Thursday, October 29, 2009

Understanding Male Sexuality: Information You Did Not Learn From Your Parents, Your Friends or in Your High School Sex Education Class! (Part III)

No one yet fully understands the mechanism by which sexual preference is ultimately determined, and theories cite genetic and environmental factors, with the theories involving primarily genetic factors gaining increasing support, in part based on studies of identical twins. In addition, the fact that many gays appear to have already determined a sexual preference at a very early age supports theories which suggest only a limited role for the environment and family-related factors. The determination of what is arousing and what is not is not a matter of conscious decision.

Gay men are very much like straight men, except for the fact that the sexual arousal mechanism is primarily if not exclusively triggered by persons of the same sex. Gays are just as mystified by why women trigger the arousal mechanism in straights as straights are mystified by why other men trigger the arousal mechanism in gays. From the gay perspective, it is the straight world that is "abnormal." Interestingly, other than for the problems in dealing with discrimination while living as a gay in a predominately straight world, I have yet to visit with a gay man who has expressed an interest in waking up tomorrow morning as a straight. The vast majority of gay men are not in any way dissatisfied with their sexual preference, which these see as the very essence of their being.

Gays are largely mystified as to why they are treated as they are solely on the basis of their sexual preference. Discrimination against and other acts of hatred toward gay men is a sad component of American culture as well as in cultures of many other countries where treatment by the majority can be even worse than it is here. I have a theory that many of the men who discriminate against and otherwise preach hatred toward gays are themselves struggling with their own inner unresolved conflicts with respect to their own sexual orientation. Acting in anger against gays is a way of dealing with their own anger with regard to inner conflicts about their own sexual preference! Those who cite religious and biblical teaching against gays are on shaky ground as well. First, the biblical passages relating to this topic are not at all clear, and can have many different interpretations. The basic message of
Christianity deals a lot with topics like acceptance, understanding and love, and speaks out boldly on issues such as hatred and discrimination. How anger and discrimination toward gays can be rationalized on the basis of religious doctrine remains a great mystery to me.

Many of the sexual stereotypes of gay men portrayed in the media--that sexual orientation is almost exclusively a sexual attraction--are inaccurate. Complicated story lines are difficult to follow, particularly in a half-hour television show. Many straights (in part, based on media stereotypes) believe that most gay men are really women living in men's bodies, that is, men who would have preferred to be women, if given a choice. I have found that this characterization, popular in the media, to be a description of only a tiny percentage of gays. The vast majority of gay men are very happy being male, have no interest in dressing or acting like women, or undergoing a sex-change operation. Indeed, from all outward appearances, they are indistinguishable from their heterosexual counterparts--except that their sexual arousal mechanism is triggered by persons of the same sex. In our predominantly heterosexual culture, this one tiny difference presents some major issues for our society. Straights often assume that the behavior of all gays is similar to what they see of a few gays in the news media. The vast majority of gays are living lives very similar to men in the straight culture, holding down stable jobs in all types of work and searching for loving, lifelong relationships with a partner--just as straights attempt to do. In terms of length of a same-sex relationship, the gay men who have written me all seemed to be convinced that their relationship is representative of the group as a whole. I have heard a gay man who has been in stable relationships for 20 years and is convinced that this is quite "average" for gay men of his age and normal. I have heard from another gay men who moved in and out of relationships for 20 years with each relationship only lasting
from 6 to 18 months. Interestingly, he was equally convinced that his particular situation represents the "normal" pattern of gay behavior. I conclude that there
are no truly reliable data on this. I do believe, however, based on the conversations I have had with gay men, relationships, on average, tend to be much shorter lived than in the straight community, often measured in weeks or months, but usually not in years. There is apparently some research evidence to suggest, however, that the pattern of short-lived relationships tends to recede as gay men age, just as it does among heterosexuals and that the AIDS epidemic has tended to foster a movement toward more long-term, monogamous relationships among gays.

