Today I’m introducing a new series of articles examining various notable figures in geek culture, why they’re popular and why nerds may want to emulate them. A set of nerd role models, as it were.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things to keep in mind when it comes to dating, especially when you’re on the socially awkward side. Some things may be glaringly obvious while others seem to make sense in concept but are less clear when you try to put them into practice. It can help to reframe the ideas, translating the concepts into an idiom with which the individual may be more comfortable. This is why so much of PUA culture is focused around jargon that doesn’t sound entirely out of place in a 25 man raid in World of Warcraft; it transforms the complexities of social interaction into simpler, more idiomatic concepts and metaphors that are less intimidating.
One thing about geek culture is that while there are plenty of examples of characters (some better than others) for those looking for long-term relationships to emulate, not everybody is looking for monogamy. Many are looking for more sex partners, whether it’s in an open relationship, fuckbuddies, friends-with-benefits, serial dating, or a series one-night stands… and there are far fewer positive examples to follow. Barney Stinson, for example, while charming, is a profoundly sexist, racist and toxic individual. However, nerds do have one of the greatest examples of a sex-positive, caring, polyamorous (in every sense of the word) role models in genre television and movies. Someone who provides an almost surprisingly positive model for those who want more sex and more sex partners without the strictures of traditional monogamy.
I give you…
Captain Jack Harkness
Former Time Agent. Former con-man. Former companion to The Doctor and current head of Torchwood. Memetic sex-god.
Jack has one of the most interesting personal arcs of the Doctor’s companions (up there with Martha Jones’s and Donna Noble’s, really). When he’s first introduced, Captain Jack is a cheerfully amoral, pushy and arrogant con-artist, using his knowledge and status as a former Time Agent to scam fellow time-travelers out of their money in exchange for a treasured piece of future tech. By the end of his first appearance, he’s willing to sacrifice his own life in order to keep a bomb from blowing up London. During his travels with the Doctor, he becomes less self-centered and more heroic, even sacrificing his life1 to defend innocents from a Dalek invasion force. Following his resurrection2 he is a changed man; a heroic leader instead of someone who only looks out for himself.
He’s also known for having slept with enough people to populate a small planet.
What makes Jack such an interesting role-model for nerds is just what makes him so attractive – not only in-universe, but to the legion of Whovians. Yes, it doesn’t hurt that John Barrowman is very pretty, but what makes Jack Harkness so compelling is his attitude and personality. It’s not just his blinding smile, it’s his charm that makes him so seductive a figure – someone who loves sex but also can maintain a mutually loving and respectful relationship with Ianto Jones.
Captain Jack and Casual Sex
It’s been well disproven that women don’t feel sexual desire the way men do or crave sexual fulfillment like men. Women are more reluctant to have casual sex for two reasons:
- Fear for their safety. This includes physical safety (“Will he try to rape me? Will he try to kill me? How likely is it that I’ll get pregnant? How likely is it that I’ll catch an STI?”) and emotional safety (“Am I going to be pilloried for being a slut if I do this?” “Does he want me for me or is any hole a goal?”)
- Quality of sexual experience – that is: “Would the sex be worth the potential risks?”
Much of the focus of pick-up artistry is trying to overcome these obstacles, convincing women through various means that the PUA is indeed worth having a fling with. Unfortunately, while there is a great deal that I do recommend about learning pick-up, much of it comes through a filter of misogyny, gender policing and an adversarial model of sex that equates a woman’s value with how easy or difficult it is to have sex with her. Many schools of pick-up encourage toxic beliefs and attitudes and advocate treating women as disposable sexual objects.
This is what makes Captain Jack so successful a seducer: he’s able to assuage both concerns without falling into these negative attitudes towards women and sex.
Jack Harkness is, in many ways, a personification of Dan Savage’s “GGG”: “Good” (as a person and in bed), “Giving” (of pleasure and consideration) and “Game” (willing to try new things). For someone who is proudly omnisexual and views traditional standards of monogamy as “quaint”, Jack manages to avoid the common pitfalls that many would-be seducers fall prey to.
Let’s look at a little of just what makes Jack so damn sexy.
Jack Harkness has a 51st century viewpoint on sex. According to Doctor Who canon, by this point in humanity’s development, we have been to the stars and back, adapting to new worlds and new forms of humanity, living and interacting with aliens on a daily basis… which has forced us to adapt our ideas on sex.
As a result… Jack is profoundly non-judgmental about others. It doesn’t matter to him whether you’re a virgin or if you’ve gone down on everything but the Titanic. He’s thrilled if you’re kinky, but he’s equally happy if you’re vanilla. He has no problem if you’re gay, straight or anywhere in between; it’s all the same to him. Jack is very much about the collaborative model of sex: sex is this incredibly fun thing that he wants to share with other people. If they’re more experienced then great! He looks forward to what they bring to the table (or the floor, or the wall, or the captain’s chair on the spaceship) If they’re less experienced, that’s cool too, he can help lead them through the steps if need be.
How Do You Use This?
It’s fairly simple: learn to accept people as they are, without placing judgment on them for their pasts, their interests or their sexuality. The value of being non-judgmental, in accepting others for being themselves instead of matching up to some artificial ideal, helps make people more comfortable in your presence. When they understand that you don’t look down on them or see them as worse, or damaged, or lesser, they will feel much more at ease and emotionally safe. We are much more likely to go to bed with someone (and enjoy it) when we know that we aren’t going to be shamed or insulted for being ourselves.
He Genuinely Likes People
The running joke about Jack Harkness is that he will quite cheerfully flirt with and bed anything that moves and is capable of consenting to sex.
This goes deeper than just Jack liking to get his dick wet (or… yeah, not going to finish that thought). It’s abundantly clear through the way that he interacts with the people he’s attracted to – male, female, other – that he actually enjoys getting to know them as individuals. He’s not just handing them a line or two to get them interested so that he can get what he wants. Jack is the antithesis of a user; you would be hard pressed to find an example of sex that he regrets or people he, in retrospect, would rather not have slept with. In fact, his comments over the course of Doctor Who and Torchwood show that he remembers almost every one of his sexual partners fondly and in great detail… a fairly impressive feat considering the sheer volume and his immortal lifespan.
Sex for Jack isn’t about racking up numbers or just getting another orgasm; it’s about the people.
How Do You Use This?
You wouldn’t think “Don’t sleep with people you don’t like” would be necessary, would you? More to the point, however, is the attitude that Jack brings whenever he meets (and attempts to seduce) someone new. He doesn’t just want to get them into bed as quickly as possible (although he’d certainly welcome it) and then discard them. He likes them because he’s taken the time to get to know them and find out why they’re awesome. Even if you’re only looking for a one-night stand3 , you don’t want to treat someone as though they were a sex toy that you had to enter a complex code to get access to. We instinctively like people who like us and most people have pretty good bullshit detectors; we can tell when someone’s just trying to shine us on to get into our pants. Treating people with respect and genuine interest serves you far better in the long run.
Jack Harkness is the very definition of “game” in Savage’s GGG. There’s very little that shocks him, offends him, or that he wouldn’t be willing to give a try, just so long as it’s fun. If you want to tie him up (or be tied up), he’s down. Electro-stim? Sure, he’ll give it a shot. Role-play? Hell yes. Pegging? Have you met him? Threesomes, foursomes and moresomes: all good. Tantric sex positions? He has been there, done that, and quite possibly invented a few variations that you’ve never heard of but he’d be quite happy to show you.
Jack isn’t going to be intimidated, squicked out or freaked by what turns you on or helps you get off. He’s not going to get weird if you ask to bring toys into bed with you. He’s not going to say “ew, what’s wrong with you?” if you’re into a little anal play or have a fantasy that’s perhaps a little out there. If he hasn’t done it before and it’ll make things more interesting, he’s down to try anything once. Possibly twice, just to make sure he didn’t like it.
How Do You Use This?
Jack’s open-mindedness makes him a much more considerate and giving lover and helps his partners feel comfortable in opening up to him. They feel at ease telling him what they really want because not only will he not look down on them for it, he’ll enthusiastically give it a shot.
Now in fairness: Jack’s a 900 year old immortal from the 51st century; he’s going to have a completely different outlook on sex than most of us. The point of open-mindedness isn’t that you have to be up for anything and everything, it’s that you’re willing to do things that you haven’t done before and that maybe you’re a little weirded out by in the name of pleasing your partner. Everybody will have their limits: some people will draw the line at foot-worship or anal play, others won’t be willing to indulge in more intense BDSM or threesomes… but they should be willing to stretch out of their comfort zone and try something new. “Safe”, “consensual”, and “sane” are the key words.
Just as important is to be able to refuse to take part in a kink too far with grace and respect. You do not respond with revulsion to a request (assuming that it’s legal), even if you’re not into it. Having someone you’re intimate with pull back with a face usually reserved for finding animal shit in your living room and demand to know “How the hell could you even like that?!” is incredibly painful on a deep and personal level.
He Radiates Sex
When Captain Jack wants to take you to bed, you know damn good and well that it’s going to be worth it. Everything about him oozes sex. He has had more experience than most people could dream of… and he wants to use what he knows to please you.
He’s utterly comfortable with what he wants. He doesn’t try to hide it or couch it in euphemisms or excuses. He doesn’t feel shame for being a sexual person, and he doesn’t think you should either.
He’s charmingly forward (but not overly so; more on this in a moment), flirting in a very sexualized manner. He’s at ease with being physical, using touch to help build excitement and sexual tension and comfortable with escalating things to the next level when the moment calls for it. He makes strong eye contact, practically undressing you with his eyes as he talks to you. And he is very clear: he wants you. And he wants you to have some of the best sex of both of your lives.
How Do You Use This?
I’ve written fairly extensively on how to build physical and emotional engagement with others – it’s a combination of being able to express that you love someone for their mind but you want them for their ass – but in application it means accepting that you are a sexual being, who enjoys and appreciates sex both in and of itself and in the intimacy it brings with others. You need to be comfortable being sexual – not feeling that you need to apologize for wanting to have sex or that there’s something wrong with having desires or wanting to share those desires with a willing partner.
Even being a virgin or sexually inexperienced doesn’t mean that you can’t be a sexually confident person; there’s no shame in having less experience than others. You just need to be willing to take direction without hesitation, complaint, or getting defensive. Enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and a willingness to learn goes a very long way to make up for a lack of experience.
Nobody is going to accuse Jack Harkness of being a creeper. Yes, he’s an incorrigible flirt and has the dirtiest of dirty minds… but he also knows where the limits are. His attitude is one of “If it happens, great. If not… well, that’s ok too.” When someone tells Jack “no”, that’s it. He doesn’t try to guilt them, pressure them or otherwise coerce a “no” into a “yes” – unlike, say, his teammate Owen Harper. There are, after all, millions of others out there and he’s Jack fuckin’ Harkness4 . He’ll continue to flirt, sure – it’s part of who he is – but he makes sure that his flirting partners understand that it’s all in good fun; has a vested interest in not making people uncomfortable. After all: why offend or creep someone out? They may very well change their mind and say “yes” later on if he doesn’t burn bridges before then.
“Respect” is Jack’s watchword. He doesn’t push boundaries. He doesn’t try to get people to go one inch further than they’d be comfortable with. Even when he’s being sexually forward, he’s quick to pull back – gracefully and without reproach – when he senses that he’s not wanted. He doesn’t get mad. He doesn’t get passive-aggressive. He doesn’t try to rules-lawyer his way out of offense. He understands and is perfectly willing to honor other people’s comfort zones.
How Do You Use This?
It’s very simple: you respect a “no” and look for a “yes”. Jack is all about enthusiastic consent; he wants whomever he’s flirting with to be as into having sex as he is. If they aren’t… well, it’s just not worth it, is it? Life’s too short (well… unless you’ve been forcibly made immortal) for trying to push someone into something they don’t want to do.
In addition, Jack has a profound abundance mentality; he knows damn good and well there are millions upon millions of other sentient beings out there. If one person says no, there will be others who say yes. Cultivating this attitude – understanding that one, or even many “no’s” are insignificant in the grander scheme of things – is important. It helps mve the emphasis off of the rejection and more onto the idea that the wrong person said no… and the right person will say yes.
Also key is learning to develop social intelligence. Creeping people out is the antithesis of enthusiastic consent – it means that you’ve stepped over a person’s boundaries and have done something that made them uncomfortable. When you’re relatively socially inexperienced, it’s possible to creep someone out by accident; it’s a mistake that almost everyone makes at some point in their lives. Ultimately, the best way to avoid it is through experience; the more you interact with others, the better you are able to discern where others’ lines are and how to avoid them. Even in the event that you do creep someone out by accident, it’s not the end of the world. You can recover from it by apologizing and taking a (sometimes metaphorical, sometimes literal) step back and making the other person more comfortable.
And hey: when in doubt, ask what Captain Jack would do5.
- He got better… [↩]
- Told you [↩]
- Which, as an aside, is kind of strange to me; if the sex was good and there aren’t issues that prevent it, why wouldn’t you want to see them again? [↩]
- And I’m fairly certain that’s both a descriptor and his legal middle name [↩]
- Yes, yes, probably have sex with something. [↩]