When  A  Man  Loves  a  Woman;

Emotional and Sexual Literacy for the Modern Man

 

by

 

Claude M. Steiner Phd

  

2901 Piedmont Avenue Berkeley, CA 94705

 

e-mail: csteiner@igc.apc.org \

 

© Copyright 2011


Return home?

Introduction to the second edition  (2008)

Introduction to first edition (1986)

Chapter 1. What do women like about men?

Chapter 2. What do Women Dislike About Men?

Chapter 3. What Women Want From Us: Opening the Heart.

Chapter 4. Making Peace Between the Sexes 

Chapter 5. Feelings? 

Chapter 6.  Emotional Literacy

Chapter 7. Seven basic transactions leading to emotional literacy

Chapter 8. How to be a better lover; Sexual Literacy

Chapter 9 .The Three C’s of Cunnilingus 

Chapter 10.How to Keep an Erection

Chapter 11. Birth Control, Disease Prevention and Other Downers    

Chapter 12. Fills, Chills and Thrills  

Chapter 13. Commitment, Friendship, Jealousy, Honesty and Other Graduate Studies

Conclusion

Introduction 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.

 

Intimately 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.

 

These 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.

 

Fortunately 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.

 

When 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 relationships.

 

In 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 century.

 

Feminism 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?

 

Introduction to first edition (1986)

 

In 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.

 

Even 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. 

 

It 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.

 

Greater 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 ex-husbands prospered.

 

Still, 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.

 

For 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 domination.

 

How 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.

 

Men 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.

 

We 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.

 

For 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.

 

What 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.

 

When 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 today's woman.


 

 

Chapter 1. What do women like about men?

 

During 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.

 

With 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 about himself:

 

"There 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.

 

"I 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 worker.

 

"I 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 divorced. 

 

In 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.

 

"I 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.”

 

"I 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.

 

"I 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.

 

"I 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.

 

Many 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.

 

Other 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."

 

Another 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."

 

Tina, 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."

 

"What 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 hesitation.

 

"That sounds like a sexist attitude. What do you mean?"

 

"They 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."

 

"Men are so important, " high school biology teacher Pilar, a Mexican woman of 32, assured me.

 

"How?" I asked.

 

"Not as bosses or soldiers, but as men, because they are men, and as men they have an important function in the scheme of things."

 

"I 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.

 

"What 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.

 

After 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.

 

This desire to be with people who have what we lack is not particular to women.

It's 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.

 

Our 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,

 

"We [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?

 

Eventually, 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."

 

Women 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 women.


 

 

Chapter 2. What do Women Dislike About Men?

 

Having 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 as lovers.

 

Many 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.

 

In 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 lounge.

 

Mary had been dancing with a man, and returned to her seat around a low table heaped with drinks. "What a creep!" she says.

 

"Extreme repulsivo, eh?” quips Sonja. "Really, these guys think they are God's gift to women."

 

Reluctantly Frank takes the bait. "You didn't have to dance with him, you know."

 

"He wouldn't leave me alone. I thought I would get rid of him if I danced with him once."

 

"C'mon, you know you like it," Sam interrupts.

 

"What! 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, oh, here comes the woman's lip!"

 

"Listen, Sam, I'm no feminist, but I'm sick of horny guys who can't take no for an answer."

 

"If you can't stand the heat, stay out of bars, is what I say."

 

"Oh 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!"

 

"Well, some streets, some nights, you would be asking for it."

 

"Yeah, and I suppose you are going to tell me that I'd enjoy it."

 

"I didn't say that, just that you've got to expect certain things in certain places! "

 

" Don't give me that, you really think I like being harassed by men" (and so on).

 

In 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.

 

In 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.

 

If, 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.

 

To 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 certain things.”

 

The 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."

 

These 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.

 

Of 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 Collected."

 

The 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.

 

"His 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."

 

These 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 little else.

 

And they know it.

 

Some 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."

 

Another 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.

 

This 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.

 

Many 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.

 

It 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.

 

A 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.

 

At 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

 

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.

 

All 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 different women.

 

"When 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 it."

 

Mr. 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 relaxation possible.

 

Unfortunately, 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,

though 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.

 

Janet, 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. "

 

It’s 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.

 

Cool, 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.

