Category Archives: Marriage and Relationships

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

Romance And Tragedy Done Right (In An X-men Comic)

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When it comes to two genres that are often associated with one another, romance and tragedy are the literary equivalent of peanut butter and jelly. When you think of one, it’s not long before you associate it with another. Romance without tragedy is like fries without ketchup. Both are still good on their own, but it’s only when they’re together that they maximize their potential.

In that same spirit that the likes of Shakespeare and “Titanic,” superheroes often follow that narrative, but with more spectacle than old playwrights and even James Cameron could ever imagine. Being such a huge fan of superhero movies and comic books, I’m more familiar with their take on romance and tragedy than most aspiring erotica/romance writers.

As such, when an amazing, uncanny, astonishing, or whatever other adjective that a comic book puts before their title tells a story that truly embodies those ideas, I take notice. Seeing as how I’m also an unapologetic romance fan on top of being a comic book fan, those kinds of stories resonate especially well for me. They don’t come around too often, but when they do, they’re worth appreciating.

This particular story involves the X-men, which should surprise nobody who has followed this blog over the past couple years. It also involves the romance/tragedy of Cyclops and Jean Grey, which should also not surprise anyone. I’ve mentioned them before when talking about balanced romances and insufferable love triangles. This might end up being the most heart-wrenching, albeit for all the right reasons.

The name of the story is called Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey by Matthew Rosenberg. Now, if you don’t want to be spoiled, I strongly encourage everyone to read it. Either buy it at a comic shop or buy the digital version. Even if you’re not a comic book fan, it’s a great story that will still evoke all the right emotions.

That’s because this story does something that’s very rare and very difficult to do. It’s something that everyone form Shakespeare to Tolken to Stan “The Man” Lee struggled with at some point in their creative endeavors. It gets the balance between romance and tragedy right. It gets it so right, in fact, that I intend to judge all future romance/tragedies by this comic. That includes any I write.

To understand how I came to this conclusion, it’s important to understand the context of the story and why it had such a powerful impact. To do that, it’s necessary to point out the circumstances of this story. When it was announced last year, it’s stated goal was to bring Jean Grey back from the dead. Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with comics knows that’s not all that groundbreaking.

Superheroes have been dying and coming back to life for decades. While “The Death of Superman” might have been the most high-profile, the initial death of Jean Grey in the original Phoenix Saga is probably the most iconic. That story established Jean Grey as a character who would be defined by death, rebirth, and everything in between. That’s part of the reason it’s the foundation of the “X-men: Dark Phoenix” movie.

That original story had a lot of romantic elements in it, but it was largely defined by its tragic ending. In that original story, Jean Grey willingly sacrificed herself in front of Cyclops and her friends to stop herself from becoming corrupted by the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force.

It was a truly gut-wrenching moment. It’s because of that moment, though, that it’s often singled out as one of the best X-men stories of all time. It was the culmination of Jean Grey’s struggle to deal with the immense power with which she’d been imbued. Moreover, she reached out to that power in order to do the impossible to protect those she loved, even if it corrupted her.

That’s an important detail to note because that’s a theme that would go onto play out on many occasions for Jean, eventually culminating in her second death in 2004. Her constant struggle to manage the immense power granted by the Phoenix Force and the corruption that often came with it is one of the primary driving forces behind Jean’s character. It’s also a big part of her appeal.

Rosenberg uses those same themes, as well as the immense power afforded by the Phoenix Force, to build the tragedy and romance that plays out in Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey. It’s a story that has more drama going for it than most because, despite the presence of time travelers, Jean Grey has been dead since 2004. Her coming back after such a long absence is a big deal for X-men fans and for her character.

The challenge Rosenberg faced was making that resurrection feel more compelling than overdue in an era where dead characters come back all the time. On top of that, Jean’s association with a cosmic force known for death and resurrection means her character basically has a built-in cheat code for bringing her back. How can that be so compelling, let alone raise the bar for romance and tragedy?

This is where the spoilers come in so again, please take the time to read the comic if you can. That’s because the way Jean comes back in this story has less to do with tragedy and more to do with agency. Way back in the original Phoenix Saga, Jean reached out to Phoenix Force in an act to save her friends. It was a choice of desperation.

Well, since that fateful choice, the Phoenix Force has been like a clingy ex, wanting desperately to stay bonded to her, even thought it often corrupts her. I’ve argued before how the context of that corruption might be more complicated than it seems, but on the basis of history alone, Jean Grey has many reasons to regret that choice.

The Phoenix only gives her another in this series. After having bonded with plenty of other hosts since her death, it goes to great lengths to bond with Jean again. It goes so far as to resurrect both her and everyone she ever cared about, creating this own little world in which Jean never experiences the many tragedies that befell her. It’s like the Matrix, but with a volatile cosmic bird running the show.

 

As part of that fantasy world, Jean Grey’s long-time love, Cyclops, is alive and well. That’s critical because, at least for the time being, he’s also dead. The Phoenix Force basically gives her everything to be happy, content, and loved. Keep in mind, though, it’s not doing this out of pure altruism. It wants to bond with Jean again. That’s the goal and the fantasy world is just a means to an end.

That makes the tragedy inevitable. As is often the case with fantasy worlds, even those created by a cosmic power, they tend to crumble under the harsh weight of reality. The way in which this happens is best revealed through the story. However, the part of the story that really balances out that tragedy occurs in the final issue.

