It happens to be the one thing that women find difficult to give.
How many times have we heard, “All men want is sex?” When we were 17, I was certain it was true. I suspected it wasn’t true when I was 28 years old. And now that I’m 35, I know that’s not true. Don’t get me wrong, sex can be wonderful at any age, but there’s something more important than sex that men have difficulty admitting and women have difficulty giving.
This realisation came to me gradually, and it was most apparent to me in my men’s group. I’ve been meeting with six other guys regularly for almost two years, and sex has always been a topic of discussion. We’re competitive, and we all want to be seen as successful, but we’ve also learned to be honest with each other. We discuss not only our sexual successes, but also our failures, fears, and misunderstandings.
I was taught from a young age that wanting sex was synonymous with being a man. I remember overhearing a girl I liked talking about a guy we both knew in high school. She wasn’t upset because he was obsessed with sex, but because he “didn’t come on to me like other guys do.” “He’s not being very manly,” she complained to her girlfriend. The message was clear: “real men” want sex, and you’re not a real man if you don’t “come on” to a girl.
This early lesson has been validated over time: many men consider wanting sex to be a sign of manliness. It’s better to be turned down repeatedly and be perceived as a jerk who is completely preoccupied with sex than to want something other than sex and be perceived as “less than a man.”
“Always wanting sex” is part of the manly persona we put on to demonstrate our masculinity. What we want is a haven where we can seek refuge, unwind, and be cared for. In other words, we crave the sense of being nurtured that most of us did not receive as children. However, admitting our needs makes us feel like little boys rather than big strong men. It’s better to be manly with our sexual desire so that once inside her body, we can relax, be ourselves, and be infused with love. When we have sex, that is the hidden desire we have.
It’s difficult for men to ask to be held, nurtured, and touched, and it’s even more difficult for women to give that kind of intimacy. There are three primary reasons, all of which are often unconscious:
For starters, women have their preconceived notions about men being men. They are concerned that if he does not want sex, they will not be attractive enough.
Second, a man’s desire to be held and nurtured creates the impression that they are dealing with a boy, not a man. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve had who say things like, “It’s as if I have three children in the house.” Our two sons are there, and then there’s my husband.” Women want a man but are concerned about having another child.
Third, women are afraid of men who do not feel manly. They understand that the most violent men are those who feel helpless and powerless. They’ve often witnessed men allowing themselves to be gentle and vulnerable, only to be met with rage and anger later.
A woman must also look beyond her conditioning and be open to a man who is exposing himself in new ways. To accept being a safe harbour, she must have a great deal of self-love and self-confidence. She must also be strong enough to protect herself when his shame at being vulnerable manifests as anxiety, anger, or depression. It is difficult for men and women to take such risks, but the payoff is a lifetime of growing love and intimacy.