Can Men Write About Sex Without Sounding Like Douchebags?


So it’s no secret around these parts that I (and all of us at The Gloss, really) like to read and write about sex. I find it an interesting subject for a variety of reasons: it can help us understand ourselves and each other, it’s often horrifying and/or funny, there is still a taboo around talking about it, you never really stop learning about sex, it can be empowering to tell your own story, I like reading other people’s personal shit…I could go on. But one thing I’ve noticed about most of the sex writing I’ve been reading these days is that the conversation seems to be dominated by people inhabiting queer and/or feminized bodies, i.e. everyone but straight, cisgender men. Why is that?

I should proceed with the caveat that I know there are some straight/cis men out there writing good things about sex. Just yesterday, I read a great essay by Jonathan Lethem about his coming of age that was included in Rachel Kramer Bussel‘s Best Sex Writing 2013 anthology. But when I consider the most prominent writers dealing primarily with sexuality, I think of women and gay men. I think of Marie Calloway, Karley “Slutever” SciortinoLux Alptraum, Stoya, Rich Juzwiak, Tracie Egan when she was “Slut Machine,” Audacia Ray, Tristan Taormino, Susie Bright, and of course, the great Dan Savage. (There are probably a lot more that I’m forgetting.) What kind of straight male sex writers occupy the popular imagination these days? Whoever writes the sex tips in Maxim?

James Deen has a great blog about his life as a porn star, which sounds genuinely wonderful and fun and uncomplicated. But if you look at the comments, or the comments on any article about him, you might find a clue as to why he doesn’t have more blogging compatriots. A lot of people seem to think he’s an asshole for 1.) being a porn star, and 2.) writing about it, because of course a man would want to do that. Men (I’m just going to refer to them as “men” now, but you know this is shorthand) are supposed to want sex all the time, and women are supposed to want relationships and babies. When women and queers write about sex, it is seen as transgressive, empowering, taking back the narrative. When men do it, it’s reinforcing the status quo, or simply bragging.

Of course, a lot of women who write about sex are also branded attention whores, hacks, and worse, which might be part of what scares men away. The majority of male sex writing I have come across is tucked tastefully within the pages of “literary” books, where it is assumed to say something larger about the human condition. I just wrote and deleted a paragraph about the history of male sex writing, because pretty much all of it has been subsumed into the larger literary canon to the point where no one considers it “sex writing”: Phillip Roth, John Updike, Henry Miller, etc. Is this an artificial distinction I shouldn’t be drawing? Probably! But I didn’t invent it. I’m going to go ahead and say this is part of the problem.

Share This Post:
    • stevetacitus

      Check out the novels of Andrew Greeley. They are a very good read!

    • donkeytonkcountry


    • donkeytonkcountry

      this, basically. “When women and queers write about sex, it is seen as
      empowering, taking back the narrative. When men do it, it’s reinforcing
      the status quo, or simply bragging.” See everything else that is
      “empowering” when “marginalized” people do it vs. basking in entitlement
      when white-cis-ablebodied-men do it. We lefty white men types have
      learned that any “swagger” we display is more or less instantly
      critiqued by marginalized people as privilege, so we have become the
      sheepish self-deprecating man-boys that don’t excite women sexually.
      Be careful of unintended consequences, calling privilege WILL make lefty, progressive
      men (as opposed to blatantly anti-PC men who) change their behavior, but
      not necessarily in the way you might want.

      • Maya Willis

        time to put man-hating cuunts in check

      • Maya Willis

        Let’s start telling the truth about women:

    • Lo

      Of course they can. See also: ‘Can women write about x without sounding like y?’

    • Eileen

      There’s writing about sex, and then there’s writing about sexuality. Sexuality/gender studies often get wrapped up in the package of “women’s studies,” which is a fairly non-cisgendered-male-dominated field. Not that men didn’t come to meetings of feminist club, or take classes on gender, but they did so in much smaller numbers than women (probably, ironically, because of…gender roles).

      As for writing about sex specifically…obviously I can never really know for sure, but it always seems to me that women talk with each other more explicitly, and more openly, about their sex lives than men do, especially when their sex lives involve a long-term monogamous partner. So that could be another thing.

    • Elizabeth

      Of course men are capable. It’s just like you said, they are scared. Either about being perceived as a misogynist or being seen as weak or “gay” for not viewing sex in the way society thinks men should be: sex-craving animals. So the decent guys don’t write because it’s probably much easier to not get involved with all the gender politics. which is a shame
      really great topic though, i think we need more people addressing how sexism and misogyny in our culture is actually bad for men too.

      • A StrongWoman

        More people need to address how feminism’s theory IS sexism and hateful against men!

    • Miguel Canabosis

      Men are very interested in writing and talking about sexuality. What holds a lot of men back is the fact that in order to talk about sexuality in an honest way, you have to (respectfully) critique the attitudes and behavior of Both genders, not just men. I tried doing that in this post. Unfortunately, the author of the Slate article you mention, Amanda Marcotte, responded to my post by calling me an “asshole” and a “prick”, among other things.
      So for a lot of men, writing about sexuality and trying to engage with feminists isn’t worth it, even for those of us who are, for the most part, sympathetic to feminism.

      • MarieMackinnon

        I’ll translate this from guyspeak into English: WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH, girls were mean to me!

      • Tim

        If he’s unattractive to women, that’s his fault. True.

        But if women aren’t being honest about their sexual preferences, its their fault.

      • Dirty_Nerdy

        If women aren’t attracted to him and he’s not getting laid, then it sounds like those women are being honest about their sexual preferences.

      • Mike

        I’m not sure I agree with Miguel’s original post, but maybe this kind of response is why many men are spooked at talking about sex or gender issues? Was his post whiny? Yes, but it doesn’t deserve this sort of mockery or derision either.

      • IsabellaCunnie

        I absolutely agree men hating feminists are NOT progressive, they are vectors of sexual liberation of the sexes. If they tried looking in the mirror they’d see exactly what they hate – women as patriarchy! Women censoring women because because they think they are buying into the sexual and general repression of women, when really they are the ones doing the repressing of, well everyone; themselves, their fellow women and men! Sex rocks and quite frankly it would be shit without men. People should be educated around sexuality and what constitutes a healthy attitude to sex, instead of being left to take there ques from pornography.

        @Kevin: I think you’re, she’s a right-wing troll and lesbian by choice, taboo-t! Anti-Sex Feminists Worst of the Three!

      • Kevin

        *Squints* Can’t tell if Marie Mackinnon is a real feminist…

        Or a right-wing troll.

    • MarieMackinnon

      It’s because they’re too busy watching porn. They can’t control themselves long enough to put words on paper. They don’t have enough blood to run their brains and their penises at the same time. It’s a hormonal thing!
      They’re involved in too much anyway. An area with less involvement from males is good. It balances itself out. Congress (which is 80% male) just called an all male panel to discuss whether to pass a federal law that bans all abortions past 20 weeks, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother. Wonderful!
      So it’s good men aren’t involved. They need to be less involved, actually, across the board.

      • Elleie

        massive bravo!

      • Womanology

        Look, people! An actual, live, cartoon feminazi! One who can’t see that her logic is exactly the same as that of the chauvinist patriarchy! “They” this, “they” that … Doing her best to set the feminist cause back 40 years. Unless, of course, it’s a bloke, trolling. In which case, ha.

      • Jay

        You can be a granny or a land whale and still get laid left and right with men better looking than you. That will give you enough experience to write about sex.

      • Odysseus

        We’ve figured it out. You’re not a feminist. You’re a conservative troll masquerading as a histrionic caricature of a feminist, reduced to name calling instead of evidence and argument.

    • LukeB33

      They can, but to be honest it’s not worth it. Look at this marymckinnon in the comments. She just said all men are too busy watching porn and then segued into male congress trying to pass anti-abortion laws. As if those out of touch right winged politicians represented an entire gender.

      Frankly I’ll paraphrase key feminist points, but there is always someone out there looking for a fight. And no one really cares about defending straight males when it comes to the topic of sex. So without any support and seeing that other people can talk about it but you’ll go under scrutiny. It’s not worth it to most (at least that’s my hypothesis). And quite frankly it doesn’t matter that much to most because hetero males aren’t as sexually oppressed.

      But good for anyone who wants to explore their sexuality through writing.

    • A StrongWoman

      Men don’t write about sex because of the sexist double-standard that it is acceptable and encouraged for women to be sexual and women’s bodies and their sexuality are celebrated, while men are vilified and their bodies and their sexuality are shamed by feminism. It is my hope that more people will open their eyes to feminism’s sexist, double-standard and hatred of males. Why would men write about sex and expose themselves to more hatred and criticism by feminists?

      • Dirty_Nerdy

        Yeah, right StrongWoman. Men are the one’s whose sexuality is demonized. That’s why they’re the ones who are encouraged or forced to be virgins and if they step out of line they’re called sluts and whores. Yep, that’s reality for ya!


    • Mack

      There’s an author called “Gypsysattva’ who writes interestingly about sex (among other topics), although I think he hopes to be considered part of that ‘literary’ canon you speak of. One of his books is called ‘Good Cult’; it’s about polyfidelity (among other things). Here’s an excerpt from another book called ’13 Moons’:

      The lifeguard-fantasy has got to be a hot one for girls, sure; I see them looking. I can see them picturing how big and hard it gets and I feel like shouting: Hey, up here! Look at my eyes! I’ve got a lot going on inside my head too- do you even care?

      (“I’m not just a piece of meat” won’t quite elucidate, that thought blocked as being too “feminine”…)

      When I’m feeling horny do I buy my palm a few drinks chat it up and all the rest of that tripe? Throwaway fucks. Still in your bed. Some person you don’t even know and
      don’t care to now that you’re spent; immediately you wish you could wipe her
      away like mopping up nut with a floor sock. Sex appeals, but a pud-pounding always straightens the mind.

      Why can’t it be sweet, why can’t she be nervous of me?

      A beautiful sleeparound girl decides she wants man meat so she picks a hard body for a night. No more does he own her then though than would she expect him to deny himself a different vagina when he next feels the immediacy of his need.

      How can I find in this age what I crave?

      I dream of the one who saves it for me, fully aware of how priceless that makes her. Who has resisted her hormonal curiosity, who intuits an older wisdom than this current libidinousness- who bides her time and makes total love her ultimate goal… I know what I want and its transcendent soul-fire. I want a woman who would fucking DIE for me, is that too much to ask?

      Throwing a wide net one is bound to catch fish. But the old man of the sea carefully baits a lure irresistible to the singular prize he seeks, he sets a sharp hook designed
      to set deep but only if swallowed completely; not every nibble’s a marlin so the wise salt is patient; he bides his time and plays out line and patience because schooling fish are plentiful for the taking but what’s worth the wait is rare indeed; netfuls of clones affect in him antipathy.

    • Spasmolytic

      Male bashing on the Internet has reached epic proportions.

    • ultradawn

      dear woman writer, please, think about the term “douchebag”. do you know what you mean when you call someone that? do you know why it is considered a derogatory term? will you continue to use this term, after such consideration?

      • Dirty_Nerdy

        Who is “douchebag” derogatory toward? The women who used to be forced to use these disgusting, useless and harmful “medical” devices? Or the men (usually doctors, sometimes husbands) who used to force the women, or convince them it was needed? Seriously, if somebody is being disgusting and harmful, “douchebag” is the perfect word to use.

    • Feral N Hungry, Esq.

      This article physically hurt to read.

      I read a few feminist blogs, and I participate in forum discussions on LGBT issues, and I hold the line against chauvinists and bigots, because I agree — I trumpet loudly — that line needs to be held. Patriarchy is An Evil, and rape culture is an abomination.

      But it’s hard a lot of the time. It’s hard to read story after story after story about how one guy or another was SOOO evil, and how terrible it is to have guys drooling all over you, and “why can’t they just leave me alone?”

      It is terrible to be viewed as a sex object I am told, and I believe it. It means, to the best of my understanding, to be viewed as unloved and unlovable; only valuable as a source of sex.

      So here’s a question; how does it feel to be viewed as unloved, unlovable, and NOT EVEN as valuable as an object? I could tell you. It’s not pretty.

      Having a bunch of women wanting me, even as a human forklift, or the only one who can reach the top shelf, is terrible too, when it happens, but it is less so. I don’t know how or indeed whether that relates to being viewed as a sex object.

      I am loved, and I am lovable. I am even desired and desirable. The fact that it took 40 years to learn that is an obscenity. The fact that it is uncommon to tell men these things is why we have to deal with MRAs and similar bullshit.

      That Jezebel post about hating men being a self-fulfilling prophecy hits this point pretty well, but it misses the fact that the guys who do it don’t think they’re giving anything up. “If I’ll be hated as an asshole OR as a saint, I have no reason to improve,” is an understandable position. Let me tell you, feeling hated and undesirable and standing up as a feminist anyway has been hard. It has been torture. Thank you for this post.

    • Ava

      That excerpt of text is absolutely disgusting, no matter if a man or a woman wrote it. It makes no difference, it’s still vile