Men's sex lives are full of lies. Men aren't the ones necessarily telling the lies, but they, and the rest of us, are lied to at almost every turn when presented with images of what it means to be a man and be sexual. In public discussions, in much of the scientific research, and in most of the news and entertainment media representations of male sexuality, what we are told simply doesn't fit with men's experience.
Think about what you know about male sexuality. Now think about where you learned it. Did you learn it from someone who identifies as a man? Were they talking about their personal experience? Probably not. One of the ways that stereotypes about male sexuality are so rigid and persistent is that so few people challenge them. And the problem is that if men don't start asking themselves the hard (and sometimes soft) questions about their own sex lives, it's never going to improve. Consider some of the major myths about male sexuality:
Male Sexuality is the NormMale sexuality is the yard stick by which sex in general is defined. The problem is that everyone assumes they know what a yard stick is and no one bothers to look at it carefully. We need to notice the lines on it, how its weathered in some places, and untouched in others. We need to measure it not by relying on its own superficial markings of inches and feet, but by taking other measuring tools (maybe a compass, or a protractor) and looking at it out of context.
Because male sexuality is the norm, it's never questioned. This is a problem because male sexuality is as complicated as female sexuality and needs to be questioned.
Male sexuality is toleratedIn the West, male sexuality is tolerated to a much greater degree than female sexuality. From an early age we hear the familiar refrain boys will be boys which allows young men to explore their sexuality in silence and semi-secret (we all know they do it, but we dont talk about it). Because of this covert collusion, there are fewer obvious barriers for male sexuality to develop.
This is a problem because obstacles are what make us move and stretch ourselves out. And because we still live in a relatively sex negative culture, having no barriers doesnt mean uninhibited growth, it means taking the path of least resistance. The result is men never even get a chance to conceive of their sexual options, they take what they get and assume its the best there is.
Male sexuality is obvious, visible, out thereThis is another way of saying that male sexuality is all about the penis. This is possibly the most persistent and inaccurate statement about male sexuality, and one that does the greatest damage. Thats right, the penis may be male sexualitys greatest nemesis! Mens genitalia is external and most men learn to masturbate, ejaculate, and orgasm at a young age without any help or instruction, making male sexual response something that comes easy (no pun intended).
Because male sexuality seems to flow freely, it is assumed that theres nothing remarkable about it, and nothing more to know about it. Freud most famously suggested that male sexuality was simple but female sexuality was something beyond even his comprehension. In this case Freud got it wrong. Male sexuality is simple because we approach it as simpletons.
Male sexuality is straight (in more ways than one).This is another classic assumption about male sexuality, and one that is proven by the fact that we all follow the rules. Ignoring an important Greek philosopher here and there, it is generally accepted modern notion that while women may have some natural bisexual leaning, men are mostly straight.
There are of course gay men, but theyre different and either 2% or 10% of the population, depending on which radio station you listen to. So when we talk as a culture about male sexuality, were almost always talking about what we think of as heterosexual male sexuality, which is a narrow concept involving penile-vaginal intercourse preceded by minimal foreplay and oral sex.
This is a problem because its not true. In reality, men want to do all sorts of things sexually and they often do them not just with women. Whether it is the early data of Alfred Kinsey who asked men about their same sex experiences growing up, or the wide range of programs geared to men who have sex with men (MSM) a group at high risk for HIV/AIDS, who do not identify as gay, but still enjoy sex with men, male sexual behaviors are far more varied and kinky than we generally acknowledge, which in turn limits what many men feel is okay to explore.