An Ordinary Man

Or, Men 101

Category: background

Crossing a Line

It is after closing time when the young woman gets into an Uber with her three friends.  They become lost in conversation in the back seat so she smiles at the driver and tells him she is drunk, and she is, but pleasantly so; quietly, almost thoughtfully (even if those thoughts are somewhat muddled). She is from Canada and tells about clearing customs where the lone agent, a man of advanced years, tells the same hoary joke to everyone as he carries out his duties; that he’s against marriage, whether it’s traditional or same-sex, but especially the latter because it’s the “same sex, over and over.”

I groan, politely, embarrassed for my not-that-much-older gender representative. “He crossed a line, didn’t he – telling me that joke?” she asks, and I agree; young women should not be exposed to off-color humor from a man old enough to be their grandfather (or anyone else they don’t want to hear it from).  But, I wonder, did she cross a line telling me he told that joke?

I certainly wasn’t offended, even though it called up images of her performing certain actions, repetitively.  Like so many things male/female, it’s hard to tell and harder to say.  She gave me a lovely smile at the end of the ride and thanked me for what she obviously did not realize was a privilege for me, having someone like her in my front seat.

Porn is for Losers, but ….

He usually wasn’t ashamed of resorting to pornography because he understood many, if not most, married men used it to satisfy themselves periodically, just like they sometimes grabbed a slice of pizza on the run instead of sitting down for a real meal. The pizza might even taste better, depending upon the circumstances; a full course dinner took time, was expensive, and required a partner of matching appetite to properly enjoy. And even a quick, clinical release was sometimes better than none at all, as any masseuse offering a happy ending could tell you. Many wives would be surprised at how frequently their husbands relieved themselves like this; he was pretty sure his would be among them. From what he had gathered, it also appeared that few of these wives would be willing to take on the additional responsibilities needed to make that unnecessary, which is why porn sites, strip bars and massage joints would always be around. – An Ordinary Man

Pamela Anderson recently came out against pornography, saying it was “a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness,” “for losers” and “a boring, wasteful and dead-end outlet for people too lazy to reap the ample rewards of healthy sexuality.” She was predictably hit with allegations of hypocrisy in view of her (limited) participation in the industry, but her point is valid.*

The paragraph above, from An Ordinary Man, reflects the views of Richard Wilson, who, feeling the press of sexual desire, picks porn over waking his sleeping wife, who has not been very enthusiastic of late.  As Anderson says, it is a loser’s move, but it takes two to tangle and Wilson, a man, is not going to forego his pleasure just because the consensual pleasure he would prefer is once again not available.

This, of course, leads to a potential dilemma that an article on about Anderson’s essay does not address: suppose Wilson’s wife were to extend an invitation to him, but only after he has already relieved the pressure by himself on the assumption she would not extend one, because, at least in his view, she does so so seldom?  Left with little choice but to demur, because he probably cannot perform anymore, she will now feel as unattractive as he has been feeling, and that part of their relationship will continue to deteriorate, to the detriment of the entire relationship.

The vicious cycle snowballs quickly.

*her essay, written with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, appeared in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal on August 31, 2016.





The author of An Ordinary Man is “man number 252,629” – of course I’m against “all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.” Who wouldn’t be?

Non-monogamy is better?

Chris Messina, the inventor of the Twitter hashtag, writes that he is a believer in “non-monogamy” because, in part, the failure rate of marriage (50%) is so high, indicating that monogamy apparently does not work. I disagree; monogamy is sensational if, but only if, both parties are kept contented within it.  There is nothing quite like remaining happy with the same person for decades.  Since he mentions being data-driven, I’m sure he appreciates that we will have to wait and see if non-monogamous relationships work out any better than monogamous ones before drawing any conclusions, but I’m betting that open marriages won’t last any longer than, what, closed (?) marriages.

I know I would not be able to bear seeing my wife trot off to bed someone else for fear that someone else is better than me: sexier, better looking, wealthier, etc. Sure, maybe once or twice might be sort of hot, but as a lifestyle?  No way.  And that’s true even though I think I could have a meaningless affair.  Sorry, Chris, but when the numbers do come in, I’m virtually certain you will be proven wrong, and probably will not still be with whomever you are non-monogamous with now, if only because of the non-monogamy….

Infidelity is ruthlessly explored in the novel, An Ordinary Man, as are virtually all other aspects of the guy’s view of marital sex.


The top complaint about a marriage is not having sex ….

“On Google, the top complaint about a marriage is not having sex. Searches for ‘sexless marriage’ are three and a half times more common than ‘unhappy marriage’ and eight times more common than ‘loveless marriage.’ There are 16 times more complaints about a spouse not wanting sex than about a married partner not being willing to talk. Even couples not yet married complain somewhat frequently about lack of sex. Google searches for ‘sexless relationship’ are second only to searches for ‘abusive relationship.’ (Abusive relationships are obviously a very important topic that I will return to in the future.)”

This isn’t news to Dr. Richard Wilson, an ordinary man trapped in such a marriage in the novel of the same name, who in talking to his best friend, bemoans his lack of action thusly:

    “Actually, pretty much nothing. I mean, I’m not keeping a calendar or anything but it feels like several months can go by without anything happening. Anything at all. I got her a fancy nightie for Valentine’s Day last week and it’s still in its box. Like I said, it’s like she woke up one morning and said, ‘whew, we’re finally finished,’ as if we had better things to do.” Richard paused to shake his head. “She seems to have come to the conclusion that I have lost interest in sex. But where ever would she get that idea? Otherwise, why wouldn’t she take fifteen minutes out of her day to do something that makes me very happy? I mean, if I could do something for her that I knew would make her that happy, of course I would. Wouldn’t matter what it was. Why not? Wouldn’t you for Sarah?” He felt himself getting a little angry as he spoke.

While Seth found that at least as many women complained about not having sex as men, I hear many more men complain than women. It is, guaranteed, fatal to a marriage.  Read the book to see why this is the case.

A Fundamental Difference

From what he could see of it, Heather’s bra was intriguingly insubstantial and lightly trimmed with lace. Quite possibly, it was part of a matched set and Richard allowed his eyes to move down her body to her hips to contemplate the bottoms. The fabric of her pants, a perceptible weave of some kind – herringbone? – revealed no intimate details of what lay beneath so Richard began to seriously consider the matter. Of course, contemplation of the underwear leads to contemplation of what is within the underwear and before long Richard was shamelessly imagining the most intimate details of his colleague’s anatomy.

Richard, the frustrated college professor and the ordinary man of the novel of the same name, would understand an article in today’s NY Daily News perfectly.  There, a woman blogged about her decision not to wear yoga pants because of the thoughts such revealing attire can create in us poor males.

At least two of her readers suggested that by that logic, men would need to stop wearing suits because some women find them sexy. Exactly, Richard would tell his class; at a very basic level, men are programmed to respond to physical attractiveness and/or the apparent mindset of the woman, while women are programmed to respond to the ability of the male to provide – a woman showing her stuff is almost automatically sexy to a guy, just as a guy wearing a suit presumably has a good job and is therefore sexy to the essential female.

And it was to what he attributed his own dissatisfaction to in his marriage counseling session:

    “What about what you said was your worst fear; that you are not a good enough provider?”

    “Well, to understand that, you have to understand that I teach evolutionary biology for a living. My day is filled with the survival of the fittest, to the victor go the spoils, who is the best mate. Et cetera. It’s very obvious that she could have done better.”

    “You think her sexuality is dependent upon the size of your paycheck?”

    “Let’s say that I’m not sure it’s not. There is very heavy selection pressure to mate with the winners. Has been for eons.  I’m virtually certain that has worked its way into the human genome.”

An Ordinary Elephant

In my novelAn Ordinary Man, I attempt to explain how the ordinary guy views sex, particularly in a marital context. Some readers have been surprised at how focused I claim your standard male is.  To them, I can only say be glad we’re not elephants.

Male Sexuality: It’s NOT Complicated

Yesterday I ran a quote from An Ordinary Man wherein Professor Wilson was lecturing to his evolutionary biology class about the importance of the male orgasm in driving successful reproduction, while noting that female sexual satisfaction was something different, an idea not at odds with a recent study.

By coincidence, ran a story that same day about how zoologists had seen – and videotaped – elephant seals knocking down and raping emperor penguins on an isolated island near Antarctica; not just once, but on several occasions. Ick. But Prof. Wilson is right, the sex drive is very strong and elephant seals, who either control a harem of females or have none at all, are NOT going to just sit there and say, “I guess I don’t get to have sex this season.” They’ve found a port in the storm, and they’re taking it.

