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Most men don't like sex - Elf M. Sternberg
Most men don't like sex
I have this thesis that I've been discussing with my friends both on-line and off, and most of them, to my surprise, actually agree with the basic premise:

Most men don't like sex

There's some evidence for this, but let's start with the two basic arguments.

First, for most men, who are heterosexual, the outlet for their sexual needs is primarily women. If that's so, then you'd think men would praise women who grant enthusiastic consent, but they don't. No, for women for whom enthusiastic consent is high on their list of priorities, the terms our culture assigns them are "slut," "slattern," and "whore." Our culture treats them like a used candy, a dead rose, a cup of warm spit. There are no equivalent terms among men. If men liked sex, they'd respect the women who would enjoy providing it. They don't like those women, therefore their motives for seeking sex must be something other than enjoyment of it.

Secondly, given that most men claim to "enjoy sex" "with women," you'd think they'd actually be good at it. A man would be willing to read up on it, figure out how to communicate with his partner, how to ask and tell, how to actually discover what his partner likes, and how to get back what he wants. You think he'd be willing to experiment. But most men aren't willing. Most men don't care enough.

At the extreme, let's argue that it's actually the men who want babies. They've controlled women's opportunities to have children throughout the ages, so it's clear our species-wide reproductive success is primarily mens' responsibility. If they wanted to enjoy sex, they would. But I theorize that what they really seek is relief from the reproductive drive. For men, sex is a biologically dominant need that exists only to encourage the reproductive act.

For women, the price of actually having children is high, but since childbirth is months separated from the act of intercourse, there's no reason to believe that evolution has exapted a woman's sexuality to be associated with having children. It just feels good for women, an exapted reward that exists only to discourage a woman from rejecting the man's dark, passionate need to make babies.

I don't think the extreme thesis is strong, but I think the original one deserves closer attention. Do men enjoy sex? Or do they enjoy the relief of having had sex, of having succeeded in their role, of having satisfied a biological urge?

To provide a strong analogy, it surprised me to discover that there are lots of people who don't like to eat. I know that barely a third of Americans like to cook, but it astonished me to learn how many people resent the time and effort it takes to acquire and eat even ready-made meals. There's an entire market dedicated converting the process of eating into "drinking something at your desk" that's meant to convince time-starved nerds they can spend more time programming and less eating.

The happiest countries on Earth are also those with extensive familial and communal food rituals. Sex isn't a daily need, but food is, and even in the ancient porneia, men still cared much more about where their next meal came from, because that was the difference between life and death. Yet here we are where this life-and-death matter, this engine of health and happiness, has become a nuisance, a burden, a timesink. Given that this is even possible for our species, the idea that sex would be even more easily dismissed or neglected by those with the power to dismiss it shouldn't be all that surprising.

The world is full of distractions. Not just in the pursuit of work, but also as substitutes for what men want: video games substitute for any sense of excellence, and porn substitutes for any sense of satisfaction. Compared to the actual struggle of seeing other people, namely women, as worthy companions, in the presence of whom men must be naked and vulnerable, caring and reflexive, in order to enjoy sex... well, I suspect a lot of men would rather not work that hard.

Between the effort of getting there and the payoff at the end, most men look at sex and conclude that, if it weren't for that damned drive, they wouldn't bother. They just don't like it that much.

Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: Pacific Rim OST, We Are The Resistance

16 comments or Leave a comment
acelightning From: acelightning Date: April 22nd, 2014 07:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I respectfully disagree. I don't think the behavior you observe is rooted in evolutionary psychology; I blame almost all of it on societal factors.

First, like many other "evils" of society, it goes all the way back to Zoroastrian dualism. Everything is either good or bad, and a lot depends on the mapping. We wound up with "male good, female bad", "logic good, emotion bad", and "spirit good, matter bad" (along with a lot of other troublesome things like "light good, dark bad" and "sky good, earth bad"). Men, who were logical creatures striving to become pure spirit, found themselves unable to resist the physical urge to have sex (sex bad, asceticism good). It was those innately evil, emotional, physical women who tempted them simply by existing. Men, of course, would often find themselves giving in to these vile urges, and then they'd feel guilty and ashamed - and blame women, of course. They liked, needed, and (at least in a purely physical sense, which only made it worse) enjoyed sex while they were doing it, but they felt disgusted at themselves as soon as it was over. And if women were such inherently revolting, filthy, fleshly creatures (they didn't even have souls!), why should men be at all concerned about establishing a relationship with a woman, let alone have any desire to please them?

