Dear Men in Power: I Know You're Scared.

Dear Men in Power: I Know You're Scared.

Dear Men in Power, I know you’re scared. Maybe you haven’t slept well in the past two months since the #MeToo movement took its stride. Perhaps you lie awake at night thinking back to those times you might have crossed a line with a female employee...

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Why Courage is Needed to Share Sex Consent Violations

Why Courage is Needed to Share Sex Consent Violations

Folklorist, feminist, and sex educator, Dr. Jeana Jorgensen, reflected and blogged about my personal storytelling video about a sexual consent violation I experienced recently with a man. It means a lot to me to feel like the feminist community is behind me in my personal sharing and in my compassionate and reflective approach to this difficult topic! I also share some negative comments I've received...

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Terry Crews Redefines the "Man Code" to Embrace Feminist Ideals

When you think of a feminist, let alone a vocal feminist, you probably don't visualize a former professional football player. The hyper-masculinity of professional football encourages the opposite of feminist ideals. But athlete-turned-actor, Terry Crews, recently wrote a book called Manhood: How to Be a Better Man -- Or Just Live with One and is taking a stand to embrace feminism, and redefine masculinity.

No, this doesn't mean making men like women. It means cultivating vulnerability in men, to be able to say that they're scared, that they don't have an answer or solution, or that they feel weak. I believe that this is the definition of true courage, true strength. But mainstream maculinity, taught to many boys growing up, is that their emotional fears are shameful. If we want men to view each other and women as fully human, and deserving of respect, we need to allow and encourage men to develop a full range of human emotions and the ability (and safety) to express these emotions.

This is the kind of vulnerability that leads to true intimacy. Like Crews states in the video interview below, true intimacy is "to be known." I know that for most men and women, "to be known" is what they most desperately want, but most desperately fear.

We live in a world where an 23-year-old woman was attacked (and later died) in a fast food parking lot because earlier that day, she had the courage to defend two teen girls from male harassment. Crews' words are poignant and he takes on the challenge of being a role model. He states, "We're not battling individuals, we are battling a mindset." Yes. And mindsets come from cultural gender teachings. So what are you teaching to the next generation of boys? Respect for themselves (in all their strengths and weaknesses) with compassion for others...or something else?

(Photo of Terry Crews pulled from this webpage.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego -- Sociologist, Sexologist, Sex Speaker

The Best Sex She's Ever Had

A lot goes into great sex: Affection, attraction, anticipation, location, surprise, and much more. To spur your imagination, we spoke to seven women who shared their sexiest, most mind-blowing experiences, then asked experts to help us understand what you can learn from them.  

"Our coworkers could have caught us in the act."

This new guy and I had been casually flirting on the job for a couple of weeks. We worked at a photo studio that shot models and clothes and lifestyle products. One of my chores was to manage the product closet. One day I was inside cataloging when my crush came by to chat. We started joking around ... and the next thing I knew he was kissing me. The closet connected to a conference room, so I quickly shut the door. It wasn't too long before our clothes started hitting the floor. He'd just peeled off my panties when I heard voices. We froze. My boss had come into the conference room with some coworkers, apparently for a meeting. The guy stared at me. I stared back. Trapped! So why not? We picked up where we left off. The thrill was insane: a new guy, a crazy new experience, the risk of discovery. Even better was trying to be quiet. When I was about to climax, he gave me his shirt to bite down on. It smelled like his cologne, and my orgasm was seismic.

—ANGELA, 32

WHY IT WORKED

The fear of being caught sends a gusher of adrenaline and endorphins through your system, heightening the passion, says Jenn Gunsaullus, Ph.D., a sociologist and intimacy counselor in San Diego. But there's a subtler kick too: Fooling around in secret makes you both feel that you're sharing a special bond—and that connection can linger after the act.

Click here to read the rest of this Men's Health Magazine article by Jennifer Miller.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego Sexologist, Sex Speaker, Sociologist, & Sex Counselor

Test Your Sexual Compatibility

When you’re dating someone new, how do you know if you’ll be sexually compatible in the long run?

