Tag Archives: body shaming

CRISPR, Biohacking, And Beauty Standards

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Years ago when I just started working out, a friend of a relative who worked part-time as a personal trainer gave me some advance. At the time, I was not in exceptionally good shape, but I wanted to get healthy and look good with my shirt off. Upon hearing this, he gave me what he called his three simple/inescapable truths about fitness.

Truth #1: To see results, you need to be patient and work out consistently.

Truth #2: To see results, you also need to tweak your diet and eat right.

Truth #3: No matter how hard you work out or how well you eat, everybody is still at the mercy of their genetics.

The passage of time, along with many long hours in the gym, have only proven those truths right. They reflect some of the inescapable obstacles that the multi-billion dollar fitness industry pretends aren’t there. As magician/performer Penn Jillette once so wisely said, “Great T&A requires great DNA.”

That doesn’t stop every fad diet and fitness gimmick from convincing people that they can overcome their genetic limitations and do so without putting in the necessary work. That’s akin to telling people they can become a foot taller just by wishing for it and giving some photogenic infomercial star their credit card information.

For the most part, we are very much at the mercy of our genetic limits and the basic chemistry of our bodies. If you want to lose fat, you got to get your body to burn fat, which can be harder for certain people with certain genetic dispositions. If you want to build muscle, you basically have to work that muscle until it breaks, forcing your body to repair it and make it bigger. Again, there are genetic limits at work here.

Those limits are frustrating. Believe me, I know and I have plenty of soreness to prove it. Despite that frustration, working out has been great for my health, my confidence, and my overall appearance. Those three truths still bug me at times, but I understand and accept them. For certain people, those hard truths are much greater burden.

As I write this, though, those truths are starting to falter. Unlike every other point in the history of fitness, health, and sex appeal, we have a working knowledge of the basic building blocks of the human genome. We have insights and understandings to our genetics that no infomercial star in the 90s could’ve imagined.

We know the genes that cause muscle growth. We know the genes that cause our bodies to burn fat. Some of these discoveries are very new and haven’t yet made their way to weight loss clinics or fad diets. The only barrier to making use of this knowledge is having a tool that can manipulate genes directly and precisely.

If you’ve read my previous articles on the future of treating infectious disease or fixing the flawed parts of the human body, then you know that such a tool exists and is being refined as we speak. That tool is CRISPR and, on top of potentially curing once fatal diseases, it may very well shatter those three truths of fitness. It may also destroy every other hard truth regarding bodybuilding, beauty standards, and sex appeal.

I’m not saying you should cancel your gym membership or junk those free weights just yet. However, the potential for CRISPR to change the way we think about our health and how we stay healthy cannot be overstated. While it’s still very much in the early stages of development, some people are already getting impatient.

That’s where biohackers come in. They’re not quite as badass as they sound, but what they’re doing is still pretty amazing and pretty dangerous. They’re basically skipping the part where they wait for the FDA or the World Health Organization to tell everyone that CRISPR is safe. They actually use themselves as guinea pigs to refine CRISPR.

Now, I need to make clear that this is exceedingly risky and not in the “Jurassic Park” sort of way. Tampering with our genome is uncharted, unregulated territory and we don’t yet have a full understanding of the potential dangers. That said, in the field of fitness and sex appeal, CRISPR may put gyms, plastic surgeons, and weight loss clinics on notice.

Renegade biohackers like Josiah Zayner, have actually live-streamed stunts where they inject themselves with CRISPR. Another biohacker, Aaron Traywick, injected himself with an experimental herpes treatment in front of a live audience. These are not scientists in cold laboratories using lab rats. These are real people tampering with their DNA.

Where this intersects with fitness comes back to those hard genetic limits I mentioned earlier. When you think about it, the way we build muscle and burn fat is pretty crude. We basically have to purposefully strain our bodies, even hurting them in the case of building muscle, to get it to do what we want. It can be imprecise, to say the least.

In theory, CRISPR would be more direct and far less strenuous than spending two hours in a gym every day. Instead of straining the muscles or sweating off the fat, you would just inject CRISPR into targeted areas of your body, like your belly or your bicep, and have it activate/inhibit the necessary genes.

Like cheat codes in a video game, it would prompt muscle growth in the specific areas you want. It would prompt fat burning in the areas you want. You could even take it further than that. Using the same techniques, you could use CRISPR to edit the genes of your skin so that it reduces the risk of blemishes and acne. As someone who suffered horrible acne as a teenager, I can attest to the value of such a treatment.

Some of this isn’t even just theory, either. Remember Josiah Zayner? Well, he injected himself with a CRISPR cocktail designed to block the production of myostatin. Those who are into bodybuilding know why that’s a big deal because blocking myosatin is one of the main functions of steroids.

