated her post-pregnancy body and felt like kids should be her focus. If we did have sex, it was often rushed, and she would ask if she could just give me a hand job instead. We even tried therapy, but sex ended up at the bottom of my wife’s priorities. She would get angry if I suggested sex and would say she found my sexual “neediness” unattractive. I love my wife and the last thing I wanted to do was push her, so I stopped trying and decided to take care of my needs through masturbation, but she caught me once and said she found it pathetic. About a year ago, I started to feel desperate. I tried to open up a discussion about our missing sexual life but was quickly shut down. “That part of my life is over” was my wife’s response. She’s 41.

I was feeling deeply depressed. One day, I went to a massage parlor. I was wary, but there was something so healing about human touch. Since then, I’ve been to several. They vary wildly, and I’ve walked out of many of them, but I’ve found a few regular spots that are friendly and well-run with therapists who are well treated and decently paid. The women I see are thoughtful, funny, and empathetic about sex and men’s bodies’ needs. It’s a job for them, but they also see us at our most vulnerable, and perhaps I’m fooling myself, but it seems like a two-way relationship. I do feel ambivalence about myself for these physical needs, but I continue to go. While I still desire my wife, I don’t feel the need to press and annoy her, and I understand that part of her life might be over. (It’s been six years since we even kissed.) The thing I fear the most is that the image of my wife, of her body, is being replaced by the images of these other women, with these massage ladies fill a gaping hole in my life. Should I stop? I’m sure I risk Robert Kraft–style humiliation, but I’m not sure that living without regular sex is a healthy alternative either.

—Getting a Hand

Dear Getting a Hand,

If you live somewhere that criminalizes most forms of sex work, you are risking arrest and, yes, Robert Kraft–style public shaming. Fortunately, you probably aren’t as well-known as he is, so the story might only circulate among those who know or are related to you. But the consequences are real.

The good here is that you’re being respectful of your wife’s need for space, and you’re getting your needs met in a consensual environment where the women involved are compensated fairly for their labor (I’ll take you at your word). This is a good compromise.

But to be on the ethical side of things, you would need to at least float the idea of opening things up with your wife. Ideally your wife would know about and be OK with—or even approve of—your behavior, but her shaming reaction to finding you masturbating leads me to suspect she’d be very upset, so brace yourself for a less-than-enthused response. Your wife sounds closed off to communication about sex in general, and I agree a life without sex doesn’t sound healthy for you at least, so you’d likely both benefit from a professional third party to help along any future discussion.

If that isn’t feasible, well, sometimes real life involves less-than-ideal situations, and you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you continue to proceed without her blessing and whether you’re willing to risk the fallout that would come with discovery.

As for your worries about losing the mental images of your wife, try trotting them out when you masturbate, or even when you’re with a massage worker. Do keep in mind that memories fade and shift over time no matter what.

Dear How to Do It,

Shortly after I turned 32 I suddenly, for no reason I can think of, started squirting when I orgasm. I hate it. I have to put down pads to absorb the mess or clench so hard I hold it all in, which doesn’t feel super great during orgasm. People have told me to just go to the bathroom before sex or masturbation and I HAVE TRIED THIS. I still squirt. I’m so frustrated. Is there anything I can do to stop it or manage it somehow? I hate that having an orgasm is now an ordeal.

—Heavy Precipitation

Dear Heavy Precipitation,

Bodies change, and squirting happens. Since you don’t want it, I’m sorry it’s happening to you. Do try to embrace your body and its sexual quirks—it is, after all, the only one you get. Many people find this kind of ejaculation arousing, and there are mess-management solutions.

You can try running to the toilet—in the middle of sex—when you feel you’re about to squirt. You’ll definitely want to let your partners know what’s going on beforehand so they aren’t left wondering midthrust why you’ve hopped off. That might be as annoying as clenching down, but it seems worth a try.

The other thing you can do is pick your location—showers are great for easy cleanup. Couches made of certain materials can be easy to wipe down, too. Companies like Liberator make washable throws made for the exact purpose of protecting furniture and bedding from particularly wet sex.

