Tag Archives: sex in media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Social Context Versus “Toxic” Behaviors: Why The Difference Matters (A Lot)

There’s a fairly well-known set of experiments involving rats and cocaine. It’s a strange, yet revealing combination. In the initial experiment, a rat in a cage was given the choice between cocaine and food. Not surprisingly, especially for someone who has ever tried cocaine, the rat chose cocaine to the point of killing itself.

That experiment, which took place in the 1960s and 1970s, helped establish the idea that those who use cocaine would be so damaged, so addicted, and so utterly gone that they would rather take the drug than survive. It was pretty scary stuff and it helped inspire harsher anti-drug policies in the 1980s.

However, that experiment came into question in 1981 when a professor named Bruce Alexander re-did the experiment, but with one critical change. He didn’t isolate the rats in a cage. He put them in a colorful, positive environment with other rats that came to be known as “rat park.” The results weren’t nearly as scary.

As it turns out, when placed in a better environment with more social support, the rats didn’t become irreversibly damaged cocaine addicts. In fact, even when offered much more addictive drugs like morphine, the rats didn’t imbibe in illicit, drug-fueled bliss nearly as much as their caged counterparts.

I bring up this experiment because it illustrates an important point about behavior and social creatures. Context and social setting matters. It matters a lot. Put someone in a cage, strip them of any social support, and isolate them from the world and they’re bound to endure some pretty toxic effects. That’s a big reason why solitary confinement is considered torture.

That brings me back to the inherently flawed idea of “toxic masculinity,” a term I’ve gone on record as saying should be buried in the deepest, darkest pit of our collective lexicon. I don’t want to re-hash or belabor any of the points I’ve already made about toxic masculinity. I’ll just note that some of the rhetoric surrounding it is distressingly similar to what anti-drug zealots used when demonizing cocaine.

Think, for a moment, about some of the negative traits associated with toxic masculinity. They include, but aren’t restricted to, stuff like:

  • Suppression of emotions
  • Being prone to violence
  • Increases in aggression
  • Associations with abhorrent sexual behavior

Then, look at the traits associated with cocaine addiction and note some of the parallels. In each case, there’s a direct association between these traits and a tangible, unambiguous cause. In one case, it’s a drug. In the other, it’s just being a man and associating with masculinity. Like the rats in that first experiment, though, there’s no context or social circumstances to consider.

That begs an intriguing, but important question, especially to those who still want to use “toxic masculinity” as a catch-all for certain behaviors. Is it really the nature of masculinity itself that’s behind these toxic behaviors or is it the social circumstances within the society?

That’s not a question anyone, especially not aspiring erotica/romance writers, can definitively answer. I don’t doubt it has been asked in other ways. It might even have been studied to some extent, but since it involves the complex machinations of the human psyche, definitive answers are hard to come by.

Even without the results of those studies, is it really that hard to contemplate the possibility that circumstances may effect how masculinity and femininity manifest? The rat park experiments alone hint at a fairly significant impact. Given the orders of magnitude in difference between rat and human brains, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that impact is substantial.

While we can’t run the kinds of experiments that Bruce Alexander did in 1981, we can assess the current status of masculinity within our culture. It may vary from region to region, but in terms of modern western culture, there are a number of traits that we’ve come to associate with masculinity.

It tends to manifest most distinctly in our standard models of romance, which puts men in situations where they have to be competitive, aggressive, cunning, and determined to get the kind of emotional and sexual satisfaction they want. Even when they do, those same situations make them just as inclined to seek other outlets of satisfaction.

Furthermore, men have to navigate these situations with the added baggage of being biologically wired to seek social, romantic, and sexual connections. Women have this wiring too, but the circumstances for them are different in that the culture has different expectations. Moreover, there’s no concept of “toxic femininity” to color their feminine traits as inherently negative.

What this means is the men are entering these circumstances pre-programmed to be very horny, very lonely, and in need of various forms of fulfillment. Being men, they’re expected to go out and get it while women are expected to just let it come to them. Now, I get that this is a gross oversimplification that obscures the overall gender dynamics, but in terms of the overall culture, these are the circumstances.

To illustrate the inherent issues with those circumstance, here’s a scenario that should help paint a picture of the male predicament. Again, it’s a gross oversimplification that I’m sure will offend more than a few people, but still reflects an important point.

Man: Hello, ma’am. I’m lonely and horny. How do I go about getting sex, love, and social support?

Woman: First of all, the fact that you just admitted you’re horny is disgusting. Women being horny, that’s beautiful and erotic. Men being horny is not, so you’re already a pig in my mind.

Man: What? Why? That’s not fair.

