Knowing the signs

mars_venus

One of the things that stands in the way of dating success is not knowing the signs.

No doubt there are whole books devoted to this. But the important thing is to start to become aware of the signs that a woman is attracted to you (or not). If you don’t spot them then you may try too hard with women who aren’t interested and miss opportunities with women who are.

The first error that many of us men fall into is to start looking for signs when we are already attracted to a woman. The problem with this is that we are prone to see what we wish to see rather than what is really there. This is very well illustrated in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night,’ when Malvolio is led to believe that Olivia is in love with him. He interprets everything she says and every glance as confirming what he wishes to believe, leading him in the end to a most unpleasant rude awakening. Try not to be in imagination.

Practice understanding signs when nothing much hangs on it.

I have to admit that I became much better at understanding signs after I was happily married, when the use of knowing the signs is to be able tactfully to deflect unwanted attentions!

Eye contact is very powerful. If a woman holds your gaze then be careful not to hold hers unless you want her to think you’re attracted to her. Be careful, because holding someone’s gaze can also be perceived as a threat. Try to tune into what is actually happening. This cannot be taught by formula.

Smiling can be deceiving. A woman might smile at you because she’s attracted to you. Equally she might smile just to be friendly, or even out of nervousness. Smiles can be used for attraction or defence. Again, observation from a neutral place rather than one of desire is useful training. Try to watch the interactions of others and see where they go wrong and what they get right.

Touching: if a woman while talking to you touches your arm, this is far less ambiguous – it probably means she’s attracted to you. If this happens and you are attracted to the woman you are doing well. But you can still easily mess up at this stage. Play it cool. If you’re interested, continue the conversation and maybe arrange a date – but don’t be too eager.

In general, watch body language as if you were a scientist. Any tips you get from books, don’t take as absolute – watch and learn.

If you have not known sex, how can you drop it?

Clodion nude girlMaybe there are some who can find spiritual enlightenment in a monastery. But most of us live in a world which makes continual demands on us and in which our desires pop up wherever we look. How best to work with them?

Remember Tales from the Riverbank on TV a long time ago? I don’t mean the one with Ratty and Hammy the Hamster. I mean the Chinese stories. The stories were always interrupted at various points by Chinese proverbs, like, ‘Do not despise the snake for having no horns, for one day he will become a dragon! Even so, one just man can become an army!’ Great stuff.

(Through a combination of past life memory retrieval and Google I now realise it was called The Water Margin. Apparently it was based on a classic Chinese novel.)

Anyway, in one episode the Chinese proverb was, ‘It is said that Heaven is the absence of all desires. Even so, here was one man prepared to risk all to see his sweetheart!’

Wonderful!

You see the problem here? How can you deserve a sweetheart if you are not prepared to risk all to see her? But how can you risk anything if you have no desires?

Don’t try to resolve the paradox too quickly. I believe it is true that Heaven is the absence of all desires. At the same time, I believe it is necessary to follow one’s desires where they lead (tempered by common sense, inner discipline and consideration for others, of course). If you resolve the paradox too quickly you will miss the point.

Anyway, of this, enough. Here is the link I wanted to share with you. It is Osho’s view. You don’t have to like (or dislike) Osho to consider what he has to say.

http://o-meditation.com/2012/07/09/go-beyond-through-experiencing-osho/

Ovid’s banned book

To catch the woman who will be our heart’s desire we need a plan.

But first, at the beginning of any new activity it is necessary to call upon the appropriate god. Be patient – I’ll explain.

Let us not be put off by our modern ideas. Some of us will be atheists, and yet others subscribe to one of the religions that recognise only one God. I’ll address the latter first.

If you’re a Roman Catholic you’ll understand the idea of praying to the appropriate saint, so you need only think of the matter in this way. If you’re a follower of a more austere faith then you can think of it as praying that your actions will accord with God’s will. And if you are an unbeliever, simply consider that your intention at the outset will determine your success or otherwise, and that an unclear intention cannot result in a clear result. We all have gods – the petty gods that are our obsessions and the larger gods that inspire our nobler aims – it’s just that atheists don’t call them by that name.

