Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Men insult their partners to hold onto them, researchers say

Men who habitually insult their wives or girlfriends do so, oddly, to prevent them from leaving for someone else, according to this story in the British Psychological Society Research Digest Blog.

Women who are insulted regularly may feel that their looks, their intellect or their behaviour are so poor nobody else would want them so they stay, the researchers speculate.

Steve Stewart-Williams and colleagues at the University of Wales Swansea asked 245 men (average age 29 years) to report how many times in the last month they had insulted their partner using one or more examples from a list of 47 insults, arranged into 4 categories: physical insults, insults about personal value or mental capacity (e.g. “I called my partner an idiot”), accusations of sexual infidelity, and derogating their value as a person (e.g. “I told my partner she will never amount to anything”).

The men were also asked to report their use of 104 'mate-retention' behaviours, such as whether they became jealous when their partner went out without them, and whether they checked up on where their partner said they would be at a given time.

The men who insulted their partners more also tended to engage in more mate-retention behaviours. A similar association was found in a second experiment in which a separate sample of 372 women were asked to say how often their partners insulted them, and how often they engaged in mate-retention behaviours. The researchers said insults might serve a mate-retention function, by making a “woman feel that she cannot secure a better partner, with the result that she is less likely to defect from the relationship.”

Past research has shown that men who engage in mate-retention behaviours are more likely to be violent towards their partners.....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Housework? We'll do it later - much later

Britain’s Equal Opportunities Commission has concluded that men will never share the housework equally with women, according to this story in the New Statesman. Women spend 78 per cent more time than men doing household chores, and the Commission’s report Completing the Revolution implies that women might as well stop hoping that anyone will ever share their domestic burden, the story says. It also says that “at the current rate of progress, it will take 65 years for there to be equal numbers of men and women in top jobs with FTSE-100 companies. The pensions gap will take 45 years to neutralise. The full-time workers' pay gap between men and women will take 20 years to close, the part-timers' gap 25 years. It will take another 200 years for there to be equal numbers in parliament.”

The Commission is to be replaced by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights and this was its final report…..

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ireland: From saints and scholars to cybersex

Up to ten or fifteen years ago, Ireland was an almost pornography free zone. Books, magazines and films which were in any way questionable were kept out by censorship systems, says my That’s Men for You column in The Irish Times, published on 10th July.

That changed with the arrival of the internet. Today, cybersex in the form of pornography or chatrooms is a common Irish experience unless we are still an island of saints and scholars – and whatever about the scholars, the saints are definitely in short supply.

Users of cybersex can be divided into a few categories. First are those who spend relatively little time on this activity, who can take it or leave it and who become bored by it fairly quickly. A second category could be described as compulsive. Cybersex helps them to bypass real-life sexual problems – such as the effort of looking for a sexual partner – or to block out other concerns. This group may seek to control their use of Internet pornography but often fail in the attempt.

The third group is what some researchers call the at-risk category. Cybersex helps these people to block out uncomfortable emotions and becomes their principal means of doing so. It provides them with an attractive alternative to the often uncomfortable vicissitudes of real-life relationships. Indeed, for them cybersex may be the only type of interaction which can arouse the sort of emotions that would normally form part of social relationships. Members of this group can, at an extreme, spend the equivalent of a working week online to pornographic websites or sex chatrooms.

A key feature of cybersex is the absence of a sense of time passing. Psychologists call this a state of “flow” in which a person becomes utterly absorbed in a task. You may have experienced this state in relation to work, sports or other absorbing activities.

This hijacking of time is one of the primary means through which cybersex interferes with real-life social interactions. And that state of ‘flow’ increases the attractiveness of a return to the experience.

Giving up a dependence on cybersex the process can be as difficult as dropping any other compulsive behaviour. Psychologists say that users need to find a substitute activity which provides alternative enjoyment and satisfaction – easy to say but not necessarily so easy to do. They also need to develop the ability, each time the desire for cybersex arises, to wait for it to die away.....

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Irishmen over 50 turn to plastic surgery for the ‘menopaunch’

The number of men getting cosmetic surgery in Ireland and Britain has risen by 140% in the last five years, says this story on irishhealth.com.

