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 have a pretty straightforward problem: My girlfriend only gets properly wet during sex when we talk about her having sex with other men. She talks about a lot of men from her past—stories that I assume are part fantasy, though I know she’s had a lot of partners. I didn’t take this personally at first, but it is literally every single time. After a long streak of this, I tried to say “Not this time, OK, babe?” She agreed, but then it became clear it needed to happen for her to be properly aroused. I go down on her and there is plenty of foreplay, but nothing else works. I suppose we could try lubing her up to help pave over her not being turned on enough, but that seems like it skirts the real problem. Is there any way to help her move on from her fixation on this kink? I nearly love the gal and other elements of our relationship tell me we’re attracted to each other, but I can’t spend the rest of my life listening to what other men have done to her every time we have sex.
Have you had a serious conversation with your girlfriend about her tendency to recap previous adventures? Have you sat down with her and asked why she does that? What she gets out of it? What it does for her?
See, I think you’re making assumptions here and would be better able to navigate this situation if you had more information. I’d definitely be better able to give advice if I knew more about what’s happening. You’ve assumed that she has a kink for talking about past partners, and I can see why, but we don’t really know. So get in there and ask some questions.
It may turn out to be the case that your girlfriend just needs to talk and mistakenly assumed you’re a bit of a cuck. It might be that she’s trying to hint at what she wants you to do with these stories. It’s also possible she has a kink or a fetish.
If your girlfriend has a kink but wants to be with you, she can try making a list of other things that turn her on for the two of you to play with instead. If she has a full-blown fetish and it’s causing her distress to a point where she wants to change it, professional help is always an option. But that’s for her to decide, not you.
Dear How to Do It,
I recently ended a nearly three-year-long relationship for reasons having nothing to do with sex. (The sex was infrequent and unsatisfying, but that’s not why I ended the relationship.) While I can take care of my own orgasm, I’d like to find some no-strings-attached, semi-anonymous sex. I’m a straight woman in my late 30s who has had enough experience to know what I like and what I’m unwilling to do, and I want to be very upfront about this with potential partners. My first instinct is to use Tinder or something similar, as these mean I can be blunt and honest, and let the guys decide from there. I’m also less capable of being direct in person, and I’m not a fan of the bar scene.
Here is where we run into a snag. I live in a community of about 200,000 people—not small, but small enough that I seem to frequently run into people I know in places I don’t expect. I work two jobs: one retail, the other in the education arm of a local nonprofit. Both of these are public-facing positions, and I am infrequently but routinely recognized because of my roles. Does this make it too risky for me to be blunt about my sexual desires in an app, where someone who knows someone I know could potentially see it? Is there a better way to attempt to get what I want?
Dear Small World,
You’re the only person who can decide how much risk is too much risk. You don’t share the specifics of what you want, which leads me to believe that you’re a private person. As a test, imagine yourself looking a colleague in the eyes as they mention that they’ve heard you’re into [fill in the blank]. Are you mortified? Do you feel you’ll be able to point out that your sexual tastes are meant to be private—between you and your partners? Or able to shrug it off? Gauge what you’re comfortable with other people knowing about you.
One thing you can do is split the middle: Be cautious with what you list on your profile, and only reveal your explicit desires in private messaging. Another option is to look for dates one or two towns over. There’s the hassle of travel, yes, but this reduces the chances of running into people you know. Since what you’re looking for is semi-anonymous, this might increase the appeal—in an unknown town, there to meet a mysterious liaison for a hot rendezvous.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m locally well-known as a consent educator, and I’m also a monitor at a relatively new kink club. My (straight male) friend, who owns the club, deliberately set out to create a consent-oriented space that would makes women and queers feel safe. We have lots of queer and female staff, and local consent activists drafted the club policies.
However, straight away we hit a stumbling block. A known serial abuser wanted to attend our very first night. This man assaulted me five years ago. As well as his outright disregard for consent, he doesn’t play safely. He’s a rigger (someone who practices rope bondage) who ignores circulation issues, possible nerve issues, and doesn’t pack safety shears. He’s been called out by plenty of people over the years, and women who have complained about him have found themselves hounded off the scene. I took up consent activism specifically because I couldn’t stand being part of a community that would harbor this man.
I asked that we bar this man from our club. Turns out that another monitor (let’s call her Rachel) is best friends with the abuser. Rachel is also dating the guy who provides our bondage furniture. The club owner refused to bar the abuser because he was concerned about losing Rachel and our furniture provider. The owner told me that we’d bar the abuser at the first sign of wrongdoing—but no such thing happened when I caught him playing in a “no-play” area of the club on the first night. Moving play to an area not supervised by monitors is exactly the kind of shady stuff I’d expect from this man. So every time I’m on shift, I have to watch that abusive jerk doing unnecessarily risky play with young women. Most of the other monitors loathe him, so there’s now a group watching his every move. But every night he’s there, I find myself boiling with rage. The club owner has told me that if I don’t like it, my only choice is to quit. (I guess I could go for a dramatic public callout, but I don’t feel like risking my physical safety.) I feel like my work at the club makes a real contribution to changing the scene’s culture, but at the same time, I don’t want to be the face of an organization which harbors abusers. Should I quit?
