What If Other People Made You Use Your Teeth Only For Smiling?

Many people still fail to understand breastfeeding. They are not all grandiose males like Donald Trump, who “lost it” at an attorney who wanted to take a pre-scheduled and agreed-upon lunch break to pump her baby’s food in a private office, unwatched by anyone.

Some people who fail to understand are corporate employees, like those at a Walmart who refused to print photos showing a baby at the breast (Walmart rejects photos involving “sexual content”; it walked back from its stance and apologized to the baby’s mother, acknowledging that breastfeeding is not sexual).

Some of those who live in ignorance are even female (presumably those who fed their babies formula, or who are childfree); according to one survey, these women are apt to toss dirty looks or snide comments at those who are feeding their babies from the breast.

That we should still, in the United States, be at such woeful levels of ignorance, willing to let babies obtain less than their mothers are willing to give – in 2015! – is simply astounding.

Look, I get it, you’re all for breastfeeding . . . until it impinges on your consciousness. Until someone does it near you. Until you feel embarrassed (why?) and turn your head.

Until, that is, you see breasts being used for their designed purpose.

However you think the animal world developed (nature; one god; multiple gods; “seeding” from an alien planet; fill-in-your-theory-here), the fact is that mammary glands developed to feed mammalian babies and small offspring. That is their FUNCTION.

Now, you may find breasts attractive, especially if you are male or lesbian. That is RESPONSE, which may be sexual.

You may think breasts should never be displayed without a bra or bikini top, however skimpy it is. Or you may believe that unbound breasts belong only on glossy pages or in the pixels of online porn. That is FASHION.

When women breastfeed their babies and small children, their breasts are fulfilling the function for which they were designed. They are making no attempt to be sexual (especially if the baby has begun to bite – nothing sexual about that – or if the mother is battling infection, ditto on the lack of sexiness). If watchers who do not turn their eyes elsewhere respond in a sexual manner (not all males or lesbians do), their response is on them.

Some people believe that human breasts can be displayed for fashion (on the beach, for modeling, in low-cut dresses – Donald Trump seems to be onboard with his wife Melania’s lavish display of frontage here and here and here) but not for function.

Imagine someone insisting that your teeth are fine in a smile, but should not be used for chewing or biting, at least not within plain sight.

“I like to see your teeth, they’re beautiful, you have a gorgeous smile, but when they’re mixed up with food? With eating? God, no! Don’t show me functioning teeth!”

Ridiculous, right?

So is disparaging breastfeeding that’s going on near you. If you have a negative response, look away – there’s tons to see elsewhere. You’re envious, or jealous? Deal with it internally. You think the breast should be more covered, even though babies often wrench covers off because they feel hot and stifled? Look away and chill. If that woman were not breastfeeding, but instead were wearing a low-cut shirt, would you have the same reaction? You might – but that would be an objection to fashion.

Objecting to function will never make sense. Try using your teeth for smiling – only smiling – for an entire day, 24 hours. No biting, no chewing, nothing that will gain you nourishment.

Teeth are made for more than smiling. They have a function.

Breasts are made for more than pretty. Their function is to feed small humans the milk that nature intended, that is made specifically for that child’s needs. There is so much right in that, that to object to it seems irrational.

vvv

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In Sheep’s Clothing: Using Religion to Camouflage Pain

Occasionally, a newspaper report comes out that is so horrifying, so disruptive of inner peace, that it demands re-posting. The front-page New York Times report today on the sexual enslavement of women and girls by the group calling themselves ISIS is one such journalistic event.

Here is the link. Please read it all, even if you have to take breaks in between paragraphs.

Note that the men in this so-called holy group are equal opportunity torturers (yes, rape is torture). As this 2014 Wall Street Journal report shows, they rape and mutilate (FGM is mutilation) at will.

It is the creation of rape and enslavement as a business supposedly underpinned by God that is detailed in the Times report. A few quotes for those who haven’t the stomach to read the whole article:

–“In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

“He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

“When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“’I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,’” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “’He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,’” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

–“ A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.”

–“[The girls and women] would be held in confinement, some for days, some for months. Then, inevitably, they were loaded into the same fleet of buses again before being sent in smaller groups to Syria or to other locations inside Iraq, where they were bought and sold for sex.

