I gave a presentation last weekend for a group in Washington, DC on a topic I had developed specifically for women. So imagine my surprise when 4 men walked in the room. The topic was Stepping Into Your Desire, a presentation and exercise in thinking about what keeps us from feeling interested in sex as we age. I drew on my experiences with women who write me about their lack in sex and loss of desire for reasons that have to do with relationships, illness, issues related to menopause and whatever else gets in the way of our sex drive. Easier to think about as a woman, talking to women. But men?
We have this notion that most men crave sex, and have been wanting it, thinking about it, watching it, and fantasizing about sex since puberty. We’ve confused the cultural message with reality, embracing the stereotypes of men as sexual beings, occasionally predatory, but mostly just perpetually horny.
So, how to take my message, fine-tuned for women, and talk to these men who felt called to attend a presentation about stepping into one’s desire?
There’s a delicate balance to giving presentations on the topic of sexuality. As a speaker I want to respect the individual’s privacy and maintain boundaries. I couldn’t urge these men to talk, I could only provide a safe space for them to receive my message and leave room for conversation.
I believe each of these men had a different story. One man, attending with his partner, was fairly open about the stresses of marriage, two jobs and childrearing. He talked about the standard relationship issues that we can readily identify with—too tired for sex, carving out time for meaningful interactions, balancing a too busy life. And, he spoke openly, vulnerably, about wanting to please his partner and how that often got in the way of experimenting and adding a little spice to their sex life.
Another attendee hinted at a relationship where sex is no longer present, not even open to discussion. There was sadness in his voice as he talked about the loss of their intimate connection. My suggestion was to share with his wife how much he missed the opportunity to build and share intimate moments with her. And to give voice to his desire to slowly start rebuilding something of what they once had.
I don’t know if any of these men was experiencing his own loss of desire. I suspect so in one case. I talked about a practice I suggest for women—a sexual meditation practice. It is basically an exploration of one’s body, in private, without an expected result. The practice is all about awakening the skin, the genitals and being present to how each body part feels. To stroke, caress and love one’s body—no judgment, no push for orgasm. And, I suggest that the men try this. To let go of traditional masturbation techniques in favor of slow, intentional touch. To see what it felt like to touch ‘this’ or caress ‘here’. To feel the slow buildup of sensation and not need to do anything with that—other than find pleasure in knowing how one’s own body responds.
In my experience most men are not taught, or encouraged, to get in touch with their body or their emotions. Not in a sensuous, intentional way. Most men learn to masturbate as children, but they don’t learn to express emotions or reveal in the sensuous delights of their own bodies. Stepping into one’s desire is about claiming and embracing your sexual desire and being comfortable with it. It is about seeing sex and sexual desire as fuel to energize and awaken your life—as something more than a mechanical act we engage in with another person.
Maybe men and women aren’t that different when it comes to sex, we only think we are. The media uses ads, movies, songs and popular culture to portray a hyper-masculine, hyper-sexualized male model. It has to be a huge burden for men. And, as men age, the conversation shifts to regaining that youthful stamina—hence the surge in Low-T (testosterone) marketing. But what if, instead of pushing for a more aggressive, medication-laden approach to sex, we encouraged men to get in touch with the feelings and the sensuous qualities of sex—to engage in intimacy with partners that becomes less goal-oriented and more about building touch and connection? About finding sexual expression in a wider range of sensuous and sexual activities?
I would love some male feedback about this. You can send me a message here on Boomeon or reach me here.
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Walker Thornton is a writer, sex educator and public speaker, with a Masters in Educational Psychology and over 10 years experience in the field of sexual violence against women. She is a strong advocate for midlife women’s sexuality, encouraging women to ‘step into their desire’. Kinkly.com ranked her blog, WalkerThornton.com, #17 in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2013. Walker is the Sexual Health columnist for Midlife Boulevard and writes about sex and the older adult for Kinkly.com. You can connect with her on her website (www.walkerthornton.com ), Facebook (https://facebook.com/AWomansPage ) Twitter (http://twitter.com/WalkerThornton) and Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/+WalkerThornton/posts ).