Monthly Archives: February 2012

Love Hurts Others

We all know that lost love and unrequited love hurts. But as a headline from Live Science points out, “Love Hurts (Other People)” too.

Florida State researchers surveyed 130 hetero students in long-term relationships on their levels of jealousy (e.g., “How likely are you to surprise-visit your partner to see who is with him/her?”).

They also asked them to think about a time when they 1) felt lots of love for their partner or 2) a time when they felt lots of lust. Next, the students underwent three ordeals.

First they looked at pictures of an attractive or unattractive same-sex peer and then rated the appeal of a Chinese character. When asked to think about intense sexual desire for their partner everyone rated the character about the same. But when asked to think about intense love for their partner those who tend toward jealousy became quite negative.

Next the students played a video game with an attractive, but hidden, same-sex player. Whoever won got to blast their opponent with a loud noise. When reminded of their love for their partners, the jealous types more harshly blasted their sexy “rivals.” (Fortunately, there was no real person to torment.) But the effect disappeared when these same folks were told to think about lust instead of love.

Finally, the researchers upped the ante, creating a seriously threatening situation.

Students were asked to help design a university dating site, and given profiles of “attractive, interesting, outgoing, fun-loving” people of their own sex who were single and looking. After being reminded of their deep love for their partners everyone responded harshly, labeling the rivals unattractive, unfriendly and heaping on abuse. Jon Maner, the lead researcher added, “The more love they felt for their partner, the more negatively they tended to evaluate these objectively attractive members of their own sex.”

He concludes that low- and high-jealousy people may not be so different after all. What matters is the level of threat.

Study researcher and grad student, Jennifer Leo opined,

Ultimately, love works in the service of protecting the relationship and maintaining it into the long term. Even if that means acting out.

Love makes the world go round. Too bad it can also harm innocent bystanders.

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Am I Ugly? Girls Ask YouTube

A girl, age twelve or thirteen, posts a video on YouTube, asking:

I just wanted to make a random video seeing if I was like, ugly or not? Because a lot of people call me ugly and I think I am ugly … and fat. People say I’m ugly. So … tell me — am I?

The video was posted in December and has gotten over 3.4 million views and 92,000 comments. Many “tweens” (ages 11-13) have followed suit.

The girls repeatedly challenge the viewer to, “Go ahead, judge me, I don’t care what you think.” Of course, they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble if they didn’t care.

Why do they care? Because how others see us shapes how we see ourselves. Our solitary “subjective” notions about who we are morph into “objective” fact when others agree that, “That’s who you are.” And so we trumpet our successes and squelch nasty rumors because both are made more real by others’ seeing. Doesn’t have to be this way, but often is.

Come early adolescence, girls begin to grapple with who they are – looks becoming a primary source of identity, worth and status. Unfortunately, many of the “Am I Ugly?” girls seem depressed and lacking self-esteem.

Some YouTube commenters declare the girls “beautiful.” A few offer advice: “Get bangs.” Others tell them to get off the internet and do their homework.

But YouTube is not the place to gain affirmation. Too many insecure cowards anonymously hurl insults: “My vote: UGLIER THAN A DEMON” or “F*ck off whore wannabe” or “Just the fact that u did this video makes u ugly. But u were ugly already.” Twelve-year-olds aren’t mature enough to deal with misogynistic trolls who put them down in hopes of lifting their own sorry selves.

But the whole focus on looks faces the matter wrongly. As one commenter put it, “You’re not ugly, society is.”

Another summed it up nicely:

We place too much value on the way we look and too little on who we are. I could be the least attractive person on earth but I’m a good person and I have a good heart and I think that those things matter a million times more than being pretty or ugly. While I know that I’m not Ugly, I still believe that I have more to offer the world than just how I look. I wish that this was the message that young girls were getting. They need better role models, they need people to reinforce how smart they are and how talented they are vs. how pretty they look.

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Why Do Right-Wingers Hate Sex?

Why do right-wingers hate sex? And why don’t they want the rest of us to get any? Okay, not all of them. Newt Gingrich, for instance, seems to be a fan. But what he likes isn’t something he’d necessarily want anyone else to do.

Rick Santorum is the reigning sex-hating champ – unless it leads to procreation, of course. He once warned that Satan was using sensuality to attack America and he disagrees with the Supreme Court decision to allow birth control. As columnist Maureen Dowd explains,

(Santorum) believes that America’s soul wounds include men and women having sex for reasons other than procreation, people involved in same-sex relationships, women using contraception… (He feels) contraception is “not O.K. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Actually, those who lack contraception but don’t want pregnancy could still do anal and oral. Or, men could simply ejaculate on woman’s faces. So a lack of contraception may only encourage sodomy and other “perversities.”

