#120 Why You Have Sex (and Why You Should Check Your Motivations) with Rachel Hills
This sounds like a really silly question, but after this episode I think you're going to thinking differently about it. It's likely your perception of what is normal for sex is not necessarily what's really going on out there in the world. The reality of our sexual lives, the sex people are really having in the world, in our communities around us, is often exaggerated or hidden in many ways.
That becomes a problem when we compare ourselves to the standards that we've learned from these sources. We're judging ourselves on these standards by what we think is going on in the rest of the world; with our friends, the media, the people we look up to, TV shows, and so on. We compare ourselves to false standards, ones we've learned from others, and not standards that are chosen because they actually contribute to our own happiness and satisfaction.
In today's episode we're going to look at some practical examples of this from someone who's been doing research in this area. As we walk through the details of everything outside of us that influences how we think and act about sex, I'd encourage you to think about how your approach to sex has worked out for you so far.
Are you a slave to your sexuality or does your sexuality really contribute to the quality of you and your partner's life for that matter?
I've personally taken both paths and I know which one has worked out better for me. This is more of a mental game episode and I know some of you may want to brush over it because you're looking for the quick takeaways. But remember, the end game is happiness and I think this episode will be really valuable to many of you as you pursue that goal to be better informed about what's going to lead to that actual happiness for yourself.
At this point I've recorded hundreds and hundreds of hours of interviews with amazing guests on this show, so I can see how that would be a little bit overwhelming if you want to get started and you're new to us. So if you want to get started in a more summarized approach of some of the top things, go to datingskillsreview.com/gettop13 and you can download an audio there. One of my coaches and I talk about the top 13 pieces of advice we've come across over the last 15 years, so great takeaways to start with there.
Today's guest is Rachel Hills. She is author of the recent book The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, for which she carried out research over many, many years; interviewing more than 200 men and women about the details of their sex lives, and spending many months combing through research journals to pull out scientific research on the topic.
Rachel also has a really successful blog with over 100,000 subscribers, which is named Musings of An Inappropriate Woman.
Specifically, in this episode you'll learn about:
- What triggered your interest in this topic and your book The Sex Myth? How it got started and how it developed? (03:59)
- The kind of research that was involved in writing the book (05:45)
- How Rachel reached out to the people that were interviewed for the book (06:57)
- Rachel's current lifestyle in terms of relationships and social life (09:00)
- Why do we have sex? (10:20)
- Interview examples of some of the influences of sexual behavior that were more social, coming from more of the external environment that Rachel came across (12:15)
- Interview examples of men who were very sexually active to get an idea of their influences (14:12)
- Reasons people hook up with other people that they are not necessarily attracted to (19:20)
- The big gap between our fantasies and realities, from a cultural perspective (25:20)
- Perceptions people currently have about sex - norms and standards (26:30)
- The biggest gaps between peoples' perceptions regarding sex and actually what is going on around them (29:25)
- Perceptions surrounding the types of sex people are having - a cultural shift (32:43)
- How the gap between our perceptions of reality is created overall, and what people can do to have a realistic view of their sexual activity, which reflects the actual reality (38:15)
- Has sex become more important for our status over time? (41:05)
- Are men being pushed towards a type of standard regarding sex? (48:27)
- Specific anxieties and stress around sexuality for men (52:33)
- How guys can get more satisfied and fulfilled in their lives in spite of existing external pressures (58:20)
- Practical and useful takeaways to ensure sex contributes to the quality of life (59:10)
- How to develop your own sexual standards independent of social pressures (1:02:20)
- How to connect with Rachel to learn about more about her and her work (1:04:45)
- Recommendations for quality advice and knowledge in dating, sex, and relationships (1:06:00)
- Recommendations for guys starting out without any prior knowledge to improve their dating life as fast as possible (1:08:00)
Items Mentioned in this Episode include:
- The Sex Myth: Rachel's book focusing on the gap between our fantasies and reality.
- thesexmyth.com: Rachel's website.
- Musings of An Inappropriate Woman: Rachel's blog with over 100,000 subscribers.
- Emails of An Inappropriate Woman: To receive Rachel's occasional updates.
- Rachel on Twitter
- Rachel on Instagram
- Rachel on Facebook
- Michael Kimmel: Rachel referenced author, sociologist, and masculinity expert Michael Kimmel while discussing the biggest gaps between peoples' perceptions regarding sex and actually what is going on around them.
- Guyland (Michael Kimmel): Rachel also recommends Michael for his advice / knowledge and book that addresses masculinity and sexuality.
- Fifty Shades of Grey (E L James): This book was noted while discussing perceptions surrounding the types of sex people are having, and the messages given by magazines and other publications.
- Naked Attraction: Angel mentioned this show while discussing how sex has become more for our status over time, and how peoples' sex lives have become.
- Andrew Smiler, PhD: Rachel recommends Dr. Smiler for his advice / knowledge.
- Challenging Casanova (Andrew Smiler, PhD): Rachel also recommends reading Andrew Smiler's book.
- makelovenotporn.com: Rachel recommends the advice / knowledge of Cindy Gallop, whose mission is to make sex more transparent in varied and realistic ways. Cindy's website is Make Love Not Porn.
Books, Courses and Training from Rachel Hills
Full Text Transcript of the Interview
[Angel Donovan]: Rachael, thank you so much for joining the show.
[Rachael Hills]: Thank you so much for having me, Angel.
[Angel Donovan]: So, I wanted to dive straight into what triggered your interest in this topic, the topic of your book. How I got started and how I developed because, it's quite a unique topic.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah well, I started thinking about the ideas in The Sex Myth almost 10 years ago now, around 2007. This was time in which the media was in this kind state of fevered fascination around what was known as hooking up and raunch culture or to put another way, this idea that people and young people in particular were having more sex than ever before and doing it in these kinds of outrageous and allegedly terrible ways.
Firstly, this was a kind of meeting narrative that frustrated me, partly because of the undercurrent that sex was bad and partly because, it just bore no relationship to what I as a then young person was experiencing or anybody I knew. Secondly, I was motivated to write the book because, at that point in my life, sex was something that I was personally and very insecure about.
I was a virgin into my 20s and that made me feel very kind of secretly undesirable and secretly lacking. I'd always loved books that kind of put personal experiences into sociological, cultural context that explained kind of how what we felt fit into a bigger social picture and there was no such book that addressed sex in that way or at least to my satisfaction. So, I decided I wanted to write one.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, it's pretty much all the best books kind of come from our own insecurities, little projects, little personal projects and stuff to resolve problems or things in our lives. So, I always find the end up being the most interesting things.
[Rachael Hills]: Exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: What kind of research did you do for the book? Who did you speak? What kind of reading did you do?
[Rachael Hills]: I did a lot of research because obviously I guess, since I came up with idea in 2007 and then, the book didn't come out until 2015. I did part of research and the part that people tend to be most interested in were the interviews that I did. My background is as a journalist and although I took kind of an academic approach to The Sex Myth, I kind of used my journalistic skills as well.
Interviewed around 200 people about their sex lives and not just their sex lives but I guess, the beliefs that they held around sex. So, how they felt they were supposed to be and where those ideas were coming from. Those people tended to be on the younger end of the equation. They were mostly in their 20s and 30 somethings and teenagers and they were from across the English-speaking world.
