Culture TED Talks

Let’s talk about sex — and pizza: Al Vernacchio at TED2012

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Photos: James Duncan Davidson

Al Vernacchio is here to talk about sex. In particular, he wants to talk about reframing the ways we talk about sex. In short, he says, “we need to stop talking baseball.”

“Baseball is the dominant cultural metaphor that Americans use to think about and talk about sexual activity,” he continues. For instance, we talk of being “pitchers” or “catchers.” We talk about “striking out.” We talk of “bench warmers” — those who aren’t “in the game.” If we’re gay or lesbian, we “play for the other team.”

So what should be our new model? Vernacchio has one in mind: pizza. Bear with him. He compares:

Triggers for Sexual Activity

Baseball: When do you play baseball? During baseball season. It’s not actually a choice. And in baseball, you have two opposing teams, one playing offense; one playing defense. “We’re not playing with each other; we’re playing against each other.” Most importantly, no one needs to talk about baseball. “Everyone knows the rules.”

Pizza: When do you eat pizza? Well, when you’re hungry for pizza. And pizza night starts by talking about it. “How do you feel about pepperoni?” “Not so much; I’m a mushroom guy.” “How about half and half?” Vernacchio adds, to laughs, “Even if you’ve had pizza with someone for a very long time, don’t you still say, “should we get the usual? Or should we go for something more adventurous?'”

During Sexual Activity

Baseball: Everyone knows what to do in baseball. You go around the bases in order. It’s regimented; rule-bound. “You can’t get to second base and say, ‘I like it here, I’m going to stay here,” says Vernacchio.

Pizza: There’s a million different ways to have pizza, and they’re all based on your pleasure. “There’s a million ways to eat pizza, too,” he adds. “That difference is good.”

Outcome of Sexual Activity

Baseball: You play to win! “There’s always a winner — and that means there’s a loser.”

Pizza: “How do you win pizza?” asks Vernacchio. You don’t. It’s about being satisfied. “If you’re still hungry, you might have some more. If you have too much, you just feel gross.”

If we rethink our sex education models, we might help nurture healthy sex attitudes in our young people. “Baseball: you’re out!” Vernacchio concludes.