I'm a Man, I Can't Help It

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
He's just a man. A man's gonna be a man. A man is basically as faithful as his options . . . It's damn near impossible for a man to turn down sex . . . it's easy for a woman to turn down sex . . . women are offered dick every day . . (men) got to fend for themselves."
Chris Rock talking about the Clinton scandal

The logical extremity of A Man Is Not a Virgin, and the masculine equivalent of the The Unfair Sex. This trope features a man caught in a sexually compromising situation. If he is unmarried, not seeing anyone, or involved with a partner who, at the moment, is either unwilling or unable to grant him sexual satisfaction, he can provide the following excuse:

"As a man, I have physical urges which I must satisfy. It is unreasonable to expect me to go without sexual relations for an extended period of time."

The "extended period" can be anything from a few years to a few days. Bonus points to anyone who compares celibacy of any duration to taking vows at a monastery. Interestingly, this trope persists even if other characters in the main cast can display the ability to keep their pants zipped. Apparently some have higher libidos than others. Naturally, they never just schedule A Date with Rosie Palms. All in all, it's usually just a really bad excuse. But some men truly believe that they can't handle themselves better than that and as a result they can't.

Note that uses of this trope almost always focus on the physical gratification of sex. Our philandering boy just wants the physical sensation and release; other relationship issues that might lead to cheating (such as a lack of intimacy; the emotional distance created in a relationship where sex existed but is now gone; the idea that a man might actually want the emotional connection of making love, and so on) are rarely considered. Obviously a Double Standard at work, although a sexually neglected man, like a sexually neglected woman, will often find himself on the "good" side of the Good Adultery, Bad Adultery divide.

Very much Newer Than They Think. In ancient times (Rome, Greece, The Bible) being lecherous was considered a distinctively female characteristic; All Women Are Lustful in those settings. For a man to be described as a slave to his urges was a major insult to his masculinity.

Women who want to take advantage of this trope[1] can either attempt a Lysistrata Gambit or say "I Have Boobs - You Must Obey!". See also All Men Are Perverts, Everybody Has Lots of Sex, Sex Is Good.

Has many Unfortunate Implications: All Men Are Perverts; a woman is required to provide a man with sex because she is his; if a woman is cheated on or raped, it's her fault.

Examples of I'm a Man, I Can't Help It include:

Anime & Manga

  • The Moonlight Lady OVA invokes this trope in a particular way; in final preparations for the Expecting Moon Ceremony, Koichi must engage in constant sex with Tomomi and Sayaka and several other random women. Suzuna, on the other hand, is left alone to have A Date with Rosie Palms.
  • This is Akira's reason for being so sexually aggressive toward his girlfriend in Ai Ore Love Me.

Comic Books

  • A male character in Shade the Changing Man claims if he doesn't have lots of sex his jaw will go out of whack.
  • Orlando, after spending several months of his adolescence on a ship with a gang of horny Bronze Age sailors, discovered, once they made landfall in the jungle, that he has turned back into a female. His, uh, her immediate response was to make like Pheidippides, though she does mention that, had she run into such a woman back when she was a he, she probably would have raped herself, too.


