Chapter 27: A deliberate inaction is better than a blind action – Part 2

At the same time, sexual intimacy does a lot to bring two people closer, both physically and emotionally. Even the most straight-laced traditionalists will admit that intercourse can help strengthen or perfect the relationship. It functions as glue to keep together a couple while they collaborate in bringing up their offspring.[1] Then, a good shag can contribute to main­taining the cohesion within a couple in various ways, for example by preserving the necessity of romance, by easing the natural irritation of living in close quarters with another person, or by fostering familiarity, receptiveness, and forgiveness.[2] Thanks to sex, fond­lers (who do not necessarily have to be parents) feel more connected to each other, be it through the amo­­rous exchange of compliments during foreplay, the time spent both bodies entangled in one another or the post-coital pillow talk.[3] Moreover, as soon as true love is involved, phy­sical contact facilitates the expression of that love, which thereby acquires depth and intensity. Even if the sexual act does not ultimately lead to a partnership in the long term, both actors know one another better than the rest of the world ever will. These argu­ments may also explain why some people claim that sex is better with someone we love. In their opinion, the most gratifying sex is the product of the “kind of mind-body con­nection that comes from good communication, lower inhibitions, and less pressure to be perfect”.[4]

As elucidated in other chapters, this emotional interconnectedness results from the release of hormones (specifically, oxytocin) during sex, which trigger feelings such as affection, trust, bonding desires, romantic attachment, etc. In other words, human biology rewards us for our effort to seek arousal and intimacy with a healthy dose of well-being.[5] These brain chemi­cals are responsible for the good mood that people experience during and after congress. This property turns sexual activity into a superb stress reliever and a highly effective agent for falling asleep or for relaxation in general. According to one source, sex is about ten times more efficacious a tranquilliser than Valium![6] Although the oxytocin produced in the course of orgasm accounts for most of the anxiety-reducing and content­ment-elevating effects, climaxing is not necessarily a prerequisite for these to kick in, at least not for women. That should be good news for them since reaching an orgasm through intercourse is usually much more difficult than for a man. Rather, studies show that semen itself con­tains a number of hormones and other compounds (e.g., testosterone, estro­gen, prolactin, dopa­mine, norepinephrine, vasopressin, prostaglandins) that have poten­tial mood-altering cha­rac­teristics. After entering a woman’s bloodstream through the vaginal walls, these chemi­cals can then unfold their curing functions, ranging from stress relief, through the reinforce­ment of happiness and the improvement of energy, focus and motivation down to the crea­tion of feelings of deep attachment.[7],[8]

Regrettably, sex does not only have benefits. Given the natural character of this activity, it is difficult to speak of it in terms of costs. Other than physical energy and the money paid for protection, lovers do not really have to “spend” anything when enjoying their time together this way. That being said, there are downsides to intercourse, which should rather be regar­ded as risks rather than as costs. First and foremost, a woman always faces the possibility of getting pregnant. If she does not want the baby, she has to find a way to free herself from the burden. Many solutions to this “problem” can have profound consequences on both her physical and emotional well-being as well as on other aspects of her existence (including her repu­tation, career, lifestyle, etc.). Then, by sleeping with someone, we expose ourselves to the other’s illnesses, in particular, his or her sexually transmitted diseases (HIV, genital her­pes, gonorrhoea, syphilis, human papillomavirus / HPV, among countless others). Bar­rier devices such as condoms, dental dams, or gloves can significantly reduce the risk of infection. Nevertheless, one should be aware that no protective device or technique is ever entirely safe and that some peril always remains. From there on, it is merely a mathematical truth that the more sexual partners a person has, the higher the probability of contracting an STD.

 


Notes

[1]    Diamond (1998), p. 69

[2]    Kearns (2008), p. 223

[3]    Vartan (2012)

[4]    Hatfield (2014)

[5]    See chapters 28 “Pluck flowers as they bloom; wait and you’ll have only the twigs”, 30 “You can’t help shoots grow by pulling them up higher”, and 32 “Hearing something one hundred times is not as good as seeing it once”.

[6]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 250

[7]    Meston / Buss (2009), pp. 252-253

[8]    Fisher (2010), pp. 219-220

Chapter 27: A deliberate inaction is better than a blind action

Look before you leap

一动不如一静
yī dòng bù rú yí jìng

Chapter 25 (“A drop of sweat spent in a drill is a drop of blood saved in a battle”) empha­sises the desirability of pre-material sex and the importance of testing out a lover before tying the knot. One of the key arguments posits that it is better to make mistakes with a sparring partner than with the soul mate one will spend his whole life with.[1] Many things can go wrong before, during and after a lovemaking session. Intercourse itself can be good, just as it can be bad. Similarly, it can be done well, or can be done badly. Based on this assump­tion, this chapter discusses the advantages and risks of sex. As we will explain in the paragraphs below, a number of rewards can be reaped from regular shtup. What is even more interesting, though, is to examine what kind of benefits await two people who sleep toge­ther for the first time. If everything works out well, and the decision turns out to be wise, they consolidate their love, experiencing new highs. Taking that same step while knowing that they are not ready can, on the contrary, have devastating consequences for their relationship, hurting both individuals and jeopardising the chance to turn it back into a “regular” friendship in the future. The proverb chosen here reflects the necessity for people to ponder the conse­quences before they act.[2] It points out the dilemma that new couples face when the question of becoming intimate emerges.

Some readers may wonder why I have to justify the pay-offs of coitus. After all, isn’t it a natu­ral imperative to mate as much as possible? Other than artificial inse­mi­nation, only intercourse allows us to procreate and to populate the earth with smaller, hopefully better, versions of ourselves. Without sex, none of us would be here in the first place, or more pedantically: Copulata parentibus ergo sum (my parents coupled, therefore I am). This is what living creatures are all programmed to do, including human beings. Furthermore, as Matt Ridley writes in The Red Queen, “the urge to have sex is in us because we are all descended from people who had an urge to have sex with each other; those that felt no urge left behind no descendants”.[3] This means that from a certain age onwards, we practically have no choice but to seek physical union and, coincidentally, sexual gratifi­cation. Expres­sed in a rather exaggerated fashion, we cannot not copulate.

In addition to reproduction, women in particular pair for a number of other reasons, for example, to give or receive love, to intensify the emotional convergence with their partner, to experience the confidence of being attractive or desired, to savour the sensations of arou­sal and orgasm, etc. Sex must offer obvious and immediate advantages, otherwise how else would it be possible to explain why so many females willingly go through the pain of child­birth?[4] Furthermore, sex can also be used with specific objectives or ulterior motives in mind. For instance, some women scheme and accept to sleep with someone in order to obtain resources, to keep a mate, or to get revenge. In other situations, women may feel compelled to bed someone, either because they have become the object of physical vio­lence or emotional manipulation, or simply out of feelings of duty or obligation. A variety of other factors can also play a role, such as curiosity, the wish to lose one’s virginity, to gain experience[5], or to heighten one’s self-esteem.[6] This last point is also crucial for men, given sexuality’s strong association with power and personal validation. When a man gets laid, he interprets this as a sign of appreciation and admiration from his partner, which in turn increases his self-confidence. The more attractive and desirable she is, the stronger this feeling of superiority over his rivals: She could have opted for a lot of other men, but she instead chose him. What a wonderful, exhilarating sensation![7]

 


Notes

[1]    See chapter 25 “A drop of sweat spent in a drill is a drop of blood saved in a battle”.

[2]    This saying is a citation from the Collections for Dear Ears, Volume 1 (贵耳集 卷上, guì ěr jí, juàn shàng) by Song dynasty scholar zhāng Duānyì (张端义).

[3]    Ridley (1993), p. 132

[4]    See chapters 17 “Finding a good job is nothing compared to finding a good husband” and 32 “Hearing something one hundred times is not as good as seeing it once”.

[5]    See chapter 25 “A drop of sweat spent in a drill is a drop of blood saved in a battle”.

[6]    Meston / Buss (2009), p. 236

[7]    Kramer / Dunaway (1990), p. 61

Chapter 26: A sly rabbit has three burrows – Part 3

Now that it has been established that physical and social qualities play a major role when women are contemplating short-term sexual relationships or infidelity,[1] the next question concerns what exactly they regard as attractive and therefore as genetically superior. As pointed out in the chapters about the definition of beauty[2] and importance of smell in mate selection,[3] body symmetry is one of the key traits in the assessment of a person’s sex appeal. The same remains true for the choice of extra-pair sexual partners. Since symmetry is supposed to be a heritable marker of fitness by signalling resistance to pathogens and environmental stress, this feature represents a fundamental indicator for the quality and health status of people. Furthermore, it is said that symmetrical men also tend to be larger in size, more muscular and vigorous than their less symmetrical peers.[4] Accordingly, it only seems reasonable that women would prefer such fellows for their carnal affairs – one of the central findings in Gangestad and Thornhill’s version of the Sweaty T-shirt Experi­ment.[5] Yet this is not even the most surprising aspect in adulterous sex selection. What may shock us is to know that women loosen their quality standards significantly when seeking brief encoun­ters. For instance, while they expect their husbands to be in the 61st percentile in terms of degree of education, the 47th percentile is enough for the fling. In line with the sexy son hypothesis, they reciprocally require their one-night stands to be in the 76th per­centile on sexiness (77th on physical attractiveness), but set the bar much lower for their hus­bands, with the 58th percentile (on sexiness), respectively the 54th percentile (on phy­sical attrac­tiveness).[6]

These results show one thing: Namely that men do not hold a monopoly on sexual objectifi­cation. For good reasons, women complain about men’s obsession with ladies’ phy­sical appea­­rance and sexual availability.[7] They feel treated as sexual objects, their bodies being much more important than their personalities or other capabilities, such as intellect, kind­ness, humour, etc. The sexy son hypothesis suggests that some females are not so differ­ent from those superficial machos, caring just as much about appearance and sexual grati­fi­cation. In their minds, lads only come in two categories: The hubs and the studs. This form of discrimination is evocative of the so-called Madonna-whore complex, which was descri­bed as a bias to see women as either saintlike virgins or impure pros­titutes.[8] Trans­posing this dichotomy to the female context, I would like to use the term “Casanova-hubby complex” to designate that same prejudice, i.e., when a woman regards men as either hus­bands (sought after for their resources) or lovers (sought after for their genes), but not both.

The previous paragraph sounds derogative towards all those females who opt for a two-timing strategy. Criticism is not the intent though. On the contrary, it should be good news to know that men and women are much more similar than one would think. Furthermore, promiscuous behaviour does not have to be morally reprehensible. Thinking about it, no harm is done if the couple is not married or does not plan on having children. In that case, if the cheated partner feels offended, it is more a question of jealousy (i.e., his problem) than of ethics. So what hurts the most is not always the fact that a loved one had intercourse with another man (or woman), but the storytelling that follows when the culprit is trying to erase the traces of her “misdemeanour”. No one likes to be taken for a ride. In this regard, lying and deception are much more reprehensible than sexual frivolity.

If one lesson has to be learned from this chapter, it is that Darwin’s “coy female” is no more than an anachronistic male fantasy.[9] Some ladies enjoy casual sex, sleeping with several handsome men – sometimes subsequently, sometimes simultaneously. Unconsciously, they do so because they wish to become pregnant with a genetically superior child, thus gaining a reproductive advantage. Nothing more natural than that. Thus, it is not only all right to be a slut, it is actually highly recommended to have casual sex. If not for herself, then at least for her baby. A woman does what she must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures – and that is the basis of all human posterity.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

找个爱我的做老公,找个我爱的做情人

zhǎo gè ài wǒ de zuò lǎo gong, zhǎo gè wǒ ài de zuò qíng rén

A verse suggesting a woman marry the man who loves her, and to make the man she loves her lover.

 


Notes

[1]    Campbell (2002), p. 175

[2]    See chapter 15 “Flowers look different through different eyes”.

[3]    See chapter 16 “When you have musk, you will automatically have fragrance”.

[4]    Buss (2003), p. 236

[5]    Cited in: Buss (2003), pp. 236-237

[6]    Cited in: Buss (2000), pp. 163-164

[7]    Buss (2000), p. 163

[8]    See chapter 1 “Men are like mud, women are like water”.

[9]    Ryan / Jetha (2010), p. 266