Friday, April 18, 2008

A Page From Men: The Missing Owner's Manual
The Game of Sex

I think our age caters to weaknesses and sort of reductive views of people. I think one reason that evolutionary psychology is pop psychology, is that we live in a society that pushes our buttons, and so a good deal of our behavior isn't so much evolutionarily determined, as there are incentives to find the obvious evolutionary buttons and push them repeatedly. This is what turns men and women into guys and chicks: dealing with a real person is messy, but you can be sure if you bang the button hard enough to get enough people to sell them something or do something.

However, that's where we are, so let me talk about some things in a reverse evolutionary way: we all have path of least resistance behaviors, and those path of least resistance behaviors lead us down paths that aren't necessarily what we want. It is the combination of these factors that is more important than any one of them to get we want.

Let me take a simple example. One of the big reasons men cheat in marriage, and I know because they come to me, is because of a simple cluster of factors. Now the peevish way to look at it is to try and beat these factors out of them. Sometimes you can do that, but is the result really worth it? Or you can work with these factors to get what you want.

The first fact about men is that men are trainable, and we train them. The second fact about men is that men are focused. We train them by making them focus on things. Once a man is trained to focus on something he keeps doing that.

Now let's talk infidelity. There are of course the toxic men who never intended to be faithful. There are also the men who simply can't hold themselves to it, even if they have good intentions. But most men don't intend to be unfaithful, and they could hold themselves to it. In fact, one thing to remember is that it takes a certain amount of work for a man to get no strings attached sex, or low strings attached sex. He's got to look for it to get it, and he has got to present, usually, that there is a possible relationship. That's his lure.

So one of the easiest ways to help keep a man faithful, is this: don't train him to look.

But unfortunately most of us do. Here's how.

When it comes to getting sex several things work in combination. One is that men have more testosterone, which is what creates immediate sex drive and aggression. The other is that men are more visual in their attraction. The next is that the part of the brain devoted to finding sex and getting it is twice as large in men as it is in women. The last one is that men have a lower startle response. This means a man is more likely to notice a detail that causes arousal, more likely to look, which means a wider radius, and more likely to think about getting sex. Also men's sex drive while it varies, does not do so as regularly, and does not do so as much. Basically, on average, for a few days a month, women think about getting sex as much as men do all the time.

Now let me turn that around. When it comes to having sex, we enjoy sex at least as much, can do it longer, have an easier time to reach orgasm, have a lower refractory period. That means that if you privilege the "mood" for sex in your life, you will have sex less. If you privilege enjoying sex, you will have more. The first step to a better, more varied sex life, is to make sex something you are conscious of.

Now, let me put these pieces together. One mode men can get into is the "slut search" mode. Remember, every so often, almost every woman needs it. So one thing that men can do is basically sniff every woman they come across. "Are you a slut? No? Next." This becomes visible in SL because the visual clues are lower, and because the social penalty for just asking is lower. A man who asks every woman he meets to fuck would not have a job in most of the developed world.

Now, here is the reality. We train them to this in a relationship. As soon as sex becomes about our mood, and men, being focused, figure this out, they stop trying. Males are lazy. Lazy males. If they come to believe that sex in the relationship is a matter of our hormones, they put us in the slut box. "Is this the slut time of the month? No? OK I'll watch sports."

Now, men are focused. Once they start focusing on slut signals, they don't just look at their partner that way, but more and more women around them. Once they know it isn't even worth asking most of the time, they start slut searching everywhere. Remember men are focused. Men are visual, and they have a drive to find it. They have a chunk of their brain devoted to getting it. Once getting it is a matter of slut search, that's what they do. Since they don't need to do anything for you, they start putting their energy elsewhere. Sometimes that is hobbies, but sooner or later that is their own fetishes. If they have to get lucky, why not try and get really lucky?

So there you go, you've trained him to slut search, and you've trained him to look for a chance to be unfaithful, and you've trained him to see every woman he meets through the lens of slut.

Not good.

Now let me turn that around. Men have focus, men have a part of the brain devoted to getting sex. If you train them to understand that keeping you happy means getting sex, then they will spend that brain power focused on what keeps you happy. Men are focused, men are visual, men have a drive.

So here is what you need to do. Start keeping score. Look at the world from his eyes. When he does things for you, even if they are not exactly what you want, let sex happen. The reality, married girls, and I hear this from all of my married male clients, is that you don't just not have sex, you shut sex down. You push his physical advances away. They know it, they see it, and it trains them. If your body isn't erotic territory, they stop looking at you as an erotic partner. And as just another potential slut. Worse, they can start trying to court and please some other woman, who they are not having sex with, because that one might reward their courting. You don't.

Once you start keeping score, start having signs that tonight is a good night. Have a favorite set of things that you do. He will, in a Pavlovian kind of way, learn this. Relate things he does not want to do, and that you want to do, to giving him an opening.

Now many people I have told this to get offended, they think of it as prostitution. It isn't really. No more than anything else anyway. It is privileging having sex where we are about equal as genders, over getting sex, where men are more wired to be more active. Train his getting sex brain to want to see, and then fix, things that make you unhappy. The last time there was a man in my physical space, the clothes were not on the floor. Men, as we've all observed, do not seem to think that hampers are the appropriate receptacle for clothes. But if they learn that clothes off the floor means a more receptive partner, then they pick them up.

The key is that we often want to do things Together. Now a man thinks that doing a chore, Together, is a tax. It is two people doing something that one person can do. It means he is stuck listening to our criticisms and emotional moods, and he can't be alone with his thoughts, which is one thing he values from working. Doing some chore together is points towards having sex together. Every time you do something Together, especially if that entire time is spent talking about things you want to talk about, if it does not lead to erotic encounter, then you've just trained him that Together is a bad thing. In the other way, each time that it does, you've trained him that Together is a good thing. Get it Together then. Demand Together time, demand that things get done, and then reward him, and yourself.

So clothes? Let's pick them up Together. But then you've got to make some dirty laundry Together too. Once trained that some particular thing, like clean dishes and a clean floor means having sex, he will see them and do them. Then move on to the next thing.

So first lesson from the missing owner's manual. Men are wired to try and find and get sex, but what they are looking for is trainable. Train them to look for that time of the month when you've got the itch, and they will simply start serially slut searching, and pay attention to you, at best, when they think it matters. Train them to do things Together, and they will start to do those things automatically.

Or you can bitch about your men logging on and paying me for virtual anal sex and trying to get my phone number.

(T tells us the power of blow job...")
(Hamlet Au has all kinds of nice things to say about me blush. He's really incredibly sweet.)
(Here is another page on toxic men.)

(Oh yes, and Dr. Grohol of psychcentral endorses calling me a whore because I disagree with him. Clearly in the state he practices in abusive language is acceptable. This is a professional context, and it speaks poorly of him and his advisory board.)


  1. I have a very close friend from Japan, who constantly complains her husband is not interested in her. Regardless if she tries seducing, or if she goes into serious slut mode - he always finds excuses to NOT have sex, even if it is as pathetic as "we still have a lot of taped videos to watch".
    In the back of the mind I had the impression I read about this in a magazine, so I did some web search. And in fact Japan is by far the country in the world where the least sex happens, sometimes as low as once a year. And the country were the worst sex happens, with an average duration of 16 minutes.
    In fact in larger cities the name of certain bars circulate among young married women, which are used as pick-up places for male foreigners, where they can have simply, uncomplicated sex.

    How do you interprate this?

  2. Very well thought out. From the male point of view I can't add anything. It's nice to be known.

  3. I started to type up a long comment to this, then I decided it was too long and more like a post. The Power Of The Blow Job

  4. I'm going to link that in the main post T....

  5. Hi Peter!

    Good point. One of the realities of marriage, as it is right now, is that it is soooo tied up with money, and so tied up with the pressures of children and building a nest egg, that the partners are more like business partners than sexual or life partners.

    Money can be sexy, but I have to admit, that worrying about money, is not sexy.

  6. And a follow up. If you are a young married person, and already having affairs, then it is probably a good sign that the marriage isn't meant to be.

