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,
The other day my new male roommate left a pair of his underwear on the bathroom floor. I’m also a guy. I have no idea why I did it, but I picked them up and smelled them. Then I masturbated to the smell. Then I felt horrified with myself and wondered what the hell I was thinking. How bad of a violation was this? I feel like such a creep—but also keep getting turned on by the thought of it.
It’s pretty creepy, and creepier still that you’re getting turned on by it while aware of its creepiness. Yikes. What you did is of the what-he-doesn’t-know-won’t-hurt-him genre of transgressions, and I think that confessing to it could only make the situation worse, but that doesn’t mean you should have done it and it certainly doesn’t mean you should keep doing it. It’s not as grave of a violation as, say, watching him surreptitiously while he showers or bathes, but it is a violation of privacy. There is a distinct possibility that his crotch odor is not something he feels comfortable with just anyone smelling without his knowledge, and you denied him that agency. His man funk is his to share or refuse. We have a name for people who sniff crotches without permission: dogs. Consider this your swat on the nose. If you’re looking to get into the thrilling world of pheromones, good for you. Do it right. Purchase some used underwear online or suck some dick—dick you are invited to suck, that is.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a mid-30s woman close to her wedding day. I’ve gained weight, and I am not feeling my most confident. My fiancé loves my body, but I do not. I’m worried that my insecurity is diminishing our sexual life. He is a comedian and performs with younger, thinner women a lot, and I can’t help but think he’d rather be with them. I know this isn’t healthy or realistic, but it’s a somewhat pervasive thought. Have you ever come up against this type of insecurity? He still wants to have sex constantly, but I’m not sure how to get past the feeling that he’d rather be with someone who looks like I did before the weight gain. I’m not even sure what advice I’m seeking—how do you just trust that your partner is here for you when your body changes?
Dear Blushing Bride,
How do you just trust your partner? You listen to his words and check his actions against them for consistency. In this case, he passes. He says he’s attracted to you and he has the boner to prove it. Close your eyes and fall backward into him.
The call, my dear, is coming from inside the house. Your negative thinking is the problem here. It’s not your fault—I don’t think you can help it at the moment—but you’ve given no indication that your fiancé, who loves your body and wants to have sex “constantly,” has done anything to make you second-guess your attractiveness. It’s your own anxiety that’s writing the script here, and you’re going to have to wrestle back creative control lest you devolve into tragedy.
You do have options. You could talk to a therapist. If you want to try anxiety meds, talk to a psychiatrist. You can take up meditation, which may help you manage your thoughts. It won’t necessarily suck out your negative thinking—it isn’t liposuction for the soul—but it could equip you with tools to push the negativity aside to focus on the positive. I also recommend exercise, not to lose weight or change your body, but because it’s a great stress reliever that can boost your confidence. You give to your body, and it gives back.
I think you have to essentially trick your brain into shifting perspective. Anxiety can work like a fun-house mirror, distorting your view of what actually is. Shit, mirrors can work like fun-house mirrors—so much of the image reflected back at us depends on angle and lighting, and most of the time you’re just standing there looking. What we see in mirrors is just a piece of what we look like, flattened and often unflattering. Your fiancé has a vantage point that you don’t. He gets to see you move through life, the way you carry yourself, the way your personality infuses with your appearance to create your essence. He sees things you’ll never see. His expertise should not be discounted in favor of the rather biased view you have of yourself. Believe him when he tells you that you’re beautiful.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 20-year-old woman going into my junior year of undergrad. I’ve only been in one relationship before, which spanned from the middle of my freshman year to middle of my sophomore year of college. My ex-boyfriend was the first (and still only) person I’ve had sex with. Though we dated for a whole year, my boyfriend never went down on me. He asked if I wanted him to after the first time I went down on him, but I wasn’t feeling it that night. He never asked again, and, to be fair, I never brought it up—it was something I figured we would do eventually (we took sexual stuff pretty slowly) but never did before we broke up.
I’m going to be back at college soon, and I think I’m finally ready to start seeing other people again. I haven’t just “hooked up” with anyone before, but it’s something I’m possibly interested in now that I’m single and have some sexual experience. Here’s my question: I really want to be more vocal sexually and possibly ask my hypothetical hookup partners to go down on me. Is it unfair to do this if I don’t fully shave or wax my pubic region?
I’m a staunch feminist and have no desire at all to fully shave or wax—I keep it trimmed, but I don’t want to go fully bare. For me it feels, like many women have said, infantilizing and a double standard. Beyond the ideological implications, I don’t have the money to wax, am not a fan of pain, and have had horrible experiences even with just shaving my bikini line. All in all, getting rid of everything is not something I’m interested in. So is it weird to ask someone for that if I’m still a little hairy? To be fair, I don’t think I’d want to go down on a guy if there were hair on the actual shaft of his penis. My closest friends are queer women, and many of them have made comments about not wanting go down on their female partners if they haven’t shaved. I want to be a strong empowered feminist woman, but I also don’t want to make my partner have a truly unenjoyable experience.
