Posts Tagged ‘sex and sexuality’

I just recently finished the second draft of “Gynoid”, a sci-fi love story novelette. During that time, I thought a lot about romance in fiction. Have you noticed that it’s everywhere? In fiction, you find a lot of time devoted to find your one true love, and in real life, you find people not just actively looking for their one true love(s), but even measuring themselves by fictional couples! Our music is rife with love songs or how love is betrayed (the so-called “Song of Songs” in the Bible is one huge erotic love song), and if you go back in time, some of our oldest stories involve love and lovers.

Heck, it’s in a lot of my fiction too! And I write fiction where “love” is more likely intense adrenaline and a shared peril being mistaken for attraction. Snake has a love story that’s central to its plot, Reborn City has a bit of romance in it here and there, and..well, you saw the description for “Gynoid” above.

But rather than speculate on why romance and finding it is such a big thing (I think we can all guess at the answer, right?), I think I’m going to share some of the trade secrets I’ve gleaned over the years from other writers and from my own romantic experience, both writing it and from experiencing it (do not ask me which I have more of. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone) on writing romance in your stories. Why? No particular reason, it’s just on my mind and in my stories so much I feel like talking about it. And I know I might not be the most qualified person to talk about the subject–I know I’m not a romance writer–but I know a bit, and since when has not being an expert ever stopped anyone from talking about anything? (*cough* climate change deniers in Congress *cough*)

So let’s begin on my tips for including romance in your stories:

  1. Give the characters personalities, make them fully-rounded and three-dimensional. I feel like often times some of our most celebrated romances involve people who are just good-looking nice folk and not much else. Romeo and Juliet were a sad emo guy with a thing for teenagers and Juliet was a teenager, Cosette and whatever her guy’s name was were good-looking and nice but they weren’t much else, and Katniss Everdeen…okay, Katniss was at least well-rounded. You knew who she was, what her problems were, what she stood for, and what she was willing to do to overcome those problems. Her love interests, on the other hand, just seemed there so as to add something to the story that the story might have done fine without. I mean, Gale is just handsome and angry with the Capitol, and I can’t tell what Peeta is besides sweet. One minute he’s skillful enough to manipulate the hearts of the whole Capitol, the next he’s too naive to tell that Katniss is using him for survival. Make him one or the other! Seriously, if you’re going to bother putting love interests in the story, I’m going to need a reason to ship either of them besides their attractiveness and professions of love.
    And that brings me to my next point:

    It took a long time, but these two became a wonder couple.

  2. What’s the reason they fall for each other? Please don’t say, “Oh, they’re good-looking”, it’s got to be more than that…or heroin-flavored blood. Take one of my favorite anime of all time, Sailor Moon (yeah, I’m a huge fan of that even so many years on. Moonies forever!): all of the main characters are good-looking. So why does Sailor Moon end up with the male lead, especially when in every adaptation of the story they start out fighting and disliking each other and in some he’s already seeing someone else? Leaving aside backstory exposition, I think they just grow comfortable with each other over time. They realize they can be honest with each other and that their faults are just part of who they are. Cute parts too. And it helps when they find out each other’s secret identities, which shows how courageous and reliable they are to one another, to the point they make a pretty good partnership, in love and in combat.
    Another example I’d like to use is Captain America and Peggy Carver in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is my only reference point, I was never much of an American comic books reader for some reason). Heck, at the beginning of their relationship, Cap’s a scrawny guy who doesn’t seem like much of a hero, while Agent Carter is…well, Agent Carter. What forms the basis of their relationship is that Carter likes that Cap wants to help out despite all the barriers facing him, and his sweet and loyal personality, while Cap likes that she’s a unique and confident woman who doesn’t need a man and who also doesn’t look down on him for not being tall and buff. Over time and numerous battles, their relationship grows closer and they fall in love, which ultimately doesn’t end well but I’m sure that if things had gone differently, it would have been a different story.
    Speaking of which, here’s point 2a. Shared experiences, especially combat experiences, can bring a relationship closer. Unless of course you and your supposed lover work really horribly together, in which case fighting will just highlight it and you’ll fall apart at the seams.
  3. There is no point where the relationship becomes perfect. Work is involved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships in the real world, they’re always a work in progress. Why? Because we’re all works in progress, so our relationships are too. There’s going to be rough times, where the characters struggle or worry that something or someone will come along and the good thing they have going will be ruined. Back to Sailor Moon for a second. Fans agree that the heroine and her man are a strong and stable couple (though whether or not it’s a good coupling, I find people disagree on the subject more than you’d think), but they do have to work at it. Besides enemies that threaten to pull them apart for whatever reason, they have the normal couple troubles: people who seem like better matches coming along, occasional misunderstandings, an unexpected child. Heck, they even broke up for a time during the anime’s second season. Just goes to show that even great couples have ups and downs.
    And the best part is, you can extend these meetings, character explorations, falling-in-love scenes, and ups and downs over several books. In fact, half of the fun of the TV show Scandal is watching the heroine Olivia have an on-again, off-again relationship with the (married) President of the United States. You never know how that one is going to work out. And as long as you can keep it going, the more you get to explore these characters and their relationships (provided fans don’t start to get bored, of course).
    And now that we’ve discussed what makes for a relationship, let’s discuss some content.
  4. Sex is not always necessary. Yeah, I know we live in a hyper-sexualized society where everything has a sexy component to it, and I know I included a steamy sex scene in Snake, but seriously, sex isn’t always necessary. In fact, some people prefer romance stories without anything racier than a kiss or two. There’s actually an entire sub-genre of romance like that, it’s called sweet romance, where the characters don’t have sexual relations before marriage (or commitment too, maybe) and it has a big and loyal following. Besides, some authors aren’t comfortable with sex scenes. I know I wasn’t at first, though I later got more comfortable with them. So if you don’t want to do one, there’s no law saying you have to.