“It was 100 percent preplanned,” said Khider Domle, a Yazidi community activist who maintains a detailed database of the victims. “I spoke by telephone to the first family who arrived at the Directory of Youth in Mosul, and the hall was already prepared for them. They had mattresses, plates and utensils, food and water for hundreds of people.”

— “In a pamphlet published online in December, the Research and Fatwa Department of the Islamic State detailed best practices, including explaining that slaves belong to the estate of the fighter who bought them and therefore can be willed to another man and disposed of just like any other property after his death.

“Recent escapees describe an intricate bureaucracy surrounding their captivity, with their status as a slave registered in a contract. When their owner would sell them to another buyer, a new contract would be drafted, like transferring a property deed.”

— [From the verified account of a woman also kidnapped and raped]: “’He destroyed her body. She was badly infected. The fighter kept coming and asking me, ‘Why does she smell so bad?’ And I said, she has an infection on the inside, you need to take care of her,’” the woman said.

“Unmoved, he ignored the girl’s agony, continuing the ritual of praying before and after raping the child.

“I said to him, ‘She’s just a little girl,’” the older woman recalled. “And he answered: ‘No. She’s not a little girl. She’s a slave. And she knows exactly how to have sex. And having sex with her pleases God.’”

Regardless of our own political affiliation, regardless of our own gender, our own history or religion, surely we can see what these men are. They’re Nazis, dressed up in robes. They use religion as Hitler and Goebbels used political division and the power to destroy. They’re wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing, bleating how they’re doing the will of God, purifying the race, blah blah blah, whatever is the slogan du jour.

It’s not enough to tear off the sheepskins they hide under.

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Time To Redo This Ten-Year-Old Research – and Examine Men This Time

(To my readers: A recent move and downsizing has been a bit of chaos. Culling is tough – and worth it, since less is easier to re-move than more. Still unsettled, but with reliable internet, I’m back to the blog. Thanks for reading!)

When was the last time you heard of a man who, newly separated or about to be from his girlfriend/lover/wife, murdered her… and often her children? It happens often enough. Here and here and here. This man had the chutzpah to claim his religion allowed him to murder his wife. This man set up the murder to look like an anti-Muslim hate crime. This man, a police officer, murdered two of his small children as well as his wife.

What were these guys thinking???

Often enough, the relationship is discovered post-mortem to be replete with abusive and controlling behavior on the part of the husbands. They monitor where their wives go, who they talk to. They insult them, attack them with words and fists. They apparently believe that to do so is “manly”. Especially to a smaller person who would not be permitted under current rules to enter the same boxing ring.

Bad enough, right? Definitely cause for friends and family to haul her to safety and haul him over the coals.

Yet to accelerate to murder?

In all this household culling, I’ve unearthed articles I printed out once upon a time. Most have been trashed. Several, I kept, including this one entitled (it was 2005) “Why breaking up is hard to do for women”. In it, the author quotes a study of brain research that found that “brain activity associated with separation grief follows a unique pattern that is different to other types of loss such as bereavement”.

At least in this small sample of 11 women getting over a recent break-up and using MRI technology, “the results suggested that the women who claimed to be suffering the most following their break-ups had the greatest brain changes when thinking about their former relationships”. Their neural pathways had been altered by the trauma of relationship loss.

Such changes evidenced as grief, depression and sadness. Said one woman, “To me, the break-up felt worse than a bereavement. I felt angry, depressed and physically very lethargic. I could not concentrate on anything and would lie on my bed for days on end.”

That’s a female subject. Women’s depression commonly is experienced as sadness and withdrawal.

Depression in men, however, can look quite different. Irritability, hostility, anger, substance abuse are all signals of male depression – and they are clear risks to others. They may even, as above, be lethal.

It’s beyond obvious that we need to assert to male friends and co-workers, to brothers, sons, and cousins, “No matter how bad you feel, do not take anyone else’s life.”

Another factor to make clear is that emotional trauma – for so long the criticized province of women – can affect the brain of anyone at all. Yet it is temporary. It will not last. During that period, we need to protect vulnerable people, especially wives and children, from the man whose brain has been affected. And society needs to make sure he does not attack.

