November 13th, 2007


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02:37 am - on sex as performance art and science!!!

Sarah laying
Originally uploaded by chrismaverick.
Those who follow my daily musings over in 365mav may remember that a few weeks ago, retrospection_ and I had our Hollywood debut a couple weeks ago on the set of the movie Adventureland that was filming at a local amusement park here. For you non A-listers out there who have never starred in a major Hollywood film release, I have to tell you that a shooting day on a movie set is VERY long. It's especially long when your entire part pretty much consists of walking back and forth holding hands and eating stale popcorn while less gifted actors who have to rely on "spoken lines" to get the pathos of their scenes across perform take after take even though you nailed your own mark each and everytime. We are true professionals like that.

Anyway, seeing as how we had plenty of time on our hands, Sarah and I had the opportunity to discuss a great many things that we have in common. After we had talked about football, movies, music and planned our next photo project, the topic of conversation of course turned to sex (because I'm so damn hot, you see). Sarah told me about a conversation she had with friends of hers about the way people behave when they're having sex. Namely, she theorized that while having sex you are in essence always "performing" for the other person.

Her theory is based around the premise that the sounds you make while fucking, from the moans to the dirty talk are all learned and not actually natural. While she accepted that some physical reaction is of course innate, she believed that the majority of the things people say or do is based on subconscious emulation of porn stars and isn't so much a biological of your own body as it is an attempt to entice and turn-on your partner.

I think the idea showed some merit, however I think its kind of a simplification. Everything I've learned about science from watching Mythbusters has taught me that before I can really understand the science of an event I have to break it down and go small scale. So, let's take sex out of the equation for a moment and examine a simpler response to stimuli. Raise your right foot off the ground about 18-24 inches, position it directly over left foot and swiftly and decisively stomp down as hard as you can. I would submit that in all likelihood upon contact between your feet you found yourself involuntarily screaming something to effect of "OW," "OUCH," or perhaps "MOTHERFUCKER!" Even if there was no one in your immediate vicinity, you probably made the same exclamation. So you aren't really screaming for the benefit of a second party so much as involuntarily verbally expressing a response to stimuli agnostic to audience.

Now find an infant child. I wouldn't use a newborn (we're not savages here); any child from about 6 weeks to 18 months will probably do. Now provide a similar pain stimulus to the foot of the child (again, as we are not savages, it is not necessary to stomp from the full 18 inches, 6-8 should do nicely). I surmise, that the child will have a similar verbal response to pain, however the response will likely come in the form of an unintelligible scream of some sort.

What we can learn from these experiments is that not only is the human response to pain innate, but the specific expressions used to convey that pain are learned. The infant does not know the words ow, ouch or motherfucker yet expresses pain verbally nonetheless. The adult on the other hand uses those terms regardless of audience. I therefore postulate that even though expressive terms to intense physical stimuli are learned, their use is involuntary to a large extent nonetheless.

Now leaving our small scale experiment we can again turn to the full scale problem of sex. I'd argue that while Sarah is right, and a large part of the sexual act, from lingerie, mood setting and makeup to positioning, foreplay and movement and even to verbalizations is designed to entice the other partner, and while I will also accept that a large portion of it is learned, the degree to which it is internalized is so severe that it is effectively indistinguishable from any other sexual response that is written into our genetic code. Yelling out a nice heavy "ohmigodohmigodohmigodimgonnacum!!!" is just as instinctive as contractions of the vaginal walls or penis.

Obviously, much like physical orgasmic response varies from individual ro individual, verbal response will vary as well. And again, much like physical actions during the sex act are intentionally performed (I don't think there's a genetic marker that tells someone to bite down on their partner's neck and shove an 18 inch vibrator up their ass at "just the right time"), some verbal responses are of course done intentionally and deliberately for the benefit of the second party (or perhaps third party observers). I don't dispute that. However, I don't think the responses can be simplified to the point that we can consider it a performance per se.

