Full disclosure: I work in advertising. It’s an industry where husky-voiced, hair-flicking women smolder in ads selling cat food and sneakers, and where shirtless hunks flex fuzz-free pecs to sell salad dressing and synthetic butter.
The following viewpoint will therefore get me into trouble, which I’m familiar with.
Here are two commonsense truisms:
- While great sex is joyful, lousy sex is not
- Happiness is possible without a daily grind (I’m not talking coffee)
Yet for reasons such as the availability heuristic — a cognitive shortcut that encourages us to think of commonplace examples in our everyday environment when making decisions — we often overestimate the importance to our well-being of having regular sex. When we pause to think of the world around us, we more often remember non-nude pretzel-like scenarios in which we were happy.
When I asked 2,500 Americans to “take a moment to visualize your perfect day. What leisure or work activities would you do?,” fewer than ten percent of their descriptions featured sex. Among those who included sex in their “perfect day,” their sexual fantasies varied from getting steamy between the sheets with their spouse for longer than three minutes, to red-hot flings where nipples would be expertly attended to, rather than ham-fistedly twiddled like dials on a cooker (a little to the right, they might turn on).
Which activities did Americans cite more frequently than sex?
The nation’s No. 1 pastime in my study was “being with family” — regardless of whether that family was by blood or by friendship.
The popularity of being with family makes sense. Our species is psychologically primed to seek a sense of control over our lives, a sense of personal growth, and a sense that our actions matter. Such needs are often catered to when we’re with the family of our choice. For example:
- Talking though challenges with trusted loved ones provides us with new ways and practical resources to tackle situations
- Hugging (even when clothed) releases the neuropeptide oxytocin, a mood regulator that can lower cortisol levels
- Sharing unfamiliar activities with family, such as hiking new trails, can increase dopamine levels, while toning wobbly buttocks far more effectively than two minutes of lovemaking. (According to sexual health expert Dr. Harry Fisch, roughly 45 percent of men ejaculate within 120 seconds of starting sex. That’s less time than Alicia Keys took to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl 47.)
Next time you’re exposed to a slew of come-hither ads, remember this:
- Not everybody’s doing it. (According to a study by AARP, 60 percent of Americans over age 45 had sex less frequently than once a month in the last six months.)
- It’s the quality of sex that counts, not quantity
- Joy can be found without sex
To find out more, read Are You Buying This? What Americans Think About Money and Life From an Advertising Propagandist. Available on Amazon.