Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Loaded Terms

Once upon a time, when I was younger and I had trouble finding a romantic relationship, I used to say that I was often "friendzoned."

To me, that meant that this woman I liked -- usually already a friend at some level to begin with -- wasn't interested in being anything "more" than friends. It never, ever meant that I should resent her, or that she was a bitch or a whore, or that I should stop being her friend. Never once did that happen. Was I frustrated and disappointed? Sure. Finding a relationship can be hard. Dating can be hard. Sure was for me.

Years later, I discovered that for most people, "friendzone" not only implied that the lady in question wasn't interested in a romantic or sexual relationship, but also that the guy in question turned into a raging, resentful douche about the whole thing. On a personal level, it bothered me a bit that this term, which I thought was a witty and chagrinned but otherwise good-natured note -- 'cause it means we're actually still friends, right? -- didn't mean for much of the world what it meant to me, and that if I kept using it I would effectively be saying something I didn't mean to say. On a broader level, though, was the far more unsettling fact that this was just one more note of all the utterly inexcusable bullshit that women have to deal with on a daily basis.

Just one more drop of juvenile hassling in a sea of unfairness.

So I dropped the use of that term. I didn't have much use for it, anyway, once I wound up on a path of serial long-term monogamy (and, for a significant stretch, polyamory). But I've found in recent years that "nice guy," which I'd always taken literally, also means "total creeper who claims to be a nice guy" for all too many other people. And that bothered me, because I'd gotten that label (with benevolent, literal intent) many times, and it was something that I more or less aspired to. But it has become something else. And thank god I was never big on wearing fedoras, because that's turned into something unpleasant, too.

I write this in part because some readers have taken my urban fantasy books as a "sex fantasy for men" or what have you. Yeah, it's partially erotica, and yeah, I'm a guy and I'm writing from that perspective, but I never set out to write the Men's Sex Fantasy. I certainly hope men like my stories, and I obviously think that sexy stories are for men as much as for women. I also love it when I hear from women who read my stories, too. I want people to like my stories.

I wrote a story that involved a lot of sex, and a lot of sexy women, but I wanted all those women to have agency, equality and independence. It bothered me that when the sequel came out and that degree of agency, equality and independence was even more evident than in the first book, a number of readers were turned off by it. I knew that would happen. I totally expected it. I wrote the story that I wanted to write anyway. There will be more of that, later down the line whenever I get back to Alex & Co., because in my mind the story was always going in that direction. I wasn't bothered that people didn't like that direction; you simply can't please everyone. But I was bothered by the notion that I might have set out to write a Men's Sex Fantasy, 'cause while I understood that some readers might view it that way, I'd never once set out with that as my goal.

As much as I don't want to get super political on my blog here, I felt like talking about this in the wake of the #YesAllWomen hashtag and the responses it has gotten. A lot of the reactions have been angry or super defensive remarks from men. A lot of it has been a matter of trolling, and guys who think they're being funny by making domestic violence jokes or rape threats because, "Meh! It's the Internet!" but this is exactly what people talk about when they refer to "rape culture." It's not a culture that encourages all men to be rapists, or to be otherwise violent towards women -- it's a culture that minimizes the seriousness of that through a lot of "harmless" humor and apathy and bullshit, which in turn minimizes the actual seriousness of actual rape (as opposed to, say, that harmless internet comment).

It's okay to know that #YesAllWomen isn't directed specifically at you if you, as a guy, aren't someone who harasses or degrades women. The point isn't AllMenDoThis. The point is that more than ENOUGH men do this stuff that Yes, All Women have to deal with it regularly.

And it's bullshit. And it should stop. Turns out that whole culture hurts everyone -- men and yes, all women, too.


  1. Well said Sir, very well said. It has been the cause of many a conversation with a female friend or 3 late into the night and I think its well past time that we as group (thats you humanity) try to put a stop to it or we do not have the right to call ourselves 'Civilized' anymore.

