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 wife and I have been married 14 years and together for 17. We have a pretty strong relationship after a period of stagnation. With raising kids, both of our careers, and all the activities, we found ourselves drained. We have in the last few years refocused on us and our desires and our sex life, intimacy, and our togetherness has grown and reignited.
In this time, my wife has expressed her desire for a kinkier sex life. She kept it to herself all those years (thank you, religion!), her desire for light BDSM (blindfolds, being restrained), and also her desire to be filled and stretched by big dildos. We have explored this. I wasn’t really on board at first, but she was patient with me, and I’ve become accepting of participating and inviting in those things and ideas that give her pleasure. But when it turns back to me, I have one recurring fantasy and I am very reluctant to share it with her. Scared might be a better word. She has always been blessed with a gorgeous body that is beautiful, curvy, and full. I adore her. I adore and crave her body. But I I have this fantasy and curiosity of what it would be like to have sex with a woman who is thin. My wife’s weight limits what we do, position-wise, so she is comfortable. And I am on board with that. We do have fun. But I wonder and fantasize about what it would be like to be more athletic with a partner. To be able to lift her. Or have her on top of me light as a feather. We have had conversations along these lines relating to penis size. She craves the feeling a big dildo gives her, and I’m average. But the last thing I want to do is engage in any form of body shame with her. I love her body. I show her I love her and her body. I also am curious about smaller bodies. What would it be like? We are each other’s only partners.
Do you have any advice for how to explore this together with each other and in a way that is loving and caring for her while also honoring my fantasy? Or with the delicacy of body shame, am I best to keep this one tucked away? With the dildos, I have had to work through shame about my size. It was hard at first. It’s getting easier as we move forward. I see that she enjoys that feeling of the toy and also enjoys me. It isn’t one or the other. She reminds me that she likes what she likes—she likes both. Me and big dildos. I enjoy having sex with her. I’m just curious if there are any creative ways to explore this fantasy with her in a caring way. To be clear, I don’t want to open things up. This is not a backdoor plea to do that. We talked about nonmonogamy as an option for her large dildo/cock desire. She wanted to open up, and I did not. After playing with the toys and role-playing, we concluded monogamy is for us as the toys, plus my presence and care, satisfy her desire to feel full. She asks what I fantasize about and desire. If I’m being honest, this is it—sex with a different-shape body. But sharing this seems very precarious, and I do not want to hurt or shame her in any way.
Dear Thin Man,
I think you should be extra careful here for the reasons you describe. It’s true that men can feel a certain pressure to measure up, and since the only real method of penis enlargement is cost-prohibitive surgery that is uncommon at any rate, feelings of shame and hopelessness may result. But this d’ennui does not fully compare to what women go through regarding their bodies. (Studies on men’s outlook on their dicks range in their findings, but one published in a 2016 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior found that about 86 percent of some 4,000 men reported satisfaction with their genitals.) A body that does not conform to culturally mandated perfection weighs on women much more harshly than a smaller dick does on a man. You say your wife’s body is curvy and full—hopefully she finds it as beautiful as you do, but there’s at least a chance that in a world that rarely glorifies such bodies in the mainstream, she is self-conscious about it. Your voicing the level of interest that you have in experiencing someone with a smaller frame might upset her deeply, and unless you can be sure that it won’t, I’m not convinced that you should say something.
Practically speaking, it’s unclear what your ideal outcome of such a revelation would be if you’re intending to remain monogamous. It’s nice to share what goes on in our heads with our partners, sure, but a heterosexual man proclaiming his interest in boning a petite woman will not likely be much of a surprise. In her case, she revealed an interest in big dicks, and the sex-toy market being what it is, you were able to find approximations that did the trick. Unless you’re looking to incorporate a blow-up doll into your sex life, there isn’t much I think you can do to explore this interest of yours. (Not that there’s anything wrong with blow-up dolls! And actually using one might do the trick to let you live out your fantasy of playing with a light and petite body.) If it’s as simple as watching porn featuring women with this desired body type together, well, just do that—don’t put too much emphasis on it and discuss it if your wife has questions. There’s probably a way to incorporate this fantasy without making your wife feel self-conscious: tact. Determine what you’d like to get out of sharing such an interest, and then work your way there with subtlety.
Dear How to Do It,
Is it possible for my boyfriend to be content with only me? We’ve been together for four years and are very happy in the relationship—compatible in the long term, same opinion on kids, want to live in the same area, make each other happy. I can see myself marrying him and living happily together. He is a really sweet guy ,and I feel happy when I’m with him.
The one big hang-up that we have recently run into is sex. Both of us were virgins when we started dating, which was a good thing as we figured things out. He was patient with me as I worked through some past trauma, and we now have a fulfilling (at least to me) sex life. Unfortunately, being each other’s only experience is starting to become an issue for him. He does not want to get married until he’s tried to have sex with other women. I do not know what to do—I’m tragically monogamous, despite seriously considering an open relationship and talking with a therapist to figure out what my hang-ups with him having sex with other women might be. I just want to be enough. I’m content in the relationship without having sex with other men, but I worry that if we commit to each other now, he will resent me a few years from now for preventing him from having sex with other people. He says he only wants to date me, he’s just struggling with the idea of monogamy forever with only one person. I’ve tried to explain how casual sex is not as easy as he thinks (you can’t always have sex with attractive people you see—you have to put in effort, you have to learn each other’s bodies, and the connection is not always magically there without work), but he insists that he does not want to build another relationship, he only wants to try one-night stands with other people.
I really want our relationship to work out. He’s put his desires for an open relationship on the back burner based on my response; I trust that he respects me enough not to cheat or act without permission. That said, I do not want him to resent me, and I do not want to continue the relationship if I’m not fulfilling his needs. What can I do? Is it possible for a person to be fulfilled sexually by only one individual? Is it wrong of me to feel unappreciated by his constant desire for more?
