08/29/2013 01:44 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2013

Why Men Are Like Cows


Once, after an especially rowdy night out, a former girlfriend of mine crawled into bed next to me much later than expected. Disrupting a blissful drift to a world filled with sugarplum fairies, she affectionately nuzzled my neck and told me how happy she was to have me around. I confirmed the same, after which she began patting "Little Ethan" slowly, eventually batting it gently as a kitten might play with a ball of yarn. Taking this as a cue, I attempted to reciprocate, but was met with a regretful sigh as my girlfriend grabbed my wrist: "I want to... trust me, I do... it's not just an excuse, but... I've been up since 6 a.m.."

"It's cool," I lied. "Get some sleep."

"Can we cuddle, at least?"

"I have to use the bathroom," I only half-fibbed this time.

Of course, my otherwise truthful statement concealed an undisclosed purpose: I got out of bed, closed the bathroom door behind me, and masturbated pitifully.

Shortly after, I recounted this story to a close male friend of mine, hoping for some comfort or commiseration. He nodded, shrugged, and asserted quite matter-of-factly, "Men are like cows which need to be milked." Though this was the first time I had heard such an analogy, somehow the sentiment sounded like gospel.

I recalled, for a moment, those teenage nights during which I would fall victim to the occasional nocturnal emission (for some of my friends, "ocassional" amounted to "daily"). It's nearly physically impossible for a young man to go more than a week without an expulsion of genetic material- - either we take care of business ourselves, or our bodies do it for us. Thankfully, wet dreams tend to slow down, if not disappear, once we reach our mid-twenties, but as a 30-year-old, I do still wake in panic now and then, checking my pajama pants after having fallen asleep to a replay of Splash on TBS.

The truth is that men -- more sexually needy than women -- are, indeed, cursed beings: In a January 2012 study for the Journal of Sex Research, Ohio State University reported that the median number of sexual thoughts per day is 19 for males, versus 10 per day for females. The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University corroborates this find by reporting that more than half of all men think about sex several times a day, while only 19% of all women report the same frequency.

So, why do men think about sex more than women? Ever since Grug caught a glimpse of Ooga in her hot new leopard pelt as she bent over to broil that evening's mastodon steak, men have been, and always will be, visual creatures. Whereas women are less easily stimulated by sexually arousing images, a male sexual response can be triggered by even one glimpse of Cloris Leachman's sideboob.

Unfortunately, though it may be beneficial on a cellular level for men to be able to reproduce at the drop of a bra, such a condition is anything but romantically propitious. German researchers from Hamburg-Eppendorf University Hospital found that, whereas a woman's sex drive will begin to plummet once she enters monogamy, a man's libido will hold steady no matter how long he's romantically engaged. Add to this the anatomical differences between males -- designed for "spreading seed" -- and females -- designed for a pregnancy which, upon realization, does not benefit from additional intercourse -- and you have a recipe for one frustrating game of biological tug-of-war.

What I'm describing may sound hopeless, but I don't mean to write monogamy off as an automatic dual sentence of unwanted advances and blue-balled desperation. Obviously there are exceptions to stereotypical gender roles, and the partners of any successful long-term relationship should eventually be able to settle into a sexual balance that pleases both partners. However, this only happens through the single most important element of any romance: a healthy level of communication. Both men and women must be able to articulate their desires and needs.

Gentlemen: We need to be able to actually listen to what women say. Robotic nods and murmurs during "Breaking Bad" viewings won't cut it (trust me, I've learned the hard way). Once we've truly processed what's been said, we also must be willing to compromise. The more we can truly understand and emotionally connect with our female counterparts, the more intimate they will want to be. In addition, we men need to recognize that as a relationship matures, sex simply slows down a bit. Mother Nature decreases our sex drives as our bodies gradually deteriorate in order to restrict the possibility of birth defects. (Hey, at least there's no age limit on bridge and canasta.)

And ladies: I only ask you to understand that men are wired like T-2000s sent from the year 2050 to hunt down female genitals. We're not stoked about it either, but we're doing our best to suppress milleniums of prehistoric programming that has not evolved quickly enough to catch up with an increasingly complex cultural society. Guilt-induced sex is not only unsexy, it's wrong -- but when both partners make an effort to maintain a healthy sex life, it does help to deter Robo-male malfunctions such as infidelity, rage and madness.

If you're dating a man who cannot physically go a day without sex, you're likely dealing with someone who might need assistance in the form of psychotherapy, alternative medicine or lobotomy. But experts such as sexuality counselor Ian Kerner Ph.D. suggests that couples should merely try to have sex at least once a week. That's usually enough to satisfy the average guy in a commited relationship of more than one year. For lack of a better analogy, I guess some might say we just need a little milking now and then.