Tag Archives: obsession

On Nihilism And Love (And How Nihilism Enhances Love)

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Whenever I talk about nihilism, it’s usually in the context of how it could effect an emerging generation or as an excuse to talk about one of my favorite cartoons. I try not to incorporate it into too many discussions, mostly because nihilism has some pretty sullen connotations. Whether you believe it or not as a philosophical principle, discussions about it can get pretty depressing.

Considering the underlying premise of nihilism, which is that life and existence has no inherent meaning, that’s somewhat unavoidable. At the same time, though, nihilism can provide a revealing context. Due to its inherently harsh nature, it can cut through the empty rhetoric and needless complications that overly complicate a subject. That can be exceptionally useful for a concept as broad and powerful as love.

Yes, I am going to talk about love and nihilism. I promise it’s not going to get as depressing as you expect. If anything, I believe that love and nihilism are a potent mixture that, when framed properly, can actually enhance both concepts.

Being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’m an unapologetic about my fondness of romance. I like to think I’ve made that abundantly clear. However, the more I write about love, the more I notice how often love gets twisted and contorted into something that undercuts its fundamental value.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional fairy tale romance that makes love seem like this unstoppable force that is ordained by angles and guided by unicorn magic. That sort of thing has its place alongside stories of giant robots and superhero movies. In the real world, though, pursing that kind of love is like pursuing actual fairy dust. It’s woefully unrealistic and potentially damaging to someone’s psyche.

That’s where nihilism can provide an important filter, of sorts. At its core, nihilism strips away the magical thinking people ascribe to certain phenomena, be it love, honor, friendship, or happiness. From a purely nihilistic point of view, love is just another manifestation of brain chemistry within a larger manifestation of social dynamics.

On paper, that’s pretty cold. If it were incorporated into a fairy tale or an erotica/romance novel, it wouldn’t come off as very romantic. If you take a step back and go beyond what’s on paper, though, that nihilistic insight actually reveals the larger complexities of love.

To illustrate, think back to some of the most iconic love stories of all time, both classical and contemporary. Look at the epic love of Romeo and Juliet, Jack and Rose from “Titanic,” or Superman and Lois Lane. These are all held up as romantic ideals, the kind that make real world love seem inane by comparison.

However, applying a little nihilism to these narratives and something happens to these ideals. The strength of all these epic love stories is how passionate the characters feel for one another and all the obstacles they overcome to be together, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. That makes for an epic tale, but nihilism exposes a major oversight.

If we’re going to look at love as just a series of chemical reactions in the brain between two people, then we cannot overlook the other reactions surrounding it. To do so would mean ignoring real, tangible manifestations of reality. Since that’s the only manifestation that nihilism acknowledges, it has to accommodate those other feelings alongside love.

This is important, in terms of expanding love, because it establishes that it’s just one of many potential feelings that may manifest within the brains of two individuals. The mechanisms are the same. It’s just brain matter interacting with other brain matter. Sure, that reduces the biology of love to brain chemicals, like any other emotion, but at the same time it incorporates into all the other emotions in play.

In the cold, unfeeling world of nihilism, the mechanisms of love don’t carry any greater weight than the mechanisms of hate, happiness, sadness, and annoyance. While that’s bad news for fairy tales, it’s good news for love in a real world where love spells don’t exist and true romance rarely forms from a single kiss at the gate of an airport.

In that world, the basic brain chemistry of love can’t be enough. It’s necessary for two people to also get along in the sense that they can relate to one another, interact with one another, and deal with one another on a day-to-day basis. Those mundane, unromantic factors are rarely part of an epic love story, but an important part of a healthy romance.

When we conflate the meaning of love to the level of an old Beatles song, we undercut those less fanciful aspects of love. We focus only on those moments of intense passion that find their way into romance movies. Some, like my favorite romance movie, do a better job exploring other moments. Most though, along with music that blurs the line between love and obsession, don’t send that message.

That kind of love gives the impression that it’s the most meaningful experience anyone could have. It becomes the primary goal of every individual, seeking that special love that somehow makes them feel complete and content. To not have it is to be denied your very reason for being. It’s something you should dedicate every ounce of energy to, even at the expense of every other pursuit.

That romantic ideal shatters under the weight of nihilism because in that worldview, nothing matters to that degree. The very notion that anything would matter that much requires self-delusion to an egregious extent. Again, it’s a cold way of looking at the world, but it reveals the true tenants of a healthy, fulfilling love.

