Why Men Are So Obsessed with Sex.

Via Steve Bearman
on Oct 13, 2013
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coffee sex

This man is obsessed with coffee.

Have you ever encountered a baby whose gender is unknown to you?

Not knowing can feel profoundly uncomfortable. We barely realize how great the differences are in how we treat male and female people, and in what we expect of them. These differences are by no means subtle, but they are so much the air we breathe that we can’t even see them. We have almost no experience of relating to human beings not on the basis of their gender. If we did, we would be at ease with someone whose gender we didn’t know. Instead, the first question we ask about a new person in the world is whether it’s a boy or a girl. Maybe if we can’t tell the babydifference, it’s because there isn’t one!

Nonetheless, from the moment of our birth, if not earlier, we are treated as gendered beings. We are not merely considered to have a gender, we are conditioned to have it. Moment by moment, day by day, and persistently over long stretches of time, the ways boys and girls get treated shape their identities. And the way boys learn to be male almost inevitably leads them directly to some kind of obsession with sex as they grow older.

Isolating Boys

All babies are considered okay to smooch and squeeze and hold close, female or male, but when they get old enough, boys stop being held and cuddled and stroked. If they reach out to adults for intimacy, we refuse them in the name of “self-sufficiency.” Though this promotes independence, it does so at the cost of intimacy.

This isolation is reinforced by early sexist conditioning. Boys are taught that they are different from, and better than, girls, even that they should shun or hate girls. If they are fortunate enough to escape this particular piece of the conditioning and continue to have equal relationships with girls, they are quickly marked as “sissies” and called “girls” themselves. Loving or tender relationships with other boys get them similarly marked as “faggots” and put them in danger of violence and being ostracized.

Instead, boys are encouraged to develop relationships with other boys that are primarily competitive: playing sports, jockeying for higher rank in social hierarchies such as teams, clubs, and later on, gangs and fraternities. These groups boxeroften come together to do violence to other groups, either by “beating” them in competitions or in less symbolic forms of violence.

In the armies in which so many of the world’s men at some point participate, we learn to kill and to be prepared to go down fighting, and this model repeats itself in gang wars of all kinds. These violence-based communities fulfill some of our needs for companionship and connection, when nothing gentler is available, and so they may not seem to contribute to male isolation.

However, competitive and adversarial groups offer solidarity within the group at the cost of turning everyone else into an enemy. They breed fear of other people, even of the others within our group, with whom we also must compete for rank. We may not be alone when among the group members, but the internal isolation is intense. Relationships between group members buckle and break from the pressure of having to defend, protect, and prove ourselves. This is very different from the nurturing ease and satisfaction of a mutual, equal, fear-free relationship.

A systematic enterprise of denied contact, humiliation and name-calling, being ostracized, sexist conditioning, homophobia, competition, and training for violence leaves boys more and more on their own. This habit of being “on our own” becomes familiar. Isolation is a piece of the heritage of our conditioning as boys that we carry with us into our manhood.

This description of male conditioning will not exactly match every boy’s experiences. But certain factors are almost universally present in one form or another for boys growing up in our present society. Isolation is one of three primary factors in our early conditioning that later leaves us vulnerable to sexual obsession.

Suppressing Boys’ Feelings

Young people naturally seek out other people for help and support when they are faced with painful feelings. When they get hurt, feel scared, become outraged or embarrassed, frustrated or sad, they seek and expect attention. The loving attention of another human being is necessary to feel these feelings and to heal the hurts that caused them.

sad boyThe isolation of boys keeps them from seeking out the attention they need, prevents them from even believing it’s okay to ask for help. They are left to deal with feelings themselves. Even worse, they are loaded down with messages that feelings are not something “real men” experience. They learn that, “Big boys don’t cry.” The process of crying is interrupted, and the tears are responded to by being ignored, laughed at, or answered with threats of violence.

Being scared is yet another thing boys are told threatens their maleness. They are expected to leap into any activity, no matter how dangerous or unfamiliar, without appearing fearful. Other feelings are in similar ways denied them, and they quickly learn that expressing emotions actually makes their situation worse.

Over time, the only ways boys keep from showing their feelings is to train themselves not to feel them, to dull their awareness of their own experience, numb themselves to emotions. In the course of doing so, they decrease their ability to feel any feelings, joyful, painful, or otherwise. At the same time we become disconnected from other people, we are cut off from our own feelings.

Desensitizing Boys’ Bodies

As a subset of all the feelings we are forced to numb ourselves to, we “lose touch” with how our bodies feel. We learn, sometimes literally, to harden ourselves against pain, strain, and physical effort. The training to “act like a man” is present when young boys are encouraged to ignore physical injuries, not to cry, to bear the pain and go on as if nothing happened. This is exactly the training needed to convince men to work ourselves to the point of abuse, in both the workforce and the military.

The sensuality of being alive in our bodies, aware of our senses, and breathing full breaths has been written off as an unmale attribute. Sensuality has been replaced with routine. Though we notice extremes, we are unable to perceive subtleties of feeling. Tenderness and gentleness, subtle and slow as they are, have been lost. Born into bodies marvelously equipped to feel, we are forced to shut down and accept numbness.

Is Sex the Answer?

This description may sound quite extreme. Yet it is only a picture of what is considered normal to impose on boys, manwhat we take for granted. We don’t like to believe ourselves to be in such an extreme state. We think anything we made it through must not have been that bad. If it doesn’t seem, as men, that we have been so separated from each other, from women, from our feelings or our bodies, this may be because we have lost our memory of being that integrated, that connected.

