How to Do It

My Husband Is Suddenly Posing a “Huge” Problem in Bed

Some of the best How to Do It letters of all time.

Woman holding her hands together smiling.
Photo illustration/animation by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. In this special Advice Week edition, we’ve gathered some of our very favorite letters from the past. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I have been married for more than 25 years and have had what I consider a great marriage overall. Couple of kids, couple of cats, house, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary. And that (nothing out of the ordinary) largely describes our sex life too. It’s been kind and loving, but not particularly kinky, or even outside of oral and vaginal sex.

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My husband also is not particularly well-endowed. He’s not unusually small either, but of the few sex partners I’ve had over my life, he’s on the smaller end. There’s really only a few positions that “work” for us. And just so it’s clear, that doesn’t bother me at all. But it certainly bothers him—to the point where he bought a large strap-on dildo that’s hollow on one end so that he could wear it. It was a little surprising to me when he told me about it and then showed it to me. And it was BIG, so I was also not sure that was going to be something I would like either. But I agreed to try it. And the first time in particular, I did not like it. Even with lube (which made it pretty cold, too), it was pretty painful to the point of having to ask him to stop. That pretty much stopped that whole session too.

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A little while later, he asked to try again, and said he’d read up on how to use it better. So we tried again, and it still hurt, but he went really slowly, and I have to admit it wasn’t as bad. Fast forward a few more times, each of which was better, and one of the times most recently, it was really good to the point where I actually had a pretty big orgasm from just penetration. That was the first time that had ever happened to me. Now he always asks me if I want to use it. He’s gotten much better and loves “having a big cock,” and it feels really good. He genuinely seems to like that I enjoy it. It has allowed us to try some different positions.

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So here’s my concern. I’m a little worried that I’m actually enjoying it TOO much. I haven’t been the one yet to ask for it, and I truly don’t always want it. But whenever he brings it up now, I have been saying “no” less and less frequently, and I secretly get more excited about it coming out. And when I’m done coming and he gets his turn, I’m finding that I’m a little desensitized to his penis. It definitely seems temporary, because it’s always back to “normal” the subsequent times we have sex, but right after he’s used it, I get less of a sensation of him in me. I’m not normally an addictive personality, but I’m a little worried about wanting this more and more. Should I try and stop using it? It doesn’t seem to bother my husband. Is it OK if I want to have it be a regular thing?

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—Accidental Size Queen

Dear ASQ,

You are OK. It is OK to use your husband’s large strap-on regularly. It’s wonderful that the two of you have found a new way of experiencing each other’s bodies, and something that gives you such pleasure.

You absolutely can become accustomed to a certain kind of sensation, and we humans are prone to diminishing returns when it comes to novelty. Your husband’s factory-installed and add-on phalluses provide a chance for size variety. I think it’s wise to keep his actual penis in the rotation, along with digital penetration, oral sex, or whatever else pleases the two of you.
As for the sensitivity of your vaginal canal, depending on how much energy your husband has after ejaculation, you might focus on his pleasure first and yours second. And you should continue to have sexual encounters without the dildo entirely, to mix things up. You also might do Kegel exercises. These generally help with pelvic floor tone, along with other physical benefits. They also tend to help people get a more nuanced awareness of their genitals, which might help you feel your husband’s penis more acutely.—Stoya

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From: “My Husband Is Suddenly Very “Well Endowed”—and That’s Presented a Problem” (Sept. 14, 2021)

Dear How to Do It,

I don’t know exactly how to come to grips with something that happened last night, and I would appreciate any insight you could offer. I struggle with depression at times, and as much as I try to be aware of how I am talking or acting, sometimes I get bitchy or overanxious about things. I guess what I am saying is that I don’t think I am the easiest person to live with.

I have been with my boyfriend for about five years—he’s 12 years younger than me, but no one thinks I am as old as I am—and we are exact polar opposites of each other. I’m emotional and feeling; he’s not really emotional or feeling in the way I am, although I know he does love me and care about me. Since we became involved, I have gained 20 pounds, and once as I was undressing in front of him, a look of disgust flashed across his face. I tried to pretend I didn’t notice, but I cannot describe how horrible I felt.

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So often, you tell people to communicate in these columns. Last year, we were having sex about once a month, and I felt very distant from him, although he was going through a stressful time. I asked him what I could do so that we were intimate more often and he said, “Nothing, we’re just really busy” (we were, to be fair). After that, he seemed to be more conscious about sex, and we were having sex an average of once a week. I’ve been working very hard on myself and my attitude, which can be shitty when I am stressed out, and I think that’s why we’ve been able to have sex more.

Now, for the last month, things cooled down. Last night, I told him that I’d really like to work through this. I asked him if this had been a problem in past relationships. He said no. I asked him to please tell me why we didn’t have sex more so I could fix it, and I could tell he wanted to say something, but he wasn’t going to. I asked, “Is it because sometimes I’m bitchy and I’ve gained weight?” And he responded, “a little of both.” I responded, “OK, thank you for telling me.”

