An Ordinary Man

Or, Men 101

Category: quotes

Porn is for Losers, but ….

He usually wasn’t ashamed of resorting to pornography because he understood many, if not most, married men used it to satisfy themselves periodically, just like they sometimes grabbed a slice of pizza on the run instead of sitting down for a real meal. The pizza might even taste better, depending upon the circumstances; a full course dinner took time, was expensive, and required a partner of matching appetite to properly enjoy. And even a quick, clinical release was sometimes better than none at all, as any masseuse offering a happy ending could tell you. Many wives would be surprised at how frequently their husbands relieved themselves like this; he was pretty sure his would be among them. From what he had gathered, it also appeared that few of these wives would be willing to take on the additional responsibilities needed to make that unnecessary, which is why porn sites, strip bars and massage joints would always be around. – An Ordinary Man

Pamela Anderson recently came out against pornography, saying it was “a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness,” “for losers” and “a boring, wasteful and dead-end outlet for people too lazy to reap the ample rewards of healthy sexuality.” She was predictably hit with allegations of hypocrisy in view of her (limited) participation in the industry, but her point is valid.*

The paragraph above, from An Ordinary Man, reflects the views of Richard Wilson, who, feeling the press of sexual desire, picks porn over waking his sleeping wife, who has not been very enthusiastic of late.  As Anderson says, it is a loser’s move, but it takes two to tangle and Wilson, a man, is not going to forego his pleasure just because the consensual pleasure he would prefer is once again not available.

This, of course, leads to a potential dilemma that an article on about Anderson’s essay does not address: suppose Wilson’s wife were to extend an invitation to him, but only after he has already relieved the pressure by himself on the assumption she would not extend one, because, at least in his view, she does so so seldom?  Left with little choice but to demur, because he probably cannot perform anymore, she will now feel as unattractive as he has been feeling, and that part of their relationship will continue to deteriorate, to the detriment of the entire relationship.

The vicious cycle snowballs quickly.

*her essay, written with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, appeared in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal on August 31, 2016.



“Somewhere in [his] limbic system ….”

That was what was so comforting about a long-term relationship – your sexual memory was so strong, she was never older than the first time you did it with her; you were imprinted with her as she was then and while you were of course aware of changes over time, somewhere in your limbic system you were still f*****g her as she was when she caught your attention the very first time. That’s why many men continue to wax rhapsodic about the beauty of women who frankly are not so attractive anymore. When men say their wife is the prettiest one in a room full of women, you can be pretty sure either she is, or she’s been doing him on a regular basis all along, keeping the memory of when she was fresh.

Okay, not every woman is going to look as good as Julianne Moore does at 54, but hubby’s limbic system is NOT going to know that: you are still desirable to him, he still wants you, he still needs you (and he might still replace you if you’re not available).



The top complaint about a marriage is not having sex ….

“On Google, the top complaint about a marriage is not having sex. Searches for ‘sexless marriage’ are three and a half times more common than ‘unhappy marriage’ and eight times more common than ‘loveless marriage.’ There are 16 times more complaints about a spouse not wanting sex than about a married partner not being willing to talk. Even couples not yet married complain somewhat frequently about lack of sex. Google searches for ‘sexless relationship’ are second only to searches for ‘abusive relationship.’ (Abusive relationships are obviously a very important topic that I will return to in the future.)”

This isn’t news to Dr. Richard Wilson, an ordinary man trapped in such a marriage in the novel of the same name, who in talking to his best friend, bemoans his lack of action thusly:

    “Actually, pretty much nothing. I mean, I’m not keeping a calendar or anything but it feels like several months can go by without anything happening. Anything at all. I got her a fancy nightie for Valentine’s Day last week and it’s still in its box. Like I said, it’s like she woke up one morning and said, ‘whew, we’re finally finished,’ as if we had better things to do.” Richard paused to shake his head. “She seems to have come to the conclusion that I have lost interest in sex. But where ever would she get that idea? Otherwise, why wouldn’t she take fifteen minutes out of her day to do something that makes me very happy? I mean, if I could do something for her that I knew would make her that happy, of course I would. Wouldn’t matter what it was. Why not? Wouldn’t you for Sarah?” He felt himself getting a little angry as he spoke.

While Seth found that at least as many women complained about not having sex as men, I hear many more men complain than women. It is, guaranteed, fatal to a marriage.  Read the book to see why this is the case.

A Fundamental Difference

From what he could see of it, Heather’s bra was intriguingly insubstantial and lightly trimmed with lace. Quite possibly, it was part of a matched set and Richard allowed his eyes to move down her body to her hips to contemplate the bottoms. The fabric of her pants, a perceptible weave of some kind – herringbone? – revealed no intimate details of what lay beneath so Richard began to seriously consider the matter. Of course, contemplation of the underwear leads to contemplation of what is within the underwear and before long Richard was shamelessly imagining the most intimate details of his colleague’s anatomy.

Richard, the frustrated college professor and the ordinary man of the novel of the same name, would understand an article in today’s NY Daily News perfectly.  There, a woman blogged about her decision not to wear yoga pants because of the thoughts such revealing attire can create in us poor males.

At least two of her readers suggested that by that logic, men would need to stop wearing suits because some women find them sexy. Exactly, Richard would tell his class; at a very basic level, men are programmed to respond to physical attractiveness and/or the apparent mindset of the woman, while women are programmed to respond to the ability of the male to provide – a woman showing her stuff is almost automatically sexy to a guy, just as a guy wearing a suit presumably has a good job and is therefore sexy to the essential female.

And it was to what he attributed his own dissatisfaction to in his marriage counseling session:

    “What about what you said was your worst fear; that you are not a good enough provider?”

    “Well, to understand that, you have to understand that I teach evolutionary biology for a living. My day is filled with the survival of the fittest, to the victor go the spoils, who is the best mate. Et cetera. It’s very obvious that she could have done better.”

    “You think her sexuality is dependent upon the size of your paycheck?”

    “Let’s say that I’m not sure it’s not. There is very heavy selection pressure to mate with the winners. Has been for eons.  I’m virtually certain that has worked its way into the human genome.”

Excerpt: Nature Screwed Up a Bit

“It is too bad, he thought, that sex involved penetration and the emission of vaguely objectionable – or perhaps even completely objectionable – fluids. He didn’t mind them, but for the most part they were from him; what she contributed he welcomed as an acknowledgment that he had done well, and was enjoying it. You had to be a pig or a dolt to not worry about her status. Her role was to offer herself up for penetration and his was to make sure she found pleasure in doing so. Men did not necessarily want the intrusiveness of penetration, or the mess of ejaculation; it’s just that that was how it was done. If touching foreheads dryly together somehow resulted in orgasm, men would be as adamant about touching foreheads as they are about inserting themselves into their partner’s body. Nature screwed up a bit with the whole penis-vagina-semen thing and he suspected it has caused difficulty between the sexes ever since.”

Female Sexuality: It’s Complicated

  “Classical thought has it that the function of the orgasm for both sexes is to make reproduction worthwhile. It’s easy to see where this could be true with the males, whether you’re talking about head-butting ungulates such as buffalo, big horn rams, or African antelope; territorial males like lions and wolves who guard their fiefdoms and the mating rights that go with it with tooth and claw; or harem masters like elk and elephant seals who exhaust themselves covering as many females as possible while driving off rivals.” He played short, silent videos of each as he spoke and considered the irony of telling his female students about the strength of the male sex drive; were there any of them who had not been subjected to its relentlessness by now? “Obviously, something, it would seem, makes this all worthwhile and it’s reasonable to assume it’s the male orgasm.” Very reasonable, in fact.

    “So what about the females? Reproduction kind of seems like the ultimate bad deal for them because it’s usually up to her to more or less submit to the male’s advances, exposing herself to rough treatment from him, the fatigue of pregnancy, the danger of childbirth, and the demands of motherhood, all while he sort of just ambles off, looking for another conquest. What makes the female go there? It’s not the desire to have offspring, or the satisfaction of raising a family because although I do not doubt the special bond between mothers and their babies, animals wouldn’t be able to make a connection between sex and birth weeks or months later. Indeed, some humans don’t seem able to make that connection.