For most of us, the joy that is possible in our daily lives is so outside the scope of our experience that we have difficulty even imagining it. So consider here for a moment that most men alive have been through some form of this systematic conditioning. What happens to human beings who have been, since early in life, isolated from intimate connections with other people, cut off from their own feelings, and numbed to bodily awareness?

There was a time when we could perceive a loss of vividness, when it was clear that what was being offered us in our adult lives was far less than the abundance we knew was possible. As we stood facing the possibility that we would have to cope with the loneliness of isolation, the emptiness of lost feeling, the dullness of disembodiment, just then, intimacy, passion, and sensuality were all offered back to us in one, solitary form.

Sex, we were told, is the answer. Everything you have lost can be found through sex. But here’s the catch: sex is the only way you can get it back! Imagine yourself in this scenario. The urgent need to pursue sex would bear down with great pressure.

Adolescent boys are exposed to a social imperative to get laid in order to prove their maleness, long before they even know what “getting laid” means. They are bombarded with sexual images through television, advertising, and pornography. These images are very compelling, somehow conveying to them that the great mystery of life can be experienced through sex.

Every story of “true love” in the cultural mythology implies that relationships are built on sex, that sex consummates love, that feeling sexual feelings is the same as being in love. Directly and indirectly, we are handed sexuality as the one vehicle through which it might still be possible to express and experience essential aspects of our humanness that have been slowly and systematically conditioned out of us.

Sex was, and is, presented as the road to real intimacy, complete closeness, as the arena in which it is okay to openly love, to be tender and vulnerable and yet remain safe, to not feel so deeply alone. Sex is the one place sensuality seems to be permissible, where we can be gentle with our own bodies and allow ourselves overflowing passion. Pleasure and desire, vitality and excitement, seemingly left behind somewhere we can’t even remember, again become imaginable.

This is why men are so obsessed with sex. We are born sensual creatures with an unlimited capacity to feel and an effortless propensity to deeply connect with all human beings. We are then subjected to continuous conditioning to repress sensuality, numb feelings, ignore our bodies, separate from our natural closeness with our fellow humans. All of these human needs are then promised to us by way of sex and sexuality.

This is an effective lure because sexuality genuinely can be a potent source of love and pleasure, intimacy, sensuality, and beauty. But in no way can sex completely fulfill these needs. Such needs can only be fulfilled by healing from the effects of male conditioning and suffusing every area of our lives with relatedness and aliveness.

From Passion to Obsession

It’s as if a being of extraordinary power and passion had been reduced and dulled and diminished over many years. The memory of passion was put to slumber deep within this being, and the being walked through life with an elusive sense of something missing, something wrong.

One day, a billboard appeared, and on that billboard, surrounded by images of naked bodies and erotic acts, were the words “passion available here!” So excited was this being to get at even the possibility of passion, which he could feel awakening deep within, that he rushed impulsively forward, never taking the time to read the small print at the bottom of the ad. This is what the small print said:

If you follow this path, be prepared on your way to reawakening passion to pass through a land called Obsession. Be aware that most men never make it out the other side. Sex, which will feel like the answer to your loneliness and deadness, will turn out to reinforce those feelings. You will come to feel more alive when thinking about or engaged in sex than at almost any other time. When you do Billboardexperience sex, you may come closer to another human being than you can remember ever being.

Sensing the safety to do so, you will begin to care deeply, and to feel all the joy and pleasure and every other feeling that has been trapped inside of you for so long, including all the fear you have never been safe enough to feel. And so the closer you get, the more scared you will feel. And you will find ways to pull back, and you will begin to believe that it is not safe and that you are just as alone as you have always felt. You will come to blame your partner or yourself for the inadequacy and for the inability of sex to make you back into the great, vulnerable, courageous, and free being you were born to be. But because some taste, some glimpse is available through sex, you will be driven to seek it out as the solution to your life-sized dilemma. I

If you escape the self-condemnation of sexual repression, you will desperately search for new kinds of sexual contact, real or imagined, to make you feel whole or to make you feel anything at all. But no matter how much sex you encounter, it will not be enough to fill your enormous need to love and be close and express your passion and delight in your senses and feel life force coursing through your muscles and your skin. All sexual desire will become tainted with your desperation. Passion and desperation will begin to seem one and the same. You will be Obsessed.

Sex quickly becomes addictive for most men. Like all addictions, it offers what feels like temporary relief from difficult circumstances, only to leave us more thoroughly immersed in those circumstances, and feeling as if more of it is the only way to even come up for air. Even if we do not engage compulsively in anonymous casual sex, pornography, masturbation, or fetishistic attempts to recover what has been forgotten, sex nevertheless takes on an addictive character.

When we automatically fantasize about sex and sexualize people we meet in passing, when we are sexually engaged and feel an urgent need to have intercourse, to “get off”, to orgasm at all cost, we are being driven by these addictive impulses. It is difficult to accept that such attempts to get back what we’ve lost will always ultimately fail. Even if we accept it, we can’t find our way out.

An addiction this persistent occurs for very definite reasons, and until those reasons are addressed, escaping the addiction may not be possible. In the absence of healing, the addiction serves necessary functions.

