Notes from Someone with an Addictive Personality


Merriam Webster defines vice as “a moral depravity or corruption,” a “moral fault or failing,” or “a habitual and usually trivial defect or shortcoming: foible,” giving the example of “sexual immorality.” Other notable vices are alcohol, smoking, gambling, and drugs. All of these examples are extreme in nature, and, in excess, morally condemned by our current culture. However, the vices I am afflicted by are a far cry from the traditional associations with the word.


I have an addictive personality; I can make anything into a vice. Sugary cereal, a person I have a crush on, TLC Four Weddings marathonsyou name it and I will engage with it to the point of obsession. I tried to shed humor on my situation through this comic, utilizing the idea that my ability to turn anything into a vice could be considered a "superpower." In addition, because my vices are untraditional in nature, I wanted to use a bright, sunny color palette for this illustration, as most associations with vices are depicted in moody, dark colors. I hope the illustration serves as a sort of comic relief from the inherent seriousness of having a vice without negating the suffering that having an addictive personality brings me.


By Courtney Cook

Marie Kondo Your Life: Cut Out Those Who Do Not Spark Joy


Whether it’s a friendship, romantic relationship, or even professional relationship, most people have the experience of at some point feeling like one person is more invested in the relationship than the other. The way these relationships tend to sustain themselves is with the less-invested person leading the other on (intentionally or unintentionally), creating a hard-to-break cycle of being alternately given and starved of affection.


Too often we want to discontinue these addictive relationships but are unable to for a variety of reasons: the person says they’ll change, or they’re in your social group and you don’t want to make things uncomfortable for others, and so on and so forth. It’s hard to develop any kind of real protocol for how to deal with this dynamic since it is so nebulous by nature, but there are a few things that generally help.


Emotional Distance


This is easier said than done, but if you can’t change the dynamic you can at least try to lessen its effect on you. Particularly in romantic situations, the key is to stop prioritizing the person if they do not reciprocate your efforts. My friends and I have been in situations like this throughout essentially the entirety of our short romantic lives, and I have seen a number of frustrating scenarios play out—all of which were detrimental to the self-esteem of those involved.


It’s important to remember that the other person’s behavior is about them, not you. By remembering this you can try to wean yourself off your emotional investment in them; if they want to come around they will, and if they don’t know how, you deserve better.


This applies to friendships as well, and is a good strategy for when you don’t want to or cannot confront someone. By internally lessening your dependence on and emotional investment in them you can continue to have a friendship in some way and not definitively burn any bridges, but the friend’s behavior won’t have as detrimental an effect on you. (It can be hard to know when to do this versus when to confront someone, though.)
Boundaries


Although they may seem content to dip in and out of your life and become distant when it suits them, these people are often surprisingly inclined to break personal and emotional boundaries. They know that you, a person more stable and dependable than themselves in your relationship, are liable to be there for them when they need it even though you can’t say the same for them. The precedent this sets subsequently leads them to feel entitled to your good nature and support whenever they need it.


However, it is not fair to have this expected from you if they’re not equally willing or able to provide it, and it is completely reasonable and healthy for you to draw stronger boundaries in this regard. It’s really difficult to not automatically put your all into supporting someone you care about, but in an imbalanced dynamic, setting these boundaries really is just another aspect of setting emotional distance and not letting yourself be taken advantage of.


Honesty


If more subtle strategies of internally and/or quietly distancing yourself from those who take advantage of you don’t seem to be helping, it might be time to try to speak to them about it (even though this will probably be uncomfortable). Only you can be the judge in any given situation as to whether the relationship is worth having an awkward conversation about, but if the person actually cares about you, they will understand your need to talk about it and value the fact that you feel you can be honest with them.


Time and Environment


As much as you can try to improve your relationships with people, sometimes all you can do is wait for a situation or your feelings to change. There have been multiple people I wasn’t able to move past until I hadn’t seen them for a very long time and other, more fulfilling people or things had entered my life. I find it also helps to completely change your environment, so as to not have to constantly be faced with associations you have with them and people who know them. Of course, this is logistically difficult, but life has a tendency to naturally change your scenery periodically.


Most of all, don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not able to actually strictly set these boundaries. Distancing myself from people who I know are bad for me—but make me feel good for temporary spurts of time—is still incredibly difficult for me. As long as you know that these people’s behavior is the result of their own problems and does not have anything to do with you, you’ll be okay.


