Tag Archives: toxic masculinity

The Unpersoning Of Celebrities (And Why It’s Happening)

These past few weeks have been rough for celebrities, at least to the extent that anyone rich, famous, and powerful can have it rough. Between Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis CK, it has been a bad time for male celebrities who have used their fame to justify showing their dicks to women who didn’t ask for it.

I’ve already talked quite a bit about the impact of these scandals and the sexual dynamics that guide them. I don’t want to spend too much time belaboring the severity of these accusations, if they’re true. Some have already been verified. I don’t doubt that more will find their way into the headlines as we collectively agree that celebrities harassing women is not something we’ll overlook anymore.

It’s hard to say how far this probe into the sexual misconduct of powerful men will go. It may very well be the case that celebrity culture is facing an overdue purge of perverse assholes who think their fame gives them a convenient excuse to put their hands and dicks in places they don’t belong. However, it’s the way in which we go about punishing them that I find most revealing.

In George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, “1984,” he introduced a number of concepts that one too many authoritarian governments have taken to heart. I’ve talked about a few of them before, but one in particular that stands out is that of “unpersoning.” It’s a phenomenon that many of these accused celebrities are learning about the hard way.

In “1984,” the concept of unpersoning is as nefarious as it is pragmatic. When someone becomes a malcontent or a threat to the established order, it’s not enough to just arrest or kill them. They have to be utterly erased from history, society, and common knowledge.

It’s not just that it becomes illegal or taboo to mention a person. To unperson someone is to remove their existence from the collective consciousness of society. It’s not just that people forget about these individuals. They have to forget that they forgot so that anything this person may have said, done, or thought might as well have never happened.

While our society isn’t quite on the same level as Big Brother in “1984,” that hasn’t stopped us from making a concerted effort. Since the recent revelations, Harvey Weinstein has been ousted from the company that bears his own name. Kevin Spacey has been fired by Netflix and erased from his recent role in a Ridley Scott movie. More recently, everyone seems to be cutting ties with Louis CK.

It’s not quite the same level of unpersoning that we see in “1984,” but the concept is the same. It’s not enough to wait for the courts to sort out these accusations. Public opinion, public perception, and an increasingly low tolerance for this sort of behavior is putting once-powerful people on the wrong end of the social justice equation.

It’s still not clear just how true some of these accusations are and, as a rule, I don’t assume the worst until it is proven in a court of law. However, there sheer volume of the accusations lead me to believe that there’s some truth to the story. Despite what “Ocean’s Eleven” may have you believe, groups of people aren’t that good at subverting the law. Usually, one of them cracks under the pressure.

Even if only a fraction of the accusations turn out to be true, the unpersoning of celebrities is understandable to some extent. Please don’t take that to mean that I’m overlooking the possibility that some accusation may very well be fabricated or exaggerated. With celebrities, though, the situation is a bit different.

If an ordinary, non-celebrity person commits sexual harassment or sexual assault, it usually doesn’t make the news. Most of the time, it’s handled by the police, an HR department, or vindictive friends who put cherry bombs in the perpetrator’s toilet. That’s just basic justice for a functioning society.

The problem, for both celebrities and non-celebrities alike, however, is that proving these kinds of crimes is hard. Our justice system is built on the idea that those accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof is very high and it’s a big reason why people like O. J. Simpson are acquitted.

It’s for that very reason, which O. J. Simpson himself proved, that it’s even harder to convict a celebrity. Unlike most ordinary people, celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have the power, money, and influence to hire the best legal defense that money can buy. It adds even more difficulty to securing a conviction while giving victims even fewer reasons to come forward.

That’s where unpersoning comes in. Multiple generations have watched as celebrities like O. J. Simpson get acquitted for heinous crimes because they had access to resources that most people can only dream of. As such, our collective faith in our rigid justice system is understandably low.

In a sense, social media and the internet has given people a mechanism for doing what the legal system can’t and won’t do. It gives society a way to punish those deemed guilty of crimes that their high-priced legal team and PR consultants won’t allow. In a sense, it’s the only way to ensure celebrities face some form of justice.

Unlike previous eras of Hollywood scandals, it’s not as easy to sweep an incident under the rug. If a celebrity does something horrible, it only takes a few people with functioning cell phones and social media accounts to expose those crimes. Just ask Mel Gibson how bad this can turn out.

A part of me still feels uncomfortable with this form of justice because it’s not hard for it to go too far. It’s both possible and likely that someone will get accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault who is entirely innocent. We saw it with the infamous UVA case and the Duke Lacrosse case. So long as people are willing to lie, there will be false accusations.

At the same time, though, a part of me understands why this is happening. We humans have an innate sense of justice, even as babies. When we feel there’s a serious injustice in our world, we feel compelled to right it. With celebrities, we’ve had precious few recourse that don’t involve overpriced lawyers. Now, through the use of unpersoning, we have a way.

It’s still not on the same level as Big Brother in “1984,” nor is it to an extent that a celebrity will go to prison. At the end of the day, a well-off celebrity will still have millions of dollars and mansions full of servants willing to cater to their every need. Sure, their lives and reputations will be damaged, but they won’t exactly suffer the same as an ordinary person convicted in a court of law.

It’s not perfect. It’s not even wholly consistent with all the tenants of justice. For the moment, though, unpersoning is becoming the new way in which we punish celebrities who commit injustice. Until we find a better way to deal with issues like sexual harassment, it’s the best recourse we have. Only time will tell whether it proves effective.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events

The Unspoken Gender Disparity (Of Sex Toys)

I talk a lot about our current attitudes towards sex and the various problems it causes in our society. There are a lot of ways those attitudes manifest and my sexy novels can only do so much to expose them. Many of those attitudes have a clear and frustrating gender bias, which always inspires heated debates.

