Through my own experience and coaching women for five years, I have come to know what the sexual conditioning of women is in our Christian faith, and how to help them. But women aren’t the only ones affected by our teachings. Men hear that they are the head of the household and women are there to nurture them, including giving them what they “need”. Men hear that they are to push down their emotions to be manly. Along with so many other damaging things. So in this episode, we’re going to talk about those misconceptions and, more importantly, what you can do about them.
We’ve discussed the sexual conditioning of women many times here on the podcast. But today we are going to discuss the sexual conditioning of men.
Sexual conditioning is a term that refers to the ways in which individuals (both men and women) learn and develop their sexual behaviors and beliefs systems. This process is influenced by a variety of factors, including family, religious beliefs and culture, as well as society at large. Personal experiences and media exposure also are a factor. In the case of conservative Christians, sexual conditioning can be complex and multifaceted due to the intersection of their religious beliefs with societal expectations and personal values.
Conservative Christians, both men and women, tend to have a complex relationship with sexuality. On the one hand, doctrine says that sexual desire and expression are natural and God-given. On the other hand, many teachings and culturally we often talk about the importance of sexual purity and emphasize the dangers of sexual temptation and sin. This can create a tension between the natural sexual desires that we have and the fear of moral and spiritual consequences, which often causes problems. An emphasis on the importance of waiting until marriage to engage in sexual activity can lead to feelings of guilt or shame for men and women who have sexual desires or experiences outside of marriage. Additionally, most of us learned that certain sexual behaviors, such as masturbation or premarital sex, are sinful and can lead to spiritual harm.
When we specifically talk about men, there is conditioning that is different than most women receive. A lot of this has to do with societal expectations and gender roles. Men are often expected to be sexually assertive and pursue sexual experiences, while women are expected to be more passive and chaste. The media (movies, TV shows, and pornography) often depict sex as something that is fun, exciting, and without consequences. This can create unrealistic expectations and pressure for men to conform to traditional masculine roles and engage in sexual activity, even if they feel conflicted about it or feel it goes against their religious beliefs or values. These societal expectations can also often lead men to feeling entitled to sex once they are married.
As I’ve talked to many men about this, there are very disturbing accounts of what men have been told about who they inherently are as well as their roles and responsibilities and sex.
- The importance of sexual performance: Men are often conditioned to believe that their sexual performance is directly linked to their masculinity and worth as a partner. This can lead to pressure to perform sexually and feelings of shame or inadequacy if they struggle with sexual issues.
- The objectification of women: Cultural messages and societal norms often objectify women and portray them as sexual objects for men’s pleasure. This conditioning can lead men to view women primarily in terms of their sexual appeal rather than as individuals with their own desires and needs.
- The suppression of emotions: Men are often conditioned to suppress their emotions and vulnerability, particularly around issues related to sex and relationships. This can make it difficult for men to communicate effectively with sexual partners and to seek help for sexual issues.
- The taboo around discussing sex: Despite the abundance of sexual imagery and messages in popular culture, many men are still conditioned to view sex as a taboo or an uncomfortable topic of discussion. This can make it difficult for men to seek out sexual education or resources, or to communicate effectively with sexual partners.
- The influence of religious teachings: Religious teachings and beliefs around sex can have a profound impact on the conditioning of men around sex. Here are a few things that I have heard specifically from men when it comes religion and sex:
- The better the missionary you are the hotter your wife will be (hotter meaning more sexually attractive and available)
- If you will be a good husband (earn a good living, help out around the house) you will be rewarded with sex
- Men preside and provide and women nurture, which includes taking care of the husbands “needs”
- I’ve even heard of a few men who were promised a wife that will provide for their physical needs in their patriarchal blessings
Now women are also taught these things about men (kind of) and what these beliefs do is set up both men and women to fail. All of these are contrary to agency, freedom, passion, and intimacy.
So, how do we overcome this?
- Seek education and resources: Most of us did not have access to comprehensive sex education or resources that can help us understand our sexual desires and behaviors (or lack thereof). Seeking out educational resources such as books, articles, and podcasts can help men gain a deeper understanding of sexuality and develop healthy attitudes and behaviors.
- Challenge negative beliefs: Understanding your belief systems and attitudes about sex is an important piece. Also understanding how these belief systems create feelings like shame, guilt, and fear. Men can challenge these beliefs by examining them critically and seeking alternative perspectives.
- Practice self-compassion: Men who have been conditioned to view their sexual desires and behaviors as sinful or shameful may struggle with feelings of self-criticism and judgment. Also gaining awareness around how these belief systems have played a part in the negative sexual experiences in your relationships can be hard. Practicing self-compassion, which involves treating oneself with kindness and understanding, can help men develop a healthier and more positive relationship with their sexuality.
- Communicate with partners: Sexual conditioning can also affect communication with sexual partners. Men can work to overcome this by practicing open and honest communication with their partners, expressing their desires and boundaries, as well as being receptive to their partner’s needs and boundaries. Many men express to me that they try to talk with their wife but she gets angry and so they just don’t anymore. Learning to communicate effectively, even if your partner is not receptive or tries to shut things down is important.
- Seek help: Sometimes we can work through some of these things on our own and sometimes we need extra help. This is exactly why I am starting my new men’s program. To help men work through the conditioning they have received so they can show up more in integrity and from a place of strength when it comes to sex and intimacy in their marriage.
So let me tell you more about it, because I am so excited to be working with men after working with women for the last 5 years.
Embrace You! For Men is going to be all about men’s self and sexual development. Together we will help you build the skills and give you the tools to deepen the level of intimacy and connection with yourself, your spouse, and your sexuality to help you create the life you actually want.
In the program we will work on :
- Recognition: Understanding what you are currently doing and why (the conditioning that you have).
- Self-Compassion: Building compassion and understanding for yourself as a means to change.
- Intention: Putting a plan in place to make change happen.
- Integration: Practice what you plan in each area.
You will receive videos and worksheets to watch and work on (as your time permits) each week. We will meet together for 12 weeks, starting on May 4, on Thursdays at 7am MT (this was the time that worked the best for the majority of the men that applied) for 90 minutes to get coaching and learn how to apply what you are learning. All calls will be recorded and you will have access to the replays (audio and video).
In addition to our weekly coaching calls, you will receive
- A free 30-minute private session with me (must be used during our 12 weeks together).
- Support in between sessions
- A follow up call monthly for an additional year for continued support.
I have a new app that launched this week that will make the distribution of information and our discussions in between calls easier.
This group is by application only. If you are interested in applying please go to AmandaLouder.com/men
Overcoming sexual conditioning can be a challenging process, especially when it is tied to religious beliefs and societal expectations. However, it is my experience that once we shed light on this conditioning, when we realize what that conditioning is creating for us, and we learn skills, tools, and have support, change is possible.