4 TED Talks About Love, Sex and Desire

4 TED Talks About Love, Sex and Desire
Image credit: lucyburrluck | Flickr

Love. Liebe. Laska. L’amour. As sublime as it sounds rolling off the lips, love, like lust, cannot be fully expressed in words alone. Sorry lovers, not even in a $5,000 gold-plated Valentine.

No, not love. It’s a cruel dagger, piercing us with both pleasure and pain. Yet we’re powerless against its intoxicating spell. In other, less mushy words, once Cupid’s bazooka blows, we’re screwed. This is particularly true around Valentine’s Day, when we’re expected to open our wallets wide and passionately profess undying devotion to our beloved. No pressure, right?

Related: Great Entrepreneur, Lousy Lover? 

While roses are red and chocolates are sweet -- and lingerie’s an intimate treat -- mere trinkets and gifts don’t always say “I love you.” If you’re desperately seeking ways to woo your boo this Heart Day with presents that don’t come with a price tag -- be it stimulating conversation or cerebral foreplay -- why not brush up your game with a TED Talk or two about love? We know, we know, tucking into a TED session doesn’t exactly scream sexy, but it could get you warmed up and in the mood for love, and, if you play it right, your lover, too.

How has TED tangoed with love, sweet love over the years? Let us count the ways:

1. Helen Fisher: The brain in love

Undying truth: We all just want to be loved. Is that so wrong? Nope. We’re love-seeking fools and it’s not our fault. It’s science, a dopamine dance. We’re hard-wired to crave love because, darnit, it feels so damn good. Exactly how we get hooked on love no one quite knows, try as anthropologists like Helen Fisher might to unravel the mystery, one MRI on the lovesick at a time.

Related: The Biggest Dating Problem Entrepreneurs Have

While she can’t solve the age-old riddle “Why do you fall in love with one person, rather than another?” the author of Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray (Ballantine Books, 1994) can tell us precisely what happens in the human brain when we fall madly in love. The “reptilian core” of our brains floods with activity, like “the rush of cocaine.” We become obsessed, possessed and a total mess. “You can’t stop thinking about another human being. Somebody is camping in your head.” See? You’re not a stalker. Moth to flame, you just can’t help it.

2. Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship

In her rousing talk, Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel explores why hot sex often cools out after a while with the same old lover. The very unsexy culprit is often getting too wrapped up in our worries and responsibilities to fully surrender to passion, or even to make time for it in the first place. Dr. Ruth would not approve. Then again, she probably doesn’t like eating the same meal every day, either. At least not without a spicy kick here and there.

Related: Too Busy to Get Busy? 3 Tips for a Better Sex Life.

To keep the “erotic spark” of desire burning bright over the long haul, Perel suggests boldly expressing what turns you on to your partner, without fear or shame. Go on, get it off your chest already. Valentine’s night is only a few short moons away.

“Basically most of us will get turned on at night by the very same things that we will demonstrate against during the day,” Perel says. “You know, the erotic mind is not very politically correct.” And it shouldn’t be. Nothing primal is.  

3. Yann Dall’Aglio: Love -- You’re Doing It Wrong.

Seduction is an art, one that’s all too often twisted by players on the hunt for heartless hookups. These selfish “pickup artists” have it all wrong, French philosopher Yann Dall’Aglio points out in his 10-minute dissection of love. They squander their “seduction capital,” that elusive ability to make others desire us.

Related: 6 Dating Tips for the Single Entrepreneur

Well, duh: Our desirability is often judged by our physique. Call it animal attraction. Call it shallow. Call it Tinder. But our full-package appeal, our overall worthiness of others’ affections, isn’t swipe right-able. Dall’Aglio says potential lovers also size us up by our intelligence, net worth and -- blame the Internet -- the number of people following us on social media, too, all of which he thinks adds up to a bunch of bunk.

To really love and be loved, Dall’Aglio advises that we quit being posers for each other, renounce the narcissistic need for outside validation and -- here’s the toughest part -- truly value ourselves. Whoa, it just got deep.

4. Jenna McCarthy: What You Don’t Know About Marriage

Commitment-phobes, fear not. Jenna McCarthy’s funny TED Talk has something juicy for everyone chasing love in the age of sexting, Viagra and eHarmony -- from the mind-numbingly monogamous, to the unhitched, to insert whatever relationship status you identify with here _____.

Related: 3 Popular Culture Office Romances: Appropriate or Not?

In her revealing speech, the author of the insanely titled If It Was Easy They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living With and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married (Berkeley, 2011) delves into what she sees as the key to lasting love: sex and a lot of it. Oh, and stockpiling “fake happy childhood pictures” and not winning an Oscar, “the marriage kiss of death.” Don’t get it? We’ll let McCarthy explain, as only she can. Really, really hilariously.

Related: How to Thrive in Both Business and Romance

Edition: November 2016

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