How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to email@example.com. Nothing’s too small (or big).
Dear How to Do It,
I have two kids, ages 12 and 10. My 12-year-old seems to know when my husband and I are having sex and routinely comes out of her room to use the bathroom, get a drink, or grab a snack JUST as we are getting cleaned up in our shared bathroom. It’s so frustrating because it totally cuts the post-sex mood, and I need to figure out the best way to talk to her about this and get her to stop. I grew up in a very conservative household, so we have been trying very hard to keep sex a very positive experience, but I just want to scream, “GET BACK IN YOUR ROOM!” every time. For the record, we need to walk past her bedroom to get to ours, and our old house has squeaky floors, which we try our best to avoid. We have tried using our guest bedroom, but she still uses her “Spidey sense” and appears afterward for various reasons. What’s the best way to address this?
Dear Uninvited Guest,
As a former cat owner, competent plant dad, and benevolent (albeit mostly absent) gay uncle, I feel wholly qualified to answer your parenting question. Thank you for the opportunity. But before we get to that, let’s check in with someone who actually knows a thing or two about the topic at hand, my former Slate advice colleague Carvell Wallace, who answered a similar question in Care and Feeding a few months ago: “As long as you are being conscientious and creating proper boundaries—not boning with the door wide open, leaving strap-ons in the dishwasher, or yelling ‘yes daddy’ loud enough for half the city to hear—no damage is done by your kid just knowing that sex between his parents exists,” he wrote.
Your 12-year-old in all likelihood knows exactly what’s going on, and since that’s not a problem because sex is natural, healthy, and good, it’s time to level with her. Your sneaking is for naught. You can stop tiptoeing around as if you’re in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, complete with the telltale creaking floorboards. Let her know that you know that she knows, and ask her to respect your privacy and to give you more time. Ask her not to approach your room when the door is closed until you’ve come out, unless it’s an emergency. You don’t have to get specific as to why you’re making this request. You don’t even have to use the words afterglow, post-coital, or harsh my mellow. But please don’t yell at her—she’s just curious, and you really shouldn’t want her to associate shame or negativity with sex. A little thing like that at such a formative age could have all kinds of consequences as she comes into her own sexuality. She’s already dealing with enough here. Yes, her parents’ sex life may be interesting to her, but I’m sure there’s also part of her that’s mortified that her parents are doing it (and so frequently while she’s present). I’m not telling you to stop, I’m just saying that everyone in the equation has an obligation to facilitate ease and harmony in the shared living situation. You all are family, yes, but you’re also roommates.
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you have checked yourself and continue to do so, but just in case you need it: Make sure you aren’t being so loud that it’s not her Spidey sense that’s being triggered but the regular old sense of hearing that’s letting her know when you guys are getting busy. As the parent, it’s your job to set the bar for respect. Heed Wallace’s words: “The sad reality of parenting with older kids is that if you want true, long-form, uninterrupted boot-knocking, you’re going to have to find a kid-free weekend or something.”
Dear How to Do It,
My husband dearly loves it when I give him blowjobs. I used to dearly love it too, until one time a couple of years ago, when there seemed to be relatively solid “chunks” in his ejaculate. That was hard to swallow—apologies for the awful pun, but there it is. I was nauseated. Since then, whenever—and it’s been increasingly rare—I go down on him, all I can think about is whether there are going to be chunks again. Swallowing seems to be very important to him. I want to please him. At the same time, this causes me a noticeable degree of anxiety, and it definitely affects this part of our sex life. What should I do?
Dear Prefer Creamy,
Your husband spews chunks that make you want to blow chunks. Your dismay is understandable. I buy that your revulsion is reflexive and as such not bound to logic, but let me remind you that this is something that just happens. You play with a butt, you might get poop on your finger; you make a dick come, and out might pop some gelatinous globules. That’s life. I’ve experienced this myself from time to time in my own ejaculate, which never particularly concerned my doctor. Still, I checked in with Charles Welliver, director of men’s health at Albany Medical College and an American Urological Association member, who said that while this semen texture is uncommon, it’s not dangerous and is probably related to things like hydration and the last time he ejaculated. For me, it’s occasional anyway, the seeming result of buildup. (I notice it most when I come after not having done so for a few days.) I’ve worried about it happening during sex—I’m not out here trying to serve surprise bubble tea to whoever is servicing me—but no one’s ever complained. And I’ve never noticed it in any of the dicks that I’ve sucked. I’m not sure how your gag reflex is, but I tend to go deep when a guy is coming—so deep that he could ejaculate a parade of teeny-tiny monkeys down my throat and I’d have no idea. They hit my stomach acid and I move on. You could try that!
If that’s a no-go, and if you truly want to give BJs another go, just don’t swallow. It may be important to him, but given the choice of a blowjob without swallowing and no blowjob at all, surely any head enthusiast will choose the former. I know some guys love to be swallowed, but even as someone who is happy to do it, guys who absolutely demand it kind of turn me off. It feels like a power trip just for the sake of it based on some pretty rudimentary ideas of dominance and sexual-positioning roles. It’s all psychological, but then so is your aversion to it. The trick is getting your respective mindsets to meet halfway.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a 47-year-old woman dating an active and sweet 61-year-old guy. We felt instant sparks when we went on our first date. We didn’t have sex that night, but we did the next night, and we were smitten. We spent those weeks happily humping like bunnies. Things have slowed to a more normal pace now, having sex once or twice a week. The sex is sensual and fabulous, and we laugh and enjoy ourselves immensely.
Here’s my problem: I am the lucky kind of gal who might have as many as eight or 10 orgasms in a long lovemaking session, but in all this time, he has never come. Not once. I’ve gone down on him every time we’ve had sex. Not to brag, but I’ve been able to turn every guy I’ve been with into a deliriously satisfied pile of post-O Jell-O with my oral technique and tenacity. I’ve tried every trick I can think of: fast, slow, hard, soft, asking him what he likes. I’ve massaged his prostate by pushing on his taint and offered/suggested trying it with a finger in his butt (he isn’t comfortable with that). Because he can’t seem to get a really good firm erection (only kind of half-hard), our position options are limited. Usually, we just do him on top or me on my back and him standing at the edge of the bed. I can get on top if I hurry and hop on after getting him as hard as I can. Any other positions just won’t work. After gorgeous foreplay, we just have P-in-V until he gets tired and we stop.
I don’t want to bring it up any more than I have to because I know he already worries about it. But after all this time, it’s really messing with my self-confidence in bed. He’s a bit older than me and sometimes when he gets up to pee in the middle of the night I can hear the flow stop and start, but he insists his doctor says his prostate is fine. And he let it slip that the woman who introduced us (a former friend with benefits of his) could get him to finish and had as recently as last year. Thinking she can finish him while I can’t makes me feel like a disgusting monster. I do have some weird flaws that I obsess about: My limbs are really short and my neck is huge, like, almost as wide as my head. Do you think he’s not attracted to me but likes my personality and doesn’t want to hurt my feelings? When we first started dating, he called me beautiful and sexy often. He blurted out, “I love you” while we were having sex about a week after meeting! But he hasn’t flattered me in a long time, and I wonder if he’s changed his mind. I just don’t know what to do. I love him and want to be with him, but I’m scared to death that he’s thinking of her all the time, trying to come and still not being able to. I’m going crazy here.
Dear On Edge,
For at least a few reasons, it’s irrational to blame his inability to orgasm all on your appearance. The primary one is that no matter how skilled you and other partners think you are, if you suck enough dicks, you’re bound to come across one that just doesn’t respond to your particular touch. The penis is a rather finicky organ, one that can get used to a precise amount of pressure via one’s own masturbation habits. Maybe it was just a good oral fit with the mutual friend. There are certainly guys who “never come from head” who then receive head that makes them come. Maybe in the past year, he’s crossed a physiological threshold that’s impeded his orgasming. It could be a lot of things.
Props to you, though, for being able to come eight or 10 times using a half-hard dick. Life gives you lemons and you make molten gold. While I agree that great satisfaction comes from satisfying one’s partner, it seems to me that you already have the Rosetta stone in your hand (or vagina, as it were). You report up top: “The sex is sensual and fabulous and we laugh and enjoy ourselves immensely.” You have tangible proof that you can have sensual, fabulous, immensely enjoyable sex without it ending in male orgasm, too often considered the legitimizing event of good sex. It doesn’t have to be that way, and in fact it frequently isn’t. You two are living proof.
