Tag Archives: psychology

Al Bundy Syndrome: The Face Of Learned Helplessness

Some concepts are so vague that it’s hard to put a human face on it. I suspect that’s part of why many people suck at math. You can’t personalize it, humanize it, or imagine it on a pair of breasts. Even things that directly affect people, like learned helplessness, are hard to grasp.

That’s why if you find a way to put a human face on a serious issue, you jump at the chance. It doesn’t just make it easier. It makes them memorable in an unexpected way. I consider the concept of learned helplessness a serious issue that affects our personal lives, our professional lives, and our sex lives. It goes beyond the world of an aspiring erotica/romance writer. It’s way bigger than we’re comfortable admitting.

That’s why, in the interest of putting a human face on a serious issue, I’d like to present the greatest personification of learned helplessness in the history of media. Some of us grew up with him. Some of us were appalled by him. He’s a myth, a legend, and an icon in his own tragic right.

His name is Al Bundy, the hapless husband and father of the Bundy family from the Fox classic, “Married With Children.” To those who have watched every episode and love the show as much as I do, you already understand why Al is the perfect embodiment of learned helplessness.

For those who aren’t familiar with “Married With Children” or why it was such a groundbreaking show, I feel sorry for you. For most people under the age of 20, they have no idea how much this show shook our collective understanding of modern television.

Say what you will about the trash currently on TV now, but before “Married With Children,” it was much worse. By worse, I mean they were boring. Most sitcoms were bland, generic, feel-good stories that tried to paint the world in an overly-rosy picture. Every one of them basically tried to capture the spirit of “Father Knows Best” or “Leave It To Beaver.”

Married With Children” saw that and decided to do the exact opposite, so much so that when it was in development, the title of the show was called “Not The Cosbys.” It was a show where all the conflicts weren’t solved at the end. It was a show where the world wasn’t idealized, perfect, or fair. In other words, it was more in line with the real world.

In that world, Al Bundy gets dealt a worse hand than most. At one point, he was a high school football star with a promising future. Then, he got hit with a streak of bad luck that effectively crushed his spirits.

He got injured and lost his football scholarship. He got involved with Peggy Bundy, a woman I’ve cited before as a character that men should rightly dread. He eventually has two kids that don’t respect him and works a dead-end, low-paying job as a shoe salesman.

While other sitcoms glorify the innate dignity of working class men like Ralph Cramden, Archie Bunker, and even Homer Simpson, there’s nothing glorious about Al Bundy’s life. There’s nothing noble about his poverty. He doesn’t even try to come off as sympathetic. His life doesn’t raise the bar or embody an ideal. If anything, it reminds ordinary people just how bad things can get.

Whereas other TV sitcoms try to uplift an audience by showing how loving, functional families solve their problems in a simple, 30-minute show, “Married With Children” sent a different message. It presented the audience with a level of dysfunction so extreme, so exaggerated that even if you’re home life was a mess, you could take comfort in the fact that you were not the Bundy family.

What makes that message so powerful is also what makes Al Bundy such a perfect example of learned helplessness. Fittingly enough, the actor who played him, Ed O’Neill, actually drew inspiration from someone in his own family.

In a sense, Al Bundy was built around the idea that he was just resigned to his fate. He realized how much his life sucked, that his family didn’t respect him, and that his best days were behind him. Dealing with all that in addition to working a dead-end job effectively destroyed his spirit, so much so that he stopped trying to better his situation.

That perfectly reflects some of the early experiments done about learned helplessness, namely those involving a poor dog that just stopped trying to avoid painful shocks. Al Bundy is basically that dog after it has been shocked so many times that it just doesn’t bother anymore. It accepts that it will suffer and doesn’t try to avoid it.

In a sense, it becomes a mentality akin to a psychological illness. In the spirit of caveman logic and excuse banking, I’ll give it a name. From here on out, let’s call it “Al Bundy Syndrome.” That’s a much more memorable name than the overly-technical term, learned helplessness. With Al Bundy Syndrome, the condition has a name and a face that Ed O’Neill made iconic.

Given that we already have weird diseases like restless leg syndrome and walking corpse syndrome, which I swear is a thing, I don’t see why we can’t create a syndrome out a fictional character. In fact, it wouldn’t even be the first time.

I’m not a doctor, nor do I claim to be an expert in anything that doesn’t involve telling sexy stories, but it’s for that reason that I feel it’s so important to put an actual face on an issue that’s hard to understand. Psychology is tricky, complicated, and messy. Al Bundy is simple, crude, and crass. One is innately funnier than the other.

In that sense, it’s easier to see the signs and symptoms of learned helplessness, so long as you frame it in Al Bundy syndrome. Watch any old episode of “Married With Children” and the symptoms reveal themselves. They include feelings like:

  • Being hopelessly numb to the misery around you, like Al Bundy
  • Making little to no effort to improve your situation, like Al Bundy
  • Assuming the worst in every situation, like Al Bundy
  • Having an extremely cynical outlook, like Al Bundy
  • Not caring about whether the world likes or respects you, like Al Bundy
  • Having no shame or filter about what you say, like Al Bundy

The list goes on, but there are too many to list and watching old episodes of “Married With Children” is probably far more informative than any list, not to mention funnier. It’s a show that probably couldn’t get made today, due to how politically incorrect it was, even for its time. That makes its impact all the more vital.

I doubt that Ed O’Neill or the producers of “Married With Children” intended Al Bundy to be the poster boy for learned helplessness, but sometimes the connections are there and all we have to do is make them. So, moving forward, if you want to know what learned helplessness is and how to avoid it, just remember this face. It may save your life, your marriage, and your soul.