By mixing love and nihilism, love can no longer be that one feeling that gives someone a sense of purpose. That’s because, in the world of nihilism, nothing gives anything or anyone inherent purpose. Everything is just there by the random chaos and exists only temporarily, only to eventually perish at the eventual heat death of the universe.

Sure, that means that love can no longer be eternal or everlasting like a typical Disney movie, but that’s actually a good thing if love is to have any value. By rendering love a finite, temporary feeling, it becomes more precious on the basis of its rarity. The fact that it is so temporary is what makes it a powerful feeling to those who experience it.

It also leaves room for all the other feelings that go into a strong, healthy romance. Things like growing together, learning from one another, and complementing each other become part of an ongoing process that two people experience. For some, it can last a lifetime. For some, it can barely last a day.

In the long run, they don’t have inherent meaning in a nihilistic world. Whatever meaning love ultimately has is dependent on those who experience it. That means people can’t just rely on the fact that they’re in love and expect it to solve their problems. It means they actually have to work on preserving that meaning they’ve created in a cold, unfeeling world.

To some extent, that gives love true value and not just the inflated value portrayed in movies. By looking at love through the lens of nihilism, it’s possible to understand it for what it truly is, in relation to other experiences that sentient beings share. It’s no fairy tale, but it’s real in that we feel it and because we feel it, we give it meaning.

As a lover of romance and telling sexy stories, I find that uniquely inspiring. We can’t rely on an unfeeling, uncaring universe to give meaning to our love lives. We, as finite and fragile beings, have to do that ourselves. Those willing to take love as it is and not what we wish it were are better able to craft that meaning. If we can make it sexy along the way, then that’s just a nice bonus.

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Love Or Obsession: Pop Music First Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Britney Spears: Hit Me Baby One More Time

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

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

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

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


Backstreet Boys: I Want It That Way

Love or Obsession?
Love

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

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

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

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


Aerosmith: I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

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

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

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


Rick Astley: Never Gonna Give You Up

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

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

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

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


Hootie And The Blowfish: Hold My Hand

Love or Obsession?
Love

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

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

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


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

Love or Obsession?
Love (Mostly)

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

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

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


The Beatles: I Want To Hold Your Hand

Love or Obsession?
Love

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

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

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

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Love Or Obsession: Big Bang Theory Edition

It’s okay to love things that are flawed. Hell, if we weren’t able to love things that are flawed, romance as we know it would be impossible. It’s our ability to overlook, understand, and even appreciate flaws that allows us to love each other and the things that bring us joy in life.

That brings me to one of my favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory. I’ve talked about it before, specifically when discussing toxic relationships. I don’t doubt that plenty of fans of the show disagree with my assessment. I still stand by my criticism. Remember, I crafted that post with the full disclaimer that I love this show, despite its flaws.

With that love and admiration in mind, I’d like this show to be the subject of my next entry of “Love Or Obsession.” I’m actually enjoying this little exercise, breaking down iconic romances and assessing whether they constitute love or obsession. It helps add a new perspective to my understanding of romance and erotica. For someone in my field, that understanding is vital.

In the spirit of such understanding, I’d like to do this exercise for the three major romances on the show. To fans of the show, I understand I’m leaving Raj out for the moment. I was going to assess him and Emily, but that plot seems to have fallen to the wayside. If that changes, I’ll do a follow-up post. For now, I’ll be focusing on the big three, which is Penny/Leonard, Sheldon/Amy, and Howard/Bernadette.

Again, I’m open to discussing these assessments. If you disagree with me, let me know. I’m certainly willing to discuss this topic. I think, if we’re going to appreciate romance in media, it’s a discussion worth having.


Penny/Leonard

Love Or Obsession?
Obsession

This one is, by far, the most important and iconic romance to the show. It also happens to be the one that bothers me most, as I’ve said before. This romance began at the very beginning of the show and has been a major driving force for every episode since. It’s presented as cute and it does lead to many entertaining subplots, but there’s no getting around how flawed it is.

Leonard is obsessed with Penny. He was obsessed from the moment he saw her. He was obsessed with being with her, being the man for her, and being the guy who ends up with her. There are times when I don’t think he separates the concept of loving Penny as a person and loving Penny as an idea. The concept means more than the person. Being a socially awkward nerd, this does make sense, albeit in a pathetic sort of way.

