Sex & Relationships

Men Who Love Burgers and Loathe Sex

There's an unhappy host of young men who seem to have soured on the mating game -- but why?
Advertisement One: A hunky guy stares at a sexy babe who appears before him -- she seems to crave his attention. He sees she would jump in the sack with him at the slightest encouragement! Yet, in the corner of his eye, he sees a brand-name beer waiting for his pleasure at an adjacent table. The beer wins his complete desire and attention; the foxy lady doesn't stand a chance.

Advertisement Two: A young man repeatedly chooses a big juicy taco over the invitation to score with willing and available girls.

Advertisement Three: Another young man is being observed in a laboratory environment. He is offered the pick between a delicious cheeseburger and a gorgeous, sexually-available wench. Overcome with his good luck, the boy gasps, "You mean I get to chose between a girl and a burger?" After a moment of suspense, he picks the girl. One of the lab observers turns to the other, and remarks, "What an anomaly! -- no one's ever done that before."

Welcome to the new breed of healthy young men who rate sex way beneath their other appetites. In this brave new world, girls are a pain, a disappointment, and rather dangerous to the soul. Self-preserving boys would rather be satisfied with a brew and bit of beef than an erotic tide of reckless passion.

Advertising agencies are capitalizing on our current generation's penchant for irony -- and yet there's a kernel of authentic confession in each of these promotions. There are lots of guys today who have sexually retreated, or soured on the mating game altogether, and you don't have to search out "Miller Time" or Taco Bell to find them.

Traditionally -- say, since the dawn of sexual stereotypes -- men have been the ones who were horny all the time, thinking with the little head instead of the big one; a heterosexual fool for Chantilly Lace and a pretty face. It was women who were supposed to say "no," who put the brakes on erotic interest in favor of their virtue or climb to success.

A woman who made an ass of herself over a sexual affair wasn't unheard of -- but she learned her lesson quickly, with a quick "Rules Girl" kick in the pants to join the feminine ranks of the sexually-reserved and pseudo-chaste.

When feminists and sex researchers started talking about women's sexuality in the 1960s, it became clear that one reason women didn't feel connected to their sexual self interest was because so many of them had never had sexual satisfaction to begin with. Finally, many liberated women spoke up, admitting that they'd never had an orgasm, and didn't know where to begin.

Sex is the one area men are supposed to excel in, by default. Their penis is so obviously "there"; their masturbation practice practically demands itself. They get an added helping of testosterone, and the same amount of encouragement to be virile that girls get to be virgins.

So when we see men today, non-plussed with sexual companionship, is it because they too, are losing their orgasmic pleasure, or because they lack desire altogether?

Let me make a brief caveat that this is not the experience of the majority, but the fact that it even exists as a tiny trend is noteworthy, because it is such a departure from the past. Sure, there are still plenty of horny men who will bark like a dog to get laid, but the big news is that so many young men in particular, are as ambivalent about sex as any pre-orgasmic housewife ever was. Some say that relief from their desire is a thing to envy.

These men say that (a) having erections is not automatic, (b) sexual pleasure can be elusive, and (c) having the drive to "score" is not their birthright. For some of them, coming out of the closet with their erotic alienation is a burden lifted from their balls. That burger is looking damn good.

The sensational event that has made so many unsatisfied men visible is the unbelievable sales of the erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra.

But what's so interesting about Viagra is the number of pills being popped for performance enhancement, not erectile dysfunction. Viagra in this case is used like a one-night insurance policy, a facsimile of a porn-star experience. These users aim for sexual performance the way they never had it. These aren't men looking for dreams of youth, they're youth who've discovered sex, in the prime of their lives, to be disappointing and even humiliating, because their penis didn't "behave" the way they believe it's supposed to, or because the pleasure it afforded them seemed less than the hype.