For that, I thank you Ed O’Neill.

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How Learned Helplessness Dooms Your Sex Life (Among Other Things)

When I was growing up, I considered myself lucky to be surrounded by so many loving people. I like to think my fondness of romance, as well as my desire to become an erotica/romance writer, is a direct result of seeing so much love among friends, family, and all those close to me.

It wasn’t all smiles, chocolate, and gratuitous tongue-kissing. Every now and then, I encountered certain couples that stood in stark contrast to the love I saw so much of throughout my life. They weren’t abusive or hateful. In a sense, they were their own tragedy, albeit not of the Shakespearean variety.

Picture a couple that’s about as passionate as a sick cat. There’s no fire in their romance. If there was, it burned out years ago and neither one of them cares enough to spark it again. They don’t necessarily hate each other. At best, they tolerate one another on a day-to-day basis, resigned to the fact that this is their life.

What I just described is not the kind of relationship that ends up on Jerry Springer or leads to protracted divorce hearings. They’re rarely that dramatic. If anything, they’re the antithesis to drama. That’s why those involved are so miserable. In a relationship like that, a clogged toilet counts as an adventure.

These kinds of relationships are not as easy to notice, but they do happen. You might even know a few, but I’d bet a stack of old Playboys that there are more than you think. Instead of love, passion, and heart, these relationships are fueled misery, laziness, and failure. At some point, those involved just stop trying to escape it.

In a world where people get worked up over dipping sauces and dress colors, it seems outrageous that anyone could be that callous and numb. It’s even more outrageous to think that a relationship could be built around it. However, there are powerful, unsexy forces at work and they’re not to be taken lightly.

This brings me to the concept of learned helplessness. If you’ve every taken a psychology course, you know what it is and you probably have an idea as to how it acts as kryptonite to love, romance, and passion. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a fairly easy concept. According to Wikipedia, the phenomenon is defined as follows:

[A] behavior typical of a human or an animal and occurs where the subject endures repeatedly painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it is unable to escape or avoid. After such experience, the organism often fails to learn or accept “escape” or “avoidance” in new situations where such behavior would likely be effective. In other words, the organism learned that it is helpless in situations where there is a presence of aversive stimuli, has accepted that it has lost control, and thus gives up trying.

In terms of common behavioral traits, it’s somewhat bland. That doesn’t make it any less powerful, though. There is real, distressing science behind it, starting with experiments conducted in the 1960s. If you’re a dog lover, though, these experiments should be particularly disturbing.

If you’re also a fan of meaningful love, then you should be even more disturbed because it’s not hard to see how something like learned helplessness can creep into a relationship. For those trying to tell powerful, sexy stories, it’s important to know the signs.

The challenge, however, is that learned helplessness is one of those things that doesn’t happen all at once. Whether it’s those cruel experiments on dogs that I mentioned or continuous torture by the CIA, one painful experience is rarely enough. While love can manifest in a single moment, as is the case with “love at first sight,” learned helplessness takes a longer, more tedious road.

Sometimes it starts with boredom, a powerful feeling that I’ve discussed before. Sometimes it starts with frustration. Maybe a couple tries a few times to spice things up, but it doesn’t work. Maybe they try to shake up their routine, but that doesn’t work either. The key ingredient here is failure and frustrations, two experiences that tend to accumulate rapidly.

The couple involved may never get angry, resentful, or bitter to one another. Learned helplessness rarely inspires abuse or outright hatred. However, that’s part of what makes it so debilitating. When a relationship becomes abusive, one part of the relationship has a much stronger incentive to either escape or fight back. It’s hard to be lazy or apathetic when you feel like your well-being is at risk.

With learned helplessness, laziness and apathy are weaponized. That’s because without that incentive, neither side has the energy or desire to shake up the situation. Ending a relationship always requires some amount of upheaval, work, or effort. Someone under the influence of learned helplessness sees that as more trouble than it’s worth.

Beyond just rendering a relationship stale, the effects on your sex life can be just as debilitating. Once a couple gets to a point in their relationship where they’re just resigned to the fact that this is their normal, sex becomes less a treat and more a chore. Even if the orgasms still feel good, they’re barely distinguishable from masturbation.

That, by far, is the clearest sign that learned helplessness has consumed a relationship. As soon as sex becomes a chore, then it’s safe to say that two people have crossed the point of no return. They are beyond the point of rekindling whatever flame they once had. They just accept their misery and dispassion.

In defense of those poor souls, they don’t always have the luxury of ending that relationship and starting fresh. Sometimes, it’s because of their age. Sometimes, they’re in an environment where they don’t have anywhere else to go and few resources to work with. Then, there are times when the inconvenience just doesn’t justify the cost. It’s just easier to stay miserable than deal with the stress of rebuilding.

There’s little question that misery, depression, and boredom are bad for your love life, your sex drive, and everything in between. Learned helplessness is just the catalyst. Instead of blowing up in your face, love just whithers slowly like a piece of rotting fruit, getting emptier and deader with each passing day.

In some cases, it’s difficult to avoid. Some people just find themselves in relationships where they lose control and accept their misfortune. They’re content to just accept the misery and make the best of it, however fruitless it might be.

In others, you can take steps to avoid that kind of misery. Think back to those awful experiments involving dogs. After a while, the dog just stops trying to avoid the pain. The key to avoiding that kind of misery is to keep making an effort. Don’t stop trying. Do what you can to avoid mistakes. Moreover, do what you can to improve your situation, however possible.