While Zayner hasn’t gone full Hulk just yet, other more legitimate brands of research have already demonstrated that CRISPR could be the ultimate steroid. Researchers in China used the same technique as Zayner to create a breed of heavily-muscled dogs. This isn’t on paper. This stuff is real and it will affect both our health and our sex appeal.

Imagine, for a moment, standing in front of a mirror and documenting the parts of your body you want shrunk, grown, or smoothed out in some way. Maybe you’ll even make a detailed list, complete with diagrams and a full rendering of how you want your body to look.

Then, once that information is compiled, your personal doctor/biohacker programs all this into a series of targeted CRISPR injections. Some go into your arms. Some go into your abs. Some go into your face, butt, and genitals. If you hate needles, it may get uncomfortable. If you love gaining muscle and sex appeal without any real work, then it’s basically the miracle drug that every bad infomercial failed to deliver.

Considering the beauty industry is worth over $445 billion dollars, it’s pretty much a guarantee that some enterprising biohacker who may or may not already work for a major cosmetics company will make this a commercial product. There’s just too much money to be made along with too many people unsatisfied with how they look.

It may be costly at first, as most new treatments tend to be. People will pay for it, though. If you could exchange spending hours at the gym for just a few injections and get similar results, I think most people would gladly pay a premium for that. Sure, it’s a shortcut and it’s lazy, but if the results are the same, why does it matter?

That’s a question that has many answers, some of which are too difficult to contemplate. One of the reasons we find certain people so beautiful is because that beauty is so rare. Only a handful of women look as beautiful as Jennifer Lawrence or Kate Hudson. Only a handful of men look as beautiful as Brad Pitt and Idris Elba. Some of that beauty comes from hard work and conditions. Some of it is just good genetics.

What happens when that kind of beauty is as easy as administering a few injections with CRISPR? This is a question I already asked in my novel, “Skin Deep.” I offered hopeful, but incomplete answer. I have a feeling, though, that our entire notion of beauty standards will undergo major upheavals once people can shape their bodies the same way they customize their cars.

With CRISPR, we’re not just adding a layer of paint or trying to tweak an old engine. We’re modifying the foundation and scaffolding of our bodies. In theory, people could use CRISPR to achieve an appearance that is otherwise impossible, no matter how many hours are spent in a gym or how many dangerous steroids they inject. For all we know, what counts as sexy 20 years from now will look bizarre to most people today.

These trends will take time to emerge, but they’ll probably emerge faster than most fad diets or exercise gimmicks because once we start tweaking genetics, the old rules no longer apply. All the traditions and truths we’ve had about exercise, bodybuilding, and beauty collapse. It’s hard to know what will manifest in its place.

For a while, we may get a world where most women are thin and pretty while most men are tall and muscular. However, chances are people will get bored of seeing the same thing. As such, they’ll start experimenting. They’ll try coming up with entirely new body shapes, body features, and physiques that defy the existing laws of biology. As long as some people find that sexy, though, it won’t matter.

Then, there’s the impact of CRISPR on athletes. It’s one thing to test for performance enhancing drugs. What happens when some determined athlete injects a bit of LeBron James’ DNA into their genome to improve their basketball skills? What happens when an Olympic athlete tweaks something in their lung DNA to help them run a three-minute mile? How would we even test for that?

There are so many implications, both for sports and for beauty. It’s hard to know how our society will react, but unlike some of the other emerging technologies I’ve mentioned, CRISPR is real and it’s growing rapidly.

It’s still a very young technology and these things take time to develop. For a quick reference, penicillin was discovered in 1928, but it wasn’t commercially available until 1945. By comparison, CRISPR is barely five years old and biohackers are just starting to learn its limits and potential.

As that potential is realized, we may have to revisit other hard truths beyond those pertaining to fitness and health. From body image to sex appeal, a lot is going to change with this technology. It may be overwhelming, at times, but when it comes to sex appeal, humans are nothing if not adaptive.

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Filed under futurism, gender issues, sex in society, sexuality

Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, And A Positive Feminist Message

It’s hard to believe it’s almost here. In less than one month, the “Wonder Woman” movie starring Chris Pine and Gal Gadot will finally be released. It’s been a long time coming. For comic book and superhero fans of every age, race, and gender, this is a movie we’ve been waiting for with baited breath and wet panties.

I’ve already made my love of Wonder Woman quite clear on this blog. She is, beyond dispute, the most iconic female hero of the last 100 years. She isn’t just a symbol for female power that spans generations. She represents a unique heart, spirit, and passion that appeals just as much to 1950s housewives as it does to latte-loving millennials in 2017.

Of all the many superhero movies I’m excited for, “Wonder Woman” is at the top of a very long list. She already made her presence felt in last year’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While that movie was critically panned to no end for all the wrong reasons, there was one sentiment than most agreed on. Wonder Woman was one of the best parts of that movie.

