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’m in a happy monogamous relationship with another guy, and we live together. Our sex life is overall pretty great, with one issue that I’m hoping you can suggest some way to change my mindset about. I go for a run most every morning, which tends to make me sweat a normal amount. I feel extra gross when sweaty though, so always want to take a shower before going about my day or doing anything else. My boyfriend, once we moved in together a couple years ago, tended to initiate sex in the mornings post-run. At first, I would try to put him off until after I showered, but that was kind of a pain. I just ended up having to re-shower after sex. The problem with me not showering pre-sex is I just don’t feel sexy when covered in sweat though. It also tended to derail the mood if my boyfriend was getting into it, and I told him to hold that thought, please, until I shower.
My boyfriend has expressed that my bodily state post-run is in no way a turn-off to him. He actually finds it’s a turn-on to drag me into bed post-exercise while I’m still flushed, and he actively enjoys nuzzling my sweaty armpits, groin, etc. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for getting over my visceral grossed-out reaction, and not being so self-conscious about my sweatiness. I feel a little silly since my boyfriend isn’t demanding that I get all up in HIS sweaty body. He just wants me to be chill about him getting all up in mine. So I realize I’m the one being a buzzkill about something he doesn’t see as a problem. The fact he’s begun very thoughtfully avoiding sweaty post-exercise sex because he knows I find it yuck only makes me wish that I could enjoy it the way he does even more.
We do have lots of other sex at times that don’t involve this issue, but I want my guy to be able to have this sex thing he clearly relishes. Any ideas?
— Clean Freak
Dear Clean Freak,
I’m also someone who loves body odor—I request that sex partners refrain from deodorant before a hook-up and my nostrils gladly take in a post-gym, pre-shower body. What I’ve noticed—and take this with a grain of salt, as it is anecdotal and not a scientific observation—is that guys who don’t want to share their natural smell with me often explain why by referencing some kind of shame around it in their past. Either they were made fun of at some point for being stinky, or have absorbed broader cultural ideals about what constitutes cleanliness and, crucially, how to display said cleanliness. So, I guess you could start there: Is there a deeper issue here that could be unlearned through eroticism? Could being accepted for your sweaty body be enough to undo your tendency to be defensive and take precautionary measures so as not to be judged for your odor?
In other words, can you find a psychological root here, or is this more of a tactile issue that comes from just not liking the feeling of sweat clinging to you? If it’s the latter, I think you’re going to have a hard time undoing that, though again, by leaning into it and witnessing how much your boyfriend likes it, you could potentially displace the negative feelings you have about such encounters.
As in all letters we receive to this column in which someone is reaching for help getting over discomfort around something one’s partner eroticizes, it’s heartening that you have the drive to do so, but you shouldn’t feel obligated. You have lots of other sex in other contexts, so this is really just an add-on, an extra, an adornment to an already robust and satisfying sexual relationship. That you have that dynamic already, and will likely maintain it regardless of your embracing your flop sweat to satiate your man’s pigginess, just goes to show how inessential overcoming this issue is. Yes, it would be nice, but you’re fine either way.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a late 30s, straight, single (never married) woman. I travel a lot for work and often visit the hotel bar wherever I’m staying in the evenings. I usually end up chatting with bartenders and anyone else sitting at the bar, and sometimes the conversations with men become flirtatious, and occasionally lead to more (anything along the spectrum of emotional disclosures, makeouts, and sex). I enjoy all these types of genuine connections and feel good about my past experiences—I’m not wanting or expecting more than the moment and setting myself up for hurt, for example.
So here’s my question: When, if at all, is it my responsibility to ask a man I’m talking to about their marital status? Or if he hints at it (references to “we”) or wears a ring, but he pursues or escalates things with me, do I have to be the one to pump the breaks and ask questions? I value monogamy when I’m in a committed relationship, but I don’t make assumptions about how other people run theirs and don’t really want to discuss it (buzz kill to flirting and none of my business). For argument’s sake, I know that it’s not up to me to police anyone else’s relationships, but I do want to be a good person in general, while enjoying my own life and connections as much as possible, however brief or unconventional.
— Not Up for Status Updates
Dear Status Updates,
I don’t know, I come from a sexual ecology of urban gay men where nonmonogamy is a very visible norm. I don’t find discussing potential partners’ arrangements with their partners to be buzzkill or particularly unwelcome. It’s usually discussed in a straightforward manner, without fanfare or belaboring—just some housekeeping to get out of the way before we mess up the bed. When I’ve made the mistake of not asking a partnered guy about this arrangement, only to discover after we banged, I’ve felt really weird discovering that I just assisted in another person’s cheating. Personally speaking, I’m not into that. There are enough guys doing things ethically that I don’t really need to get with the ones who aren’t. For every dick out there, there’s another that’s just as good and keeping its proverbial nose clean. And in fact, the context in which the question of everyone’s relational arrangements would most likely turn awkward is in the event that cheating is about to take place, which is when it should turn awkward. I understand cultivating mystique and not wanting to get all up in someone else’s business, but this kind of pre-sex communication is a good thing, by and large. If you are concerned about something—anything—you should be able to ask a potential partner about it, and their response, in both content and tone, may help you make a more informed decision.
