How to Do It

I’ve Just Learned About an Unexpected Side of My Wife I’ve Never Seen. Oh My.

It’s both gross and arousing.

Man and woman kissing with a cigarette next to them.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by AaronAmat/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 heard a story about my wife that has gotten ahold of my fantasy brain and I can’t get it out. I don’t really understand why it’s stuck there. We work together for our small business and have colleagues in common. At a recent work lunch, these colleagues were regaling the table with a story about my wife at a client dinner they all went to at a conference. I wasn’t there. They talked about how she had a lot to drink and was so much fun and—here’s the sticky part for me—it was the first time they’d ever seen her smoke a cigarette. I can’t get that image out of my brain.

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It both grosses me out (I can’t stand smoke or the smell at all after growing up in a house with two parents who puffed constantly). And…I find myself incredibly aroused by the mental image of her smoking.

It’s the weirdest thing. She’s come home from girls’ nights out and I was sure I noticed a whiff or a taste but she has always denied it. Now that I have heard this story I am both repulsed and truly can’t shake the image of this from my erotic brain. If she did smoke in my presence, I would 100 percent not be interested in going near the smoke, smell, taste, and by extension, her. But my mind is just super and strangely aroused thinking about her at the business dinner. What’s going on with me?

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—Lost in the Haze of Smoke

Dear Haze of Smoke,

Sometimes people fantasize about scenarios they absolutely do not want to enact. Sometimes disgust and arousal are even linked. Could her smoking be symbolic of the aspects of her that you don’t see—where the mystery and uncertainty are—and the smoke is a distraction from the real appeal? Consider whether there are other activities or concepts where you experience disgust and arousal together. Also think about any other instances where your wife’s separateness or individuality is emphasized, and how you feel about those. Reading through Justin Lehmiller’s Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexuality and How it Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life might help you get perspective on the vastness and occasional inscrutability of sexual desires.

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One possibility is to wait and see what happens. Since this fixation started pretty recently it may turn out to be a passing whim. But you could also lean toward the issue. You can embrace it by masturbating to your mental images, and creating fantasies or asking your wife about incorporating some kind of verbal roleplay around it. If you find yourself feeling stuck, or stressing so much that it’s interfering with your life, do have a big talk with someone, whether they’re your wife, a friend, or a professional.

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Dear How to Do It,

I am a gay man in my mid-30s and I have been having a struggle lately. I live in a big city with tons of sexy men who work in the sex industry. This is an industry I have always been fascinated by and have respected the work that people do in it. As a result, I am a huge advocate for these professionals’ rights and definitely enjoy partaking in it myself. I love porn, OnlyFans, cam boys, strippers, and go-go dancers. I think I am being pretty respectful but I recently became insecure at a new bar I went to that featured a plethora of go-go dancers.

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The insecurity was that I am not sure what the proper etiquette is when I am in these spaces. When I’m at a bar I’ll just watch, tip, and flirt if they have initiated something (such as a kiss on the lips), then go back to watching because I know they are working. However, would watching for too long be creepy? Also is it OK to ask a camboy for their contact information? I did this once while on a cam site and I felt I may have been crossing a boundary (it was my first time on a site like that). The final question is when I run into someone that works in porn or has an OnlyFans. I wouldn’t mention that I have seen their work if I saw them at Whole Foods, but if I see them at say a bar or club is it OK to say I am a fan of their work if I’m not being explicit about it? I guess this is more than one question, but I run into so many people in this industry and want to make sure that they are feeling respected.

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—Not Crossing the Line

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Dear Not Crossing the Line,

I agree that this is more than one question, and your recognition of that suggests that you’ve already got the tools to be pretty respectful. For the go-go bar, each venue is going to have its own norms, as Zachary Zane’s Boyslut post on enthusiastic and opt-out consent illustrates. You can try checking the venue and event’s web pages and social media accounts for guidelines. You can also try to find someone at the venue to chat with. Maybe that’s a bartender during a slow moment, a dancer who isn’t on duty at the time and looks interested in engaging, or another patron who is a regular. Get consent to ask questions, and understand that one or two might be the limit. You can also learn a lot from observing other people’s interactions and the reactions of the dancers. Importantly, every dancer will have their own boundaries.

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Asking for contact information from a cam performer may offend them or get you banned. Sex workers of all sorts are often subject to expectations, or demands, of free labor, and you’ll do well to remember that they’re at work. Boundaries between work and the rest of life are important for any job. If you can connect any social media accounts to your profile, they’ll be able to find you if they want to develop a different sort of relationship. The same applies to go-go dancers—if they want to spend time with you outside of work, they’ll likely let you know. But do try to keep your expectations very low in that regard.

