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,
On the day Roe v. Wade was overturned, my wife was understandably furious (as was I). She saw a meme that said something to the effect of “no sex with men until all women have access to abortions” and latched onto it.
After about a week without sex, I tried to initiate a discussion. I vote blue and actually do more activism work than her, so she doesn’t have any complaints about me, specifically. Plus, we live in a state where (thankfully) there is currently no threat to abortion rights, so it’s not a matter of worrying about what would happen if she unexpectedly got pregnant.
She agreed… but rather than resuming our sex life, she went public with this strike to try to recruit more people to join in! Now, our sexless marriage has become sort of a joke in our circle of friends.
She says that she was happy with our sex life before, but that this is really important to her, and she feels like she’s doing something in a situation that makes her feel powerless. I sympathize and want women to have access to abortions, too, but I don’t want my sex life to be on hold indefinitely. What should I do?
—Blue Balls in a Blue State
Dear Blue Balls,
While the details of this are spectacular, and I very much enjoyed reading your account, the main issue I see is that something misfired in the conversation you initiated, with you understanding that she agrees with your position and expecting sexual interaction to resume, and her understanding something else. How often do these sorts of communication errors happen in your relationship? If they’re common, couple counseling to improve communication is your ideal next step.
If this is an unusual blip, it’s worth remembering that a week had passed when you brought up the subject. She may need more time to process what’s happening. This is likely to be less about punishing you for having the potential to procreate than it is about a maelstrom of emotions she may not know what to do with. She has communicated that she feels powerless, and this is her way of feeling some control. Try to empathize with her, and give her some significant time.
She’s quite reasonably scared of losing a foundational bodily freedom. And, since the majority of House Republicans just voted against guaranteeing legal access to contraception, she may not get the opportunity to catch her breath for a while. It would be wise to have a conversation about your boundaries around her sharing details of your sex life with friends, separate from any discussion of sexual interaction.
Now is almost certainly not a good moment to discuss opening things up. You can absolutely bolster your masturbation with a new lube, stroker, or by incorporating vibration or anal play. If you’ve been thinking about bringing something new to your solo routine, this seems like a great time.
Talk to your friends, or your therapist, when you get frustrated, and be there—within your capabilities—for your wife. Good luck.
Dear How to Do It,
My partner and I are both working at in-person jobs and don’t live together. I can be incredibly turned on during the afternoon and fantasize a lot of sex throughout the day. But by the time we can see each other that night I’ve had to pick up dog shit, cook dinner, commute, etc. that I am often at best neutral about sex, if not turned off.
Since I enjoy thinking about sex and have a strong body response I know I have a solid libido, it just can’t seem to hold up against capitalism and the annoyances of life. Or maybe I am someone who likes fantasizing more than actually having sex like reading smut. Any tips on how to keep your sex interest level up to actually get to the sex? This may just be a human living in society problem.
—Horny Train Derailed
Dear Horny Train,
You sound like you’re somewhere in the range of burnout. There might not be a solution without getting a real break and time to rest. If possible, a vacation could give you that respite. There also might be some wiggle room, and I have some ideas.
I’m wondering if you’ve tried distracting yourself from fantasies during the day, or returning to those fantasy fragments when you’re with your partner and finished with your tasks for the day. Maybe you make notes for later.
You also might try clearing your mind with some form of meditation. This can be as simple as sitting or laying on a comfortable surface, closing your eyes, and feeling your breath move in and out of your body. You’ll want to draw the air all the way into your pelvic bowl and exhale slowly. Focus on any sensations of pleasure that come up to turn your attention to eroticism.
Another tactic is focusing on what attracts you to your partner. What qualities drew you in and turned you on in the first place? What makes you feel warm inside now? What angles of their face remind you of hot memories?
If this starts to feel like one more thing to complete or stress about, take a break from whatever you can and be patient with yourself.
