Not All Masculinity Is Toxic

November 14, 2019

“She doesn’t like when I touch her neck or her breasts anymore. Kissing is off-limits, too. She has lots of rules.”

It’s not uncommon for husbands in heterosexual relationships to tell me what their wives don’t like in bed. Willing to follow her directions, trying to sexually satisfy the women they love, they are frustrated. These men know much more about what turns their wives off than what excites them. Their wives are discouraged and exasperated too, opting for masturbation as a more efficient, less annoying alternative than trying to explain the unexplainable. What would feel good between the sheets?

In truth, she doesn’t know what to ask for, because nothing seems to feel the way it should.

Communication in the bedroom often fails precisely for this reason. Just knowing what you don’t want doesn’t make sex great – it just makes sex tolerable. For many of the couples in my sex therapy practice, making sex satisfying entails an entirely different skill set.

Great sex is less about where and how he touches her, and more about the presence he brings to the bedroom.

Yes, his presence – how he carries himself – is perhaps the most potent sexual elixir around. But understanding presence, let alone defining it, is quite mystifying. It’s abstract and intangible, created more by his nonverbal communication than anything logical or measurable. Yet women know it when they see it, they respect it, and often they are hungry for it. Ultimately, women lose sexual interest in partners who don’t manifest this energy. It’s a primary reason I hear women lament “He’s my best friend. I love him, but I don’t want to have sex with him.”

Masculine presence is a tricky enterprise because it gets confused with toxic masculinity — which is abusive. However, implying that all masculinity is toxic only encourages men to disconnect from their most intimate, sexual selves. Masculine presence isn’t inherently toxic. In fact, as a sex therapist practicing for over 20 years, I have seen that most heterosexual women require some level of masculinity in their partner in order to feel sexually interested and engaged. It’s the energy that the highest paid, most desirable male actors build their careers on – because women crave it. It’s why romance novels are the top-selling book genre across the globe. No, masculine presence is far from toxic — it is an essential ingredient for vital, satisfying sex in long-term hetero relationships.

Masculine presence is about a direct, steady gaze. An assertive, respectful, unafraid sexual style.  It’s about standing tall, holding emotional intensity without laughing or talking baby talk, all while breathing deeply into one’s heart and body. It’s confidence without narcissism. Assertiveness without aggression. Emotional sensitivity without anxiety. Tenderness without passivity. These characteristics distinguish sexual boys from sexual men, sexual immaturity from maturity.  Masculine presence wakes up a woman’s body and triggers her sexual instincts.

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