Friday, April 27, 2012

Repost - Horrible Things We Do to Our Bodies: Cosmetics

Note: this is by no means a comprehensive list. Off the top of my head, I left off nail polish and vagina bleaching. Yes, vagina bleaching.

Minimal Beauty to the Max

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In Defense of Quickies

I am a perfectionist. This means that I read about perfectionism and wonder if it is a good thing or not. I have read research saying that perfectionism leads to procrastination because we are always waiting for the "perfect mood" or otherwise procrastinating because we know once we start what would be a mundane task for most other people, we are embarking on a time-consuming project where every t must be crossed, every i dotted.

This is why I don't proofread my blog posts. I don't even make a habit of reading over them before I post them. If I did, then it would escalate until I was revising it three times (for content, organization/style, and grammar) before I post, so I just post. Please excuse my typos and grammatical errors. I go back and fix them if I or other people notice them.

Imagine having sex with a perfectionist. It would be very stressful. Also, the perfectionist might put off having sex whenever he/she is the least bit tired or not in the mood, because he/she is afraid of being anything but his/her best in the sac. I'm not quite like that, but I do have anxiety about having sex when I'm tired because I'm in danger of becoming a "pillow queen." The other night, after staying up until 1:30 am talking with my boyfriend and being very sleep deprived from accumulated irregular sleeping cycles, I asked if he wanted to make out, but asked if it was okay if I was a pillow queen and just let him kiss me so I wouldn't have to be active. He said it was fine, and proceeded to have sex with me.

The sex was different from before. I was more relaxed that I had ever been. While we were not physically doing anything different, a combination of the sleep deprivation (which makes me act like I'm drunk and eventually made me start giggling for no good reason) and lack of expectations made me approach sex with a different perspective. I noticed and enjoyed things more, without analyzing them or trying to match them.

That session of sex was actually not a quickie, but after awhile we terminated sex since it was late, we were both tired, and we had to go to work the next morning.

The next morning, my boyfriend wanted to "finish" like he hadn't the night before. What follows was what was probably the most seemingly disinterested session of sex we have ever had. I enjoyed the quickie, actually, but again it was different.

First of all, my boyfriend started initiating sex with me after 7 o'clock. Usually by this time he's leaving for work or anxiously getting ready to leave for work, so I (who was still lazing in bed) was like, "Wha? You're trying to have sex with me now? At this time?"

Second of all, unlike him, I did not awake with a hard-on (thank goodness for that), but I wasn't wet either. Therefore, told him, "No, don't go in yet." He admits that he was rushing it.

Third and lastly, because it was the quickest quickie we've ever had (although it was 7:18am by the time it ended, to my boyfriend's anxiety), my boyfriend came subtly. I was confused about whether or not he had come or not because his reaction wasn't as extreme as it usually was. He noticed that I noticed, joking that my reaction was, "What? You're done already?" Really, it was more like, "Did you cum or not? Because I'm not really sure."

Despite all of this, I enjoyed the quickie and told my boyfriend that I had no problem having more of them in the future. For one thing, it's low-pressure (not just for me, for him, since he worries about bringing me to a climax, which just makes me more anxious about whether or not I can get to a climax). For another thing, they're quick and they feel good.

Let's say that most sex is like the movies. There are romances, action movies, horror films, chick flicks, dramas, indies, and epics. They are all huge productions and last a certain amount of time. Movies are great. I mean, some of them disappoint you or are so-so, but the really great ones give you a sense of catharsis and euphoria and have you thinking/talking about it for days.

Quickies are like comic strips or inspirational quotations. They're short, you enjoy them, and they make you feel better about your day.

The fact that quickies are quick make them very good for long-term couples in committed relationships. Relationships with small children (or even larger children) do not have time for private movies very often. There is actually a theory of sex in married couples that claims that couples purposely squash passion because it is based on mystery (and hence lack of intimacy) and unpredictability (which is not good when you have two kids, two careers, and a mortgage). Therefore sex becomes, if not boring, at least very routine (after the kids are put to bed every Thursday night!). On the other hand, plenty of studies show that people should have more sex because it improves our quality of life. Quickies would allow such couples to have more sex, and to have it in an unpredictable and therefore passionate, but manageable way. Easy solution, right?

