What is the difference between the expressions “having sex” and “making love”? I think a man is more likely to talk of having sex, even when he’s referring to intercourse with his regular partner, and even when he’s in love with her.
(Though he certainly won’t mind asking her “Would you like to make love?” if it means he can have sex!) Does this reflect something about the relative importance of sex as a symbol of love for men compared to women?
I’d say it does: at some level, men are always looking out for sexual opportunities, even if that is just the opportunity for a fantasy.
As a generalization I’d suggest that even though most men would probably prefer sex with a loving partner, they still take the view that all sex is worth having: it may be great, it may be good, it may even be bad, but it’s still sex, and sex is a subject of perennial interest to men which can be quite separate from their feelings of love for a partner.
Having said that, I also need to acknowledge that men can and often do commit sexually to one partner; nevertheless, men can generally enjoy sex even if they’re not in love or in a relationship with the woman in bed with them. The question is whether the same is true for women.
And I think another generalization applies here: women are less willing to engage in sex outside of a relationship than men, since they tend to see sex more as an expression of love and commitment.
A Diversion – Video: How Disney Stereotypes May Hurt Men
It is impossible to discuss in a generalized way how men and women differ in their views about sex without just talking in clichés.
It’s certainly astounding for most women that men are often so taken with sex (to avoid using the word “obsessed”; and, by the way, not all men are actually that keen on sex). Somehow I think that’s really endearing.
It’s wonderful how (most) men seem eternally drawn to women (or to another human being) to fulfill their potential.
However, both genders seem to be stuck in their own ways: men seem to be going for quantity not quality in sex, probably based on the rationale of choosing bad sex rather than no sex, and women seem perpetually stressed about being too sexual or not sexual enough, while generally losing touch with their own personal sexuality.
The big unmentionable – the so-called elephant in the room – for a lot of couples is premature ejaculation. And yet the surprising thing is that it is comparatively easy to control.
Now, the obvious fact is that it takes two people to have intercourse, so if two people are in bed together and they’re not “in love” or in an emotionally committed relationship, several things might be happening.
The man might have lied, convincing the woman he “loves” her, so as to get her to have sex with him; the woman might be already be in love and having sex so as to try and get him to fall in love with her; men and women might be just as interested in casual sex; or a small number of women who enjoy sex with a lot of men might be providing a much larger number of men with the opportunity for casual sex.
I think we need to make more space for sex outside of “love” and for that to be OK, especially with women.
Sometimes sex is about lust, or comfort, or closeness, or experimenting, or really feeling oneself to be alive. I think sex can be great without love, but less so without respect or sexual attraction.
By the way I hate seeing women portrayed in an idealized, romanticized and kind of fluffy, ethereal and sickly-sweetish kind of way. Women are real people too.
The statistics on this are interesting. In surveys men generally claim to have had many more sexual partners than women in their lives. The 2004 Durex survey of human sexuality is very typical in this respect.
People in the UK and US claim an average of 10.3 lifetime sexual partners
Men claim to have had more sexual partners than women:
12.4 compared to 7.2
How can this be? Are the men exaggerating, or are the women claiming fewer partners than they have actually had? Or are a small number of women having sex with a huge number of men?
The answer to the question “How many sexual partners have you had?” appears to depend on how you ask the question!
When women are given the opportunity to complete surveys on their sexual behavior in privacy and with complete anonymity and confidentiality, the average number of partners they claim goes up significantly!
Allowing for some male exaggeration, a characteristic with which most women might claim some familiarity, the differences in sexual behavior, at least in terms of numbers of partners, then become non-existent!
(And, by the way, at least in this study, the number of partners women reported went up to match the number reported by men.)
But this does not, of course, provide any answers to the question of whether men tend to see sex more as a source of physical pleasure while women see it more as an expression of love.
I’d still maintain, on the basis of the language I hear in common usage (i.e. women speaking more of “making love”, that this might be so). But, you may ask, does it matter?
Well, I think there are some ways in which it matters very much. In my eyes, the internet is a bit short on pictures of lovemaking. There’s no shortage of porn sites, but there aren’t many sites with pictures of loving couples enjoying sexual intercourse.
Many of the women in porn are reluctant participants, doing it out of economic necessity or because they are coerced into it. And a high percentage of porn sites depict coercive sex or the oppression and abuse of women.
At the very least, many of them represent the exploitation of women for sexual pleasure by men.
For any teenage boy (and many men) who has ready access to such images, there is, I think, the danger that he may incorporate some harmful ideas about sex into his sexual psyche: like, for example, women are there to provide him with a sexual outlet; as he picks up this message, he fails to counterbalance it with any role models of men and women enjoying the physical expression of their love.
Saying that, the internet has also provide women with a fantastic new source for sexual information and expression.
Additionally, some women have used the publishing power of the internet to develop their own version of porn on the net, done by women and controlled by the women themselves.
Our images of sex positions
We have taken some trouble to provide images of lovemaking rather than just sex.
All our photographs depict real-life, committed couples who have agreed to appear in these images to celebrate their sexual relationship, and to provide some information and education for others who need a bit of help in the bedroom.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to talk about these things with your partner, and looking at a website can be a helpful step in gaining the knowledge you need to make your love life better.
The latest sex positions site which we support is this one, which adds some extra fun to the whole process of looking at photos of couple having sex by offering to try and interpret your sexual preferences in the light of your personality!
Whether or not this has any validity is open to question, but you can certainly try the quiz and see if the results – which purport to be your best sex position – mean anything to you!
The important part for me in our choice of pictures is that the women involved in them felt they had a choice about taking part and that they are portrayed as equal partners to men. It’s OK for these images to be explicitly sexual, as women are sexual beings too. I hope they will help you to set your sexual potential free.
Anna & Rod
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