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’ve been married to my wife for almost eight years (we are both 35), and as our three kids get older, we have more freedom again. I’ve got a pretty solid hot wife fetish that revolves around seeing and thinking about my wife with another man. When I first introduced this, my wife was receptive to the idea of play and exploration, and we agreed to take it slow together. I’ve been very patient and tried to “shape” the situation—toys, dirty talk, even writing her what I think would be award-winning erotica. I’ve even spent time on forums (with her knowledge) building my understanding in nonsexual exchanges with both couples and individuals on best practices. I’ve been very nonaggressive and just tried to work it into our sex routine when I can see she’s “in the zone” to experiment. We both have a creampie fetish that I try to sidebar into talk about sharing her and exploring hot-wifing. The thing is that it’s just kind of fizzled out—I very rarely get any reciprocation or interest. My wife isn’t a prude—she was quite open-minded and sex-positive when we met. Our sex life is good, and I just want us to be together in the approach. Should I be more direct? This isn’t a deal-breaker, but I’ve half-jokingly put this on my birthday list for the past three years, and it’s been politely ignored. Or has she just done what everyone does (grow up and have a family), and I’m just fantasizing about my fantasy?
Dear Despondent Long-Hauler,
Please don’t put this on your birthday list for a fourth time, or on a list for any other gift-giving holidays. This behavior is the opposite of direct communication. It might have felt cute to you, but it may have been irritating, upsetting, or confusing to your wife. In fact, it could be part of the reason catering to your kink has cooled off.
You should absolutely be more direct in your communication. Ask your wife directly how she feels about the idea of having sex with someone who isn’t you. Ask her how she feels about talking about it during sex, and ask her if she enjoys the erotica you’ve written for her. Listen to her answers. Her responses will tell you whether she’s become more of a vanilla fan in the years you’ve been together or if there’s some other kink she’d prefer to be playing with.
And it’s possible that your wife is happy to verbally fantasize together during sex but is wary of continuing because she may not want to follow through. If hot-wifing in praxis isn’t part of your marital package, you can still fantasize and engage in your nonsexual exchanges. But you won’t know until you find out.
Dear How to Do It,
My roommate and I have lived together for several years and multiple apartments, so we’re fairly close. We’re also pretty open and sex-positive within the boundaries we set before we moved in (such as checking in before having overnight guests). However, the pandemic has created scenarios we didn’t quite envision during our initial discussion.
A few months ago, my roommate bought herself a new vibrator. She uses it multiple times a week for over an hour during baths. Her tub shares a wall with our common areas, so if I’m cooking or watching TV, there’s a low thrum that permeates the apartment. I can even hear it in my room with the door closed. She also sometimes forgets to close the door to her room. I’ve tried to use headphones to drown it out because I’m sure she’s heard me bust out my battery-operated toys before. However, it’s getting to the point I can’t ignore it. We have different work-from-home hours—I’m on a set schedule and hers is “work on it when you want before the deadline.” So her bath time has gone from nights and weekends to during the workday while I’m on calls. Another time, a maintenance man showed up during her bath time, and I had to hang up on my co-worker to open the door and direct him to the HVAC unit while both of us listened to her masturbating in the other room! How do I broach setting boundaries about vibrator use? I don’t want to make her feel ashamed for masturbating, especially since I do it too, and she doesn’t seem to be bothered. But I would like to not have this distraction at work or cringe every time she proudly shows off the new bath bomb she purchased.
—The Buzzing From the Bathroom
Dear Buzzing From the Bathroom,
Here’s how you start: “Hey friend and co-habitation partner, I’ve got a subject I need to broach, but I’m a little worried because it might be a sensitive or awkward subject. Is now a good time to chat?” From there, pause for your roommate to respond. If it’s an OK time, use your own version of “Lately I’ve been distracted during work calls because I can hear a buzzing noise through the wall while you’re in the tub.” Since you’ve known each other for several years, I hope you’ve got some idea of what phrasing will be easiest for her to hear. Leave space again for her to reply.
If she seems upset or flustered, you’ll want to reiterate what you’ve said here: that you want to preserve your open and sex-positive relationship where you’re each free to masturbate at home and you respect her relationship to her body but that you need to be able to focus at work, and the sound interferes with that. If she doesn’t offer solutions herself, you might ask her to keep the volume level down during working hours and play music if she’s going to be taking masturbation time in the tub during off-hours.
My roommate, by the way, suggests a headphones upgrade: “Noise-canceling are great. Good headphones make for good roommates.” And I literally don’t have a door.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m one of those old female virgins who isn’t saving it for Luke Perry (RIP). I’m 38, hetero, plus-sized, not hideous but not gorgeous. My official story is that I’m in a rut that’s lasted so long that I’ve just given up, but to be perfectly honest, the small number of potentially mutual crushes that I did have in college and grad school all ended before sex, usually before physical contact of any sort. I used to be obsessed with the idea of a man feeling romantic desire for me, and over time the hope that I’d tumble into a long, healthy marriage faded into just hope for at least one satisfying relationship during my life. My mid-20s brought some struggles with anxiety and depression that I’m still battling more than a decade later, and I’ve spent most of that time feeling that I wasn’t in any condition to be anyone’s partner, even if the opportunity had presented itself. (It hasn’t.)
