12 Surprising Facts That Can Change How We Think About Male Sexuality
"It starts off good, but then it just never seems to end and becomes dull because he hardly ever finishes."
This was the concern voiced by a 19-year-old Monday in a letter to the Guardian's "Sexual Healing" advice column.
Focused as we tend to be on "finishing," this letter represents a familiar sexual worry. And it's just one item on a long male sexuality checklist that, taken together, comprise the concept of masculinity: "Big strong man, obsessed with sex." Men are always horny, want multiple partners and prioritize their ejaculation in any sexual encounter — and we assume it's because of how men and their bodies are wired.
But plenty of men don't fit into that tiny box, and it's not because they're weird. It's because male sexuality is more complicated than we realize. From penis size to Kegels (yes, Kegels), there's plenty about male sexuality and bodies that run counter to our assumptions. Knowing facts like the 12 below can help us loosen up that definition of masculinity — and maybe even bring us better sex.
1. Men don't always ejaculate.
Let's get this one out of the way now: Delayed ejaculation is a thing. As for what causes it, the U.S. National Library of Medicine lists everything from the psychological (religious neuroses, lack of attraction, too much masturbation) to the physiological (blocked semen ducts, drug use).
2. Their sex drives are just as varied as women's.
A lot of men actually don't want to get laid all the time — shockingly, sometimes women want it more. "In my opinion, we are socialized to think that men are always ready for sex and that's simply not true," Sofia Jawed-Wessel, a sex researcher and professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, told Mic. "Men and women are not as different in terms of sexual desire. The science shows fairly minimal discrepancy in sexual desire between couples and it's not always men who have more desire."
3. Guys can do Kegels.
"We often associate Kegels with women because of the toll the pelvic floor takes during pregnancy and childbirth, but Kegel exercises are simply flexing of the pelvic floor muscles. And everyone can benefit from a stronger pelvic floor," Jawed-Wessel said. "There isn't enough evidence yet to say if Kegels help with erectile difficulties, but there is some science to suggest a stronger pelvic floor can help with ejaculatory control and stronger orgasms. To do a Kegel, simply flex the same muscle you use to stop the flow of urine midstream."
4. They can have multiple orgasms.
Think multiple orgasms in one sexual experience are limited to women? In a recent article for Playboy, sex researcher Justin Lehmiller shed some much-needed light on this phenomenon, concluding that "the accumulated science to date reveals that this phenomenon is real, it is probably more common than we think, and it just might be a teachable skill."
The key is the "refractory period," in which the body recovers after climaxing — turns out there's a part of that period in which additional orgasms are actually possible.
5. Men don't need to have a boner to enjoy sex.
Not all sex requires penetration. In a 2014 article for Psychology Today, sex researcher Deborah Taj Anapol debunked the myth that erections are necessary for sexual play. "A semi-erect penis can be more sensitive to subtle sensations, and less driven to seek release," she wrote. "This allows a man to increase his capacity to experience and enjoy erotic sensations throughout his body and to contain more erotic energy which can eventually be shared with a partner, with or without penetration."
In fact, as author Hugo Schwyzer once blogged, "Erectile dysfunction made me much better in bed ... Losing my erections forced me to rethink my sexuality."
6. Men don't all want to have huge dicks.
Just ask the contestants of the annual Smallest Penis in Brooklyn pageant. Or any number of men who are into Small Penis Humiliation. Or this guy, who wrote a strongly-worded essay for Jezebel in 2011 all about why he hates his "giant dong." Plus, not all women want a partner with a massive penis. Everyone wins.
7. They have a proverbial "G-spot."
The female "G-spot" is still hotly debated, rooted in whether women can have vaginal orgasms. But the concept itself — a special spot deep inside, that can only be reached with penetration — exists for men too. As almost any gay dude can attest, it's just located about two inches up the ass. Yes, we're talking about the prostate.
8. ... and it can be stimulated.
Contrary to popular belief, anal play is hardly just a gay thing. (In fact, a 2011 study found that only 37.2% of gay men even reported having recently engaged in anal, with more reporting oral and partnered masturbation.)
"Pleasure during anal or prostate stimulation has nothing to do with sexual orientation," Jawed-Wessel said. "If a man finds prostate stimulation pleasurable, then wonderful — he's discovered something new to add to his sexual repertoire."
9. Men have their own version of menopause.
Hot flashes aren't just your grandmother's problem. While the phrase "male menopause" is something of a misnomer, research has shown that testosterone levels drop for many men as they age. One 2013 study indicated that testosterone treatment prescriptions for men over 40 more than tripled from 2001 to 2011.
10. Sexual fluidity isn't limited to women.
While the sexual fluidity movement is largely comprised of female voices, the "Kinsey Scale" knows no gender (which is kind of the point). Still, bisexual men often find themselves fighting against invisibility to the point where some ultimately reject the label altogether.
As college student Adam Lundquist wrote in a recent New York Times Modern Love essay, "While I had wondered what it would be like to be with a man, I had ignored that curiosity, assuming I was heterosexual only. But once I was able to see desire as being on a spectrum, on a sliding scale balanced by opportunity and risk, I no longer felt so alone."
11. Dudes get insecure about their bodies, too.
The correlation between body image and sex drive is typically seen as an exclusively female problem. Experts know this is bullshit, and so do guys like Chris Pratt. The Jurassic World star recently dropped a high-profile truth bomb, telling Men's Health UK that being overweight in the past had a seriously negative impact on his sex drive. "It will affect you, not just physically, not just the way you look," he said. "But how you feel and how your spirit feels and how your penis feels — especially the penis part!"
12. Not every guy can keep going and going and going...
While porn might have us believe that men are all about hours-long thrusting sessions, many men are simply not equipped to run that kind of marathon. As Rich Santos candidly wrote for Marie Claire in 2009, "When I'm on top too long, I have that feeling I had in Bikram Yoga: 'I don't know if I can handle this much longer.' I challenge myself to keep going, as if I was in the Army."
In other words? Men. Are. Human. And complicated. Even — especially — when it comes to sex.