How do you discuss sexual activity? Although many of us may not play the sport, or have even seen a game, Americans seem to love comparing sex to it’s “favourite pastime:” baseball. Baseball metaphors dominate our sexual vernacular with phrases such as “hitting a home run” “first, second, and home base” “strikeout” and “batting for the other team.” While these comparisons seem to be nothing more than easy ways to be demure in your speech, Al Vernacchio points out that baseball, or any sport metaphors, do very little for healthy sex.
“It’s competitive, it’s goal related, and it can’t result in healthy sexuality developing in young people or adults, so, we need a new model,” explains Vernacchio in his 2012 TED talk. What kind of model? One that revolves around something everybody loves: pizza.
To explain exactly how much more effective and accurate the pizza model is for describing sex, Vernacchio compares baseball and pizza in regards to three key components of sexual activity.
When and How Sex Happens.
When do you play baseball? Generally, there’s a specific season for it. There is a set aside time when baseball is to be played, and once that time comes, you cannot back out. You can’t come to a coach and say, “I’m really not in the mood right now, I’m going to sit this game out.” If you’re on the team, you’ve agreed to play.
There are teams and positions in baseball; the purpose is for someone to win, and someone else to lose. Furthermore, when you come to a game, there is no discussion of what the benefits of playing the game are, or of what may happen when you play. There are simply set rules that are to be followed; you take your positions and play the game.
In contrast: when do you eat pizza? Eating pizza generally begins with a desire or a hunger for it. Something inside of you speaks up, and you start to think, “I could really go for a pizza right now.” Because it’s an inside desire, we have a sense of control over eating pizza. We could have a pizza craving, but also know it’s not a great time to eat, that’s not an issue – you can get some another time.
When you invite someone to eat pizza with you, there’s always a discussion beforehand, you talk about what you like, and want you want. (“what toppings/crust/sauce do you want?”) Even if you have been getting pizza with the same person for years and years, you ask, “should we get our usual? Or are you feeling something else tonight?” Within the discussion of wants, comes compromising. (“I don’t really like pepperoni, but I really like mushroom, can we go half and half?”) The goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves, and to fulfil their craving. There is no competing, and no one loses.
What Happens During Sex.
When you hit the ball in baseball, you can’t immediately run to right field. There is an order to how things must go, and there’s specific equipment you have to play with. You need to round the bases in that specified order, and you cannot get to a base, decide you like it, and remain there until you are ready to move on.
Baseball is also pretty exclusive. There is a skill set that you need in order to play, and not everyone who tries to play can do it well. Once again, there will always be a loser.
In contrast, pizza is designed with choice in mind. There are an endless amount of toppings, sauces, or crust combinations for whatever we want to eat. There are also options to adhere to dietary needs, and hundreds of different makers, restaurants, or eateries we can order from. This allows the eater to customize their pizza based on their own personal preferences and desires.
The Expected Outcome of Sex.
Simply, you play to win. There will always be a winning team, and there will always be those unhappy with the outcome of the game.
How do you win at pizza? You don’t, you just eat to feel satisfied. To be satisfied with pizza means different things to different people. The amount of pizza one person needs may be different from someone else. We also may crave pizza more one day more than another. The only person who has say over your pizza eating habits is yourself.
Ultimately Vernacchio says if we are goal orientated, playing to win, and determined to play in a specific order, we will miss the most satisfying parts of sexual intimacy. Instead, we need to teach ourselves and others to drop the baseball model and aim for pizza. Looking to satisfy both partner’s needs in relationships.
For more tips on getting the most out of your intimate relationships, take the RELATE assessment today.
Written by: Melece, Master’s student in Marriage and Family Therapy. Reviewed by Brian Willoughby, PhD.