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Unfortunately, we can be terrible sometimes at assessing long-term sexual compatibility at the start of a relationship because our feel-good neurotransmitters are running the show. Most of us know that feeling of overwhelming passion the first few weeks and months, when you can’t imagine not being easily aroused by your partner. Plus, in the beginning, you really want the other person to like you, so you put your sexy side in full view. But just as you need to ascertain if someone’s life goals, values, and hobbies match yours, why not check out the likelihood of sexual longevity?

If sex is particularly important to you or your partner, and if it’s one of the primary ways you feel connected, express love, and stay grounded, then assessing sexual compatibility is vital to your relationship’s potential fulfillment. If I had it my way, it would be completely normal to talk about all these topics during the get-to-know-you phase of dating. But since it isn’t, below are some questions to help you ponder this sensitive subject.

1. Meaning of Sex

What does sex mean to you? What motivates you to have sex? There are many reasons people have sex, from the obvious ones of seeking pleasure, reducing stress, showing love, or to make a baby, to less obvious ones like seeking status, boredom, proving yourself, or even obligation. These meanings can change over time in different contexts. A simple way to address this with a new sexual partner is to discuss whether past sexual experiences fall into one of three categories: hot, exciting, and fun. Deep connection, expression of love, or sacred experience. Or obligation and expectation. This at least broaches a conversation about each of your perspectives and motivations.

2. Sex Drive and Fidelity

How high is your sex drive? How often do you masturbate? If one person feels compelled to masturbate daily and the other one only once a month, this could mean their physiology for desire is set at different levels. (Or if one person has never masturbated or thinks masturbation is shameful, see #4 below.) It can be helpful to ascertain if you maintain a relatively constant level of sexual desire throughout long relationships, or if it peaks early in a relationship and fades over time.

Also, have you ever cheated on a partner before, or do you find it difficult to commit sexually to one partner? I include past infidelities in here because the “cads or dads” researchers claim that some men are genetically wired for multiple partners, while others for lasting bonds. Although our cultural upbrining and gender education form a large part of our sexual beliefs, I do think physiology should weigh in as well.

3. Exploration and Open-Mindedness

Is your sexual appetite simple and vanilla, or do you like to be challenged in the bedroom? If you’re going about your sexual play and something is not working, are you able to think outside the box and try something different? Those who like to stick to scripted sexual encounters are not a good fit in the long run for those who like to explore their erotic potential. Sexual creativity can serve you well in a long-term relationship to weather the inevitable challenges (more on the resiliency needed for this in #6 below).

4. Negative Sexual Experiences

American society has a shame-based approach to sex, so it’s no surprise that many adults carry fear, embarrassment and shame around their sexual activities, past or present. Insecurities and negativity from past sexual difficulties can certainly interfere with a happy sexual connection, often arising from sexual abuse, erectile performance concerns, hearing that a body part is inadequate, or being taught that sex is dirty and dangerous. Are you willing to do the hard work of personal growth to reduce the baggage you carry? Or are you willing to patiently support a partner through her/his own processes? This leads us into . . .

5. Vulnerability and Emotional Expression

Open sex talk is not the norm in America, especially in terms of preparing our youth for happy sex lives. Since most of us never learn vulnerability skills, discussing your emotions around sexual topics can be very awkward and uncomfortable. But giving and receiving sexual feedback is an essential act of emotional vulnerability. Are you willing to talk through embarrassing and personal topics that make you feel uncomfortable, or do you push away these matters? Are you able to be truthful yet responsible with your emotions?

6. Resiliency

Pregnancy and childbirth, being new parents, illness, menopause, medications, and other bodily changes can all have a substantial impact on sexual functioning, frequency, and quality. Even without such significant factors, it’s not unusual for the initial sexual connection to fade. Do you believe you can endure these changes to your sexual interactions? Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from hardships, which requires a belief in your own adaptability, and a belief in your ability to enact positive change in your life, even if it takes some creativity.

Where to go from here

There’s no scientific evidence that the questions above can predict your sexual compatibility. But these topics can lay a foundation of sexual self-reflection, honesty, and vulnerability for you and your partner. I see so many couples disappointed and resentful about their sexual paths together because they relied on early sexual chemistry and assumed compatibility. Our sexual blueprints can shift over time, but it’s helpful to own up to where you’ve been and the importance of sex to you in the future. If filling your love tank depends on sex and your new partner looks like a keeper, consider delving into these topics as a necessary act of courage.

