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’m a woman in my mid-30s, and I’ve identified as asexual and aromantic basically forever. A few months ago something changed, and I experienced sexual attraction for the first time, so I’m trying some dating apps to see what’s out there. I’m kind of touch-averse, however, so I’m having trouble lining up what I want with what I’m capable of doing.
The problem is, while this was all happening, I befriended a man online. We were a little flirty right from the start, but I drew a hard line in the sand because he’s (unhappily) married, and that’s very much against my moral code. He was very supportive about a date I went on and is just generally extremely supportive of me. I recently suffered a personal loss and he was my rock—checking in with me throughout everything, distracting me when he could, and just listening to me. Our relationship escalated during this time and turned sexual (still just over text or online). I’m not going to say “it just happened” because that’s bullshit. We talked about it and decided to move forward. I was, and am, grieving, so maybe I didn’t go into this with the clearest head, but this man treats me so well. I’m not expecting anything more from him. I’m not sure I would even want anything more from him.
As we go further, though, I’m starting to wonder if I’m a terrible person for encouraging and enabling this man to cheat on his wife, just because he treats me in a way that no one else ever has. He tells me I’m beautiful and desirable and values me so much more than I am often able to value myself, and I feel like I’m blossoming when I’m with him. I know you can’t tell me if I’m a terrible person, but am I doing a terrible thing? How do I find this kind of relationship with someone who is actually available, when being touched before I fully trust someone will give me a panic attack? Yes, I’m in therapy, and this is something that we’re working on, and no, I have no history of trauma—I just get extremely anxious about being touched.
Dear Wake-Up Call,
Stop this inappropriate virtual relationship. It has already crossed into unethical territory. Put the time you’ve been spending conversing with him into conversing with unattached or ethically nonmonogamous people. Build rapport and communication with the available people you feel an attraction to. If they want to become physical with you before you’re ready, tell them you need more time for trust to build before you can consider that. Be firm and upfront about your boundaries.
You might have an easier time with people who are queer or polyamorous than with dude-ly dudes. So, maybe prioritize OkCupid and Feeld over Tinder. You’ve built enough trust to feel comfortable being sexual in a virtual capacity once. You can do it again with an appropriate partner.
Work with your therapist on increasing your own self-worth. Don’t rely on this—married!—guy to be the source of your positive feelings about yourself. Build those for you. Build them strong.
While you’re searching for new people to connect with, experience self-sex. Touch yourself in different ways. Stroke your own skin with fingertips. Hold your calves, ass, ribs. Squeeze them. Feel your genitals. Get to know your own body. You’ll be in a much better position to teach others how to touch you in ways that feel good.
And get used to being touched platonically. Try hugs with your friends as a first step. You don’t have to dive off the deep end with this touching thing. You can go at your own pace.
Dear How to Do It,
My boyfriend and I lost our virginities to each other a few weeks ago. It was amazing and everything I wanted when losing it. We have had sex a couple of times since then (like seven or eight times), and every time it’s gentle and loving and he treats me so right. I also don’t hurt when it happens. It is very pleasurable for both him and I. I have no pain or anything like that. But every time I have sex, I bleed. Not a lot or anything, but I do bleed. He also isn’t really big. He’s pretty average size. I can’t go to my parents about this because they are really conservative and Christian and do not approve of premarital sex. But should I be worried about this?
You may have noticed I don’t have letters after my name—I’m not a doctor. I can’t tell you if there’s a problem or not, only that light bleeding after sex could be fine or could be a sign of something concerning.
Are you 18? If so, get yourself to a gyno, and tell your parents it’s a routine visit. If you’re under 18, the situation is a bit more complicated. Depending on your age and the state you live in, you might be able to visit Planned Parenthood or a similar clinic without your parents’ knowledge or consent. If you have a sex educator at your school, they might be a good resource for where to go and what the laws in your area are. You can also do a web search yourself, but you might want to use a private browser if your phone or computer are accessible by your parents.
Dear How to Do It,
How do you successfully communicate the pube shape you want to a waxer? My preference is a nearly full bush in the front and totally bare all the way the back, but I keep ending up with a landing strip or what I can only describe as a pussy mustache. I understand that this is not a “traditional” Brazilian wax, but is it really THAT unusual?
