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Sexually Combatible

November 9, 2011

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I'm an evangelical Christian in a country where that is not a political statement. My husband and I have been married five years. We have great sex several times a week despite having two kids under age 2. We get along so well that even a couple of my atheist friends have admitted they want what we have. What most of them don't know is that we waited until after the wedding to have sex—or even kiss.

Most secular folk would consider it reckless to tie the knot before making sure we were "sexually compatible," whatever that means. Consider our specific situation: Two adult virgins, ready to promise to our God, friends, family, and government that we will stick together until one of us dies. Is there anything we could have learned about each other through sex that would have changed our minds?

I'm not stupid (I'm a physician), but I can't figure this one out.

Happily Married Woman

For someone who claims she isn't stupid, HMW, you're doing a pretty convincing job of playing dumb.

You damn well know what "sexually compatible" means, HMW, as you're lucky enough to be married to a man with whom you're sexually compatible. You want the same things he wants (I'm taking your word for that), you satisfy each other equally (taking your word for that), and you're both content (taking your word for that). That's what people mean by sexually compatible.

That you wound up married to a man with whom you're sexually compatible despite not fucking him once or twice before marriage can be credited to one of two things: You were smart (you figured you two would be sexually compatible and those calculations proved correct) or you were lucky (you hoped you two would be sexually compatible and, as luck would have it, you were). But don't pretend that your happiness was guaranteed by waiting or by God.

It's understandable that you're pleased that everything worked out for you, HMW, but your smugness and self-satisfaction seems a little un-Christian, if I may say so. Where's the humility? Where's some of that there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I stuff? There are plenty of people out there who made the same choices you did—they waited, they made a solemn promise before God, family, friends, etc.—and their marriages fell apart due to issues of basic sexual incompatibility.

And finally, HMW, I can think of a million examples of things you "could have learned about each other through sex" on your wedding night that might have led you to change your mind about waiting. I'm just going to toss one out there: Suppose your husband announced when you got to your honeymoon suite that he wouldn't be able to climax unless you took a massive shit on his chest before vaginal intercourse commenced. Would that have changed your mind about the advisability of marrying him without fucking him once or twice first?


I'm a 26-year-old woman who lives with two other women around the same age. My roommate G has a boyfriend. She introduced me to two of her guy friends. This past weekend, I went barhopping with the two guys. Long story short, I slept with one of the guys. After I told my roommates about that night, G revealed that she had slept with the guy before. Now G is upset with me. I would like to sleep with this guy again, and I don't feel like G is right to make me feel like crap or make this all about her. Any thoughts?

Had Some Fun

You know that scene at the end of Inglourious Basterds when Brad Pitt's Nazi-killin' character pulls out a huge knife and carves a swastika into the forehead of the one Nazi he isn't allowed to kill, because he wants everyone to know the dude was a Nazi even after the war? Unless your friend G is willing to do something similar—carve her initials into the forehead of every rando dude she fucks—she can't complain when a friend accidentally hooks up with a guy she hooked up with two years, two months, two days, or two hours ago.

G is not right to make you feel like crap, HSF, and I recommend that you fuck the shit out of this guy at least two more times to drive that point home.


The wife and I regularly attend a straight sex club here in Texas. There's another couple who comes to the parties. They're very attractive. They get naked, they have sex with each other, but they don't play with others. Basically, they hang out with swingers, but they don't swing themselves. We think that amounts to prick- and twat-tease behavior on their parts. Do we have a legit beef?

Husband And Wife Together

No, HAWT, you don't.

The website for the sex club you attend emphasizes more than once that couples who attend are not obligated to swing or play with others. It would be unfair to extend an invite like that—come and enjoy the sexually charged atmosphere, play only with each other or not at all, it's all good!—and then slap a "prick- and twat-tease" label on a couple who comes and doesn't play with others.

And just because this couple isn't swinging today, HAWT, doesn't mean they won't be swinging someday. Perhaps after they see that swingers really do respect their limits—once they've seen, again and again, that they're not going to be pressured into doing anything they're not ready to do—they'll become comfortable enough to start playing with others. Glaring at this hot couple from across the room, HAWT, will only serve to delay the arrival of that happy day.

Speaking of sex clubs: Last week the Portland Press Herald reported about the closure of a club in Sanford, Maine, where opposite-sex-attracted adults were having opposite-sex sex in a building that was—THINK OF THE CHILDREN—kinda close to a public library that wasn't open when opposite-sex-attracted adults were gathering to indulge their sick opposite-sex desires. But, you know, still! Adults were having sex in a place that was kinda close to a place where children who don't have access to the internet at home sometimes go to "read"!

The owners of the club didn't have a permit to operate an adult business in Sanford, and they're not going to get one, because Sanford doesn't issue permits for adult businesses, which means one more small business has been destroyed by burdensome government regulation. (Where are the teabaggers when we need 'em?)

Anyway, this quote from the police spokesperson in the Portland Press Herald's report jumped out at me: "The officers were appalled at the number and variety of sexual acts being performed—and one of the officers has worked vice crimes—right out in the open where everybody was sitting."

My goodness! Opposite-sex-attracted adults were having opposite-sex sex in front of, gee, other opposite-sex-attracted adults who paid to get in and wanted to watch. But at least the children of Sanford are safe from the adult sex parties that they couldn't attend and didn't know were going on until the details were splashed all over the front pages of a daily newspaper that's available for their perusal in the public library where they go to look at porn on the internet.

Good work, everybody!


Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.

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Comments (294) RSS

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1
Lazy column this week Dan. TWO previously posted, though quite brilliant, diatribes!
Posted by nyker on November 8, 2011 at 8:10 PM · Report this
2
Wow. Three bombs in a row. Good one, Doorknob Danny.
Posted by FLAGGY on November 8, 2011 at 8:17 PM · Report this
Robin8 3
Thanks a bunch, Dan. I haven't seen Inglourious Basterds yet--probably the only one left in America who hasn't--and it's been waiting for me on my DVR patiently for when I have time to watch it. Now, why should I bother? (I travel for business, if you readers out there were wondering why I don't have time to watch fucking TV.)

I didn't get around to seeing Avatar until two weeks ago, either.

As for HMW, I vote lucky. And for all she knows, that massive shit isn't off the table yet.
Posted by Robin8 http://shutyoureverlovingpiehole.wordpress.com on November 8, 2011 at 8:28 PM · Report this
4
Yeah! *rabble rabble rabble*
Posted by nova2k on November 8, 2011 at 8:36 PM · Report this
5
HSF has a choice of approaches of about equal legitimacy depending on her desired outcome. So - the hammer or the popsicle? And if anyone gets this reference, I shall be impressed.
Posted by vennominon on November 8, 2011 at 8:38 PM · Report this
6
@3 You're not going to watch a movie with multiple intersecting storylines because you know a of single action performed in said movie? That was a quote of a minute long sequence in a movie that's over two hours long and you are throwing a hissy fit over it. Seriously, if that's the type of 'synopsis' that ruins a movie for you, then don't engage in any form of communication before you've gone through your DVR.
Posted by mygash on November 8, 2011 at 8:41 PM · Report this
7
The attractive couple in HAWT's letter may have incurable STDs... Or their shared exhibitionism may be their fetish. Or they may just be shy. In any event, there's more to be gained by going over and having a conversation with them during the clothed part of the evening, than by sitting back and grousing about how they won't put out for you.
Posted by EricaP on November 8, 2011 at 8:45 PM · Report this
attitude devant 8
As I said on Slog, the one couple in my sexual counselling practice whom I HATE to meet is the wait-until-marriage couple for whom that shit did not go well, because they are very difficult to help. I am BEYOND glad that wait-until-marriage worked for this lady, because it is NOT my experience that it works. At all, For the vast majority.
Posted by attitude devant on November 8, 2011 at 8:52 PM · Report this
markvz 9
RE hmw, I'm no psychiatrist, but I detect an element of gloating with self importance in her diatribe.
Posted by markvz on November 8, 2011 at 8:57 PM · Report this
mydriasis 10
Dan's example was pretty stupid though.
I mean, you can TALK about sex: likes/dislikes, fetishes/turnons/desires without HAVING sex.
Sounds like that's a conversation they could've theoretically had before the wedding night.

Assuming the hubby isn't a giant douche.
But that's something that you also hope to know before the wedding day.
Posted by mydriasis on November 8, 2011 at 9:18 PM · Report this
11
Who knows, the couple could be strictly monogamous whose kink is exhibitionism and the sex club provides them with a safe venue in which to practice it. Given what DS says about the sex club, the couples behavior conforms with the club's stated policy on participation.

HAWT's complaint seems to be rather boorish. Perhaps he and his wife should try a sex club that requires every one play together if they are so offended by the couple's lack of group participation.
Posted by Sound and fury signifying nothing on November 8, 2011 at 9:20 PM · Report this
12
Re HSF -- "accidentally" isn't even important. WTF, G? You don't own this guy. You already have a boyfriend of your own. You have no business telling anybody that they can or can't sleep with him, period, end of story.

...okay, actually, "accidentally" is important after all -- in that G gave HSF zero clue that G even wanted her to keep her distance. Not that such a clue would have been legitimate, had G actually provided it -- again, G doesn't own the guy, and I suspect G's actual boyfriend wouldn't be very pleased to hear G getting all proprietary about him -- but she didn't provide it. And now she's mad at HSF for not reading her fucking mind in order to respect a boundary that G had no business imposing?

G, you are in the wrong twice over. Apologize to HSF for being a complete shithead.
Posted by avast2006 on November 8, 2011 at 9:39 PM · Report this
13
Re: HAWT -- Would you honestly prefer that they stayed home and you didn't get to even look at their very attractive naked bodies? Because that is what the alternative would be, if you made an issue out of it and they weren't comfortable with what you would like to coerce them into.

Seriously, duh. Some people don't know how to enjoy what's handed to them on a silver platter.
Posted by avast2006 on November 8, 2011 at 9:49 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 14
Avast: totally! I was reading that third letter like, wow, way to put a bad cast on a free show, wot..?

@ 5, Mr. Vennominon - I found this delicious make your own popsicle site: http://thehammerandpopsicle.wordpress.co…

Is it some reference to the Soviet/communist hammer & sickle?

To the first LW, HMW - I get to freaking vexed when anyone, on any stripe of the ideological or belief spectrum, just assumes that their way is the right way - because it works for them. Your faith, & not hooking up before marriage, works for you? Fabulous, good for you. Doesn't mean it'll work for someone else. This is true whether one is religious or atheist. Stop projecting your beliefs onto others.

Both sides of that type of debate get pretty damned obnoxious. Not as bad as vegetarians vs carnivores, but close.

Posted by Eva Hopkins http://www.lunamusestudios.com on November 8, 2011 at 10:26 PM · Report this
15
Oh HMW, don't be absurd. You've given us your anecdote, so here's one of mine. My college boyfriend's very Christian aunt warned him never to marry anyone with whom he hadn't had sex at least once. Why? Because she was on the point of divorcing her husband. They had both been virgins when they married and were both Christian. It turned out that they were so incompatible (she never specified in what way) that the relationship had become unbearable to her.
Posted by Petra_Lorre on November 8, 2011 at 10:53 PM · Report this
Neptune 16
@6 I think 3 was joking... I think. Either that or they just wanted to talk about their own movie-watching habits.

Personally, when I read Dan's anecdote, I thought, "Damn, I really need to see that fucking movie." Incidentally, that's the same thing I think every time I remember that Michael Fassbender is in it.

...Did I just do the same thing 3 did? Shit.
Posted by Neptune on November 8, 2011 at 10:55 PM · Report this
17
My wife and I didn't know each other. Didn't really like each other. We were bored in grad school and fucked like bunnies. Eventually, we fell in love and got married. Twenty years now. Two kids and we still fuck like bunnies. Good thing we made sure we were sexually compatible. Can I gloat now?
Posted by Checksum on November 8, 2011 at 11:10 PM · Report this
18
I think Dan is being quite unfair to HMW. I don't see her claiming that her happiness was "guaranteed by waiting or by God." On the contrary, other people would say that her choices were "reckless", and so she is asking why. How many times does she have to have sex before marriage in order to avoid being reckless? If it's just once or twice, as Dan suggests, then she still might marry in ignorance of her husband's desires for poop, since after all he's a virgin too. Why is he accusing her of being smug and un-Christian? Just because she can't understand a criticism that other people often make of her personal choice?

Bottom line, it seems like doing your own thing and loving it is great for everyone BUT the Christians, or the abstinent, or the monogamous, or people who save it all for marriage. Those choices, for some reason, are the only illegitimate ones. Why is that?
Posted by Suzy on November 8, 2011 at 11:17 PM · Report this
19
Excellent column, Dan. I think you tweaked your response to the non-political evangelical to include the humility/"there but for the grace of god" stuff? If so, it improved your response considerably.

And to #3: Ferchristsake kwitchyerbitchin. Everyone knows Tarantino films are more about the journey than the destination. If you're such a delicate flower about movie spoilers I'd hate to see your reaction if your scoop of ice cream plopped from cone to the ground, ya big baby.
Posted by Functional Atheist on November 8, 2011 at 11:29 PM · Report this
20
@18: It's because she made such a point about her being an evangelist (evangelism being basically a synonym for "hey everybody, my way is the right way") and about her atheist friends supposedly wanting what she had, as if her evangelistic choices were responsible for what the atheist friends wanted and their atheistic choices were what they were perhaps regretting.

There's a massive non-sequitur there, where she seems to credit her never having even kissed before marriage as how she and her husband get along so well. Between the logic fail and her smugness about it, she deserves to get her nose whapped with the proverbial rolled-up newspaper.
Posted by avast2006 on November 8, 2011 at 11:40 PM · Report this
21
Spot on again, Dan!! Thanks for yet another great column!

@20 avast2006: Nuts. You beat me to it!
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 9, 2011 at 12:32 AM · Report this
venomlash 22
Wow, HSF, your roommate is a nutbar. She has a claim to ONE guy: her boyfriend. She has no right to cockblock her roommate from hooking up with her friend, and her unjustified anger that you and he had a little unf-unf together suggests that she has some control issues.
Tell her that if she wants to put her friends off limits to you, she needs to tell you first, and she needs to give you a damn good reason. Fuck sake.
Posted by venomlash on November 9, 2011 at 12:36 AM · Report this
23
Maybe G wanted to hook up with the guy again, but was turned down and got jealous when HSF hooked up with him.
Posted by Ashley Amber on November 9, 2011 at 3:11 AM · Report this
24
Jeez Dan. Tough column. Can't understand why you gave the religious nutter space. They need to be cast out and ostrasi.. ostrisic.. made fun of.
Posted by Momar on November 9, 2011 at 3:16 AM · Report this
25
About letter 2, HSF-- For once I would have liked some evolutionary psychology that I've complained before is a non-sequitor. What's going on when people continue to feel possessive about those they've had a committed relationship with in the past but have now broken up with, or people they've slept with previously but no longer do. It's not enough to say that those people are idiots; the feeling is so common as to make me think there's something global afoot.

Or a more specific question for HSF-- When you say that your housemate is making you feel like crap, what exactly is she doing? I could understand if HSF said the housemate was giving her grief or doing things that are annoying. It would make sense if she said she was banging on pots while she was trying to sleep in retaliation, but people can't make you feel guilty unless there's some feeling in place originally that you have something to feel guilty about. What is the housemate saying?
Posted by Crinoline on November 9, 2011 at 3:19 AM · Report this
26
I hope the smug jesus lady writes back in a few years once the novelty has worn off her relationship.
Also: How in the world can an evangelical xian be a physician? I understand that in theory a god bagger could put aside his/her beliefs and treat a patient objectively...But I have yet to meet an evangelical xian who was willing to set aside his superstitions for anything.
I hope that she at least tells prospective patients that her religion precludes her from believing in some very basic science--That way potential patients can make an informed decision.
Posted by mobery on November 9, 2011 at 4:42 AM · Report this
27
Someone who's never had sex before is unlikely to be able to tell you, on your wedding night, "I can't orgasm without taking a dump on your chest." How would they even know that? (And, like Mydriasis pointed out in #10, that's the sort of thing that could hopefully be resolved with a conversation prior to the wedding night.)

The bigger concern for people in HMW's situation should be that after you and your completely inexperienced new husband have started having a sex life, he'll come to realize that he can't orgasm without taking a dump on your chest.
Posted by Fidelio on November 9, 2011 at 4:48 AM · Report this
28
I'm still stuck on in which country being an evangelical christian is not a political statement. Not the U.S., where?
Posted by Crinoline on November 9, 2011 at 5:05 AM · Report this
29
Ms Hopkins - I was unaware of that site, though it doesn't surprise me. I don't want to reveal all so soon, and the original reference may have had something to do with what you suggest, but my share of it stems from when I used to give people as a present a hand-calligraphed calendar with a song line quotation for each day. Specifics to follow in due course.
Posted by vennominon on November 9, 2011 at 5:37 AM · Report this
30
Is there anything you could have learned about each other that would have changed your minds? HMW, come on. You are being willfully dumb. 'Changed your minds' is, first of all, needlessly dramatic. How about 'would have made one or both or you quietly miserable for many years of your lives.' You want a possible problem?

How about you have sex with him, and everything goes fine. And then he does not want sex again. Not for, like, three months. And this goes on forever. Surprise slow sex drive. And say after the first time you have sex, you want it twice a day. Forever. Surprise, high sex drive.

Congratulations. You two will fight about this for the rest of your natural lives together. You, with the low sex drive? Yeah, you're going to feel pressured and frigid and nagged and deeply annoyed and guilted into having sex when you really don't want to. You, with the high sex drive? Yeah, you're going to feel unloved and unattractive and slutty and frustrated and like no one could ever want you, ever. Both of the people in this mismatched relationship will be very sad and will fight a lot, only because of sex.

They would both be much better served by finding someone a little more sexually compatible. I dunno quite what to call it. 'Within their range'? Something like that. And this is only something you can find out by having sex, and finding out what you want/need.
Posted by jennysparking on November 9, 2011 at 5:46 AM · Report this
31
Is there anything you could have learned about each other that would have changed your minds? HMW, come on. You are being willfully dumb. 'Changed your minds' is, first of all, needlessly dramatic. How about 'would have made one or both or you quietly miserable for many years of your lives.' You want a possible problem?

How about you have sex with him, and everything goes fine. And then he does not want sex again. Not for, like, three months. And this goes on forever. Surprise slow sex drive. And say after the first time you have sex, you want it twice a day. Forever. Surprise, high sex drive.

Congratulations. You two will fight about this for the rest of your natural lives together. You, with the low sex drive? Yeah, you're going to feel pressured and frigid and nagged and deeply annoyed and guilted into having sex when you really don't want to. You, with the high sex drive? Yeah, you're going to feel unloved and unattractive and slutty and frustrated and like no one could ever want you, ever. Both of the people in this mismatched relationship will be very sad and will fight a lot, only because of sex.

They would both be much better served by finding someone a little more sexually compatible. I dunno quite what to call it. 'Within their range'? Something like that. And this is only something you can find out by having sex, and finding out what you want/need.
Posted by jennysparking on November 9, 2011 at 5:49 AM · Report this
32
Dan, born-again Christian men never ask their wives to shit on their chest.

They go to prostitutes for that.
Posted by James Hutchings on November 9, 2011 at 6:25 AM · Report this
33
A couple years ago, at a get-together of friends from high school, a girl (I'll call her Beth) began to relate a story about another girl we had been classmates with, whom I'll call Anne. Beth had been a bridesmaid in Anne's wedding in the most recent summer. Anne was attending a strict Christian college when she met "Andy." They date, they wait, get engaged, still wait, are virgins on their wedding night. About two months after the wedding, Beth the bridesmaid goes to visit them at their new apartment of conjugal bliss. Anne goes to the bathroom or something, Beth makes a joke about finally getting Biblical, and Andy, miserable fellow, reveals that they have not yet had sex. He doesn't know what to do about it, and quickly shushes Beth and clams up when Anne reenters the room.

Now, Beth could have been exaggerating for the effect of her story (although I found it funny in a schadenfreude way, I felt embarrassed for Anne that a group of people who had just happened to be in the same school district as her now knew the details, or, more precisely, the nonexistence, of her sex life), or Andy could have just been being sarcastic because he thought it was none of Beth's business. But if this issue was not resolved, how long do you think their marriage would realistically last? In a worst case scenario, I can imagine a husband, who waited so patiently, stewing in his resentment, feeling that his wife owes him, and is supposed to obey him, so he'll have sex with her no matter what she thinks. True for these people or not, this situation is entirely plausible.

Even in popular culture, where religious influence may be present but tacit, woman especially are made to feel shame about their bodies and sexuality. When you place children or teens into a religious environment, with the explicit message that sex, or even desire for it, is sinful, dirty, perverted, etc., is it any wonder that they might grow up to have many psychological issues about it? Go read "On Chesil Beach" by Ian McEwan or the part in Stephen King's "Carrie" where the mother explains how Carrie was conceived.

So, good for you, Happily Married Woman, in your apolitically Christian paradise (although, arguably, the word "evangelical," with its emphasis on the hope for world-wide conversion and crusading zeal, is, by definition, a political statement regardless of location), but not everyone is as lucky as you purport to be. In the US, there's the subculture of promise rings, and creepy daddy-daughter dances where the fathers of pubescent girls swear to guard their daughter's chastity. Unfortunately, these girls are raised in families where that's considered natural, I guess?

It might not be particularly rational or healthy for a person to treat his or her virginity like the golden idol at the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." If you don't touch it at just the right time, and just the right way, the floor will fall out from under you (for religious people, literally, since they're going...to Hell!), a boulder might crush you, and you'll be chased and bludgeoned and blow-darted by a bunch of stereotypical natives. But if Professor Jones had just been content to sit in his office, make lesson plans, play academic politics until he achieved tenure, and only think about fabulous treasure in the abstract and the research papers he wrote, the movie would have been pretty boring and Nazis would have eventually taken over the world. Of course, we also would have avoided "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," but that's a story for another day.
More...
Posted by breakfast of underachievers on November 9, 2011 at 6:32 AM · Report this
34
The people that said hsf's roommate G is a nutjob are right. At first glance you might think that it's not that big of a deal if she's a little possessive or controlling, but trust me it is. Her attitude says she's that she's got issues.

Had a friend just like her who got jealous and crazy over this random sleazy hot guy we both slept with- he even had a girlfriend back home, so obviously neither one of us had a claim on him. My former friend turned out to be a psycho bunny-boiler who eventually tried to manipulate me into sexual situations I didn't want.

I'm not saying that G will turn out to be some fatal attraction crazy bunny-boiler psycho- what happened with my former bff/roommate was a very extreme situation. It's unlikely G is a fatal attraction crazy bitch. But what I'm saying that she's definitely a huge drama queen who will cause lots of problems and if hsf can move soon then please do.

G is a huge control freak! She doesn't want to fuck this dude anymore, clearly, but she doesn't want for him to fuck anyone else either. If she's not even sleeping with him anymore then it's none of her business who he sleeps with. And it's certainly not her place to say who hsf should sleep with.

HSF: From the voice of experience- keep your distance from your crazy controlling possessive drama queen pal and then move asap. Protect what's yours or she'll claw her way into every part of your life like she owns you or something. Maintain only the most superficial of connections with her, b/c if you open up like you would with a normal person, she'll use it against you. Try to keep your social life separate from hers, b/c she'll no doubt try to control other people that you socialize with. Possessive, jealous people like her can be very manipulative and destructive.
More...
Posted by bitch be crazy. run while you still can on November 9, 2011 at 6:36 AM · Report this
nocutename 35
I wish Dan had given an answer like #30 (jennysparking) did to HMW. Yes, indeed, she's using her evangelical Christianity politically, as the whole point of her letter is to influence social and cultural behavior (be like me!). While it's unlikely that a person who wrote that letter would listen to anything a depraved, gay sex advice columnist might say, it would still be nice if his response was to point out a more realistic example of sexual incompatibility. Most men don't need to take a dump on their wives' chests to reach orgasm. Some smug, preachy types would write that whole scenario off to secular perversion, anyway.
Although, sadly, a couple can have had sex before marriage for the very dynamic that jennysparking mentions to reveal itself not in a couple of months but after several years.

Posted by nocutename on November 9, 2011 at 6:56 AM · Report this
36
Really? Nothing about Mississippi's Personhood Amendment & its attempt to make women 2nd class citizens?
Posted by Emalie on November 9, 2011 at 6:58 AM · Report this
37
AND its Resounding Defeat!
Posted by Emalie on November 9, 2011 at 6:59 AM · Report this
38
For HSF, invite the guy over and have really loud sex while your roomate is home. Afterwards go out and tell her "Thanks for introducing us".

Repeat until she says "You're welcome."
Posted by Texans on November 9, 2011 at 6:59 AM · Report this
Alison Cummins 39
For the woman who thinks it’s just dandy to expect people to wait until after the wedding to kiss: that’s not evangelical Christianity, that’s fundamentalist Christianity — which is a somewhat different animal.

Passionate blog posts from women raised in the fundie purity culture:

http://lovejoyfeminism.blogspot.com/2011…

http://johnshore.com/2011/11/02/when-the…
Posted by Alison Cummins http://cleanmyscreen.peghole.com/ on November 9, 2011 at 7:20 AM · Report this
40
HMW and her husband may just not know any better. If you have no point of comparison, of course you're going to think your sex is great. Because, let's face it, unless someone DOES want to drop a deuce on someone else's chest (and the other person isn't into that) or you miss and hit the wrong hole (and the other person isn't into that) it's kind of hard to fuck up sex in the eyes of someone who doesn't know any better. Hell, there are probably a lot of evangelical christian women who actually believe the female orgasm is a myth, and I'm sure the church would consider personal research to prove otherwise to be "sinful."

