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 more than 25 years and have had what I consider a great marriage overall. Couple of kids, couple of cats, house, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary. And that (nothing out of the ordinary) largely describes our sex life too. It’s been kind and loving, but not particularly kinky, or even outside of oral and vaginal sex.
My husband also is not particularly well-endowed. He’s not unusually small either, but of the few sex partners I’ve had over my life, he’s on the smaller end. There’s really only a few positions that “work” for us. And just so it’s clear, that doesn’t bother me at all. But it certainly bothers him—to the point where he bought a large strap-on dildo that’s hollow on one end so that he could wear it. It was a little surprising to me when he told me about it and then showed it to me. And it was BIG, so I was also not sure that was going to be something I would like either. But I agreed to try it. And the first time in particular, I did not like it. Even with lube (which made it pretty cold, too), it was pretty painful to the point of having to ask him to stop. That pretty much stopped that whole session too.
A little while later, he asked to try again, and said he’d read up on how to use it better. So we tried again, and it still hurt, but he went really slowly, and I have to admit it wasn’t as bad. Fast forward a few more times, each of which was better, and one of the times most recently, it was really good to the point where I actually had a pretty big orgasm from just penetration. That was the first time that had ever happened to me. Now he always asks me if I want to use it. He’s gotten much better and loves “having a big cock,” and it feels really good. He genuinely seems to like that I enjoy it. It has allowed us to try some different positions.
So here’s my concern. I’m a little worried that I’m actually enjoying it TOO much. I haven’t been the one yet to ask for it, and I truly don’t always want it. But whenever he brings it up now, I have been saying “no” less and less frequently, and I secretly get more excited about it coming out. And when I’m done coming and he gets his turn, I’m finding that I’m a little desensitized to his penis. It definitely seems temporary, because it’s always back to “normal” the subsequent times we have sex, but right after he’s used it, I get less of a sensation of him in me. I’m not normally an addictive personality, but I’m a little worried about wanting this more and more. Should I try and stop using it? It doesn’t seem to bother my husband. Is it OK if I want to have it be a regular thing?
—Accidental Size Queen
You are OK. It is OK to use your husband’s large strap-on regularly. It’s wonderful that the two of you have found a new way of experiencing each other’s bodies, and something that gives you such pleasure.
You absolutely can become accustomed to a certain kind of sensation, and we humans are prone to diminishing returns when it comes to novelty. Your husband’s factory-installed and add-on phalluses provide a chance for size variety. I think it’s wise to keep his actual penis in the rotation, along with digital penetration, oral sex, or whatever else pleases the two of you.
As for the sensitivity of your vaginal canal, depending on how much energy your husband has after ejaculation, you might focus on his pleasure first and yours second. And you should continue to have sexual encounters without the dildo entirely, to mix things up. You also might do Kegel exercises. These generally help with pelvic floor tone, along with other physical benefits. They also tend to help people get a more nuanced awareness of their genitals, which might help you feel your husband’s penis more acutely.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 24-year-old female who’s still a virgin, but not by choice. I had years of religious ideals, then anxiety that kept me hidden, and just when I was ready to find a relationship, a pandemic. I would really like to lose it so I can get it over with and focus on having fun sex and relationships, but I don’t know how (obvs I know HOW, haha, but not how to go about initiating this). It just seems like men either fetishize virginity or it freaks them out. I don’t want to end up with a hookup who doesn’t treat me carefully, someone who takes advantage of my inexperience, or a significant other who breaks things off when I say I’m not experienced. I want to have the best first experience I can, and it just seems like dating apps aren’t going to cut it and it’s hard to meet organically in the current times. What can I do to be safe and comfortable without waiting years and years?
—Ready but Perplexed
I empathize with your desire to get through the first, culturally weighted instance of sex and then date without all the baggage. I picked a stranger and saw him several times after our first encounter. That may or may not work for you.
Safe is difficult. It’s a comforting and soothing concept, but not often reality. Safer, however, with an emphasis on understanding and mitigating risks, is completely achievable. Ask your potential partners how recently they’ve been tested, meet them in a public place to get to know them, listen to yourself if you get a wary feeling, and protect your ability to leave at any time—take your own car or stay in areas where you can get a ride share or taxi, and know where your wallet, phone, and shoes are.
Remember, you’ve just started looking and there’s been a pandemic the whole time. It might take another couple of years to find someone interested and interesting. Go to social occasions as you’re able—the park, anyone?—and think about which apps you’re using. If they’re mostly for hookups, you might want to give Bumble or Hinge a try. And yes, many men do fetishize virginity, and many others are unsure how to navigate it or don’t want what they perceive as the responsibility. You can’t fully control that, but you can tell them relatively early on that you’re inexperienced but excited about sex and watch their reactions closely.
In the meantime, masturbate. Get to know your body well. Experiment and fantasize. Give yourself pleasure. Think about using insertable toys on yourself, too. You can get more comfortable in your own skin while you sort out the partner search.
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve been married to my husband for 10 years. There have been two flashpoints in our relationship where I discovered porn use on his part that amounted to compulsive behavior. These incidents also aligned with him not initiating sex with me, or declining intimacy with me (and then going to use porn immediately after). This led me to feel like I was being replaced by what porn performers had to offer. We had therapy at the time, built a trusting relationship, and had a family.
Last year, I made a similar discovery to these past times on a secret phone that I accidentally found. I found there were other things—personal and work related—that he was also hiding from me, which made trust hard. The fact that I’d come out of having children made me feel like he no longer viewed my body as attractive, and this second phone discovery at the same time as another waning in his attention in the bedroom toward me.
We’ve both had more therapy for this, but I’m left feeling insecure, inadequate, and unattractive. We’ve both got high sex drives, but his was channelled elsewhere. Our sex life has improved immeasurably since he has cut out porn this time, not just in frequency but also in intimacy. We have tried watching some films together with mixed success. A few things are at the back of my mind. Many of the performers from his solo viewing fell into the 18+ but very young-looking category, and many of the women were very thin, they’re often tall, blond, and Eastern European. It’s very stereotypical porny porn from free sites. I’m a short, shapely lady (not overweight), dark-haired, in my mid 30s. I can’t get how he gets so much gratification from people who are not like me at all. I don’t expect a series of clones, but in the selection, there never seems to be anyone who has any features that I do. It makes me wonder how he finds me attractive at all.
He insists that I’m his No. 1, and that while he can find these performers sexually attractive, he doesn’t compare them with me—that his sex life with me eclipses any thrills from his extracurricular activities. I have trouble understanding the mechanics of all this, but I would like to feel less bothered by all of it and more confident in my own right. What is behind my misgivings? Any advice appreciated.
Dear Not Enough,
Twice, your husband was using porn in an unhealthy way at a time that correlates with a decrease in intimacy with you, including declining to have sex with you to watch pornography. On another occasion, you found a phone that contained personal and professional details that you didn’t know but feel that you should have been informed of. I think that’s where the bulk of your misgivings are coming from.
I’m wondering if watching porn together is too much pressure for now. Or, if you’d like to continue using it, if it’s possible to incorporate some variety.
People consume pornography, even the most mainstream stuff, for a variety of reasons and in several different ways. Your husband is the only person who can say how he interacts with porn, why he chooses what to watch, and what his desire for the performers he sees is. Your ability to believe your husband when he says his sex life with you eclipses his porn-watching is strained by your history together. The way you talk about therapy seems past tense, but you’re having issues in the present. Did your time with a therapist give you communication skills you can put to use here?
The big questions here are whether you think your relationship can recover to the point where you can believe your husband when he tells you he desires and eroticizes you, and what you’ll need to get there. Once you have an idea of that, get on the same page with your husband. Communicate clearly that you’re still struggling with trust. Give him the opportunity to respond, and welcome his suggestions as you share yours. If he doesn’t engage, you should reconsider how much effort you’re willing to put in.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 67-year-old man married to the same woman for 45 years. I’ve always had a much stronger sex drive, which has really not decreased over the years. My wife, like the wives of all of my friends, has pretty much lost interest in sex. Five years ago, we stopped having intercourse because she said it hurt. Although she said she would see a doctor, she never did, which made it clear she was no longer interested in this activity. She refuses to tell me what feels good and what I can do differently to give her physical pleasure. She is quite prudish about talking about sex, and she claims she has never masturbated, although I have encouraged her to explore this. When we were younger, she enjoyed sex and always had at least one orgasm and often more. Meanwhile, she still gives me earth-shattering blow jobs and has no shyness at all about this and says she loves doing it. My friends tell me I’m lucky she does this, and while I agree to an extent, I miss the feel of her body and giving her pleasure. Sadly, it seems I will live out my life with this frustration. Do you think there’s another option for us?
—Old and Frustrated
Dear Old F,
Your wife saying she’ll see a doctor about the pain she experiences during penetrative sex is a fact, as is her not following through with seeing a professional. Your belief this means she is clearly no longer interested in intercourse is, meanwhile, just a presumption. She could also be so tired of getting the run-around from doctors when it comes to her genitalia and hormones that she can’t muster the motivation to interact with the medical system for something that isn’t a survival concern.
You also call your wife “quite prudish.” Prude isn’t a slur, but it’s still pretty judgmental. Shyness, which you use later when you’re describing her confidence and enjoyment of giving those earth-shattering blow jobs, is a more neutral way to describe it. Meanwhile, when you’re conveying her statement that she hasn’t masturbated, you also use the word claims. Do you believe your wife? Why not?
What I’m getting at is I think your attitude toward your wife and her changing body is worrisome. I suspect what you miss is the feeling you get out of touching your wife’s body in ways that feel good for her. That’s not about her. That’s about you and your ego.
That said, you do have a problem. When you say you miss the feel of your wife’s body, is that a general “missing” or a specific, her-vaginal-canal-wrapped-around-your-penis kind of missing? If it’s general, there are so very many ways you can connect physically without vaginal penetration. Snuggling, for one. If it is specific, talk to your wife again, and try to listen to her this time. If intercourse is really off the table for good, it’s time for you to think through what that loss means to you and what the alternatives might be.
More How to Do It
A few years ago, I had a few hookups with a guy who had a monster dong. Like, a very girthy porno penis. It was awesome for PIV sex. But there was one thing I could never, ever do with him.