Tag Archives: relationships

Why Our Assumptions About Male And Female Promiscuity May Be (Very) Wrong

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When it comes to assumption, we tend not to question them, by default. That’s why they’re assumptions. It’s literally in the definition. It’s entirely natural to make assumptions, especially when they have some sort of inherent logic to them. It’s just how we, as a species, make sense of a chaotic world that we’re trying to survive.

The problem is, as I’ve pointed out many times before, our caveman brains aren’t wired logic. They’re wired primarily to help us survive and reproduce. That’s why our brains are so prone to all sorts of logical fallacies. That’s also why it’s hard to let go of assumptions, even when empirical data a very different story.

This brings me to our assumptions about sexual promiscuity. I’m hope I have your attention now because I knew a bland article about logical fallacies, caveman logic, and false assumption wasn’t going to get anyone excited. Put it in a context that’s both sexy and relevant, especially to an aspiring erotica/romance writer, and there’s much more appeal.

Sexy or not, the issue of assumptions in our sex lives are a lot more relevant in the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” These days, people are more likely to cling to their assumptions than ever before, even in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary. Hell, “South Park” even did an entire episode about this concept.

There are all sorts of complex psychological and social reasons for this, some of which I’ve covered before in other less sexy discussions. However, I’m not going to belabor those concepts. Most people know that humans can be exceedingly stubborn, even when faced with undeniable data that counters their assumptions.

That becomes a bigger problem, though, when you’re actually trying to make sense of something on an academic level. Our collective sexuality is one of those things that we try to study and understand, even if our efforts turn out to be disturbingly wrong. I like to think we’ve gotten better at it in the modern era, but sometimes fresh data reveals there’s still room for improvement.

This leads me to one of the most common assumptions about sexuality and the particulars of sexual promiscuity. You’ve probably heard it articulated at some point. It’s the basic structure surrounding male promiscuity versus female promiscuity. It goes like this:

  • Men are promiscuous because sperm production is cheap and there’s an biological incentive to have sex with multiple females in order to sire multiple offspring
  • Women are more selective about their sex partners because bearing children is risky and requires resources, which incentivizes securing men who will stick around to care for those children

There are all sorts of jokes and colloquialisms about this, men being dogs and women being angels. It’s also reflective of the most obvious double standards surrounding male and female sexuality and for most people, it makes sense.

A man can have sex with a thousand woman and, in theory, sire a thousand children. Ignoring the egregious child support payments this man would have to pay, it is consistent with the biological imperative to survive and reproduce.

Conversely, it makes just as much sense for a woman to secure a male partner who won’t just have children with her, but stay with her and invest in raising those children with her. This bears out in the many benefits ascribed to two-parent households.

However, if these assumptions were so logical and so biologically sound, then that would be reflected in the data we gather about our sexuality. Logic should be consistent with data, right? That’s the entire foundation of the scientific method, after all.

This is where the details get sketchy, but in a sexy sort of way. In an article from The Conversation, much of the biological data behind these assumptions about sexual promiscuity among men and women gets an added bit of scrutiny. In doing so, some revealing details emerge. Here is a brief excerpt that should raise a few eyebrows, among other body parts.

The common belief was that males and females were radically different. Moreover, attitudes about Victorian women influenced beliefs about nonhuman females. Males were considered to be active, combative, more variable, and more evolved and complex. Females were deemed to be passive, nurturing; less variable, with arrested development equivalent to that of a child. “True women” were expected to be pure, submissive to men, sexually restrained and uninterested in sex – and this representation was also seamlessly applied to female animals.

Although these ideas may now seem quaint, most scholars of the time embraced them as scientific truths. These stereotypes of men and women survived through the 20th century and influenced research on male-female sexual differences in animal behavior.

Unconscious biases and expectations can influence the questions scientists ask and also their interpretations of data. Behavioral biologist Marcy Lawton and colleagues describe a fascinating example. In 1992, eminent male scientists studying a species of bird wrote an excellent book on the species – but were mystified by the lack of aggression in males. They did report violent and frequent clashes among females, but dismissed their importance. These scientists expected males to be combative and females to be passive – when observations failed to meet their expectations, they were unable to envision alternative possibilities, or realize the potential significance of what they were seeing.

The same likely happened with regard to sexual behavior: Many scientists saw promiscuity in males and coyness in females because that is what they expected to see and what theory – and societal attitudes – told them they should see.

There’s much more to the article and I strongly recommend everyone take the time to read it, in full. It’s somewhat long because it references a lot of old research on animal behavior, as well as cultural attitudes towards sex and gender. However, the underlying theme is fairly clear.

The assumptions about coy, reserved females and aggressive, promiscuous males aren’t clearly reflected in the observed data. In fact, cultural attitudes going all the way back to the Victorian Era may have influenced our interpretation of the data, leading us to negate anything that countered those assumptions. That’s confirmation bias at its most basic.

This is similar to the message in the book, “Sex At Dawn,” which basically argues that our caveman ancestors had much better sex lives than we did. In that context, male and female promiscuity plays out in a very different way that also clashes with many of our assumptions.

