Chapter 25: A drop of sweat spent in a drill is a drop of blood saved in a battle

píng shí duō liú hàn, zhàn shí shǎo liú xuè

Previous chapters already brought up the problem of the demonisation of physical relation­ships.[1] Some readers may have noticed the author’s attempt to argue against such unfa­vourable opinions and instead to promote a progressive or open-minded attitude towards human sexuality. The tone of the upcoming paragraphs will be no different. This time, however, virginity and pre-marital intercourse will reside at the heart of the debate. On that note, the choice of the proverb could appear confusing, or for the very least surprising. At first view, there is apparently no connection between the wording and topics such as coitus, ero­ti­cism or luxuria. Taking one step back and thinking about the act itself, however, one will notice that blood and sweat are not that foreign to sex after all, especially when it concerns of the first experience of a young lady. Considering the discomfort she suffers during the process and the haemorrhage caused by the rupture of the hymen[2] – not to mention the emotional trouble she goes through when it turns out that her first “boyfriend” is a jerk and that their love will not last forever – it seems that good preparation can, as the adage suggests, have a number of benefits. At any rate, preliminary or explorative practice helps her cope with some of the difficulties she will, sooner or later, face in her future rela­tionships with men. Like for most aspects of life, experience raises young adults’ chan­ces of success in real situations.

Despite the controversial nature of the issue, the arguments raised here shall remain unba­lanced and unequivocally in favour of fornication. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that lust, for lack of a better word, is good. Lust is right, lust works. Lust clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Lust, in all of its forms: Lust for life, for nookie, for love, carnal knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind. But lust, you mark my words, will not save couples, nor that malfunctioning institution called marriage.

Man is by nature a sexual animal. As Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha wrote in their 2010 book Sex at Dawn, “there’s no denying that we’re a species with a sweet tooth for sex”.[3] More than two hundred years before that, one of the characters in Pierre de Beau­marchais’ play The Marriage of Figaro (1778) already had observed that “drinking when not thirsty and making love all the time, […] is all that distinguishes us from other ani­mals.”[4] How right he was. In fact, no other creature on earth dedicates more of its dis­po­sable time on sex-related activities (e.g., thinking about, planning, having, or remem­bering them) than humans. We even out-bang the notoriously lascivious bonobo. Both spe­cies are the only ones for whom eros does not only represent a facilitator for pro­creation but is also emplo­yed as a means of cementing friendship or for recreational pur­poses. For them, non-reproductive coupling is the most natural or usual form of copulation. Other animals, on the contrary, pair quietly, less frequently, and strictly with the intention to produce offspring. In that sense, the practice of spontaneous, loud, or frivolous sex, which we often qualify as “ani­ma­listic”, is actually much more “human” (perhaps even more “humane”) than we think, whereas prudish, inhibited or boring people who rarely roll in the hay are the ones who in reality act like animals.[5]

Nothing in history, no writing, no religion, no philosophical doctrine, no technology, no social convention, etc. has had enough influence to dethrone us as the kings of ass. Never­theless, it is only recently that people have earned the right to say, “I am horny, and it’s fine this way”[6]. In the course of the last 60 years, many restrictions concerning sexuality were brought down. People saw themselves endowed with new unalienable rights, among them free love, promiscuity and the pursuit of horniness. Until a few decades ago, in some cul­tures still today, a woman’s social life was by and large confined to that of the family. Esca­ping from matrimony was practically not feasible and associated with several risks, such as marginalisation, des­ti­tu­tion, malnourishment, or even death. Nowadays, things are different, especially in Westerns countries. Bachelorettes can now decide not to get married, and wives to split up with their husbands. They are free to live out their desires, without worrying too much about the conse­quences of their lewdness. At the same time, caution should be exercised if a man insists on the virginity of his bride or wishes to delay the “first time” until the nuptials. It may indicate that he values the purity of her body more than her personality or feelings and that he considers her as a mere object that should not be spoiled – a view or requirement that is completely out-of-place at the beginning of the 21st century.


[1]    See chapters 2 “A good woman doesn’t go with a second man” and 4 “Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters”.

[2]    From this perspective, the formulation “a drop of blood spent in a drill is a drop of sweat saved in a battle” sounds more accurate, but this is another question we shall not discuss any further here.

[3]    Ryan / Jetha (2010), p. 2

[4]    Original: “Boire sans soif et faire l’amour en tout temps, madame, il n’y a que ça qui nous distingue des autres bêtes.” (Act II, Scene 2)

[5]    Ryan / Jetha (2010), pp. 85-87

[6]    Or in German: “Ich bin geil, und das ist auch gut so.”

Chapter 24: You can’t catch a cub without entering the tiger’s den

Nothing venture, nothing have

bù rù hǔ xué yān dé hǔ zǐ

The previous section introduced the importance of smiles and eye contact in the flirting pro­cess.[1] At this, it only covers the very first visual touch between two people, one showing interest in the other and waiting for a positive response. What the chapter does not mention, however, is what should happen once a mutual personal appeal has been effectively confir­med. Of course, the two actors could continue to smile and wink back at each other, but such superficial exchange might not be enough to substantially develop the relationship. Dee­per interaction becomes necessary at this stage, which is where things become com­plicated for many men and women. Indeed, people tend to be intimidated by the idea of moving onto the next steps once the initial contact has been established. “What shall I say?”, “What opening line does not sound too cheesy?”, “How is he going to react if I invite her to a coffee?”, “Is it all right if I rub my arm against his now?”, etc. are the types of ques­tions that may cross the mind of someone facing the situation of how to prepare for the next step. Such moves can be daunting as they do not always turn out well. Every first chance could also be the last one.

At the same time, the unpredictability of the results can be extremely exciting and stimu­lating. The fizzy anticipation of the other party’s reaction, the hope, the butterflies, the unknown, etc., all of these factors contribute to making coquetry a thrilling, sometimes addic­­tive, pursuit (one, by the way, that many couples miss once they are happily settled). In this regard, the proverb presented here invites people to take risks when attempting to get closer to a man or women they are drawn to. “Nothing ventured, noth­ing gained”[2] is the credo. Uncertain as the outcome may be, there is no way you can succeed and “get” the girl (or the guy) if you are afraid of making decisions.

In spite of all motivation and encouragements, procrastination in the course of approaching a romantic interest is both normal and understandable. The stakes are high (happiness vs. sadness, triumph vs. failure, pride vs. humiliation), and many people remain wary of this undertaking, which requires them to put their mood, reputation, or dignity on the line. Who has never been snubbed by a friend, classmate or colleague we had a crush on? This kind of experience hurts and can have traumatic consequences, preventing the victim from repeating the venture too soon. After suffering a blow, men and women need time to digest the defeat, recover their self-esteem and feel good about him or herself again. Once they feel secure about their own attractiveness to others, they are ready to take action again.

Biology itself offers explanations for dating nervousness and the embarrassing flirting bloo­pers that accompany such discomposure. Similar to what was mentioned in the section des­cri­bing the consequences of infatuation[3], the human brain is exposed (respectively pro­duces) all kinds of chemicals when we are in the presence of someone we like or find appealing. The effect is surprisingly analogous to what happens when we are high on drugs. The cocktail made of neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine (adrenalin), etc. then launches a head trip that can ultimately lead to the impediment of our judgement or ability to make rational decisions.[4] Moreover, a Dutch study revealed that the mere infor­mation that a female would observe him while he carries out a relatively simple task was enough to affect a man’s performance negatively, leaving his cognitive functioning impai­red.[5] Inversely, a 1974 experiment established a connection between anxiety and sexual attrac­tion, showing that men were inclined to undergo higher levels of sexual stimu­lation when exposed to fear-arousing situations.[6]



[1]See chapter 23 “A smile will gain you ten more years of life”.

[2] The originator of the Chinese saying presented in this chapter is known to be bān Chāo, a general, explorer and diplomat of the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 AD). His words are quoted in the Book of the Later Han, Biographies of Ban, Liang (Volume 47, 后汉书 班梁列传hòu hàn shū, bān liáng liè zhuàn). The proverb is prominently featured in chapter 117 of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, (三国演义, sān guó yǎn yì), one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature (see also chapter 1 “Men are like mud, women are like water”). Attributed to early Ming dynasty writer Luó Guànzhōng (罗贯中), the story belongs to the most widely read historical novels in late imperial and modern China, remaining a beloved work of literature across East Asia.

[3]    See chapter 11 “A lover’s eye only sees his love’s beauty”.

[4]    See chapter 11 “A lover’s eye only sees his love’s beauty”.

[5]    Karremans / Verwijmeren / Pronk / Reitsma (2009)

[6]    Dutton / Aron (1974)