BY ED SIKOV | My most recent Media Circus column — about a complicated essay by the brilliant bioethicist and philosopher Brian Earp — was pretty heavy duty, so this time I’ve purposely gone light.
I’ve grown quite fond of Vice.com. The writing is sharp and funny, the critics are smart, and its blend of alt. and mainstream appeals to my own edgy-ish sensibility. Case in point: H. Alan Scott’s “I Acted Like an Asshole for a Week to See if It Would Make My Life Better.” The concept is flat-out brilliant; it’s the kind of topic that makes other writers (for example, me) jealous. Why didn’t I think of that?
“I’m a nice person,” Scott begins. “It’s not in my nature to be an asshole. If I asked for iced coffee unsweetened and the barista gave it to me sweetened, I’d accept it as a sign that I deserved something sweet. I feel good about that part of me, for the most part. That said, I’m 33 years old, unemployed, single, and live alone with a cat. Based on the tragic half-hour sitcom life I’m currently the star of, perhaps I’m doing it all wrong.”
Scott continues, “Assholes are everywhere, and they seem to be getting ahead. In fact, one of the two most popular people in the entire country right now is a gigantic asshole, and has made it to where he is entirely by being an asshole. I wondered if my life would look different if I, too, were an asshole. So I decided to spend a week acting like a jerk to see how far it got me. It wasn’t long before an opportunity presented itself: a really, really bad date. I’d been on one date with this guy a month prior, and afterward, he kept texting, calling me ‘perfect,’ and saying he looked forward to seeing me again. So we scheduled a lunch date. The plan was for me to meet him at his place, then go from there.”
Scott writes that he arrived at the guy’s apartment at the appointed time and found the front door wide open. “I figured he was either cleaning or, because I’m an anxious person, dead. As I approached, I found him on the couch getting a blowjob from an obese older man. ‘What?’ he said, as if I had discovered him sneaking cupcakes late at night. He came outside to talk to me. Zipping up his pants, he said, ‘I planned to be jerking off for you when you got here, but then this guy walked by and came in. I thought you’d like it.’
“Non-asshole me would have politely said goodbye and left. What would yelling solve? Why make this guy feel bad when it wouldn’t change anything? The new asshole me had a different approach.
“‘What about our one date would make you think that? You’re gross,’ I yelled as his neighbors watched the scene unfold like I was Sharon Stone in ‘Casino.’” (No, I don’t get the reference, either.) “‘You give someone a warning when they’re about to walk in on you getting head from someone else. I hope he gave you genital warts. Die, trash.’”
Scott goes on to report that “surprisingly few opportunities came up” for him to flex his asshole muscle (which is, technically speaking, his sphincter), to which I say this: a genuine asshole doesn’t wait for opportunities to turn up; he or she creates the moments. Genuine assholery is always active, never passive. For example, someone responded to my last column via Twitter; she obviously hadn’t bothered to read either the essay or the column about it but had something nasty to say about both of them anyway. She took the time to tweet her colossally stupid opinion of an article she hadn’t read; she made the effort, as all assholes do.
“If I had to cite one mundane moment,” Scott proceeds, “it would be from the gym. I do CrossFit (which, if I’m being honest, inherently makes me an asshole). One day, during a partner workout, my very bro-y partner kept mansplaining what I was doing wrong on the rowing machine. After one too many pieces of ‘advice,’ I shouted at him, telling him to take his pity elsewhere. After the workout he asked, ‘Why did you yell at me?’ like a child scolded for something he or she didn’t understand. Asshole mission accomplished.”
Scott finishes his piece with an extended description of how much easier it is to be an asshole on the Internet than it is in real life, as anyone who has ever been on the Internet well knows. He changed his dating profile from that of a sweet guy with a face pic to that of a jerk whose photo only showed off his CrossFit chest and a profile that read: “You’re probably not going to impress me. I’ll show you my face if I feel like it. If I don’t respond, take the hint dummy.”
He reports, “I got my fair share of people calling me an asshole for my profile (their fury only increasing when I wouldn’t respond), but I also got messages from a number of ‘elite’ dudes who would have never responded to my previous profile. I played along with some, ignored others out of spite (especially the dudes who were particularly arrogant on their profiles), and ultimately discovered that a little mystery and a dose of attitude go a long way. Still, after a week of openly being hostile, intentionally exclusive, and purposely arrogant, I was exhausted. I can honestly say that I’d just rather be nice. The attention was fun, and feeling above it all was great, but I think the desire to be liked and respected trumps all that. Plus, if you’re not part of the ‘elite,’ you have a wider group of people to make fun of, which is way more enjoyable than silently being a dick for fun.”
Start Spreadin’ the News: “ZERO: no linked HIV transmissions in PARTNER study after couples had sex 58,000 times without condoms” is the headline of an article by Simon Collins on i-Base.info. It’s surprising, not to say shocking, that this study didn’t get much media coverage, because it means that the AIDS crisis is effectively over in the U.S.*
The study proves that antiretroviral therapy (ART) works not only on individuals, keeping them healthy, but also prevents HIV transmission.
“The results set a new challenge about whether transmission is anything other than a theoretical risk when someone is taking effective ART. This reverses the common assumption that, by definition, some level of risk always exists when one partner is HIV-positive,” Collins writes. Moreover, “the results challenge criminalization laws that in many countries, including the United States, continue to imprison hundreds of people based on assumptions of risk that these results disprove, even when condoms are used and viral load is undetectable.
Activist Sean Strub, from the SERO project (seroproject.com), said, “Hundreds of people living with HIV in the US have been charged with criminal offenses for the perceived or potential risk of HIV exposure or transmission. Some are serving or have served long prison sentences for spitting, scratching, or biting and others for not being able to prove they had disclosed their HIV-positive status before having sexual contact (even in the absence of any risk of HIV transmission). HIV criminalization has created a viral underclass in the law, further burdening a disenfranchised community, putting a disproportionate share of the shared responsibility for preventing sexually-transmitted infections on one party, and discouraging people at risk from getting tested for HIV.”
I always imagined that the effective end of AIDS would spark a huge and wild celebration — gay men literally dancing in the street. Instead, for reasons I’m simply unable to comprehend, nobody seems to care.
*Yes, I know: many people have no access to treatment, many can’t afford treatment, the study doesn’t address IV drug users, and AIDS is a global problem. Still, if you had told me in 1986 that a study had shown that 58,000 condom-free sex acts — specifically fucking — had occurred without a single HIV transmission, I’d have declared that the crisis was effectively over.
For cheap laughs… go immediately to douchebagsofgrindr.com.