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Daily Sexy Musings: Well-Dressed Men

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You can tell a lot about a man by how he dresses. Say what you will about someone who wears fancy clothes and buys overpriced hair care products. A man who puts genuine effort into how they look says they value the image they present. It’s not always out of pure vanity. When done right, a well-dressed man can have genuine appeal, including the sexy kind.

I can safely say that I feel genuinely sexy as a man when I put on one of my suits. It’s not just that the suit costs more than discount T-shirts from Wal-Mart. It gives me a sense of confidence and worth. I worked on myself and a nice suit helps put it all on display. The following Daily Sexy Musing is my way of giving that unique feeling some substance to go with the style. Enjoy!

I stand in front of the mirror, wearing a freshly-ironed shirt, a perfectly-tailored pair of slacks, and an imported silk tie that was grossly overpriced. I don’t mind, though. I put it on with pride, smiling to myself as I smooth it out and fix every wrinkle. Then, I put on my blazer and button it up.

It marks the end of a masculine metamorphosis. I’m no longer the man who groaned restlessly as he got out of bed. Now, I’m a man ready to take on the world and look good doing it. Everything about me feels more refined. My poise, my demeanor, and my attitude are heightened. There’s nothing I can’t achieve.

I turn around and see you standing in the door. You look at me the same way you look at a beautiful sunset. You’ve seen me at my best and at my worst. You’ve seen me naked and wearing clothes so cheap they barely qualify as rags. However, in that moment, I become something greater in your eyes.

I am a man of confidence, determined and driven.

I am a man of worth, having strived and earned.

I am a man of grit, willing to work and achieve.

You walk over to me. You place your arms around my neck. You feel the fancy fabrics now covering my body. It may only be the shell, but it makes everything within shine brighter. I feel your admiration in every glance. As I take in your touch, I sense more than admiration.

In these clothes, overpriced they may be, you don’t just see the man I am. You see the man I strive to be. Through what I ware, I say to you that I want to be more. I seek to be a man that others respect. More importantly, I seek to be a man you desire. With every admiring glance, I know I’m succeeding.

I can tell you want me.

I can tell you love me.

I can tell you feel my love.

As I hold you, the fancy fabrics cling to my skin. From a rough-cut diamond to a polished gem, I am the best man I can be for you. It’s enough to make you want to tear my suit off and show why you’re the best lover a man could hope for. I know you want to. I feel it as your hands tremble.

I share your want, but I cannot forget. There is work to be done. I let you admire me as long as you need to. I then whisper into your ear a tantalizing preview of what awaits us tonight. Your smile widens and your face blushes. I’ve just given us both something to anticipate.

I put this suit on with goals in mind and determination in heart. You give me a reason to wear it with pride and honor. Now, I look forward to the moment when you help me take it off.

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Five Overused Romantic Sub-Plots (And How To Fix Them)

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Being a self-professed romance fan, I know more about the intricacies of romantic sub-plots than most men would ever dare admit. I’ve consumed an absurd amount of romantic media over the years and I’ve noticed more than a few common themes, some more endearing than others.

However, by consuming so much romantic content, I’ve also seen certain themes get overused and badly mishandled. I could list countless instances promising romantic sub-plots collapsing because it fell into a narrative trap. Sometimes, it’s because of poor writing. Sometimes, it’s because the story has too many constraints. I’ve even cited a few famous cases that exhibit both.

Whatever the case, it’s not hard to screw up a romantic sub-plot. I’ve done that more than a few times with the stories I’ve written. Lately, though, there are certain types of sub-plots that have lost their luster. They’ve either been done too many times or haven’t innovated in way too long.

Overused or not, I believe there are elements of these sub-plots that are worth saving. They just need some refinement and polish. What follows is a list of five overdone romantic sub-plots, why they’ve become so bland, and how to fix them. I’ve covered some of these elements before. This is just the romance lover in me offering some tips for future romance stories.


Romantic Sub-Plot #1: Best Friends Turned Lovers

Why It’s Overdone

I think you can thank sitcoms like “Friends” and movies like “Clueless” for this sub-plot to fall out of favor. Personally, I blame Ross and Rachel for giving this theme a bad name. They took the whole friends-falling-in-love plot way too far. Towards the end, it was more annoying than compelling.

These days, this sub-plot isn’t as common as it used to be. I think a lot of romance fans were burned out on it in the 1990s and early 2000s. There’s only so many times a character can say in so many words “I didn’t realize that what I was looking for was right here in front of me” and sound genuine.

How To Fix It

Simply put, this sub-plot needs to shake up the setting. Too many times, a story about friends becoming lovers is built around one friend having had feelings for the other over many years. That can be sweet when done right, but it’s way too easy to be done wrong. These days, it almost comes off as a long con or stalking.

To fix it, the emphasis needs to shift towards two characters undergoing major upheavals. Perhaps they go through a tragedy or trauma that changes the way they feel about other people. It can’t just be restricted to their friend/lover, either. This upheaval should affect their entire world and from there, they come together in a new way.

It has the potential to show two characters go through major growth as individuals, which eventually turns into growth as a couple. That kind of growth can work wonders for any romance and could offer something more meaningful than old friends hiding their feelings.


Romantic Sub-Plot #2: Love Triangles

Why It’s Overdone

I’ve already made my hatred of love triangles very clear. I’ve gone so far as to cite one from the X-men as the worst of all time. Beyond the comics, though, it’s not hard to see cases of this sub-plot done horribly wrong. Even contemporary romance like “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” have made this troubled trope more insufferable.

Simply put, love triangles reduce everyone involved to prizes or plot devices. It’s next to impossible to make every character in a love triangle feel like a real character. It turns romantic development into a competition and in the long run, nobody wins and certain characters lose badly.

How To Fix It

I’m tempted to say that love triangles should be abandoned and killed with a 12-gauge shotgun, but I’m not a fan of throwing away romantic themes, no matter how much I despise them. For this particular theme, I think it needs more than just a fix. It needs a complete overhaul.

By that, it can’t just involve two people competing for someone else’s affection. That gets old fast. If there is going to be a love triangle, then it should actually take the time to show why someone is torn in the first place. It needs to be clear that someone genuinely loves more than one person and there’s a reason for that love.

This is also a sub-plot that may benefit from shifting taboos. Non-monogamy is becoming more mainstream and there aren’t many real romance stories about that idea that aren’t bad pornos. A love triangle has to stop being an either/or plot and become a why/how plot. There needs to be a concerted effort to ensure everyone involved gets some sort of emotional resolution that doesn’t involve someone getting screwed over.


Romantic Sub-Plot #3: Destined Lovers

Why It’s Overdone

If you’ve gone through any high school English class or are just familiar with certain literary traditions, you’ve probably seen this in all kinds of media. “Romeo and Juliet” is probably the most famous, but it still shows up frequently throughout romantic media. It’s prevalent in movies like “Titanic” and comics like “Superman.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have a soft spot for star-crossed lovers who are destined to fall in love, but it’s a very bland sub-plot. There’s no real sense of conflict. You know two characters are going to end up together and where’s the intrigue there?

How To Fix It

For this sub-plot, I think a simple shift in context would help. Most romance featuring destined lovers emphasis how they come together, despite the obstacles in front of them. I think it might be more compelling to explore why these characters are star-crossed to begin with. Is it just destiny or are there other forces at work?

There are a lot of factors that go into romance, even those of the non-destined variety. Why not explore the concept of destiny, as it relates to love? Why not dig a little deeper into the intricacies of how it unites people so completely? That wouldn’t just offer a meta-perspective of love, as a plot device. It would give us all an opportunity to reconsider what it means to be in love.