To reveal the breadth of this disparity, here’s a quick little test you can take. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, or something in between. It’ll reveal a little something about yourself and the way this disparity affects us. It goes like this.

A young woman walks up to you. She seems healthy, happy, and sane. She then tells you, “I own a vibrating dildo that has the look, feel, and texture of a real penis and I use it regularly to pleasure myself.” How do you react?

Shortly after, a young man walks up to you. He seems just as healthy, happy, and sane. He then tells you, “I own a sex doll that has the look, feel, and texture of a real vagina and I use it regularly to pleasure myself.” How do you react?

If we’re being honest with ourselves, and I know that’s not always easy or possible, we’ll react very differently to the man than we do the woman. Fundamentally, they’re both saying the same thing. They use a sex toy as a means of satisfying their basic desires when they don’t have a partner.

However, we don’t see either person the same way. The idea of a woman using a sex toy conjures all sorts of lurid mental images about a woman alone, surrounded by candles, touching herself in all sorts of wonderfully erotic ways. That imagery is the basis of a good chunk of the porn out there.

The idea of a man doing something similar conjures a very different kind of imagery. We don’t see that scene as erotic. Most likely, we’ll picture an ugly, lonely man in his basement, humping an imitation of a vagina because he’s too pathetic to experience the real thing.

Unlike the woman, there’s nothing sexy about it. At most, it just reminds us of that iconic scene in “American Pie” that had Jason Biggs going to down on a pie. On top of making everyone inherently suspicious of warm pies, it acts as a testament to how hilarious/pathetic men can be in their pursuit of sex.

It’s a double standard in the highest order, a concept I’ve explored before. It’s just one of those double standards that gets lost in arguments about a woman’s body image or the basics of sexual harassment. You could even argue that it’s an extension of the war on horny men. It’s hard enough being that horny. Any effort to satiate it is going to be met with added scrutiny.

In the middle of this huge double standard is a fundamental engineering challenge that mankind has yet to solve. Specifically, it involves sex toys. While these wondrous tools of pleasure have made incredible advances in recent years, there are still certain deficiencies that further the disparity for men and women.

Go into any place that sells sex toys and chances are you’ll be bombarded by every phallic-shaped accessory that it’s possible to imagine. If you want something that looks like an erect penis, you have an abundance of riches.

You can choose a penis made of glass, plastics, or a hyper-realistic synthetic. You can get one that vibrates. You can get one that has a clitoral stimulator. They even come in every imaginable size, shape, and color. Given the simple, basic structure of an erect penis, it’s fairly easy to replicate with our amazing tool-making skills. That’s a major reason why dildos are among the oldest, most successful sex toys of all time.

Contrast this with the options for toys resembling female genitalia. Sure, you’ll see the occasional blow-up doll, hand-held pussy, or molding based on a famous porn star, but chances are it won’t look or feel very real. These things are basically rubber and plastic. They’re incapable of mimicking the intricacies of actual vaginas.

While this is a testament to wonder that is a real vagina, it leaves the straight men who seek them at a frustrating disadvantage. It’s bad enough their natural, fully-functioning penises can never compete with a dildo that is always hard and vibrates to stimulate the deepest recesses of female anatomy. They don’t have something similar that delivers an equally intense experience.

At the moment, the closest approximation men can enjoying a real, artificial vagina comes from extremely advanced sex dolls like those made by Real Dolls. However, those super-real synthetics are extremely expensive, especially when compared to the average dildo.

It’s possible to get a quality vibrator these days for around fifty bucks and no shame. Even the cheapest accessory offered by Real Dolls will run you over four hundred dollars. On top of that, a man who admits he owns one is going to be subject to a fair amount of scrutiny and ridicule. Bud Bundy from “Married With Children” is proof enough of that.

That kind of disparity is bound to cause problems and not just through egregious double standards. As technology advances and sex dolls become more advanced, as well as full-fledged sex robots, the realism gap will narrow. It may have taken way too long, but there will come a day where a sex toy will give a man a sexual experience that’s indistinguishable from that of a woman.

However, this has already inspired controversy. There are some out there who would decry the use of such realistic sex toys because it literally objectifies the female body into something men can purchase. That’s something the radical, sex-negative crowd has been bemoaning for decades.

Ironically, these same individuals are relatively silent when it comes to the continued sale of realistic dildos. I imagine if someone came along and argued that if sex toys that mimic the female body should be banned, then all those penis-shaped accessories should be banned too in the name of gender equality. I imagine that would not go over well, even among radical feminists.

For now, though, the disparity remains. A woman has access to every kind of penis-shaped satisfaction she could hope for at a price most anyone can afford. An average man with an average income is out of luck and any effort he makes to satisfy his desires will be subject to added scrutiny. If he tries too hard, he’ll be labored a creep.

It’s not fair. It’s a complete affront to anyone who claims to be in favor of gender equality. If we’re going to endure the current disparity between male and female sex toys, we should at least offer a measure of understanding and sympathy.

Both genders have desires. Both genders want to share those desires. Let’s work together in that effort. I intend to do my part with my sexy novels. Those busy/horny scientists in sex toy labs like Real Dolls will surely do theirs. Collectively, in the name of all things sexy, we must be willing to do ours.

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Filed under gender issues, sex robots, Sexy Future

The War On Horny Men (And Why It’s Doomed To Fail)

I won’t deny it. Men do stupid things when they’re horny. That’s just a cold, hard fact. I realize I’m inviting any number of dick jokes by saying that, but it’s still worth saying. It’s partly because of that fact that there’s a market for the erotica/romance novels I write in the first place so I have more appreciation for it than most.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where facts are about as relevant as a giraffe’s shoe size. It doesn’t matter how true or vindicated something is, be it a scientific theory or a documented observation. Unless it makes people feel a certain way or allows them to push some sort of agenda, it either doesn’t matter or gets twisted to suit a purpose.