I’m not asexual. Antidepressants aside, my libido isn’t completely gone, and I do enjoy toys. I’d like to experience sex with a partner before I die, preferably something that isn’t a pity fuck. Pre-coronavirus, I’d been getting comfortable with the idea of engineering a safe but uncommitted sexual encounter with a man whom I find attractive but probably wouldn’t disclose my virginity to, but I fear the window for such a thing has closed. I’d much rather meet guys IRL, but that hasn’t exactly worked for me in the past. I have gotten a few right swipes on dating apps, but I rarely feel attraction to the kind of men who seem to give them to me. Sure, romance could conceivably still come my way before it’s all said and done, but the past decade-and-a-half have done nothing if not convince me that I will really have to work for it. What do I do?
—The Almost 40-Year-Old Virgin
Dear Almost 40-Year-Old Virgin,
Like most of us, you probably will really have to work for it. And, when you find someone you match with, the real work begins. Dating apps are kind of like shopping at a thrift store. You’re going to have to dig through a ton of profiles that would be great if only they fit, you’ll encounter a few oddities, and more often than not you may walk out with nothing. This was my experience on dating apps, this is the experience my friends report, and this seems to be common outside of my social circle.
Put your best and most accurate foot forward in your profile, get to swiping, and try not to take anything personally. People browsing through profiles may be more into the idea of dating than dating itself, or they may be looking for something you simply aren’t. You also might focus on sites like OkCupid or apps that cater to ethically nonmonogamous people, since you seem to be looking for more cleanly physical interaction right now. If you have a sex-positive community in your area, it may have digital events that you can attend. Look for spaces with codes of conduct and decide if those codes feel sufficient for you. My reasoning here is that people who practice ethical nonmonogamy tend to have experience navigating safer sex and uncommitted liaisons.
If you have a good time with your first partner, will you want to see them again? If you end up getting along well together, is a romantic or domestic partnership something you’re open to? It might be useful to have answers to these questions as you’re flirting, so you’re able to communicate whether you’re looking for a short-term hookup or a potentially significant relationship. Good luck!
Dear How to Do It,
I’m in my mid-40s and recently divorced after a long marriage that was sexless for several years before it ended. Before I was married and monogamous, I had sex with only five guys, a few of those just one time. I guess I would say I’m somewhat inexperienced despite my age. I’m back in the dating world with mixed success, but find I’m having a bit of a confidence crisis. I am bold and generally confident in the bedroom, yet I find myself getting mentally locked up with some requests that I feel like should be pretty basic for someone of my age, and I get embarrassed to tell my partner that I don’t really know what I’m doing. Like receiving oral sex or being on top, (yes, I’ve read She Comes First, and I think I look, smell and taste great). My ex-husband was vanilla and unwilling to experiment in the bedroom, but there are lots of things I want to try. I’m one of those unusual women who tends to orgasm easiest from being on bottom. I’m a penetration gal, and my clitoris cannot stand direct stimulation until immediately before I orgasm. I am all about pleasing my partner and am willing to do anything that isn’t painful, but dudes seem seriously put off when I don’t orgasm when I’m on top or receiving oral, despite my being upfront with them. Moral of the story, I’m feeling out of my league. Should I just try hooking (safely) up with a few people I don’t care about just to get some more experience? Or just be more upfront with how inexperienced I am?
—Single and Uncertain
Dear Single and Uncertain,
Congratulations! You’re a woman who orgasms! Not all women do from partnered sex. Some don’t orgasm at all or only once in a blue moon, even during solo stimulation.
Whether you mention your level of sexual experience is up to you, but I don’t think it’s so much about that as it is about having preferences and encountering a string of partners who fail to understand that phenomena. I also don’t think you’ll enjoy hooking up with strangers for the purpose of logging hours, like it’s a requirement for some certification. Be patient and look for people you genuinely find attractive. When you do meet someone, you can screen by mentioning early that you prefer to be on the bottom during penetration and see how the potential partner responds to that. Some will be put off, some will try to debate your desire, and some will be totally chill and accepting. You want to pursue that third group.
Once you’ve moved to the flirting stage, and when the conversation turns to sex, have a conversation about a couple of the acts that you’re curious about. Give your flirting partner the opportunity to enthusiastically agree or suggest something else. Find out if your sexual interests match up. If you do want to experiment further with being on top, you can ask your partner to hold your butt cheeks and use them to slide you up and down. It’s a sort of a compromise that has you physically on top but leaves him in control of the thrusting.
More How to Do It
My husband and I have been together for almost two decades and we still are very much in love. Two years ago he had a serious medical issue, which has now been resolved for the most part. The only remaining issue is his flatulence. He constantly has eye-watering gas, and I find myself not wanting to be in the same room as it’s so noxious smelling. I love him, but our intimacy is shriveling up and dying because I feel like I’m always under chemical attack. He says he can’t tell when it will happen so he can’t leave the room. He’s aware of the problem, he’s tried avoiding foods, talked to his doctor, etc., but nothing is working! I’ve installed air purifiers, but they don’t act instantly and it’s hard to stay in the mood when it smells like something died under the bed. What can I do?