Lastly, quickies still feel good. I once saw a quotation about golf: "Golf is like sex. Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good." I have to admit that sometimes when I have trouble waking up in the morning, I masturbate. It's quick and low-pressure and easy, and afterward I have this sense of euphoria that tricks me into thinking the rest of the day will be okay. While I'm not advocating that people stop masturbating just because they have a regular sexual partner, why not share the love?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Porn, Sex, Intimacy, and the Failure of Youporn

My first semi-interaction with porn was when one of my best friends in middle school informed me that her boyfriend would regularly go watch porn with his friends at one of his friend's houses (it was his dad's porn). She thought it was really weird. I, not dating the guy, and already indirectly exposed to my dad's porn collection, didn't think much of it. It was like a rite of passage for them.

Later on, I questioned my boyfriend about this whole group of guys watching porn together phenomenon. Even though he's not homophobic, he thought it was a bit like the "locker room" phenomenon and therefore a bit gay--a bunch of guys watching porn together. On the other hand, my boyfriend has been kicked out of the "dude" club for not approving of guys talking about the graphic sex they would have with their co-workers/acquaintances.

My first direct interaction with porn . . . was through manga. There's quite a bit of soft-core (soft-core in that the penis is censored out) manga porn. They vary in their level of plot, realism (but very little manga is realistic anyway), and humiliation of the female (a common theme--usually the girl is so ashamed of being turned on--sometimes because the guy is a jerk--that she can't even bear to look at herself in the mirror).

In the meantime I was taking a psychology course on human sexuality, which covered, among other things, bonobo sexual habits, sexual therapy, viagra, pedophilia, molestation, transgender people, and porn. I came out of that class undecided about porn's role, except that Christian fundamentalist emergency hotline workers were crazy for focusing on husband's porn habits when there were so many other issues in a relationship. I view excessive porn usage as an effect of a dysfunctional marriage, not (necessarily) its cause. It's not even sure that the porn usage was excessive.


Note:I know someone who used to work for a porn company, the same one that later got sued for distributing videos of Pamela Anderson. His job mostly involved answering the telephone, including telling grandmothers and minister's wives what these mysterious charges were on their grandson's/husband's credit card. For the grandson viewing gay porn, he said they were an entertainment website. For the minister's wife, he was honest to the point of pointing out that just because the porn was being accessed by the church's computer didn't mean that her husband wasn't culpable.

There are also crazy husbands who view their wives' masturbation as cheating. Obviously I'm more liberal than that, but at the risk of sounding like a fundamentalist Christian, I don't think porn's role in society is harmless. There are two types of feminists. The ones who believe that women should be sexually liberated (as in we should imitate the sexual appetites and tastes of men) and those who think that porn objectifies women. I slant more toward the latter. What if I don't want to imitate the sexual appetites and tastes of men? There's a reason why the sex industry has failed to attract a female following. (Apparently a lot of people, involving women, have worked on this.) I think the reason for failure was trying to follow the same formula as porn for men.

There is a huge industry in female-audience porn. It's called the romance novel industry. I've read a few by Danielle Steele and Nora Ephron (whom I suspect might be the "higher-end" writers). The plots are sometimes contrived, especially the sexual tension and male dominance over females, but I have to admit they're not bad writers. Why do these novels succeed when video porn fails? Probably the semblance of a plot. More importantly, there's supposed to be emotion and even intimacy in romance novels, two things noticeably absent in video porn.

My first real interaction with "real" porn was in a hotel in Taichung. While flipping through the channels, my boyfriend discovered that we had free porn--at least three channels of it. One was the weird Japanese porn where the vagina is pixelated out, but the other ones were English language and everything. We watched it. We touched each other. We started having sex. We turned off the TV.

So porn can be sex positive even in a real relationship. My favorite moment of watching porn with my boyfriend though? We were watching an unusually plot heavy movie (although it didn't make sense and ultimately went unresolved).

My favorite sex scene was between the protagonist's best friend/editor and her (own) boyfriend. It had been mentioned before that he was a guy who spontaneously did sweet things for her (to the protagonist's displeasure--I seriously thought she had a thing for her friend's boyfriend for awhile--oh the wasted plotline!). Their sex scene was oddly intimate. I mentioned to my boyfriend that the actors actually seemed to be enjoying themselves.

