You’ve been lied to. Contrary to media portrayals, men are not always ready to go at it like rabbits anytime, anywhere. Men are not in a chronic state of heat, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.
Men are not consumed with satyriasis — excessive sexual craving — day in and day out. While we’ve been raised to think that men want sex all of the time, the truth is that many, at some point, choose to abstain from sexual activity with their wives or girlfriends.
I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I’m tired of hearing that it must be the woman’s choice, or rather her fault, if a romantic relationship is sexless.
Women always seem to bear the brunt of the blame when it comes to sexual difficulties in a love affair. My suspicion, as a sexologist who hears about couples’ woes daily, has been that we, as a society, have been rather unfair in pointing the finger at the ladies for a lack of passion. And wouldn’t you know it, a newly released book by Bob Berkowitz and his wife Susan Yager-Berkowitz has confirmed my hunch.
According to "He’s Just Not Up for It Anymore," men are, at the very least, co-culprits in America’s most common sexual problem – lack of desire. In their survey of over 4,000 men and women in sexless marriages, followed by hundreds of interviews, the Berkowitz team gathered shocking and sad testimony on the state of our unions.
Couples are not only refraining from sex, but often withhold touching, hugging or kissing one another in general. A number of couples never say, “I love you.” While together, many feel isolated and alone, according to the book.
An estimated 20 million marriages in the U.S. are without physical passion. Framed differently, 15 percent to 20 percent of American couples have sex 10 times per year or less. Such issues are rarely one-sided. Most professionals believe that low desire is experienced by men and women equally. So what is his side of the story?
The data from the co-authors’ survey reveals the following as some of the reasons why men in heterosexual relationships stop having sex:
His partner lacks a sense of sexual adventure (68 percent) or doesn’t seem to enjoy sex (61 percent). Consequently, he has become bored with sex and the lack of newness. Funny enough, though, these men conveniently ignore the fact that they themselves are not bringing any originality into the bedroom. Instead, they are choosing to blame their partner for a lack of adventure and sexual enjoyment.
He’s interested in sex with others, but not his wife (48 percent). Men indicated that they were sexual beings, or would like to be. The majority masturbated, which is often an indicator that a person does not have a sexual disorder, per se. So what’s the problem? In many cases, familiarity breeds contentment, which makes for boredom.
He’s angry with her (44 percent). These men felt criticized, controlled, undervalued, and/or insignificant by their partners. As a result, they shut down as she became more and more of a “bully.” This cycle was ongoing: She’s critical. He shuts down emotionally. She gets even more critical. He becomes even more withdrawn. ... Regardless, in this war of the roses, no one’s showing any kind of love.
His lover has put on a significant amount of weight (38 percent). Somehow, “There’s more of me to love” wasn’t the response he had in mind when he once gasped, “I can’t get enough of you!” Ironically, a man putting on weight was irrelevant to this turnoff. But if his lover put on weight, he no longer viewed her as attractive. His own obesity, however, did diminish his libido.
He prefers watching porn online (25 percent). Between the variety, no performance pressure, no emotion, no foreplay, no talking, and no criticism, he’d rather connect with the Internet. A major danger in this: His fantasy world is replacing his actual sex life.
Other reasons for a lack of interest in sex included:
— Erectile dysfunction (ED), including feeling humiliated for such
— Doubts about his marriage
— An alcohol or drug dependency
— Physical illness or disease
— Past sexual trauma
— Withholding sex as punishment
— Depression – his or hers
— Medications affecting his libido
— Inhibited sexual desire or hypoactive sexual desire disorder
In analyzing "his" issues, the Berkowitz team also surveyed "his" partner, with most responding that they didn’t know what happened (66 percent). When finding herself in a sexless marriage, a woman felt bewildered and hurt by what she saw as irrational behavior. He used to do anything and everything to get her into bed. Now, he acts annoyed or exhausted at the prospect of sexual intimacy. Understandably, this partnership was taking a toll on her ego and self-esteem.
So now that you know what some of the major issues for men are, how do you solve them? Interestingly enough, the investigators found that both genders agreed the most with survey statements that shifted responsibility away from themselves. So, in what has become my mantra for this column, remember: You need to take responsibility for your relationship. That’s the only way anything is going to be resolved.
While many people feel “stuck” in their sexless union, you do have choices:
— Continue things as they are (in maintaining status quo, you are making a choice – nobody is forcing you to do anything).
— Enter therapy. For a sex therapist or counselor near you, contact the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.
— Get divorced. Often a last resort, only a small percentage of couples surveyed by the Berkowitz team parted.
— Stay together in spite of a lack of efforts or failed efforts. You value having a partner for a best friend more than a lover and are OK with your sexless state.
In addressing the issue-- with or without professional help-- realize that a man’s lack of interest is often due to a combination of issues. In sorting through what these are, you need to talk. Even more importantly, you need to listen — and hear what’s being said “between the lines.”
If you don’t communicate about your dilemma(s) with love and respect, you’re only going to feed the situation. And you know better than anybody that both of you deserve better.
In the Know Sex News …
— Visual and performance art of a different kind. The Sex Workers Art Show Tour is making its way around the country. This cabaret-style exhibition of strippers, film stars, dominatrix, phone sex operators, Internet models, and, yes, prostitutes is sure to cause a stir in your community.
— Buenos Aires titillates beyond the tango. Argentina’s capital has seen a rise in erotic restaurants, with diners enjoying live performances with sexual overtones with their dinners. Perhaps more eyebrow-raising than the live sex show nightcap is the fact that it is often women dragging their husbands or boyfriends out for these late night “meals.”
— Not enough data. The Minnesota Department of Health is recommending not making the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine a requirement for teen girls. According to the state health commissioner, Dr. Sanne Magnan, “Mandating the vaccine as a requirement for school attendance is premature.”
Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."