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 am a 54-year-old male married to a wonderful woman for over 25 years. I’m definitely the more adventurous one—sexually and otherwise. The one blemish is an affair I had a decade ago. In retrospect, I was just thrill-seeking, my wife forgave me, and our marriage came out stronger. Like many people in middle age I have things I wish I had done in my 20s. Mine is, well, having a side gig as a male stripper. I came close, but I had a high-power professional career taking off and never went through with it.
During the COVID lockdown, I signed up for an online course for ordinary guys to strip one-on-one for their partners. I put in the time practicing in front of a mirror and am not half bad. My wife loves me giving her a lap dance as much as I do, and it’s now a regular thing between us. But now I want to try it for real, and I can make it happen. I found a gym owner/former stripper who trains men looking to break into the industry professionally. My high school sweetheart, who is still a very good friend, offered to get together a group of friends for “ladies’ night.” I am a serious amateur athlete (kickboxing and jiu-jitsu) with muscles and visible abs, so won’t embarrass myself dancing mostly naked in front of a group of 50-something housewives.
Do I tell my wife, and if so, how do I frame this? I could not tell her, but I don’t want to hide this from her. Ideally, I want her to be supportive and proud. But she’d likely freak at the idea of me stripping for other women, especially with my history of infidelity. To be clear, this wouldn’t involve sex, but it would definitely be naughty. I just want to experience the thrill and have the satisfaction of knowing I did it. If I tell her and she says “no” I’ll likely end up resenting it for years—and this is probably my only opportunity to realize a dream.
Dear Private Dancer,
As you know, and have known for 25 years, taking a partner means adhering to their values, particularly their definitions of fidelity and cheating. It’s one thing to accidentally cross a boundary. It’s another thing to cross a boundary understanding that it might cause a problem but hoping for the best. It’s a far more sadistic thing to cross a boundary that you know your partner won’t approve of. If you don’t strip for your ex and her friends, you say, you’ll end up resenting it for years. But what if you do it and your wife has the predicted response and she ends up resenting you for years? You’ll have inflicted that upon her for your own selfish reasons after she already went through your affair and forgave you for it. Doesn’t she deserve better than that?
Personally, I do not see anything inherently wrong with what you propose—it’d bring joy to you and, depending on your moves, the women you’d perform for. But I’m not your partner. Respecting your wife means respecting her feelings, which, at a bare minimum, requires having a conversation about this. Since you suspect what her response will be going into it, you can prepare. You should convey just how much it would mean to you—be specific. Why do you want to do this so badly? Do you feel like your hotness has an expiration date? Is there something specific about the form of self-expression that stripping for this particular group would help you achieve? There is a good likelihood that since you’ve already been doing this for your wife, she may assume a sense of ownership of your scantily clad jiggle. What will be your answer when she says, “Why can’t you just keep doing it for me?” Your precision may be useful in overcoming suspicions that you’re just doing this to be sexually adjacent to other women without actually having sex with them—you do want to do this for reasons beyond that, right?
I don’t know what your wife and ex’s relationship is like, but I suspect that the request coming from a person in your past may complicate things. Could inviting your wife to the ladies’ night help strike a compromise? Could you perform for a different group of women, namely one that doesn’t include your ex?
If nothing else, you can continue performing for your wife, who after learning of your cheating, did not throw you out on your ass. Take solace in the good fortune you’ve been allowed and try not to push it.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a 22-year-old cis bi male who has not yet experienced penetrative sex. Recently, I was invited into a threesome with some friends of mine, a guy and a girl, in a spur of the moment, after-party hookup. I was thrilled! This is the exact type of thing I fantasize about. I accepted the offer, flung off my clothes at warp speed, and attempted to join in on the fun. I think you probably know where this is heading. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain an erection. Not, mind you, for a lack of trying on anyone’s part! They both used their hands and mouths on my member, kissed me gently, grabbed my butt, and called me adorable when I couldn’t stop shaking. I could tell they were experienced lovemakers, knowing exactly when to switch positions or try something else without even saying a word. But despite all three of our best efforts, nothing actually felt pleasurable to me. I felt oddly dissociated from my body.
