How to Do It

I Just Can’t Do What My Wife Is Demanding During Sex. She Says I’m Not a “Real Man.”

A man next to a peach.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by 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,

Everywhere I turn right now, I see that it is #AnalAugust. Articles, podcasts, sex-toy sales. It’s all about the glorious peach. My wife and I have been together 19 years. In the last two years, she started asking me for anal. Major props to her for asking for what she wants! I have tried to honor that.

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The thing is, I don’t desire anal sex. It’s not a religious thing or a shame thing. I just … don’t desire it. It doesn’t turn me on. I don’t think about it (unless she brings it up). I have tried to remain open to it and have warmed up to using my finger to touch her ass and then penetrate her. It is wonderful to see how much pleasure she feels from this, and I’m glad to be a part of it. But do I, myself, desire it? No.

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We have some plugs now for her and she enjoys those. All of this leads up to her asking for my penis inside her. We have tried it a few times. We go slow. Lots of lube. But each time I am overcome with anxiety. I can’t catch my breath. I start sweating. It’s not enjoyable for me. I’ve asked to take this off the table, but she is still asking for it. She says she’s having a hard time understanding why I don’t want it. She even said in a fit of frustration that a real man would take her there and it would be no problem. What’s wrong with me? It seems like anal is a big thing and popular. How can I learn to want it and like it? I feel like I am really letting my wife down, and that pretty much sucks.

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—Butt Out

Dear Out,

Your wife’s frustrated outburst isn’t OK. You’re no less of a man for passing on posterior penetration, and your interests are valid and enough. Has she apologized or otherwise indicated that she understands her words were hurtful? If not, that’s the first conversation to have. Start with how you’re feeling—like there’s something wrong with you—and the emotions around that. Let her know that her words caused these feelings. Give her space to understand and to think of and ask questions.

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Hopefully you can then segue gently into the next issue—you don’t want to have anal sex, and she needs to respect your boundary. You’ve already incorporated toys and fingers and met her halfway. Your penis doesn’t have to be involved to explore this kind of pleasure for her.

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It doesn’t matter what your gender is. It doesn’t matter what hole we’re talking about. It doesn’t matter that you don’t mind fingering it. It doesn’t matter that you like putting your penis in other places. You don’t want to penetrate an anus with your penis. That’s the end of it. You’ve even tried it, and had a terrible time. It’s your choice what to do if she continues to force the issue. Figure out now what your limit is, state it clearly, and stick to it when the time comes.

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Dear How to Do It,

I am a straight man. A couple of years ago, I started to see an escort on a semi-regular basis. About a year ago, she retired from escorting, but agreed to keep seeing me. Over the past few months, I’ve started to see her on a weekly basis, and our time together has evolved from just sex to leisurely talk over drinks and a meal, and wonderful extended sensual sessions of erotic massages and more. It’s been an amazing time of sexual exploration for me, as I come from a background with a repressive sexual culture. I feel I still have so much to learn about myself, how to be a good lover, and how to embrace sex as a positive outlet. The problem I have is that I am starting to develop feelings for her, even though I know she probably views me as a client. I’ve been helping her with some of her studies, and I’ve really enjoyed being a bigger part of her life. My question is, should I tell her about my feelings? I’m afraid she won’t want to see me anymore. I could also just try to view this as just a transactional relationship, but I can’t help wanting a bit more. Am I just being foolish for mistaking amazing sex for love? Is it possible our relationship could evolve into something more? Help!

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—John Wants More

Dear John,

The former escort you’re seeing probably won’t be surprised to hear that you have feelings for her and would prefer a more intimate arrangement. Your fear that she might not want to see you anymore if you verbalize your feelings is valid, too, though—it isn’t certain, but that’s one possibility, and you should factor that risk in. She also might appreciate your fortitude and honesty, and be glad you’ve broached the subject directly.

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One important thing for you to clarify before you consider disclosing anything is what you want, and what you are actually asking for. What do you hope for? Is it giving her an allowance, and her giving you more casual personal access? Is it a girlfriend? What’s your motivation? Do you want to feel loved? Does what you desire seem realistic given the structure of your relationship? How likely is it that you’ll achieve close enough to what you want to be satisfied?

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Once you answer those questions, you’re ready to decide how to proceed. If you do talk to her, it’s unlikely that your escort will want to be your wife, but a somewhat more significant relationship might be possible. Make sure you’ll be at peace if it goes the other way.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a woman married to a woman, and most of the time, penetration is two or three fingers. I really like it (like, a lot), but I also feel like she could go all day and it wouldn’t make me come. Basically, I feel like my clit becomes about 80 percent less sensitive whenever I’m being penetrated.

I don’t have a problem with this. I know conventional wisdom is that most women can’t come from penetration alone. So we get help from a vibrator (magic wand), and I can come while she’s inside of me, but even that is hard to do. It feels totally different whenever I’m being penetrated, almost like I’m trying to find my clit through three layers of clothing or something. We have tried different angles. Is this a thing? I Googled and found a bunch of stuff about lack of sensitivity and not enjoying penetrative sex, but not this particular thing. My clit is fine when there’s nothing inside me; I can come from fingers or a vibrator pretty easily. So I guess my question is, is this a thing?

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—A Thing

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Dear AT,

I’ve noticed something similar with my own body in the three to four finger range. After a certain amount of stretching, the glans of my clitoris starts to feel muffled. It seems similar to what you’re describing. So, yes, I believe it’s a thing. Bring it up with your gynecologist—just because neither of us can find any information online about it doesn’t mean there isn’t any—and if you find anything interesting out, please follow up. Meanwhile, you’re able to orgasm easily in different scenarios, you enjoy the way your wife penetrates you for its own sake, and you don’t seem to find this problematic, so I wouldn’t stress over it.

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Dear How to Do It,

I have a question about my vagina that I don’t know where else to ask. Basically: How are you supposed to keep it clean? I know this sounds dumb. I’ve looked online and doctors say to wash it with water only, while Redditors are quite sure the outside bits need soap (and that many women are never told this). Dermatologists seem to think we’re all washing every body part too much. And nobody seems to know how often to clean it, or at least they don’t mention it.

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The reason I’m asking is because I sometimes get unbearably itchy down there. I know you’re thinking, “go to a gynecologist!” But the last time I was itching a year ago, I did that, and the gyno found nothing wrong. I also had a normal pap smear and exam this October, although in the lab report it said they found candida on my cervix. My doctor didn’t feel this was something worth mentioning, but I still got diflucan and took that and have been doing my best with probiotics since then. No change in the itchy. I’ve also been trying to wear all-cotton granny panties, in case that helps. It doesn’t seem to. I really can’t tell whether I’m irritated because I’m overcleaning it, or if I’m itchy because I’m undercleaning it. Also, I have a skin tag on my labia that sometimes gets really irritated—but no gyno has ever mentioned it, and I get a bad case of white-coat syndrome, so I forget to ask about it.

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So yeah. How do I wash it? How often? Do you use soap on the labia? The clitoral hood? Is some itching normal? Is discharge always uncomfortable? I’m writing to you and not a doctor because 1) doctors haven’t found anything wrong in vaginatown, and 2) this has really put me off sex for long stretches of time, especially if my skin tag gets irritated. If I’m not particularly active, I tend to go a day or two without showering, but could that be causing the itch? I’m torn between wanting to clean it and worrying that I’m overcleaning it. If this is all in my head, how do I get over it? I want to be able to have sex more than once in a blue moon!

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—Mrs. Clean

Dear Mrs.,

In general, I do think the best course here is more directness with your gynecologist. For the white-coat syndrome, make a list. Make it on paper. Hold it in your hand so you remember to look at it. If there are a few items, you might even cross them off as you address them. Speak with your gynecologist or a dermatologist about the skin tag. You might call your gynecologist’s office and ask them whether that’s their department or the dermatologist’s.

There are so many possible factors to consider: What kind of laundry detergent are you using, and are the pieces being fully rinsed—especially if you’re handwashing? What kind of soap are you using, and are you fully rinsing? Is there something strange going on with your shower water? Ventilation in your underwear is great, but what’s the situation with your pants—are they tight?

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Some itching is normal. Passing itches, even ones uncomfortable enough to be a nuisance, occur regularly. An occasional itchy day could be a one-off. Itchy enough to be this concerned about it seems atypical. You’re probably fine to go a couple of days between bathing if you haven’t gotten sweaty or dirty, but if your itching increases on the second day, that’s an indication that you should be bathing more frequently. I rarely use soap on my labia—only in passing or if I’ve got a foreign substance on me. Doctors recommend you avoid soap. Best to avoid soap. You ask whether discharge is “always uncomfortable”—if it burns, if that’s what itches, or if it has a chunky consistency or odor, that’s cause for talking to a doctor right away.

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It’s hard to be more specific than that, because I can’t know what’s really going on with your vagina. I do think asking these questions directly, methodically, with medical professionals will help.

More How to Do It

My husband and I haven’t had sex in more than two years. When I first noticed our “slump,” he told me he was too busy and tired from work to have sex. After the first sexless year rolled by, he said he needed to lose weight to feel confident enough for sex. We moved to a new city last year, and he has indeed lost weight and gotten a job that requires much less take-home work. Now at least he’ll use a vibrator on me every few months at most. When we discuss our sex life, he’s adamant that he wants to have sex with me and promises to make it happen—this weekend, or after a particular work project is done—but those deadlines pass by without comment. I’ve stopped trying to initiate sex because the constant rejection was affecting my self-image. Other than sex, my husband and I are on the same page about every aspect of our lives. Leaving him would break my heart, but I can’t stand to be celibate before I even turn 30. I hate ultimatums, but is it time for that? What is going on here?

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