So I’m reading Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships. At least, I’m trying to read it.
I picked it up (if we can call the act of downloading a book onto a Kindle app on an iPad “picking up”) because I saw a reference to an article in an old post over on Schnoff’s blog but the link’s dead now so I just went ahead and got the book.
The description on Amazon looked promising enough:
Zing! Cupid’s arrow skewers a primitive part of the brain. Obediently, we fall in love amid showers of passionate fireworks, bond for a time … and then often get fed up with each other and grow irritable or numb. Perhaps we try to remodel our mate, seek solace online, or pursue a new love interest. Ancient sages recognized this biological snare and hinted at a way to dodge it: use lovemaking to balance one another and harmony arises naturally.
With an entertaining blend of personal experiences, the latest neuroscience, and forgotten insights from around the globe, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow confronts current assumptions about sex and love and offers a refreshing, practical approach to sexuality.
Well, promising except for the “Zing!’ part. Also, it’s super well reviewed (4.5 stars with 35 reviews). Then it says things like, “We humans are unique among mammals in that we have the capacity to comprehend our subconscious mating programming and choose to manage it consciously,” and I’m, like, yes.
The basic premise of the book is that sex with orgasm is really about procreation and how we’re wired to really enjoy orgasm (for the few seconds we do) is genetic and evolutionary trickery to make us engage in orgasmic sex more often. But, we’re predisposed to find the mate we’re with less interesting over time, thanks to the drive to spread our seed as far as possible. If we want to maintain the feelings of intense affection and bonding we experience at the start of a relationship, we should not let the brain feel the hit of orgasm since that releases chemicals that eventually work to defeat the part of falling in love we like.
The neurochemical payoff at the moment of orgasm feels like it promotes bonding. Yet such bonds are more fragile than we like to admit. At climax, a neurochemical blast triggers further events for approximately two weeks. These fluctuations deep in the brain drive us toward sexual satiety and subtle changes in mood, which often create emotional friction between lovers (Cupid’s poison). Uneasiness also leaves us vulnerable to promises of quick relief—another potential mate (real or virtual) being one of the most alluring. Thus orgasm turns out to be related to making more babies and making them with more than one partner.
I can get behind this train of thought.
Thing is, as far along as I am with it, there’s just too much spiritual hoo-haw for my taste. This is, essentially, a book on Karezza with some Eastern mysticism mixed in. I’d rather read more about the brain chemistry and less about the ancient “insights from around the globe.” But that’s just the rational atheist in me talking. It’s not that I don’t find the ancient insights interesting. I do, inasmuch as it shows that people had observed the beneficial impact of avoiding orgasm during sex, even thousands of years ago.
The good part of reading it for me, so far, is that it validates so many of the things I’ve observed and experienced personally. For example, the author mentions several times the two week cycle I’ve seen in myself that follows a couple of good orgasms. It’s actually kinda nice to know that I’m not a total freak and even prehistoric Indian shamen had already figured out that not coming during sex was a good thing.
The book, being about Karezza, advocates abstinence from orgasm for both partners, not just the men. This isn’t something I’m asking Belle to do nor am I seriously considering asking her since I really, really like her orgasms and life seems to be pretty fucking good right now with her having them and me not. In fact, I’d say the author thinks orgasms are the root cause of too much that’s wrong with relationships. I get that there’s chemistry involved and orgasm and sex don’t need to necessarily follow and things can be really awesome if they’re disconnected, but she actually comes out and says at one point that if everyone practiced Karezza the net result could be world peace. No, really.
Here’s a passage where she’s realizing that maybe she needed to stop having orgasms, too, and is pondering the consequences of them:
What if some sort of perception shift resulting from orgasm also left us with feelings of lack? How might sexual hangovers manifest in women’s experience? How about all-around bitchiness? Making him wrong about everything? Reaching for antidepressants? Avoiding sex? Overeating? Excessive fondness for one’s vibrator? Feeling unable to cope? Insane jealousy? Fortune hunting? Romance novel addictions? Compulsive shopping, or even kleptomania? Tears and emotional blackmail? Neurotic, needy, controlling mothers—and wounded kids?
Again, I’m not all the way through and am hoping there’ll be more science in the book and am therefore withholding final judgement, but after reading that, I thought, “FUCK, maybe you’re just neurotic.”
Anyway, I’m not not recommending the book. I’m just not sure if I’m recommending it. As I said, jury’s out. I’ll keep reading…
5 thoughts on “That little Cupid prick”
The “spread your seed” argument is an old one, and a male-centric one.
As for female abstinence from orgasm… Um, there are numerous women who don’t orgasm. It’s not been considered ‘important’ in a myriad of cultures, for centuries. So the whole “Maybe I’m a psycho bitch *because* I’m having orgasms” thing…
I hope there’s some neuroscience in this book for you, Thumper. So far the only ‘neuro’ seems to be Neurotica.
Thanks for the share. I always like to hear about what people are reading.
The female equivalent to the “spread your seed” thing is the desire to have a varied set of offspring from multiple partners to ensure genetic variety and better chance some will survive. Says the author.
I’m just about to the sciency part. Up until now, it’s been nothing but anecdotes and assumptions. Like I said, some of it has the ring of truth to me, but a lot more makes me roll my eyes.
From an evolutionary biology perspective, females are “programmed” to seek partners that take the time and energy to bring them to climax. Two reasons: chances for conception are higher when she orgasms, and it signals to her that this mate will stick around and provide resources for her and her offspring.
I’ve read the Robinson’s website and while some of it is interesting, I find them to be way to dogmatic (intolerant?). To each his own. I am most interested in the differences between male and female post orgasm response. I do find that the post orgasm crash is not uncommon for me. There have been times when I have had a fantastic orgasm and minutes later I am a complete jerk. I masturbated last year and really felt down for at least a day. Other times, I don’t have the crash at all.
But my wife really never has that. She usually wants some time to “bask in her orgasmic glow”, which is perfectly understandable. But then she really wants to cuddle and fall asleep. She’s really happy the next morning, but never really wants to talk about sex (that’s just her). I feel very close and find that her orgasm alone really does satisfy my intimacy needs, so long as she does tease me a bit.
I am reluctant to admit, but our marriage seems more harmonious and loving when we have a lot of sexual contact but I stop short of orgasm. It would be nice to be able to counter the post orgasm crash, because I really do enjoy ejaculating.
Interested to hear the rest of your review.
They may be dogmatic (they are), but there *is* brain chemistry involved. My experience is that one orgasm doesn’t always totally douse the denial buzz but two definitely does.
I think that’s a male/female thing. They’re wired differently and have different chemical and emotional reactions to orgasm. At least in my experience.
I’m not at all reluctant to admit it. That’s one of the reasons their book is maddening to me. I know what they’re talking about is rooted in truth, I just don’t like how they talk and even think about it.
Interesting…this is all a completely new idea to me, and it seems worth tossing around in my brain. I expect to be pondering this for a while. Thanks for bringing this perspective.