How to Do It

I Found My Partner’s Porn—and Uh, Wow It Is Disturbing

Eek.

Shocked woman looking at a laptop
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by 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,

This morning, I found my partner’s porn. Initially, I did not intend to snoop—I wanted to check the weather on his computer (which I don’t think he would mind, as he uses my computer without asking sometimes) and I found his porn browser open with furry bondage porn open. After I saw this, I snooped. Some of his “favorite” pages on the browser were things with titles like “Teen Degraded” and “Woman Treated Like a Piece of Meat.” This really upsets and disturbs me, especially the focus on violence toward adolescent girls.

I sort of knew he was into furry stuff—I’d found stuff on his computer before, but he claimed it belonged to his ex. He swore up and down he wasn’t into it. It’s not that I mind if it gets somebody off, but personally I find it off-putting. What’s weird to me is that he has lied about it consistently.

Also, this is more stupid, but one thing he seems to like is flat-chested girls. I am not flat-chested, but when we first met, I had smaller breasts and I’m insecure about how they have become bigger. I realize this is silly, though, and he has never seemed not to like my breasts.

I’m upset that he lied about the furry stuff—why would you lie about that? I also am disgusted by him getting off on degrading violent porn about adolescent girls, partly because I am sensitive about that stuff due to an assault I experienced as an adolescent, but partly also because I find it upsettingly misogynistic. Is this how he sees me, or what he wants out of sex? (I should mention that my partner uses “he” pronouns but is not cis.) Our sex is not like this. Am I being a prude? Should I even bring this up? We have been together for six years.

—Freaked Out

Dear Freaked Out,

Can you, at this point, believe anything your partner says? Especially anything he says about sex? These are actual questions I think you should take serious stock of and answer before you make any moves. If you can’t, the relationship might not be salvageable. You’d be within your rights to say, “I don’t see trust rebuilding anytime soon and I need to move on alone.”

But maybe you trust your partner in other areas and see potential to heal. Just like you can choose to end the relationship, you can choose to stay. You also may not feel ready to make a decision yet and want more information. You might tell your partner that you want to have an honest conversation about sex and make it crystal clear that his forthright honesty is crucial to moving forward together.

Now’s your opportunity to find out what was an astute guess on your part and what was an inaccurate assumption. You don’t know whether the titles of the videos he likes are part of what he seeks out or an unfortunate byproduct of the way pornography is marketed online. You don’t know whether he’s using specific material to fantasize about his ex or whether he’s directly into furry porn himself.

And you especially don’t know whether he wants to enact any of this in real life. I know people who regularly watch fake incest porn but truly want vanilla, missionary, intimately connected sex. That’s just one example. Of course, all of this hinges on whether you’ll be able to believe anything you’re told.

Dear How to Do It,

My ex and I had sex regularly and I believe it was satisfying for both of us. One major problem was that she would get especially sex-driven while on her period and I didn’t want intercourse at all during that time. I don’t feel that I ever shamed her, but she took my refusal as rejection. On top of this, during those days, I masturbated to porn, which she had a problem with. I want to handle these issues in a more constructive way in my next relationship. How do I set boundaries while still being compassionate and addressing my own sexual needs?

—Period Drama

Dear Period Drama,

It seems like this is an important enough issue to you that you should make it a point to date people with a similar take on period sex. Particularly liking or disliking sex during menstruation—like being dominant or submissive, or having a high or low interest in sex—means you’re best off making sure that you’re on the same page with your main partner. Ask, like you do with views on abortion, religion, and politics, to find out if you’re a good match together. Wait until you’ve developed enough rapport and knowledge of each other to feel comfortable bringing it up.

You could be direct and say: “Do you like having sex while you’re on your period? I’ve had problems in previous relationships because I don’t like it at all.” And then, if you feel strongly enough that a partner who likes period sex is a deal-breaker, well, at least you’ll know early on.

You can also ask how the people whom you’re dating feel about porn before getting serious. If they think it’s disgusting, pathetic, or evil, you might want to keep looking, given your interest in it.

