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Aunt Pythia’s advice

July 11, 2015

Hippety hop, chop chop, it’s time to get on the sexy advice bus. Aunt Pythia has already whipped up some delicious mimosas for today’s brunchy discussion!

I can't drink all of these myself, people.

I can’t drink all of these myself, people.

Aunt Pythia is oddly exuberant this morning, folks, and hopes her positivity comes through loud and clear. She’s extremely happy with the questions you all have come up with, and hope she gets many more chances to be an obnoxiously opinionated loudmouth in the near future.

Which will happen if you continue to supply her with your wonderful and genuinely interesting questions! Please do! Before you go,

ask Aunt Pythia any question at all at the bottom of the page!

By the way, if you don’t know what the hell Aunt Pythia is talking about, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia.


Aunt Pythia,

Have you read “Sperm Wars” yet? Looking forward to the review.

Bated Breath

Dear BB,

To tell you the truth, it’s a slog. I am doing my best to read it – it’s the only nighttime reading I have next to my bed – but the obstacles are real.

For example, it’s pretty violent. There are lots of stories of men who abuse wives and children. That makes me upset, even though I know it happens all the time. Next problem: it’s extremely unromantic, talking in a weirdly clinical and almost hostile way about what constitutes arousal. Even so, at times it gets pretty technical, discussing different kinds of sperm hiding in various places along the Fallopian tubes, for example, waiting to kill other sperm or fertilize the eggs.

I guess the overall feeling I’m getting is that it’s dated, and that the scientific certainty it presents of “why people do what they do” with respect to sex is a huge turn-off for me. I’d like to see theories and then evidence, with measurements of uncertainty. I’d like to become part of the process of puzzling out whether a certain habit we humans have fallen into is due to our genetics or our socialization. Instead, the book lays it out like it’s all a done deal, and since I have trouble believing that it’s all so completely understood, I end up not knowing what to believe.

Here are some good things about the book. I think it’s interesting how the author treats women and men as equals in the scheming around sex. Too often you hear stories about philandering men without understanding what women stand to gain by sex. Also, it does a good job explaining how women have more to lose by being discovered as cheaters, and what that implies. The book also makes a convincing case that women’s fertility cycles are obscure by construction: it serves the human race in countless ways to confuse people – both men and women – as to when women might actually get pregnant. In particular, sex often serves as a way for humans to interact, and not just to get pregnant. Even so, there are ways that pregnancy can be planned but not planned, and that is intriguing as well.

I’m guessing this is the closest to a review that I’m going to write, and let me finish by wishing out loud that someone would take on the subject anew and do it with a bit more rigor.

Next up: Sex at Dawn. We’ll see if this book is the book I’m requesting. I am guessing it is not.

Aunt Pythia


Aunt Pythia,

Here is a question that has puzzled me for a long time: what exactly is a “date”? I was reminded of my puzzlement when you wrote “It doesn’t have to be a date if she doesn’t wish it to be, but it could be if she wants.” in your answer to HORNY’s question. I tried to imagine how I would behave as the male participant in each of those two scenarios, and here is what I came up with:

If it is a date:
I would dress nicely, be polite, ask her personal questions, share personal details about myself, and pay the bill at the end of the meal.

If it is NOT a date:
I would dress nicely, be polite, ask her personal questions, share personal details about myself, and pay the bill at the end of the meal.

So I’m worried that if there is truly a difference between a date and a non-date then I’m probably doing one of them all wrong. Of course there are some cases where the difference is clear; for instance, if it were a business dinner then I would probably limit personal conversation and propose splitting the bill.

Doesn’t Act Too Extreme

Dear DATE,

Great question. I personally have never been on a date, so I’m really not one to talk, or to define the term.

Let me rephrase that. I’ve been on dates, but I rarely would have described them that way beforehand. Instead they evolved into a date. By the end of the date I knew they were dates.

OK, I’m lying. I have gone out on “date nights” with my husband, where we had to get a babysitter. But that doesn’t count for your question.

But I substantially agree, “going on a date” is confusing and bewildering, and naming it is a large part of the confusion. Sorry for adding to that.

Here’s a confession which I am happy to spill. I’ve always had a confusing mixture of envy and disgust with people who “go on Dates” with a capital D. First of all, they seem to be completely at ease describing them that way, which already makes me hate them. It always seems so artificial to imagine a man dressing nicely and expecting me to dress nicely, and talking politely over dinner (and maybe a movie), and letting the man pay for everything, and then maybe (oh my!) a kiss on the front porch at the end of it. God forbid if the guy brings me flowers at the beginning of the evening, I might barf all over them. How can anyone be happy with that scenario?! Then envy comes when I imagine something so confusing becoming so simple. But the envy is quickly squashed again by the disgust and the smell of imaginary barf.

So no, I’m not a big fan of that whole paradigm. It’s an arbitrary and misogynistic construct. It makes the woman a passive receiver and at the same time puts too much pressure on the man to perform. Fuck Dating.

