When A Man
Claude M. Steiner Phd
2901 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
© Copyright 2011
3. What Women Want From Us: Opening the Heart.
6. Emotional Literacy
Chapter 7. Seven basic transactions leading to emotional literacy
Chapter 8. How to be a better lover;
9 .The Three C’s of Cunnilingus
11. Birth Control, Disease Prevention and Other Downers
Chapter 13. Commitment, Friendship,
Jealousy, Honesty and Other Graduate Studies
to the second edition (2008)
Plus 'ca change plus la meme chose. " as the French say. I wrote the first
version of this book, fifteen years ago, as we in the US where just recovering
from the shock of the cultural revolutions of the sixties. We had witnessed a
score of liberation movements, black power, gay power, gray power, the free
speech movement, the sexual freedom league, radical psychiatry, all fueled by
the anti Vietnam war movement.
connected with all of these rebellions against the status-quo was this century's
wave of feminism. The San Francisco-Berkeley area, where I have lived since my
young adulthood, was the birthplace of many of these movements and feminism took
a powerful hold here--as it did in the rest of the country--creating great
social and cultural changes.
movements succeeded in bringing about important reforms, and for a few years
there was a feeling of triumph for blacks, gays, women, mental patients and
mental health workers who wanted change. In the eighties we began to see the
predictable backlash against the successes—and occasional excesses—of these
liberation movements. Today, the liberation struggle in the US centers on gay
rights and racism. And while women’s rights continue to advance, feminism—as
a word—has become stigmatized among many men and women.
for all humanity, the empowerment of women continues and cannot in fact be
stopped or rolled back. For all but the most conservative, feminism and the
sexual revolution have forever changed the nature of male-female relationships.
This transformation has become so thorough and commonplace that young people
today are largely unaware of the profound changes they are beneficiaries of.
a Man Loves a Woman was written to show how feminism could either make heterosexual
relationships more contentious and confusing, or more exciting and rewarding,
depending on how men reacted to it. I argued that for men who understand how to
respond to feminism in a fruitful way, it would revitalize their intimate
rereading the first edition of the book I encountered a number of near fatal
flaws. While the overall message was correct the book was poorly edited,
overwrought and wordy in places, and in places superficial and wrongheaded. It
needed major rewriting and updating. Today, I am reexamining the issues which I
explored in that book and reflecting the more complex realities of the new
has changed the relations between men and women in a profound and permanent way
and yet, the fundamental question is the same: How can a good man make and keep
a deep, meaningful and loving relationship with an emancipated woman?
the past thirty years sexual mores have gone through a major revolution, and
even some counter-revolutions. Divorce has become commonplace. For the first
time, ordinary people do not feel obligated to remain trapped in unfulfilling,
destructive relationships. People have questioned the value of marriage and
monogamy, and have even reconsidered the value of long term commitments and
family. Some say that these changes have almost destroyed the family and
threaten the very fiber of society.
those who fought for, and welcomed these changes now find themselves confused
and unhappy in this new social landscape, not sure how to proceed now that the
old rule we fought against have been largely abolished.
seems that finding happiness is more and more a matter of chance. Though finding
happiness has never been easy, the research about divorce shows that today the
pursuit of happiness in love is more bewildering than ever. The old, "rule
book " has been mostly forgotten, and men and women have to invent new ways
of relating and, statistic indicate, with little success. To complicate matters
there is a disturbing trend for both men and women to compromise in their
expectations, due to fears about disease and pregnancy. Some would rather settle
down in lack-luster relationships than have to deal with the difficulties of
dating in the nineties.
freedom and equality for women was supposed to make everything better; instead
divorce rates continue to climb, single person households proliferate and people
feel disoriented and unfulfilled. Women have discovered that when they follow
their feminist principles and leave their loveless marriages, they are often
punished by a severe decline in their standard of living. Many women and their
children were pushed below the poverty line when they divorced, while their
women have come an enormous distance in the face of all this adversity. Most
women now know how to support themselves, both financially and emotionally, and,
in general, women will never be as dependent on men as they once were. Women
today do want and expect to be treated as equals at home and at work. They may
want to have children, but few would today be willing to be exclusively
homemakers. Women today are more self sufficient and less afraid of being alone
and therefore much less willing to settle for a relationship that isn't
satisfying and beneficial.
years now, women have been talking and writing openly about their likes and
dislikes vis-à-vis men and despite the anti-feminist backlash of the
80's have continued to do so. They are continuing to make legitimate,
well-thought-out demands in the home, at work, and in bed. They want jobs with
equal pay, they want stature and respect and they want men to support their
independence and power. These women aren't interested in men who are going to
fight them every step of the way in order to cling to outmoded styles of male
does all this affect us men? Modern women are extremely challenging, if not
alarming, to men. We want them by our sides, but are irritated by their claims.
We love their energy, but fear that they may be overpowering. We admire their
self-reliance, but aren't quite sure we like their independence from us. To be
with them makes us feel manly, but also challenges our manhood. We can’t live
with them and we can’t live without them.
too have changed. We've changed in response to women's changes, but also on our
own initiative. As women claimed independence we gleefully went along by
avoiding commitment to the traditional wife and family and going for the
enormously attractive single life. We gave up the family house and the four door
station wagon and went instead for a townhouse bachelor pad and a Porsche.
Instead of saving our money for the kids' education, we charged our skiing
winters and tropical vacations on credit cards. Yet after experiencing our own
liberation from domesticity, most of us have come to the realization that we
would prefer to live a harmonious life, in a secure home filled with children
and friends, with a woman we love, than to be perennial bachelors--as long as
life doesn't become a terminal velvet trap.
have in fact come back to a familiar position, but find ourselves on higher
ground. Our interest in forming couples remains. Coupling is a source of
security, power, comfort, pleasure, and love. But couples have changed. In the
past, couples were often composed of two people who became one by each
contributing half a person; he the brains and income, she the heart and
nurturing. Today, couples are becoming partnerships of mutually respectful,
loving equals working together to face life's hardships and enjoy its rewards.
In these relationships sexuality can be given full and lasting rein. Among these
couples, binding love and commitment are expected to be mutual.
men, marriage has traditionally been a terrifying decision. Many a groom has
been dragged to the altar by his best man or propelled forward with a shotgun.
It has seemed to us, at times, that commitment to a woman is akin to a life
sentence of forced labor, and in some cases this fear has come true. But the
modern woman doesn't want a man as a slave any more than she wants him as a
master. She wants a partner, and that is actually a new and desirable
proposition for a man. Under these new circumstances, commitments can be totally
different than they were twenty years ago. The burdens--both at home and in the
workplace--are shared, and the rewards of the relationship--its pleasures,
freedoms, and economic benefits--are shared equally as well. Commitment to a
modern woman is beginning to look like a good deal.
is not entirely clear, however, is how the new social contract between men and
women is to read. Plenty of problems still remain between men and women. Men may
have given up their old roles, but they are not sure of what their new roles are
supposed to be. All this liberation and equality have brought new expectations
and burdens for us. In the eternal war of the sexes, many men feel that they
have lost a major battle; they feel martyred and put upon by changes that seem
out of control.
a man loves a woman, today, he may have no idea how to proceed in a
self-respecting and dignified manner. This book is meant for men who want to be
comfortable friends and lovers with the women in their lives; for men who want
to have long-lasting, secure, yet sexually plentiful and exciting relationships;
and, more importantly, for men who want to be loving, sexy, and, dare I say it,
sweet. This book will tell you what today's women want from their friends,
lovers, and mates, and how a man can become appreciated and sought after by
the last twenty years, what is admirable and likable about men has been obscured
by the intense criticism stemming from the new perceptions and expectations of
women. Therefore, in order to start on a positive footing I decided to find out
what women like about us.
the help of several associates, I asked hundreds of women the question
"What do you like about men?" The answers often related to how he felt
is a certain way he uses himself, how he is open, at ease, comfortable, which
attracts me about a man, even if he is not good-looking. It's an energy, a
positive attitude. Not conceited or macho but comfortable with himself,"
said one woman in her thirties, a legal secretary for a large firm.
know some men think it's correct to be very self-critical and guilty about being
a man, but to me its a turnoff," said Patty, 29, a women's health social
appreciate men who are willing to be questioned about their sexism. But I don't
like men who carry around a cloud of male guilt. It's a total wet blanket to my
sexual feelings," was Dahlia's opinion. Dahlia is in her forties, recently
spite of the heightened awareness women have developed about men's shortcomings,
women, with a few exceptions, still like men and haven't given up on them.
like their bodies," another woman says. "I like their sturdiness,
their solidity, how they are lean and hard. I like men who appreciate their own
bodies. That's why I find gay men attractive. They are into the beauty of men's
bodies and love their own. Gay men move so gracefully sometimes. The graceful
male body is beautiful.”
like men's penises. They are such a fantastic combination of strength and
vulnerability. I like to cradle a man's testicles and penis in my hands
when it's soft. The penis is such a fascinating gadget, the way it gets hard in
your hand," said Mary.
really like the way men smell. With some men it was the most attractive,
addictive thing. The way he starts to smell when we are making love. I did not
want him to leave and take his smell with him," said Peggy, 36, a baker at
a neighborhood bakery.
love men's forearms, upper arms, and shoulders. I find the muscles and veins,
and their effective, powerful hands unbelievably sexy. I can look at a man's
forearms and their shape turns me on. I have to look away," said Denise, a
successful free-lance journalist.
women responded similarly. They liked men's muscle formation, their upper body
strength, the density and firmness of male flesh, men's body hair, whiskers and
baldness, their genitals, the timbre of their voices, and the way they smell.
women liked men's minds, the way they think. For instance, Janet, a psychiatric
nurse, 23, said: "I like the way men understand machines and the way they
can fix things. I like the way they approach a problem in a mechanical and
systematic way, using logic and their minds as tools."
woman said, “Men are good at making you escape. ‘C'mon, get your hat on,
let's go!’ Women sit and stew. I like men's detachment skills, when they can
also be close."
the mother of two small children, said, "I like the things in men that I,
because I'm a woman, have been prevented from having. I like their capacity to
stay cool; I like the way they can be high-strung, active, intense, humorous,
aggressive. I like those things because they are things that are missing in me.
I know I could do all those things too, but my upbringing led me away from them.
So I like to get them from men."
do you like about men?" I asked Sandy, a carpenter in her early thirties.
"I like to work with men, they get the job done," she said, with no
sounds like a sexist attitude. What do you mean?"
are more goal oriented. Women tend to have feelings at inappropriate times. I
like to be able to plan with a man who works for me to do something by a certain
time and get it done. With a woman I am liable to have to get into a discussion
about feelings. With women often times I come up against the insidious
psychology of how they were brought up, how their father treated them. I find it
is very easy to push women's buttons. I might ask a woman to pass the hammer and
that might be enough to trigger her to feel that she won't be able to deal with
it. Men can lake orders and do things efficiently."
are so important, " high school biology teacher Pilar, a Mexican woman of
32, assured me.
as bosses or soldiers, but as men, because they are men, and as men they have an
important function in the scheme of things."
like men's tradition of courage and concern for people, their sense of
responsibility. Men have much to be proud of in their history. There have been
so many heroic men who have given their lives for important things. I admire
that," Ricky, 48, answered.
do I like about men? I like their masculine tenderness--large and encompassing.
I like the spark of their intelligence and open-heartedness. I like their
capacity to protect me," answered Rocio, 23, a Spanish agronomy student.
the question was asked many times, a pattern seemed to emerge: On one hand,
women like men, as men, because of their genetic, physical characteristics of
manhood. On the other hand, women like those characteristics that they
themselves have been alienated from by the way men and women are brought up. Men
are trained, generally, to be rational and unemotional, skilled with machines,
assertive, willing to take up space.
desire to be with people who have what we lack is not particular to women.
one large reason for men's need for women, who have the warmth and emotionality
men often lack and long for. The fact that this mutual attraction may be based
on a reciprocal shortcoming doesn't make it any less real or something to be
ashamed of. For as long as women and men are different from each other, they'll
look to each other to fulfill what they lack. Men can be proud of the things
they are good at because they are men.
survey also revealed that women often liked in men the very things they
complained about at other times. I had to ask myself, "Do women, when
everything is said and done, really want men who are unemotional, aggressive,
and mechanically inclined?" I was forced to again consider the popular myth
that women like to be dominated and protected by silent strong tall men.
Apparently, this conception, which the women's movement has fought so hard, is
not easily disposed of. For example, Frances, 35, a highly paid editor living
with a man and his and her children, said,
[women] don't really know what we want. I like men to have feelings, but I don't
want them to be angry. I want them to treat me as an equal, but I want them to
be strong so I can lean on them. I resent their skills, but I still let them get
their hands dirty while they fix my car. " The ambiguity Frances expresses
is not unusual; what do women want?
I recognized the answer: Many of the qualities that are appreciated in men are
also the things they are most disliked for--when they are taken to an extreme.
As Karen, a woman in her forties who has known many men and given the matter
much thought, said, " I know what I want. Strength without violence,
feelings without sloppiness, skill without being patronized, logic without
mind-rape. I want men to do what they do well in moderation and without
expecting to be put on a pedestal for it."
clearly don't appreciate dominating, cold, egotistical men lacking in emotion.
They also get no kick out of self-deprecating, guilty, withdrawn men. In other
words, what women want is "no more macho, no more wimp." They like
being loved by them. They like being able to love them fully and without
reservations. Women like men's strength, virility, and boldness, and would like
them to develop gentility, delicacy, and tenderness. And those are things that
any man either has or can develop, provided he is truly interested in loving
confirmed that there are still many things that women do like about men, I
wanted to take a close look at those complaints about men that are voiced over
and over by women, to see if there is some truth in them. So in our
questionnaire, we also asked women what turned them off about men as friends and
men are truly puzzled when certain complaints repeatedly come up in their
relationships with women at home, at work, or in conversations at gatherings.
These complaints often seem out of context, practically out of the blue, and are
frequently fueled with intense feeling, sometimes rage, which seems totally out
of proportion to the facts of the matter. Some men can't understand these
complaints at all; some think they are valid but exaggerated. Others accept the
principle behind these complaints--the historical inequity and domination
between men and women--but can't deal with the heavy emotions and anger some
women bring to these issues, and feel understandably overwhelmed when asked to
personally atone for centuries of injustice.
these situations, some men will argue self-righteously or become extremely
defensive; some will try to joke their way out, and some will dummy up. We have
all witnessed a conversation in which a woman voiced an angry but legitimate
complaint only to be faced with a man's summary invalidation of her point of
view. The uselessness of these exchanges has struck me as saddening to the point
of being tragic. The woman clearly had a point, but given the man's awareness,
it was badly stated and mixed with so much feeling that only a man already
acquainted with the complaint could weather the intense emotion. The usual male
response of defensiveness serves only to reaffirm the woman's view, leaving a
chilling gap between them. Consider the following drama overheard at a cocktail
had been dancing with a man, and returned to her seat around a low table heaped
with drinks. "What a creep!" she says.
repulsivo, eh?” quips Sonja. "Really, these guys think they are God's
gift to women."
Frank takes the bait. "You didn't have to dance with him, you know."
wouldn't leave me alone. I thought I would get rid of him if I danced with him
you know you like it," Sam interrupts.
Having some slob rub himself all over me? What is it with you guys, you're so
into getting laid that you can't tell when a woman isn't interested?"
oh, here comes the woman's lip!"
Sam, I'm no feminist, but I'm sick of horny guys who can't take no for an
you can't stand the heat, stay out of bars, is what I say."
yeah? What gives you the right to tell me to stay out of bars? Next thing you
are going to say is that I should stay out of the street and that if I get
raped, I was asking for it!"
some streets, some nights, you would be asking for it."
and I suppose you are going to tell me that I'd enjoy it."
didn't say that, just that you've got to expect certain things in certain
Don't give me that, you really think I like being harassed by men" (and so
these familiar debates both the women and the men have a legitimate position:
She resents the assumption that men's insistent pursuit is pleasing when, in
fact, she felt intruded upon and wished to be left alone. He sincerely believes
that in the context of a bar, men are correct to assume that she is at least
interested if not available. Neither is responding to the other's point of view
and the exchange produced more heat than light on the subject. Everyone around
the table was left upset, and for some it spoiled the evening.
this chapter I would like to explore the woman's viewpoint with the hope of
being helpful to my male readers. It is reasonable to assume that most men are
doing their best to be good men. Therefore, when we are lumped together as a
group and accused of a typical male shortcoming (" All you want is sex--a
typical male" or "Just like a man, emotionally retarded"), we
need to realize that whether fair or not, these accusations are best not taken
as personal attacks.
in fact, we are unwittingly acting according to some primitive male tradition,
then our behavior is the result of role training for which we are not wholly to
blame. As long as we don't understand what we are doing wrong, we cannot, in all
fairness, be held responsible for it. We don't have to react with guilt and need
not be defensive. Instead, we need to understand the criticism and then we can
proceed to do something about it if we wish.
help understand our male role behavior, it is useful to remember the following:
When human beings are born, they are divided into two groups. One group is told:
"When you grow up, you will be a girl, and you should be a supportive and
nurturing person. In order to be truly good at being nurturing it will be useful
for you to be intuitive and capable of reading people's minds, especially men's,
because men, bless them, aren't good at asking for what they need. Since your
major task will be to nurture, you won't need to be very rational. You don't
need rationality in order to be supportive; in fact, rationality interferes and
could even be detrimental to nurturing. It is best to try not to under-stand
other group is told: " When you grow up, you will be a man. A good man must
think clearly and logically; his main task is to solve problems, especially
problems related to power and how to accumulate it. Being tuned in and sensitive
is not essential to a man because it will difficult to think logically if you
let people's feelings interfere. Success--being a competitive worker--will be
difficult if you become too aware of others' emotions, so it is important that
you put rationality above feelings. Leave emotionality and sensitivity to women;
they are better at it than you."
instructions affect all children--less so now than in years past, but they are
still a pervasive influence on our young. Even if the household in which we were
raised did not particularly subscribe to this point of view, there still are
schools, television, the movies, the news-papers, and other adults and children
to reinforce these points of view.
course, every person has had different role training and influences operating in
his life. The point is that no man is free of them. How does this early-life,
basic training affect men's eventual character? Naturally, the effect varies,
but let me draw you three caricatures of the outcome of these childhood
instructions when driven to three different extremes: " The Sex
Machine" "The Workaholic," and "Cool, Calm, and
Sex Machine; Men Are Dogs. One
of women's major complaints about men concerns their intense interest in sex.
Each of the following comments comes from a different distraught woman.
only emotional outlet is sexual. I only know he is feeling something when he is
passionately interested in getting into my pants." "Unless sex is in
the picture, he is not interested; if a woman is not sexually attractive, she
doesn't count. With him sex is first, everything else follows." "He
only touches me when he is interested in having sex; if I touch him, he assumes
it is sexual--a come-on. I am deathly afraid of showing any affection for him
because I cannot get him to be affectionate back without it becoming a sexual
thing." "It seems that as long as he is turned on to me, he has energy
for me. The moment that he comes, he goes away; he either falls asleep, starts
reading, or rolls over. I feel utterly erased as if I didn't exist."
descriptions may be extreme, but most men are aware of the kind of sexual focus
we often operate under. For a number of reasons, some probably inborn, we seem
to be compelled to pursue women for the purpose of having intercourse with them.
We may mask this obsession and try to be civilized, or we may be blatant about
it. We may be successful at it, or we may be utter failures; nevertheless, we
seem to have that tendency to think of women as sexual opportunities and often
they know it.
say that it is a specifically male urge having to do with inborn aggression and
the biological drive to procreate. Another theory is that since men are trained
to suppress feelings, the only feelings that remain are the powerful genital
sensations that the sexual act provides. When a man meets a woman who doesn't
enjoy his advances, the combination of his tendency to be unaware of people's
feelings and his drive to have intercourse results in a disregard for the
annoyance he causes her. He thinks he is hiding his intense sexual interest
while she is utterly aware of it. This relentless pursuit of sexual encounter is
why women complain that they appear to be mere objects for his sexual needs;
hence, women's accusation that men perceive them as "sexual objects."
more charitable explanation for men's constant sexual search is that men have an
insatiable curiosity to experience women's intimate, emotional, sexual response.
The reason given for this is that men are cut off, alienated from their own
emotions by their upbringing. Women's feelings, therefore, become enormously
attractive and endlessly fascinating. Being in the presence of women's loving
energy and sexual passion is overwhelmingly pleasurable. To be able to generate
such feelings in women is wonderful, and to be able to feel them intimately is
sublime. But even so he will tend to relate to her as an object; a vessel of
delightful female energy, rather than as a particular woman, with likes,
dislikes, complexities and needs beyond her female charms.
is a subtler form of objectification, he relates to her as more than a body,
appreciates her energy and warmth, but still fails to relate to her as a real
person. Often men who pursue women in this way are like Narcissus, they feel
desirable when they see themselves reflected in her loving eyes, and they become
drunk with this flattering view of themselves. Women who are on the receiving
end of this type of attention or " love " eventually sense that they
are being treated as an archetype,
rather than an individual, and come to feel used. In addition women can be
tempted into fulfilling this male fantasy and will fake orgasms and exaggerate
pleasure when there may in fact, be very little.
women are so concerned with their looks and their attractiveness that they turn
themselves into objects. By putting emphasis on clothes, makeup, and charming
and attractive behavior they become complicit in the process. In the end no real
person can be discerned and man trying to relate to this kind of a woman will be
relating to a front; its not surprising that he has trouble thinking of her as a
person. He may desire her, but he won't be able to understand her. He may be
able to have sex with her, but he won't know how to make love to her.
is hard for men to imagine what the experience of sexual objectification is like
for a woman. We assume that if we were on the receiving end of that kind of
attention we would be pleased and flattered. It's difficult for us to understand
why some women find it so hurtful and insulting, especially since not all women
feel that way and those who feel that way, don't always.
comparable experience for men is the way we are objectified as breadwinners and
meal tickets. As we evaluate women by the size of their breasts, we are likely
to be evaluated by the size of our wallets. We too are flattered when we are
admired for our earning capacities, but in the end it is a demeaning appraisal
foisted on us by the same sex roles that turn us into sex machines.
the same time the objectification of men's bodies by women is progressing
rapidly along with women’s willingness to be aggressive and predatory like
men. The movies and other media are showing women lusting after men’s “six
packs” and powerful "lats,” square jaws and good hair. Any man who is
that attractive is prone to experience objectification by women (and other men)
and resented just as much as women do. Men who fail the test of attractiveness
are increasingly feeling the sting of women’s disinterest and even derision; a
familiar experience for women but a new experience for many men
are being handed a dose of their own medicine. This is, I believe, all to the
good. It's probably the single most effective way of instilling some
understanding in us of how it feels to be treated like a hunk of meat. Perhaps
as women turn a jaundiced eye on our imperfect bodies, we will develop more
tolerance and understanding for the female complaint about us.
Work and No Play; Men Are Workaholics. Another major complaint about men is that they care
about their work above all else. The following comments come from a number of
I talk about how I feel, his eyes glaze over. He may appear to be listening, but
he is gone to a faraway land of business charts and stock options. " "
He never has any fun; he's always thinking of his work. " " I come in
a definite second in his life; first, the work, then, maybe if there is time,
me. " " Work, eat, watch TV, sleep, that's all he seems to want to do.