In that issue, the fantasy world crumbles, thanks largely to the efforts of Jean’s fellow X-men. Naturally, the Phoenix Force fights this and tries to tempt Jean into bonding with it again, saying its power can give her everything she desires. It can even bring back those she loves.

As part of a last-ditch effort, it demonstrates this by bringing Cyclops back to life. He’s not a clone. He’s not a time traveler. He’s not some illusion either. He’s the real, flesh-and-blood Cyclops, complete with the thoughts, feelings, and passions of the man she married.

It’s a dick move on the part of the Phoenix Force, to say the least. It’s also the moment where the romance balances the tragedy in an important way. That’s because in that moment, Jean makes another fateful choice, one every bit as dire as the one she made in the original Phoenix Saga. This time, though, she lays her heart on the line, knowing damn well it’ll be broken.

Rather than just reject this tactic as another attempt by the Phoenix to lure her in, she embraces it for a brief moment. In that moment, she gets to say goodbye to her husband. She and Cyclops even go out of their way to make clear how much they love each other, both in life and in death. Even if you’re not a big romance fan, this is a moment of pure, unadulterated heart.

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We still know the tragedy is coming. We know it’s a moment that’s going to end with tears and sorrow. Anyone that ever had to read “Romeo and Juliet” in high school English class knows it’s coming and is might think they’re numb to it, especially if they flunked the test.

That’s why it was so important for the story to reaffirm that sentiment. Rosenberg did something critical when he had Cyclops and Jean Grey remind each other just how deep their love went. He gave even greater weight to the loss.

At least with “Romeo and Juliet,” the characters involved had just met. They barely knew each other. Cyclops and Jean Grey’s love story spans 50 years of X-men comics, complete with weddings, clones,  and raising a child together in the future. To know the extent of their love is to know just how much that tragedy hurts.

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That, more than anything, is what puts Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey in a league of its own in terms of romance and tragedy. Instead of the tragedy defining the romance, it’s the other way around. It’s the romance that gives that tragedy such immense weight.

In too many stories, both in comics and in other mediums, tragedy relies too heavily on its own weight to make an impact. Making a love story dependent on that tragedy gives the impression that the love needed it in order to have depth. That’s why, when the tragedy eventually occurs, it doesn’t always hit all the emotional chords.

Rosenberg left no emotional chords unstruck with this story. It’s because Jean shared that special moment with the man she loved that her decision to reject the Phoenix Force carries so much weight. That decision comes with so much pain, anguish, and sorrow. It’s one thing to just depict it. It’s quite another to truly convey it.

That’s what truly makes Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey so special. It conveys both the breadth of the romance and the extent of the tragedy. Moreover, it does that in a way where one complements the other. For a romance built heavily around two characters operating as equals, I can’t think of anything more fitting.

Again, if you’re fan of romance, tragedy, or both, check out Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey. Even if you hate comics and the X-men, this one will evoke all the right emotions. You’ll shed tears of sorrow and joy at the same time. It’ll feel so weird, but so right.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Marriage and Relationships, X-men

More Women Are Watching Porn (And Why That’s A Good Thing)

I don’t often talk about the porn industry on this blog. I know that sounds like an oversight, but it’s a deliberate oversight. In my experience, porn is just one of those things that either bothers certain people to no end or is just shrugged off by everyone else.

We know it exists. We know it’s a big business that has always existed, to some extent. Sure, it’s controversial. Some still try to fight it, but to date, nobody has ever won that fight and the sheer amount of porn that exists is proof of that.

As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, who also happens to be a straight man with an internet connection, I’m very much aware of porn, the industry that makes it, and the consumer base that fuels it. While erotica novels aren’t quite as taboo as porn, it does have many similarities. “50 Shades of Grey” proved those similarities aren’t that subtle.

In addition, those same trends can also reflect evolving attitudes towards sex, sexuality, and how people treat intimacy. One might be forgiven for thinking that everything involving sex, intimacy, and how we consume erotic content is devolving into chaos. However, in the midst of all these unsexy trends, I’d like to offer some news that should further complicate the evolving sexual landscape.

According to recent data released by PornHub, also known as the most popular porn site on the internet, 2017 saw the biggest surge in porn consumption came from women. More specifically, the search term “porn for women” increased in popularity by 359 percent. Even if you’re terrible at math, you understand that’s a significant increase.

It’s an increase that the porn industry is noticing, among others. They kind of have to notice it because women still make up half the population last I checked. Even though catering to mostly men has helped make porn a multi-billion dollar industry, it still has room to grow and women are the key, just not in the way the industry is used to.

Whether it’s due to the impact of “50 Shades of Grey” or the impact that feminism has had over the past few decades, more women are consuming porn than ever. Granted, that could just be because more women are willing to admit it, but the data is there. This is happening, regardless of what men or other women say about it.

The type of porn they’re consuming is also noteworthy, if only because their patterns of consumption are different from those of men. According to Vice.com, the type of porn women search for varies in terms of theme and genre. They’re not wildly different from men, but it does highlight some differences in terms of the erotic content both genders pursue.

While I’d love to talk more about the types of adult content women are seeking, if only to highlight how I can work that content into my novels, there’s a particular detail to this story that I want to highlight. I have a feeling it’ll be controversial for some. I’m willing to take that risk because I think this is worth saying.

More women consuming porn is a GOOD thing for both genders.