I have used phrases like “just clean up the sides” and “I prefer a natural look,” and it doesn’t seem to work. My schedule is super weird, so developing a relationship with a waxer who knows me is something I have never really been able to make happen. Help me.
—1975 in the Front, 2005 in the Back
Eyeliner. Or Magic Marker. Or a picture.
I’ll explain. You’ve tried words, and they aren’t working. It’s time to get visual. So, you can shave yourself into the shape you want out of future wax appointments and then take a photo to show your waxers. Or you can use eyeliner or washable marker to draw the boundaries of what you want to keep, and your pro can use that line to demarcate where the wax goes. Use something that will wash off easily. Voila, no more pussy mustache.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a mid-50s guy who considers himself a swinger. First of all, I think I’m already a crazy lucky guy with a wonderful life. I met the love of my life when I was 18. We got married at 25 and have had an open relationship almost the entire time. We’re the anti–Jerry Springer couple. I know that one of the reasons we have such a great relationship is how well we communicate with each other. We talk things out if we have issues. My amazing wife isn’t the problem.
Here’s my question. In the poly/swinger world we talk about capital-“R” Relationships—the primary relationship that I have with my wife—and then lowercase “r” relationships that we have with our secondary partners. I think we all agree that with capital-R relationships, if there is a problem or issue that might end things, you talk it out. You go to therapy. In general, you try to save it. Or end it if there are legitimate reasons, but at least there is a communication process.
But what about a lower-case r poly/swinger relationship? Is there any obligation to talk things out if there are problems? Here’s my situation. I met an amazing lady at a sex party years ago. We started meeting one-on-one because we were both into each other. We would meet every two or three months. I’ve met many women over the years, but we really seemed to click. I thought she was amazing and super sexy and intelligent and fun. The sex when we would meet was always off-the-charts intense and amazing. We had threesomes and foursomes and group sex with my wife as well. No jealousy problems there. We went out together and did fun things together. It wasn’t just sex all the time. We would also Netflix and chill. It all seemed good. I thought we were close friends.
Things rolled along for about six years. I never remember getting in an argument with her. We never had a fight. The sex was always amazing. There was always joy, laughter, interesting conversation, and fun times. Then I sent her a text like usual about a year ago to see when she wanted to set up another date. She told me things were going on in her life and she wasn’t interested right then. I asked her what was up? Maybe we could meet for coffee and talk? Could I help in some way? She got really grumpy at me for asking about meeting to talk. She said there was nothing to talk about. She told me that she just wasn’t interested in meeting. She threw it back at me as a #MeToo moment—I needed to respect her choice to say no and that if I asked her again why she didn’t want to meet, she would block me. That was it.
I was stunned. Six years of amazing times and then nothing. I still have no idea what is going on. Do I just have to accept that she just isn’t interested anymore and that’s that? I keep asking myself why—what happened? Sometimes I can’t sleep at night thinking about it. It’s been driving me crazy, but she won’t talk to me about what’s up. We still communicated by text as friends for a while, but now it seems she’s ghosting me. At this point, while, yes, I would love to have sex with her again, I’m more interested in just hanging out and talking. I miss just being with her, but she’s completely shut me out at this point. Am I right to be upset about how this went down? Do I have to just get over it and wonder forever what happened?
I’m sorry you’re feeling loss. You have the right to be upset, and she has the right to sever communication.
It would have been gentler of her to meet you and let you in on why this lowercase-r relationship is ending, but she doesn’t owe you that. Neither does a person in a capital-R relationship.
I imagine she might have been reticent out of a concern that you would try to argue her back into something she no longer wants. She may not have the extra emotional bandwidth required to let you down easy. She could be so busy dealing with the life events she mentioned that she doesn’t have the spare time to meet. It’s also possible that she just isn’t as into you as you’re into her—maybe what you thought was a lowercase r-relationship was an extended casual hookup situation for her.
So try to put yourself in this woman’s shoes, and try to focus on the relationship you have with your wife. Make new friends when you feel ready. Think about what you do have and what the future might hold for you. Move forward.
More How to Do It
I am a 35-year-old married woman who could use some help figuring out how to communicate with my husband about foreplay. Once we get to the sex itself, he’s an attentive lover. However, he usually initiates sex by asking if I want to suck his penis—or telling me I want to suck his penis, and then just taking it out and shaking it at me. He tells me I’ve hurt his feelings if I don’t immediately glom onto it. Any suggestions?