When we go on vacation, it takes him all the time to wind down. By the time the
vacation is over, he is just, finally, getting into it. " " He works
two jobs, and when he comes home, he fixes things around the house. I guess I
can't complain when he works so hard, but I hate it anyway. Why can't he relax
and enjoy life? " " Carl's interests are focused on work, success,
himself. He doesn't care about me, just himself and his ego. He is a good
husband, I suppose, but if husbanding requires interest in my feelings, forget
Workaholic is the extension, to grotesque extremes, of childhood instructions to
be a responsible caretaker, boosted by the encouragement men receive when they
fulfill that role. Times are changing but men are still taught that their tasks
in life are to provide for a wife and family and to be as secure, rich, and
powerful as possible. Men who have taken these lessons to heart, and based their
identity around their role as bread-winner, are astonished when women question
these priorities. Relaxing, having fun, letting go--it's just not that easy.
Some drug, usually alcohol, may help to bring the workaholic down enough to make
the alcohol wears off, more is needed, and eventually he falls asleep or gets
drunk. His work-alcoholism may lead to alcoholism or some other form of drug
addiction. Some men use cocaine to increase their work output,
coffee and cigarettes still are the most traditional workmates. For these men,
joy is hard to come by. Fun and relaxation are not this man's common experience,
though he longs for and pursues them in his sexual life and drug use. Women are
usually ambivalent about men's intense focus on their work. At first it may seem
desirable. But when the work takes the love and joy out of the relationship,
hurt, anger, and resentment replace the initial acceptance.
a 40-year-old housewife, said this about her husband's obsession with work:
" Max is a stockbroker, and he brings his work home. I used to bring him
tea and sit and read while he worked in the evenings. I never thought to
complain. But as the years passed and there seemed to be no end to his work, I
began to hate it. I suppose that I expected it to be less as he did better, but
it actually got worse. I felt like I didn't have a husband and began to question
the whole thing. As far as I am concerned, I don't care how well he does. It
doesn't do me any good after a certain point if he is never there for me. "
important to balance home life and work in such a way that neither security nor
the relationship is threatened. When a man loves a woman, he probably would
appreciate being able to establish such a balance; to do so usually requires
ongoing discussion and the cooperation of both partners.
Calm and Collected; Men Are Emotionally Retarded. A
third major complaint about men is that they are tone deaf and unfathomable in
their emotional responses.
Don when things are okay, I usually feel that I know him. Then suddenly he does
something disagreeable that I just don't understand. If I try to find out why, I
just hit a brick wall. He won't, or can't, tell me how he feels. His reasons
don't make sense to me, and I keep thinking, ‘If he only told me how he feels,
I'd understand.' "
I can tell he is angry, but he denies it, " said Sue, 35, married to Jack,
a truck driver, 39. " Sometimes I am amazed at his lack of normal response.
When I expect him to be scared he is not. When I need nurturing, he gets turned
off. Then he gets depressed and doesn't know why. I just give up trying to make
sense of him." " He tries to appear cool, but all he is hard to read,
and hard to deal with. I know something is happening, and I can even guess what
it is, but he denies my guesses, and claims not to be feeling anything. So I am
left in the dark. After a while I get angry myself. The angrier I get the cooler
he gets. It makes me feel like a helpless child. I want to hit him so he'll feel
something. Then he looks hurt and scared. But would he admit to it? Not on your
29, says about her lover of four years: "He
never says, ‘I love you!' I know he does, or at least I think he does, and he
does try to hint that he does, but he never comes right out and lets me off the
hook by looking me in the eye and saying straight out and without hesitation,
‘I love you.' "
image of the totally unruffled man of action, the silent type, tall, dark, and
handsome, in control of his feelings, of women, of any situation--the man who
never loses his cool, certainly never cries (unless someone dies, then maybe),
and only gets angry when totally self-righteous--is a powerful stereotype that
we are constantly exposed to on movie and TV screens, in novels, magazines, and
comic books. This image, when adopted by a real person, produces a human being
who is easiest to relate to at a distance; the closer one gets, the harder he is
to like. Because he is human, he really does have feelings. But he doesn't
acknowledge them least of all to himself.
he denies with singularity of purpose that he needs, hurts, hates, loves, fears,
and hopes. He resists any and all attempts to bring him to deal with his
feelings. The reason for this is simply that he has been told in a multitude of
ways, since early childhood, that feelings are a weakness that men should not
indulge in. He is trying to be a good man in the best way he knows how. When his
feelings get the upper hand--often in the form of anger or in bouts of great
depression and guilt--he regards this as a breakdown of essential controls and
quickly tries to bring matters back to normal. If he fails, he may have a
nervous breakdown and wind up with a lifelong prescrption of Prozac. Men of this
sort often manage to stay emotionally withdrawn, even from those closest to
them. Such a man may be married for twenty years or more, and keep his wife at
arms distance emotionally through out. Women
who live year in, year out with this kind of coldness can become extremely
bitter. Relate to these kinds of men women may initially feel sorry for them and
tolerate their coldness and lack of feeling. "He loves me, " she may
tell herself, " He just doesn't know how to say it." But eventually,
tolerance turns into disappointment, hurt, and anger that will affect the
male characteristics as described above are seldom found in their pure state in
the real world. More likely, parts of them are found in all of us. Every man has
a little of the sex machine, the workaholic, and the cool dude in him in
different proportions at different times of his life. I explore them here
because they are the male stereotypes that women complain about and because none
of the three is a particularly effective way to be if one wants satisfying,
intimate relationships with women.
one has its initial appeal. A man who sweeps you off your feet with his sexual
passion, who works hard and is successful, or who is in control of this chaotic
world we live in is an attractive prospect. The drawbacks of these simplistic
approaches to life don't come out until he hangs out for a while, and we see
that he is obsessed with sex, success, or control. Glamorous though he appeared
in the twilight of romantic encounters, he is not quite as appealing in the
sustained light of long-term intimacy.
yourself: Does any of the above seem to describe you? Do these complaints ring a
bell of recognition? Can you say that you are not affected by the patterns of
manhood that I describe? As a man you are probably influenced by one or more of
these male roles, and you probably have suffered in your relationships with
women (and men) because of them, as have I.
This is only natural. But it is not necessary, and if we are so inclined,
we can do something to change it.
who find themselves creating an emotional gap in their relationships would do
well to concentrate on becoming more aware and expressive of their emotional
lives and the emotional lives of others. This can be achieved through training
in Emotional Literacy. Let us begin this process of emotional education at the
beginning, by Opening the Heart.
3. What Women Want From Us: Opening the Heart.
affection is an instinct upon which human beings share with other mammals has
developed into a complex, multifaceted art. While we all have the instinct, not
all people are equally skilled in the art.
repertories are often limited; for men, love is often restricted to sexual
lovemaking or fatherly concern. We are often embarrassed by the idea of an
extravagant show of affection. For women, on the other hand, love tends to be
connected with the open flow and expression of affection strongly felt and often
quite separate from sexuality.
and women enjoy each other's style of loving; in fact, receiving that which we
don't have to give is a special pleasure. Women enjoy men's physicality and
passion; men enjoy women's tenderness and nurturing. But when we want to get
back some of what we give, we often find that our opposite number is struck dumb
and that there seems to be no way to get what we want and need.
of giving what the other wants, we often just give more of what we [want and]
know how to give. Consequently, we find ourselves giving more and getting less
of what we need in return. Ultimately, men often develop the feeling that
women's needs are infinite and impossible to satisfy. In fact, what women want
is simple and finite, only we don't always know how to give it. Typically, men
find it difficult to get the kind of sexual attention they want, and women have
trouble getting the nurturing and gentle tenderness they crave.
interviewing women for this book, the very first question we asked was,
"When you first meet a man, what causes you to be interested?" The
answer almost universally referred to the man's personality--his energy, his
interests, his attitude. It seldom had to do with his precise physical
characteristics. One of the responses that came up with a great deal of
frequency had to do with the man's eyes. "How he looks at me," or
"What part of me he looks at." The following are typical responses
from several women.
"If he looks at me with interest, I like it."
"It's all in the eyes, the eyes are very important."
"It's the sparkle in his eye that first draws my attention."
"it's not the eyes themselves, but what they see that I care
closer investigation it seems that the women who responded in this way were
tuning in to the fact that when men look at women, they frequently eye them with
some very precise standards having to do with their physical appearance.
it is certainly true that there are men who regard a woman as a piece of ass,
and perhaps a trophy to show off to one's friends, and little else, most men are
not that crude. But even for men who relate to women on deeper levels, there is
a deep seated habit, when first meeting a woman, to "check her out"
visually. Some men feel guilty about it, but find it a seemingly automatic
reflex, difficult to overcome.
recording the eye movements of persons looking at a painting have found that
different people look at different parts of the canvas in different sequences.
Some pay attention to one detail; others sweep over the whole canvas. I know of
no scientific research about what men look at when they meet women, but I have
spoken to many women who have become acutely aware of what most men do with
their eyes when meeting a woman for the first time.
men's perceptions have been deeply affected by a narrow definition of female
beauty that has trained the male eye so that it will almost automatically fix
itself on hair, breasts, waist, hips, legs, and facial features. Based on a set
of "acceptable" standards of appearance, men run a virtual spot
(check one) 1. Too big.
2. Too small.
(check one) I.
2. Too fat.
3, Too skinny.
(check one) 1.
2. Too small.
(check one) I. Ugly.
Add up scores
Choose women with highest scores. If not available go to the woman with the next
of us may be more interested in breasts than hips, or in legs rather than
breasts. There is a certain latitude about what is or isn't acceptable. This, of
course, is a caricature. Thankfully, few men are really this ruthlessly crude.
But most men engage in some degree of this type of thinking, though they may try
not to. Some men, of course, are less afflicted by this curse than others, but
unfortunately, it affects far too many of us.
problem is not really that men look at women's breasts, hips, and legs. Women's
bodies are beautiful, so why not look at them? The problem is 1) we often pay
more attention to body parts than personality, and 2) we evaluate them according
to preconceived ideas of beauty--we don't see the beauty that is there. In my
opinion, much of what women so dislike about men's roving eye is that it *puts
physical beauty above all else*, and that it judges in this crude, prejudiced
had this comment: "My friend
called me a hypocrite one night after a party, because I gave my phone number to
this guy who made a lot of flattering comments about my eyes and my hair. I've
always said that I hate it when guys focus on women's looks and try to seduce
them with flattery. But my friend only came in on the last part of the
conversation. Before that we'd been talking about my work; I teach art history.
He asked me a lot of questions, not just polite questions, but specific
questions, he knew a little about the subject and had intelligent things to ask.
He asked me where I was from, about my family, and told me about himself. When
he said I had pretty eyes, and that he liked the color of my hair and the way I
wear it, it was really nice, because I already felt he'd paid attention to the
rest of me first. I was actually really flattered, whereas usually compliments
from men just make he feel annoyed and imposed on."
men are bewildered when women complain of being sex object, because they doubt
women would really enjoy it if their appearance were ignored. They assume women
enjoy being told they are beautiful as much as men enjoy being told they are
handsome. There is some truth to this, what women really object to is the
constant, incessant focus on their bodies, to the exclusion of all else, and
through very narrow standards of beauty. The solution then is not to ignore
women's bodies, but to look at the personality first, and then appreciate the
physical beauty without comparing it to some ruthless Playboy ideal. If men just
looked and appreciated more of what they saw, their gaze would lose the hungry
or rejecting edge and be less offensive.
of the most unfortunate consequences of men's fixation on women's physical
beauty (narrowly defined) is that many husbands find that after their wives have
had children, as their hips widen and their faces begin to show the signs of
age, they become less attracted to them. Their wives usually sense this loss of
interest and feel deeply hurt by it. Usually these things go unsaid, and can sow
seeds of deep resentment, leading to the erosion of the bond between them. This
is really tragic, and it all stems from a narrow conception of beauty which men
can and should unlearn. I explain how this can be done below, in the section on
retraining the eye.
and cold-hearted priorities are not the exclusive domain of men. Women have also
looked at men with superficial and exacting standards in mind--mostly having to
do with men's power, their ability to be providers and protectors. At times
their checklist is as cold-blooded as men's, from make, model, and year of his
car to gross adjusted income. To the accusation "Men look at women as sex
objects," men can respond, "Women look at men as money objects."
Both are exaggerated caricatures, but both have some truth to them. Fortunately
this behavior is behavior is becoming less prevalent in the wake of the women's
movement because it flies in the face of feminism.
fact, women have their own physical preferences, such as size, age, legs, face,
shoulders, or waist. An informal poll in New York's weekly Village Voice found
eyes to be highest ranking, while asses came in second. I have spoken to women
who find that they too have a hard time resisting the tendency to place undue
importance on the looks of a man when meeting for the first time, and feel bad
about it, especially since they don't like to be judged that way themselves.
this is very important--in the same poll most women questioned made it clear
that physical attributes aren't the most important. Much more often mentioned
were, "a sexy mind," "tone of voice," "intelligence and
charm," "attitude," "enthusiasm," "a man who pays
attention to me," "the way he stands," "a passionate
man," and, over and over, "his eyes". In other words, women do
tend to see more of the whole person.
some women find men's fixation on their bodies flattering, many women,
especially women who think of themselves as intelligent, powerful, interesting,
or independent, find it insulting. But when a man looks at the whole woman with
interest; if he looks at her eyes, at her face, at her hands, at her whole body
rather than her T&A body parts, then she will take note of the quality of
his interest and do so with appreciation.
of the reasons why we men focus on visual factors has to do with our egos; our
need for self-esteem and prestige. We fantasize about being walking into a party
with a beautiful woman by our side, driving down the street with her in a
convertible, being seen sitting at a table in a restaurant, or walking down the
aisle. We imagine how other men will appraise her and approve or disapprove of
her as a woman they'd like to be with, a woman they would compete for. While, on
the other hand, when considering a less conventionally attractive partner, we
worry that other men will find her ugly and lose respect for us for being seen
with her. Sadly, a man may hesitate to pursue a woman who genuinely interests
him due to such fears.
tendency is, I think, compounded by an aspect of male socialization; we are
brought up to be keen to size things up, to appraise. Some research indicates
that men are from birth more attuned to visual, spatial relationship, whereas
women excel in language skills. Men are trained to notice the physical
characteristics of our environment. We are tuned in to dimensions and
proportions, and this tendency carries over to our perception of women. We tend
to see women's bodies before we see anything else. This combined with men's
focus on sexuality, and his concern with prestige, result in the male vice of
being exquisitely aware of women's bodies, noticing every detail, every small
diviation from the cultural ideal.
man must ask himself if he wants to let these sorts of factors run his life,
dictate which women he will date and make love to, and with whom he will
eventually commitment. We have to ask ourselves whether we want to let other
people's visual standards guide our lives. True, certain women will rouse envy
and admiration in other men. So will a shiny new car or a yacht. In the very
short run there is nothing like a gorgeous woman in the passenger seat of a
man’s BMW convertible to attract
people's attention and give us prestige. But beyond the short run it isn't just
looks, but everything else that makes people attractive.
physical attraction can be explosive and intoxicating, but it does not usually
stand the tests of a lifetime together. Just as desirable, and more enduring, is
being with someone who is alive, happy, and full of love. Whatever
"flaws" she may have, real or imagined, will soon go unnoticed in a
genuinely beautiful person.
a successful writer in his 40's who had been married twice, said: "I picked
my first wife out of a crowd, at a literary party. Within minutes of meeting her
I knew I wanted to marry her. Actually, making her mine would be a more exact
expression of how I thought of it. Everyone thought she was a stunning beauty
and a fitting companion to a young, up-and-coming writer like myself. Well, she
was good-looking, no doubt, but our relationship was completely based on her
looks and my success. When we were alone with each other we were quite simply
bored. My second wife and I were not attracted to each other at first; we just
did not fit each other's idea of what each other should be. But we liked each
other more and more, rather quickly. Men don't do double takes over her on the
street, but my friends love her and love to hang out with us. I admit, I used to
think she was plain. Today I think she's gorgeous."
too, get caught in this kind of a trap. To be seen with a rich, powerful man
will arouse envy and admiration. The lure of such ego boosting prestige can
cause women to overlook their more intimate needs in favor of social flattery.
How often has a woman picked a silent, powerful man and discovered too late that
he is cold and ungiving, even abusive and cruel? When people pick their partners
on such superficial bases, they must expect
that their choices will be potentially flawed. In time, the more important, more
mutually satisfying dimensions of the person may turn out to be absent.
of us, in the long term, are not this fixated on superficial beauty. But if you
consider your decisions honestly, most people realize they have a certain
"range of acceptability" when it comes to appearance, and are uneasy
when they imagine being seen dating someone who does not fall within that range.
This is especially true of men. It is really worth becoming aware of this subtle
discrimination most of us engage in, and considering how we might regret it in
the long run. Long after the crowds give their approval, we have to deal with
our *partner*'s true personality and may find it wanting. I've spoken to both
men and women who realize this problem, but don't know how to get over it.
Fortunately, new ways of seeing can be learned.
ONE: RETRAINING THE EYE
have seen the problems our visual preoccupations can create. It is important,
therefore, to retrain the eye. But how can we alter this perverse, seemingly
irresistible tendency? There is something we can do to modify the way in which
we perceive women so that when we first meet them, our eyes see beyond their
physical characteristics and into the many other dimensions of their being.
meeting a woman, it's a good idea to disregard our strong tendency to pay
attention to her superficial dimensions. If our objectifying eye focuses on some
"blemish," it's very effective to overlook that perceived flaw and
search instead for something we find pleasing. If the eye is attracted to a nose
that doesn't have the exact perfect width, length, or turn, then we consciously
look for something that we do like, such as her eyes, her hands, how proudly she
stands. We can take note of what we like about her physically, then go on to
other, more psychological, aspects of her person; her attitude, her intelligence
or creativity. On the other hand, when we meet a woman who is a media beauty, a
"10," we need to overlook her irresistible* "perfect"
features and look for other things again; her hands, her voice, what she does
and likes, who she is.
is, in fact, what women seem to do when they consider men. One woman says:
"Soon after I meet a man, if I am going to like him, I know what part of
him is going to attract me. *It might be his smell, or his hands, his voice, the
way he stands, his arms, or maybe his chest. That's what I am drawn to over and
woman says: "Nobody is perfect. When I like a man, I am drawn to some
feature of his. It can be anything--I'm not choosy--like his profile or his
skin. Other things don't seem to matter much."
for myself, years ago I simply could not see beyond women's body parts. My
friends could predict ahead of time which women I would be interested in and
which women I would ignore. I was repeatedly and severely criticized for this
behavior. In addition, only a few
women had the appearance sufficient for me to be interested. Usually, these
women were the focus of many other men's interest as well, and I found that
there was usually some other man who was more attractive to them than I. So, the
beauty, more often than not, left me in the dust as she and this other fellow
walked hand in hand into the sunset.
I realized, in desperation, how harmful was my affliction, I began to retrain my
eye. I practiced for several months until it became second nature. I tamed my
eye's automatic scanning of breasts, hips, legs. I refused to reexamine the
aspects of a woman that I found unpleasing. I forced myself to go on from the
easily perceived to the more subtle. I searched for unnoticed beauty, explored
it, and expanded my awareness. I discovered how much unseen perfection, how much
power, sparkle, intelligence, and sweetness there is in people after I looked
beyond my eye's first focus. When I found something I liked, I rested on it,
relished and savored it.
glorious spring morning I noticed an unusually large number of beautiful women
walking the streets of Berkeley. I was puzzled. Was there a women's convention
in town, or perhaps a new influx of coeds at the university? Was spring forcing
all the beautiful women into the streets? But no, the women hadn't changed. It
was me. My eyes were seeing beautiful, flowing hair, ample hips, strong legs,
faces full of character, self-assured gaits. And, as I let myself admire these
lovely things, I saw shining eyes returning the compliment with a smile and a
flick of the shoulder that signaled their appreciation.
then, though not completely cured, I am definitely much improved. The world is
full of beautiful women; too many in fact to fully attend to. I am like a kid in
a candy store--all due to a simple (though not so easy) change in perception
stimulated by retraining the eye.
eyes are the window of the soul, or so it is said. Eye contact is a very
important aspect of first meeting a person. We often avoid eye contact because
we're afraid of what we might see and of being seen. When looking into each
other's eyes, people connect in a way that has nothing to do with any other
physical attribute; attention flows directly between them without getting hung
up on this or that superficial detail. If the eye contact is accompanied by a
handshake, a closed circuit of energy is established that can say a great deal
about what is happening between the people involved. Whether the two people are
compatible and will like each other enough to pursue each other's friendship is
often decided in the [this] first few seconds of contact.
kind of eye and hand encounter will leave you with a number of impressions when
you meet a woman. Only if you are able to see beyond the surface, will the way
you see her, please her. Once you discover what delights you about her, you are
well on your way to phrasing your appreciation in a manner that will feel good
exercise One is retraining the eye and finding the beauty. To practice it go
somewhere where you can sit unobtrusively and observe many people, like a beach,
a shopping mall, or a busy street. Observe ordinary people as they go by, not
just "10's" but "4's" and "5's" Search for
something that is pleasing to you. Refuse to dwell on what you don't like.
spend time with a woman you know casually. Once again search for positive
attributes, this time psychological attributes: her attitude, her creativity,
her intelligence, her energy, what have you. And don't focus on what you don't
the idea? Okay then, practice, practice, practice.
TWO: TALK TO ME SWEETLY; STROKES
we have found what it is we like about another person, we can proceed to say it.
For some people this is an easy task. But for others actually saying what they
like—giving strokes in transactional analysis parlance—and how they like it
is quite difficult. They become tongue-tied with apprehension.
if she hates what I say?"
if I make a fool of myself? I'm not good with words."
heart beats faster, and he starts to sweat. "Maybe I should wait; tomorrow
is another day."
knows I like her; why repeat the obvious?"
of the reasons men don't express their appreciation to women is that often men
feel that such a confession is tantamount to making a commitment. "If I
tell her how beautiful she is to me, she'll think I'm in love, then she'll want
to get married and buy a house and two cars and have *kids, and I'll have to
work two jobs to put them through college...!" Fears of this sort lurk in
many male hearts, resulting in what then appears to be emotional stinginess when
he's afraid to pay compliments or express his love. A man who is fleeing
commitment will be especially reluctant to say how much he likes a woman because
to do so cuts off his escape path, or so he fears. No wonder he breaks out in a
someone how much we appreciate her doesn't automatically signal lifelong
commitment. Strokes (transactional analysis for recognition and compliments) can
be given freely without fear of the "tender trap." However, it is true
that because some women find the experience of receiving heartfelt strokes from
men quite unusual, there is room for potential misunderstanding here. A woman
may, in fact, wrongly interpret this experience. She may think he is buttering
her up for sex or that he is drunk or that he is in love with her. Still it
seems better to be loving and then deal with any possible misunderstanding than
not to love at all.
any case, if we are worried about how people are going to take our compliments,
it's a good idea to prepare them by "paving the way":
have been noticing you the last few minutes; may I give you a compliment?"
I tell you something I really like about you?" or,
don't know you, but would you be offended if I told you something that struck me
as very attractive about you?" or,
been meaning to tell you something. I know compliments make some people feel
awkward, but there is something I want to say to you, do you mind?"
this point, you have perceived something you like about a woman and have made
sure that she is willing to hear your compliment and to hear it as you mean it.
It's time to put it into words.
stroke doesn't have to pass muster as scientific truth. But it has to come from
the heart it needs to be sincere. If I say, "I think you are beautiful
(smart, funny)," I only have to make sure that I truly believe it. Even
though it is important to generate warm appreciation where there may initially
be lukewarm interest, it is absolutely essential that it be heartfelt rather
than a white lie. Once you have figured out what you sincerely like about a
person, it won't hurt to go somewhat overboard and be biased, hyperbolical, and
metaphoric, particularly since men tend to be objective, laconic, and sparse. In
other words, when it comes to compliments, it's better to go slightly overboard
than to fall short. It's better to be melodic, rhapsodic, or poetic than to be
instance, if you are inclined to say, "You are smart," why not say,
"I have been noticing you talking to different people and realized how
really smart you are"? Instead of saying, "You are funny," why
not say, "You know something, you really crack me up. I love your sense of
humor"? Why say, "You are beautiful," when you can say,
"Every so often when I look at you, I am startled by your beauty. Sometimes
you take my breath away"? Women like poetry so let every affectionate
statement be a poem.
you begin to express your affection, some women may mistrust you and not believe
it. A woman may shrug imperceptibly, or make a face or blink or close her eyes
while she listens internally to a voice (her inner Critic)* saying, "Oh, he
is just saying that to make you feel good," or "Oh, oh, here comes the
you suspect that kind of thing you can *add "I have the feeling you don't
believe me. I really do mean it." If she seems to suspect this is a pick up
line, you should add "I don't want to make you uncomfortable; if I did I'm
sorry." This doesn't mean you should then slink away in guilt or
embarrassment; it's just to let her know you aren't out to bother her, just to
share an admiring observation as respectfully as possible.*
may answer, "You don't really mean that; you are just saying it." You
will be able to answer, convincingly, "But I do, I really, truly do."
Try again and ask her to believe you this time.
may really truly not want to be complimented, that is always possible. On the
other hand she may respond with a toothsome smile, a hug, or a happy sigh, and
then you'll know that you have successfully engaged in a reciprocal, if small,
loving act--the giving and taking of affection.
exercise two is Talk to me Sweetly (and watch me melt). To practice this
exercise start by choosing a person you know and can trust and after asking her
for permission tell her some of the flattering thoughts you have had about her.
After you can do this easily, practice on people you don't know well; at work,
school, or in the street.
of course, nothing is as well received as when at a chosen moment we catch the
attention of someone we deeply love and sincerely, smilingly, unhesitatingly
recite the shortest, sweetest poem of all: "I love you."
THREE: LOVE ME BEYOND WORDS.
far, I have been referring exclusively to the verbal expression of positive
feelings. But there are other ways in which people show their love. For
instance, the very fact that two people are having a good conversation; even if
it does not include overt statements of affection, is a form of mutual
appreciation and stroking. In the process of a conversation, a person responds
positively to another by listening, carefully considering what the other is
saying, and taking it seriously, by either agreeing or respectfully disagreeing
and by showing recognition of what is being said by nodding, smiling, or even
of the subtle aspects of verbal communication is the tonality of the voice,
which expresses the emotional content behind what one is saying. The very same
word, spoken with different tones of voice, can have widely different meanings.
Obviously, a gentle, tender tone of voice is going to heighten the positive
effects of a statement, compared to a flat or harsh one. Even if all meaning is
extracted from somebody's speech, it's usually clear to a listener whether the
speaker is expressing a positive, neutral, or negative attitude just from the
tone of it.
something is said as well as what is said is, therefore, a very important aspect
of what a man desiring to become a loving person needs to pay attention to.
Practice tender speech; if you have difficulty speaking softly and lovingly to a
person, practice with a kitten, or a baby.
Me, Don’t Touch Me!
times women don't seem to want to be touched by men, and the reason is that they
fear that if they accept a man's touch, it will be interpreted as sexual
acquiescence. Women may seem overly paranoid in this respect, but men
consistently over interpret friendliness and openness on the part of women as a
invitation. This is something that women have come to resent. Some have come to
absolutely hate it.
can't he touch me without immediately getting turned on and wanting sex?"
I know I want sex with a man, I don't dare let him touch me because he'll think
it's a come-on," said another.
another swore, "I won't touch a man unless I know I want to have sex with
related to the sexual touch is the power touch. Men often touch women as a way
to assert their manhood, their control and power. We hold a woman's elbow; we
take their hands in ours, guide them through doors or down the street. All this
can be innocent enough, but often it's a way to show mastery and then it can be
men who are shy about touching women have good reason. Men as a rule don't have
an accurate grasp of the extent to which they invade women's privacy. Men are
allowed to own the space they occupy and to move aggressively out of it into
other people's--especially women's. A man who is sensitive recognizes that in
almost any situation involving women he has the potential of a bull in a china
shop. To take the risk of touching them without creating problems requires a
certain amount of sensitivity.
hands are most naturally extensions of the heart. They are the ideal instruments
of love. Men seldom use their hands for any purpose other than sexuality or
manipulation. Many men touch children, or other men, or women only when they
want to control them. The benefits of touching are largely inaccessible to these
men; consequently, they don't touch as much as they need to, and tend to be
underdeveloped in the gentle art of touching. Yet, men's hands are often strong
and skilled in other ways, and it would not take much to learn their loving,
sensitive touch combines love and intuition. Love provides the energy, and
intuition gives us the knowledge of how to best direct our energy to soothe and
give pleasure. With our intuition, we can sense other people's need for touch.
we pay attention, we will notice when people have backaches, when they are in
need of encouragement and support, or when they just want to be touched, or not.
This intuitive awareness, combined with a loving energy, is the basis for the
to touch will present themselves if you are seeking them. People will complain
of headaches, pain in the back, sore feet, tired hands, all of which can be
soothed with touch. There is, of course, the initial touch of the handshake.
Beyond that, it is possible to touch people while speaking to them, while taking
walks, while going past them in close quarters, and when bidding them goodbye.
Brushing someone's hair can help a headache; holding and massaging someone's
hand can relieve their tension.
sorts of possibilities for touch are available and should be considered by a man
who wants to become more loving. The essential task, however, is to touch
regardless of any sexual consideration--to touch without expecting sexuality to
become an aspect of the touching. That will mean that we will touch without
discrimination; we will touch those we are attracted to as much as those we do
not find sexually attractive.
very good way of becoming acquainted with the way in which our hands can impart
pleasure is to learn massage. Any man who wants to become more loving can take a
massage course and find opportunities to practice on people he is close to.
Offer to give a head, neck, back, or foot rub. A friend may have been crying, or
may have been hammering nails all day; another may have sat all day at a desk or
played a hard ball game. In any one of these situations, it is possible to offer
a rub as a way to show our appreciation and to practice loving others.
exercise three is love me beyond words (and I'll believe everything you say).
Next time you have an opportunity to give someone affection, pay attention to
your tone of voice, your posture, your attitude, how your feelings are
transmitted through your face and, in particular, your eyes. Use your hands with
people you know well; then experiment with the use of your hands with people you
are not well acquainted with.
are some of the things women want--don't treat me like a hunk of meat, talk to
me sweetly, but love me beyond words. But love of women goes beyond some of
these important manifestations of affection. If there is to be peace between the
sexes, we need to deal with much more, as we shall see in the following chapter.
4. Love of Women; Peace Between the Sexes
battle of the genders
people feel as if relationships between men and women are akin to a war zone. We speak of the war of the
sexes. Battles over power, territory, and control are everyday occurences. Who
will eat and who will serve,* who will cook and who will clean, who will change
the diapers, when and how sex will be had, who will drive; the skirmishes are
feel acosted by men’s sexual needs, oppressive habits, and expectations. On
the other hand, men see women as having something they want and need: love,
warmth, sex--which they use to
tantalize and manipulate them. Given the constant struggle between them, it is
sometimes difficult for men and women (both as individuals and as two groups
locked in conflict) to trust each other.
Men often see
themselves as beasts of burden, covertly pursued by women who view a man as a
source of security, but who will, once they have “got hIm,” deny him sexual
satisfaction. Even a young man in the daze of a new love may be alienated
by his beloved's apparent eagerness to take away his freedom. He can't relate to
her seemingly fearless enthusiasm for commitment; he begins to suspect it
may be some sort of trap.
The folklore is
replete with images of women who hurt men, who betray them, break their hearts,
and humiliate them sexually. Women, in these
reject men or cling to them, use them, and make unreasonable demands.
Many men fail
to get satisfaction from their dealings with women. And when they do, the
satisfaction seldom lasts and often has many " strings" attached.
Men often feel terrorized by women's emotions, which they don't understand and
can't seem to control. Thus men often have a fearful, elusive attitude
Though any one
man may be fatally attracted to a specific woman and pursue her with the purpose
of, supposedly, "making love," that very man can simultaneously
be a misogynist (woman hater). The high incidence of misogyny among men is
evidenced at many levels: men will joke and make hateful comments among
themselves behind closed doors, calling women cunts, bimbos, bitches,
ball-breakers, frigid, “nymphos,” and whores; meanwhile the abuse,
battering, and rape that women suffer worldwide at the hands of men is
undeniable evidence of widespread woman hatred. More commonly women are simply
discounted, day by day, in their capacities, intelligence, and emotional
have painted an exaggerated and frightening picture of the relationship between
the genders. Not everyone experiences the world like this, but many
men and women as recently as the 1970’s and the 1980’s—when this
book first appeared—have, and too many still do. I have painted this bleak
picture to set the stage for the possibility of a more promising future.
her book Sex for Women, Carmen Kerr defines feminism as "love
of women." People's reactions to this definition vary. For me, it was a
bulls-eye; yet many people react to it with distaste. Some mistrust it because
it is too simple; others interpret "love of women" to mean lesbianism
or simply sex with women. Yet, when given some thought, the definition takes on
meaning and validity.
else the women's movement may be defined, love of women must be an
important aspect of it. If women were loved as they deserve to be, they would be
treated equitably at work. If women were loved, there would be no questions
as to their right to choose their manner of dress, their partner and sexual
preferences. If women were loved no one would deny them their right to have a
child or not to have it when pregnant. They would be free to start a family
whether single, married, or living with another person, man or woman.
of women as a group, whether they be old or young, thin or fat, tall or short,
regardless of their beauty, is the opposite of misogyny—the dislike of,
suspicion toward, habit of discounting, fear of, lack of empathy for, and
casual, subtle contempt for women that so often afflict many men. Love of women
does not necessarily imply sexuality, nor does it exclude it. Love here refers
to the whole range of positive emotions between people, from concern and
fondness to passionate sexuality.
of women also means concern for the child-related issues that affect women
with children: pre- and post-natal medical care, equal pay, childcare,
maternity leave, pediatric services, and the economic conditions particular to
them as mothers.
of women will have special dimensions in the context of a romantic partnership.
In such a relationship, when a woman is angry or withdraws her love or
sexuality, love of women requires that her worldview be given consideration.
men are threatened by their mate’s new found aspirations. His dis-ease with
her changes holds her back. When a man loves a woman he will get out of the way
and support her developing independence, freedom, and power.
he will also, in the context of a committed partnership, during times that may
arise when she is in need (maybe ill or injured) and can’t be independent,
care for her, just as she should care for him through such times of trial. (One
woman cared for her husband after his near fatal injuries when he was hit by a
truck. Later, when he was functioning again, he supported her to go back to
school so she could change careers.) So long as such nurturing exchanges don’t
devolve into rescues, they are a healthy part of any enduring union between and
a man and the woman he loves.
the 1980’s when this book was first published, many of us in our zeal for the
new equality between the sexes lost sight of the wisdom of “In sickness and
health,” the vow to care for each other.
will be gained by denying that certain women, at certain times, have behaved
badly, and men have justifiably been angry at them. Women have, throughout the
long history of their oppresion, had to play certain roles, some of which lend
themselves to the classic dynamic in which a woman gets what she needs from a
man (or from men generally) through devious means. To men who are seeking a
partner to share their lives, such women are the source of legitimate
trepidation. The title of this book, When a Man Loves a Woman, is based
on a song that states this point clearly: “When a man loves a woman,”
Percy Sledge sings, "Spend his
dime / Tryin' to hold on to what he needs / He'd give up all his comfort / Sleep out in the rain
/ If she said that’s the
/ it ought to be.” Women
have been angry, often very angry, and have taken pleasure in humiliating men,
making them crawl and beg for what they want.
Such behavior gives men and excuse to hold onto their oppressive
attitudes. More than that—it instills genuine and (locally) legitimate fear in
the hearts of men.
profound contradiction in men's lives—their misogynous fear of women on the
one hand, and their pursuit of women on the other—might seem
irreconcilable. But it isn't if one realizes that men's anger at women
comes from the frustration caused by the continual failure to get what they
desperately need—emotional nourishment.
need women not only because they need romantic and sexual companionship, but
also because without our female companions our lives would be impoverished
because we, by and large, do not know how to love ourselves or others. We rely
on women to provide the loving emotional content of or lives. We need women
to fulfill our deep hunger for love, and, because of our genetic drive to
copulate, we incorrectly assume that our longing for love is best fulfilled
through sex. And when we don't succeed in stilling this hunger, we blame women
and are angry at them. We then refuse to accept the love they do offer on their
own emotional terms.
this is love in a form that a man, especially an angry man, fails to recognize
as love: she wants to start a conversation, she may try to tell him about her
feelings (even in shing her angry feelings, she will feel that she is trying to
connect with him, while e may only feel picked on) or even suggest therapy to
repair the relationship. Seeking to resolve a conflict, she may put her hand on
her man’s shoulder and try to say, “I’m sorry,” but in his angry state
he makes the grave mistake of brushing her off. These loving gestures are not
the one he dreams of—passionate, amorous intercourse—but they are steps
which if taken would lead to mutually inspired lovemaking. Sadly, angry men too
often fail to see this.
Misandry (hatred or pathological
aversion to men) is a much newer term than misogyny (originating around 1945-50
versus 1650-60). It was coined to express the conviction that men too are the
victims of gender based hatred and bias. Hatred of men, mysogyny’s doppelganger, is
widely associated with feminism. This is anti-feminist slander, but there are indeed
women (and men) who call themselves feminists and hate men. But the love of
women is not served by contempt or hatred for men, who are, after all, the
victims of sexism as well. The damage caused by the subjugation of women has
badly harmed all human beings for ages.
women and men, being human, are suspectible to the tendency to abuse power. Both
men and women are capable of being cruel. As women get power, it's becoming
clear that they can be thoughtless and mean, just like men. In some
countries like the US and Spain, where laws are being written to protect women
and give them equal rights, the legal process sometimes favors them, giving them
unfair advantage in their litigations against men, especially in divorce and
child custody cases. When women, as they gain power, fall into the same
misbehavior of which they have been the victims, it is important to keep the
goal in sight: equality of the genders. When women become more like men, love of
women requires that they be criticized evenhandedly, without condescension
or self-righteous anger—that they be given the same allowances for error that
we give to men.
we must recognize one vital fact: Women have been treated badly and
continue to be treated badly in comparison to men, in all the brutal ways we
have discussed above, which continue in our country and thrive worldwide. True,
both men and women have suffered, but women have had all the emotional
suffering that sexist gender roles cause both sexes, plus they've suffered
specifically because they are women—suffering that remains generally
unchanged throughout the world, except occasionally in certain circumstances,
such as among middle and upper-class citizens of “developed” nations.
men—accusing the post feminist world of bias against men--have argued that so
long as they are asked to be defenders against personal violence—e.g. come to
the aid of women when street violence threatens, and fight and die in wars,
women have little to complain about. In our own era women increasingly are in
the war zones as soldiers—I.E.D.’s don’t obey the old rules of engagement.
And those men who fail to see that every battered or violently raped woman is
a veteran have an ax to grind that prevents them from seeing clearly.
for better or worse, some men who came of age after or during the feminist
revolution have decided they have no chivalrous duty to defend women from harm.
Thus women now often bear the burden of looking out for themselves in a
dangerous world where attackers of greater physical strength may lurk. While no
man enjoys walking a deserted street at night and wondering if he might be
mugged or killed, it is women who almost exclusively are the targets of rapists
and serial killers,meaning that women must fear what amounts to torture (perhaps
ending in death) if they fall prey to a violent predator. Both genders have
unacceptable burdens to bear and much to complain of in the world as it is.
understanding the historical fact of women's oppression and how women have learned
to react to power abuse (e.g. with counter-abuse), it's not possible to
appreciate women's condition and respond to it lovingly. Without knowledge
of women's and men's histories as separate peoples, the mysteries of the love
(and hate) between them cannot ever be fully understood, and the war
between the sexes will continue unabated.
give up control and take up love?
men join women in their struggle for power and self-respect? Why should they
give up their privilege—as the man of the house, with the first and last word,
able to sit at the head of the table (while someone else cooks and does the
dishes), having the right to take the lead in relationships, being in control?
What would be left? What would men get in return? Would they begin to
secretly feel inferior to women—with all their new-found energies and
ambition, their different and still mysterious sexuality, their
child-bearing capacities, and their (usually) greater comfort and adeptness at
navigating the world of emotions?
why, let us ask again, should men embrace the love of women? The answer is
that in doing so we'll be handed back our hearts. Because in learning to
love women—truly love them, not just desire and idealize them—we will
reclaim our loving capacities. Because if we learn to love women, we will learn
to love ourselves, and each other. In the short run, as men learn true love
of women, they'll experience being truly loved by women in return. Every feminist
step that a man takes is likely to bring about some recognition and appreciation
from the women around him.
of women will also, by opening our hearts, makes us more open and available to other
men and their friendship. (It makes us more open to all our friendships, with
men and with women.) Affection between men will be more commonplace and will not
have to wait for its traditional forms of expression in the battlefield, in
the sports arena, or when we get drunk together
women's independence and self-sufficiency, feminism has the potential to
relieve men of the burden of their traditional role as breadwinner, bearer of
sole financial responsibility for the family. There are now options beyond
the old tradition of working oneself into an early grave to provide for
wife and children and to finance the children's education.
love of women increases its scope across the land and the world, it will promote
women into places of power—women who are not just female replicas of
hard-hearted men, but women whose capacity to feel and understand emotions will humanize
business, politics, religion, and all aspects of human life. With women
participating in the major decisions that affect people—with women
holding up half the sky—rationality will be tempered with feeling, and that
cannot but benefit us all.
issue of men's love for women goes to the core of the final section of this
book. The ability to nurture—to be caring and loving, the ability, in
fact, to feel all the tender and warm emotions that can exist between
people—has been woman's realm. The feminist revolution upset this dicotomy—male
= achieve, female = feel—somewhat, but there is still more to do, progress to
be made where there has been resistance and refinements where progress has
engendered confusion or new wrinkles of difficulty or uncertainty. The women of
feminist era—the most visionary among them*—asked men to be partners with
them in both the burdens and benefits of emotional aliveness. The men and
women coming of age today may not know what to do in the post revolutionary
world they find themselves in.
would argue that the vital work of feminist transformation remains unfinished.
It is not enough that women now have the right to work for an equitable salary.
It is not enough that women have broken many glass ceilings, often struggling
not to lose their best female attributes and be forced to emulate male
shortcomings. We need to go back to that intimate—personal and
political—moment when women challenged men to do their share of the emotional
work. When we men join with women in navigating the emotional world, we will
participate in the emotional aliveness that has been reserved for their sphere.
(Some men have had to risk life and limb in battle to feel fully alive
emotionally, arguarbly because in normal life they are asked to function as if
cut off from their emotions.)
men and women have as their birthright the capacity to feel deeply and to be
emotionally engaged. The latest science now tells us that emotions inform every
decision we make and that to be devoid of emotion is not an asset but a
crippling deficit. Let us,
therefore, embrace the task of reclaiming and fully owning our feelings,
and, with the help of the next chapter, learning emotional literacy.
whether young or old, North American, Latin American, or European, whether
working class, leisure class, or poor, whether women of color or
white--when asked what they want from men, concentrate on a similar theme.
"Let go, give up control." "Give of yourself."
"Listen to me, and tell me what's going on with you," "Tell me if
you love me, or if you are angry with me," "Relax, find the soft
part of you." "What I feel counts; I want you to care about it."
"I want to know how you feel."
first, these answers appear to be typical of the vague way in which women talk
to men when they want something they're not getting. But in looking over
these responses, I began to see a pattern. "Give, open up, feel, tell me,
be yourself “; the common thread that I detected in all these answers was that
women want men to become aware of their feelings and to act accordingly.
we are apt to respond. “What do you mean by feelings?” We are often truly
puzzled by such a request and our response is often tinged with
defensiveness because we recognize the importance of women’s demands and our
To men the very word can bring on a panic attack, since past experience often
indicates there may be a deep, mysterious, perhaps congenital defect here.
It's not unlike a person who suddenly finds himself on a high dive platform being
encouraged to jump. " What do I do? " a man gasps to himself, hoping
somebody out there can explain what this feeling thing is all about, how it
functions, and how to do it without a painful belly flop and subsequent
drowning. Often this panic is compounded with resentment. "What
now?" he grumbles. "First, she wanted to get married, so I did. Then
she quit her job, so now I work weekends. Next she got pregnant, so we
stopped having sex." By this time he is sore. "Now she wants
feelings? What next?" For many men the question still remains, "What
do women mean when they say they want feelings?"
To make matters worse women aren't always good at explaining men's deficiency: "You know perfectly well what I mean! Just answer the question, ‘Do you love me?'" Such expressions of anger, though no doubt justified, are not helpful when she can not clarify what it is she wants him to do differently. It is equally unproductive when a woman—giving way to hurt and disappointment—breaks down and cries, and, when he reaches out in an amorous way she pushes him away screeching: "Don't touch me! All you think about is sex!" She may be right, since often a woman in distress seems to stimulate a sexually tinged, protective response from men. But this type of outburst leaves him none the wiser about what is upsetting her.
should not surprise us that both men and women stumble and blunder when it
comes to discussing emotions. Feelings have not been widely discussed or
explored until recently in the late 1990’s when Daniel Goleman introduced the
concept of EQ (emotional intelligence) into the popular mind with his book
Emotional Intelligence. The emotional intelligence movement has had dramatic
repercussions and has no doubt advanced emotional awareness the world over.
most significant lessons in emotional literacy, however, are taught to children
within the family usually by women who pass down to their daughters certain
rudimentary "how-to's" of emotional life. Thus most women are more
conversant in emotional matters than most men, but both groups have much to
learn. Some families and cultures allow boys more options than others, but
the vast majority of males are raised within a system of attitudes that trains
them to be in emotional control of themselves and others. Out of the
rainbow of emotional hues and intensities, men are traditionally allowed to
express only feelings of anger (if it's righteous), guilt (if it's the
result of irresponsibility), and occasionally, love (if it's new or unrequited)
or joy (at sports events.) The subtler expressions of negative emotions
such as shame, fear and sadness or of positive emotions like joy or hope
are not encouraged. This creates the emotional gap that separates men from
cry out for more feelings from men, who do not know how to respond, even if
willing. Meanwhile, women don't know how to teach men or even adequately
explain what they want. Women may be more emotionally literate than men, but
both men and women have much to learn. The hottest controversy between the sexes
by far rages over two major areas of emotion--love, sex, love and sex, love
or sex. Women seem to be saying " more love " and (it appears to men)
"less sex." Men seem to be saying "more sex" and (it appears
to women) "less love." Ideally, everyone wants both, but is
getting precious little of either. Millions of words in songs, books, magazines,
articles, and church sermons have been written about this issue; here is my
own point of view:
Sexuality is a powerful, assertive emotion. Sexual feelings are most
strongly felt in the genitals, but sexuality can be felt over the entire body.
