I think about my own sexuality every day. Some days it feels like a struggle. Some days it feels like an after thought. Some days it feels like a necessity that cannot be ignored. Male sexuality is an interesting mix of urge, anxiety, creativity, romance, restraint, and, yes, love.
We are not cave men. We are much more evolved than that.
I am consistently challenged to help men understand the complexity of their sexuality. As men, we are socialized to believe that our sexual impulse is rather simple and, because of that simplicity, animalistic. We are encouraged to accept this state of affairs, to accept our simplicity, and to revel in it. But because we accept this simplicity, we may also believe that’s all there is. Because we believe our sexuality is so simple, we’re not challenged to consider how it might be more interesting, more engaging, more emotional.
The propagation of this belief can be seen in how male sexuality is commonly portrayed in media and even in certain circles of the mental health field. Men’s sexuality is portrayed as violent, impulsive, caveman-esque. And some men buy into this lie. And the epidemics of college sexual assaults and childhood sexual abuse, most commonly performed by men, are the result. We can see this belief in the mental health world where well-intentioned counselors and other helpers pathologize male sexuality by proposing and “treating” scientifically unsubstantiated diagnoses of sex and porn addiction. [ AASECT Releases Historic Position Statement on Sex Addiction | Psychology Today ]
I would like to propose an alternative view. Male sexuality is not inherently dangerous. It is not inherently violent. It is not addictive like heroin or alcohol. We are not cave men. We are much more evolved than that. Male sexuality, like female sexuality, is beautiful, natural, complex, and important. The problem is not male sexuality, it is that men are taught to treat their sexuality as far simpler than it actually is.
The results of this incorrect message are widespread. One example is that men are taught that, because their sexuality is really only about animalistic impulse they must make sure to treat sex as a performative act. If they do not, they will be unable to please their partners. So they stage a play with intent to have an emotional and physical impact on its audience – themselves, their partner, or their peer group. Most try to produce closeness, ecstasy, and both relational and physical satisfaction. Some, whether consciously or unconsciously, produce fear, the illusion of power, and shame avoidance. Both intents are problematic, and this simple idea, that sex must be a performative act meant to bring about an impact of some kind, can explain why male sexuality can simultaneously be a coveted impetus for sexual ecstasy and also responsible for horrible acts of violence, molestation, and incest.
If not expanded to transcend this idea of sex as performance, of sex as simple, male sexuality is incredibly fragile. To demonstrate, I talk to my clients about the mental and physical “zone” in which most men have to enter in order to climax. They must close their eyes and concentrate on the sensation or the image in their head. They block out all other input in order to be able to climax and thus end their play, their performance, in the way it was meant to be ended. Most men are aware of how easy it is to get knocked out of that zone. An expanded sexuality, however, is not only not as easily knocked out, but it also challenges the very idea that climax is a necessary part of this obligatory performance play.
Sex as performance often works fine until men can no longer treat their sexuality simply. When they enter into a relationship where they are expected to be emotionally intimate and sexually satisfied and satisfying, many men begin to run into sexual problems. Again, their sexuality is not the problem, it’s that they’ve been taught to treat their sexuality as much simpler than it actually is. And, when they fall in love, their sexuality becomes complicated quickly.
I am beginning this blog series, Men in Love, to explore some of the things I’ve learned about male sexuality in my tenure as a man, first, and a sex therapist, second. The last thing I want to do is propagate the belief that men’s sexuality is dangerous and violent; however, I will explore some of these themes in an effort to challenge them and to help men understand that their sexuality is more complex than they were told. Men have feelings too, and our feelings are the key to understanding how complex our sexuality can be. Feelings are not anathema to masculinity, and they do not disrupt sex and love making. If understood and cultivated, they can enhance sex in the most powerful of ways. But this enhancement requires skill and the knowledge of tools that many of us were not taught.
I hope you’ll consider challenging yourself and the men in your life to complicate their understanding of their sexuality, to change their perspective on sex, and, subsequently, to transform their relationships.
Dr. Kinsey’s new series for men and those who love them is called Men in Love. In it, he will chronicle the journey of understanding male sexuality and its challenges in the 21st century.Schedule for Lee
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