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: where 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. We love hearing about thinking about and researching about your sex problems. Yeah. So both of the questions for this episode strike me as being affected by cultural ideas of what each gender should be like.
S2: Yes, and these cultural ideas are baked in from a pretty early age in many cases. There’s this concept of the developmental gender split, which may have some biological factors in it, but it has a lot to do with how female perceived children are treated versus male perceived children. And I think a lot of emotional expression and the lack thereof the repression of comes from that point how people learn to do that, as well as just sort of like what makes a man, what makes a woman and what you should be aspiring to.
S1: And these messages are constantly reinforced by media. We don’t want to get rid of decades of amazing art, films, television, but when we go back and watch them, they reinforce stereotypes that today we see as problematic.
S2: Yeah, there’s no culture in a vacuum. It’s all actually kind of like playing into our development as a species. Really, it’s a feedback loop. You know, we develop culture which affects us and then we affect the culture and on and on and on. And that’s how certain ideas perpetuate. And that’s how expectations of like what a man does and what a woman’s limitations should and shouldn’t be. Get kind of Big Ten, and a lot of it can feel innate because it’s it is in a kind of way. If you think about the humanity as an organism, you know, and the environment plays so much of a role in the shaping of that. Untangling nature from nurture becomes like, really, really dicey business.
S1: Yes, if we could just chuck the binary and start dealing with people as individuals, I really feel like that would be amazing. I don’t think we’re going to get there this decade.
S2: No, it’s a hell of an unlearning process, but seems like the future is queer. You know, that’s what I keep getting the sense of. So maybe not this decade, but maybe next, you know, the Earth is still in working condition that to contend with as well.
S1: Can we achieve social justice before the planet melts?
S2: I mean, it’s I think that’s a legitimate question. Yeah. So stay tuned.
S1: Yeah. While we try to get experts for that one. Yeah. Let’s start with our first question. Great.
S3: Dear, how to do it. I’m a 32 year old post-op male to female transgender woman. Recently, I’ve met a wonderful guy named Tony Tony. Smart Funny makes me feel good about myself, and we have a great rapport over some shared interests in games and literature. The problem, however, is that he’s hung like a horse. I dilate regularly, and my largest violator is about five point two inches in circumference, which is well above the average penis girth. It’s uncomfortable to use, but it does keep things open. Tony circumference and we’ve measured it is just over six point one inches when erect. We’ve been doing oral and intercultural sex, but he simply will not fit inside me. Tony insists things are fine as they are. He’s had trouble with other women in the past too, but I would like to do vaginal sex and it’s making me feel inadequate for not being able to provide it. I don’t know what to do, and it gets me down to think too much about it. Please help signed feeling small.
S2: OK, so we are both cisgender. I mean, is it fair? Do you consider yourself cisgender? I’m cisgender.
S1: I don’t care enough to think about it in that level of detail.
S2: Sure. Yeah, but you’re decidedly not a trans woman. No. And so this topic is necessarily sensitive. You know, the topic of trans anatomy. I think when it comes up, a lot of people, even those who might have it, are unwilling to talk about it. It plays into ideas of objectification, of trans people being here just for sex of of a kind of like maybe over and not particularly humane curiosity of like, What are you? How does it work? What’s the machinery, et cetera? Yeah. That said, here is somebody coming to us with this very issue about how does it work? What can I do for that reason? I reached out to someone that I’ve talked to before, Daniel de Dougie, who is the surgical services director for the OHSU Transgender Health Program. He provides gender affirming vaginoplasty. And he’s also an associate professor of neurology at the OHSU School of Medicine. And that’s Oregon Health and Science University, as they have a big transgender program. He’s very frank and open. He has a lot of hands on experience with this very issue. So I reached out to him to get a little bit more clarity on what we’re dealing with here and what the reasonable expectations are after gender affirming surgeries. Have you ever come across this issue before if you ever had a patient that says, Look, my partner’s penis is too big for the vagina that I now have heard this before?
