How to Do It

I Gave My Wife a Gift for the Bedroom. Turns Out She’s Been Sharing It With Her Friend.

I am seriously creeped out.

Woman holding a gift box in front of a neon eggplant.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Love portrait and love the world/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 (35, cisgender male) travel a lot for work. Related to that, about five years ago, my wife used this thing called “Clone-A-Willy” to cast a dildo to my, let’s just say personal specifications. I get home from a business trip a bit over a week ago, and “Denise” has another one of the kits, saying she wants to make one again.

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I asked if something happened to the first one like it broke or something. And no, Denise tells me that her friend “Tammy” has been going through a nasty divorce and she gave her the dildo, because that is apparently a thing that someone does, and now she needs a replacement for it.

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I was seriously creeped out by the whole thing. Giving sex toys to a friend is a bit weird. Giving a USED sex toy is even weirder and possibly some kind of hygienic issue. But giving one that’s modeled off of my junk feels vaguely violating. I don’t really like Tammy much, which might be complicating things as well. But the wife and I quarreled about this, and I wanted to write in to somewhere anonymous to get an outside perspective on the sexual ethics of this. My wife says the whole thing is none of my business. I still feel creeped out by it all and again, somewhat violated. Am I overreacting here?

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—Confounded

Dear Confounded,

What’s actually no one’s business is the size and shape of your dick—unless you make it their business (consensually, of course). I agree with you. You had every reason to expect your private part would remain private. I don’t see this situation being much different from one in which Denise showed Tammy naked pictures of you that you had given her. Technically, the pictures would be “hers” but unless otherwise stated, ownership comes with implicit terms: No sharing. Your not liking Tammy does compound things—someone that you aren’t fond of is especially not entitled to personal information that hasn’t been cleared by you.

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So, congrats. You’re right. Now you have to decide what you’re going to do with that rightness. Being right in a domestic disagreement is sometimes like being a millionaire in Monopoly money—practically speaking, it’s worthless. If you think it’s worth the drama, have at it, but know that flaunting your moral superiority could escalate matters and perhaps challenge the future of your relationship. I advise you to tread lightly unless you really do want to shake things up.

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You can refuse to make another cast of your dong. Reiterate your feelings of violation and tell Denise if she wants your portable penis so bad, she’ll have to ask Tammy for it back. Hopefully, the toy can in fact be sterilized (by boiling, for example). Depends on the material. There are cleaners that may or may not work on it, too. The way I see it is your wife violated your trust and she doesn’t deserve a second chance at a replica of your dick. But that’s about as punitive as you can be without turning this into an even bigger problem.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a gay top relatively new to the hookup scene. My dick is slightly shorter than average but is apparently girthier than most, 7 inches at the base. I never considered it that exceptional, as it seems like most dildos are thicker than that. But I’m repeatedly running into trouble finding guys who are willing and able to take it in. I’d say about half the guys I hook up with don’t even want to try. Many of the rest can’t take it much past the tip. Even when I do find someone who (usually with a lot of poppers) is able to take it in all the way, it understandably takes a long time to get in, is often uncomfortable for them, and ends up causing me pain during and afterward because it’s being squeezed so dang hard.

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Most guys brag about their tight holes but for me, that is not a selling point! Complicating things is the fact that I’m a fat man, which both makes some positions more difficult and limits the number of guys who are interested in me, so I’d rather not be overly choosy about only hooking up with guys who fastidiously practice stretching their hole on their own. Happily, there are many other ways to bring me and my partners pleasure that I enjoy exploring, but I’d also like to have some more really satisfying topping experiences. Do you have any tips for finding guys who can easily take it in and for reducing discomfort for both of us?

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—In the Thick of It

Dear In the Thick,

I think you should be very upfront in your profiles, assuming that you’re largely pursuing sex via apps. Adding “thick” in your username, specifically writing out, “Too thick for most, can you take it?” and then reiterating your size in your chats will help you weed out the truly capable from the merely horny. There are definitely guys who want to bottom for a thick dick like yours—this is just a matter of finding them by being as explicit as possible. Thankfully, such explicitness is not only socially acceptable on hook-up apps, it’s expected.

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Dear How to Do It,

For someone who’s a bit of a slut, I have a lot of trouble talking about sex. I am a 19-year-old bisexual “woman,” for lack of a better word. As a teenager, I was in some shitty relationships with older guys that basically consisted of letting things happen to me and doing as I was asked. The only other times I’ve had sex have been with close friends who I was very comfortable with (and who understood that sometimes I need to not talk). I’ve also been some level of intoxicated almost every time. Now, I’m trying to date, and I’m having difficulty with two things: saying something when I don’t want things to escalate (or don’t like something the person is doing), and saying what I want. For instance, I was recently on a (really good!) date with a guy, and we were making out when he said “How far do you want to go?” and I literally could not get any words out to respond, so he assumed I wanted to stop. What can I do to change this pattern?