Gal Gadot, who also happens to be a former Israeli soldier in addition to being drop-dead gorgeous, proved that she is worthy of this iconic role. She can be Wonder Woman and kick an insane amount of ass while doing it. She can do all of this while having a level of sex appeal that Lynda Carter herself would be proud of.

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This is all wonderful news for fans of comics, superheroes, and beautiful kick-ass women. This is also usually where I turn the tables in a post and bring up an issue that tends to bring down your spirits faster than a dead kitten in a graveyard for orphans.

Well, if you’re looking for me to put another dent in your soul, I’m going to have to disappoint you this time. Instead, I wanted to bring up Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, and all the wonders that come with her for a genuinely good reason that should put a smile on your face and fill your heart with a cradle of baby puppies.

That’s because, as the marketing machine ramps up for Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot and the director, Patty Jenkins, are hitting the media circuit. Naturally, that’s going to lead to a few fake controversies and out-of-context quotes. Just look at any interview ever done with Ben Affleck. It’s as inevitable as a child star needing therapy.

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It’s a dangerous game, throwing yourself out there in a world where the internet will crucify you for using the wrong pronouns. If anyone can do it and be sexy as hell, though, it’s Gal Gadot. She ended up proving herself in a way that any Amazon warrior would be proud of.

She did so by addressing an issue that tends to infuriate the internet, people, and the very forces of nature if it’s ever mentioned above a whisper. That’s right, Gal Gadot talked about feminism. I’ll give everyone a moment to stop gasping, but don’t head for your safe space just yet. This one actually has a happy ending.

I’ve made multiple posts on how hard it is to talk about this issue, especially when there are so many frustrating double standards. Gal Gadot didn’t attempt to address everything. Even Wonder Woman has her limits. However, she did address one issue that seems to divide feminists, conservative Christians, and men who have a hard time hiding their boners. Specifically, she talked about her attire.

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Usually, when people talk about women’s attire, it turns into a pay-per-view caliber whining fight where one side argues it’s too sexy and the other side argues it’s too repressive. Wear too little and you’re being too slutty. Wear too much and you’re propagating the grand patriarchal conspiracy to relegate all women to making sandwiches. You just can’t win.

Gal Gadot, being the wonderful woman she is, proved that wrong. In an interview with the New York Times, she addressed the issue of Wonder Woman’s attire and did so in a way that every self-proclaimed feminist should learn from. Here’s what she said.

“I think as a feminist, you should be able to wear whatever you like!” Ms. Gadot said. “In any case, there is such a misunderstanding of the concept. Feminism is about equality and choice and freedom. And the writers, Patty and myself all figured that the best way to show that is to show Diana as having no awareness of social roles. She has no gender boundaries. To her, everyone is equal.”

It almost makes too much sense. It’s almost too logical. If you’re for feminism, you should be for wearing whatever the fuck you want. If you want to wear a G-string and a tube top made out of duct tape, then wear it. If you want to wear a burka or a bear costume, then wear it. That is the perfect feminist message, one that men, women, and those of unspecified gender can get behind.

It’s wonderfully refreshing because feminism, be it radical or otherwise, has been somewhat schizophrenic when it comes to women’s attire. On one hand, you’ll have feminists protesting their right to sunbathe topless. On the other, you’ll have feminists whining about video game characters dressing too sexy.

It’s a painfully asinine conflict, one that reduces feminism to glorified virtue signaling coupled with excessive excuse banking. It’s the main reason why feminism has become such a toxic buzzword that’s less associated with equality and more associated with mean-spirited bitchiness.

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What Gal Gadot says helps put things in perspective. It’s also the perfect response to the bullshit decision the United Nations made earlier this year to rescind her status as an ambassador to girls because she was too sexy. She’s able to frame feminism in a context where only genuinely uptight, misogynistic, patriarchal asshats can disagree. By every measure, that’s a win for Wonder Woman and feminism.

I’m sure Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman will still have her detractors from feminists, men, and even other comic book fans. That’s just the nature of a world full of diverse, erratic, and often misguided opinions. That’s why it’s so refreshing for someone like Gal Gadot to use your position to make a positive contribution.

There will still be those who complain that Wonder Woman’s attire is too sexy. There will also be those who complain that she’s not sexy enough and that she’s not a good role model. However, those same people would complain about the sky being too blue if they had nothing else so their opinions deserve less credibility than their farts.

Gal Gadot didn’t need to say what she said. She didn’t need to prove to anyone that she deserves the role of Wonder Woman. She still did it and for that, on behalf of Wonder Woman fans and fans of those who say things that actually make sense, I thank her.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

The Orgasm Gap: Biological Or Psychological?

