How to Do It

My Cheating Co-Worker Had an HIV Scare but Keeps Taking “Long Lunches”

Should I tell her husband?

A woman looks over a man's shoulder as they embrace. Neon clocks are in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by kjekol/iStock/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!

Dear How to Do It,

I’ve been friends and co-workers for many years with a woman who has recently started cheating on her husband—he has become a friend of mine too. I know infidelity happens all the time and it’s not really any of my business, but where does my social responsibility come in when I found out that she’s having unprotected sex? And that she recently had a scare with a false positive HIV test? How long until that positive isn’t false, and her husband falls ill along with her? Do I have a responsibility to let him know? I’ve made it clear to her that I don’t support what she is doing, that I think she should stop, and that I think she should come clean, but she disagrees so I don’t bring it up anymore. Now I just watch as she leaves for her “long lunches” and try not to cringe when she shows me a birthday card or an anniversary gift she plans to give to her husband. I honestly don’t know what to do here?

—Out to Lunch

Dear Out to Lunch,

Almost without fail, my guidance to those who want to get involved in another couple’s business is: Don’t. Almost. This philosophy works in the abstract, but you put a finer point on things than most by introducing an element of clear and present danger. That you are friends with the husband gives you some responsibility for disclosure. You would warn a friend of a coming car. You would let him know that an anvil is about to be dropped on his head (in the event that he is actually a cartoon roadrunner). It makes sense that you would want to warn him that his sexual health is at risk.

I still think you should keep out of it, and to do that as much as possible, I would choose one of two options. The first is setting up an anonymous email account (if you don’t already have one) to drop a dime: “Your wife is having an affair; be careful.” Do not elaborate or identify yourself. The second thing, and this is the one I’m leaning toward, is to talk to your friend/co-worker one last time and say, “Look, everything you’ve told me has put me in a really rough position. You’re jeopardizing your husband’s health, and as his friend, I feel that it’s my duty to warn him.” See how she reacts. (Of course, if you opt to do both, she would figure out very easily that the anonymous tipster is you. That’s why you can only choose one.)

I advise you to do any of this only if you are absolutely sure that their relationship is not open and that this isn’t part of some arrangement they have. If you are not absolutely sure, you don’t know enough about their business to be all up in it anyway.

Dear How to Do It,

I have heavily invested in my identity as a butch lesbian and have been out for longer than I haven’t. I’m also nonbinary and I’ve started taking a low dose of testosterone. I’m very tall, and literally every woman I have ever slept with has interpreted this as me being more dominant, which I go along with because hey, it’s what they want! Meaning I am used to topping a cascade of pillow princesses who don’t reciprocate very well, if at all.

A few weeks ago, I got trashed—think at least four separate substances—and slept with a guy (who was more trashed, on the same substances) for the first time in … ever. Two days later, when the hangover faded, I invited him over, we got high on a legal substance, and we did it again. Both times he was very aggressive, but he was also a lot more responsive and reciprocal than any woman I have ever slept with, and he actually treated me like a person in the aftermath instead of Top Sex Bot. And he’s six inches taller than me. What I’m trying to say is that having heterosexual sex was bizarrely incredible.

I am fully aware that I’m having my early 20s now, in my late 20s. My friends are aware of this, too, and I feel like a lot of them are being pretty damn dismissive about how genuinely earth-shattering this is because they know I’m going through “a weird period.” This is me, a Very Proud Butch Dyke, fully aware that I was taking substances to enhance sex with a guy I’d met an hour before. I know testosterone can cause sexuality changes, and I know “Do I want to be you or bang you?” is going to apply to this guy (he looks exactly like me, but more jacked and with slightly longer hair). It’s CONFUSING, and kind of upsetting, but in some ways I’m kind of serene about it? Which is EVEN MORE CONFUSING. I want to sleep with this guy once again, while sober, to see … you know. Maybe I’m bi! Maybe the only issue is that he bothered to get me off instead of assuming I’m stone and me being too polite or bored to correct him.

