Friday, October 16, 2015

Men & Sex.

Many of you know from my previous posts that I think men are fascinating creatures and I am deeply intellectually curious about maleness and masculinity. Many of my best friends and many of my clients are men, and so I've had the privilege of digging deeply into some issues pertinent to men that as a woman I might otherwise have never realized were there. I'm also interested in sex (in general) and work with a lot of clients (and talk to my friends) in this area as well. Most commonly, I will say that women report dissatisfaction with something about the *actual sex*, whereas men report dissatisfaction with the frequency. When there seems to be a disconnect in a couples' sexual desire or enjoyment or basic compatibility, I find that it often is actually rooted in some emotional disconnect.
I've written before that I think our culture does men innumerable grave disservices when it comes to socialization around the expression of feelings and development of emotional intelligence. They also receive mixed messages as to what is expected of them. We women often inadvertently contribute to the confusion they report feeling: we want men to be tough, but tender. Emotional, but not too much. Be there for us, but not smothering. Nurturing, but still "a man" (whatever that means).
Walk an impossible tightrope, but make sure you stand up straight and don't cry while you're (inevitably) falling off.
I've also written before that I believe men have the same capacity for love, empathy, emotional responsiveness, sensuality, and tenderness (etc) that women have, but that we often fail to teach them how to access them, much less how to healthily express themselves in these ways. This can result in myriad dysfunctions including deep unhappiness, anger, frustration, and/or this profound sense of emptiness/loneliness many men report experiencing. I opine that it impacts the sexual relationship between men and women as well. (I am sure it also impacts same-sex relationships in both similar and different ways, but for the purposes of this post, I am referring specifically to hetero sex).
My thoughts are that in general, we don't do a good job of socializing men to be able to genuinely connect with women sexually. This becomes problematic in relationships because for many women, emotions and sex are inextricable. So when a woman feels emotionally disconnected, sex is likely to be less enjoyable (and become less of a priority, because why bother if it doesn't feel good?)
Many men do not realize that they could/should be doing sex with an eye to the ways it specifically works best for women, or to be intuitive and flexible and to pay attention to each woman's *unique* sexual energy. Like it or not, women's bodies are mysterious and wonderful things that are far less straightforward in their responses and their needs/wants/desires than men. What worked perfectly for one woman may leave another woman completely unsatisfied, and thus, relying on one's "tried and true methods" is often a recipe for disappointment.
Because of the pressures they feel in the world and the way they are programmed to behave out there, I find that men often don't know how to dramatically shift gears in their intimate relationships. Men can have a tendency to approach sex as if it is a "performance" (thereby placing too much pressure on outcome at the expense of being fully present) or as if it is a list of tasks to be completed (rendering sexual contact transactional at best).
Too, whether they are conscious of it or not, it is true that some men have absorbed (to greater or lesser extents) the mores of the porn industry and a misogynistic culture that teaches men that women are there to provide pleasure for them. Unfortunately, nothing about porn is relevant to real sex, and misogyny is a fully dysfunctional lens through which to view heterosexual sexuality. As such, men have to essentially undo most of what they are taught. Men also have to basically start with a fully blank slate with each new female partner in order to connect sexually with women in a way that legitimately prioritizes **her** and how she feels. I think that men also (simultaneously) have to consciously reject the idea that tenderness and generosity in a sexual context isn't "masculine".
Anecdotally, it seems to me that most women do not enjoy aggressive or rough sex all of the time (some do, of course, but I always wonder if that is inherent or whether that's somehow related to how we are socialized to do it the way we think men like it?) but then again, as a result of their personal lived experiences of sex, many women also probably think that's just how sex is. This is a vicious cycle considering many men do not know how to access the more intuitive, emotional aspects of themselves that would permit deep intimacy, and many women do not know how to ask for it or that it is even there. I have often said that sex is easy, but intimacy is hard.
From what I have gathered from my work and my personal life, it seems fair to say that a man who is great in bed is one who makes her feel like his female partner's pleasure is *the* most important thing to him. It's a win-win, because women who feel respected and adored and prioritized are more likely to be open and generous lovers in return. And frankly, men are *most likely* going to get theirs regardless. (No, it's not as easy for some men as it is for others, but hopefully we can agree that as a general rule, male orgasm is a less complex and elusive thing than the female orgasm). Because 70%+ of women can't get off from intercourse alone, sometimes women end up feeling like there is something wrong with us because it takes more/longer/different than it takes men. And I will say that some men are very attached to the idea that their penis should make every woman automatically fully satisfied. It is simply not possible for many women, so for men to be disappointed (or worse, to make her feel it's a failing on her part) is a complete waste of energy and a guaranteed way to interrupt the potential for deep sexual connection.
It also seems like a major component to sexual dissatisfaction is the simple fact that a lot of men have internalized the idea that male sexuality is the norm, and female the aberration. In fact, this only speaks to the socialization/indoctrination of and by a male-dominated world, not actual reality. I feel like if we taught men how to more easily access their emotions, they might find it easier to accept a shift towards connecting a more "feminine" way, and to pay attention to their female partners in a deeper way.
Please note: nothing I've said is intended to criticize men; again, it's largely a result of a culture-wide acceptance of male sexuality as the norm coupled with our unreasonable/inconsistent expectations of men that causes this disconnect.

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