Tag Archives: sex in the media

Why Idris Elba’s Advice To Men On The Anti-Harassment Movement Is Flawed

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These are tenuous times for gender relations. Between the rise of the anti-harassment movement and the revelation of egregious crimes committed by once-respected celebrities, society is undergoing to significant upheaval in how we approach sex, relationships, and harassment.

Some claim this upheaval is overdue and I don’t disagree. There is a well-documented history of powerful people getting away with egregious behavior. In general, it’s a good thing when society seeks justice and accountability for everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

With that good, however, often comes obstacles that need to be navigated carefully and flawed human beings have a mixed history in those efforts to say the least. We’ve already seen some of that in how some have responded to the anti-harassment movement. Some are going so far as to avoid women entirely to minimize the risk. This is an extreme reaction, but one in keeping with the law of proportional backlash.

It has been frustrating for those who genuinely seek to improve gender relations. It has also made for easy sources of outrage with one side calling the other misogynist, patriarchal bigots and the other calling them regressive, whiny leftists. There’s a lot of room for arguments and plenty of opportunities for shouting, especially in the age of social media.

 

It’s still a relevant question for people caught up in the current state of gender politics, avoiding accusations of sexual misconduct and maintaining amicable relations among the genders. Crimes should be prosecuted and punished. Good people, whether they’re men, women, or something in between, should be free to engage with one another without fear of getting caught up in fervor.

Recently, the reigning sexiest man alive, Idris Elba, offered an easy solution to all those arguing about the current state of gender relations that many have rallied around. In an interview with Vanity Fair, he had this to say to those worried about navigating the anti-harassment movement.

“It’s only difficult if you’re a man with something to hide.”

It’s a simple, logical, almost mundane piece of advice. Many loudly cheered it as a welcome change of pace from the more complicated responses given by Matt Damon and Henry Cavill. When you’re the sexiest man alive and a top choice for the next James Bond, it’s easy to offer a simple solution that carries significant weight.

Now, I have a lot of respect for Mr. Elba. He’s a great actor and, by all accounts, one of Hollywood’s most likable personalities. In a perfect world, his words would not be controversial and require no further scrutiny. Sadly, we don’t live in that world.

I won’t go so far as to say that Mr. Elba is dead wrong. I won’t say he’s more than half-right, either. More than anything else, his comments are incomplete. They’re coming from a famous celebrity who also happens to be a tall, dark, handsome man whose success often leads to a considerable detachment from reality, as often happens in Hollywood.

If Mr. Elba had just said that men who have something to hide will probably face more difficulty than others, then he would be spot on. Whether you’re a famous celebrity or some ordinary person living their lives, having nothing to hide makes you far less likely to be on the wrong end of a sexual assault accusation.

In the era of smart phones, social media, and hacked emails, it’s considerably harder for anyone to hide their misconduct, sexual or otherwise. If anything, celebrities and powerful politicians are the only ones with the resources to hide their misdeeds and even that isn’t always enough. For non-celebrities, though, the resources are far more limited and this is where the merit of Mr. Elba’s words comes up short.

There are many ways to break down why simply having nothing to hide is not the most effective strategy for navigating the current landscape of gender politics. To best illustrate why it’s so shallow, though, we need only know the story of Brian Banks.

This guy’s story will upset/move you. You have been warned.

If you’re not familiar with that name, then chances are Mr. Elba isn’t either. His story is a tragedy with a bittersweet ending. Back in 2002, he was a promising a promising football player from Long Beach, California who had already committed to playing college football at USC.

Then, a classmate of his accused him of raping her in a stairway. Rather than face the possibility of 41 years to life in prison, Banks accepted a plea deal that included five years in prison, five years of probation, and having to register as a sex offender. By every measure, his life and his once-promising future was over. On top of it all, Banks was completely innocent.

That’s not just what a court eventually ruled. The accuser actually confessed that she made it up, adding that it was part of an effort with her mother to sue the school for money. It’s every bit as deplorable as it sounds. By the time this came out, though, it was 2012. He still served five years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and lost out on his once promising football career.

Brian Banks followed Mr. Elba’s advice to the letter. He had nothing to hide. That still wasn’t enough, though. His life was still derailed and had the accuser not confessed, he probably wouldn’t have been able to rebuild his life to the extent that he has.

It’s easy for someone like Mr. Elba to give that advice and just as easy for him to practice it. As I noted before, he’s rich, successful, handsome, and respected. If someone tried to falsely accuse him of sexual misconduct, he wouldn’t have a hard time fighting it. Beyond his reputation as the sexiest man alive, he has access to the best legal defense that obscene wealth can buy.

People like Brain Banks don’t have that luxury. Exceedingly few individuals do. Banks plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit because, without those resources, there was a real possibility that he would’ve gotten a much worse sentence. He’s actually fortunate that he managed to escape the fate he did. Others, however, weren’t so lucky.

Brian Banks’ story, alone, is tangible proof that Mr. Elba’s advice is incomplete. Sadly, there are other stories like this and some of them have far less pleasant outcomes. According to the Innocence Project, there are an estimated 20,000 innocent people serving prison sentences for crimes they did not commit. They too had nothing to hide, but were convicted anyways.

There’s men like Randolph Arledge, who served 29 years for a rape and murder that he did not commit. The evidence that convicted him was based entirely on informant testimony.

There’s also the story of Marvin Anderson, who had no criminal record when he was convicted of a brutal rape for which he served 20 years in prison.

There’s also the case of Ted Bradford, who spent 10 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. There wasn’t even any physical evidence tying him to the crime.

There’s the case of David Johns Bryson, who served 20 years for heinous crime involving kidnapping and rape. A combination of bad forensic science and misguided police tactics did him in.

