Still a man’s world… Really?

The Bachelor has always bothered me. But last week’s episode took the cake, especially coming one night after the Academy Awards, which, in a matter of hours, became a tipping point for the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Whereas the Oscars built up female empowerment, leveraging the zeitgeist to considerable acclaim, the very same network brought it all crashing down with a ridiculous and ghoulish season finale of The Bachelor. For those unawares, the bachelor reneges on his proposal of marriage and the shunned woman cries for two hours. It was gross. And he was the least of the reasons why.


Here it is. By design, The Bachelor makes women into objects of desire. Nothing more. Yet plenty less. In a very real way, The Bachelor is worse than pornography. At least in porn no one is pretending to a romantic ideal. A show that celebrates romantic love to silly extremes, The Bachelor is as sad an indictment on womanhood as any beauty pageant. Yet women love it. Show me the ratings for The Bachelor and I’ll show you as one-sided a demographic as men and the NFL. The few straight guys that watch The Bachelor vacillate between belittling the women and ogling them. What choice do we have? Without these primitive attractions, the show has no meaning.


I tell my daughters that The Bachelor is bad for their soul, that it reinforces ancient stereotypes about women and men. They reply it’s a guilty pleasure, no different than guys watching sports. But it is different. With sports men (and women) do difficult things to achieve valuable things. What exactly do the women on The Bachelor… do? That is besides preening and crying. And to what aim? To be given a freaking rose by some clod! The Bachelor undermines everything women are striving for. Respect. Money. Power. Women deservedly want what men have. But they aren’t going to get there pining over some dude on a reality show.


Attracting a man. Fantasizing about true love. Dreaming of their wedding day. White dresses and sugary cakes. Make me a princess! That’s the stereotype our parents grew up with. The Bachelor is a relic from the 1950’s. And it should be treated as such. Yet, it’s a smash hit and primarily with women. Why isn’t its time up?

Author’s Note: Available for copywriting, content creation and creative direction: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/



So Pornhub (a popular pornographic website) puts up a billboard in Times Square. It’s cute. Plays off of the obvious reason why people would traffic a site like Pornhub: to masturbate. For those unawares (all 3 of you), Pornhub curates and displays thousand of Porno videos, categorized every which way you can imagine. People go there, choose a video that suits their fancy, and well you can guess the rest. Oh, the horror.

Look, I’ve got nothing new to say about pornography. It’s been around since the beginning of mankind. Have you seen some of the content meticulously etched upon the interior walls of the Pyramids? Pharaoh so horny. We all are. And looking at pictures or video of people having sex is a very popular way of satiating one’s sex drive. Very popular. Every day, I’m guessing as many people go to Pornhub and myriad other such sites than visit CNN, Gawker or Gods of Advertising. Combined.

ancient Egypt - erotic drawing looks like fresco
Oh, Mummy!

Porn was always popular. The Internet made it, if you’ll pardon the expression, explosively so. No more stealing and hiding dad’s old Hustler’s under the mattress. No more skulking into a peep show. No more fast forwarding the VCR. All one has to do was open his (or her) laptop.

I’m old enough to remember the advent and subsequent collapse of the VCR. For about 15 years, videocassettes ruled the world. And pornography entered what many connoisseurs refer to, as it’s golden age. Not counting the obligatory college outing to Behind The Green Door, the VCR is where I watched my first porno video. There was a shop on every corner. The only problem was you had to go behind a red curtain in order to procure your, ahem, film. Pornography still managed to be the number one seller in home video entertainment. I don’t have the numbers but I know from reading up that porn movies kept a lot of mom and pop video stores open for business. Not Star Wars. Not Back to the Future. But hardcore pornography. These video stars all but killed the porno mag.

And in turn the Internet killed the video store. Online pornography flourishes like blades of grass in the suburbs. Or should I say blades of grass flourish like online pornography in the suburbs?

What this essay is about, then, is not the fact that this mildly provocative billboard got put up but that it was soon taken down “for unknown reasons.” Why are we so afraid of our own sexuality? On the surface I get it. I’ve got three daughters. If my wife is taking them to Times Square I’m guessing she’d rather not explain what Pornhub is. Not that they would ask. Not with all those scantily clad Calvin Klein and Fredericks of Hollywood models staring down at them.

We have such a f-cking double standard in this country. Frontal nudity warrants an NC17 from the MPAA. Viciously depicting the killing of hundreds of people in a film and it will receive a ho-hum PG. The Pornhub billboard showed neither. It was a silly pun and a pair of hands. Below it was and likely still is a gaudy vodka ad. Booze has caused a lot more problems than pornography, let alone masturbating. Trust me.

“He who is without sin…”

Honestly, it’s more than a gross double standard; it’s hypocrisy. Made even more ironic given Times Square used to be the peep show capital of America. I’m guessing to a man that every person who had anything to do with taking down Pornhub’s billboard has gotten it up to Pornhub as well. What did Christ say about casting stones? Oh yeah, we always forget.

Northwestern Wildcat…or Horndog?

And so we come to the live sex demonstration that took place at Northwestern University following Prof. J. Michael Bailey’s popular “Human Sexuality” class. By now you must know the lurid details. To dramatize the world of kink and fetish, a man penetrated his fiancé with a jerry-rigged reciprocating saw (or Sawzall) in front of some 100 students. If you haven’t heard the story then after cleaning the coffee you just spit on your computer’s keyboard, here is the coverage from the Chicago Sun Times. And from the Chicago Tribune. I’m not going to editorialize one way or the other. I simply don’t know all the, um, ins and outs of this story to put it into context. I understand no laws were broken. The participants were adults. I’m guessing the students were too. It was on the syllabus.

Like most of you, I was flabbergasted by the story and a little titillated. Certainly, because of the subject matter but also because it took place at Northwestern University. Forever, Northwestern has been considered the brainiest school in the Big Ten, sort of the conference’s answer for the Ivy League. With its beautiful and swanky North Shore location (Lake Michigan to the East, stately mansions to the West), it certainly looks the part. In addition, the institution regularly tops out in all metrics related to superb education. Including admission criteria and costs. Even so, it only admits 20% of applying freshmen. To go there is a privilege. Here is where my wife and I –gulp- hoped to send our three daughters one day.

Prestige at a price. That’s not the University’s tagline but, in frankness, that’s the brand. Maintaining a brand like Northwestern’s takes a fine mixture of conservative stewardship and progressive leadership. Negotiating this dichotomy is critical. Mom and Dad want the former. The kids want the latter. There are other targets worth mentioning: alma mater, perspective employers, partner schools and institutions. In the end, it’s not easy getting it right. For over 150 years, Northwestern has done so masterfully.

And then out came the “fucksaw.”

Putting aside all the different hats I wear as a man (father, husband, lover, guardian), what is my position as an advertising man? For better or for worse, the brand got done to it what was done to the woman on stage. Some may view the episode as an example of fearless education in a modern world. Others will likely see it as an awful, awful mistake. Frankly, I’m leaning on the latter. Despite my fervent belief in a liberal arts education, I can’t help but think this was a bad move. When the inevitable video comes out millions of people will experience the brand as if it were nothing less than an episode on You Porn.

The school’s color is purple and a deeper shade now.

Special note: The male in the sex act is a Group Creative Director at Tribal DDB, an advertising agency in Chicago. He is about to become a lot more famous. Let’s hope his clients aren’t too conservative. Wishful thinking I’m afraid.


Impatience or forward thinking?

As some of you know, I am a connoisseur of horror. It is a popular genre (and one of Hollywood’s biggest moneymakers) but, of course, much of it is gut fill –if you pardon the expression. For every quality productions like The Walking Dead there are ten like Saw 3D.

Below the mainstream, literally hundreds of new films and books come out every year. I troll these depths looking for gems. The French, for example, are making some exquisite horror: Mutants and The Horde come to mind. From the UK, there’s Colin, a compassionate film about a young zombie, reportedly made for $75 dollars. It’s quite good.

Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), the vast majority of what lurks below is crap. Stuff like Brain Dead, from Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Films. Don’t worry, Gentle Reader, I’m not going to review or discuss the film. This isn’t the blog for that. And that isn’t the film.

Easy to digest quickly…

I want to talk about Brain Dead in the context of the way I watched it, speaking to how we process content in the age of new media and streaming video. Once I established the film was going to suck (which usually takes less than 2 minutes), I watched the rest of it entirely in fast-forward, only stopping for the over-the-top gore and the occasional naked lady. Basically, I watched an hour and a half film in less than eight minutes.

Here’s the kicker. I got the narrative and actually could write a balanced review of the movie if I had to. Obviously, I have a better than average working knowledge of the genre so I could fill in the blanks. Once my brain got the formula for Brain Dead, I was then able to absorb the plot in hyper speed. This is more than rushing through to get to the good parts.

I really could watch the movie.

I believe many of you could do the same thing, providing the variables were right. For example, if you dig chick flicks (no comment) I bet you could FF Maid to Order and get it completely.

This ability is more than just a function of rote filmmaking, although no question that’s a factor. I think as a species we’ve adapted to a world of streaming content and chew through it faster and faster. More channels. More screens. More friends. More, more, more!

Some of the reasons are as follows and I think fascinating from an anthropological perspective:

1. Highlight reels. ESPN and others condense content like crazy. 4- hour ball games are shortened into 45 seconds of big plays and scores.
2. Pornography. Zooming to the money shots. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you’re a better man than I am, or lying.
3. The Internet. So much. So little time.
4. Twitter. 140 characters. ‘Nuff said.
5. Email and text. Who needs to beat around the bush? We get to the point. Do you really need (or ever read) anyone’s email after the first paragraph?
6. Globalization. The world does not go to bed when we do. Things are happening around the world around the clock. You snooze you lose.

More of a road runner?

Ironically, advertising was a major precursors to all this. Having to manage narrative and selling strategy in 30 seconds or less, we all became conditioned to making and receiving short-form content.

Implied in all this is the notion that we are no longer doing a good job at listening and learning. On the other hand, maybe we’re doing a terrific job. Remember the Evelyn Wood School of Speed-Reading. Zipping through pages was considered a great gift, almost magical.

I’ve written about “content zombies” several times. Judging from the amount of views and comments, it’s a popular topic: Content Zombies! Endless Choices/No Time