It’s well-known that a lot of male boxers don’t have sex before a fight. Apparently, a nice, full set of balls gives you that aggressive edge in the ring.
What do women boxers do? I like to think they seduce a pool boy at the hotel every hour or so and steal his fundamental life-energy. Or they have sex with their girlfriends, read some bell hooks, have a nice cup of herbal tea, and get a good night’s sleep.
Should you channel your sexual energy into your goals? Are women’s sex drives a channelable force in this way?
So—warning, massive gender essentialism ahead!—the Asian Efficiency blog ran a post entitled Sex, Productivity and Motivation Part 04: Sexual Energy and Transmutation. It’s hilarious. Bullish readers on the Facebook page agreed. Let’s start with this:
As far as we know, Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich is the modern granddaddy of all theory on sexual energy. Sure, the whole idea of conserving sexual energy does go back further to Taoist and other Eastern traditions, but the first widespread, modern record is from Hill.
There are a couple of interesting things about what Hill wrote:
▪ He never actually tells you what to do, but does wax lyrical and skirt around the topic a lot.
▪ He only talks about men.
▪ When talking about Think and Grow Rich, no one ever mentions the sex transmutation chapter.
I once tried reading Think and Grow Rich, but I stopped well before the “sex transmutation chapter.” And now that I think about it—I had blocked out this memory until just now—it was because of a REALLY NOT OKAY story about a “small colored child” using her powers of mind control to extract her mother’s pay from a white mill owner.
Outrageously, the lesson the book takes from this story is not, “Holy shit, racism is bad,” but “How can a rich white man use the example of this brave and tenacious little girl to make money selling life insurance?” It’s the 1937 version of every time it’s Martin Luther King Day and a white person quotes the “I have a dream” speech in a post about how King really motivates him to monetize his blog. NO. JUST NO.
This is why I never got to the sex part of Think and Grow Rich. But I just looked it up for you. Here’s an excerpt:
A sex-mad man is not essentially different than a dope-mad man! Both have lost control over their faculties of reason and will-power. Sexual overindulgence may not only destroy reason and will-power, but it may also lead to either temporary, or permanent insanity. Many cases of hypochondria (imaginary illness) grow out of habits developed in ignorance of the true function of sex.
Sure, seems credible. (He forgot the part about hairy palms.)
The main advice Hill had for men was to stop masturbating. Whatever works. But then there’s this, again from the Asian Efficiency blog:
So, the interesting question is – will simply stopping masturbation and focussing in on a mission work for women too?
We don’t see any reason that it won’t.
The only thing that is stopping us from simply telling women to do the same as men, is that there just aren’t as many women with single-minded missions in life (even today). This can be partly explained through a psychological difference between the sexes—men are typically more stubborn when they decide to do something and require less social approval. Based on our own social circles and network, we’ve also found that comparatively more men than women have strong missions in life.
Oh, dear. Is this why women graduate from all levels of schooling at higher rates than men? Or could it perhaps be the case that women with strong missions in life choose not to be in your “social circles and network”? Maybe because they’re really busy and networking with you sounds honestly pretty awkward at this point?
Or maybe you see a man who has a strong mission in life and also likes video games and snowboarding and you think: What a strong mission in life! I mean, of course a guy has a few hobbies. And then you see a woman who has a strong mission in life and also likes shoes and cats and you say Haha, shoes are dumb! Silly womenz. Maybe it could be that? You think? Just maybe?
(See Bullish: When Men Are Too Emotional To Have a Rational Discussion for more on pernicious double standards, and Bullish: A Metaphor About Shoe Shopping That Is 100% Relevant To Hard-Nosed Business Thinking for more about how gender-normative lady-metaphors are no more acceptable or unacceptable than the sports metaphors that hold a time-honored place in business culture.)
Men probably do require less social approval than women in pursuing their goals (see Bullish: How Do You Improve Your Life When Friends and Family Tell You To “Be Realistic”?) But this is only really relevant for missions that go against what society approves of, like drug dealing or running a revenge porn site, both of which are industries in which men far outpace women.
The Asian Efficiency blog has more advice for women. Get ready:
Simply put, having a crush is having emotions or feelings channeled towards the potential of a future pair bond…. For women, it is more of an emotional crush than a sexual one. This is because sex is typically an emotional experience for women, whereas for men there tends to be a clear separation between the physical and emotional components.
Channeling this crush is simple: simply think of the object of your crush as you’re working on projects, and push forward with them.
I basically talk to ambitious women pretty much all day long. Anyone who’s paying New York rent has their shit at least mostly together. I just spent a three-day weekend at the Bullish Conference.