If that means taking away his guns and knives, why not? How much does it cost society to lose a murder victim? How much in lost hours, lost hopes, the therapy for survivors and friends? How much to arrest, try, convict and incarcerate the murderer? Those costs – which ripple out like a stone cast into a pond – are too high for society when by acting, we can prevent them.

It would help, too, when this ten-year-old research is replicated with adult participants who are, this time, male.

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“Enough Is Enough”

The recent battle over a Canadian high school’s dress code pits a halter dress against a concept: that girls are responsible for the lustful thoughts of boys and men.

The dress code at Harrison Trimble High School in New Brunswick, where 17-year-old Lauren Wiggins is a student, specifies that “shirts” must cover the back and shoulders. By extrapolation, that means dresses (Wiggins’s fell to her ankles) must also employ fabric to cover the wearer’s shoulders and back. Frankly, it’s a reasonable request for health and safety reasons. If something fell on students’ shoulders (hot food in the cafeteria, chemicals in the lab, a bat or ball during physical education class), they would have at least a layer of protection against injury.

Health and safety, however, were not the reasons cited by Trimble High School’s principal, Shane Sturgeon, when he demanded that Wiggins cover her back and shoulders. Instead, he required a change in attire because the halter dress was “sexually distracting” to the male students at her high school.

He said nothing about the potential distraction to lesbian female students. Perhaps he believes they do not exist. Nor did he mention how male students are affected by the sight of bare male shoulder blades and spines. In a game of shirts versus skins, for example.

Shane Sturgeon is a man. He was once a teenage boy. If he makes a strong effort, he might recall that at that age, almost anything was “sexually distracting” to him. The movie he viewed the night before. The girl he would meet in math class, a girl whose body he had never seen but lustfully imagined. His school bus ride over a bumpy road. Anything can set a teenage boy (or a man, for that matter) off on a tangent, because nature cares nothing for individuals or their discomfort. Its focus is on perpetuation of the species.

Calling Wiggins’s dress “sexually distracting” is ridiculous. Sturgeon would be more accurate if he said life is sexually distracting.

This not strictly a North American problem. In the English city of Hull, not far from the North Sea, a male teacher at Bridlington School told a student her uniform skirt was “too short” – for unknown reasons he chose not to summon a female colleague to talk with the girl – and she promptly replied that he should not be looking at her legs. Instead of quoting the dress code, he felt “uncomfortable” and went to the principal with his concerns. (If an apropos comment forces him, “uncomfortable”, to run to authority, perhaps he ought to seek new employment. The rigors of school are not for him.) In response, the principal decided to ban uniform skirts altogether. Parents must now buy trousers for their daughters from the chosen school supplier, who applies a hefty markup over the local store’s price for the same item. Parents are understandably outraged (I expect the mothers recall when they were forbidden to wear “unfeminine” trousers to class) and call the school’s decision “sexist”. Their petition already has 1,100 signatures.

There’s a sinister force at work here, and it creeps close to the idea held in many countries and by fundamentalist religions: that men’s honor is found between the legs of women. What a way to eschew personal responsibility! It underpins the brutality of female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, family-directed murders, all the horrors of societies whose culture demands the sacrifice of the safety and health of girls and women.

Similarly, in the eyes of Harrison Trimble High School’s principal, girls are made responsible for boys’ lustful thoughts and erectile virginity.

Look, Mr. Sturgeon. The only person responsible for one’s thoughts and reactions is . . . that person. Including you. If you find Wiggins’s dress distracting, that’s on you. You could bury yourself in your work, turn your thoughts to cauliflower, remind yourself that as an adult you are required to view your charges as students, not potential sex partners.

If you find Wiggins’s dress breaches the dress code rules, then it’s on you to say that. Full stop, end of sentence. You might talk about health and safety, as well.

But blaming her is just not on. Piling onto her slender shoulders the burdens of her classmates’ impure thoughts and the condition of their penises is outrageous. Consider that many of those classmates over-stimulated themselves – and reduced their empathy, thus dehumanizing themselves – by watching porn the night before. Those are pixels on a screen. Not human beings in the room. Yet you want to offload responsibility for students’ erections onto their female classmates?

Get real.

Lauren Wiggins wrote to her principal, saying in part, “If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent to be sent home and practice self control.”