These men are not celebrities. They’re not rich movie producers or well-connected politicians. They’re just ordinary men trying to live their lives. They had no more to hide than anyone else. That still wasn’t enough. In some cases, they were the victims of mistaken identity. In others, they were the targets of a vindictive accuser. In every case, their lives were irreparably damaged.

I still don’t doubt Mr. Elba’s sincerity. Even those who applaud his words probably don’t realize the flaws in his advice. Names like Brian Banks probably don’t ever cross their mind. Even if it did, Mr. Elba’s words present a clean, concise response to those who express concern about the larger impacts of the anti-harassment movement. For those looking for an easy recourse to a difficult problem, it has a lot of appeal.

That’s the biggest problem with simple solutions to complex problems. The narrative of the anti-harassment movement, or any social movement, cannot accommodate that much complexity. If it did, the narrative wouldn’t be as compelling. As I’ve noted before, the idea that there’s this brave movement of empowered women standing up to serial abusers has all the makings of a feel-good Hollywood story.

The reality, though, is far less ideal. Men like Brian Banks found that out the hard way. If the work of the Innocence Project is any indication, there are probably plenty more who never had anything to hide, but still got convicted. For them, Mr. Elba’s advice will only compound one kind of injustice with another.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, gender issues, human nature, media issues, men's issues, outrage culture, political correctness, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality, women's issues

The Future Of Beauty (In A World Where People Don’t Need To Exercise)

When I write one of my sexy novel, I work hard on it. I really put my heart and soul into it. There are other feelings I put into it, but those are only part of a much greater effort that doesn’t always manifest in my pants.

The work we put into something is what gives it meaning to us. Even the laziest slob will concede to that. If my novels just magically conjured themselves while I was asleep, that would be wonderfully convenient. However, I don’t think I would be as passionate about them if I didn’t actually put the work into making them.

I think the same concept applies to exercise and how we go about making ourselves beautiful. Throughout human history, there have been all sorts of elaborate, albeit bizarre rituals surrounding beauty and fitness. When I work out, whether it’s for my health or to look good at the beach, the effort I put into it helps add to the fulfillment I feel when I look in the mirror.

Take that work out of the equation and what does that change? That’s not a rhetorical question. That’s a serious inquiry because if we didn’t have to work so hard to get fit and beautiful, then are we going to approach fitness and beauty the same way? I believe we haven’t asked that question enough, but the answer is already out there.

When I mentioned recent research that promises drugs that allow users to enjoy the fruits of exercise without actually doing anything, I’m sure there were plenty of out-of-shape couch potatoes out there who got excited. I certainly wouldn’t blame them. The idea that we can all look like we spend two hours a day in the gym is pretty enticing.

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However, that means that fit, toned body we all crave now would be much easier to get. You don’t really work for it. You just take a pill, sit back, and let science and biology do the rest. That kind of effort isn’t going to inspire much pride. Hell, that kind of effort is barely on par with brushing your teeth every day.

If that’s all it takes to look fit and slim in the future, then is being fit and slim really going to be considered beautiful? Standards of beauty have changed a lot over the course of history. Beauty is usually meant to confer a sense of health, strength, and vitality. It’s also a way for some people to set themselves apart in an exceptional way.

In a world where being fit is so common, would it really be considered that beautiful in a larger context? If everyone is beautiful, then is anyone truly beautiful? Doesn’t beauty require a certain variation that is difficult for most people to attain?

It’s akin to the inherent contradiction in thinking everyone is special. If you go by the dictionary definition of the word, the entire concept falls apart if you approach it that way. When everyone is unique in the same way, then they cease to be unique.

That raises another question that’s much harder to answer. In a world where everyone is fit and doesn’t need to exercise to incur its benefits, what will be considered beautiful? What will be considered sexy? As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, these kinds of questions are very serious.

Naturally, a world full of fit people with stronger bodies is going to be inherently sexier. Beauty standards aside, there’s a lot to be gained by having a society full of healthy individuals. Obesity has already been linked to sexual dysfunction. Increased exercise has also been linked to a higher sex drive. Regardless of whether or not that exercise comes in pill form, it’s going to affect our collective sex lives.

That means the concept of what is sexually attractive will gain even greater importance. If everyone around you looks like an extra in a softcore porn movie, then how do you decide which one you want to hook up with? Could this create a paradox of choice situation where find ourselves unable to determine who rouses our loins?

It’s impossible to know since we don’t live in that world. However, unlike our beauty-minded ancestors, other aspects of future technology will impact this effort. Tools like CRISPR and smart blood will allow people to modify and enhance their bodies in ways no amount of exercise ever could.

However, those advances are still a way off. Before we advance to that point, people may have to improvise. It may require that people develop more unique fetishes, of sorts, which I’ve speculated on before. If you think the stuff in “50 Shades Of Grey” or furry conventions are kinky, then you might have to hold your jaw up in the future.

Beyond the fetishes, the fashion industry will likely become an ongoing LSD trip in its effort to accommodate the inherent need to stand out in a world where everyone is fit. That’s because just being healthy won’t be enough. Like being a nice guy or not being a sleazy Hollywood mogul, that just won’t be enough to attract prospective lovers.

There’s only so much an aspiring erotica/romance writer can imagine. Even my kinky mind has its limits. Major technological advances, from antibiotics to contraception, have already had enormous impacts on our sex lives and how we go about forging romantic bonds. More advances are on the horizon. Some will hit harder than others.

That means there’s also a chance that there will be major drawbacks in a world where the benefits of exercise comes in pill form. Even if people are healthier and hornier, there may be large segments of society not equipped to handle that. It was a burning question in my book, “Skin Deep,” that did not get a complete answer. We probably won’t be able to answer that question until the technology arrives.