When it comes to horny men, though, evolution and global warming got nothing on them. It’s not so much that they exist that’s the problem. It’s that they are now the face of all that is wrong and evil in the world.

Look at any controversy or social issue in recent years, from Hollywood scandals to trends in feminism, and chances are a horny man is involved and that man isn’t the good guy in that narrative. I’ve seen it become more magnified in recent years, but in a sense, there has always been a war over horny men. It takes many forms and has gone to disturbing extremes, but it rarely succeeds in the long run.

In the past, you could argue that battling horny men was a frustrating, but necessary endeavor to some extent. Up until the 20th century, the status of women in society and concerns over the spread of debilitating diseases gave society a valid reason for wanting to temper men’s desire to bone everything in sight. A society full of diseases and children without fathers is not a stable society.

On top of that, organized religion had often tried to play a part in that war. In general, they espouse traditions that value modesty and restraint. Naturally, some try to take it too far. Some have gone so far as to create a special circle of Hell to endlessly punish those who give in to readily to their horniness.

There are time when it’s worth questioning the motivations of organized religion in this war, though. As I’ve pointed out before, religion has an incentive to want people to bone only for procreation.

For one, they want all that pent up energy reserved for helping out at the church/temple/mosque/synagog. Second, they know that children of adherents tend to adopt their parents’ religion so they want them making as many babies as possible. More children means more adherents. More adherents means more money. Even when deities are involved, it often comes back to money.

However, as the influence of religion has faded and the status of women has improved, the war on horny men has taken a very different form. In some respects, it has been escalating lately. It’s not just a matter of horny men cheating on their wives with their secretary anymore. Horny men have basically become the de-facto enemy that are determined to hold women, minorities, and society back.

It’s horny men who become sleazy Hollywood producers that try to get sex out of ambitious young women. It’s horny men who demand that the women in comic books, video games, and movies be beautiful, thereby contributing to the objectification and degradation of women.

I won’t get into the issues I have with the concept of objectification, but it’s becoming increasingly taboo for a horny man to like and appreciate sexual imagery. It has become especially taboo to voice that appreciation, so much so that some countries are looking to criminalize men who cat-call women. That’s right. It one day might be a crime to say how sexy you find a beautiful woman.

For an aspiring erotica/romance writer, it’s a distressing trend. I get some of the logic behind it. Men still commit the majority of the sexual assaults in this world. That’s another cold, hard fact that can’t be denied.

It’s also a fact that sexual assault, as a whole, is on the decline. That’s a good thing, but thanks to the rise of mass media, terrible stories about sexual assault are easier to come by. It’s even easier to sensationalize, sometimes to the detriment of the truth. Whatever the statistics say, though, there’s still a horny man with poor impulse control at the center of it all.

At the moment, it’s not illegal to be a horny man or express some of that horiness. We don’t live in the days of John Harvey Kellogg and most horny men have access to abundant free porn, giving them an outlet for their horiness. However, even with all that free porn and a lack of uptight religious figures demanding that men not pleasure themselves, horny men are still subject to shame and ridicule.

If you like your female superheroes wearing chain mail bikinis, then congratulations! You’re a sexist, misogynistic pig.

If you like admiring beautiful women and go to strip clubs to exercise that admiration, then congratulations! You’re a sexist, misogynistic pig.

If you like having sex with beautiful women and seek to do so with every resource available to you, then congratulations! You’re still a sexist, misogynistic pig.

Are you seeing a trend, here? Whether it takes the form of porn or involves casual flirting, there seems to be no way around it. Any effort a man makes to get with a beautiful woman, sexually or otherwise, is somehow vilified. Just the act of wanting to sleep with a beautiful woman can now be construed as sexist, misogynistic, or whatever the hopelessly outraged can scream at the top of their lungs.

A man just looking for sex or some kind of sexual outlet garners no sympathy. Even a man looking for love is somehow prone to ridicule, as evidenced by the prominence of the beta male in shows like “The Big Bang Theory.” A man can’t ask for sex because he’ll get accused of being a creep or worse. He can’t even admit he wants sex because that somehow means he sees women as glorified sex objects.

There seems to be no way around it. No matter what a man does, he’s practically doomed himself and his reputation for daring to admit that he’s that horny. If he just masturbates to satisfy his desires, he’s a loser. If he eagerly pursues sex, then he’s a creep. If he just tries to repress it all, then he’s a dork who can’t get laid. Unless he’s a rock star with a foot-long dick, the average horny man has no hope.

This is an issue and it affects both genders because both genders are wired to seek love, sex, and everything in between. Nature, itself, gives us plenty of reasons, considering the various health benefits of orgasms. All those pursuits are effectively undermined if one side is overtly shamed for wanting something so basic and beautiful.

I’m not saying horny men don’t do stupid things. They most certainly do. I’m also not saying horny men don’t do heinous things too. They do that too and it’s become major news. People should be mindful of crimes like sexual assault and issues like consent. The problem is that the outrage over scandals and sex in the mass media is overshadowing the basic desire behind it.

Men, and humans in general, are sexual creatures. No matter how much people try to temper sex in society, whether by forcing women to cover their faces or designing video game characters to be less sexy, it’s impossible to subvert basic biology.