Take a moment to finish rolling your eyes. I understand that sounds exactly like something a man who regularly writes about sex robots and sex-positive superheroes would say. That doesn’t make the statement any less valid.

While I won’t claim that trends in women consuming porn are all good, as the breadth of human nature is far too broad for a claim that bold, I strongly believe that this is one of those trends where the positives outweigh the negatives. It’s not just because it shows women are more comfortable exploring sexy things. I actually think the positives run much deeper than that.

That’s because in recent years, the porn industry has only ever made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Between the recent spike in porn stars committing suicide and uptight politicians declaring it a public health crisis, it’s safe to say that porn has a public image problem, to put it mildly. However, I think the foundation of that problem goes beyond the explicit content behind it.

To illustrate that, it’s necessary to point out an unusual quirk in the effects of porn on men compared to women. There have been plenty of studies on how porn affects men. Some of it documents negative effects while others reveal positive or no effects. For women, though, the effects are considerably different.

It often occurs whenever there’s a correlation between a negative consequence, like broken relationships and porn consumption. Whenever that correlation exists for men, it rarely occurs to the same extent, if at all, for women. That means that even if there are harmful effects of porn consumption, it does not affect women as much as men.

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To further complicate those insights, as often tends to happen in sexually-charged issues, research has shown that couples who watch porn together are either not negatively affected or enjoy greater levels of satisfaction. That means when it comes to the effects of porn, context and attitudes matters. I’ve mentioned the importance of context when it comes to assessing masculinity. It seems to apply even more to porn.

That’s why I believe women consuming more of it is a good thing, in terms of evolving that context. Unlike other hobbies, porn is unique in that it involves sex and sex often other people. When only one part of that equation is consuming the content, then that content is going to skew in the direction of those consumers. That’s just basic economics.

In this case, those skewed economics can have unpleasant consequences. To those who claim porn creates unrealistic expectations about sex, this is why that occurs. When the consumer base is so narrow, it’s going to become unbalanced. We saw that in the disparity of contraceptive development. Porn did the same.

Over time, that has the effect of narrowing the appeal of the content. To those not consuming that, it takes on a strange, if not taboo context. In the past, this has been reflected by women seeing men’s consumption of porn as creepy or perverse. It’s not unlike how comic books used to be seen as something for kids. Then, they evolved to capture a wider audience.

With women entering the consumer base, the porn industry has a chance to change that narrative. If women are watching more porn, then it becomes less taboo. On top of that, it expands the industry. I’ve talked before about how taboos fade or die off. One of the most potent ways taboos falter is when there are economic forces working against it.

In a sense, the best way for women to make the porn that men consume more equitable is to consume it themselves. By giving the industry a powerful incentive to balance out the content, they create the necessary incentives for producers to make the kind of erotic content that both gets them off and spices things up with their lover. It’s ironic that this is how to make the porn industry friendlier to women, but it’s also somewhat fitting.

As it stands, women’s taste in porn are still evolving and the industry is still figuring it out. However, there are a number of sites out there looking to tap this once overlooked market. In wake of the recent sexual misconduct scandals, there’s even a new sub-genre of porn called ethically produced porn. Think of it as fair-trade coffee for sex.

Regardless of how some feel about the porn industry, in general, or women entering a consumer base once dominated by men, their presence will have an impact. That impact may make some uncomfortable or upset at first, but I believe in the long term, it’ll be a net positive.

We’re entering a world where it’s not taboo for a woman to say she enjoys watching porn. It’s also a world where men don’t have to be as ashamed or secretive about their own porn consumption. I think when those respective taboos fade, it’ll be easier for men and women to have honest conversations about what they like, what turns them on, and everything in between.

Sure, it’ll be awkward. Men and women talking about their respective porn consumption is bound to cause more than a few stressful conversations. However, if the end result is a more open and honest understanding of our sex lives, then I honestly say that extra awkwardness is worth it.

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Filed under gender issues, Marriage and Relationships, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality

Why The Anti-Harassment Movement May Make Open Relationships More Practical (And Necessary)

If history has shown us anything about the power of the human libido, it’s that people will find a way adapt their passions, even within strict, regressive situations. They did it during the pre-modern, pre-literate ancient eras from the Middle East to China. They did it during the he exceedingly prudish eras of the Puritans and Victorian England. They even find a way to do it today under brutally repressive regimes.

Love, sex, and everything in between finds a way. Even those who claim we’re in the midst of a full-fledged sex panic where the mere act of touching someone on the shoulder constitutes full-blown assault can’t deny that the human race has navigated such periods before. We literally wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t.

Even so, it’s still distressing to see a world that feels increasingly sensitive to certain desires, expressions, and attitudes. Between recent sex scandals and the noble, yet sometimes misguided efforts to combat sexual misconduct, it seems as though we’re entering a sexually regressive period where men and women can’t interact with one another out of fear that they’ll get labeled a sexist, a bigot, or something of the sort.

It may get worse before it gets better, but I believe we’ll find a way to navigate it. That’s not just me being an optimist. That’s me, the aspiring erotica/romance writer, acknowledging that our capacity for passion is difficult to contain. You can shame, scorn, and condemn it all you want. You’re never going to stop it.

No matter what extremes the ongoing crusade against sexual misconduct may manifest, people are still going to get horny. They’re still going to seek love. They’re still doing to pursue the passions that are so critical to the human experience. That’s just part of who we are. We’ll just have to find a way to adapt our approach to pursuing those passions.

