Philosophical study of life, death, and nature
Confessions of a Frigid Man
Men Who Avert Their Eyes from “Male Frigidity”
Section 1: What is “Male Frigidity”?
1 My Experience of Pornography
In what follows I will conduct a methodical search for the secrets of “lolicon” and “uniform” fetishes, but before beginning this inquiry in this chapter, I will consider men’s sexual sensations. It may seem an over-serious and slightly somber discussion, but I ask the reader to bear with me because I do not think it is possible to talk about male sexuality without addressing this subject.
At a symposium held by the Japan Women’s Studies Association in 2002. I gave a presentation on pornography and “frigidity” from a male perspective. As I was speaking before renowned feminists, I was quite nervous. I asked the audience to refrain from recording my presentation because I intended to speak at length about my own experiences. Instead of a recording, I published the content of my talk in the journal Women’s Studies Vol.10 (2003). In this chapter I have revised the content of this lecture and attempted to present it in a more accessible form.
The theme of the symposium was “men and pornography.” I decided to speak based on my own experience of pornography because there is great diversity within male sexuality and it is therefore impossible to say “this is how it is when it comes to men.” At this point, all I can say is “this is how it is in my case.” This is also why I have decided to write this book using the subject “I” (in what follows I write from a heterosexual perspective, but this is only because I myself am attracted to women. I do not in any way mean to disregard homosexuality).
When it comes to pornography, I can state that what I prefer are the sorts of photographs and videos that are extremely common; what I want to look at is the sort of pornography that is normally sold. As a result, even if I am only speaking of my own experiences, what I have to say may presumably also apply to the majority of men who share my preferences.
So under what sorts of circumstances do men look at pornography? Taking myself as an example, to begin with, there are times when for some reason I start to feel like viewing pornography. Regarding what happens when I view pornography, while there are times when looking is enough and I then go out for dinner or do something else, there are also times when I masturbate while viewing. Masturbation often ends in ejaculation. Of course, there are also times when I view pornography with the clear aim of ejaculating.
2 Afterwards there is a feeling of having been left alone
Here let us consider the question of what men do with pornography after they have ejaculated. After they have masturbated and ejaculated, what do they do with the photographs or videos they have been viewing? Looking at my own case, there is only one answer. Once I have ejaculated, it is inconceivable that I would continue to look at the pornography I had been viewing. After ejaculation, I quickly close the magazine or book of photographs I have been looking at, or stop the video I have been watching. I want to get the pornography I have been viewing out of my sight as quickly as possible. After ejaculation, it is transformed into something I do not want to see again, at least not until some time has passed. I often have an urge to go outside and get some fresh air in order to change my mood. Why do I feel this way? In order to understand what is happening, we must first understand the “experience of alienation (a sense of being expelled from a place of comfort and left completely alone).
There is a myth that ejaculation is extremely pleasurable and allows men to experience supreme bliss. There are many people who think that ejaculation gives men a feeling of supreme ecstasy; women, in particular, may be likely to believe this. But there is a dangerous trap here.
Based on my own experience, the idea that ejaculation produces a sensation of supreme bliss seems preposterous. Ejaculation brings only the pleasure of expelling a liquid; the sensation might be described as “feeling refreshed now that everything has come out.” Here I would like you to consider for yourself whether there are any men who are “moved to tears” by ejaculation, who find themselves “unable to stand,” whose “mind goes completely blank,” or who are so stricken with pleasure that they find themselves “unable to speak properly,” and, if some men do indeed experience these states during sex, whether they are really caused by ejaculation.
While there are of course differences between individuals, it seems that there are at least some women who experience the kind of extreme pleasure described above. I, however, have never experienced such pleasure during ejaculation. If I reflect on the moment of ejaculation, I note that I continue to be aware of my surroundings. Ejaculation is experienced as a twitching convulsion in my genitals, during which I remain able to support myself using my muscles and maintain a state of clear awareness of everything going on around me like a soldier holding a gun. After ejaculation my excitement rapidly dissipates. The sexual excitement I had been feeling disappears, leaving only a sense of indescribable emptiness.
Immediately after ejaculation, a steady sense of balance and full mobility return. I am immediately able to get up and find my underwear or go to the toilet without any difficulty. I am not even given enough time to feel the “lingering aftertaste of sex” throughout my whole body because as soon as I ejaculate my feeling of sexual pleasure is extinguished. If I am to be completely honest, then based on my own experience, I can only conclude that this is how my male body is made.
3 “Ejaculation is an act of excretion”
It has already been pointed out many times that men do not feel all that much pleasure during ejaculation. Author Yang Sok-il, for example, has asserted that “ejaculation is an act of excretion.” He writes, “Men’s sexual desire is similar to a desire to urinate when one’s bladder is full. It therefore follows that just as you feel relieved after urinating, after ejaculating a man’s sexual desire is for the time being suppressed” (Men’s Nature[Otoko no Saga], Gentōsha Autorō Bunko, 1999, p.86, p.180, originally published in 1992).
Psychologist Wilhelm Reich writes that for men without the ability to feel [sexual pleasure] “the sexual act is nothing but an evacuation, followed by a reaction of disgust.” (The Function of the Orgasm, Souvenir Press, 1973, p.164, originally published in 1948).
Columnist Michael Ventura writes that “ejaculation is a muscle spasm that many men often feel with virtually no sensation but the twitch of a spasm” and “many ejaculations for many men happen without any sensation of coming.” (Michael Ventura “Coming” in Keith Thompson (ed.), To Be a Man, Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1991, p.124).
