Creepy Guy Part II: A Progressive Female Feminist Perspective

I would like to depart from the normal expression of my thoughts and hand the blog over to my oldest daughter, Rosie, a resident of London and passionate civil rights advocate. Rosie kindly gave me permission to post her impassioned private response to my latest blog entry concerning creepy guys. I received A LOT of feedback from this blog in many forms –conversations, emails, formal written responses, yet, in all, I believe her response strikes to the core of the issue that must be shared.

First, a few things to give some context:

  • In spite of the fact the primary intent of the blog was either poorly communicated or misunderstood, with said intent being the use of all generalized terms that tend to classify large groups of people in general, unproductive and stereotypical fashion, she does strike at the more troubling deeper societal concern: Patriarchal power and practice that many believe necessitates the need to identify the “creepy guy;” which, upon reflection, is a gravely more important issue than the stance one takes on the use of the word creep.
  • Secondly, it is important to note the “conversation” she refers to me having -it never happened -it was a facebook post, stating the creepiness of all older men, which was mistaken for a conversation. In reality, I never responded to the “facebooker” at all; yet Rosie’s points are still very well taken and appreciated.
  • Lastly, if you want to hear an EXCELLENT podcast from an expert on fear, Gavin de Becker, and in particular the fear women experience on a daily basis, this is a must listen. Quite frankly, as I come to a better understanding of this fear and educate myself, it simultaneously makes me both very sad and very angry. I so appreciate those like Rosie who can assertively state their point of view and better inform the rest of us all the while not taking shit from anyone. I wish we had more like her.

So sit back and allow my girl to unpack on her pops…

I just want to unpack my thoughts after I read your blog, so I’m not directly attacking your post or you as a writer at all, but it was a trigger for me, and these are the thoughts that I want to express after reading it. 

A woman told you about her experiences of unwanted sexual attention from men and you centered it on you. With privilege, sometimes what we need to do is listen.

As women, from the time we are sexualized in the eyes of society we experience ‘creepy’ men daily in the form of microaggressions. We are primed from our early teens to behave in ways that make us innately respond with non-aggression (out of fear) and de-escalate. This is basically instinct for most women.

This is from a well written piece on de-escalation, and how men can struggle to understand it: “Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s age actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore. We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation.”

But it doesn’t have to be as explicit as a threat. It can be a look, a comment, a smirk. The microaggressions women experience on a daily basis contribute to the institutionalised construct of patriarchy. Without the sexualization of women on the very micro of levels, the patriarchy wouldn’t exist. Think of sexism like building blocks, the first block is the ‘creepy’ look a man gives you that makes you feel unsafe, the next block is the slap on the ass, the next the threat when you rejected his date invitation, the next is the missed promotion and wage gap, so on and so forth until you have every element that contributes to the marginalization of women. When we are addressing institutions like sexism, every block must crumble, including the smallest of microaggressions, and women need to platform their voice and not de-escalate. We must feel safe to voice when we are receiving unwanted sexual attention from men, because this is beneficial for the macro. However, the trigger for most men is Not me! I’m not creepy! I’m not the problem!

Women do not owe you anything. Women are entitled to think someone is creepy. I know you would have not viewed this conversation as a big deal, but when a woman is telling you of her experiences of unwanted sexual attention, instead of victimizing yourself and tone-policing her (or language-policing in this instance), listen. It’s not about you – and the usage of the word creepy is not on our radar. We have other things to worry about (like smashing the patriarchy!)

Being ‘politically correct’ (or the preferred word, intersectional) is hard, and it’s not easy. The past year especially I’ve spent unpacking my privilege, my whiteness, and how that has affected my perceptions and experiences in every single aspect of my life. When a person of color says something that I view as attacking, and my first instinct is to defend myself (I’m not racist! I’m not the problem here! Not all white people! White people have struggles too you know!) and center it on myself because as white people that is what is taught and what is accepted our entire lives – that our experiences are more important and worthy of a voice (thus it’s an easy mode to default back on – and because you know how stubborn I am anyway). When in fact, the most valuable thing we can learn is “I hear you.” We need to start breaking those building blocks and learn to be an ally with even the most mundane of conversations. But it’s not easy because it’s so damn uncomfortable and tempting to go back to our default response – especially as we get older and think our worldviews are correct and solidified and that we have the right to shout the loudest. 

Sexism and racism are societal constructs. None of us want to consider that we might be sexist or racists on an individual level, but we must accept we have been brought up in a white supremacist patriarchy and we have innate privilege (white women do not hold male privilege as we don’t stand to benefit from the institution of patriarchy, but we hold white privilege, and this dynamic of power is strong). White people have always had a platform for their voices to be heard, white males particularly. I really love your writing, but I think it can be a little toxic when you are using your platform in a way that’s projecting males as ‘victims.’ There are other posts (on police and people of color) that were also difficult for me to read. We must always be unpacking our worldviews and how they are evolving and changing within the scope of intersectionality and feminism, in a personal and a communications context. I learned about privilege and intersectionality in my Intercultural Coms class – I’m really grateful my professor introduced that curriculum as it started to emerge academically, but I have so much more learning to do. We are all learning and we are all trying to do better; we all CAN do better and it starts with listening and with conversations and blog posts and so on.  

Here’s a really great article on being a ‘responsible’ devil’s advocate, I really recommend it: https://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2013/08/10/how-to-be-a-responsible-devils-advocate/

And here’s the de-escalation article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-kelly/the-thing-all-women-do-you-dont-know-about_b_8630416.html

Anyway, that has OBVIOUSLY digressed away from your blog post, which I am not attacking, but stuff I have wanted to share for a while, that you don’t have to take on board (and it’s fine if you don’t want to) but I wanted to unpack with you. 

I’m honored. Thank you.

Protests, Oral Sex, Coming Out, Being “Kinda” Gay and Compassion. Wow. What Just Happened?

Wow. Never before and perhaps never again.

Let me explain.

I really like to keep all my classes organic -with a point. I want the point to be made- yet keep open all the infinite ways the means by which it may be made. Typically the weirder the better, as I find students remember concepts much more vividly.

Be careful when you get what you want.

The class began rather normally and I did not see what was coming. Not a clue. In my traditional courses -as opposed to my hybrid/online course where there is very limited room for flexibility- we have opportunity to meander and “Golden Snake” quite a bit, particularly on days like this one when we are in between delivering speeches.

In general, the climate of this class is normally subdued and mellow. Not a quiet class, yet not a loud class either. Some students in the 18 member group have never talked at all…with these students I am the speech dentist, attempting to extract thoughts from their brains as painlessly as possible.

Not today. No need.

I began the 3 hour course with a lecture/discussion on the positives and negatives of the use of public protest as a means of political action. Such a lecture is quite relevant for a public speaking course as said protests carry a form of public speaking, not to mention the political process is on the forefront of nearly everyone’s mind at the moment.

