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,
How do I get my wife to bring out her inner PAWG? That’s “phat ass white girl.” My wife is very educated, as am I. We’ve been together for four years, and sexually things are pretty good (if a bit plain). My wife, while she possesses a big phat ass, has no idea how to use it. I’m not saying she needs to twerk like in a music video (though that would be nice), but she doesn’t accentuate or show it off at all. I’ve casually hinted at this by pointing out different kinds of booty shorts I think would look good on her, but she hasn’t taken the hint. Or pointing out that her yoga pants are great, but the ones that separate the ass clefs might be better. I’ve added oil to our sex, and usually spend some time just rubbing and kneading her ass. Look, the core problem is this: My wife is PAWG, but is too prim to twerk her ass, or shake it, or wear slutty booty shorts that accentuate it. How do I make her lean into accepting that image of herself? I feel like I’ve bought a Ferrari that thinks I bought it for the gas mileage. Obviously that analogy is awful, and men don’t possess women, etc., but you know what I mean. What should I do?
— Butt Man
Dear Butt Man,
It feels like you’re asking, “How do I make this human I married into an acronym?” Or, “How do I pressure my wife into becoming an acronym to please me?” The answer to both of these is simple: You don’t. It’s dehumanizing.
You say you’re educated. Turn that intellectual ability on yourself here. Do you really think “phat” is something everyone has an easy time hearing? Thanks to cultural standards of beauty, many people are sensitive about their size. If you knew the Ferrari analogy was awful, why didn’t you take a moment to come up with a less offensive one before sending this message? Think about what you’re going to say beforehand. You might even consider writing it out.
If, after thinking this over, you decide you still want to broach the subject, go to your wife and be direct. Admit your sexual fixation on asses—or her ass, whichever it is for you. Apologize for waiting until now to be up front about this aspect of your sexuality. Ask her if she’s willing to entertain your ass obsession, and also be prepared to offer sexual sessions that are ass-fetish-free and focus on her desires.
Leave space for the possibility that your wife doesn’t like her ass. She may be fundamentally uncomfortable with your requests—they are requests, right?—to play it up, shake it, and expose it. If that’s the case, you’re going to need to back off on all the ass talk.
Presuming she’s OK with all this, if you want to see your wife in specific clothing, you might consider buying it for her once you’re gotten her consent to fetishize her body in this manner. And please, never ask me how you can “make” her do anything ever again.
Dear How to Do It,
“Dave” and I were best friends in college, and after graduation, we decided to get an apartment together (I’m a woman). We both date a lot, but neither of us has ever been in a serious relationship. We occasionally have sex when we’re both experiencing a dry spell, and it’s fun and pleasurable, but no bombs bursting in air.
I am now 33 years old, and after 18 years of dating, have given up on ever finding Mr. Right. But I want a baby. In fact, I’d like to have two or three. Dave is up for fatherhood—not just providing the sperm, but true co-parenting. We are looking at houses in kid-friendly neighborhoods, pricing day care, and studying school rankings. As we get deeper and deeper into the planning, I am starting to think we should get married, for the social as well as legal and economic benefits. Our families already think we’re a couple, and our friends joke about when we’re finally going to make it “official.” The problem is that unlike me, Dave still harbors hopes of finding a partner who will meet all of his needs.
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life having just “meh” sex any more than he does, but I’ve got to think it’s easier for two people who already love each other to learn how to have good sex than it is for two strangers who have good sex to learn to love each other. And it’s not like we never talk about sex—we have spent years debriefing each other about our sex partners and intimate details of our failed relationships. But we have never discussed why our sex is less than satisfactory and what we could do to make it better. I’m willing to break the taboo and discuss this sensitive question, but not without a plan. What would the next step be after the conversation—couples’ counseling, sex therapist? We are both very private people, and I am having difficulty imagining discussing this with strangers. Is there some anonymous virtual help that we could get? How do we do this?
— No Meh for Me
Dear No Meh for Me,
I don’t think couples’ counseling is needed here. If the initial conversation goes terribly, and affects the rest of your relationship, then yeah, get a professional therapist in there. But if everything outside of the sex is great, and you’re able to talk civilly, there’s no real need to bring in that kind of counselor. (Sex therapy is definitely an option, but, again, I’m not sure it’s needed. I really think the two of you can work this out yourselves.)
First, you’ll need to get Dave’s buy-in to this conversation—he may have different ideas about the situation than you do. If he agrees to hash it out, talk about what you’re each into and look for points of overlap. Get super detailed. Do you enjoy languorous licks or profound pounding? Maybe it’s one at certain times and the other at different times. Do you like to have the lights on or off? Do you enjoy dressing for the occasion? Or do you prefer passionate quickies? Realistically, the answer to these is a qualified yes in various contexts. Develop a fluid communication about sex and sexual desires, so you can give each other feedback in the moment and ask directly for what you want.
