How to Do It

My Wife Made a Paid Sex Tape With a Man Years Ago. Now He Wants It Destroyed.

Does he have any right to ask this?

A dvd in its case with a neon X
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by pedphoto36pm/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,

Five years ago, for our 30th birthdays, my wife and I “bought” one another a recorded day of sex with someone in their early 20s. We recruited and interviewed a few people with the understanding that they would engage in a sex session. This session would be recorded onto DVDs on a camera that is not connected with the internet. These DVDs would be only viewed on a television in our bedroom that is used solely for this purpose, on a DVD player that is also not connected to the internet. In return, they would be paid $5,000 cash.

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My session with “Traci” was wonderful. After we paid her, we never heard or saw from her again. My wife’s session with “Mark” was also great. We paid him, and we also went years without hearing from him. These recordings have become a great part of our sex life. Oftentimes, we have them on while we have sex or simply use them in masturbation sessions. While not in use, they are stored in a locked drawer, and we have no children or anyone else living with us who could accidently get to them. Honestly, we feel this is the best gift we have ever given and are thinking about doing this again!

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A couple months ago, Mark contacted us and asked us to destroy the DVD, saying that he is going to be entering a high-profile career and doesn’t want this used against him in the future. So far, we have refused with the reasoning that this was a transaction that was willingly entered into by all parties. Since then, he has come back to us, sometimes mad, sometimes crying, that he made a huge mistake and would pay us back the $5,000 with interest. What is our obligation to Mark here?

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— Playing Hardball

Dear Playing Hardball,

Technically speaking, you owe him nothing. You hired him with full knowledge and consent of what you were making, and you paid him your agreed-upon fee upon completion of his service. Had he performed this work for a porn studio, he’d be laughed out of the Valley (or wherever) for asking them to destroy his tapes because his career is taking off. In another cultural climate, I might feel bad for him—we all make decisions that we regret, and it is true that you and your wife are physically capable of honoring his request—but performing sex on screen is fairly destigmatized today, so much so that his appeal reads pretty dramatic and his repeated pleas are entering, if not already in, the realm of harassment. Could the leak of such material ruin his career? Conceivably if he’s a politician, religious official, teacher, or otherwise conservative/living in a largely conservative area. Will it certainly do that, necessitating the destruction of a cherished part of your sex life? No way. Way, way too uncertain to require such a permanent move.

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The selfless thing for you to do would be to refund his money and destroy the disc as he requested, but you are not obligated to be selfless. For his peace of mind, you could put in writing how the DVD is stored and the way you use it, but again, you don’t have to do that. In addition to your lack of obligation, though, Mark has no recourse. Suing you would almost certainly be a waste of time for him and potentially Streisand-effect this tape into public knowledge. If he keeps bothering you, you could sue him for harassment—probably a firm letter from your lawyer would be enough to shut him up because, again, he doesn’t want this getting out. If you are confident that your storage is ironclad and there is absolutely no way the footage could ever leak, you could also just lie and tell him you’ve destroyed it, since in your hands it’s as good as destroyed as far as the entire population of the world is concerned, save you and your wife. I don’t usually recommend lying but in this case, you deserve a break. It’s an option, at least.

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Dear How to Do It,

​​Im a gay man in my mid-20s whos been having some struggles in the bedroom. Despite having had many sexual partners over the past few years, I have never achieved orgasm during partnered sex. Im also increasingly unable to consistently maintain an erection. Ill be getting hot and heavy with a guy—only to then notice Im going soft, or that Im not able to get myself over the edge. I definitely experience sexual attraction (so I know Im not asexual), but I often get in my own head during sex. I tend to second-guess myself and overthink things. Its also been difficult to fully let myself go when Im worrying about the looming specter of going soft or not finishing, ultimately creating a self-fulfilling cycle.

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These issues are only present during partnered sex—Im able to maintain an erection and orgasm perfectly fine during my solo sessions. As a longtime HDTI reader, I know that this likely means its a psychological (rather than physiological) issue causing my bedroom hang-ups. What advice do you have to get over this hump? Its frustrating to feel like Im wasting my prime sexual years unable to have quote-unquote successful” and fulfilling sex.

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— Broken in the Bedroom

Dear Broken in the Bedroom,

As much as I love having a tangible example of having helped teach someone something (See, Mom and Dad? I’m not wasting my life!), you didn’t need me at all to tell you your issue is psychological in nature. The call is coming from inside the house. As you put it, you often get in your own head during sex. The vicious cycle you describe is not uncommon, and there’s quite a bit you can do, but probably little that’s as efficient and effective as getting a prescription for an ED drug. It will calm your mind by helping blood flow to your dick, and even if your issue is entirely psychological, just knowing that you have that kind of chemical reinforcement should ameliorate your anxiety. Hopefully, upon requesting this prescription, your doctor will examine you as well just in case we’re all wrong and there’s a physiological issue to contend with. But even if there is, at least you’ll be contending with it.

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Dear How to Do It,

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After four years, I still cant understand something about my boyfriend: After sex, he will lay in bed cleaning himself up, and every time he will pull and tug and stretch on different parts of his nuts for at least 10 minutes. Is there something Im missing, or is this common?

— A Little Tug

Dear A Little Tug,

I would say that it is uncommon just based on my own experience of never seeing any guys do this after sex. However, it’s true that the balls usually retract when a guy orgasms, and generally speaking, it’s not unusual for men to need to sometimes adjust them for comfort—perhaps this is just a post-coital reset of some sort? It’s also true that that ball-stretching is a thing. It’s probably most commonly done via a sleeve or weights attached to the testicles, but I have seen it discussed being performed manually online. In those conversations, it’s often presented as a way of boosting testosterone, but that seems about as likely as receiving the transaction of $10,000 in your bank account as promised by a spam email. (A doctor in this Men’s Health article all about balls, in fact, refutes the notion directly.) I think ball-stretching is mostly an aesthetic/fetish thing, really, and it’s something people seem to enjoy without complications (though any such bodily alterations can be risky, which is to say this is not an endorsement for people to start working on crafting personal parachutes out of their ball sacs).

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Anyway, if I had to guess (which I do have to do, since it’s my job), I’d guess he’s doing something along those lines. But why guess at all? Why not just ask him? You’ve been watching him do this for four years, his openness suggests he doesn’t have any shame surrounding it, and why he’s doing it is not immediately intelligible to you. You could be totally neutral and ask what’s up with that without derision or mockery. Much as we at HTDI appreciate the human contact, your relationship will more strongly benefit from talking to him about this, not us.

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Dear How to Do It,

I am a 30-year old woman in a relationship with a 33-year-old man, informally engaged but not living together currently. We just passed our fourteenth anniversary (feel free to do the math on when we met on that one, haha). The trouble is, of course when you meet as teenagers, you might not know how your sexual compatibility ends up. I work in an indie sex shop: We sell stuff for very open, kinky people, and I’m very happy with my job and my relationship! However, I’m so, so curious about so much of the things I do at work. I want to try things! He’s generally game to experiment, but he’s very uncomfortable in a dominant role, very uninterested in a lot of the more hardcore aspects, and deeply uncomfortable with the idea of me exploring them with other people, or sleeping with other people. (I am bisexual and quite frankly, thanks to my job and general temperament, do not tend to correlate kink, sex, and romance the way others do.)

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I respect his boundaries, and when he isn’t okay with something or when he doesn’t want to try something, I drop it immediately—I want it to be clear to him that he’s worth more to me than anything. But any time I do bring something up I’d like to try and he isn’t interested, he then proceeds to get very unhappy, self-deprecating, and apologetic that he is “holding (me) back” and “not enough” (his words, not mine). I keep trying to tell him that I just want to know where my boundaries are so I can stay in them. He shouldn’t have to be comfortable with any of the long, long list of freaky stuff I’d try if I was single, and he’s not being unreasonable to have limits! But what do I do? Just stop discussing it? It’s even to the point where I comment on my work day and he apologizes preemptively for the fact that I have never tried the sex clubs in town, or that I don’t have personal experience with flogging. I want him to be happy and comfortable, which is why I keep to the monogamy and the vanilla, but even that doesn’t seem to comfort him. What do I do? I can’t imagine my life without him, but I also can’t give up my dream job or my fantasies.

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— Sriracha Girl with a Vanilla Guy

Dear Sriracha Girl,

By your own account, not mentioning it wouldn’t do much good, since he’s preemptively whining about his inadequacy before you can even broach the subject. I think you have the right idea in keeping things at his comfort level—it’s my general rule that when it comes to sex/nonmonogamy, deferring to the most sensitive person in the relationship is the path to harmony. My recommendation is to maintain that vibe while attempting to push things forward: Have a conversation about what he thinks is the best way to handle this disparity. Right now, he only has obstructions: No open relationship, no domination, no “hardcore.” It would be one thing if setting out these rules and having you comply was enough to make him happy, but that’s not working either, so his obstructions are yet another … obstruction. So what does he propose? It’s my suspicion that opening up the relationship will serve you best, but I feel that will be a long process that requires a lot of talking and perhaps counseling (ideally with a sex positive therapist who is familiar with nonmonogamy and its attendant issues).

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Right now, get the ball rolling and talk to him about what he foresees as a way to mitigate the tension that is increasingly defining your dynamic. Give him the sensitivity and compassion that he needs. You write that you can’t imagine your life without him; start these conversations by saying just that: “I can’t imagine my life without you.” Transition to asking him questions about possible solutions. You’re well aware of his discomfort in a variety of areas—his challenge is to come up with ways to relieve it while honoring your own sexuality. To him, I’d even float the idea of whether you’re simply incompatible, just to see how he’ll react. It’s going to get to a point where the practical has to take over, as you can’t cohabitate in his existential fears for the rest of your lives. That’s no way to maintain a home.

— Rich

More How to Do It

I am a 68-year-old man who has been married to a woman for 45 years, with three grown kids. Over the course of our marriage, we have been very active sexually, but for various reasons over the past five or six years, our sexual activity has declined dramatically. At the same time, over the past few years, I have become fascinated with same-sex encounters. Is this unusual, especially this late in life? How should approach this with my wife?

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