Things you don’t know about maths and sex work

My recent interest in mathematics lead me to this website: and also to the mailing list that the owner Kalid Azad runs.

His most recent email titled The Simple Intuition Behind Counting, is a cracker. I won’t try to explain it, but take a moment, go to the site, have a look at the archive. It really is eye opening to have your fundamental ideas about the things that you “know” challenged.

To this end I want to mention another occasion where I had my beliefs altered by evidence. That was in the debate surrounding sex work. I used to believe that regulation (meaning licensing) of brothels was a good things, while private worker should be decriminalised fully (meaning no regulation, no licensing etc).

It was a naive view that came from a lack of education, even if I thought that it was reasonable. Continue reading

Sex and mathematics are hard

If you were like me growing up, then the subject of mathematics at school was hard. Dare I say even impenetrable.

I wanted to like maths. I wanted (desperately) to be good at it. But the simple fact was that while many of my fellow students worked hard and learned the material and got good marks, I simply couldn’t – my brain refused to understand. Maths used in physics was no problem for me (oddly). if you needed to calculate vectors, acceleration, or the voltage drop over a circuit, then no problem. I could do all of that. Or write an essay on Anton Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, or a 20,000 word creative piece. But maths simply eluded me. To this day, I don’t know why.

It’s become an item of almost faith in our society that “children learn far more easily than adults”, we hear that their brains are like sponges, able to soak up much more new information than adults, and learn much better. This may be true, but I think that it leads to a kind of over-reaction, whereby we assume that as adults, things that we couldn’t learn as children are going to remain forever impossible.

This is simply wrong. You only need to look at mature age students in higher education. My mother (at age forty something) studied horticulture and received high distinctions across the board – much better than the average young adult in her course.

The point is that things that once may have stumped us don’t have to stay out of reach as adults. I recently decided that I wanted to understand calculus. I took to Google and found a slew of “introduction to calculus” pages. And guess what? Grasping the fundamentals was simple. I mean really simple. Something that felt impenetrable as a teenager made perfect sense to me – granted, I did have to go back and refresh my algebra knowledge, but that turned out to be a simple enough task as well. Now – amazingly – I understand and can use calculus. I even signed up for a mathematics newsletter that I stumbled across during my research and the first issue I received today taught me something new and even gave me a chance to have some minor insights of my own about numbers. Hurray for adult learning!

Of course we learn all the time as adults, we often just don’t see it as “education”, rather we treat it as just part of our work.

Sex of course never gets a look in when it comes to learning. It’s not taught in school. It’s not taught at work (well for most of us). In fact, it’s never taught at all. It’s something that you might go and learn about on your own, or perhaps, if you are lucky, then you will get to explore with a partner.

For most of us though, it’s sink or swim, pick a few things up here and there, watch some porn, read some articles in magazines. Hardly a rigorous process and one that is as likely to mislead as it is to inform. And of course it is compounded by the comfort of finding out what “works” for us, then never taking the opportunity to learn new ways of experiencing sexual pleasure.

So what does it all mean? It means a few things to me – firstly: your pleasure and knowledge of sex is in your own hands. No-one is going to teach you, so you need to find out how to make it good yourself. Secondly: it’s actually good and important to be sexually knowledgeable. The more you know about sex and sexuality the more chance you have of enjoying it and being able to give your partner pleasure, and being safe.

Lastly: knowledge is power! I now know how to solve certain mathematical problems that once eluded me entirely – and I also know how to reliably give almost any woman an orgasm.