How to Do It

I Think of Truly, Truly Terrible Things to Climax During Sex

What’s wrong with me?

Collage of a woman surrounded by neon brains.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by lekcej/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,

I have been sexually active since I was 17. I am now 29 years old. (I’m a straight, cis female.) A majority of the sex I had between 17 and 21 was only when I was drunk, so I don’t remember most of it, but I know I didn’t climax. I got sober and started a serious relationship and started actually enjoying sex, but I have one big issue: I can only climax if I think about awful/degrading things. And I do mean awful. Incest, non-consensual, old/young, or degrading scenarios have to be playing in my head for me to climax. I would in no way want these awful/terrible scenarios to happen to myself or anyone else, but I do need to think about them to come.

In the moment, it gets the job done, but I feel terrible afterward, and I feel really awful that I can never come from thinking about my loving, caring, wonderful boyfriend. I’ve tried not thinking about them—that just means I won’t come. Am I doomed to come up with ever more creatively awful fantasies my entire life to get off?

—In Her Head

Dear In Her Head,

Congratulations on getting sober, and I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying sex now. You are not alone in your fantasies. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong or broken inside of you.

Many people have experienced sexual fantasies that they have no desire to actually participate in or even act out in a play scenario. The San Fernando Valley, where much of mainstream American porn is made, has been churning out incest-lite scenes for years—and the industry caters to what customers pay for. Consensual non-consent, old men with young women, and degrading scenarios are all common fodder for professional XXX films and amateur erotic literature. Most adult companies wouldn’t make something they aren’t sure people will buy.

But you say this makes you feel terrible, and that’s not a good place to be. One thing you can do is actively look for fantasy scenarios that don’t make you feel uncomfortable or squicked out. Try a range of porn videos from different eras and of different styles. Read through literotica.com. Take note of all the stories and narratives that do incorporate taboos to underline my point about how normal you are, and keep a list of things outside of your standard range that do turn you on. Use those interests to build new fantasies.

I’d also consider opening up to your boyfriend about this. I understand why you might not want to share the whole situation with him—there’s a risk he might try to implement your fantasies in reality, or he might be grossed out—but it might be worth letting him know that you’re having some trouble reaching orgasm and are working through some aspects of your sexuality. The thing about a relationship is sometimes an individual’s problems are better handled as an “us” project. As with anything, pick a good time beforehand to talk and think about what you’ll want to express. Tell your boyfriend you want to expand your sexual repertoire, and you’d like his company as you explore.

If it turns out that your sexuality is static, take comfort in the fact that fantasy is not reality, and be easy on yourself—you are far from the only person to have fantasies that give them pause.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a lesbian woman in my mid-20s and I have a significant tongue-tie, so I can stick my tongue out of my mouth maybe a half-centimeter and have very little range of motion. The tongue-tie doesn’t cause me any distress or interfere with eating or breathing, and I have no desire to get it snipped for sexual purposes alone, but I still don’t know quite how to make oral sex and making out most pleasurable for my partners. My general strategy of letting their tongues come to mine and keeping my mouth open and flat on my partners’ clit for better tongue access works … fine, but I think it could be a lot better. Any tips for tiny-tongued people besides, you know, branching out from sex involving tongues? (And should I tell new partners, or is that overkill?)

—Speaking in Tongues

Dear Speaking in Tongues,

I think you should definitely tell at least one current sexual partner—or a new potential partner—so you have a buddy to experiment with. This one is a super easy sell. Start with something like “I have a bit of an unusual tongue, and I want to see how many different parts of my mouth I can use to make you feel good.” And then do exactly that.

Presumably you’re familiar with what your tongue can (and can’t) do. I’m curious about the rest of your mouth. What can you make happen with your lips and teeth? Is sucking part of your repertoire? You could, conceivably, suck your partner’s clitoris into your mouth and hold it there where your tongue can reach it better. You can wrap your lips over your teeth and kind of gum the little nubbin. You can gently run the flat part of your teeth across it or even gently bite, if you discuss it first.

And all that is just off the top of my head. Find a willing partner and get experimental with it. Go full-on weird. Follow bizarre impulses like blowing spit bubbles across their clitoral glans—just don’t ever blow air into the vaginal opening. Have a ball. Try to make each other laugh with your escalating antics.

Remember that good sex is about joy and pleasure. Focus on those things and be present with your partner. You’ve got this.

Dear How to Do It,

I recently had a bad breakup with my ex, and for the two months we’ve been apart, I had zero sex drive. I was actually repulsed by the idea of sex. This is weird for me! I’m typically super sex-driven. Then, a couple weeks ago, he came back wanting to get back together. We met, had a few drinks, and ended up making out furiously. I felt my sex drive reignited. But the thing is … not just for him. Ever since, I’ve been making out with everyone and wanting to have sex with everyone too. Why does he hold the key to my sex drive? Does this mean I should thank him for turning me back on, and go have sex with all the people I’m suddenly interested in? It’s not clear if we can fix the emotional issues that broke us up. What does it all mean?

—Floodgates

Dear Floodgates,

I don’t know why your ex is a catalyst for your sex drive, nor do I hold the answers for what it all means. I also can’t tell you what you want, but I might be able to help you figure it out for yourself.

What were the emotional issues you two broke up over? Are any of them deal-breakers? Would you be willing to continue dating if some, but not all, of them had solutions and compromises? Is that willingness conditional on specific issues being improved, or on certain issues becoming negligible? Would you be willing to give your ex a second chance? Your answers to these questions can guide your actions.

You don’t mention how old you are, or what your gender is. Cisgender women sometimes report changes in their sexual desire as they age. For instance, I couldn’t be bothered with most vibrators in my 20s, but now that I’m in my 30s, they seem like magical little robots of pussy happiness. You could be experiencing a normal shift in sexual response that just happens to correlate with your make-out session with your ex. The alcohol might be a factor. Mostly I want to underline that if anything he’s a catalyst, not a key-holder. Your sexuality, strange and slippery as it might be at times, is yours. Get out there and exercise it however you see fit—whether that’s revisiting a rough relationship or riding random men into the sunset.

Dear How to Do It,

When we got married—we’re both women, in our 30s—my wife and I decided our relationship would be ethically non-monogamous because of what you might call a libido mismatch: She’s very kinky, and I’m very … not. (Knowledgeable and supportive, but completely uninterested.) She’s never had trouble finding partners to play with, but I, “the more conventionally attractive one” (her words), have only gone on a single date in the year we’ve been doing this. Part of the problem is that in the city where we live, the Venn diagram of kinky people and poly people is basically a circle. I’ve tried online dating, but it’s been a complete nonstarter. I don’t want to go to munches because I’m afraid even poly-specific events will be mostly kinky people (from hearsay from my wife and some of our poly friends). My wife even suggested making a profile on FetLife and saying that vanilla was my kink! How do I meet people who’ll both be fine with the fact that I’m married and fine with the fact that I’m vanilla?

—One Flavor

Dear One Flavor,

You know your boundaries and interests, so you’ve already got a leg up. I’m not sure about the FetLife profile stating vanilla as a kink … it feels potentially transgressive. But a poly munch seems like it’s definitely worth a try. Disclose early. Like, maybe even write vanilla on your nametag or put it in your online dating profiles. Wave your not-so-freaky flag high and proud. Presumably, you and your wife have kink-free sex at least occasionally? Some fetishists are medical-grade—they absolutely require their specific kink in order to be aroused or reach orgasm, and can feel distress about their sexuality—but most kinky people are at least a bit more flexible.

My hope is that by attending a munch, even if it is likely to include a lot of kinksters, you might meet someone who already has their fetish needs met and is looking for some sweet vanilla on the side—sort of like knowing exactly where your main course is coming from and looking for a solid dessert spot or two. And, as much as these events can be a great place to meet a date, they can also be a great way to expand your social network and meet people who could introduce you to their vanilla-only friend.

You also might want to consider dating sites that cater to poly folk. OKCupid is the most recognizable name. Be direct about your desires and boundaries, like you would with any potential new partner, and see what happens.

—Stoya

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