They aren't doing it for a thrill, they're using the drug to defend their reputations and their lovers' expectations. They know they're expected to produce wood, on contact, and that it won't be pretty if they can't. They fear their lover will feel scorned and unappreciated, and the backlash might get ugly. This anxiety is what promotes their use of Viagra, not their search for ecstatic sex. Not a very erotic or romantic picture, to say the least.

Why is sex problematic for men now, when such a "problem" was only women's in the past?

Sex research about men's erection dysfunction is woefully inadequate -- and Pfizer, Viagra's manufacturer, isn't sharing their trade insights. Instead, what we have is the gossip that has affected many American bedrooms. Ask a single woman who's dating -- and you're likely to get a story from her about how men aren't as sexually yearning, or as aggressive as they used to be. Are they shy, or is it something more? Chastity pledge blues or Paxil script? Ask the married woman who says she doesn't get it on with her husband at all without a dose of "V" in advance. And as for the porn industry- well, don't even ask!

The most alarming possibility as to why cocks are sagging is that something poisonous is in our water -- or our air, or our food -- you take your pick. Anyone who watches the cancer epidemic we're living in, or who takes a look at dropping fertility rates, has had the distinct nightmare that the human race has ensured its own destruction by creating our own ecological putsch.

The silver lining is the sensitivity argument, which would be a kind alternative: that men have had it with women's inane stereotypes about their bodies and minds. After all, men can be turned on without erections; they can achieve orgasm without a raging hard-on, and their emotions and minds are just as tied to their cock as any woman is to her clit.

Many men are exasperated with women thinking that boys can be satisfied with a warm hole and a squeeze. These are the guys who appreciate their own sense of foreplay, they dream of being seduced, and they want to be treated like an individual between the sheets instead of a stroke-by-numbers cartoon. I like this theory as a philosophy, and its feminist impulses. But physically, I don't think it explains our current predicament.

My chief indictment at present, the one we can prove, is Pharmaceutical Abuse. Many of America's favorite medicines depress the libido, and ironically, the most notorious ones are used to treat depression. Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and all the rest have made a lot of people feel "happy" at the expense of feeling horny.

Desire, along with sadness, anger, and other deep feelings, don't feel so pressing anymore with the new mood levelers. Men and women who got rid of their depression have told me that they miss their sex drive, but they find their new contentment to be enough compensation.

What saddens me is that a person would have to choose between their sexual passion and their will to live -- we used to think of those emotions as being part of the same joie de vivre.

And what infuriates me is that young people are being treated with this crap as if their libidos were expendable.

Advertisement Number 4: A group of buddies have gathered at one member's house to watch the big football game. They don't understand where their pal "Doug" is -- he hasn't arrived yet, and they know him to be a true fan. Everyone one of these guys is in their 20s and 30s.

The story cuts to Doug, coming home with groceries and a bouquet of flowers in his arms. He busies himself about the house -- making dinner, plumping pillows -- to delight his wife, who steps in from work a few minutes later. She is utterly enchanted with him, and the music swells with their desire. A voice-over breaks in to tell us how many men don't realize what erectile dysfunction is, or how common it is, and what can be done to treat it.

Meanwhile, back at the football party, we see the dudes shaking their heads and worrying about Doug's no-show. But now we realize, that this is not just a bunch of sports fans -- they're a room of guys who haven't been laid in ages, and it's their decision to refrain from the marriage bed, not their wives'. Pfizer's name flashes on the screen, and the narrator encourages us to contact our physician and ask for details. The name "Viagra" is never mentioned.

I find the spectacle of men's declining sexual self-interest disturbing. I never would have guessed that this would be the threat I'd be confronting thirty years after the modern gender liberation movement began. I'm an advocate for men being sexually sensitive and discriminating, but what I see in the erotic arena is mostly men who feel disconnected from their bodies, from the "dating game," and who feel terribly pessimistic that anything is going to change.

Like women who pine for an erotic revelation, they will often cherish romantic dreams of a "Princess Charming," a lover whose innocent gaze and mind-reading touch would deliver them from their despair and disconnection. Until then, that bit of beef and brew are looking better all the time.
Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018