Sexual Preference: Nature or Nurture?
Is sexual preference largely determined by genetics, or does the environment (i.e. family upbringing) matter? That is an interesting and important question. Twenty years ago, the vast majority of psychologists believed that the environment under which a child grew up played a major role in determining sexual preference. Distant or absent fathers along with overbearing mothers were often blamed for same-sex preferences of, particularly, male children. These theories of an environmental (family) basis for sexual preference have been increasingly discounted by researchers, as more credence has been placed on genetics. But even if genetics plays a major role in determining ultimate sexual preference, the rules under which the genetics laws must work are not simple. Not too many years ago, the laws governing genetic inheritance were viewed by scientists as very simple, largely following rigid rules laid out by Gregor Mendel, a monk who studied genetics by observing characteristics of successive generations of peas, and other plants. Mendel basically concluded that there were dominant and recessive genes, with dominant genes ruling unless the individual inherited recessive genes from both parents. Individuals with but one dominant gene could still transmit recessive genes to their progeny. The inheritance of eye color is an example, with brown eye color being the dominant trait and blue eyes being recessive. If the individual inherited one gene for brown eyes from either parent, the eye color would be brown. Only if both parents provided the blue, recessive gene, then eye color would be blue. These simple rules apply in most instances. But they did not explain the occasional green-eyed person, or the even rarer exception of people with one brown eye and one blue eye. These exceptions to the rigid laws--situations that didn't quite conform to expectations--were often discounted by scientists as being unimportant. But in recent year, these "sloppy" exceptions to the rules have assumed increasingly importance, as more frequently, exceptions to the established laws were discovered. In many instances, for example, the effect of a recessive gene might not be completely masked by the dominant gene. Or, certain combinations of genes may have impacts on the person intermediate between their individual impacts. Eyes are not only brown or blue--they may be slightly brownish or slightly bluish. Or complicated interactions among several different genes may be involved.

Another controversial illustration is the comparative role of cigarette smoking (an environmental factor) and genetics in the development of lung cancer. Many people who smoke heavily all their lives never develop lung cancer. However, many other smokers die of lung cancer, some at a relatively young age. Those who do not develop lung cancer likely have a genetic factor that protects them, or, alternately, those who develop lung cancer have a genetic factor that interacts with the environmental influence (smoking) to result in lung cancer. No one knows for sure, but clearly, the incidence of lung cancer is likely tied to both genetic and environmental factors.

There is increasing evidence pointing to a genetic basis for sexual preference, but just as in the cancer-smoking connection, that doesn't mean that the role of environmental influences can be completely ruled out. The evidence supporting the genetic basis includes (1) work by researchers pointing to a specific gene identified as present in many, if not most, gay men; (2) studies of identical twins which indicate that if one twin is gay the likelihood of the second twin being gay is increased; and (3) studies suggesting physical differences in brain structure between gays and straights. Interestingly, in the case of the identical twin studies, the probability that the second twin is gay if the first twin is gay is not 1.0, despite the fact that both twins inherited the identical genes from their parents.
A simple model would suggest that being straight is the dominant trait (as is having brown eyes) whereas being gay is a recessive trait, from which recessive genes must come from both parents. But that model is far too simple. Only a model that incorporates an incomplete manifestation of genes or complex interaction among genes, would be consistent with all the variations seen in human sexual preference. Further, while there may be a sexual preference programmed into our genetic makeup, the environment could still play a role, just as it likely does in the cigarette smoking-lung cancer connection. A simple Mendel-like model of the inheritance of sexual preference would suggest that nearly everyone would be either straight or gay. In this Mendelian world, virtually all straights would be absolutely disinterested in same-sex activities, and nearly all gays would be totally disinterested in different-sex activities. There would be few, if any, bisexuals. But this does not conform to the real world, and reality instead suggests that there are a lot of people--both men and women, where sexual preference is not clear-cut.
In addition, this opens up the possibility that while genetics may be a factor in determining sexual preference, other environmental factors may still play a role, at least for a portion of the population. It is widely believed and probably well documented that men in prisons, students in single-gender schools etc. tend to engage in more same-sex activities than occurs within the population at large. Interest in same-sex versus different-sex activities is likely, in part, determined by the available options, and part by genetic programming. Further, for some individuals, sexual preference is not static but dynamic, with comparative preferences for same-sex versus different-sex activities changing over time. I am aware not only of married men who are seeking to move into a same-sex relationship instead, but also of men with gay partners who are seeking to dissolve the gay relationship and marry a female lover. So making the assumption that for everyone, sexual preference if rigidly preprogrammed and static oversimplifies the case as well. Psychologists have long known that it is possible many individuals who can be aroused by either same-sex or by different-sex relationships to "develop" either the straight or the gay sides of their personalities and have a degree of control over sexual preference. Thus, the basis (cause) for human sexual preference remains
marvelously complex and interesting. For a different perspective dealing with some of the same issues see the Council for Responsible Genetics website.

