I don’t often write about men, most of my posts are either gender generic or appeal to women. I have, however, been thinking about men a lot lately as obviously many of my clients are men too. What I have learned about men is that they are as nervous about sex as women often feel, and sometimes they even feel that the stakes are higher when it comes to sex. You see, men are taught from adolescence that they are the initiators of sex. They are taught that they are the ones required to put their egos on the line and risk rejection time and again. And it doesn’t seem to get easier for them either. Many men then enter into long-term relationships and remain the initiators of sex, still feeling the sharp sting of rebuttal when they initiate sex or intimacy.
I wonder to myself what this might feel like for a man whose sexual advances are dismissed and at times perhaps even ridiculed or shamed? I wonder how it might feel to have the love and attraction that they feel for their partner shunned? Yes, I realise that not all couples have this dynamic and many couples have created a full and satisfying dance of intimacy, but to be fair, these are usually not the couples who come to see me.
What I have learned about men and initiating sex is that after enough rejection they pretty much shut down in the relationship. Even though they take longer than women to desexualize themselves in the relationship, eventually the pain of being told no over and over becomes too much. Very often, this is when men will begin to seek out their sexual fulfillment elsewhere. And I am not referring to infidelity, but to a safe and secret place within where they can safely express their sexuality. Some men may turn to porn. If you think about it, this is pretty understandable considering there is no risk of rejection in watching porn. Alternatively, men may cultivate a rich fantasy world in their minds where they are able to have sex without fear of dismissal and where they are desired.
It would be foolish to appeal to women to simply indulge their partners and over-ride the reasons why they have disconnected sexually within the relationship. But what many women seldom do is try to feel empathy for their partner’s plight in the bedroom. The same could be said for men too, that they don’t take the time to understand what it is about sex that their partner rejects. The antidote to all of this is an honest and open conversation, which requires risks that may seem even bigger than sexual rejection. It means opening your heart and talking about what it feels like when sex is on the table for both of you. To discuss what happens when each partner responds in the way they do around sex.
These conversations require vulnerability and the willingness to explore some very uncomfortable feelings, but the reward is increased intimacy and a sense of connection. If a lot of shame is present, the conversation may be even more difficult because when there is shame, you can be sure there are defenses and other mechanisms employed to protect the ego and sense of self. While many people will be able to have this conversation and see great benefits from this kind of honesty, if you and your partner still struggle it might be the right time to get professional help. Seeing a couple’s or sex therapist for a session could help you to develop personal communication style while creating an open space for honest dialogue.