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 am a 37F, in a common-law relationship to a 39M. We have two young children and live comfortably. Over the years, I’ve learned that he is a narcissist and overall unpleasant man. I am no longer attracted to him, and we are going through the motions for the sake of our children.
In December of 2021, I reconnected with an old classmate from grade eight over Instagram. He is also in a sexless, loveless marriage (with two kids). We have so much in common, and we are both super attracted to each other. He and I will sext, send pics, or just talk about what’s going on in our lives. We have met up only twice to have sex. Sounds like an affair, right? I’m not so sure though, because we never really acknowledged the fact that we are cheating on our spouses. Yes, we would say we have to take this to the grave, not tell a soul, and in the heat of the moment, we would tell each other how bad we are being. But the word “affair” has never been uttered by any of us.
He got close to getting caught once (while we mutually masturbate over a video call), and we stopped talking for all of a week until he was back in my DMs seeing how I was doing. I know this can’t happen forever, and neither of us has ever talked about leaving our spouses. We keep saying that it’s just fun, no strings or attachment. That we can stop anytime. But it’s been over a year of this now, and I can’t see stopping being an easy task. I enjoy it so much, he makes me feel hot, and I’ve actually started to take better care of myself since we started talking. He won’t leave me alone either. All signs point to “yes, this is an affair.” But I’m still questioning the authenticity of it. I need to hear it bluntly from an outside source: Is this an affair? How deep in it am I? Am I in denial?
—Deep in Denial
I’m not certain why the semantics of this situation are so important to you, but if I had to guess, I’d say it might have something to do with definitions / “authenticity” being a much easier focal point than the ethical ramifications of what you and that grown up eighth grader are doing. But since we’re getting semantic, let’s turn to the dictionary (this is a hack writing device that I almost never employ, but it’s prudent here I promise). Merriam-Webster says a love affair is “a romantic attachment or episode between lovers.” Google, via Oxford Languages, highlights the cheating connotation of the phrase without absolutely committing to it (how appropriate): “a romantic or sexual relationship between two people, especially one that is outside marriage.” In the 1957 classic film An Affair to Remember (referenced liberally in 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle), the word “affair” isn’t spoken—it’s only used in song (and obviously the title). Granted, star Deborah Kerr sings it in the middle of the movie (“Our love affair is a wondrous thing/That we’ll rejoice in remembering”), but the two characters otherwise don’t say it to each other to describe their relationship. They don’t have to! Everyone already knows what it is. And so too do we about you and that guy you’re screen-jerking it with.
Yes, you’re having an affair. How deep in it are you? You can’t stop with any ease and you’ve actually modified your life (including your very person) as a result. As deep as a throat, in my estimation. It doesn’t sound like you’re in denial at all, except about labels (but even then, you came to us because you knew what we’d say and you wanted to hear it bluntly). I’d suspect more denial if you didn’t, for example, use the word “cheating” in your letter, for which “having an affair” can be used as a euphemism. (It doesn’t concern me that you haven’t discussed cheating directly with him—your mention of it to us signals acknowledgement of what you’re doing as such.)
Also, if you were truly in denial, you’d be in denial about being in denial, but you signed off “Deep in Denial.” You know what you’re doing, and you just wanted me to retype it back to you, using some different syntax and relying on some research, like a good blogger. So, here, my dear.
Dear How to Do It,
This isn’t a very high stakes question, but it is one that I would love your input on. My partner and I—both women—want to have a threesome. We’ve talked through insecurities, boundaries, and other things that could arise for us in this situation, and will continue to do so. But we are both confident that this has the potential be a very exciting and sexy experience that we would like to embark on together. We’d like to find someone that we don’t already know. The easy answer for finding someone seems to be a dating app, but that doesn’t seem like a great way to figure out vibes or attraction, and we’re really into the fantasy of finding someone at a bar and taking them home. Luckily, we live in a city with a lesbian bar that we enjoy. Our friends have had luck finding hookups there. However, this is a place that is frequented by both single women and couples—and the etiquette is, of course, that if someone seems to be in a couple, you back off and keep interactions platonic. What are some ways to signal at the bar or dancefloor that yes, we are a couple, but we’re still “open for business” as a package deal? Additionally, any other advice for first time threesome-havers?
Here is a pickup line that once worked on me at a Pride pool party: A sexy guy walked up to me and said, “I want to watch you fuck my boyfriend,” who was even sexier. Sold! Who am I to deprive the needy? I’d suggest playing around with a similar tactic—you don’t have to be so crass (what works on gay dudes is not at all guaranteed to work on gay girls), but a coordinated suggestion of interest should do the trick. It’s funny that etiquette in the spaces you frequent dictates backing off and keeping interactions platonic in this age of nonmonogamy; that’s extremely different from gay-male culture. Recently for a project, I talked to Jack Fritscher, the writer and former editor-in-chief of the San Francisco gay leather magazine he founded in the ‘70s, Drummer. Fritscher told me about a philosophy that dated back before Stonewall amongst guys who are into guys: For a couple cruising together, “if one is a 7, and one is an 8, together, they can probably bag a 10.”
I think if you let on that you’re both open—say, you spot a hot woman, one of you dances with her, the other joins without a shred of jealousy guiding your hips—you’ll send the message loud and clear.
In terms of advice for the actual threesome: Talk boundaries beforehand. A completely generous disposition (i.e. “You can do whatever you want, I’m not going to get upset”) will facilitate the least dramatic, most pleasurable outcome (it will allow your partner to not worry that they’re doing something wrong and just focus on the fun). But not everyone feels so generous, and it’s best to get in front of this stuff before feelings get hurt. A good third will give you roughly equal attention, but not everyone is so good and so if one of you happens to make a stronger connection, don’t take it personally. It’s just one person’s chemistry. People are sensitive about unicorn-hunters—I don’t think you need to stress a lot about that if you’re treating your partners like people, but do go out of your way to show that your intentions are good and that you’re in it for the fun and pleasure of all three, not just the couple unit. Speaking of which, I love a threesome, but you know what I love even more? A foursome. It practically guarantees there’s someone for everyone and can circumvent any unicorn-related anxiety. Consider picking yourself up a hot couple.
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Dear How to Do It,
My wife and I have been married for many years. We have two children and we are very happy together. She is just as beautiful and sexy as when we first met. Starting seven or eight years ago, the sex (frequent and great for both of us) became infrequent due to us both being tired from childcare and work responsibilities. She stopped initiating (which I really miss), although when I initiate (typically once every 1-2 months–I know–not enough), she is up for it most of the time.
Due to girth-related issues, traditional intercourse is painful for her, but she enjoys receiving oral sex and she gives me amazing blowjobs (my biggest kink). I take care of her needs first, and I really enjoy it being this way. The problem is that when she starts to take care of my needs, I have major issues with premature ejaculation. She starts by kissing my chest and stomach. Early in our relationship it was really exciting! I hoped it would lead to a blowjob and it almost always did. I could hold out enough to enjoy 10-to-15 seconds of her giving me the best oral sex I have ever experienced. Nowadays, she starts kissing her way down my stomach and I cannot contain myself. At this point, it has been several years since she has given me a blowjob–though it is my fault because I cannot hold out past the stomach kissing! I am so frustrated with myself and I miss her blowjobs more than I can put into words. I cannot figure out what to do to stop myself from getting too excited too fast. I have tried the standard solutions (please don’t tell me to think about baseball when my wife is kissing her way down my stomach), but nothing helps.
— Desperately Trying to Hold Out
Dear How to Do It,
Try asking her to skip the chest- and stomach-kissing section. It seems to be a major erotic trigger for you, and while obviously exciting, it isn’t necessary to the act. You can also experiment with masturbating earlier in the day that you are going to initiate sex—it might not be super effective, but it could buy you some time.
Ian Kerner’s So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex: Laying Bare and Learning to Repair Our Love Lives, an HTDI fav, contains an extensive chapter on premature ejaculation. Kerner has many tips for guys who come too fast when sex is initiated, but there are also a lot of suggestions for just general improvement of PE. Since yours is more of the hair-trigger variety, and not of the 30-seconds-of-penetration-and-I-pop, something like the squeeze technique (in which the penis is squeezed by the thumb on one side and the middle and index fingers on the other when orgasm is near) isn’t really relevant to your situation. But there’s plenty else in there. Studies suggest that men with PE have low levels of serotonin and Kerner, a sex therapist, often recommends a low daily dose of an SSRI to his patients with ED. Lowering your heart rate could also help—this can be achieved through exercise, or through something called the Valsalva maneuver. For instruction on that, Kerner quotes John Elefteriades, director of the Aortic Institute at Yale University:
“Quickly bear down as if you are having a bowel movement. Close your mouth and nose and raise the pressure in your chest, like you’re stifling a sneeze. Next, inhale for 5–8 seconds, hold that breath for 3–5 seconds, and exhale slowly. Repeat this approach several times to lower your heart rate.”
And then there is yoga. Kerner cites a study, in which half of men with PE diagnoses were given a daily dose of Prozac, and the other half were asked to practice yoga for an hour a day. The yoga poses included pelvic-floor strengtheners and, of course, deep breathing. All 38 subjects who practiced yoga saw improvements, while 25 out of 30 guys who took Prozac did. In another study comparing yoga’s effectiveness on PE to that of paroxetine (Paxil), the effect size of yoga showed to be greater than in the drug group, though both groups saw statistically significant improvements. Kerner surmises that yoga may aid here “possibly by helping to improve focus, strengthen pelvic muscles, manage stress, and lower the heart rate.” So try it, it’s great.
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Dear How to Do It,
My wife and I have been happily together for 15 years, (married for 10) and have two kids.
Our quality of sex has always been amazing, we do pretty much everything the other one needs to make an orgasm happen and that’s great.
But for the past two years or so, I have been getting odd cravings to perform oral sex on a man.
I don’t find men attractive in that way, and I don’t fancy the idea of penetrative sex with a dude, but I just think it’s something I need to try. I would never go behind her back to hook up with a stranger to make this happen, as I find that unbelievably disrespectful. But how do I approach the subject of a MMF three-way with her, without her thinking I’m gay, which I am not, or that she isn’t enough for me anymore? She can get quite jealous if I talk to other women I know, but would her feelings of jealousy be as strong if it was a man?
— Horny and Confused
I’ve heard people profess to having less jealousy depending on the gender of their partner’s desired sex object, but this is just an anecdotal observation. You won’t know your wife’s reaction until you extract it. Be prepared for the worst, though. Jealous is jealous, and there’s a chance that your wife will be just as jealous as a result of this suggestion as she would be if you proposed an MFF three-way. But life is short, and dicks are for sucking, so I think you should at least try to facilitate this. It would be absurd for her to assume you’re gay, after having “amazing” sex with you for 15 years just because of you have a craving for some man ham. At the very least, she should be able to acknowledge that sexuality exists on a spectrum, and your interest in one thing does not bespeak a lack of interest in another thing. Sexual attraction is no zero-sum game. Plenty of bi guys—they are real!—can attest to that, not to mention everyone else whose sexuality isn’t strictly focused on one gender. This would be a good topic of conversation, as would the pleasure you derive from your sex life. Fully committed partners—who love each other, and love having sex with each other—branch out sometimes because the one thing their partner can’t be is other people. You can really have it all, but so many are afraid to ask for it. So, I think you should at least ask. If she thinks this somehow revises your sexual feelings for her, assure her that it doesn’t and then prove it by continuing your amazing sex life and not pressing too hard on the issue.
More Advice From Slate
I’m a woman who, since I was a teenager, has had my entire sexuality centered on cops. Through experimentation, I’ve learned that role play, handcuffs, and a uniform aren’t enough—I prefer the real thing. So I sleep with cops, and I love every second of it, but these men have not made good romantic partners for me long term (I’m looking for a serious relationship). Mostly because they tend to be right wing—I’m not—and also often have anger issues, PTSD, and/or alcoholism issues. I think I’ll always be holding out for an officer who is the exception to the rule, but in the meantime, I’d like to be able to orgasm from a civilian. Can I somehow rewire what arouses me?