Bond. James Bond. Suave, sophisticated, unflappable; the quintessential alpha male. Women virtually throw themselves at him and we just know that '007' has never, will never, experience problems with his sexual prowess.
Bond, of course, is a work of fiction but he has mass appeal. Along with action heroes like Schwarzenegger, Eastwood, Stallone, Bond underpins everything that men understand a real man to be. I confess, I'll probably go to the next Bond movie, but like most people I can distinguish fantasy from reality. Male action heroes represent an exaggeration or extreme type of masculinity. Yet, the building blocks for these characters are developed from the gender roles assigned to men and women from the moment they are born.
Gender roles permeate all aspects of human interaction. Aggression and sexual promiscuity, for example, are viewed as natural and even acceptable in males. Women, by contrast, are generally expected to be more passive sexually and are assumed to have a strong need to nurture. In the bedroom it is generally assumed that the man is more likely to initiate sex, choose the activities and decide when it is over. A man who lacks the confidence to take the lead or who has internalised the role as ‘leader' in these situations may have great difficulties coping with alternative roles. Some men are literally unable to respond sexually to a woman that takes the sexual initiative or wants to have an active role during intimacy.
The notion that it is normal for a man to want to be sexually active can be just one of the problems men face who do not live up to the expectation. Performance anxiety is a well documented problem. If some men perceive they must take the lead, must ensure maximum sexual satisfaction for their partner and must not ejaculate before this is achieved, they can easily find themselves in state of anxiety. As anxiety and sexual arousal are not compatible, it is anxiety that is likely to dominate and interfere with sexual activity.
Within the context of the male sex role what do we understand to be ‘proper' sex? That's easy, our culture regards proper sex as the ability of the man to sustain a fully erect penis in order to have penetrative sex. If he is unable to do this, something is wrong, and disappointment will be felt by the man (whose fault it is) and his partner. But does it have to be this way?
No it doesn't, but it may require a concerted shift in attitude as to what is right or wrong, good or bad, within a sexual relationship. The word ‘impotent', quite literally means ‘lacking power'. Masculinity is wrapped up with notions of power, performance, dominance, wealth, success and so on. These notions weave into one another in such a way that any incursions, stress or fatigue for example, can easily affect men and perhaps undermine their own notion of what it is to be male.
Ultimately, there can only be one James Bond. For the rest of us we might want to reconsider what it is to be male in the context of our sexuality and perhaps even relax a little where this is concerned?