How to Stoke Sexual Desire?

Melanie Lynskey & Mark Duplass in HBO's "Togetherness"

Melanie Lynskey & Mark Duplass in HBO's "Togetherness"

A spiritual approach to dating takes a gender-blind stance, addressing every person in the same way, and admonishes masculine / feminine roles as sexist games and manipulations. But men and women are different and gender roles show up in same sex relationships as well. While spiritual philosophies are foundational to my life, I am inclined to approach dating from a more gendered perspective. As always, feel free to disagree with some or all of what I write.

It seems to me that we contradict ourselves when it comes to dating. We say we want one thing, but actually are attracted to something else. We pursue people we know are unhealthy for us, while dismissing compatible, available, attractive potentials.

Ask a woman about her sexual fantasies and she’s likely to tell you they involve being desired and dominated. So she wants to mate with the stable, reliable, emotionally-attuned man and get fucked by the Bad Boy (a similar dynamic shows up with the Madonna/Whore complex in men). So what’s the psychology under this?

The reason why women like bad boys, says Esther Perel, is because the bad boy knows how to take care of himself perfectly well, which frees her from having to feel responsible for him, from having to worry about him. Since he can let go and be in his pleasure, it frees her up to do the same. The primary erotic block for women is that they are used to sex being a duty and that their role is to care for others. They struggle sexually in taking for themselves.

The patriarchal system has ingrained into women thousands of years of sexual duty and obligation. Men have sexual needs that must be met and they are paramount. He bought you dinner, you led him on, you owe him this. Break the entitlement of the stiff penis: no one will die if an erection goes untended!

Women are most free when not having to think of anyone else. Since she knows the bad boy will take care of himself, she’s able to focus on herself and experience healthy sexual narcissism. If the man needs to be mothered, she won’t be able to let go into her own pleasure. Once it becomes a duty, she’s no longer in the realm of desire.

Men also need to feel that their partners are strong enough to withstand their desire. If he feels she’s too fragile, he’s unable to submit fully to his sexual appetite. The aggression in sex is too dangerous to bring to someone he loves.

Many men grew up with mothers whose emotional needs engulfed and burdened them. So any whiff of a woman being needy sparks an anti-sexual, dutiful, caretaking response. Who wants to have sex with their mother? This dynamic with mother also leads men to become love avoidants. Why submit to another relationship in which you feel incredibly burdened and responsible for another person’s happiness? Much simpler to screw a woman with whom there’s no commitment.


1. Esther Perel’s Sexual Conversations: Try exploring these questions yourself and with your partner. Have fun, laugh, make a night of it, don’t make it so serious.

2. Self-Pleasing: Think broader than masturbation. What feels good to you? What do you enjoy just for sheer pleasure? Like the ocean? Try spending a few extra moments letting the shower water drip down your neck, your back. Do you twirl your hair? Stroke your arm? How would it be for your partner to lightly stroke your arm or face in the morning time between sleep and wake? Would you enjoy that?

3. Beyond All-or-Nothing Thinking: If your partner does stroke you like that, can you just let yourself enjoy it? Don’t assume that he’s angling for more or trying to lure you into sex. Trust that he wants nothing more than this. Or see it as an invitation, not a demand. More may happen, it may not.
Sex is not just in the genitals, it’s an entire universe. The word sex – it’s closeness, it’s connection, it’s prioritizing, it’s remembering me, it’s making me feel that I matter, it’s all of that under the word “sex.” Guys, if you're feeling pressured for sex and are not into it, your partner may just want to connect. 

4. The New Masculinity: For men, sexuality may be the only place where they can experience forbidden emotions – tenderness, vulnerability, fragility, access to inner child, being taken care of. Read my previous post on men’s relationships and seek out and deepen your male friendships. Your wife is not a Wellbeing Dialysis machine. She’s not your Xanax, mother, and psychiatrist. You need to find other ways to get your own sense of wellbeing.

(Much of this is from a training I did with Esther Perel & Terry Real, so thank you to them for their colorful language 😊)

Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel (Streaming free on Audible now)
Terry Real 


The Inner Lives of Men

Uncle Nikko, Otis & Mavis. Brooklyn. 

Uncle Nikko, Otis & Mavis. Brooklyn. 