    Love the relationship dynamics of this show!

  5. Also, you don’t have to just have one person love only one other. I know there are a couple of Buffy fans reading this blog. One of the best parts of that show is the characters had many different relationships over the 7 seasons. Buffy herself had three major relationships over the course of the series.  The writers could’ve had her with Angel, her first love, through the whole series, but they allowed her, Angel, and many others to explore other relationships and really mature through that. Same with Teen Wolf, which had two main characters being “meant to be forever and ever”, but gradually changed things up over time. So if you want to, you can have characters wait a long time and go through several relationships before finding the right person.
    Especially with love triangles. I hear there are quite a few series out there where a good dose of fun is trying to find out who the main character will end up with in the end, especially when there’s two really great, fleshed-out characters to choose from (though usually from what I hear it’s whoever the protagonist meets first).
    And this brings me to my final point.
  6. Don’t do it because everyone else is. And no, that’s not a drug PSA (though you shouldn’t do those either. Not even weed, that stuff will mess with your system). Yeah, you see people putting all these different things in their stories–love quadrangles, the other man or woman, unexpected pregnancies, even some sexual exploration. Only put those in your story if you feel they’re what the story needs, not what others say you should put in or what others are putting into their stories. Believe me, that’s how I avoided something really unnecessary romance-related stuff in Reborn City, and that worked out great for me.

I’m going to end it right here, but I have to say, there’s a lot more that I could include in this post. Suffice to say, there are a lot of intricacies to writing romance and love stories (point number 7, a romance has a happy ending, a love story doesn’t have to. Learned that a romance writer friend of mine), and you learn these things over time. But hey, in the end they can lead to some really great stories, and maybe melt a heart or two while you’re at it.

What romance writing tips do you have? Do you feel romance is important to your stories or not so much?

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As soon as I heard about this film, I knew I had to check it out, even if I was in Germany. Why? Because  the companies distributing it, Nerdist Industries, has for a long time been providing me and millions of other nerds with the latest in everything geeky and cool (which at this point are basically the same thing), all while being freaking hilarious at it. If the folks at Nerdist thought highly enough of the film to distribute it, I wanted to check it out.

The Hive follows Adam Goldstein (played by Gabriel Basso), a young man who wakes up covered in blood and sores and with no memory of who he is or what happened to him (sounds like my morning this past Thursday). Using clues around him, Adam starts to remember not only who he is, but the events that caused a very powerful and dangerous virus to spread around a summer camp and beyond and what happened to his friends (played by Jacob Zachar, Kathryn Prescott, and Gabrielle Walsh).

