Monthly Archives: October 2011

Badger’s Theme Music: “Shotgun”

If you want to own the room, if you want to be the biggest fish in your pond…you gotta have theme music. Even if it only plays in your head when you walk in the front door.

Here’s one of mine.

I once read a rumor that the original take of this classic was so dynamic and out of control that Motown Records insisted it be re-recorded because the lyrics were unintelligible.

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Field Report: It’s Hard To Befriend Couples

Went out to watch one of my teams today. There’s a bar nearby that the alumni association frequents as the “official” fan bar for the area. Attendance was low which had the benefit of leaving lots of seats open for the taking. I really do loathe that the first thing you have to do at one of these game-watching events is scout a seat, before you’ve made any friends or accumulated any value. It connects directly with the old “this seat’s taken” experience of being in school. Some people are fine with a stranger taking an adjacent seat, but others view it as suspicious and creepy. Not to mention lots of people don’t mark saved seats with jackets or purses or anything, which would prevent the need for anybody to get rejected.

I sat at an empty four-chair table next to a crew of what appeared to be two couples. I had slept in, so I ordered a Manhattan and a caesar salad for my midday breakfast. (My waiter didn’t know what a Manhattan was, let alone the Canadian Club version I specified – kids these days.)

I noticed after a minute that I knew one of the guys at the next table from a previous event at this very bar, which gave me an opener into the group from whence introductions were made. I initiated a bit of chit-chat about when they were in school, when they last went to a home game, and so on, but the fish weren’t really biting. We’d high five when we scored, but I would bring up topics of conversation and get one- to two-sentence answers without followup.

I noticed an engagement ring on one of the girls and asked when they were getting married. She said next year, and then started showing dress pictures on her phone to the rest of them (but not me).

I asked if they had any plans for Halloween. A dude shook his head without conviction.

I replied with mock disappointment: “don’t tell me you’re not going trick or treating!”

[Sheepish half-smile] “Eh, we’re not going trick or treating.”

They seemed like nice enough people, so I chalked it up to having all their social energy committed to each other. Fifth-wheeling onto a set of two couples who are friends already is a tough job. I sat in silence much of the day, with the anxiety tape running in my head of why I didn’t have anything good to say and how am I ever going to get back on the horse. In the end it was the situation, not me, but it didn’t make me feel much better – especially after last night’s underwhelming Halloween party experience.

As an aside, one of the interesting things about getting into a relationship as a guy is that it opens your social life to include other couples. All those dudes you never saw again because they got a wife or a girlfriend all of a sudden are open to hanging out, because you can both bring your girls and let them have a coffee klatsch while you and your bro grill or talk about weightlifting. Especially above the age of 25, there’s a steady distillation of young adults into the single and non-single camps. Thinking back on my working life, the couples I’ve become friends with usually started as work friends, and then I met their partners. Since I’ve become single, I’ve found it’s much harder to socialize with my coupled friends.

I left the bar when the game was over, getting friendly enthusiastic goodbyes from my laconic pals. Not wanting to return to my uninhabited abode just yet, I stopped into the bagel shop for a snack hoping to hone a bit of day game. In line ahead of me were an old man paying, and a slender twentysomething blonde woman ordering. She had on well-fit jeans, low-cut shoes and a zipped-up black windbreaker. She was on the phone asking someone if they wanted anything. I noticed a modest engagement ring and guessed who she was talking to.

It’s been getting colder and rainier lately, so as she hung up I remarked on her lack of preparation. “You’re the only woman I’ve seen today who’s not wearing galoshes.”

“Ha, yeah I really should be wearing them. I’m from the north, so I really don’t think of this weather as cold.”

“Really…by north do you mean like Boston or like Canada?”

“I’m from Boston.”

“Reeeeeally, I’ve spent some time up there myself. Where are you from?”

“I’m from the South Shore, near Cape Cod.”

“Funny, I had a job in one of the towns down there. Do you like the Pats?” (The New England Patriots’ headquarters and stadium are in Foxborough, in southern Massachusetts near the Rhode Island border.)

[With disbelief] “Of course! I love all the teams.”

“All the blue-collar guys I worked with were huge Pats fans, even bigger than the regular Bostonians. Even when they sucked.”

“They all sucked when I was growing up, and they got good when I left. So now my parents tell me not to come home.”

“Haha…thanks Mom!”

She paid and left, and I followed up with the same. I was enthused by her complete lack of sour or snarl. I gave her the opportunity to have an existentially meaningless two-minute conversation while we waited for our bagels to get shmeared, and she took it for what it was worth. After the buttoned-up experience at the bar, it was just what I needed.