I think you’re being hard on yourself—I seriously doubt that he notices the flaws you obsess about. I don’t think I’ve ever thought to myself, “My, what short limbs she has” in all my years of silently judging strangers. That seems like one of those things only the haver of the short limbs notices. Besides, unless you recently developed a condition that caused your neck to widen and your limbs to recede into your body, you looked the way you did when you got with this guy. It didn’t bother him then; it shouldn’t be bothering him now.
And look: He’s jumping in the sack with you routinely, and by your report, he’s having a great time. See if he’s up for trying an ED med. I do agree with you that it’s concerning he hasn’t flattered you in a while, and you’re right: It could be a sign of waning interest. However, there are possible reasons for this. There’s a sort of Spock-esque practical way of thinking I’ve observed in some men that goes, I said it once; I meant it; she knows it. I had one partner snap at me for complimenting him “too much,” so I stopped. I’m happy to report that I didn’t internalize his critique and have since flattered other partners as liberally as I’m inclined to do, but this certainly could have affected me moving forward. You just don’t know where people are coming from and why they do the things you do unless you ask. Don’t drive yourself crazy. While there are plenty of alternate explanations for what’s afoot, you have a good-enough case to present to him for the sake of getting to the bottom of this. I know you don’t want to bring it up again, but it’s worth it, especially if he’s just being thick.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a cis woman with two cis male partners. I get BV (bacterial vaginosis) symptoms pretty much without fail whenever I see my newer (about four months) partner, even after I got it successfully diagnosed and treated at the doctor. Something about this guy’s ecosystem clearly doesn’t agree with mine, and browsing medical journals and anecdotal evidence from his ex make me believe he keeps giving it to me, even though he tests negative. I’ve been using the boric acid suppository method to kick the symptoms when they inevitably appear, but is there any way to keep them from happening in the first place? Would that involve me, my newer partner, or my first long-term partner being treated, and if so, how?
Dear Bug Found,
Since you’re doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same bacteria, it might not be a bad idea to get a second opinion from another gynecologist if at all possible. We’re in awfully specific medical territory here that would be best treated via one-on-one patient care, but to not leave you entirely high and dry, I reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who patched me in with Maura Quinlan, who specializes in gynecologic health and is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
While Quinlan acknowledges that you could be getting BV from your partner, she pointed out that you can’t test a man for BV since it’s a vaginal infection, so she’s unclear what you mean when you say he “tests negative.” There’s an array of potential origins of the BV: It could have something to do with the bacteria under his foreskin if he’s uncircumcised, or perhaps toys you’re using. “Or, it could be something about the reaction of her body to his semen that changes her pH and creates the imbalance,” Quinlan added.
In terms of proactive prevention, Quinlan suggested trying condoms and refraining from douching. (“Nobody should,” she writes, which seems to be gynecologists’ party line on the practice.) She adds that you may benefit from treatment longer than the usual one-week course and compares using boric acid suppositories here to “quite a bomb at the problem.” She warns that the suppositories “could lead to more irritation.”
I hope something here helps. Keep at it, try revisiting this with a different doctor, and good luck.
Advice From Dear Prudence
I never got much sex ed. and certainly not from my parents. My sister once joked that our mother threw a box of tampons at her, said she could ask questions, and then practically ran away. So I recently asked my wife if she was planning on having some sort of talk with our daughter, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable having that talk with her. (When our son is old enough, I plan to take care of those talks.) She told me to stop asking weird questions and made it clear she didn’t want to talk about it. I was a little surprised, but I guess she’s gotten more conservative as we get older. Still, I was hurt that she assumed that I was being some sort of pervert when trying to come to some sort of consensus on how to educate our kids. So I’m not sure if I should just trust that our daughter will find out what she needs to know from school, and maybe from my wife (maybe she just didn’t want to tell me about what she’s telling her, which I’d understand), or if I should try to bring it up in a different way. Any ideas?