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Sex Tips For Geeks: Avoiding the Curse of Oversensitivity

Sometimes it's OK to think with your dick (or your pussy, if that's what you happen to be equipped with). In fact, there are times it's damn-fool stupid not to.

This needs saying because geeks have an unusual relational failure mode, also common among poets and intellectuals of other stripes. It's a combination of timidity, self-consciousness, and over-analysis that makes it difficult for the afflicted geek to stop worrying about his or her relationships enough to actually live them.

A.J. in User Friendly exhibits this failure mode -- he is unable to get it on with the beauteous Miranda at least partly because he's obsessing too hard about whether and how to get it on with the beauteous Miranda.

A.J.'s behavior is a parody of geeky ineptness, but it's funny (painfully funny) because it contains a strong element of truth. A lot of geeks and hackers actually behave like this, and always have. I well remember the first time I saw it, involving a guy who later became one of the most famous hackers alive. The year was 1978. Drove me crazy to see it then. Drives me crazy to see it today.

So here's some advice (invert pronouns if necessary if you happen to be female). If you don't have other relationships that it would mess up, and a woman who's attractive to you and appears clean and healthy seems to be beaming come-ons at you on all frequencies, stop agonizing and make a pass at her, dammit! Odds are high you'll both be happier than if you spent the next six months playing should-I/shouldn't-I/how-should-I games in your own head -- and that's so even if the two of you strike out.

One thing you as a geek are remarkably good at is learning from your mistakes. When you write a line of code that causes your compiler to barf, you don't just call the whole deal off -- you go back and look at the code and try to figure out what went wrong. Likewise a rejection doesn't need to be a disaster. Go back and look at what happened with a view to making it better next time. Chances are your next woo-pitching expedition will be more successful. So don't freeze up, or you'll never debug the process!

Imagine the opposite situation -- you, making a gallant offer to a woman, feeling there's a good lust and possibly the seeds of love between you. How would you feel if she fumbled, not out of lack of interest but because she couldn't stop obsessing about whether she was worthy of you or not? Rhetorical question -- you'd feel terrible; that feeling of near-miss for no good reason would hurt like an abcessed tooth.

Cathy: "Probably more, because men grow up with the idea that they will usually have to make the first move, and deal with the resulting refusals. Women don't - and as a result we tend to feel (genuinely, if irrationally) that we deserve a pat on the back when we do decide to take the lead in a sexual situation. A woman who has worked up the nerve to make a pass at a guy, only to have the pass fall flat, will not only feel that she's been (implicitly) told she's unattractive, but will also feel like the effort she spent in getting up the nerve to make the first move was worthless and that she was stupid for taking the trouble to do so." In the same way, terminal oversensitivity is quite a bit more offensive to any healthy woman than even a clumsy pass would be. As one of my beautiful geekgirl assistants pointed out previously, women have egos too. Making that offer and having it bounce because you couldn't snap out of your funk hurts them as much it would hurt a man to be in the opposite situation.

If the woman wants you, you're worthy. She's already made that decision. Respect it. Respect her. Respect, in this situation, constitutes shutting down your damn yammering forebrain and thinking with your dick for a change. You have wired-in mating instincts; use them!

Cathy: "Women don't look for perfection in men. You don't have to be Don Juan in bed, or Cary Grant outside of bed. All you have to do is to show her that you want her, and are listening to her needs. Some of us even find a little awkwardness alluring - it suggests that there is a hole in your life that the right woman could help to fill." The comfort a man and woman can find in sexual intimacy with each other is a precious and soul-restoring thing, one of the most beautiful gifts we can give each other in a crowded but lonely world. Don't miss a chance to love and be loved because you're thinking too much. Be good to her. She deserves that -- and so do you.

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Eric S. Raymond <>