How to Do It

My Boyfriend Has a Very Sensitive Kink. How Do I Handle It Delicately?

He’s not giving me any guidance.

Woman looking confused at a neon cherry emoji.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Prostock-Studio/iStock/Gettty 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,

What are your best tips for playing with testicles? My boyfriend loves ball action, and I … just don’t know what I’m doing. I want to approach this as enthusiastically as I approach everything else, but I’m stumped. Where do I begin?

—He’s Got Big Balls

Dear Big Balls,

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I really don’t understand how these conversations go in which an interest is revealed without a plan of attack. Did he just, like, grunt as he motioned in the general area of his balls? Truth be told, I have no idea what your boyfriend wants you to do with his balls. He might like them pulled. He might like them sucked. He might like you to pop ’em in your mouth like little bits of breaded chicken or lap at them so lightly as though you’re catching snow with your tongue. Ask him. If you’re too embarrassed, go down and start kissing them gently, maybe licking them for bit and wait for him to direct you. If he doesn’t, ask him if he likes what you’re doing after a few minutes. If he still doesn’t have anything to add, it could mean one of two things: You can do whatever and he’ll be happy (in that case, rejoice: An easy-going partner is a gift), or he’s not such a ball play connoisseur after all and it still doesn’t really matter what you do.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’ll just be very upfront here: I’m not sure if I was sexually assaulted, and I don’t know how to proceed. I’m a 32-year-old woman, and I’ve been on three dates with a guy I met on a dating app; let’s call him “Sam.” Sam is several years younger than I am, but I’ve never had a problem dating younger guys before so I’m not sure if that’s relevant here. Our first date was fun and at the end of the night he walked me home and kissed me good night. He did ask to come into my home “for a nightcap” a few times, but seemed OK when I said twice that I wasn’t OK with that on a first date. Our second date was near his apartment, and I did end up going home with him that night. I will admit, I drank too much on that date and I’m not sure if I would have gone home with him otherwise. My memory of the events of the evening is somewhat hazy, but I believe we had sex three or four times and one of those times included brief anal sex, which I verbally consented to.

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I didn’t have any regrets after the date other than wishing I had been a bit more mentally present for the sex, but I recalled enjoying myself so I agreed to go on a third date with Sam. We had a good time on the date and I ended up bringing him back to my place, where we proceeded to have (sober) sex. I was having a good time until the third time we had sex that evening. During that encounter, without any discussion or warning, Sam proceeded to penetrate me anally, which was extremely shocking for me (it’s probably needless to say, but he didn’t use lube—he wasn’t even wearing a condom—and he slammed into me pretty fast so it was somewhat painful). I asked him to stop and he switched back to vaginal penetration and finished that way. At the time, I brushed the incident off since the whole thing happened so quickly.

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As I thought about it after Sam left my place, I decided that he must have assumed I would be OK with it since I had been the first time we slept together. However, it’s been a few days since this incident, and I’m growing increasingly upset about it. Perhaps Sam doesn’t realize what he did wasn’t OK because he’s younger, and I don’t think he’s had as many sexual partners/experiences as I have. For his part, he’s been texting me and expressing interest in going out again in a totally nice and respectful way. I definitely don’t want to continue seeing him after what happened, but I’m not sure if the incident is serious enough to be classified as sexual assault or if it was just a miscommunication. He otherwise seems like a really nice guy, so I don’t really know how to break things off with him. I’ve considered just ghosting him to avoid having a potentially painful discussion that might further upset me, but perhaps I have a responsibility to tell him that I’m upset about what happened and that’s why I’m ending it. Any advice on how to proceed here?

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—Confused and Upset

Dear Confused,

Anal is a big deal to a lot of people, and I think it always warrants a conversation, each and every time. I don’t think classification would amount to much here, as it doesn’t seem that you’re interested in pursuing legal justice. One could easily make the argument that what you experienced was sexual assault, or a misunderstanding, or that it exists within the gray area between those two options. You can decide that for yourself, and you can change your mind. I also think you’re totally within your rights to ghost him—he’s put you through enough. That said, the absolutely most ethical thing to do—for the good of Sam and his future partners—would be to send him a note explaining why you don’t want to see him again. You can keep it matter of fact and your tone needn’t be any firmer than you feel is appropriate, but simply pointing out that he is not entitled to anyone’s butthole (other than his own) would probably be useful information to him. What I would fear after sending that is him pushing back, getting defensive, or wanting to engage in some long discussion for the sake of exonerating himself to you (but mostly himself). At that point, you could just block him. He’s already been a pain in your ass once. He doesn’t get to be that twice.

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Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I are both older. For many years, things have not been the same. I am fortunate not to have succumbed to the same dry/painful penetrative sex woes as many other post-menopausal women. However, it is very important to my husband to believe that things are the same as always with regard to his ability to maintain an erection. That has not been the case for many years. For many reasons, encounters have been rarer, and perhaps that is a factor. I also understand that a lack of physical intimacy may lead to further lacks, and perhaps it has already done so. Over the last year, we had a couple of encounters. (Yeah—sad. So far from where we started.) I wish there had been more. They kind of fizzled out, although I think that he ultimately felt good. There is a point at which I do crave penetrative sex, but I am wondering whether I need to redefine sex. Just trying to figure out how to get through these years. It is extremely important to him to believe that he continues to have full sexual functionality. I am not sure what to say or do to make things better. He has lost a lot of functionality, but can’t handle the thought—or so it seems to me. Or is it me? Because when he’s by himself, things go OK. If I need to learn new moves, I will learn them. I really don’t know where to go from here.

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—Don’t Know Whether to Be Worried or Not

Dear Worried or Not,

It’s very open-minded and compassionate of you to consider redefining sex in light of your husband’s dysfunction, but sometimes you want a hard dick that could double as a hat rack and no substitution will do, not even an actual hat rack. Could you gently introduce the notion of him using ED drugs/a cockring as not something that is strictly needed, but an enhancement? Plenty of younger guys who aren’t dysfunctional, per se, take such drugs because they can help prolong sex, aid in recharge time, and/or act as a sort of anti-anxiety drug for those who worry about their performance. If such medicine is presented as a way to spice things up—something as much for you as for him—maybe that would be less intimidating to him. Maybe it would open the door for a franker conversation about his functionality that he is as yet too ashamed to broach? Technology has afforded us several solutions to the problem that you describe, and the real shame would be to let pride get in the way of using them. Time, as you know, is a-wastin’.

More How to Do It

I go to a public high school, where sex is discussed frequently. I, for religious and ethical reasons, don’t want to have sex until I’m married. My friends say that makes me a “prude” and “old fashioned,” and that I should be more “progressive.” Does waiting till marriage really make me a prude?

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