Men are frequently believed to be fundamentally malevolent and untrustworthy, particularly because of our “uncontrollable” sexual desires. In light of the compulsive form sexuality often takes, we attempt to repress all of it. Yet repression is exactly the wrong idea. If sex really is one of the few areas of our lives where we can still feel, can still tell that another person is actually there with us, can still sense the joy of inhabiting a body, then repressing sexuality, vilifying it, or sublimating it into work, plugs up one of the few remaining springs of vitality.

Repression is not the solution. Repression is, in fact, the origin of the problem, and additional repression squelches our vitality even further. Passion, not repression, is our greatest ally in the battle to liberate our complete humanity. The message being offered us by our sexual obsession is that we are reaching for something we know we so badly need.

The passion and the desire for closeness behind the obsession are our guides, despite the fact that they have kept us isolated when followed without reflection or awareness. Sexual obsession, when turned inside out, holds the key to our liberation.

Reclaiming Our Full Humanity

My vision for myself and for all men is that we reclaim every piece of our humanity that has been denied us by our conditioning. Obsession with sex can be healed when we reclaim all the essential aspects of the human experience embracethat we have learned to manage without: our affinity for one another, caring connections with people of all ages and backgrounds and genders, sensual enjoyment of our bodies, passionate self-expression, exhilarating desire, tender love for ourselves and for one another, vulnerability, help with our difficulties, gentle rest, getting and staying close with many people in many kinds of relationships.

If sex makes us feel more alive or less alone than anything else, this is an indication that vitality and closeness are glaringly missing from every other part of our lives. Because of the nature of male hurts, our healing requires that we get in close, and stay close, with other men and women whom we choose as our allies and to whom we choose to show ourselves. It requires that we move back into our bodies and care for them deeply.

Because we have been alienated from other people, our feelings, and our bodies, we must now reclaim each of these in order to take back our humanness, and in doing so, end the desperation and the lack that keeps us obsessed.

The instruction manual for men reclaiming our full humanity, recently unearthed, contains the following highlights.

Reclaim Intimacy: Begin by directing the unconditional, loving admiration you used to reserve for people you’re attracted to, outward toward all kinds of people in all kinds of relationships. Start ten new kinds of relationships with people you never imagined could be your dearest friends and most dependable allies. Who are the people in your life who are ready to receive your trust and vulnerability? Give your trust to them and ask the same in return.

Since there are no limits to the closeness possible with another person, what fears do you have to face to get even closer? Share those fears and ask for help instead of trying to manage them alone. Let the people in your life know what it’s really like for you, and enlist their help to bring closeness back into your daily existence.

If you choose to have a primary partner, please remember that no matter how strong the relationship, one person is not enough for any human being to be close with. It is in your nature to desire closeness with all people, closeness that rarely has anything to do with sex. We have yet to discover what it will be like to have so much and such varied closeness in our lives.

Reclaim Feelings: The passionate intensity you’ve saved only for sexual encounters can fire up all areas of your life. What else besides sex ignites that much passion? What dreams and desires for your life would you need to rekindle in order to burn as brightly about your daily existence? Take on the challenges that make waking up exciting, that fill you with a sense of wonder and magic.

Expand the envelope of who you think you are. Find feelings long buried and set them free. Cry wet tears and laugh with your whole voice; tremble with fear and giggle with embarrassment; storm with outrage at the cruel ways we’ve been hurt; weep with tenderness at the beauty of our existence. We need one another to feel these glorious feelings, so ask for all the help and love and attention you need. And you do need it. We just can’t do this alone, and we should never have had to in the first place.

Reclaim Your Body: Sensual pleasure is our birthright, and it is available in thousands of forms besides sex. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot through the grass, the mud, the rain. Learn to breathe freely, so that every breath reminds you that you are alive right now!

Dance, finding and releasing the movement within you, reveling in the gorgeous organism that you are. Touch your body freely and frequently, reawakening your senses. Take joy in the movement of your muscles, the feel of your sheets sliding on your skin as you lie down to rest, the splash of cool water on peacefulyour face, and the swish of that coolness in your mouth as you drink. Become aware of the food you take in, not only savoring the taste, but also cultivating a sensitivity to how it makes your body feel long after it is digested.

What would it take to slow yourself down enough to notice how much feeling is always available for your awareness? As you rediscover your senses and your infinite, creative range of movement, play like you did as a boy, when no one had to teach you how. Play hard and play soft, inventing ways to be in exuberant contact with everyone in your life.

From Obsession to Passion

If sex is expected to be our primary source of contact, feeling, pleasure, and love, our main connection with the memory that life is exciting and mysterious and joyful, then of course we will be obsessed with sex. Luckily, the conditioning that has put us out of touch with all these things is completely reversible. Every quality we have turned away from can be reclaimed.

The passion that narrowly fixates upon sex can lead the way to a wide-open life vibrant with passion. The desire to be close that has been confused with sexual desire can motivate us to create closeness everywhere. When we fill our lives with the things we previously expected only from sex, our lives are richer, and even our experience of sex is transformed.

It is possible to be completely relaxed about sex. When sexual desire is purged of desperation, urgency, loneliness, and fear, then sex can be inspired by joy and sexual relationships can be healthy and whole. When sex is a choice, one of many choices, with no rush to get to it and no cost in missing it, it’s possible to be at ease with sex and sexuality.

Sex can be an exquisite celebration of intimacy and expression of love, a place for healing, a time to play with all the vigor and enthusiasm we had as children. Sex can be a place to express the passion cultivated by living a vibrant life and to delight in the ecstasy we all deserve. Sex can be separated out from all things that it is not. It can stop being the sole source of all the things that it is.