Whatever the case, for better or for worse, I will do my part to adapt my sexy stories accordingly. A world full of fit, healthy people is sure to change a great deal with respect to how we think of beauty, how we go about finding lovers, and how we make love.

However, our collective libido is nothing if not adaptive. It’s a big reason why the human race is the dominant species on this planet. That, in and of itself, is a thing of beauty whose form will continue to evolve in sexier ways than we can possibly imagine.

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Important Announcement: It’s OKAY To Be Sexy

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Today, I have a very important announcement to make. No, it has nothing to do with the release of my upcoming book, “Passion Relapse.” That’s still coming out on April 18th though. Yes, I’m going to promote the hell out of it in the coming weeks so get used to that.

This announcement is every bit as important as my first book. It may even be more important. Since I’m a long way from success as an erotica/romance writer, I don’t say that lightly. However, I do feel that this is worth saying. It needs to be said so brace yourself. This may shock a few people.

It’s OKAY to be sexy!

I’ll give everyone a moment to recover from the shock. Take all the time you need. I know. This is a startling revelation, but hang in there. We’ll get through this together. I promise.

Okay, that’s enough sarcasm for now. I’ll ease up on the melodrama, but it was necessary for a reason. I say it’s a good reason too because this is one of those topics that has no middle ground. Either people just shrug it off or they’re downright hysterical about it.

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Since I’m trying to break into the erotica/romance world, this subject actually affects me and could very well affect my future career. The stakes are higher for me is what I’m saying. So what exactly makes this announcement so vital?

Well, to answer that, here’s some context. It wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t make too big a deal about characters in movies, video games, and comic books who were overtly sexual. I’m not saying some people got their panties in one too many knots. I’m saying that, for a time, it really wasn’t high on the list of things that pissed us off.

That time wasn’t too long ago. For reference, allow me to cite one of the most iconic female characters of the past couple decades, Lara Croft. She’s always been one of those characters with a special kind of sex appeal. You could argue that her sex appeal helped make her an icon. How could it not? This is what she used to look like.

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That’s pretty sexy. I won’t deny that it’s somewhat impractical for a soldier or a fighter, but Lara Croft is still a badass, globe-trotting fighter who happens to look good in short shorts and bikinis. There’s nothing wrong with that. As a man, I greatly appreciate that sort of visual appeal.

Then, back in 2013, her character was essentially revamped and rebooted. The sex appeal was downplayed, if not outright purged. Lara Croft went from being a badass, globe-trotting fighter with a sexy attitude to just a badass, globe-trotting fighter. She’s still a beautiful woman by most objective standards, but she’s not allowed to be quite as sexy anymore. This is what she looks like now.

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Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with how Lara Croft looks now. That hasn’t made her video games any less enjoyable to play. However, the removal of her sex appeal is somewhat jarring.

Lara Croft isn’t the only female character to undergo that change either. Remember when I did my list of female characters that make men hate women? Well, on that list, I put a character named Felecia “Black Cat” Hardy. She’s a typical female vixen character from the Spider-Man comics. She’s another character whose persona is built around sex appeal, as evidenced by her costume.

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Well, like Lara Croft, she underwent a change too. No, she didn’t become any less likable. Yes, she’s still a character who will make men hate women on some levels. The only difference now is that she doesn’t show as much cleavage.

It’s part of an ongoing story in the Spider-Man comics to make Black Cat more of a crime lord than a vixen. The story has been mediocre for the most part. I won’t say it’s bad, but I will say that it has done nothing to change the parts of Black Cat’s character that make her so unlikable. Whether she’s fully clothed or wearing a G-string thong, she’s still a character that make men say stupid crap about women.

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I find this trend somewhat troubling and not just because it means less visible boobs. It troubles me because for some reason, the image of sexy women is somehow a bad thing. Granted, sexy women have always made people feel a bit uncomfortable and not just in their pants, but this is getting into dangerously regressive territory.

There’s no doubt that there’s a certain level of sexism in the media. There’s also a vocal component of radical feminism that has this mentality that any man who admires the image of a sexy woman is somehow sexist, perpetuating sexism, or contributing to rape culture. For a guy just admiring a beautiful woman, that’s pretty extreme.

Beautiful women, pictures of beautiful women, and any female character that has some form of sex appeal is now somehow contributing to this concept of “toxic masculinity.” That’s basically a catch-all term for all the terrible things men do and, conveniently enough, the cause is something that’s hard-wired into their own biology. That’s like calling a man sexist because he sweats more than most women.

Never mind the fact that the ideas of toxic masculinity and rape culture are somewhat flawed concepts. Never mind that since 1995, rates of sexual assault against women have declined by 58 percent. Apparently, all these sexy images are causing a crisis somehow.

Regardless of the facts, these crises are becoming more and more petty. Last year, I mentioned some of the laughable outrage generated by a comic book cover for Invincible Iron Man. Maybe I should’ve pointed it out then too, but that was just one sign among many.

Whether it’s due to concerns about body image or female representation in media, there’s a new moral crusade brewing. This time, however, it’s not being led by clerics, mullahs, monks, and popes. It’s being led by ordinary, educated people who have somehow convinced themselves that being sexy or admiring sexy things is somehow wrong.

I’m here to say that’s simply wrong. It’s okay to be sexy. It’s okay to admire sexy images. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re not a bad person for enjoying things you find sexy. You’re just a healthy mind in a healthy body. There’s no reason to apologize for that.

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Why Quality Erotica/Romance Movies Are (Almost) Impossible

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A while back, I talked about the box office reception that “50 Shades Darker” received and the implications this had for the future of erotica/romance in movies. In my assessment, as someone with a keen interest in the future of erotica/romance, I painted a mildly optimistic picture.