As it stands, the current methods leave a lot to be desired, both literally and figuratively. I’ve already mentioned how the disconnect surrounding consent and the paradox of traditional romance aren’t that conducive to fostering intimate and romantic bonds. It still works for some, but I doubt it’ll work enough for coming generations, especially when those generations have so many emerging quirks.

As such, I’m going to take a step back and present a potential, but unorthodox recourse. It’s not a prediction. It’s not even all that radical because it’s happens already. I’ve already mentioned it before, but now I’m offering it as a more serious solution to an ongoing issue.

Open Relationships/Polyamory/Swinging/Non-Monogamy

Yes, I know it sounds exactly like something that someone who writes sexy novels might suggest. I also realize it’s one of those joke solutions you might hear from comedians, libertarians, or softcore porn. However, I’m dead serious with this suggestion.

I’m not implying that this is the future or the only solution for a society that may or may not be getting more sexually uptight. I’m simply suggesting the evolving social, cultural, and sexual landscape may very well make open relationships more viable, if not entirely pragmatic.

To understand how, it’s important to also understand how functional open relationships work. Like traditional relationships, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. It’s not nearly as lurid or kinky as sexy novels, bad porno, or reality TV would have you believe. There are ways to go about it and last year, Cracked.com offered a uniquely balanced insight into how such relationships work.

My Wife And I Are Swingers: Here’s What It’s Actually Like

The particulars aren’t quite as lurid as you think. It’s not necessarily something you’d find in one of my novels. However, there are a few themes that make a functional open relationship a better fit for the current year than what we’ve had in the past. Here are just a few of the traits.

  • Open, continuous, and outright excessive communication between partners
  • Clear, unambiguous understanding of desires and how to go about pursuing them
  • Rules, guidelines, and parameters for both partners to follow
  • A clear understanding of the difference between sexual and romantic intimacy
  • Emphasizing a significant degree of trust and faith in partners
  • Sufficient and overt empowerment of both parties, regardless of gender

Take a moment to go over these traits and then assess them within the context of the ongoing movement to combat sexual misconduct. In terms of creating a more equitable, robust relationship between partners, this sort of dynamic checks most boxes by default.

Good open relationships need a lot of communication. A major aspect of the current anti-harassment movement involves confusion regarding standards of consent. That’s a challenge when that very concept is still debated among some circles. There are instances where nobody is even sure what constitutes consent and it has ruined lives, as a result.

Open relationships don’t just belabor consent. They belabor all aspects of negotiating sex, romance, and intimacy. Those involved in functional open relationships understand the dynamics. It leaves less room for ambiguity and misunderstanding. That, in and of itself, is vital for those concerned with consent.

Beyond consent, open relationships require degrees of trust that are antithetical to notions that everyone of a particular gender or group is a monster. You really can’t have that kind of assumption with someone you trust in an open relationship. You have to actually believe in the love and lust they demonstrate for you. Otherwise, the relationship doesn’t work, regardless of whether it’s open.

For both opponents and proponents of the anti-harassment movement, these are critical elements to a successful relationship. They’re just a lot more emphasized in an open relationship. By emphasizing them, it’s easier to mitigate the ambiguities of evolving sexual norms. At a time when everyone is worried about being harassed or being accused, an open relationship already uses the necessary tools.

Beyond the practical and social aspects of open relationships, there are other unrelated forces at work that may make them more viable. In years past, open relationships were still prone to the same risks as general promiscuity. There was the risk of diseases, unplanned pregnancies, and all sorts of unsexy health issues.

Emerging technologies in the treatment of diseases, such as CRISPR and smart blood, combined with advances in contraception, like Vasalgel, and those risks are either minimized or eliminated. The concerns that might have kept some people from ever trying such a relationship won’t be an issue at some point, meaning open relationships could become a viable option to more people.

The circumstances are either already present or beginning to emerge. Add the growing use of social media to existing open relationships and the particulars become even more feasible. Emerging generations are already demonstrating an uncanny ability to forge connections in new ways. This could be one of them, albeit one made necessary by larger cultural forces.

Now, I’m not under the illusion that the practice of open relationships will benefit everybody. I don’t deny that there are some people who either just cannot handle open relationships or simply favor monogamy. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, those relationships need not be taboo or counterproductive to the never-ending effort to forge meaningful bonds. They should just be part of a more diverse tool kit.

There are still a great deal of unknowns, both in terms of how society handles open relationships and how society adapts to changing cultural trends. I imagine that certain divorce laws and marriage laws would need to be modified to accommodate these sorts of relationships, but that’s largely a bureaucratic matter that can be addressed with the proper application of well-paid lawyers.

However anyone might feel about the merits of open relationships or their feasibility in our current society, I think one thing is clear. Our current approach to forging romantic and sexual connections is not sufficient. The movement against sexual misconduct wouldn’t be necessary if it were.

That same movement isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s also going to result in plenty of changes to our culture and society, for better and for worse. It’s just a matter of how we adapt to them and, in the never-ending quest to fulfill our romantic and intimate desires, we’re going to find a way at some point. Of that, I’m certain.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Marriage and Relationships, polyamory, sex in society, sexuality

What Colossus And Kitty Pryde Of The X-men Can Teach Us About Love

I know it’s been a while since I talked about comic books, comic book romances, or general life lessons from comic books. As a self-proclaimed comic book fan who loves to tie that passion into other sexy topics, I feel like I owe myself and certain readers an apology. Consider this part of my effort to make up for it.

Just because I haven’t been writing about comics much lately doesn’t mean I haven’t been following them. It also doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the major developments unfolding in the comic book world. As I write this, there’s a lot going on, from Tony Stark’s return as Iron Man to the return of Superman’s iconic red trunks.

If you’re a comic book fan, though, you already know about this and I don’t need to say anything to get you excited. If you’re a comic book fan who also happens to be a big romance fan, there are other stories that excite you. I mentioned one late last year with the big announcement that Batman and Catwoman are getting married. Now, I have another.

Kitty Pryde and Colossus of the X-men are getting married too!

The big announcement was actually teased last November in the form of a wedding invitation that designated the summer of 2018 as the big day. It also highlighted some of Marvel’s most famous superhero marriages. Never mind the fact that Marvel has a shaky track record with married characters. It’s still exciting news, especially for X-men fans like me.

It’s big news for Marvel as well. They’re already promoting this as a major event for these characters and for the Marvel universe as a whole. Sure, it may just be their way of competing with the upcoming Batman/Catwoman wedding, but that doesn’t make the sentiment involved any less genuine. It also doesn’t make the promo video for X-men Gold #30, the wedding issue set to come out this summer, any less sweet.

I know Kitty Pryde and Colossus are not exactly on the same level as Superman and Lois Lane, Batman and Catwoman, Cyclops and Jean Grey, or even Deadpool and tacos. In the pantheon of superhero romances, they’re not exactly top five, but they’re not afterthoughts either.

Their romance has never been a major plot in an X-men movie, nor has it been a focus in any X-men cartoons. However, for those familiar with the X-men comics, this relationship is as special as it is unique. It’s one of those romances that blossomed in unique and sometimes controversial ways.

Chief among that controversy was the age difference between the characters when they first met. When Kitty first joined the X-men in Uncanny X-men #129, she was 14-years-old and Colossus was 19. Needless to say, it didn’t sit well with Marvel’s editors at the time when writer Chris Claremont had Kitty develop a crush on him.

That crush, however, never got as creepy as some of the other romances that Marvel had teased. As the characters grew, aged, and developed within the pages of the X-men comics, that teenage crush evolved into something more serious. Eventually, they developed one of those relationships where they always seemed to find their way back to one another.

I won’t recount all the chaotic elements of their romance. I’ll just point out there have been many times where they’ve gotten closer, been friend-zoned, ended up in other relationships, and even died on one another, which happens a lot in comics. I’ll also say that the love between Kitty Pryde and Colossus carries with it some unique insights into love, relationships, and how they blossom.

So, in the spirit of celebrating the upcoming nuptials of these fictional characters that I hold dear, I’d like to share some of those insights that translate into real-world lessons on love. Being both a romance fan and a comic book fan, I’m especially fond of the parallels that tie works of fiction into serious matters of the heart.

Whether or not the marriage of Kitty Pryde and Colossus lasts or prospers in the X-men comics remains to be seen. Regardless of Marvel’s poor track record with marriage, they’re a couple worth rooting for and this is what they can teach us.


Lesson #1: Failed Relationships Can Still Succeed

For many fictional romances, especially those involving superheroes, the romantic dynamics are often idealized, pure, and heavy on melodrama. They’re basically “Romeo and Juliet” with superpowers, built around a love that’s so pure it can only ever be corrupted by a horribly contrived love triangle.

Colossus and Kitty Pryde are decidedly not that. Theirs is a more clumsy romance, one where they sort of stumble their way towards one another. Throughout their history, they have tried to forge a relationship, but failed on multiple occasions, sometimes due to circumstances and sometimes due to hard choices.

In those failures, Kitty Pryde dated other men, like Pete Wisdom and Iceman. Colossus dated other women, like Domino. Along the way, they each followed their own stories. They each grew in their own way. They weren’t dependent on each other. They didn’t have to be together to become strong.

These failures may have derailed their romance at times, but it didn’t end their love or their desire to be together. Eventually, they found themselves in a position to act on that love in the pages of X-men Gold. Now, they’re getting married. Ironically, their past failures helped get them to that point.

Learn from failures in a relationship and build a better one from the ashes. That’s not just a critical lesson. In a world where the ideal love stories of “Romeo and Juliet” are reserved for high school English classes, it’s a much more realistic way to approach love.


Lesson #2: Love Who Someone Is Trying To Be (And Not What They Were)

This kind of gets into those creepier elements I mentioned earlier. It’s true. Kitty and Colossus had a sizable age gap when they first met. Age gaps in young romances are taboo and for good reasons, beyond just the legal reasons. However, that age gap hid another important lesson that Kitty and Colossus later embodied.

Beyond the basic flirty exchanges they had in their youth, Kitty Pryde distinguished herself as a special character by how quickly she grew and matured throughout the pages of Uncanny X-men. Sure, she was a vulnerable young girl when she first joined the X-men, but she didn’t stay that way.

The same goes for Colossus, who underwent more than his share of upheavals. Some of his greatest moments involved him trying to be a kinder, gentler soul, despite having the kind of obscene strength that steroid-laden meatheads can only envy.

Again, a lot of complications get in their way, as is often the case with superheroes, but whether or not they manage those complications isn’t the point. It’s who they’re trying to be, as individuals, that makes them who they are. It’s that striving that often draws them together. It’s that constant effort to be better that fuels their chemistry.