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Porn and OnlyFans are similarly varied. Performers in porn—at least, those who’ve made some kind of career out of it—in a social environment, like a club, are likely to expect an occasional “You look familiar” or “I like your work” because of the public persona aspect of the job. Speak loudly enough to be heard but low enough that your statement won’t be the most noticeable noise in the room. Read the situation from there, and be aware that you might be mistaking their identity. Contexts where people might be more reserved are different, as you mentioned—if the performer also works as a manager at Whole Foods and their boss doesn’t know about their other career, for instance, or is with loved ones who they aren’t out to, there’s a significant risk that you’ll cause them difficulty. OnlyFans creators may see their work as more anonymous and be surprised or unsettled, regardless of venue, so it’s more of a gamble to broach the subject. Listen for gentle boundaries, respect those boundaries, and apologize if your recognition is unpleasant. Remember that they’re off the clock when you see them out in the world and avoid any behavior that might seem like you’re following them when they leave.

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You don’t ask about this last scenario but I’ll include it anyway. If you meet a porn performer or an OnlyFans creator in a social environment and take a liking to each other, it is better to disclose how familiar you are with their work before you start to become emotionally or physically intimate. Not everyone will be upset by a big reveal after several dinners or hook-ups, but enough will that it’s worth erring on the side of caution.

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Dear Getting Off Together,

My girlfriend and I are women in our late 20s and love the amazing feeling of orgasming together. It needs careful pacing and good coordination but is absolutely wonderful when it happens. We’re able to do it easily while fingering each other, keeping eye contact, and reading each other’s arousal. But we have never been able to get it to happen during 69, even after months of trying. One or the other of us always orgasms first before the other is ready. We tried talking to each other to keep the same pace but speaking breaks the rhythm of the tongues and changes the mood. Even short phrases like “slow down” or ”go faster” don’t seem to work. Any way you can help us to get that special feeling while we go down on each other?

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—Getting Off Together

Dear Together,

You want to orgasm together (this already involves a lot of logistics) while in one of the most demanding sexual positions, which requires your mouths to be focused on stimulation instead of verbal communication. If you’re ever able to achieve this, I suspect you’ll feel an incredible sense of accomplishment, and that’s one of the beautiful aspects of nearly impossible goals.

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If short phrases like the two you mentioned are sufficient to communicate, and there are only a few phrases you’ll need to use with each other, you might be able to work out some kind of physical communication. People who may not be able to speak or hear well during sex often use simple hand signals, and there’s no real standard. Squeezing thighs together to say “faster” might be a starting point. Figure out what you need to be able to tell each other, work out a code for it, and do your best to memorize the system. Good luck.

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Dear How to Do It,

A bit ago a woman wrote to you about her screaming orgasms. I, too, have those types of orgasms, except I only learned how to orgasm about a year ago (I’ve been sexually active for over a decade) and I am not worried about sexual partners thinking I’m faking it.

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My big question is how to stifle the noise so I don’t bother my neighbors/people on the street. When my boyfriend and I first became exclusive, we asked each other if there was something the other did that bothered us. His note was that my screaming disconcerted and embarrassed him. I understood. We both live facing the street on lower floors in a major metropolitan area and my screams are loud and…feral. I did stop screaming but I didn’t come for an entire month until he told me to scream and it all came rushing out in a very intense and long orgasm.

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I hate ball gags as I have a small mouth and an active tongue (per my dentist while trying to clean my back molars). I also tend to orgasm more frequently on top so pillows aren’t ideal. My boyfriend will shove his hand in my mouth when he sees I’ve started, and he says it doesn’t bother him anymore (he prefers me coming rather than not at all) but the fact is other people still exist who like to hang out in my apartment lobby with their children and in front of our apartments, which we face. Are there any other options to look at? Soundproofing doors? Windows? Anything?!

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—The Yeti Next Door

Dear Yeti Next Door,

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Given all of the specifics of your situation—most importantly, the fact that you would like to muffle your expressions—I wholeheartedly support your desire to figure out a solution. Soundproofing your doors and windows seems like the only reasonable option you haven’t yet tried. If you rent, you may need to get permission from your landlord—or figure out a removable/portable option—and they may be able to help connect you to a professional they trust to make any alterations. If you own your apartment, I still suggest reaching out to a specialist. You might try searching in your area for businesses specializing in soundproofing, noise control, or similar phrases.

—Stoya

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