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I’m not mad, but I am devastated. I know he loves me, but I am really having a hard time with how to handle this. I’ve been working out for the past six months and lost a few pounds, definitely some inches, and gained lots of muscle, but I can’t get it out of my head that I’m too disgusting to be intimate with. How do I get OK with this and what more can I do to improve things?

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—Hard Truth

Dear Hard Truth,

I’ll start with the good news: You have a partner who is honest with you. Honesty is sometimes brutal, which is why you’re hurt. In this case, he only confirmed a couple things you suspected yourself, but it still stings. At least you aren’t living in torturous limbo, knowing that something is up with him but not being told what. That’s a common scenario, as partners withhold information for the sake of politeness. Kindness, in those instances, can be its own form of cruelty.

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That said, you’d expect a little bit more leeway from a committed long-term partner. Weight gain is a touchy subject, and even when true, it’s shitty to accept that it could affect attraction in one’s relationship. Twenty pounds, though, is not a distorting amount of weight to put on most body types. It’s just some thickness. That he’d have such a visceral reaction to a fairly negligible amount of weight gain suggests he is not very realistic about the normal ways bodies can change. I hope that you’re losing weight for yourself, not him—attempting to please someone with such stringent restrictions is almost always a losing game.

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As far as your self-professed bitchiness is concerned, you can certainly attempt to work on that as well. Meditation and working out are great stress relievers. If you are the kind of person who can’t quite control the harsh things that come flying out of your mouth, consciously take a few beats before saying anything when you’re feeling anxious and heated. Give yourself time to craft your communication. You need not be at the mercy of your own moods.

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But you needn’t be at his mercy either. We all have things we could improve about ourselves—you have an advantage for actually attempting to do so. Stick with it. While I do think the exchange you had that prompted this letter, painful as it was, was refreshingly frank, it would be bad for your relationship to adopt a dynamic in which you’re trying to perfect yourself just for your boyfriend’s sake while he does nothing, as his perfection is assumed. That’s just introducing a disparity in power. The more of a collaborative process you can make this—by working out together, by devising strategies for peaceful communication unencumbered by anxiety—the better. His attempting to improve himself as well would be a great sign of engagement. You’re not the bad guy.—Rich

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From: “I Asked My Boyfriend to Be Honest About Our Sex Life. I’m Devastated by His Response.” (April 6, 2020)

Dear How to Do It,

I am a man married to a woman. We have been together for more than a decade and have children together. We get along well and we care for each other. I was raised in a very strict religious household where I internalized a lot of shame regarding my body and sex. I was in my 20s and very inexperienced when I met my now-wife, and she was honestly my first and only real relationship. I was beginning to think I would never have a relationship, so I settled for what I could get after years of no success.

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I have done a lot of work on myself both physically and mentally in the interim and I am unrecognizable from the person I was when we met. I had no self-confidence, addiction issues, was overweight, and dressed like a slob. In retrospect, of course I had no dates; I was undateable. Today, I am sober, and I am told often how conventionally attractive I am thanks to my newfound passion for fitness, clean eating, and fashion paired with tons of self-confidence. My wife has done some work on herself too—mentally she is in a much better place. However, when it comes to taking care of her body, she started off obese and is even heavier than when we met now. She will try gimmick weight-loss things here and there but resists doing what actually works, eating a caloric deficit and working out. Spending several hours a day smoking weed is her priority. I realize it is who she was when I met her, so while I wish she would discover a love for fitness, I know it’s futile to try to change another person. But this doesn’t change the fact that my attraction to her is close to nonexistent. We are very well off financially, she doesn’t work, and I spend my time pursuing hobbies and business interests that align with my passions.

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After I peeled away the layers of my sexual shame, I discovered I have an exhibitionist kink and would never enter a monogamous relationship were I to do it over again. Additionally, I live in a major hub of the adult entertainment business, and as an entrepreneur, I could easily make a living in the industry on my own terms. I have befriended many people who work in various aspects of the sex industry and I find it’s with them I can truly be my authentic self. I have even been offered roles on film and would have done it just for the experience if I wasn’t married to a partner who has fiercely held beliefs about monogamy. If I could describe my perfect life, I would make adult films on my terms while having a primary relationship as well where we were both free to explore together and independently. I feel like it’s a cruel trick fate is playing on me. When I was single, I was unfuckable. Now that I am married, I am hit on constantly, and could literally be having sex with porn stars. I had previously brought up the idea of an open marriage and my wife blew up, nearly divorced me just for suggesting the idea. She has expressed desire for her to have sex with other women while maintaining our relationship, though, which feels unfair to me.

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This brings me to my question: How do you tell your spouse that you want to do porn without getting divorced? I am racking my brain to figure out a solution that doesn’t involve either blowing up my family and hurting the ones I love or repressing my true self and desires.

—Glow Up

Dear Glow Up,

Congratulations on working on yourself. Your newfound confidence sounds deeply enjoyable, and you seem pretty proud.

