Global research on sexuality indicates that equality of gender roles is associated with men’s and women’s sexual satisfaction. In the male-dominated cultures in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, significantly fewer people report that they have satisfying sex­ual lives than people in the Western world (Laumann et al., 2006). As greater equal­ity between men and women has developed over time, the sexual double standard has diminished in the United States. However, opposing sexual expectations for women and men are still prevalent in U. S. society and can negatively affect sexuality (Fugere et al., 2008). Women may learn to be sexually restrained to avoid acquiring the reputation of being a "slut," while men frequently learn that sexual conquest is a measure of "manliness" and that men "should always be capable of responding sexually, regardless of the time and place, our feelings about ourselves and our partners, or any other factors" (Zilbergeld, 1978, p. 41) As a result of these expectations, men tend to see sexual interaction as a performance, in which their highest priority is to "act like a man" to confirm their male gender role in every sexual experience. "Acting like a man" for many men makes it difficult to express "feminine" characteristics, such as tenderness or receptivity. The requirements of masculine self-reliance and dominance can make asking for guidance from a sexual

Sexual Difficulties and Solutions

partner more difficult. The restrictions of gender-role expectations can lead to anxiety, frustration, and resentment for both women and men (Bonierbale et al., 2006).

In contrast, sexual intimacy that transcends gender-role stereotypes—when both individuals are active and receptive, wild and tender, playful and serious—moves beyond caricatures of men and women and expresses the richness of humanness (Kasl, 1999; McCarthy, 2001). Same-sex couples may not have to struggle with opposing gender – role expectations in their sexual expression. They tend to have a more varied sexual repertoire than heterosexuals, in part because of the lack of rigid gender-role scripts and of a concept of how sex "should" happen (Nichols, 2000).