There are many things I wish I could teach everyone in the world about sex and sexuality but at the top of this list is something I feel is horribly misunderstood and which is the source of optimism and hope in my life: the view inside the male heart.
There is another side to sexual abuse that is rarely explored, privately or publicly. In fact, with the exception of the Catholic Church and priest obsession, there is little mention of male sexual abuse in the media. When cases of male sexual abuse are mentioned, they are often depicted as rare outlier events that are strange and unusual. For example, take the rare case of the female high school teacher and the captain of the football team -- even in these cases the male is often framed as “sort of cool” or “a stud” to score his teacher. These views are insanely harmful and inaccurate. In fact, here’s an even bolder statement: these views are keeping women from getting the men they want.
In my practice one of my specialty areas is working with highly functioning men. Many of my clients are top entrepreneurs, CEO’s, investors, et cetera. These men manage lots of people, lots of money, have a ton of influence, and many of them are slightly miserable. Often these men come to me confused; they don’t actually know why they are seeking help except they have an intuitive feeling that something is blocking them in their sexuality and their ability to connect with others. If any of you have seen The Wolf of Wall Street and can remember Leo’s character Jordan Belfort, then you have met a few of my clients. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but only a little.
Anyways, what I want to say is that these men (and I’m almost willing to say all of these “type” of men) suffer from blocked hearts. While I’m speaking of blocked hearts metaphorically it isn’t too surprising that men in this category tend to have higher rates of heart disease. Now, each case is special to each man (and for confidentiality reasons I can’t discuss any specific case) but what I would like to share with you is some themes that are revealing themselves that I think everyone should know. Here they are in no specific order:
1. Male sexual abuse isn’t honored
More that half of my male clients reported losing their virginity to women four years or more older than them. Out of these men, another half report their first time being with women eight years or more older. In other words, over a quarter of my male clients have reported statutory rape. What's worse, most of these men expressed feelings of shame and guilt and low sexual satisfaction thereafter wth any partner. Interestingly, most of these clients see no connection between these feelings of shame to these early experiences, and if fact, often express no concern whatsoever, even in extreme situations like an age gap of 10 and a woman in her late 40s. What might be the impact of a potentail large proportion of our male population hiding statutory rate? What might be the impact of a large proportion of women engaging in sex with young boys?
2. They want to please you, and the inability to do so can cause trauma
Often masculinity is portrayed in the media as something selfish. We hear women talk about men jack-hammering women or just getting themselves off. Sure, this happens but usually it’s a result of a man feeling completely resigned in his ability to please the female body, not because he doesn’t want to. Guess what ladies: men know when you’re faking it. When I say they “know” I’m not necessarily saying they consciously know but subconsciously they know. Their body knows and it leaves them less satisfied (and you too). 95% of men I work with express a deep and profound desire to provide pleasure to women. They want to give you the mind-blowing orgasm you dream of. What’s getting in the way of everyone getting what they want? Why is this so hard?
3. Men can, and often do, experience physical pain during sex
What feels good to each man is different to each man, as much so as for women. Most of my male clients have reported being touched in a memorably negative way. In the same way that women report men “putting it in” without lubrication, many men report painful experiences where women are thoughtless in their touch. Learning your male partners body and what he likes is just as important as the contrary. In doing so, I guarantee your sex life will improve. What are your opinions of the male body? How might this have affected experiences in your past?
4. Penis size/body image affect men more than we want to believe
Now, I’m not going to say that the pressures put on women in regards to beauty aren’t awful, but I would like to point out that men suffer too and this affects their sexuality. Men also suffer from the penis size phobia. Here is something I want all of you to know: the vaginal shape, size, depth, and sensitivity are just as varied as the penis. Yup, that’s right, there is literally a “best fit” for everyone. Our societal fascination with the “Dirk Digglers” of the world are traumatizing our men and possibly keeping some of you from the penises that feel the best to your body.
5. The pressure on men to avoid vulnerability causes trauma
I have the privilege of being allowed inside the sacred space of men and women. The trend I am seeing is not that men are less sensitive, but instead that they are quicker to harden their sensitivity. Women seem to be more resilient; their hearts close down from consecutive trauma, whereas men tend to close down after their first confrontation with emotion. We teach our men not to feel. To be a man is to be tough, to be without emotion. So what happens when a man first feels emotion? Well, he goes numb. It’s an extraordinarily effective survival strategy. Underneath this iron façade is an incredibly open, communicative, and loving heart.
6. Men also need to feel safe
Often we talk about making women feel safe in order for them to open up sexually and emotionally. Now, while this may be true, what isn’t fully addressed is the need for men to feel safe. The reasons for this need are different between the sexes. As mentioned in #5, the male underbelly is quite a vulnerable place, but it is also a beautiful one. To help a man overcome his trauma and come into his sexual potential his masculinity must not be in jeopardy. In my work with couples I help women learn how to do this. What ways might you be able to make your partner feel safe?
If you are a woman reading this I hope this has offered you some inspiring insight that can help you see men in a new light. If you are a man reading this, I hope this has given you a sense of relief and perhaps the permission to examine your own trauma and sexual self.
***It must be noted that the “trends” reported in this article were based on my experience working with clients. My data is based on a relatively small population size and not on a comprehensive study (on a statistical basis my findings would not be considered reportable). With that being said, the “trends” reported were drastically represented within my sample population. My findings were so surprising to me that I think sharing them has value. After releasing the article I was in awe of how many men reached out to me personally, shared their stories, and confirmed that the trends were true for them. I don’t think there are many outlets for the type of information I collected to be shared; I am aware that my profession is rare and therefore so is the information I receive. Getting behind the male façade is in some ways like exploring the depths of the ocean floor; while we know there is so much more to learn, when our submersible finds a crazy new sea creature you best believe a photo of that animal is in National Geographic the next day. Consider the “trends” reported to be something like the sea creature and use it as a tool to begin investigating what else may be in the ocean of the male heart. Maybe, just maybe, this information can spark further investigation-fingers crossed.
***Acknowledging male trauma does not mean that we should victimize men. This point was illuminated by a male colleague of mine who does a lot of work with men in the sex positive community in San Francisco. Personally I think the victimization of women has been something that has actually taken away from women’s empowerment, and I surely do not want to replicate this model for men. However, I feel if we are going to acknowledge trauma we need to acknowledge the whole picture, what really is going on, and this authentic conversation can bring forward more effective solutions. In fact, I believe this could lead to a balance and an overall reduction in victimization. If men are feeling stuck, closed down, and disconnected then perhaps acknowledging something that isn’t being addressed can help them open up, address their emotions, and normalize the situation. If these things remain in the shadow they will never fully experience the light.