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THE RISE OF SEXUAL EMPOWERMENT: Have we left men behind?

For this week’s blog we’re thrilled to introduce you to writer, artist and singer Tess Fowler, who has been part of the Eliyah family for the past 4 years. She is also training to be a practitioner with the school.
As a 29 year old woman, I’ve been having intimate interactions with men for long enough to reflect how it seems they’ve been left behind when it comes to healthy sexual education and empowerment. Sexuality is a topic worthy of encyclopaedia-sized collections of research, and I couldn’t possibly cover all the deep complexities involved for both men and women, so this piece may seem a little reductive at times, but I’m hoping to express my own perspective and ignite more conversation. So let’s begin…
Beyond the limited sexual education received within the modern schooling system, women have far greater access and social permission to discuss sex, access magazines, go to websites and apps like OMGYES and Dipsea, or explore through courses and women’s workshops. This doesnt seem to compare to the accessibility of the limited resources out there for men to learn about sex from a healthy, modern perspective. I am wary that current models of modern masculinity make it all the more difficult to discuss such resources, even if the desire is there. Perhaps the shame and fear of being deemed ‘a failure’ for looking to improve their sexuality risks holding men back from seeking information entirely.
Pornography is undeniably a primary reference for sex. A potentially problematic one, as I could easily reference the extensive scientific studies around passive dopamine addiction, increased tolerance for violence and the negative physiological effects it has on every aspect of life, be it work, sex or relationships. As author and men’s sexual coach Nic Spadaccini has aptly described, this aggressive and time conscious ‘cave-man’ style sex seen predominantly in porn is based on sex developed over 50,000 years ago when our major survival tactic was to procreate and populate an entire planet. We’ve evolved, but our understanding of sex hasn’t. And it’s not just porn. The representation of (cisgendered/hetero) sex in mainstream media and the blueprint Hollywood ‘sex script’ shows us the same basic formula we’ve been taught for years simply to get from A-B. Kiss a bit, touch here, touch that, get him hard, her wet, friction friction friction until orgasm and it’s over. When sex looks the way it does according to mainstream media, it’s a fair assumption that we’ve done well, and I’m not shunning the delight of a quickie every now and then when passion calls, however common attitudes that this is all there is severely short-change ourselves from the wonderfully diverse and richer experiences available to us.
Coinciding with the lack of holistic sexual education, society also suffers from the notion that men having feelings is either weak or dangerous. This has resulted in the suppression of the emotional body in men and potentially the sexual body as well, as they are indeed inextricably linked. These insidious narratives about what it means to be ‘masculine’ have shadowed mens sexuality for as long as those narratives have existed. For several years I’ve had chats with women from many walks of life and there seems to be some common experiences. A significant proportion of the men we’re engaging with have some level of minor sexual disconnection to major dysfunction. The underlying cause for this can often be due to unconscious conditioning that they are cognitively unaware of.
What might some of these look like?
– Men may have such accumulative tension simply from stress that gets stored in the body, that once their sexual drive gets turned on and that stress finds an outlet for release, it can feel like a one-speed setting, making it impossible to slow down and feel into what their partner’s and their own bodies are wanting. In spiritual terms, this is called ‘attunement’, but it could simply be called listening.
– Some have too much anxiety to get turned on at all. ‘Performance anxiety’ is a recognised concept, but what is often overlooked is the impact that general anxiety can have on sex, simply as a physiological result of unexpressed emotions. Since we process feelings through the body, not the mind, if he has learnt it is unsafe to be in his emotional body, then regardless of attraction levels to whoever he is with, regardless of all external stimuli, he may (without the faintest clue why) still struggle to get out of his head and into his body in order to participate effectively.
– Men can also shut down right at the peak before climax. Again, if a man’s nervous system has unconsciously learnt that strong feelings are unsafe or unwelcome, it will regularly suppress any kind of overwhelm in order to control those emotions and therefore be unaccustomed to the level of energy raised when close to climax. Despite sexual pleasure being a positive feeling, our nervous system cannot differentiate between good and bad, and simply responds to activation. So, when particularly activated in the moments before orgasm, their bodies may literally short circuit like a safety switch and become totally numb to all sensation.
– Others may simply want to ‘fuck’ as hard and fast as they do in porn because it’s what they think they should do.
I want to emphasise that this is in no way about blaming men for sexual dysfunction because women commonly experience these same complications that men do. However these examples indicate how the societal rejection of a man’s emotional body can directly impact his sexual expression. As a woman, I too have experienced many of these examples during my own sexual experiences, but to reiterate the point of this piece, women can explore and express their emotional bodies, go to therapy, talk to friends, see sex coaches, get somatic body-work sessions and actively engage with their own sexual development with far greater ease then men can. The rise of women’s sexual empowerment was desperately long overdue and it is paramount for women to learn about new forms of embodied sexuality. That journey should always begin with our relationship to ourselves, but while we’re at it, what about the men we want to enjoy it with who aren’t on the same page? Arguably even reading the same book? From the deeply ingrained chastity and sexual shame due to religious beliefs (passed down to us from older generations), to the liberty of the 1960’s sexual revolution, to the rise of overtly graphic and violent scenes reflected in most porn, to the MeToo movement which has put men’s unhealthy expression of sexual desire under a valid, but negative spotlight, it’s no wonder men may feel confused and avoid facing their inherent sensual and sexual selves altogether.
