How to Do It

My Sex Life Has Gotten Really Messy—in a Not-Fun Way

Is this my reality now?

Man making yuck face next to a glowing neon bottle of detergent.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by g-stockstudio/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,

Mid-40s hetero marriage guy here, with a classic have-kids-wife-not-horny situation. But I’ve resolved that with discussions and compromises, based substantially on advice from this column. Thanks! But now I have a new problem that is very difficult to discuss. After sex or “assisted” masturbation, sometimes I shit a little bit. This partially has to do with increased prostate stimulation, but now has bled over to common doggy style. After orgasm, I have to check my butt cheeks to ensure I don’t get shit on the sheets. My wife is a kind and understanding person, but the first time this happened, she was still like what the fuck? Is this my new reality? WTF?

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—Sharted in Seattle

Dear SiS,

This doesn’t have to be your reality, but if you don’t pursue medical help, you will be shitting the bed metaphorically speaking, in addition to literally. I consulted with Dr. Evan Goldstein, surgeon and the CEO of Bespoke Surgical, a practice focused on gay men’s sexual health, which is to say: He knows ass. He told me that he saw two straight guys last week who had problems similar to yours. There are several potential causes for your leakage, and there are several potential solutions.

I see a lot of straight guys that periodically do attempt [butt] play, and then there’s an injury and one of the muscles that’s there, the one that naturally keeps everything in, becomes really lax and loose and then that precipitates what he’s saying happens to him,” he explained. He said for a case like yours, he’d perform an anorectal manometry, which would check the pressure of the muscles in your butt and indicate whether you’re too loose or too tight. From there, he’d evaluate whether you could use the services of a pelvic-floor therapist. You might not even need to go that far—there are guys who resolve these kinds of issues by doing pelvic-floor exercises (Kegels) on their own, and there’s also the option of an Emsella, a chair that sends electromagnetic energy to stimulate the pelvic floor. It’s often used to treat incontinence issues such as yours. Goldstein said that an Emsella session creates the effect of doing “12,000 Kegels in 28 minutes.” Not a bad time-to-internal-toning ratio! “A lot of these guys, that’s all they need,” said Goldstein.

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Another thing you could try to make sure your muscles are functioning properly is to wear a butt plug in the shower and then attempt to pee. That could help train one set of muscles to relax and the other to contract—the lack of balance there could be the cause of defecation during orgasm.

Your issue could also have to do with hemorrhoids. “If you have one or two get and stay swollen, the coaptation becomes off so the normal squeeze that’s there can be gaping a little bit,” Goldstein explained. Think of it as your seal being broken. You might need removal surgery. Goldstein recommended checking yourself to see if there’s any bulging or extra skin in and around your anus. That could indicate hemorrhoids.

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In the meantime, up your fiber intake, either via your diet or in supplemental form. The resulting bulking could help your regularity and leave very little shit inside of you to leak out. Straight guys, by and large, don’t tend to their anal health, but your issue underscores just how important upkeep down there is. Get your ass to the doctor, please.

Dear How to Do It,

I am a very healthy 37-year-old straight male. I grew up in an evangelical household where I was given a purity ring when I turned 12 and given the instructions that I needed to save myself for marriage, not look at porn, and, of course, never masturbate. The shame baked into the system is a feature, not a bug. Anyway, I ended up getting married in my early 20s and spent the next dozen years or so stuck in a mostly dead bedroom situation where sex was often refused or withheld, and that ultimately ended in divorce this year. I formally left the church a few years ago and have started to embrace body positivity. I’m no longer ashamed of masturbating. I’m learning to be comfortable in my skin. All good steps!

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But! Thanks to the magic of dating apps, I’ve also had many chances to get out and explore life post–purity culture, and there’s a lot to explore. The problem I keep encountering is that when I find myself in a sexual situation, I get into my head too much and worry about maintaining an erection, which is obviously unhelpful. In each of my first four hookups I’ve experienced ED, which is embarrassing and also causing problems in my most recent hookup/relationship. I’m crazy about this girl and I can’t perform to save my life. I have no problem getting her off other ways (going down on her), and she’s gotten me off the same way, but when it comes to PIV I feel stuck. I keep wondering how much of this has to do with trauma from constant shame messages growing up, how much of it comes from having been with one person for 14 years with whom I followed a pretty consistent sexual script (same routine start to finish almost always), and how much of it might warrant legitimate medical concern. I can get hard on my own masturbating, but when partnered PIV is on the table I completely overthink and stay flaccid, even though I really, really want it.