Dear Knotty Problem,
This is a very complicated issue, so I reached out to delightful Australian sex and relationship therapist Cyndi Darnell, who has expertise in this area. Here’s what she had to say:
This is such a common situation in many public play spaces, and there are several models for addressing such wrong doings, which while effective, are also very labor intensive and require trained facilitators.
The short answer is that she’s been given an ultimatum by the club owner: Accept it or quit. She asks, should I quit? According to her own moral and ethical compass, she sounds like that’s what’s going to be best for her, despite it not being a simple nor fair answer.
Ultimately, Knotty needs to take care of herself and decide if she can live with the situation as it is. She is not bound to bear the weight of an entire community’s dysfunction, and she’s fully entitled to speak her mind and take care of herself by removing herself should she feel unsupported. But it sounds like there is support for her position from the other DMs, so rallying together to speak with the owner may be useful before withdrawing from her community as a last resort.”
I agree with Darnell that it isn’t your responsibility to carry the whole community, and you need to do what’s right for you. As for continuing to have a local kinky community, can you and the other monitors who are stressed out about this guy start your own group? It might not be fancy or have its own club night at first, much less rented furniture, but you’d have a space of your own that runs the way y’all think is best.
Dear How to Do It,
I need some advice about my sex life, or lack thereof. My wife and I have been married for about 37 years. We have two grown children, 28 and 30. I am 66, and my wife is 65. Sixteen years ago was the last time we had sex. During the early years of our marriage, the sex was good, and I mostly initiated, and was mostly never rebuffed. We had the kids after about seven years of marriage, and the frequency of sex naturally slowed down while raising them. After a few years and some personal problems at work, I was diagnosed as bipolar and began taking various medications to help. While I was going through trial and error for this, some medications had an impact on my libido, so I didn’t care if I had sex or not. Additionally, after I turned 50 and my wife was 49, she began menopause and had hot flashes, etc., constantly and for several years. I lost count. Also at this time I suffered a major depressive episode, compounded by the sudden passing of my father.
A lot of issues! I had issues for some time, but I somehow held onto my job and got better about eight or so years ago. My wife was the rock that held the family together through the children’s teen years and, by her later admission, got used to not having sex. Since then, we have both retired (not by choice) and we have relocated to a new area. I have attempted to broach the subject of rekindling our sex life several times, and she seems receptive to the idea, but not really inclined to initiate anything. Our relationship otherwise is very good, and we get along better now than we did for a long time during our marriage. We are touching, and I give the occasional back or foot rub, but we are still not intimate. I am unsure how to proceed, because I feel I will be rebuffed since she has not explored the feelings associated with sexual contact. I have also “gotten used to” not having sex, but have masturbated on and off during the last few years, and am still sexually attracted to my wife. Things just seem to get in the way, our bodies have changed, etc. Any advice on what I can do to help start up our sex life again will be greatly appreciated.
Start cautiously. My definition of sex is very broad. It extends from kissing and physical contact that is only sexual because one party has a kink to, yes, that penis-in-lower-orifice friction. I’d like it if you tried to use my definition here. Set your goals consciously and keep them manageable. For instance, you might attempt to move from a back rub to some neck or face kissing and then leave it there for the evening. If that goes well, consider it a successful foray back into the amorous arena.
Explore those feelings. Sit down and talk together about the sex you might want to have. Share emotions about how the past few years have been for you, and ask for your wife’s experience as well. Discuss what sex actually is to the two of you. Think about what kinds of interactions seem appealing, and bounce them off of each other. Get an idea of what your wife is likely to be receptive to. You also might try bringing up a sexual experience your wife seemed to really enjoy. Again, focus on all that fun space between where you are and P-in-V, and see what works for the two of you now.
As you do, be sure to keep plenty of lube on hand. The vulvas of people who have begun menopause can be dry and extra delicate, so you want to be able to lube up without having to run to the bathroom once you’ve got your wife’s desire going.
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I am a 30-year-old woman who has been dating a lovely man for three months. He’s smart, funny, cute, and kind. I’ve felt so lucky to have found him. Here’s the problem: We recently became intimate for the first time, and he is, unfortunately, very poorly endowed—so small that I did some Google searching and think he might have a micropenis. I believe that sex is crucial to a relationship, and the thought of having a (potentially lifelong) relationship without an active sex life scares me. When you can’t feel anything during the act, that’s a problem. I know that there are other options in the bedroom, but I get pleasure by doing it the old-fashioned way. I feel awful about this—it’s obviously something that he can’t help, and it slays me that the universe would be so unjust to such a wonderful person. I’m conflicted. I see a potential future with him in every other way, but how do I deal with this? Do women who marry very poorly endowed men end up regretting it? If I let him go, what should I tell him that won’t absolutely crush him?