That might mean pushing yourself when you don’t want to. It’s like exercising, which sometimes requires extra motivation. Within a relationship, it’s even more difficult because both you and your lover have to share in that motivation. You have to want to maintain that passion, even as you get older, have less energy, and feel less sexy.

In my experience, the most successful couples I know never truly stop dating each other. Even when they’ve been married for decades, they still carry themselves as a couple that’s still dating. They still go to interesting places, try new things, and explore new activities. Some aren’t always sexy, but they have the potential to be.

Every couple is different, but nobody benefits from learned helplessness. Whether you’re a dog, a dumb-ass, or a hopeless romantic, falling into that pit of apathy will never inspire your passion or increase your sex appeal. It’ll drain it, bit by bit.

Nobody deserves that. I certainly want to avoid that if and when I ever find a steady lover. I’m not a relationship expert or a therapist, nor should anybody assume I’m one, but I hope to help in whatever way I can. Whether it’s making people aware of learned helplessness or writing sexy novels, I intend to do my part.

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Being A Good Person In The Age Of Social Media (And Why We Obsess Over It)

Whenever there’s an argument on the internet, and there are no fewer than 1,029,296,198 going on at any one moment, they tend to fall into a fairly standard pattern. Whether it’s politics, religion, video games, comic books, Harry Potter, or the series finale of “Lost,” the crux of every outraged outburst usually boils down to this.

“I believe that [insert crazy idea/opinion/theory here] and that’s that.”

“You’re a horrible person for believing [insert crazy idea/opinion theory here] and should be a ashamed of it! I demand that everyone shun, scorn, and marginalize you and everyone like you from now until the end of time!”

I want to say that’s an extreme example, but I’ve been navigating comic book message boards, Reddit fan theories, and the comments section of every major news site for too long. I can pretty much set my watch to when, how, and to what extent the argument with devolve.

Follow any thread on politics and within five minutes, someone will accuse someone else of being a Nazi. Spend more than a day on any message board, be it Harry Potter or the Walking Dead, and you’ll find entire sub-groups of fans that have tacitly declared war on another.

Some of it is a product of the passion people have for certain issues and ideas. Some of it is just plain tribalism, a factor I’ve highlighted before as the underlying source of a great many problems in our world. However, recent trends in social media, along people just being more able to anonymously share every crazy thought and feeling on a whim, have created a new source of conflict that more and more people stress over every day.

Think back to that generic argument I mentioned earlier. There’s one more component to it that doesn’t always play out on any message board, comment section, or video chat. It’s something that most people are reluctant to acknowledge, but on the inside, we’re all telling ourselves the same thing.

“I’m NOT evil! I’m a good person! I know it! Why can’t these people see that? For them to feel that way about me, THEY must be the bad ones!”

Again, that’s a very generalized summation. I doubt this mentality has played out anyone’s mind, word for word. However, I think it’s a near certainty that everybody is concerned with how they’re perceived by others, to some extent. Unless you’re a sociopath or playing a villain in a movie, you want others to see you as a good person.

It’s not just because being a dick rarely does anything to improve your life or those around you. We kind of need people to think we’re good on some levels. Otherwise, we have problems functioning.

Even if you are a sociopath, you need to at least give the impression of decency so you can live a functional life in between torturing small animals for fun. If not, then the Dexter Morgans of the world would get weeded out fast and characters in sitcoms would be a lot less interesting.

While society has always had some pretty nasty people, the growth of the internet and social media is changing the rules. It used to be that you could get away with being a terrible person because news of your terrible deeds rarely went beyond the small town or city you lived in. For most of human history, you only ever moved along with your tribe or community.

Now, there are entire generations of people in this world who have grown up in a society of unprecedented mobility and connection. The generation being born now will likely continue that trend, so much so that they’ll never have to know how an old 56k modem sounds. In that world, being perceived as a good person, even if you’re an asshole, will be that much more vital.

It’ll be impossible to hide. In a world where everyone has a smartphone and those phones can broadcast crimes in real time, it’ll be much harder to hide our more rotten tendencies. While it might be helpful to know who the real assholes are out there, it comes at a price. It means the margin for error is that much smaller.

That’s because in this hyper-connected world, it’s a lot easier for someone to call us out on being a lousy person. Even if we’re not, someone can effectively create that perception and, as I’ve said before, perception beats reality 99 times out of 100.

When someone is accused or accosted of being a bad person, it can be pretty traumatic. It’s like being a kid on a playground and everyone ganging up on you all at once. With the internet, though, it’s like legions of other kids from every other playground on the planet joining the battle. It can get pretty damn harsh, so much so that it can seriously undermine our sense of identity.

For a clear example, I don’t even need a thought experiment. Seth MacFarlane already did that for me. In one of the harshest scenes in the history of “Family Guy,” Glenn Quagmire basically lays into Brian, pointing out every harsh truths about his phony, pseudo-intellectual douche-baggery. For Brian, it’s pretty soul-crushing.

What Quagmire does to Brian is basically a microcosm of what people face today whenever they create a presence online. Whether it’s on social media or in the anonymous comments section in digital sewers like 4chan, there are legions of faceless strangers out there who are not afraid to lay into you, even if you are the nicest person it’s possible to be in real life.

Therein lies the problem, though. The identities we create online are so fluid and prone to corruption. One misplaced tweet, one viral video, and one ill-conceived comment on FaceBook is all it takes to ruin a life now. Even if it’s unintentional or misconstrued, it doesn’t matter. It will still be used to make you a bad person in the eyes of the world.