"It feels like I have bubbly champagne in my legs and
arms." "When I am kissing, I feel myself swoon, as if fire were rushing
through my veins." "Sometimes it feels like I am lying in a very swift
stream and the water is flowing through me." " It feels like
lying in the hot sun on a cool spring day." "It is intense, shaking
pleasure, sometimes unbearably so," “like a volcano in the chest.”
sexuality is felt, there is often an intense sense of urgency about it. After
all, a major function of sexuality is procreation. Were it not so vital to
us, we might be extinct by now. Sexuality is part of a drive, an instinctive and sometimes
overwhelming imperative, which, if not satisfied, can become an obsession
invading all of our waking (and dreaming) life. When sexual energy doesn't
find genital expression, it will find some other outlet, as Freud discovered. Sexuality
is inescapable and will not be denied; it will propel human beings one way or
another. If it isn't expressed through genital activity and orgasm, sexual
energy can travel through unseen psychic channels to surface often in the form
of aggression. It can fuel intellectual, artistic or athletic pursuit. It can
create paralyzing symptoms. However sexuality eventually finds expression,
it will have its day.
transforms people. It's able to turn stable and predictable situations on their
head. It is the stimulus for mixing people who might never find each other
were it not for sexual propulsion. Sexuality breaks through class, race, age,
and color barriers. Sexuality is like the ladle in the soup of human life.
There is nothing that stirs the pot quite like this revolutionary force rivaled
only by violence in its capacity to attract or repel people. The fact that
providing sexuality is an inexhaustible, billion dollar industry attests to its
power and importance. And the fact that the costumers of that industry are
overwhelmingly male is testament to the significant difference between men and
women in the area of sexuality.
can be constructive, as in the attraction that men and women can feel for
each other. Then it is a bonding, renewing, energizing, recreating life force.
Or it can be destructive, as when it becomes an obsession displacing all
other interests. We are aware that emotions like anger, fear, sadness, joy,
love and sexuality are intimately associated with biochemical, hormonal
functions. Strong emotions can produce physical symptoms such as dry mouth,
dilated or constricted pupils, tears, goose bumps, heart palpitations, or
trembling. Sexuality, in particular, has strong bodily
manifestations. Given full expression, sexuality is fluid; sweat,
tears, saliva, seminal fluids, vaginal secretions and menstrual flow are
part and parcel of the sexual experience. Some people experience
this as messy or even disgusting and are repulsed by sexuality in its full
expression because it's an energy that radiates from people in perceptible
manifestations. A person who is charged with sexuality will be palpably
energized. Anyone in his or her vicinity will feel the "vibes"
and be either attracted or repelled, according to their own orientation. For
those favorably inclined to another's sexual energy, the experience will be
positive, even a " turn on. " For those not so impressed, it will be uncomfortable,
Berne in his book Sex an Human Loving writes that one reason for sex's
effect on us is that " sex is wet. " The fluidity of sex is not
only in its moisture; sexual motions are liquid. Orgasms are like waves; sex is
like a stream, like a bottomless ocean; sexual energy washes over us. The
liquid nature of sexuality has to be kept in mind to understand that like the
water that makes up 90 percent of our bodies, it permeates our being. When we
attempt to reduce it to a mere function between genitals or a plain
procreative act, we lose sight of how all-encompassing it is. When we lose awareness
of our sexuality, we live at the mercy of its vagaries; we are defeated by it
when we could be energized, propelled, delighted, and inspired.
sexuality is such a powerful emotion, there is an equally powerful, culture-wide
attempt to control and curb it. A major method of control is through
emotions like guilt and fear, often strongly associated with sexuality and its
expression. Sexuality on one hand, and guilt and fear on the other,
intensely oppose each other in a paralyzing confrontation. Under their opposing
influence, people can freeze and dry up, sexually.
sexuality is such a strong emotion, that it breaks through the suppression to which
many men subject their feelings. Consequently, men are well acquainted with it
even if they are deaf to the other less powerful emotions. Starting in
adolescence, when it seems to suddenly burst forth, sexuality is the
feeling we are most aware of; it is the emotion that most forcefully imposes itself
on us and demands to be handled. It usually remains so into our seventies and
eighties, even when it seems to have temporarily disappeared from our lives
and for all intents and purposes no longer affects us (or so we think). This is
why men who may be out of touch with most of their other emotions (except
perhaps anger) can, nonetheless, be acutely aware of their sexual desires.
Nearly equal to sexuality in its intensity and, therefore, in its capacity to
break through male reluctance to feel, is the state of being "in
love." Being in love and simply loving are two different emotional
experiences. The former is much more powerful than the latter, yet both are
definitely related. Being in love is a condition of altered consciousness, based probably
on a hormonal change of body chemistry that is sought after for its beauty, and
feared for its potential to hurt us. Akin to a protracted drug experience,
it has been diagnosed by cynical observers of the human condition as a state of temporary
insanity. When in love, one's being resides within the loving experience; one is
both blind and all-seeing, and the loving feeling colors everything with
in love, perception of the loved one is heightened as in a strange but wonderful
dream. We track her (mutatis, mutandi; him) as she moves around the
universe, and our heart skips a beat when she drops back into view. Her
presence sends streaming electricity through us, converging on our heart and
swelling it with feeling. We are constantly struck by this or that flash of
loveliness, glittering like the facets of a diamond. Being in love is madness, a
magnifying glass, a kaleidoscope, a piercing arrow, a plunge from a high rock
into a deep river, soaring through the air with eyes closed. Being in love
is, in all probability, a state in which love and sexuality are commingled in one
powerful experience that literally blows people's minds.
is when we are in love that "sexual chemistry" is often most
obvious. Our insides melt; we see strange lights and auras; the other's smells
are utterly delicious--musk, pine needles, oranges, fresh cut straw. People
who are in love are aliens among ordinary people, alternately wonderful and irritating
in their ecstatic behavior. One can only wait patiently until the inevitable
return from paradise brings them back to their senses. When the lovers
finally return--usually between six months and two years later--they will,
hopefully, love each other. But often they don't, which seems to show that
being in love is not just an intense case of loving. Often people who were
recently in love don't seem to love each other at all but rather dislike each
other, sometimes a lot. All of which seems to confirm the theory that
people in love are temporarily out of their minds.
Should we avoid "falling in love" because of its obvious pitfalls? It seems many people do--men, more often than not. We fear the radical loss of control, the vulnerability, the way in which it interrupts our assigned tasks. Yet no man's emotional life is complete until he has fallen deeply in love and, some would argue, until he has had his heart broken. Only then will he know the loving experience intimately enough to be able to love adequately the next time around. This is why when a woman wonders whether she can trust a man's declarations of love it can be good advice to recommend that she find out whether he has had his heart broken. If he has, and I mean truly broken (deep, enduring heartache for at least six months and a year or more recovery after that), he can be trusted to understand what being in love is all about.
According to medical science, the heart is a muscle that pumps
blood. But the heart is also the bodily focus of love. That the heart has a
connection with love seems to be generally known by poets, and lovers. This
knowledge is based on the fact that we feel love in our hearts and breasts.
But again, as is the case with sexuality--where the source is not just the penis
or the clitoris--it is the whole area of the chest that is the source of love's
energy; in fact, love can be felt all over the body.
with the physical, perhaps biochemical nature of sexual and "in love"
experiences, plain, regular, long-term love pales by comparison. Yet, such
love is the most powerful force in the world. Love and being in love are a
subject of universal interest and fascination, probably because everyone wants
to be loved and most of us feel that we aren't. Most people want a
reciprocated, lasting love with another person, and that is difficult to
achieve. One important reason is that we are not taught how to love except
by example, and the examples we have available aren't always very good.
Another reason is that love is powerful enough to frighten people, because love
is a long-term, binding energy. Once we let ourselves love people, we are
tied to them, to their needs, to their suffering, to their lives and deaths. To
love others is to ache when they hurt, to tremble when they are afraid, to
succumb when they die. It is impossible to ignore the hunger and pain of
the ones we love, so we sometimes cut ourselves off from them lest their pain
and need become ours. The commitment that long-lasting love entails
frightens us and gives us pause.
needs to be distinguished from sexuality--especially by men, for whom sex as a
force often over-shadows or impersonates love. While love waxes or wanes
slowly and steadily, sexual feelings fluctuate more frequently and powerfully.
We are much more aware of the rise and fall of sexual feelings than of our
changes of heart. Men and women have different ways of experiencing love and
have pervasive sexual feelings, sometimes associated with feelings of love,
whereas women have pervasive loving feelings, sometimes combined with sex. In
other words, men can have sex without love more easily than women, while
women can have love without sex more easily than men. This explains women's
common complaints when they have sex with a man and fall in love with him, and
he doesn't return the favor. Men need to know but not feel bad about
this--it's simply an indication that love and sex are separate and distinct
feelings, that one can happen without the other, and that men are different from
problem, when it becomes a problem, is due to the differences between what
men and women want. If the rise and fall of sexuality is compared with the
waves in the ocean, then love is the tide. Each wave brings with it a subtle
increase or decrease of the tide. Each wave comes and goes with an
impressive roar, but the tide moves slowly, imperceptibly. Similarly, our loving feelings
for people move slowly; it takes time to love someone fully, and it takes time
to lose the loving feeling.
like sex, is felt as fluid, but it is experienced more as a gently flowing
liquid that fills, brims over, or is sadly dried up. When it flows, it flows easily,
as if down a placid hill; it swirls in the chest and floods the mind with
tender, nurturing thoughts. While the sexual and "in love" feeling can
develop overnight, the experience of loving someone builds upon the shared experiences—ups
and downs, deaths, births, the accumulated significant moments of being
together—over time. Likewise it can be destroyed through time; eroded
away by large and small cruelties, misunderstandings, and luckless mishaps that are
part and parcel of everyday emotional struggle.
Sadness and Fear. Continuing this exploration of feelings, love and sex aren't
the only feelings we have to deal with. The so-called negative
emotions—anger, sadness, fear—are emotions that men have difficulty
admitting to as well. Such feelings are commonplace to anyone whose love has
been abused, whether man or woman. Men especially have these emotions when
women rebuff their sexual advances, which, as we discussed earlier, is often.
the Hite Report on Male Sexuality, men answer the question "Would you like
to change sex in any way? Has sex been everything you want it to be, or do
you want it more?" I was very moved by the strong feelings that were
expressed, certainly the strongest expressed by men in the whole study. The
men Hite selected for attention were plaintive, hurt, self-deprecating, and
guess I’m a pig," "I begged, pleaded, cajoled, but nothing
worked," "I fit the American male stereotype, oversexed and
underfucked," "In some way I feel like I'm oversexed and some
kind of maniac and I put myself down," "I felt totally inadequate and
useless," "It is disgusting to resort to masturbation when you
are sleeping with a woman every night," "I feel she sometimes uses sex as
a weapon," "Sometimes I come across as a woman hater, I feel cheated
that someone can laughingly say no when I'm in my greatest need,”
“Sometimes, the only way to stop my frustration is to say ‘The hell
revealing questions were " Do you usually make the initial sexual advance?
How do you feel about it? How do you feel if the other person does not want
to have sex with you? " The answers again were full of hurt and
feel quite hurt, my self-esteem is lowered considerably." "I get
angry." "I feel rejected," "I hate making sexual
advances. It makes me feel vulgar and crude," " I usually feel like a
jerk," "If I'm rejected, I feel like a total fool. I feel like apologizing
to the woman and slinking off to a corner like the lecherous scum she must think
I am." " I hate it!!!," "I feel embarrassed, angry,
we have a serious, widespread problem here. Men want more sex and women want
more feeling. If men were to say how they feel, they would likely be furious,
hurt, self-flagellating. This pervasive hurt and anger are, in my opinion,
the emotional source of rape and other violence against women. When a man feels deprived—whether
by women or by life in general—he may decide in a misogynist rage to take
revenge on a member of the "opposite sex."
women say that they want men to share their feelings, these bitter,
potentially hateful feelings are probably not what they have
primarily in mind. The feelings they long for are feelings of love,
tenderness and affection. But male anger is often the first emotion (after sex)
which women are exposed to. No wonder men and women throw their hands up in
is not lost. For if you read elsewhere, again in The Hite Report on Male
Sexuality, you'll find that men have other, more vulnerable emotions and
plenty of them. When asked, "Why do you like intercourse?" most
of the men who answered gave physical closeness and overall body
contact—full-length embracing—as the most important physical element of
their liking intercourse, while the psychological/emotional reason most men
gave for liking and wanting intercourse was the feeling of being loved
and accepted [italics mine] that intercourse gave them.
love the closeness that intercourse brings." "To lie upon her and
feel her body against mine with the warmth of her and the feeling of her soft
belly against mine; I feel an ache for her just thinking about it."
"The being close to another is more important than orgasm." "I
like intercourse for all its human contact." "It makes me feel
valuable." "It makes me feel clean and whole, a part of life--not just
a wanderer." "The end of loneliness" " Knowing you are
loved, knowing you can love." "It's the point at which I feel she
totally loves me." "The feeling of someone liking you enough to
give their body to you." "With my cock deep inside her I feel totally
secure and loved." "Intercourse feels psychologically like acceptance
to me." "It tells me she loves me. It gives confidence,"
"It lets me express feelings of affection, warmth, tenderness and
appreciation of women.”
men look forward to sex and intercourse as providing a place to be emotional. Due
to our cultural upbringing, men yearn for the genital embrace because we find
surcease, in a way we cannot achieve elsewhere, for our deep longing for
men obsessively chase after sex, it is because it's the only experience available
through which our own feelings of intimacy and acceptance are given full vent.
Little wonder that we pursue it so relentlessly, and that when frustrated
we feel such anger and humiliation. Emotionally, men, like women, long for
closeness; biologically they are driven to seek penetration. So closeness and
intercourse often are fused into one with men.
said this let no one who reads these words interpret them as an apology for
men's, often heartless sex-seeking behavior, much less the hostility and
violence disgruntled men visit on women when they feel rebuffed. Rather it is an
articulation of our feelings, with the understanding that while we should
not be condemned for such emotions, we do deserve condemnation when we act
on them in hurtful, abusive ways.
emotional literacy takes time and effort but the first lesson is learning
to say " I love you " when love is felt, and then to deal with our
anger, fears and sadness truthfully and responsibly.
6. Emotional Literacy
term literacy is ordinarily applied to the capacity to read and write. But it
can also be applied to the knowledge of other matters (computer literacy,
environmental literacy) including emotions. Emotional literacy, the capacity to
understand and deal with emotions, is a skill that women value highly when
it is present in men. An emotionally illiterate man will not know
his own emotions, their intensity and what causes them. He will have no control
over the extent to which his emotions express themselves. He will not be
aware of of the extent of other people's feelings and what causes them. And
when other people express themselves emotionally, he will not know what to do.
He not be able to communicate his emotions and will not know what to do when he
is overwhelmed by them.
emotionally aware man will be conscious of experiencing a variety of
emotions at a variety of intensities. He will know what he feels and why. For
instance, when he is afraid, he will know when he is mildly anxious or when
he is terrified, and he will know why. He will also know how to make these
feelings clear to others, as well as how and when to express them most
productively. When dealing with someone who is not being forth coming about
his or her feelings, he will know how to ask the right questions to tactfully get
more information about what is going on with that person, emotionally. He will
know the effect of the combinations of his and another person's emotions,
and be able to avoid those situations in which feelings escalate
catastrophically. On the other hand, he will also know how emotions can combine between
people in a harmonious and positive manner and how to help to bring that about.
is a deep seated resistance with some to dealing with emotions. One man after some
months of work with me, reflecting on his emotional upbringing, said: " I
remember as a boy being proud of acting like my father and not like my
mother. I even imitated how he sat impassively when my mother
hassled him with tears and scenes. Later, in the service, I was proud of
being very calm, not ice-cold like some guys but calm. We all had contempt for
guys who got excited or upset. I notice, lately, that soldier movies make a
big thing out of the sergeant having feelings. Ours didn't, I'Il tell you that
calm and logic prevail at the overt, public level, interactions seem
"civilized" and "grown up." But barely hidden beneath the
surface, emotions continue to exist and, unbeknownst to us, affect our
lives. When suppressed, pent-up emotions distort thinking and communication,
produce erratic behavior, and even create physical symptoms such as head,
back, and stomach aches as well as chronic conditions like arthritis,
ulcers, colitis, constipation and hypertension. Heart disease and some forms of
cancer may also be the result of inadequately expressed feelings, as can
depression and addiction to drugs.
often discount and deny their emotions. But there is always a price when we
negate our feelings. When events hurt or sadden us profoundly and we cannot
cry, that sadness becomes the bedrock of our personality and we become walking
dead, forever depressed, anxious and joyless; that fact is finally being
recognized regarding traumatized veterans of our wars.
are unavailable to the emotionally illiterate, but power isn't. Being unaware
and unconcerned with feelings gives people a heartless advantage over
others who are restrained by their empathic scruples. And when the
unfeeling acquire power, as they so often do, they subject the rest of us to
their control, power plays, and violence. When the emotionally illiterate
inhabit the corridors of power and dominate whole governments, they threaten the
citizenry with apocalypse--war, death, hunger, and disease.
we Feel and Why. To be emotionally literate we need to know both what it is that
we are feeling and what the causes for our feelings are. It is not sufficient to
know that we are angry, guilty, happy, or in love.; we also need to know
the origin of our anger, what causes our guilt, why we are in love.
primary emotions are few; anger, sadness, fear, hate, sex, joy, love, hope.
Emotions can be divided into positive and negative, depending on whether
we seek them or avoid them because they give us pleasure or pain. When two
or more primary emotions occur simultaneously, they combine into secondary emotional
hues. Love can occur with anger or even with its counterpart, hate. When more
emotions are added, they can create such a muddy experience that chaos and
confusion are the consequence. Jealousy is often such a compost of
emotions—anger, fear, shame, love, sexual desire—that it can seem both
incomprehensible and unmanageable. Emotions can also be strong or weak.
of the emotions mentioned above has powerful and weak manifestations. For
instance, anger can go from minor irritation to blind rage. Fear can go from
mild apprehension to terror. Love can go from fondness to passion. People who
are emotionally illiterate may recognize their emotions only at the very
intense end of the spectrum. Men, for instance, are often either completely unaware
of mild forms of anger or unable to speak about them. Yet, when they get angry
enough, men will express their anger and know that they are feeling it. The
same is true of men's awareness of and capacity to express their feelings of love.
Men have a tendency to feel love only when it is at the very intense end of the
spectrum, and to feel it very intensely but, when the feeling wanes,
suddenly find themselves utterly “out of love.” With the exception of
sudden breakthroughs at certain dramatic moments, they experience their lives as
rational and emotion-free. For them emotions are usually something that
happen to them unexpectedly. They occasionally experience outbreaks of
irrepressible emotion which they regard as unpredictable, highly unwanted
disruptions in their everyday lives, and are not aware of the constant
interplay of emotions below the level of consciousness that is the cause for
man who is in love with a woman who is being less than candid about her
affections for another man may, after weeks or months, suddenly explode
into a jealous rage. The blinding feeling that overcomes him is a combination of
several strong emotions: of love and anger because of her unfair treatment,
of envy and jealousy because he feels that she is giving her love to another, of humiliation
because of his powerlessness, and of rage because of her deceit. All of these
together will be experienced as an amorphous and overwhelming emotional
chaos that he'll likely want to suppress because of its seemingly unmanageable nature.
he had been more emotionally literate, he might have noticed his feelings
several weeks before and expressed, rather than hidden, them. He would have
known the specific feelings involved and their intensity and how they combined with
each other. That is:
very much in love,
he is sad
and angry because he is not getting her attention,
suspicious of his beloved's relationship with another, and
three experiences combined into jealousy.
all this, he might have been able to express these feelings earlier when they
were at a much lower level of intensity. If he had, she might have changed
the course of her actions: She might have been more aware that he really loves
her. She might have decided to treat him more honestly and clarified her
feelings about him. One way or another his expressions of feeling could
have made the uncontrollable breakthrough less likely and could also have
alerted her to his feelings so that she could do something about them. But
how was he to determine these emotional facts when he didn't really know about his
feelings in the first place?
Emotional Literacy It's important to remember that in order to learn emotional literacy
it is helpful to be in an emotionally nurturing environment in which people
applaud and support the learning of these skills. There is a
strong tendency in our culture to denigrate the learning of emotional skills,
especially for men. A man who wants to learn about these matters is not
going to receive a lot of support in his everyday life. Learning emotional
literacy in our unsympathetic environment will be difficult.
a major first step is to find such an environment. Friends, church groups, men's
groups, human potential workshops, or a supportive therapy group can be a good
source of backup for men who want to learn emotional literacy. There are
also situations in which whole families and groups of people such as
religious or ethnic communities are open to emotional dialogue; such cooperative
environments are ideal for learning about emotions.
nurturing lover can be very helpful, of course, but should not be the only
support, since emotional learning can be exhausting for the teacher. It's a
good idea to take the pressure off her by seeking a broad support system of
close friends, friendly acquaintances or a
trusted family member. This allows an intimate lover to be helpful
without being central to the process.
any complex skill, it takes time and patience to learn emotional literacy.
Ideally, it would be learned during childhood in an emotionally literate
environment. When it's not, as is generally the case, several
complications emerge. First, when learning does not occur at the developmentally
appropriate age, it will be more difficult later. Second, while failing to develop the skill, the child will
probably develop poor habits that will need to be unlearned before learning
can occur. When people learn to play an instrument or type or read on their own,
they often have to go through a difficult period of unlearning
counter-productive habits before further effective learning can occur. This is
also true of emotional literacy; it is more difficult to learn later in
life and requires unlearning certain habits that interfere with it.
However, while difficult, the task is far from impossible given the desire and
resolve. For those who may want to pursue the matter further, I have designed a
program of Emotional Literacy Training which I outline in the book Emotional
Literacy: Intelligence with a Heart. Chapter seven is a brief outline of the
seven transactions that form the basis of emotional literacy training.
Chapter 7. SEVEN TRANSACTIONS THAT
IMPROVE EMOTIONAL LITERACY
are some simple transactional exercises that break down the process of learning
emotional literacy, step by step. They are like training wheels on a child's
bicycle that make the complicated task easier to master.
seven basic transactions are:
Asking for permission to deliver an emotionally laden statement.
