A common myth about men is that we don’t like to talk about our problems; we do, we just don’t want anyone to find out about them. For them to become public is a threat to our masculinity, right? Wrong, but unfortunately that’s the way most men perceive it. Thankfully Gents we no longer have to suffer in silence, Man MOT (Monday Opportunity to Talk) have given us a portal to discuss those more sensitive issues with an expert, embarrassment free and from the sanctuary of our computer screens. Every Monday from 6-11pm, fully qualified GPs can discuss specific aspects of your health, and following recent research highlighting that two in five men (42%) would feel most confident turning to the internet for advice if they experienced any sexual performance problems, you can also consult sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox and Relate counsellors. Tracey Cox was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions specially for Ape to Gentleman. Here’s what she had to say about her involvement with Man MOT, why men have the ‘fear’ of disclosure and grooming your genitalia…
EA: How is it you found yourself in the particular niche of sexual relationships; is it something you fell into or was there an experience in particular that drove you to pursue this career?
TC: I think it was a combination of my parent’s divorcing and having a big sister who ran Family Planning. My father left for another woman when I was 15 and to me, it was very clear that it was a Love vs. Sex decision. I was angry at what happened but also amazed at the power sex has over people. Even as a young child, I was always curious about relationships: what made us fall in love with one person and not the other, why do we then fall out of love? Then my big sister Deb, who is a nurse, ended up running Family Planning and being the younger sister, she was constantly shoving pamphlets about sex at me, with the hope I wouldn’t get pregnant or catch an STI!! When your sister works at FP, kids quickly realise you’re a good source so I’d constantly have kids coming up to me saying ‘Can you ask your sister if this means I’m pregnant?”. I’d run home and ask her and relay the advice and in the end, I didn’t need to. I’d become a ‘sexpert’ at the age of 14 without ever having sex!! I think this set me on the path. I was a journalist and editor of Cosmopolitan magazine in Australia but then went freelance and specialised in writing about sex and relationships. I wrote my first self-help sex book in 2000 and suddenly everyone was calling me a ‘sexpert’. Which is sort of weird? I’ve since written 13 books about sex and relationships, have my own sex toy range and done lots of TV shows about it too. It’s a strange career but I absolutely love it! It’s nice being able to help people and I get lots of people writing to me saying I’ve done just that which makes all the hard work worthwhile!
EA: The Man MOT concept is one that I can imagine to be very popular amongst men, addressing all issues, including sexual health, in complete confidence for the sanctuary of your own home. How was it you got involved?
TC: They approached me, I think because it’s pretty clear from my columns and books and shows that I am pretty sympathetic to men. I think it’s incredibly hard to be a guy these days. Men are definitely misrepresented in the media. There’s a perception they’re always up for sex, supremely confident in bed and never have problems having an orgasm. The reality is completely different. More than half the emails I get asking for help about sex are from men. They’re desperate for reassurance and there are few places they feel confident asking for it – they’re terrified of being ridiculed. Shows like Sex and the City have made women a lot more confident in bed. But it seems the more confident women become and the more demanding they are sexually, the less confident men are. Women’s bodies are complicated, it’s not easy to give us an orgasm and we are demanding more but not necessarily giving instructions on how to deliver it. So men are left feeling inadequate. We know that men prefer to turn to the internet for advice regarding sexual performance problems rather than speak with their GP, so I’m not surprised the Man MOT surgery is so popular. It’s great to see the provision of an accessible service where they can seek advice in total confidence for any health issues they might have – it’s about giving men the opportunity to talk and encouraging them to engage with a healthcare professional. I think there’s a real need for more and permanent clinics like this.
EA: In your experience, what do you think is the main reason that men find it hard to talk openly about the sexual health concerns?
TC: I think there’s still a perception that somehow a ‘real man’ should be able to solve his own problems without seeking help. Men also seem to think that they should somehow just know how to solve any sex problems. Women are more inclined to do some research, read a book or talk to friends if something is troubling them, men tend to clam up. It’s not as easy for men to articulate their problems, pinpoint what they’re feeling and open up about it as it is for women. Worryingly, they don’t speak with their partners either. Men are the ‘doers’, women are the ‘talkers’. Thing is, women don’t see it as a sign of weakness if a man wants to talk about something or asks for help. They’d welcome him opening up! Men who do pluck up courage to ask for help, usually find it’s well worth it. A lot of the men who chatted to me were massively reassured to find out the problems they had weren’t problems at all: every other guy goes through the same thing; they just don’t talk about it!
EA: Outside Man MOT, do you find that you get more male or female interest?
TC: I get a lot of letters from men – and lots from women too. I don’t see a difference in the sexes. We all have problems; it doesn’t make any difference whether you are male or female. We’re human. I hate the whole ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ thing. Yes, there are differences but we are more alike than we are different! I’m proud that I’m not a ‘man-basher’ and that men think I’m a good source of advice. I like men – a lot of my best friends are men.
EA: As we are primarily a male grooming website, I have to ask; Do you get many questions related to the grooming of the genitalia such as styles etc?
TC: I get lots!! And the answer is this: yes, give it a bit of a trim down there! Not only does it make your penis look bigger (yes really), she’ll be far more inclined to give you oral sex. Two good reasons to groom down there, wouldn’t you say?
EA: Finally Tracey, if you had one piece of advice you could give to anyone, what would it be?
TC: It’s not all about you. Stop taking everything personally. People do behave badly sometimes but it’s usually not with the intention of hurting you. They’re reacting to their own backgrounds and whatever else is happening in their life. We’re all doing the best we can. Behind anger you will always find fear.
The online evening surgery is open tonight from 6pm (and every Monday between 6pm and 11pm) so to speak to one of the Doctors or to ask Tracey Cox some private questions of your own visit – www.manmot.co.uk
As the experts do not have access to your medical records and are not able to perform a clinical examination, they cannot give individualised medical advice or offer a specific medical diagnosis.