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rt insight

say your fairly new to sexual relationships and not too sure how to act. what should you do? well one technique is to copy behavior you've seen elsewhere -- movies, tv, books, friends, strangers in public, even parents, whatever. ok at first that sounds like a bad idea. and of course you don't want to act exactly like James Bond or any other fictional character. you don't even want to act exactly like a real person, not even a cool one. everyone is different! but that doesn't mean you can't model specific behaviors after the stuff you've seen, at least as a temporary measure to do *something* since otherwise you wouldn't know what to do.

now, obviously this is error prone. but that's ok. how we get our first generation of theories on a subject, and how good they are, *isn't very important*. what's gonna matter is how good and how fast our error correction is. ok sure we start with some highly stereotyped actions, and it's ok at first, but we should probably develop our own more personal behaviors soon, and try to fix as many problems as we can with the archetypes.

anyway, in that context, here's my observation:

in any except the very closest and most open relationships, it's very difficult to move away from stereotyped behaviors once they are started. why? well, are you suddenly going to act differently sexually towards your new girlfriend because you decided your old theories weren't the best? without telling her? just out of the blue? maybe very gradually, but i rather doubt it.

ok can you talk about it, then change your behavior? well in theory you could. of course it's possible. but how many people are that close to their girlfriend? a few. what about that close to a girlfriend they haven't known for years? pretty much no one.

why is talking about such a change so hard?

well, explicitly talking about sex is fairly taboo.

explicitly talking about *philosophy* is often even worse. most people are instantly turned off. or will go into mumbo jumbo mode because they think that's what philosophy is supposed to be like since historically most philosophers really were incoherent.

and what about explicitly talking about *relationship theory*? hah! it's generally not acknowledged that such a thing even exists...

and of course there is the obvious embarrassment. for you *or* your partner, or probably both. not just for the previous reasons, but more so because:

it's generally accepted that sex requires justification. this is why, for example, people can find kissing someone for the first time really scary. yeah there's the fear of rejection or doing it wrong, but it's more than that. touching lips physically isn't a big deal. it's just that kissing is sexual. strangers aren't supposed to kiss. it's supposed to be intimate. and justified by an appropriate relationship. it's often the case that people want to kiss each other, they *both* do, but they wonder if it's appropriate (ie justified). this happens all the time. ok our society is pretty liberal so this is less a big deal with kissing, but sex is the same just way more so.

so in that context, why might discussing such behavioral changes as i was talking about be embarrassing? well, how many people feel confident about how much sexual activity their relationship justifies? how many people feel confident they are on the same page about that as their partner? not many.

what if someone worried that suggesting a certain behavioral change might be interpreted as asking for more sexual activity? wouldn't such worries mess up about half of any potential behavior changes? people have a hard enough time asking for that nonverbally.

and what about the other half of behavioral changes, that mean less sexual activity? well those don't work either! how many people are good at saying no to *new* sexual activities? what about retroactively deciding no to old ones? without making your partner feel rejected or hurt?

so to sum up: people new to sexual relationships will begin with some probably-stereotyped and regardless highly error prone behaviors. it will then be difficult to change the behavior even when they come up with improvements.

unless they dump their partner and get a new one. then they can make all the changes they want by starting out the new way.


Elliot Temple on February 8, 2004

Comments (5)

heh, yeah but I'd suggest at least *trying* to talk about stuff before you dump the poor partner.


fr0ggE at 1:11 PM on February 8, 2004 | #418

Talking about all the things you mention (sex, philosophy, and especially relationship theories) isn't that hard... some people get turned off, but then, if someone doesn't want to discuss the very theories upon which your relationship with them is based, you're probably better off not having a very intimate relationship with them anyway.



Generally, the best way to deal with all the things you're addressing is to discuss them regardless of whether or not you're afraid of being misinterpreted. If they don't understand, clarify. If they get freaked out and run away, then, as I said above, you're just as well off.



Relationships require a lot of clear communication if they're going to be anything but a simple stereotype enactment. If someone is scared by that communication, then that's a very good reason not to have a relationship with them.



Note that I'm not just talking about sexual relationships here, if that wasn't obvious.


Dan at 5:37 PM on February 8, 2004 | #419

dan maybe you haven't figured it out yet, but you aren't normal.


Elliot at 5:47 PM on February 8, 2004 | #420

Touché.


Dan at 7:03 PM on February 8, 2004 | #421

dude elliot, this was insightful.



particularly the final paragraph.


Blixa at 11:20 AM on February 10, 2004 | #422

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)