by Dr. Frank Sommers
Clearly sex is a powerful inborn impulse in every human being. The drive is innate as we say, but its practise is learned.
Where is one to learn how to behave sexually? In our society, it is common for millions to learn from the media: television and movies, magazines, books and lately music videos, and of course the omnipresent sexually explicit videos which are produced in the thousands by the porn industry.
I see many people in my practice whose chief source of sex education was from watching porn videos. This seems to be a problem especially for guys coming of age, who had their exposure to sex only from the explicit satellite or cable television channels or from videos rented from adult video stores. When you carry this kind of picture in your head of well-hung studs and often pneumatically enhanced women going at it with wild abandon for what seems like hours on end, it can create highly unreasonable expectations in yourself about what healthy adult sexual behavior is all about.
Of course you’re not entirely at fault. Because our culture, despite appearances, appears to be, in fact, sex negative, there are very few alternative sources of valid models for sexual behavior in a mature love relationship.
To help provide some balance, I have over the years produced a number of sex education videos (The Great Sex Video Series), which, while explicit, do demonstrate the kinds of love making which I think provide a healthy picture for mature adults. Fortunately, my videos had been very well received, both professionally, and by the general public, in many countries around the world. Interestingly, we do get many requests from countries where fundamental Islamic rulers and governments prevail.
In light of the tragic events of 9/11/01 in New York City, the horrific tragedy that has seared civilized humanity to its core, I think it’s worth reflecting on the way sexuality is approached or dealt with in some of these fundamentalist societies.
The nature of my practice is highly multicultural since our city attracts people from all over the world coming to seek a better life. Through intensive review of the life stories of many of these men and women I have come to appreciate the enormous barriers that many young people from these cultures have to overcome in their growing-up years, as they’re trying to reach adulthood.
A man called Ahmed illustrates this point. He was 33 years old when I first saw him having recently arrived from a Middle Eastern country where his wife and two children still resided. He was most anxious to obtain a good education about sex in general, and hoped to find a solution to his problem of premature ejaculation. He realized that something was not right, since his wife who came from an even more religious Muslim family than himself, and thus would not ever complain, he could tell that she was less than happy with their intimate life.
Ahmed related that he grew up in a society where boys could never play with girls, where he went to a series of schools only for boys, and university was the first opportunity to be somewhat in the vicinity of females. On close questioning he disclosed that he received no sex education of any kind either in his home or in school. He recalls experiencing sexual feelings at around the age of 12 and beginning his secretive masturbatory ‘career’ about that time. He felt utterly at sea with respect to his sexual impulses, and there was no access to any meaningful literature, magazine articles or books or a trusted teacher who could help provide guidance for the powerful sexual urges that he and his age mates all were expected to quietly, secretively deal with.
As now many people in the world know, some societies go to extreme lengths to suppress women’s freedoms even to a point of not allowing them to show their face in public. One hears edicts issued that women cannot wear high heels lest the noise their shoes make while walking would attract male attention and unwelcome excitation. Or is it temptation?
The sad thing about these ultra-repressive societies is that they really provide their rulers and power elites a means of controlling a fundamental human drive: sexuality. Further, it subjugates women and men with respect to a very basic human freedom: their sexual birthright.
Ahmed related that the possibility of dating during his growing up years was zero, that touching (necking, petting) experiences were totally unavailable to him, or other boys and girls, and that the only sexual outlet would be wet dreams and masturbation until the time of potential marriage.
In some of these societies marriage would be between two young people arranged by their families and often the young couple would only be able to meet a few times before the decision would be made to proceed with combining their lives and forming a new family. Even during this time of potential ‘engagement’, the couple would usually rarely have any opportunities to ever be alone in private to exchange physical affection. However, the couple would be expected on their wedding night to suddenly come alive sexually and have a wonderful fulfilling time.
One can wonder what such rigid, compulsive, controlling approach to a wonderful, natural human function, our gift of sexuality, does to individuals and their society. Is it any wonder if the suicidal, murderous hijackers of 9/11 went to their deaths as virgins, with the promise of 72 virgins waiting upon each of them in paradise?
My patient Ahmed, by the way, is now a changed man. He not only resolved his ejaculatory control problem in therapy but also became a much more informed, fulfilled, skillful love partner. His wife, having now joined him with the children, is a happy woman.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could share with millions of others such knowledge and skill? Is it possible, at least to wonder, if then our world might be less violent, more loving?