Masochist sub has regrets: How to handle “subdrop.”

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,

Im a gay guy, and I recently met a guy I really like. From our first sexual encounter he indicated that he likes it that Im verbal with him. He sends me porn seemingly from my mind to suggest things he wants to try. Although he is very excited during the act, there have been times when I have sensed discomfort on his part. I told him very early on that I wanted to give him a safe word in case I did or said anything uncomfortable. He asked me not to and told me that would ruin it for him. I have tried to communicate with him about what he wants, but he says that he loves it during the sexual act but regrets it when he thinks about it later on. Is there anything I can do, or would it be better just to let it end? Although the sex with him is great, it isnt worth it if I know he regrets it later.

— Meeting My Masochists Morals

Dear Masochist’s Morals,

Keep in mind that what you’re describing sounds a lot like subdrop—postcoital feelings of depression generally associated with subs (hence the name). If you aren’t providing aftercare—which could be as simple as cuddling post-sex—that’s absolutely something you could and should be doing. This is a very common experience (hence there being a name for it in the first place), and it’s something that people actively work at coping with. He could theoretically be more proactive about taking care of himself when these moods hit (a whole list of stuff, from seeing friends to getting sun is here), though obviously sadness can obstruct motivation, so try to make yourself available to help out in the longer aftermath.

If that fails, you’re still in a really good position. A lot of people who ask questions like these foist on us true dilemmas because they don’t want to break up but they also can’t keep going the way things are. You’re fine with breaking up, so you have nothing to lose by confronting this issue head on. Have a conversation that centers you. Tell him about your reaction to his reactions, and see if he has any suggestions. He should at least be down to discuss. If he’s not, you chalk it up to a communication mismatch and consider commencing your skedaddle.

Dear How to Do It,

Any tips around ethically sleeping with a houseguest? I live in a touristy city and have a friend-slash-crush who is planning on staying with me in the near future. I would love to hook up with him while hes here and Im pretty sure hed be down, but I dont want to make him feel like his welcome in my home is dependent on his willingness to have sex with me or make things awkward while we share space. Were planning on catching up and going to a concert together while hes here, but we both have plans for the length of his visit that dont involve one another. We talk pretty openly about our sex and dating lives when we catch up on the phone—do I just bring it up on a call before he gets here? Do I try to make a move at the concert? Do I offer a selection of condoms when I give him a house key (I know its not that one)?

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— Bed and Breakfast and Boners

Dear Breakfast and Boners,

There isn’t really standard etiquette here. Hooking up with a houseguest is not necessarily bad form, though Ani DiFranco did once write a song about being coerced by her host that kind of explicates the worst-case outcome of the scenario you present. It doesn’t have to go badly, though. I would avoid discussing ahead of time, as I think it could bespeak expectation. Even if you swear that’s not what you’re going for, you are still speaking that vibe into the world, potentially planting the idea in his head that you’re protesting too much. I would just play it cool and wait till he’s there. Be open and even flirty. If there’s a connection, you’ll both know it, and there won’t be any question as to whether this is expected payment in exchange for boarding—it will be mutually obvious that you both wanted it because it’s so hot, and because it’s so hot, he’s unlikely to worry that there are any ulterior motives. You can, if you want to be really careful, jokingly say something during the hypothetical hookup like, “Don’t think you have to sleep with me just because you’re sleeping in my house.” Like, haha. To which he’ll probably haha, but also know you mean it.

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Dear How to Do It,

My question is about the effectiveness of ED drugs for occasional psychological (as opposed to biological) erection difficulties. My wife and I have the common issue of differing libidos, mine quite high and hers quite low—I’d like to have sex a few times a week, she’d be fine with a few times a year, and we’ve basically settled on an unspoken compromise of twice a month. I can get by on that masturbating regularly, and I know I’m fortunate that she’s willing to compromise at all. We’ve done all the things couples are supposed to do and while I maintain hope that our sexual relationship will improve someday, I know that she’s already doing what she can for my benefit and any positive change will only come if she decides on her own that she wants more for her own sake.

While I’m no longer actively trying to address that issue, the challenge for me at this point is that when we do have sex, I sometimes find myself having trouble getting or maintaining a solid erection throughout. I’m now past 50 but through masturbation I know the plumbing works just fine. In fact, I’m pretty sure I know exactly what the issue is when it occurs. Part of it is that I feel guilty knowing she’s only having sex with me out of a sense of obligation and would rather be doing anything else, and the other part is the pressure of knowing that if my hard-on does fail and we give up, then the sex is over for another long two weeks. (She usually says we can try again later, but I know that’s just to make me feel better so I don’t press it.)

