As a sex therapist, I focus a lot in the area of male sexuality with patients as well as teaching classes online and around the United States. In my travels, I’ve come to realize that we need to take a deeper look at male sexuality and challenge gender bias against men and stop sexual shaming. In my experience, by helping men and women understand the landscape of male sexuality, it can reduce the amount of conflict in relationships.
In the last few years, there’s been a growing movement among sex therapists and researchers to really understand men’s sexuality—not what it’s “supposed to be,” but rather how it manifests, where its roots lie, and how to deal with the conflicts it presents, not only in therapy with men, but with couples too.
Therapists have long recognized that women are further ahead of men in terms of emotional access and vocabulary, and historically we’ve tried to help men catch up to women in this regard. We are now beginning to ask how we can help women understand where it is their men are today vs. waiting for them to catch up. So, here are 10 myths about men’s sexuality that will offer some alternative views.
Men who participate in sexual activity with other men are gay or bisexual.
This is not necessarily the case. We now know that many men are attracted to gay sex… but not to men. This is bound to confuse a lot of people, but as therapists, we know much more today about men’s sexual fluidity. I’ve written extensively about it in my book, Is My Husband Gay or Bi? A Guide for Women Concerned About Their Men, but simply put, some men have no desire whatsoever to be connected with gay culture, and sincerely consider themselves to not be gay or bisexual. However, they find themselves erotically moved by the idea, or sometimes the practice of, seeking out other men with whom to have sex. It’s actually not that unusual, so I’ll share more exploration.
Bisexual men are more prone to cheat.
Absolutely false. Bisexual men can commit equally as much as any straight man or woman. The myth is that bisexual men can’t make up their mind, and therefore are prone to cheating. This is like saying that a straight man who is sexually attracted to redheads and brunettes, but who decides to marry a brunette will slip out to have sex with a redhead whenever he can! In our culture, many people think that bisexuality is just a gateway to homosexuality, but it is not. It is a legitimate sexual orientation. It is true that some gay men think at first that they are bisexual, but I believe this is largely due to the cultural taboo against being gay. Further proof: Some bisexual men won’t admit their sexual orientation to women in whom they are interested, even though they would never cheat on them because they fear that the woman would not be able to commit to them in a relationship if they came clean about their fantasy life. Research bears this out.
Men are too focused on sex.
Men and women have different ways of expressing their attachment to each other. In general, women express their attachment through relationship. Men do so through sex. Research reveals that we generally stop touching boys when they reach the age of 8, and we teach them to reject access to feelings, emotions and emotional vocabulary because these are deemed “too feminine.” So they end up mostly being able to express themselves through sex, violence, sports, or work. Therapists need to help men deconstruct what they are seeking in sex into emotional and attachment language, help them discover a nonsexual narrative about what they really want, such as closeness. He wants this but doesn’t know how to get his needs met in any other way besides sex.
Men who watch porn prefer it over sex with their partner.
David Ley has written a great, well researched, and humorous book about this, called Ethical Porn for Dicks: A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure. He cites research clearly showing that it’s apples to oranges—men enjoy both porn and sex with their partners and don’t replace one with the other. Period.
If a man wants anal sex, it automatically means he’s gay or bisexual.
A lot of people think if a man wants anal sex, he’s gay or bisexual. But a man’s anus doesn’t have a sexual orientation, it just knows it enjoys pleasure. Our culture has decided that receiving anal sex equates to being gay, but “gay” is more than just a behavior. It’s not about what you do sexually, it’s about who you love, an identity. This would be like saying that gay men who don’t like anal sex are really straight but don’t know it yet, and their butt will have to tell them at some point. Can you imagine that conversation? “I have something to tell you … I’m straight.” Fritz Klein has written a seminal book on this subject called The Bisexual Option: A concept of 100 percent intimacy.
It’s pathological if a man wants a lot of sex.
Ridiculous. It’s no more pathological than when women want a lot of romance. Sex is his love language. Women are rarely pathologized for wanting romance. But that’s what we judge men for. Instead of saying “She just doesn’t want it as much as you,” he gets “Something is wrong with you.”
Sexual addiction is an official diagnosis.
No, it is not. I’ve had women come into my practice saying “I’d rather my husband be a sex addict than a pervert” (meaning he is having sexual fantasies that she or the therapist doesn’t agree with or understand). So the therapist will mislabel a client as a sex addict who comes in struggling with his fantasies out of a lack of understanding of what is healthy for him. “Sex Addiction” as a diagnosis does not exist in the DSM-5 because, in spite of claims to the contrary, there is no research to support its existence.
A man isn’t interested in his partner if he can’t achieve or loses his erection.
This is a really common misunderstanding among women. It’s difficult to get some women to understand that, for the most part, it has nothing to do with her. He may have lost his erotic focus for numerous reasons—drinking too much; thinking too much about his work or finances; his age; health problems; or he may even have untreated sexual-abuse issues. The bigger deal the couple makes of his trouble, the more likely it’s going to remain a problem. The therapist’s job is to lessen the anxiety about this and assess why he lost his ability to maintain an erection.
Men will always want to act on their kinky fantasies.
Not true. They might want to, but that doesn’t mean it is mandatory for them or that they can’t control themselves. Women can be kinky too, though men tend to be kinkier because they’re allowed to explore their sexuality in ways that women haven’t been. Women may be more advanced around emotionality, but men more around sexuality. The guy might say I have kinky (non-normative) fantasies, and the wife and therapist misinterpret this as him being out of control, when in fact such fantasies are simply normal for him. The therapist’s job is to normalize and educate the couple, help them understand the very wide range that constitutes sexual health. Michael Bader has a good book on this called Male Sexuality: Why Women Don’t Understand It … and Men Don’t Either.
Watching porn makes men cheat on their spouse.
The truth is watching porn can prevent men from cheating on spouses, and even reduce violence in certain cultures and communities. Sex therapist Michael Aaron recently published an insightful article about this research on Psychology Today’s website. Many men who come to my practice report they watch porn because they have higher sex drive than their partner, and the porn satisfies them so they don’t have to pressure a partner. If they feel like they want to enact a sexual fantasy, just watching porn does the trick rather than seeking it out in the real world.
I hope by exploring these top 10 myths around male sexuality you’ll be able to see a more accurate picture. You’ll also be able to understand how gender bias and shaming exists in our culture today and how we can collectively change that dynamic.
Joe is a leading expert on sex and relationships. He specializes in Out-of-Control Sexual Behaviors (OCSB)/“sex addiction”, Relationship Problems and Marital Conflict, Sex Therapy, and Sexual Identity Concerns, Depression, Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His practice is located in Royal Oak, Michigan but he welcomes clients from all over the Metro Detroit area. Joe is also available for long-distance coaching and consultation. His practice is mixed with straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and couples.
Joe graduated from Michigan State University with dual majors in Psychology and Social Work. At Wayne State University, he earned his Master's in Social Work (MSW), then a Master’s (MA) in Psychology, and has received his Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Clinical Sexology from the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists (AACS). He is in the process of becoming a certified transgender therapist through the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH.org). WPATH is the standard of care for transgender medical and mental healthcare. In addition to that, Joe is also the founder and director of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health (his associate's biographies can be found here), teaching faculty at the University of Michigan Sexual Health Certificate Program, a Board Certified Sexologist, member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers, member of the National Association of Certified Social Workers, member of EMDRIA Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Basic Training, and a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Michigan.