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 pretty sure my husband is obsessed with all things anal. He refuses to admit it, but I’ve seen open tabs of hardcore anal, dildos, plugs, and more on porn sites left open by mistake.
When I ask him what kind of porn he likes, he never mentions “anal.” The thing is, mostly on nights where I’ve had several drinks, he insists on trying anal. I have tried for him many times in the past to enjoy this kind of sex, but the general consensus is that I’m not a huge fan and probably will never initiate it. He says it’s not a big deal in the moment, but I feel like I am not meeting his sexual needs, as shown by him keeping his porn viewing a private thing that I just happen to stumble upon. Any advice?
You’re not into anal, but your husband insists on engaging in it, mostly when you’ve had several drinks? This sounds like it might be coercive on his part, and that would cross the line—on top of the fact that if you’re inebriated, you may not feel pain signals soon enough to prevent harm to your delicate rectum. If you’re willing to be anally penetrated to meet your husband’s desires, that’s your choice, but if you’re a maybe before you start drinking and a yes after a couple, your decision-making and consent is blurred.
While you don’t say how many times you’ve seen your husband’s tabs open, I imagine it hasn’t happened very often. Is it possible that what he’s fixated on is your specific anus and he was coincidentally looking at anal porn the couple of times you’ve glanced? Or is it possible that this is something he feels shame about and wants to hide from you, or generally?
It doesn’t seem like your communication around sex is very deep, and that’s something to consider working on. My hope is that if the two of you can build more comfort talking about your sexualities you’ll get to a point where he can be more open about his porn-viewing preferences. And if you don’t already have specific activities you engage in for your enjoyment during sexual interaction, suggesting a couple that sound fun for you seems like a great place to start.
Dear How to Do It,
I love the physical feeling of getting eaten out, but I hate it emotionally. I get so caught up in worrying about whether my husband is bored and when I’m going to come that it takes me about 30 to 45 minutes to come. I’m worrying about when it will happen and how bored he may be that whole time. I’m also very submissive and love to be dominated, which is hard to accomplish during that act. I’ve asked him to try to work some dominance in, but we’re having trouble figuring that out logistically.
He always says he doesn’t mind how long it takes, but I just don’t believe him and stay worrying about it the whole time, and wishing he would do something dominant (which I think would also help me come) but not knowing how. Do you have any advice?
Let your husband decide when he’s bored. Trust that he’ll stop when he wants to. And see if there’s an angle in which submitting to his attentions, despite your emotional discomfort, feels like receiving domination. If there is, have a talk together about how you can build that out and intensify it.
Restraints might be interesting to you. Bucking cuffs are cheap. Or you might decide to go with something that ties—a stocking, ribbon, or purpose-made rope. If you do, be sure to have snub-nosed scissors on hand in case you need to be cut out (sharp-ended scissors can cause damage on their way under the material). And regardless of the method of restraint, make sure to leave two fingers worth of give, have him check your circulation regularly, and don’t do anything where you’re tied up and left alone. There are books, classes, and blogs on safer sex and restraint if you decide this is something you want to pursue.
You might also make the length of time required a game. Perhaps he sets a timer for an hour and you’re going to be eaten out until it goes off, whether you orgasm or not. It’s out of your hands. Maybe there’s some role play that works for you, or another framing that speaks to your submission. You’re a team, and I think you’ve got this.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a gay man in my 40s. After working through a lot of internal shame, I’ve recently begun to allow myself to explore long-buried aggressive kinks through sex with my partner, hookups (we’re nonmonogamous), and porn. Think things like biting, hair-pulling, choking, slapping/punching, etc. It’s been really hot! And the more I do it, the more I find myself leaning into increased aggression. The thing that worries me is that I’ve noticed these activities are most satisfying and arousing at times when I’m angry or stressed, like when I’ve had a fight with my partner or a bad day at work. I am the most gentle, nonviolent person in my everyday life, and I’m scared that allowing my brain and body to experience violent (consensual) behavior as a pleasurable and cathartic outlet for strong emotions will bleed over into nonsexual situations. Is there any danger that I will start to want to engage in nonconsensual aggressive behaviors toward others when I’m upset? Or do our brains do a pretty good job at compartmentalizing these things?
—Not Pulling Punches
Congratulations on working through that shame and exploring your kinks. I’m glad you’re finding sexual specifics that are hot for you, and that you’re able to consensually practice them. I thought your question required some psychological expertise and some proficiency with kink, so I reached out to the licensed clinical therapist professionally known as Jet Setting Jasmine, who is also co-owner of the progressive BDSM porn production house Royal Fetish Films (NSFW).
First, she wanted to be sure that you’re getting consent from your partner to channel your anger in cases like after a bad day at work or a fight. “What does the discussion look like around consent for this behavior? Are there discussions that are happening between partners where we’re clear that we’re using this sexual space to manage a nonsexual emotion?” she asked. One example she gave: “I had such a terrible day at work. I just need to get some of that energy out of my body right now, are you game for that?” She said that “allowing our partner agency in participating” in this kind of emotional sex act “is the healthiest way for us to be able to make sure that those impulses are managed”—and it can help avoid manipulative or destructive behavior during sex “without even our own understanding of what we’re doing.”
With consent comes boundaries. Your partner may respond to your request for aggressive sex with a no, or be open to some activities but not others. And you may want to set boundaries for yourself, too. It may be that biting feels less controllable than punching does for you, and so you avoid it when you’re emotionally worked up. Or it’s possible that you can sate your desire to sex it out with high-energy penetration and leave the sadism for a different day.
You’ll need other ways of channeling and dealing with your anger regardless. “We shouldn’t have one method of coping for any one emotion,” Jasmine said. “Taking this out of sex for just a moment, there’s a variety of feelings that we experience and a variety of different ways that we have to cope with those experiences.” Nonsexual aggression is a possibility too. Jasmine suggests something like a kickboxing routine, or some play-wrestling with your partner, among other ideas: “Can we talk about this at the top of your lungs? Can you scream and tell me how horrible that day was so we can start to get some of that aggression out?” Sexual or not, negotiate your boundaries together and look for the yeses.
And whatever you do, don’t forget about what got you there in the first place: “Making sure that there is space to actually address the anger, because right now we’re talking about the outcome—‘I’ve gotten so angry that I need this outlet’—but we haven’t really talked about the actual source, and what we can do to manage that anger, with or without sex,” Jasmine said. If you’re frequently angry, looking at why that is and making the changes necessary to reduce that is worthwhile. I think your self-awareness and concern for ramifications will serve you well.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a 24-year-old virgin woman whose current masturbation routine is entirely external. As I don’t foresee a sexual partner in the near future (thanks, COVID), I am interested in techniques for solo penetration, but I am struggling with, well, how to do it! I can fairly comfortably get a finger in my vagina, but the angles aren’t really working out—my hands are small, so it’s hard to reach the spots where it really feels good, and my forearm blocks access to my clit with my other hand. Any more fingers just hurt.
I also recently tried to penetrate myself with a vibrator (silicone, about 1-1.5 inches in diameter, I’d say), and it was an absolute disaster. No matter how much lube I used (and pretty much my entire bedroom was covered in lube by the time I gave up), I could not get it to go in—horrible burning pain as soon as it stretched my entrance even a little, and after getting maybe half an inch in, it was like pushing against a brick wall. I tried different positions, relaxation techniques, letting it sit there so my body could adjust to it. No dice.
Where do I go from here? I don’t think I have vaginismus—I’ve been able to have pelvic speculum exams, albeit not without a fair amount of discomfort. A friend of mine suggested dilators, but that seems like a lot of pain and work for maybe not that much payoff? I’m feeling frustrated because I’m curious about penetrative sex but don’t want to feel dependent on a man to have the kind of sex I want to have. And on top of it, I’m now concerned that if I ever do have the opportunity to have sex with a nonsilicone partner, this amount of pain is all that awaits me. Any advice?
—Open and Closed
Silicone allergies are rare but real, so I think it’s worth trying a very small insertable of a different material. And if it was your first time using that lubricant, something in the formula could be the culprit as well. If changing the materials or ingredients goes well, great, you’ve solved your issue. If not, let’s keep investigating.
One finger is comfortable. What if you swirl it around at various depths? Can you try two? If that’s comfortable, it’s possible that the firmness of the vibrator was the issue and you need something squishier. If finger movement or two fingers hurts, or if a small squishy insertable hurts, it’s time to see a doctor and be direct about what you’re experiencing. They can do a physical exam and ask all the questions and hopefully help you. Depending on how your health care system works, this might mean starting with a call to your insurance company, or your gynecologist, or your primary care physician. They’ll take it from there. If the initial doctor isn’t able to help, or if your insurance allows you to go directly to the specialist, ask for a referral. Best of luck.
More How to Do It
My wife and I have been together for about 10 years and married two. For the most part, our sex is great—except for one thing. And after all this time, I have no idea how to tell her she’s bad at it and should stop.