Saturday, December 16, 2006

WSJ OpEd Supports Heterosexual Male Fantasies

WSJ: 'Unprotected' by Danielle Crittenden

Unfortunately, the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices." And on that subject, few modern doctors dare express a word of judgment.

Thus the danger of sexually transmitted diseases is too often overlooked in the lifestyle choices of the young women at the unnamed college where the author works.

These college women are either interacting only with other women or Ms. Crittenden is implying men are not making any choices when it comes to sex and that they shouldn't be expected to do so. Since rape is a serious problem on college campuses, the further implication -- through omission -- is that being raped is the woman's choice.

The author meets patients who cannot sleep, who mutilate themselves, who exhibit every symptom of psychic distress. Often they don't even know why they feel the way they do. As these girls see it, they are acting like sensible, responsible adults: They practice "safe sex" and limit their partners to a mere two or three per year.

They are following the best advice that modern psychology can offer. They are enjoying their sexual freedom, experimenting, discovering themselves. They can't understand what might be wrong. And yet something is wrong. As the author observes, surveys have found that "sexually active teenage girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active."

Ms. Crittenden is quick to decide that all of this is the result of bad decisions by women based on modern psychology, but as someone who had all those symptoms of psychic distress except self-mutilation and who didn't know why I felt as I did, I know this psychic distress is neither irrational nor self-inflicted. For years certain memories were just too painful to think about and I mistakenly believed I had put what happened to me firmly in the past.

Too often a girl or woman is described as sexually active even when she was raped or sexually abused. As in my own case after rape, I drank alcohol to numb the pain and then was seen as someone men could freely exploit. Then I had people like Ms. Crittenden scolding me for for my sexual choices while letting those who raped or used me off the hook.

That rape and sexual abuse is so outside of Ms. Crittenden's thought process speaks volumes about her lack of understanding about the topic of her op-ed piece.

Near the end of this piece Ms. Crittenden finally addresses the sexual behavior of a man. Only he's gay.

So Ms. Crittenden makes her point crystal clear by omitting straight men from her op-ed piece. Sexual responsibility is for everybody but heterosexual men and boys.

From the beginning to the end of her op-ed piece Ms. Crittenden caters to the male dominated audience of the Wall Street Journal. "Hey, men whatever you do with or to women is her responsibility. You will not be held responsible for your sexual choices."

Very convenient.

Update (12/20): Dr. Anonymous has been revealed to be Miriam Grossman, M.D., a psychiatrist working at UCLA.

Here's a statement she made in a National Review article:

Depending on the study, 40-80 percent of students "hook-up," and by graduation, the average number of these nearly anonymous encounters is ten. Yet we wonder why so many young people suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-abuse.
To me it is significant that she makes no mention of rape, sexual abuse or any other events or conditions that could cause young people to suffer.

On Alas, one commenter saw no evidence that either this physician or the op-ed author consider rape to be a sexual choice on the part of the victim.

And I answered with the following:

That's the impact when they don't consider rape at all in their analysis.

[Crittenden:] …the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices."
Effect = young women’s emotional pain.
Cause = young women’s "sexual choices."

It isn't that the doctor and Crittenden say rape is a sexual choice, it's that these women ignore rape or sexual abuse as possible causes for young women's emotional pain. Once they do that they treat rape survivors as if their choices are the root of their distress. As a teenager who was treated in exactly this way, I know that this belief has a multiplying effect on the existing emotional pain.

It was bad enough trying to cope with being raped, but then I had to deal with the professionals I attempted to reach out to for help who "knew" that my "choice" to not stay a virgin was what caused my distress. Once they heard enough to impose their vision onto my experiences, they stopped listening and started informing me of their truths.

It was no wonder I began to think I was crazy.

Just to clarify my point, I don’t think all of these young women were raped since there are many reasons for psychic distress. However, this blame it all on a woman’s sexual choices is especially harmful to rape and sexual abuse survivors. Many rapists and abusers have already projected responsibility for their actions onto their victims so this type of conclusion is harder for rape victims to shrug off as bullshit.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:01 AM   5 comments links to this post


At December 16, 2006 10:30 PM, Anonymous kristen said...

i didn't even think of this angle when i first read that article. sexual assault/rape are very valid reasons as to why the women in the article (if they even exist) were 'behaving' in a certain way...

and you're right, that this woman, a doctor no less, fails to even consider sexual assault as the reasons for these women's feelings and behavior goes to show how pervasive the idea of women being unhappy b/c of "bad sexual choices" instead of how they are expected to act via the patriarchy is.

At December 17, 2006 6:24 AM, Blogger Cheesemeister said...

Thank you for posting this.
I am not sexually active by choice, after years of making bad choices. Because of my mental illness, being involved in this fashion has always been detrimental to me. I end up with people that treat me badly and become suicidal when they inevitably dump me. I am incapable of making positive choices in this area and do not desire to "play the game." I am made to feel like a pariah for my choice to not be sexually active. I am over 40 years old and think that I've lived long enough to know what's good for me!
I have always taught my son that he needs to respect himself by waiting until he's found a person he truly cares about and who will treat him well before he becomes involved sexually, and that waiting till marriage is optimal. He has avoided many of the pitfalls of a too-early relationship by focusing on his education and treating his friends respectfully. He has many female friends and wouldn't dream of trying to push them into a "friends with benefits" situation. I'm very proud of him!
Sorry for the rant, but this post struck a chord in me.

At December 19, 2006 3:19 AM, Blogger Gracchi said...

Good point. I think the other issue that is missed by this article is that it isn't just girls that have problems with sexuality- so do guys. Men struggle as much as women with sex and to argue that the struggling is only something that goes on in women and gay men is folly. Its almost as much folly as to divide women into sluts and saints- I'm sorry but people are much more complicated than that- you point out sexual assault- I also think and know people who have derived their self confidence from their sex life. It might be that depression is a cause of sexual display. It strikes me that this is one of those observations that makes the author look incredibly stupid- you point out one good way to attack the article but to be honest there are so many ways that the article is wrong in what it says.c

At December 19, 2006 2:37 PM, Blogger Kaethe said...

A girl named Heather, for instance, has succumbed to an intense bout of depression. The doctor presses her to think of possible causes.

This really bothered me. Depression can be defined as feeling down with no possible causes. If you're feeling depressed, and your parent just died, then we don't call it depression, we call it "grief." What kind of doctor would diagnose "depression" and then try to blame it on the patient?

The author meets patients who cannot sleep, who mutilate themselves, who exhibit every symptom of psychic distress. Often they don't even know why they feel the way they do.

What is wrong with this doctor that she must view everything going on with her patients as the result of their "sexual choices"? And why does Crittendon never state that this anonymous doctor is a psychiatrist?

This book is pure crap, I can tell from the review.

At January 09, 2007 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so absolutley creepy to me.

In a recent report by the Journal of Adolescent Health it was made crystal clear that sexual risk taking by young people is the result of pre-existing emotional and psycological distress brought on by events experienced by that individual, not the other way around. The author talks about teen's sexual histories as being the root cause for the depression but this is simply bad research and science on her part and it is highly irresponsible.

I can get the actual document for anyone interested in reading it. I just don't have access to it on this computer.

Sheesh. No wonder she wanted to remain Anonynous.


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