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Breakup Girl » Psychology
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February 16, 2011

The shallow stuff to ask when you want to know something deep

Filed under: Psychology, blogs — posted by Breakup Girl @ 6:43 am

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We held off on this one, since we figured not that many first dates were happening on Valentine’s Day. But now here we go. OKCupid, always ready with the best questions for blog posts, asks, what are the best questions for first dates? Actually, they put it a much better way: “What questions are easy to bring up, yet correlate to the deeper, unspeakable, issues people actually care about?” Yes! Easy and deep-y. And did we mention easy? See, because what you don’t want — as with first “lines” — is something gimmicky, interviewy, or otherwise annoyingy. (”So, tell me, Sam. [Leans closer, significantly.] Would you rather be a cloud, or a grape?”) What you want, OKCupid determines, with the use of several handy bar graphs, is “the shallow stuff to ask when you want to know something deep.”

OK SO LIKE WHAT? Well, then we get into some frankly fascinating correlations (derived from their vast database and some fancy math). If you want to know if you two have long-term potential, ask if he/she likes horror movies, or would like to chuck it all and live on a sailboat. Couples who agreed on such Qs were correlated with couples who lasted. If you want to know if your date is religious, ask if she/he is annoyed by spelling and grammar mistakes; “If your date answers ‘no’—i.e. is okay with bad grammar and spelling—the odds of him or her being at least moderately religious is slightly better than 2:1.” Hooray for teh tolerance! Want to know if you have the same politics? Ask if your date prefers the people in his/her life to be simple or complex. The latter preference is correlated with liberal politics. JUST SAYING. (Also: clouds and grapes CAN get along!)

Read the whole piece for great fun and info, plus Kevin Costner in fingerless gloves. (The apocalypse kind, not the golf kind.)

AND: Since you’re going to need to get to that first date in the first place, here is BG’s definitive guide to opening lines.

January 25, 2011

Friends with … regrets?

Filed under: Celebrities, Psychology, pop culture — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:56 am

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Two new movies starring four very attractive people pose the questions: (1) Can “friends with benefits” arrangements work? and (2) Natalie Portman?! On (1) I’m leaning no, if only on the grounds that I would definitely fall for Justin Timberlake.

But Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com gives the matter deeper consideration. But her bottom line is basically this: “When you talk to people who have been there and done that — and even those who are continuing to do that — the response is overwhelmingly negative. As my own former ‘friend with benefits’ put it, ‘I’ve been in so many of these situations and, basically, they work until they don’t.’”

Read the rest (Tracy does a bunch of reporting and covers a lot of thoughtful ground) and let us know what you think: Does FWB ever benefit anyone? Under what particular circumstances? Share away, ’cause don’t worry; we won’t expect anything more from you than a good time. ;)

January 19, 2011

“Your daily ’single women die alone’ alert”

Filed under: Psychology, issues — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:55 am

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With a side of “men=pigs” (sic). From Samhita at Feministing:

The endless obsession with how women are going to die alone because they have brains and casual sex [and "post-feminist" "freedom" --BG] has truly become the gift that keeps on giving. Mix one part college student sample, a few scattered inconsistent findings based on loosely correlated “evidence,” sweeping generalizations reinforcing female anxiety around mating and some slut-shaming for good measure and voila, you have yourself “relationship advice” from a “doctor.” The CNN health blog writes about a new book, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying, by none other than “get married early” Mark Regenerus and sociologist Jeremy Ueker.

CNN concludes from a precursory look at the book men have the upper hand in the sexual economy. This is not  because women are judged based on their promiscuity or lack thereof in a way that men rarely are or because men face pressure to have casual sex like a stud and deny their romantic feelings for relationships. Or because when you are a woman between 18-23 male attention and the desire to “be in a relaysh” has more impact on your self esteem then say when you are a 30-somethinger like me. Or maybe because by 23, you still don’t know what you want out of a relationship. No, no, men have the upper hand in sex and dating because women have too much freedom, sex and education. [See CNN file photo w/article, left, of young woman relishing her freedom.]

