Social sexual taboos and the harm to men

caricature of a hand pulling the pallu of a woman in sari

Much has been spoken of the dangers to women because of sexually repressed views. Men are generally seen to be the aggressors, delineating what is allowed and what isn’t, in such descriptions. There is an understanding of privilege. This is not entirely false. However, when you have a socially repressed society, men don’t do well in it either. This is important to recognize.

Without getting into the question of opportunistic crimes against women born in ignorance and frustration, which I have gone into elsewhere, I want to talk about men who aren’t criminals. Who aren’t harming women in the sense of ending up in prisons. Who still suffer from warped sexual lives because of taboos that never really leave them.

As someone who has often written about sex, talked about sex openly and of course someone who has been enjoying having sex for decades now, there have been times when the starkness of the sheer handicap some men have simply because they have no access to reliable information is heart breaking.

Some examples. Some from my life, some from the lives of others.

Men who see the sexual organs as “dirty”.

This is so common and manifests in so many ways, it would take a book to describe them all. Consider the situation of a man who has learned to relieve natural sexual desires by pressing his body against a hard surface (usually lying prone on a bed) and avoiding touching his own penis. This is far more common than you imagine. Handsfree masturbation, so to say. And then the terrible confusion when sex feels “wrong” or he is unable to or uncomfortable with being hard because he is habituated to climax from a stimulation of pressing against a surface instead of the stroking that normal intercourse would produce. It is so intimate, so destroying of own identity as MALE, even speaking about it to find help can be an ordeal. Coping with it with a sexual partner present (obviously, no, for intercourse?) is so intimidating or humiliating, they may avoid sex.

Men who see sex as dirty

There are many who enjoy sex, indeed are “addicted” to its pleasure, yet see the act as dirty. This leads to a preference for a “hit and run” approach, that leaves their partner dissatisfied, and them never really fully discovering the joys of intimacy. These will also be the ones who will typically use sexual metaphors and comparisons for unpleasant things or things they find revolting. Because sex, to them is not a good thing.

Naturally, this leads to a deep conflict and a mess of guilt and frustration. Guilt for desiring or enjoying something taboo, and frustration because they really are never comfortable enough to let themselves go completely and feel content. This toxic cocktail can spill over into other facets of life with short tempers, crude and an inability to focus on much else other than what is troubling their unconscious mind – sex. A lot of sexualized trolling manifests like this. Not speaking of casual profanity here (“Oh fuck!”), but sexual adjectives and metaphors used in context with a hated person/entity (“XYZ is a slut” “did you do this when he was ******* you?” etc)

It is no coincidence that almost every leader or ideology that controls large angry mobs usually has a very repressive view of sex. Frustrated people can be pointed at targets. Content people are way harder to motivate into hate.

Quite literally, sex is the worst, most intimidating thing that comes to their mind, which is why they fling that at someone they hate.

Ignorance about sex

I once mediated between a couple who were in love and wanted to marry, but the man did not want to saddle his woman with a relationship that would leave her unsatisfied. Obsessed with each other and still on the verge of a break off, I asked them why they were acting so melodramatic and martyrish if they loved each other. He believed she faked her orgasms when they had sex and nothing she said to the contrary, convinced him. Much talking with both of them, together as well as separately gave me the perception that the woman loved the man, enjoyed the sex and wanted to marry him, but his “invented” problems were making her feel insecure and worry that he did not really want to marry her. The situation with the man was more difficult to understand and it took a lot of persuasion to realize that because she did not moan or scream or make other loud sounds during sex, he believed that she was merely pretending in order to not hurt his ego and he genuinely wanted her to be happy and not leading a life of pretended joy.

From there it was not too difficult to discover that he had learned to recognize a woman’s climax as visual expressions and involuntary sounds – straight from porn. His one girlfriend before this woman apparently had been noisy as well. It took a lot of convincing that there is no rule that says a woman must climax in a certain manner. His girlfriend told him quite bluntly that she realized he expected her to make sounds, but felt embarrassed and suppressed even natural pants and gasps because they sounded really odd.

To make a long story short, they did get married.

A more extreme case was one I heard from a social worker, who described a couple troubled by infertility, even though both of them were healthy. It turned out the man was trying to penetrate the woman’s umbilicus. Stories of ignorance abound. From harmless ones like what goes where (usually figured out quite quickly) to potentially life changing ones – like “sex is the primary cause of pregnancy”.

The impact

These are just a few examples. Many other manifestations come with their own problems, ranging from awkward, defensive-aggressive approaches to women that are perceived as invasive and crude, to insecurity in sexual life.

Without trying to be in the least sexist, I have observed that men tend to stake more of their identity on their sexual ability than women. There is the added vulnerability that a hard on cannot be faked, nor can a male climax. There is nothing that will protect from your sexual partner knowing exactly what happened or did not happen, while (in the case of women) not only is a woman not required to reach an “objectively verifiable climax” as someone had once put it, she is quite capable of having multiple climaxes, so faces little fear of the humiliation of not being able to satisfy a partner. Consequently, it is a source of great stress to not know things and risk the embarrassment of being blindsided by them with a sexual partner watching.

When a repressed society limits contact between genders, mutes all talk on sex, and makes sex something to be ashamed for, in my view, the resulting frustration and guilt – whether conscious or unaware – spill over into other aspects of life beyond denying the individuals a simple and natural pleasure. You have aggression, short tempers, a tendency to take offense and then be crude expressing it  – well, if sex is tricky, another “male quality” will get overcompensated, yes?

It all boils down to natural feelings not flowing into expression, but being blocked and forbidden till the pressure builds and explodes in unpredictable ways, lashing out at the unwary.

It also deprives people of a fundamental need – to be intimate, satiated and at peace with another person. The secure grounding of what your needs are, how they evolve, so that you may seek to fulfill them.

There is a need for more acceptance of natural sexuality of people, and a need to remove taboos around discussions that a child needs for questions that arise in his mind. There is a need for parents to speak as openly and informatively and without embarrassment about the natural sexual development of the body as they once did falling teeth.

Being capable of having sex does not make your child dirty. Talking about it does not make you dirty. The child would not be born without sex. There is no shame in sex. And there is a great need to protect your child from ignorance that could have grave consequences.

There is a need to not create taboos around sex, touching own genitals, masturbation, and more and instead provide factual information with appropriate caution. There is a serious need for schools to have basic sexual education that goes beyond the changes in the body during puberty and actually addresses healthy habits, factual information on sex, reproduction, contraception, consent and laws.

There is a great need for .

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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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