Re: virus: Sexuality

Kevin M O'Connor (
Mon, 09 Sep 1996 15:03:48 EDT

Ken wrote:

>Today sexual activity is not
>a zero sum game, i.e., it does not get "used up" as do many
>commodities. This was not true when reproduction was tightly
>linked to sexual activity. (E.g., one women = one baby/year
>give or take.)

That's a good point, but our genes don't know that the situation has
changed. They still nudge us in the direction of stone age survival
strategies, and in the stone age sex was, as you say, a zero sum game.

>So the question in my mind is: why is not sexual activity more
>like most other physical activities (say tennis, for instance).
>The more you do it, the better you get at it, the more you
>tend to enjoy it, the more you want to do it (i.e., a self-
>reinforcing cycle).

To some extent, sex IS like the other physical activities you named. In
my experience, rarely is the first time with a new person the best. It
takes some practice to get in sinc, and then it gets much better very
quickly. The same is generally true when learning any new physical
skill. It's awkward at first, then you "get the hang of it" and make
rapid progress, and then you reach a plateau. Moving past that plateau
usually requires more intense and focused effort than was required to
reach it.

Again, from my own experience, when a couple reaches that plateau, they
start reading instructional/inspirational manuals like the Joy of Sex or
the Karma Sutra, looking for a third person to stir things up, or start
"cheating." The last option requires the least effort and is
consequently the norm.

> Is it because of religions and the memes
>they spread (software) or is it due to genetic tendencies that
>have evolved over the ages (hardware)?

Our genes and our religious training both exert a strong influence on our
sexual attitudes and activities.

>A few other relevant "facts" that i do not know how to integrate
>into a useful piece of the above discussion but feel are very
>important puzzle pieces.
> Men tend to be more promiscuous than women (certainly
> from the genetics point of view...)
> Male homosexuality is "despised" by many, female homosexuality
> is erotic to many (it is very chic in tv today)

The chic lesbianism which is so pervasive in popular culture right now
rarely depicts two butch dykes. They're usually very femme, made up, and
and attractive to men. More often then not (when they are characters
with some background and not just models in ads) the women are primarily
hetero sexual and engaging in bi-sexual experimentation. This makes for
good male fantasies as these women would most likely accept me, the
viewer, into their interactions. Men wouldn't think that if both women
had cropped hair and wore no make-up. Before you bring some
counter-example to the discussion, ask yourself if this counter-example
is typical or aberrant.

Much lesbian imagery in advertising is utilized in ads directed at women.
Pick up an issue of Cosmo or one of it's myriad competitors and you'll
see what I'm talking about. These mainstream venues reach a primarily
heterosexual audience, so advertisers are directing lesbian imagery at
straight women. I don't know what to make of this phenomenon.

> Females are capable of considerably more sexual climaxes but
> almost certainly experience less on average

But don't you just envy those few who set the curve?

> Masturbation is considered in an extremely poor light (to
> say the least)

Well, if you accept what people SAY, then it seems they don't think much
of masturbation. If you look at what people actually DO...

> A great variety of current practices exist (e.g., lifelong
> virgins to orgy clubs) - however most (?) people tend to be
> more or less serially monogamous

This tendency is so universal that I'd be very surprised to learn that
there was no genetic influence at work here.

>To recap: why is the state of sexual affairs the way it is? If it
>is memes, presumably it could change dramatically in a short time (say
>a generation). If it is genes, then it is probably due to oscillate
>about some mean value for a long time. Other ideas are welcome.

Again, our genes and our memes both contribute to the state of sexual
affairs. The operative memes are both religious and non-religious.
There are alot of variables at work here which is why we see such variety
in sexual activity.