Learn to Love Your Libido

 Ever feel ashamed of your sexual desires? Noah Brand talks about how to move past those feelings and trust your lust.

Long ago, I heard a legend of a Sunday School teacher who taught the kids in her class about Matthew 21:18-22, in which Jesus gets pissed off at a fig tree for basically no reason and kills it with the religious equivalent of a death ray.

So the Sunday School teacher asks the class “Do you understand why Jesus did that?” And the kids think it over, and admit that no, his killing that tree is a real stumper. So she asks “Do you think it was a nice thing to do?” And the kids mull that over, and decide that no, it wasn’t very nice.

“Okay then,” says the teacher. “You don’t understand everything Jesus did, and he wasn’t always nice. Good lesson. Who wants to play volleyball until it’s time for church?”

The point wasn’t that the kids should think that Jesus was an asshole, the point was that something can be mysterious and not always nice, and still be fundamentally good and worthy.

Obviously, this brings me to the subject of sex.

I tend to think of the kink community as the R&D department for cultural notions about sex. They develop models of consent that encompass rape play, they develop models of safety that encompass blood play, they develop models of respect that encompass slave play. They test ideas about sex and consent and desire under extreme conditions, and a lot of what they discover has profoundly useful applications for non-kinky people. Protocols and practices for negotiation, communication, boundaries and mutual understandings… these things can improve the sex lives of the most vanilla missionary-with-the-lights-out  couple in the world.

What I want to focus on, though, is how kinky folks conceptualize libido. I address this because of all the guys I’ve known and talked to who feel confused or ashamed by their libidos. “Why the hell does that turn me on?” they wonder. “Does being into this make me a bad person?” “Why do I get off so hard fantasizing about that, of all things?” Especially when they play into cultural images of male sexuality as toxic, unwelcome, and dangerous, these feelings can be very destructive.

What the kink community is very good at is having an open, accepting attitude toward one’s own desires, no matter how weird they may be. An attitude that says that as long as your desires aren’t hurting anyone, including you, they’re fine. Where did they come from? Why do you have them? Doesn’t matter. They are what they are, and there’s no cause to beat yourself up over them. You might as well hate yourself for liking cream in your coffee or boxers over briefs.

Essentially, the idea is that only wrong way to express your libido is in a way that violates someone else’s boundaries or safety. Whatever weird, perverse thing you’re into, there’s someone else who’d love to share it with you. Knowing that helps a lot of people feel less alone, less weird or perverted or broken. It helps reduce the weight of shame that too many people, of all types, carry around with them.

There’s other aspects of kinky views of libido that apply well to everyone, such as the idea that it’s perfectly fine to fantasize about things you don’t want to actually do in reality. Learning to separate your fantasies from your actual intentions, without feeling guilty or ashamed about either, is a good start on developing a healthy attitude toward your own sexuality. Just because you enjoy thinking about something doesn’t mean you want to really do it, and in that distinction may lie self-acceptance.

Most of all, kink theorists think of libido as simply a part of oneself, like the color of one’s eyes. Too many people, especially men, think of their sexual desire as something apart from themselves. We’ve all heard the jokes about the penis having a mind of its own, possibly emotional holdovers from puberty and its unwanted erections, but it’s amazing how many guys take that seriously. They have a thing for feet, or spanking, or voyeurism, or whatever else gets them off, and they think of that kink as something other, something alien, something they can purge from themselves in some way. It never works, and all it does is hurt the poor guy in the meantime.

Accept that you have desires, whatever they may be, and they’ll always be part of your emotional makeup. They’re only harmful or dangerous if you do harmful and dangerous things, and that’s up to you.And if you do want to explore those desires in a safe and positive way, you will find them more freeing and welcome than you might believe. You may not understand your libido, and it may not always be nice, but that need not stop you being a good and a worthy man.

 

 Photo— southie3/Flickr

NOW TRENDING ON GMP TV

Super Villain or Not, Parenting Paranoia Ensues
The Garbage Man Explains Happiness
How To Not Suck At Dating

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. Great article. However, I’d argue that it doesn’t even matter if a man’s sexual desires are socially acceptable or not. Male sexuality and desire at base level, kinky or not, are automatically seen by society as “toxic, unwelcome, and dangerous.” Thus we have men trying to honestly discuss sexuality labeled as “creeps.” Thus we have men who are never seen as objects of desire. Thus we have genitals that are seen as ugly unless mutilated. It goes on.

