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,
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been incredibly turned on by the fantasy of breastfeeding an adult consenting partner. A few years into our relationship, I mentioned it to my husband and he thought it was super hot, so we’ve incorporated lots of breast play into our (mind-blowingly fantastic) sex life.
I felt fine about this when I never thought we’d have children, but we recently realized that we do want kids and have begun trying. He’s very turned on by the thought of finally being able to taste my milk. I’m equally turned on and mortified at the thought that it might mean I find breastfeeding my child to be pleasurable. Is it possible to compartmentalize this desire so it’s sexy with my husband and utilitarian with my kid? Or is it time to put this fantasy to rest, and tell him my boobs are off-limits until any future children are weaned?
—From the Tap
Dear From the Tap,
You’re just going to have to cross this bridge (over a surging river of breast milk) when you come to it. But yes, it is conceivable that you will be able to compartmentalize. Erotic lactation is common enough to have generated a subgenre of porn and an extensive Wikipedia entry. The feeding or suckling of breast milk in a sexual context is something people do and have been doing, and they manage to go on in life. Keep in mind, too, that you may feel differently about breastfeeding your husband from moment to moment, depending on your level of arousal. In his book Perv, Jesse Bering describes lust and disgust as “antagonistic forces in an emotional balancing act”—the push-pull dynamic can result in multiple feelings about the same sexual experience. All are valid.
You should also keep in mind that kink or no kink, many women find breastfeeding to be pleasurable, some to the point of sexual arousal, and some even to the point of orgasm. For them compartmentalizing, as you frame it, is not an option. The chemical oxytocin is released during breastfeeding, which creates a feeling of contentment and well-being but also can create uterine contractions. I was talking to a friend from high school about your question last weekend. A nurse practitioner with three kids, she compared oxytocin’s effect on her to post-coital relaxation. She isn’t into sexual play with breast milk but nonetheless assured me that it is possible to compartmentalize the breast as both a utilitarian means to feed your child and an erogenous component of sex that yields pleasure for you and your partner. Things can be many things.
And it’s also possible that you won’t even crave sex from your partner while breastfeeding—in “Sex and Breastfeeding: An Educational Perspective,” an article from a 1999 issue of the Journal of Perinatal Education, Viola Polomeno wrote that given the hormonal release and general bonding and affection fostered by breastfeeding one’s child, “the breastfeeding woman will likely have a decreased need to seek out her partner for pleasure and affection.” It’s a really fascinating article even to someone like myself, who has no craving for breast milk or women’s breasts in general—I think reading it would help assuage your anxiety. In any event, it seems unlikely that upon giving birth you will be so preoccupied with the new sex toys sitting on your chest that they’ll take precedence over all else. No, you’ll probably be focused on your child, and breastfeeding will be established in your life as something primarily between you and your child. Anything else will be gravy (of the thick, white, and lactose-containing variety).
Dear How to Do It,
My partner (28) and I (36) have been together for three years and have recently moved in together. When we first got together, we both agreed that we wanted a monogamous relationship. Things have been pretty much perfect, up until now. Recently, we’ve had general conversations about nonmonogamy and how he’s been increasingly curious and open to the idea of occasional sex with others. He is now having a bit of an existential crisis at the thought of never having sex with other people again, even though he continues to profess his love and adoration of me. He feels sex with others is nothing more than that. I feel it will occupy his already-limited energies and hurt our relationship.
For some background, I am a slim Asian man and he is a conventionally attractive muscular white guy (with a big dick, to top it off). He’s had many (many) sexual encounters before we got together. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s as a child, and does often fixate and ruminate on ideas for a long time. I can’t fairly say how much this fact affects this issue, but general literature does advise the neurotypical person to put up with a lot of quirks and behaviors. I am already the accommodating one and take care of most of the social, domestic, and emotional labor in the relationship—happily. I love him for who he is, but I’m not sure that I can accept this, and I recognize it has to do with my own issues rather than his.
Being a gay Asian man, even growing up in a relatively large diverse city, it has been hard for me to find partners who don’t fetishize me. I also have insecurities when it comes to sex and have a hard time receiving pleasure from others. I have been actively working on this, and sex with my partner has been the best ever (even though there is room for improvement). He, on the other hand, is socially awkward and has a hard time meeting friends. However, big-dicked muscly white guys are a hot commodity, so it would be easy for him to find hookups. He has suggested hooking up only on holidays, but that still doesn’t make me feel good about it.
All of this makes me incredibly insecure and feel that any open relationship will end up unbalanced and I will feel resentful, especially since I don’t want to have sex with others. On the other hand, if I don’t let him do this, I fear that suppression will build resentment in him. I am open to exploring different types of sex with him, anything to help satisfy him. I feel he is being selfish and he admits it. I don’t see a path forward without one of us giving in, and I don’t think it should be me. I feel like I’m already grieving the end of our otherwise perfect relationship. He has already gone to counseling about his, but the urges return, and we are open to counseling together. What else can we do?
Dear Closed Door,
It’s true that one of you must give in. At the moment, your boyfriend is the one doing so, as your monogamy remains intact. That means you are both are abiding by your particular desires. The conversation is only going to go away if he suppresses his proclivities. Do you even want that? Do you want to be with someone who’s going to be spending time pining for casual sex with others? It’s highly unlikely that this itch of his scratches itself; that’s just not how itches work. Your partner has shown you who he is—someone not particularly inclined toward monogamy—and the most efficient thing that you can do is accept him as such while moving forward. (However much of this has to do with him being on the spectrum is immaterial, I think—plenty of guys who aren’t, or who are undiagnosed, ruminate on sex outside their relationships nonetheless.) This may be cold comfort, but at least he’s been honest with you and (presumably) talked with you before seeking sex outside your relationship. Your situation is not ideal, but you aren’t dealing with someone who is deceiving and cheating on you, as far as you know. It could be worse.
You can remain at a torturous ideological impasse, or you can be practical. Since you feel a sense of grief for your relationship anyway, I think the most prudent course of action is opening up things up to see how it goes. Many of your fears are born out of anxiety; you are forecasting what an open relationship will look and feel like without actual proof of it. If you are right, you can move on knowing that you tried everything to save a relationship that simply could not be saved because of what came down to a considerable mismatch of attitudes toward commitment. It is crucial that partners align on this point, no matter how “otherwise perfect” their union seems to be.
I’m being blunt, but I actually agree with a lot of your points. I’m generally the one in the open relationship who wants to do more exploring. I consider this outside sex to be recreational and no single hookup is worth more than my relationship, which means I acquiesce readily to my partner’s misgivings. Moderation is important. It’s all just play, and devoting too much time and energy to it is indeed selfish for, at the very least, taking my mind and presence out of my loving union. Relationships are ongoing negotiations between your needs, desires, and impulses and your partner’s. Open relationships are not for everybody, but I can assure you that it’s possible to both love someone and have sex with others. In the words of Wendy and Lisa of Prince’s band the Revolution: “It’s time you learned love and lust/ They both have four letters/ But they’re entirely different words.”
Regarding your own experiences, you have the right to pursue respect from those with whom you share your time, but understand that there is a degree of objectification in a lot of casual sex. So much of it is fueled by superficial attraction that some fetishization is inevitable. I’m not suggesting you tolerate racists—I’m not even saying that you should open yourself up to potentially suffering them—but these interactions can be so transactional that many guys use what they have to get what they want. This is not to diminish your sensitivity or to suggest you alter it, just another way to look at it.
Dear How to Do It,
I think I have a peculiar problem that requires an urgent solution. I am a 65-year-old divorcee. My last marriage ended about six years ago, but before that, my wife and I were committed to sex three times every week. Within that same period, I had a girlfriend with whom I usually have sex with at least once a week. After my wife divorced me, I separated from my girlfriend because she wanted marriage, but we were ultimately not sexually incompatible. Since then, I have remained single.
