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 husband and I have been together for four years and married for one. I love him immensely and would do just about anything for him—except have kids. We discussed this before getting married, and I was indifferent. I pushed past not wanting to get married, so I thought I’d be able to push past how I felt about raising children.
Then I came up with a solution that may be extremely harmful to us or may be the answer to our prayers. I’ve suggested he co-parents with someone local, with whom he can have shared custody. He would be able to interact with his child every day—nurture, love, and raise them. The child can live with us occasionally, and I could be like an aunt: caring but ultimately not responsible. My husband did not initially like this idea. He saw it as intentionally having an “outside” child and felt he’d be painted the unfaithful partner whose wife was gracious enough to accept his infidelity. He argued that no one would believe that it was my choice. After the nth conversation, I think he realized that what was indifference from me has turned into an actual no. So now he’s come around.
But now a new problem has arisen: Hearing him talk about this potential child and opportunity and how he would spend hours a day away so he could get maximum time with this child has made me … jealous? I’m not even sure what this feeling is, because I can’t identify it. I don’t even recognize myself—I’ve turned into a monster who is threatened by a nonexistent child. I actually feel ashamed. Now I’m stuck. On one hand, if we negotiate a co-parenting situation, he could be satisfied and even happy. Yet this feeling I’m having is starting to get worse. I’m thinking about all the possible ways it could go wrong: custody battles, garnished wages, him leaving me for this woman he will be co-parenting with, and (shamefully) my feelings being hurt. I don’t know if we’d survive, and I feel he’d blame me if it went awry. On the other hand, he wants kids, and there’s a very real possibility he could leave. There’s a part of me that says I could just have his kids and solve this problem, but then I’d be the miserable one. Is there a solution somewhere that I’m not seeing?
—His and Not Hers
Dear His and Not Hers,
First, the time issue you’re thinking about is very real, regardless of whether children are involved. Time management has prompted many a shared digital calendar in poly relationships. And you’re correct: When parenting is part of the person’s life, drama and regret have increased consequences. These are all important factors to consider going forward.
I reached out to my friend Heart, experienced poly practitioner and parent herself, for some insight. She says she admires your creative thinking but can’t help but notice that you do a lot of “pushing past” things. “Sometimes we need to grow into something, or give ourselves a push to step into a life we aspire to have, but often when we ‘push past’ the feelings of not wanting what we’re signing up for, we end up being resentful and enduring our lives instead of fully living them,” she says.
As for the subject of small humans, Heart says to remember that “parenting is a massive, life-changing, and emotional undertaking even in the very best of circumstances. Creative parenting scenarios happen every day, and the best scenarios for kids are the ones where they can be prioritized.” She notes that that already seems challenging in your situation. “All of your negotiations are assuming there’s a person out there who would be comfortable with exactly the way you picture things. Such a person would naturally have their own requests, needs, and boundaries for a child-rearing situation. There are a lot of factors there that you couldn’t control,” she says. “It’s not to say you couldn’t do it—you sound like a tenacious person. The question is: Do you want to?”
Heart says that it’s time for some soul-searching. She concludes: “Dig deep and picture your life in 10 years. What do you see? What do you want (which is different than what will you settle for)? How can you plant seeds to grow into that life now?”
My Girlfriend Wants to Sleep With Other People. I’m Not Sure I’m OK With That.
Stoya and Rich join Slate’s How To! With Charles Duhigg to discuss how to have an open relationship—and how to tell if one is right for you in the first place.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 40-ish married woman, and I treasure my masturbation time. It is a huge stress-reliever, I sleep better, and I’m in a better mood when I can do so on the regular. Husband and I have kids and a good sex life, but I need my alone time, and with the pandemic, there isn’t any. Everyone is always home! And I am not quiet. Seriously, how are other people getting off on their own in this pandemic??
—Should I Soundproof a Closet?
Dear Soundproofed Closet,
Running the bath faucet or playing music are common ways to camouflage the sounds of sexual activity. Muffling, by pressing a pillow or towel to your mouth, is another method. If you layer all three and do your best to keep quiet, that might be enough to preserve your privacy.
Holding your breath at the moment of orgasm might help you refrain from making noise, but it also might give you a headache. You can also experiment with intentionally breathing through your orgasm at a time in the future when you have the home to yourself.
If the weather is still somewhat reasonable in your area, is it possible for your husband to take the kids to the park for an hour or so and give you some time alone? You might even do the same for him the next day or weekend.
