Thursday, October 2, 2014

Philip Zimbardo - Men, Sex, and Time Perspectives

From his Psychology Today blog, The Time Cure, psychologist Philip Zimbardo proposes that how a man views/understands time impacts his orientation and behavior as a sexual/romantic partner. This post and the blog from which it comes are promotions for his new book, The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective Therapy.

He divides our time conception like this:
Past, Present and Future, but each of these can be subdivided into: Past Positive and Past Negative, Present Hedonism and Present Fatalism, and finally, Future (goal focused) and Future Transcendental (life begins after the body dies).
In this post he breaks down each of the six and explains a little about how they impact romantic and erotic expression.

Men, Sex, and Time Perspectives

The way a guy views time determines his views of sex and loving relationships

Published on September 26, 2014 by Rosemary K.M. Sword in The Time Cure

Men’s time perspectives affect their erotic relationships.

Caio! Phil Zimbardo here. I’d like to share some information we’ve gathered about how men’s time perspectives affect their views on sex and loving relationships with partners.
Here goes:

Whether male or female, for better or worse, your time perspective can dominate how you prioritize stuff in your life, even when it comes to sex. If you're not getting what you want from your sex life, it is likely that your time perspective could be holding you back from enjoying more fulfilling erotic experiences. Each of us has developed personal ways of breaking up the flow of our experiences into time zones, automatically and non-consciously. The obvious big three are Past, Present and Future, but each of these can be subdivided into: Past Positive and Past Negative, Present Hedonism and Present Fatalism, and finally, Future (goal focused) and Future Transcendental (life begins after the body dies).

All of us have these dimensions to a greater or lesser extent, so where we are on their spectrum depends on the degree to which we regularly engage them. The key is keeping your time perspectives in harmony, knowing when to turn up the volume on one while turning down the volume of another - depending on situational demands. Problems in our life can arise when any one of them takes over, prevailing over the others in a biased, rather than a balanced fashion. And nowhere does that bias have a greater impact on our behavior and our emotions than in the sexual arena.

Let’s figure out where your time perspectives are now and then see what you can do to create an ideal Balanced Sex Time Perspective. (To find out your personal Time Zone pattern, see the note below this column for taking my time assessment assessment.)

Past Negative

Past Negative people may have been abused, neglected, had partners who cheated or betrayed them or have cheated or betrayed their partners, had a strict religious upbringing, parents who were poor models of a healthy relationship, narcissistic parents, divorced parents, the list goes on. For whatever reason, these people hold themselves back in some way. Depending on the severity of whatever caused their past negative perspective, they may be incapable of feeling pleasure or derive enjoyment from sex and/or intimate relationships. If they do have relationships, they often choose unhealthy, emotionally damaged partners because a healthy relationship is too threatening - they are afraid of being nurtured. Men who have a Past Negative time perspective often keep their partner at a distance emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Bad Boys, Momma’s Boys, Perfectionists, Control Freaks, and the Peter Pan types all fit into this category.

Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Do you feel like you deserve to be loved? Do relationships make you feel anxious? Do you think something bad will happen if you feel pleasure or "let go"? Are you uncomfortable sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with your partner? Are you very critical of new partners and find no one can meet your standards? Can any woman, or other man, ever really be allowed to be your close partner? Finally, do you have to "self-medicate" - be under the influence of drugs/alcohol in order to have sex?

Past Positive

Past Positive people have many pleasant memories from the past, either from growing up in happy surroundings, or previously good relationships. They may feel they’ve been lucky with love. Men in this category may be a widower that had a great relationship with their partner and is optimistic about finding love again. Some divorced men are Past Positive depending on the nature of their separation.

Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Are you afraid you won't find another special connection with someone since your partner passed away? Do you feel like being with someone new would betray the memory of what you had, feeling some guilt over moving on to the untried new and leaving the familiar old? Do you feel shy about putting yourself out there?

Present Hedonism

Present Hedonist folks live for novel sensations, seeking pleasure in all they do. While living for momentary highs, they rarely think about the future consequences of their actions. They live more in their bodies than in their minds. Many of them just want a brief hook-up or a one-night stand with no obligations to a partner beyond satisfying their own needs. Often they grow up in an environment where no one was setting and enforcing proper boundaries; maybe they were the youngest child and everyone else was always taking care of things. They usually don't want the responsibility or aren't mature enough to handle long-term relationships, thus they back away from commitment and don't set lasting romantic goals. Men in this category can be serial monogamists where the passion heats up quickly and then fizzles just as fast. College students and frat guys can be in this category as well, since many feel it is a unique time in their life to experiment and have no-strings-attached hook up relationships.

Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Do you have trouble "reading" people or understanding what others want from you? Are you afraid of being taken advantage of? Do you purposely choose partners who are not on your level so it will be easy to walk away? Do you believe passion and personal relationships are not compatible?

Many present hedonist guys (mainly Millenials and Gen Xers) are becoming caught up in porn traps, now able to access an infinite variety of porn sex freely available on line 24/7/365. This solitary excess creates a new kind of arousal that is addictive and totally distorts any healthy or realistic perspective on sexual experience. Daily porn use also thwarts the motivation to seek a romantic, intimate, loving relationship with a real partner in the future. Guys not only get a false sense of what ordinary woman want sexually, but also an unrealistic view of male penis size and sexual stamina should in virtual sexual performance.

Questions for these guys: Do you suffer from performance anxiety? Do you have arousal problems? Do you get bored of partners easily? Have you given up on sex with real world, off-line partners? This alarming disaster-in-process was the subject of one of my TED talks, titled The Demise of Guys, which then led to an expanded TED eBook which you can view at, search The Demise of Guys that I wrote with my colleague, Nikita Duncan.

Present Fatalism

Present Fatalist people believe that whatever is meant to happen will happen. In relationships this means that these people will not be an active participant in their love life. They think that if they're meant to find The One, that it will magically happen or that person will find them. Sometimes they let great partners pass through their lives while remarking that, "it wasn't the right timing" or "just not meant to be for me." They do not like the chase. Like the Present Hedonists, Present Fatalists shrug responsibility in various aspects of relationships to mask an underlying fear of commitment. In this category you’ll find passive men, the betas rather than the alphas.

Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Do you have difficulty being decisive with partners? What would you lose by taking responsibility for your fate and putting more effort into finding the right person?

Future Oriented

Future Oriented people often lose their virginity later than those in the other categories, and are often more mindful about having protected sex. Most likely they grew up with parents who modeled pleasant, but perhaps more formal and less affectionate interactions. People who fit this category often find healthy and long-lasting intimate relationships, though the flip side is that they often put social-emotional relationships and sexual experiences off in favor of other career goals. Workaholics and financially successful middle-aged men who wake up one day feeling their life is “empty” fit into this category.

Questions to reflect on for guys holding back in this category: Are you able to relax and enjoy romantic and intimate moments? Have you been put off finding love because of your endless pursuit of your career? When was the last time you gave and/or received a really satisfying orgasm?

Future Transcendental

Future Transcendental people dismiss earthly desires in favor of rewards in the afterlife. Monks fit this category. We have no reflective questions for this group since this is a way of life they have mindfully chosen, and therefore wordly sex is not as relevant to them as men within the other five time zones.

What's An Ideal Sex Time Perspective?

Being stuck in any one of these categories suggests an extreme personality type, which is why it’s easy to find stereotypical examples for each. But most people are a combination of perspectives. Whether you are wondering which time perspective you are or if you've already figured it out, you probably want to know what an ideal Sex Time Perspective is. Assuming you want to have or eventually have a long-term romantic and fulfilling social-emotional-sexual relationship, it would be a blend of moderate Future Oriented and Present Hedonist, with a dash of Past Positive. If you strongly resonated with the Past Negative or Present Fatalist perspectives, you may want to analyze the depressing impact it’s had on your love life, how you can remove those negative perspectives’ limits, and consider how to better filter those potential partners. It is important, guys, for you to also understand your partner's dominant time zone since their positive compatibility with yours is one key to happiness.

To get out of a Past Negative or Present Fatalistic rut, you must get a better understanding of what is causing your negative or fatalistic associations with relationships. Was it because of a traumatic childhood experience, poor role models, a destructive relationship you witnessed or partook in, or something else altogether? Being stuck in a negative time zone is destructive in all areas of your life, not only sexually. You must consider putting in time, effort and even funds to change to a healtbhier time zone. Talk to a trustworthy friend or therapist about it. Find out what your downer triggers are, if there are similarities in past unsuccessful relationships, times when you felt at a disadvantage, and make yourself aware of situations where this has happened or could happen in relationships so you can better prepare for them when you’re not in the heat of the moment.

For best results, for all guys, take your time to reflect on and answer the questions above that pertain to the time perspectives with which you identify. The further you go with finding the right answers the more in-depth you can be with re-writing your time perspectives to be more ideally balanced and ultimately to really enjoy your love life fully.

Phil Zimbardo

* * * * *

Visit our Psychology Today blogs to get a fuller appreciation of how to create a more balanced time perspective in your life!

Take the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory at to discover your personal time perspective.

See The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective; "Psychology Today looks at Psychotherapy" Therapy (Zimbardo, Sword & Sword, 2012, Wiley Publishing); for strategies to reduce stress and improve communication, visit and

Visit our website,, to view a free 20 minute video - The River of Time; you’ll learn self-soothing techniques as well as how to let go of past negatives, work towards a brighter future, and live in a more compassionate present.

  1. The Demise of Guys TED Talk by Phil Zimbardo
  2. The Demise of Guys: Why Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan, 2012. Kindle edition;, search The Demise of Guys
  3. The Secret Powers of Time with Philip Zimbardo, RSA Animate.


No comments: