Sexlosteem: How Men Can Overcome
Sexlosteem is the manner in which you become self-conscious of your body and performance during intimate and sexual experiences with your partner. This can lead to moments of distance when interacting with your partner causing increased distance due to your feelings of insecurity about your body, losing yourself in pleasing your partner, performance anxiety, inability to become vulnerable and communicate those experiences with your partner, and/or having your needs lost in the process. These factors make it impossible for you to be tapped into a heightened sexual experience due to your lack of presence. The problem that the lack of presence has on your partner may not be noticeable or understood by you. As discussed before in Sexlosteem, how you evaluate yourself effects how your partner responds to you. If your view is negative, your sex life as well as intimate moments are in danger. You and your partner may have created a pattern that justifies your Sexlosteem without either of you knowing it. Your partner may overcompensate by making adjustments during intimate moments which may make you feel better, but can become daunting for your partner overtime (see tip on Sexlosteem: What it Looks Like Overtime). This tip will allow you to discover the masks that you wear in order to cover up your vulnerability. Your self-evaluation can either elevate or pull you down. When you are confident your body language, speech, and ability to receive criticism and feedback are positively accentuated. When you lack confidence your insecurity will show in your body language, speech, ability to receive feedback, and in your behavior.
Sexlosteem Men vs. Women
Men and women experience differences in societal pressures to exhibit certain behaviors in order to fit a common mold. Historically, just as a woman’s beauty was seen to be in the eye of the beholder, a man’s behavior was too seen in the eye of the beholder. Currently, not only does a man’s behavior hold clout but so does his status and appearance. Society plagues a male’s behavior by expecting him exhibit certain behaviors or look a certain way in order to consider him a “real” man; and as for his looks we all heard the phrase, “Tall, dark and handsome”, when describing an ideal mate. Our society denotes that a “real man” is tall, strong, handsome, independent, successful, intelligent, and a fixer of things (whether machines or situations). From these expectations came misconceptions about men that may stray from the mold. For example, some people may believe if a man talks about his feelings or cries he is weak; if he pays close attention to his appearance he is a metro sexual; if he watches “chick flicks” he is a wimp; if he is not successful and/or gorgeous he is not worth dating or worth much of anything; if he doesn’t have a plethora of sexual experiences with other females something is wrong with him; if he is short, he must have a small penis and won’t measure up to other expectations; and so on.
These ideals take a toll on men if they feel they are flawed because they don’t encompass all of the attributes associated with the perfect male. This results in a lowered self-esteem in some men. Here are some of the reasons these ideals take a hold of your self-esteem causing it to be lowered (note: not all of these scenarios fit for all men):
- Parental pressure and taunts from your peers during childhood which highlighted differences as imperfections and flaws. For example, you may have been criticized often by your parents (or other important figures in your childhood life) making you feel that you don’t deserve or are good at anything. Your peers may have precipitated this belief that you are not much of anything by teasing you about your physical appearance (“you are too stumpy”, “too short”, “too skinny”, “too fat”, “too pale”, “too dark”, etc), your intellect (“you are stupid”, “everyone knows that why don’t you”, “you’re not smart enough to go to college”, “you won’t be successful”, etc), and/or your personality (“you are such as momma’s boy”, “you are a dork”, “you are not smooth enough”, “no girl is ever going to want you”, etc).
- Cultural pressures in adulthood such as rejection from women, denied promotion, and/or feelings of inferiority comparing self to other men. Some men also experience inferiority because they are a stay at home father.
- Intimate pressures such as your performance in the bedroom. Some problems that occur are erectile and ejaculation dysfunctions, negative body image experiences (such as feeling too fat, not fit enough, and/or too skinny, perceived small penis, thoughts that penis is not big enough), and/or lack of desire for sex.
With this in mind, your self-esteem can impact your life such as job satisfaction, interpersonal relationships, social activities, and intimacy with your partner. Having low self-esteem does not only affect the way you view yourself but also how your partner responds to you. Your intimate connectedness may also be in danger. Let’s discover what self-esteem looks like in a relationship and during intimate moments with an example from Derrick, a thirty-five year old male that recalls an experience with his wife.
When Lisa and I met there was chemistry from the start. She was gorgeous, sexy, and smart. During our first sexual moments, our passion did not amount to intercourse because my body deceived me. I was not able to get an erection. I didn’t understand it because we had such great chemistry and I was really sexually attracted to her. I had been fine on other occasions so maybe she is the problem. She must have not known how to please me, or she must don’t know what she is doing. Whatever it is, I knew it wasn’t my fault.
Here, Derrick explains an erectile mishap during a sexual experience with his girlfriend. Derrick immediately blames his girlfriend for the problem without assessing the situation and determining if the problem was due to situational stress, emotional stress, consumption of alcohol, a medical problem, or drug consumption. This issue along with other problems in the bedroom can lower you self-esteem and cause dissension in your relationship. This problem and other bedroom problems are debilitating to a man and threatens his pride and manhood which can result in increased tension in the relationship if it is not handled properly. Communication is key and can open the door to a more satisfying experience with your partner.
As discussed earlier, men are not praised for being vulnerable and expressive toward their feelings; however, when a man does not express his insecurities, he risks the problem continuing and never finding a resolve. Some men give up, others mask their insecurities and vulnerabilities by putting the blame on others, using control, becoming jealous of other men, or simply not talking about it.
These masks are all a part of the cover up to hide being vulnerable and embarrassed about your body image, loss of erection, loss of desire for sex, ejaculatory issues, inability to provide financial support, feelings of inferiority toward your partner, and insecurities other about yourself. You may question your partner’s intentions to be with you wondering, “You are very attractive. Why are you with me when you can have any guy out there”. When society pressures you not to talk about these issues, I challenge you to dig deep and question if communicating these problems will help you and your partner be better lovers and friends simultaneously. Let us now look at the masks and learn to overcome them:
The Blame Game
Sometimes men will pin their hang-ups on their partner in order to take the pressure of the anxiety from themselves (as discussed earlier with Derrick). This is a defense that allows an ego to get a well deserved boost because shifting the blame will negate ownership of a mishap that can cause feelings of being defective. In reality it only exhibits the avoidance of the real problem and displays a crafty manipulation to shove your insecurities on to others.
Perhaps this was learned from an early experience (male in family always blaming mother or children for his unhappiness), perhaps not. Either way, avoiding the problem and pawing it on others makes it worse and risks the possibility of pushing others away and an increase of the problem occurring in other relationships.
When being intimate with your partner, the “blame game” is seen when you blame them for a bad lay, you having an orgasm too soon, not being able to have an orgasm at all, or not able to achieve an erection. Realize that communicating with your partner (e.g.“slow down”, “can you use your hand there”, “can you perform oral sex”) can help solve some bedroom problems; however, if it does not, follow these steps to assess the problem.
Intervention: Becoming Self-aware
First step recognize your imperfections and open your self-awareness during your intimate moments (e.g. When does it happen? Am I stressed? Had I been smoking/drinking/using drugs? Did we just have an argument? Am I feeling insecure? Am I upset about something? When we have sex what happens right before I lose my erection? What am I not thinking to allow me to have an erection? Am I embarrassed about something? Do I feel defeated? Am I just too tired).
Answering these questions will allow you to identify what happens before, during, and after the problem. You will then have a road map that will help you navigate the appropriate outcomes to help you in your next step.
The next step will include reaching out to your doctor and/or therapist to determine if your problem is medical, physical, or mental with the information you collected by being self-aware. During this process, keep your partner in the loop in order to gain support, closeness, and opportunity to learn new techniques that will increase intimacy.
You Just Gotta Have Control
Your life may feel out of sorts because you may lack some of the attributes associated with the societal pressures of being the perfect man or you put extra pressure on yourself to achieve things you don’t have. You may feel that your situation is not controllable and it frustrates you. In order for you to gain control back in your life you try to control others. When being intimate you try to control the positions, when you want it, and how you want it.
One of the detrimental factors to this type of control is that it can lead to an uncomfortable experience for your partner. This type of situation looks like rigidity during intimate moments, increased anger when your partner rejects of your demands, and your rejection to your partner’s wishes, just to name a few.
Intervention: Surrender and become Vulnerable
Consider what is holding you back from surrendering yourself and being vulnerable to your experience. Why don’t you feel comfortable with being vulnerable? If you lose yourself if the experience, what would that feel like for you? What would that look like for you? What is it for you to give up some of the control to your partner? Do you find that being in control in this context allows you to make up for the other aspects in your life that feel out of control? Is that fair to your partner? How does your partner feel about your control?
Identify where this source of control stem from. Challenge those thoughts by testing, in small doses, how your partner responds to you giving up your control. For instance, if you consistently have sex in the missionary position (with your partner underneath), try allowing your partner to get on top for about a minute and notice what feelings arise when they are in control. Note to yourself if it feels good or if you are feeling too exposed. Continue to practice allowing your partner to increase time in control until you are able to just enjoy the moment and not ponder the loss.
He is Not Better Than Me
When you feel that you don’t measure up to some of the demands of being the perfect guy such as being shorter than the average male, perhaps having a smaller muscles or penis than you would like, not being as successful as you imagined, you can become jealous of other men who do. When you feel threatened this trait comes out in full form.
For instance, when your partner’s boss is a “Tall dark and handsome” successful man that graces your partner’s presence five days out of the week, you may start to feel threatened that your partner may abandon you for what may be considered an everything package. Your partner may not share your views. This can lead to discord when you project your feelings of inferiority onto your partner by accusing them of wanting to be with someone else and becoming angry, distant, or argumentative and critical.
You may have thought your partner glanced longer than usual in the direction of another man which drives you crazy and makes you feel inferior because you make up stories in your head about how you are not good enough or that the other man is better. This can affect your intimacy and make your partner distant from you.
