Dr J's Sex Facts

Fun sex facts and accurate information from a clinical sexologist for a hotter and more fulfilling sex life.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Women and Men: What Can We Learn from Each Other?

“The world is not divided into sheep and goats.
The living world exists on a continuum.”

Alfred Kinsey

Welcome New Readers!

You may find this blog a bit different from others because my intention is to be both entertaining and educational. Each new post is based on information presented in the previous one; so to get the maximum benefit, I recommend you begin with the introductory post from the August archive and read forward from there. However, I recognize that some of you don't have the time to take the whole round-trip, so if you have a particular interest (for instance, sexual communication), you can search the archives for posts in that area and proceed from there.


First, let me say that I’m not at all comfortable discussing we humans as two arbitrary genders. There are many of us who don’t identify as either female or male, but merely as “me, myself.” For many, the concept of gender is fluid. However, it would be myopic to ignore that we do live in a binary culture that divides us into “male and female” categories and as a result we’re constantly subjected to both blatantly obvious and subtly subliminal cultural messages from the moment we’re born (Don’t think it starts that early? What about pink is for girls, and blue is for boys?).

OK, so if you grew up as a “boy” (snips and snails and puppy dog tails) the unspoken message was: boys don’t cry, boys are strong, etc. And if you grew up as a “girl” (sugar and spice and everything yada-yada-yada) the unwritten drill was: girls don’t brag, girls don’t hurt other people’s feelings (ESPECIALLY boys’), and girls ALWAYS put others ahead of themselves.

But how do these socializations play out within the confines of sexual relationships—whether the relationship in question matches up as woman-man, woman-woman or man-man? In short, what can we LEARN from each other, and do we think it’s important enough to even ATTEMPT to learn from each other? (Yuh-huh!) Ultimately, would it enhance our relationships if we let go of some of our cultural and gender-inspired constrictions—in other words, should we shed our “skin” like a snake, casting off our old ways to emerge newly unfettered and for perhaps the first time in our lives, experience what it is to just become “ourselves”? (Now there’s a challenge!)

I got a little carried away with the questions there. Was I being a little too philosophical—dare I say sexosophical? Am I channeling Carrie on “Sex in the City”? Oops. There I go with yet another question.

The reason I’m posing these questions is because I’ve talked with countless people, in my practice AND out in the world, who have boxed themselves in as a response to all these cultural and gender-inspired constrictions and are so out of touch with their authentic selves, they’re unsure of what it is they really like or want sexually. If I had a dollar for every time someone exclaimed: “I couldn’t do THAT!” I’d be one very rich Dr. J.

The point is, people genuinely think they have to behave in a certain way because of all the baggage they’ve accrued in unwritten (and unspoken) rules. Do people really feel this way? Yes, people really do. And they also worry that if they deviate from the “rules,” the Gender Fairy will come down, and with great vengeance and furious anger, conk them on the head before writing them a ticket for 50 sexual demerits (and nobody wants sexual demerits—gasp!).

Sometimes in my classes, students will debate who is more disadvantaged by these constrictions: women or men. PULEEZE! They constrict us all. In various ways, to be sure—some more subtle and therefore more insidious than others.

Which brings me back to our central question: CAN we learn anything of value from each other?

Obviously, I have some thoughts about this.

Women: Ever notice how comfortable many men are in their bodies? They don’t shy away from being on top merely because they’re worried their stomachs will sag.

And what about initiating sex—even once in awhile? Most men take responsibility for their own pleasure. Think there’s a lesson there?

Men: Ever try receiving, without trying to direct the action or keep it moving along?

And how about just touching and being touched for the sheer pleasure of it, with no goal other than that?

I’m sharing these examples to prime the pump (so to speak). I know you all have questions you’d like to ask. Now is your opportunity to start a dialogue in a safe, anonymous space. So have at it: Let’s hear your questions and comments, and get this thing rolling. Here’s one for starters: If I always let my partner make the first move, how will I even KNOW when I want sex?

Coming attractions: Your Conditions for Good Sex.

With Pleasure,

Dr. J


  • At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear Doctor J,

    My boyfriend really likes to roll play and I’ve bin up for just about anything, including lingeree, toys and positions. I would do anything he asks but recently he started calling me his whore when we’re making love. It really seams to turn him on and I love making him happy, but that word is a problems for me. I tell myself its just part of his fantasy cuz the rest of the time he says I’m his princess and he always acts super super nice, but the word still hurts. Am I being to sensitive? Im just so confused.

    his love slave

  • At 10:09 AM, Anonymous James said…

    There’s so much to respond to and comment on in this post, and I’m in agreement with a lot of what you’ve laid out here. Let me just pick on one thing to start. In asking what “men and women” can supposedly learn from each other, we end up pretty much back where we started: with the presumption that there are certain behaviours that are in the domain of men and others that are in the domain of women. Could we be doing a disservice to ourselves by framing the question this way? Maybe I have some ways of being or doing that might seem “feminine” to one way of thinking, but are actually just mine. Is there a way to learn from each other without labeling attitudes or preferences as being male- or female-identified?

  • At 11:52 AM, Blogger Dr J said…

    Hi Love Slave. Great question! Lots of women have a negative reaction to being called a “whore” because this word has historically been used to denigrate and otherwise judge women, so I’m not surprised you’re uncomfortable with that word. However, some men use it in fantasy merely to turn their partner into a “bad girl,” (which can be very sexy). How about checking with him to be sure it really is just part of a “bad girl” fantasy, and not said to put you down? Once you’re clear, embrace your “inner whore” and let that bad girl out!

  • At 1:31 PM, Blogger Dr J said…

    James: Thanks for making these excellent points. I could easily frame this discussion with questions such as: “What can shy, quiet people learn from outgoing ones?” Or “What can artistic introverts teach frenetic engineers?” etc. However, most of us relate to the whole female/male thing—and many of my students and clients frame their questions in those terms—so I’ve organized this post accordingly. As I’ve previously noted, there's really no such thing as "masculine" or "feminine" (it's all culturally defined); but many of us all fall into these gender traps as a result of our cultural/familial backgrounds. It’s hard to escape being programmed as a boy or girl—and very difficult to simply be yourself. You exhibit the wonderful concept of androgyny: being comfortable expressing ALL your qualities, whether the culture identifies them as “masculine” or “feminine.”

  • At 3:25 PM, Anonymous SDK said…

    Dear his love slave,
    As drj points out there are a lot of charged words like "whore", "slut", etc. that men (& women too) have used to put down women they think are "oversexed" or "promiscuous" or whatever but that some people find really a turn on to use during sex. (One of my g/f's used to like to get on top and call me her "bitch"! Ooh baby) As long as its OK with both you and the b/f and you both know how its being used (in role playing) go for it. Like Madonna says "treat me like I'm a bad girl/even tho I've been good to you".

  • At 3:58 PM, Anonymous James said…

    Dr J.,
    Thanks for your response. I agree that most of us do relate to the male/female dichotomy at some level. I wasn't trying to say that I think there aren't characteristics which are specific to each sex; physically, there are certainly differences. I'm just trying to figure out where sex and gender intertwine. BTW, speaking of physical differences, have you read anything on the McMaster University study or other research that claims to show that women have more brain cells available for the "higher" mental processes than men do? I have no idea whether these ideas actually hold scientific water, but I'd be interested to know...

    On another (minor) point, I'm not sure how fond I am of the term "androgyny". I understand how you're using it here; maybe it's just how it strikes my own ear. In Greek, the word reads, literally, "man/woman-ness". I suppose perhaps it often gets used (and not as a compliment) to denote a male who looks/acts "girlish" or a woman who seems "boyish." ???

  • At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    omg-omg-omg! I talked to my boyfreind about he calling me a whore when we’re making love and he totally said it was like what you said. I tried what sdk said about calling him my bitch, but when I did we both laughted so hard he almost slipped out. Than we did it so intense I nearly cried. Thank you, so much Doctor J. It was hard for me to bring it up but I think it really brouht us so closer.

    his love slave

  • At 10:55 AM, Blogger Dr J said…

    Hey Love Slave: OMG right back at you! How totally cool is it that you and your partner can now actually TALK about sex and make it even better!! You are an inspiration to us all. Keep writing, and let us know how you're doing. Dr. J

  • At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    actally this time I want to thank sdk. Thank you so much for you're suggestion. I didnt mean to sound like we made fun of you're suggestion it just made my boyfreind and I laugh cuz I'm never like that. But I'll keep trying cuz if it feels so good when he holds me down than I wantto be the one to hold him down.. Only thing is there something else I can call him besides my bitch?

    his sex slave

  • At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Doctor J,

    I was just multislacking and noticed how awful my spelling was in my letters. Sorry. Oh and I signed my last letter wrong to, my bad. Please don't think I'm a total barbie.

    his love slave

  • At 1:07 PM, Blogger Dr J said…

    Love Slave: Of course I don't think you're a total Barbie (cute expression though). You asked whether there's something else you can call your bf besides "bitch." You know what I'm going to say, don't you? Figure it out! Think about words that might turn you on and then say them to your partner. You'll have lots of fun figuring out which ones have erotic possibilities. Enjoy. Dr. J


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