My main problem now is that I cannot stop thinking about sex. In the part of the world where I live, to pay for sex is a crime, and it’s therefore very expensive. I do not think I have enough love left in me to give to a woman—as a wife or in the name of marriage. When I was younger, I tried masturbation twice, once by myself and the second time assisted by a woman who was giving me a massage. On neither of the occasions was I able to bring it to a final conclusion, and I can’t start now. Each time a woman my type passes me, I will mentally undress her and continue to imagine how she will perform sexually. My questions are as follows: Is this problem peculiar to me? What age does a man have to reach to stop thinking about sex this way? What can I do to stop now?
Well, aren’t you a fascinating specimen? I guess this is what happens when a guy refrains from jerking off for virtually his whole life: He’s horny all the time, well into his 60s. The NoFap community will be so pleased to hear it.
That said, I think you should jerk off. I mean, why can’t you start now? What’s stopping you? It’s easier than ever to figure it out. There’s plenty of material out there to aid you on your self-pleasuring journey (including videos of guys jerking off that are designed to be watched like tutorials). If someone else can make you come, you can do it yourself.
Horniness isn’t particular to you, and given rising STD rates among senior citizens, it’s clear that aging doesn’t obliterate everyone’s libido. This isn’t a problem until you make it one—I really hope you aren’t openly leering at these women you’re undressing with your eyes—but relief is just an arm’s length away. Might as well take it into your own hands.
Dear How to Do It,
My partner and I have been together for many years. We both entered the relationship identifying as asexual, and we’ve accordingly kept physical intimacy at the level of cuddling and non-make-out-style kissing. Recently, we managed to fight through the awkwardness we feel around sex and discuss that we’d actually be interested in it (and just greater physical intimacy in general). Problem is, we’re each other’s first partners, and so we don’t really know how to not feel weird stumbling through this. (We didn’t wait for religious reasons—we’re both just kinda shy and got together when we were the rare unhorny teens.) How do we make starting to have sex not weird? Also, when it is inevitably weird, how do we get past that to the part where sex, etc., is fun? If it’s helpful, we both have vaginas and so forth—I’m nonbinary (they/them), she’s a woman (she/her)—and we’re in our 20s. Dear How to Do It: How do we do it?
Dear Rusty Starter,
The thing is: Sex is weird. I say this lovingly. Weird is good. Weird is fun. At any given time during an encounter, you could stop and assess and think, “It’s silly that I’m repeatedly sucking your [whatever] or putting my [thingie] on your [thangie] and clearly there is nowhere else you’d less like to be at this moment, and same with me,” and chuckle. A lot of people laugh right after they come, I think partly because they almost can’t believe who they were just seconds ago.
Sex is one of the only means adults have for unadulterated play, for sharing time with another person (or people) and amusing yourselves using your body, imagination, and drive. There’s something so fundamentally human, so essential about engaging in behavior that is divorced from the rigid constraints of daily life and the rationality it requires. The weirdness of sex is exactly what’s wonderful about it.
You are so lucky to have each other to explore with. No one is watching and judging you; you need only please each other. You’re both inexperienced, so it’s not like one of you will fall short of the other’s practical standards. Sex is a time where you can let go of your inhibitions, including self-consciousness. It would serve you both well to set your boundaries ahead of time (especially if there’s anything you absolutely do not want to do or would not be comfortable with), to go slow, and to provide feedback on what you enjoy (or don’t) as you play. All you have is time to discover each other, as well as sex itself. Enjoy it.
More How to Do It
I am married, in my 30s, and love my wife. A gorgeous woman at work who works in a separate department struck up a conversation with me one day at an after-work event, and she later added me on social media. I posted a photo one day and she replied flirtatiously in DMs, but she is also married so I didn’t think anything of it. She kept it up, and I barely responded, but then she straight-up propositioned me for sex. No strings: a safe, one-time thing. I am an average guy, and women haven’t come on to me like this since I was in better shape in my late teens and early 20s. I don’t think I’ll get this opportunity again while I’m still young. I don’t want to give it up. I know my wife would never give me a pass. Is there any way I could do this, be happy it happened, and then move on?