The Culture Code — Part 2

The Culture Code – Seduction, Sex and Love in America

  • Last week’s principle: Emotion is the energy required to learn anything
  • Last week’s example: Toilet paper
  • A Conversation on The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille

Today let’s talk about seduction, sex and love. Yes, you’ll want to link to this article and forward it to all your friends. Clotaire Rapaille, author of The Culture Code, pegs American culture as “stuck” in the adolescent stage. He attributes this to the fact that we never had to “kill the king” to become who we are. [Unlike the French who killed their king and supposedly grew up]. Rapaille totally misses it here. Not with regard to the fact that America is in the adolescent stage. Of course we are. You know, 40 is the new 30. And since 30 is the new 20, we’re all just barely out of our teens. We are an adolescent culture. He errs in his assessment that killing the king is what adolescent cultures need to do to become mature cultures.

In any case, Rapaille offers interesting insight when it comes to love, seduction and sex. In America the Code for love is FALSE EXPECTATIONS. The culture code for sex is VIOLENCE. [Dead on, in my opinion.] The code for seduction is MANIPULATION.

Niza and I made an arrangement when we were first married. We agreed to go to a marriage seminar or to marriage counseling every other year whether we needed it or not. During our second year, we were at our counseling session and Niza was describing her experience being married to me. I could tell it wasn’t going to be good because of how moist her eyes were getting. The counselor listened and took notes smiling kindly the whole time. After she was done, he turned to me, paused a moment, and said something to the effect, It’s simple really. What your wife is experiencing is the death of a dream.

False expectations can hurt you. Both of you.

Rapaille asks, why are so many American women so concerned about finding “Mr. Right?” Young single ladies: What is your Mr. Right like? Once someone told me that her “Mister Right” was someone who would share his inner most thoughts and feelings with her. False expectations. [In fact, this sounds more like a job for a girlfriend than a husband. Or is mine a culturally conditioned response?]

The French think of love and pleasure as connected. They think true love and Mr. Right are irrelevant. “Love means helping you partner achieve as much pleasure as possible, even if this requires finding someone else to provide some of this pleasure.” Predictably, being faithful means something different to the French than it does to the American. For the Italians, according to Rapaille, love and fun are connected. “Men romance women, but seek true love from their mothers.” True love is maternal love so their expectations for romantic love are much lower. Women express love by becoming mothers and men are Mr. Right if they father children.

I’d say, we’ve got some things we can learn from the French and the Italians, and some things we might not want to learn from them. I’ll let you figure out which is which. Rapaille concludes that American culture that excels in so much, does not excel in love, sex and seduction.

All you have to do is watch MTV and you’ll know that Americans know little to nothing about seduction. Come on guys, pull your pants up. A survey taken last decade asked women if they would rather watch their man dance naked or their man washing dishes after dinner. What do you think the results were? That’s right. The lion’s share went to the man in the apron.

How about this? An MTV video with Rappers wearing aprons carefully washing their hands before preparing dinner for a wife they love and children they inspire and provide for?


Unfortunately for Americans, violence is also sexy. Popular words among males for intercourse include “banging,” “nailing,” or “bagging.” I’ve heard it said before that for men “everything except sex is about sex. Sex is about power.” As a culture we are more comfortable with violence than we are with sex, according to Rapaille. Indeed, I am far more comfortable letting my children watch aggressive to violent films where the good guys win, than I am to let them watch films with sex or nudity in them. How about you? [And, by the way, this is a cultural challenge to me right now because I am in Brazil with my family –including my 12 year old boy — and the brazilian sensitivity to nude women on TV is different than ours]. I find many R rated movies more acceptable than many PG 13 movies because of this. However, I’m not really comfortable with violence.

America’s emotional imprinting about sex, love and seduction are stuck at the adolescent stage. It’s obvious that with False Expectations, Manipulation and Violence as the Codes for these three in America,
that a lot of us need to think about how to move our communities — and ourselves — from our teens into the “old” 40.

What do you think?

See you In the Mystic…

Next Week: Shopping in America — Be forewarned: It’s not what you think.
Enroll Today: Decode Western culture with me and Erwin McManus at HUMANA 2.0 in Orlando this February 7-8. Enroll before January 21 and save up to $50.00 per registrant.


2 responses to “The Culture Code — Part 2”

  1. Alex Avatar

    Hey all. Welcome to “into the mystic”. I want to extend to each of you and invitation to a new conference sponsored by the IMN and “into the mystic” in Orlando, Florida on February 7-8 called HUMANA 2.0 . Join me and Erwin McManus (Mosaic), David Arcos (Mosaic), Thorsten Moritz (House Church), Sociologist Gerardo Marti (Social Change), Brian Russell (Missional reading of the OT), Dean Sharp and Sam Radford (Voxtropolis) and others. Should be fun.

  2. Andy Avatar

    It seems that “killing the king” is not meant literally (or we would never grow up) but refers to “killing” a delusion that gives comfort and security but really holds us back in immaturity. Also, he’s speaking about culture not individuals, right? I’m sure France also has many childish thirty-year-olds, but as a culture they’ve supposedly moved beyond the delusion of security in having a king.

    What gives us a delusion of security? (Or even a delusion of insecurity? That we need a king or new product or better sex.) Something that goes way back in our nation’s history? Some candidates may be: democracy (or the illusion of it), religion, and (of course) self.

    Just casually observing, I’d say people are working hard to kill these three (in some cases to kill the illusions of them). For example, there is self-destructive behavior, the popularity of “anarchy”, nihilism, etc.

    Finally, casually observing, I’d say the French moved from one king to another and remain adolescent as a culture. I agree that our own culture is adolescent. The thought of marketing (or religious) experts using Rapaille’s insights to reshape culture (or church culture) bothers me. It makessense,I suppose, for marketing professionals to do this because they have nogreat hope (other than to sell products). But shouldn’t Christians be lookingoutside the system, outside the box?

    Here’s another way of saying this. As we stand inside the cultural matrix and use Rapaille’s insights, we ourselves carry these same imprints. Therefore, if I know that “sex sells” then I can look inside myself to design an advertisement that will work on myself. Or use test subjects. In the same way, I can get people to put more money in the offering plate or help set up chairs before the service by giving these activities new meanings. But in doing so aren’t I operating inside the box rather than opening the doors for a revolution? In fact, I’m reinforcing church and offerings as usual (well, better than usual) but making it harder to question the whole show (paid staff, cultural architects, endless training conferences and all).

    This isn’t intended as an attack (really). I’m just using these terms rather than holding up typical church roles and forms which would be strawmen for most readers here.

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