When it comes to talking about an issue, I generally avoid the kind of crisis fear-mongering you’d see on a CNN special report, a Fox News segment, or an Alex Jones podcast. More often than not, those who resort to fear-mongering are a few steps too close to fitting their heads for tin-foil hats.

However, I’m about to bring up an issue that I believe really is a crisis. It does warrant a little fear-mongering, if only because it directly affects the erotica/romance industry, of which I’m trying to be part of. That’s because it involves orgasms.

Usually, my posts about orgasms are of the fun, positive, sexy variety. That’s to be expected. It’s not hard to make a discussion about orgasms fun. Unfortunately, it’s also not hard to make that discussion dire because when a significant portion of the population isn’t having them, then I consider that to be a big problem.

This isn’t just the sexy musings of an aspiring erotica/romance writer. This is a real issue. There really is an orgasm gap, so to speak. Men, not surprisingly, don’t have a hard time achieving orgasm. Thanks to an unfiltered imagination and internet porn, an orgasm for a man is as routine as a morning cup of coffee.

For women, however, it’s a very different story, one I wish were relegated to the kinds of sexy novels I write. The data doesn’t lie. Women are having a harder time taking a trip to O-town during intimate moments with their male lovers. Regardless of whether you’re a radical feminist or a douche-bag frat boy from an 80s teen movie, we know that’s not fair. Given the universal joys of orgasm, that kind of disparity just isn’t tenable.

Why is this an issue though? Why does this orgasm gap even exist in the first place? Evolution has given both genders a wonderful incentive to have sex, make love, and everything in between. What’s keeping us from enjoying it?

By and large, there are two major theories to explain this injustice. One theory says this gap is primarily due to biology, which is bad news for women because it means the gap is impossible to close. The other says the cause is psychological, which is somewhat less dire because it means the gap can be addressed, albeit with expensive therapy.

Most of the time, when there are two competing theories about why something exists, the truth often lies somewhere in between. In some instances, though, such as the case of creationism and evolution wherein one is definitively right and the other is a religiously-motivated fever dream, the truth is not so balanced.

So with respect to the orgasm gap, which theory is correct? I’m not a scientist and am woefully unqualified to be one. Thankfully, there are some scientists out there who value equal access to orgasms as much as I do and they have done research on this. These people are the true heroes of the erotica/romance world. So what did their research find?

Well, a recent TED talk by Peggy Orenstein does a nice job of summing up these results. I’m not saying her talk is definitive. These TED talks never are. However, her conclusions have some pretty powerful implications and not just for our collective sex lives.

There’s a lot to unpack here. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, it reveals some major flaws in the proverbial narrative that is our intimate lives.

Parts of her talk definitely resonated with my own personal experience. I remember sex ed when I was in high school. Since my community wasn’t run by uptight religious zealots, I had the good fortune of receiving a fairly comprehensive education about sex, especially compared to Texas standards.

They were pretty thorough, talking about everything from contraception to childbirth. When it came to certain body parts, though, I do recall a distinct difference. Descriptions about male anatomy and how a penis works was fairly concise. Most of my male classmates didn’t learn anything they hadn’t already found out and were fairly assured that their manly bits were operating fine.

When the time came to discuss female anatomy, however, I sensed a distinct shift in mood. Everybody, girls and boys alike, shifted like they were trying to hide a nasty fart. The intricacies of female genitalia wasn’t so much about their beauty or aesthetics. It mostly boiled down to the idea that blood and babies come out of it. That’s about it.

On a personal note, I’ll just say I learned about the existence of the clitoris from “South Park.” What’s that say when a comprehensive sex education program from a major school overlooks something that can be gleaned from watching “South Park?” I’ll give everyone a minute to stop banging their heads against their desk.

Then again, self-image is something every teenager struggles with. I certainly did, but I had a damn good excuse because of my horrible acne problem. It’s one of those things that improves with maturity. Sure, some people mature faster than others, but most of the time, it’s women who do the maturing so how does that orgasm gap not disappear?

This is where the psychology, it would seem, overpowers the biology. Make no mistake. Our thoughts and attitudes can influence our bodies. Anyone who has tried to sleep the night before midterms knows this all too well. Then, there’s the attitudes that we, as a society, collectively impose on each other.

In this case, it’s an attitude we impose on women. Whether by the spirits of angry Puritans or the agendas of old men who vomit uncontrollably at the thought of their daughters having sex, we tell women that they’re not supposed to enjoy sex that much. They’re told the orgasm disparity is normal.

There’s supposed to be this orgasm disparity between men and women. Somehow, this disparity is supposed to keep society intact so that people don’t waste too much time enjoying orgasm. This is where Orenstein gets really personal when she recounts the woman who says:

“I guess we girls are just socialized to be these docile creatures who don’t express our wants or needs.”