Woman: Don’t interrupt me! Talking down to a woman is rude and sexist. It’s basically the first step towards harassment and abuse. Raising your voice to a woman, showing any kind of dominance, is just perpetuating an oppressive gender stereotype that has no place in the current year.

Man: Okay. I’m sorry about that. So how do I go about it then?

Woman: You’re still talking over me. You’re getting dangerously close to harassing me and since you’re a man, everyone will believe me if I accuse you. So choose your words very carefully because if any woman feels upset by what you say or do, even if it’s unintentional, we can accuse you of being an abuser and ruin your life.

Man: Well, I’d like to avoid that at all costs.

Woman: Then, you’ll have to play by our rules. You’ll have to respect every choice a woman makes and take her side in every argument. Disagree with us or go against us and we’ll label you a sexist, misogynist pig. Then, you’ll never find love, sex, or any kind of social support.

Man: Wow. That almost sounds risky. I might just be better off watching porn and masturbating by myself.

Woman: Now, you’re just making it worse. For one, watching porn or admiring female bodies in any capacity is insulting, demeaning, and objectifying.

Man: But I’m attracted to beautiful women. Is that bad?

Woman: It’s awful! You’re contributing to unhealthy beauty standards that not every woman can hope to achieve. You’re part of a much larger problem in society that forces women to meet obligations that are difficult, inconvenient, or outright impossible. That makes you an accomplice to all the crimes ever committed against women.

Man: But I’ve never attacked, hurt, or insulted a woman in my entire life.

Woman: That doesn’t matter. Since men have gotten away with too many crimes in the past, you have to be the one to pay the price in the present. That means you have to carry the guilt of men you’ve never met for crimes and attitudes you had no part in creating. If you go against this in any way, then you’re an even bigger sexist misogynist.

Man: I don’t want that. I don’t want that at all. I guess I’ll have to find some other way to masturbate.

Woman: You’re still making it worse. You see, women can masturbate because it’s sexy and erotic. Men can’t. It’s just disgusting for reasons that neither of us can change. If any women finds out you’ve ever masturbated or paid for sex in any capacity, then they’ll think you’re a creep and a loser. They won’t even look at you, let alone want to be with you.

Man: But that’s not fair! I can’t turn off my desires.

Woman: That’s too bad. You’ll just have to suppress them while you jump through all the elaborate hoops a woman demands in the meantime. Just remember that even if you jump through all those hoops and do everything they ask, they still reserve the right to not have sex with you or love you in the way you want. That’s their choice and you can’t do anything about it.

Man: So what am I supposed to do? This is making me kind of frustrated and angry.

Woman: That’s not my problem. You either play by these arbitrary rules or we cut you off socially, sexually, and romantically. Try to change any of these rules and that just makes you the biggest misogynist of them all.

I’ll stop there and give everyone a moment to fume. Take all the time you need. It’s not the first time I’ve crafted a scenario with some pretty distressing monologues.

If you can get past the outrage, then try and take a moment to reflect on the circumstances in the scenario. Men are in a situation where the path to the kind of sexual, emotional, and social fulfillment that all social species seek is full of potential pitfalls.

Since those obstacles have gotten a lot more treacherous lately, it’s even harder for men to actively seek the very things that make them healthy and fulfilled. It’s akin to forcing the rats from the cocaine experiment back in the cage and demanding that they not succumb to the detrimental effects.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that women didn’t create these circumstances. There’s no feminist conspiracy any more than there’s a nefarious patriarchal conspiracy. In fact, some of these circumstances stem from traditions men have promoted, like the whole obsession with female purity and the concept of slut-shaming. Men have done more than their part to create and exacerbate these circumstances.

As it stands, though, the circumstances for men are such that frustration, anger, and isolation are almost inescapable. Unless you’re very rich and very well-connected, you’ve got a lot of hazards to navigate. Slip up and you’ll be labeled a creep, a misogynist, or worse. Even if that doesn’t put you in a literal cage, it’ll make you feel like you’re in one. At that point, is it really that surprising when a person’s behavior comes off as toxic?

With these circumstances in mind, the concept of “toxic masculinity” becomes even more asinine because it utterly ignores this context. Absent that context, it can only ever damage whatever harmony men and women have. Given how sensitive we’ve become to scandals and sexism, we can’t afford to do much more damage and expect either gender to come out better.

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FCC Official Retires (Due To Porn) And (Overdue) Lessons We Should Learn From It

FCC sign is pictured. | Getty

Every now and then, there’s a news story that sounds like it came from The Onion, but it’s actually real. Personally, these stories tickle me like mountain of puppies. They show that, as crazy and distressing as this world is at times, it can still be pretty damn hilarious.

