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,
This is probably going to sound crazy but here goes. I am 67 and I’ve been married to the same woman for 43 years. I know that before we married, she had been with about 10 other men sexually. I am only about 5.8 inches when fully erect, and for some reason that I can’t explain, I have been bothered lately wondering how many of the men that she had been with were bigger or even much bigger than me. Does a woman know the difference between say a half inch bigger or a whole inch bigger? I understand if she ran across a 7-plus-inch guy it would be noticeable. So that’s my question. Do women notice the difference when a guy is a half inch to a whole inch shorter than other partners? Please don’t ask me to move on and leave it alone. I really would like to know.
Dear Sizing Up,
Women are a very large group. I’m sure some women do notice a difference between 5.8 inches and 5.2 or 6.4. I notice the difference between 6.9 and 7, for sure, as that length puts me in the danger zone of uncomfortable cervical stimulation.
Men are also a large group. There are so many variables with penises—you talk about length, as most cismen do when describing their size, and don’t say anything about width or circumference. Width is far more relevant to me than length, and I’m not the only person who feels that way. Most of the fun parts for ciswomen are on the outside—vulva—or in the first couple of inches of the vaginal canal. There’s also rigidity, which can vary from day to day or even during a single act of copulation.
After 43 years, I think you have some reason to believe your wife is happy with your penis, but you’re not alone. Plenty of men get fixated on their size. Try to remember that what you do with your genitals is generally more important than how long they are.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a man in my mid-20s, and I will likely be separated from my girlfriend of several years for a few months because of travel restrictions from COVID-19. She doesn’t own any sex toys (none she has admitted to me), and I thought it might be hot and a fun gesture to surprise her with a vibrator. At the same time, it feels weird to make an intimate purchase without her prior consent. I would especially hate for her to feel pressured to react positively just to be “sexy” for me. Am I being paranoid? Do I ask before I buy?
Dear Quarantine Supplies,
Ask before you buy. First, ask her if she’s interested in sex toys at all. Have a conversation. She might be a Dildo Diane, or a Vibe Veronica. She might require connection and be interested in teledildonics. Find out what appeals to her.
If she’s open to the idea but doesn’t know where to start, do some research. Find some options at price points you can afford. There’s a whole world of possibility out there, and tons of sex toy reviewers who compare various toys. Present her with some products. Make it a together task.
Dear How to Do It,
I fear that I’m falling in love with my friend with benefits. Originally, I thought we were “dating.” We spent a couple of months spending time together and had shared that we weren’t sleeping with anyone else. We have amazing sex and always tease each other via text with pictures. At one point, I had to tell him to treat me as more than just a hookup because his conversations started to only be about sex. He heard me out and immediately things changed. We started spending more time doing “couple-y things.” Then he blew off my birthday being thrown by our friends. He did surprise me with a gift later, but I was still obviously hurt. Since we were entering six months of our routine, I had to ask what we were. He said he’s not a relationship person because of some emotional baggage from previous partners and saw us as only friends who sometimes do more. I said I wanted a relationship. We stopped hooking up for about a month and were strictly friends, then went back to our old ways.
Now, we cook meals together. Sleepover at each other’s houses. Go to movies. He listens to and remembers everything I’ve ever said. He’s one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. He’s one of the best people in our friend group. It’s the best sex of my life. I find myself falling in love with him, as he’s been more of a supportive partner to me than men I’ve been in an actual relationship with for years. We’re now more than a year into our song and dance. I have no problem continuing as we are, but fear my feelings growing stronger will require me to speak up at some point. I’d hate to “ruin” what we have.
What you have is an imbalanced relationship where what you want and what he can offer don’t meet in the middle. It sucks. It sucks to want more from someone than they’re willing or able to give you. You have to make a hard decision.
What does a relationship mean to you? What would be different from the way things are now? What isn’t he doing already? Quantify that.
Can you be happy with this situation for the foreseeable future? When you say you fear your feelings will require you to speak up, it sounds like the answer is no.
Sometimes great people come into our lives and simply aren’t a match long term. That’s OK. It’s part of life. I imagine he’s fine getting all the benefits of a relationship without the commitment. Whether you’re willing to stay in that arrangement—and for how long—is up to you.
Dear How to Do It,
With social distancing and quarantine being a part of our new daily lives, there’s lots of talk about how important “self-love” is now, how orgasms are good for the emotional brain, and (maybe?) the immune system. That said, as someone who was single prior to all this, and who had a pretty regular and healthy masturbation routine, I’m finding now that I have to remind myself to do it, as opposed to getting the feelings like I used to. Any advice on how to keep the sexy and sexy feelings as a part of our lives in an era where every media channel is pumping death and plague into our eyes and brains would be helpful. I’m sure this could apply to those partnered as well.
—Wash Your Hands First
Dear Wash Your Hands First,
Some people respond to stress with an increase in sexual arousal. Others respond to stress with a decrease. We’re all under an incredible amount of stress right now.
There’s a refrain from the marriage counseling community that basically encourages people to start the process of sex and hope their desire ramps up to meet the occasion. You can start touching yourself gently, drawing your awareness to your corporeal self. You can tease yourself. You know what works for your body, what turns you on, what stokes your flame right now.
More important, and I’m going way out of my wheelhouse here, you have to manage your stress somehow. There’s a sweet spot with the news, in which you’re informed but not overwhelmed. When you start to feel overwhelmed, turn the news off and do something relaxing. Read a book. Play a game. Breathe.
Barbara Carrellas talks in Urban Tantra about making space for sexual desire, and she recommends a brief meditation. Her book has a number of different suggestions and is definitely worth a read. I do a few breaths to ground myself in my body. You might try some different techniques.
If masturbation isn’t working for you, or you’re getting frustrated trying to be sexual, that’s OK. Everyone has a different stress response. We’re all going through a very strange time. We’re going to be feeling off, exasperated, frazzled. You might need a different form of self-care right now.
More How to Do It
An occasional time waster of mine is to go into random text-only chat rooms and spin a fantasy for a willing woman. Recently, someone online asked if I would do a “losing her virginity” scene with her. I said sure. At the end of it, she confided in me that she is actually 16 and really a virgin and also, would I want to meet up to do this for real? I of course said that I didn’t think this was a great idea. But now I’m conflicted and totally gun-shy about going back online. Did I do a wrong thing?