Ever since early adolescence I’ve been hormonally constituted to be fascinated, mesmerized, entranced, intoxicated, infatuated and enthralled with the female body. Yet, even before the onset of puberty I found myself drawn to girls in the arena of personal relationships and intimate connection.
When it came to the realm of physical activity comprised of running, jumping, tackling and working together as a team I totally preferred the company of boys. In adolescence, in terms of intellectual, scientific and philosophical discourse I once again preferred the company of men.
Yet, what mattered to me most was how to maximize the quality of personal experience through consistently deriving joy form both body and mind. The time and energy, care and devotion, women spent processing their thoughts and feelings regarding their relationship with others as well as themselves I found highly captivating and fulfilling. In many ways this processing of relationship became the core of my definition of intimacy, and intimacy became the center of both the way I lived in the world and how I found meaning and fulfillment in life.
My love affair with the female body and feminine personality were not relegated to a specific type or ideal. The female body and the many varied ways woman had of processing their thoughts and feelings I found endlessly stimulating and refreshing. They were the fruit that I longed to savor and desire whether they be peach, plum, watermelon, pomegranate, grape or berry.
Despite enjoying the cornucopia of the pleasures offered through their intimate company, I never had a problem being loyal and devoted to any woman willing to match my intensity and devotion to intimate sharing. Every visceral, sensual, emotional and intellectual experience of my life became richer and more fulfilling when shared with a partner. I always felt it a touching privilege to be included in the processing ritual that forms the basis of most feminine relationships.
In activities I preferred the company of men, and in conversation and relationships I preferred the company of women. Viewing and experiencing the female life style as having more options and freedoms I greatly envied the female role in society. In the early 60’s the women’s movement with its emphasis on improving the quality of life, consciousness raising, respect for all human life and maximizing one’s experience of love and intimate relationships filled me with hope. I felt that men were imprisoned by work and oppressed by bosses and gender expectations.
Life in the Sixties
I grew up in a town where the great majority of men worked in factories and/or held down two or more jobs in order to make ends meet allowing their wives to stay home and provide the children with a safe and loving environment. Though this wasn’t always the reality, it did fit most of the lower middle class and middle class homes with which I was familiar.
A man’s life, I was often told, and as it appeared to me, centered around three things, duty, sacrifice and alienation. Duty and sacrifice were often spoken of with a sense of pride and purpose. Alienation was talked about in pop psychology, talk shows, the theater and in political messages espoused by unions, marxist and socialist groups, the intelligentsia, and dramatic plays. Death of A Salesman was probably the most powerful play I saw on TV during my childhood, and my father’s frustration, anger and depression seemed to bore testament to his sense of alienation.
My dad was so often very absent and emotionally damaged by his war experience. He would occasionally wake up from nightmares wailing and speaking in Italian in very anxious tones. I have no memory of him speaking to me let alone doing an activity with me, and even when punishing us with belts and switches he never made physical contact with us.
My dad often worked two jobs during my developmental years. My mom, while a busy homemaker, was able to work according to her own schedule and found time to engage in joys during the day such as watching her favorite TV programs and visit neighborhood friends. When I was three and four years old and my brother and sister were at school I had my best times with my mother (who had her own volatility and mental health issues). I would listen to my mom talk to herself and to the TV programs, and I often accompanied her as she walked or traveled by bus to visit friends. My mom loved to cook and the aromas of childhood were dominated by the nurturing smells of food that lingered in the house for hours.
When I was eight my mom decided that she was no longer needed in the home full time and she began to work. My sister, then fourteen, was asked to help out with the cooking and cleaning. and my brother and I were expected to maintain our rooms and make our own breakfast and lunch. My dad’s only objection was that it would make him look incompetent and a failure at providing for his family. Yet, he quickly adjusted to having more free time and not having the entire financial burden placed upon himself.
Since the late 70’s and early 80’s it has been fashionable to focus on how reluctant men are to help out around the house when their spouse goes to work. While this was true in my dad’s case it was also true that when my dad worked two jobs my mom did not help out or take on any of the traditional male tasks. In addition to working anywhere from sixty to eighty hours a week, my dad took care of the lawn, cleaned the gutters, put up screens and storm windows, and did most of the strenuous outdoor activity. Though not good with his hands he fixed all broken items in the home, for we had no money to hire out for professional or trade services. In essence none of this division of labor changed no matter how many hours of work my dad did each week, or when my mom took on an outside job.
I was mot enamored with the male role which I not only experienced in my family but witnessed in pretty much every home in our factory town. While I often saw and talked to my friends mothers, their fathers were generally not present or when present they were busy doing some chore or task. It is true that the men went to clubs and belonged to social organizations, but they usually were dominated by drinking and for group protection and alliances in the labor, religious and political arenas. The handful of times I accompanied my dad to these functions I found them generally bereft of amy intimate conversation though at times there was bonding via humor, story telling and rallying against common enemies or concerns.
Intellectually stimulating conversation was difficult to come by in my youth, and I sought and established friendships with peers who were interested in and willing to engage in thoughtful and intimate conversation. Rarely was I present in a home in which the parents demonstrate a vested interest in their child’s and their child’s friends thought and feelings. The exception to this was my Jewish friends whose families engaged in interesting and thought provoking conversation.
Years of Social Change
I couldn’t relate to my mom’s sense of being bored and having too much free time which greatly influenced her decision to go to work. Shortly after my mom went to work the women’s movement became a part of the mainstream social discussion. I found the entire movement quite encouraging and it gave me hope that men, and not only women, would be able to seek a better quality of life. The early dialogue in the women’s movement focused on quality of life issues such as consciousness raising, intimate relationship, self-discovery and finding and engaging in activities which improved and fulfilled oneself infusing their life with a sense of joy and meaning.
In my junior high years a feminist mom of one of my classmates initiated monthly assemblies where we would listen and discuss important social issues such as the war, poverty, the good society, and how to find meaning in one’s life. I was convinced that the women’s movement was going to free both men and women by providing everyone with options and replacing labor and sacrifice with intimacy and personal growth.
Shortly before I graduated high school the focus of the women’s movement turned towards the economic freedom of having jobs and careers and turned away from quality of life issues. I felt betrayed as the movement abandoned self-actualization and intimacy and replaced by an obsession with joining the workforce and receive equal pay. I could not fathom why women would aspire to live in the world that so many men experienced as a repressive prison. Why would anyone who was seeking intimacy and a better quality of life make alienating labor its core goal?
In my eyes the humanist and feminist goal of creating a society fostering human fulfillment and self-actualization was being replaced by everyone being imprisoned by a life dominated by alienating and stifling labor.
Honoring Everyone’s Sexual Nature
In the fist couple of paragraphs I discussed how I was drawn to and desired to be intimate with the female body and value system. Data and conversations I had with my male friends amply demonstrated that I was not alone with this visceral, emotional and psychological attraction to women. The male sex drive is a powerful hormonal tempest that often dominates many men from puberty well on into adulthood. Sexual desire and the desire to have an intimate relationship with a woman is hard wired into the average heterosexual male.
We have come a long way in terms of understanding, accommodating and sometimes even celebrating the complex biological and hormonal feminine world. The bulk of men and women understand that the hormonal premenstrual changes in the average female influence mood, emotional tenor as well as sensual sensitivities and thought process. We also have begun to understand and accommodate the hormonal and emotional changes engendered during peri-menopause. Only a small portion of people would consider the emotional, physical and psychological changes to be a matter of choice, or a personal problem and handicap. While the hormonal changes are not experienced by everyone in the same manner and intensity, we would not say that they are fictitious or something a woman just needs to overcome.
We also have come a long way in realizing that sexual orientation, identity and sexual appetites are less about choice and more about biochemistry and genetics. One does not choose to be gay anymore than one chooses to be heterosexual.
We have much data regarding the harms caused when one suppresses, denies, or resents their sexual identity and preferences. Depression and even suicide are common reactions to sexual repression, yet often it can also lead to perversion, aggression, and physically harming self and others. There are numerous biochemical and emotional benefits for those who live a healthy and rewarding sex life. The sense of joy and connection not only benefits one’s self-esteem, but also improves one’s personal health, psychological perspective and ability to feel and express compassion.
The heterosexual sex drive is just as biological and inherent as that of gays, lesbians and transgenders. It is just as vital for heterosexual men to have their biological imperatives honored. Similar emotional, psychological and social problems emerge when the male sex drive is repressed, prohibited, suppressed and demonized and when men are told to overcome and transcend their sex drive through will power.
There is a tendency in the feminist narrative to decry the male sex drive in a host of negative frames. The male sex drive objectifies females. The male sex drive is often equated with a male need for power and control. The unrefined (non repressed) male sex drive leads towards violence and aggression. The negative bias towards the male sex drive includes feelings that for a man to be sexually healthy he need to curb his sex drive and become in touch with his feminine side.
While we have acknowledged the ill effects of long term suppression, denial and repression of one’s sexual identify, desires and appetites with the LGBT populations we have generally ignored or at least minimized the effects of repression and rejection on the emotional and psychological health of the heterosexual male. It has been rather common knowledge that from the onset of puberty through a sizable portion of adulthood the average heterosexual male’s life is frequently dominated by sexual thoughts, desires, urges and fantasies. Decades of scientific research have identified many of the hormonal and biochemical processes which render sexual intercourse a biological imperative for a great portion of adolescents and men.
The average adolescent and young adult male’s life being dominated by sexual impulses is also dominated by feelings of rejection and repression in that the goal of their daily and hourly impulses are denied and rebuffed. Is it any wonder that many men who have spent the greater portion of their adolescent and adult life being rejected and often vilified for their “preoccupation” with sex have a hard time staying emotionally invested and engaged?
One’s sexuality and sexual nature is core to both one’s self-concept and satisfaction in life. One’s sense of joy, pleasure, intimacy and meaning is highly impacted by and structured in one’s sexual sensibilities. The appreciation, understanding, compassion for an individual’s sexuality and sexual identity is just as important for heterosexual males as it is for any other sexual preference and identity.
All people and genders are negatively impacted by repression and suppression in any arena including that of sex drive and identity. The list of ways in which these repressions and suppressions manifest themselves is quite lengthy and would include various forms of active and passive aggression, inhibitions, perversions, obsessions and compulsions. Accommodating and helping people’s sexual natures find healthy expression and satiatIon benefits all and leads to better mental and physical health.
I am particularly distressed by the growing feminist perspective that many men are being labeled misogynists. The hormonal biochemistry of the heterosexual male sex drive is not based on hatred, but on attraction, intimacy, desire, passion, connection and devotion. Anger, hatred, abuse and violence are more often the products of repression, suppression, rejection, denial and desperation.
The male sex drive has been the core of all that I cherish and gives meaning to my life. It it what propels me towards finding intimate relationships with others. The biochemistry of sexual fulfillment and orgasm, is central to my experience of pleasure, beauty, passion, empathy, joy and intimacy. Yet, these marvels of being human have often come from my ability to withstand the censure and negative bias of a repressive society that tries to have me deny or transcend my sexual desires. I look about me and do not find many other males who have been able to embrace their sexual natures in a personally fulfilling manner. The road to personal happiness and social harmony is best navigated by understanding and compassion and not with anger, prohibition, and intolerance. The male sex drive is in dire need of a bit of compassion and understanding, and the potential benefits in terms of social harmony are hard to overestimate.