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Why Do We Demonize Men Who Are Honest About Their Sexual Needs?

Society pressures men to initiate sexual relationships, yet punishes them when they express their sexual needs.

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But in fact, men aren't merely enabled to be promiscuous -- they're pressured to be getting laid all the time. This influences situations ranging from huge communities devoted entirely to teaching men how to pick up women, to tragically callous dismissal of the experiences of men who have been raped.

And while there's immense cultural repression of all sexuality, there's also a fair and growing amount of modern TV, movies and feminist energy that seek to enable female sluttitude in all its harmless, glorious forms. The stud vs. slut dichotomy is worth discussing, but it has one flaw: it entirely ignores the word "creep," whose function appears to be restricting male sexuality to a limited, contradictory set of behaviors.

Feminist blogger Thomas Millar writes, "The common understanding of male sexuality is a stereotype, an ultra-narrow group of desires and activities oriented around penis-in-vagina sex, anal intercourse and blowjobs; oriented around cissexual [i.e., non-trans] women partners having certain very narrow groups of physical characteristics.” Men are supposed to be insatiable only within those bounds. Men who step outside them -- for example, heterosexual men who are attracted to curvier women, or who like being pegged with a dildo in the butt -- are either mocked or viewed with anxious suspicion.

Worse, men who talk a lot about their sexuality, or who make any slightly unusual move (like sending a friendly proposition over the Internet), can run afoul of the pervasive tropes around male sexuality: that it's inherently aggressive, toxic and unwanted.

Under these circumstances, mere semi-explicit conversations become fraught territory. A male, S&M-oriented friend of mine told me about a girl he once spoke to while volunteering at a large feminist organization. She started a conversation about how she was coming to terms with her queer identity; she no longer wanted to have sex with men, but with women. He said he could relate, and described his feelings about coming into his S&M identity. The next day, he got a call from the intern coordinator telling him to get back in the closet. "Turns out what I thought was discussing who I was, came across as hinting that she should participate," says my friend. "The thought never crossed my mind -- she was, after all, telling me that she didn't want to have sex with men. But the cultural constructs around the conversation intervened between what I was saying and what she was hearing."

As one masculinity thread commenter named Tim observes: "The only way for a guy to guarantee that he won’t be called 'creepy' is to suppress entirely his sexuality, just like a woman can escape being called a slut by suppressing hers."

Another commenter, Sam, notes that it's often difficult for men to "realize that being sexually confident and assertive is not tied to politics," and that some men feel so much anxiety they hire experts to coach them through just asking a strange woman where to find Internet access.

These anti-male stereotypes have an incredibly broad effect, and not just among individuals. Calls to censor porn, for example, are influenced not only by extreme claims that porn access increases rape ( it doesn't) but by feelings that mainstream porn expresses an unacceptable form of male sexuality.

It's certainly true that the kind of sex represented in mainstream porn isn't for everybody, which is why there are lots of other kinds of porn out there (including feminist porn). However, I'm reluctant to condemn any kind of consensual sex in itself, including consensual sex as represented in mainstream porn. Plus, as commenter iamcuriousblue claims, many condemnations of mainstream porn incorporate a "view of masculinity itself as inherently hostile and dangerous" and a tacit claim that male sexuality "needs to be kept on a short leash, where men’s viewing of violent or pornographic media is restricted, either through community pressure or state action, lest the dumb beast of a man get the wrong ideas."

 
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