Category Archives: Love Or Obsession

How To Do Romantic Sub-Plots Right (And Why Some Fail)

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This will probably surprise no one who regularly visits this site, but I love romantic sub-plots. In many cases, they’re my favorite part of a movie, TV show, or comic book. I’ve made my love for romance in general fairly well-known, but romantic sub-plots offer a special kind of appeal.

Now, when I say romantic sub-plots, I’m not referring to the stories built solely around romance, like many of my novels. I’m referring to stories that are primarily presented as another genre, be it sci-fi, fantasy, or a blatant “Die Hard” rip-off, but include a secondary romantic story that runs parallel to the main story.

Sometimes, that story is subtle. Sometimes, it becomes a major catalyst for other parts of the main story. Sometimes, it just adds a little melodrama in between all the bigger, flashier conflicts. Watch pretty much any prime time show on the CW these days and you’ll see examples of every kind to some extent.

As much as I love these sub-plots, though, they can also be frustrating. For every romantic sub-plot I felt was handled well, I can think of five others that were horribly botched. On one end, you have the rich, balanced love story of Han Solo and Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. On the other, you’ve got the inherently toxic love story between Penny and Leonard in “The Big Bang Theory.”

There’s so much variety and diversity to romantic sub-plots that I could spend an entire weekend going through all of them. However, for the sake of making a more concise point, I want to focus on what makes a romantic sub-plot truly compelling. Regardless of genre, medium, or scope, a good romantic sub-plot can really enhance the overall plot.

Like every other sub-plot or storytelling tactic, though, romantic sub-plots are prone to all sorts of tropes, cliches, and traditions. Some are more useful than others. However, some can create obstacles and pitfalls that derail an otherwise promising romantic sub-plot.

While I don’t consider myself an expert on all the mechanisms that go into a good romantic sub-plot, I do know plenty of others out there who are far smarter than me and far more capable of explaining the subject in a more comprehensive way. They may not be experts either, but they know how to get the point across.

That’s where wonderful YouTube channels like Overly Sarcastic Productions come in. I’ve referenced it before in previous discussions about strong female characters, but it also provides other extensive breakdowns of various tropes and does it in a colorful, entertaining way, sometimes literally.

One such video in their Trope Talk series covers romantic sub-plots and the breakdown here is the best I’ve seen to date on what makes a good and not-so-good sub-plot. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you watch it. If nothing else, it should put some of your favorite and least favorite romantic sub-plots into a larger context.

There’s a lot of fast-talking, broad-based breakdowns of this trope, which the narrator freely admits she doesn’t fully understand. However, she demonstrates that she understands enough to point out what not to do when pursuing a romantic sub-plot on a fairly basic level. I want to go beyond basics.

The video singles out a few TV shows and cartoons where the romantic sub-plot falls flat, such as “The Legend of Korra” and “Castle.” In both cases, the sub-plot is very shallow in that it’s built entirely on the fact that a straight male and a straight female character work closely together. As such, they become romantically entangled.

Therein likes the most glaring problem, though. Just being two characters who work together is seen as sufficient to justify the sub-plot. As a result, there’s no effort to build meaningful chemistry between the characters. In some cases, there isn’t even an effort to establish whether they’re romantically compatible with one another.

This is probably the most common, not to mention the most annoying, problem that arises when romantic sub-plots enter a story. The sub-plot is given the bare minimum in terms of depth, relying on the audience to fill in the blanks as to why these two should be together.

This happens a lot in the superhero genre. Romantic sub-plots and soap operas are the cornerstone of some of the most iconic superhero comics, TV shows, and movies. One of the most epic examples, the Dark Phoenix Saga, is set to become a movie next year. However, I would argue that the superhero genre is most guilty of this common shortcoming.

Take, for instance, the first “Iron Man” movie and the romantic sub-plot between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. Never mind the fact that these two characters don’t have much of a romance in the comics. The first movie and the two successful sequels that follow do plenty to establish Tony and Pepper as the primary romance of the story. However, it does little to show why these two belong together.

The same thing happens with Thor and Jane Foster in the first two “Thor” movies. Unlike Iron Man, the comics establish a more robust romantic history between these two. The movies, however, do little to drawn from this history. They rely solely on the fact that Thor spends a little time around Jane, she’s attracted to him, and that’s all that’s necessary for the romance to unfold.

Again, it’s shallow in that it relies too heavily on the audience to fill in the gaps of chemistry and compatibility. For any functional romance, those gaps are pretty big. Just getting together is only a small part of that process and the story around it. Movies like “Thor” and “Iron Man” give the impression that just being around each other long enough is sufficient. These characters don’t have to actually work on their romance.

Compare that to the much more developed romances in the superhero genre, such as Barry and Iris in “The Flash” TV show. In that romance, just getting together isn’t the end of the story. It’s just part of it. Barry and Iris actually work, struggle, sacrifice, and even argue at times, but that’s exactly what makes their relationship so meaningful.

Outside the superhero genre, there are other ways the romantic sub-plot gets derailed in a way that’s more annoying than entertaining. I think “Friends” was one of the worst offenders with Ross and Rachel because almost the entirety of the sub-plot was built around them struggling to get together. Sure, the process of two people coming together can be compelling, but that can’t be the whole story.

Movies tend to struggle with it even more, but mostly due to logistical reasons. There’s only so much romantic development you can squeeze into a two or three hour movie. However, it can be done. Despite being brief and tragic, the sub-plot of Sarah Conners and Kyle Reese in the original “Terminator” movie showed that it is possible for a romantic sub-plot to be meaningful within those limitations.

Far more often, though, movies try to rush a sub-plot or outright force it. That’s part of what makes any romance hard to take seriously. In a movie like “Jurassic World,” where you have two very different characters in Claire and Owen, it really has to be forced because outside the plot of the movie, it’s hard to imagine these two having a meaningful relationship.

