As men, we’re often told that we’re visually stimulated. That’s why we have “wandering eyes” that are attracted to that pair of breasts, or those swaying hips. We say to ourselves that it can’t be helped. It’s just the nature of things. Do we have to look? I’m sure there are many female forms to pass in front of me without a notice because my focus was elsewhere. Say like on the woman I’m actually with. But if I do look, it’s ok? Because it is natural to do so.
But we have to be careful, because the idea that it’s just part of our male DNA isn’t really holy writ. Just as it’s also not always true that women are emotion-driven and can do without the visuals. All you have to do is take a look at the comments of women who are swooning over those 6-pack abs on that male model, or the web sites (adult and otherwise) geared toward the visual stimulation of women.
The fact is all genders can be visually stimulated. Given the right mood, a man or a woman might prefer the languid approach of an erotic short story. But in a different mood, the same person might prefer perusing pages of naked bodies to arouse and inspire fantasies.
Now here’s the real trick. Too often, we have guilt or shame around looking at attractive bodies. And the prevalence of adult web sites and the easy access to pornography actually exacerbates the challenge. It becomes easier to hide what it is that’s turning us on. And because there’s such guilt and shame associated with it, we do just that: we keep it from our spouses and partners. Both partners do it. But we’re forgetting a crucial part of the equation: our partners are the people we’ve chosen to explore with. Rather than hiding things, we should be embracing bringing things into the light.
Where I have seen the biggest disconnect isn’t that I look at pornography, or that my partner looks at pornography. The disconnect comes from feeling like I shouldn’t be looking at it, which then extends to an overarching unhealthy view of sex. Even the real sex, in person, with my partner. That suffers, because I can extend my guilt and shame to what should be a very natural exploration and connecting activity. It took me a long time to realize that my partner finds my body sexy. And just like I enjoy looking at her body, she also enjoys looking at mine.
Here are some things to keep in mind, then, to keep your sex life active and healthy.
- Open Up. You don’t have to drag out every single list of sites you visited over the past decade. But start a conversation that encourages sharing rather than hiding. The next time a partner asks you to share a fantasy, take the opportunity to respond “Let me show you, instead.” You might just be surprised at what you get in response.
- Compliment the way you want to be complimented. It’s a safe bet that your partner wants to hear what you find sexy about her. The same holds true for you. But for some reason, we don’t think that could possibly be the case. So instead of giving a compliment and then walking away from it, try this. Give a physical compliment: “I love the way your hip curves right here.” And after she responds, have the guts to ask her what her favorite part of your body is. It might surprise you.
- Confidence is sexy. In fact, it’s an aphrodisiac. But we’re so used to seeing women as sexy, we forget that we can be sexy in the exact same way. Next time you get out of the shower and you have an erection, don’t run away from it. Let her see you aroused. And let her know that she’s the source of the arousal. Be confident enough to show your body in a way that makes both of you feel good. Let her know that you desire her. And show her how you want to be desired.
- Communicate. This is a hard one, because we’re not supposed to share our feelings. The next time she asks you what you’re thinking, try being honest. Don’t make her guess or read your mind. She isn’t any better at it than you are. So speak your mind. Speak your fantasies. Own them. Because #4 is the truth. And the more #4 you have, the easier #5 becomes.
- Have fun. Really, that’s all it is. What you and your partner are into might be completely different from what someone else likes. That’s ok. There’s no right or wrong way to engage in sex, unless you’re taking the joy and fun out of it. Then you should stop and remember what it was like when you were first discovering your own body, that first erection or first glimpse of a naked breast or pubic hair. Remember the excitement and anticipation the first time you kissed, or copped a feel, or made it to third base. Remember losing your virginity. It’s that it was new and exciting and you were filled with awe and wonder that another human being could touch you in such a way that you would lose all control. It was magical. And it was new. It doesn’t have to stop being that way, so smile and laugh and enjoy what you’re doing.
Robert F. James is a lecturer in creative writing at San Jose State University. He’s been a professional writer his entire adult life, and his writings primarily focus on the challenges of modern masculinity. He lives on a small hobby farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, where he raises chickens, rabbits, and ducks while managing a small garden. He’s been a Sailor, a pastor, a television and radio personality, and a professional piercer. His eclectic background lends itself to an exploratory aspect of his writing. His work is an authentic reflection of the issues he puzzles over on a daily basis, and he spends a good deal of time outdoors to process them. A large herd of deer on the property seem to respond favorably to his ramblings.