We all know what it’s like in the bedroom, don’t we? Men incessantly groping their female partners in the dark while they are trying to sleep, either ending with the partner eventually turning over and saying “honey, not tonight, I have a headache,” or reluctantly giving in and then having the time of their lives whilst he thrusts away for an hour or two or three, fist raised in victory.
Okay, let’s just stop right there.
From what I’ve heard and seen; from gossip to porn to movies to the media, guys are supposed to be sexually insatiable beasts that want nothing more than to shag everything forever after whilst women are trying to find excuses not to. From what I’ve heard and seen, I’m under the impression that men – as soon as they whip out their trouser snake – are confident beyond words about their ability to use it; that they let out a manly roar and go in for the kill. Male insecurities just don’t exist when the boy is out to play: this is the image of men that we are shown when it comes to sex. It is the image that we are sold time and time again. Even when men understand that this is an inaccurate portrayal of their gender, and of sex, they still seem to believe that their stud of a male friend, and that friend with the long term girlfriend, and the other friend who always has girls draped all over him, are ridiculously confident sex gods without a worry in their sexual world. This is part of our socially-constructed attitudes towards the male gender that has detrimental social and psychological effects. It is a part of toxic masculinity; of the hypermasculinity which is promoted in our society; of the exaggeration of male stereotypical behaviour, such as an emphasis on physical strength, aggression, and sexuality. It is an example of where men feel that they must perform in a certain way, and not show any weakness, vulnerability, insecurity, or inexperience.
Society has constructed the image of men being dominant, assertive, and masculine in all areas but especially sex, with no need for insecurities or fears as they pound women over kitchen counters: they just KNOW what they are doing and will, without a doubt, excel at it every time. This is a damaging notion that can have men squirming inside with anxiety when approaching their first or hundredth sexual encounter. Regardless of the fact that porn gives the impression that men are grunting beasts that last for hours and hours with the inherent knowledge of exactly how to please the woman they are having a sexual encounter with, it’s just not an accurate depiction of how sex works (and if you really think that porn depicts the sex life of the average man and woman then please find a way to talk about this to someone you trust about this or find ways to educate yourself more on the topic). Men are under a lot of pressure to get it right and to perform in a certain way – pressure from the media, from their friends, from themselves, and even sometimes from the women that they sleep with. Whilst women worry far more about how they look naked, men have a variety of different anxieties in the bedroom. Men worry out about ejaculating too fast, and sometimes they do. Men worry about not being able to ejaculate at all, and sometimes they don’t. Men worry about ejaculating before sexual intercourse itself, and that can happen. There are men who worry so much that they won’t be able to get an erection that the worry prevents it from actually happening. There are others who are unable to maintain an erection because of depression, or alcohol consumption, or anxiety, or medical problems. There are men out there pretending that they don’t like certain sexual acts when in actuality they do not have experience with them and would rather never do them than risk being inadequate at them. There are men with lower sex drives than people expect them to have, and the pressure to maintain the image of being a man who just loves loves loves sex, all the time, any time! And of course, there’s all those men worrying that their penis just isn’t cutting it size-wise.
Men are experiencing these anxieties and have nowhere to go to talk about them. The facade of bravado that lingers around men and the fear of being vulnerable is preventing them from having honest conversations with their friends, not to mention that the content and prevalence of porn has added to the pressures and anxieties around sex. It’s having a damaging effect for both men and women when it comes to sex, and setting unrealistic expectations for both genders.
In comparison, the media and entertainment worlds seem under the impression that women are busy spending their time attempting to find excuses to not get down and dirty in the sheets when shock horror: women want sex just as much as men. Women’s sexual advances in relationships are rejected, just as men’s are. “Not tonight, honey, I’m too tired” is a regular excuse, given by men, to women.
There are women who will have sex four or five times in a day when they get the chance. There are women who call all the shots in the bedroom; women who like to be in control; women who jump into bed with anything with a pulse; and women with suitcases full of lingerie and sex toys. There are women who like to date multiple men (and women), because they have raging sex drives; women who have entered sexually open relationships because sex with one person is not enough for them; women with much higher sex drives than their partners.
Both men and women have varying sex drives, and we need to stop forcing these stereotypes onto each gender as it leads to more assumptions, more anxiety, and more insecurity. It is not about whether someone is male or female, but about who they are as individuals.
Of course it doesn’t go without saying that the porn industry has a hugely damaging effect on women too. The expectations of what women will be willing to do and what their bodies will look like is something that has been widely documented as being massively harmful to the sex lives of both men and women, and largely contributes to the pressures that girls and women feel when navigating sexual relationships.
This is part of the patriarchy at work, and it is hurting men as well as women. The problematic portrayal of men as aggressive sex machines means that men are silenced from talking about something which is often a source of great anxiety, and encourages them to objectify women. Toxic masculinity oppresses both men and women, causes issues in romantic and sexual relationships, and can have a destructive affect on mental health.
We need to change this culture. We need better sex education where consent, pornography, body variation, and sexual anxieties are talked about openly, and most importantly, that talking about these topics is normalised. We need to be having conversations about sex in schools so that boys and girls have realistic expectations of each other and don’t put sex on a pedestal. We need to find a way for people to comfortably enjoy and explore sexual activity without feeling under pressure, and to teach them to be understanding and patient with each other. We need to teach people to have fun, and to be aware that things don’t always go according to plan, and to be okay with that.
When it comes to individuals reading this, the thing to realise is that no one’s sex life is perfect, and it’s all about being open, honest, and understanding. It’s all about communicating. It’s about recognising that other people are experiencing sex issues too. It’s about not comparing, and focusing instead on making your sex life the best it can be. People aren’t having sex with you just so they can jump on anything that doesn’t go right and berate you for it. They are not there because they want to criticise you or make you feel inadequate. They are there for a good time, and small hiccups in your night doesn’t mean it’s all over. Don’t forget that men don’t want sex all the time. Don’t forget that women love sex too. Don’t forget that we all have insecurities. Don’t forget that no one is a voracious, sex-crazed fiend, and however much someone enjoys sex, they are still a human being below it all. And human beings don’t expect sex to be perfect. Treat each other with respect and dignity, and have a good time.