In some respects, that’s a good litmus test for any romantic sub-plot. If you can’t see the characters involved functioning outside the plot of the movie, then chances are the romantic sub-plot is fundamentally flawed. It’s easy to imagine iconic couples like Superman and Lois Lane, Cyclops and Jean Grey, or even Allie and Noah in “The Notebook” enjoying a functional relationship past the final credits.

Even for couples where it’s harder to picture them outside a conflict, it helps when a romantic sub-plot still puts in extra effort to make the romance believable. While this is a challenge in movies, TV, and comics, I’ve actually seen this handled a lot better in modern video games.

Romantic sub-plots are important elements of popular games like the “Uncharted” series. What makes that sub-plot effective, though, is how much time and energy is put into establishing why a man like Nathan Drake would be with a woman like Elena Fisher. It even goes out of its way to show how these two characters create a genuinely functional relationship towards the end.

While it might be a bit of a stretch, I would also cite the “Mass Effect” series that I’ve praised before in how well it handles romantic sub-plots. Now, it’s a stretch because the game is structured in a way where the player can choose a particular romantic sub-plot or choose to not have one at all. That makes the story a lot more fluid than a movie or TV show, but it still manages to create depth for a sub-plot.

That depth shows, regardless of which romantic sub-plot the player chooses. Whether it’s Shepard and Liara, Shepard and Ashley, or Shepard and Garrus, the game provides opportunities for depth and development. If you follow the sub-plot through to the end, the romance has genuine dramatic weight.

In the end, that’s the most important impact of any romantic sub-plot. When done right, it adds greater weight to the overall narrative. It creates an emotional dimension that goes beyond just achieving a goal or surviving a conflict. It fleshes out the emotions, passions, and desires of the characters involved.

Conversely, it can really disrupt the plot when done wrong. I’ve already covered how the worst love triangle in history derailed the X-men movies. Talk to any “Star Wars” fan and they’ll probably say the poor romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme was the most disappointing part of the prequels not named Jar Jar Binks.

To some extent, a romantic sub-plot is a gamble. It stretches the odds, but it also increases the payout. When it fails, it can fail pretty spectacularly. When it works, though, it can make for some of the most dramatic, passionate moments in a story. As an unapologetic romance lover, I say it’s a gamble worth taking.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, gender issues, human nature, Love Or Obsession, Marriage and Relationships, movies, romance, sex in media

Do Soul Mates Actually Mates Exist?

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When it comes to love, romance, and whatever else manifests in every song a boy band ever sang, the ultimate manifestation of this beautifully sentimental phenomenon is the soul mate. We’ve probably all heard about it in some form. Some are even lucky enough to be with someone that they consider to be their soul mate. Regardless of whether or not you care for the concept, we envy those people.

As a long-time romance fan and an aspiring erotica/romance writer, the ideal of the soul mate is the alpha and omega of the concept. It is to romance what Superman is to modern superheroes. It is the ideal to which we aspire. It embodies the ultimate example of what true love is and what we want it to be.

I’m not going to lie. That sort of thing makes parts of me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, among other things. Most people who enjoy romance to some degree probably feel the same way. The idea that two people have a love so strong that it’s practically interwoven into the fabric of time, space, and the basic laws of reality just feels so special.

It makes for both a great fantasy, full of more romance and passion than most can ever manage without seeing “Titanic” fifteen times in a row. It’s the kind of love that makes romances like Jack and Rose, Romeo and Juliet, and even Superman and Lois Lane seem ordained by destiny.

Now, here’s where I kind of have to put a dent in the time-honored fantasy. I know that’s kind of dangerous for a self-proclaimed romance fan, but I’m going to do it anyway because I think it’s a discussion worth having. It’s a discussion based on a simple question.

Do soul mates actually exist?

I know that me asking that after I just said it makes parts of me gush sounds like an about-face. I promise there’s a context to it and one that ties directly into how we go about answering this question. Whether or not you’re a romance fan, the ideal of the soul mate and our inherent drive to seek love makes it an important question to ask.

Before I give my answer, I need to add a few caveats to my fondness for the concept. Yes, it does resonate with me, somewhat, as an overall romance fan. However, as a fan of compelling stories and an aspiring writer, I actually don’t really care for stories built around the idea of soul mates.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think it’s a sweet concept. When I was younger and just starting to explore romance, I really liked those stories. As I got older, though, and my tastes in stories evolved, that appeal quickly waned. Whenever I read a book or saw a movie that ran with the concept of soul mates, it became somewhat of a turn-off.

That’s because from a narrative perspective, soul mates make for bland and shallow stories. If a couple are established as soul mates, then that basically renders any need to work or nurture their love moot. They don’t have to put in the time, work, or effort to become a great couple. Destiny and whatever supernatural forces behind their bond do that for them.

This is why I don’t care much for “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s established from the beginning that they’re “star-crossed lovers,” which is basically a more Shakespearean way of fate had ordained for these two to fall in love and there’s nothing anyone or anything can do to prevent it. Sure, it’s sweet and dramatic, but it’s a very limited story.

Those same limits that undermine a story are a major factor in answering the question. For someone like me, who follows romantic plots and sub-plots way closer than most straight men will ever admit, it shapes my perspective on what makes a great love story and what makes a real or fictional relationship strong.

Within that context, I’ll give my answer to the question. I don’t claim that this answer is definitive. This is just my opinion, having formed it from years and years of both consuming and crafting all things romance.

No. I don’t believe that soul mates are real.

I’m sure that’s tantamount to blasphemy for other romance fans out there. I understand that sentiment and I gladly accept the scorn that comes with that answer. However, I am willing to justify my answer.

