Monday, November 26, 2012

We Don't Know What We Want Until We Try It: The Importance of Experimentation

While flying home from Chile, I listened to an interview with Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) about his Ted talk about happiness. He talked at length about Howard Moskowitz, a psychologist that does market research for food brands. He's most famous for his work with spaghetti sauce.

As part of the talk, Moskowitz talked about how Americans said they wanted thin, runny spaghetti sauce... until they actually had people taste a wide variety of different sauces. Until that time, food researchers asked people what they wanted. Moskowitz had them try different sauces. The result was clear- most people turned out to like something different than they thought they liked.

So what does this have to do with sex?

Many people have a genuine anxiety that's manifested as fear of sexual experimentation. The reasons are varied, and could include things like feeling of guilt or shame. They may fear rejection by their partner or rejection by society as a whole. 

Since we don't like to experience fear, we attempt to reduce it. The easiest way to reduce or eliminate it is to stick with the basics and never venture outward. After all, even repetitive, boring, or bad sex is still better than most alternative activities. Like the people that were content with their runny, bland spaghetti sauce, we're content with the status quo.It's not until we try something new that we realize just what we're missing. There are some pretty damn good spaghetti sauces out there. Life's too short to eat bad spaghetti sauce.

How to Experiment

Experimentation is pretty simple- try something new. Getting your partner on-board may be a little tricky, though. In my last post, I recommended a technique that is surprisingly effective. 

Each of you write three things you'd like to try on a piece of paper. Exchange lists. Explain and discuss each one. Each partner gets to cross one item off the list. Discuss why they crossed that one off, but do not pressure or judge them. Just accept their decision. Now try the other two items on each list.

The items on the list shouldn't deviate too far from your current comfort levels. For example, it you only have sex in the missionary position at 8:45pm on Thursday evenings, you probably don't want to add "make porn and submit it to a website" on the list. 


Start with different positions, the inclusion of toys, or maybe role-playing. The key is to get comfortable sharing new ideas, then honestly discussing if you enjoy it or not. If both of you enjoy it, add it to your repertoire. If not, discard it and maybe try it again in a few months. 

I guarantee you'll find some new figurative spaghetti sauces you like even more than the spaghetti sauce you think you love now.

If anyone has recently started experimenting, feel free to comment on it below. Tell us what you did and how it went. Remember, you can comment anonymously. 


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