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 view myself as a heterosexual guy in a sexually fulfilling, committed relationship. Women make my heart flutter, even now in my 50s, and I enjoy being the aggressor in my sexual relationships, something my girlfriend is clearly attracted to. But I have another side, my backside, which I really want violated. I’ve never been attracted to an actual human male, but I fantasize obsessively about bottoming for some abstract male. My porn of choice is pegging when it’s not MMF threesomes. I dream of submission.
Here’s my problem. My partner hates all of this. I have opened up to her, but she freaks out at my gentle suggestions that she can fulfill these needs. She fears that I am secretly gay, that I will leave her over my unmet needs, but she is also grossed out and unwilling to explore the role reversal I want to try. She was attracted to an aggressor, not a submissive, and is not game to renegotiate the terms. I am not going to leave her over my need to be penetrated, nor am I going to convince her to do it. What I’m left with is figuring out where this desire comes from in an effort to overcome it. Is that even possible?
Things would be simpler if we were all the same, and our desires didn’t deviate from some mythic norm. But it would also be far more boring. I won’t dissuade you from self-interrogation—at the very least, attempting to figure out why you like what you like is a fine way to pass the time—but I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to “overcome” a desire that is natural and harmless. Prostate manipulation is highly pleasurable for many men—it’s just sitting up there, waiting to be played with. And plenty of men crave submission.
With all due respect, your partner is ignorant. She doesn’t seem to be aware of the considerable population of self-identified heterosexual men who enjoy pegging. She seems to have a black-and-white view of masculinity, but like anything in life, masculinity mostly takes up a gray area. One can enjoy active and passive roles, with no moral failing or threat of one canceling out the other. This might not be what attracted her to you, and she certainly doesn’t have to partake in sex that doesn’t interest her, but her speculation about your sexuality and fidelity is over the line.
Most of us want to be understood by our partners—it’s a baseline criterion for a satisfying relationship—and so I think your task there would involve convincing her that you’re far from alone in these desires and they’re no threat to your heterosexuality. You could point her to any number of articles online about the subject. If it’s true that it’s totally off the table for her, and there’s no chance of opening your relationship to allow you to experience it firsthand, you’re on your own. Get yourself a dildo and go to town on yourself during your alone time.
Dear How to Do It,
I haven’t seen my partner since the beginning of March. Both of us have been sheltering in place/isolated/not left the house/in a bubble for four weeks (me for five). When can we see each other again? Neither of us has shown symptoms. Neither of us have gone out and about. Neither of us are licking the doorknobs.
For context, I live with four other people, I am a high-risk individual (hence why I was early to start isolating) and my partner has a roommate. One of my roommates is still routinely seeing their partner. Should I stop letting my roommate’s partner by? At what point is it safe to see my partner again? I don’t know what to do. All of the official guidance is to stay a certain distance while in public. People are saying this could be happening well into the summer. Is everyone sneaking out to see their partners and just not fessing up? What level of discipline here are we supposed to observe, and for how long? Please advise!
I’m very sorry to have to reinforce the suckiness of our current collective situation (and boy does it suck!), but unless you and your partner have separate places where you can self-isolate with zero human contact—no going to stores, no getting close with delivery people—for two to three weeks, it is not advisable to break quarantine at this point. And it’s probably going to be a while before you do so. And you should absolutely not allow your roommate’s partner to come by. The more people in your contact circle, the more opportunity there is for the virus to spread.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an email response I received from Jeff Martin, a doctor and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at University of California, San Francisco, who has been urging social distancing since the onset of the coronavirus’ spread in the United States:
Probably the only way you can be sure that intimate contact with another person is safe for you is if that other person has had no contact with anyone else (or any new objects brought into the residence) for the past 14 days. If you want to be extraordinarily careful, you would extend that to 21 days. This just follows the biology of the virus.
Likewise, the only way you can be sure that intimate contact with another person is safe for the other person is if you had no contact with anyone else for the past 14 to 21 days. Following such guidance may be very difficult for most people, but if the question is how to be absolutely safe, this is the answer. This applies to our current context in which we believe that the virus is circulating in our communities.
It will not be this way forever, however. There is every reason to believe that communities will dampen down the amount of virus circulating, and these recommendations will change.
But for now, like us, they remain in place. Because with each person that you come in contact with, your chances of contracting and transmitting the virus jump up, and you happen to have a pretty wide circle now with the four other people you live with and the partner of one of them, you in particular should be limiting further contact.
This is for your own sake, but it’s also your civic duty. We have to wait until social distancing restrictions start to relax, and no one knows for sure when that will be. I’m sorry this sucks so much. I hate it myself.
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve been having a lot of casual sex recently, after moving to a big city with lots of humans around my age (I’m a 32-year-old heteroflexible woman) and accepting apps as part of my life. These experiences have been mostly OK, occasionally great, and occasionally terrible, as you might expect. Increasingly, I find myself “performing” being turned on to either improve or speed up mediocre or bad sex (secretly using lube so they think I’m wet, moaning, the usual stuff), and enacting other people’s fetishes and fantasies even if I pretty much already know they are not my thing (e.g. being submissive outside as well as inside the bedroom, told what to wear, told to video myself). I have a recurring thought whenever I’m performing in this way: “I could be getting paid for this.” My question is: Could I?
