Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass

老牛吃嫩草
lăo niú chī nèn căo

Whoever strolls in a major city’s hip locations at night will notice the number of May-December couples, i.e., pairs where one mate (usually the male) is significantly older than the other. This proverb fiddles with this phenomenon and is based on the observation that older men seek younger women (as wives, but also as mistresses, girlfriends, one-night stands, etc.), and that older women sometimes like to date younger men (most pro­bably as toy boys only) – if, of course, the financial situation and physical attractiveness of each part­ner respec­tively, allow for such a match. Yet this apposition is not highlighted for any rea­son. As shall be seen in the following, economical or material considerations indeed often play a major role in such relationships.[1]

According to statistics available for Europe, most men marry women who are about three years younger than them on average.[2] This fact can easily be explained by biological and social consi­derations: From a survival perspective, it makes sense for women to choose a better half that can protect them and their offspring. Given that people’s wealth normally increases with age, an old man is likely to have a higher status, greater resources, a larger network, and therefore a better ability to provide for her. The reason why the age difference is not much higher than three years is equally perspicuous: If a man is too old, he is expected to die earlier, mea­ning that his (or the couple’s common) resources will dry out or will be reduced in the wake of the inheritance division. In this regard, the genuine love story bet­ween Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall, an oil business mogul 62 years her senior, should certainly be remembered as a historical exception.

Furthermore, mature men display comparatively lower testosterone level, which makes them more stable emotionally, more reliable, and thus more credible with regard to long-term commitment. They are also recognised as being more generous in bed, more under control of their own desires, and more understanding, respectively knowledgeable about what women want – all qualities that should not be underestimated when it comes to (short and long term) heterosexual relationships. On a similar note, studies show that the sex drive of a man in his forties, for example, is more compatible with a woman in her early twenties (that is, in terms of interest and need, not physical performance).

Likewise, the existence of “cougars” (a slang term referring to a women who date and sleep with much younger men) can be justified with analogous arguments: While human males’ libido peaks at age 19, the sexual functioning of females tends to reach its highest point when they are around 36 to 38.[3],[4] Hence, from a purely biological and lust-technical stand­point, it is apparently this combina­tion, a Mrs. Robinson in her late thirties with a 19-year-old Benjamin Braddock, that pro­mises the most action in bedrooms worldwide. This has not only to do with the fact that only younger men have the appetite, potency and the physical ability an older woman yearn for. Other aspects, such as hormonal changes within a woman’s system, life experience, self-confidence, comfort with one’s own body, play an equally crucial role in explaining such unions that make no sense from an evolutionary perspective, as women have virtually lost their reproductive value at that age. Other than true romance or momentary lecherousness, the only plausible reasons a stripling would go for this kind of arrangement are power, connections, reputation, celebrity, or money. That being said, the key insight here is not that “coupling between an older woman and a younger man can’t last”, but as Alan and Barbara Pease point out in their 2009 book Why Men Want Sex and Women Need Love: “[S]ome do – but most don’t.”[5]


Notes

[1]    A deeper discussion about the importance of age in mate selection is held in chapter 14 “Fair lady is what gentleman seeks”.

[2]    Cited in: Wardrop (2009)

[3]    Pease / Pease (1999), p. 222

[4]    Pines (2005), p. 101

[5]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 62

Chapter 4: Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters – Part 3

Singling out Christianity for further illustration purposes, the strictness of some value sys­tems becomes apparent when one contemplates the amount and extent of principles regu­lating sexuality. Carried by the white doctrine that the first sin was intercourse, both Catho­lic and Protestant hardliners prohibit activities like fornication (pre-marital sex), adultery (extramarital sex), contraception (a deed that counteracts God’s will and design of human sexuality), homosexuality (deemed as contrary to natural law as it goes against the precept of the complementarity of the sexes), or masturbation. Since “the body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body”[1], sexual abstinence must be the preferred state for both men and women. For Roman Catholics, intercourse is reserved for marriage (the only instance in which it can be considered as chaste) and may be perfor­med for procreation and unification purposes only. As an offence against the state of chastity and a violation of the duty of self-abnegation, any sexual act practised with the sole intent of fun or recreation is decried as a sin. If God represents the embodiment of love, then sex has to be a sin, because it can also occur in the absence of love.

Confessedly, the assimilation of sexual abstinence with purity does make sense from seve­ral, including medical, hygiene, material or psychological, points of views. Indeed, chastity, as the virtue that moderates sexual appetite, may contribute to achieving mastery over one’s passions, desires, will, and reason. This ability, in turn, is crucial in view of morality because it helps to restrain negative impulses, such as vanity, jealousy or anger. In this con­text, the connection between sex and violence is undeniable. Bearing in mind that genetic sur­vival and reproduction remain a main preoccupation for all living creatures, it is not sur­prising that males would regard the mating opportunities as the reward and goal of power and wealth. As such, sexual competition or selection could well be one of the key agents of crime and havoc, including murder, rape, warfare, etc. – a link that has since been establi­shed statistically after a series of experiments in China.[2] The abduction of Helen of Troy as the starting point of a lengthy and ferocious confrontation between the Greeks and the Tro­jans exemplifies this causality only too well.

These points show that the religiously motivated synonymy of sex and sin rests upon the fact that the former may, in reality, lead to trouble, thus proving the accuracy of the present pro­verb. What the previous argument fails to demonstrate, however, is the inherent sinful­ness, wickedness or unrighteousness of sex itself.[3] While the classification of chastity as a capital virtue may appear justifiable, the negation of this relation, i.e., that lust is a deadly sin, clearly looks like a bit of a stretch. Truly, the fun stops when one has to feel ashamed or guilty for his or her sexual desires and when hungriness or the mere con­sumption of a for­bidden fruit can bring damnation upon one’s soul. After all, not everyone is made for great­ness or virtue; but is this a reason to curse or condemn everyone else? Where would huma­nity stand without aphrodisia anyway? Unconditional sexual bigotry can no longer lead to uncon­ditional chastity. It can no longer serve to condemn dissolutes. It can no longer be of concern to great worth alone. For a demographic disaster, spread by words and writs and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncom­mitted alike. Mankind must put an end to bigotry or bigotry will put an end to man­kind.

