How to Do It

I’m Only Six Months Into My Marriage, and I Already Think Something Is Very Wrong

I was completely inexperienced with sex before, so this is very confusing.

A woman next to a worried face emoji.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by 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,

I’m a 23-year-old woman, very much in love with my husband of six months. He’s a 32-year-old man. I’d say the marriage is a very happy one, and things are going well. We waited until marriage for sexual intimacy, and it’s since become a daily thing. My husband had previously been in relationships, some that were sexual, but this is all my first experience with it. I’m starting to worry something’s wrong with me. I’ve not enjoyed it once, in our entire marriage. My husband is a very sexual man. He’s easily turned on by me, even when I’m not trying, and he’s very happy to have sex a few times a day, when he can. I don’t have any problem with that; in fact, I greatly enjoy knowing I can please him so well, but I never feel anything. He’s tried a few different things, from oral stimulation, to fingering me in different ways, but I’m unable to feel anything except the occasional bit of pain. I also have never been able to become aroused, emotionally or physically, for him. I love to please him, but sex just doesn’t matter to me itself, and neither does seeing him naked, for instance. He’ll prance around the house, in a desperate attempt to get me going, but it does nothing. He asks what worked when I masturbated in the past, but I never did. There was just never any interest, on my part. That really shocked him.

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The more I think on it, the more confused I get. I think he has a very handsome face, but that’s where it ends. I’m not attracted to him sexually. I’ve never been attracted to anyone sexually, and I’m only just realizing that. I have no desire to kiss or do anything physically intimate with anyone. It’s not just him. I haven’t exactly explained that to him yet because I’m honestly scared. He’s so sexual, and he’s distressed enough as it is, thinking he can’t please me, but I don’t know if it’s possible. Am I broken somehow? I have absolutely no experience in sexual matters, and I’m so confused. I’ve lived such a sheltered life, I don’t know what to think. I’m scared he’ll regret marrying me, if I tell him he’ll never be able to please me the way I do him. It means so much that he cares, and wants to please me, but I almost wish he didn’t. If he just focused on enjoying himself during sex, it’d be better for the both of us. I love to make him happy, and I’m not sure I’ll ever feel anything anyway.

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—Never Hot, a Little Bothered

Dear A Little Bothered,

You are not broken. However, I suspect that you’re asexual. “We all share the lack of sexual attraction, and most of us have low desire for partnered sex,” writes Angela Chen of asexuals in Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, a book frequently recommended in this column that I’m recommending once again. Let’s review what you wrote in your letter: “I’m not attracted to him sexually. I’ve never been attracted to anyone sexually, and I’m only just realizing that.” You fit Chen’s criteria to a T. Your lack of sensation could be the result of physical issues like nerve impairment or an endocrine system disorder, so you may want to talk to a gynecologist, but regardless, it seems fairly certain to me that you’re somewhere on the ace spectrum. Reading Chen’s book could help you feel less confused and alone. A lot of people feel the way that you do, and a lot of those people are nonetheless in relationships with allosexuals (that is, people who are not asexual and who do experience sexual attraction).

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Also, a lot of asexuals have sex, and for a variety of reasons. You mention multiple times that you love to please your husband, and I think that is adequate justification to continue having sex with him—there are many sexual activities that people perform that aren’t directly pleasurable, but nonetheless are so by proxy. It feels good to make people feel good! As long as you aren’t guided by a sense of obligation, I think you’re fine. (I’m a bit disconcerted by the daily frequency of your nonpleasurable sex, but again, if you feel in full control and in complete mastery of your agency, I think you should do what you want to do.)

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If you are asexual, it will be important to share that with your husband. But I’d warn against doing so before reading more about it and developing your vocabulary—you want to be able to articulate yourself fully here, as this is a topic that tends to be poorly understood when it is understood at all. You may find yourself in the role of teacher, which is at least a responsibility you didn’t sign up for, if not an all-out burden. How will he take the news? It’s hard to say, but certainly allo-ace couples exist and thrive (Chen writes about her experience in such a relationship in her book). If things are going well, he may want to keep them going regardless of the sexual configuration. It may come as a relief to both of you that there’s a definitive explanation for your lack of sexual interest, but he could also be daunted by the fact that you’ll never quite be on the same page. I don’t think this should prevent you from sharing the truth with him—as your partner, he should be aware of these intimate details so he can make informed decisions—but I do think you should brace yourself for potentially difficult conversations and unwanted outcomes. I hope, though, it works out for you two.

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Dear How to Do It,

Gay man in his early 30s here. I am on the dating scene and seem to have many good qualities. I am often told that I am a catch because of my good-hearted nature and intelligence. I’m also considered one of “the hot guys” and am hit on by an alarming number of men. I’ve been told that I’m an absolute stud! Sounds great, right? Problem is that I am woefully inexperienced in bed and tend to go limp due to anxiety. I know this is an anxiety thing as I jerk off like crazy (three to five times a day) and have no issues there when I’m off doing it alone. The fear of my being 30 and not being able to say confidently that I’m a “top,” “bottom,” or “vers” seems to get in my head and take me out of the moment.

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Despite this, I see sex as more than just hard dicks and ass, but a whole bodily experience and can still have fun. So I work and use the rest of my assets when the seven and a half inches of me isn’t up to snuff. I decided a few years ago that hooking up with anonymous men was unfulfilling and caused even more fear for me, and thus began pursuing romantic relationships. Many of these romantic potentials have been disappointed by my, *ahem,* performance once we have gotten into bed. l have been able to get all of these men off through a variety of techniques I developed by ways of hand/blow jobs, intense makeout sessions, rimming, fingering, body contact, verbal domination, and other means. Afterward, they are nevertheless upset. Sometimes it is implied (sighing, or one guy poking my penis in dismay like a dead fish), or some just outright said that they were frustrated, disappointed, or both. They have then gone to say that they could not see me as a romantic/sexual partner as a result and have broken things off with me. After having my heart broken the last time over this issue, I’ve decided to see a sex therapist, because the hard-on seems so linked to romance.

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So in light of all this, my question isn’t around my erection, but with the men who have been decided I was not a viable romantic/sexual partner: Many of these guys who have told me it wouldn’t work because of my dick … have come back. And they’re definitely not looking for friendship either! Some have stated they wanted to try things romantically again, sent me sexual photos, or tried to hook up with me, including the guy I was heartbroken over and was the most vocal about his disappointment in my dick. To say I have been shocked is stating it lightly, and I have not gone back to any of them out of sheer confusion. Why would these guys be trying to have sex with me after having had such a seemingly dismal experience?

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—Uncertain Stud

Dear Uncertain Stud,

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that your good heart, intelligence, and, perhaps especially hotness, are leading people back to you. It’s conceivable that, via rosy retrospection, what has stuck with people are your fixed traits and not performance (which can be chalked up to circumstantial and thus capable of improvement—which it is!). Remember: Your performance issues have been consistent for you, but for other people they may read as one-off snafus. Disappointment fades but your impression remains. Your former partners could also be taking a route that I call the long lap—as people looking for love or sex peruse, they may seem to reject someone only to come back around when they realize that the next best thing may have actually been in front of them a few people ago. A lot of the time, the pursuit of a romantic interest defies logic. People aren’t moving in a straight line so much as staggering around like zombies, except they don’t want to eat your brain but instead perform a more holistic consumption of you. That’s what being in a relationship sometimes feels like, at least.

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Whatever the case—since reading people’s minds is impossible and even the most precise answer to this question is bound to be conjecture—I think you’re right to ignore people who haven’t treated you in a way that you find acceptable and also to take this as a compliment. Your dick didn’t work to your satisfaction, and yet you’ve got people wanting more of it. Go you! Try to derive even more confidence from that. It may mitigate your anxiety and, in fact, help your wood. Also, keep in mind that bottoming could take some performance pressure off your dick, but if you aren’t feeling up to that, it may be too much of a sensory (and perhaps emotional) commitment to engage in anyway. Finally, trying out ED meds, if you haven’t yet, is worth a shot—even if your issue is only in your head, having the chemical assist can do wonders for self-confidence.

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Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I (both late 20s) have opened our marriage, and I’m interested in having sex with women. The thing is, I’ve never been with a woman before. Where do I even start looking for women who would be into hooking up with a totally inexperienced and emotionally taken partner like me? On dating apps, most women I’ve talked to have responded poorly (or not at all) to finding out I’m married to a guy and totally inexperienced with women. And if I put the whole story in my bio, I just seem to get no interest at all.

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—Adult Woman Finder

Dear Adult Woman Finder,

Among apps that are known to be especially nonmonogamy-friendly are Feeld and OkCupid, so do check out those if you haven’t already. You could look into local polyamory groups, if some sense of romance with another is part of your potential purview. A queer sex party, where the focus tends to be less on biographical details than the very moment at hand, might also be something to peruse. And there are, of course, bars. Obviously, COIVD complicates public venues, so they may have to wait for now. At least keep those options in your back pocket.

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I think it’s important to answer questions truthfully to help your potential partners make informed decisions, but if a certain piece of info that is entirely your business is causing unfair stigma, don’t lead with it or even offer it up freely. Unless you plan on weaving it into your hook-up, your inexperience isn’t necessarily need-to-know information. Your relationship is probably going to be more pertinent, and there will be women who reject you as a result of it for any number of reasons, but that’s the way it goes. We all have traits that some people will deem no-gos, and it’s best not to get hung up on the ones that are benign or otherwise not entirely in your control (or interest) to change. This may pose a challenge or require a more extensive search than for other people, but it’ll be worth it when it works out, I promise.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m a woman in my 30s, and dating a wonderful man who’s decidedly older (not SHOCKINGLY so, but noticeably). He’s had many more partners than I have, and although that left me feeling a little insecure initially, it’s worked out fine: I love sex, am energetic and open, and seem to be pretty good at taking direction. And for his part, he’s a phenomenally gifted and attentive lover.

Here’s my concern: It seems like it’s really difficult for him to come. In the year that we’ve been sleeping together, he’s never come from intercourse alone (either vaginal or anal). I’ve learned what works for him (extended oral/hand job), which I can do and definitely enjoy, as I really love giving head. But, honestly, sometimes the muscles in my arms give out after a time (30 minutes or so of intense stroking and sucking is great … but can be tiring!) And for what it’s worth, I’m very careful not to neglect the balls/taint/prostate.

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Is this an issue? I love our extended love-making, but kinda miss the option of the occasional, spontaneous, “wham, bam, thank you ma’am.” He’s only ever been affirming and enthusiastic about our sex life, and has never expressed dissatisfaction, even when he hasn’t “finished.” Thoughts?

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—Shortcut Needed

Dear Shortcut Needed,

My thoughts are that by your own reporting, you have a partner who is phenomenally gifted, attentive, affirming, and enthusiastic. Being grateful for what you have is important, so hold onto that. I’m not saying that you come off as ungrateful, I’m just emphasizing the importance not letting shortcomings interrupt your appreciation. You say this guy is wonderful. He may not be perfect, but what you describe is closer to it than a lot of people ever hope to get.

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The condition it sounds like you’re describing is known as delayed ejaculation (sometimes impaired ejaculation). Is it an issue? Maybe! It can be caused by an underlying health condition, including infections, neurological diseases, and hormonal problems, so if he hasn’t talked to his doctor about it, he should. Assuming he’s fine, it’s basically only an issue … if it’s an issue for those directly affected. As the Mayo Clinic’s website puts it: “Delayed ejaculation is only a problem if it’s ongoing or causes stress for you or your partner.” Not being able to have occasional quickies seems like a minor concession, but it’s up to you to determine how important that is and whether it’s worth seeking a different partner with a quicker draw. The hand-jaw fatigue you describe is real, so what I recommend there is just to go until you’re tired and then have him finish himself (or have him get himself close enough that bringing him over the edge is a light lift for you). He’s undoubtedly aware of this issue, as you’re experiencing it together, so if he’s reasonable, he should be willing to work with you there.

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—Rich

More How to Do It

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I went to a party and ended up taking a certain drug that makes everything feel great. It was a wonderful time, and the couple that owns the house invited my boyfriend and I into their bed. For a number of reasons, we never actually made it into their bed. But here is the problem I now face: I’m obsessively thinking about it. We never discussed it after the fact, and we missed our hangout this week because of some fire danger and the smoke. (We’re on the West Coast.) My boyfriend and I have discussed it, and he says he wouldn’t really want to do it and that he is glad it didn’t happen that night but has told me that he would be OK if I wanted to play with them on my own. I’m just not sure how to proceed. We were all high, and the feelings may not even still be there. What do I do? The FOHMO (fear of having missed out?) is so strong and it’s starting to impact my life.

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