Tag Archives: love

“Before The Prom” A Sexy Short Story


The following a short story called “Before The Prom.” With prom season just around the corner and all the raging hormones that come with it, I felt inspired to craft a steamy little story to get everyone in the spirit, so to speak. Enjoy!

“How about another smile the happy couple?” said Rod Richter’s enthusiastic mother.

“Promise this is the last one?” said Rod. “My jaw muscles can only take so much.”

“Speak for yourself,” said Sherry Hopkins, his girlfriend and prom date. “You smile more when Coach Whitman cancels track practice.”

“You’re not helping, Sherry,” he said while still smiling for the camera.

It was a momentous, but tedious moment, at least for parents. Rod was about to go to his senior prom. Finals were over. College applications had been submitted and acceptance letters had been received. The hardest, most stressful parts of high school were almost over. He and everyone else at Grovesberg High School had earned one night of fun and partying.

Despite the annoyance he felt from his parents’ wanting a picture from every possible angle, he still smiled and held his girlfriend close. He and Sherry had already been through this with her parents when he picked her up. He barely had any time to admire the beautiful black dress she’d bought or the fresh highlights she’d put in her hair. Both their parents still tried to make it about them.

“Don’t worry. The wait will be worth it,” she’d told him.

 “I sure hope so,” Rod replied.

“I know so. I promise!”

She sounded so certain. Then again, Sherry had always been the confident, self-assured type. That was part of what attracted him to her. She was actually the friend of a friend of his older sister, Dina. They’d crossed path a few times during their junior year. Then, right around the holidays during a big get-together with his sister’s friends, they found each other. Everything after that had been textbook teenage puppy love.

However, Rod hoped to push their relationship to the next level. Tonight was their senior prom, the last hurrah before they finalized their college plans. What happened tonight might very well decide whether they go their separate ways or see if they could be something more.

Looking at Sherry as the flash from his mother’s phone went off, he still wasn’t sure whether how deep his feelings went for her. When she looked at him with those intense, yet passionate eyes, it made him shudder in the best possible way. He smiled back at her, holding her a little closer and feeling that tone, fit body that had made her a track star last spring. He hoped to know that body more intimately before the night was over.

First, though, he had to escape his parents’ scrutiny. With the sun having just set, his mother finally relented.

“That’s the last one,” his mother said.

“You sure this time?” Rod asked half-jokingly.

“Positive!” she affirmed. “It’s time. You’re free to go, my youngest son.”

“You’re not going to get dramatic on me, are you? We already got that with Sherry’s mom.”

“And I’m not even the youngest,” Sherry added.

“I’m trying not to, but I can’t help it. My baby’s off to his senior prom and I can’t keep calling him a baby much longer.”

Rod rolled his eyes, but hugged his mother anyway, which earned him a look of approval from Sherry. She’d gone through the same thing with her mother, struggling to process the idea that her teenage kid wasn’t a kid anymore. She got over it enough to let them leave. Now, it was her mother’s turn.

After an extended hug, Rod rejoined Sherry and made their way to his car, which he had washed, gassed up, and ready for an eventful night. His dad had even put a prom poster on the back just under the rear window. He didn’t get as emotional as his mother, but the two beers he’d drank hinted that he felt it too.

“Have a great time, you two,” his father said.

“We will, Mr. Richter!” Sherry said as she excitedly clang to his arm.

“And son…be careful,” his father added.

“I will, dad,” Rod said as he waved goodbye.

“I mean it, Roddy. Be careful,” he said, this time with a suggestive subtext.

Rod bit his lip and faked a smile. He even noticed a snicker from Sherry. She’d picked up on it too. He wished she hadn’t, but it was hard to ignore, even from his parents.

While his mother seemed perfectly content ignoring the implications, his father had already given him the proverbial talk. He said he’d been young once too. He knew what happened between couples at the prom. Rod didn’t ask for details, but he got them anyway and had been trying to forget them ever since.

He opted not to dwell on them and focus on Sherry, who didn’t seem to hold his father’s comments against him. She kept on smiling, even as he opened the passenger door to his car and let her in like a true gentleman. He waved goodbye to his parents one last time, ignoring eye contact with his dad, before finally driving off towards the Maple Resort Hotel where the prom was being held.

“That…was more intense than I thought,” said Rod, shortly after they pulled away.

“Were you expecting them to not care that their handsome son is going to prom with a beautiful girl in a $400 dress?”

“That would’ve been easier,” he joked.

“But it would’ve undercut the importance of this night,” she said, “and I know as well as you just how important it is.”

There was a subtext in her tone as well, but it wasn’t nearly as lurid as his father’s had been. Sherry might have been a fun-loving, energetic girl, but she could be serious when necessary. In fact, it was when she was serious that he saw her most attractive traits.

“We’ve been planning this for weeks,” Sherry said to him as he drove. “We laid out everything we wanted to go right and agreed on the things we didn’t want to screw up. We went in on a hotel suite, got intel on the chaperones, and even made plans in case Mike and Joel tried to pull another one of their pranks.”

“I’m pretty sure I threatened them and their ancestors to restrain themselves, this time,” said Rod. “I sure as hell hope they got the message.”

“Beyond just having a good time, we also made more intimate plans. Since your father made it so awkward for us and my dad could barely make eye-contact, I won’t say those plans out loud.”

Rod gripped the wheel tighter as memories of that conversation came rushing back. He hadn’t made it a secret, how much he wanted her. She sent some pretty clear signals as well. In fact, the night they first got together, she let him feel her up when she hadn’t been wearing a bra. Sherry was not at all shy about sharing herself with others.

However, as fun as that moment had been, it was as far as they went and for good reason. Sherry wasn’t a virgin. He’d known that before they started dating. He also knew that her first time hadn’t been very memorable. She said it wasn’t painful or anything, but for all the expectations she’d had with her first boyfriend, it really fell short.

“I thought I did everything I had to do to make my first time great. Turns out, I overdid it,” she’d told him.

Rod understood, more so than he wish he did. His first time hadn’t been that memorable, either. His last girlfriend, Connie Bridges, was a sweet girl with a great personality, but she was a real micromanager when it came to certain aspects of her life. That included sex.

He could laugh to himself about it now, but it was not very funny or sexy at the time. She tried to dictate every position and movement, as though she somehow knew what good sex was. Being so nervous and so horny, it was more nerve-racking than enjoyable. He barely remembered getting off, let alone feeling that intimate. Connie still acted as though they’d done everything right, which contributed to their eventual breakup.

Rod didn’t want that with Sherry. Looking over at her as the car stopped at a traffic signal, he saw a young woman who cared about his desires too. She didn’t mind kissing, hugging, and sharing dirty texts in the middle of the night. She let him express certain feelings that he couldn’t express with anyone else. She’d been so good to him, which was a big reason why he didn’t complain when she said she wanted to hold off on getting sexual.

“Yeah, it’s probably for the best,” he’d said. “Better to wait for the right time than mess up what we have.”

Rod said those words to her barely a week after they’d gotten together. At the time, he didn’t know if Sherry would just be a quick fling or something serious. Now, she was his senior prom date. He didn’t know how much more serious they could get.

“I still want to see those plans through,” Rod said to her as he waited for the light to turn green, “including the intimate ones.”

“Me too,” said Sherry, leaning over and clinging to his arm. “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking about it…among other things.”

“Same here,” he admitted, “and believe me, thinking only goes so far.”

“You’ve got an internet connection and a Playboy poster in your bedroom, Rod. I never assumed you’d live the life of a monk while we made these plans.”

“I appreciate that,” he said with a bemused grin, “but those plans still have merit. You didn’t hide how disappointing your first time was. I didn’t hide the dirty details of mine either.”

“To be fair, yours weren’t that dirty,” she teased. “Connie just found a way to make a sexy moment dull, which is a hell of an accomplishment.”

“And one I don’t care to repeat,” Rod went on. “I care about you, Sherry. I really do. I’ve also seen my friends – and even some of yours, mind you – screw their personal lives with sex.”

“You don’t have to name names. I know who you’re talking about.”