The girl who said that claimed to be this fiery, assertive woman. That should reveal just how powerful these attitudes can be.

It’s not just one type of attitude either. Orenstein points out how girls see their vaginas with shame while boys let their dicks hang with pride. Being proud of a body part tends to affect it. I used to play baseball. This works with arms. It works just as well with genitals, if not more so.

However, I think Orenstein overstates genital attitudes in some areas, ignoring the fact that men will shave their balls and undergo circumcision to avoid being aesthetically unpleasing. That’s something that affects both genders more than she lets on.

That said, I agree with her wholly when she brings up one of the most telling details about the orgasm disparity. When same-sex partners are involved, that gap disappears quicker than a cold beer at a Red Sox game in July. This is where the biology theory starts to fall apart.

Now it may seem obvious on some levels, the idea that same-sex lovers can climax at the same rate. It makes intuitive sense. They’re two people working with the same equipment, so to speak. Naturally, they would know how to make that equipment perform.

I don’t doubt that’s part of it. I also think there’s more to it and Orenstein seems to agree.

“Girls’ investment in their partner’s pleasure remains regardless of the gender of the partner. So in same-sex encounters, the orgasm gap disappears. And young women climax at the same rate as men. Lesbian and bisexual girls would tell me that they felt liberated to get off the script — free to create an encounter that worked for them.”

How telling is that? Put women in a situation where certain attitudes about sex and female pleasure don’t apply and they can enjoy a trip to O-Town as much as any man. As an erotica/romance writer, it brings tears of joy to my eyes.

So the orgasm gap disappears with same-sex partners. That’s all well and good, but what about the women out there who can’t get too horny around other women? What about the women who actually want to share the joy of orgasm with men? Well, Orenstein gives hope to those women too when she cites surveys done in cultures that aren’t haunted by the spirits of angry Puritains.

Consider a survey of 300 randomly chosen girls from a Dutch and an American university, two similar universities, talking about their early experience of sex. The Dutch girls embodied everything we say we want from our girls. They had fewer negative consequences, like disease, pregnancy, regret — more positive outcomes like being able to communicate with their partner, who they said they knew very well; preparing for the experience responsibly; enjoying themselves. What was their secret? The Dutch girls said that their doctors, teachers and parents talked to them candidly, from an early age, about sex, pleasure and the importance of mutual trust. What’s more, while American parents weren’t necessarily less comfortable talking about sex, we tend to frame those conversations entirely in terms or risk and danger, whereas Dutch parents talk about balancing responsibility and joy.

Let’s all take a moment to thank the Dutch. Let’s also take a moment to understand what this reveals.

Again, no theory is truly definitive, but Orenstein lays out fairly concisely how the orgasm gap is largely a psychological issue. Men define satisfying sex by their orgasm. Women define it by the ability to please their partner, which sets the bar low and ensures an unequal outcome.

That means we, as a society, should set new standards and I can say with a fair amount of certainty that men are all for that. How do I know this? Well, let me let all the women out there on a little secret about us men that really shouldn’t be a secret.

We WANT you to have orgasms when you have sex with us.

It’s true. Men really do want the women they have sex with to orgasm. Most of the time, they don’t want women to just lie there and act like a glorified barbie doll with a pulse. They actually want their partners to feel pleasure.

It shouldn’t require a real stretch in logic. Men understand that if women feel a lot of pleasure during sex, then they’ll want to do it more often with them. More sex makes us happy. We have a powerful incentive to make sure you women share in the joys of orgasms. The problem, albeit a sexy problem, is that it requires a mutual effort.

I believe we can close that orgasm gap for coming generations. I can only do so much as an erotica/romance writer, but we collectively can do so much more. When the day comes where men and women can expect to have an equal potential for orgasms during sex, then we will have achieved true equality. I look forward to that day.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

How I Shamed Myself Into Being Healthier

There’s no way around it. Compared to all the characters in movies, TV shows, and comic books, we’re ugly as hell. We don’t take care of ourselves. We’re fat. We’re weak. We’re unmotivated. Despite all this, we still like to pretend we’re sexier than Jennifer Lawrence in a bikini sucking on a popsicle. It’s as unhealthy as it is delusional.

What I just wrote is not to be taken as motivation or a sales pitch. It’s not even directed towards any person or group in particular. In fact, what I just said is merely a reflection of the thoughts I once conveyed whenever I looked in a mirror, minus that part about Jennifer Lawrence. Just like I am with my writing, I am my own harshest critic when it comes to my body and health.

I shamed myself. I shamed myself a lot for a good chunk of my adult life. It wasn’t just about my looks either. I had a serious self-esteem issue growing up. It wasn’t because of anything my friends or family did. That’s for sure. I did it to myself and not for all the right reasons. I was fucking miserable. I hated myself. In the end, however, it helped me in a profound way.