    “But yet, we can be pretty sure it’s not pleasure, at least not in most cases.” He paused, aware that he was about to venture into dangerous territory. “Much of the mating out there is coercive in nature, with the males using harassment, intimidation, and physical force to accomplish it. Copulation in many species is quick, brutish, and even painful for the female, who frequently seeks to avoid it as much as possible. The use of the term ‘rape’ would not be entirely unjustified in several cases. On the other hand, making sex as pleasant for females as it is for males wouldn’t work very well; we would literally have bad moms running all through the animal kingdom, throwing themselves at the guys, with no one watching out for the babies she might already have at home.

    “At the end of the day, it seems clear that many, if not most, females mate because if they didn’t, their species would cease to exist and not for any other reason. Females who completely reject any interaction with males are unable to reproduce themselves and would be selected out.”

That’s Professor Richard Wilson addressing his evolutionary biology class at Aeolian College, grappling with the issue of female sexuality as his own marriage falls apart because of bedroom incompatibility.  Dr. John Randolph, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology for the University of Michigan Health System and an author of a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, had this to say: “[w]omen’s interest in sex is extremely complicated,” with “[m]ood and an overall sense of health and well-being [being] key for women.”

Read more:

The Myth of the Sexual Peak

He would never apologize for needing her physically and he would never risk being scorned on account of that need.

The flip side of forsaking all others is that you do not forsake me. I do not pursue other opportunities because you are my opportunity, not because I have lost interest in those opportunities. I give up the thrill of the chase and the excitement of new skin because you know my desires and have promised to accommodate them. … Liz was wrong; it was in fact a quid pro quo, a contract, and if you breach your end of it, why wouldn’t I breach mine? This may come as a shock, honey, but I am as much a slave to my libido as you are to it, even more so. It’s not a switch I can simply turn on and off. I get hungry and tired at inconvenient times, too, and there’s not much I can do about that, either. How many times do you get to say no, and why do you even want to say no in the first place? You didn’t have to accept the ring.

Tough talk, but he felt his blood freezing in his coronary arteries as he considered his newly-understood future. He was celibate and possibly having a heart attack. At forty-two. Reaching for his phone, he waited to see if any other symptoms appeared that would warrant calling an ambulance.

According to an article in the New York Daily News, it is a myth that men enjoy their sexual peak at an early age. The article quotes Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, as saying “If you are looking for great sex, then ages 35-45 would be the best time [for a man].”  But by that age, a lot of men seem to find themselves trapped in increasingly sexless marriages, just like Richard Wilson, in An Ordinary Man.

Frequency, Not Variety (Sorry, Guys)

According to the NY Daily News, researchers from the University of Montreal and Institut Armand-Frappier have found that “[m]en who have had sex with more than 20 women have a 28% lower chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.” The article goes on to quote study leader Marie-Elise Parent of the University of Montreal as saying, “[i]t is possible that having many female sexual partners results in a higher frequency of ejaculations, whose protective effect against prostate cancer has been previously observed in cohort studies.” In lay peoples’ terms, that means the more often you come, the less likely you’ll get this disease.

Richard, the sexually-frustrated protagonist in An Ordinary Man, already knew this and explained it to his attractive female colleague in evolutionary biology thusly:

“I’m beginning to think the pair-bonding mechanism is not quite perfected. Males are supposed to stay with a particular female despite other sexual opportunities because the females have done away with an estrous cycle and are, allegedly, receptive at all times of the year. It is to the male’s genetic advantage to have multiple offspring but nature ended up making the sexual act itself the reward by inventing the orgasm so, the thinking goes, it is the act of intercourse – not the birth of progeny – that is meant to satisfy the male; meaning he should be just as happy having sex with the same woman fifty times with just one birth resulting as he would be with fifty women and fifty births. It is the fifty orgasms that are important. So far, so good: dad, in exchange for regular sex, stays around to help mom raise what amounts to a very needy infant with a comparatively long period of dependency.”

Frequent sex with your mate will help your marriage, and maybe keep him healthier. Plus it feels good. So why not?

