In the #MeToo era, society is finally having frank conversations about the myths and misunderstandings women and people assigned female at birth (afab) learn about sex. Women are taught that "good girls" aren't too sexual, that women don't like casual sex, and that women owe men sex in certain situations (like if they've led him on). Needless to say, these myths chip away at a woman’s ability to act in the interest of her own pleasure.
In the heat of all of these conversations, it's easy to forget that cultural myths and misunderstandings about sex are bad for men, too — just for different reasons. The culture that tells women they have no power in sexual situations is the same culture telling men that they have to be aggressive and horny all the time.
"There's pressure on boys to be overtly sexual, and to lose their virginity as soon as possible, while girls are still taught to hang on to theirs," says Ava Cadell, PhD, a clinical sexologist and AASECT certified sex counselor. "When you do the math on this social equation, you can't help but think that it’s a recipe for disaster and an unhappy ending."
These cultural misunderstandings about sex can lead to confusion, especially for men who have sex with women, because often no one ever taught them how to do sex right. While confusion doesn’t necessarily excuse bad behavior, ignorance about gender roles in sex and consent has the potential to create precarious situations in which even seemingly consensual sex isn't necessarily wanted, let alone pleasurable.
"Assuming goodwill on the part of men, they want their partner to have a good time," says Susan Brison, PhD, a professor of philosophy at Dartmouth who studies sexual violence. Perhaps the best way for men to make sure their partners enjoy having sex with them is to start talking about sex and shatter the myths they've learned.
Ahead, we've talked with Dr. Brison, Dr. Cadell, and other experts about what those myths are, and how men can start to unlearn them.
#MeToo has raised the voices of women who’ve been sexually assaulted or harassed — and that’s not just great, it’s revolutionary. So, where does that leave men? To help answer that question, Refinery29 is providing actionable advice for men who want to be allies.
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