The first thing I have to say about The Hive is that it feels like the most recent Evil Dead film, if that film had been made to be serious rather than humorous, the villains less supernatural but much more threatening, and with a heavier psychological aspect. And I feel that works in the film’s favor. It’s very creepy and definitely a psychological mind-bendy, with plenty of mystery to keep you interested in the slower parts of the movie. The effects are done with minimal CGI (which I love), and a lot of time is spent on getting to know these characters so that they’re a bit more than just cut-out characters there to fulfill a role. Plus the actors manage to make you forget that they’re acting and believe in them in their roles, which is definitely a plus.

What I didn’t like about the film was that there’s more blood and gore than I feel there need be, as well as way too much sexual stuff and swearing, which I feel take away from the film and almost give it a comedic feel at times. For example, there’s one moment where Adam realizes something he did that he shouldn’t have done with one of his friends, and that could’ve been a very powerful moment…if not for the fact that it’s ruined by Adam freaking out about something he experienced in that flashback. Talk about a mood killer! And what was with that shower shot? What did that add, exactly?

But overall, it’s a pretty good psychological-horror apocalypse film. It keeps your attention, the mystery of the film is very well set up, and you want to root for the characters while you watch it. And it even has pretty good commentary on our social media addictions, which I enjoyed seeing. Overall, I’d give The Hive a 3.5 out of 5. It’s not my favorite kind of horror film, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re looking for something to creep you out and screw with your mind a bit. And I’d definitely like to see more from the production company behind the movie, Midnight Road Entertainment, which is still relatively new and has plenty of room to expand their repertoire. Heck, if they ever wanted to adapt one of my stories for the screen, I’d definitely be interested if they could bring the same passion and quality to an adaptation as they did to The Hive.*

Oh, before I forget, currently The Hive is only available from iTunes as far as I know. Might be available from other places, I’m not sure, but it’s definitely available from iTunes. And if you want to check it out, I think it’d be a good investment of your time and cash, and maybe a great start to your Halloween season.

*Oh, wouldn’t that be nice if it were to actually happen!

Two months ago, I published a post about problems only horror fans have and understand. Since then, I’ve thought of more problems that face the horror community, so I’ve decided to write a post about those problems and try being funny as well as educational. And I’ll probably fail miserably while I’m at it.

And now you’re thinking, “He’s going to try to be funny and educational and fail at it too? EEEK!” I wish you wouldn’t think that, I put a lot of work into this blog post!

1. Not enough Slender-Man media. If you live under a rock, Slender-Man is an Internet meme I’ve visited before on this blog, a faceless being with a tall body and long, lanky arms wearing a suit. The myth varies depending on who’s telling it, but usually he lives in the woods, occasionally has tentacles, and likes to kidnap/scare/sometimes even kill children. It started as a couple of photos made for a contest on an Internet site and has since grown and become a modern piece of Internet folklore.

Sadly, Slender-Man’s copyrighted, and not by the guy who originally created him (who is fine with any adaptations as long as they’re good), but by a third party whose identity is unknown to the public. So if you want to make a for-profit work based on good ol’ Slendy, you need to find this third party and ask them for permission. Which sucks because how can you negotiate a deal with someone you can’t find? Such is the quest to make Slender-Man merchandise.

2. We’re getting our IT adaptation…with a catch. Last time I wrote about this, I mentioned how Cary Fukunaga’s two-part adaptation of the Stephen King classic was cancelled because Fukunaga and New Line couldn’t see eye-to-eye over budget and creative directions. Well, good news, looks like New Line is still trying to make the adaptation. Just two problems: one is it’s probably going to be a single movie. Really? This is a thousand page book! Even a three hour movie will hardly get most of what made one of King’s scariest creations very good.

Even worse, the guy being courted for director is Andy Muschietti, who directed 2013’s Mama. Now a lot of people found that movie scary, but I felt that it was overall not very good. Started out great, but got slow and cliched near the end. So you can see why I’m a little hesitant over this directing choice, especially with only one movie to work with.

Seriously, why not two parts? The Hobbit got three, and it’s one book! And when Peter Jackson adapted the LOTR trilogy, it was a big, risky move. Look at how that paid out!

*Sigh* I really hope I’m surprised by this movie if it comes to be.

3. “Why not a happy story?” This actually happened to me today. I was talking to my boss and we were discussing an ice cream truck that passes through the base every day. I was trying to think of a short story involving an ice cream truck with an original and scary twist. She just looked at me with this funny face and asked, “Why can’t you write a happy story?”

