Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Book Sample #2

Here's sample #2 from my new relationship book, which should be released by September 2014. As always, any input or feedback would be appreciated!


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Joe, who was single, spent most of his free time seducing married women. He was a pickup artist. He went on to explain his methodology in frightening detail. To summarize, he’d identify a woman that likely had been married for a few years (his targets were usually between thirty and about forty-five.) He would meet them at Starbucks, the grocery store, gyms (he had multiple memberships), or any other place married women may frequent without their husbands. According to Joe, age was important. He would strike at the typical point in a relationship where people begin to get bored, which was critical to his methodology. These weren’t women searching for an end to their relationship; in almost every case they were otherwise happy. They just weren’t as into their husbands as much as they used to be. They wanted to feel a tiny bit of the sexual excitement they felt at the beginning of their relationship. He offered them a no strings attached chance to get a brief taste of that delicious fruit they secretly craved. 

He would introduce himself, flirt a bit to assess interest, then pounce as soon as he determined she was sexually bored. He’d start by suggesting he’d like to get to know her better but he needed to be 100% discreet. This assured her everything would be kept on the down-low. He wouldn’t take a typical “you’re hot” approach to overtly hitting on the women. He’d take a much more indirect route that usually involved some gentle teasing. He routinely acted as if he was the one being selective. 

He would also utilize more subtle but effective techniques. Since the women would have a need to avoid feeling slutty, he would then alleviate her fears of seeming promiscuous by suggesting their meeting would be a once-in-a-lifetime crazy adventure. He would then slip her his email address (he told her it was easier to be discreet because phone bills usually list calls and/or texts.) The actual phrases and techniques he used were shrewd and impressively effective. Most of the time, she’d contact within a week. 

Joe did this all the time. Since he traveled around the metro area frequently, he’d meet anywhere between four and seven women per week. He claimed about three quarters contacted him. He rejected about a third of those, usually because they seemed to be looking for more than a random hookup. That’s why he searched for seemingly happily-married women. The result? He’d hook up with two to four married women per week. Sometimes he would hook up with the same women, but liked to limit it to about five meetings. “You start to develop an emotional connection at that point, which causes you to make stupid mistakes and end up getting caught.” he said. 

Joe had been doing this continuously for over a decade. I asked him how many married women he had seduced, and he had no idea. Conservative math would put his figure at a minimum of about 1,000 women. It took me awhile to really digest Joe’s experiences, mostly because it seemed unfathomable. It was also difficult because of the cognitive dissonance it created. I had always assumed, as the modern ideal relationship story would suggest, happily married people don’t cheat. Furthermore, I always assumed it was almost always the men in relationships that weren’t getting enough sex, thus the gender that was far more likely to cheat.

As a somewhat-trained social psychology researcher, I had to solve this incongruence between my beliefs and my observations. Why were these women cheating on their husbands if they seemed to be perfectly happy? The sheer volume of Joe’s experiences, even if exaggerated, simply didn’t make sense. I started considering the modern ideal relationship story from a more skeptical perspective, which led to the third seed- my polyamorous friends.

I have a few friends that are openly practice polyamory, which is a romantic relationship arrangement involving more than two people. There are all sorts of variations that fall under this definition, which I’ll discuss later in the book. For this discussion, these friends would routinely point out that most American’s ridiculously narrow view of relationships isn’t representative of our relationship capacity, nor is it even the norm around the rest of the world. They had been telling me that for years, but I more or less dismissed them as eccentric weirdos justifying their own particular brand of kinkiness. That is, until I brought up the two previously-mentioned issues with one of those poly friends. She wasn’t surprised at all and laughed at my naivete. She suggested I read the book Sex at Dawn. 

So I did.

And it completely changed how I frame relationships. 

The book offers an alternative to the popular theory of human sexual evolution, which the authors call the “standard narrative.” The standard narrative, which I was taught as an undergraduate preparing for a career in sex and relationship research, is based on the idea that men and women have very different reproductive strategies. Women, because they have to deal with the dangers of pregnancy and can only have so many kids which requires a lot of work, basically play defense. They’re selective in their mates. Men, on the other hand, play offense. Since one man can father many children, the reproductive cost is low. Men, as a result, are slutty. 

This basic premise is used to describe and justify all sorts of human sexual and relationship behaviors, including the pair-bonding that occurs when we meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. This is the story we’re taught.

Sex at Dawn offers a different explanation. Specifically, humans didn’t evolve to form monogamous pair-bonds. We evolved to form small promiscuous tribes. The tribes would use sex to create social bonds. The children that were conceived in the system, because paternity was uncertain, were raised by the tribe. 

The book presents a convincing argument which helps explain a lot of modern human sexuality and relationship behaviors. The most significant variation had to do with female sexuality. The book suggests females crave novel sexual experiences as much as males. We’re much more like our free-loving bonobo primate cousins than the often-cited and more sexually-conservative gorillas and chimpanzees. There are many other relevant points discussed in the book which could consume an entire volume. I highly recommend reading the book.

Like any evolutionary theory, it has some obvious weaknesses. Still, it offers the possibility that our assumptions about our current relationship story may be wrong.

Regarding the need for casual sex, I stumbled up an interesting study by Terri Conley (2011) found women were just as likely as men to engage in casual sex. The data confirms the assertion made in Sex at Dawn. It turns out men don’t hold exclusive rights to the enjoyment of hooking up. 

This revelation led me to seek out another couple I knew that were active swingers. They were in a committed relationship with each other, but both openly had sex with other people. I had known them for a number of years and had noticed they always seemed unusually happy. I assumed it was a facade disguising their deep unhappiness. After all, why else would they want to have sex with other people?

When I brought the topic up, they also laughed at my naivety. They were completely honest- both of them loved sex and used the sexual novelty of other people to fuel their own sex lives with each other. They had read Sex at Dawn and agreed with the premise. Humans aren’t designed for lifelong monogamy, and that expectation unwittingly kills relationships. They didn’t believe swinging was necessarily the answer for everyone, but they did agree that most couples had no idea how to inject passion into the relationship after a few years. All of these ideas seemed crazy, but I was intrigued enough to dig deeper.

The observations and discussions with the prostitutes and drug dealers, the conversation with the pickup artist, the discussions with my poly and swinger friends, the theories presented in Sex at Dawn, and the casual sex data, when coupled with the divorce rate data (about 60% of all marriages end in divorce) and the infidelity data (between 20-25% of all people report cheating on their significant other with another 70% or so claiming they would cheat if they knew they could get away with it), cast a pretty big shadow of doubt over the modern ideal relationship story. The conclusion I eventually came to:

We’re not necessarily bad at relationships, we’re just really bad at a particular type of relationship. 

Unfortunately, that type of relationship is our current societal norm. Most of us are playing a game that is destined to fail. Indeed, the majority of us do fail. he point of failure almost always starts when one or both partners loses interest in the other sexually. Mismatched sex drives develop and relationships hit the rocks. That epiphany brought me to the question that inspired this book- how can we change the game to assure a better chance at success?

Sample #3 coming soon...

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