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 29-year-old man engaged to a beautiful, fun-loving 28-year-old woman who has an odd habit: She feels compelled to shave herself before every time we have sex. It makes no difference to me whether she has body hair or not, and I’ve tried to gently tell her so on multiple occasions, but she gets anxious and says she needs to shave before she can feel beautiful or attractive. Typically, things will start to get frisky, and then she’ll disappear into the bathroom for 15 to 20 minutes while I’m left on the couch to read a book. I want to be clear that I acknowledge it’s her body, no one else’s, and she should ultimately groom herself however makes her happy. Also, my role in our future marriage should not be to act as therapist and try to fix her in any way. I just want her to love herself as much as I love her. Is there anything I can do? How can I help her see herself as attractive no matter when she’s last shaved? Is that even a healthy thing to do?
Dear Hair Pulling,
Whoa there. How did we get from your girlfriend’s hair hang-up to “I just want her to love herself as much as I love her”? We’ve all got hang-ups about our bodies, and some of us can get downright twitchy about them. If your girlfriend is constantly flogging herself—especially regarding her emotions or actions—that’s one thing. But if her self-criticism is confined to the hair in her underwear, I think her self-love is doing just fine.
“Compelled” is an interesting word choice here. Compulsions are a real phenomenon and are sometimes a feature of significant psychological distress. It is possible that your girlfriend is experiencing a compulsion and that a mental health professional might be able to help. That said, any therapy is 100 percent your girlfriend’s decision here, and she should only embark on that journey if she feels it would help her or provide some relief. Remember, she may not feel this is something she needs relief from.
I, like at least a few other women in the world, get the occasional thick, noticeable nipple hair. When I see a nipple hair on myself, absolutely nothing else can happen until I find a pair of tweezers and remove it. My follicular albatross takes approximately 30 seconds to rectify, and your girlfriend’s takes 15 to 20 minutes. I’m glad she’s taking the time to shave carefully.
Your girlfriend’s bush-barber activities probably have very little to do with you. She wants to come to you feeling sexy, and that’s all about her feelings. What she needs to do to feel attractive. It’s lucky that you find her attractive bald, because that’s how she wants it. If the downtime between arousal and consummation is a problem for you, you might ask if she would be comfortable shaving in the mornings and having sex with a slight amount of stubble.
Dear How to Do It,
My husband and I have been together 16 years, married for 12. We’re in our late 30s, a little overweight but we try to take care of ourselves and we’re reasonably attractive. I’m a queer woman; he’s mostly straight. Our sex life, like most long-term couples’, has had its ups and downs, but we’ve navigated through the lows and gotten a lot better at communicating. We’re monogamish, as Dan Savage would put it—we’ve gone to swingers’ parties before and recently started going again, and we used to have a couple we “played” with a few times a year. We’re hobbyists, not “lifestylers”—we do this once in a while for fun, and we’re generally focused on exhibitionism and voyeurism and what’s called soft-swap (up to oral, no penetration).
Well, we’ve gone to two parties in the past six months and kinda struck out on my husband’s ultimate goal of finding a couple both to fool around with at the party and maybe keep talking with afterward. He’s also used an app to try to find another couple we can meet up with semiregularly. Now he’s discouraged. He gets his hopes up of finding a geeky, smart couple interested in the same things we are, talks to someone for a while; a meetup never happens or we get gently rejected or they wander off at the party; and then he assumes that every other couple there is pairing off and leaving us on our own. I am quite sure this perception is not reality, but mix a dose of depression and anxiety in there, and it feels true to him. We have fun, but he always seems disappointed. I’m into this because it’s fun, it’s hot, and it gives me a chance to kiss women and watch people and bond with my husband, but he seems to be feeling some serious FOMO if nobody “picks” us. I guess my question is twofold: Any suggestions for finding sexy like-minded couples to “date”? And how do I help my husband be OK with being rejected or feeling left out?
Dear Swinger FOMO,
Which app did you use? Some are more heavily populated by like-minded swinger-ish individuals, and others are going to be like a sample sale on day four. Munches and daytime meetups are a better place to make emotional and intellectual connections than a bar or a hectic play party, so you might try attending some of those too.
Poly dating is just like mono dating, except it’s exponentially more complex. You aren’t looking for someone who is into you. Your husband isn’t looking for someone who is into him. You and your husband are looking for a couple who is attracted to both of you, and whom you both find attractive. Dating, squared.
So, just like we all have to keep putting ourselves out there, you and your husband have to keep putting yourselves out there. Two parties isn’t nearly enough hours logged.