You both might look into practices that increase sexual connection. Barbara Carrellas’s Urban Tantra has a lot of good tips for focusing, inhabiting our bodies, and connecting with each other. Generally speaking, that connection is what makes things super-hot. (Of course there are exceptions, like people who get off on anonymity.)
I’m also wondering, since the two of you have an ease around your relationships with other people, if a polyamorous structure might work for you. Obviously once children are in the picture, time management becomes that much more difficult. But there’s no reason you and Dave can’t have the family-focused relationship that provides stability for the kids and leave space for each of you to have other sexual relationships of the fireworks variety. Whether those are casual hookups or long-term sexual relationships is up to the two of you—and whoever else is coming into the bubble—and can evolve depending on the circumstances.
When you’re ready to have this conversation, pick a time when you both can focus, think about what you’re going to say beforehand, and be prepared to actively listen. Good luck.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a 45-year-old woman, and I divorced my husband last year. I had been in a relationship with him for nearly 15 years. We met when I was only 26, and he was already 38. Throughout our relationship, I performed according to his wishes sexually and socially. I sat through hours and hours of him talking at me about topics that interested him but held no interest for me. Sometimes he would keep me up all night haranguing me about whatever he thought I had said or done wrong, which impacted my mental health. A few times he became physically threatening, throwing things, etc. I just let him run roughshod over me and control me, which led to more submission in bed. As I got older and started to realize the mess I had made for myself, I started to panic. I have a history of other trauma. The panic plus the PTSD turned me into someone I did not like, and neither did he. After trying to work it out with the support of a therapist, I called it quits and now we are divorced.
During the time my ex-husband and I were in therapy, I became close friends with another man, “Dan,” who I know through a sports club we both belong to. Dan and I get along very well and are of similar intelligence and interests. He is also even older than my ex. For a long time, I was pretty sure Dan was interested in me romantically, and honestly the pleasure and security I felt in his presence was part of what gave me the courage to stick up for myself with my ex. After I moved out, I made a few pretty overt gestures to communicate how I felt. Dan and I used to text very frequently, and I started telling him how cute he is in that venue, or suggesting it in other ways. Then, I got wind he was seeing another woman much closer to his age. I stopped reaching out to him by text, and he did not reach out to me. In my mind, that was that. I was very disappointed and wondered if it was because I am not attractive enough.
So, I went on a dating app and posted recent pictures of myself as a way of seeing if anyone “out there” found me attractive. It was intended as an ego boost, and oh boy was it ever: My phone dinged and dinged! One of the men who responded to me was “Paul,” who I have now been dating for about a year and a half. Paul is just two years older than I am, and he is very into me. We have had a wonderful time together. I feel as safe and secure with him as I did Dan early on. We are sexually compatible, share many of the same interests, have introduced each other to our families, etc. Paul lives about an hour and a half away. He tried to find work in my area and could not, so I dipped my toe in the water up where he lives and actually landed a good job immediately. We plan to move in together at the end of the month in his city.
However, Dan and I have rekindled the friendship part of our relationship, and I’ve realized I love Paul—but I also love Dan. Dan and I have been seeing each other socially at Dan’s house this summer. We are both pretty isolated with the pandemic, and I told Paul about this, but Paul does not know about my feelings for Dan or his for me. I have caught Dan looking at me the way he used to before our break last year, and we are back to giving hugs when it’s time to go. I know Dan loves me and I love him, but the age difference (18 years) is a lot, and Dan demonstrated pretty clearly that he is willing to respond to me but does not reach out of his own initiative.
Paul is monogamous, and would be absolutely heartbroken if I ever did anything with Dan. I do not intend to. I always identified as bisexual but now am thinking I am pansexual and polyamorous—things I never got to explore as a younger person because I was so focused on my ex-husband. I can’t help but wonder if Dan would reciprocate if I ever made any physical moves. As my moving date gets closer and Dan and I have been hanging out in anticipation of seeing less of each other after the move, I wonder even more and have fantasies about it when Paul is not around, but when Paul is with me, he is more than enough to hold my attention and we have a very satisfying sex life. I have not been totally upfront with Dan about my true feelings, which I don’t even know if I really have anymore, or if I am just wondering what might have been. I have also not told Paul. I met Paul when I thought Dan was done with me, so I never brought it up. Paul knows Dan, and knows I hang out with Dan. I don’t want to complicate this because I truly love Dan and his friendship has been very important to me. I also truly love Paul and am able and willing to remain faithful to him. Am I a monster for harboring these secret feelings about Dan? Should I come clean to Paul about all of this?