Now, is that an argument to say waiting IS better, because then no matter how crappy you are, the other person will be none the wiser? Or is it proof the prudes who made that rule 2000 years ago all knew they didn't know how to please a woman, or couldn't be bothered to even try to learn how, and they wanted to make sure no one showed their future wife how it's supposed to be done? I'm thinking option B...
Posted by zosfrosty on November 9, 2011 at 7:20 AM · Report this
41
Being an attractive couple at a sex club probably makes this couple more of an anomaly than not having sex with others at the club.
Posted by Reg on November 9, 2011 at 7:40 AM · Report this
42
I just love it when people say stuff like "Excellent column, Dan!" like he actually reads these fucking comments.
Posted by wayne on November 9, 2011 at 7:41 AM · Report this
43
This woman says being an evangelical Christian is "not a politícal statement" but then includes her government (1?!) on the list of entities she has pledged her marriage vows to--right up there with her husband!

There is NO country where being an evenagelical Christian is not a making a political statement. The religion doesn't recognize or respect the distinctions between church and State--it's political in nature.

I don't care if she's a physician, which is after all nothing but a glorified meat-plumber--she is DUMB.
Posted by tinywoman on November 9, 2011 at 7:49 AM · Report this
44
I just re-read the article, and I noticed HAWT mentions how attractive the other couple is, but does not mention how attractive they are, or even how attractive his own wife is.

My experience with places where people get naked suggests that 100% of the people there want to see attractive people naked, but only 10% of them are, themselves, attractive. Me and my then 21 year old wife had to leave a nude beach because of the amount of eye sex people were having with her. And she is VERY open and not shy at all about her body. It's just different when the attention you are getting is from people your dad's age, who you would never, ever, be interested in. We had a similar experience in a certain "dome" at Burning Man in the early morning hours.
Posted by zosfrosty on November 9, 2011 at 7:55 AM · Report this
45
40: "If you have no point of comparison, of course you're going to think your sex is great."

How many points of comparison do you need to avoid being considered "reckless" by marrying? Judging from what I hear, it's pretty easy to have sex once, twice, or even a half a dozen times with different people without ever experiencing "great" sex. So if you marry without ever having had great sex, is that reckless? This is the basic challenge of HMW's letter, which Dan and many others have completely missed.
Posted by Suzy on November 9, 2011 at 7:56 AM · Report this
46
I have a good friend who is very religious. She and her husband waited for the wedding night to have sex; she was 27, he was 35 when they got married, both virgins. And it's worth noting, they dated for exactly 5 months before getting engaged, married less than a year after meeting (they were clearly ready to get on to the fucking). And they are blissfully happy.

My theory as to why they are so happy, and why this happiness was not the huge risk it seems to sluts like us: sex plays a very different role in their life. For them, sex is about commitment, family, communing with God, and sustaining their bond to each other.

For me, sex is about fun, trying new things, getting to know someone, stress relief, hedonism and autonomy. I would be foolish to commit my life to someone without knowing how well we worked sexually. But sex doesn't mean any of those things to my friend and her husband. And what it does mean is exactly what they committed to on their wedding day.
Posted by offfwhite on November 9, 2011 at 8:11 AM · Report this
47
I'm not so much talking about the riskiness. I'm just saying she doesn't really have solid ground to stand on to suggest it is better than other sex, because she has nothing to compare it to. If I just fed you steak for the first time, sure, you could say "this tastes good." But if you try to tell me "This is better than any other steak ever, and you should be envious of what just went into my mouth!" Yeah...I'm going to point out the fact that until you try ANOTHER steak, you might just like beef in any damn form, and the steak you just had may be mediocre at best.

Like I said in my original post, maybe ignorance is bliss. I'm not judging here, I'm just saying when someone says their sex is great, and it's the only sex they've had, you kind of have to take it with a grain of salt.
Posted by zosfrosty on November 9, 2011 at 8:17 AM · Report this
48
"slept together"

Why is this euphemism for having sex still so commonly used? Is "We had sex" really more jarring than "We slept together"? Perhaps it's just the postmodernist in me, but there seems to be a subtext of sex being dirty and shameful when using the euphemism. I understand it's good manners to be conservative in unfamiliar company, but it seems the Savage Love crowd would be beyond that.
Posted by repete on November 9, 2011 at 8:22 AM · Report this
49
30/31: having one test drive before marriage is unlikely to reveal those differences. So, how many tests does she have to have? And how many different people does she need to try, in order to come to an appropriate self-understanding of her sexual needs?

I have sexual interests at my age that I never had 20 or even 10 years ago. It's sheer luck, to some extent, that my spouse satisfies these needs, but it's also, and more importantly, a function of two other causes: a) I find him very attractive in general, which I knew long before ever having sex with him, and b) we've built a strong relationship and communication which allows us to have better sex, and we knew we had that kind of relationship long before we had sex.
Posted by Suzy on November 9, 2011 at 8:30 AM · Report this
50
@42: Yeah, that annoys me too.
Posted by Dan Savage on November 9, 2011 at 8:42 AM · Report this
51
@20: You seem to be reading a lot of things into her letter that aren't there. Evangelism just means gospel or "good news"-based Christianity. I don't think she implied that "her evangelistic choices were responsible for what the atheist friends wanted and their atheistic choices were what they were perhaps regretting." Her point is pretty simple: her "secular" friends would say that it's a bad choice to save sex for marriage, and yet, without knowing that she did so, they look at her marriage and consider it good or desirable. So, why was her choice such a bad one? That's her point.
Posted by Suzy on November 9, 2011 at 8:44 AM · Report this
52
5. She must have sex with no fewer then 5 guys. And 2 girls. Ya know...just to make sure. :P

I'm not going to get you to understand my point, so I'm not going to keep reiterating it. I respect your opinion, and above all else I want everyone to have a happy, healthy relationship. What path they take to get there is their business, and I wish them all well.
Posted by zosfrosty on November 9, 2011 at 8:58 AM · Report this
53
Thanks a bunch, Dan. I haven't seen Inglourious Basterds yet


Don't bother, it sucks.
Posted by truthspeaker on November 9, 2011 at 9:20 AM · Report this
54
@48 I agree. I hate "slept with" as a euphemism (though not as much as 'made love'). Also it can seriously confuse things.
Conversation I had with my best friend after my first date with my now-husband:
Me: "I slept with him!!!!!!"
Her: "So? You sleep with every guy you go out with."
Me: "NO, I mean after we fucked, I stayed in the bed and slept with him, all night, instead of claiming my contacts hurt and driving home. I SLEPT with him!!!!"
Posted by smoakes on November 9, 2011 at 9:28 AM · Report this
55
HAWT's letter had that awful "sex is something I am owed" flavor to it. They're not mad this couple isn't swinging, they're mad the couple isn't swinging with THEM.
Sorry, HAWT, doesn't matter where they hang out, they're still not obligated to fuck you.

Also, I didn't think I could hate the phrase 'prick tease' more, but adding 'twat' to it really does make it worse.
Posted by smoakes on November 9, 2011 at 9:31 AM · Report this
56
Repete,

I like my sex dirty, thank you.
Posted by Hunter78 on November 9, 2011 at 9:33 AM · Report this
57
My wife and I were virgins when we met. We were 25 and 22 respectively, and we weren't virgins by choice. We were both just shy and geeky. We did have sex before marriage, so I am wholly supportive of those saying that it's better to take a test run before committing to buy. However, looking back, the sex we had before marriage wasn't anything spectacular. Not to sound self-deprecating, but if my wife had had other sexual partners in her life, and she based her decision to commit to me on my sexual prowess, she probably would have dumped me after the first couple times. I like to believe I became a better lover after she "broke me in", and I'm glad she didn't let the test run decide our future. My point is, there are no general rules applicable to all sexual situations, as the Evangelist Christian LW would have us believe. Nor is sexual compatibility a zero sum game, as Dan Savage seems to believe--either you have it, or you don't. I don't believe my wife and I were (or are) 100% sexually compatible, but we keep trying to make it work because we loved other things about each other as well as sex. Personally, I think sexual compatibility has more to do with the willingness to play with someone whose sex drive or kinks are different than our own, rather than some mystical matchmaking of two people whose sex drives and interests are miraculously exactly the same.
Posted by idfriendly on November 9, 2011 at 10:01 AM · Report this
58
Thanks, Dan, for saying this: "There are plenty of people out there who made the same choices you did—they waited, they made a solemn promise before God, family, friends, etc.—and their marriages fell apart due to issues of basic sexual incompatibility."

Indeed. My first husband was a virgin, and I had been celibate for five years, and we "waited"

It was a disaster.

DISASTER.

Sexually incompatible is an understatement, and it's more devastating than people realize. It's hard to live with a man that doesn't want you.

boo on that lady.
Posted by akagirl on November 9, 2011 at 10:46 AM · Report this
59
Thank you, Dan, for saying this: "There are plenty of people out there who made the same choices you did—they waited, they made a solemn promise before God, family, friends, etc.—and their marriages fell apart due to issues of basic sexual incompatibility."

My first husband was a virgin, and I, a "convert", had been celibate five years. We waited.

Disaster.

Horrible.

It's hard living with a man that doesn't want you.

Boo on that lady.
Posted by akagirl on November 9, 2011 at 10:49 AM · Report this
warreno 60
@3:

IT'S A SLED!

There. ruined another one for you.
Posted by warreno http://www.nightwares.com on November 9, 2011 at 11:19 AM · Report this
61
I don't personally think that someone is wrong to wait for marriage if they honestly think that it's right. I don't think that the point was so much that HMW did it wrong, but that she's stating she doesn't understand why someone could want a "test drive" before marriage. Of course you learn things about someone after having sex with them. And you continue to learn things throughout the course of that relationship.
Did I learn everything my boyfriend liked the first time we had sex? Hell no. We were lucky enough to have been friends first, so we had some idea of basic turn-ons, but even after 10 months, we're still learning new things. He's finding out he's much more dominant than he once thought (yay!) and I've come to enjoy things that I never tried with other people,initially just because he enjoyed it, and after a bit, realized I did too.
I don't know that it's possible to be perfectly sexually compatible with another person. If possible, I'm sure it's pretty rare. If it was "normal" there would be no need for people to be GGG, just find their perfect match.

While, yes, people who choose to remain virgins until marriage could have a conversation about sex prior to having it, how much will they really know about their sexuality? I suppose that could be debated. I had a good sense of the basics of what I was into before I ever had sex. But, I also would consider myself to have had a fairly active solo sex life. While I may be off base, I'd imagine that someone who was remaining a virgin for religious reasons probably would not be. And even though I consider myself to have had a good idea, I don't like exactly what I thought I would exactly the way I thought I would.
Posted by KateRose on November 9, 2011 at 11:25 AM · Report this
62
Until my husband met me at 38, he was a virgin. Not religious, just very shy and not interested in having sex for the sake of sex - he was cute enough he could have, but didn't. He's also as kinky as can be - being a virgin doesn't mean no porn, even for the christian question writer's husband - and has a really high sex drive.

We match up well. And my sordid past :) makes it so he wasn't as nervous about either the sex or kink part. It's the best sex I've ever had but I don't attribute it to anything other than our desires complementing one another, which is hard enough to know and predict without waiting until you're married. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt if the people marrying are in their late 30s, but before then, not a chance, and it can bite you!

We got married within 5 months of meeting one another, but it could have gone really poorly if neither of us knew where the other's desires lay (thankfully they complement one another).
Posted by lady83 on November 9, 2011 at 11:30 AM · Report this
63
Christian lady: "My husband and I opted out of the sexual market economy."

Dan: "You're not allowed to opt out of the sexual market economy! You're damn lucky you didn't get stuck with a lemon!"

Maybe if one ignores all the stimulation out there, one doesn't develop a taste for it, and plain vanilla is OK? Our grandparents didn't see the need for oral, let alone butt play, threesomes, etc...
Posted by CorporateMofo on November 9, 2011 at 11:34 AM · Report this
64
Christian lady: "My husband and I opted out of the sexual market economy."

Dan: "You're not allowed to opt out of the sexual market economy! You're damn lucky you didn't get stuck with a lemon!"

Maybe if one ignores all the stimulation out there, one doesn't develop a taste for it, and plain vanilla is OK? Our grandparents didn't see the need for oral, let alone butt play, threesomes, etc...
Posted by CoMofo on November 9, 2011 at 11:39 AM · Report this
65
Dave,

Sorry for this - it's not related specifically to this column but I know you're a supporter. The Human Rights Campaign is bringing a petition TODAY Nov. 9 to the senate and we need more signature. This is a petition to repeal DOMA, which prevents same-sex couples from marrying. Please sign, anyone who sees this, and SHARE. But quickly!

https://secure3.convio.net/hrc/site/Advo…

I'm sorry if this type of comment isn't allowed. Thank you.
Posted by Koka on November 9, 2011 at 11:39 AM · Report this
66
Sorry, me again. That whole link didn't show up. The link to the petition is on HRC's main page too:

http://www.hrc.org/
Posted by koka on November 9, 2011 at 11:42 AM · Report this
67
It's kind of like Pascal's Wager, spelled sideways.

There are a whole lot of possible ways to be sexually incompatible. You won't discover the one that applies to your situation through waiting, but you will discover it through experience. (Some of them may be discovered through talking, but nowhere near all of them. And anything you might discover through conversation you definitely will discover through action.) In as much as you don't want to be married to someone with whom you are incompatible, the preferable course of action is to find out before marrying them. And the way to find out is through experience, rather than to wait and hope for the best.

Conversely, if you discover that you are sexually compatible, then all you have lost by waiting is several months of good sex. You haven't forestalled any disasters by waiting, and you have forgone a bunch of good sex. (Which of course God didn't want you to have. [rolls eyes]) Again, the course of action yielding the better result is not to wait.

In both cases, there is little to nothing to be gained by waiting, and everything to be gained (or every disaster to be forestalled) by not waiting.
Posted by avast2006 on November 9, 2011 at 12:10 PM · Report this
68
@63: Just cause grandma doesn't talk about oral & buttplay, doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Posted by Taliko on November 9, 2011 at 12:24 PM · Report this
69
@63, Everybody with common sense knows that oral and anal were invented in the 60s, threesomes were invented in the 90s and lady orgasms are an urban legend.
Posted by Reg on November 9, 2011 at 12:39 PM · Report this
70
Re HMW, I'm going to come down on her side, her self-righteousness and religious illusions aside, because I'd say two fucks before marriage might provide a superficial "compatibility" preview, but with both of them being virgins, the real problem is the lack of experience to even know what compatibility looks like. The cleveland steamer example is funny, but compatibility lies in the subtle difference that take time to emerge and can't be predicted without knowing one's true sexual preferences by experience. Many young couples marry without deep knowledge of themselves, and grow up together in the marriage, so sex before the wedding or not is really just a matter of timing and may mean little in the long term. And any one who has been married for long enough knows that a couple who fuck like rodents at the beginning may not be compatible at all after 7 or 10 years. What is so in the beginning predicts nothing about the future.
Posted by textthatappearsbelow on November 9, 2011 at 12:41 PM · Report this
71
I chimed in on HMW and her agit-prop "look at me" silliness in the SLLOTD but just to reiterate: I can't wait to hear her new tune when they get past the seven year itch.
Posted by seeking-compatibility on November 9, 2011 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Moglie 72
@63 CorporateMofo Those are some pretty rosy glass you have on there! Maybe the realization is too "sqick" for you, but for as long as humans have noticed the holes we have, they have been sticking things in them. Including grandparents. And ancestors from much farther back! Kama sutra, murals in ancient bath houses, ancient scrolls from Japan...

There's nothing wrong with so-called vanilla if thats what works for you and your partner; however! back before reliable birth control oral and anal were the best way to prevent pregnancy (because not having sex wasn't an option), so of course they indulged, even if the religious dogma called it bad.

Don't bother assuming what your grandparents did or didn't do.
Posted by Moglie on November 9, 2011 at 12:47 PM · Report this
73
@63: Plenty of those ways to be incompatible don't involve developing a taste for something out in the market. Ignorance-is-bliss won't save you from any of the following:

He's too small. He's too big. She's too small. She's too big. She has vaginismus/vulvodynia. He has erectile dysfunction. He's closeted and hoping to pray away the gay in holy matrimony with you. She only wants it once a quarter. He is premature. Her religion has her convinced that anything done for pleasure is sinful. The list goes on...

Lots of these can be worked through. But again, if you are committed to this person, what is the point of waiting to get started?
Posted by avast2006 on November 9, 2011 at 12:47 PM · Report this
74
@Suzy

Oh please, you, like HMW (whom I suspect are the same person, but that's neither here nor there), are being willfully blind to her smug insinuations.

If she wasn't trying to insinuate that her Evangelical Christian ways are better than atheist ways, she wouldn't devote an entire paragraph to how she's an EC who was wholly pure (a concept her atheist friends can't possibly have guessed) before signing a life-long contract legally binding her to her husband, and that even her atheist friends want what she has. What, her EC friends don't? What about her Asian friends? Her middle-aged friends? No, that would be irrelevant, she means people who don't wait to have sex until after they've signed a life-long contract forbidding them from having sex with anyone else. They envy what a wonderful marriage she has, never guessing that purity before marriage was the key.

This is what might be considered reckless about it - they didn't know if they were going to enjoy having sex with each other. Yes, good communication and a healthy relationship would stack the odds in their favor, but it was by no means guaranteed. Maybe, after having had vaginal intercourse, he finds out that it is painful for him no matter what they try to make it better for him. Maybe he can only orgasm from oral sex, but they find out that she simply can't stand the taste of cock and semen in her mouth, no matter how many therapists they go to. Maybe she can't orgasm unless he's pretending to be a rapist (a common enough ailment for good Christian girls), but he is too disgusted by the idea to enjoy it even a little. Maybe one of them simply doesn't feel the need for sex except once a month, while the other one wants it twice a day.

These are things that can't be found out without them having had sex. What might be reckless is that they're disregarding the very real possibility that one or both of them will be condemned to a miserable sex life with no alternative. Sure, even people who have a lot of sex before marriage may become sexually incompatible after marriage, but at least they tried to look for possible hazards before they leaped off that edge, as opposed to jumping off with their eyes squeezed shut because they believe that opening their eyes would mean they didn't trust God.

So there, that's one perspective that causes some 'secular folks' to consider it 'reckless' not to make sure they're sexually compatible. Interestingly enough, all the secular folks I know wouldn't use 'reckless' to describe not having sex before marriage. As someone who practiced abstinence, my friends, be they Evangelical Christians who were having sex or not, have never recommended that I have sex before I commit. They have no desire to make me feel bad about not having sex because I have never believed myself superior simply because I had a religious conviction to not have sex - I'm still a sinner like any other. Not having sex didn't make me a 'holier' sinner.

Personally, I wouldn't call it reckless, so long as the couple actually understood the risks they were taking - marriage isn't quite the death-sentence as it once was - there's always divorce, or the couple could come to a non-monogamous understanding. It is reckless, however, to tell people that sexual incompatibility wouldn't happen if they played by certain holier-than-thou rules - because it is not true, and it encourages gullible people to take the risk of trapping themselves in unsatisfying marriages that ultimately end in resentment, divorce, and crying children caught between bitter parents.
More...
Posted by amoxummo on November 9, 2011 at 12:48 PM · Report this
75
Sorry for the double post, I just want my comment to show up - here it is again.

@Suzy

Oh please, you, like HMW (whom I suspect are the same person, but that's neither here nor there), are being willfully blind to her smug insinuations.

If she wasn't trying to insinuate that her Evangelical Christian ways are better than atheist ways, she wouldn't devote an entire paragraph to how she's an EC who was wholly pure (a concept her atheist friends can't possibly have guessed) before signing a life-long contract legally binding her to her husband, and that even her atheist friends want what she has. What, her EC friends don't? What about her Asian friends? Her middle-aged friends? No, that would be irrelevant, she means people who don't wait to have sex until after they've signed a life-long contract forbidding them from having sex with anyone else. They envy what a wonderful marriage she has, never guessing that purity before marriage was the key.

This is what might be considered reckless about it - they didn't know if they were going to enjoy having sex with each other. Yes, good communication and a healthy relationship would stack the odds in their favor, but it was by no means guaranteed. Maybe, after having had vaginal intercourse, he finds out that it is painful for him no matter what they try to make it better for him. Maybe he can only orgasm from oral sex, but they find out that she simply can't stand the taste of cock and semen in her mouth, no matter how many therapists they go to. Maybe she can't orgasm unless he's pretending to be a rapist (a common enough ailment for good Christian girls), but he is too disgusted by the idea to enjoy it even a little. Maybe one of them simply doesn't feel the need for sex except once a month, while the other one wants it twice a day.

These are things that can't be found out without them having had sex. What might be reckless is that they're disregarding the very real possibility that one or both of them will be condemned to a miserable sex life with no alternative. Sure, even people who have a lot of sex before marriage may become sexually incompatible after marriage, but at least they tried to look for possible hazards before they leaped off that edge, as opposed to jumping off with their eyes squeezed shut because they believe that opening their eyes would mean they didn't trust God.

So there, that's one perspective that causes some 'secular folks' to consider it 'reckless' not to make sure they're sexually compatible. Interestingly enough, all the secular folks I know wouldn't use 'reckless' to describe not having sex before marriage. As someone who practiced abstinence, my friends, be they Evangelical Christians who were having sex or not, have never recommended that I have sex before I commit. They have no desire to make me feel bad about not having sex because I have never believed myself superior simply because I had a religious conviction to not have sex - I'm still a sinner like any other. Not having sex didn't make me a 'holier' sinner.

Personally, I wouldn't call it reckless, so long as the couple actually understood the risks they were taking - marriage isn't quite the death-sentence as it once was - there's always divorce, or the couple could come to a non-monogamous understanding. It is reckless, however, to tell people that sexual incompatibility wouldn't happen if they played by certain holier-than-thou rules - because it is not true, and it encourages gullible people to take the risk of trapping themselves in unsatisfying marriages that ultimately end in resentment, divorce, and crying children caught between bitter parents.
More...
Posted by amoxummo on November 9, 2011 at 12:53 PM · Report this
nocutename 76
@72 (Mogile): Thanks for the image of people in previous generations sticking my grandparents in their various holes. ("Maybe the realization is too "sqick" for you, but for as long as humans have noticed the holes we have, they have been sticking things in them. Including grandparents.")
I'd kind of like to use this in my freshman composition classes to illustrate the phenomenon of "dangling" , but I'd need your permission first.
Posted by nocutename on November 9, 2011 at 1:17 PM · Report this
77
@18 Suzy, I would echo what avast said in @20.

I would add that I still think that you're missing the tone of this woman's letter--i.e. that she has something to prove and that she is smug in both her self-righteousness and her need to convince "atheists" she is sexually satisfied.

You're imagining these atheists the judgmental and smug ones, which just happens to also be a very handy and common character assassination against atheists that dodges the questions atheists raise about science and reason and evidence.

I personally find it very hard to believe that any "atheist" in her midst really gives a flying fuck whether or not this woman is truly sexually satisfied because most atheists simply don't believe there's enough evidence to prove that God (or gods) exist. They don't by and large have to prove anything having to do with sexual experience and satisfaction, which means her characterization of all of these people who question her as "atheists" should call her motives and her credibility into question.

Along similar lines, I highly doubt that this woman only hears this incredulity or disagreement from only her "atheist friends." Many a religious person will say that sexual experience and compatibility matter to the success of a marriage. The way she dubs herself a victim of supposed atheist intolerance strikes me as not that different from the folks who insist that you're "waging a war on Christmas" if you say "Happy Holidays." It's not REAL oppression--it's using an imagined victim status to demand that other people agree with you, to silence those who don't, and to convince yourself of your righteousness against the evil hordes you need to imagine around you for your own ego validation.

The tone in her letter is sufficiently self-incriminating that I really don't care one way or the other whether or not she's deluding herself. It strikes me as another example of the classic kind of conservative projection in which conservatives don't consider that non-conservatives genuinely don't get themselves twisted into knots about the sex other people may or may not be having and don't insist that others see everything exactly as they do.
More...
Posted by maddy811 on November 9, 2011 at 1:36 PM · Report this
78
@68 Wrong
Posted by aad3z on November 9, 2011 at 1:36 PM · Report this
79
@Suzy(45 et alii)

as I see it, your point is simple: there is no reason to suppose that, just because you did test something, it still will be good (how many points of comparison do you have, do you really know what 'good sex' is, don't your tastes change through time so it's ultimately going to be a lottery anyway, etc).

In principle, good points. But I notice one important thing: your doubts are valid not only for sex, but in fact for any decision you make.

If you buy a house, they say it's a good idea to check the plumbing, the electrical part, the stability of the roof, etc. to avoid future headaches and unexpected expenses. Yet even if you do check, still you may miss something (you, or the person you paid to do the checking, may not have that much experience -- 'enough points of comparison' -- to notice some of the problems; or maybe the previous owner hid things in ways you didn't know how to see through; or... or...). Or also, even if everything seems OK, maybe there is something that will lead to a future problem -- the pipes may be OK, but maybe they're made of a material that only looks good but will deteriorate relatively quickly ('changes in 10 years so that it is different from what it is now') so later on it will be a huge headache...

So, in a certain sense, buying a house is also a lottery, right? You may think you did everything you could to make sure you're buying a good house, and still end up wishing you never had bought it a few years later on.

And you may also have a friend who checked absolutely nothing -- just took the previous owner's word for it, and believed that the house was perfect. There was a good vibe, the house 'spoke' to your friend, his/her feelings were 'wonderful' and s/he had fantasies about growing old and eventually dying in that house. But no, no reality checks about plumbing, electrial installation, sewage, the roof, isolation during winter, nothing. And yet, ten years later, your friend is still happy and satisfied with the house s/he bought.

These things are possible, they do happen in real life (I can think of at least one example).

And yet nobody is going to claim that it is better, or even equally good, to do no checks and trial runs with a house before you buy it. In fact, every single pragmatic, reality-oriented person I know would call me crazy if I bought a house just because I liked it and the current owner tells me "everything is all right".

Because the probability that the house will be a problem is indeed lower if you check everything -- you'll avoid the obvious problems, the obvious attempts at hide broken pipes and wires, the things the previous owner conveniently forgot to mention... There are sufficiently many obvious and near-obvious cases out there to make it a good idea indeed to check a house before you buy it, even though it's true that you might still be disappointed while your reckless friend who bought a house without checking anything is still blissfully happy.

Because we all realize that this friend (like HMW) is the analogous of that old uncle we all have who has smoked like a choo-choo train for decades and still has no signs of lung cancer whatsoever.

Likewise for the 'sexual test drives' in relationships. Yes, an element of chance remains regardless, and yes, things will change through time. Just as was the case with the house. But still, it is better to do it because you will be able eliminate obviously problematic cases at an early stage that you might otherwise have been trapped in.

And I even find it difficult to understand that people would have doubts about that. I mean, nobody says you should marry someone without having spent some time with him/her before, right? We all talk about 'getting to know each other' before getting married. To me, this is the same as test-driving: test-driving your cooking skills, your relationship skills, test-driving the topics you like to talk about, the things you like to do together... Why is it that people used to have long courtships and spend at least a year engaged before finally getting married?

Isn't "getting to know each other well" all about finding out whether the initial strong attraction does indeed remain and flourish when all other aspects of the personality -- including the ones the partners-to-be aren't really proud of -- come to the fore?

And hasn't this always been considered a good idea? Don't we think that people who get married a week after they meet are reckless -- 'you don't even know each other yet, how do you know what you have is going to last?'

The only reason I can see why people would be in favor of "getting to know each other well" before marriage but wouldn't include having sex as part of this getting-to-know-each-other-well process is that our society still views sex as this strange thing, good but bad, healthy but sick, an expression of love but also of our most animalistic side, something to be proud of but not to talk about, etc. etc. etc. Sex is 'dangerous.' Sex is 'stange,' it is not 'like everything else,' it is not 'normal.'

Other than that, all the arguments that support the idea that people should get to know each other before tying the knot also apply for having sex with each other. If someone can see any important difference, please let me know; I would be sincerely interested.
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Posted by ankylosaur on November 9, 2011 at 1:52 PM · Report this
80
@69, 72: Yes, it's true, there's nothing new under the Sun. That doesn't mean that oral/anal/whatever sex are as common now as they were 50 years ago or will be 50 years in the future. Porn showing oral and anal sex was nontrivial to get when I was in my late teens (at least it seemed so to a teenager), let alone when my parents were coming of age - and when I was with girlfriends, I did oral and considered doing anal because I'd seen them in porn. If you think the changing availability of porn hasn't changed the proportion of people who practice oral sex/anal sex/lots of other sexual practices, over time scales of decades, well, you're welcome to your beliefs.
Posted by Old Crow on November 9, 2011 at 2:01 PM · Report this
81
@CorporateMofo(63), who wrote:
Maybe if one ignores all the stimulation out there, one doesn't develop a taste for it, and plain vanilla is OK? Our grandparents didn't see the need for oral, let alone butt play, threesomes, etc...


Well, first of all, non-vanilla desires are an old, old thing, as any look at old literature will show you. Maybe your grandparents didn't do it, and maybe they did -- how can you know for sure?

But still, you talk as if the only problem couples have with sex were avoiding your occasional foot fetish. Do you really think so?

Unhappy marriages have existed since the very beginning of the institution of marriage. In many epochs, unhappy marriages were the dominant kind of marriage. Classical writers from Shakespeare to Proust have written about the unhappy marriages they saw around them. Remember Tolstoy's famous "happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"? Do you think none of the "unhappy families" Tolstoy mentioned (in his beloved, and ultra-conservative, 19th century) were unhappy for sexual reasons?

Sexual unhappiness in marriage has always existed. Taking steps to prevent it in your life before you get married is not selling out to the sexual market economy: it's simply good old common sense, finally applied to the area of sex (which conservatives still want to treat as if it were different from everything else in life, which it is not).
Posted by ankylosaur on November 9, 2011 at 2:09 PM · Report this
82
@79: "Other than that, all the arguments that support the idea that people should get to know each other before tying the knot also apply for having sex with each other.If someone can see any important difference, please let me know; I would be sincerely interested."

Historically, back before we had effective antibiotics, the possibility of getting incurable bacterial STD's was a pretty good argument for not having sex before marriage. This isn't particularly material any more, of course. But back in the Victorian era Victorian morality arguably improved one's evolutionary fitness, in that it made one less likely to die of syphilis before your kids were self-supporting.
Posted by Old Crow on November 9, 2011 at 2:10 PM · Report this
83
@76(nocutename), I'd call that a case of structural ambiguity, depending on which node on the tree dominates "Including grandparents" (or, in other words, what its antecedent is). I've been told "dangling" is the common name, though. Deliciously pragmatic, in the old Anglo-Saxon tradition :-)

But frankly, English being the way it is (almost no case marking and a near-fetishistic dependence on ordering restrictions to assign roles to participants in various intricate constructions), it's actually sorta difficult to have a complex thought in this language that doesn't lead to dangling or other similar structural ambiguity...
Posted by ankylosaur on November 9, 2011 at 2:17 PM · Report this
84
@3 no one gives a shit why you dont watch tv. inglourious basterds is an awesome movie even though a minor detail was given away
Posted by meg213 on November 9, 2011 at 2:24 PM · Report this
85
@82(Old Crow), but presumably, STDs are like one of the things people should check for in the new house they're buying -- in the case of STD, preferably via talking. Of course, people will lie about it (just like the previous owner of the house will lie, or 'conventiently forget to mention' the one pipe in the bathroom he had replaced with a low-quality one...), but it's part of what you should be checking for.

The Victorian situation would be analogous to one in which houses so often have plumbing problems that you basically don't even lose time checking first, you assume it's there and start figuring out how much it will cost you to get it repaired before you buy the house (and add it to the house price).

So, in the end, I don't see that as really different from all the 'getting to know each other' activities. For each of them, there are also potential dangers, health-related or otherwise, that you could in principle avoid by never engaging in courtship; and yet people did. The fact that STDs were much more of a threat in the olden days is not much different from the fact that eating in a restaurant or tavern was much more of a health threat in the olden days than it is now: not something specific to sex, simply part of the general health situation of those days. Again, sex ends up being an activity like all others, with its potential dangers and hazards, of course -- like all others.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 9, 2011 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 86
Oh, dear. our HAWT couple is all out of sorts because the fresh meat - oops, sorry, I meant to say new visitors ::rolls eyes:: - aren't putting themselves out to be pawed over by the regulars. HAWT are NOT entitled to swing with the newcomers, even if the new couple were swinging. And, wow, do I sense a distasteful stalkery vibe.
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on November 9, 2011 at 2:29 PM · Report this
87
Dan's answer to the first letter? BRAVO, sir, bravo!!
Posted by Frederica Bimble on November 9, 2011 at 2:32 PM · Report this
88
@80(Old Crow), the media (of which porn is but one form) have of course changed our expectations and influenced our ideas. If we didn't have TV and books showing us what other countries are really like, we'd probably have a lot more xenophobic stereotypes about foreigners than we do. Of course the media have influenced our attitudes.

What I don't think is that it's necessarily bad.

To put it in other words: the inaccessibility of porn (or, as you put it, its 'nontrivial' accessibility) was also an influence on your perception of sex. Indeed: the absence of porn was as much an influence as its presence is: both change things (just like the presence or absence of sun, and the respective amounts, can influence the way a plant grows).

There is no escape from 'influence', because there are no neutral surroundings as far as human beings and their growth is concerned.

Personally, a consequence I like and that I associate with porn (as part of a generally more sex-friendly media, including also literature, poetry, cinematography, etc.), is that there are more people aware that sex is something interesting, worth knowing more about, and that it is OK to experiment with it till you find what works for you.

On the other hand, a consequence I don't like is that there are more people now obsessing about sex, how to do it 'right' and whether or not they are 'normal' or 'obsessed' or 'frigid' or 'straight' or 'gay' or 'bi' or... or... apparently afraid that some danger might befall them unless they have the 'best' kind of sex (whatever that is). Too many people having sexual anxiety, from thinking they either have to be like porn actors or then the exact opposite. That is a consequence I don't like.

All in all, like everything else in the media, and in art: good and bad consequences. :-)
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Posted by ankylosaur on November 9, 2011 at 2:34 PM · Report this
O my Captain 89
You're a little rough on HMW, don't you think, Dan? After all, she didn't really have a question... just wanted to state that she had found happiness without sleeping together first.
Some people do that. And some people settle for whatever they get, too...
Posted by O my Captain on November 9, 2011 at 2:37 PM · Report this
90
Let's assume that some of our grandparents were involved with oral sex, anal sex, and threesomes, but that most of them them weren't in the numbers as compared to today. How does the meme spread to the culture at large? The first man I had sex with (we were both teenagers) might have done some heavier petting than I, but we were both virgins. Yet he considered going down on me to be ordinary, a sort of 4th base before the home run. I've often wondered where he learned that. Not being in a position to ask him, I'm asking all of you. PIV sex seems like something that would be in our collective psyche (for straight people) even if we didn't get it in some sort of sex ed (even if it's just the where babies come from talk). What about everything else? Is there anything besides PIV sex that you didn't learn from someone in person?
Posted by Crinoline on November 9, 2011 at 2:47 PM · Report this
Noadi 91
Dan, would you please make sure you aren't posting erroneous information in your column. No business in Sanford, Maine, was destroyed. The banquet hall was told it couldn't rent the place to swingers for health and safety reasons (they serve food and alcohol and rent the hall to many events) on top of not having a license to operate an adult business. The police even said that had the parties been held in a private home then they would have been perfectly okay.

The owner of the banquet hall's business license was up for renewal and the town council approved it. The timing of the police investigation is certainly suspicious and I'm sure someone in town was hoping their license wouldn't be renewed, that's pretty typical small town politics and backstabbing.
Posted by Noadi http://noadi.net on November 9, 2011 at 3:03 PM · Report this
92
@89 Her happiness isn't the problem. Her smugness, willful ignorance, and explicit endorsement of a risky practice (waiting until the wedding night) are the problems.

@50 Thanks, Dan.
Posted by Functional Atheist on November 9, 2011 at 3:30 PM · Report this
nocutename 93
@83 (ankylosaur): See, I always liked the descriptor "dangling," because it gives me the image of a phrase trying to attach itself to a previous phrase without enough authority, so it ends up hanging in thin air. The correct antecedent isn't there to support it.

But I disagree with your statement that "t's actually sorta difficult to have a complex thought in this language that doesn't lead to dangling or other similar structural ambiguity..." You give perfectly clear voice to all kinds of complex thoughts, as do a lot of others right here in this thread. They just need to be given the proper amount of room to spread out and articulate the nuances of the thought.
Posted by nocutename on November 9, 2011 at 3:38 PM · Report this
94
@37: AMEN to that!!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 9, 2011 at 3:59 PM · Report this
95
HMW,

'"Sexually compatible," whatever that means.'

Are you so totally clueless?

Posted by Hunter78 on November 9, 2011 at 5:59 PM · Report this
96
@HMW: You want an example of something you could have learned about each other through sex that would have changed your mind? Here's are some things my college boyfriend and I - both virgins going in and thinking about marriage - discovered about each other.

- His penis is bigger than I'd expected, and all my orifices are smaller than he'd expected. The fit was a struggle, even after extensive practice. If we had woken up one morning to discover his penis was half its usual size, I would have been thrilled.

- As a teen, he'd been utterly obsessed with the idea of cunnilingus and had been waiting for years for the opportunity to try it out. Sounded good to me! Turned out he didn't like it nearly as much as he thought he would.

- I discovered I can only orgasm if I'm lying down, which ruled out any of the positions where we could reasonably get his penis into my vagina.

- He discovered that he found looking at my buttocks far more stimulated than he'd expected, and developed an interest in anal sex. The idea of putting something that barely fits in my vagina into my anus is rather terrifying. We experimented with some milder anal play, and it did absolutely nothing for me. I was watching the clock and wondering how long this was going to take, not even able to enjoy his pleasure because he was behind me where I couldn't see him.

We worked on it for years, but it ended up that there was nothing sexual that we were both actively interested in and physically capable of doing. Unless we'd both been content to spend the rest of our lives without mutually pleasurable and satisfying sex, it couldn't be made to work.
Posted by anonymous passer-by on November 9, 2011 at 6:31 PM · Report this
polygrrl 97
I think that it's quite possible HMW thinks their sex is great, and will learn a lot more about herself as time goes on. It's also possible she thinks it's great and doesn't realize he is not so content, because he thinks about dirty things he never tells her about. Sometimes it takes a long time to get to know yourself sexually. Or maybe they both are just basically vanilla, and there aren't any creepy crawlys lurking.

I do believe its possible to recognize sexual compatible just using intuition, and bodily response. Chemistry can sometimes be felt from across a room, without even meeting or talking to the other person.
Posted by polygrrl http://www.polygrrl.com on November 9, 2011 at 6:34 PM · Report this
98
Jesus, Dan - why not just regurgitate your blog every week and call it a column? It's really fucking annoying to wait all week to read the same thing I've been reading while waiting all week.
Posted by transient on November 9, 2011 at 7:36 PM · Report this
99
Austensplaining:

"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life."
Posted by vennominon on November 9, 2011 at 8:31 PM · Report this
nocutename 100
Thanks, Mr. Venominon, for forever associating Pride and Prejudice with sex in my mind.
Posted by nocutename on November 9, 2011 at 9:32 PM · Report this
101
Evangelism is a political statement in every country, HMW. Yes, Suzy, the etymology of 'evangelism' breaks down to 'good news', but the actual definition is different. Evangelical Christians are Christians whose faith dictates they must actively try to convert others. Attempting to convince others to practice your religious faith is an inherently political act. This seems to be another point on which you, HMW, choose to 'play dumb'.
Posted by Klee on November 9, 2011 at 9:59 PM · Report this
102
Ha ha, no, I am not HMW! I didn't wait for marriage to have sex, much less kiss anyone. However, perhaps because of that experience, I can easily see why her question arises. It's tricky to track each individual response, so let me lump a bunch together into one. First, I don't think HMW is being smug at all! It is a very frequently encountered opinion "out there" that people should try having sex before marriage to see if they're compatible. HMW, who may run mostly in circles with other Christians like herself, may not hear that point of view expressed except by her non-religious friends. However, nowhere in her letter does she imply that her strict choices are the cause of her current happiness, and thus are to be emulated by anyone else. Rather, her point is that some people think you need a test drive to have a happy sex life in marriage, and they also think she, HMW, seems to have a happy sex life in marriage, but what they may not realize is that she took no test drive of even a minimal kind. So, why is that test drive supposed to be so darn important, then? In a way, people are reading her point here exactly backwards, by imputing to her the claim that other people should NOT have a test drive, or that the lack of one is what caused her success! She's not saying that--or if she would, it's not in this letter. That's being read into her words.

Why is sex before marriage not like checking out a home before buying it? Well, keep going with the analogy: sometimes you find out that the house has hidden toxic mold, and sometimes you find out that your fiance is a liar who already has a spouse! But sometimes, after the home inspection you find out there's a leaky pipe and a window that needs replacing, but you're still going to buy the house anyway. I think HMW's point is that her other reasons for marriage were so overwhelmingly important that she would have treated any initially discovered sexual incompatibility as a lower level problem of those kinds. Is she wrong or naive to think the problem is lower-level? Perhaps, but then again, many BIG problems take a long time either to emerge or to be handled until you're sure they have no solution. Consider #96 above, who thinks her letter stands as a counterexample, but really it proves HMW's point. It took "years" of work to conclude that the relationship wasn't worth the trouble. However, if the sex gets off to a slow start in a relationship, that doesn't mean it's always going to be bad, particularly when the parties involved are deeply committed. So... how much test driving is prudent, and how little is reckless? Now we're back to HMW's serious question, still with no clear answer.

Another reason premarital sex is not like a home inspection is that the types of risks and rewards are totally different. The experience of sex before marriage is not like the experience of sex when you're both virgins and already married, and maybe the latter is something you value a lot. Not everyone will or should, but if you do, then you'd be rightly reluctant to give that up. My mom was a virgin when she married (and I believe her, because she has always been extremely frank and open about these issues), and she believes it was enormously special and important. That wasn't the right path for me, but I can see why it was very valuable to her. I would never think her choice of that value was reckless; people differ. Live and let live, eh?

If comparative sexual experience is demanded before marriage, as some here have suggested, then there's an even more difficult risk/reward situation. Not only are you exposing yourself to potential STIs and pregnancies, in situations where you're likely not with the partner you hope to remain with for life, but the breakups can be much more difficult. Not always, of course, but when you're in a sexual relationship that can make moving on much more difficult and messy. Yet you'll have to do this to gain the "non-reckless" experience you need to be sure that the person you're totally in love with is really right for you? I don't know. Ultimately, it comes down to this: if you think it's wise to take some test drives, or many test drives, then do it! But why must we judge other people as lacking when they don't want to do it? Maybe they know everything they needed to know about each other, and if they didn't, maybe that test drive wasn't really the best or only way of finding it out.

Now that I've written a treatise I might as well have one last word: it is VERY rare, in my experience, not to be able to tell whether sex with someone is going to be fun before actually having the sex. Any type of foreplay usually makes it clear whether you're going to like this. In the ONE case I can think of that was different, the guy had a premature ejaculation problem that I didn't know about until we actually tried to do that deed. However, if I had loved him and thought he was the right husband, I would never have let that problem stop me from marrying him. So, test drive would have been superfluous.
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Posted by Suzy on November 9, 2011 at 10:27 PM · Report this
103
Hey HAWT, it's too many encounters with entitled stalkerish asshats like you, that have turned me off public sex altogether. Whatever happened to "safe, sane and CONSENSUAL?" Or is that just the talk you use to lure people in and then abuse? Unfortunately, that entitled attitude is not the sole domain of opposite sex couples. And while I have had men ruin my encounters in mixed clubs with unwanted attention and interruptions, women do it too. HAWT is just a straight version that is all too familiar to me. Gender doesn't matter. Gross entitled behaviour is just plain gross no matter the package (gender) in which it is wrapped. Just because I am a Top butch doesn't make me desperate, nor available to every offer. Especially from other Tops hellbent on trying to Top me. It appears too many of the experienced sex clubbers, like "HAWT", need a boundaries refresher course. Because that couple paid the entrance fee, the only thing they owe, and they don't owe you a fucking (pun intended) thing. Not now. Not ever. Get over yourselves, HAWT. You can't force attractions or desires. It's a huge turn off.
Posted by Butch-into-Femmes on November 9, 2011 at 10:35 PM · Report this
104
Hmm, HMW was quite respectful and shared her experience and point of view in a sex column. She is obviously cool with sexual variety, otherwise, why read it at all?
Dan, I think your response was rude and unnecessarily antagonistic simply because she described herself as an evangelical Christian -you need to get over your obvious prejudice towards them if you ever expect them to get over theirs towards you and by extension the rest of us (gays). Your hateful attitude towards born-agains is not at all helpful, and just makes you look like the gay liberal version of Jerry Falwell. Not all evangelicals are at war with homosexuals/homosexuality, so live the tolerance and acceptance that you so rightly demand of others.
Posted by Tryx on November 10, 2011 at 12:02 AM · Report this
105
@93(nocutename), of course I actually agree with you -- I was being a little facetious about English. Mostly because my native Portuguese relies much more in word endings to do stuff that English does with ordering alone. My first impression of English was that it was telegraphic: almost all persons of a verb in the present tense look like the infinitive, adjectives don't have gender or plurals, no real subjunctive and conditional mood endings ('If I were...' seems to be dying out)...

But of course that's merely subjective impressions, more based on my personal habits than on any real problems. Even languages much less morphologically and syntactically complex than English (say, Caribbean creole languages like Papiamentu or Sranan) are perfectly capable of handling complex thoughts.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 12:34 AM · Report this
106
@Suzy, I think what you wrote actually supports the point that a test-drive is usually a good idea:

Well, keep going with the analogy: sometimes you find out that the house has hidden toxic mold, and sometimes you find out that your fiance is a liar who already has a spouse! But sometimes, after the home inspection you find out there's a leaky pipe and a window that needs replacing, but you're still going to buy the house anyway.


Yes, but your decision to still buy the house was informed by what you found out. You will buy it despite the leaky pipe and the window that needs replacement. And that's good, because then you know what needs to be done from day one, instead of having to find out about it months later when the problems (or your budget) may have gotten worse.

You see, the idea of a test-drive is not simply conducting a binary Boolean test: yes or no, either you rock my world or by-bye baby. No--it's "get to know each other well" before committing to each other. Which means also accepting problematic areas (in sex or elsewhere) and still getting married, if you want it. All in all, it's such a conservative idea that people should know each other well before committing that I'm even surprised conservatives are against it when it comes to sex (and I go back to the explanation that our society still thinks sex is 'a little bad' to understand it).

I think HMW's point is that her other reasons for marriage were so overwhelmingly important that she would have treated any initially discovered sexual incompatibility as a lower level problem of those kinds.

Sure. But this still doesn't mean that it's a bad idea. It's just that she thought (correctly or incorrectly, depending on who she is as a person, and who her husband is) this wouldn't be important. Just as a house buyer may think it's not important to check the electrical part, because s/he wants the house for other reasons even if the electrical part is completely rotten. Still, does it mean it is not a good idea to know that the electrical part is rotten beforehand? Even if it doesn't change your choice to buy the house, would you call that information useless?

And to most people, knowing that the electrical part is rotten might very well mean choosing a different house instead. And who would criticize them for doing that? Isn't it simply common sense?

Perhaps, but then again, many BIG problems take a long time either to emerge or to be handled until you're sure they have no solution.

Sure. But does this mean it's a bad idea to try to find out about BIG (or even small) problems that already exist? Even if you buy the best house, still something may happen next year (an accident, something you couldn't have predicted) that destroys your house. And yet we do check things in the house before buying it.

And here's the reason: we all know that chance and personality play an important role in the consequences of our decisions, but we do think that there are factors out there that we can check for and solve also. Call it the pragmatist's rule of thumb: luck and my personality will aside, there are other factors from the real world that will affect my happiness with a decision I've made, and it's in my interest to know about them before I make a choice.

In other words -- strive to make an informed choice. This doesn't guarantee that there won't be any problems, or that things won't change later on; but who on earth argues against informed decisions based on that?

Do you really think that life is so random that we really have no good reason to check things before we commit to them? Should I really never check the details of my insurance policy if I have a good feeling about it? Should I really always take the first job that sounds interesting without going there first and seeing what it will be like to work in that place? Or conversely, should I take the first interested applicant for an opening at my firm, without checking first whether or not he will be a good match to the other people who already work for me?

I think we all would call a person reckless who did things without checking first -- except when it comes to sex, apparently.

The experience of sex before marriage is not like the experience of sex when you're both virgins and already married, and maybe the latter is something you value a lot.
First times are always different, because they're new and fresh. The first house or apartment you buy is also quite an adventure, and you'll probably never again have such sharp feelings of adventure and independence ('now I have a place that is really mine! I have my own kingdom! I can do whatever I want with it! Whoopee!'). And, unless you're lucky, you'll also find problems that you had never thought about ('oops, I didn't know the heating pipes were connected to the water pipes... why didn't anyone tell me that, in this house, if I don't have water I also don't have heating?!?').

Which means that the next house you buy (assuming the first one was indeed enough of a disappointment for you to want another one) will not be as great an adventure. Your feelings will be calmer, smoother, less intense. But if in the end you find a house that is better suited to the kind of person you are, I think you will feel much better.

Of course, you may disagree and still prefer the intense feeling of first times. And that's OK. Everybody does what they like best, and if it's first times that work for you, great! By all means enjoy it! Just don't think that liking first times above all doesn't entail its own, specific problems that are avoided by those who aren't so keen on first times.

Yes indeed -- make an informed choice here, too. You seem to be making that: you know what the possible problems are with first times (lack of experience, possible disappointments, etc.), and yet you chose to defend it. That's fine -- that's even commendable, since this is what works for you. But you know and read about the problems; you know what the criticism is. You made an informed choice. (Did you mom, by the way? Was she aware of potential dangers of keeping herself a virgin for her future husband? And did she choose to do that because she consciously thought the advantages were more important than the dangers? If she did, good for her! If she didn't... then she didn't make an informed choice, and I think that's bad.)

Which is basically all that "getting to know each other" -- sexually and otherwise -- is all about: making an informed choice.

I thoroughly agree with your maxim: "Live and let live, eh!". But I also think those who make uninformed choices are running unnecessary risks. Which is not incompatible with "live and let live", don't you agree?

Not only are you exposing yourself to potential STIs and pregnancies, in situations where you're likely not with the partner you hope to remain with for life, but the breakups can be much more difficult. Not always, of course, but when you're in a sexual relationship that can make moving on much more difficult and messy.

Emotional affairs can be as complicated as sexual ones, Suzy. The girl who hurt me the most, and who I had the worst time 'breaking up' with, was exactly the one I never had sex with -- and yet I had to, because our situation together was simply destroying me.
If you let sex mean a lot -- if you make it the center of every relationship (and curiously, it's apparently the conservatives, the save-it-till-wedding-night people, who go farther along this road) -- then of course breaking up after sex is difficult. But we don't have to think like that.

If you do, then of course sex is a 'big thing' for you, and you want to handle it with the utmost care. But if you (as I do) think that sex is just another thing in life, not ontologically superior or inferior to other important things in life, then there is no inherent reason why this should be the case--only social reasons ('there are other people who don't think like that, and my current lover may be one of them').

it is VERY rare, in my experience, not to be able to tell whether sex with someone is going to be fun before actually having the sex.

Experiences differ on that, Suzy. In my case, the girl who looked 'hawtest' ended up being one of the worst lays -- if I were enough in love with her to want to marry her regardless, I know we would have a lot of work to do.