It’s not just because I regularly write about the inherent flaws in the human brain, which make the prospect of achieving any ideal, be it perfect love or perfect justice, impossible by default. I think the concept, as a whole, does not fit with the whole process of love, at least as I see it.

Whether it’s love in the real world or love in sexy novels, falling in love and being in love is an ongoing phenomenon. It takes many forms and plays out in many ways, sometimes chaotically and sometimes dramatically. That’s part of what makes it such an appealing narrative.

Some of the best manifestations of that process, which I’ve gone out of my way to highlight, occur when two people work together to build and strengthen their love. They work together. They fight together. Sometimes they even clash, along the way. There’s never an endgame in mind. Their love is something that builds and evolves day-by-day.

In the real world, we see that play out in the work people put into their relationships. Whether it’s scheduling a sex night or going on some romantic getaway to Fiji, people in love put work into that love. It’s not something that just happens. For that feeling to remain strong, it takes time, effort, and understanding.

With soul mates, there’s no process to love. It just happens. The universe basically commands it. There’s no reason to put any work into it because those involved are so made for each other that they couldn’t drive each other apart if they tried. That kind of love doesn’t just rely on supernatural forces. It relies on two people’s thoughts, feelings, and desires being perfectly compatible every second of every day until the end of time.

Given the chaotic nature of the human mind, that’s just not realistic. It’s not even that romantic, when you think about it. I don’t deny that there are particular moments, such as a wedding day or the first time a couple makes love, where they’ll feel in that moment that they are soul mates. I don’t deny that feeling exists. As for the larger concept, as a whole, I think that’s about as real as Superman holding a black hole in his hand.

So I guess my answer does have a bit of a caveat. I do believe there are moments when two people are so in sync, emotionally and romantically, that they fit the mold of soul mates. Those same people can go onto break up, get divorced, or cheat on each other. That’s just the chaotic, unceasing nature of human passions.

Again, my answer to this question is anything but definitive. Perhaps there are other romance fans out there who believe I’m dead wrong and that soul mates do exist. If you feel that way, I’d be happy to discuss that issue in greater detail. For now, I simply ask that all those reading this contemplate that question and answer it for themselves.

Even if you’re not big on romance, it’s a question worth answering. It reflects both our sentiments and our aspirations when it comes to seeking love. As someone who is currently single, writes sexy stories, hopes to fall in love one day, I imagine I’ll continue contemplating this question for years to come.

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Filed under Love Or Obsession, Marriage and Relationships, sex in society, sexuality

Sex Education Vs. Love Education: Why We Need More Of The Latter

Talk to most teenagers about the awkward moments of their lives and they’ll usually agree on a couple themes. Puberty did all sorts of weird things to their bodies, talking about sex with parents is very uncomfortable, and there’s no easy way to explain certain stains in your underwear.

Even adults who survived their teenage years would agree. That jarring transition from kid to adult is fraught with all sorts of challenges, obstacles, and exceedingly embarrassing moments. I’m not just talking about awkward boners either. It’s overwhelming, so much so that we often need guidance, even though most never admit to seeking it.

This is a big reason why sex education is so difficult, which I’ve discussed before. At least parents, teachers, priests, and poorly-produced after school specials tried to teach kids about these topics. Sure, some of it was misguided and misleading, but at least it wasn’t ignored.

There was one particular topic, which happened to be closely related to sex, that rarely got mentioned. In fact, it was only ever hinted at indirectly, if not overlooked purposefully. It might very well be the greatest oversight that school, parents, and society have committed, short of informing teenagers that pictures of their genitals are never secure.

It has to do with love. No, I’m not talking about the kind we make in a bedroom or within my sexy novels. I’m talking about the real, sincere love that most of us only know from old Beatles songs. Yes, I realize that sounds cheesy as hell, but that’s exactly my point.

Growing up, talking about sex was awkward and uncomfortable. It evoked all sorts of giggles, jokes, and crude remarks, often with respect to certain aspects of human anatomy. At least we talked about it. At least we acknowledged that it’s there and it’s something adults at least try, albeit haphazardly, to teach us about.

The same can’t be said for love. In some respects, talking about love is even more taboo than talking about sex. There was never a class about love. There was never an open discussion about what it meant, how it felt, and how to approach it. We, as hormonal teenagers, were left to figure it out on our own. That already leads to all sorts of problems with sex. Why wouldn’t the same apply to love?

Unlike sex, though, the silence on love has nothing to do with the agenda of religious zealots, government bureaucrats, or parents too horrified to think about their children getting naked. It had more to do with our attitudes, as teenagers.

I don’t know how it is now, but when I was a teenager, I hid the fact that I enjoyed romance. In many ways, my love of comics provided a shield since comics have all sorts of great romance stories. If someone found out I read comics, that wasn’t too big a deal. Liking comics wasn’t too taboo, but liking romance was different.

To enjoy romance, especially for a man, was to be a sissy. It was like there was something wrong with you to actually be into that sort of thing. Just talking about love made you less manly. Never mind the fact that men have done some insanely manly things in the name of love. Just being a fan of love and wanting to explore it was akin to dressing up in bunny pajamas and going to a Metallica concert.

For women, it was somewhat easier, but not by much. Girls were more expected to be into love and melodrama, but that came at a cost too. I knew girls in high school and college who got a lot of crap for being too sentimental, so to speak. Whenever they would talk about love, I could actually see others rolling their eyes and secretly wishing they could mute their friend.

In any case, talking about love was just something that seemed uncool, lame, or insipid. Never mind the fact that everyone seeks love, on some level, and that it goes onto become a major driving force in our lives, just like sex. We just didn’t talk about it and were expected to know it when we felt it.

That, unfortunately, was the most anyone ever dared teach me about love. It was the advice I got from parents and relatives. It was the advice I got from teachers. They would tell me the same things.