In both “Sex At Dawn” and the article, the data seems to suggest that promiscuous females have higher rates of reproductive success. Biologically speaking, this makes sense because she’s getting a diverse sample of sperm and the higher quality material eventually finds a way to win out.

I’ll resist the urge to paint too crude a picture, although I will say that women pursuing a variety of men and attempting to weed out the best among them should not be too shocking. When you’re looking to find love and/or a baby daddy, you want quality and you can’t really be sure of that quality unless you find ways to test it. That’s not quite as dirty as it sounds, but it’s close.

With men, the data also clashes with the assumptions that men need only hump as many things with a pulse as possible. The article questions the idea that sperm is cheap and men’s contributions are purely resource-driven. The data actually suggests that men exercise a considerable degree of selection in choosing their partners. Just having a pulse and a vagina is not the only criteria.

As is now also well-documented, sperm production is limited and males can run out of sperm – what researchers term “sperm depletion.”

Consequently, we now know males may allocate more or less sperm to any given female, depending on her age, health or previous mated status. Such differential treatment among preferred and nonpreferred females is a form of male mate choice. In some species, males may even refuse to copulate with certain females. Indeed, male mate choice is now a particularly active field of study.

In essence, men are capable of being selective and downright loyal to their partners. Women are also just as capable of being sexually open, seeking out a variety of lovers in search of quality partners, both for social and reproductive success. In that sense, the promiscuous tendencies of both genders are a lot more level than any Victorian Era assumption would have us believe.

Add on top of this the documented health benefits of sexual promiscuity, as well as the sexual mores of our hunter/gatherer ancestors, and it’s increasingly clear that our assumptions about the sexual promiscuity are not consistent with biology, logic, or reality in general.

In a sense, our society already reflects this. The growing prevalence of blended families shows that the Victorian ideals that later played out in 1950s sitcoms aren’t accurate reflections of human nature. I doubt that this data will shatter the various assumptions that many still have on sexual promiscuity, but as with most excuses, they can only clash with reality so much.

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

When Sex Robots Come (And Have Children)

It has been a while since I talked about sex robots . For that, I apologize. I like to think I keep up with all things related to sex robots, be it major news regarding the first sex doll brothel to deeper insights on how sex robots will affect society. Let’s face it. There are many implications with sex robots, as is often the case with anything that affects our sex lives.

More recently, most of those implications have centered around what happens when sex robots gain a measure of intelligence. We already have non-intelligent sex dolls that have the look and feel of real human flesh, even if they’ll never be mistaken for a real person. Sex robots that utilize artificial intelligence are still a ways off, but they are coming.

I realize that’s a crude joke that most would expect of someone who writes sexy novels in his spare time. I’ll try to limit those remarks for now because this particular issue regarding sex robots is no laughing matter. This time, it doesn’t involve the dangers of artificial intelligence, if you can believe that. Instead, it involves the very real possibility that sex robots may one day bear children.

I’ll give everyone a moment to stop rolling their eyes and/or cringing. I realize that possibility probably hadn’t crossed your mind until I mentioned it. The very concept seems antithetical to the purpose of a sex robot. Isn’t it just supposed to be the perfect sexual outlet for horny men and women? The robot getting pregnant would seriously undermine that use.

Well, maybe that applies in the world of softcore porn where there are no children, pubic hair doesn’t exist, and underpaid baristas are ridiculously hot. In the real world, there are more complexities to people, society, and the desires that drive them. Chief among those desires is the urge to reproduce.

Sure, sex is usually the primary component of that desire, but it’s not the only one. Deep within that longing for the toe-curling pleasure that we seek, be it through a lover or a sex robot, is also a desire to create the next generation. It’s kind of an important desire since it’s a big reason why humanity is the most dominant species on this planet.

So where exactly do sex robots play into this? Well, there are already people out there who have given this subject much more thought than I have. Granted, some of that thought is way beyond current sex robot technology, but the concepts and principles are already in place.

According to Sergi Santos, a sex robot inventor and enthusiast who might be to sex robots what Steve Jobs was to computers, the process would be fairly simple and not involve nearly as many labor pains. He described the process as follows.

Using the brain I have already created, I would program it with a genome so he or she could have moral values, plus concepts of beauty, justice and the values that humans have.

Then to create a child with this robot it would be extremely simple.

I would make an algorithm of what I personally believe about these concepts, and then shuffle it with what she thinks and then 3D print it.

That’s it. I 3D print the robot that is the child of me and the robot, I don’t see any complications.

Granted, it’s not a very sexy process and it lacks all the nine-month rituals that we’ve come to associate with creating new life. There are no baby showers, ultrasounds, or pregnancy cravings. The entire process is largely mechanical, using the same principles that comes with shuffling genes and traits, but implementing it in a more technologically-driven manner.

