Why Men Are So Obsessed With Sex

obsessed

Steve Bearman looks at some of the influences in men’s lives that can lead to an obsession with sex…and how that can be overcome.

 

Have you ever encountered a baby whose gender is unknown to you? Not knowing can feel profoundly uncomfortable. We barely realize how great the differences are in how we treat male and female people, in what we expect of them. These differences are by no means subtle, but they are so much the air we breathe that we can’t even see them. We have almost no experience of relating to human beings not on the basis of their gender. If we did, we would be at ease with someone whose gender we didn’t know. Instead, the first question we ask about a new person in the world is whether it’s a boy or a girl. Maybe if we can’t tell the difference, it’s because there isn’t one!

Nonetheless, from the moment of our birth, if not earlier, we are treated as gendered beings. We are not merely considered to have a gender, we are conditioned to have it. Moment by moment, day by day, and persistently over long stretches of time, the ways boys and girls get treated shape their identities. And the way boys learn to be male almost inevitably leads them directly to some kind of obsession with sex as they grow older.

Isolating Boys

All babies are considered okay to smooch and squeeze and hold close, female or male, but when they get old enough, boys stop being held and cuddled and stroked. If they reach out to adults for intimacy, we refuse them in the name of “self-sufficiency.” Though this promotes independence, it does so at the cost of intimacy. This isolation is reinforced by early sexist conditioning. Boys are taught that they are different from, and better than, girls, even that they should shun or hate girls. If they are fortunate enough to escape this particular piece of the conditioning and continue to have equal relationships with girls, they are quickly marked as “sissies” and called “girls” themselves. Loving or tender relationships with other boys get them similarly marked as “faggots” and put them in danger of violence and being ostracized.

Instead, boys are encouraged to develop relationships with other boys that are primarily competitive: playing sports, jockeying for higher rank in social hierarchies such as teams, clubs, and later on, gangs and fraternities. These groups often come together to do violence to other groups, either by “beating” them in competitions or in less symbolic forms of violence. In the armies in which so many of the world’s men at some point participate, we learn to kill and to be prepared to go down fighting, and this model repeats itself in gang wars of all kinds. These violence-based communities fulfill some of our needs for companionship and connection, when nothing gentler is available, and so they may not seem to contribute to male isolation. However, competitive and adversarial groups offer solidarity within the group at the cost of turning everyone else into an enemy. They breed fear of other people, even of the others within our group, with whom we also must compete for rank. We may not be alone when among the group members, but the internal isolation is intense. Relationships between group members buckle and break from the pressure of having to defend, protect, and prove ourselves. This is very different from the nurturing ease and satisfaction of a mutual, equal, fear-free relationship.

A systematic enterprise of denied contact, humiliation and name-calling, being ostracized, sexist conditioning, homophobia, competition, and training for violence leaves boys more and more on their own. This habit of being “on our own” becomes familiar. Isolation is a piece of the heritage of our conditioning as boys that we carry with us into our manhood. This description of male conditioning will not exactly match every boy’s experiences. But certain factors are almost universally present in one form or another for boys growing up in our present society. Isolation is one of three primary factors in our early conditioning that later leaves us vulnerable to sexual obsession.

What happens to human beings who have been, since early in life, isolated from intimate connections with other people, cut off from their own feelings, and numbed to bodily awareness?.

Suppressing Boys’ Feelings

Young people naturally seek out other people for help and support when they are faced with painful feelings. When they get hurt, feel scared, become outraged or embarrassed, frustrated or sad, they seek and expect attention. The loving attention of another human being is necessary to feel these feelings and to heal the hurts that caused them. The isolation of boys keeps them from seeking out the attention they need, prevents them from even believing it’s okay to ask for help. They are left to deal with feelings themselves. Even worse, they are loaded down with messages that feelings are not something “real men” experience. They learn that, “Big boys don’t cry.” The process of crying is interrupted, and the tears are responded to by being ignored, laughed at, or answered with threats of violence.

Being scared is yet another thing boys are told threatens their maleness. They are expected to leap into any activity, no matter how dangerous or unfamiliar, without appearing fearful. Other feelings are in similar ways denied them, and they quickly learn that expressing emotions actually makes their situation worse. Over time, the only ways boys keep from showing their feelings is to train themselves not to feel them, to dull their awareness of their own experience, numb themselves to emotions. In the course of doing so, they decrease their ability to feel any feelings, joyful, painful, or otherwise. At the same time we become disconnected from other people, we are cut off from our own feelings.

