Really, New York Times? The Gray Lady is at it again, telling women -- in a dippy, unmoored "trend" piece -- that you can be successful in work. Or love. Not both. See, because successful women scare the men away. That's the price we pay, ladies, for liberation. "Is female empowerment killing romance?" asks the article, in a sentence so backlashtastic it's not easy to cut and paste on a full stomach. I don't know, I thought when female empowerment brought us the freedom to date and marry for love, not to mention use the Pill (speaking of which, must read this), that was kind of romantic. There's so much else to eviscerate in this piece that I'm not even sure where to start, other than to say that when I opened the page and started reading, I literally had to scroll back up to the top to see if someone had accidentally sent me a link from 1997. Or 1957. Or -- whatever. Look, I'm sure there are men who are put off by "successful" -- "ambitious," "strong" etc. -- women. I'm sure there have always been men like that. Even since before women were "liberated." So, um, maybe that's their problem? And even, even to the degree that men, en masse, are scared by female success, again: THEIR PROBLEM. Why is always women who have to dial it down? What's more, the suggestion that so many menz are SO SCARED of SCARY SCARY WOMEN is ridonkulously insulting to men, too. And then there's this advice, annotated by BG in brackets:

Leave the snazzy company car at home on the first date [because MEN HATE SNAZZY CARS]; find your life partner in your 20s, rather than your 30s, before you’ve become too successful [show of hands: who in her 30s wishes they'd married that guy from their 20s?] [also, by the logic herein, that guy from your 20s will dump you when you become "too successful"]. And go after men who draw their confidence from sources other than money, like academics and artists [avoiding people who draw their confidence from money is sound advice for anyone; however -- oh, for God's sake, this is just silly].

The article does showcase some excellent boyfriends (who appear to be European. COINCIDENCE?!). See:

Ms. Kiechel in Paris says her boyfriend actively encourages her career and brags to friends how intelligent and hard-working she is. Ms. Haag and Ms. Domscheit-Berg both earn more than their husbands and report that their men actually enjoy watching the waiter’s reaction when they say their wife will pick up the tab.

That's great and all, but it's kind of like saying "How nice that your husband HELPS OUT with the baby!" The above attitudes should be a given, not a plus. And I know they are held by far more men than this article gives credit to. The day we've really achieved -- or at least driven our snazzy cars closer to -- liberation is the day we start to see articles telling the fellas that if they're scared of successful women, they're just gonna have to man up. This post originally appeared at BreakupGirl.net.
A new analysis of teen sexual behavior in New York City offers some troubling/fascinating/instructive insights -- and not just of the "only in New York" variety. Published in the latest Pediatrics, the study found (for one thing) that among sexually active adolescent boys and girls, nearly one in ten had had a same-sex experience. But how many called themselves "gay"? Well, of the teens who'd had at least one same-sex partner, 38.9 percent answered "heterosexual or straight." Which is fine in a hey-who-needs-labels sense -- and hooray for experimentation, when that's what it is -- but not fine in a hey-who-needs-condoms sense. That is, the study also found that teens reporting partners of both sexes also reported higher-than-average rates of risky sexual practices, such as not using a condom during intercourse. Hmm. Especially among those in the "I'm not really gay" camp, could there be a related sense that "it's not really sex"? And does "I'm not really gay" stem from "Gay's not really OK?" ("Even in New York"?) "These are kids in New York City where there's more awareness and perhaps acceptance of non-heterosexual behavior, and you're still finding such high reports of risk behavior and violence," Laura Lindberg, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute, told the AP. Ah yes, also violence. Students reporting same-sex partners also reported higher rates of dating violence. What's going on there? Back to the AP:

Thomas Krever, executive director of the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a youth advocacy organization that runs an alternative high school for gay teens in New York City, said the survey results did not surprise him.

Many teens with partners of both sexes lack supportive adults and peers in their lives and may experience depression because social stigma, Krever said.

"Young people who are exhibiting characteristics of depression and lower self-worth can indeed place themselves in more risky situations including risky sexual practices," he said.