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Dear How to Do It,
My husband and I have been together for eight years, married for five. We have sex often and know how to please one another. We’re always talking, joking, and going places together. My issue is non-sexual affection. We kiss before leaving for work and goodnight but that’s the only non-sexual touch he initiates. If he puts his hand on my leg while we drive or touches my hip, I know it’s because he’s horny. He doesn’t do things like hold my hand, initiate hugs, etc. He used to hug me very quickly like I was a coworker until I talked to him about it.
I think gift-giving and acts of service are his love languages. He gives very thoughtful gifts, like checking secondhand book websites to get me a rare book, or a cabin weekend when I wasn’t able to celebrate a milestone birthday during the pandemic. He knows the treats that won’t throw off my diet. If I’m sad, he’ll make me some tea when I just want a hug.
If it doesn’t come naturally to him, is there a point in bringing it up? One of the problems is that neither of us had examples of healthy parental relationships growing up. My parents were abusive and on drugs. His parents were cold to one another and slept in separate rooms. Lately, if he touches me and I don’t want sex, I feel annoyed because I know what he’s after or I feel like he’s ‘only’ touching me cause he wants sex. I really need to be touched more.
Is there a point in not bringing it up? If you’re worried about a negative reaction on his part, can you parse out how much of that is based on his own behavior and how much of it is based on your previous life experiences? If you and your husband struggle to discuss intimacy, and especially if you struggle to discuss other issues as well, couples therapy (and individual counseling) is a great next step. Otherwise, it’s time to broach the subject.
If communication in other areas is smooth, you can look at what works well for ideas about how to approach this subject. You’ll know, after eight years together, what your husband needs to be comfortable and what kind of reassurance he needs before delving into a difficult topic. From there, let him know that you need more non-sexual touch than you’re getting, and you’d like that touch to come from him. Share the feelings you’re having when he does touch you, and ask him to work with you on solutions.
Maybe that looks like a massage with no sexual component. Or you two can curl up together to watch something. Maybe it’s going for a walk and holding hands. Come up with some options beforehand and be open to his suggestions. You also might enquire, from a place of curiosity, what his experience with nonsexual touch is. I think you’ve got this.
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Dear How to Do It,
So, I’m having somewhat of a summer fling, and it’s going well, but we have two weeks left together and my period has gently started (it’s not gushing yet). He doesn’t seem bothered one bit by period sex, but I’ve got a question about oral. He had asked if I had taken my tampon out already, which I had, and still went down on me but stayed firmly in the clit area.
My question is, would it be weird to ask him if he’s more comfortable with a tampon in (string hidden inside) so he can continue to go down on me as my flow gets heavier and maybe not be scared of getting a mouthful of endometrial lining? Is that something people do? I can’t go out and buy a sponge or something less awkward than a full-on tampon for various reasons.
—Don’t Want Dracula in My Bed
Dear Don’t Want Dracula,
Your fling might not mind a mouthful of endometrial lining. You’ll have a better idea of that once you ask your question, which is not weird at all. If it turns out that more blood and tissue is a bonus, I’d recommend throwing a towel on the bed over leaving a tampon in. I like to use a fairly large towel so I’m not concerned about moving around.
Otherwise, a tampon works. You can tuck the string, cut the string (pull the inner plunger out, trim the string, replace the plunger, and use as usual—DO NOT go in with cuticle scissors after insertion) or leave the string to dangle across your taint. Menstrual cups are another option, and have been known to appear in drug stores. They can also be ordered online. Enjoy!
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My girlfriend and I have been dating for about two months. She is not on birth control and doesn’t have an IUD. I went out and bought a bunch of condoms, and I used a condom for our first time. However, after this, she asked me to go without and finish on her rather than inside her. Despite this being a very bad idea, I did it (and avoided having an oopsie inside her) three more times. The last time we were together, she was on her period and convinced me again to do the pullout method, but this time she attempted to get me to finish inside her (literally by trying to reinsert my penis after I pulled out). Uh, what’s going on?