Usually on a holiday, be it a major one that kids celebrate because it means no school or a more contrived one meant to sell greeting cards, I go out of my way to acknowledge it on this blog. I even try to channel the spirit of the holiday, if only to make the day feel like more than just something people mark on a calendar.
With today being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, though, I feel compelled to do more than just acknowledge it or the spirit behind it. In fact, I feel as though the spirit of this holiday is more critical now in 2018 than it has been in year’s past. When I look at the world today and all the ongoing conflicts unfolding before my eyes, I believe that the message and spirit of Dr. King is more relevant than ever.
Most people know who Martin Luther King Jr. is and why he’s such a prominent figure in modern history. He has a holiday named after him for a very good reason. He was both a leader and an icon of a very volatile time in American history. He was also a strong man of faith, one who actually took the non-violent teachings of Jesus Christ to heart. That’s an increasingly radical concept these days.
What Dr. King accomplished was remarkable, especially in the face of so much heated opposition. However, it’s how he accomplished it that really sets him apart and makes him worthy of celebrating. Like I said before, he believed in non-violence and he took them very seriously.
According to the King Center, Martin Luther King Jr. had a very specific way of utilizing non-violence to achieve the goals he sought. In his book, “Stride Towards Freedom,” he organized them into six principles.
- Principle #1: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
- Principle #2: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
- Principle #3: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
- Principle #4: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
- Principle #5: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
- Principle #6: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
Take a moment, if you can, to appreciate the sheer heart and idealism espoused in these principles. Remember, Dr. King fought against some of the most extreme racism anyone can imagine. Take the most offensive, vile messages you’ve seen on social media or 4chan. Then, create a society around them and give it political power. That’s what Dr. King was up against.
However, he didn’t seek to defeat that racism through the kind of outrage, protests, and meme wars that seem to dominate the overall rhetoric today. He took these principles of non-violence and employed them. He did this, despite often being threatened with violence.
He still stuck to those principles, though. He believed that his message would transcend the violence. The fact that he now has a holiday named after him and is one of the most celebrated figures in modern history proves that his beliefs were vindicated.
What stood out with these principles and how Dr. King practiced them literally showed the power of these beliefs. Rather than pick fights with racists, he sought understanding. Rather than voice outrage, he chose to voice love. This is readily apparent in his famous “I have a dream” speech that still resonates to this day. Even in 2018, it still gives people chills for all the right reasons.
Read or listen to that speech and then contrast that with how people today are trying to fight racism, sexism, and bigotry. Think about the misguided movements from both sides of the political spectrum that operated under very different principles. Then, look at the results or lack thereof.
This is where the power of Dr. King’s principles really shows. It also reveals just how much we’ve forgotten or negated what it means to seek equality or combat bigotry. It’s articulated in the second and the fifth principle of non-violence. He sought understanding and love over retribution and hate.
This matters today because society today is more and more driven by a toxic mix of outrage culture and attention-driven economics. We’re seeing this in increasingly petty arguments within feminism, racial politics, and political groups. These days, it’s become less about actual progress and more about winning debates.
As a result, our entire understanding of justice and equality has become twisted. It’s no longer a matter of pursuing the equal treatment under the law that Martin Luther King Jr. fought and eventually died for. It’s about fighting and hating the real and perceived source of that inequality.
We see it among both feminists and men’s rights activists who seek to demonize one another rather than promote gender equality.
We see it among racial and ethnic groups who seek to elevate themselves at the direct cost of another.
We see it among religious groups, sometimes within the same religion, who seek to dominate rather than cooperate.
These are antithetical to the message that Dr. King espoused. In his preaching and protests, he didn’t demand that one group be elevated over the other. He didn’t demand that oppressors suffer the same indignity as the oppressed to balance the scales of justice. He understood, probably better than anyone alive today, that fighting injustice with injustice still leaves us with the same amount of injustice.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
It’s not always the kind of obvious legal injustice that was so prevalent in Dr. King’s time. Today, injustice takes many forms. There are those who seek to actively punish those for daring to express thoughts that counter a popular movement that claims to seek justice. There are those who seek to shame others for not being affiliated with a movement or not going far enough.
We’re getting into dangerous levels of tribalism in that it’s becoming less about pursuing justice and more about being part of a shared agenda. Thanks to the internet, that’s becoming distressingly easy and the broader ideals of Dr. King’s principles seem to get lost under the weight of all the outrage.
In his tireless efforts, Martin Luther King Jr. fought for equality of treatment. He didn’t seek to elevate one group over the other, exchanging one form of oppression for another. He didn’t seek to destroy his opponents. He sought to make them friends and allies. He fought their hatred with love and their ignorance with wisdom. It wasn’t about winning a debate. It was about actually pursuing the spirit of equality.
That, more than anything, is the message we should heed in 2018. Pursuing equality doesn’t mean subduing opponents. It means standing with them on the same level, embracing what us similar and unique. We can never share the same outcomes in life, but we can share in the struggles.
In the end, pursuing equality requires a great deal of humility, as well as a genuine faith that people will embrace justice if you give them a chance. We’re giving ourselves fewer and fewer chances these days. In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and everything he stood for, we would all be wise to give ourselves those changes moving forward.
We all have dreams. Some of them are good. Some of them are bad. Some of them are sexy, which really helps when you’re an aspiring erotica/romance writer. Some people, however, are more ambitious with those dreams. Tomorrow, we’ll be celebrating one of those dreams from a very important dreamer.
Yes, I’m talking about the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. I admit it’s not the sexiest dream with which to build my weekly Sexy Sunday Thoughts, but it damn well ought to be. Certain dreams have a power that transcends sex appeal. They seek to go beyond simply tolerating one another and daring to love one another.
That was one of the most profound aspects of Dr. King’s message. He dared to channel love over hatred. He dared to dream of a world where people of all races and creeds shared in that love. The unapologetic romance fan in me can’t help but admire that dream. It’s one that I believe is worth celebrating.
Regardless of how you feel about Martin Luther King Jr. or his dream, his belief in love is something that’s worth celebrating. It’s also something that deserves a unique kind of sex appeal. As such, I’m proud to dedicate this week’s edition of my Sexy Sunday Thoughts to that move loving of dreams.
“There’s no such thing as a bad day that begins or ends with a blowjob.”
“Undressing someone with your eyes is just a less invasive form of foreplay.”
“Too much adrenaline during sex is like too much alcohol before riding a roller coaster. It’s bound to be messier than usual.”
“Trying to find a good spouse at a strip club is like trying to find a porn star without any tattoos in that it’s not impossible, but exceedingly difficult.”
“A bad pickup artist is the sexual equivalent of a telemarketer.”
“The natural sex appeal of a woman is directly proportional to how good she looks in a dirty hoodie.”
“The line between a sex addict and an orgasm enthusiast is exceedingly blurred.”
I hope these sexy musings help inspire greater dreams, among other things. Now more than ever, we should dare to dream of a sexier, more loving world. Whether it’s through writing sexy novels or using love to combat hate, that’s a dream worth pursuing and in the spirit of Dr. King, I urge everyone to dream big.
The following is a short, but sexy story that I wrote. My last short sexy story did surprisingly well so I’m going to see if I can make this a regular thing on this blog. If you enjoy this kind of content, please let me know. If you have any sexy suggestions for future short stories, please let me know as well. I’d love to hear those ideas.
For now, here’s another sexy short story that was inspired by my recent move. Enjoy!
“Wake up, little sister!” said an annoying, condescending voice that could’ve roused a corpse. “It’s after seven and you’re officially late.”
“Ugh! Damn it, Ray. It’s Saturday,” groaned Sarah Jones as she held a pillow over her head to block out the morning sun.
“I don’t care. I’ve got work. You’ve got errands. So long as you’re living in your generous, loving sister’s condo, you’re going to stick to a schedule.”
Sarah closed her eyes and buried her face in the arm of the couch, which also happened to be her de-facto bed. She tried willing her hard-ass older sister out of existence, but it was no use. She offered no mercy, pulling the blanket off her and ripping the pillow out of her grip. It was mornings like this where she hated that she’d inherited her mother’s looks while her Rachel got Dad’s strength.
Hit with a faceful of sun and an older sister’s penetrating gaze, Sarah groaned as she pulled herself up from the couch. Wearing a dirty T-shirt, old sweat pants, and the same underwear she’d worn to work for the past three days, she felt about as rested as a hung-over hobo. In some respects, it was a fitting metaphor for her life at this point.
“You must really hate me, Ray,” Sarah said as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “I know I suck as a sister, having to crash at your place after fucking my life up in ways that are entirely my fault.”
“Enough with the guilt trip, Sarah. You know I don’t hate you,” Rachel replied, rolling her eyes at her, “but even you have to admit you need a kick in the ass these days. It’s bad enough you dropped out of college to hook up with that high school crush of yours. But between staying with the guy after he cheated on you and letting him burn through your college fund on that failed video game company of his, you’ve got no high ground to stand on.”
“For your information, it was a software company,” Sarah muttered, as though that much it hurt any less.
“Doesn’t matter what it was. The point is now you’re waiting tables, your credit is shit, and you wasted mom and dad’s charity when you tried to get a payday loan on their car.”
“Which I apologized for a million times, by the way,” said Sarah.
“Too late for that. Mom and Dad gave you leeway and it burned them. I’ve worked hard and exercised infinitely better judgment than you so I’ll give you none. You want my help getting your life back together, this is the price you pay.”
Sarah felt inclined to cuss her sister out until next Christmas, but that only would’ve made her more smug and she couldn’t have that. She’d done enough to screw herself over these past few years.
Avoiding eye-contact with Rachel, Sarah pulled herself up from the couch and did her best to wake up. She tried fixing her messy hair and wrinkled clothes, but at this point in her life, she could only do so much to feel presentable. Having once been the hottest girl in school who had every opportunity given to her, all her bad decisions just made her feel ugly, by default.
As Sarah did what she could to look somewhat less pathetic, Rachel retrieved her purse and keys from the kitchen table. She was already dressed in her overpriced pantsuit, ready to pull some overtime at the law firm she’d been working at for the past five years. Between her makeup and more professional demeanor, it was painfully obvious which one of them had made the better life choices.
“I’ve left a list of errands on the fridge next to the wine where I know you’ll see it,” Rachel said as she checked herself in the mirror near the door. “I need you to go to the DMV to pick up the license plate for my new Mazda, swing by the farmer’s market to pick up supplies for the firm’s annual meeting, coordinate with the building manager open house in the unit across the hall, and take care of that big stack of laundry that’s still sitting in my bedroom.”
“That all sounds like very important work,” Sarah said dryly. “Want me to learn Mandarin and do your taxes while I’m at it?”
“Whatever you can do that’ll keep you on schedule and not making dumb decisions is fine by me,” her older sister replied. “Just do what I ask and I’ll have no reason to kick you out. It’s that simple.”
“Simple…right,” Sarah scoffed.
She’d heard that before. Those three words in that particular order might have been her least favorite words of all time. That was what her ex-boyfriend told her when he told her about some get-rich-quick scheme he’d conjured. That was what she told herself when she dropped out of college to pursue what she thought would be a less complicated life. Every time she heard or said those words, it led to another poor decision that she came to regret.
Rather than risk hearing those words again, Sarah dragged herself to the kitchen in search of something to wake her up. As annoyingly regimented as her sister was, Sarah couldn’t afford to push her buttons. If her sister kicked her out, then she would have nowhere left to go.
“Well, if I’m going to run off and be your personal errand girl, I’m going to need some coffee,” she said.
“Sorry, but this is the last batch,” said Rachel, holding up her travel mug as though it were a trophy.
“Please tell me you’re joking,” Sarah groaned. “Please tell me you’re just trying to kick my ass into gear again. I promise I won’t get mad this time.”
“Sorry, but when you’re busy and have a functional career, certain things slip your mind. Guess you’ll have to get some from the new neighbor across the hall and hope he’s a morning person.”
“Are you ever going to get tired of punishing me for being such a bitch in high school?”
“If I do, I’ll let you know if I do,” Rachel replied smugly. “Have a great day, little sis!”
Sarah shot her older sister a harsh scold, but she barely saw it. She was already out the door, on her way to drive her nice new Mazda to her well-paying job while her broke sister relied on public transportation to do all the menial chores she’d been given. It used to be so much easier to hate her sister, but Sarah just made it harder on herself with every bad decision, it seemed.
With Rachel gone, Sarah buried her tired face in her arms and muttered a string of curses that would’ve gotten her arrested if she’d said them in public. She would’ve loved to just crawl back on the couch, fall asleep, and try to regain whatever strength she could for her next shift at the restaurant. Unfortunately, her uptight older sister had given her a lot to do. If she wanted to even have a couch to sleep on, she had to get to work and pretend she wasn’t too miserable.
To do that, however, she needed coffee. There was no way she could be that alert on a Saturday morning without it. Not having the extra money for a latte, she decided to take her sister’s advice and check with the new neighbor across the hall of her sister’s condo. If she were lucky, he or she wouldn’t ask her to flagellate herself for extra creamer.
Not bothering to put on less scruffy clothes, she walked out the front door and to the condo across the hall. Still too tired to give too many damns about waking someone up, she knocked on the door.
“Please don’t be a mean, vindictive bitch who makes me feel like shit,” she said under her breath. “Just once…let me meet someone who doesn’t bust my ass for being a fuck-up.”
Sarah hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst. Knowing her luck, the neighbor was a friend of Rachel’s who conspired with her to make her sister miserable. Much to her surprise, though, the person that answered didn’t look like a vindictive bitch. In fact – and it might have been the grogginess talking – it looked like a handsome, attractive man with dark hair, a light beard, and no shirt to conceal a very masculine, very fit physique.
“Good morning,” he greeted. “Can I help you with something.”
“Um…I uh,” Sarah stammered, suddenly feeling stupid for wearing such unflattering clothes.
“Are…you okay?” he asked her.
“Coffee!” she said, her brain finally working again. “Uh…do you have any coffee? I’m kind of out and…”
She kept stammering like a drunk prom date, which was saying something because she was used to being the one that made the opposite sex stammer. The man, who must have been a very understanding prom date, just laughed and opened the door.
“Sure, I have coffee,” he said. “Come on in. I just brewed a pot.”
“Uh…thanks,” said Sarah. “I really appreciate it. I’m…having a rough morning.”
“I can tell,” he said as he made his way to the kitchen. “Rough night?”
“More like rough life for the past five years.”
“Well, coffee won’t fix it, but it’ll help.”
Sarah laughed. He didn’t say anything particularly funny, but she still laughed. It felt good to laugh, though. She hadn’t been able to laugh much these past few years. Screwing up and making bad decisions had that effect on someone’s sense of humor. Who knew that being around a handsome man could heal it so quickly?
Trying to regain what little composure she had to begin with, she followed the handsome man into the room. Near as she could tell, he had just moved in. Everything was still messy. There were boxes, pictures, and pieces of furniture strewn everywhere. However, it didn’t strike her as the reckless kind of messy. It came off as a productive kind of mess, the kind that hinted at a man who had his shit together.
“You’ll have to forgive the mess,” the man said. “I just moved in yesterday and I’m still unpacking.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. I’ve seen, lived, and made bigger messes than this,” Sarah said.
“Wow. It sounds like you’ve had an interesting life, Miss…”
“Sarah,” she said, “Sarah Jones.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m James Holt. I’m not new to this county, this state, or this county, but I am new to this condo. It’s actually the first condo I’ve ever had…not to mention the first home of my own that I’ve ever had.”
“Damn, then this mess is deceptive,” she joked. “It sounds like you’ve got your shit together, James.”
“Trust me, I’m still behind the curve.”
Sarah had a hard to believing that for anyone who’d managed to buy their own place and not have to rely on vindictive siblings for living space. However, he was so damn handsome in the early morning sun that she didn’t bother doubting him.
She continued admiring his masculine physique as he handed her a cup of fresh coffee. In the process, her fingers touched his hands. She swore it warmed her up more than the coffee. She did what she could to hide it though, smiling awkwardly at him and trying not to hint at how much he’d brightened her morning.
Standing in the middle of the messy condo, Sarah began sipping her coffee with him. She didn’t even mind that it had no cream or sugar. James seemed to prefer it black anyways. As such, she found herself wanting to align herself with his preferences.
Drinking the coffee helped keep the silence from getting too awkward. The heat from his earlier touch only intensified, though. Sarah worried that both the caffeine and her racing heart might get the better of her.
Searching for a distraction, her eyes drifted towards the only picture that had been hung on the wall. It looked to be a letter of sorts. When she looked a bit closer, though, she was surprised to see that it wasn’t just any kind of letter.
“Hey…is that a rejection letter?” she asked him.
“Yep!” James said proudly. “That, Ms. Jones, is the rejection letter I got from my dream school. I had my heart set on one college, I thought I did enough to get in, and then I got rejected.”
“You say all of that with a beaming smile. Am I missing something here?”
“Well, there is a context,” he said. “You see, that rejection was the turning point for me. When I read it, I thought my life was over. Everything I’d planned for in my life depended on me getting into that school. When I didn’t, everything fell apart. I became a total wreck for years after that, so much so my parents kicked me out of the house until I got my shit together. And God help me, I thank them every day for that.”
Sarah looked at him as though he were an alien who just sprouted a second head. He described the kind of situation that crushed spirits and shattered dreams. She knew those situations well because she’d endured plenty of them. Now here was a handsome man in the middle of a new condo, talking about it as though it were the greatest thing that had ever happened to him.
“I’m going to need more context, here,” Sarah said.
“There’s not much more than that, actually,” said James. “After being a wreck for a while, I got tired and did something about it.”
“And…that worked?” she said skeptically.
“Not immediately, but eventually,” he replied. “I got serious, joined the army, into a vocational program, and worked my way to an awesome job in IT. Granted, it was nothing like the plan I’d originally had for myself, but it still worked out. I basically fulfilled a dream I didn’t know I had and it’s all because I got rejected. Amazing, isn’t it?”
“Yeah…unbelievable,” Sarah said distantly.
She found herself walking up to the framed letter and touching it with her hand. In that overpriced frame, she saw the same crushed spirits that had plagued her over the past few years. Yet standing next to her, drinking a cup of coffee, was a handsome man who took that same frustration and turned it into something. It was nothing short of inspiring. It also made her want this man more than she’d ever wanted her morning cup of coffee.
She ended up only drinking half the cup before setting the mug aside. She then turned to face the handsome man before her, who kept admiring the framed letter like a trophy. He deserved to admire it too. It made her admire him even more.
“James, can I ask you something serious?” she said.
“Does it involve me getting you more coffee?” he said in a humored tone.
“No. It doesn’t. It’s really serious,” Sarah said strongly. “You claimed you were a total wreck…that everything in your life fell apart.”
“And I meant it,” he said.
“But it got better, right? When you put in the work, made the right decisions, and gutted out the frustration…it panned out in the end, right?”
“Well, yeah,” James said, barely pausing to give it any thought.
“And if someone else who was a wreck…someone who feels so pathetic every morning, relying on vindictive siblings and generous neighbors for help…put in that same work, do you believe it’ll pan out for them too?”
She might have been a bit too specific with that question. She probably revealed more about herself than she’d intended. That was something she usually avoided, especially in the presence of an attractive man. However, for James, she gladly made an exception.
“Well, without assuming too much about how you ended up the way you did,” he began.
“Hey!” Who said it was me?” Sarah teased.
“Sarah, be serious,” James said with a coy grin. “Being a wreck sucks. Being broken, lost, and down on your luck sucks. But if you put in the work, stop making excuses, and just push forward…then yeah, it’ll pan out. I believe that.”
“You’d believe that for a woman you just met?”
“What can I say? I have a good feeling about you.”
He moved in a little closer when he said those words, giving Sarah a good whiff of his manly scent. He smelled like he hadn’t showered, but had a long night and worked up a hell of a sweat. It was the kind of musk that sent every womanly instinct into overdrive. Not since her junior prom had her loins been so inflamed and that had been in an overpriced dress.
At that moment, Sarah found herself making a decision that might either be a big mistake or the first genuinely right decision she’d made in a long time.
“James, I know I just met you and you just placed a lot of faith in a woman who just drank your coffee,” Sarah said, “but I need to know one more thing.”
“Okay, I’ll do my best to answer,” he said, sounding intrigued and maybe a little flirtatious.
“If I kissed you right now with my morning breath…and maybe wanted a little more than that…would you stop me.”
The handsome man who’d welcomed her into his new home with coffee and hope grinned at her. She swore his smile lit up her broken soul like a Christmas tree. He must have been a morning person because he set his coffee mug aside and moved in closer, giving him a bigger taste of his manly presence.
“No. I wouldn’t stop you,” he said in a deep, manly tone. “In fact, I’d encourage you.”
“Good!” said Sarah. “Because that’s exactly the encouragement I need right now.”
With more energy than she’d ever had this early in the morning, Sarah threw her arms around James and captured his lips in a hard, messy kiss. His breath still smelled like coffee and toast. Hers probably smelled worse. She didn’t care and neither did he. Within seconds, their lips and tongues were entwined and eager.
From that kiss came more intimate touching. She eagerly explored his exposed upper body while he felt up her hips and waist. The fact he didn’t seem to mind her overly-casual attire only made him more attractive in her eyes. As they kissed and touched, she found herself leading him to a couch covered in unopened boxes.
Along the way, she slid off her shirt and took off her pants, leaving her in a pair of cotton panties. He followed suit, stumbling a bit as he pulled down the loose-fitting pants he’d probably worn to bed last night. Together, they fell on the messy couch, laughing and kissing in a playful outburst of morning lust.
“Oh James…encourage me. Embolden me,” Sarah said curtly.
“Yes, ma’am!” James said eagerly.
Like a man on a mission, he shoved aside some empty boxes to give them more room. Then, he swiftly removed her panties, leaving her fully nude on his couch. Showing the kind of drive she could only envy, he pushed her legs a part and went down on her, gorging on her pussy and filling her with blissful sensations that roused her more than all the coffee in the world.
“Mmm…so encouraging!” she purred.
The man had been hungry for more than breakfast. He must have worked up quite an appetite because she noticed him taking off his boxers while eating her out, revealing a very appetizing endowment. Sarah had encountered men with a propensity for morning wood, but never like this.
“Sarah…ready to feel bolder?” he finally asked her after getting her pussy nice and wet.
“Hell yeah!” she answered without hesitation.
With burning intent, James shot up from the floor and got on top of her. Sarah eagerly spread her legs, welcoming him onto the couch so that he was right on top of her. She even showed off a little flexibility, hitching her legs up over his shoulders so he could enter her with ease. Once in position, he delivered a single thrust and in an instant, her hot flesh parted and welcomed him into her domain.
“Oohhh James!” Sarah cried out.
From that blissful proclamation on, her world rocked. She felt his powerful grip on her hips as he delivered a steady succession of thrusts, working his rigid manhood within her depths. It was so smooth and seamless, as though her body had been waiting for something like this…a feeling to make her feel stronger, bolder, and more determined to rebuild her life. The fact it felt so fucking good was a nice bonus too.
As James made love to her, Sarah passionately raked her nails along his back, feeling the manly sinews of his upper body. There was such strength in his flesh…a strength that had helped him rebuild his wreck of a life. Now, here he was, making love to her. Maybe some of that strength would be imparted to her.
Whether that happened or not remained to be seen. She’d just settle for great sex and a damn good orgasm. That ended up happening sooner than she’d expected. Together, they rocked his couch under the light of the morning sun, their naked bodies moving together in a harmonious union. His touch, his breath, and his sex sent her down a path of ecstasy, one that culminated in the most satisfying climax she’d had in a long time.
“Oohhh fuck!” she gasped. “I’m coming, James. I’m going to…come!”
“Mmm…me too, Sarah,” James moaned.
The pace of their sex accelerated. His hips moved faster and her body rocked harder. After a few, focused movements, he sent her over that special threshold that separated her from her blissful peak. When it happened, Sarah clenched his shoulders, closed her eyes, and threw her head back in a cry of euphoria.
White hot pleasure soon followed, the orgasmic sensations rippling from head to toe. Along with that pleasure came a strength that she didn’t usually associate with sex, although she wouldn’t mind making such a connection.
As she enjoyed her pleasure, James got his. She couldn’t tell exactly when it happened. She just sensed it when his grip on her hips tightened, his grunts intensified, and his powerful manhood throbbed inside her, his pleasure echoing hers. Even while in her orgasmic daze, she took the time to admire the contentment in his eyes.
It was the look of a man who appreciated the struggle of rebuilding a broken life. In him, she saw someone who had walked the path she’d been trying to walk. In her, she hoped he saw someone who was eager to catch up.
As the orgasmic sensations settled, he lingered on top of her. Their bodies remained entwined in a naked heap, his hands still roaming her exposed flesh while she caressed his rugged complexion.
“Thank you, James,” Sarah told him. “Thank you for encouraging me…for making me feel like I can rebuild my life. Oh, and thanks for the coffee!”
“You’re welcome,” James laughed, “and thank you for the morning sex. I think I’m going to like being your new neighbor.”
These days, being an optimist is hard. In some cases, you’ll get laughed out of the room for not thinking the world is on a steady descent into a dystopian hellscape in the mold of “Mad Max,” “1984,” or “Idiocracy.” I don’t deny that current events, especially after the 2016 Election, have made optimism difficult. However, that’s exactly why it’s worth talking about.
I do consider myself an optimist, at heart. I sincerely believe that, on the whole, things are getting better for the world, the human race, and everything in between. I’ve even tried to make my case through personal experience and through empirical data. I don’t imagine I’ve changed too many opinions, but I still think it’s important to put that perspective out there.
With a new year upon us, I think that perspective is worth belaboring once more. This time, however, I’m not alone in my optimistic sentiment. There are others who share in my optimistic outlook. Some of those individuals are far smarter, far more accomplished, and far more charismatic than I’ll ever be.
By those standards, Steven Pinker checks all the necessary boxes. While he’s somewhat of a controversial figure in some circles, the man has some solid credentials. He’s an accomplished professor at Harvard and has written multiple books on issues ranging from language to psychology to human nature.
His seminal work, though, is his book, “The Better Angels Of Our Nature.” If you want a compelling reason to believe that the world is getting better by most measures, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s not just about looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Mr. Pinker provides real, verifiable information that the world is getting better and human nature is far better than we give it credit for.
Beyond his books and his famous TED Talks, Mr. Pinker continues to make his case for a more upbeat outlook in various ways. Recently, his work was cited in an op-ed article in the New York Times entitled “Why 2017 Was The Best Year In Human History.”
Granted, a title like that is a bit heavy on hyperbole, but the writer, Nicholas Kristoff, is dead serious in making that case. Link Mr. Pinker, he doesn’t just interpret all the ongoing trends in the world through the mind of a stoned hippie. He puts the state of the world into a context that goes beyond all the horrible headlines we saw in 2017.
He, and other optimists like him, tend to look at the broader trends in human society. The data is out there, but it’s hard to put into a compelling headline. That doesn’t stop men like Kristoff and Pinker from making a concerted effort, though.
We all know that the world is going to hell. Given the rising risk of nuclear war with North Korea, the paralysis in Congress, warfare in Yemen and Syria, atrocities in Myanmar and a president who may be going cuckoo, you might think 2017 was the worst year ever.
But you’d be wrong. In fact, 2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity.
A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell.
Again, these trends are hard to see and harder to report on because they don’t happen all at once. If tomorrow, all poverty was magically wiped out, that would be a big news story. However, human progress doesn’t work that way. It’s slow, gradual, and sometimes boring. It does happen, though. The events of 2017 were no exception.
Violent went down. Poverty went down. In fact, they went down to their lowest levels in modern history. Compared to a year ago, 5 years ago, or 50 years ago, the trends we saw in 2017 were all improvements by most objective measures. A lot of these trends are things Mr. Pinker has been talking about for years. Mr. Kristoff simply builds on them.
Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000, according to calculations by Max Roser, an Oxford University economist who runs a website called Our World in Data. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water.
For most individuals, these trends are difficult to notice. That’s largely because they’re driven by forces that most people don’t notice or understand beyond their personal existence. Even in a world that’s so connected and becoming more connected with each passing day, it’s easy to overlook this kind of progress.
It’s also a lot harder when the news is largely dominated by negative headlines that highlight how dissatisfied the general public is with the direction of society. Again, there is a context here and one that I’ve tried to point out before. It’s one of the first lessons I learned in college when interpreting media of any kind, be it the news or superhero comics.
The reason why all these negative headlines are headlines in the first place isn’t because they’re common. It’s because they’re so rare. Stories such as mass shootings, brutal murders, and war crimes make the news because they don’t happen every day. That’s why they qualify as news. They’re aberrations and not normal occurrences.
Conversely, good headlines rarely make the front page because they lack the same novelty and emotional impact as bad news. Naturally, people are going to react more strongly to a horrific headline because our survival instincts compel us to devote more energy to the bloodier, more dangerous information.
That’s why, even if 2017 was the best year in the history of the human race, our caveman brains aren’t going to process that because it’s so focused on all the negative news that came out over the past year. That news may very well be a tiny sliver of the events that transpired in 2017, but that news will still garner more attention, especially in the current digital economy.
We can still take comfort in the progress that happened in 2017, though. No matter how many negative headlines there were, that doesn’t undo the genuinely good things that transpired in the past year. Mr. Kristoff even went out of his way to provide an anecdote, of sorts, that highlighted just how much good can come from even the worst parts of the world.
Granted, this column may feel weird to you. Those of us in the columny gig are always bemoaning this or that, and now I’m saying that life is great? That’s because most of the time, quite rightly, we focus on things going wrong. But it’s also important to step back periodically. Professor Roser notes that there was never a headline saying, “The Industrial Revolution Is Happening,” even though that was the most important news of the last 250 years.
I had a visit the other day from Sultana, a young Afghan woman from the Taliban heartland. She had been forced to drop out of elementary school. But her home had internet, so she taught herself English, then algebra and calculus with the help of the Khan Academy, Coursera and EdX websites. Without leaving her house, she moved on to physics and string theory, wrestled with Kant and read The New York Times on the side, and began emailing a distinguished American astrophysicist, Lawrence M. Krauss.
Think about that story, for a moment, and reflect on how 2017 made it possible. Thanks to all the progress made in global communications, a woman in Afghanistan in 2017 was able to pursue opportunities that would’ve been impossible a mere 20 years ago.
This woman, despite living in one of the most war torn parts of the world, still managed to gain access to the kind of education and informational resources that were once reserved for aristocrats and academics. That, by any measure, is an astonishing accomplishment for humanity.
In many respects, 2017 was the best year ever because it continued the trends had been going on for years. As a result, more people have access to information, education, and the basic necessities of life than at any other point in human history. That, more than anything, is why it’s not unreasonable to say that 2017 was the best year ever.
The fact that concerns over celebrity scandals is a greater concern than poverty, war, or famine shows that we are making more progress than we think. It also bodes well for 2018 being an even better year than 2017. Despite what negative headlines may say, the human race is on an unprecedented winning streak and I hope, along with men like Mr. Pinker and Mr. Kristoff, that the streak continues into 2018 and beyond.
When I was in middle school, I had a particularly vindictive gym teacher one year who had a knack for breaking the spirits of pre-teens. If we forgot to wash our uniforms, failed to take our seats on time, or just farted too loud, we were given a choice. Either we had to run a mile or do 100 push-ups. We got to choose, but both choices sucked.
The real kicker was that if we didn’t choose, then the teacher would choose for us and would go out of his way to make that choice seem extra cruel. It was one of those situations where it really didn’t matter what we said or did. One way or another, we were going to suffer for our actions and inaction.
This brings me to this year’s Golden Globes. Bear with me. I promise that’s not as big a non-sequiter as it sounds. There’s a valid reason I brought up the story of my vindictive gym teacher and it ties directly into the ongoing social movement to combat the sexual misconduct of powerful men.
I’ve talked about this issue before and, to be honest, I wish I didn’t have to keep discussing it. I would much rather be telling sexy stories, sharing sexy thoughts, or discussing upcoming superhero movies. However, these issues surrounding sexual misconduct in Hollywood have an undeniable impact on the sexual landscape and as an aspiring erotica/romance writer, that’s not something I can ignore.
A lot has been said and done since the movement began in wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. There has been a great deal of outrage, complete with protests and hashtags. Powerful men have fallen. Careers and reputations have been ruined. Entire movies and TV shows have actually been changed, as a result of this effort.
In some respects, it’s a good thing and I have pointed out the silver linings. Men harassing or abusing women is not something a just society should overlook. This isn’t one of those irrational moral panics, such as Satanic ritual abuse or the impact of violent video games. These instances of men abusing women have happened and some of the accused have confessed.
However, this ongoing crusade against powerful men, as well as horny men in general, has walked a fine line between a pursuing justice and demonizing any man who ever dared to admire a beautiful woman. It’s not quite at the level of an old-fashioned witch hunt, but it’s already in that dark territory where passions obscure reality.
What happened at the Golden Globes might end up being the most telling sign of all. Initially, the big news for this event was positive. Some of the most prominent women in Hollywood, including Emma Watson and Oprah Winfrey, came together in a show of solidarity against the sexual victimization of women. They all wore black dresses and got behind the newly-created “Time’s Up” movement.
Like other movements before it, the intent is good. This movement seeks to provide legal defense and resources for those who have been victimized by sexual misconduct. That’s an objectively good thing, but that wasn’t the most revealing moment of the Golden Globes. Instead, the biggest message came from what was not said.
It has been reported by more than one outlet. While the women at the Golden Globes were quite vocal in their ongoing efforts to clamp down on sexual misconduct, the men were mostly silent. Other than a brief remark from Seth Meyers at the beginning and some men dressing in black, Hollywood’s male stars were largely silent.
To some, this is already very problematic. I imagine it’s going to stir quite a bit of outrage among those trying to further the movement. However, when you take a step back and look at the situation in which these men were in, their silence makes complete sense. In fact, those same women who are determined to combat the Harvey Weinsteins of the world may very well have made it their only option.
To understand why, think back to my vindictive gym teacher for a moment. That teacher understood that to break the spirits of powerless pre-teens, it was necessary to put them in a situation where their choices mattered less than the ugly gym uniforms the school forced them to wear. By establishing just how powerless they were, it made any effort to speak up seem pointless.
These men, as powerful and successful they may be, were in a situation not unlike the one my hapless classmates were in that year. There was nothing they could’ve said or done that wouldn’t have been deconstructed, dissected, or misconstrued. No matter what they said or didn’t say, it would be used to label them as enemies of the movement and of women, as a whole.
If one of the men stood up on that stage and gave an impassioned speech condemning Harvey Weinstein, then his reputation would suffer. He would be labeled a virtue signaling white knight who was compensating for something. After what happened to Joss Whedon, those concerns wouldn’t be unfounded. He may even still face condemnation among women for not speaking up earlier or naming other harassers.
If that same man stood up and tried to give an impassioned speech on the importance of confronting the issue responsibly, then he would likely have suffered condemnation similar to that of Matt Damon, who dared to question whether all harassment should be treated equally. Even hinting at such nuance would’ve earned that man the toxic label of a misogynistic victim blamer.
Essentially, the men at the Golden Globes knew they couldn’t win either way. No matter what they said, it would’ve been used against them or undermined their career, somehow. These men, as powerful and successful they may be, are still human, despite what Tom Cruise may claim. They want to protect their jobs and their reputations. They can’t do that if they get slapped with these toxic labels.
In the end, silence was their safest bet and that, in and of itself, reveals the extent to which this crusade against sexual misconduct has gone. It’s past the point where people can have reasoned arguments about the issue. Now, it’s all outrage and hyperbole. Either you’re completely on board with that outrage or you’re just as bad as Harvey Weinstein. There is no gray area.
That lack of gray area means men have to be silent, which is the exact opposite of what the women in the movement are trying to achieve. It’s ironic, but understandable. These men aren’t going to garner much sympathy. They’re rich, handsome, and successful. There’s only so much sympathy they can inspire, due to their position.
Silence is the only way to avoid the added scrutiny that would undermine a career. Silence is the only way to avoid saying something that might offend, enrage, or upset a public that has shown in recent times an uncanny unwillingness to ruin lives and reputations. It’s actually worse than censorship, when you think about it, because it is self-imposed rather than coerced.
The fact that the men didn’t speak up at the Golden Globes may or may not represent a tipping point, of sorts. If the anti-harassment movement has created an environment that’s so frail that silence is the safest recourse, then that same movement lacks a critical component it needs to succeed.
Like it or not, men need to be part of the conversation with respect to sexual misconduct. Silence on their part means the crimes, the culture, and the attitudes that fosters such misconduct won’t change. Moreover, their point of view cannot be discounted as virtue signaling or “mansplaining.” The fact remains that if people feel helpless, then they won’t care enough to make the effort.
Like the broken spirits of my old gym class, if the men don’t think their words matter or may be used against them, then it makes perfect sense for them to remain silent. Outrage, awareness, and condemnation alone is not going to inspire meaningful change in the dynamics between men and women.
Both sides actually have to listen to one another and feel their words actually matter. It’s only then when silence will no longer be the most preferred and logical recourse.