Have you tried to eroticize your new squirting powers? There can be something beautifully interactive about fluid spraying out of genitals. Perhaps some fantasy or reframing can help you enjoy this new response. You can also lean into the clenching—practice it until you find a clench or two that are tolerable. And you can try visualizing the orgasm rolling upward/internally toward your head (as opposed to any outward direction or pushing).

Whatever you try, if this is indeed your new normal, I hope you can find a way to accept and enjoy it.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a woman who recently moved in with my boyfriend of nearly two years. We love each other and both see this relationship lasting (we’re both around 30). The problem? Our kinks don’t really align. When we met, we were both very open about the kind of sex we like, which led him to disclose that he loves butts. He likes to both give and receive spanks, analingus, and anal penetration. He also has a bit of a pee fetish. I was open to trying both. While the pee fetish was really not my thing, I found anal sex decent, more because he was clearly so into it than because it really did a lot pleasure-wise for me. Over the last year or so, we’ve had more and more fantastic but fairly vanilla sex, and less and less anal. We had a long talk about it, and he pointed out that I had been saying that my butt wasn’t really up for it for nearly six months. But it really hasn’t been! The reason, to put it bluntly, is he’s huge. He’s patient, uses lots of lube, and uses a few fingers first—which is honestly really more uncomfortable; his fingers are super bony—but it still isn’t that comfortable for me. I also always fear that things could get unexpectedly messy, though all evidence suggests he wouldn’t freak too much about this. I would honestly always rather have vaginal or oral sex, but I want to make him happy, and he is clearly mourning that right now it seems like being with me means not getting nearly as much anal as he would like.

Is there anything I can do to make this easier for us? Toys or other lube to try? Are there tricks to anal that I just don’t know? I’m also a survivor of sexual assault, and the more I feel pressure to do anything (even when the other person isn’t even asking, I’m just acutely aware it’s been a while since we did something), the less I want to. And yes, I have been in therapy and am currently looking for some kind of group setting to keep working through this.

—Falling Behind

Dear Falling Behind,

Talk things through with your therapist. If you’re aware of your responses, you can work on them. Be cautious with yourself. You want to be respectful of your own boundaries and comfort zone, and make sure you aren’t pushing yourself into something you don’t actually want. If you do still want to engage in anal sex, go slow, stop if anything feels painful, be just as cautious on the way out as on the way in. Breathe into the penetration, remain in your body, and listen to how it feels.

On the practical side, yes, bony fingers in your butt can be incredibly uncomfortable. Instead, invest in a moderately sized plug and insert it half an hour or so before any anal activity. The idea being that a plug is less sharp and will provide more even pressure than fingers do, and that pressure will help everything open up.

“Messy” anal is a risk—your butt’s main purpose being to poop—but you can set yourself up for success by being cautious about what you eat the day before and mindful of how your intestines are feeling. Enemas are always an option, though you shouldn’t do them too often and should only use pure water. Throw down a towel so cleanup is easier if things do get a little dirty.

Last, I have no idea if it’s an option for you, but sometimes open relationships are ideal for committed couples with mismatched fetishes. Your boyfriend could get his fill of butts and anal with someone who is into them for their own sake, and maybe bring in his pee fetish too. You two could maintain your connection mostly through vanilla sex. Whatever happens, your communication sounds strong, and that’s a good foundation for the two of you to figure this out together.

Dear How to Do It,

I have what’s probably a stupid problem: Sometimes when I experience intense orgasms, I get a charley horse in the arch of my foot. It’s painful enough to knock me out of orgasmic bliss, and that’s unacceptable. Is this normal? And any tips on how to prevent it?

—Twisted

Dear Twisted,

Your problem isn’t stupid—although I suspect it is annoying to experience—but it probably isn’t as sexual as it appears at first glance.

Charley horses are so very, incredibly normal. Talk to your primary physician the next time you see her for information from a professional. Does the same foot cramp each time? Are there any particular positions the cramp happens during? Or after? What were you doing with your body earlier in the day before a cramp? Do you get cramps at other times? These questions might help you troubleshoot for yourself and will give your doctor more information to work with.

In the meantime, stay well hydrated and stretch your arches.

—Stoya