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 cis woman in kind of a classic millennial sex pickle: I’m really repelled by heterosexuality politically and personally, but I’m also really into dick. I’ve been thinking maybe I should look for bi dudes/ bicurious gay dudes, but I am not sure how best to do that. Rich, what would you think of a woman being on Grindr or Scruff? I do want to be respectful of gay men’s spaces and not horn in where I’m not welcome, but I really would love to find a vers guy with queer politics who would be up for casually dating a woman. What do you think? If you were me, where would you look?
I’m not sure I’d call this a “classic millennial sex pickle,” and I’d like to hear more about your particular flavor of self-flagellating dick politics, but I’ll answer the question you actually asked. A general rule of thumb that I wish more people followed is: If you enter a space as someone who is not a member of the demographic for which said space was established, you should behave yourself. Don’t try to make something that has been designed to be not about you about you. The world is not your bachelorette party. So if you must go the route of using digital spaces dominated by men seeking men, as a cis woman with (no offense?) ostensibly hetero desires, don’t bother people. Let them come to you. Also be prepared to have your profile deleted. I actually have seen cis, hetero women on Grindr and the like before, and whenever I do, I think, “Well, she’s not gonna last.” And she doesn’t.
Some gay and even bi men might admonish you for even trying your hand at the gay grid (and may get pissed at me for not scolding you for wanting to do so), but we must acknowledge that it’s not just a space for queer men anymore. In recent years apps like Grindr and Scruff have become more trans-inclusive, including trans women. They offer “trans” as an option for one’s tribe, implicitly accepting that trans people will use the apps. And it seems to have worked, at least in New York, where the trans population on these apps has grown considerably more visible, as has the population of straight-identified men who are looking for trans women only and say so in their profiles. All kinds of spaces that were previously thought of as being only for men are now more queer-inclusive. I think that’s good? Guys are still getting plenty of dick (they will always find a way to do so), and other identities have more outlets as well.
That said, I don’t know how much luck you’d actually have on the likes of Grindr, though I do think it would be an interesting experiment if nothing else. If you’re in a major metropolitan area, you’re better off going to queer parties, even queer sex parties (if you think you’d be into that), where the identification boundaries tend to bleed into each other and a real anything-goes spirit pervades. There are dating apps/websites specifically catering to bi people (I’ve seen one that requires all of its users to identify somewhere on the bi spectrum in their profiles), but I have no experience with them and am reluctant to recommend them by name. Try Google. Probably the best way for an affair with a queer man to happen would be organically over time, through an extended friend group, for example, but that would require some patience and a lot of uncertainty, both of which the modern mindset disdains.
Something you should keep in mind is that pursuing guys who share your interest in dick will hardly weed out jerks. There are a lot of shitty men who identify as gay and bi, and their queerness doesn’t automatically absolve them of misogyny. In fact, the misogyny in some of these dudes is compounded by a perceived lack of use for women. At least straight guys will pretend to be civilized for the sake of getting laid. Ultimately, I feel like you’re going to end up with some big-dicked puppy dog of a straight guy who’s read some theory here and there, anyway? I mean, by all means have fun until you find him, but I’d put money on that being where this is going.
Dear How to Do It,
I love masturbation. As a solo activity, sure, but also watching my partners do it or having them watch me. It certainly isn’t the only way that I enjoy getting off, but it is solidly up there for me in terms of reliable ways to turn me on quickly and almost always a sex act I’m up for. So that’s been my reality for many years, and generally it’s been going great. However, recently, I bought my partner a new vibrator. She loves it and it’s allowing her to have multiple orgasms successively. Like eight to 10 in a row (maybe a minute or two between peaks). And I … don’t like it. To be clear, I am in full support of her having as many orgasms as she wants during solo play. I’m specifically talking here about my reaction when we’re masturbating together. The first couple orgasms are great, maybe even three. But then I’m … bored. And annoyed? I’m so confused because watching other people experience pleasure is my jam. Any ideas? My best guess so far is that multiple orgasms have never been part of my experience, and while I am theoretically interested in the idea, my drive and interest in continued stimulation usually drops off dramatically after orgasm (sometimes it takes two, but not more than that). I’m just … ready for something else to happen. But still, my lack of interest in this seems unexpected, and I welcome your thoughts.
Dear Fap Foibles,
Let’s say your partner is on the high end of the spectrum of every possible factor here: Her orgasms are a minute long (generally, that’s about as long a woman’s can last, though there are some special cases), and she’s having 10 of them, with two-minutes between each climax. That’s 30 minutes. You mean to tell me that you don’t have 30 minutes to spare for your partner’s ecstasy? You can’t be engaged for the length of an episode of Fleabag? Come on.
I’m not sure what the exact configuration of your play is, but I advise you to hold back if you’re coming and losing interest. Either stimulate yourself lightly during her first seven or so orgasms, or don’t masturbate at all and let her get a head start. Keep yourself in a state of arousal without finishing while she thrashes for a good 20 minutes. It seems that she has an ability to climax more than you in this particular scenario, and there’s nothing wrong with that disparity at all, it just requires an adjustment. I think you’ll find this is a minor one. I’m really happy for your partner, and you should be too.
Dear How to Do It,
A few months ago, I started hooking up with “Tim.” It was the perfect scenario because I haven’t dated in a while and he lives out of town, which made an easy transition into dating again. It also helped that he seemed to really like me. But that might end up being a liability, because I don’t like him enough to actually date him. He’s also a good friend of a good friend of mine.
My issue is that starting to hook up with him made me realize that I might now be interested in a relationship—but with someone else. I have a few dates set up for the next couple of weeks. My dilemma is that I am going out of town with some friends to where Tim lives. I don’t want telling him I’m dating to ruin the weekend. Do I need to tell him before we hook up, if I go out on dates with these new guys? I don’t plan on having sex with them, but Tim and I never really figured out what we’re doing besides that things are casual (on my insistence). Can I wait to tell Tim that I’m seeing someone until something becomes exclusive?
Dear Benefits Only,
One of the key advantages of a casual scenario is the lack of obligation to report your comings and goings. Tim doesn’t own you, and you don’t owe him anything beyond honesty and respect. So don’t lie and don’t lead him on. Neither is a kind thing to do, and both may end up causing you complications down the line. If you care so much about ethics and etiquette to ask a stranger (me) whether your navigation of them is up to snuff, I urge you to be extra sensitive and cut things off with Tim at the slightest detection that he’s more invested in this than you are. But broadly speaking, if Tim isn’t asking about what you’re up to when not in his vicinity, and you aren’t telling, you aren’t betraying your arrangement. So enjoy. Quality, no-strings dick is a wonderful thing to have in your back pocket. You’re doing great.
Dear How to Do It,
I wish I had a more unusual problem, but I think this one is common, and maybe is actually challenging because it’s so normal. I’m really struggling to “get back in the saddle” since the birth of my child about two years ago. I’ve always had body-image issues, and I have in the past put way too much value on my appearance, but I wouldn’t say that’s worsened. What has gotten worse is that I really don’t want to be touched intimately. I never really loved receiving oral sex in the past or having too much nipple play, but now I would say those things are off-limits, as is fingering, which I have always loved. I just have next to no desire for sex, giving or receiving. I still have sex dreams and masturbate occasionally (I never did much), but any more than that, I have zero interest.
My partner has been very understanding. Like any couple, we have our challenges with communication and intimacy—I need a lot of talking and non-sexual touch, and that’s not necessarily something my partner is naturally inclined to give. And don’t get me wrong, he also has needs that I don’t necessarily do the best job of meeting, but we both do our best and work on improving. All in all, we have a healthy relationship and are very compatible. In the past we’ve had a good sex life … just not in a long time.
Since becoming parents, I don’t think we’ve had an overly tough road—not easy, but not as hard as some. We have a great sleeper and generally our family feels pretty chill. That said, any child is certainly still a lot of physical and emotional work. We’re in a good and healthy place, but I’m concerned about my continued lack of interest in sex and that it will lead to problems. I want to want to have sex, but I’m really just not there, and I feel quite bad for my very patient partner. Any advice?
It might not surprise you that I don’t have much experience with your issue, so for help with answering your question, I reached out to Tami Rowen, an OB/GYN and expert on sexual health. (Among her credentials: She’s the director of the Sexual Health Program at the University of California San Francisco, where she teaches, and she’s the education chair for the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.) Rowen told me that she takes a “bio-psycho-social” approach to examining sexual function, because there are so many factors to consider. “Having a kid affects every part of that,” she said.
So in terms of biology, there are the changes your body goes through after childbirth: physically, hormonally, and to your brain chemistry. The psychological factors include your self-perception and other stressors. And socially, as you are well aware, a child changes everything. “A lot of the energy that once went into maintaining the relationship with the partner is now going into [taking care of] the baby,” Rowen said. “It’s pretty hard to leave much left over for the relationship.”
Rowen pointed out that your words, “I want to want,” are how psychologist Sheryl Kingsberg describes hypoactive sexual desire disorder. From a purely hypothetical, and not diagnostic, perspective, Rowen described how she treats patients with said disorder, which is characterized by a lack of sexual fantasies and desire. For the psychological stuff, Rowen suggests talking to a sex therapist. For the biology, Rowen said she will ask a patient about her physical health, including how much she is exercising. “Exercise is highly correlated to desire,” she said.
In terms of brain chemistry, she said there are FDA-approved medical options to treat HSDD: psychoactive drugs that work on neurotransmitters. One is flibanserin, which Rowen said has been controversial and works in about half of the women who try it. There are side effects to keep in mind (which include dizziness and nausea), but Rowen said that most of the patients to whom she has prescribed it request refills. The other med is bremelanotide, which was approved last year, is an on-demand injectable. Both have been approved for premenopausal women.
These options might be worth discussing with your doctor. It could be something entirely different. But you’re right that your experience is common, and there’s plenty of hope you can tackle it, especially with a little professional help. Good luck.
More How to Do It
I went on a date someone who I had met somewhat spontaneously. I don’t normally click with people this easily, and I was so glad our connection didn’t start on an app, so I followed the mood a little more than I might have otherwise and went back to his place. We slept together, and it lived up to the rest of the night. But in the afterglow, he casually let it drop that he’s dating someone seriously, but they’re open. I felt extremely betrayed, like he got me in bed under false pretenses. He did, didn’t he?