On the other hand, a few of the initially shy girls ended up being some of the most interesting sex partners I've had. One of them, after being my lover for over six months, is now my wife of ten years, and the mother of my eight-year-old daughter. We did and do have certain differences -- as Dan is always saying, there's no settling down without settling for, and there's no such thing as perfect compatibility, sexual or otherwise. But we are both happy that we found out what the differences were and what we would have to work on during those initial six months. It helped.

I think you were simply lucky, Suzy, just like HWM. Looking at the failure rate for relationships of all kinds, married or not, I cannot but fail to see that the chances of a sexual-based problem (the most frequent one being unmatched libidos) are big; if you managed to avoid them just with foreplay and talking, great! But not the best strategy statistically. It's like people who have unprotected sex and still don't get STDs: it happens, not unfrequently it seems (STDs are not such a terrible epidemic that the chances of not getting anything by sheer luck are so low).

Yet you'll have to do this to gain the "non-reckless" experience you need to be sure that the person you're totally in love with is really right for you? I don't know. Ultimately, it comes down to this: if you think it's wise to take some test drives, or many test drives, then do it! But why must we judge other people as lacking when they don't want to do it?


This is the main, crucial point, isn't it? In fact, it's so crucial, that I'm going to react to it in a separate post, to make it more visible. I've already, like you, written a treatise to reply to yours; better stop now. :-)
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Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 1:23 AM · Report this
107
@Suzy, who wrote:
Yet you'll have to do this to gain the "non-reckless" experience you need to be sure that the person you're totally in love with is really right for you? I don't know. Ultimately, it comes down to this: if you think it's wise to take some test drives, or many test drives, then do it! But why must we judge other people as lacking when they don't want to do it?


I am also against judgmental people. One of the injunctions in the bible that I happen to like is "judge not, lest ye be jugded." And if our culture gives someone the impression s/he "has to be" something s/he is not just because others will find him/her uncool if s/he isn't, then I'm against it -- be it sex test drives, faith in god, or loving chocolate ice creams. (I've seen the concept of GGG also being used like that, to peer-pressure people out of their boundaries under threat of 'social judgment'; and that's equally wrong.) I firmly believe in everybody being their own person, and doing what is best for them. Live and let live, eh?

But having an opinion is not tantamount to being judgmental. I do think it would be better for everyone -- even those who don't agree with me -- to have more rather than less knowledge when making a decision. Even if you think the knowledge you'd gain by test-driving your possible future partners isn't that important, I still think -- looking at statistics of unsuccessful relationships, looking at the amount of cheating that goes on -- that you're wrong and that you would benefit from knowing as much as possible about your partner's sexual style before committing -- and actual experience is one of the best ways of gaining that knowledge.

If you don't agree with me and want to live your life by other principles, that's perfectly fine with me. By all means do.

But if we're having a rational discussion about which strategy is better (= more likely to lead to success), then I don't think it's possible to argue that less knowledge makes better decisions more likelly than more knowledge. You may prefer the latter, but this doesn't make it better than the former. To me, it's just plain old common sense.

Also, addressing a perhaps unspoken question in the your post, or that of others who argue in favor of non-test-driving... I think some people feel that the very idea of text-driving sex implies devaluing love. The romantic aura of love around a relationship is tarnished if someone engages in the (somewhat disgusting) practice of partner evaluation.

As if test-driving sex had to be done with a clipboard in hand, from which all the defects and differences with respect to your prospective partner (who is, after all, a human being, and therefore, by definition, much, much more than the items on that clipboard), and if said prospective partner fails to meet your stringent quality control standards, than by-bye baby, don't slam the door on your way out.

That is most definitely not sexual test-driving by my standards. That is being insesnitive, heartless, borderline non-human.

My wife and I were both non-virgins when we first met. We had both had a significant number of previous partners, with concomittant problems and baggage. We decided to have sex after five or six dates, and we went on having sex for months after that. We were 'test-driving', and both of us knew that.

And yet that was also the phase of most romantic interest, of talking to each other about all kinds of common interests and topics till late in the night, of kisses shared under the moonlight, of serenading (yes--I did do that once, even though I'm such a terrible singer that I can't for the love of god imagine she actually had any pleasure in listening to me), of sitting and looking together at the sunset, or at stars (I'm an amateur astronomer and love to talk about stars and constellations). It was also a phase of increasing communication, increasing attraction, increasing love for each other.

And that was also our sex test-drive phase, by mutual acknolwedgment.

Pragmatism doesn't rule out romanticism. Informed decision doesn't mean heartless decision.

All that "informed decision" means is that knowing more is important. You can't ever know everything that is relevant, and luck always plays a big role; but knowing more, knowing as much as you can, is important. Not the most important -- that's what the heart is for. But important. Just that: knowledge is important. Hence the test-driving.

And this is why I still think it is better to do the sex test-drive, even for those who don't agree with me. I won't pressure them, and I will respect them for their decision to disagree. But I still think they're wrong. I hope you don't see that as offensive or judgmental: it's exactly the opposite of what I want it to be.
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Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 1:42 AM · Report this
108
From 102, Suzy-- "It is VERY rare, in my experience, not to be able to tell whether sex with someone is going to be fun before actually having the sex. Any type of foreplay usually makes it clear whether you're going to like this."

From HMW's original letter-- "We waited until after the wedding to have sex or even kiss."

From my experience-- I've had 2 experiences where I was surprised by how bad the sex was. In one case, it was both his premature ejaculation and general lack of ability or interest in turning me on. He seemed to want to cuddle and thought he was doing a great job. In the other case, we were just incompatible in indescribable ways, hard to explain. In both cases, I really liked the guy, really was attracted to him-- or thought I was until I reached the point of realizing I wasn't. I didn't love him enough to work through the problem.

Luckily, I'd had just enough experience at the time to know that sex could be better and that I didn't have to settle. Now I'd say that I can tell whether sex with someone is going to be fun from only a little foreplay, but that's a skill I learned from having sex (and foreplay). Now I'd say that I can get a lot of clues about how a man moves in bed from as little as dancing with him, but I wasn't born with that ability. It took practice to learn.

And now another observation-- The stories about non-compatibility have come from women. Dan gave an example that's horrible, possible, and statistically extremely unlikely. I was talking about this with an ex the other day. I guess you could say we were friends with benefits though that term wasn't around when we were having sex together. We're no longer having sex together. We still share a warm friendship.

I was thinking about this column when I asked him if he'd ever had bad sex, incompatible sex. He said that he'd sometimes had sex that didn't meet his expectations, but he'd never had a sexual experience he wished he hadn't. For me, I suppose I could say that I learned something from the bad experiences. In that regard, I can say they were worthwhile, but for the sex itself? All these years later, sometimes I still want to shudder, still want to wash the bad experience off. And that's not from any sort of rape or coercion. It's just from the sheer awkward incompatibility of it with a guy I really liked.
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Posted by Crinoline on November 10, 2011 at 4:50 AM · Report this
109
Yes, I suppose I summarize what I said in my two little treatises above with the following sentece: even though luck plays a big role and a strong attraction and being really in love with someone does work wonders, it is still better to know more than to know less when you want to make a decision.

'Not knowing' doesn't lead to wisdom, but simply to... ignorance. Even if you find out any incompabitibilities that aren't so hard or that you're willing to accept and/or work on, it is better to know about them sooner than later.

And this is true for anyone, even those who don't believe in knowing more about their possible future partners. Whether or not they agree with it, they are risking more. I, for myself, only hope that they understand that they are risking more, and decide to do so with open eyes (not because daddy or the church say so, but because they want it so -- say, in order to try to preserve the magic of that first-time experience).

Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 5:29 AM · Report this
110
My christian cousin once bragged about how godly/wonderful/we waited until the wedding night HER marriage was. It was hard not to feel a little smug when it came crashing down around her.
Posted by Push on November 10, 2011 at 6:11 AM · Report this
111
A few columns ago I was wondering what sort of training medical students got on common sexual problems like inability to orgasm or premature ejaculation. If I didn't already distrust HMW from the words "evangelical Christian," I'd have to distrust her from "I'm not stupid (I'm a physician), but I can't figure this one out."

She'd have us believe that there was nothing in her medical school training on what to tell a woman who comes to her saying that intercourse is painful? Nothing on what to suggest to a man who is worried because his buddies talk about women all the time and he can't relate? She never ran into the subject even outside of medical school?

I thought Dan was spot-on when he first said she was playing dumb. I've given it more thought and think he's even more correct. I'd go so far as to say that playing dumb is a particularly egregious form of manipulation. The underlying "contract" that the dumb-player is hoping you'll sign is one that says "you have to explain this to me in a way that I understand, and if you can't, then I can accuse of being irrational and wrong." Yeah, right. Coming from someone who takes the Bible literally.
Posted by Crinoline on November 10, 2011 at 6:25 AM · Report this
112
Seems like to me that HMW and her husband ended up being compatible not out of luck or any other measure other than the fact that they were BOTH virgins and didn't even fool around before marriage. I mean, how could they really have had any particular preferences, they had no idea what sex with another person felt like. Also, if they were truly the type that hadn't even kissed before marriage, they surely wouldnt have allowed themselves to watch porn and possibly hadn't really masturbated without crying after. They discovered sex together and have no idea what other ideas are out there. I would like to speak to the husband in a few years time and see if this still holds true. My bet is that it wont be.
Posted by kristye on November 10, 2011 at 6:35 AM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 113
For those of you who have unregistered posting blocked, #96 is worth repeating in its entirety:
@HMW: You want an example of something you could have learned about each other through sex that would have changed your mind? Here's are some things my college boyfriend and I - both virgins going in and thinking about marriage - discovered about each other.

- His penis is bigger than I'd expected, and all my orifices are smaller than he'd expected. The fit was a struggle, even after extensive practice. If we had woken up one morning to discover his penis was half its usual size, I would have been thrilled.

- As a teen, he'd been utterly obsessed with the idea of cunnilingus and had been waiting for years for the opportunity to try it out. Sounded good to me! Turned out he didn't like it nearly as much as he thought he would.

- I discovered I can only orgasm if I'm lying down, which ruled out any of the positions where we could reasonably get his penis into my vagina.

- He discovered that he found looking at my buttocks far more stimulated than he'd expected, and developed an interest in anal sex. The idea of putting something that barely fits in my vagina into my anus is rather terrifying. We experimented with some milder anal play, and it did absolutely nothing for me. I was watching the clock and wondering how long this was going to take, not even able to enjoy his pleasure because he was behind me where I couldn't see him.

We worked on it for years, but it ended up that there was nothing sexual that we were both actively interested in and physically capable of doing. Unless we'd both been content to spend the rest of our lives without mutually pleasurable and satisfying sex, it couldn't be made to work.
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Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on November 10, 2011 at 6:54 AM · Report this
114
@10:

The trouble with talking to figure out if you're sexually compatible is that, if you've never even kissed, it's tough to know. Especially since - speaking as an ex-evangelical - the sort of people that wait till marriage to kiss also don't masturbate or look at porn (or at least pretend they don't) because these things are sinful.

How can someone like that have a serious, informed, and honest discussion about how often they want sex and what they like to do when they have it?

A hardcore evangelical virgin isn't going to tell the girlfriend they won't even kiss "I really like playing with my ass while wearing women's panties, but I only want to have sex once a month", and she's not going to reply with "I like to have sex everyday, and I need a vibrator and penetration to get off." Even if they knew those things about themselves, admitting them is confessing to sinning.
Posted by notfromvenus on November 10, 2011 at 7:11 AM · Report this
115
It's actually amazing you can give advice to people you are so jealous of to the point of hatred. You love to preach but simply will not tolerate another person to STATE what works for them...especially IF what works for them is opposite to what works for YOU. Homos want it both ways...treat me the SAME but I wanna be DIFFERENT! You can't have your open-assed chaps and open armed public opinion. Can't you just accept the fact that no every one likes you? Stop being such a prissy baby and just dish your advice already.
Posted by osage2112 on November 10, 2011 at 7:32 AM · Report this
116
@9...oh lordy, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?

That's all you get from this column, self importance and gloating.

It's acutally very revealing to read the reaction when Dan gets some of his own medicine in return.

If I have to read another post of his about how "perfect" a hairy asshole is, I think I'm gonna puke.
Posted by osage2112 on November 10, 2011 at 7:38 AM · Report this
117
haha, "even" a couple of HMW's atheist friends "admit" that they want was she has, because only xtians can be abstinent until marriage and to acknowledge that you'd like a sexually furfilling marriage is nothing short of a deep confession!
Posted by sweet g on November 10, 2011 at 7:40 AM · Report this
118
@115, bro, if you think so, then you really didn't read anything Dan wrote (starting with -- if it works for you, then do it).

You're a typical example of the 'contrarian' guy -- you know, that guy who says if you disagree with his opinion then you must be "intolerant." Way to miss a point!...
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 8:33 AM · Report this
119
@82 I hate to say it, but that day is coming back. There is an anti-biotic resistant form of Gonorrhea out there in Asia now; it won't take long to make it's way around the world.

@108 I'm a guy and I have had the non-compatibility experience a couple of times. Twice with women I really loved; once was with a kind of hilarious bad one-night-stand (the build up had been months in the making, so hilarious when it went bad).

The difficulty with non-compatibility is that sex is really a major component of an intimate relationship. It is corrosive when that doesn't work as you expect, or more importantly: when you don't feel that your partner is able/willing to please you and that you are not able to please them. In the two instances where I was in love with the other person, it was a painful experience. The first time I believed it was a matter of simply "trying harder," even when that partner told me more or less "forget it" up front (she felt she was 'broken' and unable to experience much pleasure). I kept trying for years; at least two seven year cycles. There was no way she'd open the marriage (no point in the conversation) and so I ended it for that and other reasons.

I thought much the same the second time (that I/we just needed to try harder), because we had episodes of pretty good hot sex, but not consistently, and she did not say "forget it". I also tried much harder to communicate my own wants and desires the second time around, but we just didn't seem to be able to make it click. I came to feel that even when I gave pretty explicit directions about how and what I liked and asked for the same, I wasn't really heard.

And here's where I have to jump off to the 'emotional bond' part - I believe that we both, in that later relationship, had some trust issues keeping us from really being vulnerable to each other and therefore keeping us from having true intimacy. And yes, I'm a guy who enjoys meaningless sex as much as the next guy - it's easier to be physically intimate with a complete stranger (no emotional stakes or vulnerability) than to be physically intimate with someone you have strong feelings for but trust issues or other negative feelings. I really think this is how so many men wind up hooked on masturbation, porn and hookers and yet will not touch their wives. Women foolishly tend to propagate the myth of male 'any hole will do' horniness.

So, now, forget it; if we don't click, I don't waste time. I got dumped once for being a bad lay (not a common experience) and it hurt, but I know I've rocked some other women's worlds. Now, if things don't click, no matter whether I find them attractive physically, emotionally and or intellectually, I end it.

*If* HMW is a real person and not a bit of push-piece agit-prop evangelism for the abstinence until marriage crowd (I suppose she may in fact be both and trying to sell herself as well as the rest of us on her line), then I truly congratulate her on her good luck and wish her well, but I'd lay odds against this working out for her long term. The thing that always strikes me about evangelicals is the constant need to keep selling everyone including themselves on their line of belief.
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Posted by seeking-compatibility on November 10, 2011 at 8:37 AM · Report this
120
@116 (osage), do you actually have something to say, other dan "Dan be bad, waaah"? As for gloating, your comments suggest you're a grand master.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 8:56 AM · Report this
121
@119 (seeking-compatibility), who wrote:
it's easier to be physically intimate with a complete stranger (no emotional stakes or vulnerability) than to be physically intimate with someone you have strong feelings for but trust issues or other negative feelings. I really think this is how so many men wind up hooked on masturbation, porn and hookers and yet will not touch their wives. Women foolishly tend to propagate the myth of male 'any hole will do' horniness.


I agree 100% -- with the note that it's not simply "women foolishly" propagating the myth of boundless male horniness, it's also men doing that (the 'macho' culture). It's part of that heritage of sexual stereotypes of our culture, the idea that men are sexually easy and simple, just turn on and go. It's not really true, but men themselves tend to believe it -- while thinking there must be something wrong with them when they don't correspond to the stereotype.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 9:04 AM · Report this
ALWAYS Clear Your Cache!!! 122
HMW and Mr. probably married at 16. That's why they seem so compatible.

I doubt someone that smug has any - let alone atheist - friends.

I call shenanigans on this "letter".
Posted by ALWAYS Clear Your Cache!!! on November 10, 2011 at 10:03 AM · Report this
123
We recently did the Pre Cana, Catholic couple counseling for those about to get married. And I was impressed with how it sort of makes sure you are sexually compatable before you wed.

Basically asking questions to make sure you've considered all the posibilities, discussed your preferences and are still okay to go through with pleasing each other.

I'm not Catholic myself, but thought that was really cool and helpful.
Posted by nerdoscientist on November 10, 2011 at 10:28 AM · Report this
124
"Suppose your husband announced when you got to your honeymoon suite that he wouldn't be able to climax unless you took a massive shit on his chest before vaginal intercourse commenced. Would that have changed your mind about the advisability of marrying him without fucking him once or twice first?"

Hahahahahahhahahahahahahha! (deep breath to recover). Oh, fuck that's funny.
I would so like for that very thing to have happened and somehow be present to bear witness to that moment in time.
I guess that's just mean. But still.
jill
http://inbedwithmarriedwomen.blogspot.co…
Posted by inbed http://inbedwithmarriedwomen.blogspot.com on November 10, 2011 at 10:32 AM · Report this
125
@121 Fair enough, it is the culture, not just women. I think way fewer men actually believe the cultural message than will admit or agree to it.
Posted by seeking-compatibility on November 10, 2011 at 10:37 AM · Report this
126
Isn't sexual compatibility really just about GGG?
Posted by macindamiddle on November 10, 2011 at 11:10 AM · Report this
127
HAWT sound like a pair of the most self entitled people on the planet! Guess what? Nobody, ever, in any situation, is ever obligated to fuck you. Get the hell over it.

You sound just like those straight guys who get mad when a girl at a club simply says "No, thank you." Sometimes a girl just wants to go to a club to have a good time without fucking anybody. And those people who act entitled to get fucked are the unsexiest scum on the planet anyway. They never had a chance.
Posted by Brie on November 10, 2011 at 11:55 AM · Report this
xjuan 128
Good for you, HMW, though not necessarily good for everybody else. Same goes to Dan’s recommendation: not for everyone, as your experience proves. If it was your decision to restrain from premarital sex and it worked well, congratulations! But that doesn’t mean that it should be the rule for everyone, as many religions want to impose. Yours might well be just an exception.
Posted by xjuan on November 10, 2011 at 12:01 PM · Report this
129
@126:

Not entirely. If the couple have really different sex drives, or one of them realizes that they're gay, or they're poly (when the other isn't), or they have a extreme fetish, or they just don't find each other attractive naked, that goes beyond GGG.
Posted by notfromvenus on November 10, 2011 at 12:03 PM · Report this
130
@126, compatibility is not just about GGG. There are biological limits. Just try to get it up when you're not in the mood every day but your partner wants to be fucked twice a day. Or try to keep it up when he/she wants to be fucked 3 times in a row, etc.
Posted by cockyballsup on November 10, 2011 at 12:24 PM · Report this
131
@121, you are very right. The myth of boundless male horniness (that endures despite the very funny show "Married with Children" where Al never wanted to do it) is causing a lot of needless heartache for women ("Am I not attractive to him?"). But it is also causing a lot of needless heartache and worry for men. I would guess 90% of men who has read the boasts (i.e., lies) on certain internet forums (e.g., male health and fitness sites) about male sexual frequency will feel inadequate.
Posted by cockyballsup on November 10, 2011 at 12:33 PM · Report this
132
@50 Dan: I only meant it as a compliment, not to annoy you.

@42 wayne: Don't you like receiving positive feedback once in a blue moon?

Seriously, what gives, guys?
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 10, 2011 at 1:26 PM · Report this
133
@125(seeking-compatibility), who wrote:
Fair enough, it is the culture, not just women. I think way fewer men actually believe the cultural message than will admit or agree to it.


Well, we all know how many men who don't have erectile dysfunction still pop their Viagras just in case -- certainly lots of men do realize they're not just 'turn on and let go.' Certainly those who talk to friends about that will notice that they're not the only ones.

But if you go to a highschool, or even to a college campus, how many male groups there are in which the members would never admit that they aren't 'ready to fuck anything in sight, at all times, ever and ever'? Because that would be, you know, kinda gay, and you have to be a 'real man' all the time...
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 2:04 PM · Report this
134
@131(cockyballsup), I'll bet you'd be right about that. Such stereotypes (like most stereotypes) do create headaches because they simply make you expect things that don't always happen, in fact even things that usually don't happen. (That's the general problem with stereotypes, isn't it?)

But it's hard to let go of a stereotype because there is such an aura of prestige around it. It's like men feeling sort of connected to sports heroes or to bodybuilders. Not all men are as strong or agile as they -- far from that! Still we like to think we're 'all men' and that we share some physical bond with these types. Apparently we all want to be Superman, or at least feel connected to him via our 'common masculinity,' even though we all know Superman doesn't really exist.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 2:13 PM · Report this
135
@121, who wrote:
The myth of boundless male horniness (that endures despite the very funny show "Married with Children" where Al never wanted to do it) is causing a lot of needless heartache for women ("Am I not attractive to him?").


This makes me think of how many times I've heard from a new female sexual partner, speaking about some sexual treat they've read about somewhere (maybe Cosmo?): 'but... you're supposed to like that!' (For increased wham!-ness, add a "what's wrong with you," either at the end or at the beginning.) This is also partially based on the idea that men are so easy to play and satisfy. It would be ludicrously funny, if it weren't often a little sad.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 2:19 PM · Report this
136
@132(aunt griselda), I may be wrong, but I think Dan was being sarcastic... His comment obviously proves that @42(wayne)'s assumption that Dan never reads the comments is wrong. I think he actually agrees with you about receiving feedback.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 2:23 PM · Report this
137
Where are we going with all this "men don't really want to fuck every (female) hole all the time" screed? Sounds like more feminist "men and women are just alike" bullshit. Doesn't make any sense evo-psychicly.

Oh, if I just shot my wad, I'm ok for awhile, but it doesn't last.
Posted by Hunter78 on November 10, 2011 at 3:08 PM · Report this
138
@137, Nope, it's just the truth. Don't be all-or-nothing, zero-or-one-thinking, hunter.

Men are not just like women, but they aren't just like Superman either. Surely that's not too controversial?
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 3:44 PM · Report this
139
@137, note that there's nothing in EvPsych that means men have to 'fuck anything anywhere anytime'. Lots of more fruitful ESSs.

Also, note that EvPsych is on its way out, thanks to Gene-Culture Co-Evolution theory. There's more in the selecting environment than meets the (unaided) eye.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 10, 2011 at 3:51 PM · Report this
140
I think that Dan and most of the commenters here have let HMW mis-frame this issue, apparently without even noticing. I'm a little disappointed.

She says, and I paraphrase, "Secular people think that it's reckless to get married without test-driving the sex! But I did it and I'm fine. What about that?"

And then the discussion becomes largely a defense of how it is, indeed, reckless to eschew sex before marriage. And that's crazy, dudes.

(Slight aside: people have various ideas about relationships. For now I'll just constrain my remarks to people looking for a partnership that is expected to last decades. Friends, there is NOTHING you can do in terms of learning all about your partner or taking your partner's pants off to guard against a major incompatibility developing five or fifteen years down the line. Assuming both people are decent folks with good intentions, the way to keep things working is to keep communicating about problems as they develop, facing them as a team - there is a reasonable amount of research about this. Whether the problem is that someone found Jesus and suddenly wants to baptize the kids, or someone wants to quit her soulsucking but lucrative corporate job and sell origami flowers at craft fairs, or someone has a new interest in fisting, or the couple used ot not have any children and now has three.)

But I digress.
What I really wanted to say was this: ask your average secular person why she is having sex without being married, and she's not going to give you some story about how it's the more responsible choice, to test out her sexual compatibility with various partners in order to make the most awesome mate choice. LOL! That's ridiculous! I have sex because I like to, and because absent a religious prohibition and in a society with access to effective means of pregnancy and disease prevention, there is no reason why I wouldn't do it when I feel like it.

It's SEX! It's really fun, and a great way of bonding with someone I like. And I want to. That's why I do it. You know what sexual freedom is? It's the freedom to have (or not have) sex, as one feels comfortable. If fundamentalists don't feel comfortable, that's their deal and I don't care - but it's at least as annoying for me to try to pressure them into having sex when they don't want to as it is when they try to pressure me into abstaining when I want to have sex.
More...
Posted by Thisbe on November 10, 2011 at 5:09 PM · Report this
141
The biggest issue in sexual incompatibility is frequency, not chest crapping.

If I like anal and you don't, that's not likely to become an issue, because we won't stay together long.

Frequency has an added dimension-- it can change over time. The partner wanting more can develop a wandering eye.
Posted by Hunter78 on November 10, 2011 at 6:13 PM · Report this
142
@136 anklosaur: Thanks for the feedback. I forgot about Dan's trademark Midwestern sarcasm.
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 10, 2011 at 6:46 PM · Report this
143
re: HMW -

1) In my state, anyone can say they are a physician. It is a meaningless term. You don't have to have any training of any kind. People from aura manipulators to home made herbal concoctors use it to promote their businesses. It doesn't mean she's smart or educated.

2) to HMW - what if he wouldn't go down on you because he thought it was gross? Wouldn't that suck donkey balls? Or only made a desultory effort at foreplay? I think it would be possible to get very resentful, especially if he required you to go down on him, or was selfish in sex, or didn't care if you orgasmed...

