Tag Archives: sexual freedom

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Current Events, sex in media, sexuality

On Fascism (And Why It Fails)

Brace yourself and temper your outrage because I’m about to talk about fascism. No, I’m not talking about the kind of fascism that teenagers whine about whenever they have a strict teacher in high school. I’m not even talking about the kind of fascism that that certain people attribute to college professors, LGBT rights, Hollywood, the NRA, the Catholic Church, and Negan from “The Walking Dead.”

Today, I’m going to talk about actual, real-world fascism and how it functions. I’m also going to talk about why it tends to fail in the long run and why it’s become such an empty term. Now, I know that means putting a big target on my ass and daring the more vocal parts of the internet to take a shot. I like think my ass is harder and more durable than most so I’m prepared to take that chance.

I know people like to throw the word fascism around like middle fingers in mid-day traffic, but it does have a definition. That definition has been twisted and amended many times over the past half-century, so much so that the word evokes so many different connotations.

For the sake of this post, I’ll be using the definition from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. It offers a fairly concise assessment of what it entails.

A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Under this definition, America and most developed countries are not fascist. No matter what some kale-eating hippie or Jerry Falwell wannabe theocrat may claim, the systems and laws in place are antithetical to fascism.

Western countries have codified laws and traditions that value individual rights, protect minorities, and restrain central government power. Now, that’s not to say it’s perfect in practice. There are plenty of examples, historical and contemporary, that of inequality and oppression by the government.

However, those examples are more a product of misguided groups of people and inherent systemic corruption. To call an entire system fascist because of those instances would be like calling an entire swimming pool dirty because a few people spit in it. With fascism, the entire pool is spit so there’s no need for cherry picking.

Thanks to the cruel mistress that is history, we have a few well-known examples of true fascism that even vegan hippies can agree on. By most objective measures, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany are the alpha and omega of all things fascist. If fascism were music, these two would be Elvis and the Beatles.

These governments were repressive, authoritarian, corrupt, and powerful. They could do whatever it wanted to its citizens and act however it wanted on a national stage, not giving a damn about public support of any kind. There was no hesitation to lie, cheat, and mislead the people. In these governments, people are either pawns or cogs in a machine. The very notion of freedom might as well be as fanciful as a unicorn fart.

There’s no question that these fascist governments did a lot of damage and caused a lot of suffering. There’s also no question that their actions scared and traumatized an entire world. They revealed to a modern world that wars between despots and industrial powers was truly horrific. Most human beings tend to avoid such horrors. A massive world war was enough to make everyone hyper-vigilant of all things fascist.

It’s in this heightened mentality where I think it’s worth having some perspective about fascism. We hear pundits, politicians, and protesters throw that word around, as though it’s the rhetorical equivalent of an “avoid critical thinking” card. It’s an easy label to throw around, but it rarely sticks because actual fascism is actually pretty frail.

In a modern context, fascism is different from the kings and despots of the ancient world. In those times, corrupt and blood-thirsty kings could only get away with so much. A kingdom and a nation state, complete with modern infrastructure, are two very different things.

A king needs to only hold a kingdom together and fight off the occasional invader. A nation state has to deal with bureaucracy, social welfare, and legal issues. No matter how big a king’s castle is, there’s just no way to manage all that in a modern context. There needs to be some sort of system in place.

A fascist government tries to centralize that system and organize it in a simple, stable way that definitively benefits certain persons or groups. Nazis sought to benefit a favored race. Italian Fascist sought to benefit a favored class. The argument could be made that Stalinist Russia and the current regime in North Korea are fascist in nature. I would tend to agree with those claims.

The goal is almost always the same. A fascist government directly and overtly attempts to control and centralize power for a select group of elites. It’s for this very reason that fascism tends to fail in the long run or never succeed in the first place.

Now, don’t go cheering and waving American flags just yet. That’s not to say that fascism inevitably falls under the glowing light of freedom, democracy, and bald eagles. That’s a romantic idea that makes for great war movies and comic book characters. It’s not necessarily reflective of real-world machinations.

The biggest flaw in fascism is its attempt to control and manage an entire state. That’s not just difficult. It’s impossible for any ordinary human or groups of humans. Our caveman brains can barely control when we get horny. How can we expect to control an entire government, let alone one meant to benefit a specific group of people?

The short answer is we can’t. The long answer is that such centralization and power requires a lot of bullying, corruption, subversion, and back-stabbing. That’s why you have Nazi Storm Troopers and Stalinist purges. It isn’t just because powerful people get a thrill out of ordering rampant death. They need to scare, bully, and intimidate everybody into going along with their agenda and being completely loyal.

That’s a huge problem though because, as I’ve pointed out before, it’s impossible to know how truthful someone is. You can never know who is truly loyal and who is plotting against you. That’s why men like Joseph Stalin were obscenely paranoid, which guaranteed that allies and enemies alike would die by his hand. Without those allies, any system is inherently weaker.

