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 and I have been married for two years, and we have almost completely stopped having sex. My husband claims he is still very physically attracted to me, but that he can’t act on it. When he can manage to try and start something physically, he either can’t get an erection or can’t finish. I know he has very bad anxiety issues, and he has told me that he often wants to have sex but then “gets so in his head that he sets himself up for failure.” He swears it has nothing to do with me, but when we first met and started dating, we were having sex all the time, though every year of the seven years we’ve been together, there has been less and less of it. I am the only girl he’s ever been with, so I have no idea if this issue would have happened with someone else.
Over the last few years, I was on medication that caused me to gain weight, and I have gone from a size 6 to a size 12. Even though my husband swears it’s all him, and not me, I feel as if maybe he is too anxious to tell me he is no longer physically attracted to me. I am only 27, and now I’m wondering if I’ll have to live without sex forever or get divorced. He has started therapy, but I am so afraid he’ll just discover the issue is he doesn’t love me or find me attractive like when I was skinny. He also revealed he once had a porn addiction while we were dating, but that he was able to stop looking at porn when we got engaged. His therapist says they may have caused some of his sexual issues. I’m not sure how to proceed. Do you think this is over unless I get to my previous size?
—Now I’m Anxious
There’s a lot of fear in your letter. Your husband might realize he isn’t attracted to you, and you might spend the rest of your life sexless or have to divorce, but those are not the only (or even the most likely) outcomes. Is there room in the family budget for you to also see a therapist? I think you’d do well to have someone listening to you weekly. If not, I’m hoping that you have a trusted friend you can talk to.
Many things can change over the course of seven years, including our mental health situations. It is completely possible that your husband’s anxiety has increased since the two of you started having sex and married in ways that affects his ability to participate with his penis. Are you able to have nonphallic sex for now? Can you lay back and receive oral? Does your husband have to finish every time? And can he bring himself to orgasm with you in the room?
The bigger issue to figure out long term goes beyond sex: Do you believe your husband? Do you trust him to tell you the truth? It doesn’t seem like that’s the case, and that’s what you need to work on. Has he given you a reason to doubt his word? Are you usually slow to give vulnerability and trust? As you both seek answers to what’s going on, it will be helpful to think on these questions and to be ready to be open to what he discovers about himself, too.
In the very unlikely event that it turns out the guy you married doesn’t love you anymore because you gained weight, you’re better off without him.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a woman in my 20s in a relationship with an amazing man. We have great sex—but whenever I go down on him, I enjoy it TOO much. Really. It’s to the point where I’m coming while giving him oral sex and am just generally distracted by the pleasure I’m receiving. This isn’t a problem for my boyfriend—he thinks it’s hot and has told me many times that it doesn’t bother him. But it is a problem for me! I enjoy going down on him for really long periods of time (he struggles to come outside of masturbation), but when I’m distracted like this, it’s really hard to focus and eventually I just want to cuddle rather than keep going. I was wondering if you have any advice for how to work through orgasms or just really distracting pleasure. Maybe even a way to just calm down and stop coming?
If your genitals are pressed against anything that might stimulate them in your preferred oral position, changing that should help. You can also strengthen your thought-directing skills with mindfulness or meditation outside of sex. And when the pleasure you’re experiencing threatens to overwhelm, you can pause or slow down for a bit.
Mostly, I’m not sure this is a problem. You perform oral sex, which you enjoy, on your partner until you’re tired and want to snuggle instead. It sounds like he’s amused, and certainly not upset with this arrangement. That seems great to me. We’ve got this procreation-driven script about sex that we’re still moving away from, and another orgasm-dominated script that is taking over. Sex is about the paragraph as much as the exclamation mark. You’ve found something that works really well for you. Enjoy it.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a single fortysomething gal who enjoys sexting with people over the internet. I don’t want a relationship right now but the sexual thrill works for me and quite frankly kept me sane during the pandemic. Most guys come and go (no pun intended), but one guy I’ve gotten pretty close to. He essentially now feels like a good friend, with the added bonus that he’s kinky as heck and we match up beautifully on that front. We have open discussions about boundaries, what works and doesn’t work, we experiment with role play—it’s really fun for both of us.
However, recently he’s moved into territory that I’m … unsure about. He wants me to be a little girl, and he remains an adult male who takes advantage of my tiny innocence. Not only that, he wants a fantasy where his friends take advantage, too—say, in a locked bedroom while he waits outside. This, to me, feels off. (Yes, I have daughters.) I know I could stop this—as I say, we have good honest conversations on where boundaries are drawn. That’s not the problem. I guess I’m asking, at what point does a fantasy become unacceptable? Is this a red flag? Am I talking to a pedophile, or is this a common fantasy and I’m overreacting, and I just need to say this doesn’t work for me? I realize that most fantasies stay as fantasies, but this one has me concerned. I like this guy a lot, but should I block and run?
—Don’t Go There
When doctor and sex researcher Justin Lehmiller surveyed more than 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies, he reported in his book Tell Me What You Want, he found 11 percent said they have had fantasies about ageplay. That feels pretty common to me. Ageplay doesn’t necessarily suggest pedophilia any more than a rape fantasy indicates a desire to be raped, but it seems to squick you out, and that’s OK. You don’t have to be into everything, and you get to have limits. Partnered sex is about finding what works between two people and doing that. Not everyone will match up in every way.
Have the conversation. Start with how much you like him, broach the subject of this newly discovered boundary, and follow up with fantasies you love engaging in with him. You’ve got this.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a man in my early 40s in a loving marriage with my early-30s wife. Due to my battle with Stage 4 cancer and her own health problems, we haven’t been sexually active in years. But I can still manage to get off with some porn and a vibrator.
Recently, I was flipping through some old pictures on our shared Google Photos account and came across some of her selfies from when we were first married. This got me a bit turned on so I started masturbating. Since then, I sometimes go to her selfies when I pull out the vibrator. I’d often rather gaze into the eyes of my soulmate than some random porn star’s.
In recent years, she hasn’t taken many selfies. The stress we’re under probably has something to do with it. When she pulls out her phone now, she’s not surprisingly more likely to take a snapshot of our child than herself. I also imagine, on average, most carefree twentysomethings will take more selfies than a busy thirtysomething. How could I politely suggest she take more pics for my personal consumption? Ones with seductive expressions would be great, and a little (or a lot) of nudity would be appreciated. It wasn’t until I started typing this that I realized there might be a consent issue with what I’ve done. I’d like her to see it as positive for our relationship. For me, it feels more emotionally healthy than internet porn. How do I approach the topic without weirding her out?
This is a remarkably adorable letter. Thank you.
It is possible that your wife might object to being objectified this way, and I applaud you for wondering. Go to her. Remind her that you love her. Explain that when you masturbate, you’d rather be thinking of her, briefly describe what you’ve been doing, and, if that goes well, ask her for some new pictures. You might suggest the option of having you take them in addition to the idea of this shoot being a solo adventure. She might have more fun, and it might be an enjoyable memory for the two of you. And if this goes too far for her, well, then you’ll know, and you can work on an alternative together.
More How to Do It
I am a very, very hot woman. When I walk down the street, I turn heads. I have an hourglass body, exercise all the time, and have a career in mechanical engineering. Recently, I went on a few dates with a man who repeatedly shared with me that he finds me gorgeous and is very impressed with my career, and I thought he was a great guy himself. I gave him head and he came in my mouth, which afterward he said hasn’t happened to him in five years. It was “maybe the best head of his life.” I cannot make sense of what happened next.