Sex and the 80/20 Principle


80/20 principle
In Richard Koch’s fabulous The 80/20 Principle, 2008 Edition, he delves into the new territory of applying the principle to our personal lives, not just our businesses.

This opens up some interesting discussions about quantifying that area of our lives that seems immune to analysis by numbers. But as Richard explains, every one of us derives more pleasure from some activities than we do from others. Like quiet evenings with a loved one in front of a fire; a really good meal with close friends; a solitary walk in nature.

If we look at them honestly, we will see the opposite is also true: we spend a lot of time doing things we feel we must do, but don’t really enjoy. Think about family get togethers where there is constant bickering, but missing one would hurt everyone’s feelings. Or faking it in a relationship to preserve your public image.

In the section of the book,” Fresh Insights: The Principle Revisited”, Richard shares some of the input he has received from readers and one was quite revealing in that, to me at least, the reader had missed the point. A Chinese critic contended that yin and yang are equally important and seems to equate yang with the 20% and yin with the 80%.

His final complaint had to do with sex. Since he contends that 80% of the pleasure in sex comes the orgasm, then he says perhaps we should drop the 80% foreplay altogether. Of course, if the only pleasure you derive from the sexual relationship is the 13-second orgasm, the he’s right. But the 80/20 principle is incorrectly applied when done so to micro-aspects of life. In the above situation, I would argue that the application should be as follows. Look back at all your sexual encounters and find out which 20% brought you the most pleasure and work on duplicating those. Doing that we are measuring the whole experience not just one tiny aspect.

In that case, Richard’s Chinese critic might find that the 20% most pleasurable experiences were the ones in which the foreplay was long and caring and the final 13 seconds were just one aspect of the whole experience. Yin and yang would then be in balance which is what the 80/20 principle would predict would be the case.

(Originally published on