Desensitizing Boys’ Bodies

As a subset of all the feelings we are forced to numb ourselves to, we “lose touch” with how our bodies feel. We learn, sometimes literally, to harden ourselves against pain, strain, and physical effort. The training to “act like a man” is present when young boys are encouraged to ignore physical injuries, not to cry, to bear the pain and go on as if nothing happened. This is exactly the training needed to convince men to work ourselves to the point of abuse, in both the workforce and the military. The sensuality of being alive in our bodies, aware of our senses, and breathing full breaths has been written off as an unmale attribute. Sensuality has been replaced with routine. Though we notice extremes, we are unable to perceive subtleties of feeling. Tenderness and gentleness, subtle and slow as they are, have been lost. Born into bodies marvelously equipped to feel, we are forced to shut down and accept numbness.

Is Sex The Answer?

This description may sound quite extreme. Yet it is only a picture of what is considered normal to impose on boys, what we take for granted. We don’t like to believe ourselves to be in such an extreme state. We think anything we made it through must not have been that bad. If it doesn’t seem, as men, that we have been so separated from each other, from women, from our feelings or our bodies, this may be because we have lost our memory of being that integrated, that connected. For most of us, the joy that is possible in our daily lives is so outside the scope of our experience that we have difficulty even imagining it. So consider here for a moment that most men alive have been through some form of this systematic conditioning. What happens to human beings who have been, since early in life, isolated from intimate connections with other people, cut off from their own feelings, and numbed to bodily awareness?

There was a time when we could perceive a loss of vividness, when it was clear that what was being offered us in our adult lives was far less than the abundance we knew was possible. As we stood facing the possibility that we would have to cope with the loneliness of isolation, the emptiness of lost feeling, the dullness of disembodiment, just then, intimacy, passion, and sensuality were all offered back to us in one, solitary form. Sex, we were told, is the answer. Everything you have lost can be found through sex. But here’s the catch: sex is the only way you can get it back! Imagine yourself in this scenario. The urgent need to pursue sex would bear down with great pressure.

Adolescent boys are exposed to a social imperative to get laid in order to prove their maleness, long before they even know what “getting laid” means. They are bombarded with sexual images through television, advertising, and pornography. These images are very compelling, somehow conveying to them that the great mystery of life can be experienced through sex. Every story of “true love” in the cultural mythology implies that relationships are built on sex, that sex consummates love, that feeling sexual feelings is the same as being in love. Directly and indirectly, we are handed sexuality as the one vehicle through which it might still be possible to express and experience essential aspects of our humanness that have been slowly and systematically conditioned out of us. Sex was, and is, presented as the road to real intimacy, complete closeness, as the arena in which it is okay to openly love, to be tender and vulnerable and yet remain safe, to not feel so deeply alone. Sex is the one place sensuality seems to be permissible, where we can be gentle with our own bodies and allow ourselves overflowing passion. Pleasure and desire, vitality and excitement, seemingly left behind somewhere we can’t even remember, again become imaginable.

Adolescent boys are exposed to a social imperative to get laid in order to prove their maleness, long before they even know what “getting laid” means. .

This is why men are so obsessed with sex. We are born sensual creatures with an unlimited capacity to feel and an effortless propensity to deeply connect with all human beings. We are then subjected to continuous conditioning to repress sensuality, numb feelings, ignore our bodies, separate from our natural closeness with our fellow humans. All of these human needs are then promised to us by way of sex and sexuality. This is an effective lure because sexuality genuinely can be a potent source of love and pleasure, intimacy, sensuality, and beauty. But in no way can sex completely fulfill these needs. Such needs can only be fulfilled by healing from the effects of male conditioning and suffusing every area of our lives with relatedness and aliveness.

From Passion to Obsession

It’s as if a being of extraordinary power and passion had been reduced and dulled and diminished over many years. The memory of passion was put to slumber deep within this being, and the being walked through life with an elusive sense of something missing, something wrong. One day, a billboard appeared, and on that billboard, surrounded by images of naked bodies and erotic acts, were the words “PASSION AVAILABLE HERE!” So excited was this being to get at even the possibility of passion, which he could feel awakening deep within, that he rushed impulsively forward, never taking the time to read the small print at the bottom of the ad. This is what the small print said:

