Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sexual Exploitation - Do You Know the Signs? (Part One, the Victims)

In my role as a sexual trauma therapist, I counsel men and women who are survivors of sexual abuse, molestation, assault, and exploitation. Their lives and their stories have taught me a lot about perpetrators.

For those who may wonder why I keep getting involved in trying to stop Marc Gafni's sexually exploitative "relationships" with students, this is part of the reason.

As much I have learned in the time I have worked with these men and women, I still do not fully understand the mechanisms in them that allows the perpetrator to select them as targets. But it seldom fails that if you put a male predator into a room with 100 women, he find the one or two women who he can prey upon. [Yes, I am using loaded language - it's appropriate to what is being discussed.]

I want to use some of the information I have found over the past few years to help others understand how and why Gafni behaves in this way, how and why he is able to target women, and how and why these women willingly entered in relationships with him.

This is part one, and here I focus on those who are victimized. In part two, I will look at the traits most common to predators. In both cases, I hope to offer a perspective informed by psychology and my belief that people are not inherently "bad" but, rather, act in ways we define as bad as a response to their wounding. This is not an attempt to deny responsibility (in predator or prey), but to offer explanations.

Part One: Beginning with the experience of the women

It's much easier for most of us to feel the suffering of the women in these situations (or men) than it is to find compassion for the predator/perpetrator. So let's begin with the easy piece - the experience of the women, including identifying when one is engaged in that type of dysfunction.

But we begin with a look at how widespread an issue this is and how it tends to play out in the broader sense in relationships involving power imbalances.

Here is the first big piece of the puzzle, courtesy of Joel Friedman and Marcia Mobilia Boumil, in Betrayal of trust: Sex and power in professional relationships.
It is about power and exploitation. It is about what happens when an unethical professional encounters a psychologically vulnerable patient, client, student, or other and decides to use her trust in him, primarily engendered by his power and position, to his own advantage—with little regard to the consequences for her. It is about the nature of these professionals who deceive themselves and those who rely on them, and the contexts which provide fertile ground for this deception to occur.
According to these authors, there are two basic ways that women (the book looks primarily at male predators, but also acknowledges that there are women doing this as well, although there is far less research on that variation) become "victims" of these predators (and I am not a fan of the word "victim," but it probably is the closest word to the actual situation for most of these women):
In the first, a victim is led to believe that this is an opportunity to share in an intimate relationship with a man whom, because of his power and position, she has come to respect, trust, and admire. Often he presents himself as a kind and caring professional, attentive to the needs of an unsuspecting female client, patient, or student and seeking to be helpful in whatever way his profession offers. At the same time, he is powerful and revered, a figure whose judgment one might otherwise never question. Often a victim becomes mesmerized by the thought that such an awesome person is interested, really interested, in her!

So what is wrong with that? In the great majority of cases, the intentions of the professional who approaches his clients, patients, students, and others in this manner are insincere. They are not based upon genuine interest in the individual; they are based upon the man's desire to use the relationship for his own sexual gratification: in short, to "exploit" her. And that's what's wrong. (p. 2)
The authors attribute awareness and intention here that I am not sure exists in some cases, but I will speak more on this in part two. And here is the other form this situation often takes:
In the second situation, the professional may or may not purport to have a genuine interest in his victim, but instead uses the professional relationship to coerce her, often subtly, to participate in a relationship with him. In these cases, the victim "consents" to the relationship, but her consent stems from fear that the professional services will be terminated if she does not acquiesce to his sexual desire. ....

In most cases the sexual relationship that results is short-lived; it lasts until the professional man gets what he wants from it or gets tired of it, and then it ends abruptly. The incidence of this form of professional misconduct is alarming, and the consequences to the victims are often tragic. (p. 2-3)
From the accounts of all of the women I have spoken with, Gafni tends to behave more in line with the first model - he seems to need the seduction - he seems to need the power that he gets with the seduction. Gafni even goes so far as to justify his behavior by saying that he is a teacher who has the development and discernment to hold a postconventional container in relationship with multiple women simultaneously. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Unrelatedly, Gafni's use of integral language in his teaching, which is a big part of his seduction, reminds me of something Robert Augustus Masters said on his Facebook page:
Employing integral terminology in one's communication is very different than communicating integrally.
That is exactly what it feels like each time I read or listen to Gafni - a lot of pretty, neat sounding words and a whole lot of nothing beneath - no real communication, only smoke and mirrors. But he is skillful in using those tricks to seduce women and men (he uses the same approaches to court the support of those with money and power).

But it never is so easy as it sounds. There is nothing illegal about Gafni's actions - unethical? yes; illegal? no. Still, the situation so often puts the student at such a disadvantage that most organizations have created an ethics code forbidding such relationships.
On one side of the equation are two adults who may desire a consensual sexual relationship with one another. The law views this as a fundamental right of privacy and is loath to interfere with people engaging in mutually agreeable conduct with one another (so long as it is neither illegal nor immoral). Indeed, the law strongly protects this constitutional provision that people have a right to freedom of association. Yet on the other side of the equation is the professions' recognition that their members, merely by virtue of their power and position, can exert undue influence over the individuals they serve. What appears to be a consensual relationship is so fraught with an inherent imbalance of power and opportunity for undue influence that it can cause patient, clients, and students seemingly voluntarily to consent to such relationships without knowing that they are actually being exploited. And when the relationship runs its course and the professional moves on to someone else, the effects on the exploited individual are often so devastating that the law and the professions themselves are finding it necessary to step in and take responsibility: in short, preventing unsuspecting individuals from becoming victims of this type of abuse. (p. 3-4)
Of all the professions implicated in these forms of abuse and exploitation, the mental health field has been the most proactive and has established the best boundaries for behavior by its practitioners. This is largely related to the fact that mental health professionals (of whatever form - psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, and so on) are tasked with identifying and knowing the weaknesses and wounding of their clients, which makes clients easy prey for sexual predators.
The reason that sexual exploitation is so significant in mental health is well understood. The mental health professional is engaged to analyze, understand, and influence the patient's psychological and emotional state. The therapist's work requires that he act so as to elicit and sustain a deep sense of trust from his patient. If he is successful, this results in her willingness to expose to him psychological weaknesses and points of vulnerability.

