Monday, April 13, 2020

Why Are We So Dumb About Alcohol and Sex?

It's hard to say exactly when the bourbon boom began, but the year 2000 is as good a marker as any. The revival that began in Japan and other overseas markets had reached America and the sales needle, moribund for more than two decades, began to move in a solidly positive direction.

With the growth in bourbon sales came a growth in interest in the subject itself. People wanted to learn more about bourbon. I published my first book, Bourbon, Straight, in 2004. A few people, like Gary Regan, preceded me. A whole bunch of people followed. Although there are a few clunkers, most of the books are pretty good. Publications such as Whisky Advocate, Whisky Magazine, Bourbon Plus, Bourbon Review, Imbibe, and others, also provide generally reliable information. Suffice it to say that today anyone seeking bourbon knowledge does not want for resources.

Yet misinformation persists. You don't need to spend much time on any bourbon-centric social media site to see it on display. People ask basic questions they could easily answer with a Google search. Instead they ask their community, which responds with cascades of wrongness. It's not every time or everywhere, but there is an awful lot of it. And this is among people who identify as bourbon enthusiasts.

It is so widespread I often think I have accomplished nothing in my 30 years of writing and speaking about this subject. Why has so little of it sunk in? I have concluded that some of it is inherent in the subject matter, as I wrote in the introduction to Bourbon, Straight. (Which is still available, by the way, either here or from Amazon.)

"Like sex, alcohol is one of those subjects where much of what people think they know is wrong. The similarities do not end there. Both subjects are laden with taboos, not least of which is their unsuitability for children. Perhaps that is the reason for such wide-spread ignorance about both. We don’t learn much about them as children and as adults, we don’t learn anything very well.

"What we do learn about both subjects growing up often is contradictory. Our parents and teachers tell us one thing, our peers tell us something else. Sex education, fortunately, has improved a lot in recent decades. Alcohol education not so much."

Now I would sum it up more succinctly. Sex and alcohol are subjects we mostly learn about informally, on the street, not in school. And most of what we think we know about both subjects is wrong.

So the fact that so many people believe so many wrong things about American whiskey, and alcoholic beverages in general, used to frustrate me. Then I realized that there continue to be people who seek the knowledge, who will buy the books, who want to learn, and I can contribute to that. If the overall state of knowledge continues to be poor, we're doing all we can. Focus on the people who seek the knowledge, not those who don't. (hint, hint.)

I can also say, with confidence, that the more you know, the more fun it is, with alcohol and sex.


Fred Minnick said...

I feel like we are beating our heads against the wall sometimes.

Chuck Cowdery said...

I'm glad to know it's not just me.

Lew Bryson said...

"cascades of wrongness"
I look on it as secure employment. Also, as a craft brewer reminded me when I asked why he was still doing beer education, 'shouldn't people know this by now?' -- There are new people all the time.

Kyle Henderson said...

It is certainly not!

Stacy Thomas said...

I really got into this -- if you set aside a group of teenage guys passing around a bottle of Old Crow in a North Dakota hotel room c. 1969 -- after reading Michael Jackson's big, lavishly produced book on whiskey around the world in the 1990s. I can't recall any area where the late, fondly remembered Mr. Jackson steered me wrong. But the straight, unfiltered and deeply informed content of Chuck's first book took me much further down the bourbon road and answered a lot of nagging questions. For the kind of book he set out to write, Chuck did an almost perfect job.

Anonymous said...

It gets even worse when you're trying to teach at the intersection of these two ignorances. If I had a nickel for every time that I told a doe-eyed fratboy that no, being drunk doesn't give you license to be an asshole, I'd have enough to to retire. Maybe even enough to fund someone to tell all the co-eds that a gentleman is someone who stays a gentleman when he's drunk. Obviously, this is condensed for the sake of wit, but being doubly ignorant about alcohol and sex is no way to go through life and guarantees that there will be a wake of hurt.

Rare Bird 101 said...

Why not break your "I don't Tweet" stance/preference? Share your experiences with new audiences on modern platforms. It sounds like you at least browse them. Maybe chime in when it's important to you? If you don't like the direction the car is headed, hop in the front seat. There's plenty of room. Most of us would love to see you there.

Crown Point Marc said...

So, should we look for your first book on sex education soon? I'd pay to read that.

Arok said...

Rare Bird 101: I gave up Twitter a couple years ago because it had become a cesspool of hate and anger...sane people avoid it.

Rare Bird 101 said...

I knew I was crazy! 😁