You may also resort to controlling your partner by not allowing her/him to wear what they want or go out with friends. This mask is very dangerous because not only can it prohibit your relationship to flourish in a healthy manner but it can also turn violent and very dysfunctional.
Intervention: Thought Stopping and Reality Testing
To overcome this, it would be helpful to practice thought stopping and reality testing. The thought technique is designed to help you stop negative and dysfunctional thoughts as they arise. This is how it works: When a negative thought comes to mind like, “She is sleeping with him”, immediately control the thought by saying, “STOP”, or, “THAT IS JUST NOT TRUE” and lead your mind in another positive direction such as, “I trust my partner”, “I know my partner love me”, “It would be helpful for me to exercise today”, or “It would be nice to play a video game/read a book/catch up with the news” (Are there any that you can think of?).
This will allow you to distract the negative thoughts and insert them with a more positive spin. Allowing yourself to engulf in negative thoughts can fester a fictional scenario that does not have the evidence to be true.
Second, test the reality of your assertions. Is there any evidence of your claim? Had your partner given you any reason to believe your claims? Did you feel vulnerable right before you made your claim? Had you been feeling self-conscious? Were you able to express your concerns with your partner and they were able to listen and respond favorably, or did you not express yourself at all? Assessing your reasoning and intentions for making assertions against your partner can give you a better understanding of your role in the conflict. It will also be helpful to discuss with your therapist in order to help you identify more useful coping strategies.
I Can’t Talk About This Stuff!
As a man, you are taught that you shouldn’t cry, you shouldn’t be emotional, you shouldn’t talk about your feelings, you shouldn’t blah blah blah. This way of thinking have left men stagnant and ashamed to express their inner feelings and thoughts to the world. Men are praised for being “strong and steadfast” and ridiculed for showing emotional expression.
The problem with not expressing your feelings and thoughts about circumstances in your relationship can lead to discord and dissension. It may not be easy to relay your embarrassments to your partner but it can be softened by a lead sentence which will allow your partner to be more empathetic to your struggle and appreciative of your honesty and courage.
Try this: “I’m embarrassed to say this, but here it goes…”, or “I want to tell you something and don’t want to be judged about it…”. Can you think of any other leading lines? Allowing your partner to be in your loop can prevent worry, assumptions, and insecurities.
Putting it All Together
These are just some of the ways men hide their low self-esteem in their actions toward others. De-mask by doing the following. Do not deny that you have an issue. If you become angry at your partner due to your insecurity, realize that it is not your partner’s fault but your way of thinking that puts you in that negative space. Some things you can change and some you can’t. For those you can, do it.
If you want a buffer chest and arms, make time to go to the gym to plump up. Make realistic goals for yourself because even small changes can boost your esteem. If you want to be better in bed, work on what your partner likes and incorporate it in your intimate moments. For those things that you cannot change, such as physical attributes, become comfortable with who you are and what you have to offer. Your partner may not ruminate over what you feel as a shortcoming. They chose you for who you are and how you make them feel. Remember that they are with you for who you are and that may just be perfection in their eyes. Ask your partner what they like about you and focus on those things when the negative feelings and thoughts arise. I also encourage you to challenge your thoughts about why you become anxious or upset when you perceive that you don’t measure up to some standard. Don’t compare yourself to others. Who said you have to be this way or that way?
Try not to overcompensate for your lack of confidence. For instance, if you feel like your sex life is boring don’t think that you can change it up by plowing away while talking dirty, like you see on movies and porn. That won’t fix your issue. Plowing does not mean skill and further does not mean satisfaction for your partner. Learn to listen to your partner’s body language and ask them what they like in order for you both to have a great experience.
You can also read sexual intimacy books to learn technique such as pushing your pelvis closer to your female partner’s clitoris so that she can rub against it while on top or bottom. This increases her sexual sensation during intercourse. If you lose and erection quickly or cum too soon, you may take enhancing pills to maintain your erections for longer periods of time, reject your partner for fear of performance, take adrenaline pumping drugs, drink alcohol, or smoke illegal substances. These products may have an adverse effect or mask a deeper health issue. Consult your doctor to make sure your equipment is working properly. Also, have an intimacy night with your partner that does not result in sexual intercourse to learn what she/he likes as well as what you like.
The broken tape that plays in your mind such as, “No one loves me”, “No one listens to me”, “I don’t deserve to be loved”, “I’m weak when I am vulnerable” can be changed with tweaking your understanding of your circumstance and being vulnerable enough to include your partner in your struggles. Share your emotions, thoughts, and insecurities with your partner. This will allow you to become closer to them and enhance your relationship. Recognize the issue, find the root of the problem, face it head on, and confide in your partner to help you work through it. It is easy to follow the status quo of maintaining perceived strength by not crying, not communicating, not being vulnerable, but it takes more strength to go against it and express who you truly are. Don’t let Sexlosteem get in the way.