In the previous part of our series on sex, productivity and motivation, we looked at the idea that society offers both useful and detrimental suggestions when it comes to pursuing sex, which in turn impacts upon your motivation and productivity levels. In this part we’ll look further into some of the ways that society specifically does this, and then offer some suggestions for filtering out less-useful messages and utilizing the more useful ones.
Update: click here for part 4.
To examine in-depth the cues that society gives us about sex, we need to go back to this chart:
We’re going to look broadly at a range of social forces, from religion and government, through to the gay community and the use of monetary exchange.
Religion and Sex
Let’s try to keep this brief.
Religion says a lot of things about sex, and unfortunately for the most part, there is a fair bit of repression about sex as an act and as a concept. It’s useful to understand that religion has arisen alongside social and historical developments, and that all three have heavily influenced each other. As an example, earlier societies and cultural eras have had problems with population control, and the presence of bastard children, but a lack of a welfare government to handle them – it would have fallen to the country/nation’s religious leaders to offer suggestions about those.
There is also likely a fair bit of politics and ego protection involved with religion and the discussion of sex. Sex is, after all, an enigmatic black box that most men still don’t understand – and let’s not delude ourselves: the majority of religious leaders throughout history have been men. Ego plays into this because the default way that human beings cope with the repercussions of something that they don’t truly understand, is to control all the variables around it. In this case, the concept is sex, and the controls have been religious laws enforced regarding it.
Here’s a quick look at what the major groupings of religions have said about sex.
- Sex exists only within marriage.
- Abstinence is encouraged outside of marriage.
- Priests are to be celibate (Catholicism). Note that this is Canon Law (i.e., mandated by the Church rather than God), not dogma. The historical development coinciding with this was the increase in expense that was required for the church to support priests’ families. The religious reason offered was “love for all instead of one”.
- Sex and passion are painted as false “gods”. If it messes with the existing order of religion, control it through vilification.
- Sex exists only within marriage. There is an obvious connection between politics, religion and society co-developing here, that you can see in Arab countries of the modern day. e.g., in Dubai, unmarried couples are often arrested for engaging in sexual acts.
- Marriage is strongly encouraged. Again, society and politics comes into play here – pair-bonded humans form an extremely strong and stable social unit within a population, and are thus easier to govern. More about this in a later article.
- Multiple wives. The Muslim view of this is financial, not moral: if someone is able to support multiple spouses, it is for the benefit of society that he does so.
- No taboos about sex. This makes most Buddhist countries quite liberal about sex in comparison to those with a Christian tradition.
- Monks aren’t supposed to have sex.
- Desire is treated as something bad, and as a distraction from one’s path in life. Strangely enough, this idea is very close to the concept of using sexual energy as a motivational force.
New Age Community
- The new age community generally has a lot of out-there ideas about sex, wrapped up with good and fuzzy vibes and general “whitelight” feel-good. Most of these ideas have little scientific or even observational basis.
- One concept that they seem to understand better than other communities is the idea of Sexual Energy, and how to use it to your advantage. We’ll talk more about this in the next article of the series.
This is all nice and interesting to know, but the question you’re probably asking is: how do I apply this?
If you follow a particular religious tradition, well, it’s your choice and you should definitely respect your own beliefs. Just understand that the choices religion often asks to you to make, may not be optimal for your sex life, for your motivation levels, or your productivity.
If you are not religious, the main thing is to not allow anyone (religious or otherwise) instill in you the idea that there is guilt associated with sex. Associating sex with guilt majorly disrupts with your ability to function as a human being in the pursuit of worthwhile goals. Often, this guilt is drawn from religion and filtered down through laws, social concepts and the mass media, because of the important role that religion plays in human society.
The most productive mindset by far, is to completely strip any judgmentalism about sex, or men’s or women’s sexual behaviors. Any time that men or women are called “players” or “bad” or “sluts” or “whores”, is judgmentalism, and only serves to hamper your motivation and productivity. It’s hard to stay positive about things that you are pursuing, if the reasons you are pursuing them are weighed down with guilt and a nagging voice telling you that they are wrong. Editor’s note: translation via example: if you’re guy working hard to climb the social ladder so you can date more attractive women, it’s self-defeating to then turn around and be judgmental about women.
The Gay Community
One of the more interesting social forces we looked at in our research for this series was the modern gay community (gay men and women). If you remember the chart above, it is surviving and reproducing that govern our biological drives to do things and achieve goals. At face value, the modern gay community throws half that equation out the window.
But the interesting thing is that gay men and women represent one of the most successful demographic groups in the world. While there has been no long term research done, here are some reasons we think why this is:
- They have the sex part sorted. They know what they want and have much easier channels to get sex.
- There is less judgmentalism going around within the gay community, and most are not confused by the messages that society puts out.
- They’ve learned to control and get sex effectively, giving them more time to get on with their lives and their goals – which has more to do with survival than it does with reproduction.
The two “technological” developments in relation to sex here are birth control devices and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Historically, it has been a woman’s responsibility to take care of birth control. This matches the biological imperative that men have to impregnate as many women as possible. It’s only been a modern development where the law holds the father of a child at least partly responsible for its upbringing (more on this in the section on government below).
Barrier devices such as condoms and diaphragms have dramatically changed the way that human beings approach sex – there is now the option to enjoy lot of sex with fewer consequences (in particular, pregnancy). This mean that the pursuit of responsibility-free sex is a much more active thought and idea in most people’s minds now than it was prior to the availability of barrier contraception.
The birth control pill is an interesting development. It was introduced with much resistance from the Catholic Church, and studies have shown that the hormonal changes it creates in women have behavioral implications. Essentially, women taking birth control pills tend to engage in less risky behavior, seek fewer thrills, and prefer longer-term partners. This means that that they seek out men who are more suitable long-term partners and are more likely to be good “providers”.
In turn, this has huge implications for both men and women. For women, you need to understand that taking birth control will shift your priorities in life at a hormonal level – you may no longer be as predisposed to pursue a corporate career as you would settling down and starting a family (ironically). For men, you need to understand that as you pursue dating and relationships, different women are looking for different things at a hormonal level – some will be seeking men with traits suitable to be long-term partners (those on the pill), others will be seeking men with traits suitable to be short-term flings.
At a more macro level, birth control in all its forms has been a boon for society – it lets women have sex without pregnancy, which means more women in the workforce and an increased national level of output of productivity.
“I don’t care if she’s from (prestigious Sydney girls-only high school), she can still give you AIDs, syphillis or other STDs. Trust me boys, use a condom.” – My high school sex-ed teacher.
The development and increasing number of STDs seems to be nature’s answer to contraception. From a productivity standpoint, there isn’t much to say apart from educating yourself a little, and getting regular check-ups (even if you’re in a monogamous relationship – you can still contract them from say sitting on a bench at the gym), and not worrying about it too much.
One thing to keep in mind: don’t let your physician distort medical and moral advice. It’s your right to pursue sex and enjoy having sex – don’t let your doctor suggest that you should abstain rather than getting regular testing done.
Government, Money and Hollywood
“Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” – Winston Churchill.
In referring to government here, I am referring to the modern Western welfare government, where reach and law often extend into matters of family, relationships, love and of course, sexual conduct.
A welfare government with a social support system isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it has some heavy-hitting implications for human behavior that most people don’t realize. Because there is often a safety, whether it be social security payments, unemployment programs or otherwise, the provision of some basic needs and services in reality, makes people lazier. If you really want to see people who are productive and spend all-day hustling, go to the developing world. This is one of the reasons that Thanh and I spend a lot of time traveling in Asia and Eastern Europe – we want to be in places where people don’t make excuses about doing things… they just do them.
My friend Charles often calls a lot of the “issues” and “roadblocks” that people have, “first world pretty boy problems”. Things like “I don’t feel like it” or “I’m just not motivated enough” don’t exist when you’re working hard to feed and support a family and there is no social welfare to step in on your behalf.
Real-life example: The hairdresser on my street works 7 days a week, 9am-9pm. He’s been there for the past 8 years. He charges 250 baht a haircut (about $8). I highly doubt he stops to think about “not being motivated enough”.
So how does this link to sex. Well, the provision of child-related services, such as maternity leave, payments for single parents, or even social services (the foster system) essentially tells people that they can have sex, have children, and even if they mess it up, the government will step in and bear responsibility for them.
Now from a social standpoint, this is not a bad thing. It’s good to help society stabilize and function. But it has an effect on productivity that most people don’t realize. Essentially, it is allowing for the abdication of responsibility when it comes to raising children (amongst other things). This REALLY messes with your mindset. Society, in the form of government, is telling you that you don’t have to be responsible for your children, and by implication, much of your life. But as we know, the top-level summary of productivity ISto be responsible for your own life.
Solution? Be happy that social welfare exists, but take responsibility despite the system put in place. Your actions will have consequences, and it’s a more productive mindset to realize those consequences than to let government take care of them.
Money and sex are two of the most sought-after things in the world. They have an interesting relationship, with money (and often sex), being an unit of trade that can equivocate to many different things.
Let’s look at how they influence human decision making and courses of action.
For men, money has become something of a necessity (and a shortcut) to getting sex. Even if you are a modern-day Casanova, you still need SOME money to get sex – you still need to pay rent, buy food, buy clothes etc.
Simply put, there is a cost to “getting girls”, whether it be transportation, the cost of dates, contraception, or a more modern development, male grooming. Here’s the interesting thing: money can help you get sex, but you still need a prerequisite level of social skills and social access, which often do not arise from having money.
Society tells you that the more money you have, the more sex you will have. In reality, this is not true. It takes money plus a little bit more (social skills and social access) for that.
The problem with this message from society is that it can often make you deviate from pursuing more productive activities. Accumulating money in the short-term is arguably extremely productive to your life. But it won’t necessarily get you sex. Learning social skills and getting social access are more likely to get you sex – but you lose out on the productivity benefits from letting society “trick” you into believing that working hard and long in the pursuit of money, will get you sex. Simply being aware of this means that you can use this paradox to your advantage – let chasing sex fuel you as you go about working and getting things done. But recognize that it isn’t really getting you sex – it’s just helping you get things done.
No discussion of money and sex would be complete without a discussion of prostitution and relationships.
Let’s look at relationships first. Very simply, relationships tend to be expensive. It does differ city-by-city and country-by-country, but for the most part, couples tend to go places that are pricier than where single people go (most single people opting to eat in rather than eat out alone). Couples also tend to go to nicer places, and do more activities outside the house. There is also an opportunity cost in terms of productivity, from time spent nurturing and building your relationship. More about this in part 5 of this series.
On the flip-side, we have prostitution. Thanh and I personally know quite a few men with lots of money, who choose this option. They tell us that for them, it’s just more productive to pay for sex. They don’t want the drama or complications or relationships – they know what their sexual needs are and would prefer a professional to take care of them without incident.
While the idea may be horrifying to someone in America, in parts of Asia, “massage” parlors and prostitution are the norm here. Most married women here tolerate their husbands visiting such establishments under the belief that they won’t form emotional bonds with sex workers, and that it’s just a physical thing (mostly true). It also means that their husbands are less demanding of them sexually, which happens to go well with their religiously-inspired belief that sex is something bad. Editor’s note: women like sex as much as men, they just don’t like sex with men they’re not truly attracted to. This is 100% true in Asia, as most marriages are about social alignment and are essentially business transactions rather than about “love”.
Money and sex works differently for women. Unless you happen to work in an adult industry (porn stars + Amazon wish lists come to mind), or live under particular economic circumstances (e.g., country girls in Asia who marry for money) there no obvious correlation between sex and money as a woman.
The one less obvious correlation is in marriage and children. As one of our female reviewers put it to us, most women rationalize the idea of “I want kids” as a way to avoid the responsibility of a career or pursuit. She also mentioned that the occurence of female-masterminded shotgun marriages (where a couple is married because the woman is pregnant) is more common that most people think.
Mass Media and Hollywood
We’ll have more to say about this in article 7 on “Asian Efficient Sex”, you basically want to remember that Hollywood and the mass media is not real life – it’s entertainment. The messages and “lessons” that film and television teach you about sex are inaccurate and often present caricatured representations of sex. Don’t apply them to your own life.
A Plan for Action
For men, the best thing to understand is that as you become better at getting sex, the motivational push that you derive from sex goes down. Whether you have easy access to sex as a result of wealth, social skills or status, the easier your access, the less the idea of sex will help you push forward in your career, work or pursuits. An extreme example of this are men who live in their parents’ basement, and do little apart from play guitar and have sex with young attractive women all day.
Editor’s note: we’re not women, so we asked various women to help us formulate the below.
For women, it is important to understand that most of the motivation you get from sex comes after sex, from the relationship. The main motivational drive for women comes from a combination of pair bonding, the idea of family (a subset of pair bonding) and the pursuit of sexual expression through creativity or femininity. Sex is a subset of a relationship, though a relationship can be anything from a one-night stand to a monogamous marriage. A large majority of women (especially outside North America), allow their dreams and goals to become subservient to the relationships they are in. Historically speaking, women typically maintained the family, while men pursued activities outside the family that helped with its survival. This is not good or bad, just recognize that it exists and take action accordingly.
One of the questions that we received from readers is whether having no sex would help with productivity. The answer is actually surprising – it depends on how you go about it. Remember that you derive a lot of biological benefits from having sex. More to come in the next part on Sexual Energy.
Society has a large impact on how you view sex, how you get sex, and all the pathways that it makes you believe will lead to sex. This can make you work extremely productively to get sex, and at can also make you work very productively thinking you’ll get sex, but never getting there.
- Take responsibility. Number one principle when it comes to productivity.
- The less judgmental you are about sex, the better your life will be, and the more productive you will be. You’ll also get more sex too.
- Learn to trick your brain. Some of the things society tells you are helpful, some are not. Recognize the difference between what helps you get sex versus what helps you be productive, and use that to your advantage.
- Read up on opportunity cost and apply the theory to both the act of getting sex, and the things that society tells you will lead to sex but often don’t.
Update: click here for part 4.