Romantic Sub-Plot #4: Love At First Sight

Why It’s Overdone

This sub-plot is very similar to the destined lovers trope. It’s often a pre-cursor to two people finding out they’re destined to be together. For many of the same reasons, it’s pretty bland and basic. One character sees another, some sappy music starts playing, and the love story is effectively laid out.

We see it happen very overtly in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Titanic.” We see it manifest in some form in most romantic comedies. A character just sees someone they find attractive and that becomes the catalyst for their love. It’s sweet, but not very deep and it has just become too predictable at this point. When two people fall in love at first sight, what other story is there to tell?

How To Fix It

This one can’t be fixed with the same methods as the destined lovers sub-plot. This is one of those plots that doesn’t have to be radically altered, but definitely needs fresh nuance. Finding that nuance means injecting more than just love into the mix when two characters first meet.

The first encounter between two characters is always pivotal. It helps set the tone for their relationship, romantic and otherwise. To make this sub-plot work in new ways, characters need to intrigue each other in new ways. It can’t be enough that they’re attractive. There has to be something else about them.

Maybe the character has a skill that someone has never seen before. Maybe the character causes someone to re-think a past assumption. Maybe it sends them on a new journey that their love interest can join. There are many opportunities here. There doesn’t have to just be one.


Romantic Sub-Plot #5: Sex Complicating Love

Why It’s Overdone

This one is probably the most overtly sexual romantic sub-plot that also happens to be the most predictable. Ironically, it’s “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” that summed it up best. Things go from “Don’t worry, it won’t get weird” to “It got weird, didn’t it?” That’s every sex-complicating-love story in a nutshell.

This one also has the burden of being weighed down by long-standing sexual taboos. While it may seem like those taboos have faded in the 21st century, it’s still the slutty women and stud men who die first in slasher movies. Sex, even in a romance story, still comes off as something dirty that somehow undermines a romance.

Even though sexual attitudes have evolved a great deal, the idea that sex complicates/ruins a relationship hasn’t moved very far. It’s why sex tends to be an afterthought in modern romances. Sometimes, it’s ignored or assumed and that’s just a waste of quality sexual chemistry.

How To Fix It

As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’ve been working on that for years. While I can’t claim to have a definitive answer, I have surmised a few ideas turn sex from a complication to a catalyst. It doesn’t have to be overly titillating or pornographic, although that can work. It just has to supplement the romance rather than subvert it.

Sex in romance is often treated like an endgame. It’s marks the culmination rather than the progression of a relationship. I believe that’s a missed opportunity. In any romance, sex should function as a progression, of sorts. It takes the relationship to a new stage, one where new opportunities for emotional and personal growth emerge.

When two characters have sex, it can be more than just a chance to depict genitals and female breasts. It can be an exercise of intimacy where two characters strengthen their bond, rather than sully it. That gives greater meaning to the sexiness and nothing makes romance hotter than genuinely meaningful sex.

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Daily Sexy Musings: Tempting And Teasing

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There are people who genuinely like to tease or be teased. I know some of these people. There’s nothing wrong with them. They enjoy playing sexy games. They find it challenging and engaging. To them, jumping through all those hoops makes the end result more worthwhile. Whether it takes the form of heated lovemaking or just a good fuck, it gives meaning to their efforts.

Personally, I don’t care much for that level of teasing. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate it to some extent, but I’ve always been more overt when it comes to my personal life. That works for me. Even so, I’ve seen elaborate teasing work just as well for others. Some have been married for years and still act like horny teenagers. This latest Daily Sexy Musing is a celebration for them. Enjoy!

I sneak my hand around your waist. I hold you a little closer. Through a simple twitch of my fingers, I make clear what I desire. My clothes are already itchy. My pants are already tight. I’m undressing you with my eyes, but I’d rather undress you literally.

Then, you look at me. You just smile with that loving, yet naughty glint in your eye. You don’t need me to say it out loud. You already know. With a simple twitch of your lips, I know you want it too. I’m ready. You’re ready. Why are we still fully clothes?

However, you don’t give the word. You don’t send those clear signals I know so well. Instead, you divert your gaze. I can tell you’re still smiling. I know you still want it. You’re just not making it easy on me. You’re making me work for it. Already, I know what this is.

You’re teasing me.

You’re tempting me.

You’re daring me to prove how much I want you.

My pants get tighter. My clothes get itchier. I long to feel your naked skin against mine. I’m willing to work for it. I know you’re worth it. Your love, your heart, and your sex are just so worth it. You want to tempt me? Go right ahead. Intensify my desire at your own risk.

I make my next move. I lean in and kiss your neck. I’m subtle and gentle. I let you know I’m willing to be patient. I can tempt you as much as you tempt me. Can you handle it? Do you really want to play that game? I love you too much and know you too well. As of now, the game is on.

I keep kissing you. I trail my fingers around your waist, down your face, and over your every sinew. I know all the ways you like to be touched. Even through your clothes, I can reach you. I can get to those places that get your heart racing and your blood flowing. You try to hide it, but you don’t dare try too hard.

Before long, your breath is short. Your heart is racing. I lean in closer, letting you feel mine as well. Everything slows down. Every gesture becomes more intense. Every emotion becomes heightened. I hold you closer and you finally respond, but only with more teasing.

For every gesture I offer, you respond with your own.

For every gasp I evoke, you evoke one too.

For every amorous glance, you gaze right back.

It’s no longer one-sided. You tempted me and now I’m tempting you. Neither one of us dares to give in. It’s a test of will and restraint. How long are we willing to endure? Just how badly do we want each other after so much temptation?

Like a barometer of our passion, we exceed basic yearning and enter uncharted territory. Here, the depths of our love become tangible. The extent of our desire becomes vast. I feel it and so do you. We really are this willing to endure. More importantly, we’re willing to endure together.

At that moment, the proverbial dam breaks. Finally, we give in. Touching turns to caressing. In a flash, our clothes come off and our bodies become entwined. Every sensation gains greater meaning. Every feeling gains greater depth.

We played the same game.

We endured the same temptation.

In the end, we share in the same ecstasy.

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Daily Sexy Musings: Our Song

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Turn on any device that streams music and chances are you’ll hear at least one love song within the first 15 minutes. It’s a common theme in every era of music, from drinking songs in old taverns to bubblegum pop hits that have annoyingly catchy beats. A vast chunk of the most popular songs of all time are love songs.

It makes sense too. You seek to describe love, sex, and passion, but can’t just use ordinary words. You need to do something more extraordinary and music can help with that. A good love song can go a long way towards turning a feeling into an experience. What follows is a sexy musing on just how intimate that experience can be when you find a song that evokes all the right passions. Enjoy!

When we first heard it, our ears perked up. Our hearts beat faster. We smiled and danced a little. It seemed like simple fun, at the time. If we never heard that song again, then maybe that was all it would’ve been to us.

However, we did hear it again. We heard it a lot. Soon, it became something more than just a song.

I hear those first few notes. Almost instantly, my thoughts shift. They drift like clouds following gusts of wind, eventually centering around you. As I think about you, I think about us. As the song plays, the concept of us takes on a greater meaning. It isn’t just a catchy tune that makes me want to dance. It’s a direction connection between our hearts.

Then, I hear the first round of lyrics. In those words are the poetry of passion, depictions of love and intimacy that defy convention. I listen to every word, the beat and the rhythm supplementing every sentiment. In just a few lines of song, an ocean of emotions that I cannot hope to articulate becomes clear.

I look at you and you look at me. We smile and laugh. We’re having fun, but that’s only on the surface. Just below the dancing and grins is a world of feelings that can only be conveyed, but never grasped. In less than a minute, we drift closer, as if the song reminds us why we cherish those feelings.

