How to do it is Slate’s sex advice column. Do you have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!
Dear how to do it,
I am one of those very lucky older women who still really enjoys sex and has multiple orgasms almost every time. But I’ve started to notice some changes in my preferences as I’ve gotten older. The main one is that I’m pretty turned off by the way my husband kisses me about a third of the time. It’s all tongue and no lips and it’s pretty awful. But I’m mostly turned on enough that I don’t need things to stop completely, so I just work around it.
But the other night he did it just as I was about to come and I bit his tongue really hard. He thought it was passion, but it was just uncontrollable disgust. It’s getting to the point where I should probably say something. It feels like I could blame it on my “shifting hormones” or something, but the problem is, we don’t really talk about sex that much at all. When we first started dating, I tried to give him some tips about my body and he fell for me. And later, when the honeymoon phase was over, he started signaling that he wanted sex by streaking. Sigh.
I told him the better way to start would be to bite my neck. I said, “I guarantee I won’t say no if you bite my neck or just tell me you want to fuck me.” It never happened.
Soooo, it’s just to say that I expect even a conversation about my changing body to go badly. I guess he’ll feel micromanaged and self-conscious the next time we have sex. But I’m not even anti-tongue, I just need more lips. And if you think I bet this isn’t the only part of their lives where she’s conflict-avoidant and he’s closed off, you would be right. We’ll work through the non-sex stuff eventually, but this one feels particularly touchy (no pun intended) and could put a massive damper on something that’s mostly good.
— Once biting, twice shy
Dear Once Biting, Twice Shy,
I agree with you: it is already at the point where you should say something. Instead of framing it as negative feedback/a necessary corrective, why not introduce your preferred way of kissing as a way to try something new or spice things up? If the sex is mostly good, lead with it. Tell him it’s so good it makes you want to experiment. I understand your temptation to paint this in a way that puts the onus on you (by chalking it up to your hormones) and not him, and while that might be a good strategy to soften his hurt feelings and get what you actually want, the truth is you don’t have to qualify or have a reason to be into some things and not others. Of course, a bit of sensitivity from him would go a long way here. It could be a dream – how do you instill sensitivity in others other than asking for it directly, which in turn can trigger his sensitivity and prevent you from achieving your original query? It’s a tough one. Tread carefully. But in some cases, asking for something directly is better than never asking at all. Otherwise, you just suffer silently.
Alternatively, try to set the tone by kissing in a way that you want to be kissed. Pay close attention to his lips, suck on them, for example. Not all partners will fall in line and kiss you back in the mood you’re giving off, but many will comply or at least reach some sort of tonsil-hockey compromise. Worth a try!
Dear how to do it,
I’m looking for help figuring out who I’m attracted to and what I like sexually. I’m a trans man who realized my trans-ness about a week after my 29th birthday last October. I thought I was a straight woman until 2013 when I was a junior in college. Then asexual and homoromantic felt more accurate. And then I started dating women and it was the best thing ever, but with a weird edge that I thought was my ADHD. Now I know I’m a trans man and I’ve described myself as “like a dyke was gay or maybe vice versa.”
From a gender perspective, it feels accurate, and it’s a lot of fun to say. But from an “I’ve never been physically comfortable in my own body” perspective, I only have a vague idea of what I’m attracted to. Given my porn proclivities, I suspect I’m bisexual with a preference for men, but who knows! How on earth can I even begin to find out? Is there anything I should read to get help? How about exploring my body physically? Is there a way I can experiment with other people? Can you afford FWB type stuff? Please help!
– Back to the drawing board
Back to the drawing board dear,
I think you are putting the cart before the horse in a way. Identity is important, not only as a way to orient yourself in the world, but for other people to be able to understand important things about you (and, in the case of potential partners, compatibility. But you don’t have to have all figured out before you dive into sex.Through exploration, you can learn a lot about yourself.
However, Kelvin Sparksthe author of Transsex: A guide for adults and a trans man himself, warns against willy-nilly hookups at this particular time. In an email response to your letter, Sparks said, “You mentioned FWB over hookups, which is in line with what my advice would be to a trans person just starting to explore their sexuality. While hookups can be fun, they can be complicated to navigate as a trans person, especially when hooking up with cis people who often come at it with their own preconceived ideas about how trans people have sex, although I can have hookups now that I was still exploring things and wasn’t sure how I liked my body interacted with and how to communicate that (as well as not being practiced at enforcing boundaries) was a bit of a minefield If you do decide to explore hookup apps, wrote erotic writer Johannes T. Evans a guide to Grindr for trans menwhich is worth checking out.”
First, however, Sparks advises to “explore your body and how you want it to be touched in a solo context before involving another person. Transgender people can often place great emphasis on how our bodies are touched and interacted with, so even figuring out where your lines are is helpful in figuring out what you want a partner to do and being able to communicate that to them.”
Sparks also recommends a mindful approach to self-discovery. “Something I’ve found helpful when I’m going through a period of being out of touch with my body is planning solo nights,” he wrote. “This can look a whole lot of ways depending on your preferences and tastes, but the general idea is to give your subconscious a lot of the signs that say ‘yes, it’s time for intimate/sensual interaction.'” For me involved this massage and solo bonding, but your preferences are yours.”
In terms of finding a partner, people generally start with those they find attractive (of course, this means different things to different people). If you find yourself unable to discern who you find sexually attractive, it may simply be a matter of inexperience (and may need a trial-and-error approach), or it may mean that you are actually on the ace spectrum (generally, asexuality is defined by a lack of sexual attraction). (Make no mistake: these are only two possibilities, and there are many more that may ultimately describe your identity.) Reading by Angela Chen Ace could prove enlightening even if you’re not asexual (I’m not, and I learned a lot from that book, including things about myself). Another one you might want to check out is Harry Nicholas’ A trans man walks into a gay bar (a memoir that could help give you a model for navigating life and sex with gay men) and Ezra Woodgers Being a trans manwhich offers a series of interviews with transmen/transmasculine people and should give you a breadth of experiences and, I hope, some inspiration.
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Dear how to do it,
My partner Mary and I recently had our first, and hopefully last, STI together. It’s not great, but it’s fine. Treatable, treatable and no cheating involved. The thing is, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the one who gave it to her. I got tested right before I started dating Mary and haven’t dated anyone since. So at the moment she thinks that each of us could have been patient zero, but I know it wasn’t me.
On the surface, I see no reason to tell Mary. I think she finds it comforting that we don’t know, and she’s quite a bit less sexually experienced than I am. But at the same time, I feel a little bad about keeping an important medical secret from her. I see no harm in lying and we are being treated but am I wrong to tell her?
– Tell or not
Dear Tell or not,
I have never seen Flatlinersbut I often think of one of Julia Roberts’ lines in trailer (which I’ve seen a million times): “You withheld information, that’s the same as lying!”
I disagree! It really isn’t, a lot of the time. Letting someone believe in something insignificant that is useful to them can be a pretty passive way of keeping the peace. There is so much baggage and anxiety around STDs to begin with that making it easier to cope should be your priority here. It’s a much kinder thing to do than correcting them for the sake of correcting.
Besides, you are fair sure but not absolutely determined. You could have had a (rare) false negative on your pre-relationship test. If you didn’t wash your throat (and in a less likely scenario, your rectum), you could have passed something from that place to her vagina, and then you both have it. You do not really know. “Who gave whom what,” amounts to nitpicking, and it can develop into passive-aggressive (and sometimes aggressive-aggressive) blaming. You both made the decisions that led to you both getting an STI. What matters is that you took care of it. If Mary has found a way to bond in what is often a difficult situation, then let her.
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