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 a 55-year-old woman who’s been married to a 56-year-old man for nearly 30 years. We have sex at least twice a week, and it’s better than ever! However, I’ve noticed now that when I get in positions where I twerk a lot—like on all fours, cowgirl positions, 69ing, etc.—my lower back is tweaked afterward and hurts for a day. It goes away until the next time when I’m fine during sex and don’t feel the back pain until afterward. I know if I lost some weight that would help. Is there any exercises I can do to strengthen my back so I can still twerk on him when he drives me crazy? I have no idea where to find exercises for strengthening my back for twerking? I’m not ready to be relegated to side-only positions and activities.
Dear Twerk Out,
I had an inkling that core work was the way to solve your problem, so I reached out to Olive TuPartie, a glamorous staple of the NYC burlesque scene who also happens to have seven years of experience as a Pilates instructor. Here’s what she had to say:
Women tend to be more flexible and sometimes overextend their low backs, and we just need to do a little maintenance to keep our low abdominals, low back, and pelvic floor strong and working together. First, let’s talk posture: In general, you want a nice “s” shape, so that if you were to lie against the floor, your head, ribs, and tail bone would be heavy in the floor, and there would be space between the floor and your low back and neck. This is how you want to walk around in the world, too!
From here, let’s talk exercise to prep you for your positions. Lying on your back, bend your knees to have your feet flat on the floor, and then exhale and press your belly button into your spine, squeeze your butt, squeeze the pelvic floor (that feeling of squeezing like you have to pee but can’t go yet), and scoop your tail bone up to the ceiling. Hold for three breaths, and release back to neutral. You want to feel like you are pulling your hip bones to your ribs and really curling the tail bone to the sky. Do this five times, starting to move with your breath and connecting your low abs, low back, pelvic floor, and inner thighs. After these five breaths, heal and roll your spine up as you lift your hips to the ceiling. Think about your spine and rib cage here: You want to roll up like your spine is a strand of heavy pearls being lifted from the floor, your ribs are knit together in the front, and your low belly is still working with your glutei to keep the tailbone reaching forward and not down! Take a breath, squeeze your butt to lift your hips higher, then exhale to roll down, ribs to tail. Repeat 10 times, and then do the whole sequence again from the top!
Not feeling the burn? Repeat a third time, and you should be feeling pretty fabulous. Then stretch at the end by just putting your right ankle over your left knee and pulling your left knee toward your chest, hold for a minute, and then repeat on the opposite side. Make sure you don’t let your low abs go during sex, they work with your back muscles to support your low spine, and the better you get at connecting them and strengthening them, the better for all activity!
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve been seeing this guy romantically for nine months, but we have been friends for at least four or five years. I’m a Muslim and he is not. For Ramadan, I told him that I can’t do anything sexual, so for this month I need him to hold off. Just until Ramadan is over. I’m pretty easygoing, so I don’t demand much, but I told him I’m taking Ramadan seriously and that this is one thing that I do demand, to respect my boundaries. He agreed on it. Two weeks in, I noticed he was having a hard time. And I was truly appreciative of his effort, despite his struggles (he has a high sex drive)—until one night that I slept at his place. I was extremely tired that day, so I fell asleep as soon as I lay down in his bed. As I’m sleeping, I feel his hands groping my boobs. And though that made me slightly uncomfortable, I was OK with it. But then he starts going near my vagina area. Usually when I get extremely overwhelmed, I freeze up. So at that point, I was frozen. I could only hope that he wouldn’t actually go down there. He’s known about my past experience with sexual assault, and yet he kept going, slowly building up to it until he stuck his fingers down and started to finger me.