If people do not want to fall into a Fahrenheit 6:18ean dystopia, a dogmatic shift has to occur. Thus, the solution proposed here is as simple as controversial: Let’s free ourselves from the sin of luxuria by not considering it as a sin anymore. And for those who have sinned and fear to sin again, here are a few words that could sound like a remedy: Two thou­sand years ago the proudest boast was “Castus ego sum”. Today, in the world of free­dom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein philanderer”.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

沉鱼落雁

Chén yú luò yàn

A woman beautiful enough to sink a fish and down a goose for shame.

 

红颜薄命

hóng yán bó mìng

An idiom that describes the ill-fatedness of beautiful women.

 


Notes

[1]    Bible – New Testament (New International Version), Corinthians, 6:13

[2]    Chang / Lu / Li / Li (2011)

[3]    Ridley (1993), p. 202

Chapter 4: Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters

红颜祸水
hóng yán huò shuĭ 

Many men may probably confirm how strong of a force certain traits of femininity exerts on them. According to the proverb introduced in this chapter, beauty and, by exten­sion, sex are responsible for great trouble, and can even cause the downfall of men. Regar­ding women as sexual objects for male enjoyment is apparently not enough. Woman­hood itself is often blamed for misfortune striking the fate of men. In particular, it is com­monly regarded as her fault if a man overindulges himself in carnal pleasures, thus resulting in the failure of his career or duty. The purpose of this section is not only to present such indict­ments as both wrong and wrongful but also to salvage sex from its inauspicious image. The main argument herein will be that such censure of free love is exag­ge­rated and that it indirectly contributes to (pretty) women being unfairly picked on and accused of being res­ponsible for various forms of tragedies and shame. Such practices are counter-productive and undermine female eman­cipation. On the contrary, they slow down women’s escape from narrow gender roles and their liberation from legal, econo­mic, and sexual oppression. Hence the message to be conveyed here: If prudery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.

History, literature and mythologies across the world abound with stories of beauties placing their male counterparts into compromising, perilous, desperate or mortal situations. Unlike, the archetypal evil woman[1], however, the mysterious femme fatale uses her phy­sical advantages and seductive powers to mesmerise and deceive her victims. These assets may include a striking appearance (like for the succubus Lillith and the Chinese fox spirit Daji[2]), long hair (as in the case of the Japanese Yuki-onna or the German Lorelei), a dulcet voice and singing (the Lorelei or the Greek Sirens) or dancing skills (Salome in the New Tes­tament). Once the victim is under her spell, he finds himself locked in bonds of irresis­ti­ble desire, losing his own will. The poor devil’s fate remains at the discretion of the enchant­ress, and may range from being murdered (which is what happened to Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, who was killed by his wife Clytemnestra), sucked dry (the form of exe­cution the Japa­nese Hone-onna is famous for), eaten (by Bai Gu Jing[3]), betrayed (like Samson whose secret that his strength lay in his long hair was revealed by his lover Delilah), or induced to kill someone else (José Lizarrabengoa in Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen, or Xīmén Qìng, 西门庆, influenced by Pān Jīnlián, 潘金莲, in The Plum in the Golden Vase, 金瓶梅, Jīn Píng Méi).

Contemporary representations of most pernicious women appear harmless compared to these classical villains. Although modern time plots involving such deadly females may not end as fatally as in the stories above, the leitmotif remains the same: A beautiful temptress sedu­ces one or more naïve men, enticing him or them to act in her interest. This may include the exercise of violence on other people (as in the case of ice skater Tonya Harding who allegedly led her then-husband to plan an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan), the trade of sensitive military information against sexual favours (which North Korean spy WON Jeong-hwa apparently succeeded in doing), or otherwise disclosing state secrets to the enemy (e.g., the famous story of Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was accused of espio­nage for Germany during the First World War).

The latest notable scandals are relatively benign, merely featuring the debauchery of gover­nment officials or corporate executives. Prominent examples in this regard include the outrage following US President Bill Clinton’s improper relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s patronage of a prosti­tution ser­vice, Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd’s inappropriate conduct, or Inter­natio­nal Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s intimate encoun­ter with a hotel maid. Although it seems that males in powerful positions are parti­cularly prone to profligacy, the political post or the place within a company or other groups of people is not the only pertinent point to explain the problem of adultery or promiscuous behaviour. Even in lower levels of our society, or among commoners, sexual affairs, ending in nasty divorces or harass­ment lawsuits, regu­larly destroy personal and professional lives.


Notes

[1]    See chapter 7 “The most vicious is a woman’s heart”.

[2]    Chinese original: 妲己, Dájǐ. Fox spirits, or 狐狸精 (húli jīng), also appear in Japanese and Korean folklore, in the person of Kitsune and Kumiho respectively.

[3]    Bai Gu Jing (白骨精, bái gú jīng, literally: white bone demon) is an evil spirit from wú Chéng’ēn’s (吴承恩) Journey to the West (西遊記, xī yóu jì), one of the Four Great Classical Novels (see also chapter 1 “Men are like mud, women are like water”).

Chapter 3: Men like, women love – Part 3

One direct consequence of men’s susceptibility to visual materials and faculty to diffe­rentiate love and sex is their inclination or hope to have as many sexual partners as pos­sible. While women prefer sex within an emotional, stable, monogamous relationships, men effectively have the disposition to seek a variety of mates, just for the sake of variety. In a survey conducted among unmarried American men and women between the ages of eighteen and thirty, for instance, it was established that males wanted to have eighteen part­ners over their entire lifetime, while women were satisfied with only four partners, i.e., more than four times less. Within the next three years, men stated that ten would be good, ver­sus two for women. And for the next year, men wanted six partners – that’s one every two months – whereas women only desired one.[1] Other researchers found out that men fan­tasise not less than twice as often as women during sex, and that 88 percent of men admitted mentally switching partners or imagining multiple partners during the course of a single fan­tasy session (compared to 57 percent for women)[2].