Same-Sex Activities
Straight society is often somewhat mystified by the specific sexual activities that gays engage in. Current thinking in psychology is that perhaps as much as one-third of the adult male population has, at one time or another, engaged in some form of same-sex activity leading to orgasm. It's not uncommon, according to psychologists, for boys only recently past puberty to engage in mutual masturbation, or "jerk-off" sessions, with their male friends. Psychologists attach little significance to this sort of same-sex activity in terms of its implications for sexual preference. Psychologists refer to such activity as "incidental homosexuality, and do not necessarily believe that simply because young person, or even an adult man, irregularly engages in such activity that the man is gay.

However, many gay men are also very interested in mutual masturbation sessions where both partners manipulate their own or each other's sex organs. Such activity may involve more than two men. The sex-oriented newsgroups are filled with personal ads from men who are looking for jerk- off partners, and internet newsgroups have largely replace public restrooms for advertising. The true sexual orientation (preference) of many of these men can be ambiguous.

Some men appear to attach no more significance to the activity than, say, going out for beer and a pizza, and simply treat it as an enjoyable way to spend an evening. I've visited with married men who occasionally "go out with the boys" to engage in mutual masturbation. These men claim to very much enjoy sex with their wives as well, have no intentions of leaving their wives, and simply regard the jerk-off sessions as a different and interesting sexual activity. In the instances I am aware of, the wives are unaware of what goes on when the husband has a night out with the boys. Another common activity is watching erotic videotapes while engaging in mutual masturbation by male friends. Oral sex among gay couples is the next step, although even here some psychologists regard the oral sex as simply another manifestation of incidental homosexuality that does not provide sufficient evidence that the men involved are gay.

Anal intercourse is the type of sexual activity many psychologists regard as only taking place between men who are gay. This view, however, is by no means universally held. Some recent research suggests that anal intercourse ranks only third (behind mutual masturbation and oral sex) as the favored activity among gays. Of course, the AIDS epidemic and the subsequent emphasis on safe(r) sex has substantially changed not only the views of gays about activities such as anal intercourse but also the comparative frequency of the various activities, so data collected in recent research may have (undoubtedly has) changed substantially from that collected 5 or 10 years ago. Straights were initially confused by the spread of AIDS within the gay
community. Most straights assumed that gays primarily engaged in activities such as mutual masturbation which posed virtually no risk of disease transmission. The speed by which AIDS moved through the gay community strongly suggested to straights that anal intercourse was a favored sexual activity for many, if not most, gays. Why anal intercourse ever assumed such an important role in the gay community remains something of a mystery to me, in particular because the rectum and the penis are not designed to fit together very well. Gay couples have written to me to describe in detail some of the difficulties they were having with anal intercourse and complaining that the sensations they were experiencing in anal intercourse were not very interesting. The rectum is just a hollow tube, and contains no structure that plugs the end as the cervix does in the woman. Still, many gay couples appear to regard anal intercourse as a very necessary part of the relationship. This is the one activity that straight men probably have the most difficulty understanding and dealing with.

Sadly, since anal intercourse is the primary mechanism by which the AIDS virus is transmitted between gays, it is undoubtedly responsible for the vast majority of cases. While the AIDS virus can be transmitted via oral sex, the probability of transmission is very low, and would usually require open sores in the mouth. The rectum is very fragile and is easily torn in anal intercourse. Thus, anal intercourse can provide an excellent path for the transmission of the AIDS virus
from semen to blood and from blood to penis. The fact that many gay relationships tend to be fragile and short-lived, that anal intercourse was a favored sexual activity for many gays, and the easy transmission of the AIDS virus through the rectum has in large measure been responsible for the AIDS epidemic among the gay community. There are many sexual activities that gays could (and increasingly do) enjoy which would pose essentially zero risk of disease transmission--mutual masturbation, sex play involving clothing, sex toys and the like.

