Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

05
Mar
12

Vaginaphobia

Due to circumstances beyond my control, it’s been quite awhile since the last post. Still dealing with said circumstances, but I just have too much wandering about inside my little head.
V-Day having just passed, I feel the need to comment. For those non-feminists in my reading public, V-Day as mentioned here refers no to WWII, but rather to the day(s) devoted to bringing awareness of issues relating to violence (sexual and physical) against women worldwide. As part of the V-Day movement, The Vagina Monologues (VMs) is a collection of theatrical monologues performed to both educate and to raise funds for local violence shelters. So, having provided a short background, I will get on with my random thoughts…

This year there was a great deal of backlash about the VMs. As promotion, our group of young (and not quite so young) women went out and “chalked” our university campus, writing various bits of vagina information, including the dates of the show, some statistics and “Until the violence stops,” among others. One of those with which we were the most impressed was the section on the library steps, ”Vagina words: What do YOU call it?” Here there was a wonderful list written in various colors, many of which offered by passersby who were entertained by the fervor with which our chalk was flying. Some even asked to draw chalk vaginas on the sidewalk and we gratefully granted the chalk for the artistry.

The next day, as the young (and not so young) women involved in the chalking wandered campus, they listened with pride as people commented on the drawings, dates, and yes…the vagina euphemisms. It wasn’t until later in the day that things went awry. Our vaginas were disappearing. Not the drawings, not the FABULOUS euphemisms (which admittedly were the most likely to offend, so we thought), but the actual word: VAGINA.

I received a slightly intriguing email from a professor informing me of the disappearing vaginas. Said that appeared to be the only thing missing. Sure enough, on further inspection, the vaginas were the only thing missing. Someone or someones were removing “vagina” from every chalk tag within a 50 foot radius of one particular building of campus (the other side of campus was left untouched). Reluctant facilities services workers were dragging wet mops across the letters, removing them as though they were some form of profanity. A professor (who shall remain nameless here) was seen removing the word from a large tag stating “The Vagina Monologues 2012, Until the violence stops!” Yes, it was not the euphemisms that were found offensive (beef curtain was a personal favorite, as was the snack that smiles back), but the actual word “vagina”.

That same night, the young women (and not so young and a couple of male assistants) showed up in force with a great deal more chalk than before, and covered the section of campus that had been carefully censored. Also, there was hairspray involved for the purposes of sealing against future mopping. The next day, the same facilities service workers, as reluctant as before, began the work of removing the freshly restored vaginas. At this point, the head librarian stepped out and informed them that they were not to touch any of the work within her area, as that was her domain and it was done with her permission (which is only about half true, but that’s not the point).

It was wonderful to know that we had support. It was amazing to see people standing together for a cause so important. It was disappointing to see that people were so disturbed by such a simple word.

Had the word been “arm” or “leg” or “heart”, I am fairly confident that it would have remained untouched. I am saddened that the words “sideways clam” and “fish sandwich” remained, while “vagina” was removed. Why?

Why is vagina thought to be such a dirty word? Why was something as simple as a body part offensive, while negative euphemisms were left behind? Why, in an arena of free thought and advanced learning, is VAGINA thought so disgusting that it must be censored?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do understand now, more than ever, why it is of the utmost importance that Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues be presented time and time again. We must, MUST begin to realize that vagina is not a dirty word, that it is a body part like any other while being a part like no other. To quote Ensler:

“THE HEART IS CAPABLE OF SACRIFICE.
SO IS THE VAGINA.
THE HEART IS ABLE TO FORGIVE AND REPAIR.
IT CAN CHANGE ITS SHAPE TO LET US IN.
IT CAN EXPAND TO LET US OUT.
SO CAN THE VAGINA.
IT CAN ACHE FOR US AND STRETCH FOR US,
AND DIE FOR US.
AND BLEED AND BLEED US INTO THIS DIFFICULT…
WONDROUS WORLD.”

07
Oct
11

Response to Richard Dawkins

While I found Dawkins’ presentation interesting, it was not without contradiction and was not the best of book presentations I have witnessed (that being Robert Wright, see link below). Quite frankly, I was more impressed with Mary Higgins Clark.

Admittedly, I disagree with Dawkins on a great many of his scientific views and his failure to acknowledge the diversity within the scientific community amazes me. His view of evolution as presented in “The Magic of Reality” is, at best, misleading. Please do not take this as a view against evolution, as that is not at all the case. Whereas Dawkins seems to be under the impression (and not to say that he is wrong, just that I disagree) that evolution is a slow, gradual process that happens over a great deal of time, I subscribe to the view of punctuated evolution or punctuated equilibrium. This is the idea that there are major ecological events throughout history that force change. These events cause a sudden favor to the attributes of any species that support survival of that species in that specific ecosystem. Big jumps, as it were, in the termination and advancement of certain species or variations within a species (Elena, Cooper, & Lenski, 1996) ((Gersick, 1991) (“Evolutionary Models for Genetic Variation,” n.d.).

Secondly, through a question and answer session Dr. Dawkins indicated that he held doubt that there is a euphoric experience just prior to death. I had no idea this was up for debate. Humans certainly experience this and evidence indicates that lower level primates and lower order mammals experience this same phenomenon. The currently supported theory (scientifically speaking) is an increase in GABA activity at death.

