Tag Archives: men

Why Wolverine Of The X-men Is The Perfect Counter To Toxic Masculinity

During a debate, the biggest challenge is making a point that strikes the right chords, evokes the right emotions, and has some semblance of logic. Anyone who has ever engaged in a meaningful debate, be it a formal contest or an argument on a message board, understands the extent of that challenge.

Sometimes, you have to get creative to make those points. Thankfully, getting creative for an aspiring erotica/romance writer and die-hard comic book fan is easier than it is for most people. Every now and then, your mind makes unexpected connections that perfectly encompasses the message you’ve been trying to convey.

This brings me back to “toxic masculinity,” a term I still believe should be retired from the English language, and every other language for that matter. I’ve dedicated multiple posts to deconstructing this concept. Now, I want to take it a step further.

I want to re-frame my stance on this concept by offering a different kind of argument. I’ve already argued that context and social situations are the primary driving force of the traits often ascribed to toxic masculinity.

I still think the point I made about context and social situation is difficult to grasp, even with the references to the rat park experiments. Most people outside of psychology buffs aren’t familiar with those experiments. Instead, I want to make my point by referencing a character that the vast majority of people have heard of to some extent.

Some know him as Logan, James Howlett, Weapon X, or that snarling guy with the claws who helped make Hugh Jackman famous. Most simply know him as Wolverine.

Yes, I’m going to bring Wolverine, one of the most famous male superheroes of all time, into a discussion about toxic masculinity, but not in the way you think. Being an ardent X-men fan who has used superheroes to make points in the past, I feel uniquely qualified to link this iconic character to this concept that so many resent.

On the surface, that sounds like a losing battle. Bear with me, though. When you take a step back and look at Wolverine in the context of masculinity, as a whole, you’ll find that he’s the perfect embodiment of a man who guts the idea of toxic masculinity with his claws and spits on its corpse.

That may seem counter-initiative because anyone who is even somewhat familiar with Wolverine might see him as a man who embodies all the negative traits associated with masculinity. He’s brutish, crude, ill-mannered, ill-tempered, impulsive, violent, and irresponsible. He has all those traits on top of a tendency to go after married women.

However, before anyone starts attributing those traits to toxic masculinity, it’s important to understand the complexities of Wolverine’s story. There’s a reason why he’s often ranked as one of the most compelling characters in the history of comics. His life, persona, and story are full of all sorts of twists and turns. More than anything else, though, Wolverine’s story is one built on dehumanization.

Whether it’s the comics, movies, are cartoons, this is the primary driving force of Wolverine’s story. From his earliest origins to his most defining moments, Wolverine is a man who has been subjected to extreme forms of dehumanization. Some of them, especially those involved in the Weapon X program that made him, have no real-world parallel outside the mind of a North Korean mad scientist.

He’s had his memories erased, his mind warped, his body tortured, and even his soul stolen by a demon. Even by comic book standards, Wolverine has been roughed up more than most. Many people of exceedingly villainous tendencies have tried to strip him of his humanity and turn him into a living, breathing weapon. Needless to say, most of those people died horribly.

As a result, Wolverine is one of the most violent and unpredictable characters in all of comics. He’s also one of the most dangerous, having killed every major hero in the Marvel universe at one point and survived death itself on more than one occasion.

The most remarkable feat though, which also happens to strike directly at the very foundation of toxic masculinity, is his continued desire to cling to his humanity and be the iconic hero that so many X-men fans love.

It’s that drive, and the endearing persona that emerges from it, that makes Wolverine the perfect counter-punch to toxic masculinity. Despite all these dehumanizing forces, he still clings to his humanity. That effort, which has played out in many comics, movies, and cartoons over the years, reflects one important concept.

In essence, Wolverine reflects the idea that it’s really hard to make a man behave in such a toxic way. In order for him to be the kind of man that most people attribute to toxic masculinity, it’s necessary to torture him endlessly, strip him of all identity, and undercut his humanity in the worst way possible. If that kind of force is required, then how can anyone claim that masculinity is inherently toxic?

If those sorts of traits were inherent in men, then someone like Wolverine wouldn’t need that kind of conditioning. He wouldn’t need to be tortured or coerced into being the brutish, blood-thirsty monster that Weapon X wants him to be. If toxic masculinity were valid, someone would just have to give him some metal claws, send him out into the world, and let the magic of testosterone do the rest.

That’s not how men work, though, even in the fictional world. In X-men comics, as well as real life, ideas of masculinity guide men in different ways. For Wolverine, those ways led him to becoming an X-men, an Avenger, and an iconic hero who helped make Hugh Jackman famous. It shows in more than just his heroism.

Throughout his history in the X-men comics, Wolverine has shown that when he’s not being coerced or tortured, he makes an effort to live an honorable life. He seeks love, having even married a couple of a times. He seeks friendships and relationships, some of which have helped make characters like Kitty Pryde and Jubilee famous in their own right. He basically tries to be his own man.

Even though he’s still an asshole at times, he’s an asshole in a way that’s gender neutral. The things Wolverine does that make him an ass are the same things that apply to women. Whether it’s going after someone else’s spouse, undercutting someone’s authority, or randomly running off to do his own thing, there’s nothing Wolverine does that a woman couldn’t also do.

