Ever typed a web address into the computer you share with your husband and seen it automatically fill in a suspiciously sexy url? Do you have an ex-boyfriend who talked incessantly about a threesome with your best friend from college? Are you familiar with the phrase "male intimacy issues"? Dr. Michael Bader unpacks these situations and more in his new book, Male Sexuality: Why Women Don't Understand It—And Men Don't Either.
The psychologist and psychoanalyst has been practicing his trade in San Francisco for 30 years. About 10 years ago he realized that therapists "were supposed to be experts about sex but it turns out that we don’t really know a whole lot." He decided to do something about that, and published his first book, Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, seven years ago.
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"At that point a lot of men came in to consult with me either on their own volition or because they had been sent by their girlfriends. I started to see that they often didn't understand what they were feeling and that few people in their environment understood." So he wrote a book about it.
With chapter names like "Sexual Boredom and Infidelity," "Lolita Fantasies and the Sexual Appeal of Youth," the book's mix of analysis and case studies tackles specific topics with sensitivity and without oversimplifying. YourTango spoke to Dr. Bader about fantasies, porn and why your man has trouble opening up.
YourTango: One issue you write about in the book is pornography. Why do men who are in relationships still look at porn?
It could be simply wanting to give yourself pleasure in an environment where you have utter and total control over all the conditions. But then you get men who are extremely involved in pornography and the woman asks a legitimate question, "Well isn't this infidelity?" She has every right to feel that way, particularly if it's conjoined with a disinterest in her. But the man is often dealing with other issues—for instance, he may be actually lonely and disconnected.
And porn gives him that feeling of connection?
Yes. A lot of men grow up feeling like the Lone Ranger. In our culture, women are more connected to people. They have better friends, more community. Men often feel like they have superficial friendships but inside they are alone. That's a painful state.
I don't want to make excuses for them, but if you want to understand men and pornography think of it this way: through porn and internet sex a man can feel intensely connected to a woman without any obligations.
Your book talked a lot about these feelings of loneliness and isolation.
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A lot of men feel that they are supposed to take care of women and make women happy, but they struggle with a sense that enjoying being a man can make women unhappy. Men worry that they'll be perceived that as too aggressive or too selfish, and this creates a tension in men between wanting to be independent and masculine, and wanting to be responsible for a woman's happiness.
Men respond to this in a number of ways. Some actually downplay their masculinity. They become the guys that are friends like brothers that women like to confide in. Others respond the other way. They cut themselves off from women and treat them like sex objects. So although a man may not be not aware of it, he's made her an object so he doesn't have to worry about her feelings.