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,
I will try to keep this short. My fiancée and I like to keep things fun and exciting in bed. Over the last two years, we incorporated porn into our love life every once in a while. Even though we both have different tastes, we are pretty open with each other and take turns picking videos. My fiancée loves interracial porn, and while it isn’t my thing, I like that it gets her excited. I also like the dirty talk she does after watching videos. So far this has all been a great addition into our sexual relationship, but now she wants to buy a big black dildo … which has me feeling a bit inadequate. I’m average in size (six inches long and decent girth), but the dildo she wants is way bigger. I don’t want to be a buzzkill, and I want her to experience things, but this has me feeling self-conscious and has even affected how I feel about the porn we watch. I can’t compete with their size. I’m unsure how to proceed.
Dear Measuring Up,
You’ll have to bring this up if you can’t get past it. Think about what you’ll say, depending on what she says. Imagine hearing, “Yes, I fetishize black men with large penises, and my life is incomplete without acting to make this fantasy real.” Would you be willing to open up the relationship? What kinds of boundaries do you think you would need to feel secure enough?
Now think through another scenario, like, “I fetishize black men with large penises and want to interrogate that desire.” Or, “I have this fantasy that won’t leave me alone, and I want to get as close as possible to it with you, so I shared it with you.” Maybe you co-star in all her fantasies and she doesn’t talk about that because you’re there with her in the moment. If you can find the curiosity, follow it and form questions. You won’t know for sure until you talk about it.
Go to your fiancée and say, “Hey, I’m feeling inadequate right now and could use some support.” Tell her you’re sensing a theme, and you want to know more about this part of her. Ask those questions. Find out what’s happening and compare it against your own boundaries and needs. Then share what you’re thinking and feeling, and any solution you think might work for the two of you. From what you describe, it sounds like you have a fun, open sex life. Approach this with the same spirit, and I think you’ll find a resolution.
By the way, if you’re a girthy six inches, you’re comfortably above the statistical average.
Dear How to Do It,
I dated my wife for five years before I proposed, and we lived together for three of those years. We make love regularly, between four to five times per month, with each of us alternating who initiates. But I have a problem: I have always had a difficult time with her odor down there, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings about it, but I’ve essentially stopped going down on her because of it. I’ve gone down on other women before her, and I think there maybe something wrong with her. How do I bring this up without hurting her feelings? I know it’s not supposed to smell like roses, but I would like to please her, and this is just not working for me. I feel selfish because of it sometimes that it makes me avoid sex on some occasions.
Dear Sniff Test,
You’re going to have to do the hard thing. I know. It’s very hard. Daunting. Scary. You have to talk about this with your wife. Try not to use the phrase “something wrong with her” when you do. You might hurt her feelings. That’s a very real risk. But you’ll also hurt her if she spends the next 50 years wondering why the sex is dwindling and you don’t eat her out anymore.
Maybe start with “I have to tell you something and I’m worried it might hurt you.” You might want to remind her that you love her and restate your commitment to her, your relationship, and your sex life. You might say, “I’ve always reacted negatively to the way your vulva smells.” You might come up with an alternative that is gentler. Be careful not to be so vague that she’s left filling in horror scenarios, and do think about what you’ll say beforehand. Follow up with—I’m assuming—your desire to figure out how to tackle this issue.
This could be a sign of a problem, or it might not. She could mention it to her gynecologist. Otherwise, I also assume you’re open to workarounds. Mints or cough drops might help. Be mindful of the effects of mint or menthol on genital tissue, which may be a plus or minus depending on how she experiences that sensation. Anything sugary, like chocolate sauce or honey, risks giving her a yeast infection. Thicker lubricant like Babeland’s silicone BabeLube might also mask the smell. Coconut oil might mask it, too.
Talk about it first, though, so she doesn’t have to puzzle your issue out from all the different things you’re putting on her vulva.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a heterosexual man who lost my virginity a year ago to my girlfriend when I was 24 years old. I feel truly lucky that my first time was with someone I care so much about. However, recently, my lack of experience has been getting to my head. I know my partner had been with other people before our relationship, and now, for whatever reason, I can’t stop myself from worrying that I’m not providing as enjoyable of an experience in some way. We have sex several times a week, which she appears to actively enjoy, but I can’t seem to shake my insecurity. I’ve tried to pay close attention to her verbal and nonverbal cues and read about female pleasure in an effort to both improve as a partner and ease my concerns. But it hasn’t seemed to help with the feeling that I am not enough. I realize that she’s not necessarily comparing experiences, and my intent is not to stroke my own ego by rocking her world. What I really want is to get out of my own head so that I can enjoy the experience and be the best lover to her that I possibly can. How do I feel confident in my sexuality and continue to improve as a partner?
—New Kid on the Block
It sounds like you have every reason to believe things are fine and hot between the two of you, but you can’t. So I want you to read one more book: Barbara Carrellas’ Urban Tantra. Then I want you to try every single thing in that book. Read the whole thing first so you know what you’re headed toward, then go back to the beginning and do the exercises. How does one thing a day sound? Maybe you’d prefer one thing a week with opportunities to practice multiple times in the week? Whatever works for you.
If that doesn’t work for you, do other breathing stuff—it doesn’t have to be sexual to provide positive effects in the bedroom. Work on letting go of your ego and worries, so you can be fully present in the moment instead of stuck in your head.
Dear How to Do It,
I recently became sexually active after almost five years. I didn’t date for a variety of reasons and was completely content. I wasn’t looking to date anybody but ended up meeting a friend of a friend about a month ago. He travels for work, and I’m not sure I have strong feelings for him, so we decided to have a friends with benefits relationship. The problems is, I feel like I’m not making good decisions in bed. In the last month, I’ve had to take Plan B twice. It was done in an overabundance of caution the first time, but not the second. Both times things went farther than I was hoping, despite promises from this guy that it wouldn’t. After the first time, I told him I just wanted to hang out in the bars and didn’t want to take it back to his apartment, which didn’t happen. Even though we’ve talked about a different contraception option, I don’t really trust myself around him. Should I completely stop seeing him? If I set down some very strict set of rules about how I want us to interact, is it realistic to think he would stick to them?
Dear Plan C,
I’m unclear on how firm you’ve already been about your boundaries. When you say, “farther than I was hoping,” I’m not sure if you expressed your boundaries or hoped he’d pick up on them. When you say, “despite promises from this guy that it wouldn’t” go to a certain place, that sounds like you did set boundaries, and like he agreed to those boundaries, but then eventually you both went back together.
So if you did set boundaries verbally, and he agreed to them, and then he pushed things further, that’s a big red flag. If you didn’t set boundaries verbally, then you should absolutely do that before you see him again.
As for whether he’ll stick to a strict code of behavior, you can’t know for sure unless you give him another chance. Whether that risk is worth taking is a decision you have to make. You also say you don’t trust yourself around him. That may be your answer.
More Advice From Slate
I’m a single mom to 12-year-old twin boys. I recently found porn on my sons’ iPad (I wasn’t snooping!), and I feel that I need to address it with them. I recognize that it’s entirely normal to want to watch porn—especially at an age when they’re trying to figure out their sexuality—but I have concerns about the content they’re watching. I’m very cognizant of the abuse and misogyny in the porn industry and that free internet porn also generally does not depict healthy sexual relationships. I want to make sure that they understand they won’t be able to go out into the world and do the things they’re seeing online. How do I approach this discussion without shaming them? Or should I just ignore it?