Mindless sex is boring.
Sure, you may get off.
You might forget your problems for a bit.
There may even be a modicum of comfort for a moment while sharing your body with others.
But emotionally connected sex is better.
This is not a push for monogamy or waiting [insert subjective #] of dates before having sex, the exact opposite, I want to encourage sex! I want to encourage more emotionally connected sex because it is better—better for your mental and physical health. Beyond the orgasm and attention your genitals may get, the flood of feel-good chemicals will be larger and longer lasting when you are more emotionally connected to your lovers.
In this column I am specifically talking to men and I’m even going to give you an excuse for why the majority of men engage in emotionally-distanced sex:
We don’t provide comprehensive sex education in the US and boys, eventual men, are learning about sex by guessing. Their choices for learning are porn, myths, and generationally-handed-down toxic norms. One fucking terrible toxic norm is that “real” men do not show emotion because it is a sign of weakness.
Manly men don’t cry. Manly men are not weak. Manly men get the best sex. Manly men get the best sexual partners. Manly men take what they want and don’t need permission.
Do you see how quickly we get from “men don’t cry” to “men take what they want”?
A step towards dismantling toxic masculinity, rape culture, and the patriarchy is to create learning and space for boys and men to have emotions beyond anger. I spoke to this briefly in the COVID TV Consumption column I wrote a few months back—about a male contestant who reacted violently when it was obvious he was sad by the situation, not mad. The inability of connecting emotionally is not because men don’t want to, it’s because they’ve never been taught to and there are social blocks allowing for their emotive behavior.
Before you start @’ing me in the comments and social media, YES, I know this doesn’t apply to you. I am talking about capital M, Men. The collective group of Men that think what Kavanaugh did was a “boys will be boys’’ situation. Or trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy’’ was just locker room talk. The high incidences of rape, domestic violence, and sexual harrassment are proof that Men are a problem.
Opening yourself up to a deeper emotional connection with others isn’t preventing you from having copious amounts of sex or taking away your man card. It does require more communication in your sexual trysts. *gasp*
As ever, I want to offer homework so folks can do more than be angry at me or wonder how they may take these words and create change.
HomeworkGet connected with your emotions. How does it feel to be sad? Where do you feel it in your body? What about when you are happy? How do you recognize when you are happy? And scared or fearful? Do you recognize a pattern to your emotional moods?
Put words to your emotions. You can do this with a trusted friend, a therapist, or write it down for yourself. Describe how you feel. Describe how you want to feel.
Practice telling others about your emotions. Start small—when someone asks how you are doing, instead of saying, “I’m good” or “I’m fine” speak the truth, “I’m struggling today” or “I’m feeling sad.” You don’t have to explain why but you can be honest about how you are truly feeling.
The next time you get angry, ask yourself if you are feeling something other than anger. Are you really sad? afraid? frustrated? confused?
Spend some time assessing why you avoid certain emotions.
Get real with your lovers. This is a level up and may prove challenging for some. How do you feel sharing your body with another person? What are things that your lovers say or do that make you feel good about yourself? What are things that your lovers say or do that make you feel bad about yourself?
Know the names of your lovers. Make the most of your time together and be clear about your intentions—one night, friends with benefits, booty call, dating, companionship, open relationship, lovers, and/or committed long term relationship.
Having empathy or caring for another person increases your chemical reaction to them and the sex is better. You can also more easily ask for what you need or what your lovers need during sex, which also makes it better! You don’t need to love or fall in love with every person you have sex with but opening up your emotional self to others does add to the physical connection.
By not teaching boys and young men that emotions are a sign of strength they will continue to disconnect from sex, which will continue cycles of harm and abuse. It is imperative that we fill this gap in education as parents, social workers, therapists, sexologists, educators, and men themselves.
It is on us to not raise another generation of boys that have no understanding of consent, positive sexual behaviors, and a connection to their own emotions.
Erin Brandt (she/her/hers) has been a sexologist for 15 years. When she’s not spreading sexual knowledge, Erin can be found learning from her child, hiking with her partner, cuddling with her pitbull, knitting with her cat, dancing with friends, and searching for the nearest hammock and ocean breeze. Want more? Visit www.positivesexed.com