Though men and women experience many similar sexuality-related issues, the fact is that our society treats the genders differently. Parents are steered toward raising boys distinctly from girls, and interactions, toys, hobbies, and even jobs are still affected by perceived differences in the two genders. The sad fact is there are hard and fast rules for masculinity and what it means to be accepted as a “big boy” or a “real man.” And men are hurt by these gender-based expectations, just as women are. Showing emotions that are feminized, experiencing intimacy and vulnerability, and engaging in meaningful relationships can be particularly challenging for males. And this can have far-reaching consequences for male sexuality.
Moving Away From Toxic Male Sexuality
Toxic male sexuality isn’t a biological problem men are born with; it’s a problem they inherit while growing up in a culture that prizes violence, pornography, and isolation as rites of passage for boys. How do we hold men accountable for toxic behavior without ejecting them from society? Everyone exists in a gray area, and no one is completely good or bad. Men need support to move from toxicity to healthy, equitable behavior—and with men, it’s easy to go to extremes in our culture that loves to cancel people.
When someone exhibits anger issues, entitlement, homophobia, or hypersexuality (which are sometimes associated with toxic masculinity), these behaviors are responsive to therapeutic treatment, and the individual can work toward becoming healthy. So while supporting the men in your life can be helpful, the road to a life free from toxic masculinity is mindfulness and personal responsibility. Carving a space for men who want to be better and giving them a path to redemption —not a free pass—is an integral part of moving away from our current situation.
And for men, examining your reactions, your subconsciously made decisions, and your underlying view of the world can help you move from where you are to where you want to be. Do you believe, deep down, that the quantity of sex you’re having is more important than the quality, or is that an idea you inherited but would rather give up? Can you find other routes toward vulnerability and intimacy, even in your friendships, that don’t involve sex at all?
Looking Privilege in the Eye
Privilege is invisible—that’s what makes it so insidious. Men who grow up with the ability to dismiss women without consequence, objectify women without dispute, and rely on women without an equivalent contribution often don’t realize how damaging their behavior is toward the people they love. Men could benefit from reflecting on the balance within their most treasured partnerships and then put in the work toward recognizing and diminishing the effects of their privilege. Within a relationship, this is invaluable.
Altering Our Gender-Based Expectations for Sexuality
A win-at-all-costs, machismo-based attitude does not help develop a healthy sexuality. Moving forward, men who want to develop a wholesome relationship to sex with all the accompanying intimacy, vulnerability, nuance, and growth must find ways to be intentional and deliberate in their decision-making. Empathy is an essential trait of being a good sex partner—and the more you have, the better. Men can adapt to new modes of sexuality without betraying their most authentic sense of self.
Toxic masculinity is ubiquitous right now, but the tides are changing. Traditional masculinity is finally being examined and scrutinized in unprecedented ways, and the standard of acceptable behavior has vastly improved. Positive transformation comes in small steps, and it takes many individuals making those small changes to revamp our culture’s view of healthy masculinity. Encouraging the men in your life or, if you identify as a man, agreeing to embrace mindfulness can reduce the urge to react and increase your opportunity to take constructive action.
Men should consider making friends with their fears about sexuality. Those who worry about your performance, size, or stamina, should know that these are common anxieties to have, but often totally unrelated to their partner’s sexual satisfaction. Talking to your partner about the fears you have can help you move beyond fear- and shame-driven sexual problems. Men frequently are trained to focus less on healing and more on trudging through or “manning up,” but healing often comes in the form of acknowledging your fears until they don’t pose a threat to you anymore.
Another great idea is to incorporate curiosity into your sex life. Instead of feeling pressure to know how to be a good lover from the beginning of a relationship, take time to ask questions, and get to know your new partner’s turn-ons, turn-offs, and body without judging yourself for not being an expert. Men can profit from more willingness to redefine themselves, go on journeys of self-discovery, and reinvent their values to get the most out of their sexuality. If you need some help along the way, consider contacting a therapist who specializes in sexuality for professional guidance.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform. Click here to download the 101 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Hot checklist.