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I want to do a little bit of expectation management on this perfect life you mention. I spent about 10 years working in mainstream (heterotypical, male gaze–oriented) pornography. There were absolutely fantastic adventures involving seas of co-worker flesh, and I’ve made some wonderful friends. It’s also a job, and one without union protections for workers. I have had sex in July in the desert in full sun at midday. I have had sex for eight hours on a table because the camera and lights were having trouble. And I’ve been in scenes where one of the performers—occasionally myself—is physically struggling that day. As much fun as the sex can be, porn performers are there to give a compelling show for the camera, and sometimes that’s a major effort. Other kinds of sex work have a similar focus on the other—professional domination is about the client, camshows are about the customer’s satisfaction, and escorting and sugar-dating are built around the patron’s pleasure. You might not find as much sexual self-expression on set as you hope, and if you choose to make your work deeply personal, the market may not be there. Neither of us can say whether you’d have a long, fulfilling career in adult films or a short and lackluster experience. Taking that path is a risk. A gamble. And, just like your marriage to your wife, that is your choice to make.

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When you say you feel this is a cruel trick fate is playing on you, I wonder where your sense of agency is. Strict interpretations of religions tend to encourage adherents to believe in preordained outcomes. Whether your background was Christian or not, you might find some solace in the ex-evangelical movement in its similar themes of body shame and sexual repression. While you were reacting to your upbringing and dating prospects at the time, you did choose to get serious with the first person you had a real relationship with, and to get married to her. Now you’ve got more choices, with a lot of risk involved—torpedoing your home life stability, but also the risk of mechanical injury, like penile fracture and sexually transmittable infections—compounded by the fact that once sexually explicit images of a person are on the internet, it’s likely they’ll continue to surface and people who are known to have been sex workers often face issues with banking, housing, and future employment. You say you’re very well off financially, so maybe that last part won’t affect you, but your financial situation might change.

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Find a sex-positive therapist you respect, and spend a few months digging in to what you think you’ll get out of a new life of “freedom” and a career in adult entertainment, why you want this, and what you’re risking losing. Because there isn’t a guaranteed way to tell your spouse that you want to perform in porn without getting divorced.—Stoya

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From: “I’ve Become Absurdly Hot Since I Got Married. My Wife Hasn’t. (Sept. 9, 2021)

Dear How to Do It,

I am in my mid-30s and happily married to my husband for five years. We have a toddler and a fantastic sex life—better even than pre-parenthood. I had an intense crush on my husband for a long time before we hooked up, and he still gives me butterflies on a regular basis. We are very open with sharing our desires and fantasies, and we communicate really well about our sex life. This has led to us trying things for the first time that were unspoken desires in past relationships, and just generally having a lot of fun together in bed.

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One of the things we’ve discussed semi-seriously is my husband watching while I have sex with another man. He says this would be a huge turn-on, and I am certainly turned on by the prospect. We’ve also talked about our fears and reservations about actually following through with such an arrangement, so for now this fantasy is fulfilled by simply talking about it (what would turn us on, what I would do, what I’d want the guy to do to me, etc.). Where I’m struggling especially with this idea is that as much as I am genuinely turned on by my husband, I still find myself developing crushes/admiring other men. The biggest turn on for me in this whole fantasy is thinking about the rush of sleeping with someone new for the first time—basically the excitement that comes with the whole gamut of experiencing new sensations with someone unfamiliar to you. While my husband views this as perhaps a one-time thing, it has highlighted to me that I am regularly turned on by the thought of sleeping with someone else. My question is—why do I still develop crushes and find myself pretty strongly attracted to other men when my husband already ticks all of the boxes? Is this craving for novelty a sign that things aren’t as perfect as I think they are, or is this normal? If so, how do I remain happy in a monogamous marriage (I’m not open to opening up our marriage) when I crave this novelty?

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—Wandering Eye

Dear Wandering Eye,

I don’t know “normal,” never met her, never even sat next to her on the subway. What I do know is that a lot of people crush on others outside their completely healthy relationship. Why wouldn’t they? Strangers can provide one thing your partner cannot: newness. With that comes a thrill. Thrills are fun. People have cited animal studies to argue for the biological imperative of promiscuity (even in females of the species), but I think common sense does plenty of the heavy lifting in explaining the draw of the other, no red flour beetle data needed.

Could you be inherently nonmonogamous? Maybe! There are plenty of people among us who develop not mere crushes but intense love for others outside of their primary relationships. The nice thing about life is also the daunting thing about life: There’s no blueprint. You feel what you feel, and if it’s not affecting your sex life with you partner—which I’m assuming it isn’t, given your report that it’s fantastic—this isn’t anything to worry about or a reflection of a deeper issue. You’re a human, after all.

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The fantasizing about having him watch you have sex with another guy seems a bit fraught—you have both anxiety about doing it and also about continuing it. Just make sure you’re taking this slowly and keeping it from getting out of hand. Keep talking about this stuff. If you want to kick it up a notch, go out together and flirt with other people. Nothing serious, no promises, just a little light social frottage to get the juices flowing. You didn’t ask, but it sounds to me like you’re on the path to making your fantasy a reality. Keep up the communication, keep your eyes on your objective, have fun, and when the fun stops, let that be your signal to stop as well.—Rich

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From: “My Husband Wants to Watch Me Have Sex With Another Man(June 24, 2019)

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a straight woman in her mid-30s who recently reentered the dating scene after leaving a 12-year marriage that I (obviously) entered into quite young. I took some time off from sex and dating after my divorce before deciding I wanted to try to get back into the swing of things and just have some fun. My question has to do with the fact that at some point during the long period while I was “off the market,” I seem to have missed the thing where butt play and anal have become an expected part of heterosexual hookups.

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With three separate guys—none of whom I met on apps, where I now understand some of this stuff gets negotiated in advance—one flipped me over to eat and finger my ass and busted out a plug, at which point I shut that down. One kept asking whether I wanted anal and sulked and finished quickly when I said no. And the third “accidentally” rammed his dick ALL the way up my ass—he did apologize, but I’ve never had that happen before, and have my doubts about how “accidental” it was.

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Honestly, I kind of like being rimmed, but it’s not something I’m comfortable with if I don’t know my partner well. And while I can tolerate anal penetration for a time, I’ve never liked it—the most I’ve ever gotten out of it sexually is finding my partner’s excitement and pleasure hot. I hate the amount of prep it takes for me to feel clean, and at best, if it’s not actively painful, it’s just … really uncomfortable. For some reason anal also tends to leave me feeling vaguely extra objectified or bad about myself. I’m not sure why. Maybe just the vibe that my mouth and pussy aren’t “good enough.”

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I’m definitely not trying to shame anybody for what they’re into in bed. And I recognize that I might just have had a consecutive string of bad luck on this front. But I admit to a high degree of, I guess, culture shock here—and it’s something my few single girlfriends have encountered as well, although not as consistently as I have. I’m literally three for three. So I guess my questions are: How and when did straight dudes start expecting this during an initial, casual encounter, if in fact they do? By being clear that I want to keep things casual, am I somehow signaling that I’m up for everything? And at what point can I address it tactfully going forward—before we even meet up? When it’s clear that we’re going to fuck? If and when a dude makes a move in that general direction while things are already underway?

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—Butt Out

Dear BO,

Dating is a gantlet. Dating people with no connection to your social group is even more so. I think you’ve had a run of bad luck, and heterosexual men are generally more likely to make assumptions in bed rather than have a conversation. Not to mention the second guy’s sulking, which is real and really off-putting. As for the third guy, I share your doubt about the “accidental” nature of ramming an entire penis all the way up someone’s ass. And if it wasn’t actually accidental, it would be reasonable to deem it sexual assault.

You’ll have to sort out what your style is, and may want to use different tactics in different situations. With some men—the ones who seem particularly exuberant or impulsive—I’ll have a clear conversation during the first meeting about how I need them to ask first for any new specific act. This does not always work. One guy said he came from the kink scene, claimed that he absolutely understood and would adhere to my boundaries, and then slapped me out of nowhere early into the second date. I also tend to broach the subject of sexuality in the abstract early on—easy when you’re a semi-retired adult performer and a working sex-advice columnist—to see how well they can communicate. If a person can’t have a direct conversation about sex, it’s unlikely I’ll be having sex with them. This is also a great time to segue into discussion of likes and dislikes, and evaluate how they respond—are they pushy? Disinterested? Engaged? Sulky? Sharing their own tastes and boundaries? These are useful points of data. Some are green flags; others are red.

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I have two heterosexual male partners—one fairly frequent, the other a comet—who like to lick and finger my ass. Sometimes it isn’t a good day for that, and I’ll bluntly say “nope!” at medium volume when they start to edge that way. Crucially, the “no” has to be loud enough for the other person to hear. Since “oh” and “no” can sound similar, I go with the full “nope.” They listen, and that’s why they’re invited back over and over again. My point here is that building a stable of sexual partners is a process, involving trial and some amount of error—which you’ve had a run of—but at some point you’ll find what you’re looking for. Along the way, remember you can absolutely take breaks. If your string of anal-obsessed hookups continues, it’s OK to stop dating for a bit. Because, really, it can be a gantlet.—Stoya

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From: “I’m Single for the First Time in Years. When Did Men Decide on This New “Expected” Part of Sex?” (July 28, 2021)

Dear How to Do It,

I saw my girlfriend of six months being orally pleasured by her neutered male dog. She doesn’t know I saw her. I don’t know what to make of this. We both come from fairly conservative backgrounds and have limited sexual experience. I can’t imagine discussing this with her. But I can’t get the image out of my head. I really like this woman, and one side of me wants to say it’s no big deal, just another way to masturbate. But this is bestiality, right? Isn’t it technically illegal, or at least immoral? I keep wondering what she’s thinking while we have sex, and my appetite for oral is nil now. This is sad because we had been communicating well about sex (a first for me). I can’t talk about it with friends like I usually world. So I ask you, how weird is this? What would you do?

