Reader JH recently left a comment in response to our NPR/Kinsey Confidential podcast that I’d like to respond to here on the blog. First, I agree that much of men’s penis anxiety surrounds the fact that at some point when they choose to become sexual with a partner, they have to kind of “reveal themselves” and that can be very scary for men. Men who are average or small may worry that they are too small. Men who are quite big often worry whether their partner will accept or reject them. In other words, an awful lot of men worry about rejection or disappointment in regard to their penis.
Women, I think, worry about their pubic hair or, at times, their labia. Some women write to me and are very concerned about the size of their labia. Others are worried that they will choose the right hair “style” for their genitals and try to balance what they want or find comfortable versus what they feel like their partner might want. Women also worry a bit about smell and taste and generally whether their genitals will be “attractive enough”. That’s a lot of pressure for parts typically only seen by a partner or healthcare provider.
Because most of us have or are or will deal with genital anxieties, I think it’s important to help make our partners feel good about their bodies – including their genitals. People really do say things like “wow, you’re so beautiful” to women when they are going down on them or “I love your penis!” These are okay things to say, if that’s what you’re feeling. Even if your partner is momentarily embarrassed (after all, not everyone has experience hearing their genitals talked about!), they may think back later and feel good about themselves. I’d avoid making comments that are conditional (e.g., “it looks so good when it’s shaved/groomed” or “it looks much bigger when you’re in shape, like you are now!”) because that puts a condition, or an if/then, on your appreciation of your partner’s parts. Rather than saying “I love your parts all the time, just how you are” it’s like saying “I like your parts when you do these very specific things to them.” And that can suck.
So try to focus on the positive for yourself and your partner. To learn more, check out The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health, The Penis Book, A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, or The New Male Sexuality – all good books.
[Above image via this site.]