That’s the ultimate tragedy of the war on horny men. It can’t succeed in making men less horny. It can only ever succeed in making men feel guilty about feeling something that they’re hard-wired by biology and evolution to want, pursue, and enjoy. Guilt can keep us from stealing a cookie as a kid, but it can be downright debilitating if heaped on someone to excess.

All that guilt can make people angry, depressed, desperate, hopeless, and irrational. For a man that is already irrationally horny, that can be dangerous and frustrating. That kind of mentality is not going to help in efforts to curb sexual violence. If anything, it’s going to make those efforts even harder.

For now, I don’t see the war on horny men abating, nor do I see one side claiming victory over the other. I’ll just say that the hostilities are doing a lot more harm than good. They’re hindering those seeking love, sex, and all the good stuff that comes with it. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, that’s a dangerous trend.

To those who still insist on fighting this war, claiming horny men are the bane of all societies in all times, I have one simple message for you. For several centuries, the Catholic Church wielded immense power throughout Europe. If even they couldn’t stop horny men, despite being armed with the Spanish Inquisition, then what chance do you have?

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Marriage and Relationships

The Lessons (And Misguided Agendas) Of The Harvey Weinstein Scandals

I promise I’m going to stop talking about the Harvey Weinstein scandal at some point. I know everyone is probably sick of it. Make no mistake, I’m sick of writing about it. Unfortunately, it’s one of those issues that grows way beyond its original context.

It’s not enough to highlight the sheer breadth of the transgressions committed by such a powerful man. It just has to be part of a larger issue that brings out the best and worst of all those eager to comment on it, myself included. Never mind the fact that Weinstein is being punished severely for his many transgressions. People just have to make it part of a much larger agenda, and not necessarily for the right reasons.

It’s that component of this tragedy/crime/outrage that compels me to keep talking about it. Make no mistake, I’d much rather be talking about resolving love triangles in superhero comics and products made specifically for female breasts. However, I see the massive uproar over the Harvey Weinstein affair as entering dangerous territory.

Now, I don’t deny the good that this scandal has inspired. Sexual assault is a serious crime and powerful men like Weinstein have too long a history of getting away with it. In a just and peaceful society, these kinds of crimes shouldn’t be overlooked. That said, there’s a big difference between pursuing justice and a misguided moral panic.

To provide some context, there’s plenty of recent history that should provide some perspective to the ongoing outrage. Back in the 1990s, before hashtags and dick pics, there was a huge outrage over the impact of violent video games and the role they played in mass shootings like Columbine.

Never mind the fact that there’s no established causal link between violent video games and actual violence. Never mind the fact that all available data has shown an overall decrease in violence over the past several decades. The moral panic allowed people with agendas to pursue those agendas to the utmost, even when the truth isn’t on their side.

This brings me back to sexual crimes committed by men like Harvey Weinstein. What he did was egregious. What he did to his victims, if even half-true, warrants full prosecution to the utmost. Unlike the panic over violent video games, this issue involves real people who were subjected to real harassment. That’s beyond dispute.

Unfortunately, the media, the public, and everyone with a Twitter handle aren’t content to just ensure that Weinstein faces justice for his crimes. They just have to turn it into a kind of rallying cry that exposes the depths of misogyny, corruption, and abuse. It happened with video games in 2014. Now, it’s happening again.

It’s getting dangerous because people who express concern about the implications of taking every accusation of sexual assault seriously are being labeled sexist, misogynist monsters. Like many moral panics before it, there comes a point where anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the panic is guilty of thought crimes that deserve the kind of scorn that even George Orwell would find excessive.

We’re already seeing this happen as everyone gets in line to voice their outrage and virtue signal, accordingly. In wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, everyone seems eager to become the hero in the battle against powerful men abusing vulnerable women. I’ve mentioned before how that kind of mentality is dangerous and misguided. We’re seeing a similar mentality emerge as everyone seeks to push their agenda.

Among those pushing that agenda include our friends at Cracked.com, a website I usually enjoy and often cite on this blog. They’ve already jumped at the chance to push an agenda, conflating the Harvey Weinstein scandal as an indictment of all men who ever dared to lust after a pretty woman.

It’s not just websites like Cracked either. There’s already a hashtag on Twitter called #MeeToo that has people recounting their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of these stories that are both disturbing and true. However, there is a context to consider.

Sexual assault is a crime. It’s prosecuted like a crime. Like all crime, there are standards by which to process it. Chief among those standards is evidence. Those voicing outrage over the fact that neither Weinstein, nor Bill Cosby, are being charged with a crime is seen as a failure of justice. However, there’s another point to consider.

Sexual assault is hard to prove. So much of the evidence relies on testimony and in a court of law, that often gets conflated with anecdotal evidence. Science has revealed, time and again, that eyewitness testimony is among the least reliable forms of evidence you can have. Without better evidence, the high burden of proof that comes with a justice system that presumes innocence takes over.

In a sense, I can understand why those lamenting over men like Weinstein are so furious. It is frustrating to think that a man can commit such crimes against women and get away with it. In that frustration, things like facts and context tend to lose meaning.

I still don’t doubt that men like Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly are guilty of making life miserable for women. However, the extent and veracity of that misery is hard to quantify. The fact that they haven’t been charged with sexual assault tells me that the evidence just isn’t strong enough, even if it occurred. Where the justice system fails, though, mobs of hate and disdain will fill the gaps.

While that can help the voices of victims, it can also be dangerous. It can, in some respects, drown itself by claiming everything is harassment, everything is sexist, and everything is some sort of agenda to silence women. People want to believe that they’re Superman and men like Harvey Weinstein are the Lex Luthors of the world.

At some point, though, outrage burns itself out. Our collective capacity for emotional catharsis has its limits. Once it reaches that limit, we start rolling our eyes and become numb to it. For something as serious as sexual assault, we cannot and should not let that happen.