That leads directly to what might be an even more compelling argument for Wolverine being the antithesis of toxic masculinity. That’s because there is a female character who shares many of Wolverine’s experiences and exemplifies the same traits. Those who saw the “Logan” movie last year already know where I’m going with this.

It’s his clone/daughter, Laura “X-23” Kinney. In a sense, she doubles down on the idea that these “toxic” traits are not inherently masculine because she endured dehumanization to a similar extent. In fact, her dehumanization was even worse because she wasn’t given a name, only a number.

Like Wolverine, being subjected to such dehumanization rendered Laura violent, impulsive, and callous. If she were male, then it would be easy for advocates of toxic masculinity to slap her with that label, just like Wolverine. However, her being female undercuts that argument from its very foundation.

Together, the character and story surrounding Wolverine and X-23 undercuts toxic masculinity by establishing that the toxic effects of dehumanization don’t apply to just one gender. Strip away someone’s identity, social support, and humanity and they’ll demonstrate more than a few toxic traits.

What this means in terms of the bigger picture is that those traits attributed to toxic masculinity have a larger context that goes beyond gender. These traits that are tied to certain male behaviors are correlated to one thing, but not necessarily tied to the actual cause. Being a man doesn’t make Wolverine who he is. Being a man who was subject to dehumanizing treatment did that.

Now, apply that to a world where the very idea of masculinity is being subject to all sorts of scrutiny. Joss Whedon went so far as to call certain masculine tendencies a disease when making excuses for his infidelity. By linking everything bad in the world to masculinity, it dehumanizes men by making them seem inherently flawed.

That’s the most insidious implication of toxic masculinity. It’s very much akin to the forces behind Weapon X in that it attempts to deconstruct a core part of someone’s identity, reducing them to a hunk of flesh to be molded for someone else.

Most men don’t want that. Most people, in general, don’t want that. It’s yet another reason why the idea of toxic masculinity needs to be gutted with adamantium claws, locked in an adamantium case, and thrown into the deepest, darkest pits of the real and fictional world.


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

The Mixed (And Misguided) Messages Of All-Female Movie Remakes


There are some topics that I really want to comment on, but the rhetoric surrounding it are so hostile and so controversial that I feel like any comment I make will put way too big a target on my back. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who has talked about issues like abortionreligious extremism, and Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins.

In general, if I want to contribute to the conversation, I try to wait until the heat dies down and the Twitter bans subside. Sometimes, that takes a long time, so much so that I’m tempted to just drop the issue altogether. For this one, though, I think there’s no use waiting because it’s a trend now and the controversies associated with it are here to stay.

It seems so long ago now, but when I first heard that there would be a new “Ghostbusters” movie with an all-female cast, I was genuinely intrigued. I was not among those who thought this was the worst idea ever and that this was somehow ruining my childhood, as some upset fans had claimed.

Maybe it’s because I’m not as big a Ghostbusters fan as I am an X-men fan, but I didn’t mind the novel/gimmicky approach that director Paul Feig attempted. The long-rumored Ghostbusters 3 wasn’t happening. The original cast couldn’t get it off the ground and Bill “Peter Venkman” Murray had made clear that he had no interest in reprising his role. Why not try something different to reinvigorate the franchise?

It could’ve been a bold new approach to Ghostbusters. A fresh take, a new cast, and an infusion of female-centered star power could’ve really kick-started a whole new trend, one that both elevated long-dormant franchises and expanded the role of female characters, a trend that had already begun.

Then, the trailer came out and those possibilities became much more remote. While I, personally, didn’t despise it, I was considerably less intrigued. The fact that the trailer went onto become the most disliked trailer in the history of YouTube speaks volumes for how poorly this otherwise-novel concept came off.

I had originally intended to see the movie when it came out. Then, as new clips came out and I got a sense of how the story would unfold, I decided not to. When it finally came out on cable, I tried watching it. I ended up changing the channel. It’s not that I hated the movie. It just had none of the appeal I’d hoped.

I know that’s somewhat petty considering the many controversies the movie generated, complete with sexism, racism, and everything else that sets the internet ablaze these days. As soon as professional trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos got involved, I saw that as a sign that this was one of those controversies that would transcend movies for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t know if enough time has passed for the animosity to settle, but in reflecting on the controversies of “Ghostbusters,” I feel the time is right to confront it. Regardless of whether it succeeded or failed, it effectively kick-started the idea of all-female remakes. That’s an idea that I think still has merit, but the approach and overall message of “Ghostbusters” make clear that the Hollywood still hasn’t figured it out.

In a sense, the problem with “Ghostbusters” is similar to the ongoing problems with strong female characters in general. From the parts I saw, the approach to that movie was shallow and crass in that it painted nearly every male supporting character a bumbling idiot in need of female guidance. This was especially true of Kevin, the dim-witted secretary played by Chris Hemsworth.

I get that some of that approach was an effort to inject the kind of humor that made the original Ghostbusters so funny and memorable, but it really fell flat, almost to an insulting degree. It reinforced the notion men somehow need to be denigrated or taken down a peg for female characters to be strong.

