the masculinity of a sis-y man

After all this talk about similarities and differences and the problems with generalization, I got an email from someone describing her male partner’s comparative lack of experience, his history of erection problems, and his overall unsureness on the sex front. What should she do, she asked?

I said:

It sounds like what’s happening with your man is that he’s got the
brakes (SIS)
, and your job will be gradually and gently to help him disengage those brakes. My primary tip is that you should treat him as if he were a woman – go slow, be soft and extremely positive and warm and loving and supportive. This is instead of being assertive or dominant. Create lots of emotional space in which he can move forward. Lots of praise, lots of positive attention, lots of compliments and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that triggers his brakes – nothing threatening or too intense.

He sounds like a nice guy who may feel somewhat inadequate because his sexuality more closely resembles stereotypical feminine sexual response than stereotypical masculine response. This is a tricky situation because you must treat him the way one might typically treat a woman, while making him feel very confident in his masculinity.

All of which makes me think about how ladyfolks sometimes exacerbate menfolks’ sexual issues by bringing cultural expectations of masculine infallibility, perpetual arousal, and easy orgasm to the relationship. If things go wrong with a penis and you get all huffy or offended or hurt or judgmental or ANYTHING OTHER THAN ACCEPTING, OPTIMISTIC, AND CURIOUS just because you’ve been trained by society to believe that Real Men Don’t Lose Their Erections or Lose Control of Ejaculation or Take Too Long to Have Orgasms, you:

(1) make the problem worse by increasing perceived threats (your judgment etc)

(2) dehumanize your partner by not responding to him as an individual but instead as if he were the CATEGORY “male”

(3) practice a reduced degree of empathy and compassion, which leads eventually to a loss of respect.

In other words, learning to deal positively – confidently, joyfully – with penis shortfalls will both make the problem better AND improve your connection with your partner, both in bed and out. Which is good, right?

AND, as if you needed more motivation than that, when you are gentle with a man whose penis isn’t behaving up to par, you help to undermine sociocultural norms around gender roles! Better relationships and social revolution rolled into one. What could be better?