How to Do It

I’m a College Student Who’s Seen Too Many Sex Scandals. Now I’m Worried I Might Cause One.

My secret desire is just a fantasy—for now.

A woman sits on top of a man.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by nd3000/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 22-year-old woman in college. I’m not interested in actually having sex right now because of 99 other problems, but I have this sex fantasy that really, really scares me in the wake of colleges rocked by rape cases and fraternity scandals.

Basically, I want to give myself totally to a guy during sex. I mean mind, body, soul, do whatever-you-want-with-me type giving. There’s very little I wouldn’t want to try at least once, and several things I’m very into: vaginal, oral, anal, sub/dom type stuff, sexy pictures, phone sex. Of course I have boundaries, but again, just very little hard-line stuff. Nothing turns me on like the thought of offering myself up on a gold platter to a guy I trust—whatever he wants I’ll give, because I want to so bad.

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But then again: the sex scandals. I go to a small liberal arts college; the boys and girls here are great. The state college two hours away? Not so much. So many drunk students sharing pictures, sharing video, rape cases, girls who had to go home to their parents because of the trauma. Personally, I lost classmates in high school because of the fallout from a sex scandal. I’ve worked through this and have the support I need from family and friends. But all this makes me apprehensive about my fantasy.

I guess what I’m asking is, in this era of #MeToo and bystander intervention programs, new rules for frat parties (all very necessary and important), constantly having to watch my back and say no just to get through some frat boy’s lizard brain, then how the hell am I supposed to handle this fantasy? Like what if I want to give the guy what he wants, because I want him, but I also want trust and respect? Sometimes it feels like I have to pick between respect from a guy and this fantasy. Why do I feel like I have to pick one or the other?

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—College Try

Dear College Try,

Your fantasy is not unique. There is certainly the possibility of fulfilling it, if you decide that’s what you want to do. And you don’t have to choose in the broad sense, although it may take some effort to find a partner who respects you and is comfortable giving you the absence of control you desire.

You say you don’t want to have sex with anyone at this time. That’s 100% OK. The beautiful thing about fantasies is that they’re just thoughts—you aren’t harming anyone or putting yourself at risk by thinking about scenarios.

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BDSM, which seems to be what you’re describing, functions on negotiation. Before the sexual interaction (or “scene”) you talk about limits, boundaries, and desires. You figure out where your desires match up, and agree on what will take place. That way, once the interaction has started, you both know what is OK and what isn’t. Trust is a huge factor here, especially if you’re going to be restrained in any way. As tempting as it may be to jump into giving yourself with no limits, it is wise and preferable to take time and build trust over the course of several interactions—and to be clear, letting someone who you don’t know well tie you up or restrain you in any way you can’t escape is dangerous.

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Fantasies can also be a way of processing real-world events. I’ve seen people do humiliation scenes based on hurtful comments they’ve received, as a way of transmuting the pain. Many women have fantasies of being raped. As long as you’re cautious about putting yourself in risky situations, which it sounds like you are, I think you’ll be fine. It might help to write about your conflicted emotions—ask yourself the question you asked me, and see what you come up with. You might find that you’re imagining binary categories, or that you’re concerned about setting a precedent with a guy. Lean into your worries and see if something useful becomes clearer to you. Good luck.

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Dear How to Do It, 

I’ve recently started seeing a girl with OCD and despite our matching negative STI results, she’s uncomfortable without barriers (gloves, condoms, etc.) during sex. I’m fine with this, but I would really like to go down on her, which she recently mentioned she’s been working toward feeling comfortable with (she has a great therapist). She says she’d like to use a dental dam, but I’m feeling overwhelmed. They don’t sell them at the pharmacy or anything, and online options are wildly varied and all seem to be flavored (ew).How do I find a reputable brand? And how do I use one once I’ve done that? My approach to oral is usually to uh … really get in there, and I suspect that wouldn’t work here. I want to have fun and I want her to feel safe since she’s never done this before, but it seems like there’s so many ways it could go wrong. The internet says you can cut up an unlubricated condom, but I don’t know where to find those either. Can you help me navigate this?

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—Walled Off

Dear Walled Off,

Crosstex makes an unflavored latex dental dam that’s available through Amazon. Non-lubricated condoms, such as Trojan ENZ Non-Lubricated, are available at many large drug-store chains. As for use, you’ll have to experiment. Dams don’t necessarily preclude tongue penetration—they’re pretty stretchy. The sensation is different from oral sex without a barrier, with more of a diffusive effect, so you’ll want to try various stimuli and see what works for your partner. This is a great opportunity to practice communication.

