How to Do It

I Don’t Enjoy Sex. My Partner Demands a “Required Minimum.”

How do we compromise?

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by 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 have never really enjoyed sex in all the years I’ve been doing it and with all the partners I’ve had. I don’t feel horny, I don’t masturbate, and it doesn’t feel good to me. I’ve just always done it because that’s what you’re supposed to do in a relationship. As I get older, I find myself wanting to go along with it less and less. My partner has their “required minimum” times per week that is acceptable. Any less than that, they are miserable (their words). I repeatedly ask them to meet in the middle, but they won’t. We don’t have an affectionate relationship and haven’t for years. I think that is part of the reason I have such a hard time, but I’m used to it by now. Any affection they show after I’ve brought it up just feels forced and awkward. We keep having the same arguments over and over, which just makes things worse for me. I think it’s purely physical for them, as they always tell me they “need to get off so many times per week for their body to function properly.” It doesn’t feel like they want to connect with me. I’m at a loss and don’t know what else to do. I am walking on eggshells and always having to think about it, which is becoming exhausting. They won’t consider counseling. What are some other options I can try to make them understand that compromise means both of us giving a little?

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—Could Go Without

Dear Without,

It sounds like you’re not into sex. You don’t feel desire, you don’t masturbate, and you don’t experience the act positively. That’s OK. Some people don’t like sex. Frequently these people identify as asexual, and the perspectives of many have been compiled in Angela Chen’s book Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex. She identifies as asexual herself and engages in personal sharing. It might be worth a read, and you can preview a few pages online.

Whether you’re completely asexual or sexual only under certain conditions that have never been met, the two of you have a major desire mismatch. If you had an affectionate relationship, an easy companionship, or an uplifting bond, I’d be encouraging you to work through this. If they were willing to go to counseling, I’d support that as worth a try. But you paint a pretty grim picture, and—if the situation is that bleak—it’s time to move on. You don’t have to call it quits tomorrow, but a partner who won’t compromise or listen and demands a “required minimum” of sex is not worth any more of your time or energy.

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Once you’re solo, you can think about what you want in a life partner. More and more people are developing strong intimacies outside mono-normative pairings—that is to say, prioritizing friendships and roommates over romantic partners. My roommate, whom I have lived with in two different apartments for most of the past eight years, is my emergency contact and domestic life partner. My best friend has been my closest confidant for five. Sexual partners are a nice addition, but they aren’t the center of my support system. If you don’t want sex, you can conceivably meet all your interpersonal needs with other relationships in a deeply connected, supportive, and nurturing way. With the right people, you can love and share your soul. Finding these people will be as difficult and long a process as finding a romantic mate. But it’s possible—and well worth the effort.

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Dear How to Do It,

My girlfriend has a bush the likes of which haven’t been witnessed since Moses was singed talking to God. It is prolific. She is of slight frame. She claims to have tried many grooming options, but all have left her feeling very uncomfortable without her ample camouflage protecting her from chafing. I certainly don’t want her to be uncomfortable, nor do I want to snorkel in a coral of pubic hair. Are there any off-market options that she may not have considered?

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—Furry Your Cunnilingus

Dear Furry,

The first possibility that comes to mind is dental dams. You can part her pubic hair down the middle, apply the dam, and lick to your—or her—heart’s content without a hint of hair in your mouth. Another option: If she’s comfortable with half an inch or so of hair, buzzing with an electric shaver and cautious trimming with scissors could help, though she may have already tried this or still needs more of a buffer.

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If—and this is a very strong if—she’s open to shaving in the event the chafing issue can be addressed, fancy silk is your friend. Look for styles without exposed elastic, lace trim, or anything that could rub uncomfortably. Fleur du Mal’s Luxe collection fits the bill, and I’m sure other lingerie manufacturers have similar products. Offer to buy them for her—after you get her consent and her correct size.

Dear How to Do It,

Quarantine has killed my sex life! My husband and I (bi-female) are in our late 30s with three kids ranging from first grade to high school. Even before quarantine we were having some issues in the bedroom because my husband started taking antidepressants, which was great for everything but our sex life. Now he has delayed ejaculation, which might sound good, but when you have three kids running around (and a teen who is very aware of what sex is), it makes things very hard. The kids have to know where I am at all times. I literally do not get a moment to myself. We already worked from home before quarantine and would do it during the day. Now by the evening we’re both so tired the thought of doing anything but going to sleep is a joke. And because of his delayed ejaculation we don’t have many options. I’ve determinedly tried to give him a blow job for 45 minutes with no success. I used to enjoy doing it, but now my jaw and lips hurt when I go at it, and I’ve come to hate it. He’ll go down on me, but if we actually make it to having sex, I just end up lying there waiting for it to be over. And most of the time it’ll take too long, he’ll start sweating a lot, and we give up. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this ridiculous situation?

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—Quarantine Sucks

Dear Quarantine Sucks,

Do you require ejaculation of semen to consider the sexual act complete? Lots of people do, but I’m of the opinion that sex can be any number of activities that bring sexual pleasure and may or may not result in orgasm. You also seem pretty focused on your husband’s orgasm and don’t mention much about your own pleasure. It seems worthwhile to spend some time thinking on what sex is to you, what about it you enjoy, and what you want it to be. Perhaps reframing the way you two approach sex and intimacy could help alleviate some pressure and restore your enjoyment.

For your husband’s orgasm, you can use props, and you can ask him to help. By props, I mean any stroker toy—a penetratable, a textured sleeve—that can add some extra oomph to your manual stimulation. And by asking him to help, I mean that he can participate by stroking himself while you give your jaw a break. You also might snuggle while masturbating yourselves.

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As for the timing, can the two of you wake up earlier than the kids? Is there a COVID-observant relative or trusted babysitter who could watch the kids for a few hours, so you two could get some well-deserved alone time? And do you have an idea of what age you’ll feel comfortable setting boundaries about privacy at with your kids? Perhaps now is a good time to start.

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Dear How to Do It,

I get extremely wet during sex with my current partner—wetter than I ever have before. It’s very messy. We have condomless sex, and it’s great and all that. However, I notice that afterward for 12 to 24 hours I don’t get the usual amount of discharge that I do normally. I tend to have a lot of discharge and I always have, and my doctor has said that it’s normal and healthy for me. If I have sex again within that time frame, I can get wet again, but not as wet. Is this normal? Is there just a limit to what my body can produce? Or perhaps I’m somehow dehydrated? (Our sex is rather long and intense, and I do always feel dehydrated the next day.) Is the sex throwing my pH balance off just enough to mess with my discharge but not enough to cause an infection? I don’t experience any physical discomfort, and it goes back to normal quickly, so I don’t think it’s a doctor-level issue, but I don’t really have anyone I can talk to about this.

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—Wet to Dry

Dear Wet to Dry,

“I get super wet” is one of those things that people who don’t experience it—and especially those who experience the opposite—have little sympathy for. And there isn’t much easily searched information on either extreme wetness or subsequent discharge. Googling “natural vaginal lubrication” turns up various bottled unguents, along with discussions of dryness, but nothing particularly useful to your situation.

Some variation in amount of lubrication and discharge produced is normal. Hormonal changes can affect those amounts, so if this persists or becomes uncomfortable, it’s worth mentioning to your gynecologist at your next appointment. You also might track how slippery your situation is compared with where you are in your menstrual cycle. And if you’re on hormonal birth control, you might think about whether there have been changes around the same time that your discharge began to differ.

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Arousal nonconcordance comes to mind as a possibility. That’s the academic term for when our bodies are aroused but our brains are not (or vice versa). I notice that my own body sometimes says no when my heart and mind are saying yes. It’s possible that you’re emotionally and mentally ready to go, but your body needs a break.

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Drinking more water is usually a good idea, so you might as well increase your water intake too to see if that helps. Otherwise, as long as these changes aren’t causing you pain or discomfort, I’d file this under normal body variation and wouldn’t be too concerned.

—Stoya

More How to Do It

I’m a straight(-ish) woman in a relationship with a bisexual man. (We’re both in our early 30s.) He told me, soon after we got intimate, that he’s had sex with men for most of his adult life, though he’s only ever dated women. We got more serious, and we’re now exclusive and a year into our relationship. He’s always said he’s willing to be a one-person guy but would like to open things up when I feel ready, because he does have a high sex drive and desires that go in a lot of different directions. I now feel ready for this, but I’m struggling a bit with the limitations that I want to put on the situation. I really only feel OK with him seeing other men for sex, not women, and I’m not comfortable with him being the receptive partner with other men. This is mainly because of higher risk of STIs, though he’s said he would go on PrEP, but I also am just not comfortable with the idea of him putting himself in a vulnerable position with another man. (He said he’s done both positions in the past.) Are these reasonable boundaries to have, or am I overstepping? The discussions are just beginning, and I haven’t told him how I feel yet.

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