If you haven’t seen it yet, stop what you’re doing and watch sex educator Al Vernacchio’s important TED Talk establishing a new metaphor for sex.
We all know about the “baseball metaphor,” even if we do not all agree on its meaning or usage. It’s one of the most common metaphors we use for sexual activity – but as Vernacchio points out, “This baseball model is incredibly problematic. It’s sexist. It’s heterosexist. It’s competitive. It’s goal-directed. And it can’t result in healthy sexuality developing in young people or in adults. So we need a new model. I’m here today to offer you that new model. And it’s based on pizza.”
Vernacchio goes on to dissect the baseball metaphor as an example of our culture’s most problematic views of sex and sexuality. He compares it to his (far superior) pizza model: We play baseball at a decided time, about which we do not necessarily have a choice; we eat pizza when we’re hungry. Baseball necessitates competition, offense and defense; pizza is a collaborative activity, whose aim is the pleasure of both parties and which requires communication. And while baseball must be played a certain way and in a certain order, pizza allows for infinite choice and creativity.
“A lot of sexuality education that happens today is so influenced by the baseball model, and it sets up education that can’t help but produce unhealthy sexuality in young people. And those young people become older people. But if we could create sexuality education that was more like pizza, we could create education that invites people to think about their own desires, to make deliberate decisions about what they want, to talk about it with their partners, and to ultimately look for not some external outcome but for what feels satisfying, and we get to decide that.”
It’s time to redefine how we think and talk about sex. Sex educators like Vernacchio are taking us in the right direction.