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 46-year-old woman in a newly intimate relationship with a 50-year-old man. We’ve been friends for years and have always been attracted to one another, but the timing was off. We’ve just began having a sexual relationship for the past four months, and something extremely curious is happening and we can’t seem to find answers to what is going on.
In the beginning, he would have issues achieving an orgasm. He told me this has always been an problem for him in his intimate relationships. He could sometimes come from PIV; however, he has never achieved an orgasm from oral, yet he could reliably finish if he masturbated. I assured him I loved the experiences we were sharing and my focus was on our mutual affection, exploration, and pleasure, regardless if a grand finale took place or not, for me or for him. It also might be helpful here to know he is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and recently divorced his partner (a woman) who was not sexually expressive. We both assumed there was a bit of an emotional “block,” and I’m happy to report with some time, patience, and a lot of honest communication, that doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore. In fact, the pendulum has swung so far the other way we’re both in awe of what’s happening.
A couple weeks ago, while we were intimate, he had a breakthrough of sorts. Not only did he come in my mouth, but he came multiple, and I mean multiple times! He had approximately 25 orgasms in two hours. He just stayed hard and it wouldn’t stop! There was so much fluid! It was something out of a porno movie! We enjoyed the experience for sure and believed it was a one-time thing, but nope! Apparently he’s become multi-orgasmic. On top of that, the amount of ejaculate is concerning to me, and it has a strong odor, like urine, and has a very sour/salty taste, almost like a lemon. The first time this happened, I was convinced one of us peed the bed or I had squirted and didn’t know. But it’s definitely him, and this leads me to asking you:
Is this normal?! Should we be concerned he might have a prostate thing going on due to his age? He’s admitted nothing like this has ever happened in his life, and as much as we’re both enjoying this new-found discovery and I’m so happy to see he’s removed those mental blocks, I want to make sure we shouldn’t be concerned that something medical is at play. We’ve waited so long to be together, and what we have is beyond amazing … emotionally, intellectually and physically. We don’t want to lose what we’ve waited for. Thank you so much!
— Happy and Baffled
Dear Happy and Baffled,
I stand with you in awe at the multiorgasmic man (sometimes called a “multiplecummer” or “multicummer”). Such a guy is, for my money, the perfect intersection of medical marvel and horniness. Such a guy’s bodily functioning suggests a libido so immense as to stretch the limits of human possibility, and when that is directed at you, it feels like a supreme compliment. So I want to first congratulate you on your good fortune for finding a guy you dig with a geyser for a dick.
That said, what you describe is unusual based on the data on multiple male orgasms that does exist—though it should be understood that what does exist is scant. In their 2015 review of the existing literature, “Multiple Orgasms in Men—What We Know So Far,” Erik Wibowo and Richard J. Wassersug note that “most reports on male multiple orgasms rely on subjective accounts where multiple orgasms were not objectively confirmed by any physiological or neurological criteria,” and that multiorgasmic men are rare as it is—it’s estimated that less than 10 percent of men in their 20s and less than seven percent in their 30s and up are capable of orgasming twice within 20 minutes (the generally accepted measure of what constitutes being multiorgasmic in men, given the average refractory time of 20 minutes). (Note that the literature is based on cisgender men, which is why I’m using that terminology, and not all people with penises. Though this may apply to people with penises of all gender identities, there’s some indication that supplemental estrogen may play a role in promoting multiple orgasms. Interestingly, some men who have undergone prostatectomies also report a subsequent ability to achieve multiple orgasms.)
As indicated above, the whys are as yet unknown, but it’s theorized that men’s ability to achieve multiple orgasms could have something to do with diminished prolactin levels. So your partner could have those checked to make sure everything is OK. Something unique in this particular case is the amount of fluid that you report: Generally speaking, it diminishes over the course of the multiple orgasms so that after a certain point the orgasms are dry. I would say that this situation is enough of a change in functioning to warrant a visit to a urologist, if for nothing else than peace of mind. It’s very difficult to guess what role his childhood trauma is playing in this newfound ability, but I would say that if he hasn’t been treated for that, he should certainly see some sort of counselor or psychologist who specializes in trauma.
I shared your letter with one of the authors of the paper linked to above, Dr. Erik Wibowo, a lecturer in the anatomy department at University of Otago’s School of Biomedical Sciences. In addition to noting that the amount of ejaculate tends to diminish with each subsequent orgasm, Wibowo wrote that, “I have not heard of the comment about odor and taste before. There are certainly cases where men leak urine during ejaculation (climacturia), for example in the case of prostate cancer patients after surgical removal of the prostate, which often leads to the loss of urinary control. It’s not clear here if he had any medical procedure that may affect his urinary control.”
So, there’s more going on here than can be decisively solved in an advice column. I wouldn’t be too worried at the moment (not enough to diminish the enjoyment of his multiple orgasms), but he should definitely get this (and his trauma) checked out when possible.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 44-year-old poly woman. I’ve recently started dating a man in his 40s who has genital herpes, or HSV-2. Thanks in large part to the work you’ve done in this column to educate and to dispel the myths around herpes, I did my own research on prevalence and transmissibility during PIV sex with protection, and ultimately concluded it was worth the low risk. And lucky me, the sex is mind-blowing.
The reason I’m writing to you is that I am—as Rich would put it—a joyful cocksucker. Having that exquisite juxtaposition of hard and soft sliding between my lips and over my tongue is my happy place. But I have decided not to indulge in that with this new guy, as I can’t find very much info on transmissibility rates of HSV-2 with oral sex, and I’m unwilling to take uninformed risks. I’m also unwilling to give head with a condom on—it’s just not the visceral experience I’d seek or enjoy.
Could you please help me find some solid transmissibility numbers for barrier-less oral sex, with the resources you have access to? For context, he takes a daily antiviral, and first contracted the virus in his 20s.
— Hoping for Head
Dear Hoping for Head,
There is a lot in your favor here, but the risk is not zero and, unfortunately, the specific transmissibility numbers are elusive. What we do know, though, is that HSV-2 “doesn’t take very well to the oral cavity,” according to H. Hunter Handsfield, professor emeritus, University of Washington, and a nationally recognized STI expert. During a Zoom conversation, Handsfield estimated that the risk for HSV-2 transmission for vaginal sex with no condom or valacyclovir use (but during a period when an outbreak is not occurring) is 1 in 1000 acts. And given the low transmissibility of HSV-2 in oral contact, “it’s going to be probably tenfold less than that.” Additionally, according to Handsfield, HSV-2 is transmitted more frequently in the months following infection, and it tends to be transmitted earlier in relationships than later. “And so if you get through the first several months of a relationship without transmission, your risk after that tends to decline,” he said.
For some hard-ish data, you can check this 2004 study of 1484 serodiscordant couples; in eight months’ time a total of 41 people acquired herpes (the study was on the effects of valacyclovir and unsurprisingly found that transmission was far less common in people on the antiviral than those given the placebo). It’s important to note that 37 percent of the couples reported that they never used condoms for anal or vaginal sex for the duration of the study. (This HSV-2 acquisition finding was lower in this study than others “probably because of the low biologic risk of infection among long-standing couples, the high proportion of susceptible male participants, and the extensive counseling we performed.” Still, the numbers are typically not very high.)
Nonetheless, the lack of the kind of data you were looking for frustrated me, and so I confirmed its elusiveness with Dr. Anna Wald, professor of medicine and epidemiology, University of Washington, and all-around herpes expert. “We lack numerical data on transmission risks for most STD’s, including HSV,” she wrote to me in an email, noting that HIV is the only one in which we have solid estimates of risk (and even that is complicated by antiretroviral medication that can make the virus undetectable in HIV-positive people thus untransmittable). Wald continued that your immediate risk will depend on whether your partner is having an outbreak. In addition to being rare, oral HSV-2 is “most of the time very mild,” according to Wald. Finally, she wrote, “Most people who have HSV-2 do not know that they have it, so I would wonder if she has been tested. If she is already HSV-2 positive, I would not worry about additional exposure.”
I hope this provides some perspective, and even comfort. It might also be useful to think about exactly what you’re worried about. I asked Handsfield the biggest concern that exists regarding HSV-2 transmission from an epidemiological perspective, and he said it’s its association with HIV transmission. “If you look at the epidemiology of HIV, particularly heterosexual transmission of HIV in places like sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and so on, one fairly consistent calculation is as many as half of all HIV transmissions would not occur if HSV-2 were not part of the picture,” he said. This may or may not apply to you. There are also the complications that could arise from neonatal herpes simplex virus infection, were you to conceive. It is naturally understandable to want to avoid any infection as much as possible, but many people decide that some small risks are worth taking. Good luck with your choices.
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Dear How to Do It,
My partner and I have been together for seven years. He’s 31 and I’m 27. Our relationship started very quickly, and we moved in together less than a year after first meeting.
Last month, I found out that he had been having a sexual affair with a mutual friend of ours. Both of them are frequent social drinkers and can drink quite heavily. I know they were both drunk whenever they hooked up. My partner’s version of events changed several times, but he is now claiming that the friend took advantage of him while they were drunk. I have been too angry to hear the other side of the story.
I have also heard from others that the friend has shared details of what happened that my partner did not tell me. Can anything be gained by hearing these other details? For example, I know my partner climaxed during this affair, and I am not sure if that would be possible if he was so drunk as to be in a taken advantage of state. Could a guy get hard and come if he didn’t want it but was too drunk to say no? I really want to believe my partner, but I’m not sure. I don’t think he would go so far as to co-opt the Me Too movement, but things don’t really add up. There’s the fact that the affair went on for some time. I have also come to learn that my partner was the one who provided the alcohol that supposedly led to them fooling around each time. My partner also continued to invite this friend over for drinks after the affair was over, both for times I was home and for times that I wasn’t. He only claimed that he was taken advantage of after I and other people found out that he had cheated on me, and after his initial lies covering the extent of the affair fell apart. I also know that he deleted text messages between him and the friend after I asked to read them.
Am I being naïve? I was betrayed by two people I trusted and don’t know what to do. I am trying to make things work, but not sure if I believe anything he says anymore.
—Naïve and Confused
Dear Naïve and Confused,
I don’t know if this constitutes naïveté on your part, because you have collected plenty of pieces to suspect something is amiss and, indeed, effectively have written in for confirmation. Let’s recap: Your partner changed his story “several times,” and you came to find out that it was still incomplete. After the cheating, he continued to invite your mutual friend over, including times when you were home. When a story he told fell apart, he pivoted to a victim narrative. He also destroyed evidence that you requested to review.
You are partnered with a liar. He has lied several times to save his ass. You know this. The question to ask yourself is how much you actually care. Maybe it turns out that you’re actually OK with an open arrangement and that you’re willing to forgive the cheating and lying that came with it because it was all in the service of some frivolous sex. I’d warn you against coming to that conclusion because of the level of comfort in lying that your partner has shown and his willingness to manipulate your grasp on reality for his own gain. But most relationships require their participants to determine their threshold for putting up with shit, and yours just might be particularly high. Ultimately, you have to do you.
That said, it would not surprise me at all if, once fully forgiven and accepted, this dude found more opportunities to lie to you. A dynamic has been established, and if your partner has no reason not to lie (in the form of consequences), what’s to stop him from doing it again? This means that even if you eradicate the very concept of cheating from your relationship by opening it up (and I don’t even think you want to do this, I’m just providing you a scenario in which this relationship might continue to function), you may still find yourself a victim of the worst aspect of cheating: the deception.
So, I wouldn’t believe anything he says, either, and I’m pretty sure that you don’t—you’re just looking for someone to confirm that you shouldn’t. So here you go. Confirmation is yours.
Additionally, what’s known as arousal nonconcordance—that is, a disparity in physiological response and the mental erotic experience—is a documented phenomenon (Emily Nagoski bases much of her argument in Come As You Are on the findings of a study that documented such nonconcordance). As a result, people who feel turned on may not have erections or vaginal wetness, and those who aren’t turned on may nonetheless be erect/wet. It’s quite common. So that part of your partner’s story is possible, theoretically. Practically speaking? I don’t buy any of it. Return to sender.
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Dear How to Do It,
I’m friends with a Swedish couple I met at university, and I still occasionally spend weekends in Sweden with them. They’re big into threesomes with strangers and acquaintances, and “Erik” enjoys being receptive. A few years back, “Sara” told me about a craze that was going through their munch group, a sex toy based off of a Pope’s Pear, which in their words “helps the male doe train for the buck,” and turned that into an invitation for more sex games.
I declined at the time. But over the years, I’ve kept in touch, and become more involved in their sex games, since I had graduated and had more time on my hands, especially on weekends.
Lately, Erik hasn’t been doing so well, with repeated issues of fecal incontinence. It’s been bad enough that sometimes he must sit out some sessions of fun because of his bowel problems. I don’t have their medical records, but I am sure their frequent use and abuse of this “toy” is at least partially to blame. However, neither of them seem particularly troubled by the medical developments, but I do worry about Erik’s health.
However, ultimately, they are married, and I am the outsider. I do not know if it is my place to speak up or tell Erik to see a doctor or anything of the sort. How should I be navigating this?
What do you think that you could say that would be more resonant or louder than a leaking asshole? I don’t really know how they get down in Sweden, but typically, most people who own a butt know when it’s functioning properly and when it’s not. If I were you, I’d assume that Erik is on top of his bottoming issues—perhaps the lack of concern apparent in him and Sara suggests they are at peace with incontinence, treating it (some treatments for it, like kegels, biofeedback, and bowel training, involve a process that shows improvement over time), unable to access treatment and not sweating it, or that they are putting on a brave face for friends while taking it more seriously privately. I think at the most, you could inquire about what treatments he’s undergoing, if any, and how he feels about the situation. I just don’t imagine any guidance regarding medical help will come as a newsflash to either of these grown adults who live in our modern world and are surely aware of the concept and availability of healthcare. Your concern is heartening, but you should probably butt out.
More How to Do It
I’m a fiftysomething straight woman. Throughout my dating life, I’ve had men comment on the “tightness” of my vagina over and over. I know that women will tell men that they’re big or well-endowed as a compliment, but do men do the same with women? Tell them that the fit is tight or snug, even if it’s not? I’ve recently started seeing someone new, and he constantly remarks on my “tightness.” I can’t ask my girlfriends about this because who is going to say that they are loose? And what defines loose, anyway? And what defines tightness?