Why Sex Seems All About The Physical For Men

If you and your husband are typical versions of your gender, you probably think he is far more into and concerned with the physical aspects of sex than the emotional and relational aspects of sex.

There is some validity to this gender stereotype, but it’s not nearly as strong many think.

Why Sex Seems All About The Physical For Men

First the why:

Most men have enjoyed touching their penis since prior to birth. (Really, I’m not making a joke here.) We figured out it feels good, and then near puberty, we figured out how to make it feel very good. On top of that, our hormones were pushing us to make it feel good often. Sex, or at least what passed as sex for us back then, was all about the physical. It was only physical for a good long while, often including early sexual experience with individuals of the female persuasion. To put it bluntly, he was horny long before he had any interest in an emotional connection with a girl/woman.

For most women it’s different. It’s now the norm for women to learn to pleasure themselves as teens (about two-thirds have done so by age 18) but they do it far less often than boys. They also tend to start later and are generally far less into exploring their bodies and the different ways to make it feel good. On the other hand, girls feel romantic urges sooner than boys do. Not physical/sexual urges, emotional and relational desires. 

So his sexuality was formed with a strictly physical focus while yours was formed at the same time (or even after) you started to desire an intimate emotional relationship with a guy. This does make him way more about the physical, but it also means his thinking about sex was all about the physical when he was developing a sexual vocabulary. What causes the problem is his language does not usually change when he starts to feel an emotional desire. He adds his interest for a relationship to his sexuality, but he doesn’t alter how he communicates about sex. This leaves him sounding like he is still mostly or only about the physical when he has actually grown and become more well-rounded.

All of that said, the physical aspects of sex probably are more important to him than to you. If you are willing to follow his lead you might find a lot more physical enjoyment in your sex life together. And if he can follow your lead, he can learn to enjoy the emotional and relational aspects much more.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I’ve learned to feel things without using my hands!

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37 Comments on “Why Sex Seems All About The Physical For Men

  1. I agree with everything, but I think something that should be added is the naked human female form and looks and feels quite good. Shaunti Feldhahn even has a quote from a guy in a picture on her site saying that any time a man gets to take off his wife’s clothes, it’s like opening up a Christmas present every time. Women have no idea how much we treasure this. There is absolutely nothing physical that compares and that builds up our emotional commitment and our own view of ourselves as men.

    In other words, women, turn on the lights and stop hiding behind a towel. Your husband delights in your femininity. Let him.

    • I whole-heartedly agree, Nick. However, nothing has me ducking and hiding faster than when my husband sees other women naked. It is like a fundamental reaction to that invasion. If someone throws a rock your way, you duck. If someone taints your food, you vomit. They are natural reactions. Thus, a wife hiding herself because of the onslaught on other naked women in their marriage is a natural reaction. That reaction can grow into habit and fear, like a dog that has been abused flinches when you raise a hand to pet him.

      There have been times I have literally involuntarily trembled in fear as I talked myself out of it and allowed hubby to view me nude knowing he just watched a TV show with full female nudity in it…whether he looked away, left the room, fast forwarded, or not, having that in our house can be a tough demon to overcome.

      • I agree entirely. That’s one reason I never watch porn at all. I don’t understand it. I mean, I understand the desire to see the human female form, but why would you want to fill your head with another woman besides your wife? I don’t even like thinking about old exes at all. Makes no sense.
        Nick Peters recently posted…Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 1My Profile

        • @nick wow! I wish I had the same passion for my wife that you have. Being a man who is stuck in pornography it really comes down to: Do I love my wife? If I would I wouldn’t have this problem. And if I don’t? Where do I go from here? Hard questions that need to be addressed. You seem to be a great man nick. Good that there are some men who aren’t douchbags as many of us sadly are.

          • @Curious – First let go of the lie that it has anything to do with how much you love your wife. Yes, your love for your wife should motivate you, but that’s not the same thing. I assume you used porn before marriage – what was that about?
            Paul Byerly recently posted…Friday Flashback: Little Acts, Big ResultsMy Profile

            • Well what is it then?
              Yeah it started before. I really don’t know why but it has always been there. I only know one reason and that’s anxiety and low self esteem. But it still must have something to do with how much I love my wife. Or else I wouldn’t do the things I do.