Who says horror stories can’t have happiness in them? Seriously, some of them do end with the monsters gone and the main characters still alive and actually stronger for their struggles against evil. Yeah, some of them end in tragedy. But there are happy endings.

And besides, would a happy story really be that interesting? Once upon a time a bunch of schoolchildren went to play in the flower fields. They picked flowers, and one of the ones they picked turned into a handsome prince. The prince said a witch had turned him into a flower after he refused to marry her, and he would’ve died with the first frost if the kids hadn’t plucked him among the flower fields. So the prince made them all honorary princes and princesses and they were forever allowed into his castle to eat ice cream and ride the horses and learn how to dance like they do at Viennese balls.

I think I might vomit if I don’t fall asleep from boredom.

4. “But don’t you get nightmares?” Another one from my boss (in her defense, I think she ordered a copy of Reborn City today, so at least we know she’s got good taste). Yes, I do get nightmares occasionally. It’s estimated that all adults get at least two nightmares a year. Rarely do I get them from the movies I watch and books I read, though. And I’m willing to risk the possibility that one day I’ll be scared in my dreams because of one of those books or movies. Just means someone’s doing their job in making something super-scary, right?

I’ll even dream about him if it means a good scary story!

5. Horror’s so cliched. Actually, no it’s not. True, a lot of horror stories do have their tropes and conventions that appear a lot: the virgin girl, the slutty girl, the campground, the sin factor, etc. But hey, have you seen people who get upset over Bible films if there’s even a single deviation from even the most obscure text? They want the same story every time! Now that’s a lot of cliches.

And horror doesn’t always rely on cliches. There’s a lot of originality in horror, if you care to look. It Follows, I Am a Ghost, Carrie, Dracula, Interview with a Vampire. All of those were very original, thank you very much.

6. Horror has no depth. Oh, so there’s no depth in a ghost or heads getting cut off? Really? Well, where’s the depth in comedies with fart jokes? Or stories where we all go in knowing the hero and heroine will eventually hook up and that’s the only reason why we paid money for this? Where’s the depth in that?

You’d be surprised how deep a horror story can go. Anne Rice’s early Vampire Chronicles are known for their poetic philosophy and imagery. Some, including the author, has described them as “the agnostic’s search for the truth” (this is a rough quote, I may have phrased it wrong). IT, which I discussed above, deals simultaneously with the loss of childhood innocence and the rediscovery of childhood belief. And don’t you dare tell me that The Shining doesn’t explore the struggle of personal needs and desires versus the good of the group! Think about it!

7. No, I’m not sex-starved and that’s why I enjoy horror. Yeah, horror sometimes is dirty. Doesn’t mean we’re making up for something. Unless you’re the filmmakers behind the Friday the 13th remake, in which case you packed in as many boobs as possible because you wanted people to see the movie AND it was a dry spell (Ooh, new slam on that shitty movie!).

And why are you wondering about our sex lives? It’s none of your business, you perverts!

Yeah, I like these guys. So what?

8. Ghost hunting. Okay, this might just be my problem, but just bear with me, because it’s related. Plenty of people believe in ghosts, interest in horror or not. Some of us believe that it is possible to find out about ghosts using modern-day technology, which is why we support ghost hunters and even watch some of the ghost-hunting teams that have their own TV shows.

So what’s the problem? Some people think ghost hunters are snake oil salesmen and make fun of them and their shows whenever the subject comes up. For those like me who believe in ghosts and maybe even base our ghost mythologies on what ghost hunters may uncover in investigations, it’s hurtful.

