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 a woman in my 50s. Until three years ago, I lived my life with a general aversion to illicit drugs and alcohol, and a sex life that wasn’t exciting, let alone enjoyable.
Three years ago, my ex-husband left me, and I began using illicit drugs recreationally, as my life “spiraled out of control” (or so my family described it). Although others were very judgmental of my behavior during that period, I personally found it incredibly liberating. I was able to safely discover things about myself that were important to me, and I really valued having the sense of freedom that came with it—particularly when it came to sexual expressiveness. During that time, I discovered aspects of my sexuality, and fantasies I hadn’t previously recognized.
A few months ago, I started a more stable relationship with a man, “Boris,” who was understanding of my past and supportive. Respecting that Boris seemed disinclined toward my (safe) drug and alcohol use, I stopped that behavior. However, secretly, I’ve continued to long for my past alcohol and drug use because of the sexual liberation it gave me. And secretly, I have started indulging one of my fantasies. I keep Boris’ ejaculate in my mouth, discreetly spit it into a kitchen glass, then (usually the next morning), I use the dehydrator and spice grinder to dry and grind his semen into a fine powder. I later ingest the semen dust, using a straw to snort it.
I realize this is strange. But I was previously curious about semen and seem to have happily found my own sexual placebo, and it has made me far more sexually expressive and confident in myself when I do it right before sex. Is there anything wrong with this practice? Should I tell Boris? Perhaps more important, are there healthier alternatives to drugs and alcohol (or placebos) to enhance sexual confidence?
—Blow a Load
Dear Blow a Load,
It’s too bad that TLC has ceased airing its quasi-docuseries My Strange Addiction, because you’d be perfect for it. Luckily for you, we’re happy to carry the mantle. I consider those who eat sofa stuffing, munch on drywall, and taste their dead husband’s ashes to be friends in my head. And now I can add to that list someone who snorts dried semen. Hello, friend.
Since we’re so close, allow me to walk you through this. Nasal delivery is a viable option for administering some drugs. Said drugs are usually suspended in liquid. Snorting a powder is a different story altogether. It’s just not meant to be done, and when something like cocaine is snorted over the long term, severe damage to the nasal cavity may occur, primarily as a result of the impurities the drug is generally cut with. To my knowledge, we don’t know the effects of snorting dried semen because it simply hasn’t been studied. (Urban Dictionary claims this is called “criffing,” but further references to it are scant, and I do not expect there are peer-reviewed studies.) So you are a one-woman case study, and you have no idea what you’re doing to your body. I can’t recommend continuing this behavior, though I also can’t help but marvel at the human ingenuity at hand. You’re amazing.
I emailed my frequent source Robert Charles Welliver, a urologist and the director of men’s health at Albany Medical College, to ask about the potential risks involved here. He said transmission of an STD is possible, though unlikely, given that it’s dehydrated. Nonetheless, he recommends abandoning this process, but suggests there may be hope for the liberation you seek. “I doubt that the semen is acting as anything other than a placebo, but the placebo response is very, very real,” he wrote. “I guess the important question is, does she feel that she could eventually move past needing the placebo response she is eliciting here and feel that she could get to that same excitement without the placebo? Possibly as she continues her journey and feels more comfortable and confident with herself, she could ‘outgrow’ this and no longer require it.”
For more a detailed psychological perspective, I exchanged emails with a colleague of Welliver’s, Dr. Ben Mueller, a psychologist in the department of psychiatry at Albany Medical Center. He speculated that the apparent placebo effect at hand is a result of a sensory reminder of your illegal drug use, as well as acting out a “forbidden” sexual fantasy. “I have little doubt the combination of these could produce a mood elevation and sexual arousal, especially when it is frequently followed (and behaviorally reinforced) by sex with Boris,” Mueller wrote.
“Perhaps she is, at least in part, yearning for some of the freedom she describes having between her ex-husband leaving her and meeting Boris?” he continued. “It sounds as though she had the opportunity to experiment with things that gave her a sense of pleasure and satisfaction and increased self-confidence. Sometimes, the freedom to experiment feels lost in long-term, committed relationships. Sometimes we feel as though our partners might judge us for our more idiosyncratic sexual fantasies and desires. She might explore whether these things might be the case and whether she could include Boris in some of her future (non-nasal insufflation) experimentation.”
We both agree that it’s not really necessary to tell Boris about what you’re doing with his sperm. I think the healthiest alternative to drugs and alcohol for confidence-boosting is a caring, connected partner. Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who greatly prefers sober sex (I’m not even into poppers at this point)—I think of sex as a drug in and of itself. Perhaps it might be useful to change your perspective and learn to appreciate sex for sex’s sake. It might not be easy, but Boris seems like a great partner with whom to give it a try.
Dear How to Do It,
I recently discovered that my wife saved a bunch of romantic (not sexual) pictures of her with her ex when she made some picture albums while we were dating 18 years ago. She hasn’t looked at them since and forgot they were there, but I didn’t know about them until now. We are happily married, and her ex has never been in the picture (pun intended), but the sight of these pictures and the knowledge that she saved them at a time when she and I were loving toward marriage was shattering. Since seeing these pictures, I have had intrusive thoughts of her having sex with her ex, and these thoughts have interfered with my own sexual performance.
