How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!
Every Thursday night, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a gay man in my late 20s. I am in a relationship with a guy that I love very much, and we’ve been officially dating for about a year. I am a chubby guy, and I am comfortable in my body, for the most part. I know that my weight was a key factor in my boyfriend being attracted to me at the start of our relationship. Recently, I’ve started to think about getting healthier. I am going to be 30 soon, and if I don’t do it now, I feel like I never will. My worry is that if I lose the weight, the man I love may no longer be attracted to me. I have brought it up with him, and he says that it wouldn’t happen, but I still can’t shake this feeling. I know I need to take care of my physical health, but I don’t want to lose the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. Should I just take care of me and worry about the consequences of my weight loss if it happens?
Stoya: I wonder exactly how key our writer’s size was to his boyfriend’s initial interest.
Rich: Right. Did this start out as a chaser-driven hook-up scenario that blossomed from there, or was size merely a stated preference at some time early in a more traditional courting scenario? And how much has it been referenced as their dynamic has solidified into a relationship?
Stoya: That really seems like it’s going to be the deciding factor here. People’s bodies change over time, but if the boyfriend is a serious fetishist, he might experience a decrease in interest.
Rich: Which sucks, because ideally, your relationship will be stronger than objectification, even if it began there. I understand how these superficial qualities can attract people, and even hook them in, but for a relationship to last, you’d hope there would be enough emotional and personality stuff to make the physical less of an absolute determining factor. But I know that’s not always the way love goes.
Stoya: So the question becomes, is your honey’s hard-on more important than your health? (The answer is ideally “no.”)
Rich: Some would object here with a version of “a person can be healthy at any size,” but I am happy to accept that our writer wants to lose weight for the sake of his health. At the very least, it may make for fewer complications down the road.
Stoya: I figure if he’s saying he needs to do it for his health, I should believe that.
Rich: And so, there’s a way of organizing motivations: extrinsic versus intrinsic. When it comes to losing weight, extrinsic would be for reasons outside of yourself—say, pressure from your employer or doctor or partner. Intrinsic means you’re doing it for you. And the latter has a higher success rate, according to most research. That’s to say that our writer already seems to be doing this for the “right” reasons. The more common scenario you hear, and one that I would be a lot more apprehensive about endorsing, is when someone’s partner requests or even pressures them to lose weight.
Stoya: Yes, and pressuring is a problem. Requesting might make sense if it’s, again, a health thing.
Rich: Yeah, I could see maybe a discussion predicated on the voicing of concern. “I need you to lose the weight you’ve gained in the years since we’ve been together so you’re hot again to me” is shitty.
Rich: I wonder if the boyfriend has expressed being attracted to multiple body types or if in fact he’s only into larger men. It would mean the difference between paranoia on the part of our writer or informed trepidation.
Stoya: I wonder if the boyfriend would want to express attraction to multiple body types. He might have held back appreciation of others to avoid contributing to insecurity on the part of his partner
Rich: Excellent point. My gut says that you can get a find a new boyfriend, maybe even one that you love a whole bunch, but there’s only one you. You gotta put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others.
Stoya: I think he should absolutely just take care of himself and see what happens.
Rich: As these scenarios go, this one could go well for mental health—there’d likely be no pressure from the boyfriend to lose fast or in high mass, and no voiced disappointment if the writer doesn’t meet his goals or plateaus or even starts to regress.
Stoya: He’ll have the freedom to lose at his own leisure.
Rich: It’s also worth noting the boyfriend told him to go for it, and it wouldn’t change anything. But if it does, at worst, there’s a hard lesson to learn about physical objectification and how much of a role it should play in a committed relationship.
Stoya: Isn’t it better to know now?
Rich: I think so. He’s in his late 20s. He has so much of his life ahead of him. Now is the time to learn these things.
Stoya: So, I’m glad he’s comfortable in his body as is and is doing whatever he needs to for his well-being. I hope the boyfriend turns out to love him for his insides, as he says he does. If it’s more of a worse-case scenario, I want our writer to know that there’s plenty of other potential matches out there.
Rich: He may actually even find the prospects exciting. I hear him on his risk, but it’s worth it for the potential rewards.
More How to Do It
A couple years ago—about 10 years into our marriage—my wife confessed that she cheated on me with a good friend of ours, someone who was in our wedding party. This took place about a year before we were engaged, so a long time ago. While we have come a long way, it’s taken me a long time to get over this because of certain details. The biggest of these details is that she told me he performed a particular act for her, one that she enjoyed—an act she won’t let me perform on her. I’m very attracted to my wife; I couldn’t feel like a luckier guy. I’m quite happy with our sex life, except that one thing. I’m slightly obsessed with it. She seems to enjoy porn that contains it, and she’s had it and liked it before, but doesn’t want it from me. She claims it’s a hygiene issue, but I feel like that is easy enough to solve. Simply put, I’m not going to do something she says she doesn’t want. At the same time, I really want to shed my insecurity about her getting freaky on the low with our old friend but not me. The male psyche is a little ridiculous, I realize. What should I do?