Monthly Archives: December 2010

Gay Marriage Protects Marriage

“Mamma, don’t let your daughters grow up to marry gay cowboys.” A headline I once saw.

I get that. Because some of my friends have tried it. Except for the cowboy part.

One of my friends married a man, only to come home early one day to find him in bed with another man.

Another acquaintance, raised in a religious family, married a woman in hopes of living a good Christian life.

They’re all now divorced.

Gays marrying straights does not help the divorce rate.

Gays marrying gays could be a relief to single gals. After my friends’ experiences I became paranoid that a gay man would try to marry me, trying to pass or not be gay, or something. I wished that gays could simply marry who they wanted so I wouldn’t have to deal with that.

Meanwhile, some insist that marriage was meant for procreation.

In that case, everyone from my birth family, except for my brother, would have to get divorced immediately. My father and his wife, whom he married late in life, never had children. My mother and her husband married in their 60’s. I’ve suffered fertility problems, myself. My brother, who sired three children, is the only one who’s safe from these folks.

Please, protect my marriage from these “marriage protection” types!

In 2008 Californians passed the California Marriage Protection Act, aka, Prop 8, which states that only marriage between a man and a woman is legal and recognized.

On Wednesday, August 04, 2010, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the Proposition “unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses.” The court, therefore, “orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement.”

Good.

Gay marriage is good for marriage.

Georgia Platts

This post was originally published August 5, 2010

Porn: Pro and Con

When it comes to pornography feminists are divided. Where do you stand?

Pro-porn feminists

Feminists who call themselves “sex-positive” say sexual freedom is essential to women’s freedom. They feel patriarchy represses women’s sexual expression, and say porn can liberate through challenging conventional notions that women should be monogamous, romantic, and that sex should be tied to procreation. They do not believe that laws written in a male-dominated society would serve women’s interests.

 Anti-porn feminists

Many feminists who oppose pornography say it turns women into objects, promotes misogyny, eroticizes male dominance, and leads to violence against women. As one anti-porn blogger put it, “instead of being portrayed as individuals, as human beings, they are treated as fragmented body parts; women, men and children are depicted and used as holes, cunts, living sex aids, receptacles for the depositing of waste fluids.”

Others worry that porn can lead men who over consume to become disinterested in real women. Naomi Wolf points out that some porn-users come to find real women less than porn-worthy, in body or in bed, leading to detrimental effects on relationships. High consumption can leave sex without its mystery and men with decreased libido.

Does pornography cause violence against women?  

Studies are not conclusive.

Researchers asked male volunteers to administer electric shocks to women, under the guise of providing feedback in learning experiments. Men who had been exposed to violent and humiliating pornography were more aggressive in administering shocks.

Men who were shown violent and humiliating pornography also developed attitudes that were closer to those of rapists’. But the effects evaporated after a couple of months. Of course, men who view violent and humiliating pornography probably don’t wait a couple of months between viewing.

But we still don’t know whether pornography causes actual rape.

On the other hand, correlation studies often find that the more pornography is consumed, the lower the rate of rape. Does pornography decrease rape? Other factors could be in play. Over the last 20 years:

  • pornography consumption increased due to the Internet
  • women’s power and status rose because of increased opportunity in our society
  • the rate of rape decreased according to Justice Department victimization surveys

Has rape decreased because of higher pornography consumption or because women’s power and status has broadly risen despite porn?

Civil Libertarian Feminists

Other feminists believe that pornography is offensive and even harmful, but they feel that protection of individual rights and freedoms is more important.

What should be done?

Should pornography be celebrated as “pro-sex” feminists believe? Should laws be imposed against pornography as many anti-porn feminists advocate, and as civil libertarians fear? Should those who are concerned about negative effects of pornography turn to dialogue and education rather than the law?

Where do you come down on the issue?

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Are Women Culturally Monogamous?

We know that women aren’t destined to be monogamous by nature. Culture affects our sexual psyches.

Polygamist inclinations vary from person to person, but today’s Western women are much more monogamous than our Tahitian or American Indian sisters were before European contact. We are now also much more monogamous in our inclinations than men.

In surveys, men say they would prefer to have 14 partners over a lifetime. Over that same lifetime, women prefer to have only one or two.

A friend suggested that women were lying because they feared seeing themselves as sluts. Yet women admit to five real-life partners. (Here they are certainly underestimating. The real number is likely 8 or 9 for both men and women, given men’s estimate of 12.) But if they’re so worried, why not say they’ve had only 1 or 2 partners?

I was surprised by the low number of “one or two” as the preference, but I doubt women feel the need to go that low just to feel socially acceptable.

Younger women’s preferences may be higher. During the first year of college many willingly experiment with sex – and freely admit to it. But they quickly tire of random sexual contacts. Most drop out of the casual sex scene by sophomore year.

Men, on the other hand, don’t tire of the casual hook up, and want to continue even after college.

When it comes to open marriage or swinging, men are usually more enthusiastic, and more often initiate the idea.

So women seem less interested in casual sex than men. Quite likely because they are more repressed.

I feel that women are more repressed than is healthy. But I’m not sure that limits are all bad, for women or men.

When I read women’s studies literature, women are often advised to have sex more the way men do: have fun without guilt.

Yet men’s studies, which comes from a feminist perspective, often advises men to have sex more the way women do it. Don’t follow the 4 F’s: Find ‘em, Feel ‘em, F- ‘em, and Forget ‘em. Do not use women as a means of gaining a notch on your belt. Have sex in a context of love and care.

What do you think? How would you describe women’s ways and men’s ways of having sex? What are the positives and negatives of each approach? Is one way better than the other? Is there an optimal in-between? Do men and women tend to have different views on this issue?

I’m interested in exploring the matter. I’d like to year your thoughts, too.

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Are Women Naturally Monogamous?

Gaugin--300x184[1]Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary biology, was skeptical of evolutionary psychology, which sees women as monogamous and men as polygamous, due to genetics. Let’s take a closer look.

Children have the best shot at surviving if their mothers mate with only one man, who sticks around to provide support and resources. Thus, women prefer men who are older and richer. Moms put a lot into their kids because they have a small number of eggs compared with the millions of sperm that men produce. And all this is genetic, so says evolutionary psychology.

On the other hand, men will have more children (and reproduce their genes) if they are promiscuous because of their large sperm count. Again, the behavior is in the genes.

This premise seems to contradict the prior point that children are more likely to survive if their fathers are around to support them. Maybe more survive than don’t. Or perhaps it’s a survival of the fittest worldview: Babies who can survive without resources improve the gene pool?

The bigger dilemma: How do men manage to enjoy many partners when women are monogamous?

Men also value beauty above all else because attractiveness indicates health and an ability to reproduce. Oddly, supermodels are the most sought-out, yet they’re often so thin that they no longer menstruate. And I hadn’t known that so-called unattractive women were infertile. But never mind.

Returning to Darwin’s concern – and it doesn’t take a genius like him to make this observation – while evolutionary psychology had fit nicely with British middle-class behavior, where women sought resources and men sought beauty, Darwin pointed out that the theory did not fit with the British upper class. There, men were more concerned with wealth than good looks.

Now that Western women are able to make their own money, they have become more concerned with looks than in the past. And men now like to marry women who can earn some money – it’s a plus.

Other cultures don’t fit the theory so well, either.

Gauguin’s infatuation with Tahiti likely came in part from the women’s desire for many sex partners (prior to European influence).

Meanwhile, Europeans who were among the first to arrive in the Americas were shocked by similar behavior among the native women.

In these Tahitian and Native American societies the entire community cared for children, and property passed through women, so men’s resources weren’t an issue. These women weren’t called sluts, either.

Once Europeans transformed the cultures, things quickly turned around.

It appears that social structure and culture trump biology in explaining women’s monogamy.

There is more to discuss, but I’ll leave that for later.

For now I must ask: Are evolutionary psychologists unfamiliar with this information, or do they simply ignore it because the theory so well justifies a status quo in which women are told to stay monogamous, but understand men’s need for many partners, aka the double standard?

After all, it’s in men’s genes – or was that jeans?

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Beating Your Wife, Child OK in United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates’ High Court ruled a few weeks ago that men can beat their wives and children. Wives are always fair game, but children may only be beaten if they are young enough to be properly defenseless (only “young” children may be battered). Also, husbands and fathers must leave no visible mark. So keeping wives and daughters properly covered could come in handy.

Sharia law expert, Dr. Ahmed al Kubaisi, reasoned that wife beating is sometimes necessary to preserve family bonds, “If a wife committed something wrong, a husband can report her to police,” he explained. “But sometimes she does not do a serious thing or he does not want to let others know; when it is not good for the family. In this case, hitting is a better option.”

It’s all so clear to me now. 

Except for the part about why men are qualified to discipline women. Is it that men are more wise and compassionate? And we know this because wife and child abuse come so easily to so many of our less evolved brethren? And why would God want anyone to beat anyone else? 

