Musings on Mormonism

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Gender issues category.

Boys apparently aren’t doing well

…I have encountered this idea before, but have not as of yet devoted a lot of time to processing the various sources relating to it. According to this and this article in the Deseret News, boys and young men are falling behind girls and young women in a variety of ways, so much so that a “multi-partisan Commission of thirty-four prominent authors, educators, researchers and practitioners” was convened in 2010 “to accomplish three goals: investigate the status of boys and their journey into manhood; identify both surface and underlying problems confronting boys and men; create a blueprint toward solutions” (source here). At some point (I can’t figure out when, exactly, but at least 11 months ago), the commission submitted a proposal to the Obama Administration requesting the creation of a White House Council on Boys and Men, much the like the White House Council on Women and Girls which exists; to date, there appears to be no movement by the White House on this (I will not offer speculation as to why).

Anyway, to summarize, boys aren’t doing well in our society, and it appears to be a problem with both short-term and long-term implications. This is not about championing one gender over the other, but because the well-being of both is crucial.

Science readings on same-sex attraction lately

I don’t like to be a rabble-rouser about issues that many find sensitive, controversial, or otherwise uncomfortable, but I also have a sometimes voracious appetite for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Once I am able to satisfy that appetite regarding some matter, I experience some inclination to share my findings, especially when they can help dispel misinformation and misunderstandings observed among others.

Obviously, same-sex attraction (SSA) is a big issue these days, which is to say, many in the public sphere, and to a somewhat lesser extent in the private sphere, talk about it with some frequency. Probably the vast majority of these people do so as part of an earnest attempt to promote good, as they see it. For instance, one of my sisters recently pointed me to this blog post, a sincere and heartfelt attempt to think through a challenging issue (you can even see my comment, most of the way down the page).

Now, as one who considers himself a man of science, I have spent a lot of time digging into the scientific literature on matters surrounding SSA, and such efforts have been very fruitful. This may not come as a humongous surprise to you, but it has really revealed how fragmentary, and in some cases even deliberate, the transmission of scientific information on SSA has been; most people, including both producers and consumers of “the media”, have little interest, understanding, or training in getting all the gory details (or is it boring details?) of what the seemingly constant flow of scientific knowledge says about this and that. At most, people typically are willing to discuss just bite-sized versions of a few select studies here and there every now and then. This is very understandable, and yet, I have happily found that you can learn an awful lot by reading what systematic, rational investigation has uncovered on even complex, confusing issues like SSA.

That said, I’ve been going through this article for the past few hours, and it has been very interesting, albeit pretty technical. There’s a lot I could say about it, which most people would find really boring and/or confusing (and of course, for anyone unprepared for sterile, detached scientific analysis, it would not be very meaningful). I’ve included the text’s conclusion section below, but mostly it boils down to this:

  • people for whom SSA is an issue generally experience a higher prevalence of mental health conditions, around 3x more, compared to those who are other-sex attracted (OSA).
  • negative societal influences probably do not play as much of a role in these hardships as many commonly believe. Even for the very serious problem of suicide, “perceived discrimination involving oversensitivity rather than actual discrimination”, relational breakups, and substance abuse-related depression appear to be significantly more important factors than societal pressures.
  • given the apparently internal nature of these co-morbidities, there appears to be a very important role for therapy to play for those clients with unwanted SSA (Note: although the article didn’t get into it, the idea that SSA is all biological and immutable, end of story, isn’t backed by as much scientific evidence as you might think, whereas evidence for the pre-eminence of psychosocial factors in SSA is stronger than you might think. I’ll have to get into that more another time).

On a final note, it should go without saying that none of these findings should ever justify any sort of cruelty or unkindness shown to those affected by same-sex attraction. Although it may be practically impossible to eliminate all behaviors which could be potentially construed as hurtful, nevertheless kindness and understanding should always be fundamental goals of human interaction in all cases.

From the article:

SSA people have a lamentably high variety and intensity of mental health conditions, and there is evidence that this is much less due to societal pressure and attitudes than commonly supposed. Conversely, disorders are much more due to particular psychological coping mechanisms than usually supposed. The gender-reversed nature of these conditions argues a link to the SSA itself. Causes of suicide among SSA people are probably a result of perceived discrimination involving oversensitivity rather than actual discrimination, but are also due to relationship breakup and depression linked to substance abuse. They are unlikely to be much improved by societal change—the origins are within the SSA person and can probably be investigated within the therapeutic process.

