How to Do It

I Think It Would Be Kinder to My Husband if I Got a Secret Lover

He doesn’t satisfy me. Why does he need to know?

A woman grips her shoulder and looks away.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Juanmonino/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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’m in a great marriage. Sex is regular, and happily we’re both getting more adventurous. But he’s slowing down a lot more than me—I’m female, in my 50s, and about 10 years younger than him. Sex definitely takes more planning and assistance than it used to, and he’s already started to mention that one day, he won’t be able to have sex anymore (he’s fine now). I am nowhere near ready to give up sex for life.

My solution is for me to have a very discreet lover on the side and keep it to myself, but when I floated that, he was horrified and couldn’t believe I’d even suggest such a thing. He said he’d rather me tell him if I had someone else. To me that seems so unkind to him: ”Here’s the guy who does what you can’t anymore, honey.” How humiliating for him! Would it be really bad for me to have a secret lover? I have an out-of-state friend who would probably happily agree to be secret lovers (I travel frequently so that wouldn’t raise any suspicions), and my husband could stay blissfully unaware that I can’t give up on sex. Bad idea?

—Still Kicking

Dear Still Kicking,

Of course it’s a bad idea—you’re asking because you know it is. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that there are psychological or perhaps social reasons why you think being upfront with your husband is more unkind than deceiving him behind his back. But you’re operating on the assumption that what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, while knowing full well that it could—he told you so. To do it anyway would simply be cruel.

But that you talked about this with him is a good thing, a sign of a healthy relationship and moral fortitude on your part. That’s not something everyone has. You’re courageous and honest, and as such, too good for cheating. Yes, infidelity happens, and it doesn’t have to end a relationship. I feel that with just a bit more compassion for partners’ desires and the awareness that monogamy is a constructed ideal that’s very difficult for so many of us to live up to, many relationships would be saved. If you came to me after you cheated, I might even be approaching you more gently. But you haven’t, and it’s my job to tell you that you shouldn’t. Keep things honest, and if you really must stray, do it ethically, which might mean breaking up your great marriage. I used your own word to describe your union in hopes of showing you just how big of a mistake you might be making. Respect your husband, his wishes, and the integrity of your relationship with him, or put an end to all of that and sow your wild oats.

Dear How to Do It,

I recently started masturbating. However, I have no sense of smell. Usually, my mom teaches me about smells, but I feel awkward bringing semen up with her. Does it have a strong smell? If I masturbate in the bathroom, and someone uses it after me, can they tell? Does it make my room smell bad? I really have no idea! If you have advice on proper manners/not being embarrassed by these smells, I would appreciate it.

—Spunk Bouquet

Dear Spunk Bouquet,

Cum definitely smells and has a taste, which you may already know depending on your level of curiosity. Unless you’re shooting sperm all over the place and letting it dry over and over and over again—do not do this—I think you’ll be OK. Generally, unless there is an issue afoot (like an STD, which I assume you won’t have), the smell tends to be strongest upon ejaculation, and it’s not really pronounced then, even.  It fades pretty quickly. I’ve been walking into rooms where people just shot a load for years now (I’ve had a lot of boyfriends, see) and I can’t ever really tell. Sex smells are a different matter, but you didn’t ask about those, and even they are usually mild. If you properly dispose of the wad you just shot—say by ejaculating into some toilet paper, and then flushing it down the toilet—you should be fine. Doing it while a shower is running and then soaping up, thus creating a steamy-sudsy environment, would be even better for masking the odors your body produces.

If you’re at the age where you’re jerking off, your mother is probably well aware that might be what you are up to and, unless she’s a Puritan, she probably will understand. As far as not being embarrassed by your own bodily functions, it’s an uphill battle, but repetition is a salve. Pungency is a small price for pleasure. Our species has depended on us getting over the minor embarrassments our bodies may produce and in terms of population numbers, we’re doing just fine. You’ll get the hang of self-acceptance soon enough. It’s well worth it.