In addition to that, I spent many years hanging out in libraries stacks at universities reading a whole bunch of journal articles and books that looked at this idea of how our ideas about sex are shaped by society and culture. I kind of synthesized all of those together with the interviews to create the book.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, excellent. How did you reach out to the people you managed to interview?
[Rachael Hills]:I used the internet for a lot of it. I did multiple kind of online call-outs. At the very beginning, I was using a youth mailing list since I was doing the research in an academic context and then after I got the book deal, I was using Twitter, Tumbler. People were sharing my links on their own kind of Facebook pages, their own blogs, etc. That lead to far more people contacting me than I would ever have time to or would be useful to from a research perspective to interview. I think I had about 1000 people contact me all up.
[Angel Donovan]: Okay and then, you selected a fit for them 200?
[Angel Donovan]: Do you have any like... were there any criteria or anything or you just didn't... I mean obviously, you didn't have time to maybe interview 1000 people?
[Rachael Hills]: Well at the very beginning, I remember particularly when I did my US call-out and a couple of big blogs shared it, I got I think, at first a whole bunch of emails started through. Maybe 80 came through in an hour and I thought, "Oh, this is really good." Then, I think about 500 or 600 came through in the space of 24 or 48 hours and this is obviously, so many emails to read.
So I guess, in that kind of initial selection, I was reading the first emails that came through and from my journalistic perspective, selecting people who had interesting stories attached to it. Some people would email me. They would explain why they wanted to be interviewed.
Then later on as I was traveling around doing my second round of interviews, because I had such a kind of broad swath of interviewees to pick from, I would just go to my email inbox and I would search for the name of the city I was going to or the name of the state I was going to and then, I would look to see who was located there.
I know particularly in that case, kind of interview the diversity. So, I get a lot of women contacting me. So if someone was a man, I then would be more likely to reach out to them or if somebody was not white, I would be more likely to reach out to them, for example. So, kind of correcting for the group so it would be over a percentage.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah excellent. So in terms of what your own life-style, your social life-style and your relationships and so on, what kind of life-style do you have today in this context? How do you fit into the world of your book and so on?
[Rachael Hills]:Well sexually and romantically speaking, I'm no longer in the position I was when I started to the books. So, I have had sex now. So that's good. I'm also now married. So, I guess I'm...
[Angel Donovan]: Congratulations.
[Rachael Hills]:... I'm a heterosexual married person who has sex.
[Rachael Hills]: I don't particularly identify with any sexual subcultures. So, I don't identify as kinky or poly, for example but, I'm also not opposed to those things. So, I don't identify as specifically not those things. Doesn't that make sense? I see them as kind in the array of possibilities that one could be in the future if they wanted to be.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, right. So, would you call that kind of sex-positive?
[Rachael Hills]:Yeah, I think I'm sex-positive in the sense that I want people to be able to have whatever kinds of sex lives are right for them.
[Angel Donovan]: Right.
[Rachael Hills]: I don't hold any particular stigmas against people who are doing different things from me.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, excellent. It's always helpful to get the context of the different people who come on the show because, we just get such a variety. So, it's always interesting to understand a little bit from the person where they're coming from.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: And how they're leading their life and so on. I think it helps the audience to get things. So, let's dive into it. Why do we have sex?
[Rachael Hills]: Why do we have sex? I mean, it's... I think there have been other books written on that. I mean, we have sex partly because, it's fun and it feels good or hopefully, it does and I think we have sex because, for the most part, we are biologically programed to want to have it. You know, the fact that we experience pleasure in sex is tied to the fact that our genitals help us reproduce and it's good that for the most part, people really enjoy it but, in my book, as I guess I've indicated previously in our conversation, I look at the social forces that shape not just why we want to have sex but also, the way in which we want to have it.
So, I believe that human beings are deeply social animals and this is as fundamental to the ways in which we engage with each other as our biological desire to have sex. Accordingly, the way in which we want to have sex and the reasons we want to have sex is shaped by the particular standards that exist around sexuality at any given time.
So in our society right now and to some degree through our history, being sexual in a particular way or in today's society being somebody who is sexually active, who is to some degree sexually adventurous, who both desires a lot of sex and is highly desired by other people is wrapped in a whole bunch of sexual status. That means that having sex doesn't just feel good biologically, it also feels good emotionally as well.
Having sex is like a form of affirmation. It makes us feel attractive. It makes affirms that we are worthy. It affirms that we are successful. So, our desire to be sexual creators isn't just this pleasure and biological thing, it's also tied up with our self-esteem and self-image.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, thank you for that. That brings it all into the light. Could you give us examples, like some of the good interviews where there were clear examples of some of the influences of sexually behavior that were more social or coming from more of the external environment that you came across?
[Rachael Hills]:Sure, I mean I think that came through with most of the people that I interviewed and sometimes, it would come through in really positive ways. So, I remember there was a young woman I interviewed who talks about how she was in the math club in high school. So, she felt like the nerd but, she was also sexually active. So, she had a boyfriend. She was having sex and how this made her feel (I think she uses the word) like a bit of a vixen. It made her feel like she had this cool little secret that she was the only person in the math club that wasn't a virgin. So, that's kind of a positive way in which these social attributes that we tie to sex makes someone feel good about themselves.
Then to give a kind of counter-example, there was a young man named Henry who I interviewed from the UK who I was I think 23 when I first spoke to him. He was not sexually active and he felt very bad about himself. He felt like this meant that was a loser or that he was out of step with what everybody else around him was experiencing. He felt like the fact that he wasn't sexually active demonstrated this kind of deep defect about who he was and the fact that he wasn't sexually active at 23 meant that he would never have sex ever.
Because of the fact that the book took me such a long time to write, I first interviewed in 2012, I know that he did actually then have sex I think by 2013. So, it wasn't a permanent state for him that assumed that it was.
[Angel Donovan]: It was just one year, in fact.
[Rachael Hills]:Well you know, it's 23 years, right?
[Rachael Hills]:Or you know, it was seven years maybe if you think about if he started feeling this way when he was 16.
[Angel Donovan]: Oh, I see what you mean, okay. Right, right, great. Were there any examples of guys who were very sexually active and who you interviewed to get some of idea of their influences? I bring that up specifically because, I often get emails from guys who are I would say very sexually active in terms of the number of people that they've slept with by the age of say 21. So, say they've slept with 20 people or 15 people or so on and most of these emails are about them feeling insecure about that and feeling that they're I don't know, they're sexual prowess or whatever isn't really up to the mark. So, I was just wondering if you got one of those context you came across?
[Rachael Hills]: That's so interesting. I'd love to hear more about that from you. I did speak to a few men who were in that position who were in their early 20s and had had... or one case, one of the guys was about 30 and they had a large number of partners, so between 20 and 40. They didn't tend to express that same kind of insecurity. They tended to feel good about that because, they were aligning with the imagine of what we as a culture have told me are supposed to do. They're aligning with the imagine of kind of successful masculinity.
So one of these guys I interviewed, Nate. I think he was about 21 and he was in the US. I think he had sex with somewhere around 20 women and this was something that's... it kind of... he spoke socially good about. It pumped up his self-esteem but, I think it pumped up his self-esteem not just in terms of his desirability with women, but in terms of his coolness with other men. But, where he felt a bit of a contradiction with that is that even though he enjoyed the physical act of sex, he enjoyed being able to pick up, he also felt in order to do that, he had to be a bit of an asshole. So, there was this kind of moral quandary for him.
So, he didn't have to be an asshole in order to get laid full-stop because, of course, you can be a perfectly nice person and do that but, he felt like the activities that gave him status, so being able to pick up a woman and then, treat her like crap the next day. The things that made him look cool to his mates were not the things that made him feel good about himself as a person and he also said that somewhere down the line, I think in his third year or university, he met a woman who he did really like as a person as well. He's like, "Look, there are a lots of girls who are attractive to have sex with but, it's nicer to have sex with the one who you also enjoyed as a human being.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so he did okay in that relationship. He adjusted to it?
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, he adjusted it really well and when I interviewed him, that relationship had ended and he was having a bit of casual sex again but, he didn't personally find it as fulfilling as the sex he'd had when he was in a relationship.
[Angel Donovan]:Right. so what was the drive behind the behaviors that he didn't like in himself and the ones where he was acting more of an asshole, picking up, dropping girls? There's a specific activity, was it hooking up with a girl and immediately dropping or what was it that he specifically reacted to negatively/
[Rachael Hills]: Well, I think it was... I'm just looking at the part in the book because, I did so many interviews and I don't remember exactly every detail. I think it was the fact that it made him feel like an asshole and it was the fact that, I guess that he was using being an asshole as a hookup strategy. That's the phrase that he uses and I guess when you're doing that, because so often sex and relationships are treated like a game and they're so often presented as a game sometimes literally so in the book with the same title.
It can feel fun when you're playing the game but, it didn't feel fun when he started thinking of those goals as being human beings. I think there was a quote where he said, "That's going to be someone's mom some day," which to some degree is quite a conservation attitude to have because, her value doesn't just lie in the fact that she'll be someone's mom some day, her value lies in right now as well. This distinction between seeing a woman as a sex object and seeing a woman as a 3-dimensional human being.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so what I found over the years that the women that are more insecure tend to respond better to the being an asshole kind of game.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, that maybe so. I think there is some truth to that and when I think back to the insecurities that I had in my early 20s when I wasn't sexually active and how, I interpreted this as being my kind of lack of desirability. In retrospect, even though that was something I was very insecure about, I also wonder if perhaps it was also a reflection of some kind of internal confidence that even though I would have preferred to be having sex than not having sex, I at least had the confidence not to have sex with people who I didn't like or with people who were being assholes to me. I think I had this very kind of strong asshole detector.
[Angel Donovan]: Okay, that's good. So, that's an interesting line there with people having the confidence to... I think in your book; you have examples of where people sleep with or hook up with people that they're not necessarily that attracted to.
[Rachael Hills]: Yes.
[Angel Donovan]: And they're doing it for other reasons. Could you dig a little bit into that?
[Rachael Hills]: Sure, so another one of the guys I interviewed who... you know, he wasn't having tons of sex. I think he had... he wasn't like hooking up constantly or anything but, he'd gone through a period in which he had had a lot of hookups. So, he was a British who, when he was at university, lived in a house full of other men and one of the ways in which they would bound with each other was by kind of competing over how many girls they could have sex with and competing over how hot those women were as well.
He, as many British men do, he had a fantastic sense of humor and he was saying, "Most of time, I wasn't actually picking up a lot of women. Most of the time, I'd be going out and trying to pick them up and failing." but, there was a period of a few months in which he racked up maybe five, six, seven sexual partners in that period. So, he was having a bit of casual sex then.
He told me this story of one time when he was really into this whole idea of the girl hunt, pick up the woman and then, he got back home afterwards to have sex with her and he realized that he didn't actually want to have sex with her. He just wanted the thrill of being able to pick her up.
[Angel Donovan]:Right, the thrill of getting her home and knowing he can have sex with her.
[Rachael Hills]:Yeah, exactly.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, and the validation aspect of it, I guess and maybe a point for his game?
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, exactly, exactly, a point for his game and in relation to my point about Nate's comment before being conservative, I think the point I missed was that it... his point about the girl being somebody's mom someday being conservative isn't just that it's relied on her being a mom but, it's that it's okay to have sex with lots of people and to treat them well. Like you don't need to treat people like crap in order to be having a lot of sex. It's perfectly possible to have lots of sexual partners and to be having fun with them all and being respectful.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, exactly. There have been different strategies which have rained over the last 15 years and have been popularized and some of them have been more manipulative and more asshole, if we want to call it the asshole approach or whatever, oriented and then, there's others that have been more orientated to a more balanced view. So, I can see there's a whole bunch of guys that would have followed the asshole route.
[Angel Donovan]: Then what I find is... I mean, they either stick with that or at one point, they kind of make this transition that are like you described the guy called Nate?
[Angel Donovan]: Where, they get fed up with it or maybe they have a relationship with a girl and you know, they see how that's not working for them. I think often what happens is it ends up sabotaging the relationship they have with a girl when they do decide to have a relationship with her and they kind of end up getting some feedback from that relationship when she leaves him and so on that maybe, this isn't a strategy that's going to work for them in terms of satisfaction and fulfillment longer term. So, they kind of need that feedback which, they don't get from a one-night stand of course because, it's a quick thing. Once you slept with someone, it's kind of over. They don't really get the immediate feedback.
[Rachael Hills]: No, and is that title what you were saying before about some men who contact you saying that even though they've had a lot of partners, they don't necessarily feel like they're very good at sex.
[Angel Donovan]: Well, I noted another quote in your book. There's a whole bunch of interesting quotes for different people in your book but, another one was from a girl. She said, "The thing about when you start accumulating sex for it's own sake is that the exercise of it is not that sexual. Sometimes, having this kind of sex, this shopping-kind of sex is based in insecurities for me. Am I attractive insecurities."
So, what I felt was that that's pretty similar to a fair number of the guys who are racking up bigger numbers. I know a lot of guys I've known related to over time. One guy asked me. He's quite well-known, an author. He asked me when I first met him, "What's your score," and what he meant was how many girls I'd slept with which, is the first time I had that question asked of me. The score I gave was going feed into the evaluation of how I was doing and so on. So, I think there's a lot of that been going on and I did rack up a lot of numbers myself and I found that a lot of it became... the experience of sex wasn't that great and it was kind of deteriorating over time.
Another quote I saw in your book was from another girl where she was saying, "I can always tell the guys who have lots of casual sex but, they haven't had relationships because, they're less experienced with sex in general." Which is something I believe in too because, like pretty much I think, everyone admits that the first night having sex or one-stands and so on is never as good as the second time, the third time and as on as you kind of explore each other's sexuality and so on.
[Rachael Hills]: Yes and for women in particular, there's a clear link between the number of times you've had sex with somebody and the likelihood that you will orgasm from that sex. That's largely because of getting to know each other's bodies and knowing how to produce pleasure but then, also about being able to speak openly and honestly about the things that give you pleasure and being able to engage in those acts.
I guess to be more blunt about that, I mean that men are more likely to have oral sex with women that they've hooked up on multiple occasions that they're in a relationship with. Also that women are more likely to either ask or just give themselves clitoral stimulation which is going to help their ability to orgasm.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, yeah because, I think most people aren't very assertive about their own sexual needs if it's just a one-night casual hookup. Right? They tend to go with the defaults as standards or whatever they think those are instead of talking about their sexual needs, desires, identities which may be different from that because, they feel insecure about talking with someone they don't really know that well about these kind of things.
