5 Lies that Distort Male Sexuality and Hurt Everyone

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence and Abuse

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life came through sports. They taught me hard work, commitment, and teamwork. They also taught me some of my most foundational lessons about masculinity and sex.

Not all of these messages were problematic and harmful. I often had coaches talk to me in positive (though sometimes paternalistic) ways about “respecting women.” But looking back, most of the messages I received about sex and my masculinity’s role in sex were quite horrifying.

Perhaps one of the most terrifying messages that I received came from an older soccer player named Dave when I was in tenth grade. One day, he was bragging to me about his sexual relationship with his girlfriend, a girl widely recognized as “hot” and “popular.”

In the midst of his braggadocio, he mentioned wanting to perform an incredibly violent sexual act that would violate her consent and would likely lead to serious injury.

He said he was only joking, and I laughed along, but it didn’t sit right with me. No matter how uncomfortable it made me, though, I didn’t dare challenge the “joke.”

After all, to do so would not only have challenged a man I was supposed to look up to, but it might have led to me being further ostracized for being “gay” (because apparently men are gay if they stand up to violence against women, and being gay was the “worst possible thing” I could have been in high school).

To this day, I’m ashamed that I never said anything, but I simply didn’t know how. I was a young man lacking in confidence, and I felt like it was “normal” that we were talking about women in this way.

Though some might write this story off as adolescent immaturity, this story speaks to a wider problem of patriarchal masculinity and how we as men are taught to understand sex and sexuality.

Feminism vs. Patriarchy

For generations now, feminism in its many iterations has done an amazing job of pointing out the terrible impacts of patriarchal masculinity. And, increasingly, feminists have focused on how patriarchy hurts people of all genders.

With the rise of the Internet as a dominant force in so many people’s lives, though, the resistance to feminism has only grown louder and stronger.

The power of the Internet for organizing Men’s Rights Activists, Pick Up Artists, and other anti-feminist groups has meant a surge in numbers of those who see feminism as “anti-male” or who despise the ways that feminism subverts patriarchal masculinity.

And ironically, these groups prey on men who feel hurt, who feel insecure, who feel entitled to sex, but who struggle socially and can’t find fulfilling relationships.

MRAs and PUAs tell insecure men that the problem is feminism, not patriarchy, and in doing so, fuel a particularly violent online (and offline) misogyny.

Yet the hurt and frustration these men face when it comes to sexuality is almost always directly tied to the ways in which patriarchal masculinity distorts male sexuality – which is a battle that feminism fights.

In her book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, bell hooks describes patriarchy as the single most life-threatening social dis­ease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation.

If we are ever going to engage men more fully in dismantling patriarchy and ending misogyny,we need more men to understand how the messages we receive about sex hurt more than women. These messages hurt us in myriad ways, too.

Thus, though I could likely unpack just about every message about sex that we receive, I want to analyze five of the most prominent messages men are taught about our sexuality.

1.  ‘Sow Your Wild Oats’

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

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[Video] The 7 A’s of Hooking Up

Some of y’all might remember that back in the fall, a Phi Kappa Tau fraternity brother from Georgia Tech made national headlines when he sent the rapiest email ever to his frat email list.  Entitled “Luring Your Rapebait,” the email listed off the “7 E’s of Hooking Up.”  If you want to read them, you can here, but I’d advise against it, as it’s pretty damn misogynist and degrading toward women.

In response, I wrote a piece for the Good Men Project that called the dude in to consider the implications of his email while putting forward the “7 A’s of Hooking Up.”  Eventually the Huffington Post even picked up the piece and ran with it.

Wel,l when I was in New York City last fall, the incredible Fivel Rothberg (who I profiled in my 7 Men Who are Transforming Masculinity piece) and Martyna Starosta had the idea to film a short piece about the 7 A’s of Hooking Up, so working with their colleague Abe Vazquez, they shot and edited an amazing little video about consent!  Check it out!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions in the comments!  I tried to parallel my 7 A’s with dude’s 7 E’s, but in doing so, it surely left out a few aspects of consent.  What would you add?

Porn

One Man’s Journey: How I Stopped Watching Porn for 1 Year and Why I’m Not Going Back

DanMDan Mahle is a group facilitator, program coordinator, and occasional blogger on the topic of men and masculinity. His work reaches into many different arenas, from youth leadership and intergenerational collaboration to environmental justice advocacy and men’s work. He lives in Seattle, WA.

