I am a forty-five year-old man, divorced and re-married, with one daughter and one stepdaughter. I have lived most of my life with lots of thoughts about sex. When I’m not thinking about it, I’m aware of it. It’s the part for the left hand in my piano concerto.
As I write about sex, I’ll make no effort to be objective. This is from my viewpoint only; I make no apologies, nor do I try to understand what sex is like for women or even for other men. I’m just saying what’s been burbling around in my own consciousness for a long time. A lot of it is fantasy, not the thinking, integrated me who has a social conscience.
The most basic fact of my life is that I was once physically attached in a perfect bond which was then severed, at birth. I feel that I have striven ever since to re-gain that bond. From the first rules of breast-access to the most recent rules about how to get along with my wife and succeed at my job, I feel I have lived a life on probation, attempting to find the key to returning to a semblance of that perfect bond. “What makes Sammy run?”, I often think to myself, and then I see myself frantically trying to restore what I once had and which I thought would last forever.
To me, the moments of sex are a re-creation of that bond. It is pre-verbal; it is all encompassing. Sex is not genital-specific, but whole-being specific. I may fall short of attaining the original perfect bond, but in the meantime, I can have sex.
Still, I feel angry about losing that bond. I feel that life played me a bait-and-switch and that somehow women are in on it all. The whole thing with sex seems like a female conspiracy. I have to behave correctly in the eyes of a woman if she is to grant me a momentary re-creation of that perfect physical bond. I often want to be strong to prove that I don’t need sex. I hate the feeling of being a beggar, of having to play the game to get what I want. I hate that women have so much control; I hate that they don’t seem to want sex as much as I do. For me, masturbation is often an expression of defiance and anger: “See, I don’t need you women for sex; I can take care of myself.”
I remember that my mother enjoyed me for a time and then didn’t anymore. It was like all of me was OK for a time and then suddenly, there was a part of me that wasn’t OK. I began to learn that it was bad to make physical claims on my mother. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, it just felt like it was wrong for me to want physical closeness. I felt guilty about wanting it. Since I didn’t know what I’d done wrong, I felt that maybe I was dirty or defective; something was wrong with mc.
Later, when I wanted to hold onto my mother, she would tell me, “Don’t be a baby; be a young man.” I learned that to be a man meant that you shouldn’t need that; it was bad to need that. Still, I felt that maybe I could be good enough that she would accept me back again. I tried to guess what she wanted and I could see that she liked me to be quiet and not make trouble, so I was quiet. I thought she would know from my silence that I needed her.
I had no control, no power. I could only suffer in silence and hope that she would come to me. Sometimes, she did. I never knew what prompted her to do so. I only knew that she expected me to be quiet and not demand anything.
Later, it would seem that to openly ask for sex with a woman was rude and selfish and certain to be rejected. Only if she wanted sex as much as I would it be acceptable.
With sex and women, I’m only aware of conditions; love is unpredictable; it hurts to wait; it hurts to be denied. The only good solution is to stop needing. Because I am only allowed to be physically close when SHE wants it, she controls me. Love to me means being controlled because I have to earn it by good behavior.
I am very angry I have to perform to get my needs met. When I am hugged, I feel very good but I am also reminded of what I have lost. My older sister got attention from my father because she was female. I felt excluded and angry because I couldn’t compete.
My mother had control over whenever I had contact with her or not.
Women have sex and men want it, and that makes me angry.
When I was a young man I was afraid to be sexy (sexy is not nice). I didn’t ask girls for dates. If I did get a girl somehow, I hung on to her like death, in terror of losing her. I could never believe that a girl would want to be with me; she must be with me only because I was “nice” and not rude and sexy like the other boys. So, I had to be sneaky about sex. I could only get fulfillment in fantasy, or in round-about ways. I was not entitled to love.
It’s dangerous and scary to depend on one person for love; I did that as a baby and I lost her. I learned that the world is not safe. Afterwards, I had to jump through hoops for crumbs of love.
Because I have to be nice with the one I love, I feel controlled. I can’t be sexy except in specified circumstances, in specified ways. That’s how I felt as a child: my sexuality (my joy in my physical presence) was a nuisance (“Not now, Sammy I’m feeding Beth. Sammy, get away! Don’t be a baby.”) and so it must be bad. Because both my mother and my wife determine(d) in which ways I can be sexy, when, and with whom, I confuse them in my mind and my historical anger connects in the present. I wall off my wife as I did my mother.
I cannot let my wife know that I love her because that will give her even more power.
(I don’t believe that women don’t want sex; I think they hide their desire on purpose, just to spite men).
Only in my fantasies do I have a sense of the fullness of my power and my sexuality. The disparity between my fantasies and my reality makes me feel dishonest. I know that what I do and what I want to do are very different. I feel guilty about my fantasies, and I am angry that I have to have them.
I need to be attractive to women to feel good. Each day I must feel that some woman who sees me finds me attractive. I sit in the subway and look around, trying to meet the eyes of a woman and find in her cues a spark of interest.
My wife dislikes my need to feel attractive. To her it feels threatening. But I know that I cannot feel good if I don’t feel attractive. I feel she is denying my deepest need and I am angry. I fantasize about affairs; I think of running off with other women. I don’t like the feeling of dependency on her alone because it gives her too much power. I am guilty all the time and am ashamed to admit how much I need affirmation of my being. I don’t feel manly. Men should be independent. Instead, I feel like a beggar.
As a 20 year-old, I felt gawky and stupid (and was) and didn’t attract girls. I was angry that girls my age found older men attractive. I had never worked through that rage at my own father; I was still losing out to older men. I would never be old enough.
Now, suddenly, I AM old enough. What I have not had since age one, I feel I can have again. I am sexually powerful. But women of my own age resent my sexuality. I think to myself, “Well, you had your turn when we were both twenty and you snubbed me; now it’s my turn in the sexual sweepstakes.” I contemplate revenge for forty years of pain. My sexuality becomes a weapon.
If I was nice, I would suppress my sexuality, or at least I would limit my interest to women my age or older. I know that showing sexual interest in 20 year-old girls angers my wife.
I tell myself I have a right to be sexual. I will not deny it any longer.
When I bond with a woman, I can tell if she accepts me fully. I don’t need to make sexual moves to feel accepted physically. I feel wonderful if I am accepted in this way by a woman I find attractive.
If a woman shows interest in me, I feel bound to follow up on her interest or be a wimp. If I don’t follow up, it’s like admitting I can’t get it up. I am confessing to being nonsexual. All of my life I needed to feel openly sexual, but never felt free to be so.
My need for affirmation of my whole-being — that is, my need for attractive women to accept me, to acknowledge my sexuality — has been and is painful for my wife. She is certain I will act on the feelings and leave her.
She feels, I think, that if she allows herself to bond with men as I bond with women, I will take that as permission, If she allows herself to be sexual, I can be, too. So, she denies herself and suffers the pain of her jealousy.
I often think that if I was a healthy person, I would not need the attention of attractive women, I can’t get away from the feeling that my sexuality is bad.
My wife tells me she wants sole claim to my penis. I tell her that’s OK. Then she adds, “And all that goes with it,” and I say, “Now, just a minute.” Though she is teasing, I feel a flash of rebelliousness.
I feel I am taking a risk in saying all this.