The book is divided into three parts, the first encompassing “Getting It”, which unfolds on two levels. According to Montemurro, men had to first understand how sex works, with the next step being their first sexual experiences. The male participants were very focused on trying to find sexual partners and get the attention of women.
The second part is titled “Having It”, where Montemurro writes about men’s concerns about sexual performance and competence.
“I notice that the men seemed to have a ‘competent man’ image hanging over their sexual encounters that they feel they have to respect. Men worried about whether they were having sex “right” and worried that their sex partners would leave them to other men if they weren’t good enough. It was interesting to see how critical sexual performance was in men’s estimation of their contribution to intimate relationships,” she said.
The second part of “Having It” is about sex in relationships. Men in longer-term relationships worried slightly less about performance and validation of their worth because they felt confirmed by the longevity and commitment of their relationships. The female partners in these relationships acted as agents of affirmation, as their presence and affection made the men feel good about themselves.
“I also found that men preferred to have sex when they had strong emotional feelings for their sexual partners,” she said.
The third part is “Keeping It Up” in relationships. Men feared maintaining sexually active relationships and being able to find and keep partners. Some men had cases for asserting that they were still desirable as the frequency of sexual intimacy in their marriages declined. Others had trouble understanding who they were as men if they were in mostly single relationships.
Finally, the other part of “Keeping It Up” was about aging and erectile dysfunction (ED). About a quarter of the men in the study suffered from erectile dysfunction. Men relied on their female partners to ensure that they were still valid even when they could not perform or behave as men felt they should.
Montemurro hopes this book, which took seven years of research and writing, is a call to action.
“I want men and women to understand each other a little better. There’s a lot more going on with men than we realize with their sexuality. We don’t want to overlook the negatives, but it’s important for us to understand the constraints of masculinity and the benefits of treating women better,” she said.
Montemurro was inspired to write the book after completing her research on women’s sexuality throughout life from her previous book, “Deserving Desire: Women’s Stories of Sexual Evolution.”
“When I was working on this book, I remember having conversations about how men might answer some of the questions I asked. Initially, I thought interviewing men might give a better insight into women’s sexuality,” she said.
Montemurro collected more data than she could fit into this book, she said. Her next projects therefore involve articles dealing specifically with the intersection of race, gender and sexuality, on which she is collaborating with Elizabeth Hughes, assistant professor of sociology at Abington.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible, and high-impact education, resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers bachelor’s degrees in 23 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors program, NCAA Division III athletics and more.