Guys aren't as "simple" as you think ...
In the last few years, there's been a growing movement among sex therapists and researchers to understand the bigger picture surrounding men and sex — not what male sexuality is “supposed to be,” but rather how it manifests, where its roots lie, and how to deal with the conflicts it presents — not only for the sake of improving therapy for the men themselves but for couples as well.
We’ve long recognized that women are pretty far ahead of men in terms of emotional access and vocabulary.
Historically, we therapists have tried to help men catch up to women in this regard. This is important, but now we are beginning to ask how we can help women understand where their men are right now instead of waiting for them to catch up.
To help encourage this new emphasis, I've compiled this list of the top 10 male sexuality myths.
1. Men who have sex with other men are gay or bisexual.
Not necessarily. We now know that many men are attracted to gay sex … but not to men. This is bound to confuse a lot of people, but as therapists, we know much more today about men’s sexual fluidity.
I’ve written extensively about it in my book, Is My Husband Gay or Bi? A Guide for Women Concerned About Their Men, but simply put, some men have no desire whatsoever to be connected with gay culture, and sincerely consider themselves to not be gay or bisexual. However, they find themselves erotically moved by the idea, or sometimes the practice of, seeking out other men with whom to have sex.
It’s not that unusual, and it deserves more exploration that I can offer here.
2. Bisexual men are more likely to cheat.
Absolutely false. Bisexual men can commit equally as much as any straight man or woman out there. The myth is that bi men can’t make up their mind, and therefore are prone to cheating. This is like saying that a straight man who is sexually attracted to redheads and brunettes, but who decides to marry a blonde will slip out to have sex with a redhead whenever he can!
In our culture, many people think that bisexuality is just a gateway to homosexuality, but it is not. It is a legitimate sexual orientation. It is true that some gay men think at first that they are bisexual, but I believe this is largely due to the cultural taboo against being gay.
Further proof: Some bi men won’t admit their sexual orientation to women in whom they are interested (even though they would never cheat on them) because they fear that the woman would not be able to commit to them in a relationship if they came clean about their fantasy life. Research bears this out.
3. Men are too focused on sex.
Men and women have different ways of expressing their attachment to each other. In general, women express their attachment through relationship. Men do so through sex.
Research reveals that we generally stop touching boys when they reach the age of 8, and we teach them to reject access to feelings, emotions, and emotional vocabulary because these are deemed “too feminine.” So they end up mostly being able to express themselves through sex, violence, sports, or work.
Therapists need to help men deconstruct what they are seeking in sex into emotional and attachment language, help them discover a nonsexual narrative about what they really want, such as closeness. He wants this but doesn’t know how to get his needs met in any other way besides sex.
4. Men who watch porn become obsessed with it and then prefer it over sex with their wives.
David Ley has written a great, well researched, and humorous book about this, called Ethical Porn for Dicks: A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure. He cites research clearly showing that it’s apples to oranges.
Men enjoy both porn and sex with their partners and don’t replace one with the other. Period.
5. If a man wants to receive anal sex it means he is gay or bisexual.
A lot of people think this, but a man’s anus doesn’t have a sexual orientation, it just knows it enjoys pleasure.
Our culture has decided that receiving anal sex equates to being gay, but “gay” is more than just a behavior. It’s not about what you do sexually, it’s about who you love, an identity.
This would be like saying that gay men who don’t like anal sex are really straight but don’t know it yet, and their butt will have to tell them at some point. Can you imagine that conversation?
“I have something to tell you … I’m straight.” Fritz Klein has written a seminal book on this subject called The Bisexual Option.
6. It’s pathological if a man wants a lot of sex.
Ridiculous. It’s no more pathological than when women want a lot of romance. Sex is his love language. Women are rarely seen as pathological for wanting romance, but that’s what we do when we judge men for the way they receive affection.
Instead of saying “She just doesn’t want it as much as you,” he gets, “Something is wrong with you.”
7. Sex addiction is an official diagnosis.
No, it is not. I’ve had women come into my practice saying, “I’d rather my husband be a sex addict than a pervert” — meaning he is having sexual fantasies that she or the therapist doesn’t agree with or understand. So the therapist will mislabel a client as a sex addict simply because he comes in struggling with fantasies he doesn't quite understand.
“Sex Addiction” as a diagnosis does not exist in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) because, in spite of claims to the contrary, there is no research to support its existence.
8. If a man can’t get an erection or loses it during sex it means he's not into his partner.
This is a really common misunderstanding among women. They take these things personally, and it is difficult for some women to understand that, for the most part, it has nothing to do with her. He may have lost his erotic focus for numerous reasons — drinking too much, thinking too much about his work or finances, age, health problems, or even untreated emotional issues from sexual abuse in his past.
The bigger deal the couple makes of his trouble, the more likely it’s going to remain a problem. The therapist’s job is to lessen the anxiety about this and assess why he lost his ability to maintain an erection.
9. Men who have kinky fantasies will always feel a need to act upon them.
Not true. They might want to, but that doesn’t mean it is mandatory for them or that they can’t control themselves.
Women can be kinky too, though men tend to be kinkier because they’re allowed to explore their sexuality in ways that women haven’t been. Women may be more advanced around emotionality, but men are more advanced more around sexuality. The guy might say I have kinky (non-normative) fantasies, and the wife and therapist misinterpret this as him being out of control when, in fact, such fantasies are simply normal for him.
The therapist’s job is to normalize and educate the couple in regard to the wide range of activities and desires that constitute healthy sexuality. Michael Bader has a good book on this titled Male Sexuality: Why Women Don’t Understand It … and Men Don’t Either.
10. Watching porn makes men want to cheat on their spouses.
The truth is watching porn can actually prevent men from cheating on spouses, and it has even been shown to reduce violence in certain cultures and communities.
Many men who come to my practice report they watch porn because they have higher sex drive than their partner, and the porn satisfies them so they don’t have to pressure a partner. If they feel like they want to enact a sexual fantasy, watching porn does the trick as a replacement for seeking it out in the real world.
My goal in my work is to challenge gender bias against men and stop the shaming of their sexuality.
In my experience as a therapist, helping men and women understand the landscape of male sexuality is a key factor in reducing the amount of conflict within all romantic relationships.
This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.