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 husband of several years has a pretty intense celebrity crush on an actress with a distinctive look. He’s open with me about it, and I also find this woman beautiful and interesting, so it’s seemed like a harmless crush until recently. From past (slightly awkward, but open) conversations, I already knew he prefers porn featuring women who resemble this celebrity. I respect his privacy and his right to get off on what he wants—and hey, I watch porn too and have my favorites—but I admit being jealous over his focus on this one woman. I haven’t shared my feelings of jealousy because I don’t want to make him feel bad about something I’m ultimately fine with. However, recently he shared with me that he’s also sought out deepfake porn that appears to feature this celebrity. I didn’t react much in the moment, but it’s been seriously gnawing at me. To me this is a huge ethical violation, because this woman obviously didn’t consent to these being made. Frankly, I also find it really creepy and obsessive on his part, and it bothers me in a way that the lookalike porn doesn’t. I’m struggling with more intense jealousy and a loss of respect for my husband. I don’t know how to talk to him about this, or if I even should. I don’t want to risk shaming him, and I worry that telling him that deepfake porn bothers me will just make it more alluring. How do I deal with this, individually and with him?
Dear Creep Wife,
I’ve had quite the month of oblivious dudes taking advantage of me or violating my consent, excusing each other, and even pointing their finger in my face while demanding a picture after they’ve already been told “no.” So you should know, I’m running pretty hot already, and PMS week has just commenced. Your husband committed an act of viewership that you—rightly so—consider an ethical violation. Not just for the celebrity in question, but for the performers who’ve had their heads removed, too. If your husband has to feel a little shame over his inappropriate use of nonconsensual sexual material, well, that’s the cost. Shame, in my understanding, has a function of encouraging social norms—like the “not forcing someone into the position of porn performer without their consent” norm, which is a pretty great one in my opinion.
I think the first step is for you to decide whether you want to stay with a partner who engages in viewership of media you find abhorrent. Can you continue to respect him? That’s pretty crucial to a healthy relationship. If you can, and do, a serious, blunt talk might be your next step. “I strongly disagree with this deepfakes stuff, and want you to know how I see it,” followed by your perspective. His response will be telling. He might be reactive at first, and need a few days to process and understand his feelings and thoughts. But if your husband is such a child that telling him something bothers you will make it more appealing, I think it’s time to leave.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a girl in my teens, and I’ve recently gotten out of a “never being single” phase. About a week before I broke up with my last boyfriend, though, I started talking and hanging out with a guy in my class, who has been, in a few weeks, treating me A LOT better than my ex has in six months. Neither this guy, nor I, want an actual relationship, even though we really like each other. So we agreed that we should stay friends, because we both feel like it will go south if we couple up, and we’ll risk losing each other totally and we’d still have to see each other at school.
The thing is, even with this “friends” agreement, we still can’t help ourselves and we’re always kissing, cuddling, sleeping in the same bed at parties, holding hands, etc. He’s basically me as a guy. We have so much in common; we talk for hours at a time about anything and everything. We share lots of experiences and personality traits, but also a lot of the same insecurities. It feels weird that I’m having the best relationship of my life with someone I’m not even in a relationship with, and I feel closer to him than I have to any other guy. I don’t want to risk losing him, but I’m scared I will anyway, either if he gets bored of this, or if he finds someone he wants to be exclusive with, or if I scare him away by proposing an actual relationship at some point. What should I do?
—Smitten and Confused
We talk about “relationships” as though they mean a very certain—usually sexual and romantic—something, but that something is different for everyone. Your particular situation sounds like a relationship that hasn’t been acknowledged yet. To be clear, I’m not trying to put you on the “relationship escalator,” or the way social presumptions about relationships default to a steady upward progress toward that great suburban lawn in the sky. But I do think a conversation where the two of you talk about what you’re actually doing and what you want and expect from each other would clear the air.
Relationships don’t have to mean monogamy, or commitment, or dates, or sex. The dyadic couple form is still the default, and of course, our society and families have their own ideas about how they expect our lives to play out. But you get to decide. You and whoever else is involved get to build the framework and boundaries of your relationships together.
