Tag Archives: social norms

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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Politics, Safety, And The Impossible Paradox

political_debates_in_the_usa_by_brokenteapot

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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Weird Taboos (And Why They Exist)

When it comes to taboos, we love to laugh at the crazy practices of the past while ignoring the equally-crazy ones in the present. We look at how ancient people used to sacrifice goats, sheep, and parts of their genitals and laugh and/or cringe. Then, we go back to wearing our lucky underwear because we think it’ll help our favorite football team win.

The failure to see the irony in that sentiment reveals the power of taboos. I’ve talked about them before, but usually in a narrower context. Being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’m naturally going to focus on the distinctly sexy taboos, as well as the overtly non-sexy ones. I doubt that surprises anyone.

However, taboos actually get much more ridiculous than what we can or can’t do with our genitals. You don’t even have to go back to the Bronze Age to see them. Some of those taboos happened within the past two centuries. Some of our grandparents were alive when they were popular. It’s kind off funny when you think about it, but it’s also kind of tragic.

Recently, our old friends at Cracked.com did a little article on some of the weird/crazy taboos we had in the past. They called it “15 Everyday Things That Used To Be Scandalous.” Today, they seem so innocent. Back then, though, they were a big deal. Breaking them meant social stigma, condemnation, or even arrest. These days, most people are just concerned about becoming an internet meme.

Make no mistake, though. A lot of these taboos are pretty ridiculous, even by non-21st century standards. There’s a damn good reason why they didn’t last or fell out of favor. We humans may be slow when it comes to embracing social change, but we eventually get around to it. It’s just never as fast as we’d like.

To give you an idea of how ridiculous those taboos were, here’s a quick sample from the Cracked article. Remember, they may seem crazy now, but there was a time when simply talking about it would earn you unwanted attention from the nearest constable, priest, or parent/teacher association.

Entry 15

Entry 14

Entry 12

Entry 7

Entry 6

Entry 1

I know. They are pretty ridiculous. I mean soda pop and reading at night? How could that possibly count as taboo? You can kind of understand why people would be a little reluctant about women in bikinis, especially in the days before internet porn, but soda pop?

Ridiculous or not, there are a few common themes in these taboos. If you go back far enough and look at some of the most overt taboos, you’ll notice how a lot of them deal with female sexuality, rebellious teenagers, and empowering poor people in any way. I know that all sound like stuff that angry rich old men whine about when they haven’t taken their meds, but it actually runs much deeper than that.

Taboos don’t happen in a vacuum. People don’t just make them up because they want another excuse to be a dick to each other. We already have plenty of those. There are reasons they often take the shape they do. It’s rarely due to some grand, patriarchal/communist/hippie conspiracy. A lot of it just has to do with people being weary of things they don’t see as “normal.”

I put “normal” in quotes because the very concept of “normal,” even in a legitimate scientific context, is laced with bullshit. However, there is something to be said about the unspoken social norms under which we all live. Those norms, as crazy as they might be, are an integral part of how we function as a society and a species. The fact those norms tend to screw up our sex lives is kind of a nasty side-effect.

The way it works uses a mix of both caveman logic, faulty brain writing, and skewed common sense. We, as individuals and as groups, tend to function better when there’s a sense of predictability. If we can be more certain of how people will react in certain circumstances, then that can help us create a system, of sorts, to carry out the various functions of a tribe or a society.

Think about it. The systems we have for standing in line, driving on the highway, and complimenting someone’s ass all have certain checklists of sorts that we go through in our minds. Not all of them are enforced by laws. Some aren’t even enforced by anything. It’s just one of those basic understandings that we all collectively acknowledge, albeit indirectly.

Here’s a simple example. When I was going through the soul-crushing process that was high school, there was this unspoken taboo on the bus. When you got on, you never just sat in the front seat. You always went to the back and filled it up from there. If you did dare sit up front, you got weird looks, as though you’d just rubbed your ass on the window. Nobody ever talked about why we did this. We just did it.

That’s a fairly simple display of how unspoken social norms manifest. Considering it happened in high school, it wasn’t even the tenth most awkward thing I endured. However, it does help put some perspective into these ridiculous taboos.

Now, take that perspective and add a little sex appeal to it. Suddenly, you’ll sense a few assholes tightening. There’s no getting around it. Even in 2017, we still have weird attitudes towards sex, especially when it comes to female sexuality and teenage sex. We have almost as many weird attitudes about the poor. As such, it makes sense that so many of our taboos are built around both.

To understand the ridiculousness behind those taboos, you have to imagine yourself in a society that’s very different from your own and operates under a very different set of social norms. That’s not easy for some people. Being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I like to think I have more imagination than most.

You’re living by a certain set of norms and practices. They don’t always seem logical. Maybe you never wear red clothes on a Friday. Maybe you salute every pregnant woman you meet in public. Maybe you shave your ass every other Tuesday as part of some elaborate cleansing ceremony. It can be anything really. The key is that it just doesn’t have to be too detrimental to our ability to survive and reproduce.

By living with these norms and practices, they start seeming right. They seem like this is how society is supposed to function. Anyone who questions them might as well be promoting dead puppies on every street corner. You, and everyone around you, are convinced that these taboos have merit, even when they have no logic behind them.

That sentiment is understandable to some extent, but it’s when you inject sex and social class into the mix that it gets really messed up. As I’ve pointed out before, people have all sorts of weird hang-ups and attitudes about sex. Some of them have some merit, such as the real health issues that often come with sexual promiscuity. Others are more subversive.

The key to any successful society is some measure of stability. To have stability, you need some level of control over various social functions. Like it or not, sex is a major social function. Without it, societies can’t propagate. New generations can’t take over for those that die off. Naturally, people are going to put a lot of emphasis on it, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly.

This is why you get societies where most marriages are arranged and marrying for love is actually taboo. It’s also why controlling female sexuality is so heavily emphasized. They’re the ones who carry the babies inside them. They’re the ones who nurture them after their born. Since sex makes babies, people are going to want to control it to some extent, as fruitless an effort that might be.

It’s just as bad for the poor. In every society thus far, there has to be some sort of underclass that toils in factories, farms, and various low-paying, low-skilled labor. I say there has to be because, until we can get robots to do it for us, their work is literally the foundation on which civilization is built.

That puts the rich despots, kings, and business people in a tough position. They understand on some levels that if the poor knew how much they were being screwed over and how their toil subsidized the obscenely lavish lifestyles of the rich, they wouldn’t be too happy about it.

That’s why having taboos that discourage laziness, education, and questioning persist. That’s why there’s an entirely mythology around the “dignity of work.” They’re an indirect way of maintaining existing social norms and protecting whoever happens to be benefiting from them from the horrors of inconvenience.

Not every taboo can be attributed to repressing sexuality or keeping the poor in their place, but the dynamics are the same. They have just as much potential to be ridiculous, illogical, and even downright cruel, as many boys can attest. So long as our caveman brains keep using them to preserve our social norms, they’ll always be here. I just hope we can one day ditch those that involve mutilating our genitals.

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The (Lack Of) Consensus Surrounding Consent

Some issues really shouldn’t be that controversial to begin with. Things like treating pets well, not hitting kids, and not putting wasabi in your cereal are just common sense. There should be no controversy. Anyone who wasn’t raised by Jeffrey Dahlmer should understand that.

That’s why I find it so frustrating that the simple issue of consent has become so heated. It’s not just a trending buzzword. It’s a goddamn trigger word these days, so much so that blowhards like Rush Limbaugh feel compelled to say incredibly stupid shit about it.

Again, it shouldn’t be controversial. The idea of getting consent from someone before you have sex, kiss, or massage their prostate fits perfectly within the realm of common sense. So why the hell is it such an issue? Why are star athletes and ardent feminists struggling with it to begin with?

There are any number of elaborate, politically-charged factors I could talk about. Since I don’t want people to treat this blog as a cure for insomnia, I’m going to try and keep it simple, funny, and sexy, although when it comes to consent, there’s only so much sexiness I can manage.

The problem, if you really want to call it that, is common sense itself. By that, I mean we think human beings are wired to have it. That’s only half-true at most. As I’ve made clear before with my use of caveman logic, the human brain is not wired for common sense. It’s wired for survival and reproduction. Anything beyond that is just extra icing.

That means that people frustrated with other peoples’ inability to understand consent don’t understand the biological wiring of their own species. Whether you’re a feminist or an extra in a Lil Wayne video, we’re still part of the same species. We’re still prone to the same flaws. Failing to take that into account is akin to joining the Navy without remembering you get seasick.

This leads me to a recent video that the fine folks at Cracked.com put up a while back. Now I’m usually a big fan of Cracked. I’ve cited them before on this blog and they generally do a good job of exploring sensitive issues in a funny, often sexy sort of way. This time, however, I’m a bit torn.

This video, despite having undeniable sex appeal in talking about a serious issue, tries too hard to make this issue simple. I can totally understand that. Cracked is a humor website, not a lecture hall at Oxford. However, in trying to make things simple, it misses a few key details.

Like almost every major issue or political movement, the controversy surrounding consent began with the best of intentions. In previous decades, the rates of sexual assault and rape were atrocious. The issues associated with handling these crimes was just as bad. One side said it was consensual. The other side says the other has a fucked up definition of the word. In a courtroom not run by Judge Judy, that’s a difficult crime to resolve.

In recent years, especially with the rise of third-wave feminism and greater emphasis on women’s issues, there has been a concerted effort to address the uncertainties surrounding consent. I don’t doubt the motivations or the heart. In principle, they’re coming from the right place. In practice, however, there’s a big problem.

To illustrate this problem, let me paint a scenario. Picture a man and a woman, totally sober and in a sound state of mind. They’re at a party, a bar, a barn dance, or wherever people meet these days. They start chatting. They laugh. They like each other. Then, things get heated.

The man asks if the woman wants to go somewhere more private. She says yes.

The man asks if the woman wants to get into bed with him. She says yes.

The man asks if the woman wants to take off their clothes. She says yes.

The man asks if the woman wants to have sex with him. She says yes.

The man and the woman start having sex. Body parts are in other body parts. Basic biology takes over. All the while, the woman still says yes.

Then, for any number of reasons that are too vast to specify, the woman says no. There’s little to no warning. There’s little to no reason. She just starts saying no. Under the emerging concept of consent, as espoused by the very vocal wings of third-wave feminism, that man is now a rapist.

Does that clarify the issue? Does it now make sense why the concept of consent isn’t quite as easy as the editors of Cracked makes it out to be?

It’s an unavoidable facet of being human. People don’t always say what they mean. People don’t always mean what they say. Until brain-to-brain communication and perfect lie detectors are perfected, there’s really no way to know for sure.

This creates an unequal dynamic between men and women, those most dreaded of predicaments that make feminists and men’s rights activities hulk out. Just look at the Duke Lacrosse incident or the Rolling Stones UVA case. It’s not just a matter of he said/she said anymore. It’s a matter of unequal gender dynamics creating a confusing, conflicting, and in some cases detrimental understanding of intimacy.

Unlike decades in the past, an accusation of sexual assault is almost as bad as a conviction. Up until very recently, it was possible to deal with a sensitive incident privately and not incur the wrath of the public. Provided you weren’t a politician, pastor, or celebrity, it was something you could put behind you.

Thanks to social media and the internet, that’s not possible anymore. As soon as the story surrounding the UVA case came out, there was no real effort to check the facts. The entire world just assumed the men were guilty. There were protests. There were lawsuits. The whole ordeal became a rallying cry for protesting the macho-manly frat culture that we’ve seen in every 80s teen movie.

Despite all this outcry, though, it wasn’t true. It never happened. The story was totally fabricated and Rolling Stone had to apologize for that story. In this issue, the concept of consent was conflated and twisted to create a false narrative. The problem was that certain people cared more about the narrative than the truth.

This is where consent gets especially muddled, especially for men. In both the UVA and Duke case, the assumption was that the men were guilty. That’s because, for those seeking a narrative, men are horny beasts who look for any opportunity to sexually assault a woman. Being a man, I can safely say this is not true. I can also say it scares the bejesus out of me.

It’s because of these expectations and assumptions that consent is difficult to grasp. If a woman accuses a man of assault, then she’ll be taken very seriously. If a man accuses a woman of the same, he’ll probably be laughed at. It’s one of those harsh double standards that few talk about.

In our current culture, it’s not okay to joke about men assaulting women, as comedian Amy Schumer found out. As for women assaulting men, it’s not just okay to joke about it. One of my favorite comedians of all time, Christopher Titus, did an entire routine about it in one of his specials.

Given this inequality in understanding and humor, how can women expect men to understand consent and how can men expect to empathize with women? When there’s this kind of discrepancy, it’s next to impossible.

As a man, I can only attest to my own experience. Personally, I’m terrified of a woman accusing me of something so horrible because I know, as a man, I’m not going to get the benefit of the doubt.

This means I’m very reluctant to hug people, ask them out, or talk about intimate issues. I know that if a woman wanted to, she could make an accusation against me and my life would be over. It wouldn’t even matter if I’m innocent. The accusation still ruins my life, my reputation, and everything in between.

Women want men to understand consent. Men want women to understand the kind of power and leverage they have over them. Both still have this innate drive to connect and be intimate. Our culture, our flawed assumptions, and our inability to be certain of one another’s intent just gets in the way.

Being the optimist I am, I believe it’ll change. I believe the arc of history still trends towards equality and justice. It won’t happen all at once. It might not even happen within my lifetime. Whenever it happens, I believe it’ll be worth the wait. When the day comes when men and women can talk about what kind of anal beads they prefer without fear, that’ll be a glorious day indeed.

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