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—Puppy Love

Dear Puppy Love,

What you describe, doggone it, is bestiality. Any sexual activity with an animal that is invited or facilitated by a human is bestiality. (Rover taking it upon himself to hump your leg doesn’t quite qualify.) It is illegal in most states, though somewhat counterintuitively, possession of pornography that features bestiality is legal in nearly every state. Look but don’t touch, says the law. The prevailing understanding is that because animals, which are sentient beings, cannot consent to sex, having it with them is unethical. As far as I can tell, studies have not been performed on the traumatic effects of bestiality on animals (so, sex researchers who may be reading, there’s a topic for you to pursue), but it’s generally a good rule of thumb to assume the worst and not have sex with animals.

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What you describe, doggone it, is bestiality.
I understand your desire to write this off, and I think “Bestiality: Just Another Way to Masturbate” would be a catchy, if untrue, slogan for an animal lovers’ lobby. While I suppose it is conceivable that one could enjoy the feeling of a dog’s tongue without being attracted to the dog it is attached to, per se, it’s not like your girlfriend was on a desert island with no vibrator and a Labrador. Getting eaten out by a dog is a choice. (I’d also be at least a little insulted that she opted for a dog’s tongue instead of mine if I were you.) In fact, if she were sexually attracted to the dog, the troubling thing would be less her urge than the execution of it. It’s one thing to have fantasies, and it’s quite another thing to enact them. Zoophilia is not an uncommon fetish, though I wouldn’t say it’s widely practiced. (You can decide whether that fits your definition of “weird.”)

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Her behavior is well within the reasonable boundaries of deal-breakers. Is this someone you want as a sex partner? A life partner? Wanna share your girlfriend with a dog? That seems, uh, rough. You’re only six months into things. Be happy that you discovered this now, while it’s still early.—Rich

From: “I Caught My Girlfriend Getting Pleasured by Her Dog (Nov. 29, 2019)

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 41-year-old man who met my partner (35-year-old woman) just two months before the pandemic, and we immediately connected on all levels from the start. Everything from activities to life goals to our sex life just seemed to click in spectacular fashion. I had been a couple years out of a divorce, and she had been a few years out of an abusive, all-consuming relationship, and we were both ready for something steady again. So we resolved to make it exclusive mere days before everything shut down. It felt serendipitous, and also weirdly at odds with the outside world: As everything was crumbling, we were discovering new ways to be excited about each other every day. It felt lucky to find joy in the middle of so much sadness. Our communication remained open and honest throughout: We were comfortable talking about everything from why our past relationships dissolved to what we wanted in bed to handling stress or needs for space.

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Our sex life throughout was vigorous by my standards—several times a week, with both parties usually orgasming, sometimes multiple times per session. It was maybe a little vanilla by some folks’ standards, but that was mostly because we were too eager to rip each other’s clothes off to mess with extra layers. We leaned into the animal desire we had for each other, joking sometimes together that “our love language was fucking.” We moved in together midway through the pandemic and started talking about a future, maybe getting hitched, kids, the works.

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Of course, in a story like this, there’s always a “but,” so here’s mine: She maintains relationships with many of her exes, including the ones who were abusive. One of them is a rich narcissist who still sends her expensive gifts; she can’t seem to cut him out, even though he let her take the fall for a mutual domestic altercation that sent her (wrongfully) to jail. Another ex-turned-friend pressured her for sex on a vacation they went on together as friends shortly after we got together, but before we became exclusive; I supported her from afar in fending him off with late-night texts encouraging her to stand her ground.

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She told me she cut that ex off, but after we became exclusive, she left her phone at home and open and I noticed that she hadn’t in fact cut him off, and that this ex was also encouraging her to get rid of me and get back with him (though she professed no interest at all to me). It’s important to note that I didn’t root around for these texts—I was in the process of returning the phone to her and they were staring me in the face. We had an argument about it, and eventually she confided in me that she has issues with attention from men when she’s in a relationship, and that she has very few girlfriends. She feels she needs to keep these exes around because they’re the only friends she has. Though she’s grown close to my friends and family, in some way they “don’t count” because if I leave her, they will cease to be her friends, or something. It’s been an on-and-off issue, and the only real point of friction in our relationship. But things have gone so well otherwise that I’ve been content to let it fade into the background, even though I know these former-lover friends are bouncing around in her phone, if not in real life, given the pandemic.

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Fast forward to now: For the last few weeks, something had felt off between us. So following our usual convention of open conversation, I tried on several occasions to figure out what was wrong, to no avail. She blamed it on flare-ups with anxiety and depression, which she struggles with and I do my best to support her with. I tried to mention that it felt like I was more into her than she was into me, but she pooh-poohed that notion.

With not much to go on and her not wanting to level, this time I did the no-no and snooped when she left her phone open. I don’t feel good about violating that boundary, and I know what your feelings are on this, but I felt like there was enough smoke that there must be fire, and sure enough I found a conversation with yet another ex where she said exactly “he’s definitely more into me than I am into him” and how she’s not as attracted to me as her exes. She mentioned that this relationship is “healthy” and “stable,” but without the thrill of attraction she’s used to. She expressed a desire to want settle down with me, because she was trying to be honest about how much time she had left, but remained “freaked out” about committing to a relationship when she wasn’t really into the sexual part of it.

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I know: I did it to myself. But that doesn’t make it any less devastating, or contrary to what I believed we both were sharing and building on. I suppose it’s possible she wasn’t telling him the whole truth—but then I feel the only explanation is that she was lying or embellishing to communicate sexual availability to this ex.

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I am now utterly lost. I had planned on building a future with this incredible woman, but a huge part of that was what I believed was a shared passion that could endure the test of time. It’s how I feel inside. I don’t know if I should apologize for snooping but confront her to get at the truth of these feelings, blindside her by just breaking up, or hope that what I feel between us is the truth and just let this sink below the waves so I can focus on what we have in the physical world. Please help.

—Lost

Dear Lost,

I’m not going to ride you about looking at your girlfriend’s phone the second time. You shouldn’t have, you know you shouldn’t have, and you’re not defending yourself for doing it. You’re also doing a lot of justification of her behavior.

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I think the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic placed a lot of pressure on new—and existing—relationships. The stress, the restrictions on who we could share air with, and the fear and trauma all added up to us being not quite ourselves. Now that things are opening back up, we’re either reverting to form or coming out the other side different than we were when this started. I’m not sure which is happening for your girlfriend, but she certainly isn’t contributing to a healthy relationship.

If you aren’t ready to give up, by all means, go ahead and let this sink below the waves. At the end of the day, it’s your choice whether to stay or go. The thing about choppy waters, though, is that objects we thought lost to the depths have a way of resurfacing later. You’ve tried to have conversations about your feelings and insecurity within the relationship, and they haven’t been satisfactory. It seems unlikely that her behavior will change, but your feelings are your feelings.

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If you decide you want to end this, you can break it off with her gently—“this isn’t working out.” But she’s probably going to be surprised, upset, and possibly hurt. She may be using you for stability and comfort while she gets her desires for attention, expensive gifts, and whatever else she gets out of these interactions met. She may genuinely love you and be struggling with sex that isn’t what she’s used to—toxic relationships tend to make for great sexual energy.

You would do well to articulate what you want out of a relationship somewhere—maybe to a trusted friend, maybe on paper—and compare it with your current situation to help you decide. Good luck, and let us know how it goes.—Stoya

From: “I Sensed Something Wrong, so I Read My Girlfriend’s Messages. It’s Much Worse Than I Thought.” (July 14, 2021)

Dear How to Do It,

I am a mid-30s straight-ish woman. I once dated a lot, but I have not had sex with anyone since 2019 because I am too self-conscious about my new reality: I started losing my hair a few years ago. Aggressively. I have seen many, many specialists and tried many, many treatments—nothing has been effective. This is just something I will have to learn to live with. As it has progressively thinned, I have used different hairstyles to hide my scalp. At this point, I have so little hair that all I wear is a slicked-back ponytail, or I am always in a hat. I feel my face is too masculine for me to be confident with a shaved head. I have tried wigs and think they look like a weird helmet on me, but I know I will need one eventually.

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I want to date again. I used to love sex and dating when I felt attractive and feminine, but I no longer recognize myself in the mirror. So much of my femininity was wrapped up in my hair that I feel less like a woman now and more like an “it.” So much so that I feel surprised and confused when men show interest in me. I avoid them because I know they’re interested in women, and I am afraid of being “discovered” as a fraud. I am seeing a sex therapist about my identity issue and improving my self-esteem. I am working hard to develop the confidence to date again through books and journaling.

I started seeing one man recently after getting vaccinated. For two months, we went out on fun dates, talked a lot, and really connected. Physically, we only made out a few times. I was at his house one day and he casually asked me why I never wear my hair down. It took a lot of guts, but I told him. He was really nice about it—said he didn’t care, would shave his head right then—and asked to see. I said no, we moved on, and the rest of the day was fine. Then he was weird to communicate with for the next couple days. Finally, he called and ended things for a supposedly different reason that he had never brought up before. It is very hard for me to not link the rejection with my revelation. I was devastated.

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I love physical intimacy and fantasize all the time. All that is holding me back is my attitude toward my hair. My question for you is—how do I let partners know about my secret? I know my ponytail will fall out during the kind of sex I enjoy, and I know I will instantly feel like Gollum. I don’t see how I could be free and playful and enjoy myself when all I think about is my hair, hiding it, and what my partner thinks (my assumptions jump to the worst things I think about myself). To avoid that, I know I need to discuss this with a partner ahead of time. The only way to enjoy sex again will be if I don’t have to worry about surprising them and instead know that it is not an issue for them. When do I tell future potential partners as to A) not wait too long that I’m emotionally invested in someone who I am not compatible with (I am aware and OK with the reality that most straight men will not be attracted to this situation), and B) not be too quick that I have to be vulnerable and reveal this to men before I know what kind of person they are (for fear of them reacting very negatively). Is there any way I can present this information in a way that will make the rejection hurt less if it is something they’re not into? And then for eventually when/if I start wearing wigs, how do you have sex with a wig on?