I suppose it was not surprising that the discussion began to get heated. Going against my natural wiring, I did not assert my thoughts and opinions very much…there was no need as the class was providing the required fodder for spirited debate and discussion. I had the pleasure of acting as more moderator than instigator, clarifier over invigorator, and referee not player.

As the class purged their opinions on the current political climate and protests specifically, the discussion took a turn in the direction of LGBTQ when a normally quiet student, a 19 year-old lesbian (we had no idea until that moment) declared she was recently kicked out of her house by her conservative father upon revealing she was homosexual.

We discussed. We opined. We pondered. We empathized. We cared.

Then the strangest thing happened. An older and much more vocal student, who dropped hints during the semester of his religious affiliations and somewhat eccentric nature, informed the class he was a homosexual for a few years and really enjoyed oral sex with men during that period…yet he is straight and married now.

What. The. Fuck.

Did Captain Inappropriate just strike or what?

Aside from the obvious general bewilderment as to why one would even offer up that information to an entire class…how does a person turn gay and then straight again? Did he just really say that? Why?

This then sparked a conversation about being “kinda gay” and the spectrum of sexuality.

Perhaps it was just me that was bewildered concerning this seemingly out-of-place and strange comment- but then the floodgates opened. Another rather quiet student in the back of the class opened up about how she was sexually assaulted within the past year and her parents instructed her to not talk about it or tell anyone. She began crying…and crying…and crying.

This student was not a drama queen. Conversely, she is a stoic, tough, and strong young lady.  As she broke down, she confessed that this behavior was all an act as she DOES care what people think, she IS hurt and that her strained relationship with her mother is killing her inside. She recently signed up for the military -to escape- and is not telling her mother until the day she leaves.

We listened. And as the class gently responded to her, the tones of their voices drenched with empathy and love, I realized one can be untruthful with words, yet tones do not lie. This was real.

Then an older student, the class matriarch if you will, who came over from the Sudan 14 years ago, got up out of her seat and walked over to her just to hold her in her arms, as if perfectly scripted and brilliantly blocked out. And yes, the poetry of a woman from a “banned” country being the source of unity and love did not escape me.

The class was silent. Yet even the most silent of students would gingerly chime in a comment…comments that were poignant, soothing, and well, brilliant, as if something beyond the totality of the present individuals were guiding their tongues and caressing their minds.

The open confessions kept coming. A man opened up concerning his 16 year-old daughter who was recently stalked by an older man and was attempting to arrange an illicit affair with her; a young man, who just moments earlier was defending the recent Berkeley protestors and was visibly distraught, confessed he was bisexual while suffering from anxiety and depression on a daily basis…and could NEVER tell his parents for fear they would disown him.

It seemed everyone’s personality changed to accommodate this powerful dynamic that was taking place: The loud were quiet, the quiet just loud enough, and the apathetic empathetic.

I manufactured nothing. It was as if I jumped on this train and went along for the ride.

It was the most powerful 3 hours in my nearly 30 years of teaching.

We all were looking at each other with the facial expression suggesting, “What is happening right now?”

This was so much more than a “hippie dippie” Kumbaya moment. It was the kind of moment people pay hundreds of dollars per hour to a therapist to achieve.

Then the father of the 16 year-old suggested that perhaps this 3 hour lecture went full circle. As we began the day discussing the MACRO benefits and costs of a protest, we now realize the point of any protest must eventually benefit the MICRO of each of our lives.

If a macro protest is not undertaken with the ultimate objective to enrich what really matters in all our lives, for all people, for all countries -family, friends, love, trust, support, ie, the micro, it might just be a misguided protest.

A class that was divided minutes earlier came together and unified as our attention focused on what really matters, no matter our political associations or beliefs.

The class ended and the students slowly began filing out the door, changed to be sure, realizing something very special had just taken place.

I like to keep my lectures organic -with a point. And, on some days, the point is even made for me.

Dear Professor, I Cannot Support The Gays And “Lesbos”

As I was going through some old computer files, I ran across an email a former student sent to me a few years back…an email I forgot completely about.  As I reread her email the other day and my embedded response (in italics) to her position on homosexuality, I was reminded that ignorance and backward thinking still exist in our country–it just seems the political climate has changed so these folk tend to now shut up or utter their ignorance behind closed doors. So today I offer you this letter, complete with my various reactions to serve as a reminder  this continues to exist in profundity in our culture. I have left the letter in the original condition in which it was written…though the editor in me really wants to clean it up. I believe the poor spelling, grammar, and syntax might be more telling than anything else. I did create the use of paragraphs myself as it was hardly readable in its original condition.

Quite frankly, if this letter were written to me today, I may or may not take the time to respond. But it was not; it was when I was a bit younger and probably had a bit more hope than I currently possess. Or, hey, you may disagree with me and think she is on to something. If so, I would love to hear from you.

Dear Professor,

“I understand your point on committing adultery and gutton (gluttony?) and gossipers are not being addressed in 2010 but the same-sex marriage is (my point is not whether or not they are being addressed, rather they also violate “God’s laws” -as you understand them- thus where do we draw the line on what we enforce and what we do not?) and I just don’t agree with it, now aside from the Bible let’s say for instance If I didn’t believe in God I will still find it Very disgusting to see another man macking down another man in front of me (unfortunately, Civil Rights and laws cannot be mandated on what an individual might find offensive. I am sure many gays would prefer not to see you “macking down” on a male as well…though you are free to do so), I’m sorry it’s just not natural I mean it’s gross to me (many things in life are not “natural” as you contend…medicines, automobiles, prosthetics, books, etc. and yet we engage in these things constantly), I don’t care what’s fair to gays  because they don’t care what Fair to straights (so your bible tells you only to love those you like and who love you back? What happened to loving your enemy?), and it’s not fair for my kids to see that in my opinion (though you have already established you do not care what is fair).

If gay people were suppose to be gay, why is it that they CAN’T bear their own children the way a women can? NATURALLY but we find them all trying to adopt a child? (Should we restrict those straight couples who are unable to bear children the right to marry? Or couples that use birth control? Again, this is a very unnatural act) don’t people find that odd? (Again, no more odd than the millions who currently practice birth control for the purpose of not having children). They can’t bear children threw their rectum (does the inability to bear a child rectally undermine one’s rights and freedoms?) …two of the same sex have the same equipment, I mean to play catch you need a ball and glove not two balls or two gloves you’ll never catch anything. (Should we also outlaw oral sex? For this is sexual activity that will not bear children). The  body wasn’t made that way how does people think we all got here?!?!? (No one is suggesting everyone become gay). The big bang theory? like seriously, thats more of a miracle then God creating the Heavens and Earth don’t you think? (this is a red herring as creation vs. evolution is not the issue) lol

my husband and I were just talking about that yesterday Because my sister who I love dearly is a lesbo (the label is lesbian and I find your term to be offensive for many…name calling is not allowed in this course) and has questions for me like the ones you asked but really I’m not going to back up what I believe with reference from the bible or what have you That’s not necessary because people are going to believe and act as they want wether you prove it or not but in my opinion if man was suppose to be with man and women with women why can’t they bear their OWN children? (This issue has already been addressed) and their adopting children from what MAN and WOMEN created? My answer: “Because God gave us human beings that blessing to bear  are OWN children between man and women.”

