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,
An actress I’ve always had a thing for was recently cast in an adaptation of my wife’s favorite book. This is great, we can enjoy it together, right? Well, it gets more complicated: My wife loves this book SO MUCH that she has written sexy fan fiction and even cosplayed as this character on occasion, and I’ve been known to gently tease her about these “nerdy” hobbies (she also has a good sense of humor about it and laughs at herself). But now that my Hollywood crush is involved, something switched in me and suddenly, this is all very sexy—yes, yes, read me the fan fiction! Wear the costume to bed! Except, I don’t want my wife to be hurt that I didn’t find this sexy until my crush was involved and think that I’m fantasizing about the actress—which I wouldn’t be, but it would be obvious where my change of perspective came from (also, my wife kind of resembles the actress—I’ve got a type!). It feels like a waste to not use all this sexy energy, but is it my penance for making fun of her before? How do I broach this topic with her?
—Karma’s a Sexy Bitch
Dear Karma’s a Sexy Bitch,
I don’t think you have to frame this in such cut-and-dried, cause-and-effect terms. Instead of saying, “Now that my crush is in this movie, I’m all about your hobby,” you can frame your interest more generally: “Something clicked.” That is, if you need to frame it at all—you are projecting a lot, predicting how your wife will take your new interest in something she’s been doing for a while. She may very well put two and two together, but you don’t have to lead with the solved equation. Just ask her to wear the costume to bed. See how she responds. “I get it now,” is a tenable position to take on. People change, interests shift.
Maybe you’re playing it extra safe, but I sense that there could be some guilt guiding your query. Are you, in fact, certain that you wouldn’t be fantasizing about said actor while in bed with your wife? In general, such fantasizing is not something I tend to thumbs-down in this column—it can be a useful for people, though it doesn’t result in the utterly connected sex that I idealize. Still, this doesn’t have to be shameful. It sounds like you might be looking to engage in some role play, which is a completely healthy aspect of many people’s sex lives. Role play is about merging fantasy with reality, not dissociating, per se. The most prudent course of action, if you’re really paranoid about hurting feelings, is to say the quiet part out loud. If role play is what you’re looking for, why not just propose it as such so that your wife is fully aware of what she’s getting into and can then make an informed decision to proceed or not?
Dear How to Do It,
I (29, cisgender woman) am casually seeing this guy (mid-30s). I know he’s married and in an open relationship. I’ve spoken to his wife twice, both very brief exchanges, which were mostly in the vein of demonstrating that his wife is in the loop about him and this was an open relationship, not just him cheating.
When it started, it was just hooking up, with very little emotional interaction beyond sex. However, I’ve been seeing him for about eight months now, and lately, it seems like there’s more of a connection than just genitals. We’ve actually hung out a few evenings and didn’t have sex, just enjoyed each other’s company platonically. I asked to really meet his wife, see what she’s like and maybe have something a bit more included in the rest of his life instead of some sort of cut-off section of it. He said he’d “talk to Samantha about it,” in a tone that makes me think he’s either not going to bother or he is going to do so as a perfunctory request because he knows she’s going to shoot the idea down. And maybe I’m being an idiot, but I would like to see more of him and be a bigger part of his life. Am I reaching for the moon here? Is there any way to persuade him to open up more?
—Not Fully Included
Dear Not Fully Included,
You’re bringing main-character energy to a supporting role. While I feel a little weird advising you to be thankful for your pittance, I think that’s the only move for you here. He has his main thing going on (his marriage!), and your presence is supplementary to that. That may sound brusque, but this dynamic was in the social contract when you started hooking up, and perhaps the continuation of said hook-ups depends on honoring said contract as it was written. You’re his fuck buddy, and even if that sometimes includes leaning more into the buddy than the fuck, your place is on the outskirts. Becoming more included in the rest of his life, including getting to know his wife, may broach the rules and boundaries dictated by his arrangement with her. If they aren’t specifically polyamorous (and perhaps merely open), your request for more will be denied and it may mark you as a potential problem for the core relationship that they are presumably trying to maintain.
In any case, use this as proof of where you stand. You want more and he’s not giving it. This issue may come up in another form, and you may find yourself frustrated all over again. You’re trying to fill your pail from a reservoir that is shallow by design. You need to ask yourself whether you’re OK with a few drops here and there or if you need to find a new spring to quench your thirst.
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Dear How to Do It,
I’m a gay man who has been with my husband for 30 years now. I’m 63 and he’s 68. We’ve had a great life, and continue to be mostly content, but he’s not into sex nearly as much as me. As the years have gone on, he’s mostly become a side. I think he’d be fine if we just gave each other massages and never had actual sex again. A lot of times he has erectile dysfunction but doesn’t want to talk about it and hides his dick from me thinking I won’t notice. He developed severe asthma about 10 years ago and has been using steroids, which made him gain weight, but I don’t care about that and have never brought it up. Besides, aren’t steroids supposed to make you horny?
He has no desire to open the relationship, but I feel I’m missing out and that time is running out. I came out during the AIDS epidemic so only knew safe sex (condoms, no cum in mouth) until we got together. Now, with PrEP, it seems like everyone is able to have real sex again—something I never got to experience with anyone but him, and now he doesn’t want to do it anymore. Part of me wants to divorce him and finally get to have the slut phase that was somewhat stunted by AIDS but we get along in every other way—he’s kind, fun, a confidante, a great cook, etc. Sometimes I get really sad just thinking about how sorry our sex life has become but other times it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Any ideas?
—Don’t Want to Be a Born Again Virgin
Dear Born Again Virgin,
I think you should push (harder) for an open relationship. He may not desire it, but it seems like he doesn’t desire much of anything along those lines these days. What’s important is that you do and that you’re seriously thinking of exiting the relationship as a result of the lack of sex you’re having. If he knows the situation is that dire, he might reconsider.
I agree with you: Life is short, and hot guys are for tasting. This isn’t something that you’re going to just get over—it’s going to bother you until you experience being slutty, one way or another, and the worst way to do that would be to cheat. If he’s not satisfying you, the least he can do is let you pursue satisfaction. It will require a lot of conversations, that should include boundary-/rule-setting, and the airing out of any concerns. Be ready to make certain concessions and be open to changing the arrangement to match his comfort level. He may say he’s cool with something (like you seeing someone multiple times), but then change his mind once it actually happens. That’s OK. There’s going to be give and take there and as the more active member of the couple, you should be ready to assuage the discomfort of the more sensitive member, as long as you are able to maintain some version of ethical nonmonogamy.
Also, just a few things to clear up: The kind of steroids typically prescribed for asthma (corticosteroids) are not the same that people take to get jacked (anabolic steroids). They bind to different receptors in the body. Corticosteroids may reduce testosterone levels (and former users of anabolic steroids may have decreased testosterone). Also, using condoms and refraining from coming in someone’s mouth doesn’t make sex any less real. They might make it slightly less fun and decidedly less gooey, but no less real. Just saying.
Dear How to Do It,
From the time I met my partner, four years now, he has had problems with keeping an erection. I’m very confused since he has a hypersexual drive and has been with at least 50 people in the years prior to me. We have discussed the causes of losing his erection a few times and we usually land on stress, lack of sleep, or “just happens.” It’s caused a lot of friction between us but we just ignore it and move on until the next fight.
This week, it happened again. He just couldn’t keep it up. His usual go-to move is to go to give me oral and it makes me feel like it’s to hide his lost erection. The next day we texted about it and he said he loses his erection because I told him I don’t want to be grabbed hard during sex so he has to think about how to touch me. This felt like he was blaming me for his lost erection. I am sure I am not the only woman he has slept with who voiced how they don’t want to be touched. In fact, he shared that he has been with women who are sensitive to certain touch due to a history of sexual violence. So why is voicing my boundaries creating a problem with his erection? I’m wondering if we are just now sexually compatible. I don’t want to have sex with someone who can’t keep an erection, it makes me very self-conscious and his blaming me just made it worse. I am unsure of how to proceed.
Dear Left Hanging,
You’ve done nothing wrong here—you have every right to voice how you do and don’t want to be touched. It’s furthermore not a bit unreasonable that you don’t want to be grabbed hard during sex (or ever) for that matter. That said, there may be something to his claim. Perhaps having to put conscious thought into his behavior somehow prevents him from entering the flow state of sex when time melts, and everything is perfect and in sync. That’s truly too bad for him—clearly, he needs to be conscious of his behavior—but the problem here is perhaps not in your directive but that he’s receiving any directive. I point this out not to excuse him but to show you that this isn’t necessarily personal. It’s his thing. His erection or lack thereof is not necessarily a reflection of you. It’s about him being in concert with you. Just because something you said may have had influence over a situation (if that is even the actual cause—who knows), it doesn’t mean it’s your fault.
This could indeed be a case of incompatibility. It almost certainly will be if it goes on for much longer without any tending on his side. If he’s serious about wanting to keep an active sex life with you, he should be looking into erectile dysfunction remedies, including but not limited to a cock ring and/or PDE5 inhibitors. If he doesn’t do anything about it and seems content to just chalk it up to your modest request and live his life limp, you can take that as a message that your sex life is as dead as his dick.
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I have found myself recently in a position where a man who I know has a girlfriend (I am also female) has propositioned me for sex. I am very attracted to him, and I feel like I wouldn’t have much guilt if I slept with him. At this point, I am looking just for sex, not a relationship, and this one-time tryst would be just sex.