How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!
Every week, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m separated from my husband and headed for divorce. I know I’m not ready to date—yet—but I have a question for when that time comes. I have always considered myself straight, and only ever dated men, but lately I’ve been feeling open to dating a woman. I just want to be in a happy relationship, and I want to be open to whatever form that comes in. I have had attractions to women in the past but never explored them. My question is, how do I explore this without harming the other person? I want to be clear that I’m just feeling things out and I may find that dating women really isn’t for me. Or it may be uncomfortable. I don’t want to lead anyone on. Is there a safe way to do this for both parties?
Stoya: I’m so excited for this writer.
Rich: The dawn of a new sexual horizon is upon her.
Stoya: She can explore brave new vulvas. Investigate foreign asstiers.
Rich: Understandably, we get a lot of letters that are extremely considerate about ethics and etiquette. But sometimes the care with which people want to navigate this stuff borders on self-punishment. People know you have to start somewhere—there are people who will be wary of engaging with someone who’s just getting their sea legs (or sea-whatever), and there will be those who relish the honor of getting to break you in. Your responsibility here is to just be upfront.
Stoya: I completely agree. Newness can attract fetishization, so that’s something to keep an eye out for on her part. (Unless our writer likes feeling like fresh meat, in which case: never mind.)
Rich: The gist of many questions like this is, “How do I do this considerately?,” and it’s like, if you’re asking that question, you’re well on your way. You are considering!
Stoya: I’m wondering how she might best phrase her desire to feel out femme fornication. (Or browse butch cunt bumping.)
Rich: Well, those are options for sure. I was thinking that some sort of early disclaimer—I’m new to this, I’m feeling things out, I don’t want to lead you on because I’m not really sure what I’m looking for or how committed I am—would probably do the trick?
Stoya: “I want you to know that I’m not really sure what I’m looking for or how committed I want to get. Would you like to help me explore that?”
Rich: People enter these conversations with all sorts of objectives and pasts. Some people are looking for something very specific. In those cases, casual, experimental sex may not appeal to them coming from anyone. Some people are open to whatever, depending on physical attraction. You allow yourself to be rejected more decisively by being forthcoming regarding your situation, but I think ultimately that just saves everyone time.
Stoya: I’m definitely pro-efficiency with dating, hook-ups, and romance.
Rich: Me too, and I’m against leading people on or being led on. Transparency is the way to avoid that.
Stoya: There’s a book called Girl Sex 101 by Alison Moon that I’m thinking could be useful here. Theoretical knowledge is still knowledge, and might increase confidence. AutoStraddle is a great resource as well.
Rich: I think that’s a great suggestion. It’s just good to learn about a culture you may be on the cusp of taking part in. If nothing else, it can give you more things to talk about with those already within.
More How to Do It
I have been reading your column for a while, and because of that, I have gradually come to the conclusion I never want to have sex with a feminist.
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.