That chemistry is built less on who they are and more on who they’re trying to be. Kitty and Colossus saw who they were trying to be in the midst of the chaos that comes with being X-men. That’s the person they fell in love with and in a chaotic world where everyone has to better themselves just to keep up, that’s an important and underrated facet of love.


Lesson #3: Seek To Grow With AND Love Someone

This also ties, somewhat, to the age gap between Kitty Pryde and Colossus, but without the taboo. Age gaps matter when two people are young, immature, and don’t have a firm grasp of their emotions. They matter less and less at time goes on. I say that as someone whose parents have an age gap that’s actually wider than Kitty and Colossus.

In a sense, the age gap worked to Kitty and Colossus’ advantage because they didn’t just see each other in their impressionable youth. They actually watched each other grow into adults. While they weren’t always on the same team, they were able to grow together within a similar environment. In doing so, that innocent crush evolved into something deeper.

That’s an important distinction that a lot of young people, myself included, don’t often realize until much later in life. We focus so much on the here and now when it comes to loving someone that we forget that we’re still growing as individuals. Sometimes, two don’t realize we’re growing apart until it’s too late.

I’ve seen this happen in the real world with once strong relationships that just drift apart as the couple gets older. I’ve also seen it happen in the opposite direction, watching two people grow closer as they actually seek to grow with someone, as well as love them. Kitty Pryde and Colossus are a perfect embodiment of the latter.


Lesson #4: Let The Moment Be Right For Love (And Guide It If You Can)

I know I keep repeating this and it’s worth belaboring, but Kitty Pryde and Colossus had a lot of obstacles when it came to getting together, the least of which involved Colossus dying at one point. It’s worth belaboring because it reflects how hard these two had to work in order to get together over the course of several decades of X-men comics.

Within those complications, though, is an important lesson that best played out in Joss Whedon’s legendary run on Astonishing X-men. The circumstances aren’t always right for two people to come together. However, when that moment is right, don’t be afraid to act on it. You can’t force those moments. You can only let them unfold and embrace them.

For Kitty Pryde and Colossus, those moments were rare, but they weren’t random. When Colossus returned from the dead, they had every reason to just jump each other’s bone in an overly dramatic moment. They didn’t do that, though. They didn’t try to force that moment. They just led each other to it.

A similar situation unfolded in X-men Gold. They had an opportunity to jump back into their relationship, but they didn’t. Sure, they made excuses at first, which I found annoying, along with many other long-time X-men fans. However, by taking it slow and letting the moment come to them, it made the eventual culmination in X-men Gold #20 that much more satisfying.

You can’t force a romantic moment, nor should you. However, you can guide the situation towards those moments. If the love is strong, like it is with Kitty Pryde and Colossus, it’ll happen and it’ll be beautiful.


Lesson #5: Don’t Make Excuses For Loving (Or NOT Loving) Someone

This is a common and annoying trope with fictional romances. For those not built on love-at-first-sight or sickeningly-pure infatuation, a romantic sub-plot in most stories will be full of excuses on why they should not be together. Given my take on excuses, it should surprise no one how much this annoys me.

Kitty Pryde and Colossus made a lot more excuses than most and not just because of the early age gap. Sometimes it was because they were on different teams. Sometimes it was because they were caught up in other relationships. Sure, some of those excuses were valid, like being dead or trapped in a giant bullet flying through space. Those that kept them apart, however, were often shallow or contrived.

Now, some of this might have been due to whoever was writing the X-men comics at the time. As I’ve noted before, there have been instances where bias writers force contrived plots to keep certain characters apart. Chris Claremont’s efforts with Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine are well-documented.

The efforts surrounding Kitty Pryde and Colossus, though, never got that extreme. They also never undid the chemistry between them or fundamentally changed the elements that attracted them to one another. In that respect, they didn’t make excuses. They didn’t hide from those emotions, even if they avoided them. That ended up strengthening their relationship in the long run.

It’s another important lesson about excuses and reasons. When your reasons for not being with someone are built on excuses, then you’re missing the point. Kitty and Colossus stopped making excuses in X-men Gold #20. If they can do it, then there’s hope for everyone, real and fictional alike.

 

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An Important Question That Feminists And MRAs Must Answer (Honestly)

There are certain debates that I try to avoid. Sure, I’ll contribute to a debate between Marvel and DC fans. That often inspires some trolling, but it won’t inspire outright threats. When those debates revolve around unpleasant issues like race, religion, gender, or anything having to do with politics since last year’s election, I avoid it like the plague.

Every now and then, though, I feel compelled to at least comment on an ongoing debate. While I doubt that comment will resolve anything, I try to make sure it’s something worth adding to the conversation, if only to provide perspective. In my experience, perspective is the first thing lost when people start insulting each other’s mothers.

Before I started writing erotica/romance novels, I actually enjoyed debates. I thought they represented meaningful dialog. Then, I learned the hard way that the desire to win an argument often gets in the way of having productive discussions. There are few topics that don’t involve religion where this plays out more in gender issues.

Sometimes it’s between sex positive feminists and sex negative feminists. Sometimes it’s between feminists and men’s rights activists. Sometimes it’s between alpha males and beta males. In any case, the drama and the vitriol is the same. The sides of the argument are passionate and committed. Neither is likely to ever sway the other.