“They don’t plan it out. They don’t talk about it. They just act and think that’s all there is to it. Then, they’re still surprised when they’re disappointed.”

“And you don’t want that for us,” she said in a more serious tone.

“Hell no!” he said without hesitation. “If we’re gonna do it, let’s at least make it a strength and not a complication. That’s why we made these all these plans in the first place…to see if sex can show us just how good we can be together, beyond the prom.”

There was a brief silence. For a moment, Rod thought he’d said too much. Much to his relief, though, Sherry just smiled back and gave him an affectionate kiss.

“Oh Rod…that might be the sweetest thing a horny guy has ever said to me,” said Sherry.

“Uh…you’re welcome,” he said, now blushing profusely.

Rod got a little more serious than he’d intended. He wasn’t usually the type to get that personal, even with his girlfriend. Since it was prom night, he made an exception and Sherry seemed to appreciate. The way she clung to his arm made his heart race with anticipation on what the night held.

He probably would’ve kept going with his personal ramblings, but thankfully, the light turned green and they drove on. Sherry remained close. He still felt her penetrating gaze on him, which made the air around him feel several degrees hotter. For an anxious teenage guy in a rented tuxedo, that was not a pleasant feeling, but he endured. Sherry was worth it.

After driving down the North Valley Parkway for a couple miles, he turned onto one of the back roads that he often used to cut through to the downtown area. It was heavily wooded and near a golf course that had been closed for renovations for the past several months. Other than parking lots and gated areas, it was probably the quietest place in the county.

There wasn’t much traffic and cutting through meant getting to the hotel earlier and ahead of their friends. If they were going to get to those intimate plans, then they might as well get a head start. The more Rod thought about it, the more he wanted to see them through. Being so close to Sherry, that beautiful black dress hugging her body, really tested his hormones and his patience.

“Hey Rod,” said Sherry, “can I ask you one thing before we get too deep into plans and prom spirits?”

“Of course,” Rod said without hesitation, keeping his eyes on the road.

“Say we make all these plans and follow them to the letter,” she said. “We do everything we set out to do, right down to the sexy stuff. If, after all that, it ends up being this amazing, passionate, and deeply satisfying experience…would that make us the kind of couple who don’t forget each other as soon as we graduate?”

“If it’s that good?” he said with a laugh. “Hell, that wouldn’t just make us that couple. That would make this the greatest prom of all time.”

He made it sound so logical and it was. If their plans worked out and they had the kind of sex they both wanted, then Rod could easily see himself being with Sherry beyond this night, high school, and maybe even beyond that. The way he saw it, if two horny teenagers could find a way to enjoy sex after the disappointing first times they had, then that was a sign that they had something special.

Logic or not, Rod soon sensed a shift in Sherry’s demeanor. Her penetrating gaze narrowed on him. A strange smile formed on her face. He wasn’t sure what to make of it, but tried to keep his eyes on the road.

Then, just as they neared a particularly sharp turn, Sherry reached over, grabbed his thigh, and leaned in.

“Rod, there’s an empty parking lot just up ahead. Pull into it,” she said to him in the deepest, sexiest voice he’d ever heard outside a computer screen.

“Uh…what?” said Rod, almost losing control of the steering wheel.

“You heard what I said. Pull over. Find some place quiet and private. I want to skip a few parts of our plan.”

His heart rate spiked. His entire body broke out into a sudden sweat, making his tux feeling unbearably itchy. For a second, he thought he was fantasizing…that he’d just imagined Sherry telling the more impulsive parts of his brain just what he wanted to hear. When he felt her hand grip his thigh, causing his pants to tighten almost immediately, he was convinced. This was real.

“Sherry…” Rod began, his brain and his hormones now locked in conflict.

“I know what I said, Rod,” she said, stopping him before he could overthink. “I want to do it. I want you to pull over and have sex with me in this car…on prom night…before we even get to the prom.”

Rod opened his mouth to respond. Then, Sherry trailed her hand up his thigh and over the front of his pants where a bulge was already forming. As soon as he felt her touch, that sealed the choice for him.

“Fuck it,” he said, “if you’re sure you want this…”

“I’m sure,” Sherry said before he could finish.

“Then, I want it too. God, I want it even more than I thought.”

Before he could overthink the situation, he pumped the breaks on his car and pulled into the dirt road that led to the parking lot near the top of a hill, causing the tires to skid and the transmission to screech. It was a bumpy ride, but that did little to dissuade him or Sherry. If anything, it excited him.

The parking lot was small and heavily screened by trees. It was where the golf carts were usually stored when the course was in operation. Since the renovations began, it had been a just a storage area lined with metal trailers and large dumpsters. In terms of privacy and isolation, it was perfect.

“Over there!” Sherry said, pointing out a secluded space near a storage trailer.

“I see it,” said Rod, gripping the steering wheel firmly.

He couldn’t park his car fast enough, slamming on the breaks and stopping it just under an oversized oak tree. He didn’t care that it was crooked. He just needed to get his girlfriend in the back seat and out of these itchy prom clothes.

Before he even turned the engine off, Sherry had undone her seatbelt and began crawling into the back seat. In the process, Rod got a peak of her underwear. He swore he could smell the arousal between her thighs through the muggy spring air. It was more than enough to send his hormones and his desires into overdrive.

“We’re really going to do it. Sherry and I are going to have sex.”

That thought kept playing out in his mind, overwriting all others as he turned off the engine and joined his girlfriend in the back seat. While they’d both planned this, Rod didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. The way he saw it, they weren’t throwing out the plan. They were just rearranging it.

“Hurry up, Rod!” she urged him as he stumbled into the back. “Don’t make me wait a second longer than I have to!”

“You won’t,” Rod said with more confidence than he’d had at any point in his life.

As he sought her intimate grasp, Rod kicked his loafers off and threw off his jacket. Sherry kicked off her shoes as well and was already unzipping the back part of her dress. Before they could get too ahead of themselves, though, he took her in his arms around her and kissed her. That sweet, romantic kiss he thought he’d save for their last dance of the night…it became an afterthought as his entire world now revolved around making love to Sherry.

“Mmm…Rod,” said Sherry, eagerly kissing back.

“Sherry,” Rod gasped upon tasting her lips.

It was so sweet and not just because of the expensive lipstick she wore. Kissing Sherry had always had a special feel to it, more so now than ever. He wasn’t just going to savor it. He was going to let it guide him into giving his girl the kind of sex she deserved.

The kissing, along with the embrace, quickly turned into a fervent make-out session. He and Sherry had enjoyed many such sessions, but none so heated. He could already feel the air in the car getting hotter as their lips twirled and their hands hungrily roamed. Sherry had already hitched her legs around his waist, grasping at his neck while he trailed his hand up her waist.

He could feel in her more than just arousal. There was a desire in her touch…a sincere, genuine desire that went beyond the basic need for sex.

“She wants me as much as I want her. God help me, I want to give her everything she deserves.”

Fueled by this desire, more clothes came off. Sherry made quick work of the bow-tie that took him five tries to get right before rapidly undoing the buttons to his dress shirt. Rod kept up, reaching behind and unzipping her dress the rest of the way. Once his shirt had been undone and her dress sufficiently loosened, they broke the embrace.

“Off! Get them off!” Sherry said with growing urgency.

He didn’t need that much incentive, but he took it anyway. While out of his girlfriend’s embrace, he practically threw off his dress shirt and the undershirt as well. Sherry did the same, pushing her dress down her body and tossing it over the passenger’s seat.

The first thing Rod noticed after that was that Sherry hadn’t been wearing a bra. She now wore only a pair of black lace panties, matching the style of her dress. While he had seen her breasts before, and even touched them, such a sexy sight sent him into a daze.

“That dress…didn’t do justice to your tits,” Rod said in a goofy tone.

“Stop staring and get those pants off, handsome!” Sherry said.

As eager and horny as Rod felt, that proved easier said than done. Moving around in the confined space was difficult, but Sherry made it easier. While he tried to stand up to undo his belt, Sherry reached over and did most of the work, undoing the zipper and pulling the neatly-pressed slacks down his legs along with his boxers.