We are making the long journey out the other side of the Land of Obsession. On the other side is a rich, full life beyond our conditioning, where passion takes new forms each day and we are deeply related, never alone. A new paradigm is possible for men, wide open for us to explore.



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Ed: Dana Gornall




About Steve Bearman

Steve Bearman, Ph.D.: Founder of the Interchange Counseling Institute in San Francisco, Steve is a counselor, social justice educator, and workshop leader. In addition to teaching Interchange’s year-long Counseling and Coaching Training Program, which is now in its 10th year, he also leads workshops on community building, relationships, overcoming anxiety, gender role conditioning, healing body shame, death and grieving, and spiritual practice.


72 Responses to “Why Men Are So Obsessed with Sex.”

  1. Jack L. says:

    That about sums it up!

  2. Kirsten says:

    Wow! My husband and I must be very enlightened parents, living among kindred spirits – our 7 year old son is the most cuddlesome of our 4 children, although he also plays competitive ball games to let off steam and have fun with his mates. I've noticed he doesn't hold my hand as much when we're out, but I saw this as a sign of independence (familiar from my older two girls) not rejection on either side. Yes, if boys (or girls) were raised as the article suggests, it would be very damaging and lead to an unbalanced approach to sex, but it's a bit harsh to say all boys are being raised like this.

  3. mcoeling says:

    Thank you for sharing this. As a straight woman who has always sensed how challenging it would be to be a man and has always appreciated the fact that I was born a female, this helps clarify so much. It makes so so much sense to me.

  4. Michael says:

    Whatever dude. Men are obsessed with sex because we've got loads of testosterone. Your theories are great and interesting, but not true.

  5. jordan says:

    I cannot thank you enough for this

  6. Bryan says:

    Great. Really great. Thanks for sharing! It's been a long road of hurting myself and others to end up in a place where I can read this and feel as though I understand and embrace these views. Let's start living and enjoying more exciting intimacy in all areas of our lives, including sexual!

  7. Bob says:

    …read the whole article. You clearly didn’t read it all

  8. Auki says:

    This article sounds nearly identical to RC ~ (Re-evaluation Co-Counseling) theory. RC was developed by the late Harvey Jackins in Seattle, WA during the first half of the 20th century & expanded into small loose-knit communities around the planet over the course of several decades.

    In a nutshell, we men are obsessed with sex because we are extremely emotionally isolated from other humans. Having sex often helps us to feel the inner peace, comfort & emotional well-being of being well-connected to another human.

    Fortunately there are alternative ways to develop & enjoy deep spiritual connection without engaging in sex. Spiritual practice can be an effective way for men to fill the inner void of emotional isolation & desperation. Spiritual practice fills our inner void by "vertically" connecting us to our True Self ~ as opposed to trying to fill the void "horizontally" by sexually exploiting another human being.

    Thanks for a meaningful post! It's good to see EJ posting high-quality theory.

  9. It would be more accurate to say that we've got loads of testosterone because we're obsessed with sex. Hormones influence behavior. Behavior influences hormones. Read the essay The Trouble With Testosterone by Robert Sapolsky.

  10. RC is certainly one of the places where intelligent theory on men's oppression was initially developed, in great part due to the contributions of Charlie Kreiner. RC tends to be fairly sex-negative, however. Thanks for appreciating the theory!

  11. Jack says:

    First off… I think this article is very interesting. As a "devils advocate" position, I think it could be very useful for discussion. It made me think. And I tipped! And thank you.

    And now… I'm going to disagree. : ]

    >> Men are frequently believed to be fundamentally malevolent and untrustworthy

    Ouch. Really? Is frequently = 5% of the time? 95% of the time? If so, you should site your study. I'm a little reluctant to look to someone for leadership who thinks that statement is true. Unless it equally applies to women, etc. That kind of comment shows what camp you're coming from, and it's a real signal to those of us that think that comment is opinion or obvious, and not helpful in either case.

    >> It is possible to be completely relaxed about sex.

    Okay. Maybe sex in a very broad sense. But sex, as in sexual activity, is fundamentally about tension. Physical tension, certainly (an orgasm is often called "release" — from "tension"/"build up"). Gender-based tension as well. I would argue all of this is good/natural/unchangable. Starting with the idea that sex should be "comfortable" is misleading folks. Sex is nearly always "tense," if not "weird", etc. It's otherworldly. Review your own experiences, and its a sea of "discomfort," but not necessarily in a bad way.

    >>Why are men so obsessed w/ sex

    Obsessed is such a loaded word. You're a counselor… how many of your male clients would you label "obsessed," in the clinical sense? All of them? 50% 90%

    And if men are obsessed, that must be true compared to what? Women are assumed to be at peace, and integrated in their sexuality? Or are *humans* "obsessed with sex? And what role does the biological imperative (you don't breed, your species disappears) play in this "obsession?" Which is very present, in almost the exact same forms in other species (which don't have the culture issues).

    >> A systematic enterprise

    I don't like any of the systemic arguments. They tend to favor culture (which has a hard time being systemic), vs nature (which can very easily be systemic)… and once something is driven by natural (natural differences and inequalities in the genders), it's not systemic… it's natural.