I’ve never met a woman who needed to impress a boy in order to want to work on her projects. Which is good, since male romantic impulses are generally unmoved by female achievement. (Also, for some reason, when I first read this, I thought they wanted me to develop a crush on my projects, which made me imagine writing “Mrs. Jennifer Education-Entrepreneur-CEO” over and over in cursive on my spiral notebook, but it turns out the actual suggestion seems to be to develop a crush on an actual boy and imagine impressing him with achievements. The first idea was sort of more fun.)
So, should you—or can you—channel your sex drive into your achievements?
This topic came up at a recent all-women social gathering I attended, in which two women in their twenties weighed in. One said, “The pill definitely dampens my libido. But that’s great. Otherwise, I’d want to have sex, like, twice a day and I don’t know that I could have a normal job.” The other woman said the same thing about antidepressants.
It seems clear to me that actual relationships are often much more distracting to one’s career goals than sex itself. If you are in a happy, functional relationship with a man (or woman) who is not, say, under the impression that your main reason for having goals is to impress them, then I just strongly doubt that you could have so much sex that you impede your own success. You would chafe first. You have a ladyparts failsafe against that kind of thing.
As Laura Vanderkam points out, you have 168 hours in a week. If you spend 40 working and 56 sleeping, that’s 72 hours left for whatevs. (Okay, Laura Vanderkam doesn’t say it quite that way — here’s the book I’m referring to.) Even if you manage to work 60 hours per week, as I suggest is sometimes appropriate for a season of life, I still say you have time for more sex than you can probably physically engage in. Just cut out all the things that aren’t as good as working or sexing. Done. (See Bullish: Achieve Goals and Glory By Recreating Like a Badass.)
I’ve actually answered quite a few questions from women held back by wet-blanket boyfriends. In Bullish: Picking a Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Hold Back Your Career or Bank Account, I cautioned against the (perhaps perfectly nice but ultimately incompatible) “boyfriend who initiates sex during your most productive portion of the day.”
In Bullish Life: Should You Slow Down Your Career For a Guy?, I wrote:
If what you really want is to write a novel, and your boyfriend knows this, and yet every time you sit down to write, he says, “Let’s go out to dinner,” or “Game of Thrones is on,” that is not love. That is some controlling, selfish behavior cloaked in plausible deniability (“All I want to do is spend time with my girlfriend.”)
And in Bullish: Keep Your Love Life From Ruining Your Actual Life, there was this:
I also had an enlightening talk when I was recently a guest speaker at a university and had a chance to speak with a college student who had been drafted to drive me around.
She was a delight: super ambitious but also very nice. We chatted about college and careers and guys over twenty miles of freeway, when I said, “When I was in college, I skipped all kinds of classes to be with guys. I’d tell myself that it was okay because, in the end, relationships are what really matters.”
She said, “Oh my god, I thought I was the only one!”
She told me a story about a boyfriend who always tried to get her to skip class to go to the beach (“That’s a really time consuming hobby!” I said—going to the beach seriously takes at least four hours), and another boyfriend she sacrificed academics for back in high school: “I actually thought I was going to marry that guy or something.”
And finally, in Bullish Life: 3 Romantic Mistakes Young Women Make That Cause Weeping Among the Angels and Kittens,
Your dating life is very much like your career, in that you will achieve only disaster by thinking that someone else has a grand plan for you. The universe doesn’t have a grand plan for you. Men in general certainly do not have a grand plan for you. Your company doesn’t have a grand plan for your career. No one is watching your back.
By the way, that article on channeling sexual energy keeps going, and contains the following: “Simple action step: embrace femininity.”
That is not a simple action step. Dear god. And I know some really productive butch women. Maybe they’re more productive because going to the barber every three weeks takes a lot less time than the grand performance of makeup and heels and flipping your long hair around to look hot, but not at work because then you’re using your sexuality to get ahead, and that’s just as bad as not being feminine enough in the first place. OH GOOD, WHAT A SIMPLE ACTION STEP. People don’t get PhD’s in deconstructing this shit or anything. Oh wait, they do!
So, should you channel your sexual energy to get ahead? I don’t think so, actually.
My vision of “having it all” might look a little different from some people’s: I think you should manage your life and time consciously and deliberately so that you can have all the sex and achieve all the goals. You do this by cutting out things that don’t matter, be they TV reruns or soul-sucking dudes. That leaves plenty of life energy left over for a full, achievement-filled, gentlewomanly life.
First published on The Gloss.