In a sense, we have to obsess over whether we’re a nice person, both in real life and online. It’s just a lot harder online because once something bad or embarrassing is out there, it’s almost impossible to remove. If you don’t think that matters, keep one thing in mind. When you’re out there looking for a job, employers are looking you up. They can and will use the crap you put online to decide whether or not to hire you.

When you consider the stakes that come with having be perceived as a good person, it makes perfect sense that people might get unreasonably defensive with their positions. I’ve noticed this in any discussion online about politics.

Everyone in the debate thinks they’re the good person. They think they’re on the side of everything that is good and pure. They may or may not be right, but that’s the narrative they craft in their minds. For them to lose an argument doesn’t just mean admitting that they’re wrong, which is extremely distressing, in and of itself. Losing means conceding you might be a bad person and that’s just untenable.

Being the optimistic person I am, I tend to believe that most people are inherently good. My own life experiences have convinced me of that. I recognize that some have very different experiences and I cannot blame them for thinking otherwise. However, our very identity and sense of self requires us to believe that we’re a good person at heart.

It can sometimes twist our perceptions and make us cling to irrational, immoral, and downright weird believes. In many ways, it’s an extension of excuse banking and virtue signaling. In the past, we didn’t have to work so hard to maintain that narrative of ourselves that has us believe that we’re the heroes of our own story. Now, thanks to the internet and social media, it’s harder than ever to escape it.

I suspect that our collective obsession with winning arguments and being the good guy will escalate as we become more connected, as a world. I don’t doubt that our obsession will get downright unhealthy at times. However, the mere fact that we obsess that much over being good also convinces me that we want to be good.

That should offer some comfort to those who feel as though the world is filled with angry internet trolls who exist only to make good, decent people feel miserable. Granted, there are some very mean trolls out there. Most people, though, don’t see themselves that way. They think they’re the good guys, just like you and me.

The more we recognize that shared effort, the less inclined we’ll be to call each other a Nazi. Given recent events, I think that should count as progress to everyone.

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The War On Horny Women (And Why We Keep Fighting It)

People have been waging wars since the dawn of civilization. These never-ending struggles have people clash over ideas, concepts, and identities that cannot and will not be resolved. Some of these conflicts have literally reshaped society and the world we live in. They are a fundamental, and at times inescapable, part of civilization.

Then, there are the subtle, less obvious wars that we never win, but insist on fighting. These wars rarely have epic battles or iconic names like Waterloo, D-Day, or Super Bowl XLII. On some level, we know these wars can’t be won. We know we inflict a lot of collateral damage by fighting them. We’ve just been doing it for so long that we don’t know how not to fight it.

The war, in this case, involves horny women. Yes, that’s a war too. I know I dedicated an entire post to documenting the war on horny men. Even though I am a man with functioning genitals and a healthy sex drive, I don’t deny that women experience plenty of horniness, as well. I also don’t deny that those same women have endured a war that has spanned generations, cultures, and rap battles.

Despite not being a woman, I think it’s important to touch on that struggle, especially since recent scandals and trends in our sexual culture have taken the war to uncharted territory for both genders. For women, in particular, the conflict is far different from the one they’re used to fighting.

Anyone who has studied history, or just listened to Pat Robertson for more than five minutes, understands that civilization hasn’t exactly been kind to the female libido. For a good chunk of human history, a horny woman had exceedingly limited options.

If they weren’t having sex with their husband, who they probably didn’t even choose, then they weren’t having much sex. For the most part, a man could get away with having a few mistresses or seeing a prostitute every now and then. If a woman dared stray from her wifely duties, though, the punishments were severe.

Even today, a woman sleeping around on her husband is dangerous in some parts of the world. Even when it doesn’t get you killed, it can ruin your life in many other ways that men rarely deal with. It’s not fair. It’s certainly not in line with notions of gender equality. That’s the problem with wars, though. Things like logic, justice, and compassion are the first to go.

Why is this war even being fought in the first place, though? Moreover, why are women dealing with a different war than men? Well, there are many answers to that question and most of them will piss off most feminists, egalitarians, or people who just value any semblance of fairness.

I’ve touched on it before, to some extent, but the foundation for the war on horny women has its roots in a mix of biology and economics. Humans are a sexually dimorphic species in that each gender bears distinct traits that set them apart, beyond the presence or absence of certain organs. However, the trait that most distinguishes women is their ability to have children.

It’s a beautiful, but critical skill that any species needs to survive. A great deal of energy goes into giving incentives for humans to make babies and some of those incentives are pretty damn powerful. However, because of the biology involved, there are circumstances that set a horny woman apart from a horny man.

In terms of raw numbers, horny women are at a evolutionary disadvantage. No matter how horny they are or how much sex they have, they can only bear one or a few children at the same time over the course of nine months. Men, on the other hand, can impregnate dozens of women and sire a much larger volume of offspring.

From an evolutionary perspective, it’s like one person has a butter knife and the other has a machine gun. One tool is just inherently better at doing more damage. Now, if men and women are living in some hippie commune where nobody cares about which kid belongs to who and nobody has to deal with messy child custody hearings, then a horny woman doesn’t have much issues.

Unfortunately, hippie communes are few, far between, and prone to poor hygiene and clogged toilets. Much of our civilization was built on complex, hierarchical societies that required men to work the fields, women to care for children, and a certain assurance that the kids you had were yours.

Before the days of Maury Povich, though, the only way to be sure of that was to be sure that a woman was faithful from her wedding night onward. Since people rarely trust the horniness of their spouses or the men who may seduce them, this led to traditions and taboos that demanded modesty and subjugation for women.

