How to Do It

My Wife’s Wild Sexual Past Is Now Haunting Me in More Ways Than One

A man and woman next to each other.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by 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!

Every week, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

I have been married to my wife for almost 20 years. It was a second marriage for both of us. A year into the marriage, I contracted an STD and found out she had it since her teens. At parties with her friends, I started hearing about how promiscuous she had been in her younger years, and I just accepted that it was before me. We have always had a real good sex life and discussed how great it has been, but now, she wants to practically stop having sex. I’m handsome, in great shape, and a very understanding and sensitive lover. She is still beautiful, attractive, and has no serious medical conditions. She explains that she had so much sex in her teens and early 20s that she can take it or leave it. In this case, it’s leaving it, and being the person who married her, I am now starting to pay a price for her early wild times. Is this a common rationale for writing off sex? I’m now convinced this may be a reason not to be so promiscuous in younger years.

—Horny History

Rich: So, the ideas of “sowing your wild oats” and getting certain things “out of your system” are so commonplace that they’re cliches, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard this exact rationale before. And I don’t know if I buy it.

Stoya: It’s like the opposite of a Penthouse Forum letter.

Rich: Ha, yes! I wonder if she has felt shamed by the dissemination of information about her past, because it was learned not through her but other channels.

Stoya: I can imagine that feeling shame around early sexual choices might put a damper on libido. Also, she had a ton of sex in her teens and 20s, and they’ve been married for almost 20 years. Do we think this could have anything to do with menopause?

Rich: I think there’s some sort of contextual factor here that is not being discussed, yes. Could be menopause.

Stoya: Why don’t you buy the letter?

Rich: I buy the letter, but not her story: “She explains that she had so much sex in her teens and early 20s that she can take it or leave it.” At least I don’t think that’s the full story. I don’t know if she’s mistaken or misleading the writer, but I don’t think this is something people tend to change their mind about, just like that—there’s usually something else at work. Especially because until now their sex life has been “real good.” Why would the promiscuity just now be changing her outlook?

Stoya: I’m curious how this revelation occurred. Did she approach him one day? Was he expressing a desire for more sex than they’re having? I’m wondering how this conversation happened.

Rich: And how much about her sexual activity was discussed previously after he learned it from her friends? Was this a point of contention in any way?

Stoya: I’m stuck on the last line. I don’t like it.

Rich: Yeah, me neither. It’s sex negative. I don’t really think you get a certain number of sex points that are one day spent, and that you can do a disservice to yourself by using them all in one phase of life.

Stoya: Yeah, that’s not the way this works.

Rich: It’s just tough because if she is intentionally deceiving him, she’s doing it for a reason, and it’s not like he can will her into telling him the truth. Accusing her of not being honest with him might cause her to shut down even more.

Stoya: It’s 2020. If he’s comfortable expanding his quarantine bubble, he can ask to open things up.

Rich: Definitely. If she’s resolved that she’s done with sex, regardless of the rationale, she should at least consider what effect depriving her husband of sex will have on him and ways to remedy it.

Stoya: For sure. And he can apply those sensitivities to people who want to participate in sex with him. I’m still wondering what “wants to practically stop having sex” means. Is this from once a month to never? Five times a week to monthly?

Rich: Only oral? It’s a phrasing that raises more questions. The only concrete thing I can really take from this is that more communication has to happen, and I think he should be as open and compassionate as possible to facilitate that.

Stoya: It’s possible that her sexuality has shifted or decreased, and that’s OK.

Rich: Yes, but I think it should be specified, and I think he can help foster an environment where she feels safe and comfortable doing so.

Stoya: How can he set that up best?

Rich: I think initiating a conversation with her needs/situation in mind would be a good place to start. Asking if there’s anything beyond her reckoning with her past that could be informing her decision to forgo sex. Trying to get at the clarity there for her—is she sure this reason, and how can she be sure? If she’s receptive, that last question could kick off an informative conversation.

Stoya: I think it’s also worth specifically running past a doctor if the decrease is new. And if it’s more of a realization that she was being more sexual than she wanted to be, there’s probably no need for medical opinion.

More How to Do It

Recently, I saw my girlfriend of six months being orally pleasured by her neutered male dog. She doesn’t know I saw her. I don’t know what to make of this. We both come from fairly conservative backgrounds and have limited sexual experience. I can’t imagine discussing this with her. But I can’t get the image out of my head. I really like this woman, and one side of me wants to say it’s no big deal, just another way to masturbate. But this is bestiality, right?