Male Sexuality Issues in Heterosexual Relationships
In sexual pleasure, do relationships matter? Of course! Relationships are not the key to sexual happiness, but for most men, they are certainly a key to sexual happiness. In re-reading this paper, I began to think that many of the discussions contained herein, while accurate, were treating some of the sexuality issues in a relationship void. I do not consider myself to be an expert on relationships. However, I hope that some observations I am making here about relationships might prove useful to others. For both men and women, much of what we learn about the members of he opposite sex is acquired in the early years of post-pubescence, that is, the early teenage years. Much of this information, if not wrong, certainly contains elements of inaccuracy. Teenagers spend a good deal of time not only developing the requisite social skills but also discovering their own and their friends' sexuality. The values and beliefs developed in the teenage years about the
opposite sex are often carried into adulthood with little modification. Teenage girls quickly become convinced that teenage boys are constantly thinking about sex. This observation is probably not far from accurate. At the same time, they become convinced that the number one objective of the vast majority of teen-age males is "scoring".

Many teenage males quickly come to the conclusion that the young women expect them to behave this way, and they are often more than happy to comply with these expectations. Somehow, it's unmasculine to not try to encourage a date to have sex. Young women quickly begin to believe that young men, as a group are crude boars, and insensitive to the more subtle parts of a relationship. Early on, young women become convinced that the only part of a relationship that matters to men is the sex part. The notion of sensitivity and caring somehow get lost in the process. So both men and women enter adulthood with some real misconceptions about sexuality and the role of sex in a relationship. Young men often fear that anything that borders on sensitivity will be interpreted as being somehow "unmasculine" and thus represent inappropriate behavior for a "real" man. Women believe that the only part of intimacy that matters to men is the sexual intercourse part,

Some couples never really get beyond these misconceptions. They muddle through life never really getting what either partner wants out of a relationship. Men don't really like being viewed by their partners as insensitive clods, but many do not know where or how to begin to change. Parents often provide role models in this regard, and young men who grew up in a family where the father was sensitive and caring to the needs and wishes of the mother--sexual and non-sexual--are at a great advantage in developing the requisite skills. Young women who have had the advantage of observing their parents loving and sensitive relationship are also at a significant advantage over those who grew up in families where the relationship is weaker or less stable. Why is all of this important? Simply put, sex is a good deal more enjoyable in a loving and caring relationship, and this is true for both men and women. John Gray became a best-selling author with his book Men are from Mars: Women are from Venus. The popularity of this and subsequent books stems primarily from some basic truths Gray was able to articulate so well.

In his book, Gray argues, not surprisingly, that men and women are very different with respect to their sexual and non-sexual needs and desires, and thus bring very different ideas about relationships to the table. Clearly, most men probably see intercourse as being far more important to their overall happiness than most women do. But these differences extend to non-sexual matters as well. Men see themselves as "problem solvers" in a relationship, not as sympathizers. If a women faces a problem involving a co-worker, for example, the male partner (husband), often believes that in order to make the woman feel better, the problem must be solved. In reality, what the woman is often looking for is not a solution to her problem, but rather expressions of caring sympathy. Phrases such as "You were mistreated and I can see why you are angry with the co-worker." may be far more successful than a sincere attempt to try to help her deal with the co-worker. Worst of all is to belittle the problem by saying "I don't think that's serious enough for you to be concerned or upset about it." In a relationship, that kind of help is asking for trouble.

Women often believe the myth that the only thing men enjoy about sex is intercourse. Foreplay is just something men put up with to please the woman. I hope that my foregoing discussions have helped explode that myth. But men believe some myths too. The first myth is that women don't enjoy sex nearly as much as men do, but sometimes "put up with it" to please their partners. It is true that the vast majority of women se the sexual act as part of a "package" deal. Sex is but one of many components of a worthwhile relationship. Most women would probably rate caring and sensitivity in a loving relationship as being far more important than the sex act itself. But its not true that most women feel only so-so about sex. There are many women who see sex as a very important part of the overall package.

So the package deal of a relationship for women involves a lot of things: a loving and caring relationship, perhaps a family, home, a big dining room table--that is, all the signals that suggest a stable, caring and protected environment. With the possible exception of the big dining room table, men want these things in a relationship too. The rankings may be different, but, in general, the same items are "on the list" for men too.

So, what's a man to do? Showing some sensitivity towards the female partner would be a good start. This is why florists have become wealthy selling long-stem roses. This sensitivity is important both in and out of a sexual setting. Strong relationships begin with both partners sending strong signals that they care for each other. Relationships are not built of the sizes of breasts and penises. Most men are far less concerned about breast size than women believe. Analogously, most women are not nearly as concerned about the size of an erect penis as men believe. These are leftover myths from adolescence.