Excellent idea. Followed by an in-depth look at personal responsibility and the risks of online porn to one’s brain development – since the frontal lobes of teenagers are still under construction.

There are excellent reasons to require the covering of students’ shoulders and backs, none of which are related to sexuality. Those reasons should be applied across the board. No more skins in boys’ games.

And no more blaming high school girls’ attire for their classmates’ thoughts and erections.

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Outlander’s Epic Fail

“Outlander’s” Jenny Fraser Murray (Laura Donnelly) and Claire Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe)

I first read Outlander years ago, so even though the current series takes liberties with plot and characters, I accept those as the price of bringing fiction to a televised (read: larger) audience. It’s all good. Until it goes sour. Ignoring the laws of nature.

Like, if “Outlander” had the sun rising in the west. Nope, against the laws of astronomy (and probably physics). Or if the writers made rain fall up from the ground. Against the laws of physics, specifically gravity.

On this past weekend’s episode, Claire Fraser and her newly delivered sister-in-law Jenny take horse (imagine what that must feel like to the tender, stretched tissues of a woman who’s just given birth) to track the English soldiers who have captured Claire’s Scottish husband. Along the way, Jenny must relieve her milk-engorged breasts to keep up her milk supply and to prevent infection until she can return to her new baby.

To do that, she simply drops her bodice and squeezes the milk out into a cup. The process is called letdown, and happens as a result of hormonal response. (She could even drink her own milk, as this woman did while lost in the wilderness.) It’s a scene straight out of the book. Messy it might be – as almost everything to do with bairns is, Jenny tells Claire – but essential for her own health and for her continued milk supply. As an experienced mother, Jenny knows what she’s doing.

Unfortunately, her body does not. Defying the laws of anatomy and physiology, the pale milk (at least the color is right) squirts out of Jenny’s nipple in a single proud stream.

No. Just no. That’s not how it works. Not with human breasts.

As every breastfeeding woman knows, human nipples have several openings to the active milk ducts. If a nursing child withdraws from the breast, he’ll be spattered with a fine, whitish shower of tiny drops streaming from multiple ducts. If they catch in his hair, they’ll look like sticky-sweet snowflakes.

The milk thus arrives not in a single jet, but in a spray. It’s an effective way to deliver sweet-tasting milk to the tastebuds of a newborn, encouraging her to drink more.

How hard would it have been for the producers of “Outlander” to have researched the matter? Just call a lactation consultant. Ask any woman on the production team who’s nursed her own child. Relay the information to the props department. “Yo, guys, not one stream, but several tiny ones!” A snap.

It’s too bad “Outlander” did not do that. The scene was a moving one, and amusing and practical for women who’ve had to deal with their own excess milk production. Laura Donnelly, who plays Jenny, said in an interview, “I thought that was probably a first on TV. We’re very used to seeing breasts displayed sexually on-screen, and I thought this was an opportunity to show breasts for what they’re really there for, in a completely nonsexual manner, that really turns the tables. It’s an absolute necessity at that point for her, and she doesn’t think twice about it. It’s not something that should be hidden away in any sense, and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of.”

Nothing to be ashamed of at all. Except for the way “Outlander” managed the epic fail of mis-portraying the physiology of human breasts.

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Pro-Rape T-Shirt? Clearly, The Wearer Has Never Been Raped

Clearly delusional. And inexperienced as a potential victim.

All sorts of kudos to the people who outed the nasty perv above on social media. No name yet – a matter of hours, presumably – but a cascade of comments on the cruelty shown by the wearer of the t-shirt have erupted on social media.

Designed after similar others (another famous shirt bears the slogan “Eat Sleep Juventus Repeat” – Juventus is a professional football club/soccer team based in Turin, Italy) in what I hope is a one-off, self-created shirt, the tee took ignorance and spiteful brutality and put them on display at the well-attended Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in desert California.

It seems hardly necessary to add that – well, taking a wild guess, I’m betting the designer/wearer of this obnoxious shirt has never been raped himself.

Nor should he be. Though others might applaud the educational value of becoming the victim instead of the perp, rape should not be used as a punishment for sex crimes. An eye for an eye has never been more wrong.

Is wearing the shirt a sex crime? As an incitement to sexual assault, sure. There’s also willful negligence and perhaps a sort of group libel.

Just to demonstrate how tough it can be for survivors of sexual assault to take the initiative and report what happened to them, take a look at this English video. Filmed in the Tube, it shows the varying sex assaults common on public transportation (one reason for “women only” train carriages in India and other nations). The filmmaker falls down only in showing the same two people repeatedly. Woman of color, well-dressed white man. The producers should have shown other combinations, since white men are not the only scuzzy Tube-riders.

Then there’s this delightful fellow, an architect who while raping a woman he had met on a blind date, told her that “girls say ‘no’ but they don’t mean it”. Poor women, saying words without realizing their true significance. How kind of him to tell us what we mean. That no means yes, the sky is yellow, and other falsehoods.

When it comes to self-control, then, some men (T-shirt guy, dude on the Tube, deluded architect) are permanently out to lunch. Yet current research indicates that self-control is one of the most essential traits parents can teach their children. Without it, they are at the mercy of emotions. Also, as they age, of error-ridden thoughts like “rape is minor” or “I’m entitled to touch another person without permission” or “people who try to stop me don’t really mean it”.

In all the above offenses there is a distinct lack of good cognitive thought. Of sufficient judgment. Of self-restraint.

Let’s hope the t-shirt wearer is soon found, named and shamed. He cannot learn any younger.

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Can Sexual Violence Be Blamed on Genes?

I’m not sure if this is good news except from a scientist’s perspective. Recently, genetic studies in Sweden demonstrated that the propensity to rape is up to five times higher if a man’s brother or father has been convicted of rape.

Because Sweden keeps meticulous records, researchers were able to determine – by comparing half-brothers of different mothers, who generally do not reside together – that up to 40% of the propensity to rape is due to genetic factors. The majority (60%) of the propensity to rape is thus cultural, including a sense of overweening entitlement.

From the article in The Independent: “Scientists said the findings should not be used to excuse sex offending, to restrict the freedom of the male relatives of sex offenders, or to suggest that there are genes for rape or paedophilia. However, they believe the results could lead to better prevention strategies for the sons or brothers of known sex offenders.”

“. . . although sex crime convictions are relatively few overall, our study shows that the family risk increase is substantial. Preventive treatment for families at risk could possibly reduce the number of future victims,” Professor Niklas Langstrom said.

Brave words.

Meanwhile, not only does at least 60% of the propensity to rape derive from cultural factors, we already know what some of those factors are. In a United Nations survey of men in ten Asian countries (not including India), men commonly gave three excuses for why they forced sex on someone who did not want it: boredom, a craving for “excitement” and a sense that they were entitled to force their way into someone else’s body.

Boredom, a search for titillation, entitlement. An unholy trinity, indeed. Add to that the wish to control and humiliate. Though the survey respondents declined to describe themselves that way. Presumably the words cut too close to the bone.

That is where the real work lies, in changing abhorrent cultural attitudes found around the world. There is no difference between a rapist in rural China and one in the US military stationed in New York – except that one wears a uniform and speaks English. Their societies must challenge their views on sexual violence against women, children and men.

There is clearly a role for law enforcement and the courts, as well. The millions of American rape kits languishing on the shelves of police forces nationwide have to be examined. In all countries, law enforcement has to gear up to enforce, well, the laws against rape and sexual violence.

Here’s what can happen when the person in charge declines to take charge: a $3.5 million dollar settlement of a lawsuit. The Arizona sheriff failed to adequately investigate the rape of a 13-year-old. The rapist then struck again, attacking the same child. Now the county must pay up.

It’s a lot less expensive to do the job right the first time. Less painful, less traumatic.

Meanwhile, I look forward to new methods of preventing rape. First, by addressing cultural attitudes. Next, by focusing on genetic profiles, so that boys at risk of becoming rapists are redirected and taught to channel their energies elsewhere.

Finally, we need to learn how to heal the human brain. Genetic markers identified, fine. But those markers do not just sit there in the genome. They affect the brain. In order to neutralize the genes’ influence, we must be able to counter them. Interventions help. Healing the brain – fifty years from now, people will marvel at our current inability to do so – is the only sure way to stop rapists.

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