Friday, April 01, 2005

EOTM: Male Sexuality


In the past 30+ years millions of books have been sold on the topic of male sexuality. Very few of them have contained any "insider" information. While the detached and scholarly works usually miss the point, they are far more palatable than the the thinly disguised male-hating tirades written by women for consumption by women. Most of what has reached print has been women holding forth with great authority on topics in which they have never had any first hand experience. Women interpret, explain, judge, and condemn men for their conduct of sexual relationships without examining the role and conduct of women; as though those relationships were conducted in a vacuum without interaction with women. In the classic form of "do as I say, not as I do", some of these works have been in reaction to and contained vicious attacks on the psychologist Sigmund Freud for his condescending view of female sexuality, while their own condescention is both less based on empirical investigation and more extreme and oversimplified.

What has been largely missing from the public discourse is the male voice regarding male sexuality, love, mating, romance, and marriage. The results have been tragic for both men and women. As one of the less extreme of the feminist authors put it: "Women cannot hear what men do not say". This page and the ones which follow it are one small attempt to remedy the lack of a male voice speaking for males in the whole confused area of gender relations. Not that there have not been male voices speaking about males, there have been some. However, they have tended to take the supplicative "Uncle Tom" posture of remaining focussed on the female perspective and basically carrying the message "what's wrong with men". They have remained about males, not for males. Notable exceptions to this are the works of Warren Farrell, Andrew Kimbrell, and Robert Bly. There are other authors as well, many of which are noted in the reading list, but these 3 stand out for the clarity with which they see and present the issues.

While it is tempting to respond to the 30 years of male-bashing by bashing women back with the same intensity, doing so will hardly de-escalate the hostilities. Yet there has been far more nonsense published purporting to represent women's interests than works of any real merit. I'm a great believer in allowing people to learn from their own mistakes and experience. As I expect anyone with a brain to choose persons to represent their interests based on how well those representatives understand those interests and how consistently they work for them, I hope that women are beginning to wise up to how their pied pipers have sold them a bill of goods and led them down the road to isolation and unhappiness. Those who refuse to apply the acid test of sanity deserve the results they are getting.

However, it would be a disservice to men to not express the anger and exasperation that men feel over the absolute confusion, impossible expectations, and infantile tantrums which they have been putting up with for most of their adult lives in the area of their own greatest needs and vulnerability. For the most part, I will make no attempt at presenting a balanced view. When the average book store has a Men's Studies section the same size as its Women's Studies section, I will start writing in a balanced fashion. I have yet to see a book by a woman author which made more than a passing attempt to overcome her own female biases and present a balanced view. When women begin to abandon feminism for equitism and start shouting down women who are presenting gender hatred with the same fervor that they shout down men who say "Wait a minute, there's 2 sides to this", I will become their advocate to the same degree that I am now men's advocate. Until then there are far more and louder advocates for women than for men. It is time to provide a bit of balance.

It is my fervent hope that women will begin to examine their own behaviors and attitudes, following the christian dictum of dealing with the beams in their own eyes before getting so eager to take an axe to the specks in the eyes of their male brethren, and realize that they have changed far less than they believe in their spasms of self-congratulation and self-adoration. Male sexuality exists only in relation to female sexuality and women must get over their compulsions to play the passive and helpless victim, blaming men for every bit of their unhappiness, and venting limitless bile on men if things are to ever change for the better.


Male Sexuality - the male perspective

The most elegant description of male sexuality I have ever read was in Norman Mailer’s "Prisoner of Sex" published in 1971. By then feminist publishing was in full swing and the book was written mostly in response to feminist critiques of male sexuality and men's conduct of their sexual relationships with women.

"If he began this remedial reading with the firmest male prejudice of them all, which is that women might possess the better half of life already, he was never to encounter any comprehension among female writers that a firm erection on a delicate fellow was the adventurous juncture of ego and courage. One attitude in Women's Lib remained therefore repellant: precisely the dull assumption that the sexual force of a man was the luck of his birth, rather that his finest moral product, or if not his - here, full blast, came genuine conservatism - then a local gift passed along by something well achieved in his mother, his father, or farther back down the line."

