OHHH Kelly Clarkson!
October 31, 2009 2:42 PM   Subscribe



 
Commenter "G Anon", partway down the page, inadvertently outs himself.

Aside from that snark, I have nothing but sympathy. And I don't even Blame Society. I think that this would have been surprisingly common in the past, although more so among women than men.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:52 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think they need to differentiate unintentional virgins from intentional virgins. Lumping this in with celibacy really blurs the issue. Once this issue is dealt with then you have the groundwork to look at sociological factors.
posted by crapmatic at 2:52 PM on October 31, 2009 [11 favorites]


Yeah G Anon is quite the crackpot. There I was reading through the comments, thinking that these are actually reasonably intelligent and civil, when I came upon nuggets of wisdom such as these:

"The idea that single teen mothers are due to poverty is a lie, designed to turn such females into victims. Of course they would choose to reproduce with more responsible males if they were in genuine poverty. Instead, they deliberately reject such men as being “too nice” and choose to breed with unsuitable types to show that they have the power to decide to live off welfare."

and

"Women are to blame for abortion, because they are getting drunk in night clubs and choosing to have unprotected sex with sleazy types because they find it sexually arousing, and they are experimenting with their bodies to see how easily they can conceive"

The power to decide to live off welfare? WTF is that?
posted by mannequito at 2:59 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The full text electronic article is available for purchase. You will be able to download the full text electronic article after payment.

WTF have you posted here?
posted by xmutex at 3:00 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


wayofthedodo, indeed.
Did you mean abstinence?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:20 PM on October 31, 2009


> WTF have you posted here?

It's a paper in a journal. They tend to be subscription-only, and they do get posted from time to time here on MeFi.
posted by bjrn at 3:21 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's scary when a person has so many completely wrong and offensive beliefs all neatly networked together like that. I mean, G Anon is borderline preaching eugenics, and using the fictional "welfare queen" and abortion as evidence that his crazy is right.

Also, by his twisted logic, wouldn't these women be against abortion as they would want as many children as possible to get as much welfare as possible?

I feel a bit pukey after playing devil's advocate on that last point. Seriously, WTF G Anon?
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:24 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's enough of these people to amount to a significant voting bloc. They should ally with those fighting for sex workers' rights. And then they should have sex with those sex workers.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:46 PM on October 31, 2009


What a bullshit piece of social "science."

It is so lax and weakly designed as to be spurious. There is no reason to believe this has any truth value.

"New Scientist," publishing and publicizing crap science again.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:55 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


they are...choosing to have unprotected sex with sleazy types because they find it sexually arousing

So...not shoes?
posted by PlusDistance at 3:59 PM on October 31, 2009


I wish we knew the statistics in a little more detail. It's 13.9% of the population that are virgins at age 25-45. There's quite a difference between being 27 and a virgin and being 42. If 14% of 25 year olds were virgins, I'd be only mildly surprised. If it turns out that 14% of people in their 40's are, yeah.. that's.. man. I mean. . . damn.
posted by bluejayk at 4:00 PM on October 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Women prefer to breed with teen layabouts, fat slobs, and macho posturing types who like to hang out in bars looking mean.

Which totally explains all these costumes. I love it when a whole lot of different threads come together in a way that makes me begin to understand the world.
posted by taz at 4:06 PM on October 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's a paper in a journal. They tend to be subscription-only, and they do get posted from time to time here on MeFi.

Furthermore, it's a newspaper article that mentioned the scientific article, and wayofthedodo found said scientific article's abstract, providing further information (debates about how scientific those articles are notwithstanding).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:10 PM on October 31, 2009


Sorry, it's more NS's presentation of the article than the original research itself that's godawful. I rushed to judgment. It's still a very modest piece of research, but it's better designed than the summary leads you to believe.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:11 PM on October 31, 2009


Who is the real 40-year old virgin?

Tune in to WoW Friday night and find out.
posted by qvantamon at 4:17 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where does G Anon out himself?
posted by geoff. at 4:19 PM on October 31, 2009


Two things:

1) The total number of people surveyed is 226. That's not an awful lot for something that is claimed to be all statisticky in the article.
2) Are the researchers social scientists? It seems unlikely as there are all sorts of conceptual problems with what they appear to have done.
posted by Sova at 4:22 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how exactly G Anon outs himself, but he sounds like a sexually frustrated redneck upset at his small penis and the liberal society that has ostracized him. I'd say the whole thing heavily implies he is that.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:39 PM on October 31, 2009


I've seen others create sock puppets, but this one finally got me to haul out the five dollars and register one. Because there's no way I'd admit it under my real account name, but I'm what this article speaks of – minus a few years. I've not even done foreplay.

So, yes, we walk amongst you.

Why? The Carrell movie was actually fairly on point, although Carrell played (for obvious reasons!) the typical virgin as a really outlandish Other. Too nerdy in high school, college was an undiverse & malignant environment, and in terms of sexual outreach I kind of have shut up shop for most of my adult life. Stuff has happened that has left me hopeful for the future, although nothing in the near-future. I will admit, one line in there had me startle at its familiarity, then wince and go ... ah, that's something mockable? shit. (The "you would want to lead me through ... " line.)

Anyway, factwise, here's some contributions to the article:

The two common terms used for this amongst its quote-unquote-"sufferers" are involuntary celibacy and love-shy.

Under those names, you'll find that, plus this and this. Shyness & Love: Causes, Consequence & Treatment is a fairly seminal book on the subject, and that's a link to a free online version of the book.

Page 51 of this 2005 CDC report is relevant to the subject at hand, too.

I've not immersed myself in this particular avenue, but it's my understanding that one of the few socially redeeming aspects of the pick-up artist community has been for we poor souls. It still has struck me as slimy enough that I'm not really quite ready to jump into the pond. But for those who were never really taught ... by anyone ... how to go up to a woman and do the mating dance, and we step on words and ruin chances instanteously ... well, a "manual" has often come across as an extremely attractive concept. Not to treat women like commodities, but to have something to rely upon that's not our own sense of the situation.

Anyway, that's 'nuff for now.
posted by DharmaSock at 4:53 PM on October 31, 2009 [36 favorites]


Women prefer to breed with teen layabouts, fat slobs, and macho posturing types who like to hang out in bars looking mean.

Huh. Funny. Maybe my anecdata is flawed, but in my experience women like to breed with the "nice guys"[1], often after fooling around with the more jerky types while younger.

[1] In the real, non-sarcastic sense of the word.
posted by rodgerd at 4:55 PM on October 31, 2009


The total number of people surveyed is 226.

Theoretically, sample sizes much smaller than 200 can yield accurate statistic. In general, the real trick is a good sample selection methodology.

But the total number of people surveyed here is well over 7000. The number you're giving is the number of those surveyed who turned out to be middle-aged virgins, not the sample size.

In this case, it probably is good that they started with a much large general sample which produced the considerably smaller sample population that they actually wanted to study, largely because that population appears to be relatively small and self-selected participation would seem likely to have produced some problems. But assuming they didn't make any big mistakes with their larger sample, I don't see any theoretical reason to assume it's likely there's anything atypical about the 226.

Are the researchers social scientists?

"led by urologist Michael Eisenberg of the University of California, San Francisco"
posted by weston at 5:05 PM on October 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure how exactly G Anon outs himself, but he sounds like a sexually frustrated redneck upset at his small penis and the liberal society that has ostracized him. I'd say the whole thing heavily implies he is that.

I think he sounds like a college educated, sexually frustrated office worker who probably reads mens rights blogs in his spare time even though he has never gotten laid.

The few women he has gone on dates with were probably turned off by what an ineffectual "nice guy" he was. He probably wears crisp Dockers, sneakers, and polo shirts on dates and wonders why women don't like a sharp dresser like him.

He's cut from the same cloth as George Sodini, the LA Fitness Club killer.
posted by jayder at 5:09 PM on October 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Theoretically, sample sizes much smaller than 200 can yield accurate statistic. In general, the real trick is a good sample selection methodology.

But the total number of people surveyed here is well over 7000. The number you're giving is the number of those surveyed who turned out to be middle-aged virgins, not the sample size.


I know that small sample sizes can be accurate for relatively small populations well sampled, but I was taking the 226 as a sample of the ~2 million people they believe are virgins in the 25-45 cohort, not a sample of the ~7000 in the National Survey of Family Growth. I assume that the National Survey is meant to sample the whole population, but does that mean it is accurate for any subsample taken from it? Forgive me for being dense (I'm really not trying to be) but I thought that relying on a small sample-of-a-sample would cause problems, especially when trying to match these people up with particular demographic/lifestyle differences?

I would guess that the number of virgins measured in that sample is pretty much accurate, but that "5 times more likely to X or Y" is not so much.
posted by Sova at 5:45 PM on October 31, 2009


On preview, why am I arguing with a published paper? I'm sure they've checked their number eight times over, I'm just amazed by the wonder of statistics, that's all.
posted by Sova at 5:46 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The study also found that male homosexuals were 11 times more likely to be virgins than heterosexuals, while female homosexuals were 6 times more likely to say they were virgins than heterosexuals.

I'd be curious to see the survey design, specifically how they ask people to define "virgin" and "sex". Frustrating reading just the prurient-highlights of a New Scientist teaser.
posted by Nelson at 5:57 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised to find the results of this study indicate that 25 is middle aged.
posted by shownomercy at 6:03 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised to find the results of this study indicate that 25 is middle aged.