While it didn’t offend me, personally, it certainly undermined the story. A world full of idiot men isn’t that bad. That’s a huge part of the appeal for shows like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” However, that kind of appeal doesn’t fit with that of Ghostbusters.

Beyond just making all the men seem like idiots, the way in which the all-female cast brought little nuance to their roles. They were just four women pasted into four roles previously played by men. That’s it. They brought nothing new to the table. I say that as someone who really likes Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones, but I know they’re capable of far more than they gave in this movie.

If the intent was to show that women could work these roles just as well as men, then that’s the wrong goal, especially for a franchise as beloved as Ghostbusters. That effort denigrates both men and women because it doesn’t send the message that they’re equals. It sends the message that they’re interchangeable, disposable, and not the least bit unique.

The original cast of Ghostbusters had unique, quirky personalities that were memorable and iconic. The all-female cast had some of that, especially Leslie Jones’ character, but not nearly enough. Too much of it was built around the persona these actresses had already established in other roles. They really didn’t do anything to set themselves apart other than fill a role once held by a man.

That can’t be the only thing an all-female cast brings to the table. Just being women cannot and should not be enough to carry a story or revitalize a franchise. It’s true that men and women have various character archetypes, some of which are more distinct than others, but there has to be room for innovation.

Great female characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rey from “Star Wars,” or Sarah Conner from “The Terminator,” do a lot more than just do things men usually do while being women. They’re allowed to exercise their feminine traits every now and then. The all-female cast of Ghostbusters never got that chance. They tried too hard to be like the originals and it just didn’t work.

I won’t say that “Ghostbusters” utterly ruined the concept of remaking movies with an all-female casts. The movie wasn’t that bad. It just didn’t do nearly enough to make it really good. It didn’t kill a genre like “Batman and Robin” almost did with superhero movies. It does count as a setback, though.

It’s one I hope Hollywood learns from because, at the moment, there are similar movies in development. The latest, which I admit I’m also intrigued by, is “Ocean’s 8.” Unlike “Ghostbusters,” it’s not a complete remake and it doesn’t try to replace the entire cast of “Ocean’s Eleven.” It’s following a similar narrative, but using an all-female cast to tell the story.

While this franchise isn’t as iconic as “Ghostbusters,” it’s still bound to cause plenty of controversy and heated debates on sexism. However, based on the trailer, I’m intrigued once more. I know that burned me last time, but I’m still willing to give it a chance.

I still believe that all-female casts, even for non-remakes of major movie franchises, have great potential. Women do make up half the population, last I checked. They have plenty of stories to tell. If “Ocean’s 8” can succeed where “Ghostbusters” failed, then that can revitalize the concept. As Hollywood has shown before, it only needs to work once to start a trend.

I believe the concept will succeed once these movies stop trying to troll certain audiences and focus on building new perspectives within a story. The perspective of women is supposed to complement that of men, not subvert it. If a movie can succeed in that, then it can truly appeal to everyone.

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Filed under gender issues, Movie Reviews, sex in media, sexuality

Why The Men Were Silent At The Golden Globes (For Good Reason)

When I was in middle school, I had a particularly vindictive gym teacher one year who had a knack for breaking the spirits of pre-teens. If we forgot to wash our uniforms, failed to take our seats on time, or just farted too loud, we were given a choice. Either we had to run a mile or do 100 push-ups. We got to choose, but both choices sucked.

The real kicker was that if we didn’t choose, then the teacher would choose for us and would go out of his way to make that choice seem extra cruel. It was one of those situations where it really didn’t matter what we said or did. One way or another, we were going to suffer for our actions and inaction.

This brings me to this year’s Golden Globes. Bear with me. I promise that’s not as big a non-sequiter as it sounds. There’s a valid reason I brought up the story of my vindictive gym teacher and it ties directly into the ongoing social movement to combat the sexual misconduct of powerful men.

I’ve talked about this issue before and, to be honest, I wish I didn’t have to keep discussing it. I would much rather be telling sexy stories, sharing sexy thoughts, or discussing upcoming superhero movies. However, these issues surrounding sexual misconduct in Hollywood have an undeniable impact on the sexual landscape and as an aspiring erotica/romance writer, that’s not something I can ignore.

A lot has been said and done since the movement began in wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. There has been a great deal of outrage, complete with protests and hashtags. Powerful men have fallen. Careers and reputations have been ruined. Entire movies and TV shows have actually been changed, as a result of this effort.

In some respects, it’s a good thing and I have pointed out the silver linings. Men harassing or abusing women is not something a just society should overlook. This isn’t one of those irrational moral panics, such as Satanic ritual abuse or the impact of violent video games. These instances of men abusing women have happened and some of the accused have confessed.

However, this ongoing crusade against powerful men, as well as horny men in general, has walked a fine line between a pursuing justice and demonizing any man who ever dared to admire a beautiful woman. It’s not quite at the level of an old-fashioned witch hunt, but it’s already in that dark territory where passions obscure reality.

What happened at the Golden Globes might end up being the most telling sign of all. Initially, the big news for this event was positive. Some of the most prominent women in Hollywood, including Emma Watson and Oprah Winfrey, came together in a show of solidarity against the sexual victimization of women. They all wore black dresses and got behind the newly-created “Time’s Up” movement.

