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 in a long-distance relationship with a wonderful, kind, caring man for a few months. We see each other about once a month, and as expected, we get hot and heavy (and we’re super compatible in bed!). The problem is the aftermath—whether or not I pee, shower, wash, whatever afterward, I seem to be getting bacterial infections (not UTIs, but I’m guessing similar?) after each time he visits. I see a future with this guy, but am I resigning myself to a lifetime of visiting the doctor for antibiotics? Is there something I’m doing wrong? I’ve heard anecdotally from girlfriends that uncircumcised men may cause this more, but I’m not sure I fully believe it. I’d appreciate any advice here!
—Afterglow Not Afterburn!
Dear Afterglow Not Afterburn,
Does your caring LDR partner practice basic hygiene? If he doesn’t, you’re well within your rights to insist that he bathe before sexual interaction. This includes soap on genitals. Another possible factor is his mouth. If the two of you engage in oral sex, you might want to have him brush his teeth first.
Are you using condoms? If you are and they’re latex, you might want to try some different materials. Consider switching up your lube, too. (And you are practicing contamination control with your lube bottle, right?) If you aren’t using condoms, they’re worth a try. They’ll cut down on fluid exchange. Meanwhile, I think your partner should visit a doctor, himself. Specifically a urologist. It’s possible that you two are passing bacteria back and forth, with his body acting as an incubator while you go and get treated over and over.
At the end of the day, you and he are going to need to be seen by a medical professional to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
Dear How to Do It,
OK, so I wrote you a six-page essay, but decided maybe to just keep it simple. A and B are in a relationship. They are poly but haven’t actually been poly yet (neither has ever had a secondary partner). I don’t believe in monogamy, and I am pretty busy with work and friends and life, so it seems like being someone’s secondary partner is my dream situation. I have previously dated people who wanted too much of my time and who felt like once or twice a week wasn’t enough.
A and I are friends who have flirted and decided to take the plunge and try it. On our first “date,” they complained for an hour about B and said some things that are very red flag–y about B, which makes it seem like A is possibly in a bad, maybe even abusive, situation (emotionally, not physically). Having never been in this type of situation, I don’t know what to do!
I want to be there for A, to support them and not go running for the hills. But I also don’t want to be in a mess or make anything worse. I feel like even if there was no poly layer added to this, what am I supposed to do as a friend? I want to say run, break up, you don’t deserve this, but I also know that’s not always helpful, especially not given that this person has expressed interest in dating me. It is still early enough (and pre-sex) with me and A that while I would really, really like to date them, I could possibly say we need to be just friends right now and not ruin that relationship.
Just a quick other layer: We are all three young, queer, gender nonconforming people, and I finally feel like I’ve found people who I belong with. I don’t want to fuck it up, but I also worry that because this isn’t what abuse typically looks like, I am subconsciously minimizing it.
Dear Skeptical Secondary,
I imagine your six-page essay had some details about what exactly you’re concerned may be abuse. These specifics are important. I can’t tell you whether you’re minimizing unless I know what we’re actually talking about.
Based on what you have sent, I don’t think A is in a good place to be starting a new romantic relationship. You’re best off being their friend right now. You can always transition to a dating context in the future, once their primary relationship is stable or has stopped. You can provide healthy pushback if A is speaking in low terms about themselves. And you can treat them well. Listen to their problems. Remind them that you care about them. Be there as emotional support.
For yourself and your feelings of belonging, know that you will continue to find people around whom you can be comfortably yourself. There’s a whole young, queer, GNC world out there that you can connect with—albeit in a digital way for the immediate, COVID-19 future.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m struggling with how to explain to my husband that his mother’s significant other creeps me out. My husband and I have been a couple for five years. His mother and the SO, let’s call him Larry, have been together about three. Shortly after they started dating, I discovered that Larry was charged with statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors. He ultimately pleaded guilty to and served time for two counts of corruption. I immediately alerted my MIL, because at the time, there were two minor girls in the home. She confronted Larry, and he brushed it off as nothing. Since then, frankly, I’ve never been comfortable being around him. Larry has caused a whole host of problems aside from these, and I feel as though his controlling behavior edges on abuse of my MIL. I’ve explained the abuse concerns to my husband and gently said Larry freaks me out, but my husband refused to tell his mother not to bring Larry around. I refuse to go to my MIL’s residence if Larry will be there. At this point, my husband just thinks I’m being rude. How can I explain to him the level of my discomfort?
—Not Loving Larry
Dear Not Loving Larry,
I assume you’ve explained the statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors charges, the guilty plea, and your reservations about whether time served taught Larry anything to your husband. If that’s the case, you may have done everything you can do. Do the two of you generally have good communication? It might be worth asking your husband about his feelings surrounding this problem. Listening to your husband’s take does two things: helps you understand what’s going on in his brain and helps him feel like he’s had a chance to be heard. You also might pick up some clues as to what framing of the situation and your discomfort your husband will actually hear and internalize. Best of luck.
Dear How to Do It,
I have been seeing a guy for around six months. I enjoy having sex with him. I like that he seems to be always aroused by me. We are not very young anymore, both in our early 50s, and so I am very excited to still feel desired. He likes to talk in bed. He does not do any dirty talk, just tells me he is enjoying it, he likes my boobs, or my behind or whatever. I have never been a talker. None of my previous partners had ever asked me to say anything. He has asked me several times. I have not been able to do it. I think the main reason is that I do not know what to say. He has told me that he wants to know what I like. I direct his hands to where I want him to touch me. I sometimes moan, but I do not say words. I do not think that describing what we are doing enhances it. I am willing to try. I have looked online, but I haven’t found anything helpful. How can I get more verbal in bed? I do not have any trouble talking out of it.
—Finding My Voice
Dear Finding My Voice,
Start where you are. Begin with “I’m nervous. Talking feels awkward to me.” Embrace your feelings, even if they aren’t “sexy.” See if you can get comfortable with words that are genuine and reflect your experience.
You can also practice in front of a mirror. You know what you like—how you like to be touched, where you like to be touched, etc. So, using your own specifics, try saying things like “I want to feel your hands on my breasts” or “stroke my clitoris.” Other useful phrases are “that feels good” and “a little to the left.”
Give it your best go, and if you still don’t feel comfortable, I think you’re fine. Some of us just aren’t talkers when it comes to sex. Moans and body language are absolutely functional, as long as our partners are able to read those forms of communication.
More How to Do It
I had anal sex with my boyfriend some time ago. The first time it really hurt and the second time was really great. But I haven’t done it since because I am still scared. He brought it up recently and I’d like to try it again. He’s very sweet and considerate. We have great sexual communication. And I’m excited to try it again. But the anxiety is real. I’m hitting you up for relaxation tips and things I can do on my own to prepare for this special occasion. Any advice?