Give A Little; Get A Little

Feminism, let’s take this blog back to territory it belongs in, wash our hands of Transformer posts and personal stories for a while and once again utilise this blog as the launch pad for topical discussion… or at least, hopefully. I want to talk to you about sex and in particular, how society sees sex as something to be given or something to be pursued, depending on how you fit into that power dynamic we’ve settled on. I’ve been inspired by “That’s What He Said”, a YouTube series I fully recommend in which just ordinary men sit and discuss feminist issues in a calm civilised manner, there’s no aggressive “Change this!” rant going on like I’m prone to, it’s more just a group of men exchanging ideas and you are given this seat at the table to overhear their discussion. What inspired me was one participant in the discussion described sex in a way I had always thought of but not consciously, not in any depth – sex is something women give and men get and as a man, I’m gonna get it. Paraphrasing but he essentially pointed out that sex is seen as the end goal, the flag on a conquered fortress that a man has to earn and a woman has to relinquish which puts strange standards in place that I would like to address here.

You probably don’t need me to point out that men are typically somewhat aggressive in the quest for sex, typical male tactics of machismo, cat-calling and even forceful coercion and women either play along, resist or utilise such tactics themselves (though they are seen as whores for doing so). Men play the quest-taker then, they have a goal and must utilise whatever they deem best to do so be it honest communication, money, blackmail, dinner dates, whatever, the end goal is sex and women play the part of the goal and the goalkeeper, by this model they can either choose to let the player win or ensure he loses somehow and this creates a weird disconnect and competition between ourselves that needn’t exist, for the sake of everyone involved.

I’ve highlighted this before but between men, frequent sex with multiple partners is seen as an aspirational thing, like war stories you’d expect to hear in a Viking meadery, whereas between women it’s seen as a lack of self-respect, a willingness to go along with the whims of any old idiot. Why? Well, this standard of men get, women give, ties into how we view ambition and charity and other such things. Someone who gets what they want all the time? Ambitious, commanding, successful. Someone who gives everything away? Foolish, naive, a pushover. As a result, the more men get, the more we think of them as conquerors and the more women give, the more we think of them as conquered, even though the women have to give for the men to get (Obviously not the case of homosexual men, I realise this blog post applies to a cishet gender binary and apologise for that, I am boiling down this issue to the most basic principles. If you have anything to say with regards to sexualities and genders outside of cisgender/heterosexual, leave your comments below, I’d love to read them). By doing this, we put pressure on men and women alike, for men to get as much as they can whilst women must give as little as possible, essentially making sex much less fun for everyone and turning our biological urges into a battleground.

Men, you’re told to get, if you don’t get laid soon enough or often enough, you’re a loser right? Single men are seen as creepy or pathetic a lot of the time, your mates talk about past girlfriends as if they were boss battles in a video game and your role models are always seen as attractive and strong. I mean, there’s no male role model in the modern world that doesn’t have some strongly infatuated fangirl community and it’s not like you’re after that, even just two or three girls secretly thinking of you would be great wouldn’t it? The pressure to “be a man”, to get action, means that men develop a variety of tactics, as indeed they would if they were actually fighting. Some use charm, some use money, some are honestly just attractive and well-endowed but what about the men that aren’t any of those things? Here are where you find the cat-callers and “good guys” waiting for their female best friend to offer him a blowjob just for being a nice person – they don’t see themselves as attractive, or society doesn’t, and they lack charm or impressive talent so they resort to underhandedness and aggression, they blame their failures on women. After all, you get stuck on the same level in a game long enough, you start blaming the game for being too hard or unfair or not making the answer more obvious. The same logic applies here and men are only ever seen as playing the game, very rarely is it that men can be the game. A man is told to get, not give. Why? A man has every right to be called desirable and chased after, it’s not pathetic, it’s wanting validation and wanting someone else to put some effort into you, men deserve that. Men should have the option to give, to be engaged by a stranger or to have someone crush on them without it being weird. Sex isn’t a trophy and if it is, men can give the trophies if they want, that’d be fun for all involved.

