How to Do It

My Custom Porn Habit Costs a Lot of Money

I’m proud of paying for my videos, but how much is too much?

Man holding tablet in bed with flashing neon dollar sign behind him.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by lolostock/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 pay for my porn, which is good—right? Stealing is bad, and we should support the performers who are creating the content we enjoy. The thing is, I fall on the other end of the spectrum. I buy a lot of porn. I dabble in the normal stuff like most—an OnlyFans subscription here, a video clip there. However, the majority of the money I spend on porn is on custom videos, personalized scenes where a performer acts out a scenario of your choice. My kinks aren’t readily available on OnlyFans or clips stores, so you can imagine my porn habit becomes quite expensive after a while. (Before you ask, some of the requests are as simple as me wanting to stare into a woman’s eyes or have her tell me “I love you.”) I find myself sending out dozens of emails every week to performers seeking more of the same content. Oftentimes I have trouble finding enough women to buy customs from. Strangely enough, finding women to take hundreds of dollars for a selfie isn’t as easy as you’d think. I wouldn’t call it an addiction, because I’m not 100 percent sure that’s a thing. I don’t think I have a problem, but I’m not the expert. Now that we’re stuck in quarantine, I thought it was a good time to take a second look at this part of my life. What do you think? Is this habit healthy?

—Porn Patron

Dear Porn Patron,

The main areas of concern here are budget and time management. Are you neglecting other areas of your life? Are you spending more money than you should? If so, there’s a problem. If you’re getting everything else done, and only spending what you can actually afford, then you’re probably OK. Other red flags include feeling a compulsion to purchase new clips and hiding your behavior. (Of course, given our cultural baggage around sexuality, that last one can be difficult to judge. For instance, you probably don’t talk about this with your parents and you shouldn’t talk about it with your co-workers.) If you’re feeling a compulsion, you should speak with a sex-positive psychologist or therapist who can help you figure out what’s going on.

As for your difficulty finding performers to let you stare into their eyes or express love toward you, this makes absolute sense to me. The more humanity and connection the client wants, the more demanding the gig, and therefore the more expensive.

Thank you for paying for your porn.

Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I have been together for about three years, dating included. We both love each other very much, are very happy together, and we both feel we’re the best for each other, and also highly compatible. Except, for me, in one matter: Prior to her, I loved going down on my partners. I had never had problems with their smell or the taste. However, with my wife, even when we were dating, I just couldn’t go down on her because of her smell and the taste. We’ve both been tested by our PCPs and we’re both free of all STIs. I thought it could be bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection, but I’m not sure if you can have either for this long. Her OB-GYN doesn’t seem to think anything is wrong. I told my wife that when I go down on her, my throat itches, and when she mentioned this to her OB-GYN, she seemed to think it “could” be BV and prescribed her something without doing any tests, so I’m not sure if the OB-GYN is any good.
The prescription didn’t help either, and I’m not sure if my throat itching was psychological or real. Also, my penis rarely ever smelled before, but I’ve started noticing the smell after I’ve been with her. We don’t use condoms, but she has an IUD. Even prior to her getting an IUD, she had the same smell and taste, so I don’t think it’s that. She only showers on every second or third day, and she points to the plethora of articles online that say that it’s not necessary to take daily showers. I was taught to shower every day. However, even on days she showers, I still can’t stand the smell, so I’m not sure if it’s that.

Since I stopped going down on her, which was over a year ago, she’s stopped going down on me, and I miss that. Other than this, we’re both pretty vanilla, but we have a good sex life, though I can still smell it during sex and it still smells bad to me. I haven’t discussed the smell with my wife for fear of hurting her feelings, and I don’t really know how to bring it up. I used to love going down on my partner, and I really want to get back to it. Is there anything that I can do about the smell, or is this a lost cause?

—What’s Wrong?

Dear What’s Wrong,

Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections both have to do with an imbalance in the vaginal microsystem. I’ve never heard of either infection lasting for multiple years—it may be possible, though usually the discomfort encourages people to get treated—but there are loads of cases where the infection is recurring, which can feel the same. I don’t like that the gynecologist didn’t run any tests—that’s definitely worth a second opinion.

I agree that the IUD and two-to-three day shower schedule don’t seem to be the culprit here. It’s absolutely possible that you simply don’t like the smell of your wife’s genitals and secretions, and that the itchy throat you were experiencing was, in fact, psychological. It’s also possible that there’s something going on with her body that should be treated.

So how are you going to get your wife to see a doctor for a second opinion? You’re going to have to talk about it. Either way, there’s risk that her feelings will be hurt—you might hurt them by bringing this up now, and you might hurt them by keeping quiet until it eventually comes out. You might have already hurt them by ceasing your oral ministrations and leaving her guessing about why.

Here’s sample language you could try: “Can we talk about something difficult? I’m afraid I’m going to hurt your feelings, but I want to troubleshoot our sex life and get back to giving oral. I’m struggling to do that because I’m turned off by the way you smell.”

I know, it’s hard. But if you want something to change, you have to address it.

In the meantime, or if the second OB-GYN doesn’t find anything relevant, you can open the windows and look into dental dams. Dental dams were literally made for blocking the exchange of fluid. You can get them online or from your local sex-positive shop. They’re sheets of latex or polyurethane that you place over the vulva or anus that you’re about to put your mouth on, which seems really useful in your situation. But—unless you want to leave your wife wondering what’s going on—you need to have the conversation before you pull out the dams.

Dear How to Do It,

I’ve been seeing someone since just before the pandemic hit, and I’ve stumbled into an unexpected conundrum. Since breaking off an engagement a little over a year ago, I’ve enjoyed being nonmonogamous and nonexclusive, and I thought I would want that for a long time. Now, however, I would categorize myself as “accidentally monogamous.” We both decided not to seek out other partners initially (makes sense in a plague), and now I’m feeling the urge to keep it that way. We’ve talked about this a bit, and we need to have more conversations going forward, but I find myself stuck in my own frustration. He was previously in a long-term nonmonogamous relationship, and I think that’s what he would prefer in general —and I thought that’s what I would prefer, too! But, on the one hand, I don’t think I’m secure enough about where we stand to feel as if I weren’t competing for his time or being replaced if he started seeing other people. And on my part, I have no desire to sleep with anyone else, and I’ve made this clear to past partners who wanted to reconnect on that level as our state slowly starts opening up. On the other hand, I also feel like I might just be holding onto old ideals based on how I grew up and the way most of my past relationships have defaulted to monogamy (even though I’ve been in a couple poly relationships before).

For now, things are pretty stable because of life stresses and the pandemic, but I want to move the conversation forward before circumstances change and it becomes more of an issue. My question is how to navigate this conversation when I’m feeling so conflicted myself. Do I have to decide what I want beforehand? Should my feelings about monogamy right now be telling me more about how I feel about the whole relationship in general? How do I separate what I really want, or what’s best for the both of us, from the type of relationship I’m most familiar with having?

—Accidental Monogamist

Dear Accidental Monogamist,

You do not have to decide what you want before you have a conversation with your partner. You don’t have to decide at the end of a conversation. And once you do decide, you can change your mind if it isn’t working for you. Your consent can always be withdrawn, and you can always ask to renegotiate the terms and boundaries of the relationship.

Set yourself up for success by choosing your moment. You want both of you to be alert, sober, well-fed, and calm, with a couple of free hours so there isn’t time pressure. Be vulnerable and direct. Communicate what’s on the agenda and ask for your partner’s permission to dig in. Something like “Hey, I need to have a long, sprawling talk about the idea of nonmonogamy. Is now a good time?” Then let him know upfront that you’re conflicted and struggling to figure out what works for you. Leave ample space for him to respond. You don’t know for sure where he’s at on the monogamy question, and that information is really important for figuring out how your relationship should proceed. Let him ask you questions, too.

It’s very human, in a crisis, to default to our early patterns. Sometimes that’s a good idea, and sometimes it’s less than ideal. Deep introspection is the only way through this that I know. Ask yourself what you’re feeling—pull up a feelings chart if you’re struggling to name your emotions. Let yourself sit in those emotions and see if you can figure out what they’re rooted in. I’ll use myself as an example:

Due to the pandemic, I’m suddenly far more open to monogamy because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of spreading COVID-19 to someone I love. OK, monogamy has absolutely been a mechanism of women-as-property in the past, but it also serves as a harm reduction mechanism with regards to the spread of germs. Therefore, this fear is an appropriate one.

It sounds like you might be afraid of losing him, and of experiencing feelings of inadequacy. What’s going on there? Do you need more reassurance than you’re getting? Have partners left you for others in the past in ways that hurt? Is jealousy difficult for you to process? Write about it, talk about it with your friends, talk about it with your partner. And understand that it’ll probably take at least a few conversations to start figuring it out.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a man in his 30s who’s been married for four years. My wife and I have had a great and active sex life for years, both before and after we were married. However, the last year or two my wife’s sex drive has significantly declined. She is content to have sex once every two weeks. While I love and appreciate the sex we do have, it isn’t enough for me. I’ve always had a high sex drive and would love to have it close to every day if possible, but probably twice a week would be enough. I’ve tried to talk to my wife to see if there is something holding us back, or if I could do something that might increase her desire. But she says she just feels less interested in sex and is somewhat hurt that she’s not pleasing me. I feel terrible hurting her feelings, and I don’t want our sex to be transactional where she just does it more to placate me. She is not comfortable with us seeing other people casually either. I love my wife and she really is a wonderful partner, but I feel sexually frustrated a lot of the time. Am I being an unreasonably horny man? Is this something I just have to accept and hope it changes in the future? I feel like our conversations about it just put more pressure on our relationship, and maybe I should just be patient and shut up about it.

—Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Emily Nagoski’s Come as You Are has a number of suggestions for how to increase sexual desire. A read-through might help you understand the various ways humans experience sexual desire and give you ideas for how to stoke that interest in your wife. Of course, she might simply be a twice-per-month person, in which case I strongly encourage you to up your masturbation game.

The sex-positive community has been encouraging women to take themselves on dates for decades. Betty Dodson’s work starting in the 1960s is where I first encountered this idea. I think men would do well to take themselves on dates, too. Make an event out of it and take your time. Get yourself as aroused as you possibly can. Give yourself solo foreplay. Edge, if that’s something you’re interested in.

Patience and acceptance are great qualities to foster in this situation, but I caution you against hoping that it changes in the future. Your wife may never be interested in sex as much as you are, and if you want to stay married to her, that is something you’ll have to accept.

— Stoya

More How to Do it

I am a single, straight woman in her mid-40s. I have never been able to have an orgasm through penetration, and I’m fine with that. I also am only able to have one orgasm via clitoral stimulation, and after that, my clit is too sensitive to be touched for several hours. I’m not shy about telling my sexual partners about all of this, but all the guys I’ve met seem to take this as a personal challenge. They want to be “the one” to make me have a G-spot orgasm or have multiple clitoral orgasms, and then proceed to try to do just that, and it’s always super uncomfortable and not at all enjoyable for me. I am perfectly satisfied with a single, intense orgasm, but other than bluntly telling my partners this (which I already do), what more can be done? Should I be stating it in different terms? Am I just coming across a bunch of duds?