At this point I was shocked and in disbelief. After he took his fingers out, he started pulling down my pants. But then he stopped, he started shaking me and calling my name. I was still frozen. After a couple of shakes, name calling, and tapping on the face, he stopped and hugged me. I waited until I heard him snore to get his hands off me. He immediately woke up, and I told him I’m going home, so he walked me out. I couldn’t believe he took advantage of me. He then proceeded to call me and explain that he did not know I was asleep, and that he was trying to be spontaneous and flirty, but when he realized that I could possibly be asleep, he stopped. He was truly sorry and disgusted with himself. And when I brought up the point that he knew my boundaries and that I had made it clear I didn’t want to do anything sexual, he said he knew, but he wasn’t thinking when it was happening and thought I was OK until he realized maybe I wasn’t OK. Now I’m very conflicted on how I should feel. I told him I forgave him, and we cried it out and decided to still continue our relationship. Apparently, it’s eating him alive, which I do believe. But at the same time, just because it’s true, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen—he disregarded my wishes. Which was what led to it in the first place. And I keeping going back and forth with anger and forgiveness. I just want an outside view. I can’t tell my friends because my friends are also his friends, and I still care about him deeply. I’m just extremely conflicted at the moment.
You told your boyfriend that you had chosen to remain celibate through a certain period of time, and he started touching you sexually before that period of time ended. That alone would have been inappropriate and shown a clear disregard for your desires and boundaries. Whether he thought you were awake or not, his actions were not OK. Whether he saw you freeze or not, his actions were unacceptable. And regardless of his intentions, his actions were against your stated wishes. Depending on where you live, this may legally be considered sexual assault.
It sounds like your only friends are also friends of your boyfriend’s. That’s also a red flag. If your boyfriend somehow came between you and friends you had before you met this group, I’d be more concerned than I already am. Reconnect with people you haven’t seen in a while, and make some new friends who have nothing to do with this guy.
The conflict you’re saying you’re experiencing makes sense. Many people report a similar reaction. You’ve been violated by someone close to you, and that breach of trust can be disorienting. You absolutely can feel forgiving and angry at the same time. Even during this COVID pandemic, many mental health providers are able to see you digitally. And if that’s out of your budget, or you don’t want to wait until an appointment can be made, you can call organizations like RAINN (800-656-HOPE) or your local domestic violence prevention program’s hotline. There’s another organization called HEART that might have some resources for you if you’d prefer a faith-driven organization. They have a section on their site where you can contact a counselor.
Take care of your body. Make sure you’re eating properly and staying hydrated as best you can with Ramadan occurring. And make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Keep up your spiritual practice. Take up breathing—even if it’s only a handful of breaths. Generally, be kind to yourself.
Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean the relationship continues. If you want to give your boyfriend a second chance, that’s your decision, and I will nervously wish you all the best, but you can absolutely forgive and still move on. I suggest you do just that.
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Dear How to Do It,
My husband and I have been quarantined for seven weeks in a small two-bedroom house with a toddler. We make a weekly trip out for errands, and that’s it, aside from exercise and sanity walks. We are thankfully still working and doing it from home. Our families are safe, though I worry about my older mom. But like I said: mostly fine. The problem, if it is one, is that the pandemic has made my husband wildly horny. We both have fairly high libidos, but this is not like ever before, even when we first started dating. He’s all over me whenever we’re in the same room—which is, you know, a lot. The kid goes down for a nap, he’s trying for a quickie. Then he wants to stay up late to do it again, or for a third time, if we did it in the morning. He ordered us a fairly elaborate new toy to try out that he had never expressed interest in before. I’ve had self-esteem issues post-kid, I haven’t totally worked off the weight, so this does feel good. But I feel like I’m going along with my husband’s sudden teenage hormones more for him than for me. I’m stressed and tired but I’m afraid to break the spell because the closeness does feel good, and he’s clearly using this to cope. I think he has no idea I’m not 100 percent on board. I have a couple questions I guess: Is his reaction to all this hiding deeper fear or feelings I should worry about? And should I bring this all up with him, or just try to manage it? He’s an empathetic guy and would never pressure me intentionally.
Dear Lust Overload,
Your husband’s higher interest in sex probably is at least partially a reaction to the COVID situation and associated stressors. He might be fighting fear with fornication. He can absolutely use masturbation as a release, turning inward for his sexual fulfillment when you aren’t in the mood. Until you broach the subject, though, he won’t know you need some space.
Bring it up with him! You and your husband are equals, and your desire is just as important as his. Especially during a crisis, we can forget the importance of taking care of ourselves. Go to your husband and tell him all the things you wrote to me—that you’re enjoying the attention, but you’re not aroused as frequently as he is. Share your emotions and ask him to navigate this with you together.
