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 31-year-old bi man married to a bi woman. I knew I wasn’t straight for most of my life but have only had sex with one guy, an ostensibly straight friend in high school, and it was a secret on/off thing that involved a lot of cheating and eventually blew up our friendship and several others. In part because of guilt and shame related to that, I didn’t come out until my mid/late 20s, after an incident in which I drunkenly kissed one of my then-girlfriend’s gay male friends at a party. But my girlfriend and I stayed together, I got sober, we got married, and now we have a strong monogamous relationship with a mutually satisfying sex life. The problem is, I can’t seem to shake the desire to have sex with a guy again, both because I’m attracted to guys and because I regret that my only experience thus far was as a closeted, denial-ridden teen.
My wife came out in her early 20s and has had more dating or sexual experience with other women, and she has been very supportive in letting me know that if I want to have sex with a guy, she’s in favor but would prefer to be involved in some way. I don’t know how to make a threesome with us and another guy who’s into both of us happen, and I’m worried that I will jeopardize our relationship if I tell her I want to try pursuing sex with another guy on my own. We’ve talked about the possibility of having an open relationship, but neither of us have any experience with it, and I’m scared of the idea that it might unbalance our dynamic in some way if I pursue other partners when she (as she’s told me) isn’t particularly interested in that right now. I’m also scared of the possibility of going down the rabbit hole and becoming a sex addict, since I’m already in recovery for drugs and alcohol, but that’s another issue.
As of now, I’m dealing with this desire by mostly jerking off to gay porn, which my wife knows about and is cool with. But I’m worried that it won’t be enough in the long run. I recognize that my own fear and shame related to my queerness is a major factor here, and I talk about that in therapy, but why am I still having such a tough time admitting what I want? Is it better to risk pursuing it than to keep trying to repress it, as I’ve been doing for so long? Would I be a more selfish partner for asking for permission to explore this, or am I being considerate in holding back?
It might jeopardize your relationship to broach the subject of one-on-one sex with another man, but keeping that desire secret might damage the relationship as well. It isn’t about what’s more or less selfish so much as maintaining open communication with your partner. When you hold something of this magnitude back, you’re disrupting your intimacy.
Now let’s think about fairness—your wife isn’t interested in pursuing other partners right now, but you are. To me, it seems fair for people who are interested in pursuing liaisons outside the marriage to have that freedom, as long as those without interest don’t feel pressured to be poly. What’s fair to your wife has to be taken into account as well, and you don’t seem to have gotten that information from her yet, because you haven’t revealed to her the extent of your desires. You’ll have to talk to her to get that intel.
Your recovery, and your concerns about using sex in a similarly problematic way to your previous use of drugs and alcohol, are something you can talk to your therapist about. They can help you remember your triggers, work out what to watch for with regards to sex, and help you check your behavior against what you think healthy sexual relationships look like. Use that resource.
You don’t ever have to act on your desires for other men, but I do think you should let your wife know what’s going on. She’s shown she can work through difficult moments with you—be open about your fears, and trust her to help you figure this out.
Dear How to Do It,
I am finally divorcing my husband after 10 years and two young children together. He never bothered to please me sexually—no oral sex, he would come in two minutes with no care for me, hated dirty talk or kink of any kind, and made me feel bad for even trying it in the beginning and doing things I had enjoyed with previous partners. Sex dried up a year ago, and the whole situation has been depressing, horrible, and frustrating. I am glad we are getting divorced, and I really want to have sex again, but even the idea of dating someone new makes me feel almost physically sick. I can’t stand the idea of being anywhere near a man, but I want to have sex with a man again. Will I get over this? Is it even possible after such a horrible experience? Is this normal?
Also, I have not dated for a million years and the idea of bars, Tinder, etc. sounds terrifying. I fortunately possess nice skin, hair, and a good figure because I have used exercise to deal with my stress over the years, so I am pretty sure I could attract someone, but I can’t bear the idea of even trying with a new person. Can you give me some advice? Is there a way to find a kind, normal and fun male friend with benefits without having to comb bars? I have no idea.
Dear Hate Sex,
Oh boy. I am so sorry you lived through that relationship. Looking forward, I must say the prospects are mixed.
Given your revulsion at the idea of dating or having sex right now, it’s clear you need some time. You are recovering from a terrible relationship. Listen to yourself about when you’re ready for dating, much less sex; talk to a therapist if your feelings don’t improve.
For when you are ready, you’re not wrong: Bars, and dating apps, and dating friends of friends are all terrifying for different reasons. Bars because, well, who can get a read on a person with alcohol altering their perception? Dating apps can feel like a slog, and you’re meeting absolute strangers, so there are safety concerns. And friends of friends, there’s the pressure of rejecting someone a friend set you up with.
If you do end up deciding to go the app route, you can screenshot dates’ profiles and send that along with the information about where you’re meeting to a friend. You can also ask that friend to check in if they haven’t heard from you by a certain time. There’s an upside to apps—you can remain fairly anonymous while you’re text chatting and meet up without even giving dates your phone number.
Dating friends of friends can be complicated, but at least you’ll have some intel ahead of time. Think about who you’re taking dates from—are they likely to get upset if things don’t work out?