With Penny, I don’t think there’s quite as much obsession involved. I think on some levels, her love for Leonard is genuine. However, there are also times with her when I think she loves the concept more than the person. What I mean by that is she loves Leonard because he’s not the same as the guys who have hurt her in the past. That’s not a good basis for any romance.

On top of that, Penny knows she can control Leonard. She knows he can never get someone like her. She controls the relationship. She controls Leonard in pretty much every way. It’s not a healthy relationship. There is love, but it is grossly overshadowed by the flaws and the obsession behind them.


Amy/Sheldon

Love Or Obsession?
Love

This is probably the second most important relationship in the show, if only for the entertainment value it constantly brings. Amy and Sheldon are not a normal romance because they’re very abnormal individuals. They have extreme quirks that constitute major personality disorders.

Despite this, or because of this, they find a way to work. They find a way to complement each other. They annoy and challenge each other, but they’re better because of it. Amy is stronger because of Sheldon. Sheldon is less of a self-centered asshat because of Amy. This is one of those relationships that makes both sides better. I’d argue it’s probably one of the strangest, but most productive relationships on TV right now.

That’s an odd thing to say because these two characters are so odd. Sheldon, especially, takes oddities and proclivities to such an extreme that anyone who puts up with him deserves incredible sympathy. While Amy does get annoyed at times, she still puts in the effort and, despite needing a nudge every now and then, Sheldon does the same.

Every episode, it seems as though these two find a new way to annoy each other. In the end though, they find a way to be closer. It’s an incredibly odd, but fittingly beautiful thing.


Howard/Bernadette

Love Or Obsession?
Love (Mostly)

This one is hard to assess, especially since Howard was such a creepy jerk early in the show. He grew up over successive seasons, becoming more likable along the way. He’s still self-centered, lazy, and arrogant at times, but there’s no doubt that he loves Bernadette. He will go out of his way for her. He will do what he has to do to prove that he loves her, even if she needs to twist his arm.

I rule this as love not just because they were the first couple to get married. I render this ruling because I never got the impression that these two were obsessed with one another or that their relationship was built on pure infatuation. They learned to love each other as individuals and not be totally defined by their relationship.

I still added the “mostly” there because, like Penny and Leonard, it’s an unbalanced relationship. It’s not nearly as unbalanced, but it’s still a relationship where one side, namely Bernadette, exercises a larger role. She makes more money than Howard. She’s more assertive than Howard. She can get him to do things like a trained pet.

Despite this imbalance, their love does come off as genuine. They do complement each other in some respects. It’s not a wholly healthy relationship, but it works and there is a fair amount of love guiding it.

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Love Or Obsession: First Literary Edition

After writing so much about love, obsession, and the obscure, unexplored gray area in between, I thought I’d continue exploring that subject this week. I didn’t intend to spend more than a few posts on it, but it ended up being such a broad, engrossing topic that I decided it deserves greater scrutiny.

However, rather than just dig deeper into what constitutes love and what constitutes obsession, which can often lead to horror stories about stalkers, I’m going to try and approach this from a different point of view. I’m going to try a little exercise here. It’s going to be small, but it has the possibility to expand, just as my “Sexy Sunday Thoughts” column has expanded in recent times.

What I want to do here is fairly simple. I want to take classic romances from various sources, be they books, movies, TV shows, or comic books, and do a quick assessment on the nature of the relationship involved. Now there are some very complex relationships in fiction, so much so that I can’t hope to dig into every one of those complexities. If I do, it’ll be in a different post.

Instead, the purpose of this exercise will ask one simple question. Is the relationship in question more akin to love or obsession? Now I don’t claim to be an expert on the literature in question. I’m sure there are true literary buffs who would argue my assessment passionately. I perfectly understand that and I’m happy to have that debate. For now, I just want to get the discussion going.

For this initial exercise, I’m going to focus on classic romances from literature. These are the kinds of romances most people learn about in English classes and literature studies. They may also come from popular contemporary sources. Since this is just the first edition of this exercise, I’ll focus on romances that are most well-known. If someone wants to chime in on a more obscure romance, please do so in the comments.

Also, if you think I’m dead wrong in my assessment, please let me know why. Again, I’m not an expert. This is just an exercise that I hope will make people more aware of the differences between love and obsession, along with how it impacts romance stories. With that in mind, here’s the first round of “Love Or Obsession.”

Romeo and Juliet

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

I know it’s a classic. I know this is the romance most people cite when they want to embody the sappiest, most ideal form of love possible. However, having read this classic play in high school and seeing multiple movies of it, I still have a hard time calling it a genuine love.

I know that sounds blasphemous to those in literary circles. I don’t doubt that there’s some element of love there, but I think too much of it is built on obsession. These two barely know each other, which is very much a result of the circumstances you get with a play. Everything has to happen so quickly. There’s not a lot of time to develop this romance.

Even if there were time, a romance where every waking thought and every single feeling is centered on each other doesn’t give the impression of love and comfort. It gives the impression of desperation and extreme distress, which is hard to frame in the context of genuine love.


Sir Lancelot and Guinevere

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

This is another classic romance that’s built on a love triangle, a tool in romantic stories that tends to kill any meaningful passions like a thousand dead puppies. I’ve made my hatred of love triangles clear. This one is probably the most famous in classical literature. It can be argued that it’s probably the most refined and polished.

Granted, this is one love triangle that doesn’t make me want to bash my head in with a brick. Guinevere and Lancelot are both well-developed characters in their own right for the most part. However, too much of their character is defined by this love triangle. It’s kind of the only thing Lancelot is known for, wanting to hook up with his buddy’s wife.

On top of that, there’s not a lot of emotional depth to this romance. Lancelot and Guinevere never give the impression that their chemistry goes beyond just wanting to kiss and bone. They don’t seem to know each other on a more meaningful level. They give the impression that the forbidden nature of their desire is what fuels it, which makes it hard to see as genuine.

For that reason, I say this counts as obsession. It’s still not as bad as other horrible love triangles, some of which I’ve broken down on this blog, but that’s not saying much.


King Arthur and Guinevere

Love or Obsession?
Love

In keeping with Arthurian Legend, I feel like it’s important to assess the other part of the love triangle. When it comes to Arthur and Guinevere, the dynamics are considerably different compared to those involving Lancelot. For one, Arthur and Guinevere meet at a younger age and they do get to know each other fairly well before things get romantic.

They also make a genuine effort in pursuing their love, despite advice to the contrary. In the classic narrative, Merlin actually warns Arthur not to pursue Guinevere. However, he doesn’t listen. He still follows his heart and Guinevere embraces it.

Even though this romance does have some tragic elements to it, I think it has more polish compared to Romeo and Juliet. Arthur and Guinevere both build a live together and support each other for much of it. You don’t do that without having genuine love for one another.


Edward Cullen and Belle Swan

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

This one is kind of loaded because I know Twilight hardly deserves to be on a list that includes some of the most iconic romances of all time. I understand that, but it’s still probably the most iconic romance of the past decade or so. I know just mentioning it will bring out the anti-Twilight crowd. I understand the sentiment of that crowd, but I ask that crowd to temper their rage for the sake of this discussion.

There’s a lot of overly idealistic, overly cliched components to this relationship. It’s so ideal at times that it’s hard to take seriously. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, these two do get a chance to really know each other and become part of their world. However, I have a hard time calling this love because so much of their story, especially Edward Cullen’s, is defined by Belle.

On top of that, the idea that he watches her while she sleeps kind of skews the narrative into areas beyond romance. Watching someone while they sleep is something more akin to a stalker than a lover. That’s why, despite the passionate moments in the meadows, I rule this to be obsession.


Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan

Love or Obsession?
Love

This is a less contemporary romance, but one that’s still structured in a very modern context. Unlike Twilight, this book is a lot more detailed in who these characters are and why they do what they do. It’s easy to tell that the story has some personal elements for F. Scott Fitzgerald. This shows in how the book’s most important relationship, Daisy and Jay, plays out.

It’s hard to judge the depths of a relationship that involves infidelity. On top of that, the greed elements that are so central to the book make the passions harder assess because it’s not clear how genuine they are. Despite this, I see Jay and Daisy’s efforts to be together as genuine.

These two characters each have such comfortable lives, if not excessively so. However, they still pursue one another. They still make an effort to be together. As such, I do think there is real love between them.


Paris and Helena

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

When it comes to judging romance from ancient literature, such as the Illiad, it’s hard to put it in a modern context. This was a time when women barely had more rights than livestock and marriage was a loveless business arrangement that had all the romance of getting a building permit.