Homework: 1. As advocates continue to stress, sex ed has to focus not on identity/orientation, but on behavior. No matter what you call what you do, it's safer with a condom. 2. Let kids know we accept them as they are and that they are loved matter what.
This post was originally published at BreakupGirl.net.
Do reality shows like Teen Mom and 16 And Pregnant "glamorize" teen pregnancy? That standard hand-wringer has always struck me as weird. Because um, those shows don't exactly make teen pregnancy/motherhood look awesome. They (unlike, SORRY, Glee) actually make it look pretty crappy -- a lot more so than, say, carrying around a sack of flour for a week. Even when cute teen moms glam it up for celeb magazines (which are guilty of overglamorizing post-teen motherhood), teens -- who, turns out, are also better at condoms than grownups -- still know what's up. And now we have the numbers to show it: according to two brand-new studies commissioned by The National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, "most teens (79% of girls and 67% of boys) agree that when a TV show or character they like deals with teen pregnancy, it makes them think more about their own risk of getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy and how to avoid it." Other findings: · Among those young people who have watched MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, 82% think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it. · 76% of young people say that what they see in the media about sex, love, and relationships can be a good way to start conversations with adults. · About half (48%) say they have discussed these topics with their parents because of something they have seen in the media. · 16 and Pregnant got young people talking and thinking about teen pregnancy─40% of those in the treatment group said they talked about the show with a parent, 63% discussed with a friend, and 37% discussed with a sibling. · 93% of those who watched [a particular] episode agreed (53% strongly agreed) with the statement: “I learned that teen parenthood is harder than I imagined from these episodes.” This is all information we're not so sure they're getting in, say, abstinence-only sex ed -- which, while we're on the subject, glamorizes lies, shame, and fear. (And whose funding just got resuscitated, even as the Obama administration also awarded $155 million in federal grants to support evidence-based, medically accurate sex ed.) Enough with the mixed messages, as Jessica Wakeman wrote at The Frisky, continuing: "If pregnant teen girls get their moment in the media’s graces, the least we can do is use it wisely. The alternative could be much, much worse." Of course the media plays a role in the whole teen pregnancy ecosystem, but there are a whole lot of other reasons teens get pregnant, most of which are much, much more complicated and challenging than the simple notion of MTV cause-and-effect (which is exactly why we are reluctant to acknowledge and deal with them). Teens are smarter than we give them credit for. Sometimes, in fact -- see phrases bolded above -- they just want to talk. This post was originally published at BreakupGirl.net.
It’s the National Sex Ed Week of Action! Now with PRIZES! (For the first reader who emails me with answers to the quiz below!) But first, a quick true or false: • The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate among the world’s developed nations. • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one in four teen girls has a sexually transmitted infection. • Half of sexually active young people in the U.S. will contract a sexually transmitted infection by age 25. • Approximately 750,000 teenagers in the United States will become pregnant this year. • The health care reform bill included a renewal of $50 million per year funding of abstinence-only education for states until 2014. • This Op-Ed by an Atlanta teen about the importance of comprehensive, accurate sex ed is awesome. Answer key: TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE, TRUE. Which, now that we're all riled up, brings us to the one with PRIZES! Planned Parenthood of NYC, BG's local affiliate, is giving away a package of safe-sex goodies to the BG reader who emails me with the correct answers to all five of the following (at least peripherally) sex-ed related questions. Pencils ready? 1. In how many states is it still illegal for an unmarried heterosexual couple to live together? 2. What was the name of the first daytime television show to feature a same sex wedding? 3. What famous female advocate founded the first birth control clinic and later founded Planned Parenthood? 4. Japanese love pillows, which usually decorated with life-size animae characters are called what? 5. What species was the famous gay couple who raised an offspring named Tango together? (And now, New Yorkers, join the campaign!) Originally published at BreakupGirl.net.
Via Science Daily: That old adage favored by scientists and ‘60s girl groups -- “correlation is not causation, no sir” -- seems to have eluded more than a few pundits in our day.

One hasty assumption in particular--that sexy media influences kids to have sex earlier--is being challenged in an article in a recent issue of Developmental Psychology. Psychologists Laurence Steinberg and Kathryn Monahan revisit a much-cited 2006 study by media expert Jane D. Brown which concluded that exposure to sexualized content on TV, or in music, movies, and magazines, accelerates sexual activity in young teenagers.

Steinberg and Monahan reanalyzed the data of Brown's longitudinal study, but this time took into account the other dimensions of the participants’ lives that may have influenced their exposure to sexualized media and their pre-existing inclination to view or listen to the sexy stuff.

The authors discovered that while a link exists between sexual content and earlier sexual activity, they found "no accelerating or hastening effect of exposure to sexy media content on sexual debut once steps were taken to ensure that adolescents with and without high media exposure were matched on their propensity to be exposed to media with sexual content."

They conclude, in other words, that the kids who were inclined to have sex earlier were also the kids who’d be likely to consume the hotter media, but the media didn’t, like, make them do it. In OTHERother words, it wasn’t Ke$ha’s fault (this time).

Kudos to Steinberg and Monahan for questioning a long-held assumption, turning the old blame-the-media trope on its head, and for using the word “sexy” about 700 times in their article, making it read like a Prince song.

Most importantly, they turn the focus back to other scientifically established causes of precocious sexual activity: parent–child conflicts and peer influence. Knowing the real causes may lead to more effective ways of helping kids be smart and wise consumers, or not, of the sexed-up stuff they see.

This post originally appeared at BreakupGirl.net.
Perhaps the sight of Julia Roberts biking about Bali isn’t enough to convince you that a high-performance, career-empowered, smart, single, temporarily celibate (gasp!) woman over 30 can too find love, reclaim her libido and live happily ever after. That’s just a celluloid reenactment of one woman’s truth, after all -- and, come on, who doesn’t fall in love with Julia Roberts? Also debuting on Friday was author and professor Caryl Rivers’s fantastic, fact-fortified screed, published by Women’s eNews and entitled “Smart Women Take Heart: Your Love Life Is Fine,” rallying against the false notion of the “marriage penalty” -- the myth that the Elizabeth Gilbert types are unhappy, destined for further unhappiness (which of course means never marrying), and themselves entirely to blame for their alleged unhappiness. “What should smart ambitious women with some measure of career fulfillment do to prove they’re not miserable and sexless?” Rivers asks. “No matter how many times researchers debunk that story with real facts, it refuses to die. Feminism is always the culprit for women’s alleged unhappiness." What sets Rivers off is an Camille Paglia-penned op-ed piece blasting those very women for the nationwide “sexual malaise” that’s been spawned by their “priggish” ways; because “ambitious women postpone recreation,” Paglia opines, American office space is now a place where “physicality is suppressed, voices are lowered and gestures curtailed.” And if you do become lucky enough to snare a mate and pop out a few kids? Then you’re at fault for emasculating America’s menfolk into “cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women.” Sheesh. Rivers’s retort to all this is sweeping and gratifying. It’s worth a read in its entirety, but here are the highlights:
  • Data collected by the United States General Social Survey since 1972 finds no statistical difference in the overall happiness of adult women compared to adult men. (Men’s happiness average clicks in a half-point higher than women’s, a statistical blip that many media outlets have overblown.)
  • A certain “The smarter the woman, the less likely she’s married” chestnut is based on data collected in 1921.
  • Men and women with highly rewarding jobs are more likely to report higher levels of sexual satisfaction.
  • Your office is not a singles’ club... OK, that one’s mine, but seriously, Paglia -- since when do we all meet our future mates at work? Since never.
"But don't expect these facts to spoil the media's love affair with the notion of a high-achieving woman sacrificing her sex appeal," Rivers writes. Seriously. Gelato, anyone? This post originally appeared at BreakupGirl.net.
Over the weekend, the APA convention debuted the latest in a long line of studies about the psychological impact of superheroes on boys -- a lineage one can trace back to Frederic Wertham's infamous "Seduction of the Innocent" in 1954. These new studies are more rigorous than Wertham's alarmist screed of course, but after 50 years of this sort of thing its hard to get worked up over it. Of course now the boogeyman is superhero movies, since they are more widespread than their print counterparts.
"There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday," said psychologist Sharon Lamb, PhD, distinguished professor of mental health at University of Massachusetts-Boston. "Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Ironman, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns."
Of course there is a big difference between today and yesterday. Since the 1980’s, comic books (and video games) have increasingly been geared toward older and older audiences (the ones with the money) -- teen, then college-age, and now even post-college age men as "adultolescence" becomes more prevalent. And of course today's movie superhero is going to be more complex, if not more violent, than his comic book counterparts (especially the Twinkie-hawking '70s versions that researchers remember) -- that's what blockbuster-moviegoers demand. I don't remember the achingly innocent/authentic Speed Racer movie breaking any records. The report continues:
"In today’s media, superheroes and slackers are the only two options boys have," said Lamb. "Boys are told, if you can’t be a superhero, you can always be a slacker. Slackers are funny, but slackers are not what boys should strive to be; slackers don’t like school and they shirk responsibility..."
They could be right about there only being two choices, superhero or slacker. Have you seen the Green Hornet trailer? In this new formulation (desecration?) of the old radio drama, Seth Rogen plays a slacker who straightens himself out after his father dies. But does he get a job? No, he becomes a superhero! I guess he grew up on these messages that Lamb has been studying. At the convention this study was paired with another, from Researcher Carlos Santos, PhD, of Arizona State University that suggested that boys seem better adjusted in their relationships when they resist internalizing macho images. Look, if I have learned anything about relationships from superheroes, I have learned to keep women at arms length in order to keep them safe. Also, lying about what I do at night. This article was originally published at BreakupGirl.net.
This idea, as it turns out, is maybe not as good as it first sounds. (It sounds good enough, in fact, that apparently user demand has shut down the site for at least two days going.)

