How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!
Dear How to Do It,
My daughter moved to a major coastal city after college. While I covered her education, I couldn’t afford to bankroll her move to this city because I have to think of her younger sister and brother’s schooling in a couple of years. She was determined to go and has struggled since she left in August. I send money when I can, but it’s not much, and she told me she was scraping by working at a vintage store and doing transcription work. However, over the holidays, she let it slip that she’s turned to sex work to make ends meet. I was stunned. She said she feels it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that in her “creative” field it won’t present problems in the future. She also said she’s not in danger because she never actually meets the men, she just sees them on camera online.
I asked if any of them want to meet her, and she said yes. I asked what would happen if one recognized her in public, and she laughed. She left shortly after the holiday. I don’t know what to do. I know what she is doing is legal, at least so far, but her dismissive attitude to my concerns makes me think she has not thought this through. I feel she’s squandering my college investment by putting her professional future at risk. I’m also afraid to search for her online. What should I do? If you tell me I need to back off, I’d appreciate help telling her how to stay safe.
Dear Cam Mom,
I’m a sex worker with two parents. One was pretty chill about my work, and the other loudly raised a number of issues with it over the years. Can you surmise which one I talk to freely about my job? Which one I bring my career woes to? So I’m advising you to back off so that your daughter will continue to think of you as a safe space to turn to if something troublesome does happen.
Because that’s really the issue: There will be situations that I can’t anticipate. There will be problems that you can’t imagine. These stumbling blocks may vary in degree from mild inconvenience to five-alarm fire. You want to be a person your daughter feels comfortable coming to for advice when life gets complicated, so you can apply your adult brain and buckets of life experience to whatever is going on and help her get through it. Including issues surrounding sex work. You’ll have a lot more applicable wisdom than you might think.
As far as basic safety, she should be very careful about anything with her legal name or address on it—like mail or packages—getting caught on cam or in a selfie. Amazon Wish Lists have been a security risk in the past. She should lock any private or recreational social media profiles down as tightly as possible. She should be coy about what region she lives in. She should maintain a separate set of email accounts and logins for her cam stuff and be cautious with programs like Skype or FaceTime, or cash-transfer services like PayPal and Venmo, that may reveal legal names.
It’s easy for me to say this since I don’t have children, but after a certain point, you do have to accept that your offspring are adults who have their own choices and mistakes to make. Your daughter, as a presumably 22+-year-old individual, is in that liminal space where she’s legally an adult, but her brain isn’t quite finished developing yet. That’s probably terrifying for you.
She’s still entitled to live her own life.
Take a deep breath before you read this next section. Take another. OK. Your daughter should also know exactly where her designated police station is, and she should know that if there’s trouble, she needs to call 911 and tell dispatch that she feels threatened. She should have her keys prepared when she’s walking to her door. She should leave the porch light or equivalent on. This isn’t because she’s a sex worker; this is just because she’s a woman.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m in my 20s and since birth, I’ve had a neurological disorder that essentially means I don’t have the ability to relax my muscles. I have a ton of health issues associated with this, including chronic pain and an extremely tight pelvic floor, which leads me into this: Sex is agony, and since my muscles are permanently tight, the nerves that would allow me to have an orgasm are completely shot.
The thing is, I have a fiancé that I am madly in love with and who I do find physically attractive. He finds me attractive as well and wants to have sex with me. He’s my fourth sexual partner, so it’s not like I lost my virginity to him or was completely inexperienced. When we first started dating, I’d oblige him, even though I could never loosen enough not to be in extreme pain, and penetrative sex would exacerbate my symptoms by agitating internal spasms. Fingering hurts less, but there’s always the risk of poking something that should not be poked, and oral sex does absolutely nothing for me. It’s gotten to the point of me dreading any form of sexual contact so much that I will completely shut him down if he tries to initiate. This is made easier by us being long-distance (which is actually working well for us—we’re growing a lot as people while still being very bonded, and I’m not at all worried about infidelity), but when he comes to visit, there’s this pit in my stomach that sex is inevitable.
With all that said, I’m about to start treatment for this condition come the new year. They think I’ll respond well to it, which could mean that sex won’t be such an ordeal. Even with that in mind, I find myself being repulsed by the thought of engaging in intercourse, even though I find him attractive and don’t want anyone else. My fiancé has been amazing throughout the whole process of diagnosis, treatments, weird symptoms, you name it. He’s been so understanding and supportive of my issues with sex and is very respectful of my boundaries. He also doesn’t have a ton of angst about it, which is great because the guilt would kill me.
I don’t want to deprive him of something he enjoys for the rest of his life, though. I want to give myself to him and make him happy. I absolutely want to be the mother of his kids. But sex being a regular part of my life is just incomprehensible for me right now. What can I do to be more comfortable and get over what has frankly become a phobia? Even if I never enjoy sex myself, I still want to provide that for him.