I don’t Hate gay people or dislike them If you were gay I would totally talk to you and befriend you it doesn’t bother me, (that is absolutely awesome and great to read…definitely a step in the right direction) I just won’t help legalize something I don’t agree with I just don’t accept their ways and I will never consider them either and this topic of discussion can go on and on but I have understood, let people who are confused with their sexuality be confused and let them find their way and if they never do that’s their problem not mine cause I’m straight (whatever happened to the concept of compassion?) I’m not and will not confuse the generation that I had come out my body naturally “my four children” to believe such a thing I have answers as a straight person too, you know gay people to me always play the victims but I’m a victim too 🙂 (I believe you cannot speak for all gay people…this is called stereotyping) and another thing I don’t understand is why they want to get married anyway it’s a covenant under God which how it was originally before people started making their own rules and laws. (Does not divorce break this covenant? Should we outlaw divorce because it is not part of God’s covenant? In our country, marriage is a legal contract that does not even have to be religiously based.)

This is a crazy subject and I will not have a open mind to the gay life style even if someone panted it with pink and white poka dots 🙂 (This is called dogmatic thinking; it is probably the type of thinking of the majority of people) I just think it strange but I love everyone regardless of what status they have of lifestyle they choose but I just don’t choose to help legalize it for my own reasons, I’m not a mean person either lol or a confrontational person 🙂 (someone who is not mean or confrontational would never feel the need to claim they are not) I just won’t budge on what I believe 🙂 sorry this isn’t to offend anyone just my opinion and not a fan of pro 8 that’s all”

Hmmmm, maybe I should just stop going through old files.

Or maybe it is a really good exercise to practice arguing with unreasonable arguments that we might think do not warrant a response.

 

The 5 Things I Learned While Wearing A Dress All Day As A Man

I love to challenge my students in regards to beliefs, societal norms, and cultural expectations.  As a strong proponent of new experiences and change, I frequently find myself encouraging others to try something different in order to gain new perspectives.  I believe this to be of particular importance the older we get—as opening ourselves up to new information and experiences truly helps to keep our minds fresh and challenged.

So, this past week when I challenged a particularly effeminate male student, who basically despises everything masculine, to open himself up to new “macho” experiences in which he may feel uncomfortable, going to an NFL game for example, he cringed.  It occurred to me that perhaps that could be too much, too soon. So I reconsidered.

“Ok, Jack,” I stated, “if you wear an NFL football jersey to class on Thursday, I will wear a dress…all day.”

As a man who has no interest in wearing women’s clothing, I somewhat instantly regretted my offer as he quickly took me up on it. However, I also have no interest in being a hypocrite. If I challenge my students to take on new experiences that go against their natural inclinations, why shouldn’t I?

It turned out to be one of the better ideas I have had in my life

So, the next day, I went with my daughter Tessa dress shopping (at The Good Will…. I knew I would likely never wear it again) who helped me pick out a nice red and black paisley with matching sleeves and a delicious plunging neckline.

And what did I learn from my day dressed as a woman?  5 things. 5 things I already knew at some superficial level, though experiencing it firsthand solidified and greatly deepened my understanding. I realize these lessons are very specifically from the United States perspective of cultural norms.

  • Wearing a dress all day gave me an unusually high level of awareness concerning my, ah, “junk.” A dress provides extremely easy access to the genital area while having to work fairly hard all day ensuring you are not the victim of public upskirt porn or the Marilyn Monroe style blown up dress.  Could it be that we made dresses for women the, essentially, cultural norm in a society that hyper-sexualizes them? I do not claim to be a student of fashion history, yet dresses certainly make women more easily sexually available from a practical, “let’s make this as accessible as possible” perspective. In the little bit of research I performed for this blog, it does appear that the voracious male sexual appetite has always played a central role in determining clothing norms.  Call me crazy, yet when you have to work all day ensuring your genitals do not fall out, a much greater cognizance of their presence is the natural result. As a man with pants we just tuck that bad boy away, zip up, and move on.
  • Wearing a dress all day made me feel somewhat scared and vulnerable.  As I walked through campus and endured the laughs, the dirty looks and even taunts (one young man said, “you wearing that dress makes me want to kiss you,” in jest, to be sure, though it still crossed his mind) I was not sure if I was even safe. Now I am quite certain if I did wear a dress everyday my level of sensitivity would decrease, yet this experience offered me a very small, yet profound insight into the vulnerability some disenfranchised others—such as the handicapped, effeminate males, “bull dike” lesbians or certain out-of-place ethnicities, may feel on a daily basis. Wow. I just wore a dress one day at a college campus as a stunt…while certain people have to live this as a way of life. This experience was surprisingly insightful and has given me a new perspective of cultural outliers.
  • Wearing a dress all day caused me to reach a higher level of critical understanding concerning cultural norms and practices. Why shouldn’t men wear dresses? It is just fabric that covers the body—which is really the entire purpose of clothing. Why have we attached such strong gender specific identification to clothing? It is just…CLOTHING. Who gives a flying f? Who was the council that got together and declared what is for men and what is for women… and what was the logic behind it? It makes absolutely no sense from a strictly “do things rationally for a valid reason” perspective. I realize that some men wear dresses as official garb, such as priests and supreme court justices, yet that is designed to place dress over existing clothing as to not let the outfit you are wearing underneath play any form of distraction in official proceedings. What other bullshit cultural norms do we we buy into everyday? This experience really has me thinking at a higher level of consciousness concerning what we do and why we do it.
  • Wearing a dress all day made me realize society has a double standard: Women can dress like men and it is socially acceptable though men cannot dress like women. Ok, my daughter, Tessa (the one who likes to go dress shopping for her dad)  disagrees with me on this one and I understand her point and do not necessarily disagree with it.  Her understanding is that this double-standard really is not a double-standard at all.  Men are the powerful in society and to emulate one through dress is acceptable; to emulate the less powerful is unacceptable—and perhaps this is true, yet, it still creates the same result —there is a stigma against males dressing as females, whatever the reason. Ruth Greyraven, a card toting member of the “female who dresses as male” club and biology professor at Crafton Hills College, had this to say about gender and clothing on Facebook:

Since 1968, I’ve been participating in a social experiment where I wear “men’s” clothes. I got sent home from school and threatened with expulsion the first few times, even when the outfit was a girlie-colored and femme-cut pantsuit. Times changed for women, but not as much for menwomen don’t get arrested for cross-dressing in this country. And a butch woman is far less likely to be beat to shit by queer bashers than a cross-dressing guy.

Agreed Ruth. In my courses, most female students do not wear dresses, rather, mostly, jeans and a t-shirt…traditional guy clothing. However, to my point above, why does this double-standard even exist? Clothing should not be an issue in the first place. Wearing a dress all day reaffirmed my commitment to continually challenge myself and others to test all cultural norms. Why? Not to be different, arrogant, unwilling or defiant—rather for the purpose of assisting the evolution of culture to be more loving and accepting of others, and, secondly, for the purpose of personal growth. As mentioned above, what else are we doing in 2016 that is traditional though not logical; unacceptable but with no basis; insensitive and for no good reason? Clothing is likely just one cultural contradiction of many.

So there you have it, my day dressed as a woman, in a dress. I had absolutely no idea the profound impact this would have on my psyche.

I dare you. Step out and explore new realms.  You will have no idea of the effects it may have on you, the individual, and culture, the collective. Jack did it…so can the rest of us.

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Cheating

Today, as I blog on the subject of relational cheating, I must say upfront what I am NOT saying: I do not encourage cheating, I do not condone cheating and I would strongly encourage you NOT to cheat on your partner. I blog today as one who is objectively looking at what I perceive to be a problem in society (and please argue with me on these perceptions!) and make some, perhaps, unpopular observations concerning the nature of relational cheating. I am trying to understand cheating and its role in society.  I am one who likes to look at what is happening without moral judgment -which tends to cloud productive and objective thinking.

Let’s get this party started, ya cheatin’ bastards.images

There is a fundamental rule I have learned in my lifetime: People are going to do whatever the hell they want to do and very little can be done to stop them.  As a society, we set up certain punishments and incentives to discourage or encourage certain behaviors with some degree of success, yet, I would argue, these punishments and incentives are not as effective as we might want to think or want them to be a great deal of the time.

Our prisons are filled with people who murder, rob banks, molest children, etc…in spite of the fact we have set up strong punishments for such people. Conversely, our government has set up certain financial incentives to save additional money in certain programs, Roth IRAs for example, yet millions do not take advantage of such programs while our savings rate as a nation is one of the lowest in the world, around 4.5% in 2013, 16th out of the 28 countries in this study.

Thus, we can conclude that for some, neither punishments nor incentives are necessarily indicators that behavior will be changed or altered. In terms of infidelity, obviously the threat of divorce or being the family pariah is not a strong enough punishment to dissuade many from cheating. In the end, the human being will act like a human being regardless of consequences. Why? We are getting there…

I blog today on an issue I once blogged about a couple of years ago–the fact that many people always have and always will cheat in their relationships. I do not want to sound like a broken record and simply rewrite what I wrote in my blog of nearly two years ago. In that blog I focused much more on people’s self-righteous indignation towards cheaters (and you will get a strong dose of that in this blog as well…at least I’m consistent), mainly directed at a website whose sole purpose is to make cheating “safe and easy.” Today I want to address the human condition of why people, of both genders, cheat, and offer my observations of the cheating world.

Today I begin with 3 fundamental questions: Why do people cheat, how many people cheat (an impossible number to figure out with great precision) and what, in fact, constitutes cheating -at least for the sake of this blog. I will work off a few basic assumptions that you may or may not agree with:

  • First off, though there are many reasons people may cheat, the primary reasons are sexual fulfillment, new emotional connections and newfound excitement in an otherwise mundane and dull relational existence. It simply spices up the main course meal of life. Many who cheat are still very much in love with their partner.
  • Secondly, the assumption is that A LOT of people cheat, much more than what we may currently think. Of course this is not a stretch as a contemporary “cheating” website was recently hacked and threatened to expose the name of all 37 MILLION, yes million, users. When one considers this is only 1 website of many, is it farfetched to conclude A LOT of people cheat, perhaps MOST people? I do not think it is. When you consider that most people who do cheat do not get caught and sure as hell are not going to tell anybody, the number of  cheaters -again, a number we can never be entirely sure of- is astronomically high. I am sure there are many more people cheating on their taxes than have ever been caught cheating on their taxes. Most of us might hate to admit it though cheating, can be argued, is a fairly normative human behavior.
  • The final assumption, for the sake of this blog, is that any physical intimacy -be it a one time make out session or ongoing affair- though certainly different in scope and potential fall out, are all considered cheating at some level in a traditional arrangement.

My first observation is this: When most people engage in a particular somewhat normative behavior, why do we demonize it and not simply accept it as part of the human condition? Maybe “cheating” is just a human being being a human being. Perhaps a more accurate term would be “human exploring,” as in, “She is one of the most notorious human explorers I know.” Homosexuality was once considered a disease, transgendered people were mentally sick and women were considered inferior to men. We evolve as a people when we let go of our biases and see reality for what it is -and it first comes with accepting the behavior of those (seemingly) different from us without judgment. Many evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and psychologists contend it is monogamy that goes against the grain of human nature, not cheating.

“But, wait Jimmy, I am human and I do not cheat.” Thank you, oh omniscient one. I’ll take your word for it…though read on. To this I respond that I am human and am not gay…though a lot of humans are. I am human and I am not asexual…though a lot of humans are. I am not into S&M…at least not tonight…but a lot of humans are. The human experience is vast and diverse -simply because someone does not share my personal proclivities does not make them any less human and certainly not any more or less moral.

My second observation concerns the indignant responses society has toward cheaters, errr, explorers (I promised you I would get there!). My thought is “thou protesteth too much.” Human beings tend to get the most riled up over issues they personally struggle with the most. Since most people have explored -or at the very least have had thoughts of exploring outside of traditional set-up- it is no wonder we project our own personal frustration onto others who have been caught. Our reactions may be generated by inward jealousy for those who have not cheated yet would love to, or, for those who have cheated it is just creating self-righteous theater to make you look like a monogamous hero. Just like the angry senator who consistently votes against gay rights only to be caught with a young male intern in a compromising position…same type of hypocrisy.

I am currently reading a book, Modern Romance, by Comedian Aziz Ansari…who wrote this book along with a number of respected academics and relational researchers. In the portion of the book dedicated to cheating, in particular the very high prevalence of it contrasted with the reaction of disgust towards it, he opines, “…when it comes to sex and relationships, what we believe in theory does not line up with what we do in practice…When you compare this level of disapproval with the data on the actual prevalence of cheating, it paints a strange picture. Do we really believe that all these masses of people who engage in affairs are moral monsters? That makes quite a lot of monsters. It seems that we reluctantly accept the act of cheating in our own lives while still condemning the practice at large.”

Preach it Aziz. Perhaps the only thing worse than a cheater is a hypocritical cheater.

When faced with a wall of insurmountable facts and data, humans tend to poo poo such evidence if it makes them feel discomfort or flies in the face of what they so desperately want to believe. Most prefer a shallow and unrealistic romance with illusions over and above a deep relationship with truth -and the truth is cheating is well within the realm of normal human behavior.

