How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing’s too small (or big).
Dear How to Do It,
I’m marrying a wonderful man. We’re super excited and love each other, and everything is so happy and great. But we don’t really have sex very often, I’m not sure if I should be worried or not … or if I care. I have a fairly moderate sex drive, I think. I basically masturbate every day (it’s just a routine of mine since I hit puberty), and we have sex about once a month or less. I’m not really bothered by this, but it feels like I should be? If we’re already so irregular, I can only imagine it would get worse after we have kids, and will that ruin our relationship if we didn’t have a concrete sexual relationship from the start? We both say we should have more sex than we do, and I feel confident that we both want to, but we just never think to make time for it. We would rather watch a show or play a board game or make food. Part of it may be that he’s very vanilla: I’ve had a lot of partners, and I just tend to be more outgoing and confident than he is about sexuality. I would like for him to take things on by hitting on me to get started (he did this once when he came home drunk and I loved it). I also do not orgasm easily, and the direction I’ve been giving him is very “No do this! No, not like that! No, no, no,” which is extremely unsexy. Even when we’re on vacation (read: not exhausted from work), we will maybe have sex once during the time frame. We even made a pact to have sex at least once every trip.
How can we get out of our rut, or are we even in one? Am I overthinking this? I know there’s no “normal” amount of sex, and I’m fine with the volume of sex we have, so why am I worried and writing to a sex-advice column? Am I adjusting to his sex drive and ignoring my own? It just feels like we should be more intimate more often, but if neither of us really care that much, is it even a problem? I hope you can help me! I know it’s not the biggest problem in your inboxes, but with just a month before the wedding, I’m looking for ways to reassure myself about this one part of our relationship that is lacking.
—Not Doing It
Dear Not Doing It,
It seems like you and your partner are laboring to meet a quota, some imaginary correct quantity of sex. This is unnecessary and probably not helping the situation. There is no “normal” amount of sex to be having. You know this. You said it. Why don’t you believe yourself? This is a serious question. What is preventing you from accepting your sexual interest level, and your partner’s, as they are?
Of course, it’s possible that the daily masturbation routine you minimize is a sign of a higher amount of sexual interest than you’re letting on. You’ll have to make that call yourself: You know your own inner world best. Take some time to check in with yourself. When you’re masturbating, are you happy with solo time or longing for your partner’s touch? That’ll give you some clues about how happy you are with the current state of affairs.
When you do have sex, communication is great. Less great is getting stuck in no mode—“no, not quite, not there.” Try applying as positive of a spin as you can muster—“you almost had it a moment ago,” “do it like you did that one time,” or “a little to the right.” Or whatever works for you. The goal here is to give proactive feedback and positive reinforcement, not correct every touch.
In the bigger picture, try to figure out whether the sex aspect of your relationship is actually lacking, or if you two are expecting more than you’re wired to want, and then take action—whether that’s picking a movie for couch night or investing in some inviting lingerie. And remember we have the trope of prenuptial cold feet for a reason. Maybe ask some of the married people in your life for insight into how to cope with the pre-wedding jitters.
Dear How to Do It,
My wife and I recently opened up our marriage to having an old regular of hers have sex with her while they take pictures and videos. That’s half of my fantasy: My true fantasy is to watch and be in the same room while they do it. She says she is not ready or open to doing that, but is OK with taking the videos and pics for me. How do I convince her to let me in the room with them to fulfill my whole fantasy? She is open to having sex with him whenever I want, but she’s resistant to fulfilling this all the way for me.
—Fly on the Wall
Dear Fly on the Wall,
The short answer is you don’t convince her.
It’s great that you and your wife are enjoying opening up your marriage. It’s fantastic that you’re in touch with your fantasies and getting to play some of them out in life. It’s truly wonderful that your wife and her partner are willing to indulge you with pictures and videos of their amorous antics. Can you be happy with what you have? Can you reflect on the fact that you’re already in a pretty sweet situation? Can you accept that your wife and her lover are individuals having fun and that this isn’t actually all about your fantasy fulfillment?
I hope so. I wish you good luck in approaching this in a less self-centered way.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a cis, Mexican, heterosexual male, soon to be 35, and I am in the middle of a divorce. The woman I am married to has been my friend and partner for about 15 years. We are long-distance and we have made it work, but over the last three years, we began to save up and commit to the “big move”—one of us was moving, and we were going to start our lives. I was so happy; we both were, right? Well, it’s over now. We are on amicable terms as the dust settles.
So now, the problem: I work, have very little of a social life, and just do what I can to help my parents and pay my taxes. I like to think I am an average-looking guy, but my inner voice just says “ugly.” I want to get out there and start meeting people and dating, I just don’t know how to do that. I have matured, but I just cannot talk to a pretty girl, woman now, to save my life, and I do not know how to overcome or even begin to face that problem. When I am able to make small talk, which is usually just to a co-worker of the opposite sex, I start to get nervous and shake like I’m cold when I start talking about anything. I am socially awkward and the typical “nerd” male—video games, card games, sci-fi/fantasy, role-playing games. I can recite the “Tears in Rain” monologue from Blade Runner, I know all the primarchs’ names by heart, I can mulligan like a champ in Magic: the Gathering, and my bookshelf is stuffed with sci-fi, philosophy, drama, poetry, and some political stuff. And that only brings us to the next equation in my sad formula: I have very little sexual experience. I really wish watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin was not the forecast of my life, but I feel it is going that way. Any advice, thoughts, suggestions, or help you can lend would be a godsend.
—Aspiring Steve Carell
So, this week when I received these questions for this column, my main squeeze was chilling on the couch behind me. I didn’t recognize the primarchs reference, but oh boy did he. (Angron is his favorite.) I’m telling you this for a reason: I want you to know that I’m banging a “nerd.” This makes sense, since I am also a nerd. I picked this particular human up on the sidewalk based on his looks, but most of the male partners I’ve had have been chosen for their brain as opposed to their appearance. I’m not alone in this.
You might have an easier time talking to women if it’s about a subject you’re comfortable with. My gut says that somewhere out there is a woman you can find attractive and who is also into some of the same stuff you are and would enjoy a romantic friend to talk about all these nerdy things with. Think about it: Being a girl into sci-fi or gaming can be rough. A lot of nerd spaces weren’t the friendliest when I was growing up, and we all saw how Gamergate went down, didn’t we? Even as an adult woman, people—let’s be frank, men—sometimes seem to require that nerd-cred be proven. It would be refreshing to meet a guy who just wants to geek out.
Start there. Pursue your nerdy interests in a more social way. Seek out inclusive coed spaces. If an author you like comes to town, attend a reading. If there’s a gaming space near you, spend more time there, and see who you meet. The internet—social media, message groups, whatever the kids are doing these days—might be useful, too. Sometimes it’s easier to navigate flirting when you can pause and think about what you’re going to say. Mainly, you just have to take the first step of getting out there.
Remember that being female doesn’t exempt people from social awkwardness—not to mention the overwhelming amount of attention that can come with being female in gamer or sci-fi spaces. Finding this woman might be a bit difficult. She might also be shy and also feel panic when talking to potential romantic partners. She might be reluctant to open up, or let you in; she might not be looking for a relationship at all. Keep that in mind, and be mindful of boundaries.
Other than that, go forth, and remember to take deep breaths and drink some water when your body starts manifesting stress. You’ve got this.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m part of a lesbian couple. We have a fulfilling sex life, but one thing that is off-limits are my breasts. Touching my breasts and nipples is often painful, but also it just makes me irrationally enraged. I don’t have any particularly bad experiences with my breasts and have never breastfed or had trauma. Am I crazy? What’s behind this? I just hate having my breasts touched. Is it reasonable to just make them off-limits forever?
Dear No Honking,
If you didn’t like having your clit chewed on, would you wonder if you’re crazy? Your breasts don’t like to be touched. That’s how they are—how God made them or how they grew or however you want to frame it. Having your breasts touched doesn’t feel good to you. The sensations that come from boob-handling are unpleasant. That’s fine. That’s your body.
I have no idea what’s going on, but if the issue isn’t spreading and your breasts were never traumatized, it doesn’t seem worth digging around for the why. It is totally reasonable to make your chest off-limits forever. You have my blessing. You have a permanent no-boob-play pass. Maybe have someone give them a stroke every year or so to see if something has changed, but that’s only if you’re curious. I’m sure you and your partner have plenty of other activities you can get up to.
More How to Do It
I’ve been married for about 10 years. About a year ago, I had a brief affair. We realized it was a mistake and ended the relationship. He lives far away, so I haven’t seen him since. Neither of us told our spouses about it, and we have no intention to. I’ve never done anything like that before, and I won’t ever again. I feel bad about it and wish it hadn’t happened, except in one respect: The sex I had with this man was off-the-charts amazing. Like, I didn’t realize that sex could be like that. Sex with my husband is fine—but I feel like I’ve been watching a black-and-white TV my whole life and I suddenly discovered Technicolor exists. I don’t want to go back to this ex, but I can’t stop thinking about the sex. I realized that I get very turned on by things that are out of my husband’s comfort zone. I can’t talk to my husband about it—telling him about the affair would only hurt him, and when this kind of topic has come up in the past, he has been very clear that if anything ever happened, he wouldn’t want to know. How can I get over this?
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