S1: This podcast contains graphic, explicit and even sometimes a little bit vulgar discussions of sexuality. Hi, I’m Stoya. I’m a writer and pornographer,
S2: and I’m Rich Juzwiak, I’m a writer.
S1: We’re the authors of How to Do It. Slate’s sex advice column. This is our new podcast, where we answer brand new letters about all your sex and relationship issues twice a week. You can ask us anything about sex or trying to have sex or not wanting to have sex. We’re here to help.
S2: So we’re going to do things a little bit differently than we’ve been doing them for this episode. We have crowdsourced a bunch of responses to the letter that we’re going to be discussing and Stoya tell people why we did that or what that speaks to when it comes to writing an advice column.
S1: Well, so people like to respond to the advice we give with various degrees of attempting to have a dialogue. And when this was suggested, I thought, Oh, cool, let’s make this an invited thing because an invited thing feels so much better to me than someone being like, You’re bad at your job. I would have said this, and yeah, I’m using that mocking voice. I’m doing it. I give not a zero fuck. I have PMS two weeks early. My tits hurts so bad. Like, this is not gentle Stoya time.
S2: I mean, I love it. Please bring it. I love a feisty Stoya. I find that so much feedback from writing on the internet. So much ire comes from like, you didn’t say what I would have said. And it’s like, Well, yes, of course I didn’t, because I have my mind and you have yours and I don’t know who you are. But that said, while I do think that we’re informed through a variety of channels, personally speaking, I feel like I’m always or most of the time, just kind of taking a crack, you know, just doing my best to reason through this. So I love the idea of inviting people in hearing other voices, weighing our options and then kind of like deliberating on that and delivering a verdict. Judge Judy style
S1: don’t pee on my leg and tell me you’re squirting for,
S2: you know, another thing she says is like, This is my playpen, so you could do something with like, you know, this is my BDSM. I’m the dominatrix here. No, it really is my goal. Not just professionally, but I think just in life to, like, become Judge Judy in some way. So just the very idea of even getting anything close to there in this particular show is exciting to me.
S1: There’s a very saucy judge costume that I think I’m going to have to acquire for our next in-person listening session.
S2: All right, so shall we? Shall we do this show? We hear the question and then hear some reader responses?
S1: Let’s do it.
S3: Dear, how to do it. I’m a woman in my early 30s. About a year ago, I started dating a man around my age from an app. The relationship became sexual quickly, and it has remained more or less the same since then. We’d have dinner once or twice a week, and sometimes he’d stay at my place the whole weekend. We’re both busy and I work long hours at home. So this balance made sense for us. But I really did like the guy, and it seemed like we were moving towards something more serious. He texted me constantly and was pretty doting. A few weeks ago, I invited him over his usual and he said he was leaving Town to travel for a week. He phrased this weirdly. I thought so. I talked to him more and it seemed clear he was going out of town with another woman. I asked him directly, and he confirmed it. He even said he’s actually been seeing this other woman longer than me. I asked if she knew about me, and he said she also knew they weren’t exclusive. I did not know that about us. He could tell. I was surprised and apologized and said we could talk more when he got back. I haven’t returned his follow up messages yet. In a conversation about this with a friend, she pointed out that we never talked about exclusivity and said it seemed casual. And that’s true. But after a year, is it really possible he failed to mention a whole other girlfriend to me by accident? At the very least, he could have said after we spent Christmas together last year that he intended to sleep around. We’ve always use condoms, so I’m not that worried about STDs, but I feel really duped, signed unknowingly, the other woman.
S1: So let’s hear from the internet.
S2: I noticed, like three categories of responses the letter writer is to blame for their own situation is one the guy is to blame and in fact did do per number two. Number three, they’re both to blame. So it was actually really nice. I thought that we got so many responses. People really like cared about this question. I thought we could read a representative one from each. But what was your experience with the feedback?
S1: The people who did respond to me personally took a lot of care with their position and like I said, what they thought and then backed it up with their thinking process. And I noticed the specific word dupe came up over and over and over.
S2: Yeah, yeah, that is the foremost concern to a lot of people. Was she duped? Did he do her? Who is to blame here? So do you want to read the first one?
S1: As so, Herron, via Rich’s DMs, said she should leave him, not because he necessarily did anything wrong. Her relationship is just not the relationship she thought she was in, and I don’t think it’s worth trying to recover from that. There are so many people in the world. Clean slate.
S2: So this is a neutral kind of take just irrespective of the details. This is just not the right relationship for this writer, which I kind of think is the ultimate truth here.
S1: I will withhold my judgment.
S2: OK, all right. All right. OK, so the next one? This is from Becky. This feels like a lie of omission. It’s one thing to not kiss and tell, but Bro probably knew she wouldn’t take it well and purposefully didn’t say anything. In my experience, move on. There’s not enough relationship there to go through the whole rebuilding trust thing, and the spark is going to be gone when he gets back. Sounds like you and your booty call had a good run next?
S1: Yeah, I mean, putting the label booty call kind of trivializes. Yeah, but I can see how Becky would be inclined to trivialize given what went down.
S2: Yes, and lying by a mission was another motif I saw in the replies. I saw a lot of that. There is a question as to whether this guy was sort of manipulating the situation by withholding something else to keep in mind. Yeah.
S1: Margaret Taylor in Rich, his Instagram DMs. Yeah, I feel for her. But no, you don’t get to just assume exclusivity without having the conversation, at least not when you’re a mature adult person. It also sounds like she wants to have the cake and eat it, too, by keeping the relationship casual while also wanting him all to herself. As for him not mentioning other women? Maybe he thought it’s a silent agreement where they don’t have to talk about other people. Maybe he took advantage of the fact that he was never directly required to divulge such information. Maybe he liked what he had and didn’t want to rock the boat. Sure, it wasn’t particularly noble of him, but can’t really blame the guy too much for looking out for himself.
S2: So, right, there is the question of her responsibility. It seems like they’re playing by two different understandings of the relationship of the arrangement that’s happening. Well, let’s
S1: let’s just jump ahead a second to the idea of her responsibility. Yes, the relationship became sexual quickly, and it has remained more or less. That is so passive, right? Even the phrasing she’s using to describe this problem is like, Well, the relationship was right. That’s what it
S2: did. It just happen? Yeah. And so when you’re operating from that kind of understanding, then you could be assuming that your default understanding is just the way things are when there are two people in the relationship who clearly have two different understandings of what’s happening.
S1: Like sometimes I commissioned artwork or an essay for Zero Spaces, and I like to leave the creative direction in the hands of the creator. And sometimes that means I get something that is absolutely not what I was expecting at all whatsoever. But I let it be. So that’s on me, right? If I don’t take the action to say, I want this like this, I want that like that, then I don’t really have a leg to stand on as far as being upset that it didn’t go the way that I would have wanted it to.
S2: Yeah, yeah, totally. And you know, and there is like a great beauty, I think, in letting a relationship be what it is and not imposing your expectations, what you think this should be, what other people might judge this as whether this is lining up to what it’s supposed to be. I think you’re totally right if you’re going to take that route of just it is what it is. Well, and you found out what it was, you know, which
S1: segues so nicely into Amy from Twitter.
S2: Yes. Amy on Twitter says everyone can and should take responsibility for talking about what they want and expect upfront, not just the people who want something different from the most popular privileged approach. If you want monogamy, or if you want to take steps up that traditional escalator, say so. Yes, consent matters with relationships that includes both non-monogamy and monogamy. They both could have done a better job communicating in your podcast, though I hope you don’t hang that responsibility solely on the non-monogamous person. OK, so the only reason that I am inclined to hang a little bit more of the responsibility on the non-monogamous person and it’s not fair, and I come at this as a non monogamous person who’s been not exactly in situations like this, but it’s turned out that I have had a different picture of the relationship than what it was or my partner did, even when I’ve been totally transparent about it. So like, spoiler alert, you can have that conversation and set things up, and it still might not work out or you still might not be seeing eye to eye on what exactly this is. That said, the reason that I think the non-monogamous person for better or worse unfair is it is has more responsibility is the default understanding in, you know, the United States. Western culture broadly is that monogamy rules and anything that deviates from it needs. To be explicitly discussed where it should be that leaving people to their own devices and assumptions, they’re going to assume monogamy unless otherwise specified or unless they’re like already kind of like living in that world.
S1: So I’m launching off of what you said about how you can have that conversation and it might not get internalized. And speaking of holidays, there was once a partner and I told them, I am not going to marry you. We are not going to have children. There is no white picket fence in our future. And having met your mother once, there is absolutely no way in hell I am ever returning to your family’s home. Right? And then like, eight months later, we’re on the phone and he’s like, So you know, we should talk about Thanksgiving. And I’m like, Yeah, I’ll be at home in my apartment. And he’s like, But I was thinking, you’d come home with me and I’m like, Did you not hear me? When I said, in no uncertain terms, there is no way in hell I am ever going back to your family’s home. Having told you on multiple occasions, like once a month, we’re not getting married. There will be no kids. There is no white picket fence in our future. How did you even get the idea that this was a thing that was, I think, the end of the relationship, if not like within like six weeks? And so my first read of this was, are we sure that he didn’t tell her?
S2: Right? Because you have to be willing to hear it. I think people get so invested in their narrative the way that they think things should go, that they just become unmovable. This is their story and they’re sticking to it. Unfortunately, that is at odds with integrating another person in your life. I really don’t know what drives people to such blindness, but I think that kind of stubbornness really can do a number on a relationship.