In short, relationships are built on three words: sensitivity, caring and communication. That's how love develops. It's really all quite simple-- but at the same time, marvelously complex. Sex without these three factors is dull and meaningless. So, how does a man show to a woman that he is sensitive and caring. Communications is critical. John Gray is on the right track. A caring relationship is defined by both compassion and concern. Women don't marry men in order to have someone to solve their problems. They are searching for someone who can sympathize with their situation, whatever it is. In addition, expressions that indicate the man is thinking continually about the woman always earn high marks. Women are actually "turned on" by these expressions that indicate a caring love. And the sex will be better because of this. Many men are quite dysfunctional when it comes to revealing a sensitive side. In a sexual relationship, men are often unwilling to talk about what "feels good" to them, or that by asking the woman about what feels good to her, that somehow the myth of the "magnificent lover" will be exploded. Adolescent boys often like to act as if they learned all their was to know about how to make a woman happy at age 15, and frequently bring these views into the adult relationship.
I believe that men who are considered by women to be "great lovers" did not achieve this because of their skills at physical techniques. Great lovers become great because they are willing to communicate with women about exactly how they want to be touched without any embarrassment. In this regard, the man who considers himself to be "less experienced" with "more to learn" may actually be more successful in the lovemaking department than the man who claims to already know everything there is to know about lovemaking. The less experienced man will likely want to communicate with his partner on a continuous basis during the lovemaking session. Interestingly, the ability to communicate needs and feelings during intimate sexual activity often helps build better communication skills in non-sexual areas as well, solidifying the relationship in total. At minimum, this is certainly something to ponder. Sex without a caring, loving relationship is no sex at all!

Male Sexuality: Information for Single, Unattached Men
The issue of male sexuality as it relates to single, unattached men who are not having sexual relations with a partner has always been an interesting one to me. Some men are single by choice: others are single as a result of uncontrollable events that have taken place in their lives. Among those who are single by uncontrollable events that have taken place in their lives are those who are divorced or widowed, and some who are disabled. There are also those who for,
whatever reason, choose not to find a partner for sexual relations. Some men simply prefer a life of being single and unattached: others choose an occupation such as becoming a Catholic Priest, which requires a vow of celibacy. Being in this situation is a problem only if the man believes it is a problem. I have talked to a lot of single, unattached guys. Most, though not all, view this as a transitory phase of heir lives, and expect to at some future point to find a sexual partner. Some, however, see living single and unattached as essentially a permanent situation, and they have no particular interest in finding a sex partner. Some people might argue that many of those who fall in the latter category have low sex drives, that is, they are not driven by the same sexual chemistry which dominates society, but this is clearly not true in all cases. Another category of men who face an interesting set of issues are those who, by virtue of their occupational choices, must be away from their sexual partner for long periods of time for business or other work related travel. The media stereotype is that many, if not most of these men have sexual partners waiting for them at the locales where they are working away from home. Obviously, this describes the behavior of some men, but not the majority, I believe. I've observed that the vast majority of divorced men quickly enter into a sexual relationship with another woman, this despite the psychological turmoil as a
result of the divorce. Very few divorced men remain divorced for very long. However, I've also observed that a significant number of divorced women remain single, far more so than is true for men. While these women may have the opportunity to engage in sexual relations with men while they are single, I'm convinced that the real explanation lies in the differences in how the sex drive works in men versus women. Men are likely to see intercourse as being of major importance to their lives: Women, however, see intercourse as just one component of what a relationship is all about, and if the other components are not there, there is no point in sexual intimacy. So women who do not find the other things they are looking for in a relationship generally stay single. For women, sex is very enjoyable, but not so enjoyable that its worthwhile even when the other conditions necessary for intimacy have not been met. besides, if the other conditions have not been met, sex is not even that enjoyable for most women. John Gray puts it this way: men want to feel needed--women want to feel cherished. That's a good way of describing the differences. Widowed men are another interesting category, usually older than divorced men, Healthy, active widowers have demographics in their favor. Women tend to live longer than men, and there is always a big selection of widows seeking healthy, active males for companionship. Thus, a widower in good health is likely to have many potential partners to choose from.