Mateness Points

My seventh-grade health teacher cautioned our class that none of us were likely to have an original thought in our lifetimes – not because we were exceptionally dim-witted, but because virtually every thought worth thinking has already been thought of. So I was not surprised to see an article on confrming a pet theory regarding marital satisfaction I advanced in my novel, An Ordinary Man – that of “mateness points.” As explained by the protagonist, Richard Wilson, to his wife Liz:

“It has to do with what I’ve been calling mateness points.”

“Maintenance points? What are those?”

“No, not maintenance – mateness; mateness points.” He chuckled; she could be fun. “Matability. I don’t know; I’m going to have to coin a term if this idea has any legs. Anyway, the idea is that each female assigns each male a certain number of these points, based upon whatever makes males attractive to her, just as each male assigns them to each female based upon whatever makes females attractive to him. A guy would give points for beauty, grace, wit and style, along with intelligence and, you know, whatever. Same thing with a woman; she’ll assign points as she sees fit, and only those guys with a certain number of points will get the time of day from her. Let’s say her threshold is five hundred points; she’d obviously like Mr. Wonderful, who has maybe a thousand, but Mr. Wonderful isn’t likely to look at her because he wants more points than she is likely to have. If she’s only looking for five hundred, she’s probably a little down-market for him, so even if she does snag Mr. Wonderful, it’ll only be for a night or two. He’ll drop her as soon as a girl with more points comes along.

“Of course all kinds of complications arise. People give themselves too many points, don’t give others enough points, base their points on attributes not as meaningful as they think, don’t give the same attributes the same point values, et cetera. It’s like a cosmic balance with really funky counterweights. But the bottom line is the scale must balance, or look like it’s balanced to the couple involved. If it’s not, one of them is going to become dissatisfied at some point and cause trouble. So you strive for as many points as possible in your mate, but if you overreach, you won’t have enough points to sustain his commitment.”

“So the tipping point is when the couple’s mateness points balance gets out of whack?”


“So how many points did I have when you met me?”

“You? You were way up there. And that might be part of the problem. I wanted a high number, but wasn’t that high myself, so I fooled you into thinking I had more.”

“You had enough.”

“Thank you, but the metric can change as the relationship progresses. Sometimes points are gained, other times they are lost. I have a feeling I’ve lost points. Andrew obviously thought he had points to spare.”

“So is that what you think women do, go around calculating point values and then offering themselves to the highest they think they can get?”

“Not consciously, no. Well, some do. But I do think, I do believe, that there is at least some residual deep-seated instinct guiding a woman’s response to men. It only makes sense, to me anyway. But it’s time for me to go to work.”

It turns out, as points out, that “[i]n social psychology, there is a classic theory called ‘exchange theory.’ It is a bit cold-blooded, but it predicts that a person’s actions will be based on trying to find a balance of give and get. Each person’s resources — of all kinds, including money, looks, background — are traded back and forth for a ‘good deal.’ For example, a ‘good deal’ scenario could be a woman who makes an excellent living pairing up with a man who is a writer and is willing to work at home and be the primary child care person.”

It’s not cold-blooded; it’s how we work. Well, maybe that is a bit cold-blooded.




“Cassiopeia was visible, as were a few other constellations he did not know as well. Her story fascinated him; had she really bragged about her beauty, or had she simply acknowledged an indisputable fact? A pretty woman who knew she was was often prettier than one who pretended she wasn’t. Sharing beauty was to be commended, not condemned. Poseidon had plainly overreacted.”


Cassiopeia is a constellation in the northern sky that resembles a stretched-out W.  It is named for a mythological queen notorious for her arrogance and beauty who received a terrible punishment:

Since Poseidon thought that Cassiopeia should not escape punishment, he placed her in the heavens tied to a chair in such a position that, as she circles the celestial pole in her throne, she is upside-down half the time. The constellation resembles the chair that originally represented an instrument of torture. Cassiopeia is not always represented tied to the chair in torment, in some later drawings she is holding a mirror, symbol of her vanity, while in others she holds a palm leaf, a symbolism that is not clear. 

repost of an early post, with new image