Tag Archives: men and women

The (Dark) Secrets Of The Millennial Mind

In recent years, it’s become a popular past-time to hate millennials and anything associated with them. Browse any non-pornographic part of the web for more than five minutes and you’re bound to find some angry anti-millennial rant about how their hashtags, safe spaces, and compulsive need to take selfies is ruining the planet.

I tend to roll my eyes at those articles, just as I tend to roll my eyes at any rant that bashes a particular generation. I’ve read enough random crap and talked to enough bitter old people to know that every generation bashes the other to some extent.

The World War II generation whined about all the hippie types in the Baby Boomer generation. Those same Baby Boomers whined about the brooding, selfish, cynical, I-don’t-care-and-I-don’t-need-anybody attitudes of Generation X. In many respects, the millennials are just next in line. It was bound to happen because it’ll always happen, for as long as old people complain about young people.

Never mind the fact that the millennial generation is the most education generation of all time. Never mind the fact that the millennial generation is the most diverse generation of all time and are coming into a world with the lowest crime rates in modern history. Let’s also not forget that, unlike any other generation before it, millennials are the first generation to have unlimited, near-universal access to information.

No matter what type of world the millennials inherit, or what sort of advantages they have, older generations will find a reason to complain about them. It’s not so much that young people actively rebel against old people, as we see in one too many teen movies. It’s more the fact that they’re young and old people are older. I know that sounds inane, but that’s usually the heart of the issue.

Young people don’t have the same life experiences as old people. They can’t understand their perspectives because they haven’t lived them. Their world, and how they see it, is just so different and that frustrates older people because they can’t relate to it. Some will try, but successes will be limited, at best. As such, every generation is going to seem strange, deviant, and/or frustrating to one another.

I’ve certainly experienced this myself, at times. I think everyone has to some degree. They’re young, they talk to an older person, and that older person tells them all about how much better their generation was. They overcame so much more and did it without the aid of smartphones. Somehow, that makes them inherently better and then they wonder why young people tune them out.

In general, I try not to have those kinds of arguments because they’re pointless. As someone who falls in age range of a millennial, I know there’s nothing I can say or do to convince an older person that my generation is as good or better than theirs. That’s not not an argument anyone can win. It’s also pointless, in the grand scheme of things.

However, I do feel as though the millennial-bashing has gotten out of hand in recent years. It’s not so much that older people are complaining about millennials constantly texting on their phones. It’s more a matter of them conducting themselves in such a strange, erratic way that neither Baby Boomers or Generation X can make sense of.

Anyone who has worked with millennials knows this first-hand. This new crop of young adults are incessantly needy, easily offended, and overly emotional about trivial issues. They are the kinds of people that John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and Madonna would’ve made fun of at every turn.

Now, I’m not going to try and dispel every myth and stereotype of the millennial crowd. Again, that’s not an argument anyone can win. Since I am a millennial, though, and I’ve worked with many my age, I feel like I can offer some context to the general weirdness of my kind.

I have to warn you, though, that context has some dark undertones. Even other millennials don’t always understand it. In a sense, there are some distressingly subversive forces that inspired many of those annoying stereotypes that other generations despise. Some of them have a basis in events that took place long before their time. Some have a basis in simple human nature.

Whatever the case, the mind of a millennial isn’t all hash-tags and cat videos. It’s actually governed by some pretty dark forces that older generations don’t even try to understand. While I doubt this will earn millennials sympathy from Baby Boomers or the Generation X crowd, I hope it provides some critical insight.

With all that said, here are five dark secrets of the millennial generation. These aren’t necessarily guarded secrets, but they are very much a factor in how they see the world. If you know or work with millennials, I sincerely hope this fosters a greater understanding.


Secret #1: We Are Paralyzed With Uncertainty

This is the first and most critical secret that every generation, including millennials themselves, need to acknowledge. It will help make sense of so many of the weird, annoying things they do, albeit for less-than-flattering reasons.

If you’re wondering why uncertainty is such a big deal to us, then stop for a moment and think about how much or how little you knew about the world in your youth. Before the age of computers and smart phones, your world was small. Everything you knew and needed to know could fit in your street, your city block, or your farm. The only uncertainty you dealt with was what you would have for dinner.

For millennials, the world is much bigger and much more accessible. They are connected, plugged in, and in tuned with mind-bogglingly huge amounts of information, from news to personal insights. On top of that, and this is worth repeating, they are the most educated generation of all time.

While that’s great for trivia games, it does have a major side-effect. As a result of so much education, millennials are basically walking examples of a Socratic Paradox. The more they know, the more they realize they don’t know. It’s a byproduct of learning more than what your limited brain can handle.

I’ve felt this first-hand. Just getting into something like superhero comics is daunting when you start to learn how vast and convoluted their history is. That’s just comics, though. Apply this to the world, as a whole, and millennials are utterly paralyzed by knowing so much and realizing how much more they need to know.

That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear millennials constantly asking for clarification, certainty, or reassurance. They think they know, but they don’t know for sure. With so much information, as well as growing trends in “alternative facts,” it’s almost impossible to be totally certain of all the information at a millennial’s disposal.

Keep that in mind next time a young person is constantly checking their phone. It’s not that they’re detached or inconsiderate. They’re just plagued by uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on, what’s happening with their friends, and how everyone is reacting to them. All that uncertainty kind of requires them to be plugged in all the time and it can be exceedingly stressful, among other things.


Secret #2: We Have (Extreme) Trust Issues

This feeds directly off the crippling uncertainty that millennials deal with. It’s not just a by-product. It’s an inescapable obstacle that comes with being educated, informed, and connected.

Millennials have serious trust issues. I’m not talking about the kind of paranoid, conspiracy theory, the-CIA-put-a-chip-in-my-brain type trust issues either. The extreme trust issues that millennials have is more subtle and, in many ways, a side-effect of trends that began in previous generations.

It was the Baby Boomers and Generation X that began rebelling against authority. They were the ones that started youth protests, giving the finger to authority, and brooding with unending cynicism. They helped exposed leaders and icons as hypocrites, crooks, and frauds.

They exposed multiple presidents as liars. They exposed celebrities as monsters. They exposed the corruption of once-cherished institutions. While all that might have been important with respect to pursuing justice, it also created a world where millennials cannot or are very reluctant to trust anyone.

Thanks to all the information at a millennial’s disposal, they can find out that great figures of history were also racist slave-owners. They can find out that beloved scientists and inventors were bullies. They can find out that the celebrities they love are real assholes. In essence, they can’t trust anyone to be true or genuine.

You want to know why superhero movies have become so huge with millennials? Well, that’s because they have no real-life heroes anymore. They’ve all been destroyed or discredited. They’re basically stuck with fictional heroes. That’s all they have left.

Beyond a lack of heroes and leaders who aren’t total frauds, millennials are so flooded with information that they have a hard time trusting the source. Everything seems biased. Everyone has an agenda. There’s fake news everywhere and nobody seems to know what the hell is going on, which I’ve noted out before.

So when you’re dealing with a millennial and they seem detached, that’s part of the reason. It’s also why they seem misinformed and misguided. They don’t know what or who to trust because every generation before them has given them way too many reasons not to. Add unlimited access to abundant information, fake and real, and how can anyone expect them to trust anything?


Secret #3: We Are Drowning In Debt (That We Can’t Escape)

This is one of those quirky issues that does get reported fairly regularly, but not everyone truly grasps the implications. It’s an undeniable fact that millennials are the most indebted generation of all time. A lot of that has to do with the growth of student loan debt, which recently surpassed credit card debt. There are all sorts of factors that led to this growth, but I want to focus on the effects for this.

