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 husband and I are bookend baby boomers. He, 18 years my senior, suffers from end-stage brain cancer.
We have hired a live-in full-time caregiver, Benjamin, an attractive 41-year-old openly gay home health professional. We’ve known him for many years. In fact, Ben was the primary caregiver to my husband’s father until he passed away last year. He is warm and caring, nurturing to us both, kind and gentle, funny, and extremely personable—a real prince.
Ben has become really part of our nuclear family, and we have both grown exceptionally fond of him. He’s almost the son we never had. Because we are three openly gay men all living together, there is plenty of gay banter and innuendo. My husband and I, but especially me, love living vicariously through Ben a gay lifestyle we left behind long ago. His accounts of both his good and bad Grindr dates leave us all in absolute stitches, providing a lovely respite from the daily routine of caring for a terminally ill spouse.
The problem is, I’ve fallen in love with my husband’s caregiver! I’ve even begun fantasizing that he’s falling in love with me too. My husband and I no longer sleep in the same room. The other evening, I intentionally left my door ajar while masturbating to gay porn in some not-so-healthy fantasy that he would walk by and come into my room. This is very bad, and the potential for disaster is off the charts
How do I put this notion out of my head and move this back to where it needs to be while not losing an amazing intergenerational friendship? Should I share my feelings with him? I don’t want him to feel awkward. He is such a lovely man, and that would just break my heart. Is it ridiculous to think that after my husband passes there could be a possibility for the two of us? This is insane! God forbid Ben should feel so awkward he would want to leave and find another situation.
— Frustrated and Scared
Pulling a provocative cracked-door jack off is extremely Single White Female of you. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character does much the same. It’s all downhill from there. One day you’re masturbating in a quasi-exhibition, the next it’s a puppy flung from the balcony, and then you get a haircut to look like your object of desire, whom you end up holding hostage. This is my exaggerated way of telling you to pump your brakes.
But for real, I think Ben is too essential for you to do anything to threaten the dynamic at this point. You could do some fishing for interest (this time with your dick in your pants) with compliments, more pointed innuendo, or straight-up flirting. But it seems as if Ben is plenty capable of pursuing sexual connections that interest him, and so far you haven’t been in his crosshairs. There’s probably a reason or five for that.
As to whether it’s ridiculous to envision a future after your husband dies … I mean, you yourself describe it as insane. I know that we all cope in different ways, but if I were you, I’d be appreciating the time I have left with my husband, not looking forward to a time that he’s permanently out of the way so you can bang the dude who made his final days as comfortable as possible. Getting this idea out of your head may require practice—perhaps it will be useful to meditate on the notion that you can’t always have what you want. A suggested focal point: Ben has brought so much to your life as it is that you should appreciate what you have.
New Year, Same Problems
For an upcoming special edition of How to Do It, we want to hear about the messy situations plaguing you that you’d like to shed in the new year. A husband’s affair turned reality TV? A brother and sister with the wrong idea? Secret files of alien erotica? Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be edited for publication.)
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve been married for three months, and my husband and I have recently started having better sex. One of the things we currently do is share fantasies. I am bisexual and have been with other women in the past, and this is one of the things I fantasize about. Recently, my husband announced that if and when I have affairs with women, he won’t leave me, be upset, or feel tempted to be nonmonogamous himself. He says he feels like a hypocrite if he is enjoying my fantasies without giving me real-life permission to act them out. I never asked for an arrangement like this and feel like it suggests that he takes my bisexuality as a sign that I am not capable of fulfilling my marital vows like he is. We had, before we were married, specifically agreed not to have an open marriage.
I feel slightly betrayed that sharing this part of myself with him has resulted in this proposition. Also, I am pissed off that it has made me feel self-conscious about sharing fantasies again. I am disappointed and not sure whether to take this deal. I find myself even questioning the marriage. Am I taking this too seriously?
— Sad Fantasist
Maybe your husband takes your bisexuality as a sign that you are not capable of fulfilling your marital vows, but without additional evidence, that’s a pretty big leap and one based on bad faith. He may have also been tacitly acknowledging how difficult strict monogamy is for a large percentage of the population, societal ideals be damned. He might also, commingling his selfish reasons with his perception of your needs, be implicitly encouraging you to hook up with women, as it turns him on. If you feel objectified by his offer, that’s valid, but I don’t think your interpretation is necessarily what’s actually going on. Is there a reason to believe he isn’t being generous here (even if it benefits him) by extending you freedom he won’t even himself request? Do you feel pressured by his offer? Further discussion with your husband may help you sort these feelings out—try to approach by extending him the benefit of the doubt until he proves himself unworthy. There is, indeed, the possibility that you are taking this too seriously.
Dear How to Do It,
Lately, I’ve been getting really horny around the parents of the kid I babysit for. I’ve known them for quite some time now and find both of them attractive, and we have a really good relationship. I want to have a threesome with them so badly and have been having so many fantasies about it. What do I do?
—Horny but Confused
Assuming that you’re above the age of consent, given the prevalence of babysitter fantasies (generally coming from the other direction), it shouldn’t be very hard for you to put the ball in the basket. I feel like you could just follow Cher’s advice in Clueless to make it happen: “Sometimes you have to show a little skin. This reminds boys of being naked, and then they think of sex. And anything you can do to draw attention to your mouth is good.” Friendly/flirty is easy enough to project, and should your target feel similarly, he/she will likely reciprocate. If you’re depending on this gig to feed yourself, though, have trepidation and give the vaguest impressions of interest. For the sake of your livelihood, leaving things open to interpretation is probably the wisest move. And keep in mind that even if this couple 1) adds outsiders to their bedroom, and 2) is interested in enlisting your services, they might still hesitate if there is a decided age difference, just given the optics and how power dynamics are increasingly considered in liberal society. You’re probably better off finding someone your own age to bang, but good luck with all this golden-era porn-scene fodder.
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Dear How to Do It,
I am a 47-year-old man and have always been “ready” when I was younger, but I guess age slowed me down a bit. I do enjoy porn, but not visual; almost all of it is stories, so no actual people are involved. My wife of 12 years gets extremely upset when she finds out about the stories, as she has a lot of anxiety and self-esteem issues, and yells at me that I am cheating. It is nothing against her; I feel very lucky to have an attractive wife six years my junior, but it is more for variety, and I am embarrassed by some of the things that I feel aroused by. Is this cheating? I try to be discreet, but she considers any masturbation by myself to be cheating!
—Trying to Be a Good Husband
So, generally, I think that any sexual activity engaged in but not mutually agreed on as part of the ground rules can potentially qualify as cheating. I’d leave masturbation out of this equation, though, as I think everyone has a right to it and that no one, not even one’s partner, has a right to tell someone else what they can do alone with and to their body. Also, it doesn’t seem as if “no masturbation” is a mutually agreed-upon ground rule. Your reasons for doing so are sound, and I believe she is in the wrong. Masturbation is fundamentally its own activity, irrespective of one’s sex life, though some may also view it as an alternative to cheating. It can provide the novelty people crave, as it does for you. It might be useful to ask your wife why she feels the way she does and to discuss how your view contrasts. But being forbidden from masturbating is certainly something I would never put up with regardless of the reason, and this might be a line-in-the-sand moment for you. Good luck.
More Advice From Slate
I’m a mid-40s hetero man with—well, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it a fetish, more of a hankering. I’m attracted to older ladies. Older as in 60s, 70s, and sometimes beyond. I’m not especially looking for an older girlfriend, more along the lines of fun and friendly banging and general foolin’ around. From what I’ve found, the usual online suspect sites (rhymes with Cinder) aren’t great places for finding willing ladies of a certain age. I am a registered nurse, and I work in a hospital, but that isn’t, ahem, a particularly good or ethical place to play pick up. I happen to live in a rural-ish area that is demographically skewed toward an older population, and I know for a fact that people tend to be horny creatures regardless of age. Any suggestions on how I can go about hooking up with the Golden Girl (or Girls) of my dreams?