It basically takes Aldous Huxley’s dystopian fever dream, “Brave New World,” to a far greater extreme. It doesn’t just reduce reproduction to a process that’s not unlike getting a car custom made. It utterly separates it from the physical act of sex. Sure, some of the genetic material might be utilized in some way, but the actual gestation process is not the same.

Rick and Morty” already toyed with this concept in an episode that involved sex robots, gender wars, and a scene inspired by “Flashdance.” I swear I’m not making any of that up, but it’s a concept that addresses a serious issue that may very well arise once sex robots mature.

Once these devices get to a point where they’re intelligent, realistic, and capable of providing the necessary fulfillment that people seek, then what happens to our species’ ability to propagate? If sex robots get to the point where anyone can basically design the perfect lover, then what use will anyone have for old fashioned reproduction?

Don’t just think this will apply to men, either. There will be sex robots for women as well because, contrary to popular belief, women do get horny too. Those robots will be able to have babies too. I’ll give everyone a moment while their heads stop exploding.

How that process might play out is not something that Mr. Santos or Huxley even imagined. However, if the only ingredient necessary is a woman’s biological material and a sex robot with the right materials, then there’s no reason it can’t make a baby as efficiently as their male counterparts. Maybe the woman will want to carry it or opt to just have it printed. Sufficiently advanced sex robots will give them many options.

Sure, there may always be people who favor making babies the old fashioned way. That’s why there are still communities that shun modern technology. However, there’s a reason why those communities are small, secluded, and have limited influence. The appeal of technology and the promise it offers is just too enticing to most people.

Make no mistake, either. While it seems strange and kinky now, the idea of reproducing with a sex robot will have appeal. Talk to any woman who has ever endured the rigors of pregnancy and all the complications that come with it. If the process that Mr. Santos described above is even half as effective as he proclaims, then that’s still plenty enticing for those seeking an alternative method of propagating the species.

Imagine a process that doesn’t take nine grueling months. Imagine a process that doesn’t require morning sickness, frequent check-ups with a doctor, or stretch marks. Again, ask any woman who endured a rough pregnancy. Few will say it was easy, let alone comfortable.

A sex robot that can have a child, whether it’s through an artificial womb or the 3D-printing process imagined by Mr. Stantos, provides that last critical function for a sex robot. Now, it won’t just be the perfect sexual partner. It will also be the perfect breeding machine.

It’s impossible to overstate how huge the implications are of something like that. If every individual on the planet just used a sex robot for their sexual needs, then our species would naturally go extinct. That’s just basic biology. However, give those robots the ability to reproduce and the rules of basic biology are no longer applicable.

As I’ve noted before, nature sets the bar pretty low when it comes to evolutionary success. If a trait helps a species survive and reproduce, then everything else on top of it is just icing on the cake. A sex robot that can both help us reproduce and give us great sex may very well rewrite the template by which our species operates.

The possibilities are both extraordinary and kinky. It may very well serve as the basis for one of my novels in the future. Most people alive today will still see the idea of a sex robot having children as a strange, if not obscene idea. Even our kids may feel that way, albeit to a lesser extent.

Then again, the same could be said for previous advances in reproductive technologies, such as in-vitro fertilization. Just this past year, the first child ever born through a transplanted uterus was born. The way humans reproduce is already changing and it’s going to keep changing.

Like everything else in our lives, we humans are going to find ways to make amazing tools to help us survive. It’s only a matter of time before we use those same tools to help us make better, healthier, sexier babies. Sex robots, whatever form they take, will likely be part of that process.

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Sex Advice From Porn Stars (And Why We Should Listen)

There are certain people who just love giving advice, but overestimate the quality of that advice. Usually, their heart is in the right place. They genuinely believe they have something to offer and are willing to share it. Sincere or not, though, their advice doesn’t always line up with their expertise.

When it comes to advice about something as expansive as sex, everyone likes to think they have a unique skill to offer. Ask anyone who isn’t a priest, mullah, or monk and they’ll claim to have the secret to a satisfying sex life, especially after a few beers. More often than not, those secrets are just a bland mixture of common sense and basic anatomy.

For the more advanced stuff, you need to find people who really do have expertise. When you want to learn more about building houses, you go to an architect. When you want to know about finances, you talk to a licensed accountant. Following that same logic, if you want advanced advice on sex, then you should consult a porn star.

No, that’s not the basis of a dirty joke or a kinky anecdote. I’m as serious as a rug burn on a newlywed’s honeymoon. A satisfying sex life is a major ingredient to a satisfying life, in general. It’s also the kind of advice that’s more than a little awkward to get from your parents or family members. As such, porn stars are uniquely qualified to help.

Granted, porno sex and actual sex are as different as drag racing and your typical morning commute. Sure, porn can be a great way to spice things up, as can reading sexy novels. It shouldn’t be your sexual baseline any more than Ron Jeremy should be the baseline for penis size.

Even if porn is essentially a Photoshopped version of sex, those involve have more experience with sex than 99 percent of us ever will. You don’t have that much experience without gaining some level of expertise. That’s why I’ve compiled a few tips from famous porn stars, courtesy of the fine folks at Women’s Health Magazine and Maxim.

