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 fake multiple orgasms all the time during sex. I love my partner, and we have always had great sex, but he has never been able to make me come. More than that, I have never cared about it. I’ve only ever been able to make myself come using my vibrator, but I rarely bring it out during sex because I don’t think we need it. We have had sex without fake orgasms for many years and that was great as well. But when I faked it for the first time to see his reaction, he was so turned on that it turned me on too. So I kept it up. At this point, it has become as natural as moaning for me, and he expects it as well. It makes him really happy to think that he’s pleasing me and making me feel good. I genuinely don’t mind doing it because it turns me on as well, but I feel a bit of shame surrounding it, because I feel like I’m feeding him a lie. I know women shouldn’t fake orgasms, but usually they do it out of guilt, and I don’t feel like that. In a way, it is sort of like a fetish of mine—but it doesn’t sit right with me that he’s not consenting to my fetish. Is this sustainable? Am I bad for lying to him?
Dear Faking Fetish,
You are not bad.
It is possible that you sexualize subterfuge, but I’m not certain that you have a fetish for faking orgasms. I think you might have a kink for moaning and being loud. If so, there’s a pretty simple way forward. Let your partner know that you’re into making noise, but that your vocality doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve orgasmed. He might be taken aback at first, since he probably has assumed you’re getting off. Make sure to be specific and detailed about what you enjoy about sex with him, and underline the positive feelings you experience during sexual interactions.
In the wake of this conversation, brace yourself for your orgasm to become a goal for your partner. It’s lovely how much people care about the female orgasm today. But if you find yourself not enjoying his new enthusiasm, be prepared to explain, more than once, that orgasm doesn’t matter very much to you. You’ll get through it.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 24-year-old virgin. I don’t really intend to have sex until I get married, mostly for religious reasons. I should also point out that I have never had a boyfriend, never kissed a guy, never even romantically held hands or hugged a guy, let alone have sex.
Until recently. I met a guy and we hit it off, and we went out a couple of times. And then we made out one day, for a very long time, repeatedly. I was very clear about me not wanting to have sex, and he seemed fine with it. The next time he came over and we made out, he asked if I wanted to give him a hand job or a blow job. I didn’t really, and I asked him if he’d hate me if I said no, to which he replied, “I wouldn’t hate you of course, but I would like you a lot more if you did it.” Guess what? I did it. I did it. I felt kinda weird and guilty about it, but I let it go.
The final time he came over, however, is what I’m super confused about. We were making out, as per usual. Normally, because I always say “no sex,” I keep my underwear on, and we just engage in dry humping or grinding. But this time I decided to completely strip, much to his delight. So we’re grinding, and I keep telling him no sex, and he’s like “why, we’ve already done so much, why not sex?,” but I hold my ground and tell him that I’ve been clear on this topic from the start: no sex. So he says fine, and begins grinding and dry-humping again. He’s on top of me, we’re both fully naked, his dick is grazing my vagina, and he asks me if it’s OK for me. I say yes. Sometimes I feel his dick might slip in, so I say, “Yo, no sex,” and eventually he just sighs and says, “You looked like you were enjoying it though” and lays down next to me.
He asks me then if I bled, and I said, “What? Why would I bleed? We didn’t have sex, did we?” And he looks kind of shocked and asks me “What, you didn’t feel it?” And now I’m getting anxious, so I ask him, “Wait, your dick went INSIDE?” And he’s panicking too now, and he says “Only the tip, just a little bit. Relax, you’re still a virgin. It wasn’t sex.” And I’m just …
feeling anxious and annoyed and guilty as hell because you know, God. I have a small meltdown, he comforts me, we go back to making out, all is forgotten.
Except: I can’t help feeling like the whole “it was just the tip” thing might have been false? And that we actually did have sex? And that he just lied to me because he was scared? He’s a pretty great guy normally, so this would have been pretty uncharacteristic of him. But my intuition says not to exclude the possibility of a cover-up.
I asked a friend about this, and she said that there’s no way I wouldn’t have felt his dick if it was fully inside me, so he might have been telling the truth about the tip thing. I want to know what you guys think. (If we did in fact have sex, does that make it … rape?)
—Anxious and Confused
Dear Anxious and Confused,
I am so sorry this happened to you. Everything about this set of interactions is horrifying. Your stated boundaries were ignored. You were coerced. This man’s actions are offensive and wrong. He no longer qualifies for the title of pretty great guy.
