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ISSUE 120 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/20/2007

Sex on the Hill: Men struggle too

By Sara Antonson
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 20, 2007

The one thing I have learned in my many discussions on human sexual behavior is that the biggest misperceptions or outright lies begin with the opening words, “Men are lucky because [fill in the blank with something female…].” Usually, it is doubtful that men are “lucky” because of their biology or that they don't experience similar things that women face. The claim I most abhor is one that's oft-repeated: “Men are lucky because they can't be sexually taken advantage of.”

When I look at the speaker in shock, they often deflect my response by referencing jail where men supposedly get raped by 400-pound bikers. The strange belief exists that if his little solider is at attention then the rest of his emotional cavalry is ready to charge into a plan of passion.

I would softly point to women who still haven't reported a sexual assault that a sexual response during rape – due to an involuntary muscle response to unwanted friction – that it has nothing to do with consent.

Instead of prison scenes and brutal rapes, let's look at a fictional night on our romantic Northfield campus. One night, after an evening dancing away at the Pause, Ole and Lena go back to Ole and Sven's room. Luckily, Sven is in the cities for the weekend.

As usual, things quickly get steamy, but this time, Lena decides it is time for their “first” act of sexual intercourse. Ole has no idea that this is on her mind, unprepared for a step in both physical risk and emotional commitment that he absolutely opposes.

Fast forward to midnight. Ole and Lena are rapidly bypassing the phases of simple sexual excitement that come from lip locks and deep hugs. Aided by mood music and a two-dollar scented candle, the presence of Sven's unwashed pile of clothes is negated. They are moving into what human sexuality class would call the plateau phase right before orgasm.

This is an apt description of their activities tonight and other sex play over their sophomore year. Ole is preparing for a lusty kiss goodnight, where he will retire to fantasies in his own room. Caught up in the half-clothed embrace and enjoying her kisses, he is physically and emotionally stunned when he realizes that Lena has overstepped his sexual boundaries.

Ole's problem is not unique but is, for obvious reasons, overlooked in most morality plays about sexual exploitation. However, he has become one of the seven percent of college men that have reported one or more experiences of unwanted sexual intercourse.

He is now worried about fatherhood at the age of 19, along with HIV/AIDS and a myriad of sexually transmitted diseases. He remembers an article by the Centers for Disease Control, which reported that there is only one class of drugs left that can cure the new mutated gonorrhea. At an emotional level these things bother him, along with how this changes things with Lena.

He struggles with his own self-recriminations about why his body betrayed him less than 30 seconds, after he knew what was happening. As for Lena, what does that behavior mean? Was it just selfish pleasure-seeking, or was she seeking that deeper commitment that she knew Ole wanted if he was going to have sex? Was it just an ignorant attempt to give him the “treat” she thinks all men really want, or was it a calculated, pre-engagement ritual?

Without minimizing our struggles as women, we have to appreciate this is a life-changing experience that happens to men, too. In the study of those seven percent, 19 percent reported unwanted painful memories, 33 percent reported sexual avoidance responses towards future intimacy and 27 percent reported fearfulness towards future partners. For the psychology majors on campus, you recognize those as possible symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

For the rest of us, it means that both men and women's development of emotional intimacy is seriously damaged if a partner takes something that was not freely given.

Sexually-related comments and questions can be sent to sexcolumnist@stolaf

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