Women, by contrast, are put under pressure to not have sex, to ‘save’ themselves for someone and even in this day and age, I hear women talking about saving their virginity for their husband or true love, as if it already belongs to a man they might not even know yet. If a woman expresses a love of sex or long track record, we judge her, we think her irresponsible and stupid, we think of her as ‘easy’, again tying into this whole competitive game. Easy? The level everyone cleared, the tutorial for getting a REAL woman. Heaven forbid she’s a liberated woman who decides who she sleeps with and how often, that’s madness, no she must just be some floozy moron that can’t stop herself. Women have to give in too, that’s how that works – a certain number of dates, a certain number of drinks or a man with enough masculine presence and she’s supposed to give herself to him. We see fictive works of men like Christian Grey, men who are bold and ruthless and unafraid to take advantage of a woman and that’s supposed to be an erotic image for women? Maybe for some but to me, alarm bells ring that this man is essentially a very handsome psychotic stalker and rapist abusing a very naive woman. Women shouldn’t give in, it’s not about giving in, it’s about seeing another person you honestly want to have sex with and both parties agreeing to it, or all parties, go crazy.

I realise our biological differences mean men are naturally inclined to seek more sex more frequently, nature tells a man to spread his seed far and wide to ensure his genes carry on whereas women are the fields to be ploughed in this model but we are more than the sum of our urges and even so, this competition doesn’t ensure anyone gets the best deal. Picture a society in which sex is just another run-of-the-mill thing, it’s casual, it’s given and received on terms we all agree on as individuals and there’s no pressure on anyone about anything. Still a virgin at 32? Nobody bats an eyelid. Fucked a different man each day of the week? Cool, you’ve made seven different men very happy and you had fun too, awesome. Men have nothing to prove so there’s less coercion and pestering and women have no false reputations to lose so if they fancy an idle fuck, woot, go ahead. I realise to some of you this sounds like a godless debauchery but our warped views on sex are much more harmful to society than this alternative vision could ever be.

I will end on this note, if anyone ever gives you grief about your sex life, well I guess just Sodom! (EYYYYYYYYYYYY GET IT? GET IT?!)


The Fragile Man (Part Two – Masculinity and Men)

Part One first, please read for context


Following on from yesterday, let us now divulge into the topic of masculinity and its effects on men, is it truly a fragile thing? Or are these men harder than we give credit for? #masculinitysofragile argues that they are not. The said hashtag is a social media campaign to point out how men who pride themselves on being bastions of blokedom, the toughest in their circles such as it were, react far too extremely to accusations of being anything less than a god in the flesh. Men who can perhaps take a blow to the gut can’t take a blow to the ego, angrily snapping at people who reject their advances, buy them a misgendered product (This is women’s soap! Where’s my Ultra Max Men’s Only Caffeine Body Wash?!) or have to justify wearing satchels and hair buns by calling them more macho names like Man Bag and Man Bun. Of course, it lead to an escalating inferno of internet flame wars, evidence of the frailty of the male culture being posted left, right and centre and MRA sorts responding with their own campaign #nohymennodiamond, to shame women who aren’t virgins… because that helped prove their dominance apparently…

So is masculinity fragile? Seems like the first question to address. Well, the answer there isn’t as simple as either side of this argument makes out, obviously once you trend something on Twitter, the original point is diluted and worn thin by people who grasp a concept but not the core ideals. You see, this could just be my opinion here but there is a difference between internal masculinity and societal masculinity, the difference between a culture of ‘REAL MEN’ and the expectations set upon those who are born into the rat-race of achieving arbitrary standards of manliness. Have I lost some of you? Let me go over my point in more length and detail to help everyone understand where I’m coming from.

Man-bags, coffee scented shampoo, man-sized tissues, these are prime examples of businesses exploiting a weakness in the market, hitting a demographic that steers clear of their product because of an image reason. Men, in the sense of the masculine conformist, don’t want to use tissues or scented candles or mascara because of a fear of being seen as ‘weak’ or outside the gender norm. If you run a business and you sell something, you find a way to sell it to every group possible? You make biscuits? Gluten-free, low-fat, biscuits with nuts, biscuits guaranteed nut-free, chocolate, dark chocolate, ginger – you try enough things out, soon enough there’s a biscuit for everyone. Men aren’t buying perfume? That’s half the population you’re missing there, better invent some manly fucking perfume, cue your Old Spice and Hugo Boss scents. More than anything else, these ‘Man’ products are revamped normal products made to appeal to a different audience. Of course, I’m not calling you all stupid, you have realised this, the frailty of masculinity is in needing these differences to feel secure in purchasing the product, even though the change is minor. Blue bag, pink bag, same function. My point here is that this side of masculinity is stupidly laughable yes but no true harms come of it, unless the customer is so insecure in themselves they can’t buy anything that is not branded as manly.