There’s actually an entire subreddit dedicated to these kinds of stories. They have funny headlines like “Kids Work Harder When Dressed As Batman, Study Says” and “Property Prices Lower On Streets With Silly Names, High School Students Find.” Again, these are not clips from The Onion. They’re real and they’re more hilarious because of that.

It’s for that same reason that when I saw this particular headline, I laughed and smiled like a kid in a room full of chocolate and kittens. If you’re having a bad day, just read it over a few times and let the world around you become inherently better.

Politico: FCC Official Retires Amid Complaints About Porn Viewing

As someone who regularly writes about the folly of regressive sexual attitudes, this kind of story is as informative as it is hilarious. That’s because when it comes to sexual regression, the joyless suits at the Federal Communications Commission are right up there with the Vatican. Remember, these people made a national scandal of Janet Jackson’s nipple, for crying out loud.

To be fair to the FCC, which tends to be an exercise in inanity, they get some pretty crazy complaints from citizens who grossly overestimate the destructive power of female nipples. Between complaints about shows like “South Park,” the WWE, and Miley Cyrus, they can’t help but be a little uptight. Fair or not, this story is another testament to just how powerful our collective sex drives can be.

While article singles one particular official out who accelerated his retirement plans after word of his porn viewing habits came out, it goes onto note that this is not an isolated incident. This one unidentified worker isn’t just the FCC equivalent of the town drunk. Apparently, FCC employees viewing porn is major problem. This is a direct quote.

“An investigation that began in January found “pornographic and inappropriate images” indicating the employee used his FCC-issued computer and the agency’s network in violation of commission policy, according to a new report from the FCC’s office of inspector general.”

Now, it goes without saying that viewing porn at work is a bad idea. There’s a time and a place for certain things. Even aspiring erotica/romance writers understand that. Unless you’re a porn star or working in the porn business, you should generally avoid putting that sort of thing on your browser history.

However, this story with the FCC and porn viewing is extra revealing in that it exposes something about our culture that we rarely acknowledge, but sort of assume in the back of our minds. Some of it has to do with our sexuality. Some of it has to do with the institutions we empower to control it. In the end, though, most of it has to do with how futile our efforts are when it comes to contain our sexuality.

Think back to when Osama Bin Laden was killed in the famous 2011 raid. Not long after his compound was raided, word got out that Bin Laden had a pretty extensive collection of porn. For a man who often bemoaned the decadence of America and the west, as a whole, this was a moment of egregious hypocrisy on his part.

However, not a whole lot of people were all that shocked by this revelation. Most found it funny. I doubt those same people aren’t that shocked by news that people at the FCC, the same organization that often clamps down on porn, has a problem with its employees viewing it. Again, we found it hilarious and rightly so.

Think about that for a moment, though. What does it say about the situation when we find it funny and not abhorrent? The fact we’re neither surprised nor disgusted by the fact that both the FCC and Bin Laden love watching pron in their spare time reveals something about our attitudes towards sex that’s worth scrutinizing.

The FCC certainly isn’t the first organization to decry porn as immoral. Islam isn’t the first religion to denounce it, either. In fact, there’s an ongoing anti-porn crusade unfolding in the Mormon-heavy state of Utah. That’s also inherently hilarious because Utah also happens to be the state with the most porn subscriptions, which kind of reinforces my point.

These efforts, regardless of whether they’re sincere or misguided, are doomed to fail. On some levels, we even realize that. We wouldn’t find stories like this so funny if they weren’t. I don’t doubt that some are still genuinely shocked, but I think the overall lack of outrage surrounding these revelations tells us something about our understanding of human sexuality.

On some levels, we know the FCC and Utah republicans can never hope to succeed in their goals. They’re never going to successfully censor porn. They’re never going to control our sexuality. We still empower them to at least give the perception that there’s some sort of government/spiritual guardian protecting us from the really kinky stuff that we can’t handle. As I’ve said before, perception tends to kick reality’s ass.

Overall, though, we know the people behind those efforts are still human. As such, they get horny like the rest of us. When that happens, they seek an outlet and it shows on their browser history. None of that surprises us. It only becomes hilarious when they’re supposed to be the ones setting a better example, but fail miserably. We’re never surprised that they fail. If anything, we expect it.

It’s for that reason I wouldn’t put this sort of story on the same level as Pamela Anderson’s hypocrisy on porn. Sure, the FCC and Utah republicans are trying to regulate or censor porn, but they’re not going out of their way to condemn other people for using it. They’re basically taking on the impossible task of regulating human sexuality. Even they have to know on some levels that they’re going to fail.

