Tag Archives: honesty

When Love (And Lust) Is Genuine

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Does she love me?

Does she love you?

Is our love real?

Is the sex good?

Is the sex really that good?

Is this love the real deal?

These are all questions I’m sure everyone has asked themselves at some point. If not, then chances are you’ll ask yourselves these questions at some point in the future. Sometimes you may not even ask them with a completely sober mind and I’m not just talking about shots of tequila.

Love, lust, and everything in between is a beautiful thing. It’s one of the most powerful experiences we can have as human beings. In fact, according to research from MIT, being in love can produce a high similar to that of cocaine. In another life, maybe Pablo Escobar could’ve been the ultimate love guru. I guess we’ll never know.

I know I say it a lot, but it’s worth saying again, especially for a topic like this. We are a very social species. The human race thrived, despite bodies that were easily crushed by hungry bears, because we could collaborate and cooperate. We worked together, shared resources, and made beautiful love that resulted in more humans. Now, we’re the most dominant species on the planet. Bears just cannot make that claim.

As beautiful as it is, sometimes the answers to those questions are tragic, if not downright heartbreaking. It does happen. Sometimes the love two people have isn’t real. Sometimes the lust they feel is fake. Sometimes the sex is only a minor step above having someone watch while you masturbate. The challenge is finding out how to answer these questions.

I bring up this topic because I recently got into an interesting discussion with some people on a comic book message board. Now in general, I try to avoid most of the discussions on message boards. I’ve found that over 95 percent of them involve fans whining about the current situation in their favorite comics and how they hate it so much, but not enough to stop talking about it.

Every now and then, though, there will be a more meaningful conversation. I really enjoy being part of that conversation because it brings out some interesting perspectives. A lot of those perspectives can apply to real life, even in comics that involve clones, time travel, and poop jokes. Yes, I’m referring about Deadpool.

Specifically, the conversation I had involved a discussion about how genuine the love and romantic chemistry is between two particular characters. In this case, one of those characters was Spider-Man, whose romantic history is almost as vast as Wolverine’s. While I do criticize Spider-Man for being an incompetent hero, the man is still pretty good when it comes to getting laid. For that, I do respect him.

However, like a lot of comic book characters and real people, his love life is subject to a lot of variations. There are times when his emotions are not entirely sincere. By that, I mean he’s with someone because they’re there. That’s it. Then, there are times when he really does love someone, enough to marry them and make a deal with a devil with them. Like I said, there’s a lot of range with Spider-Man.

Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of these situations. Within the discussion I had, there were all sorts of conflicting opinions about just how sincere Spider-Man was and how much potential the relationship actually had. For every one person in the discussion, there were at least five different opinions, including my own.

Comic book fans are notoriously stubborn for how their characters are portrayed, but when it comes to our love lives, the stakes are a bit higher. In the discussion, I noticed a few common themes that set genuine love apart from the kind of love that end with Spider-Man getting his ass kicked by the Green Goblin.

One of those elements is luck. I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but it’s an unavoidable function of life. Sometimes you’re in the right situation at the right time to take advantage of something, be it love or a winning lotto ticket. You can’t always control it, but it happens.

With respect to genuine love, though, luck plays a very specific role. If a relationship relies on luck to work, then that relationship is basically a reverse lottery. Over time, the odds just aren’t in anyone’s favor. The Law of Averages is both a harsh mistress and an outright sadomasochist. Spider-Man finds that out on a regular basis with how badly his relationships turn out, often due to forces he can’t control.

In addition to luck, there’s also the chemistry aspect. This is much sexier and much more romantic than luck. There’s no question about that. It’s also one of the hardest component to really nail down.

We all understand what romantic and sexual chemistry is to some extent. If two people are drawn together and struggle to keep their clothes on around each other, that’s a sign of pretty potent chemistry. Like real chemistry, though, some mixtures are more potent than others. Some are downright volatile.

If the chemistry is restricted to lust, then that’ll make for some hot sex. However, it won’t make for much else. Now I’ve got nothing against hot sex. It’s a wonderful part of being human. It can just be shallow and crude though. It can be a key ingredient for sexual chemistry, but it can’t be the only ingredient.