Like other movements before it, the intent is good. This movement seeks to provide legal defense and resources for those who have been victimized by sexual misconduct. That’s an objectively good thing, but that wasn’t the most revealing moment of the Golden Globes. Instead, the biggest message came from what was not said.

It has been reported by more than one outlet. While the women at the Golden Globes were quite vocal in their ongoing efforts to clamp down on sexual misconduct, the men were mostly silent. Other than a brief remark from Seth Meyers at the beginning and some men dressing in black, Hollywood’s male stars were largely silent.

To some, this is already very problematic. I imagine it’s going to stir quite a bit of outrage among those trying to further the movement. However, when you take a step back and look at the situation in which these men were in, their silence makes complete sense. In fact, those same women who are determined to combat the Harvey Weinsteins of the world may very well have made it their only option.

To understand why, think back to my vindictive gym teacher for a moment. That teacher understood that to break the spirits of powerless pre-teens, it was necessary to put them in a situation where their choices mattered less than the ugly gym uniforms the school forced them to wear. By establishing just how powerless they were, it made any effort to speak up seem pointless.

These men, as powerful and successful they may be, were in a situation not unlike the one my hapless classmates were in that year. There was nothing they could’ve said or done that wouldn’t have been deconstructed, dissected, or misconstrued. No matter what they said or didn’t say, it would be used to label them as enemies of the movement and of women, as a whole.

If one of the men stood up on that stage and gave an impassioned speech condemning Harvey Weinstein, then his reputation would suffer. He would be labeled a virtue signaling white knight who was compensating for something. After what happened to Joss Whedon, those concerns wouldn’t be unfounded. He may even still face condemnation among women for not speaking up earlier or naming other harassers.

If that same man stood up and tried to give an impassioned speech on the importance of confronting the issue responsibly, then he would likely have suffered condemnation similar to that of Matt Damon, who dared to question whether all harassment should be treated equally. Even hinting at such nuance would’ve earned that man the toxic label of a misogynistic victim blamer.

Essentially, the men at the Golden Globes knew they couldn’t win either way. No matter what they said, it would’ve been used against them or undermined their career, somehow. These men, as powerful and successful they may be, are still human, despite what Tom Cruise may claim. They want to protect their jobs and their reputations. They can’t do that if they get slapped with these toxic labels.

In the end, silence was their safest bet and that, in and of itself, reveals the extent to which this crusade against sexual misconduct has gone. It’s past the point where people can have reasoned arguments about the issue. Now, it’s all outrage and hyperbole. Either you’re completely on board with that outrage or you’re just as bad as Harvey Weinstein. There is no gray area.

That lack of gray area means men have to be silent, which is the exact opposite of what the women in the movement are trying to achieve. It’s ironic, but understandable. These men aren’t going to garner much sympathy. They’re rich, handsome, and successful. There’s only so much sympathy they can inspire, due to their position.

Silence is the only way to avoid the added scrutiny that would undermine a career. Silence is the only way to avoid saying something that might offend, enrage, or upset a public that has shown in recent times an uncanny unwillingness to ruin lives and reputations. It’s actually worse than censorship, when you think about it, because it is self-imposed rather than coerced.

The fact that the men didn’t speak up at the Golden Globes may or may not represent a tipping point, of sorts. If the anti-harassment movement has created an environment that’s so frail that silence is the safest recourse, then that same movement lacks a critical component it needs to succeed.

Like it or not, men need to be part of the conversation with respect to sexual misconduct. Silence on their part means the crimes, the culture, and the attitudes that fosters such misconduct won’t change. Moreover, their point of view cannot be discounted as virtue signaling or “mansplaining.” The fact remains that if people feel helpless, then they won’t care enough to make the effort.

Like the broken spirits of my old gym class, if the men don’t think their words matter or may be used against them, then it makes perfect sense for them to remain silent. Outrage, awareness, and condemnation alone is not going to inspire meaningful change in the dynamics between men and women.

Both sides actually have to listen to one another and feel their words actually matter. It’s only then when silence will no longer be the most preferred and logical recourse.


Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, gender issues, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality

An Important Question That Feminists And MRAs Must Answer (Honestly)

There are certain debates that I try to avoid. Sure, I’ll contribute to a debate between Marvel and DC fans. That often inspires some trolling, but it won’t inspire outright threats. When those debates revolve around unpleasant issues like race, religion, gender, or anything having to do with politics since last year’s election, I avoid it like the plague.

Every now and then, though, I feel compelled to at least comment on an ongoing debate. While I doubt that comment will resolve anything, I try to make sure it’s something worth adding to the conversation, if only to provide perspective. In my experience, perspective is the first thing lost when people start insulting each other’s mothers.

Before I started writing erotica/romance novels, I actually enjoyed debates. I thought they represented meaningful dialog. Then, I learned the hard way that the desire to win an argument often gets in the way of having productive discussions. There are few topics that don’t involve religion where this plays out more in gender issues.

Sometimes it’s between sex positive feminists and sex negative feminists. Sometimes it’s between feminists and men’s rights activists. Sometimes it’s between alpha males and beta males. In any case, the drama and the vitriol is the same. The sides of the argument are passionate and committed. Neither is likely to ever sway the other.

