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 have a strange attraction to confess. My local corner store has these delicious lollipops—they taste like strawberry Chupa Chups, but even better —and they’re called Milky Ricky. The logo is a nubile young cartoon cow; I imagine this is the eponymous Ricky. Lately, I have found myself dreaming about Ricky. I began waking up turgid once a month, but the frequency has increased to once every three days. Even more disturbingly, I only find myself able to perform with my partner when thoughts of Ricky are dancing through my head like sugarplums.
How can I stop pining for my bovine beau, and begin living again?
— How Many Licks
Dear How Many Licks,
I’m going to play along and not call bullshit, or even cowshit, for that matter, on this question. I kind of get it. Between the masculine spelling of “Ricky” (not “Ricki” or “Rickie”), the lack of feminine-signifiers like eyelashes, and the punky flash of orange hair, “Ricky” seems to present as male (you refer to him as you “beau”). And so if it isn’t udders that are making Ricky milky, what is? It’s the dick, dummy. Ricki’s non-dairy milkiness suggests he’s extremely virile and about as objectively sexually interesting as a cartoon bull who solely exists on the packaging of knock-off lollipops can get. I’m not judging you. You’re doing plenty of that yourself.
I’ll tell you what I tell everyone who wants to get rid of a sexual interest: It’s hard. (That’s what you said … this morning when you woke up thinking about Milky Ricky.) As sexual fantasies researcher Justin Lehmiller told me in a column a few years ago: “It’s very hard, if not impossible, to change our sexual fantasies and desires willingly.” He described a technique some employ, which involves masturbating as usual (with unwanted desires intact) but then switching up your fantasies to something you find more acceptable just before achieving orgasm. Beware, though: He said that strategies like this have success rates that are “modest at best.” Suppressing desires tends to be counter-productive. The best thing you can do is open your mind to other possibilities by fantasizing and/or porn exposure (avoid cow-centered material!). That way you can free up your fancy for the next sucker to come around.
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve been with my husband for 20 years combined (16 married, four dating). We have four beautiful daughters, good jobs, a stable home life, and our sex life is acceptable. So I feel like I sound selfish when I explain what my issue is. We lost our virginity to one another as teens. We’ve never experienced anything other than each other. Our sexual life is healthy, but there are issues with it. He cannot control his orgasm. Less than one minute into penetrating, and he’s orgasmed and needs a break to get worked back up. If he can get worked back up. I’ve tried multiple things to see if we can work around this, including oral/hand favors before actual penetrating, prolonging and desensitizing creams, meditation, medications, etc. You name it, we’ve most likely tried it. It literally cannot change for him. I’ve tried to be understanding and gracious because most of the rest of our relationship is wonderful.
Recently, I brought up the idea of experiencing things with other people (while we were not in bed, not in a sexual encounter, but only having conversation). I’m utterly curious and wanting to experience things that I haven’t and physically can’t with him. He’s completely against the idea of anything that involves anyone other than each other, and in the middle of the conversation, he started referring to me as “his,” as though I was property. When I asked for clarification on what he meant, he meant it exactly as he had stated. I am his, my pleasure is supposed to come only from him. My joy, laughter, happiness are to be supplied only from him. We continued the discussion, and I explained that I wasn’t property and other people can make me have those things as well, but he’s my favorite flavor of ice cream that I’ll always come back to.
The conversation ended with him upset that he wasn’t “man enough” for me—even though I never said anything to that effect during the conversation—and that if I wanted to experiment with anyone our marriage would be over because he would never agree to it. I’m upset and frustrated. My question is am I overreacting to this? Should I let this go? Am I wrong to want more out of my sexual life than what I have?
— Hoping for More
Dear Hoping for More,
Being upset and frustrated when someone refers to you as his property, shuts down a conversation about your curiosity, and then makes it all about him is actually under-reacting.
You’re tolerating his insecurity, and I think it’s because you understand he lacks sophistication on this topic. He is firmly invested in the cultural notion that men should be all-purpose providers and that one’s spouse is supposed to be all things to that person. You know this isn’t true, but unfortunately, people who know better are rarely treated better. They often suffer for their insight.
You can accept this and the resulting unsatisfying sex that your husband is providing, or you can press on. Perhaps the initial shock of the conversation will wear off and your husband will warm to the idea of your extracurricular experimentation. Perhaps he will double down. What you present as your response to him is very much along the lines of what I’d suggest—you were firm but kind. You refused to submit to his notion of “property,” and you illustrated the great compliment at the heart of your loyalty: You’re open to experiences with other people but you’d choose to come back to him. That is a much stronger statement of commitment than merely staying with someone by default because you’re his “property,” like a sad house who wishes she had legs. It’s too bad he can’t see that now, but perhaps he can learn.