Add love to the mix and that’s where the potency shows. Genuine love complements one another. Genuine love involves two people cooperating, sacrificing, and sharing on a level that you just don’t do with a total stranger. Genuine love is usually equal for the most part. It’s rarer than hot sex, but beautiful. It even shows up in an X-men comic every now and then.

Lastly, one key element in genuine love involves reasons and excuses. I know this isn’t very sexy either, but it’s a necessary practical element of love. It can be either the glue or the napalm that binds/destroys a relationship.

Specifically, it deals with the how and why two people are involved in the first place. If they’re in an arranged marriage, which still happens a lot these days, then that’s a fairly unambiguous reason. If they’re together because they just don’t want to be alone, then that’s not much of a reason. That’s more of an excuse.

Sometimes Spider-Man is just with someone because they’re part of his life. They happen to cross paths with him both in and out of the mask. That’s often the case with characters like the Black Cat, whose about as genuine as a very hungry, very horny wolf. It rarely makes for a very genuine connection.

Sometimes two people start out as friends and the connection deepens. This often happens in a lot of teen movies and sitcoms, but it happens in real life too so it’s not entirely flawed like most movie tropes. That can sometimes be a solid foundation for genuine love.

There are also cases where two people are together purely for pragmatic reasons. A beautiful woman is with a man because he’s rich. A man is with a beautiful woman because she’s sexy. Sometimes people are just friends with benefits. That does happen and can work, despite what an Ashton Kutcher movie may claim.

That doesn’t mean pragmatism is necessarily genuine though. If two people are together because not being together would be too much work or too inconvenient, that’s not genuine. That’s just plain lazy. If two people are together because one has a great deal of leverage over the other, then that’s not genuine either. That’s exploitation.

Overall, there are a lot of components that go into a genuine romance and, without spoiling too much of the discussion I had, Spider-Man sucks at it. Characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, and even Starfire, to some extent, have a much better track record.

In the real world and throughout history, you’ll find plenty of examples of genuine love. They don’t always make for great stories or good erotica/romance, but that doesn’t make them any less genuine. In the end, genuine love combined with genuine lust makes for the best and sexiest connections. Not everyone can find it, but that’s what makes it so precious.

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Sex, Lies, And The Future Of Truth

Admit it. You’ve lied before. Maybe it involved drinking in high school. Maybe it involved  strippers at a bachelor party. Maybe it involved a promise to pull out. Whatever the case may be, regardless of whether you got caught or ended up paying child support, you’ve lied at one point in your life. As the great Dr. House once said, “Everybody lies.”

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with lying. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re lying to tell a story, which is basically what I do as a writer, then it’s not wrong. If done right, it can actually be pretty damn sexy. If you’re lying to deceive a lover, cheat on your taxes, or prevent your children from knowing about condoms, then that’s pushing it.

I bring up lies because, in watching my share of both superhero movies and romantic comedies, there is one common theme that binds many of these conflicts. No, it’s not Robert Downy Jr. or Hugh Jackman’s sex appeal. It’s that a lot of these plots are built on someone lying and working way harder than they need to in order to keep up the lie.

Take “The Proposal” with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock for example. In addition to being one of my favorite romantic comedies of the past several years, it’s entire plot was built around a lie that Bullock’s character crafted and Reynolds had to help preserve. Sure, it made for a hilariously entertaining story, complete with awkward nude scenes and moments with Betty White, but it was all built on the foundation of a lie.

Why do I bring up lies? Well, to answer that, I’ll have to get a little personal again and this time, it has nothing to do with me sleeping naked.

I’ve gotten a lot of romantic advice over the years from friends and family. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it just plain crazy and involves some rather improper uses of food. However, within the good advice I’ve gotten, there was one common theme and it amounted to this.

DON’T KEEP SECRETS.

I write that in all caps and bold because they didn’t just tell me this as a casual aside. They made it a point to really emphasize the importance of being honest with those you love. No relationship can really function in the long run when both sides are keeping secrets. Say what you will about the Bundys or the Simpsons, but they are honest with each other, often brutally so.

Beyond the advice, there are a lot of romantic stories that involve secrets, lies, and deception. It’s not always in the smooth, sophisticated ways of James Bond either. Stories about lies, affairs, and elaborate deceptions are basically the bread and butter of these stories.

I’ve certainly used those themes. In “Skin Deep” and “The Escort and the Gigolo,” a big chunk of the plot is built around certain lies and deception. Not all of them are intentional either. Sometimes, the characters just don’t have a reason to believe someone is telling the truth.

This brings me to another thought experiment of sorts. Granted, it’s not exactly the sexy kind, but it has the potential to be. It involves the ways in which we expose lies. At the moment, we really can’t be 100 percent sure if anyone is telling the truth. We can’t even be 80 percent sure. People who lie, cheat, and manipulate others still operate and thrive in this world. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

Our entire justice system is built on the understanding that we can’t exactly know for sure whether someone is guilty or innocent. We can put them under oath all we want. People can and will still lie. That’s why we have principles that presume innocence and require that we prove guilt, and the lies by default, beyond all reasonable doubt.

As good as our justice system has served us, to a point, it still struggles to uncover lies. It can interrogate and intimidate all it wants. It won’t always be able to get out the truth. In fact, it can even create even more lies in the process.

This is where the thought experiment comes in. What if we had a device that could, with nearly 100 percent accuracy, tell whether someone was lying? What would that do to our justice system? What would that do to our relationships with others? Would it effectively force us to be more honest with our friends, family, and intimate lovers?

This is another one of those thought experiments that isn’t overly fanciful. Creating devices to detect lies is not a new idea. In fact, it’s been in development for over a century.

Contrary to popular belief, however, there is no functioning “lie detector” yet. Those who claim there is are probably referring to a polygraph. A polygraph is not a lie detector. If anything, it’s a stress detector. It doesn’t detect lies. It detects the stresses on your body. I’m sorry if this completely changes how you see “Meet The Parents,” but that’s the hard truth.

For that reason, the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that the vast majority of research on the use of a polygraph for lie detection is unreliable, bias, and unscientific. It’s also why polygraph tests aren’t considered a reliable form of evidence in a court of law.

This is because it is possible to fool a polygraph. It’s been done before. There are even entire YouTube videos dedicated to helping people beat a polygraph. As a lie detector, it’s not much better than flipping a coin.

Beyond the polygraph, which only measures physiological responses, there is another emerging technology called fMRI, or Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This technology is more functional in principle because it measures the very source of all lies, namely the human brain. However, our limited understanding of how the brain forms lies prevents it from being a full-fledged lie detector.

Even so, the use of fMRI has been shown to be an effective way at detecting lies. It’s still not perfect. In an episode of Mythbusters, one of the hosts was able to beat an fMRI. If it can be done on a TV show, then what hope does it have in a court of law with people who lie for a living?

Despite this flaw, research has shown that an fMRI was able to detect lies with 24 percent more accuracy than a polygraph. Overall, it’s accuracy is about 78 percent. That’s pretty good. If it were a winning percentage in baseball, it would be a playoff team. However, when you’re dealing with law and relationships, 78 percent just isn’t enough.

At the very least, the technology is improving. As the science of brain imaging continues to improve, it will eventually be possible to detect lies within someone’s brain with a degree of accuracy that would make every court drama much more boring.

There may even come a day where detecting lies is as easy as talking into a smartphone. Remember that smart blood I mentioned a while back? Well if someone had that in their system, then their brains could be scanned in real time. That means people could know whether they’re lying in an instant. That would basically destroy the entire pick-up artist community.

Now that kind of lie detection is a long way off. However, and I know I say this a lot, there may come a day within our life time when this technology is functional. Given the ongoing development into fMRIs, it may only be a matter of time before someone creates a system that can detect lies with 99 percent accuracy.

What will this mean for criminal justice? What will this mean for divorce proceedings? What will this mean for relationships in general when people know there’s a way for their lies to be exposed? It’s a strange and ominous idea to imagine, but the cold hard truth is that we may have to deal with sooner than we think.

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