Apr 142010

This is a nerd polemic against “normal.” People want to know that they are normal – and they want to know how to have the best sex. You absolutely can not have both. You have to pick: normal (i.e., average, typical, ordinary) OR the best (i.e., exceptional, extraordinary, rare… abnormal).

Non-sex example to illustrate: a coupla weeks ago, The Guardian Science Podcast disclosed the World’s Funniest Joke. Ready? Here it is:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do!”

The operator says, “Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”

There’s a silence and then a shot is heard.

Back on the phone, the guy says, “Okay, now what?”


Not that funny, right? And yet when hundreds of people were asked to rate loads of jokes on a scale of 1 to 5, this is the joke that had the highest average “funny” rating. What the hell?

Welcome to the wonderful world of statistical averages. What you find when you look for the highest average of anything is… well… average.

(Understand statistics in 12 minutes.)

It happens with jokes. It happens with politicians. It happens with beauty. It happens with spaghetti sauce, coffee, and diet cola, as Malcolm Gladwell explains.

It happens, yes, in sex. “Average” sex is hideously dull, it’s sex that no one really wants… but no one’s particularly bothered by. “Meh” sex.

Average (that is to say, “statistically normal”) anything is likely to be bland, compromised, and, ya know, largely unobjectionable. Some people will LOVE it. Some people will HATE it. Most people… won’t mind.

Your favorite joke? There’s likely someone in the world who would find it offensive. There’s probably someone else who would just totally not get it.

(My favorite joke: “What’s red and invisible? No tomatoes.” I’m giggling wildly as I type this.)

Similarly, the best sex – the best sex for you, I mean – is probably sex that other people would object to. Sex that horrifies some people. Sex that other people just won’t understand. Sex that singes the panties off others, others like you.

I know people are worried about doing it “right,” but there are no judges, no score cards, and no medals to be won. No one will deduct points if you fumble the dismount, like in Harry’s dream.

Please world, think carefully before you ask me about “normal” and “best.” Normal is boring and best is whatever sex you engage in with confidence and joy.

No one ever asks me how to have mediocre sex. I know that’s not what you want. Go ahead and have sex that would offend others. Put your tongue in dark, mysterious places. Fuck the bell curve.

Emily Nagoski

  15 Responses to “the real law of averages: the best sex offends people”

Comments (11) Pingbacks (4)
  1. Continue probing deeply into the dark reaches of bellcurviphilia, cuz if I could I would take that bell curve to bed and screw it straight, oh yeah, baby, love that sexy cur….

    ok, that got played out….

    can’t think of my all time favorite joke, but of interest to you perhaps (if you’re looking to make a point about shocking people):

    Q – Why did Jesus die on the cross?

    A – forgot the safe word.

  2. Here’s another thought…average sex can be good even great. I mean it is _sex_ after all. The only way beer and pizza can be bad is if one or the other is _actually_ bad. (I consider beer and pizza the fifth food group.) Even if the beer and pizza are average, it’s _still_ a good, even great experience.
    Well it’s the same with sex. If the two people love and care about each other (or at least like and respect each other) then even an episode of fairly conventional lovemaking is likely to be a pretty darn enjoyable experience. For example, first, a modest amount of foreplay. Then he uses manual stimulation and/or cunnilingus until she has an orgasm. Brief pause. A little more foreplay. They have genital intercourse in some garden variety position. He orgasms. Cuddling in disheveled, sweaty sheets. Sleep. That’s pretty average. (A similiar scenario for a same-sex couple too.) But if the two people like and respect each other it makes for a darn fine morning, afternoon, or evening of fun and frolic. It doesn’t have to be the fucking Olympics. (I mean that _both_ ways.) So, folks, don’t get all hung up on performance and greatness. Just get in there and enjoy the breathing, sweating, tingling, kissing, sucking, licking, writhing, and fireworks-in-the-mind. Sex can’t be too boring as long as both people are comfortable with and involved in it. It is _sex_ after all.

  3. Thank you so much for that link to Malcolm Gladwell’s speech!

  4. OMG that joke made me laugh out loud.

    I have a coworker who loves jokes that end with a thud. His favorite:

    q: Do you know why, when ducks fly in a v, why one side is longer than the other? a: There are more ducks on that side.

  5. AGAIN, Darrell Huff (‘How To Lie With Statistics’: the Beatitudes of our geological era)

  6. I know this was posted over a year ago, but I only recently found this blog, and I just wanted to let you know that the “No tomatoes” joke is one of my all-time favorites as well. It’s right up there with, “What’s yellow and not a banana?……Oh wait! It is a banana!” (hmm, that one works a lot better in person than writing).

    Anyway, I’m thoroughly enjoying going through your archives. There’s some really great stuff in here!

  7. As you can see in my photo I am a Rocker; an Orchestra Affairs Executive to be precise. As it is therefore anatomically and physiologically impossible for me to be average (I live perpetually in Absolute Elsewhere), it is impossible for me to have average sex. Average people wilt under my radiant presence. Science proves it.

  8. If you like the tomato joke so much, you’ll probably also like my all time favorite (which no one else ever finds funny):
    -What’s small, green, and triangular?
    -A small green triangle.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.