My recommendation is to continue the conversation and if that fails, call his bluff. I detect a resolve in your letter that suggests that you’re not willing to settle for his bluster, and I don’t think you should. You don’t seem intimidated, so I don’t have a reason to suspect that in pushing back, you’re putting yourself in harm’s way (but nonetheless, do be judicious and make sure your personal safety is your priority). Your letter reads to me like it’s from someone who’s made up her mind to pursue more than she’s getting. If he is absolutely opposed, your differences are irreconcilable. Brace yourself for that reality and all that comes with it, and blaze the right path for yourself.
Dear How to Do It,
I recently watched a commercial that stated, “Over 50 percent of men suffer from PE or ED.” I have never experienced premature ejaculation. I said to my wife, I don’t understand why PE is such a problem, just keep going. My wife informed me that most men experience detumescence immediately after ejaculating instead of tumescence lasting another 20 minutes even without any additional stimulation, as it does in my case. How unusual is this? Is there a medical term for this?
— Going Hard
Dear Going Hard,
You don’t mention whether your lack of a refractory period (that is, the period after orgasm in which a person isn’t physiologically and/or psychologically sexually responsive) leads to further orgasms, though your “just keep going” credo suggests it’s at least possible. (Love that can-do spirit!) In that case, you’d be in the stark minority—a 2016 literature review in the journal Sexual Medicine Reviews titled “Multiple Orgasms in Men—What We Know So Far” estimates that less than 10 percent of men in their 20s are capable of ejaculating twice within 20 minutes, and less than 7 percent of men after the age of 30 are. The generally accepted medical term seems to be “multiorgasmic man,” though I’ve seen people use “multicummer” and “multishooter” in less formal settings. (You’re three hours and forty minutes off from priapism, so not to worry there.) I don’t think this is widespread, understood, or considered enough of a problem to have earned a more official-sounding name. Anyway, you sound fun. Cool brag!
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Dear How to Do It,
I’m a queer woman who’s been married to a straight man for 15 years. Our sex life has waxed and waned; the antidepressants my husband are on help keep his brain chemistry in line but they’re not great for his libido. Over the years we’ve gone to strip clubs, then sex parties, and had a couple we would “play” with a few times a year. A few years back, we agreed that it would be OK if I looked for a girlfriend of my own, to give my sex drive and queerness an outlet. Then the pandemic hit, so nothing happened for a while, but now there’s an amazing woman I’ve been texting with a LOT and have had two dates with. Everything is above-board with her and with my husband. We have great chemistry and I really like her.
Here’s the question: Now what? There’s a little voice in my head that doesn’t quite know what to do with this! I’ve never considered myself polyamorous, but maybe I am? She and I clearly have feelings for each other beyond just physical attraction, but what do I do with that? I love my husband and our life together dearly, but is it really possible to live out the bisexual dream and have it both ways?
— Have My Cake and Eat It Too
It is absolutely possible—spend any time attending poly functions, listening to poly podcasts, or reading poly literature (I recommend Elisabeth Sheff’s The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families and, for a more general survey of ethical nonmonogamy, Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships), and you’ll see that people are, indeed, having their cake and eating it too. But that doesn’t mean that every meal is dessert. Shit is hard! Unexpected feelings come up, logistics may seem anything but logical. Deprogramming yourself from the incessant messaging of the rightness of monogamy that culture bombards you with can be difficult—I’m not poly (at least not at the moment), but from time to time, I still find myself feeling strangely guilty about having sex with other people even though it is allowed in my relationship and has caused very little tension between my boyfriend and myself. In different moments, it can feel kind of messed up to take time and energy you could be spending with your partner and share it with someone else. But then you get home and he’s still there and everything is fine and you live another day to suck another dick (or whatever).
Probably the scariest thing about entering this realm is that you don’t really know how it’s going to go until you try it. What seems sensible from the outside may cease to make sense in the thick of things, and that can be especially tough once you have already committed to a new partner. This is why communication is so important—it breaks things into bite-size bits. You don’t have to chew on giant chunks of conflicting and/or concurrent emotions; you can take everything as it comes. Your partner’s reassurance may be enough to sail you through. Or, maybe any reluctance that crops up on his/her part may be what you need to realize this isn’t the life for you. I’ll tell you this: The amount of love you’re capable of producing and sharing is not finite. That’s not the issue. It’s everything that comes with it that may make it hard to manage, but if you’re an idealist like me who believes that love truly is the most important aspect of life, you figure it out. If problems boil down to time management, well, you’ve basically got it made. Read up, keep talking, treat people with respect, listen to your feelings, and be glad that you’re surrounded by people who are encouraging you to do so. You are what many would call blessed.
More How to Do It
I’m a procrastinator; my partner is a do-it-yesterday-er. Earlier this year, I was kvetching about doing my taxes. My partner, by way of motivation, said “Get ‘em done and I’ll blow you.” Because my partner is very Good at That, I got to work immediately, but was held up by some missing paperwork. Flash forward to now, and the missing form is in hand. Pleased with myself for filing, I mentioned to my partner that I’d be taking that BJ at their next earliest convenience. They scoffed and told me I can’t expect an IRS EZBJ two-plus months after the fact. I call breach of contract! We’ve agreed to abide by your ruling, so what say you?