How to Do It

A Prospective Sex Partner Just Made a Genuinely Shocking Proposal. Is This Normal?

I’m worried I overreacted, but then again … ew.

A woman holds up her hands in protest next to a no entry neon sign.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by SIphotography/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’m a 30-something female who’s recently begun pursuing more casual relationships. I consider myself to be sex positive and pretty adventurous, but I recently encountered an individual that shook my convictions. I started sexting with a man who described himself as a dom looking for an open-minded gal. We hadn’t made plans to hook up, but I was considering it. Before we got to that point, he started dropping a couple comments I found odd—followed pretty quickly by asking me if I would have sexual relations with his dogs.

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I couldnt tell if he was just testing my boundaries. I said no, and frankly the request killed my interest in even more vanilla type sex with the guy. I’m not proud to say it, but I pretty much ghosted the fella without telling him how big a turn-off his comments were for me. I’m torn between being pretty disgusted with the idea, but I also worry I reacted too quickly and ultimately kink-shamed him. I feel like there are consent issues and an ick factor that I have difficulty putting into words. I think I’m just hoping to clarify my thoughts a bit and try to decide if I over-reacted to hearing about a kink I’m not personally into—I dont know if he even really meant it literally. I’ve started dipping my toes in the kinkier side of things, do you think this reaction is a sign I should stick to more vanilla waters?

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—Kink Questioner

Dear Kink Questioner,

Language is elastic, and we live in an ever-changing world, but I think it’s our civic duty to ensure that words to maintain their meaning as much as possible through responsible use. So, first a semantic note: What you did in no way constitutes shaming. In online interactions, no response is a response. You are not obligated to go enter any situation that makes you uncomfortable, to perform any act that you don’t 100 percent consent to, or to reply to any request outside of your wheelhouse. Bestiality is far from socially accepted given the ick factor and consent concerns that you expressed. Anyone who actively engages in this knows this. I’d wager that if this guy was serious, he asked about it early on for the precise reason of filtering you out if uninterested. This may be part of his strategy. He almost certainly was prepared for you to run in the other direction, and when you did after a word or two, your message stayed behind, loud and clear.

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So this was either calculated by him, or he’s so socially incompetent as to be shocked when a virtual stranger with whom he had been chatting for a short time balked when violating an animal was put on the table. How seriously he meant it is, at this point, his problem—he’s not going to get far with the majority of the population by suggesting his partners have sex with his dogs up front. I tend to take seriously someone who’s eager to state his interest in such taboos.

What does this mean for you moving forward in your kink coordinating? Very little. You had a visceral reaction to something that almost everyone finds abhorrent and amoral. This has very much to do with consent being so nebulous here (zoophiles will tell you that animals consent to such interspecies sex; animals will not because they cannot talk and therefore cannot consent). I don’t really think you are decisively too squeamish for kinky sex, you’re just too squeamish … bestiality. And to that I say: Fair enough.

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Dear How to Do It,

What advice would you give me for learning how to accept being asexual? I have no idea how to initiate sexual relationships, and I have been “involuntarily celibate” in that way, but I recognize there must be some problem with me, and I do not identify with that extremist right-wing movement in any way. I feel like I missed out on the sexual script that almost every other man seems to be in possession of. I’ve tried to take and incorporate as much advice as I can, but I seem to be as far as ever from making the magic happen.

For context, I am a late-20s, well-educated, 6’2 man. I weight-lift and exercise on an almost daily basis, get proper sleep, and maintain a clean diet, home, and proper hygiene. I make a comfortable living. I have stopped using porn for more than six months and haven’t masturbated in two months. This does not seem to have had an appreciable effect on my sexual psychology, but the prospect of returning to porn/masturbation only depresses me as it would be a reminder that I’m a biologically sexual being. I maintain an active lifestyle—I spend time in nature, go to concerts, do yoga, take trips, and maintain other hobbies and interests, such as being an active reader of nonfiction. I also identify as a liberal and atheist, so religious mores are not interfering with my function—I’m quite happy to hear of people living sexually fulfilling lives outside the “norm.”

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I have had many female friends over the course of my life, including ones who are quite sexually active, but ultimately the only advice they have to offer to me is “be yourself.” From my understanding, and from comments I’ve received, I also qualify as “hot,” so I do not have anything external to blame my lack of sexual experience on except for some aspect of my personality. I have always known myself to be attracted on some level to women, but I did once identify as asexual in college, because every other straight man out there seemed to have some sort of relationship with their sexuality and how they approached women that I clearly did not have. I am simply clueless. My female friends have on occasion before asked me what my type was, or asked if I thought some female celebrity was attractive, and the question only confuses me. I now identify as demisexual.

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People have always described me as being rather unemotional or robotic. From my experimentation with the concept, women seem unattracted to vigorous affirmative consent, with the “magic” being gone if I have to ask permission for every step of physical escalation. I understand there are some women out there who make the first move, but from my personal life experience, that is not something I can count on ever happening. I do not want to pay for sex, as it is an actual connection that I seek and not physical gratification in and of itself. I also do not think I need it to “learn,” as I understand many (though not all) women would be happy to teach me to attend to their specific sexual needs, desires, and preferred ways. Given that I have incorporated nearly all the advice I can out there in regards to self-improvement and still have experienced no sexual awakening, I must prepare for the prospect of never having that sort of holistic connection with anyone. Is this what it means to be an asexual? What path must I follow to awaken myself sexually with another human being, or barring that, how do I learn how to be content with being a sexless robot for the rest of my life?

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—The Clueless Robot

Dear Clueless Robot,

To respond to a point you make early on in your letter: Being asexual does not signal there’s a problem with you any more than an eye shade or height measurement does. There is nothing wrong with being ace, it’s just another way of experiencing life. There’s a thriving online community of asexuals, and it’s full of sensitive, intuitive people who know a lot about themselves as a result of living in an allo-dominated society of people who are not entirely like them. Feeling different can strengthen a person’s emotional articulation, as he or she understands the world, in part, by precisely expressing just how far from it their experience falls.

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The basic determining factor of asexuality, according to Angela Chen’s Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, is an absence of lust. If you are specifically sexually attracted to other people, no matter how unsuccessful you are at making good on it, you do not qualify as asexual by this definition. (Note that plenty of people who identify as asexual feel romantic feelings for other people.)

So, this is something to figure out: Have you been horny for specific people? Have you let them know it, in any way, even if it’s via a close conversation? I tend to think in social settings, many people have a sort of radar that pings once an attentive stranger happens to linger. The longer and more intimate the chat, the higher the chances are that person wants to bang, the easier it is to make the transition to doing just that. If it’s not going this way for you … maybe it is some aspect of your personality? I don’t mean to say that there’s something about you that will make it impossible to get laid, but if you are coming off as cold, uninterested, or just mean, it’s going to make you less attractive to people, regardless of your aesthetic makeup. Something you can do to beef up your irresistibility is project confidence, even if you don’t think you have it. It’s kind of a fake-it-till-you-make-it situation, though it’s also a sort of self-propelling process: You need a little bit of confidence to be able to pull off projecting a lot of confidence and soon enough, fake confidence is just confidence. Are you on apps? A lot of people use them precisely to get laid, which makes everything in that arena easier (it’s the other arenas you have to worry about, but that’s for another time given your immediate concerns).

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Do you experience other social difficulties? It’s not my place at all to diagnose, but some of what you describe in terms of your difficulty connecting and your stated reliance on other people for help with social cues made me wonder if you were on the spectrum and undiagnosed. Have you considered hooking up with guys? Sometimes blindspots are blindspots merely because we haven’t bothered to look. Could you be missing signs of other parties’ interest entirely? It seems feasible for someone who describes himself as “simply clueless.”

I do get the sense that you have more work to do, if you are so inclined to do it. Otherwise, you did an extremely good job at describing your situation, which makes me think that you are on the road to being content with it. The first step is to identify said road, and you’ve done that. Now you have to decide whether to keep taking it or turn off, no matter how difficult the journey may be.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’ve recently met a girl who is into receiving golden showers. Not something I’ve been looking for, but I don’t have any particular problems to it as long as it’s consensual, so I’m willing to scratch her particular kink itch.

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I am, however, having some “mechanical issues.” I can’t urinate when I have an erection. At least some of the online reading I’ve done suggests it’s possible, but I can’t get it to work.
What we’ve been doing is just kind of timing things carefully, waiting for me to calm down, spraying the stream, and then heating back up. That’s awkward at times and is just making sex hard. Do you have any tips?

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—Cold Shower

Dear Cold Shower,

One of the nice things about peeing on someone (consensually, at least) is that there are no rules. At least, there’s nothing dictated by society regarding the proper golden-shower script—it’s up to you and your partner(s) to make it up as you go along. This is an advantage to deviating from normative sexual behavior—you’re so far off the beaten path that you have no choice but to trailblaze.