And then there’s Santorum spokesperson, Foster Friess, who insists:

Back in my day, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees.

Or, conservative columnist Ross Douthat helpfully explains, “Monogamy, not chemicals or latex, is the main line of defense against unwanted pregnancies.”

So if a married couple only want two kids, how often should they have sex sans chemicals or latex?

Or how about this guy who responded to a post I wrote saying women should be able to follow their conscience on birth control, and not be bullied by Catholic Bishops:

Where’s the discussion of men’s responsibility to do what they can to control their own passions? Are men just dogs who cannot control themselves?

And does all this repression make the right-wing sex drive reemerge in creepy ways? One bill sought to force women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds via vaginal probe. Democratic Delegate Lionell Spruill says this is tantamount to rape: inserting objects into vaginas without consent. Women’s advocates say the procedure is meant to shame women, which is similar to a motive of rapists: degrade the victim.

But why so anti-sex?

Are these just church-going folk who’ve been warned against sexuality their whole lives?

Some worry uncontrolled passions will harm the social fabric: children bearing children… unwanted babies. But that’s what contraception is for. As conservative columnist David Brooks admits, despite more sexually liberal attitudes, teen pregnancy rates are down, abortion is down, and crime is down. “There are problems with the social fabric,” he says, “but they no longer have to do with the sexual revolution.”

Others think right-wingers simply cling to clarity and order, and crave control (a common bent among extreme conservatives). And indeed, some may feel a sense of power in controlling women’s bodies. They may gain a sense of control by reigning in the flesh and wild sexuality of themselves and others. And, they can gain a sense of clarity and structure by seeing women and men as different, each in their separate spheres with men on top and women below, barefoot, pregnant, and obeying men.

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Gender-Swapping Grammar Lessons

A Chrome app called Jailbreak the Patriarchy switches gendered words and makes for an eye-opening experience. Check out. I’ve spiced it up by changing gendered names, etc., too to get a better feel for how the world would look if gender switched.

I Kissed A Boy (And I Liked It)” (male singer, of course)

I kissed a boy and I liked it,
the taste of his cherry chapstick.
I kissed a boy just to try it,
I hope my girlfriend don’t mind it.
It felt so wrong,
it felt so right.
Don’t mean I’m in love tonight.
I kissed a boy and I liked it.

Or how about this headline:

Women Fall For Facebook Scams More Than Men (especially when confronted by a scantily clad male “friend”)

Or, Gina Carey gender swapped book blurbs on her blog. Here’s a sample:

THE COLOR PURPLE: Chucky is a poor black man whose letters tell the story of 20 years of his life, beginning at age 14 when he is being abused and raped by his mother and attempting to protect his brother from the same fate, and continuing over the course of his marriage to “Ma’am,” a brutal woman who terrorizes him.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a husband.

LITTLE MEN: Meet the March brothers: the talented sissy Joe, the beautiful Mark, the frail Bobby, and the spoiled Timmy, as they pass through the years between boyhood and manhood. A lively portrait of growing up in the 19th century with lasting vitality and enduring charm.

LOLITO: Hannah Humbert is a middle-aged, fastidious college professor. She also likes little boys. And none more so than Lolito, who she’ll do anything to possess. Is she in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is she all of these?

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA: …As Florentina Ariza rises in her business career she whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet she reserves her heart for Fermino.

Jezebel also did a little gender-swapping on some mainstream media. Here’s a Times article on evangelical Christianity in Africa:

Traditionally, Kassena-Nankana men are not involved in everyday decision making, even about household matters. But the born-again men were forming committees, making speeches and organizing outings, fund-raisers and other activities. Tradition in Kassena-Nankana also forbids men to communicate with ancestors and other spiritual beings; only women can do that. But the Christian men were speaking directly to Jesus about their problems. She was, many of them may have felt, the first woman ever to listen.

And from Cosmo’s “The Hottest Things to Do During Halftime”:

Whether you’re a legit fan or just enjoy watching jacked girls run around in skin-tight pants, we’re psyched for football season. And to make this Sunday’s big game a little more fun, we asked women to tell us what they’d love a man to do at halftime. No surprise here — their answers all involved sex, nachos, and you in practically nothing.

Her Halftime Fantasy: “That he’ll sit next to me in a jersey and matching panties.”

And what if you need to read something on the web exactly as it was written? Why you can simply hit a key that will Jailbreak the Patriarchy to return to the world as we know it.

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Sex: Who Gets Screwed?

One day I asked my class to think of slang words for sex. I got the following list:

Screw, f-, bang, nail, ram, smash, smack that, beat those, cut, boning, git-in-em-guts, get some trim, get some grip, do it, get some pussy, nasty time, make love.

I don’t know about you, but I only want to do one of those things.

Most of this list suggests a good deal of violence. And who gets screwed, rammed, nailed, cut, boned, banged, smacked, beaten, and f’d, anyway?

Really, it isn’t pretty.

The music I grew up on offered the B-52’s singing “Bang, bang, bang (on the door baby),” David Bowie intoning, “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am,” and the Tubes celebrating the raw tuna of a sushi girl. A nice piece of meat.

A DJ interrupts to suggest, “Could you trim that thing?”

It all sounds so appealing.

And we wonder why women indicate less sexual interest than men on surveys. But these words are only a small tip of that iceberg.

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Women Must Be Free To Follow Their Conscience on Contraception


Catholic Bishops continue to plead that they must be free to exercise their conscience on contraception, which entails preventing women from exercising that same right. If there’s any conflict of rights here women should win out since it is their bodies and well-being that are at stake.

And shouldn’t the rights of individuals take precedence over the rights of institutions (whatever the conscience of an institution is)?

The Bishops would not even be the one’s buying the contraceptives. Women would.

In patriarchal societies men feel that they should govern women’s bodies. In some places women must get permission from their husbands to see a doctor. And now these male church leaders want to take on that role for women employees?

As Gail Collins at the New York Times points out, the Bishops can teach, but they can’t force others to align with their teachings.

Besides, why don’t other religions have similar issues? As Times columnist Nick Kristof observes,

I wondered what other religiously affiliated organizations do in this situation. Christian Science traditionally opposed medical care. Does The Christian Science Monitor deny health insurance to employees?

“We offer a standard health insurance package,” John Yemma, the editor, told me.

That makes sense. After all, do we really want to make accommodations across the range of faith? What if organizations affiliated with Jehovah’s Witnesses insisted on health insurance that did not cover blood transfusions? What if ultraconservative Muslim or Jewish organizations objected to health care except at sex-segregated clinics?

Or should employers, insurers or doctors refuse access to a drug or medical procedure because a disease arose from a practice they disagree with on religious grounds, whether that be the use of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, meat, sex outside of marriage, a patient’s sexual orientation, etc., etc.?

And anyway, religious people should sacrifice for their own convictions. They should not ask non-members to sacrifice for their church’s beliefs.

No surprise that political right-wingers have jumped on the bandwagon, given their pattern of seeking to strip women’s rights to their bodies, health and well-being. The far-right has tried to defund Planned Parenthood and some now want HHS to strip contraceptive coverage requirements for all employers, religious or not. Extreme conservatives have worked to prevent abortions that could save women’s lives, they have tried to redefine rape into “no rape,” and some have backtracked on protecting women from domestic violence. In fact, this past year has been widely regarded as a war on women by the extreme right.

Religious liberty? No this is about acting “severely conservative” with the aim of controlling women.

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Nude Men Seem Less Intelligent

The more skin women reveal, the less men see them as intelligent or empowered. Instead, nudity promotes the notion that women are sensitive, “feeling” creatures.

Turns out the perception runs both ways with women seeing men as less intelligent and less competent when they show skin, too. In fact, simply “taking off a sweater — or otherwise revealing flesh — can significantly change the way a mind is perceived” say researchers.

And as psychologist, Kurt Gray of the University of Maryland observed:

This effect can happen even without the removal of clothes. Simply focusing on someone’s attractiveness, in essence concentrating on their body rather than their mind, makes you see her or him as less of an (empowered) agent and more of an experiencer.

Women see partially-clothed men as more sensitive, too, and are disinclined to hurt them. Likewise, most men don’t want to harm unclothed women, either. Perhaps nakedness makes people seem more vulnerable so that we want to protect them.

Interesting. There’s no evidence that showing skin makes men want to rape, and it looks like the opposite effect is more likely.  (Of course, some sexual fetishes do combine nudity and violence so the effect isn’t uniform, but that still doesn’t mean nudity causes a person to want to harm.)

Practical take-away? Showing skin can make us seem less competent at work. But it can be great in the bedroom, where it’s all about feeling.

