Tag Archives: traditional marriage

How We’ll (Have To) Manage Love In A World Of Brain Hacking

Picture the following scenario. If you’ve ever been to a fairy tale wedding or if you’ve been part of some big romantic ceremony, you won’t need much imagination. You’ll just need to have been sober at the time that moment played out. Even if you haven’t, it should still be easy to picture.

It’s a beautiful moment. Two people are standing at an altar together, proclaiming their love for each other in front of friends, family, and whatever deities they happen to prefer. It all goes so well. There are tears of joy, heartfelt gestures, and powerful moments that will last a lifetime.

That all happens in this scenario. It plays out. It’s every bit as beautiful as I just described, and then some. Hold onto that sentiment because now I’d like to complicate it, but not in the way you think.

I already painted a similar scenario when I talked about the possibility of hacking the human brain to induce love and ensure two people only ever love each other. This is someone similar, but one that factors in the bigger picture that tends to dilute all romantic moments. Again, it’s not quite as unsexy as you think, but it’s close.

Go back to that scenario. It’s still every bit as happy and sincere as any non-arranged, non-shotgun marriage could possibly be. Then, just before the chosen holy man declares two people spouses, a state-licensed lawyer enters the room. Yes, I understand that already seriously undermines the moment. Bear with me. It’s about to get weirder and less sexy.

The lawyer isn’t there to ruin the moment. He or she is actually there because the law requires him to be there. They have a very simple, but very necessary job. Before two people can be declared spouses, complete with all the tax benefits and insurance perks that come with it, the lawyer has to make sure that nobody’s brain was hacked to crate false, insincere feelings of love.

I’ll give everyone a moment to scoff, roll their eyes, or just stare blankly in confusion. I understand completely. What I just described sounds like something out of a Matrix-themed wedding that went horribly wrong. I wish I could say it was just another one of my not-so-sexy thought experiments. Unfortunately, this scenario reflects a serious issue that we may have to confront.

Think about what that lawyer had to do in that situation. Beyond the innate anxiety that comes along whenever a lawyer gets involved in a situation, especially if you’ve been skimping on your taxes, they’re tasked with the legal equivalent of making sure a Disney-style spell isn’t at work here. They have to, for the sake of the law and basic human dignity, that the love someone professes isn’t false.

Why would they even have to do that in the first place? Well, if you’ve been following along on this blog, you’ve noticed I’ve been talking a lot about the sincerity of love and how false perceptions may impact those powerful emotions. Even before that, I’ve talked about the prospect of enhancing the human brain and using those advances to make us sexier and more romantic.

These kinds of enhancements have so much potential to change the way we love, make love, and forge romantic commitments to one another. It may very well change the kinds of love stories we tell. For me, a guy trying to make his career in the erotica/romance industry, it’s kind of important that I follow these advances.

With every advance, however, comes various legal, ethical, and morally ambiguous headaches that quickly turn into migraines when you consider the implications. In that context, few advances have more implications than brain enhancement.

Considering how easy our brains are to fool, it makes sense to enhance this organ over all others. Yes, that means our genitals too, even though they’re already getting their share of enhancements. Every romantic and sexy feeling we’ve ever had or experience starts in our brain. Enhance that and everything we know about sex, love, and marriage goes out the window and into an incinerator.

A person with a brain implant is inherently capable of love, passion, and sex appeal that exceeds anything our natural biology can match. If you’d don’t believe me, then ask a woman about the efficiency of her vibrator compared to that of her lover. It’s not a fair comparison, to say the least.

Like any tool humans have ever made, we’ll use brain implants and brain enhancement to improve our lives. That includes are sex lives as well. There’s a reason why it’s a huge chunk of the pharmaceutical industry’s profits. That’s where the legal issues come into play, but not in the way you might think.

The second someone puts anything in their brain that resembles a computer, it inherently becomes subject to hacking. It’s an inescapable and often underreported pitfall of the digital age in which we all so eagerly partake. If it has a computer in it, then it can be hacked. Chances are, it has been hacked at one point, probably far more than you’d want to know.

That kind of hacking is hard enough to deal with. Once the computers go in our brains, though, then the stakes go up considerably. It’s one thing to hack a website and plaster it with gay porn or dead kittens. It’s quite another to hack someone’s brain and affect the way they think, feel, and behave.

I don’t doubt for a second that those behind the brain implant industry, such as Neuralink, will do everything they can to prevent this. I also don’t doubt that there will be other, less ethical individuals will work just as hard to frustrate those people. I’m sure Elon Musk has nightmares about the kind of horrors hackers will unleash with brain implants. It makes his desire to go to Mars almost seem logical.

As such, we’re going to need new laws on the books to govern the use and impact of brain implants. That tends to happen with every major advancement. From cars to computers, a civilized society needs some mechanism for governing new technology. With brain implants, though, that mechanism may get unusually personal.

Think back to that scenario I described earlier. Now, imagine one of the individuals getting married was that bitter ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend from high school. I’m talking about the kind of person who will set fire to a car and send dead animals in the mail to someone who refuses to reciprocate or affirm their emotions.

Imagine that kind of person knowing it was possible to induce false emotions in someone. Like the evil prince or witch in every Disney movie, they have a mechanism for casting a real, non-magical love spell on someone to make them feel exactly what they want them to feel. Unlike the world of Disney, though, it won’t be undone by kissing a toad.

Given the insane lengths to which people will go for love, it’s entirely plausible that someone would use a brain implant to create fake emotions in people who refuse to love them willingly. It’s also plausible that those same people will push that kind of brain hacking to insane degrees.

It means someone could effectively rewire their spouse’s brain so that they act as a slave. Their entire sense of identity, will, and autonomy is subverted. Their entire lives are effectively stolen and controlled by the hacker. While they would not realize this until their brain was un-hacked, assuming that was possible, it would be the most coercive, manipulative act it’s possible to do to another person.

Granted, there may be some societies that wouldn’t mind this sort of thing. I’m sure there are sociopathic dictators in the world who would love to hack the brain of every citizen into loving them without question. For most ordinary people who aren’t in charge of their own countries, though, it’s a terrifying thought.

That means it will probably be necessary for both industries like Neuralink and major governments to deal with this possibility. It’s hard to know what form that will take. Perhaps every brain implant will require some sort of kill-switch. Perhaps certain functions need to be sanctioned and re-sanctioned by a doctor or official.

It’s hard to say and I’m certainly not smart enough to figure it out. I imagine men like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have already given it way more thought than I ever will. Whatever form it takes, though, it will force us to change our understanding of love, sex, and how we relate to each other.

The stakes our high, but the situation is simple. If we’re going to love each other and make love to each other in enhanced ways, then we had damn well better be sure those feelings are ours and not those of some asshole hacker.

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Quality Marriage Advice (From Bill Murray)

In general, you should never take advice from celebrities. That’s not to say that all celebrities are stupid, although some are way dumber than anyone famous should ever be. The problem is that most celebrities are so detached from reality that their ability to understand and relate to 98 percent of the human population is hopelessly destroyed.

Then, there’s Bill Murray, also known to the internet as Bill fucking Murray. To say he’s a unique character would be like saying porn stars are somewhat lacking in modesty. He’s a Hollywood legend and for good reason.

He’s been making movies and starring in TV shows for 40 years. He famously doesn’t have an agent. He doesn’t demand the celebrity treatment wherever he goes. He’s also been known to wander into random places, including karaoke bars and the goddamn White House.

There’s no question. Bill Murray is a character unto himself. So when he gives advice, it’s worth listening to. While there are all sorts of crazy stories about his antics, one in particular stands out, especially for an aspiring erotica/romance writer.

It’s a somewhat famous story involving a bachelor party that he randomly wandered into. It happened back in 2014 in Charleston, South Carolina. The circumstances are somewhat unclear, as is often the case whenever Bill Murray wanders into a scene. However, at some point in the process, he gives the groom, his friends, and everyone everywhere who thinks about getting married some timeless advice.

“If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t do… don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s make a date. Let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”

Excuse me while I wipe away some tears of joy, astonishment, and wisdom from my eyes. Take a moment to think about what this former Ghostbuster and weatherman is saying. It’s not just revealing. It’s downright profound.

When most people fall in love, the natural inclination is to try and make everything easier. When we’re in love, we tend to do anything and everything to facilitate that love so it can blossom. I’ve certainly done that in my own relationships. I’ve seen friends and close family do the same. It makes sense. You find someone to love and you try to make it easy for both of you.

Bill Murray, on the other hand, is saying to do the opposite and weirdly enough, it makes even more sense. He’s telling us to not make things easier. He encourages us to make things harder and to put ourselves and our lovers in new, stressful situations. By traveling beyond the places we can control, you and your lover are going to see each other at their worst and least pleasant.

fucking bill murray 11 Bill F$%^ing Murray (24 Photos)

Therein lies the key, though. It’s something only a man of Bill Murray’s experience, persona, and wisdom could possibly uncover. When you’re in love with someone, it’s easy to make it work when you go out of your way to avoid new, stressful situations. The real challenge comes when things are difficult. That’s when you find out who you and your lover truly are.

By putting yourself in those stressful situations, be it travel or new experiences, you find out just how well you work together. If you only work when things are good, then that’s a problem because things aren’t always going to be good. That’s just not the nature of life in general.

If, however, you and your lover can make it through all those difficulties and still want to marry each other, then that’s as clear a sign as you’ll ever get. You and that person love each other. Your love is the strong, special kind that I seek to capture in my novels. You don’t need a fancy wedding or an elaborate honeymoon to vindicate your love. Just get married at the airport. Your love has already proven itself.

fucking bill murray 5 Bill F$%^ing Murray (24 Photos)

Say what you want about celebrities and the terrible influence they have on our culture. There are still a select few that make our world and our love lives inherently richer. Bill Murray is definitely among those select few.

So to all those in love, or just those who enjoy writing about it, please heed the advice of Hollywood’s most unusual characters. Being in love and knowing whether that love is real can be hard. However, when you’re have the wisdom of Bill Murray guiding you, our hearts and our funny bones are inherently stronger.

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Should We Marry For Love? Wait What?!?!

Should we really marry the person we love? That’s not a rhetorical question. That’s not the beginning of some elaborate joke or rant either. It’s an actual, honest question that we, as a society, stopped asking very recently in the grand scheme of things.

As an erotica/romance writer, these kinds of questions are pretty darn relevant. The way people see love, marriage, sex, and everything in between shapes the novels I write. I’ve written several books thus far, but I’ve never really dealt with this question directly. Given the rate at which the concepts of marriage and love are changing, this question is pretty important.

So why is it relevant to begin with? Why should this be a controversial issue? Well, contrary to what registered republicans and the church would have us believe, the modern concept of traditional marriage isn’t that traditional.

In fact, for most of human history, marrying for love was the exception and not the norm. For some people, the very idea of marrying for love was an affront to marriage itself. There’s even an old Egyptian proverb that says:

“One who marries for love alone will have bad days, but good nights.”

Let that sink in for a moment. Up until very recently, and by recently I mean the 17th century in Europe, people didn’t marry for love. They married because it was just part of how old, pre-industrial societies worked. From Europe to China, most marriages were arranged by families. Sometimes, the bride and groom didn’t even meet each other until their wedding day.

This was because marriage was not seen as a romantic gesture. It was seen as a cooperative partnership, of sorts, between families. You didn’t marry your spouse as much as you married into their family. It was how pre-modern societies ensured a proper exchange of property, bloodlines, and procreation.

That’s not to say love was completely absent. Ideally, the hope was that a couple would marry first and then fall in love. It may seem backwards today, but that was the ideal espoused in the past.

Why was this? Why was love divorced from marriage, if that’s not too loaded a term? Well, there is a social and political reason for that, one that a brilliant woman named Stephanie Coontz articulates far better than I ever could. She explains:

In some cultures and times, true love was actually thought to be incompatible with marriage. Plato believed love was a wonderful emotion that led men to behave honorably. But the Greek philosopher was referring not to the love of women, “such as the meaner men feel,” but to the love of one man for another.

Other societies considered it good if love developed after marriage or thought love should be factored in along with the more serious considerations involved in choosing a mate. But even when past societies did welcome or encourage married love, they kept it on a short leash. Couples were not to put their feelings for each other above more important commitments, such as their ties to parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors, or God.

In ancient India, falling in love before marriage was seen as a disruptive, almost antisocial act. The Greeks thought lovesickness was a type of insanity, a view that was adopted by medieval commentators in Europe. In the Middle Ages the French defined love as a “derangement of the mind” that could be cured by sexual intercourse, either with the loved one or with a different partner.4 This cure assumed, as Oscar Wilde once put it, that the quickest way to conquer yearning and temptation was to yield immediately and move on to more important matters.

In China, excessive love between husband and wife was seen as a threat to the solidarity of the extended family. Parents could force a son to divorce his wife if her behavior or work habits didn’t please them, whether or not he loved her. They could also require him take a concubine if his wife did not produce a son. If a son’s romantic attachment to his wife rivaled his parents’ claims on the couple’s time and labor, the parents might even send her back to her parents. In the Chinese language the term love did not traditionally apply to feelings between husband and wife. It was used to describe an illicit, socially disapproved relationship. In the 1920s a group of intellectuals invented a new word for love between spouses because they thought such a radical new idea required its own special label.

In Europe, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, adultery became idealized as the highest form of love among the aristocracy. According to the Countess of Champagne, it was impossible for true love to “exert its powers between two people who are married to each other.”

In twelfth-century France, Andreas Capellanus, chaplain to Countess Marie of Troyes, wrote a treatise on the principles of courtly love. The first rule was that “marriage is no real excuse for not loving.” But he meant loving someone outside the marriage. As late as the eighteenth century the French essayist Montaigne wrote that any man who was in love with his wife was a man so dull that no one else could love him.

It sounds as unromantic as it does unsexy, the idea that love is actually a liability in marriage, so much so that people in the past were shunned for loving their spouses too much. However, there is a context to consider.

These are pre-modern, pre-industrial, mostly-agrarian cultures where infant mortality is high, maternal mortality is high, and plagues are exceedingly common. Love, as anyone whoever listened to a Beatles song, is a very fickle emotion. It cannot be channeled, controlled, or changed. Some have tried, but most efforts fail. Just ask anyone who endured conversion therapy.

That kind of chaos just doesn’t fit in a society that is only one bad harvest or one nasty plague away from total collapse. These societies need to exert some level of social control in order to function.

Societies still change. Civilization, as we know it, changes with it. We no longer live in a society where such social control is necessary, but there are still plenty of societies all over the world where arranged, loveless marriages are common. Some will even claim that such marriages are better than love marriages.

It may sound ridiculous to the freedom-loving west, but think about it. Why go through the trouble of finding a spouse when your parents can just do it for you? Besides, who knows you better than your parents? Wouldn’t that save everyone a lot of time, energy, and heartbreak?

That last part wasn’t entirely sarcasm, but that’s the logic behind arranged marriages. The fact it’s still so prevalent all over the world indicates the logic isn’t entirely flawed. It also acknowledges that there are some fundamental issues with marrying for love.

As many writers far more accomplished than me have said, love is a very fickle emotion. It changes on a whim more than it lingers. You could love someone for 30 years and one day find someone else you love even more. It happens. That’s what love can do. That’s why it’s so scary/amazing/powerful.

There’s no doubt that marriage, as an institution, is destined to change even more than it already has. Every church, mosque, and synagogue may fight it. Every social conservative may oppose it. That still won’t stop it. The institution will keep changing, probably in ways that nobody, especially not an aspiring erotica/romance writer, can predict.

This brings me back to my original question. Should we marry for love? Should marriage even be connected to love? It’s as serious a question as anyone can ask, regardless of time period or generation. It’s also a question that we, as a society, will have to answer at some point in our lives. Let’s hope we answer it right.

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Do We Expect Too Much Of Our Lovers?

When it comes to our ideal lover, most of us know what we want. In fact, what we want should be pretty damn clear, given that it’s laid out perfectly in every song ever made by Taylor Swift, the Beatles, and the Backstreet Boys.

We want our lover to be our everything. We want them to always be there for us. We want them to be 100 percent dedicated to us so we can be 100 percent dedicated to them. We want them to be the center of our world and everything orbiting around it. We want them to give us all the love, passion, and sex we want from now until the end of time. Is that really so much to ask?

Try and look at those demands without the aid of music or screaming fans. Read over them carefully. Think about them without imagining someone like Taylor Swift or Paul McCartney making them sound so sweet and appealing. Is that really a reasonable expectation to put on any human being, no matter how much you love them?

That’s a serious question that too few want to ask, let alone answer. Most people would rather listen to more sappy love songs and entertain fantasies of that perfect, ideal, completely devoted lover. Then, we’re somehow shocked and disappointed when we can’t find someone to be that devoted.

Setting aside, for a moment, that we don’t live in one big One Direction music video, this feels like one of those things where it’s impossible to see the forest from the trees and vice versa. It’s not just that popular culture has established so many unrealistic expectations about love, sex, marriage, and everything in between. There’s a certain disconnect in these expectations that seem to undermine the very concept of love.

This is one of the few disconnects that is pretty much the same for men, women, and those of unspecified gender. Men want a woman who is as devoted as Mother Teresa, but fucks like Jenna Jameson. Women want a man with status of a French aristocrat, but with the sexual prowess of Wilt Chamberlin. We may as well be asking for rich schizophrenic supermodel Olympian and there are only so many of those in the world.

This wholly unreasonable criteria also undermines some fundamental components of what love is and how it’s actually practiced in the real world. Wanting someone who is that devoted and that endowed doesn’t fit the profile of a mutual lover. It fits the profile of a super-powered butler/fuck buddy.

I know this may sound like the pot calling the kettle black because I write erotica/romance novels where some of those unreasonable expectations are explored. Some of my books deal with lovers who seem to check all the right boxes for each other. Some even involve actual superhuman abilities in matters of sex and love. I fully acknowledge that disconnect.

The difference is that my novels, as with most works of fiction, are molded in a fantasy world. These are worlds where it is possible for a princess to kiss a frog and have that frog turn into Hugh Jackman. Like pop songs, porn, and the lottery, they give others a means of entertaining this fantasy world, if only to escape from the frustrating realities of the real world.

That still doesn’t make the real world any less real. It doesn’t make our expectations surrounding sex and love less reasonable. So what’s the solution? How do we revise our expectations? Moreover, what exactly should we expect from our lovers?

To answer that, we need both caveman logic and a bit of context. In terms of context, we need to remember that up until the 18th century, most marriages and sexual partnerships were arranged and not chosen. In the same way we didn’t get to choose our parents, we didn’t get to choose our spouses either. Two family just got together, signed a contract, and that was as romantic as it ever got.

This worked fairly well for the many centuries wherein most of the human population lived on farms, barely knew anyone outside their small town or village, and were ruled by regional kings or despots. Then, we collectively decided that people should be able to choose who they marry, love, and spend their lives with. It’s actually more radical than it sounds and not in the Ninja Turtles sort of way.

Before this shift, the expectations were as low as the quality of an old Roger Corman movie. Your family picked your spouse. You’re then legally allowed to have sex with that spouse. If you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy it, but you kind of have to do it because the farm needs new workers and the local army needs new soldiers. The orgasms, if they come, are just a very nice bonus.

These being the expectations, it wasn’t hard to exceed them. Sometimes, arranged marriages do result in love. However, like orgasms, that’s a bonus and not an expectation. These days, we don’t just expect love and orgasms. We expect a goddamn superhero as our lover.

This gets even more ridiculous when you inject a little caveman logic into the mix. Out of necessity, our caveman ancestors operated in hunter/gatherer societies. One of the many key components of this society is that there could be no one superhero, white knight, or alpha male. Small bands of humans had to cooperate, share, and help each other.

This means two people and their children aren’t going to survive as well as a few dozen closely-knit groups. That two-person unit is just one stray bear attack away from being wiped out. With a tribe and a group, they’re better able to adapt and protect each other.

Why is that important? For one, it establishes a different set of expectations and those expectations extend to lovers, spouses, and children. Hunter/gatherer societies are fairly egalitarian in that one gender can’t treat another like a glorified pet and expect to survive. They need everyone to contribute. They need to be equals so they can share both resources and responsibilities.

This also means that strict monogamy isn’t always the best way to go. That’s not to say that these hunter/gatherer societies are some sort of hippie love fest that make for bad pornos and eccentric cults. It’s more likely that there’s a mix of polygamy and monogamy, but in either case, there’s a shared commitment to each other and the group.

This kind of balanced sharing doesn’t exactly jive with the “You Are My Everything” narrative that every Barry White song loves to convey. In fact, outside of an occasional X-men comic, a relationship of equals wherein neither partner does anything and everything for the other just isn’t seen as sexy enough.

I beg to differ. I believe this is the sexiest way that love and intimacy can manifest between partners. Whether they’re gay, straight, monogamous, or polygamous, a relationship of equals can accomplish more than any song, movie, or sitcom. If anything, those narratives only skew our expectations.

Look at any TV show or movie, be it animated or live-action, and the “happy” couple involved have the same problems. They can’t always deal with each other’s shit. They struggle to satisfy one another. In some cases, as in one particular sitcom, the differences are so toxic that the relationship would be downright unhealthy in the real world.

I know media tends to skew reality horribly, but it also creates the perceptions on which we build our expectations. If those expectations continue to fail us, then what are we to do? Are we setting ourselves up for romantic and sexual disappointment?

I try to take a more optimistic outlook on human affairs, even in matters of love and sex. I do think our expectations are changing, albeit slowly, and there’s only so much that music, TV, and movies can do to add luster to these lofty expectations.

The fact that there is a market for a relationships of equals, even if it is just an X-men comic, gives me hope that we as a species will find a way to improve our ability to love and be intimate in all the right ways and, most importantly, for all the right reasons.

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