By Calla Selicious
Visual by Sabrina Oliveira

A High Schooler’s Take on the College Admissions Scam

Illustration by Alicia Tatone for GQ

News broke on Tuesday that the Justice Department is charging fifty people in a college scam, including thirty-three parents and numerous college sports coaches. The scam was orchestrated by William Singer, the founder of a college-prep business known as The Key  which allowed students to score higher on SAT and ACT exams. Parents paid up to $75,000 to have test proctors correct their children’s test answers or give them answers. One child claimed he had a learning disability and took a test with a proctor that gave him the score he needed. In other situations, Singer bribed college coaches and administrators into allowing applicants into their colleges as athletes. He created false athlete profiles, even going as far to Photoshop applicants’ faces onto photographs of other athletes.

When I first saw the news, I was appalled by how much the parents were paying to get their children into schools, and how matter-of-factly they committed these crimes. The scale of the scam was disgustingly large, too—at least fifty complicit people in six different states, and too many undeserving, privileged students. My friends and I weren’t too surprised about the scam, and we had a good laugh about it—the Photoshop, the celebrity children—but it’s as frustrating as it is humorous. We had all taken the SAT, and it wasn’t a walk in the park. Standardized exams like the SAT and ACT feel like high-stake tests that determine so much of our future. No one is going to raise our scores. And aside from how unfair it is to everyone else, there’s another moral aspect to this scam: the parents have no respect for their own children’s integrity. All they cared about was sending their children to a good school, for their own personal satisfaction, for the prestige and their children’s future. They didn’t care that they made cheaters out of their kids, and maybe their kids didn’t care either.     

I thought about the daily struggle I and other students go through—worrying about exam scores and college admissions, waiting for acceptance letters. I thought about how hard normal people have to work to get into a college, how we actually have to study and try. The way I see it, those who paid and scammed their way into top colleges stole other people’s rightful opportunities. It is not yet clear whether college admissions officers rejected qualified students to accept the scammer students, but the principle remains that the students who had to scam their way into being accepted have no right to be students at their schools. More deserving, qualified applicants should have been accepted in their place.

Most of the time, these are students who care less about education and more about partying, which is another reason they don’t deserve to be there. High school, after all, is already filled with people like that—imagine watching them getting accepted into top universities. It’s laughable but also really messed up. It’s a waste of school resources to give these kinds of students the prestige and honor of going to top universities.The same goes for legacy students who get accepted based on alumni connections. You’d think this would all be illegal, but it happens all the time. In 2012, a black mother was jailed and charged for lying about her residency so she could send her six-year-old son to a good elementary school.

Life is tilted toward privilege and the college game is rigged; this has always been true. But we should still be seething about this. For some of us, after all, it feels like the college we go to will determine our whole life. We stress over school for the entirety of our formative years, all in the hopes of achieving a higher education and with it, hopefully, a higher standard of life. We work and work to make our college applications and resumes just how the universities want it. But cases like these make me tired and angry, because millions of students—myself included—are struggling to get into their dream colleges while the children of rich people are essentially guaranteed acceptance with a hefty check.

Will things change? Probably not. I didn’t feel there was a “Justice has been served!” moment that came out of the case. The people charged definitely got what they deserved, but there’s a long history of unfair college admissions that I had come to accept as the norm. So, while it is annoying and just morally wrong, I’m not letting the scam bother me. The system almost universally favors the rich, and a few charges won’t immediately change that. What I am hopeful for, though, is a higher level of investigation into college admissions. We should demand more concrete legislation to make college a fair playing field. No more acceptances based on legacy or donations. This situation shouldn’t discourage future applicants from at least trying. The scale seems tilted against us, but we have to demand fairness and equal opportunity. And, while we’re at it—if people cheat, do standardized exams even matter anymore?   


By Hannah Yang

Are One-Night Stands Right For Me?


Over a year ago, I had my first one-night stand. Well, to say the least, it messed me up.

Along with the excruciating sadness and feeling of betrayal, there was also an incessant nagging of confusion. Sometimes it would push through other emotions and sit at the top of my head like a ringleader, teasing as she caressed her whip:

"Is it the person or the activity that wasn't for you?"

In the months that followed, my energy was spent on sexual exploration and occasional hookups in the hopes of finding the right answer. There were times I was left staring at the ceiling with remorse, and there were moments I left a hotel bed walking a little bolder and feeling empowered after a one-night stand. In retrospect, the answers from these encounters varied and were never consistent. Looking for an absolute answer is like walking in circles.

To tell you the truth, it wasn’t until I started writing this that I had my epiphany: the answer is actually dependent on one’s current psychological stance on casual sex.

A 2015 study suggested that a major factor in determining how casual sex will affect your well-being is why you're engaging in casual sex in the first place. It suggests that looking inwardly and closely at your personal values, desires, needs, and beliefs could tell whether a hookup will be harmful or beneficial to your mental health. As Dr. Zhana Vrangalova mentioned in her TED Talk, "Whether casual sex is good for you or not depends on who you are and how you do it."

As a Filipino who grew up in a conservative household and religious environment, my beliefs and values are deeply ingrained in me. As you can imagine, these beliefs don’t go too well with the idea of premarital sex. I didn't even realize it until I started having one-night stands.

There was this feeling that I should be romantically involved with the person with whom I first hooked up. It felt wrong giving something so "precious" and “valuable” to a stranger. I was also 20 and had never had a serious relationship in person, so getting him to be with me would tick all of my ego boxes in an instant. In hindsight, I was really lonely. Persistent loneliness can make you do things your 15-year-old self wouldn't even imagine, and that’s actually what pushed me to further test the waters of one-night stands.

The 2015 study presented two types of motives: autonomous and non-autonomous. Autonomous motives are healthy reasons for engaging in casual sex, while non-autonomous motives are the opposite. Said researcher Robert Weiss, "The study found that, regardless of gender, the people having casual sex for autonomous reasons were for the most part unaffected by this activity, whereas those who engaged in casual sex for non-autonomous reasons typically experienced a decrease in psychological wellbeing.”

My motivations varied with each hookup. My first one-night stand was a mess for a lot of "wrong" or non-autonomous reasons. That experience opened my eyes and prepared me for the successful sexual experiences I had a few months later.

When I separate rejuvenating hookups from those which caused me to feel like all life had been sucked out of me, I can tell that there are some clear factors at play.

I've categorized these differences as either autonomous or non-autonomous below. If your motivations in engaging in one-night stands relate to the following, then casual sex might just be beneficial to you:

Autonomous Reasons

  1. To sexually explore and experiment.
    A hunger for thrill is in human DNA. The exhilaration and spontaneity of one-night stands easily feeds this hunger while also awakening what's already within us. Untying yourself from the comfort of your bed and jumping onto another's dance floor highly guarantees a burst of self-discovery, which is essential to growth.

    While exploring and being open to the unknown, clear communication of your preferences, limits, and expectations should also be at the top of your list. Helping your partners satisfy you can make one-night stands all the more enjoyable.

  1. To have a valuable, significant learning experience.
One-night stands are a great training ground if one desires to improve their sexual skills. Learning the intricacies of a fantastic blowjob can be another form of accomplishment, thereby increasing your sense of self-confidence and desirability.

Although there are physical and psychological consequences of casual sex such as STIs, unwanted pregnancy, heartaches, and sabotaged friendships, these shouldn't override the pros. In the words of Dr. Vrangalova: "Please use condoms. Take responsibility for your experience. Mistakes happen. Learn from them and move on. Expect to be judged. Surround yourself with people who won't."

  1. For pure sexual attraction.
Love is as valid as lust. If it's mutually consensual, there's nothing inherently wrong with having sex with someone just because you find them attractive. Communicating this desire to your casual partner establishes boundaries and avoids negative emotional impact.

  1. Casual sex is morally acceptable.
    As I go deeper into adulthood, casual sex has become as natural to me as showering. Discovering that virginity is just a social construct diminished all negative notions I had concerning premarital sex. If you believe that partaking in casual sex doesn't make a person less of a person, one-night stands, by their very nature, might just leave you untouched by shame and confusion.
On the other hand, whether you're already doing it with a friend or just thinking of sleeping with a Tinder match, you might want to take a step back and reassess if your motives are as follows:

Non-Autonomous Reasons

  1. To fill a void of loneliness.
Your skin against another's skin fires chemicals in your brain that make you feel cherished and loved. Vasopressin, dopamine, oxytocin—all of these will temporarily satiate your hunger for what's not there. Unfortunately, casual sex won't cure loneliness, especially if you get too attached. Engaging in casual sex to get rid of loneliness will just make you feel more isolated.

  1. Hoping one-night stands will lead to serious long-term relationships. You're planting a seed in the wrong soil. Although there are existing couples who started as fuck buddies, there's a slim chance you will find a serious relationship or romantic commitment in a casual-sex setting. If your casual relationship isn't exclusive, your partner might be sleeping with other people as well. Or they might still be unprepared to commit. Using casual sex as a means to find true love will likely result in multiple heartbreaks.

  1. To get over someone.
This is not a good reason for one-night stands, considering your mind is still unstable after a breakup. When you're broken-hearted, comparing your flings to the love of your life is inevitable. Casual sex isn't an antidote, however—and it cannot be treated as such.

  1. You're by nature sexually conservative.
    As I grew up attending Catholic church, partaking in The Legion of Mary with other children, and enjoying religious events, premarital sex used to just be out of the question for me—it’s a sin discouraged outside of and before marriage. To this day, I still respect this belief, even when my morals are no longer in line with my previously strict belief system.

    If your upbringing was socially and sexually conservative, you might be an easy target for depression, lowered self-esteem, regret, and shame when you enter the world of hookup culture.

The Bottom Line
There is no singular, absolute rule that dictates whether casual sex is right or wrong for everyone. Reactions and responses are purely subjective for each individual. An answer from a religious person practicing celibacy would be different from that of a secular person who engages in sexual activities for fun and experience.
Putting all these motivations into consideration, however, leads us to a bottom line: casual sex may have beneficial effects for you if your beliefs, wants, needs, and values don’t conflict with it. Check on yourself often. Remember that you’re still the only one who gets to decide what’s right for you. As the saying goes, you are the master of your own destiny. Or in my own words—the dom of your own life.


Anonymous
Visual by Dan Hernandez

Misconceptions






This series aims to span the physical and emotional effects of infertility and the issues that follow. My interest in this topic stemmed from the notion of the motherhood mandate and the belief that when we want to have a child we should settle down and start a family. This is not the case, and infertility does not only affect the individual but everyone involved. My work is of a minimalistic, conceptual nature; the grapefruit is a prime example, representing abnormal periods as a common sign of fertility issues. The house of credit cards symbolizes financial instability as the result of artificial insemination/IVF, and it also aims to show withdrawal from social events plus reluctancy to engage in sexual activity. 


By Danielle Ingles

No Exit





This series calls into question the viewer’s assumption of what these two subjects just did. The viewer employs the male gaze while looking at these photos and tends to sexualize them. What is it about these two figures that suggests the innate power struggle that resides in the act of sex?


By Leia Tyebjee

15 Questions with KB of Barstool Sports


Is sex even cool at all? Are micropenises making a comeback? And just how fucking boring is Kansas?


Kyle Bauer knows the answers to these questions. “The highest-rated attraction in all of Kansas is a ‘historic farmstead,’ which is pretty much just a field that proudly displays a cow made of hay,” he writes. “Like a third-grade art class spent an hour painting dried grass and now it’s the most notable and respected monument in the whole state.”


A writer at Barstool Sports, Bauer—known almost exclusively as “KB” in online circles—has proven himself a master of social media satire time and time again. The trends that pervade Twitter and Instagram are, as it turns out, virtually incomprehensible enigmas. Bauer stands as their lone interpreter, the only man who seems to really understand what the fuck is ever going on online.


When viral tweets asked, “yeah sex is cool but have you ever had someone reply to your sarcasm with even better sarcasm,” KB mused, “When I first saw this tweet, which resonated with a mid-size metro area worth of sex-havers, both of my heads simultaneously winced in confusion. Was it really possible that having sex is less cool than an ordinary, platonic discussion with someone who is, say, fluent in sarcasm?”


When the Internet suddenly developed a short-lived obsession with the pleasure capabilities of micropenises, KB reminded us that Adam (of Biblical fame) had a fully-erect penis of approximately 2.8 inches but that “there is no evidence or footage that shows that [Eve] was unsatisfied in any way by his abnormally small penis.”