The Harley Medical Group, which operates in both countries, also says more than a quarter of the liposuction procedures it does in Dublin are for men aged over 50, it says.

A common procedure now is removal of the ‘menopaunch’, stubborn fat around the stomach area which tends to persist in middle-aged men. Liposuction to get rid of this
costs around €3,700 and requires one week off work and six weeks total recovery, Harley says.

Liz Dale, director of Harley, said men account for 26% of all liposuction operations carried at out the centre in Dublin.

Ms Dale said eye bag removal (blepharoplasty), where surgeons remove loose skin from upper and lower eyelids, was the second most popular procedure among the over-50s. Blepharoplasty costs €5,900 for both eyelids.....

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bastards, bitches and the lost art of civility

That's the title of this entry in Sam de Brito's All men are liars blog in the Sydney Morning Herald. "One of the things I find interesting about male-female interactions in the dating world is how so many women complain that men are bastards, so many guys complain girls are bitches, yet both groups largely ignore their roles in creating those negative impressions," he writes.

“…both sexes need to understand the meaning of the word civility and its significance for all of us cattle who've agreed to live in civilisation rather than a stockyard. Civility doesn't mean taking people's shit, or accepting poor behaviour or even being friendly; it simply means being polite and the foundation of everything you see around you.

“If you don't practice it, male or female, don't be surprised if things get ugly,” he warns…..

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spouses help each other to clean up their act

When one spouse quits smoking or drinking, gets a cholesterol screening or rolls up a sleeve for a flu shot, the other spouse is more likely to follow suit, according to a new study published in the journal Health Services Research, says this report on Medical News Today.

"We consistently find that when one spouse improves his or her behavior, the other spouse is likely to do so as well," said study co-author Tracy Falba, Ph.D.

"It isn't clear which spouse drives the change, but it is clear that these things happen together," said Falba, a visiting assistant professor in Duke University's Center for Health Policy, Law and Management.

The study found that a spouse's influence differed depending on the health behavior. The sway of the positive role model was strongest when it came to smoking and drinking and weaker for things like getting more vigorous exercise and having a cholesterol test.

Many studies have shown that a spouse's habits and sometimes even marriage itself can influence individual health behaviors, the Medical News Today report adds. A 2006 study from researchers at Northwestern University found that marriage tends to make young men and women "clean up their act" and indulge in less binge drinking and marijuana use.

Monday, July 23, 2007

More than 80 per cent of suicides in Derry study were male

Over 83% of 60 suicides in the Derry area in the five years to the end of 2005 were male, according to a University of Ulster study reported in this story on irishhealth.com.

A peak in the number of suicides was recorded in the month of July.

The authors, Drs Amanda Burns and Tara Moore, said an increased incidence of suicides by young men had alse been recorded in the Republic of Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece. They attributed the phenomenon to the changed social role of young men compounded by other stress factors such as broken relationships, increased substance abuse and unemployment.

The Derry research revealed that in almost half the cases reported on, the person who took their own life was unemployed.

In almost 42% of the cases examined, the victim has been previously diagnosed with depression and there was a possible history of mental health problems in 11.7% of cases.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Forty per cent of Northen Ireland suicides are younger men, says report

More than 40 per cent of those who took their own lives in Northern Ireland between 2000 and 2004 were men under 35 years of age, according to a report from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (press release here; full report here in pdf format).

Main findings:

  • People in Northern Ireland report higher happiness levels than in many parts of Europe and further afield, yet this sits alongside high levels of unhappiness and psychological distress.
  • Conflict related trauma can have long term physical and mental consequences, and suicide rates have been associated with immediate and longer term consequences of conflict.
  • Research shows that people who live in an area heavily affected by violence tend to have very high rates of depression.
  • The troubles affected the way suicide was reported and recorded, and limited public recognition of suicide and self-harming as serious public issues.
  • During the transition to peace, people are more willing to report depression etc.
The suicide rate for men aged 25-34 in Northern Ireland doubled between 1995 and 2000. For those aged 15-24, it rose by 35 per cent and for those aged 55-64 by 70 per cent. For the 75+ age group the rate actually fell by 75 per cent.

