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 been in a relationship now for about a year. Mostly things are great: We look at life the same way, and we both enjoy sex a lot. He is sensitive in bed and also rough when I need him to be and we are really getting to know each other’s preferences and growing closer. But we’re also having sex less and less, and this is because I have started to see it as a chore.
This has entirely to do with the length of our sexual encounters. While I personally enjoy a variation of long Sunday mornings as well as the in between quick moments of closeness on, say, a Thursday night, he only seems to know long, longer, or longest—varying from at least 45 minutes for a requested quicky (I’ve timed it) to about four hours. And this is literally the penetrative part—I’ve excluded the foreplay from this “timer.” I’m starting to find it incredibly dull and am going through to-do lists while I’m in bed (or on the couch, floor, etc.) with him. He’s quite proud of his delaying his orgasm yet simultaneously incredibly insecure and has difficulties getting or staying hard when I bring anything up.
I know that in a way I’m incredibly spoiled, and I certainly have more orgasms than most women in a heterosexual relationship that I know of, but I’m so bored with this and also I feel like my needs in this relationship really aren’t taken into consideration enough, which is really starting to take its toll on all parts of it. I know I shouldn’t be suffering through marathon penetrations, but I’m also finding it very hard to talk about this thing that’s built quite a large part of his personal ego. What would you recommend?
Having orgasms doesn’t make you spoiled. Nor does a sexual partner who pounds past your preference to stop. Your partner, for whatever reason, is prioritizing display of his prowess over your pleasure. He shows no regard for your schedule or desire and struggles with erections when asked to discuss the sex the two of you are having.
Get your thoughts together. What kind of sex do you want to have? How frequently do you want that sex? What ratio of marathons to quickies do you think you can be happy with? What kind of conversations do you need to have about sex? What topics need to be addressed? Then pick your moment—not during sex or foreplay—when you’re both calm and alert and have plenty of time to talk. Then start gently: “We need to talk about the difficulty we have talking about sex.” Your partner might feel shame, or have some odd internalized patriarchy, or have a very misguided idea of what women enjoy. You won’t know until he opens up. This conversation will hopefully hold some clues as to how to, well, converse.
He’s great in other areas, and you seem to really like him, but you might also consider what your limit is. At what point is the juice no longer worth the squeeze for you? Is it three conversations where he refuses to engage? Is it six more months of marathon speed mating? Whatever that is, you’ll want to let your partner know before the line has been crossed.
Dear How to Do It,
I can’t seem to enjoy penetrative sex like I want to. I am a cis woman, and my husband is a cis man (with slightly larger than average equipment), and I enjoy sex because of the emotional intimacy and because it feels good to be touched and loved. However, any penetration, with fingers, penis, or toys feels just … meh.
Usually having penetrative sex feels like a somewhat pleasant massage in my vagina for about 10 minutes. Any longer than that can get uncomfortable and chafe. This is true no matter how much lube we use, how much foreplay we do, what position we do (we’ve tried every position we can think of), and how horny or relaxed or turned on I am. It was also true with other sexual partners I had before I met my husband. My clit is medium-sensitive, and I can orgasm with my hand (and a lot of effort) or with a vibrator, but for some reason it seems like penetration “turns off” the sensitivity in my clit, so when I’m having penetrative sex, I can’t even stimulate my clit to help it feel good. I’ve also never come from oral alone.
My husband is very caring, and he would do anything to help me feel good, but I feel like we’ve tried everything I can think of to make penetration pleasurable and nothing works. I’m frustrated because I have a high sex drive, and I love the idea of penetration and I fantasize about it and think it’s hot to watch in porn, but actually having sex usually doesn’t satisfy my desires because it doesn’t feel that great. Do you have any suggestions on what to try next? Am I doomed to less-than-satisfying sex forever?
Dear Sleeping Beaver,
Hot to watch and hot to do don’t necessarily overlap. Sometimes this means someone is turned on physically by something they don’t intellectually find attractive. Sometimes this means someone is mentally aroused, but their body isn’t responding. Sometimes this means someone likes watching penetration in porn but doesn’t enjoy being penetrated themselves.
You might do some solo exploring. Tune into your vagina and try to feel individual parts. Can you do Kegel squeezes? Which areas engage when you do that? You might look at an anatomical diagram for a visual aid. Get yourself aroused, and then spend a considerable amount of time slowly stroking and prodding every part of your vagina, searching for spots that feel good or at least interesting. You might find something that seems worth investigating further. If so, do that. You might do a thorough scan and find nothing, too, in which case, I’m sorry.
You say you can orgasm with your hand or a vibrator, but what about your husband’s hand, or him wielding the vibe? My thinking here is that you might build on what already works and see if you might have an orgasm with him participating.