By the time his dick popped free from its confines, it was already semi-hard and growing harder by the second. As soon as Sherry saw it, her face lit up like a kid on Christmas.

“Ooh Rod!” she said seductively. “Those pants didn’t do justice to your dick.”

“Very funny…and sexy, too,” Rod teased upon kicking off his pants. “Now, lay back and get those panties off!”

Mirroring the same urgent tone she’d used on him, Sherry did so without hesitation. Leaning back so that her head rested on the side door, she gave herself room to lift her hips and slide her panties down her thighs. Around halfway, Rod grabbed them and pulled them off, leaving his girlfriend and his prom date completely naked.

“Sherry…you’re so beautiful,” he said in a horny daze.

“And you’re so strong,” Sherry said with lust in her eyes, “so willing to work with me and be with me.”

“Worth it!”

They embraced and kissed again, prompting another make-out session that quickly evolved into full-fledged foreplay. This time, their naked bodies were unobstructed and unabated, her feminine curves meshing with his manly sinews. It was much better than itchy formal-ware, the feeling of a beautiful woman’s naked skin touching his.

The way her skin felt against his was nothing short of intoxicating. He wanted more and unlike his first sexual experience with Connie, he wasn’t the least bit anxious. Already, he had worked up a light sweat. The air within the car got muggy and sticky, but he didn’t care in the slightest. He was going to make love to his girlfriend, the prom be damned.

A part of him hadn’t forgotten his plan to make it better for her than her first time. That involved really building up the feeling, caressing her naked body to get the blood flowing in all the right directions. He could already feel the moist heat building between her thighs. He had to make sure she was fully aroused before the big moment.

“Sherry…are you ready?” he asked her, already breathless.

“Yes!” she gasped eagerly. “Please, Rod…I want feel you inside me.”

That desperate, passionate look in her eyes left no room for doubt. Acting on a potent combination of desire and urgency, Rod pushed Sherry’s thighs apart and positioned himself over her. He carefully aligned his member with her wet entrance, rubbing the tip up against the outer folds. Then, with a simple thrust of his hips, he entered her.

“Ohhh my God!” they both cried out, almost at the same time.

It felt even better than he had hoped, her hot womanly flesh surrounding his rigid manhood. It was like a true melding of bodies and passions, flooding his world with so many blissful feelings. He didn’t remember the moment being this powerful with Connie. Sherry must have been that special.

“Rod…ooh I feel it!” Sherry moaned. “It feels…so good.”

As soon as Rod heard that, he knew the most critical part of their plan was complete. They wanted their sex to feel better and be more meaningful than their previous experiences. If the look on his girlfriend’s face was any indication, they had already succeeded.

“Sherry…my lover,” Rod found himself saying.

Whether out of love or lust, those words set the tone. With their flesh now entwined, passion and hormones took over.

With Sherry up against the door and him hovering over her, Rod began moving his body with hers, establishing a steady, yet focused rhythm. She let out more moans while he let out more grunts, his rigid flesh moving within her tight depths, extracting raw sensations that evoked heightened feelings. As they moved together in a sexual heat, Rod captured her lips in another kiss. The way she kissed back only made those feelings more intense.

It was the kind of intimacy that most couples only dream about on their prom night…or any night, for that matter. They hadn’t even gotten to the prom yet and already, he and Sherry were experiencing the most romantic moment they had ever experienced. It almost seemed backwards, having such a moment before they even got to the prom. Regardless, something about it just felt right.

“I like this plan better…much better!”

Sweat quickly covered their bodies. The windows of his car became foggy as the air got even muggier. Whatever hairspray she’d used or cologne he’d put on had long since washed off. All that spectacle that the prom was supposed to build gave way to real, raw passion. It sure beat the hell out of dancing to cheesy pop music.

Rod wished the feeling could’ve lasted all night. Unfortunately, basic human biology – especially those of inexperienced teenagers – made that impossible. That didn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy it, though. At the very least, he wanted Sherry to come before he did. That meant holding back and exercising some discipline with his lust, but it turned out he didn’t have to hold back for very long.

“Rod! Oh…ohhh Rod! I’m close…very close,” Sherry told him.

“Sherry…” was all he could get out in the heat of the moment.

He kept kissing her, stepping up the pace of his movements in the process. He already knew how she liked to be embraced. Rod used that to his full advantage as he brought his girlfriend to orgasm.

“Ohhh Rod!” she cried out as the feeling hit.

Her lower back arched and her legs tensed as she got her release. She was pretty loud in her blissful proclamation, so much so that it left his ears ringing. He didn’t mind, though. In fact, it made the moment that much more special, knowing he had giving this girl that he cared for so deeply that much ecstasy.

He was more than happy to ease up on the rhythm and let her soak in the orgasmic feeling. However, Sherry didn’t linger for long. With her body still shuddering, she captured his lips again and shifted their bodies.

“Now…it’s your turn!” Sherry told him.

Not needing much explanation, Rod let his girlfriend take it from there. He soon found himself sitting up right in the sweat, Sherry straddling his hips and riding his cock. She held onto his shoulders for leverage, shoving her breasts in his face in a blatant effort to get him to climax too. It worked like a charm.

“Ohhh fuck, Sherry! I’m gonna come! I’m gonna…come!” Rod said with labored grunts.

“All…part of…the plan!” she said in between her heated motions.

Rod held on, grasping Sherry’s hips and bracing himself for the onslaught of ecstasy. When it hit, he closed his eyes, threw his head back, and let out a deep moan as he climaxed hard. It was, by far, the most satisfying, intimate feeling he’d ever felt.

Even as he soaked in the feeling, he could sense Sherry’s affectionate gaze on him. She even stopped moving her hips, allowing him to fully enjoy his release. As his member throbbed inside her, he opened his eyes to see that powerful gaze. At that moment, Rod came to an important realization.

“This is real. What Sherry and I have…it’s really real!”

As that realization sank in, they came together in another kiss. It was softer and less heated than before, but still conveyed the same feeling. What they had just done went beyond any high school dance. He and Sherry had essentially pre-empted the spirit of the prom and captured that romantic feeling all their own.

“Sherry,” he said, finally breaking the silence.

“Yes, my lover?” said Sherry. “Which I can now say unironically, mind you.”

“If I said I love you…before we even get to the prom…before we carry out the rest of our plan…would that ruin anything?”

It was the most serious question Rod had ever asked someone. The smile on Sherry’s face never waned, though. That told him all he needed to know.

“Not in the slightest,” she told him.

“That’s…a relief,” he said, still breathless, “because I do love you. What we just did…on a night like this…I’m now comfortable saying that.”

“So am I,” she said, “because I love you too, Rod. Regardless of how the rest of the prom goes…I know what I feel. And I’m ready to celebrate it!”

Rod shot her a beaming smile and kissed her again, enjoying their sweaty, naked embrace as much as possible. Eventually, they would have to get dressed again. They might even have to clean themselves up so that they didn’t look like a couple that had just had sex in the back seat of a car.

They were probably end up being late to the prom, much to the chagrin of their friends. That didn’t matter, though. As far as Rod was concerned, he and Sherry had already captured the spirit of the prom.

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Gender Equality, The Market For Sex, And How Prostitution Affects Both


How do you put a real, tangible value on sex? I’m just not talking about the hourly rate charged by a prostitute. I’m talking about the kind of value that allows us to quantify an experience in terms of resources, market, and exchange. Sex already has an inherent value in that we need it to propagate our species. Just how far does that value go and how much does it affect our society?

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that sex is the second oldest universal currency in the history of the human species after food. People have been using sex as a currency for millennia and not always in the sense of formal prostitution.

Parents marry their daughters off for dowries. Spies have used sex to extract valuable information. Then, there are teenagers who have sex in hopes of gaining popularity. This sexual exchange goes on all the time in the real world and in any number of movies. Call it prostitution if you want. Hate it all you want. It still happens.

