Male Sexual Desire is More Complex than You Think

Jokes abound about the relative simplicity of cis men’s sex drives. How many of us have heard some version of, “Men are like microwaves while women are like slow cookers”? In addition to excluding LGBTQ+ individuals, statements like this shame anyone who doesn’t fit within their limited bounds. Plus, they’re plain inaccurate. A growing body of research challenges this narrative and supports what sex educators have been saying forever: oversimplifying sex for anyone hurts the pursuit of freedom in pleasure for all.

Debunking a male-centric model of sexuality

As a society, America relies on a male-centric model of sexuality. This model shapes expectations about what a “good” and “normal” sex life looks like. It tells us things like:

  • Desire is spontaneous (it’s not)
  • Someone’s physical arousal tells us if they’re ready or in the mood (it doesn’t)
  • Sexual response moves in a linear direction, from excitement to plateau to orgasm…and then sex ends
  • Orgasm needs to happen during penis-in-vagina intercourse

Both anecdotal evidence and academic research show that this isn’t how sex typically works for women. And, it turns out, it may not be how sex works for men either!

Cognitive, emotional, and seuxal funcitoning, as well as cultural variables, affect cis men’s sexual interest

A recent study examined if factors beyond the physical—thoughts, cultural messages about sex, and socially determined expectations—impacted the participants’ level of sexual desire.

The researchers surveyed 450 heterosexual Italian men, who filled out surveys on their sexual desire, orgasm experiences, erections, and more. Then researchers calculated which of these factors impacted sexual desire and found four:

  1. Negative and distractive sexual thoughts (e.g. performance anxiety, erection concerns)
  2. Memories of pleasurable feelings symbolized by the orgasm (e.g. feeling connected to their partners, having fun)
  3. Positive emotions experienced during sex (e.g. having fun, feeling close to a partner)
  4. Gender and sexual expectations (e.g. having to initiate, needing a hard penis)

Click here to find out what that means for your sex life.