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 husband recently left the porn he watches up on a shared computer—I suspect because I walked in on him one day and he got flustered, and then forgot to close the incognito window afterward. This is fine; I’m an adult and realize men (and I assume most women, though not me) watch porn.
The issue I have is that it was bisexual porn, and it was all homemade, at least one of which had a husband and wife both very much getting involved with the guy orally. At times I have suspected my husband is interested in something similar; he once in dirty talk to me said he liked to “suck my dick” while going down on me. I asked about this later and he said he meant he imagined being me while sucking his dick. For some reason, this made sense at the time, but now I think my husband has desires he’s either hiding from me or, in the worst case scenario my anxious mind has gone to, is satisfying without my knowledge. How do I even begin to deal with this?
— Oral Fixation
Dear Oral Fixation,
Your husband might have desires in the dick-sucking direction. He might be getting some kind of awesome empathy kick out of imagining being you while you’re sucking his dick. He also might like to watch bisexual porn of a certain kind but not want to enact it, like our next letter writer. He might have simply gone down a particular rabbit hole that night.
If your husband does watch this bisexual porn where the husband and wife tag-team the man a lot, and if he does want to suck a dick, it would seem that his desire is to do so together with you—his wife. Take some time to think through your interest level here. Is there anything about what you suspect about your husband’s sexuality that turns you on? Would it be hot to watch him be excited and explorative, even if it isn’t directly your thing? What are your boundaries around this? Essentially, prepare yourself to be able to have a conversation about how his fantasies might be enacted, or to tell him that you’re not OK with sexual interactions outside of your couple. Anxiety when you aren’t sure how honest your partner is being with you is natural. Has he given you a reason to mistrust him? Do you think you can extend some trust here? If you have reason to be suspicious of his commitment to you, that’s a different issue to solve, and one that’ll need work before there’s any opening up of your relationship.
Once you know what you are and aren’t interested in, broach the subject. He’s your husband, so hopefully you’ve got some idea of how to best phrase things. If you’re into the idea, you might say, “Can we talk about what I saw on the computer? Because I think it’s kind of hot.” If you aren’t, you might say, “Can we talk about what I saw on the computer? Because it worries me.”
As with all such conversations, choose your time wisely. Make sure everyone’s biological needs are taken care of (the room is comfortable, no one is hungry, there’s water on hand), and that you have time to really talk without being interrupted. Be prepared to listen and to consider all that he may open up about. Good luck.
Dear How to Do It,
As a woman, I’ve found I’m interested in different things when I’m masturbating versus when I’m actually having sex. The things I masturbate to are often things that might even turn me off during sex. For context, I typically orgasm clitorally on my own and vaginally with a partner. These are two very different sensations, and each part of me demands its own satisfaction.
However, I’ve never told any partners the types of things I like to get off to (nothing crazy but kinky, for sure). Sometimes a partner will do something spontaneously that constitutes something I would masturbate to and it really gets me going, although most of the time I like much tamer and more vanilla acts. I’m always afraid to tell my partner what I’m actually masturbating to though, because I’m worried they’ll think it’s what I really want in bed and that I am too shy to ask (95 percent of the time it’s not). I’ve never heard anyone else express this sentiment and I’m curious if you have any thoughts or experience with this situation.
So, I had a “does not compute” moment when I realized that there may be people in the world who only masturbate to acts and situations they would actually want to participate in. Then, reading this letter, I realized that I also have never heard anyone else express the sentiment like you did and wondered if we were the outliers—so I asked Twitter. Judging by the responses, which are naturally skewed towards porn fans and sex workers, fantasy without desire for follow-through is pretty typical. I imagine it’s a bit like watching TV shows about situations we wouldn’t want to live through.
One content creator and companion, Vanessa Irezil, pointed out that sometimes our fantasies can be preparation: “I end up doing most of them but it usually helps build up the courage to witness it and fantasy a lot first.” Irezil also wrote to me, “Before I tried girls or threesomes or foursomes, I used to watch a lot of it on film and think, ‘It’s hot but I’ll never do it—I’m not that brave.’ But since entering the lifestyle, I have.” So you may find that eventually you’ll want to broach some of these subjects with your partners.
Presuming you have partners who are good at listening and comprehension, you can say something like, “I liked when you spontaneously [bit my cheek? Licked my asshole? Whatever it is for you…] and that’s something I masturbate to a lot. It was super fun as a rare treat, but I don’t want it in our sex life every time.” From there, you’ll hopefully have a conversation with mutual sharing. You might prepare yourself for questions about what you do want in your sex life every time.
