How to Do It

I’ve Been a Skilled Lover to My Wife. But the Past Two Years Have Taken a Startling Turn.

A man puts his head in his hands next to a wilting flower.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by yamasan/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!

Every week, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a man in my late 30s coming up on my 10-year wedding anniversary. For awhile now—over a year—whenever I have penetrative sex with my wife, I can barely last a minute before I come. When I masturbate, I have no problem staying hard longer than that. Lately—maybe the last 6 months or so—leading up to penetrative sex during foreplay, I can get hard very easily, but when we go to transition to penetrative sex or if I do actually penetrate my wife, I have been losing my erection very quickly. It has gotten to the point that I’m so in my head about everything going on and wanting to be a good lover that the last few times we tried to have sex I couldn’t even get it up.


I’m a VERY sexual person, and my wife is not. I am always initiating sex and she never does. I probably jerk off every other day to porn, and when I do that, I get very hard. When I switch between videos sometimes I do go soft, but once I find something that turns me on, I’m rock hard again and can finish.

In my 20s and early 30s, before we had kids, I considered myself a skilled and confident lover, and making sure my partner got off was something that really turned me on. I have gained a decent amount of weight the last two years because of a foot injury and not being able to exercise. On top of that we had three kids in a span of 2.5 years (the latter two were twins), so obviously my wife’s sex drive took an understandable hit between the diapers and breast feeding. She was just starting to get interested in sex again when the pandemic hit, and obviously that killed our sex drives for awhile as well. I’m pretty miserable as sex is VERY important to me, and the fact that I can’t perform well or really at all is killing me. I have been attributing my poor performance in bed to the fact that we maybe have sex once every two to three weeks (sometimes longer), and if we did it more, I could get more in a groove and be better at it. My wife thinks I should go see a urologist because it seems like I’m suffering from ED and premature ejaculation. I’m not opposed to seeing a doctor, but I feel like it’s going to be the usual advice of “lose weight, exercise more, and try to be less stressed.” I guess I’m just at a complete loss for what to do because I’m also contemplating seeing a sex therapist, since it might not exactly be physical since I can still get hard and get off when I masturbate. Would love your POV on all of this. I’m getting pretty depressed. Thanks so much.


—Sexually Struggling

Rich: This letter is tough because our writer seems to know his issues and the potential solutions, and yet can’t quite get it together and follow through. It’s like he has all the pieces to the puzzle but can’t visualize the finished picture. “It has gotten to the point that I’m so in my head about everything going on.” Yeah! Exactly!!!

Stoya: Well, and he says at the beginning that he ejaculates in a minute when he’s engaged in penetration with his wife, and then at the end he says he can still get off when he masturbates. Implying that he can’t with his wife?

Rich: Yeah, maybe he doesn’t count premature ejaculation as “getting off,” given its abruptness? Or he’s referring to losing his erection. At the very least we can gather that he’s having erections alone and not keeping them with his wife. Usually that discordance is taken to signal a psychological, rather than physical, issue.


Stoya: So then a sex therapist would make sense as his first course of action.

Rich: Yes. But also, never underestimate the psychological power of ED meds. They’re like off-label anti-anxiety drugs for some. And talking to a primary care doctor could be quicker and start get the ball rolling for them, if he’s interested in going that route.


Stoya: They do tend to require desire, though.

Rich: Definitely. But it sounds like he has it!

Stoya: I’m wondering if his statement that his wife never initiates holds a clue. Whether she actually literally never initiates sex or only does so rarely, he might be missing feeling desired.

Rich: I mean, if you look at sex like a conversation, it generally takes the work of both participants to keep is going. Having sex with someone who is consenting but not exactly enthusiastic is like talking to a brick wall. It’s encouraging that his wife is receptive enough to conversations about this that she’s offering advice about doctors.


Stoya: I know lots of people hold orgasm during penetration as the goal of sex. And I’m wondering if they might have a better time if they treated oral and digital stimulation as full sexual acts instead of a prelude, at least for now.

Rich: It would be extremely useful to know what his wife thinks about this beyond her practical proposal of treatment. How important is penetrative sex to her? How affected is she by his ED/premature ejaculation? She might be completely amenable to the oral/digital stimulation you propose and yet he’s forcing himself to be one way because of some constructed image of what sex should look like. The problem with being so in your own head is that it doesn’t allow for you to be in other people’s heads. Hard to say if he’s not considering her needs, or if he just left it out of his letter.


Stoya: It’s definitely worth having a deeper conversation with her.

Rich: The sooner that he can get to a place where he feels less pressure, the better off he’ll be. There are several potential routes to this, and he acknowledges many of them. The only thing that’s keeping him from moving forward is him.

More How to Do It

Three years ago, my ex-husband left me, and I began using illicit drugs recreationally, as my life “spiraled out of control” (or so my family described it). Although others were very judgmental of my behavior during that period, I personally found it incredibly liberating. I was able to safely discover things about myself that were important to me, and I really valued having the sense of freedom that came with it—particularly when it came to sexual expressiveness. A few months ago, I started a more stable relationship with a man, “Boris,” who was understanding of my past. Respecting that Boris seemed disinclined toward my (safe) drug and alcohol use, I stopped that behavior. However, I’ve continued to long for my past alcohol and drug use because of the sexual liberation it gave me. And secretly, I have started indulging one of my fantasies. I keep Boris’ ejaculate in my mouth, discreetly spit it into a kitchen glass, then I use the dehydrator and spice grinder to dry and grind his semen into a fine powder. I then ingest the semen dust, using a straw to snort it.