Making an action/feeling statement without judgment or accusation in which we
inform another person of how we felt in connection with what he or she did.
Accepting without defensiveness another person's statement about how our actions
Telling another person of an intuition, theory, or suspicion about what he is
doing or why he is doing it.
Validating another person's intuition, theory, or suspicion by searching for its
truth rather than denying it.
Apologizing for committing an error.
Accepting an apology.
for Permission. Whenever you are planning to say anything relating to your
emotions, whether positive or negative, its important to prepare the person,
preferably by specifying what you are about to say.
"Can I tell you something I like about you?" or "I have been
feeling something that upsets me lately. Can I tell you?" or "There is
something going on between us that worries me. Are you interested in hearing
asking a person's permission to speak in this manner, we are a) giving him a
warning that something difficult may be coming and giving him a chance to
prepare himself and be ready to listen, or, b) giving him a choice as to whether
he wants to deal with it at this time. When we follow this approach, we are
ensuring that our statements will fall on fertile soil and will have a chance to
generate productive responses. There has to be a genuine choice. We need to be
willing to accept that the timing of our statement might not be particularly
good and to wait for a better moment. Also, we are avoiding, as far as is
possible, guilt, defensiveness, and anger in the other person.
Making an Action/Feeling Statement. An action/ feeling statement describes in
one simple, understandable sentence what emotion occurred in connection with
another person's action. "When you [action], I felt [emotion] " This
statement is designed to inform the person of an emotion or emotions you had in
association with his or her behavior. It is designed not to provoke guilt or
defensiveness because it contains no judgment, accusation, or reproach.
action/feeing statement simply states that a verifiable action resulted in an
undeniable feeling. For instance:
"When you wanted to stop talking on the phone last night, I felt hurt at
first, and then angry."
that Mary can agree she hung up the phone yesterday, and that she understands
how John felt (hurt and angry), this statement will have been successful in its
purpose: to provide Mary with information about how John felt last night when
she hung up. It is a way for John to be heard, and to express his feelings in a
way that doesn't hurt or abuse Mary.
the expression of an action/feeling statement, a number of errors can be made.
Error A. Confusing Action and Motivation. When
attempting to describe an action, it is possible to go beyond a simple
statement, such as, "When you hung up the telephone," or "When
you arrived late," or "When you interrupted me," and add to it a
judgment, such as: "When you so rudely hung up on me," or "When
you humiliated me by being late," or "When you showed your disregard
for my opinion by interrupting me." One includes information of a
completely different nature than the description of an action. These judgments
constitute a theory about the other person's motivation and a judgment about
those reasons. These elaborations are likely to get you into trouble because
they may be incorrect and because they judge and blame and will create guilt,
anger, and other complications that it is the purpose of this exercise to avoid.
Step No. 4, outlined below, is designed to express these intuitions, fears about
other people's motivation, and paranoid fantasies. But these should not be
included with the action/feeling statement so as not to cloud the emotional
Error B. Confusion of Feeling and Thought. In trying
to express a feeling, we often name a thought instead.
For instance: "When you interrupted our
conversation, I felt that you were angry," or "When you interrupted
our conversation, I felt that you weren't interested in what I had to say."
These aren't feelings at all; they are thoughts,
theories about what was going on with the other person at the time. A feeling
would be anger, fear, or sadness, in varying degrees.
A more subtle version of this confusion is a statement such as: "When you interrupted our conversation, I felt rejected," which is an error as well.
"Feeling rejected" is not really a
statement of a feeling. and does not give an idea of what you were feeling.Were
you angry? Were you sad? Were you hopeless? When you say that you feel rejected,
you are saying that the other person rejected you, and you are stating a theory
about the other person's motivation; a desire to reject you. A theory about
another person’s actions may be wrong but no one can argue if you say that you
experienced a certain feeling, assuming that you are being truthful.
Accepting an Action/Feeling Statement. For emotionally literate communication to
be effective, it has to be received as well as sent. You might ask yourself why
Mary should care about John's feeling. You might tell yourself that this kind of
disclosure is self-indulgent and immature. But that would be discounting John
feelings, and we already know the kind of trouble that ignoring people's
feelings can cause. An emotionally literate recipient of such an expression will
take careful note of the emotion and when and why it happened. Mary may already
know that John was angry and hurt, or she might be surprised. She may understand
why he feels this way, or she may be puzzled by it. In any case, all
needs is to have the information and to acknowledge
Then she can start the process of emotional dialogue
which feelings are given proper recognition. By doing
Mary learns about John's responses to situations, and she gives him an
opportunity to let go of his bad feeling.
the above case of Mary and John, it will suffice for
to acknowledge that, yes, she understands that
she wanted to stop talking, John felt hurt and
This acknowledgment can be in the form of a
or by saying, "I hear you," or "I understand that
I ended the conversation, you felt hurt, and then
C. Defensiveness and Guilt. The ever-present danger in being the recipient of
another's feeling/action statements, especially if imperfectly formulated, is
guilt and defensiveness.
thought you were done talking; that's why I wanted to stop," or "Rude?
What's so rude about ending a conversation? You were being rude by talking on
and on about your troubles with Anne," or "Angry? You have a lot of
nerve being angry. I should be angry about the waste of my time," and so
responses are beside the point. First things first. If Mary feels misunderstood, guilty, or angry, she can talk
about that later. Right now what matters are John's feelings, not Mary's. It is
just a matter of taking turns. First, it is important that Mary acknowledge what
John felt when she wanted to stop talking. Then, she can talk about how she
not being defensive is very difficult. It requires biting one's tongue and
talking oneself into patience and forbearance. But it is worth doing for the
sake of a continuing orderly dialogue. It cools down the potential escalation of
emotional conversations and gives empathy an opportunity to come to the surface.
But more importantly, it is the only fair thing to do when a friend or loved one
is in emotional distress.
Expressing your Intuitions. In our daily lives we are constantly trying to make
sense of other people's behavior. When we are not in good communication with
them, we are forced to make up theories and guess what they are up to by using
our intuition and whatever information is available. We don't normally go to the
people in question and investigate why they are doing whatever they are doing.
We don't because we don't know how to ask and don't trust that we'll get an
honest answer if we do.
John's hurt and anger about Mary's ending their phone conversation, there is a
fear, perhaps an assumption, that Mary doesn't like him. Having once stated how
he felt and when, he could next (after asking for permission) express these
fears as follows:
think that you don't like me, that you are
states in an objective manner an intuition about what the other person is
thinking or feeling. It is stated tentatively, not as a fact, but as an
intuition that may in fact be mistaken or ill conceived. The intuition may be
incorrect, but it is real because it exists in the speaker's mind. Its reality
has to be acknowledged, and its truth should be evaluated. Since people's
intuitions are rarely completely mistaken, it gives the recipient the
opportunity to search
his or her own consciousness to see if there is some truth in it.
intuition is a powerful reality-sensing tool. We are aware of many things that
are never spoken of, or are discounted and denied by others. When we sense
something and it is denied, we have two options. Either we forget whatever it is
our intuition brought to our attention, or if we are stubborn and don't give up
as easily, we persist in our idea. Perhaps we try to find our own answers. If we
continue to get denials and
dismissals of our intuitions, our efforts to figure out what's going on
may lead us far off the mark, especially
if we have an active imagination. As an example, John's simple intuition
becomes elaborated from:
is unhappy," to
is unhappy with me," to
is angry with me," to
John needs a reason for which Mary hates him. He talks to Nancy, Mary's best
friend, who offhandedly guesses that Mary is bothered by John's sexy manner.
That's it! John concludes: "Mary hates me because she thinks I'm a
Mary hasn't got a clue about what is going on. In fact, she was short with John,
but it had to do with being tired, and anxious about another phone call she was
expecting, and slightly annoyed with John because he kept talking about his
troubles with Ann.
John's intuition was somewhat correct (as intuitions almost always are).
Consequently, when he checks it out with Mary, she will be able to validate his
experience to a certain extent. But suppose she does the usual in these
circumstances. Suppose when he asks if she's angry, she answers, "Angry?
Not at all. I feel fine. I like you, John."
Responding to an Intuition. Mary's correct, emotionally literate response would
be to search for the grain of truth in John's intuition. What I mean by grain of
truth is that part of the intuition that is correct, as opposed to the part that
is off the mark. Hearing the grain of truth in his intuition will provide an
explanation that will help John let go of the part that is truly paranoid. It
will help him reconcile with reality by validating the portion of his experience
that is valid.
D. Discounting an Intuition. Mary’s response, above (“Not at all, I like
you”) well-meaning as it may be,
leaves John confused. Mary likes him (maybe), but what about his sense that
there is something wrong? Emotionally, this is a catastrophic event. Should he
be happy because Mary likes him (or so she says), or should he be angry because
she is denying that something is wrong? Does he trust her? Does he like her?
It's enough to make his head spin; his mind is messed up and his emotions
confused. Confusion and heightened suspicion are the usual result of such a
discount. On the other hand the discovery and acknowledgment of a grain of truth
in the intuition has a clarifying effect.
any event, Mary's above response to John's intuition does not validate his
experience. He insists: "Somehow I thought something was amiss. Am I
thinking about it, Mary suggests: "Actually, John, I was angry after you
called, not at you, but at Nancy—maybe that's it."
may still not feel that this explains what he's thinking about the conversation.
He goes on: "Well, that doesn't deal with my intuition that you were angry
with me when we talked, before you spoke with Nancy. Was there something wrong
while we were talking?"
causes Mary to reconsider. Her annoyance with John was minor, but he does have a
habit of going on and on over the phone. Since he seems willing to hear her
criticism, maybe she can tell him without a lot of complications.
no, I am not really angry at you. But when you called, I was tired and expecting
another call, and slightly irritated with what you wanted to talk about. I
thought I was giving you hints that I didn't want to talk about Ann, but you
didn't seem to catch on. Does that make sense?"
reaction to this is one of relief. He was right; something was wrong. Mary is
not angry at him, however, and he now knows what the problem was. He understands
his and her feelings at the time and where they came from. He realizes he has
tried her patience going on and on about Ann. He can now believe that she truly
likes him. The facts of the situation and his feelings fit together like a
jigsaw puzzle. He feels okay; he has been validated.
the entire intuition will be correct.
John, I am angry with you; in fact, I haven't liked you very much since I met
words indeed, but better for John to hear them clearly expressed than to have to
live in a confusing and potentially hurtful climate. They may go on to a
discussion about why she doesn't like him, or about their relationship; his
tendency to talk on and on and her inability to be clear when she doesn't want
to talk. Or they may drop the matter. Either way, they are several steps ahead
in the process of understanding each other, and have avoided the potential
proliferation of paranoia and suspicion.
recapitulate, in an emotionally literate dialogue, a person who has an intuition
of something amiss, after asking permission, states it as an unconfirmed
intuition seeking to be validated. The emotionally literate response to such an
intuition is an earnest and truthful search
for and production of a validating grain of truth.
John gets complete validation or not, he will feel better than when he started,
if only because he tried.
able to discuss each other's feelings can bring spectacular results when trouble
develops between two people. When both people are committed to frank cooperative
communication without power plays or lies, most emotionally difficult situations
can be dealt with quickly and effectively.
Making an Apology. The next step concerns the fine art of acknowledging one's
mistakes and begging for forgiveness for whatever harm we may have caused.
thought of making a heartfelt apology strikes terror in the average man. Losing
face, backing off, eating crow—all bring back memories of schoolyard struggles
that tested and prepared us for our manhood. We have learned that standing one's
ground is manly, that backing down is weak and humiliating. Yet, a truly
emotionally literate man will admit his mistakes and apologize if he caused any
harm. Being emotionally literate definitely goes against the old-fashioned
stereotype of "being a man." Whenever you behave in an emotionally
literate way you are choosing to change yourself into a different kind of a man,
a man who acknowledges and deals with his emotions.
do we apologize for?
we need to apologize for our abusive angry Persecutory behavior. But there are
other actions which are culpable and harm others. They are being a Rescuer and
being a Victim. We Rescue when we either:
something we don't want to do, or
than our share in a given situation.
do these things for people whom we see as being victims unable to take
responsibility for themselves. Sometimes we even rescue people who don't expect
or want to be rescued. This sort of behavior is called codependent in twelve
steps, AA parlance; in transactional analysis, it is called Rescuing.
three roles; Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim arranged in triangle by Steven
Karpman constitute the drama triangle. Implicit in the triangle is the fact that
the three roles are dependent on each other—interchangeable—so that anyone
who engages in any one of them will soon find themselves in one of the other
is a source of much conflict and can ruin relationships and friendships. Rescues
usually begin with an excessive willingness to be giving which seems harmless.
Or it may stem from a desire to always do whatever one is asked to do, to always
be giving and helpful. Or it may be the result of a superior attitude that
assumes that a person is not able to take care of herself.
we assume the Rescuer role, we do things for people whom we see as Victims,
unable to take responsibility for themselves. The recipient of the
Rescuer's misguided generosity will eventually notice that the Rescuer is giving
things out of a sense of obligation. Few people enjoy being viewed as a
Victim; it makes sense that when people realize they are being Rescued, they
feel humiliated and resentful.
inevitable outcome of Rescuing people is anger; anger in the Rescuer who gets
fed up with doing things he doesn't want to do or with doing more than his
fair share, and anger in the Victim for being condescended to as someone who
can't take care of him or herself. Inevitably, the Rescuer will eventually
Persecute the Victim, or the Victim will Persecute the Rescuer. Anger will
spill freely in all directions. Tempting though it may be to take care of
others, hard though it may be to say no, learning not to Rescue, and learning
not to Persecute when we have Rescued is very important for anyone who
wants to preserve and nurture meaningful friendships and relationships.
best way of interrupting this cycle is to stop Rescuing and apologize but
sometimes it is difficult to stop Rescuing. Because Rescuing means doing
things you don't want to do, to stop rescuing you need to clarify what you want,
and what, in your eyes, constitutes a fair share of the effort involved in
I want to continue this conversation? "
I want to have sex?"
I want to help?"
I want to eat out tonight? "
it fair for me to do the dishes if Mary cooks, or should I also sweep the
it fair that I always have to initiate sex? "
I always pay for dinner when we go out? Do I want to? "
correct attitude when we discover that we have been Rescuing is one of
self-criticism rather than anger, an apology rather than an accusation. In
addition, when we have Rescued and want to stop, it is important to do so
with a gentle, nurturing explanation rather than an abrupt withdrawal or
sulking power play.
taking on the Victim role is worthy of an apology as well. The Victim and the
Rescuer are equally responsible for the Rescue transaction. The Victim is fully
able to refuse being Rescued and needs to apologize when he has attracted and
tolerated Persecution or Rescuing.
7. Accepting an apology. An apology is not complete until it has been accepted. When being apologized to we have to consider whether we are able to accept the apology or if it requires time, changes in behavior, or amends of some sort to be able to forgive.
completes the brief description of the seven steps that will improve the
emotional life of a man who cares to accept the challenge of satisfying the
needs of women. Again, a complete description of emotional literacy training is
covered in my book Emotional Literacy; Intelligence with a Heart.
us now go to the important subject of sexual literacy.
in the 1890’s, the taboos about the subject of female sexuality that prevented
it from being discussed, let alone written about, began to lift, the first
wave of so-called expert information was ludicrously inaccurate. Women did not
have orgasms, we were told, or they had them automatically when men did. Women
lost their minds with lust and they became addicted to masturbation and
clitoral stimulation, or they were content merely to satisfy their man,
requiring no orgasms for themselves. Beliefs about women's sexuality ranged
widely and in contradictory directions. It was not until the advent of
twentieth century feminism and, later, the sexual revolution that the study of
female sexuality began to yield accurate, reliable information.
Women Like and Don't Like. One of the most groundbreaking pieces of scholarship on the subject was
The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, published
in the 1980's. This was and still is an exceptionally eye-opening investigation
of women's subjective experience of sex with men. The book makes difficult
reading, not only because it is long and at times complicated but also because
it paints an unflattering portrait of the average male’s lovemaking
can be a shock to see how some women view some of us. When women were asked,
"How have most men had sex with you?" they described their
experiences as variants of, in the daunting words of one respondent, "kiss,
suck, fuck, snore."
a seemingly endless litany, scores of women recalled their typical
amount of foreplay, then intercourse ‘til he comes. The end."
what you can and don't give any."
on and getting it over as soon as possible."
excess of activity."
bang, thank you ma'am."
A into B. Dull, dull, dull, dull."
the question, "Who decides when it's over?" the answers were
Power, the penis decides."
does, as he ejaculates."
goes to sleep at once and snores."
was personally pained when reading these complaints because I had to
recognize situations where these descriptions could fit my own behavior. Hopefully,
it wasn't ever as crude as "Insert A into B," but I didn't like seeing
myself described, even remotely, by Hite's disgruntled subjects. Even
though Hite's book is almost a halfa century old today, I recommend it as a
sobering introduction to the basic facts about what is wrong between men
and women sexually. In any case, the findings here cited have been replicated by
more recent surveys. The following are summaries of the findings especially
important for men to be aware of:
third of women have orgasms during intercourse.
tenth of the women who didn't have an orgasm during intercourse said that they
felt okay about it. The rest felt anywhere from annoyed to very upset.
percent of women masturbated, and of these 92 percent achieved orgasm.
women wanted sex with feeling.
means that at least one of every three women with whom you, dear reader, have had,
or will have intercourse with,
have an orgasm.
unhappy about it.
able to achieve orgasm with additional stimulation during, before or after
forgive almost anything if you show a capacity and willingness for communication
about the relationship at an emotional level.
findings conform to what has been suspected by many about the relationship
between the sexes and about what women want—namely, to quote Hite: “Women
want good sex with feeling.”
here means not just any feelings, but first and foremost, feelings of
affection and tenderness—feelings that feel good. It is fairly clear what
women consider lousy lovemaking: a man who rushes her through foreplay,
doesn't ask her when she is ready for intercourse but assumes that he can
tell, who never considers waiting to let her lead the way, and who then thrusts
into her at his pace, without finding out what speed, rhythm or angle she
would prefer, assumes that if she is a passionate woman she will come under
these circumstances, then, having failed to help her come (or assuming she has
come, or will magically when he does), has his climax and then falls asleep
(leaving her lying in the wet spot) with no discussion of how she is feeling or whether
she is content, and who doesn't say anything loving to her throughout, or who only
says loving things during sex, and then in such a way that his professed
love seems totally sex-oriented.
such men are on their way to becoming extinct. But though this caricature
of male sexual behavior is arguably becoming a thing of the past, most men still
have some of the sexual vices described above. In the 70's women began to
demand more thoughtful lovemaking. In our era, the new millennium, fewer and
fewer women are willing to put up with the kind of poor sexual etiquette
Women Don't Want to Have Sex (As Often As Men)
has taken centuries for the common man to realize that women enjoy sex
every bit as much as (if not more than) we do. In spite of Tiresias’ verdict
in Zeus and Hera's debate about that question it was commonly believed that
normal women did not, could not, and would not find sex pleasurable. The
daunting facts of the female orgasm, long hidden from view, have finally
become common knowledge: Women definitely want and most certainly do enjoy
sex, though some may lose the sex impulse as a result of the physical and
emotional difficulties they encounter.
why is it that women rarely pursue sex the way men do, and often decline men's
sexual overtures? The reasons are many, though any one woman may have her
own assortment. Let me list them in the order of frequency with which
they've been mentioned to me.
TAKE SEX MORE PERSONALLY THAN MEN. To men, sex is often a
short-lived event that doesn't necessarily involve the heart as much as it does
for women. Consequently, men can have sex more casually—with someone they
hardly know or don't even like, during or after an argument, or in spite of
other unresolved emotional issues. To men, sexuality is simply more limited to
just that—sexuality—than it often is for women.
Sex drive varies from person to person with women just as with men. On
the whole, however, women are more hesitant to have sex for fear of the deeper
emotional consequences potentially associated with sexual relations—hurt,
heartbreak, or guilty self-reproach.
problem," said one woman "is that if I really let myself go with a
man, I'm liable to fall in love with him. He may be a jerk, and to him the
sex was about as important as a warm handshake, but I'm usually not able to stay detached,
especially if the sex is good or even reasonably good and seems promising. It's
not worth it, believe me, if I going to end up with a broken heart."
hard for a man to put himself in a woman's shoes and imagine how differently she
may feel about having sex than he. If she has no moral reservations, why
doesn't she just go ahead? We tend to interpret her reluctance as some form
of tease or power play, a way of dominating us or using our needs to her
need to understand that, as a rule, sex is not experienced in the same way
by men and women. Quite obviously, sexual intercourse happens inside a
woman while it happens outside a man and is therefore a more vulnerable,
intimate matter for a woman.
since we first met," said Mary about her husband Chuck, "he has been
ready to have sex before I was. He wanted to have sex on our first date. I
liked him as much as he liked me, it was love at first sight, but I just wasn't
ready to open up that fast. Even now, when we know we are going to get it on, he
wants to get to it in ten minutes when I want thirty. If we just had a
fight, especially, I want to make up before we make love; to him, making love is making
up. I just have the feeling that it doesn't mean the same to him as it means to
ARE OFTEN NOT VERY GOOD LOVERS. Another reason for women's
reluctance is that many women have had bad experiences that make them wary of
putting themselves at risk again. Perhaps she has had trouble reaching
orgasm, a problem many women experience—especially if young—but few men
ever do. Perhaps she has been with a man who was indifferent to her
satisfaction, or who made her feel badly about her inability to come. It is,
unfortunately, still true that many men's egos are highly sensitive and that
they react badly, even angrily, if a woman offers suggestions for improvement or
fails to live up to their idea of what a fully sexual woman should be. (So that he
can see himself as a good lover, she must be wonderfully responsive and
come on cue.)
a woman may have had the experience of unsatisfying sex with a man while he
seemed quite content. Perhaps, as in the examples above, she has had trouble
reaching orgasm. Or a large, enthusiastic man who assumed and kept the
proverbial missionary, man-above position, may have crushed her painfully.
Perhaps she has been maneuvered into sexual positions she didn't like, then
treated with subtle hostility when she tried to express her discomfort and
suggest improvements. Possibly she has noticed that men are put off or even
disgusted by the appearance of her genitals, or their odor, or her menses.
