How to Do It

My Husband Just Told Me Something Odd About How Men Experience Sex

Is this true of all guys?

A man in his O face.
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,

How intense are men’s orgasms? My husband just told me that he’s only seen stars, so to speak, a few times in his life. Most of the time, yeah, it feels nice in the genitals, but isn’t earth-shaking, whole-body tremors. We have a good sex life, and he’s vocal about his enjoyment (or stops making comments, which tells me what I’m doing really feels good to him). Is this nice-but-not-over-the-moon orgasm a normal reaction from a certain segment of men?

—Fireworks

Dear Fireworks,

This question is about as difficult to answer as “How delicious is pizza?” Responses can vary from “not at all” to “best thing I’ve ever experienced,” depending on the maker and taster.

Given the relative ease that most men can achieve orgasm, “nice” is a perfectly sufficient standard in an active sex life—enough nice experiences can, in fact, put someone cumulatively over the moon. That said, intensity of male orgasm can be affected by several factors. Because release is associated with pleasure here, edging—or taking a long time to build up to orgasm by being brought close repeatedly before it happens—can help up the “whole-body tremors” when orgasm finally does take place. (“Short fast buildup of sexual stimulation toward orgasm is associated with less intense orgasms than slow buildup,” write the authors of a 2015 paper in the Fertility and Sterility journal). Someone who is kinky may come harder during sex in which that kink is engaged versus a vanilla session. Some men report earth-shaking responses to prostate orgasms (and indeed, examples of them are readily streamable online). The physiological reason for such a marked difference in quality is, as the aforementioned paper reports, that prostatic massage orgasms are associated with 12 pelvic muscle contractions, versus penile orgasms’ four to eight. (So-called P-spot orgasms are generally achieved via specialized toys, and even then, there’s a learning curve and required patience that make them difficult for many men to execute.) There’s also some evidence that Kegels or pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen men’s orgasms, much as they can women’s. For optimal functioning, I think everyone for whom it is not unhealthy should be doing (but not overdoing) Kegels.

From my male point of view, it does seem like very orgasmic women tend to feel the wave harder, but there are plenty of guys who do see stars from something as common as a blow job. And just like there are women who never orgasm, so there are men who don’t, or whose orgasms are way less intense than they’d like. There’s a huge range, which makes answering this question particularly difficult. If your husband isn’t complaining about his orgasms—and many men aren’t—there’s probably no issue.

Dear How to Do It,

Last week, my closest friend died. About a year ago, she and I decided to try to do the FWB thing, and it was really great. We grew even closer as friends, had great adventurous sex all the time, and our daily text communications became peppered with sexting and horny image-sharing. This continued until she got sick a month or two ago and wasn’t healthy enough for sex. We consensually saved some of the nudes we’d send each other and would sometimes send them back to each other when we were feeling flirty (i.e., “Look how hot you are here. I want to be seeing you in person like this right now,” etc.). In the past, every time I’ve broken off a relationship with someone who sent nudes, I’ve always chosen to delete their images because I personally don’t believe it’s ethical to “hoard nudes.” But I don’t know if I can, or should, bring myself to delete these ones. They’ve become more than just snapshots of a former tryst; they are memories of my best friend, keepsakes of a time during which this was my dearest person. I’m deep in grief, processing the loss and trying to figure out what my future without this beloved person looks like. I’m not sure if it’s right or ethical for me to save these photos. But deleting them feels like erasing part of the beautiful person who means more to me than anyone else. What should I do?

—Archive

Dear Archive,

I’m so sorry that you lost your best friend. You ask what’s “right or ethical.” I think your conscience has a parachute because your friend consented to you saving her images. Unless she expressly asked you to delete them after the fact, she died assuming that you hadn’t. Your conflict results from within: Though you are not explicitly obligated to do so, you have taken it upon yourself to delete the images of past lovers once your time together has ended. Given the extraordinary circumstances, including the untimely death of your friend, an extraordinary response is understandable. I think it is OK to hold onto these tangible memories to help you grieve and honor someone who meant a lot to you.

The only practical reason I see not to hold onto the pictures is the possibility of a security breach in the event of theft or some compromise of your cloud; to protect against this, save them on a protected hard drive that you aren’t backing up virtually.

Dear How to Do It,

I recently had someone over for some fun times (I know, I know, but my area has handled COVID pretty well, hookups don’t happen often, and we had a safety discussion beforehand). In the middle of it, he asked if he could film. I asked who it was for, and he said just him and his partner, and I agreed under those conditions and as long as my face wasn’t showing. Welp, two weeks later, I run through my Snapchat stories and recognize the upholstery in one of his uploads. I then discovered he also uploaded it to Pornhub. My face isn’t showing, but it was definitely my lower body.

I’m furious and really kind of freaked out. I reported the Snap and the upload, and cussed him out over it. The problem is, he’s gaslighting me, saying that I had given permission as long as my face wasn’t showing, what’s the harm, etc. He clearly doesn’t feel like he’s done anything wrong, and I’m wondering if there’s any other recourse available for me. Is there anything else I should be watching out for?

—Exposed

Dear Exposed,

This is an incredibly shitty thing to have to go through, and I feel for you. Fortunately, recourse is potentially available, though it will depend where you are. U.S. revenge porn laws vary by state, said Norma Buster, the client relations manager at C.A. Goldberg, a New York law firm whose namesake attorney, Carrie Goldberg, is among the best known revenge-porn lawyers in the country. Buster is not a lawyer herself, but she meets with potential clients and has spoken with what she says are hundreds of people who have reported being victims of these types of crimes. She came into this line of work as a result of an ex posting nude content of her on Pornhub.

Buster first wanted to address the gaslighting: “It’s not your fault,” she told me by phone. “Consenting to taking a video does not mean that you consented for it to be up on the internet. I know what you consented to and what you didn’t. People often try to shame others. I’ve had people say to me, ‘Oh, I’m sure you learned not to send photos after that.’ That’s not the point.”

Buster said that if you’re going to pursue a lawsuit, it’s important for you to screenshot everything: messages to and from this guy, the video (record it if you can), the URL—everything involved. The C.A. Goldberg site offers resources on revenge porn laws by state, as well as how to report offending videos to the platforms that host them. I’m not sure if you succeeded in getting the video removed from Pornhub—Buster said that her content was removed in 27 minutes when she reported it, and this was five years ago. But she has heard stories where the removal didn’t go nearly as smoothly.

Even if the stuff is already taken down, you may be able to file a lawsuit against this person for violating the law. In her case, Buster said she literally had to print out the law when she went to the precinct because the police had no idea how to respond to such an offense. It will probably be useful to know your exact rights. Depending on your state, you could also pursue a civil suit, but keep in mind that may cost you more than it yields, as its outcome will be contingent on the financial situation of the defendant (and, of course, the ability to secure a verdict in your favor). You should keep in mind that pursuing legal action can be draining not just financially but emotionally, and if you want to avoid the legal system all together, you could look into a restorative justice process. Good luck.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a heterosexual man in my 30s and I’ve been into curvy, chubby, and full-bodied girls my entire life. I’m currently in a long-term seven-year relationship with a lovely, brilliant, wonderful, and caring woman who’s a few years older than I am. I feel our emotional connection is really deep and our bond is quite strong.

There is, however, something missing in our sex life. We normally have sex one to two times a week and it is OK, but I feel like I really want way more than that, probably four to five times a week. Moreover, I’m into dirty talk—really, really descriptive dirty talk—and a bit of aggressiveness, spanking, hair-pulling, etc., but she’s not into that (at least not nearly as much as I am). We’ve spoken about these two aspects in the past, and while she did start being a bit more vocal, I feel like she’s forcing herself to do it just because she knows I like it, and that ends up being a major turn-off for me. Plus, right after the two times we’ve spoken about it, she started trying to increase the frequency, but I found it quite awkward: We would go to bed and scroll on Instagram for half an hour, and only once I put it down and kiss her good night, then she dropped her phone and started rushing into touching and kissing me. It felt so much like an afterthought, like she was only trying not to forget something I wanted to do—rather than doing it because she felt like she wanted to—that I just told her a few times that it felt too forced and that I didn’t want to (not because I was mad, but because that itself was a HUGE turn-off for me as well).

I have cheated on her about four to five times with two different women, and I do not feel good at all after doing it. I have thought a lot about an open relationship (which I’m not entirely happy with), but after being with her for seven years, I’m almost certain she will not accept that as an option. I almost feel like my two only options are ending a loving, meaningful, and quite honestly beautiful relationship or enduring sexual dissatisfaction for the rest of my life. One option makes me feel like a superficial piece of shit for dropping a really positive relationship of seven years and a person I genuinely love, and the other one makes me feel bad with myself for knowingly remaining in a relationship that doesn’t fulfill my sex life or forcing her to be accommodating to my desires even when she doesn’t enjoy it. Internally, I feel like there’s no good choice (we spoke twice and nothing has fundamentally changed) and that every choice I can make is wrong. And I really, really do not feel it is OK to cheat on her and do not consider it a long-term option. What do I do?

—Just Not That Into It

Dear JNTII,

If you are, in fact, incompatible, then you have indeed outlined your options. What I’m left wondering, though, is what your partner is into. Do you know? Have you inquired? I know that you may have, and that the answer might not be much, but I’d give her the opportunity—one you’ve already taken—to state what kind of sex would be satisfying for her, and to name whatever interests of hers that you just aren’t exploring. When many people write in, they naturally center themselves, but in some instances I wonder if this has more to do with their general approach to life and relationships than just advice-column conciseness. This is one of those instances.

I know exactly what you mean about wanting a partner to want the sex that they have with you, and how that can accelerate your libido’s already spinning wheels. But surely, your partner deserves an A for effort here, after agreeing to partake in behavior for your sake that you know she wouldn’t be inclined to do on her own. She seems like a generous, loving partner who cares about your satisfaction and well-being. Can you say you’ve been the same to her? The evidence provided—including cheating behind her back her repeatedly—suggests you cannot. (I’m also not sure why you mention that you’ve been into “curvy, chubby, and full-bodied girls” your whole life—do you think they’re lucky to have you?)

It’s wonderful when the sexual connection comes just as easily as an emotional one, but it’s rare that a long-term relationship sustains effortlessly. It doesn’t typically just work out by itself; it requires the participants’ work. Figure out how much you’re putting in, what you can improve, and whether you’re willing to do so. You might still find that you’re sexually incompatible, that you’re left with exactly the same hard options, but it would be a real shame to one day look back on ending a relationship with someone you genuinely love, knowing that you could have done more but didn’t.

—Rich

More How to Do It

I have been married for 15 months, but I have known my husband for almost 20 years. Last January, something just wasn’t right. I am a nurse and just happened to work a rare night shift. I looked at the GPS app around 5 a.m. to see if my husband was at the casino; he had been spending lots of time there. To my shock, I saw him driving very slowly in a sketchy part of town. This went on for hours. When I got home at 8 a.m., he acted as if he had never been anywhere. He then took a long nap, and I was able to get into his iPad and iPhone. What I found was very disturbing.