We all crave self-understanding, particularly when it comes to sex and relationships. In the 1940s and 1950s, the famous sex researcher, Alfred Kinsey, and his colleagues were able to ask approximately10,000 people some of the most intimate questions imaginable, probably because of this very craving. This is the core allure of questionnaires, pop quizzes and self-tests: “What does the asking and the answering show me about who I am?”
From an early John Money’s theory of “love maps,” first published around 1980, to John Gottman’s updated use of the term; from “Cosmo Girl” quizzes (example: “Find Out What Your Love Style Is“, Hsieh & Smothers, 2019) to the more scientifically and psychologically based Relationship Assessment Scale (Hendrick, S.S., 1998), there is no shortage of instruments with which to probe your own erotic landscape. Media uses pop quizzes to attract readers and sell products. Researchers and clinicians use surveys and qualitative interviews to construct categories of sexual behavior, feelings, and “types” and systems of thought and practices to assist the various “types” with sexual and relationship dilemmas.
In my work with clients, and based on what’s up with them, I’ve often made use of such systemized thoughts and practices as (1) Donald Mosher’s “Three Dimensions of Depth of Involvement in Human Sexual Response,” (2) Jack Morin’s three basic erotic types (erotic trance, partner engagement, and role play), Gina Ogden’s 4-D Wheel of Sexual Experience, and (3) Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages (you can find a quiz here). When appropriate I’ve also asked people to fill out an adult assessment for sensory intergration issues or to work through a copy of the late Jeanne Shaw’s excellent Journey Toward Intimacy… A Handbook for Couples (out of print and getting harder to find). And when I’m teaching the research-based PREP 8.0 marriage education course, a personality quiz called “Primary Colors” is included in included in the student materials.
I’ve also created a number of sex surveys myself, on such topics as objectum sexuality, erotic hypnosis, semen taste, and spectro-sexuality. I’ve never had a problem getting one hundred or more respondents to answer my questions, so I think this is another indication that we, collectively, are eager to know ourselves.
Sometimes I also have my own fling with a pop quiz or survey–either for fun or because I want to see if it could be helpful for a client. For example, because the Netflix series, Sex, Love & goop, is garnering so much attention, I took Jaiya’s *Erotic Blueprints™ quiz. Jaiya is one of the featured sexuality experts on the show and her work, as depicted, was superb. Jaiya was one of my classmates in 2006, during Joseph Kramer’s Sexological Bodywork training at the (now defunct) Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. I liked what I knew of her then, respected her approach, and have since enjoyed knowing that she’s doing so well. So, because Jaiya is Jaiya and I have nice memories and ongoing respect, I didn’t just take the free quiz. I also popped the $17 for the longer quiz, the one that comes with a several page report on my leading Erotic Blueprint™ type. I wasn’t surprised by the result–I know who I am–but I’ll admit the report was a fun read and provides food for thought.
*Just a note, though: in my opinion, the phrase “erotic blueprint” should not be trademarked. Other people have used the term previously in published work. Esther Perel used the term in her excellent book, Mating in Captivity (2006) and in a paper, “Erotic Fantasy Reconsidered: From Tragedy to Triumph”, published in 2014 in Critical Topics in Family Therapy. Ester Perel’s usage of the phrase “erotic blueprints” is also found on page 53 of Speaking of Bodies: Embodied Therapeutic Dialogues, edited by Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar, Liron Lipkies and Noa Oster (Karnac, London. 2016).
However, my fling with Jaiya’s quiz actually drew me back to an earlier embrace of another sexuality “system” — one that I continue to adore: Isa Magdalena’s “Libido Compass” (also called “Playing the Colors” and “Full Spectrum Sex”). Isa published two versions of her slim book, both of which remain among my all time favorite sex books. Isa Magdalena was actually co-teaching with Joseph Kramer during that same 2006 “sex bod” class, and from time to time she read her newly published book aloud to us, in her beautiful and expressive Dutch accent. In some ways it’s too bad that Isa published her book in the days before “branding, funneling, and up-selling” really took hold of internet marketing. She might have made a little more money from her work. Now I can’t find Isa’s website anymore, her book is out of print (and expensive when you DO find it), and what is saddest of all, her beautiful wisdom is so hard to find as a result. Isa never trademarked her terminology. She simply let the poetry of the body and its transcendent potentials flow through her and into her words.
So in Isa’s offerings, we do not consider her thoughts or answer our own questions in order to acquire a specific label for a kind of sexuality as a precursor to a formula for erotic success. She bids us to become instead the players of our own instrument and energies (and/or that of our lovers), regardless of labels. We can learn to pluck the taut strings of hot lusty “red sex” and in the next moment, set the heart strings aquiver with romantic “green sex.” Using the chakra spectrum as a metaphor, in a way that’s fairly unusual in all the other sexuality and neo-tantric literature I’ve read, Isa encourages a cultivation of awareness, resonance, and infinite gradations of arousal and desire, energies and physicality. It’s a kind of panoramic virtuosity of love and sensation, to be played solo, duet, or in full orchestral majesty. I like her call to… nimbleness.
I’m not throwing shade here on more recent developments and systems of assessment, coaching, and counseling. My point is that we may be designated a THAT in one system while in another system we could be designated a THIS. But none of those designations deliver the whole truth of our eros. So I hope that every consumer of sexuality material has the opportunity to explore a variety of materials and approaches from a number of sources, including good old fashioned “inner work,” in order to experience as much self-knowledge, pleasure, and passion as is wanted. And do allow those researchers, teachers, and guides to be blessed, compensated, and thanked.
So do take the quizzes, buy the workbooks, enroll in the classes, and book those sessions. Enjoy what works for or resonates with you. Discard the rest. And never let a practitioner’s perspective–no matter how expert or glossy–overshadow your own inner knowing. You might indeed be mostly a THIS, but just over the next hill of your erotic landscape, a lush forest of THAT might be growing.