I hold you and you hold me, the song playing in the background. Our smiles never wane. How could they not? Through a simple song, we say to one another what would take a lifetime. The song does the talking for us. There’s no need to contemplate the words, adjust our tone, and set the mood. In just one song, everything that needs to be said is said.

With no need for words, actions take over. We dance together. We touch, we embrace, and we kiss. Before we know it, dancing just isn’t enough. The song just reveals too much of our passions. We can’t hope to simply sway together and hope that will do justice for our love.

Our love is greater.

The song celebrates that greatness.

We, as lovers, must celebrate it as well.

Before it even ends, the gestures evolve. Our dance becomes a steady exchange of gestures. Those gestures become more sensual. Suddenly, the air around us gets hot. The clothes we’re wearing become unbearable. We can’t get them off fast enough. To feel the power of the music, we must feel each other whole.

The song is at its end, but our dance is just beginning. Without saying a word, we connect through the song. I take you and you take me. We engage in the most intimate dance possible, the echoes of our song still playing in our minds. In the end, that’s what it feels like.

It’s our song.

It’s our intimate link.

It’s the very rhythm of our love.

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Love Or Obsession: Pop Music First Edition

Any form of media can seem innocent if presented in a cheery, upbeat form. You could probably present tax law and traffic tickets in a positive light if you just used a combination of boy bands, catchy tunes, and bland lyrics ripped from a Hallmark greeting card.

It’s an odd quirk of human psychology. If music is upbeat and catchy enough, we tend not to care what the lyrics say or what the song implies. Musicians like Van Morrison and Bob Dylan built entire careers on this quirk. Nobody can say it’s wrong because it really works. You can’t complain too much about the flaws in our brain wiring when it works so damn well.

If, however, you can dig beyond to upbeat tone and catchy lyrics, which is a pretty big if in many cases, you may find the contents of these songs can be a bit off. There are near infinite amounts of songs flowing through the various channels of media. A good chunk of those songs involve love, sex, and the pursuit of both, sometimes to distressing degrees.

Now I admit I’ve patronized many of these songs. My smartphone is full of sappy love songs, sexy dance songs, and gangsta rap that glorifies the female ass as if it were a holy relic. I love music and I’ll even dance to it, although it usually takes a certain amount of alcohol consumption. I think many of us are guilty of that in some form, sober or otherwise, at some point in our lives.

However you feel about the kind of bubblegum pop music that has been making teenage girls scream and teenage boys horny for decades, there’s no denying its impact on pop culture. It’s a part of our society. It’s a part of our lives. Hell, some of us may have even been conceived with help from these songs so we shouldn’t take them lightly.

With that in mind, I’d like to conduct another one of my “Love or Obsession” exercising on a few pop songs. I’ve already done it with TV shows and literature. Music is the just the next logical progression. Given the sheer volumes of bland, bubblegum pop music in the world, this will only cover a few songs. I intend to do others down the line. This is just the first and if someone wants to suggest a song to assess, I’ll gladly listen.

For this post, consider this the first edition of this analysis. I’ll stick to pop songs for now, but I’ll definitely consider genres for future assessments.


Britney Spears: Hit Me Baby One More Time

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

Let’s face it. Catholic school girls in mini-skirts are sexy as hell. Britney Spears found this out the easy way around the turn of the millennium. Being young, beautiful, and willing to dress like a sexy Catholic school girl, which is very much a fantasy of a good chunk of the male population, was a good way to achieve success.

Perhaps it’s because of that sex appeal that nobody looked closely at the lyrics to the song she sang in her first hit, “Baby One More Time.” The song talks about loneliness, being blindsided by a breakup, and wanting to stay in a relationship that clearly has some issues.

Now sometimes you do stay in a relationship out of love, hoping to make it work. However, when wanting to requires that someone “hit you one more time,” it’s getting dangerously close to abuse. You don’t endure abuse unless you’re trapped or obsessed. Given the context of this song, I go with the latter.