Yet evolutionary psychology and the natural urge to procreate justifies much more than intrinsic promiscuity of males[3]. They both play an eminent role and provide particularly persuasive arguments in the explanation of mating behaviour and of gender differences in human sexuality. For a man, sex usually carries an extremely high priority, as it represents his only alternative for reproduction. In order to achieve this innate goal of passing down his chromosomes to the next generation, he chooses to have sex with a large number of women. Although he might not carry through on this instinct, he certainly has the drive to attempt to inseminate legions of females. For him, having twenty partners means that he can poten­tially yield at least as many babies per year. Therefore, he has a lot to gain by being easily aroused and by attempting to procreate. For a woman, on the other hand, it makes no evo­lutionary sense to have 20 lovers, as she can only bear one child every nine months. For her, more sex does not necessarily mean a higher fertility.

Powerful sex drive, easy arousal, quick on the draw, visual stimulation, ability to separate love from sex, preference for partner diversity, capacity to breed at practically any time, any place, and under almost any circumstances, etc. – all these facets of apparent male promiscuity often lead women to think and openly deplore that men are “dick driven”. The late comedian Robin Williams (a man) recognised and circumscribed this problem in a rather humorous way, declaring that God gave men a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to run one at a time… And that’s not too far from the truth. In many occasions, sex does actually supersede male brain activity. This explains why sometimes a man can find his rational thought overwhelmed instantly when he is strongly attracted to a woman. This phenomenon does not occur by accident but can be proven scientifically. According to neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, the space allo­cated to sexual drive in male brains is two and a half times larger than in female brains.[4]

Considering that a man’s body produces about ten times more testosterone than a woman’s body on average, it should not come as a surprise that the male sex drive is so powerful and urgent, at least from a female perspective. This hormone does not only make men hairier (yet paradoxically provoking baldness), bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than women but also much hornier. In this regard, it may be interesting to notice that testosterone levels in single males (who have not yet succeeded in passing on their genes and are therefore still on the chase) are significantly higher than in married men and fathers (who have moved onto a more nurturing, less aggressive, role).[5] Similarly, human ethnicities with males showing relatively lower testosterone readings (e.g., Asians) have less sex than others (Cau­casians, black men), but are also less prone to violent crimes and rape. Reciprocally, the only women who have sex drives resembling men’s – i.e., frequent sexual arousal; sparked off by visual stimuli like pictures or the sight of strangers; in certain cases leading to a pres­sing need to masturbate; recurring desire; to have casual intercourse; with random people; for bodily gratification – are those with abnormally high blood levels of male sex hormones. This phenomenon, however, applies to less than 20 percent of all women.[6]

What is more, men also have a larger hypothalamus, the portion of the brain that controls functions like blood pressure or heart rate, as well as primordial drives such as thirst and hunger. Together with the amygdala, which is in charge of processing and memory of emotional reactions, they constitute the lust centres in our brain. During arousal, both parts become active, initiating the secretion of dopamine, a neurotransmitter[7] responsible for the feeling of well-being. This, in turn, triggers the release of a cocktail of hormones[8], including oestrogen and testosterone. The latter is the chemical fuel that sets the brain’s sexual engine in motion, and as such is a key catalyst in the induction of sex drive. When there is enough juice, the hypothalamus gives the signal to fire up the rocket, igniting red-hot feelings, physical excitement and sensual friction fantasies. At that very moment, the whole system is just a few moments away from lift off, and the thruster ready to be drained.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

谁动心谁先死

shuí dòng xīn shuí xiān sĭ

He who is touched dies first.

In love, there is no equal. The person who loves more will always be the one to suffer.



Notes

[1]    Buss (2003), p. 77

[2]    Ellis / Symons (1990)

[3]    See chapter 35 “No cat can resist snatching fish”.

[4]    Brizendine (2006), p. 5

[5]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 14

[6]    Ibid.

[7]    A neurotransmitter is a chemical that is released from a nerve cell which thereby transmits an impulse from a nerve cell to another nerve, muscle, organ, or other tissue. A neurotransmitter is a messenger of neurologic information from one cell to another. (Source: http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=9973)

[8]    A hormone is a chemical messenger that carries a signal from one cell (or group of cells) to another. Hormones are essential for every activity of daily living, including the processes of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction, and mood control. (Source: http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3783)

Chapter 3: Men like, women love

男欢女爱
nán huān nǚ ài

This tetrasyllabic phrase is generally employed to describe the love or passion between men and women.[1] In the context of this blog, however, it shall be used as all-purpose sentence recapitulating how human males think and how they are programmed when it comes to sexuality. Another chapter is dedicated to the same topic but viewed from a female stand­point.[2] Understanding the differences between both genders on this very issue is criti­cal if one wishes to figure out what creates sexual desire and what drives us to sleep with another.

When describing male sex drive, many people will tend to sketch it in rather simple fashion – for example like an on/off switch. Female sex drive, on the contrary, will be described as a complex ma­chine, involving several buttons, controllers, commutators, which all need to be monitored and co­ordinated in order to carefully ramp up and later on to maintain the mood.

Similarly, in their seminal book Why Men Don’t Listen And Women Can’t Read Maps, Allen and Barbara Pease liken men to microwaves and women to electric ovens. Indeed, males can be ignited immediately and may reach peak capacity within a matter of a few seconds, but are just as quickly and easily turned off once the meal is cooked. With females, conversely, one has to wait until top temperature has been reached, which can be quite a lengthy process, while it may also take a while for them to cool down as well.,[3],[4]

The difference in speed between men and women cannot only be observed in terms of how quickly both genders can get aroused sexually, but also how fast they decide to sleep with each other. In general, men have much lower thresholds for seeking sex, many of them expressing the desire and willingness to engage in intercourse with a total stranger. Accor­ding to a study carried out on an American college campus[5], 75 percent of men would res­pond positively when confronted with the following offer from an attractive female: “Hi, I’ve been noticing you around town lately, and I find you very attractive. Would you go to bed with me?” On the other hand, 0 percent of the women answered “yes” to the same question uttered by an attractive man. While the vast majority of women are likely to feel baf­fled, displeased or downrightly insulted by such an odd request coming out of the blue, many men would be flattered by it. Thus, time or familiarity do not seem to make any dif­ference to men when it comes to the question of whether or not to have casual sex with a woman – they are always ready to go, no matter if they have known the woman for ten minutes or ten years.

This “easiness” of males is also reflected in the frequency of thinking about carnal plea­sures. In a seemingly rather cautious study, the Kinsey Institute at the Indiana Univer­sity found that more than half (54 percent) of men think about sex at least every day, while 43 percent have it on their mind a few times a week or month, and only 4 percent said once a month or less.[6] Other reports depict an even hornier image of men. In her book The Female Brain, for example, Louann Brizendine mentions that for 85 percent of twenty- to thirty-year-old males, sexual thoughts wander through their brains several times every day. Females, by contrast, “only” think about it once a day, or up to three or four times on their hottest (i.e., most fertile) days. Yet another study goes one step further, calculating that men think about sex about six times per hour on average (not including dreams), or about 750 times per week![7] Bearing in mind a regular couple copulates one and a half times per week, it is not difficult to understand the frustrations of men complaining about not getting enough sex. Unfortunately, the problem of quick arousal is not limited to fantasies and wishful thin­king about the quantity of nookie they can get. Legions of men, especially younger ones, feel the urge to let their “member of congress” ejaculate many times a week or even several times a day. Whoever has heard that call knows that it can be quite an uncomfortable and dis­turbing sensation. In that case, the best way out is not to debate or deliberate, but to inten­sify the proceedings, reach a climax, and to finish it. Notice at this point that there is nothing corporal forcing men to come in(to) a vagina. As pointed out in The Hite Report, even if a male has a strong physical desire for orgasm (for instance, undergone through an erection) the excitement he feels is not linked to any craving for intercourse as such, but only for the need of sexual release. Thus, the animal “itch” a man feels is not a desire to penetrate a woman’s genital organ but a yearning for further stimulation of the penis, and ultimately for orgasm.[8]


Notes

[1]   Although the origins of this proverb remain unclear, it may be attributed to Féng Mènglóng (冯梦龙), a Chinese poet and vernacular writer of the late Ming dynasty (which itself lasted from 1368 to 1644 AD). In his short story Prefect Kuang Solves the Case of the Dead Baby (况太守断死孩儿, kuàng tài shǒu duàn sǐ hái ér, published in the 1624 compilation Stories to Caution the World, 警世通言, jǐng shì tōng yán), he refers to a particular “kind of rendezvous, where a woman loves and a man (only) likes” as “a great mistake made in a moment of weakness” (这般会合,那些个男欢女爱,是偶然一念之差”, zhè bān huì hé, nà xiē gè nán huān nǚ ài, shì ǒu rán yī niàn zhī chā).

[2]    See chapter 9 “The path to a woman’s heart passes through her vagina”.

[3]    Pease / Pease (1999), pp. 221-223

[4]    See chapter 30 “You can’t help shoots grow by pulling them up higher”.

[5]    Cited in: Pines (2005), p. 91

[6]    Ellis / Symons (1990)

[7]    Cited in: Kramer / Dunaway (1990), p. 19

[8]    Hite (1981), p. 256

Chapter 2: A good woman doesn’t go with a second man – Part 3

But even in cultures where the use of such extreme methods was not common, the mental conditioning of women to remain chaste and faithful seems to have worked out in favour of men as well. Alas, female sexuality is still subject to restrictive, mostly unwritten, social norms that impede its development. Ladies should be ashamed of their desires. Many socie­ties around the world have a lot of tolerance for those women who choose to live out their sexuality freely, without restriction. Although one could argue that the situ­ation has improved over the last fifty years, it is very hard to find females who have com­pletely shaken off all these constraints. Instead, they prefer to hold them­selves back as a way to signal purity, honour and worth. Thus, females’ own sexual repu­tation remains a key preoc­cu­pation for them, as they try to preserve an image of virtue.

Generation after generation, parents have raised their daughters to be “good girls”, barely telling them about sexuality. If at all, they bring up the topic of menstruation, reproductive organs or contraception, but seldom cover other important sensitive parts of the body (for instance, the clitoris) or issues such as orgasm. Instead, they caution their children about the dangers of the dark path of indulgence, call upon their vigilance against “dirty” beha­viour, or implore them to ascertain that their names are not stained by rumours of looseness. One immediate risk of such education is that the needs and urges of young girls become bottled up for many years, which they release in an exaggerated and emotionally unhealthy way later on. Another arguably negative conse­quence is that even the most well-intentioned women have to cope with a dilemma when it comes to the decision to whether or not to allow intimacy with a man they have a strong affective connection with. The subject is diffi­cult, and good women do not agree. Worried about their reputation, women will experience feelings of embarrassment and guilt if she has the impression that she “sold herself under price” or “gave herself to someone too easily”, for example by having inter­course with a man she did not really love. A woman who just slept with a man for the first time might be concerned about what he thinks about her, what she means to him, how strong his fondness for her is, etc. She could also be speculating on how the guy will treat her in the future, won­dering “whether sex was all he was after”.[1] Any doubts about his sincerity or heartiness are likely to demean her and spark off the suspicion that he exploited her, a feeling that most women hate. Then, if she beds someone without any senti­ments of affec­tion, her distress is likely to be even worse. Such an experience will lead her to lose her self-respect, leaving behind a bitter taste of degradation and cheapness.

This explains why women are likely to reject or at least demurely resist the sexual advances of a prospective mate if he fails to convince her about his good intentions (as, for instance, expressed through sympathy, caring, investment of resources, etc.). If he treats her as a one-night stand (and provided that she is herself not interested in a casual liaison), she will con­sider his moves as a violation of her desire for emotional involvement, shutting down to him, and losing her attraction for him. Furthermore, men should not be surprised to see women make it difficult to “get” them. Even if they “want too”, their inner code forbids them to surrender to their lust. Rather, they restrain themselves and wait until a male has demon­­strated enough engagement and devotion towards her. This strategy follows three main purposes: First, to make herself believe that she did her best to resist her carnal cra­vings; second, to allow enough time for the inception of amorous feelings within her heart; and third, to signal to her social surroundings that she is not an “easy girl”.

