Sexual healing for men

Steve Biddulph beleives men need to rediscover their full potential for bodily pleasure.

Most men need to re-learn lovemaking - for their own good, as well as for their partners. To really feel and enjoy what is possible in sex needs an active re-awakening of the body. Why is this so ? Many men have only a very limited capacity to feel total body pleasure, and therefore their orgasms are shallow, restricted, and only fleetingly satisfying. It could be said that they ejaculate, but do not really orgasm. This has come about through a socialisation process that allows men to value only genital pleasure, and puts constraints even on this.

Little children who grow up in sexually comfortable families will kiss and hug the people they like, with abandon. They know no frightening taboos. They know all about penises, and "gaginas" and tampons, and toilets. At the same time they seem to develop their own sense of privacy and space, so that as they grow into adolescents and adults, sex rarely becomes a trauma. Many of us adults though, were not so nurtured. In fact many of us were actively hurt and punished for self-loving, both as little children and again as teenagers. The school dictionaries of the 1960's actually did list "masturbation", which seemed a boldly progressive move until your read the definition - a curt and damning two words: "self abuse". Not much encouragement there!

Unlearning desperate sex

Almost all teenage boys masturbate, typically at least once daily. In a culture such as that of the 1950's when such things were seen as the height of perversion, they naturally felt very confused and guilty. Things are somewhat better today, but boys still get the message that they 'only want one thing', with little sensuous or spiritual context being given to their early sexual yearnings. The result may be that the boys arrive at orgasm as quickly as they can, while holding their body tense and rigid to avoid making any noise, hardly breathing, feeling guilty. The sexuality of a really alive human being is a noisy business, not easy to keep secret in a thin-walled house or apartment! It's hard to have a good sex life in the suburbs.

Many of today's men, who grew up in this repressive time, programmed into their body a kind of half-release, uptight, almost painful kind of orgasm that is far from the sweeping openness and complete surrender that is possible. The result can be a man who is a terrible lover, tense, hurried, focussed only on the goal. Men are often so uptight that their orgasms look and sound painful. Comedian Robin Williams jokes that it's no wonder men don't fake orgasms--who would want to look that stupid by choice!

You may recall watching the movie Coming Home with Jane Fonda and Jon Voigt. The heroine's army officer husband returns from Vietnam supposedly 'charged up' for lovemaking, which is stiff, awkward, totally ungiving, and over in seconds. She meets another veteran, a paraplegic, played by Voigt, whose slightly embarrassed but tenderly exploratory love scene with Fonda is one of the most beautiful on film.

Safety and Control

Sadly, some women and men have experienced sexual violation either in childhood or as adults. If this is so, then sexual activity will often bring to the surface memories of fear and revulsion, sometimes out of the blue, or in more severe cases, every time lovemaking is attempted. We have found that the best way to resolve this is for the person who has this history to negotiate that, if the need arises, they can take total control of what happens sexually, with the other person's understanding. In essence, they can at any time, say 'STOP', and the other person will stop moving and lie calmly waiting. The person who is experiencing distress or fear should keep their eyes open, and may hold their partner or ask to be held, or just lie still, or talk, allowing the fear to dissipate.

By taking back what was missing in the abuse situation, control, and by not running away but experiencing directly that this person is safe and can be trusted, it becomes possible for desire to return. Through care and time, and a willingness to be a little vulnerable, wounded sexuality can be made whole again.

Charging up

The concept of sexual tension, while useful, can also be a terrible misnomer, because it suggests being "uptight". A more useful term is that used by Bioenergetic therapists - the idea of physical "charge" accumulated in the body, rather like static in a rubbed object. A tense, contracted person can hold very little charge in his or her body. They easily get tired. They will need strong, blatant stimulation to feel excitation, will soon reach a pressure for release once this excitation is gained, and will rapidly de-excite once orgasm is reached. A relaxed, open body will be more receptive to subtle and diverse stimulation, will charge in slow surges, and will be able to maintain a plateau of pleasure for long periods. Discharge will be powerful, longer in duration, and more total in its extent through the body.

Bioenergetic therapist Julie Henderson, in her book The Lover Within, provides a series of exercises for developing one's body senses and capacities. A basic and simple exercise is suggested for people wanting to expand their capacity for charge and therefore for pleasure. She suggests that people practice sexually stimulating themselves, in privacy or with the help of a partner, almost to the point of orgasm, then stop just before orgasm is reached, taking time to deliberately relax their body. They may then spend an hour moving about, resting, doing other things, before continuing, to sexual release if they wish, which again can be alone or with a partner.

Try it. The key is in relaxation, in deliberately making room for the higher degree of excitation so that you will progressively find that you can hold more and more charge and become more energised, not just sexually but in other spheres of life too. This physical skill learned from the exercise can be carried on into actual intercourse to help you completely let go of striving or effort for release and simply focus on the sensations that are already happening, rather than pushing for more. To begin with, wait until that magical moment when you know orgasm is starting to happen. At this point, relax your body totally, especially your thighs, buttocks and leg muscles. Most men report that when doing this, they experience a much greater release flowing through their whole body. After a time, begin to activate this relaxing, or self-abandonment, earlier in the lovemaking cycle.

Don't go on a program; just experiment when you think of it. Receiving love, stimulation, praise is a skill, a way of using your senses, without using your muscles. Germaine Greer pointed out that receptiveness is really a very active process, like eating. You eat, savour, enjoy the sensations your partner creates in you. You may find that at the height of lovemaking, if you relax and draw back a little from the urge to push, then lust merges into just pleasure in being inside one another, that cycles of pushing and just-experiencing alternate together. Men who are concerned about the duration of intercourse, about 'going the distance', find that this is no longer an issue. Rather than trying to control oneself, the opposite - relaxation - is what works. Relaxation can be still vigorous and surging, but it is always loose and flowing.

Some people have told us of surprising reactions in the moments during and just after orgasm being wrenched with sobs and tears, or swept with anger or violent feelings or images. These are simply the baggage that has been carried over, releasing in the safety and relaxation your body now feels. Accept and allow these to move through you and they will give way in turn to melting tenderness. Tenderness and adoration towards a partner are not an illusion, or a spurious after-effect of lovemaking but simply the true feelings which emerge when you abandon, even fleetingly, your normal defences.

Especially if your partner is normally the passive one, experiment with swapping back and forth the control of movement, so that each has the opportunity to concentrate simply on receiving. Allow more time and space for massage in sexual play, and for its own sake alone. Massage teaches your body to know what relaxation is. This kind of communication begins to move beyond what words can ever say. At the height of sexual pleasure, open your eyes, look tenderly at your lover's face and eyes, and really see each other. Eventually you will understand why Tantric Yoga treats sex as a meditation, a way to union with God.

The trouble with "New Women" and "New Men"

For years women complained about the pushiness of males, saying they were domineering, insensitive, and so on. Fair enough. But a different kind of complaint has arisen in recent years. Many of today's men have been so filled with the need to be considerate and supportive that they back off from the really lustful pursuit and assertiveness that characterises spirited sexuality. We talk with many young women these days who are frustrated by the wimpishness of their men, in bed and out, even though this kind of softer man was what women for a time thought they wanted. Sensitive, yes, but uncertain and childlike no! If you're a woman you may need to develop signals that indicate the wish to be ravished.

Selfishness is okay in bed, as long as you stay open for feedback if your partner is uncomfortable. When the conditions are right, most women, and most men, find unbridled passion extremely pleasing. Beyond the bedroom, and over many years now, men have become less and less self-assured. The importance of authentic manhood has been diminishing all through the industrial era. Think about fathers as portrayed in popular culture. In a continuous line from Dagwood to Bill Cosby, men are portrayed as charming, lovable, and docile. The media father protests, makes his point, maintains the peace, but he is never quite 'with it'. His wife, children, even his pets get the better of him. The advertising industry, recognising who has the spending power, never makes fun of women any more. The fall guy, the dope, the butt of jokes, is always a man. Since the industrial revolution, the obedient man has been the requirement. The dark side of this is the unbroken tradition of wife beating, and child sexual abuse, symptoms of lack of power, and of frustration being misdirected.

Disempowered men begin to dominate and punish someone weaker to salve their broken dignity. It's an ugly pattern. A family needs two partners who are powerful, in their different ways. A surprising number of women we speak to yearn for their men to match their power, to be man enough to balance gentleness with strength, and so invite surrender. You can be both selfish and considerate at the same time. You can assert any want you have in a relationship if you also listen to, and accept, your partner's feedback about his or her wants. Total fulfillment of both partners is part of the design. By developing a more assured approach to sex, and communication as a whole, you will find marked changes not just in the pleasure received and given at the time, but also in your body's condition, relaxation, and energy level overall. Outside the bedroom, by being more confident and clear about the sex you are, and the importance of the role you fill, you will generate as a couple both harmony and excitement.

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