Category Archives: gynocentrism

Reproductive Coercion and Research Omissions ( 4 – Bias Against Men and Boys in Psychological Research )

I was browsing on the web and happened to read an article about a study on “Reproductive Coercion.” As I read it I was amazed at the sorts of statistics that the study was quoting. One article said that 53% of women surveyed had experienced violence in her relationships. “Wow” I thought, thatʼs over half of the respondents. Thatʼs quite a few. I read on and other stats were quoted that were equally shocking. I began to wonder about how they got such alarming statistics.

My interest was stimulated and I started searching for articles on this research. There were plenty. One from Newsweek, one from Science News Daily, one from Medical News Today, one from EScience News, one from the LA Times and others. They all made similar claims about this study and often used the same quotes and the same statistics. I kept looking for more articles thinking that with statistics as strong as these that there must be something unusual here. I wondered if their sample was biased in some way or perhaps the way they had defined their terms had inflated the numbers. About the tenth article I found was one from the college newspaper of the lead researcher in the study. The publication was called “The Aggie” and was the student paper for the University of California, Davis. That article included something that the others had omitted. The Aggie article said that the survey was done on an “impoverished” population of African American and Hispanic females. It went on to say that the study should not be generalized:

“The five clinics surveyed were in impoverished neighborhoods with Latinas and African Americans comprising two-thirds of the respondents.

The results are expected to be applicable to reproductive health clinics in demographically poor areas. Researchers cannot estimate if surveys at private gynecologists would produce similar results.”

Suddenly the results started to make more sense. We know that lower socio-economic levels tend to show much higher levels of interpersonal violence (IPV). One DOJ report shows that women with lower income levels are almost three times more likely to experience relationship violence than those with higher incomes. We know that women in rental housing are also three times more likely to experience IPV than those in homes that they own. By studying a sample that was impoverished it dramatically increased the likelihood of finding higher rates of IPV.

Then I started to wonder. How was it that all of the national media articles which had obviously been seen by millions of people had missed the sample being of impoverished African American and Hispanic females? I started to think that the media was simply not doing their homework and that their readers were getting fed misinformation as a result.

I decided at that point to obtain a copy of the study. I went to the online site for the Journal Contraception which had published the original article and purchased a copy. I read it. By the end I was shocked. There was no mention in the journal article of the socio-economic status of the sample that had been surveyed. No mention of whether they were rich or poor. I had to catch myself because I had earlier assumed that it was the media not doing their homework and simply not reading the journal article. But now it was a completely different situation. The information had been omitted from the journal article. How could that be? This was an article that had 7 researchers named as co-authors. It had to have been read and edited over and over again. How could it be that something so basic would have been left out?

I decided to write to the lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Miller. I sent her an email and asked about the sample. I told her that I had read the article in the Aggie that had mentioned that the sample was “impoverished” African American and Hispanic females and I was interested to know if this was correct or if the Aggie had made a mistake. She wrote me back a very pleasant email in several days apologizing for taking so long to get back to me and saying that yes, the Aggie was correct that the sample was largely disadvantaged African American and Hispanic females. I wrote her back very quickly and asked why that information had not been mentioned in the journal article. I also asked if she was concerned about the national media articles that never mentioned the fact that the sample was impoverished and seemed to be erroneously implying that the study could generalize to the population at large. She wrote me back once but has never offered any answers to those questions.

At that point I contacted Gabrielle Grow, the author of the Aggie article and congratulated her on a job well done. I asked her how she had found out about the sample being “impoverished.” She told me that it was just one of the questions that she had asked the researchers in the interview. I wrote her back and congratulated her again and explained to her that all of the national articles including Newsweek, LA Times, Science News Daily, EScience News, Medical News Today and others had all missed that important bit of information. Ms Grow was the only reporter that asked the important question.

