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,
How do I learn to look good on camera? I’d like to have video hookups while we’re all in quarantine, but it’s been a while since my last long-distance relationship, and I’ve forgotten everything about long-distance sex. I filmed a recent masturbation session and found myself deeply wanting! The angle makes my face look puffy, and it was boring to watch. I don’t want to disappoint the hot, sexy friends I’ve made—how can I improve? (I’m confident in my verbal skills, but I can’t be too chatty, with my roommates also in lockdown, and typing while masturbating looks even more awkward.) Please help! Being suave and alluring over FaceTime is a totally different skill set.
I assume you’re using an iPhone because you referenced FaceTime. The front-facing camera on an iPhone is not my friend. I assume it isn’t your friend either. So if it’s possible to use a different device—a laptop, an iPad, etc.—that’s the first thing I’d suggest. If not, flip your phone around and use the better camera.
Next up is lighting. Cameras are not eyeballs. Your usual lighting may be great for sitting around, watching things, typing, or whatever else you do with your time, but when a camera enters the picture, the light needs to change. I asked my roommate, Steve Ronin, who also happens to be a professional photographer, and he suggested throwing a sheet over a lampshade to diffuse the light—just make sure to keep an eye on it so you don’t start a fire. If you have the extra cash, a ring light is really the best. I use an Edison bulb that hangs over my desk. Steve also suggests that you take advantage of any morning or magic-hour light that might occur naturally in your room. Once you have good light, you have to figure out where to be in that light—not too close to the source but not too far away.
Now let’s talk about angles. You’re going to have to find yours. This process simply sucks, but it’s necessary. Keep trying different angles until you have a few good ones or your self-esteem can’t take it anymore. If it’s the latter, give yourself a break and get back to it when you’re ready.
As for being “interesting,” that’s a bit trickier. See, in porn or professional camming, we’re there for the viewer at the end of the day. You’re doing this recreationally. Your enjoyment should be a very high priority. Sound is a crucial. I hear that you need to keep the noise level down out of respect for the people you’re quarantined with, but is whispering possible? You also might try expressing yourself more physically. Scrunch your toes. Move your hips. Grab at the pillow. Flail your legs. Do what feels natural to you.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m wondering if you have any advice on getting used to swallowing. I don’t if I have specifically sensitive taste buds but even the smell of semen makes me want to gag. I (28-year-old woman) would like to get around to the idea because I think it’s hot, but the taste just gets me every time. And I’m afraid to try in case I gag and it embarrasses the guy. Is this just something some people have always been OK with, or is it something you can learn?
Find a partner you can trust. Explain to them that your senses are sensitive and you’re afraid of gagging. Ask if they’re comfortable letting you take that risk. There are definitely people who can understand any possible negative reaction as a you thing, not a personal insult.
I can’t promise you that you’ll get used to the taste at all, much less quickly, but I do think it’s worth experimenting with. To me, semen is always going to be a little bleach-y. Maybe there’s someone out there with splooge that doesn’t taste vaguely like Clorox smells, but I’ve put my mouth on a fairly broad sampling of penises and haven’t found that person yet.
Good luck and remember to swallow quickly. The longer semen sits in your mouth, the gluier it’ll get.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a late-20s bi man living in a West Coast city where I went to college. I’m lucky to still have a lot of friends from college, but I’m in a pickle. A few years ago, I dated a female member of our friend group for a year. Around the time the relationship started, one of our mutual friends told me, “You have no secrets from me anymore.” This was accurate. My significant other told all our friends basically everything that happened in bed. Usually I would find out about this when one of them made a joke about it to me. My tastes are vanilla with the exception of the fact that I have dated men, and I don’t think my body is out of the ordinary, but this was still a drag on our sex life. The only time I asked that we change up our normal routine in bed (different order of events, not anything new), most of my closest friends knew about it within 24 hours. I never said anything because I know that interfering with friendships is disrespectful of a partner’s autonomy. That said, I find it a little weird that platonic friends with whom I never had sexual contact know literally everything there is to know about my genitals. The relationship ended more or less amicably for other reasons, and since then, I have mostly dated men and nonbinary folks I’ve met on various apps.
