Look before you leap

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]



[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

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