I remember the first time I encountered a man comfortable doing something ‘unmanly’, in that a friend of mine at the time turned up wearing a pink shirt. I was confused, give me a break I was ten at the time, all my shirts were either Adidas/Puma stuff or had pictures of Pokemon on. Anyway, my friend said it was a white shirt but red sock in the wash deal, now it was a pink one but it was still has favourite shirt so he wore it. Granted, he got a few laughs but he didn’t let it get under his skin, he felt fine, he knew the joke would wear off the more often he was seen wearing this shirt without looking disgraced or downtrodden for doing so. Sure enough, that happened, heck I saw more pink shirts after a while. Thinking further back, I can think of times a younger me tried to step outside masculine norms – I watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch, my favourite anime was Cardcaptors, I played the part of female characters in my imaginary games sometimes and not as damsels, though sometimes as that, no, heck I played characters that were just me if I was a girl, drawings of which I continued to produce up until age 16. Jenny Wolfe, no joke, a female identity I conjured for myself. Of course, I kept it on the downlow, I doubt many could say they ever heard the name Jenny Wolfe, even fewer have seen pictures. Gender identity and finding security in the spectrum is a process of experimentation and discovery that can last a lifetime, it takes a lot to know where you fit and be comfortable there, it also takes courage to keep searching when the world makes a freak show out of you for trying.

Masculinity is the possession of qualities typically associated with being a man – handsomeness, resourcefulness, ambition, bravado, charisma – ideals men are told to strive for, both explicitly and implicitly. The gender binary standards are horseshit of course, there is a pressure to pursue a certain lifestyle pinned on us from as soon as we are born. Men that vary from these traits are laughed, be it for effeminacy, subservience (especially to a woman, i.e ‘being whipped’) or lacking in strength or knowledge. However, there is a certain sort of poison that comes with striving for masculinity, a deep self-loathing that drives feelings of inadequacy and insecurity into the hearts of those made to chase down that path. I’m the eldest son of a very ‘manly’ man – genius level IQ, can fix your motorbike as easily as he can tie his laces, former bodybuilder, martial arts master – every macho standard going, he hit the passing grade and then one-upped it, because he damn well could. I had the brains, I had my own pure raw strength, never lost a fist fight growing up and with role models like my father and the warriors in my books and games and films, all I wanted to be was the absolute best. The smartest, the strongest, the fastest, the meanest, standards I had to achieve to be liked by people, to be worth something? My Dad would tell me it was okay if I needed to cry or ask for help or talk to someone about my problems but that wasn’t what I saw, that wasn’t what life taught me growing up. My Dad was invincible, so were the warriors, I never saw my peers cry and get respect for it, nobody ever admitted they saw counsellors to me – as far as I was concerned, the world was a stage for a perpetual contest of power.

So what happened from there? Rage. Lots of it. People didn’t like the know-it-all punch-happy callous prick I was in school, I was the best by the technical definition, sure, I could beat my classmates in exams, in battles of wit, in physical contest, but I wasn’t respected, I was hated. I was devastated, here I was, masculinity incarnate but I was not the most popular guy in school, no girls dated me, no guys invited me to hang out, everyone avoided me. Masculinity is a weapon of the patriarchy that teaches boys a damaging philosophy that the world is out to get them, any tears are a weakness to be exploited so be the top dog or die trying. I had my interests, my nerdy hobbies, my insecurities – that’s what was exploited by those I beat. I proved I was ‘macho’ but it didn’t fix the fact I was a complete social dork, that I talked to myself, that I cried when people rejected my affections – that could be exploited and it is world-changing to men in that position. Masculinity is so fragile because when there is a hole in that stone shield, it can all fall down and the man inside feels naked and exposed. The bar is always set higher and we’re all scared we aren’t reaching it, not just men but women too, there’s a bar set for them by the patriarchy, standards of beauty and behaviour.

Men are hurt when they are told their masculinity is fragile and shown that they justify their behaviours by adding manly buzzwords to girly things because they pride themselves on it so much, it is what they were told they had to build for themselves as soon as they could talk. Be good at sports, be into action films, know lots about cars, don’t get beat up, don’t admit to having feelings, basically be an ironclad titan in all walks of life, be the man other men want to be, be the alpha male. If you’re made aware you’re not that alpha male, or further still, nobody is and nobody should be, it’s an entire philosophy challenged. Insecurities are exposed and they respond the only way they know how, the ‘manly’ way – fierce ‘banter’ or savage violence. Of course, the truth is masculinity, as a set code boys must live by, is a terrible thing we need to move past, men need to know it’s okay to like wearing make-up, using cinnamon scent candles as air-fresheners, being the weakest player on the team, nobody has a ‘worth’ to prove and the world is not a competition. I really hope we as a society can realise this, that being you is okay because for many of us, myself included, we spent so long thinking it wasn’t that we lash out at people who offend even an aspect of who we are, whatever that might entail.

This Isn’t A Game Guys! (And That’s The Problem)

Fifty posts! Hooray, have cake on me everyone! Only joking, all the cake is for me. Only joking again, there is no cake, the cake is a lie. Aha, got you with that old gem didn’t I? Yes, I did plan on hanging myself, how did you know? Erhem, terrible jokes aside, this is my fiftieth post, felt it was a better number to end the written works on than forty-nine. So what will it be about, you ask? Love? Politics? Religion? Hoho no, let’s end this chapter in the saga of rant on the same wavelength it started on – me getting all hoity toity about a small issue with comical effects.

My topic for discussion is the games industry and mainly, my distaste for it as of late. Are you old enough to remember the days when consoles competed for the market by making better games than each other? Sure, there were adverts that openly mocked Sonic or Mario as being stupid characters and so lame compared to other console mascots, but on the whole if a company wanted to win the race for children’s love at Christmas, it was by announcing a smorgasbord of interesting titles for the kiddies. Hey kids, forget the Dreamcast, get the PlayStation – we’ve got Rayman and Crash Bandicoot and racing games and so much more – and sure enough kids did just that. Truth be told, your parents only ever got you one console usually and thus you had to develop brand loyalty for fear of admitting you asked for the wrong gift at Christmas but my point stands, the consoles used to put a lot more effort into being worth the price tag than they do now.

Now you could say part of the problem is there’s no originality any more, that these big brands have had to duke it out for years on end and are just low on ideas so they make sequels to fan favourites and churn them out ad nauseum but I think there is a lot more to it than that, I think a big issue is game companies aren’t run by gamers, usually anyway. The CEOs of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo aren’t avid game fans or game designers but they get the final word in our gaming experiences and this is like hiring the blind guy to do your interior decorating on the basis of “Well, he has the paint and the brushes so we figured he’d be best suited to the job”. If you don’t believe me, have you noticed how most AAA games are sequels or reboots? The sales figures show they sell and so that’s what they go by, never venturing into unknown territory. I’m not saying these guys are idiots, I’m sure every one of us reckons they could improve on a bad game but not all of us actually know enough about game design to do that effectively and neither do these guys, that’s where the problem comes in. The executive level gets to decide important issues like game length, amount of DLC available, linear or non-linear storyline – they control the creative process and you know what they say about camels and horses (A camel is a horse designed by committee)

My second issue with modern gaming is the money pumped into the industry, a ridiculous amount that really isn’t needed at all. A study carried out four years ago showed games across platforms cost $28 million to make, that’s around £17 million, and that number has gone up and up each year. Console exclusives start at around £8 million. Why? Why do we need that kind of budget? Brilliant games exist that were made by four blokes in a basement! Sadly, perhaps that’s part of the problem but the budget is to cover the massive teams and years of development across the nation to bring out show-stoppers and games like Call of Duty and such are made so damn flashy and so frequently because it’s the industry saying “We need money! We need help! We’re victims of our own success!”. If the entire world switched off long running franchises like Halo or Call of Duty, corporations would crash and burn. A single failed game in this modern age can kill a company dead, possibly even a console. Nintendo is falling into the nether-realm of the digital world because it can’t hold up against it’s competitors, which brings me to my next issue, the narrow market.