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—Speechless

Dear Speechless,

Have you had any therapy after the shitty relationships you had with older guys as a teen? Since you’re still a teen it seems right to assume that these relationships you had occurred when you were underage, and then, it’s not exactly surprising that you’re presenting what sounds a lot like a trauma response. You may have heard of fight, flight, or freeze. That’s the range of involuntary reactions many of us have to perceived threats, and it’s associated with trauma. You seem to be freezing, and I don’t think you get past that without working on your potential trauma. I’m hedging because I don’t want to diagnose you or impose judgment that suggests you should have trauma after your relationship history. It just sounds like you do. Talking to someone may help you talk about sex. It’s disconcerting that you’re having such a difficult time verbalizing boundaries during sex—it’s like trying to drive a car without a steering wheel. Until you can actually describe what you want and don’t want, I don’t recommend pursuing it further.

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Dear How to Do It,

I (33 MTF) married my husband (33 M) when we were both 29 years old after 14 years of being friends and nine of living together. My issue is that he recently had sex with a cis woman which I was NOT ultimately OK with (it was a result of poor communication about allowing each other to sleep with others, something I have now made sure to shut down with no room for misunderstanding) and although he’s agreed this won’t happen and has assured me that sex with me is far and away better than sex with the woman he slept with, I’ve been having a hard time getting back to feeling like he truly loves and enjoys my body.

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For one, I’m very tall, have a large body, and have pretty bad joint pain and flexibility, so a lot of positions he’s expressed interest in are a no-go for us. Secondly—and this is extremely petty—he doesn’t like to touch my genitals at all. He’ll reluctantly help me stimulate my perineum and with some gentle persuasion will finger me anally for a very short amount of time, but other than that he doesn’t like to touch my junk really. Even when he does, I often feel like he’s just putting up with it to get things done. I’ve expressed the desire to have him handle my dick or even go down on me (He LOVES to have me perform oral on him! It’s his favorite! And I like it too! But I’d also like to receive oral at least once!) but he always says he doesn’t think he’d enjoy licking or sucking on a dick.

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This combined with general issues of feeling less like I’m enough of a woman for him has led me to genuinely consider bottom surgery this winter (something I’ve never considered necessary to my transition) just in the hopes he’d approach sex with me (and specifically getting me off) a little more enthusiastically. I was hoping you all might have some ideas for how I could get him to be a little more enthusiastic about—or even just willing to explore—different ways of getting me off. For what it’s worth, he likes to have sex with me in all the ways we do, it’s just the act of getting me off or reciprocating that seems to turn him off. Thanks in advance!

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—Diviynls Joke

Dear Diviynls Joke,

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Your concern doesn’t strike me as petty in the least—your pleasure is important and so is feeling accepted by your partner. At the same time, your husband does not have to do anything sexually he isn’t comfortable with. Those conflicting truths make this a thorny predicament. To put it another way: You deserve pleasure but you are not entitled to it from any particular person, in any particular way.

I asked frequent HTDI source Lucie Fielding, a therapist and the author of the 2021 book Trans Sex, to weigh in. Fielding wrote in an email that your letter provoked strong feelings in her “especially as a trans femme who has in the past allowed partners to merely tolerate parts of my body rather than joyfully and excitedly celebrate them.” When we spoke via Zoom, she elaborated: “It’s an experience common to both cis and trans folks: We’re asked to compare ourselves to others all the time.” She said that this kind of comparing and despairing can even come as the result of a compliment: “I think a question that is sometimes in my mind when somebody calls me beautiful is, ‘Does that have an ellipsis point after it? Does it mean, ‘beautiful for a trans femme?’” Having someone so openly accept some but not all of you, as your husband is currently doing, can exacerbate these feelings.

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Fielding advises to get surgery if you want it, “but not because you think that it will solve all your problems—it won’t in this case.” A heaping portion of empowerment is in order. Fielding recommended three courses of action: Sex therapy from a gender-affirming provider (hopefully alongside your husband), a serious conversation about opening your relationship, and, failing the first two options, leaving the relationship.

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Fielding also noted the language you use to refer to your parts—“my dick” and “my junk” in particular. You should call things whatever you’re comfortable with, but Fielding pointed out that some trans people, like her, transition their self-descriptions as well. So, she refers to her clit, for example, and, for another, her external gonads as her labia. Could a shift in language help your husband see your parts not as discordant but as inherent to your womanhood? Maybe.

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Regarding the power of language, I think about the New York Times Magazine story “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?,” a lot. It makes a good case. One of the examples it calls on how those who speak languages without egocentric directional words like “left” and “right” (the Australian Aboriginal language Guugu Yimithirr is one such tongue) have shown prodigious senses of direction because they process everything in terms of cardinal directions. The article’s author Guy Deutscher writes, “One report relates how a speaker of Tzeltal from southern Mexico was blindfolded and spun around more than 20 times in a darkened house. Still blindfolded and dizzy, he pointed without hesitation at the geographic directions.” It might be worth expanding your vocabulary to point your husband southward.

—Rich

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