I can understand that, to some extent. There are undeniable gender disparities in this world, as well as a few subtle disparities that rarely come up in debates. I can also understand why certain people take the sides they do. Feminists, no matter what type they may be, are going to argue for women’s issues. MRAs, no matter how adversarial they may be to feminists, will take the side of men.

There are important issues that are worth debating, regardless of how much or how little you care about gender disparities. Even if neither side can completely win the argument, the debates do inspire all sorts of ideas that enrich everybody involved.

That being said, I still feel compelled to inject a little perspective into the debate. I think emotions on both sides are in overdrive after some pretty major sex scandals, which is fueling more outrage than discussion. As such, I’d like to reorient that perspective by asking one basic question to feminists, MRAs, and gender-driven ideologues of all types.

Do the goals of your ideology directly benefit you to the direct detriment of another?

It’s a yes-or-no question, but I imagine it’s one of those questions that few can answer honestly on a whim. That’s the key part that I want to emphasize. Anyone who answers this question, regardless of which side on gender issues they take, should answer this question with the kind of brutal honesty usually reserved for British TV personalities.

That’s because the question is twofold. The first part is somewhat a given. If you’re in the business of discussing gender issues, you usually have a goal. A part of that goal usually involves benefiting you and others like you. That’s the point of any effort that requires you to endure arguments, insults, and trolling.

The goals of feminism, men’s rights advocates, and everything in between involve benefitting individuals within their tribe. That’s not the issue here. It’s the second part where the honesty is harder to discern because it requires a self-assessment and a greater understanding of the bigger picture.

If you’re looking to achieve a goal that hurts or inconveniences no one, then chances are it’s not going to inspire many debates. Those efforts rarely face any political or social overtones. They’re as simple as being low on marshmallows and wanting to get more. The only one you’re inconveniencing is yourself.

When that goal involves something detrimental or inconvenient to someone else, regardless of whether it’s real or perceived, that’s when you run into problems. If that benefit you seek requires someone else to pay a price, then you’ve got a problem. It’s not always a bad problem. There are times when that the absence of that benefit is an injustice. Issues like voting or protection from violence are good examples.

Those kinds of goals tend to be simple with tangible, documented harm that is directly linked to a gender disparity. It’s the more complicated goals, such as those involving body image, mass media, or cultural trends, that tend evoke the kind of cyclical vitriol on both sides that never seems to abate.

These issues can’t be easily solved by passing a law or flipping a switch. They often require large groups to change their attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about the world. In the same way people struggle to break bad habits, this sort of thing is not easy to do. It plays out in all sorts of ways.

“Stop admiring sexy women! That’s sexist!”

“Stop asking for free stuff because you’re a woman! That’s fascist!”

“Stop demanding that I find you attractive! That’s body shaming!”

“Stop enjoying what you love because it’s perpetuating misogyny/racism/misandry/homophobia/transphobia!”

However it plays out, the end result has a similar dynamic. In achieving the goal for one side, it negatively impacts the other. Sometimes their power and influence isn’t as great. Sometimes they’re shamed for liking something or supporting a certain position. Sometimes they have to pay a price, sometimes with money and sometimes with other forms of social currency.

In that situation, it creates a predicament to whoever is arguing on the other side. It undermines they’re objectivity. That person, be they a feminist or an MRA, has something to gain by their side prevailing. Like an investor who has a vested interest in a product failing, they’ll argue louder than most that the product is crap.

This is difficult to acknowledge because it undermines someone’s inherent sense that they’re the hero in this story. If Superman only did what he did because he acknowledged he got free ice cream for every criminal he stopped, then that would affect how people saw his motivations.

I don’t doubt that feminists and MRAs are motivated to pursue what they feel is an objective good. However, if they have something to gain from their side prevailing, then there’s a non-zero amount of subjectivity involved. Absent that perspective, the effort becomes less about confronting those gender disparities and more about maximizing your own personal advantage.

Let’s not lie to ourselves. If life were a video game, we would want to use cheat codes every now and then. It’s not wrong to admit that or even to seek advantages that others can’t have. However, to not acknowledge those self-serving facets of an issue is to claim your character is somehow greater and your opponents might as well be Nazis.

Very little good can some from any debate when both sides think their opponents are just monsters to be slain and not people with their own interests at heart. I don’t doubt that debates over gender disparities and gender-related issues will continue. I also don’t doubt that some of those debates will be as rational as the “Deadpool 2” synopsis.

It’s for those reasons that this question needs to be asked and answered honestly. I get it. Honesty is tough in a world of fake news, internet trolls, and all-around assholes. That’s why, if we’re serious about achieving our goals, we need to value it in any discussion about gender. The future of the human race literally depends on it.

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Sex Advice From Porn Stars (And Why We Should Listen)

There are certain people who just love giving advice, but overestimate the quality of that advice. Usually, their heart is in the right place. They genuinely believe they have something to offer and are willing to share it. Sincere or not, though, their advice doesn’t always line up with their expertise.

When it comes to advice about something as expansive as sex, everyone likes to think they have a unique skill to offer. Ask anyone who isn’t a priest, mullah, or monk and they’ll claim to have the secret to a satisfying sex life, especially after a few beers. More often than not, those secrets are just a bland mixture of common sense and basic anatomy.

For the more advanced stuff, you need to find people who really do have expertise. When you want to learn more about building houses, you go to an architect. When you want to know about finances, you talk to a licensed accountant. Following that same logic, if you want advanced advice on sex, then you should consult a porn star.

