A men’s sexual health expert tells all. (Photo: Getty Images)
Considering it’s something humans have been doing since, well, existence, there sure are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to sex.
Particularly, men and sex.
And it’s not just a mystery for women, says Abraham Morgentaler, MD, FACS, an associate professor of urology at Harvard Medical School and the founder of Men’s Health Boston. The questions he gets from his male patients run the gamut, from “what is normal?” to performance anxiety and problems with erections.
We asked Morgentaler, who is also the author of the new book The Truth About Men and Sex, to share some of the biggest myths people believe, the common questions he gets as a doctor, and the No. 1 thing people get wrong about men and sex.
Yahoo Health: Your new book touches on some interesting topics — the concept of “what is normal,” and male menopause, for instance. You even have a whole chapter titled “The Man Who Faked His Orgasms.” Why do you think people are so astonished to hear that men fake orgasms?
Abraham Morgentaler: Our entire view of men’s sexuality is distorted, which became immediately apparent to me once I began seeing male patients in my medical practice. In fact, the impetus to write my book was to share real cases of real men so that readers could see for themselves what is true about men. The reason people are so surprised that men fake orgasms is because we have an odd but universal belief that men are both selfish and robotic when it comes to sex — we believe men care mainly about their own pleasure, and they are always eager and always ready. The truth is that men, and their sexuality, are much more complicated, nuanced, and interesting than this!
Men fake orgasms for the same reasons women do — they realize they are not going to be able to achieve an orgasm during that particular sexual encounter, so they want to eventually bring the “activities” to a close without hurting the feelings of their partner. It’s like saying, “You did a good job.” Part of the reason it is so surprising that men would fake an orgasm is because it is not understood that orgasm is not necessarily automatic for men. Alcohol, medications (especially the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRI anti-depressants), and stress are common contributors to difficulty achieving an orgasm in men (and women). It is also surprising to people because we are not used to considering that men might want to be kind to their sexual partners, which is the true intent behind faking an orgasm.
Related: Short Men Have More Sex. Here’s Why.
YH: What’s the top question you always get from patients (at least, when it comes to their sex lives)?
AM: Men want to know, “Am I normal?” Sometimes this has to do with questions regarding penis size, other times with how often they are having sex, or desiring sex. And among men with sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, one of the most helpful things to learn is that they are not alone — these are common problems. A big problem for men is they have not yet cultivated a voice around health or sexual issues. Unlike women, men don’t talk to anyone about sensitive matters, particularly those related to their sense of masculinity. Hopefully, men who read The Truth About Men and Sex will feel less alone with their problems and concerns.
YH: What is a common theme in the most common questions you get from patients?
AM: The standard narrative about male sexuality is distorted, and is damaging to men, and to relationships. We tend to think of all adult men, regardless of age, as if they were stuck in time as a 21-year-old man-child partying it up on spring break, full of lust and devoid of emotional connections. Men experience deep feelings for their partners, even though they have been trained since childhood to not show emotion. Sex is a magical event, different from every other aspect of our lives, which is a critical yet poorly understood part of relationships.
YH: What’s the top thing men often get wrong about their own sexual functioning?
AM: I joke that men are “peno-centric.” Too often, men believe their desirability as a man is tied to the size of their equipment. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating — the largest sexual organ is the brain. A mind-blasting sexual experience has little to do with size, and everything to do with being able to create an intimate connection.
YH: What are some of the biggest myths out there about men and sex? (For instance: Is the phenomenon of “blue balls” actually real?)
AM: The biggest myth is that men are into sex primarily for self-gratification. In my experience with thousands of patients treated over more than 25 years in medical practice, it is clear that being able to provide a great sexual experience for their partner is more important to men (!) than their own pleasure. It is what makes them feel manly. Consider the issue of premature, or rapid ejaculation. If men were really all about their own pleasure, why would they feel shame if they quickly had an orgasm? The answer is that men feel bad because they didn’t have enough time to provide an adequate experience for their partner.
As for blue balls, the term used for the aching testicular discomfort men experience with prolonged sexual activity without ejaculation, nothing actually changes color down there. However, things certainly can get congested, and ejaculation does provide relief.