This post is a follow-up to both yesterday’s post on jealousy and another earlier post where I asked the readers for ideas. That request for other topics of discussion wasn’t rhetorical. I really do want to hear what readers want to talk about on this blog. It’s a good way for me to gauge the audience and adapt my work accordingly. Knowing the audience is among the first steps to becoming successful in any media, be it erotic fiction or clown porn.
One reader in particular, InsidousTemptation, read my post about jealousy and how natural/unnatural it may be and brought up an equally relevant topic. I’d like to talk about that topic because it’s closely related to jealousy. In fact, it’s the uglier side of jealousy, as if jealousy itself weren’t ugly enough. That’s right. I’m talking about rejection.
For this concept, there’s far less context to consider. Rejection feels awful in pretty much every form. Other than being rejected by a crippling disease, it’s one of those few things that every society and every culture can agree is universally bad. I’ve certainly dealt with it before. Recently, I announced that my manuscript for “The Big Game” had been rejected by a publisher. For this post though, I want talk about a more specific rejection.
Have you ever loved someone and learned they don’t feel the same way? Have you ever put time and effort into showing sexual or romantic interest in someone, only to be shot down? It doesn’t matter if it’s thoughtful, callous, or cruel. It still sucks. It feels like a gut punch, a slap in the face, and a pin to the heart all at once. It can even be worse in some cases. Just ask this guy who had his marriage proposal rejected in a very public way.
As an awkward teenager, I certainly had my share of rejections. I was not charismatic. I was not attractive. I was not confident. I had very little to offer the opposite sex. For me, every girl I showed interest in felt like a looming gut punch because they all had boyfriends. Every girl I liked was either dating someone, not interested in dating anyone, or didn’t know I existed. Being a teenager was hard enough. Adding rejection to it was like breaking a few extra bones along the way.
So what makes rejection so much worse than jealousy? What does it have to do with the concepts I discussed yesterday? Well, the difference isn’t only in degree. The difference involves sentiment and style. Jealousy mostly involves thoughts and feelings. Rejection is more active. Rejection is a tangible behavior with tangible effects that are fairly universal for the most part. It’s hard for rejection to be misconstrued or mixed. With jealousy, it is possible to feel and think things for the wrong reasons.
That said, there’s a case to be made that our culture and our approaches to romance and sexuality don’t just evoke unnatural sentiments of jealousy. They make rejection even worse. Why do I say this? Well, let’s go back to that primal mindset I call “caveman logic.”
I said in my article about jealousy that from a caveman’s perspective, jealousy makes no sense. We evolved to be a social, communal species that can work together, love together, and share intimacy together. Being jealous or upset about the romantic and erotic affections of others may make sense in some situations, but is overly arbitrary in most. It wasn’t until society developed concepts of property ownership and passing down assets through family lines that jealousy really took hold.
So how does this make rejection worse? Well, the fuel to the fire comes with turning sexuality and romance into a commodity of sorts. Keep in mind that for most eras in human civilization, marriages were arranged. They were loveless business arrangements whose sole purpose was to ensure that land and assets remained within a family. That’s why so many epic love stories involve forbidden romance because most individuals didn’t get a choice in their partner.
This callous commodification treats love and intimacy as something to be bought and sold. That’s bad enough, but popular culture in the 20th century somehow found a way to make it worse. How did it do this? Well, the media we love and consume sold entire generations on all these false promises. Think about every romantic movie. The hero is a nice, honorable, upstanding guy or girl (but mostly a guy). They fight and they struggle to win the love of a stereotypical beautiful partner and they succeed by being themselves.
Spoiler alert. That doesn’t happen in real life. There’s one scene in one movie that accurately encapsulates real modern life. It comes courtesy of Alec Baldwin and its this:
Is it harsh? Yes. Is it cold? Definitely. Is it accurate? Sadly, it is. This speech reveals something sad, but relevant. We, as a free and modern society, care about results and what others can do for us. If we’re not “closing,” then why should we be accepted? We aren’t entitled to all the love, sex, and satisfaction we want. We have to earn it.
This is why rejection feels so awful within our culture. When someone rejects us, we feel like we’re being denied something we’re owed. We want sex. We want love. We want it from this specific person. How dare they reject us! Say that out loud to a mirror and see if it sounds right. It shouldn’t.
So what’s the solution? I don’t like to just complain about things on this blog. I do like to leave some slivers of hope in the mix. In this case, I do hold out some hope that changes in technology will help us overcome a culture that makes rejection worse.
We’re entering a world where we can interact and inform one another more effectively than ever. Social media, online dating, and smartphones give us an ability to find others who share our passions. It gives us a chance to circumvent the worst rejection in some cases.
That said, technology can only do so much. For us to really minimize the pain of rejection, certain parts of our culture and our sexual practices need to be reassessed. What parts am I talking about? Well, that’s a discussion for another post.
Thanks again to InsidiousTemptation for suggesting this topic. I appreciate it. If anyone else has ideas on topics of discussion, feel free to let me know in the comments.