Cross-posted from my website.

TLDR: Fixed mindset and fear of inadequacy hinder learning. Competence gives you confidence - where you’re competent and confident, you don’t have fear of inadequacy. And if you don’t learn fast because you’re afraid of feedback (because you’re afraid of inadequacy), you’ll not get better, leaving you relatively incompetent and afraid of inadequacy. 🗘

A thing about sex recently clicked from several sources:

  • Being high and talking with a certain sergal,
  • plus reading a Facebook thing by Duncan,
  • plus listening to John Vervaecke’s series Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. (One of the episodes talks about fixed/growth mindset, but I can’t find it right now. You should go watch the whole series anyway, it’s awesome.)

During sex, I have a background fear of “what if I can’t bring them to orgasm”. I want my partner to enjoy it as well, and I want to reciprocate, and I would feel bad if they bring me to orgasm but I can’t bring them to orgasm. So, I hurry and try hard to bring them to orgasm, because I am not confident of my sexual skill. Orgasm is cool, but the sex before orgasm is also cool. Sex that doesn’t feel hurried and where you can take your time and stretch out pleasure. But, so far, in like 90% of the sex I’ve had so far I had the thought “aaaa sex aaaa gotta perform and be good enough and hurry and give them an orgasm aaaa”, somewhere in the background. In that kind of environment, you don’t get a lot of learning done.

Say you’re learning how to play the violin. We know lots about learning. CFAR’s handbook (which I think is still not publicly readable) has a lot of useful stuff on it. Things that make learning work well include:

  • You need to learn the basics first. You don’t start by playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. You start by playing one note until you get that one note at least 90% right: holding the violin correctly, not having the bow screech, not touching the strings that shouldn’t ring, holding the tone for as long as required without it fluctuating (unless you want it to).
  • You need feedback, and the faster the feedback loop is, the better. If you play the Four Seasons and by Summer you start holding the bow wrong, your violin tutor will immediately stop you and tell you. The tutor won’t wait the remaining 20 minutes to tell you that starting with Summer they stopped enjoying your performance and just hoped you’d get it over with soon.

So. When having sex, I hurry because I worry I might be unable bring my partner to orgasm, making the experience less than optimal. And I never really get learning done because I always hurry because I worry I can’t bring my partner to orgasm, which I worry about because I never learned enough to be confident in my ability to do that. 🗘

With the next couple of partners I have, I think I’ll ask if we could get some learning done. As in, play the Four Seasons, and tell each other if we’re off tune or in the wrong rhytm or need to tune the strings. And ask proactively, too. If you’re scared that holding the violin wrong makes you a not-good-enough violin player forever, you’ll be holding it wrong until you chance upon the right way by stochastic gradient descent, with the loss function being “the partner’s body language looks happy”. That also converges (if you’re good at reading people), but slower.

Go learn about growth/fixed mindset if you haven’t yet. I’ve known about the concept for a while, but somehow I never thought of applying it to this area until now. And I suspect a lot of the places where I’m not competent right now are also places where I have fixed mindset but haven’t yet realized it or addressed it. Peace.

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With the next couple of partners I have, I think I’ll ask if we could get some learning done. As in, play the Four Seasons, and tell each other if we’re off tune or in the wrong rhytm or need to tune the strings. And ask proactively, too.

There is a chance your partner will not share your enthusiasm for explicit communication.

There are people who refuse to communicate about sex at all.

There are people who sometimes spontaneously provide useful feedback, but otherwise they either refuse to communicate, or their answer is "I don't know". (This can actually still work well, if the rare feedback is good.) Maybe they need to experience something dozen times to make up their mind, dunno.

Yep, some people won't share that enthusiasm, and I guess that's okay-ish. Would make long-term things harder than necessary though.

It seems like you go from "playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons" as someone without much skill is a bad idea to "I will try to play Vivaldi's Four Seasons and get some feedback from a listener to improve my skills at violine playing".

This seems to be an ineffective way to go about learning to play violine.

A violine teacher is a person who actually knows something about how people learn to play the violine and what happens to be important in that learning process.

One way to aquire knowledge of what actually happens to be important is to read books:

The Sex God Method by Daniel Rose and Slow Sex by Nicole Daedone are two very good books that both come from very different perspectives. Reading either of them will give you a better plan of how actually do your learning. Reading both is helpful to understand the different approaches and decide what of that you want to focus on.

Yeah, you're right - I'm equivocating between learning from "feedback from listener" and "feedback from master of the skill". Thanks for the links, I'll put them on The List.

(Hmm, now that I'm seeing them on Goodreads they seem to be about male-female-sex-for-male-readers, which lowers their value for me as I'm pan, but then, writing gender-general sex advice is probably harder than specific-combination advice...)

I think that's more true for the book of Daniel Rose book but not of Nicole Daedone. I think Slow Sex is general.

Even for Daniel's book the core concepts of Dominance, Emotion, Variety and Immersion are likely also applicable to other sex configurations.

Take for example the principle of variety. Given what you wrote in the OP it sounds like you search for the one best way of doing things. That's however a way of approaching sex that can reduce the variety and thus reduce the enjoyment. I would expect that principle to also be valuable in homosexual sex and see no reason why it would only be important for male-female-sex-for-male-readers.