Tag Archives: toxic masculinity

Social Context Versus “Toxic” Behaviors: Why The Difference Matters (A Lot)

There’s a fairly well-known set of experiments involving rats and cocaine. It’s a strange, yet revealing combination. In the initial experiment, a rat in a cage was given the choice between cocaine and food. Not surprisingly, especially for someone who has ever tried cocaine, the rat chose cocaine to the point of killing itself.

That experiment, which took place in the 1960s and 1970s, helped establish the idea that those who use cocaine would be so damaged, so addicted, and so utterly gone that they would rather take the drug than survive. It was pretty scary stuff and it helped inspire harsher anti-drug policies in the 1980s.

However, that experiment came into question in 1981 when a professor named Bruce Alexander re-did the experiment, but with one critical change. He didn’t isolate the rats in a cage. He put them in a colorful, positive environment with other rats that came to be known as “rat park.” The results weren’t nearly as scary.

As it turns out, when placed in a better environment with more social support, the rats didn’t become irreversibly damaged cocaine addicts. In fact, even when offered much more addictive drugs like morphine, the rats didn’t imbibe in illicit, drug-fueled bliss nearly as much as their caged counterparts.

I bring up this experiment because it illustrates an important point about behavior and social creatures. Context and social setting matters. It matters a lot. Put someone in a cage, strip them of any social support, and isolate them from the world and they’re bound to endure some pretty toxic effects. That’s a big reason why solitary confinement is considered torture.

That brings me back to the inherently flawed idea of “toxic masculinity,” a term I’ve gone on record as saying should be buried in the deepest, darkest pit of our collective lexicon. I don’t want to re-hash or belabor any of the points I’ve already made about toxic masculinity. I’ll just note that some of the rhetoric surrounding it is distressingly similar to what anti-drug zealots used when demonizing cocaine.

Think, for a moment, about some of the negative traits associated with toxic masculinity. They include, but aren’t restricted to, stuff like:

  • Suppression of emotions
  • Being prone to violence
  • Increases in aggression
  • Associations with abhorrent sexual behavior

Then, look at the traits associated with cocaine addiction and note some of the parallels. In each case, there’s a direct association between these traits and a tangible, unambiguous cause. In one case, it’s a drug. In the other, it’s just being a man and associating with masculinity. Like the rats in that first experiment, though, there’s no context or social circumstances to consider.

That begs an intriguing, but important question, especially to those who still want to use “toxic masculinity” as a catch-all for certain behaviors. Is it really the nature of masculinity itself that’s behind these toxic behaviors or is it the social circumstances within the society?

That’s not a question anyone, especially not aspiring erotica/romance writers, can definitively answer. I don’t doubt it has been asked in other ways. It might even have been studied to some extent, but since it involves the complex machinations of the human psyche, definitive answers are hard to come by.

Even without the results of those studies, is it really that hard to contemplate the possibility that circumstances may effect how masculinity and femininity manifest? The rat park experiments alone hint at a fairly significant impact. Given the orders of magnitude in difference between rat and human brains, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that impact is substantial.

While we can’t run the kinds of experiments that Bruce Alexander did in 1981, we can assess the current status of masculinity within our culture. It may vary from region to region, but in terms of modern western culture, there are a number of traits that we’ve come to associate with masculinity.

It tends to manifest most distinctly in our standard models of romance, which puts men in situations where they have to be competitive, aggressive, cunning, and determined to get the kind of emotional and sexual satisfaction they want. Even when they do, those same situations make them just as inclined to seek other outlets of satisfaction.

Furthermore, men have to navigate these situations with the added baggage of being biologically wired to seek social, romantic, and sexual connections. Women have this wiring too, but the circumstances for them are different in that the culture has different expectations. Moreover, there’s no concept of “toxic femininity” to color their feminine traits as inherently negative.

What this means is the men are entering these circumstances pre-programmed to be very horny, very lonely, and in need of various forms of fulfillment. Being men, they’re expected to go out and get it while women are expected to just let it come to them. Now, I get that this is a gross oversimplification that obscures the overall gender dynamics, but in terms of the overall culture, these are the circumstances.

