Enough Pressure to Kill An Erection

As a feminist, sometimes I get upset by popular depictions of male sexuality. Take this video, Sex Tips Which Don’t Suck, which I found fabulous, and moving. The spoken word poetry describes a man unconcerned about his female sex partner’s pleasure. But what I’ve found in my life is the opposite, of men eager, almost desperate to please me. Men are so messed up en masse, that it feels wrong to malign them for something so far from universal.

The most moving part was at the end, the women learning how to ask for what they want in bed. Which, despite my sex-positive feminism and the fact that I blog on the topic, I find strangely difficult to do. As my friend described me, “You’re a typical Evangelical, obsessed with sex.” This is true. I don’t write about sex because I’m fine with it, squared away, only positive feelings. That’s boring. I write about sex because I’m obsessed with it, in a way one can only be obsessed with something with which they have some kind of deep and abiding conflict. And for all my efforts, somehow thinking deeply and publishing about the politics of sex hasn’t really made me any better in the sack.

So I’m sitting there watching this video, going, “Yeah, you go girl, ask him in a firm-but-not-bitchy way to slow it down!”

But what they said in the first bit didn’t jive with me. Which isn’t to say all men are giving, sensitive lovers. I’ll admit to my own selection bias in who I’m going to get down with. Also my utter naivete. Until very recently, I’d never been cheated on, lied to about something big, or strung along for sex before. To be young again…

But anyway, if ladies are getting caught with an oddly large number of bedroom jackasses, they might want to take a look in the mirror. There are lots of dudes who want to make sure you have a good time.

Contrary to those women, who my heart goes out to, what I’ve found with surprisingly frequency, are men so intent on pleasing me that they can’t. And it really does seem like the more they care about me as a person, the more they have trouble making it happen.

Time was, when I was far too old for this shit, that I thought that an erection problem meant a man didn’t find me attractive. It pains me to type that because it’s so stupid. I was 26 when I was faced with this for the first time. (late bloomer) Now, when a man can’t get it up I try to stop saying things to him like, “Don’t worry, this is going up on my blog later.”

Honestly, I feel for modern man. These women, with all their equal paychecks and sex having and live-Tweeting. How do you impress her? And what happens if you fail to? I recently had a guy straight-up tell me (in different words) that his ability to get it up was directly conversely proportional to his being emotionally vulnerable. He could not bang the same woman he cried in front of. What does this mean about masculinity? Perhaps that I have weird friends. Or maybe all this pressure to be perfect affects men as well as women, but in men it creates a flaccid penis, and in women it creates spoken word poetry.

“Women are not so much concerned about bravado, they tend to be more confident and therefore more honest,” a friend wrote to me. “They are the hunted not the hunter so they aren’t as concerned about making a faux pas and therefore the one thing they treasure above all is honesty. The secret to unlocking a woman’s mind is being absolutely honest and forthright. Most women love when a man is ‘vulnerable’ the reason is because that’s what it takes to get most blokes to drop the pretense and ‘be real.’” All I ever wanted was honesty. That’s probably why I’m single. And as much as I hate all the “men are this way, women are this way,” I see some truth to this.

Except that we’ve invented “the cool girl” which is essentially women telling men that false bravado is no longer their purview alone. Not that I think any of this is necessarily new.

What does it mean that I write about sex? Not that I’m good at it, or squared away in any real sense. It means I think it’s fascinating. Because it’s more than sex. “Everything in the world is about sex, except sex,” wrote Oscar Wilde. “Sex is about power.”

The distribution of power is changing. What does sex look like while we live through the death throes of patriarchy?

I guess the ultimate sex tip that doesn’t suck from me my spoken-word poem, would be, “If you’re encountering a lot of men who don’t care about your pleasure, bang different dudes, and make sure you’re communicating your wants effectively. But mostly just shun selfish lovers to the outer banks of access to fornication. And yes it sucks that you have to change your behavior instead of the boor changing his. But that’s the nature of boorishness, it’s pretty impervious to helpful suggestions.”

And to me, it would be, stop intimidating lovers with your good looks, witty banter, and fantastic blog, you minx. Their erections don’t stand a chance.


  1. John Shapard

    I just wanted to support your efforts to be able to say what you want during sex. I try hard to please my partner, but almost all the young women I’ve known have been reluctant to state any preference, much less to coach me with words like “slower” or “yes, like that.” This makes it much more difficult for me to please them, because I am left with only moans, breathing rate, and the like as feedback to let me know if I’m hitting the right buttons. (If the lady clamps her legs around my head, I can’t hear, and so am really just running blind.)
    Maybe we could try a “play doctor” version of sex, where we try to just approach it as a shared exploration without the “oh, don’t break the mood” reluctance to talk about what fun we are–or are not–having.

  2. So, I think that men desperate to please you can also be more about them than it is about you. I’ve definitely experienced this, to my detriment, and I think it’s a non-insubstantial portion of the male population who does this.

