Monthly Archives: January 2013

Rapists Get Child Custody?

I would learn firsthand that in the vast majority of states — 31 — men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy.

That’s Shauna Prewitt. In her final year of college she became the victim of a horrifying rape. Nine months later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She chose to keep and raise her because her daughter was,

so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground.

I was wrong again.

Nearly 1/3 of women who conceive by rape choose to keep and raise their children. Like Shauna, they probably don’t realize that their rapist will be given visitation rights and end up in their lives forever.

As if the violent rape weren’t bad enough now she must be constantly reminded of it as she is forced into contact with the child’s father.

That may be just why the men seek custody. Rapists enjoy power and intimidation and can now create dread and fear through a lifetime. Or, as Shauna sees it:

It is not surprising that a man who cruelly degrades a woman would also seek to torture her in an even more agonizing way, by seeking access to her child.

A rape victim may, alternatively, sacrifice her need for justice by dropping the charges in a bargain to gain sole custody of the child.

Apparently, the court’s concern is that the man may not have raped the woman. But in this “he said/she said,” why does he win? Especially since rapists tend to have a controlling nature and a violent streak, risking child endangerment.

When I look at which causes greater harm, a man denied custody or a woman forever tormented and a child at risk for abuse, I wonder why the man’s rights trump the woman’s and the child’s.

Probably because every society is ruled from the perspective of the powerful. In this case, men. Those making the law are looking at things more from the man’s perspective than from the perspective of where the greater harm occurs.

It’s all reminiscent of a newly proposed bill “aimed at throwing rape victims in jail if they refuse to honor their rapist’s right to control their body by carrying his child,” as Amanda Marcotte put it.

That’s right. Rep. Cathrynn Brown of New Mexico wants a bill banning abortion for rape victims because it “tampers with evidence.” Sounds phony since pregnancies may occur without rape and rape can occur without pregnancy. Wonder how much money one of her constituents contributed to get that bill proposed?

At best this ban sees through the eyes of the powerful instead of the powerless.

At worst it is misogynistic, an excuse to hurt a woman even more than she has already been harmed by rape.

When it comes to justice sometimes it’s a world turned upside-down.

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Can Relationships Survive A Threesome?

Here’s a 110 percent true fact: the guy you’re dating has definitely imagined having a threesome with you and the waitress from last night, his hot co-worker, or your best friend.

That’s what John DeVore over at The Frisky says… just before anticipating the feminine response,

Yuck, amiriiiiight?… while you’re squirming over how grossoholic men are, telling yourself “My boyfriend would NEVER want to have a threesome between me and my best friend Megs.”

Over time men have become increasingly enamored of this fantasy, with somewhere between one-third and two-thirds of men now having lusty visions of three-ways. Probably because it’s now a porn staple.

But can a relationship survive a threesome? Some do, but it seems they usually don’t.

A couple of John’s friends gave it a try and neither relationship survived.

A marriage therapist told the Huffington Post that all of her clients who’ve tried it broke up, except one.

A few of my friends have tried it, too. One was disappointed that it didn’t work, meaning not everyone was into it. Another friend doesn’t even want to talk about it. But, another has done threesomes and is still married.

Maybe the failure rate isn’t so surprising given the lopsided interest of men. While up to two-thirds of men want threesomes — almost always with two women, only 10% of women do — and they may well want two men. So women may be more likely to agree to a three-way out of pressure or wanting to please their partners without really being into it.

And whether or not pressure is involved, if a woman is having a three-way with another woman she is likely to be more distracted by worries about the other woman than having an erotic experience. How pretty is this other woman compared to me? How much attention is “she” getting compared to me? What does it mean about how he feels about the relationship? Is he really into me?!!!

Besides that, guys are more easily aroused by body parts, whereas women more often need a deep connection to get into sex. Between the distraction of another person, the worries, and the fact that this is just sex and not connection, it often won’t be so fun for the girl.

But guys don’t always get all that, like this comment on another post:

I’d like to comment on the willingness of female to female sex. Females are traditionally more caring, nurturing and empathetic. Naturally this would carry over in the bedroom, making sure each is highly aroused and satisfied.


I guess that’s how it seems in porn.

Mr. DeVore opines:

Dudes just love the idea of a threesome, but we know, on a gut level, it’s probably not a good idea. Like raising a pet shark, or inventing bacon-flavored toothpaste.