He may have fallen asleep shortly after he came, leaving her feeling lonely and
frustrated. He may have turned cold as soon as sex was over. She may have been
pushed into having sex when she didn't want to. A date or a partner may
have raped her.
short, she may not have enjoyed previous sexual encounters, has no reason to
expect better, and doesn't want to have to deal with inept lovemaking, much less
possible abuse, especially with a man whose interest may be purely
recreational. She may feel, as one woman put it, "I hardly know the guy. If
I could have been sure the sex would be good, I would have gone for it, but
let's face it, chances are it wouldn't and he wouldn't even realize it. So then
I have to get rid of him. His feelings will be hurt, so I'll have to spend
time being considerate and sensitive if he sulks, or I'll have to fight him off
if he can't take no for an answer and gets nasty. I can't bear to think of
matter becomes even more complicated in the light of the fact, apparently, that
women will often fake orgasm. According to a recent survey as many as one of
every two women have pretended to come when they in fact have not. It is easy to
see why a woman would fake orgasm; when questioned about it the answers were
obvious. To maintain a sexy image in the man’s mind, to protect self-esteem
and, very importantly, as the only way to end intercourse and feel good about
faked once it becomes easier, in fact mandatory to fake again. The result is the
development of a corrosive lie at the heart of the relationship; a lie that can
be as difficult to rectify as infidelity. While the man imagines that he is a
wonderfully satisfying lover the woman can get more and more deeply mired in the
deception. While she may enjoy having sex under such circumstances for a while
it is likely that her desire for sex will be undermined, and that her
partner’s sexual needs will become a huge burden. It will be difficult to
redirect her partner’s lovemaking; we have seen how touchy men can be so there
is little hope that the situation will repair itself; she will find that
avoiding sex will be easier; sexual alienation is sure to result.
experienced lover might be able to detect a fake orgasm because the deep
muscular contractions accompanying an orgasm are virtually impossible to fake
especially if it becomes routine. If such a circumstance develops it will be
very important to be understanding and willing to take responsibility for
whatever pressure, insensitivity or self-involvement he may have contributed to
the situation. Again, only open communication can restore trust and be the
foundation for a healthy sexual and loving relationship.
in this light, it’s entirely understandable that most women are wary of
rushing into a sexual encounter. And these are only the emotional risks.
SEX, IRRITATIONS, INFECTIONS, V.D. Women have reason to fear genital
infections. In addition to herpes, there are yeast infections, trichomonas,
chlamidia, and papilloma virus—all of which men carry from woman to woman
and which affect them hardly at all. Gonorrhea and syphilis are more likely
to go undetected in women and gonorrhea is more difficult to treat in women than
in men. Finally, there is AIDS. Though in the U.S. and Europe AIDS still
primarily threatens gay men, heterosexual men and women are increasingly at
risk, and men are presently overwhelmingly the carriers, especially bisexual men
or IV drug users. Moreover, a man can have sex with an HIV positive woman
and may not get HIV. But a woman's chances of being infected by a man are
much higher, especially if her vaginal walls are irritated during intercourse,
then exposed to his semen.
women have more reason to avoid casual sex than men do.
took me years to realize what was happening, but it turns out that every time I
make love to somebody new, I wind up with some kind of crotch itch. Only
after I’ve been making love to a guy for a while do I stop reacting this way.
I have to get used to him. That doesn’t help when it comes to getting it
on casually." So spoke a woman who had regretfully decided that,
though she enjoyed casual sex, she had to give it up.
again, we need to put ourselves in the woman's place and understand why she may
be hesitant when we are hot, why—though she may like us and may want to
have sex as much as we do—she chooses to abstain.
OF PREGNANCY. While the above
reasons apply mainly to casual sex, fear of pregnancy is a constant dampener of
women's sexual activity, whether casual or not. The fact remains that the
consequences of pregnancy as well as much of the responsibility for birth control
fall upon the woman. While it may seem to men that modern birth control methods
make unwanted pregnancy a problem of the past, that is not actually the
case. The pill and the intra-uterine device (IUD) have uncomfortable and
potentially serious side effects. Cancer from the pill and pelvic
infections from the IUD are potentially life-threatening repercussions for
women. Many women are becoming justifiably unwilling to submit to a permanent
dosage of powerful drugs and the accompanying side effects and
a while, years ago, I thought the problem was solved," said a woman in her
late fifties. "I took the pill, and although it had definite side
effects, I thought, what the heck, it's worth it. But then all that research
started to come out, and even though they told you that it's only a problem
if you smoked, I just didn’t trust them. I was afraid of the pill and was not
willing to take a chance and didn’t trust doctors either. As far as the
IUD is concerned, forget it. A friend of mine had a baby on an IUD and another
almost died of a pelvic infection. Birth control is a real problem and
turned me off to casual sex."
leaves women having to rely on methods that are less than perfect.
Consequently, unless there has been a vasectomy or tubal ligation, pregnancy is
always a possibility no matter how remote. In the case of unwanted pregnancy,
abortion is always an option, hopefully legal. However, most women realize that
though they may be thankful for the opportunity to terminate an unwanted
pregnancy, an abortion is seldom anything but an expensive, extremely
disruptive, painful, sometimes heartbreaking event.
is completely outside of men's experience. Men's lack of understanding of
the realities of birth control and abortion leads them to discount women’s utterly
understandable fear of careless intercourse and makes them intolerant of women's
MATTER OF MORALS. Some women believe that sexual behavior, whether
casual or not, is wrong outside of marriage. Some believe it is wrong even
within marriage unless it is designed to bring about children. For a woman who
has these beliefs, sexuality is associated with a great deal more guilt
than it is even for men with similar beliefs. Men have always been indulged in
their sins more than women have. Women who break sexual codes are called
sluts and are still stoned to death in certain places. Men, even in those same
sexually austere cultures, are more than likely forgiven with a knowing smile,
and are even admired. Our comparatively sexually liberal culture still engages
in the same gender bias hypocrisy.
OF CONTROL. Less often mentioned by women or in the usual sex
manuals but very important, in my opinion, are the preconceptions about
what the "normal" sexual experience between a man and a woman is
supposed to be like. The assumption is that the man will be active and the
woman passive. Consequently, both partners enter into a sexual experience with
the expectation that the man will make the moves and the woman will respond
with pleasure. If he happens to make the right moves—that is, the moves that
fit her needs—events will progress satisfactorily. But if he goes too
fast or too slow, is too gentle or too rough, she usually doesn't have the
knowledge, experience, or cultural permission to rectify matters or take the
initiative. If she does assume more power in the situation and ties to control
the man’s implacable trajectory, she incurs the real risk of being seen as
sexually grasping and scaring the man into impotence, a phenomenon familiar
to assertive women.
she doesn't assume power, she is likely to feel increasingly powerless and
uncomfortable with the situation. Her position is similar to that of a passenger
in a car on a fast ride, a situation more familiar to women than men. When
driving fast, the person in control is definitely going to have fun. If the
passenger doesn't enjoy or is frightened by the ride, there are only two things
she can do—relax and trust, or say something and risk getting into an
argument with the driver—but either solution is not as good as getting
into the driver's seat. Any man who wants to get a feel for what I am talking
about can start by offering the keys of his beloved car to an aggressive
driver and experiencing the difference between being in control and giving up control.
woman may try to be a good sexual partner, but the dominance-submission
relationship may not work for her and nothing she does within that equation may
set it straight. Neither she nor her partner may realize that the reason
for their difficulty is based on an assumption about who is in control, who
leads and who follows, and who gets to set the beat of their sexual rhythm. Who
is in control is probably the single most important factor in whether the
woman will have an orgasm.
sex is different from driving, and control does not need to be exclusively in
the hands of one or the other participant. In fact, the best sex probably
occurs when control goes back and forth between partners, giving both of them
the opportunity to experience the two sides of the control equation. She may
want oral sex, finger play, a
vibrator, masturbation, or the woman-above position. If she can have sex
the way she likes it, she will probably be satisfied. However, if she asks for
what she wants, the man may get turned off by her alleged aggressivity. Or
he may not get what he needs—a rare but useful opportunity to experience what
is a common event for women.
OF LIBIDO. Whereas men have a rapid sexual cycle, with libido typically peaking
twice a week or oftener, women’s libidinal demands for intercourse are far
less frequent or intense. That is a genetic fact based on the different
reproductive mandates of the two genders. Males are hard wired to impregnate, as
many females as possible for which they are required to be sufficiently aroused
to have erections and ejaculations. Females are available for reproduction on a
very differently timed cycle and less is required of them for impregnation.
addition, after pregnancy and birth women normally experience loss of sexual
desire for months before their libido is restored, while their mates libido is
unabated. If he insists and she refuses that can install an escalating cycle of
power plays, pressure, refusal, sulking, anger, and resentment. If she
repeatedly acquiesces and submits to sex while lacking desire, she could
eventually lose any possibility of libidinal return. A man can hardly be forced
to have intercourse if he is not turned on, while a woman who just isn’t
interested can and often be, if not forced, acutely pressured. The end result
can be libidinally catastrophic.
a woman in a relationship is actually forced by her partner, we call this
spousal or acquaintance rape, an unethical, immoral, and illegal act that is
regrettably not uncommon; a dark side of sexuality that men outside of prison
are essentially immune from ever experiencing.
all these reasons, most of the time that a woman and man meet, even if they are
mutually attracted, the woman is likely to be less motivated to have sex.
it Just a Guy Thing?
relates not only to how love making will progress, at what speed and in which
position(s), but to what constitutes love making. For the majority of men sex is
still defined as intercourse. But while intercourse seems to be something that
men are compelled to pursue, some women have little or no interest in it. When a
woman has had to learn to adapt to male expectations, such as the assumption
that she likes and wants frequent intercourse, one consequence can be that she
develops negative conditioning to sex. That is, having often had intercourse
when she didn't really feel like it, her indifference to intercourse turns
to dislike leaving her thinking that she hates sex and labeling herself as
frigid simply because she does not have the appetite for intercourse that men
expect and take for granted.
have a hard time realizing that a woman who isn't enthusiastic about intercourse
may not be at all frigid; we have difficulty understanding that the experience
that for us is so primal—that feels so good—may feel very different to her.
A woman who is allowed to express her relative lack of interest in intercourse
may find that, once the pressure is off, she can learn to appreciate it as one
dish in the buffet of sexual delights.
Control and Concern
have been taught that good sex, like good dancing, depends on the woman being a
good follower. As women become powerful and unwilling to follow, sexual
disharmony may actually increase until men learn to follow and women learn to
lead, all of which may take considerable time and effort.
is a very delicate process, easily spoiled by pain and anxiety. Every time a
person has bad, unpleasant sex, negative conditioning will accumulate. Repeated
bouts with all of the minor and major hassles of sex can cause women to develop
an automatic anxious response, which can put a damper on her desire and
interfere with her pleasure, which accounts for most so-called "female
frigidity" and the pain some women experience from time to time (for some
women all the time) during intercourse.
while a man tends to blindly seek intercourse, a woman will tend to be more
cautious—unless she's young (naïve about the downsides of sex), newly
infatuated with her man, under the influence of intense hormonal pressure to
reproduce, and/or restless and inexperienced about the hassles of sexuality.
addition there seems to be a pattern of a lengthy loss of desire among married
women after childbirth which complicates the situation even further, especially
if children come in quick succession creating a long sexual hiatus that will be
hard on her man.
reviewed the reasons a woman might be circumspect or otherwise less eager than
we are to have sex. But mutual eagerness can be achieved and should be sought.
When a woman has grown accustomed to a man's body, trusts him, and has taken
precautions to prevent conception, she will likely, under such conditions, to
feel less reluctance. If the man is patient with her concerns and needs, and she
is tolerant of his, at times too aggressive eagerness and he learns to better
control himself, they will be able to cooperate and meet in the middle where
real, mutually eager lovemaking can happen.
men and women who have read this section have argued with the assumption that
men are more interested in sex than women. Their experiences seem to contradict
that point of view. Married women, especially, complain that their husbands lose
interest in sex. Some, usually very attractive young men, find that women are
more interested in sex than they are.
would certainly be mistaken to say that only women shy away from sex. Men too
are sometimes inhibited by moral scruples, fears of becoming emotionally
involved, and fears of becoming infected, impotent
or of being inept. Men too may be unsure of the effectiveness of birth control
methods and inhibited by fears of unwanted pregnancy.
according to The Hite Report on Male Sexuality, men who want less sex
than their partner(s) and women who want more sex than their male partners are
in the minority. In Hite's own succinct words, "Men's major
dissatisfaction—“Women don't want sex enough.'"
explains, "Only 11 percent of the 7,000 men who replied, stated that they
were fully satisfied with the frequency of sex." Meanwhile, in a survey of
her readers, Ann Landers found that 75 percent of the women would gladly
give up sex altogether and settle for nonsexual attention. This figure may be
exaggerated as Landers’s average reader is in late middle age, about the time,
probably, when many women start feeling fed up with having to provide sex on
demand and begin to see that they aren’t getting enough of the sort of love
that they need. It seems undeniable that men and women have different priorities
where sex is concerned, and that this often results in women feeling
love-starved, while men feel sex-starved.
Can a Man Do?
a man finds that a woman doesn’t want to have intercourse, he must be
sympathetic to her hesitation. He should accept the reasons for her reluctance
and take them seriously. Instead of discounting her fears of pregnancy
or disease, he should find out more about her point of view. He ought not to
force himself on her, or talk her into having sex anyway. He needs to be
aware of his own feelings of disappointment and need, but he must not sulk or
lash out in anger.
is not easy for men to do, but it is what women want. When a man learns to be
patient with his partner, as he begins to practice this kind of caring and
considerate self-control, he will become less sexually needy, more loving. She
will have the room to assess her own sexual desire and assuage her fears
and perhaps find that after all, she too wants to make sexual love.
a daunting paradox can develop, especially for a man in the beginning of a
relationship. Women can occasionally be intimidated into having sex, regardless
of how much they may dislike being coerced in that manner. On occasion it may
even happen by chance that such a seduction develops into an enjoyable sexual
experience. That has resulted in the self-serving male myth that women enjoy
being near-raped or that power plays and subtle coercion enhance sex. The
truth is that women often submit to a man who won't take no for an answer even
if only to get him to shut up. This rarely results in good sex for the
woman; on the rare occasions when it does, it is pure coincidence, the random
rewards of a misguided, ethically dubious approach. In the end, all but the
most emotionally compromised women will find a way of avoiding further
unwanted advances from a man who has shown himself to be an overbearing,
won’t-take-no-for-an answer seducer.
appreciate not being pressured for sex. Being relieved of such pressure often
puts them in touch with their own desires so that, in the end, this
approach may lead to a sexual relationship as often as a more aggressive one.
But, more importantly, while the frequency of sexual relations in the above
two options may be the same, the quality will be vastly different. For one
thing, the women a man relates to sexually will be different: If he is
aggressive, he will probably be most "successful" with passive
women. When a woman goes along with the desires of a pushy man and finds it
enjoyable, she could still wonder if she made a mistake and if she really wants
to be in bed with him at all.
woman who is freely choosing to have sex knows she wants to make love to the man
she’s with. She’s more likely to have had time to reach full arousal. She is
comfortable and more likely to be active. She is very different than she would
be if she were indecisively submitting to a relentless seducer.
mutually agreed-upon experiences can do a great deal to improve the overall
climate in the relationships between men and women. We know now that women
want to be surrounded by romance, they like doing things together, intimate
talk, holding hands, taking walks, being listened to. They want to make
love, have orgasms, and spend time being close after making love. They
need both passion and tenderness.
preferences vary from woman to woman. Kissing, for instance, is preferred all
the way from gentle to rough, from dry to wet, from long to short. Every woman
has special parts of the body that she likes to have caressed in a specific
way, except that at times she may want that particular part touched
differently or not at all.
at most times she does not like direct stimulation of her clitoris, she may
desire it during intercourse. Similarly, some women like intercourse but do
not reach an orgasm from it, while others reach orgasms from intercourse but
don't like it as much as with cunnilingus or some other form of lovemaking.
The same women who like intercourse while mildly aroused may not like it
later when about to climax, or vice versa.
is not possible to give anything but a shopping list of women's preferences
without falling into the error of generalization. Moreover, what any one woman
will like will vary depending, partly on her mood, the phase of the moon, where
she is, whom she is with and why—unlike men who will enjoy themselves and
reach climax under almost any circumstances.
men would be naive enough to think that climbing on top of a woman and coming in
two minutes flat constitutes good love making technique. But that still
leaves the question of what does. Though there are certain "rules of
thumb," the answer depends completely on asking for feedback, being
tuned in and responsive, and developing a sense for the rhythm and flow of
the sexual dance.
know now that most women do not achieve orgasm through intercourse, and that a
preferred method of climaxing is cunnilingus. Let us turn then to that and
other important steps in the dance.
Chapter 9. The Three C’s of Cunnilingus
is the foremost alternative to intercourse mentioned repeatedly by women as a
source of orgasmic satisfaction. In my opinion, it's a skill that any man
who proposes to be a good lover needs to master.
it is independent of the other major male sexual attribute (maintaining an
erection), it can be learned separately by any man—even one who may be
troubled with impotence. Once learned, the awareness and sensitivity involved in
helping a woman come to orgasm through cunnilingus will be beneficial
during intercourse as well. Cunnilingus puts the clitoris and the brain in the
closest possible contact—with the tongue, a highly sensitive, subtle, and
powerful muscle, as the bridge between them.
it is the proximity of the brain to the tongue that makes cunnilingus an
ideal situation in which to learn about women's sexual response. The tongue is precise
in its movements, and the woman's reaction to it quickly reveals the
effectiveness of its action; feedback is immediate.
the tongue and lips are the protagonists in cunnilingus, the hands play
important supporting roles. Placed around her hips or on her belly, or with
one, two, or three fingers in her vagina, the hands gather information about
working with one’s hands is usually healthy and sexy, be aware of the problem
of calloused fingers. One woman who had often relished receiving cunnilingus
before marriage, but always needed one or more fingers inserted to enjoy the
experience, found that her husband’s calluses pretty much ruined it for her
and lost her appetite for that once thrilling item on the sexual menu.
three requirements of pleasurable and effective cunnilingus are: being
clean, comfortable, and communicative. If you wish to pursue cunnilingus all the
way to the woman's orgasm, it's important to arrange for the three C's
Some men enjoy giving head to a woman whose genitals are in a state
of seasoned ripeness. That will not go unnoticed and is likely to be
appreciated. Any man who doesn’t have the taste for it should find a gentle,
tactful way to ask her to wash. The French, who are knowledgeable about these
matters, have bidets for that purpose. In the absence of a bidet, a shower,
a bath or a warm washcloth are appropriate preludes to oral sex. This is also
an opportunity for a man to wash his own genitals, something that is highly
recommended to avoid spreading lesser vaginal infections. If neither has
the patience for an erotic bath or shower, he might moisten a wash cloth and ask
her if he can give her a sponge bath. To be gentle and tactful, surround the request
in expressions of passion and desire; make it playful, so she won't feel
embarrassed or take offence. It's best to make this request before you
begin to go down on her, so she doesn't think that it's her personal smell that
you find objectionable. Cleanliness is important for your comfort, so don't
be shy to ask.
It is essential for both partners to be comfortable, since it can
take a relatively long time for the woman to climax. It is possible, in
that time, to get a stiff neck or a cramp if one starts in an uncomfortable
position. Giving head with one's neck bent as is required when the woman is
lying on her back and the man is lying on his stomach can be very uncomfortable for
some men. Both can lie on their sides, but this may be uncomfortable for the
woman. When on her back a pillow under her hips may help. Another good position
for comfort is with her hips at the edge of the bed and the man on the floor
kneeling or even sitting up. This may be uncomfortable for a woman who
needs to have her legs up to come. If so, she can wrap her legs around him, put
her feet on his shoulders, or scoot back on the bed enough to put her feet up.
Whatever your specific needs, make sure you are both comfortable and you'll be
able to take your time, which is essential.
Some people feel acute embarrassment about discussing their precise wants
and dislikes during lovemaking.
is the time," one woman confessed about her lovemaking with her husband,
"when cunnilingus was somewhat and I
was not able to say anything about it. He was sucking too hard, but he seemed to
enjoy it so much that I didn’t want to interrupt. I was able to come, but
I know that I could have asked him to go easy and really enjoyed it more."
obvious solution is to ask, "Is this too hard? Too fast? Are you
comfortable?" If the answer is "Sure," it might help to make
really sure. "Good, I want to make sure. Let me know if you get uncomfortable
in any way, okay?" Whenever you wonder about how she is feeling or whether
she is enjoying what you’re doing or whether there is something you can do to
improve it, ask and ask again. Being able to ask will result in your having
to ask less and less as you become more sensitive to the cues of her
Art of Cunnilingus
us now get to the nuts and bolts of the matter, and talk about just how it is
important not to think too much about her orgasm. It's much better to just have
fun—not intense pleasure, but fun, like chasing a kitten or flying a
kite, driving a curvy road or dancing the samba. In the process you'll both get
high on sexual energy.
(If this more relaxed approach displeases her, if she
has a strong desire for intense pleasure through cunnilingus, either as an end
in itself or as her desired avenue to orgasm, see item three below.)
The more your lover can openly express how she is reacting to your
stimulation, the more you feel her move or be still, the more you hear her
moan or squeal, the more you will be able to join her in the dance, get lost in
the whirlwind, and get high chasing her pleasure with your tongue.
If for some reason she is not giving you any feedback—not making noise
or moving—or if her reaction becomes monotonous, you should probably
stop. Explain that you aren't sure she is enjoying it and ask that she let you
know what she likes and what she doesn't like.
continue beyond the point when you are no longer enjoying it yourself. If you
are getting a stiff neck or a sore tongue or if you are beginning to get bored,
stop for a while and do something else. Intercourse may keep her excitement
high, or you can use your fingers while kissing her breasts, or use a
vibrator. Tell her what you want to do and find out if it's okay with her. Or
ask her what she wants to do. After a while you can return to cunnilingus.
midst of your tongue stimulation, your lover may go from a state of sexual
arousal to a new, pre-orgasmic stage. The most noticeable change will be an
increase in muscular tension around her pelvis alternating with short periods of relaxation
followed by increasing tension. Her back may arch, or her legs stiffen; she may
pull your hair or push herself against you. She may begin to tremble. She
might increase her sounds of pleasure or she may become very still. This means
that she is within reach of an orgasm.
At this point you must follow her lead: she needs
steady and accurate stimulation to accumulate the sexual energy to carry
her over the edge. Don't increase the tempo or intensity of your activity, just
maintain it steadily and in close responsive her movements. Think of
yourself rolling a marble uphill with your tongue. Don't let it roll down; you
need to stay with it to get over the top. At this point, when orgasm becomes the
objective, what your partner does is as important as what you do. You can
only provide 50 percent of the stimulation; there is no magic formula; you
can only do your best, and the rest is up to her and to circumstances. The day,
time, and place may be right or they may not be.
If she is
wanting to come at this point but cunnilingus isn’t getting her there, suggest that
she use a vibrator or her hand to help herself to orgasm. If she does, you can
take over when she gets close to it, or you can just watch her come. Kiss
her all over, play with her breasts and enjoy her pleasure. While all of this is
going on, learn as much as you can about what her orgasm is like—what are
her pre-orgasmic movements and sounds, how does she build up the tension to
climax, and when she reaches the top, how does she ride the crest, and how does
she take the down side of the roller coaster. Familiarity with her pattern
will be helpful on future occasions.
So your work is cut out for you. Women have made it
clear that they want their men to be willing and able to give them head. Now it's
up to you to go down to the occasion with the knowledge that it will make her
happy and that it will make you all the more desirable to her.
10. ERECTIONS; GETTING AND KEEPING THEM.
When asking women” What do you want from a man, sexually?" a common wish expressed in addition to feelings was that he be able to maintain an erection long enough for her to come.
For men, there are two major problems regarding erections. First, is getting it up. Second, keeping it, instead of coming soon after, or even before, being inside a woman.
Getting It Up.
