How to Do It

No Kissing Allowed

I can’t get past hand-holding with anyone because of an extremely basic hang-up.

GIF of a man grimacing while neon lips glow in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by master1305/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.comNothing’s too small (or big).

Dear How to Do It,

I am a straight male. Ever since I was a child, I have thought that the act of open-mouth kissing was gross and disgusting. Another person’s saliva in your MOUTH? Barf! I would be perfectly happy to kiss practically any part of my partner’s body, excepting the mouth and the anus. Now that I am of an age such that most people would like to kiss someone, I am finding it difficult to go beyond hand-holding. How do I communicate this to a partner? I don’t want to seem like I’m judging her oral hygiene, and I know that lots of women find kissing to be an essential part of physical intimacy. I am afraid that I would be rejected if I reveal my freakish abnormality.

—Mouth Off

Dear Mouth Off,

Your fear that you might be rejected is pretty reasonable. People reject other people for all kinds of reasons: not a good sexual match, too old, too young, too large, too small, poor conversation, and yes, somewhat unusual quirks like being grossed out by kissing.

Like all of us, you’re going to have to put yourself out there and be patient while you search for someone you mesh well with. Your best bet is to be upfront but neutral. “I don’t like kissing people on the mouth.” Or even “I love the idea of kissing every inch of your body, except your mouth and your butthole.” Why not! The point is to be direct when it comes down to it, and accept that it will be a problem for some people. Mostly just don’t call it a “freakish abnormality.” You’re fine. You’re not a freak, and you aren’t that abnormal. Or rather, we’re all abnormal in some way—your abnormality makes you normal.

To that point, I’m about to publish an essay on my site ZeroSpaces (NSFW for most) from a delightful eroticist who goes by Heart. She mentions, in passing, a couple who didn’t like using condoms with their hook ups—but did have a no-kissing rule. Some people do manage to have sex without kissing. You imply you’re young, so while we’re on the subject, learn how to use a condom properly—and then use them for penetration. They’re the easiest, and most effective, safer sex measure.

Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I have been together for three years and married two months. We’re both in our 40s and came from long-term, sexually lackluster relationships. We’re deeply in love and deeply satisfied with our level of sexual compatibility. Here’s the issue: When I was younger, I experimented quite a bit and had a lot of fun. His escapades, while similar in number, lacked the variety I experienced. He’s never had a threesome, or foursome, or anything beyond sex with one woman at a time.

He’d love to try adding another man or another woman to our mix. I’ve done that before, and while it was good fun, it’s not really my thing. Plus, I’ve only done it with people I was casually involved with. On the one hand, I really want him to have the experience! On the other, I think I might get jealous sharing him. I’ve never been afraid to try something new before.

—Player Three

Dear Player Three,

First, have the important conversations. What your boundaries and fears are. His limits and qualms. You’ll probably need to pause, maybe for a few days at a time, for each of you to have time to process what you’re discussing.

Then get ready and try to ease into it. Start with shared fantasy. Talk to each other while you’re having sex. Imagine another person being there. Walk through the possibilities of additional partners together in a liminal space where the stakes are much lower and you only have two sets of emotions to pay attention to, first.

Take note of your feelings. If jealousy flares up, try to find out why. Does it feel like something you can work through, or like a warning sign? Go back to those important conversations with your new data points.

If you do proceed, plan for hiccups. How will the two of you communicate if one is experiencing duress? How will you respect the individuality and value of the person you bring in as a third? What will you do if things start to slide sideways? Perhaps you can borrow from BDSM and use a safe word. The simplest system is Red, Yellow, Green—red meaning stop, yellow meaning slow down, and green meaning go ahead, everything is great.

Remember that you love each other and are committed to each other’s well-being. Good luck.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a bisexual woman in her late 20s who’s a bit of a late bloomer: I’ve had one relationship with a guy. We did many things and had different types of sex. For a variety of reasons, though, we never had your standard penis-in-vagina sex. Since we broke up, I’ve dated a few women, and, obviously, this type of sex has not been an option.

I don’t have any hang-ups about having vaginal sex. I just haven’t gotten around to it. The main anxiety I have about it is whether to tell a future partner. I’m contemplating starting something with a guy in my social circle, and if things go well, I hope to be having sex with him at some point soon. Part of me feels like I should tell him I haven’t had this type of sex before, for the sake of full disclosure. I’m worried, though, that even if I explain that I’m not worried about the situation, he’ll still think it’s a big deal, that I’m lying about how much I care, and so on. I know that “it won’t really matter to the right guy,” but I honestly don’t care if he’s the right guy. I just want to have a fun fling without having to explain and justify my lack of an extensive sexual history to him.

I don’t think I have any logistical questions about the process that would make it necessary to tell him. I feel like I know how to communicate when engaging in sexual activity. I’m fine with things being a bit awkward the first time we do it, and I’ll gladly cop to not having much experience with men. I just don’t want to have to admit that this is my “first time” because this idea comes with so much more baggage than I feel like I’m carrying. Is there something I’m missing, though—some other reason why it might be necessary to explain this to my next partner?

—Old-Timer

Dear Old-Timer,

Yes. There’s a chance you might bleed the first time, and if you do, you’ll either have to directly lie about your propensity to bleed or admit that you’ve been withholding information. Not the greatest start to a relationship, even if it’s one based on physical chemistry and little else, and intended to be short-term.

As great as hookup culture is, it tends to gloss over the interactive nature of sex. You’re doing a thing together. You want to be on the same page. I know this kind of transparency can be annoying and even scary, but it’s worth it. Tell the guy upfront. If he acts weird, he’s the wrong guy, but it is entirely your prerogative if you still have sex with him. I wouldn’t, though.

Dear How Do to It,

I recently started a relationship with a man who is eight years older than me (I’m 43, he’s 51). We’ve both been on anti-anxiety medications for a while, and he’s also quitting smoking. He told me after our first night together that he occasionally suffered from ED and took generic Viagra to help things out. It takes about an hour to kick in, and we’ve found that if we spend that hour in foreplay, his lack of erection causes him extra anxiety and sometimes keeps the meds from doing their job. In addition, if he loses his erection during sex, he shuts down completely and won’t talk about it or do anything to continue intimacy. He hasn’t shown any interest in supplementing intercourse with other sexual activities, and trying to talk to him about it when we’re clothed hasn’t helped. It isn’t my first time dealing with this issue—my last boyfriend was 15 years older than me—and the ED doesn’t bother me at all. The refusal to communicate or experiment, however, does. What can I do?

—Pill

Dear Pill,

You don’t talk about why you’re still in this new relationship. There must be reasons—positive qualities this man has—that compensate for his surly refusal to address his dick’s troubles, but I couldn’t tell you what they are. Make a list.

Then make another list, this time of all the red flags he displays in the bedroom, and what they tell you about him. Compare the two. You’re the expert on your life and what you value. You’re the only person who can decide whether the fun, supportiveness, warmth, or whatever he has going for him is worth his stubborn fixation on penis-in-vagina penetration and his seemingly immature shutting down when confronted with an erratic erection.

If you decide that this is a deal-breaker, you might give him one last shot. You might say, “I’m bothered by your unwillingness to experiment, and your unwillingness communicate with me about the sex we are and aren’t having.” Tell him it’s a deal-breaker: “I need to see change in this area if I’m going to continue in this relationship.” See what he does. Suggest he see a urologist. Maybe his medication needs to be adjusted. If he follows through with a doctor visit, I think you can take that as a very good sign.

—Stoya

More How to Do It

I am single for the first time in a while and having a fair number of partners, and I have found that the majority of guys just expect oral sex to extend to deep-throating without really discussing it first. I don’t hate it, but to me, it’s a pretty aggressive form of sex that should be discussed first! Instead it seems totally normalized to these dudes, like it’s just a natural part of a blow job. I finally brought it up with the most recent guy, and he seemed genuinely surprised. What’s going on here?