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Sexual Empowerment for Men: Busting the Performance Myth

“When you know better, you do better.” Maya Angelou

Communication is to relationships what breath is to life.”  Virginia Satir

While my sex and intimacy coaching practice tends to draw more women and couples than men, I do work with men and enjoy the men I have coached very much. In addition, I’ve worked with quite a few men in my workshops.

One issue that seems to surface often is the belief that a man’s value as a sexual partner hinges on his ability to have a perpetually firm erection and to demonstrate his sexual prowess by lasting a long time and bringing his partner to orgasm through intercourse. What a burden…and a head-trip! Thank Mother Culture, the porn industry and sex negativity for that one. And take this to heart: the above “belief” is a myth of epic proportions. Many women want—and need—something quite different!

What makes a good male sexual partner has little to do with his penis. Many women, some estimates are at 80%, do not orgasm with intercourse alone. The reason for this is simple: most women need direct clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm. The clitoris is too far from the vaginal opening to receive sufficient stimulation during intercourse to result in an orgasm. What this means: an attentive male partner will use manual (hand or toy) or oral stimulation to give his partner her share of the pleasure being had before he climaxes, or during intercourse, or after. Let’s be clear on this: women want the full experience of pleasure, including orgasm. While some women don’t feel the need to orgasm every time, many are just as into coming hard as men are.

If a man cannot produce or keep an erection, or ejaculates early, he often feels so much shame and embarrassment he stops interacting sexually with his partner—which is truly unfortunate because there are better choices!

First, recognize that intimate sexual connectivity with a partner is about sharing pleasure, not your performance! When the emphasis is on sharing pleasure and not proving one’s prowess a couple can explore a range of pleasurable activities that can result in exquisite pleasure and orgasms. These can include long skin stroking sessions, taking showers and baths together, exploring erotic massage, manual stimulation, use of toys, oral sex and much more. These activities invite both partners to be present to experiencing sensations—and intimacy can be much richer for both than with performance-based sex.

Ironically, the less a man focuses on performance, the less of an issue his erection or capacity to last is. And in many situations, as a man works with erectile and endurance issues through coaching protocols while learning to focus on sharing pleasure, his ability to produce and keep an erection, or to last longer before ejaculation, improves.

Second, have a conversation with your partner about what’s working for her and what isn’t. Ask if she has orgasms during intercourse. Ladies, please tell the truth! You have the right to have sex be pleasurable for you. If you’ve been faking orgasms because the sex hasn’t been working for you, it’s your chance to come clean and to ask for the touch that will give you maximum pleasure. Guys: if your partner admits to faking orgasms, give her a pass. Women are not encouraged in our culture to either enjoy sex or advocate for themselves—she may not have known how to ask for what she wants, or she may have been too embarrassed to tell you she wasn’t having orgasms. She also may have felt pressure to please you, so you’d feel good about yourself. Culture does a head-trip on both sexes, with its lack of meaningful sex education, secrecy, sex negativity and more. This asks us to have the courage to learn to talk about sex!

One of the foundations of sexual empowerment for both men and women is to examine how we acquired our sexual attitudes and beliefs, and how our early sexual experiences have shaped us. When we can recognize cultural myths and how they’ve impacted our sexual beliefs and practices, we can begin making different choices. The men who truly get this, who can break free of the performance myth, can find tremendous satisfaction in being potent, loving and connective intimate partners—whatever may be happening or not with their erections.

In the coming year, I challenge you to root out your sexual attitudes and beliefs, to keep what is authentically yours, and to discard the rest. Dispatching cultural myths is a potent way to become sexually empowered and to show up as a sexual partner in a way that is mindful, present and engaged—rather than obsessing on one’s own performance.

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