On top of that problem, there’s also the issue of the terrified masses who live under a fascist thumb. Say what you will about whiny protesters complaining about weed, but at least they’re willing to tell the government what they don’t want to hear. In a fascist system, the impoverished masses will likely keep their mouth shut.

That may help a paranoid fascist get through the day, but it limits their ability to make it through the year. That’s because in a complex world, having incomplete facts tends to be a huge detriment. If nobody is willing to tell a fascist ruler that their rusty old trucks with canons are no match for drone strikes, then that’s going to be a problem.

That’s why, contrary to what the History Channel and video games may claim, fascist regimes like Nazi Germany were never close to winning the war. Between major blunders and micromanaging, there was never a scenario that didn’t involve time travel or aliens that would’ve allowed them to win.

That’s because a fascist regime can’t trust anyone, be it military generals or the public. At some point, the political ties break down and the system just can’t handle it. They can delay the collapse, but they usually can’t stop it. It’s remarkable that Nazi Germany lasted as long as it did, given all the assassination attempts.

It’s the dirty, but unavoidable secret of almost every fascist governments. They function only to live another day, rather than build a future. Some are better at it than others. Castro’s Cuba has managed to survive for over a half-century, albeit with significant support from other neighboring countries.

The same goes for North Korea. The only reason that country still exists is because China doesn’t want a failed state on its border. At this point, North Korea can only endure, but not build. As the old dynastic cycle in China often proved, a system concerned only with survival tends to collapse in the long run.

I say this not as a way to undermine the horrors that fascism has and could potentially unleash on this world. It is a real danger in a world that’s full of crazy dictators and obscene corruption. However, it’s a danger with an inherent weakness and an expiration date. It’s one instance where you can depend on caveman logic to win out in the end.

It may not inspire the kind of ravenous patriotism that Americans tend to enjoy. However, it does show that, despite protests the contrary, there’s a lot to appreciate about our current system. It’s not perfect, but it’s building towards a better, sexier future more so than any fascist government ever will.

2 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

A Second Sexual Revolution: The Potential (And Inevitable) Backlash

https://i0.wp.com/www.womenshealthmag.com/sites/womenshealthmag.com/files/images/sexual-frustration_0.jpg

Think back to brief, but memorable time between elementary and middle school where kids are still kids for the most part. It’s the time before you develop concerns about things like acne and hiding awkward boners during gym class. It’s a time before the girls start wearing thongs or hiding bra straps. For some, those times have fond memories.

Often, during these times, you’ll encounter one of those annoying little shits who likes to think of him or herself as the class clown. You know how they operate. They’re loud, annoying, obnoxious, arrogant, and will set their own hair on fire if it gets attention. They might have been funny the first few times, but it doesn’t take long for them to be a walking source of frustration.

Teachers, parents, and counselors do anything and everything they can to get the kid to shut up, but nothing works. Every time they push him, he just pushes back harder. Every time they react to his antics, he reacts even more. Since he’s a kid, he can sort of get away with it.

https://cdn.someecards.com/posts/crazy-class-clown-stories-z73.png

What I just described is a testament to how kids can be annoying little shits and what happens when our efforts to fix a situation ends up causing a backlash. It’s one of those things that happens almost as much in real life as it does in bad sitcoms. For every time Peter Griffin’s antics in “Family Guy” backfires horribly, there’s a real-life class clown in a public school ensuring everything around him backfires just as badly.

We don’t just see it in elementary school classrooms and Seth MacFarlane shows either. Throughout history, backlashes have shaped the course of events, from the ancient world to modern presidents who think randomly invading a Middle Eastern country won’t cause any geopolitical problems.

It’s not unreasonable to say that many events and cultural movements are very much a backlash at those that preceded it. It’s how dynasties rise and fall. It’s how religious and cultural movements morph into cults and denominations. It’s even how some successful TV shows inspire spin-offs. Not all of these backlashes result in improvements, but they are very much a part of how people, cultures, and nations evolve.

https://jackfisherbooks.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/fecdf-homosexu.jpg?w=500

This brings me back to the prospect of a second sexual revolution. Admit it, you knew I was going to get to this. It was only a matter of time before I tied the concept of a backlash into something sexy. I would’ve gotten to it sooner, but I wanted to establish a context. It’s necessary because in every cultural upheaval, it’s easy to lose perspective.

The problem is that we don’t know just how much perspective we’ve lost until we have the benefit of hindsight. It’s like getting blackout drunk and waking up in another city with a donkey, a dildo, and a dead gerbil in your bed. You remember starting the night with good intentions and having a great time. Somewhere along the way, though, something went horribly wrong.

When we look at the context of the sexual revolution in the 60s, we can see how backlash shaped its promising beginnings and how it got blackout drunk towards the end. I’ve mentioned how technology like antibiotics and contraception reshaped sexuality by effectively removing some of the consequences and barriers to sexual expression. There are other, less tangible factors in play as well.

We know from 50s sitcoms that the period before the sexual revolution was a tough time to be really horny. The 1950s was a time of rigid sexual conformity. Anything outside of marriage, procreation, and the missionary position was considered a deviant social ill. Things like masturbation, the female orgasm, and Elvis’ hips were all taboo.

https://i1.wp.com/fitnessfreak.ie/wp-content/uploads/elvis-hips-blog-post.jpg

This kind of sexual restraint went so far that an emerging generation of horny youth decided to spit all over that prudish culture. Armed with modern antibiotics, contraception, and mind-altering drugs that made orgasms easier to enjoy, they really went for broke. They didn’t just push the envelope. They bombed it with napalm and buried it in horse shit.

Ironically, they went so far that they incurred a backlash just as strong as the one they led. That led to the rise of people like Jerry Fawell, Pat Robertson, and the Moral Majority, people and organizations who went full fire and brimstone after seeing one too many mud-soaked hippie orgies. Add this on top of the emergence of issues like abortion and diseases like AIDS and it’s easy to see why everyone’s panties got a little tighter.

In both cases, one backlash incurred another. One extreme led to another. Even today, we may be seeing another backlash from a general loosening of sexual freedom again, but it’s just taking the form of political correctness and reactionary outrage over issues as trivial as a swimsuit ad.

These days, you won’t be shunned if you have premarital sex or watch porn in your spare time. However, you’re in big trouble if you don’t understand the increasingly esoteric concept of consent, directly or indirectly body shame women, or want to draw a female character wearing sexy clothes.

Every trend, especially the sexy kinds, seem unstoppable at first. That’s why it’s become popular to urge others to be “on the right side of history.” That’s an exceedingly vague excuse, as is often the case with excuses in general, but it lays the foundation for a future backlash.

I’d say any second sexual revolution should take that into account, but I know that would just be empty rhetoric. Backlash is something that no revolution, movement, or reformation can truly take into account. Being flawed humans with flawed brains, we tend to overestimate the staying power of any trend. Just ask anyone who was ever part of a boy band not named Justin Timberlake.

A second sexual revolution, like the one that occurred in the 60s, will likely shock, horrify, and excite. Those are the key ingredients of every revolution or movement. They’re so different. They get peoples’ attention because it doesn’t fit with their idea of normal and, much like our annual failure to keep our New Years Resolution, people cling desperately to their sense of normal and resist change at every turn.

A second sexual revolution may involve anything from group marriages to sex robots to gender-bending orgies in public parks. It’s impossible to predict where our collective libidos will take us. It is possible, if not inevitable, that there will be some kind of backlash along the way. When change happens that fast, people get really stressed out and people do crazy things when they’re stressed.

There are all sorts of ways that a second sexual revolution can manifest. I don’t want to make too many predictions. I’d rather save those sexy contemplations for one of my future novels. I will, however, throw in one last complications that may make the next revolution unique from every other revolution in human history.

No matter how extreme or kinky a revolution was in the past, including Victorian England, there was one common theme. They were all driven by the crude and horny whims of our caveman brains, whose wiring hasn’t been upgraded in over 100,000 years. It’s like constantly changing the rules of the game, but never changing the equipment.

Advances in biotechnology and brain enhancement, such as that being planned by Neuralink, may completely change the dynamics of human thought and society. The same forces that incurred backlashes in the past might not be a factor anymore. People may very well be an entirely new way of dealing with a new sexual revolution.

Again, it’s impossible to predict. As soon as we start tweaking our brains and upgrading our biology, all bets are off. History and hindsight are no longer accurate guides with which to understand the course of society. The potential of another sexual revolution is vast, but the potential for backlash is every bit as big.

2 Comments

Filed under Sexy Future

Are We Becoming More (Sexually) Uptight?

https://www.alluvium-journal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/13348205645_726ec0c1b7_k-1024x938.jpg

There was once a time in American culture where the media couldn’t even acknowledge that sex existed, let alone happened between wholesome scenes of family dinners and fishing trips. An average episode of “Scandal” would’ve horrified audiences in 1965, who were used to seeing a married couple sleep in separate beds on “I Love Lucy.”

Without a doubt, sex on TV has come a long way. We no longer bat an eye when Kevin Spacey goes down on Kate Mara in “House of Cards” or when Glen Quagmire raises the bar for sexual debauchery on “Family Guy.” By all accounts, we’ve become a lot more accepting.

That being said, is it possible that we’re becoming more sexually uptight? Bear with me. I promise I’m not being sarcastic here. This is part of an ongoing observation that I’ve explored in other posts.

Some of it has to do with trends in feminism. Some of it has to do with the various peculiarities of the gender dynamics in our sexual culture. I’m not saying what I’m seeing is definitive, but as an aspiring erotica/romance writer, this does concern me because it may very well affect my industry.

Now when I ask whether we’re becoming more sexually uptight, I don’t mean to say that we’re regressing to a point where women can’t show their ankles and men can’t acknowledge that the female orgasm exists. In an era of internet porn and Photoshop, that sort of prudishness just isn’t possible. Never-the-less, there are other ways for Puritan attitudes towards sex to manifest in new ways.

Picture the following scenario:

There’s a beautiful woman walking around topless on a sunny beach. A young man takes a moment to stare at her breasts and admire their beauty. The woman notices the man and is appalled. The woman points at the man, calls him a misogynist pig, and rallies every woman around her to scold and shame the man for daring to look at her exposed breasts.

What I just described isn’t necessarily something that happens on a day-to-day basis. It’s more a manifestation of the kinds of sexual attitudes that are evolving. We no longer censor sexuality or deny that it exists. Instead, we shame people who dare to appreciate it in ways we don’t approve of.

In many respects, this is just as bad as any censorship by the FCC because it isn’t imposed by a government body. It’s something that we’re doing to each other. Unlike government bureaucracy though, shaming actually works. In fact, shaming pre-dates government because it uses the built-in system of guilt that every human who isn’t a sociopath has hardwired into them.

Now trends in being sexually uptight aren’t new. For much of human history, civilization has gone through various cycles of sexual attitudes. Some ancient cultures, like Egypt, were relatively liberal in their sexual attitudes. Others, like Victorian era England, were so famously uptight for their sexual repression that visible ankles were considered scandalous.

Even in modern times, there are some parts of the world that are more sexually repressed than others. Places like India and Saudi Arabia, despite being thriving modern economies, have some very backwards attitudes towards sexuality. They don’t need shame to shun someone who has sex in a way they don’t approve of. They have the authority to just throw those people in jail, which they believe is sure to kill their sex drive.

What makes this trend in the west so disconcerting, though, is that it’s emerging from a society where equality and justice are among our highest values. Countries like America pride themselves, despite protests to the contrary, in their values towards gender equality. The problem is that, for some, equality just isn’t enough.

Here’s a real-world example that illustrates this issue. Back in 2013, an incident occurred at Occidental College wherein two freshmen had consensual sex while drunk, but only the man ended up getting expelled. Why did he get expelled? Well, by their standards, a woman cannot consent to sex while drunk. Therefore, the man committed sexual assault.

Think about that for a moment and try to make sense of it. Two people get drunk, but they’re not so drunk that they can barely stand. In this story, the two people involved could not only send texts. They could also talk about using condoms and practicing safe sex. How can such responsible behavior constitute assault?

It didn’t matter though. By the standards of the school, the man still committed sexual assault and was expelled. The woman didn’t get charged with anything. She was a victim who was traumatized by the act of having consensual sex after a few drinks.

Again, think about that for a moment. Think about what that kind of mentality indicates. Our sexual culture is becoming unequal again, but this time in a different way. Instead of women being shamed for their sexual practices, it’s men who are being shamed.

Today, a man who lusts for a woman and expresses his fondness of sex is considered a pig, a deviant, and a sexist. A woman who lusts for a man and expresses her fondness of sex is considered liberated, free-spirited, and strong. That is not equality. That is a recipe for repression and injustice, albeit in different way.

Ironically, this trend is regressing fashion trends among women. We’re already seeing it in superhero costumes. Female characters are less likely to show off their breasts or female curves. It’s as if highlighting the physical traits of women is now considered an act of misogyny.

As a man, I find these trends troubling and insulting. Am I somehow wrong, immoral, or sexist because I enjoy the sight of beautiful naked women? Are my attitudes towards women somehow flawed because I dare to admire their beauty? I wish those were rhetorical questions.

This troubles me even more as an aspiring erotica/romance writer because it means some of the novels I want to write might be rejected as being sexual in the wrong sort of way. I can easily imagine rejection letters saying “this book doesn’t have enough diversity” or “the man enjoys the sex too much” or “the woman is too feminine.”

I can just as easily imagine such regressive attitudes turning the erotica/romance I love into this target for those who claim it’s an affront to women. Never mind the fact that I write these stories to enchant, entertain, and titillate, some will still see it as some sort of egregious act of sexism.

This really does concern me. I’d rather not return to the days where people don’t even acknowledge sex exists and any attempt to discuss it is somehow taboo. We’ve already experienced that kind of repression and it doesn’t work. Let’s at least try to remain sane on matters as important and intimate as sexuality.

9 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights