04 Feb Men Working in Male Sexuality
I’ve invited a few of the men who work in the field of male sexuality to talk about their work and thoughts on sexuality. It’s only a beginning, there is so much to share and so much to figure out as this work progresses–I refer to my writing and work and the larger cultural shift around male sexuality. I want us to get real here at His Turn—to look at male sexuality in an informed and authentic way. This is the real stuff—not the things you’re going to read in pop culture-that sensationalized content with flashy headlines created to grab attention but provide little of real value. What drives men sexually and emotionally? What gets in the way? How are we going to change attitudes and open up larger conversations about sexuality—male and female? So many questions….
Here’s a brief introduction to my interviewees:
Les Kertay bills himself as ‘husband, dad, psychologist, and general geek’. His website, Dr. Les Kertay, is for men who find themselves asking “Now What?” Les and I have had a number of conversations about men and sexuality—he has a good handle on the topic, framed by experience, age and his own sensibilities.
David Mandell is a lawyer and businessman who, along with Dr. Andrew Siegel developed the Private Gym, a sexual health program for men. I had the pleasure of meeting David recently, here is my article about David and the Private Gym.
Paul Nelson is the man behind www.franktalk.org, the only non-commercial community for men with sexual function issues. His work there led him to start the Erectile Dysfunction Foundation, Inc. Paul is an AASECT certified sexual educator and a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant. He works in a large men’s sexual medicine practice in NY (www.wernermd.com).
Tell my readers a little about what you do and what brought you to this work.
Galen- I am a sex-positive therapist, advocate, writer, lecturer and sex researcher that specializes in understanding kink-oriented sexuality from a hetero-normative POV. With my clients, I focus on encouraging sexual empowerment (authentic sexual expression, honesty, confidence, presence, embodiment) and sexual healing (diminishing shame, fear, trauma or shadow behaviors resisting one’s authentic sexual expression).
In the larger culture my advocacy, writing and public speaking includes down to earth education about the complexities of D/s-BDSM sexuality and how it can be practiced in a healthy conscious manner. This includes perspectives on updating our outdated dating protocols that inhibit forthright sexual honesty and sexual negotiation at the outset. Learning to speak clearly at the outset, about what one desires…and does not, could help reduce disastrous erotic mismatches in long term relationships from starting, and lead to more intimacy, trust and sexual fulfillment in ongoing relationships.
In the academic and professional psychology realms, I advocate for the development of a supportive, non-pathological treatment model for individuals and couples that encourages clients to own and express their sexual truth honestly and be supported in untangling all the ways they have felt fear, shame or harsh self-judgments about their natural, innate and inherent sexual desire.
Les- There are two answers to this really, one professional and one more personal. Professionally, as a clinical psychologist I see a few areas where many therapists either don’t enquire at all or enquire in ways that are superficial. One of those areas is sexuality in all its nuanced manifestations. Put simply, often therapists don’t even ask questions about sexuality, and as something so central to our humanity that seems like a huge miss, especially with men who are reticent to talk about it unless given a very specific invitation to do so. I’m interested in helping to further the conversation about sexuality in an open, direct way, to improve the lives of couples but specifically for men, for whom there are even fewer resources.
More personally, I live in a polyfidelitous (from Walker via Wikipedia: Polyfidelity (also known as polyexclusivity) is a form of polyamory where all members are considered equal partners and agree to be sexually active only with other members of the group.) family, I’m a devoted ally of the LGBT community, and I’ve worked really hard to build strong, solid communication about sex and sexuality into my intimate relationships. This is one area where my personal and professional lives and interests come together. So what do I do? I write, work as a coach/therapist/pathfinder for men and for couples, and I promote healthy discussion of sexuality everywhere I can.
David- My background is not in sexuality, but I am honored to be working with so many wonderful professionals in the sexual health community. I became involved in the field of sexuality after developing the Private Gym – – the first FDA registered pelvic muscle exercise program for men. I am an exercise enthusiast and began experimenting with Kegel exercises more than three years ago. It was through this process that I learned much more about my body, my sexuality, and the muscles that control my sexual health and function. I also realized – – as men – – we know so little about this area of our body, and it dawned on me that we exercise every other muscle group, except the muscles that not only control the part of the body that we seemingly care so much about, but also the part of the body that is responsible for so many problems as we age. It was through the development of the Private Gym program that I also realized men have so few resources when it comes to sexual health. I often quote Paul Nelson, sexual educator and member of The Private Gym Medical Advisory Board, “men get all of the drugs and none of the therapy, while women get all of the therapy and none of the drugs.” For men, there are so few resources, so few people to talk to. This has become my passion and a driving force behind the mission of The Private Gym as a company – – to expand the conversation about men’s sexual health, to encourage men to talk about sexual health, to get men more connected to their sexual health through exercise, and to provide all natural solutions to many of the sexual problems that affect men as they age.
Paul- I am a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant in a large men’s sexual medicine practice. As the sexuality educator in the practice, I am part of the intake process where I get a sexual history on each patient. Working with the doctor and the medical treatment, we integrate the medical and sexological treatments in a holistic approach. We educate men about their bodies, about their sexuality, how to have sex, how to masturbate, how to embrace their sexuality and integrate it into every aspect of their lives. Part of our focus is to teach men to learn to express their sexuality in many other ways than simply intercourse. While we are treating their sexual issues, we want them to maintain an active fulfilling sex life, even if medically, they are not yet fully functioning.
I also work as a collaborative expert at the Mt. Sinai Hospital Men’s Health Center in their penile rehabilitation program where I instruct men in penile physical therapy, injection therapy, vacuum therapy, masturbation therapy and sexuality education. Most of these men are post-prostate cancer patients. While much of my work is medically focused here, I still teach the men how to have sex without a working penis. I did not mean to get into this field; it was a total accident. I had prostate cancer at age 46 and during treatment, experienced an enormous amount of support from many areas. After surgery, with the resultant ED, I discovered there were absolutely no support resources – everything was a commercial.
I launched www.franktalk.org, still the only non-commercial community for men with sexual function issues. Out of that grew the Erectile Dysfunction Foundation, inc, (501c3) the only patient organization for men with sexual dysfunction. I was forced to learn everything about sexual dysfunction and treatment along the way, and was told by several doctors that I should get into the field. I further discovered that the biggest trauma to men was not the medical trauma, but the sexual trauma of discovering that everything they had been sexually, was no longer reality. Treating the men from a sexological standpoint was far more helpful than just the medical treatment alone.
Jon- I am a writer, editor, broadcaster and blogger. My road to writing specifically about sex started out as a trip through sexuality. I did a lot of work in the queer community that, more and more, I began focussing on sex-related issues. When I put a big push into my erotic fiction, I knew I wanted to put my energies into sex writing and more.
What do you think men are looking for when they look for content about sex? Or maybe the better question is, what’s missing in our conversations about sex that men want to hear?
Galen- I want to encourage men…and women… to raise your authentic sexuality out of the shadows to its rightful place alongside of your intellect, emotion, creativity and spirit as an integral aspect of your personality. Most men have been socialized to keep their authentic sexuality on a leash, where it is kept hidden, feared, secreted, shamed and harshly judged. It is your birth-right to embrace, honor, bless, love and advocate for your personal sexuality. Start there. Claim what is yours. Start to bring it into your own aware, benevolent acknowledgment. Welcome it out of the wasteland of your shadowy unconscious sexuality that holds all the projections placed on it – sex-addict, deviant, disgusting, creepy, selfish, rapist and every dark projection imaginable. If you are an honorable and conscious man, your sexual authenticity does not deserve to be so vilified, unloved, hidden and scorned. Hold it up to the light and cheer! Know that somewhere out there in the gene pool are plenty of cohorts who will respect and admire your sexual honesty, if not be ecstatically turned-on by your desire. It is impossible to simplify something as complex as our sexual natures in a brief paragraph. My intention is to stimulate your natural yearning to be fully authentic, so you can begin your own inquiry into your erotic depths. For me, in simplest terms, this means developing a personal practice that supports whatever the authentic desire is and untangles and diminishes whatever resists, judges or fears the conscious expression of the desire.
Les- Tolerance and interest. Too much of the conversation starts with an accusation – sometimes veiled and sometimes not-so-veiled – that men never talk about sex, or they don’t talk about feelings, or they don’t communicate effectively about either sex or emotion. Yet often, when men take that accusation as an invitation to open up, and do, the response is met with repulsion or fear or hostility. In my experience, people – women in particular – don’t really want to hear what men have to say when they do talk about sex and sexuality. Male sexuality is somehow “icky” and threatening in ways that I don’t think we as a culture feel about female sexuality, and so men are being asked to open up into a conversation in which they end up feeling unwelcome. Granted, I’m generalizing, but I think what men want most in a conversation about sex is the same as what women want: they want to be heard, and accepted for where they are, even when where they are isn’t quite where anyone would like them to be.
David- I think it goes beyond reading and writing. In my opinion, men need more people to talk to about sexual health, sexual problems, and sexual desires. There needs to be more of a mainstream, national discussion and dialogue. If you think about it – – it is well accepted for women to use sex toys, but it isn’t for men, particularly straight men. We can say vagina on daytime TV, but talking about the penis is not encouraged. Men are never taught how to have sex or what to do – – it is just expected that we perform (but perform what and how?). Do we learn from porn? Unfortunately, yes, to some extent (but that is a much larger debate). If we have a sexual problem or issue as a young man, we keep it to ourselves, we don’t talk about it. Who would we talk to anyway? Our friends? What do they know – – – they are in the same position. We don’t talk to our General Practitioner about sex. We typically don’t see a urologist until late in life – and they are primarily surgeons. The fact is, there are just so few resources for men and there in lies the problem. So what is missing? Just about everything. For this reason, I think it is incumbent on everyone in the sexual health industry to help change the national discourse. Let’s make men’s sexual health a more acceptable and mainstream topic.
Paul- I have no answers at all! I have zillions of questions. In talking to men, what I’ve noticed:
- Men want affirmation that they are normal, OK, and they are not alone
- Men want concrete, explicit, direct, blunt, direction and instructions.
- Male sexuality is FAR more diverse and fluid than anyone is writing about.
- Men have been sexually shamed for being men.
- Men desperately want to please and gain approval; Often, at their own sexual expense.
- Men want connection at a deep level with their partner.
- Men want to talk about sex; they just can’t find a safe place.
- Men are trying to live up to all the lies they have been told about sex, about what their sexuality should look like, about what partner’s want, about what good sex is, about their body, about their fantasies, desires, and activities.
- Men seem to be afraid of being perceived as gay – especially by their female partners.
- Men limit their sexual expression to their penis, because anything else is perverted or gay.
Jon- I am going to be blunt: I have no idea what men are looking for in sex writing. The vast majority of my interaction with readers has shown me that most are female. I‘ve tried male-focussed content, including male sex toy reviews and sharing articles but still, feedback is mostly from women. So, what are we missing? What do men want to read? What I think men want is a voice that speaks, more clearly, to the average guy. The content is there for all of us—and there are men who want it. But I‘m not sure that the blogger or sexologist voice is what speaks to the average guy.
Galen Fous MTP: As a sex-positive transpersonal therapist and educator over the last 15 years I have worked with hundreds of men, women and couples who sought support to be honest and empowered in who they are sexually, and heal from the decades of fear, shame and judgments that held their authentic desire back. I have a Master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. My innovative Sex-Research Survey – Discover Your Personal Erotic Myth, has over 1800 fascinating and revealing responses so far uncovering the depths of the sexual psyche. I regularly present at a variety of Sexuality related Conferences, grad and undergrad psychology programs at colleges and universities, and have been interviewed and written for numerous media for my innovative views on conscious sexuality and the nature of Fetishsexuality.
Info about my first book The Sharp Edge of Love can be found here. My new book The Key Foundations for Conscious Kink Relationships will be out early Spring. I am also the inventor of the Tetruss Portable Dungeon, Suspension Bondage Rig & Sex Swing – the world’s most versatile adult toy. My private coaching/counseling practice is located in Portland, OR. For more info see GalenFous.com.
Les Kertay is a husband, dad, psychologist, and general geek. He’s been in business long enough and successfully ridden the waves of change often enough to have reinvented himself a time or two, or forty, having gone from private practice to corporate leader to solopreneur consultant and personal guide. He brings expertise in health & productivity, sexuality, and behavioral principles together in a unique view as he helps individuals and businesses get better. These days he’s especially interested in men and their experience as they age and find themselves asking, “Now what?” He currently works independently with individuals and companies as a consultant, coach, and guide. Learn more about him on his ever-evolving site at DrLesKertay.com, or follow him on Facebook at dr.les.kertay or Twitter- @drleskertay.