I had good reason to. After all, “50 Shades Darker” turned a profit, just like its predecessor. Sure, it was panned by critics, but that has never stopped trends in movies before. Just ask Michael Bay. Critical reception aside, “50 Shades of Grey” made a lot of money for book publishers and movie studios. That should be all that’s necessary to spark a new wave of erotica/romance in movies, right?

Well, maybe it’s because I’ve had some spare time while recovering from a terrible cold, but I find myself re-assessing my assessment. In doing so, I’ve surmised a number of major, almost insurmountable obstacles that will keep erotica/romance stories, like the ones I write, from being Jaws-level blockbusters.

Now I say it’s almost insurmountable because Hollywood has defied the odds and/or common sense before. I thought the vomit-inducing shit storm that was “Batman and Robin” had killed superhero movies for the next several decades. Thankfully, I was wrong and three years later, “X-men” came out. However, the erotica/romance genre has challenges that even superhero movies never had to overcome.

With that caveat in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the obstacles that hinder erotica/romance in movies. Yes, they seem daunting, but keep in mind that when there’s money to be made, Hollywood usually finds a way to exploit the hell out of it.


Obstacle #1: The Porn Problem

While the Mike Huckabees of the world may hate it, porn exists. Porn, as a genre and an industry, exists in a big way. According to Forbes, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry with its own line of major brands, product lines, and superstars. Names like Brazzers, Adam and Eve, and Jenna Jameson are all well-known, even though many are still reluctant to admit just how much they know.

This may be good for the industry, but it’s also a big reason why the erotica part of erotica/romance has such a big problem getting into movies. It’s because porn is its own industry that there’s this hard, unambiguous line between porn and cinema.

Show any typical movie next to a typical porn and it’s usually pretty easy to figure out which is which. Even if none of the actresses involved have boob jobs, it’s painfully obvious which one was produced by a porn studio. If a movie is going to be overly sexual in any way, then it’s going to either get hijacked by porn or associated with it. In either case, the romance part will be lost completely.

This is why the erotica parts of movies like “50 Shades of Grey” and “Showgirls” are so watered down. Sure, you’ll see a pair of breasts. Sure, you’ll even see a penis or a vagina every now and then, if only briefly. However, it’ll never be as overt or uncensored as porn.

Some of this because too much T&A will earn a movie the dreaded NC-17 rating, which means no major theaters will carry it. At best, a movie with that rating will end up a late-night softcore porn movie on Cinemax or HBO, which directly ties into another obstacle.


Obstacle #2: The Acting Problem

Here’s a pop quiz everybody should be able to pass. How many Oscar-winning actors or actresses in the past 30 years have ever starred in a porno movie? If you can’t think of any, then congratulations. You passed.

That’s because for actors or actresses, acting in porn or being too eager to take your clothes off is the quickest way to lose credibility in Hollywood. Now some actresses can get away with showing their tits more than others, as Angelina Jolie has proven, but those are the exceptions and not the norms.

For men, it’s even worse. Many male actors are willing to get naked on screen, as Leonardo DiCaprio has proven, but chances are they’ll never do a full-frontal where their dick and balls are clear for everyone to see. That’s usually the quickest way to get laughed out of any future audition.

This is a problem because good acting is important to a good story, especially one that involves romantic themes. However, good actors and actresses can’t get quality work if they’re too eager to get naked on camera. That’s because they’ll just be seen as quasi-porn stars of sorts who rely more on their sex appeal than their acting skills to make a living.

Now there’s nothing wrong with relying on your natural or surgically-enhanced sex appeal to make a living. Pamela Anderson is proof that this can work, even if she has become somewhat of a hypocrite about it.

However, for serious actors in Hollywood, it’s an unbalanced balancing act of sorts. Too much sex appeal means your acting skills become secondary. Without those acting skills, it’s hard to tell a meaningful story. Even if the actor or actress has those skills, there’s also the erotic acts themselves to consider, which leads to the next major obstacle.


Obstacle #3: The Performance Problem

By performance, I don’t mean an actor or actress’ ability to cry on cue. Think back to porn for a moment without opening a new tab on your browser. Why is it that many porn actors or porn actresses have such poor acting skills? Well, there’s a simple reason for that. Their acting skills are a secondary concern at best, if not an afterthought at worst.

The biggest challenge to being a porn actor or actress has nothing to do with actual acting. It has everything to do with actually being able to have sex in front of a camera, under weird lighting, and with a director barking orders behind the scene. It’s not exactly an intimate setting is what I’m saying.

Most men can’t exactly rise to the occasion under those situations. As a man, I can attest that our biology makes that difficult for us. Just as many women can’t exactly get in the mood either. That’s why male porn stars are judged more on their ability to keep an erection and why female porn stars are judged by their ability to keep the sex going, even after the mood has passed.

This is why sex in movies is so overly-censored. Even in softcore porn movies, it’s extremely watered down. If you do see a penis, it’s never erect. If you do see a vagina, it’s rarely that wet. That’s why the sex never looks real or genuine. It’s a matter of skill more than story.

Good actors and actresses have the skill to make a character seem real. Good porn stars have the skill to actually have sex in front of a camera. Few, if any, have the ability to do both, which is why erotica/romance has so much working against it.


Obstacle #4: The Stigma Problem

As I’ve pointed out before, Hollywood still has a few oddly outdated attitudes when it comes to sex. Again, just go see any slasher movie made in the past 30 years. The first person to die is always the man or woman who is too eager to get naked or have sex.

In any major romance movie, a relationship that has too much sex will be portrayed as shallow. A relationship that lacks sex or sex appeal will come off as more genuine. It’s an either/or scenario that rarely gets challenged and for good reason.