That’s a challenge, though, when everybody is so eager to virtue signal and ally themselves with the so-called right side of history. By over-blowing the outrage, victims of true sexual assault get lumped in with those who just didn’t like the person flirting with them.

Since harassment is so subjective and some people are more sensitive to it than others, the context will often get skewed. However, a scandal like Harvey Weinstein provides a sense of clarity on an issue that is so frustratingly subjective.

Therein lies the issue, though. Harassment, unlike assault, is subjective. Sexual assault is not. One is an emotional reaction. The other involves real, physical harm. Conflating one with the other is a dangerous precedent that will make people more reluctant to interact. As a fan of love, intimacy, and sexy novels, that’s not a world I want to live in.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, gender issues

A Better Male Feminist: Ron Swanson

When it comes to icons and heroes, it says a lot about society when most these days are fictional characters. We’ve become a very cynical bunch, never putting too much stock into real people. It’s often only a matter of time before they tweet something stupid or are discovered to be card-carrying asshole.

In some ways, it’s a sign of the times. We are an exceedingly jaded bunch, born from a generation of burned-out hippies. We also live in a world where we have no concept of privacy and no ability to give anyone who holds problematic opinions a pass. For anyone who becomes an icon, it’s usually only a matter of time before they say or do something to ruin their iconic status.

Recently, Joss Whedon added his name to that bloated list of fallen icons. Up until a few weeks ago, he wasn’t just a successful director and alpha dog of geek culture. He was held up, by many, as a feminist icon. He was the gold standard that feminists referred to when asked to reference how a male feminist should conduct themselves.

Now, like so many other icons whose hypocrisy was exposed, Joss Whedon’s once impeccable feminist credentials have been shattered. While I’ve argued that his hypocrisy isn’t quite on the same level as other less reputable celebrities, it’s still a mortal blow, of sorts, to his status as an icon. He may still be a celebrity and a successful director, but he cannot be a feminist icon anymore.

I think that’s more than tragic. As an unapologetic fan of superhero comics, I know the value of having an iconic hero who embodies the values of a particular idea. While I’ve taken issue with certain brands of feminism, I do think there are still important women’s issues that deserve attention. Those kinds of struggles need icons and heroes.

So, in lieu of Joss Whedon’s shortcomings in this area, I’d like to offer an alternative to those seeking a new feminist hero who can raise the bar for everyone in terms of true gender equality. That hero is already an icon to many and one whose feminist credentials are a lot more pragmatic than Whedon’s ever were.

He’s a man, but he’s a man who earns the respect of men, women, and everything in between. He’s also a fictional character, but one who managed to carve a special place in popular culture for all the right reasons. Ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I give you the ultimate feminist hero, Ron Swanson.

To those who haven’t watched every episode of “Parks and Recreation,” bear with me. I have a feeling that those already familiar with the unstoppable force of American manliness that is Ron Swanson don’t need much convincing. They already know damn well why this man deserves to be an icon to men and woman alike.

For the sake of those who haven’t seen the show, and I weep for those people, allow me to explain. Ron Swanson isn’t just a man of many talents, from wood-working to cutting wasteful government spending. He’s a man of principle. Throughout every season of the show, he makes those principles clear and doesn’t give a wet fart about whose feelings or faces are hurt in the process.

Those are ideals that plenty of men can respect. However, it’s how he conducts himself around women that sets him apart even more. The fact he can do so with a perfectly groomed mustache is just an awesome bonus.

One of Ron Swanson’s most defining traits is that he deals with everyone the same way and sees them on a similar level, as individuals. Specifically, he sees most people as morons who annoy him and are too lazy/stupid/weak to solve their own problems. Yes, that’s a somewhat cynical view of people in general, but that’s just it. It’s how he views people.

Ron Swanson is nothing if not even-handed in dealing with men and women alike. Throughout the show, he holds both genders to the same standard. If you annoy him, as most people do, he won’t give you special treatment on the basis of what body parts you may or may not have. Annoyance is annoyance, no matter where it comes from.

That is, in essence, what traditional feminism has been about, treating both genders fairly and holding them to a similar standard. Ron Swanson does that better than anyone. Moreover, he doesn’t need to be constantly reminded. That’s just how he rolls. He doesn’t need any rigorous feminist training.

He also trusts women to be as capable as men in whatever tasks he gives them. While he’s the director of the Pawnee Park’s Department, he delegates most of the tasks to his deputy, Leslie Knope. However, he doesn’t do that because he has to. He does it because he trusts her to do the job and because Leslie wants that job.

His relationship with Leslie Knope shows that Ron is capable of working with women, trusting them, and acknowledging their value in a professional, non-romantic sort of way.

He has a similar relationship with his assistant, the crass and crude April Ludgate. Again, Ron doesn’t give her the job because she’s a woman. He gives her the job because he knows she’ll do it effectively. He also doesn’t try to make her conform to any particular standard for an assistant, gender or otherwise. He lets her be herself. Can you think of fairer, more pro-feminist way to deal with a female employee? I think not.

Beyond his working relationships, Ron shows he’s also capable of having deeper relationships with other women. Not all of them are healthy, though. He’s been divorced twice, both to women named Tammy. However, it’s these unhealthy relationships that really help solidify Ron’s status as a true feminist hero for men and women alike.

In a sense, Ron’s ex-wives are the very antithesis of feminism. In fact, they’re perfect feminist villains. Tammy One, as Ron calls her, is a joyless, ball-busting tyrant who has the warmth and comfort of a venomous snake. She exists to control everyone around her, especially Ron. She doesn’t accept anyone for who they are. She tries to mold them into whoever she wants them to be. Men and women alike are right to fear her.

On top of that, she works for the IRS. I honestly can’t think of a way to make anyone, man or woman, more terrifying. The fact that Ron survived a marriage with her should immediately give him credibility with any feminist looking to avoid the label of a man-hater.

Then, there’s Tammy Two, as Ron calls her, and while not quite as terrifying, she’s every bit as devious. What she lacks in Tammy One’s callousness, she more than makes up for with weaponized sex appeal. I’m not talking about the cute, lovable kind of sex appeal either. I’m talking about the kind that attempts to strangle a man with brute vaginal strength.

Like Tammy One, Tammy Two attempts to use sex to bend men and everyone around her to her will. Throughout the show, she makes multiple attempts to seduce Ron back into her grasp and almost succeeds a number of times. Despite her supernatural ability to manipulate men with her vagina, Ron is able to resist and break her hold.

On one level, that’s a perfect demonstration of a woman who uses sexuality for manipulation, something feminists and men’s rights activists alike complain about. On another, it also demonstrates that some men cannot be bought with sex, no matter how wild and amazing it might be. Ron is one of those men and he’s a better man because of it.

Despite his experiences with his ex-wives, Ron Swanson still treats women fairly. He’s even a romantic, of sorts, and not just towards bacon. In the later seasons of the show, he meets a woman named Diane Lewis and she’s everything the Tammys aren’t.

She accepts him for who he is, doesn’t want him to change, and eventually marries him. Ron treats her the same. Theirs is a true relationship of equals, a kind that feminists can respect and admire alongside that of Cyclops and Jean Grey. For a man to have endured two failed marriages to two monstrous women, yet still love a better woman for all the right reasons, is as heroic a story as any, especially within a feminist context.

Between the way Ron works with women, the way he loves them, and the way he deals with them, he demonstrates a far more refined approach to feminism than Joss Whedon ever did. He didn’t need to create female heroes. He didn’t need to make multi-billion dollar movies or iconic TV shows. He just had to show that it’s possible to deal with women in a fair, equal, and respectful way.

The fact that Ron does all of that without being the kind of whiney beta-male that makes every male feminist sound like they have a deflated scrotum. Ron is, by every measure, as alpha as it gets when it comes to men. He’s strong, he’s tough, he’s stern, and he has one of the manliest mustaches of all time. No one in their right mind would doubt this man’s masculine credentials.

On top of that, he’s not the kind overly-muscled, John Rambo kind of alpha male with woefully impractical muscles and ridiculous skills that nobody without Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body-building routine can hope to match. Ron Swanson has the build and physique of an actual man. He does set the bar too high or inspire body image issues, except when it comes to manly facial hair.

By nearly every measure, Ron Swanson is the kind of man that should earn him a place in the feminist hall of fame. He is everything men respect and women admire. He should be the icon and hero that feminists refer to.

I’m not saying he’s without flaws. I’m not saying there aren’t other men, real and fictional, who deserve a similar status. I’m just saying that Ron Swanson is the kind if icon that feminists can rally around. Granted, Ron doesn’t care much for rallies, icons, heroes, or annoying people in general, but that’s what makes him Ron fucking Swanson.

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

What Makes A Man An Asshole?

I often talk about things on this blog that are complicated, convoluted, and downright esoteric at times and that’s just with respect to sex robots and superhero comics. Hell, I could probably run several separate blogs on those topics alone, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Some topics, though, need not be too complicated. Some basically explain themselves. It’s like the movie “Snakes On A Plane.” There’s nothing deep or vague about that concept. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a movie about snakes on a plane. Sure, it’s basic and a little dumb, but sometimes we need to turn our brains off and just enjoy the spectacle.

So, in the interest of giving everyone’s brain a rest from thought experiments and sociopolitical undertones surrounding major protests, I’m going to talk about something simple that requires little thought or mental exertion. At most, it only requires us to think about a certain type of person or character, real or fictional, that we’ve all probably dealt with at some point in our lives.

This brings me to people who are assholes, specifically of the male variety. I hope that’s a topic that needs no explanation, exposition, or build-up. We know them. We deal with them. We may even be related to a few. Chances are, you find yourself dealing with asshole men at least once a week.

It’s just as common in fiction, including the erotica/romance variety. I’m not just talking about the Biff Tannen variety either. In many major conflicts, including the ones I write about in books like “Skin Deep,” there are plenty of assholes who seem to only exist to make others miserable. They are both the driving force of a story and an infinite source of frustration in real life.

At the risk of sounding sexist, I’ll just be blunt and say that the male gender breeds a special kind of asshole. That’s not to say that women aren’t as capable of such assholery, but I’ll save that for another post. Being a man, I like to think I have a greater insight into what makes a man an asshole.

 

Now, the psychoanalyst and wannabe philosopher in me is tempted to break down every major component that goes into turning an innocent young boy into a walking affront to all things fueled by testosterone. I’m sure there are all sorts of reasons, excuses, and faulty brain wiring that go into it. I’m going to skip those complexities for now and just focus on the basics.

With that in mind, here are my list of factors that go into making a man the kind of asshole that doesn’t deserve functioning genitals. Again, these are fairly basic. I’m sure other people have other, more elaborate ideas of what makes men assholes. I would love to hear some of those ideas so I can expand this list down the line. For now, though, let’s just start with laying the foundation for all things male asshole.


Asshole Factor #1: Always Having Something (Stupid) To Prove

Chief among any male asshole’s defining traits includes excessively flexing his male bravado. We all get that there’s a time and a place for bravado. If someone is attacking a loved one or there’s a hungry lion coming at you, that’s an appropriate moment for a man to flex his nuts and show what he can do.

For assholes, though, that time is all day and that place is anywhere. They’re the kinds of guys who will do anything on a dare, make everything a competition, and not give enough of a damn about the rules. If they’re not trying to impress pretty girls, they’re trying to impress friends. If they have no friends, they’re trying to show up enemies. It never ends until they do something so stupid that they hurt themselves.

I’m not going to lie, though. When an asshole like this take it too far and pays the price, it’s kind of nice. Like seeing King Joffrey die, it can help remind us that there is some semblance of justice in the universe.


Asshole Factor #2: Entitlement To Certain Things (Like Sex)

This largely shows in the rich, arrogant, I’m-a-big-deal-so-I-can-do-anything type of male asshole, of which there are too many. From reality stars to the asshats on Instagram, these assholes exploit the hell out of the lucky hand they’ve been dealt in life and expect the world to massage his balls upon demand.

It goes beyond wealth, though. There are even non-rich male assholes who think the mere act of having a penis entitles them to certain things, like the love of a beautiful woman or the freedom to be a dick to other people.

They carry themselves with this mindset that just being a man makes them inherently manly, entitling them to all the stuff that comes with it. They fail to realize that you still have to work for certain things. You still have to earn the right to see that pretty girl naked. Real men do that work. Assholes don’t even try.


Asshole Factor #3: Always Needing To Show Off And Seek Vindication

We’ve all known our share of class clowns. I knew more than a few back in grade school. Sure, they were funny at times and could get a cheap laugh. Some do it in a likable way. Others are just assholes about it.

As with the first factor, there’s a time and a place to show off. If you’ve won the Super Bowl, achieved something of note, and done something that few can do, then go ahead and show off. You’ve earned it. Just showing off for the sake of showing off is what distinguishes the lovable class clown from the asshole.

Beyond just showing off, the asshole does it in a way that seeks some sort of unearned vindication. They’re basically saying, “I’m here! I exist! Now, I demand that I be valued!” Always needing that kind of vindication hints at a lot of insecurity and, deep down, assholes tend to be a lot more insecure than most.


Asshole Factor #4: Needing To Be The Loudest Voice In A Conversation

If there’s one good thing about most male assholes you deal with, it’s that they make themselves known. You don’t have to look very hard to find them. Usually, they’ll either come to you or be so obnoxiously loud that you can’t miss them. Like a bear taking a shit on your driveway, it’s hard to miss.

It goes beyond just being loud, though. An asshole man talks as though his voice is the only one that matters. He acts as though he’s the leader by default and everyone else’s voices might as well be the echoes of a dying cat.

They don’t listen. They barely even hear what others say. They just keep talking because the sound of their voice is just that much more valuable. These are the kinds of guys that make noise-canceling headphones a godsend.


Asshole Factor #5: Always Making Excuses (And Never Learning From Failure)

I dedicated multiple posts regarding the difference between reasons and excuses. I won’t rehash all the main details behind those concepts because, in this instance, you really don’t need to know those details. Like the loudmouth factor, it’s fairly clear that male assholes live in a world of excuses and reasons might as well be an alien concept.

You know this because whenever they screw up or fail at anything, it’s never their fault. It’s never even the fault of luck. It’s everyone else that’s the problem. They’re the reason the male asshole believes he didn’t get what he wanted.

That’s a big part of why male assholes tend to be bullies. Everyone’s an obstacle. Everyone’s a means to an end. They’ll have any number of excuses to shove them out of their way or bend them to their will. Other people are just tools to get that vindication I mentioned earlier.

In many respects, it’s this factor that helps distinguish the casual assholes from the professionals.


Asshole Factor #6: (Overly) Emphasizing Style And Avoiding Substance

Even if you don’t hear a male asshole’s loudmouth rantings, which isn’t easy, or avoid his constant excuses, which is next to impossible, there’s still one way they stand out from their non-asshole peers. They will purposefully style themselves as the kind of person that is so superficial and so shallow that they inspire awful Jack Black movies.

The spoiled rich assholes do it with pride. Even the non-rich assholes find a way to do it with sheer arrogance and bravado. They spend way too much time on their hair, buy way too many overpriced clothes, and generally conduct themselves in ways meant to gain unearned vindication.

It’s one thing to wear a championship ring that you earned. These guys just wear all sorts of fancy crap that gives the illusion that they’ve done something meaningful with their lives. More often than not, they haven’t done squat. They can’t be bothered to put in the work. That, my friends, is the literal mark of a true asshole.


I hope this gives everyone a better concept of male assholes. You can never be too prepared or informed. Make no mistake. Assholes can really make your life difficult. Even if you can’t avoid them, you can use this information to better endure their crap. We’re an imperfect species full of imperfect people. Some people just take those imperfections to an annoying extreme.

Again, if you want to help add to this list, please let me know in the comments. Maybe down the line, I’ll update it in another post. For now, make good use of this information and may the influence of assholes in your life be minimal.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Marriage and Relationships, Reasons and Excuses

Another (Potentially Distressing) Thought Experiment

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Whenever I pose one of my thought experiments, be they the sexy or unsexy kind, I do so with the hope of inspiring novel, entertaining ideas that get people thinking for all the right reasons. Ideally, these ideas are fun and enlightening. If they make people horny in the process, then that’s just a bonus.

Every now and then, however, it’s not enough for an idea to be enlightening or sexy. Sometimes, for a thought experiment to work, it needs to make people feel uncomfortable. It needs to create some sort of mental distress.

I know that’s something most people avoid. People come to this blog to read about erotica romance novels, sexy thoughts, and sex robots. I’ve even pointed out how our brains are wired to do anything and everything to avoid mental distress, even if it leads to outright hypocrisy.

Well, as uncomfortable as it is, mental distress has a purpose. It forces us to contemplate an idea that highlights a major problem in the world. It’s often one of those problems we know is there on some level, but avoid thinking about because it’s too daunting. For this particular thought experiment, it’s not so much that the idea is overwhelming. It’s more that it reveals something about our attitudes that we don’t often scrutinize.

So with that in mind, here’s the experiment. Think back to any action scene in any major action movie of the past couple decades. Given the glut of superhero movies and “Die Hard” rip-offs out there, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Specifically, think of a scene where a female character was kicking ass. Given the rise of strong female characters, that shouldn’t be too difficult either.

A good example comes from the memorable Black Widow fight scene in “Iron Man 2.” By any measure, it’s a wonderfully entertaining scene. It has Scarlett Johanssen kicking ass in a skin-tight outfit. What’s not to love about it? Most people who watch this scene, especially comic book fans and people who find Scarlett Johanssen sexy, would be rightly entertained.

Here’s where the thought experiment comes in. This is where it gets really uncomfortable and not in the awkward boner sort of way. Watch the scene above once as you usually would. You don’t need to know the context too much. This is just Black Widow beating up the hired goons of Justin Hammer, the primary antagonist of the movie. Use that first reaction as a baseline of sorts.

Now, watch the scene again. This time, though, reverse all the genders of the characters involved. Make Black Widow a man. Make Justin Hammer’s goons women. Let it play out in your mind, this lone male character beating up all these women. Does the scene evoke the same reaction? For most people not named Chris Brown, it probably makes you sick to your stomach.

This goes beyond the typical double standards between men and women, which I’ve talked about before. It even goes beyond strong female characters, which I’ve also touched on in various ways. This is one of those dynamics that has always been there right in front of us. We just don’t take the time to scrutinize it.

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We can watch scenes of James Bond beating the crap out of a bunch of SPECTRE henchmen and be entertained. We can also watch scenes of Black Widow, Sarah Conner, and Furiosa do the same and be entertained. Swap the genders, though, and it becomes extremely distressing. We don’t see powerful characters kicking ass anymore. We just see a man beating up multiple women.

Find a scene like the one above from “Iron Man 2” and do the same thought experiment. Look for a scene where a woman beats up a much of male thugs. Then, swap the genders. Chances are, the feelings it evokes are just as distressing.

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For a greater sense of context, I came up with this thought experiment after reading an article on Cracked.com about the way Hollywood treats men. I’ve cited Cracked before because and while I don’t always agree with them, they’re good at tackling serious topics in a humorous way, even sexy topics. This one, however, had a hard time being funny.

6 Backwards Ideas Hollywood Still Has About Men

Some parts of the article were more inane than others, like pointing out how every leading man has to be at least a half-foot taller than the average guy or how tortured men are somehow compelling. Some of those details are just quirks, blatant examples of style over substance.

Beyond the quirks, though, there are some genuinely disturbing dynamics at work. We find such entertainment in women beating the crap out of men. We also find entertainment in men beating the crap out of men. However, when it’s men beating the crap out of women, context doesn’t matter. Substance doesn’t matter. It always makes us feel disgusted and repulsed.

The thought experiment I just posed highlights that. However, it goes beyond violence as well. Rape is one of those super-sensitive issues that’s impossible to make funny or sexy. However, if you put it in the context of prison rape where men rape men, then that somehow changes things, so much so that jokes about rape will even find their way into an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

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Then, there are the cases where women rape men. Yes, that does happen in real life. Women are capable of domestic violence against men. However, it’s still okay to joke about. Christopher Titus has even worked it into his standup. It even finds its way into cartoons that air on primetime.

The best example of this is the “Futurama” episode, “Death By Snu Snu.” In that episode, the cast encounters a planet populated by big, hulking, hostile Amazonian women, albeit not of the Wonder Woman variety. Through a series of hilarious antics that are entirely appropriate for a show that has a hard-drinking, sociopath robot, the male characters end up captured.

This is where the line between hilarity and distress blurs if you dare do the same thought experiment. Once captured, the Amazonian women decide to “torment” their prisoners with “snu snu,” which is their alien verbiage for sex. The reaction of Fry and Zap Branigan is a mix of horror and intrigue.

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Granted, it’s presented in a funny way, but that doesn’t change the actual substance of what happens. The women rape these men. They rape them and it’s portrayed as humorous. I’m not going to lie. I did laugh somewhat at how the episode played out. Most people with a healthy sense of humor would.

However, if you do the same thought experiment with the Black Widow scene in “Iron Man 2,” it takes on a very different context. Watch the episode again, but turn the hulking Amazons into men. Then, turn Fry and Zap into women. Suddenly, that scene takes on a much darker undertone.

It would push the line even for the most hardcore porn. Think about how that would play out, a group of warrior men taking a couple of women who just stumbled upon their world and deciding to rape them to death. It wouldn’t just be rated NC-17. It would be outright banned and subject to protest from every women’s group in the world.

What does it say about our attitudes, our culture, and our attitudes when we’re okay with one gender dynamic and not the other? Now, there are inherent differences in those dynamics. Human beings are a sexually dimorphic species. That means there are inherently different traits within the genders that are impossible to overlook completely.

However, the sheer breadth of the disparity here is cause for concern. If flipping the genders of a story or scene evokes such a different reaction, then that’s a serious disconnect that’s worth scrutinizing.

That’s not to say that the scenes in “Iron Man 2” or “Futurama” are wrong or not entertaining. There’s just something inherently revealing about ourselves when we flip the gender dynamics and react to the same scene. We may not like what that reveals, but it’s not something that can or should be ignored.

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