But why did the national news media not ask the same question? This is an important question and we really donʼt know the answer at this point. What we do know is the study issued a press release about the research findings and never mentioned the sample being largely a poor population. They also made no mention of the fact which is referenced in their study that this sort of population has higher reports of IPV thus creating inflated responses when compared to the general population. It made no mention that the study should be applicable only to other poor neighborhoods. Reading the press release one might easily assume that the study applied to everyone. Here are just a few of the points the press release made:

1. Men use coercion and birth control sabotage to cause their partners to become pregnant against their wills.

2. Young women and teenage girls often face efforts by male partners to sabotage their birth control or coerce or pressure them to become pregnant – including by damaging condoms and destroying contraceptives.

3. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they had experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner.

4. Male partners actively attempt to promote pregnancy against the will of their female partners.

With no mention in the press release that the studyʼs sample was largely indigent African American and Hispanic females one could get the impression from reading it that the study might apply to the general population. Even though the researchers when asked by Ms Grow, admitted that the study should only be applied to the poor. One can only assume that the researchers failed not only to mention this important information in the press release but also didnʼt offer this to the media in any of the interviews. Actually there was very little information offered that might have discouraged the media from playing this as a study about men and women in general.

This is obvious when you look at the headlines and quotes from various news articles. Here is a sampling:

NEWSWEEK

“What we’re seeing is that, in the larger scheme of violence against women and girls, it is another way to maintain control,” says Miller.”
“The man is taking away a woman’s power to decide she’s not going to have a child.”

LA Times

“Reproductive coercion is a factor in unintended pregnancies”
“Young women even report that their boyfriends sabotage birth control to get them pregnant.”

ScienceDaily

“Over half the respondents — 53 percent — said they had experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner.”

“The study also highlights the importance of working with young men to prevent both violence against female partners and coercion around pregnancy.”

Physorg

“Approximately one in five young women said they experienced pregnancy coercion”

ESCIENCE NEWS

“Young women and teenage girls often face efforts by male partners to sabotage birth control or coerce pregnancy — including damaging condoms and destroying contraceptives”

INSCIENCES

“This study highlights an under-recognized phenomenon where male partners actively attempt to promote pregnancy against the will of their female partners,” said lead study author Elizabeth Miller, a

Medical News Today

Headline – Physical or Sexual Violence Often Accompanies Reproductive Coercion

End Abuse . org

“It finds that young women and teenage girls often face efforts by male partners to sabotage their birth control or coerce or pressure them to become pregnant – including by damaging condoms and destroying contraceptives.”

What do these quotes and headlines have in common? They all sound as if the study in question applies to the general population of men and women, boys and girls. The circulation of Newsweek is 2.7 million so just from that source alone a great many people have been given the impression that men in general will tend to coerce women in general to get pregnant.

The first level is the research paper itself. The Contraception Journal was obviously read by many, especially other researchers. Then the next level is the national media that wrote stories about the study. We saw above some of the sorts of misrepresentations that were common from the national media articles. But things go even further. Once the journal article is published and then the media articles follow there is a third wave that hits: the blogs. When end users hear this sort of thing they take it a step farther. Here are just a few examples of what happens:

Hereʼs a headline from a blog:

Crazy, Condom-Puncturing Control Freaks Are Often Men

So we have gone from omitting the nature of the sample to the printing of articles in the national media that implicate men in general and once this happens the end users at the blogs take that information and exaggerate it much farther. Hereʼs another example:

There is a new study which discusses a horribly prevalent but rarely discussed form of intimate partner violence: reproductive coercion.

So we have gone from low income Black and Hispanic females claiming to be coerced to making global pronouncements about reproductive coercion being “horribly prevalent.” Right. Those crazy condom puncturing control freaks are part of a horribly prevalent pattern.

It doesnʼt take much imagination to see the next step of a dinner table discussion of this issue. The daughter announces at the table that it is men who puncture condoms and force women into pregnancy. Mom tells her that that couldnʼt be and the daughter pulls up a link to the blog and then to the Newsweek article. Dad is still unimpressed until she pulls up a link to the study which partially verifies her false claim. All at the table are convinced now it is the men in general who are coercing women into pregnancy.

This is the way memes get started. A “research” article tells half the story and the partial data is misinterpreted unknowingly by the media who then pass on the half story as truth to unwitting millions who hear the medias version and their claim that it is research driven and the public is sold. It must be true! This is of course what happened with domestic violence. Early feminist researchers only told half the story, that women were victims of domestic violence and men were perpetrators. The media simply passed on the story to millions and the rest is history. We have a general public who is convinced that it is only women who are victims of domestic violence.

The scientific method is very clear. You create a hypothesis and find a way to test it. You then carefully sift though the test data and account for the data that affirms your hypothesis and importantly account for the data that conflicts with your hypothesis. What has happened over and over from feminist researchers is simply ignoring the data that conflicts with your hypothesis (male victims) and focusing solely on that data that confirms your ideology (female victims). Interestingly in this study the researchers failed to ask the subjects if they had also coerced their male partners. They only asked the questions that would provide them with the “acceptable” answers.

In the study examined in this article the researchers seem to have “forgotten” to remind the media of the limitations of their sample. In a similar fashion to the first study, the press release seems to have been used to steer the data. One could assume that leaving out the nature of the sample was an honest mistake. If so, I would have expected Dr Miller to respond to my email asking about the omission of the nature of the sample. But she did not. This leaves us not knowing if the mistake was or was not intentional.

Perhaps we will never know. I know what my guess is. Whatʼs yours?

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False Accusations and the Denial of Men’s Emotional Pain

I keep hearing that false  accusations of rape make it harder on real victims of rape.  Really? There may be a kernel of truth in this idea but it completely ignores the trauma and pain of the man who is falsely accused. The knee jerk reaction of most people is to worry over the woman and ignore the pain of the man.

This pattern to focus on females in emotional pain and offer help whilman-164216_1280e ignoring the emotional pain of men and boys is the default in the United States.  This not only leaves our men and boys without help, it also leaves us with an ignorance about their emotional pain.

To get a sense of the emotional pain of the falsely accused listen to the words of a young man falsely accused of rape via an article on slate.com:

“My girlfriend was raped several years ago.  I was falsely accused of rape less than a year ago.  I contacted her (I had known her before her incident) because I was desperate for someone to talk to who would understand what I was going through.  To my great relief, it turned out that we understood each other very well.  From the initial stages of suicidal thoughts and not being able to function to the long-term fear, mistrust, and guilt that are facts of our lives, it turns out that her experience of being raped and mine of being falsely accused of rape were very similar. …”

He touches on some of the hallmarks of a false accusation which he and his girlfriend realized were very similar to her reaction to having been raped.  The loss of functioning, the suicidal thoughts, the long-term fear and mistrust along with the potent guilt are a few of their similar reactions. 

It often starts out innocently enough.  He hears that she has accused him of something he didn’t do.  He is not so worried, at least not at first.  He knows he did nothing wrong and figures that when people get the facts that this will blow over like a dark cloud that never rains a drop.  But, to his shock, he starts seeing that even when he speaks the truth about what actually happened he is still considered a criminal.

But our young falsely accused man goes a step farther in his descriptions of his situation.  Listen to what he says:

“One important difference, though, is that when she was violated, she received a great deal of help (medical, legal, psychological).  Apart from family and friends, I was on my own.  My legal and psychological problems had to be dealt with by me at a time when I couldn’t eat, sleep, or think (except, of course, about killing myself).”

He sees very clearly that very few believe him while nearly everyone believes the woman. The system and our culture are failing him. His pain is invisible while hers is treated with reverence, even though she is lying. 

He must be shocked by the amount of coddling and care that she gets from friends, family, the university, the authorities, and so many others.  He is likely shocked again when he compares this to the reaction he receives.  Almost no support, but plenty of negatives.

