But not because men and women are from different planets. As a recent study showed, in truth, both are from the same planet Earth; they share more in common, at least intellectually, mentally and emotionally, than they are different.
And the differences? Well, let’s just say, “Vive la difference!”
Myths that baffle men and women?
You wouldn’t know how much men and women have in common from what science and other writings have proclaimed for centuries, and in more recent decades, media and entertainment industries (and especially pornography) have reinforced and embellished mythical portrayals of women as potentially dangerous to men, akin to unruly children who must be dominated, not trusted or spoiled (“for their own good”).
Myths of romanticized dominance (eroticized, for men) still prevail. It’s not unusual for male partners to think its their job, on the one hand, to fix or set their partners straight, tell them what to do or think, scold or punish if she doesn’t follow his advice, and then blame her for making him feel inadequate for not allowing him to do his job.
While it may feel he has failed, the real problem largely lies in a set of strategies men are conditioned from boyhood to use in order to deliberately block emotional intimacy. Haven’t most men been warned from childhood to avoid such “dangerous” activity, as proof of masculinity, being “real” men?
Also based on these myths, women:
- Are supposed to “like” being treated rough, hurt, dismissed, and so on.
- Are more responsive to their partner’s needs when treated this way.
- Find their male partner more appealing when he acts dominant.
(Is it a wonder men are turning to porn in droves, given also the easy access on the internet? Pornography fills the fantasy of mythical women they can dominate and control, who don’t talk back or make demands, and who get aroused when dominated, never complain and even ask for sadistic, cruel treatment (for variety, there are also mythical women who get aroused dominating, tormenting men). Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is fast becoming a major problem in couple relationships. The bottom line? Watching “too much” porn overstimulates the release of dopamine, causing the brain to eventually numb or lose ability to be aroused. What’s too much? An addictive substance never seems “too much” to the addiction until life spins out of control…)
Where fantasy meets reality?
While it is true that the adaptive nature of the human brain — combined with hardwired drives for belonging and acceptance — can cause us to “learn” and eventually get addicted to activities (or substances) that are destructive, painful and dangerous, it’s safe to say that:
No emotionally healthy person, man, woman or child, ever chooses what harms or abuses their mind, emotional well being or body – not if they’re consciously aware and connected to life in and around them — this goes against hardwired directives of the body’s operating system to survive and thrive.
Just because a person gets addicted to drugs or junk food, or they say or “think” they “like” a toxic substance, for example, would you conclude that they “benefit” from what (in reality) destroys their health and enslaves their mind? Likely not.
As with addictive substances, sooner or later, most women come to despise tactics of dominance, especially when they discover that “going along” not only fails to deliver the love and admiration the myths promised, but also that their participation is harmful. In close relationships, like it or not, we are intricately connected by the “mirror neurons” of our brains, and what harms or degrades one, harms or degrades the other.
Myths that idealize master-slave relations have been around for thousands of years. They impact all relations in a society, i.e., parent-child, employer-employee, and not just male-female. What appears to give one rights to command another, in reality, benefits neither. On the inside. a “master” remains a “slave” in heart, ensnared by the desire to enslave.
What this says about human nature speaks to the power of human drives to matter in relation to life and others. Absent healthy ways to matter, human beings will (and do) go to great lengths to fulfill their hardwired needs for connection and love – even to the point of deceiving themselves with quick-fix, cheap-thrill alternatives.
Make no mistake, women love men’s strength. When it comes right down to the heart of what turns women on, most men may be surprised to learn, that: It’s not about a man’s body, physical strength or looks. As wonderful as these are, they are not at the top of the list; and they make no impact in most cases, absent the essentials:
What turns women on and makes their men seem sexy is about connection, closeness, emotional intimacy.
This may go against what men have been told about women because of the myths and lies.
- Pornography lied. When it comes to sex, it taught men to judge women by the same cultural standards used for men: they are either sex-focused or defective. It’s either one or the other.
- Women lied. Society taught women to be what men want them to be, and thus they lie to men when it comes to sex, seeking approval, love, appreciation, etc.
