How to Do It

My Girlfriend Has Banned One Thing I Want in Bed, but She Won’t Tell Me Why

Does she owe me an explanation?

Man with crossed arms looking at a neon crossed out symbol.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Ranta Images/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,

My girlfriend and I are a heterosexual couple in our mid-40s. Both divorced; no children from either marriage. We started dating last year and moved in together as the pandemic started. Our sex life is very good except for one big thing: I am not allowed to penetrate her vagina in any way or perform oral sex on her. Our lovemaking sessions generally end with me watching her masturbate with a toy, where penetration definitely occurs. Then she finishes me off with a blow job, hand job, or an occasional tit-fuck.

Our relationship is great, and while I am largely satisfied with the above, there are sometimes where I just want to fuck her, if you know what I mean. But outside of reassurances that this isn’t about STDs or birth control, I just get a nice but firm “no.” I am completely understanding of her boundaries, and I would never pressure her to do anything. But is it acceptable for me to ask why? And how do I do that without making her feel that I am pressuring her?

—No Go

Dear No Go,

I think it’s acceptable for you to ask for enlightenment around any sexual characteristic of your partner, as long as you remember that your girlfriend may decline, or be unable to answer. Her prohibition on penetration may be trauma-related, which could make discussion difficult for her. Err on the side of caution here, just in case.

I’d start with a reminder of the fact that you are aware of her boundaries and not attempting to change them. Something like “I know penetration by me is a hard limit for you, and I respect that. I’m comfortable with your boundaries and am not trying to change them.” Then, share your curiosity: “I’m curious, though, about why your boundaries are what they are. You’ve told me it isn’t about STI transmission or pregnancy prevention. I’m left wondering what it is about and am hoping you’re comfortable filling me in.” If she tenses up, moves away, or otherwise displays discomfort, backtrack a bit with something along the lines of, “It’s totally OK if you aren’t comfortable speaking about this, too” and leave it alone for a while—like six months to a year—unless she brings it up herself. You’ll have to make the choice about how long you’re willing to wait for some clarity.

Dear How to Do It,

My girlfriend (34F) and I (36M) have been dating since the end of last year and fall into what I assume is a large category of couples who’ve experienced a lot together during the pandemic. We’re almost but not quite living together at this point, after what was a steady but easy-going two or three nights per week dating life pre-pandemic.

Overall, the increase in shared day-to-day life has been great. We have no problems with household stuff, we get along well, share a lot of interests and taste in various things, etc. This was a pleasant surprise for me, as it’s my first time living with a partner, and I feared it would be harder than this.

But we do have issues with deeper relationship things, particularly around sex. My girlfriend has a strong appetite for sex and brings passion and enthusiasm with her every time. She’s also generally good and giving, especially with oral, light dirty talk, and various positions, all things I appreciate. But that appears to be the outer limits of her sexual adventurousness. In conversation about fantasies/porn/fetishes, she’s confessed she doesn’t really have fantasies, and her porn watching is also quite vanilla. She seems wholly uninterested in any type of role-playing whatsoever. She also has never had an orgasm with me, which we’ve discussed frequently but has been tense since it’s been a longish-term personal issue for her, and she doesn’t want to feel pressured. This leaves me wondering if she’s not quite comfortable either with herself or me.

She also has a fairly negative view of men in general and associates essentially all of masculinity with misogyny, sexism, and violence—an incredibly sad but pretty understandable view in my opinion based on what I know about the macho culture in which she was raised and the complicated relationship she’s had with her mostly absent father. I have not and would never make a “not all men” argument to that, but I do believe it affects our relationship, as she only really embraces my masculinity when we’re fucking and even then mostly in a romantic and somewhat idealistic sense.

Meanwhile, I consider myself somewhat but not overly kinky. I’ve spent a lot of time in my late-20s and 30s trying to better explore, understand, and accept my sexuality, while also unlearning some of the toxic masculinity I think I grew up around, and balancing all of that with my feminist politics. I’m comfortably straight and masculine, have what I consider a healthy relationship to sex and women in general, believe I’m a good listener, and I’m seeing a therapist weekly.

Ultimately, I want to feel accepted and comfortable enough in a relationship to talk honestly about and explore at least some of my (and my partner’s) kinkier side. But simply talking about, let alone doing, fantasies or fetishes makes my girlfriend pretty uncomfortable, and it’s clear she can’t relate at all. I feel obligated to meet her where she is sexually and leave behind parts of my sexuality she doesn’t like. In conversations we had early on in the relationship, she made it clear nonmonogamy was out of the question.

While I’d love to see some of my edgier sexual desires fulfilled, I’m more so struggling to feel fully accepted with her and, as a result, am starting to doubt the long-term potential we have. I love her and don’t want it to end, but it’s hard to reconcile that lack of acceptance. Conversations about how her views on masculinity might affect our relationship haven’t gone well either. How do I approach this conflict? And where do I draw the line?

—Conscientious Kinkster

Dear Conscientious Kinkster,

How much of your sexuality are you willing to give up? Are you going to grow to resent this woman if you continue to give up parts of your sexuality for her? Do you think your love is enough to make up for all the kinky erotic adventures you want to have? Can you accept never having your quirks indulged? These are serious questions, which only you can answer, that will tell you how to approach the conflict and where to draw your line.

If your answers are “not much,” “yes,” “no,” and “no,” then move along. It’ll hurt in the short term and be better for both of you in the long term.

If your answers are “a lot,” “no,” “yes,” and “yes,” then you’ll want to work on establishing trust and behaving consistently. Pattern recognition is a thing we humans do, and your girlfriend’s life experience has taught her that the pattern of “man” equals “danger.” The work is hers to do, but you can help by providing a counterargument through your actions—call it propaganda by deed.

As for the lack of interest in orgasms on her part, it probably isn’t about you. Believe her when she says that it’s a long-term thing, and trust her to come to you and say something if she wants to work on it together. This is one of the ways that you can prove with your comportment that you support her decisions and agency.

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Dear How to Do It,

Back in February, I began a sexting relationship with a guy who had a crush on me in high school. We had been chatting in a friendly way for a while, and I was deeply dissatisfied in my 20+ year marriage. I really enjoyed the sexting. It was exhilarating, and I gained a lot of confidence through it. It opened up a whole new realm of sexuality for me and reignited my desire that had been dormant for years. Because there was no way for me to actually see this person (we live far apart, we’re both married). I began to act out our fantasies on my husband and it improved our relationship across the board. I ended the sexting after about 12 weeks because I was in too deep, and it was starting to take a toll on me emotionally. I never felt guilty while I was sexting. I told my husband about it, and he was not jealous or angry. We’ve continued having good sex as a married couple since.

However, I am still in contact with the other man. We chat on messenger several times a week and sometimes still flirt, but have drawn a boundary that precludes sexting at this point. I like him, and I am still very much attracted to him. I still fantasize about him even when having sex with my husband. I’m more concerned about my emotional health than emotional cheating.

I’m feeling conflicted because I’m afraid I am too attached to my former sexting partner. I feel a deep connection with him. We chat about all manner of things, and he’s much more playful and fun than my husband. I still get excited when I hear from him. I don’t know what to do. Can I maintain this “friendly” relationship? I feel like it’s only a matter of time before we start the sexting again.


Dear Unsure,

I assume you ceased sexting because you sense your husband is uncomfortable with it (despite his saying otherwise), or because your sexting partner’s wife doesn’t know or is uncomfortable herself. If this isn’t the case—if everyone affected is OK with it—then I think you could consider carrying on. Whether that (or having even “friendly” contact) is “emotionally healthy” for you depends on your perspective. An above-board sexting arrangement could be healthy and lead to a reinvigorated marital sex life, as you describe. Or it could bring your marriage into question, which itself could well be healthy. I can’t say for certain which lens is right for you.

If there are reasons you should keep the relationship platonic, but you do not trust yourself to do so, then it’s time to sever communication completely.

The women of Thirst Aid Kit talk with loop daddy Marc Rebillet about how he quenches thirsts across the internet.

Dear How to Do It,

I live alone, and my partnered sex life is on pause for *waves hand at world* reasons.
Currently, my sexuality consists of sexting and masturbation. I am looking for ideas for spicing up my masturbation. As an example, my current game is “Can I make myself orgasm with my nondominant hand?” I also am pretty meh about being the receptive partner for penetrative sex, and another game I am exploring is to try to “find my G spot and stimulate it.” Any other ideas for others in a similar position as me?

—Curious in Quarantine

Dear Curious in Quarantine,

Playing with time and patience can be fun. One practice that works with these themes is edging—where you get yourself immensely aroused and then hang out at the “edge” of orgasm without letting yourself tip over. This has a likely bonus of engorging your anatomy to a degree that should make the superfun spots, like the region we call the G spot, easier to locate, especially if you use a curved wand.

Vibrators can also spice up masturbation. There are the classics—the Magic Wand and the Rabbit—and also some great products that have come out in the past few years which mimic oral sex in a few different ways.

I assume you’ve exhausted the options for pornography and erotica in your usual preferred categories. You might try switching it up—check out a kink you’ve never experienced, or a different genre than you usually watch. Maybe even an entirely different medium, like images or text. Another thing you can do is write out your own fantasies, or imagine what you’d feature if you directed your own pornography. After all, no one knows you like you.

— Stoya

More How to Do It

My husband just came clean that he’s been stealing my family and friend’s panties for years. We have been together for three decades. We were having a heart-to-heart talk, and he told me he’s been stealing underwear from my female family and friends. He’s a good man, and I’ve always known he has an underwear fetish. He likes to masturbate with soiled sexy panties, and I’m OK with that. But to steal other people’s, my loved ones’, and do this? Please help. He’s always been loyal. This is absolutely not normal. I’m sickened by it, and feel today disgusted, betrayed, and inadequate. What is wrong with him?