Thursday, January 28, 2010

Go Figure!

I spend hours weekly trying to improve ‘my craft’ by reading, studying or attending workshops in my chosen profession as a sex therapist. Most recently I have had the pleasure of reading Bernie Zilbergeld’s timeless text – The New Male Sexuality. As I reflect on Bernie’s writings and the latest rush of clients that have passed my threshold seeking relief for what sexually ails them, one concern that comes up [no pun intended] is that of sexual compatibility between men and women. Let’s take a minute and think this through.

Speaking strictly from the male perspective of not only my own experience, but those clients who have shared their sexual adventures over the years about how as males, we are introduced into our sexuality...Zilbergeld claimed there were a minimum of three anchor points that males are taught regarding their sexuality – that it should be private, secret and above all else impersonal. As boys we receive clear cultural messages that masturbation is normal for us even though we are never encouraged to discuss our self-pleasuring escapades, thus, we learn at an early age that sex [as described as erection and ejaculation] is not based on relationships. We are encouraged by our peers, family members, and social media that as a man – we should sow our wild oats. It becomes all about the numbers and performance [another problem I will address in a later Blog]. Most of us hit the masturbatory trail at puberty and know how to return to that path regardless of our age or position in our relationships. Yes, please read between the lines, most of us never stop masturbating our entire lives and it happens all the time in committed relationships. I remember reading some research findings not long ago that stated that men in committed relationships tend to masturbate more often than those single people…Go Figure.

So let us Go Figure…why do you think that is? This question also brings me back to the therapeutic office where the wife is complaining that she does not understand how her husband can think of anyone but her during their sexual interludes. Let me restate one perspective, boys have received cultural messages that it is ‘ok’ to masturbate to images found in magazines, movies and the Internet. They learn to self-pleasure as they reach puberty and continually reinforce this behavior with secret, private and impersonal images of those they do not know or if they do know – do not necessarily have any emotional connection with that person. So here is this young boy finding sexual pleasure in the images he has been exposed to for years and the fantasies he has created within his own mind – this is how he has been introduced and indoctrinated into his sexuality. Conversely, the women did not receive those same messages but ones that link sexual activity with emotional and relationship stability with one person. Eventually, when they come together [they wish – and again no pun intended] as a couple – somehow there is supposed to be these magical transformations [mixing oil & water] where his sexual desires and satisfactions will now focus solely on just her, leaving behind forever the multitude of impersonal and private images of his past ….Go Figure!...again remind me, how is this to happen?

Some of you will vehemently deny that you support such a notion of sexuality and certainly are not promoting these kinds of behavior. To drive home my point, I want to share a statistic I picked up at a presentation by Stefanie Carnes [daughter of Patrick Carnes author of – Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction] to a group of Mental Health Professionals interested in learning about sexual addiction/compulsivity. She presented the following slide:

Number of Porn Pages by Country (in millions)

Japan 2.7

Australia 5.7

United Kingdom 8.5

Germany 10

and topping out the number one spot was the United States standing like a giant above the rest with 245 million pages. In spite of that number being the staggering one that it is, another point comes to mind living in the capitalistic society that we do. From a production and inventory capacity we are creating a huge amount of product that will need to be consumed…and what better way to create the demand for the supply than to prime our males with the desire and want for these impersonal images, thus, continually developing our boys to men along the lines Zilbergeld discovered almost two decades ago.

As men, as a society, as a culture we need to break this pattern so that our sons and daughters can enter sexual relations with realistic and emotionally and relationally aligned expectations. It’s all about choices and attitudes…Go Figure!

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