—One and Only
Dear One and Only,
It is possible for a boyfriend to be content with only you, but perhaps not this particular boyfriend. Your situation reads to me like a very basic mismatch. If only most parts fitting together were all it took, relationships would be simple, but once you get past the basic mechanics, there are a host of other criteria that determine compatibility—and attitudes about and interest in monogamy is a major one. You’re asking me questions that he’s already given you the answer to—taking him at his word that sex outside the relationship is something that he needs to try will at the very least prevent the sort of resentment that you fear coming down the line. There’s a chance that if his desires go unresolved, they’ll continue to be a point of contention in your relationship. There are certainly relationships out there with two people who identify as wholly monogamous, and it is not wrong of you to want to be in such a relationship. But at the moment, you are not in such a relationship, and that’s not necessarily a reflection of your sex or romantic life together. It seems that you’ve done a lot already, and you’re still who you are. So is he. At this point, it’s time to ask yourself what’s more important: Keeping him or being true to yourself? I have a feeling that if not now, you will eventually choose the latter, and that might require leaving this happy relationship, sadly.
Dear How to Do It,
I have a much-beloved partner of several years who came out as asexual this past year. “Horniness” is a foreign concept to them, and while they enjoy the act of sex and have a positive experience of sex with me, initiation (or thoughts of sex in general) rarely occurs to them. This wasn’t as big of a deal while our relationship was still very intimate and cuddly, but we live apart because of work circumstances and rarely get to see each other. The toll that this has taken on me is that when we do have sex, I can’t get into the headspace of enjoying it because while mutual enjoyment is there, there’s no mutual desire: romantic tension, sexting, building up need over the course of separation to be released when we get back together. I’m often the one initiating, and it feels awkward and performative on my end (much to my distress).
I love my partner, who is funny and kind and intelligent and a great match for me. But I’m overwhelmed with anxiety when I think about possible entering a marriage where I don’t feel wanted the way that I want to feel wanted. I don’t know if I’m being selfish or shallow because there’s so much more to a good relationship than sex, but I still find myself wanting it—just not from my partner. My partner and I have talked about this, and we’re uncertain of the next steps, if we can work out this relationship, if I should be seeing other sexuals and my partner be seeing other asexuals, etc. If you have any light to shed, we’d be grateful.
Dear Touch Me,
I read your empathy loud and clear, and I hold similar ideals about connection in sex. But this arrangement necessarily may not meet the mutual desire you seem to require by virtue of your partner’s asexuality. Of course you are the one initiating. If your partner doesn’t get horny, your libido will inevitably be doing the heavy lifting. It sounds like you’re both managing the horniness disparity extremely well, or at least functionally. But if the kind of sex you’re having isn’t enough for you now, assume that your partner’s orientation will remain fixed and, by extension, that this will not be enough for you when you’re married.
There are many lists of resources out there for asexual people that may be of some help if you poke around. A specialized couples therapist may also help down the line. And yes, nonmonogamy may be a way to preserve your core relationship while pursuing outside sexual satisfaction. It can also be a recipe for strife and complication, even when approached with the best of intentions. You won’t really know until you try. But if you’re both amenable, surely attempting an open relationship is better than completely throwing away this thing you have now with a person you love.
Dear How to Do It,
I am 42 years old, and while I have had relationships that were emotionally satisfying and those that were sexually satisfying, I have never—in 25 years of dating—had one that was both. I always assumed it was a psychological issue. I am a control freak, and I suspected I was subconsciously sabotaging relationships when they got too close, out of fear of losing my autonomy. But after six months of reading your column I am wondering if the real problem is that I am a sexual oddity. I have never done most of the things that people who write in talk about, and some of them I never even heard of. So my question—which I don’t mean to be impertinent or judgmental—is this: Does your column represent just a subset of the population, or do most people actually do the things that are described here? Thanks for the edification.
—Who Are You People
People tend to write in with an issue specific to them, and whether it’s cumsicles or barking like a walrus during orgasm or vorarephilia or race play or incest or blow jobs or disclosing past sex work, they’re generally asking about just that. We can infer by their own reporting, then, that “most” people aren’t doing the wide range of practices this column covers—the breadth of our subject matter tends to come from the volume of questions, not the varying interests of the people asking them. I, for one, don’t do most things discussed here (I’m pretty vanilla), for what it’s worth.
If you are a sexual oddity—you never say what you’re actually into, so I couldn’t even begin to assess—then you’re in good company. There is so much variation within human sexuality, and provided it is based in consent and respect, that variation is benign. Having written about sex for many years, I’ve noticed a tendency for people to compare their lives to those they read about and resent what does not align. I think this is foolish. The expression of a stranger’s sexuality has no bearing on your own, and comparing yourself to others is a surefire path to misery. The accounts shared here are not meant to dictate what your sex life should look like. I think it’s much healthier and more useful to read about them as a fascinating expression of human variation—even if you’re doing so derisively, because, let’s face it, that’s why a lot of people read advice columns.
More How to Do It
I am a 43-year-old man, and my wife is 41. We married 12 years ago. She never had sex before we got together, not even masturbation, because of her conservative upbringing. We enjoyed ourselves the first few years. After that, she seemed to lose interest. I think she had a few real orgasms, but mainly faked them. Now, I always suspected this was because I am not very big—I’m about 3.5 inches erect, and I tend to ejaculate quickly. I told her some men are bigger, since she really had no idea, and said she could try another man, since I had 13 to 15 sex partners before we were married and she had none. I wavered on this a few times as I got insecure and jealous, but in one of my more permissive times, she met a man and liked him. I tried to call it off, but she wants to go forward. Should I let this happen?