Backstreet Boys: I Want It That Way

Love or Obsession?
Love

Alongside the rise of Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys proved that basic sex appeal and catchy lyrics can sell a fuckton of records. These kids were on the top of the world in the late 90s. They sung cute, sappy love songs to get the hormones of teenage girls going and it worked. It worked very well.

One of their biggest hits, “I Want It That Way,” epitomized their appeal and was, by far, one of their biggest hits. Given the tone and structure of the song, it’s kind of hard to hide the lyrics. They’re a bit messy. If they were on a greeting card, it would be a very confusing greeting card.

However, at the core of the song, there’s the sentiment that someone doesn’t care about the flaws or shortcomings of a relationship. They don’t want to change it into something it’s not. They, aptly put, want it this way.

As sappy as it is, it’s actually pretty damn healthy in terms of love. Real love involves accepting both strengths and flaws in someone. This song nicely embodies that and is probably one of the healthiest love songs a teenage girl can listen to.


Aerosmith: I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

This song was another big 90s hit that made Aerosmith relevant again. That alone is a hell of an accomplishment. It also accompanied a big Michael Bay movie of the time called, “Armageddon.” So between Aerosmith and Michael Bay, this song had a lot going for it.

Unfortunately, the sentiment in the song, despite Steven Tyler’s screaming, isn’t exactly very loving. It talks about just watching someone sleep and never seeing anything else when you close your eyes. The love he’s describing is literally something you can never not think about and not missing it seems like a live-or-death imperative.

This is the kind of song that Edward Cullen lives his life by. This is the kind of song that hopelessly-obsessed stalkers turn to when they want their obsession to seem like love. The implications are as distressing as they sound.


Rick Astley: Never Gonna Give You Up

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

Before it became an overplayed internet meme, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” was a big freakin’ deal in the 80s. It was very much a product of the polished, prepackaged pop music of the time. Take a handsome guy with a handsome face, make him sing lovey dovey lyrics, and set it to weird techno-enhanced beats and you got yourself a hit.

With this song, however, there isn’t much need for analysis. It’s in the very title of the song. Never giving someone up, never letting them down, and always being around describes a very unhealthy mindset for someone to have with a partner. It basically champions making someone else the entire center of your world. That’s sweet, but wholly unrealistic.

It’s still a catchy song and the fact it became an internet meme reveals its staying power. That said, it has the same problem as “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. Break down the lyrics and it’s not a love song. It’s more a stalker/obsession anthem and there’s nothing romantic about that.


Hootie And The Blowfish: Hold My Hand

Love or Obsession?
Love

Here’s a band people love to hate for lousy reasons. Hootie and the Blowfish were a simple, but effective band at a time when music was emerging from the grim and gritty grunge era. Their music was upbeat. Their lyrics were simple. They didn’t try to look too fancy or gritty. They dressed like regular guys and made music.

Naturally, it became cool to hate them. It also ignored the fact that they were one of the most successful bands of the mid-90s. Their first big hit, “Hold My Hand,” got things going. It was not a dark and gritty grunge song. It was a simple, upbeat love song. Break the lyrics down and that sentiment just become stronger.

It’s another one of those songs that presents an oddly healthy attitude towards love. It doesn’t send the impression that you have to make someone else the center of your world. It says in the chorus, “I want to love you the best that (the best that) I can.” Trying to achieve an ideal is unrealistic and foolish. Trying the best you can is the most anyone can ask for, even in love.


Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Love or Obsession?
Love (Mostly)

Here’s a classic from the late 60s and early 70s, a time when soul music and R&B began growing in popularity. It was also the pre-disco era so there weren’t any bell-bottoms or aphros. It was a better time is what I’m saying.

This song, which has been remixed and remade multiple times, has an upbeat tone and many unique rhythmic mantras. It’s pretty complex piece of music. As such, the lyrics are hard to judge. On one hand, they talk about there being no force on this world to keep someone from getting to you. That does sound a bit obsessive.

However, the context of this song, as well as the sentiment of the other lyrics, keep it from getting into that dark territory that “Every Breath You Take” fell into. As a whole, the song speaks more about keeping promises and being there for someone you love. That’s a good kind of love, even if the verbiage can be misconstrued.


The Beatles: I Want To Hold Your Hand

Love or Obsession?
Love

This is as simple and innocent a song from one of the biggest bands in the history of pop culture. Love songs and the Beatles are like peanut butter and jelly. They just go together so perfectly that it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Can anyone honestly imagine the Beatles doing a Taylor Swift style breakup song?

With one of their earliest hits, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” the sentiment is simple. They don’t talk about wanting to watch you sleep, focusing every waking thought on you, or never being able to escape your love. They just talk about holding hands and sharing a simple kind of intimacy.

Being a hugger myself, it’s a sentiment I can appreciate. Holding hands is as innocent a gesture as it comes when showing love. It’s a far cry from never wanting to give someone up or watching them with every breath they take. For that, the Beatles deserve props for championing healthy love.

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Love Vs. Obsession: Why Knowing The Difference Is So Vital

We’ve all asked ourselves one fateful question. It also happens to be the question at the basis of 85 percent of all romance movies and 99 percent of all bubblegum pop music songs. It affects us all in some form or another and is a core component of the human experience.

“How do I know I’m in love?”

It’s a profound, but beautiful question to ask. To love someone is a big part of being human. One could argue it’s one of the most important parts of being human. Being in love is one of those basic, emotional experiences that drives us all. We seek out love because it helps make life worth living. Like chocolate, bacon, and hot showers on a cold winter day, it fulfills us on a fundamental level.

Love is a beautiful thing. It’s a beauty I get to admire from a unique perspective as an erotica/romance writer. Pretty much all of my books deal with love in some form or another. Some books, like “Holiday Heat” and “The Escort and the Gigolo,” go to great lengths to build up a romance. Others, like “The Final Communion” and “Jackpot,” use less elaborate forms of romance.

Whatever form it takes, I enjoy writing about romance and many of my future novels will deal heavily in romance. When mixed with a healthy dose of erotic undertones, it can make for some pretty potent narratives, among other things.

As much as we love romance and as critical it is to the human experience, there’s another question that’s somewhat linked to romance, albeit indirectly. It’s a question we don’t ask ourselves quite as often and in some cases, that’s becomes a big problem. It’s uncomfortable, unpleasant, and distressing to think about. That’s a clear sign that it’s still worth asking.

“How do I know I’m obsessed?”

Stay with me here. I know some snicker at that question the same way they would if a five-year-old came up to them and asked why dogs don’t talk. It seems like an unrelated question. It seems like something that really shouldn’t enter the equation when talking about love, but it does. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a big part of the flawed narrative we collectively craft about what love is.

This is another insight I’ve been contemplating while reading “Sex At Dawn,” a book that has already offered quite a few insights into the mechanics of sex and love. The sexy parts are plenty interesting to say the least, if only for those who opt to wear tight pants, but the parts about love are just as insightful.

A big part of “Sex At Dawn,” involves breaking down what it describes as the “Standard Model.” Again, this model is just the stereotypical boy-meets-girl-and-they-live-happily-ever-after-like-an-old-Disney-movie narrative. It’s very familiar to modern Western civilization. It’s the ideal embodied in sitcoms, music, and movies.

However, in analyzing this model, the book highlights a few unflattering features that are hard to overlook. A big part of this standard model requires that the man and the woman be completely devoted to one another, the first thought they have when they wake up and the last thought they have when they go to sleep, presumably after a quick round of highly-scheduled, missionary-style sex.

That’s all wonderfully romantic on the surface, but take a closer look at the finer details of this narrative. They’re completely devoted. They direct all their romantic and sexual energy at each other. Their thoughts and feelings are completely narrow and focused on a singular person. At what point does that kind of sentiment turn from romance into obsession?

