How to Do It

My Wife Refuses a Very Basic Thing in Bed for the Weirdest Reason

Who gave her this bizarre idea?

A hand raised next to a neon X sign.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Nebasin/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,

My wife won’t touch my penis unless we’re about to have intercourse. She says only prostitutes give hand jobs. We are in our 60s and have intercourse about once every three weeks, and it’s great, but it would be nice to get the extra stimulation in between. Any suggestions?

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— Wonder Who Told Her That

Dear Wonder,

Newsflash: Her rationale for not giving handjobs is more likely an excuse than a deeply held belief. She just doesn’t want to do it. Here’s another newsflash: You’re going to have an extremely difficult time getting your wife to have more sexual contact with you by asking her to do something she’s so uninterested in doing that she’s repeating fairy tales about it. (I mean, they’re either fairy tales or I’m owed a ton of backpay.) Presumably, your wife’s vagina doesn’t magically open every three weeks, making sex physically possible and then, as a bonus, you eligible for a brief handy. It sounds like she’s setting the pace, and while that might be frustrating for you, you must respect it. You can talk to her about whether she’s amenable to upping the frequency of your sex, or whether she would be interested in some “extra stimulation in between.” Maybe you could, for example, masturbate together. At least then you’d be getting a hand job from someone: yourself.

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Dear How to Do It,

I am an older straight male virgin, 33 to be exact. I have recently taken steps to be a happier and more attractive person, like getting therapy and getting in better shape. I’m ready to start dating. My question is about the morality of disclosing if you are a virgin to a potential sexual partner. I can definitely see it being a huge turn-off, even a red flag. So, is it immoral to not disclose that you are a virgin? And any sex advice for a first-time sex-doer?

— New Guy

Dear New Guy,

Revealing your number of sex partners—whether it’s zero or 1,000—is not a requirement for ethical sex. I don’t think you should lie about it (that would be unethical), so if someone asks you point blank when you last hooked up or even something as specific as, “Are you a virgin?,” by all means disclose and allow them to make informed choices. But I don’t think you have any obligation to spell it out for someone who isn’t asking you to—drawing attention to your inexperience may make it into a big deal, when it really doesn’t have to be. Virginity is a construct arbitrarily imbued with social worth (I think it’s ultimately a way of controlling people, especially those perceived women). When I think about the amount of times that I could have been having sex with a virgin by virtue of the fact that our partner counts never came up, I mean, that number could stretch into the … well, I won’t even give you a ballpark because you didn’t ask. But it’s certainly more than one.

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There’s more than one way to lose your virginity, which may be the only thing that losing your virginity has in common with skinning a cat. You could search for someone special, or you could just hook-up with someone that you’re attracted to and get it over with. My biggest advice to you is to be considerate while also enjoying yourself. Consent is of paramount importance, but so is mutual pleasure, so don’t be afraid to ask for or suggest things you want to try.
Don’t worry that much about “performance” because a lot of people who aren’t sexual athletes have a great time nonetheless, and so do their partners. If you should orgasm before your partner, though, it’s only polite to offer to help them get off by a method of their choice (as long as you’re down with that). And don’t be a dick. Treat your partners like people.

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Dear How to Do It,

How do you become a person who fucks? I was a lot heavier from childhood to about age 16, and I’ve had pretty poor body image in the past, but I’m finally starting to believe I could be found attractive by another person. I think its fair to say some would find me hot, though obviously theres a lot more to it than looks. I’ve been on a decent number of dates and had sex with a few people, but I still don’t feel like I’m in that world at all. It seems like theres a parallel dimension that I can’t see, but everyone keeps talking about how its there, including to various extents, people I know, all those people having all that sexy sex—how do I get to the other side?

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— Undersexed in the Northwest

Dear Undersexed,

You are in that world—at least your own version of it. You’re pining for something that you imagine instead of embracing what you have, which sounds like an increasingly active sex life. It’s easier than ever to get absorbed by outward-facing aspects of people’s lives (via their Instagram feeds or sex-bragging on Twitter), while not contending with their actual realities. For a lot of people, sustained casual sex that is satisfying is not easy to come by. It’s fleeting by nature, and in my experience, if you’re getting around, you’re having a lot of kind of meh sex between pyrotechnical displays. Meh doesn’t make good content; fireworks do.