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—Bored and Bald

Dear BB,

Cam performer and ostomate Go Ask Alex did an explainer video a few months ago (adults only, paywall) on disclosing disability for the magazine I co-founded. The gist of what she argued is that the way you raise your difference with a new partner frequently affects how the other person responds. In other words, the more casual and matter-of-fact you can be, the more likely it is that the person you’re seeing will be chill or treat this like a nonissue. That said, negative reactions do happen, and they can be difficult to predict. You can spend some time now thinking through how you can best extricate yourself in the event a reaction becomes too stressful.

When to disclose anything is a balance, like you describe. I’d caution you against spending too much energy trying to prevent negative reactions—they’re a real possibility, and someone can be very accepting of most things yet still harshly judgmental of a few. I think the main factor is your comfort: You say it took a lot of guts for you to explain why you never wear your hair down, and that’s relevant. How much time spent getting to know someone do you need before you feel comfortable sharing this aspect of yourself that you’re sensitive about? That’s likely to shift as you practice discussing your hair, and also to vary depending on the specific person. (You can do that practice in the mirror or with your therapist as well to help yourself feel more natural when the time comes.) You say you know that you’re going to have to accept your hair loss, and that will mean accepting that sexual partners will know about it, too.

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As for having sex with wigs on, you can set yourself up for success by going for a shorter style so there’s less chance of the ends getting stuck under a body part and the wig getting ripped off. You can also use wig tape to prevent slipping around. Solid construction helps, too. With wigs, you do get what you pay for, and you might achieve a less helmet-y look with the help of a hair stylist—many are happy to cut and style your wig for you.

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Take it slow. There’s no rush. But do keep working on this, because you make it very clear you don’t want to forgo the physical intimacy you love.—Stoya

From: “I Have a Secret—and I’m Terrified to Tell the Men I Date the Truth (May 20, 2021)

Dear How to Do It,

My husband has a micropenis. He was very shy and apologetic when we first started getting intimate, but I told him it didn’t bother me and that I cared deeply for him, and that I just wanted us to both feel good together. When we have sex it mostly consists of oral or outercourse, but it’s by far the most satisfying sex I’ve ever had, which I tell him often. Now we’re talking about starting a family (I know, pandemic, but still), but we’ve been having trouble getting him to ejaculate inside me. This has put him into a shame spiral, and nothing I say or do seems to reassure him. We both want to get pregnant the old-fashioned way, but him seeing me collecting his semen to inseminate myself makes him feel so ashamed. So my question is twofold: How do I make him feel better about this, and also, do you have any good ideas for positions to help keep him inside during insertion?

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—Good Thing, Small Package

Dear GTSP,

You can’t will someone else’s shame away. What’s presented in your letter suggests that you’re doing all you can by being a supportive partner—that you’re having enjoyable sex with him, regardless of his size, is icing on the cake. He was dealt a less-than-ideal hand biologically—I don’t mean that there is something wrong with him, but the anxiety over other people’s reactions to his equipment is a considerable burden in itself. However, it seems that he hit jackpot when it came to finding a partner. Ideally, he’d focus on that. Is there a chance he’d talk to a counselor about this? Discussing the persistent shame he feels despite having a loving partner who he satisfies sexually might be useful.

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I understand your desire to get pregnant “the old-fashioned way,” but if that’s not strictly possible, remaining invested starts to look like self-oppression by holding onto a culturally imposed idea of how things should be. You’re making a baby, not a concept, and there are workarounds for your situation, if you are practical enough to use them. I urge you to do so. Regarding your issue, I emailed my go-to urologist source, Charles Welliver, a doctor and the director of men’s health at Albany Medical College. In response, he reminds us, “For conception, semen does need to be deposited onto the cervix (at the end of the vagina).” But even so, conception may be complicated when the conceiving penis is a micropenis, similar to an issue that may arise with a condition called hypospadias, where the urethral opening is not necessarily at the tip of the penis. Welliver suggested intrauterine insemination, or IUI, as a possible solution. The process involves the semen being spun down into a “hyper concentrated pellet” and then inserted in the opening of the cervix. “While its more expensive cousin in vitro fertilization is frequently not covered by insurance, many insurers cover IUI, at least in New York state, and this would be an option for them,” Welliver told me.

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If this does nothing to dislodge your fixation on “the old-fashioned way,” you might as well try all the positions. Doggy style and cowgirl are usually the go-to ones for penises that are smaller. Depending on your flexibility, you could also lie on your back, with your legs all the way back and your knees next to your chest. If these don’t work, try not to get frustrated. A lot of people conceive using methods that wouldn’t be considered “the old-fashioned way,” and they end up with children that they love no less than they would have otherwise.—Rich

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From: “My Husband’s Unusual Penis Has Presented a New, Vexing Test” (Jan. 4, 2021)

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a 46-year-old woman in a newly intimate relationship with a 50-year-old man. We’ve been friends for years and have always been attracted to one another, but the timing was off. We’ve just began having a sexual relationship for the past four months, and something extremely curious is happening and we can’t seem to find answers to what is going on.