I first wrote this book in 1974 impotence was a frightening subject for men. But
surprisingly, given the long history and magnitude of the problem, a little
purple pill seems to have brought relief for men who can afford it. By
increasing the blood flow to your penis, sidenafil citrate can literally
guarantee that you can get and keep an erection as desired. There is, of
course the decreased erectile ability that comes with advancing age
usually in the 60’s. and for younger men, hormonal disease, diabetes, some
nerve damage, certain prescription drugs, alcohol or other drug abuse, can be
physical reasons for impotence which seem to respond to sidenafil. So, if you
are a man who has a problem with erections, the first thing to remember is that
if you ever do become aroused enough to get hard, then your equipment is in
working condition and sidenafil can enhance your performance.
the other hand if you are not getting hard with a woman on any particular
occasion the reason probably has to do with your psychological and emotional
There are two main psychological reasons why a man can't get an erection when he wants it.
1. He is anxious. Fear and sexual arousal are physiologically incompatible. Maybe Mother Nature figured that it would be inconvenient for a man with an erection to run from an attacking tiger. In any case, they don't tend to happen together.
"The first time in my life that I couldn't get it up was at a party. I didn't know anybody and toward the end of the party a woman who I had talked to earlier and found attractive became seductively aggressive. I found her behavior unnerving and to my surprise I didn't get the usual instant erection; in fact, the harder I tried the softer I got. Eventually, I had an ejaculation with no erection, which was totally new to me. The disturbing thing is that ever since that time I have a tendency to get worried about getting it up in new sexual situations."
If a man is anxious about his erection, his anxiety will become a factor in preventing him from getting one. If he fails to get hard, his anxiety increases and that can cause his impotence. If this happens with a long-term partner who is demanding and unsympathetic, or has become unattractive, a vicious cycle can develop until impotence becomes absolute. Even under such dire circumstances sidelafil is capable of defeating this vicious cycle by reducing the role of anxiety in the sexual situation.
Another factor to reduce the vicious cycle is a woman who is both attractive to you and sympathetic to your plight. Tell her of your anxiety. Women are often familiar with the inability to have an orgasm so they are more likely to appreciate your dilemma if you are open and make yourself vulnerable than if you are secretive and defensive.
Often, a man's erection is incomplete rather than completely absent. The penis may not be completely hard. Men tend to feel that such a "half mast" isn't worthy woman's attention, but they are mistaken. It's really okay to rub a semi hard penis against a woman's vagina. Doing this will probably arouse both of you enough for nature to follow its course. Remember that lesbians are able to have perfectly satisfying sex without aid of a penis at all. They do well, thank you, and one of the ways they bring each other to orgasm is to rub their pubic bones against each other, thereby stimulating their clitorises, something a man can do with an incomplete erection.
In any case, on the subject of soft penises, one woman said "I like coming with a soft penis. It feels nurturing, there are times when I don't like being banged. You get to feel more, actually. I like to feel the erection happening inside me."
None of this is to deny the pleasures of a fully developed erection to both men and women. The point here is that dealing with "impotence" with easygoing openness, communication, and creativity will practically guarantee that the problem will virtually go away. It's anxiety, secretiveness, and mental rigidity that are responsible for so-called impotence.
One commonly asked question is worth answering: "Why is it that sometimes I find myself with a woman whom I consider perfect in every way, and I can’ t get it up?" This hellish situation has been known to happen on occasion. There are, as we have seen, several possible reasons. One is anxiety. The excited lover may, at the threshold of his cherished fantasy come true, suddenly question his own worth and capacity. With this paragon of beauty lying receptively before him, he may have a sudden pang of doubt, which strikes terror into heart and penis. If so, he needs to relax; extremely beautiful women are not unaccustomed to this phenomenon. Let him think about how much he likes her as a person and forget how beautiful she is. Let him kiss her face and breasts, caress her tenderly, speak to her with affection. Anxiety will melt away and lovemaking will happen in the end.
2. He is not turned on. But perhaps the problem is different. Maybe, as beautiful she is, this woman isn't all that sexy. Maybe she is not turned on either; something she can more easily hide. In mature sexual relationships arousal is not a given just because the other is willing. Arousal is a complicated mutual biochemical as well as psychological event with many causes.
When a man is not turned on to the woman or visa versa a lack of arousal is actually healthy response. Men are accustomed to believe that if a woman is willing, a man should be able, regardless of how he feels about her. But it is quite possible that a man will find himself in bed with a woman to whom he is not sexually attracted. He may have got involved with her out of the male tendency to collect women like notches on his belt as a way to stroke his ego, or he may be going along with her desire to have sex out of an unwillingness to do a very un-male thing and turn her down. So he is with a woman he may or may not like, but has no sexual chemistry with her. Not surprisingly he can’t get hard. In the past, perhaps in younger years, he may have been able to get a hard-on with anybody, any time, any place; his difficulty is, after all, a sign of sexual maturity. So he's growing up.
There is also the situation in which as both partners frantically pursue arousal they become victims of their Critical Parent who will generate thoughts of inadequacy, embarrassment and even antipathy, leaving them both sad and hopeless. Here is how one couple avoided that unpleasant situation:
"When I had the experience of a man not getting erection I took it personally, but he was very nice about it. Then I realized I wasn’t turned on myself. He didn't get all upset but just kissed and cuddled me, and we slept the night together. Eventually, we did make love, but it was more a friendly fuck than real hot. We got to be real good friends. Sex was never that important, and eventually we both found more passionate loves. When you think of it, when a man can't get hard it's no different than a woman not getting wet, and that happens a lot, doesn't it?"
A man's lack of arousal would, in fact, be far better tolerated if he were a woman. We are sympathetic when woman can't respond to a man she is not attracted to but we don't grant ourselves that privilege. As men we have our responsibilities—one of which (we imagine) is to satisfy the women who need us as Zorba the Greek reminds us when he asks: “Am I not a man? “
Frequently, a man may have a problem getting an erection on the first two or three nights with a woman. This is certainly understandable—as understandable as a woman not having an orgasm on the first few sexual encounters with a man. We need only acknowledge the fact without ' embarrassment, and make love in other ways.
Keeping It Up.
men get an erection readily enough but have difficulty in preventing orgasm soon
after penetration. The feeling of being inside a woman is so welcome, sensuous,
and overwhelmingly delicious that we simply lose control and want to let go.
Letting go is, after all what sex is supposed to be about; one can hardly blame
us for doing so when what we yearn for finally becomes reality.
Unfortunately, most women, even if they enjoy man's ecstasies, are not able to be wholly empathetic with this abandon. They would like us to stay with it until they can climax too, so we must learn to accommodate them.
You may ask if its all right for the man to come first and then help the woman. This may be theoretically correct, but it doesn't work very well in reality. The problem is, as women have noticed, usual male response to orgasm is slumber. Because of the expenditure of our precious bodily fluids or whatever, we often want to sleep soon after ejaculation. So it's wise that when one climaxes, the other follow close behind. Men generally come easier than women. Consequently, it's simply a good idea for the woman to climax first. And that requires that a man learn to develop some staying power.
Learning is all it takes. To learn, you need practice. What you need to practice is simply stopping stimulation in time to prevent orgasm. Any sexually healthy person will have an orgasm if sufficiently and properly stimulated. It is basically good that you are so strongly excited when you are inside your lover. It would be a shame to try to change that. When men control their ejaculation by counting backward by thirteen from five thousand, or by reviewing in their minds the component parts of a motorcycle engine, they are going about it the wrong way; the consequence may be a "wooden penis" on an absent man, which most women will not necessarily appreciate (the absent part). The solution is not to become rigid and controlling but to control orgasm and ejaculation. One effective way to learn this skill is to repeatedly come to the verge of orgasm and stop, wait for the excitement to subside and repeat the process. Over time it will be possible to control orgasm and ejaculation.
It can be also be effective to use the "squeeze" technique invented by Masters and Johnson, which is simply to grip your penis around its neck between the head and the shaft until it loses the ejaculatory excitement. Personally, I consider this approach somewhat brutal, even if effective, since lesser measures will work well enough without such violence.
He needs to figure out that watershed “point of no return,” which may take several trials. The more often he does this, the more control he will gain over his ejaculation. Although this technique can be practiced while masturbating, what is most desirable is a sympathetic partner who is willing to be patient, communicative, and creative.
Basically, I recommend that the man (preferably on top where he has better control) slowly insert his penis and carefully approach the "point of no return." Just before that point comes, he should stop or pull out until his excitement subsides. Then he can start again, stop, start again, stop, and so on.
women may find it frustrating to stop and go, stop and go, in this fashion. The
man must be aware of this and continue to stimulate her manually or orally while
calming himself down and being eternally thankful for her forbearance. If he can
prevent his orgasm without withdrawing by lying very still, the pressure of his
pubic bone on her clitoris with some finger play may keep her aroused. She may
even come. At this time, of course, he can happily let go, since all of this
self-control is really designed to give her enough time to reach a climax.
Eventually, and this may take six months to a year of practice, a man will be able to control his ejaculation during intercourse by varying the rhythm or amplitude of his thrusts while keeping up his lover's excitement. He will come to the edge of excitement without ejaculating, stop moving and when his arousal subsides he can thrust again and repeat this process.
This reinforces a very important point—maintaining an erection during intercourse involves the woman as much as the man. At least half of a person’s sexual excitement depends on the excitement of his partner. If the woman isn't enjoying herself and working her way toward an orgasm, the prolongation of intercourse becomes pointless. Aimless intercourse is all right for a while, but eventually a mutually shared enjoyment between the two partners has to occur, or the man will be tempted to let go. He needs to know where she is, that she wants him to go on, and that what he is doing feels good. One way to do this is to agree mutually that he won't voluntarily come unless it is okay with her.
M: "Can I come?"
W: "Not yet, I am having great fun, just a little longer ..." "Are you close?"
M: "Okay I won’t come, but I've got to slow down for a bit."
"Fine, I'm loving it."
“Can I come now?"
W: "Do you really want to?"
M: "It would be nice."
W. "Okay. Don't move and let me make you come."
M: "That was great."
W: "Yeah, guess what, I came too," or
"I loved it. Now it's my turn--eat me," or
"That's was lovely, my turn next time, let's just cuddle."
often a man's incapacity to prevent ejaculation is connected with infrequent sex
especially if he is young. In such situations it is possible to plan to have two
orgasms. The first orgasm can then be allowed to happen at will and the second
will be a lot easier to control.
A man who learns both these skills—cunnilingus and maintaining an erection—is likely to find that the women he relates to sexually will have orgasms easier and oftener—while he will increase enjoyment of his own. These two sexual skills are only the beginning of what a man has to know to be considered a good lover.
11. Birth Control, Disease Prevention, and Other Downers.
When a man loves a woman, there
are some serious issues he needs to be take into consideration. In the past, men
have often ignored these concerns or taken it for granted that they are the
woman's problem. But these sometimes unpleasant facts of life need to be fully
confronted by a responsible and loving man. What follows may be
ridiculously obvious to the reader but it must be stated so as to leave no
doubt. You may believe you don’t have anything to learn on the subject but you
are not allowed to skip it.
A man who is not fully aware of
the need for mutually responsible birth control cannot be considered a good
lover. Unless a woman is sterile or the man has a vasectomy, pregnancy is going
to be a concern that he needs to participate in. When making love, nobody
wants to have to bother with jellies, condoms, or diaphragms. Practicing
contraception is a drag on sexuality and many men prefer to ignore the issue.
The woman, left with the burden of responsibility, may just cross her fingers
and hope that she is not ovulating. Or, a couple may practice half measures like
coitus interruptus (pulling out, simply) or having intercourse for a
while before he comes some other way. Sometimes this method works; most
often it doesn't and pregnancy follows. Timely withdrawal is difficult to
coordinate, and in any case men will secrete sperm-laden seminal fluids before
In the case of an unwanted
pregnancy, abortion is an obvious consideration. However, even if we exclude
women for whom abortion is morally inconceivable, terminating a pregnancy is no
simple matter. A woman may experience great discomfort and pain before,
during, and after the operation. She'll lose work. She may be nauseated for
weeks before and bleed for weeks after. She may have to have a second abortion
because the first didn't work. Every one of these mishaps has happened to one or
another acquaintance of mine and these occurrences seem to be the rule rather
than the exception. Abortion, moreover, is a loss--no matter what you
believe about when human life begins. The loss of a fetus can be a sorrowful,
wrenching experience for a woman, and a man as well. Many people experience an
abortion with the same grief and mourning as a death in the family.
though it may be convenient for men to think of abortions as regrettable but
minor inconveniences, the fact is that while some are uneventful, many are not,
and none are easy. Therefore, before making love with a woman, the only
responsible course of action for a man is to have a thorough conversation with
her about birth control. Besides, it is in his interest to have a
confident, comfortable partner rather than one who is fearful and worried.
Has she been pregnant? What birth control does she use or prefer? Would she
rather not have intercourse? And while they're on the subject, is she
susceptible to irritations, or yeast or other infections?
may sound dreadful. Do I really mean to suggest that in the midst of passionate
escalation toward love-making, as zippers melt away and garments fly into the
wind, we are supposed to stop and say, "Wait a minute, let's talk about
birth control and diseases?” That’s not how it goes in the movies! A man may
feel that to get into a serious conversation at that point would ruin the
occasion. "If it's a problem," he might argue, "she'll
bring it up. The fact that she doesn't means everything is all right."
She probably finds the matter as embarrassing as you do. Everything may be okay,
in fact, but you can never be sure, and even if it is, she will appreciate your
asking and your concern will endear you to her all the more. And certainly both
of you should disclose if you have AIDS or any other sexually transmitted
Finally let me provide some
information about pregnancy, which, to my surprise, I have found some otherwise
clever people to be confused about:
woman can get pregnant during her period. Ovulation and menstruation are not
always as separate as they are supposed to be, and a sperm can survive for days
within a woman's body.
is not necessary for pregnancy; intercourse without ejaculation can bring about
pregnancy because of sperm-laden, pre-ejaculatory male secretions.
it needs to be said that a woman does not have to have an orgasm to get
Let us speak of rubbers and
vasectomies. Provided they don't break or come off, rubbers are the most
effective form of mechanical contraception. In addition, they are the only
effective method to prevent contagion or disease. Therefore, you must know how
to use them. If you know how to put them on, rubbers can be almost as good as
the naked item. The secret of the rubber is lubrication; proper
lubrication on the inside of the rubber between you and it, and on the outside
between it and your partner.
I know of no better lubricant for
the inside of your rubber than your very own spit. The stuff that comes with the
so-called lubricated condoms is no good; it doesn't slide. Spit works, it slips
and slides, and it's the best. So you get plenty of spit around the head of your
member and roll the rubber all the way up to the pubic bone. Don't lubricate the
neck, because you want the rubber to stick rather than slip off during
intercourse. If you have a problem with spit then water will do almost as
For the lubrication outside of
your rubber the ideal, of course, is the natural lubrication of a turned on,
juicy woman. It's a really good idea not to go inside a woman until she is good
and wet, but some women don't lubricate that much, even if they are highly
aroused, so in that scenario spit is still good. The problem is that spit has
germs in it and could cause irritations and infection in your partner’s
vagina, so you must talk it over with her. She may want to try your spit or
hers, or she may want to use some commercially available lubricant. The problem
with store-bought lubricants is that some people feel they sting, and they
definitely taste funny.
many men seem to have a great phobia against condoms. Granted, intercourse is
more pleasant without them. Nevertheless, that is no excuse for the adamant
refusal of their use by some men. To be regarded as a considerate lover a man
must be able and willing to use condoms.
Vasectomies are the other method
of male birth control. Briefly, a vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure that
takes about 15 minutes and is usually done in a doctor's office under local
anesthetic. The operation involves the cutting of the vas deferens, the
tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis. After the tubes are
cut, the loose ends are tied. In this way the sperm produced by the testes are
blocked and dissolve. The sperm accounts for only ten percent of a man's come,
so ejaculation continues to occur. Vasectomies have no proven negative long-term
effects, though considerable discomfort can occur for as long as a month after
the operation. Men's largest fear about vasectomy is that it's a
sort of semi-castration that will demasculinize them or worse, leave them
a man who eventually obtained a vasectomy, told me of his doubts:
"I was forty-three years old and had two children. I am
divorced and over the last five years I had been thinking of getting a
vasectomy, but somehow I was afraid that it would take away my sexuality.”
“One thing I was afraid about
is that women would think me less sexy or that it would have some kind of
long-term effect. I had heard that there were suspected circulation and heart
problems. But what really worried me was the loss of sexuality. What
eventually caused me to get the operation is that I was involved in a couple of
unwanted pregnancies and decided that I never again wanted to participate in the
pain and heartbreak of an abortion. So I went ahead.”
"I have found out that I
feel as sexy as ever and that women's usual reaction when they find out about it
is one of relief and appreciation. I am really glad that I did it and have never
had any regrets. In fact, every so often I forget that I am sterile so I
certainly don't feel any loss of manhood."
can be reversed, though the success rate is about 50-50 and the procedure is
expensive. When a man is in a long term monogamous relationship and
children are not being considered he should seriously consider a vasectomy as a
loving gesture to relieve his partner’s contraceptive burden.
When Not to Have Intercourse
There are a number of reasons why
you should not have intercourse:
is no protection available,
protection available is not fully satisfactory to both (e.g., she doesn't trust
rubbers, and you don't trust diaphragms) .
you has a genital infection or irritation.
If for some reason you decide not
to have intercourse, you must not assume you can't have sex. Unless you have a
disease there are a number of delightful, mutually satisfying alternative ways
to make love: cunnilingus, fellatio, and mutual masturbation. Caution is advised
regarding anal intercourse. If you do decide to engage in anal intercourse, you
should never do so without a condom.
This has been said a thousand
times, but it bears repeating. The important aspect of making love is the full
skin contact, the tenderness, the enjoyment, the ecstasies of orgasm. Whether
this is achieved through intercourse or some other means is not as important as ensuring
that both partners are relaxed, free of anxiety, and therefore open to the
fullest possible enjoyment. The insistence on intercourse as the only valid form
of sexual lovemaking is an obstacle to sexual fulfillment.
Here is some information worth
keeping in mind:
must wash yourself thoroughly with soap and water before having vaginal
have had intercourse with someone else, or if
have had anal intercourse.
these instances are likely to deposit bacteria on your penis that will multiply
and could cause infection in your partner. Even if you washed once, you should
wash before intercourse because over a period of time, a few bugs remaining
after your initial washing can proliferate.
* If a
woman is prone to bladder infections, or if the man is a lot heavier, she should
be on top when having intercourse because the man-above position tends to push
bacteria into her urinary tract. In any case, a woman should urinate soon after
intercourse to flush out bacteria that may have been forced into her urinary
Intercourse when the woman is not lubricated can be dangerous in addition to
being unpleasant. Abrasions and lesions can result, which are opportunities for
Disease prevention and birth
control are extremely important issues to women, and a man who takes them
seriously will be greatly appreciated for his concern. When you take time to
deal with these problems, you are laying the foundation for mutual respect and
greater intimacy in the relationship.
that we have the down side of sex behind us, we can go on to its delights: the
special treats and gourmet delicacies of thoughtful and sophisticated sexuality.
who's ever written about sex has a personal preference that, in some way or
another, finds its way into his or her writings. Whether it be fellatio,
masturbation, anal, tantric sex, or what have you, a preference will be
highlighted by the author and not necessarily consciously. To avoid this kind of
embarrassment, I will disclose in advance that my sexual ne plus ultra is
simultaneous orgasm, preferably through intercourse.
orgasm is a thrilling outpouring of energy. The energetic release of orgasm is pleasurable
enough by itself, but when I am being bathed in another person's outpouring as
my own orgasm occurs, my pleasure is synergistically multiplied. What is
given is returned a hundredfold, creating a dizzying maelstrom of circular
motion, in which ordinary consciousness is transformed into quintessential,
timeless pleasure. Coming together requires two people who have reasonably
good control over their orgasm. Whoever arrives at the edge first needs to be
able to hold back while the other gets there too.
my experience, the best orgasms occur when, after coming to the very verge, both
partners become still, moving ever so slightly, just enough to stay on that
edge for minutes at a time---then deliberately let go, all at once and together,
riding the roller coaster to the eventual bottom. It seems that the longer
orgasm is held back the better it eventually feels. This,
incidentally, need not be only through intercourse. They can both masturbate
while in each other's arms, or they can even come together over the phone
or on Skype.
I pointed out before, not everyone enjoys simultaneous orgasms. Some people
prefer to take turns, to enjoy their own and their partners separately. I
mention it here as a way of confessing my own bias and as an additional
argument for the development of ejaculatory control.
Sounds of Love
instinctive thing to do when making love and enjoying it is to make sounds.
Unfortunately, we tend to suppress such exhibitions of joy because we are
too ashamed, or embarrassed, or because the walls between our bedroom and the neighbors
kitchen are paper thin. The enjoyment of sex depends a great deal on letting go;
letting go of inhibitions, of physical tension, or moving, talking, and
singing the praises of love. A sexual partner who lets go of his or her voice
when making love can be extremely exciting.
I was married, my husband and I made love totally quietly. We enjoyed it all
right, but I had no idea what we were missing. Then after we divorced I met a
man who the first time he came with me, scared me practically to death. I
thought he was having a heart attack. After I realized that those were his
normal lovemaking sounds, and he begged me to make sounds too, my sexual
experience became a whole new thing. Like the difference between a stifled
little sneeze and a head-clearing, earthshaking snorter. "
some guys, you can't tell when they are coming, you can just tell that it's all over
from the way they relax. I feel cheated when that happens. At least I want to
know when he is having the pleasure of orgasm. I love to be aware of the
way his orgasm builds and when he lets go. I want to be right there taking it
all in. The louder the better as far as I am concerned."
is a rare luxury, given how we are usually surrounded by people, to give full
vent to the sounds of lovemaking. But it is an incomparable experience worth
pursuing. Sometime when you can take your lover to a mountain or seashore
far away from people, arrange to make love out in the open where you can
let go of any amount of noise you might care to make. If you succeed in letting
go, it may spoil your future love making in situations where you have to
stifle your pleasure, but at least you will know what you are missing. And
if you can't find the kind of open spaces I'm recommending, I understand that an
approximately similar effect can be achieved in the back of a pickup on a
deserted California road under the hot, starry summer night sky.
one of my interviewees: "My girlfriend and I were on a double date
with this other couple. We had talked about wanting to make love and having no
place to do it. So we agreed to take turns trucking and fucking.
First, we drove and they made love. We had the radio on full blast
listening to country music and drove down the lonely highway under a
blanket. Then it was our turn. The best part is that we could whoop and
holler and make all the noise we wanted to make. It was great
and a little scary and very exciting. Thank God for pickups, highways, country
music, and good friends."
tend to be uneasy about vibrators. Some of us react to them as if they
represented a challenge to our manhood. "Why should she need [or enjoy] a
mechanical device when she has my magnificent tool? " we ask, or " How
can I compete with a megawatt turbo-propelled gadget like that? She's going
to get addicted to it and never need me again," or "It's not
natural; there must be something wrong with her, the way she enjoys it."