I’m being told this is an incredibly bad idea. I know that “this dude chose to have rough, drug-fueled sex with someone who’d said they were a lesbian” is ample cause for my friends to be concerned, but that’s kind of dismissive of my agency in the entire thing and how genuinely nice he was about everything. I also know that my friends telling me I’m just overly horny because I’m newly on T are not necessarily wrong, but at the end of the day, I really want to see what the hell that was. Is this a bad idea? Is it manipulative of me to use this guy as a science experiment without telling him that’s what’s happening? Should I tell him that’s happening? Should I just go back to seducing women, and maybe this time tell them to do some of the work? Can I get opinions on my plans from someone who’s not just going to tell me I’m just “having a weird time lately”?

—He’s 6’5”

Dear 6’5”,

You acknowledge your friends’ reasoning and share it (to at least some philosophical degree), which suggests that you are levelheaded about this matter. I trust your agency. You are a grown adult who’s capable of making your own choices. No matter how much your friends think they know what’s going on, only you and that dude you boned who looks just like you know what went on in that room. You are the authority, not your friends.

A caveat: If you are prone to dangerous situations (perhaps abetted by substance use), don’t learn from your mistakes, and your irresponsible behavior effectively forces your friends to pick up the pieces, their guidance is in fact worth considering. They’re probably exhausted. Then again, if you aren’t learning from your mistakes, I’m probably wasting my keystrokes, anyway.

Assuming you’re just a tad wild, though, you found someone with whom to have good sex. That’s not always easy. And look at how powerful desire is—here it has superseded politics and even what you thought you understood about your own identity. It seems to me that the only reasons not to continue banging this guy exist in the abstract, while all of the reasons to continue it are grounded in lived experience. Stick with reality and ride this thing (which is to say, that tall dyke-y guy) out.

Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I, both in our early 40s, have been together for about 10 years. We don’t have or want children. We have a wonderful marriage: We enjoy almost every minute together, have great conversational chemistry, and bond over common hobbies and interests.  We have a true partnership, always working as a team and (almost) never arguing. When we have to spend more than a few hours apart, we each can’t wait to see the other again. We both thank our lucky stars that we found each other.

The thing that most of our friends and family would consider weird or problematic (if they knew) is that we have only had sex a couple dozen times. Ever. We have now gone a few years without having sex even once. Most would assume that this was due to a lack of physical attraction and chemistry, but that’s not it. I think she’s a fox, and her attraction to me appears to be strong and undiminished  We love kissing and snuggling and fondling each other, it’s just that doesn’t go beyond that. There are a few factors I could cite for that: I have a physical condition that sometimes makes it a bit uncomfortable; we each have very specific fantasies that don’t overlap; she prefers not to use female birth control, and I don’t like using condoms.  But the bottom line is that we don’t take our physical intimacy there anymore, and neither of us thinks it’s a problem or bodes ill for our partnership. Are we missing something? Is it a problem if it’s not a problem for us?

—Married Monks

Dear Married Monks,

At this point in human history, we have too many problems to be wondering if not having problems is a problem. Your wife sounds like a wonderful person to spend the apocalypse with, at any rate. I’ve heard plenty of stories about couples who persisted despite their shared sex life drying up completely. What I wonder in these cases is A) Do those couples have other outlets for their sexuality, and B) Is the sexual disinterest a manifestation of other, bigger problems? It seems like the latter question is a resounding no for you two. I’m not quite sure about the former, but if either of you aren’t pressed, you’re likely fine. It could very well be a good idea to check in with your wife to make sure she shares your point of view on this aspect of your relationship, but it sounds to me like you both have found a partner who meets so many of your needs that any subjective shortcomings don’t even register as such. Congrats.


More How to Do It

I am in my mid-30s and happily married to my husband for five years. We have a toddler and a fantastic sex life—better even than pre-parenthood. One of the things we’ve discussed semi-seriously is my husband watching while I have sex with another man. He says this would be a huge turn-on, and I am certainly turned on by the prospect. Where I’m struggling is that the biggest turn on for me in this whole fantasy is thinking about the rush of sleeping with someone new for the first time. While my husband views this as perhaps a one-time thing, it has highlighted to me that I am regularly turned on by the thought of sleeping with someone else. Is this craving for novelty a sign that things aren’t as perfect as I think they are?