How to Do It

How Do I Tell My Partner I’m Scared of His Huge Penis?

I wasn’t really able to do anything but hold it there.

Woman looking shocked with a flashing eggplant emoji behind her
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Prostock-Studio/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,

A few years ago, I had a few hookups with a guy who had a monster dong. Like, a very girthy porno penis. It was awesome for PIV sex. But I had a hangup about giving head. I was just so freaked out that I wouldn’t be able to breathe, and when I put it in my mouth, I felt like a snake unhinging my jaw just to put it in. I mean, that’s an exaggeration, but it felt like it took up my whole mouth and I wasn’t able to really do anything else with it but hold it there in my mouth.

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Ordinarily, I think it is polite to reciprocate oral sex with a partner who enjoys it. But I just couldn’t. We only hooked up a few times, so I redirected the oral to penetrative sex. We parted ways, never to meet again.

In the future, if I come across a similarly ginormous wiener (which I hope to because the benefits downstairs were ooh la la), what do I do? Is it ever physically impossible to give head to such a big penis? Is it just a mental block and I need mental tips and tricks to calm down? Are there breathing exercises that can make it easier? As a last resort, what can I do to speed up my partner’s orgasm and spend less time doing the terrifying deed? If it’s not possible to go down on him, how do I politely say, “Sorry, I’m scared of your penis”?

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—Cock Coward

Dear Cock Coward,

Reciprocal sex—you gave me an orgasm, so I want to give you one—is certainly a thing people do, but it isn’t the only way to be a generous and enjoyable lover. And it sometimes leaves people putting pressure on themselves to engage in activities they aren’t comfortable with or to receive types of attention they aren’t interested in. It’s great that you want to be polite and giving, and you may want to consider a more complex assessment of whether a sexual interaction or relationship is balanced.

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It’s possible, if the penis in question is very thick and your mouth is very small (or you have sensitive jaws) to encounter a spatial geometry impasse when it comes to the specific act of wrapping your lips around the head and shaft. However, there are so many other things you can do with your lips and tongue to cause pleasure. The site the Art of Blowjob has lots of examples and includes educational videos. Think licking, lipping with wet or dry lips, sucking on the frenulum (that wrinkle under the head), and carefully gliding the flat fronts of your upper teeth across various parts. Remember that your hands are also available. Oral sex is a description, not a requirement that only your mouth gets used—unless, of course, that’s been requested and agreed to.

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Your instinct that you will have an easier time if you relax is probably accurate. Taking the pressure off of yourself is one part of that. Breathing is another. You might find that a breathing practice, or meditation, when you aren’t having sex helps you to navigate any anxiety or panic you feel during sex. You’re trying to train your body to breathe in a measured way so that it’s easier to do when you’re in some kind of distress, including distress caused by consensually having your mouth overloaded. The holds in between breaths are useful because they give you space to go further with your mouth without trying to coordinate breathing at the same time. Practice will give you familiarity with how long those holds can comfortably last. And as for what you can do to speed up your partner’s orgasm, there are all sorts of options. So many, and so personally specific, that you’ll need to have at least one conversation with them about what they like.

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Regardless, there is no need to apologize for fear. Your fear, your boundaries, and your limits—whether they’re physical or emotional—should be respected. If this isn’t the case, find the door. If you want to flatter his ego, you can say something like, “You are so well-endowed that you’re bigger than my mouth can handle. I bet you’ll feel great in my pussy.” If it were me, I would say, “The geometry of this is nonfunctional, and I suspect you’ve heard this before. What else can we get up to?” But you’re you, and you’ll do best if you find your own phrasing. Good luck.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 24-year-old woman, and I’m coming to you with a variation on the common complaint about the elusive female orgasm. I personally figured it out at about 18—at least for a while. I’m pretty set in my ways: I’ve always been averse to the idea of putting anything in my vagina, and have never had a sexual partner of any kind. So, in a pinch I use fingers, but generally I use a wand-style vibrator on a steady setting (no pulsing on and off or funky rhythms) and just sort of move up and down between direct pressure on the clit and indirect pressure via a sort of “tug” at the place where my vulva begins, slightly above the clitoris. I never change anything about the process, but the subjective quality of the feeling of pleasure has changed over time, as I’ve gotten older, or depending on where I am in my cycle or how long it’s been without an orgasm, etc. However, for the past year or more, I’ve had an issue with a sort of non-orgasm—it’s as if I slowly build to where the peak should be, but rather than a final explosion, it just cuts out. I can tell my muscles are fluttering, and I’ve never been able to do the double-orgasm thing, so I can tell that it’s happened. This doesn’t happen every single time, but it does happen most of the time, and I’m at a loss to explain why. I could have a worse problem than feeling pleasure up until the orgasm, but hey, orgasms are pretty nice. Any suggestions?

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—Underwhelmed

Dear Underwhelmed,

What you’re describing sounds like sexual, or orgasmic, anhedonia. Anhedonia is the technical term for absence of pleasure. I’ve known a number of people over the years—all cisgender men—who’ve described their experiences of it to me. And my co-columnist, Rich Juzwiak, recently answered a question from a man who ejaculates without pleasurable orgasm. In it, he quotes a urologist who notes that there just isn’t good research on this issue.

I’ve experienced sexual anhedonia occasionally myself with a super high-intensity vibrator like the Magic Wand. My experience is that my body does the main things—pelvic contractions and increased vaginal fluid—that I associate with orgasm, but it doesn’t feel fun, or good, or even like it really happened to me. It’s uncomfortable, and I imagine that a year of it is deeply unpleasant. I’m sorry your body is doing this.

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Since this sounds like a relatively new development, it’ll be helpful if you can figure out a more specific time when this began and then think through what may have changed around that time. One big shift is the COVID pandemic, and rates of depression have multiplied during this stressful time. I think it’s worth taking a look at the symptoms of clinical depression and considering if any feel true in the past year or so. If several do, your next logical step would be a licensed psychologist and/or psychiatrist. Other things to think about: Did you start or stop taking any medications around that time? If so, you’ll want to speak with the prescribing doctor. Did you begin, increase, or decrease recreational drug use, including alcohol? If that’s the case, you may have found your culprit. And how about supplements? Again, if that’s the change, you might stop or restart those supplements. If none of these possibilities provide clues, you should schedule an appointment with a general physician or gynecologist—whichever fits best with your health care system.

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Dear How to Do It,

Before the pandemic started, I finally came to terms with my near exclusive attraction to other women after two years of hooking up with men. I’m happy and confident with this transition, but I’ve encountered a new struggle in my sex life: I’m an average-height, 240-pound woman who wants to wrestle and be physically dominated in bed. Due to my size and people-pleasing nature, I usually get stuck in a more dominant position with my partners. I’m happy to please others, but I don’t get much personal satisfaction when I’m not restrained. This feels shitty to say when my date, while otherwise attractive, doesn’t have the physical means to hold me down. How can I communicate this desire with potential partners? Can I only date women bigger or stronger than me?

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—Big Switch

Dear Switch,

The part of your message where you say you don’t get much direct satisfaction when you aren’t restrained feels pretty crucial. It’s OK to have specific sexual desires and to seek out partners who can and want to meet those desires. Your enjoyment and fulfillment are as important as your partners’ are. Meanwhile, it sounds like you do get something out of fulfilling your partners’ sexual desires, even when that requires taking the active or dominant role, and if that’s the case you should continue to do so to your heart’s content.

Taking turns, or switching (as your sign-off suggests) is a great instinct. You can satisfy your partner in the way that feels best for them, and then be satisfied in the way that feels best for you. The roles you play during sex are just that—roles. They can be as temporary as you want them to be, and you can switch them as desired.

Have you considered restraint with objects? Rope, cuffs, and tape are all popular options. The benefit of this kind of bondage is that it enables one person to restrain another regardless of how large or strong they are and for longer than human endurance lasts. If the restraints are thoroughly applied, you can pull and thrash against them in a way that you might be hesitant to with a person out of fear of hurting them. All of these methods require that your top be cautious about how tightly they’re restraining you and that you check in with your body yourself—specifically any restrained part—to make sure your circulation isn’t cut off. Bondage is inherently risky, and you’ll want to do some research before deciding if you’d like to try it. You’ll also want to be cautious with who you’re allowing to restrain you. Do you know them? Do they have experience and knowledge on mitigating the risks? Establish trust, rapport, and effective communication before proceeding with anything that you can’t immediately extricate yourself from.

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You may be able to enjoy wrestling with people who aren’t as strong as you are by exercising your ability to pretend. Even with a person twice your size, you aren’t going to full-on fight them the way you would an attacker. There’s already an element of fantasy at work for this kind of interaction to be safe enough to engage in.

My two ideas might not work for you, and the answer might be that yes, you need to date women who are larger than you in order to fully enjoy partnered sex. If that’s the case, remember that your desires are OK. You can give yourself permission to seek out people who are able and want to meet your desires. Lots of people prefer certain body types or have a tendency toward certain physical characteristics. You get to have preferences too.

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Dear How to Do It,

I have been with my girl for six years now and am very much in love with her. Right before the pandemic she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy followed by other surgeries, chemo, and radiation. One side effect to all of that seems to be a massive autoimmune response that is focused on her labia and vulva and causes her tremendous pain from lesions that form in that area now. We have been to specialists, we’ve been tested for STDs repeatedly, and they’ve even biopsied them to try to find an answer to what is going on—to no avail. It’s to the point that she is uncomfortable even wearing underwear or sitting for any length of time. The doctors, not having any answer, have suggested this is due to her depression, which she has been battling since the cancer diagnosis.

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We haven’t had sex since the diagnosis. When she wasn’t in the middle of a flair-up or during chemo, I’ve gone down on her several times, and she reciprocated. But for both it seemed she was doing it for me, as I enjoy making her come almost as much as coming myself. I have a healthy sex drive but have been able to take care of things myself mostly during this time. I also don’t want her to feel obligated to do things, which she has vocalized several times regarding her fear that I will leave without them.

I’m trying to be the supportive man whom she needs in her life. But I’m also getting to a place where my own reserves are spent. Between the medical issues, her depression and pain, and  being an “essential worker” in a group home setting over the last year (terrified that I’m going to bring COVID home to her and kill her during her treatments), I’m at a loss for what to do. I’m resenting that she seems to think I’m only there out of obligation and even more that the little bit we do sexually she’s doing out of obligation and fear of me leaving. I’m resenting that she wasn’t at a place where she could have sex before the mastectomy just once more. I honestly just don’t know what to do with the situation anymore. Anal is out of the question due to fissures brought on from opioids used post-surgeries, and vaginal sex isn’t really an option at the present. She’s so uncomfortable that she can’t be enjoying anything else we do or she does for me out of her perceived obligation. I love her. I don’t want to leave her. I don’t want to cheat on her. I can’t be angry at her for what isn’t her fault, but I am also needing something to go on other than reading Marcus Aurelius and just weathering the storm indefinitely.

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—Essentially Resentful

Dear Resentful,

You say that you can’t be angry with her for something that isn’t her fault. Resentment is pretty close to anger—some describe it as a low-grade version of anger. If you are angry, that’s OK. Anger is a valid emotion. You can feel angry and still treat your partner with respect and love. Feeling angry doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad partner.

I found a few papers and articles discussing the association between different sorts of vulvar lesions and mental health, but they in no way indicate that depression causes lesions of any sort. They also don’t indicate that depression can’t cause lesions. It seems the science isn’t there yet, and if the doctors your partner is seeing had more robust knowledge in this area, I imagine they’d be using it. And chemotherapy can wreak havoc on sexual desire, as can estrogen-blocking drugs like tamoxifen, which you don’t mention but are frequently used during treatment of breast cancer. Her desire to have desire may be contributing to the depression she is experiencing, too.

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There are various sex toys for men, which could provide some variety in your masturbation, but I suspect what you want is the connection with your partner. If I’m correct, that’s beautiful and also probably very frustrating for you. Are there nonsexual ways you can connect physically with her? Can you curl up together? Can you stroke parts of her body that aren’t in pain? Is holding hands possible for an extended period of time?

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Mostly, I think this is less of a sex question than it seems. You describe an immense amount of stress, and you list two coping strategies: the writings of Marcus Aurelius and patience. It sounds like you need to take care of yourself in a profound and significant way. Based on Susan Silk’s ring theory, you should access emotional support from people who aren’t your partner. This is where friends, family, and support groups can be useful. In a group of others with similar experiences, there’s a higher chance of feeling understood. There’s less explaining of the basics required, so you can get into the really complicated stuff. And there’s less social pressure to avoid talking about the big, scary parts—the big, scary parts are why you’re all there. There are fewer support groups for partners and caregivers of people with cancer then for patients themselves, but these groups do exist, so it seems worth some time searching your area for these meetings. And, like all things during COVID, many are gathering virtually, so there may be additional options outside your city or region.

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—Stoya

More How to Do It

My mother is in her late 50s and has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She tried one round of radiation, but now she is resigned to her fate and doesn’t want more treatment. She is still mentally alert and vivacious. I disagree with her decision, but I respect it.

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We are open with each other, and I know that she was dating and sexually active until her diagnosis. As a final gift, I would like to give her one last fling with a young stud. I talked to an acquaintance who is good-looking, fit, and willing to perform for a reasonable fee. Do you think that I will need to tell her he is being paid? Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely tell the truth if she asked. But this seems like a situation where “don’t ask, don’t tell” is the best policy. Also, any tips for her stud to give her the best possible experience?

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