A topic within sexual health that is often misunderstood and not spoken about is men’s sexual health and men’s sexual functioning. As sexual health in general is being spoken about more and becoming less stigmatized (WOO!), there still seems to be some gaps in educating men on how their body, their feelings, and their relationship with their partner are all intertwined. We are doing men, as well as the general population, a giant disservice by not talking enough about male sexuality and men’s sexual health. It’s important to create space for men to understand their own sexual health and functioning, especially outside the stereotype of men just wanting sex and not having emotions (helloooo Toxic Masculinity!).
If you are a man or someone with male genitalia and you are experiencing low desire, trouble maintaining erections, ejaculating sooner or later than wanted, or feel ashamed about your sexual health or sexual functioning, you are not alone! All of the above concerns and feelings are completely normal, and almost all men experience them at some point in their lives (even starting as early as in their teens, 20s, and 30s). I’m happy to debunk some myths about male sexuality. Here are just a few of them:
1. Men are always horny or want sex all the time.
Men are not sex robots. Shocking, I know. Men are human beings who experience stress, exhaustion, low libido, anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, body image issues, and so forth. And sometimes, that means they do not want to have sex, and that’s absolutely OK. Many of us get the message from media and pop culture that men are always horny and down for sex, which is a message that women internalize too. If you aren’t in the mood to be sexual, that’s OK! It doesn’t mean you’re less of a man or there’s anything wrong with you. It also doesn’t mean that you are no longer attracted to your partner. It means you’re a human being who’s allowed to have fluctuations in desire and arousal.
2. If you’re experiencing ED (especially when you’re young) there must be something wrong with you.
It’s common to experience erectile dysfunction when you’re young. Most people equate trouble with erections with being middle-aged or elderly, not someone in their 20s and 30s. In reality, most men will experience a period of trouble with erections or rapid or delayed ejaculation at some point. And this is absolutely OK. If you’re struggling with ED, it’s very important to consult your doctor in addition to seeing a therapist. Seeing your primary care doctor or a urologist will help rule out medical issues, which may include issues with blood flow, testosterone levels, heart disease, diabetes and even sleep disorders. If you see a doctor and they tell you there’s no medical issue, it’s important to see a sex therapist or therapist with training in treating sexual health concerns. A therapist can help you understand the mind/ body connection as well as tools such as mindfulness exercises and cognitive behavioral therapy methods to help manage anxiety and stress better. Basically, we teach you how to challenge your negative self-talk, make your behaviors more in-line with your self-care and connecting with your partner, and let yourself feel whatever feelings your having. Pretty straight-forward, right?
3. Men don’t have feelings and if they did have feelings, those feelings would never impact their sexual functioning. (Insert major eye roll.)
This is probably the most unhelpful and frankly dangerous myth of all. Men, as crazy as this may sound: you have feelings and you are an emotional person. Take a minute to really take that in. When your feelings aren’t being expressed, acknowledged, or processed, guess what? They still live in your body. And even more so, they impact your health, which also means your sexual health. When you bottle up your feelings, especially within a romantic relationship, that can absolutely impact your sexual functioning. An important aspect of our work in sex therapy is learning how to understand and express your emotions, especially to a partner. Take away point: you have emotions, your emotions are valid, and you deserve to have those emotions acknowledged and validated.
Many of the men I work with say they feel like a failure due to sexual functioning concerns. If you are feeling this way, you are not alone nor are you the only person experiencing this. You are not a failure. Myths about sexuality and sexual health are so dangerous and harmful and cause stress and disconnection within a relationship. Once we understand that these are myths and these are normal health issues that many people face, you’ll be more equipped to understand your body and get treatment. There is absolutely no shame in seeking out psychotherapy to help understand how your own stress, emotions, and body are impacting your sexual health and sexual functioning.
~ Rebecca Hirsch, LMFT