Very different from the picture of male sexuality presented by such media favorites as "The Burning Bed" and "Sleeping With the Enemy" and the views expressed by leading feminists. First the use of the term "delicate fellow". Here is Mailer, the ultimate Macho Male Chauvinist Pig, speaking of men as "delicate". What gives?

The truth that women seem to have dismissed entirely is that men are delicate in many respects. Men have the same depth and range of emotions that women do. Women do incredible levels of violence to men with their words, particularly in their distortions and outright lies, yet never seem to consider the possibility that these verbal assaults on men leave scars. It is part of what I call the chain of violence. The fact that the violence is verbal and emotional rather than physical allows it to be double-thought away with reasons, excuses, whys, and becauses. And the violence is aimed directly at the two essential elements according to Mailer: ego and courage. When I remembered this quote, I substituted optimism for courage. It holds equally well. The optimism that a man might find a relationship with a woman who accepts him for what he is, has something to offer in her own right, and will keep HER commitments, is fading in most men.

All this seems to be founded on the belief that the center of male sexuality is the phallus. This is a phallus-see. *groan* The center of male sexuality is that IS his finest moral product. Sexuality is about reproduction, society seems to have completely lost sight of that. The sexual drive is mother nature's way of insuring that there is a next generation, and a next after that. Mom nature certainly wants the best and brightest children, just like any mother, so the urge to mate is strongest when the self-esteem, ego, is highest. Male sexuality at its heart is a holy offering, a "finest moral product". Yet all we seem to hear is how awful and ugly it is and how it must be contained by such institutions as marriage and romance.

Given the bad name that lust has in our culture today, most readers will probably be surprised that the word lust comes from the same root as luster, to shine. How many times have we all heard that confidence is sexy? One of the definitions of lust is ardent enthusiasm, passion. How incredibly schizophrenic it is that, in this culture, passion is glorified, but lust is spit upon. Only those men who are so incredibly insensitive and thick skinned that all the male bashing hasn't beaten them down still pursue women with the enthusiasm that men did 40 years ago. These men hardly make for satisfying lovers in the longer term.

Men I've talked with do view their sexuality as a great gift which they keep trying to share but keep getting told that it is the wrong size, or the wrong color, or too often, or too seldom, or too exploitive, or inherently harmful. Everything about male sexuality has been redefined in the last 30 years in terms of how well it meets the woman's needs. Men's needs are totally denied and negated. Men are increasingly being seen as mindless beasts of burden whose lot in life is to drag a family around financially and emotionally.

In 1996 a book came out which epitomized the dilemma facing men these days in trying to develop relationships with women which may become sexually intimate. Titled "The Rules", this book outlined strategies to minimize the elapsed time between "hello, my name is..." and "I do." Men have known for a very long time that this was what many, if not most, women were out to accomplish, but what made this book noteworthy was the completely cold and calculated, openly dishonest and manipulative manner in which the exploitation of male needs was presented and was advised to be pursued.

There were several immediate responses to this book, capitalizing on its notoriety. One of these, a humorous response called "The Code", was much more honest in its approach and advice, but sadly not any less manipulative. Both sides treated the whole question of mating as a game to be played where one must win at the other's expense. Neither of them even mentioned the concept of a developing a relationship of mutual trust and support. Each in its own way advocated a life of lying.

Men and women seem to be caught in a reaction, counter-reaction, counter-counter-reaction spiral. The dishonesty and manipulation in "The Rules" is excused by the lame justification that women have to act this way because men act the way they do. So men start acting according to "The Code" justifying it as self defense against "The Rules". And on and on. In this race to not be the eploitee, by being the exploiter if necessary, the whole point of pairing up and marriage is lost.

Male sexuality cannot be separated from the male roles and roles of men in our culture, nor from the attributes of maleness itself. For the last 500 years there has been an increasing "enclosure" of men away from the land to which they were once bound toward the cities. Industrialization and then servicization demanded uniformity and the definitions of what is acceptable have become narrower and more rigid. Much which was previously considered normal has become deviant. The body is even often referred to as a machine and expected to perform like one. Andrew Kimbrell, in “The Masculine Mystique”, provides an excellent description of the transformation of men from homesteaders to housing unit dwellers and the progressive dehumanization of men which has occurred.

The last behavioural holdout was in the area of sex. Until the 60s, the fact that men had a sex drive was simply considered one of those "facts of life". Many social mechanisms sought to control it, but the fact that it existed was generally accepted.

Then in the 60s and 70s two very odd things happened. Just as the advent of the pill promised sexual freedom for women without the fear of pregancy, sexuality became both a means by which men oppress women and something that men do poorly for women. The model of the perfect man became one who turns on when the woman flips the on-switch, stays on as long as she wants, turns off the moment she wants it off, and stays off until she wants it on again, courtesy of Masters & Johnson. Not that I am ridiculing their work, it was groundbreaking, but some of the interpretations and conclusions drawn from their work are somewhat off-base. Gone were the days of "I felt good, she felt good, it was ok". The orgasm counter was clicking, but not fast enough to suit everyone.

The orgasm quota was kinda weird but ok. What really was strange was the manner in which the expression of attraction toward a woman changed from a pretty good thing into a very bad thing. In 1974 a woman author indicted every man in every culture for rape and things have never been the same since. It is simply not possible in the 90s to discuss sexuality without discussing rape and its implications. What used to be demanded of men as simple courtesies or be welcomed attention are now described as variants of rape. Several credential-less self-appointed "experts" went so far as to declare than there was no such thing as normal human sexuality and declared ALL heterosexual relationships to be rape.

Male sexuality has taken a serious beating in the media and in private interactions. Man bashing comments are as endemic to our culture today as racial slurs were prior to the 50s. Male sexuality is portrayed as exploitive, violent, and abusive. At one point it became very trendy for females to "recover" lost memories of childhood sexual abuse. These were accepted as incontrovertable fact until research was done which showed that the so-called therapist could lead someone into believing that she was experiencing a memory when in fact it was something suggested by the therapist. In her excellent book on the female side of relationships, ”Lip Service”, Kate Fillion shows how, in the 90s, the difference between a date where sex occurs and a date rape is a phone call the next morning which begins the type of romance leading to marriage which the woman is expecting. It has now become a criminal offense for a man to not live up to a woman's expectations. Male sexuality has come to be defined purely in terms of the woman's wants, and any behavior which does not meet those wants is becoming criminalized.

This is the other set of jaws in the vice of marriage. Warren Farrell in his excellent book, “Why Men Are the Way They Are” shows how it is universally accepted in this culture that MEN OWE WOMEN FOR SEX. Lizard Amazon in her "Slut Manifesto" talks about the crazy extremes that a woman is excused for going to when her expectations of a long-term committed relationship are not met. The message is clear to men. DO NOT have sex with a woman unless there is a serious possibility of marrying her or unless you are ready to be a complete Code Cad and treat the woman like a non-person while taking grave personal risks with your career, your finances, and your freedom. The temptation to do so because, if she is a Rules kinda girl, that is the way she is treating you is tempered by the dire potential consequences.

So much to think about before even considering the questions of attraction and what really does turn men on. And what is the difference between a woman he wants to have sex with RIGHT NOW and a woman with whom he feels comfortable spending the rest of his life?

Hopefully an honest examination of the answers to these questions will lead to more balanced and improved relations between the genders and improve everyone's chances for finding a mate with whom they can lead happy and satisfying lives.


The Nitty Gritty
The Bitch
Men, Are You Sick of It?


Back to “Gender War, Sexuality, and Love”