Archive of ‘Shame’ category

The “S” Word

 

Growing up, the word “sex” seemed taboo; my friends and I (should we ever talk about sex in any way) would just refer to it as either “the s-word” OR spell it out; somehow or another, that made it even scarier. I’m not entirely sure when I actually realized what sex was and what it entailed, but I certainly know I had an idea about it in my head that was entirely untrue. I vaguely remember talking about private things with my mom, but rather than actually talking about sex, I think it was more of a conversation about periods and tampons…and I was mortified. When I started my period, rather than telling her about it to her face, I wrote her a letter. It wast something that we talked about…ever…so why would I suddenly talk about it with her now? Even as an adult, several years ago, she made a comment that chocolate she was eating was better than sex. WHAT?! We’re going to talk about this? Nope. On the other end of things, I work with someone who said when she was young, her father showed her photos of different sexually transmitted infections and (in so many words) made her believe that if she had sex with anyone, she was bound to get an infection that would rot her insides. I’m exaggerating, but she’s in her mid-twenties now and still remembers that talk (and those photos) and it has definitely left her anxious about all things sex-related.

But why?  Why is sex SO taboo?  Why don’t we talk about it?  ESPECIALLY to our teens?  I’m not advocating for broadcasting the intimate details of what anyone does behind closed doors or to have sex with anyone & everyone–rather, I’m advocating for making it okay and normal to talk about sex and ask questions–no matter how old you are.  

Sex and various forms of intimacy surround us constantly.  Not that anyone needs proof of that, but here are some lyrics of songs that I either listened to or knew of when I was growing up:

  • “Let’s make love, all night long.  Until all our strength is gone” I actually called a radio station and requested this song.  I was a HUGE Tim McGraw fan and was mortified when the radio DJ asked how old I was to be requesting a song like that–I felt like I had done something wrong, but didn’t quite know why.  
  • “If you wanna be with me, baby there’s a price to pay.  I’m a genie in a bottle, you gotta rub me the right way”  This was Christina Aguilera’s first big hit, and I definitely remember singing along to this with multiple friends any (and every) time it came on.   
  • “If you’re horny, let’s do it.  Ride it, my pony.  My saddle’s waiting, come and jump on it”  I admit I was in my 20s when I realized exactly what the words to that song actually said, but I’ll be the first to admit that I used to listen to this on the radio!

That’s just the first couple of songs that come to mind…and that’s what I grew up with–let alone the songs (that seem to be getting more & more explicit) that are played on the radio now.  I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at that.  Sex is also always in our faces in other capacities: advertising, social media, movies, TV shows…everywhere.  Knowing that sex exists, it’s a thing, and based on what we learn about it from things like: music, movies, and TV, it seems pretty cool…but teenagers don’t really know what it means or what it entails; which, quite frankly, leads me to the reason for writing about this in the first place .   

I had someone, a teenager, casually tell me she was raped.  The details of how the conversation and the event that happened that lead her to believe that was the case do not matter.  What does matter, though, is that (fortunately) this person was not raped.  Rather–a complete lack of knowledge about sex (after a sexual encounter with someone) left her confused and believing she was raped.  So what can be done to make sure situations like this are fewer & farther between?  We can talk about it.  

What Does Talking About Sex Look Like?  

Anything that’s age appropriate!  Regardless of the age that someone is, though, they need to know that consent is always mandatory…no if’s, and’s, or but’s.  If there is not consent, then whatever is happening should not happen.  People should feel empowered to know they can say “no” and that they should never have to do anything they don’t want to.  People have control over their own bodies and what they do or do not want to do to them.

Sex Is Not Going Anywhere.  