    • “Learning to separate your fantasies from your actual intentions, without feeling guilty or ashamed about either, is a good start on developing a healthy attitude toward your own sexuality.”

      “They have a thing for feet, or spanking, or voyeurism, or whatever else gets them off, and they think of that kink as something other, something alien, something they can purge from themselves in some way. It never works, and all it does is hurt the poor guy in the meantime.”

      I am my intentions. You are essentially arguing for a separation of the kink from my intentional self, the same as moralistic crusaders do. I understand the intent is different (not hurting people [including oneself] vs ‘saving your soul’) but there is still a conflict.

      Moral crusaders approach the conflict in a different way, by rejecting the kink entirely. This is a common theme with them – that there can be no grey area between the sacred and profane – and has been recently revealed to come down to differences in how things considered ‘sacred’ are processed in a separate part of the brain than the rational parts. Basically, the sacred is non-negotiable, and the profane is rejected (or repressed).

      I just want people to be aware that there *is* a psychological struggle for everyone with a paraphilia, especially those paraphilias most frowned upon by society, mostly those to do with consent in broader society; that is, the union of kink societies and moralistic societies. Everyone agrees that acting on rape, pedophilia and hebephilia are bad, while only some accept that desire or fantasies of same are acceptable. This is internalized by anyone that accepts society’s messages, which is pretty much everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, and an internal conflict results.

      Just my thoughts. Thank you for reading, and for allowing anonymity.

  2. “Essentially, the idea is that only wrong way to express your libido is in a way that violates someone else’s boundaries or safety.”

    Yup! I really believe that if the rest of our society could embrace this idea, we’d be a better society. Even as someone who totally tries to live by this, I still have occasionally found myself feeling ashamed of my libido. It’s tough to break out of it.

  3. John Foy says:

    Great article!

  4. Warren Peace says:

    Great read. It helps to see fantasy and desires as natural and sometimes crazy thoughts. Doesn’t mean we have to act on them or discuss them at work. Know thyself and try to accept thyself.

  5. I like this article a lot. It talks about the people I have tried to help over the years. The teen put in a mental hospital because he’s bi and his parents can’t handle it. The 18 year old dropped off at a homeless shelter because they don’t like his being gay(when he first arrived he claimed he wasn’t gay) Saw him a little while back and he was working the bar at a gay club downtown.

    Also I have formed relationships with people in the BDSM, Poly, swinger, and Gay communities. One of the things that I think is funny is that due to my reading here and Alternet I have several Gay friends that I keep up todate about issues.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to placate the 800 lb. Gorilla and go to ETSU in August for a MSW then I hope a LCSW will follow so I can counsel people in lifestyles.

  6. Thanks for this. I think it’s helpful to let people know that they can control themselves, but that they shouldn’t try to repress their desires as long as they’re not harming themselves or others in the process.

  7. I wish it was that easy to embrace my libido. Mine keeps me a prisoner. For me the problem isn´t special kinks, but more basic that I am so attracted to so many different women. I wish I could just turn it off or be content with finding one woman attractive I committ to and not care about the rest. I am trying, but the amount of beautiful women is just so vast, and I have extreme trouble coping with this. If sex was easily obtainable, then this wouldn´t be an issue. I could just go over and do what I feel like. But the way our social world works, I´m expected to court, expected to appear superhuman, expected to take all the rejection.

    I know that women are falsely stipulated to have low sex drives. Many women do have high sex drives, and that´s fine and normal. The difference is that women sexually obsess over a very small subset of all men, say 5% (I´m stipulating). Guys on the other hand are often attracted to almost 50% (again stipulative) of the women in their relevant age group to a degree where they would sleep with them women in question without hesitation. I experience this. Many of my male friends do. I used to think it´s normal. I don´t know anymore if it is. I´d like there to be a pill to make it stop.

    Many maybe cannot relate. Consider a parable. Just try imagining being addicted to substance x. Imagine then being confronted with substance x many, many times everyday, but it being withheld almost every time. Imagine the pain, uneasiness, and frustration it causes you. Of course I am not implying that women are inanimate objects. They generally are amazing human beings and deserve all their rights and privileges. I merely try to paint a picture of the “addict”´s phenomenology.