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Dear How to Do It,
I don’t think my partner of two years thinks I’m attractive anymore, if he ever even did. He needs to have a drink or smoke in order to have sex with me. We only have sex in bed at the end of the night, after his drink. There are no indications he’s sexually attracted to me except when we’re already having sex.
Is it weird for me to want him to feel sexually attracted to me outside of sex? Am I asking a lot to be desired and touched when we’re not having sex? Am I being needy and clingy? Maybe I am incredibly un-sexy outside of sex? The sex is great, but it’s starting to happen less. The less it happens, the less I want it, because it’s just a reminder of how unattractive my partner finds me. I also end up feeling used in a way because it’s like the sex happens just to have sex, not because he wants to have sex with me specifically; I could probably be any other woman and it would make no difference to him. I want to be irresistible to him instead of being very resistible. Seeing him have to build the mental fortitude to have sex with me hurts every time. I’ve tried initiating and hitting on him outside of the “normal” sex hours, but it never amounts to anything except rejection and me walking away, feeling ugly, while taking it in stride. I can’t think of more ways to try to be sexually attractive to him outside of sex.
It is not weird for you to want a partner who is sexually attracted to you. You aren’t asking too much when you want a partner who desires you and touches you outside of full-on sex time. You might be needy and clingy in other areas—I don’t know, you only describe the sexual issue—but I don’t think your desires for physical intimacy are excessive here.
One thing you can do is think back on previous partners. Have you felt unsexy and unwanted in prior relationships? If so, do some introspection around what the pattern is and what you can do for yourself to feel sexy and wantable. Confidence is attractive. It’s inconvenient, but it’s how this works. If this relationship is the first time this has happened, think about the rest of the relationship. Does he show you behaviors that make you feel appreciated, cared for, or otherwise a priority in his life? If not, it’s time to think about moving on. If so, it’s time to have a talk.
Your goals here are to express what you need—which sounds like spontaneous sensuality that doesn’t need to lead to sex, and sex when he hasn’t been drinking or smoking—and find out what’s happening on his end. It’s possible that he’s got somewhat of an issue with alcohol, or has some hangup about sex that he needs a drink to get over. Make space for that possibility and think through how you’d like to react if that turns out to be the case.
Do all the things to set yourself up for success. Pick a time when you’re both calm and can speak about this without interruption. Make sure the room is comfortable, and that everyone’s biological needs are taken care of. Think through what you want to say, remember to breathe, and go ask for what you want. Good luck.
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Dear How to Do It,
I tend to be a sensitive person and because of that, my husband is constantly thinking about not hurting me during sex. He has become so focused on that instead of how it feels, that he can’t stay hard for me and says it’s my fault because I’m too sensitive. How can I get him to stay hard and show him I am fine and not hurting?
— Soft and Sensitive
I want to dig into this “says it’s my fault because I’m too sensitive” bit. If these are his exact words, we’re looking at a huge red flag. Are you OK in this relationship? Are a lot of his problems presented as your fault? Presuming that you’re safe and intend to stay, let’s see what can be done.
What kind of sensitivity are we talking about here? Is it that you have a sensitive cervix? If so, would he be open to wearing a dick donut like the Ohnut? That would prevent the deep penetration that can cause cervical pain, while allowing him to still penetrate you with vigor. Are you feeling abrasions inside your vagina? Lubricant is the easiest solution. Hey Epiphora has a thorough sex toy review site that includes several types of manufactured lube. Are you getting abrasions on your vulva? One of you could stop shaving to avoid stubble on razor burn.
Or maybe you aren’t hurting at all during sex, and he’s worried because you’re generally sensitive. If that’s the case, tell him clearly with your words that he doesn’t hurt you when you’re together that way. It’ll be up to him to believe you.
More How to Do It
I have been married for 15 months, but I have known my husband for almost 20 years. Last January, during the government shutdown, something just wasn’t right. I am a nurse and just happened to work a rare night shift. I looked at the GPS app around 5 a.m. to see if my husband was at the casino; he had been spending lots of time there. To my shock, I saw him driving very slowly in a sketchy part of town. This went on for hours. When I got home at 8 a.m., he acted as if he had never been anywhere. He then took a long nap, and I was able to get into his iPad and iPhone.