3) And it's not so much test running the future spouse as fucking around in general, in the same way having had more than one emotionally significant relationship, more than one friendship, more than one boyfriend (sexual or abstaining) is of vast importance in learning not just about other people, but about what you want and need. Kinda important. Being young, as you sound, it's especially hard to know that stuff, which is why deliberately gaining experience before making important life decisions is a really good idea. Doing other things like waiting several years to have kids to make sure you are truly compatible, waiting until you are older to marry, not delaying sex until marriage so you know that being able to have sex finally is not the reason you are getting married, stuff like that - also generally good solid ideas. You got very very lucky. Your atheist friends are jealous because it's a rare situation in the world in general, not the result of your religious practices. It's not common and I hope it holds.
Say you have ten kids. Do you think it's likely that all of them will have the same blissful experience as you if they do the same thing? Do you know ten couples who do? Probably not. And it would hurt them so much if they were wrong (marry young, kids early, stay in marriage for religious obligation/guilt rather than valid emotional reasons = amplification of pain, tied down like hell to something that isn't what it should be, can't be). Would you want that for them? How could they prevent it? By freeing themselves to find out more about who they are before they commit for life to someone who in some very important ways is a stranger.
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Posted by gnot on November 10, 2011 at 7:20 PM · Report this
144
fucking smug evangelicals
Posted by ribs on November 10, 2011 at 7:38 PM · Report this
145
I liked your column this week, Dan, regardless of what the other commenters say. Tolerance + Respect for the self determining power of consenting adults + Sarcasm = Awesome!
Posted by Nameless Coward on November 10, 2011 at 11:14 PM · Report this
146
You didn't KISS him before MARRYING him? I don't believe that.
Posted by whatttttt on November 11, 2011 at 3:34 AM · Report this
mydriasis 147
@Hunter

ohhhh you think EvoPsych is legitimate!
That's how you ended up so ignorant.
This actually answers so many questions.

P.S. Regarding other's comments about the wedding night...
Though a virgin might not know that he needs to poop on his wife's chest in order to have sex, I'm sure he'd be aware that he had that fetish and that's easily (in theory) something that could be discussed pre-wedding-night.

I don't think sex should be considered marital test-driving since it doesn't really work that way. A lot of people change sexually post-marraige anyway.
Posted by mydriasis on November 11, 2011 at 5:04 AM · Report this
148
ankylosaur, you stick to carrying water for Dan and lickin' ankys, and I'll just report to you the obvious about dan's bias.

It's there to see if you didn't have your eyes wide shut.

I may not always agree with what I have to say, I just tell it like it IS.
Posted by osage2112 on November 11, 2011 at 5:54 AM · Report this
149
HAWT:

That couple does swing. See, one of the best kept secrets of human sexuality is that not everyone wants to have sex with everyone else. They swing, but not with you.
Posted by Mr. J on November 11, 2011 at 6:58 AM · Report this
nocutename 150
@105 (ankylosaur): I remember when I was an undergrad taking a required linguistics class, taught by a professor of literature who clearly resented having to teach the class, and knew little about the subject (he spent each class reading aloud the lecture he had written in a monotone, never lifting his eyes from the paper so he couldn't see a hand waving in the air when someone had a question). Ultimately, I gave up trying to understand what he was droning on about, but before that happened, when I was genuinely trying to grasp the subject I stayed after class and said, "I don't understand what you mean when you say that English isn't an inflected language," and he replied, " English doesn't have word endings." I puzzled over that, thinking, "but it does. We change the ending of a verb to put it in the progressive or past tense." I didn't want to ask any more questions because he seemed so arrogant and contemptuous and clearly uninterested in the subject (I now realize he must have been panicked because he didn't know anything about it other than what he had picked up in some introductory-level textbook).

It wasn't until I was writing my master's thesis and getting ready to study literature in a doctoral program, that I discovered--through doing some research for a piece of literary criticism--how truly fascinating linguistics really was. And I even thought for a brief moment about taking on another graduate degree in it.

Then, when my first child was 6 weeks old, I had to take a Latin class. I went into it thinking, "I have taken French and Spanish, romance languages that derive from Latin--how hard can it be?" And it kicked my ass! But one day, as I was memorizing the declensions for a set of nouns, I suddenly remembered that long-ago day when I had been confused about English's reported lack of "endings," and I realized what he had been talking about. I also remember the excitement at the idea of a language in which meaning was freed from word order.
More...
Posted by nocutename on November 11, 2011 at 7:01 AM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 151
@146

I don't think it's so unbelievable that they didn't kiss before marriage. After all, there are people who think that even to kiss is to court losing control of their tautly bound desires (and - uh - legs). And we all know what the consequences of losing control are (/sarcasm): ripping off of clothing and engaging in rampant sexual behaviours.

In any case, I'm still assessing whether the letter is fake or just egregiously fake-innocent and smug.
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on November 11, 2011 at 8:39 AM · Report this
152
For ankylosaur-nocutename off topic linguistics thread-- Not much to add except that I'm enjoying the discussion and recommend Power of Babel on the history of language by John McWhorter.
Posted by Crinoline on November 11, 2011 at 10:47 AM · Report this
153
HMW, I discovered the hard way to never speak for anyone but myself regarding sexual satisfaction or experience.

And @63, a few years ago, some time after my grandparents died, we were working on their house in preparation for moving in. We ripped the thousand year old carpet off the bedroom floor. As we pulled it back we noticed a spot with a great deal of damage and wear to the wood floor. We pulled the rest of the carpet up and found another spot with identical damage. We stood in the room, looking for a leaky ceiling, trying to figure this out...

...when I remembered that those were the spots where the feet of the old four-poster bed had been.

Now, I don't know exactly what grandma and grandpa were up to, and I'm just fine with that. But whatever they were doing, they did it often, for many years, and they did it with enough enthusiasm to wreck the hardwood floor under the bed.
Posted by Marley on November 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM · Report this
154
The real hint that HMW is a right bitch is her claim that even her atheist friends (even them? Horrors!) want what she has, then reveals that they don't know she and her husband waited until marriage.

So if she never mentioned that detail to them, I imagine they do not talk about sex. And if they don't, then they are simply envious, or at least claim to be, of what seems like a loving relationship. So what is it about being an atheist, exactly, that wouldn't make you appreciate a loving relationship?
Posted by Shazaam on November 11, 2011 at 12:01 PM · Report this
155
@Thisbe, who said:
Friends, there is NOTHING you can do in terms of learning all about your partner or taking your partner's pants off to guard against a major incompatibility developing five or fifteen years down the line.

Dude, we all know that -- we've said this several times in this comment thread.

The point, to me, sir, is that problems that may develop in five or ten years are still no argument not to know as much as possible about your future partner now. Because (a) these things are not mutually incompatible, and (b) the fact that there may be future problems doesn't mean it's not a good idea to find out about present problems.

Why be ignorant? How would that help? If I don't try to find out the present incompatibilities that already exist, will this make any difference for the future problems that haven't arisen yet? No, of course not. Conclusion: finding out about problems now doesn't solve the future problems, but it does solve the present ones. As for the future, we'll cross that bridge when it comes.

Just like when you buy a house and do an inspection to check if it has problems. This doesn't guarantee that five years in the future the house won't develop a totally new and very bad problem. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, is it, or is it not, good to know what the present problems are? Of course it is.

More knowledge is better than less knowledge when you are trying to make an important decision in your life. Why is it so hard to agree with that?

t's SEX! It's really fun, and a great way of bonding with someone I like. And I want to. That's why I do it. You know what sexual freedom is? It's the freedom to have (or not have) sex, as one feels comfortable.


But you're missing the point of the discussion, Thisbe. Of course people have sex because they like it -- I mean, isn't it a given? Even evangelical Christians who have a good sex life, like HWM, presumably enjoy it, right? Presumably they have sex with pleasure because it's good, right?

The discussion was about something else: about whether it is better for your future relationship to have sex before you commit (get married, etc.) or not.

Nobody -- not HWM, not me, not anybody here -- ever doubted that people have sex because they like sex, Thisbe.

The question here was about whether it is a good idea to have sex with a future partner not only because sex in general is enjoyable, but in order to see how things will be with this partner, so as to check if the odds of a good, fulfilling sex life with him/her are good. Some people said this isn't that important, at least not to some people (HWM, Suzy), others say it is important to everyone (me).
More...
Posted by ankylosaur on November 11, 2011 at 12:12 PM · Report this
156
@mydriasis, who wrote:
I don't think sex should be considered marital test-driving since it doesn't really work that way. A lot of people change sexually post-marraige anyway.

Yes, several people have said that. But since sex is important to people, if there already are problems from day one (and there are several stories in this very thread about people who were surprised to see that someone they were strongly attracted to wasn't compatible with them the first time they slept together), isn't this important information to know, so that you can -- should you still decide to marry -- plan what you are going to do about it?
Posted by ankylosaur on November 11, 2011 at 12:17 PM · Report this
157
@osage, you don't say anything that IS, you just rant about what you'd like things to be. You look much more biased than Dan. The beam in your eye, etc.

I don't carry water for Dan -- I often disagree with him. But in this particular respect I agree with him. It happens that people agree, you know.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 11, 2011 at 12:20 PM · Report this
158
@nocutename, you describe things I went through as a teenager (my first encounter with Latin was when I was 14, and it was so damn awesome, I had to scribble "rosa rosa rosam rosae rosae rosa" on any piece of paper I could find. (The closest thing I've ever felt to female orgasms -- the kind that is more like a plateau than a spike, and that can be repeated over and over again -- is the electric charge that goes up and down my spine and makes me roll up my eyes when I see declension tables. I don't know if I should call it a fetish, or even something sexual, but the energy is sooo similar, even though it doesn't go through my genitals...)

My first teach-yourself-Latin book was a Portuguese translation of Wheelock's famous textbook, a very good book for beginners.

(If you enjoy books about people's experience with language, and if you are, like me, a fan of Douglas Hofstadter, the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden B…, then you'd probably love to read his other big book, "Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the B…", where he mentions among other things what it means to be pilingual, how to translate "speak of the devil" into Chinese, and how one can have an epiphany from French conditional endings.)

The only bad thing about Latin is that it's no longer spoken (despite cool things like the Latinitas Viva website, the Vicipaedia Latina (to which I, erm, contributed a couple of articles), or, if you'd like to read about Obama or Putin in Latin, the Latin news site Ephemeris: Nuntii Latini). But there are living languages with the same kind of grammar: Russian (and most Slavic languages), Latvian, Lithuanian... Just imagine actually hearing people tell jokes in Russian, a free-word-order, highly inflectional language with declensions just as complex as Latin's...

And now, just consider that the whole isolating-to-inflecting-languages continuum is usually discussed in terms of European languages. The other languages in the world can also be complex, in fact even much more complex than Latin is; and their categories are so... non-European, that you sometimes think you're looking at something that came from another world. If you ever want to have a look at a language that will make Latin look like child's play, try Navajo. Its conjugation paradigms have not not six forms (1st,2nd,3rd person singular, 1st,2nd,3rd plural), like European languages, but 12 (1st,2nd,3rd,4th singular, 1st,2nd,3rd,4th dual, 1st,2nd,3rd,4th plural), verb morphology so intertwined and complex that, after finally understanding how a verb is built, you'll finally get to have nightmares about it, plus different verbs for things like 'put' or 'carry' or 'take' depending on whether the object you're putting/carrying/taking is round, or long, or slender, or flexible, or mushy, or is a container (the so-called "classificatory verbs")...

In fact, in general, even though Navajo (and the whole Athapaskan family to which Navajo belongs) is a pretty extreme case, almost all Indigenous languages of North America are at least as complicated as Latin (many have free word order, though some have developed ways other than case endings to make it possible; which ways? ah!... :-), and more often than not actually more complicated. Ah, the Cree Animate and Inanimate verbs, their Obviative and Proximate nouns! Ah, the Siouan Active and Inactive intransitive verbs ('I walk', but 'it coughs me')! Ah, the Iroquoian 'nominal verbs' (so that concepts like 'car' are translated as verb phrases -- say, 'it-goes-around-by-itself' -- that can also be used as nouns)! Ah, the (debated) absence of a distinction between nouns and verbs in the Salishan languages of Washington State and British Columbia!...

The world is really a wonderful place for a linguist. :-)
More...
Posted by ankylosaur on November 11, 2011 at 12:52 PM · Report this
159
@ankylosaur:
It seems that most people arguing with you are missing the basic point. You aren't saying someone can't wait until marriage if that's what they want, but that they should at least realize what problems could arise as a result of the waiting.

I am understanding that right, aren't I?

It just seems like you've repeated that over and over, while others seem to think that you're going to find every engaged couple and force them to have sex before they book a hall.
Posted by KateRose on November 11, 2011 at 1:01 PM · Report this
160
Grats on your 666th (online) column, Dan! <3
Posted by Too Lazy to Log in on November 11, 2011 at 1:42 PM · Report this
161
@157
Sure, no problem with you agreeing, good on ya. Seems you have an issue when others disagree on a subject...you happen to agree on. That pail getting any heavier???

Talk all the circles you like, you must really get off on it cause you have done about three in this short exchange.

Keep yourself entertained and off the roads.
Posted by osage2112 on November 11, 2011 at 1:47 PM · Report this
162
@KateRose, yes, exactly. My basic point is: do your thing, but be aware of the risks. So if you want to do anal sex, go ahead, but be aware of the risks. If you want to practice the form of sex called abstinence till your wedding day, go ahead, but be aware of the risks.

My second point is that more knowledge is better than less knowledge when making important life decisions like whether or not you're going to pursue a relationship with someone you're attracted to, or in love with.

I'd imagine these should be pretty uncontroversial points -- both look just like common sense to me. But there's baggage around sex in our culture, so I'm misunderstood. :-)

I'm certainly not going to tell other people how to live their lives, as long as they're not affecting mine. :-)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 11, 2011 at 2:03 PM · Report this
163
@osage, no, I just like to talk, especially about topics I've thought a lot about. When you're having fun, no pails get heavier.

Circles? This must be some American expression I don't know. Whatever it means, if you get off on thinking I like them, by all means indulge. Just don't forget your tissues.

Remember to be a better boy tomorrow than you were today. Peace.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 11, 2011 at 2:12 PM · Report this
164
Dan and Savvy,

Please show the poster before the post, thanks.
Posted by Hunter78 on November 11, 2011 at 2:40 PM · Report this
165
Does mydriasis mean immature?
Posted by Hunter78 on November 11, 2011 at 3:18 PM · Report this
166
And what if the couple at the swingers club just liked to be watched while fucking? "Swingers' club" does not mean necessarily mean "no voyees allowed", though, as you said, they were likely testing the waters of others' respect for them..
Posted by Steve I. on November 11, 2011 at 5:47 PM · Report this
167
Douglas Hofstadter lost me with his book on disembodied consciousness, but I liked Godel, Escher, Bach well enough (though I never did finish it) to give Le Ton Beau de Marot a try. It reminds me of a question I've had for a long time:

Why doesn't your typical computer wizard love grammar? I live with one. I proofread his business email. His writing is clear, organized and logical. I correct the same basic errors over and over, simple things like commas in run-on sentences and apostrophes in possessive forms. I don't point out the errors because I don't want to do the job. I used to point them out because I thought he'd find the rules of grammar as interesting as I do if he gave them a chance. (Actually, I stopped trying to get him to make his own corrections. Now I just do it quickly and let him go back to sending the email.)

I ran into the same thing when we tried studying French together. I loved the logic of matching up subject and verb agreements. They struck me as so eloquent, so beautiful. I described it the same way he described beautifully written code, the way it could be so precise and powerful. But he never got into it for natural languages.

Anyway, there's another risk in not having sex before marriage. That's the one in which the evangelical ends up never marrying AND never having sex. It starts out great when they take that virginity vow. They're looking forward to that great sex life that HMW promises. But then the years go by. The right partner isn't found. There's some flirtation and dates, but then he (or I suppose possibly she) goes off and marries someone else or decides to form attachments with someone who will have sex with him. At some point as she realizes her chances of getting that happy marriage are diminishing, she gives up evangelicalism (and her virginity) and takes her chances with sex the more modern way. Either that, or she remains a virgin which I suspect was part of her deeply subconscious plan all along. She can pretend her fears or her non-desires for sex in the first place are virtue.
More...
Posted by Crinoline on November 11, 2011 at 6:38 PM · Report this
ASX 168
Is it me, or does that first letter sound a little bogus? Evangelical Christians that have a "couple of atheist friends?" It could happen, but it seems unlikely. Sexually compatible even though they never kissed or had sex before marriage? Even if they did discuss what they like before the wedding; since they were allegedly virgins I'm curious as to how they would even know what it is they like if they haven't really tried anything (including masturbation since most religions frown upon it.) That also seems unlikely to me. I love Dan calling her out on being smug and less than Christian acting. If it is genuine, Dan is right and the writer is *extremely* lucky. But sorry, it sounded like a letter written with an agenda rather than anything worth my time reading.

LW2 Your room mate doesn't own that guy. Fuck his brains out if you want to. G will just have to get over it.
Posted by ASX on November 11, 2011 at 7:06 PM · Report this
169
Ms Cute - Well, now I shall lose sleep from wondering why Latin was (at least at first) so relatively easy for Mary MacGregor. It's already bad enough that my character doesn't seem to match up with that of anyone in the Brodie set.
Posted by vennominon on November 11, 2011 at 9:46 PM · Report this
170
I'm actively asexual.
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 11, 2011 at 11:18 PM · Report this
171
A few responses in one nutshell here: sex is not the only or even the main reason why some people choose to marry. So a couple might well wish to marry even if the sex turned out to be bad. If you knew that you were going to purchase a house no matter what problems were found during the inspection, then it wouldn't be so important to have the inspection prior to closing the purchase. In addition, some people like HMW derive great joy from having waited to have sex until after the marriage happens. If they did not wait, even if they learned some useful info that way, they would have to sacrifice something they value very much. Meanwhile, there are real risks to having sex before marriage. So I don't think it's at all fair to consider HMW reckless, or to say she's being purposefully stupid about this issue.

I personally did not wait for marriage to have sex, but I get why someone would want that. My mom did want that, and it was indeed her own freely reasoned choice, not demanded by anyone else. I respect that, even if it's different from what I want, and I don't understand why other people can't respect people who have those values. If HMW had a foot fetish or something, most people on this blog would be all about respecting her choices. But if you want to save it for marriage? Somehow that's crazy, and you need to be getting out there and learning about yourself. Is that the only means we have of gaining the self-knowledge or concern for others that we need, to establish a long and happy sexual relationship with someone else? I doubt it.
Posted by Suzy on November 11, 2011 at 11:30 PM · Report this
172
@153Marley

Uhm, four poster bed and only two worn spots on the floor. In a vigorous sexual scenario how does that work exactly?

Posted by Xweatie on November 11, 2011 at 11:46 PM · Report this
173
@171(Suzy): The question was framed by the Letter Writer in terms of ' "sexual compatibility" (whatever that means)' and the parts of the relationship that she describes in glowing terms are specifically the sexual parts. So that's what people responded to here: the ways in which "sexual compatibility (whatever that means)" might go wrong.

For you to be bringing in all the other reasons that people marry anyway, despite bad sex, is moving the goalposts completely away from the original question. If she honestly didn't give a shit about sex, she wouldn't have framed the question (or her crowing about what a great sex life she enjoys) the way she did.

There are lots of examples that are perfectly obvious after even a moment's reflection, as we have seen in the responses. For someone to claim to be smart and then utterly fail to see the obvious, the net effect is of someone being deliberately obtuse.
Posted by avast2006 on November 12, 2011 at 12:56 AM · Report this
174
@171 I don't think anyone here is trying to be disrespectful toward people who choose to wait, but that letter was down right passive agressive. Even if the letter writer didn't realize it she was pressing her views on sex right done to the subtext of her question to the overall tone of her letter.

And yes, sex really does help you discover things about yourself. My outlook changed radically, I forsaked my previous religion, and left the life I was pursuing. Why? Because two really patient (but persistent) teenage boys were willing to challenge my views with conversation, friendship, and (finally!) sex. Were they trying to get laid? Hell ya. Yet oddly enough I'm the one still benefiting from it. They showed me something beautiful that I was made to believe was only ugly and cruel. With that came the question; what else is there? But instead of just asking and taking whatever I was given, I wanted to find out for myself and I still do. I owe that to them and the experiences I had with them.

Did any of it end with a marriage, a house, and a horde of children? No. Some of the best things in life don't last forever. They don't follow a carefully perscribed plan or turn out as we think they should, yet you hardly hear anyone cautioning against them.
Posted by mygash on November 12, 2011 at 1:12 AM · Report this
175
Isn't it obvious that you should have sex before marriage? I mean, you wouldn't buy a hat without trying it on first, would you?
Posted by Larry1234 on November 12, 2011 at 5:46 AM · Report this
176
@153 After my grandfather died (a decade and a half after my grandmother) we were cleaning up and going through their things, and I inherited two well-read copies of the Kama Sutra. No matter what the reactionaries like to pretend, people have been getting up to all sorts of kinky stuff for as long as there have been people. Why on earth else would Leviticus have felt compelled to write down rules about this stuff?

@154 Amen brother!

@167 I'd like to say it's because, unlike computer language (mathematical) grammars, spoken language grammars - especially English - have lots of nonsensical and irregular rules. Mathematical grammars are strict and consistent. But that's not really true; most coders and admins are lazy, so if the system doesn't reject it, we assume it's good, and just keep going.
Posted by uber-nerd on November 12, 2011 at 6:18 AM · Report this
nocutename 177
Oh, No Way, Mr. Venominon!
No way are you bringing The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie into this!!!
I'm teaching it to a bunch of (hopefully) enthralled freshmen right now.
Mary Macgregor never found Latin easy--she misunderstood it.

I think you must be the gay, male, mirror image of me.
Posted by nocutename on November 12, 2011 at 7:34 AM · Report this
nocutename 178
@171 (Suzy):
This letter appeared in a sex advice column whose readership's general attitude is presumably well-known, and it it doesn't mention a single thing about their married life except sex. Furthermore, the lw's tone is smug and self-satisfied and her entire letter is a challenge to the idea of establishing sexual compatibility before marriage. This is more than passive-aggression: she is throwing down a gauntlet.

Therefore, to accuse those Slog contributors who are arguing with her points of being disrespectful of other people's choices is to be disingenuous. No one on this thread likely has any beef with (or even interest in) how the lw conducted her personal courtship, sex life, wedding night. But she's implied that everyone else's choices are wrong, and that's what people are responding to.
Posted by nocutename on November 12, 2011 at 7:48 AM · Report this
nocutename 179
Crinoline and ankylosaur, I can't say I'm a "fan of Hofstadter, having only glanced at Godel, Escher, Bach a long time ago, but I'm definitely going to give Le Ton beau de Marot a read.
Thanks for the recommendation.
Posted by nocutename on November 12, 2011 at 9:16 AM · Report this
180
@171(Suzy), I also personally get why someone would want to wait for marrige -- my brother-in-law, now my sister's happy husband, wanted and did wait till marriage as a virgin (he was 24 at the time). He had all those dreams of discovering sex together with my sister, like going to an amusement part for the first time and having that feeling of wonder at all the rides he had never tried.

I get that.

I just disagree with it, because I think the risks aren't worth it. It's the same reason why I also get why someone would like to smoke, but I don't think it's a good thing to smoke -- even for those who do.

But I'm not going to tell smokers who are aware of the risk to stop smoking. And I'm also not going to tell my brother-in-law that he made the wrong choice, nor your mum, Suzy. As long as they knew the risks and still wanted to wait, and as long as they don't regret having done that -- I have nothing against them. Live and let live, enjoy the life you chose to have, etc.

Still, the risk is there. My entire point is this: there is a risk you're running if you marry without knowing who your partner is sexually. I don't think you, or anyone, would want to argue that there is no risk in lacking knowledge. There is.

But if you know the risk, and decide to go along and do it anyway... by all means. I wish anyone luck who does that. I'm not sad for HWM or for you mum or my brother-in-law, since these people are happy with the choices they've made and were aware of the risks at the time they made said choices. That's all.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 12, 2011 at 10:38 AM · Report this
181
@mygash, who wrote:
Why? Because two really patient (but persistent) teenage boys were willing to challenge my views with conversation, friendship, and (finally!) sex. Were they trying to get laid? Hell ya. Yet oddly enough I'm the one still benefiting from it. They showed me something beautiful that I was made to believe was only ugly and cruel. With that came the question; what else is there? But instead of just asking and taking whatever I was given, I wanted to find out for myself and I still do. I owe that to them and the experiences I had with them.


Curiously enough, I had a similar experience; in my case, it was women who pushed me towards doing things I had thought of as ugly and cruel, and then discovered I liked. And I am equally thankful to them; I shudder to think what kind of person I would have turned into if I hadn't met them.

It's interesting how human contact can enrich your life. And it's interesting how so many people who accept this idea -- that human contact enriches life -- suddenly stop when sex comes to the fore. Again, I think, sex has so much baggage and bad PR in our society, it's difficult to see it as simply one of the ways in which people can show themselves human.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM · Report this
182
@137, Hunter, boasts like you are part of the problem for the silent majority of men. I am not ready for action every day, which makes me no different from most healthy men. But since you insist on being an asshole about it, let me say that your boasting makes me doubt very strongly that you are as much of a sex machine as you pretend to be.
Posted by cockyballsup on November 12, 2011 at 10:49 AM · Report this
183
@178, yes, and let me add that the letter writer's statement that she was an evangelical Christian and that she had supposedly atheist friends was entirely superfluous to the substance of the letter, except to make it into the precisely the kind of political statement her religion supposedly isn't, in a very backhanded and passive aggressive way.
Posted by cockyballsup on November 12, 2011 at 10:55 AM · Report this
184
@crinoline and nocutename, I am a big fan of Hofstadter (I guess it shows); he was one of the authors I read in my early teens that really made me want to go into science. (The others were Asimov and Dawkins). Hoftstadter has a boyish style, and an enthusiasm that is difficult not to be inspired by. He talks about his experiences in translating a simple French poem, then about learning foreing languages, and what it means to speak another language. And he also talks about his love for his wife, who died as he was writing the third part of the book. I found it a wonderful read.

Crinoline, you asked:
Why doesn't your typical computer wizard love grammar?


I've actually thought about this question at some point. My conclusion is that it's because computer wizards like to do things with code. I was a computer wizard for a while, so I think I know how they feel: the code does stuff, you can see the results on the screen, and if you're good you can write code that does stuff in a way that is particularly smart. You have an idea -- 'I could get this to work if I encoded it like this...' -- and then you go about making it happen, then the sheer pleasure of seeing the result pop up on the screen, and of knowing what goes on behind the screen that made that happen... that is as sweet as rivers of milk and honey.

In other words: the typical computer nerd isn't so much in love with the rules of the computer language, but with what s/he can make the computer do with these rules. It's about his/her creativity, his/her insight in seeing a solution to a problem that uses a non-trivial device others wouldn't have thought of. True, s/he can appreciate a certain language because it was well written and organized (I love R, for instance, a language I'd recommend to anyone who wants to do statistics), but usually what s/he appreciates in the language is how easy it makes to do certain things (say, build interlocked arrays or matrices that can be broken up into subarrays or submatrices and moved around in all kinds of ways with single commands, rather than needing special subroutines or a special function definitions, as R does) so much more easily and comfortably

So a typical computer wizard looks at French grammar and thinks: your adjectives have to agree in number and gender with your nouns? OK, it's like making sure your array pointers are the same in your subroutine and in your main program. But what can you do with it? Just say the same things you would be able to say with English, without making adjectives agree with the nouns they modify? Ahhhh... that's not interesting!...

I guess computer wizards are like people who want to learn a language for some other goal -- all those friends I had who learned English only because it was going to help them in their careers, or because they wanted to read certain books available only in English, or even because they liked English literature and wanted to read the original texts... but never had any thought for the internal beauty of this language, its unexpected weirdness, its labyrinthic vocabulary, its fascinatingly complex pronunciation (I don't think there's anything in any language as difficult to pronounce as "I'm a Third Worlder" -- try to get a foreigner to say that well!)

(In my home, by the way, I'm the one who corrects my wife's e-mails. She speaks four languages, but she doesn't like any of them, so she's often angry at the "illogical rules" these languages force her to abide by. My Dutch is better than hers, so every time she wants to send an important e-mail I proofread it to guarantee that the verbs are all in the right places, that all the double vowels and consonants are as they should, and that she hasn't chosen the wrong article (het or de, that is the question).
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Posted by ankylosaur on November 12, 2011 at 11:27 AM · Report this
185
Ankylosaur, as an ex-programmer, but more in the academic "formal structure of computer languages" mold, I am somewhere in the middle with this. I am fluent in four languages and I do love the logical aspect of grammars. For example, adjective-noun agreement for number in Spanish is quite beautiful, logical, and easy to learn. However, as a speaker of Afrikaans (a streamlined and much rationalized descendant of Dutch) arbitrary rules such as those concerning het/de in Dutch just annoy me. They are inelegant and don't contribute anything to the expressiveness of the language. Coming back to computer programmers, in informatics (as in all mathematics) useless complexity is considered ugly. So computer people are perhaps more likely than most to recognize that gratuitous grammatical complexities don't contribute to expressiveness in natural languages, and therefore to consider these misfeatures.
Posted by cockyballsup on November 12, 2011 at 1:02 PM · Report this
186
Loved the pacing of the last segment there; great fun to read aloud.
Posted by Chelseaknits on November 12, 2011 at 2:42 PM · Report this
187
@180 How refreshingly sensible.
Posted by maddy811 on November 12, 2011 at 3:21 PM · Report this
188
@185(cockyballsup), I think your pleasure with formal (and informal) languages is similar to the pleasure my linguist colleagues have who are into theory (like, say, Chomsky): they like beautiful patterns and elegance expressed as symmetry, proportionality, and ease of application to specific tasks. And I get that, too.

I see that you like what is logical about grammars; so, for instance, you probably like the existence of definite articles like the or het/de (or die in Afrikaans) because the category of definiteness ('a set of one', according to one theory, or 'the presupposition that the speaker knows which object I am talking about') is logical, useful, and makes sense. (I've always felt articles, especially definite articles, are a very elegant feature of the languages that have them.)

And you dislike those features of languages that don't help (i.e. don't let you 'do stuff' with language in an efficient and/or elegant way, as I said in my previous comment). Indeed, Dutch het/de doesn't help that. Curiously, though, such features do exist in languages. Afrikaans isn't free of them: you also need to put your verbs in second position in main clauses, but at the end in subordinate clauses -- why? And what's the deal with the double "nie...nie" negation that follows several complicated rules when you have a subordinate clause involved (say, "Dit is nie so moelijk om Afrikaans te leer nie" instead of "Dit is nie so moeilijk nie om Afrikaans te leer")?

So, aside from "logical" and "elegant" rules, all human languages have "illogical" and "non-elegant" or "non-functional" rules. Now, why the heck should this be the case? Why aren't natural languages just 100% efficiency-and-elegance-oriented? Wouldn't this make them better, easier to use, and therefore more useful? Doesn't it even look like an exception to Darwinian evolution, according to which everything should adapt to be as efficient as possible in its environment?

The reason is, I think, that languages evolve in reaction to a number of different pressures from different parts of their environment, and what maximizes efficiency/elegance/usefulness for one of these parts actually diminishes it for the others, leading to a trade-off. But this is a complicated question.

More important here, the fact is, every language has 'illogical', 'inelegant' and 'inefficient' features. And to me, this is almost painfully beautiful.

You see, when you're in love with someone, this usually happens not despite, but often because of, little strange features this person has that "just exist" but don't have any efficiency or logics to them. I love the form of my wife's ears, for instance; I also love the way she frowns when she's thinking; I also love the way she starts playing with her little fingers when she thinks nobody is looking. The way she types is inefficient (she still uses only two or three of her fingers), but she can do it very fast (she types as fast as I can); I imagine this is actually more work than typing as I do, with all fingers, but she manages to do the job. And I find it endearing.

Same thing with languages. Yes, het/de is "annoying" in the sense that I can't predict whether it's "de opdracht" or "het opdracht". But it is also the result of centuries of historical evolution, starting with an even more complicated system of articles (like der/die/das in German), and it allows for some surprisingly charming distinctions in meaning (say, "de mens" vs. "het mens").

It's a quirk, a part of what gives Dutch its individuality. And what we love in individuals is their individuality, what makes them different, what makes them them. In the same way that a little imperfection on a lady's face can make her actually look more beautiful than she would be if she were "classically" perfect, it's also precisely the 'imperfection' or 'illogicalness' of the Dutch het/de that (to me) creates part of what the specific charm of the Dutch language is.

Spanish would be easier, but also less deeply human and charming, if it didn't have irregular verbs. So would French without double negations, or without the (so-called) pronouns "en" and "y". So would Russian without all those strange, illogical, and therefore so humanly charming rules about which case to use with numbers. These so-called 'imperfections' actually humanize languages for me, they make languages really look like people, people who you can love and relate to precisely because they are not 100% logical, efficient, and elegant.

The above makes sense to me, of course, and explains why these 'illogical' and 'inefficient' rules are precisely among the things I value the most in natural languages. But they are not inherent features of the linguistic system, nor features with a clear positive value. You may not like them (most people I know hate foreign languages because of such features; my wife certainly does). But, to someone who does like them, languages become so much more like living beings, like real friends if you want.

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Posted by ankylosaur on November 12, 2011 at 4:12 PM · Report this
189
Why aren't natural languages 100% efficiency oriented?

I think a lot of the reason comes from the need to communicate ambiguity. Deborah Tannen talks about this in one of her books. (I forget which.) I'm not sure I can sum up her argument well, but I believe it comes down to making sure humans have an escape route, a way of saying "I'd like this if you'd like it, but if you don't like it, I was only joking." Meanwhile, you don't come out and ask because the other person what they'd like because their answer would be similar. They don't want to give a direct answer either. So words don't have precise quantifiable meanings. Instead, they have a range of meanings that change with context.

None of that explains how languages move towards both the precise and the ambiguous at the same time or how ambiguity works its way into grammar. I don't have the answers and don't work in the field.

(Ankylosaur-- Can you stand some constructive criticism? I like reading your short essays so much I almost hate to say this, but could you lay off the italics used for emphasis? Your writing is clear and good the way it is. The italicized words are distracting to the point of annoyance.)
Posted by Crinoline on November 12, 2011 at 4:43 PM · Report this
190
Ms Cute - Lucky you. I suppose we could try to Brodiesplain using Deirdre Lloyd as our point of entry. It would be fairly apt, with the Lloyds being Catholics and made to have a lot of children by force. And, while Mary thought that Caesar lived in the time of Pepys and that Latin and shorthand were one, it was still an easier language for her than English.

I do imagine, though, that I'd prefer Warrender Chase to The Transfiguration of the Commonplace.
Posted by vennominon on November 12, 2011 at 6:29 PM · Report this
191
Mr Ank - I disgraced myself on my one visit to Amsterdam in 1998. Despite my being able to read a tolerable amount of Dutch after six months of preparation, any time I tried to speak it the only language that emerged from my mouth was Swedish, which I'd been teaching myself for three years. Fortunately, my days of Travel Abroad are over. This eliminates the chance of repeated failure.
Posted by vennominon on November 12, 2011 at 6:39 PM · Report this
192
@Crinoline, sure. I'm OK with criticism. I can wax a bit emotional when talking about a topic I like, and the italics are one way of making this emotional visible. I don't like the SCREEMING CAPS because they seem aggressive, and bold/underline also do, even if a little less. I thought italics would give the right inflection and translate the emotion, but re-reading what I wrote I think I see what you mean.

As for why languages have non-logical features... Ms Tannen writes about communicative needs and how to use words to do things more than about grammar itself, so she's tackling the problem at a different level. Ultimately I think the reason why languages have these "misfeatures" is the same as the reason why people have idiosyncratic behavioral features (like my wife playing with her little fingers): it's the effect of history.

Like the human genome, so full of junk DNA and apparently useless codons, grammar is a repository of a number of thigns that are the way they are just because of the historical origin they had. The most obvious example is words themselves. There is no reason why a certain word -- say, "pet" -- has the meaning it has -- "domestic animal one has only for the pleasure of having it". In other languages, the same "word" (= sequence of sounds) can have other meanings (in Dutch, "pet" means 'cap'; in French (and in Catalan), "pet" means 'fart'; in Russian, "pet'" means 'to sing'; in Romansch, "pet" means 'chest, breast'; in Serbo-Croatian (and in Bulgarian), "pet" means 'five'.

There is no reason to associate a certain word with a certain meaning -- other than the history behind that word. In the case of "pet", this history is unknown -- www.etymonline.com tells me there is no convincing etymology for it. But for most English words, there is a story that explains why it has the form it has. The word "world", for instance, was "woruld, worold" in Old English and meant only "human existence, the affairs of life", and comes from wer 'man' (cf. Latin vir 'man', found in e.g. 'virile'), an old English word found nowadays only in the words "world" and "werewolf" (= man-wolf). The ending in "world" is from Old English ald 'age', i.e. wer-ald "man's age", "age of man", "generation of man", "generation", "(whole) population", "humanity, humankind", "the whole physical world".

So we see that "world" and "werewolf" (and "virile") have similar initial sounds because they come from the same original word, and likewise for the endings in "world" and "old". The meaning started out as "age of man" and ended up as "physical universe" through a series of small steps, typical of semantic evolution. A few remnants of the old meanings have been left behind (again www.etymonline.com tells me that the expresion "world without end", i.e. "throughout time, throughout the ages", is a remnant of the time when "world" meant "age", like a living fossil).

The same thing is true for illogical grammatical idiosyncracies. Consider adjective-noun agreement in most European languages (English is almost unique in Europe in that it has no agreement under no circumstances between adjective and noun -- except for the demonstratives this and that becoming these and those when followed by plural nouns). At first sight it seems idiosyncratic (and unnecessary, since English does well without it). But it exists because there was a time in the history of Indo-European languages when adjectives were indeed nouns (Sanskrit is still almost like that: the differences between adjectives and nouns in Sanskrit are very small), so that, like all nouns, they also had gender and number (and case). Later on, when they specialized as noun modifiers and lost their nominal status, they conserved this feature -- having number and gender (and case) -- from their nominal past.

The fact that they have to agree with the noun they modify also makes sense historically if you think that originally the noun and the adjective would be two nouns that refer to the same real-world entity -- as in when you say "My son, the Prince of Wales", both "My son" and "the Prince of Wales" refer to the same real-world entity, Prince Charles -- and since this real-world entity of course had one specific gender and one specific number, so would both nouns referring to it. I can't seriously say "my daughter, the Prince of Wales" or "my son, the Princess of Wales" without creating an identification paradox.
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Posted by ankylosaur on November 12, 2011 at 7:07 PM · Report this
193
Mr Ven -- you chose a good country to 'disgrace yourself in', since the Dutch are almost all convinced that their language is the most difficult in the world and that any tourist who makes the effort to learn it must be crazy -- nice crazy, because it's pleasant to see someone making the effort of learning one's language, but crazy nonetheless. I'm sure they thought you were a hero for trying.

I've been living here for over ten years, and my Dutch has become comfortably fluent. But I still have a (to Dutch ears) very obvious accent, and many people here, when they first meet me and hear my first words, immediately switch to English because they assume that's what I would like. If I tell them I actually like their language, they look surprised and ask me why. Indeed, who in his/her right mind could actually like Dutch? It's funny -- and slightly tragic, when you think about it.

Of course I mean no disrespect to the Swedish language. I actually could speak it a while ago -- but learning Dutch obliterated my Swedish almost completely (and quite affected my German, who is now desperately struggling to survive). I can still understand it, but any attempts at saying something meaningful come out so full of Dutch words that they are really useless. Ah, life!...
Posted by ankylosaur on November 12, 2011 at 7:20 PM · Report this
194
@42 wayne, are you still with us?
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 12, 2011 at 7:29 PM · Report this
195
@187 maddy811: I second that!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 12, 2011 at 7:33 PM · Report this
nocutename 196
ankylosaur, have you read "Dear American Airlines?"
I think you might enjoy it.
Also, perhaps, "Netherland?"
Posted by nocutename on November 12, 2011 at 8:05 PM · Report this
197
Everyone keep talking to ank... He/she just might get a writing gig at stranger. Obviously ank HAS a need to be read. The volume is disturbing.
Posted by osage2112 on November 12, 2011 at 8:22 PM · Report this
198
osage, you don't look disturbed. Or else you'd go somewhere else... I mean, sort of being a masochist, why would you keep coming back to what disturbs you?

Peace, and good luck!
Posted by ankylosaur on November 12, 2011 at 9:00 PM · Report this
199
nocutename, no, I haven't. But the reviews I googled suggest they're interesting reads (especially "Dear American Airlines"). :-)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 12, 2011 at 9:04 PM · Report this
nocutename 200
Thank you, cockyballsup.
Posted by nocutename on November 12, 2011 at 9:25 PM · Report this
201
Hey, everybody, I think @42 needs a hug.
Or a drink.
Or malt liquor and cocaine.
Or something.
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 12, 2011 at 10:56 PM · Report this
202
This is all off-topic, but re the recently popular linguistics:

Computer languages are only distantly related to human languages. True language is communication between people. Computer language is telling a machine what to do, even if it's as sophisticated as predicting what people will do. Computer languages usually only have a few dozen words. Uninflected, totally syntactic. But the writer can make up and define unlimited variables, procedures, and objects. He is a language creator, not student.

But I do like tongue play.

Posted by Hunter78 on November 13, 2011 at 6:08 AM · Report this
203
Ms(?) Osage reminds me that Ms Erica has been uncharacteristically quiet lately. I hope Mr Erica hasn't murdered, imprisoned or maimed her.
Posted by vennominon on November 13, 2011 at 8:29 AM · Report this
204
Mr Ank - Lucky you. I've always considered it quite telling that, on my day of departure from Amsterdam, I had such transportation difficulties that I missed my return flight.
Posted by vennominon on November 13, 2011 at 8:40 AM · Report this
nocutename 205
@203: I noticed that, too.
I rather think she'd like being imprisoned and maimed by Mr. P . . .
Posted by nocutename on November 13, 2011 at 9:27 AM · Report this
206
@202, John Searle has an article (and, I think, a book chapter in his book Consciousness and Mind that compares computer and human languages. He sees more interesting differences between them (there is no pragmatics in computer languages, for instance).

Hofstadter also addressed the topic of the difference between formal languages (which include not only programming languages, but also logical notation, mathematics, and other formal symbolic systems) and natural languages. Apparently words like "ought to" or "should" make a lot of sense in natural languages, but none whatsoever in computer languages (which are all imperative, "do-this-then-do-that").

@203-205, I hope she's OK. At some point she said she was afraid MrP could prohibit her from commenting here again...
Posted by ankylosaur on November 13, 2011 at 9:41 AM · Report this
207
No cute,

I agree with you, Erica would love it. Unfortunately, she's probably working on another opus to bless us with.
Posted by Hunter78 on November 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM · Report this
nocutename 208
I'm hoping that Erica is taking a vacation.
Posted by nocutename on November 13, 2011 at 11:19 AM · Report this
209
Dan, I love the way you call people on their assumed bullshit. We all need to be called out on a lack of insight...especially when it comes to peeking into the morales and standards of others, especially when it comes to sexuality. Many a religious person can do with this, and many are truly enlightened also, having achieved a certain benevolent non judgement. I have worked in Sex Shops and have found that what you see isn't neccessarily what you get. The most badass whorebag can be actually at heart pretty conservative..and viceversa. It's all a mysterious business and that's what makes it such god damn ( pun intended ) good fodder! Keep killing it! xx
Aussie Fan from Sydney
Posted by Yobie on November 13, 2011 at 2:43 PM · Report this
210
I'm guessing the reason an Evangelical Christian would have no idea what "sexually compatible" means and what could be a deal-breaker in the bedroom is because it's not a group known for their sexual knowledge and discussions. One person has a penis, the other a vagina - how much more sexually compatible can you get?(/sarcasm) Of course they want the same thing; what could either one want other than putting a penis into a vagina? And how would either of them even know that massive shits (or costumes or handcuffs or oral sex) were a prerequisite to orgasm? You might as well tell them, "You might get married only to discover that one of you can only eat breakfast after the other one takes a massive shit on his chest." They'd laugh (at best).
Posted by RebeccaAnne on November 13, 2011 at 3:19 PM · Report this
211
I'm new here, so please forgive my ignorance but how does one go about finding a sex club like the one HAWT mentioned? Google is turning up only gay clubs in DC and the husband and I would be interested in a straight sex club or party. We've thought about vacationing at a resort that allows nudity to start but would love some ideas. Thanks!
Posted by info curious on November 13, 2011 at 3:35 PM · Report this
212
In addition to looking at my local public library catalogs looking for some of the books on translation and linguistics suggested, I've been thinking about the original HMW question. Allow me to play devil's advocate here. I'm not trolling. I'm thinking out loud.

I do agree that there's nothing wrong with sex before marriage. I take that as a given. I do agree that one reason for sex before marriage is to gain knowledge about basic compatibility and personal likes and dislikes. I do agree that another reason for sex before and after marriage is because sex is fun.

I'm addressing myself to what might be a possible negative to sex before marriage. From what I read in the media (not from personal experience or people I know) young people begin having sex thinking that they're getting practice for more committed relationships but instead find that they've only practiced disassociating sex from affection. They start thinking there's the potential for an emotional as well as a physical charge. They learn that they've gotten a weak version of the latter and none of the former.

If that's the cultural milieu you live in, if that's the expectation, I understand wanting to shift the focus back to sex + friendship, affection, and love. You think about how you might achieve that, and you wonder if putting commitment foremost might be the way to get it.

I read "What, Me Marry" in the November Atlantic, and it seems so bleak. The article paints a picture of women sleeping around and not enjoying it much. There was a similar article in a NYT magazine some 7-8 years ago that was similarly frightening. Younger and younger teens having more and more (non-PIV) sex with less and less of the sort of fun and excitement that I remember. (And just as I get ready to get run around screaming that the sky is falling, I take my deep breath and realize that the article isn't describing anyone I know, that it isn't talking about any of the young people in my acquaintance.)

Part of me sees HMW's (not very well articulated) point. I don't think she's capable of thinking it through mathematically, but if the pool of people who waited until marriage were larger because of cultural constraint and expectation, there would be a greater number of ordinary, vanilla-satisfied folks in it. The chances of hitting it lucky would increase. The people who wait for marriage wouldn't be as likely to be people who have misgivings about sex in the first place-- which lowers the chance of 2 sex positive people finding each other.

That could make you yearn for a culture found (I guess, don't really know) in the 40s, 50s, and 60s in which it was likely that you had some experience necking and petting with a select few (not the no-kiss rule that HMW describes) such that by the time you lost your virginity on your wedding night, everything was in place statistically for it to be a pretty good experience.
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Posted by Crinoline on November 13, 2011 at 3:37 PM · Report this
213
Hi everyone - I was at OccupyPortland. Much fun. But had to save my power for tweeting the revolution. Home again now, catching up on Slog/SL...
Posted by EricaP on November 13, 2011 at 3:38 PM · Report this
214
@211 - it's easier in a big city. You might consider a vacation to NYC, DC, Chicago, SF, Las Vegas, etc. Alternatively, sign up for FetLife, check out the groups in your area, and look through people's lists of "fetishes" to find people near you who are into public sex. Then ask them where they go.
Posted by EricaP on November 13, 2011 at 3:42 PM · Report this
215
Erica,

The advice giver is usually expected to read and understand the advice seeker's letter.

Posted by Hunter78 on November 13, 2011 at 4:19 PM · Report this
216
Good point, Hunter. Now if only you had some research skills to go with your snark and attitude.

@211:
http://www.tabulife.com/
http://www.swinglifestyle.com/swingers/c…
http://www.theprivateaffair.com/index2.p…
Posted by EricaP on November 13, 2011 at 4:55 PM · Report this
217
@212 (Crinoline), a fair question, and to me yet more evidence that Western culture does have a lot of baggage around sex -- nothing ever 'just happens' or 'is normal' when sex is involved, everything is pregnant (ha!) of all kinds of higher-level problems and cultural implications...

Here's my personal opinion. Dissociating sex from affection is not per se bad -- as a (female) friend of mine once put it, the pursuit of casual sex is a noble pursuit --; but it is happening now in a cultural context in which people often few insecure about who they are and what they want, i.e., a society in which many people often already start out not so much in touch with their feelings.

Add to this that -- understandably -- one of the first ways in which people who came from a traditionally anti-sex culture re-introduce sex into their normal lives after some sort of 'sexual revolution' makes it highly visible is by de-sensitizing themselves from it. All the 'big emotions' traditionally associated with sex were rather negative -- shame, "animal side", Satan's temptation, damnation (think of the word 'fornication') -- plus all the "serious" emotions associated with sex's prototypical setting in our culture, "romance" -- marriage, family, commitment, etc. -- make it difficult to jump into a mindset in which sex is a relaxed, joyful thing with laughs and humor, like playing a game, or a musical instrument, or sports.

So, an easier first solution is to dissociate sex from all emotions -- they were mostly negative anyway, so being able to do that feels like a step forward. At least I'm avoiding all the "seriousness". In fact, a lot of the sexual revolution was about telling people to let go of the negative ideas about sex and not so much about telling them which positive, life-affirming ideas to replace them with. The flip side is that avoiding emotions in sex makes it more difficult to connect on a human level with your sex partner(s) -- which leads to a certain dissociation between sex and affection when you want to think about sex. (Something you wouldn't do so often if you were thinking about music, or games, or sports; because these other topics are more 'normal', less 'problematic', they have 'less baggage'.)

Which makes me think that this is more a question of time. If the tendency towards seeing sex as a normal thing -- a pleasant activity that people can share for all kinds of reasons, the most frequent of which (but by no means the only legitimate one) being the forming and developing of emotional bonds ('relationships') -- then the cultural red-shift, the leftover baggage from 'sex is sinful and dirty', will slowly disappear.

All in all, the young people 'screwing around' and feeling disconnected from each other are still learning what it means to connect, to bond. Dan often says that very few people marry and stay forever married to their first highschool/college girl/boyfriend. Not only in sex, but in all kinds of interpersonal interactions, people at this stage are still learning how to connect.

Articles like the one you mention are, I think, talking about young people at this phase. Not all young people, by any means; and most of those who do go through such a phase emerge on the other side at some point, having learned how to make meaningful human contacts in various ways, including via sex.

The reason why the article seems so bleak is that (still because in Western culture sex is "something serious and dangerous", "not just a normal activity", so we should worry about it) it makes this lack of connection seem a consequence of the sex these young people are having. It's as if the article said "these people are so sad, and their sex is so bad, because it's sex we're talking about, this dangerous thing that can screw you over if you're not reeeaally careful about it". Whereas I think it's the other way round: because they're still in a phase in which they aren't dealing really well with post-family human contact, and because sex has all this cultural baggage (and now 'you have to do it' to show that 'you're liberated' and there's peer pressure and and and...), then their sex is bleak.

One may think the problem is they're having sex the wrong way, but it's just that they're young and don't know what they're doing when dealing with other people, so they're doing everything wrong that deals with interpersonal emotion, not only sex. I mean, look at their typical group dynamics.

Usually they grow up. And turn into us. :-)

I hope the cultural baggage around sex will decrease and ultimately disappear, so that this phase in their lives can become a little easier. Maybe someday learning about sex will be like, say, learning to ride a bike. Alas, that will probably take quite a while. Old ideas die hard.
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Posted by ankylosaur on November 13, 2011 at 5:25 PM · Report this
218
Erica,

Gosh, do you really know how to Google by yourself?
Posted by Hunter78 on November 13, 2011 at 6:19 PM · Report this
Lucius Scribbens 219
In response to HAWT and the couple at the swingers club that were not swinging with others:

Some people get-off on exhibitionism and that is why they are at the swingers club. To safely have sex while other people watch them.

I personally think HAWT's opinion is simply because they feel slighted because they don't get a wack at them. But then again, it's arrogant (and amateur swinger) to think everyone at a swinger's club wants to have sex with everyone else at a swingers club.
Posted by Lucius Scribbens http://www.bigger-love.com/ on November 13, 2011 at 9:32 PM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 220
This may be a disjointed comment further to what ankylosaur just wrote (but also referring another comment waaaay up the thread).

Why do people have sex? If not because it's fun – and good and good for you - especially if fun, pleasure and sexual health are not considered to be productive toward the common good of society (even more so in a sex-negative one), then it's because of peer pressure (in the young), or as an act of desperation (feeling lonely and either equating sex for love or simply assuaging body hunger). Eventually, one hopes that the young will grow out of the need to conform, gain greater self-esteem and actually learn how to have good sex so that they can and will enjoy it. After all, if most people were having good sex, Dan's column (and countless self-help books on sex) would have never taken off and become so vital.

Why do people get married? If not because it's because of love, companionship, commitment and the desire to form a stable bond (let's forget about those 70-day farces for the time being), then it's because of religious pressure AND knowing that one won't get to have sex at all without that all-important piece of paper (and presumably God's permission). That doesn't necessarily mean that post-marital sex will be good but there should BE sex.

The other thing that I can't believe has not been raised in over 200 comments is that fundamentalist religious dogma tells women they must submit to their husbands in all things. So, whether it's good or bad, sex will be one of those things. The problem with HMW's letter is that she's gloating that good sex is inevitable if one waits until marriage. Hey, she waited and just look at how fabulously things worked out for her. But there have been more than a few comments to refute the veracity and certainty of that inevitability.

So let's pretend she's one of the countless others who followed all of the rules, did the right thing, have had post-marital sex and are still waiting for it to be – if not downright less painful – then pleasant. They may have given up hope of it ever being pleasurable. If it's the woman who is unhappy, how is she going to approach her husband – who's supposed to be instructing her in all things – with a suggestion that ... uh ... perhaps they need help in the bedroom.

Anyway, I seem to have more questions than answers, but I'd love to hear from HMW – in her role as a physician - on how shocked she would be to have another evangelical (but brave) married woman approach her, saying that her unfulfilling sex life is making her miserable, and asking for HMW's advice.

I was about to ramble on some more, but I think I've made my point.
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Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on November 14, 2011 at 5:43 AM · Report this
221
217-ankylosaur-- Your logic is so evident, you make so much sense, that I'm having a hard time figuring out why I find the message so unsettling. I think I've found it in "make it difficult to jump into a mindset where sex is a relaxed, joyful thing with laughs and humor, like playing a game, or a musical instrument, or sports."

Here I am, someone who has reaped the benefits of being able to learn to approach sex playfully, relaxed, and with humor, and yet I'm still enough of an old-fashioned romantic to have trouble with comparing sex to playing a game or a musical instrument. It has the potential to be so much more than that. I still have enough baggage to think that sex + love is wonderful, maybe the most wonderful thing there is.

More than that, I address myself to the question of how to maximize the chances of achieving that baggage-free sex + love pinnacle given the baggageful cultural Western reality that we've got. I love the idea of sex-as-dirty paradigm falling away with time, but let's say your harsh reality is that you are a teenager feeling disconnected and learning to bond. Let's say that you're something of a basket case with baggage that goes well beyond sex. (Choose some or all of the following: a narcissistic mother, a father with a violent temper, a history of alcoholism, depression, or anxiety, learning disabilities covered by an intellectual and geeky veneer, etc.)

What's your best strategy? One possibility would be to experiment with sex in a culture that holds affectionless promiscuity in high esteem and hope for the best, hope that you don't run into partners that take advantage of you and trample on your heart, partners that leave you bitter and defended. Another would be to embrace no-kissing-before-marriage and hope that you get lucky enough to discover that you've found someone you're compatible with, hope that you're not in an unconsummated marriage 2 years in.

My point is that there are risks with BOTH. I got lucky with my series of sexual relationships before becoming monogamous, but I'm aware that a big part of my happiness now has to do with luck. Some smarts too in my choice of partners and knowing to back away when I got too close to a cliff, but I'm not bragging that I was so smart as to guarantee a good outcome for anyone who used my approach. Luck plays a part in everything. I realize that I have no more reason to be smug than HMW does-- though the temptation is certainly there.
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Posted by Crinoline on November 14, 2011 at 7:01 AM · Report this
nocutename 222
You, know, Crinoline, ankylosaur, and Helenka (also a Canuck), this conversation is getting much more interesting, thanks to your thoughtful comments. In my experience, the difference between sex that is fun and recreational and sex that has emotional connection behind it, is almost as profound as bad sex and good sex. (And when I speak of sex with emotional connection, I don't mean that it has to be tender or gentle, necessarily, either.)

So the trend that is being seen as either disturbing (to Crinoline or Helenka) or liberating (to ankylosaur), that of fairly meaningless, disassociated sex occurring between young people, doesn't have to be very important at all.

Because when those same people who were having sex for social acceptance, or because if they're being so sex positive and enlightened and all, they *should* be having sex with whomever is at hand and interested, or because it is something fun to do on a Monday night, or because their bodies are screaming at them for pleasurable sensation fall in love (and I’m a romantic at heart), then that sex will be transformed into something so much better than it was before. It won’t matter how it used to be except as a foil for how it is now. And if (I guess this is ankylosaur’s point) the negative, shameful aspect of sex has been removed, then so much the better. But sex as an expression of love, or sex served with a giant helping of love on the side, is a difference in degree so large that it might as well be a difference in kind. (Okay, Mr. Venominon, is that enough of a "Transfiguration of the Commonplace?")
Posted by nocutename on November 14, 2011 at 9:28 AM · Report this
223
Re: HMW - I think it's obvious that they WERE sexually compatible simply by virtue of the fact that both were willing to wait until marriage to even KISS. They’re both vanilla, conservative prudes who are willing to wait till marriage - think about that. That means it’s pretty highly unlikely that either one of them would have any deal-breaking kinks that they were leaving hidden until the big wedding night.

When you’re as innocent, naive, and uninterested in pre-marital sex as Christians like these people (because there are plenty of Christians who ARE interested in kinky sex, but they’re, as a general rule, not the type who wait until marriage to do anything sexual), it’s really unlikely that you’re going to whip out the BDSM manual on the wedding night. It’s certainly likely kinks become discovered later on in their sex life (I didn’t discover a lot of my kinks until after I’d been sexually active for several years and had several partners and one long-term relationship), but if you have NO exposure to sex and you’ve been working hard to suppress your sexual desires your entire adult life, it’s just very unlikely that this guy who waited for years to kiss the woman he was dating and ended up marrying would turn a 180 on the wedding night and say, Ok, now, shit on my chest before I can get an erection.

Unless he was lying to her the entire time, but that would mean he’s got MUCH bigger issues than Christianity (or she was lying to him & had some insane kink that sent him screaming from the room). Pretending to be an evangelical Christian for several years while you are actively not having sex and fulfilling your needs and desires? That’s kind of bizarre and fucked up behavior - not to mention unnecessary in a society where you can find anyone to indulge almost any kink out there.

But if you've never had sex before, how would you know that you need someone to shit on your chest before you can cum, or get it up, or whatever? I know some kinks people are always aware of, but many get discovered in the process of discovering your sexuality. I love you Dan but I think you needlessly swung a little too hard here & missed the big headline: they ARE sexually compatible and already knew that when they started dating and their desire to wait until marriage lined up with the others'.
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Posted by LosFelizGirl on November 14, 2011 at 10:20 AM · Report this
224
Re: HMW - I think it's obvious that they WERE sexually compatible simply by virtue of the fact that both were willing to wait until marriage to even KISS. They’re both vanilla, conservative prudes who are willing to wait till marriage - think about that. That means it’s pretty highly unlikely that either one of them would have any deal-breaking kinks that they were leaving hidden until the big wedding night.

When you’re as innocent, naive, and uninterested in pre-marital sex as Christians like these people (because there are plenty of Christians who ARE interested in kinky sex, but they’re, as a general rule, not the type who wait until marriage to do anything sexual), it’s really unlikely that you’re going to whip out the BDSM manual on the wedding night. It’s certainly likely kinks become discovered later on in their sex life (I didn’t discover a lot of my kinks until after I’d been sexually active for several years and had several partners and one long-term relationship), but if you have NO exposure to sex and you’ve been working hard to suppress your sexual desires your entire adult life, it’s just very unlikely that this guy who waited for years to kiss the woman he was dating and ended up marrying would turn a 180 on the wedding night and say, Ok, now, shit on my chest before I can get an erection.

Unless he was lying to her the entire time, but that would mean he’s got MUCH bigger issues than Christianity (or she was lying to him & had some insane kink that sent him screaming from the room). Pretending to be an evangelical Christian for several years while you are actively not having sex and fulfilling your needs and desires? That’s kind of bizarre and fucked up behavior - not to mention unnecessary in a society where you can find anyone to indulge almost any kink out there.

But if you've never had sex before, how would you know that you need someone to shit on your chest before you can cum, or get it up, or whatever? I know some kinks people are always aware of, but many get discovered in the process of discovering your sexuality. I love you Dan but I think you needlessly swung a little too hard here & missed the big headline: they ARE sexually compatible and already knew that when they started dating and their desire to wait until marriage lined up with the others'.
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Posted by LosFelizGirl on November 14, 2011 at 10:24 AM · Report this
225
@222 - in my experience, that love connection diminishes with time. The love doesn't diminish, sometimes the sex is still transformed into something mystical, but... having some experience, as ankylosaur says, with seeing sex as "a relaxed, joyful thing with laughs and humor, like playing a game, or a musical instrument, or sports" -- I think that is helpful for the later decades of marriage.
Posted by EricaP on November 14, 2011 at 10:31 AM · Report this
226
223-- That they were both willing to sublimate any sexual urges they had until marriage only says that they were compatible in their ability to sublimate. It says nothing about what the urges were that they were sublimating. I happen to agree with you about the unlikeliness of a shit-on-chest kink, but what about the very real possibility of a different sex drive incompatibility? That's the one where she's been waiting so long she can't wait to have sex 3x/day, and where he's been waiting so long he doesn't realize that his virtue is really anxiety and that he's so scared with a real woman (as opposed to masturbating) that he can't get it up.
Posted by Crinoline on November 14, 2011 at 11:14 AM · Report this
227
@225 Most of the adults in LTRs that I know seem to follow a similar trajectory, but I guess I'm too much of an idealist to accept the concept that when I have my own LTR it'll eventually be transformed into a very intimate friendship. 30 years from now, if I'm fortunate enough to still be alive and have a LTR, I hope to be on my knees having a go at him with his face just as lit up as any time in the years before. But I guess if it had to go the other way it wouldn't be a tragedy.
Posted by mygash on November 14, 2011 at 1:48 PM · Report this
228
@227 - it's more than intimate friendship -- we're very passionate for each other. (Of course we're only 16 years in, not 30...) But we have to be able to change the sex around, from day to day and from year to year, so it doesn't start to feel like brushing one's teeth or doing the dishes together. This has led to de-emphasizing sex as "This is So Powerful And Important A Shared Experience", in favor of more fun, lightness, pain, freakiness, you-name-it... Though some days, in some moods, it still is that special, romantic experience.
Posted by EricaP on November 14, 2011 at 2:33 PM · Report this
229
Crinoline, Helenka, nocutename, the issue you all mention is, I think, the old question of sex and love, sex with love, sex without love, love without sex... are they independent, can we get them together, etc, how can we do this, what is "being romantic", and so on.

I think I found out (after a number of experiences of varying degrees of success) how to think about love and sex, lust and emotion, attraction and tenderness, in a way that works for me. I don't know if it is universal -- I'll let others here enrich me. But there it goes.

One of the (contradictory) ideas that our society has come up with, and that constitute the baggage that sex has in it, is the sex-love connection. Sex is supposed to be (potentially) an expression of love, because (supposedly) it's possible to see lust (desire for the body) as connected to this yearing for the other person's soul, for the light that comes from that person and makes everything around her (and around me by reflection) so magic and valuable. Our society tells us to link the lust to the light, to think of the lust as part of the light, inseparable from it.

And it can be. It is perfectly possible, actually quite frequent, that sex is one of those moments in which you're there with someone, in which whatever it is you believe is inside of this other body (a soul, a "strange loop", a mind, a consciouness, a spark of divine light, layers and layers of acquired behavior, whatever) is also there with you, and both of you smile, and laugh, and feel connected in a way that is difficult to put in words.

But I've also felt similarly connected to people -- usually the woman I was with, but not only them -- in this very same way, this open-heart, we're-both-here-together, I-salute-that-in-you-which-is-the-same-as-that-in-me way, this desire for the happiness of this other person -- also without sex.

Some of my best bonding moments, moments shared with special people who meant a lot to me, were sexual moments. (And I don't necessarily mean 'nice' sex; BDSM can be just as adequate.) But some were not sexual. Some were conversations till late in the night, often leading to tears and hugs. Some were shared activities -- a movie seen together (Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence -- even today I can't hear Ryuchi Sakamoto's music without tears --, The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go), or a book read together (Ian McEwan's Atonement, or On Chesil Beach), or a trip to a certain place...

There was no sex in these moments; yet the connection, the bond, the emotions I felt were as strong as any I felt when having sex.

If this is the case (at least for me)... then the bonding and the sex are not necessarily linked, and it's only because society tells us that sex is a "special", "more significant", "irreplaceable" expression of love that we tend to see romantic relationships as involving the interconnection of sex and love.

Sex can be a wonderful expression of love. In fact, because of the intimacy and of the pleasure given and taken, it's actually quite easy to make it be that -- if you have any feelings at all for the person you're having sex with, they will shine like an aura around your head and hers (or his) almost automatically.

But it is not the only one. And this connection, these emotions, this proximity, are not the only reasons -- not even the only legitimate reasons -- why we want to have sex. Also, this connection, these emotions, this proximity can also be found elsewhere -- must also be found elsewhere, if a relationship is to have any meaning outside the bed.

So, Crinoline, you ask:
More than that, I address myself to the question of how to maximize the chances of achieving that baggage-free sex + love pinnacle given the baggageful cultural Western reality that we've got.


Yes, sex + love, right? Not other activities, like watching movies, reading books, cooking together, helping each other out, giving each other presents, playing games, doing sport, writing a book (or a computer program) together, traveling together... but sex + love.

But to me, love can be present in any of these activities, without sex being the one specially singled out to be more deeply connected to love than any other one.

If I see them as that... then what strikes me is that developing your sex and developing your love skills are actually different activities. Just as people talk about intellectual and emotional IQs, you can talk about sex and love IQs, which are related but not reducible to each other.

A person who selects your first strategy -- to go around having lots of sex with lots of partners -- is choosing one way of working on his/her sex IQ. S/he may, or may not, be working on his/her love IQ as well -- pick-up artists, gold diggers and other characters certainly aren't, no matter how much sex they have.

A person who selects your second strategy -- wait till you're completely sure (typically till you're married) before having sex -- is choosing one way of working on his/her love IQ (i.e., learning how to feel and develop the bond, the connection felt with another person, his/her 'one and only', his/her 'chosen one') but certainly not on his/her sex IQ.

If you only think about your sex IQ, you forget your love IQ -- and you run the risk of (as you put it) running into all kinds of bad sex partners who can scar you for life and turn you into a bitter person who doesn't see any good in anyone. Fucking just about anything that moves without thinking about them increases this risk.

If you only think about your love (= relationship) IQ, you run the risk of beginning the most meaningful relationship with your life with someone who is going to make you suffer sexually -- falling in love with someone who will frustrate you sexually (and who you probably will also frustrate sexually). Given how important sex is for humans, that would be hell.

So my conclusion, from my own experience, is that you have to develop both IQs. The perfect way would be to develop them simultaneously, which is not so hard: both sex and love IQ development imply having contact with other people. I believe this can be done by screwing around as much as you feel comfortable with (but without this being a commandment to increase your highscore to stratospheric heights for stupid reasons like peer pressure or pissing contests), while making every sexual encounter also count as a human encounter, something you can learn from for your love/relationship IQ.

The experiences don't have to be always positive. Maybe the love-IQ take-home message you get in a given situation is simply "boy, this guy/girl is an asshole! This is not the kind of person I want to be around, or in bed with, ever again! Phew! I'm glad I've worked this out!", even if the sex IQ increased (because, say, he actually did manage to show you that anal sex can be pleasant, so you now feel like exploring this -- net sexual IQ gain -- even if not with the same person -- no love/relationship IQ gain, other than the negative one of increasing your asshole recognition skills). Or it could be the other way around: you just had sex with a great person who you want to meet again and again; but his/her sex is totally vanilla, good but nothing new, so you're getting interesting new things in your love/relationship IQ development project ('this person is so interesting, I wonder how we're going to interact the next time we meet; what is it that makes meeting him/her seem so good? etc...') but nothing new in your sex IQ development project ('PIV, oral both ways, no anal, lots of foreplay and post-play cuddling... OK, been there, done that' But then still the question, 'maybe I could teach this person something?').

Of course all of this is complicated (and compounded) by our own issues -- past alcoholism, learning disabilities, social awkwardness, lack of self-esteem, etc. It's futile to imagine these things are not going to affect your exploration and development of your sex and love IQs. But at least these are problems in their own, problems that are neither created nor solved by sex and love, or the quest for sex and love. Just as they are neither created nor solved by our quest for work, and success in a career. Or for your desire to become parents and interact with and love our children.

That's how I see it anyway. :-)
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Posted by ankylosaur on November 14, 2011 at 2:34 PM · Report this
230
People who want to wait in our day probably have control or developmental issues. I'm not giving a clean bill of health to non-waiters, but the waiters probably have religiously distorted world views, and that's an unnecessary burden in an already tough world.
Posted by Hunter78 on November 14, 2011 at 2:35 PM · Report this
231
Here's perhaps a summary of all I said (lots left out, you be the judge).

The best strategy is to be aware. Living life with awareness, and trying to make the moments count -- that helps develop both the sex and the love IQs. Don't obsess about the sex IQ to the extent of paying no attention to your love IQ (why would you do that? insecurity?). Don't obsess about the love IQ to the extent of paying no attention to your sex IQ.

Think of both. Learn from both. If possible simultaneously, if not, then in whatever way the situation allows you to. Feed it back into yourself, use it to grow. Think about it. Feel it. Let your heart and your brains both work.

Do this also for all your issues, and don't think of them as being related to sex +/- love.

Don't be afraid of platonic love without sex, and don't be afraid of Erica Jong's zipless fucks either. Learn from them; learn who you are, learn how to deal with people (at the sexual and at the emotional level), find out where you want to go. And with whom. No matter how many (or how few) they are.

It won't be obvious, and it won't be easy -- because of all the other issues. But if you keep looking at life as an opportunity to grow, things should gradually improve. And ... the sky is the limit.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 14, 2011 at 2:42 PM · Report this
232
@230, as @221 above pointed out, there may be legitimate reasons to wait -- especially since nobody is completely "issue-less" in this world. I'd say it's a case-by-case thing. If you, personally, think you'd lose more by hurrying to bed than by running the risk of later on ending up with someone not sexually compatible with you, then this may be the best for you.

I waited a lot till I first had sex (I was a virgin well into my early twenties). I probably missed a lot of good things and good lessons; but all in all I don't regret it. (I was such a mess back then, I wouldn't have been a good sex partner to anyone who'd care to have me. I'm ultimately glad I worked through a number of other problems before actually tackling sex and love.)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 14, 2011 at 2:48 PM · Report this
233
@228 That's understandable and a lot better than what I had in mind reading your earlier comment. Sorry, but whenever I hear something like that I instantly imagine the LTRs within my family and the other adults I've known over the years. Most of these are dysfunctional or just outright depressing, so it's such a relief to me to hear of people in happy LTRs. I hope you and your husband enjoy many more fufilling years together.
Posted by mygash on November 14, 2011 at 3:26 PM · Report this
234
@229, 231 & 232, Lovely explanation! Or lovely arguement, depending on the reader. I have to say the few waiters I know personally fit Hunter's discription, but I do understand your reasons for waiting. The religious arguement just worries me, because their so disgusted by the idea I don't understand how they'd be able to turn it around before the honeymoon.
Posted by mygash on November 14, 2011 at 3:43 PM · Report this
235
@226 - You're very right on the sex drive incompatibility, it's definitely a possibility. I would hope, though, if they've been together for as long as they had been without having sex, they'd be willing to work through whatever incompatibility they did have. But evangelical Christians like that usually do really intense pre-marriage counseling & discuss EVERYTHING about marriage - including sex and everything there is to it - before they get married. My sister & her husband are evangelical Christians & I looked at their pre-marriage counseling workbook, and they each had to fill out a "sexual interests, needs, & expectations" questionnaire that was pages long and then discuss their answers with each other afterwards. It went very in-depth and was a big part of their counseling before getting married (they too didn't kiss till the altar). I'd rather just have sex before marriage, but a lot of people who don't cover that stuff in conversation beforehand.
Posted by LosFelizGirl on November 14, 2011 at 3:48 PM · Report this
236
ank @229, I liked this a lot: "screw around as much as you feel comfortable with ... while making every sexual encounter also count as a human encounter." Very helpful.

mygash @233 - thanks for your kind wishes!
Posted by EricaP on November 14, 2011 at 3:51 PM · Report this
237
@235, who wrote:
I'd rather just have sex before marriage, but a lot of people who don't cover that stuff in conversation beforehand.


Indeed, this is helpful. But since there are things about sex and how we react to it that we don't really know until we try it (just like everything else in life...), I'm not sure this is the best way. No matter how detailed you are about your own masturbatory (or simply erotic) dreams, you may still be surprised by a number of things that don't seem important in these dreams but end up being quite annoying in reality, in ways that are sometimes tragic. (I thought I was going to love PIV sex, like "every man does", right? It turned out it wasn't all that much fun to me, but I only found out about that after I did it a few times.)

As the social scientists say, collect your data. Questionnaires help, conversations help, by all mean have them. But experience does help, too ("participant observation"), and in a way that cannot be replaced by others.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 14, 2011 at 5:12 PM · Report this
238
@234, thanks. Indeed I think in the end it was good that I waited. (To give you an example, I remember with some sadness that there was one girl who quite freely and spontaneously expressed what was obviously sexual interest in me in my last year of highschool. At that time I was still so terrified of the idea of sex, and so angry at other guys at school who talked non-stop about it, that I did the wrong thing and simply didn't react at all to her. I was your typically bespectacled nerdy intellectual, bullied by all the bullies at school; I was under the impression that the world existed only to torture me. So of course I sort of thought the girl in question was 'part of the conspiracy' and would eventually humiliate me in front of everybody. So after some time in which we talked about all kinds of things during recess, I suddenly stopped talking to her, didn't return her calls, basically dropped her like a hot potato. Looking back, I think I probably hurt her, and in a totally undeserved way.)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 14, 2011 at 5:19 PM · Report this
239
@236(EricaP), I'm glad you liked it.

All in all, I think the young people Crinoline was talking about -- those who were bored screwing around -- were protecting themselves from human contact (insecurity, trust issues, etc.), in a way that curiously parallel those who wait till after marriage for sex for religious reasons -- these are protecting themselves from sex ('sex is a bomb, if you don't defuse it with marriage it can go boom and kill you!')

If you screw around like a pick-up artist you're going to miss one of the interesting things of sex, which is that you're fucking someone -- aren't you in the least curious about this other person? Don't you think s/he might have something to teach you, or even simply something interesting, or beautiful, in him/her?

Conversely, if you wait till after marriage just because 'sex is dangerous, dirty, etc.', then you've had all this emotional contact and emotional interchange with someone, perhaps even shared your intimate religious moments of exaltation before god and the numenous, all those wonderful things you did together -- and then there is this other wonderful fun thing you could be doing together, a terribly pleasant activity by itself, in which, as a bonus, you also get to see a new aspect of each other, and you aren't doing it, because... because of what again?
Posted by ankylosaur on November 14, 2011 at 5:38 PM · Report this
240
Two points re; HMW

1)How does she KNOW that, say, hubby isn't having somebody ELSE shit on his chest when she's off at Bible study(that hot youth pastor, perhaps?)

2)What country does she live in where being an evangelical Christian ISN'T, in some way, a political statement...The Republic of Jesuslavia or something?
Posted by AlaskanbutnotSeanParnell on November 14, 2011 at 6:27 PM · Report this
241
Mr Ank - I don't know why, but for some reason you are making me think of Tyra Banks' talk show and all those middle school girls who were (of course unilaterally) performing orally. I always wondered what would have happened if one of them had ever indicated that she might like to receive as well as to give.
Posted by vennominon on November 14, 2011 at 7:01 PM · Report this
242
Ms Cute - Well, I always considered Transfiguration to be a book that Dame Muriel would not herself have written. I wish we'd been provided just a titch more data about how Jenny came to bore Sandy at what proved to be the crucial time.

I was sorry to read that you consider yourself a romantic. We are likely to part ways when I start Woolfsplaining. Unfortunately, I already have an appropriate passage in mind; I am just waiting for the right letter to provide me with a suitable opportunity.
Posted by vennominon on November 14, 2011 at 7:13 PM · Report this
nocutename 243
@242: Sorry to disappoint. Maybe I'm a romantic because I am not in a relationship at the moment!

