PARIS — It's a cliché that's constantly repeated: men are always ready for sex, no matter how or with whom. This aroused state as impulsive as breathing: a physical, hormonal need, maintained by pornographic stimulations, boosted by heat, exacerbated by sports. In short, there's always something....

Certainly, sometimes stress, fatigue or medical problems interfere with sex drive — but in any case, we share this idea that there's the desire, no matter how minimal, never goes away; if anything, it's only counteracted or postponed.

This concept of men being "always ready," comes with some very harmful consequences: if men want it all the time, then their partners can never give it to them enough, and bear the guilt. If men are always sexually frustrated, then they only become "normal" from time to time, they are allowed to use force (we have all heard of rape or prostitution being justified due to the lack of female availability — what's implied is that it's the fault of all women if some are raped, since if they had respected the nature of men then we wouldn't be here).

However, according to a study published this year in France (Charles.co/IFOP), 47% of men have already experienced low libido, including 18% in the past year. Also 57% have already erections that were not firm enough, 29% have not been successful at having an erection at all. Nearly one in 10 men have some form of erectile dysfunction.

You can't treat me like I'm an object.

Inexhaustible masculine libido thus constitutes a myth, maintained by the men themselves: bragging when it comes to sexual prowess, the size of their penis or their desire form a part of the masculine code. Jokes are repeated even when they harm those who make them. When one is aroused all the time, that's a condition called priapism. And if one doesn't "think about it," then it's probably time to see a good movie or to get involved in politics.

Here we face a problem: we know that low libido is actually common, but we still continue to perpetuate this idea that a man wants sex and consents all the time. This standard of the "real man" drives behaviors that are bad for their health: 21% of men have already supplemented their "shortcomings" by medication, 16% by alcohol, and 9% by drugs, according to the same IFOP study. Less extreme: 43% have watched pornography to arouse themselves.

These mechanisms of compensating usually come at a cost of listening to ourselves, something we must practice to better know ourselves or to become better lovers. If we can just ask a simple question: "Do I really want it, with whom, why, in which circumstances?" then we can understand which conditions are responsible for a decreased sex drive… all while recovering dignity ("I'm not an easy man, and no, you can't treat me like I'm an object.")

Benefits also extend to couples: in refusing sexual activity from time to time (with communication), one creates a distance that fosters desire: rather than offering too much, one can better manage the absence of sex drive.

"Culturally, the manliness of a guy has always been measured by sex drive" — Photo: JP Valery

Especially in this outlook, women aren't always the more delicate, on a scale that starts from derogatory remarks to men ("what dogs," "always craving," "like vultures" etc,..) to aggression. In France, one man in 20 have been victim of a rape or attempted rape, half under the age of 11 (survey CSF, 2006). Their perpetrators are sometimes women who have pressured them mentally or physically while taking advantage of them, for example when the men are intoxicated.

Despite the inherent difficulty in filing a complaint (whatever the scenario), remember that the French law approved August 1, 2018 in the initiative of Secretary of State on Gender Equality, Marlene Schiappa, allowed performing forced oral sex on men and forcing penetration by men to be qualified as rape. Erection isn't a sign of consent, nor is ejaculation (in the same way that neither vaginal lubrication nor female orgasm are proof of consent).

But even without considering that, even the decrease in sex drive of one partner is the source of a lack of understanding from the other partner. Women, generally, are not educated on men's consent: they don't ask because, by default, they consider that men always consent ⁠ — all the male bragging doesn't fall on deaf ears. This means that women may miss "evident" signs of disinterest or avoidance, or ignore repeated verbal rejection. They then put their partners into a situation that's so familiar: when one says no one time, one usually has to say no five, six, 40 times. It them becomes simpler, faster to just stop resisting, and to wake up the next morning with anxiety.

When this one part of the body doesn't function, then nothing else exists.

In this case, the lack of understanding on the part of women on the taboo social issue often results in internalization ("if he doesn't get aroused, it must be because I'm undesirable") or sometimes externalized with aggression ("you don't love me anymore, I'm sure that you're seeing other women, you have to make an effort…") In any case, the perceived issues overlook the real cause of the problem: a simple lack of libido rather than some kind of crisis.

Aside from problems concerning women's ego, we must also look at men's fragile ego. Culturally, the manliness of a guy has always been measured by sex drive: a man who doesn't have sexual urge is not man. This reduction of masculinity to only sexual prowess creates an additional pressure on the shoulders (or penis) of men: when this one part of the body doesn't function, then nothing else exists, doesn't matter if he's a handsome guy, in good health, smiling, he still has "a big problem." If you're looking for the instant recipe to block sex drive, you'll find it.

Because the men concerned don't talk often either to their partners or to their friends, and don't even realize sometimes that they don't want to have sex, it's time to talk about this in our culture. Very simply, we have to remember that no, men don't always want to have sex. No, they are not always available for any type of fantasy any time. And no, the lack of sex drive does not put into question a man as a human being.


See more from Culture / Society here