(By the way, if your god is a devil then I can assure you that the results will turn out unpleasant in due course. Perhaps I’ll expand on this another time. This is one of those obvious things that nevertheless people don’t get.)

The point is to know what it is we want clearly enough that we can state it, so that we can be sure that it is good, and so that we shall not be deviated from our aim or settle for less.

So, who is the god that Ovid invokes at the beginning of his book, ‘The Art of Love‘?

It is not Apollo. This should be for us a warning: there is a mischievous twinkle in Ovid’s eye. He is writing poetry, yet he tells us his inspiration is not from Apollo or one of the Muses, the goddesses of all the arts. For a poem that has lasted two thousand years this is an odd claim. Personally, I think the Muses smiled on him anyway. And perhaps his failure to give the Muses their due was why he was banished to Tomis (now Constanta) on the Black Sea coast – “a town located in a war-stricken cultural wasteland on the remotest margins of the empire,” according to Wikipedia.

No, Ovid claims not to be inspired by the Muses, nor to have had the arts of love sung by birds into his ear.

“Experience is my guide,” he says.

As you know, I say the same, although I also acknowledge some fate or invisible power that brought to me the woman of my dreams – but of this perhaps another time. But for grace to occur, work is necessary.

Ovid does ask a goddess to smile on his undertaking – Venus, goddess of love, mother of wild boy Cupid. Ovid also says he will “sing of love where danger is not; I sing permitted pilferings; free of all offence my verses are.” Unfortunately the Emperor Augustus did take offence, and the ‘Art of Love’ was banned and Ovid banished.

So, take care. For this undertaking you have dedicated yourself to Venus, not Apollo. As for “permitted pilferings” – hmm. And you know that Cupid is notorious for shooting arrows of love without regard for age, social propriety or your convenience.

Nevertheless, I commend this study to you, for the same reason Ovid gives right at the beginning. As he says, “I, too, will bring Love to heel, even though his arrows pierce my breast and he brandish over my head his flaming torch. The keener his arrows, the fiercer his fires, the more they stir me to avenge my wounds.”

If you would conquer, know your enemy.

Next: Ovid’s plan of action.

Ovid – The Art of Love

Cupid

Amor stringing his bow, Roman copy after Greek original by Lysippos. Musei Capitolini, Rome. Photo: Ricardo André Frantz

Love is a boy.

Ovid begins his treatise, The Art of Love with Cupid, a wild boy.

By this we know that we are dealing with Eros, desire, Cupid’s Greek equivalent, from whom we get the words erotic and erogenous zones. There are of course other loves.

C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves gives us not only Eros but also Storge (affection, as a parent for a child or a child for a pet), Philia (friendship) and Agape (in the sense used in 1 Corinthians 13 – divine love).

The happiest marriages and sexual partnerships include all four loves. The case for friendship is easy to make, and of the others I shall perhaps treat another time.

Back to our ancient Roman guide through the difficulties of love. Ovid says that he is well-qualified to write on this subject because he is old enough to have learned Cupid’s ways. Cupid is notoriously mischievous. If you are anything like me, you will have fallen in love many times and had no idea how even to get a kiss. But Ovid says his poem springs from experience.

Just as the fierce warrior Achilles was taught and tamed as a boy by his teacher, the old Centaur Chiron, so Ovid says he will tame the wild boy Cupid, ‘though his arrows riddle me.’

Over the coming weeks it is my intention to look at what Ovid says and see how much of it still applies today.

Does pornography cause poor performance?

I wrote before in defence of pornography, saying that photographs of naked people can be celebrations of human beauty. The fact that they also give rise to sexual feelings does not make them bad (if you think giving rise to sexual feelings is bad, please explain why). But there are other considerations.

The risk (according to a rather wordy article in a free newspaper recently) is that young people will come to regard the kinds of sexual act shown in pornography as norms they should follow, and this will result in them becoming bad lovers. The argument is that pornography is now easier to access than genuine sex advice, and that young men will turn to this as a source of (mis)information.

Sexual acts in pornography videos almost never show any attempt to create the kind of atmosphere that would turn a woman on in real life.  She is assumed to be instantly ready. In addition she is assumed to enjoy a vigorous pounding without any expression of real intimacy and which goes on for a very long time. For some reason that is certainly beyond my comprehension she is also supposed to enjoy the man coming over her face or entering through the wrong orifice. These scenarios are male fantasies. I doubt most men could even perform at such length in the unlikely event of ever finding themselves in such a situation, and I’d hazard a guess that the female ‘ohs!’ and ‘aahs’ are for the most part scripted.

Of course, if a couple can and want to last twenty minutes or more in real life, then that is wonderful (my book, Last as long as you want in bed explains how to achieve this in a loving relationship and without drugs). But no-one tells a young person watching a video that goes on for that long that continuous pumping is not necessarily what women want, nor that the male ‘actors’ involved  have probably taken various drugs (SSRIs and perhaps Viagra) in order to sustain that rather unusual performance, nor that the average time  for normal young males from vaginal penetration to orgasm is actually about six minutes.

Thus an inexperienced man may attempt a sexual style which will most likely be a big turnoff for his woman, because he will not have warmed her up in the first place and because he will imagine he has to perform in a way that doesn’t take her desires into account. Because she will not be happy, his confidence will be damaged. This will make him anxious. This anxiety together with a lack of care for her pleasure will make him come too quickly. Anxiety about poor performance will then be carried over to his next sexual encounter and the whole problem will repeat, quite likely leading to premature ejaculation and/or problems sustaining an erection. That at any rate is a possible danger of learning about sex through pornography.

One giveaway that porn is not genuine, exciting, loving sex is that male porn stars are not infrequently seen to have less than full erections. They’re not having as much fun as they should be. It’s just a job to them.

Having said all that, I am not aware of any sociological studies confirming that there is really more of a problem now than before the internet age, or that as beginners we weren’t always rotten lovers. Even so, it does no harm to question the idea of sex that pornographers present, and to be aware that it is not real.

Looking at other women (or men)

“He clocks ‘em.”

When we are married or in a serious relationship, how acceptable is it still to admire attractive examples of the opposite sex?

Once a long time ago a newly married young woman complained to me that she was unhappy because when out with her husband he would still look at other women.

Her way of saying this was, ‘He clocks ‘em.’

Now it may be my lack of full fluency in the patois of that particular part of England (South East London, 1990s), but I assumed that just meant that he glanced at them. Of course it could mean more than that. It could mean that he made that kind of eye contact that stimulates reciprocated desire. (The Urban Dictionary first meaning of ‘clock’ currently reads: “1) To regard an act or object.” No suggestion of anything other than just looking.)

Clearly flirting with intent is a mark of unfaithfulness if one is already in a steady relationship. It’s as much to say, ‘I would if I could,’ and will not be acceptable to your partner.

On the other hand, that we are now in a serious relationship doesn’t suddenly switch off our receptivity to sexual signals, still less to the simple appreciation of beauty. So to expect a man or a woman to stop looking at other attractive people is unrealistic.

A middle path needs to be negotiated, in which both the man and the woman feel secure that they’re the one, without either partner having to hide the fact that they find other members of the opposite sex worth looking at. You might want to look at that young woman with the pretty face, excessive eye makeup and very short skirt, but you know if you think about it carefully that you wouldn’t want to spend too long in her company for fear of terminal boredom. Similarly your woman can admire that rugby player’s thighs without having any serious thoughts of abandoning your own more serious charms. (Can you handle that?)

Remarks, however, need to be thought about before being voiced. Openly to admire a woman’s legs might be acceptable, but only if your woman understands that her legs are superior. If it might come across as a possible criticism of her legs, don’t say it.

As long as your partner understands, at a deep level of certainty, that she is the one and only for you, and assuming you also don’t mind her admiring footballers with musculature somewhat superior to your own in very short shorts, then you may openly admire what is there to be admired.

A note of caution – don’t assume that things should be ‘fair.’ You’re the man and it’s your job to be both strong and sensitive.

It’s an area for explicit discussion between couples rather than for making assumptions.