How to Do It

My High School Friends Say It’s “Progressive” to Have Sex Now

I want to wait until marriage, but does that make me a “prude”?

Girl looking behind her next to two wedding bands in neon.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Moore Media/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 go to a public high school, where sex is discussed frequently. I, for religious and ethical reasons, don’t want to have sex until I’m married. My friends say that makes me a “prude” and “old fashioned,” and that I should be more “progressive.” Does waiting till marriage really make me a prude?

—Not on the Bangwagon

Dear Not on the Bangwagon,

Here’s the thing about high school: It’s a small group of young people thrown together based on common age, geographical proximity, and need for education. Teenagers sometimes think they have everything all figured out, and people in general feel like it’s OK to pass loud judgment on the activities of others. Spoiler: These traits may persist into adulthood.

Making nonstandard choices invites criticism. Whether that’s becoming a high-profile adult performer or waiting until marriage. I encourage you to stay true to yourself and what you feel is right. To do this, you’ll need to develop a thicker skin, a more robust certainty in your own decisions. Why are you choosing celibacy till marriage? Specifically, what does your religion say, and how do your own ethics apply to your choice? What does that choice mean to you? How do you develop romantic connections without that physical aspect? Think through these things. Be prepared to ask others about their own choices. Why are they choosing to have sex at their age? What’s it like for them? How do their own ethics inform their choices? Start a dialogue. Do the work of educating your peers on the variety of approaches to sexuality that are out there—specifically, the variety of choices that you’re proceeding with—and do plenty of listening yourself.

Sex positivity sometimes goes off the rails in a problematic way. I’m remembering one sex educator saying they felt like they needed to perform in porn themselves to show that, yes, they really are OK with porn. I’m thinking of poly friends who’ve questioned whether they’re still poly if they aren’t currently dating more than one person. I’m thinking of people who are into extreme or obscure sex acts wielding the word vanilla like a slur. Sex positivity means accepting the range of expressions of human sexuality, and that includes people who are asexual or who want to wait for the person they think they’re going to spend the rest of their lives with.

Before you go, I’d like to have a word about friends. Calling you a prude for making choices that fit with your beliefs doesn’t strike me as very friendlike. You might want to think about who you’re investing your time and social energy in, and keep an eye out for people who respect you and your decisions.

Dear How to Do It,

I’ve been with my husband for over 10 years. We are still head over heels in love with each other. But sex has always been a little tough. My vagina is pretty small, and sex is painful for me, no matter how wet I am or how much foreplay we do—even post-baby, which shocked me. I bleed every time, and he doesn’t always finish if I look like I’m in too much pain. To top it off, I get off from clitoral stimulation and, despite self-experimenting, haven’t been able to get off from penetration. My size makes wearable internal vibrators impossible during sex. So I just use a regular one and hold it. He never complains—he’s such a wonderful man, truly. For example, he told me way back when we started dating that oral was one of his favorite things to do for a woman. But I’m just too self-conscious for that and never really enjoyed it. So he doesn’t do it, and he stopped asking. I’ve been trying recently to be more open to things that make me uncomfortable, so that may change. I prefer to be held down and pinned, spanked, etc. Not into pain or humiliation, just into being dominated. My husband never really tried much of that before, but recently he saw some of my erotica on my kindle app. He was excited to give it a go, and he enjoyed it. As did I. The sex still hurt, and I didn’t finish without a vibrator, but I was very turned on.

The point is, my husband has been very accommodating for over 10 years, and he has not once asked anything of me that was outside of my comfort zone. He mentioned recently that he liked watching me, and he wanted me to try being on top. I have ZERO experience with this. Yes, I’m 30. But I’ve been with maybe four men in my whole life—all of the sex has been missionary or from behind. I tried recently to be on top. It was comfortable, but he is a large man—not fat, he’s just six and a half feet tall, with the large body that accompanies that. I’m 5’4”. My knees touch the ground or bed on the sides of his hips, but there’s very little room to go up and down. I tried sliding back and forth instead of up and down, but I kept slipping off of him. We don’t really have any chairs of a good height that would support the weight or activity. I tried searching online for tips for this situation, but nothing seemed helpful. I was looking for sex furniture for this and couldn’t find much that seemed appealing. (I saw a sex stool, essentially for pregnant women, but that’s not what I’m looking for.)