Thus, whenever passion befalls a “good” woman, she faces a Catch-22 with her eros. Let’s consider the following case: A traditionalist bachelorette falls in love with a conser­vative man. At some stage, she will want to consummate her love towards him. However, if she does have such desires, she must know, or at least her intuition probably tells her that coitus produces posi­tive sensations. If she is aware of the stimulating effects of sex, she cannot be fully innocent (i.e., she has been exposed). Prudish and prudent as she is, she will not take the gamble to open up to her target, fearing that any hint of impurity will repel him. In turn, this (imaginary) thought of potential rejection from the man she loves could potentially cause disappointment in her heart, disturbing her emotionally and destroying her feelings for him. Her love will fade away and eventually vanish… Although not impeccable, the argumentation developed here shows: Sexual puritanism may lead to emotional deadlock and, in the worst case, to a lose-lose situation. This cannot be the purpose of human devotion. Instead, let us liberate ourselves from the chains of sexual conservatism and carry through our passion: Lovers of the World, Unite!

That being said, men who wish to seduce or woo a lady should still be careful to observe her desires as well as her ethical standards. Every woman wants to be respected and to feel valued. In a “post-first-sex” situation, this requirement can be easily translated into slushy or over­charged questions such as “does he see me as wife material or simply as a mistress?” in a female’s mind. She fears that if she has been too fast, she might be put into the “mis­tress”, or worse, the “slut” category. She is well aware that any clue of profligacy or promis­cuity may ruin her reputation and therefore jeopardise her chances to find a husband. Social norms and warning signs such as “you just cannot jump in the sack with a guy so quickly” are deeply incised in her mind. On the other hand, human females are known to be highly sexual in nature: They love sex, they want sex, even if they do not admit it openly. Instead, they will argue that they do not just want sex, or that they want to make love.

Once men see through this line of reasoning, it becomes quite effortless to lure a woman into temptation. In many instances, all he needs to do is to join forces with her and help her find a way to outfox society and circumvent the cultural norms working against sexual free­dom. In reality, it is the male’s role to provide an alibi to women to be naughty and let nature take its course. Sometimes, nice words or a simple “I really like you”[2] will do the trick. Other females prefer to drink alcohol so that they can blame its dis-inhibiting proper­ties for their failure to control themselves. Or both partners construct a scenario in which intercourse “just happened”. Billy Crystal, the American comedian, once declared: “Women need a reason to have sex; men just need a place”. Based on what has just been said in this paragraph, however, it seems that what women are looking for is not a “reason”, but rather an “excuse”.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

男女授受不亲

nán nǚ shòu shòu bù qīn

It is improper for men and women to touch each other’s hand in passing objects (even more so to hold hands, kiss, possibly to communicate).

 

路边的野花别乱采

lù biān de yě huā bié luàn căi

Don’t pick up wild flowers on the roadside.

 

此地无银三百两

cǐ dì wú yín sān bǎi liǎng

“No 300 taels of silver buried here”.

A guilty person gives himself away by conspicuously protesting his innocence. A clumsy denial resulting in self-exposure.

 


Notes

[1]    Townsend (1998), p. 52

[2]    Notice the usage of the word “like” rather than “love”. Although many women claim that they first need to love a man before having sex with him, liking or actually being liked, is enough for most of them. How to express “liking” or what feelings it encompasses for a woman is elaborated in chapter 9 “The path to a woman’s heart passes through her vagina”.

Chapter 2: A good woman doesn’t go with a second man

好女不侍二夫
hăo nǚ bù shì èr fū

Building on what has been articulated previously, the following chapter will discuss other aspects of female sexual morality, as well as its consequences for women’s education and lifestyle choices. As a society renowned for its traditions, China presents itself as a perfect case study to illustrate sexual conservatism.[1] Still today, the official attitude to sex is very puritan. In many regions of the country, the subject remains taboo, people retaining an extremely cautious stance on the matter. As an indecent, bestial and shame­ful act, the close association of intercourse with feelings of obscenity, sin and filth persists. Although young people in the country’s first-tier cities become increasingly open-minded, the bulk of the population considers sexuality as a negative, even bad, thing.[2] Sex is rarely discussed, even in private, and nobody ever dares to talk about it in public. Sexual education in schools is virtually non-existent, as a majority of teachers feel embar­rassed and refuse to explain the topic to their pupils. When facing the question of where babies come from, many mothers are likely to avoid providing a clear answer, even when their daughters are getting close to their first period.

Notice, however, that the proverb chosen here epitomises the rigid code of sexual conduct for wives only. Matrimony, widowhood and women’s role in the family has always constituted a key part in the defini­tion of “feminine ethics”, at least in China. For instance, women who were bold enough to re­marry have been frowned upon for a long time. This so-called “vidual chastity” forbade widows to commit to a second man, even if they had lost their husband at a relatively young age. For the sake of ci­vility and in order to preserve the reputation of their families (i.e., their own but also that of the deceased), they had to relinquish the possibility of finding happiness in a new mén­age and were doomed to stay single. For the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD) philo­sopher Chéng Yí (程颐), dying of star­vation was a morally better outcome for a widow than to marry and obey another man, thus betraying her dead husband and losing her virtue. Consequently, the easiest way a widow could uphold a position of honour was to stay as the elderly mother in her in-laws’ home. Alternatively, she could choose a life under the guardianship of her eldest son. Yet not many would go for this op­tion and move back with their birth families because they had already “married out” and were considered to belong to her husband’s family. New lovers, even stable ones, were also prohibited or, at any rate, not recommended for these “chaste widows”. Any kind of sexual contact with somebody else would provide evid­ence that she was impure, offering an excuse for in-laws to expel her from the family and reclaim the pro­perty (which she was not allowed to take into a remarriage) and the custody of the children she had had with her husband before he died.[3] In return, the families of early widowed women who had resisted fleshly temptation and had remained unmarried until the age of fifty received tax exemp­tions, while the “Confucian martyrs”[4] themselves were awarded chastity memorial arches (贞节牌坊, zhēn jié pái fáng) for their effort and misery.[5]


Notes

[1]    That this has not always been the case can be testified by the existence of ancient pieces of literature exhibiting quite a variety of salacious elements, which sometimes even include graphically explicit depictions of sexuality. The most notable works in this category are probably the Biography of Yingying (莺莺传, yīng yīng zhuán) by Yuán Zhěn (元稹) or The Plum in the Golden Vase (also called The Golden Lotus, Chinese original: 金瓶梅, jīn píng méi) by Lán Líng Xiào Xiào Shēng (兰陵笑笑生, a pseudonym).

[2]    In this context, it is worth noticing that the Chinese word for vagina, when decomposed, can be interpreted as “the path to darkness” (阴道, yīn dào). While 阴 (yīn, literally: shade, cloudy, hidden, sinister, as well as female, has a rather negative connotation, the logogram 道 (dào) stands for constructive ideas, such as road, way, or path, but also method, morals, principle, and doctrine. By the way, it is precisely this character that confers the Taoist (or Daoist) philosophy its name and substance.

[3]    Notice that similar, although less strict, rules applied in Europe. In his manual of Christian devotion The Rules and Exercises of Holy Living, Jeremy Taylor, clergyman in the Church of England, asks widows to abstain from marrying while she is with the children she had with her late husband and within the year of mourning.

[4]    http://www.patheos.com/Library/Confucianism/Ethics-Morality-Community/Gender-and-Sexuality

[5]    See chapter 21 “You can’t lead the life of a whore and expect a chastity monument”.

Chapter 1: Men are like mud, women are like water – Part 3

Interestingly, research shows that economic independence of women has a direct impact on pre-marital sex, as measured by the defloration age and the frequency of sexual activities before marriage. In societies where females are not so emancipated, i.e., necessitate rela­ti­vely high investment from men, women gain a lot from being married. This condition renders promiscuity much riskier, simultaneously intensifying the competition for a do­mes­­­tic partner. Consequently, rivals have a much stronger incentive to keep their virtue, which, in turn, lowers the incidence of fornication. Conversely, luxuria is no luxury for young ladies in control of their own economic fate. As the pressure to fulfil potential mates’ prerequisites is not so heavy for them, they enjoy much more freedom, and can there­fore indulge in carnal pleasure earlier in their lives.[1]

On the other hand, it is quite understandable for men to expect female passivity and mora­lity – if they can afford it. The natural disposition of males to systematically attach a certain value to virginity can be observed around the world, even though differences across cultures can be observed. Not every society displays the same level of attention to this matter. In coun­tries such as China (including Taiwan), Japan, India, Indonesia, or Iran, for instance, people lay great emphasis on pureness when it comes to choosing a partner for life. At the other end of the spectrum, the French, Dutch, Scandinavians, or Germans tend to think that chastity is prac­tically meaningless in a prospective mate. Similarly, in the United States, this prere­quisite is more important to college students in Texas than to their counterparts in Califor­nia. Furthermore, the insistence on sexual morality in this country seems to have eroded over the last fifty years, an evolution apparently linked to the advent of artificial contra­ception. While men viewed this factor as virtually essential in the 1930s, ranking it as the 10th most valued quality in a damsel, it only came in 17th place in the late 1980s.[2]

Such puritanism or sexual favouritism toward maidens may look archaic to some readers, but in order to understand where we are coming from, one needs to look back no further than the Victorian era, i.e., from 1837 to 1901. At that time, society was governed by a strict code of moral values that repressed sexuality and its pleasant derivatives. Male homo­sexua­lity was prohibited, while the law downrightly negated the existence of lesbianism. As sheer nudity could provoke arousal, it was equally frowned upon. Women who wanted to take a swim at the beach were invited to do so in bathing machines near the premises. People in mixed or polite society would prefer to employ the term “limb” rather than “leg”, simply because the latter was deemed out-of-line. So was chicken “breast”, which ought to be cal­led a “bosom”. According to some historians, prudery was taken so far as to cover tables and pianos with embroidery or crinolines in order to conceal the furni­ture’s “legs” and thus to avert any kind of frenzy of lust and shame. Casual contact between boys and girls at unsu­pervised social events was not supposed to happen. Once a young man had chosen a demoiselle to court, he had to request an audience with her family and seek their approval. If permission was granted and the encounter took place, a chaperon would escort them for the whole duration of the rendezvous. One possible next stage in the suit consisted in a cus­tom called “bundling”, which allowed an unmarried couple to occupy the same bed without undressing. Wrapped in separate blankets, or sometimes segregated by a board (meant to obstruct inappropriate contact), they were asked to converse through the night with the mis­sion to better know one another before a probable marriage.

Although rules are much laxer nowadays, one should still bear in mind another reason why the loss of virginity remains a highly sensitive topic to girls. Let us not forget that their first act of sexual intercourse usually goes along with at least some degree of physical discom­fort. The tearing of the hymen itself (which can be compared to a layer of skin ripping inside the body), as well as the resulting vaginal bleeding, may have traumatising effects on some of them. A woman’s uncertainty about having chosen the right partner for this life-chan­ging occasion can contribute to a further exacerbating her irritation. As this happening marks the sexualisation of her entire being and thus end of innocence, integrity, or purity, she knows that nothing will be the same again. While virginity has been associated with the notions of virtue, honour and worth, losing it is still considered by many to be an important personal milestone. Hence, a young lady certainly has the right to treat her virginity as her own private holy grail, and to warn every admirer, every suitor, every Prince Charming that “none shall pass” and that she is ready to defend her reputation by all means. If she has saved herself for someone special to her, it is a gift that no one should take lightly. In order to protect her from emotional pain, or at least confusion, her first man would be well advised to be very careful with his rosebud, and to take to heart the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince: “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”[3] So if he is gentle, respects her, takes his time, makes sure that she is ready, she will know that she made the right decision and will remember him all her life.

Related proverbs and citations:

男人不是好东西

nán rén bù shì hăo dōng xī

Men are not a good thing.

All men are creeps.

生米已成熟饭

shēng mĭ yĭ chéng shóu fàn

The raw rice has been cooked to meal.

All has been made and could not be reversed.