Vibrators joined the sexual revolution with the advent of the women's
movement. At first they were seen by some women as reliable and trouble-free alternatives
to the hassles of sex with men. Vibrators didn't get tired; they didn't stop
working or start snoring at mid-orgasm. They could be turned off at any
time without protest, made no demands, and did not get you pregnant.
So, in a way, men's reactions are not totally off the mark; many a
woman has considered dumping a troublesome man when she discovered one of
these high-tech competitors. When, fifteen years ago I was negotiating the
publication of this book in France the publisher wanted to exclude this section.
“French women don’t need vibro masseurs” he claimed. The book was never
published in France.
it's quite all right to enter into a three-way relationship with a woman and her
vibrator. A touch of competition can be a good thing, and the fact is that
some women (not all) have a perfectly easy and fun time coming with the help of one
of these little helpers when they might find it hard or impossible to do so
without it. My suggestion is that you make friends with the little bugger
and bring him into the family. A vibrator can come in mighty handy at that point
in lovemaking when you have tried everything, are getting a cramp, and
might be tempted to give up. M: "Would you like to try the vibrator,
"Do you mind, honeycakes?"
: "Not at all, darling; why don't you go ahead, and I'll come
into your sugar walls from behind?" or
don't you use our little buddy, and I'll hold you in my arms " Either
way could turn a frustrating ordeal into a rip-roaring fun time.
all of this talk about sex, people often forget that a major function of
sexuality is conception. Sexuality and the mating ritual are an
instinct-driven form of reproductive behavior upon which we have elaborated a
unique human activity, making love. Love is not a prerequisite of
conception, but when love is a component, the sexual experience reaches an
had known each other for five years, married for two. We both wanted to
have a child, and when we finally decided to and made love without
contraceptives, without fears, with complete abandon, the experience was
unparalleled in all of my years of lovemaking." "Our sexuality was very
powerful, and we usually came together. She usually started coming and her
vaginal contractions got me off, but there was always the contraceptive,
the rubber or diaphragm between us, and the anxiety of possible pregnancy,
when we made love to make a baby, all the obstacles were gone. I could feel her vagina
contracting and literally sucking the orgasm out of me. I could feel the
streaming of my seed through my penis and she could feel it splashing
against her cervix and being sucked up into her uterus. Both of us
had the similar feeling of being fused into a glowing, pulsating white ball of
energy, our sweet new baby. Sex is wonderful but this was more than sex; it
was love, passion, and conception all in one. Never to be forgotten and forever
associated with our sweet son."
of conscious, loving conception, which everyone deserves but very few have, even
once, is one of the ultimate expressions of lovemaking. When a man loves a
woman, this is among the most loving acts he can perform, and if they are both
made happy by its consequences, he is a lucky man indeed.
Chapter 13. Commitment, Friendship,
Jealousy, Honesty and Other Graduate Studies
far I have been speaking about the fundamentals of a well-ordered and effective
emotional life. Let us now discuss some important emotional topics on a more
lot of problems between men and women are really problems of commitment. I have
used the word commitment often in this book.
It is a major concept in the relationships between men and women, and a
subject of serious concern to most men. Some men can't make commitments at all;
others have made one and been burned, so they are afraid of getting hurt again.
Some men think they are committed to someone and find that they are not. Some
feel that they are not ready to " settle down " and are afraid of
giving up their freedom.
we can't commit ourselves to a specific person, it may be that we are afraid
that the person just isn't right. This fear is especially strong in men for whom
making a commitment may mean agreeing to provide food, clothing, housing,
transportation, and all the material needs of a woman, plus an indeterminate
number of children, for the rest of his life. In addition to all these
obligations, he is agreeing to never be sexually intimate with another woman
ever again. Given the magnitude of
the responsibilities and renunciations, it makes sense that we would be afraid
of making a mistake by choosing someone less than perfect.
some reason women aren't so frightened of making commitments. Perhaps for
genetic reasons or because what is expected of them doesn't seem as onerous,
even though, if the truth be known, it may be even more onerous in the long run.
Of course as women gain power in the world and discover alternatives to child
bearing and home making, these patterns are no longer as clear and what has been
said about men can now be said about many women and visa-versa.
to a primary, life-long, intimate relationship is, more than anything, an
attitude. It is today's sincere intention to be wholly dedicated to the
relationship. However commitment is not a ball and chain. It only means that we
are giving it everything we have now and sincerely intend to continue to do so.
Whether that commitment does, in fact, continue in the future depends on how the
is necessary for a long-term, intimate relationship, but it is no guarantee of
happiness and success, as we shall see. The basic statement of commitment is:
" I love you unconditionally; I am with you without reservations, and I am
not waiting for someone better to be with."
us look at the relationship between Sara and Eric, who are in an intimate,
sexual, long-term relationship--in other words, they are married. We assume, and
they assume, that they are mutually committed. Eric, however, is listless in the
relationship. His eye wanders. He is not affectionate with Sara but flirts with
other women, which drives Sara insane with jealousy. He says he is not jealous,
and he resents Sara for her jealousy and demands.
way to understand and analyze the situation is that Sara is possessive, and Eric
is not, but what may actually be happening is that Sara is committed to Eric,
but Eric is not committed to Sara. Commitment is the issue between Eric and
Sara, more than any other consideration. It is often difficult to assess whether
one person is committed to another because people will lie about their
commitments. The guilt associated with entering a serious intimate relationship
while not really being committed is strong. Very few are willing to admit their
true level of involvement. When commitment is weak, the amount of camouflage and
mystification (read " lying ") that goes on can be staggering.
cannot be engaged in without a reasonable level of trust, and trust is an
elusive state of mind. Women have every reason to believe that men's interest in
them is motivated by an intense need for sexual and emotional nourishment,
which, when provided, doesn't necessarily take them much further into
commitment. Likewise, men justifiably fear that women's interest in them is as a
provider of physical necessities or emotional support and that once a commitment
is secured, nothing much can be expected in return. Both men and women
reasonably fear being trapped into arrangements that threaten to be
unsatisfactory or to exploit and bind them for the rest of their lives.
Consequently, the making of commitments is a process requiring and deserving
careful attention to practical and emotional issues:
"After Katryn and I were lovers for about two years, it became
obvious that we had to make some decisions. I would have been happy to continue
as we were, but she was getting impatient. She wanted to know what she could
count on. Otherwise, she wanted to move on. She was in love with me but wanted
to have children. So it was time to fish or cut bait.”
"I was terrified. First, I thought, “OK, just jump in,' so I
tried that, but it was no good. She realized I was not into it. So I tried to
pull out, but that didn't work either. I really loved her. We talked about what
it all meant. I told her my fears; being trapped, not being ever able to look at
another woman. We talked about dishes, diapers, days out with the boys and the
girls. It all seemed doable and we agreed to a lot of things and even wrote them
down. I took the plunge, and eventually we got married. Getting married was easy
once I agreed to commit. I am glad
I did it, but I don't know if it would have worked without that period of
and Jack's example points out the need for exploring what the actual, everyday
agreements in the relationship are going to be. Commitment is essential, but it
is, as I have said, only an attitude; it does not deal with dishes, diapers,
yard work, outside friendships and relationships. As an example the traditional
agreement doesn't specify what should happen if Katryn decides to go back to
work after the babies are born. It might turn out that Jack assumed that once
the children were born, she would cut back on her hours at work, or quit, to
focus on child rearing and house work, whereas she has elaborate career
ambitions. She may have shared his assumptions at first, but later begin to feel
restless and dissatisfied. Today's relationships throw all previous assumptions
into question and require a fresh, hard look. For instance:
1. Who will do the cooking, the dishes, and the
housework? If it is to be shared, who will do how much and when? Are the
agreements made open for modification, and how?
children are wanted, how will the decision to become pregnant be made? Who will
feed, diaper, get up in the night? Who will do child care, drive the children to
school, to the doctor, and so on? In what proportion?
3. How much time will be spent together? How many
nights out will people have? Can friends, even intimate ones, have an emotional
claim to either of the partners? Which friends? How much of a claim?
How will the money be handled. Separate accounts? One account with
unlimited access? Allowances? Consultation on major expenses?
How much and what kind of
sex do the partners expect from each other? How will they ask for it if they
want it and decline if they don't?
even the bedrock assumption that marriage is monogamous can't be taken for
granted; what will be the assumptions about other sexual partners? Total
monogamy? Only on trips of more than 500 miles? Never with friends?
Okay, but don’t talk about it? (Not recommended as it requires lying)
honest will we be with each other? Total honesty or white lies? Don't ask don't
tell or full disclosure? If he feels mildly attracted to her best friend, is he
obligated to never mention it, or is it his duty to share all his feelings? If
she has some small doubts or resentments, is she required to tell him? Or can
she spare herself the effort and keep them to herself so long as they are minor?
two people contemplating spending the rest of their lives together and bringing
children into the world should think about and discuss all these issues before
making that ultimate commitment. Marriage is supposed to signal commitment. In
most cases, those who marry intend to make it last a lifetime. Yet, we know how
many such commitments don't work.
showers, and wedding ceremonies don't necessarily produce long-term, committed
relationships though they can be effective in cementing them. Committed
relationships are the result, instead, of a much more complicated set of
circumstances; trust, sexual and loving connections, compatibility, mutual
self-interest, and workable agreements. As traditional assumptions become
obsolete, emotionally literate discussions are the best avenue to establishing
better, more modern accords that will satisfy both parties. As my good friend Dr
David Geisinger says: “A relationship is only as good as its dialogue”
to Be a Good Friend
everything is said and done, a man who loves a woman should be a good friend to
her. Friendship often precedes falling in love and eventual commitment. In fact,
marriages between friends who eventually fall in love are more likely to succeed
because when they come out of the " in-love " fog, they will still
know and like each other.
knowing how to be a good friend is an important skill for a man. I is not always
clear what a good friend is like, what he does and does not do. The following
are four rules of friendship, which I have found valid and useful. One can try
to be a good friend even if no agreements, or even a clear, mutual
relationship exists. But ideally a friendship is a conscious relationship
that involves both people equally. Whenever an acquaintance seems to be
progressing in the direction of becoming a friendship, it's worthwhile to
formalize the process by acknowledging it and making friendship agreements that
will be taken as seriously as the marriage contract or any other contract
between two people.
are four effective rules:
to participate equally in the friendship, to work equally hard to keep it alive,
not to neglect it, and to be available when the other needs us.
to be completely truthful with each other. (See honesty, below.)
to ask for what we want, not to do anything we don't want to, and to always be
willing to negotiate toward a mutually satisfactory compromise.
to spend a certain amount of time with each other and to let each other know
when our commitment to the friendship weakens. If the amount of time spent with
each other needs to be changed, we agree to give reasonable notice with
nurturing and caring.
all sounds very unnatural and stilted, but it needn't be: Usually when conflict
arises between friends it is because people never discuss their friendship
assumptions, and would feel embarrassed to bring it up the subject. But such
discussions can be broached in a relaxed, graceful way--and the benefits of
doing so, and the perils of failing to, argue strongly for overcoming one's
a friendship the time spent together might be a few hours a month or week, while
in a marriage all of the nights, most of the evenings, and a large proportion of
the free time might be devoted to each other. Two lovers may agree to spend two
or three nights and evenings and one weekend a month together, but to reserve
the other nights and days for themselves and other people.
any case, agreements need to be made and followed or changed by mutual consent.
When agreements are not clear but are assumed, the relationship may work only
if, by lucky accident, what both people want is reasonably similar. Only trouble
can result when two people enter into a relationship wanting different things
but not discussing them while assuming they agree.
instance, quite commonly people have different ideas about fidelity and
monogamy. Consider the following example:
months after meeting and going out fairly steadily, Sarah discovers that Dan
(who she knows is a terrible flirt) has gone out with another woman. She's very
upset, although she realizes that he never agreed to see her exclusively. He is
annoyed and unsympathetic, and they find themselves in a major fight.
problem is that they never discussed the nature of their new relationship. It
turns out that Sarah assumed, because they were making love, that a monogamous
agreement had been sealed between them. Dan never actually saw it that way. He
did not assume such an agreement (though he suspected that was her assumption),
but he never felt up to mentioning it. Now he realizes that he doesn't want the
relationship to become that serious. Only if they discuss each other's
expectations and willingness to fulfill them can the relationship survive.
is often considered a second-class relationship when compared to exclusive,
intimate commitments. Consequently, it is assumed that a friendship will take a
back seat when one of the two people gets more "seriously " involved
with a third person. Discounting the importance of friendships with respect to
so-called "primary " relationships is a mistake. Good friendships
often last longer and can he just as valuable as, if not more so than,
“primary” relationships. In any case, they are invaluable adjuncts to
primary relationships as they provide balance, relief, and support that can add
to the strength of committed relationships.
a friendship is to be serious, it has to be given first-class status regardless
of other developments in one's love life. In my personal times of difficulty
with my partner, friends have helped clarify what I was doing wrong, have given
me moral support, have provided comic relief, have listened to my complaints
without taking sides, or taken sides when needed, have taken my mind off my
troubles, have taken me to the movies, and have let me sleep over on their
couch. In happy times they have enriched my life with their presence and points
of view, have cooked meals, done child care, gossiped, given me advice and asked
for advice about their own troubles, gone on trips and celebrated life with me.
has been the case because I take my friendships as seriously as I take my
committed relationships and would never relegate them to second place; nor would
I accept being a friend to someone who would treat my friendship in that manner.
truthful is, in my opinion, the only choice in a relationship that means to be
long-lasting, intimate, and committed. Lies are the single most corrosive
influence upon relationships--despite popular songs and half-baked advice about
little white lies. Granted, the truth is sometimes hard to take.
But the truth is less painful up front than when it comes out after
months or years of accumulated, compounded lies.
is the basis for trust; without it a relationship is like a house of cards,
ready to collapse at the first revelation of dishonesty. When trust is destroyed
in a relationship, what remains can only be a shadow of its former self.
obviously requires that no lies be told. But, as in the courtroom, complete
honesty requires " the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
" To tell the whole truth, it is equally important to avoid lies of
omission. Though many will dispute this, arguing it is too risky and to much
work, the best policy is full disclosure.
argue that complete honesty is unnecessarily cruel. "Why gratuitously hurt
my wife by telling her everything that comes to my mind?”
of all complete honesty requires some judgement as to what needs to be
disclosed. Obviously it isn’t possible to talk about every trivial thing but
it is usually quite clear that some things are not trivial but quite
significant. Those are the things that need to be revealed.
reason is two fold. First every lie that is told needs to be remembered and
shielded from disclosure. Lies compound themselves and eventually take up a
substantial part of a person’s consciousness so that in the end the person has
to virtually lead a double mental life. Women’s intuition is not a myth (of
course men are intuitive too) and a man whose mind is distracted by his own
entangled lies will keep a woman on edge and constantly suspicious.
While white lies may keep things peaceful from day to day, many relationships
fall apart when things that were concealed come out into the open.
Mathew tells Sara he thinks her friend Jean is pretty, then assures Sara that
she is the woman he wants to be with, Sara can reasonably be expected to get
over whatever insecurity this triggers for her. But if he is attracted to Jean
and denies his attraction when Sara asks, and then Sara finds them having a
lively talk and laughing and touching each other, Sara will become very
suspicious and jealous.
may watch him from then on and become convinced he is faithless and be angry
without even knowing why. By the time she finally tells him of her suspicions, a
great deal of damage could already have been done: she has stopped trusting him,
and sensing her change of heart, he has begun to feel criticized and unloved. A
fleeting attraction that could easily have been admitted to, and then forgotten
ends up sowing the seeds of dissolution. This is why honesty and open disclosure
are so important.
most frequent objection I hear to this is that honesty can be and often is a
subtle form of cruelty which has nothing to recommend it. Of course it is true
that one can use “honesty” as a method of punishing people we are angry
about. Even if we are not angry we can be honest in a thoughtless way that
overlooks people’s vulnerabilities.
does not imply rudeness or lack of consideration. When we are about to be honest
about something that might hurt another person we need to ask for permission to
be honest and then do it in a thoughtful, empathetic and loving way. Only then
will honesty work its magic, and magic it is when it comes to making
out What you Want and Asking for It
truthful includes saying what one wants and how one feels. Asking for what one
wants is especially important for men. Traditionally, men and women expected
that she would know and give what he wanted without his having to ask. This
expectation can be disastrous with a modern woman who may wait until he asks. He
may not be willing or able to ask for what he wants and then he may sulk when
she doesn't fulfill his secret wishes. Serious misunderstandings can start in
that manner, and there is only one solution; men have to learn to ask for what
keeping secrets also implies that people will be expected to be openly (though
lovingly) critical. A relationship
based on honesty and truth is, without any question, stronger and more enjoyable
than one riddled with evasions and half-truths.
rules of commitment appear to demand that we find everything we need in one
person. But a modern woman is likely to have other interests than her partner.
She may rub elbows and even have deep long lasting relationships with other men.
Men might find themselves faced with intense jealousy.
A possessive man, " said one woman friend of mine, " is the ultimate
drag. The moment I get the feeling a man is going to try and own me, I lose
interest, completely. I don't care if he is a dreamboat, rich, sensitive,
whatever. I see a possessive man, and I run the other way as fast as I can. I
want to be loved, not owned. I am not interested in having a bunch of different
lovers, but I am even less interested in having a big squishy man hanging on me.
the green-eyed monster, is a much-feared, much-misunderstood emotion. Some
believe that jealousy is an unworthy emotion to be suppressed in an evolved
human being. Some people claim not to be jealous, but discover that this belief
falls apart when put to a serious test. Some are proud of their strong jealousy,
which they believe to be evidence of their equally strong love.
are, as far as I can tell, two major situations that provoke jealousy in people.
One form of jealousy has to do with love and the other has to do with control.
jealousy has to do with possessiveness, it is connected to primitive,
territorial instincts. The desire that some people have to define their property
and to exercise control over it manifests itself with their sexual partners in
the form of jealousy. In feeling this kind of jealousy we are unwilling to
accept the loss of control over an object we own. We may not even love or care
about the person but we feel powerfully about controlling her anyway. We may
ourselves be involved other lovers, but we regard that person as
"ours." People who suffer control jealousy are controlled by their
need to possess and have power over another person. Jealousy is thought to be a sign of the strength of our love
and how passionately we feel. When seen in this light, it's difficult to regard
jealousy as a positive emotion worthy of being associated with love.
second form of jealousy, one that tends to affect women, has to do with a sense
of unfair exchange. When people enter into relationships with each other, they
quite naturally offer each other love, nurturance, support, physical and
material benefits, all without particularly discussing the terms of the exchange
but assuming, or hoping, that the exchange will be a fair one. But fairness does
not necessarily follow. After the initial flurry of romantic excitement, things
settle down to a pattern that is often not equitable. An example:
listens to everything John says while John tends to stare blankly when she
speaks to him. When John is sick, Mary drops everything to take care of him,
whereas when Mary is sick, John seems incapable of anything but the most cursory
is generous with her love for John. She touches, caresses, and cuddles John,
whereas John seldom shows his appreciation for, or reciprocates these favors.
let us say that John begins to give attention and affection to somebody else at
the office and after work hours. He now spends time with, smiles at, and flirts
with Jane. He comes home smelling of alcohol and perfume and in an exuberant
may reasonably ensue in Mary. This is not a matter of possessiveness, but a
violation of an agreement of exchange, and it leaves Mary unfairly treated. The
relationship between Mary and John is one in which a great deal of inequity
already exists; Mary is giving John a lot, emotionally, in exchange for which
she gets very little of the same. If John now proceeds to bestow some of his
stingily given benefits on someone else, Mary may experience a blinding sense of
jealousy that is not as related to possessiveness as, understandably, with an
injured sense of fairness.
management requires the conviction that emotions are an important part of
ourselves to be honored and considered. Yet we also need to remember that they
can be destructive, operate against our better judgment, and causes us to do
things we don't want to do. If jealousy threatens to overwhelm us, good
emotional management requires that we control our impulses to accuse, attack, or
make a scene, and that, instead, we determine its source.
feeling jealousy the first task is to determine whether it's control or deficit
jealousy. In order to practice emotional management, it's important to be able
to express early on, candidly and without guilt, the various circumstances in
which jealousy is aroused. The discrete steps; action/feeling statements
validation of intuitions and paranoid fantasies are outlined in chapter seven.
Suffice it to say here that this is a decision to live according to one's
principles of fairness equality and freedom, rather than at the mercy of one's
in the grips of control jealousy it is helpful to tell oneself things like:
I love her but she is not my property. "
If I really love her, I will trust her and stop trying to control her. "
Her freedom (and mine) are more important than my desire to dominate. "
jealous, deficit and inequity must be acknowledged and dealt with; it will not
be chased away by the sort of act of will that I suggest for control jealousy.
When the jealousy experienced is of the deficit kind we need to correct the
inequities that cause our discomfort. Part of the process is taking
responsibility for accepting the inequity in the first place. When deficit
jealousy occurs, agreements have to be make changes in the relationship so it
in the grips of deficit jealousy it is helpful to tell oneself things like:
are the inequities that are causing my feelings?
long has this inequity gone on. Why have I put up with it?”
do I need in order to stop feeling this jealousy. Can I ask for what I need”
discussion about jealousy is meant to be an introduction to the subject of
emotional literacy and its importance in the relationships between men and
women. By no means is it implied that the dissatisfactions between a man and a
woman are always the result of lack of commitment or unfairness. Plenty of
mutually committed and eminently fair relationships falter on other
difficulties; lack of understanding, boredom or incompatibility. But a committed
relationship free of lies and jealousy is a solid foundation in which a man and
a woman can give each other what they want and need.
has worried some men that as they give up their aggressiveness, their
competition, their "macho” tendencies and become sweet and loving, they
will also somehow lose their male elan.
numbers of men, however, are going through these changes. As we become
accustomed to new, more pliable selves, we may be feeling somewhat empty. We may
feel hollowed out of something identifiably male that we can call our own.
the many wondrous things that human being do, only women can carry to term and
breast-fed mankind; what equivalent miracle can men perform?
between our former cold, soldierly selves and our newfound open hearts, we
sometimes wonder whether becoming what women want us to be is sufficient to
fulfill our needs.
the new male context warrants some discussion. Over dinner one evening I asked
my friend Jackson, "What are we going to do about women's obvious
superiority, now that we have given up ours? How can we catch up?"
answer, "We'll start knitting clubs."
I looked at him, trying to understand what he meant. His lips were pursed in a
smile. Then we both burst out laughing. I suddenly saw the glimmer of a simple
men who have given up their macho ways and are concentrating on pleasing women,
we need also to please ourselves and each other. We need to find what our
essence is, and we can do that only with other men, as we spend time together
being exactly what we are, making no effort to live up to any womanly
from the limiting male assumptions that have kept us competing with each other,
afraid to appreciate and truly love each other, reluctant and reticent to trust
and share, we may find that each other's male company is the next milestone in
our development as human beings.
when a man loves a woman and finally gives her what she wants, establishing once
and for all that they are each other’s equal, he may also find that he's
suddenly open in a new way to finding his true identity in the company of men,
(knitting or watching the World Cup” with fathers, sons, brothers and friends
to whom I lovingly dedicate this book.