My third observation concerns a troubling traditional marriage contract between two people that forbids either of them to “explore” EVER and under no conditions. Why? Do we now own the other person upon commitment? I hate to go all 1970’s on your asses though we had a saying back then that suggested, “If you love something set it free.” Yes, technically it is “cheating” because most of society has drafted an unreasonable and unrealistic contract for the majority of people. Therefore the primary problem lies in the untenable contract much more than in the human beings who are just acting like, well, uh, human beings.

Or does it?

I am not convinced that hoping and aspiring to a very difficult goal, some might say a nearly impossible goal, is necessarily a bad thing. Yet, I am not saying it is a good thing either. To aspire to an objective that separates us from other animals, keeping our baser instincts controlled and intact may be a very positive venture for society in general, particularly the family structure. Yet, the downside is pretty strong as well…by aspiring to something that is very difficult to achieve and then being devastated when it is not realized comes with a very painful emotional price tag -not to mention lawyers fees and court costs. Ahhh…the tension. Still, in the end, I would say the costs of such aspiration outweigh the potential rewards of it.

I understand that many people have been hurt by the behavior known as “cheating.” I contend that it was not the “cheating” that was devastating, rather the above-mentioned social constructs we have created that placed certain expectations on certain types of relationships. Perhaps if we rid society of this expectation, cheating would become exploring (I know I am using that word a lot and do not care for it all that much…but the English language does not have word for a “cheater” that is not laced with hate and vitriol…let’s think of one kids) and we could all calm down and accept the human animal for what it is. In other words, we could become much more European -53% of the French believe exploring to be morally acceptable. Or Chilean, 33%. America? 16%. Americans are notorious for preferring devastating divorces over empathy and understanding…lawyers are thrilled.

In most of my courses the examinations are taken online with open books and open notes. I instruct my students that it is impossible to cheat…you can use anything you wish and you can even take the test together as a group. The confused students, who are conditioned like Pavlovian mutts to finding creative and inventive ways to cheat on exams, are often disarmed and bewildered. As the professor, I am relieved of my burden of detecting, finding and calling out cheaters. It’s nice. As a result, my classes often get together as a group in our library, collect their books and notes, open their exams together and then discuss and argue communication concepts for about an hour…it is a beautiful thing to see students working together in this way. I believe that they are learning FAR MORE than if I stuck with a traditional method of examinations.

I think you get the analogy.

The goal in my courses is student learning –nothing more, nothing less. I never want convention to get in the way of student learning. For most of us, I believe our goal in life is to be happy and fulfilled yet often our convention may get in the way of those simple goals. I am not talking about a relational free-for-all, rather a basic understanding and acceptance of how human beings operate- and it’s high time we stopped the self-righteous moral outrage.

So people are going to do whatever they hell they want to do. Can we all just accept that fact and move forward and act accordingly?

Relationship advice author Dan Savage, in his book American Savage, sums up my sentiments quite nicely: “I’m not saying that being cheated on by your spouse is not a big deal, or a violation, or a betrayal. It is all of those things. But if more people understood how difficult monogamy is over the long term, and how common cheating is, and if people were encouraged to assess the actual particulars of a particular adulterous incident rather than seeing all cheating as essentially equal…maybe more marriages would survive the nearly inevitable infidelity.”

Smart guy, that Savage.

I realize arguing that “cheating” /slash/ exploring as a fairly normative behavior and should be accepted as such is a very unromantic, nontraditional, and an uncomfortable position to take. Ironically I am in no way promoting cheating…I just want to look at reality, as uncomfortable as it may be, and help save relationships. The choice seems rather simple, we can either keep aspiring to a lofty goal and continue to be devastated or we can identify the true human condition, stop aspiring and accept the human being for what it is.

There you have it. My longest blog ever. I try to keep my blogs to a thousand words…I guess I cheated, errr, explored.

 

Prostitutes, Whores Or Escorts? Thoughts On The World’s Oldest Profession And My Encounter With a Real Life Lady Of The Night

whoreAs a Communication Studies professor, I believe I have heard nearly every subject matter on the planet there is designed to inform and/or persuade others. If I were to identify just a handful of the, “If-I-Hear-This-Speech-One-More-Time-I-Am- Going-To-Kill-Myself-And-Innocent-Bystanders-In-The-Process” type speeches, the list would go something like this:

  1. Give Blood
  2. Learn CPR
  3. Legalize Marijuana
  4. Practice Safe Sex
  5. Legalize Prostitution

Of course I kid with the killing myself part…and there are good reasons these subject matters are on the most common list–as they are really poignant and important. I suppose I just love original topics…yet I realize students in the class have not heard these topics delivered over 10,000 times, as I have, so they are certainly allowed to deliver such topics. In spite of the fact I personally abhor the redundancy, I realize these topics NEED to be addressed, particularly giving blood and CPR –as CPR saved my father’s life nearly 3 years ago.

Therefore I find it strange that I feel compelled to write a blog on one of these topics that so bore me…so why now?

I was at the gym on the treadmill (shocking!) watching an MSNBC show on the horrors of Prostitution.  Of course it was an overly dramatized, one-sided view that painted all women as victims and all men as scumbags, but what else is new?  Our eyeballs are drawn to drama…whether it is true or not. My point of view is this: When will the “World’s Oldest Profession” be honored and acknowledged as such? When do we finally accept it as part of the human condition and let it work better for everyone…solicitor and solitcee alike?

Why are so many human beings such self-serving, goddam hypocrites when it comes to issues of a sexual nature? If one more anti-gay Senator gets caught fondling his young male intern, the only standard we will have left to serve in government is double, as in double-standard.

From Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Services Union: “There…needs to be a shift in attitudes to agree that sexual expression, for the mature, can take the form of negotiating and paying for sexual services; that this activity is a privately protected right and is subject to the equal protection laws, for starters. If someone poses as a prostitute and rips off a customer, that should result in a prosecution for theft. Which is not the state we’re in right now.” These laws hurt everyone involved–from the abused prostitute to the one ripped off by the abusive prostitute.

Do I believe that human trafficking and abuse among prostitutes exists? Yes. Of course I do. Just as I believe exploitation and abuse exists in EVERY industry, be it religion, politics, the workforce, etc. This is why Samuel Gompers, so many years ago, created a union as human beings carry a natural propensity to exploit others. When and where do they exert this propensity of abuse? Whenever they can in whatever circumstances they can.

Yet there is no easier context for exploitation and abuse than the unregulated sex industry. Why? Because it is illegal.

If one were to use the exploited and abused argument to argue against prostitution–which is severely more pronounced in the sex industry than most others–I would contend that this argument provides an even stronger reason to legalize prostitution and allow them to form unions and benefit from law enforcement when needed.  Why? Because regardless of one’s personal moral stance on prostitution, it is going to happen anyway, with or without government protection.

