Tag Archives: sexual harassment

The (Kind Of) Silver Lining To Recent Sex Scandals

Given the number of lurid sex scandals that have popped up in recent years, and not just the ones I’ve mentioned, you can be forgiven for thinking that there’s an epidemic of powerful men being a dick to women. Go to any social media site or comments section and you’ll usually find angry rants that are nothing short of apocalyptic.

I certainly don’t blame people for being angry about these scandals. What the Harvey Weinsteins, Bill O’Reillys, and Bill Cosbeys of the world have done is egregious. There are no excuses for being that unapologetically crude.

These are men in positions of power. They know, on some levels, that they have leverage that they can use to exploit others. It’s impossible to know whether they would do what they did without this power. So few people have that kind of power that it’s difficult and disturbing to know how most people would use or abuse it.

At the end of the day, though, they still decide whether or not to exploit their power for personal gain. Even if they’re able to cover it up for years, it’s still their choice and it’s all the more egregious.

As bad as these scandals are, though, I think it’s worth taking a step back to acknowledge an understated upside to this string of lurid news. It’s easy to forget sometimes that good news hides in the shadows of bad news. In fact, good news in general tends to hide behind the glut of horror and dread we’re fed every day by the media.

So what kind of good news can we possibly glean from the increasingly lurid sex scandal involving Harvey Weinstein? What good can come out of any sex scandal where a powerful man exploits his position to seduce desperately driven women? Well, if you’re willing to look beyond the infuriating details, it’s actually pretty revealing.

It’s getting MUCH harder for people to get away with sex scandals in general.

Think about it for a moment. Take a step back and look at the world we’re in now, with respect to sex scandals. Ignore, for a moment, the extreme voices from radical feminists and men’s rights activists who would use this scandal to push an agenda. The fact that everyone is so outraged by this scandal should count as good news.

Very few people are making excuses for Harvey Weinstein. Former allies are abandoning him. His wife is leaving him. The film industry that he helped expand is cutting ties with him at every turn. Despite being such a powerful, influential figure in Hollywood, this lurid scandal is costing him dearly.

Compare that to how scandals of the past often unfolded. Other than hilariously dishonest tabloids claiming that Madonna had a secret affair with Martian ambassador, most scandals rarely drew this kind of scrutiny and condemnation.

One of the most infamous examples is that of O.J. Simpson, who had a documented history of spousal abuse prior to the murder of his ex-wife, Nichole. However, despite this abuse, he was still largely a beloved celebrity figure. He was so beloved that some people just refused to believe that he was the kind of monster who would beat a woman.

If O.J. Simpson had carried out such abuse today, it would trend on social media immediately and there would be no way to sweep it under the rug. Say what you will about the prevalence of the internet, but it does carry out one important function. It makes hiding bad, sometimes criminal behavior a lot harder.

Go back 30 years and it was possible, albeit inconvenient, for someone with money and influence to hide a scandal. They just had to pay off the right people, sweet-talk the authorities, and have some damn good lawyers. When used wisely, it’s like it never happened.

Fast forward to today and no amount of money, influence, or overpaid lawyers can stop some random person with a smartphone from tweeting about a celebrity having a major meltdown or cheating on their spouse. Once it’s online, it’s next to impossible to stop.

Now sometimes, this can be a problem. Every now and then, a false rumor will start trending and lead to a lot of frustration. However, given the breadth and speed of modern media, it tends to correct itself. Once a rumor is obviously false, it tends to disappear quickly.

When it’s not a rumor and there’s a lot of digital evidence to back it up, as was the case with Harvey Weinstein, social media does not hold back. No amount of lawyers, PR agents, or hit men can stop it. Once the lurid truth gets out, people will respond and the internet ensures their responses won’t be filtered by the FCC.

This is where we, as a society, show another kind of progress. When it comes to powerful men exploiting women, we as a people have very little tolerance for that these days. We’ll tolerate a certain amount of douche-baggery, but when it becomes criminal, most people draw the line.

Harvey Weinstein is now paying the price. While I think it’s still important to see how valid the accusations against him are, the amount of evidence that has come out thus far leads me to believe that a significant chunk of these lurid stories are true. For what he did, he should pay a price.

Given the price he’s already paid, in terms of his reputation and loss of job opportunities, it sends a powerful message to powerful men. This isn’t the era of “Mad Men” anymore. You can’t expect to get away with these kinds of sex scandals anymore. Social media and the reactionary masses that use it will find out. When they do, you will pay a huge price.

In a world where powerful people can get away with atrocious behavior, some of which is downright criminal, it’s hard to have faith in people. While our world is far from perfect, I think the response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal shows that we’re making progress.

Even powerful men like Weinstein can’t hide their misdeeds anymore. People today are far less willing to turn a blind eye to these kinds of crimes. It won’t completely eliminate the kinds of lurid scandals that frustrate celebrities and titillate gossip magazines, but it will ensure that those kinds of scandals will be much harder to avoid. It won’t stop certain people, but it will help prevent them from using celebrity to hide their misdeeds.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, gender issues

How NOT To Respond To An Old Sex Scandal (Too Late For Harvey Weinstein)

Whenever a celebrity or person of influence becomes the subject of a sex scandal, sometimes the most you can do is just pop open a cold beer, put your feet up, and enjoy the show. There’s sure to be a mix of hilarity, disgust, and anguish along the way. You might as well be comfortably drunk.

Last year, it was Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly who got caught thinking with the wrong head and that cost them their jobs. While I’ve expressed my concern about the precedent those scandals might set, I never doubted for a second that there would be more like them in the future. I also didn’t doubt those involved would find a way to handle it poorly.

Sadly, I was right, albeit not surprised. Last week, the New York Times broke a story about Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, paying off sexual harassment accusers for decades. Among those accusers are famous names like Ashley Judd and not-so-famous names like Emily Nestor, who found themselves in a woefully unequal power dynamic where Weinstein held the kind of power that would make Christian Grey envious.

For those who are fans of Weinstein’s work, which include famed Miramax productions like “Pulp Fiction,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Good Will Hunting,” these are pretty distressing allegations. This isn’t the kind of playful flirting that goes too far. This is the kind of harassment that involves luring ambitious, vulnerable women to hotel rooms and demanding massages.

Granted, it could’ve gotten much worse, as we saw with the Roman Polanski scandal. For the most part, though, Weinstein’s conduct is not that different from what we saw with Ailes and O’Reilly.

He was a powerful man who could make or end careers. He was surrounded by young, attractive, ambitious women over which he had a great deal of leverage. Some men will take advantage of those opportunities and spend decades of their lives trying to shove it under the rug.

Eventually, secrets and hush money only go so far. Just a few days after the scandal broke, Weinstein was terminated from the Weinstein Company that bears his name. Even though many of the accusations haven’t made their way through the court system, the company heard enough and isn’t waiting for the verdict.

Before you start feeling any measure of sympathy for Harvey Weinstein, I think it’s worth pointing out that he hasn’t exactly denied the allegations, nor has he made any sincere apologies. Instead, he’s been making excuses and anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows how I feel about excuses.

homer simpson fail. . EPIC AIL Sometimes, youjust have no excuse.

Shortly after Weinstein was fired, he did exactly what nobody should do in a sex scandal and started making excuses. Instead of the old, “She told me she was 18,” excuse, this is what he said according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”

In terms of excuses, this is basically the kind of D-level effort of a lazy high school student during a mid-term. He’s not apologizing. He’s not denying or asking for understanding. He’s just claiming that the times were different and somehow, harassing women like he did was okay back then.

Now, I wasn’t alive in the 60’s or 70’s. I don’t entirely know or understand what kind of culture Weinstein was talking about. I just know that in nearly every era and culture, being a dick to women is pretty frowned upon, especially if you’re in a position of power.

Weinstein wasn’t just some creepy guy following women home from bars. He was the head of a major movie company that could turn people into stars. Given the sheer breadth of people seeking stardom, and the vast majority of those who fail, it’s hard to understate how powerful Weinstein was.

It’s for that reason that his excuses come off as even more egregious. It goes beyond the “that’s just how things were” gimmick that we see glorified in “Mad Men.” This is a man who preyed on women who had dreams of being a star. He held those dreams in his hand and used them to take advantage of those women. There are just no excuses for that and his effort to make excuses just makes it worse.

Now, as bad as Weinstein’s excuses are, I also have to give him the same courtesy I gave Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. By that, I mean I need to point out that these stories the New York Times reported are not completely verified. There is a possibility, however remote you might think, that Weinstein’s conduct wasn’t as bad as the women claim.

It may even be the case that some of Weinstein’s accusers were never actually harassed, but are seeking damages because they want to extort money from him. That does happen. Men and women are equally capable of exploiting a situation. While Weinstein’s conduct and responses have made that unlikely, there’s often a chance that the media will exaggerate the story for dramatic effect.

At this point, though, it’s too late for Weinstein. He’s effectively sealed his fate by making poor excuses and doing a pitiful job of managing the narrative. Even if the accusations were all fake, his response to them has shattered any sense of sympathy or understanding he might have garnered. He basically shot himself in the foot and tried to treat it with sulfuric acid.

It’s almost certain that Harvey Weinstein won’t be the last big mogul or media icon to get caught up in a sex scandal. It’s also fairly likely that whoever gets caught next will make the same excuses.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to handle a scandal, even if you’re guilty. However, the kind of people who make excuses in being dicks to women probably don’t care much about the right way to begin with. That’s not just tragic. That’s downright cold.

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Bill O’Reilly: The Impact, Aftermath, And Implications

Last week was a good week for fans of workplace safety and opponents of old, cantankerous blowhards with their own TV show. Bill O’Reilly, the old, white, racially-insensitive troll, has been fired. I imagine feminists, hippies, and Michael Moore fans are still celebrating in the streets.

It turns out you can get away with being a raging dick to minorities, liberals, and anyone who ever protested a war. However, if you’re accused of sexual harassment by enough women over a long period of time, so much so that advertisers start ditching your show, you can only go for so long.

It’s not exactly tragic. Bill O’Reilly isn’t exactly stressed for money. He’s leaving Fox News with $25 million, which is on top of the boatloads of money he’s earned from various publishing and media contracts. He doesn’t have to work a day for the rest of his life. He has more than enough money to live in a mansion, eat caviar, and wipe his ass with hundred dollar bills until the day he dies.

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Even so, it certainly doesn’t look good. Love him or hate him, Bill O’Reilly was the highest-rated show on Fox News. He regularly crushed far more likable personalities with minimal effort and he probably did it with a goddamn boner. The man, as arrogant a prick he was at times, had a sizable audience. His voice carried weight.

Fox News had so many reasons to keep him and let him spew his brand right-wing verbal diarrhea for as long as he wanted. The public might have been willing to overlook his unacceptable treatment of women in the past, but it’s just not as easy to hide that sort of thing anymore.

This isn’t the era of Don Draper and Mad Men where sexual harassment might as well have been professional equivalent of a paper cut. This is an era where one poorly-worded tweet can and will ruin your life. I’m sure O’Reilly misses the days of Don Draper and pretty female secretaries who didn’t mind a light tap on the ass every now and then, but those days are long gone.

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Now I could spend multiple posts going over Bill O’Reilly’s downfall. It’s certainly a hell of a story, albeit not a very sexy one. The man ruffled a lot of feathers and pissed off a lot of people, which is to be expected. Like Michael Moore and Lena Dunham, he’s a professional troll. That’s what he does and, based on his net worth, he does it very well.

That said, I’m going to hold off on joining the hippies still dancing in the streets. I’m also going to hold off joining the chorus of right-wing apologists who would defend O’Reilly, even if he was caught choking a bald eagle with his bare hands. Those are losing arguments with no substance.

Instead, I want to focus on the impact and implications of O’Reilly’s downfall because it’s not just a non-tragedy. It’s actually part of a trend that started with Roger Ailes. Like O’Reilly, Ailes wasn’t brought down by his politics or his competence. He was brought down by charges of harassment by women.

That alone is pretty telling. These man can have some pretty disgusting politics. They can spit on minorities, shame women, and support policies that only serve to facilitate old white men getting their dicks sucked in every possible way. However, they have to become serial abusers of women in order to be taken down.

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Don’t get me wrong. Men who abuse women, regardless of their position or politics, deserve to be punished. Abuse isn’t just wrong. It’s a crime. If O’Reilly and Ailes are guilty of this crime, then they should pay a price. If they don’t, then there’s no reason for them to stop. That’s just basic justice.

Unfortunately, this is where I know I’m going to piss off the dancing hippies. As bad as the allegations against O’Reilly are, it’s not clear just how true they are. Now many parts of it may actually be true. O’Reilly may be every bit as despicable as these women claim. However, without proof that can withstand scrutiny in a court of law, it’s unreasonable to just accept those claims outright.

I know. I can already hear angry feminists, beta males, and Rachel Maddow fans yelling at me. The very notion that O’Reilly didn’t do these horrible things, given the ugliness of his politics, seems downright offensive.

Let me make clear, though, that I’m not sticking up for O’Reilly or Ailes. I think both men are arrogant pieces of shit who trolled their way to fame and fortune. They’ve said and done things I don’t agree with, but you can say that about almost everyone in your life, be they a talking head on Fox News or a close family member. The difference is a matter of degree.

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Now given the sheer number of claims, as well as the extent to which O’Reilly settled them, it’s reasonable to conclude that there’s something going on here. As we saw with the Duke Lacrosse case and the UVA rape case, false allegations tend to fall apart when subjected to scrutiny.

One or two women making an allegation with little evidence doesn’t prove much, especially when the allegation is against someone as rich and despised as Bill O’Reilly. There’s too much reason to suspect ulterior motives. It’s when multiple allegations emerge over time from multiple women who are not in contact with one another when a pattern emerges.

That’s still not to say that all the allegations against O’Reilly are true. Chances are, they’re not nearly as pornographic as the media claims. Anything that makes a media headline is usually designed to titillate more than inform. That’s just how media works. Ask any porn star.

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However, given how many rich men there are in media and how only a handful of them generate this many sexual harassment allegation, it’s not reasonable to say that every woman is lying. The truth, as is often the case, is usually somewhere in between and not nearly as sexy as we think.

Now that O’Reilly has joined Ailes as old, right-wing blowhards who were done in by sexual harassment claims, a larger pattern has emerged. Now, the ardent critics of these trolls, of which there are many, have a new tactic for taking them down. They don’t have to contest their politics or engage in meaningful debate. They just have to nail them for harassment.

That, in my opinion, is a dangerous precedent. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious crimes. They should be treated and adjudicated as such. If they become tactics for silencing blowhards, no matter how much an asshole they may be, then that denigrates actual victims of these crimes.

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It also gives opponents of these men powerful excuses to avoid actually confronting the substance of their words. As I’ve mentioned before, those kinds of excuses can create a dangerous mentality that allows people to circumvent critical thought of a situation.

In the end, I’m not going to miss Bill O’Reilly any more than I miss Roger Ailes. I really do hope the women accusing him prove their case. I hope that proof comes out and we can know with certainty whether they’re actually true. The truth has a way of adding greater weight to any situation. It also has a knack for getting lost in the media spectacle.

Whatever happens to O’Reilly from here on out is fairly inconsequential. He’s already made his money. He doesn’t need to troll any more unless he really misses the attention. With the precedent set, though, we may see more of this tactic against the professional trolls of the world. As annoying as these trolls are, the fact such tactics are necessary says a lot about how willing some are to find excuses instead of reasons.

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A Quick Guide To Dealing With Internet Trolls

The late, great Benjamin Franklin once said, “[I]n this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” That little pearl of wisdom has held up remarkably well over the years, especially when democrats are in charge or when despots need more money for their gold-plated toilet seats.

However, if Mr. Franklin were alive today, he’d have to amend that quote in a very specific way. While it’s still true that the only certainty is death and taxes, there is one other inescapable force that makes even the forces of nature tremble. It’s a force so powerful that it can reduce the best of us into wounded puppies begging for a band-aid.

What is this force, you ask? Get ready to embrace the horror because it will affect us moving forward. In fact, it’ll affect us more and more as the pace of technological advancement accelerates. It conjures dread, fear, annoyance, and frustration. It is the ultimate shit stain of the internet and technology in general. They are the true beasts of the 21st century.

Yes, I’m talking about Internet Trolls.

I’ll give everyone a moment to either cringe in horror or roll their eyes. Some of us have experience with internet trolls. Some of us may have even done our share of trolling in the past, although we’ll never admit in public that it qualified as trolling. Like a kid trying to get out of chores, we’ll make any excuse not to be associated with this horror. That doesn’t make us any less guilty of it.

I freely admit that I’ve done my share of trolling in the past. I’m not proud of it, but I’m only human. I’m passionate about a lot of things and I hope that shows in my erotica/romance novels. If it doesn’t, then I’m not doing my job.

We humans are passionate creatures. We always have been. We probably always will be on some levels, despite the efforts of movies like “Equilibrium.” It’s only recently that we’ve had a tool, namely the internet, to convey our passion all over the world about every possible subject from sports to pets to how we style our pubic hair.

I don’t consider this a bad thing. I’m not those who think the internet makes people into monsters or trolls. I believe that humans always had these sentiments to some degree. We just never had a chance to express them on a larger scale. The internet helps us reveal the breadth of our passions. There’s going to be the good and the bad. We can’t avoid either, nor should we.

So in many respects, internet trolls are like the sewer systems of a city. It smells, it’s ugly, and it’s flowing with shit, but it needs to be there. It needs to function for the city to function. You can whine about it all you want, and some people do, but you can’t escape it.

If we can’t escape it, then how do we deal with it? How do we deal with these digital demons that attempt to suck the fun out of anything and everything we hold dear? It’s actually easier than you think, at least for the non-famous population. For the famous crowd, it’s a little trickier, but not by much.

Since I can’t relate to famous people that much, I’ll stick to what I know before I dare to speculate. I’ve been on the internet for over 20 years and I’ve seen it grow and evolve, from the early AOL days to the fall of MySpace. In that time, I’ve picked up on a few techniques to combat internet trolls. Here are just a few:

  1. Assume there will be trolls wherever there’s an opportunity and don’t get overly upset when they show up
  2. Never assume a troll is being one hundred percent sincere, nor should you assume that the troll is one hundred percent knowledgeable either
  3. A troll that makes threats is serious, but a troll actually carrying out these threats is exceedingly rare so keep that in mind
  4. Above all, deny the troll any and all forms of attention or reactions, as this is the primary fuel in which a troll operates
  5. Apathy is the most potent weapon against internet trolls

There are probably more techniques that are unique to certain situations. There’s probably a whole host of tips and tricks to deal with certain trolls that go to much greater lengths to harass others. Those cases aren’t typical.

How can I be so sure of this? Again, apply a little caveman logic and it’s obvious. Human beings have a lot of remarkable mental and physical traits, breasts and balls being some of the most notable. However, when it comes to our attention span, human beings are incredibly lacking.

The average human attention span is not that great and some even argue (albeit not very effectively) that it’s shrinking due to technology. A troll operates at the very basic of levels in terms of human capacity. That means a troll’s attention span should not be overestimated. The internet is full of so many distractions, cat videos being just one of them. A troll that doesn’t get a reaction isn’t going to stay interested for very long.

In the end, the greatest weapon that any of us can use against internet trolls is apathy. That is a troll’s ultimate kryptonite. When a troll goes to such great lengths to harass and demean, but earns nothing but a blank gaze in the end, it’s downright toxic. Their brains simply cannot process why they are wasting time and energy that could be better spent hunting for tigers and seeking fertile mates. It’s caveman logic at its finest.

This is a sentiment echoed by those who have a somewhat larger social media presence. Being a lifelong comic book fan, I frequent comic book message boards and social media. I see a lot of trolling, to say the least. Comic book fans are a passionate bunch, as we learned during the Avengers: Age of Ultron controversy surrounding Black Widow.

This leads me to Tom Brevoort, an accomplished editor at Marvel and a genuinely interesting guy. I’ve met him in person at comic cons. He’s great at what he does and the way he deals with fans is nothing short of astonishing. A couple years back, he responded to a question that effectively proves my point.

When Mr. Brevoort was asked, “What does Marvel fear more? Angry fans or apathetic fans?” he responded as follows:

“Apathetic fans, definitely. When fans are angry, we’re selling comics.”

That’s a refreshing bit of honesty from someone who often has to be coy about his business. It also emphasizes the power of apathy, both in terms of dealing with trolls and dealing with public visibility. That saying about there being no such thing as bad publicity is somewhat accurate, but it’s incomplete in that it ignores how human passions operate.

So with that in mind, use these techniques whenever necessary. If you’re a celebrity, it may be somewhat trickier because internet trolls can sometimes turn into dangerous stalkers, which is an entirely different problem that I’m not equipped to deal with. For those like me, who are a long way away from being famous, this should help make your internet experience more tolerable.

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The Cult/Myth/Absurdity Of Virginity

I talk a lot about the absurdities in our culture that undermine or ruin our ability to love, make love, or just plain hump. These absurdities are important to me because I’m in the business of telling sexy, romantic stories. If there’s something that hinders or attacks our natural inclination to love and hump one another, then it’s going to affect the ability of my readers to get the most out of my books.

Since I want my readers to get the most out of my sexy love stories, I feel inclined to confront these absurdities. Sometimes it comes in the form of radical feminism. Sometimes it comes in the form of religious dogma. There’s no one singular force that’s putting the locks on our collective panties. It’s more of a drunken brawl of forces that are coordinating to attack one person, but don’t realize it.

It’s chaotic. It’s controversial. It’s bound to offend certain people with certain sensibilities. For that, I apologize, but I still feel that these absurdities need to be called out for what they are. It doesn’t matter if sticking your hand in a deep fryer is a sacred tradition. It’s still an absurdity on some levels.

The absurdity in this case has to do with the big V-word that we in the erotica/romance world must navigate. No, I’m not talking about a certain body part for a certain gender. I’m talking about the other big V-word. I’m talking about virginity.

Say that word out loud and measure your reaction. Then say another word like pencil and measure your reaction as well. Is it the same? If so, then you’re excused from reading the rest of this post. You’re more than equipped to appreciate the sex appeal of my books, which I highly recommend. If not, then this is something we need to talk about.

The whole concept of virginity is one of those concepts we, as a society, actively avoid scrutinizing. As a definition, it’s not that hard. Virginity is just a colorful term we used to describe those who have never had sex. If that were there was to it, then it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d lump it together with words like “moist” and “juicy.” They may make some people uncomfortable for entirely personal reasons, but most just shrug it off.

The problem is that, for reasons that have a lot to do with pre-modern culture and little to do with actual physical traits, the concept of virginity has been conflated, twisted, and in some cases deified. There’s a reason why the Virgin Mary has that moniker. If she were just the Hot Blond Mary, it would not have the same impact.

So why does it have this impact? Well, I’d love to say that there’s some complex, fascinating, socio-political reason for it. I’m sure there are some people who teach entire classes on this subject who can conjure complexities from this issue that make it seem akin to quantum mechanics. I’m not one of those people. That means I’m the answer I give is simple, crude, and frustratingly concise. Spoiler alert: I’ll be using caveman logic again.

Virginity has this impact for a pretty simple reason. For most of human history, we didn’t know squat about diseases. We didn’t have reliable pregnancy tests. On top of that, our best contraception involved trusting men to pull out at just the right moment. We can barely trust men with smartphones these days. You really think we can trust them that much when orgasms are involved? Just ask Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner.

This means that virginity is pretty much the only thing our ancestors had to be certain that a woman was disease free and not carrying someone else’s child. Marrying a virgin means there’s little chance she has the plague. It also helps guarantee that the kids she has are going to be yours biologically.

When your entire society is based on land-owning, agrarian traditions, that’s kind of a big deal. By kind of, I mean wars will be fought and people will lose their heads (among other body parts) if they find out their bride slept around or had a kid who wasn’t theirs.

Naturally, our caveman brains can’t process this on a wholly rational basis. Our biology, and the mechanisms that drive it, are blunt instruments. That means they’ll see an issue that may be as simple as a bent nail, but try to fix it with a jackhammer. It’s bound to cause some collateral damage. Unfortunately, the collateral damage in this case undermines the sexuality and agency of women.

It’s no coincidence that every major religion, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and pretty much every major religion founded before Scientology, places some emphasis on virginity. For these traditions, virginity isn’t just a pragmatic tool for ensuring disease-free, bastard-free brides. That’s too logical. They have to turn it into this esoteric, mystical brand of purity.

A virgin woman, in this context, is like a freshly-baked cookie that no one else has touched. It’s like perfectly ripened fruit that hasn’t been harvested yet. It’s like polished Rolls Royce that comes fresh from the factory, never driven and never sat in.

Is this starting to get creepy? Is comparing women to food, cars, and things that don’t have thoughts or feelings starting to bother you? Well, don’t go running to the toilet yet. That’s normal. That’s what happens when you peel back the layers about virginity and why it’s so deified. It really just comes down to a convenient excuse for old sexual traditions.

It’s still absurd, but it’s at least understandable to some degree. We didn’t know what we didn’t know for a long, long time. We only had these traditions and superstitions to guide us. The fact that we’re still here as a civilization and a species shows they did have some merit, but that merit is exceedingly limited, especially to those of us who think women should have agency in their sex lives. What a concept, right?

The concept of virginity became obsolete as soon as we discovered methods of contraception that don’t rely on trusting men to pull out at the right time. It’s become even more obsolete as medical science has advanced to a point where the diseases that used to render women sterile, weak, or dead are either curable or treatable. It’s a wonderful thing, women not being sick or at the mercy of their fertility.

Unfortunately, these outdated concepts of virginity didn’t die as soon as condoms and birth control pills became easier to obtain than cigarettes. Once again, our caveman brains screw us over and not in the fun way.

Remember, the caveman brain is not rational. That means it will cling to irrational crap for as long as possible because completely re-thinking a concept takes too much time and energy. That time and energy needs to be spent preparing for the winter and avoiding hungry bears, damn it! At least, that’s how our caveman brains see it.

As a result, the idea of virginity still has this strange place in modern society. It’s only strange because some people take it to distinctly creepy extremes. Those extremes lead to something like this.

That’s a purity ring. It’s one of the tools/gimmicks that extremely conservative types use in pushing their preferred brand of sexual education, “abstinence only.” They believe they can override an onslaught of hormones and millions of years of biological imperatives in impressionable, irrational teenagers. I want to admire their bravado, but at some point the absurdities are just too much.

They try to paint it as something romantic like, “true love waits.” As a romance/erotica writer, I just find that offensive. These religious, conservative types have their hearts in the right place. They don’t want young people engaging in risky sexual behavior that they’re not ready for. That’s entirely respectable, but extremely misguided.

It’s true that some people are better off waiting to have sex for the same reason some people are better off waiting to get their own credit card. They need to first make sure they’re responsible enough to handle all the proclivities that such things entail. Taking the abstinence route would be like not giving kids driver’s ed before they get a driver’s license. You’re just asking for trouble in the long run.

Even for those who wait, the religious dogma has a nasty tendency to misconstrue our libido. It’s why the idea of porn addiction is more prevalent among religious people compared to non-religious people. It’s also why some who do wait end up regretting it.

Sex is a lot like that road trip your parents to you on as a kid. You didn’t want to go. You worried and complained about it. Your parents just kept saying that if you think it’s going to be terrible, then it’s going to be terrible. You never admit they were right because you convinced yourself of something before you knew anything about it.

The same thing applies to sex. If you think it’s this dirty, evil deed that Satan created so that he could make babies to sacrifice, then you’re not going to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your wedding night or your prom night. You’ve already convinced yourself it’s going to be terrible.

You bought into all the dogma and let it rewire your brain, which still has that nasty imperative to survive and reproduce. It’s the one way you screw yourself that you can’t enjoy.

To make matters worse, our society still struggles with shaming women who decide to defy these notions of virginity. We don’t do it to men because men are just expected to hump everything with a pulse, which is offensive in and of itself to me, but that’s a post for another day. The women still disproportionately suffer the bulk of the shaming. Lose your virginity and you can expect to be shamed.

Human beings are sexual creatures. We’re also loving, passionate creatures. Trying to temper or restrain that passion for all the wrong reasons is going to have some nasty side-effect. Sadly, women are the ones who suffer those side-effects the most. Women are the ones who get stoned to death in certain parts of the world for not being virgins on their wedding nights. They’re the ones who get shamed when they try to enjoy sex.

As an erotica/romance writer, I want to celebrate and explore these feelings for men and women alike. I think they should be celebrated, but false notions of virginity and purity are getting in the way.

It’s still part of our culture, this idea that women should be pure and virginity is a virtue. It’ll continue to be part of our culture, even if we get to a point where contraception is fail-proof and medical science cures all diseases. Like many absurd traditions, it doesn’t stop being absurd.

With this in mind, anyone looking to learn a bit more about the concept of virginity and purity should check out this book by Jessica Valenti. It’s called “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Woman.” I highly recommend it. If nothing else, it’ll give you another reason to enjoy my books.

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Being A Hugger In This Day And Age

I’d like to get personal again. I’ve already confessed to sleeping naked. I’ve also made clear that I see foreplay as the highest of virtues. Now, I’d like to highlight another important trait of mine, one I actually mentioned in my post on foreplay. This trait isn’t as lurid or sexy as others, but it’s one of those traits that has the potential to be in the right context. So what is it? Well, here it is:

I, Jack Fisher, am a hugger.

Yes, I understand that it’s one of the least macho things you can do these days. It’s right up there with wearing makeup and crying over soap operas. It’s a taboo and a bad one at that. I don’t know when it happened. I don’t know why it happened. For reasons that defy logic, understanding, and basic human nature, it actually became cool to be a callous, detached, unemotional douche-bag at some point. I usually try to research the complex cultural reasons behind such a movement. This time, however, I found next to nothing.

The only educated guess I can make, which is pushing it because I’m not that educated, is that society’s collective fears and scorn over men sexually assaulting women went a tad overboard. It’s a perfectly legitimate concern, wanting to discourage sexual assault and sexual harassment in general. It’s a terrible crime so I can’t blame society for overdoing it, but there’s a fine line between fighting crime and turning people into callous douche-bags.

From a purely evolutionary standpoint, there’s no reason why hugs and intimate contact should be discouraged. According to Dr. Fahad  Basheer at Collective Evolution, there are at least 11 medical benefits to hugs. These benefits include, but aren’t limited to, relieving pain, elevating mood, alleviating depression, improving immune function, and reducing stress. If hugging were a pharmaceutical drug, it would be hailed as wonder drugs and probably banned by the DEA.

These health benefits, much like the health benefits of orgasms, strongly indicate that we’re hard-wired for hugs. Nature wants us to hug each other. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lover, a family member, or a stranger. Our biology, being so basic and crude, doesn’t care where the hug comes from. It still benefits us.

The benefits aren’t even restricted to humans. Nature is rarely that specific. Animals do it to and they seem to gain similar benefits.

My parents and siblings seemed to understand that. I come from a family that is big on hugging. It’s not necessarily a cultural thing. It’s just how we are. However, I notice when I go out into the modern world, I’m terrified of making too much intimate contact with others. I don’t think that’s healthy.

I don’t exactly know where this fear comes from, but I have a pretty strong feeling it started during my time in the daily prison sentence that was public school. I don’t know if anyone knows this, but public schools have a big problem with students touching each other in any way. How big a problem? Well, in 2013, a student in Georgia got suspended for a year for hugging his teacher.

That’s right. A school punished a kid for hugging someone. Let that sink in for a moment. Hugging is not like sex. It doesn’t cause pregnancy. It doesn’t cause disease. It doesn’t cause emotional distress of any kind. It has so many natural benefits that transcend species, yet we punish kids for doing it. Then, we wonder why they grow up to have emotional problems and personality disorders.

Now the school I went to never did something this extreme, but I do remember from a young age hearing all sorts of lectures about harassment and inappropriate touching, as they called it. I may have been a dumb-ass kid, but even I knew what they were getting at. They wanted to discourage kids from getting too sexual when they were too young and immature.

That’s all well and good, but it’s worth repeating that I was a dumb-ass kid in a whole building full of them. How are we supposed to know what constitutes inappropriate touching? A hug for some people might as well be slap on the ass with a wooden spoon for someone else. We never learned much about context and communication. Most of the time, we just got a thorough run-down of all the terrible punishments we can expect if we ever got caught inappropriately touching someone.

Being kids who still had some respect for authority figures, we naturally focus on the punishments. We don’t want to get in trouble. We don’t want to explain to our parents why we got suspended or sent to detention. Naturally, we’re going to play it safe and just avoid it all together.

As kids, fear of punishment tends to make us overcompensate. It’s just human nature. Again, it’s caveman logic. We’re not going to just stand a few feet away from a shady area where a lion might be hiding. We’re going to make sure we’re a long ways away from that danger.

It doesn’t just affect us as kids in school either. After spending our entire childhood terrified of making too much intimate contact with other human beings, we carry that terror into the adult world, both in college campuses and in the workplace.

We currently live in an era where harassment doesn’t even need to occur. There only needs to be an accusation that a man assaulted a woman and that’s it. No trial. No jury. No indisputable evidence of any kind. Just the accusation is enough to assure guilt in the eyes of the public. This leads to legal clusterfucks like the Duke Lacrosse ordeal and the false UVA rape case.

So as a man, it’s dangerous for me to hug someone. It could cost me my reputation, my freedom, and a boatload of time and legal fees. It only takes one woman to misinterpret a hug, accuse me of assault, and my life is over.

This actually played out very recently. Earlier this year, I went on a date with a girl to see the movie, X-men: Apocalypse, which should come as no surprise to anyone. I really liked this girl. I thought she was cute. I thought we had a good connection. However, I didn’t know how she would react to a hug so I was fucking terrified of getting too intimate too fast. That may have worked against me because we never went on a second date.

As a self-professed hugger, how the hell am I to function in a world like this? How am I supposed to find love, affection, and intimacy with others outside my immediate family? This modern world sends so many conflicting messages. We’re more connected than ever thanks to technology, but a single hug can get us sued for sexual assault if we hug the wrong person.

I don’t like this trend. I don’t think it’s good for huggers like me or people in general. We’ve become too callous and isolated. We’re scared to death from a young age, albeit indirectly, into avoiding contact with one another. It goes against our own nature. It goes against our own humanity. I may never live to see the day where hugging a perfect stranger won’t get you sued, but I’d like to aspire to such a future, both through my love of hugs and through my books.

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