I can understand that, to some extent. There are undeniable gender disparities in this world, as well as a few subtle disparities that rarely come up in debates. I can also understand why certain people take the sides they do. Feminists, no matter what type they may be, are going to argue for women’s issues. MRAs, no matter how adversarial they may be to feminists, will take the side of men.

There are important issues that are worth debating, regardless of how much or how little you care about gender disparities. Even if neither side can completely win the argument, the debates do inspire all sorts of ideas that enrich everybody involved.

That being said, I still feel compelled to inject a little perspective into the debate. I think emotions on both sides are in overdrive after some pretty major sex scandals, which is fueling more outrage than discussion. As such, I’d like to reorient that perspective by asking one basic question to feminists, MRAs, and gender-driven ideologues of all types.

Do the goals of your ideology directly benefit you to the direct detriment of another?

It’s a yes-or-no question, but I imagine it’s one of those questions that few can answer honestly on a whim. That’s the key part that I want to emphasize. Anyone who answers this question, regardless of which side on gender issues they take, should answer this question with the kind of brutal honesty usually reserved for British TV personalities.

That’s because the question is twofold. The first part is somewhat a given. If you’re in the business of discussing gender issues, you usually have a goal. A part of that goal usually involves benefiting you and others like you. That’s the point of any effort that requires you to endure arguments, insults, and trolling.

The goals of feminism, men’s rights advocates, and everything in between involve benefitting individuals within their tribe. That’s not the issue here. It’s the second part where the honesty is harder to discern because it requires a self-assessment and a greater understanding of the bigger picture.

If you’re looking to achieve a goal that hurts or inconveniences no one, then chances are it’s not going to inspire many debates. Those efforts rarely face any political or social overtones. They’re as simple as being low on marshmallows and wanting to get more. The only one you’re inconveniencing is yourself.

When that goal involves something detrimental or inconvenient to someone else, regardless of whether it’s real or perceived, that’s when you run into problems. If that benefit you seek requires someone else to pay a price, then you’ve got a problem. It’s not always a bad problem. There are times when that the absence of that benefit is an injustice. Issues like voting or protection from violence are good examples.

Those kinds of goals tend to be simple with tangible, documented harm that is directly linked to a gender disparity. It’s the more complicated goals, such as those involving body image, mass media, or cultural trends, that tend evoke the kind of cyclical vitriol on both sides that never seems to abate.

These issues can’t be easily solved by passing a law or flipping a switch. They often require large groups to change their attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about the world. In the same way people struggle to break bad habits, this sort of thing is not easy to do. It plays out in all sorts of ways.

“Stop admiring sexy women! That’s sexist!”

“Stop asking for free stuff because you’re a woman! That’s fascist!”

“Stop demanding that I find you attractive! That’s body shaming!”

“Stop enjoying what you love because it’s perpetuating misogyny/racism/misandry/homophobia/transphobia!”

However it plays out, the end result has a similar dynamic. In achieving the goal for one side, it negatively impacts the other. Sometimes their power and influence isn’t as great. Sometimes they’re shamed for liking something or supporting a certain position. Sometimes they have to pay a price, sometimes with money and sometimes with other forms of social currency.

In that situation, it creates a predicament to whoever is arguing on the other side. It undermines they’re objectivity. That person, be they a feminist or an MRA, has something to gain by their side prevailing. Like an investor who has a vested interest in a product failing, they’ll argue louder than most that the product is crap.

This is difficult to acknowledge because it undermines someone’s inherent sense that they’re the hero in this story. If Superman only did what he did because he acknowledged he got free ice cream for every criminal he stopped, then that would affect how people saw his motivations.

I don’t doubt that feminists and MRAs are motivated to pursue what they feel is an objective good. However, if they have something to gain from their side prevailing, then there’s a non-zero amount of subjectivity involved. Absent that perspective, the effort becomes less about confronting those gender disparities and more about maximizing your own personal advantage.

Let’s not lie to ourselves. If life were a video game, we would want to use cheat codes every now and then. It’s not wrong to admit that or even to seek advantages that others can’t have. However, to not acknowledge those self-serving facets of an issue is to claim your character is somehow greater and your opponents might as well be Nazis.

Very little good can some from any debate when both sides think their opponents are just monsters to be slain and not people with their own interests at heart. I don’t doubt that debates over gender disparities and gender-related issues will continue. I also don’t doubt that some of those debates will be as rational as the “Deadpool 2” synopsis.

It’s for those reasons that this question needs to be asked and answered honestly. I get it. Honesty is tough in a world of fake news, internet trolls, and all-around assholes. That’s why, if we’re serious about achieving our goals, we need to value it in any discussion about gender. The future of the human race literally depends on it.

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Filed under gender issues, Marriage and Relationships

What Makes A Woman An Asshole?

These days, discussing any inherent differences between men and women is an easy way to turn a casual conversation to a blood feud between radical feminists and angry men’s right’s activities. It doesn’t matter if there’s substance, logic, or legitimate issues involved. It only takes one poorly-worded remark to turn a simple discussion into an all-out gender war.

