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Tips From A Sex Therapist…
by Stanley Ducharme, Ph.D.

As a psychologist involved in the fields of sex therapy and sexuality, I often work with people who have questions regarding their ability to be a good lover. Other people, who may have a chronic medical condition or a disability, often feel that a positive sexual life is a thing of the past. Regardless, issues about sex and sexual performance are a source of anxiety for most people.

Even today, there is frequently the belief that a chronic illness or medical problem hampers one’s ability to achieve sexual satisfaction or to enjoy intimacy with a partner. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unfortunately for many of us, sexual skills seem to be defined by physical abilities. Although men may define sex in a physical way, I dare say this is not the case for the majority of women. What sexually arouses a man is very different than what arouses a woman. Too often, such an obvious fact gets ignored!

In this brief article, I’d like to highlight some of these subtle differences between men and women and how paying attention to these differences can make a man a better lover, (1). It is certainly not my intention to over generalize in these remarks but simply to point out some of the small differences that can easily be forgotten in most relationships. Paying attention to these simple facts can make a man a great lover regardless of physical abilities or the presence of a disability.

Men show their love differently than women. Men tend to believe that they are showing their love by doing things for and with their partners. These include financially supporting a woman, spending time with her, going for a walk, watching TV, going to a restaurant, getting the car fixed and having sex. This kind of love is called. “shared activity”. A man shows his love by spending time with his partner and doing things with her. Words are not necessary.

Women, on the other hand, show their love by discussion and personal sharing. This is the kind of thing women do with each other. There is a heavy emphasis on verbal communication. Emotional intimacy is the main theme. Love is demonstrated by being honest about feelings, being open and talking about the relationship.

Women appreciate men who can, on occasion, talk about their feelings and be open and vulnerable. If you’re feeling anxious about sex or concerned about an erection, why not say so? If you appreciate her in some special way, why not say that too?

Women also want a man who can say, “Honey, I love you”. No chronic illnesses prevent a man from pleasing their partner in this important way. Men simply don’t realize how important it is to say these words.

Men relate physically and women relate emotionally. Stop and think for a moment how society has taught men to relate to each other. They shake hands, slap each other on the back and hug one another. Men give “bear hugs” to each other on important occasions. A father and son relate by wrestling. Men and boys do things together. They play ball, tackle each other and play soccer on Saturday mornings. For men, words have nothing to do with relating. Action is the name of the game. This is one reason why a sexual problem can be so difficult for guys. Society hasn’t taught men how to talk about these issues. Embarrassment often prevents verbal communication.

Not surprisingly, women have been socialized to relate with words. Women feel that there is hope for a relationship to the extent that the couple can talk about problems. Most women don’t enjoy talking about cars, sports or the things that interest a guy. They feel cared about if they are complimented, appreciated and romanced in soft, loving kind of ways. Women like to be told that they look nice or that their assistance is appreciated. Men often take these things for granted and see little need to go into such details. They feel that women should just “know” these things and that saying them is not necessary. Why waste words?

Women want men who are fully in the present moment. Most men never think about how “present” they are during intimate moments with their partner or wife. Men can be caught up in their own private sexual fantasies or focused on their sexual performance. Some guys see nothing wrong with watching a game on TV while making love to their wife.

Men can easily be more concerned about the quality of their erection than whether their partner is feeling emotionally connected and cared for. Feeling uptight during sex, worrying about other matters or “observing” your performance can all take away from the romance of an intimate encounter. These thoughts are distractions and keep a man out of the “present”.

Emotional closeness can be uncomfortable for many men. Thus, strangely enough, the intimacy of the sexual act can easily be anxiety provoking. Often, men deal with these uncomfortable feelings by “emotionally pulling away”, focusing on performance or being angry and frustrated during sex. There is almost nothing that can improve a man’s ability to be a good lover more than by staying emotionally connected and caring during lovemaking. It is important to stay focused on what is happening in the present and share these moments together. Put on soft music rather than the TV.

Women get aroused by words and touch while men often get aroused by what they see. For men, seeing a beautiful woman or looking at erotic pictures is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Erotic pictures, magazines and videos do not serve the same purpose for women. Seeing a naked male body doesn’t turn a woman on in the same way that a naked female body arouses a man. Thus, while watching an x-rated video during sex may sound great for the guy, it can be a complete turn off for his partner.

Touch is another difference between men and women. Touching for the man is a means to an end. Men are only interested in being touched on the genitals or on erotic areas such as the nipples. Being touched anywhere else is a waste of time and energy.

Women are very different. Touch conveys a sense of caring, romance and affection. Most women enjoy being touched on any part of the body as long as it is done softly and affectionately. Often, women enjoy being touch in non-sexual areas even more than being touched on the breasts or genitals. This seems completely foreign to most guys! Again, it’s the romance and the emotional closeness conveyed by touch that is important for a woman. Being a better lover, for the man, means turning off the erotic video and spending the time touching and caressing whenever possible.

Men tend to rush through foreplay while women like to take it slow. Foreplay for a guy tends to be a “means to an end”. It’s often regarded as a necessary step prior to intercourse. Although guys do enjoy the act of foreplay, there are many reasons to cut it short. Men don’t need that time to become aroused. It’s easy to start worrying about loosing an erections during this time. There’s the danger of ejaculating during foreplay and finally there’s the excitement of what lies ahead. With all this to be considered most guys just want to move ahead and keep the foreplay short and sweet.

Even if intercourse is not the main objective, men like the attention focused on them. Men can get too anxious or irritable if things are not moving along fast enough. Today with the advent of medications to improve sex, sexual encounters may need to proceed more slowly. Often, spontaneity may be impossible. Subsequently, men often become anxious, irritable or on edge during foreplay because of concerns regarding the quality of erections.

Women, on the other hand, generally have a lot more difficulty getting warmed up and becoming aroused. It’s not so automatic as it can be for a guy. Two or three minutes of stimulation simply isn’t enough time for a woman to become aroused or to reach an orgasm. Women tend to be very perceptive about what turns on their man. Extended foreplay, tenderness and caressing are important components of making love. They simply want the same considerations in return.

Most women enjoy a man who will take the time to ask and learn what turns her on. They want to know that their pleasure is an important issue for the man as well. Sex has to be more than simply what pleases the guy. A woman’s orgasms are complex, more difficult to achieve and more sensitve to the emotional climate between the couple. A woman appreciates a man who can understand this and can take this into consideration during their lovemaking.

In summary, men and women are different in more ways than the obvious. Women want a man who can be genuine, open, honest and considerate. This doesn’t necessarily come easily for most men. It takes real effort to stay present, be emotionally available and sensitive to the needs of one’s partner. By focusing less on the physical issues however, a couple can often achieve a new level of closeness and intimacy.

1. Zilbergeld, B., The New Male Sexuality, Bantam Books, New York, 1999.

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