If you're talking about people who've never had sex, I'd say it's downright optimistic. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have made it to 17 alive under those conditions.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:12 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


...and then you have the, "I'm a virgin because women are out to rob me of my baby-making essence" demographic represented in the comments.
posted by availablelight at 6:17 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


My advice to these follks is to start drinking heavily.
posted by jonmc at 6:25 PM on October 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Karl Rove came and spoke to my college earlier this month. I cannot remember why, but he was talking about the woman in 40 Year Old Virgin who sells stuff on eBay, and he said "the movie reminded me a lot of myself." Best part of the speech.
posted by Corduroy at 6:30 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised to find the results of this study indicate that 25 is middle aged.

If the average age of death is 72, then 24 - 48 is the middle third.

Sucks, don't it?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:33 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The idea that single teen mothers are due to poverty is a lie, designed to turn such females into victims. Of course they would choose to reproduce with more responsible males if they were in genuine poverty. Instead, they deliberately reject such men as being “too nice” and choose to breed with unsuitable types to show that they have the power to decide to live off welfare."


This from my book "The Shocking Truth about Grave Robbers from Space"
posted by nola at 6:40 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


My advice to these follks is to start drinking heavily.

Or, get their "targets" to start drinking heavily.
posted by Eleutherios at 6:48 PM on October 31, 2009


The comments are quite bizarre.

And I agree about voluntary vs. involuntary celibacy. I would expect a significant percentage of never-married people between 25 and 45 to be asexual, and another percentage of never-married people between 25 and 45 to be contemplating a life of celibacy as part of their religious or spiritual traditions.

It would be interesting to know how many people in that age group self-identified as involuntarily celibate, and how many of them self-identified as voluntarily celibate.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:14 PM on October 31, 2009


Instead, they deliberately reject such men as being “too nice”

For values of "nice" that include "passive-aggressive misogynist asshole," absolutely. Sucks to be you, G Anon (if that is your real name!), doesn't it?
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:15 PM on October 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


hansen has two interesting posts on this: Thursday on Men's Rights and Explaining Unequal Inequality Aversion.
posted by drscroogemcduck at 7:58 PM on October 31, 2009


...and then you have the, "I'm a virgin because women are out to rob me of my baby-making essence" demographic represented in the comments.

How did you get that translation? At a stretch I see somebody who might be paranoid about child support. Birth control brings the risks of that consequence to manageable levels for most people, but it's a fact that unless one party is sterile, having sex can still lead to conception. If you really really really don't want to be responsible for a child, not having sex with people who can conceive is the surest means of avoiding that situation.
posted by namespan at 8:17 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Women prefer to breed with ... macho posturing types who like to hang out in bars looking mean.

So that's what I've been doing wrong...

*practices his scowl in the mirror*
posted by acb at 8:30 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thinking you require a manual to converse and develop a connection with a woman might be part of the problem. Women are not appliances. Shocking!
posted by Hildegarde at 9:34 PM on October 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


drscroogemcduck: Thursday on Men's Rights

There are few things that get me peeved like people going on about "men's rights." One of the reasons is that they usually involve a mixture of pseudo-science and treating women as some sort of alien other. That post certainly does. One example of both: "But women who sympathized with sex-deprived beta males actually might give them sex, which would not exactly impress the men these women prefer. So since women are built to have little sympathy for sex-starved betas, betas don’t gain by showing sympathy to other betas."
posted by Kattullus at 9:44 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, if these sufferers have the internet and support groups, can they not arrange an Incel Meetup, have some chips and dip and get crazy? I mean, it's a problem that takes two to solve, so lets put some heads together, people! Get crackin'! [If you want to, that is.]

Perhaps things were easier in the 19th century.
posted by SixteenTons at 9:48 PM on October 31, 2009


American women today have been ruined by feminism and careers. Our society has evolved to a point where men simply are irrelevant now. We have NO valid place in the culture. The datiing rituals simply don't work anymore. If you are under 30 you have lots of good picks, after that it goes bad really fast. Good luck--get laid any way you can before your time runs out.

I find this incredibly sad. Also, what dating rituals is he talking about? If it's 'be nice to someone, be interesting, and be interested in them', then I think they're still going strong. If it's 'give her flowers then expect her to worship you', then perhaps that's where he's going wrong.
posted by twirlypen at 9:59 PM on October 31, 2009


The study also found that male homosexuals were 11 times more likely to be virgins than heterosexuals, while female homosexuals were 6 times more likely to say they were virgins than heterosexuals.

That'll blow some stereotypes right out of the water.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:20 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seems to me that the categories of voluntary and involuntary virginity aren't entirely cut-and-dried. Consider a man who tries and fails to find a lover, then seriously considers hiring a prostitute just to get it over with, but decides that this is would be beneath his ethical standards and resigns himself to remaining a virgin. Is he a voluntary or involuntary virgin?

What if the compromise he's avoiding isn't moral, but aesthetic? There's a woman who'll have him, and he knows it, but he doesn't fancy her -- in fact, he finds her repulsive. Every woman he doesn't find repulsive has turned him down, probably because he has unreasonably high standards. Is this voluntary or involuntary?
posted by baf at 10:22 PM on October 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Thinking you require a manual to converse and develop a connection with a woman might be part of the problem. Women are not appliances.

Of course not. Since when do men use manuals for appliances?
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:51 PM on October 31, 2009 [14 favorites]


I've had two cups of coffee, and I still can't wrap my mind around that figure of male homosexuals being 11 times more likely to be virgins than the male heterosexuals in the study. This definitely goes against my own anecdotal data. Perhaps I need more coffee...or some crystal meth, a dance club, and a clipboard.
posted by crataegus at 10:54 PM on October 31, 2009


My advice to these follks is to start drinking heavily

Yes, well, that's good advice for everyone. Listen up, people: Guinness is good for you. The life you save may be your own.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:02 PM on October 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


crataegus: I've had two cups of coffee, and I still can't wrap my mind around that figure of male homosexuals being 11 times more likely to be virgins than the male heterosexuals in the study.

Ultimately, this shouldn't surprise us much. Yesterday's holiday is (for adults) essentially a holiday to promote casual sex ... for straight people. Straight people have sex education, prom, marriage (an institution which is still a prerequisite of sex for many), college (jokes about experimentation aside, college culture is undoubtibly heterosexist), advertising, prostitution and overall a general sense of social acceptability. If you had to worry about someone being unattracted to the whole 50% of the population you share a gender with every time you asked someone out, that'd really put a break on getting a relationship to the point of sex.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:08 PM on October 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


Re: l33tpolicywonk's comment: My take is that a lot of it comes down to this: A significant portion (most?) of the US lives in towns that are too small to support gay bars. Without those, so-called "straight-acting" gays (the majority of gays, IMO) have basically no way to find each other except by using the internet (which is not preferable for many reasons).
posted by hjo3 at 11:50 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think virginity comes down to one variable more than anything: male female ratio in life situations, and the lack of awareness to people that this is factor. Anywhere I've been where girls outnumber guys, girls become desperate. Makes me want to go and study Psychology, or Nursing.

When there are less girls than guys, they become a valuable commodity to be protected from the other guys- leading to an even tighter supply.
posted by niccolo at 11:56 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


For those who hate the New Scientist reporting, I have to say I'm actually surprised and pleased by the concluding paragraphs:

"The standard disclaimers apply to the study. None of the associations show a cause-effect relationship with middle-aged virginity, and the findings represent a snapshot in time among a relatively small population. Income, education, religious attendance and alcohol use can all fluctuate over time.

And, remember, these are statistical associations, not set-in-stone rules. There are bound to be more than a few booze-swilling ex-convict atheists who happen to be middle-aged virgins. Now that would make a good movie."


How many newspaper articles ever make that kind of concession in their simple-minded summaries of study X which shows Y?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:10 AM on November 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


His team's survey found that 13.9 per cent of men and 8.9 per cent of women said they have never had sex. [...] The study also found that male homosexuals were 11 times more likely to be virgins than heterosexuals

So I guess that's about 150% then?
posted by Mike1024 at 4:06 AM on November 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


DharmaSock, thanks for sharing your side of the story. I imagine it's not easy to do, even anonymously. I have to admit I cringe whenever there is talk of the seduction community. It's nice to have pointers on how to meet women, but treating them like human beings is probably a better start than reducing it to a question of finding someone you want to sleep with. If you can become friends with women first (it may be a stumbling block but well worth mastering), you will have a wealth of information on how to approach women. By befriending some women first you'll be in a much better position to understand them, to learn from them, and to connect with them romantically when it comes to that.
posted by stinker at 4:25 AM on November 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's no reason for DharmaSock or anyone else to feel bad for being a 40-year-old virgin. Popular culture has made a god of sex, but no should feel compelled to join the religion. Life is full of pleasures and experiences that at any given moment may be (taken in the balance) equal to or better than sex -- and certainly less costly in time, money and emotions. There is also a wide, wide spectrum of sexual needs, interests and level of desires among human beings. Some people are so constructed as to have hundreds of sexual partners over the course of a lifetime. Some people are designed to have only a few or none. Most men fantasize about being players with a constant string of willing partners. But very few can or should attempt this lifestyle. If you were genetically meant for that kind of lifestyle, you'd probably already be leading it. In fact, if you're 40 years old, you should look back and whatever sexual experience you've had (or not had), and accept that that pattern is probably what is best for you, biologically and from a personality standpoint. No one should judge their lives by a single standard -- especially the standard of a popular culture. It's striking that while popular culture is happy to accept sexual difference in the form of homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, transvestitism, S&M, and every type of fetish, it still persecutes with ridicule those who by choice, genetic makeup, or circumstance, are non-participants in the sexual arena.
posted by Faze at 5:39 AM on November 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


...women with college degrees were 5.4 times more likely to be virgins than women who never got their Bachelor's

Keep coming after us bachelors, ladies.
posted by idiomatika at 5:42 AM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


DharmaSock, quite a contribution. It sounds like hell on earth.

And I wonder what the overlap is between compelled celibacy and mental illness generally, and autism spectrum and social anxiety disorders more narrowly. There would seem to be a basis for an intervening variable here to be quite significant. (I also wonder about obesity, which is both sexually unattractive and a physical handicap for sexual performance, and is on the rise among younger and younger people.) The guys I know who had a hard time getting laid when we were younger were mostly the sort we'd now call candidates for a diagnosis of "Aspergers Syndrome" or "Extreme Social Anxiety."

I doubt one size fits all here.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:51 AM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's no reason for DharmaSock or anyone else to feel bad for being a 40-year-old virgin. Popular culture has made a god of sex, but no should feel compelled to join the religion

I agree fully with the first statement. The second strikes me as special pleading. There is no human culture which has not "made a god of sex" in some ways. Sex is a basic human drive and need, and it is the sole reason we exist from an evolutionary point of view.

I see sex as practically a human right.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:52 AM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and, niccolo, from an anthropological perspective, that is indeed the classic explanation of sexual selection dynamics.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:04 AM on November 1, 2009


I see sex as practically a human right.

I agree that having the freedom to make choices about sex is (or should be) a human right. But for many, many people, sex does not appear to be as central to their lives as it is in mine and perhaps yours. Even setting aside long-term virgins, I know many people in their forties and fifties who are either married or divorced -- ostensibly not virgins -- but who are effectively celibate, and quite happily so. They aren't out there dating up a storm; many married couples lead parallel lives with very little physical intimacy.
posted by Forktine at 6:11 AM on November 1, 2009


I see sex as practically a human right.

I must disagree. We're still witnessing the pendulum swinging back from the Victorian and post-Victorian age of sexual repression, with the freedom to have sex and behave in a sexualised fashion and be bombarded with sexualised ads for all sorts of products being welcomed as proof that we're not as uptight and repressed and square and fascist as our ancestors. A telling example of this is the fact that the Maslow hierarchy of needs (which came out around the time of the "Sexual Revolution") places sex alongside food and water as a fundamental need. Which, clearly, is absurd (deprive someone of food or water and they die; deprive them of sex, and they might be unhappy or frustrated).

The problem with this is that our culture is becoming increasingly sexualised, in ways which aren't entirely good. The flipside of this is the pathologisation of celibacy/virginity/not being interested in sex (I wonder how long until they call it "anosexia nervosa"?) There is the assumption that since humans are sexual beings, then if they're not shagging like bonobos they must be anxious or depressed or repressed or brainwashed. (And if you, the consumer on the street, are not claiming your human right to a fulfilling sex life, then perhaps you have erectile dysfunction or your penis is too small; call this number now...)
posted by acb at 6:14 AM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


His team's survey found that 13.9 per cent of men and 8.9 per cent of women said they have never had sex. [...] The study also found that male homosexuals were 11 times more likely to be virgins than heterosexuals

So I guess that's about 150% then?


The math gets easier once you realize that gay men count as men too.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:16 AM on November 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm very pro-sex myself: but when you look at it weighed in the balance, how many of your life's choices -- especially the bad ones -- have been made in service to the sex gods? There is no higher human felicity than sex as it is happening. But that is often followed by a crashing hangover that can last a lifetime (or more if there are children involved). To pretend that sex is something ya just gotta do, like riding the big roller coaster, is infantile. To pressure someone into a sex life that they are not emotionally or physically equipped for, is cruel. Life is a great compensator, those who are not enjoying sex may, as a consequence, have access to some equal or greater joy that they should be encouraged to discover.
posted by Faze at 6:19 AM on November 1, 2009


I see sex as practically a human right

Yes, I've noticed you young people do. These days the idea of waiting a year or two before achieving full carnal bliss is taken to be more or less monstrous. But it wasn't long ago when not having sex at all would have been seen as perfectly reasonable, if not positively virtuous. I wouldn't want to go back to that, but I think many people might be a little less stressed if we could accept that sex is not compulsory and that long periods of nooklessness may be fine.

Off the lawn, please!
posted by Phanx at 6:23 AM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


The study also found that male homosexuals were 11 times more likely to be virgins than heterosexuals, while female homosexuals were 6 times more likely to say they were virgins than heterosexuals.

That'll blow some stereotypes right out of the water.


I'm not gay so I can't speak definitively for those who are, but is it possible that the percentage of virgins among gay men vs gay women is due to society's double standard? That is: "lesbian sex, hawt" vs "gay sex, ick." I can imagine some men are so indoctrinated by the current political stance that they are horrified by the idea of their own sexuality and choose not to express it for fear of being found out.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:26 AM on November 1, 2009


To pretend that sex is something ya just gotta do, like riding the big roller coaster, is infantile. To pressure someone into a sex life that they are not emotionally or physically equipped for, is cruel.

One should never be forced to have sex when they don't want it, but at the same time, there are people who never have sex because they've just built it up. They've over-thought it, read too many romance novels, and have such an overblown notion of what sex is, that they're just too afraid to jump into the pool and give it a try.

Yes, protection against pregnancy and disease is important, and yes, sex is somewhat emotional, but it really is "just sex," and waiting for the perfect time or the perfect partner for your first time is just silly. People do tons of things before they're fully ready. Childhood is pretty much full of this. So why shouldn't people just try sex with a caring partner or friend to see what the hub-bub is all about?

To me, I see sex sort of like beer. It's something for adults, something that you should be careful about, but it's a fundamentally great thing. You shouldn't have your first beer because you're pressured or forced into it, but nobody ever waits for "the right time" to have their first beer. They just try it, and maybe try a few other varieties to see what works for them.
posted by explosion at 6:42 AM on November 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


I see sex as practically a human right

Yes, I've noticed you young people do


Dude, I'm in my mid-40s. But I'm not talking about an individual's "right" to get laid.

And since I appear to have been misunderstood, let me restate: I see the sexual drive as inherent to human (nay, animal) nature, and I'm in good company with evolutionary biologists on this. It is no less basic than eating or sleeping as an organismic need. I'm not talking about any specific cultural elaboration of "sexuality," as such. All cultures limit, restrict, channel, and condition the basic drive in myriad ways. And yes, you can "live" without sex, but in the aggregate, none of us would be alive without sex. The human right is a right to the free expression of one's own individual sexuality. Obviously, since sex takes at least two humans, the act itself (or anything north of masturbation) can never be an individual right as such. The right to refuse sex is an aspect of the same right, and one denied to many people (mostly women) all over the globe.

To reduce this to a question of particular sexual mores in any given culture or historical period is to miss my point. Society exists to facilitate biological reproduction. It's a fact.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:49 AM on November 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


The human right is a right to the free expression of one's own individual sexuality.

Should have added: in a manner that does not trample the sexual rights of any other human being.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:50 AM on November 1, 2009


metafilter: sort of like beer
posted by honest knave at 7:41 AM on November 1, 2009


I must disagree. We're still witnessing the pendulum swinging back from the Victorian and post-Victorian age of sexual repression, with the freedom to have sex and behave in a sexualised fashion and be bombarded with sexualised ads for all sorts of products being welcomed as proof that we're not as uptight and repressed and square and fascist as our ancestors.

Counter-intuitive though it may be, I am willing to bet that Victorian westerners had as much sex as we do today, that it was just as kinky if not way kinkier, and even less conditioned by a moral discourse about monogamy (in particular, although our present day discourses about other aspects of sexuality are plenty prude and moralistic). The relationship between cultural repression of sexuality and human being's sexual nature, experience, or drives is not linear. (See Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, and the entire literature that followed.) We live in very repressive times, and have developed a moral discourse on sexuality that rivals any other high civilization's for its absurd denial of our animal natures. For every Britney Spears video, there is Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, so to speak. We're more of a piece with what you mean by "Victorian" (that is, a cultural ideology, not actual human behavior in a specific historical period) than we think as we watch the ads for ED pills and get terrified by STD panics.

We need not to confuse the questions being debated. Is it part of a normal spectrum of human experience and psychology to go without sex for all or most of your life, whether by choice, necessity, or social exclusion? Without any doubt. I'm sure there were 40 year old virgins aplenty in Victorian England, and in small scale tribal and subsistence cultures too. Should (behavioral, leaving aside the psychology of actual desire) celibacy of any sort be automatically or even routinely stigmatized, pitied, mocked, idolized, or pathologized by a rational community that acknowledges that people are animals who happen to have culture? Of course not. Is the fact that all cultures channel and repress and refocus individual sexual psychology and behavior somehow related to our reproductive success as a species, or of any given human population defined by shared culture? It must be; nothing is more universal than rules for sexual behavior. One could argue that such rules are the psychological and experiential basis for both religion and (almost without debate) kinship as universal human cultural institutions. One could indeed argue that cultural control of sexual behavior enhances reproductive fitness in the aggregate, and be entirely correct -- the same thing happens without fail in the animal kingdom through the same processes of sexual selection for fitness. I bet there are 5 year old virgin lions on the African savannah, and 12 year old virgin gorillas in Rwanda.

Take the wide view. My point is that it is that celibacy (involuntary or not) is not a matter of individual agency (or failure of agency) alone, nor necessarily subject to contemporary determinations that can be addressed as matters of social policy or mores without reference either to history or to evolution.

Every person reading this sentence is having a sexual thought (with "thought" defined broadly as neurobiological processing), or a thought conditioned by their sexual drives (with "thought" defined more narrowly as conscious ideation), right now.

Hate to break it to ya.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:00 AM on November 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm 40 and, uh, I'm really getting a kick out of these replies, if you know what I mean. I try to have the attitude that Faze suggests above: "biologically and from a personality standpoint" this is who I am at this point in my life. I'm at the stage where I can be sort of casually friendly with women for very brief chats, which is way beyond where I was a few years ago. So, you know, life is a journey, we'll see how it goes.
whew
posted by gubo at 8:27 AM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


fourcheesemac, excellent comment. A blog I read frequently --- 2Blowhards --- kept mentioning the culture of "game" and I read up a little on it. The culture of "game" and "pickup artistry" is premised largely upon insights like those expressed in your most recent comment. The idea seems to be that guys who want to get laid should learn to send the signals that women associate with high reproductive fitness/high reproductive value. It's interesting stuff.
posted by jayder at 8:27 AM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thinking you require a manual to converse and develop a connection with a woman might be part of the problem. Women are not appliances. Shocking!

Actually, there are a set of pretty commonly shared, yet totally unspoken rules about how to communicate with other people, especially the attractive sex. Flirting is, for some not a natural behavior at all. For these people, a "manual" that explains things like eye contact, body language, and how to approach and talk to someone would be invaluable.

Women are not appliances, but, as homo sapiens, they are animals, and like every other kind of animal, often behave in very regular and predictable ways that can actually be laid out for people who never intuitively learned social skills.

Just to hammer it home: yes, some people actually require manuals in order to converse and develop connections with other people. Personally, I do not think that there is anything wrong with that an indeed it is way better than either expecting them to be alone for the rest of their lives or having them try to figure out what to say or do, in which case they may be far more likely to do or say something that is offensive or hurtful.

Also? The truth is that much of the advice laid out in these pickup manuals is shockingly effective. No one would think twice about picking up a book that espoused new management techniques or teaching methods, and yet for some reason there is this perception that there's no way that people could come up with more effective techniques for attracting a member of the attractive sex.

Perhaps the use of the word "manual" was unfortunate, although it is a fairly routine term for a short informational how-to treatise. If the commenter above had said that some of his compatriots read "short books" on how to deal with women, would that make you feel better?

I realize I probably come off as angry. That's because your comment made me angry, actually. I'm not a virgin -- married, in fact -- and have been lucky enough to develop friendships and meaningful relationships with others. Nonetheless for a good portion of my life I had no social skills whatsoever and was basically adrift in a society that expected you to somehow magically know exactly how to interact with other people, and actually condemned you when you didn't. If you are crap at arithmetic, you can live a completely normal life and almost no one judges your harshly even though the rules for most calculations are incredibly straightforward and are written down in many many many books. But if you don't know how to hold a conversation or read someone else's facial expressions, you encounter general scorn and frustration, and are labeled as someone who doesn't care or a troublemaker.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:20 AM on November 1, 2009 [16 favorites]


I haven't seen this mentioned yet, so I just have to pop in and say it because it affects two of my girlfriends. It's a condition called vaginismus where vaginal penetration is almost impossible. It can happen to a woman of any age, virgin or not. It's surprisingly common, but something that is so embarrassing and shameful to the sufferer because of how society views sex. I would be interested in seeing if that's a tangent in the study - it might be easier to be considered undesirable than admit that it's physically impossible.
posted by Calzephyr at 9:33 AM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Coming back for a few notes.

First, generally, let's not strawman the virgin population by holding those commenters out as a representative sample of virginity by which commentary can be correctly based off of. The commenters on that article are not even confirmed virgins, and they most definitely do not speak for me. Nor, really, do I imagine they speak for a large percentage-or even a small one-of all virgins. Seriously.

Second, I must admit, I'm amused by how jayder tears G Anon a new one and then proceeds to exhibit the same flaws. G Anon's problem in his comment is that he generalizes the fuck out of everything. Jayder then proceeds to generalize the fuck out of everything in his response, using every stereotype in the book that's associated with virgins, right down to the godsofuckingtiredbythispoint 'serial killer' comment. (Perhaps I got insulted because I'm known to frequently wear a polo shirt, Dockers, and a black pair of sneakers-occasionally even on a date-and to think I don't look half-bad. Am I fooling myself?)

Third, if Karl Rove was reminded of himself by the movie, my guess is that he was reminded of himself by the scenes where Andy's running away from sexually-themed advertisements, feeling overloaded by them ... =o)

Fourth, it's interesting that the article calls virgins teetotallers. I wouldn't call myself one, but I don't find beer or liquor recreationally that interesting. I don't particularly abstain, but I don't feel weird about ordering a coke when everyone else is having beer. I wonder if there's a causative correlation there. But, no, I wouldn't want a "target" (shit, what an awful term) to be plastered out of their mind, either. I'd like someone to look over at me the next morning and not wonder what the hell was going through their mind-i.e., I'd like someone to elect to have intercourse while in their right mind.

Fifth, Hildegarde, I'm sorry, I don't mean to come across as hostile, but you're completely and utterly wrong about this concept that "thinking there's need of a manual might be part of the problem." And, God, yeah, way to turn it around to a feminist issue with "women are not appliances"! *rolls eyes* Tell me this ... second date, a guy turns to you and goes, "I might be kind of falling for you." Do you run for the hills? Yeah, I learned THE HARD WAY you don't tell a woman that, even something as mildly phrased as that. "Well, you just don't do that." "So how did you learn how to not do that?" "Well, my innate knowledge of dating." Bingo. I-and other virgins-need a manual not because we somehow think women are appliances from which to get our rocks off, and god, the victimization inherent there just pisses me off. We need a manual because otherwise, due to our lack of knowing the language that everyone's already internalized long ago, we seem predisposed towards constantly making violations that send the other person running for the hills. And, god, stop with the fucking everything-someone-says-must-be-construed-as-misogynistic substitutions! I didn't ever even imply in my comment that anyone's need for a "manual" was misogynist in nature, and everything doesn't have to be centered around masogny!

Sixth, SixteenTons, that's a good point. I'm not sure why I haven't done that, or why, for another point, I've not seen that done more widly. It's probably a good to point for a sociologist to look into. If I had to make a guess, it's that for me, and for I imagine most virgins, it's pretty much one of the most humiliating things we feel about ourselves. It's why I'm not writing this under my real handle. Face it: if I was writing this as who I really am, I'd be labeled an Other in most people's minds here. Whether that's true or not-and I do tend to think it's true-it's what most incels/love-shys/virgins think. We're ashamed of this condition, and we feel like mutants. That's not a feeling that leads to congregation, it's a feeling that leads to self-sequestering. Further, while, aggregately, there's probably a lot, I really don't think there's enough in populations. I live in a major metro center. Even were I to have the cojones to attend some hypothetical "incel de-virginizing meetup," I don't know as there'd be enough people willing to self-identify themselves to show up.

Seventh, baf, since that particular scenario's a pretty common one, then I can say with some certainty that that would for most reasons be, yes, considered an incel/love-shy. The availability of prostitution is usually disregarded as a factor when it comes to incel/love-shys, since, yes, nearly anyone with $50 can go and de-virginize themselves if they're okay with strapping on three condoms and disinfecting with Lysol. The second of your scenarios-well, I'd consider that guy a voluntary celibate. The 'virgin' metric I've seen is someone who desires a (not a specific, but a) intimate relationship, but has not had one. It's not the metric I've seen everyone use, but it's the one I've used. As for me, why I have not hired a prostitute? I almost did. I was actually very close to giving up and doing it a year ago. But the money I was going to use was suddenly required to go somewhere else. Good thing, as in the months in between this thought/principle/whatever crystalized, and, honestly, this is going to sound soppy as major fuck, but ... yes, I deeply desire the physical intimacy I've not had a chance for. But that's not really the big motherlode for me. I want the happiness and the hugging and the spooning and the cooking dinner for each other and surprise little acts of kindness for each other and the phone messages and having someone to love and having someone who loves you. That's not something I can get from hiring a prostitute, even with the so-called "GFE". And explosion is right about the "waiting-for-perfection" fallacy a lot of incels fall victim to. But I graduated past that probably a good seven, eight years ago and at this point, yes, I'm just waiting for something caring to develop.

Eighth, stinker, I'm sorry, I appreciate your kind remarks, but I must correct a misperception: do you know how many women I've been friends with over the years, both long-sustained friendships and short ones? I suspect my friendships have even been near-exclusively women. It has not led to a "wealth of information on how to approach women." In fact, I have seen in the "literature" out there on incels/virgins/love-shys that a lack of male friendships may be correlative with male virginity – since the more female friendships you form, the more you grow accustomed to the nice-guy/friend status with women and you don't learn how to do anything else. I reckon that's my problem.

Ninth (Christ, ninth?), Faze, I agree that if someone's happy being celibate, virginal, etc. they shouldn't feel pressured by pop culture. But such people can easily be considered involuntary celibates. I can say with some surety that my own virginity by this point is due to a few points of psychological trauma that I've been able to pinpoint, which led to beliefs about the world in general that were faulty and that led to reclusiveness. I really don't think that someone-unless they are highly self-aware of their inner workings-should "look back and whatever sexual experience they've had accept that that pattern is probably what is best for you". Yes, you shouldn't feel forced to match with whatever the culture is, and to thine own self be true is a worthwhile aphorism, but at the same time, saying your internal barometer is what you should go off of is a bad thing to suggest, because with a lot of incels/virgins/love-shys, one of the basic problems at play is that their internal barometers are quite fucked up due to one reason or another. Without a lot of therapy, sometimes you don't even realize it.

Tenth, fourcheesemac, just as a data point, I'm not autistic (not even with Asperger's, as far as I can tell). I'm also, surprisingly enough, not too socially anxious. (I'm a regular at meetups and not that inhibited there.) I am obese, but not so much so that I fall too far outside the norm. In other words, walkin' down the street, yeah, you'd think I was a fat dude, but I wouldn't cause you to have a startled "Jesus Christ!" kind of reaction.

Eleventh, Deathalicious, thanks for saying all that, so I didn't have to.

Twelfth, I am aware that there's something psychosexually malformed about me. There must be, after all ... I mean, not only have I not had sex, but I've almost never dated (a few scattered first dates here and there) and had next-to-no foreplay, period. I'm self-aware enough to know that I'm not saying anything particularly egregious ... when I'm feeling bleak about myself, I tend to think the fault is that I'm probably Mittyesque enough to just fall into the 'no interest' categories for most women. No rock climbing 6-pack here, no steadily advancing career. I think I'm probably of sufficient interest to be interesting, but not of sufficient charisma to be alluring.

Thirteenth, I will say this ... one of my deepest, deepest terrors is that I would like whomever I have sex with for the first time to know it's my first time, and I am ... terrified ... that it will send whomever running for the hills, or cause them to laugh.

Honestly, I could fuckin' clobbered (in the non-actual-physical-violence sense) magstheaxe. Talk about nightmares come true. "Virgin virgin virgin virgin virgin ... "

Fourteenth, I'm not going to end something with 13 points ...
posted by DharmaSock at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2009 [13 favorites]


"You're afraid you'll waste an evening teaching a clumsy, inexperienced yokel what to stick where ... "
posted by DharmaSock at 11:13 AM on November 1, 2009


... and at this point, yes, I'm just waiting for something caring to develop.

I'm not going to keep adding postscripts to the monster-response above, but I couldn't let this bad choice of words stand, as it implies passivity. Although to a certain degree I am probably a bit too passive, I'm not "waiting" for someone to approach me. It probably would've been better had I said that at this point, I am wise(r) enough to not be looking for a "perfect soulmate" as my first partner, but I am looking for someone with whom there's caring/love going on. It doesn't have to be The One, but I'd like to be a relationship that's weighty enough where it'd mean something. That's what I meant.
posted by DharmaSock at 11:31 AM on November 1, 2009


I checked out the Shyness and Love pdf linked above. This is taken from the section 'Some Militancy Needs to be Displayed':

"This is why the locating of other men with love-shyness problems can serve as a powerful catalyst to effective political action. For example, on a university campus a group of only five or six love-shy men could attract considerable notice to themselves by peacefully marching and carrying placards in and around the administration building and/or student counseling center and departments of psychology and of journalism / media studies. These placards could back up articles and "letters to the editor" published in the university newspapers. And they could contain such slogans as: PRACTICE-DATING THERAPY NOW; MALE LESBIANS UNITE! LOVE-SHY PRIDE; SHY PRIDE; CLOSET HETEROSEXUALS UNITE! HETEROSEXUAL LOVE-SHYS UNITE! LOVE-SHYS NEED LOVE TOO; LOVE-SHYS UNITE; PASSIVE COWARDICE IS A VIRTUE: PASSIVE COWARDS DON'T MAKE WAR! etc."

This has to be one of the worst ideas I've come across. Truly, a disaster in the making

-----

@DharmaSock

Keep in mind that magstheaxe comment was in dealing with a man putting a woman on the defensive in a public place. This is about playing off public perceptions and the aggressor's self image. It's not like she's going around looking for men to humiliate. A woman's sexual interest in a man does in some way validate his social status. If it didn't, calling him a 'virgin' wouldn't be an effective response. Your own sensitivity to this social dynamic has no connection to the probability of you encountering it. You are far more likely to wind up with someone accepting than scornful.
posted by BigSky at 11:45 AM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


BigSky – yeah, Gilmartin is in many ways a honey-crusted nutbar. There is definitely some concrete value within the nuttiness, but at one point he brings out Kirlian auras and things – his stuff is worthwhile perusing for the incel/loveshy/etc. but needs to be taken not with merely some salt but with a whole fucking salt mine.

Re: magstheaxe ... yes, I understand what you're saying here. But imagine someone advocates using the verbalization of one of your own personal deepest, worst fears as a verbal defense/response in a fight for "ordinary people". Even hearing it typed out that way is pretty freaking scarring. Just knowing that the thought literally exists in a head that's not my own is a bit scarring.
posted by DharmaSock at 11:53 AM on November 1, 2009


Did a little, ahem, poking around on the site of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, and came across this gem, an article dated 2008, titled:

"A woman's history of vaginal orgasm is discernible from her walk"

FTFA:
"AIM: The objective was to determine if appropriately trained sexologists could infer women's history of vaginal orgasm from observing only their gait.

"METHODS: Women with known histories of either vaginal orgasm or vaginal anorgasmia were videotaped walking on the street, and their orgasmic status was judged by sexologists blind to their history.

"CONCLUSIONS: The discerning observer may infer women's experience of vaginal orgasm from a gait that comprises fluidity, energy, sensuality, freedom, and absence of both flaccid and locked muscles. Results are discussed with regard to previous research on gait, the effect of the musculature on sexual function, the special nature of vaginal orgasm, and implications for sexual therapy."

Other than making some women a little self-conscious when they next walk down the street, I think this research will have little impact.
posted by WyoWhy at 12:15 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reading all this makes me want to pause my boyfriend and go deflower some dudes.
posted by molybdenumblue at 12:45 PM on November 1, 2009


...(deprive someone of food or water and they die; deprive them of sex, and they might be unhappy or frustrated). go extinct).

FTFY
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:53 PM on November 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


DharmaSock, my list of intervening variables (autism spectrum, obesity, etc) was meant as general speculation, not addressed as an interrogation to you! Sorry if it came out that way.


A little Tom Waits is in order:

Yeah, and all the studs in town would toss 'em down
And claim to fame as they stomped their feet
Yeah, boasting about being able to get more ass than a toilet seat


Never forget that people *lie* like crazy about sex, most especially to strangers wielding surveys.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:42 PM on November 1, 2009


another first-time sock-puppeteer here.

I'm not a virgin, but I identify to a large degree with DharmaSock and company. I lost my virginity to my teenage girlfriend, then had a dry spell of about a decade, then had regular sex with another girlfriend, and I'm now entering my fourth year of another dry spell. (they aren't so much "dry spells" as they are "normal life" for me. I have not so much as kissed a woman in four years. I have been on zero dates. in fact, my physical contact with the opposite sex has been limited to occasional friendly hugs and one cuddle session. we are social creatures - we crave physical contact, and we long equally to express affection to others. going *years* with scarcely an affectionate touch definitely starts to affect one's mental health.)

if anything, the factors responsible for my lack of success (those which I can identify, anyway) have gotten worse, not better, and I often wonder whether I will ever enjoy that physical and emotional intimacy again. at the current rate, I see no particular reason to believe that I will. of course, all of this has been devastating to my self-confidence with the opposite sex, which only makes the problem worse, and so on in a vicious feedback loop.

obviously, my situation is not by choice, which I guess makes it "involuntary celibacy" - but I dislike labels such as that. I feel that putting myself in that box would be *defining* myself as a person who does not have sex, which doesn't seem helpful. if it works for others, then great, but it's not for me.

the abusive comments do not help. I can't imagine what compels people to be such utter dickfaces to people who haven't done anything to hurt anyone - people who are, in fact, suffering themselves. I'm sure that some of us are creeps, but I don't see any reason to assume we're *more likely* to be creeps than anyone else.

Hildegarde, I must second Deathalicious and DharmaSock. if the manuals you're referring to are the tripe promulgated by the so-called "seduction community", then I agree - those guys *are* creeps and I've never seen anything redeeming there. but the fact is that some of us *do* need the instructions spelled out for us. you're kidding yourself if you think there aren't rules and mores governing sex and courtship. of course there are.

perhaps you're not conscious of them because you were lucky enough to absorb those particular social skills intuitively at a young age. if so, then hooray for you. but I didn't. believe me, if I knew what I was doing wrong, then I'd do it differently - but I don't. and it causes me an enormous amount of pain (loneliness and humiliation and frustration), and seriously, if you're going to hurl your gratuitous abuse on top of that, then just...fuck you. there's really nothing else I can say to that.

I watch the people around me find relationships so easily (I know it's *never* easy - but believe me, however difficult it is for you, it's all but insurmountable for me) and I wonder, night after night, month after month, year after year, what I'm doing wrong. it's hard not to wonder whether there's something fundamentally, immutably wrong with *me*. it's hard not to wonder whether sex and romantic love are simply things which aren't *for* me - things which the universe has seen fit to make available to others, but not to me. I know that doesn't make sense, but that's often how it feels.

it's hard not to feel resentful watching others take it all for granted, and to be asked why I don't just [find a girlfriend/get laid/go on some dates], the same way you'd suggest that I make a sandwich if I complain that I'm hungry - like I can just snap my fingers and make those things happen. I don't know *how* to make a sandwich. that may sound ridiculous to you - *everyone* knows how to make a sandwich! but as basic and instinctive as it may seem, there was a specific time, long ago, when someone showed you for the first time *how* to make a sandwich, right? well, I never learned. and now everyone insists that there *isn't* anything to learn; it's just something that people *know* how to do - and so they couldn't teach me even if they wanted to.

I'm not talking about mechanics; I'm actually relatively comfortable with that. I'm not even talking about the complexities of relationships - once I'm *in* one, I do well enough. I'm just talking about everything between here and there. it may be something *you* can just *do*, like making a sandwich. it's a dense jungle full of vipers and quicksand for me.

I honestly don't mean this as a pity party. it's just...there's a lot of misunderstanding about this. some have mentioned autistic spectrum disorders and social anxiety, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to be diagnosed with one or the other. whether there's a diagnostic label for it or not, I strongly suspect that I simply lack some psychosocial faculty which most people take for granted. perhaps it's correctable; perhaps not. but it feels very much like being color-blind. everyone around me is talking about "red" and "blue" and "sea-foam green", and I have no idea what they're talking about. (and random people on the internet are dicks to me about it.)
posted by s0ckpupp3t at 1:57 PM on November 1, 2009 [20 favorites]


s0ckpupp3t's remarks remind me that we cannot underestimate the role of chance here.

For example, suppose that everyone is equal in their capability to form a sexual relationship with another person, and that there is a fixed probability of success in a given time period n. Over even a long period, there will be some people who have never succeeded, and others who succeed all the time.

If you then add in a new factor -- that continued failure is demoralising, and demoralised people will have a lower probability of success -- then you can see that over time there can be small group of unhappy people who have never succeeded, even though they started out on the same footing. Then you can add in another factor, which is the possibility of developing skills through trial and error.

I reckon I could write a program to model this and you would find extremes on a bell curve, successful shaggers on the right and sad virgins on the left, even if they all start exactly the same.

This is the "vicious cycle" to which s0ckpupp3t alludes. Of course people don't necessarily start out equal in real life, but I think that realising that life can be an unfortunate sequence of events might be helpful here.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:22 PM on November 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


I don't understand the voices of "sex isn't all that great, you don't need to have it" in this thread.

It really reminds me of this comic:

http://pbfcomics.com/?cid=PBF005-Billiards_in_Heaven.gif
posted by tehloki at 2:36 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the voices of "sex isn't all that great, you don't need to have it" in this thread.


That's Mefi. People here either aren't having sex (because they're all such geeks) or they're having polyamorous BDSM relationships with a family of hedgehogs while sleeping around with aliens (because they're such geeks).

I keed, I keed.

Just this morning I was walking about in my NYC neighborhood -- once known for prostitution, not too high-toned most of the time -- at about 5AM, just checking out the post-Halloween debris and having my morning smoke.

I turn the corner and there's a decked out African American tranny hooker leaning over a shiny black Lexus driven by an elderly man in a Yarmulke and pais, closing a deal, after which he drove down the block and s/he sauntered down after and got in his car. I thought it was a stereotype, but apparently not.

Sex is crazy shit. Everyone has issues.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:49 PM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


("now" too high-toned, not "not")
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:50 PM on November 1, 2009


Tell me this ... second date, a guy turns to you and goes, "I might be kind of falling for you." Do you run for the hills?

My husband proposed to me before I was even sure we were seriously dating. This is what I'm saying: you think there's a definite right and wrong in what you say and how you say it, and that's not true. It's about a connection with a human being. And what's okay and not okay to say is dependent entirely on the people involved. No bingo there. If you tell someone who isn't that into you that you're falling in love with them, yeah, there will be running.

I have dated women as well. The first woman I dated I just sort of accidentally fell into bed with, I think because we had been having a series of very intense, personal conversations. It was fraught and emotional and over both our heads. We both said that sort of stuff instantly. It drew us together. My first long-term relationship was with a woman who just frankly told me what she wanted to do to me. We were just friends at the time, I was into her, so I was absolutely game! I don't know what either of us did to make it all happen. Sometimes an early expression like that is charming. Sometimes it's repellent. Sometimes you get to know someone fast enough to say something like that within a few hours; sometimes it takes weeks or months (or years). There's no formula.

So don't tell me "what you don't tell a woman". It's kind of ridiculous. We are not all the same.

And, god, stop with the fucking everything-someone-says-must-be-construed-as-misogynistic substitutions! I didn't ever even imply in my comment that anyone's need for a "manual" was misogynist in nature, and everything doesn't have to be centered around masogny!

I didn't say anything about misogyny, but whether you implied it or not is beside the point. I'm saying: your understanding of what it takes to hook up with someone is incredibly, damningly simplistic, and that might be your problem. Stop trying so hard. Making genuine connections with people is the single best thing you can do to form more intimate ones. Following rules and presuming everyone abides by them is not very genuine. Be a gentlemen, not a cardboard cut out.

Now, if you need rules to follow in order to not stand out like a sore thumb in public, then I can sort of understand the "manual" thing. But in that case you don't need a manual for women: you need a manual to fit into human society. That's the case for some people, but presumably a minority.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:06 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is what I'm saying: you think there's a definite right and wrong in what you say and how you say it, and that's not true. It's about a connection with a human being. And what's okay and not okay to say is dependent entirely on the people involved. No bingo there. If you tell someone who isn't that into you that you're falling in love with them, yeah, there will be running.

Ahem. Let me translate. If you are totally hot and good looking, then you can say this sort of thing on a second date and the results will be positive.

Otherwise, NO.

Life is unfair, but that's just the way it is. Those of us who aren't gifted in the looks department need skills that the beautiful people just don't need.

Those skills come naturally to some people, but not to others. I'm very awkward socially. I somehow worked things out, but it took a lot of humiliating trial and error and some sheer fluke. If I had known about this "manual" back at age twenty then I would have grabbed it with both hands.
posted by moorooka at 3:36 PM on November 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Stop trying so hard. [...] Following rules and presuming everyone abides by them is not very genuine.

If you're a native speaker of English, then going by your ear is a reasonable thing to do. If you're not a native speaker, then the advice to just "write what sounds right" isn't very helpful. Good writers will often diverge from textbook grammar, but that doesn't mean there is no grammar in the first place.
posted by Pyry at 3:41 PM on November 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


And, again, you manage to somehow transmute what I'm saying into an antifeminist statement. As if I'm somehow saying that all women are the same.

I must admit, I'm finding myself rather wrathful at your blanket generalizations of the situation. "Stop trying so hard." "Make genuine connections." "Be a gentleman." Handy platitudish asides like these tossed out like M&Ms are enough to make me want to take a running start headfirst into a concrete wall.
posted by DharmaSock at 3:45 PM on November 1, 2009


I'm pretty sure we all have to go through the humiliating trial and error, and in the end it might still be a sheer fluke. What works for one person might not work for another. Or: what works for one person FROM someone might not work on someone else, from the SAME person.

I'm not sure one set of rules will actually work universally. Thus, you give people a set of rules that fail them, and then what?

I mean, do you have these kinds of rules for your friends? If someone every says X, I will never be friends with them? Doesn't it always depend on a whole serious of other variables, like how well you get along, how fun they are, how sympatico you are, how challenged you feel by a person?

And you don't have to be objectively hot and good looking, like, belonging on a cover of a magazine, or anything. You need to become hot and good looking to the person in question. Depends on what she's into.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:46 PM on November 1, 2009


the abusive comments do not help. I can't imagine what compels people to be such utter dickfaces to people who haven't done anything to hurt anyone - people who are, in fact, suffering themselves. I'm sure that some of us are creeps, but I don't see any reason to assume we're *more likely* to be creeps than anyone else.

I find that the general attitudes people have towards the sex-starved and the literally starving (ie: poverty) are interestingly similar.

Every society (but particularly societies that champion personal freedom) likes to assume that their rules governing sexuality are fair and enlightened (or at least that they're making great glorious strides toward fair and equal treatment). Therefore, if someone can't get laid, it is all THEIR fault and they are free game for scorn and demonization, or otherwise simply ignored.

Poor people suffer under a similar fate. Under communism no one ever acknowledges that poverty is a serious problem, because the whole point of communism was to eliminate poverty. Under capitalism there's the assumption that free markets are fair markets, so the poor are demonized as lazy/immoral/insane/whatever. No matter what the system, almost invariably the blame is shifted onto the victims, because to do otherwise is to engage in self-implication.

Suffering misfits are always reflexively demonized, because no one likes feeling guilty over how unfair life is.
posted by PsychoKick at 3:48 PM on November 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


DharmaSock, this is how I interpret what you're saying; I'm transmuting nothing. I am telling you how it sounds to me. No matter how wrathful it makes you, that's still how it sounds to me.

I was single for 10 years. I'm aware that it's hard to make deep and intimate connections with people. I do not flirt. I am no good at it and it makes me uncomfortable. I didn't have a real relationship until I was in grad school. There are those out there who meet people through casual dating, but that's not everyone. It's not even most people I know. For many people it's a lot more organic than that; friendships that get intense and blossom into something else. All of my relationships have been like that, so that's all I can draw from.

For that, there really are no hard and fast rules. I'm sure that's distressing: if there were rules, you could just do everything right and then you'd end up in a stable, happy relationship. But when will you get to relax and be yourself? When will you stop living by the rules? How will you know when to stop? To what degree are these rules turning you into someone else?

Again: not suggesting there aren't people who can't manage in human society at all, with no social skills whatsoever, who might need rules so as not to brutally offend others. That's not you, DS. We've already determined that. You're not socially illiterate.

Maybe you just haven't met the right person yet?
posted by Hildegarde at 3:58 PM on November 1, 2009


H, there are some rules. Soft rules, but they hold. Like not saying "I might be kind of falling for you" on the second date, unless you're already very physically attractive to that person, the "rule" is that this will scare them off. Of course these rules are not "hard and fast" like laws of physics, but they're nevertheless useful. Some (most?) people pick up this type of social knowledge by osmosis, others need to consciously learn it. I think you are being slightly judgmental.
posted by moorooka at 4:34 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hildegarde, please give it a rest.

no one has suggested that women are deterministic machines which will produce X output when provided with A, B, and C input. *you're* the one who keeps dragging that to the table.

words like "rules" and "manuals", at least as I'm reading them here, are an imprecise shorthand for something more subtle. interacting with other human beings, interpreting signals and sending appropriate signals of one's own, and developing the human-to-human connections of which you speak, are *skills*. some people are more skillful at these things than others.

and some people, for whatever reason, are more or less skillful at these things in specific *contexts*. some people are charming one-on-one, but have a full-blown panic attack if they have to speak in front of a group. some people are the epitome of grace when engaged in a practiced art, but stammer and blush offstage. some people are natural comedians but are uncomfortable being more serious and self-revealing. some people deal poorly with spontaneity and surprises, and prefer to know in advance what social situations they'll find themselves in. some people are only comfortable in crowds, and some of us (I'm one of them) shudder at the thought.

and some people are bad at dealing with people on a romantic level. some of us are really, really bad at it. "knowing the rules" is simply a way of saying "being skilled at this particular kind of social interaction".

the reasons *why* a person is bad at romantic interactions can be anything. it could be that the person is a misogynist douchebag. or it could simply be a history of failure in that particular context which has destroyed their self-confidence, or an upbringing that got them started off on the wrong foot and which leaves them at a disadvantage to this day, or a belief (accurate or inaccurate) that they're sexually repulsive, etc.

if one's long-term experience with romantic interactions has involved more net pain than net pleasure, it can even become a sort of phobia. and when you're dealing with gut-level, fight-or-flight conditioning such as that, all your "just-establish-an-honest-human-relationship-with-the-other-person" talk can take a flying toss out the window. of *course* it should be based on an honest human relationship. the point is that that's nowhere near as simple as you make it sound for some of us.
posted by s0ckpupp3t at 5:03 PM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


words like "rules" and "manuals", at least as I'm reading them here, are an imprecise shorthand for something more subtle. interacting with other human beings, interpreting signals and sending appropriate signals of one's own, and developing the human-to-human connections of which you speak, are *skills*. some people are more skillful at these things than others.

This is not representative in the examples of said rules given above. Like whether or not to say a particular phrase. That's not imprecise or subtle.

And I agree with you: why a person struggles with romantic interaction is complex. Rules of behaviour are not the answer. That's all I've been trying to say.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:08 PM on November 1, 2009


Slightly is a huge understatement. Dharmasock, ignore what people like Hildegarde are saying. You have more experience with your own life than anyone on this site, and you probably know better than we do what the problems are. Do what you think you need to in order to meet someone.

(Also, drink more alcohol. People call it a social lubricant for a reason. But ignore this too.)
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 5:20 PM on November 1, 2009


Rules and skills are different things here, Hildegard.

Chopping onions and painting houses don't really have any rules, but you can be skilled in those activities. Likewise, romance has no rules, but you can be more or less skilled at it.
posted by fnerg at 5:46 PM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hildegarde
posted by fnerg at 5:47 PM on November 1, 2009


Everyone always spells my name wrong, no fear.

Anyway, I was only trying to provide another perspective.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:55 PM on November 1, 2009


and yet, if you asked 100 people at random whether you should say "I think I'm falling for you" on a second date, I'd wager that at least 90 of them would say "hell no". and for good reason - that *would* scare *most* people off. maybe it wouldn't scare this *particular* person off - but if it's only the second date, you don't know them well enough to make a personalized prediction about their reaction. so your best bet is to assume they'll react the same way (probably more than) 90 out of 100 people would, at least until you know them better.

it's not a "rule" in the sense of an absolute law to which there is no exception (and, again, you're the only one who insists on using the word "rule" that way). but just as "don't fart gratuitously" and "don't get wasted on a first date" and "clean the empty McDonald's bags off the passenger seat before picking her up" are generally good "rules" to follow on a date, so is "don't confess undying love the second time you meet her". for every woman who would be swept off her feet by such a statement, there are at least a hundred who would run screaming in the other direction.

everyone has baggage and crazy fucked-up shit going on in their heads. but, for better or for worse, we all try to put our best foot forward (and omit our, uh, worst foot) in the early stages of a relationship. if you don't know how to do that, then you'll find yourself getting disqualified frequently and early.
posted by s0ckpupp3t at 5:59 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


To add a different perspective, for the "I think I'm falling for you" example, yes, 90% of women would be put off by that, but 90% of women might not be that attracted to you in the first place, and might never want to hear that anyway.

I think the point that Hildegarde was trying to make is that the skill is either being able to figure out when that particular line is appropriate, or being able to overcome your nervousness enough to be able to say something like that until you meet someone in that sweet, sweet 10%.

It's true though, that there is a sort of mating dance that has to be learned, and it's not intuitive to everyone. I think a part of it is learning to read other people, and a part of it is just being brave enough to try something before you're fully comfortable with it.
posted by fnerg at 6:23 PM on November 1, 2009


oh baby, i can feel the sexual tension rising in here.
posted by the aloha at 6:41 PM on November 1, 2009


The solution?
posted by wayofthedodo at 6:43 PM on November 1, 2009


oh baby, i can feel the sexual tension rising in here.


No that's just all the gas from Mefi's pyloric valve slamming shut.
posted by nola at 6:49 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


My apologies if someone has already pointed it out, the later comments get really long and haven't got through them all yet. But, from the abstract:

"Among adult males 25–44 years of age, 97 percent have had sexual contact with an opposite-sex partner in their lives; 97 percent have had vaginal intercourse, 90 percent have had oral sex with a female, and 40 percent have had anal sex with a female. Among women, the proportions who have had sexual contact with an opposite-sex partner were similar"

So what's everyone talking about here? It's 97% which is about where I would expect it. Age 15-44 is where 10% haven't had sex. Probably because there's teenagers in there.
posted by kigpig at 6:59 PM on November 1, 2009


I actually looked into sexual surrogacy. The problem is that the signal-to-noise ratio on that pretty much drowns out all legitimate people: it's so commonly used as a legal fiction for prostitute that to find a legitimate sexual surrogate is extremely difficult. That having been said, I found a psychologist who, after a telephone conversation, would connect me with a legitimate sexual surrogate. All I can say is that the needle of my creepymeter was going off. the. scale. during that conversation, and I didn't follow up with him or his surrogate. Not to mention that the price of that consultation, and of the surrogate, was going to be a far, far greater price than that of a prostitute ... even of the "high-class" variety. It didn't, at the end of things, seem to be the best avenue to go down.
posted by DharmaSock at 7:31 PM on November 1, 2009


kigpig, are you reading the same abstract I'm reading? Your quoted language is nowhere on the linked page that I could find. Instead, I see this:

"A total of 122 (13.9%) men aged 25-45 reported never having had sex, representing approximately 1.1 million American men in this age cohort. Among female participants, a total of 104 (8.9%) women aged 25-45 reported never having sex, representing approximately 800,000 American women in this age cohort."

Where are you seeing this?
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 7:36 PM on November 1, 2009


maybe I clicked some linked pages from comments and left them up? My apologies for such a blatant mistake but the numbers are here from the CDC:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad362.pdf
posted by kigpig at 8:07 PM on November 1, 2009


ah yes, it seems DharmaSock linked to it. So one of the two of these reports is wrong...
posted by kigpig at 8:26 PM on November 1, 2009


DharmaSock, would love to hear more details about what the psychologist said that set off your creep-o-meter.

Sex surrogacy is interesting. When I was an angry virgin in college Googling using Infoseek in an attempt to find a cure for my shyness, I discovered a Geocities page on sex surrogacy and became both fascinated and indignant. One page had a heartbreaking play-by-play account of a man with a very serious disability who decided this was the only way he could ever sample sex. I was secretly jealous of him.
posted by Kirklander at 8:56 PM on November 1, 2009


To add a different perspective, for the "I think I'm falling for you" example, yes, 90% of women would be put off by that, but 90% of women might not be that attracted to you in the first place, and might never want to hear that anyway.

He's talking about 90% of the women that he might be on a date with, implying that they either are attracted to him to begin with or see it as a possibility. When you're making missteps that immediately shut off 90% of your possibilities, it's quite reasonable to suspect that your ideas of appropriate behavior need some fine tuning.
posted by BigSky at 9:14 PM on November 1, 2009


The CDC report includes all people, the linked page is about never-married people only. The numbers are compatible, as far as I can tell.

Also, a short comic by Derek Krik Kim called "The Ten Commandments of Simon" is both appropriate and very funny, but it seems to have disappeared from the web. The Internet Archive only has a scant few panels.
posted by alexei at 10:18 PM on November 1, 2009


Wow, dharmasock, I'm feeling so incredibly frustrated on your behalf! Extra frustrated, really, because, in your case, it seems to me (and everyone please forgive my know-nothing armchair analyzing) that the very thing that may be causing your problem is also the same aspect of your personality that is likely to make you really, really good at a serious relationship, and even - believe or not - sex.

If I'm right, then you are perhaps too finely-tuned to all sorts of information, and as a thoughtful type, perhaps giving some information too much weight... I really wish I had the tools to describe this better, but I'll give a kind of parallel with my own situation: I've never been able to filter out the cultural inferences that sex is something bad... all the HARHARHAR about things sexual, all the crudeness, the contemptuous jokes and comments about women (well, I'm a woman... so...), and I could keep going forever, but I'll do everyone a favor and stop. To be really well-adjusted, I would need to bury a lot of that stuff as the garbage it is, but I can't... all that data just floods right in along with the much more valuable and high-quality information about people/culture/relationships.

Intellectually, I know that some information is worthless, but emotionally and viscerally, I can't distinguish. This makes me feel uninterested in sex, because... oh, to make an analogy, it makes sex seem like a really trashy, badly written, boilerplate mass market novel that I wouldn't enjoy at all, and would be embarrassed to be seen reading. I could easily be a 40-year-old virgin (more than 40 now...), but in my case, a) as an attractive woman with a good personality I was pursued relentlessly (and about the virgin part, well it turned out I didn't get to choose), and b) I got lucky. I buffered myself from all the stuff that made me feel so uncomfortable by having only two serious relationships, both marriages, and my second relationship-then-marriage turned out to be with someone I could 100% trust and enjoy, almost as an island set apart from all that wash of negative sexual data.

Maybe because this is my picture, I'm sort of drawing you into that backdrop and empathizing based on faulty conclusions... but if you have a similar problem (oversensitivity to all sorts of info), chances are that as a partner, you would be, for the most part, really fucking good, because you would be ever-aware of the damaging power of thoughtless/shallow comments and actions, and also attuned to the information coming from your partner - which, when used positively and with confidence, allows you to create a flexible space for their feelings and circumstances (GAH... I'm explaining this so badly... but I insist on continuing...), and as for sex itself - being super-tuned-in can be fabulous, once you are with someone you love and trust ... just a million times better than all the Game anyone could ever muster. So, I see the seed (no pun intended), of a both a fantastic, caring partner and an exceptional lover in that same bit of psycho-sexual weirdness that makes things so stupidly bad for you now.

Or maybe I'm way off track, but I'm very touched by your story, and I'm so very, very much hoping for a happy ending (pun intended... I'm not made of stone, y'know).
posted by taz at 4:05 AM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


DharmaSock, this is how I interpret what you're saying; I'm transmuting nothing. I am telling you how it sounds to me. No matter how wrathful it makes you, that's still how it sounds to me.

Perhaps if your interpretation of someone's experience is making them wrathful, it's time to re-evaluate what is being gained by sharing. Do you have a specific reason to make DharmaSock feel angry about your intepretation of his story? I'm struggling to see what you're trying to accomplish. If someone shares something personal, it's really kind of a dick move to say "Well, I'm sorry that my opinion of your personal situation pisses you off."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:13 AM on November 2, 2009


In some ways relationships are like religions* for people who are not born into them; people engage in them for different reasons at different times in their lives. Some people dive in head first and then just as quickly jump out and try another one, some people wait a long time to see if their choice is right, some people dally with many different ones and never settle down. Some people find them when they are emotionally vulnerable and stay with them for life. Some people don't find a connection with any particular belief system.

Love is a wonderful thing to experience, but expecting reciprocation may not be the best way to increase ones chances at first. Love and sex together are fantastic, but they don't necessarily have to co-exist.

The difference between charming and creepy is often in the eye of the beholder, the 'chemistry' that is difficult to ascertain without a face-to-face meeting. Having said that, the internet provides a huge amount of opportunity for pre-dating interaction, which can be quite depressing at times admittedly, but which also gives much more range for meeting people than the usual work/friends networks/hobbies routes. If you work at dating you will have more dates than if you do not. This takes time and can be emotionally draining, but so are most worthwhile things in life. If you have been single for x length of time, you can say to yourself, if I have one relationship in the next x length of time then things are improving. There is no rush**.

Some people believe that love comes after a relationship is cemented (organised marriages, etc.) so YMMV

PS. SCIENCE! says couples who sleep together live longer than single people, but they also get less quality sleep. Swings and roundabouts.

*For the purposes of this argument I am including atheism and agnosticism as religions.
** May not apply to women who wish to give birth naturally.
posted by asok at 9:31 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rules of behaviour are not the answer.

The "failure to assimilate implicit rules" issue has come up on Ask several times. For those who think there's really no basis to this perspective, give this a read. It offers in-depth examples of human interaction that are normally unacknowledged but vital in communication. Anxiety-sufferers, the shy, etc. may not intuitively "get" things that the majority of people can take for granted in both romantic situations and any other interpersonal communications.

The rules governing eye contact, for instance, were a total mystery to me until I understood what patterns of eye contact make people uncomfortable. You can be the loveliest person in the world, but if you're constantly avoiding eye-contact with someone who's talking to you, they may misinterpret your anxiety for disinterest. Approaching such verbal and non-verbal cues from a thoughtful and objective social-science perspective can help folks along if they haven't learned these things by experience alone. That's no reason to say that someone's being inauthentic, inhuman, or affectatious. This simply isn't an instance where we need a champion of nonconformity.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:40 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Great link!
posted by Kirklander at 4:46 PM on November 2, 2009


Sorry, real life intervened and I've not been able to back to this thread before now.

Hildegarde, it's a question of specificity. You can't predict how people will react to you coming up to them and giving them the Vulcan salute. You can predict how the majority of people will react to you offering a handshake, with the understanding that there'll be a few outliers. You can predict how nearly everyone will react to you spitting in their face.

Each of those examples demonstrates a category. There are behaviors that nearly everyone engages in (reacting hostilely to being spit upon). There are behaviors where a wide majority have the same response, but it's by no means universal (handshake). And there are behaviors where the behavior of people is diverse enough you can't accurately predict a response (the Vulcan salute).

You seem to be suggesting that their rules pretty exclusively fall into the third category. I'd disagree. I think that the rules that pick-up artists put forward fall primarily in the second category, with a few falling in the first and third.

As for your later responses, this discussion seems to have gone from the question of virginity to the question of the effectiveness and moral legitimacy of pick-up artists, which is not where I intended it to go. Frankly, I have yet to even seriously look into and absorb the pick-up artists' techniques, and, even when I do read them, I don't intend to use them in a way where I would emotionally manipulate a woman into something which I presume she wouldn't want to do anything. There was a scene in an episode of the 1990s "Cupid" series where a shy man used pick-up techniques with a girl he had a crush on -- but then couldn't look at himself in the mirror afterwards, as he felt so ashamed of the manipulations he had employed.

Basically, I am scant years shy of 40 and I don't have the basic emotional dating knowledge which children in their late teens have. That's a significant deficit. With people with Asperger's, a solution I've heard used is to actually "teach", in academic written form, the social cues that people normally handle inherently through their instincts. (Shift your gaze to different people, etc.) While I don't think I need it to quite that extent, I tend to think that for me, pick-up artists' books may have clues to some of those basic mechanics I've never internalized. I don't intend to become a pick-up artist. I think, rather, that what they produce has some value to my particular problem.

BigSky, to answer your question about what set off the creep-o-meter ... if I remember correctly, I think it was that he seemed to kind of have sort of a non-doctorly patter of salesmanship going in his discussion with me. The telephone call didn't seem like a clinician trying to ascertain a diagnosis, but like a salesman trying to earn a commission. That, combined with the price being significantly greater than a prostitute would cost, was enough to cause me to table the idea. I haven't 100% shelved it -- but it was enough to make me put it aside and not come back to it unless other options don't work out.

Taz, thanks for your thoughts about the situation. I would like to think that I'd be an excellent partner, as I do consider myself pretty sensitive to people's emotional signals. I'd like to think that could be a positive as well as a negative.
posted by DharmaSock at 4:01 PM on November 3, 2009


I'm kind of surprised no one has brought up Girlfriend Experience yet. When I found out about it, it almost made me sorry that I actually had a girlfriend at the time. For someone who provides a good GFE, essentially it's like you have a girlfriend for a couple of hours, without having to pick up someone. I can imagine for some people this might be a good way to ease into it: extremely costly but low-risk while still introducing some of the mechanics and interactions of the "real" experience.

Considering my social skills in college I was always a bit surprised that I actually did get laid during those years; I suspect it's because although I was pretty clueless when it came to interaction in general, I had the advantage of being neither particularly shy or anxious in social situations. That doesn't mean that I haven't pretty consistently faced all number of other issues surrounding my social awkwardness. Those problems continue to this day, which why I feel like I identify with DharmaSock even if I don't suffer his specific issues. Advice like "be yourself" or "don't try so hard" are such useless pieces of advice that they are very nearly mean. It's no different than telling people with clinical depression to "cheer up".
posted by Deathalicious at 9:59 PM on November 3, 2009


I should hasten to add that I have never tried out the GFE or any similar kind of sex work. I personally have no issues with the idea of hiring a sex worker, I just never did it. It's probably mostly a combination of being cheap and not having the guts.

(although of course as a married man it's no longer an option for me anyway)
posted by Deathalicious at 10:04 PM on November 3, 2009


I'm kind of surprised no one has brought up Girlfriend Experience yet.

Actually, I did -- see the "seventh" section, the one to baf. Basically, yeah, a GFE sure sounds wonderful – but the problem I'd face is that it's a one-off experience. I'm not entirely assured it'd give me the true experience needed – not the experience of having a girlfriend, but of acclimating myself to steeling myself up to asking someone, and dealing with rejection until you get acceptance, and then building a relationship from there.

It's certainly not out of the question, and something I'll definitely consider (not at the moment, though, since my finances are utterly abysmal and will probably be so for at least, at a guess, a year's time) ... were my romantic life to remain unfruitful, a GFE would be a way of experiencing at least a very, very convincing facsimile of what I've desired for so long.
posted by DharmaSock at 10:41 PM on November 3, 2009


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