Notes

[1]    Cited in: Buss (2003), p. 69

[2]    Ibid., p. 68

[3]    Original: “Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

Chapter 1: Men are like mud, women are like water

男泥女水
nán ní nǚ shuǐ

Incidentally, the first expression in the series is not a proverb in the truest sense of the term but a quote from Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦, hóng lóu mèng) by Cáo Xuěqín[1] (曹雪芹), arguably one of the greatest masterpieces of Chinese literature.[2] The words are uttered by the male protagonist, Jiǎ Bǎoyù (贾宝玉). A tactful, compassionate and sensi­tive young man, Bǎoyù asserts that women are made of water, or, at the very least, remain as pure as water, whereas men are mere chunks of clay or mud, unformed and soiled. He shuns the latter for their moral and spiritual inferiority, quite in the image of his own cousin, a disso­lute rake known for his amorous exploits with both men and women. Indeed, Xuē Pán (薛蟠) embo­dies all the possible deplorable and disgusting charac­teristics of a male, inclu­ding indolence, uncouthness, inconsideration, and so on. A local bully, he even kills some­one over a slave girl and has his case covered up with money, demonstrat­ing how far cor­ruption can go. Although not all men reach this level of tastelessness or de­pravity, they undoubtedly repre­sent the gender with the lesser grace, mildness and vir­tue. Men’s pilosity, deeper voices, crime statistics, the volume of body noises emitted, or their greater incli­nation to con­sume sti­­mu­lants (alcohol, tobacco, etc.) are but a few examples to under­line this state­ment.

Yet, if men’s physiques are rough and angular, their temperaments pugnacious and impul­sive, and their manners vulgar and selfish, it is only because it has been made possible by evolution. Their bodies and minds were originally fashioned for strength, agility and speed, as their pur­pose was to run, to seek, to capture, and to kill in order to provide for their community. Testosterone gushing through their blood vessels plays an instrumental role in the process. Not only does it drive the fabrication of male reproductive tissues (in parti­cular the testis and the prostate) and the maturation of sex organs; it also fosters the growth of body hair, the building up of muscle mass and strength, the increase of bone density, etc., giving men their muscular and robust, i.e., virile, shape. Since men have about ten times more testosterone in their blood than women, it is impossible that the human anatomy stays unaffected by this sexual differentiation. The brain itself constitutes no exception and is heavily influenced by the amount and magnitude of hormonal fluxes. Consequently, testo­sterone levels play a major role in the explanation of gender discre­pancies in the develop­ment of essential cognitive and sensorial functions, such as attention, memory, spa­tial abi­lity, attachment, caring, risk tolerance, aggressiveness, the tendency toward vio­lence or sui­cide, and so forth.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

Inversely, the female body is much curvier, fuller, and softer. Just by looking at it, one understands immediately that it has been designed for protection, cosiness and nourishment. The key biological ingredients in the formation of that source (others may also worship it as a temple) of comfort and well-being are oestrogens. While they are part of both males’ and females’ blood chemistries, they are usually present at significantly higher levels in women of reproductive age, dominating their hormonal balance. Oestrogens are involved in the shaping of female secondary sexual chara­cteristics (for example, breasts, larger fat stores, redu­ced muscle mass), are partly respon­sible for regulating the menstrual cycle, and contri­bute to other cardinal functions of the repro­duction system (e.g., the increase of uterine growth, acceleration of vaginal lubri­cation, thickening of the vaginal wall). Finally, they are also connected to mental health, as a fluctuation, persisting low levels, or a sudden with­drawal of oestrogen may cause a woman’s mood to decline.[8],[9],[10],[11],[12]


Notes

[1]    Following the local convention, all Chinese names throughout the text are written with the family name first (in cap­ital letters) and the given name next. In the present example, Cáo is the family name, while Xuěqín is the given name.

[2]   Dream of the Red Chamber (also known as The Story of the Stone) is arguably the most famous of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese (四大名著, sì dà míng zhù, literally “Four Great Masterpieces”), the other three being Water Margin (水浒传, shuǐ hǔ zhuàn), Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义, sān guó yǎn yì), and Journey to the West (西游记, xī yóu jì).

[3]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone

[4]    Ridley (1993), pp. 254-258

[5]    Pease / Pease (1999), pp. 187-189

[6]    Campbell (2002), pp. 35, 290

[7]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 15

[8]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estrogen

[9]    Pease / Pease (1999), p. 182

[10]  Brizendine (2006), pp. 33-35

[11]  Pease / Pease (2009), p. 188

[12]  See chapter 8 “A woman’s heart is as deep as the ocean”.

Introduction – Part 3

Even if these diverging opinions and mentalities do not necessarily have to result in open clashes within the couple, they can cause women to feel bewildered and get caught in dilem­mas. “Is it acceptable to sleep with a guy I like, although I have no intention of getting married to him?”, “Shall I tell him that I want him to satisfy me orally?”, “Should I buy myself this sex toy?” are the kinds of questions that ladies may ask themselves. In the past, the answer would have been quite simple: “No”. Nowadays, it is all the more important to commu­nicate as a means to understand oneself and one another. Candidness can help resolve the confusion many people are confronted with. This blog is here to enlighten perplexed readers, and to guide them on their path to determine what is right and what is wrong – for them. In the end, lust, love and lechery are personal matters, and everybody should ascertain and decide for themselves what they want.

As many of us may have learned from John Gray’s popular book series, men and women come from two planets far far away.[1] They are different in many sexual aspects, including their desires, impulses, motivations, fantasies, responses, preferences, behaviours, etc. In order to get a better understanding of each other, it can be useful to compare these facets and to realise what these polarities are and where they come from. Sometimes, it will seem that there is no real distinction in their urges and orientations and that both genders want the same thing after all. While a certain convergence may be observed, it is rather unlikely that the process is going to continue forever. Sexual selection is the result of an intra-sex struggle (or a game). As males always need to fight harder in order to reproduce, they grow increasingly stronger, more beautiful or smarter, while the manoeuvres and tricks they employ to gain access to females also get more and more vicious. The latter then adapt to these unfamiliar methods by evolving novel devices and mechanisms meant to counter them (and vice versa, i.e., males adapting to females’ developments). With all these changes taking place in the last 50 years, it is quite probable to see men and women displaying more dissi­milar lust patterns again in the future.