Try not to overthink it, and experiment with a sense of play. You’ve got this.

I Have the Perfect Solution to My Husband Wanting Sex All the Time—but It Has a Twist

Is this reasonable?

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Dear How to Do It,

As a woman in my late 20s, I was in high school at the time of the “online porn boom.” First it was “One Night in Paris,” the Paris Hilton sex tape, and then Kim Kardashin’s sex tape that everyone saw. The message I got as a teenage girl was: You have to look perfect to enjoy sex.

It didn’t help that male friends of mine would negatively refer to women’s body’s by saying things like “she has pepperoni nipples” (referring to large areolas) or “meat curtains” referring to larger outer labia folds. Images of perfect bodies combined with hearing negative things about imperfect bodies let me be very self-conscious about my own body. I didn’t experience oral sex until my mid-20s and it took a partner who is very confident and willing to keep trying for me to get comfortable. Once I did get comfortable with that partner, I did really enjoy oral sex. I am now in a long-term relationship with a different partner, and I am very uncomfortable with oral sex because of my fear that I don’t look perfect down there. My self-consciousness is to the point I thought about having some sort of surgery because one side of my vagina has a larger outer labial fold than the other.

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In all honesty, I haven’t watched a lot of porn, but from what I have seen, most vaginas look the same. No outer labial folds. I hate feeling embarrassed about my body. I hate not being comfortable enough to enjoy something as wonderful as oral sex. What do you suggest I do? Should I just try and get over it and embrace my body the way that it is? Am I incorrect or overreacting to think most vaginas in porn look incredibly similar?

—Scared Down There

Dear SDT,

I think you should take a look at the vulvas that have been chosen for mass reproduction and sale by Fleshlight. You’ll see my own vulva, with asymmetrical inner labia, and various other examples. You also might check out Make Love Not Porn to see flesh-and-blood representations of vulvas, and this Instagram for artistic renderings. These are all evidence that your own is probably well within the range of vulva appearances. I don’t expect you to find an exact match, but I do think you may feel relieved to see different examples.

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More practically, would turning the lights off help you feel more comfortable? I’m wondering if knowing you can’t be seen might help you worry less about what you look like. Mostly, though, yes, you’ll have to learn how to embrace your body. Spend some time in front of a mirror focusing on the parts of your body you appreciate. When your attention moves to a part you don’t love, refocus on what you do love. This sense of pride and joy in your body needs to come from you, not how others treat you. Your friends from high school were … high schoolers. Presumably the partners you’re engaging with now are adults, and have a more mature take on appreciating the bodies of people they have sex with. If they aren’t, the problem is much more their narrow ideas of what bodies should look like than what yours actually looks like. Good luck.

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Dear How to Do It, 

I’ve been seeing my partner for almost three years. We’ve always had some kind of trouble in the bedroom. I’m petite, and he’s on the larger side in height and weight. I’m more inexperienced in the bedroom too, and it seems because of that we don’t have as much variety as he would like. On top of everything else, I’m less interested in sex in general compared to him, so our sex drives are hardly ever in sync. When we’re in the bedroom now, I just partake because he wants to have that release, and I’ve given up the fact that I’ll ever get an orgasm or for him to even try doing what I’d like, because I’ve noticed that I have a better time when there’s more involved than what’s between his legs, if that makes sense. Whenever I ask for him to try something, he either has no idea what I mean and I don’t have the energy to explain it, OR he seems to intentionally not understand and does it in a way that hurts more than brings me pleasure.

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I feel … stuck. More so because I love him, and I think we have more there than just our messy sex life, but he’s such a sexual person and I’ve stopped feeling like I’m giving him what he needs for a while. Any advice?

—Stuck

Dear Stuck,

This sounds bleak. Loving someone doesn’t mean they’re good for you, and when you describe your dude seeming to intentionally misunderstand and then hurting you, it seems like he might actively be bad for you. He sounds self-absorbed and miserly. You don’t mention a single positive other than the vague fact that you love him, and I think that tells you something crucial.

More How to Do It

My husband and I have an amazing relationship, and I love him deeply. A few months ago, at my suggestion, we started trying threesomes (with another woman) and have really enjoyed it so far. It’s brought us even closer—it’s given me a chance to explore that side of my sexuality—and it’s been a really fun and positive experience. But we do have boundaries, and the most recent time, he broke the most important one right in front of me. 

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