Yeah, this isn’t strictly a horror problem. But it’s a problem nonetheless.

~~~

Did you identify with any of these problems? Did I miss any? Was I funny? If not, did you at least learn something?

Well, hope you enjoyed this whatever your reaction. Just thought I’d get out another list. Hopefully I won’t find any more reasons we horror fans have it tough. Have a goodnight, Followers of Fear!

The wait till DVD…oh dammit!

Yesterday, arguments on four consolidated cases relating to same-sex marriage began in the Supreme Court. The cases mostly have to do with the legality and constitutionality of same-sex bans in certain states, and if states have to recognize same-sex marriages from out of state, that sort of thing. According to the New York Times article I just read, things went about as expected: the justices were divided along the traditional party lines, though Justice Kennedy seemed to show some sympathy towards the couples opposing the ban. Not a bad start, in my opinion. And considering how the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 and the recent tide of marriage victories in states across the country, LGBT advocates have good reason to be hopeful.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you already know that I am openly bisexual (if you’re new here and this is your first time hearing this, surprise!). I also have friends and family who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, as well as many different straight people. I’ve written an article about how the Bible could actually allow homosexuality rather than demonize it and I wrote a follow up article to that defending my beliefs. And from my perspective on this, these cases are about more than just marriage, though that’s a big part of it. It’s about making people feel equal to everyone else. It’s about acknowledging that LGBT are people, and deserve to be treated as people.

I first started realizing my sexual orientation during the fall semester of 2013, though I’d had inklings of it over the years. You know what the first emotion I felt was upon realizing I was bisexual? Fear. Because even though I knew so many LGBT people, that they and many others are accepted by the general populace, that the country is moving towards being more accepting and that by the time I had kids LGBT people will be fully-accepted members of society.

I was afraid. Because in many places, including places where the LGBT community is strong and loved, there are people who are scared to come out, that there are places where being out or suspected of being LGBT can get you ostracized or even killed, that there are plenty of people who hate me and the LGBT community because of our very existence, maybe even kill us in some cases.

And that scared me. Nobody wants to be hated, to be cursed to death for our existence, We all want to be accepted. But I had to accept myself and eventually I did. And then I came out, and I was loved and supported. But what about other people, those who can’t come out or be themselves because they’re afraid of how the people in their lives will treat them? Where they’re considered less than human, monsters masquerading and mistreating the human body? Why should they be unable to accept who they are?

Now I know that granting a marriage license won’t solve homophobia in America or worldwide overnight. But it’s a good start. Marriage is something that every kid knows about before they grasp the concept of death or where babies come from. It’s one of those things that’s made to be something magical, powerful, a bond that is not easily questioned or taken for granted without consequences. Imagine the good that can do if we as a nation extend that to everyone no matter their genetic predisposition (yes, it’s genetic, they’re finding more and more evidence of that every damn day, and no amount of praying is going to change that, just as no amount of praying is going to turn me into Vin Diesel) towards whom they’re attracted.

And extending marriage to same-sex couples isn’t going to cheapen marriage, or negatively impact heterosexual marriage, or hurt kids. All the research that says it will has been proven false or doesn’t actually exist. Clergy aren’t going to be forced to perform marriages they don’t believe in, because there is always going to be a clergyperson who does want to perform such a ceremony or there’s a courthouse where the marriage can be performed. And traditional marriage won’t be thrown out the window, because traditional marriage isn’t really a thing to begin with. Marriages used to be business deals between the heads of two households, with the creation of a new family as part of the deal. It was only during the late 17th and early 18th centuries that daughters had any say in their spouses, and only much later on that love became a major consideration in marriage arrangements. So marriage as we know it might only be 100 years old or so.

And believe it or not, there have been partnerships in this country between people of the same sex that were considered like marriage or as marriage. Several Native American tribes allowed for same-sex marriages (people attracted that way were considered special in the tribe) and after America was established there were same-sex marriages by their neighbors, including James Buchanan. Yeah, one of our Presidents. Prior to his time in the White House, Buchanan had a ten year partnership with a man named William Rufus King (later Vice President to Franklin Pierce) and in later years wrote to a member of the Roosevelt family about wooing several gentlemen without much success.

With all this, I think it’s important that the Supreme Court make a decision that reflects what I know is true: that just because someone is born a certain way doesn’t mean they are wrong or evil or they need to be changed. They just need to be given the same protections and opportunities as everyone else. In other words, they need to be treated like everyone else. And making that the law of the land with one of the most beautiful bonds one can create between two people is a good way to begin with that.

