Yes, Sometimes Men Get Nervous About Sex, Too

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WANTED: Sexually explosive female with a roaring libido and stone cold addiction to my penis for casual or fairly long-term relationship. Must be really pretty, really nice, and only follow my lead when it comes to absolutely everything sexual.”

Somewhere along the line — between the pages of Cosmo and the scripts in Hollywood — the notion that men are consummate sex hounds incapable of being freaked out by or uncomfortable with sex took hold. The idea solidified that Man Is Always Down for Action, any time, any place, any position. Maybe it’s because men still write most of these Hollywood scripts, and want the world to (mistakenly) think of them as gods of virility. Maybe it’s because the mass media seeks to make narratives simple and easy to digest — man likes f*cking, woman likes Bravo.

I’d like to stand on the side of reality and assure you that men, like all other creatures with feelings, can feel waves of anxiety, or even be outright terrified by sex. Specifically, if a woman takes the sexual lead, be it at a bar, on a date, or in bed, we can and do get nervous sometimes. Why? Well, consider the situation: Oh, hello, lady I met four hours ago. You have me shoved me against a wall, put your tongue down my throat, and reached into my pants. Um… don’t you see those three busboys staring at us? And wouldn’t this be more comfortable in my dimly lit studio with my make-out mix in the background?

In other words, men can and do feel creeped out, exactly the way a woman would if a man was coming on to her so aggressively.

Granted, there’s also the issue of power. A woman taking the sexual lead (in the very early stages, that is – I’m not talking about anyone in an established relationship) is in direct confrontation with our idea of having control. Whether we’re prepared for it or not, we’re being asked to surrender the concept that as a man, we’re expected to remain in charge of how the train (sexual or otherwise) is going to ride.

Still, it remains a challenge for men. We don’t think it’s acceptable to halt the action and say, Would you mind slowing down? I’m not totally comfortable with going this fast, or, Wait a minute. I don’t even know the names of your two cats.

Power means exploring a balance — sometimes it involves leading, and sometimes it’s about giving a woman the space to lead.

To some extent, we need to grow up and challenge our own ideas about what we should or shouldn’t have control over. You didn’t get to pick the restaurant, Big Guy? So what. You received flowers on date #2 instead of giving them? Deal with it. You’d rather kiss at the table than eat her out in the restroom? Well, she feels differently, so deal with it buddy. Sometimes you’re the leader and sometimes you’re not. The person holding the sexual conch gets to call the shots, and tonight you’re playing Piggy.

Even once we’re in the firm groove of dating a woman, we’re far less likely to call any sexual time-outs than our partners.  Not because we never want to, but because… well, what would the judgmental army of uber-macho guys in our heads think? Sometimes a man would rather talk about his day or blow off steam verbally than get blown (seriously, it’s true) but, alas, he is trapped by his own shackles of what “being a strong and powerful man” looks like (rule number one: never turn down sex because you’d rather talk about feelings). What would it say about his virility and mojo if he stopped the action, or even (gasp!) admitted that he would rather do something else right now?

All of this winds up hurting both men and women. We’re busy hiding our true feelings, while you’re left feeling like we’re not that into you (which isn’t true!).

So guys, maybe it’s time to take a giant leap sideways and rethink what power means. It’s more than just “the ability to dominate someone.” Power means the courage to say “no,” or “I’d rather not do this now, we’re on a tour bus,” or, “ow, you’re actually stepping on my penis.” But perhaps even more challenging: power means exploring a balance — sometimes it involves leading, and sometimes it’s about giving a woman the space to lead. Some nights you will lift your lady onto the kitchen countertop and peel off her undies. Other mornings she’ll shove your ass against the fridge and toss your Hanes on the floor. Remember: there is power in surrendering, and even in losing your underwear.

Amit Wehle is a writer and thoughtsmith, living in Brooklyn. He also tweets @AmitWehle.