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September 28, 2009 | by  | in Features |
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Men: How to be a better lover: the interview

Paul Willoughby, veteran sex therapist, will visit campus on Tuesday 29 September for a repeat run of his presentation ‘Men: how to be a better lover.’ He talked to Salient feature writer Nina Fowler about sex myths, porn and why pleasure is a journey, not a destination.

NF: Why were you drawn to working in this particular area [as a sex therapist specialising in male issues]?

PW: I’ve always had an interest and there seems to be a bit of a lack of men working with men in this particular area. I’ve always been interested in myself as a man and in my own relationships.

Sex as an area is such a wide umbrella because I see people for all sorts of issues, from sexual function through to cross-dressing through to desire differences in relationships. There’s a whole wide range so it’s always interesting.

NF: What will your lecture at uni focus on?

PW: The lecture is in two parts. First, it’s about addressing some of the myths around about men and sex. I think we all grow up with a lot of myths and a lot of misinformation about how we are supposed to be and how young men are supposed to be with sex and in their approaches to sex. I go through about ten of the common myths that I come across in my work.

For example ‘all touching is sexual and should lead to sex’. That’s what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, talking to couples and talking to men, is that there’s a myth that says ‘if we’re hugging and touching and kissing et cetera, then it’s all on for sex. Our conditioning says any kind of physical contact is all about sex, whereas it doesn’t necessarily need to mean that.

One of the things I work on is encouraging men to develop their sensuality. I mean, sex is valid, but so is developing sensuality. Some of the men I see here, they think that ‘she’s giving me a hug or a kiss, so now we’ll be jumping into bed and having intercourse’. And then some women and partners think ‘no, I feel pressured straight away because he wants to take things further and all I want is to be close to him’. I get that a lot where there are desire differences within a couple, when one partner is less interested in sex.

NF: Usually a woman?

PW: Usually but not always. For about 20% of the couples I see, a male is the low-desire partner so that kind of blows some of the standard thinking. ‘Men are always interested in and always ready for sex’, that’s another one of the myths we look at. The guys I see with low desire, they think ‘as a man, I’m meant to be really keen on this, why am I not necessarily feeling that?’ And that can be just the way he is as an individual. It’s about finding out what is important to you rather than thinking, as a man, this is how I should be behaving.

Here’s another myth: ‘sex is based on a hard penis and what’s done with it’. Most guys, at some stage of their life, will have some sort of erection difficulty. They freak out and think ‘this is the most important thing, I’ve got to get it up so that intercourse can happen’. Whereas most women, in terms of orgasm and pleasure in sex, most women will say that they won’t have orgasms through intercourse, yet guys are led to believe that that’s the most important thing for their partner.

We need to question these myths and ask ‘is this what I want, is this what my partner wants?’ Part of my talk is about discussing the impact misinformation has on us, and some of the ingredients towards creating better sex and better relationships. I’ll be talking about some of the things I’ve seen in my work that make a difference.

NF: In terms of exercises and things?

PW: No, not so much! Although I do sometimes give people exercises… [laughs] No, more like having a relationship that’s based on friendship, where there’s respect and affection, where there’s communication so people can negotiate together what they might do sexually and non-sexually. So being able to talk. We talk about ‘oral sex’, but to me oral sex is about talking.

For guys, knowing a bit about their own bodies, knowing what they like and being able to ask for what they want, knowing what their partner wants and she or he being able to ask for what they want. Having accurate information about infections, condoms, pregnancy and prevention. Focusing on pleasure instead of performance, moving away from the idea of intercourse being a ‘top of the mountain’ idea when really the journey should be about pleasure.

NF: That sounds like good life philosophy. ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey…’

PW: Right. [laughs] I also talk about images of women. Pornography is so accessible so, for many of the young men I see, I get them to really question the messages that they’re getting about the way women are, or the way women are supposed to be.

Most women don’t fit that perfect body type, most women aren’t sitting there just dying for sex. It’s that whole thing about ‘this is all that she wants…’

NF: ‘And therefore if I can’t give it to her…’ then that leads to performance issues?

PW: Yeah, definitely. Some of the guys I see say ‘oh, I’m worried my penis isn’t big enough’ and, of course, they’ve been looking at pornography where there are these men with these big, huge penises… It’s about getting guys to question what they’re looking at and what messages they’re getting.

NF: What’s the goal of all this? What do you see as good sex?

PW: That can be different for each person and each couple. Some people think good sex is having sex three times a day, others three times a week, others once every six months. I’m a great believer in losing the idea of the maths of sex, that there’s not some standard for us to live up to.

NF: What advice do you have for students who aren’t in long-term relationships and are still experimenting?

PW: Experimenting is a key thing we do when we’re young. Nothing is going to change that but I do think that we need to minimise risk. So, being clued up about STIs and pregnancy, those are the bottom lines that need to be in place. We need to experiment, that’s the way we find out what we do and don’t like, but I believe in doing that in a way that minimises some of the risks.

NF: Emotional risks as well.

PW: That’s right. To go into those situations with our eyes open, knowing about risks and knowing that once we start breaking down some of those barriers of having sex with other people, we open ourselves up to being hurt and rejected. And again, that’s all good learning even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Do you know what I mean? It’s a painful thing that we go through as young people. Do you see that around you?

NF: I think people kind of stumble around and that it can take a long time to work out.

PW: Yes, and there’s no quick way around that. There’s no book that tells you how to get where you want to be in terms of a good relationship. We just have to learn it ourselves.

NF: I think that’s quite a good point to end on.

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About the Author ()

Nina Fowler (BA), former Salient feature writer, is excited about Salient '10.

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