What is interesting to me, raised on Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will, is what marine biologist William Haddad said when asked  whether they do it for pleasure, as opposed to some other purpose: “In my opinion, I think yes, probably. The expression that seal had on its face — it seemed like it was for fun.”

If we do not recognize the central role sex plays in male fulfillment, there are a lot of problems we’re not going to solve.

Female Sexuality: It’s Complicated

  “Classical thought has it that the function of the orgasm for both sexes is to make reproduction worthwhile. It’s easy to see where this could be true with the males, whether you’re talking about head-butting ungulates such as buffalo, big horn rams, or African antelope; territorial males like lions and wolves who guard their fiefdoms and the mating rights that go with it with tooth and claw; or harem masters like elk and elephant seals who exhaust themselves covering as many females as possible while driving off rivals.” He played short, silent videos of each as he spoke and considered the irony of telling his female students about the strength of the male sex drive; were there any of them who had not been subjected to its relentlessness by now? “Obviously, something, it would seem, makes this all worthwhile and it’s reasonable to assume it’s the male orgasm.” Very reasonable, in fact.

    “So what about the females? Reproduction kind of seems like the ultimate bad deal for them because it’s usually up to her to more or less submit to the male’s advances, exposing herself to rough treatment from him, the fatigue of pregnancy, the danger of childbirth, and the demands of motherhood, all while he sort of just ambles off, looking for another conquest. What makes the female go there? It’s not the desire to have offspring, or the satisfaction of raising a family because although I do not doubt the special bond between mothers and their babies, animals wouldn’t be able to make a connection between sex and birth weeks or months later. Indeed, some humans don’t seem able to make that connection.

    “But yet, we can be pretty sure it’s not pleasure, at least not in most cases.” He paused, aware that he was about to venture into dangerous territory. “Much of the mating out there is coercive in nature, with the males using harassment, intimidation, and physical force to accomplish it. Copulation in many species is quick, brutish, and even painful for the female, who frequently seeks to avoid it as much as possible. The use of the term ‘rape’ would not be entirely unjustified in several cases. On the other hand, making sex as pleasant for females as it is for males wouldn’t work very well; we would literally have bad moms running all through the animal kingdom, throwing themselves at the guys, with no one watching out for the babies she might already have at home.

    “At the end of the day, it seems clear that many, if not most, females mate because if they didn’t, their species would cease to exist and not for any other reason. Females who completely reject any interaction with males are unable to reproduce themselves and would be selected out.”

That’s Professor Richard Wilson addressing his evolutionary biology class at Aeolian College, grappling with the issue of female sexuality as his own marriage falls apart because of bedroom incompatibility.  Dr. John Randolph, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology for the University of Michigan Health System and an author of a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, had this to say: “[w]omen’s interest in sex is extremely complicated,” with “[m]ood and an overall sense of health and well-being [being] key for women.”

Read more:

The Myth of the Sexual Peak

He would never apologize for needing her physically and he would never risk being scorned on account of that need.

The flip side of forsaking all others is that you do not forsake me. I do not pursue other opportunities because you are my opportunity, not because I have lost interest in those opportunities. I give up the thrill of the chase and the excitement of new skin because you know my desires and have promised to accommodate them. … Liz was wrong; it was in fact a quid pro quo, a contract, and if you breach your end of it, why wouldn’t I breach mine? This may come as a shock, honey, but I am as much a slave to my libido as you are to it, even more so. It’s not a switch I can simply turn on and off. I get hungry and tired at inconvenient times, too, and there’s not much I can do about that, either. How many times do you get to say no, and why do you even want to say no in the first place? You didn’t have to accept the ring.

Tough talk, but he felt his blood freezing in his coronary arteries as he considered his newly-understood future. He was celibate and possibly having a heart attack. At forty-two. Reaching for his phone, he waited to see if any other symptoms appeared that would warrant calling an ambulance.

According to an article in the New York Daily News, it is a myth that men enjoy their sexual peak at an early age. The article quotes Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, as saying “If you are looking for great sex, then ages 35-45 would be the best time [for a man].”  But by that age, a lot of men seem to find themselves trapped in increasingly sexless marriages, just like Richard Wilson, in An Ordinary Man.