So, one of the big thing, the big premise, it's kind of in the title of your book is that there's a big gap between our fantasies and the reality. What does that mean?
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, I'm talking about individual fantasies in that title. Although, I'm sure that for most people or many people at least, there is a gap between what we fantasize about and what we do or even in some cases, what we practically want when it comes to sex. Instead, I'm talking the cultural fantasy, what we're taught about sex which I think can be particularly potent for men in some ways. So, this idea that sexuality is kind of constantly available in this kind of smorgasbord, this idea that everybody is not just having sex but, having kind of really amazing, orgasmic, adventurous sex and this idea that if you're not doing that, then there is something kind of lacking in you. That's the gap that I'm talking about, the gap between the ideal we're presented when it comes to sex and then of course, there are very many and varied ways in which people will experience that.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so it's like the perception versus what's actually happening, the truth, reality?
[Rachael Hills]: Exactly, yes.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so I know that you talk... I mean, you were telling me before we started that you talk to people about what people consider normal for sex. What are the perceptions of sex today? So, could you talk a little bit about like where you think people are? During your decisions and everything from the research in the book and also, like in your talks like, where do people think the normal sex life is and what the norms and what the standards are?
[Rachael Hills]: I mean, the norm is kind of both oppressive and kind of multi-facetted at the same time. I think probably one of the major norms and assumptions is that people are sexually active unless stated otherwise. I think that if you're in a relationship, it's expected that you will be having sex on a regular basis and you know, how regular that is defined or different from person to person but, I've met people who say, "I can't believe that the average couple only has sex three times a week. I would be devastated if I had it less than five."
Of course... maybe not of course, perhaps surprisingly would be a better rejoin to that, studies show that actually the average couple has sex less than three times a week. So, there's this assumption of sexual ubiquity. If you're in a relationship, it's a reflection of how well your relationship is going and if you're single, it's a reflection of how desirable you are, how much fun you're having or how successful you are and your ability to pick up other people. So, I think the assumption of sexual ubiquity is a big one.
I think it's almost the main one. I mean, there are a whole bunch of other assumptions around this idea that people are straight unless said otherwise and a lot of them are contradictory. The idea that on the one hand, you want to be adventurous. You don't want to be vanilla. You want to have some kind of kink but then, on the other hand that if you are kinky, there's also an assumption from some corners that that's disgusting. The assumption that a good loving relationship should be monogamous but, also the assumption that monogamy is boring. So, a lot of them do kind of contradict each other to some degree.
[Angel Donovan]: So, there are different groups. I mean that sounds like, there's a bit of variety in society.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, there is a bit of variety in society which isn't unintentional around them but, I think for people in whatever position they're in in society, they're still feeling a kind of oppressive norm that they should be a certain way. I guess what I was seeing amongst people I interviewed was that, the so-called progressive norms, the idea that you should be sexually active. You should be comfortable with casual sex. You should be, as Dan Savage puts it, "Good giving and game or up for doing absolutely anything." The more the pressures that the men and women I spoke seemed to be impacted by... rather than say, the idea that you should remain a virgin until you're married or the idea that you should be monogamous.
[Angel Donovan]: Okay great. Where would say the clearest examples of a gap, the biggest gaps between people's perceptions and what's actually going on around them?
[Rachael Hills]: One of my favorite examples of the gap is actually a statistical one. There's an American sociologist named Michael Kimmel who does a lot of research into masculinity and he travels to a lot of campuses as well. When he was researching his book Guy Land, he started asking men on the campuses he visited, what percentages of their peers they thought had sex on any given weekend. The average answer that these men was 80%. So, they assumed that four out of five men were having sex at any given week. He pointed out that there was large gap between that expectation and the fact that the academic studies have shown that only 80% of all under graduate men have ever had sex.
So, the proportion of them who were having sex in any given weekend is much lower. Especially since, amongst 18 to 23 year-olds, I know that the most common number of sexuality partners to have in a given year is one and then, next most common number is zero and then, the most common number is two. So, if you're in a relationship for all of that time, maybe you will have sex every week but, if you're a single person, chances are that you're not going to be in that kind of fictitious 80%.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, that's cool. So, that's a male example. Is it different for women because, I could imagine it might be skewed differently?
[Rachael Hills]: I think that the assumptions that women and men had tended to be more similar than they were different.
[Angel Donovan]: Okay.
[Rachael Hills]: I think that, in terms of the kind of meda-culture, we're still have this idea that women are supposed to be pure and women find their status in withholding sex from them from having it. There's a small degree of truth to that in that, I think the ideal is in some ways kind of more fraught for women but, most of the women that I spoke to aspired to be people who were desirable, who were sexually active, who were empowered in their sexuality. That kind of equated to much the same sexual ideal as the ideal that men were aspiring to.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, I mean so that's a big change, right?
[Rachael Hills]: But that said, like before you were talking about this guy who asked you what your number was or what was the phrase that he used.
[Angel Donovan]: He asked me what my score was.
[Rachael Hills]: What your score was, yeah. When I go to college campuses in the United States, we talked about the things you're told you should do and the things you're told you shouldn't be doing. The phrase that comes up on these boards that we create over and over is this idea of body count which is kind of the American female equivalent of the score. Body count, you know there's associations with death. So, it's not a very positive thing.
So when we putting up... often when we're putting up lists of things that people shouldn't do, it's like for women, high body count. Sometimes, that's defined as being anything more than one or two which obviously, exists in complete contradiction to the ideal that women are also trying to live up to which is that they should constantly be dating, constantly be sexually engaging with men whether in a relationship or having sex. If you're someone who's having a lot of sex, you're probably going to get above the number or one or two reasonably quickly.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, there's a lot of a gap around how often you're having sex and with how many partners. How about the types of sex you're having?
[Rachael Hills]: I think that... again, particularly when I'm on campus, there are contradictions within these things. So on the one hand, a lot of the women that I interviewed, probably even most of the women I interviewed than the men would have this awareness that you want to keeping things mixed up in order to sexually entertain your partner. That you want to be say trying out different positions. You want to be open to having oral sex, anal sex, kinky sex, etc., etc. in order to maintain your partner's interest. But on the other hand... and maybe this is an age-gap thing where slightly younger people having not necessarily different ideals generationally but, being in a different life stage, I note that things like kink and anal sex and polyamory are often put up on the list of things that you're told that you shouldn't do on the boards that we created.
[Angel Donovan]: These are things that you should do?
[Rachael Hills]: Yes, exactly. Whereas for the slightly older people I interviewed, so the 20-somethings, they were more considered things that you definitely should be doing.
[Angel Donovan]: Okay alright, so 20s, they're more open to different types of sexual activity these days and you're saying that teens, they tend to be more restricted. Is that right?
[Rachael Hills]: I think that's probably because of the proximity to high school more than anything else.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, I feel it's kind of age. They're not...
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah exactly. It's not that they're a conservative generation.
[Angel Donovan]: ... as experimental.
[Rachael Hills]: It's that, you've just come of an environment where in high school, for women especially, just the idea of having sex in the first place can be fraught, the multitudes of reasons whether that is slut-shaming or whether that is the risk of getting pregnant.