Mentally, I was ready to have my man cherry-popped. But apparently, my body wasn’t? They took it really well, and I feel like I was lucky to be in a supportive environment for my first attempt. They told me that I could join in at any point if I were able to get Private Johnson to stand at attention. I ended up watching them fuck on the couch with my noodle dick in hand. Afterward, I felt a little bad that I had maybe made them feel like they were failing to please me despite the problem being 100 percent on my end. I’m told that this type of thing isn’t too horribly uncommon and that it’s not a huge cause for concern, but here’s the thing—it’s been a week now, and I haven’t been able to get hard since. None of my usual tricks are working, and every time I try to masturbate I find myself getting distracted, almost as if my mojo has been completely shut off. I feel horny—or rather, I feel like I want to be horny—but my little friend won’t come out to play, and I’m still unable to feel much pleasure down there, in a way that feels similar to overstimulation.
I also get nervous and shaky again when I think about the encounter, which is all the time. The experience made me, after thinking back a bit, realize that I’ve been having trouble getting 100 percent rigid recently and that I sometimes tend to cum when my staff is only half-mast. But I’ve at least been able to maintain some sort of an erection up until now, and all of a sudden my equipment seems to be malfunctioning following this incident. Is this likely the culprit of some physical condition that has been brewing and has chosen a horrible time to come to a head? I’ve had it looked at by multiple people and been told that “everyone is sewn together differently” and that my package looks fine. Or, could it be a psychological blockage stemming from the fact that real sex is so raw and different from porn, and my expectations have been obliterated? Is it first-time nerves, or am I somehow not as into sex with multiple partners as I thought? Is it a combination of those things, or something else I’m missing?
—Noodle Dick No Good?
Dear Noodle Dick,
Your current flaccidness sounds like nerves radiating and affecting you well after your unsuccessful attempt at sticking it in/getting stuck. “Trauma” in this case might seem too dramatic a word, but your continued response is at least similar to a fight/flight/freeze response—you simply cannot be expected to perform under the stress you’re feeling. You say you would masturbate at half-mast before the threesome that wasn’t—I’m wondering what your erections were like in other contexts. Were you getting morning wood or sleep boners? Spontaneous erections during the day? The lack of them, again, doesn’t mean that anything is amiss physically, but it might. I don’t know what, “I’ve had it looked at by multiple people and been told that ‘everyone is sewn together differently’ and that my package looks fine,” means exactly, but if you haven’t seen a urologist, especially one who specifically serves queer patients, you should do that. ED can be an indicator of underlying health issues like heart disease, diabetes, or even a venous leak. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least float the possibility of a bigger problem than nerves.
If there’s no physical issue detected, I recommend talking to a sex therapist, who can help you work through the cockblocking anxiety that seems to be gripping you. You can also ask your doctor for ED meds. You’re young to be on them, yes, but that might not matter to your doctor. I say this a lot in this column, but you should not underestimate the anti-anxiety properties that PDE5 inhibitors can have on people who take them. Knowing you have that backup in your blood to achieve and maintain a boner can do wonders for your confidence, giving you the reinforcement you need to relax, which is also a great booster of performance.
Also, consider that maybe these partners just weren’t right for you. Occasionally, someone you believe you should be attracted to just doesn’t end up doing it for you when you’re naked together. Chemistry is funny and unpredictable in that way. My first two sexual encounters with men in my early 20s left me very confused because I thought they were really underwhelming and my dick seemed to agree. “Maybe I’m not…gay?” I wondered, which twisted me up because I had spent years waiting to play out what I thought knew about myself. Well, the third guy I hooked up with really did it for me. “Yep, I’m really gay,” I realized and I’ve never looked back since. Sometimes we don’t understand how sensitive we really are. There’s a kind of forced assumption that guys want sex all the time, and will have it with whomever, going at each and every available body with the gusto of a starving dog. That goes for some guys, but certainly not all. Be kind to yourself as you figure out your specific taste in sex.
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Dear How to Do It,
My sex drive has been low/nonexistent for over a year now, and I did all the regular stuff—get screened for hormonal issues, seriously consider whether my current partner and I are a good match, and pursue more aggressive treatment for underlying depression (SSRIs have never dampened my sex drive before this). On the rare occasions when I can get interested in masturbation or sex, I always find myself fantasizing about my ex. How do I stop doing this? Every time I tell myself not to do it, I either lose the moment or can’t shake the mental image. Our breakup was bad, and while the sex was good it wasn’t perfect, so why can’t I stop now, over two years later? I know for a fact that if we actually hooked up now I would not enjoy it, so why is my brain going there?
