I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve received a majority of my sex education at slumber parties: grade-school birthday parties where we explained where babies really come from; all night, co-ed technique-swaps in a friend’s basement after high school homecoming; tete-a-tete (or tete-a-pieds or tete-a-?) sleepovers on an Ikea futon in your beer-can-laden common room.
Our friends are our teachers; Pillows and popsicles become their educational tools. Forget the desks and white boards of your 10th grade health classroom (and PLEASE forget the bizarre porn Web site that was so thoughtfully set as my home page last weekend). Slumber parties are where we really talk about sex, baby.
In addition to establishing the basics of hooking up (or the bases, for that long-disputed baseball analogy of sex acts) and maybe even doing some hands-on experimentation, we learn to play a bunch of games at sleepovers. I think these games are also — directly or indirectly — a different element of our sexual education.
Some are blatantly sexual: Nervous, Seven Minutes in Heaven or Spin the Bottle, to name a few. But think of the terminology involved in relationships: playing hard to get, playing cat-and-mouse, playing it by ear. Games are everywhere. This month’s Cosmo even features a card game that promises to “maximize your passion potential” (whatever that means).
And, truth be told, it was a round of truth or dare that precipitated my first kiss back in junior high.
So lets let games be our guide to sex and relationships: Top-bunk nookie is just Twister without the spinner. College screws are a campus-sized edition of Guess Who? Piecing together the latest gossip is essentially Clue (Who? Where? With what strange object?). Getting walked in on is basically Pop-O-Matic Trouble.
I would like to argue, then, that the most satisfying hookups are like playing Ouija.
“You mean, facing each other with a piece of plastic in between?” Not exactly.
“What, toying with the devil?” Hmmm …
“On the coffee table at a party?” Definitely not.
Think about it this way: When you summon the spirits using a Ouija board, you and another person (or a few others — I’m open minded) engage in a mutual effort, directed by both of you but not clearly dominated by either.
Not that domination lacks a place in hookups, per se. Sometimes, people need a dose of whips and leather. But if your partner doesn’t consent to the handcuffs, you should think twice before proceeding. For the fetish-free among us, hookups guided by everybody involved are generally the way to go.
And there are more parallels. I’m sure I’m bursting somebody’s bubble here, but did you seriously think that Parker Brothers could manufacture all-knowing ghosts and squeeze them into mass-produced rectangular boxes? The jig’s up, kids. The Ouija indicator moves because you make it move.
The same goes for hookups, really. They happen because you make them happen. As far as I’m aware, people don’t just fall into each other in perfect make-out alignment and then find themselves magically transported across campus to a creaky, crunchy, plastic-covered mattress. Rather, people somehow make the decision to hook up, and then walk, run or stumble back to that creaky, crunchy mattress of lovin’.
Eventually we become comfortable enough in a relationship that we cut the crap and end most of the games.
Like Ouija, it becomes a compromise and not a competition. It’s not a game about money, balance, stick-figure drawing ability or knowledge of inane pop-culture trivia.
Because that’s not what really matters. What’s in the future? It could be Yes, No, or a different answer (spelled one painstaking letter at a time). And even if the board says “no,” it doesn’t mean the game isn’t fun to play a couple of times.
So now you have the Game Theory of Hookups. And this theory is accessible to even non-econ majors — myself included. Since I refuse to do all those problem sets. Although I will stumble across campus to a creaky, crunchy mattress.
Sarah Minkus is the Dream Phone of the sex game theory.