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,
Okay, so this person and I have been having sex for years. He is the only man who I’ve been sexually active with, and he claims I’m the only women he’s been sexually active with as well. All of a sudden, he started peeing blood and he went to the doctor only to be told he has chlamydia. I don’t understand how this is happening and only coming out right now after all these years we’ve been together. Is this possible without cheating? Or did he get it from someone else and he’s lying to me? Is it possible he somehow got it from me when he’s the only man I’ve been with?
— Need Answers
Dear Need Answers,
Occam’s razor is pointing in the direction of him having cheated. The reason that you don’t understand how this is possible is because the chances of contracting chlamydia through nonsexual contact are slim to none, leaning hard on the side of none. There are STDs that can pass through nonsexual contact (for example, there’s some data to suggest gonorrhea can be transmitted via kissing) outside of the context of childbirth, but to my knowledge, chlamydia is not one of them.
Notice how I’m hedging, though. I can’t say for certain that you’ve been cheated on.
It’s hard to be absolute here because human experience is vast and STDs are tricky. I ran your scenario by Dr. H. Hunter Handsfield, professor emeritus, University of Washington, and a nationally recognized STD expert, and he told me via email that false positive tests do happen, but they’re rare. He also said that “apparently new infection sometimes means previous tests were falsely negative.” Untreated chlamydia can live in the body for years, though data is scant and imprecise (due to ethical concerns and the inability to ascertain the exact date of infection). When I spoke to Handsfield last year for a similar question, he told me that for men, symptoms of urethral chlamydia have been observed clinically for six months (this is, by the way, based on pre-antibiotic data, since it’s not ethical to actually test untreated infections when treatment is available), and that’s obviously shorter than the years you’ve been with this guy.
It’s somewhat perplexing that your partner admitted the chlamydia diagnosis to you, as it almost certainly indicates cheating, but he did not actually admit to cheating. Why would he tell an apparently incomplete story, one whose blanks can be filled in so easily? Perhaps he thinks you’re gullible enough to believe that he somehow got chlamydia spontaneously or through immaculate contraction. Perhaps this is his indirect way of admitting cheating. Or maybe he didn’t cheat and this is an absolute freak occurrence. In any event, some clarity is needed. Now that you are better informed, it’s time to have a conversation. Be open but firm—know that the chances of his chlamydia coming from something other than cheating are extremely slim, but that it’s at least within the realm of human possibility.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a middle-aged, cishet guy. I am not especially kinky. Also, I have always tried to be extremely considerate of women, to the point where I have missed out on sexual opportunities because I am afraid of being perceived as aggressive, or because I misread clear signs of interest out of nervousness or uncertainty. (“Is it ok if I kiss you now?” “You shouldn’t have asked.”)
A few years ago, I started to casually date someone who was very into very serious BDSM. I was clear that this was not my thing, and that I wouldn’t be able even to try to accommodate her needs; she was fine with this, because she had other partners who could satisfy these desires. But, because she’s willing to tolerate pretty much anything, I can do pretty much anything I want to her. I can treat her like my own personal living fuck-doll, and she loves it. And … it turns out that I really love it too. I may not want to whip her, but it’s great to ass-fuck her without asking permission; I don’t have rape fantasies, but it’s great that if I’m on another date and call her up for a threesome, she’ll come right over.
I don’t see her very often anymore because she moved a bit out of town, but I think all the time about the sex we had, and how much I love it. But I also think, a lot, about what kind of guy this makes me. If I read this letter, I’d think, “this guy is an asshole.” But I don’t want to be an asshole; I want to be the type of guy who doesn’t get laid because he’s too polite, not the kind of guy who expects his girlfriend to cater to his every whim. Even watching rough-sex porn actively turns me off. I don’t want to be the kind of person who likes this.
So I don’t know what to think. Am I, in fact, an asshole? Or am I too socially conditioned to be a “nice guy” that I’m afraid to acknowledge my own desires? And what does it mean going forward? I can’t begin to imagine how to communicate to a new partner that I’d occasionally like to treat them like a living fuck-doll, and I don’t know if I’d actually feel comfortable with a long-term partner who herself would be ok with that.
— What Am I?
Dear What Am I,
I don’t think that the sexual relationship you describe is proof of your essence, per se—how it played out was via a combination of your inclinations, your partner’s, the chemistry between the two of you, and the opportunity that was presented. Consent, as you know, is essential, but there is a particular bliss that comes from being so in sync with someone that they’re down to do whatever with you and you’re fully aware of this. Besides, your desires are not what make you an asshole—what you do with them is. Even Christ was tempted. I think, in fact, one could make the argument that he who fights temptation and lives a life of righteousness has a stronger, and, if you will, better character than he who never experiences temptation at all and skates by. Laziness is not a hallmark of a strong character—he who fights for his integrity earns it.
There are people who are dominant and that’s just how they are. Those people, especially within the rubric of BDSM, ethically express this via conversations, contracts, safe words, and aftercare. There’s a market for this type. Some people like to play the role of living fuck-doll. However, treating them like a person in other contexts is crucial. While your taste does make assholeishness possible, it does not automatically qualify you for that distinction. I think you’d do well to find a sub, and do even better once said sub is secured, to let them dictate how they’d like to be treated and when—if that includes being a living fuck-doll, all the better.
Alternately, you can advertise on FetLife or a similar kink site that a living fuck-doll is, in fact, what you’re looking for.
