Boys don’t cry. Man up. Don’t be a pussy. We’re used to hearing these things any time a man shows any emotion. We think that hiding tears makes men attractive to women and that being macho is the way to live. But ignoring your softer side can have some pretty negative outcomes, which is why it’s high time we got more in touch with our emotions—it makes us stronger, sexier, and to be completely honest, better in bed.
“I think emotional disconnection in men is a profound underpinning of toxic masculinity and the root of a lot of physical and mental anguish for men and our communities,” says Tuval Dinner Nafishi, a gender equity educator. Don’t roll your eyes at the words, though.
As Nafishi points out, “toxic masculinity” is a buzzy way of remarking on how our society idealizes the emotionless man, even when it’s detrimental to men’s relationships and mental and physical health. This negativity can effect everything, especially your relationships with women and your experiences in the bedroom.
Men are socialized to develop their survival skills while women are socialized to develop their empathy skills.
“The reality is,” Nafishi says, “that we have these feelings and whether or not we are in touch with them, they are affecting us. When we aren’t in touch with them they often affect us in harmful ways that we can’t manage or deal with. This often means self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, overworking, using video games and sports as a distraction, etc.”
Getting in touch with these more painful emotions may seem tricky, but it creates something that will help in the bedroom: empathy.
“Generally, men are socialized to develop their survival skills while women are socialized to develop their empathy skills,” explains Sally Cozens, a psychotherapist and social worker. “Men are taught to ‘step up,’ ‘assert yourself,’ or ‘don’t let yourself be pushed around. This may be good advice in establishing a position in a group of men, but it is contrary to creating trust and intimacy in romantic relationships.”
But how does getting in touch with your emotions make you better in bed? Being unafraid to broach sensitive topics with your partner can help open up all sorts of communication—something called ‘emotional intimacy.’ Increasing this form of intimacy, says Cozens, leads to better trust and makes men more attractive to their partners.
“Emotional intimacy leads to sexual intimacy and transforms your relationship,” she says. Having that trust allows you to explore things in the bedroom you may have been unable to before because being in touch with your softer side and building up that emotional intimacy will allow your guard (and your partner’s) to come down.
And where there’s emotional intimacy, there’s empathy. And the ability to feel empathetic toward the people we love the most creates a positive feedback loop, making our partners feel loved and respected, and giving us the ability to explore each other’s desires in a trusting way. “Being emotionally aware of and affirming about what women have to say is one of the most attractive qualities a man can have in a romantic interaction,” says Cozens.
Not being afraid to express all your emotions, not just the “macho ones” is never a bad thing, but when the reward is better orgasms (and probably more of them), it’s time to get sensitive.