“Love is just one of those things you’ll know when you feel. Trust me!”

Now, I trust my parents and teachers with a lot of things. For the most part, the advice my parents give me is pretty damn good. When it comes to love, though, their advice felt empty and unsatisfying.

To some extent, I suspect they said that because even they didn’t know. I doubt they got an education on love, even if they got an education on sex. It’s also worth remembering that our concept of love and actually marrying for it is fairly recent. However, that doesn’t make the lack of insight any less jarring.

Even as a kid, I wanted to learn more about love, but had no idea how to go about it or who to talk to. I suspect others felt the same, but didn’t want to bring it up because it was just too uncool. I ended up learning most from comic books, TV shows, and movies like “Crazy/Beautiful.”

While those offered some insights, you generally don’t want to learn too much from mass media. That’s why we have an ongoing issue about kids learning about sex through porn. It’s also why we, as a society, don’t trust movies to teach teenagers how to drive. We understand mass media is going to horribly skew reality. However, we seem okay with letting it teach us about love.

Naturally, that’s going to cause problems. There are any number of doomed or toxic romances that the media loves to convey as romantic ideals. At least with sex, given the physical elements involved, it’s a bit easier to figure out you’re doing something wrong. Usually, your partner will tell you. With love, though, its a bit harder.

How do you know your understanding of love is healthy or even feasible? How do you know that your concept of love isn’t misguided or flawed? How do you even go about pursuing love, forging intimate bonds, and working with someone to strengthen that bond?

Those are not rhetorical questions. Those are actual questions that never get asked, let alone answered. Humans are a very emotional species. Love is among the most powerful emotions any human can feel. To not talk about it is akin to ignoring that at least half your body is on fire. At some point, the burning becomes too intense.

I don’t deny that our current standards for sex education have room for improvement. However, we haven’t even contemplated standards for education about love. Like our desire for sex, love is one of those innate human feelings that we cannot and should not turn off. It shouldn’t be one of those issues that’s uncool to talk about. It sure as hell shouldn’t be one of those issues that we ignore, especially for young people.

In a sense, though, maybe this is one of those rare issue where adults and teenagers are on the same page. Neither can claim to have a firm understanding of love. That may mean we have to learn and teach it together, but as an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I can think of few things more worthy of learning.

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Filed under gender issues, Love Or Obsession, Marriage and Relationships

How Some People Get Bored With Sex (But Not In The Way You Think)

I’ve talked a lot about the crippling effects of boredom, as well as its potential to become a plague in a future. Make no mistake. It is a powerful force, one that has led to at least one ghastly murder in the modern era. That means it’s more than powerful enough to effect our sex life.

It’s something I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, but I haven’t found the right context yet. I don’t want to just talk about how boredom may one day render sex as dull an affair as getting your tires rotated. Considering few, outside of those with a serious car fetish, ever achieved orgasm through general automotive care, extracting the impact of boredom on sex requires a special approach.

Unlike that toy you got sick of as a kid or that brand of cereal that just doesn’t do it for you, sex is a major biological imperative. In the same way you can’t get bored with surviving a bear attack, you can’t necessarily get bored with sex in the same way. That’s not to say boredom doesn’t find a way. It just has to be sneaky about it.

That brings me to an article out of Germany from Deutsche Welle, which explored the reason why men lose their sex drive as they age. It may seem like one of those obvious issues that doesn’t need much thought. It makes sense that men will lose their sex drive as they age. Pretty much every other bodily function declines as we age so why not our sex drive?

This is where I give credit to the Germans for something other than beer and bratwurst. They try to break down the components of this seemingly-obvious idea that our interest in sex declines as our bodies decline and we get more prone to boredom, among many other things. What they describe is somewhat revealing.

But what if you are bored of sex, bored of all the humping, grinding and groaning, the bad breath and false teeth, and the pretending you’d rather do this in that way than watch the footie, or, I don’t know, clip your toe nails?

Don’t laugh: it can happen.

A study published in 2017 by BMJ Open reported that 15 percent of men and 34 percent of women among the participants had experienced “a lacking interest in sex.” This was based on a survey of 4839 men and 6669 women, aged between 16 and 74, in opposite-sex and same-sex relationships.

Now, the numbers are not all as straight forward as that. There are various reasons why people lose or lack interest in sex, and not all of them are about age, but they are similar for men and women.

For instance, if you’ve experienced what the researchers call “non-volitional sex” or if you’ve had a sexually transmitted infection, you may lose interest. Being unemployed is downer too. Interestingly, though, retired women were “less likely to lack desire.” Also, and this is odd, having sex will actually lower your interest in it. Who said sex gets better with practice, hey? Instead it sounds like laying off and getting some kip will do you wonders.

The bold parts are my doing. I wanted to single those out because they highlight some variation among certain individuals and not just in terms of how much blood they can direct into their genitals. Life experiences, for better and for worse, can very much affect how we view the world, which includes sex, romance, and boredom. Certain experiences are more influential than others, to say the least.

This is where the article gets a little coy, mentioning both the late Hugh Hefner and societies with more uptight attitudes towards sex. On one end, you have Hugh Hefner, who lived well into his golden years having sex with beautiful women a third his age. On the other, you have people who have been taught about sex through scare tactics and conditioned to see it as some crippling addiction to be overcome.

Hugh Hefner Gründer Playboy Magazin Bunnies (picture alliance / Globe-ZUMA)

Needless to say, those wildly varied experiences are going to produce equally varied results, if not more so. Hefner, whether by natural endowment or just being surrounded by so many beautiful women, didn’t get bored with sex. Age didn’t slow him down as much as it required him to get creative. Given how great a motivator sex can be, that makes sense.

It makes just as much sense that someone who has had negative experiences with sex will also be likely to avoid it or get bored with it quicker. To them, sex isn’t just this fun activity you can do in a hot dub with a bunch of Playboy Playmates. It’s this big, stressful ordeal that everybody tells them should be stressful. As a result, we tend to get bored more readily, if only to avoid the stress.

This is the key in understanding how certain people get bored with sex and lose their desire. That’s not to say that if we all lived Hugh Hefner’s life, as though our imaginations aren’t lurid enough, we would never lose our sexual prowess. It’s more a matter of how we condition ourselves.

Some of it is physical. Hefner was in great shape for a man his age. Being surrounded by beautiful women and working so hard to become the epitome of the Playboy lifestyle has a way of keeping a man motivated to be healthy.

Some of it is mental, as well. Attitudes go a long way towards influencing how we see ourselves, how we act, and how others react to us. When our thoughts and attitudes about sex are shaped by the prudish proclivities of the FCC and the Vatican, they’re going to shape how we approach those ideas, even if they are hard-wired into us.

When we see something as stressful and daunting, it’s going to require more of our energy, even if we need it to survive and propagate. Eventually, we’ll get tired of that stress and output, more so than the act itself. In a sense, it’s not so much that people get tired of orgasms. They get tired of what they have to do to get them and how they have push themselves to do it.

There are cases, such as those with serious health problems, that can’t avoid that kind of stress. Those cases are tragic, but it’s the mental cases, which are more directly influenced by boredom, that are their own tragedy. The sheer variation of how people conduct themselves sexually as they age is proof of that. The article even touched on it.

Men don’t experience a menopause, as women do in the 40s or 50s, but the lower testosterone levels are cited as a reason why older men have fewer orgasms – from an average of three per week in a man’s 20s to less than one a week in his 60s.

But this is no “hard and fast” rule. Plenty of men and women continue to enjoy sex well into their 70s and sometimes into their 80s. And we haven’t even touched on masturbation. You may find that comforting.

Again, the bold parts are my doing. I apologize if they evoke mental images that you could’ve done without, but those images of wrinkly bodies and sweaty liver spots should help emphasize the point I’m trying to make here.

It is possible for people to sustain their interest in sex over a long period of time. It’s also possible for people to get bored with it, but that boredom often has a larger context with larger implications.

It’s sure to become more obvious as we live longer lives and are better able to overcome the physical limitations that keep us from having sex in our 90s, as the pharmaceutical industry has shown. It will likely become a larger issue for couples and individuals alike. Whatever happens in the battle against boredom, I intend to continue fighting it with this website and my sexy novels.

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Filed under gender issues, Love Or Obsession, Marriage and Relationships, War on Boredom

How To Flirt Better (According To Science)

Whether you’re a man, woman, or something in between, you’ve probably done your share of flirting. Like learning to walk, ride a bike, or get out of jury duty, it’s one of those things you instinctively do once you become an adult. Compared to riding a bike, though, flirting can be much more dangerous/frustrating/hilarious.

As someone who spent most of his life hindered by crippling social awkwardness, I’ve often been frustrated by the act of flirting, mostly because I was so bad at it. Then, as someone who aspired to be an erotica/romance writer and tell sexy stories, I gained a greater understanding of it and why I was so bad at it in the first place.

When you think about it, learning to flirt is part of our evolutionary destiny. Surviving childhood is a hard enough challenge, but those that do now have to deal with their next major biological imperative, which is reproduction. Part of that process involves finding someone who wants to have sex with you. For some, surviving a bear attack is less daunting than that process.

It certainly has been for me, at times. I am by no means an expert on flirting or one of those self-proclaimed pick-up artists. I’m just someone whose social skills are behind the curve, but is working to improve them, often through telling sexy stories. I’m not saying I’m on my way to becoming the next Hugh Hefner, but I’m making an effort to show that I have something to offer to the opposite sex.

Being the romantic I am, I believe everybody has something to offer, although not everyone is good at conveying it. That’s why, as a service and an effort to help those avoid my hapless social life, here are some flirting tips that have some science to back them.

Most of these tips were compiled on an article from Bustle. I’m not saying the science is perfect, but it passes the Simpson Filter and the various forms of caveman logic that I’ve discussed. There may be other tricks I don’t know about. There are probably men who are much better at employing these skills than me or most people. At the very least, they can serve as a guide for those seeking love, sex, or both.


Flirting Tip #1: Pay Attention (And Draw Attention)

This one is basic common sense, but there are some caveats to keep in mind. Yes, attention is the first and, arguably, the most critical step of any flirtation. There’s a reason it’s value is growing in the current economy.  However, when it comes to flirting, attention is only one side of the coin.

Beyond just making eye-contact with the person you’re flirting with, you need to keep drawing their attention as well. It can’t just be because you’re the one talking. Drawing attention means giving the other person a reason to pay attention to you. It doesn’t have to be a huge reason. You don’t have to slay a dragon or fight Floyd Mayweather. You just need to prove that you’re interesting.

That might be easier for some more than others. If you’re a boring person, then that’s a challenge. If you’ve got something in your life that is strange, unusual, or intriguing, then you’ve got an advantage and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it.


Flirting Tip #2: Smile, Be Open, And Welcome Someone In

This is also common sense, but it’s also one of those things people of both genders only do halfway. Smiling is regularly cited as one of the best flirting tactics of all time, but it’s only part of a much larger process and too many people don’t bother finishing that process.

You can’t just stop at smiling. You have to be open and willing to let someone into your world. I know that sound dirty, but it’s not limited to a sexual sort of way. If someone is open to being with you, then you need to show that you’re open as well. Smiling is a great way to signal that you’re open for business and not just in your pants, but it shouldn’t be the only way.

Let someone know you want to be loved. Let them know you want to take a chance on them too. If that person is open to being loved, then there’s a good chance they’ll act on it. If they don’t, then don’t waste your smile on them.


Flirting Tip #3: Give Compliments (But Not Just On Beauty)

This is something that a lot of people screw up, myself included. Giving compliments is great, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. I’m sorry to admit that for much of my early life, I did things the wrong way. I gave girls compliments, but they were very shallow. I said they looked nice or sexy. They would often smile back, but not much else and I could hardly blame them.

I learned later in life that if you’re going to compliment a woman, her looks shouldn’t be the first thing you compliment. It doesn’t matter if she has tits like Pamela Anderson or an ass like Jennifer Lopez. It also doesn’t matter if a man has the face of Hugh Jackman and the abs of Channing Tatum. Those people get compliments all the time on their looks. To really stand out, you need to compliment something else.

Sometimes it involves a book they’re reading, a sport they’re playing, or TV show they’re watching. Every person has their quirks. When you compliment those, you compliment someone on a deeper level. That’ll get their attention. From there, you can get to work on heating up their loins.


Flirting Tip #4: Make Someone Laugh And Relax

Laughter isn’t just the best medicine. It’s also a great way to bond once you’ve gotten past the point of getting each other’s attention. In a sense, getting attention is the easy part. Holding it with someone is the real challenge. That’s where jokes come in.

Making someone laugh makes you more likable. Being likable means they want to be around you more. Being around you more will let them know whether you’re worth loving. The more you make them laugh, the more you tip those odds in your favor.

It can’t just be crude dick jokes either. Those only go so far. Even in high school, that stuff isn’t enough to get you a date. Making someone laugh isn’t just about entertaining them. It’s about making them feel relaxed. By being relaxed, they’ll be more comfortable around you. By being comfortable, they’re more willing to take their clothes off. It’s logic at its most simple.


Flirting Tip #5: Be Poised, Be Confident, And Lie To Yourself (But No One Else)

Poise often goes hand-in-hand with confidence, but they don’t always have have to be mutually exclusive. Confidence is critical in any successful flirtation. Contrary to what every teen movie ever said, being pitiful is never attractive. Most people don’t fall in love or have sex out of pity.

That’s why being confident is so important. That’s also why sometimes you have to lie to yourself about your confidence level. It may sound crude, but it is one of those things that you can fake until you make. In fact, you can use caveman logic to your advantage. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between fake confidence and real confidence so take advantage of that bug.

In doing so, however, you have to be careful not to give a false impression to the person your flirting with. If you lie to them about the kind of person you are, then that means either becoming that person or having to keep lying. In the end, that’s more stress than it’s worth. It’s also a dick move and most people don’t appreciate that kind of flirting.


Flirting Tip #6: Invite Soft Touching (To A Point)

Being a natural hugger, I can attest to the power of touch. There is some science behind it as well. Even light touching is enough to send the sexy parts of someone’s brain into overdrive. It’s another instance where you can get caveman logic to work in your favor.

Now, this can be risky because touching someone when they don’t want it can get you into all sorts of trouble, especially these days. It’s more so for men, but it’s also something women struggle with as well. It’s not always easy to discern a loving touch from the kind of touch that Ted Bundy might give. That’s why it’s best to keep things soft and subtle.

If at any point, the touching gets heated, then by all means, go for it. Let that touching take you and your prospective lover across the rainbow bridge into paradise. However, you have to make damn sure you don’t jump the gun. You’ll save yourself and your lover more awkward moments than they care to deal with.


Again, I would like to re-emphasize that I am not a dating expert, nor am I a professional pick-up artist. If I were, I’d be charging a lot more for these tips and be a lot less honest about it. The fact that I’ve inconvenienced myself, a major indicator I’ve noted before, to the point where I would write out these tips and give them for free should be proof enough of my sincerity.

Even if I’m not an expert, I dedicate a lot of time and energy into writing sexy stories and crafting sexy scenarios to entertain and arouse. Issues like flirting are things I have to research, explore, and learn about to make my writing as sexy as possible. If it can help other people in the real world get lucky in love or sex, then that’s just a nice bonus.

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How To Tell If Someone Is Serious (About More Than Love)

In every great love story, be it a play from Shakespeare or a terrible Hugh Grant movie, there’s usually a point where one or both aspiring lovers asks a simple question.

“How serious is he/she about loving me?”

It’s not an unreasonable question. You could argue that it’s one of the most important questions any lover can ask that doesn’t involve a marriage proposal, meeting their partner’s parents, or elaborate role playing during sex. I would tend to agree with that argument.

In addition, that same question is often asked, albeit in a slightly less romantic context. At some point in our lives, we encounter someone who has all these ambitious goals. They want to become a famous singer. They want to become a famous movie star. They want to protest the injustices that every straight, white, cis-gendered male ever committed throughout all of human history.

The scope and extent of those goals vary, but most will come off as dead serious about them. They’ll claim they want to achieve these goals every bit as much as two lovers seeking to vindicate their love. Since the stakes are so high, involving love and people whose goals may help/hinder/frustrate our own, it’s an important question to answer.

There are many who claim to love someone with all their heart, only to cheat on them. There are those who claim to oppose a particular injustice, but turn out to be total hypocrites. In general, we want to know how serious these people are before they become an unflattering meme on social media. It spares everyone in our lives more heartbreak in the long run.

So how do you sift the potential hypocrites from the potential allies/spouses? Well, I have a method. I’m not saying it’s a perfect method. It’s just something I’ve noticed in writing sexy novels and exploring romantic themes. Feel free to incorporate it as part of your own. It’s simple and doesn’t require you to invest in any elaborate life coaching. It only requires that ask and answer one additional question.

