Sex and Masculinity
One of the most common issues men and masculine identifying people is “Sex not feelings satisfying enough,” and “Not having enough sex.” Throughout my work as an intimacy coach, specifically working closely with men of all experiences, this comes up a lot. Shocking, I know. The bulk of my work with clients is rooted in debunking gender stereotypes regarding sex and other forms of intimacy, and it cannot go unnoticed that no matter how much work we’ve done to unpack our relationships to toxic masculinity, men and masc people often tell me the same things in sessions:
“Sex is the easiest way for me to feel close to my partner.”
Being a man of trans experience, who historically has pursued women and femmes in both romantic and erotic endeavors, I have my own nuanced experience of the gender binary. When I started taking testosterone, I noticed a lack of connection to the language of my more nuanced intimate needs. Suddenly it became about just eating when I was hungry, sleeping when I was tired, masturbating when I was aroused, and taking space/going to the gym when I was feeling a morsel of an uncomfortable emotion. I’m not sure if this was a placebo eect. I’m not sure if I was thinking:
“I am now taking this hormone with the intention of stepping into my version of manhood, I must start behaving like the only version of manhood that I’ve seen.”
Or if this was just the natural correlation of shifts that happen when someone begins to take my dose of testosterone? Like most things in life, it’s not either/or. I’ve found that it is a combination of both social conditioning combined with the more common side effects of testosterone replacement therapy (increased libido) that I experienced my needs so differently AND unsustainable expectations regarding sex and intimacy.
So how does this come up in my work with clients?
In my conversations and sessions with other men and masculine people, when we assess their top needs in a relationship it is usually:
2. Spontaneity in romance and intimac
3. MORE GOOD RAVENOUS PASSIONATE EXPLOSIVE SEX!
My clients often feel most unfulfilled in a relationship when sex isn’t “good”, when it doesn’t feel passionate, intuitive, prioritized and urgent (like in most media representations). There’s nothing wrong with craving that experience, the issue is that it becomes an unspoken expectation of the way sex and relationships are “supposed” to be for us.
When my clients bring this concern of sex and not having enough “mind blowing” sex in their partnerships to session, I meet them with an initially confusing question:
“How would you describe your relationship to vulnerability?”
Toxic masculinity does not condition men or masculine identifying people to be empowered by openness and vulnerability. It teaches us that in relationships we provide & protect, while being served and comforted-but not necessarily seen. It teaches us that erotic intimacy is something we do to someone, instead of with someone, causing us to see sex as a source of emotional comfort, intimacy and validation in our masculinity- creating painful cycles around it with our partners. Even the resources that are meant to educate cis-men on how to have better sex with cis-women is rooted in the need to perform and provide the orgasm, to be specific.
The secret ingredient to having mind-blowing intimacy isn't in the techniques or skills - it is in feeling comfortable enough to fully let go.
Many men are afraid of fully letting go when we engage sexually out of fear that the way we show up or express pleasure/desire might challenge our manhood , especially if we’re into things that do not follow the rigid societal standards and script of masculinity.
Assessing how comfortable we are with feeling seen, witnessed and vulnerable shows up in so many other areas of our life:
Reflections on our own Vulnerability:
- How have I been saying the hard and brave thing?
- How have I been showing up to conflict?
How have I been showing up to uncertainty?
Have I been giving myself space/time to slow down and feel my feelings?
- What is my relationship to accountability/ feedback?
- Have I been asking for support, help, love, care when I feel I need it?
- Have I been listening to and honoring my body’s needs?
Sex doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are so many factors inside and outside of the “erotic space” that influence the way we show up to it. It is an inherently vulnerable experience, no matter the relationship dynamic, so we must ask ourselves : How can we remain empowered in that vulnerability and use it as a vehicle for strengthened connection (sexual or otherwise) as opposed to hiding from it and feeling embarrassed by it?
The more men and masculine identifying people are able to surrender to the idea, that vulnerability (outside of the bedroom) is a catalyst for connection to others, and connection to others is a pillar to strength, self assuredness and confidence within, the more we are able to get out of the need to perform, provide, protect, and control the image that our partner’s have of us.
When we step out of the need to control, perform and preserve our masculinity in erotic intimacy, we open ourselves up to being able to let go, inspiring our partners to feel safer let go and giving us the “mind blowing” consent centered sex we crave.