A while back, I was having one of the many new pandemic-styled social interactions: a video catch-up call with a friend of mine. We discussed Lebanon’s economic and political crisis, Biden’s first 100 days in office and swiftly, but uninterestingly, how the European Super League breakaway fared. My friend was gifted in relentlessly swirling to unrelated topics and at one point, as we ran out of things to talk about, she started narrating her most recent experience with her current boyfriend: The account of her concerns about where the relationship was heading, his mother, and, of course, their sexual intimacies.
Why don’t men talk about sex?
At some point there was a little bit more than I asked for. I suddenly lost interest in her story and began questioning whether she has such conversations with her girlfriends. (Lame, I know.). and as it turns out, she does. Women do that. It’s a normal part of the conversation and the “confiding” process.
© Edvard Munch
So, why is it that we men (and I know I am generalizing here) are incapable of discussing intimacy and sex? Why don’t we share desires, likes, failures, successes, and emotions? Our societies mold us as men to hide our emotions, to never tap in, never be soft and vulnerable. We learn this as young boys and it remains with us for the entirety of our lives if left unquestioned, and unchallenged. We are taught to be our sisters, girlfriends, mothers’ keepers and protectors, but never their confidante. And we take that stoicism into the bedroom with us.
Performing in the bedroom becomes just that: a performance. The moment we slip, the moment we cannot perform, we shrivel back into our inner selves and believe all the lies we have been taught. The lies that tell us we are not men. We internalize that hatred and hide it in a deep well, a black Pandora’s Box. And it is toxic.
The boys, now men, are left to figure out sex alone.
Talking about sex and intimacy, particularly in our part of the world, is difficult. Our fathers, generally speaking, would rather literally have one of their arms fall off rather than having an open discussion with us about the topic. And so boys, become men, with the internet as their mentor, and we all know the internet, and porn in particular, is no teacher, and is in no way representative of real life
How are men going to be knowledgeable of what they are supposed to know if they do not openly talk about it?
Is this OK?
Additionally, friendship among men is a difficult thing. There are unwritten rules and regulations that govern our relationships that makes of our desire to discuss intimate matters a minefield. Fantasies, erections, erectile dysfunctions, incompatibilities, emotions, and feelings are off limits. This has been my experience as a heteronormative man. A man who has been taught by society to always keep a straight face, to wear a macho and virile mask oh-so-proudly and to never, ever express something that would make me appear “weak” or “sensitive.” The opportunity to express is taken away from us, pulled away from us at a very young age and we spend a lifetime attempting to reclaim what is rightfully ours.
© Steve Wengryn
We need to be accepting of safe spaces. We need to create them. Spaces where we can ask: “Is this ok?”, “Does this usually happen?” As years go by, our experiences, understandings, sexual desires, and bodies evolve and change. The more they do, the more we get bewildering questions that we desperately seek answers for. How are men going to be knowledgeable of what they are supposed to know if they do not openly talk about it?
Men need not to grapple with these issues in solitude. Without friendships they can turn to for advice on sexuality, the joys and pleasures of sex slowly diminish. Breaking away from machismo attitudes, family traditions, toxic masculinity and unspoken friendship contracts is a must for men. We must reclaim the right to discuss our sexuality and intimacy without shame.