Much of what goes on within the Catholic priesthood with respect to male sexuality remains a mystery to me. Not only do Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, the Catholic church continues to have very "traditional" attitudes toward birth control, masturbation etc. But Catholic priests do have "housekeepers" and I am aware of an instance where a live-in housekeeper provided services that went well beyond cleaning the rectory. How commonplace this is, however, I have no idea, as Catholic priests have not exactly been writing to the "Male Sexuality Questions Answered " web page. As a practical matter, the Catholic Church's position on issues such as masturbation and birth control is sadly outdated. According to one of my readers, materials supplied to adolescents by the Catholic Church indicates that the Church regards a "wet dream" as normal, that is, not sinful. That is certainly good to know! My medical guide's assertion cited earlier that "every viable male should have a periodic release of sperm" in order to maintain good general health gives pause
for concern about the general health of priests who follow the doctrine of the Church to the letter. I would welcome additional letters that are able to fill in some of the details as to what actually goes on here.

Men who are away from their wives or other sexual partners for long periods of time face a special set of problems. Most men, in their 20s and older, I believe, gradually adopt an increasingly "regular" schedule for orgasms, the average probably being about every 2-3 days (though I get many letters from men who claim to be on a long-term schedule far more frequently than that). Once his schedule gets set in place, most men deviate from it only infrequently. Illness & stress may have an impact on the schedule, however. Business travel is a form of stress. While sexual partners at travel locations are not uncommon, I suspect that is not the primary sexual outlet for most of these men "away from home." Masturbation, or even mutual masturbation with the wife (or other "at home" sexual partner), over the phone is probably quite common. I would be interested in hearing more from married men, in particular, who are willing to talk about this. Every man seems to work out an individualized system that works in his special situation.

Men without sexual partners who are living with family members (parents, roommates etc.) face special problems. Masturbation is probably the primary sexual outlet, but masturbation cannot be pursued with abandon if the man is constantly concerned about being "discovered by a roommate or a family member." This sometimes makes it difficult to establish a regular "schedule" and in general getting adequate time to really "enjoy" the activity. I have visited with many gay men who do not have sexual partners. While there clearly is a subset of gay society that is hopping from one partner to another, my e-mail indicates that this is probably no different from the sub-set of the straight population that is doing the same thing with female partners. Gays are just as varied in personality, outlook, and attitudes toward sexuality as are straights. In looking for stable, long-term relationships, many gays go through periods of their lives in which they have no sexual partners. Gay men deal with this situation the same way straight men do: then tend to masturbate a lot. One difference I note is that the gays I have visited with are much more open with respect to not only admitting this but also in describing the specific techniques they use. Furthermore, gays seem to be a good deal more creative with respect to thinking up new and exciting methods. Straight men tend to be hung up on the notion that if they mention this, whoever they talk to won't regard them as "real" (that is, straight) men, and so it's best not to say anything. Gays frequently trade information with each other about interesting masturbation techniques, seeing this as simply a manifestation of their overall interest in other men (newsgoups that cater to gays are filled with this information: Straights seldom trade such information, for fear of how their interest might be interpreted by others. After all, they don't want to be called "jerk-offs," a very derogatory term! As a result, straights generally lack the information on masturbation techniques gays routinely trade. Men who remain single and choose to avoid sexual relations make this choice for a variety of reasons. Any intimate relationship, to a certain degree, is manipulative. While men manipulate women, women, on average, are probably more adept at psychologically manipulating men to get what they want. This goes right back to the "sex is just part of a larger package of need" that provides an
overall explanation for female attitudes and behaviors toward men. Women's magazines are filled with articles that help women develop techniques for getting what they want from men. The issue is not the question of whether women manipulate men. (This sounds chauvinist, but they do! Remember, however, I also said that men manipulate women to get what men want, so at least I'm a "fair" chauvinist). Rather, the issue is how individual men react to the female manipulation. A lot of married men regularly complain to their male friends that they are being psychologically manipulated by their wives. But individual men react and deal with this differently. Many men see the manipulation as simply the "price" they must pay in order to get what they want out of the relationship (for example, sex). These men don't even realize that this is (or was) a choice they made. For many men, this psychological manipulation by their female partners is so much an every day part of their lives that they no longer even think of it as psychological manipulation. Other men "fight back" to a certain degree, by refusing to do the things their wives suggest. But this strategy is fraught with dangers. Many women are very adept at withholding "important things" in an effort to regain control over what they regard as a deteriorating situation. The men who fight back too strongly or too frequently generally end up in divorce court.

