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 man who is mostly straight. I want a long-term relationship with a woman. I can only see myself kissing a woman and waking up next to one. I can only see myself spending life with a woman.
However, there is a part of me that I mostly have to keep suppressed. I am very masculine and mostly dominant in bed as a man, but I occasionally enjoy having sex with well-endowed men as a bottom and being very submissive in that situation. It is a need that is occasional, like two to three times a year, but it is a need that I am done trying to get rid of. All of the women in my life have either ignored it or tried to force me to get it counseled out of me. I want to meet a woman who can love me for all of me and who actually gets turned on by me. I would prefer that she is also bisexual, or leans in that direction. Any thoughts on how and where to meet a woman like that?
Dear Biannual Bottom,
Congrats on your resolve to have no shame for your bi-/triannual stuffing. No really, that’s huge. (That’s what you said.) You may want to look into bisexual apps/sites like BiCupid (this isn’t an endorsement—as a nonbisexual I have no experience with it). Feeld is another one you might want to look into as it skews toward the polyamorous and ethically nonmonogamous. Otherwise, you’re just going to have to shop around. I find it horrifying that women in your past have suggested counseling regarding your completely fine sexuality. Good for you that you ignored them. The optimist in me hopes that they represented unlucky matches—I understand that bisexuality in men remains too often misunderstood and stigmatized by their would-be women partners, but I have to believe that the world is changing enough that these attitudes are becoming rarer. If all else fails, you could move to a coast and try out the dating scene there?
Dear How to Do It,
I am a 40-year-old man married to a woman around the same age. We are very much in love. We have great sex, but it’s mostly vanilla with somewhat mild variations. I’m happy with it, and I’ve never cheated on her, and would never be willing to do that. I also know there is absolutely zero chance my wife would be willing to agree to make any changes to our understanding of monogamy, and I respect that.
The problem is my fantasy life is getting progressively further and further out there. While temptation is there, I have no problem resisting the temptation, and it’s not intrusive to the rest of my life. When I was a teenager, my fantasies were pretty typical: beautiful women in French maid outfits, threeways, that sort of thing. Then, other things started making their way into the list, like BDSM, sex in public, things like that. When I was in my late 20s, I tried some of these things, and with few exceptions, I never actually enjoyed them (especially not BDSM), but I still fantasized about them anyway even after finding out I didn’t enjoy it. Now, my fantasies are even further out there: I find myself deeply drawn toward things I’m relatively confident I wouldn’t be into if I tried them, like being topped by a transwoman. If I masturbate, it’s almost always to either that, impregnation role play, barely legal dominatrixes, prostate massages from prostitutes, furries, vomit porn, or other things like that.
I’m completely heterosexual. I have been with men twice—wasn’t into it at all, and we tried most stuff. I would never go outside the monogamous bounds of my marriage for any reason, but I have a stronger and stronger feeling like I’m missing out and that there are experiences I will never have, and that’s making me enjoy the relatively vanilla sex my wife and I have less. Sometimes, but not always, I find that I’m not in the mood unless I fantasize about those things. I am confident she would not be into any of these things, even as role play.
Is this unhealthy, because it’s unwanted and I can’t seem to slow it down, or is it fine because it isn’t impacting any part of my life other than what I think about when I masturbate, and I’m not and never have been in any way tempted to cheat, commit crimes, or any other risky behavior to satisfy the fantasies? How do I avoid feeling like there are all these experiences I’ll never have?
—In My Head
Dear In My Head,
I will answer your questions in order because I believe you deserve the same level of organization that you put forth. The first thing I’d like you to think about is just how “unwanted” these fantasies actually are. It sounds to me that when you are aroused, they are extremely wanted, but you have a sense of regret and/or shame after you orgasm. This is common—the disgust response tends to erode during states of sexual excitation. I don’t think you have anything to worry about regarding that incongruity. You may want to pick up Jesse Bering’s book Perv, which examines the disgust response thoroughly.