[GameCrush is] an entirely new interactive social gaming experience allowing gamers to meet, match and pay to play online games with other users (PlayDates). GameCrush is the only online service that allows gamers to choose a companion to spice up their favorite online games. Both Players and PlayDates define the experience they want- either “flirty” or “dirty”, choosing from some of the most popular console titles and casual web-based games.

On GameCrush, players can find their perfect PlayDate through browsing their profiles and chatting live with them. Players can then purchase a live one-on-one private gaming session, complete with two-way video and text chat.

OK, skipping over the "flirty or dirty" part -- I mean, how many of us ignore red flags at the outset? -- it seems kind of genius: meet and get specifically match-made, with someone with similar interests, while doing exactly the thing that in some cases, um, keeps you from getting matchmade! But, as Postbourgie.com notes, it's not quite that innocent: "On GameCrush the Players are male and the PlayDates are female. There are about 1200 profiles registered thus far of women recruited using (you guessed it!) a Craigslist ad. They’re also paid. Each PlayDate keeps 60% of the cash she earns. Players can also rate their PlayDates:

After a session you can rate your PlayDate on her hotness, gaming skill, and flirtiness. The highest-rated girls will receive preferred placement on the site. GameCrush is assembling a team of its most highly regarded PlayDates called JaneCrush, which would be positioned similar to Ubisoft’s Fragdolls in that members of JaneCrush will generate content for the site like blogs and editorials.

Hooookay. now it's starting to sound a bit more like GameGeisha. Postbourgie continues: "It seems like it has the potential to walk the line between being a relatively innocuous social service to something a bit more…distasteful...For the most part the PlayDates are just girls who want to play and get paid and guys who want to flirt with an attractive girl while enjoying a game. And as my blogmate R.A.B pointed out, if this had existed 10 years ago he would have been a much more happy and well-adjusted adolescent, so the benefits may outweigh the possible pitfalls. Even so, I can’t help but wonder when Rule 31 and Rule 34 are going to kick in and it all devolves into 'Show me ur b00bs! </fap fap fap>'. Is everything all good or am I just being hypervigilant and seeing possibilities for sexism and general ickyness where there are none?" Echoing one of Postbourgie's commenters, I'd say, option C: Seeing possibilities for sexism and general ickyness...right where they are. This post originally appeared at BreakupGirl.net.
Clearly, the grownups aren't at all sure what to do about sexting. While legal scholars (rightly) ponder when, whether, and most importantly how to prosecute sexters, one Pennsylvania school/DA threatened kids suspected of sexting with child pornography charges unless they took part in an after-school program which, among other things, required girls to write essays on why their actions were wrong; the goal: to "gain an understanding of what it means to be a girl in today's society." Is it shaming in here, or is it just me? To be sure, sexting should be taken seriously (as harassment and abuse). But why do I suspect -- perhaps cynically, yes -- that this focus on "what it means" will not include a full exploration of the deep cultural factors that appropriate and contain girls' sexuality and limit their worth and self-expression to "hotness"? (Maybe it will; I hope I'm wrong.) But as theoreotical counterpoint -- and to counter the oft-peddled image of teens doing nothing all day but re-watching Twilight, playing Kill Everyone, and forwarding around naked photos of the French exchange student, I offer this: a reminder of many of the positive and, dare I say, actually empowering, ways that girls use social media. As eleventh-grader Nadia Tareen -- as part of a video series on media issues called Girls Investigate, a joint project of The Women’s Media Center (WMC) and Girls Learn International®, Inc. -- writes:

Adults are often too fast to condemn teenagers’ use of technology. We aren’t as “clueless about online threats as some adults believe – Two-thirds of the teens who have created profiles have used privacy controls to limit access to them.” Also, I suspect that my parents and teachers are unaware of everything that my peers and I accomplish online. For example, social media is a great tool for activism. As the leader of my school’s chapter of Girls Learn International®, Inc., I have found that e-mail and Facebook messages are invaluable for organizing and spreading awareness. Teenagers even use social media to make their dreams come true. As an avid YouTube-watcher, I can cite at least a dozen teenagers who posted videos of their musical and comedic talents on the website, to then be discovered by industry professionals. If social media is used intelligently, it can yield endless benefits.

