For most young men, the desire for sex is driven by their testosterone, a fascination with the female anatomy, and a need to be accepted both by a woman and their own peer group. Being "normal" and a fear of being left out drive adolescent behavior and values, but ultimately have little to do with a young man's happiness and deeper self-esteem. In order to avoid the whole stressful enterprise of an intimate relationship, for which they might not be prepared, a lot of adolescents prefer hanging out in coed groups or just enjoying the opposite sex as friends. Boys may want sex for exploration and pleasure, but most shy away from the emotional attachments and implicit promises that women believe come with physical intimacy.
For men, even as adults, sex raises as many questions as it answers about what they, and women, really want. A lot of men feel it's their role to make women happy by being great lovers, and that technique rules-hut women have a different point of view. Women, especially the under-thirty generation, want sex as much as, maybe more than, men. It's a statement of liberation, pleasure, and control. Ultimately, however, they don't want just performance or pleasure, or even control; they want intimacy. Being a great (and lasting) lover is about being open, giving, and vulnerable. It's about allowing a woman to fuse her identity with a man's for a sublime moment, and a man fusing his identity with hers.
The problem for many men is that they don't understand the emotional language of women, and often women, perhaps out of fear of being exploited, or believing that men can't really be that clueless, do little to translate that language. If you really love me, women think, you'll figure it out. But a lot of men I interviewed haven't figured it out. That's why they do a lot of guessing, and make assumptions about women that are often wrong. In terms of intimacy or its prelude, men may observe the rules of romance because they know it's what women expect, but forever the conquerors, what they really believe, especially younger men, is that penis size or superior technique or a seductive atmosphere is what translates into "success." Popular culture reinforces that idea. Yet other men I interviewed knew that awareness and concern for their partner's feelings, and finding an emotional connection through sex, were as important for them as they were for women.
Just as women can be difficult to read because they're not revealing, men can be hard to decode because they're not comfortable with their own emotional circuitry. They know what they should be feeling, but for a variety of reasons, as the stories in this book will show, can't quite express it because they're feeling something else. Men are usually drawn into relationships by personality and physical appearance, and while women deliberately cultivate that attraction, they like to believe that the man who falls in love with them is falling in love with more than their personality, beauty, or sex appeal. A man is right for her because he's uncovered her essence, and understands and loves her like no one else has. But not all men manage this transition from "attraction" to "falling in love" with sincerity and sensitivity. To bridge that gap, they become skillful at small deceptions. It's their way of getting what they want-sex-without giving a woman what she wants - sex and commitment.
Alexander Payne's dark comedy Sideways is about two old college friends, Miles and Jack, who take a trip through California wine country one week before Jack's wedding. Women and sex are never far from their thoughts. Miles and particularly Jack lie so often and in so many little ways, to themselves and to the women they meet, that the audience wonders if they're even aware of ethical issues. They presumably know lying is wrong, but it's just part of who they are, and often necessary, in their minds, to accomplish their objectives. They rationalize that life for a man can be pretty rough, so they're entitled to take some ethical shortcuts. Jack and Miles also lie for empowerment in the sense that they know they're "getting away with something." The egos of many men, and the strictures of masculinity, are based on the premise that a man must succeed at all costs, even if it means stretching the truth.
The two stories that follow illustrate not only how differently men and women view sex, but how sex and emotional intimacy can first bind (and blind) a relationship convincingly, creating the feeling that it will go on forever, then, seemingly for no reason, tear it apart with gale-force winds.
Other themes covered in this section include:
Why intimacy is ultimately just as important to men as it is to women.
Mow sexual acceptance and rejection for men and women are inevitably tied to self-love and childhood issues, even. when they're not aware of the emotional triggers
How sex becomes the inevitable battleground when other forms of communication break down and, conversely, when sex deteriorates or disappears, so do other forms of communication.
How men, when their relationships crumble, escape into sex with other partners to avoid pain and self-examination, and to feel better about themselves.
Why men and women subconsciously seek out partners with certain attributes, even negative ones, that reflect characteristics of their caregivers.
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