Confused? That’s to be expected. Annoyed? Yeah, I have that effect on people. Anxious? Well, you should be because I’m about to get personal again. I’ve talked about sleeping naked. I’ve talked about my own circumcision. Those topics are bound to fill peoples’ heads with unpleasant imagery. I hope this time is little anecdote is a bit more pleasant.

This personal story is a follow-up, of sorts, to my post on body-shaming. I understand that what I wrote probably offended certain people because I took the unpopular position that there’s some kind of merit to shaming. Then again, the people who took offense to that probably get offended when someone points out the color of the sky so I’m not going to worry too much about those people.

Instead, I want craft a real-life example of how shaming can make us better ourselves. It’s not enough to just be happy with who you are, love yourself no matter what, and never acknowledge any flaws you may have. I think it’s an important lesson to learn because people make a big fucking deal of self-esteem these days and worry endlessly that kids and adults alike or suffering when they don’t have enough of it.

Like snake oil and diet pills, self-esteem is basically seen as this cure-all for every mental shortcoming. Chief among those shortcomings involves how we look. We shouldn’t shame each other for looking different, right? We should love ourselves and embrace our inner beauty, right? It’s the lesson that Lady Gaga has taught an entire generation.

First off, this lesson is bogus. Second, it’s extremely easy for Lady Gaga to love herself. Why? She looks like this.

It’s very easy to love yourself when you’re beautiful. Beauty like this is beauty you actually have to work at. You think Lady Gaga looks this way because she just loves herself? Hell no! She has to fucking work at it. She has to actually earn the right to look this good.

This is an important concept and one that more people need to learn. Beauty and health aren’t things that we can gain just by loving ourselves. Self-esteem does not help you lose weight, nor does it make your acne go away. A lack of self-esteem can make it even worse. I would know.

This is how my story played out. For most of my life, I wasn’t very attractive. That’s not to say I was ugly. I wasn’t short, fat, or deformed in any way. I was basically just average at best or below average at worst. I also wore dorky glasses and had a horrible acne problem that plagued me for most of my teenage years. I never felt attractive. I never felt sexy. I basically went out of my way to make myself more miserable for not looking good.

I admit I was probably much harsher on myself than I should’ve been. While I was in school, I knew people who actually did have health issues, be it their weight or their appearance. Harsh or not, it did mess me up. It didn’t make me very pleasant to be around, that’s for sure.

I certainly didn’t get a lot of attention from women either. Believe it or not, girls don’t find pudgy, pale, self-loathing guys with an acne problem attractive. This certainly did plenty to undermine my self-esteem even more, but looking back on it, I can hardly blame them. I can’t imagine I would’ve been a good partner for any woman during that time.

So what changed? It had to have changed. I wouldn’t have the energy or the self-esteem to share this story if I had remained this sad, dorky, overly-emo kid with an acne problem. So how exactly did I respond to all that self-shaming and self-loathing?

Well, for one thing, it ensured I didn’t ignore it. When my acne got really bad, I made it a point to go to a doctor and get actual medication to help treat it. Believe it or not, modern medicine does work. I was able to find a treatment for my acne that more-or-less solved the problem. So thanks modern medicine! That’s one issue solved.

Modern medicine helped me out again down the line. Remember those dorky glasses I mentioned? Well, they’re gone now. I don’t wear them because I got Lasik surgery on my eyes to fix them. I now see perfectly. I now have a face that is unhindered by acne or glasses. I like to think it’s a cute face. I’m not Ryan Gosling, but I’m no George Costanza either.

However, modern medicine could only do so much. Sometimes, you need a good kick in the ass to get yourself to change. I definitely got that when a close relative of mine suffered a serious heart attack. He didn’t die, but it was serious.

The fact that he was only in his 50s really concerned me because after that incident, I found out that there is a history of heart disease and cancer in my family. On top of that, I didn’t take care of myself. My meals consisted primarily of sugary cereal, cookies, greasy burgers, and pizza. My exercise regiment was restricted to walking up to the store to buy more junk food. I was playing a risky game of poker with the deck stacked against me.

Despite this very disconcerting knowledge, I was still reluctant to get off my ass. The caveman part of my brain just didn’t want to change. It was just too easy to keep doing what I was doing. Plus, I really like the taste of cookies and junk food.

In the end, I feel the shaming gave me the extra push that I needed. Seeing myself in the mirror every day and not liking what I saw motivated me to do something about it. On top of that, I love comic books, as I’ve made clear on this blog many times before. In case you’ve forgotten, Superman looks like this.

Look at those muscles. Look at those abs. Look at that raw masculine power. Is it an unrealistic ideal for men? Absolutely. Superman is, by his own nature, the embodiment of an ideal. However, just because something is unattainable doesn’t mean it’s worth striving for. That’s a lesson Superman himself preaches.

