By Kendra Holliday | August 30, 2013 at 7:36 am
I saw Paul Bloom speak in 2011 at ideaCity. His topic was Pleasure, accompanied his book How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like.
You can watch the talk here.
I finally got around to reading his book this year, and wow was I impressed.
What can I say, I like when Yale professors talk about cannibalism and incest in a conversational tone.
I learned a term for something I am ALL about – benign masochism – “enjoying experiences that contain a bit of the nasty”, such as riding roller coasters or eating spicy food.
And I learned that people are extremely susceptible to labels and notions – for instance, if you have someone smell something and tell them it’s cheddar cheese, they might like it, but if you tell them it is human body odor, not so much. Or if you give someone a glass of white wine in a black glass and ask them what they think of the red wine, they won’t even notice it’s white wine.
And there was another concept in the book that was a mindbender for me – imagine if your romantic partner had an identical twin – what would it be like to be with that person? Would you be attracted to them for their looks, or would you need the personality to go along with it? Would it be hot or creepy to have sex with that person? Hm…
My FAVORITE chapter, of course, was the one on Bedtricks!
The term bedtrick was coined by Shakespearean scholars who were struck by the repeated theme of finding out the person you just slept with was not who you thought they were – they were actually a man, or your sister, or a child, or a stranger. A bedtrick can be a fantasy OR a nightmare.
Think the Bible (Jacob, Lot)
or The Crying Game.
The bedtrick nicely illustrates how sexual pleasure is not merely a matter of physical sensation. It is also rooted in beliefs about who someone really is and what someone really is.
Have you ever experienced a bedtrick in real life? I remember a fan fiction story I wrote in 7th grade about Duran Duran. I had a woman fuck a guy in a dark closet who she thought was John Taylor, but it was really Simon LeBon.
He also mentions an interesting study involving turkeys.
Investigators were interested in what features would initiate sexual behavior in male turkeys. They first found you could get arousal with a lifelike model of a female turkey – the males would gobble, strut, puff up, and mount the model. To find the minimal stimulus for sexual response, the scientists removed parts from the model, such as its tail, feet, and wings, ultimately ending up with a head on a stick. The males were fully aroused by this head, and would prefer it even to a headless body.
With rhesus monkeys, they found the males were willing to give up a reward of fruit juice in order to look at two types of pictures – female asses and the faces of high-status male monkeys. Does that mean monkeys are into porn and celebrity worship like humans are? Hm…
And of course, there is the stuff on incest. NOTHING perks up a conversation like throwing in the word “incest!” It’s certainly one of MY fantasy fetishes. It seems like people may likely be attracted to relatives they did not grow up with, but people in general tend not to be into those they were raised with. There was a case of twins who were separated at birth who got married, but when they found out the truth, they had their marriage annulled. What a shocker! It’s weird – all my life I’ve been attracted to men who are very different from how my family looks – my family is fair, and I always went for dark complected, dark-haired men. Many of my siblings did, as well. But these days I’m with a man who looks like my brother – weird!
Anyway, Paul has a new book coming out soon, all about good and evil. It’s called Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil. Can’t wait to check it out!
So, what’s your pleasure? Why do you like it?