Still in Progress: The Ethical Slut

OK, so I’m halfway through this book, and all I’m feeling is sad. It seems that the truly radical notion that’s being proposed is to take sex seriously, and to recognize your desire for it, and, honestly, to be ok with that.

I can totally get on board with that idea.

The thing that bugs me, still, is the somewhat dated notion that as people we should enjoy sex. Seems obvious to me, but maybe not to others. But really, the book feels like it’s trying to convince me to like sex– which again, feels old.

Here’s what’s interesting: the authors don’t suggest you become engaged to everyone you sleep with, but they do suggest you understand the boundaries of the relationship you pursue. To me, that reads the same as every relationship advice book: know what you want, ask for it, and clarify it when you’re not sure. Weird that a simple idea like that is what shines through in a polyamory book.

Current thought: polyamory is just another way to be what we want to be, instinctively.

Would love your thoughts, readers — send them in!

Xoxo,

Ingrid

In progress: “The Ethical Slut” by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

I’ve been asked by a dear girlfriend to read and review The Ethical Slut, a book that outlines why and how to become poly-amorous. I’m not far into it, but I’m already disturbed by the premise: we all need to free ourselves from society’s rules, but in order to do that properly we need to follow more, and more complicated rules, so that the ultimate goal is reached: pleasure for everyone.

I’m all for pleasure being a goal. In fact, I believe very deeply that ‘when momma’s not happy, no one is.’ If we don’t pursue our own pleasure we’re really just robbing everyone else of the opportunity to see our brilliant, wonderful selves. We also rob them (esp men) of the opportunity to give us pleasure if we aren’t prepared to receive it graciously and happily. With that said, something about this book’s premise that ‘pleasure is the goal’ felt off. Yes, pleasure is a goal, but in my opinion pursuing pleasure is meant to allow us to be open to life and to deeper levels of purpose and meaning. I don’t see it as an end. I see it as a means to an end.

Needless to say, pursuing pleasure means not buying into monogamy – but only doing so in a totally open, communicative way. There are a lot of very specific roles and boundaries to remember lest you hurt someone.

Our bodies are designed to reproduce and make sure we don’t get eaten by animals. Granted, we should be able to evolve past our base instincts – but “should” is very different from “can”. The authors of this book seem so sad and riddled with pain from early, awful, relationships where they were trapped in some way– at least one was emotionally abused. I can understand the desire to be free of that, but I wonder at the idea of creating a whole new sub-society full of very detailed, subtle, confusing rules to live by.  It smells strangely like a fraternity. You can’t just live by your own rules, you have to get an entire group to buy in to it and then enforce those new rules – I see a big logic gap here.

In any event, I’m going to finish the book soon. Stay tuned for more (maybe I’ll change my  mind!)

“Decoding Love” – Andrew Trees

I read this a few months ago, so unfortunately the best tidbits aren’t top of mind. I will re-read it and add details to this post, since I really enjoyed this book and wish I could convey all the details.

The basic premise of this book is that almost all of our hated ‘dating rules’ are biologically pre-determined and, even if you think you can do it, changing biology isn’t a matter of a well orchestrated sexual liberation (read: feminist) movement.

Now, readers, I am a very dedicated feminist in the work world. I want equality and I want access to all the opportunities out there. The reality, even in this enlightened day and age, is that women’s true equality and liberation just hasn’t happened. According to Trees (the author) there are very good reasons for this. I will say that this book gave me some interesting ideas for working my ‘female’ advantages – primitive, female tactics that work with all men – and that gave me some hope. Still, it’s a sad realization.

Some funny, practical dating tips derived from our primitive selves:

– Again (like Ms. Stanger) – never sleep with someone until you’re all set in the monogamous relationship department. Men read sex as a cue for promiscuity, which, no matter how enlightened they are, registers as “bad risk” for a child that isn’t his. He gets turned off by this. Go figure.

– If you’re a woman and you want to meet a man be sure to stay at the party/bar late. Controlled for alcohol consumption (i.e., this isn’t a result of beer goggles) men gravitate to the last women standing late at night. This is something to do with a scarcity and “time’s running out” model.

– Women choose men. You may not think so, but it’s true. Men respond to female attention and signals and then, and only then, take the initiative. This is biologically driven by women’s need to be super selective (1 egg per month vs sperm). I buy it.

– You don’t know what’s at work when you’re attracted to someone, but there’s a lot more going on than you think. For example, in a controlled experiment women were asked to smell the (dirty) t-shirts of many men and asked which they liked best. 100% of the time the women who had their brothers’ t-shirts in the options didn’t pick them. Scientists think this is because there is a genetic “no sexual attraction” gene link between siblings. When the t-shirt was owned by someone with the opposite gene sequence from the women smelling them they were inevitably attracted (opposites attract to ensure biodiversity).

