things that don't matter

Writing the blog and reading the comments is a very educational experience for me. I’m developing as an educator in ways I never could in more traditional venues. One of the things I’m finding is that stuff I love and think is really important turns out to be… not very important or useful to anyone else, and in some cases obfuscating and destructive. Examples:

1. My technical definition of “sex” as “genetic recombination of two individuals’ DNA.” It’s correct (there are those who disagree with me on that) but does it actually help anyone, or does it only create confusion and controversy? Let me clarify that I was ASTONISHED when it turned out to be controversial – it’s NOT a controversial definition, not among anyone who does this kind of work – but then I realized that people were using cultural, human standards to assess a biological, species-neutral definition, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, since we’re human. So maybe that’s the kind of thing I shouldn’t spend too much time trying to teach about.

2. The fact that the sexual motivation system is not a drive but rather an incentive motivation system. I wrote a long series of posts about this last summer and ultimately came to the conclusion that it was a technical difference so fine it held no practical value. If it FEELS like a drive, does it matter that it is not, in fact, a drive? *I* think so, but… anyway, it’s a complicated, difficult distinction that takes a lot of explaining, and the payoff isn’t very big, so I’m probably better off putting my effort elsewhere.

3. What’s true at the population level has nothing to do with what’s true about any given INDIVIDUAL in the population. I spend most of my time talking about populations, which is how most social science is done. It’s not invalid to talk about populations. But folks will inevitably read about populations and think about themselves, individually. And maybe half of people will feel that what’s true about the population is true about them too… but the other half will feel alienated. Also talking about populations does inevitably NOT talk about individuals who vary from the norm. Must I add a disclaimer to every discussion of social science, about how what’s true at the population level isn’t necessarily true about YOU? Yup.

What I’ve learned is that the way I think about sex, after all these years of education and training and experience and research and all the rest of it, is so THOROUGHLY different from the way other people think about it, that big chunks of my point of view are just too radical to be of interest or use, and parts of it are so radical as to seem offensive or just plain incorrect.

What MOST people need is not geeky picayune details, but the broad essentials, with some insight into why no one ever told them all this before and why it’s hard to believe what’s true. What IS important?

Confidence and joy.

Pay attention to your partner.

It’s not about orgasm.

Enjoy the sex you’re having.

The rest is details.