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Porn

Image from Fame Magazine.

I remember when I first discovered internet porn – I was 17 years old (1).  Fascinated by this world of unleashed sexual expression and fantasy, I couldn’t get enough of it. As I grew up and began exploring my own sexuality, I discovered just how different watching pixels on a screen was compared to the intimacy of making love with another human being. I thought I’d outgrow my porn habit over time. But I never did.

I didn’t know it then, but porn had become an addiction. And, like most addictions, it was a behavior that I was ashamed to talk about or even admit was a problem. “Yeah, everybody watches porn,” I remember hearing. It seemed so pervasive and culturally accepted that having an actual conversation about it was a total non-starter. So I kept it to myself.

I thought I had my habit under control. I thought I could quite porn whenever I felt like it. I even tried to quit a few times and then rationalized my eventual return to the addiction.

I didn’t realize how much watching porn manipulated my mind, warping my sexuality, numbing my feelings, and impacting my relationships with women. And I was not alone.

According to a recent study, more than 70 percent of men ages 18 to 34 visit porn sites in a typical month. And it’s not just guys watching sex online. It is estimated that 1 in 3 porn users today are women. Now, I want to be clear here that porn use extends beyond the male/female gender binary, but for the purpose of this post I am sharing my experience with porn from the perspective of a heterosexual, cisgender, White man.

Let me also state clearly that I don’t think all porn is bad. I’ve seen some great videos of couples engaging in intimate and respectful sexual encounters – of course, these are often only found on feminist porn sites or in the “female friendly” category (It’s interesting to note what the category name “female friendly” implies about all the other categories). But I’m not here to judge anyone else for what they choose to watch. I’m simply sharing the impacts that porn has had on my life and what has changed for me since I’ve stopped using it.

To me, what is worrying about porn is not how many people use it, but how many people – like me – have found themselves addicted to it.

As Dr. Jeffrey Satinover stated in his 2004 testimony to the U.S. Senate subcommittee on pornography, “Modern science allows us to understand that the underlying nature of an addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction.”

Impacts of Porn (2)

A lot of studies have been conducted on the impacts of porn on men and women in society. Of all of those impacts, three most resonated with my experience:

1. Violence Against Women (3):  This includes an obsession with looking at women rather than interacting with them (voyeurism), an attitude in which women are viewed as objects of men’s sexual desire, and the trivialization of rape and widespread acceptance of rape culture – fueled by fake depictions of women in porn videos often pretending to desire violent and abusive sexual acts.

2. Numbness & Disembodiment: This can include erectile dysfunction, inability to orgasm when not watching porn, detachment from your physical body, emotional unavailability and numbness, lack of focus and patience, poor memory, and general lack of interest in reality. Furthermore, these outcomes in men have been linked to boredom with their sexual partners, higher levels of sexual promiscuity, adultery, divorce, sexism, rape, abuse, and suicide.

3. Fear of Intimacy: Watching porn contributes to many men’s inability to relate to women in an honest and intimate way despite a longing to feel loved and connected. This is because pornography exalts our sexual needs over our need for sensuality and intimacy; some men develop a preoccupation with sexual fantasy that can powerfully impede their capacity for emotionally intimate relationships.

Why I Quit Watching

Continue Reading

An Open Letter to the Rapey Frat Brother and the “How to Get Laid” Generation

I published this piece over at the Good Men Project this week, and it’s been blowing up!  Since then, it’s been republished at the Huffington Post, and I have recorded a CNN iReport on the subject that’s had almost 40,000 views.  Plus, HLN’s Raising America asked me to record another video!

It’s incredibly exciting to see this message of consent and sex positive relationships getting so much positive attention.

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My brother,

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

I’m not sure you deserve it, and a lot of people are going to give me hell for it, but I’m going to try. Because when you wrote the email “Luring your Rapebait” to your Georgia Tech fraternity brothers at ΦKT, you touched on something much bigger than yourself.

You touched on a problem we see in masculinity and party culture on every single college campus.