- Men lied. Society taught them to believe myths of what it means to be “real” men, and thus they lie to one another, seeking to belong, and gain the approval, acceptance of other men.
Ten things male partners can do that turn her on?
In my experience over years of working with couples, as partners and individuals, to help them restore, heal and invigorate their commitment to their relationship and one another, here’s what women say turns them on and makes their male partner sexy:
1. He listens to understand me and talks to me about his feelings (stops trying to “fix”me or proving he doesn’t need to talk).
Often men see their partner’s desire to talk as a weakness or neediness, and they do whatever they can to avoid mushy talks. They’re warned from boyhood, after all, that there’s nothing worse than being a “sissy” or a girl. Human beings are walking communications networks, however. You cannot not communicate. Simply put, communication is a life tool that helps us create or block your relationship. It’s the way our brain is wired. It’s a relationship organ. So why not get comfortable and good at something that is in your job description as a human being — and partner in a love relationship. Your relationship may not survive without it, or at best remain limited. There are several excellent books, and if your patterns are too challenging to manage, see a professional therapist.
2. He partners with me in sharing household responsibilities (stop seeing my requests as “controlling”)
Women are notorious for making “to-do lists” for their partners to complete. Men often mistake this a tactical maneuver of women to “control” and tell them what to do. As a result, the “to do” list becomes a power struggle, and wastes more energy than completing the items on the list. It’s not about the list however. It’s about the sense of connection a woman feels when the man in her life partners with her, makes her concerns his own, shares common goals, and works together with her to tend to what is theirs. More often, she’s seeking to be loved in the same ways she loves you. How you respond signals how much you value her wants and needs. Like men, women feel sexy when they feel important. Why not see items on “the list” as opportunities to stretch your heart to say “I love you,” you are important to me.
3. He appreciates me for who I am as a person (and not just for what I can do for him).
Also like men, women are turned on when they feel appreciated and interesting to their partners as persons, and they are turned off when regularly ignored or marginalized. Women love to give and pay attention to their partner, make him feel important. Too often men take this for granted, not realizing their partner wants the same kind of attention (remember how interested you were when you first fell in love?). Too often, women turn to their children to meet their needs for being appreciated, valued. If not reciprocated, in time, her love to make you happy may wane. While both men and women can make the mistake of measuring their self-worth on the basis of how much attention they get from their partner (and this needs corrective healing…), men can ignite their partner’s attention and sexual responsiveness by taking time to get to know them personally, apart from who they are in relation to what they do for them and family. It works best when both show interest in promoting one another’s strengths, dreams or passions.
4. He views my emotions or upsets as natural (stops judging me as “emotional” or trying to prove he’s immune to emotions).
There’s nothing men like less than when their partner is upset at them, and it’s not unusual for them to use an arsenal of tactics to avoid or stop her from talking about her upsets her about him or the relationship. This approach is guaranteed to escalate anxiety, anger, fear, and causes both to lose their sense of safety in the relationship. When the tactics don’t work (and they always fail), men tend to interpret this as a sign of their own failure to make their partner happy. Instead of judging yourself as inadequate or thinking it’s your job to block emotional upsets, why not check into what you can do to process and handle emotional upsets, hers and your own. She needs you to be present when she’s upset, and guess what, you’re likely to need the same in situations that upset you. This approach is guaranteed to work if you’re both invested.
5. He’s not afraid to be vulnerable (stops competing or trying to prove he’s stronger, smarter, etc.).
Women love men’s strength, their physicality, their physical prowess. What surprises most men, however, is that, unlike men, women rarely “think” of “differences” in physical strength or ability etc. in terms of – who’s “superior” or “better” or “has more power” or the “right to dominate,” etc. Most men, however, unbeknownst to women, think of relationships as hierarchical, two-tier structures in perpetual competition between a top dog (who’s in control), and an underdog (who’s not). Most really believe women expect and prefer them to prove they’re dominant. Unbeknownst to them, it’s a turn off when a man is dismissive and acts entitled to preferential treatment, and most women are baffled as to why their partner seems to be in competition with them. Nothing is sexier than a man who allows himself to be vulnerable, gentle, uses his strength to empower others, is not threatened by her strengths. Dominance may be natural in crises and wars; it fails in couple relations.
6. He loves to connect, play with and get involved in children’s lives (stop thinking being the breadwinner is “enough”).
For generations, men have been conditioned to think that their value as husbands and fathers depends on being “the provider” or a superhero who fixes all problems. As important as providing is for a family, food and sustenance help us survive; human beings are wired to do more, to want to thrive. Once physical safety needs are met, what matters most to children is parental love in the form of quality time, getting to know them, playing at their level, staying involved in their lives, their interests, dreams and aspirations on a daily basis. For whatever reason, nothing is sexier to women than a father that gets lovingly and personally involved with the children. Perhaps she is moved by tenderness and care extended to children, or perhaps it’s because this affirms her nature and role as mother. Whatever the reason, this remains a powerful way to build a strong sense of connection between your heart and hers.
7. He plans romantic nights or getaways (stops minimizing my need for romantic exchanges).
Men work so hard to capture the heart of their partner, then take her for granted once the commitment is made. (Naturally this works both ways.) The point is that it’s the small ways you show you care, and are willing to stretch, to love your partner in ways that make her feel loved. Love is deep and personal, it’s about the seeing, knowing, wanting the best and to make life wonderful for the other. Emotional intimacy is the foundation of vibrant sexual relations. The sooner you both get comfortable with the idea that, as human beings, you both love attention, the better. Men often mistake her “wanting attention” as “needy,” and feel they shouldn’t have to do something “romantic” if it doesn’t come natural. Instead, why not adopt an attitude of: “Whatever works to energize our relationship, providing it’s healthy, I’m in!” (Again, this mostly works when both are on board.)
8. He is faithful and devoted (stops turning his head to look at other women).
If you’re in a committed relationship, and your head turns to look at other women, or you’re into porn, you may want to consider how your actions are impacting your relationship, and your partner’s libido. This is an area in which men lose a lot of points, and get themselves in trouble, surprised when their partner’s libido starts to wane. Thanks to the myths, most believe that it’s natural for men to look at women sexually. Some studies show there’ cultural pressure for men to act out sexually. From the time boys are in middle school, for example, according to Harvard Medical School research, Dr. William Pollack’s published work, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood, men are pressured to act sexual to prove their worth. It’s a key way men get their needs for belonging and acceptance met with quick-fix, cheap-thrill ways. Porn, love and sex addiction are rampant. Acting out sexually blocks men and women from building trust and emotionally safety in their relationship. Without a safe connection, neither heart is open to fully give and receive the love they yearn to realize. Are you investing energy in activities that erode your connection to your partner? Is your head turning to prove you’re a “real” man? Who do you most want to impress? Other women? Other men? Or, your partner?
9. He enjoys nonsexual affection, playful fun and touch (and is not sex-focused).
Most women love affection, playful touch, spontaneous embraces, holding hands, and so on, however, these can become turn offs if they become associated mostly with foreplay to sex and partner’s sexual advances. Too often, men equate love and sex, and their needs for love from their partner are sex-focused. It’s an understandable, albeit learned response to a biological need. Most men had fathers who, as role models, were not physically affectionate with their mothers. It helps for men to understand that sex for a woman is often a 24/7 experience of emotional connection, and that means, she’s turned on and finds it sexy when he deliberately finds ways to connect with her around the close, for example, looks into her eyes, takes her hand or picks her up and swings her around. (Timing is important, however; this may not work when she’s juggling dishes, laundry and putting the kids to bed!).
10. He is tough emotionally, yet gentle (stops relying on force, anger, intimidation as strength).
Women love men’s strength, and they love having men’s strong arms around them. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson however, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength.” There’s something about a man’s physical strength and body size that is endearing, yet few actions say a man is secure and confident in himself than his gentle handling of other’s feelings, sensitive situations, especially when things are not going his way.
In sum, women find their partner sexy when he displays his devotion to her, their children and relationships, he shows an interest spending time and being with her, cares about her feelings and dreams, and is a secure emotional presence who partners with her. (Do you know of any men who don’t also want these things?)