Now I’ve seen some Baby Boomers and Generation X people roll their eyes at this issue, claiming that young people are stupid for taking out so much debt, just to get a useless college degree in underwater basket weaving. When most millennials hear that, though, assume they’re gritting their teeth to hold back their blinding rage.

That’s because a huge consortium of parents, guidance counselors, and raunchy movies have glorified college as this important next step that ever young person needs to take after high school. If you don’t take it, then something must be wrong with you. You must be stupid, lazy, or unambitious.

Since so many young people now feel inclined to go to college, that drives up demand. When anything is in that much demand, it gets more expensive. That’s just basic economics.

As a result, millennials have no choice but to take out student loans to go to college, just like the older people said they should. Then, those same people give them crap for taking out so many loans in the first place.

Beyond the frustration, those debt loads can be downright debilitating. When I was in college, I had a friend who had around $120,000 in student loan debt. In years past, that wasn’t a student loan. That was a goddamn mortgage. That means there are entire generations of people coming out of college who basically have to pay the price of a house without being able to live in it.

On top of that, millennials still get crap for having to live with their parents. They are in multiple no-win situations, both in terms of stigma and their overall futures. Unlike most other forms of debt, student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. A millennial is stuck with it, no matter what they do.

If that weren’t enough, and it’s already too much, the job prospects for anyone without a college degree are abysmal. If you don’t have a college degree, then your ability to get a job that keeps you out of poverty is very low. Sure, you can point out that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t go to college all you want, but they never had to pay off a goddamn mortgage before they were 25.


Secret #4: We Have No Margin For Error (Or Offense)

A lot has been made about how easily offended millennials are. That’s how the term, snowflake, actually became an insult. Now, I don’t deny that young people take political correctness way too far. I’ve even talked about it a few times on my blog. However, like most things, there is a context and it’s kind of dark.

A big part of the millennial desire to not offend anybody comes from the self-esteem movement that began before they left the womb. An entire generation has been conditioned to have a bloated sense of confidence in a world where they can’t trust anyone, are constantly uncertain about everything, and have huge debts to pay. Naturally, that’s going to cause some inner conflict.

It’s not just that millennials hate bullies, racists, sexists, and bigots. For one, millennials are a far more diverse cohort than their predecessors, thanks largely to the efforts of previous generations. They have to be a bit more sensitive and understanding to others who are different because there are so many different perspectives to consider now. Millennials have to temper their sensibilities in order to get along.

Beyond that, and this is where it gets dark, the consequences of screwing up are enormous. Entire lives have been ruined by one off-hand tweet. A single off-hand comment has ruined reputations. In a generation that’s plugged in and connected all the time, nothing you say or do goes without scrutiny. You can’t have any private sentiments. If you do and they’re somewhat problematic, then you’re in trouble.

It’s another reason why millennials are so obsessed with their online life and how people perceive them. They live in a world where one text, one tweet, or one offensive image that they shared on social media can destroy their reputation, their friends, and their livelihood.

People get fired for offending others. Peoples’ lives are ruined, both financially and socially. When you’re young and you have a massive amount of student debt to pay off, you have to walk on egg-shells every day because if you mess up, there’s little recourse. Once something happens and it’s documented on the internet, it’s there forever.

Millennials didn’t create the world that made such hypersensitivity necessary. They also didn’t create the technology that they obsess over either. They were just born into a perfect storm, of sorts. If they dare rock the boat in any direction, then they’re tossed overboard without a life preserver.

Remember this next time a millennial obsesses over offending or not offending someone. It’s not just out of hypersensitivity. It’s basic survival. Older generations who have already carved a place for themselves can afford to be offended, literally in some cases. Millennials don’t have that luxury.


Secret #5: We (Have To) Rely On Our Passion

With every new generation comes new circumstances and with those circumstances comes a need to adapt. The Baby Boomers had to adapt to the generation that won Wolrd War II. Generation X had to adapt to the generation that protested Vietnam. The way they adapted shaped a great deal of their culture and identity. With millennials, it’s no different.

With the other secrets, I’ve described a pretty rough set of circumstances for millennials to adapt to. They’re uncertain, can’t trust anyone, drowning in debt, and living in constant terror of offending someone in a way that will ruin their lives. How can anyone adapt to that?

Well, human beings are nothing if not adaptable. It’s one of our most defining traits. With millennials, the options are limited, but they’ve made the most of them by becoming a very impassioned, very vocal generation. Whereas the Baby Boomers had their rebellious streak and Generation X had their cynicism, millennials have their passions to guide them.

By that, I mean the millennial crowd will put a lot of passion into whatever they do, be it protesting pronouns or posting videos of their cat. Due to debt, uncertainty, and trust issues, there are a lot of boxes they need to check before they commit to something. That’s part of why millennials aren’t getting married and why they’re having less sex. They can’t afford to be too casual, literally in some cases. There needs to be passion.

That’s why millennials will make a big deal about making whatever job or hobby they enjoy having some sort of passionate undertone. It’s how they can fill the many gaps left by so much uncertainty and such limited trust. It’s also how they can justify working a job that they know probably won’t help them pay off that massive debt they have. Without that passion, why would they bother?

The most tragic part of that element is that having such passion is really the only option millennials have in some cases. It’s a big part of why they’ll make such a big deal about certain issues that seem trivial to older generations. The older crowd has options. Millennials don’t.

Having passion, and a lot of it, is a big part of how they drive themselves. Sure, they can get annoying about it. I’ve lost track of how many overly passionate arguments about Wonder Woman’s costume I’ve heard on comic book message boards. When that’s all you really have, though, then that’s what’ll drive you.


While I doubt this will make millennials seem less annoying to older generations, I hope it provides some insight into what makes this generation tick. I don’t claim for a second that these insights are definitive. Millennials, like every generation that came before it, are a diverse group of people full of many variations, some more annoying than others.

However, this is their situation. This is how the world is shaping them. It’s a never-ending struggle, one that’s sure to plague the next generation just as much. I’m sure millennials will find an entirely different set of excuses to whine about that generation. I don’t doubt those excuses will be every bit as petty. I just hope I can sell enough of my novels by then to not care.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Jack Fisher's Insights

Joss Whedon: Non-Feminist Hypocrite Or Too Human?

Happier times: Architect and producer Cole claims that Whedon cheated on her multiple times through their 16 year marriage in her piece for The Wrap; (pictured 2010)

If you’ve been following this blog in any capacity over the past year, or even the past few months, you’ve probably picked up on a number of themes. If you’re new and just stumbled across this blog because you noticed how much it talks about boobs, sex robots, and Deadpool, then here’s a quick rundown of those themes.

  • Every human being is at the mercy of their brain wiring to a large extent
  • Our brain wiring still assumes that we’re a bunch of cavemen hunting and foraging in the savanna
  • Our brains and body structure have two primary purposes, survival and reproduction
  • Any function other than survival and reproduction is secondary
  • Our overall biology is a blunt instrument that is nearly incapable of being precise, specific, or consistent
  • People will make endless excuses to justify actions they think were more logical than they actually are
  • Sex robots are awesome and cannot come soon enough

For this post, which highlights a major story that broke this past week, it’ll cover almost all of those themes. I’ll do my best to work sex robots into the discussion, but I can’t make any promises. It’s also a story that’s still developing so, in all likelihood, the details are bound to change at some point.

