That little Cupid prick, Part 2

Might as well blog the book as I go along…

I’m now at Chapter 4 which, I’m told, is the start of the “relevant scientific research” part of the book. Also, the entire rest of the book is apparently all about “relevant scientific research.” This makes me happy.

I’ve discovered the best way not to be annoyed by the spiritual wawa stuff is just ignore it. Between every chapter has been a subchapter dedicated entirely to “Wisdom of the ages” where she explores various religious aspects of sex without orgasm. I just skip them entirely. Since one the basic purposes of religion, IMO,  is to explain things that are otherwise unexplainable, these sections aren’t that interesting to me. Again, I’m not saying there is no value in reading what ancient people thought about this stuff, but I don’t care to read it any more than I’d care to read what the Catholic church was teaching in the 14th Century about astronomy.

The other thing I’d really ding her on is her overuse of anecdote. The book is filled with these little stories about people whose lives were all kittywampus but, following their abstinence from orgasm, suddenly found nirvana. She oversells the positive impact of denial. I know it can be a force for good in a relationship, but it’s not magic and it won’t do your dishes for you. For example, this is from her husband and co-author from, I believe, his journal:

I’ve seen big changes in other aspects of my life, too. My finances are sorting themselves out, and my professional life is expanding in directions I’d always wanted it to—but was unable to take it before. The opportunities continue to flow to me effortlessly and work out great. I have a lot more confidence in myself. I’m calm and focused. And I’m now comfortable with being in a partnership instead of seeing myself as a separate entity who happens to be involved with someone at the same time. I’m much more optimistic about relationships.

The part about being in a partnership as opposed to seeing yourself as a separate entity and the development of general optimism about your relationship? Yes. Fucking hell, yes. Of course, no matter what we do, I will always be a separate entity, but my relationship with Belle feels more like a partnership now than ever and I’m happier being in the relationship with her than I ever have been (excepting, perhaps, at its very beginning — which fits into the book’s premise perfectly).

But. Finances sorting themselves out? Professional life expanding? Confidence? All because you’re not coming anymore? As a guy who doesn’t come anymore, I’m not sure how those things are connected. Also, calm and focus is not something I get from denial. There’s a zen to it, but I wouldn’t go so far to say it makes me calm and focused.

That being said, I do get their enthusiasm for denial (I’m not calling it Karezza because we don’t do that). I have often felt genuinely so enthusiastic myself that I’ve wondered, “Why doesn’t everyone do this?” It’s the best fucking thing. And, truth be told, I do think a whole lot of relationships would be benefited by denial. However, I don’t think I’d ever be so presumptuous as to tell people if they only stopped coming they’d win the PowerBall and their teeth will get whiter. Because, as the author points out, we are wired to crave orgasm. Saying we should ignore those cravings for a pot of gold on the other side of the denial rainbow is a hard sell. It just feels wrong. Also, I’m firmly of the opinion that the changes to brain chemistry brought on by extended orgasm denial create feelings of enthusiasm for the practice not unlike those the religious faithful feel when espousing their beliefs.

An example of that (and the over-reliance of anecdote) can be found in this extended passage. Forget for a second we’re talking about sexual practices and instead are talking about Scientology while you read it.

A friend brought an appealing young man to a party at my home. Lars was a gifted graphic designer, sensitive, sincere, courteous, and somewhat shy. He was accompanied by a polite, and much older, woman. I didn’t realize they were lovers.

A few weeks later the friend who had brought them both to my house showed up again. He was shattered; Lars was dead.

Apparently Lars had only been with the woman a few months. And during that time he’d experienced periods of utterly uncharacteristic, violent behavior. For example, he got into fights in bars and had even been threatened with arrest. My friend, who had known Lars’s whole family for years, also talked with his lover after Lars’s death. She told him Lars had become sexually aggressive. The night of his death the woman had refused to participate. She went into another room to lie down. He came in later, sat on top of her, and demanded that she make love. She said no. He pulled a gun from behind his back and shot himself in the head.

Now, it’s possible that there was no link whatsoever between his emotional-behavioral deterioration and his sex life. It was clear to me, though, that some sort of severe imbalance certainly corresponded with the period of their intimacy. Deeply affected by this tragedy, I made a solemn promise never to use my seductiveness to put a lover at risk. I was also committed to discussing the careful management of sexual energy with anyone who showed the least curiosity.

Get that? Orgasm might leads to violent, suicidal behavior. The implications are clear. Save a life: Stop coming. Also, apparently, don’t be sexy. Have you heard the Good News?

While I fear I may be coming off as overly harsh, I still do have high hopes the promise of sciency stuff will redeem the book for me. I’m still not even a quarter of the way through.

That little Cupid prick

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…