For women the suicide rate more than trebled for the 25-34 year old group but fell for those aged 55 and over.

The number of suicides resulting directly from the interrogation and
punishment practices of loyalist and republican armed groups has not
been established, it says.....

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Do camp images make gay men cringe?

I wonder how many gay men cringe when they see camp depictions of gayness on Coronation Street or on some of Graham Norton’s shows? asked my That’s Men for You column in Tuesday’s Irish Times.

I am not denying the validity of campness but if campness is depicted by the media as the predominant expression of gayness, then where does that leave the majority of gay people who are not camp and who do not want to be seen as camp?

For instance, I can only imagine the distress felt by a young teenager who has realised that he is gay but who would find it agonisingly embarrassing to be regarded as one of those exotic people camping it up on television.

This, I suspect, is more of a problem for gay male teenagers than for gay female teenagers. The media likes to depict gay females as looking, sounding and acting the same as any other females. In other words it sticks closer to reality.

For these reasons I was delighted to read that groups for gay and lesbian young people are to be established around the country with the help of the HSE and the Departments of Education and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. This work is being spearheaded by a Dublin-based group called Belong To which helps gay young people between 14 and 23 years of age to meet in a safe and relaxed environment.

Michael Barron, the group’s national coordinator, recently told The Irish Times that the numbers of young people coming to the project’s groups in Dublin has been more than doubling each year. Some people travel to the groups from various parts of the country every week.

Mr Barron also pointed out that young people are increasingly willing to come out to their families and friends.

However, I see that a survey of its readers by Gay Community News found that while 80 per cent of respondents are “out” to their friends, only 60 per cent are out to their family and only 50 per cent to everyone at their workplace…..

The article was inspired by this piece on Dublin's Gay Pride Parade.

For Gay Community News article on Belong To click here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Quiklink: Half women did not enjoy first sex

Half women did not enjoy first sex says this report on a Durex survey by irishhealth.com.

Quiklink: Expensive 'fertility aid' fails

Expensive 'fertility aid' fails says this story on Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) on BBC News.

Irish case may force ruling on unmarried fathers' rights

An unmarried father is to take a case to the High Court in an attempt to have his two-year-old twin sons returned to him in Ireland from England, says this story by Ronan McGreevy in today's Irish Times. They were taken by their mother to Manchester from the couple's home in January.

A leading family law expert said last night that the case had the potential to be "hugely significant" in forcing the Irish courts to make a ruling on the rights of unmarried fathers.

When the father took a case to a court in England seeking the return of the children, Mrs Justice Mary Hogg said it was not appropriate for her to make a ruling on returning the children to Ireland.

The custody of the children was a matter for the Irish courts, she said.

The man, know as Mr G, with the support of the Unmarried Fathers of Ireland group, is now seeking an urgent High Court hearing in Ireland to determine if he has the right to custody of the children. He said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if that right was not vindicated in the High Court.

Unmarried Fathers of Ireland spokesman Donnacha Murphy said they would look for a High Court date by the end of this week and the case had the potential to become a landmark judgment. "The facts of this case would appear to constitute an ideal case for the consideration of discrimination within Irish family law legislation," he said.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Self immolation on the rise among Afghan women

An increasing number of young Afghan women decide that suicide is their only way of escaping violence and forced marriages, according to this item on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. Self-immolation – setting fire to oneself – is the most common method. Human rights organisations say that the number of reported cases have doubled in some parts of Afghanistan over the past year. The main causes of this disturbing phenomenon are domestic violence and forced child marriages (picture of 11 year old child bride, above right, with 55 year old groom. New York Times magazine).

According to this statement from medica mondiale, self-immolation is very frequently employed by young women and girls as a way of escaping violence in their families – even if this means death. Media mondiale is an NGO advocating for the rights of women who have suffered sexual violence in conflict situations. The statement says that:

  • Suicide occurs in all provinces, amongst both men and women (hanging, shooting, drowning in wells or rivers, taking rat poison or tablets, poisoning etc.).
  • Self-immolation is the most common method in the province, with especially frequent occurrences in the west in the Herat area.
  • Self-immolation is particularly frequent among women and girls in the 10-40 age group, although men also self-immolate.
  • Decisive factors amongst women and girls include profound psychological and physical violence (beatings, psychological torture, etc.) over extended periods of time, the still widespread custom of families exchanging girls as brides, for example in order to obtain money or goods, or to “pay off” debts or crimes, marriages of couples without their consent etc.
  • All these practices, which are rooted in archaic traditions and increasingly go hand-in-hand with rising levels of general poverty since the end of the war, are manifestations of the use of violence against the women and girls concerned and determine how they live their lives.
  • 85 per cent of the women who die as a result of their burns die because they are not taken to hospital, or are taken there too late, or because the hospitals have neither the medicines they need, nor skilled specialist healthcare staff.
  • An extreme social taboo surrounds self-immolation and it is kept quiet as much as possible, in order to spare the family of the victim from the “shame”. For survivors that means social isolation and exclusion.

Monday, July 2, 2007

UK family courts not like Guantánamo says magistrate

Family law courts in Ireland and Britain are often accused of treating fathers unjustly. Because their proceedings are not open to the media, the validity of these accusations is hard to assess. In a letter in today`s Guardian, a magistrate, Tim Ottevanger, defends the family court system against charges from Trevor Jones of Parents Against Injustice, in a previous letter. Jones had claimed that these courts comprised a `secret court system more reminiscent of Guantánamo Bay than Britain`. Jones was commenting on an announcement by the then justice secretary, Lord Falconer, that plans to open the family law courts to the media were being dropped partly because children were overwhelmingly against the idea.

`Magistrates in the family court system frequently agonise over the decisions they make, knowing the implications of their orders for the future welfare of the children,` writes Ottevanger. `Magistrates, as well as judges, have to base their decisions on the evidence before them. They do not claim infallibility, hence the need for a robust appeals system. Likening the system they operate within to a prison camp of questionable legality is cheap and insulting.`

Here in Ireland there is also questioning of the operation of the courts in relation, especially, to access to children following separation or divorce. To bring about some small degree of openness, the Courts Service has appointed Dr Carol Coulter (on leave of absence from The Irish Times) to produce research on what happens in family cases. Her first report showed a high level of agreement between separating parents on issues such as access to children. Fathers` advocates claim men are coerced into these agreements by the expectation that they will get a raw deal in court.

My own feeling is that Carol Coulter is nobody`s fool, has a strong sense of justice and is highly unlikely to be party to a whitewash of the family courts system (she has publicly stated that judges in family law cases rarely consider the input of children) - so I am inclined to take an optimistic view of her findings.

The argument can only be settled, and justice advanced, by allowing the media to report these cases on condition that the parties` anonymity is respected as has been the case for years in the Children`s Court.....

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sob, I can't pull the trigger - are non-violent women part of a male plot?

When the Western was in its heyday, one of its more clichéd scenes was the one in which a woman aimed her rifle at the big, strong male hero, warning him to back off. As she threatened to blow him away, we all knew that within the next thirty seconds the hero would edge forward until he could gently take the gun out of her weak, feminine, unprotesting hands. The message was simple: if you want shooting done, better get a man to do it because women are inherently incapable of that sort of thing.

Today I still feel a little shock of disbelief when I read about violent female teens, or girl gangs or women who are violent and abusive towards men or children. I guess that shock of disbelief explains why the murder of a man by the women who have become known as Ireland's scissors sisters transfixed the nation during their trial - had they been men the trial would have lacked a certain startle-value.

Yet the sanitising of women, of which the Western provides just one example, I suspect was in the service of keeping women 'in their place'. Their 'place' was in the home raising babies or, perhaps, doing 'women's work' such as nursing for which they could be underpaid because they were, after all, women doing it out of the goodness of their little hearts. Needless to say, these gentle creatures couldn't be expected to run countries or companies or even sales departments.

So in a perverse way the stories of violent women that we now hear more and more frequently serve to rebalance our view of reality in a way which sees women just as capable of taking on aggressive roles as men.

You know what? Every time I saw that scene in the Western I prayed for the woman to pull the trigger. Is there some female director out there who will make my dream come true?