Dear How to Do It,

Not too long back, my partner of six years and I attended a music festival, the kind where you meet people, take ridiculous amounts of whatever vice you’re into, the works. This wasn’t our first festival—we consider ourselves pretty well-versed in this world. We have a comfortable, honest, strong partnership. We basically agree on almost everything as far as how relationships, especially ours, should be. We’re relaxed, we’re honest with each other, though we do need to work a bit more on our communication, particularly him though brownie points since he’s been working on that front recently, and we’re both open to trying out new things.

So, back to the festival. We wandered around separately for a bit during the evening to mingle and dance. Everyone was inebriated, people were everywhere, and the party getting going. At one point, I went around to look for my partner. We were both hopped up, so I wanted to see if he was still doing OK. I scanned the crowd and saw him being pulled to the dance floor by a girl, both laughing. Now, I have to repeat we’re pretty laid back with each other and how we interact with people outside out relationship, but there was something about his smile, the way he moved, the way they interacted that made my stomach drop. I lost them in the crowd, and I didn’t want to give chase, so I went to find a spot to chill with friends. He found us not long after. He sat beside me and without any segue to the topic at all, he started talking about wanting to have a threesome, going on and on, talking about how it would be fun, how it’ll be good for us, how we should start planning it once we get back to the city. I just went along with the conversation, nodding and punctuating his threesome pitching with “yeahs” and “sures”— I didn’t wanna kill the mood I suppose, and I also didn’t have the energy. But I did get the feeling right away that this sudden “epiphany” wasn’t so sudden as caused by the girl in the dance floor.

Recently, I told him that months after the whole incident, I still wasn’t able to brush it off, and that it had upset me. I told him that I had put two and two together. That during that night at least, his sudden interest in a threesome wasn’t because he wanted to have the experience and share it with me, it was because he was aroused by another person and he wanted to have sex with another person. He didn’t deny anything from what I said. He admitted he screwed up, apologized, and said he’s going to make up for it. I don’t want to be too strict on him, and I do want to experience group play eventually, but I want to do it on my terms. All that incident had done was make me feel insecure about myself and my actual standing in our relationship. I understand him enough to know that he won’t ever cheat on me or intentionally hurt me, but the whole incident is still bugging me. And what’s worse is it may have made me lose my desire to have group play. Because of the lockdown (we’re quarantining apart) and the pandemic, we can’t have a proper sitdown and talk about it face to face. How is it that, months after the incident, and with him admitting he messed up, I’m still upset? Am I justified in feeling upset? How can I ever get into group play now?

—Concert Girl

Dear Concert Girl,

You are absolutely justified in feeling upset. Emotions defy rational explanation, and you feel what you feel. But! Something else that I believe you are after reading your account is not nearly as laid back as you think. You had the slightest glimpse of seeing your partner with another person and you did not like it. That’s OK! Nonmonogamy isn’t for everyone. In a way, it’s better that it all went down like this, because if you’d actually found yourself in a sexual environment with your partner and a third, it may have been incredibly awkward if not distressing. He saved you a click.

I do think that policing his motivation is overly stern—it doesn’t make much practical difference if he wants a threeway more because it’s fun to have sex with a new person (it is) or because it’s a way to fortify your relationship. They’re not mutually exclusive and, in fact, the joy of novelty that sex with another provides can have an overall positive effect on your relationship in itself. Here you are splitting hairs like someone on reality TV attempting to expose her competitors for not being there for “the right reasons.” As long as everyone’s having fun, it hardly matters what got them there (unless it’s some covert scheme to dismantle your relationship).

Anyway, this hang-up, I think, is more evidence that group play is not for you. By all means, keep talking about it and don’t stop attempting to figure out a way to make it work for you, but all signs point to a desire to keep things closed on your part. And, let me remind you, that’s completely OK.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a thirtysomething gay man, and I’ve always considered myself a bottom ever since I started engaging in sex. However, from the very beginning, I’ve never truly been enamored with anal sex. I would always be happy and satisfied with hookups that would only involve oral and mutual masturbation. Anal sex is nice, if it gets there, but not usually something I crave. The pleasure I derive from it is purely psychological. I enjoy the feeling of being dominated by a man, but my body doesn’t receive physical pleasure from it. It seems like all of my pleasure nerve endings are in my nipples (SUPER sensitive) and genitals so I have to be engaging one of my pleasure centers while getting penetrated in order to enjoy anal sex. Regardless, I’ve always been really jealous of my friends who just love anal sex and receive a lot of physical pleasure from it (per their words) but always knew that this the pleasure limit my body would provide and didn’t really think much about it.

Last year, I started a friends-with-benefits relationship with a man I met online. He is really good at working my pleasure centers during anal sex, so sex with him has always been really enjoyable. Some time after starting our FWB relationship, he asked me if I would be interested in having sex while on molly. I had never done drugs before, not even weed, so while a bit nervous about it, I trusted him and went through with it.

The sex was incredible! We did it for four hours, and I still wanted more. I couldn’t believe how amazing anal sex felt for the first time in my life. It blew my mind. This pleasure is what I had been looking for and expecting every time I had anal sex before and, if this is how anal sex ALWAYS felt like for my bottom friends, I finally understood why they loved it as much as they did. I loved it so much that sex on molly is now part of my friend and I’s regular sexual routine where we do it about once a month, while engaging in regular, sober sex every other time we meet.

Here’s the problem, though. As time goes on, I’m finding myself wanting to only have anal sex while on molly, because I want anal sex to feel like that every single time I do it. That’s obviously not realistic, and I also don’t want to become addicted to the drug, but now that I’ve experienced this, I’m having a hard time enjoying anal sex when sober. I’m wondering if there is a way to increase the physical pleasure I receive when being penetrated. Is that a thing? Can I train my body to “turn on” the pleasure nerve endings from an area where it doesn’t currently seem to do so? I don’t want to have to rely on drugs every single time I want to feel pleasure from anal penetration.

—Party Favors

Dear Party Favors,

It seems like what you’re looking for is a sort of unadulterated pleasure purely from bottoming that eludes a lot of people. You’re basically going up there digging for gold and, not at all surprisingly, coming up short. If the issue is one of basic comfort, butt plugs and dildos can help acclimate your hole to penetration. Start small and insert before you start masturbating your dick (if you plan on doing that at all), as doing so can cause you to tense up and make toy penetration more difficult. If the basic act of penetration feels fine already and what you seek is a kicked-up sexual experience, look into cultivating anal orgasms. It doesn’t happen for everybody, but a general awareness and concentration may help you have them, not to mention certain prostate-friendly positions. Breathing be extremely useful for facilitating pleasure, so consider that route, as well. Barbara Carrellas’s Urban Tantra may send you on your way.

I relate to your idealism, but I don’t think you’re failing if you’re manipulating other parts of your body like your nipples and/or dick in order to make bottoming more pleasurable. This is common and enjoyable. I’ve actually never given it a second thought while bottoming myself or considered the bottoms I’ve encountered who do so to be inferior. Perhaps our multiscreen world of endless alerts and infinite tabs have warped my mind, but multitasking is just something that we humans do. There’s nothing wrong with having your dick in your hand while someone else’s is in your butt. That’s a pairing as natural as peanut butter and jelly in my world.

It’s smart of you to ease up on the molly. I understand that it’s fun and it feels good, but you really don’t want to get so used to it that sober sex loses its appeal. But you know this and are taking steps to ensure that doesn’t happen. Good job. Your can-do attitude makes me confident that you’ll figure out a way to make bottoming even more pleasurable. Hopefully, you’ll find that trying is more than half of the fun.

—Rich

More How to Do It

I’ve been friends and co-workers for many years with a woman who has recently started cheating on her husband. The problem is he has become a friend of mine too. I know infidelity happens all the time and it’s not really any of my business, but where does my social responsibility come in when I found out that she’s having unprotected sex? And that she recently had a scare with a false positive HIV test? How long until that positive isn’t false, and her husband falls ill along with her? Do I have a responsibility to let him know?