It’s ironic. In the email you expressed the exact cognitive dissonance that I see with college men I work with all over the United States: You explicitly said, “NO RAPING.” Yet everything you described encourages rape!

So it makes me wonder: Have we sent you that many messed up messages about sex, consent, rape, “blurred lines,” partying, and alcohol that you don’t actually know what is and isn’t rape?  

Have we, as the men in your life, taught you that many terrible messages about masculinity that you honestly think this is how men are supposed to act in order to get laid?

Have we sent you that many messed up messages about your own self worth and the personhood of women that you think it’s actually normal and acceptable to refer to women as rapebait (or any other terrible, objectifying term) when you think you’re only talking to your brothers?

If the answer to any of these questions could even possibly be a “yes”, then I have a responsibility as your brother to offer you some perspective.

Again, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, and despite what your letter tells me, I am going to assume that you don’t actually want to rape anyone – if not because you value the personhood and autonomy of your sexual partners then because you don’t want to be expelled, go to jail, and register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

♦◊♦

So let me throw out an absolutely crazy idea: if you actually want to “get laid,” and you want your sex to be inany way better than a sloppy drunk encounter that may actually be sexually assault, forget about your 7 E’s of Hooking Up.

Instead, consider the 7 A’s of Hooking Up:

  1. Ask – See someone at the party that you’re interested in?  Ask her a bit about herself (or him about himself – no need for heteronormativity here, but I will use the female pronoun since your letter seemed pretty focused on female “rapebait”).  Get to know her a bit.  And do so genuinely.  I promise – should your night end with a hookup, your sex will be a hell of a lot better if you’ve talked and felt out the chemistry.
  2. Ask – Ask your newfound friend if they’d like to come with you to go get a drink.  Don’t offer to get a drink for her, as there are some really messed up people out there (of which you’re not one, right?) who would drop something in someone’s drink. If she doesn’t want a drink, no need for “aww, that’s no fun” – sometimes sober sex is the best sex.
  3. Ask – Ask her if she’d like to dance.  If she doesn’t, see if she’d like to play a game like bags or just hang out and talk some more. If she does want to dance, don’t do that creepy “rub your penis against their ass” b.s. that you described. I promise that showing off your ability to actually dance is going to a lot further in impressing her than grinding against her like a dog in heat. Then, if you want to grind a bit,ask!  A simple, “Is this alright?” can suffice.  Also, don’t just run your hands all over her body without her permission. Check in. I promise, asking is sexy.
  4. Ask – As the night progresses, if you have some chemistry and are getting along, ask her if she’d be interested in leaving with you. If she’s not, respect that. If she is, great! Just don’t assume that means you’re getting laid.
  5. Ask Ask where she’d like to go – her place? Your place? Out on a date another time when you’re both more sober and can appreciate each other’s company a bit more?
  6. Ask – If it looks like you might hook up, make sure you check in along the way. Ask if you can kiss her. Ask if you can remove your clothing or hers. Ask.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Consent doesn’t have to be plastic and boring. The single sexiest question someone can be asked is, “Tell me what you want.”  Not sure how to make asking sexy? Check out this article.
  7. Ask – So you’ve hooked up.  Maybe that means you just made out all night.  Maybe you had oral or you “went all the way” (whatever that means). Rather than being a creep (“Expunge, send them out of your room and on their way out when you are finished”), consider this: Sex gets better over time with every single partner. The more you know each other’s bodies, the more you and your partner will know what will make for mind-blowing pleasure. Ask what they’d like in the future. Be honest, and let her be honest. Not really feeling something long-term? Say so. Really like her and want to pursue a relationship or at least a date or two? Communicate that. And respect what she wants.

Follow the 7 A’s of Hooking Up, and I promise your sex will be better and you and your partner will have a much better night. Oh, and you won’t rape anyone.

One last thing. If you’re interested in throwing parties where every person has an amazing time, where those who want to hook up can meet someone, and where sexual violence is not the end result, let’s have a conversation about sex-positive party culture.

I want to see you and all of my brothers and sisters have the kind of amazing, mind-blowing, sex positive experiences that are possible if we leave behind this toxic, rapebait bullshit.

In Sex Positivity,

Jamie

Your First Time: A Sexual Guide for Girls and Women

Last week I posted a link to a piece that I wrote for Everyday Feminism.  The piece attempts to offer young men and boys some information and advice to make their first sexual experiences more healthy, fulfilling, and safe for them and their partner(s).

