Tag Archives: social norms

How Smiling Became A Feminist Issue (For Terrible Reasons)

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What would you think of someone who randomly walked up to you, sensed you looked sad, and suggested something that is scientifically proven to make you feel better? The person doesn’t force it on you. They don’t offer their advice to be smug or facetious. They just see a fellow human in distress and offer to help. By nearly every measure, the person is being a compassionate, decent human being.

Now, having contemplated that scenario, what would you think of a man who walked up to a woman and asked her to smile? While some might not see that as too big a deal, it has become a serious issue in recent years. It may not be the most absurd since it doesn’t involve Wonder Woman’s armpit hair, but it’s still up there.

The scenario I just described is something that, from a purely superficial level, may not seem controversial. Telling someone to smile, regardless of whether they’re a man or a woman, is not just an empty platitude. There is real, legitimate science behind it.

Research has shown that the mere act of smiling has many health benefits, such as improving mood, relieving stress, and strengthening immune function. To some extent, it helps rewire our brain in a way that directly combats depression, anxiety, and all sorts of ailments. It might be the easiest thing anyone can do to feel better. If it were a drug, it would be hailed as a medical breakthrough.

Why then has smiling become such a point of contention? While linking it to sexism is full of many absurdities, there are legitimate grievances that helped make this an issue. I know I’m going to upset people when I talk about this, but I believe it’s worth talking discussing, if only to preserve the benefits of smiling.

From the perspective of those protesting being told to smile, many of which identify as feminists or left-leaning, the issue isn’t about those aforementioned benefits. It’s about people telling them to be happy in a world where they don’t feel like equals. Considering how unequal things were for women throughout history, that’s an understandable sentiment.

Plenty of inequality lingers.

The situation for these women didn’t involve kind strangers walking up to them when they were sad and telling them to smile. It likely involved bosses, spouses, teachers, and various authority figures telling them to smile because frowning wasn’t lady-like. Even if you don’t consider yourself a feminist, it’s easy to see why that would seem condescending.

In some situations, it was even worse. In service jobs, which are often dominated by women, telling them to smile is like asking them to act as a billboard for an organization. They’re treated as a pretty face rather than a person. It’s the male equivalent of being treated as a cog in an assembly line.

That sort of treatment is dehumanizing and people, regardless of gender, resent that and for good reason. In that context, telling a woman to smile is no different than telling her to just shut up and accept everything the way it is, no matter how much she resents it. While that’s rarely the intent, that’s the interpretation.

Most reasonable people can and do acknowledge the sentiments that women feel in those situations. Nobody likes being told to just smile and accept your misery. However, the issue descends into absurdity when telling someone to smile is famed as a byproduct of sexism. It effectively politicizes the very concept of smiling.

As a result, it fosters this idea that a woman cannot smile and be feminist. It’s an idea that has become more mainstream in recent years. To see how, just Google “modern feminist” and look at the images that come up. Very few of the faces that come up are smiling. There’s no Rosie the Riveter. There’s only angry, outraged women yelling to the point where it’s a common meme.

This isn’t just an issue with respect to the popular perception of feminists. When it comes to faces, there’s a great deal of intrinsic biology and neuroscience at work. Seeing an angry face triggers a very different reaction compared to seeing a smiling face. Some of that reaction transcends even extends to other species.

There are also significant differences in how people react to smiling men compared to smiling women. The extent to which that difference is biological is not clear, but unlike many other behavioral traits, smiling is directly tied to many psychological and physiological forces. Tying smiling to ongoing debates about gender is one nobody can win. Like it or not, you can’t debate around biology.

Then, there’s the other side of the gender equation, specifically the one regarding the male perspective. While this perspective is less obvious, it does add some other complexities that often fall through the cracks during these arguments. This is where I can offer some perspective, as a man, because I can attest to this impact.

Whatever you think about the nature of masculinity, it’s a well-documented fact that male brains are wired differently compared to female brains. One of those differences stems from how we react to women in distress. Whether they’re angry or sad, seeing it can trigger that protective instinct that men often feel around women.

I can attest that this instinct is real. A few years back, I was walking down the boardwalk at a beach. It was a loud, rowdy place in the middle of summer so there was plenty of noise. Then, out of nowhere, I heard this woman scream. Almost immediately, I turned towards it and I wasn’t the only one. Several other men, as well as a few women, took notice as well.

The woman had badly hurt herself on her bicycle. I’d rather not describe the injury so I’ll just say she couldn’t stand on her left leg. Thankfully, she was with a couple of friends and they immediately aided her. However, her cries caught the attention of plenty of men, most of them total strangers.

While some with more cynical attitudes may think of that reaction as white knighting, I can assure you it’s a real phenomenon. Men sensing a woman in distress evokes a reaction that stems directly from our natural inclination to form social bonds and protect others. Since women are the ones who bear the babies, we tend to give them extra scrutiny.

That’s not to say that a man telling a woman to smile is always an altruistic act. It doesn’t overlook the situations in which someone uses that rhetoric to denigrate women and make light of the issues they face. However, if the simple act of smiling becomes part of the line that divides feminists from misogynists, then the entire debate surrounding gender becomes obscure.

Telling a woman to smile is not the same as telling her to get back in the kitchen. In addition, making outrage the face of female empowerment won’t help in addressing legitimate issues. It’ll just frame every discussion as something hostile and unreasonable. No matter how legitimate the issues are, it’s difficult to have a meaningful discussion in that situation.

Objectively speaking, smiling is good for you, regardless of gender. It’s something I encourage everyone to do when they’re feeling upset, depressed, or angry. It’s a small gesture and one that doesn’t solve problem, in and of itself.

However, it can help your in many ways, especially if you’re hoping to connect with others in a way that ensures they’ll listen. There are many issues surrounding men, women, and gender that are worth discussing. Making the act of smiling a rallying cry for gender conflicts will only ensure that nobody succeeds in the long run.

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Filed under gender issues, human nature, Marriage and Relationships, men's issues, outrage culture, political correctness, psychology, sex in society, sexuality, women's issues

The (Surprising) Sources And Implications Of Slut Shaming

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As a fan of romance and people exploring their sexy side, I’m generally opposed to slut shaming. I understand why it exists, to some extent. Nearly every society in history has had certain hang-ups about sex. Considering its role in propagating the species, it’s understandable that people give it extra scrutiny.

That said, I consider slut shaming a misguided form of scrutiny. The definition, itself, has some ugly implications that go far beyond the inherent risks associated with being reckless, promiscuous, and irresponsible.

For one, it’s almost entirely heaped upon women. James Bond never gets called a slut for his promiscuous behavior. Instead, he gets to be a masculine icon. A woman who has just as much sex gets called a slut and is often painted as deviant. Look no further than legendary Bond girls like Xania Onatopp and Pussy Galore for proof of that.

While it can be pretty overt in popular media, it’s even more pernicious in real life. From women who choose wear revealing clothing to those who actively attempt to confront sexual stigma, there’s no shortage of shaming from multiple directions. It’s frustrating in that it amounts to incessant whining about how other people choose to live their lives, but recent research has cast slut shaming in a new light.

A study published in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behavior attempted to analyze how behaviors associated with slut shaming differed among genders. The popular narrative is that men do most of the slut shaming. The logic is that men see beautiful women having a lot of sex. That bothers them because those women aren’t having sex with them.

Granted, that’s a gross generalization that I’m sure many men and even a few women find offensive. Despite the details, that is the common narrative and it tends to play out in one too many teen comedies. However, science has a way of disrupting those narratives in unexpected ways.

The study revealed that while men and women were equally likely to not trust promiscuous women, women who were more likely to favor punishing those women. In a comprehensive summary conducted by PsyPost, the differences were pretty striking.

“In the study, participants played one of three kinds of economic decision-making games. The participants were led to believe they were playing against a female opponent in real-time, but were actually only interacting with computerized responses.

The opponents varied in whether they appeared to be sexually accessible or sexually restricted. For some participants, the opponent was depicted as a woman wearing a tight, red outfit and an abundance of makeup. For others, the opponent was depicted as a woman wearing loose-fitting clothing with less makeup.

The researchers found that both male and female participants were less willing to share money with a woman wearing the tight outfit. The participants also trusted sexually-accessible opponents with a financial investment less than sexually-restrictive opponents.

Women, but not men, were also willing to inflict punishments on a sexually-accessible female opponent who made an unfair offer, even though it left them empty-handed as well.

Given the choice between receiving a small sum of money while their opponent took a large sum or having neither player receive any money at all, women tended to pick the latter option.”

Take a moment to comprehend what this does to the slut shaming narrative. For those who idealize that 1950s sitcom family life that never truly existed, it’s an aberration. While those women make for good one-night-stands, they hardly make for quality long-term relationships.

Why, then, would men be reluctant to punish those women? I’ve noted before how society tends to micromanage women’s bodies. Slut shaming is only a half-measure because it offers no tangible punishment. While certain societies don’t mind punishing promiscuous women, it doesn’t appear to be entirely predicated on male attitudes.

This study shows that women are just as mistrustful of promiscuous women and are willing to go further in terms of punishing their behavior. The reasons for this are difficult to surmise. The researchers hypothesized that men were primarily concerned with avoiding investment in a child that wasn’t theirs. From an evolutionary standpoint, that’s something to avoid, but not punish.

Conversely, women may be more concerned with the bigger picture. The researchers surmised that women had an evolutionary imperative to keep the cost of sex high to improve their value as potential partners. Actively punishing potential rivals further served that purpose.

From a logistical standpoint, it makes sense. They see beautiful, promiscuous women as people who use cheat codes in video games. They have an unfair advantage when it comes to attracting potential partners and that has significant consequences, especially to those who aren’t beautiful or sexually flexible.

Beyond distracting partners who might otherwise be interested in them, it lowers the value of the sex they have to offer. Why would men be as interested in having sex with them when there are promiscuous women who were willing to give it to them for a lower cost with fewer strings?

While I believe this may be a factor for some women, it’s also another broad generalization that would offend more than a few women. It assumes too much about how they think and feel. Believing women slut shame because it hinders their own sexual value is as absurd as blaming all misogyny on some vast patriarchal conspiracy.

Like all research, the study is limited and can only reveal so much about the complexities of human behavior. The researchers themselves freely admitted this, but that’s exactly why it warrants further study. Like it or not, slut shaming is still prominent in most modern societies. I would argue that the internet and social media are making it worse.

At the same time, I also believe that slut shaming is something we should confront. It causes real harm to real people. It damages our love lives, our sex lives, and everything in between. There are instances in which someone’s irresponsible sexual behavior genuinely warrants scrutiny, but shaming can only serve to make things worse, even for people who aren’t sluts.

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Filed under gender issues, human nature, men's issues, outrage culture, political correctness, psychology, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality, women's issues

Is Netflix To Blame For Decreasing Sexual Activity?

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For most of human history, society regularly concerned itself with how much sex people were having. It wasn’t always just a matter of people having too much sex. The collective forces of religion, government, culture, and social norms all worked together to encourage people have the “right” kind of sex.

I put “right” in quotation marks because the whole concept of there being a “right kind of sex” is asinine to begin with. The concept only exists to the extent that it reflects the genuine, pragmatic concerns of previous societies about maintaining a growing population in the face of constant war, famine, plague, and whatever other forces were conspiring to wipe out the human race.

Pragmatic or not, the amount of sex that people have is still a concern and probably always will be to some extent. Unlike 99 percent of human history, though, having enough sex to make enough babies to keep the species going is no longer an issue. If anything, having too many babies is a larger concern.

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It’s within this unprecedented situation, one in which the human race has made so much progress and dominated the world so completely, that we’re also facing a growing issue. People are having less sex. According to the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, overall sexual activity has been declining since the mid-2000s.

The rate of decline is even more significant among the younger demographics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the amount of sexually active teenagers declined from 47 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2015. Considering that at least half of the teenage population was sexually active throughout the 90s, that is not a trivial decline.

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I’ve talked a bit about this decline in sex. Being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, it’s one of those trends I need to keep up. I’ve posed a number of potential explanations. I’ve explored the possibility that society is becoming more sexually uptight. I’ve also talked about how the ongoing anti-harassment movement may impact our sex lives.

However, there may be an even more powerful force at work that’s hindering our collective ability to get frisky, especially among youth. For once, it has nothing to do with religion, government initiatives, or hashtag movements. In fact, this force may be more powerful than all those forces combined. It has a name and it’s one we know well: Netflix.

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This actually might be one instance where I don’t need to present a long, detailed explanation about how something affects our sex lives, our culture, and our society as a whole. There’s no need to employ caveman logic or scrutinize agendas. I think most competent can probably look at these trends in sexuality and readily accept that Netflix might very well be a factor.

I admit when I first heard it, I thought it made too much sense. I first saw it in an article in Politico that I thought was an Onion spoof. Apparently, it’s a serious story entitled “Too Much Netflix, Not Enough Chill: Why Young Americans Are Having Less Sex.” Granted, a lot of it is lumping correlation without digging into the causation, but it does make some pretty compelling points.

Dating has fallen precipitously in recent years, at least among teens, as smartphones and screens have become more popular. In the past 10 years, the share of high school seniors who reported ever going out on dates fell from about 70 percent to approximately 55 percent. We don’t have data for dating among adults, but “socializing offline” is down among them, too. For all the talk about young adults’ “Netflix and chilling,” many young men and women may end up just bingeing on Netflix, not chilling.

Within those points, however, is a growing sentiment in which people opting for Netflix is more a reaction than a provocation. The article spends a lot of time breaking down other ongoing trends, including a few from the anti-harassment movement. It’s not that people want to cut themselves off from intimacy, but the risks of getting intimate are greater, albeit not for the same reasons that we had in the past.

These days, young people are less concerned about being branded with a scarlet letter or challenging the sexual norms of our uptight ancestors. However, they are concerned about navigating an ever-changing social landscape that seems to disparage horny men and horny women.

For full-grown adults, it’s already pretty dangerous, as Aziz Ansari found out recently. For inexperienced teenagers, it’s probably even more terrifying. The article even highlighted a few of the notable pitfalls that are likely discouraging young people from putting themselves out there.

One is that in an era where concerns about sexual consent are becoming more salient, false allegations of sexual assault or rape may become more likely to proliferate, driven partly by a lack of clarity about how to define consent in sexual encounters that are often ambiguous and alcohol-fueled. Think of the fraternity accused of gang rape in the retracted Rolling Stone story about the University of Virginia. Or the bizarre charges made by Columbia University’s “mattress girl,” Emma Sulkowicz, against her former friend and lover, Paul Nungesser. Or the sexual assault charges lodged against Alphonso Baity that led to his expulsion from the University of Findlay, despite the fact that multiple witnesses were willing to testify that he engaged in consensual sex with his accuser. Or the successful cases that have been brought by men thrown out of college for alleged sexual assaults. Such allegations can do untold harm to the reputations and lives of many parties—mostly men—who engaged in what seemed to them to be consensual sex.

This is where Netflix comes in, almost by accent. In the past, it was a lot harder to stay entertained and content while also suppressing sexual urges. Why else would chastity belts have been a thing? When there wasn’t much entertainment beyond books and games, it was only a matter of time before those basic urges caught up with people.

Netflix does something that even the strongest chastity belt can never hope to do. It actually succeeds in keeping people distracted and content so that those base desires can’t occupy our thoughts. When there are so many amazing shows, from “Bojack Horsemen” to “Travelers” to “House of Cards” to “Stranger Things,” who has time for sex?

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I write that only half-jokingly because, while it’s not possible to completely overwrite our base desires, it’s still possible to distract us. Human beings are, from a biological standpoint, pretty easy to distract. In the era of the internet and streaming media, it has never been easier to forget about the fact that you’re not having sex.

Add on top of that the growing risks with just attempting to get sex, thanks to concerns about harassment and assault, and Netflix suddenly seems like the path of least resistance. You won’t get accused of assault or harassment by staying home and watching Netflix. You also won’t get pregnant or a nasty disease, either. Add the inherent entertainment of the content and even I can’t deny the appeal.

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Now, it’s still doubtful that Netflix and others like it are the primary reason for the decline in sexual activity. As anyone familiar with logical fallacies will tell you, correlation does not equal causation. However, when scrutinized within the context of evolving sexual attitudes, the deficiencies of the past, and basic incentives, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that Netflix is a factor.

That trend, like all trends, is likely to change over time. It’s impossible to predict how our sex lives will change in the next few years, especially as emerging technologies start to affect sex and society at large. For now, there are a lot of factors affecting our sex lives. Netflix is just one, but as someone who is a big fan of “Bojack Horsemen” and “Stranger Things,” I think it’s more powerful than we think.

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

Quality Life Lessons From The Cleveland Browns And Their Fans

NFL: SEP 18 Ravens at Browns

Even though I often say that the world is getting better by most measures, I don’t deny that it’s not improving for a sizable part of the global population. There are parts of the world still racked with disease, poverty, and despair of all kind. The unfortunate people in these parts deserve our respect, sympathy, and support.

However, there’s one particular part of that suffering population I want to focus on. While 2017 might have been bad for quite a few people, there’s one group of people whose anguish is unique in terms of its breadth and context. That group is the Cleveland Browns and their long-suffering fans.

Being a football fan, who often finds himself defending the unflattering situations in which the NFL often finds itself, I follow most major news stories surrounding the NFL throughout the season. Few stories have been as disheartening as those involving the Cleveland Browns, who became only the second team to lose all 16 games in 2017.

In terms of a major sports team in a major American city with a rich sports history, you literally cannot get worse than the 2017 Cleveland Browns. Between their long-standing issues at quarterback, a terrible track record in the NFL Draft, and a high turnover of coaches in the past several years, the Cleveland Browns have set a solemn standard for ineptitude.

It doesn’t matter how disappointed you were with your favorite team this year. It doesn’t matter how upset you were when they got eliminated from the playoffs, lost to a hated rival, or made a bone-headed play that made you ashamed to be affiliated with them. Cleveland Browns fans had it worse. There’s just no way around it.

However you feel about the city of Cleveland, their sports teams, or LeBron James, you can’t help but feel bad for the fans of the Browns. They are a very passionate bunch, one whose history includes big names like Paul Brown, Jim Brown, and Bernie Kosar. Given the heartbreak they’ve endured over the years, this latest news is just salt in the wound.

I’m sure there are plenty of Browns fans out there who could talk for hours about how rough it is, being a Browns fan. Up until 2016, being a Cubs fans was the only fair comparison. Now, the Browns are very much alone in their solemn state. It’s a modern tragedy that seems downright masochistic to some.

That’s exactly why the decision by some fans to hold a parade to celebrate their ineptitude is so remarkable. It wasn’t a prank or an elaborate joke, either. This parade really did happen and it managed to draw over 2,000 people.

To some, it seems funny that a team that had such a historically bad season is worth celebrating. To others, it may seem like an elaborate form of therapy, holding a parade instead of just wallowing in the misery of being such a historically bad team. Personally, I see it as an important life lesson, of sorts, that we would all be wise to heed.

Losing in any capacity is hard, whether it’s a major sports team or just losing your keys. There’s actual psychology behind it that is wired into us, even as children. Losing, especially dealing with it, can be downright painful for some people. It’s like suffering a nasty wound and having that wound fester.

That’s why coping skills are so important. Most of us who aren’t billionaires or Tom Brady are going to endure our share of losing in life. Our ability to cope and learn from those losses help shape the kind of person we are. There’s a right way to cope and many wrong ways. Too many wrong ways risks breaking someone mentally or just making them an asshole.

When it comes to the coping skills of Cleveland Browns fans, throwing a parade and celebrating the absurdity of their team’s ineptitude is actually pretty damn healthy. Unlike the fans who riot when their team loses a championship game, this parade caused no real property damage.

It didn’t involve people angrily lashing out, which has been proven to be bad for you. It didn’t involve angry protests, which can be hit or miss in terms of effectiveness. It was a parade, one in which Browns fans overtly acknowledged their team’s failures and essentially accepted it. From a psychological and societal standpoint, that’s pretty damn healthy.

There’s even some real philosophy behind this concept, one that goes beyond sports and their fans. It’s called absurdism, the idea that in order to cope with the struggle to find meaning in a seemingly-meaningless world, we must embrace the absurd condition of life in general. We should even celebrate it.

Some philosophers cite the story of the myth of Sisyphus, the man doomed to endlessly push a boulder up a cliff for all eternity, only to fail every time. However, through the lens of absurdism, Sisyphus is actually the happiest guy in the world because he ascribes meaning to his meaningless act. He doesn’t see what he does as futile. He sees it as purpose and he celebrates it, as such.

The situation for the Cleveland Browns may not be as hopeless as Sisyphus, as many bad teams have gone from worst to first before, but the fact that fans are celebrating the struggle reflects strange comfort our minds find in absurdism. We know the situation is bad and it literally can’t get much worse, but we accept and embrace it. As such, it doesn’t’ destroy us. It actually makes our collective psyche stronger.

 

This is even more useful in sports because, even after such a historically bad season, things are pretty much guaranteed to get better for the Cleveland Browns. They literally cannot get worse. They enter the 2018 season with a new general manager, abundant cap space, and multiple high draft picks. They will get better. The history of bad NFL teams makes that a given.

Until that improvement comes, though, holding a parade to celebrate the rock bottom of such a proud franchise is both fitting and healthy. It’s an act from which we can all derive lessons. Sure, we all have bad days and some of them are worse than most. However, things do tend to improve when we know how to cope.

For the Cleveland Browns, such good coping skills will make future victories and championships feel that much sweeter. It may take a while. It may take a long while. As Red Sox fans and Cubs fans can attest, though, it’s worth the wait.

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Filed under Current Events, sports

Is Loneliness Really THAT Bad For You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoking, Cigarette, Smoke, Unhealthy, Cigar, Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, War on Boredom

Politics, Safety, And The Impossible Paradox

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As I’ve said before, I really don’t like talking about politics. I’ve learned over the course of my life, often the hard way, that nothing makes people less comfortable, less horny, and more insufferable than politics. It couldn’t have less sex appeal without involving a clogged toilet, a dead rabbit, and Sean Hannity.

For the most part, I try not to get too political on this blog. I’d much rather be talking about comic books, sex robots, and Leslie Knope. However, there are times when I feel compelled to say something about a particular issue. I often do that with gender issues like feminism because that indirectly ties to the sexier topics I talk about. I try not to take too strong a position. More than anything else, I try to give perspective.

That’s what I did with my post about the health care debate. I tried to be fair to both sides. I tried to frame the issue in a way that both Michael Moore and Ted Nugent could appreciate. I didn’t offer any easy fixes. I didn’t try to denigrate one political ideology over the other. I just tried to point out the inherent flaws in the issue itself.

In the course of writing about that particular debate, I wanted to apply it to a few other issues. However, I quickly realized that there was no way I could do so in a single article and remain concise. When I write on this blog, I tend to assume that part of the audience is drunk, horny, or some combination of the two. That means I can’t drone on for too long, even though I have a habit of doing that when it comes to comics.

Health care is just one issue. Granted, it’s an exceedingly complex issue, but it’s still one issue. The underlying argument I made was that, beyond the complexity, both sides of the political spectrum have the same goal. The problem is that what they want isn’t just logistically difficult. It’s physically impossible.

It’s another hard truth, one that I’d argue is even harder than the truth surrounding O.J. Simpson. Sometimes, even when the politics involved have a noble goal, the particulars of an issue are just beyond our capabilities as humans to produce. We humans can do all sorts of amazing things, from the Great Pyramids to solar-powered vibrators. However, we are a species of many limits, many of which we often fail to acknowledge.

This leads directly to an even bigger picture, of sorts. It also involves something that’s currently impossible in a world without superheros, super-powers, or computers that can’t be hacked for hilariously stupid reasons. Until we start enhancing ourselves, it’ll remain impossible for the foreseeable future.

I call it the impossibility paradox because most people, regardless of their political persuasion, act as though the impossible aspects aren’t there. They’re often smart, driven people who are every bit as driven as their ideological opponents. They work so hard to accomplish something that’s physically impossible. Then, they’re surprised when they come up short.

On top of that, the people they claim to represent or help get upset with them because they didn’t accomplish what they promised. Never mind that what they promised was never possible to begin with. Human beings just aren’t that reasonable, even if they like to pretend that they are. Everybody is still subject to the constraints of reality and, like a moody dominatrix, it doesn’t mind telling us who’s dominant.

Now, apply that dynamic to what might be an even bigger issue than health care for some people. Whether you’re gun-toting conservative or a pot-smoking liberal, most agree that a central function of any government entity is to keep citizens safe.

No state, kingdom, or Dungeons and Dragons guild can survive without providing some level of safety. People, society, and the economy can’t function unless there’s some level of safety. Nobody wants to make iPhones and exchange brownie recipes if there are barbarian hordes just a few miles away, ready to raze your home to the ground.

Since the dawn of civilization, every functioning society has had to provide some measure of safety and protection to its citizens. In exchange, citizens pay taxes to the state so that it can have the resources to perform these duties. Ideally, they’ll use those taxes carefully in accomplishing this goal. In the real world, however, nobody will ever say with a straight face that all taxpayer money is spent wisely.

However, this is where even the anti-government, Ron Swansons of the world have to face another cold, hard fact of reality. It’s every bit as inescapable as the health care debate. Even if, however unlikely, a government spent every penny of taxpayer money wisely and dedicated every resource into ensuring safety and security, it still wouldn’t be enough. That’s because of one simple truth.

“Nobody knows ALL the facts and nobody CAN know all the facts.”

If that sounds a bit too similar to the advice I recently gave on making sense of the world, then bear with me. There’s a reason for that. It’s similar, but not the same because the scope of the issue is different. Every issue takes on twisted, often frustrating new dimensions when politics enter the picture. Just ask Major League Baseball.

When it comes to safety, though, there’s an inescapable complication that has plagued every government entity that ever existed and will continue to plague governments until our robot overlords take over. To provide safety, you need to know everything about a situation and have the resources to deal with it. Unfortunately, or fortunately for privacy-minded folks, nobody can know everything about a given situation.

Nobody can know for sure when and where a terrorist attack will occur.

Nobody can know for sure whether or not a rival nation is plotting against them.

Nobody can know for sure whether a handful of countries are colluding to undermine them.

Nobody can know for sure whether that weird-looking guy walking down the street is about to go on a shooting spree or just skipped laundry day.

There are just so many unknowns in the world of geopolitics. There are a lot of unknowns for individuals as well. Hell, we still can’t figure out just how useful or useless pubic hair is. How are we supposed to know everything about the threats to our safety and sovereignty as people?

That’s just it, though. We can’t know. It’s physically impossible for any one human or group of humans to know everything about a certain situation, individual, or threat. Sure, the CIA could bug your phone and hack your browser history. That may even give them plenty of reason to believe that you’re conspiring with a hidden network of BDSM enthusiasts to take over the entire state of Montana.

At the end of the day, though, even the CIA can’t know for sure and that has proven costly throughout history. No agency, no matter what they call themselves or what sort of fancy acronyms they use, can know everything about a situation. I’m sure they’d like to know. If you’re of the mind of Alex Jones, you might even believe they’re working with aliens to remedy that.

Even if they did have some way to read all our thoughts, there’s still the matter of sifting through random daydreams and outright plots. Honestly, who hasn’t contemplated whipping out a can of lighter fluid and setting a coffee shop on fire because they got your order wrong? The difference between those thoughts and real action, though, is huge.

I’m not saying that governments and police forces should give up trying to keep people safe. We still need some measure of safety in order to function as a society. The problem is that because of this safety paradox, we end up in these brutal cycles that only make us more fearful. It goes like this.

  • Some strange, complex, dire threat is out there and the media blows it up to scare people

  • The people demand action from their politicians and authority figures

  • Those politicians and authority figures try to respond, if only to maintain their hold on power

  • Those politicians and authority figures fail to provide perfect safety because doing so is impossible

  • The public gets upset with the existing people in power and looks for alternatives

  • Some new power-seeking people enter the picture, making impossible promises to fix impossible situations’

  • The citizens, desperate to fix the impossible problem, put these people into power because anything seems like an improvement over the status quo

  • The people who made the impossible promises, predictably, fail to deliver and generate another round of disillusion

  • The cycle starts all over again

This is part of why congress’ approval rating is so low. It’s also why western countries keep cycling through political parties, constantly voting new people into office in hopes that they’ll find a way to solve impossible problems. In every case, they are unable to deliver. Most people don’t see the impossible logistics, though, so they just look to the next power-broker who can deliver.

For now, we’re very much at the mercy of impossible situations and the people who claim they can solve them. Some of these situations will become less impossible as we develop better tools. Until then, though, let’s be mindful of the impossible demands we make on those we entrust with our safety. It’s often when we have impossible standards that we doom ourselves to unlimited disappointment.

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(Possible) Taboos Of The Future

Whenever I talk about the future on this blog, which is an awful lot for an erotica/romance writer, I always feel I need to make the same disclosure. I’ve made it before whenever I try to make predictions about the future. I still feel it’s worth making because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m smarter than I actually am.

Here’s the honest truth. Nobody knows for sure what’s going to happen in the future. Nobody knows for sure what kind of technological breakthroughs there will be. Nobody knows for sure how our understanding of physics, biology, and chemistry will change. Nobody knows for sure whether Kardashians will be broke and sell insurance tomorrow.

It’s the same advice I gave everyone frustrated by news, politics, and everything in between. Nobody knows anything. They can make educated guesses that may or may not be accurate. Some are far less educated than others. At the end of the day, though, nobody really knows for sure.

I say all this because I’m going to take a moment to predict and/or speculate on what sort of taboos we’ll have in the future. I talked a bit about taboos and why they exist. No matter how advanced we get as a society, relatively speaking, there will always be sort of taboo operating behind our social norms. Most of those norms will have to do with sex, gender, and how much poor people are screwed over.

Now, those dynamics might change when technology like brain implants or smart blood become sufficiently advanced. They might change even more if we adopt policies like a universal basic income. For our entire existence, as a species, we’ve been at the mercy of our caveman brains, whose wiring is basically set by the painfully slow processes of evolution. Once that changes, then all bets are off.

With that massive flaw in the dynamics of taboos, I’m still going to try and make a few predictions. If you think I’m stupid, dead wrong, or just plain trolling, then please know that I’m at the mercy as the same limits as everyone else. I’m just as capable of making a stupid predictions, just like the idiots who thought the internet was a fad.

So, with no illusions as to the accuracy of my predictions, here are the taboos that I believe we’ll see in the latter parts of the 21st century. Some of them deal with technology. Some of them deal with social policies. Yes, some even deal with sex. I’m sure that will shock no one. Whatever they involve, the issues are the same. These will be things that will carry with them an odd, but unique stigma for future generations.


Taboo #1: Having Babies The Old Fashioned Way

I’ve talked about artificial wombs before, primarily as a means of leveling the playing field between genders. Initially, the technology will be used to save infants born prematurely and help infertile couples have children. This is all technology that’s in development right now and we’ll likely see it refined within our lifetime.

It’s when you push it out beyond that when things get really interesting. At some point, using artificial wombs will be healthier, more efficient, and more convenient than old fashioned birthing. It’ll probably be a lot more comfortable too. Talk to any woman who has ever endured the joys of childbirth without pain killers and they’ll tell you how much they’d love to see technology like this advance.

So if there’s a method for making babies that’s safer, easier, and involves much less screaming, why would anyone opt to make babies the old fashioned way? That’s like people who opt not to drink unpasteurized milk, which is fraught with a lot of health risks.

We may come to a point where people who give birth naturally will be seen as irresponsible, reckless, and downright weird. Whenever the health of babies is an issue, taboos tend to follow. No matter how advanced we get as a species, our concern for the health of infants will still be an issue.


Taboo #2: Identifying As A Gender And NOT Going Through A Complete Transition

This taboo is something we’re already seeing, to some extent, with ongoing transgender issues. At the moment, most of those issues involve discrimination, harassment, and the “ick factor” that a lot of minorities tend to deal with at some point in their history. Those issues are relevant for a reason, but that reason will change considerably in the future.

At the moment, sexual reassignment surgery is a messy, expensive, tedious process that’s full of various risks. It’s also not entirely perfect. Transgender women still can’t give birth and transgender men still can’t father children. They can look like their preferred gender all they want, but the biological mechanisms within still won’t be the same.

With advances in biotechnology, especially advances like smart blood, we may advance to a state where we can basically shape-shift our bodies the same way Mystique from the X-men does. If someone wants to be a particular gender, then the technology will be there for them to make that transition so completely that nobody would ever know they went through such a transition.

When that time comes, the act of being transgender won’t be taboo. However, those who identify as another gender, but don’t go through a transition, may get their share of odd glances. That would be like someone offering you a limb you once lost and then refusing it. If you can be whatever gender you want to be, why would you continue to live in the wrong body?


Taboo #3: Allowing Yourself To Be Sick

This also ties into biotechnology and the advances we’ll make in fighting disease. Tools like CRISPR are already in development. There may come a time in the near future when nearly all disease, especially the infectious kind, is effectively cured.

So when those diseases are gone, why does anyone get sick? Why would anyone even allow themselves to get sick? Throughout history, society has had all sorts of rules and rituals as to how they treat the sick. A society full of sick people is an unstable society and it’s always in everyone’s interest to minimize that.

Like with those who drink raw milk or religious groups who refuse modern medicine, there may be a segment of people who choose not to use tools like CRISPR or smart blood. When those people get sick, they’ll likely be major anomalies in a society where most of these diseases are cured. Like someone getting measles again, it’s a dangerous act that will likely carry plenty of stigma.


Taboo #4: NOT Being On Some Form Of Contraception

This is where our sex lives come into play. Admit it, you know I was going to get to something like this. I’ve talked a lot about contraception and the future of birth control, often with plenty of side-notes as to how this is going to affect our sex lives and gender dynamics. Naturally, that’s going to include plenty of taboos.

In a future with artificial wombs to grow the population, the mere act of not being on contraception will be inherently risky. Pregnancy already kills a lot of women, even today with all our advanced medicine. In a future where we don’t need women to put themselves at that kind of risk to grow the population, why would society even encourage it?

While this may be outrageous for those currently locked in the pro-life/pro-choice debate, technology will change the dynamics. If birth control technology gets to a point where it’s safe, effective, and cheap, then it requires people to go out of their way to avoid using it. Like people going out of their way to avoid seat-belts, we’ll see that as irresponsible, reckless behavior.

This would definitely have huge implications for our sex lives. In a world where contraception is the default setting for everyone, people would likely treat sex as something separate from reproduction. We’ve already done this with food, thanks to technology, so it’s possible sex will undergo a similar process.

Like someone who tries to poke holes in condoms or get pregnant from a partner, which does happen, people who forego contraception will likely become deviants who disrupt the norms surrounding sex and reproduction. Deviants often put a face on taboos and it’s rarely a pretty face.


Taboo #5: NOT Being Healthy Or Physically Fit 

In the same way that not being on contraception will be taboo, not being fit could also become an anomaly that someone has to go out of their way to achieve. That’s hard to imagine now with obesity being a major issue throughout the industrialized world. Right now, the weight-loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that’s full of fads, diets, and pills that turn peoples’ insides into raging tire fire.

In the future, advances like smart blood will make obesity nothing more than a subject of niche genre porn. Even those without eight-pack abs can still be healthy and fit because enhancements to our biology and brains will make that as easy as downing a tub of ice cream on a hot summer day.

Biotechnology will basically allow us to hack the biology of our bodies and make it so we don’t have to eat and work out like the Rock to be fit. We just need something like smart blood in our bodies to let it know that we want it to look a particular way and anything that might make us not look that way should go straight to the colon.

In that future, one where women all look as fit as Jennifer Lawrence and men are all as toned as Hugh Jackman, being unfit and unhealthy would be a conscious choice rather than struggle. It would also make people more prone to health issues and illnesses that would burden a society full of beautiful people. That would definitely make it a taboo.

I’m not saying those who opts not to use this technology to look as sexy as possible are wrong or bad people. They may have legitimate, personal reasons for doing so. However, that choice makes the society around them seem less healthy and less sexy. That’s usually an easy way to become taboo and not look good while doing it.


These are just a few ideas. Again, it’s very likely they’ll be dead wrong. Most reading this blog might not even live long enough to see some of them. Either way, it’s fairly certain that we’ll still have taboos in the future that seem weird to every other generation that ever lived. It’s just a matter of how weird they get.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear what others think might be taboo in the future. Please let me know in the comments. If enough people submit them, I’ll do another post on this subject. I’d like this blog to be more interactive. This is just one opportunity for doing so.

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