I really want to do more for him, the way he has for me. I’ve read a recent answer you guys gave about blow jobs, so I’ll try to incorporate that as well. (He hasn’t asked for one in a while, but he enjoys them. I figure he wants me to offer.) What can I do to make this happen? Is there any way to do girl-on-top for a smaller girl with a large-bodied man? Is there a way to do the position while also letting him dominate (i.e., tying my hands)?

— Cowgirl in Training

Dear Cowgirl in Training,

First, please see a gynecologist. If your regular gyno doesn’t take consistent bleeding during sex seriously, please see a second. A third, if need be. Bring up the consistent pain during sex, too.

To answer your actual question, there are a couple of tricks that you might find useful. One is to balance on the balls of your feet—one foot on either side of your husband’s pelvis—and basically engage your squatting muscles to control depth and thrust. It’s more physically strenuous, but it’ll give you more space to move around.

Another option is to rest on your knees and roll your pelvis. If you’ve ridden a horse, think lope gait. If you haven’t—ooh boy, let’s see if I can do this without visual aids. So, you’re on your knees, with your husband’s penis inside of you, and up and down isn’t an option. Sliding front to back is a recipe for a bruised penis. Rolling your pelvis forward and backwards is the goal. Think of your pelvis as a bowl. Tilt it forward, tilt it backward, and see if you can get some good G-spot action going on. Brace your hands on his chest for stability. It seems like you’re pretty focused on this being-on-top thing as a display for your husband, but I want to mention he can stimulate your clitoris with his fingers or a vibrator in this position while you use your hands to balance.

And there’s always the reverse. By which I mean reverse cowgirl. You might find you have a better range of movement if you’re turned around and leaning forward towards his feet. A short chair might allow you to stand upright astride your spouse, too.

Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I are very happily married for 20 years and have a fairly vanilla and totally fun sex life. But I do enjoy, probably an average of twice a week, to get off to porn or erotica. I like reading stories, but most times I really prefer the visuals and sounds of a movie. My issue is I have heard more and more about the ethics problems of amateur porn, which had been my go-to. In addition to at least trying to be a feminist (or “ally”?), I also know as a union carpenter I don’t like when people undermine our wages either. So, I want to transition to paid porn. My problem is I am having a hard time now finding what I want. I think there are two appeals to amateur porn for me: 1) the illusion or reality of “authenticity,” and 2) the aesthetic of “hey that actually looks like my thicc sexy wife or the hot woman I saw on the subway … and that guy actually could be me.” I have a few specific turn-ons as most people do, but none for me rise to the level of a fetish that a highly specific website would do much for me. Where do you suggest I find porn that is well done and fits the vibes that I enjoyed with amateur stuff?

—Pay to Press Play

Dear Pay to Press Play,

Find performers who fit the body type you’re into—trust me, professional porn has all kinds of performers with all kinds of bodies—and follow them on social media. Reach out and ask what the best way to support their work is. It’ll probably be a subscription to their Only Fans, ManyVids, Clips4Sale, or personal website. It pains me to admit this, but they might refer you to their PornHub page, too, since PornHub has launched a YouTube Creators–like program that pays out something for content posted in front of the paywall. Not nearly what I think is fair, but something.

Authenticity—whatever that even means—is something many professional porn producers seek to include in their work. I can’t speak for other content producers, but at ZeroSpaces.com (an 18+ project I co-founded a couple of years back), we ask our main performer who they’d like to do their scene with, and then we ask the performers they’ve chosen if they’d like to work with the main person. We arrange our shoots to foster connection. We’re not the only group who runs our sets this way. Interestingly, I’ve found that low production value helps customers feel that “authenticity.” I’d suggest you check out my “Around the World in 80 Ways” series, though I don’t know if the male talent I use would fit your criteria of “could be me.”

Many individual performers know that the current trend is toward authenticity and create content that seeks to achieve that vibe themselves. See, the lines between professional and amateur are increasingly blurred. People who’ve never worked for a large company have their own production studios, and with iPhones and other smartphones being what they are, manage to shoot glossy, stylized work. Large production companies have been creating amateurlike, or pro-am, releases for years. It’s all topsy-turvy.