S4: Yeah, for sure. You know, and it’s always a question. When we first hear about that, it’s OK. Is it a matter of actual, you know, the tissue is not able to match the size of, you know, their partner? Or is it that the muscles that surround the vagina are not able to relax to allow that to happen? So it kind of gets into some, you know, kind of important anatomic things where, you know, we have what’s called the pelvic floor muscles. That’s kind of a funnel shaped system of muscles that sit in the pelvis and support the organs of the pelvis, like the the rectum and the bladder and whatnot. People born with the vagina, those muscles naturally surround the opening of the vagina. And everyone with the vagina will need to be able to, you know, relax those muscles to allow something to enter the vagina after the surgery. We also made a passageway through those muscles to create the space for the vagina. But most people who are having natural plus they have not had to seriously interact with their pelvic floor muscles before. People who grew up under the influence of testosterone tend to have thicker muscles, and it can be more of a challenge for them to relax those muscles. And the point is, you know, if you can’t relax these muscles that surround the opening to the vagina, you can make it, you know, difficult or painful or even impossible to get anything into the vagina. And so one of the questions that we often have is, you know, is that a problem with, you know, relaxing these muscles, which is a challenge for most people? Or is it a matter of the tissue just not being, you know, wide enough to accommodate?
S2: Right. And does this scenario presented by the writer sound like either one of those or what do you think is the issue here if you had to make a guess?
S4: Yeah. If I had to make a guess, I would actually say it’s probably, you know, the person’s body and anatomy is just not able to handle the size. You know, I was hopeful when I kind of heard the scenario, you know, high level scenario that is going to be, you know, a matter the muscles and, you know, just learning how to relax the muscles or, you know, use more lubrication, you know, this kind of easy things. I don’t think that’s the case. You know, just looking at the numbers that the writer reports, as far as you know, the circumference of the dilated that they’re using. That’s a really successful recovery for that person to be able to get to the point where they’re using a diameter of that size that’s really successful. And then to, you know, see that they’ve measured their partners penises significantly larger than that. I think we’re just running up against some anatomic limits there. And sometimes that’s the primary limitation in the space of the vagina is just the angle of the pelvic bones. The bones are thicker and the angle is tighter, and there’s just not as much room in the pelvis. And that’s kind of my thought here, just looking at the numbers, right?
S2: I mean, is there any kind of way to keep working at this that you could recommend? Or I mean, you know what pelvic floor exercises work,
S4: you know, just kind of in a general scenario, we always recommend, you know, being in a comfortable position, being comfortable with your partner because, you know, being relaxed is extremely important. Working on actively relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor. So it’s not something that’s really under our conscious control. But you know, there’s a lot of things that go into that. We routinely refer people before surgery and after surgery to pelvic floor physical therapist people who specialize in helping people with the public. Or, you know, being careful listening to your body, if it’s painful, slow down, don’t do it. And you know, being with somebody who’s gentle and cares about you is probably one of the most important things, but you know, I can always recognize, you know, the heat of passion. Things kind of get a little bit more rough. There are limits to the strength of tissue, unfortunately.
S2: Thank you so much for talking to me, Dr Dougie. I really appreciate your help. OK, but this issue is sort of beyond any kind of trans cis binary. I mean, this guy has had trouble with other women in the past to presumably he’s dated, you know, an array.
S1: Yeah. I personally have volume accommodation issues,
S2: OK, that
S1: have more to do with length. And I know other people with vaginas who were factory installed who also have issues accommodating girth, sometimes because of something called vaginismus. And that sort of ties in to what the doctor was saying about the pelvic floor muscles. If they’re tense there, tense and sometimes there’s no shifting that or shifting that takes a very long time. And I think partially because of all of the stigma and gatekeeping that trans women experience, they can begin to feel like there’s a checklist that they need to complete that makes a person a woman. And that checklist comes from the patriarchy. But like none of us, check all the boxes
S2: right, regardless of gender identity.
S1: Yeah, no woman is the perfect ultimate fits. Every imagined criteria of patriarchy of woman. Same as like no man. 100 percent the ideal patriarchal man.
S2: Right? Yeah, there is no normal and somebody who was would be so extraordinary, you know, Chau right down the middle as to not be normal themselves.
S1: It would be fascinating. I would tilt my head and go over. It’s like, right?
