How to Do It

No Fap

My boyfriend watches porn against my wishes. Why can’t he get all his pleasure from me?

An animated finger waves "no" at a man looking at a laptop.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

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’m a heterosexual woman who has been with my boyfriend a year, and the sex has been great. I feel very lucky. My partner has said, however, that he needs to come every day. Masturbating daily is something he has done since he was a teen, sometimes more. If we don’t have sex, he uses porn. It bothers me, because I want to be the source of his pleasure, and I feel if he could wait just one day, I’m fine with five times a week. I just need some breaks. I know I’m lucky, because every other man I’ve been with has let porn make him more boring in bed, but that isn’t the case here. Should I just ignore the extracurricular fun? It’s frustrating when we just had sex eight hours ago, and I wake up to him on a do-it-yourself project. On the other hand, when I had as heart-to-heart with him, he said he does it to emotionally regulate; it keeps him from having anxiety and depression. I don’t have the high ground here really because I stress eat, for similar reasons.

I guess my question is, should we be doing something else to handle anxiety? Could this be unhealthy long-term? And how do I keep myself from being resentful or making snarky remarks about this when we fight? This is a good person I want to be fair to.

—NoFap

Stoya: The framing of masturbation and porn viewing as “extracurricular fun” is raising my hackles. I grew up reading third-wave-feminist, pro-pleasure texts like Jane Sexes It Up, and I deeply internalized a view of sexual pleasure as something every person has a right to give themselves.

Rich: This boyfriend of hers has clearly been exercising that right for years. She wants to be his sole source of pleasure, but she’s got stiff competition: his hand.

Stoya: Partnered sex and solo sex are two different flavors.

Rich: Asking your partner to lose all of the taste they’ve cultivated when you enter their life is not a fair request. He likes jerking off! Let him jerk off! It’s really not a reflection of her; it’s an expression of him.

Stoya: Since she brought the food comparison into the equation … She eats to manage stress. She probably also eats to enjoy an elaborate creation blending various tastes, and to give her body the fuel it needs. If she were dating a chef, would it be reasonable for the chef to want her to only eat his cooking?

Rich: I think it’s actually rather encouraging that this guy doesn’t seem to be hiding his masturbation. He’s doing this without shame. He isn’t sneaking around—not that he should be, but a lot of partnered people do, even when it comes to jerking off. She wouldn’t want him to start lying or feeling bad about his sexuality, right?

Stoya: Presumably not.

Rich: So, best to back off and not take part in facilitating complications.

Stoya: Her coping mechanism, and his, absolutely could become unhealthy long-term. But unlike, say, heroin or gambling, food and sex are also an important part of life for most people.

Rich: Yes, that’s almost what’s Faustian about being a sexual person.

Stoya: Oooh, tell me more?

Rich: Well, it’s just like we’re given these needs and this awesome way of satisfying them, but it has to be used responsibility. And then sex in fact feels so good that it can be hard to be responsible with it and not use it to avoid problems instead of deal with them. Or just want to do it all the time to the point of it becoming a distraction or worse. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

But regarding this specific situation and how that applies, I’ll say this: I don’t know how much his reasoning for masturbation was prompted by the question versus what he actually believes. I think the most universal answer to, “Why do you jerk off?” is “Because it feels good.” She may have pushed him into more reflection than feels natural, and his reading may be imprecise.

Stoya: Sometimes I get stressed. My main coping mechanism is activity. So, if I’m out of work to do—waiting on collaborators to do their part, edits to approve, whatever—I’ll clean or masturbate. It feels like a useful way of channeling energy into something positive. “Might as well make myself feel good” sort of thing.

Rich: It’s free and easy.

Stoya: Very low risk. I’ve got everything I need at … hand.

Rich: We need a house band to give you a proper “ba-dum-tsss.” I think that she should appreciate what she has: an honest person who has decided to manage his high sex drive himself. He’s also always present when she’s ready. There’s no problem here. I don’t imagine someone who is irked that their partner masturbates would appreciate him asking to open up the relationship. So be happy that he doesn’t seem to be interested in doing so.

Stoya: And as for how to keep herself from making snarky remarks when they fight—maybe some time with a therapist working through conflict patterns would help.

Rich: Yeah, I really don’t like that she goes there. It’s not his fault that his balls are full!

Stoya: If she wants someone who saves his orgasms for her, she might be happier with a partner who shares her views, or a submissive who wants to allow her complete control of their sexual desires.

Rich: Maybe somewhere down the line, she gets into cock cages.

Stoya: Exactly.

Rich: In order to not be resentful, you have to see your person as his own person. The ideal of being the gatekeeper of your partner’s every pleasure is a fallacy. For most people, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s great that they are having enjoyable sex often—five times a week is a really high number. He feels that he needs more. That doesn’t necessarily say anything about him other than: He’s human.

More How to Do It

My girlfriend is not on birth control and doesn’t have an IUD. She says she hates condoms and refuses to use them. I told her it is either condoms or birth control. She has shot down using pill-based birth control and would rather have her “tubes tied” than have an IUD. When she talks dirty, she talks about me “filling her up.” I feel like I’m in some upside-down world where I, as the man, am trying to use condoms, and she adamantly doesn’t want me to. Any ideas?