—Broken Exvangelical

Dear Broken,

You wonder what proportions of your past and your biology are contributing to your ED, but what use would exact measurements be anyway? It seems pretty clear that you could use both some therapy as well as a visit to a medical doctor. The latter will probably tell you that if you don’t have a problem achieving and maintaining an erection during masturbation, then your ED is not rooted in a medical issue, but they may want to do tests anyway just to make sure. And they may prescribe you some meds that get you over the hump—ED owing to psychological factors is no less real, and if an ED med can put your mind at ease so that you aren’t so into your head, well, then the medicine did its job, albeit in a somewhat circuitous way. You have effectively diagnosed your own anxiety and are aware that it needs to be treated. Sounds right to me. You can also in the meantime try a cock ring and be thankful that you’ve found someone who is into nonpenetrative play and seemingly has the patience for you to figure this out.

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Dear How to Do It,

I hope you can help me figure something out. I am a 47-year-old woman who always seems to get caught up with guys who are either married or in long-term relationships they are not looking to change or end, but want some side action. The physical chemistry with some of these guys has been intense and leaves me craving more. Though most of the time we spend our time covertly, other times not so much. Regardless, I am never introduced as anything more than a friend if we are around their respective friends, colleagues, or (yes) family. Some may suspect more, but I don’t know.

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Now that COVID put a halt to me socializing and dating, I find myself incredibly lonely in that way and sometimes hook up with these guys out of feeling this way and when self-pleasure isn’t enough. Afterwards I feel worse: unhappy, regretful, and remorseful. I also feel angry and jealous knowing they are going home to someone else. I wake up alone and spend a majority of my downtime this way as well. I have a job and hobbies that keep me busy, but sometimes I want to do other things and have more fun doing other activities that I don’t find fun doing alone. It would also be nice to have a partner who isn’t pressed for time, has to go, or has to be mindful of the calls he is receiving when we are together. Before COVID, I was meeting guys on various dating apps. I have since shut those down because the only ones that seem to respond are the ones I described above or live too far away, despite me stating my preferences. What do you suggest?

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—The Other Woman

Dear OW,

You glossed over something key. You don’t merely end up in these configurations with men in relationships; you elect to engage with said men. It’s not like there are married dudes tossed haphazardly on the sidewalk outside your home and, whoops, you tripped over one, and gee, look at that, now you’re on top of him—guess you guys are in a relationship now! No, you’re choosing these guys for reasons I suspect owe to the excitement they offer. Yes, it’s fun to take that Lamborghini for a spin from time to time, but if it’s always in the shop, is it really worth it?

It doesn’t sound like these are consensually nonmonogamous scenarios, but since you are OK with your partners having other partners, have you thought about giving polyamory a shot? People in poly communities are often looking for romantic love, and such groups would provide a social outlet in which you could meet potential partners. (Like any social scene, COVID has naturally complicated such matters.) Polyamory may not be for you—only you can determine that—but some sort of nonmonogamous scene might be worth exploring. Otherwise, just pick guys who are looking for a companion, not a lay. They may be harder to come by, but the alternative is the cycle that you’re currently eager to get out of.

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Dear How to Do It,

This is such an awkward and gross question, but I don’t know who else to ask. I’m almost 18 and a virgin, and recently I’ve noticed I’m a lot … sweatier than I used to be after jerking off. Like, soaking through my boxers and leaving a wet spot on the sheets where my back/butt/thighs were. I don’t wash my sheets every time because it dries pretty fast and I figure it’s just sweat, but is that gross? Is it normal to be this sweaty? I’m having to jerk off much more often since I recently started testosterone (I’m transgender)—could that have something to do with it? If I have sex with someone, will they be disgusted by my sweat?

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—Soaked

Dear Soaked,

Increased testosterone can absolutely cause increased sweat, as sweat glands are hormone-responsive tissue, according to my source Gaines Blasdel, a New York–based trans community worker who runs the resource website HealthyTrans. I, for one, do not find sweat gross, and there are many like me—“getting sweaty” is a fairly common euphemism for sex. Some people may be turned off by your perspiration, but others won’t be. We’re all composites of features that may or may not appeal to people, features that may be overlooked for the sake of an attraction to your overall humanity. You are who you are, and who you are is a sweaty dude.
Accept yourself and you’re beating others to the punch.

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—Rich

More How to Do It

I need a reality check to see if I’m normal. I usually can’t orgasm unless I’m thinking about something, usually porn I’ve watched or a particularly hot TV or movie sex scene. I’ll be enjoying the act of sex with my partner, but when it comes time to actually orgasm, I find I usually can’t unless I visualize a scene, and think about it intently. Is this normal? I’m a woman, and if it matters, I usually have a hard time orgasming no matter how much I’m enjoying it so I usually think about a hot sex scene to hurry things along.

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