I would say that you are fine. It’s OK to have a vivid fantasy life—it can be extremely useful, even. You suggest that your fantasies are becoming more necessary for your sexual activity, and you may be surprised to learn that many experts don’t regard this as a problem. A recent conversation I had for this column with psychologist Justin Lehmiller, who has written a book about sexual fantasies, explored the benefits of fantasizing—even when it involves scenarios that we would prefer not to think about in nonsexual contexts. Additionally, a 1995 review of literature on sexual fantasies in the Psychological Bulletin by psychologists Harold Leitenberg and Kris Henning found that research on the topic suggested that “more frequent fantasy contributes to greater sexual desire, orgasm during intercourse, greater arousability, fewer sexual problems, and perhaps greater sexual satisfaction in general.” Again, you’re fine! You’re so fine you’d make Jennifer Aniston jealous.
How do you avoid feeling like there are experiences you’ll never have? You can try to build up your mind muscle via meditation to help manage your thoughts, but otherwise this is something you have to live with. You are actively choosing to stay with a woman that you reasonably assume has no interest in breaking your monogamous arrangement. You can’t have everything; this is your trade-off. Fantasies are as good as it’s going to get for you unless you want to break up your happy marriage. And it doesn’t seem like you want to, so you shouldn’t. This is the life you are choosing. Think about it positively, or choose a different path that will allow you to do that more easily.
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Dear How to Do It,
I am very recently separated from my wife of 33 years. She is the only person I have been with. Before we paired up, I was too weird and awkward to have any opportunities (we were 20), and since then I have been faithful to her because it was the right thing to do. Over time, she became less and less interested in sex. I never lasted all that long, so I always made sure she came from oral sex when we made love. She gave me oral sex early on, but it pretty much ended once we started to have intercourse, and she never seemed that interested in my sexual fulfillment. My parents were married 52 years when my dad died, and all I knew was till death do us part. We did not have sex for a year before we separated, so it has been a long time.
For me, making love has always been a mystical and magical experience, or at least it used to be. I have moved 100 miles away and am on my own. And I have no idea what I’m doing or should do. As much as I yearn for the closeness of sex, it has to be mystical and magical. I have no idea how to approach anyone or what to say or do. I am told that I could easily have sex on Tinder or something, but that feels yucky. I guess I am not ready, but I do not know how to become ready. I am not kinky, but I think that sex should be playful and fun. People should discuss what they want and give what the other wants, but my wife would never discuss sex. Her mother was a born-again Southern Baptist, and maybe that influenced her more than we thought.
How can I find a meaningful and magical sexual experience at the age of 56? Where can I find the rules? I had a vasectomy and have had one partner. Do I need a condom? Do I wait for her to make a move? How do I even find her? I always loved giving my wife oral sex, and as much as I enjoyed reciprocity, it was not necessary. Sex for me was about giving, not receiving. I am a fish out of water and feel like damaged goods. I have no idea what to say or do. I want the connection of making love more than the act of sex, but I feel like a creepy stalker.
—Solitary in Seattle
“Mystical and magical.” I imagine you writing this while wearing a cloak with an owl on your shoulder and an orb-affixed staff lying at your feet. If you’re looking for IRL venues that may yield suitable partners, maybe try Ren Faire?
I kid, but I do think that maybe you should lay off the magic talk until you get to know someone, as it’s kind of confusing and “mystical and magical” sex is probably something that someone has to experience for themselves with you in order to understand.
Anyway, why do you feel like a creepy stalker? I really don’t get it. What you have presented is generous and compassionate. You have sexual desires, which is not unusual and nothing to be ashamed of. What stands out to me is that you express disgust over your interests as well as for app-based hookups. Seems like you have a lot to come to terms with. I think being OK with yourself may make you more open to connecting in a medium that so many people are using today to facilitate love and sex. There’s nothing inherently yucky about sex arranged via app. In fact, such a forum allows for a discussion up front in which you and your prospective partner can talk about what you wish to get out of such an encounter. These conversations, naturally, can be had face to face, but the app does tend to make it easier for some people to express themselves about things that they might otherwise find awkward to broach. As someone who believes that such conversations are important, it stands to reason that you might get a lot of good use out of apps.