Meanwhile, this blog attempts to sensitise the public to these fundamental contrasts and to examine the reasons for their existence. This should help readers acknowledge them, raise atten­ti­ve­ness, and avoid misunderstandings. I sincerely believe that those who are perce­ptive, cognisant, conside­rate, and tolerant enough of these gender differences can make better choices, thus enjoying better as well as longer and more successful relationships. It is my hope that this blog will have such an influence on people, especially on those who are open-minded enough to embrace the ideas presented here.

As Jared Diamond writes in the preface of his work Why Is Sex Fun?:

The subject of sex preoccupies us. It’s the source of our most intense plea­sures. Often it’s also the cause of misery, much of which arises from built-in con­flicts between the evolved roles of women and men.[2]

The present publication is based on the same premise, and also seeks to provide answers. Luckily enough, proverbs turn out to come in extremely handy in this endeavour. One will be surprised how much insights about men, women, sex, desire, passion, temptation, pro­mis­cuity, etc. these locutions contain in particular. Thanks to these maxims, the nature of intimate relationships suddenly becomes graspable. As we are about to discover, the most incom­prehensible thing about sexuality is that it is comprehensible. This alone should be good news for most of us.

Notice, however, that the purpose of the blog is to clarify who we are (men and women), what we want, and why that is so. With some rare exceptions, it does not show how to solve problems. In other words, reading this blog will neither introduce any sex tricks nor explain how to seduce men, turn on women, spice up foreplay, deal with adultery, etc. What it may have an impact on is how both sexes differ and on why human beings are behaving or reacting the way they do. At this, the discussion covers various forms of information that could be interesting or futile, ranging from known knowns (“women like sex”) through known unknowns (the exact time of the “first time”) to unknown unknowns (“what does a woman want”). At any rate, it is up to each reader to determine how to act on this knowledge in order to attain his or her objectives.

Critics may argue that the content is nothing more than new wine in old wineskins. Admit­tedly, such an objection is not incorrect. Nothing in this blog has been invented. On the contrary, most of the ideas were adopted or quoted from existing publications, including research studies, academic papers, relationship guidebooks, maga­zine or website stories, Wiki­­pe­dia articles, etc. Consequently, no claim is made that the present work is scientific in nature, despite the numerous citations and references. The footnotes and quotes are there for further reference only, not to prove the theoretical rightness of my statements or argu­ments. The notions conveyed here are merely models explaining how men and women feel and react sexually when exposed to certain triggers or impulses. Although they seem to be amazingly accurate for the people I spoke to during my research, it does not imply that they are universally applicable. The discourse is meant to trigger reflection, and should not be interpreted as practical advice like the ones you would find in a relationship guidebook.

Another point of criticism may reside in the fact that the text neglects Chinese cultural aspects. Based on the title, one would expect more historical or etymological facts as well as anecdotes about each proverb. Although such background stories would undoubtedly add some flavour to the discussion, they would also divert the reader’s attention away from the main theme of the blog – which is the relationship between men and women, not Chinese culture. The thirty-six pro­verbs are not the object of the investigation itself, but simply constitute the vehicle to make some key notions more apprehensible. This is the reason I consciously refrained from developing into too much detail the primary meaning of the proverbs and from recounting their origins. While such details would be interesting to many readers, I chose to offer a rather pragmatic than a historical treatment of the subject. Furthermore, after many years in the country, I tend to think that, in general, it is much more important to learn from the Chinese than about the Chinese. The blog serves precisely that former purpose.

Nevertheless, I hope that Chinese readers will forgive how I sometimes treat their beloved pro­verbs. A few distor­tions are intentional, while others are rather due to my misinterpre­tation of them. I apologise in advance for any offence or discomfort this may cause. Like­wise, as many of the explanations and justifications I provide are based on Western ideas (most of the sources quoted were originally published in English by Western authors), the whole work must appear somewhat Euro- or Ameri­cen­tric.[3] Given the title, a sino­centric approach would have been more logical or meaningful, but it finally proved impracticable, mainly because of the lack of literature about the principal subject. That being said, I trust that non-Westerners will find the Book of Sexes equally interesting and relevant for themselves and their partners, irrespective of their country of origin.

The same apology shall be expressed to whomever (representative of any of the sexes) will feel displeased about the blog’s style. Some passages may indeed raise outrage, for example when the topic of sex is handled in a rather open or crude way. Moreover, readers may be annoyed by my biased views, which more often than not favour sexual openness, forni­cation and pre-marital promiscuity. Admittedly, such behaviour can be considered as a betrayal of traditional ideals and may lead to the destruction of family values. At the same time, I demon­strate that sex and sexual freedom carry countless benefits, for instance in terms of improved health, physical and mental well-being, reproductive fitness, and so on.

People may also deplore that the work was tainted with sexist overtones or is plainly phallo­go­centric, that is, privileging “the masculine (phallus) in the construction of meaning.”[4] If so, I wish to clarify that it is definitely not my intention to discriminate or insult anyone. Rather, my objective is to make the text interesting, pertinent, entertaining and accessible to as many men and women as possible, even if it requires including petty statements or cheap humour. By the way, I am not sure how much bearing the text can have for homo­sexuals, but I wish to straightforwardly disclose that it would make me divinely proud to know that some gays or lesbians are following this blog. Although I did not write it with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community in mind, I hope that some of the insights will be applicable in the context of homo­eroticism as well. I believe in questioning and flamingly encouraging everyone to be curious about the “last great minority”. From the point of view of sexual selection, it is my absolute conviction that homosexuality is actually beneficial for straight individuals, speci­fically by attenuating competition in the mating game. Taken in this light, the only thing we should not queer are queers themselves.

 


Notes

[1]    For example, Gray (1993), Gray (1995), Gray (2009), Gray (2012)

[2]    Diamond (1998), p. ix

[3]    In this context, eurocentrism shall be defined as “a worldview centered on Western civilisation” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurocentrism) and americentrism as “the idea or perceived bias to judge other cultures and nations by American standards” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americentrism).

[4]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phallogocentrism