6 Ways Your Brain Is Sabotaging Your Sex Life
For some people, it feels like the entire world is conspiring to make sure that the amount of time you get to spend rubbing your genitals on other people (and the quality of said rubbing) never lives up to your expectations. But if you happen to count yourself among the genitally challenged, would it make you feel better to hear that there's only one person standing between you and the sex life of your dreams, and that's the pale and blobby one who's lurking inside your own skull?
Probably not, but it's true -- our own psychology is constantly working against us. Our heads are full of destructive and downright wrong ideas that we just can't get past, due to biology, upbringing, or both.
We Think People Who Dress Sexy Are Dumb
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's ever heard the term "bimbo" before: Due to pretty much every aspect of how our culture thinks about attractiveness, we've all been brainwashed into thinking that people who dress sexy are less intelligent. But maybe more surprising is the fact that this doesn't just apply to women -- men who opt to show more skin are also regarded as being stupider.
"I let my pecs do the talking. Unfortunately, they failed their GED."
OK, so maybe that's not more surprising, but bear with us, because it doesn't stop there: When you see someone cruising around without a shirt, it's not just their IQ that you think is lacking -- you suddenly start to assume that they suck at other stuff, too. In one study, both men and women were shown pictures of "Erin" or "Aaron" in different stages of undress but with the exact same biography. The more skin the person in the photograph was showing, the more the test subjects assumed that Erin/Aaron was not only a blundering dumbass, but morally incompetent as well.
In an interesting variation on the experiment, researchers wired some dude up and gave the test subjects the ability to administer an electric shock (because it's not really science if no one's screaming). You probably think that people would be more likely to shock the guy if he was shirtless -- because, hey, he's probably too dumb to hold a grudge -- but the results were actually the exact opposite: People were more likely to light him up when he was fully clothed than when he was sans shirt. So apparently, although we tend to assume that scantily dressed people are stupid, we also see them as more likeable and/or deserving of our protection.
Either that or they were just pissed at being stuck in the "clothed people" group.
So to summarize, people will think you're stupid if you sexy yourself up in an attempt to increase your chances of getting laid, and you in turn will think people are stupid if they're trying to call sexual attention to themselves.
It's almost like your brain is trying to trick you into having shitty sex with dumb people, especially when you consider the fact that ...
Getting Ogled by Men Makes Women Act Dumber
Hopefully, most of you men out there know that it's horribly inappropriate to drool all over the women you work with. But the reasoning isn't only because doing so makes you a first-class dickhole, but also because science says that being ogled severely impairs women's brain smarts.
Don't feel bad, ladies. He has that same effect on men, too.
In a study, women were invited to participate in an interview with a man who, when they entered the room, looked them up and down, and then proceeded to stare at their boobs the entire time. At the completion of the interview, the man would give the woman written feedback to the effect of "Lookin' good in them jeans," and she was then asked to complete a series of math questions. The women who received this treatment were much more likely to have difficulty with completing the questions than women who hadn't been ogled.
Ogled males did not have this problem.
"Quick, touch it again! I've almost solved Goldbach's conjecture."
And no, it's not just nerves. Not only were the women who had been given the once-over suddenly having difficulty solving math problems, but they were also more likely to feel ashamed about how they were dressed, and even to seek out the guy who had sexually harassed them to try to earn his approval. Researchers speculate that this may be because of a compelling urge to prove that she's more than just a sex object, but we like to think that it's because it's logistically impossible to punch a man in the dick unless you're standing near him at the time.
In the real world, you can see how this could lead to a vicious cycle in which a woman is objectified, her job performance suffers as a result, she seeks out the man who objectified her, only to be objectified again ... and on and on ad infinitum until the man is eaten by lions in the great Circle of Life (or something). And this only brings us to more bad news ...
Your Brain Makes You Objectify Women (Even if You're a Woman)
One way you immediately know when a woman is being objectified is if the person or photo focuses on one body part. Douchey guys will refer to a woman as a "piece of ass," and you get porn sites that focus entirely on body parts (we're not linking to them; Google "best tits gallery" if you don't believe us), often not showing the face at all. But it isn't just porn mongers and catcalling construction workers who do this. It's embedded in your very brain.
Thus relieving everyone of responsibility.
To put it simply, the human brain processes women as groups of objects rather than as people. See, when your brain picks up a new image, there are two ways it reacts: One is to use global processing, where the brain lumps details together into a single idea, and the other is to use local processing, where the brain sees a bunch of individual parts. When looking at human beings, for instance, you would see them globally, as one object. When looking at a dinner table with a bunch of food items set out, you'd process them locally -- you dive right into the fries and ignore the parsley.
The problem is that when we said "human being" up there, we meant males.
In a study, participants were shown dozens of photographs of men and women and then asked to identify people from the photographs based on isolated images of body parts. What the researchers discovered was that both men and women more often used their global processing technique for looking at men, meaning that they tended to see the man as an entire person. However, they used their local processing technique for looking at women, meaning that their brains were processing the woman as "an ass, some boobs, some hair, and a sexy pair of lips all held together by ."
As for why this happens, scientists really aren't sure, but the closest assumption is that men are sizing women up as potential mates, while women are comparing other women's bodies to their own. That's right -- not only are women objectifying each other, but they're objectifying themselves as well. Nice job, society.
It could also be that both sexes simply agree that boobs are awesome.
We Have Double Standards for What Constitutes "Cheating"
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?
"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.
"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.
"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.
We're Insecure and Jealous Because It Helps Us Survive
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.
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.
"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.
Yes, Males Assume That Their Female Friends Secretly Want to Have Sex With Them
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.
"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.
"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.
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.
And stop by LinkSTORM because it's Monday -- you weren't going to be productive anyway.
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