I finally got that message loud and clear. One day, I finally dragged my pudgy ass out of bed and to a gym at the local rec center. I convinced myself to go there by promising myself that I would soak in the hot tub after getting in a workout. It wasn’t much of a workout to begin with, but it was a start and that hot tub felt dam good.

From there, a new habit formed. I started going to the gym more regularly, once a week to start. I soon felt the urge to do more so I started going twice. I bought workout clothes. I looked up fitness tips online. I didn’t buy into any gimmicky weight-loss crap from late-night infomercials. I just ran, lifted, and sweated.

Flash forward a bit more and now I’m an avid runner. I go out running for at least 30 minutes a day or four miles, whichever comes first. I do weight-training twice a week and I don’t go light either. I grunt, I sweat, and I toil. After every workout, I look like I just swam in a pool of my own sweat loved every second of it. I’m not going to lie either. It makes me feel damn sexy.

On top of the exercise, I did tweak my diet. This was, by far, the hardest. I had to cut a lot of sugar out of my diet. That meant cutting soda completely and saving cookies for special occasions only. That was painful. It meant eating more protein, such as eggs and chicken. It meant eating less red meat. These changes were tough, but worth it.

Now I’m not saying I look like Superman. I don’t. I’m not saying I have Brad Pitt’s abs or Hugh Jackman’s ass. I don’t. However, I can say that I look a lot healthier and a lot more attractive than I did before I started working out. I don’t have as much body fat anymore. I can actually see my abs. I actually have good bicep now. It does work, people. You can work out, eat better, get healthier, and become more attractive.

None of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t shamed myself into action. If I had just done what Lady Gaga said and loved myself, I would be 25 pounds heavier and far less healthy than I am now. Working out and becoming more attractive gave me more confidence and energy. It made me better to be around. It also made me more attractive to women, which is certainly a nice bonus.

I get that there are still problems with body shaming. There are people whose biology simply doesn’t allow them to look the way they want. It’s a difficult issue. Hell, it was the primary topic of my book, “Skin Deep.”

Until science advances to a point where it can make everybody look like Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence, we need to push ourselves. We need to actually work at it if we want to be beautiful, healthy, and attractive. Just being content with who we are isn’t enough sometimes.

We need to shame each other to some extent to get our asses in gear and get healthier. It can be hard and downright demoralizing at times, but it’s worth doing. You feel better, happier, and sexier as a result.

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Re-framing Body Shaming

Shame on you. Shame on me. Shame on us for not being exactly how others want us to be. We should all be appalled with ourselves. How dare we not conform to societies expectations?

That last paragraph was pure sarcasm, by the way. It’s also an overly simplistic summation of shaming, that inglorious facet of society where we collectively decide to denigrate or denounce someone in a way that’ll make them feel terrible about themselves. It’s one of nature’s crudest instruments for shaping a social species. Being so crude, it’s absurdly easy to misuse.

There’s all sorts of shaming. There’s slut-shaming, fat-shaming, food-shaming, culture-shaming, gender-shaming, and probably some other form of shaming that’s being invented as we speak. Even in the era of the Internet, it’s hard to keep up with all these types of shaming. So for the purposes of keeping this post simple, I’m going to focus on one particular type of shaming: body shaming.

This type of shaming is relevant to me because, being an erotica/romance writer, I deal with a lot of bodies. In my stories, I have to describe bodies. I have to describe how they look and what they’re doing in a way that’s compelling, interesting, and sexy. If I can’t do that, then I can’t tell much of a story. Nobody’s panties will get wet if the story just involves two amorphous blobs rubbing together.

According Urban Dictionary, body shaming is simply defined as:

Shaming someone for their body type.

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? This is one of those concepts that really explains itself. It really shouldn’t be that complex, but like so many things in this world, we love to fuck it up in a way that completely skews the concept.

Body shaming is a big deal these days for reasons that have nothing to do with health and beauty. It, like other forms of shaming, have become tied into the anti-bullying movement that has grown rapidly in recent years. We no longer live in a world ripped from a bad 80s teen movie. It’s not cool to be a bully anymore. Bullies are now right up there with dead skunks and cow shit in terms of things we don’t want in our society anymore.

The stereotypical bully is often the first to laugh at someone’s body, be they fat, skinny, ugly, or deformed. They loudly proclaim that there must be something wrong with a person who allows themselves to get that fat or that ugly. They make someone feel guilty, depressed, or sad for being who they are and that’s just not cool.

Okay, now this is the part where I piss off the politically correct, overly emotional, obscenely sensitive crowd because I’m going to look at this issue in an unusual, unpopular way. Brace yourselves, prepare to send the hate mail, and hide in your safe space because I’m probably going to offend some people here. I’m not going to apologize ahead of time either. I’m just going to say what I feel needs to be said about this issue.