It didn’t matter how horny or sexually unsatisfied they were. From the perspective of society, it was more important that these women remained “untainted” so that men could be sure their kids were legitimate and there were no nasty diseases, a common problem that plagued ancient societies to no end. It wasn’t as much a war of misogyny as it was a war of practicality.

Even after we learned to treat disease, control conception, and test for paternity, the idea of a horny woman is still taboo. There are some that even claim that promiscuous women bring down entire civilizations. These are not claims that anyone should take seriously, but they do reflect the ongoing struggles of this war.

The idea of a woman being horny, sexual, and feeling no shame about it just seems wrong to many people. They see that and they see an affront to how they believe society should work. Never mind the fact that society is always changing and technology promises to accelerate that change. We, men and women alike, are still stuck in this war-like mentality when it comes to horny women.

It often manifests in subtle ways. Watch any slasher movie, sitcom, or poorly-scripted reality show and you’ll see a similar theme. The horny, promiscuous women are the villains. They are an evil, corruptive force that undermines all that is good and noble. Why else would Regina George be so easy to despise?

Beyond the media, female horniness is often presented as something that has to be contained and hidden. Unlike men, who are expected to fight the wars and work the fields, the standards for women are different. A “good woman” is someone who doesn’t sleep around, flash her tits, or show off her thong to an entire basketball team. A “good woman” stays home, has babies, and dresses in a way that doesn’t attract horny men.

That’s why modesty is conveyed as such a virtue for women, but not so much for men. That’s also why exceedingly repressive societies segregate women from men. The possibility that someone might get horny and might act on that horniness is seen as a bomb going off in house full of puppies. It’s just that terrifying.

However, despite this centuries-old war, ripe with traditions and taboos, women still get horny. Women still want to have sex and not just to make babies, but to enjoy the toe-curling pleasure that comes along with it. No amount of modesty, shame, or scorn can stop it. That says a lot about the strength of horny women. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I can’t help but admire that.

As much an optimist I am, at heart, I don’t see the war ending anytime soon. Like the war against horny men, certain taboos and insecurities still linger. Some are cracking, though. Just recently, Mayim Bialik from “The Big Bang Theory,” generated a lot of criticism for daring to claim that women should dress more modestly in order to avoid harassment, as though horny men aren’t that determined.

Naturally, albeit unfairly, she got accused of blaming the victim for the misdeeds of horny men. The idea that horny women are somehow responsible for crimes committed against them is rightfully absurd, but the notion that horny women need to contain themselves while some men can still push the boundaries is beyond absurd.

As I said at the beginning, the basis of the war on horny women is neither fair nor logical. Compared to the war on horny men, though, it’s just unfair and illogical in a very different way. There reasons and justifications for the war are changing and will likely continue to change, especially as certain medical advancements emerge.

Whatever the change, though, the war will continue to rage. Horny women will still be considered this taboo force of chaos that could potentially undermine the whole of society. This may be a taboo that’s impossible to break, but that may not matter much in the long run.

No matter how the war is fought, whether by religious dogma or excessive shaming, it won’t turn off that fundamental drive to make love or to enjoy good orgasm. In the long run, the horny women will win, if only because the horny men will want to hang out with them more. I’m not one to take sides in a war, but if my sexy novels can act as battle cries, I’m happy to do my part.

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The War On Horny Men (And Why It’s Doomed To Fail)

I won’t deny it. Men do stupid things when they’re horny. That’s just a cold, hard fact. I realize I’m inviting any number of dick jokes by saying that, but it’s still worth saying. It’s partly because of that fact that there’s a market for the erotica/romance novels I write in the first place so I have more appreciation for it than most.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where facts are about as relevant as a giraffe’s shoe size. It doesn’t matter how true or vindicated something is, be it a scientific theory or a documented observation. Unless it makes people feel a certain way or allows them to push some sort of agenda, it either doesn’t matter or gets twisted to suit a purpose.

When it comes to horny men, though, evolution and global warming got nothing on them. It’s not so much that they exist that’s the problem. It’s that they are now the face of all that is wrong and evil in the world.

Look at any controversy or social issue in recent years, from Hollywood scandals to trends in feminism, and chances are a horny man is involved and that man isn’t the good guy in that narrative. I’ve seen it become more magnified in recent years, but in a sense, there has always been a war over horny men. It takes many forms and has gone to disturbing extremes, but it rarely succeeds in the long run.

In the past, you could argue that battling horny men was a frustrating, but necessary endeavor to some extent. Up until the 20th century, the status of women in society and concerns over the spread of debilitating diseases gave society a valid reason for wanting to temper men’s desire to bone everything in sight. A society full of diseases and children without fathers is not a stable society.

On top of that, organized religion had often tried to play a part in that war. In general, they espouse traditions that value modesty and restraint. Naturally, some try to take it too far. Some have gone so far as to create a special circle of Hell to endlessly punish those who give in to readily to their horniness.

There are time when it’s worth questioning the motivations of organized religion in this war, though. As I’ve pointed out before, religion has an incentive to want people to bone only for procreation.

For one, they want all that pent up energy reserved for helping out at the church/temple/mosque/synagog. Second, they know that children of adherents tend to adopt their parents’ religion so they want them making as many babies as possible. More children means more adherents. More adherents means more money. Even when deities are involved, it often comes back to money.

However, as the influence of religion has faded and the status of women has improved, the war on horny men has taken a very different form. In some respects, it has been escalating lately. It’s not just a matter of horny men cheating on their wives with their secretary anymore. Horny men have basically become the de-facto enemy that are determined to hold women, minorities, and society back.

It’s horny men who become sleazy Hollywood producers that try to get sex out of ambitious young women. It’s horny men who demand that the women in comic books, video games, and movies be beautiful, thereby contributing to the objectification and degradation of women.

I won’t get into the issues I have with the concept of objectification, but it’s becoming increasingly taboo for a horny man to like and appreciate sexual imagery. It has become especially taboo to voice that appreciation, so much so that some countries are looking to criminalize men who cat-call women. That’s right. It one day might be a crime to say how sexy you find a beautiful woman.

For an aspiring erotica/romance writer, it’s a distressing trend. I get some of the logic behind it. Men still commit the majority of the sexual assaults in this world. That’s another cold, hard fact that can’t be denied.

It’s also a fact that sexual assault, as a whole, is on the decline. That’s a good thing, but thanks to the rise of mass media, terrible stories about sexual assault are easier to come by. It’s even easier to sensationalize, sometimes to the detriment of the truth. Whatever the statistics say, though, there’s still a horny man with poor impulse control at the center of it all.

At the moment, it’s not illegal to be a horny man or express some of that horiness. We don’t live in the days of John Harvey Kellogg and most horny men have access to abundant free porn, giving them an outlet for their horiness. However, even with all that free porn and a lack of uptight religious figures demanding that men not pleasure themselves, horny men are still subject to shame and ridicule.

If you like your female superheroes wearing chain mail bikinis, then congratulations! You’re a sexist, misogynistic pig.

If you like admiring beautiful women and go to strip clubs to exercise that admiration, then congratulations! You’re a sexist, misogynistic pig.

If you like having sex with beautiful women and seek to do so with every resource available to you, then congratulations! You’re still a sexist, misogynistic pig.

Are you seeing a trend, here? Whether it takes the form of porn or involves casual flirting, there seems to be no way around it. Any effort a man makes to get with a beautiful woman, sexually or otherwise, is somehow vilified. Just the act of wanting to sleep with a beautiful woman can now be construed as sexist, misogynistic, or whatever the hopelessly outraged can scream at the top of their lungs.

A man just looking for sex or some kind of sexual outlet garners no sympathy. Even a man looking for love is somehow prone to ridicule, as evidenced by the prominence of the beta male in shows like “The Big Bang Theory.” A man can’t ask for sex because he’ll get accused of being a creep or worse. He can’t even admit he wants sex because that somehow means he sees women as glorified sex objects.

There seems to be no way around it. No matter what a man does, he’s practically doomed himself and his reputation for daring to admit that he’s that horny. If he just masturbates to satisfy his desires, he’s a loser. If he eagerly pursues sex, then he’s a creep. If he just tries to repress it all, then he’s a dork who can’t get laid. Unless he’s a rock star with a foot-long dick, the average horny man has no hope.

This is an issue and it affects both genders because both genders are wired to seek love, sex, and everything in between. Nature, itself, gives us plenty of reasons, considering the various health benefits of orgasms. All those pursuits are effectively undermined if one side is overtly shamed for wanting something so basic and beautiful.

I’m not saying horny men don’t do stupid things. They most certainly do. I’m also not saying horny men don’t do heinous things too. They do that too and it’s become major news. People should be mindful of crimes like sexual assault and issues like consent. The problem is that the outrage over scandals and sex in the mass media is overshadowing the basic desire behind it.

Men, and humans in general, are sexual creatures. No matter how much people try to temper sex in society, whether by forcing women to cover their faces or designing video game characters to be less sexy, it’s impossible to subvert basic biology.

That’s the ultimate tragedy of the war on horny men. It can’t succeed in making men less horny. It can only ever succeed in making men feel guilty about feeling something that they’re hard-wired by biology and evolution to want, pursue, and enjoy. Guilt can keep us from stealing a cookie as a kid, but it can be downright debilitating if heaped on someone to excess.

All that guilt can make people angry, depressed, desperate, hopeless, and irrational. For a man that is already irrationally horny, that can be dangerous and frustrating. That kind of mentality is not going to help in efforts to curb sexual violence. If anything, it’s going to make those efforts even harder.

For now, I don’t see the war on horny men abating, nor do I see one side claiming victory over the other. I’ll just say that the hostilities are doing a lot more harm than good. They’re hindering those seeking love, sex, and all the good stuff that comes with it. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, that’s a dangerous trend.

To those who still insist on fighting this war, claiming horny men are the bane of all societies in all times, I have one simple message for you. For several centuries, the Catholic Church wielded immense power throughout Europe. If even they couldn’t stop horny men, despite being armed with the Spanish Inquisition, then what chance do you have?

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Marriage and Relationships

Purging Bad Memories And The (Hidden) Price That Comes With It

Think about the most traumatic experience you’ve ever had. No, this isn’t another thought experiment, nor is it something I’ll put a sexy spin on. It’s an honest, but difficult question to contemplate. Some people don’t even need to contemplate it. Some trauma is so severe that simply asking the question is redundant.

Even if you accept, as I have argued, that the world is getting better and people are generally good, there is still a lot of suffering in this world. There are horrific wars throughout the world, extreme poverty, and gruesome crimes unfolding every day. The crimes themselves are awful, but it’s often the scars they leave on people, mentally and emotionally, that further amplifies the suffering.

Those scars can be pretty debilitating, even after the physical wounds heal. It often manifests in post-traumatic stress disorder, a terrible mental state that effectively locks someone into their scars. Wars, violence, abuse, and criminal victimization can create varying degrees of trauma and coping with that trauma can be a never-ending struggle.

