Tag Archives: femininity

The (Not So Secret) Sex Appeal Of Ron Swanson

nickoffermanpr

What is it about certain men who seem to attract women without even trying? What’s their secret? What are they doing that other men aren’t? These are questions that many self-proclaimed love gurus and pick-up artists have attempted to answer. Since many of those gurus are frauds and many pick-up artists are assholes, I wouldn’t put much stock into those answers.

As a man, I’ve known men who can attract women so easily that it seems second nature. I’ve also known men who can barely talk to women, let alone attract them. Most men, and I would put myself in this category, fall somewhere in the middle. Whether you’re a hopeless romantic or a Don Draper level womanizer, it’s worth understanding the qualities that attract women.

That’s where Ron Swanson comes in. If you’ve watched every episode of “Parks and Recreation” like I have, you know why just saying that name out loud fills the immediate area with greater masculinity. That’s because Ron Swanson is a true man’s man. He has more masculinity in his mustache than most men have in their entire bodies.

I’ve cited Ron Swanson before as someone who embodies a type of masculinity that even self-proclaimed feminists can get behind. He’s strong without being a bully. He’s assertive without being cruel. He’s stern without being heartless. While he doesn’t always exercise good judgment when it comes to ex-wives, Ron reflects a level of manliness that men, women, and everyone in between can respect.

As such, Ron is in a unique position to provide insight into the world of masculine sex appeal. There are multiple instances throughout “Parks and Recreation” in which Ron attracts women. Whether he’s in a serious relationship with Diane Lewis or whipping a crowd of women into a frenzy as Duke Silver, it’s well-established that women find this man attractive.

While that probably isn’t surprising, considering Ron’s character is played by an equally-manly romantic in Nick Offerman, I feel it’s worth scrutinizing the particulars of that sex appeal. I believe there’s insight to be gained from Ron’s masculinity and how it attracts women.

Now, and I wish I didn’t have to disclose this, I don’t mean to imply that this assessment speaks for all women. I am not a woman, nor do I claim to know the various intricacies of the female thought processes. I understand that women have a variety of tastes when it comes to men. Not all of them are going to find Ron Swanson attractive.

When it comes to high standards of male sex appeal, though, Ron checks more boxes than most. That’s why I feel he’s worth singling out in the interest of scrutinizing the most attractive traits associated with masculinity. In doing so, I hope other men can learn from his example.

There are many ways Ron demonstrates these place throughout plays out in “Parks and Recreation,” but one episode in particular encapsulates the essence of his sex appeal. That episode is entitled “Lucky.” It takes place in Season 4 while Leslie Knope is in middle of her campaign for City Council, but Ron’s role in the side-plot to the campaign drama is where there’s more action, including the sexy kind.

That plot involves April Ludgate trying to hook up overly-energetic, exceedingly-dramatic Chris Traeger with Andy’s female professor. It’s not out of the goodness of her heart. Anyone who is familiar with her mannerisms knows that’s not her style. Her intentions are more self-serving because Chris recently suffered a break-up and April believes finding a new love interest will make him less annoying.

Her plan seems good on paper. She invites Andy’s professor, Linda Lonegan, to lunch with her, Andy, and Ron. There, they just happen to run into Chris, who’s eating alone. At first, everything seems to be working. Chris, through the charisma of Rob Lowe, shows a keen and overt interest in her.

While he’s doing this, though, Ron is sitting right next to Linda. He’s showing no romantic interest in her. He’s at a restaurant. His only interest is in how much steak he can eat and how many vegetables he can throw away. Ron does have a romantic side, but he also has priorities, especially when steak is involved.

It’s also worth noting that Linda is a women’s studies professor. In previous episodes, she makes very clear that she identifies as a feminist. I also have to note that she’s not the kind of radical, man-hating feminist that loves to fuel outrage culture. I would categorize her feminism as a healthy, balanced brand of second-wave feminism that dealt with more overt forms of gender inequality.

While Ron doesn’t bring those issues up, they’re a big part of Chris Traeger’s efforts to attract Linda. He effectively filters everything he says to Linda through a feminist lens, going out of his way to use the kind of rhetoric that demonstrates he understands her worldview and embraces it. Initially, Linda does seem interested in him.

Even though he’s very sensitive with his rhetoric, Chris is no beta male. He’s very masculine in his own right with how he takes care of himself and pursues things so energetically. He’s also played by Rob Lowe, who certainly has many traits of an attractive man, even by Hollywood standards.

Despite those traits, Linda ultimately rejects Chris’ invitation to join her for some land kayaking, which isn’t nearly as sexy as it sounds. Then, shortly after Chris leaves, she turns to Ron and invites him back to her place for activities that don’t involve kayaking. Ron, having had three steaks at this point, accepts and it’s overtly implied that they make love, as evidenced by him wearing his red polo shirt the next day.

To understand why Linda chose Ron over Chris, though, it’s important to break down how Ron acts in this scene. Even though Ron wasn’t attempting to attract Linda, she was still drawn to him more than Chris. According to some of the science behind the traits women find attractive in men, that actually makes sense.

From the moment Ron joined Linda in that scene, he was his usual poised self. He didn’t ask for specials from the waiter. He knew what he wanted, which was a porterhouse steak, medium rare. He was confident in his decision, as well as polite and assertive. Those are traits that are both attractive and respectful.

In addition to his demeanor, Ron’s mannerisms reflect confidence and certainty. Even though he eats three steaks, he’s not a slob. He conducts himself in a way that feels approachable and unimposing. Even if he doesn’t try to attract Linda, he does everything necessary to avoid repulsing her.

Beyond what he does, the way Ron speaks is just as powerful. He’s a man of few words whereas Chris will literally go overboard with adjectives and adverbs every chance he gets. His persona is endearing, but he also comes off as intense. For many women, including Linda, that can be a turn-off. Intense men tend to be complicated men and many reasonable women don’t have the energy for that.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ron is much simpler and transparent with his wants and desires. He says it himself in the early episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He likes pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food. That kind of simplicity makes him easier to understand and easier to work with. From Linda’s perspective, keeping up with Ron is much less tedious than keeping up with Chris.