          • Curious. Let me tell you a story.

            When we lived in Knoxville, TN, my wife went to a counselor regularly, as she still does, due to having PTSD, depression, hallucinations, etc. We also BOTH have Aspergers. Anyway, I was sitting in on this session as I often do and she said something about me. I don’t remember what it was, but it wasn’t a direct insult, but it was something very hurtful.

            After that, we went straight from there to a Celebrate Recovery group where an older lady who was a friend of hers would be there and meet us. We’d hear an opening sermon and then go into separate groups. The whole way, I was driving there silent and steamed.

            I don’t care much for food and so I go and take a seat in the main room while my wife and her friend get in line to get something to eat. After awhile, everyone leaves our table except for one young girl. Then this girl comes and gets up and sits right next to me and is facing me and doesn’t say a word. I am being freaked out by this. Why is a woman wanting to get so close to me? I’m a married man!

            She does leave after awhile and another man comes over and asks if I’m okay, because I’m breathing heavily. As someone who has had panic attacks before, I think I could have been getting close. My wife’s friend comes out first and I tell her the story. Then my wife comes and we tell her the story together.

            I don’t remember what I was upset with my wife about, but I just remember I did not like being put in a place where temptation could be anywhere close to me. It became very easy to forget. One reason for my devotion could be that she married a nerd and the old joke is if you get a nerd, we’re just so stunned that we have a woman so often that we just go crazy all over our wives.

            This whole thing is still an area for us. She has a lot of self-esteem issues and her weight issues don’t help her so it’s hard for her to imagine that I do love and adore her physically.
            Nick Peters recently posted…Deeper Waters Podcast 7/1/2017: Ted CabalMy Profile

            • Whatever reason it’s really sweet to see a love like that. Most people say that romantic love like that doesn’t exist and it’s not about what you feel and bla bla bla. But you actually show that there is such love.

              • Curious. If anyone ever tells you people on the autism spectrum are not capable of deep emotions and love, tell them they are wrong entirely. On the 24th of July this year, my wife and I will celebrate seven years together as husband and wife. We are a poor family, but someone who likes my ministry has said that he is giving us $200 and he wants us to spend it not on practical things, but fun things, since we don’t do that often. I’m doing a lot of things behind the scenes in preparation for our anniversary and using that money for it.

                I don’t post on Facebook on Sundays, but every other day of the week, I post a message about how I love my wife and I post a marriage meme. It takes work. Love is a mountain one has to climb many times, even when the feelings aren’t there, but the peak has a wonderful view. My wife chose me out of all the men in the world when we joke that I in fact was the opposite of five of her criteria for a man she wanted to marry.

                I invite you to go to my web site at DeeperWatersapologetics.com. From there, you could probably find me on Facebook and get to see the posts to my spouse.
                Nick Peters recently posted…Deeper Waters Podcast 7/1/2017: Ted CabalMy Profile

                • And that’s what I find so beautiful. You say that you are happy she chose you of all men. That joy that creates that passion and love that’s what I lack. Having that to build on is better than not having anything. I wasn’t head over heels in love with my wife when we met and people said it isn’t important, it changed and so on. So I got married with some pressure from my wife still unsure why I didn’t feel like the luckiest man on earth. I was immature and to coward to break it of. People may say feelings don’t matter and it may true in the long run but in the beginning it’s very important. I didn’t have that. That’s why maybe my marriage seems so empty and pointless at times. Maybe that’s why I don’t see marriage as something beautiful. Maybe that’s why I caught myself seeing people in love and marriages in love and say to myself: “I wish I had that”and realizing that I want it so much because I never had it. So your love to your wife is beautiful and I hope God will give you both strength to hold on to that love no matter what comes.

