How to Do It

My Husband’s Guy Friends Feel Each Other Up and Flirt Endlessly

What’s up with this?

GIF of one man with an arm thrown over the shoulder of another man. Neon magnifying glasses glow in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by ajr_images/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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,

What is up with this: My husband (we’re straight) and a few of his circle of friends seem to have this flirtatious homoerotic thing going on where they pretend to (or actually do, in the guise of a joke) flirt, rub each other’s shoulders or thighs, and make breathy jokes about each other. My husband seems to be on the receiving end of it, mostly, because he knows that I am not a fan. He would hate it if it were me and my friends acting like we were about to make out, too. And I have said as much. But he doesn’t say anything to his friends in the moment (not that I would necessarily expect him to—after all, they aren’t really going to just start banging each other, and no one wants a confrontation over friendly beers in the yard), and their wives and I often joke about it, like “so and so is going to run off with your husband, hahahah.”

I’m not going to make a big deal out of it either, but I want to know—is this a thing?? It’s not something I have seen outside my husband and his friends, but they are also the only guys I really hang out with. Are these guys just really horny for each other? I don’t get this, and I want to know if I’m in the right to be ticked off. I think living in a liberal area of the county it’s expected that everyone is “cool.” And I am cool. I know he’s not going to leave me for his friends. But what’s up with this nonstop dude love?

—Man on Man

Dear Man on Man,

I don’t know if these guys are truly horny for each other, per se; they just sound horny, period. Sometimes guys have a lot of energy but they don’t really have the tools to express it, so things come out kind of inappropriate and distorted. I’m not saying let’s cry for men and their stunted emotional growth, but we can acknowledge that the ideals of masculinity so many adhere to are at odds with free expression. The former generally devours the latter. So, as is always the case, when you do clownery, the clown comes back to bite. I’ve been around self-identified straight guys who engage in this kind of banter, and it sometimes is wielded like a flex (“I’m so straight that I can be so gay and it doesn’t mean anything”) with maybe a dash or two of homophobia thrown on (“We are all aware that this, including the very notion of men being attracted to men, is absurd”).

Then again, as you are probably aware, having sex with men is fun. Maybe they want in. Who knows!

Many straight guys are a jumble of hormones and half understandings of social mores and sports stats and Coen brothers movie quotes and farts. So many grown men (of every persuasion) are really just kids you are effectively adopting when you take them on as life partners. I’m sorry to those men. And to you. I think you have made the right choice—making a big deal about this could escalate things to the point of unnecessary tension. But since you have his ear (for life), why don’t you talk to your husband about it? Origins, how he feels, whether it’s a useful method of blowing off steam, etc. I’d love to see some data on this phenomenon—if these guys would actually put their money (or, in this case, a dick) where their mouths are, why it feels so good to play boyfriend with your friend, etc. If you are so inclined, report back. Let’s get a phenomenological study going.

Dear How to Do It,

Do you have any good resources for how to approach uncut penises in terms of blowjobs and handjobs? My husband is uncircumcised, and I’m disappointed in myself for not figuring this out earlier. I love giving head but have been pretty unenthusiastic in the past years because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m feeling insecure in an area I had been very confident in, and I’m terrified of hurting him. I’ve tried asking, but it makes him incredibly uncomfortable to communicate what he wants in the moment (he’s a shy dork, and sexy-talk is not in his wheelhouse).

Between that and my insecurity and ignorance, it really cools down the temperature of the situation. I’ve tried internet research, but there’s an ocean of noneducational porn to filter through, and I haven’t found anything that was truly helpful or insightful. I know that I really should just sit down with my husband and talk about what he likes and doesn’t, but I’d also just love to surprise him with some newfound skills! Your help will be greatly appreciated by at least two people.

—Under the Hood

Dear Under the Hood,

There’s a lot you can do with a little bit of skin, but the problem with advising anything in this arena is that what you should do ranges from guy to guy. Some love to get head with their foreskin pushed back out of the way; some only are into it with the foreskin pulled forward. Some love when you pull the foreskin really forward and nibble a little bit on it, or push your tongue between it and the head. Really a tough call, but you can try all of that.