So anyway, like always, I want to know what you think. So give me your thoughts. Or give us your thoughts I should say. As I know Sarah is quite curious to hear what people think too. I originally promised her that I'd post this rant a month ago when we first had the conversation. It's quite possible that I misrepresented her opinions through the haze of memory somewhere here as well. She's welcome to correct me, and hopefully she'll respond to your comments as well with her thoughts as I will.

In the interest of science, I am willing to explore this further. As such, I'd like to have say, 20 female subjects, 10 of whom are porn fans, 10 of whom have never seen any, volunteer to have sex with me on video tape so that we can examine the results and present the findings in a followup journal article. The world is counting on us people. In the meantime, I'd just love to hear what people think.

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on sex as performance art and science!!! - graffiti.maverick

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Comments:


From: (Anonymous) Date: November 13th, 2007 - 09:05 am (Link)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 12:56 pm (Link)
umm, yes, she is. Thanks. But I was kinda hoping on some comments to the actual content of the post.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 13th, 2007 - 01:20 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 02:35 pm (Link)

Re: TL;DR

[User Picture]From: yannaboo Date: November 13th, 2007 - 01:34 pm (Link)
I like your arguments - indeed, some responses are probably inate.

What journal are you thinking about? You might want to add in something more sciencey for an IV or moderator than simple porn watching. How about ovulation? Then E&HB might publish it. Hell, they published this:
http://www.unm.edu/%7Egfmiller/cycle_effects_on_tips.pdf
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 02:46 pm (Link)
hehehe..... thanks. I like when my random musings convert to real science.

As for that journal article, that's great. I so miss academia. I really really really wish I could be in grad school. (here's the part where ludimagist chimes in and tells me I should be. -- hi Meron)

I would have liked to have seen that study done with just regular waitresses. I bet ovulation plays a part in tips there as well.
From: ludimagist Date: November 13th, 2007 - 04:05 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 04:08 pm (Link)
From: yannaboo Date: November 13th, 2007 - 04:36 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 05:42 pm (Link)
From: yannaboo Date: November 13th, 2007 - 04:36 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 05:44 pm (Link)
From: yannaboo Date: November 13th, 2007 - 07:19 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 07:37 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: hardkoreferrari Date: November 13th, 2007 - 02:21 pm (Link)
And what does Sarah think about that offer of you having sex with 20 women? haha

I do agree that responding to a stimulus is instinct... actually it's hot-wired in your nerves, unless you're one of those scary people that truly does not have the nerves to feel pain... but I digress. So probably the moans, and the heavy breathing, and all that is instinct and natural. The words we use, the phrases we say ("dirty talk"), and yes, things like biting our partner's neck or where we put our hands when... those are all learned, and not so much performing for the other person, but making sure that they are getting a full pleasurable experience.
[User Picture]From: hardkoreferrari Date: November 13th, 2007 - 02:22 pm (Link)
Also, congrats on making your Hollywood debut!!
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 03:05 pm (Link)
From: hardkoreferrari Date: November 14th, 2007 - 12:20 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 02:58 pm (Link)
From: hardkoreferrari Date: November 14th, 2007 - 12:20 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: retrospection_ Date: November 13th, 2007 - 02:28 pm (Link)

This is why I stopped doing science.

People just stare at my boobs and refuse to take me seriously.

Ok, let see... the matter at hand. I think you did a pretty good job of representing what I think on the subject. However, let me delve into your thoughts a bit.

Surely, during sex (good sex anyway) there is going to be some sort of physical responce. Just getting hard or wet or turned on is a biological responce and I certainly don't think I have any control over these things.

It isn't so much that you DO react to the stimili of sex - its HOW you do it. In your foot smashing example, for instance, the older person will yell out some conditioned responce. Do you think its natural to yell "ouch" or "motherfucker"? No. If we spoke Russian, we would not yell those things, but rather, something in Russian. Its a cultural construction. Yet both babies (the american one and the russian one) would probably make the SAME unintelligible scream of some sort.

To your postulation: Yes, to some extent, we are "performing" this yelling reaction to no one. But *I* postustulate its only because to react that way is conditioned, much like sex. You didn't start yelling Ouch until you realized it made your mother come running to see if you were ok. Or until you realized it made your friends realize you were seriously hurt so they stopped fighting you, or whatever. You do it so often with people around that it BECOMES the real responce, but only after being conditioned to be so.

To bring this back to sex, consider masturbation: generally most of us started with it instead of sex. And when you first started, did you make all sorts of sexy noises and moans? Did you talk dirty to yourself? Probably not. What would be the point? You know it feels good.

okay, then you start having sex. You have sex for a while, and you get the pattern down. Suddenly, you're trained a different way, because you're used to performing for your partner. Go back to maturbation. Is it different? Do you find yourself gasping and moaning, even though no one is around? probably, because you associate that with how you're supposed to act during any sexual experience. (maybe this point is more valid for the women, because guys don't do too much gasping or moaning in my experience, but you get the idea...)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 03:14 pm (Link)

Re: This is why I stopped doing science.

Oh hush now, I take your boobs very seriously! :-P

see, I think we're on the same page there. I actually thought about rolling in other languages to the rant (I was going to use Spanish), but ended up removing that part because it was getting long and I didn't know if it added anything. But I agree. The other culture has their own conditioned response: "Oh my god|" "¡Dios mi!" "мой бог" but I'd argue that the fact that they do it without thinking removes the performance aspect from it. Sure its learned, or conditioned, but I don't think its any less natural.

To look at it another way, if you're having sex and you specifically hamper your conditioned responses (can't yell, my parents are in the other room) doesn't that feel weird and unnatural?

I guess we come down to a question of what is the definition of a performance?
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 14th, 2007 - 07:13 am (Link)

Re: This is why I stopped doing science.

From: mickeysacks Date: November 14th, 2007 - 07:14 am (Link)

Re: This is why I stopped doing science.

From: chrismaverick Date: November 15th, 2007 - 07:58 am (Link)

Re: This is why I stopped doing science.

From: spinelli2021 Date: November 14th, 2007 - 06:04 pm (Link)

i'm doing what your away message told me to do.

From: spinelli2021 Date: November 14th, 2007 - 06:05 pm (Link)

Re: i'm doing what your away message told me to do.

From: chrismaverick Date: November 15th, 2007 - 08:04 am (Link)

Re: i'm doing what your away message told me to do.

From: spinelli2021 Date: November 16th, 2007 - 05:05 am (Link)

Re: i'm doing what your away message told me to do.

From: chrismaverick Date: November 19th, 2007 - 06:33 am (Link)

Re: i'm doing what your away message told me to do.

[User Picture]From: sui66iy Date: November 13th, 2007 - 02:54 pm (Link)
I don't think that the claims that "moaning is innate" and "moaning is a performance" are incompatible. Let's go back to the pain example. Yes: the baby cries when in pain. So it's innate. But *why* does the baby cry? Crying doesn't *do* anything. It's a method of communication --- a performance, if you will, signally to others nearby that something is wrong. Now, it happens that the "learning process" that causes us to cry happens over generations and is encoded in our genes, but it's still a learning process and it's still a performance act. It's quite possible that this is also the case with sex noises: over many generations, communicating pleasure has translated into more babies, so our bodies have "learned" to do it.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 03:35 pm (Link)
Hmmm... interesting. I only briefly considered a truly genetic argument when writing this and quickly abandoned it, but I think maybe you have some merit there.

So are you essentially arguing that moaning as a purpose is to entice the partner and so became genetically encoded, as is the case with the female bosom mimicking the female buttock1? Now, does that mean that the male innately finds the moaning sounds pleasurable, or is he conditioned in a similar way. What genetic advantage is there to being loud in bed? Is it purely that communication is advisable to the lack thereof, or is there more to it than that?

1: Morris, Desmond Human Animal, The. BBC Pubns, 1994
From: sui66iy Date: November 13th, 2007 - 05:49 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 06:09 pm (Link)
From: yannaboo Date: November 13th, 2007 - 04:38 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 05:46 pm (Link)
[User Picture]From: lonelocust Date: November 13th, 2007 - 04:29 pm (Link)
I had never seen any video porn for probably 2 years after I first had sex, and I had a tendency to be loud (which I could suppress on purpose) back in my new-to-sex days. If I recall correctly, there was moaning and screaming and "ohmygodohmygodohmygod"s.

