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Apr 20 2009

Men and Sexual Intimacy

Published by at 7:30 pm under Advice

Do many midlife single men know what it means to have sexual intimacy, not just sex but also deep affection for and knowledge of their partner?

The title of the article is taken from a question I got in the mail. The writer, Patricia, a woman in her mid-forties, two years out of a rough marriage, and, as she put it, ” older and wiser,” is “looking for the sex that knocks your socks off because you know and care for the person first.” Was this a reasonable expectation? She wanted to know. ” Do men my age even know what I am talking about or are they just rare?”

Do they all want sex first? You can hear her frustration. She wants “the emotional satisfaction of intimacy, not just sexual physical satisfaction.”

She describes her typical dating experience. “Several times a month I meet men through the personals. But we usually just go out once. I think it went nice and I never hear from them again. And they are nice men, not jerks.”

She questions herself. “Is it me? I am conservative and very complex… I also keep my sexual side under wraps, to not give them the wrong impression. Am I wrong in doing that? Do men need to see that?”

She has, of course, described the essence of the battle of the sexes. For midlife women, her question is one of the most nagging: How do single midlife men think about sex and relationships?

There is a self-help book, which I have some issues with, called, “How to Succeed with Women” by Ron Louis and David Copeland. (Penguin 1998) which answers Patricia’s question. The authors claim that they themselves were not experts with women at all. So they looked around to find guys who really were successful (according to the author’s standards) and then studied what they did. The book is a distillation of that wisdom.

What, according to these guys, amounts to success?

“We wanted to know how to seduce women and more – we wanted to know how to develop relationships that would be fulfilling for both of us.” They are clear about their priorities. First, seduction, then, well, yes, okay, yes, a fulfilling relationship would be “more,” but first things first.

In case you think I am reading too much into those sentences, let me point out the flow of the whole book. You can recognize the dance of dating as certain men might think it through. Chapter six is about “how to sweep her off her feet and into your bed;” seven is about “the priming date,” which is the one that comes before the “seduction date,” described in chapter eight. Then, after some hints about sexual technique, the book has a chapter called, “handling problems women cause,” on how to deal with women who get really angry. Then a chapter called “breaking up is easy to do.” I may be a bit shrinky here but I think the order of events describe a plan. I also notice that it was in their breaking up chapter that they discuss commitments and how to think about long term partnerships. By now we are at page 400 of 450. Then there is a 25 page chapter on how to make a relationship last and a summary.

So success is about scoring. Read their definition. Then we’ll discuss it.

First and foremost, the bottom line is that the woman chooses. The woman has to choose to have sex with a man for it to count as a seduction. There are a lot of ways to get the seduction disqualified. The woman can’t be coerced or deceived. She can’t be naïve or young or drunk or intoxicated. She can’t be so needy that her judgment is clouded. It has to be a choice, conscious and intentional and free. Then only is the score to be considered a seduction. There is another layer of requirement. She can’t be too experienced or blasé or too willing or easy. And not only that he has to satisfy her emotionally and physically. Then if all those requirements are met, the seduction counts.

This is the male code; the rules, male style. In this game, there is no winning, only scoring. In the thirteenth chapter, the one on breaking up, the authors say to their male reader, “If you can’t decide whether you want seduction or a committed relationship you end up bouncing from woman to woman, unwilling to do the work of a seducer while simultaneously unwilling to do the work required for a committed relationship. Being unsure creates failure in either circumstance.” They acknowledge that the rules of success are incompatible with the rules of “relationships that would be fulfilling for both of us.”

So men, according to this book, have dual and incompatible strategies for dating. And that is the problem that Patricia is struggling with.

Go back to their definition of success and, for the moment, don’t be distracted by the dual strategy. Notice how the whole process of seduction involves the woman’s free choice. Scoring it different from merely getting laid. Somehow, in this game, every seduction is a test of male goodness, some confirmation from a woman that he’s a good enough man.

There is a core of truth in whatever these men are chasing. It matters profoundly to many single men that they be held in good estimation by a good women. Every man needs his maleness and attractiveness blessed. What women have is this power to bless. I mean really blessed and that means not merely from words alone. Blessings come from deeper places. These men want women to yearn for their sperm. It is a sign that there is something desirable about this man in his essence. Now that is a blessing!