                • Curious. If you’re still here, if you want to change your marriage, it’s you. Start seeing your marriage as a gift. Sex is a gift. The woman is a gift. Everything. One great truth I’ve learned as a Christian is God doesn’t owe me a single thing. That means every good thing that I have is a gift. I intend to enjoy it. Read some good books on marriage. Don’t wait until you feel like being the husband you want to be. Be that husband anyway.
                  Nick Peters recently posted…Happy Fourth of JulyMy Profile

    • My husband actually *doesn’t* feel that way about me. I’ve tried small things — changing clothes in front of him or leaving the door to the bathroom open when I undress to shower, and he rejected that HARD. He leaves the room if I’m changing, he closed the door to the bathroom when I showered. (And it’s not a modesty thing; I only have my stepson on weekends, and obviously I would NEVER do that while he was in the house. Oh, we only have one bathroom, which is why.) He doesn’t like undressing me. (Like, seriously, just asking for help with a button or a snagged zipper gets a face.)

      He has watched porn and still looks up sexy pictures and movies, and he has a massive rolodex of exes in his memory. I think that plays a part in it, but I also think it is a reflection of how he feels about me.

      Kind of echoing Curious here — I wish my husband felt about me the way that you feel about your wife, but I’ve accepted that he doesn’t, and I don’t challenge him on it or try to change him any more.

      • @sunny-dee – Whenever you write about your husband’s lack of interest in seeing you naked, it always sounds very much like my situation with my husband. My husband’s sexual history is different than your husband’s, but his lack of interest in seeing you naked is much like mine. I really don’t think it is a reflection of his love for you. I know it wasn’t/isn’t in my case. My husband’s (seeming) lack of interest in seeing me naked began as self-defense mechanism because he didn’t want to have sex with me. His reasons for not wanting to have sex with me were totally about his issues too. Not about how much he loved me. He would totally ignore me if I were naked around him. He would avoid looking at me if I were naked. The few times per year we did have sex, he would refuse to undress me. I could go on, but you get the picture.

        Now that we are no longer sexless, many of his behaviors around my nudity have remained the same. If he does notice or pay attention to it, it is because he is forcing himself to because he knows it hurts me when he doesn’t. It is still very hurtful and I wish it were different. His choice to turn off his sexuality around me has led to residual effects that may never change. It’s hard to live with sometimes. I think it will always hurt me.

        What I do know is it isn’t a reflection of his love for me. I know that can be of little comfort, but I hope you know it really is about his issues and not a reflection of you or, necessarily his love for you.

        • {{Hugs}} Thank you for your kind words, K.

          I think if my husband didn’t have a past where he was very obviously interested in sex and naked women, I would probably see it differently. The way I look at it now (and I could be wrong, it’s just the only way it makes sense to me) is that my husband has a kind of Madonna – whore thing going on. I don’t look or act like ANY of his past girlfriends or hookups. Like, even a little bit. We’re female; that’s the only similarity. I think he was reaching an age where he wanted comfort and stability and “home,” and those are things that I provide. I just don’t think that he associates romantic love or passion with those things. I think he cares about me; I really know he depends on me (more than he realizes); and as far as that goes, he loves and appreciates me. But I don’t think he’s in love with me. I think that’s why a lot of the things I’ve tried have failed, and I think it’s why he has shown no interest in trying to change or improve anything. In a sense, he can’t work on sexual desire for me; there’s no foundation to work on and no (romantic) love to provide a motivation for it.

          We’re not clinically sexless; we’re at roughly every 3 weeks. (There was a horrible drop off when I was in IUI treatments because I guess medical intervention took the pressure off to force himself to have sex and we were down to, like, every 6-8 weeks, but now that the fertility treatments are on hold, he does try to have sex 1-2 times during my fertile period.)

          BTW, Paul, thank you for letting me say these things. I have never told anyone these things out loud, and sometimes I just need to voice what I’m feeling. I hope I don’t bring down the conversations here. I am just so grateful to be able to let off a little steam and then go about my day with a happy smile. There’s no one I can say these things to in real life, and I am so grateful that you let me say them here.

      • Some of the wording made me think of this – part of this may be control/defense (as mentioned by others); I have seen this to one degree or another in many guys. This could be a whole separate article at some point.

