How to Do It

Women Are Demanding a Lot More From Men During Sex These Days. What Happened?

Do I need more cardio, more therapy… eyeliner?

Man in a beanie and glasses staring at the camera with fireworks going off around him.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Viorel Kurnosov/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,

I’m a 40-year-old cishet guy and I have vanilla sex. Though the woman I’m with likes my cunnilingus OK, I believe she doesn’t find either the penetration part or the overall experience to be anything special. I read something about bi and gay guys sometimes getting cishet women, approaching them even on Grindr, because they’re fun to have sex with.

And I do understand that standards for cishet men are rising. How can I invest in making myself more fun to fuck? More cardio, more therapy, eyeliner?

Stoya: So, we have four real sentences here and yet so much to work with.

Rich: Yes, that’s good. Is it really… Wow. Broadly speaking, yes, that’s a lot of words for so few sentences.

Stoya: But it’s so many topics. It’s like a CW drama.

Rich: Yes, it is.

Stoya: It’s just like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.

Rich: So, the first thing that I think we can do is cross MSM, men who have sex with men, off of the list of creating unreasonable standards for straight men who have sex with women. I don’t think that’s a thing.

Stoya: I would also just like to do a general PSA (and you would be the expert here): Unless something has changed with Grindr, it is not an appropriate place for cis women to be approaching people.

Rich: I did get this specific question once from a woman who said, “Can I go on Grindr to meet guys for this kind of reason?” And I stopped short of giving her a hard no because actually, Grindr has changed quite a bit over the years from what was only a place where men meet other men. Now, for example, trans women are so much more visible on Grindr than they were initially. More generally, I have a big problem with kind of hard noes and total exclusion in spaces.

My thing with cis women using Grindr is a) you’re not going to get very far. You’re kind of wasting your time, b) those profiles never seem to stay up for very long, and c) if you do feel the need to take this route, then you have to behave yourself. If you’re going to enter a space that has not been designated for whatever identifying subset you belong to, then you have to kind of just sit there and wait for people to approach you. So, it’s kind of a thing and I would not completely forbid a woman from doing that. But at the same time, it’s such a small thing that I don’t really think that it should weigh in this guy’s calculus on how he has sex with women at all.

Stoya: Yeah. But if you’re a cis woman and you’re sitting here thinking that’s a good idea, maybe not.

Rich: Yeah.

Stoya: So, oh gosh. Standards for cishet men are rising. It’s actually that women are raising their own standards. So I’m like, he’s right, but also, he’s not right, because it’s still very cishet men-centric. My own standards are going up, not the standards for the people I am interested in having sex with, because we’re still moving toward better gender equality. And really, I’m picking on everything now, because he asked: How can I invest in making myself more fun to fuck? Actually presenting yourself as an equal, instead of making everything about you and your dick goes a long way.

Rich: I think what’s so telling about this very mechanism that you’re commenting on, is that it’s viewing the world almost like you are watching a movie. There’s this remove in place, where it’s like, things are changing, why isn’t it the same way it’s always been, where I just always got my way doing whatever I did? Well, if you participated and for example, investigated so that you could know for a fact that she didn’t find sex with you to be anything special, as opposed to merely believing it, then maybe you could help shape your standards. This requires participation. You can step up to meet the occasion and actually talk to your partner and say, “What can I do for you?”

Stoya: That is the best way to do it. I have several friends that have vulvas. I have a vulva myself. I’ve had my own face in several vulvas. And the one generalization you can make about vulvas and people with vulvas, much like people with penises, is that they all have different desires. And as far as I understand, unlike cis men, the rest of us tend to have desires that shift a bunch or are more willing to accept our shifting desires.

And that’s a thing that I wish cishet men could understand more often, because take this situation, for example: So, the last time we had sex, there was plenty of foreplay, we had a flirtatious meal first, then we went somewhere quiet and there was warm up and we eased into it. We talked about what we wanted to do. And now this time, you’re just doing the things that were happening at the peak of the sexual energy and that’s not… I’m in the luteal phase of my cycle, I don’t want that. Or you didn’t put in the foreplay, or whatever it is. Slow down and look at your partner and say, “What do you want today?” And maybe that would also be nice for cis men. I don’t know.

Rich: I think that’s totally true. Given the scant evidence that we have, what we do know is that he’s vanilla and we don’t know anything about her. That could mean that she’s not. Maybe there’s a whole world of kink that he’s ignoring, that he’s somehow glossed over, that he hasn’t listened to her about. So, this could be just a generic kind of sexual mismatch, or it could be an opportunity to make it a match by putting in some effort. But you sit around and you say, “Oh, everything’s always been this way for me and now it’s not.” Well look, here’s how progress works. Here’s how it reverberates through one human life. So catch the tide, or you’re going to wash up on shore.

Stoya: There’s this song, “Forgive Me” by Sofi Tukker and Mahmut Orhan and it’s like an apology, but it’s this awful, abused woman apology. “I just let you yell at me all you want, I’ll let you make me into something that I’m not if it helps you carry on.” It’s reminding me of this question because this guy is saying, “How can I make myself more fun to fuck? Do I need to change my body? Do I need to change my aesthetic presentation?”

And it’s like, no, dude, you have to be authentically yourself and sometimes you’re going to get rejected and that’s OK, that’s part of life. Be who you are. If you’re really worried about being more fun, get your cunnilingus skills from OK, to great. Take some classes, read some books.

One of my friends, Jennifer Dobrowitz, wrote this book called Learn 2 Lick. She has a medical background, so she knows what she’s talking about. And even in that, before you get to how the parts work and what you might want to do with them, there’s stuff about sex being the adult version of play and you want to be engaging all the different parts of your psyche when you’re connecting with this person. So, get some new tricks to try and just connect with the person. I’m saying, just connect with the person like it’s so simple, and apparently, it’s not. But that’s the thing you have to do.

Rich: It seems obvious to me. It’s disconcerting that it’s not obvious enough, that a letter would be required, and a third and fourth party would have to be consulted. He asks whether he should get more therapy. I think maybe. And maybe you should go see a woman. A progressive therapist, feminist, sex-positive woman. Try that.

Stoya: I feel like there are also certain sex workers who would be more than happy to give a lot of feedback. I’m not necessarily saying this person needs to see a sex worker for physical sexual interaction. But I feel like there are several sex workers out there who would be happy to consult with him on what actually feels good, and what he could do to present his attractive qualities more efficiently. And that’s another option if he can’t find a therapist who wants to engage with this. Because I’m not really sure it’s the therapist’s job to tell them how to interact with women, so much as it is to help him work on this dick-centric thing.

Rich: That’s true. I’m thinking of a kind of more broad opening of the mind, as opposed to direct feedback. But I have a question about the sex workers. Are there people who kind of advertise that level of feedback as part of their service? It seems like some sex workers might be like, “OK, I’m not doing that with you.” But if there are others who would, how would you go about finding somebody who would be amenable to kind of giving that feedback?

Stoya: I would literally go on sex worker Twitter and find one of the many, many luminaries of that community. I’d want to ask for consent before naming any particular sex workers. Ideally, he’d find someone who would not put up with many shenanigans.

Rich: Yeah. He sounds like someone who needs a moratorium on shenanigans.

Stoya: The sorts of women who are very active, very vocal, think about these things deeply, I think they might be a good track.

More Advice From Slate

I am a dude who has been dating a woman for some time. I think we are set up for failure in the bedroom, and I don’t know how to fix it. The problem, as I see it, is that the woman I am with has a very, very specific sequence of events she likes to have happen for sex. I call this sequence “the Protocol.”