Feminism is For Men, Too!

affectionate couple after couples counseling

As a sex therapist in Thornton, Colorado I see gender roles at work every day in my office. From the husband who is too tough to cry, to the wife who is upset because that’s what she said but not what she meant. In my counseling as a sex therapist, I work with couples to understand, see, and deliberately choose what roles they want to perform in their marriage. How couples assumed these roles in the first place is anyone’s guess. But one thing’s clear: once couples begin to see the gender roles they’ve been performing, a light bulb goes off and change starts to happen really fast for couples. This is where feminism can come in handy – even for men.

Feminism is an often hostile conversation between the genders, and as a feminist therapist, I understand both sides. For women and other marginalized groups, it’s a conversation about equity and equality, a conversation about eliminating harm done to women and other marginalized groups, dismantling the ongoing imbalanced power dynamics in relationships and sexual dynamics.  For men, it’s often a conversation where feelings of defensiveness, fear, anxiety, and helplessness may arise. And I understand this. Many men don’t go about their day or relationship with the intent to harm and are doing their best to be what they were raised and fed to believe is best for themselves and their families. So, when words like patriarchy, misogyny, and feminism get brought into the conversation, it can be a difficult experience for men.

Now, the question is, why is feminism important and benefits men?

How Feminism Benefits Men

As a Marriage and Family Therapy Candidate and Certified Sex Therapist, there are an exhaustive number of examples of how patriarchy impacts and harms men and their relationships. Some of the most reoccurring themes I’ve seen have to do with power imbalances in a relationship, feelings of shame and inadequacy regarding penis performance, and inaccessibility to mental health. For today, let’s stick to the latter two.

Society often places immense pressure on men to perform sexually in a way that aligns with exaggerated standards of masculinity. Men need to be the perfect sexual partner with little to no guidance, men are taught to take a sexually assertive lead and to provide immense pleasure from their appendages alone. This is not only harmful but unrealistic for men and their partners. Men who fall into these societal traps might find themselves feeling inadequate as a partner because their erection subsided, because they ejaculated in an undesired time frame, or because they are unable to bring their female partner to climax with their penis alone. When men come into my office sharing these concerns, I often find them to be paired with negative self-talk, depressive symptoms, low self-esteem, and feelings of shame. What feminism helps us achieve in the therapeutic space, is discerning from fantasy and reality. Examining our societal and media-based sex education and how these patriarchal sexual ideologies have done more harm than good.

Feminism Can Help Men’s Sex Lives

By promoting open and honest conversations about sexuality, feminism encourages men to understand that sexual performance does not define their worth or masculinity. Feminism emphasizes mutual respect, consent, and communication in sexual relationships. When men embrace these feminist principles, they can experience a significant reduction in anxiety related to sexual performance. They learn that it’s okay to express their vulnerabilities and seek support without fear of judgment. This shift not only improves their sexual health and relationships but also fosters a healthier, more compassionate view of themselves.

Feminism Can Help Men Feel Closer to their Partner

Feminism also does incredible work in helping men learn and embody their accessibility to mental health. Historically, men have been fed information about therapy, self-care, and emotional vulnerability that can be captured in a singular phrase, ‘man up.’ There is this floating idea that real men are not emotionally vulnerable, that they are failing as a masculine and powerful individual for going to resources like therapy, that prioritizing self-care sends the message of being unreliable as a provider and protector. These are all patriarchal ideas that serve little to no good. In my humble opinion. The long-term effects of these can present in session as a husband-and-wife reporting being emotionally distant. Men experiencing anxiety, depression, and potentially difficulty managing anger. Perhaps you, possible male reader, are feeling the pressure to be all the things a man should be able to do breathlessly. The truth is, you’re not failing, it’s an unrealistic expectation.

How feminism can be helpful in a space as this is holding space for those struggling under the weight of it all and work to dismantle the ideas around what makes a man a man. Who decides what masculinity is, and breaking barriers that say men should do all these things without help, resources. Above all, we work to show, and practice, that mental health and masculinity are not mutually exclusive, and work to broaden emotional bandwidths for better and deeper connections with themselves, their partners, and loved ones.

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