How to Do It

My Awkward, Unusual “Medical” Kink Is Presenting a Problem

And it’s not just that it could kill me.

A guy in gym shorts, with a heart monitor flashing next to him.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos 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’m a straight man with a somewhat unusual and awkward kink: There’s absolutely nothing else that a person could possibly do to me that works in the same way, but the kink’s uncommon nature has brought about more than a few inelegant conversations. In a nutshell, I love to be given CPR in the bedroom by my partner. I know that must be quite unusual to read, but I’m 100 percent serious about it, so I think it bears some explaining.

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All my life, my chest has been my body’s absolute most sensitive erogenous zone. Touch and massage there have always worked wonders in terms of my arousal. As I started becoming sexually active in my late teens, I discovered that good kissing chemistry and technique was also at the top of my list. Shortly after high school, I dated a girl who was in an EMT program, and she decided to play practice CPR on me one night in the bedroom after she had taken a class. It immediately blew my socks off because it connected, more or less, the two things I sexually enjoyed the absolute most. In the years since, it’s grown to be a deeply desired kink of mine, so much so that it’s basically become a deal breaker when potential partners either are averse to it, or become averse to it.

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To be clear, over the years, I’ve come up with some key differences between my version of CPR and actual “clinical” CPR so as to maintain safety, mostly for my role as the “patient.” The “rescuer“ simply shouldn’t compress that deeply, for one. For two, it helps to be on a surface with some “give,” like a mattress. For three, the “mouth-to-mouth” component usually includes a bit more tongue technique than actual blowing, as opposed to how most people are trained to do it, although gentle breath exchange can be VERY sensual as well. The partner who (hopefully) learns how to harness the energy these activities create in me will assuredly be rewarded with a very exciting, explosive bedroom life.

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I say all that to get to my dilemma, which is in finding a better way to bring this up with a potential partner. What I ultimately want is “the right” long term partner, but for all of my discoveries over time in regard to which physical CPR techniques work best for me, I have yet to figure out a reliable, non awkward way to initially bring this up. It’s definitely not typical dinner conversation. As with lots of kink enthusiasts, I suppressed this interest for years of my life before I learned to accept that it’s a part of who I am, and as I said, it’s now on the level of a deal breaker for me. I don’t believe in wasting much time with people who are decidedly against it no matter how much sense my explanation makes. I’ve tried putting vague references to it in online dating profiles. I’ve tried the direct approach, just coming out and saying it. And I’ve tried pretty much everything in between. Results have been greatly varied. At best, I’ve had a few eventual partners who weren’t fazed by it, but the problem with that is they weren’t “into” it like me and their interest in fulfilling it for me just faded over time. In the middle are people who consider it silly and don’t take it seriously, even though I’m completely serious about it. At worst, a few girls were weirded out by it and thought it was creepy.

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Believe it or not, there is a small, somewhat niche but dedicated CPR/resuscitation kink community that exists out in the ether. There can be elements of it come across as creepy and individuals within it that turn out to act like creeps, just as with any other kink, fetish, or otherwise “alternate” bedroom behavior. My own interest in it breaks down to not much more than the physical fulfillment of the desires of my sensitive chest, just in a very specific way. Is there any advice you can give me on this that might be able to help with my dilemma? Is there a “right” way to bring this up? Should I only seek to date medical professionals who have existing CPR knowledge—would that “soften the blow” any when I eventually bring it up?

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—Resuscitate Me

Dear Resuscitate Me,

CPR comes with risk of broken ribs and collapsed lungs. I hear that you’ve modified the experience out of concern for your well-being. I’m wondering if you’ve thought through the experiences of the people who you’re asking to engage in this still dangerous activity. Let’s take a moment to imagine their perspective: This person, who they are new to dating, is asking them to do something that could kill him. They want to be accommodating, open, and accepting. But they’re aware that this activity has a risk of serious ramifications.

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I think the safety question is crucial here. A New York City Health and Hospitals worker I spoke with on the phone hung up on me, so I feel you on the difficulty involved with discussing this particular kink, but I was able to get in touch with Shane Woodall, president of Frontline Health, an emergency training school who has been teaching CPR for 23 years. “The things that he’s trying to mitigate it with—the mattress surface, not pushing as hard, and all of that—well, a person is doing this,” he told me. “Perhaps in the heat of the moment, the person may push a little too hard and you may end up with a fractured sternum, or a fractured rib. You may actually crack a rib and have that cause internal injuries to the person’s organs as well.”