Even from a physical standpoint, Ron conveys more raw masculinity than the health-obsessed Chris. While Chris may have six-pack abs and a very healthy resting heart rate, Ron has a manly mustache and studies show that women find facial hair more attractive. While the presence of facial hair probably wasn’t the determining factor for Linda, it likely played a part.

In the end, Linda found herself between two very masculine men. She ultimately went with the man who demonstrates the most attractive masculine traits just by being himself. Her decision doesn’t just highlight the many ways in which Ron Swanson is personifies manliness. It singles out the traits that appeal to women on a basic level.

Ron Swanson is assertive, protective, frugal, stern, loyal, dedicated, and hard-working. He would function just as effectively as a hunter in ancient times as he does as the Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Pawnee, if not more so. He’s someone who could still care for his lover if civilization collapsed and zombies overran the cities.

It’s here where Ron’s sex appeal goes beyond simply attracting women. Unlike egocentric pick-up artists or hyper-sensitive ladies men, Ron Swanson conducts himself in ways that men and women alike can respect. In turn, he treats men and women with similar respect.

He doesn’t hold women to a different standard. He treats Linda as an equal and not a prize to be won. He leaves it up to the woman to decide if she finds him attractive enough to be with. In the end, he made Linda’s decision both easy and appealing. It’s the kind of masculinity that men, women, feminists, men’s rights activists, egalitarians, and Americans of all stripes can get behind.

Leave a comment

Filed under gender issues, human nature, noble masculinity, psychology, romance, sex in society, sexuality

What It Means To “Man Up” And Why It’s Changing (For The Worse)

man-up-and-military-press

It wasn’t that long ago that parents and peers emphasized the importance of “manning up” to young boys. There would come a point in a kid’s life where he was encouraged to do more than just grow up. He was expected to push himself in a unique way, fighting and sacrificing for those who couldn’t. Sometimes, those expectations were unreasonable and a little unhealthy, but it was part of the overall gender dynamic.

That dynamic has been changing a great deal over the past several decades. I’m young enough to have grown up during many of those changes, but old enough to remember the old traditions associated with “manning up.” The sheer breadth of that change has been remarkable, but not entirely in a good way.

For the most part, I was never pushed too hard to man up by others. My friends and family encouraged me to push myself, but never to the point where I felt pressure or anxiety. I often ended up pushing myself, whether it involved going to college or moving out of my parents’ house.

That’s not say I didn’t feel any pressure to “man up” at any point in my life. Beyond my friends and family, I was as vulnerable to expectations surrounding masculinity as anyone. Most of the time, those expectations involved little things like stepping up to fix a problem, helping out those who were physically limited, and enduring pain or discomfort in the name of a particular goal.

Overall, I feel as though these expectations were either healthy or benign. Some of those standards could’ve been gender neural. When you see someone in a wheelchair at the grocery store struggling to get something from a shelf, it’s neither masculine nor feminine to help them. That’s just common courtesy.

In recent years, however, the whole notion of “manning up” has gained new a new complications. Some of them are ideological. Some of them are politically motivated. It’s because of these various nuances that I put the term in quotes because its meaning keeps shifting, gaining and losing connotations year by year. At some point, the term itself may become empty.

In contemplating that meaning, I thought briefly about the connotations that term had back when I was a kid. I doubt my interpretation was definitive, but I like to think it captured the spirit of the term. When someone told me to “man up,” this is what I took it to mean.

  • Grow up and mature
  • Take responsibility and solve your own problems
  • Stop whining and start doing something about it
  • Quit being satisfied with mediocrity and push yourself
  • Be stronger and tougher in difficult situations
  • Work hard and endure for the good of others who can’t

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of these same traits associated with superheroes, as espoused by the comic books I read and the cartoons I watched. They might have colored my perspective on masculinity and “manning up,” but I suspect these ideals were still consistent with healthy masculinity. The fact that characters like Wonder Woman and Storm of the X-men had some of these traits was just a bonus.

Now, as I contemplate the meaning of “manning up” in its current context, those don’t seem to have the same prominence they once did. There are also a new host of expectations surrounding the term that are fueled, in part, by identity politics. Some even conflict with others, which adds even more complications.

To get a feel for those complications, I posed a question on Reddit on what “manning up” meant to them. The response somewhat surprised me. Most wouldn’t have found their way into the comic books or cartoons I consumed as a kid, to say the least. They involved ideas such as this.

  • Checking your privileged and making way for those your kind has oppressed
  • Acknowledging the crimes and guilt of your gender, as a whole
  • Sacrificing any advantage or benefits that being a man might have once conferred
  • Subjecting yourself to greater degradation in the name of greater equality
  • Learning about all the ways men have ruined society and the world
  • Accepting that the things men love are unhealthy, damaging, and detrimental

None of these are very positive traits for those being told to “man up.” It’s basically a less overt way to tell them that them being a man is “problematic,” a term that has also gained one too many complications. It’s a term reserved for those who appear to be benefiting too much from being a man who isn’t subject to the rigors of childbirth, rampant sexism, and a long history of exploitation.

Never mind the fact that no one alive to day is directly responsible for the injustices their ancestors committed. They’re also not responsible for the injustices their particular race, gender, or ethnicity committed. It happened in the past. Yes, parts of that past were horrible, but punishing people in the present doesn’t make it less horrific. If anything, it just tries to fight one injustice with another.

This is where the concept of “manning up” really loses whatever positive connotations it once held. It’s a sentiment that many responders to my Reddit question shared. When they contemplate that term, they interpret as someone telling them that they need to endure, suffer, or overlook a particular aspect of their identity.

A few posters went so far as to say the term can be replaced with “serve my interests” and carry the same meaning. While I don’t entirely agree with that notion, I can understand why it would feel that way. Being a man, I sometimes feel like I’m expected to get to the front of the line when the time comes to sacrifice. I won’t go so far as to say I find it oppressive, but it certainly feels like I’m held to a different standard.

Sometimes, that standard can be unreasonable. That was another common theme of the responses I got. The notion of “manning up” denotes operating in a way to avoid a particular stigma that others wouldn’t incur for the same behavior. It’s not always ideological, but the pressure is there.

A man who is too emotional is considered a sissy and has to “man up.” A woman or even a gay man who does this won’t face that stigma.

A man who is reluctant to sacrifice for the well-being of another group is considered selfish and should “man up.” A woman or another minority who show a similar reluctance can do the same, but won’t face the same stigma.

A man who shows his pain when he’s harassed is told to suck it up and “man up.” A woman or minority who is harassed can expect plenty of supporters who will cheer them on. Even if men are subject to more overall harassment, they don’t get any sympathy. They’re told to “man up” while everyone else is allowed to seek social support without much scrutiny.

This, I feel, is the ultimate tragedy of the concept. A term that once use to reflect certain ideals for men has now become an instrument of ridicule. It’s no longer a lesson for boys to learn. It’s a rhetorical shortcut that allows someone to hold an entire group of people to a different standard, one that requires them to go out of their way for someone else.

I don’t doubt that there are instances where it’s good for society that some people go out of their way to help others. For those who are disabled, elderly, or ill, it’s just more just and compassionate to set a different standard for ourselves. We don’t ask someone who is missing a limb or suffering from ALS to “man up.” We go out of our way to help them.

It’s the extent of those instances, however, that seems to be damaging the notion. It’s no longer sufficient to just have a particular ailment or shortcoming. Just being someone who isn’t a man who can claim some sort of injustice, be it historical or contemporary, is sufficient.

I believe that’s a dangerous precedent for men and women, for that matter. It sends the message that in order for there to be more justice and equality, an entire group of people need to sacrifice to an extent where they have to be the villains. They have to come to the table, surrender unconditionally, and admit they were wrong and they were the cause of the problem.

That may not be sentiment of those telling someone to “man up,” but that’s how it’s being interpreted. It’s less a masculine ideal and more a shaming tactic, one that is more likely to incur a backlash rather than get someone to reconsider their understanding of gender roles.

I still feel like there’s a way to recapture the positive elements of “manning up.” Gender dynamics is one of those concepts that’s always evolving. Sometimes, there’s progress. Sometimes, there are setbacks. At the moment, I think masculinity and femininity are going through some growing pains as they adapt to a changing world. That process is likely to involve plenty of conflicts and controversies along the way.

In the long run, though, I think society will find a healthy balance with respect to “manning up.” I think there’s a way to use that notion to bring out the best in men and women alike. It’ll likely take plenty of work, toil, and sacrifice from everyone involved in gender-driven controversies, but it’s definitely worth doing.

1 Comment

Filed under gender issues, human nature, Marriage and Relationships, media issues, political correctness, sex in society, sexuality

Masculinity, Mourning, And My Recent Loss

1

How is a man supposed to mourn when he’s lost someone he really cares about? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m asking because it’s a question I wish I could answer. It’s also a question that I’ve been struggling with over the past week or so.

Recently, I got the sad news from my father that my grandmother had passed away. I’ve been debating on whether or not I should talk about it on this site. I know people don’t come here to hear about my personal crap. They would much rather talk about upcoming superhero movies, sex robots, and double standards.

However, I’ve since concluded that this is something I need to share, if only to help me cope. Without getting too much into the personal details, this loss really hurt. I was very close to my grandmother. She was a big part of my life for as long as I can remember and just referring to her in the past tense is a strange and distressing feeling, but one I knew I would have to face eventually.

I even knew it was coming sooner rather than later. My grandmother’s death did not catch anyone by surprise. She was in her late 90s and had been dealing with a lot of health problems over the past four years. The past several months have been especially bad, but I still visited her regularly, hoping to boost her spirits.

Now, the idea that I can’t visit her ever again is really hard to process. My grandmother was one of those special individuals whose presence just made everything inherently better. Even with her declining health, she never lost that amazing spirit. She lit up the room and she enriched my life in ways I can never put into words.

Mourning her has proven to be one of the biggest challenges of my adult life. I understand that this is the natural order of things. I know that loved ones eventually die, especially those who lived long, fruitful lives like my grandmother. That doesn’t make it any less painful.

In dealing with it, though, I find myself contemplating things about mourning that I didn’t expect. Some of it involves my own personal issues. Others involve a bigger issue that I feel is worth exploring, even as my current emotional state is so raw.

There are a lot of things I didn’t learn from school, parents, siblings, or peers that I wish I had while growing up. Chief among those things is coping with loss. It’s not that nobody tried to teach me those skills. It’s not like there was a course in it, either. I just never made much effort to learn them. In fact, I feel as though I avoided them outright.

Some of that might just be a result of me being more reserved. Most people who know me can attest that I tend to swallow certain feelings more than others, especially when those feelings come from real emotional anguish. I’ll sob, I’ll shed tears, and I’ll let my voice crack under the strain. I’ll try not to let it go beyond that, though.

It’s not something my family and friends pressure me to do. However, there are times I feel as though that’s what a man is supposed to do. While I don’t like attributing things to gender stereotypes, especially when double standards are involved, this is one instance where I fall right into a specific masculine archetype.

I freely admit that I don’t always express my emotions very well. I’m more inclined to hide them and hold them in. I even try to avoid them, hoping they just go away with time. That may work for some minor emotional upheavals. It doesn’t work quite as well when you’re dealing with a heavy personal loss.

That limited ability to express emotions very well has been really glaring since I got the news. I remember not reacting too strongly, but wishing I could. I remember being at a total loss, but wishing I weren’t. There were so many things I wanted to express and articulate, but couldn’t. I can honestly say that I’ve never been at such a loss before.

At that moment, being a man felt like being shackled to something. It was like trying to cross a river with heavy weights on my ankles. Even when sitting alone in my room with no one to judge me for how much emotion I showed, I still found myself at a loss. I knew I was feeling something hard, but I just didn’t know how to express it.

