Welcome to M-SEX! A research program dedicated to better understanding the sexual practices of cisgender, heterosexual men.
M-SEX is focused on understanding cisgender and heterosexual men's engagements with sexual practices, romance, communication, and intimacies. It is funded by the Australian Research Council and hosted at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, at La Trobe University.
What sparked this project?
M-SEX began in 2016 at a botched radio interview. Due to my involvement with the Muscling Up project, I was asked to come along for a live interview to talk about men's productions of Dick Pics.
It didn't go very well, mainly because at the time, the common belief about Dick Pics was that they were only problematic and forms of violence. I had been paired online with a journalist who spoke about this phenomenon in this way, based on a high number of interviews they had conducted with women.
When I asked about how many men they had interviewed, they told me two, but that was sufficient. It was this moment I became really curious about cisgender, heterosexual men's sexual practices.
This interest had already been building through teaching opportunities. On a few occasions I had been invited to lecture and facilitate seminars on the representation of men's bodies in the media while I was studying at Monash University. This included focusing on how we might think about the sexualisation of men's bodies.
Thus, I began down this line in thinking about Dick Pics and men's engagements with sexting and dating apps. This program grew with two pilot studies, The Dick Pic Project, and M3: Media, Masculinities, and Mental Health.
What are you interested in most?
For me, I'm interested in how cisgender, heterosexual men are navigating sex and intimacy.
With significant social changes, such as the rise of #MeToo, the plethora of dating apps, and centering women and trans and gender diverse peoples' experiences of sexual violence have meant that such men need to reevaluate their own desires, sexual practices, and relations with others.
I want to know how cisgender, heterosexual men are engaging sex and intimacy, how they understand sexual communication and consent, and how they might be transgressing the often restrictive masculine and heteronormative expectations regarding their sexuality and sexual practices.
Why cisgender, heterosexual men?
Cisgender and heterosexual men remain a privileged group in Australian society. Yet there is a dearth of research that has explored their sexual practices and desires outside of considerations of harm, problematic forms of masculinity, pornography use, and violence. Of course, this is not without due cause. We know from research that these considerations are significant.
Such men are also often absent in sexual health promotion, as they are often not an at risk group, and can be very difficult to engage in safer sex initiatives. This invisibility means that there are a number of assumptions at play in understanding how men are reflecting on their desirability, sexual wants and desires, and relations with women.
In this program of research, I want to shed some light on what is happening for this group as way to contribute to the already fantastic work being conducted on gendered and sexual violence prevention, mental health and counselling support, and relationships and sexuality education.
Where would you like this program to go?
I'm hoping that this program of research can build and connect up with some of the amazing work already being done on sexuality and masculinity nationally and internationally. This includes research that has focused on cisgender gay, bisexual+, and men who have sex with men, trans men/men with trans histories, and men with disabilities and neurodiversities among others.
While the focus of this particular program is on cisgender, heterosexual men, I hope to open this up to be much more inclusive of the diversity of expressions of maleness, men, and masculinity in the future, and link with the many fantastic programs of research already being conducted in this space.
If you are someone engaged in this kind of work, please reach out! I'd love to hear from you and see what's possible!