However, my favorite moment was when the protagonist had an argument with her editor friend about how the editor didn't know how hard it was to find love because she had a great boyfriend. The editor then talked about how tired she was of her friend being bitter about the editor's great relationship, and how hard it was for the editor to see her friend get into shitty relationship after shitty relationship with douchebags. It was a revelation. That's what I was (am) going through with one of my friends!

Flashback: My first interaction with video porn came after reading about youporn in a magazine while waiting in a doctor's office (the same way I discovered Hulu). A woman wrote a positive view of it, saying that it was a realistic depiction of real sex, unwaxed vaginas and interruptions by crying babies and all. I searched it, confirmed I was over 18, and watched. In the beginning I watched some nice videos, devoid of position changing, cock shots, cum shots, or even people's faces. There was one interracial couple where the female (on top) seemed genuinely affectionate. I guess the male was too, because he was constantly stroking her hair. Their sex was brief and ended with little fanfare or vocalization, but some kissing. Later on I watched a married couple have sex. The video included the wife venting her frustration from the day and complimenting her husband on making the bed nice as he actively listened and stroked her clitoris. Eventually he mentioned that she was already wet, but he went to go fetch a stool that they frequently used in their sexual interactions, as well as some lubricant. She reversed cowboyed him and attempted to talk dirty, but it was clear that she was unused to it and laughed at herself.

There were other, sexier videos (though less intimate), but eventually youporn got inundated by amateur porn artists, illegal uploads of professional porn, and women showing how they could put baseball bats up their vaginas. I watched a couple of "documentary" type porn videos, showing real married couples having sex. They were interviewed beforehand on how they met and what they liked about each other, and then on to the sex! It was still boring. First I suck on my wife's nipple, and then she sucks on my cock, etc., etc. It seemed mechanical.


Perhaps I was biased against professional porn, seeing how I had mostly seen amateur versions of it. I assumed that professional porn would be just as mechanical and boring. Most of it was. Besides the sex scene with the editor friend and her boyfriend, most of the sex scenes, even in that particular movie, seemed like people just going through the motions. Even the penultimate sex scene, where the protagonists finally (actually) gets together with her paramour was boring. I told my boyfriend I was disappointed. There was no passion, no intimacy, no indication that these two people actually liked each other. Sure, maybe sex gets boring after you've been doing it for hours (on Cialis), but these were supposed to be professionals!

Another reason video porn may not appeal to females is that, well, the camera is focusing on the wrong things. For one thing, I personally find most porn actresses to be unattractive. They're overly tanned, mostly with beach blond hair, and have breasts (real or more likely surgery enhanced) that are huge and pushed up to show cleavage through their turtlenecks. I can't imagine looking like these women or even wanting to look like these women. That's okay, because they're for the men to look at (and for the men to subconsciously start to holding as a standard for real women). The men? They're a bit tanned, but I can't argue with their huge cocks or their cut abs or their tight butts. Mostly the camera doesn't focus on them though. The camera is much more interested in viewing the woman from the man's perspective, so as to simulate the actual experience of having sex with the porn actress.

This is why I complained to my boyfriend that porn is boring. I don't want to look down at some woman's breasts for twenty minutes. I suppose it's more interesting for guys because 1) they like breasts and 2) they're supposed to be actively masturbating at this point. As Penelope Trunk points out, good sex is boring (except, perhaps, if you're the one engaging in it).


That's the (a) woman's perspective on porn. What about guys? I believe porn is just as bad for men's relationships with women as romance novels and fairy tales and Disney movies and romantic comedies are bad for women's relationships with men. They both set unrealstic, fetishized examples that get more and more extreme as media producers struggle to distinguish themselves from each other. Sure, sometimes it can be stylistic and fun, but they have little to do with reality, and are practically the only reference we have for how things are supposed to work.

That's why it's too bad that youporn failed. As for romance novels . . . all romance ends in marriage (or consummation). Once a relationship has been achieved in a story, all of the tension is gone. The honeymoon period fades after 6 months to a year. What is there to talk about then? Just as porn doesn't want to film women who aren't actively screaming or talking dirty, romance novelists don't want to record negotiating with your boyfriend about whose turn it is to wash the dishes. Yet demure sex and daily chores make up an important part of a relationship. It you don't have them, your relationship is probably on some kind of artificial steroidal high.

A recent article in New York Magazine talked about how porn may be causing some guys to "fake it" in order to compete with porn's standard. Woman have been doing that for ages. Sure, to do otherwise may be awkward, but it would also elicit an actual discussion about what could have been better--you know, intimacy? (though you may not want to have that intimate discussion with a one-night stand you picked up from a Broadway show). Porn may also lead men to have less interest in their actual wives/girlfriends (more on that later). It may also lead to imitation from women which, ironically, freaks men out.

So are fundamentalist Christians right? Does porn interfere with a man's relationship with his woman? Is it cheating? Maybe. Porn can become an addiction, and women aren't fond of their men having addictions (to sports, video games, work, drugs, etc.). Men don't like it when their women have addictions either (to shopping . . . etc.). Porn can be a problem if it interferes with or starts to become a replacement for a relationship. One man in the article turned porn into a very engrossing hobby that he prepped for. Another man used porn to aid sex with his wife. Neither of these relationships seem healthy to me.

Porn can become dangerous simply from a behaviorism point of view. Man watches porn (i.e. masturbates to it). Man receives positive reinforcement--not just in the release of semen, but in the release of oxytocin which leads to an emotional attachment with the porn. Man starts to watch more porn. Unfortunately things aren't so straightforward in actual sex. Sometimes the woman is tired or grumpy or angry at you or just not into it. Sometimes she doesn't cum. Sometimes she's been nagging at you to pick up your brown socks (though I don't know if men withhold sex as emotional blackmail the way women seem to do, it makes sense that if you're upset with a person, you're less likely to want to have sex with them, unless you're one of those people who view sex as an act of violence and domination). Sex in an actual relationship is not as reliable (though a bit more reliable than hook-ups) or instant gratification centric as porn. Get used to it, guys.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chivalry be Dead

This post was inspired partially by a discussion I had with my friends about appropriate boundaries with members of the opposite sex and partially by a historical art series ("Romance and Reality" by Lord Kenneth Clark) that my boyfriend was watching last night.

Appropriate boundaries with members of the opposite sex:
We live in modern times, where depending on the culture of your clique, it's okay to put your arms around your friends or slap them on the butt or be friends with benefits. That being said, your partner may not always be comfortable with all that. This whole discussion came up because one of my boyfriend's girl friends whom he has not seen in awhile innocently but inappropriately crossed that line by jumping on him (as in jumped up to hug him, possibly wrapping her legs around him--I'm not sure, I didn't actually witness it). Later I asked my boyfriend if he thought it was appropriate. He got nervous and said that people thought it was funny, and that his girl friend didn't mean anything by it. That's probably true, in that his girl friend didn't think anything of it, but it still makes me uncomfortable. So I talked with two of my friends. One has totally inappropriate boundaries with her guy friends, but she helped me see that this was mostly about my insecurities. Then I helped her see that she would freak out if her own boyfriend did half the stuff she does with her guy friends. The other friend took my perspective x2 and said not only that my boyfriend should be respectful of my feelings, but that his girl friend probably had romantic feelings for my boyfriend and that she doesn't like the way they conduct themselves toward each other. More on that later.

Romance and Reality:
This series has to do with courtly love, which Kenneth Clark says was one of the strangest aspects of Western Civilization, popping up during the Middle Ages around the time of the Crusades. He mentioned that some people speculate that it came about from the love poetry of Persia (sure, blame the Asians), but he said that one more likely reason for its development had to do with the fact that a lot of guys went off to steal land during the Crusades (war was more transparently for profit back then), leaving their wives at home. Women at this time in the Middle Ages actually had some authority; when they're husband was away, they were the boss. In the meantime, all of the gallant young knights who for some reason or another did not go to fight in the Crusades had to pay fealty to their lady. Think of the most well-known example of courtly love: Lancelot and Guinevere. Although the stories have changed over time, originally, Lancelot and Guinevere fell in love because they spent a lot of time together ruling Camelot while Arthur was away searching for the Holy Grail. Also, originally their love was never consummated. It was pure and chaste, like most courtly love.

Courtly love is when a man falls in love with an unavailable, usually married woman and pledges ever-lasting devotion to her because she's so beautiful, refined, and virtuous. It's associated with the devotion some religious figures have toward the Virgin Mary. Like one's relationship with the Virgin Mary, the woman may or may not even give the man the time of day (not even in a non-dirty way), but the man's devotion will still be unyielding.

