Thursday, November 15, 2012

Men, Sex and Passion

Why did it take nine months for this blogger to finally talk about sex? Is it that unimportant? Well, yes…and no.

A colleague working within a large men’s organization said that you reach men through the big three: Sex, Money and Power. We agreed that was only true to an extent. And that extent is what you’ll see on and in the glossy men’s magazines. Beyond those covers, men’s needs and desires go much much deeper.

Let me be honest. I am totally sexually inadequate. What? Yes, you heard me right. I am admitting to being totally sexually inadequate. Totally inadequate in light of what I see as the myth of sex as performance, sex as a commodity to be exploited, sex as what “drives” men or at least drives them crazy. I can't adequately live up to some false standard and I don't buy being driven.

About that “drive” thing we were told is needed to perpetuate the species. Did you know it was invented in l918 just before “sex appeal” in l924? That’s right, no sex drive or appeal before the end of World War I and the roaring 20’s!
Even the term, “sexual union” is at odds with the Latin origin of the word “sex” from the verb secare, to divide or cut.

What we take for granted about sex was invented long after blue-green algae figured out a much faster way to evolve. They passed on the secret of procreation so we don’t need all that many sex acts (individually) to be fruitful and multiply ourselves, as many parents and demographers have discovered.

Much of what “feels” like an urgent need for sex is pretty mixed up with other needs, like the need for love, intimacy, affection, connection, adventure, excitement, spiritual transcendence and more. These are not drives per se but what at root makes us human. If we are deprived of any of these or made to believe they are in short supply, the so-called need for sex becomes magnified, distorted, or a very tight funnel for filling your love cup. And when this deprivation and distortion occurs it makes it so much easier, in the paraphrased words of a Joni Mitchell song, for sex to sell everything. And it makes it so much easier for men to become isolated and frustrated, acting out that frustration in any number of ways.

Take the word “pornography,” now an everyday descriptor for a mega-billion dollar industry. Well, some may prefer pictures to words. It originally meant any art or literature depicting the life of prostitutes. Often used interchangeably with the word "erotica" it really is different and the distinction is wonderfully illustrated in the photographic work of a friend David Steinberg, whose well respected erotic art does not objectify and manipulate for commerce but celebrates human connection, joy and humor. Eros, after all, means love.

Here’s an interesting anecdotal finding. When I take men through the Passion Test, the first step being to make their list of things that do or would make them most happy and fulfilled, sex never makes it into their top five passions!
Less anecdotal is the research with teen males that also supports a similar finding. Sex does not make it to the top of the list. So much for the stereotypes of young males pumped so full of testosterone they can think of nothing else.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying sex is not fun for a lot of people a bunch of the time. It is.
What we call a “drive,” “natural,” “enough,” or “good” with regard to sex should be regarded with great suspicion and men of any age have a right to decide exactly what works for them in communication with someone they share that experience with....or don't.

Randy Crutcher was a former Director of Education at Planned Parenthood and taught Human Sexuality for several years at California community colleges.