It is well documented (and every angle studied by earnest researchers I'm sure) that folks in a relationship have a greater frequency of sex and more satisfying sex than single people. So how would you explain the 'practice' (is that even the right label?) that is called Friends With Benefits? This involves, I presume, friends having sex with friends....and then staying "just friends", no messy relationship strings attached. Hey, wasn't that a Seinfeld episode?
For our part, my spouse Tonya is my best friend, whom I love and whom I have the benefit of a committed relationship with. The primary Benefit is in the relationship folks, not in the sex. We are not so prudish to think that others couldn't pull off the FWB thing, but having some relationship experience under our belts, FWB is sure not something we are going to advocate for our kids.
Nonetheless, sex is a necessary building block for more than just having a baby (hubba hubba). It also serves as a layer of intimacy that further strengthens a bond between mates. (You have ordered the Emperor's Embrace from the Amazon bar to the right haven't you? In it, there are other stories of species that mate for life). So for discussion purposes, we will focus on the goal of a committed relationship between 2 peeps. Welcome to my world. :)
As we spoke about in the first part of our series, men enter into every encounter with a woman with their own tool kit of interpersonal tools. And no, I don't mean those tools. We are still talking about the metaphorical tools of relationship building, okay you little Vixen? Some men have a full tool kit and some men have a rather light, Handy-Andy, miniature tool kit. Again, think metaphorical, this is an important point.
And our approach to sex is one of those tools.
If a potential relationship were a house, would you want your dude to have a BIG tool box full of tools, or a SMALL tool box with only a screwdriver and a roll of duct tape? In this instance of tools, ergo, the breadth of knowledge, skills and experience we have, size does matter.
So back to the sex. Men and women have long differed on the meaning, significance and even the definition of sex (isn't that right, Brother Clinton?). For this discussion, we'll break it down into two parts, the physical and the, uh, metaphysical.
Physically, our tool box (and yes, our other tool, too) make up the mechanical parts of sex. A first timer? His tool box of sex-with-a-partner skills will be bare, as in, empty. The caballero that played the field into his 50's and had low standards for a bed mate? His tool box will be full (and probably in need of a good sanitizer). Like riding a bike, the physical act of sex is a linear learning experience and one that accumulates as we, you know, experience it.
Metaphysically is where the departure occurs between men and women. Here, I am reminded of an old Eddie Murphy bit where he explains the difference between sex with his wife (making love) and sex with his mistress (just screwing, or something).
If a man never learned how to connect to and with a woman in other parts of his life, it is unlikely he will be able connect with a woman in the sack beyond the obvious physical hook up. It is for this reason I am reasonably certain that the FWB notion was started by a man.
Now, thankfully we can learn how to connect; our tools do come from somewhere, right? And dare I say if there weren't nurturing, supportive and patient women-folk out there, many of us would still be eating cereal with our hands. Note that men do have plenty of social skills, just not typically the kind that involves tea parties.
All of which brings us back to the origins of our training. Little men, aka boys, were conquering, dominating and commanding our playthings while girls were typically talking, convalescing and cuddling. Unless, and until, that boy learns how to talk, convalesce and cuddle, he is and will be on the short side of the relationships that many women want from him.
If the expected contribution is just a meal, a roof or new brakes on the car (or a roll in the sack), then the pool of available guys goes up considerably. Of course, most folks know that already, yes?
What are some of the basic needs of a typical male? Well, we need to feel the same thing women do, and strangely, that critical fact is often mistaken. As Maslow opined back in the 40's we all need relative comfort, safety, confidence and a sense of achievement. How we get there and their place on our personal bedroom check list may differ between men and women, but be assured, we are all looking for the same thing deep down, even the FWB's out there.
For men, the sense of achievement takes on a slightly more significant meaning. Besides the physical achievement of sex, there is the innate desire to achieve varying degrees of power, of benevolence, and yes, a measure of selfishness. Sometimes all at once, sometimes one at a time.
So how do men tap into the best parts of their inner lion, without becoming a beast in the process? Well for starters, we acknowledge that men often have both forces to contend with, some more than others. Secondly, we should expect more. Garbage in garbage out as the saying goes . Boys do not need to be male version of our daughters, they do however need more life tools than many are currently getting. "Boys will be boys" is a copout.
Male lions range the savannah eating, growling and pillaging. And when they encounter another male's pride, they either fight or they flee. If they fight and win, they kill the cubs of the previous male. Consequences of crossing a boundary are clear, decisive and life threatening.
In our kinder, gentler world however, many men cross their moral boundaries with reckless abandon and the consequences are not as clearly defined. Too bad. Perhaps they played too much of the game Battleship as a kid and see every thing, every woman, every opportunity as a chance to conquer; or perhaps they just haven't learned to keep their feet in bounds if they want to stay in the game. In either case, too many men destroy relationships and families because they crossed the line. This is not about being chaste, oblivious or in pretending we don't have an inner beast (read: one who crosses the agreed-to boundary), it is about having the personal fortitude to stop at the line before crossing it. Dig?
So, since we agree that men are a sum of their experiences; and we agree that men are limited or empowered by the size of the toolbox; then we can predict future performance more accurately based on our knowledge of their past experiences and tool acquisitions. Yes, for you analytical thinkers out there, it is kind of like betting on the stock market. :)
Does a guy perpetually cheat at backgammon? Plant a flag sister. Does he lie about where he is, was and will be, with ease? Plant some more flags. If there is a pattern of crossing the line of appropriate behavior, and the landscape around him looks like Arlington Memorial Cemetery because of the flags, then you have a choice. Either encourage him to get the tools needed (he must be aware and sincerely on board), or watch him keep crossing the line until the consequences start hurting YOU.
Am I man-bashing? No. I am bad man-bashing. They give other men a bad name and they hurt innocent people. I'm also suggesting that the under-equipped men who are relying on unbalanced tool boxes to get better equipped.
Sex is often the example used when citing a failed relationship, either a committed relationship that doesn't have enough or when one of the partners has sex with an unapproved 3rd party. But sex is an act brought about by the needs of it's participants.
So in the next installment of Mating Growl, we will dig deeper into the male psyche and discuss what motivates us to do what we do. Make sure you don't miss a single post!
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