How to Do It

Do I Have to Stop Masturbating to an Actor Now That He’s Dead?

I liked him when he was alive.

A hand holding a remote, with glowing neon TVs in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Denis Valakhanovich/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.com. Nothing’s too small (or big).

Dear How to Do It,

What are the ethics of fantasizing about dead celebrities when masturbating? I recently rewatched a film from the early 2000s starring someone who has sadly since passed away, and they played a character I found very charming the first time I watched the film and all the more so the second time around. The character later popped up in my thoughts during a self-love session, but I felt a little weird about it, since the person who portrayed them is dead! I have a lot of anxiety surrounding the concept of death and have PTSD from a loss I suffered in an especially traumatic way, so it may just be that I’m overthinking this. But is it OK to fantasize about characters played by actors who have since left us? What about the actors themselves?

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—Ghost Wank

Dear Ghost Wank,

It’s OK to fantasize about dead celebrities because it’s OK to fantasize, period. Your experience illustrates the reflexive nature of fantasy: The actor popped up in your head. You didn’t conjure them. It just happened, and you went with it. I think it’s far less ethical to actively deprive yourself of something that feels good (that will hurt absolutely no one), especially when you’re in the middle of the act. Best to just get the job done. You aren’t fantasizing about banging a corpse.

Besides, in all likelihood, part of this actor’s job was to be sexually appealing, so by getting off to them, you’re honoring their legacy … in a way. This comes up when a porn performer dies and sites like Str8UpGayPorn post professional pictures of happier times that inevitably involve erections and penetration of this now fallen star. I’m sure some people recoil, but undoubtedly plenty do what they always did to that guy’s naked pictures and rub one out. In that instance it’s very easy to tuck your chin and tumble into the assumption that it’s what they would have wanted. Might as well. You’re fine.

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Dear How to Do It,

I (early 30s woman) have been dating an awesome guy (also early 30s) for a couple of months. We get along and seem to have good chemistry, but he just can’t come from having sex—he has to masturbate to finish. He swears it’s not just me, but I don’t know how I feel about it, and don’t really know if I should even have an opinion on this matter.

I rarely orgasm. I’ve been taking antidepressants since my teens, so I assume that might be the cause, but I still like having sex. I have come to terms with this and don’t judge myself for it. When I’ve told other guys that I probably won’t orgasm, I’ve actually had some of them say that I just haven’t been with someone as talented or with as big of a dick, etc., and then they continue trying to make me come and get frustrated when it doesn’t happen. Having sex with this new guy is actually kind of great because the focus isn’t on coming. It feels very present, if that makes sense. And then he pulls out and masturbates. I asked why he can’t come, and he mentioned something about getting nervous about needing to come while he’s having sex. He’s also mentioned that he masturbates daily.

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I guess I am jealous of his orgasming exclusively without me, and maybe I find it a little weird, but I am not his dick, so I can’t really determine what feels best for him. Have you heard of this before? Should I bring this up with him? If he can’t come because he’s feeling anxious, I can’t imagine that discussing it would do anything to help.

—Aftercare

Dear Aftercare,

It doesn’t sound like he’s orgasming exclusively without you; if you’re in the room and you’re actively cheering him on, he’s orgasming with you, just without direct contact with your parts. At least he is coming. Finicky dicks are not uncommon. Some guys can’t get off through intercourse, some not through oral. Some shoot at the very thought of either. There are few topics to which the cliché “different strokes for different folks” is as apt as it is here, and you’ve undoubtedly noticed that’s an awfully common cliché.

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It could be that he’s experiencing “death grip syndrome,” which is not actual medical terminology (and in fact its existence has been refuted by medical professionals since Dan Savage coined it) but nonetheless does anecdotally seem to be a real thing. Some guys seem to get so used to their hands that their hands become the only thing that gets them off. He could ease up on his choking. Have you asked him to try laying off laying it in his palm for a few days before sex? That sometimes fosters heightened sensitivity and response, though if he is at peace with his method of finishing himself off, I wouldn’t pressure him to conform to this notion of how sex should be.