Woodall left me with a warning: “definitely not going to recommend this as a practice anyone should do.” A nurse acquaintance of mine also pointed out that you could still disrupt the rhythm of your heart.

I get that this is your kink, so I’m not expecting complete compliance with best practices here no matter how much I’d prefer it, but I hope this reminds you of the stakes here—not just for you but for the other person involved. I agree with your instinct to seek out medical professionals as romantic mates—they have more of an ability to evaluate what you’re asking them to do. Keep in mind that they’re more than their qualifications, treat them as humans first, and please prioritize your health and safety.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m a lesbian in my 30s and somehow during the pandemic I’ve stumbled into my most emotionally fulfilling relationship. She is simply wonderful. She’s loving, kind, affectionate, smart, funny, adorably goofy, and essentially everything I could ask for in a partner. Most of our relationship comes as easily as breathing. Unfortunately … she does not.

I am very sexual. I enjoy long and varied sexual sessions—sometimes tender, sometimes a little rough, sometimes with a strap on … you get the picture. In my ideal situation, I’d prefer sex four to five times a week if not more. My partner is a fabulous lover and is doing a wonderful job bringing me to orgasm. In fact, I have never orgasmed more in my life. We currently have sex two to three times a week, and she has told me that this is a lot for her. While she is generally interested in sex, she prefers to give pleasure rather than to receive. She often initiates and is always happy to pleasure me through oral sex, clit stimulation, penetration or any combination thereof with no expectation of reciprocation.

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I’m sure to most this sounds like a dream. The problem is she is only interested in being pleasured sporadically, though she does climax every time she allows it. She says that she finds the most fulfillment in giving, and doesn’t have a strong desire to orgasm. I can logically understand this, but unfortunately, I too enjoy giving. I have always found extreme arousal and sexual fulfillment in bringing my partners to climax and, with her in particular, I get so aroused by her orgasms that my orgasms afterward are mind blowing. I find the limited opportunity to do this in our relationship is making sex less enjoyable for me. On top of that, I’ve found myself irrationally doubting her attraction to me despite her freely telling me that she desires me and our frequent sex.

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We have discussed this multiple times, and my partner says her sex drive is just low, but she loves to make me climax. I know my partner’s preferences are perfectly reasonable and that orgasm isn’t the only goal in good sex. I want to be able to accept the wonderful selfless sex she offers and be grateful for the times when she is interested in being pleasured, but how can I get past my disappointment and insecurity when she isn’t interested in orgasming?

—Lusting for My Lady

Dear Lusting,

When I read your words, I hear a woman who wants to contribute to her partner’s pleasure and happiness, in a loving, rational, and respectful way. I’m wondering how much of your sexual confidence—your ability to think of yourself as a good lover—is tied to your orgasm giving. See, good people did so much work raising awareness about the female orgasm, framing it as something that we should value, and now, I’m more and more encountering people who feel like they’ve failed if their partner—regardless of gender—doesn’t orgasm. I certainly didn’t see this coming, but some of us may be headed toward the other extreme now.

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What does your partner want more of? If the love language framing works for you, what kinds does she receive most easily? When you want to give her an orgasm, and she declines, can you think of it as an opportunity to provide the sort of affection she desires at that time? I’m essentially asking you to transmute your lust into a different sort of attraction and affection, hoping that inciting other forms of happiness in her will suffice—or maybe even turn you on.

Make a list of all the ways you can show affection to your partner, and a list of all the ways she shows her affection for you, and turn to it when you’re feeling insecure about what you bring to the relationship aside from your pubic prowess.

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Dear How to Do It,

I have been single for a while. Because of reality, I’ve started a course of anti-depressants, which is demolishing my libido and ability to get it up. I’ve recently reconnected with someone with whom there’s the possibility that this could turn sexual. We’re definitely completely remote for the next month, but after that, who knows. I’d also point out that there is a bit of a cause and effect relationship here: I’m engaging more with people because of the drugs, where before I just … didn’t really bother connecting with people.

I know that there are different drugs and different schedules that can help mitigate the sexual dysfunction side effects of anti-depressants. At what point do I need to acknowledge to her that this is … well, a potential problem? For now, it’s not up for debate that I need some kind of mood stabilization. And any time I’ve been on the drugs in the past, sex and by extension the relationships have been fraught with misfires and hurt feelings. There are plenty of ways to express affection and intimacy—I’m all for creativity and communication—but I’m not a 70-year-old guy—I’m in my 30s, and I’d like to be banging too! If I could just make my brain and the rest of me show up for it at the same time that is.

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It matters to me to be honest, and I’d rather be before anything sexual happens, but neither do I want to kill off a potential chance to get laid, which doesn’t really happen to me all that much.  When do I speak up and what do I even say? If anything, I’m inclined to pass on this opportunity to avoid this issue, but that seems to defeat the purpose of being on these meds in the first place.

—In Between a Rock and a Soft Place

Dear Soft,

Depression sucks. It dampens our desires and muffles our joy. I’m getting a pretty strong “should” vibe from your letter: You feel like you should have reliable erections because you’re in your 30s. You feel like you should pursue sexual interaction with this woman because you don’t often encounter mutual interest. I’m wondering if you have any connection to what you want, whether that’s your current feelings or your memories of your goals before this period of depression. You might not, and that’s fine, but if you do, that information might help you figure out the best course of action.

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Especially when there isn’t much excitement in our lives, fear of missing out can be a powerful motivator. And when we haven’t felt happy, inspired, or joyful in a while, every flash of positive emotion can feel like a lifeline.

You have several options. You can proceed or pass, yes, but you can also pause while being vague, pause while being totally transparent, or something in between. Come up with some statements: ”I find you attractive, I am dealing with some personal stuff, and I would like to keep things platonic for now.” If you continue and the time comes, “I have a suddenly shy penis, and I’m nervous about engaging in a sexual relationship with you.” Or “I want to have sex with you, presuming you’re interested, but I’m not sure how my cock will react because of this medication I’m on.” Put them in your own words and try them on in front of the mirror. Make sure to include pass or proceed options. Look yourself in the eye, state your statement, and listen to your feelings when you’re saying these sentences. Do any of them feel right? If so, even if it’s only partially, you’ll have a better idea of which direction you’re going. And the statements that feel totally off. that’s good data about what you’re averse to right now.

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Lastly, give your psychiatrist a call. They should know that you’re experiencing side effects, and might be able to help you with some of the management strategies you mentioned.

Dear How to Do It,

I am a 20-year-old female virgin who masturbates semi-frequently (more so since the pandemic started). While I’ve had some sessions I’ve definitely enjoyed, I’ve never orgasmed from masturbation, mostly because I find myself getting tired out from it really quickly, whether I use my fingers or I use a toy like a dildo or vibrator. While I’m not especially physically active, I’m not unhealthy either, and this exhaustion in both my hands and the rest of me has me a little concerned for when I start having sex with other people that I’m going to struggle to go for very long in any capacity. Do you have any suggestions for how I could build up more stamina for masturbating and beyond?

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—Finger Fatigue

Dear FF,

Finger stamina can be increased with exercise. This can mean more masturbation, but it can also mean doing little finger curls. Get a two- or three-pound barbell. Hold your hand palm up, put the stem of the barbell across your fingers, and get to curling. Let the weight take your fingers as far back as they’ll go, and then curl them so the weight is all the way in your palm. Do it till your fingers have had enough, wait a couple of days until they aren’t sore anymore, and do it again.

You can also work on making your movement more efficient. Are you putting excessive effort or force into your movements? You might be prematurely wearing yourself out. And you might shift which part of your body is active so you have more options when one set of muscles starts to tire out. For instance, you can hold the dildo steady and move your pelvis around on it, or even get one that suction-cups to the wall or floor so you don’t have to hold it at all.

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When you do get around to partnered sex, you’ll want to keep efficiency of movement in mind. Do they actually want that much pressure? Does the stimulation need to be that fast, or is half speed pleasurable too? Are you zeroed in on one erogenous zone? Are there other spots that could use some attention—and a different kind of stroking—for a bit?

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Realistically, you’re going to get tired at some point. Or your partner will get tired. And eventually your body will be less reliable than it is now. Remember that sex is a journey of pleasure, and try to be kind to yourself when you’re thinking about your limitations. For instance, I can only be on top for a handful of minutes before my joints start to hurt. That’s just enough to get through a porn scene, but frequently disappoints recreational partners.

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—Stoya

More How to Do It

I met a guy on a dating app in November 2019. We hit it off immediately and had a lot in common, and we were looking for something similar. We made several attempts to make plans that kept getting canceled, and then COVID happened. We ended up meeting in person finally in May (masked up and safe) and continued to see each other throughout the summer and into the fall. One week he didn’t return any of my texts. We didn’t normally go more than a few days without texting, so I was worried. I knew he wasn’t on social media, but ended up searching for him on LinkedIn, and it turned out we had a shared connection. It also turns out that the name he gave me when we met (and on the dating app) wasn’t his actual name—he gave me a different first name. OK, now I’m curious. So I Googled him. I was shocked by what I found.

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