Forgive me if this sounds just too naked but this is the force that drives males animals through out the mammalian kingdom, that produces antlers, peacock feathers, boisterous behavior, and all the other glorious proclamations of male vitality. It happens with guys, too.

What’s a woman to do? First, remember that attractiveness doesn’t depend so much in having things that you value as in knowing that you really do have what others value.

Here is what I told Patricia: You have what men want, a blessing to give. If you give it too cheaply it isn’t a blessing. Some women will have casual sex if a man is exceptionally superior to her usual standards, but with men it’s the opposite, they lower their standards for casual sex. They will have casual sex with women who are older or younger than usual and also with women who don’t meet their long term relationship standards on such matters as charm, athleticism, education, generosity, honesty, independence, kindness, intellectuality, loyalty, sense of humor, sociability, wealth, responsibly, spontaneity, cooperativeness and emotional stability and about twenty five other variables. Really.

They will not consider the approval and acceptance of these women to be an honor or a blessing.

Let’s revisit Louis and Copeland’s definition of success. She can’t be coerced or deceived; naïve, young, needy or drunk; and she can’t be too experienced or blasé or too willing or easy. In other words, It has to be a choice, a conscious, intentional, free choice. In other words, the challenge is what makes a woman attractive.

Therefore a woman has to convince him that she is a worthy and interesting challenge. Also it has to be rewarding every step of the way; she has to support and encourage him even while she is putting him through her tests.

So back to Patricia’s question, “Am I wrong to keep my sexuality under wraps?” I think she is. What she wants to do is let it be known that she is sexual, appreciates men, and is also discriminate. It’s a head game. It’s a dance. He wants seduction and a relationship. She has to offer relationship and a seduction.

Women who do this well often convince the man that it is his idea. Women will know much earlier in a relationship whether seduction will happen. As the guys say, it’s her choice. However they often have no idea how women decide. That’s why they talk about “getting lucky.” That’s why there read those books.

Patricia will be more successful if she figures out how to let acceptable men know that they are found by her to be acceptable. The way a man knows that he measures up – this is where Louis and Copeland get is dead right – is that a woman he admires want to have sex with him. That is what flirting is about.

A man can tell if you find him attractive. He may not know consciously, but he knows. Men read  body language very well.  Your eyes light up, you enjoy his humor, you like looking at his face, you enjoy dialog with him, you like his body. There are ten thousand ways you communicate to him that you give him your blessings. But if you want a relationship with him, none of this necessarily means you have sex with him. Not until he’s proven himself at a higher level. What you are doing is letting him know that you want him to prove himself at a higher level. Your message is not “yes” but, “maybe.”  There is art to sending this message.

So the message you send has to be an adult message and like all adult messages, like good wines, like coffee and good chocolate, like expensive whiskey, it is smooth and complex and with many shades, some of them dark. Essentially has to be a huge YES with all sorts of nuances, conditions, and encouragement attached. The messages says that he qualifies for the big prize, but only qualifies – and that no small thing. It’s a complex message.

Some long term relationships start with sex on the first few dates, but these are exceptions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I know two midlife women who, after years of dating and sexual relationships simply refused to have sex without marriage. I thought it was an extreme position but they are both married and happy. One woman told a man who liked her, “I’ve decided no more sex until I’m married again.” And the guy said, “Well, I guess I’m pretty tired of dating, okay. ” They were married in a month! There is some research that says that the difference between midlife women who get married and those who don’t is that the one’s who do are the ones who still believe in marriage. It’s basically that simple.

On the other hand a lot of midlife women have casual sex. They do it to see if they still “got” it. They do it to heal some hurt feelings. They do it for relief. And they do it to somehow get a fresh point of view after a bad relationship. One woman said to me, “The way to get over a man is to get under a different man.” They do it because they are bored. And some do it because they are discouraged and really don’t want another long term relationship.

The mating dance, like tango, has male moves and female moves.

September I’ll write more about the woman’s side of this dance. Here are some questions I’d like opinions on.

What would be the difference between a woman’s calculations about whether to have a short term or a long term relationship. What changes for women between they way they think about casual sex at 25 and at 45.

What blessings do women want from men?

Please write me at drbelove@datingatmidlife.com

Philip

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