Think about what you enjoy—for instance, the increased flirtation and flattery. So you might tell your husband that you appreciate that but don’t always feel like escalating into physical contact. Or you might tell him that you’re happy to snuggle and kiss but don’t want as much penetration. Really, the specifics are entirely up to you. And think about what you want. Is it more space to have desire? Is it a break from touching? You’ll want to be able to communicate what your needs are.
As for whether you need to be concerned, I don’t think you need to be any more concerned than we all need to be about our loved ones right now. He’s coping his way through it, just like the rest of us, and as long as the two of you can work out a frequency of conjugal carousing that works for both of you, it shouldn’t be a problem.
I think you and your empathetic husband have this under control.
Dear How to Do It,
I have been curious about an ongoing trend in porn. When I first began watching porn on VHS, anal was not very common. I remember in Randy West’s “Up and Cummers,” he vehemently insisted that there be no mixture of vaginal and anal sex. I even remember him in the shower instructing that if there was to be vaginal sex after anal, a thorough dick-cleaning needed to proceed in order to prevent an infection. Older porn never featured vaginal sex after anal sex.
In today’s porn, not only does it seem that anal is featured significantly, but that the old rules have been thrown out the window.
How do today’s porn starlets not have problems when they regularly get penetrated both anally and vaginally in the same scene (you can clearly see there is no break in the action)? Ass to mouth also seems to be a requirement. This is repulsive to me, and that’s a problem, because it means more women are expected to do these things in bed.
Dear Anal Inquiries,
We have a serious public health problem where people are using pornography as sexual education. If people cited The Fast and the Furious as the reason they’re driving recklessly, we would reject that excuse. When it comes to porn, though, we’re willing to accept it.
So, for whoever needs to hear this, porn is not sex ed. Real sex ed exists. You can go to Scarleteen. You can go to Planned Parenthood. You can watch some of the material pornographers produce that is intended as education, like Jessica Drake’s Wicked Sex series or the Nina Hartley’s Guide to … series. You can take classes at your local sex shop, swingers club, and—thanks to COVID requiring that we all move our events online—you can even take digital classes from the comfort of your own home. You can read books. “I saw it in a porno” is no justification for acting inappropriately, any more than “I saw it in a romance movie” is an acceptable reason to stalk someone.
“Because it means more women are expected to do these things in bed” particularly irks me. The sentiment that one woman did something once so all women should allow it is backward and vaguely—if not fully—coercive. If you’re having sex with people who think that them seeing something in a porn clip means you should participate in it, rethink your dating choices. While we’re at it, the fact that you’ve participated in something once yourself in no way means you have to participate in it a second time.
As for how today’s performers deal with the ramifications of ass-to-pussy, well, we rinse our orifices out pretty well beforehand and hope for the best. We also tend to shower immediately after the scene. Generally speaking, porn performers are more like stuntpeople, or professional wrestlers. We’re taking physical risks and performing athletically for an entertainment medium. Stopping to wash implements in between orifices often kills the momentum of the scene, making the experience more difficult for the performers and reducing the appeal of the product for most consumers.
Oh, and yes: Touching a vulva or mouth after touching an anus, without washing first with soap, is totally unsanitary.
More How to Do It
I have some strange and severe allergies as well as moderate asthma. There’s a sweet guy I have my eye on, but he’s an avid smoker. Even if he switches to vaping, doesn’t the nicotine show up in sweat and semen? I usually get a contact rash when I’m near smokers and it gets on my clothes, so I have to shower immediately upon returning home before the rash gets itchier. I don’t want to end up in the hospital by direct experimentation, so I thought to check the internet first—and all I’m getting is a possible connection of nicotine in semen to a greater risk of cervical cancer. Everything else is erectile dysfunction–related material for the smoker himself. Nothing about allergic reactions. I do sometimes have an asthma attack after sex, so I use my rescue inhaler. I don’t recall this one being covered under standard allergen testing. Should I stay in the nonsmoking section, or is there a way to safely check for possible reactions before PIV sex? Full-body latex? Abuse of Bubble Wrap? Dueling dildos at 50 paces?