A Letter to Men - From a Sex Therapist

This letter is addressed to people with penises who identify as men. There are things I want you to share with you about sex that sex therapists know, but many people don’t. Sex therapists who are registered with COSRT are talking therapists. We learn a lot about sexual function and sexual problems and we help people with their sex lives. Let me tell you some things about sex that apply to people with penises.

  1. Erections are quite complicated things. It might seem like they happen easily (and sometimes when you don’t want them to!) but an erection involves many body and mind systems and can, therefore, not always go to plan. If you lose an erection during partnered sex – that is pretty normal and you are not a failure. You are probably anxious, drunk, distracted, not into your partner, not in the mood, too focussed on your partner or even too turned on. It takes time for an erection to be re-established if it has waned, or after ejaculation. So give yourself time. If you are worried about your erections, speak to your GP to rule out a biological cause. Erection problems can be the first sign of heart disease and diabetes, so it is important you get that checked out. Then speak to a sex therapist as unreliable erections with a psychological cause can easily be resolved.
  2. Coming quickly during partnered sex is not uncommon. In cave man days, coming quickly was a bonus as the male could impregnate more females and reduce the danger of being preoccupied when a predator came along. To meet the criteria for premature ejaculation a person needs to come within one minute of penetration. The average time to ejaculate after penetration is around 5 minutes. Many receptive partners don’t really want the penetrative part of sex to go on too much longer than that anyway. Distraction does not help with early ejaculation. Learning to notice the sensations in your penis is the way to last longer. If you are worried about premature ejaculation, speak to a sex therapist as it can be resolved quite easily.
  3. Let’s talk about porn. I hope I’m stating the obvious when I say that porn sex is not real sex. It is entertainment sex. Porn actors of all genders are going to have idealised bodies, just like movie actors do. Real bodies rarely match an ideal standard and everyone’s idea of ideal is different. Consent and contraception are rarely represented in porn and both are essential in real life partnered sex. Female porn actors are often depicted as being dominated, or ‘choked’, or ejaculated on. Obviously, that does not mean your real life sexual partners will want that. If you are into that stuff, that’s fine, so long as you check that your partners are too. Asking your partner what they would like sexually, even for a one night stand, is not just plain polite, it will result in better sex.
  4. Let’s talk about masturbation. It is perfectly normal for you to use porn to masturbate to. Occasionally though, treat yourself to porn free masturbation. Great sex comes from being able to focus on your own sensations, especially in partnered sex, so get some practice in by masturbating with no external stimulation, just focus on yourself and your thoughts. Don’t grip your penis too tightly when you masturbate. Or at least sometimes grip yourself less tightly. If you like having sex with people with vaginas, you might find the sensation of a vagina too different to your solo sex practices, as a vagina cannot replicate a very tight hand hold.
  5. Get clear on consent. If you get consent wrong you can get into a tremendous amount of legal difficulty, never mind the emotional upset you will cause yourself and your sexual partners. Consent is active – it’s a confident and clear ‘yes’ not just a ‘no’. It is ongoing and can be withdrawn midway through a sexual event. No-one has any right to continue if someone’s yes turns to a no. Please educate yourself on consent. Consent is important. Consent is sexy.
  6. If you want to have penetrative sex and be the person doing the penetration, buy quality lube and offer it to every person you have partnered sex with, whether you are planning to penetrate a vagina or an anus. It is not a failure for you or your partner to need lubricant. Vagina’s all lubricate to different levels. A person with a vagina can be very turned on and not get wet and vice versa. Anal sex requires lubrication. Anus’s don’t self-lubricate. Don’t buy flavoured lube; it has sugars in it that cause bacterial infections. Don’t use oil based lube with condoms as the oil can degrade the condom. Buy the good stuff and be that brilliant sexual partner who is happy to use it.
  7. Safer sex means wearing a condom. The ‘I don’t like condoms … It doesn’t feel the same’ argument is actually pretty lame. It leaves all the contraception responsibility to your partner, which is rude, and leaves you and your partners vulnerable to STI’s. Condoms may reduce your sensitively slightly, but that will help you last longer. It’s really not a big ask. I can guarantee you that you will have big feelings about unwanted pregnancies, abortions and children you are responsible for for life, not to mention contracting HIV or Herpes or an STI that affects your fertility - like all of them do.
  8. You are allowed to have all the same feelings as people with vaginas have. It is a complete myth that men are less emotional than women. I know there are expectations for men to be strong and emotionally contained but that does not mean you have to show no feelings at all. It is not a coincidence that the male suicide rate is dramatically higher than it is for females. Have your feelings. Talk to people about your feelings. Ask your mates how they are feeling. Ask them again when they say, ‘I’m fine’. And listen when they tell you the truth about how they feel.
  9. If you are a man and your gender identity or sexuality is not accepted by your family or culture, reach out for confidential support. There are many services and professionals out there who can listen to you, who will understand the challenges of your situation and who can become your safe community.
  10. If you are worried about anything sexual and don’t have anyone to speak to, you can access low cost, fully confidential, online sex therapy with our team at Sex Therapy Herts. It is not weak to talk. Opening up shows strength.
Blog Post written by:
Julie Sale
CICS Course Director and Psychosexual Psychotherapist