How to Do It

I Didn’t Mean to Start Tracking My Wife’s Vibrator. Now I Can’t Stop.

I want to know the truth.

Man looking off to an open door.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by GlobalStock/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, 

We’re 30 years into our marriage and my wife (60) and I (63) enjoy sex two to three times a week. This is down from four to five times a week for decades. My sex drive is higher than hers but she gamely welcomes my advances. But she no longer likes cunnilingus, saying that she’s too sensitive. She loves orally pleasuring me and never says “no.” If she’s not entirely in the mood for penetration, she’ll let me come on her breasts.

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What’s wrong with this sex life? Not much. I feel like a lucky man. She insists her modest orgasms are completely fulfilling. But, she admits that sex just isn’t as important to her anymore. As well, she is reluctant to seek hormonal treatment of any sort for fear of related stroke risk. Basically, she doesn’t want to be fingered or pleasured by my mouth and instead prefers straight penis-in-vagina and will modestly come as I do.

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I’m finding, however, that she’s using her vibrator—that I gifted her a few years ago—the days after we’ve had sex. I notice it’s been moved from the position on her closet shelf. Now, I take to monitoring it with regularity. This behavior leaves me feeling somewhat guilty. But, I want to know the truth. Mostly, I like her pleasuring herself in the name of exercising her sexual needs but it’s also confirming that I simply “don’t do it for her” as I once did. When I admit to self-pleasuring occasionally with her in bed as part of our intimate talk and ask her how much she does, my wife demurs from responding by saying, “Oh, I can’t remember…” and I don’t push it. But, I work full time out of the house and so I’m not around from early in the morning until dinner. She raised our children and is a bit bored with Pilates and bridge. But, we’re both in great shape. I’m 6 foot 3 inches and 195 pounds. She’s 5 foot and 5 inches and 135. The sexual attraction remains steadfast and I love her deeply and I believe she does me. Frankly, I don’t intend to monitor her vibrator activity—other than I worry that she’s no longer satisfied by me.

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—Are My Concerns Legitimate?

Dear Concerns,

For you, your wife’s interest in the vibrator—that you gave her—plus her recent dislike of oral and digital stimulation, equals you not, as you put it, doing it for her anymore. What I see is a woman adjusting to a significant change in her body, asserting her new preferences, still enjoying orgasms with her husband, and also enjoying them by herself, which may be helping her to reconnect with her body and gain a deeper understanding of those new preferences. Our partners often engage in activities that have nothing to do with us—not their connection to us, appreciation of us, or desire for us.

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That said, when you’re framing your own masturbation, and your wife’s masturbation, as something one would “admit” to, it seems pretty logical that a feeling of shame might encourage your wife to avoid the subject. Another possibility is that she has no reluctance toward discussing masturbation, but your way of inquiring—asking for a schedule or frequency—is something she genuinely doesn’t remember and a different approach might result in a more engaged response. You might start a conversation with, “I’ve developed a fixation on whether your vibrator has moved, day to day, and am hoping an open discussion might help me get unstuck.” Express your worry that you no longer satisfy her, and, crucially, believe her when she tells you how she feels.

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I’m also not sure why you’ve listed height and weight for yourself and your spouse as evidence of being in “great shape,” but, since you felt the need to include that, I do have a response. This ratio does not equal health, and the kind of fat-related bias this comes from can prevent both fat and lean people from successfully accessing needed health care. Best of luck.

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.)

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Dear How to Do It, 

When my boyfriend and I (we’re both guys, I’m bisexual and he’s gay) got together, he had a lot of curiosity about my previous experience. He brought it up in bed a lot, and in dirty talk. So I was honest—and we’re in our 30s, so it’s not like the slate is blank. A lot of that experience is with women, and he was super curious about that. I was also curious about him—he was a late bloomer but he developed his interests/kinks pretty quickly with his ex. My bar for feeling jealous is pretty high so I was happy to hear when he wanted to share that stuff.

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This phase lasted like five months and then tapered off, and I haven’t brought it up since. But he keeps dropping weird hints about how maybe I prefer women or making uncomfortable jokes about pussy. It’s been two years and yesterday he told me he felt I’d been careless with him during that time, making him insecure that I would leave him for a girl today. I feel really uncomfortable and don’t know what to do here—I feel bad that I misread his signals, but I feel like I’m being punished for being honest, for not being gay enough (previous girlfriends have had the same insecurity, flipped) and I’m so tired of this. What can I do?

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—Bisexual and Tired

Dear Bisexual and Tired,

I reached out to Zachary Zane, author of Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto and sex expert for Momentum Intimacy, who has dated as a bisexual man for quite some time and works as an advice columnist himself, for some insight based on his lived experience. Here’s what he had to say:

“We live in a society that continues to perpetuate the idea that bisexual men will never be satisfied with one partner. Inevitably, we are going to leave you for a person of the opposite sex or another gender. These notions are hard to shake, so I understand where your boyfriend’s concerns are coming from. That said, your boyfriend is not only projecting his insecurities onto you, but he is also gaslighting you.

You haven’t spoken about your desire for a woman in over a year and a half. In your words, ‘I haven’t brought it up since.’ Unlike your boyfriend asserts, you have not been careless with him during this time. And you did not miss any ‘signs’ because there haven’t been any signs besides, perhaps, some bizarre passive-aggressive jokes.

