How to Do It

I Found the People Who Share My Sexual Fantasy. But There’s a Catch.

Should I even bring this up?

Close up of a woman's lips with a laptop in front of her.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Artem_Furman/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Every Thursday, Rich and Stoya answer a special question they could only tackle together, just for Slate Plus members. Join today to never miss a column.

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 has been struggling with alcohol and addiction issues for years now, and I was struggling along with him. One area that really suffered was our sex life. About a year ago, I found an online community where I could have strangers control sex toys, semi-anonymously through links dropped in a forum. This community really helped me feel better about myself for the first time in a long time, and that was a great outlet to express my sexuality in a way that felt safe. Now I don’t know what to do.

I know my husband would consider it cheating. He’s recently gotten sober and is working a program. I’m attending Al-Anon and we’re trying to find a couple’s counselor to help address all the underlying issues. I’ve stepped back from my online play, but miss it, and I’m trying to decide if this is something that he needs to know about.

I’m fairly certain I can just stop the online play long-term, so it feels somewhat unhelpful to drop this on him, on his already full plate. Any advice on a safe and healthy way to bring this up with him, or if I even should?

Rich: Right now, I would not. I feel like the writer has a really good handle on it. If this does not constitute an ongoing temptation, then just let it go… I mean, it’s always a crapshoot, right? But even if you know that your husband would consider this cheating, in a few years time, it’s a great possibility that if you have to tell him at that point, he’s going to be like, “It was so long ago. How could I possibly hold it against you?” As opposed to, if it happened a few months ago, “Oh my God, the temptation for you to do this is too great. You’re going to leave me for a remote-controlled operated sex toy.”

Generally speaking, be honest and tell the truth. But sometimes this kind of low-level stuff is like, what’s done is done. You’re going to be with this guy. You had an inordinate amount of stress as a result of both of your addiction issues. Those are being resolved. We’re moving forward.

Stoya: I agree. Apologies can be more on the end of, “Hello, I’d like to repair this harm.” Right? He has experienced no harm that he knows of. She is ceasing the activity. I think that’s enough. Or apologies can be on the side of, “I need to feel better about this.” And in this case, it’s I’m telling you about this thing that’s going to hurt you, upset you, and possibly cause you an issue just to unburden myself. And that doesn’t strike me as the best move.

Rich: Doing my best to disabuse myself from the Catholic teachings that I grew up with, I just don’t think that confession is always necessary, especially as you point out, if the risk is too high for it to do harm. If you’re in a situation where you’ve done something that your husband would not approve of and a) there’s a huge risk that you’re going to do it again or b) that thing that you did is now changing the course of your emotional life, perhaps your life-life, and that will impact him directly, say, you have an affair with somebody, that person ends up being somebody that you’re connecting with way more, and you’re going to eventually leave your husband for this person. Then yeah, air that out. Let’s get in front of that. Let’s have that conversation now. Otherwise, these kinds of one-off transgressions can really hurt more to talk about them than it can to assess the situation for what it was and move on, knowing what you know now.

Stoya: Yeah. I would encourage the writer to do a little bit of a check-in with themselves about how objective their assessment of their partner’s stability is right now, too. Because that detail, “recently gotten sober, already full plate, safe and healthy way to bring this up with him,” indicates to me that the writer is concerned that revealing this could derail her husband’s recovery. And I think it’s worth evaluating how realistic that concern is. Because when we started discussing, I responded to those details very protectively, and now I’m questioning how delicate the husband actually is.

Rich: Yes.

Stoya: Because I know when I get my period, I’m a mess, and then I’m better. Then sometimes people around me are still in caretaking mode and it’s unnecessary. And so, I imagine with something as mundane and routine as a menstrual cycle, if that phenomenon occurs, then with something as stressful and life-affecting as addiction, there may be more tendency to be overprotective.

Rich: And a lot of my point of view is guided by my own sort of, I guess, morality insofar as this is a really low-level offense to me. If you substituted the remote-control sex toys in for “slept with my husband’s brother,” OK, then we’re talking about something else here. Right? So, even though I’m kind of not seeing it exactly the way that the husband might, and if he feels like this is cheating, he might really want to know about that. I just think that there are some crimes that are not as severe as other crimes and some of those less severe crimes, it hurts you less to know about them. Again, this is kind of selective, but I think that if we’re thinking about how to best serve somebody who may or may not be, but as he’s been presented to us, is still in a vulnerable spot in his life, then you probably don’t want to burden him with something that is really inconsequential to your relationship and the rest of your lives together.

Stoya: 100 percent.

More Advice From Slate

I’ve noticed a trend on social media of teens taking videos of themselves with the sounds of their parents having sex in another room. They have a look of horror on their faces, with a text that says, “Please say they are clapping!!” I find this incredibly rude and just gross. My husband and I have a 14-year-old who looks at TikTok all the time. To our frustration, we have had very quiet sex for years so our kids don’t hear us. I like to think that my daughter wouldn’t take a video of the sounds of our bed squeaking (or even notice if it does), but I don’t know, since teens now want to get likes even if it’s at other people’s expense.