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 woman in my early 20s dating a man in his late 20s. At the start of our relationship several years ago, I had a very low libido which may have been the result of things like low self-esteem, previous sexual trauma, and depression. I told him I thought I might never want to have sex at all, which he said was fine. He absolutely never pushed me into anything. After therapy and time in a healthy relationship, my libido increased. Recently it went up even more because I started Wellbutrin. I would like to have sex every day, but he only wants to have it a few times a month, if that. I figured he just has a low libido, and I would have to be patient about it the same way I wanted him to be patient with me in the past.
Well, this week he revealed that he gets turned on when I act disinterested in sex and turned off by me trying to initiate sex. I had never thought that my previously low sex drive was satisfying some kind of kink for him, but I guess it was. Maybe I should have seen this coming, since he once said he thought it would be hot to go down on me while I read a book or otherwise ignored him. How do I navigate this? I am trying to be positive and not shame him, but I also feel frustrated if this means I just have to wait around for him to initiate. When we do have sex, he is an amazing lover, and we have a pretty seamless relationship outside the bedroom. I am not interested in breaking up. Neither of us would want to open the relationship. Thank you for any advice!
—Guess I’ll Just Masturbate?
Well, have you tried the scenario that he suggested, in which you read a book while he goes down on you? Could you lean into his kink with some role-play? You don’t have to actually be disinterested in sex—you could just pretend like you are for the sake of getting things going. If that sounds like something you would like to try, talk to your man and see if he’d be interested, and definitely agree on a safe word, since plainly stated consent (i.e., verbally communicating when the “unwanted” oral sex should start) could undermine the conceit of this particular role-play.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a compulsive skin picker. I’m in therapy, but haven’t addressed my picking yet (I’m working up to it and anticipate that, even with therapy, it will take some time to get over). Having a constantly red, bleeding face and hands was terrible for my self-esteem, so I managed through sheer force of will to relocate most of my picking to the bottoms of my feet, where the skin is thicker, so I do less damage to myself, and nobody ever saw the results of my compulsion. Until now: My wonderful partner recently admitted to me that he has a foot fetish, and I’d be thrilled to explore this with him, except that the bottoms of my feet are a total mess! How can/should I address this insecurity without making him think I secretly don’t want to indulge in his kink? Any ideas on how to get my feet in sex-worthy condition?
—Can I Just Keep My Socks On?
Dear Socks On,
A straightforward explanation will do: Your feet simply are not yet ready for prime time. Inquiring about the nuances of your partner’s fetish would also be useful—perhaps you can keep your socks on and then everyone’s comfortable (not to mention toasty).
From your description, it sounds like your condition is what’s called excoriation disorder (sometimes referred to as dermatillomania). It’s related to OCD. Like OCD, it is often treated with SSRIs and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The sooner you can work up to discussing this issue with your therapist, the sooner you can get your feet in working order. Your situation has the potential to reify (and kink-ify) RuPaul’s self-care slogan: If you don’t love your feet, how in the hell are your feet gonna love somebody else? Get treatment and give yourself an amen.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a 45-year-old single gay transman. I’m short, bald, chunky, and hairy—in other words, a bear. I’m at the stage in life where I’d like to find a guy to settle down with; however, finding another gay man who’s interested in dating a man with a … shall we say, anatomical anomaly is proving to be on par with winning the Powerball jackpot without a ticket. The men I do meet are generally only interested in the occasional romp, and most of them are already attached in one way or another. The guys who actually are single are very adamantly single and have no intention of moving beyond FWB arrangements. The extra COVID complications aren’t helping, either. So what do I do here? Where or how do I find a man who isn’t put off by my age, my girth, my height, my pelt, or the fact that I still have indoor plumbing, and who is interested in pursuing the potential of a long-term relationship? Is my unicorn actually out there?
—Tired of Being a Novelty Fuck
Anatomical particulars aside, many of your dating issues are universal. People have a hard time connecting, harder still it seems as they get older. It’s common to meet gay men who are sexual hobbyists with no interest in promoting any connection beyond buddy status. You’d probably do well in a more generalized IRL queer scene, but like you point out, COVID is complicating things. Hang in there—vaccines are on the way. In the meantime, peruse apps that have a reputation for attracting people who are looking for more than just sport sex: OkCupid and Hinge, for example (though any app is a potential hookup app as long as it is connecting potentially horny people). There are apps that particularly cater to trans populations like Thurst—might be worth perusing. Try not to get frustrated: There is nothing wrong with you, and your profile fits that of a partner that many guys desire. Shit is hard!
Dear How to Do It,
I met my wife when I was 18 years old. That is now 34 years ago. I had no sexual experience at all. She was four years older and already had a lot of experience. The sex with her back then was great and frankly, it still is. She has always been open about her previous relationships. She lost her virginity at the age of 15 and soon after that, she met her first serious boyfriend. She absolutely loved this boy and enjoyed sex with him immensely. His penis is quite big, but that didn’t cause any problems at the time. This relationship ended when she was almost 17, and after that she had many boyfriends. Then, to escape some problems at home, she went back to live with her first boyfriend (the hung one). However, he was no longer the nice boy from before. He belittled her, and often forced her into sex after they argued. He called it make-up sex, but he hurt her and was too rough, and also forced her into oral sex. Eventually she ended this relationship, and shortly afterwards she met me. I am not as big as her previous boyfriend, and she is happy about that. We have great sex, and I respect her body and mind. However, when I watch porn and masturbate, I am especially turned on by videos in which hung men act, women are humiliated, and in which rough sex and rough deep throats occur. Am I normal? Do I need therapy? To be clear, I don’t want to treat her like that at all. But why am I so turned on by this?
—Am I a Freak?
You seem to have eroticized your wife’s past relationship without differentiating between the morally benign (the ex’s big dick) and the toxic (the abuse). If you don’t want to hurt her or replicate the abuse in any way, your feelings are relegated to the realm of fantasy and not an immediate threat. If you’re able to keep it there, it’s never going to become a problem.
Opinions are divided regarding the potential effects of violent porn on its viewers: It’s been linked to dating/domestic violence (here’s a 2019 study of teens that does so), but there also exists the idea of a catharsis effect, in which one’s jollies are gotten in full by porn, leaving no antisocial residue on one’s life. Figure out which you’re experiencing by keeping a close eye on this situation. Maybe talk to a therapist, and definitely understand that sexuality is complicated both in its formation and presentation. A lot of people have violent fantasies and other ideas that turn them on in the abstract but that don’t end up manifesting in harmful ways. Your concern indicates that you’re well placed for managing this before it can become a real, live problem.
More How to Do It
I’m a very young baby boomer (50+) with an interest in watching porn on the internet. I understand that’s one of the things the internet is for! How do I do it without being plagued by pop-up ads that appear in your browser? How do I do it while keeping it private from youngsters who may be playing on my computer? I’m quite comfortable with computers, etc., but this bit mystifies me. Could you advise?