  • Averted in Twilight. Bella is throwing herself at Edward, but he's afraid of hurting her (because he's a vampire and all) so he refuses.
  • Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind visits brothels while married but is never considered a bad husband because his wife doesn't have sex with him so it's her fault. However when there is the slightest hint his wife might have had a moment with another man she is treated as a terrible person.
    • But the reason the wife doesn't have sex with him is because she thinks it will help her get a married man
  • In The Women one of the main characters mother tells her that her father had a mistress but she stayed with him anyway and seems to blame the other woman more referring to her as a whore
  • Deconstructed in Black Snake Moan, where Rae is shown to be suffering serious emotional problems as a result of her constant need for sex. One of the few female usages of this trope and probably the reason for the deconstruction- women, unlike men, are not supposed to suffer from this.
    • Rae's constant need for sex was due to her trauma from being raped rather than a love of sex
    • Of course, that stereotype is somewhat modern. Used to be, people thought it was women who couldn't go for long without sex. See the play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, in which the women collectively go on a sex strike until their husbands agree to stop warring with each other: Before the first night is out, it's the girls who are trying to "engage enemy forces," and only the strong-willed leaders manage to stop them from ruining the entire operation.
      • Indeed, back in ancient Greece, medical knowledge stated that [the womb had to be regularly moistened or it would dry up and attack the other organs.
        • Fun fact: this "attack on the other organs" was known as hysteria. If marriage or "massage" didn't help, a hysterectomy would.
      • If you like to know when people stop thinking this? It's the late 1800's
      • The shift occurred very, very gradually, and not uniformly, depending on region and intellectual strata. From being consequences from protevolutionary theories in the early 1800s in the young intellectual elite to being entrenched as the mainstream gender roles in the mid 20th century, that's a 150 year span. For example Sigmund Freud: His Ur-Horde-theory is generally viewed as the prototype for the evolutionary psychological reasoning of the newer 'men are lecherous, women are virtuous' stereotype. However Freud himself was raised conservatively in the 1850ies and unlike many of his intellectual contemporaries in the 1920ies, believed women to be just as lecherous as men. Female circumcision in the US became popular in the late 1870ies as a cure for the bane of masturbation, and was only deemed completely unnecessary for women as late as the 1920 to 1940s (women wouldn't have sexual desires anyways). It took as long as the 1950ies when Kinsey challenged the by now deeply ingrained gender stereotypes with his empirical findings that, well, women * are* just as lecherous as men.
  • The boys of Blue Collar Comedy fame make note of this from time to time:
    • Ron White stated this, though he went on to admit after-the-fact feelings of deep guilt and owned up to his infidelity, so might mix in just a smidge of The Unfair Sex.

Ron White: "My wife hadn't let me touch her in three months. You can't just keep a dog under the porch for three months without petting it occasionally. If you deny me sex for three months, I'll go sleep with someone else. I know, I've seen me do it."

    • Bill Engvall has stated, "Sorry, I'm just a guy!" in his act as an excuse for all sorts of situations.
      • Surprisingly few of these involve sex-he uses it as an excuse for everything from insensitive remarks to crowning achievements in stupidity (actually, come to think of it, 90% of his "I'm just a guy" jokes fit under this), but from Bill, sex usually gets more than just a clever catchphrase.
  • Scream attracted some negative attention from feminist groups for its apparent position that if a boy's girlfriend won't put out after a certain time (a few months IIRC) he's perfectly justified in seeking satisfaction elsewhere. As well, throughout the entire trilogy Billy's father is never criticized for his affair with Sydney's mother; everyone, including Sydney herself, act like it was all her mother's fault.
  • Although the character of Eddie in Something To Talk About is blamed for his cheating he says it is partly his wife's fault for not being interested in sex anymore and she eventually agrees with him
  • In Mirror Images 2 a man seduced by the woman he believes is his wifes employes wife - its actually her twin posing as her to frame her for adultery - blames the woman calling her a slut and everyone seems to agree with him despite the fact he was a consenting adult who participated enthusiastically in the sex
    • There was a similar soft porn film where the con artist girlfriend of the main character seduces his business partner to rip him off as well and the business partners blames her saying she seduced him and he gets a free pass from his partner and wife.
  • Averted in Dragnet (the 1987 movie version.) Friday is depicted as incredibly uptight and when a woman hits on him, he turns her down.

Pep Streebeck: Are you crazy? Silvia Wiss wanted you!
Friday: Now let me tell you something, Streebeck. There are two things that clearly differentiate the human species from animals. One, we use cutlery. Two, we're capable of controlling our sexual urges. Now, you might be an exception, but don't drag me down into your private Hell.
Pep Streebeck: You've got a lot of repressed feelings, don't you, Friday? Must be what keeps your hair up.


  • Sense and Sensibility has Willoughby trying to explain his appalling behavior to Colonel Brandon's ward with this excuse. It doesn't work, but it does make this Older Than Radio.
  • In Gone with the Wind, at one point Rhett points out to Scarlett after she tries the Lysistrata Gambit that he'll just go to the brothel if she won't do her wifely duties.
  • In the magical land of Xanth, this trope is heightened to a ridiculous extreme, but then again, most things there are. Humanoid males there (and sometimes creatures of other body types too) literally cannot look away from attractive exposed flesh or movement of a humanoid female, become weak and even paralyzed the more turned on they get, and become completely freaked out in mind and body if they expose their undergarments (but not when they're naked, unless they're REALLY hot). Occasionally, this trope is subverted as it can apply to females as well, but only if they're REALLY turned on or REALLY grossed out by a male.
    • One example where this is made pretty explicit is a scene in Crewel Lye in which a male character and a female one switch bodies. The former woman is overcome by hormones and can't resist planting a kiss on her old body. She concludes that men just can't help their pigish instincts, and gains new respect for the male character when she realizes how restrained he has been.
  • Incarnations of Immortality: when a pair of female characters are turned male, they are barely restrained from raping the first woman they see. They, too, come to the conclusion that all the men they've ever known had almost superhuman levels of self-control for keeping that urge in check. Um, yeah.
    • Really, similar situations come up a lot in Piers Anthony's work - that a man's default mental setting is "RAPE" and only the most noble can resist those urges for reasons other than "fear of getting caught."
  • In Crime and Punishment, there's a bit of this in Svidrigailov's justification. He's now free and unmarried because he may have poisoned his wife, and those 18-year-old (and 15-year-old, and 13-year-old) girls are just so cute—he can't help himself.

Live-Action TV

  • In Big Love, at one point Sarah discovers a flirtatious message from an ex-girlfriend on her boyfriend Scott's phone. She jokingly says it sounds like they hooked up, which he confirms. When she gets upset, he uses this as an excuse (Sarah and Scott are not sexually active at this point). Here, the claim is treated as completely legitimate. Bear in mind, by the way, that they're both Mormons the Hollywood conception of Mormons.
    • First of all, he was not a Mormon, IIRC, he was a Baptist (heresy!). And it was NEVER considered OK by the show - Sarah was devastated by the incident, and Scott was made out to be a complete douche for it. Their entire relationship was never treated as healthy - it was treated as Sarah running away from home in a socially acceptable fashion just to get away from the walking traumatizer that was Bill Henrickson.
  • When Will in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has sex with the mother of the woman he is dating she gets all the blame from his family and Will puts his actions down to being young and making mistakes. However, the show implies that the older woman may have raped him; Will is shown as decidedly uncomfortable and reluctant before and after the incident, and the mother is immediately kicked out of the house once the Banks find out.
    • Will's reaction when the daughter got angry at him wasn't "she forced me" it was "have you seen your mom naked" which is hardly the response of a rape victim.
      • That's because he may have tried to rationalize it by telling himself the mom is hot, in accordance with this trope. A lot of men have difficulty admitting to being raped—or abused, for that matter, and may blame themselves.
  • In Desperate Housewives Brie, Lynette, Gabrielle, and Edie have a conversation where they all agree that when a man cheats on his wife the other woman is to blame, calling the woman a "man-eating scum-sucking ho-bag" and a "homewrecker" and saying "if these tramps weren't laying out the buffet they wouldn't be chowing down."
    • When Julie and Austin's relationship gets serious, Julie is slightly aprehensive about losing her virginity to him and Austin is apparently understanding and promises to wait. When Julie discusses this with Danielle, she immediately claims that guys in these circumstances are invariably lying and that they're getting sex elsewhere. Julie eventually does sleep with Austin and it's revealed slightly later that he had been sleeping with someone else behind Julie's back: Danielle.
  • Frank Gallagher in Shameless tries to blame the other woman for his infidelity.
  • In Footballers Wives several characters use the "men can't help it" argument. Tanya Turner blames her husbands mistress saying that men only cheat because of the sexual availability of football groupies like her. The character Ian Walmsley also tries to excuse himself for having a threesome despite having a wife and children by saying the women were all over him.
  • In the Farscape episode "Out of their mind", Crichton is stuck in Aeryn's body and cannot resist the urge to experiment a bit. Of course, he gets caught.

Aeryn (in Rygel's body): You are mentally damaged.
Crichton (in Aeryn's body): No, I'm a guy. A guy... guys dream about this sort of thing.

    • Inverted at the end of the episode, when it is strongly suggested that Aeryn also took some liberties when she was stuck in Crichton's body.