Many men who remain single and who choose not to have intimate relations with a woman simply conclude that the price of intimacy (that is, a lifetime of female manipulation) is too large a price to pay. Everything comes down to a simple choice. Is it worth it to give up the freedom of a single life in order to find sexual intimacy? While most men say yes, some men conclude no. There is nothing wrong with that. But to compensate, these men may take masturbation activities to a higher level than their counterparts who have made other choices. With time and privacy available, why not experiment a bit! Keeping the sexual equipment in good order is an excellent idea for good general health as well. Perhaps I'm being a bit unkind here, but every man has the opportunity to make these choices. Many men make them without even fully recognizing the options that are available. Sexual intimacy is an explicit choice to be made.

Male Sexuality In the 21st Century: Where Do We Go from Here?
Sexuality issues change with each generation. In the 1950s and 60s, it was the development and increasing use of the birth control pill, making premarital sex increasingly widespread. This evolved into the free love culture of the 1970s. Sexually transmitted diseases were of no particular concern, because they could be controlled by ever more powerful antibiotics and other miracle drugs being developed. Anything was possible! Sex could be had without love or guilt. AIDS changed all of that. Suddenly free love was far more problematic. The 80s became a decade of increasingly sober attitudes toward sex, for both men and women. The
miracle drugs were not all they claimed to be.

Other changes have gradually occurred over the past three or four decades. The divorce rate gradually increased. Fewer and fewer children grow up in families were both parents are present. Fewer still grow up in families where the parents are in a loving, caring stable relationship. What chance do these children have in developing loving, caring relationships themselves? Certainly less of a chance on average, than children growing up in stable relationships. Other hot-button issues appear to be increasing concern. Despite the widespread availability of birth control measures, the abortion rate is still very high. Illegitimate births are up, even in states widely known for conservative values. The groups opposed to homosexual rights and the groups attempting to protect and increase homosexual rights under the law are shouting at each other. Religious groups that preach love and acceptance of every other kind of sin often appear to place homosexuality in a special place. Ours is a throw-away society. Both parents increasingly work, and family meals consist of take-out pizza on paper plates. Instead of buying an automobile with the intent of changing oil regularly and keeping it in top running condition for ten years or more, automobiles are leased, and traded in after three years. The notion of stability and continuity is lost. The same is true of relationships.

Instead of couples attempting to make repairs in relationships, they simply divorce and try again with someone else. Fragile relationships are consistent with a hedonistic, throw-away society with a focus on immediate fun rather than long term well-being. Perhaps we should be encouraged that divorce in now considered to be socially acceptable not a negative mark. Perhaps many more couples in the 1950s and 60s were living in unacceptable relationships that were held together only because
of the social stigma attached to divorce. Perhaps. But somehow, I doubt it. As the millennium approaches, these issues are not going to go away. Some of them may actually increase in comparative importance. The issues surrounding abortion and homosexual rights, for example, have become so emotional on both sides that I see little potential for progress. And the rhetoric gets increasingly strident, as each group attempts to shout down the group they disagree with.

But there is hope. I am increasingly optimistic that adolescents are getting more solid information about sexuality than ever before. But I too worry about access to information that is inaccurate or misleading. When I set up this web site, I was somewhat concerned by the possibility that some teenagers would get access to information here that they somehow shouldn't have. I considered an elaborate system of electronic "gates" warning of the explicit content of some of the material discussed here. But I finally concluded that there was nothing on this web site that was inappropriate for anyone to know. This site is not easy to find. To find it, you
have to be proficient at using the internet and the currently available search engines. Anyone smart enough to find the site is old enough to read its contents. I know some parents worry about their children's access to sex-related materials. I've heard from them. But in many ways, the internet is a far safer and better way to learn about sex than the traditional sources. And the information is likely more accurate too. So I'm reasonably confident that ever brighter teenagers will go into
relationships better informed than ever before. Information leads to responsibility. Information is also valuable in developing understanding and reducing prejudices, regardless of who they directed toward or for what specific reason. So, in the end, I'm hopeful. And I'm hopeful that increased availability of frank, open information will be valuable in smoothing out the rough spots in adult relationships as well. We will see...

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