No, that’s not the basis of a dirty joke or a kinky anecdote. I’m as serious as a rug burn on a newlywed’s honeymoon. A satisfying sex life is a major ingredient to a satisfying life, in general. It’s also the kind of advice that’s more than a little awkward to get from your parents or family members. As such, porn stars are uniquely qualified to help.

Granted, porno sex and actual sex are as different as drag racing and your typical morning commute. Sure, porn can be a great way to spice things up, as can reading sexy novels. It shouldn’t be your sexual baseline any more than Ron Jeremy should be the baseline for penis size.

Even if porn is essentially a Photoshopped version of sex, those involve have more experience with sex than 99 percent of us ever will. You don’t have that much experience without gaining some level of expertise. That’s why I’ve compiled a few tips from famous porn stars, courtesy of the fine folks at Women’s Health Magazine and Maxim.

Beyond the advice, I’d also like to highlight its merits. Porn stars may engage in the kind of sex that most people without fake tits or a nine-inch cock can only dream of, but experience is experience. That’s why their advice should carry more weight than most.


Porn Star Sex Tip #1: Alternate Between Foreplay And Intercourse

This one comes courtesy of Jessica Drake, a veteran porn star that most men will claim not to know, but are definitely aware of. It’s also my favorite sex tip ever and one I try to employ in my sexy novels at every turn.

I’ve already made my love of foreplay known, but it’s one of those things that’s worth belaboring. Using it in conjunction with all the juicier bits of sex makes for a potent combination. With it, the physical act of sex gains a whole new dimension.

It becomes intense, emotional, and even a little exhausting. A porn star knows all those things in their work, but it works just as well for ordinary people. A little sex here, followed by some foreplay, followed by some more sex, and followed by even more foreplay doesn’t just mix it up. It turns up the heat, the energy, and everything else that goes into sex.

If you only follow one tip from one porn star, make it this one. You and your lover will be glad you did.


Porn Star Sex Tip #2: Talk Dirty

This is another one of those tips that uniquely appeals to aspiring erotica/romance writers. I kind of have to have my characters talk dirty in order to set the tone, build the passion, and create drama.

Porn stars have to use it too. It’s how they keep a scene hot and sexy to improve the overall experience. Again, this comes from Jessica Drake, who is known to have as dirty a mouth as any porn star can claim. However, that kind of talk isn’t relegated to porn stars and erotica/romance writers.

A big part of great sex involves communication. Talking dirty, while not the most refined form of conversation, helps convey your desires. Sure, it can get vulgar and crude at times, but that kind of rhetoric is uniquely appropriate for the bedroom. Also, crude and vulgar also tends to be blunt and easy to understand. It might just be the easiest way for lovers to communicate their desires so it makes sense to use it.


Porn Star Tip #3: Listen To EVERYTHING

This tip is deceptively simple, but exceedingly important. It comes from a male porn star named Ryan Driller. You might not recognize the name, but if you’ve been on the internet for more than a year, you’ve probably seen his face or his penis. The man has acted in both straight and gay porn so he knows how to tend both sides of the field.

Unlike dirty talk, though, this kind of listening involves more than just getting the right moans out of your partner. When Ryan Driller says listen to everything, he means everything. That means listening to your partner’s breathing, their heartbeat, and the way they react to every move you make.

Even with dirty talk, some people are going to struggle to convey their wants and needs in the bedroom. Sometimes, you have to be the one who listens to those subtle queues and make the most of them. Sure, it’s more work, but the end result is a more satisfied partner who think you can read their mind. Is there any other kind of work that’s more worth it?


Porn Star Tip #4: Make Your Lover Feel Desired

This is one of those sex tips that should be common sense, but is easy to forget in the heat of the moment. It’s also another one of those tips that takes center stage in erotica/romance novels like mine. However, in the real world, that sentiment becomes an afterthought all too often.

This tip comes from Veronica Vain, who doesn’t have the same pedigree as Jessica Drake, but still has enough experience to know the value of desire. Porn stars may make their living having crazy kinky sex with people they don’t have any emotional connection with, but they still have feelings. They still share in basic concepts of desire.

Making your partner feel desired is another one of those things that takes work. Again, it’s the kind of work that’s worth doing. It gives depth and meaning behind the basic mechanics of sex. Put in that work and those actions become more than basic. The more desired your partner feels, the more they’ll desire you. Everybody wins and has orgasms. That’s as big a win-win as you’ll ever get.


Porn Star Tip #5: Pay Attention To Your Needs

This is one more tip from Jessica Drake. Like I said, she has a lot of experience. As such, she has a lot of intimate wisdom to share. This is also a tip that most other porn stars tend to give, on and off the camera. Porn stars don’t always get to prioritize their needs any more than a baker prioritizes theirs when they’re making a cream pie. Actually, that might not be the best terminology for this discussion.

Whatever the case, the nature of a porn star’s work means they know the value of their needs better than most. They also know that taking care of those needs can add to the spectacle, as many porn scenes and sexy novels. This is one of those tips that works as well in real life, as well as porn and novels.

Sure, it’s important to put in the work, as I’ve stated with other tips. However, that doesn’t mean doing all the work. Sex is supposed to be mutual. Sex that involves one person doing everything while the other just lays there is barely a step above masturbation.

Meeting your needs is an important part of sex, although it’s not the only part. However, taking care of them helps ensure that everything else after that is just a bonus. When used in conjunction with the other tips, it can make for one hell of a bonus.

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