The next day, Melissa Fabello offered some fantastic information for girls and women!  Check it out…

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Most sexuality education is terrible.

Like, beyond terrible.

And if you’ve received a formal sex education at all, it likely went a little like this:

“Sex is defined as intercourse, which involves a penis going inside of a vagina. But you probably don’t want to do that because then you’ll get pregnant and ruin your entire life and – oh hey! – here are some terrifying pictures of STI’s.”

Sex Ed: Mean Girls Style

Sex Ed: Mean Girls Style

Uhh, and we think that it’s time we change that.

Sex ed has to change.

Because if we don’t do a better job of teaching healthy sexuality, we leave it up to pornography, television, music, and movies to do our job – and none of those areaccurate, comprehensive sources of sexuality education.

It’s time we teach our young people about more than just biology, STI’s, andabstinence.

It’s time we teach about how to have amazing, fulfilling, consensual, and healthy sex.

It’s time to give them an accurate depiction of what sex should look and feel like.

And hell, if schools don’t want to do it, then fine. Everyday Feminism will. More specifically, the brilliant Jamie Utt and I will. Because it needs to get done.

And since I identify as a woman, I’ll finish what Jamie started yesterday by talking to the girls and women out there.

That said, let me be absolutely clear that I am a cisgender woman, and as such, many of these lessons come from a cisgender perspective and should be treated as limited in that way.

So what are some steps to take before diving into sex for the first time? What are some important facts to know? And why are they important?

Let’s take a look.

1. Get to Know Your Body

I know it sounds obvious, but hear me out.

The number of women who have approached me, as a sex educator, asking how to make sex more pleasurable without the slightest clue as to what their vulva lookslike – let alone feels like – is staggering.

Their explanation of this is usually along the lines of “it’s my partner’s job to take care of me sexually, not mine.”

My counter to that is: If I was leaving my pet cat in the hands of my partner, you’d better believe he would come with a to-do list, an explanation of his idiosyncrasies, and a score of emergency contact numbers.

Your body should be no different.

Unfortunately, we’re taught in our society that our vulvas and vaginas are gross, are dirty, are forbidden. We’re taught from birth not to touch, smell, or taste them. We’re discouraged from even looking at them.

So being told all of a sudden to masturbate can be kind of scary.

I get it.

But seriously. Masturbate.

Because you need to know your vulva. You need to understand your orgasm.

And if you’re not sure where to start, try here.

And that’s not to say that all sexual pleasure is achieved through only your genitals.

Because despite what mainstream media would have you believe (more on that next!), that isn’t true.

Maybe a foot massage or having your back kissed will work better for you. And that’s perfectly okay!

The point is: You’ll never learn if you don’t allow yourself to explore your body and the sensations that make you go ahh.

But you need to learn what makes you tick before you ever step foot into a bedroom with a partner.

And I promise that you’ll be far better equipped to talk to your partner about sexual pleasure.

2. Question Your Media Consumption

Growing up, I had a really good understanding of my body. I started masturbating at an early age, and by the time I hit puberty, I knew that this totally-awesome-wowfeeling was associated with sex. I felt wise beyond my years. And excited for what was to come.

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

Your First Time: A Sexual Guide for Boys and Men

Let’s face it: Most sexuality education is terrible.

If you’ve received a formal sex education, it likely went a little like this:

Don't have sex because you will get pregnant and die.

Mean Girls

Sex is a special covenant between a man and a woman. Here’s a little information about the biology of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. And here are a bunch of horrifying pictures of STI’s that will scare you into remaining abstinent until marriage.”

And we think that it’s time we change that.

Sex ed has to change.

Because if we don’t do a better job of teaching healthy sexuality, we leave it up to pornography, television, music, and movies to do our job – and none of those are accurate, comprehensive sources of sexuality education.

It’s time we teach our young people about more than just biology, STI’s, and abstinence.

It’s time we teach about how to have amazing, fulfilling, consensual, and healthy sex.

Cynthia Kane already wrote a fantastic guide for having great sex on the first time, but since some of the most effective sexual education is split up by gender, the brilliant Melissa A. Fabello and I are here with a two-part article to amplify Cynthia’s message.

