Because of their biological design, most men regard the physical act of sexual intercourse as very important, while most women prioritise intimacy over the physical side
When discussing sexuality, the first thing that comes to mind is often the physical act of intercourse. There is, however, much more to it, and the difference can be seen most clearly in the different ways men and woman view sexuality. Although this is something of a generalisation, one can safely say that, often, men and women value different aspects of sex.
For men it is typically the physical element that is paramount, while women tend to value the emotional aspect. The reason for these differences can be found in the biological make-up of people. The design of the male body, and hormones that accompany it, ensures that males are ready to procreate most of the time.
Men often have a higher sex drive and react more readily to visual stimulation. For women, the need is often for emotional closeness and intimacy. Women are nurturers by nature and usually value the connection between them and their partners. When women feel safe, they are more comfortable about moving towards the physical expression of sex.
These differences are especially relevant when spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are taken into account. Women who have suffered an SCI often fear that intimacy will suffer as a result of the injury.
The lack of sensation during intercourse is usually a secondary concern, with intimacy being the first priority. Partners can assist by supporting their female partner in the process of dealing with the injury emotionally, which will make it easier for her to be comfortable having sex again.
For men, the effect that an SCI has on their sexual functioning is more impactful. Masculinity is often perceived as being connected to the ability to perform sexually. Men with SCIs often need assistance to get and maintain an erection. There are numerous methods to assist, including medical interventions, medication and assistive devices.
However, all these interventions only assist in the physical ability to have sex. In order to have satisfying sexual relationships, intimacy is important. When there is emotional closeness, the sexual experience is enhanced, which makes it more likely for a man to achieve orgasm, despite diminished sensation.
Intimacy brings people closer and makes it easier to figure out how to have a satisfying sexual relationship together. Although this might be easier for women, it can also benefit men to spend a little extra time on romance.
Danie Breedt is a passionate scholar-practitioner in the field of psychology. He divides his time between training future psychologists, research and clinical practice. Danie works from an integrative interactional approach in therapy dealing with a wide range of emotional difficulties. He is currently working as a psychologist at numerous physical rehabilitation hospitals across Gauteng for Charis Psychological Services where he does supportive counselling as well as sexual education for patients with disabilities. Column courtesy of Charis Psychological Services.