  7. LOL - Don't I hate it when someone puts the finger so close to the truth? Its a cynical way of looking at men though, Lillie. Of course attention and "rewards" makes wonder in a relationship. But we men are not (I hope) so ignorant as not noticing when we are treated like dogs:-)

  8. peter--actually, japan has not changed much in terms of sexual freedom. men in japan don't see their wives as someone desireable, or to lust for. once they achieve producing children from his wife, it's as if he's not allowed to have sex with her again for other than procreation.

    women are given little value in japan, despite its technological advances, and glass ceiling is low in terms of career. i remember when i was last in japan, my tour guide was a woman. she says that the "accepted" career choices for women in japan are tour guides, tv newscasters, elevator operators, and the like. rare is a woman in japan who reaches high in terms of career. read the story of princess masako, the harvard-educated, career oriented woman who married into ultra conservative and traditional royalty and now suffers from depression.

    the primary focus of wives in japan are to bear and raise their children, tend the house, and do their duties. the lust factor they look somewhere else.

    old japan have geishas who engage men in conversation and seduction, and traces of geisha culture still exists today.

    in fact there was an article about women in japan getting male escorts because their husbands are not paying attention to them. one of the reasons was what i mentioned above. japanese culture is really different from western culture and most asian cultures. in old indian culkture, women are taught in the "art" of sex, and coupling are viewed in an enlightened manner.

    that said, lillie, i love your post. sometimes you have to learn to learn to look into how they think and react and not focus on what "ought" to be. when one is part of a couple, it's not always going to be about you should be a two way road.

    i swear if and when i get married, i'll take your advice with you...;)

  9. Amusing. This is just operant conditioning, as I'm sure you know. And it can go both ways... Which isn't to say that I disagree, but be careful with the more clever ones, and make sure the delight you take both in "together" and "sex" is real, or you could have a real problem on your hand.

  10. Thank you for stopping by Ian, I hope we get to see you in Second Life more often.

    I think one reason that so many people have reacted negatively to this post, to the point of losing their tempers in a professional context, is that most people find the work of a relationship joyless, taxing their time and energy. They seem to feel the things that they do for the other person are a burden.

    I had hoped, obviously vainly, that stressing that while men think about getting sex more than women, both sexes have a tremendous, and more equal, capacity for sexual joy, would bring that home to people. That giving to the other person what eases their anxieties is a joy, and denying it is a burden.

  11. Some years ago I was in one of those business training seminars they make corporate types take. I can't remember how it came up, but the trainer got sidetracked into personal relationships and he asked for everyone who had a partner to put up thier hands if they'd die for their partner.

    A forest of hands.

    He then asked how many of them would really commit to do one nice thing, every day, for their partner.

    Two hands.

    He said that was typical of his experience of asking that question.

    To me the deeper issue is simpler: most people don't actually like their partners and are not friends with them. If they admire them it is a cold bloodless sort of admiration.

    It's not work if you enjoy it, it's not hard if it's fun. (Most of the things I do that people think are hard work, aren't, because they're fun to do).

    When I've got a friend who wants to do something together, it's not a chore, it's not work, it's fun I look forward to. Maybe some negotiation takes place as to what it is, but not that much - and from a smorgasboard of things we both find fun (and even if I don't really enjoy something, I can find joy in my friend's joy, often enough.)

    Which is why my painfully-bought-rule for relationships (as opposed to flings) is that friendship has to be the base. Because otherwise you really are just paying for sex, and while sex may never be free, I prefer my coin to be something I enjoy spending and for the same to be true for my partner. And while there will always be things that aren't fun you have to do for a relationship, they should never become the majority of the relationship.

    (As an aside to the main line of argument, Taylor Marsh once responded to the "only when I'm totally in the mood types" by saying "I just don't see what's so horrible about having sex with someone you love even when you're not totally in the mood" (approximately). Those who think this applies only to women, btw, are mistaken. I've certainly "put out" on occasion in a relationship when I really wasn't in the mood. Because even guys aren't on 100% of the time, but it's certainly not horrible even when you aren't -- assuming you really are in love, of course.

  12. Yes one of the people who vents about my post basically argues that I must hate men because I tell wives to make even chores fun and to be persuadable on the issue of having sex with their husbands.

    Is it just me, or is there something strange about someone who demands the right not to be open to be persuaded to do something pleasurable?

  13. Nice post Lille,lets have the rest of the manual. From a male perspective i would love to hear more!

  14. I read the first half of this. As a male I find this...incredibly sexist, against males? Like, unbelievably so?