Men’s Sexual Health Myths Debunked
Dr. Abraham Morgentaler challenges misconceptions about male sexuality.
Dr. Abraham Morgentaler is the epitome of a guy’s guy. He’s out to prove that men are far more emotionally complicated than women give them credit for, and he wants the world to know that men do, in fact, fake orgasms.
“Men fake it remarkably frequently,” Morgentaler says. His new book, Why Men Fake It: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex, focuses on what Morgentaler believes are frequent misconceptions about men’s health. “Men fake it to be good to their partners, basically for the same reasons that women fake it with men. People are shocked that men fake it because there’s an assumption that men are always ready to go, always willing and eager,” he says. “People say that women are complicated, but so are men, under the surface. Guys are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for.”
Morgentaler, a urologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the founder of Men’s Health Boston, has been interested in male reproduction and sexual health since he was an undergraduate at Harvard University. When he came out of medical school, he began to focus on testosterone therapies out of curiosity. “At the time, no one else was using testosterone because they were worried about prostate cancer,” he says. Morgentaler noticed that while women’s health clinics existed all over the U.S., he’d never seen a men’s health clinic before. “I went to the president of Beth Israel Deaconess and told him this, and he said it would take two years to open one. I didn’t want to wait, so I started it myself down the street from the hospital,” he says.
Men’s Health Boston, which is now a partner of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, remains one of the only clinics in the U.S. that is devoted primarily to men’s health, and it has been the hub of Morgentaler’s research efforts. Testosterone reduction, which often occurs in men as a function of age, can make men feel tired and depressed about life. Men with low testosterone levels will often express less of a sex drive and have lower work ethic. So Morgentaler began to experiment with testosterone therapies when his clinic opened. Recently, he and his colleagues at the clinic revealed research suggesting that testosterone therapies do not appear to cause or aggravate prostate cancer, research for which he won numerous awards.
“My book is about the perceptions of men in our society,” Morgentaler says, “and the truth about men is that they are both sexual and emotional. They are testosterone driven. However, men care a great deal about their partners. How they’re portrayed in the media is overly simplistic and negative.” He says that part of the problem is the absence of a conversation around men’s health issues. More than half of men in the U.S. between the ages of 40 and 70 have erectile dysfunction problems, but many refuse to see a doctor because of the cultural expectation that men should be sexual beings, he says.
In his book, Morgentaler discusses what he says is probably the most common misconception about men’s sexual health: that men only care about themselves during sex. In fact, he believes that men care much more about keeping their partners happy than keeping themselves happy, something that he says he hears a lot about behind the closed exam room doors. “I do think that the conversation has turned sour towards men,” he says. “Guys now are confused about what it means to be a guy. Once upon a time, it was considered positive for men to be strong and silent. But now we want men who are verbal and emotionally available. They don’t know the rules. And part of the problem is that men do recognize that they have sexual desires, so they often feel guilty. Women’s sexuality is seen as natural, positive, grounded, life affirming. Men’s sexuality is more tied to terms like infidelity, addiction, scandal.”
A self-declared “psycho-urologist,” Morgentaler hopes to begin a conversation about men’s sexual health, and to help both men and women think about sexual health in our society because of his book. “I want to help men understand what normal sexuality is,” he says. “Guys are a lot more emotional and interesting than we give them credit for.”