I ask that question knowing there isn’t a fine line. However, it’s difficult to decouple the details of this narrative from the definition of “obsession.” According to Dictionary.com, the definition for “Obsession” is as follows:

  • The domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.

With this definition in mind, think back to the narrative surrounding the standard model of romance I mentioned earlier. How much of that romance is built on love and how much of it is built on obsession?

It’s a hard, if not impossible question to answer, but it’s a question that’s worth contemplating because it reveals something about the nature of our emotions. Part of being in love is to desire someone and to be desired. However, sometimes our faulty, flawed brains take it too far and that can really hamper the romance.

When someone is obsessed with someone, especially when it’s done out of love, it consumes a person so completely that they struggle to function on a basic level. They can’t focus at work. They can’t focus with family. They can’t focus on whatever goals, aspirations, or dreams they may have had in their lives. It all becomes secondary because of a person.

A good way to contrast this is to look at it from the opposite end of the spectrum. There are all sorts of people who are obsessed with someone out of hate. There are even entire groups devoted to hating others. For most reasonable people, this is deplorable. Devoting that much time and energy into hating someone just seems wrong. It makes no sense.

So if hate is that wrong when taken to extremes, why should love be different? Isn’t that just as unhealthy? I admit it’s not an entirely fair comparison. Comparing love and hate is like comparing candied bacon with expired kale. They’re two very different manifestations of something that’s so basic, broad, and varied. That doesn’t make the extremes any less damaging.

Being in love is a wonderful feeling, but then again shooting heroin and smoking crack can feel wonderful too. That doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. The problem is that Disney movies, pop songs, and bad romance novels have created this ideal about what love is and some of that ideal involves more obsession than love.

There are plenty of examples to explore and I plan on doing more blog posts on this issue. I hope to break it down a bit more, if only to help me craft more complex, engaging romances in my novels. For now, I’ll focus on one particular example involving music.

When it comes to sappy love songs, pop music can always be counted on to give us a massive glut of material from boy bands, country stars, and 80s hair metal bands. There are so many love songs out there of so many different kinds that if super-intelligent aliens landed tomorrow, even they would be confused about how our music defines love.

This leads me to a very famous song that is often mistaken for a love song. It also happened to be one of the biggest pop hits in 1983, voted song of the year by Rolling Stone. Chances are, if you’re over the age of 30, you’ve heard it at some point or another. If you aren’t familiar with the lyrics, you’re at least familiar with that soothingly haunting tune and the undeniably handsome face of Sting.

This song was, and still is to some extent, widely regarded as a love song. However, if you look at the lyrics a bit closer, how much of it is love and how much of it is obsession?

Every Breath You Take

Every Move You Make

Every Bond You Break

Every Step You Take

I’ll Be Watching You

In a certain context, that sounds sweet. It sounds like something a dying spouse would tell their lover before they passed away to provide comfort.

In another context, it sounds creepy as hell. It sounds like a note a stalker would leave someone, as if to warn them that they can never escape their obsession.

The mere fact that such context is even needed says a lot about our inconsistent sentiments towards love and romance. On one hand, we want to be desired. On the other, we don’t want to be stalked by someone who devotes every waking hour to obsessing over us. It’s a tough balancing act.

This conflict is something that even Sting himself, the writer of this song, admitted in a 1993 interview. He goes onto say:

 “I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”

Again, it’s pretty telling when we can’t tell whether a song is about love or obsession. It says a lot about how we assess love, sex, and romance. Since I’m in the romance/erotica business (or at least trying to be part of it), it’s something I think I need to assess more than most.

At the end of the day, stories about love and romance still strike us on a fundamental level. They have an appeal that spans generations, civilizations, and terrible pop music. I want to channel that appeal with my novels because in the end, a story about love will always be more compelling than a story about obsession.

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