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 woman recently out of an 18-year marriage—together for 20 years, starting when I was 20 myself—that was never great for me in the sex department. I never felt real desire or lust for my ex-husband. I didn’t think much of it, having so little experience prior to marriage. I am now with a man who turns me on in ways that are new and exciting. I am eager to be adventurous, and it has been a thrill to feel this way and learn things about myself. But the one area in which I feel I’ve been coming up short is talking during sex. My boyfriend has a vivid imagination and expresses himself well, and he’d love for me to take the lead in verbalizing fantasies during sex. I’m not quiet or mute—I make plenty of noise, and I have a few go-to phrases that feel right in the moment—but I find that being asked for narratives causes me to come up blank. I just can’t do it. I get so annoyed with myself. I’m not embarrassed by talking dirty, exactly, and I can sext with gusto. I’d really like to improve in this respect. Any tips?
Stoya: I’m wondering if it’s as simple as shifting from narrative to narrating.
Rich: There’s a difference between invention and description. Crafting fiction is an entirely different skill then mindfulness and an ability to describe what one is feeling and experiencing.
Stoya: Exactly. Unless otherwise requested, there’s no need to spin a whole yarn when you can simply verbalize your experience.
Rich: ”This is so hot. I love how you do me. Your dick is perfect…” etc.
Stoya: ”I love feeling filled by you.” “It’s so thick, pressing against my insides.” Actually that last one sounds a bit strange. That’s sort of my issue with these things—there are limits to language.
Rich: Right, well, you can get caught up in the syntax, really, when the idea is to just let go. I think it’s easier to do that on sex brain. What sounds ridiculous in the light of day might seem totally hot during the act.
Stoya: So when she inevitably says something that feels mortifying, don’t stop to point it out like I did. Proceed onward to something less mortifying.
Rich: Yes! Or laugh it off! You’ve talked about laughing being part of your experiences previously, and I love when it’s integrated into the good time of sex.
Stoya: Oh yes. Laughter is the greatest thing—during sex, outside of sex, after sex. If you ask him to bang your forkshnurkle, and that’s hilarious, have fun with it.
Rich: For some people, everything is so serious, but I assure you that sex doesn’t have to be that way.
Stoya: Actually, in the grand tradition of improv and team building, an embarrassing activity might be just the thing. Start with forkshnurkles, and get as completely absurd as you can. Try to crack each other up. Deploy in-jokes where feasible. The idea being that once you’ve said the most ridiculous, a little, “Ooh, your balls feel good against my taint” is way easier.
Rich: I think that’s a great tactic for getting out of your own head and just letting go. Another pretty easy fix, I think, would be to keep things in the realm of the familiar. In the age of COVID, we’ve fielded a lot of questions about screen sex and how to make it hot. One thing I have told people repeatedly is to just go back to a particularly good encounter. Say what you loved about that. Recount it in detail.
Stoya: That’s a good one.
Rich: I also want to acknowledge our writer’s frustration and ask her to go easy on her. This stuff doesn’t always come naturally or easy to people. For some of us, including me, sex is a communicative refuge from verbal communication; it’s another mode in itself. So if you can’t verbalize, maybe you just can’t. It just might not be who you are as a sex-haver.
Stoya: Looking at the question a second time, it seems our writer’s partner may be requesting them to create scenarios, which is a whole other issue.
Rich: Yeah, I think it’s asking a lot.
Stoya: They may not be a match in this area, and that’s OK. I’m wondering if their proficiency with sexting can be transferred to live sex.
Rich: I think it’s really healthy to want to learn how to improve your aptitude for pleasing your partner, but it’s also healthy for your partner to understand that there are things that some people just are not going to be good at or interested in. Compassion and compromise are key.
More How to Do It
I’m worried my friend actually believes she has been having sex with a ghost in quarantine. We went to college together but have lived on opposite coasts for close to a decade. She’s quarantining alone. Recently, she mentioned to me that she’d been masturbating while thinking of a man who lived in her apartment in the 1920s. I assumed she meant it as a fantasy, and we had a good laugh. But in subsequent conversations, things have taken a turn.