“How much is he/she willing to inconvenience themselves?”

It’s a more specific question to answer. The first question can’t be answered without reading someone’s mind. Since we haven’t perfected that technology yet, although we’re working on it, we have to stick with something more practical.

In my experience, the most telling signs of someone’s sincerity comes largely through what they do when compared with what they seem willing to do. They’ll never say it out loud. They may never even get asked. It’ll show in subtle ways, though. If you can see the signs, then you’ll get a rough idea of just how serious this person is.

Here’s a quick example that comes right out of one of my novels. In “Passion Relapse,” the main character, Mary, went out of her way to reach out to Peter from the beginning. Doing so was only a mild inconvenience, at best. However, it didn’t stop with just reaching out to him. She went out of her way to build more connections with him and he returned the favor.

Mary’s actions made clear that she was serious about forging a meaningful connection with Peter. If you want to know how meaningful (and sexy) it got, I highly recommend you buy the book. It’ll make my point that much clearer and make you horny.

For a more classic example, look at the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Specifically, look at how far out of his way Han Solo went for Princess Leia. He got paid a lot of money for saving her, but then he came back, risked his life, and helped the Rebels destroy the Death Star.

He went even further than that, though. He ended up getting frozen in carbonite, but still went onto love her. That’s not just dedication. That’s real, honest love. Ladies, if a man is willing to get frozen in carbonite for you after you gave him a lot of money, then he’s a keeper.

Contrast this with a character like Zach Crenshaw in my book, “Skin Deep,” or someone like Cal Hockley in “Titanic.” They never say it outright, but their selfishness says it for them. They refuse to go out of their way for others, unless it benefits and/or harms them directly. They’ll even resort to violence and make terrible excuses to justify it.

In real life, it’s not as obvious, but still plenty apparent. It often crosses my mind whenever I see politically correct types protest about overly sexy advertising or uptight religious zealots complaining about who or how many other people we’re having sex with. Sure, it’s still annoying, but you can surmise the sentiment indirectly.

These same politically correct types may complain about a sexy female character in a video game, but they won’t say a word about real horrific injustices that actual women endure in other countries. Those same religious zealots may complain, but they’ll never fly to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and try to actually stop these people from doing all the sinful things they love to do. That would be both hard and inconvenient.

That’s usually the most telling sign. If someone is not willing to inconvenience themselves, be it for love or for a goal, then that shows they’re not as serious as they claim. Sometimes, they’ll just say what others think they want to hear. They’ll even virtue signal to make themselves feel better about what they’re not doing.

Think of this next time you see some protest on a street corner. Think of it next time you find yourself with someone that you think you could build a life around. Will they be like Han Solo and willingly freeze themselves in carbonite for you instead of paying off Jabba? Will they ditch you on a sinking ship the second they get the chance like Cal Hockley?

You can’t always answer those questions directly, but you can look for clues. If you find out that the person you’re dealing with isn’t willing to be too inconvenienced, then chances are they’re not going to be serious with you, their goals, or damn near anything that would hinder their ability to binge-watch the new season of “House of Cards.”

It may be hard to distance yourself from those people, especially if they’re family members, but the sooner you know, the sooner you can be proactive. You don’t want to find out on the deck of the Titanic that the person you’ve placed your love and trust in can’t be too inconvenienced to share their life vest.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Love Or Obsession, Reasons and Excuses

On Love, Brain Hacking, And The Future Of Monogamy

Picture the moment, if you can, even if you’re a hopeless cynic. It’s your wedding day. The weather is perfect. Everyone in your family is present. You’re wearing the most overpriced clothes you’ve ever worn and you’re about to marry someone you love with all your heart.

Whether you’re a man or woman, you’ve probably contemplated that moment. It’s one of those beautiful moments that the entire wedding industry is built on. You’re standing at the altar in front of friends, family, and whatever deity you want involved. You’ve found the love of your life. You believe, with your heart, brain, and genitals, that this is the only one for you.

I’m not denying the beauty of that moment. I’ve been to my share of weddings. It’s a special moment for a great many people. Even I’ll admit I’ve gotten choked up at those moments. It’s the culmination of a journey, one that plays out both in real life and in sexy novels. Two people find each other, fall in love, and commit to one another. It’s seen as the pinnacle of romance and the ultimate ideal of love.

It’s also, and I say this as a fan of love, an ideal that tends to fall apart once that moment has passed. Statistics about divorce and the frequency of sordid affairs is proof enough of that. There are a select few who manage to avoid these odds and hold onto that moment. It’s couples like that who inspire romantics like myself to try to capture that in sexy stories. It’s the fact they’re so rare, though, that makes those moments so frustrating.

For once, there’s no elaborate science or hidden secret to this phenomenon. Most people understand on some levels that those feelings we have on our wedding days when we believe with all our hearts that we’ve found the love of our lives are a gamble. At worst, though, they may be fleeting and we all know why.

No matter how certain or passionate you might be about your lover, there’s always an unavoidable uncertainty that goes along with that feeling. On that particular day day, you may know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love your spouse with all your heart and they love you back. It’s the many days after that are the problem.

Maybe on the very next day, you cross paths with someone else who evokes even more intense passions than your spouse. It doesn’t matter if they’re a bartender, a stripper, or a sexy ski instructor. You have no idea what kind of passions you’ll feel until you meet them.

The same goes for your spouse. Maybe on the morning after your wedding, they go out for a walk and just bump into someone that they fall in love with on the spot. In an instant that you never could’ve predicted or prevented, that ideal love you thought they had for you is either dented or shattered.

It’s a painful, but sobering thought. You really can’t control who you and your lover will meet, nor can you control how either of you will react. You can barely trust your own emotions, at times. It’s even harder to trust with certainty that someone else’s emotions will remain in line with yours.

