This column is part of Advice Week, Slate’s celebration of all things advice.
Sometimes, all you need is a different perspective. So this week, our columnists have swapped fields of expertise. In this edition, Athena Valentine, a Pay Dirt columnist, handles your sex questions.
Dear How to Do It,
I am married and I have a close friend that is single. The other night, my husband, my friend, and I were drinking at my house. I had enough to drink and I told my friend I was sleepy. She told me to go to sleep. She did not have to tell me twice, I got up and went to bed and left her with my husband.
Later, I woke up and lay in bed. I could hear noises, like moaning and heavy breathing on the other side of the wall. I just listened and did not move. I realized I was turned on by this. It stopped, and my husband walked into our room to check on me. He goes out again and I can hear the noises again. Before this, my sexual drive for my husband was out. But now every time we get together I’m aroused again. What he and my friend did was wrong and I am not sure how many times they have done this with me knocked out in the other room. But it has also made a difference in our sex life. I have not confronted him or my friend, who by the way I work with. I have thought about just calling him out and not saying anything to my friend because this would impact our relationship at work.
—Hot and Not Bothered
Dear Hot and Not Bothered,
Kudos to you for being honest about what turns you on sexually. It sounds like you’d like to indulge more in the cuckquean lifestyle, which involves deriving sexual pleasure by watching (or hearing) your partner have sex with others. It can be a form of voyeurism and it’s a pretty common sexual fantasy. This practice can include encouraging your partner to pursue it actively, or it can be just one that you participate in alone.
You can pursue voyeurism responsibly by watching porn and role-playing, but it crosses the line when someone has not consented to be involved. While it’s sexy to hear your husband doing someone else, how would the other woman feel if she didn’t know someone was listening in for their own sexual enjoyment?
Before confronting your husband, think about what you’d like to address. Is it the fact that he cheated and slept with your friend? Do you want an explanation? Or is it that you know and would like him to continue this behavior (with consent from all parties) but with more structure and rules, for example, a rule stating he can’t sleep with your co-workers? Know what resolution you’re looking for—setting some boundaries will make it less likely he’ll run to your friend, which can prevent the very awkwardness you’re trying to avoid.
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 was set up with “Olga” several years ago. We dated for several months, I was very attracted to her both sexually and intellectually, and she professed the same. At the time, she was going through a divorce, I was busy with work and kids in school. We drifted. She started dating a friend of mine, “Dean,” they were secretive about it, but I was cool and happy for them both. Life was good.
Then a couple of years ago, I ran into Olga at a show and sparks flew. We’ve been very flirty since then, with no action. She says she and Dean are just friends, no longer dating. Dean tells people otherwise. I’m ready and eager to restart with Olga. I am certain she is too, but I don’t want to mess things up with my buddy Dean. Portland isn’t big enough for the three of us. What should I do?
—Very Confused Guy
This is a loaded question with so many things to consider, but since I’m blunt, you’ll be getting the Cliffs Notes version: You and Olga both need to revisit your dating pool outside of your friends.
To an outsider looking in, the whole situation looks messy. You were together, and things were awesome. Then she couldn’t handle a relationship during her divorce (which is very fair) but then proceeded to take Dean out. She and Dean felt guilty for dating hence the secrecy, but you were happy for them. Now that she’s moved on from him, she’s ready to tag him out and put you in.
If you guys had the spark you say you did, I wonder if she would have moved on and pursued something with Dean instead of just waiting to pursue your chemistry when her divorce no longer took up most of her energy. It’s also weird that both she and Dean have a different perspective of what’s going on. I’d decide if you value your friendship with Dean more than a relationship with Olga. After you find your answer, you’ll know what to do.
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Dear How to Do It,
I was 17 when I had my first sexual experience. It didn’t impress me, and I waited a couple of years before I tried again, this time with a boyfriend I stayed with for a couple of years. After that, I had very few one-night stands. Eventually, I got married, had children, divorced, and so on. I married my third husband about 10 years ago. We’re in our early 60s now—and every couple of months or so, he’ll bring up my prior “experience.” At one point, he thought I’d gone wild and slept with over 100 men! The shock on my face convinced him that I had never done anything like that. I’ve asked, and told, him not to bring it up. It upsets me that he’d even be concerned about it, but what difference do a few brief one-nighters 40 years ago matter?
—Definitely Not That Experienced
Dear Not That Experienced,
It sounds like your husband imagines you were a regular on a 1980s version of Girls Gone Wild. Bringing up your “experience” is him saying, “I’m insecure because you have had other sexual partners, and I’m worried I don’t satisfy you.” Is he bringing it up in the best way? No. It’s a pretty low move to try to make your partner feel bad because you’re feeling equally bad about yourself. It’s normal to ask for reassurance from your partner, but there is a right and wrong way to do it. His insecurities are something he needs to work on himself instead of projecting them onto you.
Next time he tries to bring the subject up, take a deep breath and walk away to cool down. Then come back and express to him why he keeps bringing this subject up after you’ve already shared that it bothers you. That might give you both a chance to have a conversation about the issue and move on. But either way, it’s a boundary, and for a boundary to stick, there must be a consequence that follows. So, think of what that might look like for you and be ready to act on it if it’s crossed by him in the future.
Dear How to Do it,
I am a young, queer, woman who has been blessed with many good friends here in college. However, I have not had any success in the dating realm, either here or before. Previously, I had always assumed my first time would be in the context of a relationship, as I am a physically and emotionally sensitive person, and figured that it would be “safer” to do it that way. But I’m also open to doing it for the first time with a trusted friend. Recently, one of my friends mentioned that despite identifying as asexual, they would like to experience sex, but don’t want to enter a committed relationship or have a lot of casual partners. The thought occurred to me to propose that the two of us have sex, as it would meet their stated requirements, and I both trust them and find them attractive. However, I don’t want to upset them or cause awkwardness between us or among our friends. Do I ask? Or do I leave it alone?
As someone who had sex with a friend, I’d advise against it. I wasn’t ready for the dynamic that unfolded between us, which ultimately led to a relationship. While I learned a lot, after dating for several years, I had to deal with a personal shit show of what felt like my own making. Not only did we have mutual friends, but we also worked with a lot of the same people. It didn’t help that he made discussing our breakup a bullet point during his team meeting. Geesh.
Even if you and your friend have an initial agreement to stick to sex, it could still turn into awkward territory if one of you catches feelings and the other one bows out. I’d think about how much you are willing to risk the end of your friendship for a potential friends-with-benefits situation.
If you decide to move forward, you could joke about it around them and watch for their reaction. If they’re shocked or surprised, don’t push it. Or, and I say this with love because you share you are an emotionally sensitive person, you could take some time to find someone you click with that’s not already a friend. Good luck in whichever way you decide to go.
More Advice From Slate
About six months ago, my husband told me he wanted to officially open our marriage. We’d talked about nonmonogamy before, but mostly just involving group play. We’d even tried casually to find a third, but nothing materialized. Now, he said, he was acknowledging that he is fundamentally not a monogamous person, and that in addition to group play, he wanted to explore dating and sex with other people.