Dear How to Do It,
My wife and I have been happily married for over 10 years. The sex has always been great, and over time we’ve explored some of our fantasies. From her having some fun with other women, to us having sex on a balcony or two, we’ve had some sexy fun. I’ve always loved going down on her, and a few years ago I started experimenting in some anal play. It started with my tongue and a finger or two. Then it moved to having a finger in her ass during sex. After that, we bought a butt plug that I’d occasionally insert during foreplay and leave in during sex. There were even a couple of times where we drunkenly had anal sex. It’s not something that has to be part of our sex, but it seemed like we both enjoyed it. She mentioned double penetration while my finger was in her ass. Flash-forward to a few months ago. She was out of town, and I was horny. I texted her and told her I wanted to buy some new toys for the bedroom. She seemed excited, and I bought a few plugs. Later, I was giving her a sensual massage. She told me to “do whatever you want,” and I got out one of the new plugs. It was a medium-sized metal plug with a jewel on the exterior. I warmed up her ass with my fingers a bit and the moment I inserted the plug, she cried out in pain. I had hurt her. She was mad, and I understand it was her body and she was in pain. She lashed out, told me she never liked anal, said she only did it for me. I felt so awful about hurting her. The plug is smaller in girth than my penis, so I never thought it would be painful for her. No matter, she basically said anal was off. While this certainly isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, I would like some ass play involved in our sex. Any idea how to proceed?
—Definitely an Ass Man
Dear Definitely an Ass Man,
The easiest part of your letter to deal with is the difference between a penis (fleshy! squishy! flexible!) and a metal plug with a jewel on the exterior (hard! cold! maybe sharp on the edges!). It’s a lot easier to cause discomfort, pain, or injury with the harder insertable. It might be worth spending some time thinking through your assumptions—and your wife’s reaction—here.
As for how to proceed, a lot depends on the reality of your wife’s feelings. I’d give her at least a couple of weeks of distance before broaching the subject, even verbally. Absolutely do not joke about anal sex under any circumstances during this time. It will almost certainly not be funny or understood as a joke. When it’s been long enough, gently ask your wife to tell you again—when everyone is calm and prepared—how she feels about anal sex, now and in the past. Give her plenty of space to think when she’s sharing with you. Listen to what she says, and do your best to reflect it back at her to make sure your understanding is clear. If she maintains she’s done, it’s not something you’ll want to keep bringing up until she gives in.
I’m wondering if the two of you have communicated openly about anal previously. If you have, that should give you some tools for navigating this conversation, and if you haven’t, there’s no time like the present. Those kinds of conversations will let you know how to proceed and what sex act options are on the table. And if her feelings have changed again, well, it’s really difficult to think clearly and be level-headed when your asshole hurts.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a woman who has recently started seeing a guy who is obese and has a hidden penis. I’ve found tons of advice online about how he can still please me, but absolutely none about how to please him. I’m unable to push the fat away from the penis and pleasure him how I normally would. I feel like I’m just manhandling him when I do give him a hand job. Also I’m unsure how to safely give him head since I can’t use a condom. I’d really like to give him the same pleasure he has given me, but I’m just stumped on how to do it.
—A Different Kind of Hide the Willy
Dear Hide the Willy,
Conspicuously missing from your letter is any indication that your partner feels he’s missing anything. Remember, sex is about way more than penises—it’s about connection, giving pleasure as much as getting it, and touch. If you two haven’t discussed what’s working for you and what’s not, that might be a good starting point. Perhaps there are things your partner would like to try, or perhaps he’s content with how it’s going. I also reached out to Dr. Joel Gelman, director of the Center for Reconstructive Urology, who recommended your partner see a urologist to rule out any medical issues.
If you’re able to reach the head of your partner’s penis, you might consider using a dental dam to cover the portion that is accessible, instead of trying to roll on a condom. Even if the two of you enter a fluid-bonded relationship, research indicates that colonization by bacteria or fungi is known to occur, so I’d still recommend using a barrier of some kind. Dental dams are available through sex stores like Babeland and Good Vibrations, which have retail websites and ship globally.
More How to Do It
About a year ago, I confronted my husband of more than 10 years with evidence that he had surreptitiously set up a web camera in our bedroom, with the intent of watching me masturbate while I was home and he was elsewhere. He admitted it, and it has been an extremely difficult year working through the anger, betrayal, and feelings of violation. After several months of joint and one-on-one therapy, I chose to stay in the marriage. We are doing OK and are at a point where some days I can almost forget what he did. However, he is increasingly seeking physical and sexual affection that I cannot bring myself to engage in. We have kissed, cuddled, etc., but the thought of anything further makes me want to vomit. We had an amazing sex life before this, built on a foundation of a decade of trust and exploration, and I cannot get myself back to that level of intimacy and vulnerability. Part of me thinks I need to rip the Band-Aid off, get drunk, and let it happen in order to move forward. Part of me never wants to have sex with him again.
I realize I am still processing a trauma, but what do I do? In my most negative moments, I feel like I’m supposed to have sex with the person who sexually assaulted me, and I don’t know how to move forward.