S2: But you know, our writer, she does say that we’ve been doing oral an entire career oral sex. So there is a fix in place. And this guy doesn’t seem to. Not just not my man, but it seems to be perfectly satisfying to him, per the description. You know, sometimes you need a fix, like sometimes you’re not going to be able to do that thing you want to do. Yeah. You know, I can do box jumps, but I’m not going to be doing parkour anytime soon. You know, I’m not going to be jumping off of cliffs or anything. And it’s just like, that’s my body’s limitation. I’m just not that athlete. So you do what you can, and it isn’t perfect, but it’s all right.
S1: So the idea of it isn’t perfect speaks to yet another patriarchal story of how sex happens, right? And that’s kissing foreplay. Heterosexual penetration and procreation. And that does not have to be what sex is at all. Yeah, yeah. You can engage with parts of that script, but you don’t have to do you paint by numbers? Christian moral doctrine, missionary only if you want.
S2: Yeah. Breaking from that script. That idea can be scary, but it’s sort of the definition of liberation.
S1: Yeah, it’s like oral and integral are just as valid for anyone who’s wondering Enter Curl is in between the like leg crotch kind of y area frontage. I wish there was a diagram of all of this. I think it would fall under fraud age, but be a specific area.
S2: Yeah. So if you’re enjoying that, it’s at least something.
S1: Yeah. And if our writer decides that she wants to continue stretching in the hopes of accommodating Toni’s six point one inches around massive cock, she should know there may just be like a bone limitation where between the tailbone and the pubic bone, there’s only so wide that’s going to happen, right?
S2: Yeah. And as wonderful as satisfying sex can be, permanent injury is worse. So you kind of have to, like, weigh the prospective outcomes and choose wisely.
S1: Great. Let’s move on to the next question, dear.
S5: How to do it. My wife has a ridiculous sex drive. Everything started out fine, but she was very sexually inexperienced. I’m 35, and she’s 24, with only four men under her belt, one of which is me. She soon realized I could make her orgasm in lots of different ways. You just never had before, but it’s mutated into almost a constant fight. She will not allow me to masturbate, even though it was not a problem in the beginning. I’ve been thrown out of the house for masturbating. She’s broken my sex toys. She masturbates constantly as many of her own toys, which I’ve never had a problem with. She asks me at least five times a day every day for sex. I’ve tried to calm communication, but she just doesn’t listen or care. I’ve tried explaining her hypocrisy. I’ve tried telling her in the nicest way possible that no means no. I hate waiting around anxiously knowing it any second. She will ask for sex and throw a huge fit over a no. I’m sure it seems like what guy wouldn’t want this? But you have to experience it. We could literally be in the middle of a heated fight watching the kids or even crying, and she will start trying to have sex with me. I’m starting to feel like our sex life is dead. Just this thing I have to do now. However, I do love her. Should I exit this relationship? Is there something else I should try to do? This is every day now, and I’m past anger or frustration. I just feel like shutting down signed enough is enough.
S2: Well, she is 24.
S1: I’m wary of ageism, but 24 year olds, probably through a combination of the parts of your brain that enable you to really put yourself in someone else’s shoes are still growing in significantly and a lack of life experience, which also when you’ve experienced something similar to the other side of what’s happening. You can more easily imagine what your actions are doing to the other person. So I think it’s fair to say that her age is relevant and contributing to the situation, and maybe she will improve over the next. Couple of years, yeah, yeah. If she’s still like this at 30, then you’re probably looking at a fairly permanent, this will only change if they have some major life event that inspires taking stock.
S2: Right. And in that case, you know, if it is sort of permanent, then her best bet is to find somebody with a sex drive like her. You know, she’s not going to kind of absorb the information, and she very well may be operating from the same assumptions that come up in this letter. I’m sure what guy wouldn’t want this. I imagine that potentially there’s some kind of strife over his masculinity.
S1: She might be high on sex positive feminism when I was in my early 20s because I’d read a lot of feminist thought, I was so certain of my belief that my sexual attention and desire was a beautiful gift that anyone would be honored to receive. And sometimes I crossed lines. Yes. So I wonder if also she’s got some sort of like super sex positivity that’s gone off the rails, right?
