You can listen to this musing here, or read it below.
Writing this week’s musing is an ambiguous task. Since I’m in the teaching crew of the European Men’s Gathering, I sometimes join discussions on the Maniphesto email list. Recently someone asked; What is the impact of male sexuality on society? It’s a can of worms -as my old co-workers in Mumbai used to say when something is complicated. I started to write a reply, gave up, and decided to make it as the weekly musing instead. I hope I can make sense, as this is out of my natural habitat.
First off, let me set the arena. We live in a hierarchical society that both teaches and rewards success. To understand sexuality, one must first understand the relationship between desire and safety. Desire is wanting something that we don’t have, while safety is knowing what we have. The latter ensures the survival of our family. It’s deeply integrated into our nervous system in the form of resting and recovering under low arousal. While desire this the drive for the exciting unknown. It makes us fall in love with strangers or fearlessly joining a competition. As a human being, we are continually balancing between the two. Sexuality is much more related to desire.
In our capitalistic society, desire is a fundamental driving force. Just look at media and marketing. Beautiful women posing on sports cars in music videos. Historically men have had more money and power than women, and that is why there is more focus on male desires. With the rise of equality and feminism, this is changing witch is good. So growing up, we brutally discover our place in the hierarchy of attractiveness and learn how to utilize our abilities to navigate it. Smarter, funnier, sexier, healthier and wealthier. In the end, capital is the ultimate measure of power. Getting older, we want to find a partner that is around equal to ourselves in this hierarchy. But what kind of partner? If it is solely a sexual partner, then our desire rules. For something long term, then it is a combination of safety and desire. Look a couple of hundred years back, and a partnership was only about security, and often arranged between families. Marrying for love is a new thing.
Desire grows out of polarity—the idea of two people wanting something from each other that they can’t have alone. A penis meets a pussy, and creates offspring – I know it’s a simplistic example, but it does the trick. Polarity takes many different shapes—leader and follower in partner dancing, butch and princess, dominant and submissive, beauty and beast. You can read more about polarity in my text about Sexuality in bondage.
But at the same time, we want safety – by being equal in a relationship, and equitably dividing the chores of life. To simplify it, if polarity drives desire, then equality drives safety. Society reflects this. We want polarity to compete fairly in the hierarchy, and not having to be “equal” as every lazy ass around us. At the same time, we wish for equality and knowing that our basic needs are covered. Either by the state or by our friends and family.
With more gender equality, comes an exciting opportunity for men. That they no longer are forced to take a predecided role in the polarity. Or in other words, they have the chance to be “the pussy”. If only for a second, and all of a sudden, they can explore both sexual surrender and submission. The BDSM community is, since long, a playground for people with a lot of power or responsibility in their everyday life, to enjoy the pleasure of letting it go, independently of gender.
What is a healthy balance between safety and desire?
One can argue that society today is too short-term sex-driven by all the wanting and consuming. Apps like Tinder and Grinder are ever so popular, personal beauty and perfection is escalating, and numbers of followers on Instagram is essential. Instead, we could, maybe, focus on safety and long-term thinking. The discussion is alive and kicking with the global warming and exhaustion of resources. I don’t have the answer.
Digging deeper into male sexuality, we find the paradox of pleasure and performance. In general, I think men are very focused on performing and pleasing their partner during sex. It might sound controversial when only 50-70% of women can orgasm during sex, but hold on. The men do it ultimately for their own sake because they are performance-oriented. Traditionally men have been courting the women, and how they perform decides their place in the hierarchy. Therefore they get their satisfaction from viewing the result of their actions – that is seeing their beautiful partner having a fantastic, but fake, orgasm. Sexual education in school suck, and so does most men at pleasuring their partner.
Here I could write a long rant about pornography and the whole incel phenomenal but I won’t. Instead, everyone ends up as a looser while society keeps selling us more and more sex.
What if men would focus on their pleasure
how it feels in their body
rather than how they perform?
A few years ago, I got a very niche perspective from an older tantric man. He described masculine sexuality as a stable mountain foundation for feminine sexuality. The feminine was wild and uncontrollable as the storming sea, and men could only worship that in awe. And I find it funny because it reflects the idea of performance-oriented male sexuality. So according to this tantric lover, a man focused on his pleasure was just a little boy.
Coming from a BDSM perspective, it is interesting to notice what happens when men get the opportunity to drop the performance-oriented sexuality and selfishly focus on their body pleasure. It’s a challenge, that is my personal experience, but it can also be rewarding. To be nuanced, I should mention that there are plenty of people playing the dominant role that still enjoy focusing on their partner’s experience instead, by acting as “care-givers”, “reaction junkies” and “service tops”. And it can be gratifying to see someone let go into submission and surrender, and then receive the pleasures of their dreams. So here again is the paradox between ones own pleasure or performance. By only being selfish, one will eventually turn into an abuser, I believe. To learn more about this, read my two texts about Playing safer and Safer vs braver spaces.
But how does this “male” or performance-oriented and desire-driven sexuality impact society? First of all, I think it is an exhausting way to live. Maybe it is also a reason why men buy sex. A paid professional will act, so the customer feels that they are performing well. And it is an opportunity to focus on one’s own body pleasure. Pornography presents the same offer – to be selfish. Writing this makes me wonder if one can buy what they desire to remove the need to perform? Because once something is “owned, it is “had” rather than “wanted”, and the desire turns into safety. Probably the sexuality will just lust for something new.
Can we really desire that what we already have?
I’m sure that all of this can feel both as performance-anxiety, and performance-obsession. And maybe even oscillate between the two. I think society a whole is scared of the wild pleasure-oriented sexuality, and therefore also many men. That is why they try to buy, own it and control it. While someone fully surrendered to their pleasure in the present moment is very hard to control, because for them neither the future or past exists.
I want to end by clarifying that I don’t think this is something directly connected to what one has between their legs. I’ve met plenty of women, and others, that also has a performance-oriented sexuality. And I’ve met plenty of men that are more pleasure-oriented in their sexuality. But anyhow, this is where my musing on how male sexuality and society ends.