Dear Muscle Memory,
Get yourself to a mental health professional. Tell them you have a single issue you’d like to work on. Explain as succinctly as you can—maybe even take what you’ve emailed and edit it down to half its current size, naming your condition instead of describing it, and exercising brevity wherever possible. Ask them if they have relevant experience. If so, ask how long they expect treatment to take. If they don’t have relevant experience, ask if they know anyone who does, or move on to the next one. Your medical treatment team might be a good place to ask for a referral, too. You can’t be the only person experiencing psychological complications associated with this physical issue, and the sooner you embark on therapy along with your other treatment, the sooner you can begin the life both you and your fiancé are working toward.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a man who’s been in a relationship with a man for about two years. We have a healthy sex life on our own, but I have a greater desire for variety, so he’s OK to let me have things on the side when I want. I usually have a few other partners a month. He does not, but we communicate about this. My trouble is that lately, I feel gross when I see other people. Even with regular guys who I’ve had good sex with on and off for years, I feel like I’m doing something wrong, even shameful. I still have the desire, then I feel bad when I act it out. I think it might be because I’m falling more for my guy, which is a good thing. I worry, though, that this is rooted in feeling like monogamy would be the true “seal” of our relationship, or like I’m polluting our connection somehow. I spent enough time feeling guilty about my sexuality and needs and don’t want to start again now. But I’m not sure how to deal with these weird feelings. What do you think is going on?
Dear Not Guilty,
We live in a society that has been monogamist, for better or worse, for a very long time. We can’t help but absorb messages like “sleeping around outside the couple might dilute our connection,” or “emotional intensity means I should only want this one person.”
Take a break and see how you feel. Don’t commit to monogamy or seal anything off. Simply pause other sexual interactions and see how that suits you. Yeah, you’ll have the desire to hook up or revisit long-term lovers. But you don’t have to act on it.
When you have more data, talk it out. Go to your partner and share your turmoil. Ask him how he feels about everything, and actively listen. You might find that having your partner’s security and consent to openness reiterated helps you, or that there’s something he’s been holding back. Be prepared for either possibility.
Presuming it’s still within the boundaries of your relationship, call up one of your favorite lovers and go for a ride. Gather more data. If you feel shame again, listen to it. Ask yourself where the shame is coming from. Acknowledge whatever is happening inside you. Maybe talk it out with your partner again. Write it down if that works for you. Process however you process best.
You may find that you want to have the option but not act on it. You also may find that your sexuality shifts as you grow and change, and that nonmonogamy isn’t your thing anymore. Either way, I think you’ve got this.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a single woman and have been for all my life. Not really by choice, but that’s a story for another advice column. Despite growing up in a household that was mum when it came to talking about sex, I learned about masturbation on my own and have enjoyed the journey of understanding how to pleasure myself and being happy with that as my one source of sexual stimulation. I’ve always done clitoral stimulation and been pretty satisfied. My orgasms are good and all, but I want more. I’ve read about the G-spot and vibrators, and have been chasing that fuller orgasm for a while. But I cannot find my G-spot to save my life. I know all the articles say it takes time and you may not have one, but I want to know what my options are in searching for it. My explorations always leave me nervous, sad, and dry, and I really want to know: Are there any tried-and-true methods out there of finding it? Can you have a fuller orgasm with penetration without G-spot stimulation or the existence of one in the first place?
That leads me to my next question topic: I want to use a vibrator. I’ve only ever used one for the clitoris, but I want to try penetration. Except every time I’ve tried, I freeze up and get really nervous. I’ve got an irrational fear of stretching myself and fear that I will injure myself with anything bigger than a tampon. What should I do when using a vibrator to gently get it in there and enjoy myself?
Dear Damned Spot,
The G-spot may or may not exist and may or may not simply be a part of the internal structure of the clitoris. I’d like you to web search “internal structure of the clitoris” so you can see what I’m talking about. Try to get yourself painfully aroused, but don’t let yourself orgasm. That spot should swell up and become easier to find.
Vibrators are great, but they tend to be hard. Possibly too hard to feel nice inside your vaginal canal. You may want to start with a dildo made of softer material. They come in all sizes, ranging from huge to only a little bigger than the average finger—which is about the circumference of a tampon. If you’re having difficulty finding a small one, look into anal training kits.
As for worries about stretching yourself out, the vagina is super resilient. Remember, that’s where babies pop through. Whole babies. That’s a lot bigger than a hand. I can tell you from personal experience that you can get an entire fist up there and snap back to tight enough to squeeze a finger.
Mostly though, I think you’re going to have better luck in your search for a more robust orgasm if you look into breathing and tantra. Focus on feeling present in your body. Embody your pleasure. Let go of the desire to orgasm so it can sneak up on you.
More How to Do It
My boyfriend and I recently had a casual conversation about our porn preferences, and it was intimate and nice. But one particular preference of his surprised me: He likes cuckold videos. I realize those are pretty common, but I can’t get it out of my head. Does that mean he really wants to do that? Does porn in general align with real-life desires?