How to Do It

My Long-Distance Domination Techniques Are Failing to Shake My Partner’s Soul

What else should we try?

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Julia_Albul/iStock/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,

My partner and I (19 F, 18 M) have enjoyed an amazing sexual and romantic relationship at a distance during the pandemic times (we live at opposite ends of the country). For a little context on our sexual history and preferences, we are both very kinky people. I am a sadistic, exhibitionist dominatrix and she, a masochist, also very exhibitionistic, submissive. We are deeply in love and treasure the relationship that we have. Now aside from kink, both of us are interesting lovers. I’m someone, who while dominant, loves to edge, usually for 3+ hours. It hinges on my partner reaching their real “soul-shaking” orgasm of the night, and I time to finish alongside them. My partner is someone who loves everything I do, but has never reached orgasm, though both she and I are confident that she can. She finds that when she gets close, she gets anxious, overwhelmed, and shy, and her arousal decreases just enough to keep going without finishing.

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However, in the past couple of nights, with (very meticulously researched, safe-proofed) asphyxiation techniques (read: she’s just been using her own hands after gently practicing in safe ways), she’s gotten intensely close to that barrier, closer than she has ever before, but can’t make that final leap. There is no history of sexual trauma for either of us, so that is one aspect that is, thankfully, ruled out. We’re sure it’ll eventually happen, and we adore every minute we spend together, but herein lies my question: Is there some physiological/psychological need I haven’t met that will assist her in overcoming this barrier? If so, how can I implement it without physical touch?

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—Devoted, Overly Meticulous Dom

Dear Dom,

She’s so young that she’s likely still learning her body/pleasure response. Instead of making this about you, allow for it to be about her and encourage her to explore on her own. Toys, especially those that vibrate, might be particularly useful here. It sounds like performance anxiety is what’s tripping her up, so it may take a solo session to finally push her over the edge. Sometimes one orgasm is enough for someone to get the hang of having them—hedge your bets on that. However, it could be that the pressure to perform never abates, as you have a lot riding on it since your own sex “hinges” on your partner’s orgasm. In that case, you should adjust your expectations and criteria of what makes for a proper session. Sex can be worthwhile, nourishing, and a hell of a lot of fun even if no one comes. You, too, are young and still learning. Allow your mind to expand as you grow.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 60-year-old gay man who has been married/partnered to the same guy for 30 years now. We got along great prior to the pandemic. Sex was never as frequent as I wanted due to both of us working fairly stressful jobs and him having an overall lower desire, but we had lots of fun on weekends, and he’d help me masturbate during the week. Also, he’s more into romance than me, so I learned to accommodate by having LOTS of foreplay, music, etc. which I also grew to enjoy (my background had been more quickies, dirty talk, etc.).

Last March, he lost his job and I switched to working from home. I thought this would be a blessing to our relationship because we’d have more time together during the week, but it’s been the exact opposite. Then, over the span of two months, both of our mothers died of COVID-19. I went through what I consider to be a fairly normal grieving process of 2–3 months. I still miss my mom A LOT but am back to being a functional adult. The problem is my partner. I was very supportive of him, held him every time he cried, ran the house while he was grieving, cooked the meals, etc. (as he did for me).

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However, it’s now been six months, and he’s done almost NOTHING except stay in bed 20 hours a day watching reruns of the same stupid TV shows over and over on an endless loop. I told him that it seems like he’s suffering from depression, and he admitted he probably is, but has done nothing to try to improve the situation. Needless to say, our sex life is in shambles. He’s not really into it and, TBH, I’m finding myself angrier at him than I’d like to be. He hasn’t exercised in at least half a year and it shows. He breaks down in tears 3-to-4 times a day. I know I sound like an asshole when I say this, but I’m getting kind of tired of being a caregiver to him rather than a partner.

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I’ve started finding porn and toys much easier than dealing with him, but after I’m done watching I get even more resentful. This is the stuff WE’RE supposed to be doing together not me watching porn alone. I go on walks and bike rides and see couples together doing those things and also get resentful that he won’t even leave the house.

We’re both getting older (he’s 61) so are going to face A LOT more loss and death in the years to come. If this is how he deals with it I don’t want to stay, but at the same time I want the guy I fell in love with back again and friends I’ve talked to said not to make any decisions until the pandemic is over. That could be another year. I could really use some advice!

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—Want to Leave My Long-Term Marriage

Dear W.L.M.L.T.M,

Have a heart and a little more patience, please. This pandemic and its attendant tragedies are hitting everyone different, and your guy is having a harder time than you. Yes, it does sound like his reaction is extreme, but we’re in an unprecedented crisis and the dude lost his mom, his job, and his concept of normalcy in the past year. Six months is just a little more than 1 percent of the time you’ve been together—I think you owe it to him to be the rock and see him through this. Bring up his depression more often—regularly even—and not in an accusatory way, but out of legitimate concern. Ask him if he wants help and then help him find help. Let him know how this is affecting you. When you’re both vaccinated and the world is closer to being back where it was before COVID hit, if he still hasn’t shown any effort to improve, give him the ultimatum: You want the guy you fell in love with back, and you know it’s possible, but not without considerable work on his part.

In the meantime, try not to get too hung up on how things are “supposed to” be, and accept them for what they are. You’ve found a solo workaround to your dissatisfying sex life. It’s not ideal, but in a pinch, it’s helping you cope.

Think of your situation this way: A societywide lockdown is a shitty environment in which to find a new partner. If you were to leave your husband now, you’d likely remain alone until the pandemic eased up, anyway. You might as well stick around and continue to foster this relationship that you’ve had for three decades. Give it a last shot so that you can say you tried, if nothing else.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 62-year-old heterosexual male. I’ve been divorced about 10 years and have dated off and on and had a friendship with benefits for most of those years. Receiving fellatio and/or 69 have always been my favorites. Lately, though, I have been having a desire to perform fellatio on another man. No one in particular, I just like the idea of trying it. What do you think is going on? If I want to pursue this fascination, what is the safest and most anonymous way to give it a try? It should be noted that I am not currently in any type of sexual relationship.

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—Very Confused

Dear Confused,

What do you think is going on? In Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality, Anne Fausto-Sterling writes: “We need to stop looking for universal causes of sexual behavior and gender acquisition, and instead learn more about and from individual difference.” Your story is yours to uncover. Elsewhere, Fausto-Sterling deems sexuality “a somatic fact created by a cultural effect.” Even if your appetite for dick could be considered innate, perhaps it has taken you these 62 years to be comfortable enough with yourself to actually consider trying it. Maybe recent advances in queer rights were enough to make you realize there’s actually nothing wrong with doing so. Maybe this is just the next step in your endless evolution. Whatever it is, you’ve arrived at the truth: Sucking dick is fun. As someone who’s as into oral as you are, this realization is, above all else, practical.

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I’m not sure what you mean by “safe” here—all sex comes with some risk of infection, and the threat is compounded in the age of COIVD. While STI risk can be reduced via things like condoms and PrEP, condoms are about as popular during oral sex as a waterfall next to a cat colony. You’re well within your rights to ask someone to wear one; however, my suggestion for a potential venue is a place where they don’t do much talkin’.

Certainly the most anonymous way to suck a dick would be at a glory hole. Many bathhouses and adult bookstores have them, though, fair warning: Sexual contact in public spaces may violate a local health code. (Raids on these spaces are few and far between, but it is possible, and you should know that.) Anonymous sex at the moment is a dicey prospect (perhaps you’ve heard that there’s a pandemic raging) though glory holes have been recommended by public health experts as a way of mitigating COVID-19 transmission risk as they necessarily prevent face-to-face contact. So that’s another kind of safety while providing the anonymity you desire—seems like you might be a glory hole guy.

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Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I have been married for 35 years and are in our early 60s. We married young and were childhood sweethearts who loved each other like in a fairy tale. Now that we have reached our 60s, it appears that our sex life is winding down, which you would think is OK, but it’s not. Our sex life has had its ups and downs over the years, sometimes not having sex for years at a time. I used to think it was because my wife was just mad at me (admittedly, I do a lot of stupid things), but it turns out she would abstain from sex because we are sexually incompatible. After all this time, she finally told me so a few months ago. Honestly, I can’t say I’m surprised, but I can say I’m confused.

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I’ve thought about this a lot lately, and realized it about 10 years ago when I started having affairs, which I justified because I felt deprived. I always thought my sex life outside my marriage would make up for the incompatibility, but in the end, it was me being dishonest to her and myself. With the pandemic raging, I’ve basically stopped all in-person contact with my lovers, which has brought this into even sharper focus, because I realize now how dependent I am on them for my happiness. It’s hard to describe how much I hate myself right now. I can’t help thinking: How could I have been so dishonest? Am I a complete coward? Did I make us waste out entire lives? Or was I just willfully clueless? If my wife was so dissatisfied, why did she stay with me? Why didn’t I just take off with one of my lovers? Am I to blame? Is she?

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I’m beginning to be filled with regret that I don’t want it to become resentment. It is unrealistic to expect a sexual do-over at this age and it would be financially ruinous to divorce. How do I learn to live with who I’ve become in a marriage that feels like a lie?

—Learning to Live With What I Can’t Rise Above

Dear Learning,

Well, I guess it’s sexy sexagenarians day at How to Do It. Love that. I think the most important thing to keep in mind here is that love and sexual compatibility are not synonymous. Many relationships maintain because their incompatible partners love each other and arrange for their sexual needs and desires to be met with others. You didn’t go about this pursuit in an ethical way and thus are left with the fallout: guilt over your lies and betrayal. What you need to do is accept that you made destructive choices. You had your reasons, which don’t excuse your cheating, but they do help explain it. You traded stability and harmony for fun; that fun is likely not something you would have been able to have obtained within the confines of your relationship. But see, you don’t get to have it all. You’re not going to get away with deceiving your partner scot-free—your conscience, for one thing, won’t allow it.

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What you can do is vow to yourself to behave ethically from now on. You can’t change the past, but you can control what you do moving forward. Assuming that your wife wants to stay married, ask her how she would like to resolve your incompatibility. Perhaps she will suggest an open arrangement, and it will become clear that would have been the solution that you needed all along—it would have made lying needless, and you wouldn’t be living with the guilt you feel today. If more people pursued satisfaction practically and without holding onto culturally instilled ideals of what their relationship “should” look like, the world would be a happier place. It might be too late to reignite a sexual relationship with your wife, but it’s not too late to pursue happiness. If you can do that together, all the better.

More How to Do It

I just got to have a sexual experience with a guy I’ve been desiring for a long time, and it was such a disappointment. He could not penetrate me. We tried all kinds of positions. We are both big but not obese, and he has a big “beer” belly. He kept telling me to relax, but I was relaxed. I wanted him. I was well-lubricated—my panties were soaked. I am in my early 50s and never had children. The few sexual partners I have had never had a problem like this. I have used dildos without problems. My overall impression was that he was “short,” but he left me feeling like I was the problem, that I was too tight. I have not been having a lot of sex but masturbate regularly and enjoy the “penetration” part of it. This is definitely a sexual relationship, and I don’t see it going on if the encounters continue in this manner. Is there something I could do to not be so tight?

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