        To many, the sex drive has always felt alien/other/foreign/external. I suspect this is why many guys give a name to their anatomy. The drive is strong; it is loud; it is unbalancing; it feels at times like an alien parasite hijacking the brain. There are times when it feels like “I” am the chew toy and it is the crazy dog.

        I have burned myself painfully (cooking, chemical burns, etc.) and I can defocus the pain enough to sleep. I can’t do that when the sex drive is burning hot (I can sleep somewhere else OK, but simply being next to my sleeping wife is enough to keep me up all night long). If it was a “Would you rather” question, I would rather go three days without eating vs. three days without sex, because I can mentally filter out the “food craving” far easier than “sex craving”. From what I have discussed with other men, this does not seem abnormal.

        Part of the reason for rejection of nudity is because it can jump start the desire. He may not have been thinking about sex, but then he sees you undressed and all of a sudden his complete train of thought is hijacked without warning, possibly for the rest of the day. This can be a very out-of-control and disconcerting feeling; imagine a story written from the point of view of the crazy dog’s chew toy – but that is where the defensiveness might originate.

        Not saying it is right (that sort of hijacking seems to be by design, and should be happening in marriage), but trying to give a possible explanation.

      • @sunny-dee – I’d bet there is something else going on in your husband’s mind than you know. I could make a few guesses, but they would be just that. The thing is you see 1+2=3 when you look at what he is doing, and I see (1+2+X)*Y=812.
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Be The Change: Time UseMy Profile

    • I can only dream about my husband seeing me and my body as opening up a Christmas present. He is more of a peeker than an outright admirer. I think he’s trying to act like he cares and isn’t disappointed. I guess I’m more like when you open your Christmas present and it’s just a lousy pair of socks.

      • @B “He is more of a peeker than an outright admirer. I think he’s trying to act like he cares and isn’t disappointed.”
        It could be that. But it could also be a matter of shame – and given what you say about his family of origin that seems like a more likely option. So it’s not that he doesn’t enjoy your body, but rather he feels bad enjoying it.

        One other thing – I wonder if his “preferred type” was somewhat skewed by his family and what he thought he should like. Perhaps you are more what he really wants but was afraid to admit to himself. Just a thought.
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Cause……………. EffectMy Profile

  2. I think that men’s “delight” in the feminine form has more to do with our culture than we admit. We (media, culture) teach men (and women) that it’s masculine to objectify women. It’s less about sex drive and natural wiring and more about sexism, superiority, power.

  3. I will always believe that sex is all about the physical first for a guy.
    In several of the previous posts, it has been explained that only when a man’s physical needs have been met, is he then open to appreciating the emotional aspects of sex. If a man is sexually ‘starving’ he will be unable to enjoy the emotional side of sex.
    I can accept that sex is one route to fulfilling some emotional and spiritual needs a man has, but, I truly believe it is the physical that drives a man toward being sexual first.
    If a man’s testosterone is very low and he has no sex drive, will he seek sex 2-3 times a week (for reassurance) during an emotional time in his life?
    As my husband has aged, he doesn’t need (or want) sex but once a week. He is very content.
    Does that mean his emotional needs have dissipated along with his physical needs?
    Or, has he found other forms of getting his emotional needs met since his physical needs are fading?

    • @Jolie – I agree some men never go beyond the physical. Some are so starved for sex they never learn there is more, while others are so twisted by porn they can’t possibly see there is more.
      In my mid 50’s there are times my drive is more about a desire for emotional connection than a physical desire or need. It’s kind of odd to want to and need my body to catch up, but it’s still a wonderful thing.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Be The Change: Time UseMy Profile