Too much sex in a movie will cause it too lose credibility. Too much sex in a romance will make it seem shallow. The idea that sex can actually complement a romance might as well seem alien to a Hollywood producer. That would be like claiming Seth Rogan can do a good movie that doesn’t involve weed. It seems outrageous.

Beyond the stigma within the movie, there’s the stigma outside the studios as well. As I mentioned with the acting issue, those involved in an overly sexy movie will get labeled as the kind of people who can only do movies that involve a lot of sex.

This is why few victims in slasher movies go onto win Oscars. They commit the sin of getting naked in a few too many scenes and they’re basically blacklisted in Hollywood. It’s not fair, but that’s how the industry works.


Reasons For Hope

Now if these obstacles make it seem like erotica/romance will never be a legitimate movie genre, I apologize if I give that impression. Granted, these are obstacles that few genres have ever had to overcome. Even with the success of “50 Shades of Grey,” it’s not like studios are clamoring to make knock-offs on the same level we’ve seen with superhero movies.

That said, there does appear to be an emerging market for more mature content that doesn’t shy away from showing nudity in more than a few scenes. How do I know this? It can be best summed up by three words: Game of Thrones.

Say what you want about the critical reception of “50 Shades of Grey.” There’s no denying the cultural impact that “Game of Thrones” has had since it debuted on HBO. It’s violent. It’s sexy. It’s downright gratuitous in the way it glorifies Emily Clarke’s breasts. It’s also a damn good story full of great acting and compelling characters.

Now that’s not to say “Game of Thrones” qualifies as an erotica/romance story. It’s very much a different kind of story, one that fits more into established fantasy genres. However, it’s willingness to use a balance of sex, violence, and story offer hope that this balance can find its way into other genres.

So while it may be a while before we see an erotica/romance movie, like my upcoming book, “Passion Relapse,” we’re a lot closer than you think. Sex still sells. Meaningful romance still sells. It’s only a matter of time before Hollywood finds a way to combine the two and make a boatload of money off it.

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Sex Vs. Love: A (Somewhat) Fair Fight

There’s a reason why sports, video games, and WWE wrestling have so much appeal. They give us a chance to either participate or observe in a contest of wits, skill, or (in the case of the WWE) theatrics. If the rules are solid and not arbitrarily enforced by Roger Goodell, then the competition is fair and so too is the appeal.

This brings me to the never-ending competition between sex and love. Bear with me. I know that sounds like a complete non-sequiter from someone who made the mistake of writing a blog post while horny. I promise there’s a reason for this approach and it has little (relatively speaking) to do with being horny.

In reflecting how our attitudes about sex and violence are more erratic than a brain-damaged squirrel on crack, I feel compelled to highlight a conflict in which there are far more winners than losers. When it comes to sex and love, I like to think there are very few losers, at least for those who don’t learn about these topics through priests, mullahs, and porn.

When it comes to sex and love, it’s hard for anyone to come out a complete loser. Whether you fall in love or have a great orgasm (or several), you’re going to feel like a winner in some capacity. Didn’t find the love of your life? That’s okay. You still had good sex. Didn’t get sex, but found the love of your life? That’s okay too. Both are very rewarding.

As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I don’t just deal with sex and love. I have to dig deeper, fleshing out the fleshly passions of love and lust in a way that will appeal to a reader’s heart and loins. It’s not easy and I can’t say I’m really good at it right now. While I did manage to get a publisher to pick up one of my manuscripts, I’m still a long way from making it a full-time career.

At the heart of the challenge in making good erotica/romance is understanding dynamics between sex and love. Anyone who has ever sat through a health class not run by the Catholic Church or Texas public schools knows the basic mechanics of sex. A penis goes into a vagina. If done properly, it brings pleasure, intimacy, love, and (if the conditions are right) babies.

Love is a bit harder define. There’s no special class in school we can take to learn about love and even if there were, I imagine most of us would fail. That’s because the dynamics of love are so varied and vast. They can never fit into a text book, let alone be taught to a bunch of hormonal students who would rather be playing Pokémon Go.

Love is emotional. Sex is more physical. One can only be described through words and non-verbal gestures. One can be recorded, studied, and marketed into a multi-billion dollar industry. These differences are not trivial. There can, and often is, conflict between the two.

However, it’s not the kind of conflict that we see manifest in one too many bad sitcoms. It’s also not the kind of conflict that even the highest grossing movies of all time can adequately depict. It’s one of those unique conflicts that plays out in both fiction and reality, albeit with less Celine Deion music.

At its core, the conflict between sex and love is a matter of perception. We all know perception and reality are rarely on the same page, but more often than not, perception does tend t0 win out. The issue here is that sometimes, one person’s perceptions are at odds with another.

If two people have shared perceptions in sex and love, then there really is no conflict. They live in the same fantasy world. They share in the same experiences, both in and out of the bedroom. Ideally, a couple is on the same page in terms of how they perceive their love and their sex with one another.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where people get their hearts broken, celebrities couples break up, and where a man breaks up with a woman for not putting croutons on a salad. Unless those are some damn good croutons, that demonstrates some pretty flawed perceptions.

When it comes to sex, the situation is even less ideal. It’s not just the egregious double standards that modern society clings to for men and women. Whether you’re religious or a card-carrying hippie, your perceptions are going to clash with a biological imperative. As anyone who had failed miserably at sticking to a healthy diet can attest, biological imperatives tend to win out.

It’s very easy to confuse the pursuit of sex with the pursuit of love. There’s a good reason for that, at least with respect to the survival of our species. Unlike our brains, our genitals don’t really care how much or how little love goes into sex. Provided it gives us that toe-curling orgasm and all the baby-making side-effects that come with it, then nature could care less.

That’s not to say nature doesn’t give a shit about love. It most certainly does. In fact, it cares more than we give it credit for. Love, despite all its poetic value, does have an extremely pragmatic use. Love bonds people. It creates an intimacy that ties two (or more) people together in a profound, emotional manner.

Those intimate ties are vital not just for the rearing of children. They’re vital for our emotional and physical well-being. That’s not just the rosy assessment of an erotica/romance writer. There’s actual science to back it up.

According to WebMD, there are a multitude of documented health benefits to being in love and having a loving relationship with someone. Some, like less anxiety and better stress management, are mostly psychological. Others, like lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy, are real and tangible.

Like the health benefits or orgasms, nature has given us many incentives to pursue love. It’s good for the body. It’s good for the soul. It’s good for the survival of the human species. Evolution doesn’t get more potent (or sexier) than that.

So why is there conflict? Well, as numerous and varied as these incentives are, nature is still an exceedingly blunt instrument. How else can you explain some of the bizarre and disturbing animals that have evolved on this planet?

It’s because nature is so blunt that we flawed, poorly-wired humans struggle to tell the difference between love and sex. It leads to the kinds of situations where we think we’re in love, but we’re just really enjoying the sex. It also leads situations where we’re having great sex, but not feeling loved.

It’s a hell of a struggle, but in a world where 10 percent of the population doesn’t have access to clean water, it’s not the worst struggle you can have. It can still feel like you’re having your heart ripped out by a hungry shark. It can feel like your own genitals are conspiring against you. Those feelings are at the core of many erotica/romance novels, including some of mine.

As hard as they can be, most will probably agree the struggle is worth it. When both the journey and the destination involve feelings of great passion and the pleasure that comes with sex, then it’s definitely a struggle most would gladly endure.

So how do we manage this conflict? How do we deal with this constant clash between sex and love that plagues, even when we’re fully clothed?

Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time both reading and writing erotica/romance, it’s that there’s no one way to manage sex and love. What works for some people doesn’t work for others. Some people can even have some pretty odd tastes in both love and sex. Not everybody’s passions and proclivities manifest in the same way.

There really aren’t many constants or guidelines to go by. If there is one that stands out though, it’s that with this conflict, it’s possible to exploit the flaws in our caveman brains. It’s not that hard and while it won’t make for too many romance/erotica novels, it is fittingly pragmatic in the context of caveman logic.

We have sex because we love someone. We love someone so we have sex with them. Thanks to the bluntness of nature, it’s a two-way street by default. You can use sex to inspire love, just as you can use love to inspire sex. It doesn’t have to be a sub-par Ashton Kucher movie. I can be a real strategy to manage your love life and your sex life.

Even if that strategy doesn’t work, you still get some orgasms out of it so in the end, you both win on some levels. It may not make for an epic love story, but it’ll make the conflict more enjoyable in the long run.

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Perception Vs. Reality: ANOTHER Unfair Fight

Did you hear the news? Rates of crime, violence, and deviance are skyrocketing thanks to that horribly evil corrupting influence known as pornography! Wait…I may have been mistaken. I think that influence is violent video games now. Hold on, I think it might have been internet harassment.

Or was it violent movies?

Or was it comic books?

Or was it heavy metal music?

Or was it MTV?

Or was it the Simpson/Family Guy/Bevis and Butthead?

Or was it Dungeons and Dragons?

I’m sorry. I just can’t keep up with all these terribly corrupting influence. It seems like there’s a new one every other year. In every case, this latest influence will be the one that turns our culture into an orgy of meth-addicted chimps armed with machine guns.

I’ll turn the sarcasm off now. Hopefully, I don’t need to point out the breadth of the absurdity I just described. If anyone bought into any of these so-called scourges, then we’d all be living in a Martin Scorsese crime drama by now. Since Joe Pesci hasn’t come to break my legs with a baseball bat, I’m going to take a moment to give the terrified masses a reassuring hug and explain that the world isn’t that terrifying.

Sadly, hugs only go so far. Reassuring the terrified masses requires that I fight a losing battle. That battle is between the forces of perception and reality. Unfortunately, it might as well be a battle between a sick kitten and hungry grizzly bear armed with chainsaw.

This is going to sound cynical, but it’s kind of a byproduct for someone seeking a career in crafting elaborate fiction. Perception kicks reality’s ass every, single, goddamn time. Why shouldn’t it though? Reality is cold, callous, and boring. Reality is the reason we don’t win the lottery every week. Reality is the reason we don’t get our dream job, live in our dream house, or marry our dream girl/guy.

With perception, luck is always on our side. We are always the center of the universe. We are John McClane in the body of a young Bruce Willis, living out our own Die Hard movie where countless European thugs with bad accents are out to get us. It’s more exciting and it makes us feel special. Sure, it’s a deluded fantasy that comes dangerously close to requiring therapy, but it beats the hell out of reality.

I’ve tried to paint a less dire picture of the world on this blog. I’ve pointed out that by most objective measures, things are getting better in the world. Poverty is down. Crime is down. Violence is down. Hell, even the divorce rate is declining according to the CDC. That’s objectively good for everyone except family divorce lawyers that charge by the hour.

We, as a society, should be thankful that we actually have to look for reasons to panic. We’ve had to come up with some pretty ridiculous threats to society. Decades ago, it was comic books. A few decades after that, it was dungeons and dragons. These days, it’s violent/sexist video games.

Of course none of these panics led to the downfall of civilization. At worst, it created a lot of annoying arguments on the internet, but let’s face it. There are so many arguments on the web and people have such short attention spans that their impact is on par with light cough.

