Tag Archives: relationships

Psychologists Find a Disturbing Thing Happens to Women Who Read ‘50 Shades of Grey’

Psychologists Find a Disturbing Thing Happens to Women Who Read ‘50 Shades of Grey’

By Erin Brodwin  August 23, 2014


“Anastasia Steele’s biggest defeat may not have been submitting to her abuser’s sexual desires, but convincing other women that the behavior was okay. At least that’s the finding of a new study in the Journal of Women’s Health, which claims young adult women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are more likely to replicate the behaviors of people in abusive relationships.

Source: Getty Images

In the book series, Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele is constantly afraid; not only of her abusive partner, Christian Grey, but of the realization that she is losing her sense of self. Though Ana’s behavior is initially survivalist, it eventually become engrained as she automatically responds to her partner’s abuse. Though fictional, the storyline is a chillingly accurate portrayal of very real life relationships.

The study: In a sample of 650 women aged 18-24, researchers at Michigan State University found that Fifty Shades of Grey readers were 25% more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them. Readers were also 34% more likely to have a partner who displayed stalking tendencies and 75% more likely to have fasted for more than 24 hours or used a diet aid. Worse still, women who read all three books in the series were more likely to regularly binge drink and have multiple sex partners, both of which arerecognized risk factors for intimate partner violence.

One thing the study couldn’t determine was whether women who engaged in risky behaviors started doing so before or after reading the books. Regardless of the order of the activity, the books could either have brought on the behaviors or further encouraged them, lead study author and behavioral scientist Amy Bonomi said in a press release. This is backed up by past research has shown that when we are consistently shown images that reinforce a specific behavior or body type, we are more likely to internalize those images and see them as normal.  

Source: Getty Images

Normalizing dangerous relationships: While the research might be bad news for 50 Shades fans, it’s important that we recognize how media depictions of abusive relationships can encourage the behavior in the real world. Intimate partner violence is a very real problem. Every minute, about 24 Americans are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. That’s about 12 million men and women each year. Nearly 1 in 5 women (18%) and 1 in 71 men (1%) are raped during their lifetime.

Books, magazines and films that ignore this reality delegitimize the pain experienced by real-life survivors of abusive relationships. If you’re looking for a real heroine, put down the book and start a healthy conversation with a friend instead.”


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“What if our religion was each other…”

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‘We’re married, we just don’t have sex’

Paul Cox and his wife

Paul Cox: ‘On our wedding night, we invited friends over to play Scrabble’. Photograph: Sarah Lee

“People wonder why asexuals bother to get together, but Amanda and I have been happily married for nine months now and we’re both still virgins. Some people even think asexuality doesn’t exist. It’s so underrepresented, I can understand why people are skeptical. I was too, even though I was perfectly used to thinking of myself in this way. For years I just thought I was the only person in the world who felt like this.

My parents are agricultural scientists, so I’ve lived overseas since around the age of 10. I was in India until I was 16, then Zimbabwe for two years, and then Kuwait. I studied in China and New York, before settling in London. Even at 10, I had a sense that I didn’t want to get married and have children. I know a lot of kids say things like that, but I didn’t change my mind about it later on. I wasn’t interested in relationships or finding a girlfriend, and was very sure I didn’t have an interest in boys either.

Gradually my school friends spent more and more time talking about girls and pursuing relationships, but I could never grasp what they were expecting to get out of it. There were family parties in India where all the kids would gather outside in the garden.

I was 13 and had a best friend, Kasim, who was a year younger than me. He had a crush on an Australian girl called Jessica – everyone seemed to think she was the prettiest. We had lots of whispered discussions about what he could say to her, and even though I thought it was a ridiculous game, I wanted to fit in, so I pretended I had a crush too – on a French girl called Sylvie. She was a safe bet because she was so unlikely to reciprocate. I knew she wasn’t at all interested in me. I’d just discuss her with the boys.

There were times as I got older when girls did seem interested in me, but I always deliberately ignored their signals. I wanted to avoid getting into a situation I’d feel uncomfortable with, so I never even kissed a girl. The first girl I kissed became my wife.

When I was 13, my father gave me a book on sex education. I felt as if I was reading about a foreign culture; I just couldn’t see why anyone would go to so much trouble just to have sex. I tried looking at pornography on the internet. I wasn’t disgusted or appalled – it was just boring, like looking at wallpaper.

Masturbation was another topic of conversation in those days, and I did masturbate. It wasn’t a sexual urge for me, I didn’t fantasise, it was just something my body decided to do. People say about asexuals: “But if they masturbate doesn’t that make them sexual?” It’s hard to explain, but if you’re asexual you don’t necessarily feel an explicit connection between masturbation and sexual orientation. It’s just part of having a human body – a physical, biological process.

After we moved to Zimbabwe I went back to visit my old friend Kasim. The last time we’d seen each other we’d been into computer games, drinking Coke and going for pizza. Two years on, it was a shock to see how much Kasim had changed. Sex was his major preoccupation. He had a girlfriend and was on the brink of going all the way with her. One afternoon we were with some of Kasim’s friends, and he began goading two of the girls into kissing each other in front of a camera. The whole atmosphere was really charged, and I felt out of my depth. I’d fallen behind. Kasim had been my friend a long time, but he’d entered this different world without me.

By the time I went to university, I was happy to let people wonder about my sexuality. I wasn’t pretending to talk about girls any more. Some people assumed I was gay, but my best friend Simon was the first person to confront me directly. We were studying in Hangzhou, in China, just south of Shanghai. It’s a very beautiful city, on a lake with mountains, and we were walking through the streets when Simon asked me outright. First he made a joke about whether “I liked girls … or boys?” I laughed but he persisted and said “So what are you?” I just said, “I’m not straight and I’m not gay, and that’s it, full stop.” Back then I didn’t know what term to use.

The following summer I was surfing the internet when I read a post from a girl who wasn’t attracted to anyone. Someone had suggested she should be aware of “asexuality”, and gave the address of a website:asexuality.org. When I went to the site and read the material, I was quite dismissive at first, because you just don’t hear about other asexuals. Since Freud and Kinsey, and even to an extent the sexual revolution of the 60s, we tend to believe anyone without a sexual orientation must be repressed or delusional. Asexuality is therefore an impossibility. Kinsey labelled us “X”, a statistical throwaway category for anyone damaged to the point where they can’t express any sexuality.

Gradually, though, through visiting the site, I came to realise that these were just ordinary people; people who were writing things I’d thought myself, but had never heard anyone else express. It was such a relief. Finally I had a label – a way to explain myself that could settle all the awkwardness and questioning.

I told my close friends straightaway. Only one female friend didn’t really believe me. I think she thought I was secretly in love with her.

Back at college I decided to get it over with in one day by wearing a T-shirt saying: “Asexuality is not just for amoebas”. I was nervous, but I’d already told a dozen or so people, and was used to answering the same questions over and over. No one has ever reacted really badly to me – I’ve been lucky.

I told my mother shortly after finding the asexual website, and she said: “Well as long as you understand the possibility that one of these days you’ll meet someone and want to settle down with them.” I wasn’t so sure. I’d already resigned myself to a solitary existence. I’d convinced myself I could form strong friendships and was independent enough to fare OK. Luckily my mother always ends up being right about everything.

When my studies took me to New York, I got more involved with the asexual community there. I posted messages on their website and there were regular meet-ups in a little pink tea shop in the East Village – I guess you could call it the asexual equivalent of a gay bar.

One day I got an email from Amanda. She was asexual, living close by, and offered to show me around the neighbourhood. In case she was cruising for an asexual boyfriend, I responded with a warning that I was “vehemently anti-romantic”. But we met up anyway, for tea and ice-skating, and we took to meeting a lot.

I loved Amanda’s attitude to life and enjoyed hanging out with her. And she was pretty. At first I tried to treat it like any other friendship. Then I found myself travelling four miles downtown to deliver sandwiches when she told me she was hungry. Two months in, we were at a gig and it seemed like a good idea to hold her hand. I felt cautious about it but just wanted to. I wondered if I could. Then I found I couldn’t let go.

That evening ended with us agreeing that our friendship was an important thing. We wanted to commit for life. In the asexual community we don’t form relationships lightly. If you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with a person, there’s no reason to make such a special commitment.

When we announced our engagement, our families were happy for us, and our friends in the asexual community were particularly pleased. On our wedding night, my mother-in-law insisted on booking us into a honeymoon suite, so we invited all our friends to an after party. We played Scrabble late into the night and everyone stayed over and slept on the hotel-room floor.

People always ask how our marriage is different from just being friends, but I think a lot of relationships are about that – being friends. We have built on our friendship, rather than scrapping it and moving on somewhere else. The obvious way we differ is that we don’t have sex, though we do kiss and cuddle. We like to joke that the longer we’re married the less unusual this is. By the time we’ve been married five years we’ll be just like everyone else.

Do I feel as if I’m missing out on something? Not really. We’ve decided that if either of us wants to try sex out in the future then we will see what we can do. We would both be willing to compromise because we’re in a relationship and that’s what you do.

When it comes to the future and to children, we’re big advocates of adoption. We’re not so fussed about passing on our own genes. Right now we’re quite happy with what we’ve got. After moving around so much, I can say now that wherever Amanda is – that’s home.

· Paul Cox was interviewed by Bridget O’Donnell. Some names have been changed.

· Do you have a story to tell about your life? Email it tomy.story@guardian.co.uk. If possible, include a phone number.”

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1) You are allo…

1) You are allowed to take up space. You are a human.

2) You are allowed to have a voice.

3) You are allowed to leave whenever you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

4) You deserve more than someone who doesn’t know how to respect you.

5) You are allowed to put your own needs first.

6) You are allowed to love yourself.

— 6:11 p.m. (Six reminders for bad times)

Source: http://expresswithsilence.tumblr.com/post/87848616484/1-you-are-allowed-to-take-up-space-you-are-a


Applicable to so many social justice issues.

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by | June 22, 2014 · 5:44 pm

USC Student: Police Said I Wasn’t Raped Because He Didn’t Orgasm

Posted: 07/22/2013 2:42 pm EDT  |  Updated: 07/23/2013 12:49 pm EDT

“The University of Southern California is facing a federal investigation for alleged failures by school officials and campus police to prosecute rape.

In response to a Title IX complaint filed in May, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launched the inquiry on June 26, although complainants only received notice over the weekend that the investigation had begun. A group of 13 students, along with several other unnamed students, claim they suffered from extensive failures on the part of USC administrators and the Department of Public Safety in responding to reports of sexual violence on campus.

OCR program manager Charles R. Love confirmed in a letter to USC student Tucker Reed, obtained by The Huffington Post, that the agency is investigating allegations the university failed to prosecute and adjudicate claims of sexual violence and to respond promptly to complaints of harassment on campus. Such failures would be violations of Title IX, a federal gender equality law.

Jody Shipper, USC Title IX coordinator and executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity, said the university “remains vigilant in addressing any issues promptly and fully as they arise,” and has been reviewing its policies to ensure they comply with federal law.

“We look forward to working with OCR to address any concerns and review our protocols as needed,” Shipper said.

Reed, the lead complainant, said USC dismissed her claim that her ex-boyfriend had raped her, despite her providing audio recordings of him admitting to it. At one point, Reed said, a USC official told her the goal was to offer an “educative” process, not to “punish” the assailant.

“The problems are rampant within every department, pretty much every service on campus,” Reed told HuffPost, adding, “There is an overwhelming disregard for women and students going through obvious trauma, and they traumatized them further.”

One student involved in the USC complaint, who asked to remain anonymous, said a DPS detective told her the campus police determined that no rape occurred in her case because her alleged assailant did not orgasm, and that therefore they had decided not to refer the case to the Los Angeles Police Department.

“Because he stopped, it was not rape,” she was told, according to the complaint. “Even though his penis penetrated your vagina, because he stopped, it was not a crime.”

A student judicial affairs official cited a similar reason to that student for dismissing the case, meaning that her alleged assailant would not face any court proceeding.

When another student went to the DPS to report a sexual assault at a fraternity event, according to the complaint, an officer told her and a friend, also a sexual assault survivor who had accompanied her, that women should not “go out, get drunk and expect not to get raped.”

The complaint claims that when students were found guilty of sexual assault, some were given light punishments, including a formal letter to stay away from the victim, and were allowed to graduate from the university.

Love, of the OCR, wrote that the office had dismissed some aspects of the complaint because students had not provided enough information, because the agency does not have jurisdiction for the allegation, or because the incident occurred more than 180 days prior to filing the complaint, surpassing the agency’s time limit.

OCR is currently engaged in similar investigations at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

USC student Alexa Schwartz said filing the complaint hadn’t been easy, but she’s hopeful a federal review may result in improvements at the university.

“Now the ball is in USC’s court,” Schwartz said. “Their response will determine whether all this effort has paid off.”

The complainants’ goal for the investigation is less about punishing the private university, said Francesca Bessey, who is part of that group, than about ensuring college students around the country get a better response from their schools in the future.

“For me,” Bessey said, “the technical outcome of the investigation is much less important than the consciousness I want it to inspire among decision makers at colleges and universities nationwide.”

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.”

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by | July 23, 2013 · 8:20 pm

I Went to a Crisis Pregnancy Center and What I Saw Will Shock You

i, went, to, a, crisis, pregnancy, center, and, what, i, saw, will, shock, you,


“When I was little, I wanted to be Alice from Alice in Wonderland and escape to another world–long down the rabbit hole and into a fantasy land where I could battle the Queen of Hearts to restore dignity to Wonderland. I was too young to understand Lewis Carroll’s tale had a darker subtext and that Wonderland wasn’t what it seemed. Years later, I have retained Alice’s sense of curiosity about the world around me and decided to investigate a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) that is currently the focus of an FBI investigation. What I found was more disturbing than I imagined. 

The CPC I visited called EMC FrontLine, currently operates in 12 locations throughout New York City and boasts to be “on the front line for life in the abortion capital of America.” President Chris Slattery and his clinics, accused of providing medically false information to clients about abortions and contraception, are now the focus of an FBI Joint Domestic Terrorism Task Forceinvestigation

I decided to make an appointment at FrontLine’s South Bronx location to learn more about their operations. I entered the clinic, which neighbors a tattoo shop (gross), and was ushered by two women (who never introduced themselves) into a small room with a TV, DVD player, paintings of Noah’s Ark and two giant boxes of model fetuses. Big fetuses, small fetuses- something for everyone!

One woman sat down and began asking my personal information– name, age, address, whether I was baptized, who I lived with, if I had a boyfriend, my marital status, you know- the usual stuff.

“What’s his name?” she asked. After asking her to clarify exactly whom she was referring to, she said, “the man you had sex with.” I told her I didn’t want to tell her and she pressed on.

“You have to tell me. I need this information in case I want to follow up with you,” she pleaded. I gave her a fake name and we moved on. She began to ask more personal questions about the baby’s fictional father– what does the he want me to do with the baby, how long have I known him, what is our relationship like. When I told her that he wants me to get an abortion, her response was what I expected– frank and aligned with the clinic’s pro-life stance.

“Oh no. That’s not good,” she said, shaking her head with wide eyes.

I was led into a dirty bathroom decorated with more images of women and children where I was instructed to provide a urine sample. So there I was– peeing into a cup, knowing I wasn’t pregnant, jotting down notes as I sat on the toilet and cringing at the thought of my purse resting on a floor that looked like it had never seen a mop.  

I left the bathroom after placing the cup on a shelf and began walking towards the room I had previously left. The same woman who asked for my personal information called me over and pointed to the cup with my urine in it as she handed me a dropper.

“Put 5 drops on here,” she ordered as she pointed to a pregnancy test. I proceeded to test my own urine, in an open hallway with two other women watching as they leaned on separate walls.

Before my pregnancy status was determined, I viewed a 25 minute film about the consequences of abortion. The male narrator described possible adverse events, including how collateral damage from abortions can lead to my intestines being sucked through my vagina and that “most women” who experience “blood complications” “will die.” Between the redundant insinuations about death and the animated dismemberment of a full term fetus, there was no mention that abortions are a common and safe medical procedure that rarely produce serious complications.

After the video ended and the woman told me I wasn’t pregnant, she asked how the video made me feel and lying through my teeth, I told her it seems like abortion isn’t safe.

“Yes. It’s very hard because this thing inside you is alive, and who are you to decide who gets to live and who gets to die?” she said, reaching for a velvet box. She opened it and began to read from a card inside.

“This is a fetus at seven weeks. And this is a fetus at ten weeks. And they can feel pain,” she recited as she placed two model figures of fetuses on the table.

Just then, an older woman walked into the room. She introduced herself to me– the only employee to do so– and leaned on the table in front of me.

“I’m going to ask you a very personal question and I don’t want you to answer. You’re a beautiful, intelligent young woman. Why are you giving yourself up sexually?” she asked, cocking her head to one side. 

Um, because sex is fun? The slut-shaming was really the icing on the cake. She didn’t want me to respond, but rather to sit there and be admonished for having premarital sex. 

As I left the clinic, the women provided me with pro-life literature that implored me to question “the easy way out”. I don’t know whether it was the heat or my experience at EMC, but I felt nauseous as I got onto the downtown 4 train. With no seats open, I stood there, holding the railing and thinking about what I just witnessed. I glanced up and noticed an advertisement for Choices Clinic, the city’s first abortion clinic that provides safe access to abortions as well as gynecological and pre-natal care.

“When I get home, I shall write a book about this place- if I ever do get home,” says Alice as she wanders through Wonderland. While my story certainly isn’t novel-worthy, it is important for young girls and women to know the truth about this crisis pregnancy center. Wonderland was never as it seemed– and neither is FrontLine.

Have you ever visited a crisis pregnancy center? What did you see? Let me know on Twitter: @OnwardnFword.

Picture Credit: Planned Parenthood

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by | July 23, 2013 · 4:57 pm

Life Without Sex


Published: July 20, 2013

“PARIS — FOR a period of my life, from my 27th to my 39th years, I slept alone: I had no sex. I wasn’t unhappy. Or frustrated. In fact, I found no sex preferable to disappointing sex.

Just before giving up, I had a boyfriend. He often said that we were happy sexually, but frankly he was blind to my unhappiness. So that winter, I went skiing without him.

Alone in all that sun and snow, absorbing energy from the sky and mountains, I let my body breathe quietly. The freedom and whiteness of the snow and mountains produced a kind of ecstasy. And the special pleasure I found skiing in this paradise made me think about the possibilities of my body, my sensuality. And I asked myself, “Sophie, is your sexual life so very stimulating, actually?” And my answer was, “No.” I realized that even when I took pleasure, I was not ecstatic with my sexual life. In fact, I seemed to be going through the motions of lovemaking because, I thought, that’s what everybody did. I decided to take a break, to recover a true desire.

And what a break! Twelve years!

It was so easy to stop.

At the beginning, I kept the fact that I had given up sex a secret, and nobody around me could guess how untouched I was. I knew perfectly well that people accept all kinds of sexual behaviors, just so long as you are doing something with your body.

Are you single, married, engaged, “it’s complicated”? Are you straight, gay, a lesbian? All of these categories suggest sexual activity, which somehow reassures us. You are doing something.

But I don’t think that’s our true life and rhythm. We are not machines. Nothing is so tidy about our sex lives. We are very alone in how we dream. We are not making love as easily as we boast we are. And when we are making love, it is not always enjoyable.

We are liars, poor liars trying to mystify one another. Perhaps French people are especially big liars. At the very least, we are full of contradictions. If you visit Paris, you will notice that we are very thin, even if we are the country of bread and cheese. We are also very sexy, but maybe it’s only a show to save our reputation.

By giving up sex, I abandoned all this pretense. During the 12 years I didn’t have sex, I learned so much. About my body, the role of art in eroticism, the power of dreams, the softness of clothes, the refuge and the importance of elegance. That I can take more pleasure while watching Robert Redford shampooing Meryl Streep’s hair in “Out of Africa” than being in a bed with a man. Sometimes I took pleasure just by staring at men’s necks. Sometimes, just by listening to a voice. It was libido, trust me. It was desire. But society doesn’t recognize this kind of felicity. It’s too much! I’ve learned that most people mainly want to prove that they are sexually functioning, and that’s all. Strangely, people are ashamed to admit that they are alone in their beds, which I discovered is a huge pleasure.

Even the pleasure you can give to yourself (everyone asked me about masturbation) is a paradise. Alone, you are so completely free. Your imagination can sleep with who you want, even Cary Grant! He was one of my lovers, actually.

As I wrote about my experiences, I thought a lot about privacy. I realized privacy is not about what you are doing so much as about what you are not doing. Privacy is that which you can hide — which, in our modern society, is not much. Sexuality is completely on display. Around me, children know about their parents’ sexuality; parents know about children’s sexuality. Where is the treasure of silence, of things not shown? Where is the mystery? Our openness is a good thing, for many reasons (of course!), but it has made indiscretion the norm. Everywhere, the question of “Who are you?” is answered with an explanation of sex. This is silly. We’re more than that. We’re poetry, we are floating creatures, sometimes happy sexually, and sometimes in a desert, even as we share our lives with someone.

I believe that a desert is sometimes necessary. Sometimes, it is what your soul and your body need. A rest. To dream instead of do. And believe me, when the body really wants the skin of someone else, it knows perfectly how to behave. You will look into someone’s eyes, and nature will take over. No matter how old you are. No matter wrinkles, or norms.

Finally, I’ve met someone. Not a long story, but a very important one. I’ve met a man who is not afraid of my long years of solitude and is perhaps heated and reassured by my honesty and what he calls my “exciting expectations.” Who could ask for more?

Sophie Fontanel is the author of the forthcoming book “The Art of Sleeping Alone.”

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 21, 2013, on page SR12 of the New York edition with the headline: Life Without Sex.”

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by | July 22, 2013 · 8:49 pm