To illustrate the inherent issues with those circumstance, here’s a scenario that should help paint a picture of the male predicament. Again, it’s a gross oversimplification that I’m sure will offend more than a few people, but still reflects an important point.

Man: Hello, ma’am. I’m lonely and horny. How do I go about getting sex, love, and social support?

Woman: First of all, the fact that you just admitted you’re horny is disgusting. Women being horny, that’s beautiful and erotic. Men being horny is not, so you’re already a pig in my mind.

Man: What? Why? That’s not fair.

Woman: Don’t interrupt me! Talking down to a woman is rude and sexist. It’s basically the first step towards harassment and abuse. Raising your voice to a woman, showing any kind of dominance, is just perpetuating an oppressive gender stereotype that has no place in the current year.

Man: Okay. I’m sorry about that. So how do I go about it then?

Woman: You’re still talking over me. You’re getting dangerously close to harassing me and since you’re a man, everyone will believe me if I accuse you. So choose your words very carefully because if any woman feels upset by what you say or do, even if it’s unintentional, we can accuse you of being an abuser and ruin your life.

Man: Well, I’d like to avoid that at all costs.

Woman: Then, you’ll have to play by our rules. You’ll have to respect every choice a woman makes and take her side in every argument. Disagree with us or go against us and we’ll label you a sexist, misogynist pig. Then, you’ll never find love, sex, or any kind of social support.

Man: Wow. That almost sounds risky. I might just be better off watching porn and masturbating by myself.

Woman: Now, you’re just making it worse. For one, watching porn or admiring female bodies in any capacity is insulting, demeaning, and objectifying.

Man: But I’m attracted to beautiful women. Is that bad?

Woman: It’s awful! You’re contributing to unhealthy beauty standards that not every woman can hope to achieve. You’re part of a much larger problem in society that forces women to meet obligations that are difficult, inconvenient, or outright impossible. That makes you an accomplice to all the crimes ever committed against women.

Man: But I’ve never attacked, hurt, or insulted a woman in my entire life.

Woman: That doesn’t matter. Since men have gotten away with too many crimes in the past, you have to be the one to pay the price in the present. That means you have to carry the guilt of men you’ve never met for crimes and attitudes you had no part in creating. If you go against this in any way, then you’re an even bigger sexist misogynist.

Man: I don’t want that. I don’t want that at all. I guess I’ll have to find some other way to masturbate.

Woman: You’re still making it worse. You see, women can masturbate because it’s sexy and erotic. Men can’t. It’s just disgusting for reasons that neither of us can change. If any women finds out you’ve ever masturbated or paid for sex in any capacity, then they’ll think you’re a creep and a loser. They won’t even look at you, let alone want to be with you.

Man: But that’s not fair! I can’t turn off my desires.

Woman: That’s too bad. You’ll just have to suppress them while you jump through all the elaborate hoops a woman demands in the meantime. Just remember that even if you jump through all those hoops and do everything they ask, they still reserve the right to not have sex with you or love you in the way you want. That’s their choice and you can’t do anything about it.

Man: So what am I supposed to do? This is making me kind of frustrated and angry.

Woman: That’s not my problem. You either play by these arbitrary rules or we cut you off socially, sexually, and romantically. Try to change any of these rules and that just makes you the biggest misogynist of them all.

I’ll stop there and give everyone a moment to fume. Take all the time you need. It’s not the first time I’ve crafted a scenario with some pretty distressing monologues.

If you can get past the outrage, then try and take a moment to reflect on the circumstances in the scenario. Men are in a situation where the path to the kind of sexual, emotional, and social fulfillment that all social species seek is full of potential pitfalls.

Since those obstacles have gotten a lot more treacherous lately, it’s even harder for men to actively seek the very things that make them healthy and fulfilled. It’s akin to forcing the rats from the cocaine experiment back in the cage and demanding that they not succumb to the detrimental effects.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that women didn’t create these circumstances. There’s no feminist conspiracy any more than there’s a nefarious patriarchal conspiracy. In fact, some of these circumstances stem from traditions men have promoted, like the whole obsession with female purity and the concept of slut-shaming. Men have done more than their part to create and exacerbate these circumstances.

As it stands, though, the circumstances for men are such that frustration, anger, and isolation are almost inescapable. Unless you’re very rich and very well-connected, you’ve got a lot of hazards to navigate. Slip up and you’ll be labeled a creep, a misogynist, or worse. Even if that doesn’t put you in a literal cage, it’ll make you feel like you’re in one. At that point, is it really that surprising when a person’s behavior comes off as toxic?

With these circumstances in mind, the concept of “toxic masculinity” becomes even more asinine because it utterly ignores this context. Absent that context, it can only ever damage whatever harmony men and women have. Given how sensitive we’ve become to scandals and sexism, we can’t afford to do much more damage and expect either gender to come out better.

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

Why The Term “Toxic Masculinity” Should Be Retired

There aren’t a lot of terms in the English language that I wish could be uninvented. As someone with a strong appreciation for language, as well as someone who aced every essay question in school, the concept of throwing away words is akin to throwing away a box of fresh donuts. It’s an abhorrent thought.

That said, I do find myself making exceptions every now and then. Sometimes, you have to because a set of words comes along that’s so loaded, so skewed, and so esoteric that its only real use is to embolden assholes and inspire disdain. Given how there are enough assholes in this world, male and female alike, such words can be powerful weapons.

That leads me to one of the few terms I wish we could expunge from the English language, as well as every other language, including those invented by Tolken and Star Trek.

Toxic Masculinity

You’ve probably heard it before and never in a positive context so get ready to cringe. You may find yourself cringing again, just by reading over it. For that, I apologize. However, this term and what it entails is worth discussing because it affects men, women, and everything in between.

In terms of contemporary meaning, it’s worth noting that the idea of toxic masculinity is fairly new in terms of context. It only recently emerged as a major buzzword of third wave feminism, which I’ve mentioned before and is still evolving. It’s definition is somewhat vague, which is one of its many problems, but according to Wikipedia, it embodies all sorts of problematic concepts.

The concept of toxic masculinity is used in the social sciences to describe traditional norms of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects. Such “toxic” masculine norms include dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions.

Conformity with certain traits viewed as traditionally male, such as misogyny, homophobia, and violence, can be considered “toxic” due to harmful effects on others in society, while related traits, including self-reliance and the stifling of emotions, are correlated with harm to men themselves through psychological problems such as depression, increased stress, and substance abuse. Other traditionally masculine traits such as devotion to work, pride in excelling at sports, and providing for one’s family, are not considered to be toxic.

In simplest terms, toxic masculinity is the idea that the very traits and social norms associated with manhood are both destructive to modern society and detrimental to women. It is basically the invisible hand that guides people towards regressive, patriarchal attitudes that prefer that everyone live in a 50s sitcom.

Granted, that’s an extremely oversimplified understanding of the concept, but it would take way too many blog posts to get into all the nuances that have been ascribed to toxic masculinity. For this piece, I want to focus on the bigger picture and not the fine print.

Now, to be fair, the idea of men being beasts is not new. It pre-dates feminism and modern society by centuries, going all the way back to pagan folklore. However, that concept always came with a particular context, one that the very idea of toxic masculinity seems to ignore.

Dig deep into any mythos about snarling, beast-like men and you’ll usually encounter the same themes. Put a man in a situation where he’s stripped of humanity, love, community, and family and he becomes a pretty dangerous person. That’s basically the entire concept behind the appeal of characters like Wolverine from the X-men.

With toxic masculinity, though, that important caveat gets overlooked or cast aside. In applying toxic masculinity in its current context, there’s no circumstance behind all these negative traits associated with men. Just being a man and having any concept of masculinity is inherently toxic.

This is the most nefarious, not to mention insulting, aspect of the concept. It eschews any idea of context and calls the entire experience of being masculine toxic. It creates a situation where the only way to not be toxic is to be feminine, which is overly convenient for those arguing certain brands of feminism.

In essence, it readily embraces one of the most common and well-known fallacies of all time. You’ve probably heard it before, but it can’t be belabored enough.

Correlation does NOT imply causation.

It’s behind every major superstition and many failed scientific observations. It’s also the only way in which toxic masculinity works, with respect to criticizing an entire gender.

With toxic masculinity, there is no circumstance or context. There’s no need to subject anyone to a dehumanizing process, be it complex social pressures or an adamantium bonding process. Just being a man who exercises his masculinity in any capacity is inherently toxic.

That’s a wonderfully simplistic understanding that encapsulates an entire gender for all the wrong reasons, but as is often the case with wonderfully simplistic ideas, it’s not accurate. With toxic masculinity, though, it’s far more dangerous.

Being such a new word that hasn’t had time to develop traditions and complexity, toxic masculinity is a lot like other concepts, such as “fake news” and “alternative facts.” They’re so new and so vague that you can basically use it as linguistic cheat code to discount anything that you either don’t agree with or don’t care to scrutinize.

A man commits more crime than a woman? That’s toxic masculinity.

A man blames a rape victims for putting herself in a dangerous situation? That’s toxic masculinity.

A man makes an inappropriate joke that offends women? That’s toxic masculinity.

A man denies sexually harassing a woman? That’s toxic masculinity.

A man uses vulgar, profane insults while playing video games? That’s toxic masculinity.

There’s a clear pattern here in that there doesn’t need to be a pattern. Just take any undesirable trait ever ascribed to a man and call it toxic masculinity. Then, like magic, there’s no need to scrutinize context or circumstance. There’s no need to run any tests or dig deeper. You know the diagnosis and the treatment is obvious. If masculinity is so toxic, then that means we just have to discourage masculinity altogether.

Again, it’s an overly simple interpretation of an exceedingly complex phenomenon. It’s one that lumps all men, as well as the many dynamics behind masculinity, into a singular collection of traits that just happen to have all sorts of negative connotations. It provides a clear antagonist for those seeking gender equality or women’s rights. It also provides a potent mechanism for shaming men.

Ironically, this concept of treating certain gender traits as outright diseases is not unprecedented. In fact, there was a time when the roles were reversed and it was feminine traits that were considered “toxic.” However, people didn’t call it that. They actually had a medical term for it, which was “female hysteria.” Look at the definition and notice some of the parallels to toxic masculinity.

Women considered to have had it exhibited a wide array of symptoms, including faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and a “tendency to cause trouble”.

It seems funny and disturbing now, but back then, it was a serious issue. Society really did get to a point where being too feminine was considered a disease. Just being a woman carried with it an inherent shame that people couldn’t escape.

However, at least with female hysteria, the treatment wasn’t that bad in that it involved regularly being masturbated to orgasm. In terms of medical treatments, that beats the hell out of headaches and constipation. For toxic masculinity, though, there is no such treatment.

Since the term is so vague and its concepts so loaded, it creates a situation where the only way to avoid it is for a man to constantly denounce, deny, and disparage a core part of his identity. That usually involves a lot of virtue signaling and adopting the role of a beta male. The fact that approach has one too many similarities to gay conversion therapy should give anyone pause.

As it stands, the newness and ambiguity of toxic masculinity makes it a useful term for those who need an easy way to disparage men or extrapolate specific male behaviors to suit an agenda. That’s what makes it such a dangerous term for men and women alike, but that’s also what makes it an easy term to drop.

Now, I’m not denying that men have their share of undesirable traits. I also don’t deny that there are some aspects of masculinity that are worth scrutinizing. However, little good has ever come from creating terms that treat basic human traits as a disease. It creates a dangerous precedent that skews what it means to be sick and healthy.

Since it’s in the best interest for society and aspiring erotica/romance writers for genders to get along, ditching such a flawed concept like toxic masculinity will definitely help. It won’t solve all the issues associated with masculinity and feminism, but if we can do it for female hysteria, we can do it for toxic masculinity.

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

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