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How To Find Good Men

…start by finding the good IN men.

The Private Man has just put up “A Dating Exercise For Women“:

The biggest challenge is for women to re-adjust their approach to men. Women usually look for reasons to reject a man. They find the bad things first. This results in a lot of frustrated single women. To start the readjustment, I have this very simple mental exercise:

Every time you see and/or interact with a man, look for something good about him.

Hat tip also to bbsezmore who has a similar idea that women should examine and remove subconscious, knee-jerk misandrous bias from their minds.

You have to like men. I mean, really like (or even love) men.

Because if you don’t, you will never find a man worthy of your respect.

Some of you may be in a position where you don’t need a man in the traditional sense: you have a career, earn your own money, maybe even own your own home. But you’d like to see a man included in all this because…

a. that’s what’s supposed to happen
b. you’re really lonely, or
c life is incomplete without a man

None of these reasons are good enough. Viewing a man as an accessory to your life is not the same thing as appreciating and liking men for who they are.

And also to Susan Walsh’s sort of kitschy but still entertaining laundry list of things she likes about men (grilling is on the list, lulz).

I think there’s two things going on here. First is that habit begets habit – when you make an effort to notice the good, it will quickly become an automatic trait. The second is more subtle. It’s well-known in psychology that when you speak or write a thought, your mind subconsciously commits you to that thought such that your behavior reinforces it. And while our attraction switches and snap judgments are strongly embedded in our hindbrains, they are still mutable by the way we approach people and the values we choose to admire.

It is amazing for me to stop and think how unusual this really is. I know women who have male friends that they like, and women who are boy-crazy and/or sex-obsessed, but the typical young woman in my blast radius is to some degree or another blaming the misfortune of her life on a man (for married women) or men writ large (in the case of singles), or trying to get something out of a man (drinks, dinners, engagement rings, children).

I don’t know that many women I can pick out of my rolodex and say “she’s a girl who just likes and appreciates men as they are.”

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Reader Exercise: Sexual Function Indexes for Men and Women

Too-good-to-not-include photo from Barker's latest post.

Eric Barker’s excellent Barking Up The Wrong Tree blog describes, in short pithy posts, dozens of psychological truisms and well-being lifehacks with research to back them up. I’ve linked him several times.

In a pair of posts outlining how yoga improves sexual performance in both men and women, he cites studies which use two indices of sexual function to measure the effect of lifestyle habits on men’s and women’s sexual health. (A significant part of psychological research canon is the development of measurement systems for human behaviors that can’t be expressed with rulers, clocks or scales.)

The Male Sexual Quotient or MSQ is a ten-question exam distilling sexual functioning into a single numerical metric. This abstract from Johns Hopkins noted that the average time to complete the exam was 11 minutes, and that 46% of men taking the survey exhibited, um, premature finishing. It took half the guys longer to finish the exam than to finish.*

The Female Sexual Function Index or FSFI uses 19 questions to rate female function in six categories: desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain. (I suppose that’s a testament to the complexity of female sexuality.)

OK, so out with it – take the appropriate exam and post your numbers!

Ladies first:

The Male Sexual Quotient exam was cribbed from a Google Books link here.

Answer this questionnaire honestly based on the last 6 months of your sex life, rating your answer as follows.

1 = infrequently or rarely
2 = sometimes
3 = nearly 50% of the time
4 = most of the time
5 = always

1. Is your desire high enough to encourage you to initiate sexual intercourse?

2. Do you feel confident in your ability of seduction?

3. Do you feel that foreplay is enjoyable and satisfying for both you and your partner?

4. Is your own sexual performance affected by your partner’s sexual satisfaction?

5. Can you maintain an erection sufficiently in order to complete sexual activity in a satisfactory way?

6. After sexual stimulation, is your erection hard enough to ensure satisfying intercourse?

7. Are you able to consistently obtain and maintain an erection whenever you have sexual activity?

8. Are you able to control ejaculation so that sexual activity lasts as long as you want?

9. Are you able to reach orgasm during sex?

10. Does your sexual performance encourage you to enjoy sex more frequently?

TOTAL MAXIMUM SCORE: 50. Add up the numbers and multiply by 2.

82-100: Highly sassified.**

62-80: Partially sassified.

42-60: Average.

22-40: Dissassified.

0-20: Highly dissassified.

*Waka waka!

**”Sassified” is not in my browser’s spelling dictionary.

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AMOGing and Apples

The situation of a guy coming into your space and puffing himself up trying to insert himself as is a classic field problem in the pickup world, and in life in general. The PUAs dubbed the problem and its solutions “AMOGing,” for Alpha Male Of the Group, codifying it as a fight for dominance between anonymous rivals.

One of the prototype AMOG solutions is to play low status in a caricatured way – get overtly deferential and treat the guy as Mr. Big Dog Smarty Pants. A lot of guys can’t handle having the frame completely handed to them like that. It’s like opening a door towards you when someone is leaning on it on the other side. (Who knew the Three Stooges were social dynamics experts?) You could see it as a form of agree-and-amplify, making the guy wonder if he’s overplayed his hand.

Another solution is to play moderator: let him talk a bit, then turn to the rest of the group and ask what they think of what he said, which re-sets you as the leader of the group without having to say much at all.

Yet another solution is to just let the guy run his mouth and make a bloody fool of himself. Then you can easily knock him over, and the group will like you for getting rid of that pretentious blowhard. The kind of guy who feels the need to invade another social group and take it over carte blanche is bound to say something stupid or bore people in the process. A guy with preliminary value might be able to hack it, as ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman did with his famous “you’re with me, leather” come-on, but in general a skilled socializer is not going to come into a new group of people and act like he’s the boss without any introduction or rapport.

Check out the double-AMOG sequence in this scene from “Good Will Hunting” (the first modern bromance.)

Chuckie (Ben Affleck, pre-JLo) bullshits Skylar (Minnie Driver) and friend with an opener about having a class together. They see through it but seem mildly charmed by his efforts. Arrogant dude with a ponytail* decides to call him on it with a “you’re not our kind” routine, and persists even when Skylar gets annoyed and tells him to bug off. Rule #2 of pickup: don’t go where you’re not welcome. (Rule #1 is “approach.”)

As Ponytail is trying to flex against Chuckie by showing off his book smarts, Will inserts himself and reveals that a thug from Southie can talk smart too – the thing about book smarts is that anyone can read the books. He completely deflates Ponytail’s appeal to educational status and then blows out of the set.

It’s a showdown of Boston’s two defining groups – the Brahmin intellectual class and the blue-collar townies. The townie cares less, and wins.

Ladies, note also that Skylar re-approaches him, qualifies him and gives him her number without him asking…a good show of female agency.

Once on the street, Will doesn’t waste the opportunity to tell Ponytail “I win.”

*The walking grad student stereotype compels me to drop this:

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Date Bombs

Have you ever been invited to an activity by a member of the opposite sex, where it is stated or implied that other people will be there, only to show up and find it’s just the two of you? (“Oh yeah, Bob, Sarah and Mike couldn’t come at the last minute.”) And the inviter then proceeds with some verbal intimacy or romantic escalation?

Congratulations…you’ve been the victim of a date bomb. A date bomb is a procedural switcheroo where you get inadvertently roped into a social situation you were not expecting to have to prepare for – such as being tricked into going on a date when you expected to be in a group of friends.

The Type I date bomb above reflects a beta-oneitis pathology: “if only she/he could get to know me they’d see how great we’d be together so it’s OK for me to trick them into getting into an intimate situation.”

Date bombs can also go in the other direction (Type II), where a one-on-one date is unilaterally converted to a group or friend event.

Have you asked out a woman to coffee or a drink, and she says “oh yeah that sounds like fun!” [You're really jacked up at her accepting, unaware your dreams are about to be smashed to pieces] “…let me call Jenny and see if she wants to come, we could all hang out together.”

An even worse date bomb is to bring other people in without any warning at all, the other party shows up and finds other people have been invited without their being notified.

Type II date bombs are particularly pernicious because they make it look like they’re accepting the invitation while they manipulatively change it around, so you can’t back out of the “deal” (whose terms have been changed without your consent) without looking like a butthurt douche. It’s a form of LJBF.

DON’T DO DATE BOMBS

Don’t do date bombs. Tricking someone into going on a date is dysfunctional and reflects desperation. Manipulating someone asking you out into hanging out “as friends” is cruel; just decline the invitation.

There is an exception for Type I. If you have a very well-founded suspicion that the other person is into you, the magical disappearance of other people provides an opportunity for seemingly-spontaneous intimacy to develop; it’s a way of making “it just happened!” happen.

A friend of mine had a longtime jones for a woman in his social circle. He hatched a plan to invite a group to a bar to watch a baseball game (they both liked the same team). He invited her friends knowing they wouldn’t show up to a sports bar, and “invited” his own friends to create plausible deniability while specifically instructing them to not show up either. They bonded over the game, then he kissed her, to her total surprise. They’re married now. He’s a smart guy.

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Filed under beta guide, dating and field game, girl guide, original research

Clueless SoCons, Redux

The Manosphere has been a-fire lately concerning conservative opinionator Bill Bennett’s recent book about “manhood” and a follow-up article by a feminist conservative complaining that men today “won’t grow up” and marry her awesomely awesome younger spirit-sisters.

Fellow bloggers Dalrock and Ferdinand Bardamu have both covered this issue in great detail. I for my part covered almost all of this stuff in my two-part series on Kay Hymowitz and her silly, uninformed screeds against young men. I really have no interest in re-arguing those points, so I will encourage new readers to review those pieces.

And I will add a few new thoughts that apply to the whole gang of them.

1. In my posts I noted that Hymowitz et al conflated alpha males, who refuse to “settle down,” and omega males, who don’t have anything to offer modern women. In light of these new, um, contributions, I’d like to refine that angle with another reference to Dalrock – these women resent alpha males because they are successful and non-committal, and they resent beta/omega males because they are unattractive and clingy (in other words, too committal).

2. One of the major threads of criticism in the Manosphere holds that feminism and so-called “traditionalism” are a lot more alike than either want to admit because they both seek to obligate men to benefit women’s interests. I called this “obligation masculinity,” and it only works as an organizing principle of society if obligation femininity also exists.

Bennett and Nance continue the streak – in their argument, men are told to do certain stuff and act a certain way for the benefit of women, children, the economy, society, God – everyone but themselves. Truly they are supposed to put everyone else’s interests ahead of their own, because “that’s what a man does.” Interesting how in their world, no one else is expected to put a man’s interest ahead of their own. “Traditionalist conservative” family models might claim to do this, but as Dalrock has pointed out even conservative churches speak like Christ but act like Oprah, refusing to publicly criticize the perpetrators of frivolous divorce. If they’re working for everyone else’s benefit, it’s not at all wrong to ask, what’s in it for them? (Lest you think I’m a hardened cynic, I understand that many relationships of all stripes are successfully built on a bedrock of balanced, mutually-interested sacrifice.)

3. Bennett, Nance and others try to lecture and shame men to “man up,” as if the problem can be fixed from the inside. This is simply an adaptation of free-market conservatives’ longtime arguments about poverty – “if you don’t like being poor, work harder!” It’s silly advice to the poor, because systemic poverty is a complicated, multi-generational macro-issue. Bennett tells guys to “get a challenging job.” Where are said jobs? Can they get them in vending machines for a dollar and a quarter? Men are supposed to be “responsible” for a wife and kids. What does that mean for a generation of men who were never taught how to be evenly modestly attractive to women? It’s easy for a guy who spent most of his productive years in funded government positions and writes soft-philosophy books that WASPs buy to put on their fireplace mantles to tell young men to just get up and go to work. There’s no there there.

4. The theme of “guys play too many video games” is almost universal in this discussion, especially coming from women. What amazes me, although it doesn’t surprise me, is the complete lack of censure for the female equivalents (collecting clothes, eating out and traveling). Hymowitz in fact openly praised the shallow, consumptive lifestyles of her Manhattan mentees while slamming men for so much as drinking beer.

In any case, I think the knock on video games, poker and guy-only trips to the bar is simply another way of invalidating the “secret worlds” of men. It’s de rigeur for women to question fraternities, sports teams and other male-only activities as exhibitions of repressed homosexuality. It’s like guys wouldn’t spend any time together unless they secretly wanted to bang (of course, the same critics would say there’s nothing wrong with being gay and would balk at true homophobia even as they delight in impugning the integrity of men’s sexuality).

The mocking of the competitive, fantastic worlds boys love is another layer of the onion. Just recently, a commenter at Married Man Sex Life questioned why Athol Kay had to put so much science fiction into his posts, as if it served some nefarious purpose to alienate women. At the time of the Hymowitz posts, a reader wrote me saying that long ago she had snagged her then-young son a used Star Wars comforter. He was thrilled. Boys want and need heroic stories, games and role models that stoke their imagination for big things – something scifi and fantasy provide in spades. Striving for a goal and seeking self-determination is how boys learn to grow into men.

I’m not going to elevate Sunday Night Baseball to the level of a religious ritual, but guys need guy time. Teamwork is a natural part of the male experience going back to the Time Before Writing. It fills a critical social role, even more so today where traditional “man zones” have been unilaterally opened up to women – first by fiat, then by the forces of cultural acclimation. By and large men of my generation have accepted women in the workplace, boardrooms, and even in locker rooms (as reporters or players) with aplomb. Is a pizza and beer night with no girls allowed really that much to ask in return?

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Daylight Frisson

I went to a football game this weekend; it was sunny and I forgot my sunblock. I went to the apparel booth to buy a hat where an overweight middle-aged woman helped me.

“Excuse me, can I see that hat? [I points]“

“Sure you can…”

“Is it a fitted cap or is it resizeable for my melon?”

She looks it over. “It has this strap on the back, so surely you can change the size to fit you.”

“Dear, you don’t have to call me Shirley.”

She made the sale anyway.

—————————-

I was making a delivery and found myself in an elevator with a young woman (I think she was a secretary for one of the VIPs in the building). By a quick glance I noticed her blue top matched her metallic toenail polish.

[Deadpan] “Are your toes and your shirt coordinated on purpose?”

[Blank-but-not-annoyed look] “You know, this morning I had on closed-toe shoes, and then I noticed I matched, so I changed to open-toed shoes.” (The unspoken subtext being “so people could notice.”)

I noticed her eyes had a similar shade of blue. (I don’t normally notice eye color.)

“And they both match your eyes too. That’s really good coordination.”

[Giggly] “Hahaha, thanks for noticing.”

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Dr. Marcus Conant on Modern AIDS Epidemiology

Jacksonville native and Air Force veteran Marcus Conant was a dermatologist working in San Francisco in 1981 when he began seeing young male patients exhibiting a rare skin cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Because KS was one of the first two opportunistic infections to be characteristically identified with AIDS-related immune suppression (the other was the fungally-induced pneumocystis pneumonia, or PCP), Conant’s specialty and proximity to the gay community put him directly in the path of a then-baffling new disease.

It was an interesting fit for him, as early in his career in San Francisco he worked at the Haight-Ashbury STD clinic triaging the fallout from the experimental free-love community. Conant says this clinic witnessed one of the first epidemics of genital herpes, an unfortunately common disease among sexually active Americans today.

(WordPress won’t let me embed the fora.tv video, so here is the link – it is absolutely worth watching.)

There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in here, from transmission patterns among truck drivers to the politics of foreign aid, doctors who don’t want to know if their patients are positive to the effect of crystal meth on casual sex to “black and Hispanic America have not yet come out of the closet.” Conant also gives specific medical recommendations – testing of every sample of blood that is drawn and aggressive monitoring of viral load in patients.

To head off questions I feel I need to disclaim my interest in the subject. I’m not gay, I’m not bi, I’m not bi-curious or anything like that. I’m not involved in any activism when I’m not blogging, and I’m not a doctor on the front lines. I became interested in the AIDS epidemic as a pre-teen and teen as it was a major factor in what they were teaching us in the the nascent “safe sex 90′s.” It was only after a full medical understanding that I became interested in the social environment and fallout of the disease, which dovetails nicely with my amateur study of sexual dynamics (otherwise known as this blog). AIDS is also interesting in that it’s one of the only diseases to completely emerge under the scope of modern medicine and epidemiology, meaning its origins could be rather conclusively traced and its various treatments completely recorded and studied.

While medically and socially it’s wrong to approach AIDS as a gay man’s disease, the fact is that since the first months of its appearance, AIDS has been an ever-present specter in the gay male community, a more singular demon than almost any threat facing any other first-world demographic group. I recently saw an estimate that even today, a sexually-active gay American man has a 1 in 5 risk of becoming infected with HIV in his lifetime.

AIDS, even before it was named such, quickly caught the notice of the Centers for Disease Control, which internally characterized it as the “4-H” disease – referring to its first classes of victims: homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs and Haitian immigrants. It’s morbid to consider that AIDS fairly quickly shut down the fast-lane lifestyle of young gay communities in the Castro, New York’s Fire Island and a dozen other North American gay villages, for two reasons: the disease forced behavioral changes in risk groups, and many of the lifestyle’s evangelists themselves died of the disease. It’s fair to note that many young gay men were not participating in the hyper-promiscuous behavior the culture was known for, but after a certain point, it didn’t really matter; the second wave of cases started to hit relatively chaste men, who in the course of a sensible serial-monogamy lifestyle would come in contact with a “reformed bathhouser.”

Public health authorities have long played a tightrope game of trying to contain risky sexual behavior, but not shaming it so much that it simply goes underground where health and social services can’t reach them. This is something like what has happened in places like Washington DC where gay black men (“on the downlow”) are extremely circumspect in their behavior, difficult for public health services to find, and are trafficking the virus between gay and straight communities.

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Joining Yohami in the 200 Club

On Thursday the Badger Hut (that’s me, yo) surpassed 200,000 views.

Party on.

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