And when KB wrote a gloriously satirical blog post titled “The Most Popular Celebrity of 2018 from Each State,” he earned an excited response from infamous gun girl Kaitlin Bennett. No one bothered to tell her that her spot as the most popular celebrity from Ohio was, of course, a joke.


*****


Bauer first gained popularity on Twitter as KBNoSwag. Viral tweet after viral tweet and a 170,000-strong following led him to Medium. That took him to a New York City job in the fall of 2018. And so, in true keeping with his author bio, KB “tweeted and blogged his way to a job at Barstool.”  


Possibly the best thing about his work is that, in a kind of fucked-up way, it allows us to laugh at the worst parts of the Internet. Social media and the trends that propel it forward often feel like an overwhelmingly depressing and unfunny abyss. But KB lets us confront this vast terribleness with humor. It is, for instance, a lot easier to think about deconstructing online misogyny when KB gives us “The Internet’s Worst: A Shallow Dive Into Incel Culture.” And, on a lighter note, it’s a hell of a lot easier to stomach spring break Instagram captions when there’s “Breaking Down the Worst Party Slang Terms of All Time.”


Anyway. I got to talk to KB about Twitter, his job, and the year 2028.


Lithium Magazine: So, I’ve been following you on Twitter for a while. I’ve always loved your tweets, but I don’t know a ton about you beyond your content.
Kyle Bauer: I grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia. I wrestled and studied Speech Pathology and Early Childhood Special Education at Kent State. After college, I got a job in Early Intervention working with infants and toddlers with disabilities. I was the only male on staff among thirteen women, so by the end of my second year there I was full-blown “one of the ladies.” When they found out I was leaving to work at Barstool Sports, they were like, “What are you gonna do there?” and I was like, “I don’t know, probably write about horny Twitter users and micropenises.” Other than that, I go through lots of short-lived fads and obsessions. Right now it’s soup. I’ve been going out of my way to try as many different types of soup as possible. The other day I went to this Japanese place in Manhattan and got something called Cod’s Sperm Soup. It’s called that because it’s made from the sperm sac of a codfish. I didn’t really like it, but I love telling people about it.

Lithium: Your stuff on Medium is fantastic. You’re an incredibly talented writer — I especially love “The Boys of Fall." Did you ever expect to have the career you currently have in writing?
Kyle: Thank you. When I was, like, nine or ten, I would write reviews for Disney Channel Original Movies on Microsoft Word, but they never took off, so I gave up writing for the next ten to twelve years. My senior year of college, I wrote my first blog. It was called “Twitter Translations: College Girl Edition” or something like that, and that’s when I realized I really enjoy writing about social media trends that annoy me.

Lithium: I think I enjoy your work so much because it’s always spot-on about the most cringeworthy things on the Internet. From where do you draw inspiration?
Kyle: Most of my inspiration is fueled by hate and frustration. I know that sounds unhealthy, and that’s because it is. Social media brings out the absolute worst in people, and I’m on social media—well, Twitter—way too much, so I’m constantly being flooded with new things to hate.

Lithium: What’s the weirdest or craziest thing that someone online has said to you about something you wrote or tweeted?
Kyle: Honestly, nothing crazy. Just a couple of insincere death threats and one person who would DM me pictures of my mom’s face Photoshopped on characters from the Saw movies. So, nothing too weird either.

Lithium: Speaking of which , what’s your favorite—or least favorite, I guess—Twitter phenomenon? Personally, my favorite is the “It’s 2028. Your husband comes up to you and smacks your ass while you’re making buffalo chicken dip” thing.  
Kyle: That 2028 one has always been fascinating to me because I truly believe it was the result of some type of CIA mind-control experiment. Seeing so many college kids tweet about how they want to “fast forward” to when they’re 35 and making mortgage payments while their kids tear apart their house… What the fuck was that shit? You’re a twenty-year-old sophomore in college… You should be anxiously awaiting Thursday, not 2030.


Lithium: How, exactly, did you get…so big on Twitter? I feel like this is a question you definitely get asked a lot. But you have quite an impressive following on that platform. Is it one of those things that kind of just happens?
Kyle: Yeah, you’re, like, the second person to ask me that since Labor Day. It took me years of relentlessly tweeting jokes and trying to be funny before I finally went viral and started gaining a lot of followers.

