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 ex was very addicted to porn and hardly ever climaxed with me. He would masturbate downstairs and leave me upstairs waiting for him. He wanted to see other women online instead of carrying out his fantasies with me. Always.
The guy I’m with now is starting to look like he’s the same. The only difference is that he does climax with me sometimes. He’s 46 and I’m 35, and we haven’t been together long. I know he’s masturbating on his own rather than finish with me. Should I be concerned? Or wait it out to see if he starts to never climax with me like my ex? I understand we don’t always have to climax when we are intimate, I just feel unsure right now.
It seems like you’re past the “should I be…” stage and are just concerned. That is, after all, why you’re drawing connections to your past fraught relationship and writing in to an advice column, right?
Your concern is understandable, but not necessarily warranted. This guy is “starting to look the same” as your ex, but I’m not clear on whether that just means he’s not orgasming every time you have sex or is exhibiting signs of a problematic relationship with porn, which may contribute to issues with sex and desire. If we take porn out of the equation for now, there are a host of factors that may contribute to the condition known as delayed ejaculation, including depression, performance anxiety, medication, and health issues. It might also be that your new guy has an idiosyncratic masturbation technique that he’s grown so accustomed to that other stimulation pales in comparison.
I think you should try to get more information on this—you can start by asking, “Did you want to come?,” when it’s clear that he’s wrapping up after not having done so, but before the sex act is decidedly over. That will give him the opportunity to explain, if he so chooses, but it leaves things open enough to avoid shaming him. Instead of relying on your past negative experience, get more clarity in your current one and evaluate from there.
Dear How to Do It,
So I just … don’t really enjoy sex. I don’t find it actively gross or anything, and orgasms help me relax and sleep, but I could definitely go the rest of my life without sex and just think nothing of it. I never really had a horny, hormonal teenager phase, but I did sleep around a little bit in college chasing the elusive “great sex” people always talked about, but I just always found it to be kind of boring. It seems like a chore and it’s just the same basic set of moves in different orders (foreplay, oral sex, penetration, switch positions, orgasm, rinse, repeat).
I ended up marrying a man who has medical issues and takes a lot of medication, so he’s only down for sex about once a month, which is great for me. Practically speaking, I don’t have an issue since I married someone who doesn’t want to have sex constantly. But mentally, I really freak myself out wondering if there’s something wrong with me. I don’t have any medical issues or take any medicine, and I am definitely physically affectionate (hugs, kissing, snuggling etc.) Every time I’ve confided this in someone, they’ve been nice about it but kind of dumbfounded. Is this really something people feel like they absolutely need, or is it just something people enjoy for intimacy and relaxation? And is this something I can be OK with, or should I see a doctor because it’s a sign of something wrong with my hormones?
—Just Not That Into It
Dear Just Not That Into It,
“Is this something I can be OK with?” you ask. Yes, you may. That’s that. Now, wasn’t that easy?
If only! That’s a question that you have to answer for yourself. It is certainly possible to embrace your low-to-no libido, even going as far as using it to defining your identity in part. Certainly, your relationship is close to ideal in this respect—this would be a much harder needle to thread if your husband were expecting more sex than you’re content to have.
Self-acceptance is a job for one. For help there, you might want to look into an asexual online community like r/asexuality or read Angela Chen’s Ace. You’ll see that your feelings about sex (or lack thereof) are shared by many. You’ll hopefully come to find that nice but dumbfounded people you’re opened up to about this were effectively the wrong audience.
Do people feel like they absolutely need sex? Yeah, some do, and that can be alternately frustrating and affirming. Those same people might also enjoy sex for intimacy and relaxation, and there’s a whole spectrum in between the poles you suggest. Everyone has a different relationship with sex, and yours is potentially just as healthy as someone who gets laid several times a week. Or a day even. Do visit a doctor just in case, as low libido may indeed be a sign of health issues. But there is a good chance you are fine, and accepting that may be the biggest challenge here.
Dear How to Do It,
I have been married for 15 years to an amazing man. We are both each other’s first and only sexual partners. We had a long dry spell related to kids, career, some painful gyn issues, and a very low libido on my part. He stuck it out for years of only having sex every few months without ever a complaint and always being super supportive. But I worked in a hospital during COVID, and that sparked something in me, a “life is too short” mentality that has completely revitalized our sex life. We are now both really happy with several times a week and generally more intimacy at other times.
My issue is that I would love to give him a blow job, but I have a terrible gag reflex. I was never able to handle it early in our relationship (both due to the gag reflex and not tolerating the feel of semen in my mouth), but I’d like to be successful, and he’s interested too. We use condoms to address my issues with body fluids, but I can’t handle more than a couple of minutes orally, which hasn’t been enough time to get him off.
Any tips or suggestions for how to get my guy, who deserves every sexual experience I can give him, a satisfying blow job?
—Life Is Short, but Not His Penis
Dear Not His Penis,
The best blow job you can give comes from the heart. Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life, though you still may gag. Look into techniques for desensitizing your gag reflex—it is theoretically possible, though every body is different and results will vary. You could, for example, use a toothbrush to find the place on your tongue that almost triggers your gag reflex, and brush there for 15 seconds. Repeat in the following days until the spot is no longer sensitive, and then venture deeper into your mouth. My co-columist Jessica Stoya has also previously advised practicing with a dildo. Pro tip: Breathe through your nose. If this is challenging to you, look into breathing exercises. James Nestor’s book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art provides a lot of solid, beginner information on breathwork and how to ditch the habit of relying on your mouth for air intake.
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to go too far. A lot of guys like deepthroating, yes, but plenty are also into hand/mouth action, which can go a long way to shortening the amount of dick you’re stimulating with your mouth. Chomping down Ms. Pac-Man-style and swallowing whole is not the only option you have when performing oral sex—you can lick it, kiss it, suck just the tip. Talking about what your husband is into orally will help clarify your best course of action. Good luck!
Dear How to Do It,
I’m an ace woman in her mid-20s who has entered a new relationship with a man who is also on the ace spectrum. I’m a virgin, he is not, and we are heading toward having sex (and I want to! While I’m not always 100% in the moment, I enjoy making out with him and I want to have sex), but I feel he is trying to make me move too fast? He is always very agreeable about not having sex at the start of the date, but toward the end, he becomes pushier and makes some comments that keep ticking at my brain later, but I never confront it at the moment. Which then makes me not wanna go out with him and gives me anxiety before our dates. He is lovely and funny and takes me on amazing dates across town, to places I never saw before (I’m new in town), but I’m afraid there is a side to him he is maybe hiding. Or am I looking too deeply into things?
—Looking for a Map
This guy is making you uncomfortable. That isn’t your mind playing tricks on you or oversensitivity. It is a fact. Whether it’s intentional or not on his part, whether it’s a matter of your respective sensibilities not quite meshing, you can trust yourself that there is something about this dynamic that is off for you. You seem clear-eyed to me, at least. I suspect that part of the anxiety is coming from the bait and switch—it is disconcerting when someone betrays their own seeming compassion. It should make you wonder whether it’s all a performance, whether that “agreeable” disposition is just strategy to get you comfortable enough to drop your defenses. And underwear.
Given your situation and history with sex, a pushy partner is truly not what you need. You should be able to move at the pace that is comfortable for you, and this guy isn’t respecting that, at least not toward the end of your dates, when sex generally would be expected to occur. Find someone who will respect your needs all the time.
More How to Do It
I have a recurring thought that might turn into a problem. I’m married to a man I adore, and we have an incredible sex life that I wouldn’t change for the world. Passionate, fun, multiple orgasms per session. However, while my body is overjoyed, my mind is struggling. My husband has a shortcoming “downstairs.”