Men’s Fear of Sexual Inadequacy with Dr. Avrum Weiss

Published On: June 20, 2023|Categories: Advice for Men, Dating Tips, Sex and Intimacy|9 min read|

Video Summary

This week, Dr. Avrum Weiss sits down with Master Certified Matchmaker Genevieve Gresset to discuss the long overdue topic of men’s fears of being sexually inadequate in a relationship. The stigma revolving around sexual performance, along with being intimately repressed, can lead to anxiety over “not being good” in the bedroom.

Video Transcript

Genevieve: Hello and welcome back to our channel. I’m Genevieve Gresset, and some viewers might recognize me as one of the matchmakers for Married at First Sight in the U.K. And today I’m here with Dr. Avrum Weiss, and he’s a speaker, a psychologist, and the award winning author of the book Hidden in Plain Sight. We’re going to be talking and I’m very excited to be deep diving with you on men and their emotional state, especially the sexual side, which is often one of the sides that doesn’t really get that much coverage or conversation. It’s a sensitive topic and we want to uncover a little bit about what’s made men so afraid of under-performing in the bedroom.

Dr. Weiss: Yeah, I’m glad we’re talking about it because I agree with you. It’s something we don’t talk about nearly enough.

Genevieve: So when we think about that, you’ve written an article that was published in Psychology Today recently, and one of the things I’m going to quote: “Sexuality for men is often filled with more anxiety than pleasure and more focused on performance and pleasing their partner and their own pleasure is often overlooked.” So I wanted to sort of start with that and see what your thoughts and feelings for that.

Dr. Weiss: It’s a good place to start. I think this is one of those areas where the stereotypes that we have of men couldn’t be more wrong. So the stereotypes typically about men sexually is that they’re to exaggerate somewhat, that they’re very self-centered and interested only in their own pleasure. In fact, if you look at the research that we have, when you ask men what’s important to you about sex, overwhelmingly they say pleasing their partner is the number one thing. So we have almost 180 degree misunderstanding. So you might wonder how does it come about that men are more interested in pleasing their partner, which is, I think, the question that you’re asking.

Genevieve: Absolutely. And why do you think that is? I mean, when we look at it from a psychology point of view, why do we think that’s more important to them than taking pleasure for themselves?

Dr. Weiss: I think because because primarily of the kind of gender role, social socialization that men are subject to. One of the pieces of that is sort of the message to men that your value to anyone else is pretty much limited to what you do for them. In other words, you don’t have value as a person. You have value because you earn an income, because you protect them, because you provide for them, because you take care of them. So then if you translate to the sexual relationship, then my value as a man to you becomes my capacity to please you, and my pleasure takes a backseat, if at all. This is why women often are put off by what can be a sort of almost obsessive preoccupation for men who are so focused on a woman’s pleasure, particularly whether or not she’s climaxed. That’s misunderstood, often as generousity, and in fact, it’s really more about validation and approval.

Genevieve: So what can women do in that situation to ease their man into feeling more confident and comfortable in the bedroom?

Dr. Weiss: That’s a great question, and I think that the first thing that comes to my mind is: probably not a lot at first. It’s probably going to take a while before there’s enough mutual comfort and trust before a woman might begin to introduce questions like: “This is fantastic. I really enjoy sex with you a great deal. But I’m also interested in knowing what do you like, what is exciting to you? What’s pleasurable to you?” I think unfortunately, it’s not just sexually, but men are often quite sort of divorced from pleasure in general. So I don’t think that women could approach the topic more generally about pleasure. It could also play out like: “You know what? You haven’t taken a nap in weeks and I know you really like to nap. I got this.” Or something like: “I’d love to make you a meal that you really enjoy.”

Genevieve: Yeah, that’s helpful. I think having these conversations are all well and good, but actually giving people the tools that they need to carry out what we’re talking about is really helpful. I mean, how can men broach the subjects with their partners as well? We’ve spoken about how women can and you’ve given some great ideas, but what about men vocalizing what they need and want in a relationship?

