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 am a woman in her early 50s. I met my first husband at 18, and although I had some physical relationships as a teen, he was the first man I had ever had sex with. For a long time, I would have called it satisfying, although I had nothing to compare it to, and it was, until the relationship fell apart for other reasons about 12 years into a 20-year marriage. In retrospect, I’ve been thinking about the fact that he wasn’t particularly sexual. I never saw him admire women, never heard him talk about sex, and even when we were having frequent sex, he wasn’t sexual—no flirting, no lead-up, no touching—everything happened at night, in bed only. I couldn’t even tell you what he likes in a woman, or name a celebrity he found attractive. He never told me that I was attractive or stimulating, although I knew he loved me. As he was my first, I had no idea it wasn’t particularly inventive—I didn’t do a lot of reading or movie watching—I really knew very little.
Through the years, as I read what would be called “chick lit” or watched movies, I learned that sex could be a lot more inventive, and men could be a lot more sexual. I thought it was only fiction.
I met my new husband when we both in our 40s—who is now only the second man I’ve had sex with. He is the exact opposite. He’s extremely sexual. He’s a major flirt (although it is only with me!); he is constantly touching me, and he admires attractive women, both in person and celebrity. He’s never inappropriate, but it is a constant set of private touches, conversations, and connections. We have now been together for 10 years. Unless one of us is sick, or on the rare occasion we get home from an outing crazy late, we have sex every single night. He makes no secret—with me—how much he likes sex, that he wants to have sex, that he’s thinking about sex, and exactly what he finds attractive about me. He literally touches me all night long in his sleep, everywhere. The sex is inventive, imaginative, and includes things I literally never knew actual people do. It’s wonderful, if sometimes a little overwhelming and exhausting.
I am just wondering—did I happen to find complete opposite archetypes? Are all men in one of these camps, or are most men somewhere in between? I’ve had so little experience, I just really am looking for some perspective.
—Duality of Man
Most men are somewhere in between. In fact, while pretty extreme opposites, your two husbands aren’t even the furthest points on the scale. Some people are asexual, which can mean “only vaguely interested in sex,” “only interested in sex under specific, emotionally invested circumstances,” or “not interested in sex at all. ” Others have a voracious sexual appetite, express it quite freely, and are interested in props, role-play scenarios, multiple sexual partners, or all of the above, plus some new innovations.
I hope you’re enjoying all this attention. If you aren’t, I want to make sure you know it’s OK to speak up and ask for a break from it all. You get to be tired, to want to focus on other things, or to simply not be in the mood. It sounds like you’re happy, if a bit befuddled by the opposites you’ve attracted. That’s great to hear. I hope this marriage lasts as long as it serves both of you.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a straight guy. My girlfriend and I have been together for almost two years. I for one will admit I cheated when we first got together, but I have NEVER had sex with anyone since then. Four days ago, I started feeling a pain in my stomach and pelvic area when I peed. Originally I thought it was a bladder infection or something, but when I got to the emergency care, they looked at me like I was dumb (I’m only 18)—they treated me for chlamydia and gonorrhea, which was a shock for me, and after taking a pee test and getting my results back, I tested positive for chlamydia just last night. My girlfriend swears she didn’t do anything, not when she went to the beach for a family vacation—and I know for a fact I have had sexual contact whatsoever with another soul in the last year and some change since I’ve been with her. Is it possible that I’ve had chlamydia for all this time and all of a sudden got symptoms while she is symptomless, or do you think she cheated? As much as I would like to trust my girlfriend, literally every sign I can think of points to her, and she has been denying it till she was blue in the face and has been crying and stuff. She has been a truly sweet girl and hasn’t ever done anything in regard to infidelity, so I’m left questioning myself.
One really useful piece of information here would be the date of your most recent STI screening before this infection. This is a great example of why regular testing (every few months depending on frequency of new partners, or with every new fluid bonded partner before you cease barrier use) is important. If you’d been doing it ideally, you’d know where you were exposed to the infection and have a pretty good idea of when.
With the help of my co-columnist Rich, I was able to get touch with Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City health department. “Chlamydia infections in women may remain dormant for months and potentially for up to almost two years based on some models,” he said when I sent in your case. “Although most women clear chlamydia on the order of two months, it is possible to have a dormant infection that lasts much longer.”