In the Middle Ages during the Crusades, this probably was an ideal. This way, the married woman really does get to stay chaste and loyal to her husband (therefore avoiding the problems of bastards), but she still gets some male attention. And the poor guys who have been tricked into this situation are supposed to be happy with it.

But think about how messed up this is in modern times, when even in long-distance relationships you can communicate with your lover or jump on a plane. I don't think most guys would be happy with their girlfriends receiving devotion from some other dude, even if it wasn't consummated. But the real benefactress is, of course, the lady, nowadays referred to as a female lonely user. Basically, she's not going to really get with her guy friend for whatever reason, but she uses him as a de facto boyfriend, sans the kissing, etc.

But how can a guy be a boyfriend if there's no kissing and no nooky? Well, how can you be "friends with benefits"? By separating the sex from the emotional intimacy and commitment. Friends with benefits have the sexual relationship and may even have some emotional intimacy (hence the "friends" part), but not the commitment. That's 2/3s of Sternberg's Love Triangle (I mean--Triangular Theory of Love). Girls with surrogate boyfriends have at least the emotional intimacy; there may even be some one-sided commitment, but there is no passion. At least not consummated passion. Flirtatiousness--fine. Sex--no-no. In case this is still unclear, here are some of the things a surrogate boyfriend would be expected to do:
  1. Listen to girl friend's problems for extended periods of time.
  2. Be available at all times to chat.
  3. Sit next to girl friend or save girl friend a seat.
  4. Accompany girl friend on errands.
  5. See and give commentary on her underwear.*
  6. Let girl friend hug put her arm around him.
  7. Dance with girl friend.
  8. But not initiate any touching of girl friend.
*Not necessarily while wearing it.

Numbers 1 through 7 are guidelines for a functional girl-girl friendship, but only if it's two sided. What strikes me as weird about the relationship though, is the unevenness. This list is catering to the girl. It's not that the guy friend isn't getting anything out of the relationship, even if he's not secretly in love with her, but the relationship is primarily dictated by the girl's needs.

Well, yeah, some may say. Girls are needier than guys. Fuck you. But there do seem to be types of girls who "need" a boyfriend--someone to wait on them--literally. My boyfriend's girl friend moved from one long-distance boyfriend to a local one during the peak of their surrogate relationship. At one point, she was going to the city to see a play at night, but had class during the day. Therefore her boyfriend waited for her on campus the whole day. I'm not sure what he was doing. He had a laptop, I think.

We call these types of girls "princesses." They always need to be attended to, even if there is no immediate need, because what if? These princesses imitate the real princesses in the day of yore, when the female sex was considered too delicate to fend for herself, even as she was running her husband's estate. Therefore, she had both female and male attendants--chivalrous knights to pick up their handkerchiefs and whatnot. Not that the knight was supposed to expect anything in return. He was supposed to want to do it because she was so damn beautiful.

Girls, this is outdated thinking. No matter how beautiful you are, it's not okay to treat a guy like crap. It's not okay to receive without giving in return. You are not a princess. Pick up your own damn shit. Get your hands dirty--like a queen.

Here's my real beef with chivalry--it's sexist. Sure, it's nice when a guy makes you walk on the inside of the street for safety or opens doors for you or takes your jacket or pushes your chair in or stands when you enter the room--actually some of those things are annoying. I have to admit I let my boyfriend do the first, but I am kind of unobservant when it comes to traffic, so my safety may actually be a real issue. The other stuff? A non-issue. I know how to operate doors. It's okay if people help you out that way, as long as you help them back in return. Some girls might say this stuff is respectful, but I believe real respect is a two-way street. Chivalry is men treating women differently because of some essential difference, such as delicacy. Do I want my boyfriend to change the my lightbulbs? Yes. He's taller. But in a pinch I can do it myself. Besides, I'll make it up to him by searching for stuff under the furniture. Division of labor.

Even before I connected chivalry with female lonely users (to be fair, I think guys can also be lonely users), I hated it because I view it as a deterrent to feminism. I know it's not an equal argument, but how can women achieve equality with men if they're still holding onto sex-specific privileges? Having a door opened for you is not equivalent to having equal pay in a work environment, but it's the idea that counts. Don't accept any chivalrous bribes! Fight for equality! Even in the dating environment! Go Dutch!

Disclaimer: I allow my boyfriend to steer me to the inside of the street, change my lightbulbs, and carry my bags. I convince myself this is okay because of my deficient traffic awareness and the fact that I am seven inches shorter and 75 pounds lighter than him. I refuse to let him pay more of the rent even though he (currently) makes more money than I do.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why Girls Go for Bad Boys

This has been a beef of mine for awhile, in theory. I myself never understood the appeal, but it became personal when one of my friends actually started dating a "bad boy."

Disclaimer: this is her own definition. My own boyfriend says that he's not really a bad boy. The definition of "bad boy" includes but does not necessarily require the following qualities: riding a motorcycle, being cool, being handsome, being hip, having disdain for society, having disdain for other people, displaying deviant behavior, promiscuity, being tragic, being emotionally crippled, and otherwise being a jerk.

I've talked about this phenomenon with a couple of people. One was a male cousin. Like me, he is super-rational. He did say that one of his reasons for getting into racing cars was because it could lead to a desirable "bad boy" quality. He also admitted that it's been his experience that girls are, in fact, drawn to bad boys. In the meantime, his sweet Japanese girlfriend was sitting there wide-eyed and interested to learn about this possibly American phenomenon. After all, we are the culture of James Dean and Clint Eastwood.

There is also scientific experience to support the bad boy theory. After all, bad boys do not make good husbands, household providers, or fathers (or boyfriends). They're kind of selfish. So as far as evolutionary theory, scientists were wondering why so many women did, in fact, go for them. One theory was that they were handsome, virile, and testosterone (and therefore possibly violence) filled.

Disclaimer: While scientific studies show that all men with a propensity for violence have a high level of testosterone, many men with a high level of testosterone are not violent. So it's a necessary but not sufficient cause.

But again, what good is a man that leaves you pregnant and then leaves you to raise the child on your own? The chances of you and your (his) child of surviving are significantly slimmer than someone who has a nice, consistent husband who doesn't cheat on you or beat you.

So evolutionary theorists came up with the handsome son theory. This theory theorizes that after you have slept with a handsome asshole who moves on to impregnate many other women without helping them actually raise the children, you give birth to a handsome asshole who grows up to impregnate many women without actually helping them raise the children. Evolution-wise, you still win, because your genes are being spread around by your handsome son.

That's one (evolutionary) reason why women may be attracted to bad boys, or perhaps people who have undesirable characteristics evolved to become handsome, because who would put up with them otherwise? However, while I find evolutionary reasons interesting, I don't find them sufficient. After all, nature's only half the formula. There's also nurture.

The society I grew up in aspired to raise girls to believe that half of romance consists of a mysterious and dashing stranger out there who will be rough around the edges, but who overcome this to become their knight in shining armor and they will live happily ever after (see The Mummy, Pride and Prejudice, Disney, etc.). The other half has to do with sex.

Romance novels follow a similar formula, except all that mysteriousness and roughness applies to a steamy sex scene, complete with a near fantasy rape where the woman doesn't really want to because he's such a jerk, but at the same time really wants to because he's so sexy. So the guy basically rapes her. Consensually.

Did I mention that my friend was once talking with her TA about their jerk boyfriends who keep saying they'll do things, and sometimes even do after excessive nagging, but mostly don't, and they agreed that nice guys are boring? This has to do with nurture. In fact, it has to do with behaviorism. There is a licensed social worker who writes about Attractions of Deprivation.

My boyfriend thinks the grammar of this concept makes no sense, just like I find the concept of Managing Up really annoying, but in our sound bite culture, you have to at least try and come up with a catchy name for a concept. Attractions of Deprivation does sound a bit more accessible and self-helpy and new-agey than something like "variable ratio/interval reinforcement schedule that leads to great resistence to extinction," which is basically the same thing.

Jennifer Weiner writes in Good in Bed that in college Cannie took a science class in which rats were exposed to three different ways of getting food pellets. Some rats got a pellet every time they pressed a bar. Some rats never got a pellet if they pressed a bar. The third group of rats would randomly get a pellet if they pressed the bar. Obviously the rats who never got the pellet stopped pushing the bar, while the other two groups pressed the bar quite a bit. Then in the second phase scientists stopped giving pellets altogether. The rats who were previously used to a steady stream of food pellets soon learned that the trick wouldn't work anymore and adjusted. However, the rats who were on the random, variable ratio reinforcement schedule never stopped pressing the bar. Cannie says that she became her father's rat.

Well, a lot of women become their boyfriend's rat as well. They stay because, "maybe the next time it will work," and once in awhile it actually does. Hence the nagging that mostly doesn't work but sometimes does. It's exciting and suspenseful. It's certainly not boring. I also threw in interval reinforcement because, after all, boyfriends, even bad boy ones, are real people too. They might some day just feel like being nice. Girls stick around for that kind of stuff.

Going back to the sex. I recently read No Cheating, No Dying by another Weiner (Elizabeth--no relation, I think). She spent awhile trying to improve her marriage, including her sex life. Some of her research came across a theory that married couples purposely kill the passion in their relationship. This is predicated on the supposition that passion is based on unpredictability and mysteriousness. Those two things, while great for sex, are not so great for marriage. Most people want a stable marriage--it's one of the main reasons for getting married, commitment and the house and dog and kids and all that. Most people don't want their partner to be a stranger. You want to be intimate with your partner, to know everything about him/her. Unfortunately, these two things lead to bad, or at least boring, sex.

There are ways of mitigating this stuff. Penelope Trunk wrote in a recent post that you can get the passion back into a relationship by speaking another language, wearing a wig, or even wearing a new necklace.

In any case, I think bad boys (along with psychopaths and other emotionally abusive people) are unpredictable. They have this default state of assholeness with a side of douchebag, but once in awhile they're really great--just enough to convince others to stick around for awhile longer, because maybe this time it will work out. In addition, since most of them are incapable of real intimacy, they maintain an aura of mysteriousness that makes them both unattainable and desirable.

There are two more dimensions to the whole "liking a bad boy" phenomenon. One is that, since bad boys are generally not that nice to anyone, the fact that they are sometimes nice to their girlfriends makes their girlfriend feel special. Yeah. I don't get it, but my friend's "bad boy" boyfriend once criticized my own nice guy boyfriend by saying, "I wouldn't want to be his girlfriend. He treats everyone the same"--meaning that he treats everyone nicely. This is true. My boyfriend does treat everyone nicely. Sometimes I think he treats people too nicely, to the point that his own nice behavior is frustrating to even him, but you know what? I'm proud that he's a nice person, and he does treat me differently from other people. Sometimes this isn't good. Because I'm closer to him, he doesn't mind asking me to not talk to him at that moment because he's busy. Most of the time, however, it's good. Some theories say love and emotional energy are limitless and shouldn't be rationed out. Other theories say that you do have a limited amount of time and energy and that you do distinguish your friends by treating them differently from others. However, even if you believe in the latter, I believe the one who is getting the most time, energy, and love in the case of the bad boy is himself.

Of course, girls do aim to change that. That is the last dimension. Girls are attracted to bad boys, but then quickly realize that they are not good boyfriends. Therefore, they go about changing what they were attracted to. My friend frequently talks about the need to "fix" her boyfriend, and when I point out various foibles she says, "I know! I'm working on that!" I used to be quite upset about both the way her boyfriend was and how he treated her, and then one day my own boyfriend finally made me realize that said bad boyfriend was happy with himself. It became my new mantra. He's happy with himself, so he'll never change. Why should I spend so much emotional energy wishing he were different? (Especially since he wasn't even my own boyfriend.) Now for some wise quotes.

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.”
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
--Reinhold Niebuhr
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
 --James Baldwin

The first quotation is to try and convince all the girls out there to give up on trying to reform your bad boy boyfriend. The thing is, he's probably smugly content with himself. Actually, I don't know; I think some of them are supposed to be miserably tortured about how no one understands them. Either way, it will be a very difficult process to change him (or her, if you're dating a bad girl/crazy bitch).

The next two quotations are to give hope. You may not be able to change the person you're with, but you can change yourself. At the risk of getting sappy, I'm going to say that you have the power to change yourself in myriad ways. It won't be easy, but it's possible. You can start by giving up getting into bad relationships with bad boys (if that's what you want). So I guess I'm being hypocritical, hoping to change others. I have to admit I haven't managed to change my friend. In fact, I have given up. But I am hopeful that she will eventually realize things herself.