Then we also have the notion of a woman as some man's possession, as livestock and for breeding children. A man wouldn't want someone else milking his cow... but even more important was the "legitimacy" of the children of his women. A woman who had sex with any man but her owner was as worthless (and disgusting) as a piece of food somebody else had licked, a kerchief someone else had blown their nose on... or a rag someone else had ejaculated into. The paternity of the children she bore was unknown, and therefore worthless. Her only right to exist at all came from the uncomfortable fact that men still couldn't completely control their urge to have sex. (Nobody asked the women if they wanted to have sex, of course - do you ask your horse if it wants to pull a plow?)

Getting closer to the modern era, we find the concept of being "busy", of having "important things to do". The urge to have sex (already fraught with all the baggage mentioned above), and the need to eat, even the need to sleep, became denigrated, because there are "more important things to do" than eat, sleep, and fuck. Of course people with more wealth and power (obtained by "doing important things") had household servants to cook and serve food on demand, along with taking care of all the other unimportant, "menial" tasks - mostly women's work, even to this day.

And in contemporary society, how busy a person is has become even more strongly correlated with their "worth". If you're not "working" at something all the time, whether at a desk writing computer code, or "working out", or otherwise "doing something important", you're not being "effective"; you can lose your job, or be paid less, or otherwise lose social status. That's why people now don't want to "waste" even the time it takes to ingest a meal prepared by others, and they feel guilty about having to sleep at all. Under these conditions, who's going to want to spend time talking to a potential sexual partner about mutual needs and wants, or learn how to make love really well? Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am is all they have time for, and they even begrudge that much. But without that constant pressure to "do important things", people would soon remember that both eating and sex are fundamental sources of pleasure. Damn those Puritans anyway! - "pleasure" is still considered inherently sinful somehow (flesh bad, spirit good; fun bad, work good).

(I apologize for all the quotation marks, but I couldn't quickly come up with any alternative way of making it clear that the quotes indicate narrow usage of the words and phrases so delineated.)

Edited at 2014-04-22 07:59 am (UTC)
sirfox From: sirfox Date: April 22nd, 2014 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
How does the country's happiness index trend versus places where masturbation is or isn't taboo?

By your hypothesis, if what men really wanted was the post-orgasm endorphin rush, wouldn't jerking off be enough?
elfs From: elfs Date: April 22nd, 2014 04:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can't address the issue with respect to men who actually enjoy sex, but for those who don't, pornography seems to be an effective substitute.
siren From: siren Date: April 22nd, 2014 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Men like sex, otherwise they wouldn't constantly try so hard to get some. They're very motivated by their orgasms, and I think they don't want to have sex the way women want it. They don't want to truly be intimate. Even when they find "the one," they tend to be selfish.
elfs From: elfs Date: April 22nd, 2014 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
But that doesn't address the other issues: if they liked it, why don't they try to get good at it? Why do they treat women who like it terribly?

I don't think they like it. Or if they do, they resent who they have to get it from.
siren From: siren Date: April 23rd, 2014 03:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Because they only care about themselves.

Thankfully, I don't have that experience with my current boyfriend.
gfish From: gfish Date: April 23rd, 2014 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I think it's definitely fair to say that most men hate women more than they like sex. Misogyny is demonstrably more important to them. And since they claim to really be into sex, I can only assume they really, REALLY hate women. I've yet to figure out what to do with that information, but I've been thinking along very similar lines for a while now.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 23rd, 2014 12:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think the lack of effort many/most men make at being GOOD at sex is a sign of their disinterest in it. I think their disinterest in learning to be good at sex (or at least please their partners, which is how I'd define being good at sex)says more about their disregard and/or disrespect for their partner(s).

howlin_wolf_66 From: howlin_wolf_66 Date: April 23rd, 2014 03:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're sort of onto something; I suspect that a lot of men don't like sex - but gratification.

As to why they demean women who give sex freely... I don't think that has anything to do with not liking it; it's just that there are many people who work best when they're hypocrites: 'Do as I say, not as I do' ...
elfs From: elfs Date: April 24th, 2014 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)
So, men don't like fucking. They like being able to say they've fucked.
howlin_wolf_66 From: howlin_wolf_66 Date: April 24th, 2014 09:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes. It's a control thing. They like being able to say that they're in charge... (not every man, of course... but the scornful ones of whom you were speaking of, originally)

This also extends to not being good at it... If you think you're in charge, then you think you're the one who knows best, so you don't bother seeking out anybody else's feedback... Taking instruction - whether passively or directly - emasculates and removes authority, so instead they prefer to live in their own little world where they are master of all they survey.
ben_raccoon From: ben_raccoon Date: April 26th, 2014 08:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I dunno. Sex can be fun. The whole collection of mating rituals leading up to the potential of sex is significantly less so, because American culture has such a strong love/hate relationship with the concept of sexuality that it infests even the alternative cultures. After all, men are supposed to be virile and promiscuous, while women are supposed to be chaste, and if you don't fit into those simple categories, then something must clearly be 'wrong' with you.

Part of that is the crap nature of sex education. Yeah, they show you the mechanics and diseases, but there's almost always nothing about consent, communication, why internalizing shame is unhealthy, stuff like that. So, we as a culture learn about sexuality at a young age from TV, movies, mass-market pornography, all of which are dictated by the lowest common denominator and horribly simplified... and then we wonder why we're all fucked up when we become adults.

heofmanynames From: heofmanynames Date: April 28th, 2014 06:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm no statistician, but I'd bet most men are too ASHAMED to ask, to even find out what THEY would like, too afraid of seeming ignorant or not-in-charge or unmanly...and in the aftermath of the whole men-behaving-badly / Happy Bunny meme circus, I think that a great many men sank blissfully and thoughtlessly into a sea of lowest expectations and are quite comfortable never really graduating from frat-rat.

Doesn't help that so many POPULAR examples of maleness are (apparently) shallow, thoughtless, self-centered dickheads (looking at YOU, Nevada...) who don't get much variety (or much roughage) from the belief system.

In short, I think entirely too many men are entirely too ignorant of who they are and how they feel and what they want; too clueless and embarrassed to buck the herd; too easily threatened by another who actually wants to CONNECT - and ultimately too afraid that someone will notice.

MUCH easier to trash the females, they seem to think, but like I say, they're all messed up....

I do agree with you that the end result is men who SEEM obsessed with sex, but are afraid to ask, afraid to talk or even really engage, afraid of being laughed at, of not being a good enough playmate.

I have been such a man. Despite the most adventurous mind and longing heart, I am still largely such a man, even after years of real struggle to overcome, defuse, etc. My observations suggest it all gets more overwhelming as you approach the lower common denominators.

In fact, I'm saying 'hello again' in this post because I have recently (last 10 days) realized I have to COMPLETELY change the conversation(s) I have about sex...and this in the middle of the most protracted period of trust and happiness

Nice to see your stuff again, Elf - hope y'all are well and happy!
adam_0oo From: adam_0oo Date: May 1st, 2014 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very well written, quite the thought experiment.

I can NEVER get over the bald hypocrisy in loving porn and hating the porn star (and all the variations thereof).
livejournal From: livejournal Date: July 4th, 2014 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think he has a point

User maureenlycaon referenced to your post from I think he has a point saying: [...] Very interesting essay by Elf Sternberg about the possibility that most men don't like sex [...]
From: siliconshaman Date: July 4th, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suspect it's not the sex men hate, it's the loss of control. Plus the fact that in certain sectors of this society at least, women are percieved as either granting or witholding sex.
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