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 both in our late 40s with two kids (12 and 9). We enjoy sex 1-to-2 times per week. We consider sex an important part of our relationship, and it’s usually even more fun and frequent when we’re on holiday.
Later in the year, my husband wants to take extended leave of 4-to-6 weeks, hire a campervan, and travel around as a family. It’s not my #1 idea for a holiday, but I know he often goes along with what I want for holidays, he works hard to support us, and he’ll be turning 50. It’s his turn. I like camping, so I’m trying hard to get onboard with the idea.
A big barrier for me to overcome is how we would have sex in a campervan when the kids are so close by. A weekend is one thing but 4-to-6 weeks without getting any would be a personal record in our relationship, but the kids are old enough to know what’s going on. I don’t want to traumatize them for life!
Should we just be celibate for the journey? Stick to hand jobs? Get them a tent? Send them off on extended hikes? Go on extended hikes ourselves? Get separate hotel rooms once a week? Get one of those awful signs about wagons rocking and not knocking? Just be upfront about what we’re doing? I’m at a loss!
—Campervan Sex Logistics
Dear Campervan Sex,
I disagree. You don’t seem at a loss whatsoever! You listed eight potential solutions at the end of your question, and all of them, to varying degrees, seem worth a shot. If the kids are old enough to understand what’s going on, telling them that you and your husband need some private time should work as enough of a warning—they likely won’t want to get anywhere near the two of you until they understand explicitly that the coast is clear. I’d go with that vagueness to begin with, not because talking to your kids about sex is something to avoid, but because given the close quarters on this particular trip, the more subtle you can communicate this stuff, the less awkward it will feel for everyone. If they still don’t get it, you can be more direct about couples needing alone time, generally speaking. You can be frank about the fact that you want to have sex, of course, but given your trepidation, I’d only recommend doing this in the event that they really just aren’t understanding the need for them to not be around you for a while. Anyway, sending them on hikes or taking hikes yourselves (or both) seems like a good way to get around having to acknowledge your intentions.
There have been quite a few things written on the logistics of this subject already, but I want to recommend a video called “Top Ways to Have Better RV Sex” for some more practical tips. The seasoned RV-living couple in it have a host of suggestions—from white noise machines to using your tow vehicle to taking advantage of standalone showers. My favorite: “Throw 92 cents outside and tell the kids not to come back inside until they find a dollar.” That seems like something more parents could and should do to temporarily ameliorate the suffocation of familial demands. Try it?
Dear How to Do It,
Years of research and meditation on sexuality’s nuances flew out the window recently, when I stumbled into the realization that my orientation confusion was, in actuality, an intense voice fetish—one that eclipses all other facets of attraction. Helpful to know, but I’m not sure what to do with this discovery now that it’s in my lap. Can you ethically date (or can you?) when your light switch is flipped nearly exclusively by one very particular trait of your partner(s)?
—Read Me the Phonebook
Yes, you can ethically date regardless of your fixations and how strong they are. Your switch may be flipped by one very particular thing, but flip-switching constitutes a very brief period of time. It’s about what else you fill your relationship with. So, treat your partner like a person. Try to be as game as possible to pursue their pleasure in addition to theirs. Be cognizant that while you may be particularly interested in their voice, they are more than just a voice. Of course they are.
Help us keep giving the advice you crave every week. Sign up for Slate Plus now.
Dear How to Do It,
I love my partner deeply, completely, as much as I could ever love another human. She is, physically speaking, my type. And yet I have rarely felt a strong erotic attraction to her. I’m male. We’re both in our late 30s. The relationship is three years deep. At the beginning, she was in a rough spot, and I provided and have continued to provide support (not monetary) to her. Emotional, social guidance, etc. She’s wonderful and I tell her that.
I wonder: Does the somewhat uneven power and care dynamic dampen my sex drive—loving her like a protector and not a lover? Or could it be just pheromones? I should be erotically attracted to her, but I’m not. Yet I want to make it work. We have decent sex, but I always require a fair amount of self-motivation to get started. When I fantasize, I try to imagine her, but I encounter an internal resistance to it. Meanwhile, I see other women, and get aroused. Among the few times I remember feeling a strong desire for my partner was when she was angry at me, or when she came over for a booty call, both within the first nine months of our relationship. I would be grateful for any solutions, magic or not.
— Missing Erotics
Dear Missing Erotics,
Did you come with papers or, like a Cabbage Patch Kid, some kind of etching in the back of your neck that runs down exactly what you are? No, you didn’t. You should first disabuse yourself of having a strict type that dictates exactly whom you are attracted to. Clearly, it’s not the case. Maybe there are certain trends in your dating history/typical turn-ons, but your current situation exposes the flaw in getting dogmatic about these things. It’s just not always going to work out like you think it should, because there is no should here, there is only what is. And what is, is a partner that doesn’t exactly turn you on. It could be any number of things (anecdotally, something like a lack of sparks while kissing can be foreboding), but likely it’s not just her—it’s both of you. Something in the chemistry just isn’t formulating. Luckily, you already have a workaround that allows you to sustain a sex life for the sake of the health of this relationship that you so treasure. That’s probably good enough, though you can ditch this relationship, roll the dice again, and see if you can get even closer to perfection. Of course, the risk is that you will entirely crap out.
Perhaps something about your specific current dynamic is a hinderance—your closeness may be keeping the eroticism at bay. It sounds like the times that turned you on involved seeing different sides of her. I wonder if some role-play might actually do the trick to put enough distance between your current dynamic and a potentially more connected sexual one. Try recreating that booty call or another such scene, perhaps on in which she acts out some kind of rage. You could even explore BDSM, in which a certain kind of brusqueness that might be read as anger, often features.
Did you write this or another letter we answered? Tell us what happened at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear How to Do It,
My boyfriend cheated on me twice with the same woman at work. The first time I discovered this I was distraught, and we had a rough couple of months. But he started therapy and then we took a big trip together, and I was convinced he wouldn’t do this again. Three years later, I discovered he only ended his relationship with her for a few months and had been cheating on me with her basically since the last time I discovered this. He told me it’s really over now, and I’m the one he wants to be with. We’ve taken another big trip and talked about moving in together. He was there for me when my dad died. I do believe he loves me, but I also can’t help but think he still loves her and would be with her again if he could. Am I a fool to stay in this relationship?
— Fooled Again
Dear Fooled Again,
Well, you know what they say: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me. You’ve been fooled twice now. This guy had already witnessed the emotional toll of his cheating, so he understood it not just in the abstract, which is often enough to stop people who are tempted from cheating. But he also understood his consequences in the literal sense, having experienced your reaction to them, and then he kept right on cheating. Your reasons for staying with him are, frankly, not convincing. You go on trips and he was there when your dad died—as much as it may have meant to you, that’s bare minimum in my estimation. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but he was also cheating on you while “being there for” you,” no?)
It’s nice to give people chances to atone for their misdeeds; you’ve done that, and he didn’t atone. He’s giving you the same story he gave you last time. At this juncture, there’s no reason to believe he won’t keep deceiving you. Ask yourself if you can put up with it. Nothing will excuse his lying, but perhaps the greater message he’s sending is that he doesn’t want a monogamous relationship. Perhaps the path forward is to open your relationship. A revision of your terms is probably in order if you actually are going to hang in there. But I don’t think you should, and if you do, I certainly don’t think you should move in with him. It will just make breaking up that much more complicated and further incentivize you to stay in this relationship that has not been kind to you.
More Advice From Slate
I’m a 31-year-old woman, my husband is 29, and we have two children. Our sex life is amazing—my husband is great in bed, he turns me on, and vice versa. We don’t have any complaints with the way we do anything, and he doesn’t have a problem staying hard (even between ejaculations!). But my dilemma is that my husband always tells me that he’d rather watch porn and jack off. Now, since I’ve known him, that hasn’t been the case. I would say we have sex way too much for that. But still he always tells me this…