He is blaming you for his doubts and insecurities. That is not OK. If he came to you saying, ‘I’m feeling insecure that you may leave me for a woman. I know I shouldn’t, and you’ve given me no reason to believe that you will, but I’d love it if you could reaffirm your love for me when I’m feeling insecure,’ that would be one thing. Instead, he’s blaming you and making it seem like you did something wrong when you did not.

You’re tired of this. And now, even if he apologized and approached the conversation from a place of ‘I’m feeling insecure’ while acknowledging you did nothing wrong, you may still not want to deal with his insecurities. That’s completely valid.

For these reasons and more, I nearly exclusively date bi people because I’m tired of this shit too. So, my honest advice? Break up with him and date someone bi.”

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Dear How to Do It, 

I’m a 69-year-old gay man who likes to bottom. In 2020, I stopped drinking alcohol for health reasons. The problem is alcohol used to act as a laxative for me and would clean me out for anal sex. Now I can never seem to clean my rectum. Often I think that I’m clean but when I get fucked it’s a shit show. Needless to say, this is really embarrassing. I’ve tried various things like fiber supplements, prune juice, laxatives, enemas, and using a bidet. Nothing seems to consistently get the job done.

When I was younger I never had to worry about this. Now I never really never know if I’m I’m clean down there. Most of the time I’m not. For a while, I was even experiencing fecal incontinence. How can I replicate the laxative effects of alcohol without starting drinking again, and how can I know for sure when I’m clean and ready to bottom?

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—Mr. Not Clean

Dear Mr. Not Clean,

See a specialist—if possible, one who is knowledgeable about receiving anal sex. There’s way too much going on here to speculate about whether some obscure method of cleaning out or a novel suggestion for making stool more firm could finally be the thing that gets your intestines back on track to feces-free bonetown. If you’re in NYC, Callen-Lorde might be a good place to start. Take this seriously, get checked out, and get a second opinion if the first doctor brushes you off.

Dear How to Do it,

I’ve had a crush on my boyfriend for a little over a year and we’ve been dating for eight months. He’s an amazing person; kind, funny, listens to my favorite music with me, just everything! And he’s very pretty as well, I still get flustered looking at him. Everything is going pretty great, but I’m worried about one thing. I’ve never had sex before and it takes a lot for me to open up and be vulnerable and even though I love him to death, it’s the same deal for him.

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I know he’s attracted to me, he’s the one who brought it up in the first place, and I’m very attracted to him. He’s the hottest man alive in my eyes. But every time things have escalated, I’ve always clammed up and ended up shutting it down. He’s never pressured me or made me feel bad for not being ready, he’s very patient and kind. But that’s not stopping me from feeling guilty for making him wait so long. I want to take things to the next level, but it’s really overwhelming and I’m worried that he might get fed up and find someone who will actually oblige him. He told me that he wanted me to be excited and 100 percent ready for it, and he’d rather me wait than end up rushing and regretting it.

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We have a great dynamic going on, we make each other laugh and there are no problems cuddling or kissing, but when any sexual tension enters the air, I just get too overwhelmed to do anything but run away. I’m tired of running away. I know that I’m scared of being vulnerable, but he’s so amazing and I want to trust him with something that intimate so badly; it’s just that there’s something stopping me. So how can I do that without setting off panic alarms in my brain? I know he said not to rush it, but I’m worried that he’s getting tired of me and I really don’t want to lose him.

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—Hesitant and Tired of It

Dear Hesitant,

Your reasons for wanting to engage in sexual activity, which you don’t really define, include “feeling guilty for making him wait so long,” wanting to “take things to the next level,” worry that he’ll move on to someone else, and being tired of running away. You speak of wanting “to trust him with something that intimate so badly,” “to be ready,” and to “take the next step.” And you worry that he’s getting tired of you.

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You say your boyfriend hasn’t said things that pressure you or make you feel bad (if he had, I’d be advising that you end the relationship), and is patient. He also wants you to be excited and feel ready, and is wary of rushing and you being regretful. Where is your guilt coming from? And your fear that he’ll leave you for a different partner? Has he perhaps said something that pressured you or made you feel bad? Or are these feelings coming from ideas about what men want and need that might not be generally true, and seem to be untrue in his case?

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You might have an idea in your mind that romantic relationships progress upward, from flirting and crushes, kissing and cuddling, fingerbanging and handjobs, oral sex, penetrative sex, moving in together, and then marriage and/or children. Maybe with some threesomes or kinky stuff along the way. The reality is that romance and sex don’t necessarily require each other. Sex means many different things to many different people. You get to choose whether your first sexual experience is something you’re pushing yourself into or something you waited until you wanted.

Listen to your body, which you describe as getting overwhelmed and scared, and feeling like something is stopping you. Spend time exploring your sexuality on your own, touching all of your skin, and letting your mind think about what feels good and what might feel good. When your body is saying “I want this,” then think about sharing your sexuality with someone else, and that should include consideration for what you want. If your boyfriend leaves in the meantime, and it ends up being over this, I am confident saying you are better off without him.

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—Stoya

More Advice From Slate

My husband recently had an affair with a co-worker. When I first discovered the affair and confronted him, he said it was just an emotional affair but they ended up having sex one weekend while they were traveling, and emotions ballooned further from there. The whole thing has been the most horrifying, destabilizing experience of my life. My husband has recommitted to our marriage and we are trying to heal, but dealing with the fallout has been horrendous. Of the many issues we are now facing, there is one in particular that I hope you can help me with. Though I don’t have many details of their romantic weekend sex romp, the ones I do have are killing me, and my imagination is running wild.

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