Thank you for reading.

This really interesting article was posted on the Huffington Post the other day. This article, which you can read in full here, discusses how many schools in India are implementing gender studies classes at public schools across India, thanks to cooperation between the Indian government and advocacy organizations. The goal of this, according to the organizers of these programs, is to get students thinking hard about how gender roles affect them and make some changes for the better. Maybe even bring down the  rates of domestic violence.

And so far the programs seem to be working, according to 15-year-old Shakir Parvez Shaikh:

“We talk about how boys and girls are equal as human beings, but how we treat girls differently,” he told Reuters. “For example, girls are not allowed to play cricket or watch as much television as boys because they have to do housework or because it is not safe outside for them. I didn’t realize before … I think it’s unfair.”

A lot of activists see these programs as one answer to a very sad problem. According to the National Crime Record Bureau,  India saw a nearly 27 percent rise in 2013 in reported gender violence, including rape, sexual harassment, and other related crimes. And for many the 2012 gang rape and murder of a woman on a bus in India is still pretty fresh in their minds. This has helped to spur the creation of these programs, which might help today’s youth see things in a different perspective and cut down on instances of institutionalized sexism, gender discrimination, and domestic violence.

When I read this article, two thoughts went through my mind. The first was that it was good that so many teens, boys and girls, were being exposed to these classes. With statistics like the ones cited above, these programs could bring down that rate significantly and help to foster a more egalitarian society. And then I thought, “Why can’t we have that here in the United States?”

And then I marveled at how we didn’t have any of those programs in the United States. Generally speaking, gender studies courses are normally only taught at the university level, which means that students might never be exposed to these ideas in the midst of taking science and literature courses. The concepts of feminism and gender equality do sometimes come up in high school or middle school settings, but they are usually in the backdrop of English literature or history classes, and they may not always be given the attention they deserve.

Current statistics suggest that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be victims of sexual assault, though those numbers may be potentially higher due to under-reported. Women still earn only 70 cents for every dollar a man earns, and in fields such as business, politics or STEM, women may face people who believe that women aren’t suited to those fields, that they are only promoted due to their looks or sex rather than their ability, and trying to be assertive is considered “bitchy”. On the flip side, men frequently under-report domestic or sexual abuse and are expected to be tough, virile and sometimes violent to show their masculinity. If you aren’t those, if you’re not depositing your DNA in as many women as possible, then you’re seen as less as a  men, something I see as absurd.

All these reasons and more are why perhaps gender studies courses should be taught in middle and high schools in America. Getting today’s teenagers to engage in these issues may bring down rates of domestic violence, reduce sexism in the workplace, and perhaps get Americans to stop treating the word “feminism” like a swear word. It seems to be working in India anyway, so why not try it over here in the States?

What would it take to get such a program in schools?

Now, I’m no teacher or education major and my formal training in gender studies consists of one class in my first term here at Ohio State (though I’ve informally found ways to expand my training). But even if I’m not, that doesn’t mean I can’t at least get the ball rolling or start a conversation. So tell me, if you’re reading this, have a background in education, gender studies, or anything else that could possibly relate to this, what would it take to create these sort of programs and implement them in a school system? What sort of course materials would be needed? And what sort of obstacles would such a program face? I’d love to hear what you have to say, as well as your thoughts on what I’m suggesting and if it’s at all possible.*

I know that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to change society rapidly or get rid of a prejudice or stereotype. But at the very least that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If anything, it means we should try harder to eliminate it, looking at every available option. And perhaps this can be one of them.

*However, if you use the comments section to be hateful or say really mean things, I will not approve the comments. We don’t need any of that here on this blog. I’ve already gotten plenty of that from Second Amendment and anti-circumcision advocates. Not really interested in seeing that again.

I’m a feminist. I believe that women should be given equal treatment to men financially, politically, and socially. I believe this won’t disenfranchise men, but instead make women equal partners to men. In fact, men such as myself can be ardent feminists, and there are plenty of them out there. I also believe that there are people who dislike feminism because of ignorance or prejudice. And I believe that those who actively work to dissuade people from identifying feminism or tear down some of the movement’s tenets and beliefs are doing a lot more harm than good. Normally I ignore what is said, but occasionally something is so blatantly wrong or harmful to women that I have to speak up.

