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 dating an amazing woman who is really into daddy play. The sex is really hot—it turns out I like being in control and get really turned on when she talks in her little girl voice. The trouble is, this isn’t a type of play I have much experience with, and I know she has had past sexual trauma regarding male authority figures. So I feel really out of my depth here. I don’t know the line between fun sexy play and unhealthy rehashing of trauma. The trouble is: I don’t know if she does either.
When I shared my concerns, she was really clear about how me being her “daddy” wasn’t about being her actual dad (one of my concerns) but actually a beautiful and loving way for her to take control of her sexuality. So… great. But then a few weeks later, she said that she was worried that this was an unhealthy way of avoiding thinking about trauma and she really regretted it. So we stopped. But then recently, she used her baby voice and said she wanted to play again. So maybe it’s back on? Part of the challenge is that when she goes into that mode it’s hard for her to express what she wants or to say yes or no (even safe words are tough). She’s not in therapy for her trauma and I don’t have a lot of experience here, so it feels like we’re operating at an advanced level without anyone at the steering wheel. How do we find a healthy balance here? I’d love resources to learn how to be a good and caring “daddy.” Or is this something we should avoid because of the link to her trauma? Ultimately I want to do whatever makes her happy, but part of her fantasy is handing some of that power to me.
—Daddy Has Issues
Dear Daddy Has Issues,
BDSM and kink are no substitute for time with a mental health professional. Stumbling into a trauma landmine with a partner can be, well, explosive. If therapy is at all possible, and your partner is willing, it’s really ideal that she starts working on that trauma before engaging in sexual activity that’s likely to overlap. What concerns me most, though, is the way that even safe words are hard for your partner to express when you’re engaged in these scenarios. If she can’t say no, stop, or use her safeword, she can’t tell you when something has gone too far. And you don’t have much experience. This is really dodgy. It isn’t so much that you should avoid this kind of interaction entirely, so much as these two issues need to be resolved, at least somewhat, first.
Part of being a good daddy, top, dom, or strong and sexually assertive partner, is knowing your own boundaries and taking care of yourself. You’re expressing a lot of the same doubts I have. Listen to that.
Outside of the power dynamic—outside of daddy mode—have a conversation. As equals. Tell your partner that you feel out of your depth, and that you’re concerned about triggering her trauma and the way she loses her ability to communicate boundaries and limits. Ask her to work together with you, again, as equals, to figure out ways the two of you can navigate enjoying the things you enjoy in a way that feels like it has more guardrails. This recent article from a friend of the column, Heart, might give you some ideas.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a cis woman who masturbates quite often—without penetration typically at least once a day and with penetration occasionally. For many years, I didn’t have a romantic partner so it was all me. Now, I’m having sex with others again and I’m finding that nothing feels as good as my own hands. Any tips to make sex with others more pleasurable after so much time on my own?
How much of this is a difference in sensation? Is there any difference in how relaxed you are? If the latter is occurring, you might take more time to connect and engage in more non-touching foreplay before you start engaging physically. Also consider how you’re being touched, and how well that matches with the ways you like to be touched. If there are gaps, communicate those. Tell your partners how you like to be stimulated. Ask for what you want. Lastly, you can also give yourself pleasure while you’re having sex with other people. This can look like anything from mutual masturbation to reaching down to rub your clitoris while you’re being railed. I think you’ve got this.
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Dear How to Do It,
I am a newly married woman in my mid-20s. My husband is the same age as I am. Since we got engaged and moved in together, the frequency with which we have sex has decreased. Prior to our engagement, we would have sex three to four times a week. I have a high sex drive and he told me he did as well, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Now, we are down to one time a week. While he spends the time to try and get me to finish, each time we do the same position and he doesn’t want to mix it up. I have approached my husband multiple times in the last year about the sudden infrequency and the lack of variety. He always says that he’s too tired in the evening and wants to do it in the morning but I don’t (I have an hour-long commute and sleep trouble), that other positions don’t keep him aroused, and that he’ll do better. Previously, he’d change things up once and say he did what I asked before falling back into old patterns. Lately, he hasn’t even bothered to do that much when I bring this up. I don’t know how to bring this up again without sounding like a broken record and being tuned out. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life having lackluster sex, but I’m not sure how to approach it.