I’m not saying that inability is entirely attributed to me being a man. I can’t speak for all men, but I can attest on a personal level that I do feel pressure to put on a tough face when confronted with painful emotions. To do otherwise just seems contrary to what it means to be a man and maintain a masculine demeanor.

I know that sounds like I’m blaming my gender for my shortcomings, and maybe I am to some degree, but I find myself wishing that the processing of painful emotions didn’t carry these gender-based standards. Yes, there are some men who are every bit as emotionally expressive as most women, but those kinds of tendencies aren’t encouraged or celebrated. In some cases, they’re scorned.

I don’t blame women or women for that stigma. I get the sense we’re all responsible for propagating those standards, albeit indirectly. The idea that showing certain emotions isn’t manly while not showing enough isn’t womanly feels like an unnecessary burden that we place on ourselves, one I just learned is heavier than most.

While I don’t feel like men are mocked as much for showing their emotions as they were in the past, I still find myself struggling. It’s as though I had the opportunity learn how to deal with these painful feelings when I was growing up, but was pressured to not take advantage of them because doing so would reveal a personal weakness.

As misguided as that sentiment might have been, I’m still responsible for making those choices. I don’t deny that when it comes to knowing how to deal with losses on this level, I’m behind the curve. I’m very lucky that I have so many wonderful family, friends, and relatives who have been there for me every step of the way during this process. I don’t think I could’ve handled this as well as I have without them.

I just wish being a man didn’t make it inherently more difficult. Again, this is just my own experience and I can’t speak for all men. Maybe mine is an anomaly and my limited coping skills have more to do with my own personal issues than my gender. Whatever the case, this loss has revealed a lot about being a man and dealing with emotions.

I’m really going to miss my grandmother. I loved her a great deal and the idea of living life without her in it is still hard to wrap my head around. I intend to push forward, though. I know that’s what she would want. That’s what all our loved ones ultimately want once they’re gone.

Even if they can’t be in our lives anymore, we can still move forward with the strength their love gave us. To all those out there who have suffered a loss, I encourage you to take comfort in that strength. To my grandmother, who I’ll miss dearly, I thank you for showing me just how much strength there is in love.

4 Comments

Filed under gender issues, human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, psychology

Profiles In Noble Masculinity: Hank Hill

nol3t

When it comes to paragons of masculinity, the standards tend to skew towards characters who crank the testosterone levels up to the maximum and even go a little bit beyond. From mythical figures like Hercules to modern icons like James Bond, it often seems as though that a truly masculine man has to exceed some lofty standards.

While there’s certainly a place for that kind of masculinity, I don’t think that has to be the only criteria. I believe there’s room for a more subtle, yet equally strong manifestation of manliness. They don’t have to be the kind of men who sweat raw testosterone and shave with shards of broken glass. They can be their own man and still embody respectable masculinity.

I chose Joel from “The Last Of Us” for my first profile in noble masculinity primarily because his example was not very subtle. He embodied the masculine values of strength, survival, fatherhood, and compassion in ways that are easy to highlight within a larger narrative. It didn’t take much work to make my case for Joel’s noble traits.

For my next profile, though, I’ve chosen a character who presents a tougher challenge. He comes from a narrative that’s very different from Joel’s. Instead of a post-apocalyptic world where everything comes back to survival, his is a more contemporary story from the far less dire setting of suburban Texas.

His name is Hank Hill. He sells propane and propane accessories. He’s a proud American, a hard worker, a die-hard football fan, and the star of “King of the Hill.” In the pantheon of modern-era animation, it’s a show that doesn’t usually rank near the top for most people, but the fact it lasted 13 years proves it did something right and Hank his is one of those things.

I consider him another example of noble masculinity. He’s one that differs considerably from Joel in “The Last Of Us,” but I consider him an example none-the-less. Over the course of 258 episodes and 13 seasons, Hank establishes himself as one of those rare characters who manages to be compelling and respectable without being too flawed.

He’s not a bumbling dad, nor is he self-absorbed narcissist always looking to get ahead. Hank Hill, at is core, is blue collar family man who loves his job, loves his wife, and tries to make the most of his situation. He’s not a whiner. When he sees a problem, he tries to fix it. When he makes a mistake, he owns up to it, even if he stumbles along the way.

He tries to do all of this while surrounded by characters who have a wide range of issues, flaws, and eccentricities. One of his neighbors is a self-loathing loser obsessed with his wife. Another is a chain-smoking paranoid idiot who doesn’t know his wife cheats on him. The other is Boomhaur. Actually, Boomhaur is awesome.

Beyond his idiot friends, Hank also deals with a know-it-all wife with an inflated ego, a lazy son who goes out of his way to under-achieve, a bimbo niece who attracts all the wrong people, and an eccentric, misogynistic father who hates his guts. The fact that Hank manages to maintain such a calm, collected demeanor most of the time is a testament to his strength.

That strength, however, isn’t exactly obvious if you just look at his persona on paper. In fact, if you just skim the basics, Hank doesn’t come off as a very interesting character, let alone one who fits the criteria for noble masculinity. He’s conservative, he’s frugal, he doesn’t exude charisma, and he’s a staunch defender of law, order, and the status quo.

Hank isn’t the kind of man who willingly goes on adventures, acts on an impulse, or seeks to radically change the world around him. He actually likes his world, for the most part, and actively defends it from those who try to upset it. This has led to more than a few conflicts throughout the show, but Hank’s ability to resolve those conflicts reveals that there’s much more to his character.

It’s in those efforts where Hank’s nobility, as both a man and a character, really shows. While he is a staunch traditionalist who goes to church, votes Republican, and is extremely uncomfortable with sex, he’s also remarkably tolerant of those who don’t share his views.

Throughout the show, he encounters people who are overtly promiscuous, exceedingly liberal, and don’t care much for football. At no point, though, does he try to change those people or convince them that they’re flawed. Sure, he’ll threaten to kick an ass every now and then, but he usually reserves that recourse for those who most deserve it.

