Anne Cunningham has been having an interesting time in France. A friend gave her a book on politics which led her to the following question:
Politics explores crucial domestic problems of sexual etiquette. What should the sleeping arrangements be in a ménage à trois? Is it polite to read while two people have sex beside you?I've been reading books about politics all my adult life but I have somehow managed not to come across this question before. And it's one I haven't much thought about. No, I'm gonna level with you; I've never thought about it. In the words of The King:
Always lived, very quiet lifeNot that I haven't had my moments, you understand. Aaanyway, so I started to think about the question after I'd encountered it over at Anne's place, and I feel I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you.
First off, isn't it rude of them to have sex while you're reading? But then that wasn't the question posed, and answering a question with a question is a typically Jewish thing to do - so hold off on it. Go with the original. Maybe it wasn't rude of them; maybe they'd asked - politely - whether you'd mind, and you'd said, no, you wouldn't mind, and so they are, umm, following through, and you're reading - and is this rude? Top of my head, I'm bound to say that I'm not too sure. What's the core intuition here? Is it that, if you're reading it must mean that what they're doing isn't too interesting to you, and this would be an insult? OK, so now I've got a thought path. This I can pursue.
The answer, in that case, is surely going to depend on whether you're reading something interesting or not. If what you're reading is a book the two of them would regard as truly dull, that would be insulting. As if to say, 'Even this is better to contemplate.' Like, maybe, if you were just reading a manual - on chess openings. Or a thriller with a limp plot. What, though, if you were reading a cricket book (say, one on the art of batsmanship), studying the chapter on how to execute a stroke to fine leg? That might be OK. There must be a whole set of gradations here. An article from Mind or The Journal of Philosophy, containing some really penetrating philosophical analysis, or a fascinating volume of oral history, these must surely justify your reluctance to attend to the activities with which your friends are busily going ahead.
(That's enough of that. It's not what readers of this site are used to or expect. Terminated - Ed.)