Is there a religious leader you can talk with? Someone you can trust not to shame you but to help you navigate your confusion and connect you to resources? Now seems like a great time to lean on your faith, if that feels like a safe option. You can also reach out to RAINN’s hotline. And there are probably support groups at a local level as well.
I don’t think what happened was sex. Whether it was just the tip or all of his penis, what happened that night was assault, not sex. You are still a virgin in your soul.
The next time someone pushes at your boundaries or stated limits, see it as a red flag and move on, please. When a person ignores your wishes, that’s a bad sign. You want people in your life who respect your faith and your choices.
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Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 30-year-old gay man. My boyfriend and I have been self-isolating separately for the past month and are now comfortable starting to physically see each other again. We spent last weekend together at his apartment, and every time he tried to initiate sex, I would freeze and begin to get very anxious. I’m not super sexual in the first place, which he understands and we have discussed. And every time I would freeze up, he would stop right away and we would talk about it. I can’t explain what is happening, and it is bothering me. I want to be physically intimate with my boyfriend mentally, but my body has other ideas. I’ve never been self-confident in my appearance either, and I think it may be stemming from that, but I can’t say for sure. I just need some guidance or some tips to help me get over this hump so we can hump.
Dear Mr. Freeze,
Have you tried initiating sex yourself? My thinking is that if you’re the active party, you might feel more control. You touch him, he doesn’t touch you, until you’re ready and ask for it explicitly. If you haven’t tried this, it seems like it’s worth a shot.
How do you take compliments? Could your lover flatter you and compliment the things he likes about your appearance to build you up? If you can hear that kind of expression, enjoy it, and take it to heart, you might increase your own self-esteem though your lover’s eyes.
When does the anxiety happen? Is it immediate or does it happen at some time during the sexual act? Have you tried gently pushing through the anxiety? What happens if you keep going? Or pause to breathe and resume sexual interaction? Obviously if you’re frozen, your lover should stop, but it might be worth going up to the edge and looking over it. Sometimes the rest of ourselves catches up if we start the physical movements of sex.
I’m also wondering if your anxiety has anything to do with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Being physically intimate is, well, intimate. COVID-19 isn’t an STI, but it very much is transmittable during sex. If you suspect this could be in play, it might help to talk through your safety precautions as a reminder of how managed your risk is.
Dear How to Do It,
I was married for almost two decades. Ultimately, I cheated, and we divorced. I loved him but I wasn’t in love with him, you know?
The man I cheated with opened my eyes to a completely satisfying sex life. I wanted him all the time, and we could go for hours. The catch is that he’s legitimately crazy—jealous, abusive, controlling, and super insecure. My own self-esteem suffered. I kept going back to him for the incredible sex, during which, for the first time in my life, I orgasmed multiple times, and I was never more comfortable in my own skin being intimate.
Well, he scared me for my safety and ultimately drove me away. I have since had sex with my ex-husband, and it is awful. I thought maybe now that I know how, I could keep that intensity, but it turns out that your partner matters. To make matters worse, my ex says things like, “we’ve always had amazing sex,” and he has sent me some text messages meant to arouse me but they don’t, and actually make me cringe. I still love him, but the sex is so dissatisfying. I teeter between wishing I never knew sex could be so good and wondering if it is fixable. We aren’t back together—trust was broken—he wasn’t the greatest husband either. And I somewhat think maybe this was best left in the past, maybe my person is still out there, but I care about him. I don’t know how to now back away, or whether I should.
Somewhere out there is a great guy who you can have amazing, mind-blowing sex with. Don’t settle for lackluster lovemaking with your ex-husband—especially if he wasn’t the greatest partner the first time around—or inappropriate treatment from your former paramour, no matter his talents in bed.
Tell your ex-husband that you’ve thought about it and don’t want to rekindle the relationship after all, so he knows what’s happening on your end. Maybe spare him the reason, though. There’s no need to add insult to injury.
More How to Do It
I’m a 20-year-old college student quarantining with my parents, and I am unbearably horny. I’m monogamous and have been with the same person for almost two years; she is also with her parents. When we’re together, our sex life is everything I could ask for, but during quarantine it’s fizzled to almost nothing. Since we’re both in relatively small spaces with parents, we don’t feel comfortable getting sexy on the phone/FaceTime. We sext fairly regularly, but while my partner seems to be into it (sending me pics of her getting wet, etc.), it does nothing for me. I want to have sexytimes with my partner, but I feel like I’m a dead end. Are there other ways to get sexy without being clocked by my parents, or am I doomed to celibacy for the next few months?