Jun’ichi Watanabe writes the following about the feeling after ejaculation: “The instant a man ejaculates everything is over . . . in other words, if a man experiences strong pleasure while ejaculating, afterwards all that remains is a feeling of emptiness that can only be described as making one think of death” (The Nature of Men, p.152).
Examining my own experience, I find that when I am sexually excited I think that ejaculation will transport me to a world of great pleasure, but after I actually ejaculate, this promise is always betrayed and I feel as though I have been left alone in the middle of a barren desert. In Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics (Seimeigaku ni Naniga Dekiruka?, Keisō Shobō, 2001). I refer to this experience of alienation as “male frigidity.”
This is how I experience ejaculation. Of course, there can be pleasure that causes me to forget myself, but it occurs before ejaculation – it is only something I experience on an emotional level during sex.
4 What lies at the core of “male frigidity”
I use the term “male frigidity” to refer to two phenomena. One is ejaculation not being accompanied by any great feeling of pleasure; for “frigid” men, there is only the brief pleasure of excretion. The second is a rapid loss of excitement after ejaculation accompanied by a sensation of collapse throughout the entire body and a desolate feeling of emptiness. In my case the second problem is the more serious. I say this because while by prolonging the process before ejaculation I can experience sexual excitement for quite a long time and by using special techniques I have been able to slightly increase the pleasure I feel when ejaculating, no amount of effort has allowed me to reduce the sudden loss of arousal and feeling of emptiness that immediately follows ejaculation. Watanabe’s phrase “a feeling of emptiness that makes one think of death” is apt. Ejaculation always resulting in this feeling of despair is what lies at the core of “male frigidity.”
I do not know what percentage of men suffer from “male frigidity.” All I can be certain of is that I do. I refer to this condition as “male frigidity” because I am sure that if I were a woman and told a doctor of my symptoms, I would be diagnosed with “female sexual arousal disorder,” i.e., “frigidity.”
So what is ejaculation like for men who do not suffer from male frigidity? If ejaculation is more than a “pleasurable excretion,” and if following ejaculation a man’s entire body is filled with a feeling of blissful fulfillment that lingers for a considerable period of time, and if he never experiences a feeling of emptiness, then I would say he is not “frigid.” But this is not how ejaculation is for me.
5 A repeating cycle of a feeling of potency => pleasure => a feeling of failure
The following can be said regarding the relationship between “erection” and “ejaculation.”
To begin with, when I have an “erection” my entire body is suffused with a sense of potency. I am filled with an urge to insert my penis into a woman’s body. At this time I feel almost no sense of self-negation or self-rejection. There may even be a sense of triumphant pride in being a man.
But my “erection” is ended by “ejaculation.” There is then the momentary pleasure of excretion followed by an inescapable feeling of emptiness.
In other words, the process leading from “erection” to “ejaculation” begins with an “I’m good enough” sense of potency, passes through a brief feeling of pleasure during ejaculation, and then abruptly inverts itself and plunges into feelings of collapse, emptiness and failure. This precipitous fall awaits me whenever I engage in sex or masturbation. After ejaculating, I feel a desire to turn away from anything related to sex for a while, but as time passes, my sexual appetite begins to return and I begin the cycle once again. Repeating this feeling of descent into despondency over and over again throughout one’s life is the defining symptom of “male frigidity.” Of course, there are times when I feel wholeheartedly that having had sex was a good thing. But this is an emotional sense of satisfaction or happiness that I was able to have sex with a woman I love. It is in no way a feeling of bliss brought on by ejaculation.
As it is unpleasant to look directly at this feeling of collapse, I tend to focus instead on the activities that lead up to ejaculation. Men depicted in pornographic videos slip out of the frame as soon as they have ejaculated, or in some cases, the video itself ends. Pornography cannot succeed unless it banishes what happens after ejaculation from our thoughts.
When I have sex with a woman I love, my feelings of affection for her can emotionally compensate for the feeling of emptiness that follows ejaculation. In such cases, I am left with the sense that the sex was good. But this is only because I have been able to use my emotions to divert my consciousness from the physical sensation of collapse. I have this feeling of falling inward even when the sex itself has been emotionally satisfying.
6 Men who avert their eyes from “male frigidity”
In psychiatry, the term “male orgasmic disorder” (DSM-IV:302.74) is used to describe a condition in which a man cannot ejaculate or requires an inordinate amount of time to ejaculate when having sex normally, but the “male frigidity” I am describing does not fall within this definition.
When it comes to men’s sexual health, attention is given to three major problems: erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation. The focus is on whether or not a man can get an erection and whether or not he can ejaculate with desirable timing. In comparison, the question of whether or not he feels pleasure while ejaculating is seen as a minor issue.
Evidence for this can be seen in the fact that one of the standard textbooks in the field of sex therapy, Helen Singer Kaplan’s The New Sex Therapy (1974), restricts male sexual difficulties to these three conditions. “Male frigidity” is not mentioned.In the clinical world, the biggest problem for men is thought to be erectile dysfunction while the biggest problem for women is thought to be female sexual arousal disorder or “frigidity.” I believe that “male frigidity” is just as big an issue as “female frigidity,” but very few experts share this view. In the JapaneseEncyclopedia of Psychotherapy [Shinririnshōdaijiten revised ed. Baifūkan, 2004], for example, the entry for “frigidity” reads as follows: “Frigidity is a female sexual disorder characterized by an absence or extreme weakness of sexual feeling and inability to achieve orgasm.” This is followed by a more detailed description of this disorder, but nothing is said about it occurring in men. In most cases, the term “frigidity” is used synonymously with “female frigidity” and is employed to describe an illness for which treatment is required.
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