Things I Do Not Know: Teen Sex


While we are programmed to be fascinated by the mechanics, sex is really about shuffling information. Shuffle two decks of DNA and you get variety, Perhaps, something new and valuable. Mutations spread around. And most importantly, failures are exposed and removed from the genome.

That certainly sounds cruel. But hemophilia would be much crueler were it common. And cystic-fibrosis is a tragedy. Nobody ever said sex is NICE. That is why it is sometimes important to pay some slight attention to those we have children with.

But this is silly. We all know this. Or should. Had we paid attention in High School. And this works demonstrably well. If you are a beetle you have your behavior programmed, tested and evolved. Humans are different. Our behavior is largely taught. Our programming is not entirely contained in our DNA, but is taught, or programmed via operant and classical conditioning. [ When I was young I thought classical conditioning was murky and confused and so neglected it. I now think it is murky and confused and one of the most powerful factors controlling human behavior.]
One may view learned behavior as extrasomatic genetics. I do. A version of this has recently been tagged as memetics. I differ only in believing that we have evolved for memetics. Just as we are evolved to choose mates by methods we only understand darkly, we are evolved to shuffle our extrasomatic information.

I believe this is why in our teen years we seem programmed to ignore our parents. We reject the programming we have and seek new ideas. We idolize people and ideas strange to us. We try on ideologies like new clothes. After a few years, again like sex, we wake up and wonder at our excesses. We establish a new balance based on that which we have learned and that which our parents taught us. Rationality reasserts control if we are fortunate. We wonder that we once thought our parents so conventional, constrained, and foolish. After all, we are not likely to be much brighter or dimmer than they. And again like balance, we are more stable and rooted for that through which we have been.

This programmed shuffling of ideas and education is the idea I haven’t heard. I think of it as a teenage form of sex. I never hear a bluestocking complaining about teens’ lax sexual mores without a flicker of a smile wondering at the IDEAS they are up to. Also like sex, this memetic variant is something wise folk will keep practicing. When I see older folk desperately pontificating to the young I see a desperate need to spread their memetic seed. [ I would be quite timid about writing this if the idea for this log weren’t Charles’.]

So there it is. An old human custom which we have a taboo-like hesitance to discuss and observe. A sort of sex which is much more advanced and human than animals ever experience.


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