How to Do It

I Think My Kink Might Be Too, Uh, Technical to Execute at Home

This takes “play doctor” to a whole other level.

An MRI machine with radiating illustrated rings.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by kot63/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,

I have some kind of medical fetish, I think. I’ve always found gynecological exams to be kind of a turn on. When we did intrauterine insemination (I’m a trans guy), which most people find super unsexy, I got positively horny. And recently I had an MRI, and I almost could have come just being inside. I’m not even sure what it is—the half nakedness, the powerlessness, the cold tube I was in? The biggest problem in exploring this is that just fantasizing about being in an MRI machine does not turn me on at all. I need some kind of physical manifestation. How can I explore this at home?

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— Machine Yearning

Dear Machine Yearning,

If you figure out exactly what it is about the MRI that turns you on, you’ll have a much better shot of replicating the experience at home. A cold tube like an MRI’s may be a tough thing to approximate, but you can certainly make yourself a confined space via a large box (like the kind refrigerators come in). Confinement, after all, is big in BDSM, where it can take many forms (cages, rooms, being tied to something). There’s also claustrophilia, a fetish for tight spaces (this can incorporate vacbeds, which allow people to be stuck to a platform via a latex sheet, from which all the air underneath has been sucked out). Could that be the kink here?

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But this is just me musing the potential draw of the MRI for you and ways to reproduce what it is offering. You might just need to find someone who will play doctor with you. A kink-minded app/online space may provide fertile exploration ground.

Dear How to Do It,

I have a chronic illness and serious career burnout, both of which I’m diligently working to solve (job search, medicine, and therapy compliance). It has completely tanked my sex drive for the last four months, a fact my girlfriend has been incredibly patient about. I’m honest about it, and I know the toys I bought her get regular use, but I feel very guilty.

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She’s helped me a lot in getting care, and in picking up the slack when I can’t manage things, but I’m scared she’ll have put in tons of work only for my sex drive to either never return, or not be attracted to her when it does. Right now, I feel like I see her as a close and beloved friend; I enjoy kissing, but feel uncomfortable with innuendo or really much approaching sex. I find this very alarming—what if I get better and can’t see her sexually again? Sometimes I think about breaking up just to be sure I don’t take advantage of her, but I love her and want to stay together. Can you help?

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— Confused and Lost

Dear Confused and Lost,

As long as your girlfriend is aware of your desire deficit, and is still hanging in there with you, you aren’t taking advantage of her; you’re working through an issue together as a couple. When one person in a relationship goes through something, it is not unusual for the other person (or people) to step up and help where they can. This is not something that is mandatory and should not be taken for granted, but it is something that many people feel is a natural part of relationships. So, I think it’s fair to assume that her help and care is of her own volition and that she understands the implications. In fact, she may not see stepping up as an investment in the future so much as something that is needed right now.

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Your relationship to the future, though, is fearful as a result of your anxiety, which your current health and work situations may have exacerbated. That anxiety is at once an unreliable prediction of a future that may never come, and something that is clouding your present thinking. Since your sex drive and sexual desire for your girlfriend are, at this point, interlocking products of the same issue, it’s probably impossible to say how they will eventually resolve and what that will look like. At the same time, if your fear of no longer being attracted to her is at all based on any knowledge you have beyond your current general sexual apathy, you should talk about it. Some of our fears are baseless; others are more justified. When you know, you know. Do you?

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Dear How to Do It,

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I’ve read a great many of your columns, and I’ve repeatedly seen answers to questions about fantasizing along the lines of, “it’s perfectly fine to fantasize about someone other than your partner, without their knowledge or consent that you are engaging in the fantasy, EVEN while you’re actively having sex with that partner.” I have to ask: How the hell is this ANY different than just being reduced to a masturbation assistant, a nameless and faceless one at that? Essentially in that moment, you could be anyone, and it doesn’t matter because your partner(s) is/are literally fantasizing about someone else?

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I’m not talking about a wet dream or a fleeting thought you can’t help or didn’t actively nurture. I’m talking about actively fantasizing that you are touching, tasting, penetrating, and bringing to orgasm another individual than the one in your bed. Seriously, wtf?

I require an open and honest communication line, raw honesty, and devotion from my partners, which means no masturbation, pornography, or fantasy about another person/people without a discussion/prior mutual consent. To put it another way, if you are with me, it’s because you choose me and want me, not as a stand in for someone else. I see no difference between fantasizing about sex with someone else and acting on it. I also see no difference between fantasizing your partner is someone else and being a faceless hole for them to penetrate. My primary partner agrees that it would be devastating to discover they were used in this way.

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For what it’s worth, I’ve never had anyone balk at my “rules’,” and I still maintain an active and imaginative fantasy life—it’s just one that my primary partner is fully informed of and consenting to. Am I strange for feeling this way?

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— Not Just a Hole

Dear Not Just a Hole,

I’m glad that you asked this because it gives me an opportunity to clarify and hopefully render my philosophy with added nuance. In previous columns, after consulting with at least one expert, I effectively co-signed fantasizing during sex for two reasons. The first is that I don’t believe in thought crimes. Thinking isn’t the problem; acting can be. You and I are ideologically dissimilar in that I see a great deal of difference between fantasizing about sex with someone else and acting on it. I just can’t get behind that dogma (which is literally shared with fundamentalist Christians). People are allowed to think about what they want, and anyway policing that is impossible. You can tell your partner to think about something, but will you actually ever know if they’re obeying? Besides, I think any external forces attempting to control a person’s thoughts will bring the verboten to the forefront of their minds and incentivize lying. Request away, have your feelings, I just don’t think any of it is the foundation of solid policy.

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The second reason why I’ve said that I believe fantasizing during sex is fine is because, in at least in one instance but I believe most in which I’ve discussed this topic, it’s been in the context of a letter-writer needing that extra bump for an orgasm. In my world, everyone gets the extra bump that they need. I think banning orgasm-inducing fantasy is similar to banning toys during sex as a result of one partner thinking it’s somehow insulting to introduce a foreign object that their body part should be. I’m always going to pass you the vibrator that you need to come.

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On top of this, when people write in with questions on this topic, they tend to already be doing the fantasizing they’re concerned about. They’ve effectively figured out a way to enhance sex with a partner. They’ve solved their own problem. I’m not in the business of shaming people for doing so.

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Now, to your point, I think that what you describe is an ideal, and one I could get behind as being more or less “the goal.” What you describe demanding and having is extremely connected sex, which I promote in this column and pursue in real life. I enjoy and advocate others’ achievement of the flow state during sex where it all comes so naturally that no one’s really thinking much of anything at all, they’re just in the moment and the orgasms just seem to flow. Unfortunately, sex often falls short of our ideals, which is why I often find myself advocating practical workarounds. I suppose putting everything out in the open is one way to foster connection when one is actively fantasizing during sex, but this of course could create problems and feelings of inadequacy in one’s partner that are largely unnecessary. I also don’t believe that one needs to ask permission for thoughts, or that what happens in one’s mind is a matter requiring consent in any context. I understand your position is different, and I’m glad you have found partners who see eye to eye with you as they undoubtedly are key for your securing of connections.

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I also don’t agree that fantasizing during sex reduces one’s partner to a nameless, faceless masturbation assistant—not necessarily. The sex is still happening. The fantasy never takes over completely, as it is merely an impression of a scenario within a greater reality that is host to a partner’s active participation. Also, in the case of needing that little push to orgasm that fantasy provides, perhaps the fantasy doesn’t even enter the picture until the sex is nearing conclusion. What leads up to it could very well be as connected as the sex that you and I idealize.

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For what it’s worth, I do not think you are strange. I think most people want present partners. You seem particularly strict on this issue, perhaps more than most people, but that’s okay too.
Different strokes are literally what propel this column. Thanks for sharing.

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Dear How to Do It,

My girlfriend and I have been in our relationship for around six months. I am a very conservative man, and I don’t want to have sex before marriage, but she wants to have it with me almost all the time. Please let me know what should I do without being rude. She’s not ready for marriage yet, she says.

— Annoyed

Dear Annoyed,

Saying no to sex is not rude; repeatedly asking for it from someone who has already shut down the possibility of it is rude. She is the one who should be asking about etiquette and modifying her behavior accordingly. Once you’ve explained your position, all you can do is reiterate it. More power to you if you have the patience to do this politely, but I think the situation calls for firmness. If she can’t get this through her head, she’s not the partner for you. I suspect, in fact, you’re not the partner for her, despite her best efforts. That she’s trying to modify you to suit her desires is both flattering and infuriating.

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Of course, waiting for marriage to have sex is like buying a house without ever stepping inside of it, but it’s your right to do so—it’s just going to bring with it complications like these and whatever compatibility issues you will have to tackle after you’ve effectively signed your life over to that other person. So good luck with all of that.

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— Rich

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