 

"With 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.' "

 

"Sometimes 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 life. "

 

Anne, 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.' "

 

The 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.

 

Instead, 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 relationship.

 

Such 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.

 

Each 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.

 

Ask 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.

 

Men 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.


 

Chapter 3. What Women Want From Us: Opening the Heart.

 

 

Giving 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.

 

People's 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.

 

Men 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.

 

Instead 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.

 

In 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 about."

 

On 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.

 

While 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.

 

Psychologists 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.

 

Unfortunately, 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 evaluation:

 

Breasts (check one) 1. Too big.

                                        2. Too small.

                                        3. Perfect.

 

Legs (check one)      I. Too short.

                                        2. Too fat.

                                        3, Too skinny.

                                 4. Perfect.

 

Hips (check one)     1. Too large.

                                2. Too small.

                                3. Perfect.

 

Face (check one)    I. Ugly.

                                2. so-so.

                                3. Perfect.

 

* Add up scores

** Choose women with highest scores. If not available go to the woman with the next highest score.

 

Certain 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.

 

The 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 manner.

 

Renee 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."

 

Many 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.

 

One 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.

 

Crude 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.

 

In 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.

But--and 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.

 

While 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.

 

One 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.

 

This 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.

 

Each 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.

 

Strong 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.

 

Bruce, 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."

 

 Women, 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.

 

Most 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.

 

EXERCISE ONE: RETRAINING THE EYE

 

We 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.

 

When 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.

 

That 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 over."

 

Another 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."

 

Speaking 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.

 

When 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.

 

One 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.

 

Since 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.

 

The 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.

 

This 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 to her.

 

So 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.

 

Next, 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 appreciate.

 

Get the idea? Okay then, practice, practice, practice.

 

EXERCISE TWO: TALK TO ME SWEETLY; STROKES

 

Once 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.

 

 "What if she hates what I say?"

 

 "What if I make a fool of myself? I'm not good with words."

 

The heart beats faster, and he starts to sweat. "Maybe I should wait; tomorrow is another day."

 

"She knows I like her; why repeat the obvious?"

 

One 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 cold sweat!

 

Telling 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.

 

In 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":

 

"I have been noticing you the last few minutes; may I give you a compliment?" or,

 

"Can I tell you something I really like about you?" or,

 

"I don't know you, but would you be offended if I told you something that struck me as very attractive about you?" or,

 

"I've 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?"

 

At 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.

 

A 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 boring.

 

For 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.

 

As 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 sexual pitch."

 

If 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.*

 

She 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.

 

She 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.

 

So, 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.

 

And 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."

 

EXERCISE THREE: LOVE ME BEYOND WORDS.

 

So 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 laughing.

 

One 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.

 

How 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.

 

Touch Me, Don’t Touch Me!

 

At 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.

 

 "Why can't he touch me without immediately getting turned on and wanting sex?" one asked.

 

 "Unless 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.

 

Yet another swore, "I won't touch a man unless I know I want to have sex with him."

 

 Closely 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 resented.

 

So 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.

 

The 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, pleasure-giving capacities.

 

The 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.

If 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 loving touch.

 

Opportunities 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.

 

All 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.

 

One 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.

 

So, 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.

 

These 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.


 

 

Chapter 4. Love of Women; Peace Between the Sexes

 

 

The battle of the genders

Many 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 endless. 

Women 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

 

narratives, 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 toward women.

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 outlook.

Love of Women. 

I 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.

In 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.

However 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.

Love 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.

Love 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.

Love 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.

Often 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.

Yet 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.

In 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.

Misogyny

Nothing 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 very last 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

way / 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.

 The 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.

Men 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.

Usually 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

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. 

Both 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.

Still, 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.

Some 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.

Also, 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. 

Without 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.

Why give up control and take up love?

Why should 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?

So 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.

Love 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

By encouraging 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.

As 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.

The 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.

I 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.)

Both 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.

 


  

 

Chapter 5. Feelings? 

 

Women, 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."

 

At 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.

 

“Feelings?” 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 problem responding.

 

Feelings? 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.

 

It 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.

 

The 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 women. 

 

Women 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.   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.”

 

However 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.   

 

Sexuality 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.

 

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, even nauseating.   

 

Eric 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.   

 

Because 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.

 

But 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.  

 

Being In Love. 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 its glow.   

 

When 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.

 

It 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.   

 

Love.   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.   

 

Contrasted 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.   

 

Love 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 sexuality.

 

Men 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 women.

 

The 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.

 

Love, 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.   

 

Anger, 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.

 

In 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 angry.

 

"I 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 with it.'"

 

Other 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 self-deprecation:

 

“I 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, hurt."

 

Clearly, 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."

 

When 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 despair!

 

But all 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.

 

"I 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.” 

 

Hite concluded 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 love.

 

When 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.   

 

Having 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.      

 

Learning 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.    

 

Chapter 6.  Emotional Literacy

 

The 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.  

 

An 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.   

 

There 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 for sure."

 

When 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.

 

Men 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.

 

Emotions 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.   

 

What 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.  

 

Our 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.

 

Each 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 these outbursts.  

 

A 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.

 

If 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:

1.    he is very much in love,

2.    he is sad and angry because he is not getting her attention,

3.    he is suspicious of his beloved's relationship with another, and

4.    these three experiences combined into jealousy.   

Knowing 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?   

 

Learning 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.

 

Therefore, 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.

 

A 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.

 

Like 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

 

Here 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.

The seven basic transactions are:

1. Asking for permission to deliver an emotionally laden statement.

2. 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.

3. Accepting without defensiveness another person's statement about how our actions felt.

4. Telling another person of an intuition, theory, or suspicion about what he is doing or why he is doing it.

5. Validating another person's intuition, theory, or suspicion by searching for its truth rather than denying it.

6. Apologizing for committing an error.

7. Accepting an apology.

 

Asking 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.

 

Example: "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 about it?"

 

When 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.

 

2. 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.

An action/feeing statement simply states that a verifiable action resulted in an undeniable feeling. For instance:

John:. "When you wanted to stop talking on the phone last night, I felt hurt at first, and then angry."

Assuming 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.

         

In 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 landscape.

 

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.

 

3. 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

she needs is to have the information and to acknowledge

it. Then she can start the process of emotional dialogue

in which feelings are given proper recognition. By doing

this, Mary learns about John's responses to situations, and she gives him an opportunity to let go of his bad feeling.

In the above case of Mary and John, it will suffice for

Mary to acknowledge that, yes, she understands that

when she wanted to stop talking, John felt hurt and

angry. This acknowledgment can be in the form of a

nod or by saying, "I hear you," or "I understand that

when I ended the conversation, you felt hurt, and then

angry."

         

Error 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.

"I 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 on.

 

These 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 felt.

 

Sometimes 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.

 

4. 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.

 

Behind 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:

 

"I think that you don't like me, that you are      

angry at me." 

 

This 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. 

 

Our 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:         

 

"Mary is unhappy," to     

"Mary is unhappy with me," to     

"Mary is angry with me," to

"Mary hates me."

 

Now 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 chauvinist pig."

 

Meanwhile, 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.

 

So 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."

 

5. 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.

 

Error 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.

 

 

 

In 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 wrong?"

 

After thinking about it, Mary suggests: "Actually, John, I was angry after you called, not at you, but at Nancy—maybe that's it."

John 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?"

 

This 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.

 

"Actually, 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?"

 

John's 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.

Sometimes the entire intuition will be correct.

 

"Yes, John, I am angry with you; in fact, I haven't liked you very much since I met you."

 

Harsh 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.

 

To 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.

Whether John gets complete validation or not, he will feel better than when he started, if only because he tried.

 

Being 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.

 

6. 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.

The 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.

 

What do we apologize for?

 

Clearly 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:

a)    do something we don't want to do, or

b)    do more than our share in a given situation. 

 

We 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.

 

These 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 two. 

 

Rescuing 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. 

 

When 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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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 a relationship.

 

"Do I want to continue this conversation? "

"Do I want to have sex?"

"Do I want to help?"

"Do I want to eat out tonight? "

"Is it fair for me to do the dishes if Mary cooks, or should I also sweep the floor?”

"Is it fair that I always have to initiate sex? "

"Should I always pay for dinner when we go out? Do I want to? "

 

The 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.

 

Finally 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.

 

This 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.

 

Let us now go to the important subject of sexual literacy.


 

 

 

Chapter 8. How to be a Better Lover; Sexual Literacy

 

When, 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.   

 

What 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 style.

