Towards an Authentic Male Sexuality

#sex #BDSM #rapeculture

I want more men to (re)claim their sexuality. By that I don’t mean that I want them to boast about how big their cock is* or many women they’ve fucked or how many times each one of those women came. What I mean is that I want to see more men learn to be comfortable with their sexual selves, especially when expressed in ways other than aggressiveness, dominance, and emotional numbness.

I want more men to think of themselves as attractive, or potentially attractive to someone. Yes, many individuals of all genders struggle with their body image and those struggles are valid, but when it comes to men, there’s rarely any acknowledgment that a man’s body can be beautiful or sexy at all. I’m tired of this “women are the fairer sex” bullshit. I want more men to think of their bodies as capable of getting someone hard or wet. I don’t want men to become objectified or expected to fulfill extremely narrow beauty norms like women are; I want them to be able to think of themselves as desirable and fuckable if that thought appeals to them.

That will not be accessible for some men, just like it’s not accessible for all women or nonbinary people–especially when you consider race, disability, and other intersecting identities. There’s no moral obligation to love your body or find it attractive. But right now, our main cultural message about men’s bodies is that they’re laughable at best and grotesque at worst; that the problem with dick pics isn’t that they’re often unsolicited but that yuck who would want to see that; that nobody could ever really want to fuck a man, which is why it makes sense that men have to use coercion to “get” sex. (And that homosexuality is “unnatural,” and that there must be something horribly wrong with women who actively pursue sex with men…) What if men’s bodies can actually be beautiful, can actually be sexy?

I want more men to get to know their own bodies and desires. Nine times out of ten when I ask a man, “What do you like?” or “How do you want to be touched?”, he says, “Oh, whatever you want” or “We can just have sex” or “Just being close to you feels good.” While this may be genuine for some men, I think most are uncomfortable sharing any desire besides to fuck, or they don’t even know.

I don’t buy our cultural myth that men’s sexuality is “simple” while women’s is “complicated.” (Where would that even leave trans/nonbinary people?) While I think that people with penises sometimes have a more obvious or clear path to orgasm, that’s not the case for all of them, and orgasm isn’t necessarily the goal, and maybe there are other paths they might discover, ones that are more…scenic.

I want more men to masturbate not with the goal of reaching orgasm as quickly as possible so they can feel relief from sexual tension, but with the goal of discovering what feels good, or weird, or interesting. I want them to try out different fantasies and watch different types of porn. I want them to try masturbating while reading erotica. I want them to try taking time to touch other parts of themselves first, before ever touching anything that can lead to orgasm.

I want to hear from men more of the things I hear from the women I sleep with–“I like my nipples licked, but not pinched”; “That’s a bit too much pressure, can you use less?”; “Please don’t touch me there because it’s triggering”; “I get turned on when you kiss the back of my neck.”

Feminist men often fall into the trap of thinking that the opposite of male sexual entitlement–the opposite of men using other people’s bodies to get themselves off without any concern for that person’s consent or desire–is to focus entirely on their partner’s pleasure and deny any preferences of their own. No. The opposite of male sexual entitlement is two (or more) people working together–playing together, rather–to create the experiences they want. If you’re the kind of sub who’s only interested in pleasing your partner, that’s one thing. But that’s not the only way to be a consent-aware man. You’re allowed to have your own sexuality.

Most of the men I’ve ever been with did not see themselves as potentially sexy to anyone, not even me. They did not have much of an understanding of their own sexuality; I imagine that even a few weeks into those relationships they knew my sexuality better than their own, because I communicated it. It is very difficult to have a healthy sexual relationship with someone who on some level doesn’t believe you could actually want them. I felt like I had to try and prove it to them constantly, and that emotional labor would quickly end up being too much.