BTW, and on a related note: I don't rule out the kind of kinky, or hot, or funny, or no-big-deal sex that EricaP was talking about when I talked about sex with love. Indeed, to me, sex in the context of a loving relationship is often not of the "stare meaningfully into each others eyes" variety.
Posted by nocutename on November 14, 2011 at 7:41 PM · Report this
244
235-LosFelizGirl-- I would love to see the evangelical pre-marriage counseling workbook. Do you know where I could find it?
Posted by Crinoline on November 14, 2011 at 7:42 PM · Report this
245
220-Helenka-- If a patient came to HMW for advice on a unsatisfactory sex life, even an evangelical patient for advice on an unsatisfactory sex life within marriage, all HMW would have to do is say that she's not praying hard enough or that she didn't do the pre-marriage communication thing correctly. The logic is a perfect tautology. If the marriage works, then the participants did everything right, and it proves the theory that no pre-marital sex is the right way to go. If the marriage doesn't work, then it proves that the participants didn't do everything right, and it still proves that the theory that no pre-marital sex is the right way to go. There's no reasoning with people like that.
Posted by Crinoline on November 14, 2011 at 7:52 PM · Report this
246
229-Ankylosaur-- I've pinpointed the point of our disagreement. The following isn't meant to convince. I'm only (re)stating my position.

You say "There was no sex in these moments; yet the connection, the bond, the emotions I felt were as strong as any I felt when having sex." I've certainly felt other strong emotions, but the really bonding ones have come either through sex or through shared experience over a very long time. For shortcut intense bonding, reading a book together, cooking together, and helping each other out just don't do it. I suppose there's bonding in shared grief, in shared anger, or in shared danger, but give me sex over those any day. For the most part, negative emotions are lonely ones.

In fact, your argument is starting to sound like that of the fundamentalists. They're the ones who would say that sex isn't that important in a marriage, that shared goals and commitment are paramount, that you should be expected to stay in a sexless marriage or one with unsatisfactory sex because sex is only one pleasurable thing that people do together on par with listening to music, cooking and helping each other out. I just can't believe that the activities are equivalent. For me, sex is in a category by itself.

(Funny that _On Chesil Beach_ was such a powerful book for you. If there was ever an argument for the importance of good sex and the importance of sex before marriage, there it is.)
Posted by Crinoline on November 14, 2011 at 8:16 PM · Report this
nocutename 247
@220: I cringe at the thought of HMW dispensing marital advice to anyone, and think that Crinoline's imagination of that exchange @245 is probably accurate. But to be fair, I don't imagine that most physicians in our culture would necessarily be any better or any more comfortable discussing their patients' sexual dissatisfaction. I don't think our medical school trains doctors to do that. I've certainly never had a doctor, even my gynocologist, ask about my sexual satisfaction, and it has never, ever crossed my mind to think of asking any of my doctors for advise about any problems or unhappiness I might have.
Posted by nocutename on November 14, 2011 at 9:14 PM · Report this
nocutename 248
@248:
Thank you, Crinoline. I wanted to say something, but am too tired to articulate it thoroughly.
Ankylosaur, no matter how much other activities might bond me to another person, there is a difference in the kind of bond that shared, good sex provides. To me, it isn't comparable.
For one thing, I can and do enjoy other bonding experiences with lots of people other than the person I'm romantically involved with. But good sex is like glue that holds a couple together.
Posted by nocutename on November 14, 2011 at 9:17 PM · Report this
249
@213 EricaP: You GO, girl!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 14, 2011 at 9:30 PM · Report this
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@243(nocutename), it has been my experience that the difference between the "stare deeply into each other's eyes" and the "kinky/hot/funny/no-big-deal" kinds of sex is not at all as big as is usually imagined.

It's part of the love-via-sex viewpoint, according to which there is not only "good" and "bad" sex (a distinction that has its problems), but also "important sex" (staring-into-each-other's-eyes) and "frivolous sex" (hihi-haha, yum-yum).

I've so often seen one morph into the other at a moment's second that I don't think they're that far away. (The same happens in non-sexual situations, by the way. Some movie-watching scenes go from deep communication to just popcorn-and-laughs at the blink of an eye.)

It's as if frivolous sex were quite deep in its own, and important sex were also very close to being a joke sometimes, depending on our moods. I wouldn't let one of them make me feel guilty for not having the other. :-)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 5:52 AM · Report this
251
@244 (Crinoline), there seem to be a bunch of them at christianbook. Too bad we apparently can't look inside the covers.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 6:01 AM · Report this
252
@Crinoline (#229), in the same spirit...

All the activities I mentioned don't (usually) develop a deep bond the first time you try them, either. Things build up. Again, just like sex: the very first time you have sex with someone is usually not the most mystical or bonding, but later maybe there'll be one.

It's not the activity itself, it's the aura around it, which comes from whatever already exists between you and your partner there. If considered in themselves, the activities (including again sex) look just mildly amusing; it's what's going on inside that makes them different.

I think the basic point of disagreement between us is that you maybe think sex is special in itself, ontologically, in its essence -- maybe to you orgasms and hormones make it a unique activity incomparable to others, thereby exemplifying a difference of kind rather than a difference of degree (there's aso oxytocin, 'bonding hormones,' etc.). It's what I call the "love-sex intrinsic connection" viewpoint.

I indeed disagree with that. I don't know that this is the fundamentalist opinion (they seem to think sex is dirty or dangerous, and that it's holier to be chaste than to burn, even though it's better to marry than to burn). I think sex is one of the greatest joys in life; but that it is a part of life, not something on a different plane that has a deeper, intrinsic capacity of bonding people beyond anything else we know on earth.

My approach to sex is similar to Svutlana's -- whose hilarious, down-to-earth blog I thoroughly enjoy. Sex is fun, sex is knowing other people. But so are other things in life. 'Sex is life' means to me 'sex is in life', with all the good and bad that follows from it.

Anyway, that's true of me and my experience. If yours reflects a different reality, so be it. (It's like when I talk to religious people who can feel god's presence. I can't; they can; there usually isn't much more to say. If you feel an intrinsic connection between sex and love/bonding that goes beyond anything else in life, then all I can say is I don't, and that I fear this connection is socially constructed rather than intrinsically there. But maybe it's just me, I can't tell.)
More...
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 6:24 AM · Report this
253
@Crinoline, to summarize ... maybe to some people today sex is what Prince Charming's kiss used to be: that which has the power of (even if sometimes it fails to) awakening the certainty of love and bringing back to life a heart that had been sleeping for over a hundred years.

Considering how sex is a symbolic threshould in our society (1st,2nd,3rd base... 'taking things to the next level'... 'have you already slept together?') -- as if sex were like a sequence of doors such that, once you go through one, there is no coming back... (unlike other deep experiences like parenting, or friendship, or a fulfilling career, or inner growth) -- it's possible to see how this could come to be.

And indeed I disagree with that. :-)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 6:32 AM · Report this
254
251-anky-- Earlier I was so curious, but now that I actually look at the titles, I don't think I could stomach reading them.

247-nocute-- I'll be fair to doctors too. The first thing a doctor has to do is figure out whether a patient's problem is something with a physiological cause. No doctor has ever asked me about my satisfaction with my job, how I get along with my parents, or what I think of the current political climate either. If you're convinced that sexual problems/satisfaction are a personal matter that a doctor can't influence, then it makes sense not to ask about them or to refer the patient to a psychologist if the patient brings it up.

Posted by Crinoline on November 15, 2011 at 6:38 AM · Report this
255
Crinoline, who said: Funny that _On Chesil Beach_ was such a powerful book for you. If there was ever an argument for the importance of good sex and the importance of sex before marriage, there it is.

But since I agree with the premise, why is it funny?

Also, it's a book that talks about how people can deceive themselves by thinking they already 'know' what they are, who they are, who their partner is... People who thought they knew what sex was... and who later on through experience discover that they were wrong, that they had the power to make it work and failed only because of having the wrong notions about what sex is, what love is, and who they were as people.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 6:39 AM · Report this
256
@nocutename, who wrote:
Ankylosaur, no matter how much other activities might bond me to another person, there is a difference in the kind of bond that shared, good sex provides. To me, it isn't comparable. For one thing, I can and do enjoy other bonding experiences with lots of people other than the person I'm romantically involved with. But good sex is like glue that holds a couple together.


Ideally, I think you could experiment sex meaningfully with as many people as you experiment these other bonding experiences meaningfully. I don't think sex is intrinsically different from them, only in degree (and often because of social ideas).

Here's an example. I once read a science-fiction story (I think it was by Philip José Farmer, but I may be wrong) about a planet in which, after marriage, couples didn't have their first sex (they were very liberal with sex there and were having it all the time since before puberty), but instead planned a one-year trip to a tropical continent deliberately kept wild and dangerous. After one year of saving each other's lives, fighting together against hostile nature, solving together all kinds of practical problems like food and shelter, and making some sense of their condition, one of three things would happen: (a) they would die, (b) they would hate each other's guts, or... (c) they would have developed a love-and-trust bond so strong nothing else could break it.

Divorce rates on this planet were, says the author, among the lowest in the known universe.

I don't think a trip to a dangerous land is any more intrinsically a source of bonding than sex, or any other activity you care a lot about. But I can see how this would work.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 6:54 AM · Report this
257
Mr Ven, I'm not a big fan of Ms Banks (I think I've seen her program only once); but I think I've had had the same reaction as you did.

And that's not to say I'm against casual sex -- much the opposite. But there's a right and a wrong way (actually, several right and several wrong ways) to go about casual sex, like everything else in life.
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 7:23 AM · Report this
258
@238 "I was under the impression that the world existed only to torture me. So of course I sort of thought the girl in question was 'part of the conspiracy' and would eventually humiliate me in front of everybody."

Wow... that sounds exactly like me...
Posted by KateRose on November 15, 2011 at 9:49 AM · Report this
259
Hi Dan.

I have enjoyed reading/hearing a lot of your advice and commentary in the past, but I have to say I'm starting to perceive a lot of anger and resentment in your responses lately. Of course, it's completely possibly that I'm misreading the tone, but I wanted to throw this comment out there. Is it possible for someone to be so open minded that they go full circle and become close minded to those that aren't as sexually liberated? I mean that as an honest question, as I often find myself struggling between having compassion and patience with those who are more "conservative" and just feeling down right frustrated with them.
Posted by TorontoGuy on November 15, 2011 at 10:38 AM · Report this
260
nocute @247 -- my experiences have generally been similar to yours, although since telling our family doctor that we have opened our marriage (to explain wanting regular STD tests), we do now regularly talk about our sex lives with her. Mostly mechanics, but she has asked about the emotional aspects as well. (I think she is checking to make sure I am fine with the situation.)

nocute @248 -- I used to feel as you do, but you will not be surprised to hear that I now think it is dangerous to see sex as a special kind of relationship glue. If people put sex into this special category, that often leads to feeling betrayed if your partner has fantasies of other people (especially while in bed with you), or uses porn, or flirts (or, of course, touches other people in a sexual way). But over the course of a long relationship, most people will do some of those things, from a human desire for connection, without wanting to hurt their partner. I think the bond between partners emerges from time and shared experiences (including sex)... not from sex alone in some magical, mystical way.
Posted by EricaP on November 15, 2011 at 12:39 PM · Report this
261
247-- This isn't exactly what we were talking about what doctors learn in medical school on sexual issues, but it is somewhat on point:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/10…
Posted by Crinoline on November 15, 2011 at 12:54 PM · Report this
262
256-ankylosaur-- I know it's science fiction, so you shouldn't take this question too seriously, but I'm bored. Given the customs of that planet, wouldn't the couple who wanted to marry just privately commit to each other and skip the life-threatening, possibly-bonding, risk-taking experience? It would seem that the practical choice would be between casual sex that the society condoned, monogamous sex that the society didn't forbid but didn't bless with a marriage certificate, or a chance to die on a wild tropical continent.
Posted by Crinoline on November 15, 2011 at 1:17 PM · Report this
263
Erica,

No, we're not surprised you no longer consider sex a special glue. First your husband devastates you by announcing the marriage is open. Then you recruit a train of johns from the internet for some truly joyless sex. Finally your husband finds a gf.

Yeah, not a lot bonding going on here, except maybe hubby and gf. How's their relationship going?
Posted by Hunter78 on November 15, 2011 at 3:24 PM · Report this
264
Had sex with my husband 4 times in the last two days :-) And we each have some outside fun coming up as well (Mine is with someone I've been seeing since the summer who likes long, slow bjs and is devoted to getting me off multiple times; his is another date with someone he's just getting to know -- he and the gf broke up months ago because she wanted more time than he could give her.) Thanks for your concern!
Posted by EricaP on November 15, 2011 at 3:47 PM · Report this
265
Every swinger I've ever know has been creepy. HAWT's letter just confirmed what I've known since I was 18 when I was cleaning a swinger's house and he exposed himself to me.
Posted by catseye on November 15, 2011 at 5:04 PM · Report this
266
Erica,

How many times you've screwed in the last two days doesn't really reveal the depth of a relationship, does it? Wasn't that your point? Sex is no special glue?

You've been married about two decades. Three children. You do everything he commands. Good life together. You're hot. He wants out. He can't breath, the air is full of estrogen. You have a good life together.

You obey his command. You don't find happiness. He finds a gf. It doesn't last. How does it go on?
Posted by Hunter78 on November 15, 2011 at 5:29 PM · Report this
267
@266 - I was just comforting you that we're doing all right, because you seemed so worried about us. Yes, I'm happy with him. No, he doesn't want out. Or he could just leave. FYI, we've been married sixteen years and have two children. We have lots of glue -- Of course I don't think sex is unimportant in marriage. Shared sex, like conversation, eating together, travel, dealing with family issues, going on dates together, socializing with mutual friends, even discussing Savage Love columns, etc. (not to mention kinky sex parties) ... over the years, all those help build the trust, passion, and companionship that leads to an enduring marriage.
Posted by EricaP on November 15, 2011 at 5:58 PM · Report this
268
It sounds like you're both enduring this marriage. My best to you, thanks.

Posted by Hunter78 on November 15, 2011 at 6:07 PM · Report this
269
By the way, Hunter, why do you obsess so about me and my fetish for submission? Do you perhaps have a similar kink, that makes you feel weird? Your projections onto my life are so weird and perpetual, I have trouble understanding them, otherwise. Where did you come up with the idea that my husband "can't breathe, the air is full of estrogen"? I'd be happy to help you unpack your issues...
Posted by EricaP on November 15, 2011 at 6:11 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 270
Re: programmers vs. linguists

In graduate school, a classmate and I got into a friendly pissing contest trying to solve problems with the tightest possible code, as in "Oh, that took you 25 lines, you chump? I used three lines setting it up as matrices, then one line of matrix algebra and ... "

Which makes me think of poetry ... trying to load as much meaning as possible into every element.

Of course, a lot of programmers seem incapable of operating in non-deterministic environments, which is not very poetic.

And I am in awe of the volume and quality of some of the conversations going on here, usually involving ankylosaur. I barely have time to read them, much less come up with anything useful to add.

Regarding the first letter writer, I agree that she's smug and detestable. I also wonder if she and Suzy and other apologists are simply tone-deaf to their own smugness. How can you be smug if you're simply stating the Truth? I know a couple of otherwise intelligent doctors who are True Believers, and who are prone to switching off their brains and sliding into dehumanizing, paternal, anti-intellectual smug.

Now I can't get Jerry Falwell's mug out of my head ... Gah!
Posted by aureolaborealis on November 15, 2011 at 6:29 PM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 271
@ Crinoline (and @ nocutename), if you're still here since there's a new column posted....

I have first-hand experience as to how unhelpful (even unsympathetic or downright derogatory) a doctor can be regarding sexuality to someone like me who doesn't play by traditional rules, but - in the case I presented - it was evangelical to evangelical being the operative factor, not merely patient to physician.

So, though I agree that most medical professionals aren't being taught how to treat diverse sexual individuals with dignity and discretion, I have to interject that - on the whole - HMW may score very highly on being an evangelical but get lousy marks as a physician. Because you're just not praying hard enough is not sound medical advice.
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on November 15, 2011 at 8:51 PM · Report this
272
@Crinoline -- from what I understand, doing what you suggest would be the same as not getting married, since the trip to the dangerous continent is marriage to them. Perhaps they simply agree that it's a good idea to do that, and would be ashamed to continue their relationship without it. Considering the number of strange (and sometimes painful) marriage rites in our planet, that may not be so surprising.

But you miss my point, which namely is: to them romantic bonding comes from something other than sex. Not that they don't like sex, or don't see its bonding potential, they just don't think of it as a special "yellow brick road" to "real" bonding. They see the trip to the wild continent as doing that instead. (They're in principle wrong, of course, it's just that they make another choice than us.)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 8:54 PM · Report this
273
@Hunter, we get it: you don't think EricaP is happy. That's your prerrogative (just as it would be hers to think you're not happy either), since everybody has a right to their own opinion. That you keep telling her you know how she feels better than she herself does, however, is rather arrogant.

You've already expressed your opinion, now and in other discussion threads. We get it. Now, how about dropping the topic?
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 8:58 PM · Report this
274
@EricaP, out of curiosity: it seems we agree on thinking that sex is not intrinsically especially magical. But if so, what role do you think sex plays in relationships? Just curious about your take on that.

@Crinoline, @nocutename, my guess is that EricaP's opinion has less to do with submissiveness and more to do with open marriages. It's probably difficult to have a successful open marriage without coming to the conclusion that sex is not a special relationship glue. (EricaP, would you agree?)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 9:02 PM · Report this
275
@aureolaborealis, who wrote:
Of course, a lot of programmers seem incapable of operating in non-deterministic environments, which is not very poetic.


Which is the main difference. Code does stuff, whereas poetry means stuff. Even though you can apply similar restrictions to them.

Besides, code is streamlined as much as possible to make programming easier (following the designer's programming philosophy, like object-oriented programming, of course). Languages, and even cultural practices like poetry, aren't like that. The beauty of a poem often comes from quirks in the language that would look like bugs if they were present in a programming language (e.g., ambiguities in words that bring to mind an unexpected connection between two topics, from which the poet derives some beauty).

(I once participated in a similar competition, in a time in the distant past in which CPUs were 8-bit and memories never went beyond 48K. The challege was: write both the shortest, and the fastest, screen white-out routine in Assembly language (which in those days simply meant filling screen memory with a white graphic bloc). I didn't get the shortest program, but I did get the fastest one. Cool :-)
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 9:09 PM · Report this
276
@274 - yep, I agree :-)

I guess I now think that sex (and kink) is like conversation, a fun area for exploration with the right people; kind of a drag with the wrong people. I don't think I get as much pleasure out of sex (PIV, anal, or oral) as most men do, so I often have to explain to them how my kinky pleasure works. But I do get a huge thrill when someone sexy pays attention to me :-) Not sure how it compares to the thrill most men get from sex...Luckily we don't need to rank them, we just need to seek out people who thrill us the way we thrill them.
Posted by EricaP on November 15, 2011 at 9:30 PM · Report this
277
@276, and out of curiosity -- in case you're still reading this -- where do you get the special feeling of connection or binding to your husband? Do you see it as coming from some sort of activity or 'thing' that the two of you share to the exclusion of others -- or does it have some other source?
Posted by ankylosaur on November 15, 2011 at 11:49 PM · Report this
278
The only reason two virgin married evangelical idiots are happy with their sex life together is that either they got very lucky or they have no fucking idea of the possibilities.

I knowingly married a woman who is not particularly compatible with me. It sucks, but it's worth the other good things. I know the difference, because I have in the past had some mind blowing sex with women with whom I would never have wanted to spend the rest of my life.
Posted by Bobito on November 16, 2011 at 5:59 AM · Report this
279
@277 - at this point, I feel it comes from our shared history, having been friends since 1987, and lovers since 1993. So not from one thing, but from all things we have shared. Nothing is "off limits" for other people, no acts are "reserved" for us, but conversely, I have a very strong belief that he wouldn't be able to recreate our strong bond with someone else without twenty years to work with... so I'd get some warning :-) Obviously, you can't use "time" as a bond in the early years of a relationship. I do think that sex & conversation work well at that point to form the bond. But at some point, for me, the history took over, and allowed me to recognize that him screwing other people (or me doing so) wasn't a serious threat to our bond.
Posted by EricaP on November 16, 2011 at 8:08 AM · Report this
aureolaborealis 280
I am reminded of relatives from the Plains states, who, having never left their state, much less the United States, feel comfortable declaring that their state and their country is the best place to be, and why should anyone bother traveling (or living!) anywhere else.
Never leaving the town/state/country you were born in is perfectly acceptable, as long as you don't present yourself as: a) an expert on travel and international living, or b) an example that everyone should emulate.
Sometimes I think the stridency in these people, whether in the initial declarations or their responses to questions/challenges, is as much from their failing efforts to convince themselves as anything else.
Posted by aureolaborealis on November 16, 2011 at 9:37 AM · Report this
aureolaborealis 281
@275: "Which is the main difference. Code does stuff, whereas poetry means stuff. Even though you can apply similar restrictions to them."
etc.

I completely agree. The distillation brings poetry to mind; the final product does not.
Posted by aureolaborealis on November 16, 2011 at 9:49 AM · Report this
282
One more dumb question: how do we define "sexually compatible"?
I'm not sure I still would be, after all this time.
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 16, 2011 at 5:25 PM · Report this
283
@282 - Sexually compatible means that you like doing the sexual stuff your partner loves, and your partner likes doing the stuff you love. You don't both have to love the same activities, but if you dislike the activity that turns on your partner (or vice versa) then you're not very compatible. The good news is that we're all sexually compatible with ourselves!
Posted by EricaP on November 16, 2011 at 5:51 PM · Report this
284
@283 EricaP: Thanks! After ten years, I've finally emerged guilt-free from the asexual closet! I don't know if I'll acquire another sex partner, but that's good to know.

Good work, too, with Occupy Portland!
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 16, 2011 at 11:10 PM · Report this
285
I'd say to HSF that maybe you should mention both that you got with that guy, and that G had a problem with it, while her BF is there. Just for giggles to see how he reacts.
Posted by radishes on November 17, 2011 at 9:51 AM · Report this
286
@120 ankylosaur: FTW!!! @116's mindless spewing suggests that he isn't even a grand masturbator!
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 20, 2011 at 1:25 PM · Report this
287
I can think of a million examples of things you "could have learned about each other through sex" on your wedding night that might have led you to change your mind about waiting. I'm just going to toss one out there: Suppose your husband announced when you got to your honeymoon suite that he wouldn't be able to climax unless you took a massive shit on his chest before vaginal intercourse commenced.

Dan, couldn't you have picked one of the other 999,999 examples? It's not that I'm grossed out by your scatology, but that example was just dumb. It's not even close to the kind of sexual incompatibility that could matter.

These people are less likely to be divided by kinks than by other, more prosaic issues, like body odot, appearance, farting in bed, bad breath, his premature ejaculation, and so forth. Those and maybe another couple dozen that you could have come up with if you hadn't been so lazy, are the reasons for the test drive you recommend.
Posted by Mister G on November 20, 2011 at 6:48 PM · Report this
288
HMW and her husband knew that they were sexually compatible BEFORE they had sex because they both knew they were the types who were more than happy to wait to have sex until their wedding night.

And come on, anyone who is ACTIVELY WILLING to wait simply isn't going to have more than pretty vanilla expectations regarding sex. They are waiting for God's blessing to have a mediocre amount of missionary-position, baby-makin' sex.
Posted by redbaronx on November 22, 2011 at 7:18 AM · Report this
289
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Posted by ConConOrg on November 30, 2011 at 12:22 PM · Report this
290
Nobody said it so let me: The doctor is an arrogant douchebag. Typical Christian, acting in a judgmental, arrogant way that Christ never would have done- and at least he had a reason to be arrogant being the son of God and all. But really Dan, a vanilla man, low sex-drive and willing to wait until marriage screams repressed HOMO! Would be that this arrogant physician found out her husband liked sex after all- but only if he was bent over with a big chunk of manmeat in his rectum. Floppy dick during the honeymoon is a realistic reason to do the deed before the wedding (or commitment ceremony).

Posted by Professor on December 4, 2011 at 9:53 AM · Report this
291
Hey Robin, He didn't spoil the fucking movie! Get over it.
Posted by Clickhere on December 6, 2011 at 12:58 AM · Report this
292
The last comment was absolutely brilliant. Keep up the good work
Posted by CrispyBiliChief on December 23, 2011 at 10:09 AM · Report this
293
I've got an example. I waited until I was married to have sex...with anyone. My husband likewise. Unbeknownst to either of us he had some psychological issue (our therapist called it a dissociative disorder, but by the time it was identified the marriage was well past saving for lots and lots of reasons) that meant that in bed he basically blanked out and became sort of non-present--certainly not the man I had a relationship with. It was utterly devastating. You're a newlywed, you want to have sex, you initiate it, things get going, and BAM, who is this dude? Why won't he look you in the eye? Or talk to you? Or respond when you say "stop that, you're hurting me?" Why, when it's over and I'm crying, does he just sit there like he has no idea what happened? That won't happen every time, right? (Oh, but it will.)

Oh, and our married friends? All Christians? When I confided in them and said that it was like I was just a hole and didn't matter to him at all and by the way it hurt and he didn't care? Yeah. They told me "That's normal--either it'll get better or eventually he'll lose interest and leave you alone." Thanks. That's swell advice.

We divorced (not just due to sexual incompatibility, but for many reasons) and eventually I got to go to bed with guys who were caring partners. But that experience (those MANY awful encounters with someone I loved very much) has affected my sex life forever, and although it brings me overwhelming gratitude for the simple courtesy of being treated like a person during sex, it also means that I have needs and preferences and some lingering insecurities that I would not have had if I hadn't followed a bunch of rules that, let's face it, exist at least in part to protect husbands from criticism and comparison.

Take it from me, little miss happily married evangelical Christian, you dodged a bullet. When your first experience (like your subsequent dozen experiences) is awful and it's with the man you just made a sacred covenant to spend eternity with, you're profoundly alone, and the despair is terrible.
More...
Posted by FormerGoodGirl on January 5, 2012 at 9:15 PM · Report this
Cynara 294
@60 "IT'S A SLED! There. ruined another one for you."

Let's ruin some more:
http://www.threadless.com/product/844/Sp…
Posted by Cynara on November 30, 2013 at 4:59 PM · Report this

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