Wayne Koestenbaum, the author of the new book "Humiliation," is answering questions from Salon readers over the next several days about their most shameful and cringe-worthy moments. Have a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My husband of eight months now prefers masturbation, with or without porn, to having sex with me. He had a stroke four months ago and claims that he is afraid if we have sex that he will have another stroke.
It is humiliating to have him prefer his hand to me and deny that he is masturbating when I walk in the room as he is climaxing. Then he gets up -- still denying the act! -- and drips ejaculate across the carpet.
What can I do? I am a healthy, willing and able female and did not get married to continue auto-eroticism as my sole sexual outlet.
Dear Healthy, Willing and Able Female:
That's a tough situation, but not without solutions or palliatives.
1. If you've have only been married for eight months, you're still in the "probation" period, which means you can either annul the marriage, divorce him, ask for a formal or informal separation or issue some other sort of ultimatum. If you find him sexually a dud, and want to move on to another arrangement, with someone else, don't feel embarrassed about your wish: make a demand to your negligent husband ("We'll have sex together, or I'll drop you"), and see what happens.
2. Imitate your husband. Start masturbating in a room that you know he'll enter. When he enters, don't deny that you're masturbating, but ask him to watch. Or just smile at him, and say hi.
3. When you find your husband masturbating, join him. Pull up a chair in front of him, and say, "It turns me on to watch you jerk off." Or: Start masturbating with him. Not to taunt him, but simply to join in on the fun.
4. Initiate conversations with him about how exciting you find masturbation to be. Say, "I consider masturbation a totally legitimate sexual practice."
5. Ask your husband what he suggests you do sexually together: If he can't have intercourse, because he fears it will catalyze another stroke, then suggest other forms of mutual stimulation and erotic companionship.
6. Ask your husband if you can sleep with another guy on the side. Have a "fuck buddy." A brief affair, non-emotional.
7. I don't mean these suggestions to be offhand or impolite.
8. Your husband probably feels extremely humiliated when you catch him masturbating. Try to assuage his guilt; assure him that you think it's terrific that he's masturbating.
9. The detail about "dripping ejaculate over the carpet" is astonishing: It suggests that your husband is somewhat careless about appearances and cleanliness. You might suggest that he use what is known as a "cum towel."
10. Does your husband use porn when he masturbates, or does he masturbate with his fantasies as sole stimulants? If he uses porn, you could discuss the porn with him; start a non-judgmental discussion with him about the images. Say which ones you like, which ones you don't. Comment on the bodies in the porn. If he doesn't use porn, buy or download some porn and watch it with him.
11. Share some masturbation memories of your own with your husband. Tell him about the first times you masturbated, when you were a girl. Ask him what it was like when he first discovered masturbation. My basic advice: Remove the atmosphere of toxicity or shame around masturbation, and don't consider it the antithesis of interpersonal sex. Good luck!
Your friendly guide,