Is “You ping my arousal template,” a romantic thing to hear from a drunken man?

Posted on June 21, 2017


Ladies, picture this.  You go for a drink in the hotel bar.  At one table there is a group of men downing rounds of shots.  A moderately out of shape[1] (and somehow familiar) redhead starts checking you out.  He separates from the group and comes over to you.  He puts a Van Morrison song on the jukebox (perhaps Moondance).  He pulls you to himself and says in an English accent slightly slurred by the alcohol, “Fair lady, I came here tonight to find a lover.  You have a killer bod, and it was just made for somebody like me.  May I suggest that we have sex together tonight.”  You respond, “Good sir, that is the most romantic thing that anyone has ever said to me.  Let us tarry no longer, but away to your room for said intercourse.”

Are you thinking, “No?”  Then why is “Shape of You” such a big hit?  That’s the scenario.

It is almost too easy to pick on pop song lyrics, but this one really deserves it.  As Van Morrison himself sang, “Get the words on the page.  Please don’t call me a sage.  I’m a songwriter.”  On Ed Sheeran’s previous album, X, he gave us several beautiful love songs (i.e. Thinking Out Loud, Afire Love, Tenerife Sea).  On his latest release[2] he gave us Shape of You.

Let’s talk about men and arousal.  We men are very visually stimulated.  We are captivated by the form of the female of our species.  We have an arousal template that we have developed of what that ideal form looks like.  It is partly innate,[3] partly from developmental experience, and partly socially constructed.  When that image crosses our vision (just like the terminator analyzing for a match[4]), our arousal template goes “ping, we have a match.”  Saying, “I am in love with the shape of you” is really only saying, “my arousal template is pinging just looking at you.”

Granted, most romantic relationships begin with some level of physical attraction.  This is normal and desirable.  It is as it should be.  Everyone wants to feel that their partner finds them attractive.  Having said that, approaching a woman and saying, your breasts, legs, and backside match my ideal for female perfection is more creepy than complimentary.  Further, what happens if she gains 10 pounds?  I was in love with how you used to be shaped?

I am reminded of the line in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when Arthur is explaining how he became king.  “The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.  That is why I am your king!  Dennis, the peasant to whom he is speaking replies, “Strange women in lying ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.”   One could make a similar statement here.  The fact that her figure is pinging your arousal template is not a basis for a relationship.

In terms of courtship, there are many other important traits besides physical attraction.  Physical attraction matters, but it is only one aspect.  Further if you jump straight from noticing and attraction to intercourse, this can lead to some really bad decision making.  You may find yourself involved with someone who is really not a good partner for you[5].  During intercourse, the hormone oxytocin is released into your brain.  Oxytocin, euphemistically called the cuddle hormone, causes you to bond with your partner.  This is really helpful in a committed relationship.  In a casual relationship (or no relationship at all), it can result in really poor decisions.

Guys, it is the way we are wired to be aroused by the shape of a woman.  Ladies, I’m thinking if a drunken man approaches and tells you he is in love with the shape of you, get the bouncer to toss him out.

Ed, we know you are capable of better because you have done better in the past.  This one is just creepy.

[1] I offer this observation only because he is so obsessed with your physique.

[2] There is no division symbol on my keyboard so I can’t write the name of the album.

[3] The wife of a pastor friend of mine maintains that if God had not kicked up the sex drive in men, they would be completely undomesticatable.

[4] If you miss the reference, check out the opening scenes of T3.

[5] It has been 30 years since Fatal Attraction, but the risks of sex with strangers are still myriad.  Setting aside any issues of fidelity, why would you want Glenn Close when you had Anne Archer at home?

Posted in: Relationships, Sex