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’m a married woman. I had a three-month affair with an old boyfriend, “Jim,” that ended abruptly two weeks ago when I got an email from a friend saying “Check this out!” with a link to CNN. I clicked and a page with a video player showing a picture of the guest bedroom in my house opened. Huh? I later noticed my friend’s email name had an 8 changed to a 3, and the CNN link was actually a hypertext link to IPaddress/myname. I clicked play and a message popped up: “I know you’re watching.” I had a full-blown panic attack as I watched a 53-minute hi-res clear sound video featuring Jim and me. No one besides “Will,” my husband, could have been in the house. There’s an alarm system. He’s also a computer engineer. He’d know exactly how to do all of it. I gave Jim the link. He’s married and panicked too.
I couldn’t find a trace of the camera and was physically sick with anxiety by the time Will got home from work. He said nothing about the video, just asked me what was wrong so I said, “I’ve got a bug, not COVID I hope.” The next day the site disappeared. For the past two weeks, the video hasn’t been mentioned, and nothing’s changed. Will has stopped saying “I love you,” and the only time he touches or kisses me is when we’re having sex. That started about six weeks ago, and now I know why. I thought maybe it was too much self-quarantined time together.
I don’t know what Will’s game is. He’s torturing me by making me live in constant fear of an angry confrontation and/or our marriage crashing and burning. Is he waiting for COVID to end before divorcing since it would be hard to date someone now, we’re companionable, and he gets sex whenever he wants because I feel guilty and hope it will somehow atone for my transgressions? He’s planning to shame me with the video or threaten to in the future? The thought of him making me watch it with him makes me cringe. Is he waiting for me to come clean? Sometimes I think I should end the charade, admit to a huge mistake, and beg for forgiveness. I’d agree to a hall pass or whatever he wants, but I’m afraid of what will happen. I don’t know what to do. At this point, I don’t even know why I had an affair, things were good between us—maybe COVID boredom. Help.
Is Michael Haneke directing your life? Your situation reminds me of his 2005 film Caché, in which a couple is tormented by a surreptitious cinematographer’s surveillance of their domestic life, and though you are confident that you have identified the video’s source, the psychological terror remains. At the very least, your and Will’s mutual passivity and willingness to squirm through the most awkward of silences suggests something about your compatibility. You’re both harboring such massive elephants in the room that you should look into opening a rescue.
People mess up and relationships recover from infidelity. I understand your guilt, but Will is no saint. Secretly filming someone privately is not only unethical, it’s illegal in many states. Being cheated on doesn’t give someone carte blanche for retaliation, let alone a full-on digital fear campaign. It was shitty that you cheated, but now he’s doing something that’s its own warped kind of shitty—that is, if your explanation as to what happened is as ironclad as you present it.
I don’t know how you can go through something like this and not discuss it. You won’t make any progress until you do. If actually addressing this issue verbally is as big of a roadblock as you portray it to be, you have to start figuring out why—the limbo to which your silence has relegated you seems like a more sustained torture than a direct conversation. You asked several questions regarding your husband’s motivation that I’m in no position to answer. I think you should ask yourself whether you actually do want these answers, and, if not, why. (Are you afraid of Will now? You don’t mention a concern for your safety, only the future.) You could always open the conversation in a letter to start, if you can’t say the words. Be calm, be direct. The clearest thing about your situation is that you’re going to have to do some work to achieve actual clarity. Get to it.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 49-year-old man who lost his wife to COVID-19 early last summer. We were married and monogamous for 23 years, and despite the normal ups and downs, our sex life was robust and wonderful until she became ill. During the past several years, we started to explore different avenues of intimacy, and as a part of this acquired a very nice collection of high-quality sex toys. This ranged from a variety of vibrators (for both of us), butt toys, and dildos through positioning cushions, restraints, and sensation toys.
Here’s the thing: I’ve started dating again, and have found someone I really click with. She’s kind and understanding, and the sex has been great so far, albeit vanilla. However, I really like using toys and would love to explore this with her.
She owns one toy that she’s had for years, so I know that the concept isn’t new to her. All of my toys have been sterilized. Is it weird for me to suggest using some of the toys that my wife and I enjoyed? I don’t feel like hauling my whole collection to the dump and starting to build a new collection from scratch. My wife made it very clear that she wanted me to enjoy other relationships after she was gone, and I have the feeling that she would have liked things that gave her pleasure to give me and possibly others similar happiness.