So she could have had chlamydia when the two of you started dating. Daskalakis again: “This story highlights the need for routine testing of asymptomatic people who are sexually active. My hope is that the female partner was tested and treated based on the detection of chlamydia in her male partner. Great advice is to also be tested when you enter a monogamous relationship.” So you’ve heard it from me and the deputy commissioner: Get tested.
Encourage your girlfriend to get tested, and if necessary treated, before resuming sexual activity that may result in fluid exchange, and yes, that does include cunnilingus. And you really need to finish the course of medication and then retest to make sure the infection is actually gone. Your physician can give you more details on the timetable for that.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a woman in my mid-20s and have been worried about something that may or may not be a problem. I haven’t had any experience with partnered sex, but I masturbate frequently. I’ve tried various sex toys and have experimented with my shower head, and these are all pleasurable and I can have fun and get off, but my favorite way to orgasm is by using my hand. For years, I’ve always masturbated the same way: small circles with my finger around my clitoris. One day, about six months ago, after years of my clitoris always wanting the same thing, suddenly my finger around my clitoris was WAY too aggressive a maneuver. It’s like my clitoris became extremely sensitive overnight. Now it will only tolerate me touching it if it’s through my clitoral hood and I use firm downward pressure. This is now the only way I can reach orgasm. Every time I try to go back to my old “small circles” standby, it feels like I’ve just had an orgasm and everything is hypersensitive, except I haven’t come yet. I’ve tried using sex toys and my shower head again and they just feel too intense now. There was one night where I was so turned on that I tried going back to small circles and it felt good for a minute or so and then my clitoris went back to being uncomfortably sensitive and I had to change tactics. I can’t think of any cause for this newfound sensitivity. I haven’t gone on or off any medications and I haven’t experienced any significant life stressors. It’s like one perfectly ordinary day I needed to masturbate a certain way and then the next perfectly ordinary day my clitoris became a different person. Is it normal for masturbation preferences or clitoral sensitivity to change so suddenly? Should I be concerned?
Any time something changes drastically about our genitals, it’s a good idea to be seen by a medical professional who specializes in that area. In your case, a gynecologist. Especially since I haven’t heard of clitoral sensitivity changing in that drastic and consistent kind of a way. It’s one thing to be uncomfortably sensitive after a few orgasms or extended edging. It’s another to suddenly have intense sensitivity after a couple of minutes of stimulation.
Clitorodynia, which is fancy talk for clitoral pain, is common enough to have a name. It can have a number of different causes. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t guess. You’re not a doctor—at least that I know of—so try to stay off WebMD and wait until you see a gynecologist or at least speak with one over the internet.
While you’re waiting to see the doctor, you might experiment with panties and pressure. For panties, try silk or satin and masturbating gently through the material. For pressure, fold a washcloth into thirds and try gently grinding into it with your clitoris. You might consider doing both at the same time.
To learn about the importance of friendship and fancying, listen to Thirst Aid Kit.
Dear How to Do It,
My question is how to relax when being penetrated. Sounds like a sex question, right? Well, it isn’t, but I’m hoping it qualifies as sex-adjacent. I am a 24-year-old virgin who just got a new doctor. Unfortunately, she has a different philosophy on pap smears than my old doctor did. So I’m getting one near the end of July. I have anxiety, and don’t even like tampons in my vagina (I find them uncomfortable). I am not thrilled that anything needs to go up there at all. I know this sounds so stupid, but do you have any tips for me?
Dear Nervous Patient,
I’m wondering if it might help to get a speculum—they’re cheap online—and practice gently at home to get used to the feeling. Remember that vaginas are very stretchy. Use the speculum’s expanding feature to gauge how relaxed you are and challenge yourself to control your pelvic floor muscles. You can find them by using your Kegel squeeze. If you don’t know how to find your Kegel squeeze, the next time you’re peeing, try to stop midstream. That’s the muscle. Contract it. Some short bursts, some stronger squeezes for longer, some rest periods of relaxation. Once you have that, you can practice breathing into your pelvic floor and relaxing those muscles on the inhale. Practice relaxing at least as much as you practice clenching.
Even if you only do some of that: Talk to your doctor when you get there. Make sure she knows what’s going on before the exam starts.
More How to Do It
Please settle this score: My girlfriend no longer wants to shave her armpits. I admitted this wasn’t my preference , but she went ahead—her choice. However, I also took this as an opportunity to stop trimming myself downstairs, because honestly it gets itchy and I was only doing it for her. She was fine at first, but now seems reluctant to give blow jobs because of the unintended floss. I want to leave it! Do you think this goes both ways, or is it totally different?