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How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Every Thursday night, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

I am a woman who’s begun dating a man who it turns out is a virgin. He went to Catholic school his entire life. He’s focused on reading up on how to please a partner while he’s spent his time alone, and I’ve gotten the benefit of that, but he also didn’t know that you don’t need to be literally inside of a woman to get her pregnant when you ejaculate or otherwise get semen around her vagina. Are there any basic sex education materials freely available online? Is there somewhere that has the basics readily available? What does he need to know?

—Birds and Bees

Stoya: Scarleteen! It’s a website geared toward youth (i.e. those without a solid sexual education). They’ve been around for over 20 years, and are one of the places I learned the basics from.

Rich: You know, it can be a major pain in the ass and feel like a cancer on human interaction, but also: thank god for the internet. We’d be so screwed without this information readily accessible given the state of sex ed in the U.S. (and all over, really). Planned Parenthood also has a long list of sex ed resources.

Stoya: I’m glad places like Scarleteen and Planned Parenthood exist and can provide free, widely available sex ed.

Rich: Imagine if the majority of the population skydived without formal instruction. “Figure it out!” they call down after pushing you from the plane. It’s just wild to me.

Stoya: Same. So at Sex Bingo last night, we had a whole talk about the need for emotionally safer sex. It’s so rarely talked about. (And by at Sex Bingo I mean virtually chatting from my desk.)

Rich: Yes! What’s your vision for ideal emotionally safe sex?

Stoya: Well, I’m not entirely sure what it is, only what it is not. It’s not steamrolling partners, or twisting their arms into doing things they’re unsure about. So I guess it’s a space made for boundaries. It’s being present with the other person and aware of how connected they are to the current moment. It’s checking in when we aren’t sure how the other is doing.  It’s making space for aftercare talks, even after vanilla sex.

Rich: Yeah, I think it’s a general philosophy that sex is something that is shared and that the person/people you’re having it with is indeed human.

Stoya: Agreed. Scarleteen does address the emotional ramifications of sexual interaction.

Rich: Ah, that’s amazing. Just based on past columns and issues that we see coming up again and again, I can offer a few HTDI principles. You needn’t be worried about abnormality—virtually anything within the realm of consent is OK (this owes to Gayle Rubin’s idea of benign sexual variation). The orgasm is not the ultimate determinant of worthwhile sex—there’s plenty to enjoy with or without coming. STIs are something to be vigilant about, but in many cases, they’re villainized beyond their practical threat. Generally, something like herpes isn’t going to destroy your life. Communication is paramount. Because sex itself is paramount, I tend to venerate connected sex, but you know, I’d be a liar if I said no-strings hook-ups weren’t part of my (non-quarantine) menu.

Stoya: I think connection and no-strings can co-occur.

Rich: Yeah, it’s true.

Stoya: Comets, for one thing. “Comet” is the term in the non-monogamous community for people you have super great, intense moments with every few months to couple of years.

Rich: Ahhh that’s good, I haven’t heard it.

Stoya: I learned it from sex educator Vonka Romanov.

Rich: I love a random with whom I share a solitary moment, but there’s room for connection there too. Oh another big one: Don’t sweat the small stuff. If everyone’s happy, you don’t have a problem. If you both come in two minutes, great. If you’re both super vanilla, awesome. If you are both perfectly pleased with each other, don’t get self-conscious about all the nonmonogamy that’s afoot.

Stoya: Exactly. Vanilla is a wonderful flavor. Meanwhile, sperm are hardier than you might expect, and can cover some serious ground. Best practice is to wear a condom. And you shouldn’t ejaculate anywhere near the vaginal opening unless you’re trying to achieve pregnancy. (Unless you’re wearing a condom. Then it’s OK to ejaculate in the condom even if it’s in an orifice.)

Rich: It can be a challenge to strike the balance between being a generous lover and maintaining your own boundaries, so go slow and recognize that this can be a fun challenge to work on.

Stoya: 100% agreed.

More How to Do It

For as long as I have known her, my wife has been interested in “incest” role play. While it isn’t my cup of tea exactly, I have been willing and happy to support her in her exploration of this kind of fantasy and role-play. Recently, though, things have started to move in an uncomfortable direction for me. My wife is very close with her older brother, with whom we often speak very openly about sex and sexuality. A few nights ago, and after a few drinks, my wife got to talking fairly explicitly about some of the “family” role-playing that she and I are into, and her brother—who I thought would be kinda horrified—was not only entirely supportive, but vaguely expressed interest in exploring this kink with us. When we got home, I expected my wife to make it clear that her brother ever joining us in the bedroom was entirely off the table, but instead she seemed to think it was a really good idea. My wife and I have enjoyed group sex in the past, but I am just worried about how this could affect my relationship with my brother-in-law. Is there a way for me to make this happen, without it getting weird?

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