S1: So let’s pretend that we know that he didn’t tell her anything coming out is this delicate thing. And I would say that coming out as polyamorous is similar to coming out as queer, coming out as a sex worker. For me, I like to lay a bunch of cards on the table right up front. You know, someone goes to kiss me and I’m like a hand up. I am not monogamous and I am not particularly interested in dates. Yes. Is that OK for you? But a lot of people don’t like to come out all the time aggressively all over the place. And so I’m not really sure how to make a ruling on this.
S2: Me too. The reason that I’m upfront like that, though, is to mitigate expectations because I know the societal default and I understand that people might be expecting something from me that I am not willing to give them. So I’d rather get that out in the open right away so that we can, like, go on with our lives if we need to do that. I do suspect after a year and holiday such as Christmas spent together, that this guy was trying to coast. It’s just a little too convenient that they never got to talking about it. And while I think that our letter writer holds a degree of responsibility, I also think going that long because look, he certainly knew that he could do that without being punished for it. But when you have somebody, emotions in your hands could is not enough. It should has to be the level of consideration if you actually care about this person’s life. And if there is a possibility that, like, my behavior is going to hurt you. What I’m doing in my life might make you upset if there’s ambiguity there. I can only ignore that for so long before becoming the asshole, you know?
S1: Yeah. If he knew for a year a year that this woman was not going to respond well to knowledge of another partner
S2: or might or might not respond well, yeah, I
S1: know he was. He was hiding something. And that’s not acceptable. And a year is plenty of time to muster your courage if you don’t feel safe enough to come out after six months in a relationship. It’s not the right relationship.
S2: Yes. So I totally agree. It’s a little bit crude to put it in such terms, but I’d say if we’re assigning blame here a breakdown, I would say 60 percent of the blame here goes to him. But 40 percent goes to the letter writer because on the same token, she did not have that conversation with him. This kind of status check in. You know, you’re spending all this time with somebody over a year and you’re never talking about monogamy, like even as a concept that seems strange to me as well. So I’m more on her side than his, but just barely.
S1: I refuse to take a side. I am standing on the sidelines with my arms folded, going up. But the friend, the friend who pointed out that they never talked about exclusivity and it seemed casual. That is a real friend. Keep that friend.
S2: That’s a great verdict. Judge Stoya,
S1: I got to order that, Kostek.
S2: You got it. All right. Let’s hear the next letter.
S4: Dear, how to do it. I think kissing is gross. I’ve never liked it. Ever since my first kiss and I always hope I will. I always hope I’ll like the person enough or be turned on and off or something. But it always turns out to be something on the spectrum, from gross to benign but utterly pointless. I mean, why is everyone so into smashing their lips together? Do I have to kiss a partner if they want it and I can tolerate it? How in the world do I tell someone I don’t like kissing without them thinking I’m a total weirdo signed? These lips are sealed.
S2: OK, there’s a lot going on here, obviously, but I have some answers to why or at least some theories.
S2: OK, so there is a recent BBC future piece called The Reasons Humans Started Kissing. It ran in August of 2021. So there are two theories. One is that, you know, as babies, we just innately like lip touching, maybe stemming back to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding creates a kind of innate response. And so kissing makes logical sense. But there’s also the idea that perhaps back in the day, mothers, much like birds, would chew food for their children. You know, post breastfeeding and then transfer via mouth, which led to kissing. So that’s just kind of like the potential origin stories. Why do people still do it?
S1: I might stop doing it
S2: after hearing that. I mean, it is weird to think about chewing food and spitting in somebody’s mouth to keep them alive. I guess whatever it takes, you know, it brought us here. So it works. But yeah, not like these are really like a nice image. It’s not something I would like to repeat. So as to like why people do it. Still, there’s some theory as to like a it puts you right up close to them. You can smell them. The pheromones thing might be at play, but also a lot of people like kissing just because it feels good. There are nerve endings in our mouth. People want to do it. Obviously, that doesn’t apply to our letter writer, but there are definitely reasons for something that feels to a lot of people kind of reflexive. Don’t even question it. So I appreciate this question because it allows us to go deep on something that we might otherwise take for granted, even in this context.
S1: There are so many things that lots of people like that some people don’t like. Yeah, there’s kind of this running theme in both questions of normal, yes, and the risks of deviating from it. But like, just because kissing is the thing that gets shown as a marker of like, Oh, these people are about to have sex on television and in movies doesn’t mean you have to do it right. Like, lots of people have anal sex, lots of people are like, absolutely not. Lots of people masturbate with toys. Lots of people don’t. And somebody might think our writer is a weirdo, and that’s uncomfortable when it happens. But that’s very important information because it enables you to efficiently say, Well, we’re not a good match.