How do I even bring this up? If it’s a no-go, is there a place that these can go other than a landfill?
Dear Avid Collector,
The pragmatist in me, as well as the ecological bleeding heart who is horrified by the amount of trash we produce as a species, agrees that it would be a shame to trash your trove. These toys are, after all, yours. However, I understand that people get squeamish about the possessions of dead people (the toys were, after all, your wife’s as well), and typically this squeamishness is over possessions that never went anywhere near anyone’s genitals. This unease doesn’t strike me as particularly rational and so is worth getting over, but I urge you to tread sensitively here. Learning later where these toys once were could cause retrospective stress (“Why didn’t you tell me ahead of time?” can take up its own act of a drama) more than a straightforward explanation might. I’d introduce the prospect of opening your toy box to your current partner by stating that you’ve had these toys for several years, giving a clear implication that you owned and used them with your wife. Ease her into the idea, and see if she makes the connection. Later in the discussion, you can underline that you owned them with your wife and share your feelings that continuing to use these toys with future partners is what she would have wanted. If she ends up having a problem with it, fine. It won’t be ideal to have to scrap your toys and start fresh, but it’s better than scrapping an entire burgeoning relationship.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 35-year-old man. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been overwhelmingly attracted to muscular women. Think women with the physique of an elite CrossFitter or bodybuilder. I’ve always been a bit ashamed and embarrassed by this, but I have recently come to terms with the fact that muscles are a legitimate (and, pardon the expression, huge) turn on for me. I’ve stayed far away from this in my prior relationships (since it would be unreasonable, unfair, and mildly creepy to start telling someone I otherwise liked that I wished she would take up bodybuilding). I’m single now, though, and I’m wondering how I can start respectfully exploring this attraction.
—The Bigger, the Better
Normally I’d tell you to hit the gym, but in the age of COVID, that wouldn’t be the best advice. There are, however, dating apps like DateFit that target the fitness inclined. I have no experience with this app or any of its advertised ilk (the sea of torsos on dating apps for queer men telegraph a collective fixation on fitness without it needing to be stated explicitly), so tread with caution. If you aren’t muscular yourself, you may not easily attract someone who is, though allowing that to play out in your life may provide a valuable lesson in the standards we set for potential partners versus those that adhere to ourselves. Good luck!
Dear How to Do It,
This is going to sound like a very complicated NSFW math problem. My partner and I have sex 12 to 15 times a week, and each session they make me squirt. I generally squirt around a pint or two of liquid, but can sometimes squirt up to a half gallon. Because sex is so wet, we had a routine we thought worked for us: push aside the sheets, a mattress protector, and a towel on top before the act, wash the towel and wipe down the protector afterwards. We washed the protector every other week. However, this last weekend, we found mold growing on the protector. I’m so lost. I’ve never been with someone who made me squirt before, nor have I ever squirted from masturbation, and from what I’ve read online, I’m releasing above average amounts of liquid. I don’t know what to do! I don’t want to have to buy a new mattress every year, but I also love our sex life, am super fulfilled and like that my partner makes me squirt. Any resources or good clean up tips for really prodigious squirters?
—Slip and Slide
Dear Slip and Slide,
If you are releasing a gallon and a half to 15 gallons of fluid on a surface per week, I think you need to be washing your protector way more often than you are. You two are swimming in … yourself. I would pivot to the precautions of piss play and look into a fluid-proof sheet like those sold at Sheets of San Francisco. Alternately, Tom of Finland makes a watersports sheet for the bed/floor that inflates on its sides to keep fluids from rolling off. That might be your best bet here. You also have the option of shower sex and/or buying a relatively inexpensive blowup mattress to be used exclusively for play. It’s not ideal, but nor is releasing a water cooler’s worth of sex juice during intercourse. You’ll just have to make do, and you’ll just have to do a lot of cleaning. Good luck and happy squirting.
More How to Do It
I’m having a wonderful affair with a man. We’re both married, but we’re careful and responsible—it’s what we both need to survive in our marriages. The problem is social distancing because of the coronavirus. Our spouses and kids are now both home full time, and getting away to see each other has been impossible. I’m miserable without the sex and companionship, and so is the man I’m seeing. At one point, he suggested meeting in our cars by the grocery store. I obviously declined. Then today, he called me and said to go to my window and waved to me from his car. I was moved by the gesture, but it worried me. I feel like I am on the verge of doing something risky.