There’s also frequent prioritizing of orgasm or penetration over other sexual activities. Ejaculation inside the vagina is crucial for procreating but can be very limiting otherwise. Plenty of people don’t do genital penetration at all, or only rarely, due to anatomy, desire, and preference. There’s a ton of dominant messaging encouraging people to think of sex as a kissing-oral-penetration routine, with lesbians imagined as using strap-ons and gay men substituting the anus for the vagina. This isn’t the case. Read some queer porn for ideas. Watch some queer porn for ideas. I’d recommend Pat Califia’s Macho Sluts and Shine Louise Houston’s Crash Pad Series. This will hopefully give you some models for broadening your ideas of what two people can do with their bodies to make each other feel good.
Dear How to Do It,
My wife and I have been together for almost 10 years (four of which we’ve actually spent married). We’ve had our fair share of turbulent times in the early years and certainly weren’t 100 percent open about our interests early on, but now, as we move into our mid-30s, I’ve found it necessary to open up. It’s been difficult to discuss with her, but I started the conversation around opening up our marriage to another man. Not only do I strongly desire to watch her being pleased by other men (or women, if that’s who she’s more interested in), but I’m open to and interested in it being a bisexual experience for me. She hasn’t shot the idea down, but it isn’t an easy topic to discuss either (timidness for me, possibly the same for her?). We butt heads in the desire for domination (both of us wanting to submit, neither particularly wanting to be dominant). I think fear and/or confidence prevents us from being able to give into each other’s desires. How can we comfortably approach this?
Two subs don’t make a D/s scene—unless they’re able to access the feeling of service in taking on the role of top. Submission is an incredibly broad category that spans traditional service, rules- and punishment-based ritual, masochism, restraints, veneration, and many more themes. Frequently people enjoy more than one aspect and combine them in novel ways. What do each of you desire out of the submission you want? What do you want done to you, and what do you want to do to and for others? These are important questions, both for sussing out how the two of you might meet each other’s desires in the immediate term and for efficiency when the pandemic has passed and you’re able to meet potential Dominants.
Have these talks together. Discuss your fantasies and your curiosities. Seek out BDSM porn videos, stories, and nonfiction thoughts from practitioners. Consume these materials together, pick them apart, respond to them. Spend some time talking about your fears, and remember that your feelings are valid. Fear shouldn’t stop you from doing things that are relatively safe, with managed risk, but it should absolutely be acknowledged and honored. Sometimes fear is our emotions letting us know there’s something to be cautious around. The more you practice being vulnerable, sharing, and listening to each other, the easier it’ll get. Remember you don’t have to talk about everything at once, and you can always hit pause or change the subject if emotions get too hot.
Cleave to each other, go at your own pace—or more specifically, the pace of the more reserved or tentative person—and good luck.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a recently out transwoman in my mid-30s. I’m happily married to a wonderful asexual partner, and until pretty recently I considered myself asexual as well. (We were lightly involved in the local BDSM scene, since we both enjoy bondage/kink play in a nonsexual way.) A few months after I started hormones, however, I discovered that I had also apparently signed up for the value pack of new erogenous zones and a vastly enhanced sex drive. I do not know what to do with these things!
In the long term, we’ve discussed the possibility of opening up and finding me a new sexual partner. This seems like something that is at least worth trying. The problem right now is that there’s a pandemic on, and at some point that solution seems like it’s going to require being fewer than 6 feet apart from a new person, so it’s on the back burner for now. Given all of that, any idea where I might start to explore these new sensations solo?
—Not Complaining, but I Didn’t Sign Up for This
Dear Sign Up,
Welcome to womanhood, and congratulations on your transition! Estrogen can be a wacky ride. I’m stunned that you weren’t warned about the changes hormones can cause, since they affect many areas of the body, including how we feel sensations and our sexual response.
Hormonal shifts are a part of life. We all go through puberty. Some of us go through hormonal shifts every menstrual cycle. Some of us go through transition. Some of us go through pregnancy or menopause. Every time, we have to learn our bodies again. And some of us feel more or less sexual at different times in our lives, due to these changes, life circumstances, or other factors.
Set aside some time where you have privacy, and start at the top of your head. Touch every part of your body in different ways. Use props—a piece of soft fabric, a feather, a Wartenberg wheel. Take notice of what feels nice and what you want more of. When you reach your genitals, get as creative as you possibly can. When you get to your toes, you should have some idea of which spots you want to go back to and how. The more time you spend getting to know your current sexuality, the better you’ll be able to communicate with partners once it’s safe to share saliva with strangers again.
More How to Do It
My boyfriend and I recently had a casual conversation about our porn preferences, and it was intimate and nice. But one particular preference of his surprised me: He likes cuckold videos. I realize those are pretty common, but I can’t get it out of my head. Does that mean he really wants to do that? Does porn in general align with real-life desires? He does get jealous (and, I guess, turned on by jealousy?), but cuckolding is far beyond what I thought was both of our comfort zones.