Lithium: I know how you feel about Tweetdeckers. What are your thoughts on similar Instagram accounts, like FuckJerry and TheFatJewish, and how they could impact the future of social media-based comedy?
Kyle: People eat up those Instagram accounts that just post screenshots of other people’s tweets, and it’s just like…that’s Twitter. You’re opening up Instagram to look at…tweets? Just get on Twitter instead. So, yeah, it’s obviously fuck FuckJerry, but people need to stop following and showing so much love to those kinds of accounts or they’ll keep existing and profiting.

Lithium: How did you make such a successful transition from being this very well-known presence on Twitter, to getting lots of views on Medium, to working for Barstool?
Kyle: I pretty much just turned my tweets into long-form blogs. I was writing about topics—Twitter trends that I hate—that I knew my audience was interested in, and, thankfully, people were really supportive. My plan was to actually write more blogs and keep my Medium page going, and then reach out to Barstool and other sites to try to get some type of gig. Luckily, I ended up catching Barstool’s attention before that.

Lithium: What’s Barstool like? The environment, the people?
Kyle: It can get chaotic when they’re filming shit, but other than that it’s laid-back and a great environment for getting work done in fifteen-minute intervals. I like the people a lot. There’s a wide range of personalities, ranging from really weird and socially awkward to slightly less weird and socially awkward.

Lithium: What’s the best part of your job?
Kyle: For me, it’s the creative freedom. I like to experiment and get weird sometimes with my content ideas, and they allow it.

Lithium: What’s been your favorite thing you’ve done for Barstool so far? I think my favorite was “Instagram Travelers Take On the World’s Most Unappealing Places.” Steubenville really is kind of a shithole.
Kyle: I have a weird obsession with geographic humor, so I had a blast with that one. Shoutout to Nick Turani for doing all the incredible Photoshops and helping me with the writing. My favorite thing I’ve done is the “Most Popular Celebrity of 2018 from Each State” blog—Nick also made the Photoshopped map for it—because my goal was to trick a lot of people into thinking it was serious, and that’s exactly what happened. I had Kansas in such an uproar that some of their real “celebs” were sending me mean replies. Also, I got replies from the King and Queen of Entertainment, Johnny Sins and JoJo Siwa.



Lithium: Do you ever go into your satirical pieces with the intention to make social critique? Your work is always hilarious to read, but I do sometimes feel like there’s thinly veiled and spot-on criticism of sexism and general douchiness, especially in ones like “The First Annual Creep Olympics."
Kyle: Yeah, I mean, my moral compass is pretty questionable, but I’m always gonna call people out and make fun of them for being shitty. So that includes people who are objectively shitty—sexist, racist, Midwestern, homophobic, et cetera.

Lithium: I don’t know if you consider yourself a celebrity, but I know plenty of other people do . Have you had any particularly notable interactions with your fanbase-slash-followers? What’s it like to have this large crowd constantly tuned in to what you’re saying?
Kyle: Anyone who thinks they have any type of “celeb status” because they have a lot of online followers is a gigantic dweeb. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also lame to act too cool or self-loathing to appreciate having a large amount of people who are interested in you and support you. It’s definitely cool and has some perks. One of my biggest fans, Kaitlin “Gun Girl” Bennett, acknowledged my admiration for her once, and that reciprocated love meant a lot to me.


Lithium: A Google search of your name led me to a Reddit thread, “Is KBNoSwag Barstool’s Most Polished Journo?” A quick read-through of another Reddit thread turned up comments like “Love this hire. Hilarious” and “Good stuff that has substance.” So, I guess, how do you feel about potentially being Barstool’s Most Polished Journo?
Kyle: Embracing and remembering that for when a thread about me being an unfunny try-hard pops up.

Lithium: And, finally, do you have any advice for people who may want to work for Barstool?
Kyle: Whatever it is you want to do for Barstool, do it on your own, for free, without worrying about getting Barstool’s attention. Start a blog, create your own website, make a YouTube account, post videos to your social media, and work on perfecting your craft. If you want to do it for a living, then you need to be passionate about it enough to do it consistently for no money.  

You can read Kyle’s work on Barstool Sports, Medium, and Twitter.


Interview by Julianna Chen