At the core of these panics, however, is a common misinterpretation about common sense that turns common people into uncommon asshats. It’s this pervasive notion that the media we consume has a major impact on us. One year, it’s Elvis’ hips that were going to turn us into monsters. The next, it’s a hidden sex mini-game in Grand Theft Auto.

Again, it’s worth pointing out that violence and violent crime has been decreasing for decades. We do pay people to keep track of this shit, you know? It’s kind of an important function of modern society. The data is there. We’re actually getting better at this civilization thingy we’ve been working on for 10,000 years.

So why do we still obsess over the effects on media? Well, there is an element of common sense to it. Tell an ordinary, sane person that consuming violent media makes a person violent and they’ll probably agree to some degree. It makes sense. Most people tend to think other people are vulnerable to that kind of crude influence.

The problem is, they still think they’re John McClane in a Die Hard movie. They think they’re the hero who isn’t prone to corruption. They don’t realize that they are those other people and those people don’t go out randomly killing each other because of the movies they see or the video games they play. The data just doesn’t bear that out.

The problem is the perception. Movies, TV, video games, and Twitter hashtags give the perception that violence and sexism are more prevalent than they really are. They trigger this “danger mode” that’s hardwired into our caveman brain, making us think there’s a hungry tiger hiding behind every bush. It’s not real, but our caveman brain doesn’t care.

Even when the perceptions become too skewed to rationalize, even with a caveman brain, we still look for reasons to dread. We still look for something to get outraged over. In recent years, there has been less of an inclination to link violent/sexual media with violence and more a trend towards linking it to sexism.

This has been playing out in arenas like video games, female-centered movies and TV shows, and feminism, which I’ve talked about before. This latest moral panic isn’t that media is making people violent. It’s the idea that media is making people sexist and reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes. I won’t name names, but anyone who does even basic research on it knows who I’m talking about.

Again though, reality doesn’t jive with this perception. Despite the fact that video games have gotten much better at rendering beautiful women in undersized thongs, rates of sexual violence against women have declined by more than half since 1995.

Just as a point of reference, the best selling game of 1995 was Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Yes, there was more sexual violence in that year compared to 2005, the year Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, complete with its hooker-killing and sex mini-game, came out.

So why do I bring this up? Why do I make a big deal of this issue? Well for one, it does affect me and the industry I’m trying to break into. I deal in the romance/erotica medium. That medium has its own controversies and I’m not just talking about sparkling vampires.

The perceptions about how this media affects people is still there. Back in 2012, the media reported an unusual spike in births, which happened to coincide with the success of “50 Shades of Grey.” It sent a clear message. Reading all this erotica/BDSM fiction was getting people horny and they were making babies. That’s a pretty clear impact, if ever there was one.

Now chances are, this was just the media trying to moisten some panties and get a few extra clicks. Reality probably isn’t that clear-cut. Even if the data did show a spike in births, correlation does not equal causation. Media, especially BDSM fiction, is only every a catalyst, at most, rather than a cause.

This perception surrounding media, especially that surrounding erotica/romance, is bound to affect how I pursue my career in this field. I really do want to make a living writing erotica/romance novels. My goal isn’t just to get couples horny so they can get frisky and make a few babies. However, if that does occur, I will gladly embrace it as a pleasant side-effect.

It all comes back to perception. I don’t doubt my own perceptions are skewed. I’m sure that has shown on more than one occasions with this blog. I never claimed to be objective. I’m not an activist, a reporter, or even an internet meme. I’m just a guy trying to turn his passion for erotica/romance into a career.

My perceptions are only my tools. Reality is still an obstacle, but these are obstacles we must all be willing to navigate. If we don’t, reality has a nasty way of biting us in the ass and not in the way we’ll enjoy.

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Sex Vs. Violence: An Unfair Fight

It’s horrible! It’s corrupting an entire generation of children! It’s turning good, decent people into snarling beasts! We must do something about it! We must call the authorities, hold rallies, and widely condemn all those who dare introduce something like this into our society!

What I just wrote is a basic summation of everything that angry, terrified, deeply offended advocacy groups feel towards everything from rock music to violent video games to MTV to the Simpsons to Game of Thrones. Pick out any piece of media from any period in history. Chances are you’ll hear these arguments from crowds of angry parents/priests/politicians.

It’s a battle that’s as old as the first cave-painting of an erect penis. Parents, priests, and politicians work tirelessly to guard impressionable children and adults from that which they consider obscene. How do they know it’s obscene? How do they even measure it? Ask 100 people and you’ll get 1,000 different answers.

They’ll claim they have to protect us from that which is obscene. They’ll say that if we spend too much time looking at or pursuing obscenity, it’ll distract us from our social responsibilities like working the fields, paying taxes, pumping babies so that we have more workers, and fighting the wars that powerful political types want us to fight.

Granted, they probably won’t say that overtly, but it is sort of implied. More often than not, there are all sorts of strange and poorly-defined layers towards what some consider obscene. The end result is usually the same. Those who fight it inevitably try to censor it, which can either backfire horribly or inspire a whole host of unintended consequences.

By and large, obscenity often involves two common themes: sex and violence. That’s not surprising. Sex and violence are basically the peanut butter and jelly in the sandwich that is human history. If we’re not obsessing over sex, then we’re violently fighting one another for control of resources, land, and the ability to hump who we want to hump.

While understandable, the debate today tends to be ridiculously skewed. There’s a lot of violence in the world. Nobody denies that. There’s also a lot of sex in the world. The mere fact there are over 7 billion humans on this planet is proof enough of that. However, when it comes to priorities, for some reason sex has gained a more obscene reputation than violence.

The best proof of that occurred a long time ago in a forgotten period known as 2005. It was a strange time. For some reason, America elected George W. Bush to a second term, flip phones were in style, and Yahoo was still relevant. It was a strange time indeed.

It was also a time when we lost our collective shit over the idea that there was a poorly rendered sex mini-game hidden inside a best-selling video game. Yes, it actually happened. Apparently, poorly rendered sex is considered obscene. Try saying that with a straight face for a moment and then get back to me.

It was called the “Hot Coffee” scandal. It emerged from a game called Grand Theft Auto: San Andres, the best-selling game of its time. This game was rated mature and it was already controversial for all the gratuitous violence it had, which included the ability to murder hookers and blow up cars with a machine gun. However, that’s not what put it over the edge. What made it obscene was two characters having consensual sex. The horror!

It’s been over a decade since then and I’m still struggling to wrap my head around it. I get that the game was mature rated. The violence and the plot is not for children, the faint of heart, or anyone who voted for Rick Santorum. However, the notion that consensual sex between two people is that obscene? I need a moment to process that.

I don’t think there are enough moments in the entire history of the known universe because it still fails the basic tenants of common sense, logic, and the fundamental forces of life. Violence can be pretty damn obscene. Anyone who has any experience with war or crime understands that. With sex, however, there’s a much broader spectrum.

On one end, you have two consenting adults in love, in the heat of passion, having sex in bed surrounded by candles with Barry White music playing in the background. That’s not obscene. That’s how a good chunk of the human race is created. It involves love, passion, pleasure, and the creation of life. You can’t get less obscene than that.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, you have the kind of depraved sex acts that would make even “50 Shades of Grey” fans vomit. There are extreme, perverse sexual proclivities that do leave scars, both physical and psychological. Those kinds of acts can be pretty obscene, but for the most part, they don’t kill or mutilate someone. At worst, they just make some people wish they were dead.

With violence, the spectrum is a lot less broad. There aren’t too many forms of violence that cause pleasure, create life, or make for good Playboy centerfolds. Violence, by definition, hurts people. It can be small and petty, which isn’t all that obscene. A slap in the face is about as obscene as a kiss on the cheek.

However, this is not reflected in media. If anything, the media and the culture surrounding it is downright schizophrenic when it comes to classifying violence and sex. Since I referred to video games earlier, I’ll cite another example.

There are a lot of mature-rated games with horrific violence. It’s not just Grand Theft Auto, but games like Doom, Wolfenstein, and Call of Duty do little to censor the blood and guts. Even so, you can buy most of these games at a Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

There are also lesser-known games that basically just involve players fondling, caressing, and having sex with beautiful woman and/or men. They’re not big on story, but that’s not their core appeal. Nobody dies and nobody gets hurt. There’s just a lot of gratuitous sex.

However, those games can’t be found in Wal-Mart. Those games are rated A for Adult, which means they can’t be sold in major retailers. That’s what it takes to be considered obscene. Kill and maim whoever you want, but God help you if you show two consenting adults having sex.

This schizophrenic disconnect on sex and violent extends to novels, a medium more relevant to my profession. As an erotica/romance writer, I understand that the stories I write are considered obscene, seamy, or dirty compared to your basic Stephen King novel. Even when nobody dies in my novels, they still have that reputation.

It’s a confusing and frustrating dynamic. It also becomes even more frustration when sex and violence become mixed. We see that all the time in slasher movies, which go out of their way to punish any character that dares have sex in a way the Catholic Church doesn’t approve of. We’re seeing it manifest in other ways, especially with the success of Game of Thrones.

If ever there was a perfect storm that embodied this twisted dynamic of sex and violence in media, it’s Game of Thrones. Whether you read the books or watch the hit HBO series, you see plenty of both. There’s a lot of killing, murder, and war. There’s also a lot of sex, nudity, and general depravity. It appeals to both of these primal forces, but one still takes precedent over the other.

This is not lost on author George R. R. Martin. He gets a lot of fan male and, presumably, a lot of pictures of naked women. He doesn’t gloss over the violence and sex in his story. He understands they’re both part of the themes he’s exploring. However, even he sees the distinct difference when people choose to get more upset over the sex and not the violence.

Now this is not to say that society’s concerns about sex aren’t warranted to some degree. As I’ve pointed out before, there were legitimate reasons to be weary of sexual promiscuity throughout history.

Human civilization, particularly the one we crafted when we entered the agricultural revolution, developed around a system where there were strong economic and survival pressures to discourage people form doing too much humping for fun. The system required that we know our kids are biologically ours. The system required that we have lots of babies to work the fields and fight the wars.

Even as we moved away from farms and fields, we still needed to be anxious about sex because too much of it would spread disease. It really wasn’t until the 20th century with the advent of antibiotics and modern contraception that many of these concerns became less dire.

Today, there are still consequences for rampant and unrestrained promiscuity, as various PSAs and sitcoms have shown. However, these consequences aren’t nearly as bad as the rampant violence and crime that still plagues this world. These days, two consenting adults having sex, regardless of their marital status or intentions, does little to no harm to anyone or society in general, but it’s still considered obscene.

I try to be more optimistic about the future of this twisted culture of ours. I try to be optimistic about the future in general. I do hope I live to see the day where erotica/romance novels like mine aren’t considered obscene by a sizable chunk of the population. At some point, even Rick Santorum supporters have acknowledge that gratuitous violence is more obscene than consensual sex.

It may take a while. We are a slow, cumbersome species that resists change when it’s not convenient. We’ve spent hundreds of years in a prudish, uptight society that still believes we need to pump out babies to work the fields and fight the wars while avoiding horrible diseases. Society isn’t going to lighten up overnight. It’s an ongoing process and one I hope my sexy, non-obscene novels will help.

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