In general, I try not to take sides in that war or give either side any ammunition. I’ve learned, often the hard way, that no good can ever come from angry debates on the internet about any relevant subject. Eating sand and rubbing my ass on my computer screen would be just as productive.

While this hasn’t stopped me from commenting on certain issues regarding feminism and various gender issues, I’ve generally tried to limit the amount of time and energy I spend on these topics. If I can’t apply it to something sexy or something relating to my efforts to be an erotica/romance writer, I generally don’t bother.

Well, when I did my article on the factors of what makes men assholes, I knew I would do something similar for women at some point. For one, it’s only fair that I give both genders equal weight on this topic because being an asshole is one of the few issues that’s truly gender neutral. No matter what genitals we may or may not have, we still have assholes and we’re just as capable as being one.

However, and this is where I’m sure I’ll get in trouble with the more radical elements of gender issues, women deal with very different dynamics, compared to men. Some are biological. Some are societal. Some are just basic variations we see from person to person. Regardless of how convinced you are of one gender’s superiority/inferiority, it’s impossible to deny that both genders breed assholes.

As with the men, understanding those factors is important to creating characters in a story. Not all of the female characters involved will be paragons of virtue with the chastity of a devout nun. Some are just going to be assholes who just happen to be female.

Skin Deep” had more than a few female characters who fit that description. In fact, you could argue that Mary Williams, the second protagonist and primary love interest to Ben Prescott, started off the story as a selfish asshole who didn’t realize she was just exploiting her looks to be popular. While she underwent a dramatic change, others like her friend, Melissa Miller, did not.

It’s debatable just how much an asshole Melissa was in the context of the story. She was definitely no Regina George or Quinn Morgendorffer, but she definitely walked a fine line between just being selfish and being an outright asshole of the bitchiest variety.

As with men, we’ve all probably dealt with female assholes at some point in our lives. The main difference with women is that they’re not as overt about it, compared to men. Yes, I realize there are some women who will match and exceed men in certain instances, but in general, the female genders have an style of asshole that’s all their own.

So, just as I did with the men, I’m going craft another list of basic factors to explore the unique elements associated with female assholes. Some might also call these the factors of a bitch, but I prefer the asshole label and not just because it’s more gender neutral. A bitch can just be a state of mind. An asshole is a way of life.

Again, I realize that this list will be somewhat limited than the one for men because I’m a man. However, I’m also human and women are human, last I checked. I don’t deny that my gender does influence the way I interpret the world and that has shown on this blog before. So please keep that in mind before you start another gender war on this blog.

It’s also because I’m a man and my perspective is limited, I encourage the female portion of my audience to comment and, if necessary, correct my list. I think it’s important that we all know the factors influencing male and female assholes, alike. If we’re going to have to deal with these people in life, then we might as well be proactive.

Asshole Factor #1: Completely (And Willfully) Lacking In Self-Awareness

It’s one thing for a girl just to be ditzy and clueless. There are women, and even plenty of men, who just haven’t made enough sense of the world to really understand why some of the things they do come off as annoying. These people aren’t assholes. They’re just ignorant or misguided.

What crosses the line between ignorant and asshole is akin to a suspension of belief that just being a girl is somehow a substitute for actually doing something. This is most comment with cute, naturally beautiful women who think people are nice to them just because they’re inherently awesome.

They think this, despite wearing skin-tight jeans and push-up bras. It would be one thing if they just flaunted their beauty with the full understanding that it gave them an edge. Those kinds of women aren’t assholes. They’re just honest. The dishonest ones, namely the Quinn Morgendorffers of the world, don’t even make the effort.

Beyond the laziness, that willful lack of self-awareness ensures they always have a flawed view of the world. They think they’re more special than they actually are and don’t make an effort to do anything other than exploit their looks or their gender. The extent to which they’ll avoid any meaningful depth is what makes them a unique brand of asshole.

Asshole Factor #2: Getting Others To (Unknowingly) Fight Their Battles For Them

This is something I find that women do better than men in almost every case. It would actually be strategic and cunning if it weren’t such a common tactic for assholes. Whereas a male asshole would just brutishly charge into battle, swinging his fists and not caring if his fly was unzipped, a female asshole will get others to do the hard work for them so she can sit back, sip martinis, and laugh her ass off from a distance.

Sometimes it takes the form of lurid gossip that turns into full-blown rumors. Sometimes it takes the form of using social status to effectively outsource direct acts of assholery. Back in college, I knew a girl who gave her ex-boyfriend’s roommate a blowjob in exchange for installing malware on his laptop. Yes, it was an asshole move, but you can’t argue with results.

This is also what makes asshole women every bit as dangerous as men, if not more so in some instances. Just ask Cersei Lannister. They don’t even have to go so far as to offer a blowjob or a nude picture to get others to do stuff for them. Sometimes, they just create the impression that doing their bidding will win them favors that may involve nudity. Sure, it’s working smarter and not harder, but it still makes her an asshole.

Asshole Factor #3: Treating Every Friend And/Or Lover As Disposable

This is probably the most overt manifestation of the female asshole. That’s not to say men don’t do it too. They most certainly do. There are men who treat women and other men with the same care as a used candy wrapper. What sets women apart, though, is the breadth and spectacle of their actions.

It’s one of those traits that’s easy to spot in spoiled rich girls who see everyone as an employee who is legally required to do what they say. However, it also shows up in the non-spoiled brat crowd just as often. Whether a girl is just pretty or well-connected, she actively avoids any deeper connection with others. People are just a means to an end for her.

Whereas asshole men will often employ that approach when it comes to getting sex, women use it to get everything, including sex. The line between their friends, colleagues, and lovers is distressingly thin, if not invisible. The second she’s done with someone, or senses they serve no further purpose to her, she jumps at the first opportunity to abandon them like a used tissue.

Asshole Factor #4: Making Everything An Agenda For Or Against Them

People blaming other people for their failings is nothing new. Everybody of every gender has done it at some point in their lives to some extent. It’s part of the mechanism that our brains use to protect our overly fragile ego. It doesn’t always make someone an asshole, but it certainly can when taken to an extreme.

In my experience, women are more eager to go to that extreme then men. It often shows up at radical feminist rallies or internet shouting matches about who’s the bigger victim. Whatever the setting or the ideology, the intent is the same. The female asshole goes out of her way to not just blame everyone for their problems, but make it seem as though everyone is actively plotting against her.

This is conspiracy thinking on the level of Alex Jones, assuming he’s not faking it. It’s what female assholes use to either derail or end an argument. It doesn’t always have to involve debates on feminism too. A simple debate with a friend, spouse, or co-worker can turn everyone into a Lex Luthor level villain who deserves every asshole thing done to them.

Such asshole tactics, when employed effectively, can make it both convenient and easy for someone to be the kind of asshole they want to be. While male assholes may occasionally explore these tactics, female assholes have mastered them.

Asshole Factor #5: An Eagerness To Weaponize Whining/Annoyance

This factor goes all the way back to childhood for certain asshole women. They learned early on that whining incessantly can help get them what they want and they never unlearned that tactic when they got older. When they were little, it made them a brat. As an adult, it makes them an asshole.

In my experience, women channel their ability to whine and annoy better than any man. It’s not enough for them to just be loud. They’re very tactical with their whining, striking just the right emotional chords to get someone to react in just the way they want. They’ll still be the asshole, but they’ll make it so everyone around them is an even bigger asshole by not heeding her whining.

On some levels, asshole women seem to know that people in general have a low capacity for annoyance. If they exceed that capacity to any reasonable extent, they can get others to either concede their point, even when they’re wrong, or make any meaningful exchange impossible. It’s basically the social equivalent of cheating at a video game and cheaters tend to be assholes.

Asshole Factor #6: Always Talking Down To Everyone (And Never Justifying It)

In general, we expect assholes to talk down to us. At the same time, however, we celebrate and cheer leaders who do the same. What’s the difference? Why do we love one and hate the other?

With respect to assholes, it has to do with merit. A good leader earns the right to talk down to others. Assholes don’t even bother. Male assholes might be loud and annoying, but at least they’ll yell directly into your face. A female asshole has to take it a step further. She has to elevate herself or bring someone else down before she can start yelling.

This is where asshole women maximize their excuse bank, doing anything and everything to put them in a position to yell at others in a way where they can’t respond. We see it lousy teachers, bad parents, and women who just think they deserve a greater say because they have a vagina.

The tactics may be more subtle, but the themes are the same. An asshole will not give two licks of a squirrels nut sack about substance, effort, or reason. They would rather just skip those steps and get to the part where they can just be an asshole and get away with it.

Once again, please refrain from turning the comments section of my blog into Round 1,039,280,860,896,077 of angry feminists versus whiny men’s rights activities. I understand my blog doesn’t get the kind of traffic to warrant that level of discourse just yet, but I would still prefer to leave those kinds of discussions to 4chan and Reddit.

As with the men’s list, though, I encourage others to leave comments and suggest other factors to add to either list. The struggle against assholes, male and female alike, is real for all of us. The more we know, the better-equipped we’ll be in the long run.


Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Marriage and Relationships, 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.


Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Marriage and Relationships, Reasons and Excuses

A (Distressing) Thought Experiment On Gender Double Standards


Whenever I pose one of my thought experiments, I do so with the hope of inspiring novel, entertaining ideas that get people thinking for all the right reasons. Ideally, these ideas are fun and enlightening. If they make people horny in the process, then that’s just a bonus.

Every now and then, however, it’s not enough for an idea to be enlightening or sexy. Sometimes, for a thought experiment to work, it needs to make people feel uncomfortable. It needs to create some sort of mental distress.

I know that’s something most people avoid. I’ve even pointed out how our brains are wired to do anything and everything to avoid mental distress, even if it leads to outright hypocrisy.

Well, as uncomfortable as it is, mental distress has a purpose. It forces us to contemplate an idea that highlights a major problem in the world. It’s often one of those problems we know is there on some level, but avoid thinking about because it’s too daunting. For this particular thought experiment, it’s not so much that the idea is overwhelming. It’s more that it reveals something about our attitudes that we don’t often scrutinize.

So with that in mind, here’s the experiment. Think back to any action scene in any major action movie of the past couple decades. Given the glut of superhero movies and “Die Hard” rip-offs out there, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Specifically, think of a scene where a female character was kicking ass. Given the rise of strong female characters, that shouldn’t be too difficult either.

A good example comes from the memorable Black Widow fight scene in “Iron Man 2.” By any measure, it’s a wonderfully entertaining scene. It has Scarlett Johanssen kicking ass in a skin-tight outfit. What’s not to love about it? Most people who watch this scene, especially comic book fans and people who find Scarlett Johanssen sexy, would be rightly entertained.

Here’s where the thought experiment comes in. This is where it gets really uncomfortable. Watch the scene above once as you usually would. You don’t need to know the context too much. This is just Black Widow beating up the hired goons of Justin Hammer, the primary antagonist of the movie. Use that first reaction as a baseline of sorts.

Now, watch the scene again. This time, though, reverse all the genders of the characters involved. Make Black Widow a man. Make Justin Hammer’s goons women. Let it play out in your mind, this lone male character beating up all these women. Does the scene evoke the same reaction? For most people not named Chris Brown, it probably makes you sick to your stomach.

This goes beyond the typical double standards between men and women, which I’ve talked about before. It even goes beyond strong female characters, which I’ve also touched on in various ways. This is one of those dynamics that has always been there right in front of us. We just don’t take the time to scrutinize it.

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We can watch scenes of James Bond beating the crap out of a bunch of SPECTRE henchmen and be entertained. We can also watch scenes of Black Widow, Sarah Conner, and Furiosa do the same and be entertained. Swap the genders, though, and it becomes extremely distressing. We don’t see powerful characters kicking ass anymore. We just see a man beating up multiple women.

Find a scene like the one above from “Iron Man 2” and do the same thought experiment. Look for a scene where a woman beats up a much of male thugs. Then, swap the genders. Chances are, the feelings it evokes are just as distressing.

Image result for Furiosa fighting

For a greater sense of context, I came up with this thought experiment after reading an article on Cracked.com about the way Hollywood treats men. I’ve cited Cracked before because and while I don’t always agree with them, they’re good at tackling serious topics in a humorous way, even sexy topics. This one, however, had a hard time being funny.

6 Backwards Ideas Hollywood Still Has About Men

Some parts of the article were more inane than others, like pointing out how every leading man has to be at least a half-foot taller than the average guy or how tortured men are somehow compelling. Some of those details are just quirks, blatant examples of style over substance.

Beyond the quirks, though, there are some genuinely disturbing dynamics at work. We find such entertainment in women beating the crap out of men. We also find entertainment in men beating the crap out of men. However, when it’s men beating the crap out of women, context doesn’t matter. It always makes us feel disgusted and repulsed.

The thought experiment I just posed highlights that. However, it goes beyond violence as well. Rape is one of those super-sensitive issues that’s impossible to make funny or sexy. However, if you put it in the context of prison rape where men rape men, then that somehow changes things, so much so that jokes about rape will even find their way into an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

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Then, there are the cases where women rape men. Yes, that does happen in real life. Women are capable of domestic violence against men. However, it’s still okay to joke about. Christopher Titus has even worked it into his standup. It even finds its way into cartoons that air on prime-time.

The best example of this is the “Futurama” episode, “Death By Snu Snu.” In that episode, the cast encounters a planet populated by big, hulking, hostile Amazonian women, albeit not of the Wonder Woman variety. Through a series of hilarious antics that are entirely appropriate for a show that has a hard-drinking, sociopath robot, the male characters end up captured.

This is where the line between hilarity and distress blurs if you dare do the same thought experiment. Once captured, the Amazonian women decide to “torment” their prisoners with “snu snu,” which is their alien verbiage for sex. The reaction of Fry and Zap Branigan is a mix of horror and intrigue.

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Granted, it’s presented in a funny way, but that doesn’t change the actual substance of what happens. The women rape these men. They rape them and it’s portrayed as humorous. I’m not going to lie. I did laugh somewhat at how the episode played out. Most people with a healthy sense of humor would.

However, if you do the same thought experiment with the Black Widow scene in “Iron Man 2,” it takes on a very different context. Watch the episode again, but turn the hulking Amazons into men. Then, turn Fry and Zap into women. Suddenly, that scene takes on a much darker undertone.

It would push the line even for the most hardcore porn. Think about how that would play out, a group of warrior men taking a couple of women who just stumbled upon their world and deciding to rape them to death. It wouldn’t just be rated NC-17. It would be outright banned and subject to protest from every women’s group in the world.

What does it say about our attitudes, our culture, and our standards when we’re okay with one gender dynamic and not the other? Now, there are inherent differences in those dynamics. Human beings are a sexually dimorphic species. That means there are inherently different traits within the genders that are impossible to overlook completely.

However, the sheer breadth of the disparity here is cause for concern. If flipping the genders of a story or scene evokes such a different reaction, then that’s a serious disconnect that’s worth scrutinizing.

That’s not to say that the scenes in “Iron Man 2” or “Futurama” are wrong or not entertaining. There’s just something inherently revealing about ourselves when we flip the gender dynamics and react to the same scene. We may not like what that reveals, but it’s not something that can or should be ignored.


Filed under Thought Experiment