Well, one could safely argue that an anti-legalization stance on prostitution is a stance AGAINST the protection and safety of women.

Consider the analogy of abortion, (please do not misunderstand, I hate abortion more than I hate divorce…but this is a different blog for a different day) regardless of one’s stance on this issue, they are going to happen anyway. We can either make it safe for women or not.

I often then get the question, “Well what if one of your daughters wanted to be a prostitute?” Like any job one of my children wanted to pursue, I would definitely want to make sure they have thought it completely through and are certain it is the right path for them. It would be no different for prostitution. I would want to be assured that she has thought it through completely and it is the correct path for her.

But we cannot just legalize immoral activity just because people are going to do it anyway. People rob banks, should we legalize that?”

Thanks omniscient arguer –though even you cannot argue successfully with Jimmy. Prostitution is a mutually consenting act between adults that benefits both parties–activities like robbing banks hurts other people.

But, hey, don’t take my word for it and why should you? I am not a prostitute.  So I went to interview a real, live “escort” of about 3 years, who works in the Southern California area. She happens to be an acquaintance of mine and gladly gave me permission to use her experiences in this blog…as long I did not mention her name.

So, prostitute, what about all those shows like MSNBC who show the dark side of prostitution?

“In every industry there is going to be an exploitation of labor. I am sure it happens in prostitution but it is a small percentage. It has never happened to me. I love my job,” she explained.

And what kind of ratings would a television show get if they interviewed people who are really happy and have no complaints and the fear of the universe was not coerced upon them? Pretty lousy.

So, Lady Of The Night, have you ever had a bad experience?

“Yes, once. About a year ago when a guy started to creep me out a bit. But it was not a problem. I just ran out the door.”

Not a bad batting average for an escort whose encounters are deep into the hundreds.

She explained that the key to successful escorting is finding the right madam (read: pimp) who screens all “Johns” and knows how to make the correct matches.

Of course, since all of this now has to be done in secret, it makes this process much more difficult and far riskier.

“I know this is something I can only do for a small window in my life,” explained the mid twenty-something escort, “I will probably be out of it in a couple of years. But it is good for me right now.”

Wow. She has never been hit, nor pressured, nor hurt, nor trafficked…in fact she is one of the happiest people I know who happens to make really good money. She is not scared, alone, uneducated, nor exploited. Quite the contrary, this self-empowered woman has a Bachelor’s Degree from one of the most prestigious Universities in the world.

Some might contend this particular escort is the exception. Perhaps…but would not the abused and exploited sex workers benefit from being able to climb out from under their rock and report abuse to authorities?

And what’s the downside to prostitution again?

Oh, yes. It’s illegal.

These are my thoughts on college students’ fifth favorite topic to speak about. The best part is that now if you ever want to speak on this matter, you have a really reliable source.

 

 

People Are Strange, When You’re A Stranger: Why I Love Weird People

“When pregnant people swim, they are a human submarine.”

I love different, strange and weird people. Why? Perhaps I am projecting a bit of myself onto others as I do consider myself a somewhat odd and eccentric type of person. Yet, the thing that I like most about strange and weird people is they are not caught up in the cultural mill of sameness and conformity. In an age where technology can do a lot of our thinking for us -many of us have google mental processors and Reddit, Yahoo, or Huffington Post perceptual filters- it is refreshing to hear of a person who processes, thinks and looks at life differently then the rest of us internet lemmings. In fact, I never really thought about the idea that:

“Beef jerky is like a meat raisin.”

Thus, whenever I may refer to one as weird or strange, make no mistake about it -that is a positive euphemistic gesture on my behalf…I cherish those who think differently. I am not suggesting I have a thing for, say, crazy homeless derelicts, rather for functioning and sane individuals who are not like me, or the rest of humanity for that matter.  They just process thoughts differently. They march to the beat of their own weird-ass metronome. You might say they pedal to the speed of a different bike. Speaking of which:

Bikes are acoustic motorcycles.

Perhaps the quality I appreciate most in strange people is that embracing quality of self-acceptance. Some are different and strange while being uncomfortable in that different and strange skin. The strange people I prefer are those who are strange and they not only know it, they accept it as part of their very being. They do not run and hide; they take that weirdness and call it their own. They can even be eating a simple bowl of rice and see the world differently:

Rice is great when you’re hungry and you want to eat 2000 of something.”

So I introduce you to my weird friend and strange former student, Jill-Lima Bean-Vikki, who from now on I will lovingly refer to as JLBV. JLBV is unlike any student in my professorial tenure. She is one of the sanest and smartest, yet different, students I have ever had. I have had plenty of dangerous “crazies,” of which JLBV is not a member. Insane former students of mine have taken a knife to the artwork at a college art show (as one painting dared to reveal a naked breast), while another threatened to shoot up the school campus and was later arrested for having an apartment full of ammunition. Yes, this armed student was in my class and he did not appreciate the grade I gave him on all his overtly, fundamentalist religious speeches. The point is this: I know weird and I know crazy. JLBV, somewhat like myself, is just weird. A good weird. A very, very good weird. She has paid the devil his due…or has she?

If you don’t pay your exorcist then you get repossessed.”

Jill-Lima Bean-Vikki has 3 names because in the first class she took with me everyone in class agreed she looked like a Jill…so she gladly went with it. In a second class she took with me I had students give me the name they preferred to be called…she chose Lima Bean. Finally, I guess Vikki is her parental given moniker, her Christian name you might say. All this being said, if you were to try to find her on facebook, it would be under the name Thrill-Seeker. Ah the many faces of JLBV! Regardless of what you call her, she cannot even go grocery shopping without thinking of something weird…really weird:

When you go food shopping you are just buying supplies for this week’s poops.”

I guess I never really thought of it that way before.

If you have not guessed it so far, these italicized quotes are “JLBV-isms” coming straight from the mind of her strange self.  Not surprisingly, JLBV works in the circus among other freaks just like her. She is a delightful, chill to-the-max, mellow young lady who is pleasant as all hell to be around.  You cannot NOT like her, as there is nothing about her to dislike…unless, of course, you dislike weird…and those who can play fun games with words:

French pancakes give me the crepes.

I have always found this “A” student to be a different type of delight. Then, in an Interpersonal Communication course one day last year, she revealed to the entire class, in one of the most interesting and informative speeches I have ever heard, that she is asexual… meaning that she has no sexual desires for either males nor females. In other words, if she were at a restaurant serving sexuality, when it came her turn to order she would tell the server, “I’m good.” She also knows how to ask the right questions:

Do you think babies get cold? Or are they womb temperature?

There are a lot of misunderstandings and myths surrounding the orientation of asexuality that this article and accompanying comic clear up.  Yet JLBV is the first one who will clear things up for you as she is open and honest about her orientation. Personally, I believe asexuality to be a really sweet orientation in terms of simplifying one’s life—as sexual attraction can be the knife-in-the-heart, really fuck-your-life-up activity that carries great reward at often times a very steep price. Frankly, her asexuality is neither here nor there in terms of what makes her unique and special, it is just another cog in her wheel of being different as she constantly questions what is and what is not socially acceptable:

Apple sauce is just baby food that is socially acceptable for everyone to eat.

So, with my tribute to the one and only JLBV, it may seem she is in some sort of trouble or has a life ending illness or some shit. Nope—at least none that I am aware of. She is good. Healthy, happy, hardy and hip…she is doing just fine.  Much better than some chemicals, because:

“When chemicals die, they barium.”

So why do I write of her? I think we all can learn things from interesting people. From JLBV, we can learn the importance of being our unique self, embracing our unique self and offering our unique self as a gift to the world. To 858690_10202219558478576_3050842345386289969_oaccept self is the greatest gift we can give to our self…this is not to suggest we do not all have some sort of character deficiencies we need to work on and fine tune, though the very essence of self needs to be embraced, loved and nurtured. JLBV is a great example of this.

OUR CULTURE NEEDS WEIRD!! We are turning into Social Media robots…save us JLBV!! Perhaps my final JLBV-ism sums up good advice for the rest of us:

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into it… I just don’t think being an adult is gonna work for me.”

Sage advice my friend. And my advice to you? Stay weird…we love it and need it.

We need new and original thought forms. So perhaps it is ironic that I summarize this blog with a particularly poignant quote from another brilliant mind:

“To thy own self be true.”

 

 

 

 

The London Professors: When Communication and Psychology Collide

episodewhateverPlease join the podcast for a discussion with fellow London and Human Sexuality Professor, Dr. Ken Guttman, as we discuss sex (duh!), education, studying abroad, and what students should call us…amidst many other topics.  Though you cannot tell, his eyes are beautifu, believe mel. Help me Jordan!

 

The Gay: A Progressive Approach To Instructing The Conservative Mind

I must say that I am getting both simultaneously softer and harder, accepting and rejecting, in my old age.  Softer and accepting in the sense I really love people of all different varieties yet harder in the sense of catching a serious case of the TOFTS (must read that blog if you have not) as in, “Too Old For This Shit.”

 

This soft/hard dichotomy was never more evident than just a few days ago while teaching an online course for a private University. Each year I teach this persuasion course (which I have done for many years), within the first five online minutes, many conservative students will voice his or her strong aversion to homosexuality. Did I ask for their opinion on this matter? No. Did I bring up the subject at all? No. Do I ever talk about any sexual issues of any kind in the course? Believe it or not, no.

 

I strongly suspect it may be a case of “thou protesteth too much.” But what do I know? I do know anti-gayness seems to be, no, IS, the rallying crowd favorite issue in many conservative religious circles.

 

I have seen this trend for many years yet for some reason this year I have had enough of this crazed, obsessive, homophobic slander.  At first, I just wanted to log-off, send in my resignation and say “sayonara” to some mean-spirited, gay haters–-yet that was the TOFTS side of me thinking as I do not have any more time in my life for narrow minded ignorance.

 antirainbow

However, that softer and sensitive side of me realized that ignorance does not necessarily imply mean-spirited nor that those who might disagree with my take come from a place of meanness, even if it does result in oppressing a large group of people. So I guess I did what any decent educator should try to do: Educate. Share some ideas and understanding.

 

Today I want to share with you my attempt to educate conservative religious students on the issue of homosexuality in America. Look, I know some think it is sinful behavior and all, yet this is America and we all retain the right to engage in legally protected sins, thank God; outlawing all sin would have a devastating effect on the economy, not to mention my personal life.

 

So this is a letter I included in my lecture last week. Keep in mind these are are extremely intelligent students, most of whom are professionals and older than the Community College crowd. They have good hearts and intentions…I think.

 

Hello All…
I must say that each year I teach this course the issue of homosexuality gets brought up within the first few strokes of the keyboard, like clockwork, and I ask myself why? I never bring up the subject. It is not provoked. Why it is always homosexuality first and foremost served up as the primary example of corruption in American Society?  It would seem like we are quite selective in the “sins” we want to rail against and the “sins” we do not. Why do we not first and foremost rail against the corrupt Wall Street investors who steal billions of dollars of people’s hard earned retirement money? Or the sleazes that engage in underage sex trafficking? Or even the bully politician who shuts down a bridge for corrupt political payback while making stressed thousands late for work? What about the pimps who mistreat women?  The murderers and thieves? Why are not some these groups first and foremost? No, it is the gay.
I am so pleased to hear a few of you bring up the idea of love. I am a person who believes in love first and foremost. As one who has family members who are gay and have seen the discrimination up close and personal, the last thing I would want to do is hurt or marginalize any minority community, whether I personally agree with them or not. If one is against homosexuality then do not practice homosexuality; it is that simple. I am far more interested in railing against those who would steal from me, hurt me or exploit the weak than those with a different sexual orientation than my own.
It is important to keep in mind that we live in a pluralistic, democratic society that is built on free speech and tolerance of diverse groups and opinions. It sounds to me like some of you are claiming—and dreading—that we are evolving into a closed, intolerant society as you simultaneously speak out against the rights of the homosexual community. Can we see the irony here? If we fight for the rights of some and not the rights of others, are we not part of the democratic problem instead of the solution? Again, we live in a democracy (of sorts) not a theocracy. When do we realize that homosexuals have as much right to their lives (democratically) as anyone else? It sounds to me like it is THIS thinking that is promoting a closed and intolerant society. So society should/can discriminate against the homosexual but absolutely cannot discriminate against the Christian? What is the logic behind this?
It was written in a response, “As  a result the bakers were placed in a very precarious position since to agree to bake a cake for this homosexual couple would be to support and facilitate the mockery of true of true biblical marriage.” We must remember that many in our country are not interested in “true biblical marriage” and they have every right not to be interested in true biblical marriage. As a US citizen, this is their constitutional right.  In addition, I fail to see how baking a cake for anyone supports anything except the flour and sugar industry, and eventually Jenny Craig, even perhaps the insulin makers–but the gay community? The baker’s job is to bake a cake, not take a moral stand for or against anything. One could even argue the baker and his cake is far morally worse for society as it serves to fatten us and clog our arteries leading to obesity and heart disease. The gay is, well, just gay.
As this is a course in persuasion, we must get to the heart of the persuasive process in American society. Persuasion is all about enacting change in others towards our purpose and objective. As a critical thinker, one has to look at the strategies engaged thus far concerning homosexual rights and have an honest self-reflective dialogue on the results. As more and more states legalize gay marriage, we must consider if these anti-gay strategies –such as California’s Prop 8 in 2008, the overall vehement anti-gay dialogue, and situations like the baker refusing to bake a gay couple a cake, have been effective.
I think most us would agree they have not.  Homosexual rights are only the rise.  
Gays do not flock to Christ because they are refused a baked good.
Therefore, what is a good persuader to do? It seems to me we have several options: First, reexamine the strategies we have been using and seek more effective ones; secondly, keep doing what we have been doing yet likely only to yield the same results; or finally, reexamine the overall nature of the objective in the first place. What is the great threat of gay community? If the objective is to “win” all people to Christ, how does denying a group their rights assist in that process?  It would seem intuitively to me to have the opposite effect.
I certainly do not expect everyone in this course to agree with me; in fact, I would hope not. Disagreement and having different understandings of people, concepts, ideas and issues are what make this country great. Engaging and being open-minded to different ideas are the foundation of critical thinking skills.  The important thing is that we stand up for the rights of these concepts, ideas and issues to be expressed and heard. If we want the right, we must fight for the right for all.
Sincerely,
Prof

Sex! Nudity! Cheating! This and Other Affairs….The World According to Ashley & Madison

Recently, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the quite interesting and provocative guest for the hour was AshelyMadison.com founder and owner, Noel Biderman.

For those of you unaware of AshleyMadison.com, (good for you!!) it is essentially a dating website for “cheating” married spouses. The site assists those wanting an extramarital affair in the process… akin to secretly opening up the textbook for people taking a closed book examination.

AshleyMadison.com unabashedly proclaims to be the “most successful website for finding affairs and cheating partners,” boasting over 22 million members in 25 countries.

Ashley Madison

I can only conclude there are a  lot of people taking closed book tests who prefer to secretly use their cheats sheet underhandedly.  Humans just like cheating. Sneaky devils.

The first reaction of many towards Biderman and AshelyMadison.com is one of disgust.  The name Noel Biderman and words such as scum, repulsive, sick, and messages relating ideas of how decadent the world has become are frequently found in the same sentence.  Is that fair? For this is why I blog…to ask such questions. In a world where so many seek out extramarital affairs and one comes along to provide an easier and more efficient means to achieve it, well,  are such labels warranted? Hmmmmm…

Let’s take a looksee  at this among other things, shall we?

According to Biderman, “We can’t create consumption like most businesses. We can’t convince people to have an affair. We don’t try.

But we can provide a credible, confidential, avenue for people who want to have an affair. think about it: The traditional ways people went about have affairs were definitely not effective. They were having affairs in the workplace. Or they were having affairs within their circle of friends. Think about how well those tend to work out.

So our mission was to say that if you’re thinking about having an affair you’re not alone. It’s part of the human condition. We’ll help you meet someone and not get caught. If you want to be clandestine, we’re an intelligent choice.”

So Mr. Biderman, you are married with children, what if you caught YOUR spouse cheating on you?

“I would be devastated. But I would not blame a website or inanimate object.”

Touche’ oh soul less one. Or is he?

Damn there are so many different ways to go with this topic; we could discuss business ethics, sexuality, monogamy, marriage, polyamory, the list goes on people.

What I find most fascinating (and I find a LOT fascinating regarding this topic) about AshleyMadion and Biderman is the response he receives from so many.

As mentioned, emotionally charged words such as sick, twisted, reprehensible, etc… are used to describe this whole endeavor. And that is what fascinates me most….the self-righteous, indignant, disgusted response. Can’t we even think about it rationally for a moment before the indignation?

Here are a couple of examples of such responses taken from a blog after an interview with Biderman:

“…to all his followers/people who have signed up to Ashley Madison, hope karma comes your way very soon. This sort of thing just shows how messed up the world is becoming.

Or, even more succinctly:

“This guy is scum. You shouldn’t promote businesses that promote infidelity. Pathetic.”

Ok, I get it.  “Cheating” sucks and devastates marriages. 

Perhaps we can look at it from an analogous perspective. Heroine also sucks and devastates lives…no one, including Biderman, is arguing this point of it sucking and being devastating.

So just because we are against the use of heroine does not necessarily imply we are against giving clean needles to drug abusers to help stop the spread of disease.  Likewise, we may not be for minors having sex yet it would be reasonable in the “real world” to want teenagers to have access to birth control. So does it not stand to reason that an argument can be made that people are going to cheat regardless -so Biderman provides a safer and, arguably,  less destructive way to do it?

Can at least we have a discussion before everyone gets all high and mighty on our ass?

This final blog comment reflects everything I love in a critical thinker. It is not for nor it is against; it asks the questions to promote a civil and rational dialogue:

“Very interesting indeed, and on the business front, certainly much to take away from it. Market segmentation and niche are essential business survival tools nowadays.

Though within the business culture, there does remain a question of what is acceptable. If people are going to make the mistake all the same, is it alright – and I dare say, moral – to profiteer off of it? The ends of the spectrum are too far apart for one standardized answer, but it certainly raises a question when boundaries of social dynamics are breached and when such an act is legitimized, better yet, facilitated. I would not argue for or against at the moment, but I would simply struggle with the CEO dismissing the issue so indifferently.

Great post indeed! Food for thought.”

I freaking love this guy, or gal, because dialogue is so damn important.

Can’t we all approach all issues in this same level-headed manner? Or would that just make  us to “Spock-ian?”

Ashley Madison ad

So, my take:

I would tend to agree with the overall tone of this last response.  The respondent asks some very good questions riding the tension between business ethics and consumer demand. However, if the problem is cheating and millions of people do it all the time, perhaps there is a far more fundamental problem in society… AshleyMadison.com is just a symptom of deeper more socially cancerous issue. It has 22 million members in 25 countries and this is just one of THOUSANDS of such sites; it is only the tip of the cheating iceberg,  Now if we include all those who still prefer to cheat the old-fashioned way, the cheating non-techies by way of pool man, cabana boy and those old schoolers who still put the secret in secretary, we have an epidemic on our hands.

Maybe we need more civil dialogue about relationships, fidelity, sexuality and realistic expectations?

If cheating is the problem (effect), a certain dissatisfaction -at some level- must be the cause. What is that dissatisfaction and let’s TALK about THAT.

Perhaps we need to reexamine traditional marriage as so many see it? To learn how to become satisfied and honest partners in a relationship?

Maybe we need to ask ourselves what the roles of complete transparency and honesty mean in a relationship.

Maybe we need to be asking why society keeps accepting the tradition of marriage as we know it, when it fails so miserably at so many different levels for so many different people.

Perhaps we need NOT be discussing the social acceptability/morality of an AshleyMadison, rather we need to be asking WHY so many people want and do cheat.

Perhaps we need more classes with open book tests?

Get to the bigger issue and sites like AshleyMadison will eventually go away. All they are doing now is exploiting and feeding off society’s dystopian vision and dysfunctional view of love and relationships. What is that dystopian vision and dysfunctional view? I will not address that (at least in this blog), yet all the evidence points to something gone terribly wrong.

Above all, these types of questions need to be discussed amidst a conversational context and tone of reason, openness and honesty without judgment. Or we will just continue the insanity and keep doing what we are doing with the same miserable results.