How to Do It

I Only Watch Horror Flicks With My Wife Because of What Happens After

Should I come clean?

A man and a woman watch a movie.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by 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!

Every week, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

My wife of seven years and I have “gotten into horror movies” during quarantine. I use quotes because I’ve always hated horror movies. My wife has been indifferent, but ever since we watched a classic from the ’90s early in the sheltering in place, I’ve noticed that scary movies make her very into me, and sex usually happens. I’m not sure if she has connected the dots like I have, because she’s started putting together horror nights for us and asking for tips for our new hobby online. I just like that they seem to make her horny. I really hate watching these movies, but I can tolerate them if it means taking her mind off of things, and it leads to stress relief for me too. She recently talked about the movies on a Zoom call with my brother, and he laughed and said “Stephen hates horror movies.” I shrugged, and she didn’t say anything to me about it, but I’m starting to feel guilty. Should I tell her the truth? If so, can I wait until things go back to normal?

—Randy Meeks

Rich: I have a small complaint about the content of this next letter: Please don’t tease me with vagueness when discussing pop culture. If you’re going to tell me you watched a classic ‘90s horror flick, please also tell me which. It’s important. I need to check if our criteria and values align. I need to be able to judge you on that level.

Stoya: As usual, we wish we had just a little more detail.

Rich: I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was referring to Candyman or Scream, two excellent choices that are bona fide classics. And with that in place, I can proceed.

Stoya: As for the question, I think this is a simple case of “transparency is generally good.”

Rich: I think that’s the ideal, but I also think that relationships require compromise. When you live with someone, you may watch movies or listen to music that you wouldn’t otherwise for the sake of your partner’s happiness.

Stoya: For sure. Hiding the sexual agenda strikes me as something that could really blow up in Stephen’s face here though.

Rich: You think it’s manipulative to go along with his wife’s taste without stating his?

Stoya: I think he’s feeling guilt over hiding it. And I believe that once you feel like you’re hiding something from your partner, that needs to be cleared up. Aired out, if you will. Exposed to the sunshine.

Rich: That’s true. I guess in this case it’s more about his feeling like he’s doing something wrong than whether or not he is technically

Stoya: If he waits until things go back to normal—presuming there is a normal in the future—there’s a chance the wife’s first question is going to be, “How long have you known this about my sexuality?” Or “How long were you hiding this distaste for horror films from me?”

Rich: Maybe it’s because I feel the need to comment on everything, but I find it slightly strange that they haven’t talked about the horror/sex correlation? If I notice something makes my partner turned on, I’ll usually say, “Wow, this really turns you on, huh?” So yeah, there is a potential sense of sneakiness here.

Stoya: I think it’s beautiful that Stephen is indulging in his wife’s hobbies. I think that’s a perfectly healthy thing to do. And I’m wondering if it isn’t so much a horror fetish as it is a welling spring of intimacy over doing something she enjoys together.

Rich: Right. I wonder why deception has to be in the equation at all. Maybe she’s so empathetic that she’d stop enjoying the movies if she knew he wasn’t? But I don’t know, maybe she wouldn’t care and chalk it up to normal couple compromise.

Stoya: Direct, adult conversation is a great antidote for weirdness. And this is kind of weird right now. Our writer is feeling guilty for doing something his wife enjoys.

Rich: Right. It’s common to dislike horror movies, just like it’s common to watch something that your partner is into. The behavior checks out, but what doesn’t is the willful lack of clarity on his part.

Stoya: She might be putting in all this effort because she thinks he’s using this as a coping mechanism.

Rich: And it would be extra shitty to come to find out that she wasted all this time because he was deceiving her. I guess that’s the worst thing about this: Potentially, she’s being made to feel like they have a shared interest when in fact it isn’t, and for no good reason, really.

Stoya: So to directly answer Stephen’s question, you can wait until things go back to something resembling normal, but I don’t think you should.

Rich: Seems like a recipe for needless complication.

Stoya: Agreed.

More How to Do It

I’m a man in my 30s who’s started dating a woman recently that I’ve really enjoyed connecting with. It’s exciting and has given me a chance to imagine a stable future with someone. But there’s something else that’s new for me this year that complicates things: I’ve started seeing sex workers. What ultimately drove me to go in this direction is the desire to have good sex without judgment or pressure. But to most of the people in my life and in our society, this comes with an incredible amount of stigma. It just doesn’t seem plausible to me that my girlfriend be accepting of this part of my recent past, let alone my or our future. If there’s anything I’d want my new partner to understand, it’s that I believe seeing a sex worker can make me a better partner, not unlike seeing a therapist. I want to keep doing it. Am I crazy?

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