Now, here’s the part where I try to make this discussion less depressing. This is a blog that talks about sexy thoughts, sexy novels, and personal stories involving awkward boners. In general, I want my posts to inspire and, if possible, arouse in the sexiest way possible.

I don’t think it’s possible to make something like dealing with terrible trauma sexy, but it does present an opportunity to discuss something that might not just be a thought experiment within our lifetime. It boils down to one simple question.

“If you could purge traumatic memories from your mind, would you do it?”

If that question sounds familiar, then congratulations. You’ve probably seen one of Jim Carrey’s most underrated movies, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Granted, it wasn’t exactly as funny or memorable as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” but it dealt with this question in ways nobody had dared by making the concept of purging memories a simple service to facilitate the process of getting over a loss.

All three “Men In Black” movies streamlined that process even more with their trademark neuralizer, a device that erases peoples’ memories of an incident in a simple flash. When you’re a super-secret government agency trying to hide aliens from the public, it’s kind of a necessity. However, its implications are much greater than simply making life easier for government agents.

Think back to that traumatic experience I mentioned earlier. In addition, think of the many traumatic experiences behind those who suffer from PTSD. All that suffering is built around the memories of those horrible moments. Whether it’s an atrocity in a war, severe child abuse, or a sexual assault, it’s the memory that locks that moment into the mind.

Now, imagine being able to purge that memory from your brain. In an instant, be it a flash by a neuralizer or the service offered in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” that experience is gone. You didn’t just forget it. As far as your brain is concerned, it never happened.

It’s a concept that “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” avoids and is never expanded upon in “Men In Black.” The ability to purge our memories of traumatic experiences has huge implications, even if they’re not as entertaining as watching Will Smith fight aliens. It’s one thing to improve our memories. Actually manipulating them opens up a new world of complications, some of which we might not be ready to confront.

At the moment, we don’t have to because the technology isn’t there yet. While we have a fairly comprehensive understanding of how our brain forms memories, we currently lack the necessary tools to manipulate them. However, those tools are in development.

Once again, I’ll mention Neuralink and the advanced brain implants its hoping to use to augment human cognition. Given how often our brains frustrate us with our inability to keep up with the world or program a goddamn coffee maker, it’s a given that there will be a market for that. Part of that enhancement, though, will likely extent to memories.

It may even be among the early uses for the implants developed by companies like Neuralink. As I write this, PTSD plagues millions of people, many of them military veterans who experienced unspeakable horrors in a war zone. Given the inherent difficulties in treating PTSD, who wouldn’t opt for a better way?

Sure, it involves manipulating our brains, but talk to anyone who can’t sleep, work, or form functional relationships because of their trauma. Some of them would do brain surgery on themselves and accept all the risks that came with it. Some experiences are just that traumatic and I’m not just talking about the ones that involve wars and clowns.

It’s a tragic situation, but one that makes the idea of actually purging those memories from our minds more pressing. Before brain implants like Neuralink start enhancing our minds for the hell of it, they’ll focus on treating those who are sick. It happened with artificial limbs. It will likely happen with brain manipulation.

Due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re already dealing with a significant population suffering from PTDS. Since those wars show no signs of ending, that population will likely grow. Medical science has gotten better at helping soldiers recover from major injuries, but treatments for the brain are still lagging, so much so that governments are considering using MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, to treat PTSD.

Unlike a bullet wound or a broken bone, though, traumatic experiences don’t always heal. Our brain is wired to tie powerful emotions to powerful memories. That’s great for giving us fond memories of the food we eat, the sex we have, and the social bonds we create, but terrible when it comes to dealing with trauma.

In a sense, removing the memories completely may be the only way to actually cure PTSD and allow people to live fully functional lives. Given the incentives, the prevalence, and mankind’s innate ability to make awesome tools, this ability will likely emerge at some point, possibly in my lifetime.

That may be great for those who endure traumatic experiences, but it may come at a price, as all great advancements do. If we live in a world where trauma is so easy to treat and so easy to get rid of, then does that undermine the power of those experiences? Would we, as a species, become numb to those who experience trauma and those who inflict it?

Picture a scenario where someone commits a brutal rape, one that leaves another person so traumatized and scarred that it may haunt them until their dying daze. Right now, we would all want that rapist punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, what if a simple brain implant removes that experience completely while simple medicine treats the wounds?

If the victims has no memory of the experience, no lingering pain, and suffers no ill-effects for the rest of their lives, then do we still treat the rapist with the same disdain? Right now, that’s an unconscionable question to answer. I’m sure there are those who want to strangle me through their computer screens, just by asking it.

First, I apologize if that question causes someone significant distress, but it’s a question worth asking. Once we have the ability to undo all suffering caused by a crime, then will that affect our ability and desire to punish such crimes? No amount of Will Smith fighting aliens can detract from those implications.

At the moment, the technology doesn’t exist, but the trauma doesn’t stop. As decent, empathic human beings, we want to do everything in our power to stop such trauma and heal those wounds. Our efforts may get to a point where we can literally attack the source of that trauma. The questions still remain. What will the hidden cost be and can we stomach that cost?

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, Second Sexual Revolution, Sexy Future

Another Lesson From The X-men: Does Power OR Stress Corrupt?

We’ve all heard it before, a saying so common and overplayed that our first reflex is to roll our eyes and think briefly whether those leftovers in the refrigerator are still edible. It manifests in many forms and is the theme of 98.7 percent of every movie featuring evil empires and overly rich assholes. We use many words, but most of us know the basics.