So when I read what Rush Limbaugh said today and then heard it for myself, I couldn’t keep quiet. Normally I ignore what Mr. Limbaugh says. Since the Sandra Fluke debacle two years ago, I’ve actually been surprised that he’s still on the air, let alone that he hasn’t learned from his mistakes or maybe hired someone to edit what he plans to say before he says it. But today might be the worst thing he’s said since he talked about Ms. Fluke.

I couldn’t embed the audio of the clip in question onto this post (if you’d like to hear it yourself, you can check out the Huffington Post article where I first read about it), so I’m talking about it here. In short, Mr. Limbaugh said that he finds the idea of “No” means “No” ridiculous.  He says:

How many of you guys in your own experience with women have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?…It used to be used as a cliche.

So under this definition of consent, when a woman says “no”, it really means “yes” under certain circumstances (and I bet to a guy like Mr. Limbaugh, there are few, if any, circumstances where “no” actually means “no”). A guy just has to “spot” it. I’m just wondering, how exactly do you spot the signs that a woman is actually saying “yes” underneath the resounding “no”? Enlighten me.

And if you think about it, this definition could extend not just to women. Perhaps a young child is actually saying yes to being touched inappropriately, even if they’re being touched by a parent or other relative. And according to Mr. Limbaugh’s definition of consent, if a gay man comes onto him or any other man and the second man says no, the gay man is allowed to go on if they believe “the signs” are there telling them to go on.* It’s uncomfortable to think about, but it could happen.

*I’m not actually insinuating that anyone does or should do this, be they straight or gay men, relatives of a child, or anything else. I’m just trying to put this in the context that Mr. Limbaugh outlines and make sense of the implications.

Also notice how Mr. Limbaugh asks for the opinions of the male listeners of his show, but not the female listeners. Why doesn’t Mr. Limbaugh ask about the female listeners’ experiences? I’m sure some of them have quite the stories to tell. According to the website of the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network, about 1 in 6 women are the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes. 1 in 33 men suffer the same sort of attacks, and 15% of children under the age of 12 are vulnerable to rape or sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, four times more likely to suffer from PTSD and/or consider suicide, and 13 and 26 times more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, respectively. A third of them get pregnant from their ordeals. How many of these women said “no” and that was ignored or interpreted as meaning “yes”? And how many of them listen to the Rush Limbaugh Show?

Mr. Limbaugh also quotes from the student handbook at Ohio State University** on what constitutes consent. Well, actually he isn’t quoting, exactly. Only a small bit of what he says is actually from the Student Code of Conduct (which you can read here). I have no idea where he’s getting this stuff about the thirteen-year-olds consenting to sex. But beyond all that, the point Mr. Limbaugh is trying to make is that all these requirements for having consent is too much and actually getting in the way of romance and seduction. I don’t have the most experience in this, but if you ask me, when two consenting partners are very much in love, care deeply about the other, and want to make each other happy, then all this stuff Mr. Limbaugh believes gets in the way of romance and seduction becomes unnecessary. The couple know each other well enough to know what is safe, what is crossing a boundary, and how to make sure both of them have an enjoyable sexual experience.

And for couples who aren’t at that point yet, perhaps they don’t need to ask permission to do every single thing. But it is common sense to discuss with your partner what you consider safe sexual territory, and to pay attention to what your partner is telling you, verbally or non-verbally. If your partner says no, doesn’t matter if you or your partner are male, female, or some other third gender. No means no, under ALL circumstances.

Mr. Limbaugh makes it seem like you have to go through a maze to have sex, but I don’t think that’s actually the case.

**For future reference, would you please not use my alma mater in your program? It’s not a very good example at the moment, anyway: sad as I am to admit, OSU’s marching band is under investigation for fostering an atmosphere of sexual assault, and there are other investigations occurring as well, last I checked. I still love this school and I’m not proud of what’s happened here, but you can’t fight your demons if you don’t admit to them, so I’m putting them out there.

So Mr. Limbaugh may feel that there are exceptions to the No rule and all those requirements for consent are a bit too much for your average man looking for sex. But with sexual assault so prevalent in our nation, I feel having these things pointed out to us is a good thing. Not only does it make us aware of a problem that needs to be combated, but following these rules helps to make our country safer for all, and helps to eliminate a very terrible problem.

