What Men Wish Men Knew About Men’s Sexuality
In this episode of The Allender Center Podcast, Dan is joined by Jay Stringer, Sam Lee, and Wendell Moss to discuss misconceptions about men’s sexuality, the impact of fear and shame, and how men’s sexuality is deeply connected to one’s culture, race, and past traumas.
Dan opens the conversation by introducing Sam Lee, Jay Stringer, and Wendell Moss, all leaders in various Allender Center programs and offerings. As therapists who work with other men, they provide valuable insight into what they wish men knew about their own.
Jay begins by addressing the misconception, often encountered in faith-based communities, that covenantal love makes sex easy and enjoyable. He sees many clients who turn to books and other publications for help once they realize that is not, in fact, true, which only worsens the misconceptions.
Jay: Sex is really difficult whether you’re a man or a woman, and that doesn’t mean that there is something inherently wrong with either of us, but sex is going to push us to know our story and it’s going to push us to levels of development that we have never had to face before.
Wendell discusses the shame, fear, and other unwanted feelings that arise when it comes to talking about sex, which leads many men to avoid the topic entirely.
Wendell: I’m always aware of how much shame and how much fear arises when it comes to talking about sex, from feelings of inadequacy to feelings of performance, feelings of am I a good lover—or the feelings of: Will I be exposed if I talk about sex?
Connecting the topic of sexuality to previous episodes on the podcast, Sam talks about how sex is not learned in a vacuum, that it is deeply impacted by socialization and cultural and racial nuances. Sam uses the example of how Asian men were emasculated in the early twentieth century to show how culture can have a profound impact on men’s sexuality.
This brings the conversation to the topic of humiliation and sexuality, which, as Dan notes, all men have experienced in some way. Jay uses examples from his research on pornography, violence, and humiliation and how it often connects to past trauma and shame. There is a need to be aware, he says, of where someone’s humiliation and shame is taking them.
Dan: What do you want men to know with regard to the fact that there does seem to be an intersection, in fantasy and pornography, between humiliation, violence, and men’s sexuality?
In response, Wendell talks openly about the feeling of having to prove his own masculinity, which shifts the focus to his performance instead of being present with his spouse. Dan notes that “sex is not often about sex,” rather it is about past fears, shame, judgment, and accusations.
Dan: I want men to know that when they’re not present, that when they’re worried about their own performance when in many ways their own body is the issue, there is a certain violence … there is a kind of failure of love which then, on different levels, will often play out in a level of insensitivity.
Sam and Dan then turn to the impact of accountability when it comes to men addressing their struggles, and how it often turns into “a form of shame-sharing.” Instead of acknowledging fear, the feelings of shame are instead universalized. This feeling can confirm how a man sees himself in regard to his sexuality which only contributes to a sense of “this is as good as it gets.”
Sam: Accountability actually confirms the very bias we want or desire to disentangle but because we don’t get to address fear in it we don’t get to be honest.
Dan: I find many men would actually say they struggle sexually rather than admit I’m afraid.
In closing, Jay talks about the nature of revealing parts of one’s body that have experienced shame and humiliation to a spouse. For many men, it’s difficult to communicate these past stories, feelings, and fears honestly, which in turn can lead to blaming or escaping to fantasy. He emphasizes the need for a couple to participate in story work to be able to overcome a lack of presence during sex.
Dan: We need to be able to bring our sexuality into our story and our story into our sexuality in a way in which much more is known about us with our partner than what often seems to be the case.