And since I identify as a man, I will start things off by talking to the boys and men out there.

That said, let me be clear that I am a cisgender man, and as such, many of these lessons come from a cisgender perspective and should be treated as limited in that way.

So what are some steps to take before diving into sex for the first time? What are some important facts to know? And why are they important?

Let’s take a look.

1. Get to Know Your Body

Amazing sex starts with you knowing a bit about your body and what you want and need from your partner. So before you head into the bedroom with another person, you need to spend some time by yourself.

Yup. I’m telling you to masturbate.

But I don’t mean the “jerk off quickly in the bathroom before someone catches me” kind of masturbation.

I mean taking your time, exploring your whole body, figuring out what does (and doesn’t!) feel good.

How do you like to be touched, where do you like to be touched, and in what ways do you like to be touched?

More and more, young women are being told to familiarize themselves with their bodies (which they should!), but young men aren’t being told the same thing.

The idea that a man would take the time to light some candles, draw a bath, and explore his body for maximum masturbatory pleasure is considered laughable. Let’s change that!

Too often, we just treat male pleasure and orgasm as being easy. Having fulfilling sex, though, means having a much more comprehensive knowledge about your own pleasure.

Did you know that one of the most powerful orgasms a man can have has virtuallynothing to do with his penis?

It’s called a prostate orgasm, and most men never experience this tremendous joy because of the taboo around anal play being “gay” and thus “terrible and disgusting and eww.”

Whether it’s a prostate orgasm or neck kissing, you won’t know what works best for you, though, if you never take the time to explore.

2. Interrogate Your Media Consumption and Expectations

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

What Men Can Do to Stop Street Harassment

It’s that time of year again!

The weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and most of us can’t wait to get a little sunshine on our skin.

People are breaking out the shorts, skirts, sundresses, tank tops, sandals, and bathing suits. We’re hitting the parks, beaches, running paths, streets, back yards – anywhere we can get a little bit of that Vitamin D.

And with this time of year comes an increase in street harassment.

My Name is Not "Baby" photo

It’s not as if there is not street harassment in the dead of winter. As my friend Heather recently said to me, “I can go out in a full-length down coat, hat, gloves, and boots, and I will have some f*ck think it’s okay to yell about my ass.”

But it tends to get more pronounced when it’s a bit warmer, and there’s a bit more skin showing on your average street. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not the fact that skin is showing that’s the problem. It’s the fact that most men can’t seem to help ourselves once the skin comes out, and we just HAVE to comment and stare.

So let me say it plainly to my male-identified people out there: Street harassment and leering are never okay. Never.

Nope. Not ever.

In case anyone’s unclear, let’s look to the phenomenal folks atStopStreetHarassment.org to define precisely what we’re talking about:

Catcalls, sexually explicit comments, sexist remarks, groping, leering, stalking, public masturbation, and assault. Most women (more than 80% worldwide) and LGBQT folks will face gender-based street harassment at some point in their life. Street harassment limits people’s mobility and access to public spaces. It is a form of gender violence and it’s a human rights violation. It needs to stop.

Yup. That’s right.

We’re talking about the “Hey baby!” Or the “Smile! I bet you have a pretty smile!” Or the “Damn, you’ve got a fine ass!” Or the licking your lips and staring as she walks by.

It’s all harassment. It’s all misogyny. And it all needs to stop.

And since men are the primary perpetrators of street harassment, men bear the responsibility for ending it. So with that in mind, here are a few things men can do to stop street harassment.

1. Don’t Leer or Harass!

It seems obvious, but it bears saying.

One of the single most important things men can do to stop street harassment is to refuse to participate.

That means that you should never be commenting on a woman’s (or any person’s) body or appearance unless you have a relationship with that woman and have anexplicit understanding that this is welcome (which means that you’ve talked about it and she’s consented to it).

But it doesn’t stop there.

Though I don’t recall ever hollering to a woman on the street, there are plenty of times in my life when I have used my eyes and body language to treat a woman as little more than an object.

And in the end, how is leering any different than cat calling? Both send the message that women’s bodies are public property.

Sometimes the most radical action we can take is refusal to participate in oppressive norms.

2. Listen in Solidarity

Stop.

Don’t say it.

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.