How to Do It

My Husband Has Been Stealing My Family’s and Friends’ Panties for Years

An older married couple with panties in pink.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.comNothing’s too small (or big).

Dear How to Do It,

My husband just came clean that he’s been stealing my family and friend’s panties for years. We have been together for three decades. We were having a heart-to-heart talk, and he told me he’s been stealing underwear from my female family and friends. He’s a good man, and I’ve always known he has an underwear fetish. He likes to masturbate with soiled sexy panties, and I’m OK with that. But to steal other people’s, my loved ones’, and do this? Please help. He’s always been loyal. This is absolutely not normal. I’m sickened by it, and feel today disgusted, betrayed, and inadequate. What is wrong with him?

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—Panty Thief

Dear Panty Thief,

This is really not OK. I can’t say for certain what’s up with your husband, but I expect that the owners of these panties would be very upset to know what had happened to them. This behavior cannot continue.

You can be gentle, or you can deliver an ultimatum, but I think your husband should see a therapist to talk through his kink and the ways he’s been expressing it. I suspect there’s some shame causing an inappropriate manifestation of his fetish. The classification of fetishistic disorder requires that the interest cause clinically significant distress or functional impairment. Your husband’s actions seem pretty socially impaired, and a therapist can help him sort through treatment options ranging from talk therapy to medication.

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Disgust is a completely understandable reaction to violations of consent. Betrayal is utterly reasonable in response to your—presumably monogamous—husband involving others, even if it’s in a secondary manner, in his sexuality. And feelings of inadequacy make absolute sense if you (as the monogamous sometimes do) expect to fill all of your partner’s sexual desires.

It might also be a good idea to talk through your feelings and your own options with a counselor or a trusted friend.

Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I have been together for almost 12 years, and have had a very satisfying sex life together. We used condoms exclusively for the first eight or nine years of our relationship, but then decided to start our family, at which point we went unprotected for the first time. We’ve been blessed to have two kids, but now our sex life has taken a hit mostly because of an ongoing debate about birth control. For many different reasons, my wife refuses to use hormonal contraception, and is not interested in longer reversible contraception given our plans for growing our family down the road. I am 100 percent OK with this, and have tried to return back to condoms for birth control. (We tried a few other barrier methods as well, and mutually agreed that we didn’t enjoy them.)

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The issue, however, is that my wife complains bitterly during intercourse about condoms, saying how much “better” everything is without them, and frequently tries to proceed past foreplay without one. Obviously, I don’t love the way condoms feel either, but if we don’t want to have kids right now and can’t use other birth control options, what are we supposed to do? This is a huge turn-off for me. I feel like she is not respecting my wishes even as I respect hers. It’s caused me to avoid sex with her to a not-so-subtle extent (she noticed and asked me about it), because I really can’t handle her pouting about using birth control right before we have sex. It’s now to the point where we have sex once or maybe twice every two weeks instead of three to four times a week.

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We’ve tried to talk about it a few times, but on all three occasions, she cut the conversation short because she felt “hurt and embarassed” that she was making me feel this way. The issue temporarily improved after the birth of our second about a year ago, but has been steadily becoming more and more of a problem over the last few months. For the record, we both want more kids in a year or two and can agree that birth control is necessary to prevent pregnancy in the interim. I’d really like to stop fighting about this every time we have sex, but at this point I don’t know what to do.

—Jimmy Hat

Dear Jimmy Hat,

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A year or two seems like a short time to go through all the trouble of vasectomy and then a reversal. Have you tried natural or “lambskin” condoms? They’re not functional for preventing HIV transmission, but your focus here is birth control, so this might be an easy fix.

More important, the two of you have a communication issue that I really think you want to sort out before you have more children together. Your wife is not respecting your agreed-upon boundary of using some form of birth control, and it doesn’t seem like she’s able to have an adult conversation about this. Try to pick a time when she isn’t super stressed—I know, a tall order these days—and tell her you’re at an impasse. Tell her that you need to be able to discuss this condom situation, and ask her what she needs to be able to get through that talk. Then, when you feel prepared, give it another go. Make it really clear to her that mid–sexual interaction is not a good time to try to renegotiate barrier use. Discuss sexual activities that don’t involve penetration that the two of you could engage in instead. I’m also wondering if part of her complaining is actually an attempt to fantasize about or re-create the thing she misses. You might ask questions in that direction or directly inquire.

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If the two of you still can’t have a functional conversation about this, it’s time to call a couples counselor.

Dear How to Do It,

I recently started a sexual relationship after a 20-year marriage and a long post-marriage celibacy. One of the things I’m starting to realize is that I don’t understand why everyone seems to think that big dicks are so great.

Some background: My first partner, when I was in my 20s, was probably kinda small, penis-wise, based on what I know now (of course I knew nothing then). He was also completely amazing, technique-wise, and he actually fit in my vagina. We had mind-blowing, world-changing sex. I thought about it for years afterward. Sometimes I still do.

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My ex-husband, on the other hand, was very long, and curved. There were only a few positions we could do that didn’t actually hurt me at some point during sex. We didn’t have mind-blowing sex—for many reasons, but one of them seemed to me to be that he barely fit in me even with some serious effort. Even after I had a child, and things were a little looser, his penis just never seemed to fit.

