For me, "the morning after" is a case of ambivalence, rather than flat-out regret.
I wouldn't have gone for it, if I wasn't aware of my self-interest. I'm always aware of my self-interest. The reasons that I shouldn't have done it, or I should have done it a little differently—all those "woulda, coulda, shoulda's"— can prey on your mind in a terrible way.
But I often think people are cruel to themselves about how they evaluate a sexual experience. Just because your mother might not have approved, or you're not going to get married—just because it doesn't meet someone else's standards—doesn't mean it didn't have its fabulous, transcendent, insightful, awesome moments.
So I guess I hold those "morning after" situations a little more gently than some. I might have wished things had gone differently, but to denounce it and say, "This should never have happened"—rarely have I gone there.
It's the most interesting interview I've done in years, and I hope it gets your gears buzzing as much as it did mine!
Lucky you. Sex and relationships can be so complex and messy that I think a lot of people do wind up going there at some point in their lives—waking up after a sexual experience, literally or figuratively, and thinking, "Oh, man, that was the wrong decision."
I think the most painful situation in my own life was when I was much younger, a teenager, and I went to bed with a best friend's lover.
It was impulsive, and right in the middle of it, he started crying— and I was like, "Oh my God, this is terrible." I had great esteem for this couple; it wasn't like I was trying to break them up or hurt anyone. It was a messy, intoxicated, going-with-the-flow kind of moment.
When I think back on it, it seems like a foolish, impulsive, youthful moment. The ability to imagine the frustrations and hurt feelings that lie ahead—that comes so much easier when you're mature and you've been there, done that.
I didn't even have to get to 18 before I understood that the consequences of interrupting people's marriages are toxic. Just don't do it. Don't mess with it. You'll be sorry.
I'm interested in this idea of impulsiveness. In looking at why we get things wrong, I thought a lot about all the various ways we make decisions—by impulse, by consulting other people, by trying to assemble the evidence and conduct some kind of rational assessment. I assume that impulsivity governs sexual decisions more than other kinds, and I wonder if you think that makes us more or less likely to regret them.
I don't know.There are so many appetites and pleasures and needs that we act on quickly, and yet there isn't a sense of social stigma and shame around them.
I had something to eat the other night that made me terribly sick to my stomach, and I suffered for it for a day afterward.
But no one's going to say, "Shame on you, Susie! How could you have done that?" Instead we laugh, we indulge. We're much more forgiving about food; you know, live and learn.
I've taken huge sexual risks and often it's turned out awesome. It's not like I regret my impulses or think, "Oh, if only I'd thought everything out and planned every move." People who think they can do that about sex are in for a serious surprise.
I was thinking about your somewhat funny identity as an expert in sex—which I say as someone who has a somewhat funny identity as an expert in wrongness—
Just don't let anyone call you a "wrongpert."
Ha. Why not? "Wrongpert." I love it. It's certainly no worse than "wrongologist," which I've been called so much that I gave in and started using it myself.
Agh. It's like this feminine diminutive that's the kiss of death. You'll notice that men who take an intellectual or professional interest in sexual education do not get called "sexperts," for the good reason that it makes you sound like an idiot.
I rue the day that my friends came up with that nickname. Someone just asked me the other day, "Were you the first sexpert?" And I'm like, "Oh, God, now we're going to do origin of the species?"
It has been impossible in this puritan country to be a scholar and an intellectual about sex. Do that at your peril. Look what happened to Kinsey; it wasn't all accolades and flowers. People who've taken sex seriously haven't gotten the same kind of recognition as, say, linguistics or mathematicians. It's an essential of human nature, but if people have a moral agenda against it, they will trivialize it. Like "sexpert."
The linguistics analogy is interesting. It's so acceptable to study language in order to better understand the human mind and the human animal. And yet somehow sex, which is just as intrinsic to who we are, doesn't have anything like that kind of highly respected, longstanding, institutionalized field of inquiry.
That's because the church has said that it is in charge of rigorous sexual analysis. The Vatican is the original sexpert....
READ THE REST of the interview here!... I know you'll love it.
Tell me your take on "where you went wrong and lived to admit it!"