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 wife and I have been married for over 20 years. Like many couples, our libidos do not match up. I would like to connect three times a week, and I think she would prefer to connect two to three times a month. We meet somewhere in the middle and average about once a week. Some months are more frequent (six times), and others are not (three times). I know that I get grumpy and insecure when we connect less frequently, and so I started to look for ways to process our love life.
Last March, I started keeping a sex journal. Nothing too descriptive, just the date, time of day, circumstances, positions, and who had an orgasm. It has served as a way to reflect, process, and enjoy our connections. At my grumpiest/most insecure, I could convince myself that we “never” have sex and spiral into all the reasons why, and my journal has been a fact checker of sorts. It has kept me honest and also very aware of where we are and what our sex life actually looks like. It has also revealed some patterns that frustrate me about my wife.
My question is: Do I share my journaling with my wife? I feel guilty that I have these “data points” and notes that directly involve her and she doesn’t know. I think I have kept it from her because I am concerned that she will be upset and frustrated that I am “keeping score” or that I will use my journal to “prove a point.” I have had to bite my tongue a few times when we’ve talked about our sex life and she says something that I know is not true, mostly related to frequency, but I recognize that I have put myself in this position, so I would never correct her. But what if “knowledge is power,” and by sharing our sex life gets better? (I know “better” does not necessarily mean “more frequently”!) Do I share because I care? If so, how do I do it?
I think logs can be wonderful. Like you describe, they can help spot patterns and help us manage our perceptions. For people with more than one sexual partner in a given period of time, they can help us remember everyone we need to contact in the event of a positive sexually transmittable infection test. I can imagine the subject of any regular record like this having a negative reaction to some degree, regardless of format, but I can also imagine someone happy with what you’ve done.
But after 20 years of marriage, I imagine you’ve got a pretty good handle on how your wife will react to knowledge of your sex log. If there’s a history of you actually keeping score, it’ll be that much more of a sore spot. And the same goes for proving a point. Any time you find yourself biting your tongue on something that involves your partner, with your partner, airing the issue is worth strong consideration. Think about the possible risks—would your sex life suffer? would she lose trust in you, or even leave?—and how likely they are. Also consider the possibility of her finding out later on, accidentally or intentionally on your part, and whether that might intensify her reaction. I think the best course of action is to tell her soon. But think it through yourself—you know her.
If the situation isn’t that fraught, you can probably simply explain that you’ve started a sexual memory book and have noticed that it’s useful when you get down about the frequency of sex the two of you are having. I’d start with the way that this log has helped you keep your senses around your partnered sex. Another aspect to talk about early is how it helps you reflect on and enjoy your interactions. From there, you can feel out whether she’s open to taking a look at it and using it as a source of data. You’ll also want to listen for signs that she isn’t OK with you keeping such detailed notes, which can be anything from a very direct “I’m not OK with this” to more subtle signs of discomfort like fidgeting or leaning away. I don’t know what her specific body language tells are, but I’m hoping that you do after two decades.
If there is a history of you trying to logic her libido into existence, or worse, outright coercion, you’re risking running into a sore spot with your log. You’ll want to approach with more caution—paying special attention to whether she’s already stressed about other stuff or uncomfortable—and leave more time to deal with potential fallout.
I get a sense that you’re hoping to control the situation. Remember that life is unpredictable. Your wife is probably going to feel some confusion, surprise, or other somewhat uncomfortable emotions. She may be more intensely upset. You can absolutely spend some time thinking through likely reactions and how you want to respond in each case. Engage your active listening, give her time to process what you’re saying and respond, and good luck.
Dear How to Do It,
How do I stop feeling guilty about breaking up with my boyfriend? We were together for almost two years with many almost-breakups along the way that he talked me out of. He had issues he never improved—stuff like sexist comments and behaviors, as well as comments about my weight and how it has affected the relationship (I gained five pounds while we dated, tops). This time, I broke things more firmly with him but to my surprise, he cried and begged me not to end things. I know I deserve better but he has not stopped telling me how he deserves a second chance and that it’s all his fault and he will be better. I don’t want to get back with him, but at the same time, I do so he stops suffering.
We’re essentially weighing his suffering against your suffering, and I advocate prioritizing yourself. He makes sexist comments. He denigrates your body. He didn’t improve. He almost certainly won’t if you take him back, and it’s possible he’ll get worse. Tears are not an apology.
You know the relationship wasn’t healthy for you. And other than ending his suffering, you list precisely zero reasons to recouple. Put yourself first and tell him that getting back together is absolutely off the table. If he doesn’t respect your boundary, block his number and social media accounts.
Dear How to Do It,
My husband and I have been married going on 22 years. We have two adultish kids who are in college now, so we’re almost empty nesters. The best description of our lives is that we’re a pretty typical suburban family—we both work, kids went to private school, two cars, usually a vacation or two, and no real surprises. We’re both approaching 50, and it’s not a stretch to say that we both have looked fitter and thinner than we do now. We’re not obese, but we also don’t look like we run marathons or lift a lot of weights for sure. To be fair, he probably looks a little more fit than I do. I have never cheated on my husband, and I don’t think he has either.
I’d say that our sex life has run hot and cold, and we are not always on the same part of the cycle at the same time. The last few years are definitely on the cold side, partly due to COVID, I think. But it was that way even before the pandemic. One way we’ve been trying to get in the mood together has been to use porn. And porn is usually pretty good at its job.
By that I mean after a couple of videos, we’re both ready to go and we enjoy each other’s bodies. I’m not usually very picky about the videos, but the lesbian ones do more for my husband than they do for me. I still “get there” with them, but it’s definitely more for him than me. But what seems to arouse both of us are what they call cuckold videos. I particularly get aroused when the lover is both “bigger,” younger, and just more eye candy than the husband. My husband is well aware of my physical cues of arousal, and he’s definitely noticed that I get affected by these videos.
As part of the “sexy talk” aspect of our foreplay, he asks or comments about whether I like what I’m seeing, what I like about the “bulls,” how much the wife seems to be enjoying it, and stuff like that. He’s also started to ask me if that’s what I want, and how much it would be sexy to watch me with some of those bulls. And I have to admit, I am kinda curious about it. The thought of it DOES excite me. When we’re having sex after watching the videos, it’s what helps me orgasm. When I happen to think about it when I’m doing boring normal stuff like grocery shopping or making dinner or something, I get an unmistakable physical reaction from thinking about it.
The problem is that I don’t know if this is just foreplay fantasy talk or if he’s actually serious about exploring it? I don’t want to bring it up when we’re not getting ready to have sex because I would hate for him to think that I want to have sex with some random person. He has never brought it up outside of the bedroom, so I have to assume it’s all just part of the foreplay. And since I haven’t exactly been jumping into bed naked on a regular basis, I don’t want to make our already shaky sex life worse by making him think that I would just be having enthusiastic and frequent sex with a “bull.”
Is there a way to broach the subject in a way that feels like it’s both of our idea? I also have no idea even how to do something like this safely. I don’t know if my husband does either. Or is this just a way to help us get horny together? I’m not sure it’s just fantasy fodder for me. Or, at least, I’m curious to explore it.
Dear How to Do It,
Like our libidinous logger above, I get the sense that you’re hoping to avoid a negative reaction to a potentially tense conversation. That’s understandable, and not helpful. I hear that you don’t want to bring bull-banging up outside of sexual interaction, but that’s exactly what you need to do.
Pick a time when you have privacy, time to talk, and everyones’ biological needs are taken care of—nobody is hungry, or too hot or cold, or sitting on that one chair that’s really beautiful but strains the sitter’s back. Ask if your husband is open to having a talk about sex, and respect his answer. If he’s not open to it at the time, ask him to make time in the next few days. If he is, proceed.
First, tell him that you’re nervous to bring this up. Let him know that your relationship with him is your priority, and that you love him and are committed to him. Let him respond. Then, ask your husband directly where on the fantasy to implementation spectrum he would like this cuck talk to fall. Maybe “How into this fantasy are you?” and then “I’m curious whether you’re interested in making it a reality?” If that’s the direction he wants to go in, have a big long talk about what’s exciting about it for both of you and see where your desires match up. From there, you can start deciding how this might happen. As long as the two of you and any third parties consent, you have all of the options.
Safer sex is a whole other set of options. Ideally you use a couple of layers of preventive measures. Asking that your partners be regularly tested for sexually transmittable infections—and getting regularly screened yourself—is a great method. If you’re only going to do one thing, condoms are the most effective with the lowest effort. The two together are your best bet. Realistically, you’d likely be exposed to HPV and possibly herpes simplex at some point if you bring in multiple partners, so factor that into your decision-making process.
Communication is key. Just because you set guidelines doesn’t mean they’re concrete. You can—and should—check in with each other during and after the sexual interaction, and throughout the course of any nonmonogamous relationship. Changes can always be renegotiated, and it’s great to regularly consider whether anything could be refined.
Dear How to Do It,
Can anyone learn to squirt? I am a 40-year-old woman in a long-term relationship. My husband and I have a healthy sex life; we have two kids in the bedroom next door, so we don’t get as frisky as we used to but still give it all we got when we can. I’ve wondered if I can squirt and he thinks I have when having penetrative sex. I also a masturbate with toys and get the same type orgasm but I know I’ve never squirted solo. So my question: Is this a physiological thing some people are born with or is it something anyone can do with practice?
—Squirtless in Seattle
As near as I can tell, some people squirt all the time, others squirt some of the time, and still more require effort to begin squirting. When I say squirt, I mean anything from the geyser you’re probably envisioning through to a tiny, barely noticeable trickle. One squirting expert, Sheri Winston, author of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, believes almost anyone with a vulva can learn how to squirt. The key is to be deeply aroused, and you’re more likely to squirt if you’ve already had a few orgasms and have spent a lot of time stimulating your urethral sponge.
Winston’s book gives by far the most detailed descriptions and illustrations of internal genitalia that I’ve ever seen. That alone will help you better understand your parts and how to make yourself feel pleasure with them. I recommend giving it a read. The short version is that you want to exercise lots of patience with your body during the arousal process, and pay attention to all the erogenous zones on your body that aren’t your genitals before moving to genital contact. Your genitals should engorge with blood and feel different than they do when you’re erotically at rest before you engage in any penetration.
You’ll likely have an easier time letting go if you pee first and have a towel underneath you. Good luck.
More How to Do It
My husband and I married young and have been together for 15 years. The sex has always been … fine. He is very into performing oral—although I think his enthusiasm outstrips his skill—but I prefer penetration or manual stimulation to get off. He’s average size and has never been a marathon man, but lately he’s had a hard time, well, getting hard, and if he does, he can only handle a minute or maybe two of intercourse. In contrast, as I’ve gotten older, my tastes have started to run less vanilla, and all I want lately is really rough sex with a big, hard dick operated by someone who really knows how to use it. We still have sex a few times a week, but sometimes when it’s over, I’m so frustrated I could cry. I’ve recently started chatting online with a sexy, well-endowed man in a similar marriage situation, and that initially very innocent friendship has gotten increasingly inappropriate. I’m now considering an extreme measure to satisfy myself.