How to Do It

I Love My Poly Lifestyle, but the Constant Sex Has One Big Drawback

A woman making a pained face with a neon starburst behind her.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by AndreyPopov/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 am a pansexual woman with multiple partners (one woman and a few men) with a relatively straightforward question. I have been poly for about a year, and it was been WONDERFUL for my sex drive and enjoyment, I have learned a lot about my body, and I am having more sex than I ever have. The issue, with all of that sex, is how sore I have been getting. Sex does not hurt me in isolation, but after three or four straight days in which I am having penetrative sex, I need two or so days off to recover, which doesn’t really work with my poly schedule or my heightened sex drive. I know I am having a lot of sex, but considering I have been using lube and none of my partners are too rough with me (though some of the men are rather well-endowed), I am surprised at the lasting soreness. Do you have any advice so I can keep going at my current rate without any breaks?

—Run Ragged

Dear Run Ragged,

One of the cool things about stepping outside of traditional heteronormativity is that you don’t have to follow the script of heteronormative sex. Your body is telling you that it has limitations: Listen to your body. Sex doesn’t have to involve penetration every time. You can engage in oral sex, digital stimulation, and, if you’re into it, anal. You can have sexual interactions where you focus entirely on the pleasure of your partner. Mix it up to give your genitals a break.

You also might find that limiting your orgasms helps. The process of orgasm for people with vaginas involves muscle contractions, which—when those contractions are occurring around a penetrating object like a penis or fingers—can absolutely cause soreness when you’re orgasming multiple times in a session, every night of the week. There are multiple ways to make this a fun game. If you’re kinky, orgasm control can be part of a dom-sub scene. Edging is another angle you might find appealing.

You also might figure out your timeline and schedule your dates accordingly … if you know you need two days off every four days, that’s a pattern you can schedule around.

Dear How to Do It,

I am a 40-year-old woman married to a wonderful man. Getting right to it, I enjoy ass play, but I hate the feeling of “in and out” anal penetration. I enjoy the area as an erogenous zone and have orgasmed many times when I’ve played with a (fairly large) vibrator in there, and even during P in the A, if said P doesn’t move around too much. I don’t mind digital stimulation, but cannot stand when a guy starts jabbing his finger in and out, essentially trying to fuck me in the ass with their forefinger. I shut this down right away. Similarly, I have attempted anal sex many times, and find I don’t mind having something in there, I just don’t want it to be sawing in and out. It is one of the most uncomfortable feelings I have experienced. The few times I have been aroused enough to stand it, as soon as I climax my sphincter tightens up so fast it’s amazing. My ass wants that thing OUT of it, ASAP. Good feeling gone. The end.

My dilemma is my partner is an “ass man,” and I think he really would love anal sex on the fairly regular. This is not something he badgers me about or even mentions really, and he has been understanding that I don’t really enjoy it. We’ve tried it several times, but I think he can sense me tense and feels bad, so he doesn’t really attempt it anymore. He still plays and licks and pokes and I love all that, but I feel like he is missing out on something he would really like and desires. I know he watches POV ass and twerk porn pretty much exclusively. I want to keep my man AND my butthole happy. Can you help? Are there any techniques you can suggest? Is there a way to loosen up and lose that horrible uncomfortable feeling during the in-and-out, back-and-forth of it? Is my ass play enough for him, or do guys really just want to fuck an ass, porno style? Also, what are some good ways to accentuate my ass during regular life? I guess I have one, but I am no junk in the trunk. I know every man is different, but are there some things that are pretty much universal my ass loving guy would appreciate I wore? Did? Focused on? What keeps the ass man the happiest, satisfied, and coming back for more? He deserves it, and I am willing to experiment to see if we can turn this into pleasure for us both.

—Butt Plugged

Dear Butt Plugged,

First, are you using enough lube? That’s the first thing I think of when I hear someone is experiencing discomfort during active anal penetration—active as opposed to the passive penetration of a plug or stationary vibrator.

You might try having an orgasm or two before heading into anal. It might make all penetration uncomfortable, but it also might help you loosen up your sphincters. Yes, sphincters. There’s your butthole, and there’s another sphincter that you don’t have conscious control over a few inches in. Another thing you can do is use a fairly long butt plug (always, always, always use anal toys with a flanged base so you don’t risk the toy getting sucked all the way inside) to let your sphincters get accustomed to being open before you attempt anal friction with a penis. For more detail, see Tristan Taormino’s Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women.

Mostly though, I think you’re probably fine as is. You’re happy to have your ass-loving husband play, lick, and poke, and he’s happy to do it.

Every man really is different. And what we watch in porn isn’t necessarily what we want to do in practice with our partners. You can absolutely try giving your husband a rear-focused lap dance, and look into some yoga pants. But at the end of the day, I suspect he loves you for you.

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Dear How to Do It,

I see myself as a sexually curious person. I’m very open and excited to explore and try new things, and I’m very intrigued with role-playing. I sometimes even come up with “lines” I would say in a scene and get my head into character. My partner lately has been very enthusiastic and wanting to play more, and I am so game! But, here’s the thing. I surprised myself the first time we tried to role-play. I got really self-conscious and frankly … shy. I couldn’t come up with anything to say or do. Since then, when we start to have sex and I think about initiating a scene, I choke. So, while I’m very willing and want to unleash this sexual creature who’s fun and uninhibited (I know she’s in there), it seems like I’m having blocks. I know part of it might have to do with a lack of sexual confidence in myself, fear of doing something stupid, saying something weird or forced, etc.? How do I get over this? How do I tap into this sexual energy I know is inside me and let her shine?

—Stage Fright

Dear Stage Fright,

You’re worried about saying something weird, forced, or otherwise clumsy. But you say that you sometimes come up with lines you might say during sex as part of a role-play scene. I think you should lean into that. Write the lines down. Memorize them. Practice saying them in front of a mirror. Say them when you masturbate to see if they feel sexy for you.

Sit down for a talk with your partner. Tell them you’re having some shyness around the idea of role-playing and need some reassurance. Explain what’s happening—that you’re wanting to initiate scenes but get nervous and end up not making the first move. Talk through whether your partner would be willing to do the initiation themselves to get the ball rolling. And leave space for them to respond with how they feel about potentially awkward moments during role play.

You also might check out a text story website like An Archive of Our Own or Literotica to get an idea of what other people fantasize about. Taking a peek into other people’s sexual fantasies might help you feel more comfortable with your own, or at least get an idea of how vast the full range of sexy is.

Another thing you can do is get comfortable with awkwardness. Awkward moments are a part of sex. If it isn’t someone saying something hilarious and strange, it’s someone queefing, or someone falling off the mattress—or through it—or someone pulling a muscle in their back as you’re trying to slip a pillow under their butt. Laughter during sex is beautiful, and those awkward moments are, too.

The sexual confidence will come with time and practice. The more you express your desires, the more comfortable you’ll feel doing so.

What’s Welsh for bae? Listen to the women of Thirst Aid Kit discuss the appeal of Matthew Rhys.

Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I (heterosexual cis couple, early 30s) have been together for five years. We adore each other and we connect well on every level we can think of. Our communication is wonderful, and we seem just about perfectly compatible in every aspect of our lives from our work to sex. We are both fairly independent minded, but we support each other in all of our endeavors. In short, we try to have a real and equitable partnership, and we succeed better than I could have imagined was possible.

I may note that I had some sexual experience before we were married, but she was a virgin and a very inexperienced one at that. However, I’ve never felt she had any hang-ups in that regard, and she bought books and tried to educate herself as best she could without practical experience until we got married and could get on with it, so to speak. Practically, this means that I make most of the suggestions about what we should try in bed. We discuss everything, and we both feel happy that some things we try with enthusiasm, some things we try and they don’t work, and some things are off the table.

There is one exception. I have some dom tendencies. We have done a little light bondage and some spanking and she’s enjoyed those. We’ve talked a bit about taking it further, and she’s had some things on her off-the-table list, but she’s OK with trying some other things. But I’ve gotten in my own head about it. All my experiences with D&S were in a couple of casual relationships where the D&S play was the only part, and where my partners’ submissiveness was better developed than my dominance—that is to say, there was a lot of topping from the bottom. My issue is, then, that I’m having a difficult time reconciling my desires to dom with the equitable partnership we have outside the bedroom. I can tell myself that those two things are not mutually exclusive and that there are plenty of relationships where they co-exist healthily and happily, but I’m having a hard time putting that belief into practice. Our various levels of inexperience compound the problem, and in the end I’m left shrinking, which makes for a pretty sad dom, doesn’t it? I’m working on “fake it till you make it.” Any other ideas?

—Shy Dom

Dear Shy Dom,

I reached out to notable BDSM thinkers Sinclair Sexsmith and Valentin Somma for some perspective. They both agree that being concerned about equality in your daily life is a good sign. Sinclair starts by saying, “The thing about exploring dominance and submission is that it’s a psychological kink, so it’s very easy to get all up in our heads and over-thinky about it — hence what you said about shrinking. But there are some practical ways to keep playing while still being cautious, aware, and thoughtful about it.”

Sinclair continues:

It’s not just that an equitable partnership CAN co-exist outside the bedroom, it is ESSENTIAL. People within D/s dynamics must come to each other with full agency, full ability to say what they want and don’t want, and trust that both partners are doing so. It is one of the big challenges of dominants to reconcile our deep beliefs that our partners are equal and we want a balanced, fair life together, with the desire to be controlling and dominating in our erotic play. For most of the dominants I know, that is an ongoing process, and it takes time, but it is possible to be very comfortable with it. I wrote a little about my own journey here. It may look like a paradox, but in fact they build to each other very nicely, because D/s is best when a dominant understands that they only hold authority because their partner gave it over to them, willingly, with consent and agency.

Valentin concurs, saying, “Equitable partnership and D/S dynamics are not just able to co-exist, they can reinforce each other.”

As for sorting out your own tangled feelings, Valentin recommends journaling.

Take a journal and list anything that comes up when you think about stepping into your Dom. For instance, you might write things like “Men shouldn’t overpower women,” “My wife will stop loving me if she sees that part of me.” Just write what comes up for you, without any judgement. Time to be honest with yourself. Then turn each statement around, replacing it with an empowering affirmation. For instance, these could become: “Pleasurable consensual acts are empowering for everyone, including women,” “My wife loves me for who I am.” Find formulations that feel good for you, journal about them daily, and talk about them with your wife.

Sinclair has some affirmations of their own.

I love that you already have an off-the-table list and some things that she wants to try — that’s your key to your next steps. Get well acquainted with that list of things she wants to try. Make what I call a “palette of permission”—a palette of activities, like a painter’s palette of different colors, that are not only on the table, but that she actively likes, enjoys, and wants. Then, mix it up! Try some from column A and some from column B; then try everything in column C. Try a little bit of X, Y, Z all in a row. There is a lot you can do if you just focus on the things that you both really like, and look for all the variations possible. After a while, you might want to check in on what it is you like, and what is on the palette of permission, and see if there are things you want to remove or add.

And Valentin and Sinclair both encourage further study. Valentin recommends workshops like those on offer by, pornographic videos like those of Foreplay Films, and the possibility of finding a more experienced dominant to coach you. Sinclair says:

I also highly suggest you start looking into other D/s resources, and you find some D/s community. If you haven’t already, take a look at The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book, or perhaps check out The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino. As I write this, we’re still in the 2020 pandemic and sheltering in place, and there are dozens of D/s community groups who have moved their discussions, classes, and workshops online. It is so important to be connecting with other people who play with dominance and submission, to assure yourselves that the journey you’re going through is normal and that there are resources out there for when you get stuck.

— Stoya

More How to Do It

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about eight months, and we started off having good sex, including oral. Oral sex is the way I am most likely to have an orgasm, but it can take me a while, sometimes between 30 to 45 minutes. He’s been doing it less frequently recently, and I asked him about it. He said he hadn’t wanted to tell me this because he didn’t want me to feel bad, but since I asked, he told me that it hurts his mouth to go down on me. He said that for a week or two afterward his tongue is sore, specifically the muscle on the underside of his tongue. I didn’t know what to say to this because I’ve never heard a guy say this before. I mean, I know it’s not an easy task, and I’ve felt guilty that it takes so long when he does it. I don’t want to make him do something that’s going to hurt him, but I was surprised that it would really make his tongue sore for that long. Is this a common issue? Do you think that means that this is just off the table forever?