[Angel Donovan]: Something I've noticed over time is the change in perception of oral sex, anal sex, BDSM and kink as you said. I remember it was maybe 20 years ago, it was something that was just as acceptable at all. It wasn't something that came up in discussion with the girls I was with. I remember it used to be... they'd be a lot more resistant to that kind of thing. If I brought it up, there would be a lot more resistance and you're just like, "Oh, are you into that kind of thing?" So, kind of a negative judgement sometimes?
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: That's definitely changed drastically over time. It's hard for me to know if it's an age thing or like if the younger generations are just more open to that because, I feel like some of the older generation too have now adjusted. So, I can't really put my finger on it. I don't know if you've come across that and you've seen the changes in attitudes?
[Rachael Hills]: They do seem to be some kind of broader cultural shifts that are driving that. So, in the case of something like oral, I think that the Bill Clinton scandals of the late 1990s probably contributed to the normalization of that.
[Angel Donovan]: Really? Cool.
[Rachael Hills]: I think that porn probably plays a big role in the normalization of anal sex. I think that when it comes to kink, (or at least kind of the cosmo-fied kind of version of kink) it has a lot to do with women's magazines and to do with things like 50 Shades of Grey.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, right.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so 50 Shades of Grey of course is something that's popularized but, as you say, it's like the magazines have taken up these and they started to push it out afterwards. I guess, they just need new content and they're like, "Oh look, there's this cool book. 50 Shades of Grey is popular. Let's do loads of articles around this subject."
[Rachael Hills]:Yeah but, one of the interesting things I found in my research (I spent a lot of time ready both womens' and mens' magazines and look at the messages that they were giving about sex) was that in womens' magazines in particular, even though there was this kind of impetus for women to be "sexually adventurous." So, make sure that she was doing things that would please her partner. There was also still a stigma and taboo against anything that was vaguely kinky. So when they shared stories of say, women who'd had a threesome or women who'd stripped on stage or women who'd engaged in BDSM, often the end of that story if they these real-life tails, it would be, "And then, my boyfriend broke up with me."
[Angel Donovan]: Ouch.
[Rachael Hills]: "And then, I realized that I didn't really want that anyway." So, I think there's still this cultural narrative that these things are fun to try but, that the kind of ultimate end-point should still be a kind of more culturally conservative, monogamous, vanilla kind of way of engaging with sex.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, it's like we have two standards. We have a standard for our casual sex lives and then when we get into a relationship. I think a lot of people would judge what happened in the casual sex life negatively. Taking your example, if a girl's had a threesome in some experimental years, then when she has a boyfriend a bit later, he's more likely to judge that negatively. That seems like where the perceptions come from. Even if perhaps he's had a threesome in his own experimental stage.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, but I also think that there's... and I think that's a really smart observation that you've made about the gap between our expectations for our casual sex lives and for our monogamous sex lives but, I also think there is this kind of selection-bias in the stories that editors then choose to tell. Because, I've read a column for Cosmo for a year in which I interviewed both men and women about various aspects of sex and it's not hard to find people to interview who've had a threesome and who've had a positive experience doing it. Or at least, if I didn't have a positive experience, it's something more to do with the specifics of having a threesome, to say the physical challenges it involved or the difficulty in paying attention to two partners at the same, rather than this kind of sense of moral compromise attached to it.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah absolutely. Is this gap between our perceptions and reality... how would you say this created or overall, what kind of things could people be paying more attention to if they want to kind of have a view of the world and relationships and their sexuality activity which reflects the actual reality? What kind of inputs to their lives should they be recognizing of?
[Rachael Hills]: So I guess, first if we're talking about how that gap is created, I think that to large degree it is created maybe as simply because the media sends us so many messages about how so many different aspects of our lives is supposed to be. So, it comes from places like Life Style magazines, so mens' mags. It comes from blogs and relationship experts. It comes from pornography as well with these images of what great sex looks like or what kind of pleasure you should expect to be able to produce in your partner.
But, one of the things that I'm always interested in is how we perpetuate these ideas ourselves in our own conversations through the kind of little white lies that we tell our friends about our sex lives. Or the way that we tend to tell the stories that are a funny or that make us look cool or that make us aligned to the ideal in particular circle of friends. Rather than talking about the problems that we're facing or making jokes about the way in which we're not living up to the ideal, rather than jokes about the ways in which we're living up to it.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, it's a bit like fashion, really which changes over time. You have you know the magazines pushes a few ideas of obviously positioning them as cool and then, people spread the word about that and use it to sound cool themselves. That they're more experimental. That they're having more interesting sex and so on.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah and I mean, God knows I've done so much of that myself in my life I think like before I wrote the book but, even after that or... I mean, I was in the UK last week and was chatting to a female friend about things that have been happening in her sex and relationship life. She was telling me all of these kinds of great stories about a couple of guys she'd met and things that had happened and I was listening and very excited by this and I thought, "Wow, this is so exciting. This is such a hot story." Then, she pauses though and says, "Yeah, but these are like three things that have happened in the past year. This is not my everyday existence."
[Angel Donovan]: Right, right.
[Rachael Hills]: But I mean, perhaps she would not have said that if I wasn't the author of a book called The Sex Myth.
[Angel Donovan]:Right, right. This is one of the things. People expect that their friends and the people they're associating with are telling the full story of their lives but, I think that happens very rarely today. Most people are doing some sort of bragging according to whatever they think the cultural norm is as we've been discussing here. So, it tends to be biased whatever we're hearing all the time and that's what makes it very difficult. Do you think that sex has become more important for our status over time?
[Rachael Hills]: That's such a great question. I don't think it's become more important. I think it's become differently important. So, one of the things that I look at in the book is how sex has historically been tied to our status throughout and not just in the present but, in the past as well. If you go back a few hundred years, sex was still tied to status then. It's just that then, the way that you derived status was by being a good upstanding, moral citizen which meant, you know only having sex with people of the opposite gender, only having sex within marriage.
In some cases, if we go back many centuries, only having sex at particular times of day. So there was this kind of social status tied up with that. Today, sex is still tied up with status. It's just that now it's tied up with being seen as being desirable, with being seen as being fun, with being seen as being I think competent and successful. That competence things probably applies more to men than it does to woman. Whether that's the competence in being able to pick up women or competence in being able to produce orgasms and be great in a variety of sex acts.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, so this... basically, you're saying that it's really important to a lot of guys' egos and that's possible that they are driven by that need for status or for validation of their ego, rather the biological sex need for great sex and so on?
[Rachael Hills]:Yeah, I think that that need for eager validation for both men and for women is as much part of the equation as the biological drive.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, is one of the things that's changed is obviously, there's a lot more information about our sex lives now?
[Rachael Hills]: Yes.
[Angel Donovan]: There's a lot of celebrities which are acting a lot more sexy, Miley Cyrus and so on. I think you look to some of these examples in your book. I can only see it's going to get more intense over time and that's just the direction it seems to be going at the moment.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: I don't know if you're aware of this. I just saw this over the weekend. That's why I bring it up but, I was watching TV on Channel 4. It's not something I usually do but, there was a show on called Naked Attraction. Have you heard this?
[Rachael Hills]: I did but, I was in the UK last week. One of my friends told me about it and I didn't get a chance to watch the show because, the people I was staying with didn't have access to it but, yeah. Tell them more about it.
[Angel Donovan]: Sure, it's just interesting that it's got this far. I mean five years ago; you wouldn't have seen this on TV. It's like a dating show.
