“This is a book about the value of understanding. It assumes that when we oversimplify male sexuality or demonize any form of it, everyone suffers. It assumes that when men understand themselves, they feel less shame, and that when women understand men, they feel more connected to men and more compassionate.”
–Michael Bader, from the Introduction to Male Sexuality
If you are at all interested in looking past old assumptions about the minds and hearts of these wonderful creatures, this is the book for you. If you are just curious, you will still be rewarded by reading. At the very least you will come away with a new appreciation for the cum shot.
There was a time when I based what I thought about men’s internal lives on what I saw in porno movies, predators I encountered when I was running the streets and badly executed sexual experiences as a teenager. I am sure I was influenced to some extent by the jokes people made on TV and everywhere else about which head guys used to think with, or the bored housewife who contemplated what color to paint the ceiling while hubby was on top of her.
In contrast to this, there were always boys and men that I admired, and appreciated for their thoughtfulness and kind words at certain times in my life. I hoped, but I wasn’t convinced, that men were actually capable of thought and feeling while their sex parts were engaged. The ex-boyfriend reinforced this idea by saying all men ever wanted was to get laid and would lie, cheat, steal and sometimes murder to do it. One bit of advice I never forgot: “They all cheat. Put a man in a room alone with a woman who is ready to go. He. Will. Cheat. The smart ones just know how to keep themselves out of that situation.” Every single man I have told this to has confirmed the validity of the statement.
Depressing if you’ve ever taken on a relationship commitment that assumes you, the dutiful woman are expected to be faithful.
What I imagined went on in their minds went something like this: Gooood. Weeeeeeeeet. Soooooooooooft. Tight! Over and over until the big bang. The men I questioned did little to help. Whenever I asked what sex was like I got some variation of this: “Really good! Ummm. Like, it’s hot and wet and umm, even when it is bad it feels really good.”
Now I see I was asking the wrong question. I still wonder what things would have been like if I had read Marco Vassi as a teenager.
Common jokes and frustrations are explored in this book, from porn addiction, workplace aggression, infidelity, and what one might call plain old selfishness…He’s already done, and you Oh My Sister, were about to achieve full levitation. He might as well have dropped your ass on the cold hard floor. It’s Not Fair!!!*
Bader argues that this behavior might actually be a sign that he is more worried about pleasing you than you might assume as you lay dying.** He says that what the guy is really dealing with is an excessive concern about the wellbeing of women, beginning of course with his mother. This results in an additional sense of responsibility, and leads to an increase in anxiety which results in them ignoring their own feelings, and those of the women they are with.
If you’re like me you’ll have one eyebrow raised as you read this. You may even scratch your head and think, you mean he’s not just being a jerk because he has gotten away with it his whole life? By the end of the book, you might find the author makes an excellent case for at least considering the possibility that more is going on.
And if this is true, you’ve opened yourself up to everything else the book suggests. He introduces the notion that men are only allowed to show their feelings with women who are not equipped to understand everything about them; this burdens women and limits men in their emotional development. Huge! Did you know there were things called Men’s Groups? Awesome deals these…
Several topics in the book will benefit women directly. He addresses the power of fantasy (sex is all in the mind, baby) pathogenic beliefs–thoughts that cause you to do things that are unhealthy, and one of the most important: ruthlessness, a concept that means you must be selfish in order to get off. He says that excitement breaks down under worry or guilt. Ah-hah! So let go of those miserable thoughts, (often planted by advertisers) that plague the bedroom. Stop worrying about your breath, your jiggling whatever or the noises you make, and as the author encourages, stop worrying about him! You are already in bed, enjoy yourself and he will too.
Chapters that cover youth fantasies, rape fantasies (this one was a real eye opener and I suggest reading this very closely before jumping to conclusions as some other reviewers did) aggression and pornography, make this book really really valuable.
The examples he gives of patients he has seen in his thirty year career worked really well to make this book accessible. One example he gave was a man who liked to have sex from behind so he could be spared the inevitable (in his mind) look of disappointment on the woman’s face. *** Another was about a couple who were having sexual problems due to changes in the wife’s body. Neither one of them would stop to consider the reasons for what the other was feeling. The wife felt hurt because the husband refused to use extra lubricant as part of their bedroom scene, and the husband felt insulted because she was no longer able to get wet when she was with him. He felt that this was a reflection on him as a person. If you’re able to set aside whatever judgments are easy to make in this type of situation, the lesson about communication is a powerful one.
The reviews on Amazon are interesting. Some are in praise, some are angry, as if the author is trying to encourage deplorable behavior. It made me wonder how much the mass psyche is invested in the notion that male (or any for that matter) sexuality is a dangerous thing. The author is not saying that lying, cheating, and investing precious time in addictive behavior is admirable, but does give excellent reasons why these things happen.
The author agrees that wives have a right to be angry when husbands lie, or spend time away from home maintaining extra-marital affairs, or nursing fantasy relationships instead of putting that energy into their own real life relationship. The author also offers (again, setting aside the seductive need to judge) that the wife should be aware that real life may come with the belief, that home and his wife are where he has to face his failure, his inadequacy, his inability to truly make her happy. The fantasy women whether they are strippers, prostitutes, women behind a chat room screen or actors in adult movies represent a place t
o go to be free of all that and just enjoy themselves.
Because I believe that this book merely opens the door to a much larger discussion, I have included some links to other male writers who are thoughtfully talking about sex.
Marco Vassi: Gentle Degenerates, The Stoned Apocalypse, A Driving Passion, are all great places to start with this author. Even in his straight up porn he is more thoughtful than most other writers I have found.
David Steinberg: This article is worth a read and represents what is possibile when people are thoughtful. I will post more shortly on this very important author. Click on his name and check out his website, this is the best place to read his take on sexuality, art (he is a poet and photographer as well), and everything in between. His honesty and bravery remind me of Marco Vassi. The advantage with this author is that he is still alive and commenting on the culture we live in now.
Michael Castleman: Sexual Solutions and Great Sex. These books offer more specific discussions of particular topics.
David Guy: The Red Thread of Passion, The Autobiography of my Body, The Man Who Loved Dirty Books.
Jack Remick: Blood is a mind blower and not for the faint of heart. I loved the way he handled sexuality, not to mention all that semen! The book was more than a little disturbing, but will leave the reader with so much to consider about art, sex, books and the human experience.
Junot Diaz: This is How You Lose Her
Phil Jourdan: This young blogger’s posts don’t generally cover sex, but this post rocked my world, and his write up on feminism for authors is well…I wish this had been available when I was first beginning to navigate the world. Click his name and visit his website. He also posted information on a dude named Lacan who offers one sidetrip you can take to get an entirely new perspective on all of this.
Ryan Snyder Ananat: Not much here specific to sex, though I have found that reading a guy talk this much about his feelings has a positive effect on my old delusions. Plus he is just scary smart this one. I expect to see a lot of great things coming from this direction in the near future.
*I had to include this anthem ‘cos I’m just weird that way. I am really really glad younger women are exposed in a fun and accessible way to the concept that they get to feel good too. When I was growing up, a girl’s job was to look pretty. Being good in bed meant making him happy. She was expected to lead him around and make him work for it, for that matter he is still expected to go to fucking Jared, but God forbid he catch on that you really liked it too.
**Michael Castleman in his book Sexual Solutions exposed me to the idea that many of them get in the habit of finishing quickly when they are young. It has something to do with worrying that at any moment they are going to get kicked off and will never ever get another chance. The whole idea of scarcity is another issue which is important to consider. If the word “slut” would just evaporate, maybe this problem would too? I know, not likely…
*** You mean he doesn’t just like the view? Isn’t this how people often talk about sex? One of the wonderful things about this book is how we get to look past the usual jokes and assumptions to get to a more thoughtful and productive place.
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