Friday, February 18, 2011

49-365 Primordial mist (and Sex at Dawn book review)

The weather in Florida is in that Winter/Spring transition that can make for some rockin' cool photos. These two, taken as usual on our morning bike ride, reminded me of that "dawn of time" essence -- quite, still, peaceful. (BTW -- this shot was taken directly into the sun with my iPhone.)
This thick, pea-soup like fog burned off in about 30 minutes.
And as you can see from the first photo, dawn was wayyyy gone by the time we made it to the trail.
On to the book -- Sex at Dawn

First, some folks subscribe to the theory that whatever you create in your mind, manifests in reality. In other words, if you think about it (in a certain way), it shows up. They usually use this theory to promote the idea of wealth or love or jobs or material possessions but some folks believe it also can apply to the weather, or even time itself. If this is true, then the scenes above make perfect sense because I've been thinking about the dawn of time, and how we became who we are, quite intensely lately

But I don't actually subscribe to that theory. My belief is that when your mind becomes fixated, or aware, or interested in something (or some state of being), you start to see patterns or examples of that thing everywhere. The misty morning didn't come about because I "manifested" it, I noticed it, and applied that thought to it, because it's been on my mind

And that is why I think the cultural and scientific shift that the authors of Sex at Dawn are trying to promote is so very important. Many people look around at sex and relationships, especially their own, and the see evidence that supports their own point of view everywhere. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha are attempting to point out that there is a different pattern from what you've been told, if only you look.

On the upside, they do an outstanding job of debunking specious research -- the type that's meant to "prove" that monogamy is universally "natural and appropriate", and therefore obligatory, for all human beings. On the downside, they end their book re-enforcing one of the most maddening stereotypes of male/female norms, that "men" are naturally non-monogamous, and "women" should just deal with it.

Bad science has been used for hundreds of years to promote the most preposterous (at least to our modern understanding) concepts. The "scientific proof" of racial inferiority or superiority for that matter, instantly springs to mind. Having read a lot of it, most of it is now almost laughable if it wasn't for the immense suffering it caused (e.g. slavery, the Holocaust). However, the fact that the research about sexual norms and mores is almost always paired with a political or religious agenda is rarely seen in "common" society as reason so discount it. Even when vast amounts of personal experience shows that something isn't true (e.g. monogamy is natural, therefore desirable, therefore easily attainable), as a society we insist on trying to prove what the most cursory glance around tells us is untrue. It would be like insisting that Spring is perpetual when every Winter proves otherwise.

But the downside bothered me and bothered me greatly. First, I take issue with any concept that appears to equate "men" with "all men" and "women" with "all women." I realize that for the sake of not torturing the English language, sometimes an absolute phrase is necessary where in fact, a little more nuance is accurate BUT, when it came to a man's "natural" predisposition, it too, was simply not true. Maybe a lot of men share an overwhelming urge for a large variety of sexual partners, hell, maybe even most men, but it is not true that ALL do. The implication is that if a man doesn't, or has an interest in fewer, or even one, then somehow he is "abnormal" or in some way even "deficient."

This is part of our problem in the swinging community. There is no way, not ever, that we can explain to any potential partners that it's more likely that Vince isn't attracted to the woman than I'm not attracted to either. "Reticence" on my part would be considered normal and therefore excused. "Reticence" on his part would be considered abnormal, insulting, or even "un-manly." It puts tremendous pressure on him, and dishonest restraint on me.

Chapter twenty-one, titled "The Pervert's Lament", focuses almost exclusively on the frustrations deleterious effects of suppressed male desire with very little, if any, mention of the negative effects of suppressed female sexual expression and desire. For a gal like me, this is fucking maddening. The woman is encouraged to understand the basis for the man's thoughts and behavior, to see them as natural, healthy, and not-necessarily threatening to the security of the marriage. AT NO TIME, though, is the opposite even mentioned -- the idea that the woman, wife, female craving sexual variety is not un-natural nor does it have to be threatening to a relationship, that eliminating it is futile, that limiting it is sad at best and cruel at worst. There is no exhortation to a husband to NOT see his wife's interest in other sexual experiences as simply that, a desire for sexual experience or expression that may be as rooted in biology and evolution as our desire to eat and breathe.

It is a serious omission in an otherwise outstanding book.

So Vince and I will continue to navigate our way with me as a "not-so-average" woman and him as the "doesn't fit the stereotype" guy. We both know we're damn lucky to have each other and we are doing our level best to help each other have the richest and most rewarding ride through this life as we can. Navigating our sex life may be a struggle, but our love and commitment to each other is as natural as can be.


  1. I can also feel the humidity in the air, those are some really nice pictures. And that book sounds intriguing, I might have to get it from the library one of these days.

  2. My hubby doesn't fit the stereotype either and I'm sure he and Vince aren't the only two. Nothing is ever black or white but I guess for purposes of writing a book (and keeping it a manageable length), they make those age-old assumptions. Thank heavens for voices like yours that call out the other side of the story!

    And I'm with Hubman, assuming it is available there, I'm going to have to check this out from the library...