In short, find a guy who looks like you but does porn, and ask him where the best place to buy his pro-am work from is. If you’d given me more detail about what authenticity means to you, and what you look like, I might have been able to dig up some specific recommendations, but I think you’re capable of finding porn you like on your own.

Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I have been married for 22 wonderful years. We’ve had the kind of sex life you’d probably expect, from great to OK, from infrequent to constant—a lot happens in two decades. Recently things have changed, seemingly for the best. I have always had a higher sex drive than she, and while this has occasionally been a problem, she’s always been giving. Now however her drive has caught up with mine and we’re having sex nearly daily, and she’s having at least one orgasm, usually more every time. This makes me extremely happy—I love nothing more than pleasing her and also make sure she comes first, literally, usually before penetration. In turn this has made her more experimental, which I also love. We’ve introduced a toy (which she was never into before), she wears lingerie more often than before, which I love, etc. Basically, while we have had mind-blowing sex over the years, what she is doing now, nearly daily used to be, say, monthly or weekly or sometimes less, with vanilla sex in between. This is more than I ever hoped to have on a consistent basis. Sounds great, right? Like we’ve come into a kind of synchronization that I bet a lot of couples dream of. So, the wrinkle.

As background, she recently took a female lover, with my consent, for a few months. Before that we were already having more frequent sex and I loved it. After her experience with a woman however, she has completely gone into overdrive. Before, her orgasms were infrequent, try as I might. Now they are on a hair trigger—a dream for me because I love seeing her so happy. The problem is me. Now, having all of my wishes in bed granted, the pleasure from my orgasms has dropped off a cliff. Or they don’t happen at all. On the other hand, my orgasms from porn, which I use, probably weekly, sometimes less, have been amazing. Better than they were before. This is the exact opposite of the way things used to be. Previously taking care of myself was minimally satisfying, and I preferred sex with my wife by a mile.

I think there are two possibilities. One is physical, I assume related to my overdrinking and poor sleep habits, both of which I’m working on and I’m also trying to boost my penile sensitivity, typical self-care stuff. The other possible culprit is something psychological I haven’t quite discerned (so, yeah, therapy could be next). I have not mentioned the orgasm intensity thing to her, though we talk about everything else. I don’t want her to feel like she is doing anything wrong—because she isn’t! We communicate physically very well, letting each other know what we want, yet recently, what I want isn’t doing it for me. Thoughts?

—Wrinkle in Paradise

Dear Wrinkle in Paradise,

It’s possible that the chase—the effort you were putting in to get your wife into sex mode—was part of your arousal process. It’s possible that feeling needed was part of your sexual dynamic, and your wife’s easily orgasmic relationship with another person is challenging that. It’s also possible that what you describe as overdrinking and poor sleep habits are interfering with the function of your orgasm. And, of course, there’s the odd phenomena where getting what we want—in any aspect of our lives—sometimes has effects we didn’t anticipate.

I think you should broach the subject gently with your wife. You know what phrasing she’s sensitive to, and you have 22 years of experience communicating with each other verbally. Use that. Present it as a change in your sexual response that you want to share with her and get her insight on. Something like “I’ve experienced a shift in my sexual response and want to tell you about it” should suffice.

I want to impress on you the reality that sexuality often develops—evolves—over time. What worked 10 years ago won’t necessarily work now. This doesn’t have to be a problem—it can be an opportunity to reexplore.

— Stoya

More How to Do It

I have a dilemma. I’m a married woman, and my husband and I have a great relationship. I’m the one who pretty much takes care of everything outside the bedroom, so I prefer my husband to be more dominant and take charge in the bedroom. However, he tends to be a considerate lover, which means he asks a lot of questions like, “Are you OK?”; “Does this feel good or right?”; “Am I hurting you? Other than the occasional “you’re on my hair!” moment, which I am vocal about, the other questions are totally unnecessary. I’ve reassured him before, during, and after that he’s doing great, and I have brought up several times that I find the questions distracting, especially when I’m in the middle of an orgasm and they take from the moment. How do I start nudging him to be a little more dominant and to stop asking questions?