My healthiest sexual relationships have been with people who knew their bodies and their sexual selves–even as that knowledge is, of course, constantly changing and developing. They weren’t magically free of any insecurity, shame, or confusion about their own bodies and desires. But when I said “You make me so hot” or “I want you now” they believed me. They had a sense of their own sexuality that was more complex than just “I want to have an orgasm” or “I want my partner to have an orgasm.” It could be, “Wow, I have a body that feels things, isn’t that amazing” or “I want my partner to feel punished” or “I want to feel humiliated and then comforted” or “I want to feel like my partner has all the control even though I know that actually we both have all the control” or “I want it to feel like my partner and I are writing a story together” or “I want to look at my partner’s face while I fuck them” or “I want to look at my partner’s ass while I fuck them” or “Tonight I feel bad and I just want to be comforted.”

Our deeply anti-sex culture undoubtedly impacts women and nonbinary people more than men, but male privilege–as protective as it is in some ways–does not extend to automatically giving men the ability to engage with sexuality in an authentic, healthy way. They’ll have to work hard to learn that just as the rest of us do. To see sex as a collaboration rather than a competition or a game to be “won”; to see their own bodies as vessels for pleasure rather than tools for domination; to see their partners as partners rather than opponents or targets or prey; to see desires other than fucking as valid rather than irrelevant or shameful–those are just a few of the challenges I want to see men to embrace.

Encouraging men to get in touch with their bodies and desires might seem like a weird way of fighting rape culture, but in my experience all of the toxic messages we get about sex and gender go very well together, and fighting rape culture means fighting all of them.

~~~

*Not all men have cocks and not all people with cocks are men; not all men want to fuck women and not all people who want to fuck women are men. However, it would’ve been equally presumptuous to write this article about cis/straight men only, because trans/queer men probably experience many of the same pressures of toxic masculinity and much of this probably applies to them as well, regardless of what genital configuration they happen to have.

**Another important note: this was written from my own experience and social position, based on the struggles I’ve observed in the people around me. If it doesn’t resonate with you, that doesn’t make it “wrong”; maybe your social position is just different.

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“I’m not hungry.” “Good!”

#eatingdisorders #mentalillness #bodyimage #weight #food

There was a point in my life–the point at which my body started “developing,” as they euphemistically put it–that food suddenly became Bad rather than Good for me at home.

If you have children or have been a child with attentive parents, you probably remember the squabbles over eating. “But I’m not hungry.” “Sweetie, you need to eat. How else are you going to grow?” “I don’t want any more.” “Just one more bite, and then you can have ice cream.”

I also had these conversations as a child, once.

Then it all changed seemingly overnight.

“I don’t want any more.” “Good!” “I can’t, I lost my appetite.” “Good!”

It must’ve taken a few years, but by the time I was in high school, the implications were clear: not eating is virtually always good. Any reason or excuse or motivation you can find within yourself to not eat, or eat less, is good.

“Wow, I was so engrossed in this book that I totally forgot about dinner.” “Good!”

I hate feeling hungry. Always have, still do. So it wasn’t that I wanted to “go hungry,” as it were. But lived for those things that made me forget about eating or to lose my appetite: distraction, sickness, tricks played by certain foods.

“I only had an apple and some almonds today!” “Good!”

Nowadays I don’t do that sort of restriction anymore. I try to eat at least two full meals a day, though sometimes that’s impossible because I’m busy and can’t cook and end up eating energy bars or pretzels instead. I eat bagels with cream cheese and chocolate and macaroni (sometimes with cheese) and ice cream and pizza and other Bad Things, usually without thinking about calories.

I also don’t think I’m fat or ugly; I don’t like everything about my body but overall I’m fine with it the way it is. I’m comfortable with the curves and folds that I have. Buying clothes does still cause frustration, anxiety, and even panic, but I recognize that that’s more because of the bullshit idea that humans can all discretely fit into categories like Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and Extra Extra Large with neither overflow nor empty space.

But my actual attitudes about food haven’t really changed. When I’m sick or when I realize I’ve been too busy writing to remember to eat, I still reflexively think, “Good!” When I get hungry, I think, “Fuck, again?” Although I don’t normally think of it this way, I “practice” eating normally several times a day, and I enjoy eating–I love the taste and feel of food–but I can’t stop wishing I didn’t need it.

I’m so much better off than I could be, given how dangerous and tenacious eating disorders are. But it’s not just about the symptoms. It’s about the ways in which certain thought patterns–entire belief systems, really–take root in your brain, seemingly for good.