The last clause of your last sentence is potentially telling; clearly, shame has guided the writing of your letter. It’s one thing to have it for yourself; it’s another thing to impose it on others, or let it color your assessment of them. Have compassion. People are into wild shit sexually. What that makes a person is … someone who is into wild shit. That’s all. Variation within the realm of consensual sex is morally benign. Do you respect the partner that you had such amazing sex with? I truly hope so—she gave you such immense pleasure that she taught you things about yourself and set a new standard against which to judge future partners. Good person, good shmerson, that sounds like a hell of a woman, a living fuck-doll worthy of worship. If you can’t square someone’s humanity with their sexual taste, you probably shouldn’t be having sex at all. That’s where you’d enter asshole territory—so try to steer clear.
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Dear How to Do It,
I’m stuck in a particular thought process I need help escaping regarding the end of a FWB situation. We paused things about six months ago, in part because they were feeling overwhelmed with their work load, and because sex in general was making them feel a lot of dysphoria as they explored their gender identity. We are still friends, and the relationship is good, and I am perfectly fine with that. However, lately they have started making comments about how they wish hooking up was easier, and how much Tinder and such suck for queer people in our area, though nothing about us in particular. It’s worth noting that this kind of topic was common before we started sleeping together, so it’s not new or weird for us.
I am hesitant to bring up a conversation of possibly hooking up again, as I don’t want to put any pressure on them one way or another, I understand that wanting to sleep with someone could still mean not with me in particular, and I really do respect that these could just be abstract ideas they want to air out. However, I have also been prone to miss obvious cues in the past, and can’t tell if these are hints they are now in a different place mentally, and willing to “un-pause” the sex part of our relationship. On top of that, both of us have a habit of assuming the other will make the first move. How does one go about conversations like this without making a good thing awkward? Or is this a case where I should just let sleeping dogs lie, assuming my friend would let me know if they had any interest?
— Friendship Is a Benefit
Your trepidation is wise, as your FWB’s stated reasons for pausing your sex life with them might have not told the whole story. It can be really tough to tell someone that you’ve had consistent sex with, “Actually, let’s not.” But many fuck-buddy relationships exist in a gray area of possibility while being defined by a lack of commitment. That can make for a relational haze: Are we doing this? Are we not? Can we still? What if we’re extremely horny?
I think given the boundary that they already set and your desire to keep things as free of awkwardness as possible, you should wait until the next time they bring up the general topic of hooking up and its discontents. If they say something like, “It’s really hard to hook up,” you can respond with, “Well, I’m always around to help you relieve some frustration.” And leave it at that. The idea is to point to the seed that has been planted without getting anywhere near behavior that might be considered pressuring or coercive. Just remind them that you’re down, and let them do what they will with that information—maybe they’ll laugh it off, maybe they’ll take you up. You’re handling the sex pause maturely and well, so I think you get to have a little bit of hope, as a treat.
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Dear How to Do It,
I have an intense sex drive. I’ve always enjoyed long-term FWB situations because dressing up, fun kinky situations, outdoor flings, pretty much full-on pleasure for both parties came easily.
Now fast forward a few years: I’m married to a really good man. We have young children together and both work full-time, opposite shifts. Everything is wonderful minus our sex life. I’ve talked to him (without confrontation), showed him porn examples, guided his hands while having sex. Part of the problem is that he’s turned off many sexual switches for me. He made a comment that I had a squirrel tail bum. He shot me down the first and only time I dressed up sexually for him, asking what’s the point?—it would be on the floor faster than I put it on. (He’s apologized for the comments.) I’ve gotten Brazilian hair removal done. Nothing seems to fix my switches that are off. There’s no foreplay, touching prior to sex, or a fun spark. I’ve never had this issue with a FWB I’ve connected with; it’s always fun, we’re laughing, it’s not a pattern of simplicity. I feel I’ve become too comfortable with my husband and I’ve pushed my sexual needs aside. He’s a true creature of habit and pattern. I know he masturbates in the bathroom, and I watch porn daily.
After sex I usually watch porn.
Recently, I reconnected with a FWB I had 10+ years ago. We had remained non-sexually in contact over the years. This is someone that opened my eyes and many times my legs to my sexual intensity needs. I feel like many of those switches are on with him but still off with my husband. Why do I feel so broken in my marriage? Should I accept it’s really hard to find the whole package … either you’re a sexual match or you’re a partner in everyday life without sexual needs filled?
Why do you feel so broken with your husband? Well, let’s see. There’s no foreplay, touching prior to sex, or a fun spark. (Your words.) You’ve attempted to teach him what you’re into, to no apparent avail. He’s said negative things about your body and kinky interests. You’ve answered your own question several times over.
There’s lacking chemistry, and then there’s working from two different labs. Your husband is smoking in the parking lot. This is not for lack of effort on your part, which sucks. A conversation emphasizing just how dire things are might be useful, but it just as easily might not. I don’t think you have to settle for an unsatisfactory sex life. You could choose that route—you see how having some things, but not everything, you want is relatively satisfying. We’re built to connect. But it’s those people that we connect with on many levels that show themselves as true partner material. There’s too much missing here to convince me that your husband qualifies. That said, it’s rare to find someone who is everything to you, and then when you do, that’s a huge responsibility for that person to keep up. This is part of why I’m such a big proponent of nonmonogamy—sometimes we connect with people and want to stay connected even after the sex fizzles (or wasn’t there to being with).
So, you have options. I think you should carefully consider them, but I also think you should act with your interests in mind. They aren’t being satisfied by your partner, and you deserve to at least pursue satisfaction. You can have a frank conversation about your sex life. You can use that to transition into a conversation about opening your relationship. While I know it would be difficult considering the children, you can break up in an attempt to find someone with whom you form more connections. But I think you should do something—your letter is sad, and you don’t deserve to stay that way.
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