Part of the “For Women Who Love Men” series
The popular summer movie Magic Mike, featuring male erotic dancers, has provided a refreshing image of men as objects of women’s sexual desire. Some of the appeal of the storyline is that is in using the idea of men as sexual objects as a punchline, something so out of the ordinary that it is funny. Gender flip flops are often used for humor, drawing on our own limited expectations for gender and self expression. And, at their best, encouraging us to think out of the box. I think this movie in particular can spur an important discussion about the way we see men, and how we can do a better job of supporting male sexuality.
Male strippers, for a hetero- female audience, have very limited venues and often when women do visit a male review, they are doing it more as a novelty largely driven by a shared embarrassment and “dare” type of mentality. I know very few women who will admit to being excited about watching men in this way, although many talk about hot men, had posters of male stars on their pre-teen bedroom walls, and profess to crushes on the most recent vampire/werewolf male sex symbol. I know women who are passionately attracted to and enjoy sex with their male partners, so why is it so hard for us to express that? Why do we not celebrate the male body and a hetero-female desire for men?
As a sex therapist, I have the privilege to talk to men intimately about their sexuality and their sexual relationships. One thing I hear often is hetero men saying they have no idea if their female partner finds them attractive, or even enjoys having sex with them. I know very few hetero men that would describe themselves as sexy or are proud of their body. I see men who step in to any sexual encounter already full of shame and feeling like their partner is doing them a favor. In fact, I often work with men to heal the wounds that have come from believing that their sexuality is a bad thing, something women put up with for secondary benefits, best contained or denied. This saddens me, and I believe it should sadden you.
I think we have absorbed a hetero-male fear of being attracted to the male body. We have as a culture so thoroughly put women in the role of sex object that we have denied male bodies their role as objects of attraction and desire. This is also related to our cultural lockdown on women’s sexuality and the denial that women have sexual desire at all. And yet, men deserve to feel like they are desirable and that their bodies are beautiful. They certainly deserve to feel that their sexual partners are excited to be with them and that sex is a mutual delight. We all, men, women, hetero, gay or bi, will benefit from expanding our sexual container away from a pursuer/object model, toward one on which we can all recognize and celebrate our unique beauty and contribution to shared sexuality. If we admit that both genders like sex and have sexually exciting bodies, we will have more equality and less shame in our sexuality.
So what can you, as a woman who loves men, do to help?
Show your partner that you found them attractive – This is different than stating or showing your love. Be specific about your attraction to their body, the way they are built, smell, feel. Tell them they look good. You like to hear it, so do they.
Find a language to express your sexual desire – Many women are uncomfortable or unaccustomed to talking about their sexual excitement. It is worth it to find ways to express yourself in words and actions to show your partner what you like about them and what they do for you sexually. Don’t leave your partner wondering if it was fun for you.
Be kind – Your partner may not be in shape like Channing Tatum, but you may not exactly be Jessica Alba. Perfection is not the only version of sexy. Watch both the way you think and talk about your own body and your partner’s. If you feel like your partner has stopped trying, consider how hard it would be to stay motivated to be attractive if you have never had any positive feedback about how you look.
Don’t consider your willingness to have sex with someone the only responsibility you have for showing attraction – Sex is not something we dole out to men as rewards. Own your own sexual drive and the many reasons you may wish to be sexual with someone. It should be a reward for you too, and you both should know it.
Stop making men’s sexuality the butt of jokes - . I hear both men and women laughingly say in relation to male nudity, “put that away, no one wants to see that”. But the effect this has on men and boys, in relation to honoring their own bodies, is not funny. Consider how you would respond to a group of men making demeaning jokes about women’s bodies. Now ask yourself, why is this ok to do to men?
It is natural to want to feel desired and to be attracted to others. These are feelings both men and women deserve and can thrive on. Let’s do a better job of making space for men and women to be seen and appreciated as sexy.