Picture the noble goddess of justice and her golden scale, with its plates teetering back and forth in search of balance, when suddenly the lights dim and her white toga slips to the floor, revealing a g-string and pasties barely big enough to cover her areolas. It’s no longer “crime” with “punishment” that she’s equalizing – it’s sex acts.
Reciprocation, reciprocity, or returning the favor are all terms I’ve heard that refer to that strangely universal concept of a fair trade in a hook-up situation. In mathematics, the reciprocal of a fraction is its inverse, but in sex-namics, a handjob cancels out a finger-bang. It’s the unspoken understanding that both partners will run equal distances along the hook-up base path.
For those who aren’t familiar, there are four tiers to “the base system” that are commonly used by men in describing how much action we get when shacking up. If you got to first base, you did everything or anything up to making out, but probably didn’t fling any clothing off. Reaching second base means there was nakedness, maybe you rolled around some, and of course, used the hands liberally (heavy petting). Third base occurs once you breach into the legendary oral region. Finally, hitting a home run is self-explanatory. There exists some flexibility in the interpretation of this scale. However, a home run is invariably sex. But, you can take the liberty of assigning home run distances to your sexual positions in order of increasing preference. For example, mentioning a 480-foot home run could mean you had doggy-style sex twice last night. Also, add details where possible to fit the circumstances, such that talking about a 360-footer that bounced off the foul post could mean it was girl-on-top and you were too drunk to finish.
Hooking up with somebody, be it hot and heavy or just a couple stolen kisses, is an expression of attraction. Of course, motives behind that attraction (love, lust, sexual frustration, the challenge, drunkenness) vary wildly. But what’s interesting is that somewhere in life we learn to place differing significances on the deeds themselves, and as a result, we not only judge other people based on how far they choose to be on the base-path when they hook up, but also on how our sex partners repay our actions.
For example, kissing a girl for a few minutes and then receiving a blowjob might feel like getting something for nothing. Conversely, bringing a girl to climax with your tongue and then receiving a hand-job might leave you feeling shortchanged. If you give her oral sex and she proceeds to get dressed silently, leave, without wishing you good night and drive herself home, you have either been completely robbed or are uniquely terrible at oral sex.
In the context of relationships, I’ve heard of long-distance couples that permit each other to have first base hookups while apart because neither feels violated by that level of significance. Both are acknowledging the loneliness and sexual deficit that an LDR tends to breed, and are trying to mitigate that. Those in a committed relationship still deal with the principle of reciprocation as they strive to reciprocate their level of commitment to each other. In the context of hook-ups, there are anywhere from those who balk at the idea of surpassing kissing without being committed, to those who balk at the idea of engaging in anything less than sex when hooking up.
When asked about reciprocation, one source who wished to remain anonymous remarked, “Give a little, get a little.”
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