“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I’ll give everyone a moment to finish yawning. I don’t blame you. As someone who has spent three quarters of his life reading superhero comics and seen nearly every movie that tried to rip off “Star Wars,” I’ve neither the energy nor the bandwidth to list all the stories that play with this theme so I’m not going to try.

Instead, I’m going to be a little bold and challenge that overplayed, overused theme that has been more belabored than a puke bucket at a bulimics convenstion. I’m also going to do it while citing X-men comics again, specifically another one featuring Jean Grey. Yes, I’m aware I’ve done that multiple times already. Yes, I’m going to keep doing that. No, I’m not going to apologize for it.

However, I’m not just going to focus on the events of a particular comic. While this post was inspired by Jean Grey #7, a comic written by Dennis Hopeless and drawn by Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, it’s the bigger picture the story highlights that I want to focus on. I still encourage everyone to read the comic, but you don’t have to in order to appreciate its theme. It’s almost subversive in the larger message it implies.

Think back to that overplayed saying about power corrupting and try, if you can, to do it without yawning. Now, ask this follow-up question and try to do it with a straight face.

“Is it really power that corrupts? Is it possible that the stress that comes along with power is the true danger?”

I hope nobody’s yawning after that because that’s not a question that gets asked very often, but it’s one that Jean Grey ends up answering in Jean Grey #7, albeit indirectly. Given that it’s a question so few ask in the first place, it’s easy to overlook, but it’s worth thinking about.

Think, for a moment, about the impact that stress has on your life. That’s much easier than thinking/fantasizing about what it would be like to have absolute power. Unlike absolute power, there is some actual science behind the effects of stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, the impact of stress is basically the grand slam of negative health effects. Those effects include, but certainly aren’t limited to, nasty stuff like:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Social withdrawal

These are all issues that negatively impact your personal life, your work life, your sex life, and pretty much every other life you hope to have as a functional human being. We all endure stress on some levels, but having too much of it is kind of like being really horny. You know when it happens and it’s hard to ignore.

With those effects in mind, imagine just how stressful it is wielding great power. It doesn’t even have to be like the cosmic power Jean Grey is destined to wield in Jean Grey #7. It could be a powerful political position. It could be a powerful business leader. Hell, it could just be the power that comes with being the head of a household.

It’s somewhat paradoxical in that it seems unavoidable. Gaining more power means dealing with more stress. However, we seek power, to some extent, in order to achieve our goals. More often than not, those goals involve alleviating certain stresses on our lives, be they poverty, strife, or simple inconvenience. In a sense, we exchange one form of stress for another and hope the other is easier to deal with.

Sometimes, those hopes don’t pan out. Sometimes, the stress that comes with whatever role that power brings us is more than we expect. In that state of mind, is it really that surprising that people become corrupt?

When I talked about powerful fascist states, I noted the extent to which they have to control the personal lives of others and how that can often be used against them. Those efforts, if you ignore the egregious abuses they entail, require some pretty stressful efforts that anyone not named Dr. Doom isn’t equipped to manage.

It creates, sort of, a chicken-and-egg scenario for the corruption that often follows. Was it the power in and of itself that led that corruption or was it the stress it entailed? While I doubt every situation has the same answer, the one in Jean Grey #7 has some intriguing possibilities.

In the context of this story, the same out-of-time Jean Grey that I’ve covered in previous posts is still dealing with the prospect of a cosmic power known as the Phoenix Force coming after her. She knows it’s destined to kill her. She knows how much it corrupts her, so much so that Fox is making a movie about it. It’s a stressful situation, to say the least.

However, Jean Grey isn’t the only overly powerful character in the diverse menagerie that is the Marvel Universe. Hell, overpowered characters in Marvel probably have their own lobbying group. One of their most notable members is Wanda “the Scarlet Witch” Maximoff. Like Jean Grey, she also wields exceedingly immense power that has driven her insane on more than one occasion.

Like a friend staging an intervention for someone they care about, Wanda seeks Jean out and basically has a girl’s day with her. She shows her that obsessing over the power they wield, or are destined to wield, will drive her just as crazy as the power itself. She dares to help Jean do normal, healthy things that don’t involve stressing out over that power.

Some of those things involve stuff actual people do, like going to a beach or running on a hot sunny day. Others are a bit more exotic, like a cooking class that involves monster meat. I swear on Jennifer Lawrence’s ass that I’m not making that up.

MonsterCooking

The events of Jean Grey #7 make a compelling case about the impact of stress over power. The fact that there are other powerful characters throughout the Marvel universe that manage to function on a day-to-day basis without going insane proves, to some extent, that power and corruption need not be the same thing.

Eventually, circumstances within Jean Grey #7 that are beyond Jean’s control derail her efforts to better manage her stress. In a sense, that’s another part of wielding power and the corruption that comes with it. No matter how much power anyone has, be they a comic book character or a warlord in a third-world country, they are still at the mercy of various circumstances beyond their control.

Jean Grey, and most other superheroes, often learn that the hard way. People in real life who wield great power deal with that as well, sometimes in a very public way. Whether you’re Jean Grey or Emporer Palpatine, it’s impossible to deal with every conceivable circumstance that may undermine your power or stress you out. For some people, that just compounds the stress.

In the end, Jean Grey #7 leaves the question surrounding power, corruption, and stress unanswered. However, the fact it dares to ask that question in the first place and make a concerted effort is what really sets it apart. The original Phoenix Saga never asked that question directly, but its indirect implications reveal a lot about how we think of power, corruption, and beautiful female superheroes played by Sophie Turner.

Related image

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Jack Fisher's Insights, Reasons and Excuses