How to Do It

Should I Tell My Co-Worker That Everyone Knows He Used to Do Gay Porn?

My office is secretly ridiculing him.

GIF of a woman expressing surprise while lifting a covered cup to her mouth as someone whispers in her ear. Animated neon VHS tapes glow in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Estradaanton/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,

It recently got out that someone at work did porn when he was younger. This porn does not line up with his apparent orientation (he’s married to a woman). We’re a relatively small workplace, so this got around quickly. Our boss probably knows at this point. I worry about how this is going to affect him at work. At one point, I caught a couple co-workers sharing an image from one of the videos and joking about it, and I told them to stop. The thing is I don’t think he has any idea that people know. Should I tell him? I don’t really care what he did when he was younger, and maybe he doesn’t care if people know, but I worry he will find out in an embarrassing way and it would be better if I told him privately.

—Former Broke Straight Boy

Dear Former Broke Straight Boy,

You’re already doing the right thing by telling your co-workers to stop joking or giggling about your co-worker’s past. I haven’t worked in an office in a very long time, but their behavior seems clearly inappropriate and maybe malicious. I hope they’re thinking about what will happen if they’re caught circulating porn at work.

If it’s possible to pull your co-worker aside in a private space, I say tell him what’s going on. Let him know that you’re there if he needs an ally, or to talk, but also that there’s no pressure: “You’d be OK if I wasn’t here, but I am here if you want to grab a coffee and talk about this or other subjects.” Use the opportunity to offer support and companionship. He may want to leave his past in the past, he might be proud of it, or something in between. He might need friends he can be open with, or his dance card might be entirely full. Strike up a discreet conversation, and you’ll get a clear idea of how you can be supportive.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a man who is very turned on by pubic hair. I think the first time I saw a naked woman was a full-bush situation, and that might be why, but it drives me crazy and is really my primary fetish. I just love it natural. I’m currently dating a wonderful woman, and we waited about three months to have sex because she comes from a conservative background and has had only a handful of partners. It was definitely worth it. But the first time we got naked together, she was totally shaved down there. I hadn’t told her about my fetish before we had sex, which is my fault, but she made a comment like, “I know guys prefer it this way.” After a few times having sex, I finally told her I’d love if she didn’t shave for me, and she laughed, said “that’s gross,” and basically shut it down. I am admittedly self-interested here, but I feel like she’s been conditioned to think her own natural body is “gross.” It’s not! I love it! I want to talk to her about it more, but I’m not sure how.

—Prefer Carpet

Dear Prefer Carpet,

This is one of the sticky parts about feminism in practice—sometimes you have to respect a woman’s internalized patriarchy. It’s her body, and it’s her choice to shave, wax, or laser parts of it. She might be removing hair out of a belief that men prefer certain things; she also might be uncomfortable with the sight of hair on her body because it reminds her that she’s a mammal. Ask her sometime.

And ask from a place of genuine curiosity—you’ve got your personal motivations, yes, but you also want to continue to get to know this person. Take the opportunity to find out what’s actually going on, and what she’s really thinking, rather than making assumptions. Go for less of a “Why won’t you grow out your bush for me?” and more of a “What about pubic hair grosses you out?” kind of vibe.

You might learn some things about your partner and her perspective, but you should brace yourself for the possibility that her perspective won’t change. She may never be comfortable sporting a full bush, or she might only be amenable to growing some fuzz for a few weeks. You’re the only person who can decide what amount of bush you need to get off or be happy in a relationship. Best of luck to you on your hairy adventure, and you might consider mentioning your love of bush a little earlier in the getting-intimate process next time.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a mid-30s gal in a happy, healthy relationship with a straight man—together for six years, married for three. For the first year or so as a couple, our sex life was terrific. After that it dropped off pretty steadily, to the point that it now feels like a bit of a chore. We are loving, affectionate, and physically close, but we’ve both acknowledged that we’d like to have more sex … we just don’t get around to it more than a couple times per month. When we do have sex, it’s satisfying enough but pretty routine.

The simple solution would be just to have more sex and try to make it more exciting, but the problem on my end is that I hate initiating sex. It feels awkward, contrived, and too vulnerable. I’ve been burned by past partners whose libidos dropped off or who regularly rebuffed my advances when they weren’t feeling it. My husband has a health issue that means he’s not always up for sex, so there’s always this possibility with him as well. While I know it isn’t about me, I have a hard time not taking that rejection personally. Also, something about telegraphing my interest in sex just feels silly when I attempt it. While I’m sure my husband would be turned on by me being revved up and ready to go, when I think about initiating sex, I get a bit paralyzed by fear and awkwardness.

What I’d really love is for him to be the initiator. Not only would this take the pressure off me—as the default “household manager” in our relationship, this is the one thing I’d love not to have to orchestrate and put into motion—but being wanted is hugely validating and is a major turn-on for me. And I wish his innuendoes were a little more lustful and aggressive, the stuff of new relationship sex rather than stale married sex. But I know keeping sex current and exciting is a two-way street. Is this a fair ask on my part? If not, what can I do to feel more confident and interested in initiating sex?

—Don’t Start

Dear Don’t Start,

“Fair” and sexuality can be strange bedfellows. Our sex drives, collectively, aren’t very fair. We sometimes have fetishes that can be difficult to negotiate. We develop intensely caring relationships with people who have sexualities ours don’t necessarily match up with. We worry if our vaginas are racist as we swipe through mountains of potential matches on apps. We struggle to keep sex fresh and exciting as we bond and become comfortable with our partners. We have clichés like “all’s fair in love and war,” and I think we kind of mean it about sex, too.

You put in a lot of work managing the nonsexual aspects of your home and partnership. You would prefer to be approached rather than to initiate. You want your husband to do the approaching. This is the reality you have to work with.

So talk to your husband. Say, “Hey, it really turns me on when you do the initiating. I love it. _______ thing you said that one time when we were first dating made me so wet. Can you talk to me like that again?” Then give him the greatest positive reinforcement you can muster. When you do get all fired up, pull out his favorite moves, whatever they may be. Rock his world. He’ll have motivation to approach you similarly next time. If that doesn’t work, you might want to try being more direct. Show him this letter, or write him something similar.

As for initiating yourself, you do have to be prepared for rejection. Frame that rejection as a temporary “no thanks” in the current moment. All it means is that your husband isn’t prepared to have sex right now, possibly for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Keep that framing in your head when you’re asking. Run through it directly before you ask to remind yourself that you are not being rejected as a wife, only that sex isn’t possible or desired in that moment.

Even though you didn’t ask for this, how much thinking have you two done on how you can interact sexually when he isn’t feeling well? There are ways of staying emotionally and physically connected without penetration or too much vigorous movement. Is he open to holding you while you masturbate? I think it’s worth working out ways for you to feel intimate, connected, and satisfied while still being mindful of what your husband is up for on certain days.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a bisexual man living in a place that is sometimes but not always unfriendly to LGBT people. I strongly prefer to date women, not that it makes any difference, because it seems that no matter the method—whether I’m on a dating app or meeting people in person—my being bisexual scares people away from dating me. Women will respond to me, interact with me, but then my sexuality comes up and silence. A sudden need to go do something else.

I know this phenomenon is a thing, I just thought, well, I’m not hideous, and I don’t have any horrible, crushing personality flaws, so surely I can overcome it, right? I did, one time, and one time only—for what it’s worth, she is pansexual—but the relationship ended in a cycle of being abused and I broke it off. Since then, I’ve tried multiple times to put myself out there, only to get discouraged and quit trying. This has happened, in the two and a half years since that breakup, probably two or three times. I am seriously considering just going back into the closet. I really don’t want to. I love my bisexuality, and it is very important to me. But at the same time, I feel hopeless and really stuck. What do I do here? How do I make a case for myself to others?

—Bye Bye Bi

Dear Bye Bye Bi,

You’ve dealt with two or three freaked-out people in two and a half years? Out of how many interactions? For me, that wouldn’t be nearly enough data to cram myself back into the closet.

Let me tell you a little story: I was a porn performer for more than a decade. I took a lot of planes—travel is part of the gig—and sat next to a bunch of curious people. I didn’t hide this when my job came up. A few lost their minds (especially the FBI agent who specialized in 2257 violations), but I still kept being honest about my job when asked. I encountered wacky questions like, “Are you being trafficked right now?” I encountered a lot of assumptions that were based on lack of information made by people who’d heard a lot of anti–sex work rhetoric but didn’t know anything about the complicated reality. I learned how to explain myself and my job to people who are primed to be alarmed by it. The more I practiced, the more confident I became.

You’re going to have to learn how to read your audience and similarly introduce your own identity in a non-anxious, curiosity-inducing manner.

I wish I had more information about how you’ve been bringing this up; it would help me troubleshoot your situation. Since I don’t, I’ll wing it: Are you delivering your disclosure with confidence? Try practicing in the mirror. Are you trying to be monogamous? Make sure you’re clear about that; as you probably know, bisexual people face persistent stigma that dating one means sharing a partner. Are you clamming up when dates ask questions? See if a friend is willing to play the role of inquisitive date so you can get more practice in a more-controlled environment. It’s true that there is a lot of prejudice, but you can help yourself while navigating it.

Mostly just keep looking. Don’t sell yourself short over two or three rejections from people you were better off without.

—Stoya

More How to Do It

My boyfriend and I recently had a casual conversation about our porn preferences. One, uh, preference of his surprised me, and I can’t get it out of my head. Does porn in general align with real-life desires? Does it mean he really wants to do that?