Not the last thing I disagree with, but the last I will write about here, is Dawkins’ stance on alien life and space travel. He mentions that there is no such thing as a miracle, that people in times gone by would be astonished at modern commonalities and that those would be interpreted as miracles to those who did not understand them. In that same context, should we see something we do not understand nor can we conceptualize at this point in time, it is interpreted as a miracle. All that being said he then stated that, despite his belief in alien life, any life in the universe is so far apart that the connection of one life form to the next through space was not possible. Then he stated that science fiction is nice, but that it is just that. Fiction. HELLO!? How much of what was once science fiction is now science fact? How likely was it just 400 years ago that, if someone sailed too far, they could go right off the side of the planet? How likely was it, 500, 1000, 1500 years ago that we would ever make it to the north pole, the moon, or to Mars? These are things that can happen given time, innovation, and someone who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Robert Wright:
http://www.ishk.net/moral_animal.pdf

Elena, S. F., Cooper, V. S., & Lenski, R. E. (1996). Punctuated evolution caused by selection of rare beneficial mutations. Science (New York, N.Y.), 272(5269), 1802-1804.

Evolutionary Models for Genetic Variation. (n.d.).(R)Evolution (pp. 81-108). New York: Springer-Verlag. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com/index/10.1007/0-387-26159-1_7

Gersick, C. J. G. (1991). Revolutionary Change Theories: A Multilevel Exploration of the Punctuated Equilibrium Paradigm. The Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 10-36. doi:10.2307/258605

07
Oct
11

Response to Sean Faircloth “Attack of the Theocrats”

This one will be short, sweet, and to the point. Mr. Faircloth, while I may agree with a great deal of your political agenda, using the same fear tactics you accuse others of committing is unreasonable, illogical, and distasteful. Additionally, to say that faith healing has no place is just flat out wrong. The placebo effect is strong and often works as well as (or better than) modern medical science (Moseley, Wray, Kuykendall, Willis, & Landon, 1996). Last but certainly not least, my personal religious views and associations aside, you have offered an outright degrading view of Christianity as a whole without differentiation between people who choose to believe in something greater than themselves (as you also do, but with science not faith) and people who are extremist religious zealots.

Link to the above mentioned article:
http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/24/1/28.short

13
Aug
10

The Hidden World of Girls

Some interesting information.

Check it out.

12
Feb
10

Aversion

Vernon L. Quinsey, Sidney G. Bergerson, and Cary M. Steinman created a study examining the effects of aversion therapy on the sexual preference of convicted child molesters.  This study was conducted to look at, not only the aversion therapy effects, but also the tests used to measure those effects.

The authors theorized that electric shock conditioning would lower the subjects’ sexual attraction to children, while increasing their sexual attraction to adults.  Unfortunately, the only rational offered was that previous research on sexual predators had yielded few results, but that the specific population in question (pedophiles) had never been examined as a single group.

Participants in the study consisted of a group of ten volunteers convicted of child molestation.  Each participant was given a pretest to measure penile circumference, shock conductance, and verbal report.  Through these measures, slides in two groups were created for each participant.  Groups of slides included ten slides from the population concerned, and ten for an adult stimuli. 

Negative reinforcement of electric shock was used to deter participants’ sexual response to the concerned population, with no reinforcement or punishment offered for either the adult or neutral stimuli.  Tests were repeated after five presentations of all 20 slides, after ten presentations, and after 20 presentations.  Participants requiring greater than 20 presentations continued additional cycles, but were not recorded in the results.

As expected, results indicated significant differentiation between pretest slides.  Each measure indicated that the participants showed a strong preference for the slides from the concerned stimuli over the target stimuli.  Post test results indicted a shift in sexual preference fro the concerned stimuli to the target stimuli.  Intermittent tests showed no significant change between the concerned stimuli and the target stimuli.

The indication of the results is that electric shock deterred the participants from sexual arousal when viewing slides of children, while increasing arousal during the viewing of adult slides.  This suggests that  electric shock, when used in the manner described above, is an adequate deterrent from one sexual preference while the lack of electric shock serves as a reward to increase sexual attraction toward a target group.

While it is appreciated that this study isolated a group of sexual deviants that had not been previously studied, both the method and the analysis of results leave much concern.

The creators of this study used a variety of measures to identify changes in covert changes in behavior, but the measures are not without fault.  Though the authors acknowledged the problems with penile circumference measures, they neglected to relate that a combination of measures that can be easily manipulated by the participants fail to offer a reliable measure in itself.  This is particularly relevant to the population at hand, as the population (should the study be used to justify the use of electric shock on pedophiles) stands to benefit.  Offenders could easily lie and control erection should a change in sexual preference from children to adults allow for early release.

In addition to the problem of inadequate measures, the researchers also failed to consider the possibility that, while there was a correlation between the decrease of arousal toward children and the increase of arousal toward adults, there was no measure during the study of increased or decreased arousal toward neutral slides.  During the initial measure of a baseline, neutral slides were used, however after that initial exposure to the neutral stimuli, no further measure of it was attained.  The question as to whether the response to a neutral stimuli would change or remain the same, in essence disregarding any measure of reliability of the study.

The final (and perhaps most disturbing) of the problems discussed here is the problem of possible misconstrual of results when externalized from the study.  There is a great potential that use of electric shock could be used as a deterrent from other types of non-normative sexual behaviors.  The authors made a point of acknowledging that the neutral stimuli in the baseline measures contained no animals or fetishistic objects.  This implies that they perceive the potential for fetishism to be treated as well, as they obviously considered it a confound deemed necessary of control.

Perhaps future study could examine the possible correlation of increased sexual arousal toward adults with the lowering of sexual attraction toward children by examining additional physiological factors which might not be so easily controlled by the participant.  In addition, measures used at baseline should be included in all rounds of testing.

Quinsey, Vernon L.; Bergersen, Sidney G.; Steinman, Cary M.; Canadian Journal of  Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, Vol 8(2),  Apr, 1976. pp. 202-212.




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