If you follow this path, be prepared on your way to reawakening passion to pass through a land called Obsession. Be aware that most men never make it out the other side. Sex, which will feel like the answer to your loneliness and deadness, will turn out to reinforce those feelings. You will come to feel more alive when thinking about or engaged in sex than at almost any other time. When you do experience sex, you may come closer to another human being than you can remember ever being. Sensing the safety to do so, you will begin to care deeply, and to feel all the joy and pleasure and every other feeling that has been trapped inside of you for so long, including all the fear you have never been safe enough to feel. And so the closer you get, the more scared you will feel. And you will find ways to pull back, and you will begin to believe that it is not safe and that you are just as alone as you have always felt. You will come to blame your partner or yourself for the inadequacy and for the inability of sex to make you back into the great, vulnerable, courageous, and free being you were born to be. But because some taste, some glimpse is available through sex, you will be driven to seek it out as the solution to your life-sized dilemma. If you escape the self-condemnation of sexual repression, you will desperately search for new kinds of sexual contact, real or imagined, to make you feel whole or to make you feel anything at all. But no matter how much sex you encounter, it will not be enough to fill your enormous need to love and be close and express your passion and delight in your senses and feel life force coursing through your muscles and your skin. All sexual desire will become tainted with your desperation. Passion and desperation will begin to seem one and the same. You will be Obsessed.

Sex quickly becomes addictive for most men. Like all addictions, it offers what feels like temporary relief from difficult circumstances, only to leave us more thoroughly immersed in those circumstances, and feeling as if more of it is the only way to even come up for air. Even if we do not engage compulsively in anonymous casual sex, pornography, masturbation, or fetishistic attempts to recover what has been forgotten, sex nevertheless takes on an addictive character. When we automatically fantasize about sex and sexualize people we meet in passing, when we are sexually engaged and feel an urgent need to have intercourse, to “get off”, to orgasm at all cost, we are being driven by these addictive impulses. It is difficult to accept that such attempts to get back what we’ve lost will always ultimately fail. Even if we accept it, we can’t find our way out. An addiction this persistent occurs for very definite reasons, and until those reasons are addressed, escaping the addiction may not be possible. In the absence of healing, the addiction serves necessary functions.

Men are frequently believed to be fundamentally malevolent and untrustworthy, particularly because of our “uncontrollable” sexual desires. In light of the compulsive form sexuality often takes, we attempt to repress all of it. Yet repression is exactly the wrong idea. If sex really is one of the few areas of our lives where we can still feel, can still tell that another person is actually there with us, can still sense the joy of inhabiting a body, then repressing sexuality, vilifying it, or sublimating it into work, plugs up one of the few remaining springs of vitality. Repression is not the solution. Repression is, in fact, the origin of the problem, and additional repression squelches our vitality even further. Passion, not repression, is our greatest ally in the battle to liberate our complete humanity. The message being offered us by our sexual obsession is that we are reaching for something we know we so badly need. The passion and the desire for closeness behind the obsession are our guides, despite the fact that they have kept us isolated when followed without reflection or awareness. Sexual obsession, when turned inside out, holds the key to our liberation.

Reclaiming Our Full Humanity

My vision for myself and for all men is that we reclaim every piece of our humanity that has been denied us by our conditioning. Obsession with sex can be healed when we reclaim all the essential aspects of the human experience that we have learned to manage without: our affinity for one another, caring connections with people of all ages and backgrounds and genders, sensual enjoyment of our bodies, passionate self-expression, exhilarating desire, tender love for ourselves and for one another, vulnerability, help with our difficulties, gentle rest, getting and staying close with many people in many kinds of relationships. If sex makes us feel more alive or less alone than anything else, this is an indication that vitality and closeness are glaringly missing from every other part of our lives. Because of the nature of male hurts, our healing requires that we get in close, and stay close, with other men and women whom we choose as our allies and to whom we choose to show ourselves. It requires that we move back into our bodies and care for them deeply. Because we have been alienated from other people, our feelings, and our bodies, we must now reclaim each of these in order to take back our humanness, and in doing so, end the desperation and the lack that keeps us obsessed.

When we fill our lives with the things we previously expected only from sex, our lives are richer, and even our experience of sex is transformed.

The instruction manual for men reclaiming our full humanity, recently unearthed, contains the following highlights.

Reclaim Intimacy: Begin by directing the unconditional, loving admiration you used to reserve for people you’re attracted to, outward toward all kinds of people in all kinds of relationships. Start ten new kinds of relationships with people you never imagined could be your dearest friends and most dependable allies. Who are the people in your life who are ready to receive your trust and vulnerability? Give your trust to them and ask the same in return. Since there are no limits to the closeness possible with another person, what fears do you have to face to get even closer? Share those fears and ask for help instead of trying to manage them alone. Let the people in your life know what it’s really like for you, and enlist their help to bring closeness back into your daily existence. If you choose to have a primary partner, please remember that no matter how strong the relationship, one person is not enough for any human being to be close with. It is in your nature to desire closeness with all people, closeness that rarely has anything to do with sex. We have yet to discover what it will be like to have so much and such varied closeness in our lives.