I live in the U.K., where prostitution is legal. I just don’t know how to become a sex worker. Am I too old? Am I being completely naïve? If not, where do I start?
I’m aware that in-person sex work would have to wait until after the quarantine, but I’d still welcome any advice.
Dear A Pivot,
I feel like you’re headed toward living out a modern and more liberated take on Belle de Jour, Luis Buñuel’s 1967 masterpiece in which Catherine Deneuve plays a housewife who becomes so obsessed with the notion of sex work that she just had to try it for herself. She found what you are likely to find: Part of what makes fantasies so exciting and gratifying is that they are, in fact, not real. It’s one thing to dream; it’s another thing to do. I don’t mean to denigrate sex work at all—I believe it is honest, necessary work. But it’s hard. You enter money into the equation, things become trickier. The person paying you for sex can easily assume a position of power, and part of the deal is for you to cater to his or her whims and desires. Of course sex workers retain their agency and their own power in many situations, but the transactional nature of these encounters means that you may find yourself in a gray area, performing things that you aren’t against, per se, but that you also aren’t inclined to do. It’s one thing to take it upon yourself to bluff your way through underwhelming sex, and it’s another to enter a contract that compels you to do so. It can really take a toll. And that’s to say nothing of the violence sex workers disproportionately experience.
Keep in mind that while sex work is not illegal in the U.K., exactly, much of what is associated with it is—pimping, running a brothel, and street soliciting are. (Online escorting is legal in the U.K.) I recommend watching this ITV report from January about the state of sex work there, which details the safety concerns that have many sex workers calling for legal reform. It may give your aspirations some needed perspective.
I want to tread lightly here and stop short of recommending you jump headfirst into an extremely complicated, sometimes dangerous profession, but since you asked: No, 32 is not too old. Charlotte Rose, a famous sex worker who is featured in the ITV report I linked to above, is 39 years old.
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve been with my boyfriend for five years, and we are each other’s first sexual relationship. My boyfriend has a huge kink for blowjobs. Most of the porn he watches focuses on blowjobs. The problem is that I hate giving him blowjobs. I’ve been trying to improve my gag reflex for years, but I always throw up even when I use my hands and only put the tip in my mouth. It makes me feel like I’m choking and my jaw hurts for days after even for short blowjobs. Honestly, my jaw even hurts after visiting the dentist just from keeping it open. My dentist has said that my jaw muscles are so strong and bulky that my jaw won’t open wide enough so that may be part of the problem. So ultimately blowjobs is a huge turn-off for me and kills my mood.
I’ve done lots of research on how to make blowjobs less painful and less of a turn-off for me, but nothing has helped. We’re down to about once every three months (I would prefer to give him none at all, but I usually break after his nagging). He complains that this is inadequate for him and sulks. But I’ve explained to him all the problems blowjobs cause for me and why I don’t like giving them. I don’t ask for blowjobs in return. He says blowjobs are a normal part of everyone’s sex life. He also says that other forms of foreplay he does for me like massaging my body makes his hands hurt, but it’s a sacrifice he makes because he wants to pleasure me. I’ve told him that he doesn’t need to do anything that hurts him just to pleasure me. I think he should suck it up, so to speak, and accept that blowjobs are not the kind of foreplay I’m interested in. (I do other foreplay things that he enjoys and has suggested.) He’s a kind and considerate boyfriend otherwise.
If giving guys blowjobs is a normal part of sex, then I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me for finding so much discomfort in it. So I guess I’m kinda wondering if it’s weird if I put my foot down on blowjobs and if they really are an essential part of sex. And also any advice for how to make me enjoy them more would be appreciated—even though I feel like I’ve heard it all by now.
Your boyfriend is wrong: Blowjobs are not a “normal” part of “everyone’s” sex lives. There is no normal, and I’m quite sure he doesn’t have data to back that up. A lot of men enjoy blowjobs and receive them with some regularity, but a lot of men also regularly put their penises in vaginas, and that’s something neither of you are doing, from what I can tell. You’re not wrong for not doing so, it’s just about the way you are wired.
My usual recommendation for blowjob-related jaw pain is to perform trigger point massage and jaw exercises. This is hardly a revolutionary proposition, and I’m sure you’ve encountered these in your research. While it seems reasonable to assume that your aversion to blowjobs is connected to your jaw pain, at this point it’s so ingrained that I wonder if you’d be into giving them even if the pain ceased. It’s possible that you wouldn’t. Some people just don’t. That’s entirely OK—you’re not obligated to do anything sexually that you don’t want to. It’s generous of you to sit through these conversations with your boyfriend, but he’s not entitled to any further explanation after, “No,” either. Your consent isn’t up for debate.
Is there some compromise in which you allow openness in your relationship so that he can get the head he desires from other people, alleviating the pressure on you to perform? The guy really likes blowjobs, and queer culture often allows for a rather pragmatic seeking and attainment of pleasure that causes no negative consequences on relationships in which this is allowed. I want head, I go out to find me some head, I get head, I go home. It can mean nothing more than that. If you’re not ready for such an arrangement, it’s not going to work, but it’s something to consider for the sake of mutual satisfaction.