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Passion + Intimacy + Commitment = Consummate Love

Love is complicated, arising in many forms.

Passion, intimacy, and commitment are the three pillars of couple-love, says psychologist, Robert Sternberg in his “triangular theory.” We may love based on intimacy, passion, or commitment, or any combination of the three.

We may also experience different aspects of love at different stages of a relationship, and move in and out of various types of love over time. Let’s take a look at a few possibilities.

Passionate love

Early love is marked by the infatuation of “passion.” Giddy, and intense with longing, the lovebirds feel the heart-thumping arousal of the yearning heart. Can’t eat, can’t sleep. (Why let sleep come between you and the “high” that attaches to thoughts of your beloved?)

These are turbulent times, marked by ecstasy and fulfillment when loved is returned; but sadness and despair when it is not.


Love may also emerge as intimacy, marked by warmth, closeness and connectedness. Each partner wants to give and receive emotional support and share their innermost thoughts and experiences.

If the couple feels intimate, but lacks passion, the relationship is more of a liking/friendship sort than romantic love.


Sometimes partners commit to stay together and maintain love and relationship through thick and thin. But this love is more compassionate than passionate.

When a couple is committed but lack passion and intimacy, their relationship may be stagnant, lacking the emotional involvement and attraction they once had. When nothing but duty keeps them together, this is “empty love.”

But in places where marriages are arranged a couple might start with nothing but commitment, yet over time become intimate or passionate, or both. So sometimes “empty love” can be the beginning rather than the end.

Consummate love: intimacy + passion + commitment

These different sorts of love may arise in various combinations. Romantic love can be full of passion and intimacy yet lack commitment. Companionate love can involve intimacy and commitment but lack passion. Or perhaps a couple experiences passion and commitment, yet still lack deep intimacy.

When all three pillars of love combine into the perfect blend of intimacy, passion, and commitment, “consummate love” arises in what many feel is the best of all worlds.

Few couples who have been together for a long time will experience consummate love every moment. Most often the feeling waxes and wanes. And most couples experience different forms of loving styles throughout long-term relationships.

It could also be that different styles of love are a better fit for different couples, depending upon where they are, and want to be, in life and love.

Regardless of where you are, couples are best matched when they desire similar levels of each sort of love.

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How Does Racism Hurt Racists? The Case of Emmett Till

How does racism hurt racists? In many ways, actually. Here’s one:

The case of Emmett Till.

In 1955 this 14-year-old African-American left Chicago to visit his cousin in Mississippi.

One day his cousin dared him to flirt with a white woman. Accepting, he whistled at a woman who was working at a grocery counter, and called her “baby.”

Later that night the woman’s husband and his half-brother hunted Emmett down, kidnapped him, and the torture began. They cut off one of his ears, gouged out an eye, and put a bullet through his head before throwing him into a river.

The men were arrested. At the trial witnesses placed them at the site where Emmett was tortured, and the two men admitted the kidnapping.

But they faced a jury of white men in a Mississippi courtroom. After deliberating for less than an hour, they acquitted the case. One juror told a reporter, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink a pop, it wouldn’t have took that long.”

We easily see how racism hurt the young minority in this case. But how did it also hurt the white people who were involved?

When one person can torture another, with no conscience or concern, and when others dismiss the behavior, we see that racism dehumanizes its target, but it also dehumanizes the racist.

February is Black History Month

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Are Men More Likely to Separate Love & Sex?

Men separate love and sex more than women, right?

Men do seem to be more interested in having sex without love. They are more likely to say “yes” when offered casual sex and they are more likely to suggest having sex partners outside of a relationship, perhaps threesomes, open marriage, or “swinging.”

In the last few months there’s been talk on the blogosphere about open marriage thanks to Newt Gingrich, as well as Dan Savage’s New York Times piece advocating open relationships. Some say it’s easier for gay men (like Savage) to make this particular fantasy a reality since men can more easily separate out sex and love.

Social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Brad Bushman say men are indeed more likely to separate out love and sex in that way. But it turns out that women are perfectly adept at separating the two, as well. Women just tend to do it in an entirely different way. They are more likely to enjoy love without sex. In fact, a couple of men who read my blog have complained about this very issue, insisting porn helps them cope with sexless marriages.

One national survey asked people whether they agreed with the statement “love and sex are two different things” and women were more likely to agree with this than men.

So it seems that men are more likely to accept sex without love whereas women are more likely to accept love without sex. Who knows how much the difference is based in biology versus culture (the latter certainly has some effect).

But most often both genders think love combined with sex is best.

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