Dear How to Do It,

My boyfriend and I have been together through most of our 20s and now into our 30s, and our sex life has been solid and satisfying for the most part, if never as fervent as it seems to be for some other young couples. We have talked about sleeping with other people to spice things up, especially since we got together so young, but neither of us has acted on it beyond a drunken kiss here or there, and I think we are both just not hugely sex-driven. However, over the years, we have obliquely realized that we both get the most enjoyment (and best orgasms) from masturbation, usually with the aid of porn. Recently, I started to think about him masturbating while I do, and watching videos of couples masturbating together, and that’s made me want to try it with him. I told him and he was down to try. I realize this sounds silly for two people who have been together almost a decade, but we did try, and found that we couldn’t really do it—we were both embarrassed to turn on the porn we like, and he couldn’t even get hard at first. It felt like we were entering each other’s private space. We ended up just having sex instead to cut the awkwardness. Still, I’d really like to share this with him, and I think it might take our sex life to a new level. How do we push past our shyness, both about the physical act and about sharing the porn we like?

—Lonely

Dear Lonely,

You didn’t exactly dive into the deep end, but you didn’t ease your way down the steps at the 3-foot mark, either.

Walk it all the way back. What was the last thing that felt comfortable? Was it talking about masturbation with your boyfriend? Was it thinking about talking with him? Whatever that point is, go back to it and hang out for a while.

Then take the smallest possible step forward. If you’re comfortable thinking about talking, try texting from separate rooms or speaking verbally with the lights off. Send each other links to what you like when you’re apart. Progress to the point where you’re both comfortable sharing verbally while maintaining eye contact.

Share slowly.

Keep that relaxed and steady pace as things get more physical. Take your clothes off slowly; touch yourselves slowly; give yourself permission to orgasm and to stay at the plateau phase. Take your time. Be gentle with each other.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 50-year-old divorced woman who is dating women for the first time. (I’ve had occasional crushes on women, but that’s it.) At this chapter of my life, what I want first and foremost in a partner is emotional intelligence and compatibility, and I find women are much better at that than men. My sex drive these days is not terribly demanding, but I expect that it will pick up if/when I find someone I feel close to and safe with. I’m kind of looking forward to starting anew, and I’m hoping sex with women can keep me from falling into the pattern I’ve always had with men: In the early stages, or during casual sex, I’m fine and honest about what I want, but once a relationship is established, I get shy and find myself performing a role and dissembling about my own pleasure. This gendered dynamic also affected the nonsexual parts of my relationships, and I’m done with that. I’m wondering how to navigate telling the women I date that I haven’t dated or had sex with women before. I don’t want to make someone feel like an experiment or put anyone in the position of being my personal teacher! I don’t really know what I’m doing, but that’s the point: I want to find a relationship to another person, and to sex, that I’ve never had before. What should I do?

—New to This

Dear New to This,

We need to manage some expectations here. Every new hookup is a learning process. You have to learn every new partner’s body, and you have to teach them how your body works and what you like best. We’re always teaching each other.

Now that the semantics are out of the way, one thing you can do to avoid putting someone in the position of tour guide is to educate yourself. Allison Moon’s Girl Sex 101 is the greatest resource I know on the basics of sex with women.

Of course, no book can give you the deft touch of lived experience and hands-on practice. Accept that you’ll need some time to adjust to vulvas. Accept that your tongue will need to develop muscle and your fingers may cramp in strange ways.

You may run into people who are turned off by your inexperience, and you may run into people who fetishize it. Just like dating men, you’ll have to sort through who is a good fit for you. Who makes you feel comfortable and safe while exploring. You might consider broadening an existing friendship if there’s attraction there, and your best bet is to be upfront.

As for finding a relationship to others that you’ve never had before, I reached out to Logan Levkoff, professional sex educator. Here’s what she had to say:

Just be honest. You already know all of the potential reactions or concerns that a potential partner may be worried about, the most significant being that someone typically doesn’t want to be a “teacher” nor do they want to be just a “phase” if real feelings develop. The good news is that with all of our modern discourse about gender and sexuality, we know more now about how expansive our desires and relationships can be. At this stage in your life, [you shouldn’t be surprised if you realize you like to] explore sex and relationships and pleasure with people different from your past.

More How to Do It

My husband and I were married for 31 years. We didn’t have sex for the last 15 years. He was sick for the past five years and very, very sick in the last year. He recently passed away. I started having sexual feelings some time last year. In the past year, we had four caregivers for my husband. The last person to care for him was someone I knew for about a year. “Mark” took excellent care of my husband and helped me out by cleaning the house and doing some general chores. We were both present when my husband died at home. This person is the most caring person I have ever met in my life. One day we were giving each other a hug and I blurted out that I would try to seduce him, but I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. Mark replied that he would be open to that. Could you give me some advice on how to proceed?