Blog: Sex

The heart desires, but the body refuses

"The Heart Desires but the Body Refuses: Sexual Scripts, OlderMen’s Perceptions of Sexuality, and Implications for Their Mentaland Sexual Health" (2017) - Sylivia Karen, Rutagumirwa, and Ajay Bailey

Notes:

Tanzania

They found that internalized sexual scripts were the main driver of youth’s vulnerability (i.e., prompted them into risky practices) because these scripts constitute masculinity as very fragile and in need of constant protection, making these male adolescents wary both of female partners who refused them sex and of sexual practices which offered little or no control and power over women (i.e., that raised suspicions about their manliness).

Memo: [2013-02-26 08:36:34]. Before I started data collection I struggled to imagine what my relationship to the participants would be. I asked myself whether they would be willing to open up to me. …I realized that, in order to be trusted by the participants, the personal characteristics of the interviewers, such as sense of humor, dress, and conduct would be more important in establishing rapport with and gaining the confidence of the participants than the age or sex of interviewer.

“…Aging is a painful thing for a man … when a man becomes old all the energy leaves him …the body refuses to respond to desires… the two of you (husband and wife) just stare at each other, the relationship changes… you start treating your wife as your sister! Ehe! A week passes, and another... even a month can pass without doing it (sex), you are afraid of trying, you may perform poorly…Eeh the body may betray you again…as a man you feel worthless… You fail again! …This is very stressful for a man… Your partner may think, ‘Maybe my husband is tired of me or he is running around’… The quarrel starts.” (MzeeMagari)

Specifically, the Jando model honors two forms of masculinity: the man as breadwinner/material provider and the man as a sexual actor. Participants claimed that a balance between these roles is equated with “ideal masculinity.”

men’s power lies in performance and potency,” “an ideal man is virile,” “a proper man is good in bed,” “going several sexual rounds makes a man,” “a man with sexual capacity earns respect,” “sexual potency is central to manhood,” “the level of respect a man receives depends on his sexual performance,” and “without good sex, money and wealth cannot satisfy a woman”.

Participants argued that although a man’s masculinity is demonstrated in part by his ability to provide for his family/wife, being a good provider does not give the man power or control over his woman/wife in both the social and the sexual realm if he is sexually weak.

Commonly participants said that their wives and societal norms set expectations that are quite high. However, most of the participants reported that they have lost their past sexual selves. Instead, they said they rely on “sexual nostalgia,” and they see their youth as a core reference point and ideal for healthy sexuality.

To be honest, impotence is the greatest annoyance in marital life, and it is even more embarrassing for polygamous men like me… The heart still desires but the body doesn’t allow…it is an embarrassment, for sure.

Most of the participants expressed concerns about being deemed an “incomplete or good-for-nothing” man who cannot perform well sexually or control his wife’s sexuality.

the majority of the participants—and especially those with a younger wife or a big age gap between themselves and their partner(s) (including those in polygamous marriages)—revealed that they were embarrassed by their performance issues within their marriage. Men’s superior power and dominance are embedded in characteristics such as having sexual prowess and virility, having sexual skills, being able to achieve an erection, and being able to go several sexual rounds.

These norms discourage men from asking or talking about their sexual weakness/problems. Thus, a man is encouraged to conceal his sexual weaknesses to protect his image as a powerful and proper man. Moreover, these norms deny older men the space to express their fears and anxieties because such behaviour is perceived as womanly and would call their manhood into question.

…to preserve your image you better avoid talking about it …”.

fears associated with silenced sexuality, many men use traditional herbs and home remedies to treat sexual problems rather than seeking out professional health care.

suicides: “Some because they perceived themselves as failures; others because they didn’t have support…Others had maybe lost their hope and their dignity. So they think it is better to die quickly than to die slowly!”

Crowell (2011) and Masters et al. (2013) who maintained that sexual scripts for male sexual behaviour are reduced to sexual performance metrics such as penetration, achieving erection, and going several sexual rounds/demonstrating sexual stamina.

These findings resonate with the argument put forward by Fracher and Kimmel (1995) that sexuality is a site for experiences of power.

TTTThis