I recently started dating an incredible woman from an overlapping friend group, and we are beginning to think about intimacy (and what that looks like in a time of physical distancing). However, I’m suddenly overcome with stage fright again. I don’t really like the idea of sex being a performance for my nonsexual friends, but obviously, people turn to their friends to unpack their experiences. I generally draw the line when my friends start describing their partners’ tastes and packages, but I understand that not everybody has that hang-up. Is this just part of the privacy one gives up when one enters a relationship? If not, is there a respectful way to raise the possibility of a partner not mentioning random dirty details with people who know me well? I know hetero relationships can have awful power dynamics, and I want to err on the side of not being pushy.
Dear Stage Fright,
You get to have boundaries. You get to ask for privacy. You get to decide what amount of privacy you need. Figure that out, and then approach this new amorous associate with your boundaries. You might say, “The last time I dated someone in my friend circles, it got really uncomfortable for me. I don’t want my friends hearing explicit details of my sex life. I don’t want my friends to know what my genitals look like. I’m OK with you processing things with friends and venting if need be, but I need a certain amount of sexual privacy. Are these boundaries OK for you?”
And then she gets to make the choice about whether your boundaries match her needs.
You could also do the reverse. Maybe something like, “The last time I dated someone in my friend circles, that person told a lot of our mutual friends details about our sexual interactions. How much of your sex life do you share with your friends?”
And then you get to decide if her boundaries fit your needs.
I have an ex-boyfriend who went on to date a comedian, and she made it very clear from the outset that everything was fodder for her stand-up routine. He was fine with that, so it was fine. You’re not fine with it, so I encourage you to date people whose sense of privacy aligns with yours.
Dear How to Do It,
Can you help my husband get his game on? Once we’re naked under the covers, things are fine. But in the space between seeing each other and sex, he seems to do everything possible to kill the mood. Example: I’ll suggest showering together, and in the shower, he’ll scrub me down like he’s washing the dog in a timed contest while whistling the theme song from The Office. I straddle him on the couch and tell him he’s hot and I’m horny, and he’ll just stare at me and giggle. I have to take my OWN clothes off. For about two years now, I’ve been asking him to brush his teeth and spray his cologne when we first wake up, and he does it willingly, but I still have to ask him. I’ve probably asked him about 500 times. I want sex, with him, and he enjoys sex too, but about 50 percent of the time now I just can’t stay in the mood through his pre-sex awkwardness. How can I get it across that he has a lot of power to set the mood—or destroy it? Based on his need to be asked every time for my morning request, I don’t think just letting him know what I like is going to create a change.
—Duhh Deee DoDeDoDeDo
You almost certainly have a communication issue. And I think you have some serious disconnect between what you think is sexy and what your husband thinks is sexy. He might find your approach funny or jarring. Ask him what he thinks is sexy—how he gets in the mood. Try to meet him halfway. Show your husband that you care about his experience as much as you care about your own.
Once you know what your middle ground is, you can absolutely ask him to fulfill some of your fantasies. But I think you’ll need to be pretty specific about what you want—ask him to undress you when you straddle him. Tell him you’d like him to slow down. Explain to him that the hygiene is a pretext for him to run his hands all over your body.
Remember, you married this man for a reason. If you’re talking to him with the same tone you used in your message to me, he may be feeling like he can’t do anything right. I understand your frustration, but be kind to your partner. He might not be able to help his awkwardness.
More How to Do It
I met a woman on Tinder in April. We hit it off almost immediately. At the beginning, we knew we weren’t exclusive. As time went by, we spent more time together, and it just wasn’t sex anymore. I asked her if she was still sleeping with other people, and she said yes. I tried to break it off, but she said she would stop. It sounded like a compromise under pressure, and that’s what it turned out to be: I went through her messages, and not only hasn’t she stopped, she seems to be sleeping with men for money. I really like this girl a lot, and but I actually don’t know what to do at this point.