Beyond the advice, I’d also like to highlight its merits. Porn stars may engage in the kind of sex that most people without fake tits or a nine-inch cock can only dream of, but experience is experience. That’s why their advice should carry more weight than most.


Porn Star Sex Tip #1: Alternate Between Foreplay And Intercourse

This one comes courtesy of Jessica Drake, a veteran porn star that most men will claim not to know, but are definitely aware of. It’s also my favorite sex tip ever and one I try to employ in my sexy novels at every turn.

I’ve already made my love of foreplay known, but it’s one of those things that’s worth belaboring. Using it in conjunction with all the juicier bits of sex makes for a potent combination. With it, the physical act of sex gains a whole new dimension.

It becomes intense, emotional, and even a little exhausting. A porn star knows all those things in their work, but it works just as well for ordinary people. A little sex here, followed by some foreplay, followed by some more sex, and followed by even more foreplay doesn’t just mix it up. It turns up the heat, the energy, and everything else that goes into sex.

If you only follow one tip from one porn star, make it this one. You and your lover will be glad you did.


Porn Star Sex Tip #2: Talk Dirty

This is another one of those tips that uniquely appeals to aspiring erotica/romance writers. I kind of have to have my characters talk dirty in order to set the tone, build the passion, and create drama.

Porn stars have to use it too. It’s how they keep a scene hot and sexy to improve the overall experience. Again, this comes from Jessica Drake, who is known to have as dirty a mouth as any porn star can claim. However, that kind of talk isn’t relegated to porn stars and erotica/romance writers.

A big part of great sex involves communication. Talking dirty, while not the most refined form of conversation, helps convey your desires. Sure, it can get vulgar and crude at times, but that kind of rhetoric is uniquely appropriate for the bedroom. Also, crude and vulgar also tends to be blunt and easy to understand. It might just be the easiest way for lovers to communicate their desires so it makes sense to use it.


Porn Star Tip #3: Listen To EVERYTHING

This tip is deceptively simple, but exceedingly important. It comes from a male porn star named Ryan Driller. You might not recognize the name, but if you’ve been on the internet for more than a year, you’ve probably seen his face or his penis. The man has acted in both straight and gay porn so he knows how to tend both sides of the field.

Unlike dirty talk, though, this kind of listening involves more than just getting the right moans out of your partner. When Ryan Driller says listen to everything, he means everything. That means listening to your partner’s breathing, their heartbeat, and the way they react to every move you make.

Even with dirty talk, some people are going to struggle to convey their wants and needs in the bedroom. Sometimes, you have to be the one who listens to those subtle queues and make the most of them. Sure, it’s more work, but the end result is a more satisfied partner who think you can read their mind. Is there any other kind of work that’s more worth it?


Porn Star Tip #4: Make Your Lover Feel Desired

This is one of those sex tips that should be common sense, but is easy to forget in the heat of the moment. It’s also another one of those tips that takes center stage in erotica/romance novels like mine. However, in the real world, that sentiment becomes an afterthought all too often.

This tip comes from Veronica Vain, who doesn’t have the same pedigree as Jessica Drake, but still has enough experience to know the value of desire. Porn stars may make their living having crazy kinky sex with people they don’t have any emotional connection with, but they still have feelings. They still share in basic concepts of desire.

Making your partner feel desired is another one of those things that takes work. Again, it’s the kind of work that’s worth doing. It gives depth and meaning behind the basic mechanics of sex. Put in that work and those actions become more than basic. The more desired your partner feels, the more they’ll desire you. Everybody wins and has orgasms. That’s as big a win-win as you’ll ever get.


Porn Star Tip #5: Pay Attention To Your Needs

This is one more tip from Jessica Drake. Like I said, she has a lot of experience. As such, she has a lot of intimate wisdom to share. This is also a tip that most other porn stars tend to give, on and off the camera. Porn stars don’t always get to prioritize their needs any more than a baker prioritizes theirs when they’re making a cream pie. Actually, that might not be the best terminology for this discussion.

Whatever the case, the nature of a porn star’s work means they know the value of their needs better than most. They also know that taking care of those needs can add to the spectacle, as many porn scenes and sexy novels. This is one of those tips that works as well in real life, as well as porn and novels.

Sure, it’s important to put in the work, as I’ve stated with other tips. However, that doesn’t mean doing all the work. Sex is supposed to be mutual. Sex that involves one person doing everything while the other just lays there is barely a step above masturbation.

Meeting your needs is an important part of sex, although it’s not the only part. However, taking care of them helps ensure that everything else after that is just a bonus. When used in conjunction with the other tips, it can make for one hell of a bonus.

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, polyamory, sex in media, sexuality

The Doug Stanhope Principle (And Why We Should Apply It)

In my experience, comedians offer the most memorable and insightful commentaries on otherwise serious issues. Even if they’re just trying to be funny, which is their job, I think those commentaries have worth beyond the laughs. There are even times I think comedians don’t realize just how insightful their humor can be.

I’ve made my love of comedy known before and not just through my weekly Sexy Sunday Thoughts. I’ve cited accomplished comedians like Christopher Titus when exploring very non-funny issues, such as jealousy. I don’t just do this to help lighten the mood on a site I want to keep light and sexy. I do it because comedy can reveal more than the breadth of our sense of humor.

With that in mind, I’d like to cite a comedian by the name of Doug Stanhope. I’ve never mentioned before, but has been one of my personal favorites for years. He’s not on the same level as a Jon Stewart, George Carlin, or Lewis Black. However, given his brand of humor, that’s not too surprising.

Stanhope’s comedy is decidedly NSFW, touching on issues that would give most network producers brain aneurisms. His opinions are overtly harsh and unconcerned with your delicate sensibilities. If you’re wondering just how harsh he can be, here’s a quick taste.

That said, he is not a shock comic in the tradition of Howard Stern or Andrew Dice Clay. Stanope’s comedy, as crude as it can be at times, is very smart. One bit in particular stands out. It comes from his “Deadbeat Hero” album, one of my personal favorites and one I think every comedy fan should listen to at least once.

In that album, he talks about a number of issues, but one in particular stands out. That issue is marriage, one I’ve discussed too on this site, albeit not with the same level of humor. On this topic, he makes one of the most insightful observations I’ve ever seen on a treasured institution.

If marriage didn’t exist, would you invent it? Would you go “Baby, this shit we got together, it’s so good we gotta get the government in on this shit. We can’t just share this commitment ‘tweenst us. We need judges and lawyers involved in this shit, baby. It’s hot!”

The bolded parts are my doing because I think the implications of that question go beyond the comedy, more so than I think Stanhope himself intended. In a sense, it reflects the paradox of marriage and traditional romance that I’ve talked about before in that we see it as natural, yet we need all these social institutions to protect it.

The fact those institutions exist is a subtle, but telling sign that these traditions aren’t as natural as we think they are. More than anything else, they’re the product of taboos and social norms that people cling to out of fear, familiarity, and ignorance. I won’t go so far as to call it a form of excuse banking, but I think it highlights our imperfect understanding of human nature.

One of Doug Stanhope’s greatest strengths as a comedian is his ability to break down a treasured and cherished concept in a way that’s both revealing and insightful. What he did for marriage with this one question immediately makes us ponder the flaws in our current understanding of it.

Once we stop laughing at the punch-line, though, I would take it a step further. I would ask that question again in more general form as a means to help us scrutinize our traditions, values, and everything else we hold sacred. Sure, that’s bound to make some people uncomfortable, but that’s exactly the point of certain brand of comedy, especially Stanhope’s.

Like the Simpson Filter I coined earlier this year, let’s coin another using this question. Since I’m not a branding expert with only a fraction of the wit of Doug Stanhope, I’ll call it “The Stanhope Principle.” The core of that principle can be summed up in one simple question.

If something didn’t exist in its current form, would you invent it that way?

Sure, it’s not nearly as funny as Stanhope’s bit on marriage, nor is it meant to be. In essence, it’s a question meant to get your brain thinking about things that it usually doesn’t think about. In some cases, they’re issues you’ve gone out of your way to avoid.

Take any current issue, be it a major political controversy or a certain state in your personal life. Now, apply the Stanhope Principle and try to answer the question honestly. Here are just a few possible examples.

  • If our tax system existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?
  • If our health care system existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?
  • If our current relationship existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?
  • If the job we worked existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?
  • If our website/blog/product existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?

If you ask that question and answer it honestly, which is key, you might be surprised by what you find out. You might think your personal relationships are functional, but applying the Stanhope Principle could expose flaws that you’ve been overlooking or ignoring.

Apply in a larger context, such as politics, marriage, and gender issues, and the insights get a bit more complicated. Given the current inequalities that still pervade in our society, as well as the double standards we apply, the Stanhope Principle reveals the breadth of the flaws within these institutions.

It can be distressing, acknowledging those flaws. That’s usually where the excuse banking enters the picture, but that can only further mask them. Another honest application of the Stanhope Principle will only remind us of those flaws and even reveal how we’ve made our situation worse.

Ideally, the Stanhope Principle should be a basis for improvement. A good example is Apple, one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak probably didn’t know they were applying that principle, but they were.

They saw the current state of computers. They saw there was a lot of room for improvement. Given how cumbersome computers were for much of their early history, they decided to innovate and create a better way of using them. The result is a company that is worth over half-a-trillion dollars.

Applying the Stanhope Principle for worked out pretty well for Apple. I’m not saying it can make everyone a billionaire, but it does help break down a situation and an issue in a way that allows us to see the bigger picture.

More than anything else, it exposes the imperfections of our current situation. For some, it motivates them into improving their situation, be it a relationship, a business, or a social policy. For others, it’s an uncomfortable reminder that there’s a flaw in that they need to cover up or mask. In that sense, it should be easy to see who are more likely to become billionaires.

There are all sorts of way to apply the Stanhope Principle. I’ll certainly try to apply it to future issues that I discuss on this site. For now, I just want to offer my sincere thanks to Doug Stanhope and the principle he inspired. He has made the world inherently funnier and more interesting to explore.

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Filed under Current Events, Marriage and Relationships, Reasons and Excuses

Teaching About Sex, Consent, And Relationships (Through Video Games)

Let’s face it. Most kids aren’t that eager to learn about the stuff that their teachers, parents, and school administrators want them to learn about. They’re not interested in knowing the skills that will make them healthy, productive, tax-paying consumers who will keep society running. They’re interested in the skills that will make them popular and/or get them laid.

The deficiencies of our education system are many and I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the experiences I had within that system. However, I don’t want to dwell too much on that this time. Talking about how much I hated high school is rarely that sexy.

Instead, I want to focus on something that most kids are eager to enjoy and how some people are using that to improve their understanding of sex, sexuality, and relationship. What could kids possibly excite kids that much to learn about something that they would rather not learn from the same gym teacher that makes them run laps in winter?

The answer is more obvious than you think. It’s video games. Admit it, that almost makes too much sense.

There’s no question that kids love playing video games more than learning about quadratic functions. According to a survey done by the MacArthur Foundation, approximately 97 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 play video games. When it comes to statistics and surveys, you can’t get much more definitive without asking kids whether chocolate fudge tastes good.

Kids might not be able to agree whether Superman could beat the Hulk, which he totally could, but they agree that video games are awesome. So if kids love video games so much, why not use that love to teach them valuable lessons about sex, relationships, and consent?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m not being facetious either. It’s not about the medium or whatever asinine controversies it may have. It’s about working with what kids already love and using that to help them in valuable ways. It’s not that radical a concept. Hit movies have been made about it.

When it comes to teaching kids about sex, though, I wouldn’t expect Edward James Olmos to star in a movie about that. That doesn’t mean the concept is entirely flawed. Teaching kids about sex is hard enough. Teaching them in a way they’ll remember and take seriously might be beyond the power of Hollywood.

That still doesn’t stop some from trying. In a story by Kimberly Lawson at Vice, an associate professor of medicine at Yale University has helped create a game called PlayForward: Elm City Stories. It’s a fairly straightforward, two-dimensional role playing game that is less about killing aliens or Nazis and more about guiding players through a narrative, showing how their decisions affect them along the way.

That’s not quite as radical as it sounds. Role-playing games represent a large chunk of the video game industry. Major game franchises like “Mass Effect” and “Final Fantasy” are built around the idea of having players make choices and face repercussions of those choices. Take away the aliens and the monsters, though, and you’ve got a solid basis for understanding real life choices.

PlayForward: Elm City Stories plays less like Dungeons & Dragons and more like the classic board game, Life. In it, you play as avatar in a fictional, but fairly realistic city where you have to navigate a variety of activities and make choices along the way.

Some of those activities involve who you your friends are. Some involve going to certain events and parties. Some even involve whether or not to make out with a cute girl. It may sound mundane, but like most RPGs, the appeal is diving into the world of the character and leading them through it. Here’s how Vice describes the experience.

Players have to make important, life-changing decisions, including whether or not they should go upstairs to make out with someone, if they should use a condom or not during sex, and whether they should accept pills found in someone’s grandmother’s medicine cabinet. At any point, they can fast-forward to the epilogue to see what their character’s life looks like at 30, based on the decisions they’ve made.

Through that experience, players learn about more than just saying no to the guy on the street corner offering a free hit of crack. They experience both the short-term and long-term impacts of their decisions. Given the notoriously short attention spans and limited foresight of kids, that kind of insight in indispensable when teaching them about sex and relationships.

It’s no “Super Mario Brothers,” but the lessons it conveys are more valuable than any princess. It puts the players in a position to choose the right and wrong path. It shows them just how right and wrong those paths can be in the long run for their character and themselves, by default.

Beyond just consequences, the game gives players a chance to explore situations involving intimacy, consent, and relationships. Their choices help forge the relationships they have throughout the game. To get a better outcome, they actually need a better understanding of intimacy and consent. The fact that gives them tools to apply those lessons in the real world just a pleasant side-effect.

In a sense, PlayForward: Elm City Stories is coming along at the perfect time. We live in a world where sexual harassment and sexual assault are heated issues. We, as a society, are not as willing to turn a blind eye to these sorts of indiscretions anymore.

Just punishing the Harvey Weinsteins of the world isn’t enough, though. We need to teach the emerging generation that there’s a time and a place to show a beautiful woman your genitals. Knowing those circumstances will be the difference between having a great sex life and being sued into oblivion.

Kids aren’t going to learn those skills through lectures, after school specials, and cute puppets. Some of the most effective learning methods involve active engagement with real activities that offer real rewards. In that sense, video games are the perfect medium for that kind of teaching.

While I doubt that PlayForward: Elm City Stories will win any game of the year awards, it sets an important precedent that is worth building upon. Saving princesses and shooting killer aliens is still fun, but learning about relationships, consent, and sex will take a player much further in life.