There’s another option, and it may be better for you while you recover from your previous relationship: Get out in the world and meet men the old-fashioned way. Start volunteering for a cause you believe in. Take a class in something gender neutral that you find interesting. Take up journaling or catching up on the news from a coffee shop. Whatever gets you out of the house around other adult humans without alcohol being the main activity. You’re basically engineering chances to meet people, and hoping that eventually you meet someone attractive. Or someone with friends you find attractive.
When you do meet someone you find interesting, be clear about what you want. If what you want is zero-strings, middle-of-the-night booty calls, make that obvious. If what you want is texting a couple of times a week and having regular sex on Friday nights after dinner, make that obvious, too. Take some time now to figure out exactly what you’re hoping for. It’s no rush.
Dear How to Do It,
I have a question about oral and manual technique on a woman. What are some ways to play with a shy clit? My girlfriend is very sensitive to touch, and even what I’d consider the gentlest lick or touch is often too intense for her, so it’s hard for her to handle when I’m stimulating her for very long. When we’re together, it tends to end with her masturbating, which is totally hot, of course, but I want to be able to make her feel good, too. For background, we’re both women in our 20s, and we were best friends for years before we started dating. I’m her first girlfriend, and she’s the first woman I’ve ever topped. We’re long-distance right now and have only been together a few months, so maybe I just need more practice in the, uh, field? Also, I love rougher stimulation, so maybe I just need to fix a mismatch in what I think feels nice versus what she thinks. I’d love any advice.
—U Can’t Touch This
Touch around the clit. Squeeze the labia together near the top where the clitoris is and gently wiggle your fingers back and forth. Lick the hood but not the glans. Try using the palm of your hand to stimulate the whole pubic area, and if that’s too much, do it over her underwear or even pants.
Does she get more or less sensitive as sex goes on? If it’s less sensitive, you can start very delicately and increase sensation as the sex continues. If it’s more sensitive, you might try finding the edge of what registers for her and staying in that range as she gets closer to orgasm. When I say find the edge, I mean how hard to you have to breathe on her clit for her to feel it—start there.
Have you tried her using her hand to direct yours? You go sort of limp like a puppet, and she uses your fingers to masturbate herself. That might help you get the knack of what she likes.
Dear How to Do It,
My husband and I have been married for nine months and together for four years. We’ve known each other for six years. We dated when we first met, broke up because I was at college and wanted different things, then we stayed friends and occasionally slept together, and ultimately got back together. We had always had a really exciting sex life. And when we do have sex, it’s really good. He always makes sure I finish, etc.
But we never have sex more than once a month. We stopped having sex regularly about a year before we got married, but recently it has definitely gotten worse. I always initiate. But then one date night, having not had sex for a while, he propositioned me. Having made an effort to dress up and trying to be a bit flirty, I said something like, “If you’re lucky.” He laughed and said something along the lines of, “Let’s be honest, it’s usually the other way around—you always asked for it.” I felt horrible, and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe he thought I was easy and that was off-putting. So I stopped asking. It hasn’t made any difference. If anything, we now have sex even less.
If I ever ask him why, he just says he’s tiered or stressed at work. But it doesn’t pick up when he’s seemingly in a good mood. I also work full time and have hobbies outside of the married so it’s not like I don’t have a life. He claims he’s still attracted to me and I don’t believe he would cheat on me. In every other way, we have a very happy marriage, and he still cuddles me, etc. I just don’t know how else to approach this situation. Do I just have to accept we will not have sex very often, but when we do, at least it’s loving and exciting? I won’t initiate sex again. What he said on our date night humiliated me, and I’m too embarrassed to ask again.
Dear Not Easy,
Don’t let one misfire of flirtation shut down all initiation of sex on your part. Go to your husband and tell him your experience of that conversation. Tell him how you felt, and how you feel now. Ask him to navigate the current state of your relationship as a team.
He’s your husband, you love him, and you have a great marriage. It’s worth the vulnerability of a conversation to see if there’s a solution. I am glad that when the two of you do have sex, it’s everything you want it to be. That’s worth fighting for.
Think about it from his perspective—he, in a very rare moment, tried to initiate sex. And you (coyly) shot him down. He might have his own feelings of rejection to deal with, or be feeling similarly reluctant to try again.
Reach out, have a chat, and see if your feelings change. If they do, you might find Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are an enlightening read. She wrote the book for cis women, about different styles of arousal and desire, and I’ve heard from a number of men who found it useful themselves. It might help you understand your husband and give you some ideas for how to stoke his interest.
More How to Do It
Last year, my husband of two years and I were out to drinks with his childhood friend and the friend’s fiancée. (We’re both straight couples.) When we were several in, we were talking about losing our virginities, and his friend’s fiancée made a comment along the lines of “Well, you know what they used to do.” I did not know what they used to do! It turns out they masturbated together as teenagers. I was taken aback by this, but my husband was embarrassed, so I shrugged it off. Recently, I was out with the fiancée for her bachelorette party. My husband was at the bachelor party. Someone joked about them getting too friendly with strippers, and the fiancée said they were more likely to get too friendly with each other. She then started telling the group that she knew my husband, her fiancée, and at least one other guy from their friend group masturbated together into college, and she said she suspected they still do it now sometimes. I’m now kind of paranoid. I did some Googling that suggested this is a fetish for some guys who are with women. Um, is it? Is there a way I can bring this up with my husband without accusing him of cheating?