Understanding the reptile brain

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Q: I have long enjoyed your advice, humor and politics. But I never thought I would need your advice, being a well-adjusted hetero chick. All that changed a few months ago when I got married.

Before we married, my hubby denied having any sexual fantasies. I have lots and enjoy some kinks. We talked, though, and he said that he would try. Now I find out that he does have fantasies and that he lied to me. He didn’t open up to me about this — I found porn that he downloaded. His thoughts are about teenage girls, like the rest of the fucking culture. However, he lied and I am now feeling like I am not someone he trusts!

It took time for me to adjust to being with a man who had no fantasies. Now I know that he does have fantasies, but I feel too bad about our relationship to take advantage of it! How do I get over being hurt about being lied to? Why in the hell would he lie when I shared my dirty thoughts with him? I don’t get it and I don’t know what to do about it. —Miserable, Mad and Married

A: The answer to your question, MMM, is right there in your letter. Why would your husband hide his sexual fantasies from you? Perhaps because he knew that if he shared his fantasies with you — his boring, predictable and perfectly natural heterosexual male fantasies — he would be tried, convicted and condemned along with the rest of the “fucking culture.” And for what? For the sin of wanting to fuck the kinds of females straight men everywhere want to fuck.

Fact is, MMM, there are more than cultural forces at work here. Yes, the adolescent body, male and female, is the reigning beauty ideal, and the culture celebrates and sexualizes the young. But there’s nothing arbitrary about this. The reptile part of the male brain is wired to find fertility insanely attractive, and when women are teenagers they’re fertile as fuck and their offspring are likelier to survive. And it’s not just men that are subject to the forces of evolution; the reptile part of the female brain is wired to find tall, strong, powerful and successful men attractive. Why? Because these are the guys who can chase down, kill and drag mastodons back to the cave.

Thankfully most modern adult straight males want to be with adult females and most find mature women attractive. (Many men maintain that women are less likely to betray the reptile part of their brains and date men who aren’t successful and attractive.) Adult men who can form adult relationships with adult women but also find teenage girls attractive — and that describes most straight guys, MMM — are wise enough to: 1) refrain from dating teenage girls (they’re often insufferable and while they have firmer bodies they usually don’t know what to do with them) and 2) keep it to themselves for fear of annoying the women in their lives, which is what your husband was doing.

So now that you get it, MMM, what do you do about it? Get the fuck over it. It’s perfectly normal for straight guys to find post-pubescent teenage girls attractive. Since he wasn’t hiding his heterosexuality from you, I don’t think your husband can be accused of hiding this “fantasy” from you.


Q: I started dating my girlfriend three months ago. We are both virgins and it was established at the beginning that sex would most likely not happen. She wears a chastity ring and is pretty religious. Recently, however, she has been telling me that she wants to have sex. I’m worried because she is in love with me, but I am not in love with her. She is an attractive girl, and I like her, but I am not in love. My second fear is that she will have some kind of mental breakdown. We have discussed my second fear and she agrees it could happen. Should I have sex with her? —Very Into Rubbing Girls in Nude

A: I suppose there’s a first time for everything, and this may be a first for me: I’m actually ordering someone not to have sex.

Don’t do it, VIRGIN.

I’m not opposed to religious girls who wear chastity rings losing their virginities before marriage, kiddo, but I prefer scenarios where the girl is a secret sexual athlete and the posturing about virginity is her cover. This is not the case with your girlfriend. She wants to have sex with you, VIRGIN, because she’s actually in love with you and she thinks you’re in love with her. That breakdown she’s promised you she’ll have after she loses her virginity? Once she realizes she’s lost her virginity to a guy who doesn’t love her, VIRGIN, and who kept that pertinent info from her — you say you discussed your second fear, the breakdown, but not your first, the fact that you don’t love her — she’s going to lose her shit. Don’t put her through that, VIRGIN. Go find a nice, sexually active girl who wears a chastity ring on her middle finger, OK?


Q: In a recent column you replied to This Boy Wonders regarding his fantasy to initiate oral sex with his sleeping wife. I have to take issue with one part of your response: “When it comes to long-term sex partners — particularly live-ins, husbands, and wives — a certain implied consent can be taken for granted … you wouldn’t be the first married guy who initiated sex with his sleeping wife.”

It’s dangerous to talk about implied consent when it comes to married couples or long-term sex partners. Even if this man’s wife would consent 99 percent of the time, if he tries to have sex and it’s that 1 percent of the time when she wouldn’t have consented, there is no consent. I agree that his fantasy would be OK if they talked about it ahead of time, as you recommended, I just wanted to caution you against advocating “implied consent.” I work with domestic violence victims (mostly women) and I’ve heard many times from them of being forced to have sex because their abusers believed marriage implied lifelong consent. —Ana in Pennsylvania

A: Being forced to have sex — being raped by a spouse or a stranger — and being on the receiving end of an attempt to initiate sex by a long-term partner are two different things, AIP, and I was discussing the latter.

To clarify, when I wrote about “implied consent” this is what I was picturing: As much as I might like to, I would never approach a strange man, however attractive he might be, and shove my dick into the crack of his ass without first getting his explicit verbal consent. That would be sexual assault, and it would be wrong. But I do that sort of thing to my boyfriend, gosh, all the time. For the most part, my boyfriend welcomes my sexual advances, doll that he is, and on those occasions when he says no, I slink back to my side of the bed and read the National Review. Did I sexually assault him? No, I have his implied consent to initiate sex whenever I care to, just as he has my implied consent to do the same, and we both reserve the right to say no when we’re not in the mood.

And it’s that kind of consent — the consent to initiate, even if initiation takes a form that would be regarded as sexual assault if it were attempted on anyone else — that is frequently taken for granted in stable, long-term relationships like mine and TBW’s.

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About The Author

Dan Savage

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, podcaster, and author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. His sex advice column “Savage Love” first appeared in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated across the United States and Canada. He has published six books...
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