That tends to happen a lot when the story involves divorce, celebrities, and potential hypocrisy on a level that even our celebrity-loving culture can’t tolerate. I’ve made an issue of that kind of hypocrisy before when sex icon and walking male fantasy Pamela Anderson came out against porn, despite having become rich and famous from it. This, however, involves a different kind of hypocrisy.

That brings me Joss Whedon, whose life seems to have taken a few tumbles since it peaked while directing “The Avengers.” It’s not just that he never got “Firefly” un-cancelled or did not do a good job of handling the less-than-flattering controversy surrounding “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” His personal life is also suffering.

Lately, Whedon has been going through a long, tedious divorce with his wife, Kai Cole. Divorce is always rough, even when you’re as celebrated and successful as Joss Whedon. Celebrity couples endure it with distressing frequency, as Chris Pratt and Anna Faris recently learned. However, Whedon’s divorce has incurred another story with even larger implications.

Granted, it doesn’t take much to make divorce even more painful, especially when you have the resources of a celebrity. This might be one case where the pain goes beyond the relationship, revealing something about ourselves that’s as impactful as any billion-dollar movie.

That pain came in the form of a letter that Kai Cole penned about her husband for The Wrap. This is not just an angry rant from a bitter ex-wife, although that’s definitely a part of it. This letter potentially reveals a level of hypocrisy that may undermine our ability to trust any male celebrity who claims to be an ardent feminist.

While I’ve articulated my doubts about those kinds of figures before, especially of the beta male variety, Ms. Cole’s article is basically a perfect storm, of sorts. That’s because, until this letter, Joss Whedon had a reputation as being the quintessential male feminist in Hollywood geek culture.

He did plenty to earn that reputation too by creating shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dollhouse,” and the aforementioned “Firefly.” He even wrote comics like Astonishing X-men, which I still highly recommend. The man had a long list of accomplishments is what I’m saying. The fact he did so much under the feminist label says a lot about him.

Then, this letter comes along that basically says Whedon’s feminist credentials are built on a lie. For feminists and geek culture, that’s akin to finding out Wonder Woman’s breasts are fake. It’s a major revelation that may not have surprised some, but it’s still pretty jarring for those who held Whedon as the gold standard for male feminism.

For some context, here are some of the things his ex-wife said about those lies. I’ll give die-hard Buffy fans a moment to brace themselves.

There were times in our relationship that I was uncomfortable with the attention Joss paid other women. He always had a lot of female friends, but he told me it was because his mother raised him as a feminist, so he just liked women better. He said he admired and respected females, he didn’t lust after them. I believed him and trusted him. On the set of “Buffy,” Joss decided to have his first secret affair.

Fifteen years later, when he was done with our marriage and finally ready to tell the truth, he wrote me, “When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.” But he did touch it. He said he understood, “I would have to lie — or conceal some part of the truth — for the rest of my life,” but he did it anyway, hoping that first affair, “would be ENOUGH, that THEN we could move on and outlast it.”

Joss admitted that for the next decade and a half, he hid multiple affairs and a number of inappropriate emotional ones that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends, while he stayed married to me. He wrote me a letter when our marriage was falling apart, but I still didn’t know the whole truth, and said, “I’ve never loved anyone or wanted to be with anyone in any real or long-term way except for you ever. And I love our life. I love how you are, how we are, who you are and what we’ve done both separately and together, how much fun we have…” He wanted it all; he didn’t want to choose, so he accepted the duality as a part of his life.

Now before I say anything else about this issue or Ms. Cole’s letter, I need to make one thing clear. This letter is just one side of the story. As of this post, Joss Whedon and his people have not commented on this letter. That could change between now and the second after I publish this post.

Also, keep in mind that the person who wrote this letter is an ex-wife who probably isn’t feeling too happy with her former husband. She has reason and incentive, due to his wealth and status, to undermine his reputation. That’s usually all anyone needs to shrug off details, context, and facts. Think excuse banking with child custody and huge amounts of alimony at stake.

For that reason, and others I don’t have time to get into, it’s unreasonable to assume that every word of Ms. Cole’s letter is completely true. It’s also just as unreasonable to assume that every word is false. Even if she is bitter, there may very well be elements of truth behind her claims. We’ve seen how hard it is to expose the hard truth of celebrities.

For the sake of exploring the implications, here, let’s assume that at least part of Ms. Cole’s letter is true. Since they are divorcing, it’s entirely plausible that Whedon was not entirely faithful during their marriage.

He’s a big name Hollywood director, armed with obscene amounts of money and influence. If you think for a second that beautiful women aren’t going to throw themselves at someone like that, then I suggest you watch some old Motley Crue music videos. Feminist or not, people are attracted to wealth and power. How else do you explain Mick Jagger having kids with women more than half his age?

I think it’s a near certainty that, at some point in his storied career, a beautiful young woman has offered herself to Joss Whedon in ways that would make Anastasia Steele blush. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some just showed up naked at his trailer and offered a guided tour of their vaginas. The only uncertainty is the extent to which Mr. Whedon accepted these offers.

Even if he accepted just one and never did it again, that would still be a major blow to his feminist credentials. That would be like finding out a Mormon priest smoked a joint with Snoop Dogg. It would be a hard thing to overlook.

Think of it from the perspective of the feminist characters that Mr. Whedon usually champions. What he did would be the antithesis of the narratives he tried to forge with shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Instead, it would basically be the same narrative of at least half of every porno ever made.

In that story, he’s anything but the feminist he claims to be. He’s a powerful man who uses his power and wealth to get sex from the kinds of eager young women who would fail the Bechtal Test on every level. It doesn’t matter that these women willingly offered sex. It still gives the impression that he’s a powerful man who’s using his position to get the kind of sex usually reserved for the villains in a “Mad Max” movie.

According to the letter, Ms. Cole was not an absent force in his life so it wasn’t like she was never around. She makes clear that she helped him with his career. She even contributed in some ways. However, those contributions didn’t stop Whedon from taking advantages of the sexy opportunities that presented themselves, often quite literally.

Whatever the extent of Whedon’s infidelity, if true, it still begs one important question. Does what he did make him a hypocrite in the eyes of feminism? Well, I would argue that it does, but to a fairly limited extent. He’s still a long way from the hypocrisy espoused by the likes of Pamela Anderson.

What he did was not very feminist. In fact, it was about as progressive as the setting of “Mad Men.” He plays directly into the narratives he claims to resent. However, he didn’t actively seek that narrative. It sought him. He’s a man. Feminist or not, when beautiful women throw themselves at you, that caveman brain of yours is going to take notice.

In Ms. Cole’s letter, she quoted Mr. Whedon offering an excuse for his behavior. Given what I’ve said about excuses, certain details should be fairly obvious.

When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.

That bold portion was my doing. Read it over a few times and think about what he’s saying. Mr. Whedon is implying that the concept of being surrounded by beautiful women wanting to throw themselves at you and feeling inclined to accept their eager offers isn’t just antithetical to feminism. It’s a disease.

That creates a couple of problems, both for his feminist narrative and his depleted excuse bank. One, it implies that, by being a disease, there’s some outside force responsible for his behavior and he’s somehow not responsible. Two, it also implies that a man wanting to enjoy the sexual opportunities that come his way is somehow inherently wrong.

Both of those problems fail miserably within the context of caveman logic and simple human nature. In fact, it even fails within the context of the natural biology of life that prioritizes survival and reproduction. Mr. Whedon did more than enough to acquire abundant resources for survival. Then, opportunities to reproduce follow and nearly every law of nature makes him inclined to use those opportunities.

In that sense, Mr. Whedon is not a hypocrite, but he is misguided in his understanding of sexual dynamics. I don’t deny that he sees himself as a pro-feminist person. However, I think that’s such a huge part of his identity that he’s willing to make more excuses than most to protect it. It’s really no different than what happened with Ted Haggard.

If Joss Whedon weren’t so closely associated with feminism, then the revelation that he might have cheated on his wife probably wouldn’t be news. He would just be another powerful man in Hollywood who enjoyed the fruits of being rich and famous. However, it’s his excuses, as Ms. Cole describes them, that are most telling.

It also reflects the distressing flaws in the kinds of sex-negative feminism that pervade certain parts of Hollywood and mass media. It paints certain sexual dynamics between gender, which are entirely logical within the context of biology, and paints them as flawed.

Now, I don’t deny that the human body has its flaws. Any man who has been kicked in the balls will attest to that. However, attempting to subvert those flaws never ends well. Just ask anyone who has survived gay conversion therapy. Any man or women who thought Mr. Whedon could subvert those same forces in the name of feminism is living in a fantasy world every bit as flawed as “Dollhouse.”

So while I don’t think it’s right to call Mr. Whedon a total hypocrite, I do think his actions, if true, reflect poorly on the principles he’s preached. It also reflects poorly on the brand of feminism that insists that certain male inclinations are inherently wrong. Mr. Whedon may be a great director and a less-than-perfect husband, but he’s still a man at the end of the day. If we acknowledge that, then we don’t need as many excuses.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, Reasons and Excuses

What Makes A Man An Asshole?

I often talk about things on this blog that are complicated, convoluted, and downright esoteric at times and that’s just with respect to sex robots and superhero comics. Hell, I could probably run several separate blogs on those topics alone, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Some topics, though, need not be too complicated. Some basically explain themselves. It’s like the movie “Snakes On A Plane.” There’s nothing deep or vague about that concept. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a movie about snakes on a plane. Sure, it’s basic and a little dumb, but sometimes we need to turn our brains off and just enjoy the spectacle.

So, in the interest of giving everyone’s brain a rest from thought experiments and sociopolitical undertones surrounding major protests, I’m going to talk about something simple that requires little thought or mental exertion. At most, it only requires us to think about a certain type of person or character, real or fictional, that we’ve all probably dealt with at some point in our lives.

This brings me to people who are assholes, specifically of the male variety. I hope that’s a topic that needs no explanation, exposition, or build-up. We know them. We deal with them. We may even be related to a few. Chances are, you find yourself dealing with asshole men at least once a week.

It’s just as common in fiction, including the erotica/romance variety. I’m not just talking about the Biff Tannen variety either. In many major conflicts, including the ones I write about in books like “Skin Deep,” there are plenty of assholes who seem to only exist to make others miserable. They are both the driving force of a story and an infinite source of frustration in real life.

At the risk of sounding sexist, I’ll just be blunt and say that the male gender breeds a special kind of asshole. That’s not to say that women aren’t as capable of such assholery, but I’ll save that for another post. Being a man, I like to think I have a greater insight into what makes a man an asshole.

 

Now, the psychoanalyst and wannabe philosopher in me is tempted to break down every major component that goes into turning an innocent young boy into a walking affront to all things fueled by testosterone. I’m sure there are all sorts of reasons, excuses, and faulty brain wiring that go into it. I’m going to skip those complexities for now and just focus on the basics.

With that in mind, here are my list of factors that go into making a man the kind of asshole that doesn’t deserve functioning genitals. Again, these are fairly basic. I’m sure other people have other, more elaborate ideas of what makes men assholes. I would love to hear some of those ideas so I can expand this list down the line. For now, though, let’s just start with laying the foundation for all things male asshole.


Asshole Factor #1: Always Having Something (Stupid) To Prove

Chief among any male asshole’s defining traits includes excessively flexing his male bravado. We all get that there’s a time and a place for bravado. If someone is attacking a loved one or there’s a hungry lion coming at you, that’s an appropriate moment for a man to flex his nuts and show what he can do.

For assholes, though, that time is all day and that place is anywhere. They’re the kinds of guys who will do anything on a dare, make everything a competition, and not give enough of a damn about the rules. If they’re not trying to impress pretty girls, they’re trying to impress friends. If they have no friends, they’re trying to show up enemies. It never ends until they do something so stupid that they hurt themselves.

I’m not going to lie, though. When an asshole like this take it too far and pays the price, it’s kind of nice. Like seeing King Joffrey die, it can help remind us that there is some semblance of justice in the universe.


Asshole Factor #2: Entitlement To Certain Things (Like Sex)

This largely shows in the rich, arrogant, I’m-a-big-deal-so-I-can-do-anything type of male asshole, of which there are too many. From reality stars to the asshats on Instagram, these assholes exploit the hell out of the lucky hand they’ve been dealt in life and expect the world to massage his balls upon demand.

It goes beyond wealth, though. There are even non-rich male assholes who think the mere act of having a penis entitles them to certain things, like the love of a beautiful woman or the freedom to be a dick to other people.

They carry themselves with this mindset that just being a man makes them inherently manly, entitling them to all the stuff that comes with it. They fail to realize that you still have to work for certain things. You still have to earn the right to see that pretty girl naked. Real men do that work. Assholes don’t even try.


Asshole Factor #3: Always Needing To Show Off And Seek Vindication

We’ve all known our share of class clowns. I knew more than a few back in grade school. Sure, they were funny at times and could get a cheap laugh. Some do it in a likable way. Others are just assholes about it.

As with the first factor, there’s a time and a place to show off. If you’ve won the Super Bowl, achieved something of note, and done something that few can do, then go ahead and show off. You’ve earned it. Just showing off for the sake of showing off is what distinguishes the lovable class clown from the asshole.

Beyond just showing off, the asshole does it in a way that seeks some sort of unearned vindication. They’re basically saying, “I’m here! I exist! Now, I demand that I be valued!” Always needing that kind of vindication hints at a lot of insecurity and, deep down, assholes tend to be a lot more insecure than most.


Asshole Factor #4: Needing To Be The Loudest Voice In A Conversation

If there’s one good thing about most male assholes you deal with, it’s that they make themselves known. You don’t have to look very hard to find them. Usually, they’ll either come to you or be so obnoxiously loud that you can’t miss them. Like a bear taking a shit on your driveway, it’s hard to miss.

It goes beyond just being loud, though. An asshole man talks as though his voice is the only one that matters. He acts as though he’s the leader by default and everyone else’s voices might as well be the echoes of a dying cat.

They don’t listen. They barely even hear what others say. They just keep talking because the sound of their voice is just that much more valuable. These are the kinds of guys that make noise-canceling headphones a godsend.


Asshole Factor #5: Always Making Excuses (And Never Learning From Failure)

I dedicated multiple posts regarding the difference between reasons and excuses. I won’t rehash all the main details behind those concepts because, in this instance, you really don’t need to know those details. Like the loudmouth factor, it’s fairly clear that male assholes live in a world of excuses and reasons might as well be an alien concept.

You know this because whenever they screw up or fail at anything, it’s never their fault. It’s never even the fault of luck. It’s everyone else that’s the problem. They’re the reason the male asshole believes he didn’t get what he wanted.

That’s a big part of why male assholes tend to be bullies. Everyone’s an obstacle. Everyone’s a means to an end. They’ll have any number of excuses to shove them out of their way or bend them to their will. Other people are just tools to get that vindication I mentioned earlier.

In many respects, it’s this factor that helps distinguish the casual assholes from the professionals.


Asshole Factor #6: (Overly) Emphasizing Style And Avoiding Substance

Even if you don’t hear a male asshole’s loudmouth rantings, which isn’t easy, or avoid his constant excuses, which is next to impossible, there’s still one way they stand out from their non-asshole peers. They will purposefully style themselves as the kind of person that is so superficial and so shallow that they inspire awful Jack Black movies.

The spoiled rich assholes do it with pride. Even the non-rich assholes find a way to do it with sheer arrogance and bravado. They spend way too much time on their hair, buy way too many overpriced clothes, and generally conduct themselves in ways meant to gain unearned vindication.

It’s one thing to wear a championship ring that you earned. These guys just wear all sorts of fancy crap that gives the illusion that they’ve done something meaningful with their lives. More often than not, they haven’t done squat. They can’t be bothered to put in the work. That, my friends, is the literal mark of a true asshole.


I hope this gives everyone a better concept of male assholes. You can never be too prepared or informed. Make no mistake. Assholes can really make your life difficult. Even if you can’t avoid them, you can use this information to better endure their crap. We’re an imperfect species full of imperfect people. Some people just take those imperfections to an annoying extreme.

Again, if you want to help add to this list, please let me know in the comments. Maybe down the line, I’ll update it in another post. For now, make good use of this information and may the influence of assholes in your life be minimal.

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On Conditioning The Brain (For Love)

In nearly every love story, the actual process of falling in love is the easy part. A man sees a beautiful woman. A woman see’s a handsome man. A man see’s another beautiful man or a woman see’s another beautiful woman. Sexy romantic activities follow. People don’t need much incentive or reason to fall in love is what I’m saying.

The real challenge, and the main struggle in those same love stories, is convincing someone else to love them back. It can be an all-encompassing, all-consuming struggle that inspires epic quests, blood feuds, and kinky fantasies of every kind, from the genuinely heart-warming to the downright disturbing.

In most stories, those elaborate efforts either pay off or make for the kind of Shakespearean tragedy that crushes the spirits of every high school English student for generations. Love stories have a special knack for hitting a broad spectrum of emotions, from the kind that makes us cry to the kind that makes us horny. That’s a big part of their appeal and that’s the kind of appeal I try to capture in my novels.

As epic as these love stories can be, on top of the sex appeal they inherently bring, there’s one key element to love that’s easy to overlook, but impossible to avoid. No matter who you or a character in a story falls in love with, you can’t do much with that feeling if the person you love isn’t receptive to it on some level. Even if they don’t eventually love you back, you work under the assumption that they’re open to love.

That’s usually a pretty safe assumption. Between the novels I write, as well as the many other epic love stories that have been written, it’s clear that humans are a very passionate species. We fall in love almost as often as we go to war for stupid reasons. It’s literally hardwired into our brain.

However, it’s that same wiring that makes love such an erratic, fleeting emotion. It’s the primary reason why that, until recently, a marriage built around love was seen as unstable. That makes an unsexy bit of sense when you think about it. Given how easily we fall in love with others, or how horny we get after being with one person for a while, relying on love to hold a marriage together seems like a bold bet with long odds.

Granted, it’s a beautiful thing when it pays off. However, as with any bet that has such high stakes, it’s safe to assume that someone will try to cheat in order to change the odds. Why else would so many stories involve love potions, spells, and elaborate lies that blow up in someone’s face?

While those kinds of manipulations can be dishonest, and more than a little creepy, it’s also understandable. It’s an unfair world full of unfeeling people who seem eager to crush your emotions, burn them to a crisp, and spit on the ashes. If there was a way to just nudge someone’s emotions to be in line with your own, wouldn’t you take it?

That leads to a distressing, but relevant question. It’s part philosophical, part practical, and part ethically suspect. I know those are a lot of conflicting parts, but bear with me because it affects our love lives and our sex lives so it’s pretty damn important. Here it is and feel free to take as much time as you need to contemplate it.

“Is a love that is conditioned, coerced, or magically conjured in someone any less sincere?”

I know what the knee-jerk reaction to that sort of question is. The idea that any kind of love that’s forced is somehow sincere seems like something you shouldn’t imply unless you’re wearing a suit of adamantium armor. Most love stories built around forced love tends to either fall apart or turn into some twisted form of BDSM erotica. It can even show up in classic Disney movies, albeit indirectly.

In a perfect world full of singing animals and naked supermodels, love would never have to be conditioned or coerced. Those in love would just need to follow the steps laid out in every John Hughes movie ever made and that’s it. You’ll win the love of whoever you desire.

Sadly, we know this isn’t a perfect world. Animals don’t sing. You have to pay to see naked supermodels. Love and heartache aren’t always mutually exclusive either. Every other love song ever made is proof of that. So why shouldn’t we entertain the thought that a magic love potion every now and then might be warranted?

The substance of this question was inspired, in part, by the post I did about the less pleasant details of Marvel’s defacto Wonder Woman, Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers. Early in her history, one of Carol Danvers’ most defining stories came when she was manipulated by a powerful being named Marcus Immortus into falling in love with her.

Sure, he did it so he could impregnate her and be reborn before he died of accelerated aging, but his tactic worked. He did get Carol to fall in love with her and bear his child. It might be one of the most infamous Marvel stories that doesn’t involve clones, time travel, or deals with the devil. Some go so far as to call it rape and that wouldn’t be entirely wrong in certain jurisdictions.

That still doesn’t change the actual results of Immortus’ efforts. As much as asshole as he is, does that make Carol’s emotions in the story any less real? From her perspective, does it really matter if the love she feels is forced, conditioned, or magically conjured? It’s easy for anyone not in Carol’s position to be disgusted by that kind of treachery. When you’re in love, though, you tend not to care much for those kinds of details.

It has been well-documented in both science and any number of one night stands. Being in love is like a drug, one that induces a sense of euphoria on par with a cocaine binge with Led Zeppelin. Your brain, being the crude hunk of biomatter that it is, doesn’t care about the circumstances. It loves to love. It wants to love. It doesn’t give a wet fart where it comes from. When it happens, it lets us know how awesome it is.

It doesn’t help that the brain is incredibly easy to fool. Con artists, street magicians, and used car salesmen all know this better than anyone. The brain, as wonderfully complex as it is, can be tricked and manipulated. If someone can evoke the right chemical cocktail in your cerebral cortex, it won’t ask twice. It might not even ask once. If it checks all the right boxes, we’ll get that same passionate rush.

It’s a disturbing thought, but it’s distressingly easy to imagine. Say, for instance, that someone conditioned another to love them the same way Marcus Immortus did with Carol Danvers. That person now loves them with all their heart. They don’t know, nor do they care, how that love happened. They just feel it and that’s all there is to it.

Now, imagine that same person living the rest of their life with that conditioned love. They never find out that it was forced or conjured within them. To them, it’s as real as any genuine, non-coerced love that we’ve ever felt. They love someone and feel loved in return. They go to their graves having felt that love, experienced it, and cherished it with all their hearts.

While the idea of creating that kind of love seems distressing, requiring that someone has no respect whatsoever for someone else’s individual autonomy, it does seem oddly pragmatic. It even seems like a win-win on some levels. One person gets the lover they want. The other gets to live a life immersed in the high that is love. Other than the guilt one person might feel for resorting to such tactics, it’s not like anyone really suffers.

I don’t bring this issue up to undermine the profound nature of love. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, contemplating these things and asking these sometimes unsexy questions are just part of the job. Capturing the appeal of love in a novel is something I try to do with every story I write. I did my best with “Passion Relapse.” I hope I succeed even more with “Rescued Hearts.”

However, there’s no denying the complexities of love and the passions behind it. They’re not always pure. They’re not always sexy either. Stories like that of Carol Danvers and Marcus Immortus highlight a fundamental tension, of sorts, within the nature of love. Our brains can’t always tell the difference when a feeling is real or induced.

At the end of the day, though, does that really matter? Isn’t a feeling as powerful as love worth it? It’s something to contemplate when scrutinizing love or telling sexy stories. As long as we remain such a passionate species, we’ll keep seeking that feeling with our hearts, our genitals, and everything in between.

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Do Prenups Help (Or Hurt) Marriages?

Whenever we hedge our bets on something, be it a major life decision or a poker game, it’s often a tacit admission that we may fail and more often than not, that’s the first step towards failure. Being careful or proactive doesn’t give the impression that you’re all that confident. A lack of confidence is also not very sexy either so some people may not be inclined to be that careful.

Granted, there are some bets we don’t mind hedging on. Why else would we buy insurance or demand that our heart surgeons be licensed? It doesn’t matter how confident you might be. There’s nothing sexy about getting heart surgery from the medical equivalent of a drunk plumber.

We, as a society, are somewhat erratic about the things we should and shouldn’t hedge our bets on. There’s a constant push and pull between being proactive and being bold. We want to sound confident, but we also don’t want to risk crashing a drag racer into a hill just to get laid.

With that in mind, here’s a simple questions that we’ve all probably asked ourselves, albeit indirectly. Just how proactive should we be when it comes to our love lives? I’m not talking about avoiding parents or wearing condoms either. Specifically, I’m talking about marriage and how we approach it. Even more specifically, I’m talking about prenuptial agreements.

It’s somewhat telling that most people don’t know much about these fairly mundane, legally-binding contracts that have been around for decades. They’re not complex financial laws or esoteric provisions of the tax code. A prenup is a simple, legal way to ensure that if a marriage fails, the hard, heartbreaking work is already done.

According to FindLaw.com, the simplest purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to “establish the property and financial rights of each spouse in the event of a divorce.” If children are involved, it can resolve that too. Again, it’s like doing the hardest work ahead of time, just in case it becomes necessary. In terms of being proactive with your love life, it’s both prudent and practical.

It also has an unspoken, but distinct stigma to it and for entirely understandable reasons. The mere act of considering a prenup for your marriage implies that you think it’s possible it may fail. When you’re young, in love, and still having great sex, who wants to think that? Hell, if your lover even joked about it, what would that reveal about your relationship?

It’s a distressing thought. That’s why prenups are usually associated with rich people and famous celebrities. In fact, the provisions of some of these prenups seem downright insane to non-famous, non-eccentric people. That may be why prenups have a somewhat mixed reputations.

However, celebrities and the super rich have a lot more to lose than their hearts in a marriage. It’s understandable that they’d be more proactive than most. Unfortunately, it also means that celebrities are more than twice as likely to divorce. That may be another part of why prenups have a bad reputation. They’re loosely correlated with more divorce.

That brings me back to the title of this article and the obvious question that too few people ask. Do prenuptial agreements help a marriage or are they detrimental in the long run? Based on what I’ve just explained about the mentality behind prenups, the answer would seem obvious. That’s just it, though. We really don’t know.

At the moment, we’re still clinging to the mentality that if you want a prenup, then you’re setting your marriage up for failure. That’s a dangerous, not to mention short-sighted understanding of marriage and relationships. While there is some research to hint that having a prenup doesn’t increase your chances of divorce, there’s very little information on what this means for the health of a relationship, as a whole.

At the same time, we constantly hear the whining from the family values crowd about the declining rates of marriage. It’s not at all unfounded, either. Fewer and fewer people are getting married, especially among younger people. There are many potential reasons for this, but there’s one in particular that I want to focus on, as it relates to prenups.

I’ve talked about it before, albeit in part. This time, I want to be a bit more blunt. To all those worried about declining marriage rates, increasing divorce rates, and young people humping without consequence, I have an important message that needs to be belabored.

If you’re a man, marriage for is a TERRIBLE deal.

I know it sounds like I’m just echoing timeless words of Al Bundy, but bear with me. In order to show just how bad a deal marriage is for men, allow me to paint a scenario. It’s not a thought experiment because this is, for all intents in purposes, how it plays out in the real world.

You and your lawyer are sitting across the table from a potential partner and their lawyer. Their lawyer presents you a partnership contract. In that contract, it says that you are to only ever conduct personal business with them until the day you die. If, however, the other party decides to dissolve the contract at any time and for any reason, then they get half of your assets, by default. If you happen have any children, the partner very likely take sole custody of them, as well. Would you sign that contract?

Most people, if they looked at the fine print in that scenario, wouldn’t sign that contract, even on a dare or while drunk. It’s a horribly unequal contract. It effectively asks the man to go against his own interests. It also gives the woman a distressing amount of incentive to end the marriage. When there’s a financial incentive to do anything, it usually skews the odds. Marriage is no different.

This scenario also reflects the impact that “no-fault divorce” has had on marriage in recent decades. That’s a fairly recent development, as well. Instead of needing a reason to dissolve a marriage, it can be done on a whim and the man, who may not have even done anything wrong, gets screwed over. In that context, the decline in marriage is entirely understandable.

It should also explain why men are so reluctant to get married in the first place these days. The incentives aren’t just awful. It creates a legally-binding inequality within a relationship. In both marriage and divorce, the woman has the benefit when it comes to custody of children and alimony payments. Even so, a man who is reluctant to marry is seen as someone who doesn’t love his significant other as much as he should.

This brings me back to prenuptial agreements. As it stands, only five percent of divorces occur in couples who had a prenup and only three percent of couples planning to get married have a prenup. While the number of marriages that have prenups are increasing, it’s still not that common and there’s still a stigma to it.

So what would happen if every marriage from here on out required a prenuptial agreement? Moreover, what would happen if the structure of the marriage made the responsibilities between the man and the woman equal? It’s an honest, sincere question because, as an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’m all for love. I’m all for marriage. I too would like to get married one day.

However, marriage in its current state doesn’t just scare me. It seems downright unsexy. It almost seems to take advantage of men who are so hopelessly in love that they don’t think about what will happen if something goes wrong . Granted, no man wants to think about that, especially when they’re in love, but it can cause a lot of pain and heartache down the line.

I’m not saying prenuptial agreements will fix the current state of marriage or gender dynamics between men and women. However, I do think that we’re straining our ability to love each other when our relationships are so inherently unequal. I’ve championed love between equals in the past. I think that’s the kind of love that will improve our love lives, our sexy lives, and our marriages in the future.

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On Nice Guys, Women, And Whining

We’ve all heard it before. We’ve either experienced it, know someone who has, or seen at least fifteen movies built around the concept. There’s a guy sitting myself, his head held low as his lips quiver with sorrow. He’s sad. He’s lonely. Nobody likes him and women would rather endure amputation rather than touch his cock. When anyone asks about it, he tells the same boring story.

“I’m a nice guy! Why don’t women want to be with me? I’m not some jerk or asshole. What’s wrong with them?”

On some levels, we have sympathy for guys like that. Yes, I know there are women who feel this way too, but a generation of teen movies, romantic comedies, and high school drama has conditioned us to hear a male voice every time we hear this overplayed diatribe of angst.

Since I’m not in a position to undo that conditioning, I won’t try. Just bear with me because this is an important message to anyone who has either said those words or heard them from someone else. I don’t want to underscore the depths of that loneliness and angst. I’ve been there too. However, there is a context worth pointing out here.

Call it what you want. We really don’t have a label for it. I call it it “The Nice Guy Whine.” Unlike the wine you can drink, this one doesn’t get better with age. It’s one of those overplayed tropes that play out way too much in both the real world and in fiction. Movies like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “She’s Out Of My League” try to make it interesting and sexy. It doesn’t make the whining any less annoying, though.

They’re frustrated, isolated, and in utter despair. They’re nice guys. They do the right things. They’re generally well-behaved, law-abiding, and friendly. They don’t hurt anyone or go out of their way to make trouble. They’re just genuinely nice guys. So why won’t the beautiful women they want to get with hook up with them?

I don’t deny it’s hard and I’m not just talking about genitals here. As I’ve said before, we humans are a social, passionate species. We seek connection and intimacy. I’m not just talking about the kind we do between the sheets either, although that is part of it.

We want to find love. We want to be with someone. In terms of core needs, that’s right up there with food, water, and sufficient WiFi. When we don’t get that connection and intimacy, we get lonely and upset. That’s to be expected. Our brains and bodies know we need that intimate connection. When we don’t get it, it tries to do everything possible to get you to seek it, even if it means the occasional awkward boner.

So what’s going on here? Why is it that nice guys just can’t get any? Well, as someone who once asked those same questions and did plenty of Nice Guy Whining himself, I’d like to offer a clear and concise answer. For all the fictional characters and real people in this world who’ve whined like I have, listen up. This might be the most important thing you hear that doesn’t involve the IRS.

“Being a nice guy isn’t enough. The vast majority of the planet is full of nice people. By whining about it, you’re indirectly insulting every man or women who doesn’t want to be with you because you make it about them and not you.”

Reading that out loud, I’m sure it sounds harsh. Trust me, it’s not meant to be that harsh. It’s supposed to reveal a simple truth and it’s actually uplifting on some levels when you think about it.

It’s true. Most of the people in this world, including the guys, are nice. We only think it’s full of mean assholes because they’re the ones who make the news, get reality TV shows, and star in movies, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

The fact that these assholes get our attention is actually proof that most people are nice. Things don’t get our attention unless they’re rare, dangerous, or shaped like female breasts. Even science bears it out. People today are generally nicer and more decent to one another than they’ve ever been.

Why does this matter? Well, it matters because by whining about being a nice guy, you might as well be whining about the sky being blue or water being wet or tits being awesome. You act as though the mere fact you’re alive and not dissecting animals in your basement is reason enough for your dream girl to be with you.

Step back for a moment and think about that. You’re a nice guy. I don’t doubt that. Even so, why should that be your primary appeal to a woman? What else do you have to offer? What sort of skills, passions, and personality traits do you bring to the table? I’m not saying you’re devoid of those things. I’m just saying these are questions you haven’t bothered answering.

I ask them with the full understanding that I’ve done plenty of whining like that too. There were plenty of times, especially in my teenage years, when I whined about the girls I liked not wanting to be with me. For a time, it left me very depressed and extremely isolated. It was not a good feeling.

However, I’m not good at lying to myself so I was able to answer that question on my own. In addition to having a debilitating acne problem, I had piss-poor social skills and did not take care of myself. I like to think I was pretty nice in general, but how does that make up for the utter lack of benefits I would bring to a woman?

I know I have much more to offer now because I’ve actually worked on myself. I’ve taken the time to develop new skills and abilities. In addition to being nice, I’m very physically fit. I run at least 15 miles a week. I lift weights. I try to watch my diet. By most measures, I’m a physically attractive man.

In addition to my looks, I’ve got other benefits to offer. I have a car. I have no credit card debt. I have a steady job. I’m very skilled in terms of writing passionate, sexy stories meant to moisten panties. Believe it or not, these are skills that women find attractive. Just being nice is only a base requirement. Everything else on top of that are premium features.

It may sound cynical, the idea that being nice isn’t enough and you actually have to sell yourself somewhat. It gives the impression that people only want to be with you because you can do something for them. Well, how is that any different than what you want from them? It’s a bit crass, I know, but it’s entirely pragmatic when you think about it.

Part of being a social creature is bringing something unique to the table. Maybe it’s a skill. Maybe it’s a personality. Maybe it’s a certain type of energy that stands out from the others. Whatever it is, it’s part of the overall package that is you and you actually control what’s in that package. You have the ability to make yourself appealing. There’s nothing, other than sheer laziness, to stop you.

By just whining about being a nice guy, it’s like you’re trying to shame others for not having lower standards. You give the impression that someone is evil just because they prefer a smartphone with more features than an old flip phone.

In a sense, that undercuts your whole “nice guy” persona because wanting to do the absolute minimum to achieve the maximum desired results isn’t very nice. If anything, it’s as big a dick move as any Biff Tannen wannabe ever pulled off.

With that, all those whining nice guys out there have their answer. You know why being a nice guy isn’t getting you anywhere with your current crush. I even told you how to fix the situation. It may be harder for some than others, but the opportunity is there. You just have to take advantage of it. I’ll even add that most women, in my experience, will be attracted to men who takes advantage of those opportunities.

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Comics, Milkshakes, And (Failing To Fight) Internet Trolls

Before I say anything, I need to make one thing clear. I am extremely reluctant to talk about an issue that’s still fresh, so to speak. In general, I prefer to wait until he uproar has died down and/or the angry masses of the internet have tired themselves out over an issue. I usually find it easier to sift through the rubble after the storm has passed.

This may very well be the most hesitant I’ve ever been to talk about a particular issue. Think about that for a moment. I’m someone who has talked about sex robots, awkward boners, and his own circumcision. If I’m reluctant to talk about a topic, then it must be pretty nasty.

Well, don’t adjust your gag reflex just yet because it’s not that kind of topic. This isn’t something that just sparks revulsion or passionate disagreement. This is the kind of stuff that just brings out the worst in everybody. It’s like licking the shit stains on a toilet before they’ve dried. It just makes a bad topic that much worse.

However, I’m willing to suck in my gut, brace myself, and ignore my reluctance because I feel like this is something that needs to be said while certain people are still listening. Plus, it involves comics and the comic book industry. Other than the erotica/romance industry, few are quite so near and dear to me.

Even those who don’t follow the industry probably noticed an unusual hashtag trending in the news recently. It involved an incident with some of Marvel’s editorial staff. When I first saw it, I had no idea it was a controversy. I thought it was some new promotional effort. Marvel, and most comic companies, do that all the time.

For once, I’m sad to say that this had nothing to do with an ad gimmick. The hashtag in question was #MakeMineMilkshake and it was inspired by this innocent-looking tweet from Heather Antos, who happens to be an editor at Marvel.

I actually saw this on my Twitter feed. I thought it was a nice moment. It put a smile on my face. It involved milkshakes, comics, and cute girls in the comic book industry. I honestly can’t think of something more appealing to me without adding pizza, the beach, or free tickets to a football game.

Then, some asshole internet trolls, of which there are many, had to look at this happy little moment and mess it up for everyone. They did this by replying to the Tweet with a bunch of crude, vulgar comments. I won’t get into the substance of those comments because they’re not worth spreading. I won’t even make an assessment over how bad they were. I’ve been to the many toilets of the internet. I know how bad it can get.

However bad it was, it created a hashtag that has spread like a wildfire and burned away any faith you might have had in humanity, comics, or peoples’ ability to discuss an issue rationally. Like other hashtags before it, #MakeMineMarvel has become a catalyst for two sides of a pointless debate to whine and moan endlessly about how right they are. It’s a debate that nobody can ever win.

