Steven Pinker

Hump Day

Photo Credit: Alyssa Creagh | Daily Texan Staff

“You know, music is sex. It’s a sensual driving mode that affects people if it’s played a certain way,” surf music guitarist Dick Dale said.

From the first caveman gatherings and ancient Greek debates about music as a gateway to a person’s soul to today’s festivals, such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival, music has continually held an intoxicating power in society. As Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” 

Sex, just like music, has healing, educational and pleasure-inducing elements that can be enhanced by music’s erotic capabilities.

In an article for Cosmos, biologist Rob Brooks said that music is largely a primeval tool to gain access to mates. He quotes Steven Pinker from “How the Mind Works,” saying music is not really an adaptation but instead like cheesecake.

“Cheesecake packs a sensual wallop unlike anything in the natural world ... music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of ... our mental faculties,” Pinker said.

He goes on to discuss how musicians overcome two of the biggest evolutionary conflicts we all face when searching for potential mates: being noticed by potential mates and then succeeding to court or seduce them.

This is perhaps why “I play the guitar” may be considered one of the sexiest phrases in the English language. 

Lyrics of songs can also be used as modern poetry to seduce a partner, whether you want to “do it like on the Discovery Channel” or “move from the bed down to the floor.” As a former Healthy Sexuality Peer Educator for UT-Austin and as a current, self-proclaimed recreational sex educator, I am always ecstatic to see lyrics used to spread safe sex messages. Lil Wayne rocked my sex education world when he rapped how “safe sex is great sex, better wear a latex, cuz you don’t want that late text ... that ‘I think I’m late’ text.”

It is always fine, of course, to not like music during sex. In an interview for Yale Daily News, Ruth Westheimer, a sex therapist and TV personality, once said, “Music during sex? Absolutely no! People should use their brain to concentrate on being with a loved one, and they don’t need to be distracted by music.” She did quickly point out that was only her personal opinion, saying that “some people get aroused by Bolero, and I say fine. If that’s what arouses you, then go have a good time.”

That’s another way to be sex positive: don’t judge your partner if the “Friends” theme song gets them in the mood. Whether you want to shake it to “Laffy Taffy,” sex to Sinatra or grind to Lil Wayne, music can affect our emotions, release feel-good hormones, encourage role-play and create an atmosphere of orgasmic seduction.

And just like I don’t think you can teach condom use without a proper demonstration, below I present to you some sexy songs brought to you by my social media network of enthusiastic music lovers to get you started on your musical sexcapades.

Want to let me know what you think about music and sex in any combination or tell me your favorite bang-a-licious tunes? Tweet me @MillaImpola

Hump Day Playlist:
Anything d’angelo!
Meek Mill – “Face Down”
Prince.
Robin Thicke – “Make You Love Me, Teach You a Lesson”
Alice Russell – “Hurry On Now”
Nine Inch Nails – “Closer”
Anything by The Xx.
Vaski – “Insane”
Tiësto & Steve Aoki - “Tornado (Kill The Noise Remix)”
Miles Davis – “So What”
Peggy Lee - “Fever”
Deadmau5 – “Sofi Needs a Ladder”
Bad Company - “Feel Like Making Love”
Jimi Hendrix - Catfish Blues
Keith Sweat – “Nobody”
Tim Ismag – “Bam”
Mixes by the DomiDollz, such as “Sparo Sessions & Corsets”
“A Playlist for Women Getting Head” by Chelsea Fagan, featured in Thought Catalog

 

Review

Other than sex, few things are more interesting to humans than violence.

We pay good money to watch gory movies and video games, deplore the acts of violence we see on the news (but still can’t stop talking about them) and curse all of those other drivers who stop to look at the bloody accident, only do the same when we’re close enough to see. And, if you talk to almost anybody, they’ll say that there’s too much violence and bloodshed in the world today and it’s getting worse.

True enough, there may be “too much” violence, but according to Steven Pinker in his superbly researched “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” we are living in the most peaceful time in the history of humanity.

Even with the combined bloodshed of the two world wars, the atomic bomb, school shootings, gang wars, drug trade and serial killers, the 20th century wasn’t nearly as violent as the Dark Ages or, and this is a real shocker, the Renaissance. In any reasonable definition of violence ­— and Pinker goes through many of them — the world is in a state of relative peace.

Inspired by a few brief paragraphs that Pinker wrote in 2007 for edge.org, which were then expanded into a TED talk, the book is roughly broken into two parts. The first catalogues the types of violence in previous eras as well as some of the large scale trends that caused its gradual reduction, while the second, more tenuous part offers psychological explanations for how human nature has undergone a very real change over the past 10,000 years.

Pinker argues a minority viewpoint, and one need look no further than the comments on his TED talk to see that, but it’s a minority that many experts agree with.

Additionally, he’s very persuasive in the book and builds up a very strong case, anticipating the reader’s arguments and addressing them almost before the reader can come up with them. He supports his points with nonstop graphs, but takes the time to explain where the data came from and, when estimates are necessary, is sure to indicate whether they’re low-end or high-end and why.

As a result, this is a very long book — just under 700 pages of text with an additional 150 pages of endnotes, references and index — but it’s also a very readable and entertaining one. For such a hefty work, it’s tough to put down. Pinker offers a very professional tone, as he did in his other books including the wonderful “How the Mind Works” and “The Language Instinct,” but he also inserts a dry and sometimes laugh out loud sense of humor.

He takes his time, explaining some of the more complex ideas in such a way that all but the most impatient readers should be able to follow. Like a good professor, he inspires interest not just by his enthusiasm for the topic, but in his ability to make it interesting. But he also forces his students to think and the ideas in “The Better Angels of Our Nature” will dance around in your mind long after you turn the final page.

Pinker deals with strongly political topics in this book, but isn’t afraid of siding with an uncomfortable viewpoint if the evidence seems to support it. He argues strongly against the “blank slate” opinion of humanity, in which we’re molded only by our environment, as well as the “noble savage” stereotype, in which Native Americans were living peacefully on the American continent until Western Europeans came and corrupted them. And, in the end, while he comes across as a left-leaning voter, he’s not afraid to support strongly conservative viewpoints, including the idea that disarmament is not an effective means of reducing violence and that the open market is one of the main reasons that violence has gone down.

It’s refreshing to read something by someone who has strong opinions for good reasons that don’t necessarily gel with a specific ideology.

“The Better Angels of Our Nature” is bound to go down as a classic of science and historical writing and begs to be read carefully. Though sometimes appearing idealist, Pinker very rarely states what the next few years may bring. Instead, he repeatedly makes the point that, though this is what history has shown, there are no guarantees that it will continue.

The moral of the story is not to sit back and relax, thanking our lucky stars for the world we live in, but to push forward and continue the trend.

Printed on Tuesday, October 11,  2011 as: Pinker's tome posits we live in a time of relative peace