That, beyond the inherent humor, is the biggest take-away from a story like this. We know what the FCC and other organizations like it are trying to do with sex in media. We know it’s a losing battle, but we let them fight it anyways because it gives us the illusion that we’re making an effort to sanitize the kinkier parts of our sexuality. It’s because it’s an illusion that we can find stories like this so funny.

Funny or not, there’s still a danger in letting organizations like the FCC make that kind of effort to censor our sexuality. Remember, this organization made a big deal about a goddamn nipple. At some point, those kinds of efforts stop being hilarious.

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When A Controversy (That Involves Scantily Clad Women) Should NOT Be A Controversy

We live in a controversial time within a controversial place surrounded by all sorts of high-tech tools that allow us to spread controversy in every direction. It may very well be the first time in human history where controversy of any kind has a chance to spread discord among large swaths of people with too much free time and a cell phone.

That can be a good and a bad thing in that it makes us more aware of the world outside our immediate surroundings. However, when it’s a bad thing, it’s bad for frustratingly insipid reasons. Lately, whenever those reasons involve beautiful women, the people who admire them, and sexism, it becomes even more frustrating.

Like many other self-professed comic book fans, I’ve been eagerly following the news surrounding “Justice League.” After the success of “Wonder Woman,” this movie marks a huge step in the development of DC’s evolving cinematic universe, which Warner Brothers is hoping will compete directly with the cinematic juggernaut known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That kind of competition is bound to attract some controversy, if only from angry fans trash-talking each other about whether Wonder Woman could beat up Thor. Sometimes, that controversy is healthy. This is not one of those times.

Just days before the movie came out, this little incident sparked the wrong kind of controversy for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, it involves beautiful women in sexy attire. It’s something that should be innately fun, enjoyable, and positive for everyone who isn’t a celibate monk seeking to avoid temptation. Instead, it sparks Round 8,839,272,093 of another angry debate about gender and sexism.

Now, I’m as sick of these debates as everyone else. I’d much rather be focusing on enjoying this movie and seeing how it measures up to “Wonder Woman,” but certain people just can’t help themselves whenever they see an opportunity to evoke some fresh outrage.

This time, it has to do with how the Amazons are dressed. After their introduction in “Wonder Woman,” which made for some truly wonderful moments, they’re set to participate again in “Justice League.” That should be a good thing. They’re a tribe of powerful ancient warriors. Why shouldn’t they participate in a battle to save the world?

That fact might as well be an afterthought for some people because apparently, they’re not dressed appropriately. I must have missed a meeting because at some point, someone passed a rule that said you couldn’t look sexy while saving the world. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I oppose such a rule with every fiber of my being.

Wherever it came from, it seems to be an issue now. There are real people who insist on making this a major issue, which requires them to ignore the fact that a tribe of badass warrior women is involved in the first place. Instead, they’re just focusing on how they’re dressed. Seriously, is this really worth that level of outrage?

Never mind the fact that warrior women kind of have to be really fit and being fit is a major factor in sex appeal. The fact that “Justice League” dares to offer that kind of sex appeal in any capacity is somehow an affront to women, feminism, and progress in the 21st century. If I could write that with more sarcasm, I would.

Before I go on too angry a rant, it’s worth noting that this sort of thing stands in direct contract to Gal Gadot’s own message that women should dress however the hell they want. It’s also worth noting that one of the actresses, Brooke Ence, who plays one of the Amazons, did not see much controversy with the attire. In a USA Today interview, she said this:

As she recalls, not every warrior wore a two-piece, and “the girls on set, we never thought of (the new costumes) as a sexy version. It felt a little more glamorous, if anything, because we had bigger, beautiful hair, which I loved.”

In fact, the CrossFit champion, who gets a heroic scene in the new movie, added, “I’m an athlete first, right? (Usually) I can’t wear anything without someone commenting about my (muscular) body. So for me, it was actually really cool to be able to show it and not immediately feel masculine, but still very feminine.”

By the actual words of a woman who actually wore that attire, she liked that sexy attire. She thought it was glamorous and showed off the body that she clearly worked so hard to sculpt. There’s no hint, whatsoever, that she was forced to dress this way to appeal to horny men.

That implies, shockingly enough, that sometimes women want to dress sexy. It implies that it’s okay to look sexy and it’s okay for men to appreciate that. I even made a formal announcement about it last year. I guess some people didn’t get the memo.

I’ll try to limit the sarcasm from here on out, but this is the key factor in determining whether a controversy involving scantily-clad women even warrants controversy to begin with. This is not an old Carl’s Junior ad or necessarily softcore standards utilized by Victoria’s Secret. These are female characters in a movie that is trying to appeal to everyone, including men.

