How to Do It

My Boyfriend Says My Favorite Sex Act Is “Demeaning” to Women

Shouldn’t I get to decide that?

Unsure woman in front of a neon stop sign.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by demaerre/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 straight female in my late 20s. In previous relationships, after I become comfortable with a guy and where we are sexually, I have wanted them to cum on me. My face, my tits, my stomach. I love the act and love how it feels. I am currently in a relationship with a wonderful man. We are compatible in almost every way, but he absolutely refuses to do this because “it’s demeaning.” Now, I understand why he feels this way given what he has seen in pornography. And I don’t want to push him to do something he doesn’t want to do. However, when we discussed this further, he said, “It’s demeaning and I don’t think you understand why.” That got me upset, but I don’t know how to approach the next step. How can we have a conversation where I can be sympathetic to his boundaries but get him to understand that I am perfectly capable of determining my own? I am comfortable with this act and haven’t found it demeaning in the past. Not only because I enjoy it, but because of how secure I felt in my relationship with previous partners. How do I start this conversation?

—Comfortable With Boundaries

Dear C.W.B.,

“[Being ejaculated on is] demeaning and I don’t think you understand why” is … wait for it … kind of demeaning. Also patronizing. You’re correct to be wary of pushing your partner into something he isn’t comfortable doing, but he’s wrong to tell you that getting your sexual desires met is demeaning. I suspect that he has some basic, well-intentioned ideas about feminism that fail to take into account the fact that some women do love rough sex and other facets of sexuality that get shown in mainstream pornography.

Now, whether that’s internalized patriarchy or not is a question we can debate for decades—or rather, have been debating for decades. And just in case your dude has come up with a new angle, it’s worth asking him what specifically he finds demeaning about the act. From there you might be able to begin an open dialogue about what you enjoy about being ejaculated on, and about what he finds off-putting, and maybe even reach some kind of compromise where him ejaculating on your stomach is acceptable.

I’m unclear on whether that awful quote is a regular occurrence or a one-time thing. If it’s a single event, I 100 percent support trying to broach that dialogue. If it isn’t, I think you’re looking at a big red flag and should move on solo.

Dear How to Do It,

I am a 34-year-old heterosexual female with a very sex positive attitude, and strong feminist ideals. I’ve had many partners since losing my virginity at 15, a mix of one-night stands and significant others. However, despite my numerous partners, I can count on one hand how many of them have ever given me an orgasm. And probably on two hands the actual number of orgasms achieved by a partner.

I can orgasm by myself easily and quickly, and I masturbate often. However, the thing that seems to get me off (almost exclusively) is very rough sex, almost borderline rape. When I watch pornography, it is always something where the woman is being abused and very roughly handled.

In reality the idea of rape horrifies and terrifies me, to the point where I often can’t bear to watch scenes depicting it in movies or TV shows. I have never been abused, sexually or otherwise, so it has long baffled me as to why I get turned on by that type of sex. I have never told any of my friends or partners about this because it feels shameful. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to express this to my current partner, and even if I could, I don’t think he would be willing to engage in even a mild version of my fantasy.

I guess my question is twofold: Is this type of fantasy somewhat normal, and if not, is it something I should bring up with a therapist? And is there any way that I can do something to enhance my sex life so I can have an orgasm at least 50 percent of the time?

—Frustrated and Confused

Dear F.a.C.,

I want to zoom in on the difference between rough sex and rape. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice updated its definition of rape from 1927’s “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” version to “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Rough sex, on the other hand, is vigorous, energetic sex that usually involves some hair pulling and/or some spanking. Some people may include pretty intense BDSM play in their definition of rough sex, so you always want to get more detail before assuming you’re a kink match. Generally speaking, we consider nonconsensual sex to be rape and consensual sex of mild or more kinkiness to be rough sex.

From what you’re saying, it sounds like you’re very rape averse and want some unspecified spice in the sack. Anecdotally speaking, fantasies about rough sex, ravishment play, and yes, even rape do occur in women. One study indicates that 62 percent of women have had at least one rape fantasy.

Your desires seem to be causing you significant distress, so: This type of fantasy is absolutely normal and you should bring it up with a therapist. If your fantasy is singular—the same every time—you’ll definitely want to let them know about that. Even if your fantasies are varied, you’ll still benefit from expert help on sorting through your relationship with your sexuality.

As for your partner, when you’re ready, you can broach the subject slowly. You might start by asking him about his boundaries on rough sex and interest level. You also might start by stating a broad interest, or by asking him to try pulling your hair. Regardless, you’ll want to be very clear about what you specifically want—failure to clarify broad terms like rough can create dangerous and potentially traumatic misunderstandings.

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Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I (both early 30s) have an enjoyably vanilla sex life that has worked well for the both of us across the 10 years we’ve been together. She deals with some lingering sex shame (we’re both lapsed Catholics) and I compensate for my own insecurities by deriving my pleasure from her pleasure—it’s made us nicely compatible. Normally our sex experiences are largely built around her orgasm (which happens pretty much only through oral sex). The problem is, ever since the COVID-19 lockdown began, she hasn’t been able to orgasm. The good news is we communicate really comfortably, even during sex. She’s explained that it’s a mental block—the stress of not knowing what the future looks like (we’d been discussing trying for our first child right before this hit; now that’s been pushed off indefinitely)—but it leaves us both a bit disappointed after sex and I know that orgasming gives her a huge physical and emotional release.

My instinct is to bring up introducing a vibrator to the bedroom, but since neither of us have ever owned one I feel like I’m flying a little blind, here. I guess what I’m asking is: Are there any vibrators you’d suggest for the uninitiated that I can discuss with my wife? To be clear, not looking to purchase something and surprise her with it (she wouldn’t appreciate that)—just trying to find something to start the conversation with. Also, if I’m missing something and this is a bad idea, any and all input is greatly appreciated.

—Orgasm Locked Down

Dear O.L.D.,

Your situation, aside from the absent orgasm, seems idyllic. Your letter warms my heart.

I find the Magic Wand and other similar products to be too intense—I’ve described them as being lovingly punched by an orgasm. It’s an orgasm I find I can’t say no to, whether I’m actually aroused or not. It might be just the tool for your particular situation.

Sonic clitoral massagers are my favorite genre of toy. I tried one based on the recommendation of the partner of a woman who had a lot of difficulty orgasming, and absolutely love them. Womanizer, which I have no professional connection to, makes a well-reviewed model. Lelo, which I sometimes do influencer work for, has a couple of styles as well.

For other options, my go-to resource for sex toy reviews is heyepiphora.com, which has a suggestions for beginners section in the FAQ. You and your wife might check out Epiphora’s reviews of my recommendations, and browse the archives together. And when it’s time to purchase, you might consider ordering from your local brick-and-mortar sex shop.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 23-year-old grad student, and being back on a college campus has me thinking a lot about sex. I do feel sexual attraction to guys and have the desire to have sex, but it’s just never happened for me. I know I’m not an unattractive person and have no problem with confidence in my physical desirability, I just haven’t really met anyone I’ve liked enough to do anything sexual with. I haven’t kissed anyone since my first kiss when I was 16, which only makes me feel worse because I basically don’t have any sexual experience at all.

I really want to start hooking up with guys while I’m here at school, but I’m terrified of the moment when one goes to kiss me and I have to either tell him I don’t know how to kiss or go for it and pray I’m not terrible, which only makes me fear having to admit that I’m a virgin even more. Even though I think I’m a catch, I’m worried my inexperience will put off guys and continue this cycle of celibacy until I’m old.

Should I be on dating apps? What do I do?

—Irish Noob

Dear I.N.,

You’re far from the first person to write into the column worried about their level of sexual experience, and you probably won’t be the last. The first thing I want you to know is that you’re not alone. People absolutely enter their 20s with sex remaining an unexplored frontier.

No matter how much sex a person has had, we all have to start at square one with each new partner, learning what they like, love, and loathe. And sometimes two deeply experienced people kiss and there’s zero chemistry, which can feel sort of terrible. As you accrue more sexual experience, you’ll likely have more confidence and a wider array of techniques to employ, but that will occur over the course of many sexual acts, and probably a number of partners. In the interim, you can gain a theoretical understanding of the mechanics. Websites like Planned Parenthood and Scarleteen have pages of resources.

Disclosing your virginity may have a couple of different effects—it might turn people off, and it might turn them on in a way that becomes fetishizing. You’ll have to sort through potential partners with that in mind, along with all the other things like attraction, intellectual rapport, and matching desires.

I want to remind you that COVID is an ongoing issue and putting one’s mouth on someone else’s mouth carries a whole lot of risk right now. Be careful. Get tested and ask your partners to get tested. Think about the risks you’re taking. If you’re able to gauge sexual interest from photos, dating apps might be a great way to encounter lots of people in a socially distanced manner.

—Stoya

More How to Do It

I’m a 28-year-old woman who’s been married to my husband for five years now. He is the only sexual partner I’ve ever had (for penetrative sex at least), and I generally enjoy what we do a lot. I just have one issue—an issue I’ve always had, now that I think about it. I hear about women having multiple orgasms, but I find it difficult (and sometimes painful) to continue sexual activity after I’ve had an orgasm. Whether it’s masturbation, digital stimulation from a partner, or regular sex, once I finish, I’m out. I manage to continue until my husband finishes, but it’s quite frustrating. I don’t really want to be this sore after just one orgasm, and sometimes really want to continue. Is this normal? And what can I do about it?