S2: Exactly. As difficult as that moment might be to endure that kind of rejection, actually ultimately does you a favor, especially when it’s efficient because it allows you to move on? It makes that very, very clear. You might live for months in ambiguity of like, I don’t know how this is going. Whatever, whatever someone says, there’s something wrong with you. You don’t like to kiss. It’s like, Well, first of all, fuck you. But second of all, fuck you and I’ll be taking my life elsewhere again. Hard thing to endure, and it might suck in the moment and make you feel bad, but at least you know one more person to cross off the list. And I always say we all need filters. There are so many options. So to me, anything that like makes the call for me, I’m appreciative of it.
S1: Ultimately, I would maybe if I were in this person’s position and using dating apps, put in my bio, not into kissing em into one two three. Yes. And that lets people know before they even swipe or if they swipe without reading, that is their problem. Right? But also, like ends on a positive because I for some reason I have this idea in my head that to make up for one negative, you need three positives.
S2: OK. Right? I mean, that seems like a good policy.
S1: I think it comes from, like James St James’s memoir, Disco Bloodbath. Yeah, yeah.
S2: I also would like to tell this writer that they’re not alone. Firstly, there’s been research on this. This guy, William Jhang coeliac, whose name is not unlike mine, did a survey of one hundred and sixty eight cultures from around the world and found that only 46 percent use lip to lip kissing in a romantic sense. Now, that’s not 46 percent of people. Keep in mind because there are cultures that have a relatively small amount of people compared to like United States metropolitan culture, you know, which is millions of people, whatever. But just keep in mind that like this. Is largely, it seems, culturally instilled. And so it’s just not for everybody off the bat, but also in my travels, you know, dealing with guys who are newly gay, experimenting, questioning, straight, identified even, you know, it’s kind of like the Julia Roberts Pretty Woman rule. Kissing is too intimate. Like, I will suck your dick and take it up my butt, but kiss me is just like one step too far. So I’ve personally dealt with that. And, you know, I’m sure at some point it’s been an issue, but I can’t even think of a specific instance when it was like we found a way to have fun. So don’t take this lack of interest as something that is necessarily a drawback or that’s that’s going to make you undateable. It might make it harder to find somebody. There are going to be people who just hard. Now I need to kiss. You don’t want to kiss. You’re not for me. But there’s plenty of people who are going to be open minded enough.
S1: So one function that kissing serves for me, it is fun for me. I will probably get over the mental image that we began this response with at some point. And then it will be time to be afraid of COVID again. Yes. But I will get back to kissing at some point. Yeah. And it enables me without taking my clothes off to get an idea of whether I can get on the same page with this person. Yes. So that’s that’s another function of kissing. But do I have to kiss a partner if they want it and I can tolerate it? No, absolutely not. You don’t have to do anything.
S2: Well, you know, I would like to quote back to you something that you said because you received a question very much of this ilk a few years ago. I think to the column, I think it was 2019 somebody who was like, I don’t like to kiss, does that make me undateable? And you said, like all of us, you’re going to have to put yourself out there and be patient while you search for someone you mesh well with. And I think that’s just what it comes down to. Everybody has their interests and not, and some of them are more niche than others. And sorry, you are dealt this hand. That makes it maybe a little bit harder to connect because your taste is outside of the mainstream. That’s life. You’re refined. It’s just how it goes.
S1: I will say so for me, my thing is sex work. That’s the thing that people struggle with. Yeah, sometimes people are totally cool with that until what we’re doing starts to fall apart in one way or another. And then they will throw that back in my face. They will sharpen it like Flint with steel and hurl it at me. So if you’re breaking up with someone and you start to get kind of heated, it’s definitely worthwhile to like, take a deep breath and brace for someone to be like, and you’re fucking weird about kissing. Yeah. And it’s just like, it comes from anger. It doesn’t mean the person is a bad person, but it is usually like the last thing you hear from them and it can feel really harsh. So do try to keep that in mind, for sure.
S2: And also just in general, take what people say in anger as you’re parting ways with a grain of salt because it’s not the most rationally minded feedback that you’ll get. OK, that’s all for now. But we’re not done this week on this week’s second episode, just for Slate Plus members, we hear from a letter writer who’s getting off, but not when she wants to.
S1: And it wasn’t sexual orgasmic pleasure for me, but I had immense enjoyment out of putting this giant lion
S2: to hear that discussion in tomorrow’s episode. Sign up for Slate Plus for just one dollar at Slate.com slash HDI Plus.
S1: If you’re in need of sex advice for Rich and I, you can write to how to do it at Slate.com, slash how to do it, or you can leave us a voicemail at three four seven six four zero four zero two five and we may use it on the show. Remember, this is anonymous and nothing is too small or embarrassing.
S2: Our show is produced by child to how to do its editor is Jeffrey Bloomer. Our letter readers are Shasha Leonard and Benjamin Frisch. Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk to you next time.