Cam Fraser, a potent voice in men’s sexual education, spoke about the comparison between the spiritual vs scientific areas of sexuality. He observed that men have dominated the scientific field of sexual research throughout history and by comparison, the influx of sexual liberators referring to ‘sacred sexuality’ appears to be heavily lead by women. This is a wonderful place to bridge the gap between those two worlds. Women’s fluctuating hormonal cycles mean that obtaining consistent data is harder to do, therefore we are usually left out of health studies and female anatomy has been (and is still to this day) largely ignored in medical research. Just as the emotional and spiritual needs of a man are commonly overlooked when discussing the practical physiology of sex and arousal. As we gain more power and knowledge in the scientific and anatomic fields of female sexuality, I would suggest that many would benefit from including men in the other side of the coin, in conversations around sexuality beyond the physical body, where sex is being rewritten from outdated and lingering constructs, based solely on our need to reproduce.
The need to dominate, the inability to be present, to slow down and enjoy sensuality without the need to rush or race to climax is also a by-product of the environment we’re in more broadly. It’s called Capitalism. Getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible has been the societal norm for a long time and women engage in this goal-oriented way of sexual relating too – where pleasure is chased for orgasm’s sake. So the responsibly is not just on men to slow down and ‘get in tune’, but these days women have tools do that, as often discussed through the lens of the ‘rise of the divine feminine’ which spotlights self love, self care, slowing down and allowing emotional expression. If we’re going to get the most out of that notion sexually, men need the opportunity to engage in this too and catch up.
It’s as if we’ve all been eating cake from a packet mix. Bang some preprepared ingredients together and you know what you’re going to get… a decent tasting treat. Absolutely no shade if that’s your thing of course. I get it. You get your cravings met, so why bother changing the recipe? Because hand-made Belgian chocolate mud cake with layers of soft salted caramel and a buttercream icing might take a little longer, but tastes so. much. better. (If cake isn’t your thing then you can substitute an appropriate analogy.) There is so much pleasure and joy to be had out of a considered and cultivated sexual union with another person. Sexual energy when consciously shared between two people, is one of the greatest enriching experiences we can have. The erotic can be supremely powerful and potently healing and personally, I want a little more of that!
I’ve done a lot of work on the relationship I have with my sexuality over the last four years but there’s still a lot more to explore, both alone and (hopefully!) with other people. To be really honest and vulnerable for a moment, how that journey is going to look in the future is often a really terrifying thing. I’m no expert and still learning how to make the Belgian Masterpiece a reality in my bedroom… But no matter what I have to learn, I feel supported and safe in knowing there is every resource I could need available to me in order to continue doing that work. It excites me and leaves me deeply grateful for the people who have worked so hard to put these controversial topics in the spotlight in order to normalise them.
Raven is one of those people. Without her teachings over the last 4 years my life would be very different today. I would likely still be seeking external validation through sexual experiences, still uncomfortable and insecure about my body, still unable to say no to the men I didn’t feel a ‘full yes’ to engaging with. I certainly wouldn’t have the confidence to discuss sexuality openly on the internet. She has taught me the beauty in improving our relationship to sexuality and how it isn’t simply about sex alone. The education I’m advocating for also gifts us with valuable life lessons expanding out to every corner of our lives – be that about setting boundaries, expressing needs/desires/fears, learning how to receive and how to give, getting real with authentic and vulnerable communication, extending our comfort zones, or simply the ability to be in the present moment. The dance of sexuality reaches so far beyond what happens between lovers within the sheets.
That enriching education and accessibility is all I want for men who desire the same.
There are of course many amazing humans offering this, it’s simply a matter of scale and getting them seen more frequently in the ‘mainstream’. I sincerely look forward to seeing what will happen as we begin to include men more openly in the sexual liberation movement, creating safe spaces to explore sexuality beyond the strict societal norms and stigma that surrounds traditional gendered constructs. I wonder what might happen to sexual relationships if men were free of the rigid standards of masculinity that have dominated for so long and given the opportunity to explore themselves with the same reverence we afford women.
I certainly don’t have all the answers but creating safe spaces to talk about it is the first step to a new script, or better yet, to throwing the script away entirely.
I’ve put together a list of my personal favourite people leading the way in sexual education, but keep in mind, after years of focusing on myself, looking into the men’s sphere is a very new adventure for myself also, so I encourage you all to do your own research because what resonates for me might be totally different to you.
Love Tess x
Eliyah Tantra School
  • Sacred Sexuality Online Course – https://online.eliyah.com.au/p/sacred-sexuality
  • Chantelle Raven and Aaron Kleinerman – ‘Love, Sex and Freedom’ Podcast on Spotify.
  • Chantelle and Aaron’s Instagram: @living_tantra and @thesoulnavigator
Cam Fraser: Men’s Sexual Educator
  • Has a lot of amazing free resources and content on his Instagram @camfraser
  • ‘Men, Sex and Pleasure Podcast’ on Spotify
  • The Way of The Superior Man by David Deida
  • The Enlightened Sex Manual by David Deida
Other great resources for men on broader topics like emotional intelligence and relationships etc:
Mark Groves – Human Connection Specialist
– @createthelove on Instagram and https://markgroves.com for podcast, blogs and more.
Tully O’Connor 
  • ‘The Conscious Locker Room’ on Spotify
Other helpful psychological concepts to look into:
  • Attachement Theory
  • Love Languages
  • Erotic Blueprint

You can also follow Tess on IG: @tess_fowler

Tess Fowler

Tess Fowler

Tess is a performing artist and has been a student of the Eliyah Tantra School for four years. Both her creative and personal life are an exploration of emotional expression. She is particularly interested in the areas of relationship psychology and human connection.