  12. Liam A. Woody Green says:

    Thanks for that Steve. I was lucky my parents were exemplars in bring me up and not stifling my emotions, curiosity and sense of wonder at everything around me. It was a hard experience as others considered me as prime bullying material. Now I am in my mid 50s, I still enjoy walking in the rain, the mud and loving life in all its fantastic variety. I enjoy sex now and again I don’t need it to define myself. To quote a song “I am who I am and what I am needs no excusing.” Love the article – more 😉

  13. anna weltman says:

    beautiful article…so well writtten – so correct and comprehensive…and I'm a woman…and though it is written for men, it is a fine read, and so true!! It made me feel good…it definitely has parts that apply to everyone; not just to men.

  14. Matt says:

    Thank you so much, Steve!

  15. dwight says:

    Try taking the sexism out of your theory,Steve.
    Regardless of the genitals we are born with we are apparently born with a brain wire that reflects the exposure to
    estrogen or testosterone approximately 6-8 weeks after conception.
    Check out the latest neurological research.

  16. Vivek says:

    Thanks for this incredible article.

    Reading this article and the questions and explanations you brought up was like listening to my kid-self ask these questions. Though I was raised in a culture completely different from the US, and feel dirty about sex even at 25(polar opposite to the US, where it's a matter of pride), I could relate to so much in this .. even cross culturally (i wasn't expecting to, but was happily surprised)

    Certain ideas of manliness and independence thrust upon us leave parts of our being unexamined, that are desperate for the softness and ease and sublime freedom that early childhood symbolized. As a result we hold on to the memories of ourselves as children and protect them with a fiery rebelliousness, because those were the most sacred memories of what we thought life would be. This protectiveness of the past is often accompanied by anger at why life experiences aren't as beautiful anymore and the inability to put a finger on what's exactly is missing.

    This frustration in my case led to complete disconnection from girls (as if it would somehow prove my masculinity to myself and bury shame at associating with 'softness') and the twin tragedy of increasing dependence on escapist material – books, movies, TV shows and also sexual material, masturbation and hardcore pornography. As expected those things brought their own guilt with them.

    After years of trying various ways to repress those things, I gradually gave up and learned to be okay with them. I'm now far more in touch with the real me – I know that being sensitive to the little things in the world doesn't make me less masculine. Ironically, my dependence/addictions have mostly dropped away. I also know I don't have to be uncomfortable about being alone in America (which attracts a lot of judgment and pity as an unnatural thing). For my mind to trust and be okay with myself and with gentleness, softness and the finer majesties of life that are not harsh binaries that society teaches us are masculine, it will take some patience and I'm okay with that.

    Thanks for writing this again – I had no idea these would be the words to resolve the seemingly eternal puzzlement and exasperation within me. Appreciate this and you very much.

  17. Simon says:

    Many women dress and apply make up to make themselves feel and look more attractive.

    I see them. I am attracted to them. That lead to desire and thoughts of sex.

    I am also married, which means that don't get sex any more and I don't even have the hope that maybe I will meet a nice lady and have some fun today.

    That kind of enforced abstinence leads very quickly to an obsession with sex.

    I'm looking forward to reading the article when I get some time later.

  18. Samuel says:

    It always seemed to me that guys who address guys as “dude” are less likely to notice the whole person (and indeed feel their own). I’m not surprised then that Mike has this attitude

  19. Steven says:

    What you have to understand, Kirsten, is that it's not just down to the parents that men are like this. It's a societal thing, something that is drummed into us by the media, at school, in music, cartoons, it's everywhere and as one of those guys who was always the "faggot" it is VERY VERY hurtful. I tried to die twice during my time in High-school because no one would accept me because of my gentle nature which was something they enjoyed taking advantage of. I can't pinpoint for you exactly where this way of poisoning the minds of our youth is coming from. I believe it's a myriad of places, but please please don't think it's because of parents like you or any other couple. It's often a factor but not the only one.

    BTW I bet you're a great mother. 🙂

  20. Steven says:

    You're very ignorant Michael, both to biology and the importance of psychology in regards to our behaviour and formation of our habits, lifestyles and even our behavioural patterns. Sounds to me like you're in denial.

  21. alrishi says:

    Great article Steve! I just want to add that while I agree with all of the points you make here, women's sex roles also inhibit the full expression of their feelings; They are supposed to be sugar and spice and everything nice. For both sexes, stepping beyond the traditional sex roles and embracing the full spectrum of authenticity makes for a life that is both more passionate and fosters greater inner peace. Articles like yours help move that forward.

  22. apollo1234 says:

    Good job Kristen.
    My dad would beat me if I cried as i was the first male child and he would always say" you have nothing to cry about". Over time I learned to not feel my feelings. It has been part of my life's work to learn how to feel again by participating in men's groups and other personal development groups. I can see how i have focused on sex with women as a means to something that has not ever been fulfilling. My dad ended his connection to my mom with his desire to have sex with other women with the result of divorce. I have felt more whole, as a human being, going to mens groups more than any other place. I thank the universe for this life and that i can now cry with out shame. All my relations, Hi Hi !!

  23. winter twisp says:

    Let's not forget circumcision. A lot of men had that sexual trauma bestowed upon them in infancy and that can create psychological disturbances, higher instances of anger, fear, isolation, and many more issues. We need to put a stop to infant circumcision and see if the next generations have more fulfilling, appropriate sex lives.

  24. Catch says:

    I agree…. Harming a infant baby boy, hours, days or weeks old, it is still violence to US…

  25. John says:

    How are men supposed to "reclaim their bodies" when parts of their genitals are being "routinely" removed?
    We aren't even allowed to go through life *with* our whole bodies.

    Other than that, I see a lot of patterns relevant to my own life.

  26. Max says:

    I have dealt with sexual addiction for my whole life, didn't recognize as an addiction until I was in my 30's, now in my late 40's. As with any addiction, the obsession becomes the only important focus of life. All other aspects of life have little satisfaction, and are frustrating. Relationships are shallow, and superficial. I need to have multiple close relationships, but I struggle with this. I like your idea, Steve, of really putting myself out there and becoming close to others. I will continue to work towards this.

    Currently I am unemployed, considering starting a business, running a fitness studio. My attitude fluctuates dramatically. One moment I am eager and excited about the business, and the next I am completely dispassionate about it, believing I will fail. My spouse is encouraging me to start the business, and is frustrated with my continual disconnect at my previous workplaces. I had believed for sometime that my frustration was due to "being under other's control", but more and more, I believe it has to do with the underlying obsession that continually arises in my life, even when I have been attending 12 step groups.

    So, I think this article really hits on something I continually struggle with, and that is truly opening up to others, being vulnerable, and accepting help. Definitely the direction I am going to take.

    Thank you Steve for the article, and for this forum.

  27. chels says:

    To me it sounds like Michael read it and then gave his opinion on the matter. I appreciate that there are some that don't just read one source on a subject and then change all of their previous thoughts or opinions.

  28. chels says:

    Comes off extremely subjective.

  29. barbara says:

    As a female, I found the article very interesting and gave me a deep insight into certainly the more 'traditional' way of raising boys, which hopefully in the last 2 decades we've been moving away from. At the same time it's fair to say that hormones and other factors play a role in how men behave or feel/think about sex.
    The men above who are so critical of Michael should let him have his opinion, to which he's entitled.

  30. Timtam says:

    "If you choose to have a primary partner, please remember that no matter how strong the relationship, one person is not enough for any human being to be close with. It is in your nature to desire closeness with all people, closeness that rarely has anything to do with sex."

    It also in our nature to choose to be satisfied with one human being or not. Everything is a choice man. The same way you choose to have a primary partner, you can choose to accept that one person can be enough to be close with – when it comes to primary partners. Another thing that is in our nature is learning and unlearning. We're not born with self-control, we learn it, we choose to learn it. Your article is extremely flawed like most of the articles on this website. It is a shame, because you all have the right intentions, just not the right ideas. Everything is easier said than done.

  31. I am very pleased to read this article. I disagree that boys have been taught in the past two generations that they are better than girls (my work as an author and mental health professional has found that boys are conditioned to believe that girls are good and boys are bad, that girls are smarter, more beautiful, more cherished, more loved even, than boys). I also believe that although the author is close to understanding how starved and dehydrated boys and men are for emotional and sensory intimacy, he is missing the most critical variable of all: Secure parent-child attachment. It isn't simply enough that boys need to be comforted. They, like girls, need a holistic, sensory, skin-to-skin and emotionally attuned experience with their mothers primarily and also with their fathers, all through early childhood and adolescence. All mammals provide their children with this experience, but since the dawn of agriculture, our species in "recent" millenniums, traded nurturing for control, leading to deleterious effects on the human family. The author is right on, but he isn't aware of how deep the rabbit hole is of how our Western culture neglects the needs of boys. Add Male Genital Mutilation- rape and torture as a baby- as well as all of the other forms of abuse to boys that our culture overlooks (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, schooling, anti-male shaming in the media, etc.) to the equation and the fact that boys even survive childhood and their lives at all is a miracle.

  32. mike mc says:

    Ive never seen someone get this deep into a thought process about sexual obsession. I will answer this.

    obsessed with sex? please define this.. Because if wanting to have sex is an obsession. Jeez nearly all men are sexually obsessed.

    The simplest answers are testosterone and Darwinism.. You want to spread your genes as a man, women are to be selective. There is no other argument to this..

    Im a man, not sexually repressed. Was raised in a completely emotional manner. Im expressive, emotional and sensitive. I was raised always being told I was loved and always hugged. There would be no difference between my upbringing and a womans in my household. I never tried to fight my fears. Im afraid of spiders, bees and dont like stepping in dirt.

    AND I have a crazy libido. Explain this please. Because sexual obsession somehow links to emotional problems..

  33. Laura says:

    Beautifully written. Explains so many things. Thank you.

  34. Lily says:

    Many men cling to the "testosterone and Darwin" excuses so they don't have to address how modern man has totally corrupted the human male's sex drive with their easy and sedentary lives and a steady stream of porn. The fact is, the overwhelming majority of males that have populated this planet through the ages did not have the luxury of prioritizing sex the way men do now. All men have had "plenty of testosterone", but had to worry about those pesky little things like days and weeks long hunting expeditions, making tools, finding shelter, walking constantly to find food, and not being eaten by animals that were always in proximity. Even as recent as 150 years ago in this country, most men were working in the fields of their farms 15 to 18 hours a day just to survive. Also, through most of human history, man has lived in relatively small tribes that were isolated. While I'm sure that mate-poaching, and sex happened frequently, I don't believe for a moment that it was as widespread as modern males want to pretend. "Spreading your seed" constantly and as often as we're supposed to believe would have been a real good way to get yourself killed by a fellow tribesmen when caught and in most cases, other tribes were generally not that close so I highly doubt most men had a whole lot of additional options.