The mere fact that it keeps happening, despite the best efforts of repressive governments, shows that the value of sex does a lot to drive our society. For better or for worse, the pursuit and exchange of sex is one of the most powerful driving forces in the overall human experience.

Given the extent of this driving force, it’s bound to affect how the genders interact with one another. Whether it’s ancient patriarchal societies or western democracies, the exchange of sex has an impact on how people relate to one another. It’s for that very reason that it’s worth pondering what happens when the value of sex is skewed.

This is where it really helps to look at the market value for sex in a libertarian context. Technically speaking, the free market approach is consistent with how sex was exchanged in the hunter/gatherer days of humanity. In that sense, it serves as a baseline of sorts for the market value of sex.

With that context in mind, sex exchanged for certain reasons by a particular gender will have a certain value. A man paying a woman for sex has one value. A woman paying a man for sex has another. A man paying multiple women for multiple sex acts over the course of several nights also has value, albeit a more elaborate one.

That payment doesn’t always involve money, either. Sometimes, the payment is in the form of loving intimacy, not unlike the kind I describe in my books. Sometimes, the payment comes in the form of a particular experience or fantasy, like groupies having sex with rock stars. The key to this exchange is that it is done freely and everyone involves gets the value they seek from it.

Ideally, that’s how the market for sex is determined in perfect libertarian world. Unfortunately, that is not the situation the sexual marketplace faces. Multiple social forces that include the law, social stigma, taboos, and media influences all coordinate to skew the market value for sex. As a result, it skews gender relations as well.

In fact, I would argue that the market value for sex has become more skewed over the past few years than it has in the past several decades. The emergence of the anti-harassment movement and the increasing stigma on certain aspects of male sexuality is inflating the sexual market in some places while crashing it in others.

At the moment, most people would agree that female sexuality is more valued than that of males. Beautiful women are used to sell pretty much everything from shampoo to fast food. It’s no secret that men seek the company of beautiful women. Their company is highly valued, both in terms of money and social standing. The late Hugh Hefner understood that better than anyone.

That’s not to say attractive men don’t also hold value. There’s a reason why men like George Clooney, Chris Hemsworth, and even the Old Spice Guy are celebrated and pursued. However, their sexual market value has less to do with how they look and more to do with what they can do. None of them can bear children, but they have unique skills that make them desirable.

Where the market gets skewed is when that libertarian free exchange gets taxed, so to speak, by a potent mix of laws and social norms. If you’re a beautiful woman, you rarely have to pay for sex. Even if you’re marginally attractive, chances are you don’t have to hire a male gigolo. So long as you’re not actively pursuing someone like George Clooney, you can probably put yourself out there and let the sex come to you.

The taxes, in this case, tend to hit the men seeking sex. Under the current law, they have only a handful of options with respect to seeking sex. They need to convince a woman to freely have sex with them without overtly paying her, which would get them arrested. That often involves indirect payments in the forms of dates, adulation, flirting, and attention.

You could claim that those indirect payments are still akin to prostitution, as some have argued, but that’s where the market gets even more skewed. In that situation, where there’s no option for a simpler exchange involving money and sex, the value of female sexuality doesn’t just go up. The cost for men goes up as well.

For most other goods and services, this creates the kind of premium that makes certain things harder for more people to purchase. There’s a reason why only rich, successful people have Rolex watches, stretch limousines, private jets, and gold-encrusted smart-phones. That makes sense for the luxury crowd. With sex, though, that premium has some unique caveats.

For most people, the desire for a gold-encrusted smartphone isn’t there. Most people can see these expensive yachts and fancy cars from afar. They might even admire them. However, admiring something isn’t the same as desiring it. Most people don’t desire a 100-foot yacht and all the responsibilities that come with it. Nearly everyone desires sex.

Regardless of your gender, you can’t turn off your sex drive. Every effort at doing so has resulted in some pretty damaging effects. People are still going to want sex. For those who lack the beauty, social skills, or charisma to get it, there are only so many ways of going about it. When some of those ways are restricted or hindered, there’s a disparity of unfulfilled desires and that disparity can breed problems.

At the moment, that disparity primarily affects the vast majority of men who aren’t rich or as attractive as Ryan Gosling. They have the same sexual desire that men have always had, but their outlets for that desire are fairly limited, more so now than ever before.

That’s not just because prostitution is illegal and simply being caught with a prostitute is subject to significant stigma. Female sexuality is so valued in wake of the anti-harassment movement that simply attempting to get sex carries a higher risk of being labeled a creep, a harasser, or worse. Women have the power to ruin a man’s life, even if the sex is consensual.

That power is directly linked to the inflated value of sex. By keeping prostitution illegal, the access is controlled and the cost goes up. That’s because, by having to operate in a black or gray market, the cost of doing business is subject to the black market premium. Anything on the black market is going to come with greater risk. With greater risks come greater costs and not always in terms of money.

In a sense, prostitution laws and limiting access to sex by a particular gender puts greater power in the hands of those who are wealthy and can subvert the base market. There’s a reason why rich, powerful people can hire prostitutes with relative impunity while the vast majority of those arrested for prostitution are poor or disadvantaged.

Again, if you’re attractive and have easy access to various resources, those laws don’t affect you. If you’re not, whether you’re a prostitute or someone seeking their services, you can be singled out and arrested. In that market, the value primarily benefits those at the top and I’m not just talking about rich people.

There are plenty of others who have a vested interest in inflating the price of female sexuality and limiting sexual outlets for men. It’s the high value of female sexuality that puts many women, from Hollywood to feminist circles, in greater positions of influence. That’s not to say it’s a full-fledged conspiracy. Like any form of market manipulation, though, it’s a way for certain people to maximize their value.

That manipulation may very well be escalating with the expansion of the anti-harassment movement and increasing efforts to regulate the porn industry. These efforts promise to further skew the sexual marketplace, making it so that those of limited resources will have to pay an even higher price to get sex.

The effects of that disparity are hard to predict, but the signs are there. The existing double standards that assume female victimization and male aggression are only compounding the cost of pursuing sex. At some point, the market can only stay inflated so long before it crashes.

Once again, I want to make clear that I’m not claiming there’s some feminist conspiracy looking to control all forms of male sexuality. In my experience, humans are exceedingly limited at carrying out conspiracies and history has given plenty of examples. That said, I do think those who benefit from female sexuality being more valued have a strong incentive to cling to that value.

In any market, those who have an advantage will work hard to maintain that advantage. That’s why I believe efforts to curb prostitution and the porn industry will escalate in the coming years. However, history also shows that sometimes, those efforts can backfire horribly.

Prostitution isn’t going away anytime soon, but efforts to control it will continue to skew the sexual marketplace and gender disparities, alike. If there’s one consolation, though, it’s that inflated markets have a tendency to correct themselves over time. It may take a while for the sexual marketplace to balance out, but so long as the human desire for sex remains strong, our collective libido will find a way.

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

Why Sex Addiction (Probably) Doesn’t Exist


When it comes to human psychology, addiction is like quantum physics in that few understand it and Hollywood constantly gets it wrong. I know I say it a lot on this blog, but it’s worth belaboring. People are complicated. One person may watch “Star Wars” and think it’s the greatest piece of cinema of all time. Another may watch it and say it has no redeeming values.

That’s an important context to consider when discussing topics of addiction, which affects a significant portion of the human population. According to Addiction Center, there are approximately 20.6 million people over the age of 12 struggling with an addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 200,000 people have died since 1999 from prescription drug abuse alone.

Addiction is a serious issue. I know people who have struggled with addiction. I think everybody knows someone in their lives, be they a friend or relative, who has struggled with an addiction of some sorts. Addiction is real and there’s actual biology behind it. As such, it stands to reason that the rising instance of sexual addiction is real.

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Before I scrutinize this sexy, yet unsexy phenomenon, I need to preface this by acknowledging that our collective understanding of these issues is still developing. What we consider a psychological dysfunction today may end up just being a healthy variation within the diversity of human thought. That’s why homosexuality is no longer considered a disease.