When he’s not kicking asses that deserve to be kicked, Hank is also demonstrates an ability to reserve judgment and not make anything too personal. Throughout the show, he’s encountered crazy right-wing religious types, flamboyant homosexuals, and unapologetic womanizers. By nearly every measure, he deals with them in a way that’s respectable and fair for the most part.

For the most part, indeed.

Hank doesn’t condone or condemn their behavior. He’s more concerned with the consequences they have on others. In his view as a freedom-loving American, what people choose to do is their business, provided they understand and accept responsibility for the consequences.

Throughout the course of the show, he’ll point out or remind others of those consequences. He’ll even help some confront it. However, he doesn’t make it personal. He doesn’t whine about it. He doesn’t try to get everyone to embrace his way of doing things. Hank basically lets other people be free and live their lives.

It’s not the same as slaying giant monsters or rescuing princesses from towers, but it’s noble in its own right. In the context of masculinity, Hank Hill’s ability to remain strong, stern, and confident in the face of so much chaos from so many characters, each with plenty of quirks and eccentricities, is a testament to the kind of man he is.

He’s a man who takes pride in his work, leads by example, and tries to be the voice of reason in a world full of unreasonable people. He’s willing to be brave and bold when he has to be. He’s also willing to take responsibility when others won’t or refuse to. As a man, he’s someone who earns the respect of others and does plenty to maintain it.

That’s not to say that Hank is without his flaws. Sometimes, he is traditional to the point of being petty. In one episode, the entire plot was driven by his dismay at another family sitting in his non-assigned seat at church. He can also be controlling, especially with how he raises his son, Bobby.

On more than one occasion, he’s been an obstacle for Bobby’s endeavors. His famous refrain, “That boy ain’t right,” is often said in the context of him wanting to guide Bobby down a certain path. Most of the time, though, he does so in a way that’s appropriate for a caring father. Other times, though, he gives the impression that he wants Bobby to be just like him.

Even with these flaws, Hank Hill still commands and earns respect. As a man, a father, and an American, he checks most of the boxes in terms of noble masculinity. He’s strong, responsible, hard-working, and accepting of other peoples’ strengths and flaws. He’s a man worthy of admiration and the fact he knows propane is a nice bonus.

1 Comment

Filed under gender issues, media issues, noble masculinity, political correctness

What My Mother Taught Me About Being A Better Man (With Roller Coasters)

roller-coaster-2

Whenever I get a little personal on this site, I often focus on two topics. One is how awful high school was for me. The other is how awesome my parents are. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m bragging, but I’m just being honest and truthful. They really are that awesome and I intend to belabor that every chance I get.

As it just so happens, Mother’s Day is tomorrow and since I have such a wonderful mother, I’d like to share a personal story that I hope conveys a larger message about masculinity, in general. I promise this isn’t going to be another complex exploration about bogus topics like “toxic” masculinity or double standards. It’s just a simple story about my amazing mom and how she helped me grow into a better man.

There are a long list of stories I could share. Some of those stories I’m sure my mother would prefer I kept private. There are plenty others I’m sure my mom would love for me to share, if only to document some of the more memorable moments our family has shared over the years. Since I know she occasionally reads this site, I think she’ll agree that this is definitely one worth sharing.

That’s because it involves roller coasters. That’s not some elaborate metaphor. I’m dead serious. This is a story about me, my mother, and roller coasters. It’s kind of what it sounds like, but I promise it has other, more meaningful connotations that I think are wholly appropriate on the eve of Mother’s Day.

First, I need to provide a little context. This particular moment occurred when I was around ten-years-old. That’s relevant because that was the age when I was finally tall enough to ride most of the rides at amusement parks like Six Flags and Kings Dominion. As it just so happens, both are within a two hour drive of where we lived.

My mom, being the wonderful person she is, used that as opportunity to plan a day-long trip to Kings Dominion. I went with my younger brother, my aunt, and a cousin of mine. It was blazing hot, but being an energetic kid, I was too excited to care. I don’t even remember complaining with my mom urged me to put on extra sunscreen.

After spending about an hour just exploring the park, doing some small rides and playing some games, we came across a roller coaster that, to my 10-year-old mind, might as well have been Mount Everest. I’m not saying I was an overly fearful kid, but this was uncharted territory for me. My first instinct was not to go on such a ride.

To some extent, that was my default instinct to that point in my life. I know kids at that age can be both frustratingly reckless or annoyingly helpless with very little in between. It’s an age where kids still cling to the safety of their parents, but are just starting to feel that inclination to explore the world.

I was probably more reluctant than most kids my age. Both my parents and siblings would probably admit that I was a very self-disciplined kid, often to a fault. I did not like going out of my comfort zone and taking chances. I even complained when I had to, as kids are prone to do.

On that day at Kings Dominion, though, my mom gave me an extra push. She never shoved me or pressured me. She got encouraged me, getting excited about the ride so that I got excited too. Before long, that excitement overrode any fear or reservations I had. Thanks to that encouragement, I went on the ride with her and to this date, I feel like that was a pivotal moment in my young life.

At the time, though, it was just an incredible thrill. I loved it. I loved it even more than my mom promised. I remember getting off that ride, feeling dizzy and unable to stand. I probably looked like I was drunk, but I didn’t care. I had so much fun and so did my mom. We went on that ride again.

It was the first of many. From that day forward, my mother and I became the roller coaster aficionados of the family. Whenever we went to an amusement park, be it Kings Dominion, Six Flags, or Disney World, my mom and I would jump at the chance to ride the biggest, scariest ride. Sometimes friends, siblings, and cousins would join us. Other times, they would chicken out. My mom and I never did.

Those were wonderful times. They’re among some of the fondest memories I have with my mother as a kid. Beyond the thrills and adrenaline, though, I find those experiences had another effect on me. This effect was more personal, though. It also played a major part in the critical, yet often treacherous process of a kid growing into an adult.

