THE VILIFICATION OF MALE SEXUALITY
Fischer is a writer, public speaker and sex educator for universities,
high schools and outreach organizations. She is the 2009 Jim
Brogan Teaching Scholarship recipient and a fund-raising organizer
for San Francisco Sex Information. You can follow Jessi at Twitter.
MYTHS ABOUT MEN AND SEX
tired trope of aggressive male sexuality is pervasive. The story
goes like this: because men are full of testosterone and sperm
as well as unhindered by the consequence of pregnancy, their
sexuality is naturally brutish and promiscuous. Testosterone
fuels aggression, billions of sperm want hundreds of outlets,
and nature failed to offset these desires with physical dangers
associated with reproduction.
complement to this heterocentric sex story is that women, with
their limited eggs, lack of testosterone and pregnancy burden
are naturally chaste and self-protective. Any sexual adventurousness
or licentiousness is only done to please men and keep them around
so they will help with the child-rearing.
and neatly packaged explanation of human sexuality. But it’s
wrong. Let’s do some debunking.
No. 1: Testosterone makes men aggressive.
The idea that testosterone is an aggression correlate comes
from an experiment that found castrating male mice reduced combativeness.
Naturally, culture extrapolated these findings to humans and
claimed testosterone had the same effect on male humans.
In a 2009 study, European researchers administered either .5
mg of testosterone or a placebo to male participants before
engaging them in a game of cooperation that involved negotiating
money distribution with other players. They could make an offer
as fair or unfair as they wished and those on the receiving
end could choose to accept or decline. The findings? Testosterone
recipients made fairer offers, a direct contradiction with common
beliefs about testosterone and aggression. Researchers suggested
that testosterone influences a sensitivity toward status which
is expressed as cooperativeness in pro-social situations.
relationship between testosterone and sexual desire is a slightly
different, albeit unclear story. There is evidence to suggest
that testosterone influences sexual desire in males and somewhat
less in females. However, our desires are also regulated and
influenced by a myriad of psychological and external factors.
Stress, diet and sexual beliefs likely have more of an effect
on our sex drives than this hormone.
No. 2: Plentiful and easy sperm production encourages promiscuous
behaviour in men.
The biological definition of male and female has to do with
size of gametes, where male gametes are always smaller than
female gametes. Male gametes are often mobile and easily replenished,
especially in the case of humans. The theory -- known as Bateman’s
principle, from Angus Bateman’s 1948 fruit fly research
that studied phenotype distribution via genetic mutations among
offspring -- states that females are choosier when selecting
mates because of their limited lifetime gamete supply. To simplify
Bateman's assertion: male reproductive success is positively
correlated with number of female mates.
Modern researchers invalidated Bateman’s findings when
they reanalyzed the original data. None of the findings were
statistically significant and the study had many methodological
flaws. In 2010, researchers in the UK put forth a contradictory
reading on fruit fly sexual behavior that posited female promiscuity
as essential to some species’ survival. The press release
on EurekAlert says it best, suggesting that polyandry reduces
the risk of populations becoming extinct because of all-female
broods being born. This can sometimes occur as a result of a
sex-ratio distortion (SR) chromosome, which results in all of
the Y chromosome ‘male’ sperm being killed before
fertilization. The all-female offspring will carry the SR chromosome,
which will be passed on to their sons in turn resulting in more
all-female broods. Eventually there will be no males and the
population will die out.
course, these are studies on insects. What about humans? Overall,
social factors influence promiscuity and choosiness for both
genders greater than any biological factors such as gamete production.
Most people have multiple partners over a lifetime, though it
is hard to discern true numbers as self-reporting of partners
is often misleading. Basically, there is no evidence that human
sexual partner selection patterns are directly influenced by
No. 3: Risk of pregnancy mitigates sexual desire and behaviour.
Likely extrapolated from the Bateman principle stating that
reproductive costs influence sexual mating patterns.
Once again, sexual behaviors are not influenced solely by biology,
especially in highly social species. The idea that women are
choosier about sex because of the physical ramifications of
pregnancy ignores birth control, social aspects of fatherhood
(such as negative views of “deadbeat dads” or legislation
aimed at combating absent fathers), and non-reproductive sex
acts. Considering that 49 percent of U.S. pregnancies in 2001
were unintended, I really question pregnancy avoidance as a
motivating factor for sexual selectivity.
I think is more likely: social ramifications for females. In
the face of a social narrative positing females as naturally
sexually selective and males as naturally aggressive, any female
with a higher number of sexual partners violates common wisdom
and is perceived as deviant, whether or not this behavior really
is deviant. (Remember, we don’t have any reliable data
on number of sexual partners in populations because the data
is always self-reported and there is a strong social bias for
people to misrepresent their numbers.)
does this any of this matter? In social debates about sexuality,
this narrative is repeatedly employed to inaccurately discuss
porn, justify rape and reinforce restrictive gender stereotypes.
are some other ways that the myth of ‘male brutishness’
my teen years I regarded romance as something created by men
to convince women to have sex with them. My very few unsatisfying
sexual experiences combined with a rabidly sex-negative culture
reinforced my viewpoint that sex was solely a man’s prerogative.
I grew up. I cast off my body shame. I discovered masturbation.
I had sexual encounters that left me wild-eyed and breathless
instead of shamed and unhappy. Every orgasm incited the desire
to have another. A world of pleasurable possibilities opened
before me. Never before had I felt my capacity for sexual sensation
with such clarity.
the dawn of this new sexual self I saw nothing but potential
and was eager to make up for lost time. But I encountered an
unanticipated problem with my male partners: their sex drives.
fathom why a guy would stay at a party when he could be having
sex. I couldn’t understand how a guy would want to finish
watching a movie when he could be sweaty and naked. The phrase
“not right now” was incomprehensible coming from
a male mouth. I mean, weren’t all men shameless horndogs
who were only after one thing?
the absence of evidence to refute that myth I felt angry, undesired
or resentful when I was turned down. I retaliated by challenging
their masculinity or engaging in some serious shit-talking with
female friends. More than one snarky conversation about undersexed
men has conspired between my friends over drinks.
I’m not alone in this. A close female friend of mine once
cried at a Girls’ Night In because her boyfriend had spurned
her sexual advances. “I don’t understand,”
she moaned to us, “It just makes me feel fat and unattractive
and horrible. Why doesn’t he want me?” Another friend
simply went behind her boyfriend’s back instead of trying
to talk things over. Her defense? “I have needs.”
insidious flipside to the lie about aggressive male sexuality
is the assumption that women are incapable of sexual aggression.
(Personal note: I have experienced more aggressive sexual predation
at lesbian club nights than at mixed or hetero clubs. A woman
once shoved her thigh between my legs and began rubbing my vulva
with it before she even told me her name. Not cool).
only sexual aggression I see from men is culturally encouraged,
not biologically inherent. We raise them on this idea that a
defining character of their masculinity is uncontrollable sexual
behaviour and that man points can be had with every (female)
orifice their penis enters. This so-called natural ‘struggle
between the sexes’ is born from our social mythology of
some of you reading this may think: “Hey! I’m a
guy and my sex drive is overwhelming.”
to the club, buddy. High sex drives are an equal opportunity
maddener. Your genitals and chromosomes do not determine your