Sex Roles

, Volume 78, Issue 1–2, pp 130–141 | Cite as

Heterosexual Men’s Sexual Desire: Supported by, or Deviating from, Traditional Masculinity Norms and Sexual Scripts?

Original Article

Abstract

Sexual script theory and masculinity theory suggest that men should demonstrate high levels of desire in order to abide by social norms and expectations. The current study explored the degree to which men’s descriptions of their sexual desire supported or deviated from these theories’ propositions. Thirty men between the ages of 30 and 65 (M age = 42.83) in heterosexual long-term relationships (M duration = 13 years, 4 months, range = 2 years, 11 months – 39 years, 4 months) were interviewed about their experience of sexual desire. Grounded theory methodology from an interpretivist perspective was used to analyze the data. The majority of participants described having high and constant levels of sexual desire and just over half reported never turning down an opportunity to engage in a sexual encounter. However, most men also indicated that their sexual desire was sometimes feigned in order to appear more masculine or to prevent upsetting their female partner. It is suggested that researchers, therapists, and sex educators be mindful that men face pressures to exhibit sexual desire in stereotypically masculine ways and that outward demonstrations of sexual interest may not always be accurate representations of men’s true experiences.

Keywords

Sexual desire Men Sexual scripts Masculinity Sexology Psychology of men 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The current study was part of a larger exploration of men’s sexual desire that would not have been possible without the guidance and support of Drs. Robin Milhausen, Cynthia Graham, and Leon Kuczynski.

Supplementary material

11199_2017_766_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb)

References

  1. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469–480. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.5.469.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bancroft, J. (1997). Researching sexual behavior. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. F., Catanese, K. R., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Is there a gender difference in strength of sex drive? Theoretical views, conceptual distinctions, and a review of relevant evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 242–273. doi: 10.1207/S15327957PSPR0503_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brotto, L. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for hypoactive sexual desire disorder in men. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 2015–2030. doi: 10.1111/j.1743- 6109.2010.01860.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Charmaz, K. (2002). Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. In J. F. Gubrium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research (pp. 675–694). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc..Google Scholar
  6. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  7. Courtenay, W. H. (2000). Constructions of masculinity and their influence on men’s well-being: A theory of gender and health. Social Science & Medicine, 50, 1385–1401. doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(99)00390-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Daly, K. J. (2007). Qualitative methods for family studies and human development. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  9. Davies, S., Katz, J., & Jackson, J. L. (1999). Sexual desire discrepancies: Effects on sexual and relationship satisfaction in heterosexual dating couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 28, 553–567. doi: 10.1023/A:1018721417683.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Dworkin, S. L. (2012). Sample size policy for qualitative studies using in-depth interviews. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1319–1320. doi: 10.1007/s10508- 012-0016-6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dworkin, S. L., & O’Sullivan, L. (2005). Actual versus desired initiation patterns among a sample of college men: Tapping disjunctures within traditional male sexual scripts. Journal of Sex Research, 42, 150–158. doi: 10.2307/3813151.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Fontana, A., & Frey, J. H. (1994). Interviewing: The art of science. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 361–376). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  13. Frith, H., & Kitzinger, C. (2001). Reformulating sexual script theory: Developing a discursive psychology of sexual negotiation. Theory & Psychology, 11, 209–232. doi: 10.1177/0959354301112004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56(2), 109–118. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.2.109.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hatfield, E., & Walster, G. W. (1978). A new look at love. Lantham: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  16. Helgason, A. R., Adolfsson, J., Dickman, P., Arver, S., Fredrikson, M., Göthberg, M., et al. (1996). Sexual desire, erection, orgasm and ejaculatory functions and their importance to elderly Swedish men: A population-based study. Age and Aging, 26, 285–291. doi: 10.1093/ageing/25.4.285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Holmberg, D., & Blair, K. L. (2009). Sexual desire, communication, satisfaction, and preferences of men and women in same-sex versus mixed-sex relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 57–66. doi: 10.1080/00224490802645294.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kijiji. (2017, March 10). Canada’s free, local classifieds site. Retrieved from www.kijiji.ca.
  19. Kimmel, M. S. (2005). The gender of desire: Essays on male sexuality. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  20. Klusmann, D. (2002). Sexual motivation and the duration of partnership. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 275–287. doi: 10.1023/A:1015205020769.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. LaRossa, R. (2005). Grounded theory methods and qualitative family research. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 837–857. doi: 10.1111/j.1741.3737.2005.00179.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Levine, S. B. (2002). Re-exploring the concept of sexual desire. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 28, 39–51. doi: 10.1080/009262302317251007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Levine, S. B. (2003). The nature of sexual desire: A clinician’s perspective. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 279–285. doi: 10.1023/A:1023421819465.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Lowe, S. R., Dillon, C. O., Rhodes, J. E., & Zwiebach, L. (2013). Defining adult experiences: Perspectives of a diverse sample of young adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 28, 31–68. doi: 10.1177/0743558411435854.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Mark, K. P., & Murray, S. H. (2012). Gender differences in desire discrepancy as a predictor of sexual and relationship satisfaction in a college sample of heterosexual romantic relationships. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 38, 198–215. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2011.606877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Masters, T. N., Casey, E., Wells, E. A., & Morrison, D. M. (2012). Sexual scripts among young heterosexually active men and women: Continuity and change. Journal of Sex Research, 16, 1–12. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2012.661102.Google Scholar
  27. McCormick, N. B. (2010). Sexual scripts: Social and therapeutic implications. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 25, 96–120. doi: 10.1080/14681990903550167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Milhausen, R. R., & Herold, E. S. (1999). Does the sexual double standard still exist? Perceptions of university women. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 361–368. doi: 10.1080/00224499909552008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Murray, S. H., & Milhausen, R. R. (2012a). Sexual desire and relationship duration in young men and women. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 38, 28–40. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2011.569637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murray, S. H., & Milhausen, R. R. (2012b). Factors impacting women’s sexual desire: Examining long-term relationships in emerging adulthood. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 21, 101–115.Google Scholar
  31. Murray, S. H., Milhausen, R. R., Graham, C., & Kuczynski, L. (2016). A qualitative exploration of factors that affect sexual desire among men aged 30 to 65 in long-term relationships. Journal of Sex Research. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1168352. Advance online publicationPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Murray, S. H., Milhausen, R. R., & Sutherland, O. (2014). A qualitative comparison of young women’s maintained versus decreased sexual desire in longer-term relationships. Women & Therapy, 37, 319–341. doi: 10.1080/02703149.2014.897559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Murray, S. H., Sutherland, O., & Milhausen, R. R. (2012). Young women’s descriptions of sexual desire in long-term relationships. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 27, 3–16. doi: 10.1080/14681994.2011.649251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pope, M., Wierzalis, E. A., Barret, B., & Rankins, M. (2007). Sexual and intimacy issues for aging gay men. Adultspan Journal, 6, 68–82. doi: 10.1002/j.2161- 0029.2007.tb00033.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Seal, D. W., & Ehrhardt, A. A. (2003). Masculinity and urban men: Perceived scripts for courtship, romantic, and sexual interactions with women. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 5, 295–319. doi: 10.1080/136910501171698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Simon, W., & Gagnon, J. H. (1986). Sexual scripts: Permanence and change. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 15, 97–120. doi: 10.1007/BF01542219.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Simon, W., & Gagnon, J. H. (2003). Sexual scripts: Origins, influences and change. Qualitative Sociology, 26, 491–497. doi: 10.1023/B:QUAS.0000005053.99846.e5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Traeen, B., Martinussen, M., Oberg, K., & Kavli, H. (2007). Reduced sexual desire in a random sample of Norwegian couples. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 22, 303–322. doi: 10.1080/14681990701381203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vannier, S. A., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2010). Sex without desire: Characteristics of occasions of sexual compliance in young adults’ committed relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 429–439. doi: 10.1080/00224490903132051.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Wiederman, M. W. (2005). The gendered nature of sexual scripts. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 13, 496–502. doi: 10.1177/1066480705278729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zilbergeld, B., & Ellison, C. R. (1980). Desire discrepancies and arousal problems. In S. R. Leiblum & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Principles and practice of sex therapy (pp. 65–106). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family Relations and Applied NutritionUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Conexus CounsellingWinnipegCanada

Personalised recommendations