[Rachael Hills]:Yeah, it's a show where...
[Angel Donovan]: It's a reality...
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, where you look at people's bodies?
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah exactly. So basically, you don't see anyone's head. In fact, the only thing you're shown at first is their private parts. So basically, there would be a guy and he sees like five girls' private parts and there's a screen over the rest of them and he has to eliminate one of the girl based on her pussy basically.
[Rachael Hills]: That's bizarre, isn't it?
[Angel Donovan]: It is and then, it slowly reveals a bit more of the body. So, it goes up and it leads to the boobs and he ends up with one girl at the end when he's seeing just the full body and he's heard their voice as well. But yeah, I was just like... when I watched this I was like, "Wow, I wonder where this is going to go to? What's going to come next?" I'm sure a lot of people... well, the older generations and stuff would freak out looking at a show that's actually being possible.
But I guess, it just shows how public I think information is about our sexual lives now. So, I could see how that would be... you could kind of see at one of the girls who got sent off and actually, more so the guy that I saw. I just watched one show but, it was the first guy who was put out. You can see like he's the first one that's rejected just because of his penis size or whatever. He looked destroyed.
[Rachael Hills]: I know, gosh!
[Angel Donovan]: He did not look happy. So, you can imagine the impact on his social status is quite horrendous with all of his friends and...
[Rachael Hills]: Oh, not even to his social status. I think to his sense of self. Like, how you going to... you're going to think, "What is wrong with my penis? Or what is wrong with my pussy? People reject me based the sight of it." I think that what I found most striking about the concept of that show is that to me, it just seems so different to the way in which we actually choose people that we want to date. As I went to say that, I thought, "Maybe that's not so true now that we have online dating. We have things like Tinder and then, we sexting attached to that." So maybe now, some people really do pick who they want to date base on the shape of their penis or based on the shape of their pussy.
Although again, not having seen the show, I can't imagine how much of somebody's vulva you can see based on just the frontal view. What does that really tell you to be able to make an evaluation on? But, I think that for most people, we pick who we're attracted to, not just on those things but, on the kind of whole by looking at their entire physical body, by looking at the way they act, by the tone of their voice, by who they are. So, the idea of picking somebody to date by looking at their genitals and then their breasts and then their bum and then their legs and then their face, it's just so counter to the way that people really interact.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, I mean it's an interesting concept. To like play the devil's advocate, maybe we are more sexual driven, biological driven people in general and if we're given that information which what was being hidden from us, maybe we will start making decisions based on that. I have to say for me personally, I could tell there was some vaginas which looked more attractive than the others but, I really wanted to see the girl's face.
[Rachael Hills]: Exactly, yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: But maybe, other guys have got different view and that's going to change over time. It's just interesting how things are changing.
[Rachael Hills]: Perhaps but even on something like Tinder, I mean even if you can sext up towards and send pictures of your genitals or your sex organs, you're still starting with this picture of their and their body and the little strap line that they talk about themselves. So, there's still I guess more commonality to actually meeting someone in a bar than there is with Naked Attraction.
[Angel Donovan]: Well, I don't know if you've studies on this but, just based on my experience and like so many other guys I know, I think the whole thing about sexting is hyped. A lot of the girls I talk to you, they get a lot dick pics sent to them for sure but, in the vast majority of cases, they find it inappropriate. Just timing and whatever over maybe in the right context they like but, a lot of the time, it's just not the right moment.
So, I wonder if that's the hype working on everyone. They're reading every way. We should be sexting, right? They're getting it wrong. They're doing it too early or whatever.
[Rachael Hills]: That's true. I mean, I haven't done much sexting myself. I tried to sext my husband once when we were dating and it was pretty tame. It just sent a pretty picture of me in my bra and it didn't respond.
[Angel Donovan]: What? That is offensive. Oh my God!
[Rachael Hills]: I was offended. I said to him... and this kind of fits with your story though. I said to him afterwards, "I sent you this really hot picture of myself. Why did you just ignore it?" and he said, "I was on a bus when I received it. It was really embarrassing."
[Angel Donovan]: Oh, interesting. I guess that's... thank you that's helpful when I'm talking to guys in the future. If this situation comes up, I'll think of that. It was embarrassing to pull out.
[Rachael Hills]: To pull out your phone and then, see and it wasn't even that sexually explicit. It was a like Maxim photo or something.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, I guess now everyone thinks how vulnerable the person maybe if they don't get a response from sending something like that out.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, I mean I wasn't personally feeling vulnerable. I was mildly offended in this scenario but, "Why did you not respond to my sexy photo?"
[Angel Donovan]: You told him off. Okay.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: So, what do you think all of this means for men, more specifically? Does it tend to push them towards a type of standard or identity more than others?
[Rachael Hills]: I think the men are taught that the way that they engage with sex is tied to their sense of competence, that's it's tied to their sense of self-worth and their desirability but, statically speaking, the majority of men aren't hooking up constantly. The majority of men aren't even necessarily looking to hook up constantly. The story we're told about what it is to be a man is one that is based on the ability to pick up women and that's not just about your desirability to women. It becomes about your desirability to other men as well.
[Angel Donovan]: Oh right, just in terms of buddies hanging out, respect, yeah.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. Your ability to pull women then fades into that with buddies.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah.
[Rachael Hills]: Even if you're the kind of man who necessarily aspires to that in your personal life. It's like there was one guy I interviewed, who I think was in his maybe mid- to late-20s and he was quite conventionally attractive and he was definitely able to pull women but, he wasn't interested in... and he was also an athlete. So as an athlete, they were constantly talking about all of the women that they pulled but, that wasn't a conversation that was particularly interested in participating in. So because of the fact that he didn't want to share those stories in the locker room, people just assumed that he was getting any kind of action whatsoever and of course, they would pull out the kind of slam that, "Oh, you must be gay," even though that should not a slam.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah. So, it's just the silence these days when the standard is bragging basically amongst men.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: So, that's pretty much the standard I think it's going to go on for a long time, bragging and so on is definitely something that I see in most interactions with guys.
[Rachael Hills]: Yep.
[Angel Donovan]: Do you see pockets of guys who were kind of moving away from that?
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, I did interestingly, in the fraternity that I visited in the US and I don't think they're necessarily representative of fraternities but, the guys in that group basically thought that it was kind of lame and pathetic to base your masculinity on how many you could pull or in your ability to joke and talk about that with other men. So, there is a move away from that and there is suddenly a move away from using homosexuality as a slam. I think that amongst most young men today, it's considered uncool to be homophobic.
[Angel Donovan]: I think with the millennials in general, that ends and millennials is always not that.... I find kind of confusing how old they are but, 20 to 35 year-olds or something. Yeah, they tend to... any piece of media or anything I see with them, they seem to be a lot more how would you say, socially accepting and it's more of an open view to and nonjudgmental toward different sexual tendencies and so one, whatever they may be.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, and I don't know where most of your listeners are based but, there's a study that I reference in the book that came out a few years ago in the UK which found that 89% of young UK men had kissed another guy at some point.
[Angel Donovan]: Wow, that's huge!
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, it's huge and not romantically most of those cases, more in a kind of bantering kind of sense, like as a joke or as a way of I guess connecting with someone as a friend.
[Angel Donovan]: Is that just kissing him on the... is that a French kiss or it is that...?
[Rachael Hills]: On the lips, on the lips but, no tongue I think.
[Angel Donovan]: Okay.
[Rachael Hills]: Literally speaking, it was a really weird but, interesting study.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, that is a weird study. I lived in France for a while. I studied there and guys in Marci, there they kiss on both cheeks.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: And that's just the normal and when I got there, I was an English guy. So, I see English as pretty conservative in comparison and I was pretty freaked out when guys wanted to kiss me all the time at that time. It wasn't something that I was comfortable with and I got comfortable with pretty quickly. Then, in other countries like Argentina, Man if you don't kiss a guy, it's considered that you may be gay because, you have an issue with it.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: So, it's interesting that England may have changed now. That sounds like a really high number. Well, that's good. Does it tend to create any specific anxieties or stress around sexuality for men?
[Rachael Hills]: I think that the anxiety is firstly about the sense of self-worth and desirability. So, do... and obviously, I interviewed gay men as well but, I presume that most people who listen to your podcast are straight men.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Rachael Hills]: So, that's where I'm focusing on here.
[Angel Donovan]: I think so.
[Rachael Hills]: So, this anxiety about self-worth and desirability, "Am I able to get the girl? Am I able to please a girl. Am I able to get her to do the things that I want her to do and if I can't, what does that mean is wrong with me?"
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so to look at this, kind of give some examples. Some of it would be around the different sex acts and guys. So, I can tell you some of the anxieties I come across. Like I just to make clearer, I don't know if you've got case studies or examples or some specific things that kind of bring the subject alive. For instance, just talking dirty with girls a lot of guys, their anxious about it. They don't know how to do it and they feel pressured that they have to do it because, it's spoken about. Probably sexting to a large extent as well. I don't know if you came across examples in your work and in your research where there's specific topics that are getting pressure around or where guys were getting more anxious?
[Rachael Hills]: So, a couple examples I can think of. One was a women's magazine article I came across early in my research which looked at the use of Viagra amongst young men in their 20s. This idea young men who generally weren't at the age group where they would need Viagra or who didn't necessarily experience a lot of erectile issues would be taking Viagra before they went out to make sure that they would be able to perform if they were to take a woman home and that might be partly because of drugs and alcohol but, I think it's also attached to a desire to be good in bed.
Another one that came to mind when you were talking about that was a guy interviewed who talked about being in high school and being in sex education. When the instructor would ask if there were any questions and the guys wouldn't be able to ask a question about how woman's bodies worked because, they felt like they had to act as if they knew everything already. I remember the guy saying, "I would have really quite liked to ask how my girlfriend vagina and vulva worked but, I felt like I had to pretend I'd already had lots of sex. So, I couldn't ask that question."
[Angel Donovan]: Right, right, so that's unfortunate, having to be experienced, basically.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah or interestingly, there was another guy I interviewed (and I think this story does end up in the book) who talked about hooking up with the girl he really liked for the first time and it was his first time of being really sexually intimate with somebody. It was a girl he liked for I think a year and he was hooking up with her and he had oral sex and he was deliriously happy about this because, it's really exciting to be able to hook up with someone who you really like.
But, he talked about feeling this kind of pressure, the internalized pressure that he was expected to still ask to have intercourse (to ask to have full sex, whatever you want to call it) even though he was perfectly happy with what he was doing. So, there is this internalized pressure I think for really young men to always been seeking out intercourse even if they might be just happy doing something else sexual.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah, either to rack up the numbers or I guess, that's mostly that social pressure from guys?
[Rachael Hills]: But, I think that that pressure is kind of internalized. So for that guy, it wasn't, "I need to push for sex so that I can go and tell my mates about it afterwards." It was, "I need to push for sex because, I'm a guy and she's a girl and this is what she expects of me."
[Angel Donovan]: Right, so it's also from the girl, like he felt like wouldn't be seen as a man or...?
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah
[Angel Donovan]: ... masculine if he didn't push for sex with the girl but also, he'd feel bad about himself. Like, "I'm not a real man."
[Rachael Hills]: Like, "I'm not doing what a man's supposed to do," and I don't think it's... I mean, to some degree, I found when I was looking at the research that women do expect men to push for sex but, that's not an expectation that women necessarily like. So, it's not an expectation that guys should be trying to live up for or to, it's more that women are socialized to expect men to push for sex almost as an irritant. Which is not to say that women find sex irritating but, that when you're a teenage girl in particular, you're being taught that guys are only after one thing and basically, guys will do anything for sex.
In my experience and in the experience of so many other women who I know or have interviewed, this of course is not how guys are all the time. So when women have encounters with a real flesh and blood man, sometimes they can find that confusing. I heard that particularly from women who had higher sex drives than the man that they're in relationships with but, it's a very kind of destructive expectation, this idea that guys always want sex and they want nothing but sex. It's destructive for everybody involved.
[Angel Donovan]:ÊYeah, absolutely. You know noticed this over time, I moved more toward relationships and kind of having longer dates drawn out than, a number of years ago, when I changed the focus onto other things in my life and I find a lot of the girls get insecure and ask why I haven't taken them home after a few dates. Because again, the kind of standard they're seeing, it's like they expecting the guy to make a move the first time or at least the second time which is what I used to do. But, when you lead it out through three or four dates, they're like, "Why is this guy even bothering to come and see me? It's like he's not interested at all." It gets pretty confusing for them because, it doesn't fit with that standard that they've taken on board.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah and of course, the issue there is that we need to kind of blow apart that standard, rather than men need to make sure that they ask women to have sex with them in the first few dates.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah awesome. So, what I'm always interested in on this podcast is like how can guys get more satisfied with their lives in this area, more fulfilled, happier with them? With all of the different pressures, the external pressures basically, influencing guys and their identities today, how would you say it can detract from their lives in these ways, happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment?
[Rachael Hills]: Well, I think that I guess probably the kind of obvious answer is that it makes people fell insecure that they're living up to an ideal. Whether, that's the ideal they feel internally, so they feel that they're not desirable, they feel like they're not a real man, etc. Whether they feel insecure about their relationships with their friends or whether they feel insecure about their relationships with women. So, I think that's the kind of main impact in some men's lives.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, excellent, thank you. In terms of practical kind of takeaways for the guys to think about as they go away from this, what is useful for men to consider in order to ensure that sex contributes to the quality of their lives? Are there things about their standards, their perceptions of what the norms are for them, what they should be doing can help if they put a bit of forward into them?
[Rachael Hills]: I think the main practical takeaways I would have is firstly, to remember that if you're feeling insecure about your sex life that a lot of people have a financial interest in keeping your insecure. Whether that's because, they're writing TV shows with outlandish plotlines that are accordingly more exciting for people to watch even if they have nothing to do with people's actually experiences or whether, I guess and in an even more practical sense, there are a lot of people out there who offer sex advice that is designed to inflame insecurities where their kind of underline message will be, "You're not a real man but, if you only do what I say, then you will be."
So, if you're feeling like your sex life is not to scratch in some way or if you feel like that means that you're personally lacking, that's not necessarily because you are personally lacking. It's because, there are people who want you to feel lacking so they can sell you things.
I also think that... I think you asked in one of the emails that we exchanged, how you can tell if your sex life isn't serving you? I think one point that I really want to drive home is that that's not about the particular sex life you have. It's not about whether you're having lots of sex or not. It's not about whether you have lots of partners or whether your monogamous. It's not about whether you watch porn or you don't watch porn.
I think the warning sign is if sex is a subject that causing you a lot of personal anxiety or if it's a subject that's making you feel angry towards other people because, of that anxiety. Whether that's making you angry towards women or to other men or to yourself. Like, that's a sign that something's wrong.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, those are very good signals.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: To help guys to figure out if this is something that they should think more about.
[Rachael Hills]: Yep.
[Angel Donovan]: So, reading through your book what I was thinking about, so if guys wanted to develop their own sexual standard independently of the external pressures like the things you were talking about. I mean, sex is basically embedded in everything around us today, right? So, you've been talking magazines, TV, movies, TV shows, movies, gurus, products, Viagra or any other product, clothes even. Every type of product pretty much as sex embedded in it to be sold these days. There's pretty much nothing that isn't used these day.
So, how can guys go about developing their own sexual standard which may potentially make them more fulfilled independently of all of these external pressures? It seems like quite a mountainous task really.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, it is a hugely mountainous task. It's a billion-dollar question and I think that the reason that it's a mountainous task is because, as I said at the beginning of our interview, human are social animals and that is the fact that we are influenced by the people around us and by the stories that are around us is something that is embedded into us as a species. So, it's very difficult to entirely extract yourself from that and I don't think that it's possible to ever create entirely your own perception of how sex or of how anything is supposed to be in isolation of other people.
But, I think the one practical thing that men could do is to be a little bit more honest with other men about their sex lives and that doesn't necessarily mean needing to get really vulnerable and having a DNM, although that may work with your particular group of friends. It could just mean the next time that you're having a laugh about sex that you have a laugh about something that doesn't make you look so cool alongside all of the things that do make you look cool. Then, I think that opens up permission for the other men in your life to talk a bit more honestly about their sex lives and then, you're going to get a kind of more round, holistic picture of what other guys sex lives look at separate from those advertising and media messages.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, I think that's a great tip, like takeaway, just being more transparent and as you said, being playful about it or self-deprecation. Humor is an easier way to start potentially. Would you suggest they could do that with girls too?
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, that's a great point because, guys and girls are also friends with each other and I joke about these things with my guy friends as much as I do with my girl friends as well. Even with women that you're dating. Maybe in that case, you might want to have a conversation a little bit more seriously but, yeah. To be more honest, just go around because, there's a lot of power in sharing our real stories around sex.
[Angel Donovan]: Well absolutely, you sited the key point there is like, when you have the courage to be transparent and honest, talk about reality as it is rather than creating this cover-up then, it gives other people courage to do it as well. So, you start getting real feedback instead of this distorted bias view which everyone is kind of like ferrying around between themselves I think. It just takes someone to start and you can be the one to start and it makes everyone feel better about giving you more accurate feedback. So, it helps you.
[Rachael Hills]: Absolutely and I know that both from my book and through a story I read in the New York Times last year where I shared some of my story that lead me to write the book. I got so many emails from people, from men and women who read that article, who read the book and they're like, "Thank you for saying this. I feel so much better knowing there are other people out there who are in the same boat."
[Angel Donovan]: Awesome, awesome. Thank you for that. Okay, a few questions to round off. What are the best ways for people to connect with you and learn about you and your work?
[Rachael Hills]: Sure, so the best way to connect with me is to go the website http://www.TheSexMyth.com where you can find out more information about the book and about me and ways to kind of help create these more authentic conversations around sexuality. You can also find me on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/RachaelHills. You can find me on Instagram at Ms. Rachael Hills, that's M-S Rachael Hills. You can find me on Facebook at Rachael Hills Writer.
I also have a really... well, I think a really great mailing list. I don't spam people with promotions. Instead, I tell stories about these issues which is that http://www.TinyLetter.com/RachaelHillss.
[Angel Donovan]: Cool, I haven't heard of that before. What's http://www.TinyLetter.com? Is it some kind of...?
[Rachael Hills]: http://www.TinyLetter.com is like a mailing list service and the thing I love about it is that it's Tiny Letter, rather than Mailing List. So, you treat as a correspondence with real people rather than, "Hey, buy my things."
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent, excellent. Alright, we'll put all of that in our blog, all those references as usual also for people to look up if they couldn't figure out the URL or whatever.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: Who besides yourself would you recommend for advice or knowledge in this area of life, dating, sex, relationships?
[Rachael Hills]: Ah, this was a tough question for me because, I avoid a lot of dating advice because, I feel like it is designed to...
[Angel Donovan]: Or knowledge, yeah. Or knowledge.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah but, I think... so three people who I really like. Firstly, Michael Kimmel the sociologist that I recommended before, he has really interesting book called Guy Land which really analyzes masculinity as a whole but, there's some really great stuff on sexuality in there and I think a lot of men will relate to stories that he shares in that book.
There's also another researcher I really like called Andrew P. Smiler and he wrote a book called Challenging Casanova which I mentioned in my book but, he also has another book out which I'm just looking first now while we're on the phone. Sorry, I only have Challenging Casanova for him.
Anyway, the third person who I really like is a woman called Cindy Gallop who runs a website called http://www.MakeLoveNotPorn.com and her entire mission is to make sex more transparent but, not in the same way that say Naked Attraction does but, just by showing people having sex in ways that are real, in ways that are varied. So, there is... it's just all vanilla or loving or heterosexual but also... So, I went to a talk with her where she showed videos. They were also really sexy those videos as well. So, I think it's pornography that also kind of challenges the sex myth at the same time.
[Angel Donovan]: So, it's pornography based on reality rather than pornography designed?
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah, so it's real people videoing themselves having sex but, some of these people must have really great choreography and filming because...
[Angel Donovan]: Because, it looks awesome?
[Rachael Hills]: ... because, the videos that she showed did look good. So, I recommend that as something to look at and to see the ways in which people really are having sex.
[Angel Donovan]: Thank you for that, very interesting. I hadn't heard of that.
[Rachael Hills]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, thanks for all those references and what would be your top three recommendations to guys starting from scratch without any prior knowledge to improve their dating life as fast as possible.
[Rachael Hills]: I think one thing that makes dating really hard for men and for women is that we're so often taught to see it as a game and you know, games are in most cases, their kind of inherently oppositional. So, you almost tend to see yourself in opposition to the people you're dating. I think that's a really damaging idea. So, stop seeing sex and dating as a game.
To remember that women are humans just like you and that they have their own insecurities and their own challenges and that sex and relationships aren't easy for women, either. I guess, related to both of those, to ditch the whole battle of the sexes stuff because, if you're a man who's attracted to and wants to date women, essentially you and women are in kind of fighting the same thing together. You all want to have great sex and have great relationships.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, it's difficult to fight something and team up with at the same time to have great sex or whatever, fulfillment.
[Rachael Hills]: Exactly, yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, makes it a bit of a conflict of interest or whatever. So Rachael, thank you so much for your time today. It's been a very interesting chat.
[Rachael Hills]: Thank you so much, Angel.
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DSR Podcast is a weekly podcast where Angel Donovan seeks out and interviews the best experts he can find from bestselling authors, to the most experienced people with extreme dating lifestyles. The interviews were created by Angel Donovan to help you improve yourself as men - by mastering dating, sex and relationships skills and get the dating life you aspire to.
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