Kids, and people in general, learn best when they don’t know they’re learning something. Video games may still have a nasty reputation in some circles, but it offers opportunities to teach valuable skills that aren’t easy to teach, especially to hormonal teenagers. We should take advantage of those opportunities and hopefully, PlayForward: Elm City Stories is just the beginning.

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Is Loneliness Really THAT Bad For You?

I’d like to preface this article with what I hope is an exciting announcement. As I write this, I’m preparing to move to a new place. By nearly every measure, it’s a good thing. My living situation is set to change for the better.

Without getting into the specifics, just know that I’ve been living with roommates in a shared house for quite some time now. That has been my standard living situation since college. For a while now, I’ve been looking to upgrade that situation by buying my own condo. I’ve been working hard, selling as many sexy novels as I can, to scrap together enough money.

Finally, I had the money and I found the perfect place. In less than a month, I’ll be living on my own in a beautiful one bedroom, one bathroom condo that I won’t have to share with anyone else. I won’t just be able to sleep naked anymore. My entire living situation will be clothing optional. Just thinking about it brings tears of joy to my eyes.

I’m genuinely excited about this and not just because it will provide more opportunities for nudity. However, it does give me some pause in terms of the larger implications. Every major change in life, be it a living situation or a new lover, is bound to have unforeseen impacts. Moving to a new place certainly qualifies.

The most jarring change in this instance is that, for the first time in my adult life, I’ll be living completely alone. I won’t have to contend with roommates. I won’t have to share any ounce of my living space. Everything from the thermostat to the brand of toilet paper to the visibility of my Playboy calendar will be completely under my control.

I don’t deny that living alone has its appeal, but I’m somewhat used to always being in a place where I could just go talk to someone if I wanted. Living in this new place will mean fewer opportunities of that nature. Then, I found this distressing article from the New York Times on the potential health hazards of living alone and suddenly, the price for clothing-optional living seems a bit higher.

The hazards are not necessarily trivial. This isn’t something that can be fixed by eating an extra bowl of fruit, running a few miles, or getting a coffee enema, which is a thing. According to the article, these are some of the issues that loneliness and isolation can breed.

Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early: Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as obesity and smoking.

While it’s important to note that the keyword in that conclusion is that it can incur these effects. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will. As I’ve noted before, human beings are frustratingly complex creatures. Anyone who claims that there’s a simple solution to a big problem is usually pursuing a bullshit agenda that makes lousy documentaries.

However, there is some relevant data behind this phenomenon of loneliness being detrimental to someone’s mental health. According to a 2013 study by the American Journal for Public Health, socially isolated men and women died earlier at a rate that was consistent with smoking and high blood pressure. Those kinds of correlations are disconcerting, even if they’re not akin to direct causation.

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Under the lens of caveman logic, that makes sense. Human beings are a very social species. Social interaction is a core need, right up there with food, water, and a regular orgasm. It’s because of our social nature that solitary confinement is rightly seen as torture.

While I do have plenty of other social outlets, primarily my friends and a very supportive family, living alone will make it easier to keep to myself more often. Granted, that could change fairly quickly if I fall in love and get into a relationship. That’s something I am actively working on. However, I’m not going to assume that’ll happen soon after I move in.

I’m taking these concerns seriously, but I’m still looking forward to the benefits. As if often the case with something as complex as human psychology, there are also potential benefits to living alone. There is some research that indicates that certain people do better when they live alone. I’m not sure that I’m one of those people, but Psychology Today summed it up nicely with the kind caveman logic that makes me smile.

For some people, living alone is not just a casual preference – it feels more like a need. What happens when you are deprived of a genuine need? You can’t stop thinking about it. You daydream about it, makes plans for when you will get to have that need fulfilled again. When living alone is a need and you finally get to do it after being deprived, you feel relief and a sense that your living situation is once again just what it should be.

So with these variations in mind, I’ve got a lot to think about as I prepare to take this big step in my life. I’m still excited about it. I’m really looking forward to actually owning my own place, having a space I can truly call my own. It goes beyond having an excuse to spend more time naked. It’s about me carving a real space for myself.

I don’t know entirely how I’m going to handle it. I like to think I know myself well enough to believe that I’ll be among those who benefit from living alone. I could very well be wrong, but I’ll finally have a chance to find out.

To everyone else who may be facing this issue, take some comfort in the knowledge that the question as to whether being alone is bad for you has no clear-cut answer. It varies from person to person. Some people benefit. Some people don’t. Human beings are kinky like that. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, that’s something I can appreciate.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, War on Boredom

Why Stupid Love Is Honest Love (According To Batman)

Whenever someone says love is stupid, they’re usually getting over having their heart broken or upset that other people aren’t lining up to fuck them. It’s a cynical, jaded position on one of the most fundamental and powerful emotions there is in the human experience. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’m often reminded of its power.