In most instances the woman is believed no matter what. The police ignore his side and treat him like a rapist, the media is more than happy to paint him as if convicted and throw his name around willy nilly with at least the inference that he is a rapist. Rape centers make demands that all those claiming to have been raped should be believed no matter what.  While it might be a good idea to put your trust in someone in crisis it quickly turns to crap if you put your trust in someone who is lying.  The rape centers refuse to admit there are liars out there and they will go to great lengths to shame the police, the hospital, the media, the public or anyone who might even ask a question about the veracity of her claims.  This sets us up for a real mess. By giving the liars a pass you set up the falsely accused for chaos.

As time goes on he realizes that he is basically alone in his knowledge of the truth.  No one believes him.  Even his friends are wondering.  He starts to feel way out on a limb and also very shocked.  It is just hard to believe that your entire universe of friends, teachers, adults are looking at you sideways due to the lies of a woman.  It’s hard to believe that a system of “justice” has gotten things so wrong and is intentionally and wrongly painting you as a criminal.  The world which not long ago seemed safe and predictable has now become unsafe and very unpredictable. This promotes confusion and  the devastating isolation that is so common for the falsely accused along with the potent fears of the world being a big unpredictable booby trap.  They feel isolated, profoundly judged and labelled, unsafe and alone and in a world that has gone mad.

This is a billboard that says double standard.  While the emotional plight of the young woman is given support at every step by friends, family, the police, courts, the media and others the emotional state of the young falsely accused male is ignored and denied.  He is viewed as the problem. She is automatically seen as a victim simply because she accuses him, he is seen as a pariah simply for being accused. He is in great pain and turmoil but no one lifts a finger to be of assistance.  The sad fact is he is presumed guilty prior to trial. He is now seen as an object, not as a human being.  He is profoundly objectified. The double standard could not be more stark.

The larger problem is that this pattern of catering to the emotional pain of females and ignoring the emotional pain of males is not exclusive to false accusations.  You see this same pattern most everyplace you look.  In my work with traumatized men over the past 30 years I have seen it repeatedly.  Time and again I would see that in a traumatized family the men’s wives would be the focus of help and the man’s pain would be ignored.  Often times people would approach the father and rather than ask about his situation they would say, “How’s your wife holding up?” The woman gets the support, the man, gets asked about his wife.

This same pattern is seen when our culture, media, and academia all focus on female victims of domestic violence and ignore the male victims.  They do this even though research shows that men are about 1/2 of the victims.  Congress sets up a billion dollar service for women and men get ignored or even blamed.

We see the same ignoring of men’s emotional pain when we see that males are 80% of completed suicide but there are no services specifically for males who are suicidal.  There is also not much research looking into why men are 80% of completed suicides.  It seems it is much easier to get funding to study women, the men get left out.  And of course, the media fails to inform the public of men in pain.  Dead silence.  Same thing with workplace deaths where men are 93% of the dead.  People simply don’t care.  If these deaths were female or even some minority the media would be screaming loudly.  But when men are the victims, we get silence.

Our culture is now and always has been very gynocentric. (for more information see http://gynocentrism.com)  One definition of gynocentrism found on that site is “any culture instituting rules for gender relationships that benefit females at the expense of males across a broad range of measures.”  When it comes to emotional needs it is clear in our culture that a woman’s emotional pain is a call to action while a man’s emotional pain is ignored.  Some try to cover this profound bias by claiming men are cold and don’t want to deal with their emotions.  But this has simply been a cover to excuse oneself from even needing to pay the slightest attention to the man’s emotional pain. Epic fail.

The contrast is great between the cultural response to female and male emotional pain.   One gets compassion and the other gets ignored, shamed, or both.  This contrast is so great that it behooves the label of bigotry. Just as we saw whites create a system where whites automatically got services superior to that of blacks today we see our government and charities  developing services where women get care and compassion far superior to that of men and no one even notices. No one.  Reminds me of a bigoted 1950’s southern town that didn’t think its action were in any way a problem. In today’s world, the status quo, that is nearly everyone, are guilty of bigotry by not having compassion for the emotional pain of men. Which side of the fence do you stand on? Are you a bigot who has little compassion for boys and men? 

Perhaps someday we will look back on this era and see its bigotry just as we now look back on the racism of the 1950’s.  I do hope that day comes quickly.

 

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