Aeryn: You were in my shoes... and I was in your pants. * walks away, smirking*
Crichton: *grins and darts after her*

    • He also uses this as an excuse as part of his pleading with her when they were afflicted and Chiana, her libido cranked up to about 302, tried to jump his bones only for Aeryn to walk in.
    • He practically uses this exact phrase when she discovers he's on drugs to forget her.
  • In one episode of News Radio, Lisa discovers issues of Penthouse Magazine in Dave's desk (who was simply keeping them hidden until he can figure out who left them on his desk). When she frets over why Dave would keep such things around, Beth tells her that a man can get sick if they don't look at porn frequently enough. Or, at least that's what her boyfriend told her. In the end, they turned out to belong to Beth, who was doing research for a Penthouse letter she was writing that "Starts out about golf, but then it meanders..."
  • According to Turk in Scrubs, responding to J.D's irrational hookup, if a man hasn't had sex in a certain amount of time, he's not accountable for who he sleeps with.
  • Inverted in one episode of Hannah Montana, with this explanation as to why Hannah did not want to bring her overprotective bodyguard with her on dates:

Hannah: I'm a girl. I have needs.

Puck: I'm sorry. I tried to resist Santana. I did. But I'm young. And girls have this power over me. But hey, it's all good.
Quinn: It's definitely NOT all good. I thought you wanted to be with me.
Puck: I do. Like A LOT! But you haven't given it up to me since the night I knocked you up and, baby, I'm a dude. I have needs.
Quinn: You expect to raise a baby with me and text dirty messages to every other girl at this school if I don't give it up to you everyday?
Puck: No! Just the hot girls. Look, I'm gonna be a good dad, but I'm not gonna stop being me to do it.

  • In Home and Away the character Noah is forgiven very quickly by his brother for having sex with his girlfriend and another character comments that it "would have been really hard to say no". The girlfriend even says it was her fault not his.
  • In Eastenders the character of 'Aunt Sal' goes back to her cheating husband after only a few days because she decides that she is partly to blame for not "making more of an effort".
  • Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl pretty much uses this as his excuse when he beds everything with a pulse to keep himself from feeling the hurt of Blair leaving him.
  • Coupling In the episode, "The Girl With Two Breasts", Jeff is asked out by his hot coworker, Wilma, and since, he's not the best at speaking, he wears a wire so the other members of the group can listen in and give him advice. Wilma propositions him for sex which Jeff is resistant to, since he's dating his boss, Julia. However, Wilma says she's also seeing someone and is just looking for some fun on the side, asking, "How can you say no to a night of unconditional sex?". Susan is furious when she hears this and demands that Steve tell Jeff the reason he can say no, but Steve is unable to think up a reason, eventually blurting out, "Jeff, don't. It might be a trick.", leaving Susan quite angry with him.
  • Watch any given episode of The Jerry Springer Show or Maury and you'll see cheating men offering this as their defense.
  • Mad Men plays with this trope. Men are blamed for not resisting their urges, and women are blamed for luring men to fall prey to their urges. But the show itself demonstrates that everyone has these desires and people are complex and flawed.
  • Discussed in Misfits, where Nathan claims that "The siren call of a blow job renders all men powerless."


  • In Reba McEntire's "Whoever's in New England," the lonely wife accepts that her husband is cheating on her extensively. As she says, "[he'll] always have a place to run back to." The implication from the song and the video is that, while she's certainly not happy about his cheating, it's just something a man will do.
  • "I'm Still a Guy" by Brad Paisley has it right there in the title.
    • This excuse is mostly not used to for sex, but rather on being uncivilized.
  • Devo's "Triumph of the Will" uncovers the implications of this trope:

When the well cries out for water,
It is a need that must be filled.
It is beyond the laws of nature.
It takes a triumph of the will!

  • Voltaire's "It's Normal For A Man" is all about this trope.


  • Phoebus from the Notre Dame de Paris musical names precisely this as the reason he's "torn apart".
  • In Love's Labor Lost, the king of Navarre decides to study with three scholars for three years, and makes them swear an oath that they'll stay away from women during the interim, not even go near them or speak to them. He also forbids women from coming near the palace where they're staying. Biron, one of the scholars, points out that they're breaking the oath by letting a Princess visit there, since she has no place else to stay, and must come "on mere necessity":

Necessity will make us all forsworn
Three thousand times within this three years' space;
For every man with his affects is born,
Not by might master'd but by special grace:
If I break faith, this word shall speak for me;
I am forsworn on 'mere necessity.'

Video Games

  • While not exactly an explicit situation, one cutscene from Persona 3 where Junpei comments about offering as-yet-unseen new teammate Fuuka Yamagishi "private lessons" invokes this trope after Yukari displays disgust at the notion:

Junpei: I'm a guy. What'd you expect?

  • Invoked but consistently averted in Clannad. While Tomoya is often called out on his apparently obvious lecherous thoughts, given the opportunity he always acts in a gentlemanly manner. He's given rather clear opportunities several times in Tomoyo's route, one with Ryou in Kyou's route and either Kyou or Tomoyo when locked in the storage locker. He doesn't even sleep with Nagisa for several months after getting married despite his apparently perverted nature.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion This comes up in the quest, "The Siren's Deception". The player has to track down a gang of female thieves who use this trope and lure men out to remote locations, promising them sex, and then rob them. Additionally, part of the quest requires you to get information from Gogan, their latest victim, who's married. He uses this as his excuse.


  • More or less the entire personality of Rayne from Least I Could Do.
    • And indeed, Rayne says what unmanly losers his friends are for being able to help it. And from the way the comic portrays events, he's supposed to be right.
      • He's meant to be a charismatic and entertaining protagonist. Whether he's right is another matter...
  • Deconstructed in the webcomic El Goonish Shive. Having believed for years that her father had an affair because men couldn't control their urges, due largely to her misandric mother, Susan took the opportunity to swap genders for one evening to test the theory out. Initially, this trope was played straight and Susan was suddenly full of perverted thoughts immediately after transformation (as forewarned by Tedd). However, after being male for several hours, she concluded there was hardly any difference and could no longer blame her father's actions on his gender.
  • Clearly what's being implied in this Sluggy Freelance strip. Torg tells Sasha to stop changing her clothes in front of him. She tells him to just look away until she's finished. Torg considers this utterly unreasonable.
  • A non-sexual version in Exterminatus Now:

Jamilla: "How can you all be so flippant? You think Exterminatus is "cool"? All that terrible destructive power hanging over us in the sky. The power to reduce cities to ashes, mountains to dust. To annihilate entire populations in an eyeblink. The power of Gods in the hands of mortals. Its terrifying. How can you possibly consider that cool?"
Rogue: "We're guys?"
Virus: "Yeah, how can we not?"
Eastwood: "We just saw a really big explosion while riding in a flashy, high-performance aircraft- If you got your boobs out, we could all die happy right now."

    • ...well, mostly non-sexual.

Web Originals

  • Prevalent in Elven culture in the Tales of MU universe, due to increased sexual potency. Among the more disciplined underground variety, it seems more common among the "halfkind" as they are not expected to show responsibility or constraint.

Real Life

  • Some wives of rock stars eg. Donna D'Errico have gotten little sympathy from fans when the husbands cheats because rock stars get so many opportunities that you should expect they will cheat (like most women don't get plenty of opportunities to cheat).
    • This seems even more prevalent among professional basketball players, to the point where practically everyone (including many of their wives) seems to just assume infidelity is the default.
  • Brothel madam Xaviera Hollander writes in her memoir The Happy Hooker that the wives of her married clients are often the ones to blame and that a wife who doesn't like sex anymore should allow her husband to see a prostitute
  • The Daily Record columnist Just Joan says that women who have gone off sex have only themselves to blame if their men stray
  • Debrahlee Lorenzana was supposedly fired from Citibank for dressing sexily. Problem is, she's in more-or-less normal business attire, and she even tried not wearing makeup or straightening her hair-she's just that hot. A related article jokingly included Doctor Who's Eleventh Doctor.
  • Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali and his infamous "cat and uncovered meat" parable wherein he blamed cases of sexual assualt solely on women themselves because of their immodest dressing habits and alluring behavior. Intentionally or not, he basically implied that men shouldn't be expected any kind of restrain from whatsoever.
  • The whole idea behind women wearing veils as often practised in Islamic countries.
  1. Not that kind of "advantage", sicko.