This conversation might not go well, and that’s OK. Uncertainty is a part of life—I think the COVID pandemic proved that pretty thoroughly—and it will be a part of your relationships at times. Uncertainty can be deeply uncomfortable, and rejection can hurt a lot. It’s better to be yourself, fully and honestly, than to contort around the perceived desires of others out of fear of loss—another facet of life that you will certainly encounter and experience.
As for your never-being-single phase, I think you’re in a transition out of it at most. Someone you’re deeply intimate with and engage in sexual activity with, but don’t call a boyfriend, still isn’t exactly single. One of the great things about being single is learning how to rely on yourself. Another is the time you have to devote to your own self-understanding, developing skills that align with your professional goals, and time with friends. It can also be nifty to experience a different way of living. I hope you give it a try sometime.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a man married to a woman. My question isn’t about my own issue, but a curiosity about men who claim a certain sexual prowess. I sometimes read of men who claim that they can “make women squirt.” This is often a claim men make in response to “couple for male” ads that my wife and I placed. I’ve also seen a letter writer to your column claim that he read up on sexual technique and learned how to make women squirt. I generally roll my eyes at these claims as mere braggadocio. I have been with a woman who ejaculated when she orgasmed during our sex. It was great! But I think this was more about her physiological response to orgasm than any particular sexual prowess of mine. What are your thoughts about men who claim to have a sexual prowess that can “make women squirt”?
Dear Squirt Gun,
I’m thinking back on some of the more talented male performers I worked with during my time in mainstream pornography, and the ones who were most fun to have sex with were also the most humble. I’ve found that men who believe they have sexual prowess and feel the need to brag about it have limited ways of engaging. I’m sure that works for some of their partners. However, their egos can get in the way of hearing what works for the specific person they’re with, and they’re far less likely to be flexible or experimental. To put it simply, they don’t take suggestions or feedback well.
To answer your question directly, my thoughts about the men you describe are dismissive and judgmental. There may be methods that increase the likelihood of squirting for some, but my exasperation is about the word make. “Did I make you come?” “I took her virginity.” Blegch. I’m far more partial to the people who say “Did I give you an orgasm?” or “We were each others’ first sexual experience.” From an efficiency perspective, language tells us a lot about how people view sex and provides useful clues as to whether we’ll match well with one another. These guys are telling you something.
Dear How to Do It,
My partner and I have been friends and/or partners for five years. The reasons we were off and on again is that we obviously have deep feelings for each other, but the issue was his weight and low energy. Because he doesn’t feel attractive, we bang like once every two to three months, and it was always me initiating. I prefer to have sex three to five times a week. Now we have moved together to a new state after he expressed to me he would get healthier and more active. Three months in, nothing has changed. I try to encourage him to feel better about himself, but I know it’s not something I can really affect. At this point, I feel like things won’t really change, and I’ve started telling myself that if I stay with him, I need to just let certain needs and desires of mine to die. I’m 34 years old, active, and relatively fit. I ask myself if I can really live a life that lacks intimacy and sexual satisfaction. I care about him very much, so I can’t see what is best for me. Do I stay or do I go?
—Can’t Get No
I can’t tell you what to do! We have forks in the path of our life, and choosing between two flawed but valuable directions is one of the hardest parts of being human. Once we’ve made our choice, and resumed our journey, we might think back on the decision we made and wonder what if, or have regrets, and we don’t get to know how things would have worked out if we’d gone the other direction.
If you have a trusted friend who can help you think through the situation with yourself as the priority, I think that’s a great start. A few long, private conversations might help you get your thoughts and feelings out in a scenario where you have feedback. Another process is to make lists—what you have, what you want, and what the gaps are between the two. Once you know those gaps, you can look inside yourself and decide whether you can tolerate the disparity for several more years.
If nonmonogamy is an option, you might have additional sexual partners who can also participate in nonsexual activities with you. Of course, this might leave your partner feeling lonely, neglected, or down on himself for being unable to fill that role for you. It does sound like fitness is something you value, so make sure to be honest with yourself around that—if you judge him for his weight, it might be kinder for both of you to separate.
More How to Do It
I have been married for 15 months, but I have known my husband for almost 20 years. Last January, during the shutdown, something just wasn’t right. I am a nurse and just happened to work a rare night shift. I looked at the GPS app around 5 a.m. to see if my husband was at the casino; he had been spending lots of time there. What I saw shocked me.