The women wearing that attire never claimed they were being exploited. There was no noticeable uptick in sex crimes as a result of this attire being worn. The only offense anyone took were those claiming to be offended on behalf of all women. Therein lies the problem, though.

If one of the actresses had come out and said they felt degraded by that attire, that would be one thing. If it came out that some asshole producer forced them to wear it after they’d objected, that would be quite another. Given the recent climate surrounding sexual exploitation, they probably would’ve had a lot of allies.

That didn’t happen, though. Instead, those allies jumped the gun. They didn’t wait to hear from the women wearing the sexy attire. They didn’t even ask how they felt about wearing it. They just assumed, outright, that it was degrading, offensive, and sexist. That’s not just arrogant and presumptuous. It’s counterproductive because it turns allies in the fight against sexism into assholes.

In order to be offended for everyone, you have to assume everyone feels the same way you do. That’s a flawed, egotistical, narcissistic assumption. That’s exactly the kind of selfishness that Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot oppose with their emphasis on compassion and understanding. Anyone who feels as though they have to be offended for someone other than themselves is basically forcing unwarranted outrage.

This is the kind of thing that gives feminism, men’s rights activists, and people who make excuses for being arrogant dicks a bad name. It’s not that they react to something that’s controversial. They have to either create it or bend it to fit their agenda. I guarantee that as I type this, there are countless debates going on about the merits of sexism, scantily clad women, and sex appeal that aren’t making anyone horny.

That’s not to say that scantily clad women are always positive. Even an aspiring erotica/romance writer understands there’s a line between beauty and gratuity. There’s nothing about the Amazons’ attire that’s so gratuitous that it should require someone’s credit card number and a quick clearing of their browser history. The fact that it has been addressed by those who participated in it should be the end of the story.

Sadly, I suspect this won’t be the end. Even after the outrage over this issue passes, there will be another. For reasons that I wish I didn’t have to discuss, there will still be controversy every time a beautiful woman decides to show more skin than a priest, monk, or mullah deems appropriate.

Until we’re all comfortable in our own skin, or find a way to upgrade our brains to avoid the outrage before it starts, I suspect these kinds of controversies will continue. Just remember that if it has to be forced by those not involved, it’s not a controversy of merit. All it does is take away from those who just want to enjoy being sexy or admire those who are.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, gender issues, sex in media

Tropes, Strong Female Characters, And Challenges

Whenever I talk about an issue on this blog, I never claim to be an expert or an authoritative voice. Given the topics I discuss, from sex among shape-shifters to pro-nudity superheroes, I hope a disclaimer isn’t necessary. My capacity to research and understand an issue extends only to my own personal experiences and simple Google search.

It’s for that very reason that I’m not too surprised whenever I find something or someone that explains an issue down better than I ever could. I fully concede that I’m not as smart as I wish I were on any number of topics. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer with no PhD’s, Nobel Prizes, or daytime talk show. I’m not stupid, but I’m not a genius either.

Even in fields where I feel I’m smarter than most, such as writing sexy stories and talking about sexy topics, I know I’m hardly the best. I’m fully aware that there are others who are much smarter than I am in that field and understand topics better than I ever could.

Sometimes, though, you don’t expect to find that something or someone after having recently explored a particular issue. Recently, I talked about something called the Galbrush Paradox, which is a blanket term used to describe the challenges of writing female characters in a story. I like to think I broke it down in a fairly comprehensive way. It turns out, though, someone already did and they were much more thorough.

Someone on a comic book message board, which I frequent, posted a video that was made in late 2016 on this very topic. It’s from a channel called Overly Sarcastic Productions. It’s almost exactly what it sounds like.

This channel, though some colorful animation and rapid rhetoric, breaks down a number of topics and issues in a concise, informative, and entertaining way. They touch on things like history, philosophy, and various forms of art.

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One of their regular shows involves something called Trope Talk, which effectively breaks down certain tropes in popular culture. Unlike other discussions about such issues, they try to remain objective and make no over-arching judgments. That’s pretty rare these days because when people usually talk about tropes, they often make them part of some sort of sinister agenda. Alex Jones fans know what I’m talking about.

One such video covered the issues surrounding strong female characters, which is at the heart of the Galbrush Paradox. It’s also an issue that I tend to bring up often on this blog, from the misconceptions about such characters to those who deserve their own movie. I tried my best to break it down with my post on the Galbrush Paradox. However, I know when I’m beat.

Overly Sarcastic Productions definitely did it better. Their video on the issue is far more comprehensive and far more detailed than I ever managed. Just watch the video and I think most would agree.

