How to Do It

It Appears My New Boyfriend Never Got a Crucial Lesson About His Penis

A man contemplates a large eggplant.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by  fizkes/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,

I have a wonderful new boyfriend, and we have been having great sex. The problem is that he does not smell good down there! I wasn’t so aware of the issue until our first night with some unprotected sex, and I immediately got a yeast infection. I started paying more attention and realized that he has some fundamental hygiene issue.

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He’s uncut. I’ve been trying to take nice showers before with him, but the issue seems to be that he simply does not push his foreskin back to clean. Hence this terrible smell and yeast infection environment. I tried gently doing it in the shower and it clearly made him uncomfortable. So now we’re using lots of condoms. He has no issues during sex whatsoever, and then his foreskin is completely back. But I obviously don’t want to go down on him. He only likes hand action with the foreskin way up and not moving it at all down. It’s strange. I don’t know how to handle this. Obviously he’s a grown man, so I don’t want to lecture him on basic hygiene most that uncut men learn as a child. But something needs to change. What can I do?

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—Sniff Test

Dear Sniff,

From your description, I wonder if he’s experiencing a mild form of phimosis, or a related issue. That’s the name of the condition in which the foreskin is too tight to be comfortably pulled back and expose the glans of the penis. While people with phimosis are often incapable of moving the foreskin back from the head, “Score 1” phimosis refers to a retractable foreskin that is tight behind the head. Could it be that while technically his foreskin can roll back, it’s generally uncomfortable for him to do so, hence his masturbation technique and cleaning avoidance? I obviously can’t be sure from over here, but if that’s the case, well, he’s not just some smegma-collecting slob.

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Either way, what he’s got going on down there isn’t compatible with your flora, and he should be doing whatever he can to preserve the integrity of your microbiome. This may require treatment, or it might require him to take soap to dick head. Requesting this doesn’t have to come in the form of a lecture—just ask questions, try to get some clarity, and then together figure out a way forward. He’s too old to be funky in the crotch, and your compassionate assistance may be what he needs to get himself right, annoying as that extra work might be for you. That’s partnership for you.

Dear How Do It,

I’m a single 30-year-old woman currently interested in dating, or at least regularly hooking up with, mainly dudes. I’m having decent success meeting up with men I’m attracted to from the apps, but so far, the sex I’ve had with them has been deeply mediocre. I would rather just not have sex than have mediocre sex, because mediocre sex is just not fun enough for me. Maybe even worse, it’s so awkward, especially when the other party seems to think it was good, and you have to figure out how to communicate that you don’t want to see them again without hurting them. How do I screen for guys who can give me the kind of sex I want on the apps without making our entire interaction about sex—or being cruel?

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I have accepted, with annoyance, that I really do strongly prefer big dicks. I also love it when guys can go hard for a long time or multiple times. This requires both genetic luck and some level of physical fitness. And I’m not using fitness as a code word for being thin or visibly muscular—I mean actual cardiovascular fitness and physical strength, which people of all sizes can possess, or not possess. Sedentary skinny dudes are the worst offenders when it comes to not doing it for me.

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But besides trying to match with guys who have athletic hobbies (I do too), and welcoming dick pics if they’re offered—but then what do I do if I can tell said dick isn’t big enough? It seems ridiculously cruel to just stop chatting at that point—how do I try to screen for this kind of physical sexual compatibility in advance? Sexting can help, but sexting is, to put it politely, mostly aspirational, so I don’t see it as a good indicator. Plus, I do care about whether or not we get along as human beings, too; I want to actually be friends with my friends with benefits, and often on the apps, introducing frank discussion about mutual sexual interests makes the whole conversation about that and creates an expectation that you’ll definitely be hooking up—and I won’t be unless I like the guy when we meet in person. I am torn between trying to be kind, trying not to make the whole interaction about sex, and trying to get what I want without always having to rely on actually sleeping with someone. What are my options?

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—Conflicted Size Queen

Dear CSQ,

You can be transactional or you can be kind, but you can’t be both. You’re cruising for sex for you, not for the sake of strangers’ egos. And I know that by calling what you’re doing “cruising,” I run the risk of oversimplifying your aims. You care about getting along as human beings, I read that right, but let’s be real: Without the promise of hookups, you wouldn’t be on those apps—they aren’t called “getting along apps.”

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Your letter is a laundry list of the things that suck about meeting strangers virtually for sex. Those strangers may misrepresent their prowess, or even their penis. I’ve had guys send pictures of dicks that straight up weren’t theirs … which I of course only realized once we were naked together and at that point it really is awkward to turn someone down. (This is exactly why people send counterfeit junk.) But even when someone represents himself honestly to the best of his ability, no matter how objectively good in bed a guy says he is, it can all go to shit when the actual sex takes place if the chemistry isn’t right. And there isn’t really a way to check sexual chemistry before you get in bed—sure, you can meet in public prior to see if there are sparks that some rigorous friction could turn into a fire, but even that hardly guarantees a gratifying roll in the hay.

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The rejection that you feel bad about performing is part of the game, and only fools hate the player. Admittedly, it’s kind of a shitty game. I’ve had more mediocre sex from apps than good sex by a margin that I’m too embarrassed to print, lest you understand just how much of my life I’ve wasted. I think of it as living like a shark and needing to take a bite out of everything just to understand whether it’s something I want to keep my lips wrapped around. It isn’t ridiculously cruel to stop talking to someone whose dick pic deflates your interest. It’s just par-for-the-course brusque. That is the screening process, and when you are conversing with someone that you know you have no interest in meeting in person, it can in fact be crueler to be kind. At a certain point, you’re leading him on. This is why so many people on apps say in the “what I’m looking for” field: “Someone who will make me want to delete this app.” The whole system sucks, but sometimes, you get good dick from it. That’s what keeps you coming back. That’s how they get ya.

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Dear How Do It,

When I met my husband, it was clear that he had a stronger sex drive than me, but I at least had one, and we were both pretty content with a couple or a few times a week. Then I got pregnant and developed some serious associated health issues. I had a very traumatic birth experience, developed postpartum depression, and have been pretty much depressed or on antidepressants for the intervening two years. My sex drive is in negative numbers. I am now pregnant again and off meds, and seriously depressed. Sex ranges from meh to painful, usually somewhere in the mildly uncomfortable range. I can climax if I put in substantial effort, but that effort seems not worth it at all in the moment, and I’d rather just disassociate. A good gynecologist has ruled out a physical reason for my pelvic pain during sex. I just don’t want it at all ever.

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My husband still does. He asks or initiates every other day or so, and is pretty much disappointed every time I say no. I initiate when I can muster the energy, and try to make something happen around once a week, but I’m sure it’s very obvious that my heart isn’t in it. I know this is seriously a downer for him, but I just don’t have the emotional energy to feign enthusiasm or like, seduce him. Sex does not make me feel loved or make me feel close to my husband. He will do nonsexual touch like massages and cuddling, but his libido often gets the better of him and he tries to turn things to sex just as I’m beginning to let my guard down. I hate kissing him because I can’t ever just kiss him without him wanting to escalate. At this point, this dynamic in our relationship is contributing in a major way to my depression, because it makes me feel like I don’t deserve his support because I’m not meeting his needs anymore. I don’t want to open the relationship, and I don’t think he does either. He just wants more sex and I don’t know how much duty I have to provide it through gritted teeth. What do I owe him?

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—Tapped Out

Dear Tapped,

You have no duty to provide a single sex act that you aren’t interested in performing. It sounds like a total pause on sex right now might be best—you’re going through a lot. But what I think you do owe your partner is compassion, and that means working on a mutually satisfying solution. It may come in the form of couples counseling to get to the root of your changing libido (even if the ultimate answer is that you’re on the asexual spectrum). It may come from reconsidering opening the relationship. You can and should consider how this would affect you, but because you’re part of a unit with your partner, the kind thing to do is consider his perspective as well. What do you propose he do with all of that libido, if he is to remain married to you? Do you really think it’s fair for him to have to just put his interest in sex away and forget about it permanently? What kind of outlet for him would you be comfortable with? If you don’t answer those questions, he may pursue options on his own and torpedo the relationship by engaging in sex outside of your arrangement. That would be unethical and undeserved, but a high sex drive tends to find an outlet. It’s better to get in front of that than to be surprised by the outcome.

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Dear How to Do It,

My boyfriend and I broke up a couple months ago. It was mutual and civil, but we’re not in contact right now to give ourselves some healthy distance. While we were together, our sex life was great—we had a lot of natural attraction to each other. Since breaking up, I’ve found myself drawn to a category of porn that I wasn’t drawn to before my boyfriend and I started dating. While I am white, my ex-boyfriend is not, and I’ve become more turned on by porn that features people of his race. My porn preferences prior to this relationship had no real basis in the race of the performers, so this is new. Additionally, I’m more turned on by videos that feature performers of his race that look similar to my ex. For example, my ex had straight hair and a specific cut, so I’ve looked for videos featuring men with a similar hair type and length. I tend to only enjoy sex when I feel love for the other person I’m with, and masturbating to these kinds of videos seems to give me some extra level of pleasure and enjoyment.

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Certainly some of this stems from missing the relationship I had with my ex, but I’m concerned about the ethical considerations of watching porn specifically for the race of the performers. I don’t want to fetishize people, and I worry that overloading my brain with images of individuals of a certain race having sex will cause me to link those things. I have no problem giving them up to ensure I don’t fetishize people of my ex’s race. But this has sparked some concern in me about my general porn habits. Is there a way I can ensure I’m keeping a healthy image of people featured in porn, whether with respect to their race, their gender, or other aspects of their identity? Are there things I can ask myself to evaluate whether I’m respectfully watching a video that feature people of a different race from me or whether I’m perpetuating harmful stereotypes? Is there porn aimed at showing a diverse set of performers without fetishizing them?

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—Ex Sex

Dear Ex,

I think you’re already asking the right questions. Nothing you take in is going to necessarily lead you on the road to hell, unless that material was already made illegally or unethically. At any rate, this interest of yours seems less about fetishizing a race than carrying a torch. Presumably you will move on when you’re ready, perhaps absorbing your next partner’s features into your porn-viewing habits. In the meantime, why don’t you seek out creators of the race that you’re interested in watching and patronize them? You can put your white dollars toward POC sex workers directly by subscribing to their OnlyFans/Just for Fans and similar platforms that host user-generated porn. (OnlyFans’ recent announcement about explicit content may make it less appealing come October.) At that point, your feelings will be second to the cold hard cash you’re putting in these performers’ and directors’ pockets. Let ethics guide the bottom line.

More How to Do It

I was 25 when I married my wife. Both our dating and engaged relationships were full of shared activities and physical touching. We did everything together from cooking to fishing, playing cards, walking, riding back roads, having sex, and socializing with friends. She never told me “no” when intimate desires scratched me. Never. Not once. Our relationship changed immediately the day after our wedding—and I do mean immediately.

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