The hashtag, which I doubt Ms. Antos intended to start, has created this rage-filled rant on toxic sub-cultures like comics. On one side, you have those claiming that it’s full of angry young men who don’t want to see women screwing up their favorite toys. On the other, you have those who feel like they’re being demonized for comments that just a few idiot trolls made. Again, nobody wins that debate.

It was frustrating to me because, being a man, it made me feel like I’m being lumped in with the same group of assholes and I want no part of that. I didn’t respond to Ms. Antos’ tweet. I didn’t respond to anyone who asked me to respond. This was just a hornet’s nest that I didn’t want to poke.

An abandoned hornet's nest my dad found in his shed that he hadn't been in for a couple years. The head is apart of a wooden statue it fused with.

Then, the hashtag kept trending and people at Marvel and DC, two rival companies mind you, began responding to it. They even made milkshakes into counter-protest, of sorts, using it to fight against internet trolls and toxic subcultures. Considering some of the other protests we’ve seen this past year, I think that’s a fairly innocuous method.

However, the mere fact that this is even a thing speaks to a much larger issue. It’s one of those things where neither side, be it Ms. Antos or those who now despise her, can see the forest from the trees. After it started trending, Ms. Antos posted this tweet and understandably so. There are just certain parts of the internet and certain people who use it that completely warrant that sentiment.

Now, here’s where I start saying things that I know will rub certain people the wrong way. I’m going to try and be very careful with my words here.

I don’t want to start a new hashtag or anything. I also don’t want to get blocked because I follow people like Heather Antos on social media. I’ve said enough dumb things in the past and I’m trying to limit that, especially in these sensitive times we live in. I’ll do my best to be polite about it, but I’m not going to shy away from the truth. I’m just going to add what I hope is meaningful context.

With that in mind, I’d like to send Ms. Antos an important message that I doubt she’ll never read. That same message should apply to others who supported her since #MakeMineMilkshake started trending. Here it is and excuse me while I brace myself with an adamantium shield.

“The trolls have already won. You’re letting them win with every word you say about this issue. PLEASE change the way you fight them.”

I’m going to keep that adamantium shield up just in case, but I know this will probably take some uncomfortable explanations. I’ve talked about dealing with internet trolls before. I’ve also talked about professional trolls who go out of their way to start digital shit storms like this for their own benefit. What I’ve seen with #MakeMineMilkshake is basically a case-study in how not to respond to trolls.

Now, that’s not to say that Ms. Antos’ intentions are misguided. I don’t doubt for a second that she responded to the comments she got in the best way she thought possible. Maybe she didn’t intend for it to start trending. Nobody can really know whether or not something will become a thing, especially if it doesn’t involve cute animals.

Even if #MakeMineMilkshake didn’t start trending, though, Ms. Antos’ response would’ve already ceded some form of victory to the trolls. Like punting on third down in a football game, she didn’t adapt her game plan. Given how quickly this unfolded, I doubt she thought she even needed one.

The problem with turning her response into a hashtag, albeit indirectly, is that doing so gave the trolls exactly what they wanted. With every retweet, response, and cute quip, they get even more. That’s because trolls don’t deal in the traditional currencies of shame, sorrow, and basic human decency. They only understand one form of coin and that’s attention.

It may very well be the most important currency of the digital age. It may even be more than just a currency. It could very well be the life force with which trolls need to sustain themselves. Like Galactus, devourer of worlds, the hunger is never sated. Lacking heralds or The Power Cosmic, these trolls must resort to the lowest lows of the internet to feed their hunger.

With #MakeMineMilkshake, they basically got a free buffet and a complementary desert. I guarantee that once this hashtag started trending, they didn’t cower with fear, dread, or remorse. They’re probably still grinning and twirling their fake mustache. If they could make a collective statement towards Ms. Antos and everyone who came to her defense, this is what they would probably say.

“Ha! I did it! I got under her skin. I made this person who is more successful than I’ll ever be cry out for help, play the victim, and seek validation. They can call me a racist, bigoted, sexist pig all they want. It doesn’t matter. They just proved they’re a bunch of thin-skinned, hyper-sensitive snowflakes. Now, thanks to the hashtag, the world knows it! They know it and it’s all because of me! Mwhahahahahahaha!”

I concede that the evil laughter might be an exaggeration, but since this involves comics, I think it’s appropriate. Internet trolls are the closest thing most of us have to villains. Other than former child stars and the IRS, it’s hard to think of anyone more devious.

It pains me to say it, but the trolls won this round. Ms. Antos, whatever her intentions might have been, gave them what they wanted. She gave them attention and they’re using it. They’re already turning this misguided hashtag into Round 1,283,285,206,809 of the angry alt-right versus the bossy progressive left. It’s a fight that never has any winners.

Again, I know Ms. Antos is never going to read this post. I’m not successful enough or smart enough to have that kind of audience just yet. I’m working on it, but Ms. Antos is so far ahead of me that I can totally understand her not responding to every aspiring writer who tries to add his thoughts to an overly-complex issue. She’s an editor at Marvel. She has far more awesome things to do with her time.

If I could send her a message, though, I would offer her a simple bit of advice. When dealing with trolls, you have countless ways to lose and only a few with which to win. Anything that gives them the slightest bit of attention, no matter how negative, counts as a victory for them and a defeat for you.

To defeat the trolls, the best thing you can do is ignore them. Don’t just instinctively block them, though. Let them whine, yell, and complain with the worst digital drivel they can come up with. Either they’ll get bored or they’ll make an ass of themselves. In either case, you’ll save yourself the frustration and not embolden those who would frustrate you.

If ignoring them isn’t possible, then the second best thing you can do is fight them with kindness. I know that sounds cheesy. I know that sounds like something Superman, Captain America, or Spider-Man would say in an after school special. It still has merit, though. Your capacity for kindness, even to those who insult you, shines a brighter light on the kind of person you are while also exposing the kind of person the troll is.

The worst thing you could do is take what these trolls say and turn them into a rallying cry, of sorts. That doesn’t just give the trolls even more attention. It gives them a larger target to hit. It’s the digital equivalent of Newton’s Third Law. For every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. With respect to trolls, poking them just makes them poke back harder.

If Ms. Antos is still with me at this point, I thank her. I know there are some who have already decided to block me at this point. I’m hoping I can still reach those willing to listen so here’s my final thought.

Trolls, in whatever form they take, should never be used as a basis to judge larger swaths of a population. Using these trolls to condemn all men, comic book fans, and Twitter users is a huge mistake. It’s basically a bonus to the trolls on top of the attention because it means more will identify with the trolls than their victims. That’s the last thing you want and the last thing the internet needs.

I don’t doubt for a second that there will be other misguided hashtags like #MakeMineMilkshake. I suspect there will be far worse trolling down the line. That’s because people are always going to say stupid shit, both online and in real life. It’s just part of the package that is the human condition. It’s how you react to it that determines whether you’ve saved the day or aided a Skrull agent.


Update: Well, I wrote this post under the assumption that Ms. Antos, or anyone else who is many times more successful than me, would ever read it. I was wrong and I’m more than relieved to say that. Ms. Antos did actually read this post. As a result, there’s something I need to clear up. Several hours after I posted this, Ms. Antos issued the following tweet.

I sincerely thank her for her response and I apologize for the impression that my post had given. In reading it over again, I realize I had implied that she was the one who started the #MakeMineMilkshake hashtag. She did not. I never thought she did, but I implied otherwise. For that, I sincerely apologize. Apparently, I was not careful enough with my words. I’ll try to be mindful of that in the future.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes