How to Do It

I Have the Last Sexual Orientation for a Man That No One Will Accept

Why?

A man with a down arrow hanging over him.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Marc Bruxelle/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, 

With all the recent acceptance of different sexual orientations and kinks between consenting adults, one is conspicuously absent.

What are the prospects for a straight male sub? Let me be clear about what I mean: I am drawn to powerful women who would treat me like their junior partner in bed. I’m not into being abused, or into S&M; it should be a respectful relationship where I am the junior partner in matters sexual.

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When I have tried to make it happen by suggesting it to actual or potential partners, the reactions range from laughing it off or accusing me of being desperate, weak, or gay. I am none of those things. Nor am I alone—all you have to do is look online for perverse variations of this theme: dommes with whips and chains, males in female dress on their knees doing dishes while an over-sexualized woman glowers over them, and variations on those themes. Well, that’s porn for you; it always seems to amplify the perverse aspect of something that should be normal and respectful. Yet it wouldn’t exist if some men didn’t have that predilection, and the pornographers know it.

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Does it have to be that way? Is there any way for a man of my orientation to find and maintain an otherwise normal relationship where he is submissive during sex? Could this be something that women want but are afraid to admit, and if so, how could I find it? Or is it something that women unilaterally reject, leaving me with no outlet except prostitutes and pornography?

—Hopeful and Not Optimistic

Dear H No, 

I think this particular kink feels conspicuously absent to you because it’s your thing and you aren’t getting it. Submissive men have been around—most visibly, yes, at BDSM clubs—since before I was allowed into those clubs, and some do have a long list of limits like yours. And regardless of whether there are elements of pain or humiliation, healthy BDSM relationships always include mutual respect.

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One thing that might help you is forming a positive explanation of what you’re looking for. What do you envision doing with your in-charge female partner? Is it contained to the bedroom, or does the power exchange seep into the rest of life as a form of ongoing foreplay? Do you want to worship your partner? Be told what to do? Do you want to take a physically passive role during the act of penetration? Spend some time building a detailed idea of what you want so you can ask for that directly. When you have that ready, I think you can look into kink communities online and apps tailored to people with specific sexual interests. Just because you don’t like how those communities are depicted in porn doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer you.

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When you do find a woman who wants to do a dynamic close enough to your desires, make sure you’re pulling your weight in other areas. Sitting back and having her run the show sexually is a lot of work for her. How are you going to make up for that? Cook? Do the dishes? Whatever it is, find ways to contribute to the relationship.

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Dear How to Do It,

I hooked up with this guy about two years ago, and since then, we’ve been sexting and video-chatting about once a week. We live in different states and then COVID happened, so while we both intended to get together again initially—and our fantasy talk revolves around that—it never happened. (Truthfully, if I’d really wanted to make it happen at this point, I could have, and I think the same goes for him.) Anyway, I’m ready to end this. Objectification has always been the major theme of this—on both sides—and while I enjoyed that a lot, I’m not feeling into that anymore, and I’m happy about that. I don’t think it’s right to ghost someone whose face and dick you’ve been seeing once a week for this long, but at the same time, he’s not my friend. How much of an explanation do I owe him? I have no idea how he’s going to respond.

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—Not a Ghost

Dear Ghost,

I don’t think you owe this guy anything more detailed than “This isn’t working for me anymore. Thank you for the time we’ve spent together, and I wish you well.” Of course, owe versus want to give is worth thinking about. I’m guessing you’d like to give him a little more of an explanation, otherwise you’d have ignored his texts and moved on with your life. What you’ve said here seems functional—you had fun with mutual objectification until you didn’t, and you’d like to end the relationship.

Having no idea how he’s going to respond seems like it might be a point of anxiety for you. One of the upsides of long-distance breakups is you can easily remove yourself from the situation by hanging up. So even if you feel scared, you can remember that you’re physically safe. It’s probably unlikely that he’ll get aggressive, but he might try to argue you into continuing the relationship. You can think beforehand about whether a shift in dynamic or terms would be appealing to you, and if that’s not the case, you should remain firm on your position that this is ending. I think you’ve got this.

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Dear How to Do It, 

I am a 24-year-old woman and still a virgin. The older I get, the more embarrassed I become about my lack of sexual experience and the more difficult it makes my dating life. I am a very self-sufficient person and I do not mind being single, but I would like to be in a relationship and experience intimacy with someone. However, there is a lot about sex that makes me quite anxious—pregnancy is literally my worst fear, and I hate feeling exposed around people that I don’t trust. I also don’t have the highest sex drive naturally, a trait which is exacerbated by the anti-depressant I take (going off of it is not an option—I’ve tried).

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Whenever I try dating, men want to become very physical very quickly (within the first few dates), but when I tell them I want to take things slow and that I haven’t had sex before, the reactions I’ve gotten—either looking at me like I’ve grown a second head or something or literally telling me “that’s weird”—have only contributed to my shame and anxiety. Now I can’t even tell someone I’m dating about my lack of experience without starting to cry because I’m so ashamed; it’s absolutely mortifying and incredibly unattractive. It’s getting to the point where dating at all stresses me out, because it just reminds me of how abnormal I am. I feel like I’m stuck in a terrible loop and I don’t know how to break out of it. Do you have any advice?

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—Petrified Prude

Dear PP,

So, 24 isn’t that late to start having sex. We hear regularly from people in their 30s and 40s who are just getting to it. It sounds like you’ve encountered a string of people who’ve judged you, and that’s resulted in a situation where you cannot plainly explain the fact that you need several dates to feel comfortable considering having sex. Neither of us can control the judgment of others, so let’s work on getting you tougher. If a therapist is at all an option, I think that’s worth pursuing. There are many options, especially post-pandemic, that don’t even require an office visit.

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But let’s say you can’t see a therapist. There are still things you can do. One is interrogating where your shame is coming from. Is it social messaging? Can you consider those messages as suggestions or perspectives rather than a statement of fact about what is “normal” or how you “should” be? Maybe you’ve got a friend you can talk to, or you can journal about it. Whatever helps you think through problems and process feelings on other subjects will probably be useful here.

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You can also practice disclosing your level of experience over and over until you can say it again without going into a shame spiral. Look at yourself in the mirror and try on some lines. “I haven’t gotten around to sex yet.” “Sex is an area I’m curious to explore.” Also try some validation: “I am 100% OK exactly as I am.” “Taking my time with my sexuality is taking care of myself, and that is good.”

You might take a break from dating until you feel ready to risk being hurt again, since that’s a very real risk with any kind of meeting new people. Good luck.

Dear How to Do It, 

I’m a straight woman who’s been sexually active for several years now, and I’ve always had the same issue: the only thing that really feels good for me is direct clitoral stimulation, but my legs have to be absolutely straight and locked. It’s weird, but it just doesn’t feel good if my knees are bent or if I’m in any position other than lying with my legs out totally straight. I still enjoy sex in other positions, but this is the only way I can climax, and it’s the only way I really like to receive head or be touched down there.

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It actually hurts to hold your legs tense and locked like that for a while, and sometimes I have to stop when my calves cramp up. After masturbating for a while, I’ll literally be sore going up a flight of stairs the next day. I’ve tried to masturbate or receive oral with my legs bent, sticking it out for an hour in the hopes that it might start to feel good, but it just feels awkward and downright unpleasant and doesn’t get me there. I have never heard of this issue before, and neither have the guys that I’m with. What do I do?

—Stiff as a Board

Dear Stiff,

Orgasms run on tension, so it makes sense that a tense body position would be part of your climax. I applaud your experimentation with bent legs, even though it wasn’t fruitful, and am wondering if it’s worth trying other positions that also induce strong tension. You might squeeze your butt muscles and push your pelvis up, or see what happens when you’re standing. You also might masturbate as usual until you’re very close to climax and see if you can then orgasm in a more relaxed position to see if you can reduce the habituation that I suspect is a partial factor.

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It’s also possible that this is a fact about your sexual response that simply isn’t going to change. If that’s the case, you can work on strengthening your leg muscles and on cooling them down afterward. A few sessions with a personal trainer at a gym would be ideal to work on strength. As for cooling down, you might do some relevés after climax, rotate your ankles around, stand on the edge of a stair with your heels hanging off to stretch your calves, and do a little bit of massage on your muscles with your hands. There are also fun workout props like foam rollers that might help.

More How to Do It

I had a two-year, no-strings-attached hookup friendship with a very well-endowed guy. He got stuck overseas due to COVID restrictions. We’re not dating, but we are very sexually compatible. Now he’s back. We’ve hooked up three times since he’s returned, and I’m a little confused about something—something specifically about his big ‘ol penis.

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