That’s not to say that the ancients didn’t appreciate love. One of the central romances in the Illiad revolves around Paris and Helena. This is the romance that starts the Trojan war and all the carnage that ensues. Passions have to be pretty damn powerful to start a war like this, with or without the help of the gods.

However, that passion is somewhat one-sided. Paris is clearly infatuated with Helena, but she doesn’t seem too receptive to him. It’s hard to feel that romantic to someone whose idea of a romantic gesture involves kidnapping her. Being so one-sided and built on an act that we consider a crime these days, it’s hard to rule this as anything other than one man’s obsession to have the prettiest girl in the land.


Odysseus and Penelope

Love or Obsession?
Love

Sticking with classic Greek literature, there is another iconic romance that’s almost as important as Paris and Helena. This one involves Odysseus and Penelope, two lovers who test the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s a test they end up passing.

Odysseus is away from his love for quite some time, braving the River Styx and all sorts of godly troubles along the way. Even so, he never does anything to undermine the love and trust of his wife. She never does anything to betray him either, despite being pursued by plenty of eager suitors.

The loyalty between these two is admirable. Like Romeo and Juliet, it’s very much an ideal, two people who love each other so much that they don’t look to others for a romantic outlet when they’re away. Unlike Romeo and Juliet though, this one has more depth. These two are able to function independently as much as they can function together. That’s a love that ancients and modern folk alike can appreciate.

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When Obsession Becomes A Crime

Ever feel like you’re being watch? No, I’m not talking about the kind of watching that those in tin-foil hats and poor mental health talk about. I’m talking about the feeling of actually being watched by someone who isn’t a CIA agent, a lizard person, or an agent of the Illuminati.

This isn’t a spy movie or a conspiracy theory. This is an extension of the whole love vs. obsession discussion I began yesterday. When I started writing about this topic, I realized quickly that one post was not going to be enough. There are just so many aspects to this issue that it’s hard to capture everything necessary to convey the message I want to convey. Even this part will only convey part of that message.

When you break down the fine, but obscure line between love and obsession, you enter a strange part of human emotions that borders health and unhealthy attitudes. Love is probably one of the healthiest things you can do for your soul. There’s a good reason why those who marry and form stable, loving relationships live longer than those who don’t. In some sense, sexual healing is a real thing.

Obsession, on the other hand, is not going to increase your lifespan. It’s not going to help your social life either. Obsession at a certain level becomes a symptom of mental illness, be it crippling depression or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It’s hard to know where that level is, which is why it’s so hard to know the difference between love and obsession.

There is, however, one clear line that becomes painfully apparent once crossed. It’s a line that represents the endgame of sorts in the love vs. obsession conflict because it turns emotional upheaval into an actual crime. That crime, in this case, is stalking.

Unlike obsession, stalking is a crime and can be prosecuted as such. It takes obsession, dips it in napalm, and throws it into a furnace to create a perfect raging firestorm of emotional unrest. It’s the point where any and all potential for romance fades, becoming instead a case-study in what happens when emotions go haywire.

To make matters worse, the age of the internet and social media makes a stalker’s job so much easier. It’s no longer a matter of just asking the Yellow Pages to not list your address and phone number. If you have an internet presence of any kind, someone obsessed enough can exploit it. It’s scary as hell, but that’s the age we live in.

For most of us who don’t have a vindictive ex-lover, we don’t have to worry about being stalked most of the time. It’s not a passing concern, which is why the whole love vs. obsession conflict kind of flies over our head. For celebrities, though, the concern is real and so is the harm.

So in the interest of providing perspective in what happens when obsession goes too far, here’s a video by WatchMojo detailing some of the most disturbing cases of celebrity stalkers in recent memory. They don’t include cases where the stalker was intent on murder, as that kind of skews the issue. This is just about people who took their love and obsession too damn far.

I admit these cases are extremes. The people involved have serious mental issues and I’m not just talking about the eccentricities of the celebrities either. This is what happens when emotions go haywire and become so unhealthy that it leads to real harm. For an erotica/romance writer who wants to tell stories about healthy romance, it’s an important lesson to heed.

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

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

“How do I know I’m in love?”

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

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

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

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

“How do I know I’m obsessed?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Breath You Take

Every Move You Make

Every Bond You Break

Every Step You Take

I’ll Be Watching You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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