I found over time that I was really really into dirty talk, but that definitely didn't come from porn. In fact, I think I *still* haven't seen any porn that has the sort of dirty talk that I like. Or at least all of that that I've seen it's seemed really forced and unsexy. I probably picked it up from sexual partners. I also like written porn, which contains more dirty talk, so I probably got some of it from there.

I like your speculation on verbal expression of pain. I think it might be more directly applicable to sex noises than you drew it in your post. I believe in much the same way that "ow" and "ouch" and "motherfucker" are learned expressions of pain, one might have learned expressions of pleasure, surprise, intensity, etc. that will come out during sex whether or not one has seen porn or knows that those are "what people do" during sex.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 06:00 pm (Link)
well, in actuality, I don't think its JUST porn we learn from. I'm guessing that while you might not have seen porn first, you weren't completely ignorant to the concepts and depictions of sex, be it from soap operas, love scenes in movies, or discussions with friends, I imagine you had some idea during those first "ohmygodohmygodohmygod"s that that was a natural response and not something that only happened to you.

I kind of wonder what would happen if someone who had no expectations of sex had it for the first time. Despite my offer to sleep with 20 different women above, I don't think that's really a valid experiment, the 10 women in the experimental group can't simply be non-porn fans, they'd have to be virgins, completely unaware of the cultural memes associated with sex, like Brooke Shields in the Blue Lagoon. If an experiment were designed like that, wherein two people are raised on a secluded island with no sexual influence whatsoever until the day where they both tripped and fell on top of each other and penis accidentally entered vagina and "oh look, that feels good" what would the verbal responses be?

I think your extrapolation of my pain response analogy is what I was getting to. "Oh my god" as an expression of joy is probably learned early on through casual conversation and then employed during orgasm as an involuntary means of communication.

So here's an interesting study. Do people who use the term "oh my god" as an expression in day to day life, more frequently use it during orgasm. Do people who avoid the expression avoid it during orgasm? For that matter, is the extent to which one is talkative or quiet on a daily basis comparable to their behavior in the bedroom? Perhaps inversely proportional?

Someone give me a grant, dammit.
From: lonelocust Date: November 13th, 2007 - 06:15 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 06:38 pm (Link)
From: lonelocust Date: November 13th, 2007 - 10:33 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 14th, 2007 - 11:50 pm (Link)
From: jameel Date: November 13th, 2007 - 06:47 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 07:00 pm (Link)
From: jameel Date: November 13th, 2007 - 07:25 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 07:36 pm (Link)
From: jameel Date: November 13th, 2007 - 07:39 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 13th, 2007 - 07:40 pm (Link)
From: lonelocust Date: November 13th, 2007 - 10:34 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: November 14th, 2007 - 06:36 am (Link)
[User Picture]From: inmostlight Date: November 13th, 2007 - 10:47 pm (Link)
I think that to truly solve this mystery, you need to involve Kari for the best Mythbusters EVER.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 14th, 2007 - 06:36 am (Link)
see, I'm pretty sure I'd place her in the "has seen porn" camp
[User Picture]From: kenoubi Date: November 15th, 2007 - 03:31 pm (Link)
For what it's worth, I used to not shout if I, say, stubbed my toe and no one else was there. In fact, I was almost totally silent if no other people were present. This is no longer true, which I ascribe to a decreased amount of mental processing power available that has caused this to become semi-instinctive.

I do agree with the general idea that something should only be called a performance if at the time that it's done, the person doing it intends to put on a show. Pre-encoded responses shouldn't count, so my reaction to stubbing my toe has changed from a performance to not-a-performance.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 16th, 2007 - 12:35 am (Link)
so that translates to the theory that you might make no sounds during sex at all until you learn that you're "supposed to" and then it would be automatic?
From: kenoubi Date: November 16th, 2007 - 02:36 pm (Link)
 

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