It leads to all sorts of heartache, from bitter divorce to Taylor Swift songs. It incurs the kind of personal pain that can shatter hearts, souls, genitals, and everything that goes with it. No matter what we do, even when we resort to open relationships, it never seems to stop. We want that ideal moment at our weddings, but we can’t avoid the potential soul-crushing heartbreak it may lead to down the line.

Now, I’m sure all those reading this, regardless of whether you’re married, single, or living in a hippie commune where orgies happen every Sunday, are feeling a bit conflicted. Don’t worry. That’s normal. It’s that conflict between wanting to find love and risking soul-crushing heartbreak that’s at the heart of every great romance. However, I’d like to complicate it even more.

Go back to that special moment on your wedding day. What if, before you and your spouse walked down the isle, you had another little ceremony of sorts? In that ceremony, you each took a moment to reprogram your erratic, caveman brains to ensure that the heightened passions of this day never fade.

It goes way beyond just signing legal documents that say you can file joint tax returns. Now, your brains are wired in a way so that no matter what happens in the future, you’ll always love each other, want to make love to each other, and stay committed to each other until the day you die. The passion will always be strong, the sex will always be great, and no amount of sexy ski instructors will ever change that.

It won’t change because it can’t. No matter what you, your spouse, or any sexy pool cleaning guy/house maid does, they cannot get your brain to react with the same passionate upheaval that comes with love and lust. They might as well be trying to teach calculus to a drunk monkey. You and your spouse love each other that much.

Sure, that love involves manipulating your brain, twisting your emotions, and effectively brainwashing yourself into feeling a certain way. It opens the possibility that some of that passion you feel for your spouse may not be entirely natural. It would be real, but it would be forced to some degree. From your perspective, though, it still wouldn’t matter. You would still feel it as though it were real, unfiltered love.

If you had that option on your wedding day, would you take it? Would you be willing to manipulate your own brain so that you never had to experience divorce, heartache, or uncertainty ever again? It seems like an extreme, like the ultimate prenuptial agreement, but with far more at stake than who gets custody of the dog.

It’s also not entirely a hypothetical scenario, either. It’s also not a coincidence that I’m writing this after my long rant about the mixed romantic messages of prenuptial agreements.

One of the reasons people tend to avoid those legally critical agreements is because they’re so high on love that they don’t think it’s necessary. They’re clinging to that moment on their wedding day, not even acknowledging the possibility that their marriage could end and their love could fade. Statistically and biologically speaking, it’s fairly certain that passions will fade and marriages do end.

So rather than getting lawyers and legal documents involved, why not cut to the core of the issue and adjust your brain? It is, after all, the primary reason why your passions fade and you feel the inclination to cheat. Your genitals may be an accomplice, but your brain is always the mastermind. Not changing it on your wedding day is like Batman letting the Joker get away and giving him an unlimited supply of napalm.

I know I make it sound simple, tweaking the wiring of our brains. I understand that’s not possible right now, which is why divorce lawyers, mistresses, and gigolos won’t be going out of business anytime soon. However, there’s another business that just started up and it may both undermine those age-old industries while completely changing our approach to romance.

Remember Neuralink? I wrote multiple posts about it, saying it’s the most important business enterprise in the history of humanity and may very well make us all inherently sexier and more romantic. Well, the mere fact that we’re starting to put things in our brains to tweak how it works marks the first step in changing how we approach love, marriage, sex, and relationships. Divorce lawyers should be very scared.

Think back to the uncertainty about you and your lover’s passions that I mentioned earlier. Right now, we have no way to control them. We can’t stop ourselves from wanting to love some random person we bump into. We can’t stop ourselves from wanting to have meaningless sex with that cute bartender who keeps undressing us with their perfect, baby blue eyes.

However, the mere act of wanting something starts in the brain. The desire to seek variety, both in terms of chewing gum and lovers, is hardwired into our brains and it has no off switch. With the aid of a targeted brain implant, we can effectively install one.

That means that no matter how sexy or seductive that bartender is, we won’t feel the urge to have sex with them in the nearest utility closet. We won’t even feel the slightest bit of attraction to them. We literally cannot feel or think about such things. Our brains would reserve all our passions and horiness for one person.

On paper, it’s perfect monogamy. Sure, it’s somewhat forced. Sure, the fact we need a brain implant would be tangible proof about just how uncertain we are about our ability to keep our hearts and genitals in check. Would that really matter, though? The passions the two lovers feel would still be every bit as powerful. From their perspective, the presence or absence of a brain implant makes no difference.

It’s distressing on some levels, but intriguing on others. We all seek love. We all cherish whatever love we find. Why shouldn’t we do everything we can to preserve it? Until now, we’ve always been at the mercy of our caveman brains and the erratic genitals that aid them. Once we learn how to effectively rewire our brains, we can get around that issue. However, would that still be genuine love?

Some would argue, and I would agree to some extent, genuine love needs to come through struggle. Just hacking your brain to ensure you never love anyone else is like using a cheat code in a video game. Sure, you still beat the game, but you still cheated. You can’t say you accomplished more than someone who beat the game without cheat codes.

It’s more a paradox than a thought experiment, but one we’ll have to deal with at some point. As I’ve said before, we need to upgrade our brains in order to survive in the long run. We, as a species, cannot survive if we keep killing each other over rival gods, skin color, and who has the best college mascot. We’ll only overcome those nasty inclinations once we purge them from our brains.

Once we change our brains, though, we inherently change how we love each other and how we express that love. By default, we’ll also change how we have sex with each other and be intimate with each other. The extent of that change, as well as how we’ll deal with it, is impossible to know right now. Like love itself, we probably won’t know it until we feel it for ourselves.

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Filed under Love Or Obsession, Marriage and Relationships, Sexy Future