    Doctor Nerdlove explains it better (the first letter):


    I’ve experienced guys who want to please me. I agree with you, that most of them do. However, the one who was *desperate* to, I suspect, was more into his own self image than genuinely being a good lover. While sex with him was good, it also became emotionally trying when I didn’t live up to his expectations of what he thought I should be doing or how I should be reacting to what he did or said. My pleasure wasn’t, in the end, about me, but about his own masculinity. Remember: sexually pleasing women IS an important part of current western masculinity.

    Every other sex partner I’ve ever been with has wanted to please me in a more healthy way—they see sex as a two-way street and just genuinely cared about me being happy. These gentlemen were able to do so with varying degrees of success, depending on how compatible we were.

    I think everyone wants to be good in bed. But why they want to be is as important to great sex as the fact *that* they want to be.

  3. Maria

    When did women begin to fog up men’s swagger, confidence and clear desires for us? We’ve confused being wanted with being raped, that’s the signal we’re giving off, and now men are afraid to want us and afraid to own their honest masculine sexuality. Men are not about rape and violation, and I am not a victim ahead of the fact.

    I’m 37, never married, have LTRs mostly, but hook up to stay limber (never when I’m seriously dating). I have never been assaulted, but I get unwanted attention at least once a week, often more. Wanted attention I get a lot less. I feel the need for sex, but needs get funny in sex, and here I’m talking about guys, the guys I want, needing me to be happy and satisfied *and* un-offended. Too needy guys!

    Sure, I want to know I’m safe, but that’s not hot. Alongside safe is wanting to be desired and not wanting to have to think about what I want or whether the dude is doing me “correctly”. That’s where the heat is, not thinking. Otherwise I’m all up in my head and not at all where sex gets sweetest for me. Sweetness is where I’m out of my head, in my sex and then, with any luck, in my heart. Thinking is what I do at work, not at play.

    I want a guy to be clear on what he’s about and that does not mean he’s all about what he thinks he can do for me. If that’s his A game then he’s already submitting to what he thinks a woman wants these days – not me, but any woman. He’s a pleaser, and that energy is all wrong. It’s anti-hot. I want surrender – but mine, not his! I want total abandon, and I want to feel free to go there, that it’s safe to go there with him, which means the guy has my back, that he’s strong and present and able to roll with my mood and excitement and occasional kink. He has no problem with my mess. He is not looking for a neat, by-the-book experience. He’s hard because he desires me, he commands the space so he protects me, he loves women so he loves our emotional range and takes it all in stride.

    And all the sub guys, who just want a dominant woman? They’re all over the place. Don’t get me started (I mean, I sympathize cuz I love it too, but I wish the trend were in the other direction).

    And the politics? Women I talk to about this confuse surrendering *because* of a guy with surrendering *to* him. Big difference.

    It sounds weird to say it, but I just want him to claim me, get lost in me. I want the animal. That shows up (or doesn’t) long before he’s in me. And there’s no denying it – I can smell it in myself if he has me. The surrendering is all mine. He doesn’t necessarily need me to do it, but he’s ready to hold it when I bring it. Then I get to ride my waves and nothing feels more authentically me than just to *feel* my own experience without a thought or care in the world. The man does not guide me so much as he’s got the rudder and I know he knows how to steer the boat we’re both in.

    Those guys, they’re a dying breed, and I wonder if we’ve been killing them and their erections off thinking we were helping ourselves. And the guys coming up, raised on the lies of porn, are helpless – they want me at the rudder, figuring out for them what they can and cannot do with me. Thinking! Recently I got close to getting down with a guy 10 years younger who, in the last minute, got all serious about negotiating “conscious consent”. He said it was for me, so we both knew we were OK with what was about to happen. It’s like “please sign this release” – how can that not stop everything dead?

    I feel like in the span of my lifetime there’s been a massive mistake of some sort. There’s nothing even remotely natural about sex between the sexes these days. It’s so sad.

  4. It only takes one brilliant woman to get a man on the right track. For me, this debt of gratitude goes out to Jennifer, a girl I met while I was on the road during my prior career as a touring musician.

    After a horribly boring sex life – due mostly to my inability to speak up, grow a spine and not be intimidated by two X chromosomes – I had the great privilege of meeting this terribly cute southern girl who had no hang ups about sex and quickly made me realize just how awesome sex could be.

    Admittedly, once that epiphany was made, I went a little crazy. But hey, I was in a band and girls all of the sudden liked me a lot more. So I went with it. But that’s not the point.

    The point is, I would argue that most men (based on my friends and family) tend to be terrified of women. How can you please a woman if you’re afraid of her? So I give much props to any woman that isn’t afraid to take matters into her own hands. Because you never know, you could actually have a huge and very positive effect on a man’s life.

    To add to that, if you meet a man who makes your toes curl and your legs shake, be thankful for the woman that gave him the tools to make that happen.

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