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I can’t make the call as to whether the sex you are having is falling short of a fictitious standard that you can’t even quite put your finger on, or whether it’s just underwhelming sex. What do you think? Are you attracted to your partners? Is there anything that you’re holding yourself back from that’s potentially more stimulating? (For example, are you sleeping with women when you might need to try guys, or vice versa?) Good sex might be something you have to pursue. You may have to put in work to find what you’re actually looking for. At any rate, sitting around and waiting for a life full of sexy sex to happen is a good way to ensure that it won’t.

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Dear How to Do It,

My wife and I don’t plan to have children. After a condom failure, she became pregnant and had an abortion. I wanted a vasectomy, but my healthcare provider wouldn’t perform the procedure because we are childless, and I was only 31. My wife got a hormonal IUD, but experienced many complications.

First of all, the insertion was painful and unmedicated, which was horrifying to me. She has been sexually assaulted in the past, so it triggered some trauma for her. It took her a long time to heal physically. She experienced weight gain, more painful periods, and ovarian cysts. One of them burst and she had to go to the emergency room. It’s coming up on the time to remove her IUD, and she can’t wait.

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I’m determined to get a vasectomy this time. I don’t want my wife to go through the pain of another IUD, and I know it’s more invasive and more difficult for women to get sterilized. A vasectomy is the obvious choice. What can I do or say to increase the likelihood of my healthcare provider approving it? I’m a little nervous because a friend of mine mentioned that some men experience chronic pain after vasectomies. I’ve known him to fall down some pretty questionable men’s health rabbitholes in the past, so I took his advice with a grain of salt. But the reports of chronic pain differ wildly from 1 percent to 15 percent! I’m still going to do it, but what are the chances of this?

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— Get Snipped

Dear Get Snipped,

As someone who believes in your right to reproductive choice, I find this situation galling. Your wife should not have to tolerate the IUD’s pain, trauma, and side effects, and you should be able to be able to get the vasectomy that you desire. It might be as easy as getting a second opinion or two. “Many urologists do use an age cut off for vasectomies on men without kids but I bet if he just went to someone else in town they would do it,” wrote Dr. Charles Welliver, director of men’s health at Albany Medical College, in an email. “Just because the first person said no doesn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t be more understanding of their goals and situation.”

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Regarding post vasectomy pain syndrome (PVPS), Welliver tells me its reported incidence varies widely—one to 10percent is often quoted, because of varying definitions of that pain. “If a guy has pain once a year and happened to have a vasectomy five years ago, I am hard pressed to define that as PVPS and if so many guys had debilitating pain from it then why do only 10 percent return to see the surgeon?,” he wrote, citing another statistic. Only 15 percent of that 10 percent require another procedure to treat the pain, by the way, so you’re looking at a sliver of a sliver.

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“The real incidence of truly debilitating or even chronic/daily pain is way lower,” wrote Welliver. “Less than one percent for sure and probably closer to 0.1 percent. And even amongst guys who meet that criteria, there are often things that can be done to get them back to normal.” So while there is a potential for post-pain, it’s not likely, and in the unlikely event that you do experience pain, it’s unlikely to be extreme. Focus on finding the right doctor—shop around until you find the right one.

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— Rich

More How to Do It

I live in an apartment with stereotypical “thin walls” and with frequently noisy neighbors. This isn’t a complaint. I actually enjoy hearing them have sex and commonly masturbate while listening. I recently had a friend over, during which time we overheard the neighbors going at it. My friend commented that it must be so annoying to have neighbors like that, but I confessed that I enjoyed it and would sometimes masturbate to it. My friend was very offended by this—she thought it was a massive invasion of the neighbors’ privacy and equated it to hiding in their closet. My belief is that since the neighbors would understand the limited soundproofing of the building, they then concede the right to auditory privacy when they’re very loud. So as long as I am within the confines of my own apartment and not trying to actively record them or use some sort of sound-enhancing equipment, I have not invaded anyone’s privacy. Have I overstepped, or am I in the clear?

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