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,
My wife and I have been in an open marriage for five years. On the whole, our relationship has been uncommonly open and supportive; we both strive to encourage one another to explore, and even playfully push the limits, romantically and sexually.
For as long as I have known her, my wife has been interested in “incest” role play. While it isn’t my cup of tea exactly, I have been willing and happy to support her in her exploration of this kind of fantasy and role-play. Often, she will have me dress up as her father, wear his cologne, etc., while she will wear her “high school” clothes.
Recently, though, things have started to move in an uncomfortable direction for me. My wife is very close with her older brother, who is also bi, and with whom we often speak very openly about sex and sexuality. A few nights ago, and after a few drinks, my wife got to talking fairly explicitly about some of the “family” role-playing that she and I are into, and her brother—who I thought would be kinda horrified—was not only entirely supportive, but vaguely expressed interest in exploring this kink with us. When we got home, I expected my wife to make it clear that her brother ever joining us in the bedroom was entirely off the table, but instead she seemed to think it was a really good idea. In principle I don’t have a problem with the idea. While, like I said, I am not that into the “incest” element of my wife’s (and, I guess, her brother’s) fantasy, I am happy to play along if it makes her (and him) happy. My wife and I have also enjoyed group sex, and so that isn’t the problem either. I guess at bottom, I am just worried about how this could affect my relationship with my brother-in-law. Is there a way for me to make this happen, without it getting weird?
Dear Brother’s Keeper,
Forget about getting weird—having a threesome with your wife and her brother surely qualifies as virtually any definition of “weird” in itself. (I don’t like to use the word “weird” in these parts, because it can be stigmatizing, but hey, you said it.) It is unusual, it is taboo, and could have profoundly negative consequences. One of the nice things about no-strings sex, besides the sex, is the lack of strings. Doing incest with your wife introduces not just strings but a potential tangle of them. It’s courting drama. You can never be sure how sex will change a platonic relationship, and that the sex in question would be with your brother-in-law makes the stakes particularly high. It could make holidays and other family get-togethers especially uncomfortable for you. Or maybe it could make these gatherings horny for you three, and uncomfortable for everyone else. Or maybe her family is just “like that” and everyone will be thrilled. (I’d rather not think of the historical implications of that, but maybe you should.) I know what you mean about not having a problem with this in principle, and I can envision a scenario in which absolutely no damage is done and you simply have a great time, but the chances of that are far from guaranteed. Why risk it?
On top of that, your ambivalence is disconcerting. This is an “uncomfortable direction” for you, but you’re happy to play along. Are you truly happy to be uncomfortable, perhaps out of a predilection for submission, or have you just not really figured out how you feel? I don’t think you should do anything that makes you uncomfortable, particularly if it involves having sex with your wife and her brother.
Dear How to Do It,
My partner and I have been together, monogamously, for 38 years. (We’re both women.) She is 12 years older than I am and, maybe as a function of age (her explanation—she’s 82), has lost interest in sex. We are often affectionate and have a great relationship—I thank my lucky stars—but I still get horny, and masturbation, while pleasurable, isn’t enough. Once in a blue moon my partner and I do manage to have sex, but it feels perfunctory and like she’s fulfilling an obligation rather than enjoying it herself. I know she is trying for my sake, which I appreciate, but she’s not into it and various toys and accoutrements have not helped. We used to have great and frequent sex, I should add, and her loss of interest has been gradual. She insists nothing is wrong, that it isn’t me or anything we do (or don’t do). She just feels done with the whole business.
What are my options? I wouldn’t even know how to hook up casually with someone at this point, and I’m not exactly 25—or even 50!—years old. But I do fantasize about a fling or controlled (i.e., safe) hookup scene. And despite being a lesbian for some 45 years, those fantasies often involve guys (whom I dated way back in college, before I fell for a woman for the first time). It’s also scary to contemplate sex with anyone else after so long, though my partner would not object to my seeking something casual. What can I do? And how?
—Still Got It
Dear Still Got It,
Your frustration is palpable. Kudos on being proactive. There are things you can do. I would first confirm that your partner wouldn’t object to your seeking something casual—even if she has already said so, discussing these things in the abstract and as they take living shape are two different things. It’s also important to set your terms.
I hit up Joan Price, an author, speaker, and sex educator specializing in senior sex, for help on this one. Regarding the conversation to be had with your partner, Price advised via email: “Create an agreement with your partner about how, when, where, and with whom you’ll be sexual. Does she want a DADT (don’t ask, don’t tell) agreement, or does she want to know details, or something in between? What is your safer sex agreement? It may take a few discussions, but believe me, you’ll be glad later that you took the time and showed each other this respect.”
As for how to find partners, Price recommends looking where most people look: online. She said OKCupid and Match.com in particular have a lot of senior subscribers. “Don’t lie about your age—it’s not a defect, it’s a superpower! You have life experience, self-knowledge, communication skills, and sexual skills to share,” Price said. After reading this account at the Casual Sex Project from a 56-year-old man who hit the sexual jackpot at a senior center full of horny women, I thought maybe your local senior center would be a wise place to look, but Price told me that those aren’t usually a hotbed of prospects. “Better to take social dance classes, or get involved in other social activities where active seniors gather,” she said. Really, this is about putting yourself in front of people so that you can put yourself under them (or on top—whatever you prefer).
Dear How to Do It,
I’m an early 30s straight guy, with a possibly unusual problem—I’m only capable of climaxing from getting head. As an unintentional upside I tend to last forever from penetration, but I do need oral stimulation afterward to finish. This is never an issue with women I’ve dated who enjoy giving head. However, there are also a good amount of women who don’t like having it in their mouth under any circumstances.
I of course respect my partners’ preferences and boundaries, but this has led to some issues in my dating life. There have been a couple of great women I’ve gone out with recently who made it clear they don’t go down, which has led to sexual compatibility being a bust out the gate and things not working out on that level. (I ultimately invented an excuse claiming I wasn’t ready to date yet, which didn’t feel great.)
Thankfully, I like eating women out and taking care of my partner’s pleasure, and I also tend to come very quickly from BJs. I’m also fit and lucked out in the looks department. However, people’s preferences are what they are, and looking like discount Charlie Hunnam isn’t going to change that. I’m wondering the best way to go about this that is both honest and sensitive. People tend not to detail their sexual tastes on their Tinder and Bumble profiles, and “Do you like s-in’ D?” is far from a tactful question to be asking on a first date, or even second or third one in most cases. Any suggestions?
Dear Lip Service,
I want to make you slightly jealous for a second: If you were gay, in many socially accepted forums, it would not only be appropriate to put your specific sexual taste in your profile, it would net you more takers than your balls could handle. Straight people should take (another) page from our book and start being more upfront in their dating profiles about this stuff—it would save a lot of time.
Social standards being what they are, I don’t think you can be blunt and tactful here. You must choose one. There is a good amount of women who don’t like sucking dick, but there’s a good amount who love it. For you, sexual compatibility will come down to finding someone in the latter group. This will cause frustration when you seem to click with someone in the former, but keep in mind that for many, sexual compatibility is far less tangible than it is for you: You can put your finger on it (and say, “Suck this”), which is more than many can say. No one is obligated to do anything, and I’m biased here, but it always does surprise me a little when I find out that there are fairly commonplace sexual acts (like oral) that people flat-out refuse to do at the expense of their partner’s pleasure. During sex, I would try being upfront and succinct: “I love all kinds of sex, but I really only get off from blowjobs and those are important to me.” Most people who don’t have specific issues with giving oral will gladly help you out. Trial and error is probably going to have to be your methodology here, but at least you have a concrete end game: a good head game.
Dear How to Do It,
I wrote you a while ago for advice and was lucky enough to have my letter published and answered. I am a now-26-year-old virgin getting ready to take the next step with my guy and, for a while, was frustrated at his reticence to move forward with me. We discussed, and I let him know that while I was definitely OK with all forms of clothed kissing and touching, I’d like to wait till we were officially in a relationship before going further.. He said he was happy to oblige and would be open to a relationship but needed some time to think it over, which I gladly gave him. Things are going great—we’re making out ever chance we get and still getting to know each other.
We had a situation arise today that I wanted to run by y’all, since you were so on point with the initial one. I started sexting him today (words only, and probably PG-13—no explicit mention of sex acts, but it was fairly obvious he was pleasuring himself and I was helping that along). The flirty texts kept going all morning … until he told me to stop teasing him and put my money where my mouth was. I countered that it was all teasing and would be until he was certain he wanted to be with me. I tried to keep it light and continue the sexting after (sort of a “Hey, remember this isn’t going to be real until we’re officially dating, but you can still focus on the thought of my X and your Y.”) He got pretty frosty after that.
Was I wrong to start this? Did I violate his consent in any way? I haven’t had a text exchange like that before, and it seemed like the decent thing to do to remind him that sex was off the table if I did come over. I feel pretty awful about it, but my friends say I did nothing wrong and that people can say whatever they like to a potential partner without it meaning that they are obligated to have sex with that person. I don’t want to keep things totally chaste while he figures out where he stands as far as wanting me as a girlfriend, but I get that he could see it as unfair that I get him very turned on and then refuse to solve the problem, as it were. How far is too far?
—Not a Tease
Dear Not a Tease,
Ugh, thank you for the kind feedback, and sorry this happened. Your friends are right: You did nothing wrong, and you are not obligated to reenact IRL anything you suggested in texts. You were transparent with this guy about where you are with your sexuality, and he should not have been surprised when you reiterated that. His reading of the situation as “teasing” suggests entitlement and selective amnesia on his part. A truly sensitive lover would recognize this talk as part of your process of development, which may be slow and not entirely logical to him. But you know what? Too bad. It’s what he signed up for. Try not to feel bad about dipping a toe in and expressing yourself sexually. Take this as a signal that he may not actually have the kindness and patience you require.
More How to Do It
I’m a 27-year-old straight woman. I recently dated a man for several months who was odd about sex—he frequently mentioned that he had a small penis (which he did) and that oral sex was what made him a good lover. There were a lot of problems in the relationship outside of sex—he had a bit of a cruel streak, and then there would be an apology spiral—and we eventually broke up. I have moved on, but yesterday my ex sent me an email saying that he was bottoming for men he met online the whole time we were dating. He said he’s straight but curious, and he felt he needed me to know, and wanted me to accept him. I’m sort of floored: I’m not sure why he told me, and what this meant about our months together. I think he should embrace his sexuality, but how am I supposed to respond to this information? What do I say?