With sex being thrown in our faces all the time, people (especially teenagers) may get the idea that that they need to (or should) have sex.  In a young person’s eyes, sex may be synonymous with love–or even worse, people may believe that they need to have sex in order to stay in a relationship.  If you’re reading that and thinking “Oh, that’s ridiculous…why would someone believe that?”…keep in mind that sometimes young people (especially teenagers) get their information from: marketing, the media, and peers at school.  So if we aren’t telling them otherwise…how else are they going to know these things?  There is not a race to have sex–although some movies may tell us otherwise.  It’s important that people know they will have the ability to have sex when they’re in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and so on.  And with that being the case–why rush into things now?  And more importantly–nobody should feel pressured to have sex with someone out of love or to get someone to stay with them.  

Don’t Shame Your Children or Teens For Asking Questions.   

Someone I knew recently described children as “little scientists” who are curious and want to learn and know about things.  So if they ask questions–answer them.  Same with your teenagers!  As questions are asked–don’t go on an abstinence-only rant or pretend the conversation never happened.  Think of any time you were told specifically not to do something or act a certain way–while I can’t speak for everyone–anytime those words were told to me, it made me want to do it JUST to see why I couldn’t.  Keep that in mind when you’re thinking of having conversations about sex with your children.  Be open and honest and be appreciative that the conversation is happening–whether it was initiated by you or your child and help empower them to make appropriate decisions for themselves and their body.  

By: Julie Burke, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S, LMFT


Body Image Issues in America the Beautiful

body_image_in_america

How often do you worry about your looks? Your clothes? Your hair? Your body shape? Your weight? I could go on and on, as these are the factors women and men feel pressure about every day regarding their looks. Although some groups may experience this pressure more than others, it is always in the faces of all Americans via magazines, television, movies, social media, etc. In America, beauty and body image has become of high importance, which has led to more concerning issues.

By: Angelica Beker, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Over the decades, the “standard” of what is beautiful has been ever so changing. From voluptuous figures, to stick thin figures, to a mix of both, it is hard to keep up with the ever changing look of the time. In my work with women and teen girls specifically, I often ask, “What does it mean to be pretty?” Answers I have received include: thin, toned, tan, white teeth, blond hair, flowy hair, tall, large chest, large behind, etc.

Let’s piece out some of the factors that contribute to this mind set and other factors that contribute to body image issues in America.

1) Social media and magazines:

Especially amongst the teenage population, these images are displayed everywhere in places such as Instagram, magazines, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and other social media outlets. The reality is: most of us cannot achieve this particular “look” and this is something I like to discuss with clients often. With social media, it is important to remember that it is a place to put “the best face forward”. Images can be doctored, photoshopped, and filtered in order to look their best. Pictures can even be taken from certain angles, with certain lighting, and other factors that can alter the image to look even better. With teenagers, it is important to remind them of these things and the fact that their bodies are still growing and maturing and many of the looks that they want to achieve are developmentally impossible at their ages.

2) Dieting: This is an enormous category:

A few things to keep in mind. Dieting can be harmful to the body. Dieting has a also become an enormous industry in America. But, what is “right”? With all the books and information out there, mixed messages are being sent to people about how to eat. Dieting can be especially harmful to teenagers due to the fact that they are still growing and need more nutrition than the average adult. Not to get too much into dieting and eating healthy, as a therapist, my concern is how extreme dieting and excessive attention to food can lead to more harmful issues. The rising cases of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and orthorexia (obsession to “eat clean”) is alarming. With eating disorders can come depression, anxiety, self-harm, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other detrimental concerns. The growing obsession with body image is leading to much larger issues amongst the American population.

3) Messages and pressure from others around us:

We often hear someone say, “You could stand to lose a little weight.” Or, “I would be prettier if you dropped a few pounds.” These messages can be heard by others and internalized as well. It automatically puts negative body image thoughts in other people’s minds. This negative talk and self-talk can lead to lowered self-esteem and self-confidence. In my work, this is something I come across often. People can be SO hard on themselves and the more they tell themselves these messages, the more they begin to believe them, in turn hurting themselves more. Many individuals can list negative aspects about themselves versus positive aspects. Being aware of what we say, either to ourselves or others, is important. Especially when we discuss these concerns are teenagers and adolescents, as these are negative messages they are directly learning.