My problem with the current approach to bullying and body-shaming is that my brain just can’t work in such simplistic terms. The simple idea of, “All bullying is bad! All body-shaming is bad! Shame on all those who justify it!” just doesn’t work for me. My brain has a problem with accepting overly simple things that sound too good to be true. Maybe I’ve had one too many bad experiences with infomercials and Nigerian princes, but I just can’t look at this issue in the context of “always bad and always evil.”

Human beings just aren’t that simple. Humanity, in all its inglorious grandeur, is full of all sorts of complexities, both as individuals and as societies. These complexities are a big part of what makes us so interesting and entertaining. If aliens landed tomorrow, I’m sure they’d find something about humanity to laugh at.

With respect to body-shaming, I do think there is a context that sets it apart from traditional shaming. First and foremost, we have to understand that the very concept of shaming is important to our society. We can’t do a way with it, nor should we.

Shame, as ugly as it may be, serves an important purpose for social creatures like humans. You see, for most of human history, we didn’t have laws or message boards to punish or denigrate others for doing something socially unacceptable. We lived in small bands of tribes that roamed the land, looking for food and safe places to hump. Failure to do so means that both the individual and the tribe would suffer.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, for the politically correct crowd), humans come with some built-in biological wiring to keep people in line. If someone did something wrong, they would feel guilt about it and have an incentive not to do it again.

Shaming emerged as an extension of guilt, creating a system for an entire tribe to use to let someone know that they need to get their shit together. It was a way to motivate or incentivize them to do the right thing for themselves and others. It can be harsh, but it can work too. It can even be funny, as Family Guy regularly proves.

It’s a fact of life as a social species. We need shame because it’s built in. It’s hard-wired. It can’t be bribed, corrupted, or bought off. It’s a force that can affect the poorest among us and the richest among us. It is effectively the glue that incentivizes us to function in society. When laws and internet message boards fail, shame can pick up the slack.

So where does this leave body-shaming? First, let me make clear that there are degrees of shaming that have no excuse. If someone’s body is big, small, or misshapen in ways they cannot control, either by genetics or poverty, then that’s a gross misuse of shame. It’s true that human bodies have many variations and some are more prone to be fat, thin, or something in between. However, there is one little detail here that skews the context.

That detail is called obesity.

When I say obesity, I’m not just referring to fat people. I’m also referring to overly skinny people as well. They aren’t shamed quite as often, but it’s the same blunt instrument. It’s the same unjustified use of shame. It’s just being used in a way that isn’t consistent with the biological purpose of shame.

Here’s the issue that I know anti-shamers and obesity activists try to avoid. Obesity, like smoking, does have serious health risks. While it’s not nearly as bad as smoking, it does carry with it some health issues that aren’t exactly attractive. According to WebMD, these issues include:

It’s true that not everyone who is obese will have these problems, but the chances are greater and not everybody is willing to play those odds. Eating too much, having too much body-fat, and not getting enough exercise can be damaging, both to individuals and the society that incurs the cost of these health issues.

As a result, our crude biological wiring is going to step in whether we like it or not. When we see something unhealthy in society, we tend to do whatever we can to stop it, even if it means bullying and shaming. It’s true we go overboard at times. We’re human. We’re blunt instruments, not surgical tools. However, there often is some level of logic behind our actions.

It’s just not the kind of logic that will ever show up in an 80s teen movie. This is caveman logic, a term I use so often on this blog that I should probably trademark it. In the old hunter/gatherer days, the biological programming of which is still with us, the fat and unhealthy bodies incurred a burden on the tribe. If the person couldn’t see that, then shaming them was a way of getting them to shape up and get their ass in gear.

We’re not cavemen anymore, but we’re still stuck with their wiring. We need to accept that and there are some politically correct types who can’t seem to wrap their heads around it. They seem to think that human biology can be ignored or circumvented.

It’s the same faulty belief that has effectively doomed the Catholic Church’s crusade on premarital sex and masturbation. You can’t stop people from masturbating. You can’t stop them from shaming bodies either.

By the logic of our faulty human wiring, a tribe of healthy, fit men and women is a good thing. Being fit doesn’t necessarily mean that all the men have to look like Brad Pitt and all the women have to look like Kate Upton. The human body has all sorts of glorious variations, colors, and traits. Being healthy enhances every one of them.

Some people aren’t going to be motivated to pursue that level of health. Shaming is a way of getting their asses off the couch. Again, we do tend to go overboard with it, but it’s one of those unpleasant facets of society that has a legitimate biological function. So those who want to live in a world where nobody is shamed for how they look may as well wish that carrots taste like chocolate. It’s not going to happen.

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