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I’m now post-menopausal, and a little drier than I used to be. My new partner blew my mind with his fingers. And I managed with his dick. It was even not super long, and it was straight, but it seemed really thick, and it took some work and some teeth-gritting to get it inside me. Is there something wrong with my vagina? Is there something I should do, other than just use lots of lubricant and grit my teeth?  Is there something I’m not understanding, after all these years, about how to have someone’s penis inside me?

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—Tight Space

Dear Tight Space,

I want you to know that you’re not alone in that some penises are simply too vast for some vulvas. Some dicks are too thick for some people, while others are too long. No matter how great the bearer of the boner is, sometimes people just aren’t compatible physically. Finding someone who is emotionally and intellectual compatible and of an appropriate gender is hard enough. But that isn’t the end of it—we still have to find people among that group who are also a match in the matters of sexual preferences. And genital size.

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I assume you’ve been evaluated by a gynecologist in the decades since you became sexually active. If you’ve never brought this issue up with a professional who knows your particulars, I’d do that.

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Otherwise: Length is so much easier to mitigate than girth. Before you cut this guy loose, there are some things you can try. You might need a few rounds of that mind-blowing finger action before you’re ready for penetration, too. Or at least one good orgasm. The more prodigious the penis, the more crucial foreplay. You can do a few kegel exercises to get an idea of what tightening your vaginal muscles feels like, and try to use that to figure out what relaxing your vaginal muscles feels like. Try positions where your pelvic floor is relaxed, like laying on your back with your calves resting on his shoulders. You also might focus on positions where you’re on top and can control the extent and speed of penetration. And, yes, lots of lube should help to a certain degree. Make sure you’re using a lubricant that is compatible with the condoms you’re using, unless you’re in a fluid-bonded situation where both parties have been recently screened for STIs.

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You also might investigate the world of nonpenetrative sex. Oral can be fun. Apparently the person you’re seeing has a talent for digital stimulation. You might find it easier to relax your anus than your vulva—it happens. You have options.

Dear How to Do It,

I’ve been married to my husband for 16 years, and we’ve been together more than 24 years. He was 19 when we got together, and I was 23 and a lot more experienced. My sex drive has always been much higher and tendencies much kinkier. Part of this comes from him coming from the most vanilla home possible, and me coming from a home full of infidelity and a mom who encouraged me to explore multiple sexual partners, getting me on the pill at 16 and allowing boyfriends to spend the night, etc.

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For many years, his very large penis made it easy to get off enough that I could “ignore” that I was not getting other types of stimulation, but I craved a better kisser (he’s pretty horrible) and more kink. I’ve tried to guide him with both conversation outside the bedroom, and encouragement and guidance within the bedroom, with little or no success—he does not want to spank or choke or really anything. I’ve told him it feels like we have to open our marriage because I need this stimulation and he just stares at me. But we can go up to six months without sex or any type of physical contact beyond cuddling and I, apparently, am asking for too much of that lately.

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This has caused me to go outside of our marriage multiple times, sometimes just for a make-out session other times for rough sex. It feels amazing at the time—until I take the walk of shame home. Sometimes I lie, but I end up telling the truth eventually because lying just does not work for me.

Our marriage is strong other than some dishonesty on his end too, in that case about finances. This all sounds bad when I write it down. But he is my best friend, and I cannot imagine life without him. We’ve been through so much together! I’ve shared our worst here but please know the best is strong and solid. I just really do not know how to deal with my sexual cravings that come up, usually in a state of hyper-emotional arousal, aka stress. Sometimes I don’t want to be made love to—though that would be nice. I want it hard. How can I resolve this? And does this make me an absolutely awful person?

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—Stepping Out

Dear SO,

You and your husband need to have a real talk about the state of your relationship. You might have to have a talk about talking first, though, to make it clear that you need more of a response than staring. Set yourself up for success—pick a time when both of you are calm, have had enough sleep, and aren’t hungry. Since you describe your relationship as strong and solid, I assume you’re able to communicate well about other subjects. Think through what you’re going to say. Starting with “I need to get choked so we have to open the marriage” is going to be hard for your husband to hear. Maybe “I don’t know what to do about my cravings for rough sex. Can we work through this together?” Or “I need more physical interaction than I’m getting. How can we solve this?”

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As for how to deal with your sexual cravings, you have options. You can distract yourself, by working on a task or dwelling on the reasons you want to stay married to this man. You can go for the cold shower, holding ice, or biting a lemon. You can fantasize and masturbate. You can speak with a therapist, and they’ll likely be able to provide you with some perspective, management skills, or both.

—Stoya

More How to Do It

I love my husband. We’ve been together for 14 years. The issue is before we were together, I had an avid sex life. He has never really cared about sex. We haven’t had any in five years (he has a bad back and no sex drive). I’ve tried talking to him; we’ve tried therapy. No changes. Last year, I started sleeping with someone else. It’s amazing. Husband has no clue. My issue is that I don’t feel guilty. I don’t want to leave my husband, but I refuse to live without sex. Am I a bad person? I sleep with this guy about once a week, and to be honest, I’m much happier now and a better wife because I no longer am resentful.

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