Men Like to Look: Dealing with the Way We Are Wired
Men’s visual orientation is seemingly one key variation between the sexes, especially when it comes to sex. It can be frustrating to know that men like to look; with such a strong preference for visual things, it can make men and women’s sexual desires so different. Why is that, and what can we do?
Robert Stoller (1975) suggested that one of the reasons for this is in the way that children are brought up. For him
The explanation for excitement in sexual looking goes like this so far: when the inevitable curiosity about the differences in the sexes arises in the small child, the desire to look becomes intense, insatiable and permanent to the extent that the body parts to be looked at are forbidden and at the same time considered desirable by the parents; in their forbidding, parents let their child knows there is a dangerous pleasure possible. Therefore, in our society where the female anatomy is the more forbidden, but enticingly so, males will tend to overvalue and be excited by looking and females by being looked at. Stoller, 1975, p108
Men like to look
Stoller is influenced by a psychoanalytic point of view and his position on sexuality and gender is somewhat out of date. However, his observation that men are more excited by visual stimulation than women seems to ring true. This certainly supports our anecdotal understanding of one of the differences between genders: that men generally look at pornography more than women do, and that men generally find it more acceptable than women do.
Further, we can sometimes overlook the importance of building and maintaining our fantasy life, including our sexual fantasy life.
From the boy to the man
We know that much of who we are is determined by the way we were brought up. The things that are permissible to us and the things that are forbidden (and the shame or encouragement we receive for the actions we take) is extremely influential on us, and this influence continues into adult life. We build up our habits through gradual reinforcement – no wonder these patterns can be so hard to break.
Further, as we grow we tend to find it even harder to talk about sex, even if our sexual desires are quite mainstream.
Our conditioning is hard to change
Further, the implication is that this is going to be something that can be very hard to change in men. Whilst we might prefer that women and men are get aroused and stay aroused through the same thing, it’s more likely that one of the enduring differences between the sexes is in the way that we respond to visual sexual stimulation.
Working with the real
With that in mind, we need to work with this difference; it doesn’t help to pretended that doesn’t exist or to eradicate it. Men like to look, and any solution to problems regarding pornography needs to take this into account.
Tell me what you think in the comments. Now, read about what partners of porn users assume about pornography.
– Tim Hill
Reference: Stoller, R (1975) Perversion: The erotic form of hatred. New York: Pantheon
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