Men love threesomes, partly, for the same reason we love all-you-can-eat buffets. We’re gluttons, and want more beer, more bacon, and more boobs. Two vaginas are better than one! The problem with buffets is they aren’t the place to get quality anything.

If you want a threesome like those you see in porn you’ll probably have to do what they do in porn: pay a couple of women to act like they’re loving it.

If you’re thinking about a 3-way, you might want to read a post by someone who’s been there/done that, and who has suggestions for what works and doesn’t: Threesomes Can Be Fun. Or Not.

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From Feminist to Doormat, and Liking It?

011113-feminist-cowboy-400x300Alisa Valdes tells the story of her devolution from feminist to doormat in the memoir, The Feminist and The Cowboy.

And liking it, she claims. Or not.

Ms. Valdes says she was raised in a feminist home. She was named one of the top feminist writers by Ms. Magazine. Her first husband even “let” her hyphenate her name.

But as a single mom at age 42 she met “the Cowboy,” a conservative ranch manager who watches Fox News and believes women must submit to men. Her book blurb:

Their relationship finds harmony (and) she finds the strength, peace, and happiness that comes from embracing her femininity.

Femininity. Which here means doormat.

Instructions from Cowboy include: No back-talking; no second-guessing; no sarcastic, smart-ass remarks…

… and apparently, stay monogamous while he cats around.

In one incident she hears a women’s voicemail telling Cowboy she wants him in her shower. Alisa feels the agonizing pangs of jealousy. But she remembers that women are biologically wired to find cheaters alluring. What can you do?

Through it all she celebrates her submission, embracing women’s “natural role.” So does anti-feminist, Christina Hoff Sommers who calls the book,

An irresistible, post-feminist Taming of the Shrew… a riveting tale about how a brilliant, strong-minded woman liberated herself from a dreary, male-bashing, reality-denying feminism.

But weeks before going to press the two broke up. A problem since, as Amanda Marcotte points out, Valdes insists women will live happily ever after in orgasmic bliss if they just submit to controlling, misogynist men.

The abuse escalated soon after turning in her manuscript. During one fight he

dragged me down the hall to the bedroom, bent me over, and took me, telling me as he did so that I must never forget who was in charge.

Later, when she accidentally got pregnant and wanted to keep the child Cowboy got violent and left her. She returned to him after a miscarriage, but the violence escalated. Mostly verbal, with threats of violence.

The last time she saw him she jumped from a moving truck, fearing he would hurt or kill her:

I landed facedown on a bunch of rocks, nearly crushed under the back tires, dislocating my shoulder, badly cut and bruised everywhere, my hip filling with blood. I screamed. He stopped the truck, walked over, looked at me on the ground as I begged him to call an ambulance. “Only you would be stupid enough to jump out of a moving truck,” he told me. He did not help me, or come near me. Instead, he said he was going to the hunting lodge to get some witnesses, in case I tried to tell the police he had done this to me.

Noah Berlatsky at The Atlantic explains that:

Finally, Valdes realized that “this man did not love me. He could not love anyone,” and she left him for good—though, obviously, something of the terror remains. She notes that writing the (blog) post (about the violent incidents) puts her “in danger—real physical danger.”

Plenty of people, men and women, celebrate male dominance and female submission. But it hasn’t been so great for Ms. Valdes, and I have friends who’ve tried it and not liked it.

There is much wounding in this story that passes, in her mind, as “the natural order of things.” And Ms. Valdes as is now in a relationship with another abusive man.

The poet and writer, bell hooks, asks us to consider the nature of relationships.

“Pleasure + wound” vs “pleasure + love.”

Which makes you happier?

Which will you choose?

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Girls Walk Fine Line Between Attractive, Slut

OPINIONS_slut_martin_original_original_original_mediumWomen and men both use sexual allure to raise their status. Men may try to “score” with as many women as possible, with each conquest boosting their place among men.

For women it’s more complicated. Many college women think that being “hot” is the most important thing in the world. That’s because self-worth is so attached to beauty. But Elizabethe C. Payne, Director of Queering Education Research Institute (QuERI), explained in the Huffington Post that girls can face a double bind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” as society tells them they will only be loved and held in high regard if they show off their bodies – but they’d better not do it the wrong way:

Girls have to “straddle an often unclear line in appearing sexually attractive (desirable) and receptive (thus not “gay”) yet unavailable (not “sluts”).