    I really need that pill, or need to blind myself.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @JS: “I really need that pill, or need to blind myself.”

      JS, I think that what you need is:
      1) Accept your desire as “Ok” (“normal” is a word I don’t like much, but you get what I mean), even if it might seem weird to you or somebody else.
      If you keep “fighting” yourself, you will not find peace nor a solution.
      2) Find a woman that you like and she likes you, and start enjoying yourselves.

      Desiring every woman is not a problem “per se”. Wanting all of them is. ;)
      We cannot have everything we want. OTOH, we can have something of what we want, in practice, and that’s what you should focus on.

      I used to feel like you, overwhelmed by my desire for women and not able to actively express it (i.e., creating real relationships).
      With time, I got to better understand women, got to know them, and found willing partners.
      The more you live real relationships, the less your desire will be a problem. It’s a problem when it just stays in your mind, going on and on without creating something real and enjoyable.

      PS: I sense some kind of idealization of women, perhaps. Just remember they are as human as you, as imperfect as you, and as needing as you (maybe not always in the same way, though).
      We all need each other. :)

  8. Awesome article. I agree with everything in it. :)

  9. LordAtama says:

    My parents were really strong Christians and yet, despite having my own kink that society would probably look at my weird for I never had any problem indulging in it alone or sharing it with my partner. I just can’t understand how you could look at a kink you have and be horrified by it if it doesn’t hurt anyone. How can you be horrified by something that makes you super hot?

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      You can when someone (that you esteem(ed) a lot) told you that desire is something bad, perverted or horrible.

      Judgments don’t come out of nowhere, they are passed onto us by someone else.

  10. That fig tree was asking for it.

  11. Soullite says:

    When I was 18, I had a girlfriend that was just amazing. She did almost everything I ever asked of her, and with the stuff she wouldn’t do, she never once made me feel like a pervert for asking. But at the same time, I could always tell that there was something she wanted from me – she was too adventurous to clam up the way she did when I asked about her fantasies. Whenever I pushed, she would blush and act extremely uncomfortable until I let it drop.

    Then, one day when were watching a movie, a… less than consensual scene came on, and she really couldn’t hide her excitement. And I admit, I kind of judged her for it – I was very young, and the prevalence of ‘naughty burglar’ type fantasies among women was something I wasn’t aware of yet. I tried not to let it show, because she really was very good to me. But she must have picked up on it, because when I asked if the scene was getting her excited, she actually apologized to me.

    When I saw how ashamed she looked, I knew it was wrong to ever judge people for something like that. Nobody should have to deal with that kind of fear when it comes to being open about sex.

  12. Voyeurism, feet, and spanking are all innocuous fetishes. What do you say to someone who has something really dark and twisted. Someone who can’t tell anyone, or else risk losing friends, career, maybe even family, everything. If things go wrong, you can’t even escape it anymore by moving to another place. One web search ruins that.

  13. Good article. Discovering and embracing my kinks is one of the best things that has happened for me.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Success Myth is bullshit. Male Role Models in Avatar: The Last Airbender, because fuck yeah Avatar. Learn to Love Your Libido, talking about self-acceptance and [...]

  2. [...] Learning To Love Your Libido, by our very own Editor-in-Chief Noah Brand, was given some love by Andrew Sullivan, who said this about the piece: Noah Brand wants people to understand the unchosen character of specific sexual desires as a means of coming to peace with their self-identity. [...]

  3. [...] Learning To Love Your Libido, by our very own Editor-in-Chief Noah Brand, was given some love by Andrew Sullivan, who said this about the piece: Noah Brand wants people to understand the unchosen character of specific sexual desires as a means of coming to peace with their self-identity. [...]

  4. [...] they are judged as "missing out on" something – defective, in other words. But this is just a question of standards. Years ago, you were considered unhealthy by the majority if you chose to seek out a partner of the [...]

  5. [...] Abnormality Came across a link to this short little article article while wandering around the Internet and I thought it could be of some interest. I don't see that [...]

  6. [...] have linked this article a few times but it seems particularly applicable to those of us who view this from the sexual side. [...]

Speak Your Mind

*