In their inner lives, men carry secrets that are not talked about and are hidden from view. They're secrets that men might not even consciously be aware of, although upon hearing them, will recognize. 

Men get enlisted in a conspiracy of silence that begins in childhood. They learn that if you put yourself out there in a vulnerable way, you will get hammered for it.  To express yourself openly and honestly is to be at risk. If you talk about your feelings, there will be a sense of failure or inadequacy or fear that someone will use it against you. 

But it starts even younger. “The ‘manning up’ of infant boys begins early on in their typical interactions and long before language plays its role,” says Dr. Edward Tronick, who observed mothers trying to control their infant sons' emotions by physically withdrawing from them. This recent article cites similar studies and findings: mothers are more likely to use emotional words and topics with their daughters than sons; fathers sing and smile more to their daughters; parents are more likely to "direct" their sons and "explain to" their daughters. 

In America, men perform masculinity within a narrow set of cultural rules often called the Man Box. One of the central tenants of the Man Box is the subjugation of women, and by extension, all things feminine. Since we Americans hold emotional connection as a female trait, we reject it in our boys, demanding that they “man up” and adopt a strict regimen of emotional independence, even isolation, as proof they are real men. Behind the message that real men are stoic and detached is the threat of homophobia - ready to crush any boy who might show too much of the wrong kind of emotions. America’s pervasive homophobic, anti-feminine policing has forced generations of young men to abandon each other’s support at the crucial moment they enter manhood.

In her book about adolescent boys’ friendships, Niobe Way targets the central source of our culture’s epidemic of male loneliness. Driven by our assumption that the friendships of boys are both casual and interchangeable, along with our relentless privileging of romantic love over platonic love, we are driving boys into lives Dr. Way describes as “autonomous, emotionally stoic, and isolated.” 

Her research shows us that boys in early adolescence express deeply fulfilling emotional connection and love for each other, but by the time they reach adulthood, that sense of connection evaporates. Boys know by late adolescence that their close male friendships, and their emotional sensitivity, put them at risk of being labeled “girly,” “immature,” or “gay.” Thus, rather than focusing on who they are, they become obsessed with proving who they are not — they are not girls, little boys nor homosexuals.

This is a catastrophic loss; a loss we somehow assume men will simply adjust to. They do not. Millions of men are experiencing a sense of deep loss that haunts them even though they are engaged in fully realized romantic relationships, marriages and families.

“There is an epidemic of loneliness generated by the misguided idea that romantic love is the only solution to loneliness.” Alain de Botton

"The loss of my friendship with George set a pattern in my life that I am only now, decades later, finally conscious of,” reflects Mark Greene, of The Good Men Project, of his childhood friend. “I have walked past so many friendships. Sleep walking past men, as I went instead from woman to woman, looking for everything I had lost. Looking instead in the realm of the romantic, the sexual. And in doing so, I have missed so many opportunities to live a fuller life."

Men have to risk friendship at a different level. They very seldom talk about their personal lives, they usually focus on sports or politics or something else out there. If it's out there, it's safer. Begin to tell these secrets -- to yourself to start with. Face your fear, be honest with what is going on inside of you. Create relationships with other men which are reciprocal, caring, and supportive of each other.

However, it's not all on the men. Women often say they want men to be emotionally transparent with them. But Brené Brown, the vulnerability and shame expert, admits that many women grow uneasy or even recoil if men take them up on their offer. Other studies and anecdotal evidence jibe with Dr. Brown’s research, suggesting that the less men risk emoting verbally, the more appealing they are. Women are validating the mandates of the Man Box. I can see why it’s confusing for men!

Read my post tomorrow on how this is affecting our sexual desire …

Love Addict

Love Addict

Love addicts focus almost completely on the person to whom they are addicted. At the beginning, this feels fantastic. Eventually, as Love Addicts try harder and harder to manipulate the other person to live up to the mental image they have created -someone who will care for and love them the way they long to be cared for and loved- they experience repeated disappointments, because no one can satisfy these insatiable desires. 

Tragically, Love Addicts are usually drawn to Love Avoidants, who tend to avoid commitment and healthy intimacy because they believe that they will be drained and engulfed by it. Unconsciously, however, both the Love Addict and the Love Avoidant have the same two fears: intimacy and being left. Read on for a deeper explanation. 

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