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Really, it seems to me that despite your preoccupation about his method of coming, you’re already refuting standard notions as a matter of course. That you can enjoy sex for what it is in the moment without worrying about anything else, including an orgasm, is an already enlightened way of considering sex. That both of you aren’t especially orgasmic and are able to enjoy the now of sex suggests that you are a good match. Lean into that. You don’t seem particularly concerned about your orgasm, so why is his so important? The answer is possibly rooted in notions that a man’s orgasm (especially when had inside a partner) makes the sex act complete. Let go of that. It should be easy. You’re basically there already.

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Dear How to Do It,

I have always prided myself on being a good kisser. I’ve had problems with clenching or grinding my teeth in my sleep since I was a teenager. I’ve noticed that my clenching is particularly bad when I’m in a busy season at work or when I don’t get enough exercise, but it can happen anytime. I’ve tried using store-bought night guards and went to an orthodontist, but the problem persists. Lately my jaw tightness has started to make it difficult for me to kiss, especially in the morning. It’s embarrassing! I have started to avoid kissing for more than a minute or two because I find myself getting stiff or sore. When I do try to get really into kissing, I find that I’m thinking more about how my jaw feels than anything else and often get the feedback that I “seem distant.” What can I do? Am I destined to kiss like a creaky door forever?

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—Clencher’s Kiss

Dear Clencher’s Kiss,

I feel for you. This is no fun, and it must affect your life beyond kissing (and sex). On the bright side, at least it isn’t constant. To prep for this question, I just read a bunch of testimonials regarding the ways TMJ and TMD interfere with people’s sex lives. It really isn’t pretty and, for many, doesn’t seem to have a solution. Many experience severe pain after kissing or giving oral sex. One person wrote in to say they can’t get aroused at all as a result. Reading about such an unfortunate condition has a way of putting things in perspective. At least you have periods where the tightness eases and you can kiss as you are inclined.

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I think during your trapdoor phases, you could try modifying your style. You needn’t approach your partner like a kissing gourami to express passion with your mouth; you can sensually peck, suck on your partner’s lips, flick your tongue, and all extremely gently. It’s not ideal, of course, but it’s a way to cope with the pain. (I’m a big fan of external tongue stuff including, but not limited to, tracing my partner’s lips with my tongue, but not everyone is a fan of receiving this. Still, perhaps worth a shot?) Asking you to change your technique is also asking you to think about it, which may further impede your ability to get lost in kissing (and again result in you coming off as distant to your partners), but maybe that’s just a matter of a learning curve, and solvable with some practice. Get to gently pecking.

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Dear How to Do It,

I found the perfect partner—the person who appreciates me to the fullest extent I’ve experienced. But I find myself completely uninterested in him sexually, and I very much have wandering thoughts. If it comes down to me leaving to fulfill my sexual urges, am I selfish? I also like being alone. Am I stupid to give up the love people spend their lives waiting to find just because I’d rather feel free? Are these young, immature feelings, or are they valid?

—Perfect, Except

Dear PE,

Your feelings are certainly valid (all feelings are), but sure, they could be a product of youth and immaturity. I think your standard is telling; the “perfect partner” is someone who appreciates you to the fullest extent, but not necessarily someone who sexually satisfies you. Isn’t it possible that there’s someone out there who does both? Couldn’t this person you write about, in fact, not be your perfect partner but an approximation? A this-close kind of love?

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That you like being alone and want to feel free is a separate issue, but it also suggests this is not the right relationship for you. Ideally your perfect partner will redefine what feeling free means (or at least help you manage your priorities to understand different kinds of freedom) without your needing to leave them to find it.

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I don’t have a lot to work with here in terms of specifics, but there are certainly scenarios in which leaving someone you love for the pursuit of pleasure is indeed selfish, and there are plenty of scenarios where it’s OK to be selfish and pursue happiness because you’re only on this planet for what amounts to a drop in the bucket of time. Why spend a second of it miserable if you can avoid it? You also have the option of staying with this person and asking them if they’d be willing to have an open arrangement that would leave you free to pursue your sexual urges. Having your cake and eating it too is a wonderful life goal, and entirely possible with a willing partner.

—Rich

More How to Do It

The other day my new 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?

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