Let’s review the choices of the modern gamer shall we? You have three big brands, one that’s limping on a crutch called Smash Brawl and failing, one that speaks of being “For the players!” but is really a gimmicky box of shite and one that lights up as it empties your wallet. Your other choices are a gaming PC to join the elitist super gamers or independant company consoles that are so beyond the mainstream you have to trawl through the internet to find out why you should buy one of them instead of a PS4. The big brands are atrocious money fiends that spend their time pissing each other off whilst flashing their fancy little tricks at you. Did you hear Microsoft will give you $100 store credit if you give them a PS3 so they can smash it up and dance on the remains? Sony’s response? “Save $100 by NOT doing what Microsoft told you, they’re all wankers anyway!”. Fucking grow up, your stupid rivalry creates stupid gamers. I hate talking to people about consoles, they’re so fucking loyal to the one they own that it’s obnoxious. Bitch, the only reason I’m a Playstation player is for Dynasty Warriors and JRPGs, I prefer Japanese games, they’re just more fun but they’re not available on XBOX because there are no avid-Microsoft fans in Japan really. Nintendo kept their head out of the bickering this time around but they’re struggling because by doing so, they’re not in the race and they’ve fallen off the radar despite pumping out all sorts of new games and consoles. Nintendo will bounce back, they always do – something about their characters makes the company immortal no matter how bad the struggle. The Gamecube lost to the PlayStation and XBOX, didn’t stop the Wii coming out. Game companies are becoming cruel and vindictive on the whole though and deliberately screwing their fans over to beat cash out of them. Take backwards compatibility on the PS4, it requires a fee for each game! Why not just keep my PS3? I’ve seen nothing on the PS4 that has convinced me “Oh, that’s a game that would have been impossible to make on the PS3, it is so new and intuitive!”. Again, another point – name me one new game that a smart game designer could not have made for the PS3/XBOX 360 that they did make for the new gen consoles. Nothing? I thought not.

I guess a big issue is by the time the new consoles do have genuinely exciting new releases that masterfully use the new software and hardware to create a unique experience, you’ll be holding onto your money for the PS5 or Xbox 3000 or Wii Z or whatever. The game industry shifts and changes too fast for the developers and it stresses them out which is a big problem, as I found out through a little read around. The burnout rate in game design careers is incredulous, as the designers reach the ‘settling down’ age they seek jobs with regular hours during daylight hours with good job security and a pleasant environment. Guess what? That’s not game design. Ergo, the technical sorts migrate into jobs to do with website maintenance and data handling and the designers move into advertising and graphics and so on. The people that can’t change careers however, are those with specialised skill sets, those that have devoted their lives to being the best damn 3D modelling artist ever – what else can you do? CGI film? Yeah, good luck getting that interview. The end result is a jarring mismatch of ability in the workplace, masterful artists and a high level of rank amateurs in the programming area with a handful of veterans watching them work. Chances are that glitch that made you walk through the floor or your head float away was an error made by a newbie that his boss was too damn tired to correct.

I guess I’m scared in a way, I grew up alongside the consoles and now I watch words flash up like “Microtransactions” and “Always online!” and it turns me away from the whole medium. Games are escapism in a way that films and books aren’t, it’s an interactive retreat from reality. You don’t watch a film and feel as if you’re Iron Man or Dumbledore, you just watch a selection of characters you like do stuff and smile and clap and eat popcorn. Games are different, you become the protagonist, especially in games like Fallout or Skyrim where the world revolves around you. In this world, you’re anything from a werewolf that can command the elements whilst riding into battle dressed in the robes of your great warrior grandfather to the survivor of an apocalyptic war looking to survive the chaos and carnage of the new world. Sadly however, the higher ups know how partial we are to this world and they follow us into it, picking our pockets and teasing us with more battles to win or princesses to save, and we give in and thus the childhood innocence of the land of heroes becomes a cash cow that insists it’s your noble steed into battle. It just isn’t guys, it just isn’t.

Perhaps the ultimate solution is to just stop, let it die and enjoy what we have and leave the industry to pick up the pieces and realise the truth of what it has become… Somehow, I don’t see that happening though

PS – For further reading, here is one of the many articles that inspired this post -