Islamic scholars don’t all feel that beating women and children is consistent with Islam. 

Islamic law scholar, Dr. Jamal Badawi, says the Quran seeks “the prohibition of any type of wife beating.” Lawyer and women’s rights activist, Summer Hathout, observed, “To those of us who know Islam and the Quran, violence against women is so antithetical to the teachings of Islam.” Islamic feminists note that the word in the Quran which is commonly translated as “beat” (daraba) can also be translated as “to go away.”

Basing prescriptions for battering women and children on religion, the word of God, seems odd. How is violence of any sort good for the soul? 

Beating women. Killing women to preserve “honor.” Throwing stones at women in a stadium. A woman is hit by a large stone. She screams out in pain. And cheers rise up from the crowd. This is ennobling? 

What happens to a person’s soul who behaves this way? Only dehumanization comes  from this mindset and behavior. 

Georgia Platts 

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Military Rape: Assailants Promoted or Wrist-Slapped. Why?

Captain Jennifer Machmer was discharged from the army for being raped. But her rapist got promoted.

What?

Most often offenders receive only a reduction in rank or pay. Eighty percent of convicted rapists are honorably discharged.

No wonder sexual assault is rampant in the armed services. As Nancy Gibbs of Time described the risk

          What does it tell us that female soldiers deployed overseas stop drinking water
          after 7 p.m. to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom
          at night? Or that a soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette
          was afraid to report it for fear she would be demoted — for having gone out without
          her weapon?

Representative Jane Harman reports, “A female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”

One woman expressed the dilemma, “I’m willing to give my life for this guy next to me but how do I know that he’s not going to hurt me?”

Military women who serve our country are more likely to be sexually assaulted than the average American woman. Twice as likely, in fact.

The Pentagon refuses to release documents that could shed light on the problem. (The ACLU and others have filed suit to access these records.)  

Why is the rate of sexual assault so high? And why does the military keep mum?

Surprisingly, social psychologist Elliot Aronson sees nonconformity at the root: Women can’t conform to being male.

Why is that a problem?

A little thing called gender ranking is rampant in our culture. That is to say, we rank males as having higher value than females. (That’s why men constantly have to prove their manhood – showing they deserve that exalted status.) Fields that strongly associate with manhood put gender ranking on steroids, as when firefighters plastered a firehouse with spread-eagled centerfolds to harass a female hire.

When Shannon Faulkner braved the Citadel as its first female cadet she was harassed and ostracized for threatening soldierly manhood. So were the women who followed her.

Trying to conform, one military woman explained her strategy of rape avoidance, “You figure out how to turn the guy off, and become one of the guys,” she said. “That’s your safety mechanism.”

Unfortunately it didn’t work. She couldn’t manage to be male enough, and her squad leader attempted sexual assault. Another soldier raped her.

The Pentagon believes 80% to 90% of sexual assaults are not reported. Most victims feel nothing will be done, and more than half worry about being labeled troublemakers – more nonconformity!

Why is the rate of rape so high?

It appears that military culture resents women’s presence and lets boys be boys in order to punish women soldiers.

Georgia Platts

Source: Elliot Aronson, et. al. Social Psychology, 5th ed. Prentice Hall. 2005

Women: Climax Less Likely in Relationship Sex

Researchers at Indiana University recently released the most comprehensive sex survey since 1994. They made some surprising discoveries. Among them: men are more likely to enjoy sex and reach orgasm if they are in a relationship than if they are not. But women have more difficulty with arousal and bodily response when they are in a relationship.

This goes completely against stereotype. It also goes against what women and men report about their preferences.

What’s going on?

Today let’s explore women. We’ll look at men in an upcoming post. 

When I’ve asked who likes sex better, males or females, I repeatedly get the same response from women. It begins with “Women enjoy sex as much as men, but…”

          Some of us prefer to be with someone we love and who loves us back rather
          than some crazy one night romp with a random person.

          Women place more emphasis on the emotional aspects of sex.

          Women like sex more when it has depth and meaning. It is much more intense
          and romancing to women when they are in a relationship.

Researchers at University of Texas, Austin concluded that for women, sexuality is more linked to love, emotional bonding and connection. 

Yet recent data suggest something different.

Indiana University researchers asked women and men about the last time they had sex: Were you with a relationship partner or not? What activities did you engage in? Did you have an orgasm? How much did you enjoy the sexual experience?  

Finding: Women were less likely to climax when they were in relationships.

What’s going on? Here are some possibilities.

Women who really love sexuality may be more likely to have sex with different partners, affecting the average.

What about more typical women? Women need to feel sexy and desired to get aroused. They want to feel chosen. With a new partner, a woman will feel she’s been chosen because she’s so attractive. But in committed relationships it can seem that her partner is simply trapped into having sex with her. Not a big turn-on.

Men also seem to experience a slight drop in interest over time with long-term partners, and women may sense that, leading to an even bigger drop in their own libido.

Why a bigger drop for women? Marta Meana, a psychology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says women have a lower sex drive (influenced by a culture that represses women’s sexuality) and need a bigger jolt to turn on libido. “If I don’t love cake as much as you,” she told a New York Times reporter, “my cake better be kick-butt to get me excited to eat it.” Something for men to think about.

At the same time relationship is helpful because women (and men alike) need to feel relaxed in order to climax. The Indiana University data isn’t clear on whether the more-aroused women were having sex with men whom they saw as potential committed partners – the beginning of relationship. In that case they might have felt an excitement at feeling chosen, but also safe enough to create the necessary comfort to climax.

But sex isn’t just about orgasm. The emotional component of feeling loved and connected creates a rich, multidimensional experience which may be what so many refer to when they say they want more than a quick roll in the hay.

Meanwhile, some advice for men: let your lady know she’s desired and chosen.

Georgia Platts

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Are Women Brainwashed Into Polygamy?

Kathy Jo Nicholson began sewing her wedding dress when she was fourteen. If she faithfully served her husband, and accepted at least two other wives, her husband would invite her to join him in heaven. But if she refused polygamy, she would be damned to hell.

Are women brainwashed into polygamy?

In some ways, polygamists aren’t so different from the rest of us. Those who accept “plural marriage” simply accept the way of life that lies before them. Most of us do the same thing.

Why?

When we’re born we don’t have many thoughts in our heads. Knowing nothing, the world around us seems pretty chaotic. So much information! What to do with it? We need to know how to cope and put order to chaos.

Unconsciously, the brain notices patterns and it starts categorizing things. “Oh, usually it’s women who stay home with children. I guess women are family oriented,” the brain concludes. Scientists, presidents, artists, and corporate managers are usually men. White ones. “I guess scientists, presidents, artists, and corporate managers are white males,” surmises the mind. In the 1950s this is how the world looked. It seemed normal and natural and few thought to question it. The oversimplification is also the source of stereotypes.

If we start to understand that people from other cultures can think differently, we might open our minds. The Western world is multi-cultural. We are plugged into the world wide web and connected to satellites. So we know that there are other ways of seeing, even if we don’t necessarily agree.

Isolated groups like polygamists aren’t much exposed to alternate ways of thinking. And that limits possibilities.

Kathy Jo grew up in isolated southern Utah. Her prophet warned against the world’s wickedness: “Leave television alone. Do away with videos. Do away with headphones and listening to radio. Hard metallic music is the devil.”

She didn’t know people who didn’t practice polygamy. It was just how the world was supposed to be. How God wanted it.

Some polygamists live in suburbia, but are isolated amidst the masses. Harassed and ostracized, they keep to themselves. Persecuted people bond more closely together.

But something rocked Kathy Jo’s world. Her prophet had prophesied he’d live until Christ’s second coming. But then he died.

“How can you trust the Prophet,” she asked her father, “if he doesn’t keep his promise?” She was told to stop questioning.

“The key to living the Principle was unquestioning obedience,” Kathy Jo explained. “Never question Father. Do as he says. Never question the Prophet.”

But she kept wondering, silently. Some personalities are more inquiring than others. That some do question is the key to social change.

Later she fell in love and fled the fold to elope. But she could barely cope in the outside world – so used to every decision being made for her. Kathy Jo also worried about going to hell. After many years, she eventually got over it.

Now she worries that her nieces and nephews are trapped in an oppressive world they did not choose.

Are polygamists brainwashed?

Not exactly. That would involve washing something out of the mind that had previously existed there. A synonym is “thought reform.”

What polygamists undergo is similar to everyone’s socialization. We all live with our culture’s understandings in our heads. Every time we feel any sense of racism, sexism, or homophobia (you’ll be surprised how much you do; go to Harvard’s website to find out), or simply believe that the feminine ideal is skinny with large breasts, we have internalized our culture. That is, society’s beliefs now exist in our own minds.

But the polygamists’ experience is more extreme because they hear few competing voices, have a fierce focus on obedience, and are more likely than most to believe that their ways are God’s ways.

But if you want to call it that, we are all brainwashed into our cultural ways of knowing. Some are just more brainwashed than others.

Georgia Platts

Note: Kathy Jo’s story comes from “Escape From Polygamy,” Glamour

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Raping Children under Pretext of Marriage

Saudi Arabia: A Hepatitis B infected 65-year-old man married an 11-year-old girl. Soon she’ll be infected.

Yemen: A 10-year-old was forced to marry a 30-year-old deliveryman. He took her out of school and beat her regularly. (Due to some smarts and luck, she later became a ten-year-old divorcee.) 

Saudi Arabia: A father married off his 13-year-old daughter to a man in his 50s because he wanted dowry money to buy a car.

Afghanistan: A 14-year old was married off to satisfy an obligation. Abused, used as a servant, and forced to sleep in an outbuilding with animals, she eventually (and famously) ended up on Time Magazine’s cover with a severed nose as punishment for fleeing her abuse. 

One Saudi social worker told Al Riyadh that she knows of three thousand cases where girls, 13-years-old and younger, were forced to marry men old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers.  Or as Eman Al Nafjan at change.org described it, “forcing children to be raped under the pretensions of marriage.” 

All of this is ironic as staunchly pious Muslim states somehow forget their religion: The Quran gives females the right to consent to marry. But forcing children to marry removes their say. Early Islam actually had a feminist air, and many Muslim feminists are working to return to that more woman-positive time.

Fortunately, a movement against child marriage is rising in Saudi Arabia. If you would like to read more, go to change.org, where you can also sign petition.

Hopefully, one day the right to consent to marry will not be just an empty promise.

Georgia Platts

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Orgasm: It’s All in the Mind

Thirty to forty percent of women have trouble reaching orgasm, thanks to a culture that represses women’s sexuality.

Others can climax via thought alone.

What we’ve learned from the mind-only technique could help women experiencing sexual difficulty.

Using brain scans, Dr. Barry Komisaruk found that some women can climax from “a combination of breathing exercises and fantasy, while others use their imagination and pelvic floor exercises.” He explained, “Some imagined erotic scenarios, but others imagined very romantic scenes such as a lover whispering to them. Others pictured more abstract sensual experiences, such as walking along a beach or imagining waves of energy moving through their body.

“There’s been a lot of focus on the body and our physical responses,” Komisaruk continued, “but for many people, and women in particular, the mind plays an even more important role.”

Physical stimulation seems to be more vital for men than for women, who require the right ambience, mood and relaxation.

As women move toward orgasm the parts of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety and emotion relax and lower in activity. (Men’s emotional centers also deactivate, but less intensely.) At orgasm the emotion centers effectively close down and women move into an almost trance-like state.

That emotion shuts down at the critical point is interesting, since so many women say they need to feel emotionally connected to enjoy sex. Contradictory? Maybe not. Sex therapist Paula Hall points out that “women in particular need to feel relaxed and safe in order to let go and enjoy sex fully,” and feeling emotionally connected and safe might get them there.

Relaxation is helpful for both men and women. Perhaps that is why orgasm comes more easily when they keep their socks on. In experiments, cold feet kept orgasm rate down to 50 percent. Add socks, and the rate went to 80 percent. Cold is not relaxing.

All of this resonates with techniques suggested by sex therapist, Lonnie Barbach. In one recommendation, she tells non-orgasmic women to touch themselves just to discover how their bodies feel, but making sure not to come to orgasm.

Two things happen here. Unworried about meeting a goal, stress is minimized. And as bodily sensation becomes the focus the women cease to be distracted by other things, including worries about coming.

Which suggests some advice to men: If you constantly ask a woman if she’s coming, do you really think she will? Not a good technique for avoiding anxiety.

Jill Morrison discovered her ability the for mind-only climax one day as she lay with her husband before making love. “He wasn’t even touching me, but I felt very relaxed and I found my mind slipping into a wonderful and relaxed sexual ‘zone’ where I could see myself lying in a sexually abandoned position, naked, having let go of all the stresses in my normal life,” she related. “To my absolute amazement, I had an orgasm there and then, without any kind of stimulation beyond my mental concentration. 

“In my view,” she says, “sex for women is 90 percent in the mind. It’s about concentrating purely on the physical pleasure and removing myself from all the complications of relationships. It’s very liberating!” She adds, “The more you do it, the better you become.”

Interesting advice.

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