06 Nov Male Sex Writers- An Interview with Dr. Stephen Snyder
American society always had a double standard when it comes to sex and men. And, it applies to the world of sex writing as well—though in this case it’s reversed. In real life men have sex when they want and women are not expected to actively seek out sex. In writing we rarely see men openly discussing sexual pleasure or sharing their thoughts and experiences. Why are most of the voices talking about sex women? Is it because we’re just naturally talkative or is it something deeper?
With this idea in mind I asked Dr. Stephen Snyder to talk about this topic with me. Dr. Snyder is a psychiatrist with a specialty in sex therapy. He practices in New York City and writes for his own blog and on PsychologyToday
Dr. Snyder, why do you think men are reluctant to write about their sexuality and thoughts on sex? You suggest that one reason might be how we view men–as predators. And, having been raised in the era of “watch out for men…protect yourself…they only want sex…” I understand that rationale.
A really revolutionary article came out in the June 2014 journal Nature Methods—not that I routinely read Nature Methods, but it was big enough news to make The Washington Post, and then on to twitter.
A series of ground-breaking experiments in mice showed that the mere presence of a male OF ANY SPECIES STUDIED—humans, rats, guinea pigs, cats, and dogs, as well as unfamiliar mice—was enough to cause anxiety in laboratory mice. The researchers showed that this effect was mediated through scent. The scent given off by males of a variety of mammalian species just seemed to make mice more anxious.
Now of course it’s risky to cross species lines, but this study just makes so much intuitive sense. People naturally feel less threatened by women than by men—both sexually and otherwise. I think this gives female sex writers much more latitude in expressing themselves. I do find now that I’m approaching sixty years old, though, that women are more relaxed in my presence. I have female patients whom I’m pretty sure would not have felt comfortable being in treatment with me when I was 35.
What if one of the ways to defuse the tension and misunderstanding about men as predators was to encourage men to be more honest about their sexual experiences? Wouldn’t we hear a more balanced view?
Men are often quite insecure sexually. But it’s different. As a generalization, women tend to be insecure about their power to attract. Men worry about their ability to perform.
There are really two kinds of sex writing–the personal exposition and the sex education writing? Agreed? Jon Pressick, the man with the classic pin-up pose writes and curates content on a wide range of sexually related topics. A good portion of his content falls in the category of sex education. In that instance it would seem less threatening for men to write about sex–and yet we don’t see men going there–maybe a few academic types but there isn’t much in between.
It’s more culturally acceptable for women to revel in pleasure, including sexual pleasure.
“Oh my God that sex toy was wonderful. I came so hard with it.” That sounds great when a woman says it.
But imagine a man saying it. It doesn’t sound right. It sounds icky.
We’re very funny about men experiencing pleasure for its own sake. And DEFINITELY funny about men masturbating. Female sex writers these days write endlessly about their masturbation. Betty Dodson made a video of women masturbating called “Self-Loving Divas.” No one will ever call a masturbating man a “self-loving diva.” It just doesn’t happen.
Men are supposed to work hard, compete, serve, and achieve great things — not revel in the delights of their bodies.
A certain male sex writer once posted an image of himself nude by a roaring fire in a fireplace, holding a glass of wine. I was impressed. I figured he must be a really evolved human being. But still it just felt odd. After all, women are supposed to luxuriate naked in front of fires. Men are supposed to be out chopping the wood!
It’s fine if as a doctor I write about sex. That’s an acceptable male role. It has the connotation of “work.” But my thoughts on the subject wouldn’t be of much interest to anyone otherwise. Women are the natural guardians of sexual space.
It’s hard for me to agree with the idea that women ‘own’ sex given that so many female writers report being attacked or shamed, called bad names, and taunted for being open about sex. No man is ever put down by his tribe, or our society, for being sexual—in fact it is expected. In a room of 100 women probably less than 10% would say they owned sex–we don’t have that understanding of heterosexual relationships. I think the increase in female sex writing is a positive thing. To talk openly about masturbation when so many women have felt shame about it (as have men) and been unable or unwilling to get in touch with their bodies–this is a healing process. We assume men masturbate. That’s not an assumption we have about women.
You’re right. A man who wrote openly about sex wouldn’t get “slut-shamed.” He might just be ignored.
In the sex therapy world, where the majority of the professional community is female, a man is a member of a minority that’s seen as potentially dangerous. To be accepted in the female-centered world of sex therapy professionals, he must avoid spontaneous expressions of sexual feeling. His female colleagues don’t have to constrain themselves in this way. A woman at a sex therapy meeting could say, “yes, that really turns me on,” and that spontaneous expression of sexual feeling might be accepted and even celebrated. I believe that for a man to admit that something in the moment really turns him on would not be so accepted, and would certainly not be celebrated.
You point out that we celebrate female sexuality but not male. I think you are correct and I’m saddened by that. The ability to accept and encourage male expression of sexuality would go a long way towards lessening the idea of men as predators–if “we” can sit with our discomfort long enough to find acceptance. What do you think?
Women sex writers go on at length about their sexual feelings. And they appear on their blogs and on twitter in all sorts of suggestive poses. Male sex writers don’t do that.
Why is that? Are women overcompensating and overexposing themselves as they try to ‘catch up’ in a world where men have always been acknowledged as having sexual desire? And, why is it that we feel so squeamish about men writing about sex when we’ve accepted for centuries that men enjoy sex? Is there another double standard that applies to the written word?
It may be less of a stigma for a man to admit sexual desire, but it would be more of a stigma for a male sex therapy professional to write about desire. As I mentioned above, male desire tends to be seen as uncomfortable and potentially dangerous—unless it’s directed by a particular man towards a particular woman who’s interested in being desired by him—in which case it’s permitted. But only then.
Dr. Snyder and I didn’t reach any conclusions about why there are so few male sex writers or the challenges for men in expressing their sexuality. I’d love to hear your thoughts, particularly my male readers.