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 have been married for 15 months, but I have known my husband for almost 20 years. Last January, during the government shutdown, something just wasn’t right. I am a nurse and just happened to work a rare night shift. I looked at the GPS app around 5 a.m. to see if my husband was at the casino; he had been spending lots of time there. To my shock, I saw him driving very slowly in a sketchy part of town. This went on for hours. When I got home at 8 a.m., he acted as if he had never been anywhere. He then took a long nap, and I was able to get into his iPad and iPhone. He was reading sex stories involving prostitution and incest. The porn he was watching was also of the same nature. Needless to say, knowing he enjoys watching and reading about teenagers having sex with their fathers was very disturbing.
When confronted, he said he would never buy sex because of his security clearance. He said he would not be able to pass his polygraph. Not sure I believe him. I now have no ability to see what he is doing online because he keeps his phone on him at all times. I can’t touch it without him getting mad. Some professionals say it is just a fantasy. I am wondering how concerned I should be. I explained to him that he could ruin his career and his family. His children would have nothing to do with him if they even knew what type of porn he was reading and watching. My question is: What kind of monitoring, if any, should I be doing? Should I just leave him?
Dear Just Browsing,
If I have the timeline right, three months into your marriage, you were snooping in your husband’s phone, not to mention tracking his GPS movements. Why did you marry someone you don’t trust? That was a violation of his privacy. But you found something, and I agree that has to be dealt with as well.
I assume you value this person you’ve married more than you’ve mentioned. I assume he has wonderful qualities that you came to appreciate over the two decades you’ve known each other. I assume you care about your husband and want to stay with him.
If these assumptions are correct, I think you should go the therapy route. Go to couples counseling together, and be prepared for the therapist to suggest one or both of you to attend therapy individually in addition to joint sessions.
Find a therapist in your area who sees bonded pairs. Give them the short explanation of the situation, and ask them what amount of time they’d recommend treatment for. Tell your husband, calmly, that you’ve damaged his trust, and he’s damaged yours. Explain that you think an expert would be useful in helping the two of your repair your relationship, and insist that he commit to that minimum period of time.
That all depends on whether you can continue being in a relationship with someone who at least fantasizes about incest and patronizing sex workers. If these fantasies squick you out too much to cope with, then yes—you should leave him.
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve recently started a very casual friends-with-benefits relationship with friend who lives far away. I have been hornier than I have ever been, and I am considering finding partners closer to me. The problem is I have HPV. I know disclosing this can be an issue. The guy I’m having sex with now knows, but I am extremely nervous about disclosing this to other casual partners. A friend of mine who often has random partners between relationships recently told me she only asks guys the last time they’ve been tested for herpes or HIV, since these are the only STDs that you can’t get rid of. Is it immoral to ask only this question to get around disclosing my HPV? I’ve been thinking about requesting men get the HPV vaccination—does that make it any better? I’m currently finding men through online dating sites, so I have the time to ask about the vaccine ahead of time. I never thought I’d be in a casual sex phase, but after 10 years of not having sex, I feel like I’ve finally hit my peak.
—The HPV Question
Dear The HPV Question,
First, I want to make sure you still have HPV. The body can pass the infection. Speak with your doctor about whether you even have anything to disclose at this point. If you do, proceed to step two: Find out exactly which strain you have. The vaccines only cover a handful of strains—Gardasil 9 covers nine. Now you’re prepared to disclose.
Practice looking yourself in the eyes in the mirror while you’re speaking. Ask a close friend if they’re willing to let you practice on them once you’re comfortable with the mirror.
When you’re ready to disclose to a potential partner, do ask if they’ve had the vaccine. Let them know whether the strain of HPV you have is covered by the vaccine or not. Take a look at the CDC statistics so you can confidently say that HPV is extremely prevalent. (Approximately 80 percent of people who live in the U.S. will have it at some point in their lifetime.) Be prepared for the squeamish to recuse themselves, and remember that this is an expression of their discomfort more than anything to do with you.
If you’re more comfortable being super upfront, you can absolutely bring it up early in the app chat before making plans to meet up. You can also wait until you’re considering having sex with the person.
Dear How to Do It,
My wonderful wife and I have been married for 14 years. I can attest that in our relationship, monogamy has meant increased sexual satisfaction over time, and it’s made us absolutely in sync with each other sexually. We always both achieve orgasm, know almost telepathically what move to make next, and find that our encounters leave us struggling to breathe when they end (humblebrag, I know).
However, there is one issue I could use some guidance with. My wife’s breasts are absolutely perfect in every way—they are the perfect size, shape, and softness—but during our intense sexual encounters, I find that most times when I go in for some suckling, it ends up tickling her instead. It’s not 100 percent; sometimes I get it just right and it increases her pleasure, but is there a way to keep from tickling her in the process? Have I missed something? She and I are our only partners ever (non-shameful shout-out to the tiny percent of those who waited until they were married), so I have nothing to compare to. Please advise.
Dear Tickle Torture,
I think you’re overthinking this. It’s possible your wife detests feeling tickled and any tickling sensation utterly ruins the moment, but if that was the case, I suspect you’d have mentioned it. Laughter can be a part of sex. It’s OK for something to tickle in the moment. It’s OK to take a minute to giggle. You don’t have to have seamless, reading-each-others’ minds, romance-novel sex every time without a single hiccup.
But you say you want to avoid the tickle. So find out what tickles. Take 20 minutes where you touch her breasts in different ways, with different body parts, and let her communicate to you how each sensation feels. Find the boundaries of the tickle zone. Then you’ll be able to stay outside of that.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m gay and in my 30s. I have been in an amazing relationship with “Mike” for a year and wouldn’t want anything else. My problem is that I was in a physical relationship with my friend “A-hole” until a little more than about two years ago. I liked him, but he didn’t identify as homosexual, and when I told him I wanted to be in a relationship, he flat-out said no, so I moved on with my life. Fast-forward to a few months ago, A-hole told me he has feelings for me, but I told him that I am not in the same place. I’m happier. What I have with Mike is great, and I don’t want to lose him or cheat on him. I’m still friends with A-hole (despite the fact that he blamed me for turning him gay), and we have a lot of common friends and we hang out once in a while. I don’t want anything to do with A-hole. But I feel that if I let Mike know about my past with A-hole, I will lose what I have with him. I also don’t want him to hear about it from others. Should I stop being friends with A-hole? How do I do that? Should I tell Mike about my past with A-hole and embrace for whatever impact it may have? Help me, I feel like I will lose either way—being honest or lying.
Tell Mike. Embrace the impact—I can’t imagine why this would kill a happy yearlong relationship. And consider why you’re friends with a person you’d give the code name “A-hole.”
More How to Do It
My mother and father divorced more or less amicably five years ago, when all of us kids (three brothers) were already out of the house. Earlier this fall, she suggested staying in my spare bedroom for a month (“or two”!) in the city where I live, because she wanted to experience “city life.” I didn’t feel like I could say no, since I have the room and it’s not that much of an inconvenience—I work a ton and my girlfriend is happy to have me over at her place. I let my mom stay. It’s been fine. But there is one problem I have no idea at all how to solve. My mother has discovered Tinder. She is in her early 50s and still attractive, and she is apparently happy with my city’s dating pool because she seems to go on dates with men three nights a week. Then last week, she brought one of the guys back to my apartment! I heard him come out of her room and leave early in the morning. I am really at a loss on how to bring this up with her, but I cannot have my mother bringing strange men to my place.