What rules are you looking for? Everyone wants to be treated differently but the basics are pretty obvious. Be respectful, ask for and honor consent, and keep your magic wand put away unless it’s specifically requested. Do you need a condom? It’s probably a good idea to assume you will, since they can help protect against STIs, but I’d be hypocrite if I told you that they’re required for every casual sex encounter. There’s another pre-sex conversation to have. I can’t tell if your creepy stalker feeling is paranoia or based in reality, but either way, if you feel like that, then yeah, wait for her to make the first move and that way she can only prove you wrong.
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Dear How to Do It,
My wife and I (both mid-20s) had amazing sexual chemistry throughout college that’s steadily declined since moving in together post-grad. Our sex life has gone from “as much as possible” to roughly once a week, though our connection when we actually are intimate is still great. Unfortunately, the time I’m able to last has also dropped significantly (this wasn’t an issue previously). This isn’t a problem for my wife, given her lower sex drive and the fact we always ensure she finishes after I’m done. But it’s something that bothers me a great deal and exacerbates my frustrations about how infrequently we have sex. It would be one thing if we had periodic but gratifying sex, but only having one opportunity a week and always finishing early almost never leaves me satisfied. If I were to self-diagnose, it feels like I get too hyped up because it’s the only time we’ll have sex all week, and I get inside my own head and psyche myself out. Now it feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy and my confidence is shot. Why might my stamina have declined so much, and how can I build it back up?
—Blowing the Opportunity
I’m not sure the extent to which your hang time has reduced, but if what you’re experiencing qualifies as premature ejaculation—that is ejaculating within a minute of beginning sexual contact (or intercourse specifically)—there are several potential causes of this. According to the Mayo Clinic, psychological causes include depression, trauma, poor body image, and anxiety about premature ejaculation (talk about a vicious cycle—no really, talk about it with someone because you might actually be in one of these). Biological causes can include issues with your hormone levels and/or neurotransmitters. What you describe seems rooted in psychology, but it’s impossible to know that for sure without a trip to your doctor, who can run tests.
In the meantime, try to relax. Disabuse yourself of the notion that the only real sex is intercourse. In Ian Kerner’s book, She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman, the sex therapist repeatedly underlines the idea that cunnilingus should not be considered foreplay but “coreplay,” as for many people with vulvas, it more reliably results in orgasm than intercourse does. Try taking your time and focusing on your wife. If you can’t prolong intercourse, prolong its onset. Let things unfurl slowly, consciously avoiding the hyping you describe. Kerner’s more recent book, So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex: Laying Bare and Learning to Repair Our Love Lives, devotes an entire chapter to early ejaculation (his preferred term) solutions. (Kerner is well-versed in the condition, as his own experiences with it led him to write She Comes First.) He advises a multipronged approach of medical intervention (that could include SSRIs and/or numbing sprays) and a revised sex script. It’s worth picking up for that section alone. Referencing Phil Hansen’s TED Talk in which the artist discusses how he learned to “embrace the shake” of his hand (a tremor) to triumph in his art, Kerner writes, “Once I embraced my ‘shake’ and stopped fighting it, I was able to find different, unique ways of making love.” You could look at what you’re going through as debilitating or you could look at it as an opportunity to get creative. I urge the latter.
More How to Do It
My long-term partner has gained some weight and is now distinctly overweight. He doesn’t seem to mind it; he says he likes the way he looks, even though he knows he has gained weight, and he doesn’t want to change his indulgent eating habits. This has raised a lot of really critical feelings for me, on a few different levels, and I’d appreciate your perspective. The first feeling is that this is selfish of him (doesn’t he care if I’m less attracted to him?) and that if he were a woman, he wouldn’t feel so complacent. The second feeling is that, actually, my sexual desire for him is not greatly affected. What is affected is the pride I take in introducing him as my partner. I feel ashamed of myself for having such internalized fatphobia. But I also sometimes resent what I see as a lack of effort on his part to control his anxious eating, and the wasteful spending on snacks and takeout. What do you think? Am I being too shallow?