She says that middle school girls who simply dress attractively and wear makeup—or who develop breasts before their peers – may be labeled “sluts.” And any girl who actively pursues a boy, defying the double standard, can get slut-shamed too. She needn’t have sex, she only needs to be assertive:

Many young girls who have never had sex or anything close to it — at all — have been marked as “sluts.” Once marked, young girls are repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment, threats and taunts.

But the pressure on young women to constrain themselves moves beyond sexuality and sexual allure. Middle school girls can also be labeled as sluts, bitches, whores or gay for acting assertively or challenging male authority – including the authority of boys.

Girls and boys both slut-shame. Girls, because they feel threatened by attractive young women, especially when they feel they cannot be attractive, themselves. And boys might sustain the male privilege to act and be free while girls must hold themselves back.

Which brings us to another double-bind. Women and girls who criticize a system that judges us only by our beauty, and who seek, instead, to work for equality can be labeled “feminazis.” But if they smile and take it they still lose.

If you’re going to lose either way in the short-term, you might as well work toward long-term freedom and empowerment, I’d say.

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Men: Erotic Objects of Women’s Gaze

Sexy, but all covered up.

Sexy, but all covered up.

A nude woman frolics in silhouette as clothed men sleuth about, guns in hand and feet in chase. These images introduce The Spy Who Loved Me.

Flipping through TV stations the other day, this Bond rerun caught my eye and left me imagining the reverse: a nude man cavorting about as clothed women race in pursuit of criminals. Weird.

The female body is celebrated – or exploited – while the male body is ignored.

Check out People’s sexiest men. Until 2013s Channing Tatum you would be hard-pressed to see anything but face shots, loose T-shirts, and very few rippled muscles. Who could imagine a “sexiest woman” shoot sans bodies.

Searching for a calendar of sexy men at one bookstore, the closest I could find was Barack Obama.

Yeah, yeah, there is the occasional men’s underwear ad, but they are rare.

And when men walk around in the world they’re all covered up.

No wonder women don’t spend a lot of time checking out men’s bodies, ogling them or judging them.

man commented on one of my posts that (to paraphrase):

Not only are men not considered erotic, they are often used to get laughs. In Seinfeld, Elaine referred to the male body as “utilitarian,” implying that the female is much more erotic. George Costanza became a victim of “shrinkage.” Scenes of Johnny Knoxville running around in a thong get chuckles.

Why is the male body so de-eroticized?

One possibility: Men have historically controlled media, and they focus on what they find sexy (about 95% of them anyway). Homophobia further hinders eroticization. As women enter the industry we find more focus on men, but still not much compared with women. Meanwhile, showered with sexy-women images from the time they are small, even women come to find women the sexier of the species.

What if the world were to switch? Suddenly, a universe of men in Speedo’s?

What if women became subject, and men erotic object for women to gaze upon? What if women sought to consume men as objects? Judging them, grading their beauty? Would women feel empowered, experiencing themselves on the “person” side of the person/object divide?

Something to think about.

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Women, Defer to Men to End Violence

Connecticut School ShootingWhy the talk about how women can keep men from raping and killing women and first-graders? Stay home, dress modestly, defer to men…

Not long ago Christy Wampole suggested the latter in a New York Times piece.

Unclear why she thinks men, generally, need deference. Really, the problem lies with guys in need of mental health care or a good dose of respect for women. And they are a far cry from deserving deference from anyone.

Her point resonates with antifeminists like Suzanne Venker, who claim that the natural order is “man on top” and insist that women must boost men to their rightful place.

If it’s so natural, why must women twist themselves into knots trying to make men feel superior? And if violent men are superior why would they lash out so childishly when no one is bolstering their self-esteem?

Even more oddly, this particular antifeminst looks very much like an actual feminist, complete with a high-profile writing career. Of course, she makes a lot of money “saying the misogynist things that her right wing male audience wants to say but is afraid will damage their already weak sexual prospects,” says Amanda Marcotte.

But let’s say that women actually took the bait. Would it work?

In both India and Egypt rape and sexual harassment are epidemic, despite women’s deference in those patriarchal places.

In fact, high levels of violence, rape and battering accompany high levels of patriarchy.

My earliest college experience was in the patriarchal culture of Brigham Young University. There, “coed jokes” — jokes about female students – were common.

What’s the difference between a coed and the trash?

The trash gets taken out once a week.

The jokes were pervasive, and sometimes told at the start of class. They were all about women being unattractive.

I did not feel proud to be a woman when I was there. In a place where women gladly upheld patriarchy and would one day willingly obey their husbands, I wondered how much more deference these guys needed to feel ok about themselves and stop demeaning women.

So much for deferring to men to get them to treat you decently.

Meanwhile, experts on masculinity like Michael Kimmel, Jackson Katz and Hugo Schwyzer call on men to take greater responsibility to end violence. They know that men are capable of being their best selves and needn’t be coddled.

In a piece entitled “Poor Pitiful Dudes: Why You Should Defer to Men with Post-Patriarchal Depression,” Prof. Schwyzer warily points out that we too often bow down to those we fear in hopes of placating them.

Just like other terrorists.

In another piece he talks of misogynist men who are angry at women for not giving them sex when they are nice to them. He says that their rage may make them dangerous to women, and “For that reason alone, we shouldn’t make men’s pain into women’s problem to solve.”

Social Psych 101: don’t buckle to terrorists, it just encourages them.

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Skinny Models Make Us Fatter

istock_000004574943small-3e59145378d6fae0559a219670cf90e9ef3c3a7b-s6-c10Some women tape pictures of bikini models to their refrigerators hoping to inspire their dieting goals and ward off snacking.

Better try something else. Turns out, skinny models make us fat.

Well, maybe they don’t make us fat, but a new study found that women who used eating diaries with a slim model on the cover actually gained weight because they started sneaking more snacks. To make sure the model was the problem, researchers traded the picture for one of with an average sized woman. Lo and behold, the over-snacking subsided.

Anne Klesse, study researcher and assistant professor of marketing at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, says that challenges that seem unattainable can make us give up, adding:

Being constantly exposed before and after eating, every time I am writing in my diary, I am reminded of a very skinny model, the idea comes up that it is not attainable for me… Our findings reveal that the perception that a goal is unattainable demotivates dieters from investing effort in achieving the goal and causes them to disengage from the goal.

Since the models are Photoshopped and starving, the images are, indeed, unattainable.

This resonates with other studies which found that looking at skinny models in fashion magazines leads to more body image problems and eating disorders (overeating is one type of disorder).

And in fact skinny models, and the small chance we have of looking like one, can plain stress us out. I’ve been known to self-medicate by eating more when I feel anxious. Maybe you do too?

Best to be guided by realistic and healthy images, not body goals that cannot be found in nature.

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The Rules vs The Game

article-new_ehow_images_a06_0s_0v_standard-game-checkers-rules-1.1-800x800The Rules and The Game are manuals created to teach men and women how to attract the opposite sex. What do they tell us about the war between the sexes in this new millennium? For in these manuals, it is war.

The Game

The Game was written in 2005 by Neil Strauss after his book editor asked him to investigate the community of pickup artists. After a few workshops this self-described “chick repellant” found that the techniques worked surprisingly well for a “pick up” — but not for relationships. And, as it turns out, the game works best for misogynistic men, but only works to attract women who are misogynistic, themselves.

Here are some rules of The Game:

  • Approach a woman within three seconds of seeing her so you won’t lose your nerve
  • Ask something benign like “What’s your sign?” or “What’s your type?”
  • Act somewhat disinterested
  • Briefly disqualify yourself from being a potential suitor
  • Ignore the girl you want and flirt with one of her friends instead
  • Ogle other women
  • Subtly insult her to lower her self-worth
  • Isolate “the target” from her friends

Clearly, these rules are all about bedding women by means of controlling them and weakening their self-esteem, while inflating the confidence of men.

The Rules

The Rules were written to aid women in getting a man to commit. Published in 1995, they were updated in 2002 to reflect single life in a high-tech culture.

Here are a few rules:

  • Let him take the lead
  • Don’t talk to a man first and don’t ask him to dance
  • Don’t call him and rarely return his calls
  • Always end a date first
  • Don’t see him more than once or twice a week
  • Don’t talk very much on the first date
  • Break up with him if he doesn’t buy you a romantic gift for your birthday or Valentine’s Day
  • Don’t open up too fast
  • Be sexy

In sum, The Rules urge women to manipulate men by playing hard to get. In an ironic twist women are advised to make men the leader even while creating a sense of female independence. (Even keeping her mouth shut works to create a sense of “man as leader” as some research finds that when women talk more than one third of the time they are seen as honing in on men’s space.)

On the bright side, women are urged to get on with their lives instead of waiting around for “him.”

What The Rules/The Game have in common

Both manuals advise game-playing, so we have not evolved much — or many of us have not.

Both amass power to “their side” by means of disinterest – which may work since whomever cares least has more power.

The Rules advises a traditional source of power for those who lack it: manipulation, controlling men without their knowing. Interestingly, The Game urges this same feminine technique for men, who do not have direct control over women’s minds and bodies.

And we find sexism surviving in both books.

The war of the sexes lives on

Not surprisingly, the books also differ in a way that reflects traditional gender norms. The goal of The Game is to bed women while the goal of The Rules is to snag men. The stereotypes live on.

My students are surprised that The Rules weren’t written in the middle of the last century. But The Game’s even more recent publication comes as no shock. I guess we are more puzzled by women who agree to sexism, whereas no one is surprised that some men continue to support it.

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Extremists Messing With The Vajayjay

Are right-wing extremists obsessed with controlling women’s sexuality because screwing with a woman’s vagina-brain connection can weaken women and give men control?

Sounds crazy, but Naomi Wolf, famous for her book The Beauty Myth, suggests that’s what is happening.

The premise, laid out in her latest book, Vagina: A New Biography, has met mixed reviews from both scientists and the literati. But I found her thoughts interesting enough to give them some space here.

Wolf’s notion was sparked, oddly enough, when her spinal cord was repaired. Before surgery she had lost both her sex drive and her creativity. After surgery both returned. Curious, she began exploring how women’s sexuality might be connected to their broader empowerment and passion for life.

She began her journey by exploring more conventional notions of how society and power structures affect desire. But something was missing. So she moved on to biology, learning how the vagina, clitoris and cervix are connected to the brain. She found out that when neurotransmitters related to sexuality are blocked, an “anhedonic state” akin to depression can arise.

The science comes largely from Dr. Jim Pfaus, a researcher and psychology professor at Concordia University — and a defender of her book.

Next, Wolf suggests that extremists try to repress women’s sexual selves because sexuality allows women fuller, more productive and empowered lives. As she explains in the Huffington Post:

The data is sound elucidating the brain-vagina connection that many critics are struggling with. Dopamine builds confidence and motivation, oxytocin is about bonding and intimacy, and opioids are about bliss and ecstasy. If you know really what that cocktail [activated during sex] does [in the female brain], then it makes sense why patriarchy always targets female sexuality, always targets the vagina, with female genital mutilation, rape, and war, you know, derision, mockery. If you get that female desire and the vagina can be a medium for women of positive mindspeak unrelated to sex, it makes sense that the vagina is continually being targeted. The whole takeaway of the book is that the vagina is not just a sex organ. If you want to demean women, you demean the vagina.

I don’t know whether Wolf is right. (Are fanatics really that bright?) But interesting that sexuality seems so related to living a full-fledged, empowering life.

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When Did This Become Hotter?

when-did-this-become-hotter-than-this[1]By Rebecca Gardner

Because of its popularity on the Internet, this image has been a hot button of conversation, controversy, and conflict. Comparing thin modern day celebrities to slightly more voluptuous sex-bombs of a former era, these pictures make a statement: the standard of beauty is no longer realistic and the ideal is too thin.

This simply isn’t true.

Yes, women are judged on a harsh scale when it comes to body shape and size. But this meme reinforces it.

By stating that the women on the bottom row are hotter, beauty is narrowly defined and women who don’t fit are marginalized. A woman may be naturally thin or athletic but because she lacks Betty’s voluptuous curves her perfectly healthy body is now judged too thin or too athletic.

And who’s defining “what’s best”? John Berger famously declared, “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” So “When did this become hotter?” is all about the eyes of men declaring who’s hot. And who’s worthy.

The image also reinforces narrow gender norms. Other than Kiera Knightly’s six-pack, all are bathing suit clad and overtly feminine. Again with the exception of Knightly, all are posed in traditionally feminine ways—tilting heads and submissive stances.

And, all the women are white, no minorities allowed.

Finally, the picture reinforces the notion that outer beauty determines a woman’s worth. And that has huge psychological ramifications—low self-esteem, depression, self-harm. Other interests and talents become diminished as women become more one-dimensional.

In addition to broadening notions of beauty, we need a more solid platform on which women can build their identity. Celebrating intellect, athleticism, creativity, and compassion adds serious dimensions.

Women come in varieties of shapes, colors, heights, widths, personalities and abilities. To celebrate our womanhood, those variations must be recognized and admired, and this image does nothing of the sort.

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