Let’s begin with a truism. Men love to have sex. Yet there is a second part to that phrase. Men love to have sex, and they hate the people they have sex with.
For convenience’s sake, from this point on, unless otherwise qualified, ‘men’ will refer to heterosexual men. While homosexual men have their own experience it is outside the scope of this piece
Men regard the act of penetration as a violation and insult. An irredeemable taint that can never be expunged.
To find evidence of this, we only need look at two seemingly disparate male behaviours of men confronted by their female partner’s infidelity and male homophobia. Research shows time and time again, that men with unfaithful partners are most concerned by the physical interaction. “How many times? Did you orgasm?”. Once a partner has been penetrated, she is damaged goods. Each man is a master who will exercise his droit du seigneur over the (usually) sole women under his control. Secondly, though more anecdotal is that male homophobia is grounded in the fear of being penetrated. No man lashing out in a gay bar did so because he thought he was being invited to fuck his interlocutor. He did so because he was afraid that he would be put on par with the women that he himself had despoiled. Men in prisons on the other hand are happy to forget their reluctance surrounding male intercourse but only with themselves as the perpetrators. While prison rape is blessedly rare in the UK, A series of accounts of the practice from 2001 in the US highlights how the receiving party becomes marked forever once used in this way, with one (non-homosexual) explaining “I had an officer tell me that ‘faggots like to suck dick, so why was I complaining’.
Having accepted that this is the case, many male behaviours can be understood through this lens. For many men, penises are horrifying weapons that can kill just as well as a knife.
The first question to answer is where does this sense of revulsion come from? What has caused men to ascribe to their pendulous protuberances such power? Might it be an evolutionary hangover? A vestigial fear of raising another man’s child that is tied up with virginity obsession. Might it be a consequence of the status of women in the West? Being a second class citizen and being penetrated have become so entangled in male minds that they can’t be separated.
I would like to suggest a more prosaic answer. Male sexuality, from a young age is not encouraged but rather treated like an objectionable inevitability. Boys will orgasm for the first time, likely in their rooms, watching pornography they are not equipped to understand, ashamed and frightened of being caught. It is not that long since dire warnings of blindness or hairy palms were deployed to prevent onanism and the effects of this still hang over boys. How else can a boy feel about the urges he feels when all of society around him tells him that they are disgusting and should not exist. He learns that his urges are revolting and unable to give up the desires he transfers his disgust onto their object.
The second question to be asked is, what is the effect on men of having a penis like this? When the penis itself is dirty and dangerous, the men who use theirs must contend with the fact that they are complicit in its consequences. Speaking from experience and the experience of men around me, I know the revulsion that can come from one’s own penis.
I can’t count the number of times that I have masturbated. Based on a conservative estimate, beginning at 14 and at a rate of around four times a week, I have masturbated well over 1500 times. Yet, frequently, after the brief orgasmic spasm, I have felt little but disgust for myself. This stems I believe from a similar place to male phallophobia. The pumps of semen that just moments ago brought joy and relief are dirty and foul and like a penis, contaminate what they touch. The male desire to ejaculate on their partners is, in this way, comparable to a dog urinating on a post to mark his turf.
Similarly, after sex, many a man has looked inward and wondered at the drive that has driven him dirty, sweaty and moaning to this point. Once again, we must consider the effect of this on men who are quick to blame their partner for their discomfort.
I have drawn a fairly dark picture of men up to this point but I would not want a reader to miss my objective as either excusing male anger or violence or trying to attract sympathy. Instead I would prefer it to launch us into the discussion of my third question.
How can men get past these feelings and learn to love both themselves and their partners? Imposing as this question is, I do not think that it is a hopeless one. Put simply, men must learn to love both themselves and their penises. Women are accustomed to hearing this but how many men have really explored how their penis works or feels? What about the rest of their body? Too much of male sexuality is currently focused on chasing the brief high of orgasm by thrusting as vigorously as possible. Repeating what they have learnt from masturbation, men are engaging in a short, unfulfilling experience that will satisfy neither them or their partner.
Instead, men that are interested in repairing their connection with their own sexualities should set out time to explore their own bodies. This is a field that has suffered from historical lack of attention but apps such as Kama Labs provide a series of video instructions that can be useful for this purpose. The aim should be to discover how they might feel pleasure without pumping their wrist as fast as possible while watching Californian women being mistreated. Once this is achieved (no mean feat and always a process) men might feel able to come to sex with a more holistic understanding and regard penetration not as a violation or as central to the experience but rather part of a broader experience between two partners.
Find Calum's work on lovingmen.co