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The Jam Session Model of Sex only works for a minority - Elf M. Sternberg
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The Jam Session Model of Sex only works for a minority
The Jam Session Model of Sex, brilliantly described by Karen B. K. Chan, tries to model a sexual encounter between two (or more) people as a musical jam session. In a musical jam session, people of differing musical abilities, talents, and skills get together and play together. Jazz is the pre-eminent genre of the jam session, in which experience, knowledge, talent and practice are all merged into an exchange between players in which each tries to both collaborate on making interesting and entertaining music, and show off their own skill when the jam comes around to them. Jam sessions are both collaborative and competitive, and in the very best sessions the senior partners show off partly to encourage the less experienced musicians to learn something new and try harder.

The biggest problem with trying to apply the Jam Session Model to sex is right in front of us: jam sessions only happen among musicians. Chan says you have bring your instruments and your talent. But you also have to bring something else: your willingness to participate, and participate fairly.

Do you remember Home Economics class? I do. You don't learn about personal finance1. You learn mostly about food preparation. You learn how to cook. You learn baking, and sautee'ing, and knife skills. Two-thirds of the people who take that class never learn to cook for themselves. They go through their entire lives unfamiliar with a mandoline, a Kitchen-Aid, or a wafflemaker.

Cooking only happens among cooks. Omaha and I both cook. When we collaborate on a big dinner project, which isn't as often as I'd like in our busy lives: "Can you take over? I have to..." "What spices could I add...?" "What's the ratio between...?" Knowledge, experience, talent, and a willingness to work together to acheive the pleasure of a great meal all go into making food.

You can already see where I'm going with this. Try to imagine teaching a collaborative, playful, honorably competitive and openly communicative human sexuality to a bunch of sixteen year olds. Go ahead, try. Not only would their parents' heads explode, but even if you suceeded, you'd end up with a success rate about the same as Home Ec: Maybe a third would take anything away with them.

You have to like sex, and have a desire to deliberately practice it, in order for the Jam Session Model to work for you, and you have to have other people to play along with who also like sex and have a desire to practice with you. (The nice thing about sex and cooking is that deliberate practice in those pursuits isn't nearly as onerous as it is with say music or drawing.)

For millenia, human societies have been structured around power-law systems in which the vast majority of our ancestors found themselves constrained by law and custom. They had no choice about whether or not to have children, especially the women. Law and custom forced them into relationships, and forced them into arrangments that did not actually make many people happy. Our ancestors rarely had a wide variety of foods, and often didn't have enough.

Today, we have cooks and musicians. We have epicures and record collectors. We have folks who eat fast food and listen to whatever's on the radio. And there are even people who find giving a damn about food or music a chore and a bother.

We're going to need resources for all of these categories sexually. I, and I suspect Chan, and a lot of people who follow me, are in the first category. We like to create great sexual events. But we need a category for those people who just want to have sex without all the fuss and bother. And another for those who just want to get off.

Like I said, the Jam Session Model works for me... but I'm at one end of a spectrum of human sexuality. And not one anywhere near mainstream, sadly.




1 This is mostly due to Eleanor Roosevelt. America was just beginning to modernize: refrigerators and electric ovens were just beginning to infiltrate mid-size cities. America needed a program to teach women how to use these things. "Home Economics" was the art and discipline of using the home efficiently.
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bldrnrpdx From: bldrnrpdx Date: March 23rd, 2017 01:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I remember Home Ec - I had two classes in Jr. High and one in High School. I'm so glad I didn't learn about sex from them. I'd already had a fair amount of exposure to and experience with cooking by the time I got to my Home Ec classes (hanging out with my mom and grandmothers in the kitchen, being allowed to participate in the cooking and sometimes the shopping, being allowed to try making some things on my own). In both settings of Home Ec, I was often told I was doing things wrong, or at the least inadequately, because I wasn't doing them with the same approach as my teachers. Not "well, that's another way to go about it", but I was *wrong*. For the final project in the High School class, we had to plan an "ethnic" meal, making the shopping list and then cooking the food. I decided to make a meal I'd had dozens of times when I was living in the Middle East. Unfortunately, my instructor was in charge of the shopping for all of the students, and was not just frugal but cheap and unbearably WASPish, which meant she either had no idea what half the things were on my shopping list or didn't have any idea how to find them (for instance, instead of pita/pocket bread, I got a weird white bread - not terribly useful for scooping, among other things). And then she had the nerve to grade me down for the flavors and textures not going well together. Fortunately for me, I'd already had enough experience in the kitchen with my family that I knew I liked cooking despite this woman carping at me all semester.

I've had enough issues around sex. I'm *so* glad she wasn't one of the major influences.
sirfox From: sirfox Date: March 23rd, 2017 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
In NY State, home Ec. was a middle school thing, and covered domestic activities, aside from one day when we watched a TV special about Ryan White to teach us about AIDS.

In high school, there was a mandated two semesters of "Health Class" which spent a good chunk of time on reproductive health, discussing contraception, including what does and doesn't get someone pregnant and every regoofulous misapprehension the teacher had ever heard, and then helped to dismiss with Data and Facts. There was also The Blue Book. The Blue Book probably helped more of my classmates avoid STD's than anything else. It was a book of close-up photographs detailing the advancing stages of multiple different diseases. There's nothing like full color closeups of rotting genitalia to remind you that Condoms Are Important.

That's like 90% mechanics, however. While the health teacher was about as supportive as she could be, the early 90s wasn't ready for discussing the actual exploration of sex and sexuality, about all it could manage was to try and arm us with some facts and perspective against a sea of hormones, misinformation and sex-driven media and advertisements and leave us to figure out the rest for ourselves. The internet was about to come along, and resources were about to get a lot more available. Your Journal Entries hit my life in the second half of the 90s, at a time when some stories about characters exploring various spectrums of sexuality was a Very Needed Thing. Thanks again for that.

Like cooking or music or plumbing or woodworking or shibari, until we have a chance to explore what we do and don't connect with, we have a hard time being sure where our interests really are. That's got to come before any kind of collaborative exploration. Is there a YA novel for the mid-to late teen set that's doing a good job of discussing a modern understanding of the aspects of sex and protection and the rollercoaster of emotions that will always come along as baggage? If not, there needs to be, and maybe a netflix miniseries adaptation of same. Not sure that there's any other way to get the info to the mid-teen crowd in a socially acceptable way.
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