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What Is It About Sex? It’s Not What It Looks Like

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The problem with sex is that males and females are as different in their psychology as they are in their physiology – and while the body thing usually works beautifully, the mind thing most certainly doesn’t. 

Now, this will probably fail a political correctness test, but since I worked as a specialist with psychological sexual problems for years, and wrote an award-winning training course for therapists, I know what I’m talking about. The award was the ‘MCGI’ – Member of the City & Guilds Institute, London, UK, considered to be equivalent to an MA, and the three university examiners on my dissertation also awarded a ‘medal for excellence’ for my work. 

So here we go with a look at one of the most difficult subjects to have a calm discussion about. All sexual difficulties are based in evolution, both biological and psychological, and it’s the inheritance of the male that causes most problems. Before any going further, this does not set about making a case for defending the behaviour of those males who decide to do whatever they like, whenever they like and to whomever they like. That’s an odious attitude. But without the ancient origins of such behaviour, it’s likely you would not even be here to read this since they were responsible for the spread of life itself. They date all the way back to around 400 million years or so ago, when sexual reproduction as we know it first appeared. Functionally, not a lot has changed since then.

The very purpose of life is survival, not just of self but of the whole of life. And so it was that the creatures with the strongest and most incessant urge for sex, almost always the males, produced more offspring, all of whom inherited the same prolific breeding genes. There were no rules, no laws, and for most female creatures, no choice – since the male was almost always bigger and stronger. No doubt a good few females put up a fight on occasions but in general the male got his way and the female got pregnant. Whether or not those females enjoyed or wanted the coupling was, back then, immaterial. Evolution just doesn’t change any process that works and so these are still the same sexually dominant instincts the modern male has inherited. And if you’re cringing or railing at this, I did say this would fail a test of political correctness; but, nonetheless, that is the way the world worked back then as far as anybody is able to ascertain.

The modern male, our species of human, only arrived around 100,000 years ago so those instincts are deeply embedded, an inherited part of the male psyche. And it’s only in the last century or thereabouts – less than a nanosecond in evolutionary terms – that the majority of females, in the Western world at least, have been able to have an effective say in anything of importance. The male has absolutely no inherited instincts for that. Added to this, the human animal is a highly sentient creature with something called the ‘theory of mind’ – that is, the ability to assess what another person is thinking. And that is where the problems really start:

  • When we assess what somebody else is thinking, it’s inevitably based on what we ourselves think.
  • In sexuality, males and females have entirely different physiological and psychological processes; but neither of them realises the extent of that difference.

It’s of huge importance to understand that none of us is in control of what we feel or think, only what we do with it. You can decide what to think about, but not the actual thought that arrives in your head. You can choose to think about a clock, for instance, but you didn’t choose the image that just came to mind, whether it’s a clock you know or just an image that you have no idea about the origins of. Likewise, if somebody strikes you as incredibly sexy you don’t choose to think whatever comes to mind. Male or female, the recognition just arrives, unbidden. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have permission to do exactly what it is you would like to do with that person – in our modern world, that is just not an option. It must be controlled, and it is here that things get even more difficult.

Females in general have no notion of the sheer unstoppable insistent urgings of the male sex drive, created over thousands of generations of the survival of life. Males, on the other hand, have not the remotest idea of how sick-making it is to experience a continual flow of innuendo when there is zero interest in sexual coupling with them. To a female, it can seem as if the first thing a male thinks of when he first lays eyes on her is sex – and it is certainly true that he knows immediately whether he would or would not. But he has no choice in the matter. Evolution has ensured that he does just that. He has no more control over it than he has over the unconscious physical signs of sexual attraction – increased pulse rate subtly darkening his features, a fixation of gaze, an increase in breathing rate, and dilation of pupils. A female will often find such overt attention at least irritating and if he ramps it up a bit, downright harassing. She doesn’t know or recognise that nature has instigated a change in his blood chemistry and psychology over which he has no control, and decides he’s just the same as all the others, always after the same thing. He has no idea that her own blood chemistry and psychology is doing nothing even remotely similar to his and as a result decides she’s probably frigid – when the truth of the matter is that under the right circumstances, her sex drive is likely to be higher than his. But he doesn’t know that. 

Once a female has become fully aroused, her sex urge is every bit as insistent as that of the male and she can be every bit as obsessive and demanding… and for good reason. The clitoris, the epicentre of female sexual pleasure, has the same number of sensory nerves as does the penis. They are, though, compressed into a far smaller area, intensifying climax to the point that it has the potential to be an intense whole-body experience. It has in fact been calculated that the female experiences some seven times the amount of climactic pleasure than does the male. And it is here that another major difference exists. Evolution has seen to it that ejaculation should occur at the earliest opportunity. This is probably because a male was vulnerable to attack during sexual coupling, so those that were fastest survived more and therefore spread that particular gene for speedy insemination more widely. The modern male, for the most part, has only a little control over this, while the female can often wait in what is technically known as the ‘plateau phase’ and revel in the sensations, maybe even experiencing several relatively small orgasms, until they decide to go for the ‘big one’. 

The path to such discovery, though, is fraught with misunderstandings and sensational media coverage about high-profile transgressions of morals and responsible behaviour. It all creates a difficult situation for males in our modern times, where he must constantly suppress even the urge to tell a female she looks nice or that he likes her perfume, lest he finds himself accused of sexual harassment and prosecuted as a result. We’re not talking about the arrogant, perhaps wealthy or high profile, male who thinks he is immune from any form of rejection and behaves badly when he experiences it. We’re talking about the ‘everyday’ male here, the ‘ordinary man in the street’ who would in the past have chatted up the female he found attractive but who now suppresses every male instinct around females for fear of being thought a sexual predator. This suppression and anxiety is creating the situation where therapists are beginning to encounter an increasing number of males with psychological sexual difficulties, that so often lead to anxiety and depression. And females fare little better, often believing that almost every man is set on raping them and being aggressively defensive as a result.

As stated at the beginning, the problem with sex is that males and females are as different in their psychology as they are in their physiology. The truth, of course, is that neither have any choice over the way they work sexually, but equally, neither of them know that about the other. Education is probably the answer, though those who would be doing the teaching might already have been negatively affected.

Terence Watts is the creator of Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT).


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