By taking a chance on those roller coasters, doing something risky for once, my mom taught me a valuable lesson about being an adult and a man. She showed me that sometimes, we need to embrace a little danger. We need to leave the safety of the familiar and explore new, potentially hazardous experiences.

That kind of mentality takes both bravery and even a little foolishness. It’s a combination of traits often associated with masculinity, being willing and able to take those risks for new and exciting experiences. I’m not saying that men are the only ones who have such risk-seeking behavior. Women can be every bit as adventurous, as my mother so aptly demonstrated.

For me, the ten-year-old boy who still saw himself as such, those experiences marked the early steps of a more profound maturation process. It wasn’t just that I was now old enough and tall enough to ride all the roller coasters at most theme parks. I realized that my experiences didn’t just have to be kid-friendly experiences.

I could take chances, venture into once-forbidden areas, and explore life in ways I hadn’t dared. Doing that can be scary and sometimes requires a little encouragement, not unlike the kind my mother gave me that day at Kings Dominion. It can also be very rewarding, as the rush from an awesome thrill ride so wonderfully proves.

I was still a shy, reserved person, even as I entered adulthood. I still took longer than most to emerge from my shell. However, thanks to my wonderful mother and her loving encouragement to try out a few thrill rides, I understood what it meant to be an adult and a strong man.

To my mother, and all those wonderful mothers who encourage their children with the same love and care, I thank you. You helped teach me how to be brave, how to embrace the adult world, and how awesome roller coasters are. For that, I will be forever grateful. To her and to all the other mother’s out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

4 Comments

Filed under gender issues, Jack Fisher's Insights

Five Life Lessons I Learned During My First Visit To A Strip Club

strip-club-bachelor-vegas-1200x800

What can you learn at a strip club that can help you with life in general? That’s not a rhetorical question or something Glenn Quagmire said on an episode of “Family Guy.” That’s a legitimate question with real answers. I know that because I’ve been to strip clubs. I’ve contemplated those questions. I’ve also surmised my share of answers.

I won’t claim those answers are definitive. Everyone’s experience at strip clubs are different, be they of the male or female variety. However, during that fateful first visit to a strip club, I found myself learning a whole lot more than I expected. I went in just hoping to see beautiful women getting naked. It ended up being much more than that.

I’ve shared my love of Las Vegas before. I’ve shared experiences I had and even based one of my novels on both Las Vegas and strippers. The city is near and dear to my heart, is what I’m saying. It’s one big spectacle, one that goes out of its way to overtly sexy. There are sexy shows to see, sexy sites to visit, and plenty of sexy people in general just walking the strip.

Related image

For a lover of romance and all things sexy, Las Vegas is a fantasy paradise. I learned that quickly during my first visit, which occurred shortly after I turned 21. It was a truly magical experience at a time in my life when I was just starting to come out of the shell I’d built around myself during high school.

One of those experiences, naturally, involved my first trip to a strip club. Needless to say, I was excited and anxious. This would be the first time I would be in an adult establishment where I could admire abundant nudity on something other than a computer screen. Like everything else in Las Vegas, it blurred the lines between fantasy and reality in the best possible way.

I won’t share all the details of that first strip club experience, but I will gladly share some of the critical life lessons I learned that night. Out of respect for the women I saw and any legal ramifications, I won’t say which strip club I went to. I’ll just say it was a fairly prominent one that most Las Vegas veterans have heard of.

Again, I won’t claim that these lessons are the definitive insights a man can glean from his first trip to a strip club. Everyone is going to learn different lessons from different experiences. These are just the five lessons I learned during that fateful first adventure into this sexy world.


Lesson #1: Admire, Don’t Stare (And Know The Difference)

Image result for man at strip club

The first thing I noticed when I walked into that strip club for the first time was there was a lot to see. This was Las Vegas, after all. Las Vegas is to strippers what the Pro Bowl is to the NFL. You go into a Las Vegas strip club and you won’t see any rookies. You’ll only see seasoned pros who have the stats, talent, and game.

That said, just looking at all the beautiful women isn’t enough. Staring won’t cut it either. Most women, strippers or otherwise, don’t want to be looked at the same way most look at a golden toilet seat. They want to be admired. Give them that admiration and they’ll show their appreciation, sometimes very directly.

That involves doing more than just staring blankly at a topless woman. It involves smiling, moving a little to the music, and clapping when she does something amazing like hang upside down from one leg. Throw in a few tips and she’ll appreciate it. If she’s generous, she’ll even reward that admiration with some of her own.

During my first visit, I made it a point to single out certain women who was uniquely endowed for her job. By that, I mean she had breasts that were about as natural as the Hoover Dam. As I admired her every move, she responded by mashing my fast between her breasts after I tipped her. That, in many ways, showed me how much more valuable it was to admire a woman rather than just stare at her.

There is a difference. To know the difference, spend some time in front of a mirror. Take a moment to just stare blankly at yourself. Then, put a little effort into admiring yourself. The difference should be obvious. It’s just much more obvious for strippers.


Lesson #2: Personality Helps, But Energy Helps More

Image result for man at strip club

I admit when I first entered the strip club, I was shy and overwhelmed. My social skills were way behind to curve, thanks to all the issues I had in high school. However, I was at a phase in my life when I was just starting to catch up. I wasn’t some moody, self-loathing teenager anymore. I was an adult man with an emerging persona.

That persona helped me stand out in a crowded strip club. I was young, eager, and full of excitement at all the sight of naked women. I admit it was a little immature because of my youth, but I made up for it by having a respectable, endearing personality. The women at the club really responded to it.

However, personality only went so far. That only informed them that I was a decent guy who wasn’t going to drool over them like a slob. To show I was worth getting to know, I had to put a little effort into the experience. I had to take some of that youthful energy I had and make it stand out.

That meant clapping more, cheering more, and smiling more. I showed genuine excitement for the women as they danced, giving compliments and even dancing a little in my seat. I definitely showed more energy than the older guys around me and the fact that the women gave me more attention showed there’s something to be said about channeling your energy.