  35. Tim says:

    By using words like "cling to" and "excuses" (instead of, for example, "accept" and "reasons", respectively), you seem to be accusing today's men of something — but I'm not sure what.

    It's certainly true that for most of human (pre)history, men couldn't prioritise sex the way they do today, because just surviving took so much more time and effort. From your tone, I gather that you think this incriminates today's men somehow, but I don't see how that follows. If those prehistoric men had had the kind of free time that today's men often have, I suspect they would have been just as obsessed with sex as today's men are, because of testosterone and Darwin — don't you agree? If so, then it seems that all today's men are guilty of is *having free time*.

  36. Anonymous says:

    These concepts can be viewed from multiple angles.

    Those ''Testosterone and Darwin'' theories are actually true to a significant extent. Its basic evolutionary
    psychology, not ''excuse''. Human males, on an average, have 5 to 6 times the amount of testosterone
    flowing in their bloodstream. Moreover, several brain research studies have shown that human male
    brains have more than two times the amount of visual brain structures & neuro-chemicals dedicated to
    pursuing and craving lustful intercourse with other humans (females or males). The brain structures
    include parts like amygdala, certain areas of the hypothalamus, and so on; while the chemicals are
    dopamine and adrenaline. Human males also experience ''Coolidge Effect'', that is, fresh release of
    huge amounts of dopamine in the brain on experiencing orgasm with different humans (females or
    males). These ''reward mechanisms'', cause an ''addictive urge'' to keep on having intercourse with
    several ''attractive / fertile'' humans, as and when possible, depending upon the males' orientations
    (straight or gay). Plus, human penile erections are NOT under full voluntary control. Any lustful or nude
    stimuli OR mechanical or digital stimulation, etc, CAN arouse a male easily enough to have intercourse
    or engage in masturbatory activities. Also, the human male body has so many erogenous & sensitive
    zones, that easily lead to erections. To sum up, [lots of testosterone] + [larger & more visual & addictive
    brain structures & chemicals] + [extremely sensitive genitals] = Higher Lust Drive For Males (on average).

    BUT, like you said, [socio-cultural-economic-moral-health-age] factors have a HUGE role to play. I also
    agree with you that human males CAN control themselves to a significant extent and remain faithful
    husbands & fathers too. Those huge amounts of testosterone, like you said, can be channelized into
    PRODUCTIVE skills like building fit bodies, doing sports, engaging in athletics, enhancing spacial skills,
    working with tools & heavy machinery, and so on; rather than simply wasting precious time by engaging
    in lustful or sexual activities. I can somewhat agree with the author of this article also, that behavior
    influences the production of hormones. For example, if people are faced with dangerous situations, their
    adrenaline levels suddenly increase. So, taking that into account, human males could possibly keep their
    sex drives low, by engaging in peaceful or normal activities (such as playing, working, studying, etc).

    Thus, while evolutionary concepts may NOT be entirely false, things can be OPTIMIZED to good extents.

  37. Terra says:

    Beautifully written.

  38. Frederico says:

    If men are obsessed with sex… Who are this men having sex with ???!?!

    Please, we live in a day and age where most people (I won't use the term obsessed") desire sex as a form of intimate connection. For a moment we feel truly present, alive and connected (Physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually, .. you name it)

    You can desire sex and still be in control of your desires. You can have sex and still be in control of sex. Who you connected with, at what level, what type of relationship you want to build with this certain person. Based on sex? Sex the main priority? Sex a bonus?

    Just enjoy every relationship you have, sexual or non sexual. Be grateful of all relationships and especially grateful for the ones in which you have let yourself become vulnerable and have accepted sex as a way to connect deeper with the other person (no pun intended, or maybe just a little) 🙂

    Enjoy and be responsible for your actions.

    If you decide to have sex then you decide to have all the emotions that come with it: numbness, fear, guilt, love, lust, vulnerability, memories, gratefulness, empathy, joy, cheerfullness, and many others.

    It is a good way to explore yourself and to explore others. Of course I am not saying it is the only way to feel these, but it's damn good.

  39. Susana Reid says:

    wonderful article… thanks for writing it… you are truly and deeply enlightened:)

  40. Ellen says:

    Wow! Killer article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  41. Lily says:

    Women and men can both use sex to fill that ugly hole that society left in our souls… Women and men can both be obsessed with sex… In fact I think we all are because it is AWESOME. And women have their feelings suppressed all the time. We are taught not to be too emotional, sensitive or sensual. We’re fucked up in the head just as much as men are. Your argument is very sexist.

  42. Rob says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    For me, this is a great article and definitely touches some nerves when I reflect on my existence thus far.

    While parenting helps, it may not prepare an individual for the sometimes cruel corporate world where survival of the fittest (suppression of emotional) is prevelant.

    I have been married for 13 years and when I think about the breakdowns within my marriage, it’s sad. Although I am in the throws of said breakdown/up, I see some patterns which you have described above. This doesn’t sadden me. Strangely, it invigorates me. Makes me feel grounded in my decision to pursue what I believe is possible in a relationship. The awakening of my feelings but not be owned by them (positive or negative) is what excites me. I am 42 years old and never shed a tear in the last 15+ years. Not a movie nor life experience. However through my awakening, I have she’d many. No longer embarrassed about feeling regardless of the company I have kept.