There’s a lot to unpack in this brief, but dense video. More than anything else, it covered a few important details that I avoided. When I talk about strong female characters, I often put them in the context of the challenges they face within a contemporary context. I look at recent trends, like sex-negative feminism and evolving trends in sexual attitudes, and try to apply them to recent challenges.

This video stakes another step back and tries to see the forest from the trees. It breaks down the how and why these challenges exist, how to deal with them, and how to approach them in a reasonable sort of way. Again, I know when I’m beat.

It’s good advice for anyone who has ever attempted to write a story or publish a novel. Just as there are many double standards when it comes to gender issues, there are many ways to approach writing certain characters. I’m learning that more and more with every novel I write.

Given the dynamic nature of cultural attitudes and popular culture, there will some sort of disparity between the genders. That’s why it’s so important to learn about those dynamics. Having great female characters can only help a story. Given how one of them is now a monumental box office success, the stakes are even higher now. As an aspiring writer, I hope I can contribute to that one day as well.

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Wonder Woman And Sex Positivity

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I know I’ve been talking about Wonder Woman a lot lately. No, I’m not going to apologize for that. I’ve had a perfectly valid reason and no need for excuses. It’s not unreasonable to say that Wonder Woman is having the best year she’s had in her 75-year history and that includes the era in which she made Lynda Carter a sex symbol.

The “Wonder Woman” movie is an unabashed success. Just this past week, it surpassed both “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” to become the highest-grossing DC Comics movie to date on the domestic front. It managed to do all this with a female director in Patty Jenkins, a strong female lead in Gal Gadot, and a naked Chris Pine. I think ladies everywhere deserve to flex their ovaries this year.

As great a year as she’s had, there’s been another major development with Wonder Woman that will likely slip under the radar. That’s a shame too because it’s an important development, which is another way of saying it has very sexy implications. Given the nature of this blog, it would be a professional failure on my part if I didn’t talk about it.

In this case, it has to do with what’s been going on with Wonder Woman in the comics. Now, I don’t deny that a very small percentage of the people who saw the “Wonder Woman” movie actually follow the current comics. Most have probably read Wonder Woman comics in the past, seen her in various cartoons, or watched the old Lynda Carter TV show.

The current comics, however, are kind of an afterthought. That’s understandable in some cases. If you only saw the “Captain America” movie, you might be a little confused to find out he’s a Hydra agent in the comics. If you only ever saw the “Iron Man” movie, you might even more confused to find out that Tony Stark is in a coma and Iron Man is a 15-year-old black girl from Chicago.

The comics are confusing, convoluted, and frustrating to say the least. I say that as someone who has been closely following comics for nearly two decades. There are so many different interpretations, alternate universes, and re-launches that most reasonable people would decide it’s not worth the aggravation. I like to think I’m reasonable in most instances, but I guess my love of comics is just that strong.

For those Wonder Woman fans who do follow DC’s iconic comics, they got an overdue, but extra-satisfying treat. As part of DC’s ongoing Rebirth initiative, Wonder Woman’s comic was re-launched and revamped in a way that helped streamline a mess of conflicting continuities and scrambled timelines. Trust me, it’s much more complicated than it sounds. Just look up something called “Flashpoint” to see what I mean.

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, though, you don’t need to know the cow shit to appreciate the flowers. Under the pen of Greg Rucka, an accomplished comic book writer who has written Wonder Woman in the past, and Liam Sharp, an equally-accomplished comic book artist, Wonder Woman’s entire story underwent an overhaul.

That story is one that I cannot recommend enough to Wonder Woman fans. If you loved the movie, then you’ll love these comics. They cover everything that makes Wonder Woman great. Her heart, her compassion, her warrior spirit, and her sex appeal is all on highlighted in all the right ways for all the right reasons. It may very well be the most balanced she’s ever been as a character.

However, it’s the conclusion of that story, which culminated just last week with the release of Wonder Woman #25, that introduces an important element to Wonder Woman’s story. It goes beyond simply capping off a successful run on an iconic comic book series in a satisfying way. That alone is pretty remarkable, especially at a time when comic companies can’t resist killing major characters for a sales boost.

Specifically, it has to do with Wonder Woman’s sexuality. I know that’s a favorite topic of mine and for good reason. Her sexuality is actually pretty broad compared to other male heroes who simply want to bang supermodels all day. Her origins have strong ties to the world of BDSM and in recent years, she has been revealed to be bisexual.

Despite these details, Wonder Woman has been one of those characters who has been sexually nullified, so to speak. For a good chunk of her history, she’s never been allowed to be overtly sexy. Sure, her attire is sexy and she’s not exactly shy about showing off her body. When it comes to having an actual sex life, though, it might as well be on par with the Hulk’s penis. We know it’s there. It’s just not something we talk about.