S2: I mean, part of that other side of sex positivity is understanding the great variation that there is within humankind. You know, different people have different sex drives. Yes, we can say vaguely whether it’s because of socialization. Men have been associated with higher sex drives than women. I think that that’s largely based on fallacies based on assumptions that are ultimately suppressive and repressive. But the fact that he can’t keep up with her doesn’t have anything to do with the measure of his manhood.
S1: Well, if he identifies as a man, he is just as much of a man as any other man, regardless of what his sex drive is, regardless of how often he wants to have sex, regardless of how much trouble he’s having establishing boundaries with his wives.
S2: Yeah, and he’s able to be harassed and coerced like anyone. Yeah, especially when you’re in an emotional relationship with somebody. And, you know, I also really don’t like the masturbation gatekeeping. I’m really, really not into that in any context.
S1: No, because masturbation is a way of relating to the self. Yeah. Just because it’s all sex doesn’t mean that it all feeds the same needs and desires.
S2: Right? And I mean, I understand a certain logic of like, OK, you just jerked off. You literally cannot have sex because of your refractory period. But at the same time, his sex is not for her. It can be shared, but it’s his sexuality. Yeah. So it seems like she’s operating off of this very, very selfish ideal of like everything that you have should be. For me, this is not the way it works. You can share, but it’s not a total surrender. Yeah.
S1: And she I mean, OK, she masturbates constantly. That’s great. She’s taking some responsibility, but she can take more responsibility. She can put some effort into figuring out how to give herself more satisfying orgasm or give herself orgasms more efficiently. Or, like whatever it is that will make masturbation more satisfying for her. Yeah.
S2: So what do you think he should do? Do you think this is a relationship worth sticking with? Because what I get from that is a kind of personal hell. I don’t know how tenable this is at this rate. It seems to me like the relationship should end.
S1: You know how you sometimes ere on the side of giving the duly dude benefit of doubt? Yes. So I am on the side of, you know, OK, you love her. You’re asking if you should exit the relationship. You’re not sure if you want to exit the relationship. So like, do you want to try in a less nice way that’s less calm to communicate? Hey, this is a really big, actual problem that I am deeply now palpably upset about, because sometimes that’s what it takes. My roommate, Steve, we’ve lived together since 2011. I love him. He’s like a brother to me. And there was a thing earlier this year where I tried to tell him, like six times in six different ways, very politely and calmly. And then finally, I shouted at him and used profanity, and he was like, That was really uncomfortable. But now I understand that this is a problem. And on the one hand, it’s like, Well, we shouldn’t have to get there. But on the other hand. And sometimes that’s what it takes for effective communication. And if you’re not sure you want to leave yet, try it. Yeah. And if that doesn’t work, escalate if you can afford it to couple counseling, get a third party in there to help put pressure on her to understand that you have boundaries and limitations.
S2: Yeah. Or have that, you know, mulling over leaving be part of the conversation? I mean, you know, an ultimatum can be very manipulative, but it can also be really useful for providing the talk that needs to happen. Yeah.
S1: Depending on how drastically they want to escalate, saying, Hey, I love you, this is such a problem that I’m considering leaving. And if I do stay, that has to include counseling. Yeah, that would be completely reasonable.
S2: It could also be very reasonable to illustrate to her how she’s getting in her own way by saying, Look, this behavior is making me not want to have sex with you, and the entire conflict is over having sex, you know you’re pushing me away. Yeah. So maybe that cause a course correction. Yeah, I don’t know. Good luck with that one, though. Yeah.
S1: Good luck. But we’re not done this week on this week’s second episode exclusively for Slate Plus members. A woman writes that her boyfriend has made a pretty big claim about sex toys, her butthole and his penis.
S2: It’s like ergonomics have no morality, you know,
S1: we’ll sort through that mess on Monday’s show. You’ll want to hear this one. Joined now at Slate.com slash HDD plus. That’s Slate.com slash HDD. I play us
S2: if you’re in need of sex advice from Stoya and me. 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. That’s three four seven six four zero four zero two five and Slate.com slash h o w t o d o I.T. Remember, this is anonymous and nothing is too small or embarrassing.
S1: Our show is produced by Channel two. How to do its editors Jeffrey Blumer Our letter readers are Shasha Leonard and Benjamin Frisch. Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk to you next time.