    It saddens me that my marriage is coming to a close as I really loved this woman but I also realize, that what I want in a relationship, is no longer on offer. I realize that while I have been on this journey of spirituality and healthy emotional well being, my partner is not. Almost an oxymoron really. As she was definitely helpful in my own self discoveries yet it’s the very thing that has created a gap between us.

    Steve, while I get that many comments above are critical of this article, I am thankful to have discovered it and thankful that you put this out there for others to gain some perspectives and to foster growth in ones self . I can only imagine how I might have responded 15 years ago. But thankful for my journey and thankful for ‘guys’ who are prepared to keep it real and be self expressed.

    By far one of the best I have read here on EJ world!

  43. Gosh! Wow! I totally agree with you – this is definitely how suppressed human feelings in men end up being released as sexual obsession.

  44. Alexander says:

    A friend just shard this with me. Very interesting. Thank you. Three works have strongly influenced both my personal experience and collective thinking on this topic, indeed one that by necessity I've spent much time and energy on through the years:

    – Pornography and Silence: Cultures Revenge Against Nature, by Susan Griffin
    (Indeed, the "choice to forget eros" may inevitably lead to the sort of aliments you are describing here.)
    – The Myth of Sex Addiction, by David Ley
    – Candeo Healthy Sexuality Behavioral Training (http://candeobehaviorchange.com/healthy-sexuality/)

    I wonder if you might be able to share your thoughts on these, or any one them, Steve?

  45. Swati says:

    some really great points here. thanks so much for sharing this!

  46. TheThinkerMatt says:

    Sex is a hormonal drive that yes, does resemble addiction in that it activates the same area of the brain as drugs and rich food, and accordingly can overtake the priorities and engagements of those fortunate enough not to be so affected and handicapped by the isolation and discomfort with approaching others for help or as fearless companions that is derivate of early conditioning. Personally, the advice to seek out the sensational awareness elsewhere in fresh air and such would be god advice for others, but I have been gratified by running and fresh air and music and forms of artistic and intellectual expression for far too long at the expense of my sex life. So for others, yeah sure, head the word and get out of your one-track mind. But for me, I just say, Fuck it! 😉

  47. Mindi B says:

    I've resisted this kind of conditioning all my life. It makes things difficult though – I've been called a faggot over and over, I've been accused of being in the closet, girls think it's odd that I don'tjust go out there and fuck anything in a heartbeat and even my ex-fiance couldn't seem to deal with my "heart-first" approach to intimacy.

    It seems even women have been conditioned to thinking that as a male, we must be fuckoholic brutes. Upon my breakup I was accused of having gone and slept around, yet I've never done such a thing because it's not part of what I desire: closeness and INTIMACY and deep connectivity.

    But I cannot be any other kind of man. I just don't even know how. And I'm thankful I don't, no matter how hard it is to fit in sometimes.

  48. Mario says:

    And to make matters worse: If you are born a male in the United States then chances are that you will have the most sensitive part of your organ stolen from you, for no good reason, and at great pain. Also with negative consequences that are just now becoming known.

  49. TracyC says:

    Fascinating and very interesting – thank you! So much to consider in this well written article. It definitely gives me a better understanding of men which I appreciate. As a mother of boys, it gives me some ways to hopefully be a better parent as well.

    As an extension to what you are saying – I also feel that the way we have raised boys in our society has done a great disservice to women as well. Women are raised knowing that men are "obsessed with sex" and taught that in order to "catch a man" or be considered worthy & desirable – we must be sexy and beautiful because that is what men pay attention to. We get bombarded with the same sexual images and learn that our value is in our looks. So while women are thankfully allowed to be emotionally expressive and share and communicate, and often do so with each other – we are also missing out on feeling comfortable being our complete and real selves around men.

    We don't often leave the house unless we think we look good. We end up jealous of other women. We spend fortunes on clothes and makeup and plastic surgery. We use sex to try to get the attention of men even though we also have so much more to offer, and so much more that makes us interesting and admirable.

    We really want that emotional intimacy with men too. We want men to open up, to express themselves. Even though we do want to be appreciated for our beauty and to have great sex – we also want to be able to be our real selves and still be appreciated by men as much more than a pretty face. We want real love and connection with men too. When it seems like it is hard for men to do that with us, and when they only seem to want our bodies, we feel like we must not be good enough, otherwise men would be interested in loving us – not just fucking us. We are all left hurting, and we are missing out on what could be really amazing. Real connections with our fellow human beings and stronger, deeper relationships when we choose to have a partner.

    Our society as a whole would be far better off if we really considered what you have said here in this article and find ways to change it for the better.

  50. Stephanie says:

    Steve, as a practicing (I assume) psychologist, do you believe what you've written? Others have commented on some of my complaints with your article; so, I won't belabor their points. What I will say is that you've raised really important issues related to how we socialize children with regard to gender stereotypes. I think these issues should be addressed more thoroughly and frequently. I also think they have nothing to do with sex or how sex-obsessed males may or may not be. To confound the issues is disingenuous and one of the reasons psychology retains that quasi-scientific status its enjoyed for 150+ years.

    Most men are not sex-obsessed. Most men do want to have sex (and a lot of it), and there's nothing sub-clinical about the desire. We're here to procreate, as is every other species on the planet. End of story. Unfortunately, Elephant Journal has, once again, taken something important (gender socialization), tied it to something salacious (sex-obsessed males), and given it a bawdy headline (Why Men Are So Obsessed with Sex). Even worse, Steve, you as the author of the article have the creds to know better. I'm particularly disappointed this article was written by a fellow psychologist.