When I confronted my wife with the pictures, she had no memory of saving them and ripped them up immediately, in front of me. She said she hadn’t thought of her ex in 20 years and has always loved me, and only me. I know I should be over this, but it’s been three months and I still can’t stop thinking about those pictures, the fact that she saved them, and the image of her ex in my place during sex with her. How do I rid myself of these thoughts?
I think you need perspective: Your wife had a life before she met you. She likely had legitimate reasons to be with the partner that became her ex. It’s simply unfair to deprive her of her memories, and unreasonable to expect her not to have them. In the worst-case scenario, she would still love the ex, and even then, that wouldn’t preclude her from loving you. People can love more than one person, and they can hold exes in their hearts without any expectation of reuniting or taking away anything from their current relationship. The heart is way bigger than the confines of the human body suggest.
But that apparently isn’t even the case here. Your wife destroyed those pictures, which means that she prioritized your feelings over whatever sentimental attachment she might have had to them. Given her reaction and the fact that you’ve been with this person for at least 18 years, you can take her at her word that she always loved you and only you. She seems like an empathetic partner. Understand that even if her ex takes up less of a percentage brain space today, it would be impossible to amputate the experiences that created those distant memories. Accepting her means accepting all of her, including her past.
The sexual and psychological disturbances that seeing these pictures has caused in you, though, are real. Many people find it difficult to rid themselves of thoughts, especially when attempting to do so often only makes us think those thoughts more. For a solo fix, investing your time and mind into a serious meditation practice could help you to manage unwanted thoughts. But given the amount of time these pictures have been haunting you with no seeming end in sight, you’re probably best off talking to a therapist for a few sessions, remotely if necessary. Worth a try.
Dear How to Do It,
Like so many, I’ve been thrust into the remote dating world and find myself sending pics more often. There’s a couple people that I’m frequently sexting. Getting exactly the right photo takes time, and so sometimes I send it to more than one. Does this break an unwritten rule? Can the perfect boob shot go to more than one paramour?
No way is this breaking any rule worth honoring. Those pictures and the boobs that are in them are yours to use however you see fit. There are apps, like Grindr, for which sex is the goal of many of its users. The securing of such goal can require several chats with several guys before an appointment can be arranged. If everyone were following some unwritten rule in which they had to send a unique dick pic to every guy he talked to, no one would have time to do much chatting, much less hooking up. We’d all be part-time photographers and sick of the job. You took a good pic of your breasts? Great. Show whoever wants to see it. Take as much pride in your photography as your body. The media is the message.
The only potential ethical breach that I can envision in the scenario you describe would occur when sending the same boob shot to multiple guys breached some previous declaration (to one or more of said people) of a monogamous sexting arrangement. Then the issue still wouldn’t be the picture, but its recipients and your cultivation of interested parties. You didn’t ask that question, though, so you’re good.
Dear How to Do It,
I have a distinctly 2020 problem. I (a trans man) have had a lot of fun during quarantine jerking off on video with other guys, mostly cis men on Grindr. However, I keep running into the same etiquette issue. I come much faster than most cis men, even if I really try to go slowly. I’m not really sure what to do after I’ve come when the other party is still going. Obviously, it would be rude and selfish to hang up. Continuing to touch myself is uncomfortable as my refractory period has increased since I started testosterone. I can’t really dirty talk, because I’m quarantining with family, and I don’t think I could do it regardless. I end up feeling extremely awkward. The other night I faked an orgasm for the first time in my life, just to help get them over the edge. The first one was real—I just knew I wasn’t going to come a second time under the circumstances. What do I do? I want to get better at this since it’s the only kind of sex likely to be available to me for the foreseeable future.
Dear Trigger Happy,
The particulars of your problem are indeed contemporary to the point of being chic, but let me tell ya, buddy: Guys coming too fast for their partners (and their own taste) is a tale as old as time. Is it possible for you to just slow things down? Give yourself less stimulation to the point of just a tap here, an insertion there? Could you play with your nipples or engage in other sexual self-touch that won’t necessarily yield orgasm? You say you’ve tried to go slowly, but I wonder if you can try harder (which, in this case might actually mean lighter).
Otherwise, you can keep faking orgasms, which, in a virtual context and for the sake of getting your partner off and because you’ve already come, is the least damaging kind of lie imaginable. At that point it’s just a display of encouragement, which is what I’d suggest via other means anyway, even if you want to be completely honest about the fact that you’ve come and are done. It might feel awkward, which isn’t ideal, but that’s human interaction for you. Feeling awkward is better than being rude by completely ditching after you’ve satisfied yourself. The sort of screen-based mutual masturbation that you describe requires all of its participants to be both exhibitionist and voyeur to some degree. The guys you’re jerking off with who are especially into the exhibitionistic side of things are likely to be happy if you just hang in there, watching. As long as you’re comfortable not logging off, that should be easy enough to do, with no further work required.
More How to Do It
My wife never had any sexual partners before me. I’ve always suspected she faked her orgasms with me because I am not very big—I’m about 3.5 inches erect, and I tend to ejaculate quickly. I told her most men are bigger than me, since she really had no idea, and said she could try another man, since I had 13 to 15 sex partners before we were married and she had none. I wavered on this a few times as I got insecure and jealous, but in one of my more permissive times, she met a man and liked him. I tried to call it off, but she wants to go forward. Should I let this happen? I’m afraid she’ll enjoy him better, and I don’t want to lose her.
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