Sometimes, though, you need other kinds of reminders to appreciate the breadth of love. In a sense, it is stupid, but not in the way ex-lovers, recent divorcees, and Evanescence fans often claim. It is an inherently irrational, exceedingly overwhelming emotion that drives us to do some pretty crazy things. However, that’s exactly what makes it beautiful.

That beauty isn’t easy to see. Sometimes, it manifests in subtle ways. Other times, though, it’s front and center in a Batman comic. No, that’s not some colorful aside. I’m dead serious. The stupidity of love has actually manifested itself in a Batman comic and it’s beautiful to a level that only Batman can achieve.

This beauty was on full display in Batman #35, which picks right up from the huge development that occurred a few issues back when Catwoman accepted Batman’s marriage proposal. It has little to do with wedding plans, overpriced engagement rings, or how good Catwoman looks in skin-tight outfits. It actually goes out of the way to highlight the stupidity of love and all its uncanny beauty.

The context of the issue is secondary. If you really want to know the particulars, I highly recommend you read Batman #35 to get the full context of the situation. With respect to the topic at hand, namely the stupidity of love, all you need to know is that Catwoman has a chance to confront one of Batman’s other famous flames, Talia Al Ghul.

That’s a big deal for anyone who dares to get involved with Batman’s personal life. Talia Al Ghul isn’t just someone that both Batman and Bruce Wayne were fond of seeing naked. She’s also the mother of Damien Wayne, but not in the classic sense. He wasn’t conceived in the classic, fun sort of way.

The creation of Damien Wayne, much like Baman’s relationship with Talia, was largely a byproduct of a cold, unfeeling agenda. It had a specific purpose, a defined goal, and very little passion involved. It’s even less sexy than it sounds. It’s basically the antithesis of the stupidity of love.

That’s very much who Talia Al Ghul is. Sure, she looks almost as good as Catwoman in skin-tight outfits, but she’s not much of a romantic. She’s a cold, calculating bitch who sees love as an asset at best and an inconvenience at worst. She’s also the one Catwoman has to deal with in Batman #35 and not just because she’s marrying her baby daddy.

The clash between these two women may not be as sexy as nude oil wrestling at the Playboy mansion. It may not even be as epic as a battle between Superman and Doomsday. However, the way this fight plays out perfectly highlights both the stupidity and the beauty of love. Catwoman herself articulates it perfectly.

It’s not just that loving Batman carries with it a lot of baggage. It’s not just that being involved with the goddamn Batman is overwhelming and not just because he tends to attract homicidal clowns. To love someone like Batman is not to ignore the sheer stupidity of being involved with him in the first place. It’s to embrace it.

It’s a message that fans of romance and aspiring erotica/romance writer alike can get behind. Instead of scrutinizing or overthinking why someone loves another person, you just focus on the love itself. Sure, it’s stupid in the sense that it ignores the logistics. Sometimes, though, that’s the key to making love work.

When you’re in love with a complex person with loads of baggage, like Batman, there’s a lot to think about and scrutinize. It’s one of the many reasons that Batman has had such a colorful history with women. Between being a costumed crime fighter and a billionaire playboy, he’s a complicated man with a lot of moving parts.

It’s because of those complications that many of those women who may genuinely love him find plenty of reasons to walk away. Talia Al Ghul is a perfect example of this because she approaches her love with Batman in a way that’s cold and calculated.

To love him, in her mind, isn’t to embrace his baggage. It’s to re-shape and re-mold it into something she sees as greater. What she tries to do with Batman is very similar to what many people try to do with their lovers in the sense that they try to change and mold them into the person they want them to be, even if it means undermining the person they are.

That’s not just a losing battle that only leads to greater heartache. It goes against the very principles of love. You don’t love someone for who you want them to be. You love them for who they are.

Talia Al Ghul wants Batman to be a certain way for her. She feels she knows what’s best for him, their future, and their family. She’s also willing to lie, cheat, and manipulate him into achieving those goals. She may leave his balls intact, but she’ll make sure his soul is hers to guide. Even Regina George isn’t quite that ambitious.

Catwoman does the exact opposite. She doesn’t try to change Batman into some ideal version of a man that she has in her head. She loves him for who he is and doesn’t want to mold him into something else. On paper, that’s still kind of stupid in the sense that it basically permits him to keep doing the crazy things he does. However, it’s probably the most sincere and honest love anyone can offer.

That does more than contrast Catwoman’s love for Batman from that of Talia Al Ghul. It shows how genuine love compares to the shallow brand of love that comes with caveats. Some people build their relationships around an agenda, much like Talia Al Ghul. They see it as a means to an end. Love, in that context, is indistinguishable from a mortgage application.

Loving someone honestly means loving their flaws as much as their strengths. Catwoman doesn’t overlook or deny those flaws in Batman. Batman himself doesn’t try to hide them either. That honesty, making themselves so vulnerable to one another, is stupid from a purely logistical point of view.

However, that’s exactly what makes their love so sincere. Even if you’re not a comic book fan or a fan of beautiful women in skin-tight outfits, it’s still a love that’s worth celebrating.

 

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Marriage and Relationships