Luckily, there are people and companies in America who are trying to turn around the negative issue of body image concerns.

Dove, Special K, and other American companies have started campaigns that revolve around positive body image – appreciating your body for how it is and how it was made. We all have something that bothers us about our bodies. We all have some sort of body image issue. But being aware of that is important as well as trying to remember that there is no “standard” or “perfect body”. Every individual is unique and beautiful in their own way. It is also crucial to remember that we should not forget our personalities and the wonderful qualities that come with that are also important. Beauty is not just on the outside.


Myths About Domestic Violence: Part 3

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Welcome back to our discussion on the myths about domestic violence. We continue our focus on the myths about abusive men, specifically myths about what causes abusive men to be abusive. As before, information for the blog is taken from the book “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft. Please visit http://www.lundybancroft.com for more information.

Myth #7: He holds in his feelings too much.

This is often referred to as “The Boiler Theory of Men” – that men keep their emotions pent up inside and that in time they are bound to blow up. The truth is that most abusive men are actually quite the opposite in respect to their feelings, and they have an exaggerated idea of how important their feelings are. They talk about their feelings and act them out all the time, until those who are on the receiving end, their partners and children, are exhausted from it. It is not their feelings that are the problem, but their thinking and their attitudes about the feelings of others. They are too distant from their partner’s and children’s feelings rather than their own. This “boiler theory” appears to make sense because abusive men often follow a pattern of withdrawing, saying less and less, and then they appear to boil over and erupt in yelling, put-downs and other abusive behaviors. However the mounting tension is actually driven by his lack of empathy for the feelings of his partner and children, and then he gives himself permission to explode.

Myth #8: He has an aggressive personality.

It is understandable why this would be an attractive myth to believe – if it were true it would make it much easier to women to decrease the chances of ending up in an abusive relationship. However, the majority of abusers are often quite responsible calm when dealing with affairs and people unrelated to their partners. For most abusers, but not all, they do not get aggressive with individuals other than their partners. This actually is a contributing factor to why many women stay feel trapped in abusive relationships – their partners are calm and gentle people outside of the home, it’s so hard to believe they could be so different behind closed doors. This is one of the manipulative, twisted aspects of abusive partners and it serves to ensure their partners will not reach out for support.

This myth is perpetuated by the societal stereotype that abusers are relatively uneducated and blue-collar men. This is not only an unfair stereotype of working-class men, it overlooks the fact that a college-educated or professional man has roughly the same likelihood of abusing his partner as anyone else. The truth is, the more educated the abuser is, the more knots he can tie in his partner’s mind, the better he is at getting her to put the blame on herself for his behavior, and the slicker he is at being able to persuade others that she is crazy. Also, and this is a very important point, the more socially powerful an abuser, the more powerful his abuse can be – he has more influence and has more pull in the public eye, and this makes it much more difficult for his partner to escape.

Myth #9: He has low self-esteem.

Many would like to believe that abusive behavior is the result of the abusive man feeling bad about himself, having low self-esteem. This misconception leads the victim to do what she can to boost his confidence. However, this only makes the problem worse. Abusive men expect being catered to, and the more positive attention they receive, the more they demand. Thus, the self-esteem myth is ultimately rewarding to the abuser – it gets his partner, his therapist and others involved to cater to him emotionally.

Myth #10: He is too angry.

Perhaps the most common myth about abusive men is that they have anger management problems, that they are abusive because they are unable to appropriately cope with and manage their anger. The cause and effect belief usually looks like this: He is abusive because he is angry. However, this is the reverse of the truth – he is angry because he is abusive. Everybody gets angry and most have, on occasion, gotten too angry, where their anger is out of proportion to an event or beyond what is healthy for them. Some get ulcers, hypertension and heart attacks as a result. However, these individuals do not necessarily abuse their partners. An abusive partner’s anger can be misleading, in that it diverts the attention away from all the disrespect, irresponsibility, lying, talking over you, and other abusive and controlling behaviors he displays, even when he isn’t particularly upset.

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