—Venus in Fur
Dear Venus in Fur,
It’s not unfair or weird at all. Your body, your choice. And that’s on top of it being entirely reasonable to ask any sexual partner to go down on you. At the risk of mansplaining, I’d like to underline the importance of choice here: I don’t think that rocking a bush or trimming your hedges is inherently feminist or unfeminist. What is key here is that you are making your own informed decisions and that you aren’t allowing patriarchy to decide for you. I know you know this—I just want to make it clear that it’s possible to have bald genitalia and still be a feminist.
(Related or not, depending on the various ideologies that may inform your own personal feminism: A piece published on Vogue.com last year declared “The Full Bush Is the New Brazilian! Reasons to Give Up Waxing for Good.” So rejoice or dismay as you see fit.)
If you’re trimming, you’re doing plenty of diligence, and I can’t imagine most people having a problem. I can’t imagine really what it is to have a problem with hair—a natural consequence of mammalian existence—at all, really. I’ve gotten my tongue tangled in thatches without a second thought. People can be so … fazed. Granted, they all have their histories and perhaps valid reasons to feel legitimately ill at ease when presented salad topped with bean sprouts, as it were, buuuuuut I also have a sneaking suspicion that there are those whose problem with a hairy vulva has very little to do with the hair. The issues go deeper, down into the vagina. Why even bother catering to those types by making yourself more palatable by their definition? Your scruffy muff might actually be a litmus test to determine which of your partners are sufficiently laid back about female genitalia in general and/or respect your choice to relax the razor. Those who are chill and respectful are the ones who truly deserve what you’re serving anyway.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a thirtysomething man in a committed relationship with another man. I’d say our sex life is very good on the whole, and I always look forward to sex with my boyfriend. I never have problems getting him to climax, but he isn’t usually able to get me off. While I enjoy immensely all of the sensations I have when with him, I nearly always have to finish myself off. He has been able to get me off maybe twice in the more than one year we’ve been together, so I know it is possible. I’ve had this problem with guys I’ve been with previously as well. What can I do to fix this?
Dear Self Help,
Well, the natural place to start would be to replicate the conditions that facilitated your boyfriend’s getting you off the two times that it happened. What did he do? How much pressure did he use? Was there some verbal play that helped get you off? Some kind of fantasizing? Some kind of other play? Was there butt stuff?
Failing that, you can try refraining from masturbation/otherwise ejaculating for a while—go as long as you can until you’re so horny that thoughts of coming consume your existence. If that doesn’t do the trick, you perhaps have gotten so used to your own touch that no other touch will do. This is no kind of failing on anyone’s part, it’s just how you are. Keep in mind that physical stimulation is only one facet of sex—your partner may have a hard time manipulating your penis to orgasm, but that doesn’t mean that his presence/performance is in vain. It’s helping you along mentally. I understand that people are idealistic, they want things perfect, they want their books color-coded, their visible abs in even numbers, the food on their plate not to touch, their orgasms just so, but the reality is that not everyone’s bodies follow the culture-issued handbook on what constitutes good sex. A lot of guys (and women, for that matter) need to finish themselves off—if they’re bottoming, it practically comes with the territory. I’m not going to say that sex is all about the journey, not the destination, because orgasms are important and great. It’s more like: There’s no wrong (consensual) way to get to that destination. If you are having enjoyable sex and exchanging pleasure with your partner, whose stroke ultimately does you in is immaterial. In connected sex, your stroke is his stroke. Try not to stay too hung up on this.
More Advice From Slate
I am the middle of three boys, and we are all in our 20s. Our parents separated shortly after my younger brother was born and eventually they went through a bitter divorce. Recently, my father, brothers, and I went to a camping-style family wedding together. The facilities were spartan and we all ended up in a communal shower. I’m sure this was the first time all four of us were naked together, and it was certainly the first time I’d seen my younger brother naked since he was little. In the shower, there was a definite “one of these things is not like the other” moment. While my older brother, dad, and myself have fairly similar, if modest, endowments, my younger brother’s male parts were noticeably different (and “better”) than ours in almost every way possible: size, shape, even complexion (!). It was like seeing a great white whale breaching alongside dolphins. None of us look strikingly like our parents, but we are clearly brothers, except for this newly discovered alien appendage on my younger brother. At the reception, my older brother brought this up to me immediately, and we worked out the theory that mom had an affair that gave rise to my baby brother, and his decidedly different genitalia, and the divorce. I don’t think full brothers could have such variation, and the fact that my younger brother’s package is a definite upgrade plays into the theory that maybe mom was shopping around for a better deal. We’d really like to get to the bottom of this, but we’re not sure how to broach this already difficult topic with either parent when our only evidence consists of this sensitive observation.