About last night: Should I feel guilty for being a man?

June 5, 2017

Q: The majority of sexual predators, violent criminals, abusers of women etc, etc, are men, and women get annoyed when men protest that it isn’t all men. I’m a man who is definitely not doing any of these bad things, but I end up feeling guilty, and wanting to apologise for being a “person with a penis”.

A: The website Good Men Project was set up by men who are striving to counter many of the negative traits associated with being male. Recently, retired therapist Jed Diamond posted an article examining the truism that “all men want is sex”. He argues that “there’s something that is more important than sex, but it’s something that men have difficulty admitting and women have difficulty giving.”

In “What Men Want More Than Sex”, which focuses on heterosexual relationships, Diamond explains that we are conditioned to believe that wanting a lot of sex is manly. Many men would rather be seen as “a jerk who is totally preoccupied with sex than to want something more than sex and be seen as less than a man”.

Some of this is biological. Whether we are peacocks or people, he says, we strut our stuff and hope it’s good enough to get us chosen by the woman we go after.

This process involves competition with other men, and the risk of being rejected, which can leave a man feeling vulnerable. By the time they reach adulthood many men, he says, “feel battered and bruised by the world of competition and rejection. We long for that safe harbour where we don’t have to pretend to be something we’re not in order to be chosen. We long for someone who sees us for who we are and wants us anyway, who can hold us and touch, not just our body, but our hearts and souls.

“Sure, there is the physical pleasure, but there is a deeper need that is being satisfied. Getting taken into her body gives us a sense of peace and homecoming that goes way beyond simple sexual pleasure.

Men yearn, Diamond says, for “the feeling of being nurtured that most of us didn’t get enough of when we were children. But admitting these needs makes us feel like little boys, not big strong men.”

It is difficult for women to give that kind of intimacy. They have their own conditioning, and if a man is not trying to have sex with them they can believe that they are not attractive enough.

When a man wants to be held and nurtured it can trigger feelings that they are dealing with a boy, not a man. As some women say, “It’s like I’ve got three children – two kids, and my husband”.

There is another, extremely serious, obstacle.

“Women fear men who don’t feel manly. They know that the most violent men are men who feel weak and powerless. They’ve often had experiences of men allowing themselves to be gentle and vulnerable, only to have them respond with anger and rage later.”

Bringing about change is not easy.

“It takes a lot of time and maturity for men to admit to themselves that they need a safe harbour where they can be nurtured and embraced by a woman. It takes a lot of courage to let his woman know he may want sex, but more important is his need for security, love, and nurture. It requires a level of wisdom to know that allowing ourselves to be as vulnerable as a child may be the manliest thing a man can do.”

Women also need to be willing to move beyond their own conditioning, says Diamond. A woman should try to be “open to a man who is making himself vulnerable in new ways. She must have a great deal of self-love and self-confidence to accept being a safe harbour. She must also have the strength to protect herself, when his shame at being vulnerable turns to anxiety, anger, or depression. It isn’t easy for men and women to take these kinds of risks, but the pay-off is a lifetime of deepening love and intimacy.”

Email your questions to abtlastnight@gmail.com

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