When we think of romance, we usually think of something that is designed for women. Often, romance is seen as something that men provide for women (although among gay male relationships, the idea of romance may have a broader scope thanks to less traditional gender roles). Unlike “sweet talking” (telling your partner what they want to hear to have sex), romance communicates genuine feelings of love and caring to one’s partner. Men may provide romance, but do they get to receive it?
Traditional romantic approaches present two problems. Women may depend on, expect, or wait for their partners — male or female — to provide the romance, instead of creating it themselves. On the other hand, men lose out on the ability to experience romance for themselves, focusing instead on simply delivering it to their partner.
Most men (and women) aren’t consciously aware of this. In fact, most men would contend that romantic or not, sex feels good and is enjoyable. While women have permission to receive romance, Doin’ It Well wanted to explore the ways that men can also expand their sexual pleasure.
Romance for Two?
Men reading this may be thinking “I don’t need or care about romance.” Though this may feel true, have you ever tried? If you are a man, think about the last time you’ve engaged in slow, romantic lovemaking — for your pleasure. When was the last time your partner gave you a gentle, sensual back massage, whispered romantic things into your ear, slowly kissed you or focused on pleasuring your body in ways that didn’t immediately focus on the genitals?
When Kim talks to men about their experience of romance as part of sex, they usually explain that they are romantic with their partners, sometimes playing music, buying flowers or giving them a massage. But when asked how they themselves experience romance, men are usually dumbfounded. They explain that slow, romantic sex is something women like, not men.
However, when men are given permission to explore a romantic side of their sexuality, they often report that they enjoyed the experience very much and are stunned that they haven’t explored it before. We’re socialized to believe that a man’s goal during sex is to prepare his partner for penetration (get his partner ready), and that the main excitement for men is penetration itself. What a narrow view of sexuality!
When we hold rigid views of sexuality and sexual behavior, it becomes difficult to imagine other ways that sex can look. We might believe that non-penetrative sex is second best, which places more emphasis and pressure on the penis and penetration (which can enhance symptoms of erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation). This reinforces for men that sex is not about total body pleasure, but merely what they can do with their penis. Sex becomes a performance, a job, something men “do” rather than something they experience.
Romantic Interludes
Men: think about the ways you’d like to experience romance. It may look differently than what you think about for your female (or male) partners, or it may look strikingly similar. Do you crave a homemade (or ordered in) candlelight dinner? Soft music? A total body massage? Hearing your partner share their feelings for you? Hearing that you’re beautiful? Sexy? Listening to your partner tell you all the ways they want to give you pleasure? Flowers? A sexual scene that doesn’t lead to penetration but is filled with exploring other parts of your body that often get neglected?
If it’s something you’d like to try, talk to your partner about it. You can either ask that they help you create a romantic evening for you, or you can take the lead and set the stage yourself, asking for the kind of lovemaking you’d prefer. It may be helpful to explain to your partner that you’d like some romance for you, so that the focus can remain on how you’re experiencing romance within your relationship. Remember that this is your chance to experience romance for yourself; you are not being more romantic for your partner’s pleasure.
Identifying your need and desire for romance can lead to feelings of vulnerability, because romance reminds us of our need for love, nurturing and attention from our partners. This can feel uncomfortable if you usually focus your efforts on giving these things, rather than receiving them and identifying your needs for them can lead to feelings of vulnerability as well. Don’t despair! Experiencing this vulnerability within the context of a loving relationship can deepen your relationship with yourself and your partner and enhance your sex life.
Join us next week as Doin’ It Well explores the sexy side of playing with your food.

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