As for how to help your husband be OK with rejection, you’re the expert on him. Has he built his fantasy up to a degree where nothing less than seamless sexual synergy will suffice? Give him a dose of reality. Is he trying to fill a void left by fears of aging? Dig in and get him to talk about it—sometimes simply airing these things helps.
I assume your husband has some favorite maneuvers in the bedroom. On nights where the two of you go home together—without anyone else—you might try pulling out all the stops when you get in bed. The hope is that this will help him focus on what he already has—a loving wife of 12 years who wants to see him happy.
Dear How to Do It,
I have been with my boyfriend for a year, and I love him very much. We have always had a great sex life and are both giving, curious, enthusiastic partners—we make each other orgasm several times in any given session. We’re into light BDSM and like pushing each other to try new things, and we’re normally very good about communicating our likes, dislikes, and limits.
My only minor qualm is that we are different in our levels of effusiveness—I have a very expressive face and am very vocal (dirty talk, moaning, heavy breathing, etc.), while he is rather stoic and quiet. I have been gently coaxing him into talking more, and I think he enjoys it when he gets out of his head enough to let loose without worrying about “sounding dumb.” But his facial expressions are still pretty subdued. It’s not like he’s counting the ceiling tiles or anything—he is looking at me, but his expression is just … blank. So sometimes I find myself worrying if he’s really enjoying himself because he can be so hard to read.
Obviously, when he comes, I know he’s feeling good, and the way we talk about sex outside the bedroom reinforces that he does find me sexy and really enjoys our sex life. In fact, we’ve discussed how he particularly enjoys fingering or going down on me because he can focus on watching me orgasm, and I’m very over-the-top. So is his own lack of outside expression something that’s worth bringing up with him, or should I just quit worrying about it? I’m concerned that pointing it out would just make him self-conscious, since your facial expressions aren’t exactly something you can consciously control. And I definitely don’t want to make him feel like he has to put on some artificial show just for my benefit. But I do want him to feel uninhibited and free to express himself with me—plus, actively hearing and seeing how much he wants me really turns me on. What do you think: Could I politely ask for a bigger show, or am I creating a problem where none exists?
Let’s start with creating problems. Your great, sexually enthusiastic boyfriend isn’t the most expressive. That’s his way. He’s OK exactly as he is. And, yes, pointing out his default deadpan might get in his head and inhibit him.
But you want to enjoy a show of your own, like he gets to see when he’s pleasuring you. So frame it as a treat for you that can be stopped at any time. Ask him to perform for you. Ask to watch him masturbate. Ask him to hold his dick and tell you how much he wants you. Tease him. Bring him to the edge of ecstasy and let him cool down a little bit. Repeat. Get him so worked up that he’s aching for you. See what happens.
Make sure to check in throughout to see if he’s feeling OK about what’s happening, and if he wants to call it quits, do so. The same applies to you—if the activities start to feel less like a show and more like a sham, end the game and move on to something else. Like routine missionary, or dishes. Anal? I don’t know what the specific is for you two, but whatever feels like comfortable normalcy to help you both reground.
Dear How to Do It,
My boyfriend and I have a great sex life. Hooray! However, nearly every bed frame we have ever involved in our adult activities has ground, snapped, squeaked, or creaked. In comparison, we are not particularly verbose in the bedroom. My poor parents gifted us a temporary frame for Christmas, and now two months later, we’ve bent it past usefulness. I think a lot of this comes down to the shoddy construction of online bargain frames and secondhand finds (looking at you, vacation-bnb’s). To be fair, neither of us is particularly fit, but we don’t weigh a ton either. But now we really need a frame that we can’t bang to destruction. What should I even be looking for? Should I be oiling up my metal frame like I would my car doors? Is a wood frame better for … getting that wood?
Put the boxspring on the floor. Put the mattress on top. No squeaking, no creaking, and definitely no snapping. This is what I do. Sure, your mom might think your bedroom looks like a flophouse, but how many people are in your bedroom regularly?
Alternately, ask a construction worker or welder. Maybe you can find a local handy person who can help you reinforce a bed frame.
More How to Do It
It recently got out that someone at work did porn when he was younger. This porn does not line up with his apparent orientation. (He’s married to a woman.) We’re a relatively small workplace, so this got around quickly. Our boss probably knows at this point. I worry about how this is going to affect him at work. At one point, I caught a couple co-workers sharing an image from one of the videos and joking about it, and I told them to stop. The thing is I don’t think he has any idea that people know. Should I tell him? Maybe he doesn’t care if people know, but I worry he will find out in an embarrassing way.