Excitement is infectious. When someone near you is excited, you tend to get excited to. Human beings are a social species. Strippers are human too and they’re just as prone to getting excited. Sure, it’s part of their job, but a little excitement in your work helps make that work all the more rewarding.


Lesson #3: Half-Truths Are Better Than Outright Lies

Related image

This is one of the tougher lessons I learned in my first visit to a strip club. Las Vegas is a fantasy town and people love fantasy, in general. There’s a time to be blunt and brutally honest about who you are or why you’re doing something. A strip club in Las Veags isn’t one of them.

That doesn’t mean lying, though. I came into that strip club with a roll of $20s. I even made sure that roll was thicker than it really was, which the Bouncer seemed to notice. That, in turn, got me a front-row seat and some extra attention from the bartender. I didn’t tell them that I wasn’t the son of a wealthy hedge fund manager. I did’t tell them I wasn’t, either. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to let others assume.

When talking to the strippers, though, you can’t rely too much on assumptions. You also can’t blurt out every detail of your life story. I got a little overly chatty with a couple women early. At some point, I realized that throwing too much hard truth in a fantasy setting was really a turn-off. To the credit of the women working there, they didn’t make it more awkward than it needed to be.

I quickly learned that it works better to use half-truths or vague hints about why you’re there. If someone asks how much money you have, don’t give an exact dollar figure. When one woman asked me, I just responded with, “That depends.” That wasn’t entirely wrong or wholly true, but it sent the right message.

More than anything else, I learned that it helps to be a mystery to people to some extent. That’s not just a tactic to pretend you’re a high roller with a stripper. It’s a way of getting someone interested in you and actually wanting to learn more about you. Whether they’re just looking for a tip or seeking true love, leave them with something to find. They may end up finding more than they expect and you’ll be better for it.


Lesson #4: Know How To Negotiate Your Intentions And Desires

Image result for man at strip club

There are a lot of official and unofficial rules in a strip club. Officially, these beautiful women are there to entertain you, entice you, and extract tips. That’s it. That’s the end of the arrangement. If you’re looking for them to be your girlfriend, your therapist, or your servant for a day, you’re undermining the rules.

In strip clubs, the dynamic is much more overt. In exchange for money and attention, the strippers give you a fantasy and some intimate affection. You want something from them. They want something from you. The key is negotiating the best way to get it. Neither of you will always get what you want, but understanding the rules and being able to negotiate will go a long way.

In many respects, my first trip to a strip club gave me a crash course in what it meant to convey my attentions and negotiate with someone on getting what I wanted out of the experience. It wasn’t just about saying, “Here’s some money. Let me touch your boobs.” It was more akin to, “I want an experience. How can I convince you to help me make it?”

Outside a strip club, we negotiate our desires all the time. Sometimes it’s with a lover, a co-worker, or a relative. Sometimes it’s with a total stranger. In any case, there’s are rules and expectations. If you try to subvert those rules or make unreasonable expectations, you’re bound to run into trouble. In a strip club, that can get you thrown out. In real life, that can have even worse consequences.

Like it or not, people in the real world usually want something from you. Whether it’s money or love, the key is navigating it responsibly. Going to a strip club gave me a chance to be more direct about it and it was a great experience. Being able to see beautiful women naked was a nice bonus as well.


Lesson #5: How You Present Yourself Matters As Much As What You Say

Image result for man at strip club

This is where I kind of have to give credit to my mother. Yes, I know that’s an odd thing to say about experiences involving strip clubs, but I think this warrants an exception. Before I even left for Vegas, my mom insisted I get some fancy new clothes that were nicer, albeit less comfortable than I was used to. Even though I complained at first, I’m really glad she convinced me to spruce up my wardrobe.

When I ventured into the strip club, I wore a nice button-up shirt, a new set of jeans, and dress shoes that most guys wouldn’t wear outside a wedding. I definitely didn’t look like some college student just experiencing Vegas for the first time. I looked like a refined, well-dressed, well-groomed gentleman. That sends a powerful message to men and women alike.

It showed in the way the bouncer was extra nice to me. It also showed in the way the bartenders and strippers treated me. Compared to some of the other men in that club, who were primarily wearing T-shirts and flip-flops, I stood out for all the right reasons. I sent the message that I care enough about myself to look good. I also sent the message that I care about presenting a good image of myself to others.

That sort of approach doesn’t just attract a man to strippers. It attracts a man to everyone. I know it sounds obvious, but I don’t think some people appreciate the true impact that presentation has on others. I treated going into a strip club kind of like a job interview. I wanted to look my best and present myself as someone worthy of attention.

In addition to good clothes, presenting yourself with confidence and energy helps supplement your efforts. It says even more about the kind of person you are. It gives the impression that you’re excited about life and you want to share it. The inherent social nature of people in general will draw them to you. It’s simple biology.


That, my friends, concludes my list of critical lessons that I learned from a strip club. To the women working at that club and the fine folks who managed it, I sincerely thank you. You taught me more about life than just the inherent beauty of topless women. I hope others can draw from those lessons as well. When applied properly, they can help you in ways that go beyond having a great time at a strip club.

2 Comments

Filed under gender issues, Jack Fisher's Insights, sex in society, sexuality

Ode To Tomboys And How One Made Me A Better Person

I try not to get personal on this site too often. When I do, though, I try to make an important point that others can learn from. That’s not easy, since everyone’s personal experiences are different. When one of those stories resonates, though, it’s a beautiful thing.

With that beauty in mind, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate a certain female persona that tends to evoke mixed emotions in people. For me, though, that persona has a special place in my heart because certain women have influenced me in a major way. That persona, in this case, is that of the female tomboy.

I know the stereotypical tomboy isn’t known for her sex appeal. She doesn’t come off like the kind of person who would inspire an aspiring erotica/romance writer. However, I think the appeal of a tomboy goes far beyond how little she has in common with the cast of “Mean Girls.”

I’m guessing that most people knew someone growing up who fit the mold of a tomboy. She was a girl, but she didn’t have “girly” interest. She liked sports. She liked cars. She liked to hang out with boys, didn’t care for makeup, and didn’t mind getting her nails dirty. Whether she was a friend, relative, or classmate, she probably stood out more than most.

There’s all sorts of social and psychological insights into what makes a girl a tomboy. I don’t want to get too much into that. For this, I want to keep things personal. I want to tell a short story about how a very special tomboy influenced me in a positive way, one that I still feel to this day.

Out of respect for her privacy, as well as the fact that I haven’t kept in touch with her, I won’t use her real name. From here on out, I’m just going to call her Carly. If, by some remote chance she ever reads this, she’ll probably recognize the importance of that name. She may even recognize me. I hope that happens because I don’t think she knows what a profound impact she had on me.

I knew Carly from grade school. We met when we were in the third grade and we shared the same classes until grade six. That’s a pretty critical time because we were both still kids, but were on the edge of puberty. While I don’t think it played too great a role at the time, I think it influenced the context of our friendship and our connection.

What made Carly stand out, even for a kid like me, was the fact that she didn’t look like the kind of hardcore tomboy you’d imagine after seeing “Little Giants.” If you randomly met her in public, you wouldn’t know she was a tomboy, but you would probably expect it. While she did look feminine, she never wore dresses, skirts, or makeup.

If you spent any amount of time with her, you learned quickly that Carly wasn’t a typical girl. She didn’t conduct herself like the other girls I knew. Whenever we did group projects, she worked with boys. Whenever we had lunch at the cafeteria, she sat with the boys. It wasn’t that she hated other girls. She just preferred being around boys, myself included.

I didn’t think too much of that until I saw her doing more than just being around boys. What made Carly special was how she went out of her way to match other boys in terms of skill, grit, and strength. While the other girls hung out on the playground, Carly was playing basketball and football. While those same girls talked about boy bands, she talked about who won on Monday Night Football.

I remember multiple instances where the boys got together to play touch football and she would be the only girl who wanted to play. We let her too. None of the other boys joked about it. There was this unspoken rule that Carly was one of the guys. She proved that she belonged. Anyone who gave her crap about it was not welcome.

Keep in mind, these are pre-teen boys who still think cooties are a thing. These are boys whose maturity level is limited by the amount of cartoons they watched that same morning. The fact that none of them gave Carly a second look, nor did they question her ability, says as much about them as it does about her.

More than any other girl, at that time, Carly fascinated me. I watched as she ran alongside other boys during gym class, playing sports like football and baseball better than some of the other boys I knew. Being so young, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I just knew I had to go out of my way to hang out with her and be friends with her.

While I won’t say we were close friends, we did know each other. We recognized each other outside of class. That eventually culminated in a moment that would both solidify Carly’s place in my memory and inspire me in ways I didn’t appreciate until later in life. That moment occurred when I was in little league one year.

From the time I was in first grade until the time I went to middle school, I played little league baseball. I loved baseball as a kid and it was the only sport I ever felt passionate enough about to play seriously. In all those years of playing little league, I played with a lot of other boys, some more memorable than others. However, through those same years, only one girl ever dared to play little league with boys and that was Carly.

I still remember the day when I saw her run out onto the field, a dirty old hat and a new baseball glove in hand. I had no idea she would be on my team, but when I saw her, I remember smiling. I even watched as she fielded pop flies and practiced batting with the coach. While I wouldn’t say she was our best player, she held her own. She could throw, run, hit, and catch. She wasn’t just a tomboy. She was an athlete.

In later years, that memory has taken on far greater meaning. Remember, I was a kid at the time. I was still at an age where girls might as well have been another species. Since pre-school, boys hung out with boys. Girls hung out with girls. We didn’t question it. We just separated ourselves, as though it had been ordained.

Carly showed that those unwritten rules weren’t really rules. She showed that girls didn’t have to be that different. Girls could still like boyish things. They could also be tough, play sports, and relate to boys just as well as they did with girls. Carly embodied that spirit better than anyone I’d known before or since. She was like a kid version of Rhonda Rousey.

That may not sound like much on the surface, but I can’t overstate the importance of that influence. The fact that I knew a girl who could so comfortably embrace boyish things made me question whether the divide between genders really mattered that much. The older I got, the more I realized how arbitrary that divide truly was. Carly was living proof of that.

It was because of Carly that I began interacting more with girls. This did make me a bit weird in the eyes of other boys. I started seeking out female company before it was considered cool for a kid. I like to think that gave me a head start on puberty in that it prepared me to appreciate female company better than most.

It’s also through my interactions with Carly that I stopped trying to talk to girls as though they were so radically different. In doing so, I realized that girls can talk about things like sports, cartoons, and even comics. While these girls might not have been tomboys like Carly, we were capable of sharing the same interests.

Conversely, it showed me that boys can share girls’ interests as well. To me, that was a big deal because it’s through dealing with girls that I developed a fondness for romance. Whereas boys may look at movie, comic, or TV show and appreciate the action, I often found myself appreciating the romantic sub-plots. I don’t think I would’ve had the mind to appreciate those things without Carly.

For that, I’ll always be grateful to her. At the same time, I regret not being a closer friend with her or keeping in touch with her. In my defense, we ended up going to different middle schools so we never got a chance. I would still love to know what came of her. She struck me as the kind of girl who would go far in life.

I don’t know if she outgrew her tomboy persona, as many girls do. Even if she did, Carly’s influence on me was a turning point. I may have been a kid when I knew her, but she inspired in me the kinds of ideas that shaped me into the man I am today. I like to think I’m a better overall person because of it.

Dealing with Carly helped me interact better with girls and people who were different from me, in general. Carly also proved to me that girls and boys weren’t so different after all. We could relate to one another, work together, and grow together. As a kid, that’s a radical concept. As an adult, that’s an important life lesson that helps men and women alike appreciate each other.

1 Comment

Filed under gender issues, Jack Fisher's Insights, sexuality