Dear Celibate Newlywed,
Proximity and familiarity, especially living together, often seem to have a decreasing effect on sexual interest within relationships. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a well-documented occurrence. Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity is the go-to resource for this, so do give that a read.
I hear that you have an hour-long commute and trouble sleeping. However, based on what you’ve said here, that’s the one area I see where your husband has left a door open. So, if it’s possible for you to forgo that last cup of coffee, or start winding down an hour earlier, or anything that might give you the time and energy in the morning to nurture the sexual connection you’re missing, that’s a great place to start. You don’t mention which position your husband defaults to, but that’s also an area to consider. What turns him on about that particular arrangement? Is it the sensation? The view? Some power dynamic? Whatever it is, are there other ways you might push the same button?
If catering to his preferences regarding time and getting creative about how to achieve variety that also works for him doesn’t work, you’ve got a different issue. Then you can broach the subject from a position of having exhausted all the possible options. He may have better insight when it’s been proven that neither day nor position is the issue. He may take things more seriously when you’ve shown that you’re trying to compromise. And there’s a good chance that one of my suggestions above will help. Good luck.
Dear How to Do It,
After 20 years with the same man, my confidence is at a bit of a dip. Near the end, there was next to no intimacy and I felt a bit like a middle-aged shriveled unbangable mongrel. Well, I now know, of course, that that’s not the case and I do have an air of sex appeal about me as is evident from a recent connection I made. We’ve not met up yet, we’re at differing ends of the country but we’ve known each other for a long time, over 25 years, we were at school together, though it’s a new connection and not sordidly been going on for that long!
I love how he makes me feel, but know this isn’t a long-termer. No love involved I just want to be thrown against the wall and, honestly, feel passion again! We’ve had various virtual flirting sessions, the most recent of which I copped a glance at his goods… and I realized I have no idea what I’m doing. My ex-husband was circumcised. Honestly, it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to me either way as I had very little experience prior to meeting him so I didn’t know any different, only that he’d told me. Now I’m freaking out because I don’t know what to do when we meet up next month. We’ve spoken about our sexual likes and dislikes, and what we’d imagine happening, but I have no idea how to handle an uncircumcised penis. I’ve heard it’s more sensitive. Am I going to go in like a brute and break the poor man?
The only thing, embarrassingly, that I know about foreskins is that they get dirty… and that’s from high school so I don’t even know if that’s actually true. It looked so strange to me having only seen my husband’s penis for 20 years. I don’t want to be a disappointment to my new suitor. Any and all advice is welcomed, please.
Dear Wildly Unprepared,
Oh, man, when I first started working in porn, the most interaction I’d had with an uncut cock was a fumbling half-hand job on a single occasion. I pinched his foreskin and pulled it back too hard, and then got embarrassed when he communicated these things and gave up. Years and years later, I am absolutely qualified to handle this question. We can all thank Mick Blue, back on that porn set in the Valley in the late 2000s, for teaching me the basics.
We know that fetuses begin with the same genital parts that only later diverge and become a vagina/clitoris or a penis during gestation. Uncircumcised penises make this a little more obvious. What I’m saying here is it helps to think of the head and foreskin of an uncut cock as more like a giant clit. Yes, the stuff about squeezing the shaft is (generally) similarly pleasant as for people who are cut. But the head is much more sensitive, and the foreskin should be treated more like the clitoral hood. You don’t yank your hood back, so you don’t yank the foreskin back. You let both of those parts retract on their own or slide them back very gently at first. You want a lubed clit if there’s any friction, and the same holds true with the glans of the penis.
All that said, at the end of the day penises are attached to people, who can tell you what they do and don’t enjoy. So be gentle, go slow, and communicate—you’ll be OK.
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