Excepting extremely sensitive dicks, handjobs are usually easier because the foreskin’s friction makes lube unnecessary. That glide, it’s aerodynamic. As for blowjobs, let’s have a heart-to-heart, cocksucker-to-cocksucker: I don’t understand why you are so challenged here. Unless your boyfriend has the dick of an actual horse, we’re talking about a negligible amount of skin. Why wouldn’t you go at the dick like you would one that has been shorn of its smegma-producing power? Not to be all woo-woo and like “the best dick sucking is mindful dick sucking,” but from where I’m sitting (the floor, on my knees), part of what I love about sucking dick is the expressive aspect of it. It’s hard to even describe. There are no words, there is only dick sucking.

As a result, my approach is largely intuitive, albeit modifiable upon instruction. Is your husband cringing? Complaining? Not anywhere closer to coming after 10 minutes than he was when you started? What’s going on here? Unless you’ve gotten negative feedback from him, blow forward. Fake it till you make him come. You’ll know if you’re hurting him because even the most stoic lover is going to tell you when you’ve injured his dick. They’re sensitive like that. Try sucking his dick for you, not him, and see if that gets you any further along. Otherwise, talk to him already about this, damn it.

Dear How to Do It,

I am married to an amazing man. We talk about everything, especially about sex and my difficultly coming to climax. I was an intercourse virgin when we got married, and we had oral sex before marriage, but I did not and still do not orgasm with any sex. The only time I have ever orgasmed during “sex” was when I was manic (I have been stable for 20 years with bipolar disorder), and it was with heavy petting over clothes. The only other time I climax is when I masturbate.

I was raised with abuse, sexually for a short time but mostly emotionally and spiritually. My father was and is a narcissist and “rageaholic,” and I was raised in a church that was very legalistic. Any sexual feelings were “from the devil,” and I was told at a young age that I was going to hell for self-pleasure in any sexual way. But my husband and I have been together five years and married four! What is wrong with me? I’m willing to learn anything. My husband is willing to do anything to help. We are at a loss. He is sad and I am frustrated that I am unable to experience THE FULL experience currently, and we have been having sex two to four times a week for four years. Any advice is welcomed.

—Stuck

Dear Stuck,

Nothing is wrong with you. You’ve survived a lot, including an attempt to instill shame on your sexuality. You’re having sex two to four times a week—sounds like you’re triumphing. And isn’t it fun, the sex that you’re having, regardless of whether you orgasm or not? It sounds like your experience is plenty full, and perhaps a reframing of priorities would be useful. Orgasms are great, and achieving one (or more) is many people’s goal in any given sexual encounter, but they don’t define “full” or even necessarily good sex. You do that.

That said, there are things you can try if you want to maintain your priorities. If you can climax through masturbation, I suggest doing whatever you do in that situation with your partner—clitoral stimulation, vibrators, porn, whatever. Vaginal stimulation alone is not enough for many women. It sounds like you’ve worked through a lot, but counseling, especially of the sexual variety, could also be useful. Finally, I urge you to explore alternate types of orgasms. In Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens’ step-by-step book, The Explorer’s Guide to Planet Orgasm, they discuss many different types of orgasms including energy orgasms and breath orgasms. Urban Tantra, a fave of my How to Do It partner Stoya, also advises on achieving expanded orgasmic states. These may be quite useful to you. Recently, Stoya recommended a meditative breathing technique, and we heard back from another reader who said she’d feared she could never come again, but after reading Stoya’s column, she practiced the technique and soon found herself having multiple orgasms. Sometimes, it’s all about mitigating expectations, reframing the definition of pleasure, and then experimenting. Try not to let yourself get frustrated—that’s likely to be a roadblock. Good luck.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a gay man in my early 30s with a decade of experience topping and bottoming. When I watch pornography, I usually imagine myself in the role of the receptive partner, my gaze landing on the insertive partner. Similarly, when I masturbate, thoughts of bottoming tend to dominate my fantasies. My problem is that my body just isn’t on the same page as my brain. I feel like I’m hardly ever “ready” to bottom. In terms of diet, I’m well-aware of the usual suggestions (more fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.), but these foods make my bowel movements softer, less regular, and less complete—exactly the opposite of what I want! If I give myself an enema, I’ll be on and off the toilet for the next five hours, and then my body still gives me the red light. At this point in my life, I’ve largely resigned myself to having sex without penetration since my body doesn’t seem to work the same way as everyone else’s—but could there be a medical explanation for my situation? I know there isn’t a magic pill that would give me one firm, complete evacuation each day, but it would be nice to bring the reality of my sex life closer to my fantasy life.

—No Entry

Dear No Entry,

“Multifactorial” is the word Dr. Evan Goldstein used to describe this situation when I called him to discuss your question. “Everybody’s response to everything is totally different,” said Goldstein, a surgeon in New York whose Bespoke Surgical practice is billed as “an elite anal surgery practice purpose-built for today’s gay male.” So let’s walk through this.

Yes, it could be medical: Things like Crohn’s or inflammatory bowel disease could cause problems like those that you describe. Goldstein recommends an evaluation with a proctologist or colorectal specialist to check for any underlying medical issues, which could also include hemorrhoids, a tear, STDs, or HPV. Be warned: Such a doctor specifically concentrating on gay men’s anal health may be difficult to find if you aren’t near a major metropolitan area. (Goldstein does offer Skype consultations.)

That aside, the kind of squeaky cleanliness you want isn’t going to be brought by a few squirts of an enema bulb alone. “It needs to be thought of as gut health and a total G.I. health,” said Goldstein, stressing that even when people think they’re getting enough fiber because they eat fruits and vegetables all the time, they typically need more. Try psyllium husk or flaxseed supplements—there are a host on the market of various price points. I use this cheap sugarless one. (I don’t recommend immediately jumping into twice-daily intake unless you want to repel everyone but hardcore fart fetishists; best to start by incorporating slowly and building up frequency over the course of a week or two.)

Finally, there’s your method of cleaning out. You mentioned using an enema—if you’re literally squirting something you pulled off a drug store shelf up your butt, the liquid included is meant to stimulate your bowels. It’s a laxative, so that could be why you’ve been shitting on and off for five hours. You’ll similarly draw stool out if you are shooting too much water too high and it’s entering your colon. Goldstein said people overclean, and needlessly at that—typically where dick goes, shit isn’t. “One of my professors, totally straight, said, ‘Let’s just take 10 random people and have anal sex with them, they’re not preparing, they’re not douching, they’re not cleaning. How many of them would be clean without anything? Probably 9 out of 10 people would be clean,’ ” he recalled. He sells a product on his Future Method site that’s a small bulb and a pH-balanced solution; I’ve heard other doctors say tap water works for the job (you may want to filter it, just to be safe).

Finally, a word from another doctor that I know, Stephen Goldstone, a colorectal surgeon who practices in New York. “He should also try to get over it. It is still an asshole, and there can be fecal residue,” he told me via email. As he writes in his book, The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex: A Medical Handbook for Men, “An anus is still an anus, and it will never be the silk purse you’ve dreamed of.”

I’m curious about what prompted your letter; you don’t report any messy sex or shunning from a partner. Is this just all paranoia? Are you preemptively psyching yourself out, in fear that you’re too dirty for pleasure? Sure, there are fussy guys who like to top that will shut down at the very suggestion that their sexual outlet of the moment is also a functioning anus, but I find far more common are guys who are relaxed about this because they realize that shit happens. It’s the risk you take when you play with a butt. Those guys, typically, are more fun anyway. Even if none of the suggestions here work for you (and I really think something should), you could try relating to your hole in a new way; see it not as an obstacle but a filter, and choose partners who aren’t scared by your humanity.

—Rich

More How to Do It

Last year, my husband of two years and I were out to drinks with his childhood friend and his friend’s fiancée. When we were several in, we were talking about losing our virginities, and the fiancée made a comment along the lines of “well, you know what they used to do.” I did not know what they used to do! It turns out they masturbated together as teenagers, which included “giving each other a hand.” Later, the fiancée said she suspected they still do it now sometimes, but she doesn’t care because it’s “just jerking off.” I’m now kind of paranoid about this. Is there a way I can bring this up with my husband without accusing him of cheating?