On baseball and sex

It might be a problem that its hard to tell if someone is talking about baseball or their sex life when you’re eavesdropping on conversations. Another great TED talk I’m going to refer you to is by Al Vernacchio. He tackles the issue beautifully.

Baseball is the most popular metaphor America uses to talk about sex. The metaphor is toxic, but because its so ingrained into our culture, we fail to realize it.

First off there’s the bases. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and home run. Its a cycle. To get to second base you have to get to 1st. To hit a home run you have to pass through all three bases. Once you hit a home run, you have to start all over. Its expected that certain actions are done in a certain order and that’s how it has to go every time. If you go out of order, you’re breaking the rules.

The baseball metaphor assigns roles. Pitcher performs the act (usually expected of the more masculine counterpart) and the catcher receives (usually expected of the more feminine counterpart). You can be either one or the other. Lesbian or gay people play for the other team, creating a further divide and negative connotations.

Without thinking about it, talking about sex in terms of baseball seems fine. Once the metaphor broken down, it becomes obvious how harmful it can be.

To start, its competitive. Baseball is a game. Games have a winner, but that means there has to be a loser, too. Instead of the people involved working together, they are competing.

There’s an overload of expectation and goal setting. When its game time, you play. If it’s Valentine’s Day, or prom night, or an anniversary, or your parents aren’t home, you’re expected to play. Just like with baseball, players can’t tell the coach they just aren’t up for playing today. There’s also the expectation of finishing the game. ‘Hitting a home run’ usually refers to penetrative sex ending in an orgasm. If there isn’t a home run, then the game wasn’t successful. This isn’t the case with sex. Orgasm is not always the goal, and shouldn’t always be the goal. If you get to second base and really like it there, you shouldn’t have to move until you want to. Adding the goal of orgasm adds undue pressure to everyone involved. This is especially harmful to people who are just starting to have sex and beginning to explore their sexuality. It can be very high stress and adding extra pressure is unhealthy. In a game you are always expected to follow the rules. Now don’t get me wrong. Sex has rules (consent and safety!) no matter how you look at it. With the baseball metaphor, those rules are rigid. If you break them, you get thrown out of the game. There is no room to go outside the box or experiment. With sex, those opportunities need to be there and be had safely. Relationships and sexuality are more fluid than the baseball metaphor makes them out to be.

The metaphor is also heteronormative and limiting. Baseball with all its bases and bats and dugouts talks only about penetrative sex involving a penis and a vagina. This only further emphasizes the misunderstanding that penetrative sex is the only way to go. This isn’t the case.

Vernacchio talks about all of the above mentioned problems with the baseball metaphor and proposes an new way to talk about sex. Pizza. You see with pizza, there’s no expectation or competition or right way.

With the baseball metaphor, you play the game whenever you are expected to. With pizza, you only eat when you’re hungry. If you don’t want pizza, you don’t have to have any. You only eat pizza with somebody else when both of you want pizza. When it’s thought of as a want and not a need or an expectation, sex tends to be safer and the associated thoughts tend to be more positive.

Pizza is never a competition. It’s an experience. That’s what sex should be. Instead of a high stress environment, riddled with rules and expectations, its a nice experience you share with other people.

The most valuable part of the pizza metaphor is the inherent communication. Before you order pizza, you talk about what you want. What toppings, what size, what you like and what you don’t like. There is compromise, but in the end, everyone gets what they want. You can get the usual, or you can try something new. Afterwards, you talk about the pizza. You ask yourself if you liked it, if you want to try a different kind, or if you want to order from someplace else. Communication is carried through the whole experience to ensure that everyone is satisfied.

There is no right or wrong way to eat pizza. You can eat it with someone else or with a group of people or all by yourself. You can have whatever toppings you want and you can eat as much or as little as you want.

The pizza metaphor isn’t perfect, but its much healthier than the current one we’re using. In order for sex ed to be as good as it can be, we need teach ourselves to communicate. We need to ask questions and come up with answers so everyone is safe and satisfied. America is losing interest in baseball anyway. Let’s adapt.

Every good wish,

Julia

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