Dr. Weiss: I think yes, but there’s a step before that. Men vocalizing and broaching the subject with their partner of “I don’t think you have any idea of how anxious I am about sex with you.” It may not be visible to you because perhaps physically, logically, I appear just aroused and you may not know how worried I am about whether or not you are pleased with me.

Genevieve: Let’s face it, is a difficult topic to broach.

Dr. Weiss: And it is.

Genevieve: It is, I think it’s one we’ve already said is uncomfortable. Not many men, I feel, would be brave enough to even set that conversation up in the first place. So what advice would you give for them?

Dr. Weiss: Well, I want to start a half a step back and say something a little controversial, perhaps, which is that I think it’s a more frightening topic for a man in many ways than it is for women. Bear with me a moment. So first of all, if you just think about basic anatomy, sexual arousal, first of all, men have external genitalia. So men have always had to worry about their genitals being injured because they are external and subject to injury. But in terms of intimacy, sexual arousal or the lack of sexual arousal in a man is visible and right there for your partner to see or not see, whereas a woman’s sexual arousal is not as visible. Finally, if we’re talking about intercourse, which is, of course, not the only sexual act, but intercourse requires male arousal and not so much female arousal. So there is sort of some biology which sets it up for the man to feel, I think, a bit more of that performance anxiety, as we call it.

Genevieve: I totally get that. I think women feel it too, but in in totally different ways.

Dr. Weiss: Absolutely.

Genevieve: So in a world that unrealistically expects men to have this high libido and for women to have none, which I know you’ve spoken about in the article. What can couples do to prevent their sex lives from becoming a game of cat and mouse?

Dr. Weiss: That’s a great way of saying it. There’s an old saying, and I repeat it now because I think there’s often a lot of truth in old sayings. They don’t happen out of happenstance. The old saying is women have to feel loved to want to have sex and men have to have sex to feel loved. I think there’s a lot of truth in that, which explains why couples sort of sometimes miss each other. I think one way of talking about what you’re referring to is sort of polarization, like couples getting polarized into one is the one who wants sex and one is the one who doesn’t. So the alternative is to sort of mix and match some. So I think for many men, there are other physical connections besides intercourse, which are just as satisfying to men because really, at bottom level, what they’re looking for is more of a validation and connection. If it were just about an orgasm, don’t need a partner for that. So we know it’s about more than just that.

Genevieve: Can you give us some examples of that?

Dr. Weiss: I think the obvious one is sort of cuddling. I think men are often surprised at how good they feel when they are physically intimate with someone, but not sexually. It’s easy to misinterpret because men so often channel all of their needs for connection sexually. We then think men are sexually ravenous. But I think what we’re really looking at is “connection ravenous.” But it’s just the language I know it in , and I think if we think of it that way, then there’s lots of ways to satisfy that for couples when the woman may not be feeling particularly sexual.

Genevieve: So leading on from that then, and I will end with this one. What advice would you give to men and women who don’t feel particularly sexual or even feel sexually inadequate?

Dr. Weiss: It’s interesting the phrase you just use. It just occurred to me, as you said it like, I don’t think there is such a thing because there’s not a measure or a ruler or some metric of what adequacy is. You know, it’s how two people are happy with each other. So I think for men, somehow the culture creates a bar that they feel they need to measure up to. The New York Times did a really interesting story some years ago where they asked teenage boys, “Where did you learn about sex and what did you learn?” And then, of course, they said, “I learned about sex from pornography.” If you’re watching pornography, and if you’re a young man, what you think about sex is that penises are 12 inches long, men are insatiable, they’re a little rough, and women like crazy stuff. Someone told me today that their partner is excited when she tells her about being sexually attracted to other women. I hadn’t heard that before and it doesn’t matter that I haven’t heard before. It matters that she’s turned on by that. You’re two people with your own individual tastes, and that’s what matters.

Genevieve: So it’s about finding that compromise as to what works for you sexually as a couple, as well as the takeaway from this.

Dr. Weiss: Yeah, what matters to someone and the variety of ways that they can feel satisfied.

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