  2. I don't understand why people would get upset with your book(s) or your writing? You are male, no matter how hard anyone tries you cannot prevent your gender from influencing your writing. And hell, I agree with alot of what you've said, but let's not forget that there are women out there who toe the line in the opposite direction to what we should be striving for, just like men, the difference is it's politically correct for them to do so. I applaud this post but I'm just saying, men AND women can and are sexist- people focus on men, and I agree that this has had to happen to change our culture, but IMO we've started to go too far in many places. There's a point where feminism can go too far (imo that's when a certain feminist lecturer stands up infront of my policing class and tells me I should be restricted to voting only for women in Australian Parliament- because apparently I'm supposed to vote for gender, not beliefs and representations of those beliefs). There are areas where I'm seeing the other side (men) getting discriminated against (not gonna go into it, my lecturer exclusively provides help to women who she thinks are struggling with the class, but men have to go through the proper system).

    I've seen plenty of women treat men like they're dirt too, for no good reason. There are two sides to each individual story, men do bad things and women do bad things. I agree that feminism was needed, I just think it's outdated. And I think it's sad that if I say what I've just said, I'm labelled either close-minded or a sexist because I refuse to blindly toe the feminist line and allow my self to be disadvantaged.

    I know this is somewhat unrelated to your Nice Guy, White Knight, etc. post (that's what it is if you're well versed in the ways of the internet heh). Like, hell, I don't see alot of sexism from my generation, and when I do it's pretty evenly distributed between feminists and chauvinists, I understand that there USED to be this culture, but I don't think generalisations help anyone, anywhere. I could be sexist and generalise all women based on the feminist extremist lunatics I've had negatively impact on my life (specifically two who have limited my opportunities because of my gender), but I don't. And I know you say you're post doesn't aim to generalise.. but when I read it I just get a nagging sense that it does- probably my paranoia of reverse discrimination, but someone has to explore the other side of the debate.

    Girls put on acts to pick up boys too, and when it doesn't work they get in terrible moods too, have you ever visited Australia? You should try it.

    And yeah, IMO feminism (for the most part) is outdated and will only have a negative impact on society (in Australia) in it's current form. An example of this is: Women's only clubs (for executives and the like) calling for Men's only clubs in Australia to allow women in (these clubs have hundreds of years of tradition- though they could easily modify their rules to let women in) but then questioned on whether they will allow men in their clubs if men let women in theirs, the feminists either do not answer or say the following (as quoted on Sunrise several months ago): "No, women need to support women, allowing men in our club would destroy it."

    Many ramblings, controversial thoughts (unfortunately not agreeing with the popular belief always results in a sexist or racist label applied to the person who will not blindly toe the party line).

    It would be nice if we gave everyone equal opportunity and respect, it is unfortunate that their are elements who, on both sides (men and women) demand officially or unofficially that they get special treatment. This can be said for many other things too, but since I'm an average anglo-saxon white male, if I disagree with these things I'm either sexist, racist, or all of them.

    Don't get me started on religion, either. Religion caused most of this, sadly.

    1. The thing about feminism -- like any -ism -- is that no matter how or what you do to follow it, inevitably there is some other self-described -ist who will tell you that you're doing it wrong. In the case of your lecturer, for instance, I'm left thinking that it's the lecturer who is the problem, not feminism as a whole. You can find plenty of batshit crazy women in the world, just like you can find plenty of batshit crazy men. We're all on equal footing there, too.

      I disagree that it's outdated. I think it's a terrible label, because "feminism" as a word seems to imply, "down with me, up with women," when really it's all about equality. Labeling can really matter.

      But yes, you can find self-described feminists who are also crazy, or who really don't get it. And yet, we have a society where any woman, crazy or sane, pleasant or not, will have to deal with unfairness and harassment on a level that men just don't. I have never been to Australia (I'd love, LOVE to go someday), but given that the cultures of Australia and the US have so much more commonalities than differences, I have to believe that the situations women have to face aren't that much different.

  3. Great to know there will be more from Alex & Co as you put it. IMO the 2nd book was just as good they both have their great scenes. I hope you continue I love all you books.

  4. Well, for me specifically I'd have to say that I didn't like the novel as much as the first not because of, you know the perceived men's sex fantasy. It was because there is a huge amount of unequally distributed power in Alex's relationship. It's very realistic in terms that it mirrors real life, rarely do you find yourself in a relationship that is more or less equal, but in Alex (main) relationship Loralei has the most, if not all power and influence, and it's extremely obvious. Loralei mold's Alex into a man she can easily manage. And, the last scene between them illustrates the point when he says he doesn't want to change her into something she isn't, and yet she's done that to him. This polyamory thing falls flat since there is no commitment from Loralei, she has sacrificed nothing while Rachel and Alex have had to extensively changed who they are to adapt, she has not. We need to keep more than each others secrets to be a legitimate relationship, you need sacrifice, and with humble truth Loralei stops doing that in the second novel. That is why I didn't like it in comparison to the first one.

  5. I agree with Aphorim. An eloquent and succinct statement.

    1. Has Lorelei lost the passion for Alex which she had in "Good Intentions"? Her words “I shall always return to you” implies that she will be taking a sexual vacation for days at a time. Doesn't appear committed to their relationship.
    2. What happened with the Greek past life of Alex? There are some hints where he almost understands the witches spell casting,
    3. The Greek warriors also practiced hand-to-hand combat (e.g. Greek wrestling) and handling of spear and shield should provide another set of arrows in his quiver of self-defense.
    4. What was Alex's incarnation during the period of the American Revolution?
    5. It seems as if Alex has a much lower intelligence than most of the people around him.
    6. The relationship with the witches looks like it is on an interesting and good track. Looking forward to them using him in their ritual (at least implied).
    7. I would like to see more interaction between Alex and Rachel, in "Natural Consequences" there was more interaction between her and Lorelei.
    8. Jason showed an appropriate understanding of the sciences and the nature of vampire ashes and the character was portrayed realistically and believable.
    9. Not really interested in Lorelei nor Rachel having sex with anyone other than Alex. Maybe it would be okay if Lorelei tried but found sex with others uninteresting compared to Alex.
    10. Something not explored is the nature of jealously in their other (not between each other and the witches) sexual escapades. Although it was included in the first book “Good Intentions” when the basketball star confronted Alex at the party. I was thinking something a little more complex. Maybe a person becomes jealous not because of any existing or prior relationship, but because they covet either Lorelei or Alex's love interest.

    1. Hi David,
      1. Not at all. Turn of phrase, nothing more. The freedom means far more to her than the act.
      2. It's in book one, but you don't get the flashback. Instead, you get Hannah talking about it. Alex doesn't understand spellcasting, but Greek is one of the languages that Molly & Onyx use to cast spells... hence he can make out some of the words. He can't understand all of it, though, because his memories aren't perfect and there's also the issue of linguistic drift.
      4. I don't recall off the top of my head, and he may well not have had one. There is no consistent time frame for when a soul gets another life. Sometimes it's a short line, sometimes you're in the waiting room for a good long while.
      5. I disagree, but intelligence can express itself in many different ways. I certainly didn't want Alex to be smarter than everyone, but I think he's quite bright.
      7. Me, too! However, Rachel is a delicate character. Overexposure would ruin her.
      9. I do not intend to belabor the point of Lorelei's freedom, but the double standard was something I didn't even really want in Book One. I just didn't have room to address it in that novel, and realistically it would've been too soon anyway.
      10. Inevitably, there will be some jealousy issues, and they'll likely come from outside the relationship. I wanted to portray Alex/Lorelei/Rachel as a solid poly/we-make-our-own-rules relationship with strong communication. I've seen those. I've been a part of one. That, and frankly seeing one of the core trio get jealous of the other(s) just seems too predictable to me. Not very interesting. But yes, surely other people will look on with envy and act inappropriately sooner or later. Perhaps with machineguns or cyanide. Who knows?