The blog is divided into thirty-six chapters, each focusing on one topic relevant to the overall theme of “men, women, and relationships”. Following an initial segment about womanhood in gener­al, providing an overview of the most fundamental differences between of males and females, I take a look at various aspects of sexual selection. The purpose here is to explain the criteria men and women use to assess a potential partner and to see what makes them “want” him or her. Some chapters include details about how sexual­ity is traditionally conceived (namely, as something forbidden), while others provide, more or less explicitly, prover­bial ex­cuses for pre-marital, casual, or simply uninhibited sex, as well as basic advice about how to engage in and to win the seduction game. Special atten­tion is also given to the question of how feelings and affection influence attraction and desire, and what it takes to turn on partners in order to make intercourse an enjoyable expe­rience for everyone involved. The last section deals with the disconcerting problem of adultery, offering in­sights about the moti­vations and justifications of such behaviour.

The chapters were named and arranged in such a way that each of these topics are connected to one another and join into a logical thread. Each chapter is devoted to a given saying and conforms to the following pattern:

  • Literal translation of the proverb:

Three monks have no water to drink

  • English equivalent of the proverb (either established version or best guess):

Too many cooks spoil the broth

  • Original proverb in Chinese (Simplified) characters:

三个和尚没水喝

  • Proverb in pinyin (the system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alpha­bet):

sān gè hé shàng méi shuǐ hē

  • Text body, which includes a detailed explanation of the proverb, and justifies its vali­dity using anecdotal or scientific evidence.

In some instances, readers may get the impression that the proverb chosen might not be applicable in the situation described, or inversely that the story is not fit to ex­plain the true meaning of the epigram. I did try to be careful and not to decontextualize the chosen sayings. Unfortunately, sporadic failure in this regard is almost unavoidable. It lies in the nature of proverbs to be prone to varying interpretations. Accordingly, I acknowledge that my understand­ing of some locutions may be erroneous. It should also be remem­bered that as folk wis­dom, proverbs tend to reflect the cultural norms and physical environ­ment from which they originate. For example, many Chinese aphorisms contain references to ti­gers, which seldom appear in Western ones. In many cases, I took the liberty to render the phrases in a way that fit my own purpose, i.e., to state a lesson more clearly or to sim­plify the message. I did so for instance by placing the content into a specific context or by extrac­ting only one layer of its substance.

The reasons for choosing relationships between men and women as the main theme of the blog are numerous. First, there are plenty of Chinese proverbs that lend themselves perfectly to the discussion. Some can be quite explicit; for others, a little bit of creativity or additional explanations are required to establish the connection. Moreover, it seems to me that the issues of gender differences, love and human sexuality need further elucidation in general. Not that there is a lack of supply in references dealing with these subjects. Thousands of titles are already available, while new ones are continuously being published, with fresh insights based on surveys, experiments or other forms of research enriching the common body of knowledge every day. What is missing, however, is a volume that summarises what men and women need to know about sex and, at the same time, provides them with the means to recollect the information more easily. As mnemonic devices, proverbs are ideal for this purpose. If readers are mindful enough and make the effort to memorise them, it should be possible for them to remember them in any given situation, and retrieve some instant advice about how to react.

The timing of the publication also seems appropriate. For thousands of years, gender roles were very clear: Men acted as the providers and women were considered as birth machines and homemakers. This division of labour also had a major influence on their sexuality. Human males evolved to choose their mates based on criteria such as youth and health (both related to fertility), while females were conditioned to seek partners who had status and power (i.e., who had the ability to acquire material resources). With the emancipation of women and the strengthening of the women’s movement in many regions of the world, many things have changed when they started to enter the work force 50 years ago, hence gaining power and financial independence. As they no longer relied on men for their financial security and lifestyle, the common expectation was that their sexual behaviour and standards for selec­ting a partner would become increasingly similar to those of men. Women were pre­dic­ted to care less about their partners’ jobs or salaries, and would no longer be compelled to link sexual relations to love, security and hopes of marriage.[1] Although many of these antici­pations have not materialised yet, a certain liberalisation of sexual customs is nonetheless under way – not the least due to the introduction of novel, safer, contraception methods. Com­pared to the 1950s, women now lose their virginity much earlier, and have more sexual part­ners over their lifetime. By covering stories about sex, orgasm, birth con­trol, etc. modern media also play their part in this change of mindset. In general, twenty-first cen­tury women can expect more from their relationships than all the generations before them. Modern society allows and encourages them to make choices and decision that their fore­mothers never got exposed to (including that of a “just wanna have fun” mentality). Accor­dingly, their desires, predilections and strategies are now quite different from what they used to be.[2]

At the same time, individuals are still driven by the mental programming they inherited from their ancestors. Millennia of evolution are difficult to shake off, especially when they crea­ted deep-seated urges, motivations, and prefe­rences. In addition, not everybody acknow­­ledge or welcome the liberalisation trend mentioned above. Religious groups, politi­cians pursuing their own agendas, or other activists work against this trend and try to perpe­tuate archaic traditions, values and attitudes, such as the importance of pre-marital virgi­nity, the nobleness of abstinence, the obligation to get married after reaching a certain age, etc. Simi­larly, many men still hold on to what they observed with and were taught by their fathers. They find it difficult to get used to the idea that things have changed and that their girlf­riends and wives have the right to enjoy sex as well.


Notes

[1]    Townsend (1998), p. 4

[2]    Pease / Pease (2009), pp. 49-51

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