And on, and on…

This book is fascinating if politically dispiriting. I recommend it though. It’s good context for understanding your own seemingly faulty decision-making with regard to mates (so much of it is chemical!)

What’s the point?

Dear reader (or non-readers, as I call you people):

Welcome to “For Crying Out Loud”, the blog that will hopefully give you the best and worst of self-help advice without having to read the books.

My dream of owning a self-help bookstore chain (with comfy chairs, tissue boxes and a liquor license) has been put on hold indefinitely, so I decided to just write a blog to release all of the pent up self-help chitter chatter in my head from years of secretly and somewhat obsessively reading self-help books for fun.

I know that most well adjusted people like to just live their lives with only periodic, forced moments of self reflection and analysis. Usually those moments arrive during crisis, and that’s when people who don’t particularly enjoy lounging around indoors on beautiful sunny days obsessively reading anything they have on hand finally reach for a little, somewhat shame-inducing, help from a self-help book. This blog is designed for you.

Or, maybe you’re a news junkie who latches on to the latest health, psychology, pro marriage, anti marriage, marriage health, baby-raising-without-diapers and other ‘trends’ being reported with vigor on our 24hr news channels. If so, you might benefit from this blog too.

I have one goal: to reduce self help trends and (sometimes) individual books to digestible summaries with my commentary that is derived solely from reading similar books. I’m not an expert, nor is my personal life peachy (I don’t follow the advice, I just read it). That way you won’t have to read these books, nor will you be forced to swallow whole all the BS news trends.

Thinking about reading a self help book, but wonder which one to read? Let me know. I’ll read it for you and will post my summary and commentary within a week.

Sincerely,

Ingrid, Author, For Crying Out Loud

“Become Your Own Matchmaker” – Patti Stanger

I loved this book. I’ve been an avid, voyeuristic fan of Patti Stanger’s show “Millionaire Matchmaker” on Bravo, so I picked up her book with the same kind of dirty fascination with Patti’s blunt, female-Howard-Stern harshness along the lines of “if you want a man lose the weight and dye your hair blond now!”

I was wrong. Pattie Stanger evidently loves love, and it’s easy to tell how much she loves helping people find it. Surprisingly, her book is written for real (note: heterosexual) women, not the bimbo-esque chicks she recruits in LA for her millionaire clients.

Key insights:

– All women, every single one of them, become chemically attached to any man they sleep with. Save yourself heartache. Don’t sleep with anyone who isn’t right for you (see next bullet) and who isn’t committed to you – i.e. he clearly states he’s only sleeping with you. This isn’t about maintaining some veneer of purity or mystery. This is for you to buy the time you need to evaluate your partner before you get chemically attached. It’s about mental clarity and giving men the chance to show their chops (or lack thereof).

– Who is right for you? Patti lays out several list-writing exercises that – truly – help you reduce down your wants/desires in a mate (at least 40 total, listed by category such as “physical”, “intellectual”, etc.) to five non-negotiable traits. “Chemistry” isn’t allowed as an item on your non-negotiable list because if you don’t have that the rest is a waste of time and effort. I usually skip these types of list-making prescriptions, but this particular method yielded a very, very surprising list of non-negotiables for me. I highly recommend you actually get pen and paper and do this.

– Relationships go through easy-to-recognize steps, and they each have a purpose. With that said, if after six months of monogamy (and happy times learning each others’ quirks) you aren’t clearly on your way to marriage you need to push for a proposal. She gives funny, smart tips on doing this. If you’re too uncomfortable to try these tactics, you’re probably not comfortable in your relationship. Definitely a good gut check! If the proposal pitch ideas she recommends don’t work, you need to move on. NOTE: this book is for women who want to get married. If you object to marriage as a goal you need not read this book!

– Let men be themselves and always, always follow the golden rule. As a career trust-issue girl (my own father left my mother for another woman when I was thirteen), this was a real light bulb moment. I’ve read a ton of self help books on finding love, so don’t get me wrong: I know you’re supposed to love yourself first, blah blah blah. The way Patti conveyed this (throughout the book) was so refreshing: you, yeah YOU, aren’t perfect either. Be empathetic as much as you can. Men are different, but they have real feelings and sensitivities. It’s a great woman who lets them be themselves and simply chooses not to date the ones she doesn’t like (or love).

– Of course, great girlfriends and wives can always provide a little help in the style department to her man. Don’t over-judge on looks and clothes.

– Help others find mates, and you will help yourself. Take the time to introduce your unwanteds or relatives to women who might want them. As Patti puts it – it’s a mitvah to be a matchmaker.

– Best advice tidbit: don’t sleep with your ex. You become re-attached to someone who isn’t right for you and you have to start all over again (it’s like quitting smoking: not one puff ever!)

Any downside?

– The book really doesn’t say anything wildly new – it’s just all said in a fresh, pragmatic way (which from my perspective is a major upside).

Have you read “Be Your Own Matchmaker”? What did you think?