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Nov 2011 18

by Yashar Ali

The shocking and tragic events at Penn State that have unfolded over the past two weeks, which exposed former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky as a sexual predator, have (yet again) brought the issue of child sex abuse to the forefront of our collective consciousness.

In light of recent events, I want to discuss an issue, a behavior, that has bothered me for some time. It’s about how we encourage our kids to abandon their sense of self-trust –– their instinct and intuition –– in order to be polite by showing physical affection to adults.

How often, especially during the holidays, are children confronted with moments like this one: a relative comes to visit and the child’s parents say something like, “Now, give your uncle a hug and kiss.”


And when the child refuses to provide physical affection, or hesitates at the request, they sometimes hear things like, “You’re hurting your uncle’s feelings. It’s not polite. Now, go give him a hug and kiss.”

Some of us even remember our relatives asking us (some may say pleading or begging) for affection, “Aren’t you going to give me a hug and kiss? Please?!”

I think insisting and cajoling a child into showing physical affection towards an adult in this manner is incredibly dangerous. Whether it’s a relationship between a child and his/her relatives or one between a kid and an adult who is an acquaintance, family friend, or mentor, this type of behavior, in which children are expected to show physical affection as a sign of respect, is something I think we all need to be careful about.

When a child gives us the sense that they don’t want to be physically affectionate with someone, our tendency is to encourage the child, at that particular moment, to abandon their intuition and instinct –– it’s a small step towards the erosion of that child’s sense of self-trust. At that moment, we are telling them, “Forget about how you feel. Do something that makes you feel uncertain and uncomfortable, so that someone else (an adult) can feel acknowledged and respected.”

We are all built with a natural, innate sense of what feels right and wrong. Every species of animal is born with an instinctual drive. Unfortunately, the human species is the only one that is continually taught to ignore their instincts by their elders.

There is, however, a difference between intuition and instinct. Even though the words are often confused as synonyms for each other, there is a simple way to separate the two. We are all born with instinct, but intuition is built through education, living, and practice. Our intuition is linked to a keen and quick insight.

These two internal senses, intuition and instinct, make up my idea of self-trust. I see self-trust as related to trusting your reactions, your feelings about people, circumstances, and decisions. I see self-trust as the most authentic reactions and feelings.

I acknowledge that some kids are just being difficult, but it’s not about their motivation so much as it is about our reaction. When we initiate a process where we require boys and girls to have physical interaction even if they don’t want to, we’re also telling them to ignore their sense of self-trust. We are teaching kids that adults are in charge of who they should be and are affectionate with. We are telling them that they don’t have the right, or power to make their own decisions about human, physical interaction.

Again, it’s the little moments that create a big collective weight over time.

But my point is, no one has the right to demand affection, or an innate right to receive it, especially from a child. It’s not merely part of normal, polite interactions. It’s extra.

Insisting on a hug or a kiss may seem innocuous enough to us, as adults, but can you imagine asking, or expecting an adult to hug and kiss another adult as a way to show acknowledgement or respect?

Normally, we wouldn’t encourage two adults to have that sort of interaction because we all have a sense of what kinds of physical affection are appropriate in a given circumstance. We have a sense of what we feel comfortable with and we react according to our gut.

Why can’t we allow children to tap into this same instinctive, internal sense?

This doesn’t mean I think we should live in a society without affection. To the contrary.

But the idea that a child can be forced, guilt-tripped or cajoled into affection is disgusting to me. It’s not a light-hearted or funny moment, it’s sad. In that instance, we are telling that child to give up their physical selves in order to appease us adults, for reasons that they don’t fully understand or appreciate. Our motivation, whether it’s social embarrassment or a desire to connect with the child, puts us first, rather than thinking of them first…as it should be.

When it comes to acknowledging other people, the most we can expect from children is for them to politely and verbally greet adults. As far as I’m concerned, anything beyond that is expecting too much and is patently unfair.

Some may say that this way of handling interaction between adults and children will build up cynicism in kids, will rob them of their innocence, and will make them overly cautious of adults – or even teach them to be aloof.

Well, our childhoods have never been innocent (now or ever). One out of every four girls and one of out of every six boys will face sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. We only have to look at the numbers to understand that for many kids, there have never been bright, sunny childhoods.

For much too long, they have been filled with silent moments of sexual abuse, we just haven’t discussed them. They have been hidden away, just like the victims of Jerry Sandusky. It’s only when we shatter this myth of a childhood era of innocence that we can begin to understand what children truly face.

Sexual abuse completely revamps the blueprint of the victim’s life. Their worldview shifts, the way they process trust, how they build relationships, their sense of safety, are all permanently altered.

So, I think I’d much rather have our children be slightly cynical and aware, to encourage them to follow their sense of self-trust, and, as a result, give them a better chance of protecting themselves, than to insist that kids must show physical affection regardless of whether they feel comfortable doing so.

After all, it’s not like we’ve done our part to protect our kids, not at all. And if we have any doubt about that, all we have to do is think about Mike McQueary, looking on as that poor boy was raped in the locker room shower at Penn State.

***

Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook

He will be soon releasing our first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

Related Posts:
The Modern Day Version of “Just The Tip”
Men Who E-Maintain Women
He Doesn’t Deserve Your Validation: Putting The Fake Orgasm Out of Business
A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy

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Nov 2011 11

by Yashar Ali


[King in Viva la TTC]

Three weeks ago, Christopher Chaney, a thirty-five year old man from Florida, was arrested by the FBI and charged with 26 counts of identity theft, unauthorized access to a protected computer, and wire-tapping. For days, Mr. Chaney’s case was splashed across the media because the victims of his illegal acts were famous women like actresses Scarlett Johannson and Mila Kunis. Mr. Chaney readily confessed to his crime and said that he had become addicted to hacking the email accounts of celebrities.

About a month earlier, Ms. Johannson had been working closely with the FBI to find the perpetrator and block the dissemination of nude and provocative photos that Christopher Chaney hacked from her cell phone/email account. These photos were personal in nature, taken in privacy, saved on her cell phone, and intended for her then-husband.

In the last few years, with the advent of social media and cellphone cameras, we have become all too familiar with the concept of hacked, leaked photos of public figures in provocative poses or in the nude. However, with the exception of the rare article, mainly in men’s magazines, we don’t often discuss how the taking of nude pictures plays out with people in everyday life. Instead, we focus on the politicians and entertainers who do it; obviously, their notoriety makes the photos much more interesting.

But it’s not just celebrities who are engaged in taking and sending sexy/nude pictures over phone and email. We, as society, are doing it. A recent survey conducted by the University of Rhode Island shows that 56 percent of college students report having received sexually explicit images via text message. That’s a sizable number.

I am talking about the idea of “sexting,” which is defined as sending explicit messages via text message and also sending nude photos through the same technology. For purposes of this column, I am specifically writing about the widespread phenomena of sharing nude pictures via text message and email.

When I asked my friend Michelle, who is 31, about whether she has ever been asked to send provocative images by her boyfriend, she replied in the affirmative: “Most of the men I’ve dated or hung out with have asked me to text them a sexy pic. And there’s no way I would do it, I wouldn’t even do for the man I marry, I don’t know where those pics are gonna end up.”

But that’s not the end of it. These men don’t just respectfully give up on the asking. As soon as Michelle would say “no,” these men would start a campaign to convince her that they deserved or needed a provocative or nude photo.

“It was kind of pathetic, they would do something nice and claim they deserved a reward (a nude picture), or they would beg repeatedly multiple times a day, hoping I would just give up.”

Of course, these men had more courage because they texted her requests for nude pictures, rather than asking her for these pictures or any other sexual act, in person.

Most of us, men and women, remember the saying, “just the tip.” Google it. And most teen-aged girls, or hell, even adult women, have heard phrases like, “Come on baby, let me just put the tip in.”

Like those requests for “just the tip,” where asking for one thing eventually leads to the full-blown act of sex, is the act of sexting images, the new or electronic version of “just the tip?”
And by the modern version of “just the tip,” I mean a process where men end up getting what they want by repeatedly begging, pressuring, and starting out small, i.e. “just the tip” or in this case, “just a quick pic.” The first picture, like “just the tip,” is merely a gateway to the whole damn thing.

While the electronic idea of “just the tip” is something women of all ages deal with, I believe, ultimately, that we should focus on how this patterning of sexting is related to the sexualization and exploitation of under-age girls — even if it’s done by underage guys. In a study conducted by Hearst Digital Media, 22 percent of teen girls (keep in mind this is girls who are willing to admit to it) say that they’ve sent sexually explicit photos to another person.

Zoe, the 20 year-old daughter of a friend, experienced the modern day version of “just the tip” with a guy she started dating when she was 18 years old (he was 22). A month after dating, her boyfriend requested a nude picture of Zoe. When she demurred, he started to beg “Come on, it would make me so happy. I want you so bad.”

The requests went on and on and on and on, so she finally sent him a provocative, but clothed photo, and he was satisfied…for an hour.

And then he said, “That was so hot, send me a picture of your tits.”

When she said no, he started to negotiate, “Okay, just one of your tits.”

She finally gave in, which initiated a negotiating process that went on for six months, in which Zoe regularly sent her boyfriend nude photos.

“It definitely made him happy, for that moment. But when I would say no, he would text me ten times, begging. It just got to be exhausting.”

Two weeks after she broke up with this guy, Zoe logged onto her Facebook to find six of the provocative (but not nude) photos she had previously sent him, posted on her profile page. It was a devastating moment for her. Zoe’s privacy was violated, she was ashamed, and of course, was subjected to ridicule by “friends” online.

According to the online ABC News article, “Study Shows Many Teens, Young Adults Share Nude Images,” over 80 percent of teens (13 and up) and over 93 percent of young adults (18-24), use cell phones. This means that millions of women, of all ages, are put in a position of being pressured and exploited in a way that we don’t seem to be concerned about: via text.

The statistics bear more problematic news. In the same survey conducted by Hearst Digital Media, one third of teen boys and 40 percent of young men have had nude pictures shared with them by someone who was not the intended recipient of the images.

So why does this epidemic, of adults and teens sending provocative or nude photos, exist? Modern technology obviously lends convenience to the ease through which nude pictures can be sent and study after study proves that men need more visual stimulation than women. But I think we are dealing with a problem here because the double-edge sword of women’s sexuality often prevents them from talking about this issue openly with other women and as a result, it hinders them from finding solutions or strategies for managing and combating the pressures and requests for sending provocative or nude pictures.

Often, frustrating male behavior related to sexual activities is a common point of discussion between women. However, when it comes to men requesting nude cell-phone pictures, there is a lack of community amongst women when it comes to actively and openly discussing the pressures and possibilities of sending such pictures.

Without this sense of community and opportunities to talk, women are just facing yet another sexual pressure, alone. This widespread plea for nude pictures shows that we still lack respect for women’s bodies and sexuality (whether its about their boundaries or their desires) and that it remains a major issue. The concept of “no means no” has yet to be acknowledged by too many men. For most guys, “no” simply means a gateway to “yes” — kind of like a child’s behavior with a parent, where the kid hopes repeated begging will lead to the adult caving in.

Does “just the tip”/nude photos, or any other form of pressured sexual contact have to do with the fact that we give men the impression that as long as they are not raping a woman, everything else, including pressured requests, is okay?

I am not surprised that most women avoid talking with other women in their lives about the idea of sending nude photos to men. After all, women still have to contend with a double-edge sword when it comes to their sexuality. Some women are on the receiving end of pressure to do things they don’t feel comfortable doing, and when they do things that aren’t part of an acceptable (according to societal norms) set of sexual activities, they are vilified by other people.

Seventeen year-old, high school senior, Mayron Gezaw, of Fairfax, Virginia, put it perfectly when she told The Associated Press that she heard a classmate shared a nude photo with her boyfriend through text, “The whole class was sharing it by the end of the day. …The guys said, ‘She’s so hot.’ The girls were more like, ‘I feel sorry for the girl,’ or they just lost all respect [for the girl].”

The question I have is: when is the person requesting those provocative/nude pictures going to have his respect diminished?

***

Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook

He will be soon releasing our first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

Related Posts:
Men Who E-Maintain Women
He Doesn’t Deserve Your Validation: Putting The Fake Orgasm Out of Business
A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy

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Nov 2011 08

By Nicole Powers

“It takes a lot of electricity to turn black crude oil into gasoline.”
– Chris Paine

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, General Motors’ EV1s were the Apple Macs of cars. Ahead of their time, they were only driven by an enlightened “different” thinking few, but those that did felt passionately about their high tech machines.

A fully electric plug-in vehicle with a range of between 70 and 140 miles depending on model, the EV1 was first introduced into the marketplace in 1996. Available in limited test markets on a closed lease-only basis (whereby no actual purchase was allowed), it was developed by General Motors partly in response to the California Air Resources Board’s requirement that the seven major auto companies in the US had to make at least 2% of their output zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) by 1998 in order to sell any cars within the state (with further graduated steps stipulated up to 10% in 2003).

Though grudgingly produced by General Motors, the vehicle was beloved by the few consumers lucky enough to rise to the top of the company’s reportedly vast waiting list. But it was likely a car that was never intended to succeed. General Motors seemingly put more effort into fighting the CARB mandate in court than meeting existing demand for vehicles or marketing the EV1 to create even more. It was therefore not uncoincidental that the demise of the EV1 occurred in tandem with the gutting of CARB’s ZEV rules. The EV1 program was officially cancelled in 2003, and a total recall was put in motion, with repossessed cars being not only compacted but shredded for good measure too.

A 2006 documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car, chronicled the crushing demise of this groundbreaking car. In it filmmaker Chris Paine highlighted the collusion of the auto industry, oil companies, and politicians, who all had a vested interest in seeing the electric vehicle die an untimely death alongside CARB’s environmentally prudent directives. Catching the zeitgeist, Who Killed The Electric was the third highest grossing documentary that year (Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth being the first).

However, a decade after General Motors presided over the funeral of the EV1, the killing of the vehicle has proven to be a costly mistake. With gas prices rising, Toyota filled the rapidly increasing fuel-efficient void with their hybrid Prius, which went on sale in Japan in 1997. Following its worldwide debut in 2001, Toyota have sold over a million Prius cars in the US alone, and the rest of the auto industry has been scrabbling to catch up.

With revenge being served on a platter less than a decade on, Paine and his documentary team were compelled to reexamine the fortunes of the electric vehicle in a follow up film. The first had centered on activists working from outside the industry, with this film Paine chose to follow a diverse group of instigators working from within. Revenge Of The Electric Car therefore features four EV evangelists (some of whom were more recently converted than others) who are attempting to drive the future of the automobile into the present: Bob Lutz (General Motors’ Vice Chairman up until May 2010), Elon Musk (Tesla Motors’s CEO), Carlos Ghosn (Nissan’s President and CEO), and Greg “Gadget” Abbot (a DIY electric engine retro-fitter).

SuicideGirls recently visited Paine at his ultra green home to talk about his cinematic “I told you so” and the electric awakening of a sluggish car industry that was in need of a shock. After checking out the 2008 Tesla Roadster parked in Paine’s garage, the irony was not lost that we were conversing about, and anticipating the dominance of, the gas-free vehicle in the heart of LA’s oil country amidst the pumpjack nodding donkeys of Baldwin Hills.

Read our exclusive interview with Chris Paine on SuicideGirls.com.

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Nov 2011 04

by Yashar Ali


[Xtine in Dr. X-Girlfriend]

My friend Karen (all names changed to protect privacy) was confused and frustrated when she called me on a Friday night.

About a year ago, she met a guy, Michael, through work. They met a few times for drinks with colleagues and then one night, she met him for dinner, which ended with the two of them “hooking up” (whatever that means).

She liked Michael a lot, and wanted to see him again.

After they had dinner, a week went by when Karen got a text message from Michael, “What’s up? How are you?”

She was happy; he wanted to hang out again.

Now, Karen wishes that was the last time she ever heard from him.

As she explained the manner in which she and Michael were communicating, I realized Karen was dealing with a situation several other women very recently talked to me about.

Since their last night together, Michael kept in touch with Karen on a regular basis. Every couple of weeks, Karen received a text or email from him. The messages always started out the same way, “What’s up?”

Karen would always respond.

“How are you?”

“Good, what’s up with you?”

Karen would proceed to fill him in on her life and Michael would always respond with the same short answer, “That’s cool.”

After one or two text messages, Michael would usually disappear. But a couple of weeks later, he would show up again. Sometimes their conversations would go deeper — ten minutes of texting back and forth. Karen would find hope in those longer texting sessions, thinking that he was finally engaging with her.

Michael would sometimes get more creative, giving Karen the impression he cared about her and her life.

“What’s up? How was your holiday weekend?”

“What’s up? Saw your Facebook post, so funny.”

A couple times he even texted, “We should have dinner soon.”

But every time Karen agreed to dinner, Michael would tell her about his really busy month at work, delaying the need to schedule a real date. Then, he would never follow up.

This faux-relationship wasn’t going anywhere and Karen was left feeling confused and frustrated about Michael’s intentions.

But these sporadic texts weren’t even about sex. Michael never even proposed any sort of rendezvous. And Karen’s motivation was certainly not friendship. “I have enough friends,” she said.

“He’s not even trying to sleep with me, what’s the point of all this?”

I told her, “Karen you’re being e-maintained”

“Is that an official term?” she laughed.

The week before, I had come up with the term as a joke, but the idea actually made sense. Michael was maintaining her — keeping her, in his mind, satisfied — and he was doing it electronically.

My friend Julia was dealing with the same issue. She was subject to these short, rapid bursts of texting with men on a consistent basis and she always got her hopes up that something was moving forward, but there was nothing. No substance at all.

“Are these actual adult men with responsibilities or are they children? I can’t figure it out,” she said to me.

I’ve always been fascinated, and disgusted, by the notion that in order to be happy, women need to be “maintained” in a sexual and/or romantic relationship. This kind of treatment of women is on par with our taking care of a car in need of an oil change or dealing with a wood deck in the backyard in need of a coat of varnish.

The concept of maintaining women is billed, through the conditioning our culture imposes on men, as a solution to keep women from being hysterical. According to mainstream social ideas, women are illogical and crazy when it comes to relationships and dating. Men engage in conscious maintenance as a way to “calm” women down so they can get what they want from their women partners (sex, attention, etc.).

This is why so many men are in a rush to cram their love and affection into holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. We don’t teach men or boys that day-to-day affection is equally, if not more important, than special dates.

And what has always been alarming to me is that this so-called maintenance of women has defined behavior that shouldn’t be considered “extra” in any kind of relationship or partnership. Acts of maintenance consist of behavior that should be inherent and the foundation of all relationships: basic human respect, affection and attention.

So, if men are taught about certain critical steps to keeping women happy, “duties” that are treated not as normal behavior, but as annoying, time-consuming steps, how does this make women feel?

My friends, who are or were dealing with e-maintaining, or even just dealing with good-old-fashioned maintaining, are left in a strange, emotional limbo. Women who are “maintained” by men, electronic or otherwise, are made to feel legitimate for short periods of time and then left to question their position with their partners, and sometimes themselves.

Are these women supposed to be happy with a guy who stays in touch every-so-often on his terms? Are they supposed to be satisfied when their spouse buys them an expensive piece of jewelry or remembers their anniversary? Even though their love and/or attention come in waves — inconsistent and sometimes abrupt — are my women friends ungrateful for expecting something more, something more substantial, something more basic? Does any form of maintaining make up for days, weeks, months, years of emotional silence from men?

We’ve always conditioned men to maintain women — this isn’t something new. What’s different is this “maintenance” has become completely electronic for some men, and the men doing the “maintaining” aren’t seeing or even making an effort to see the women they connecting with. Men are just texting, emailing or using social media to give the impression they are checking in or they care — in order to maintain these women.

For these men, the definition of “maintenance” has shifted from traditional strategies like sending gifts and engaging in the occasional dinner, drinks or movie, to this incredibly convenient and empty form of communication based on text messages, emails, and social media: e-maintaining. And it is a mode of communication that isn’t even based in reality.

For some of my women friends, this kind of texting/emailing communication was keeping them engaged until they discovered what e-maintaining really means.

Some of the men I spoke with didn’t even realize their e-maintaining of women was a pattern of behavior. Most of them admitted to doing it when they were bored: waiting at the doctor’s office, in bed at night when they couldn’t sleep, at the airport.

But many of these men knew exactly what they were doing.

“You can’t write about this, you are literally ruining the greatest scam of the century,” my friend Carlos told me over breakfast.

“What’s the scam?”

“I can keep these women satisfied by just texting or emailing. I don’t have to do anything else.”

“It’s like walking a dog, as soon as you do it, they just calm down,” a progressive friend (more on that later) told me via email that same day.

So why not move forward, especially if some of these women are willing to sleep with them?

“Its about options, possibilities,” a friend added.

“I do this because I don’t want to hear her bitching about how I just call about sex, so this way I have a history of having stayed in touch.”

My friend Josh gave an example, “Last Thanksgiving when everyone was out of town, I had someone to hookup with, we even went to the movies.”

In this age of digital communication (texting, Facebook, email), our way of connecting has obviously become more frivolous. While our random, electronic check-ins with friends are usually made with good intentions, the men who engage in e-maintaining don’t want to be friends with the women they text and email (the women don’t want friendship either), and more significantly, their texting is not filled with good intentions.

So, is e-maintaining ultimately about men and women placing different weight on communication? Do women believe that communication is about moving forward — are they being practical and mature? And do men see communication in this form in a more flippant manner, that it doesn’t necessarily lend legitimacy to their desired outcomes?

Is e-maintaining more evidence of gender imbalance in our culture? Does this virtual maintenance of women show the lack of respect our culture requires or expects men to have for women?

Last week, I checked in with Karen to see if she was still pining for Michael and frustrated by his e-maintaining.

She has moved on.

And from now on, Karen’s policy is very simple when it comes to communicating with the men she is interested in, “Where’s the beef?”

The lack of substance in an e-maintained relationship no longer satisfies her.

***

Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook

He will be soon releasing our first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

Related Posts:
He Doesn’t Deserve Your Validation: Putting The Fake Orgasm Out of Business
A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy

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