By this I mean there is nothing compelling you to piss with an erection—unless it’s your partner, in which case she could probably use some boning up on anatomy. Some people can pee with erections, but a lot of people find it difficult. This is because, as urologist Charles Welliver, director of men’s health at Albany Medical College, explained to me via email, for ejaculation to occur the bladder neck/outlet closes so that the semen comes out the penis and doesn’t go retrograde into the bladder. It’s likely that your body’s automatic functioning is making this difficult for you. You can attempt to force it. You could perhaps work on your kegels so that you have a better mastery of the involved muscles (specifically how to relax them), but there’s no guarantee that you’re going to hit oil. Like blood from a stone, so is urine from some rock-hard dicks.

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Plenty of people incorporate golden showers into their play while managing this limitation. They do this by peeing on someone without a boner, either in the beginning, middle (during a break from penetration), or at the end of the session. It’s not so much a workaround as the way people make it work. If this is unacceptable to your partner, she’s simply asking too much of you. (I suspect that a past partner of hers had the ability to pee with a hard-on and it set her expectations.) She should confine her asks to the realm of the physically possible. You’re a human, not a garden hose.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 31-year-old gay man who is struggling with sex. I come from a highly conservative family where sex and bodies were considered shameful, and therefore never discussed growing up. This didn’t stop me from being a sexual person, of course; it just ensured I received no healthy advice about my own sexuality. I internalized feelings of gay shame from the attitudes of people around me, and so I turned to gay porn at a very young age as a coping mechanism. Since I wasn’t able to date or experiment with anyone, it was the closest thing I could experience to real interaction. It started off looking online for advice about coming out and being gay, which led to looking at pictures of boys kissing, which led to more sexual images (videos were too hard to load over dial-up), which led to a total porn addiction before I was even out of high school.

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Even after I was able to start dating men, gay porn—my earliest and only sexual experience for years—was still alluring. At first it wasn’t an issue going back and forth between real sex and digital sex. But after many, many encounters that left me feeling worse about myself (STIs; drunken, regrettable one-night-stands; not saying “no” out of fear of rejection), I found myself more interested in—and safer with—porn than real people. And yet I still longed to be in a relationship and just feel normal.

Now, at 31, my addiction has desensitized me in multiple ways. I can’t get natural erections anymore—not with people, and not even with porn. Nothing works because of all the negative feelings I’ve come to associate with both. I want to feel like a normal, sexual person who can have a healthy relationship with sex and porn, but I don’t know if there’s any return to the excitement I used to feel. The shame of my erectile dysfunction keeps me from pursuing relationships and pulls me back to porn, but now that feels unsatisfying too. Am I asking too much? Have I already been completely ruined? I feel as alone as I did as a young kid, too afraid to talk to anyone out of fear of judgment.

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—Soft but Hardened

Dear Soft but Hardened,

If fear of judgement and worrying about being ruined are so closely connected for you, it stands to reason that giving up that fear may also alleviate your stress. Shame is a bear, one that I’m not going to be slaying for you here, no matter how hard I bang on my keyboard. You’re only going to get over it by engaging with it and working through it, which will in all likelihood require professional help. I can only imagine that you are too shook to discuss ED meds with your doctor, and if I could shake you harder I would to get through to you that your doctor has heard worse and these drugs might help you regain confidence with the reliability that they provide.

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Do not allow bad sex to define your sex life. Bad sex is sometimes an inevitable consequence of pursuing pleasure, especially when said sex is negotiated on apps, which fail to provide the full picture of a potential partner (even in the presence of such explicit pictures that you can see the inside of said potential partner). I find that the best sex I have is connected on some level, and I encourage you to seek connections first, sex second.

I don’t know to what degree you’ve attempted to abstain from porn, but it’s probably worth a shot while you work up the courage to get professional help. Try going every other day without porn. Venture out. Consider erotica or—gasp—your own mind. Reacquaint yourself with fantasy. There’s a way out for you, but it will require work. So far you’ve put great effort into beating yourself up for beating off. It really doesn’t have to be this way.

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—Rich

More How to Do It

Twice in the last two years, there have been two people who I have gone on several dates with over a period of a few months, who I have really, genuinely liked and wanted to pursue a serious relationship with. But when it came time to be intimate and have sex, I simply could not get and/or maintain an erection. I could try and cite alcohol consumption or other things as factors, but I do not believe those were the issue myself. I was more than happy to do my part in other ways, but actual sexual intercourse was never in the cards. Both of these relationships ended for other reasons, but it certainly didn’t help! On many other dates I’ve had over the years, where the date ends in sex, I have never had an issue performing (in any circumstance—drunk, sober, tired, didn’t really mesh with the person personality-wise, etc.). It’s almost like mentally knowing a date is a casual encounter, whether a one-night stand or something a little more, alleviates the pressure for some reason. Do you have any thoughts as to why this happens and what I might be able to do next time I meet someone I really want to be with?

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