  4. What causes the problem is his language does not usually change when he starts to feel an emotionalismens desire. He adds his interest for a relationship to his sexuality,”
    This really caught my eye. I have always wondered why I always think about sex when I having a romantic or intimate moment with my wife. For example today we were sitting in the bus and she was looking out and I just looked at how beautiful she was, touched her chin and smiled. She looked back at me and smiled, no words needed. It was a silent: Your beautiful and I love you moment. Then we continued to watching out the window and instantly I start to think and feel: ” Man, I want to pound her so hard”! We haven’t had sex in more than two weeks but still. I always seem to connect intimate and beautiful moments with sex. Is this what you are referring to? Because I have always wondered if there is something wrong with me. We rarely have time but if we lay together on the couch to watch a movie, the thing I think about 80% of the movie is sex. I have gotten a little frustrated with myself because I just want to feel this romantic feeling without thinking about sex but maybe it’s normal? I thought that I was only seeing my wife as sexual conquest and not in a romantic way but maybe the two are intertwined. I love her and because of that my romantic feelings will be intertwined with my sexual feelings. Right?

      • Ah ok so I am not a sexual freak then. I was worried because we sadly met in an unholy way wich made me think I couldn’t experience romantic moments with her or view her in a romantic way, only sexual but I guess it’s normal then. Thank you

        • I was nearly 30 when I married and we were both virgins.

          Now this July 24th will be seven years and when it comes to sex, my wife often says that’s all I ever think about.

          I tell her this is nonsense. I think about many many other things.

          Sadly, I just can’t seem to think of what they are.
          Nick Peters recently posted…Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 2My Profile

  5. When a boy goes through the hormone hurricane known as puberty, his body is keyed up most of the time and almost anything can set it off. If he has good godly guidance (I didn’t), he can learn to deal with the testosterone storm in appropriate ways and prepare himself for marriage and God’s plan for sex.

    The problem arises when the physical is not subjected to God and a boy or young man indulges his physical sexual drive in the wrong way. It creates habits of thought and behavior that get carried into marriage and cause havoc for many couples. I know that in my life, I had so much sexual baggage that it took me years to figure out what God’s plan for sex really is. I found it in Ephesians 5, where marriage is explained as a picture, even a sacred drama, revealing truths about our relationship to Christ as His Bride. I have come to believe that even the sexual aspects of marriage reflect these truths. If I had known this years ago, I would have been a much better husband in many ways.

    It’s also helpful for women (and men) to remember that a man’s sexual desire for his wife has strong roots in his physiology. A man’s body constantly produces fluids that create pressure in the prostate and seminal vesicles. And for me, at least, I desire my wife and want to experience her with all my senses, as well as with my mind and emotions.

    We must remember that we connect with any other human only through our senses, and senses are physical things. My mind connects with my wife’s mind only through speech and hearing, sight and appearance, etc. and a part of that connection is sexual. Yes, my body needs to relieve pressure and my body wants to feel the incredible pleasure of sex. But more than anything else, I am desiring my wife and the most complete and all-encompassing connection with her that I can achieve.

      • Nick, I wish more men would get this memo. My dad never talked about sex in any way, the physical, the emotional, or the spiritual. My church never mentioned sex other than to clearly teach, don’t do it until you’re married, then good luck figuring it out.

        I’ll be 60 in a couple of months, and it wasn’t until about a year ago that I started to figure this out, with no help from anyone. (That’s not strictly true; I believe I was being taught directly by the Holy Spirit, Who was showing me truths in scripture I had never seen before.) It was shortly after that when I found The Generous Husband blog and was led through links to many other sites where I found fellow believers honestly discussing the same things.

        We have a huge obligation as husbands, fathers, and church members, to teach the truth about sex, starting with ourselves. When I finally understood some of the things I had missed, incredible including many things about how my own body works, I was able to make sense of what had been a mystery to me.

        Now if only I can figure out the mystery of Woman! :)

        • @Bobthemusicguy – I am seeing more and more of this happening in a grassroots way. Not my first choice, but it’s still good and it’s making a big difference.
          Paul Byerly recently posted…It Made Me Think of YouMy Profile

        • Maybe this is part of my husband’s issue. In the house he grew up in, sex did not exist and was not spoken of.
          Maybe that’s where his hang ups stem from. Maybe it’s not all about him not finding me attractive or desireable.
          I wish he’d talk about it with someone, but I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.

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