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual populations are demanding the right to be free from all events that trigger their unusual sensitivity. However, that demand threatens to swallow the entire legal system, educational system, religious denominations, and professional bodies in many countries, and there is very little evidence it will make a significant difference to the mental health or suicidality of homosexuals. Therapy is more likely to have a positive impact and should be provided with attention to meeting the goals of the client and not taking lightly the varying needs and issues that may need to be addressed.

The body of literature on co-morbidities may also demonstrate a possible reason that some people are dissatisfied with their orientation and/or lifestyle and may seek change. Therapists should be sensitive to such requests—not simply dismissing them, but providing therapeutic assistance to help dissatisfied clients pursue their desired goals.

Do women ever direct films?

It dawned on me yesterday, as I was watching the closing credits of “An Inconvenient Truth” (which I actually found to be quite convincing), that I can’t think of a single prominent female film director in our country. Don’t women direct films? According to Wikipedia, the definitive source of all things true, they do. However, I barely recognized any of the names or film titles from their list (only a portion of whom are American). So let me revise my question: don’t any women become prominent film directors? I have to wonder what our films are missing out on by being directed primarily by men. Perhaps the abundance of trite and vulgar movies can be attributed to the fact that movies are primarily directed by men; perhaps a product becomes stale and mundane if it is consistently created from the same tired point of view. But beyond the effect of a male-overrepresentation, I wonder why it is that so few women hit it big in the movie industry. Hmmm…

Americans hate the war…but they love their abortions

I was reading a satirical piece at Den of Hydralisks and encountered a link to some sobering statistics on abortion in the US. Of course, abortion is a tricky issue, and I myself take a somewhat nuanced stance, opposing it except for victims of rape and incest or women whose health is severely threatened by a pregnancy; even in those cases, I think it is a dire decision worth careful consideration. According to the stats at The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (which can be found here), 78% of abortions worldwide take place in developing countries, which, based on my course study of the international political economy of women (a great course offered at BYU), I would largely attribute to poverty, poor sex education, and low access to birth control. Seventy eight percent is a huge piece of pie, but the pie is pretty big: an estimated 46 million abortions are performed worldwide every year. Thus, the developed world is accountable for about 10.1 million unborn babies, and I’m sure the reasons for our abortions are quite different. Of those 10.1 million, the US accounts for about 1.37 million abortions according to 1996 data (has the abortion rate been going up or down since then? I’d guess up, though perhaps not dramatically). To put it in perspective, how many people have died in Iraq? Figures are shaky, but by one estimate, over 655,000 have died as a result, direct or indirect, of the 2003 invasion. That’s an appalling number, and certainly much, much larger than our leaders had anticipated, but guess what: Americans end twice as many lives in a single year.

Now, obviously not all Americans love abortions (just as not all Americans hate the war, despite what the media may try to say), and the figures give an idea of who exactly these aborters are – and let’s not forget that for every pregnant woman, there was an accountable man. Women who have never been married account for 64.4% of US abortions, women under the age of 25 account for 52% (these groups aren’t mutually exclusive, of course), and women with annual family incomes between $30,000 and $60,000 account for 38%, while families making less than $15,000 cover 28.7% of all abortions. The site estimates that by age 45, the average woman in the US will have had 1 abortion at some point in her life; seeing as there are certainly many women who will never have an abortion, this probably means that some women are serial aborters. Now here is what I find especially interesting: 37.4% of abortions are performed on women identified as Protestant, 31.3% are performed on those identified as Catholic, and 23.7% are performed on those claiming no religious affiliation. Thus, supposedly religious people are more inclined to abort than the non-religious! Also, 93% of all abortions are performed for social reasons, rather than for health or abuse reasons, or in other words, they are performed for the sake of convenience or because the baby is simply unwanted. I won’t delve too far into the issue of whether I think abortion should be legal or not here. Suffice it to say that I value personal freedom, but also the right of unborn babies to live, and that, while I would absolutely love for all abortions to stop, the scope of such a wish goes beyond just whether abortion is legal or not. I would just say that there is something disturbing about a worldview – one which is apparently common among a portion of the young, unmarried, religiously-affiliated middle class – that looks at conception and birth as mere unfortunate and troublesome side effects of an otherwise pleasurable act. It sounds like another expression of one of our generation’s favorite philosophies, hedonism. Frankly, all this talk of abortion and our stupid reasons for performing them (it most certainly ain’t necessity!) is getting me down. Lastly, however, I would just say that I’m not the one to judge people in the eternal scheme of things (I still reserve the right to form opinions, though), but whatever the individual circumstances are behind every deliberately-terminated pregnancy, it is just so sad that so many lives are ended before they start. Life is a precious gift from God, and while lives lost in war are no doubt tragic in so many cases, perhaps much more so are those innocent lives taken even before infancy.