The question, then, really is: Are you, in fact, concerned? Jury’s out! You seem not very, though. Technically, as a one-night stand, you aren’t obligated to pry, educate, or organize the life of the stranger that you’re sharing very close yet very brief time with. You can true-neutral this, and the fires of hell will likely miss licking your flesh. But if you really want to at least gesture toward good-person-hood, you can have this conversation and then refrain from sleeping with guys in monogamous relationships (at least, those who are honest about it—never ignore the possibility of being lied to for the sake of getting laid). That may cut down your fun somewhat, but it seems like you have dick to spare anyway. Love that for you, by the way—I’m just saying that even the worst-case scenario here wouldn’t represent that much of a sacrifice.
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Dear How to Do It,
I am a widow who is interested in a friend-with-benefits sort of arrangement. My attempts have been humorous failures. I now feel like I could write a hilarious sitcom regarding trying to have sex as a senior. Not sure what I’m doing wrong. I’ve tried dating apps. I would have thought there were some horny men out there, but apparently, they can’t be bothered. My friends assure me I’m beautiful, but I’m starting to get a complex. Any suggestions as to how to get laid?
— Hot but NOT Bothered
Dear Not Bothered,
Try to stave off that complex—people’s reaction to you (or lack thereof) is about them, not you. People on apps flake. They don’t take things seriously. They invest in the game and not the results. They perpetually swipe for the next best thing. Those who are results-based often find themselves frustrated at the lack of quality dick on demand, but what that means is you just have to be patient and cast a wide net. There are tons of dating sites tailored to seniors (like Silver Singles and Our Time) and more broadly focused yet frequently mentioned as serving that specific community (like Match.com and eHarmony). If you’re serious about hunting, invest the time in setting up profiles, specifically mentioning that you’re looking for fun. Stick with it, don’t get frustrated, and do not take anything that happens on these apps as a reflection of your self-worth—you’re just a series of images and maybe an idea to someone before they actually meet you.
You also have the option of looking into the strain of dating sites that connect so-called cougars with younger guys who are into them. (Similarly, you could look into fetish sites.) I don’t know how you feel about 1) younger guys, or 2) having your age objectified to such an explicit degree. It might not be worth it for you, though keep in mind that a degree of objectification is often present in casual sex—often hook-up ethics come down to striking the balance between who someone is and what they are.
You should also look into senior speed dating and/or social groups. Anything that gets you in front of men and allows them to see your beautiful, charismatic self. If you’re really adventurous, there are swingers groups that are senior-inclusive. Some Googling may help you find local ones.
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Dear How to Do It,
I sometimes come more quickly than my wife would like during PIV sex, and while I highly enjoy oral, digital, and other ways of getting each other off, I think sometimes she just wants a little hard and long missionary. She hasn’t said much about it, but one time a while back, she casually mentioned hollow strap-ons (for me to wear while penetrating her). I had never heard of them, and while I didn’t say anything either way at the time, I was taken aback, mostly due to ego, I guess.
Flash forward a few months, and I read the question from “Accidental Size Queen.” Hearing her talk about how much she enjoyed it, the orgasms she had, and her excitement, got me, well, interested in a way I hadn’t expected to be, and now it’s on my mind. But I’ve found very little discussion of cis men using strap-ons on cis women, outside some reviews on sex toy stores. Do you have any advice for things I should do/not do, things to look for in a toy, how to bring it back up with her, etc? I do want to keep using my penis, but the thought of giving her as much as she wants for as long as she wants without the worries of taking too long to get hard or coming too fast is exciting too. It’s just uncharted territory. Thanks!
— Potential Size King
Dear Size King,
Well, the good news is you’re already endowed with a biological version of the toy you’re interested in, so you know what you’re doing with it. Keep in mind that, because they’re constructed to accommodate flaccid penises, hollow strap-ons tend to be a bit thicker than average penis size, and they won’t work with all vaginas. You always have the option of buying a standard strap on, which your penis would hang below (or stand alongside, depending on your level of physical arousal). A sex toy is not the same thing as a penis, so you’ll want to go slow, maybe use lube (for her and potentially you, depending on what to you go with), and buy with the anatomy of your wife’s vagina in mind (if she has any spots she particularly likes stimulating, you can attempt to select a dildo that hits that target).
Bringing this up could be as easy as telling her, “Remember when you mentioned hollow strap-ons? I’ve been thinking about it lately, and I’m interested in giving one a try.” Or ask her if she was serious when she mentioned them, because you’d like to help her pursue that.
You also have the option of being a little coyer and just send her the HTDI column that got you thinking about really cracking in to a strap-on (we sure would appreciate the extra click!). Kinkly has a rather extensive (albeit advertorially bent) breakdown of strap-ons for cis men that I recommend perusing—in it, writer Mistress Kay recommends introducing dildos during sex before graduating to strapping one on. It’s a good idea that could make the prospect seem less intimidating, if you think your wife is likely to be intimidated by your proposition. But really, if you treat this like the enhancement it is, just a little way of spicing things up and adorning your body with some reliable (albeit silicone or plastic) wood, I don’t think it should ever reach the point of big deal. It’s not, so don’t make it one. Just treat it as a fun option and see where that gets you.
More Advice From Slate
Before the pandemic started, I finally came to terms with my near exclusive attraction to other women after two years of hooking up with men. I’m happy and confident with this transition, but I’ve encountered a new struggle in my sex life: I’m an average-height, 240-pound woman who wants to wrestle and be physically dominated in bed. Due to my size and people-pleasing nature, I usually get stuck in a more dominant position with my partners. I’m happy to please others, but I don’t get much personal satisfaction when I’m not restrained. This feels shitty to say when my date, while otherwise attractive, doesn’t have the physical means to hold me down. How can I communicate this desire with potential partners? Can I only date women bigger or stronger than me?