That context is important to establish because the term “sex addict” has been thrown around a lot lately. It’s not quite on the level of “fake news” or “soy boy,” but it has been cropping up, especially in wake of the recent scandals in Hollywood. Both Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey claimed to be sex addicts after their scandals.

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Needless to say, not everybody buys that excuse. Given my propensity to bemoan excuses, I count myself among them. These men claiming that sex addiction caused their deplorable behavior comes off as a pitiful attempt to gain sympathy, trying to paint themselves as sick. It also assumes a lot about the complex nature of addiction.

It’s true that we can become addicted to damn near anything, but it’s not just a matter of one particular activity flooding the pleasure centers of our brain more than others. Alcoholics don’t get the same orgasmic release from a cold beer that a sex addict gets from a quickie in the shower. There are other psychological forces behind it.

Since we can’t yet read the minds of an individual person, we have only a cursory understanding of those forces. However, there is an established criteria for addiction within a medical context. The American Psychiatric Association, describes addiction as follows:

Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will causes problems.

At the same time, it establishes a clear difference between just being addicted to a certain activity, like sex, eating, or playing World of Warcraft for 29 hours straight, and the addiction caused by drugs. They don’t even call it addiction. They have a more official label called Substance Use Disorder. Their description of this condition is a lot scarier than just someone who has more orgasms than most.

People with a substance use disorder have distorted thinking, behavior and body functions. Changes in the brain’s wiring are what cause people to have intense cravings for the drug and make it hard to stop using the drug. Brain imaging studies show changes in the areas of the brain that relate to judgment, decision making, learning, memory and behavior control.

These substances can cause harmful changes in how the brain functions. These changes can last long after the immediate effects of the drug — the intoxication. Intoxication is the intense pleasure, calm, increased senses or a high caused by the drug. Intoxication symptoms are different for each substance.

I bring up this distinction because more than one person has described sex like a drug. In doing so, it’s easier to accept that those claiming to suffer from sex addiction have a real ailment. Sex is a powerful drive that evokes pleasure that some brain scans have compared to heroin. Does it not stand to reason that sex addicts are in the same boat as heroin addicts?

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The short answer is no. Sex addicts and heroin addicts are as different from one another as an arm-wrestling contest and an underground fight club. Addiction to heroin has a strict criteria for diagnosis. Sex addiction doesn’t meet that criteria in that alleged addicts don’t respond the same way that those suffering from Substance Use Disorder respond.

According to research done by UCLA, the reactions of those claiming porn addiction did not mirror those addicted to other activities like drinking, smoking, etc. Within that same research, it was also uncovered that sex addiction lacks one of the most important features of an addiction, namely that of diminished response from the pleasure centers of the brain.

That’s key because one of the most damaging factors of an addiction is that over time, the addictive behavior doesn’t light up the pleasure centers of the brain like it used to. That’s why alcoholics need more alcohol and crack addicts need more crack to get the same high. Brain scans show that in drug abuse. They don’t show it in sex addiction.

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In fact, the conclusions of the researchers on sex addiction were somewhat mundane. According to the data gathered from the brains and experiences of real people, the idea of sex addiction is nothing more than having a high sex drive and poor impulse control. That’s not an addiction. That’s a personality quirk. If anything, the very term “sex addiction” undermines the suffering of real addicts.

I know those conclusions is not going to convince those who genuinely believe that they’re struggling with sex addiction. I don’t doubt that these people are struggling and it’s negatively impacting their lives, their families, and their relationships. However, I believe putting it in the same category as drug abuse only skews our understanding of addiction and sexuality.

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Some people are really just a lot hornier than others. In the same way some people have a bigger appetite for food, some have a bigger appetite for sex. Unlike food, though, those suffering from eating disorders don’t blame the entire concept of food. There are often other psychological factors behind it.

Sex also has another complication that food and eating don’t. Our culture has an established set of sexual norms that idealize some forms of sexuality and shame others. Even though we’ve accepted more diversity in recent decades, we still idealize monogamous romances where those involved only have sex to make babies or explore the kind of passion reserved for a scene in “Titanic.”

As a result, anything that deviates from that narrative, be they an open relationship or just wanting to hump for the sake of humping, is subject to scorn or shaming. I’ve noted the flaws in this sort of narrative before, but on a much larger scale, it creates a situation where certain manifestations of sex become less a variation and more a disease.

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Like homosexuality, though, treating those variations as flawed or damaged doesn’t make them go away. It’s possible for a drug addict to get treatment to repair the damage those drugs have done to their bodies and minds. It’s not possible to complete reshape and remold someone’s baseline sexual desires without causing serious damage.

To really get an idea of how this can motivate self-professed sex addicts to engage in such erratic behaviors, imagine for a moment that you’re a heterosexual person in a world where only homosexuality is accepted. As such, you’re expected to enter a homosexual relationship with someone and remain in that relationship indefinitely.

That means you have to ignore or temper your basic sexual desires in order to operate in that society without shame or scrutiny. You have to pretend that the relationship you’re in is sufficient when you know it’s not. Since you can’t turn off your brain or your basic desires, it’s going to mess with your mind and inspire erratic behavior.

It’s for that reason that sex addiction, as it’s currently understood, probably doesn’t exist. I say probably because, as I pointed out earlier, our understanding of sexuality, psychology, and the human experience is still limited. For now, though, our conclusions are fairly simple. You’re not an addict. You’re just really horny and you live in a society that doesn’t afford you the opportunities to explore those feelings.

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Filed under gender issues, human nature, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality

On “Demolition Man” And The Path To A Dispassionate Dystopia


When it comes to foreseeing the future, be it a “Star Trek” utopia or a “Mad Max” wasteland, Hollywood can be downright prophetic at times. While movies are wrong way more often than they’re right, there are the times when certain movies are more prophetic than they probably intended. Every vision of the future varies wildly, but a few of those visions end up being more relevant, albeit for distressing reasons.

One movie that I find myself contemplating a lot more lately is “Demolition Man.” To date, it’s still one of my favorite Sylvester Stallone movies that doesn’t involve Rocky Balboa. When I was a kid who was just beginning to appreciate R-rated movies, “Demolition Man” ranked right up there with “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

It wasn’t just because it was a great action movie, complete with over-the-top violence and a charismatic villain that Wesley Snipes played to perfection. Like “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” it had depth to it, something that’s rare in action movies, even today. However, after seeing it again recently on cable, I think it’s vision of the future is more relevant now than it was in 1993.

In terms of predicting certain trends, “Demolition Man” already had a pretty good track record. The movie foresaw things like video chat, self-driving cars, mass surveillance, and Arnold Schwarzenegger getting into politics.

There is, however, one vision that even “The Simpsons” didn’t predict and it’s downright distressing at how accurate it was. Beyond the technological advances, the shiny world of “Demolition Man” has a very dystopian undertone.

While it looks peaceful and prosperous on the surface, the movie quickly reveals that this is a world dominated by an extremely authoritarian system run by the well-mannered, yet devious Dr. Raymond Cocteau. It’s a system that willfully and proudly employs draconian laws that ban anything and everything that might be bad for you, from cigarettes to loud music to spicy food.

It’s a system that doesn’t just punish people for cussing. Anyone who doesn’t go along with Cocteau’s rules is basically doomed to live in the sewers as part of a permanent underclass, as Dennis Leary’s character, Edgar Friendly, so eloquently put it. His world regulates intimate human contact to a level that even the Catholic Church would find egregious.

This is a world where people don’t touch each other. They don’t hug each other. Even when they try to high-five each other, they stop just short so that their skin never touches. Needless to say, the people in this world don’t have much of a sex life. In fact, it makes for a very awkward scene at one point.

This is pretty revealing in the sense that when John Spartan, Stallone’s main character, asks about “the old fashioned way” to Sandra Bullock’s character, Lenina Huxley, she’s repulsed by the idea. She then goes on this long rant about how sex is so dangerous. She even notes that in this future, sex requires a goddamn license from the government.

It seemed so laughably ridiculous back in 1993. Unfortunately, it makes a distressing amount of sense in 2018. We may not need a license to have sex, but we’re already developing apps and legal framework surrounding sex and consent. Is the idea that we may one day need a license to have sex really that outrageous?

The situation we have now is not the same in “Demolition Man,” but the themes are eerily similar. As I’ve noted before, the war against horny men and horny women has been escalating. While we’ve done a lot to reduce the stigma of people having sex for reasons other than procreation, society is giving people others reasons to be as repulsed as Huxley was by the idea of “old fashioned” sex.

We’re now in an era where the mere act of depicting a beautiful woman in a video game is considered oppressive to women. Given the recent surge of sex scandals and public displays by celebrities, there’s a growing undercurrent in our culture that would’ve made Dr. Cocteau’s job that much easier.

There’s now a full-fledged movement against sexual misconduct in all forms, be it harassment in the workplace or flirting in public. Reactions to that movement are still ongoing and changing by the day. Some are adopting the so-called Mike Pence rules when dealing with the opposite sex. Some are taking a more radical approach and attempting to just distance themselves from the entire gender setup.

Both approaches play right into Dr. Cocteau’s hands. Both seem to manifest in the dystopian order that we see in “Demolition Man.” It’s a world that came from a society that only ever saw the bad in people. Dr. Cocteau himself said that before he took charge, people trembled in fear at what society had become. That fear made it easy for someone like him to step in and impose his order.

In “Demolition Man,” the violence and crime of the past was used as the source of that fear. Today, violent crime is at record lows, but fear of crime is prevalent as ever thanks largely to media depictions. At the same time, fear of sexual harassment or being accused of it is growing, even as rates of sexual assault declined by more than half.

Given that potent combination of fear, which perfectly entwines sex with violence, is it any wonder that people in 2018 are avoiding being alone with the opposite sex and are less inclined to resist the growth of mass surveillance? Dr. Cocteau may be a fictional character, but we’re following a similar path without him.

Demolition Man” takes place in the year 2032. Is it really that impossible to think our collective fear surrounding violence and sex in 2018 won’t lead to a similarly dispassionate world? As much an optimist as I am about the future, a part of me does worry that we’ll walk the path that Cocteau laid out in the movie.

In that world, fear about crime and sex is so great that basic touch is seen as a pre-cursor to deviance. We already saw Matt Damon get in trouble for suggesting there was a spectrum for harassment. As a result, our future interactions will have to be micromanaged. Even if the crime rates continue to drop, the slightest chance that someone could harass or assault another has to be taken as a certainty.

That may not mean we dress in the strange robes that the people wear in “Demolition Man,” but it’s very likely that world won’t allow for much provocative attire. We already know how cultures like that manifest today and they’re not sexy or friendly, to say the least.

What makes these manifestations worse than those in “Demolition Man” is that these conditions may not need to be imposed by someone like Dr. Cocteau. We may just become so crippled by our fears of violence, harassment, or being accused of harassment that we’ll just create the repressive world of Cocteau without him. That, in my mind, would be an even worse dystopia.

Now, I concede we’re still a long way from that kind of society. If someone like Dr. Cocteau came along today and tried to impose the kind of society that required a license for any kind of sexual activity, he would probably fail. I take some comfort in that.

However, the more our fears surrounding sex, gender, harassment, and violence escalate, the more inclined we’ll be to craft a more repressive, disconnected world. History and basic human biology has shown that sort of effort never works in the long run and can be very damaging.

There are a lot of lessons to be had from a movie like “Demolition Man” while still enjoying Sylvester Stallone delivering his memorable one-liners. Beyond the over-the-top action that makes the movie such a spectacle, there’s a message that is more important in 2018 than it ever was in 1993.

A world built around elaborate, authoritarian rules that try to regulate human expression may seem utopian on the surface, but it becomes distinctly dystopian when you look at the implications. Some of forces behind that dystopia in “Demolition Man” are already starting to manifest. If it ever gets to a point where a high-five has to be rethought, then we should worry.

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Storm And Black Panther: How NOT To Do A Superhero Romance


Say what you will about these tumultuous times. One thing is still clear. It’s a damn good time to be a fan of Black Panther. Whether you’re a long-time reader of the comics or Chadwick Boseman enjoying a meteoric rise in fame, these are the best of times for T’Challa, Wakanda, and everything in between.

As of this writing, the “Black Panther” movie has topped $700 million worldwide in just over a week since its release. It’s well-poised to cross the $1 billion mark that only a handful of movies have reached. Things are going very well for Black Panther is what I’m saying.

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I cite all this good news surrounding Black Panther because what I’m about to discuss is not going to show him in the best of light. None of it detracts from the character, nor does it undercut the remarkable achievements that the “Black Panther” movie has accomplished. Given the promising future of Black Panther’s future, though, I think now is probably the best time to bring it up.

Once again, it has to do with superheroes and romance. Long-time readers of this blog probably aren’t surprised by that in the slightest. I talk about superhero romances a lot, citing instances where those romances embody the best elements of a love story and those that are inherently flawed. I’m afraid this is going to be about the latter.

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Black Panther is a great character and has a lot of things going for him, right now. Between a successful movie and a successful ongoing solo series, which you should definitely check out, he has a lot has gone right for him. Unfortunately, that does not extend to his love life.

To those who only know T’Challa through the “Black Panther” movie, I’m not referring to Nakia, who is his primary love interest in that story. I’m referring to a much higher-profile relationship he had with a much higher-profile character in the mid-2000s. That character is Storm, a character I’ve praised before and not just for her love of foreplay.

It’s true. In Black Panther Volume 4, Issue 18, which came out in 2006, Storm and Black Panther got married in what was billed as the highest-profile superhero marriage since the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey. It even managed to temporarily stop the ongoing hostilities in Marvel’s now-famous Civil War event.

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On paper, it was billed as the union between two of Marvel’s most prominent black superheroes. It was presented as a union between a weather goddess and a king. It couldn’t have had more going for it without being the central plot of a Disney movie, which isn’t impossible at this point.

There’s just one glaring, omega-level problem with that approach. The relationship between Storm and Black Panther is one of the shallowest, emptiest, and least compelling romances in the history of superhero comics. Yes, it’s even worse than the time Juggernaut had a fling with She-Hulk.

For two character who are so iconic, well-rounded, and endearing, that’s quite a statement. I imagine that more than a few people disagree with it, but there’s a reason behind that statement and it’s not an overly petty one. Between being a die-hard fan of superhero comics and an aspiring erotica/romance writer, the flaws in this relationship stand out more than most for me.

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The most glaring flaw, by far, is just how forced the relationship was in the first place. I won’t say it was quite as bad as the relationship between Jean Grey and Logan was in the X-men movies, but it was pretty damn close. From the beginning, it was less about the chemistry between these two characters and more about the fact that they were two prominent black superheroes.

Never mind having an actual reason to want to be together. Never mind actually tying their respective stories together in a compelling way. The approach was as lazy as it was empty, essentially relying on the iconic status of both characters and nothing more. By that logic, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran should’ve gotten married already.

Even if the approach was lazy, the premise could’ve worked if there was time and effort into developing the Storm/Black Panther romance compelling. Sadly, that’s not the approach Marvel used. They were in such a rush to get these two married that they skipped the part where they told a dramatic love story that brings these characters together in a meaningful way.

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As a romance fan and a comic book fan, that was as satisfying as food poisoning and a hangover. Instead of presenting valid reasons as to why these two characters should be in love, Marvel rewrote Storm and Black Panther’s history to establish that they met each other when they were young and shared a strong connection. That’s all well and good, but there’s one glaring problem.

By rewriting the past, it devalues the emotional depth in the present. Instead of actually building that depth, it’s just suddenly revealed that these two characters had a long-standing history. There’s no need to tell a more elaborate story. It already happened in the past and they’re only acknowledging it now. If I could write that with more sarcasm, I would.

Now, history being rewritten in comics is nothing new. That’s what comic fans refer to as a “retcon” and it’s basically the narrative equivalent of a mulligan. When used correctly, it can help clear up convoluted elements. When used poorly, however, it can be very destructive. Just ask Captain America fans.

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A retcon is the ultimate contrivance and that was the foundation of the Storm/Black Panther relationship. If every good relationship starts with a strong foundation, then the Storm/Black Panther relationship was built on a mix of quicksand and moldy bread.

I get the intent. In order for Storm and Black Panther to get married, they needed to establish that their relationship was somehow worthy of being on the same level as Superman/Lois Lane or Mr. Fantastic/Invisible Woman. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to rewrite their entire history so that their love was something that had depth. It just happened entirely behind the scenes.

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Contrast that with the love story we saw in the “Black Panther” movie between T’Challa and Nakia. There was nothing contrived about that story. These two characters both had their own narrative. In pursuing that narrative, they came together in a way that felt organic, genuine, and sincere. It was probably the most sincere love story in a superhero movie since the original Deadpool movie.

That shared narrative has huge gaps with Storm/Black Panther and not just because it required a rewriting of their respective history. Even before that retcon, Storm and Black Panther followed very different narratives.

Storm, since her debut in 1975, has been an integral part of the X-men and their story. She was a key player in some of the most defining moments in X-men history. Along the way, she’s had various romantic relationships with the likes of Bishop, Nightcrawler, and Forge. For a time, she had a pretty passionate relationship with Wolverine.

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The fact she had all those relationships while Black Panther had plenty of his own, most notably with former Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, makes the idea that they shared this powerful bond in their youth seem not so powerful. Even if there were other forces pushing them apart, the fact they followed such distinct narratives really undermines the sincerity of their relationship.

It also makes for some pretty distressing implications. Throughout the X-men’s history, the team has been on the run and on the brink every other week. In some cases, it led to some pretty brutal tragedies. All these things were happening with the X-men and Storm was often on the front lines.

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The fact that she and her friends struggled so much while T’Challa, king of the most advanced nation in the Marvel universe, never did a goddamn thing to help her or her friends just makes the situation even worse. Unlike Wolverine or Forge, he wasn’t there to share in all the struggles. Granted, T’Challa had his own struggles, but neither he nor Storm ever went out of their way to support one another.

Sharing struggles is one of the most important components of a believable, functional romance in both the real world and in superhero comics. Without that, it’s like trying to build furniture without a hammer. You can try, but if you don’t have the right tools, the results are going to be limited at best.

It’s the fact that Storm and Black Panther shared such different struggles that their marriage in the comics ended in a fairly ugly fashion. When the Avengers and X-men clashed in the aptly-named “Avengers vs. X-men” event, Storm and Black Panther were on opposite sides. The conflict was so bad that it left Wakanda in ruin and by the end, their marriage was annulled.

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It was an inglorious ending to a romance that Marvel tried hard to make iconic. Unfortunately, they went about it in all the wrong ways for all the wrong reasons. There’s no question that Storm and Black Panther are among Marvel’s highest-profile black heroes, even more so now with the success of the “Black Panther” movie. That’s still not the sole reason why they should be romantically involved.

The relationship was so forced and so flawed that even the X-men’s most iconic writer, Chris Claremont, says the whole thing was a big mistake. Storm and Black Panther may have potential, but by forcing it and rushing it to such an egregious extent, it’s hard to take that romance seriously.

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If nothing else, the Storm/Black Panther relationship should provide a cautionary tale for superhero romances and real romances alike. Most importantly, it reinforces the notion that genuine romance can’t be forced. Strong couples share in their respective struggles, supporting one another and guiding one another.

Storm and Black Panther did none of that. Marvel’s approach to forging their relationship only gave them more reasons not to be together. Both characters have a bright future in their own respect, but that future cannot and should not be forced or contrived.

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

Superman, Rick Sanchez, And The Nihilism Filter

Here’s a question that should strain the brains of anyone who reads too many comics and watches too much TV.

What do Rick Sanchez and Superman have in common?

Take a moment to finish rolling your eyes. Bear with me, I am going somewhere with this. There is a point to posing such a question, relatively speaking. Maybe a better question would be what possible commonalities could someone like Superman share with Rick Sanchez from “Rick and Morty?”

One is the undisputed icon of truth, justice, and the American way. The other is an eccentric, unstable super-genius who also happens to be high-functioning alcoholic. These are two fictional characters who, on paper, would clash at every turn. However, there is one trait that binds them and it’s one that’s worth scrutinizing.

They both perfectly embody nihilistic morality.

Again, I am going somewhere like this. Just hear me out  because this is something I think that fans of both Superman and “Rick and Morty” can appreciate. In an era where everyone has an excuse, an agenda, or a combination of the two, it’s a perspective that I think everyone can appreciate.

To understand that perspective, it’s necessary to understand what I mean by “nihilistic morality.” I’ve mentioned nihilism before when I’ve discussed “Rick and Morty” in previous posts, specifically on what makes Rick Sanchez an appealing character to an emerging generation. For the purposes of this discussion, you need not be a super-genius or a Kryptonian to understand.

By definition, nihilism sounds bleak and depressing. At its core, it states that life has no inherent meaning or purpose. We’re just globs of matter floating around the universe for a finite period of time. That’s it. There’s no plan, purpose, or greater meaning. Any effort we make at seeking meaning requires that we shamelessly lie to ourselves. Rick Sanchez, himself, put it pretty succinctly.

“When you know nothing matters, the universe is yours. And I’ve never met a universe that was into it. The universe is basically an animal, it grazes on the ordinary. It creates infinite idiots, just to eat them.”

Depressing or not, I don’t intend to belabor the grim prospects of nihilism. Instead, I want to focus on the implications because, even if the principles are depressing, the implications are pretty revealing. In a sense, those implications can say a lot about what we consider moral and why we do what we do.

This is where Superman enters the equation. When it comes to beacons of morality, Superman is basically the alpha and omega of all things good and just. He is the standard by which all heroes are measured. He is the arbiter of the ethics, philosophy, and principles of a good and just person. If Superman does it, then it must be good. If there’s a right way to do something, then Superman does it without hesitation.

Where he and Rick Sanchez intersect has less to do with who they are and more with why they do what they do. Whether it’s stopping Zod from destroying a city or selling weapons to assassins to spend an afternoon at an alien arcade, these two characters have surprisingly similar motivations and those motivations have a basis in nihilism.

Simply put, Superman and Rick Sanchez don’t do what they do because it serves an agenda, makes them look good to others, helps them function better in society, or rewards them after death. They do it because they want to. That’s it. That’s the end of the philosophical discussion.

In the context of pure nihilism, these two exceedingly different characters are on the same page. There’s no larger plan or purpose to their choices. Rick Sanchez has never given a cosmic fart about what others think about him, including his own family. Superman has also made it abundantly clear throughout his history that he doesn’t do what he does for adulation. He does it because it’s the right thing to do.

These simplistic, almost shallow reasons are inherently nihilistic in that they acknowledge the pointlessness of attempting to seek greater meaning in a chaotic universe. It’s just as pointless to do something for personal reasons, be they vengeance for dead parents or upstaging the devil. Any reason, large or small, is just as empty within a nihilistic worldview.

However, if you can look past the depressing concepts, there are major implications for the ethical context of these actions. The fact that both Superman and Rick Sanchez don’t need or seek that greater meaning to justify their actions makes what they do more inherently honest. In terms of judging ethical motivations, that counts for a lot.

Whether they’re iconic heroes or alcoholic mad scientists, honesty matters and so does motivation. Heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-men have factors like duty, vision, responsibility, and tragedy to guide their actions. You could say the same about the real people behind any movement, be they civil rights, gender issues, or a political party.

Spider-Man does what he does out of responsibility and the guilt he feels for being irresponsible in the past. Most peoples’ political affiliation is inherited from their parents or their economic circumstances. Some join civil rights movements out of personal conviction or just to virtue signal.

Both Rick Sanchez and Superman would see all those factors as needless complications to what should be a very simple choice. To them, you simply do something because you want to. If there are consequences to that, then you deal with them. That’s all there is to it. That’s all there needs to be.

Superman didn’t need someone to kill his parents or hate his kind to motivate him. Rick Sanchez didn’t need a loving family or an empire of alien insects to motivate him either. They just need the ability to make a choice and nothing more. Anything beyond that is either bonus or needless complications.

In the context of nihilism, that makes the ethics behind both Rick and Superman more genuine. It flies in the face of those who seek justice, morality, or progress as part of some larger endeavor. That’s an important factor because, absent that context, the motivations can be prone to corruptive forces.

This can unfold subtly in things like organized religion. Sure, religion can inspire great charity, but is that because adherents genuinely want to be charitable? Are they just trying to win favor in the eyes of a deity who may or may not punish them eternally after they die?

It also manifests in political movements. Pretty much any political party will consider their platform to be just. However, is that because it actually is just or because that’s just what the party says? Anyone who has lived in a communist dictatorship probably knows the answer to that more than most.

These days, we’re seeing more and more people rally behind various social movements, be they LGBT rights or anti-harassment efforts. Even if the intent of these movements are just, those behind it can have other motives, such as virtue signaling or maintaining an agenda. Remember, Harvey Weinstein donated to the women’s march in early 2017 before his scandal broke.

In either case, it’s not always possible to know the sincerity of someone’s moral underpinnings. In a sense, nihilism provides a filter, of sorts, to sift through the various agendas that someone may or may not have. If that agenda requires that the universe have a special purpose or destiny for them, then that’s usually a sign that they’re trying to be the heroes of their own story, which rarely turns out well.

Superman could care less if the entire world hates his guts for doing what he does. He’ll still do it because it’s the right thing to do. Rick Sanchez could care less if everybody loves him and worships him like a god. He still does what he does simply because he chooses too. They both understand the universe doesn’t care so why should they?

Think about that next time a fictional hero or a real person explains their motivations. Apply the filter of nihilism and you’ll reveal just how genuine or insincere they truly are. Whether you’re saving Lois Lane or searching for that sweet Szechuan Sauce, those motivations matter, especially in a nihilistic universe where little else does.

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Is Netflix To Blame For Decreasing Sexual Activity?


For most of human history, society regularly concerned itself with how much sex people were having. It wasn’t always just a matter of people having too much sex. The collective forces of religion, government, culture, and social norms all worked together to encourage people have the “right” kind of sex.

I put “right” in quotation marks because the whole concept of there being a “right kind of sex” is asinine to begin with. The concept only exists to the extent that it reflects the genuine, pragmatic concerns of previous societies about maintaining a growing population in the face of constant war, famine, plague, and whatever other forces were conspiring to wipe out the human race.

Pragmatic or not, the amount of sex that people have is still a concern and probably always will be to some extent. Unlike 99 percent of human history, though, having enough sex to make enough babies to keep the species going is no longer an issue. If anything, having too many babies is a larger concern.

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It’s within this unprecedented situation, one in which the human race has made so much progress and dominated the world so completely, that we’re also facing a growing issue. People are having less sex. According to the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, overall sexual activity has been declining since the mid-2000s.

The rate of decline is even more significant among the younger demographics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the amount of sexually active teenagers declined from 47 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2015. Considering that at least half of the teenage population was sexually active throughout the 90s, that is not a trivial decline.

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I’ve talked a bit about this decline in sex. Being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, it’s one of those trends I need to keep up. I’ve posed a number of potential explanations. I’ve explored the possibility that society is becoming more sexually uptight. I’ve also talked about how the ongoing anti-harassment movement may impact our sex lives.

However, there may be an even more powerful force at work that’s hindering our collective ability to get frisky, especially among youth. For once, it has nothing to do with religion, government initiatives, or hashtag movements. In fact, this force may be more powerful than all those forces combined. It has a name and it’s one we know well: Netflix.

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This actually might be one instance where I don’t need to present a long, detailed explanation about how something affects our sex lives, our culture, and our society as a whole. There’s no need to employ caveman logic or scrutinize agendas. I think most competent can probably look at these trends in sexuality and readily accept that Netflix might very well be a factor.

I admit when I first heard it, I thought it made too much sense. I first saw it in an article in Politico that I thought was an Onion spoof. Apparently, it’s a serious story entitled “Too Much Netflix, Not Enough Chill: Why Young Americans Are Having Less Sex.” Granted, a lot of it is lumping correlation without digging into the causation, but it does make some pretty compelling points.

Dating has fallen precipitously in recent years, at least among teens, as smartphones and screens have become more popular. In the past 10 years, the share of high school seniors who reported ever going out on dates fell from about 70 percent to approximately 55 percent. We don’t have data for dating among adults, but “socializing offline” is down among them, too. For all the talk about young adults’ “Netflix and chilling,” many young men and women may end up just bingeing on Netflix, not chilling.

Within those points, however, is a growing sentiment in which people opting for Netflix is more a reaction than a provocation. The article spends a lot of time breaking down other ongoing trends, including a few from the anti-harassment movement. It’s not that people want to cut themselves off from intimacy, but the risks of getting intimate are greater, albeit not for the same reasons that we had in the past.

These days, young people are less concerned about being branded with a scarlet letter or challenging the sexual norms of our uptight ancestors. However, they are concerned about navigating an ever-changing social landscape that seems to disparage horny men and horny women.

For full-grown adults, it’s already pretty dangerous, as Aziz Ansari found out recently. For inexperienced teenagers, it’s probably even more terrifying. The article even highlighted a few of the notable pitfalls that are likely discouraging young people from putting themselves out there.

One is that in an era where concerns about sexual consent are becoming more salient, false allegations of sexual assault or rape may become more likely to proliferate, driven partly by a lack of clarity about how to define consent in sexual encounters that are often ambiguous and alcohol-fueled. Think of the fraternity accused of gang rape in the retracted Rolling Stone story about the University of Virginia. Or the bizarre charges made by Columbia University’s “mattress girl,” Emma Sulkowicz, against her former friend and lover, Paul Nungesser. Or the sexual assault charges lodged against Alphonso Baity that led to his expulsion from the University of Findlay, despite the fact that multiple witnesses were willing to testify that he engaged in consensual sex with his accuser. Or the successful cases that have been brought by men thrown out of college for alleged sexual assaults. Such allegations can do untold harm to the reputations and lives of many parties—mostly men—who engaged in what seemed to them to be consensual sex.

This is where Netflix comes in, almost by accent. In the past, it was a lot harder to stay entertained and content while also suppressing sexual urges. Why else would chastity belts have been a thing? When there wasn’t much entertainment beyond books and games, it was only a matter of time before those basic urges caught up with people.

Netflix does something that even the strongest chastity belt can never hope to do. It actually succeeds in keeping people distracted and content so that those base desires can’t occupy our thoughts. When there are so many amazing shows, from “Bojack Horsemen” to “Travelers” to “House of Cards” to “Stranger Things,” who has time for sex?

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I write that only half-jokingly because, while it’s not possible to completely overwrite our base desires, it’s still possible to distract us. Human beings are, from a biological standpoint, pretty easy to distract. In the era of the internet and streaming media, it has never been easier to forget about the fact that you’re not having sex.

Add on top of that the growing risks with just attempting to get sex, thanks to concerns about harassment and assault, and Netflix suddenly seems like the path of least resistance. You won’t get accused of assault or harassment by staying home and watching Netflix. You also won’t get pregnant or a nasty disease, either. Add the inherent entertainment of the content and even I can’t deny the appeal.

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Now, it’s still doubtful that Netflix and others like it are the primary reason for the decline in sexual activity. As anyone familiar with logical fallacies will tell you, correlation does not equal causation. However, when scrutinized within the context of evolving sexual attitudes, the deficiencies of the past, and basic incentives, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that Netflix is a factor.

That trend, like all trends, is likely to change over time. It’s impossible to predict how our sex lives will change in the next few years, especially as emerging technologies start to affect sex and society at large. For now, there are a lot of factors affecting our sex lives. Netflix is just one, but as someone who is a big fan of “Bojack Horsemen” and “Stranger Things,” I think it’s more powerful than we think.

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