 

It 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."

 

In a seemingly endless litany, scores of women recalled their typical experiences:

 

"Small amount of foreplay, then intercourse ‘til he comes. The end."

 

"Speed demon."

 

"Take what you can and don't give any."

 

"Getting on and getting it over as soon as possible."

 

"An excess of activity."

 

"Slam, bang, thank you ma'am."

 

"Insert A into B. Dull, dull, dull, dull."

 

To the question, "Who decides when it's over?" the answers were

 

"Dick Power, the penis decides."

 

"He does, as he ejaculates."

 

"He goes to sleep at once and snores."

 

I 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:

 

·       Only one third of women have orgasms during intercourse.

·       Only one 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.

·       82 percent of women masturbated, and of these 92 percent achieved orgasm.   

·       Overwhelmingly, women wanted sex with feeling.

 

That means that at least one of every three women with whom you, dear reader, have had, or will have intercourse with,

 

1.    Will not have an orgasm.   

2.    Will be unhappy about it.

3.    Would be able to achieve orgasm with additional stimulation during, before or after intercourse

4.    Will forgive almost anything if you show a capacity and willingness for communication about the relationship at an emotional level.

 

Hite's 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.”

 

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.

 

Thankfully, 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 detailed above.   

 

Why Women Don't Want to Have Sex (As Often As Men)  

 

It 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.

 

Then 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.   

 

WOMEN 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.   

 

"My 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."

 

It's 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 advantage.

 

Men 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.

 

"Ever 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 me."   

 

MEN 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.)

 

Frequently, 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.

 

In 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 the hassle."

 

THE ELUSIVE ORGASM

The 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 it.

 

Having 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.

 

An 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.

 

Seen 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.   

 

 

PAINFUL 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.   

 

Consequently, women have more reason to avoid casual sex than men do.

 

"It 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.   

 

So 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.   

 

FEAR 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  risks.   

 

"For 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."

 

This 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.

 

Abortion 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 sexual reluctance.

 

A 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.

 

LACK 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.

 

If 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.

 

A 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.

 

Fortunately, 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.  

 

LOSS 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.

 

In 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.

 

When 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.

 

For 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.

 

Intercourse—Is it Just a Guy Thing?  

 

Control 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.

 

Men 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.   

 

Sharing Control and Concern   

 

Women 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.

 

Sexuality 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.  

 

So, 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.

 

In 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.

 

We’ve 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.

 

Some 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.   

 

It 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.

 

Still, 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.'"

 

She 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.   

 

What Can a Man Do?  

 

When 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.   

 

This 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.

 

Here, 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.

 

Women 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.

 

A 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.

 

Such 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.

 

Specific 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.   

 

If 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.

 

It 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.

 

Few 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.

 

We 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

 

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.

 

Because 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.

 

Perhaps 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.

 

While 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 effective stimulation. 

 

Though 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.

 

The 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  of C.

 

CLEAN   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.   

 

COMFORTABLE   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.   

 

COMMUNICATIVE. Some people feel acute embarrassment about discussing their precise wants and dislikes during lovemaking.   

 

"Many is the time," one woman confessed about her lovemaking with her husband, "when cunnilingus was somewhat painful  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." 

 

The 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 pleasures.   

 

The Art of Cunnilingus   

 

Let us now get to the nuts and bolts of the matter, and talk about just how it is done:

 

1.    It's 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.

 

2.    Don't 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. Or not.   

 

3.    In the 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.

 

4.    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.  

 

 

 

CHAPTER 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.

 

When 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.

 

On 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 state.

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.

 

Many 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.

Some 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."

W: "Fine, I'm loving it."
---------------------

M: “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."

 

Finally, 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.

 

CHAPTER 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.   

 

Birth Control 

 

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 reaching orgasm.

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. 

 

So, 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? 

 

This 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."  

 

Wrong! 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 diseases.   

 

Finally let me provide some information about pregnancy, which, to my surprise, I have found some otherwise clever people to be confused about:  

 

*A 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.  

 

*Ejaculation is not necessary for pregnancy; intercourse without ejaculation can bring about pregnancy because of sperm-laden, pre-ejaculatory male secretions.  

 

*Surprisingly, it needs to be said that a woman does not have to have an orgasm to get pregnant.    

 

 

Male Contraception  

 

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 well.  

 

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. 

 

Unfortunately, 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.  

 

Vasectomy  

 

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 impotent.

 

Vern, 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." 

 

Vasectomies 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: 

 

*There is no protection available,  

*The protection available is not fully satisfactory to both (e.g., she doesn't trust rubbers, and you don't trust diaphragms) . 

*One of 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. 

 

 Disease Prevention 

 

Here is some information worth keeping in mind:

 

* You must wash yourself thoroughly with soap and water before having vaginal intercourse if

a) you have had intercourse with someone else, or if

b) you have had anal intercourse.

 

Both of 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 tract.   

 

* Intercourse when the woman is not lubricated can be dangerous in addition to being unpleasant. Abrasions and lesions can result, which are opportunities for infection.   

 

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. 


 

 

Chapter 12. Frills, Chills and Thrills  

 

Now 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.   

 

Coming Together   

 

Everyone 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.

 

An 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.

 

In 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.

 

As 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.   

 

The Sounds of Love   

 

The 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.   

 

"When 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. "

 

"With 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."

 

It 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.

 

Reported 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."   

 

Vibrators  

 

Men 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.

 

Actually, 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, my sweet?"

W: "Do you mind, honeycakes?"

M  : "Not at all, darling; why don't you go ahead, and I'll come into your sugar walls from behind?" or

"Why 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.  

 

Conscious Conception  

 

With 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 extraordinary peak.   

 

"We 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, however small.”

 

“But 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."

 

The experience 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

 

So 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 advanced level.

 

Commitment

 

A 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.

 

When 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.

 

For 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.

 

Commitment 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 relationship develops.

 

Commitment 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."

 

Let 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.

 

One 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.

 

Commitment 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 discussion.”

 

Relationship Contract

 

Katryn 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?

 

 2. If 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?

 

5.    How will the money be handled. Separate accounts? One account with unlimited access? Allowances? Consultation on major expenses?

 

6.     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?

 

7.    Today, 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)

 

8.    How 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?

 

Any 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.

 

Engagements, 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”

 

How to Be a Good Friend   

 

When 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.

 

Consequently, 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.

 

Here are four effective rules:

 

1.    We agree 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.

2.    We agree to be completely truthful with each other. (See honesty, below.)

3.    We agree 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.

4.    We agree 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.

 

This 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 reluctance.

 

In 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.

 

In 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.

 

For instance, quite commonly people have different ideas about fidelity and monogamy. Consider the following example:

 

Several 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.

 

The 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.

 

Friendship 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.

 

If 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.

 

This 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.

 

Honesty

 

Being 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.

 

Truthfulness 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.

 

Honesty 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.

 

Some argue that complete honesty is unnecessarily cruel. "Why gratuitously hurt my wife by telling her everything that comes to my mind?”

 

First 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.

 

The 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.

 

Second. 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.

 

If 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.

 

She 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.

 

The 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.

 

Honesty 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 relationships work.

 

Figuring out What you Want and Asking for It

 

Being 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 they want.

 

Not 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.

 

Jealousy

 

The 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. "

 

Jealousy, 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.

 

There 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.

 

Control Jealousy

 

When 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. 

 

Deficit Jealousy

 

A 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:

 

Mary 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 helpful gestures.

Mary is generous with her love for John. She touches, caresses, and cuddles John, whereas John seldom shows his appreciation for, or reciprocates these favors. 

 

Now, 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 mood.

 

Jealousy 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.

 

Jealousy Management

 

Jealousy 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.

 

When 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 emotions.

 

When 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. "

 

When 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 becomes fair.

 

When in the grips of deficit jealousy it is helpful to tell oneself things like:

 

“What are the inequities that are causing my feelings?

 

“How long has this inequity gone on. Why have I put up with it?”

 

“What do I need in order to stop feeling this jealousy. Can I ask for what I need”

 

This 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.


 

 

CONCLUSION

 

It 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.

 

Large 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.

 

Of the many wondrous things that human being do, only women can carry to term and breast-fed mankind; what equivalent miracle can men perform?

 

Vacillating 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.

 

Undeniably, 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?"

 

His answer, "We'll start knitting clubs."

 

Dumbfounded, 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 answer:

 

As 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 expectations.

 

Released 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.

 

So 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.

 

 

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