Dear Turned Off,
You’ve stumbled upon an unfortunate truth: Often, trying not to think about something only makes us think about it more. Generally, the advice with unwanted sexual fantasies is to expand your palate and view/think about other things/acts/people. I understand why that is a challenge for you given your current lack of a drive, but it’s worth trying to push through. Or just accept it. Sometimes good sex is enough to keep us revisiting it, and our memories have a way of honing in on certain aspects of the past without accounting for the totality of context (which would require a databank bigger than what most of us have). I think you may be remembering the good times and while there is, theoretically, enough to turn you off in a nonsexual circumstance, stimulation can reduce our disgust response. And there you have it. (Keep in mind, going over this with a therapist would probably be more fruitful than taking my spitballing as gospel.) If right now this is a reliable fantasy for you, I’d work on accepting it, at least for the time being. After all, nothing else is getting you off, right?
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a cis woman and have been with my boyfriend for a little over a year. It’s been extremely wonderful, but there’s an aspect of my sex life that has been gnawing at my brain. We were both “late bloomers,” having each grown up in very strict religions and conservative communities, and had our first partnered sexual experiences with each other (we’re both in our late 20s). Because of our common background and lack of experience, we approached everything with a lot of communication and good humor. After practicing a bit, we’ve gotten pretty damn good at pleasing each other. My boyfriend is attentive, communicative, and a great listener, and we both enjoy a lot of foreplay and long make-out sessions. However, I feel like something is wrong with me because I seem to have an unfair advantage. I come fast and easy.
That’s what’s bothering me, which I know sounds ridiculous. But really, I’ve always come before my boyfriend (he has had some struggles with delayed ejaculation due to anxiety), and sometimes I come several times when he doesn’t at all. To add to that, my boyfriend was trying some slightly different movements several months ago and we discovered that I have “vaginal” orgasms… often in multiples. And I prefer it to direct clitoral stimulation.
Part of me knows this is not a problem! I don’t want to complain, I mean, I love it! And yet, I am constantly wondering if I’m delusional or something. My boyfriend has asked me in the past if I was faking it, and I don’t blame him because neither of us expected it to be this easy. I feel guilty when I go out with my friends and they’re complaining about how long it takes them to come, and a bit insane when I read about how few women orgasm with PIV sex.
I wonder if I’m just inexperienced and naive about sex and have no idea what I’m actually feeling. I wonder if my strict religious upbringing just has me looking for reasons to feel guilty for enjoying sex so much. I wonder if maybe my preconceived ideas about gender and sex are messing me up. I feel silly for being so bothered by this, but at the same time, I carry this weird guilt about being the woman that, yes, loves PIV and comes quickly from it. I just want to know… is this OK? Is it normal?
—Movie Sex Scene
Dear Movie Sex Scene,
One way to be a little bit more sure about what you’re experiencing is to note whether or not your orgasms are accompanied by vaginal contractions. But this is not a foolproof method: While women’s orgasms are known to frequently come with these contractions, not everyone’s do. Given the subjectivity of the experience, though, it’s pretty safe to say that if you think you are having orgasms, you are—or you might as well be. It’s not like you have to report them to a fact-checker. No one is there in the room to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Actually…” after you come (at least, no one you mention). What orgasms are to you are, in effect, orgasms.
There is a spectrum of sexual responses, and though people don’t typically report orgasming with the ease and frequency that you do, it’s not like it’s impossible. Some things come easy, and so do some people. Congrats, you’re one of them. I think the last paragraph of your email says it all—you feel guilty for enjoying sex so much. You’re trying to invent reasons why this is not so, but it is so. There’s no greater proof of sex’s greatness than the act itself, but unlearning purity culture is something that can take people years. Keep at it—this essay is full of resources on how you might take active steps to do so. (It’s not listed there, but a book that tends to get named a lot as being useful on this subject is Jamie Lee Finch’s You Are Your Own: A Reckoning with the Religious Trauma of Evangelical Christianity.) A counselor may also help. In the meantime, let me assure you that you’re OK, and more than that, you’re extraordinary. The pleasure you experience, and your body’s ease at conjuring it, is a gift—some might even say from God. Try to be thankful for, not ashamed of it.
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