(This was originally posted at The Good Men Project.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker, Sociologist

Opening the Tiny Hurt Locker - Why Men Need to "Hurt" Their Partners

I am a new writer for the Relationships, Love + Sex section of the Good Men Project. The Good Men Project's tagline says it all: The conversation no one else is having. I like to think I have a lot of conversations with folks daily about things that don't usually get talked about. So I'm excited to bring my perspectives on sex, intimacy, relationships, gender, and power to the GMP table. Below is my first article with them published today:

It’s necessary to hurt your relationship partner. No, seriously. Think about it this way: it is inevitable that when you come together with another person with different experiences, expectations, beliefs, goals and needs, you will sometimes disagree and disappoint your partner. That can hurt both you and your partner emotionally. But sometimes, that’s necessary.  For example, your partner wants to spend the afternoon shopping with you. You agree, although you’d rather poke your eye out with a sharp stick. On Friday night, you assume you’re hanging out with your partner, but then learn she chose to spend time with her friends instead. And the list goes on. These things may seem minor, but they add up over time if you don’t discuss them honestly because they are based on a false compromise.

Some men are afraid to hurt their female partners. I see this in my private practice all the time. Kids are often told by their dads: “don’t ever hurt a woman.” That’s great advice for raising men who respect women.  And it’s great to acknowledge that many men do have the power to physically hurt women. Unfortunately, kids don’t have the brain development to grasp the nuanced meaning of social issues. Therefore, by adulthood, this well-intentioned guideline becomes a black and white principle for many men, even around complex emotional situations. If men want to talk about anything that could hurt their partner, they don’t. This is where real problems emerge.

When you don’t express your thoughts or opinions, bad shit starts to happen. Your unspoken truths turn into unspoken resentments. I’ve observed that when people have negative feelings and their feelings go ignored or unprocessed, people behave badly. So in the long run, your initial silence ends up hurting your partner even more. This silence is based partially on fear and guilt: fear of confrontation, fear of feeling horrible for hurting the woman you love, and the guilt over making her cry. That fear and guilt come from a noble and responsible belief system. But it’s imperative to recognize the difference between “small hurts” and “big hurts.” Small hurts, handled responsibly, can avoid big hurts.

Easier said than done though. Let’s say you disagree with your partner’s decision to discipline the kids, but keep your opinions to yourself and become passive aggressive with your resentment. Later on, when your partner is disappointed by your attitude or your lack of support, you avoid taking any responsibility at all, or even lash out because you didn’t feel like you had a choice. However, you did have a choice. You always do.

It all comes down to learning how to acknowledge and sit with the discomfort of hurting your partner. This means building resiliency, including establishing trust in yourself that you can handle your negative feelings, manage seeing disappointment in your partner, and know that you’ll still be loved.  It means remembering that you are a good man. It means choosing to acknowledge your discomfort and staying present with it. This is resiliency.

Where do you feel the discomfort inside your body? Is it a gnawing in your gut? A sinking feeling in your stomach? An ache in your chest? Sometimes, clients describe a tightness in their throat when they are afraid to say something. These sensations are so uncomfortable. Most of us probably learned to run, numb or distract ourselves, withdrawing into video games or the Internet, alcohol or eating. Sometimes, we even lash out in anger. But staying present with the pain and facing the discomfort head-on allows for more conscious and authentic interactions that are critical for relationships to thrive.

It is natural, normal, and even healthy to have disagreements. This is all part of the negotiation required to merge two lives. When you choose to acknowledge and negotiate the small hurts honestly and responsibly, you live more from love than fear.

Conscious conversations like this one must include the participation of both partners. It is tough when it’s one-sided, and this could happen if you start speaking your truth in new ways. Over time though, you can model responsible communication and claim ownership of difficult emotions, co-building a relationship where both partners are resilient enough to handle disappointment and move on. If one or both of you lack the skills to communicate in this way, a counselor or therapist, or even a good relationship book, can offer you tools.

I’m reminded of my mother’s framed needlepoint that hung on our living room wall. It read, “A stitch in time saves nine.” The more adept you become at addressing small hurts, the less likely you will need to address the big ones later on.

(Image Credit: Flickr/-Rodrigo Vargas-)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker