Tag Archives: sociology

How Less Sex Can Crash The Economy

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There’s a funny, but revealing saying by famed economist, Paul Samuelson, on the difficulty of predicting economic trends. It goes like this:

The stock market has forecast nine of the last five recessions.

Other than being a play on numbers, there is a message in this quip that’s worth noting. No matter how many dire warnings accomplished economists give, a recession always seem to hit. It only ever becomes truly obvious with the benefit of hindsight.

I bring this up because I’m about to make some predictions about the future of the economy and I’m not an economist. I don’t claim to have more credibility on the matter than anyone else who has read every Freakanomics book ever written.

However, since the economy affects us all, it’s still worth talking about. Since the economy can influence our sex lives in ways I’ve discussed before, I feel like I can comment on the subject and even do a little speculation. Again, I want to make clear that I’m not an expert. This is just me making connections I feel are worth making.

When it comes to the economy, it’s not physically possible for anyone to make sense of all the data and connections that govern our affairs. Human beings are just too unpredictable and the amount of data involved is just too vast. Some points of data, though, carry more weight than others.

One of those points has to do with population and demographics. It’s a topic that’s becoming more and more relevant these days. Just this year, the birth rate in the United States dipped to a 30-year low. That’s somewhat remarkable because people tend to have more children when the economy is doing well and by most measures, the economy has been pretty good these past couple years.

This isn’t just an American problem, though. Many industrialized countries throughout the world are experiencing very low birth rates, some of which well below the replacement level rate that would keep a population stable. The reasons for this are many, but most boil down to cost. It’s just very expensive to raise a child these days and that cost is only going up.

Beyond the cost, though, there’s another factor at work that’s driving these declining fertility rates. People, in general, are just having less sex. That may seem obvious, given the data surrounding birth rates, but there are other aspects of the data that may reveal other factors.

For one, the decline in sexual activity is actually hitting the younger demographics, who are historically and biologically the most eager to engage, so to speak. I’m still old enough to remember when every other week seemed to bring dire news about teenagers having too much sex and horrifying their parents. Now, they’re not doing, but still finding ways to horrify their parents.

While I’m sure it still comes as a relief to some parents, it’s already causing concerns among demographers. However, I believe there’s a much larger concern about the economy, as a whole, that’s just starting to emerge. It has less to do with there being fewer babies and more to do with the nature of modern economies.

The days of economic health being measured by how many widgets a factory could produce are long gone. These days, most modern economies are built around consumer spending. Around 70 percent of the economy is consumer spending. That is not a trivial portion.

To illustrate why that could be a much greater problem down the line, I’ll need to make a few connections between sex and the economy. It’s not quite as kinky as it sounds, but those connections matter if you’re going to speculate about the future with any measure of accuracy.

Think, for a moment, about just how much economy activity goes into people seeking out sex and dealing with its associated byproducts, namely children. Whether you’re a man, a woman, or something in between, that pursuit drives a great deal of our economic activity.

Men work hard at jobs that don’t always pay that well to buy clothes, cars, and gifts with the hope that it’ll improve their chances of finding a partner. Women do the same, spending a great deal of money on cosmetics, clothes, and beauty treatments to attract desirable lovers. The money people spend on beauty products alone pumps a lot of money into the economy.

Even if the goal of these purchases isn’t directly linked to someone’s pursuit of sex, this activity does link to that fundamental pursuit that has driven society and our species for centuries. We work hard, establish functioning lives, and buy the things that prove to one another that we’re desirable lovers. It’s part of the many incentives that drive any economy.

It’s those same incentives, though, that can lead an economy into a cycle of destruction. Those cycles are behind every major financial crisis, but the one created by less sex and low birth rates may end up having a far greater impact. Some of those incentives are economic, but it’s the social incentives that might compound the issue.

Some of those incentives involve how modern marriage functions. More than a few people, myself included, have pointed out that marriage is not a very good deal, especially for men. If you look at it from the perspective of a simple contact, the flaws are pretty obvious.

Imagine, for a moment, that someone presents you with a contract. You will enter into a partnership in which you pledge emotional, financial, and intimate support for an undefined period of time. However, if the other party wishes to dissolve the partnership at any time for any reason, they can do so and get half your assets, as well as custody of your children.

Read over the fine print carefully. Would you sign that contract? Who in the right mind who isn’t drunk on irrational passions would? I think most people would see that as a bad deal and one that they have plenty of incentive to avoid.

On top of those incentives, there’s another round of them that has been growing recently. These come directly from the ongoing anti-harassment movement that has helped expose horrible sex crimes, but has also given men a powerful incentive to avoid women.

As a man, and I know this is anecdotal on my part, I find myself feeling very anxious around women who I don’t know or aren’t close family. I worry that one wrong gesture or one wrong comment will lead to an accusation that will subsequently ruin my life. I don’t want that and I don’t think any man wants that.

That’s not to say those incentives are powerful enough to make men stop feeling attracted to women, but I do think they’re sufficient to make men more reluctant to seek out intimate relationships with women. From an economic standpoint, the potential cost is very high, whether it’s paying for a child or for having your life ruined by an accusation.

From these incentives, the resulting economic situation won’t just be different. It will be unsustainable when you take into account the declining fertility rates. It doesn’t even have to be an economy where nobody gets married and has kids. It can just be an economy where most men and women stay single and don’t build much of their economic activity around pursuing sex.

In that economy, the only major purchases would be shelter, electricity, internet, and entertainment. As expensive as some of those can be, they’re not going to match the same amount of spending that comes with caring for children or for people just trying to get laid.

In the short-term, that means the economy will be dominated primarily by products and services that just help single men and single women relax on a Friday night after work. In the long-term, however, the consequences are much greater.

Without a growing population, there aren’t as many workers to support the large welfare states that most modern economies utilize. Moreover, without that same growing population, the consumer base starts shrinking. Even if a greater number of people have more money, that money is useless if there aren’t enough people to spend it.

From there, a cycle of fewer consumers starts feeding a process of declining spending. On top of that, fewer workers means it’s impossible to sustain a large welfare state, which leaves more people impoverished with even less money to spend. It began with declining birth rates, but it only accelerated when people just had less sex.

In the end, the economy as we know it now, just can’t function anymore. I’m not saying it’ll completely collapse, but it would have to adapt a lot in order to function with these incentives. I’m not sure what those adaptations would entail, whether it involves a universal basic income or using artificial wombs to augment the population.

I’ll say it one more time because I think I need to belabor this. I’m not an expert. This is just speculation on my part. This is what I feel could be the endgame for our economy, as we know it, if the current incentives hold. It’s a near certainty that there will be changes, but it’s impossible to predict what those changes will entail.

From my perspective, though, I think the implications are clear. A society where people are having fewer children is hard enough to adapt to, but we’ve already been doing that to some extent. One where people have less sex or flat out avoid it, though, may end up being much harder.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, human nature, Marriage and Relationships, sex in society, sexuality

The (Not So) Hidden Philosophical Insights In “Avengers: Infinity War”

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The past few weeks have been exciting, shocking, and downright cathartic for fans of superhero movies. The success of “Avengers: Infinity War” is beyond dispute. Between critical praise and a record-setting box office haul, it has entered uncharted territory in terms of success, both as a movie and as a cultural phenomenon.

As a lifelong comic book fan who hasn’t forgotten the dark days “X-men Origins: Wolverine” and “Batman and Robin,” the impact of this movie puts a big smile on my face. Even those who doubted a movie this ambitious could be made or keep hoping for superhero fatigue can’t deny the breadth of what “Avengers: Infinity War” has achieved.

Those achievements are worth celebrating, at least until the first trailer of “Avengers 4” comes out. As part of that celebration, I also think it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the bigger messages that “Avengers: Infinity War” conveys. To simply call it a big, flashy spectacle meant to milk movie fans of money would be a gross oversimplification.

Nothing becomes this successful without having meaning beyond the spectacle. No movie can appeal to such a wide audience or get them to pay grossly inflated ticket prices without having that meaning. Movies like “Avatar” and “The Godfather” have that kind of meaning that transcends the content of the movie. Even other superhero movies like “The Dark Knight” dare to explore deeper philosophical insights .

I believe those insights are present in “Avengers: Infinity War.” I also believe that those insights are unique because the entire setup for the movie is so unique. No movie in history has required a decade of build-up, multiple phases, and an over-arching narrative that spans movies that range from gods invading Earth to talking Raccoons teaming up with renegade space pirates .

That puts this movie in uncharted territory. The events of the movie can’t function in a vacuum without losing elements of that larger message. While the nature of that message is debatable, I’m going to make a case that the deeper meaning in “Avengers: Infinity War ” is one that complements those of the previous Avengers movies. I’ll even go so far as to claim it has implications for the real world.

The core of that message, I believe, has to do with a simple truth that probably seems inane, especially to those who read a lot of comics or consume a healthy dose of superhero-themed media. However, it’s a message worth belaboring and it can best be summed up like this.

A united team is stronger than a collection of powerful individuals.

I know that sounds like a snippet from one of Captain America’s inspiring speeches. It’s probably something teachers, coaches, and parents have conveyed to their kids, going all the way back to pre-school. However, I think “Avengers: Infinity War” conveys that message in a way that makes for a much greater spectacle with an equally great impact.

Even if you watch “Avengers: Infinity War” without seeing the last two Avengers movies, there’s one obvious obstacle that all the heroes face in the battle against Thanos. Before the first shot is fired, they’re all deeply divided. They’re not a team. They’re a mess.

Iron Man and Captain America aren’t on friendly terms. Tony Stark said as such at the beginning of the movie. It’s also established that Captain America and those loyal to him are fugitives, a direct result of the events in “Captain America: Civil War.” They are, to some extent, a metaphor for a divided team and a divided society.

That may not sound like a big deal, but to the extent it reflects a core strength of humanity, as both a species and a society, it couldn’t be more vital. I’ve mentioned before how tribal people can be. I’ve even framed it as a flaw, at times. While it certainly can work against us, it’s also one of our greatest strengths.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that the human ability to form groups, work together, and coordinate in the name of a common goals is one of our greatest survival advantages. By forming teams and organizing societies, we’ve become the most dominant species on this planet. The Avengers are, from a philosophical standpoint, the embodiment of that team strength.

As individuals, we all have plenty of shortcomings. Not everyone knows how to fix a car, program a computer, or treat a staph infection. There are also too many of us who die from stupid accidents or treatable infections. As a team within a society, though, we’re able to thrive and overcome obstacles that no individual can overcome, even if they’re a super soldier or a billionaire inventor.

In “Avengers: Infinity War,” the team faces the ultimate obstacle in Thanos. He hits like an unpredictable force of nature. He brings callous, chaotic death and is willing to cross every conceivable line to achieve his goal. He’s not someone that can be dissuaded, talked down, or negotiated with. He must be opposed directly.

In other words, he’s the worst kind of threat the Avengers could’ve faced in their current condition. That’s critical because the first “Avengers” movie and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” do plenty to establish the value of having a unified team against such threats. In both those movies, the Avengers bicker and clash. However, they stay united and eventually defeat the threat.

You don’t need to look that deep into history to see parallels that reflect the strength of unified alliances. The unity of the allied powers in World War II proved overwhelming to the Axis. Contrary to popular belief and even a few popular alternate history stories , the Axis powers were never that close to winning the war. In fact, they were a very poor allegiance and hurt each other much more than they helped.

Even in recent times, greater unity in the form of globalization, free trade, and mass communication has helped unite the world on an unprecedented scale. While globalization gets a bad rap these days, it has helped create one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in human history. Like the Avengers, disparate societies are working together to achieve things they couldn’t achieve on their own.

In “Avengers: Infinity War,” and I know this is somewhat of a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the movie, the divisions within the team kept them from uniting against Thanos. They couldn’t be as effective as they were in “Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

You could also make the argument that the Avengers weren’t willing to sacrifice as much as him. There were, indeed, opportunities to stop Thanos in his tracks. However, those opportunities required someone to die. The logic was that sacrificing one life would save many, trillions in this case.

That may seem like a failure on the part of the Avengers, but I would argue those difficult decisions are a direct byproduct of disunity. When a team is divided and not coordinating with one another, they have to make these kinds of sacrifices. Even if they did, though, it still doesn’t guarantee that they would beat Thanos.

It’s another consequence of disunity, division, and not coordinating with one another. Everything becomes a reaction. There’s little room to plan or prepare. That worked against the Avengers in a big way because they did have some warning surrounding Thanos. The visions Tony had in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” at the very least, offered hints as to what might be coming.

Rather than use that opportunity to unite, they ended up divided. In the end, the outcome of “Captain America: Civil War” ensured that “Avengers: Infinity War” was going to end badly for the Avengers. It’s part of what helped give “Avengers: Infinity War” such an enormous impact. It takes those over-arching narratives from other movies and gives them greater weight.

Now, none of this is to say that the Avengers would’ve defeated Thanos easily had they been united from the beginning. Even if every one of them had been present and on the same page, there are no guarantees against a threat like Thanos. Like a supervolcano eruption or a gamma ray burst, it’s impossible to know whether we can survive a powerful threat we’ve never faced before.

Even so, history and nature are ripe with examples that demonstrate how united, cohesive teams are better able to survive major threats than powerful individuals. One human versus one hungry grizzly bear is not a fair fight. An entire team of humans, armed with a desire to survive and the collective know-how of multiple individuals, makes it exceedingly unfair for the grizzly.

Like the Avengers, the best teams are those that maximize an individual’s unique talents while empowering them with a collective drive. In those same teams, the conflict between individualism and collectivism strikes a critical balance. They aren’t so unified that they become prone to drone-like behavior. They also aren’t so divided that they’re too weak to coordinate.

We see that balance in teams that win championships. We also see it in organizations that accomplish great things, from building the pyramids to landing a man on the moon . A lot of what humanity has achieved, as a species, has been done through a collection of brilliant individuals who are able to work within a society to make their ideas happen.

The same effect applies to superheroes, who embody ideals of individual powers and abilities. On their own, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and even Ant Man can do great things. As a team, though, they can do much better.

It’s both a lesson and a powerful message, laced within a cinematic marvel. It shows just how weak and vulnerable we are when we’re divided, petty, and disorganized. Hopefully, “Avengers 4” can complete the story by showing just how strong we can be when we’re united, motivated, and driven. It may be an old, overplayed message, but it’s one worth belaboring in a world that’s still very divided.

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How And Why It Became Trendy To Hate “The Big Bang Theory”

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There was once a time in the mid-90s when Hootie and the Blowfish was the hottest band in the world. They’re music was everywhere. You couldn’t listen to the radio for more than five minutes without hearing one of their songs. I didn’t consider myself a huge fan, but I found plenty of their songs catchy and fun. I still have “Hold My Hand” on my phone.

Then, for reasons I still don’t quite understand, it became cool to hate them. Suddenly, admitting that you enjoyed your music was akin to admitting that you did shots of paint thinner to win a five-dollar bet. It got to the point when even “The Simpsonsmade a joke about them in an episode.

The same thing happened to Nickelback in the 2000s. They went through an early period of intense success. Their fourth album, “The Long Road,” sold over five million copies. That’s success that most artists only ever dream of. I even admit I have that album and I love it. Their song, “Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good,” is on my workout playlist.

Then, for reasons that I’d rather not speculate on, it became cool to hate them too. While that hasn’t stopped them from selling over 50 million albums and becoming one of the most successful acts of a decade, it’s still trendy to despise them as everything wrong with music. It doesn’t seem to matter how successful they are. For some strange, esoteric reason, they embody everything wrong with the world.

If I would write that with more sarcasm, I would. However, this piece isn’t about Hootie and the Blowfish or Nickelback. I reference them because they’ve already gone through what’s happening to “The Big Bang Theory” seems to be enduring right now. They’ve risen to the top, defying the odds to achieve a level of success that most can only dream of. Then, it becomes cool to hate them for any number of reasons.

Now, I know I’ve criticized “The Big Bang Theory” before. I’ve cited it as the show that contains one of the worst romances in all of fiction. I don’t deny that it’s brand of humor and reliance on nerdy, socially inept men can be dry at times. That said, I do consider myself a fan of the show.

I watch it regularly. I even laugh at it. It has flaws, but I think the things it does well do plenty to overshadow those flaws. Sheldon is eccentric, but funny. Amy is quirky, but endearing. Howard, while creepy in the early seasons, has really grown up in all the right ways over the years. I would even go so far as to say that the show is worth watching just for Raj Koothrappali.

It’s not the best show on television, but like Nickelback and Hootie and the Blowfish, there’s no denying its success. It’s been syndicated and regularly ranks as one of the highest rated prime-time shows. Then, somewhere along the way, it became cool to hate the show as much as Nickelback.

You don’t have to look far to find articles of people whining about the show. Even Cracked, a site I often reference, once wrote a scathing article that flat out insulted anyone who dared enjoy the show. This is a direct quote.

Who are you people? The people watching The Big Bang Theory, I mean. Show yourselves. The world demands explanation. I mean that, too. In every way, shape, and form, this is the Justin Bieber of television shows.

I know the internet is full of this kind of trolling, but we’re not talking about snuff films and public crucifixion here. It’s a goddamn TV sitcom. It tries to be funny and entertaining. It doesn’t always work for everyone, but it still works for some. Are those people, which I guess includes me, somehow damaged just for liking this show?

I could probably ask the same of those who enjoy music from Nickelback and Hootie and the Blowfish. I could even offer a partial answer if I only use the basis of personal taste. That is, after all, what the consumption of all media is, be it music, movies, or TV. You tend to consume what you like. It’s that simple.

However, for an issue like this, there are added complications when something becomes cool to hate. Suddenly, it’s no longer a matter of just liking something different. It’s a matter of having some inherent personal flaw for liking something that has a vocal contingent of critics.

Call those critics whatever you want. Call them hipsters, trolls, or any number of other names that would warrant fines from the FCC. They’re still driven by the same focused outrage that dominates politics, religious disputes, and Overwatch tournaments. The only real question is why a show like “The Big Bang Theory” gets singled out.

It’s a hard question to answer and I’m not qualified to answer it completely. However, I do think something strange happens to movie, TV show, or band when they get so successful and so acclaimed that those who don’t like the show just can’t stop at not watching it.

It’s rare for any show to achieve the kind of success “The Big Bang Theory” has garnered. Success makes a show a bigger target. If shows like “South Park” or “The Simpsons” weren’t so successful, nobody would care how bad some of their jokes were or how controversial a certain character might be.

Some of that might be out of envy. There’s only so much success to go around. The fact “The Big Bang Theory” is so successful means, in the eyes of those who hate it, that it’s robbing success from shows that might be funnier or more worthy of it. Never mind the fact that the humor and worthiness of a show is completely subjective. Fans of that show will see “The Big Bang Theory” as a thief and a fraud.

Like it or not, envy can be a pretty powerful source of emotion. It’s underrated compared to outrage and hate, but still potent in its own right. However, I don’t think that’s the sole reason why “The Big Bang Theory” gets more hate than most prime-time shows that don’t involve CSI spin-offs.

I suspect there’s a deeper reason driving the hatred towards “The Big Bang Theory” that even Nickelback doesn’t have to deal with. I think part of that reason has to do with the archetypes the show uses. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the combination of nerdy, socially awkward young men and a cute ditzy blonde conjures some heated emotional reactions, to say the least.

There’s no doubt that combination is contrived and relies heavily on old stereotypes. Then again, you could say that about a lot of other shows. The fact this one uses nerds and cute blondes, though, just makes it seem more overt. It makes every joke, every plot, and every gag seem cheap or forced.

It makes some of the resentment to the show understandable, but I think that resentment is even more compounded by trends in political correctness. Chief among those trends is a growing aversion to stereotypes. Characters and archetypes once considered inoffensive are now controversial. Jokes that were once just in poor taste are now the source of intense outrage.

Since its inception, “The Big Bang Theory” has relied a lot on stereotypes for its characters and its humor. Like all shows, it exaggerates certain personas. Sheldon Cooper, alone, is a testament to a character whose quirks are taken to a ridiculous extreme.

By relying on these stereotypes, though, it makes itself an even bigger target. Laughing at the show, in the eyes of some, means accepting some of these stereotypes and having the audacity to find them funny. That appears to be the undertone of the Cracked article I cited earlier. It seems to be the undertone of a lot of the hatred the show gets.

Now, I don’t deny that “The Big Bang Theory” can go overboard with cliches and stereotypes. There are a number of episodes in “The Big Bang Theory” that even I find bland. However, for the most part, I still laugh. I still find myself enjoying the story. Even when I can apply some of those stereotypes to myself, I still laugh.

At the end of the day, “The Big Bang Theory” is still just a TV show in the same way Nickelback is just a band. Nobody forces anyone to watch it. It’s easy to just change the channel and watch something else. However, when a show becomes so successful while relying on a premise that is getting more politically incorrect with each passing year, it’s bound to attract criticism and not just from the hipster crowd.

I still enjoy the show and I intend to keep watching it. I also intend to keep all the songs by Nickelback and Hootie and the Blowfish on my phone for the foreseeable future. If that makes me uncool in the eyes of some, then so be it. To me, it doesn’t matter if something is cool to hate. Petty hate is still petty hate.

I also expect to see plenty more hatred directed at the show for how it treats nerds, women, minorities, and humor. It’s just too successful and too big a target to avoid that kind of scrutiny. In that situation though, as with Nickelback and Hootie and the Blowfish, sometimes the best you can do is just laugh and enjoy it on your own terms. Bazinga!

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Should We Re-Think Our Expectations Of Teenagers?

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When I was a teenager and in a particularly bad mood, which happened more often than I care to admit, there was this one thing my parents often told me that really pissed me off.  It came out in many forms, but this was the underlying sentiment.

“If you EXPECT it to be a bad experience, then it’s GOING to be bad experience.”

I can’t recount how many times I heard something like this. I just remember it pissing me off even more every time I heard it. They usually said it to me whenever we were going out to do something that didn’t involve me sulking in my mood. Being the great parents they were, they didn’t let that happen. They got me off my ass and out of that mindset.

They probably didn’t know at the time, but that bit of good parenting reflects a real phenomenon within our collective psyche. It’s called expectancy theory and it’s kind of what it sounds like.

It’s based on the principle that if someone has certain expectations about something, it’ll affect how they approach it. If they have a positive, hopeful attitude, then they’ll be more likely to evoke positive, hopeful outcomes. If they’re negative about it, as I often was, then it’s not going to turn out well and confirmation bias will help make it worse.

With that in mind, I’d like to apply this to an experience that’s pretty much universal for everyone. Specifically, I want to focus on our expectations as and towards teenagers. Now, I know I’ve given teenagers a lot of crap on this blog, often highlighting how they tend to do dumb things and have misguided attitudes. In my defense, my own confirmation bias has somewhat affected that.

I did not have a good teenage experience. I had a terrible attitude for much of my teenage years and, despite having great parents and amazing social support, I found ways to make myself miserable. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus less on my own experience and more on the concept as a whole.

Take a moment, whether you’re a teenager or not, to ask a few important questions about the sentiment you have towards teenagers. Don’t just think about how you feel about it, personally. Think about how we collectively approach the teenage experience.

Are teenagers more deviant because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be deviant?

Are teenagers more immature because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be immature?

Are teenagers disrespectful because of their basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be disrespectful?

Are teenagers more prone to risky behavior because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to do risky things?

See the pattern? There seems to be this underlying assumption about teenagers that rarely gets scrutinized. It’s this idea that all the biological changes that teenagers go through with puberty somehow transforms them from these sweet, innocent children into these reckless, irresponsible, proto-adults who aren’t capable of managing themselves.

It’s fairly likely that all those biological transformations that teenagers go through has some affect on their mentality. However, even the most up-to-date research on the issue concedes that our understanding of the mechanisms behind the process are extremely limited. What that means in a scientific context is we should not assume that our assumptions at the moment are wholly valid.

It may very well be the case that our expectations about teenagers have a significant impact on how we treat them. In turn, how we treat them ends up affecting how they act in response. Then, when they react, we use confirmation bias to justify our expectations. It comes off as one elaborate self-fulfilling prophecy to which we all contribute.

When you think about it, the signs are there. If you’re a teenager, just look at how the world treats you. If you’re an adult, think about how you were treated as a teenager and how you treat teenagers now.

We impose strict curfews about what they can do with their private time. We don’t trust them to consent to sexual activity until a certain age. We regularly send them to educational institutions where their lives and schedules are strictly controlled, not unlike that of prisoners. Whenever there’s a crime or an act of deviance, we tend to expect teenagers to be involved.

From my own experience, I can attest to this. When I was in high school, I noticed a distinct change in the way adults and teachers dealt with us, compared to middle and elementary school. Suddenly, everything we did was subject to greater scrutiny. It was as though everyone thought that we, a bunch of hormonal teenagers, were just one impulse away from becoming violent deviants.

I’m not going to lie. I found that kind of insulting. Teachers, adults, and even police officers would talk down to us whenever they discussed things like sex, crime, and even our personal lives. It wasn’t just that we were expected to screw up. It was almost as though we were supposed to screw up.

It never really crossed my mind that being a teenager could mean anything else. The idea that these attitudes were somehow flawed never entered my mind. I don’t think many people, including other teenagers, give it much thought now. That may very well be a problem that only makes itself worse the longer we have these expectations.

Part of what inspired me to write about this topic is an article from TheVerge that pitched the crazy, yet oddly logical idea that we should consider those under the age of 24 to still be teenagers. I admit I thought it was a joke at first, albeit not of The Onion variety. However, the author does make some interesting points.

Compared to earlier generations, youth today are staying in school longer, marrying and having kids later, and buying a house later, writes Susan Sawyer, the chair of adolescent health at the University of Melbourne, in an op-ed published today in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. The transition period from childhood to adulthood lasts far beyond age 19, when it is popularly thought to end. As a result, she writes, we should change our policies and services to better serve this population.

In a sense, the author of the article is doubling down on the expectations. Now, it’s not just people who don’t have a two in front of their age to which we should ascribe these assumptions. We need to apply that to people even older because somehow, they’re still not meeting the other expectations we have of functioning adults.

Personally, I think that’s taking things in the wrong direction. If we’re going to start expecting more deviance and immaturity from more people, then that’s what we’re going to see and not just from confirmation bias. Just as I did as a kid, my negative expectations led to negative manifestations. Now, they may follow young people beyond high school.

It’s not magical thinking to say that attitude matters when it comes to dealing with people. Human psychology is extremely complex and varies wildly from individual to individual, but humans are still a very social species. As such, treating others with respect and maturity will provide them with incentives to do the same.

I don’t deny that certain assumptions are difficult to escape, especially when some of them are incorporated into actual policies. Even if we woke up tomorrow and started treating everyone over the age of 13 as a responsible adult, it probably wouldn’t resolve the many issues we still have with youth in society. However, as I came to learn as an adult, having a good attitude goes a long way towards achieving a good outcome.

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The Devastation Of Alienation On Our Sexuality (Among Other Things)

When I was growing up, the concept of alienation only applied to grunge rock, heavy metal, and whatever other media disaffected youth used to voice their dissatisfaction with the world around them. Being such a miserable teenager myself, I thought I understood that sentiment to some extent. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there’s a lot more to it.

Alienation has been in the news a lot lately, but it’s not one of those annoying contemporary buzzwords like “toxic masculinity.” It’s actually a term with a dictionary definition, which also has some philosophical backbone that goes back centuries. Like most philosophical terms, though, it has undergone some revisions over the years.

Rather than get into the long, tedious path the idea of alienation has taken, I want to apply it to our current situation. In addition, I’m going to analyze alienation the same way I often do with superhero comics in that I’m going to apply it to sexuality. I doubt that’ll surprise long-time readers of this blog, but I also doubt it’ll surprise anyone who has observed recent societal trends in how we approach sex in society.

Without question, there is a sense of alienation going on in our collective sex lives. While it doesn’t affect everybody, especially the billionaire rock star/celebrity crowd, it does affect some people more than others. I imagine I’ll upset or offend some people by identifying parts of that crowd, but I need to take that chance to make my point.

The basics of alienation are simple. According to Dictionary.com, the definition is as follows:

  • The act of alienatingor of causing someone to become indifferent or hostile.
  • The state of being alienatedwithdrawn, or isolated from the world, through indifference or disaffection.
  • The act of turning away, transferring, or diverting.

Within the scope of this definition, you probably know someone who has experienced this type of feeling. At the very least, you knew someone growing up who just felt left out of everything and went out of their way to detach themselves from the rest of society.

Their reasons for doing this vary. Some have serious mental health issues. Others are driven to alienation by economic factors like poverty. Some even go so far as to say that our modern form of capitalism is an inherently alienating force. The entire premise of “Fight Club” actually revolves around that idea, as so wonderfully articulated by the folks at Wisecrack.

With respect to sexuality, though, alienation is a bit trickier. So much attention has been placed on how powerful men solicit sex from beautiful women or how women struggle to maintain some semblance of sexual freedom that it’s hard to see the forest from the trees. Being both a man and an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’m going to make an effort.

I don’t doubt for a second that alienation affects the sexuality of all genders. Sex, especially if you’re not having the kind that fulfills your needs and desires, can be pretty alienating. We humans are wired to want, seek, and enjoy sex. Given the crude and clunky nature of biology, in general, it’s bound to get distressing and disorienting.

For centuries, women were more prone to sexual alienation than men. That’s because, until relatively recently, their sexual choices were made for them. They didn’t get to choose their spouse. They didn’t get to live their own lives or explore their sexuality with a variety of partners. In fact, doing so might actually be detrimental to their safety.

When you have no choices and much of your life is controlled by others, it’s easy to feel alienated. You have no agency, control, or freedom to even know what you want sexually. That led to a lot of unsatisfied, desperate women.

Conversely, men weren’t just allowed to fool around on their spouses. In fact, it was kind of expected. In that respect, not having a mistress might actually be alienating. Men who loved their wives too much were even criticized.

Then, in the late 20th century and into the 21st century, the pendulum swung in the other direction. The women’s rights movements and the rise of modern feminism gave women more control of their sexuality. For the most part, modern women can explore their sexuality and enjoy a level of sexual freedom once reserved for aristocratic men with a legion of mistresses.

By and large, this has been a good thing. In fact, greater gender equality with respect to sexuality might actually be more conducive to our caveman brains. The sexual practices of Bonobo apes are a testament to that. However, in some respects, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that the alienating forces are hitting another group.

I’ve mentioned it before and it seems to be an ongoing trend. With the rise of third-wave feminism and political correctness, all the evil and ills of the world are attributed to horny men seeking sex from beautiful women. It’s very much a double standard that seems to be intensifying with each passing year.

Whereas a man trying to seek sex with multiple women are more likely to be seen as a misogynist pig, women seeking sex are seen as empowered. Sure, there’s still slut-shaming, but a good chunk of that actually comes from other women. It’s almost paradoxical in the sense that a woman will be criticized, no matter how much or how little she decides to exercise her sexual freedom.

That too can be alienating, but those same women can take comfort in the knowledge that they’re the sexual gatekeepers. They’re the ones who give the consent. They’re the ones who decide whether a man is getting sex. If the man has a problem with that choice, then he can be subject to serious consequences, even if he misinterprets the message.

The recent surge of sex scandals and the growing emphasis on consent has put a lot more pressure on men, especially those who aren’t rich, well-connected, or attractive. In terms of raw numbers, that represents the vast majority of men, myself included. Some call it the 80/20 rule of dating, but I prefer to think of it as a greater alienation complex.

By that, I mean the existing standards and methods for men seeking love, sex, and intimacy make most men prone to a sense of alienation. I won’t say it’s as bad as it was for Victorian Era women, but alienation is difficult for anyone, regardless of time, circumstance, or gender.

The situation for men is akin to playing a game in which you know other players cheat and/or have inherent advantages, but there’s nothing you can do about it. On top of that, the standards are so high and the margin for error is so low that, from a distance, it seems impossible. It creates this distressing sentiment that you will never find the love or intimacy you seek.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve looked in the mirror on some mornings and felt that way, especially in my awkward, acne-laden teen years. I like to think I’ve gotten better over the years because I’ve worked on myself, gotten into shape, and made myself more attractive to the opposite sex. However, I understand that there are plenty of men who struggle to do that or don’t have the same opportunities.

For them, the alienation is almost unavoidable. They see the marketplace for love and sex, but don’t see any opportunities. Sure, they can still play the game, but it would be like a toddler trying to win a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. It just doesn’t seem worth it.

Within the current system, the structures in place ensure that there will always be a sizable chunk of men who are left out of the sexual landscape. They’re not the only ones either. Women who are either unattractive or not inclined to play by the evolving rules of that landscape will be just as isolated. So long as those standards are so rigid, there will be a lot of sexually unsatisfied people in this world.

From a pragmatic standpoint, our current approach to sexuality fails the Stanhope Principle. Society cannot function or progress with such a system. Any system that has such large groups of people feeling alienated and left out is inherently unstable. Karl Marx, however you feel about him and his ideas, made that obvious years ago.

For now, we can only do so much to adapt the current system. The sexual alienation that people feel will continue to evolve, for better and for worse, in accord with major trends. If history is any guide, though, the sexual landscape will continue to change. Whether or not that’ll mitigate or intensify the alienation remains to be seen.

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Why Nice Guys DON’T Finish Last (Or First)

We’ve all heard it before. It’s the primary plot of nearly every teen movie ever made. It’s the secondary plot of every underdog movie ever made. It’s also the title of a classic Green Day song. Say it out loud in almost any context that isn’t on the set of a porno and most will agree.

Nice Guys Finish Last

When we look at the world through our irrational, caveman brains and glean our information primarily from movies, sitcoms, and Fox News, that certainly seems to be the case. It’s almost obvious that we live in a world nice guys solely exist to act as toilet paper to the Biff Tannens, Bernie Madoffs, and Kanye Wests of the world.

In a sense, it’s comforting. Being a nice guy means you’ll carry the spirit of a lovable loser and who doesn’t love a lovable loser? Sure, Cleveland Browns fans would probably beg to differ, but it’s that very mindset that makes us content with the status of nice guys and gives us an excuse to scrutinize the concept through the harsh lens of reality.

As I’ve made clear before, I don’t care for excuses that don’t involve donuts, comic books, or nudity. That’s not to say I have anything against nice guys. I too consider myself a nice guy. You won’t find me punching a small animal just to impress a couple of cute cheerleaders. There are far more honorable and pragmatic ways for that sort of thing.

Instead, I’m going to add a little bit of context to the whole concept of nice guy finishing last. I’ve already highlighted how being a nice guy is a laughably low standard with which to base your appeal as a person. Most of the people on this planet are nice. The only reason you know about the assholes more is because they’re the ones that end up with TV shows and professional trolls.

So even if there are mostly nice people in this world, does that mean they finish last? Well, to answer that, it helps to build a story around the context. I could try to cite studies that show that just being likable tends to get you more opportunities in life, but that’s not very sexy. Nobody comes to this blog for scientific studies that don’t involve sex robots. They come here for sexy stories.

With that in mind, here’s the story that every nice guy should learn before they hit puberty:

You walk into a casino with all your life savings and you have to gamble it all of it on just one game.

In some of those games, the risk is high and the reward is high in the short term, but that reward naturally decreases no matter how much you win at other games.

In some of those games, the risk is very low, but for each dollar you don’t bet, you end up losing twice as much in the long run.

Then, there’s this one game in the middle of it all where if you bet on it, you probably won’t win big, but you won’t lose either. The odds are stacked in such a way where that over time, your money increases. It’s slow and tedious, but it does go up. It’s just a matter of patience and playing the odds, which are objectively on your side.

With all this in mind, which game do you play?

If you’re a smart gambler in any sense and don’t have any self-destructive tendencies, then the choice you make in this story is fairly clear. You end up playing the third game because that’s the only game that, in the long run, will increase your life savings.

That third game is basically what it means to be a nice guy. It is akin to investing in an index fund in the stock market. Ask nearly any financial guru, including Warren Buffet, and they’ll say the same. An index fund is the safest, most effective investment anyone can make. It won’t beat the market, but you won’t lose to it. Just not losing to the market is enough to make a lot of money in the long run.

Being a nice guy is one of the best investments you can make in yourself because, on the whole, it increases your value as a person and as a functioning member of society. In general, people want to deal with nice people. People want to work with them. Some even want to have sex with them. It is, by far, the easiest and most effective way to get ahead in the long term.

The main problem is the payoff sometimes takes a while. There is also some element of luck involved, but not in the Vegas odds sort of sense. For those willing to take more risks, being a nice guy just isn’t enough. Being a nice guy just takes too damn long.

That’s how you end up with the professional trolls I’ve mentioned before. These are people who are gambling that being an asshole will help them stand out. It’ll help them get attention, which they understand on some levels is a valuable asset.

That attention may be negative. In fact, it often is negative. Being an asshole in a world of nice people helps you stand out. It makes you different, exciting, and charismatic to some degree. However, all that is a quick short-term gain. In the same way these crazy things get people’s attention, those same people will just as easily get bored or frustrated with it. As I’ve said before, there is a lot of power in boredom.

That’s why a lot of those arrogant, Biff Tannen jocks from high school end up pumping gas, digging ditches, or getting shanked in prison. Being an asshole, in the long run, decreases your value because it hinders your ability to form social connections. Without those connections, there’s going to be nobody to help you up when you fall flat on your face.

That’s not to say that being an asshole doesn’t pay off big for some people. Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and most successful YouTube stars are proof of that. They do finish ahead of the nice guys. However, they are the exceptions and not the norms.

Most of the assholes are so far behind the nice guys that they have no hopes of ever catching up. Some just quit the race entirely and cede their rank to the nice guys because they know too many people hate them to hope for a break. It can be somewhat tragic, but it does benefit the nice guys.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the overly careful type people who despise both the nice guys and the assholes. I knew people like this in high school. I was almost one of them. These are people who are so bleak in their outlook on life that they don’t bother being nice or mean. They’re just a walking ball of gloomy nihilism.

Other than grunge rock and Marilyn Manson, you don’t see too many instances of this paying off in the long run. Even if you’re not an asshole who kicks small puppies for fun, people will still avoid you if you’re a pain to be around. If every hour of your day involves whining about how terrible and awful everything is, then nobody will want to work with you, help you, or sleep with you.

As a result, the nice guys beat those gloomy goths with ease. They finish ahead because, and it’s worth emphasizing, people prefer to work with those who are likable. They will help, befriend, and have sex with those who are nice to be around. Again, it won’t happen all at once. It will take time, but in the end it will pay off.

So in a sense, Green Day got it wrong. Nice guy’s don’t finish last. However, they don’t finish first either. Given how few of those who try to finish first ever make it, your best bet is to just make sure you don’t finish last. In that sense, being a nice guy is the safest bet you’ll ever make that doesn’t involve jello shots.

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How To Break A Taboo (Or Stop It From Becoming One)

It’s not easy talking about taboos, sexual or otherwise. It’s kind of in the definition. Taboos, by default, are hard to talk about and hard to make sense of. Some don’t even make sense indirectly. If you’ve seen more than two seasons of “South Park,” you understand that.

In talking about weird taboos and the quasi-logic behind them, I try my best to make sense of them. We all have to do that to some extent over the course of our lives. I just try to do it in a way that’s sexy and could potentially lead to sexy stories that I can turn into novels.

While every taboo is unique in the sense that it’s uniquely weird, they are prone to fads, trends, and people just getting bored of them. As I’ve pointed out before, there are certain innocuous behaviors that we do every day that most used to be on par with public masturbation.

A lot of taboos fade over time, often as new generations enter the picture and form taboos of their own. Some linger and refuse to die gracefully. That’s why we still have blurred female nipples on cable TV and not a hint of BDSM in the “Wonder Woman” movie. I refuse to believe that there’s any justification for blurring nipples on network TV in the area of ubiquitous internet porn.

There’s no doubt that we’ll be dealing with taboos for as long as we’re a bunch of cavemen running around with smartphones and nuclear weapons. That may change when we get around to upgrading our brains, but even that may inspire a whole host of taboos that we can’t begin to imagine, although I did try.

For now, there aren’t many ways to break a taboo or stop something from becoming taboo. In some cases, it’s downright impossible. No matter what you do, people are going to get weird around certain proclivities, some of which involve some pretty kinky fetishes. Look up something called “cake farts” and try to find a way to not make that weird.

While there may not be a way to completely eliminate some taboos from our society, there are some ways to confront them. It is possible to break certain taboos and/or avoid them from becoming one altogether. Now, that’s not to say it can be done overnight or with a few strategic tweets. People are really stubborn when it comes to taboos, but they will come around if the conditions are right.

With that in mind, here are some of my tips on breaking and/or circumventing taboos. A lot of these tactics can apply to the sexy kind of taboos, but they also apply to others, many of which involve poor people and minorities. Again, don’t take this as a magic pill or something. Breaking taboos is hard and for good reason. We’re a petty species, but we can be reasonable if the conditions are right. That’s a big if though.


Tip #1: Make Taboos Profitable And Lucrative For Business Interests

This probably won’t surprise anyone who tips generously and has never found used bubblegum wrappers on their pizza. Money talks. It talks a lot. It also influences, more so than we’re comfortable admitting. It can, and often is, a source of corruption. In some parts of the world, that corruption is a big part of the economy. When there’s money to be made by politicians and business people, it can get messy.

That said, it’s a two-way street. Money and business interests can be corrupt, but that same corruptive force can be channeled. We’re seeing that with the growth of the marijuana industry. We saw it with the rise of the porn industry. These industries generate billions of dollars. That’s a lot of money by any measure.

No matter how regressive or uptight people may be, when there’s money to be made, people generally follow the money. A taboo that makes nobody any money is easy to clamp down on. A taboo that generates billions of dollars and significant tax revenue is a lot harder to fight.

While I don’t agree with Gordon Gekko’s famous quote about greed, it can sometimes work to others’ advantage. When it comes to legitimizing a taboo, being profitable and taxable on some level really goes a long way. At some point, the money just overpowers the weirdness.


Tip #2: Make Taboos Expensive To Preserve

This is more a preventative than confrontational measure. After a taboo becomes entrenched, it can usually find ways to endure any number of expensive lawsuits and litigation. Just look at the Church of Scientology. Truly robust taboos will find ways of exploiting the legal system to their advantage.

If you have a chance to be proactive, though, the legal system can work for you. It’s not too hard to sue for discrimination or harassment, these days. If you’re a minority, it’s even easier and you may end up on the news with Bernie Sanders. They key here is to focus more on the bigger picture, though. One lawsuit alone isn’t going to break a taboo. Many lawsuits, however, will make it impossible to maintain.

This is how a lot of our modern anti-discrimination laws emerged, using a series of successive lawsuits that made preserving old taboos too damn expensive. People may be stubborn, but when it comes to getting their lawyer’s bill, they will eventually grit their teeth and change their perspective. Even if they have the money to pay the lawyers, you can’t always put a price on frustration.


Tip #3: Make Sure Taboos Scare And/Or Inconvenience Rich People

This is one of those uncomfortable, if not infuriating, aspects of taboos and social norms. There are usually a disproportionate number of them that are directly effected, or in some cases imposed, by the rich and powerful. Taboos can be a form of excuse banking, helping rich people justify their treatment of the poor and minorities.

That’s how many people justified segregation, slavery, and feudalism. The system was such that any changes would’ve grossly inconvenienced the rich and powerful. In some cases, it might have completely ruined them.

Say what you will about rich people. They can afford to accept such criticism. They, like any other rational human being, seek to preserve their resources and their power. That’s the entire theme of the “Star Wars” movies. If giving minorities equal rights or allowing women to show their tits in public somehow undermines profits or power, then you can bet they’ll fight it with every ounce of their considerable resources.

Conversely, the act of frustrating the rich can help break taboos and even end them. Rich people want more money. Powerful people want more power. One of the major problems with segregation, among many, is that it effectively cut off an entire customer base. Once minorities could work and earn money, they wanted to do what everyone else does and spend it. The desire to spend money knows no race or gender.

Eventually, rich companies will want that money. At the same time, powerful people will want those votes and support. At that point, a taboo’s days are numbered. Being a racist asshole may be fun for some people, but it gets old fast once it starts costing money.


Tip #4: Make A Taboo Boring Or Bland

I’ve spoken before about the power of boredom. It can create super-villains and drive teenagers to cold-blooded murder. It is a powerful force, one that’s plenty powerful to break a taboo.

It’s not easy, though. In fact, I would argue that this is probably the hardest tactic to use if you’re trying to combat a taboo. Taboos usually emerge because something gets a rise out of people, often revulsion or outrage. It’s hard to temper that sort of thing. However, it can be done.

It’s happening right now with taboos surrounding marijuana. When I was growing up, the mere mention of marijuana conjured fear and horror. These days, it mostly conjures scenes from Seth Rogen movies. You could make the argument that public attitudes changed because of growing awareness of the effects of marijuana compared to alcohol. I would argue that the debate just got too boring.

Now that marijuana is becoming a full-fledged industry, there’s a financial incentive to break the taboo. However, it’s the lack of horror and outrage that comes with smoking a joint these days that really undermines the taboo. Say what you will about Seth Rogen. The man isn’t exactly scary. Without that fear, boredom usually follows.


Tip #5: Give A Taboo Political Connections

This is another aspect of making a taboo too expensive to preserve. Sometimes, it’s just not enough that taboos cost businesses money, as racial segregation often does. Even when the economics are on your side, you still need powerful allies when combatting or preventing a taboo.

This is where it pays to have powerful friends who owe you money and/or favors. You don’t always need compromising pictures of them either, but that can help. This is a big part of how the gay rights movement got off the ground. They had the support of billionaires and well-connected individuals who could influence people in power. Money talks, but sometimes political connections shout.

Again, it can cut both ways. There are billion-dollar organizations that fight to preserve taboos, but at least it’s a level playing field. Unlike the working poor, some taboos have billionaires who spend time, money, and favors to fight them. That’s a big part of how same-sex marriage became legal.

So as a rule-of-thumb, it helps to have both rich people and powerful connections in fighting a taboo. Granted, those same taboos could use similar tactics, but they’re at the mercy of the same limits. That means that if, despite the battles between billionaires and power brokers, a taboo simply doesn’t jive with our caveman brains, then it’s going to fail in the long run.


Tip #6: When In Doubt, Turn A Taboo Into A Party

This tactic is probably the most enjoyable, as well as the most satisfying. We humans love to party. We’ll look for any excuse to throw a party, have some fun, and take our clothes off without public shame. Taboos can be serious, scary, and depressing. Parties are the exact opposite of that.

Fighting a taboo with a party is like fighting fire with a waterfall. It’s using a diametrically opposing force to combat something. Mix in music, dancing, alcohol, festivities, exposed body parts, and an excuse to leave work early and you have the perfect antidote to a taboo.

This is what Mardi Gras does once a year. This is what Brazil does with Carnival. Taboos, reservations, anxieties, and fears all melt away in the spirit of having fun and enjoying yourself. This is especially potent for sexual taboos. These taboos, and the social norms built around them, tend to be frustrating and difficult for those who preserve them. A party is like a release, one that’s easy and enjoyable for all those involved.

So if you want to start the ball rolling on breaking a taboo, don’t hire a lawyer or make friends with a billionaire. Start by throwing a party. Make it fun, festive, and happy for all those involve. No taboo will stand a chance.


There are probably more tips and tricks for beating taboos that I didn’t list. There are likely a lot more that I didn’t even think of. Again, I’m not an expert. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer who tends to overthink certain subjects more than most, be they comic books or sleeping naked.

While I don’t expect these methods to spare us from a future of censor bars and blurred tits, I hope it makes people aware of the mechanisms behind taboos. They’re rarely logical and they tend to reflect certain proclivities in our society that we’d rather ignore. If we’re to make progress as a species, though, we should confront them and, if necessary, kick them in the ass.

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