Sure, she’s allowed to have love interests. Steve Trevor, who was played by Chris Pine in the movie, is her most famous. She’s had others, including Batman in the Justice League cartoon and Superman in the comics at one point. However, the sexuality in all those relationships is severely muted, if not outright ignored.

That changed somewhat in Wonder Woman #25. Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp actually acknowledged that Wonder Woman can be sexual and it doesn’t have to be some big, shocking ordeal. She’s a powerful woman and she has sex. That should not be shocking on any level.

On top of that, Rucka and Sharp make it a point to mix Wonder Woman’s sexual inclinations with her romantic inclinations. Remember, Steve Trevor? Well, now he’s not just the man who managed to get Chris Pine naked in  the “Wonder Woman” movie. He’s the one who makes love with Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman #25. I’m sure both Chris Pine and Gal Gadot would approve.

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It was a sweet, beautiful scene that mixed both romance and sexuality. After a long journey that had many heart-wrenching moments, Wonder Woman returns to Steve, who prepared a romantic night for them. She opted to skip most of it, head into the bedroom, and make love. I’m not going to lie or apologize. That moment made me shed tears of joy and gave me a boner.

It may not seem like a big deal, Wonder Woman getting frisky with her oldest and most well-known love interest. Trust me, both as an erotica/romance writer and a comic book fan. It’s a huge deal and it adds a critical dimension to Wonder Woman’s character that tends to get censored way too often, which is sex positivity.

I’ve talked about sex positivity before, namely how it stands in contrast to sex negative feminism. I’ve even talked about distinctly sex positive superheroes like Starfire. Given Wonder Woman’s status as a feminine ideal, you’d think she would be naturally sex positive. That thinking wouldn’t be dead wrong, but it wouldn’t be right either.

It may be a result of her having not-so-subtle BDSM origins. It may also be a byproduct of the heavy censorship comics endured for most of its history, thanks largely to a bullshit moral panic from the 1950s that nearly killed the industry. Whatever the reasons, Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins were purged and her sexuality was effectively ignored.

She was still a woman, but her sexuality was about as prominent as her appendix. Her entire persona, even into the modern era, emphasized her warrior woman status. She only fought and looked good while doing it. That was pretty much the core of her character.

Now that’s not to say she had no other appeals. She most certainly did. However, her sexuality, and even her attitudes towards sex, were either ignored or circumvented. That’s why this new development in Wonder Woman #25 is so critical.

In this case, Wonder Woman actually did something even Starfire struggles to accomplish. She created a perfect balance of sexuality and love. Starfire may have a very healthy attitude towards sex and nudity, but she tends to be too casual when it comes to romance. She’s perfectly comfortable having sex, but expressing love through sex is a bit trickier.

For Wonder Woman, it’s a natural manifestation of her loving, compassionate personality. She has love for her friends, her fellow heroes, and Steve Trevor. Rucka and Sharp just let her express it through her sexuality in a way that was sincere, meaningful, and perfectly appropriate for the context of the story.

That kind of sex positivity is exceedingly rare these days. I’ve said before that the world needs more of it. There are ominous signs that society is becoming more sexually uptight. Sexuality, especially of the female variety, is still very much a taboo. Men and women alike seem to have conflicting attitudes that can manifest in unhealthy ways.

How fitting is it that Wonder Woman, the most iconic female hero of the last century, finds a way to achieve a beautiful balance between sexuality and romance? It’s a powerful element that I hope DC Comics doesn’t censor once more. A female hero knows how to fight, love, and make love in a meaningful, compelling way is a beautiful story in its own right. You could even say it’s a true wonder.

Yes, I know that sounds cheesy as hell. No, I’m not going to apologize for that either.

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Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, And A Positive Feminist Message

It’s hard to believe it’s almost here. In less than one month, the “Wonder Woman” movie starring Chris Pine and Gal Gadot will finally be released. It’s been a long time coming. For comic book and superhero fans of every age, race, and gender, this is a movie we’ve been waiting for with baited breath and wet panties.

I’ve already made my love of Wonder Woman quite clear on this blog. She is, beyond dispute, the most iconic female hero of the last 100 years. She isn’t just a symbol for female power that spans generations. She represents a unique heart, spirit, and passion that appeals just as much to 1950s housewives as it does to latte-loving millennials in 2017.

Of all the many superhero movies I’m excited for, “Wonder Woman” is at the top of a very long list. She already made her presence felt in last year’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While that movie was critically panned to no end for all the wrong reasons, there was one sentiment than most agreed on. Wonder Woman was one of the best parts of that movie.

Gal Gadot, who also happens to be a former Israeli soldier in addition to being drop-dead gorgeous, proved that she is worthy of this iconic role. She can be Wonder Woman and kick an insane amount of ass while doing it. She can do all of this while having a level of sex appeal that Lynda Carter herself would be proud of.

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This is all wonderful news for fans of comics, superheroes, and beautiful kick-ass women. This is also usually where I turn the tables in a post and bring up an issue that tends to bring down your spirits faster than a dead kitten in a graveyard for orphans.

Well, if you’re looking for me to put another dent in your soul, I’m going to have to disappoint you this time. Instead, I wanted to bring up Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, and all the wonders that come with her for a genuinely good reason that should put a smile on your face and fill your heart with a cradle of baby puppies.

That’s because, as the marketing machine ramps up for Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot and the director, Patty Jenkins, are hitting the media circuit. Naturally, that’s going to lead to a few fake controversies and out-of-context quotes. Just look at any interview ever done with Ben Affleck. It’s as inevitable as a child star needing therapy.

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It’s a dangerous game, throwing yourself out there in a world where the internet will crucify you for using the wrong pronouns. If anyone can do it and be sexy as hell, though, it’s Gal Gadot. She ended up proving herself in a way that any Amazon warrior would be proud of.

She did so by addressing an issue that tends to infuriate the internet, people, and the very forces of nature if it’s ever mentioned above a whisper. That’s right, Gal Gadot talked about feminism. I’ll give everyone a moment to stop gasping, but don’t head for your safe space just yet. This one actually has a happy ending.

I’ve made multiple posts on how hard it is to talk about this issue, especially when there are so many frustrating double standards. Gal Gadot didn’t attempt to address everything. Even Wonder Woman has her limits. However, she did address one issue that seems to divide feminists, conservative Christians, and men who have a hard time hiding their boners. Specifically, she talked about her attire.

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Usually, when people talk about women’s attire, it turns into a pay-per-view caliber whining fight where one side argues it’s too sexy and the other side argues it’s too repressive. Wear too little and you’re being too slutty. Wear too much and you’re propagating the grand patriarchal conspiracy to relegate all women to making sandwiches. You just can’t win.

Gal Gadot, being the wonderful woman she is, proved that wrong. In an interview with the New York Times, she addressed the issue of Wonder Woman’s attire and did so in a way that every self-proclaimed feminist should learn from. Here’s what she said.

“I think as a feminist, you should be able to wear whatever you like!” Ms. Gadot said. “In any case, there is such a misunderstanding of the concept. Feminism is about equality and choice and freedom. And the writers, Patty and myself all figured that the best way to show that is to show Diana as having no awareness of social roles. She has no gender boundaries. To her, everyone is equal.”

It almost makes too much sense. It’s almost too logical. If you’re for feminism, you should be for wearing whatever the fuck you want. If you want to wear a G-string and a tube top made out of duct tape, then wear it. If you want to wear a burka or a bear costume, then wear it. That is the perfect feminist message, one that men, women, and those of unspecified gender can get behind.

It’s wonderfully refreshing because feminism, be it radical or otherwise, has been somewhat schizophrenic when it comes to women’s attire. On one hand, you’ll have feminists protesting their right to sunbathe topless. On the other, you’ll have feminists whining about video game characters dressing too sexy.

It’s a painfully asinine conflict, one that reduces feminism to glorified virtue signaling coupled with excessive excuse banking. It’s the main reason why feminism has become such a toxic buzzword that’s less associated with equality and more associated with mean-spirited bitchiness.

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What Gal Gadot says helps put things in perspective. It’s also the perfect response to the bullshit decision the United Nations made earlier this year to rescind her status as an ambassador to girls because she was too sexy. She’s able to frame feminism in a context where only genuinely uptight, misogynistic, patriarchal asshats can disagree. By every measure, that’s a win for Wonder Woman and feminism.

I’m sure Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman will still have her detractors from feminists, men, and even other comic book fans. That’s just the nature of a world full of diverse, erratic, and often misguided opinions. That’s why it’s so refreshing for someone like Gal Gadot to use your position to make a positive contribution.

There will still be those who complain that Wonder Woman’s attire is too sexy. There will also be those who complain that she’s not sexy enough and that she’s not a good role model. However, those same people would complain about the sky being too blue if they had nothing else so their opinions deserve less credibility than their farts.

Gal Gadot didn’t need to say what she said. She didn’t need to prove to anyone that she deserves the role of Wonder Woman. She still did it and for that, on behalf of Wonder Woman fans and fans of those who say things that actually make sense, I thank her.

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