In the beginning, he would have issues achieving an orgasm. He told me this has always been an problem for him in his intimate relationships. He could sometimes come from PIV; however, he has never achieved an orgasm from oral, yet he could reliably finish if he masturbated. I assured him I loved the experiences we were sharing and my focus was on our mutual affection, exploration, and pleasure, regardless if a grand finale took place or not, for me or for him. It also might be helpful here to know he is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and recently divorced his partner (a woman) who was not sexually expressive. We both assumed there was a bit of an emotional “block,” and I’m happy to report with some time, patience, and a lot of honest communication, that doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore. In fact, the pendulum has swung so far the other way we’re both in awe of what’s happening.

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A couple weeks ago, while we were intimate, he had a breakthrough of sorts. Not only did he come in my mouth, but he came multiple, and I mean multiple times! He had approximately 25 orgasms in two hours. He just stayed hard and it wouldn’t stop! There was so much fluid! It was something out of a porno movie! We enjoyed the experience for sure and believed it was a one-time thing, but nope! Apparently he’s become multi-orgasmic. On top of that, the amount of ejaculate is concerning to me, and it has a strong odor, like urine, and has a very sour/salty taste, almost like a lemon. The first time this happened, I was convinced one of us peed the bed or I had squirted and didn’t know. But it’s definitely him, and this leads me to asking you:

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Is this normal?! Should we be concerned he might have a prostate thing going on due to his age? He’s admitted nothing like this has ever happened in his life, and as much as we’re both enjoying this new-found discovery and I’m so happy to see he’s removed those mental blocks, I want to make sure we shouldn’t be concerned that something medical is at play. We’ve waited so long to be together, and what we have is beyond amazing … emotionally, intellectually and physically. We don’t want to lose what we’ve waited for. Thank you so much!

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—Happy and Baffled

Dear Happy and Baffled,

I stand with you in awe at the multiorgasmic man (sometimes called a “multiplecummer” or “multicummer”). Such a guy is, for my money, the perfect intersection of medical marvel and horniness. Such a guy’s bodily functioning suggests a libido so immense as to stretch the limits of human possibility, and when that is directed at you, it feels like a supreme compliment. So I want to first congratulate you on your good fortune for finding a guy you dig with a geyser for a dick.

That said, what you describe is unusual based on the data on multiple male orgasms that does exist—though it should be understood that what does exist is scant. In their 2015 review of the existing literature, “Multiple Orgasms in Men—What We Know So Far,” Erik Wibowo and Richard J. Wassersug note that “most reports on male multiple orgasms rely on subjective accounts where multiple orgasms were not objectively confirmed by any physiological or neurological criteria,” and that multiorgasmic men are rare as it is—it’s estimated that less than 10 percent of men in their 20s and less than seven percent in their 30s and up are capable of orgasming twice within 20 minutes (the generally accepted measure of what constitutes being multiorgasmic in men, given the average refractory time of 20 minutes). (Note that the literature is based on cisgender men, which is why I’m using that terminology, and not all people with penises. Though this may apply to people with penises of all gender identities, there’s some indication that supplemental estrogen may play a role in promoting multiple orgasms. Interestingly, some men who have undergone prostatectomies also report a subsequent ability to achieve multiple orgasms.)

As indicated above, the whys are as yet unknown, but it’s theorized that men’s ability to achieve multiple orgasms could have something to do with diminished prolactin levels. So your partner could have those checked to make sure everything is OK. Something unique in this particular case is the amount of fluid that you report: Generally speaking, it diminishes over the course of the multiple orgasms so that after a certain point the orgasms are dry. I would say that this situation is enough of a change in functioning to warrant a visit to a urologist, if for nothing else than peace of mind. It’s very difficult to guess what role his childhood trauma is playing in this newfound ability, but I would say that if he hasn’t been treated for that, he should certainly see some sort of counselor or psychologist who specializes in trauma.

I shared your letter with one of the authors of the paper linked to above, Dr. Erik Wibowo, a lecturer in the anatomy department at University of Otago’s School of Biomedical Sciences. In addition to noting that the amount of ejaculate tends to diminish with each subsequent orgasm, Wibowo wrote that, “I have not heard of the comment about odor and taste before. There are certainly cases where men leak urine during ejaculation (climacturia), for example in the case of prostate cancer patients after surgical removal of the prostate, which often leads to the loss of urinary control. It’s not clear here if he had any medical procedure that may affect his urinary control.”

So, there’s more going on here than can be decisively solved in an advice column. I wouldn’t be too worried at the moment (not enough to diminish the enjoyment of his multiple orgasms), but he should definitely get this (and his trauma) checked out when possible.—Rich

From: “My Boyfriend Just Unlocked a Rare Sexual Achievement—But I’m Worried It’s Going Too Far (Jan. 2, 2022)

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