Alas, knowing what’s going on doesn’t really help, since both things are true, and it’s not like I can just not think about them. I’ve experimented with abstaining from ejaculations for a few days before I think there’s a reasonable chance we’ll have sex, but that doesn’t seem to make much difference. I don’t really want to tell her why it happens when it does because it would sound like I’m blaming her for not wanting me as much as I want her or that I’m angling for more frequent sex. This isn’t a constant issue now, but I’m wondering if I can head it off by getting on one of the available ED drugs. At the risk of losing any placebo effect, do those (or any particular class of them) work in this kind of situation?

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— Solve All My Problems by Popping a Pill

Dear Popping a Pill,

In this column, we have many, many times recommended PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra and Cialis or their generics for ED that seems to be mostly psychological in nature. (And I’ve heard urologists do the same, and I’ve also heard from urologist experts we’ve reached out to who have commended us for said recommendations.) In such instances, there’s probably, at least to some degree, a placebo effect happening with guys whose nerves are getting in the way of stiffness. But also the meds can make you super hard, and that’s a rather tactile cause for relief—that’s to say multiple factors can be at play, and they’re all pushing in the direction of a dick that gets and stays hard. You’re over 50, this is very common, there’s nothing wrong with popping a boner pill, and if it makes sex better with zero or negligible side effects for the majority of users, it’s more than just not wrong; it’s so right. You have your answer, now have your fun.

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Dear How to Do It,

Im a man in my mid-twenties. Due to a combination of low confidence, some more serious anxiety and depression that needed tending to, and circumstance, I’vee managed to get this far in life without accumulating much in the way of relationship experience, particularly of the IRL physical kind. I try not to be too hard on myself for this, I think I have genuinely used that time to work on myself and become an emotionally healthy person, and I certainly dont resent anyone else over this; but from time to time I feel like Im behind most people I know and get bummed out.

I recently somehow attracted the attention of a woman and we ended up dating for a few weeks. I was worried my inexperience would become an issue as she was a little bit older than me (late 20s) and more than a little bit more experienced, but I tried to play it cool and keep up with her. I never outright told her that my experience was close to zero, but I answered questions about my history honestly and would have admitted that I was a virgin had she asked directly. Things actually went quite well until it came time to introduce sex to the equation. Without going into detail, what followed was disastrously awkward and pretty much ended the relationship right then and there.

Im scared this is going to be the inevitable outcome with the next girl, whenever she comes along. I dont know how to begin finding a partner who is willing to put up with me likely being inept in bed, at least at first. I find the idea of actively seeking out someone younger or more naive than me to be creepy and misogynistic and the power dynamic grosses me out. I think its safe to say that of the types of people I would like to date, most of them are probably more experienced than me. Should I just be very upfront about this and risk turning people away? Do I owe it to someone Im seeing to make it clear that Im at a stage they can reasonably assume theyre long past having to deal with? Should I simply suffer through more disappointing hookups and hope my prowess improves? Is it selfish to do that knowing they probably wont get much out of it? Looking for the ethical, minimally awkward path.

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— Undateably Inexperienced

Dear Inexperienced,

Technically, you don’t owe anyone anything, but if you want to be an ethical partner, you should practice respect and honesty. That, however, does not necessarily include releasing a full bio before getting into bed with someone. You’re not dropping an album, just some fluids. I think you should be guided primarily by what will optimize your performance: Will divulging your lack of experience serve as a relief to you? Will it make you more self-conscious? You might have to experiment with both ways and see what works best.

It’s somewhat unfortunate that you didn’t go into detail about your “disastrously awkward” encounter, as I would very much like to judge you and your partner. But I’ll assume that they were less compassionate than they could have been, which likely exacerbated the situation. I’ll also assume you couldn’t get it up to complete the desired act. Many guys have wood issues, at least periodically, and being rejected, mocked, or met with disdain can guarantee you won’t be getting it up. Meanwhile, hearing something like, “It’s no big deal, I just like kissing you,” or, “We can do stuff that doesn’t involve your dick,” can take the pressure off and facilitate the completion of the erection-centered session. This might just be about finding a patient partner, though of course said patience can’t truly be tested until the moment of flaccidness is upon you.

I would, at minimum, attempt to build connections before jumping into bed, at least at first. Find someone whose kindness is unambiguous and whose compassion is open. This alone may comfort you. Try to rid yourself of the idea that you’ve somehow solidified your destiny with one botched encounter—by harping on this, you risk a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may have to experience satisfying sex to know that you can experience it, which I know sounds like a paradox, but I have a strong feeling that self-confidence here is going to be the best boner fortifier that you can find. You might want to start slow and take sex off the table entirely with new partners. Make out, see how it feels. You also have the option of looking into ED meds, which might provide you with confidence for the reasons delineated in the answer above re: using PDE5s for psychologically rooted ED.


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