How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to email@example.com. Nothing’s too small (or big).
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a woman new to dating again after a divorce. I’m dating a man who admitted having sex with another man many years ago while on drugs. He has been clean and sober for 25 years, and says it was a one-time-only thing, but I doubt it because his stories conflict. He is kind and loving in every way. But he’s done several things that make me question him: He recently referred to a male friend’s penis size as “dead weight.” How would he know that? Then, when watching a movie, he blurted out regarding a male actor: “He’s beautiful.” Which is an odd way to describe another man. Then, I received a phone call that I overheard (speakerphone) from a man asking in an effeminate voice “What do you need today?” He immediately ended the call and acted upset. Finally, when we visited a city with a very large gay population, he knew the gay neighborhood … well. This actually happened in two cities, one of which he lived in while married and separated.
I believe I’ve answered these questions myself, just in asking.
Dear Private Eye,
I’m not sure what questions you’re asking, so I’m relieved to hear that you believe you’ve answered them yourself. While you’re here, though, I’ll give you my thoughts.
You seem really hung up on this. I don’t think you have a smoking gun that this man is gay, but I also suspect you conceive of gay and straight as a binary situation. Really, it’s a spectrum that sometimes intersects with other spectrums—like gender expression, relationship structure style, and sexual interests—and some people are off in an asterisk-shaped paradise. Maybe he did sleep with a guy more than one time, and maybe it is part of his sexuality, but that doesn’t mean it defines him.
If you want to stay with this guy, you’re probably going to need to work on broadening and nuancing your framing. If you don’t want to stay with him, I’m not sure why you’re writing.
Dear How to Do It,
I have always had rape fantasies. I am a straight woman in my 30s, a feminist, and have a successful career in a highly technical field. I was never abused as a child, nor have I ever experienced coercive sex in my own life. I have a human and logical disgust for sexual violence, and think of myself as a well-balanced person.
Despite my disgust with real sexual violence, I remember fantasizing about coercive sexual dynamics since I started masturbating as a child. My fantasies progressed in an experience-commensurate way from coercive “playing doctor” scenarios before I really understood what sex was to semiviolent rape scenes, even before I started watching porn occasionally in my 30s (I’m a late bloomer). I am never the star of these fantasies, nor are the characters anyone I know—it’s the power dynamic that makes the fantasy for me.
I know that rape fantasies aren’t uncommon, but is it usual that this is the only thing that has ever gotten me off? Every time I approach orgasm (or ever have), it is to one of these fantasies, whether I am by myself or with a partner. I can enjoy sex very much in the moment, but I can’t quite get over the hump without withdrawing into a fantasy in my head. Shouldn’t I at least sometimes be able get off on the experience that I am having with my partner and my connection with that person? Even if the sex feels very connected, the fantasy feels like a very solo experience before I lapse into the post-sex puddle of bonding hormones. Is this normal?
For context, I am in a fulfilling, long-term relationship with a man I love deeply, and I find our sex life fun and fulfilling. We are open-minded and have experimented with variety, rough play, and including other people. I know that coercive scenarios are a turn-off for him, and I respect that. He is the only partner or person with whom I have ever shared the focus of my fantasies, and he is nonjudgmental, though he doesn’t share the fantasy.
—In My Head
Dear In My Head,
The word fetish has been thrown around to the point of deep dilution over the past couple of decades, but it may be useful here. A true fetish, to me, is something that is required for sexual gratification. This sounds exactly like what you’re describing.
And fetishes are fine. Really. You’re OK. Your fantasies are OK. To have a fetish isn’t particularly unusual. To have rape fantasies isn’t particularly unusual. The two together might be. At the end of the day, what would be really strange is to be 100 percent heteronormatively vanilla.
If you feel significantly distressed by your fetish—which it seems like you might—I suggest you consider seeing a specifically kink-friendly mental health professional. There’s a whole directory of them online. A pro can help you work through your complicated feelings and reiterate that you are OK.
On your own, have you tried not allowing yourself to orgasm until literally anything promises to tip you over the edge? A few weeks of tease with no release might set you up for a different kind of coming.
As for whether you should be able to get off on your connection to your partner: Is getting off being defined here as having an orgasm? I don’t think getting off, or enjoying, needs to be that narrowly defined. There are all sorts of reasons to have sex. Orgasm is certainly one of the most popular. We also have sex for intimacy, to deepen our connection to each other, as a very close form of snuggling, and sometimes as a way of bragging to each other about our physical prowess. I’m sure I’m missing some motivations, too. My point is that you are connecting with your partner, even if you don’t feel like you’re orgasming with him.
Dear How to Do It,
As someone in a monogamous (and relatively vanilla) relationship, I’m not in the position to investigate a rumor I recently heard. But I am curious—it involves circumcision and anal.
I know the back door’s key is always supposed to be lube, but I recently heard a twist: that anal sex is less painful with an uncircumcised man. In theory, if the penis is moving within a sleeve, there should be less friction with the sphincter. Is there any truth to this? Is it noticeable?
Dear Helping Hood,
It’s also noticeable with penis-in-vagina penetration.
The foreskin, being rather baggy, allows the meat of the penis to slide back and forth inside it. This lessens friction and, yes, the need for lubrication. It’s far less noticeable in either hole when a condom is involved. (And one downside of foreskins is they sometimes get tangled uncomfortably in condoms.)
More How to Do It
I’m a man who just turned 33. When I was younger, my tastes generally trended older—I would regularly date people in their 30s when I was in my 20s. As I enter my 30s, however, I’ve noticed that I have developed an interest in people who are much younger. I’m dating someone on an open basis around my age, but when it comes to conquests, I have found myself seeking out people in their early 20s, and I recently have had a regular thing with someone who just turned 19. Some of my friends are skeeved out by this, and I am also a little surprised by the way my tastes are changing, but it is what it is. Is there some reason to be worried? What should I say to people who seem to judge? I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong, but other people seem really sensitive about it.