This post was originally published at BreakupGirl.net.
'Tis the season: Easter, Passover, a delightful asparagus frittata. The New Scientist's got an interesting thinky essay about which sex has the evolutionary upper hand when it comes to the mechanics of reproduction; there is, thus, discussion of the once-seen-as-all-powerful egg--and the eventually dominant homocentric view that semen "perfects" it. Cue epic battle between "ovists" and "spermists," then an uneasy truce brokered by the emerging field of genetics. But ultimately (long interesting story short, with other implications not relevant here), the writers (professors of ecology and evolution) conclude that since the mother nurtures offspring inside her body for so many months -- therefore wielding more genetic influence -- "it looks like eggs rule after all." Mothers have more genetic influence; ergo: that's why men take breakups harder. That's the theory advanced in response to the NS piece by Alex Balk over at The Awl (h/t The Atlantic). He writes:

Why should it be so that a man has greater difficulty coming to terms with the end of a relationship than his female counterpart? (This is gonna be a very heteronormative discussion here, so gays and lesbians are free to check out some of the fine content at the right.) My research suggests that it all has to do with childhood.

Little girls are often treated as "princesses," the object of paternal affection in an idealized-but-not-romantic way. This convention is so strong that they are referred to even by non-relatives as "daddy's little girl." Daddy is the man who adores them, who sets the template for what they will expect from all other men in life when it comes to affection.

Little boys are often treated the same way by their mothers. "Mommy loves you," she will repeat over and over. "You will always be Mommy's little boy." Mommy makes it very clear that her little boy is most special boy in the world—even more special than Daddy—and that he will be an object of veneration and pride so long as she lives. This also sets a template.

The difference is stunningly obvious: Dads are far less committed parents than moms. Daddy may tell you that you are Daddy's little girl, he may take you to a Daddy-Daughter dance one night after weeks of prompting, but most of the time he's at the office, or away for business, or out with his buddies for important "man time." Young girls, who, let's not forget, mature far more quickly than boys, pick up on this: The man who says he loves me, they realize, is not at all reliable. He says what he thinks he is supposed to say, but his actions tell a different story.

Moms, on the other hand, are always there. They do the majority of the parenting, of the cooking, of the cleaning, of all the things that we equate with nurturing. To a boy, there is never any disconnect from the message of love he gets from Mommy and the way that he sees it play out in real life.

And this is why men take break ups harder than women. When a woman breaks up with a man, it is Mommy telling him that she doesn't love him anymore. And Mommy promised that she would always love him! What is so terrible about him that Mommy stopped loving him? He can bury the sadness with alcohol, or watching a lot of sports, or sleeping around, but deep down he cannot fathom how this rejection has happened to him. His cries of pain, either voiced or shown by his actions, are really him shouting, "Mommy, why did you stop loving me?"

Whereas for a woman, she had no illusions that Daddy wasn't going to leave at some point. Sure, she's hurt initially, but she knew the score going into the game. And because women are more or less what Science refers to as "mercenary bitches," even as she's filling her pint of ice-cream with those fat, salty tears, she is unconsciously determining whom she will settle on next, the better to get her eggs fertilized so that the cycle might continue. [I should note here that a scholarly friend of mine (who is well-versed on the subject of women by virtue of her position as an expert on young adult novels for girls) had a minor dissent to this hypothesis, noting that every woman has one man who legitimately broke her heart and for whom she will always pine; I am perfectly willing to accept this "ur-Daddy" postulation and add it to the literature.]

Also relevant: the fact that men are not culturally conditioned to feel and express and wallow and process after a breakup. This may or may not be a good thing. (Freeing for the dump-er, limiting for the dumpee?) What do you guys think? Broadly speaking, does one gender take breakups harder, and why? Discuss! Through fat, salty tears! This post was originally published at BreakupGirl.net.