[CNN:] Researchers found that since women in the 18- to 23-year-old group feel they don’t need men for financial dependence, many of them feel they can play around with multiple partners without consequence, and that the early 20s isn’t the time to have a serious relationship. But eventually, they do come to want a real, lasting relationship. The problem is that there will still be women who will have sex readily without commitment, and since men know this, fewer of them are willing to go steady. [Go steady? - BG]

“Women have plenty of freedom, but freedom does not translate easily into getting what you want,” Regnerus said. ["So maybe you don't need it so much. At least not if you want a man." -- BG]

Though it’s not based entirely on fiction, it’s rife with unexamined assumptions. Bottom line, if women no longer need men then why would they be competing for men? Feh.

Bonus: Good stuff on men being humans! With feelings! here.

January 18, 2011

What’s dating like when you have an STD?

Filed under: Psychology, issues — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:58 am

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Writing at Salon.com, BG’s alterego talks to many brave women to find out. Of course, they shouldn’t have to be so “brave” in order to speak up, but what they speak about — the persistent stigma of STIs, especially for women, despite their breathtaking near-ubiquity — is exactly what otherwise keeps them quiet. (When one woman named Michele worked up the gumption to disclose to a potential partner, he said: “You seem like a very classy girl — I would never have imagined you having that.” Translation: “You slut.” And he was one of the polite ones.)

But! As it turns out, the vast majority of people interviewed in the story — even the expert doctor — wound up finding (a) community among others online, and/or (b) a happy relationship (with someone “sero-negative,” even). In other words, there is life — sex life, love life, LIFE life — after/with an STI. The morals:

1. Get yourself tested. And educated.

2. Use condoms.

3. Manners, people! You don’t know anything about how or why anyone got anything. Don’t judge. Don’t even snicker. You might even have something yourself and not know it. (See #1.)

January 11, 2011

Oh, fer crying out loud.

Filed under: Psychology, media — posted by Breakup Girl @ 12:14 pm

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You know that recent story about how “Women’s Tears Say ‘Not Tonight, Dear’?” Over at the Ms. blog, J Goodrich (Echidne of the Snakes) takes the boneheaded sexist headlines and media “analyses” of a recent Israel study and basically kicks them so hard they cry.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, the Weizmann Institute of Science researchers collected emotional tears from female volunteers by showing them sad movies. Then they had male test subjects sniff the actual tears and fake tears comprised of saline.

A whiff of the real deal caused testosterone levels in the men to drop significantly. They found pictures of women less sexually attractive. When the men were sent into brain scanners, and shown a sad film, the men who were exposed to the fake tears didn’t show much lower activity in a region associated with sexual desire, but the activity in the same region was greatly reduced in men who breathed real tears.

The brain scans, the big yawn over alluring pictures and the drop in the he-man hormone led the scientists to conclude that “women’s emotional tears contain a chemosignal that reduces sexual arousal in men.”

MSNBC’s conclusion:

Bottom line, ladies? If you’re looking for arousal, don’t turn on the waterworks.

Basically, as she summarizes, most of the reporting on the study, rather than actually REPORTING ON THE STUDY, invokes a colorful array of half-baked stereotypes: tears as “weapon in the battle of the sexes” that women deploy on demand, men as morons who are deterred from their search for sex only by ladyweeping.

Goodrich: “Let’s take a step backwards and look at the actual study and its possible meanings:

For practical reasons, Sobel and his colleagues have studied only women’s tears. But they suspect that men’s tears, and possibly children’s, also contain chemical signals and are eager to find out what messages they may convey.

That snippet suggests a completely different interpretation of the study findings. They may not ultimately be about the effects of women’s tears on men’s hormone and arousal levels but about the effects of human tears on other human’s hormones and emotions. This is not hidden in all the popularizations but it certainly has been pushed behind that “sex sells” curtain, and you have to work down the articles to find it. /snip/

Here are my further conjectures: It seems like a very useful and common-sense conclusion that another person’s tears will reduce your sexual arousal. Something tear-worthy is happening and perhaps it’s an important survival cue to pay attention to.

I’ve got one word to say about the state of journalism and gender stereotyping: *Sob.*

January 4, 2011

But what’s in it for me?

Filed under: Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:15 am

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Even superheroes take like three weeks to get through the Sunday paper. So in case you missed it, or are still stuck on Automotive, here’s a nod to an interesting piece in the Times by Tara Parker-Pope. At a time of “sustainable”-chic, what — Parker-Pope asks, makes a relationship (in this case, marriage) last? It’s not just a toolbox containing “communication skills,” say. Actually, those things do help relationships endure, but they don’t — necessarily — make them “meaningful and satisfying.” As it turns out, “the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, it is all about you.

Well, sort of. Let’s put it this way: it’s about finding someone who makes your life interesting — who inspires you to try new things, to shift and change in ways that please you.

Caryl Rusbult, a researcher at Vrije University in Amsterdam who died last January, called it the “Michelangelo effect,” referring to the manner in which close partners “sculpt” each other in ways that help each of them attain valued goals.

Dr. Aron and Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, have studied how individuals use a relationship to accumulate knowledge and experiences, a process called “self-expansion.” Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship.

/snip/

While the notion of self-expansion may sound inherently self-serving, it can lead to stronger, more sustainable relationships, Dr. Lewandowski says.

“If you’re seeking self-growth and obtain it from your partner, then that puts your partner in a pretty important position,” he explains. “And being able to help your partner’s self-expansion would be pretty pleasing to yourself.”

/snip/

Over time, the personal gains from lasting relationships are often subtle. Having a partner who is funny or creative adds something new to someone who isn’t. A partner who is an active community volunteer creates new social opportunities for a spouse who spends long hours at work.

I mean, even relationships that end, if they had some good to them — and come on, most do — you still get something, leave with something, carry something forward that enriches your life. Hobbies, interests, new perspectives, learning experiences. Like, from that one boyfriend, I got skiing, and art history. From another, bread-baking, and rage. I KID. (Just about the rage.)

What this also says to me: no one — no one! — should be made to feel bad or needy or girly or “desperate” or whatever for wanting to find love. We are social, seeking beings. We don’t want someone just to make us complete. We want someone to help make us, and our worlds, even bigger. And to do the same for that someone.

Bonus: Take Parker-Pope’s quiz to find out how much your relationship, past or present, “expands[/ed] your knowledge and makes[/made] you feel good about yourself.”

December 9, 2010

SWM (Sweaty white male): A love story

Filed under: Advice, Psychology, Treats — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:20 am

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Remember Sweaty Steve, he of the socially-crippling clammy-palmed hyperhidrosis? I’ve got a fantastic update for you, plus an equally fantastic shout-out we just received from a former super-perspirator. I offer both here with two caveats: (1) (spoiler!) finding a partner does not in itself equal success or happiness; in these cases, however, it was something these fellas both wanted and thought they could never have, and (2) as Wendy Shanker describes so eloquently in Are You My Guru?, while medical conditions may have psychological or psychosomatic components, that does not mean that all afflictions can be healed with some nice long walks and a change of attitude.

OK? First, from a fella named K., this spectacular portrait of HOPErhidrosis:

“I suffered the cranial version of this condition for about six years and let it turn me into an asexual recluse for most of my twenties, even leaving two jobs due to my supervisor’s apprehension over what impression it might give the people I interacted with (understandable, as I was a phlebotomist at the time and was told patients simply would not be comfortable having someone with sweat pouring down his face drawing their blood).  Just about every decision I made in those years was influenced by the sweating more than any other factor.  And I never found any correlation between the heavy sweating attacks and my activity level, temperature, liquid intake, etc. The only regular trigger was, the more social exposure, more sweat, but beyond that it would happen in any random setting, even walking alone on a cold night.

(more…)

November 24, 2010

Relationship violence: the Amber factor

Filed under: News, Psychology, issues, media, pop culture — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:59 am

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Teen Mom’s Amber Portwood has dealt quite a few blows, physical and emotional, to her oafish fiance-ish, Gary Shipley. This we know — cameras were rolling! — and this we cannot excuse. But this example has, like many before it, provoked the question: is female-on-male violence on the rise?

Today at Salon.com, BG’s alter ego tackles the answer. And suggests, in the process, that it’s not the most helpful question to be asking in the first place. In short: females have always been violent, towards men and otherwise. Specific DOJ data points show that when it comes to certain types of intimate partner violence, rates of certain types of aggression can be equal or mutual between men and women. (And neither is to be justified.) But: men are far more likely to put their female partners in the hospital, and men are far more likely to commit the ongoing, deeply damaging form of abuse known as battery, or even domestic terrorism.

That is not to say MEN SUCK; WOMEN WIN THE VICTIM PRIZE. Not at all. It’s to say that false equivalence between male and female violence is unhelpful and un-illuminating, possibly even damaging to all victims. As Lynn writes: “But when it comes to pop culture and public discourse, [female violence] needs to be discussed on its own face and in its own context, with its own set of causes and implications, not as a game of one-upmanship.”

Read the rest here. And if you — female or male — feel at all unsafe in your relationship, please click here.

November 10, 2010

Love is a lot like a drug

Filed under: News, Psychology — posted by Kristine @ 10:58 am

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When scientists — arguably the most logical of humans — try to make sense of love, interesting things are bound to happen. As Albert Einstein concluded: “Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” (No one’s ruled out inertia, entropy, or nuclear fusion.) Traditionally, of course — metaphorically or otherwise — we trace the origin of love to our hearts. Thankfully, though, Syracuse University Professor Stephanie Ortigue suggests that our head has something to do with it, too — and not just when it’s over our heels.

In the new study “The Neuroimaging of Love,” Ortigue reveals that “12 areas of the brain work in tandem to release euphoria-inducing chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopression.” Basically, “falling in love can elicit not only the same euphoric feeling as using cocaine, but also affects intellectual areas of the brain.” Apparently, when it comes to love, we can go from zero to sixty in 1/5th of a second — meaning that euphoria can enter our system as quickly, if not faster, than a controlled substance.

So falling in love is like being on cocaine. It happens real fast, you’re on this crazy high — and then you come down. Interestingly enough, cocaine was once an ingredient in Coca Cola. Coca Cola was first introduced as a patent medicine “for all that ails you.” Since cocaine isn’t legal and has long been removed from Coca Cola, maybe all we need is love?

Dr. Sean Mackey, chair of the pain management division of Stanford University, might agree. Writing recently in Time, Alice Park explores Mackey’s research into to what degree love might “influence how we experience physical pain.” Mackey discovered that when people who reported being in the first stages of “new and passionate love”  were shown pictures of their various pumpkins and pookies, they could withstand greater amounts of pain — even more so than when occupied by mental tests or when shown photos of equally attractive friends.

While I am all for love as a potential wonder-drug, one of my questions is: why only romantic love? Would throwing a different kind of love — say parent/child — into the pain equation garner the same results? Isn’t that love just as mind-altering? Nope, turns out. Well, not in the same way.

Ortigue’s study found that the reason parent-child love would likely not have the same effects on pain is that different parts of the brain are stimulated by different kinds of love: “Passionate love is sparked by the reward part of the brain, and also associative cognitive brain areas that have higher-order cognitive functions, such as body image.”

Parent-child love wouldn’t reduce pain physically because it doesn’t stimulate the reward center. However, that’s not to say that a parent wouldn’t be able to endure more pain should their child be in danger. In essence, Mackey’s study is strengthened by Ortigue’s assertion that the brain releases chemicals akin to cocaine to stimulate romantic love, because like cocaine, love works back and forth with the brain as it heightens certain things and dulls others. Love engages “our very deep, old and primitive reptilian system that involves basic needs, wants, and cravings.”

Since romantic love allows us to withstand more pain, perhaps it is the reason humans survive. While the end of love can hurt, to the point of making people lovesick, the euphoria of being in love keeps us coming back, much like cocaine keeps an addict coming back — all ensuring that we continue the species. From an evolutionary standpoint, the emergence of romantic love in humans may be all about survival of the fittest – rewarding us for the formation of potentially strong alliances with our mates and, as shown by Mackey allowing us to withstand greater amounts of pain, which from a primitive standpoint would have been useful in a fight with that mastodon.

Be thankful. Biology is looking out for us in more ways than one.

October 27, 2010

I’m not gay, but

Filed under: News, Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:09 am

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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.

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