6 Ways Your Brain Is Sabotaging Your Sex Life

#3. We Have Double Standards for What Constitutes "Cheating"

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In a study where subjects were asked to rate important qualities in a potential mate, "fidelity" was consistently found to be, if not number one, pretty damn close to that top slot. Which makes sense, since most people don't much like being cheated on. But wait, just what is cheating, anyway?

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"It certainly isn't tripping into my bent-over secretary while my pants accidentally fell down, I'll tell you that!"

No, that's not a Bill Clinton-style cop-out; it's actually a legitimate psychological problem. Is it cheating if you just briefly kiss while drunk? What if you put your finger in someone's ass, but it was, like, totally an accident? What if you bang somebody on the hood of a Jeep Wrangler, but it's not your Jeep Wrangler? What if it is your Jeep Wrangler, but the sex is terrible? It doesn't matter how you answered any of that, because it turns out that most people have a built-in tendency to define cheating differently for themselves than they do for their partner. And to understand how that might be, you first need to understand how people define "sex."

For past generations, it was fairly cut-and-dried: If the willy or the hoo-ha came into play, it was pretty clear that you'd had some variety of sex. But for the generation of kids currently reaching adulthood, it's much more nuanced than that -- that blow job in the janitor's closet on February 29 of a leap year, for example, might not count.

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"He wasn't my husband, but it was in a state park during a new moon ... babe, can you bring me the tide tables for Maine?"

Well, OK, the culture changes, after all. But the problem is that we take advantage of that wiggle room to give ourselves a chance to be hypocrites about the whole thing.

For instance, one study asked college undergraduates what they consider sex to be when they're having it, and for them nothing counts except penis-in-vagina. But when asked what they consider sex when it's what their significant other is having with someone else, suddenly anything other than a hug is a betrayal on the level of intercourse. Note: No one was more restrictive about what counts as sex as men were when referring to their girlfriends.

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"I don't know what a gynecologist is, and I don't care! You betrayed my trust."

So in short, we consider illicit sex to be a deal breaker, but where we draw that line is based purely on what's most convenient for us.

#2. We're Insecure and Jealous Because It Helps Us Survive

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Someone's attitude toward the other person in their relationship can be grouped in one of two ways: Some people have a secure attachment to their partner, where they feel safe in their relationship and trust the significant other to live their life without constantly checking in. Others have an insecure attachment, meaning they leave you 36 messages during the three hours between when your phone died at work and when you got the chance to charge it in your car. And the last 15 messages are all sobbing because you didn't want to go see Cloud Atlas last weekend. And when you get home your apartment is on fire.

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And God help you if you have a pet rabbit.

Needless to say, most people are drawn to the former relationship type, because apartment buildings are better when they're not aflame, and, seriously, we'll go see whichever movie you want if it means that much to you, whatever. We think of those relationships, and those people, as healthier and more stable. So why do those clingy, jealous, controlling types exist? Because it is a survival mechanism.

The key is that people who are insecure in relationships don't limit their fears to their love life -- they're scared of everything. So in situations where actual physical danger arises, like, say, you smell smoke because someone is burning down your home over a movie-related disagreement, the insecure-attachment-style person will be the first to react, and, if necessary, wake the secure-attachment-style people out of their peaceful stupor just in time to escape the fiery death trap.

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"You asshole, wake me up sooner next time! My Pop-Tarts are still in there!"

In a study that created the exact situation we just described with several different groups of people with differing attachment styles, they found conclusively that the more insecure people there were in the room, the quicker they were to react to danger -- and the more likely they would have been to survive, had the smoke been produced by an actual fire rather than a scientist's demented soul. In other words, it's not just that these people are "possessive" in their relationships. They're simply acting on their own survival instinct. So good luck curing them of that.

#1. Yes, Males Assume That Their Female Friends Secretly Want to Have Sex With Them

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There are two things that When Harry Met Sally taught the world: First, you can fake a window-rattling orgasm in a crowded diner in the middle of the day and not get kicked out, and second, men and women can't be friends, because sex will always get in the way. We can't really vouch for that first one, but according to science, the second one is true.

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"Yeah, but not in my case." -- 3 out of 5 readers

According to a study that seemed pretty intent on proving what millions of men already insisted was true, men and women can't ever be friends simply because they define the word "platonic" in vastly different ways. The study involved asking two members of the same friendship about the benefits of said relationship and the likelihood of the two people ever playing a nice game of marinate the bratwurst. Sure enough, the men were consistently much more sexually attracted to their female friends than vice versa. And, more importantly, they also projected their sexual attraction onto their female friends.

We realize that this is bringing back a lot of traumatic memories for many of you, but the study found what you already have probably experienced in your own life: When the male feels attraction to the female, he automatically assumes that it's mutual, even if no such romantic interest is present on her part. Oh, and the men were more than willing to act on this imaginary mutual attraction, even if their female "friend" happened to be in a romantic relationship with someone else at the time.

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"I like to think of you having a boyfriend as less of a roadblock and more of a traffic cone."

The two sexes were experiencing the exact same friendship, the same conversations, the same mannerisms, etc., and were interpreting them in two completely different ways.

Just to make things crystal clear: If you're a guy, your female friend probably doesn't think of having sex with you any more than your heterosexual guy friends think of having sex with you. But if you're a girl, then yes, he wants you to touch his wang. It's not that he doesn't mean it when he agrees that you're "just friends." It's just that males tend to mentally add "for now" to the end of it.



J.F. Sargent is a workshop moderator for Cracked, and you can follow him on Twitter and read his stupid little blog.



For more reasons why your brain really is running the show, check out The 6 Most Mind-Blowing Ways Your Brain Can Malfunction and 5 Ways Your Brain Is Messing With Your Head.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Reasons Houdini Was Way More Badass Than You Think.

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