On the other hand, I really like people, and if someone wants to have dinner with me, I’m in! And of course, I don’t want to feel frumpy, and so I’d wear something that makes me feel adventurous and fun. If other people show up, then it’s great, but if it’s just the two of us, I naturally like finding out about people, so we’ll end up talking about our terrible childhoods or whatnot, maybe politely or maybe not, because I don’t lean too much on convention, and if the other person pays this time, with the agreement that I’d pay the next time, then all the better. After dinner, if we had a great time, and a couple of beers, and maybe saw some live music, we might end up making out somewhere, who knows. Or having a snowball fight and wrestling in the snow, that might work too.

So that’s the thing. Dating isn’t a well-defined thing, or if it is, then it’s weird and uncomfortable and synthetic, so let’s avoid that, and let it proceed from our natural desire to interact with someone else and learn about someone else. That is my ideal anyway.

As for my advice to you: chances of a given dinner “working out” into a date and then a real relationship are pretty low, so just enjoy the dinner with the assumption that nothing of the sort will happen, but being genuinely engaged in the event itself. Find joy in the moment, and in the moment be the person you wish you always were, including being curious and kind to the person you’re sharing dinner with. At the very least you’ll have awesome dinners.


Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

My girlfriend and I have been living together for almost a year. We are compatible sexually and very adventurous except in one area: anal sex. I have tried to get her to let me take her that way, but she refuses.

She does occasionally let me use a finger, always with plenty of lube. But if I try with the next size up, she denies me or gets mad.

I did it twice with a previous girlfriend and we both enjoyed it. I will admit that it takes the right mood and preparation.

Do you have any suggestions for how to overcome this hang-up?

A Now-frustrated Ass Lover

Dear ANAL,

Ah, the age-old conundrum of sexual incompatibility. A few things.

  1. Did you know that men have prostate glands but women don’t?  That makes anal sex directly sexually stimulative for men but not women. So that might come into play here.
  2. That’s not to say that women can’t enjoy anal sex. Some of them do, by all accounts, but it’s usually indirect, say from the added pressure to the entire system. You might want to ask your lover what exactly it might take to make it interesting for her.
  3. Also, that might not be enough. You might just be living with someone who isn’t interested in this, even if it get her off. Then you’ll have to decide what to do next.
  4. For example, maybe employing another sex toy or two to help you achieve a similar sensation? And maybe your girlfriend can agree to help you out with appropriate whispers and caresses?
  5. In other words, try to work with her to get to an approximation of the goal.
  6. Also, make sure you’re helping her achieve her sexual goals! Have you asked her recently what she’s been fantasizing about?
  7. If all else fails, you have to decide whether this is something you can live without. I’d suggest having a conversation with her about this directly, after trying the above, and see what kind of compromise you can come to. By all means don’t wait until you’ve found an outside ass-lover and then break the news to her.

Good luck,

Aunt Pythia


Aunt Pythia,

I have a great deal of software development experience. I know Smalltalk, Java, and some Python, as well as Clojure. What do you think that I could do to get an opportunity to get into Analytics? I have only had one graduate level course in statistics, and that was a long time ago. I have done work with statistics since, but perhaps not heavy-duty enough to impress anyone. I keep applying for Java jobs, but I have not done Java programming since October 2007, so no one will look at me. I have an MS with a Computer Science major, with five doctoral-level courses in Computer Science.

Missing in Action

Dear MiA,

You need to bulk up your machine learning chops, unless you forgot to mention them. One graduate course in statistics is sufficient if you still remember it, but you actually need to be able to build predictive models nowadays with large datasets, and usually that means knowing how to implement all sorts of algorithms, as well as knowing when a given algorithm is called for.

If I were you I’d try to get my hands on syllabi of the various “data science bootcamps” that are proliferating, and see what skills are listed there that you don’t have. Also, obviously, be sure you know how to use Tableau and SQL.

Plus, and this is me talking, not your future employer, please consider the ethics of building and deploying algorithms. Take a look at this book I wrote a couple of years ago, and keep an eye out for this book I’m writing now for discussions of ethics. It’s coming out in about a year.

Good luck,

Aunt Pythia


People, people! Aunt Pythia loves you so much. And she knows that you love her. She feels the love. She really really does.

Well, here’s your chance to spread your Aunt Pythia love to the world! Please ask her a question. She will take it seriously and answer it if she can.

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Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. JSE
    July 11, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I think this is pretty simple. It’s a date if both people involved are thinking of it as a way of exploring the potential for a romantic relationship, and if both people know that both people are thinking of it this way. (I’m not sure whether both people have to know that both people know that both people are thinking of it that way, and etc. and etc.)


  2. July 11, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    JSE: Your definition seems to me exactly right. I would say that there does have to be common knowledge (technical term for the infinite recursion), but there almost always is. Aunt Pythia: I think you’re way too negative about dates. A lot of people enjoy them, even the ritualized aspects. Rituals are not necessarily weird, synthetic, and uncomfortable; not everything in life has to be just hanging out and going with the flow.


  1. August 1, 2015 at 10:43 am
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