Mr. Limbaugh does make one very good point, and that is we need to change how we teach our boys. I agree, but I think we need to change how we teach our girls too, and maybe how we approach sex in general. Men should be taught that there is nothing wrong with wanting to have sex, provided you are educated about both the benefits and the consequences of sex, particularly unsafe, forced or alternative forms of sex. And girls should be taught about their bodies, all that comes with sex, and that there is nothing they should be ashamed of when it comes to their bodies or their sexuality, no mater what anyone says. And above all, it should be stressed that no one owns your body but you, and you should decide what can and cannot be done with it.

Mr. Limbaugh, I hope what you’ve said today gets talked about by a variety of people. I hope that you make the newsrounds for your comments, because what you said is hurtful and shameful and trivializes a major problem. And perhaps after what you’ve said, there can be some constructive change to stop this ongoing epidemic of sexual assault in our nation. I would very much like to say that.

And Mr. Limbaugh, perhaps after this latest incdent, you might take steps to avoid saying such hurtful and despicable things on your program. And if that’s not possible, then maybe it’d be better for a lot of people (and I say this with all the sensitivity I can muster in such a situation) if you would kindly shut up.

I’m going to share something that happened to me this morning with you all. I woke up much later than I’d planned to, made myself breakfast, and turned on my laptop to see my messages. In my inbox, I found that someone had replied to a comment I’d made to a YouTube video. The video in question was a Tibetan bowl singing meditation video that I listened to yesterday in order to relax after a long day. When it was over, I had commented, “Whoa, what did that just do to me?” (I was really relaxed afterwards). Between commenting on that video and checking my messages, some merry prankster had replied to my comment with this: “it raped you…with Tibetan singing bowls :)”.

Of course, you can guess how I replied: “not funny”.

And it’s true, rape is not funny, especially when you look at the realities of the problem. It’s estimated that every two minutes, an American is sexually assaulted. One in five female college students will be sexually assaulted before they graduate, usually by someone they know. Often their rapists are not punished as thoroughly as they should be by the university, receiving academic probation or being banned from campus for a year. Imagine having to be on the same campus as your rapist every day until one or both of you have graduated. It’s enough to drive you insane. And rapists who are let off easy like this are likely to repeat and rape again, averaging six assaults before graduation. It’s even likelier for rapists who include violent acts like strangulation in their assaults. Because of these statistics and several colleges apparently mishandling sexual assaults, 55 universities, my own included, are being investigated for mishandling sexual assault cases by the federal government. For some victims, they wish this investigation would’ve come sooner.

And that’s not the worst part about it. In some countries women are jailed or killed if they are raped, sometimes with the permission of the governments that are supposed to protect them. These “honor killings” or jail sentences are supposed to punish the woman for making herself sexually desirable to her rapist and causing him to commit adultery. Sometimes they are even married off to their rapists in order to preserve family honor! For many women, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other psychological disorders can arise from being sexually assaulted, so imagine having to be punished by law or married to your rapist in order to preserve some silly notion of honor.

Even in countries where women aren’t punished or married off on their rapists, sometimes things are little better. Assault victims are shamed or intimidated into keeping silent for a variety of reasons. They may believe that their assault was their fault, or that they’ll be humiliated or disbelieved if they come forward, or that coming forward will forever change how they’re viewed by people. In cases of pregnancy, some won’t be able to get abortions because laws make it difficult or impossible to do so.

Even in the United States, supposedly a progressive country where all are equal, most are seriously misinformed about sexual assault. They believe it only happens to others, that all rapists are strangers to the victim, that it’s a rare occurrence. In reality, rape is all too common, as well as pregnancies that result from rape, most rapists are someone the victims know, and it could happen to just about anyone. And when we do not blame the rapists but find ways to blame or hurt the victims or create reasons why we shouldn’t believe them, we only make things worse.

And so do the comedians who make fun of rape. Whether they make one single joke or an entire act out of rape and sexual assault, they are doing as much damage as some rapists. They tell people that rape isn’t a serious problem, that you can make fun of it and the victims who are assaulted every two minutes in America (there was a great Law & Order: SVU episode about this recently). And some people, like my commenter above, will take these comedians seriously. One or two may actually rape themselves, believing it’s no big deal.

I’m here saying that rape is a very big deal, and it is not something that should be made fun of or turned into comedy club stand-up. Rape is a serious problem people all over the world must face, and that unless we seriously try to change our culture, things will not improve. They’ll stay the same, or get worse.

So if you ever find yourself confronted with a rape joke or you think about making a rape joke, imagine that making such a joke makes someone as horrible as a rapist. And then ask yourself if you should really laugh at or make that joke, or if you should try and change things so that those jokes are never made again. You might get thanked down the road for that.