Male sexual pleasure is a complex, multidimensional affair. For far too long we have relied on narratives that position male sexuality firmly in the performance capabilities of the one-organ show known as the penis. This notion can lead those who engage in sexual relations with men to believe the farce that men require little to no work to be aroused and even less to climax.

But there is much more to the male orgasm and its relationship to pleasure. And yes, it is true that the penis is central to this analysis, but if you were to map the erogenous zones of the male body, you would find more than one site of sensitivity.

Men also face performance pressures when seeking sexual pleasure. Understanding these pressures is key to seeking true fulfillment from one’s sexual interactions. As promised, let’s delve this week into these themes that begin to deconstruct the often taken for granted topic of male sexual pleasure.

Let’s first talk about orgasm. Last time, we hailed the finding that 75 percent of men “always” or “almost always” achieve orgasm (and lamented the comparatively low female orgasm rate). Yet there is more to the story when it comes to gauging whether a male partner is satisfied.

There are two main components to the male orgasm. There is ejaculation — the actual expelling of fluid from the penis. And then there are the pleasure peaks experienced during penile stimulation. The catch is that the two aren’t necessarily correlated all the time. The late Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld, author and sex therapist, in the newly revised edition of “The New Male Sexuality” wrote, “Some men don’t have a lot of feeling when they ejaculate and some men have lots of peak feelings with and without ejaculations.” Appearances can be deceiving, and partners who seek to satisfy men must heighten their sense of awareness when reading pleasure in their partners.

That brings me to the next topic: sensitivity sites. Zilbergeld noted that the head of the penis is the most sensitive area of the phallus. The scrotum is the runner-up. The scrotum, hidden and seldom mentioned in sexual discourse, is highly receptive to many kinds of stimulation. “Many men also like their scrotums stimulated — touched, rubbed, held, licked or squeezed (though not too firmly) — during sex.”

Then there is the prostate, also known as the male G-spot. One way to access the prostate is through anal stimulation. But it isn’t the only way to stimulate the prostate. Another alternative involves massaging the perineum. Located between the scrotum and rectum, putting pressure on the perineum during intercourse or manual stimulation can yield favorable results, like reaching an orgasm.

It also should be noted that a great deal of weight is misleadingly put on the pleasure potential of the erect penis as a sexual organ. The truth is the penis is always a sexual organ, erect or not. Flaccidity should not be a deterrent when engaging with the penis because stimulation also produces pleasure.

Men must negotiate their quest for pleasure in the context of society’s portrayal of them as hyper-virile, emotionless, bedpost-notch-counting Neanderthals. In the absence of federally mandated comprehensive sex education and an overall societal sentiment that men are born all-knowing about sex, men can fall prey to the images presented in pornography that misrepresent normative male sexuality. In this imagined world where sexual intercourse is often the main attraction, penis size and stamina are overly exaggerated. Often the artful video editing implies long-standing, instantaneous erections and re-erections as standard fare.

Combine this with the relentless spam e-mails and late-night commercials that increasingly target younger men to buy enhancement drugs. The expectations game can be too much to bear as these messages give both men and women skewed impressions about what to expect when engaging in intercourse.

Yet, the irony is if both men and women — particularly heterosexuals — committed themselves to diversifying their approach to sexually engaging with the pleasure potential of the opposite sex outside of just sexual intercourse, we would be better able to meet each other’s sexual needs. If we are able to overcome these engrained sexual stereotypes it would allow for room to also critique the harmful nature of enforced gender roles that often converge on sexual interactions.

Now for three general tips:

• Male sexual arousal can also be conditional. While men may often be depicted as ravenous sexual beings who would engage with a hot ham sandwich, their sexual arousal is located in their senses, erotic stimulus and overall mental and psychological state. So be forthcoming with your partner about how your definition of manhood frames your sexual interactions.

• Your masturbation can be another’s pleasure lesson. Your partner can learn a lot about how to please you if you show them how. Take some time to show them what you like in this demonstrative way.

• Lastly, reciprocity is the key. The best way to receive the pleasure you seek is to give it away. Just remember to be as reciprocal about your sexual practice as you are about contraception, and communication and true pleasure will surely follow.

Rose Afriyie is the Daily’s sex and relationships columnist. She can be reached at sariyie@umich.edu..

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