One of the major areas of psychosexual work with men is myth and mystery. As men, we grow up with messages from parents, peers, porn and elsewhere... all of which add to our collective understanding of sex.
Unfortunately, as we know, much of the material taken up during this process is actually unhelpful. Porn, for instance, grew (and continues to sustain) the "two feet long and hard as steel" myth of men's ideal sexuality. It gives a skewed picture of what real sex is like. This can lead to problems later on in sexual relationships.
So, much of my work with men can be about unpicking these unhelpful beliefs and attitudes - getting them back to a much more realistic - and forgiving- position with themselves and their sexual lives. We are often surprised by how refreshing and empowering this can be.... it really can lead to a more fulfilling sexual life. For that reason, I enjoy doing this kind of work with men.
My heart sank when I walked into the toilet of a local supermarket recently, and saw this on the wall:
A number of things disturb me about this. The main one is the choice of company name - "Perform" - although it might feel a bit more acceptable to attach a sub-label "wellbeing", it still smacks of competitive sexuality. Just what we don't need - another covert message saying that to "perform" is the goal of sex....
Looking at the items for sale; it's unsurprising, indeed quite acceptable, to see condoms. The buzz ring is a relatively recent addition to the 'open' market in Britain (quite common now to see these in pharmacies etc), and so that feels realistic, too.
What really gets me seething is the all-too-familiar "blue pills" which contain very little but seem to promise so much. These things appear with tedious inevitability these days, in my email inbox, on Ebay, and elsewhere.
"BLUE ZEUS", they are called here, with barely-veiled references to god-like prowess, no doubt with lightning-like erectile response, thunderous orgasms from dozens of naked writhing bodies, the air filled with screams of abandon and pleasure. One might also envisage the others, the mere mortals, only dreaming to reach the heights of such winged blue prowess if they do not posess this great potency.
Poor Bernie Zilbergeld, who did so much to debunk men's sexual myths, would be chilled to see so much of his work undone in one fell swoop. For starters, how about these, from the "New Male Sexuality" ...
Myth 5 - A Real Man "Performs" in Sex
Well, a condom machine emblazoned by a company called "Perform" is hardly going to advance men's perceptions of sexuality in the 21st century, now is it?
Myth 6 - Sex is Centred on a Hard Penis and What's Done With It
I suppose our friends at "Perform" would make far less money if this machine dispensed advice leaflets on, say, foreplay, sexual communication and mutuality. So, blue pills for hard-ons it is, then.....
Myth 7 - If Your Penis Isn't Up To It, We Have a Pill That Will Take Care of Everything
Since a large proportion of erectile problems are at least partly psychological, the notion that a pill will do the trick is awfully misleading. Medicating men, instead of educating them and enhancing their relationships, is dubious if not potentially damaging. The "recreational" use of drugs and herbal preparations (when not medically indicated) is a costly side-step from the real issues.
So our condom-selling friends at "Perform" are also, sadly, purveyors of these unhelpful myths. Men - particularly young men, whose internal model of sex is still developing, are still being fed this stuff AND paying for it at the same time.
Once, when I was feeling incredibly sarcastic and mischievous and angry, I decided that I would collect a large number of blue Smarties and advertise them for sale on Ebay, thus:
"These are SWEETS. They have no ingredients that have been proven to enhance your erections or make you last longer. But who knows, they just might - and they're a lot cheaper than those "Hercules Hugeness" tablets you've been buying from Japan, right? Why not give them a try??"
I decided not to go ahead, but.....Maybe I could have made a few bucks....?