Are men really after one thing: sex?
It’s been almost 10 years since I originally wrote this piece. So I wanted to update the research findings and my own learning about what are men really after. Honestly, not a lot has changed.
Commercials, ads, sitcoms, reality shows and popular magazines still tell us that guys are only after sex. And maybe a new car or phone. There are guys in beer commercials ogling babes. Characters in sitcoms that thrive on double entendre jokes showing they are always on the prowl to score. Steamy hot tub scenes and couples rushing into the bedroom on singles-themed reality shows. Newspapers and popular magazines feature male politicians or celebrities who are cheating on long-suffering wives right on their covers.
Today, we see women coming forward and courageously accusing male power brokers of having raped them or taken advantage of them. We even have multiple women accusing President Trump of having paid them off to be silent. And a sitting Supreme Court Justice.
Does this all mean that men shallow creatures who are ready to jump at the chance of escaping commitment, looking to cop a feel, or get laid from any woman they meet?
No, no and no!
What Are Men Really After? The MALES Study
Sand, Fisher, Rosen & Julia Heiman, Director of the Kinsey Institute, say we should pay attention and ask men, rather than presume we know. And they did just that. The researchers conducted an eight country random survey of 27,839 men ages 20-75. Using a tool (pun intended) called the Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality (MALES) the authors found that men’s perceptions of masculinity and quality of life differed markedly from the stereotypes above. Interestingly enough, the study also compared men with and without erectile dysfunction. Amazingly, there were no significant differences between those two groups on the MALES items.
So what are men really after if it’s not a great sex life?
Across all countries, being seen as a “man of honor” was the single highest ideal in the masculinity section of the study –far more important than “being physically attractive,” “having success with women,” or “having an active sex life.” Together with “being in control of your own life” these two attributes accounted for about 60% of the responses.
The MALES findings are in agreement with what I have found in over 25 years of clinical practice and discuss in my newly revised dating advice book, Love in 90 Days. In one chapter called Dating Games Men Play, I detail 16 different problematic male relationship patterns. Despite fears of being vulnerable, of being loved and loving, most men want to be honorable rather than be cads. Only three of the 16 types are rated unworkable for lasting love.
For example, a small percentage of men are caught in what I call the Player Deadly Dating Pattern. These are often the “hot bad boys” who can be enormously infatuating to women because of their smooth romantic alpha behavior. But under that seductive bravado they are usually insecure, have low self-esteem and a “me-first mentality.” These are the men who value conquest over being connected and honorable. For these reasons, the Player can pose a great deal of difficulty for women who want a lasting love relationship.
I know What You’re Thinking
You believe that if they did brain scans on men’s brains, the only part that would light up would be the sexual appetite lobe. Well, fMRI studies of men’s brains show that 98% of the male cerebral cortex is preoccupied with vivid sexual fantasies. Not really! Kidding aside let’s return to the MALES landmark study.
What Are Men Really After: Quality of Life
In the MALES section called Quality of Life, men were asked to rate the following seven goals in order of importance:
Being in good health.
Satisfying sex life.
Harmonious family life.
Good relationship with partner/wife.
Enjoying life to the fullest.
Satisfying career or work life.
Having a nice home.
Again, the findings were quite surprising. The top three answers were: “being in good health”; “a harmonious family life”; and “good relationship with partner/wife.” “A satisfying sex life” was last, tied with “a nice home.” While there was definitely variability in the top answers depending on country, “a satisfying sex life” always came last.
Even more astonishing were the findings in regard to age and marital status. Younger men, age 20-39 still rated the same three goals as most important. When comparing single vs. married men, the only difference was that singles rated “enjoying live to the fullest” in second place along with “a harmonious family life.” Again “a satisfying sex life” was rated last.
Amazingly enough men who had erectile dysfunction (ED) as well as those who did not suffer from ED, still rated “a satisfying sex life” the same way. Dead last. Understandably of course, men with ED reported having a less satisfying sexual life than those without ED.
The MALES findings are in agreement with what I have found in over 25 years of clinical practice and in our relationship coaching practice. Despite fears of being vulnerable, of being loved and loving, most men want to be honorable. And they want a good relationship with their partners. So what are men really after? While a satisfying sex life is clearly important to men, it’s not at the top of their life priority lists.