aha! what 'normal sex' is really like

I think I’ve got it this time:

A person’s sexual behavior can be “normal” in rather the same way their social behavior can be “nice.”

It’s easy to feel that we know what “nice” means. It means “not mean,” right? It means “friendly.” Maybe even “helpful.” “Nice” is when you cooperate, like in Tit for Tat [explained in a prior section in the Introduction].

But suppose we’re at a party and you say hi to me, and I say hi back and then I more or less ignore you. Was I being nice? Or mean?

If you hoped or expected I would have a long, chatty conversation, you may well feel that I was being mean. But if you were saying hi out of a sense of obligation, with the hope or expectation I would then leave you alone, you might feel I was being nice.

And either interpretation might depend on your understanding of my internal state and my motives. What if you know that I’m immensely shy and even saying hi was a remarkable feat for me? Or what if you think I don’t like you?

When you feel someone wasn’t nice to you, it means they violated some\ hope or expectation you had for their behavior. It means you had some beliefs about their internal state and motivations. Where did those hopes, expectations, and beliefs come from? Some of them you absorbed from your culture. Some of them are situation specific. Some of them are person-specific – “nice” from me and “nice” from your dad might look entirely different. Where they very likely don’t come from is inside the other person. They are something you overlay on top of other people’s behavior. And your sense of the hopes, expectations, and beliefs others are overlaying on your behavior is what you believe is “nice” behavior for you.

In the same way, when you feel someone’s sexuality isn’t “normal,” it means they violated some hope, expectation, or belief you had. You are overlaying onto them your hopes, expectations, and beliefs, which you may have absorbed from your culture or which may be specific to a particular situation or person.