Reclaim Feelings: The passionate intensity you’ve saved only for sexual encounters can fire up all areas of your life. What else besides sex ignites that much passion? What dreams and desires for your life would you need to rekindle in order to burn as brightly about your daily existence? Take on the challenges that make waking up exciting, that fill you with a sense of wonder and magic. Expand the envelope of who you think you are. Find feelings long buried and set them free. Cry wet tears and laugh with your whole voice; tremble with fear and giggle with embarrassment; storm with outrage at the cruel ways we’ve been hurt; weep with tenderness at the beauty of our existence. We need one another to feel these glorious feelings, so ask for all the help and love and attention you need. And you do need it. We just can’t do this alone, and we should never have had to in the first place.

Reclaim Your Body: Sensual pleasure is our birthright, and it is available in thousands of forms besides sex. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot through the grass, the mud, the rain. Learn to breathe freely, so that every breath reminds you that you are alive right now! Dance, finding and releasing the movement within you, reveling in the gorgeous organism that you are. Touch your body freely and frequently, reawakening your senses. Take joy in the movement of your muscles, the feel of your sheets sliding on your skin as you lie down to rest, the splash of cool water on your face, and the swish of that coolness in your mouth as you drink. Become aware of the food you take in, not only savoring the taste, but also cultivating a sensitivity to how it makes your body feel long after it is digested. What would it take to slow yourself down enough to notice how much feeling is always available for your awareness? As you rediscover your senses and your infinite, creative range of movement, play like you did as a boy, when no one had to teach you how. Play hard and play soft, inventing ways to be in exuberant contact with everyone in your life.

From Obsession to Passion

If sex is expected to be our primary source of contact, feeling, pleasure, and love, our main connection with the memory that life is exciting and mysterious and joyful, then of course we will be obsessed with sex. Luckily, the conditioning that has put us out of touch with all these things is completely reversible. Every quality we have turned away from can be reclaimed. The passion that narrowly fixates upon sex can lead the way to a wide-open life vibrant with passion. The desire to be close that has been confused with sexual desire can motivate us to create closeness everywhere. When we fill our lives with the things we previously expected only from sex, our lives are richer, and even our experience of sex is transformed.

It is possible to be completely relaxed about sex. When sexual desire is purged of desperation, urgency, loneliness, and fear, then sex can be inspired by joy and sexual relationships can be healthy and whole. When sex is a choice, one of many choices, with no rush to get to it and no cost in missing it, it’s possible to be at ease with sex and sexuality. Sex can be an exquisite celebration of intimacy and expression of love, a place for healing, a time to play with all the vigor and enthusiasm we had as children. Sex can be a place to express the passion cultivated by living a vibrant life and to delight in the ecstasy we all deserve. Sex can be separated out from all things that it is not. It can stop being the sole source of all the things that it is. We are making the long journey out the other side of the Land of Obsession. On the other side is a rich, full life beyond our conditioning, where passion takes new forms each day and we are deeply related, never alone. A new paradigm is possible for men, wide open for us to explore.

 

Originally published in Male lust: Pleasure, power, and transformation (pp. 215-222), also appeared on interchangecounseling.com. Steve Bearman, Ph.D. is the founder of the Interchange Counseling Institute and creator and leader of its San Francisco-based Year-long Counseling and Coaching Training Program.

 

—Photo The Integer Club /Flickr

 

 

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About Steve Bearman

Steve Bearman, Ph.D. is the founder of the Interchange Counseling Institute and creator and leader of its San Francisco-based Year-long Counseling and Coaching Training Program. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In addition to teaching counseling skills classes, for the last 20 years, he has been leading workshops on community building, relationships, ending jealousy, overcoming anxiety, gender role conditioning, healing body shame, death and grieving, spiritual practice, and group facilitation. Steve wants to create a world where the best parts of what we call "counseling", people helping one another to heal and grow and become free, are a part of people's daily lives and everyday relationships. You can find his best guesses about how to make that happen on the Interchange blog.

Comments

  1. Really appreciate this article! It’s given a ton of insights into boy’s and men’s behavior that I didn’t have before. Not sure why some people are upset that the article didn’t touch on women. Isn’t this the Good MEN Project? The focus of this site is on MEN.

    Anyway, I like when a guy can open up, and I’d never call him names or tell him to keep his thougths to himself. As women, we get conditioned to think men only tolerate our emotions and interact solely to get sex. So when a guy makes a comment, we feel de-indvidualized. From the neck down I could be anybody, so why would I be intimate with someone who doesn’t really care who he’s with? Long as it’s female, he’s good to go. But then they guy treats you differently after getting sex, so there’s more to it than just a bodily function, whether people own up to that or not.

    End result? My mind has been expanded, and I have a much better understanding of where men are coming from. And I don’t take this explanation as an excuse for men to behave badly. If a guy makes an R-rated comment about my body, that is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. But my goal is to let the men in my life know that being around me is an emasculation-free zone.

  2. Mikey-no says:

    What a bunch of nonsense. I’m a happy, successful man with a lot of love and sensual connection in my life. And yet, somehow, I’m still obsessed with sex. Why? Simply because wanting to reproduce was evolutionarily advantageous to my ancestors, so genes that cause horniness were selected for. It’s evolution 101. Why do we need any answers beyond that? Why try to pathologize everything?

  3. actualPicture says:

    I am not obsessed with sex. But my wife is. Even after 20 years of marraige, She wants sex between us each day. and this count is apart from her masturbating habits by her electric dildo.
    But i can not tell this in known public setting. Gender stereotypes (just like this article espouses) does not allow me to tell this in space, where sex between couples is talked about. Here internet’s anonymity is allowing me to talk about it.
    Women are as much as sex creatures , just like men. They are additionally just brainy enough to hold it back, knowing that male will initiate; and this gives her power.
    If you are brainy enough then you can too play sexual politics between the couples, and subtly make her initiate half of the times, when she wants “it”.She is also sexy creature enough.

  4. It always feels weird reading these descriptions about how boys are brought up, because it’s the exact opposite of my own experience. If I feel bad about something I immediately find someone to talk to, and I’ve never seen the appeal of doing dangerous stuff just to “prove that I’m a real man.” Maybe it’s because I’ve got Aspergers (not self-diagnosed). I’ve never really given a damn about peer pressure.

    • Agemaki says:

      I hear you. I feel the same way about the men do this/women do that stuff. I’m biologically female but I don’t feel like I was raised as a girl or as a boy and I identify as being some of both. From what I have read about people on the spectrum we tend to be less extreme in our embodiment of gender norms. I personally have always loved that I don’t feel compelled to care about peer pressure (though I only recently found out that I was on the spectrum). I’m currently in a relationship with a man on the spectrum and he also doesn’t feel the need to prove his adherence to his gender. He never holds back about sharing his feelings with me and so we are able to be very open with each other. Good communication helps a lot with having great sex too!

  5. The title of this article is sexist. Not all men… no not even nearly all men are “obsessed” with sex… and yes, some women are.

  6. There is more to intimacy than the intimacy of sex – something that men need to learn.

  7. In case you have never considered this, a woman can feel used by her man when he puts so much emphasis on just sex for intimacy.

    • Just as a man can feel (and be) used if he is unlucky enough to de with a woman who has no/little interest in sex. So whats your point?

  8. Dina Strange says:

    I’d probably be obsessed with sex way more if there were more attractive men who actually KNEW how to have sex. A lot of guys have no idea, but somehow feel that they do. I also think a lot of women fake that they enjoy sex with their men not to hurt their feelings.

    Also…just sex is boring.

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      Possible. But men are bad at sex mainly because they are never taught how to be good at it. Maybe because it is assumed that they couldn’t possible improve in any case, for reasons of being, you know, dumb male animals.

      Also women are just as bad as men. Men just never talk about it because they simply don’t expect a woman to give them pleasure. Pleasure for a man is what you manage to pick up for yourself while working your ass off to please her. That’s why men usually have orgasms even in bad sex — they give them to themselves. Bad orgasms, often enough. Women on the other hand either get given orgasms by their partner or they have none.

      This is a generalization, obviously. In fact, it’s the worst case scenario. But all too often if applies.

      • Actually most guys are learning how to have sex in porn nowadays. Porn made by men, for men. In the mainstream/standard (straight) porn they all learn women should look perfect while guys have no sensuality or the potential to have hot(ter) bodies, they are just their penises. Women should be there to mostly serve and get nothing in return – even thought she moans and orgasms… while pleasuring the male and not receiving anything in return, so likely. Yes, I see, most males DO want women to have pleasure… but only if that pleasure comes from pleasuring their male master and doing everything the male wants. That is not really how that works in real life. That is what sex is about for most males: their own pleasure and some kind of twisted sense of “dominance” over women. Most of the times these women are labelled sluts and whores. Men are just men. Sex ends when the man ejaculates, who cares if the woman wanted some more.
        If most men actually cared about women’s pleasure and also putting effort into their looks to be more appealing to women (because women are not blind) that would show a lot more in the mainstream/standard porn as well. If it doesn’t show there, it is because most men could care less. They give what men ask for. That is the reason why women prefer amateur (straight) porn or just solo guys or male-on-male. And yes, most women actually like seeing the guy truly enjoying and being pleasured by a girl as much as hot as him – it’s just that they prefer it when women are also being treated like people worth of being pleasured, not living blow-up dolls.

        In American (and alike) culture, women should work their best to look hot and be sexy, while men can be (and usually WILL BE) below average – but he needs to make the effort to initiate things, and maybe be the aggressor in bed. But then again, I only hear about women loving pleasuring their men, but not receiving the same in return. Men themselves a lot of times admit to not caring about women’s pleasure.
        Men should not expect women to long for their bodies and want to love it, ask them out or initiate sex if they won’t put more effort into looking good, it does not even need to be as much as the average woman (at least trim your body hair, wear more appealing clothes, have a more charming hair style, dry skin is bad, apply some lotion). That is what makes most guys feel attracted to women and motivated to go after them after all, even if many guys forget about that.
        Just think about a woman dressed (boring, baggy clothes) and groomed just like the average man (masculine hair cut, hairy body, never even a bit of make-up, dry skin – no lotion!) – and see if many guys will still like it that much, or if they really won’t prefer the more “feminine” (more vain and appealing) woman instead. http://www.city-data.com/forum/relationships/1367221-why-do-some-lesbians-date-other-2.html – most guys will agree that is super unappealing… funnily enough, most will look and dress just like that themselves.

        • Dina Strange & Suzana.. I totally 100% agree with you. And I find it really sad that most women make themselves sex slaves, pleasing the man but not requesting from him to please them. I did that mistake when I was younger cause I though “I don’t want to hurt his feelings” but in reality it’s him who doesn’t give a shit about yours. It’s all society’s fault cause girls are not as valued as boys, so they somehow try to “feel accepted” by the males. Which I think is disgusting. Anal is also a good example, it’s a common fact it hurts pretty bad but a lot of girls will do it to please their bf. ABSOLUTELY SICK. Men should feel ashamed & we girls should NOT fake something we don’t like. We should be straight honest even if it’s not what the boy wants to hear. Just be honest people, is it that hard?

  9. I’ve never really interpreted it as “being better than a girl” really.

    My thoughts growing up were that people saw women as having intrinsic value. Being the “attractive gender”, able to give birth, more cooperative, etc. They didn’t need strength because the need for strength was an immature “man” trait.

    And that with men, the only thing we had going for us was our strength and our money-making power. And thus we owed both of those to women. If we were physically weak, or more emotional, “like a woman”, we lost the only parts of ourselves that have value. But unlike women, we had no intrinsic value elsewhere.

    So the image was that a man who has “only” the strength of a woman is about as low as you get. Then a man must prove his strength or prowess in order to be considered a woman’s equal. And then at the top of the best people in the world were strong women.

    That’s why a lot of the narrative of woman-hating leaves me confused. That it wasn’t about hating women, it was about us not having the privilege to be accepted without being physically strong, stoic, or having high income.

    It even fits the narrative of a boy having to “prove” himself a man, while a girl just grows up into a woman. And dating made sense: She has intrinsic value, therefore a man must prove HIS value to HER in order to be her equal. He must initiate and pay. It made sense why only men would be conscripted, why men would be the majority of the homeless, why women would be granted more welfare, be considered better parents, and why their victimization would be the most important topic:

    If someone punches me, I should deal, or punch back. If I can’t, I’m not a real man. If a girl gets punched, particularly by a man, it’s a travesty that should be dealt with swiftly and aptly covered by the media.

    Do you see how this narrative can be so strongly reinforced? And do you see how it can leave a pit in your stomach every time you are told your mere daily actions are an act of hatred against women?

    And back on the original subject: In this narrative, every woman deserves to love and be loved. While only a “real man” can be trusted to love, or deserves to be loved. Thus, guys will try to 1-up each other and take sex whenever they can get it. A man who wins is a “stud”, while a girl who lowers her standards is a “slut” for falling for the schemes of the undesirable male gender.

  10. Excellent article. Always a pleasure reading through the Good Men Project. :)

  11. I feel like the italic section describes how I feel, too. Women also seek affection, approval, love, acceptance, intimacy etc via sex or sexual behaviour. We are becoming such a disconnected society and sexual obsession surrounds us, it’s not just men being impacted.

  12. Some great research-backed statements here regarding gender socialization. I think it’s also important though, to remember that some developmental research has supported the notion that there are sex-based differences (not socially-constructed gender differences) between boys and girls (toy preference, etc.). Overall a nice application of gender socialization research to sexual/romantic relationships and male relationships in general.

  13. So i read this article. I do think it offers up some good points, but part of it made me really angry, because it acted like men have a monopoly of feeling isolated, unloved, a lack of being seen & emotional intimacy growing up. I would like to argue women have similar challenges.

    My experience as a woman, being a severe sexual abuse survivor, being praised only in relationship to my body & how good of object i looked like, has been extremely isolating, lonely & has left me intensely scared of rejection when i am my true self.

    Woman are bombarded with the message that their worth is hugely related to them being an Object of men’s desire. How good they look is hugely related to popularity, being asked out on a date, praise etc. This is incredibly lonely & fear inducing. Women are socialized that their primary worth & utility is as a sex object & for men’s sexual gratification.

    I think what really bothers me about this article is that it paints men as victims of society without looking at what their chosen actions do to women. Actions are a choice. I can’t tell you the number of men I’ve been in relationship with who I encouraged to open up about their feelings, to be vulnerable, to share their authentic selves with me, men I begged to respect my sexual boundaries & listen to when i said no & not sexually assault me–lots of these men were so called Feminists & men that actively read the good Men Project.

    I think what really bothers about this article is that once again it is all about YOUR perspectives in relation to women’s bodies & women in general. It doesn’t even touch on how women feel to be treated in such degrading ways, why that would be a motivator to change your behaviors.

    I agree that how men & women are socialized in this country & the world is super fucked up. It is a crime how we raise most or our children & what is considered acceptable behaviors or condoned in adult society. Still, most of the articles presented to women on their relationships with men have titles like “How to be a better girlfriend” “What is your man really feeling” “What does a man need” & so on. I feel the fundamental problem is an inbalance of power & oppression. If someone asks you to belittle a woman or see her as a sex object, you have just as much choice to not accept that role as a woman who is conditioned to act like an airhead & spend most of her hours trying to look a certain way & treating herself like a sex object.

    If you work on yourselves without considering the woman’s perspective & her own challenges, then it is once again women contorting themselves in relationships to be there for their emotionally distant abusive men.

    I think that’s what made me mad about this article, women’s challenges & loneliness & personhood & need for connection isn’t even considered or viewed from such a skewed perspective that men have a monopoly on these things, which reinforces the same male dominated I, egoic, mindset that leads to rape, sexual assault, exploitation, abuse of women.

    The men i have been in relationships with & there have been a lot & a lot of feminists & men who spout a lot of rhetoric from their heads about how violence towards women is wrong, were the very men that sexually assaulted me when i was vulnerable & thought only about getting their own needs, desires whims met at my expense. I feel this article reinforces that mindset, it just spins it in a progressive lens, but still All Important Men, are seen as the center of the Universe, their needs, their emotions, blah blah . .

    What i would have liked to have read is not, sex is not so important, but rather sex is super important, it is the highest act of sacred, spiritual (not mentioned at all), emotional & physical intimacy & expression of connection that there is. And the women that we debase for Our Needs, what the real prescription is, is not to look elsewhere for emotional intimacy (which is part of the whole running away & problems) but to actually RISK being vulnerable with the person who made themselves deeply vulnerable emotionally, spiritually etc. to you through sex.

    This article is like go find intimacy in other relationships, & then you won’t need sex so much. But still this is subtlety still reinforcing the main problem–men have trouble Risking emotional vulnerability with the woman who is risking it with them, men don’t have an integrated view of sex that it is tied to Spirit, God however you say it, emotions & connection, instead of divorced of it. This article is still not so self aware because it is subtly reinforcing the same problem. No where does it talk about risking emotional vulnerability with a significant other, honoring how sacred the sexual connection is, the merging of two souls. It’s subtext is, Sex isn’t really necessarily about love (therein lies the perversion– this mindset) & look to others for connection. Said more plainly, when you can divorce sex from love & sacred spiritual merging & oneness & connection, then you are already participating in a perversion mind-set & way of being.

    I do commend the author for moving a little closer towards what it all is about. I mean obviously we all need to be fulfilled humans, risk authentic connections, look at ourselves & fill our needs (in healthy non oppressive ways) so that we can become WHOLE humans to connect in significant other relationship with other WHOLE humans, but it is missing the ROOT or the main point this article i feel & is subtly reinforcing the deeper problem.

    I think part of this article is a step in teh right direction. How men (and women) are socialized is messed up, but it doesn’t hold men accountable in the way that women are demonized daily & blamed for the entire problem. (Like a woman in sexually assaulted & she gets blamed for her behaviors not his . . .She suffers lack of support, a safe place to share her feelings etc. & he is often seen as the victim or made excuses for which is totally backward.) This article is once again excusing mens abusive behaviors towards women as ooh poor him. Not, he needs to be man enough to risk the same amount of emotionality vulnerability & connection she has. Not, she needs to be even more understanding of how hard it is for him, while he doesn’t consider her isolation at all.

    My recent ex (huge feminist who rants all the time against sexual & domestic violence all the time on his Facebook) & posts articles by you all, sexually assaulted & raped me off & on while i was brain injured & had no family. He would post tirades about the very things he was doing in the present right while he was doing them. When i met him, he played up how he was socialized by his dad not to feel his feelings & how hard it was for him, & i ate it up & cared about him & encouraged him he was safe with me to cry & feel & be himself. No matter how hard i tried to be a safe person & to help him heal & change & grow, he got more & more aloof, distant, abusive & demeaning. What I really needed to realize is like all of us, we all have hard stories, but still you have to hold each other accountable, especially men who have enjoyed & continue to enjoy a huge imbalance of more power–power over, which is ultimately corrupting & desensitizing & numbing when any of us partake & decide to use that given the choice. We all have choice to abstain for behaviors where we have power over another person or oppress them in some way–whether emotionally, physically, sexually or spiritually or intellectually (like instantly shooting down someone’s ideas or acting like you know the answers & they are wrong without truely hearing them or considering their vantage point.)

    If the women’s perspective, or the sacredness of sexual connection was addressed here, then i don’t think i would have gotten so angry at this article. Men considering just their own viewpoint & hurts is the problem & i have seen countless abusive men, play that card over & over with me, how they’ve had it so rough & i need to be more compassionate with them & to use it as an excuse to be further abusive & more egoic & more self centered & not even considering my personhood, safety or needs or feelings at all.

    Yes, it’s good if men learn how to be emotionally authentic, risk intimacy & yes it’s good if they don’t rely on one person, one woman to provide all of that, but what annoys me is that it doesn’t get to the heart of oppression. The heart of oppression irregardless of gender, is when anyone given the opportunity to have power over another, takes it or creates that scenario. The saddest part is THAT is what causes the disconnect & further isolation & narrowing & numbing of self, since we are all ultimately ONE & equal & connected. So this is the choice. But to take that choice over & over again & then spout oh poor me, i’ve had it bad, is exactly the dynamic I’ve seen over & over played out in womens relationships with abusive partners–whether physical or sexual violence. Women having too much compassion, women considering their partner’s needs & hurts at her own expense & the men & society encouraging & reinforcing that.

    Do you think it’s easy for women to be so emotionally vulnerable all the time? No, not really. It takes huge courage & strength to trust again after being abused, to have anatomy that makes us more vulnerable, to be emotionally open once again or compassionate or to have empathy towards our partners, to view sex as sacred & not split off the spiritual & emotional component of sex & say, oh it’s not really such a big deal.

    So please consider this in your Good Men Project. I think a better title might be, Men Considering Women Project or Men Feeling Their Feelings Project. Or True Courage is Vulnerability & authenticity with our partners project . . . You touched on some of these ideas in this article & that is a step in the right direction, but saying sex isn’t that big of a deal & run away from intimacy with your partner & look for it elsewhere . . .I just think you missed the elephant in the room. Of course it’s good to have full life & have close friendships & then you bring a whole person to an intimate partnership. But all things being equal, sex is the highest form of connection, but what perverts it is when we don’t realize that & treat it like it isn’t such a big deal. And be a man & risk the same vulnerability she does. Don’t expect your partner to be the relationship glue or grease. Don’t expect her to center around you & your needs & how you were wounded. Yes caring is good, but exploiting your power once again in these ways is not.

    It’s hard to articulate this fully, but i hope you get more an idea of what it is like to be a woman & shut down time & time again–not valued for WHO we are, not listened to, not respected, shamed & treated like our main worth is how we look & our bodies & our ability to be relationship glue & compassionate & understanding of many of you decide to be cowardly & run away from respecting us, honoring us & risking being emotionally vulnerable with the person you share the highest form of sacred connection with through sex & intimacy. All the rest is perverted bull shit. Thanks for listening.

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