Why Is Sex So Important to Men?

Men and Sex

According to research, men think about sex more often than women. This probably isn’t a surprise to most of us, and it only becomes an issue when a man’s sexual appetite starts to interfere with other parts of his life, or when it prevents nonsexual aspects of a relationship from being nurtured.

Some examples of sex becoming problematic: the guy who’s fired because he’s downloading pornography onto this computer at work; the man who continually makes unwanted and insensitive sexual overtures toward his coworkers; the husband who chronically masturbates in secrecy, replacing an intimate relationship with his wife for the preferred world of isolative sexual fantasy.

But most men (at least most of the men I work with in therapy) simply like and think about sex more than their female counterparts. And there isn’t an inherent problem to that. The danger pops up when someone decides to pathologize sexual desire; in other words, to define a vigorous sexual appetite as an illness or, on the other side of the coin, to see someone who doesn’t want sex often as failing somehow.

Men and Sex: Sex as a Way to Access Unacknowledged Dependency Needs

But there is a particular sexual hunger that for some men is compensatory in nature. In other words, other, non-sexual needs are not being fulfilled and sex is used (unconsciously) as a vehicle to get these other needs met. The need I am referring to is difficult for many men to acknowledge because it directly threatens their masculine foundation:

The need for healthy dependency (or attachment, in today’s parlance) – the desire to rely on another and feel taken care of, to allow oneself to be taken care of.

The problem is that the only way to consciously access our dependency/attachment needs is to wade through the waters of emotional vulnerability. For some men, a threat is experienced whenever they momentarily move away from their masculine ideals and action-oriented tendencies; to do so makes men feel unsettled and anxious. Vulnerability and dependency needs tend to threaten the deep-seated masculine foundation of strength and stoicism; anxiety is stirred when feelings are experienced that are considered off-limits because they are deemed feminine (non-masculine). When the masculine is defined by what it is not (anything that is feminine or soft), then the emotional needs that appear on the non-masculine side of the ledger are likely to be ignored, demeaned and even, under extreme circumstances, attacked.

But at best, men can only deny or try to sidestep their dependency/attachment needs. These needs do not cease just because they’re ignored. They still have a dramatic impact on us even if we wish otherwise.

One indirect way a man’s need for emotional connection is fed (at least partially) is through sex. For some men, this is the primary way their attachment/dependency needs are given attention and are expressed. If it is through sex that men feel emotionally loved, emotionally held and cared for, then sex takes on great significance. To not have sex or to be denied sex is to be cut off from a vital need (attachment), a need that if not met will continue to gnaw at us, seeking expression and recognition; a need that if chronically denied may lead to a host of debilitating emotional symptoms and unhealthy compensatory behaviors.

So rather than place a man’s desire for sex exclusively on the shoulders of elevated hormone levels or some perverse hunger that needs fixing, it’s important to explore how men’s attachment needs are being expressed in non-sexual ways.

  • What other way (besides sex) does your desire for connection get met within your marriage or relationship?
  • Are you able to fully access and identify your attachment/dependency needs and communicate these needs with your partner? If not, what is the emotional fallout of this not occurring?

So if you are a woman wondering why sex is so important to your man or a man trying to make sense of a strong libido, it’s important to expand your understanding of sex. Sex is so much more than the act of sex itself. It’s an expression of our deepest longings for connection and temporary merger. It’s deeply imbued with emotional meanings that need your attention.

For other articles about men and sex, check out Men and Sex: What Women Need to Know and Men and Sex: 3 Mistakes Guys Make in the Bedroom.

Until next time,

Dr. Rich Nicastro