How to Pick a Lover

The Coolidge Effect

One day, President and Mrs. Coolidge were visiting a government
farm. Soon after their arrival, they were taken off on separate tours.
When Mrs. Coolidge passed the chicken pens, she paused to ask the man
in charge if the rooster copulates more than once each day. “Dozens of
times,” was the reply. “Please tell that to the President,” Mrs. Coolidge
requested. When the President passed the pens and was told about the
rooster, he asked, “Same hen every time?” “Oh no, Mr. President, a
different one each time.” The President nodded slowly, then said, “Tell
that to Mrs. Coolidge.”
-Gordon Bermant, Psychological Research: The Inside Story

The Coolidge effect is used by sexologists to describe, among animals, the phenomenon of male re-arousal by a new female. One wonders if, perhaps, most of the sexologists in question were male because it does not seem to have occurred to anyone that the same effect may be apparent among women. For most women, the quest for fulfillment involves, in part, a quest for long-term relationships. The crux of the issue, alas, is what is meant by “long-term.” There is no doubt that for most couples who have sexual rapport, the quality of that rapport increases with the passage of time. That process may take weeks or months or, for some, years, depending on how often they make love and with what intensity.

There is also no doubt that except for the most fortunate and exceptional couples, the quality of sexual rapport eventually peaks and, from that point on, tends to decrease with the passage of time. As a man and woman become more and more familiar with each other, the excitement and the erotic tension of their first encounters is diminished. The response patterns become too predictable. As the sexual experience becomes routine, there is a loss of intensity. They can still feel pleasure, but they are less likely to feel ecstasy.

National Lampoon's Joy of Sex movie poster

National Lampoon’s Joy of Sex movie poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The idea of sex with a nice, affectionate, but totally familiar old husband may produce a state of profound sexual apathy. There is no antipathy, but neither is there much interest.

The decline in erotic enthusiasm can be minimized and delayed by incorporating a wide variety of sexual techniques and by using different props and locations. Eventually, however, there may be a sense that one has experienced all of the experiences possible with a given partner. Even the most enthusiastic lovers can become jaded with each other. The idea of making love with a different man, a strange man, may be much more appealing than making love with a familiar lover.

By any objective criteria, a prospective lover may have no more to offer than the current one and, indeed, may actually be less attractive. However, the appeal of a stranger is that he is strange. Sometimes, in seeking sexual fulfillment, you want nothing more than what you have experienced with one man; but you crave the added stimulus and excitement of experiencing it with a different man—a man who arouses curiosity and is still mysterious.

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Comments on: "The Coolidge Effect" (1)

  1. […] never really thought about the possibility that it might be hard wired in me. . . until a couple of recent posts by Wesley Ford on his very fascinating […]

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