— Which Way
Dear Which Way,
You are not a monster. And I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong.
Generally speaking, I advise transparency, but there’s always a risk. In this particular situation, Paul may be feeling nervous about the big step of moving in that you’re about to take together. He could be feeling vulnerable, worried that you might back out. I want to underline that this is your choice, and there are potential ramifications for both courses of action.
If you do decide to tell Paul about your history with Dan, set yourself up for success by reassuring him on the front end. “Paul, I love you. I’m so excited to be moving in with you. I’m happy to be monogamous with you and am sexually fulfilled. I need to tell you something and I’m worried you might find it upsetting…” Give him some time to take all of that in and prepare to hear you. Then dig in: “Dan and I used to have a sexually charged relationship, and while it didn’t feel relevant when we first started seeing each other, I feel like it’s something you should know now.” Paul might get upset with you. He might be angry. He might feel like you hid something, which from a certain angle you did. Those feelings are valid. Honor them and listen to him when he expresses his reaction. His feelings might change over time, too. Be prepared for that.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a nonbinary person assigned female at birth in my early 30s. I haven’t dated a lot, and I also haven’t had a lot of hook-ups, because I’m asexual, because I inherited some good old-fashioned protestant guilt about sex from my mother, and because (this becomes a theme) I find it kind of boring. I also don’t really masturbate, besides humping a pillow occasionally, which never quite gets me off, again because of a combination of aforementioned guilt and boredom. I don’t watch porn, but I do read erotic fanfiction. I have tried a couple of different vibrators over the years, but they don’t do much for me, and even with my ex-girlfriend I would get bored or uncomfortable before anything happened.
One thing I do know I’m definitely interested in is BDSM. I’m beginning to suspect that solo play or vanilla sex isn’t getting me anywhere because it’s all uninteresting to me without a power dynamic or other kink play involved. I had discussed this with my ex, but our relationship started to break down before we actually got the chance to explore that. So my problem boils down to: I have no idea where to start practically, especially since I live in a fairly small town (hoping to move within a year!), and because sex or kink play with someone I’m not emotionally connected with doesn’t appeal to me. How can I look into this more or start doing something practically, or, especially given the ongoing pandemic, what can I do by myself that I might actually enjoy?
— BDSM Curious
Dear BDSM Curious,
You’re going to have to answer that question yourself, but I think I might be able to help. Erotic fan fiction is great, and if you like that, you might like other erotic literature involving power exchange. I’d start with Laura Antoniou’s The Marketplace (warning, the language is largely master/slave and disclosure, Laura has video-called into my book club) or Stjepan Sejic’s Sunstone. You also might enjoy large archives of original erotic writing like literotica.com.
Reading more stories is a great way to get ideas and/or find out what turns us on in the fantasy realm.
You can fantasize, too: Make up your own scenarios in your head. You can even write them down and share them if that feels fun. But mostly the goal here is to figure out what does and doesn’t work for you so you can communicate clearly to future partners. And, while you have to be careful with strangers online, you might be able to find a sexting partner interested in power exchange on a kink friendly site like Feeld (disclosure: I’ve written for their magazine) or OKCupid (whew, nothing to disclose here other than that I had a profile for a few months). You’ll want to feel each other out and establish a rapport before getting steamy, and please do be careful with your privacy and safety. These are all things you can do right now.
When the COVID 19 pandemic has passed, you can go to classes, munches, and mixers. This is a great way to find potential partners, but more importantly, these events can connect you to your community so you can make friends to talk about all this stuff with.
And if the shame you’re feeling persists, it might be worth talking to a sex positive therapist who can help you unpack all of that. Of course, BDSM might help you explore those feelings, too.
More How to Do It
I’m a 27-year-old woman married for two years, and from the beginning, we decided we would each be free to have other sex partners. Recently I have been involved with a neighbor, while right now my husband is not involved with anyone else. My husband suggested a threesome, which I declined. He then made the suggestion to my lover, who not only was enthusiastic but suggested they include his wife also. I’m not at all interested in his wife, but if I were, I would approach her myself and suggest a one-on-one encounter. I think sex is a personal, intimate experience, not a group activity. But they all are pressuring me and are angry that I won’t go along, which I don’t get because the three of them are free to have group sex if they want. I don’t really care about my relationship with my neighbors, but I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my husband. Is there any way to fix this without doing something I don’t want to do?
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus