“Sexually adventurous: 8/10”


So, this happened …

How much of a slut are we, on a scale of 0-10?

There were three of us, work colleagues who, partly because of the long hours we were working to complete this project on time, had actually become really good friends. It started off with us taking lunches together as we cleared our heads in the middle of the day, it progressed to a beer or two after work (which was usually quite late already), and we sometimes even went out with our partners in a group of six, to dinner or the theatre.

But actually the best times were when it was just the three of us, chatting about really deep topics.

Like sex. That came up on occasion, and on that particular night it had come up again.

We sat around the wooden table, in a bar next door to the office, talking about how sexually adventurous we were. We didn’t get explicit, we certainly didn’t start listing all the things we had done, or would do if we had half a chance. But we did agree to rate ourselves on a scale of 1 to 10, on how sexually adventurous we were.

To give a bit of context, we all had very different personalities and, objectively, our ‘adventurousness’ was certainly very different too. One, for example, had been rather boastful of sex, while another didn’t even like to say the f-word. And yet, when we revealed our personal rating, we had all given ourselves a score of 8/10.

This was a major realization to me, which I’ve carried over the years. Because we all had such different paradigms for what normal sex is, what kinky sex is, and what deviant sexual activity is, the basis for our self-rating was calibrated to our own paradigms.

To put it rather bluntly, you could conceive that a conservative person might give themselves 8/10 because they’ve had sex in more than one position; another person could rate themselves 8/10 because although they haven’t had a threesome they would if they got the chance; and a very experimental person would rate themselves 8/10 because they would pretty much do anything on offer!

Simple Definition

Sexually adventurous: 8/10: Everyone is different, and yet our sense of what is ‘normal’ reflects our worldview and our own experiences. Therefore when we classify or rate things, we might mean one thing, yet others will interpret that rating differently, relative to their own personal paradigm.

Discussing what it means

View of the world

In “Sexually adventurous: 8/10” we see a group of people who are definitely different from each other in terms of what they’ve done, what they would do, what they wouldn’t do, and even what they can conceive of other people doing. But that evening in the bar, in spite of our actual differences, we all scored ourselves a solid 8.

As Abraham Lincoln famously once wrote in a review, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”

It’s worth reminding you that although the #hashtag-story contains the word ‘sex’ in the title, this isn’t limited to sexual topics. It just uses sex as an example to show that we create personal worldviews based on our own experiences, and then we anchor everything to that framework.

For example, I remember having a chat with someone I’d met at a wedding, and the topic of business travel came up. “I travel quite a lot,” I said to him, and he agreed that he too “travels quite a lot.” But when we dug into the details, we saw that “quite a lot” meant very different things to us. For him, he was travelling from Hong Kong to Taiwan (which is about a 90 minute flight in each direction), every month without fail. For me, at that point in my career, I was travelling to 2-3 different countries every month, with flights ranging between 1 to 9 hours each. And then about half a dozen times a year I was also doing overnight transcontinental flights between Europe and Asia.

In our minds, we could both think of many people who travelled less than us, some travelling more than us, but overall it was ‘reasonable’ for our roles. So we both decided it was “quite a lot”. And yet we were so different.

And that’s the problem with asking people to rate things, because their score will reflect the structure of their world. And what they mean by their answer will probably be different from how you interpret that answer. Like when my friend asked me to rate her on a scale of 1-10 on how judgemental she is – I might have given her a 6 to suggest she is below-average, but she might interpret a 6 as above-average.

The real world

I’ve asked people during job interviews how they rate their ability to solve problems, and they’ve insisted they’re above-average. The problem is that I don’t know what environment they worked in previously, so they might be above-average, but relative to whom? That’s why it’s essential in this context to be asking for examples … “Can you please describe a particularly difficult client situation you’ve found yourself in at work, and how you went about solving that problem?” This way I can judge within my own framework how basic or complex a problem they faced, and how capably they solved it.

Dating can be like a job interview – especially in a speed-dating situation, like I found myself in #[Cheese or Chocolate]. I’m a very romantic person. Yeah, compared to what? I love Tarantino movies. Oh, you’ve seen two of his hits? I usually go out late on a Friday night! Gosh, past midnight? You animal. I’m a great kisser. Sure, and if I were a slobbering poodle I’d appreciate your style. So yes, generic answers are always anchored to a person’s worldview, and we need to firstly remember this (make sure that today’s #hashtag pops into your mind when you hear such an answer), and secondly you need to get smart at asking clarifying questions to make sure you know exactly what they mean.

I remember a great quote from a work colleague of mine, Peter, who said “The definition of a promiscuous person is someone who has more sex than me.”

And now that you have a #hashtag to represent anchoring and mental frameworks, you will realise how much they come into play on a regular basis.


For example, most people have grown up with a traditional food pyramid, which recommends that we eat – as represented by the large base of the pyramid – lots of carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta, and grains. But many years ago I moved to a low-carbohydrate diet, and as I travelled the world meeting clients – many times over meals – it was a topic that came up often, especially when they’d see me eating a large meat serving, a huge vegetable serving, drenching my food in olive oil, and then completely ignoring the rice on my place. After a bit of debate from both sides, it wasn’t uncommon for someone (who hadn’t fully bought into my idea) to declare “Well, I guess all things in moderation, eh.”

But that’s the problem! What others mean by ‘moderation’ is different from me. Because I agree: All things in moderation. But their sense of moderation is anchored around the food pyramid they were taught at school (whether they realize it or not), where most of your calories are coming from carbs. So when they say ‘moderation’ they are probably thinking about a diet that is perhaps 50% carbs, whereas when I say ‘moderation’ I’m thinking about a week where most meals have no carbs, and a few have some carbs. That’s my version of moderation in this context.

I know people who give 10% of their monthly income to charity (and they sometimes do volunteer work), and I know others who donate a few dollars to collectors in shopping centres on a Saturday morning. Both groups would consider themselves ‘quite charitable’.

And now I’d like to contradict myself

I’ve been saying that we always think in terms of our own world view, and that when we express self-ratings, it is in terms of what we think, as anchored to our experience and knowledge.

But actually, we sometimes find ourselves in a “double agent” role. I know this is a silly example, but if I were on the phone with a client who I’d never met and he asked me how I would rate my teeth, I might give myself 8/10. But if I were at a cocktail party talking to a dentist, and she asked me how I would rate my teeth, I would completely reframe my answer, not according to my world view, but according to hers. I would know she has seen some amazing teeth in her time, so I might coyly give myself a 6/10 – using her worldview not mine. You can see this play out a little in #[Paul got applause, I got a shrug].

So huge revelation here: people benchmark according to their experiences and their knowledge (and sometimes in terms of what they think your knowledge and your experiences are). And so when they talk, and when they answer questions, it’s always anchored to one of these paradigms.

Don’t forget that, you deviant person you.

Making it personal

In the context of “Sexually adventurous: 8/10”, there are just a few things you need to remember:

  • People have a mental framework for themselves (and they assume one for you); Their thoughts are anchored to these frameworks
  • You need to contextualise their comments, opinions and ratings accordingly; If necessary, you should ask questions to work out exactly what they mean
  • When you express your own world view through comments, opinions and ratings, remember that what you mean is probably going to be different to how they interpret it, so it’s worth making the effort to be clear, just in case.

I’m not going to hold your hand today – I’ll let you take some time to think of times you’ve misinterpreted others, or they’ve misinterpreted you, because of differing worldviews. Can you think of what question you might have asked back then to prevent that going wrong?

What other scenarios come to mind which could carry a #hashtag of “Sexually adventurous: 8/10”?

Related stories

#[Cheese or Chocolate]

#[How to beat a ninja]

#[My above-average clients]

#[Paul got applause, I got a shrug]