This scenario sets up a clear and direct opportunity for the mental health professional, who is often dealing with emotionally needy patients, to use the information that he has gathered during the therapy to manipulate them through their vulnerabilities: if he believes that a victim is insecure, he can become the perfect father; if he believes that she has poor self-esteem, he can promote a better self-image. The feelings of intimacy and attraction, which have physical as well as emotional components, are encouraged to develop during the therapy. They are supposed to be used as part of the healing process. If, instead, they are used to establish a sexual relationship, whether or not the therapist has a malicious motive, the harm that can be caused is often devastating.(p. 4)
Some estimates place the abuse rate in the mental health field at about 10-12 % (p. 10).

The only other profession I can think of that involves the same trust and vulnerability as the mental health profession is the role of spiritual adviser, director, teacher, or guru - no other role outside of mental health requires trust and vulnerability to the same degree.

How it begins

There are always signs of impending dysfunction in these relationships, but too few women know the signs or are aware enough to act on them:
All too often victims of sexual exploitation report that they noticed early on in the professional relationship that something about the relationship did not seem right. Either the professional seemed distracted from the purpose of the relationship or he seemed to take an unusual interest in them without any real basis for doing so. Many victims ignore these early indications, either attributing their suspicions to their own hypersensitivity or perhaps even being flattered by the extra attention. But in many cases it is just these early indications, when recognized, that can prevent an abusive situation from developing.

The first important step in recognizing activity that may lead to sexual abuse is being aware of those intuitive feelings that indicate an impending boundary violation. These are the early warning signs or "red flags" that signal that a bad situation may be brewing. In fact, intuition or instinct is one of the most effective tools for sensing what is going on in the early stages of sexual exploitation. For people who are in turmoil, confused, or frightened, or those who are inexperienced, trusting one's own instincts is a difficult task. In some cases it is this very inability to rely on oneself that has brought about the need for professional assistance. Maybe there's a crisis: the individual is emotionally distraught, lacks knowledge, or perhaps is just not confident about her own capacity to understand what is going on. Perhaps the possibility of being exploited by a professional is just so foreign a notion that it never even enters her mind. Indeed, it is those very people who are least able to call upon or trust their own instincts who become vulnerable to the judgments, opinions, influence, and coercion of people who try or pretend to help. Finally, sometimes it is a student who is frightened, inexperienced, immature, or perhaps overly ambitious who comes under the influence of an exploitative teacher. On the surface, he appears to be concerned, caring, knowledgeable, and a reputable authority who can be trusted. In short, sexual exploitation can occur under the most unassuming circumstances and anyone can become a victim. (Friedman & Boumil, p. 48-49)
The student, the client, the devotee is always in the position of trusting the professional. But he is driven by other needs than simply teaching or helping. In the language of the Voice Dialogue model, it is a matter of subpersonalities interacting, generally below the level of awareness (although some predators are certainly aware of their actions).

Hal and Sidra Stone talk about relationships as the manifestation of inner parts filling each other's needs. Here is a basic explanation of the human bonding patterns in male-female relationships:
This is their diagram, sort of:

     Mother . . . . .[the woman]. . . . Daughter
     Son . . . . . . . [the man] . . . . . . Father

Here is their explanation:

In this diagram we see the basic male-female bonding pattern. The mother side of the woman is bonded to the son side of the man (the M-S axis), and the father side of the man is bonded to the daughter side of the woman (the F-D axis). This diagram illustrates the basic bonding pattern that exists in all male and female relationships before the development of any kind of awareness. It is a normal and natural process. It cannot be eliminated, nor would eliminating it be desirable; these bonding patterns contain much life and vitality. They often provide warmth and nurturing. The problem is that without awareness they are very likely to turn negative. In addition, the two people miss what is possible in the interaction of two aware egos.
Once we get involved (attraction is enough involvement), the basic patterns gets layered very quickly and very complexly. In the exploitive bonding pattern, the child of the male needs something he never received as a child, and the child in the female is also wounded in some way.

In the male, there is some form of protector part that tries to keep the wounded child safe and has found ways to do so that are effective but are not healthy for other people in his life. For the predator, it is seduction and romance/sex that makes the child feel loved and desired, which is what he craves.

In the woman, the child part needs to be seen and appreciated, needs to be seduced and seen as attractive. She may look for this need to be filled in ways that are not healthy. She may also have a part that has learned that seduction is a way to meet her needs.

When these two get together, from the outside it looks like mutual seduction and consent. But neither person is really fully aware of what the shadow parts of their personality are doing, nor are they aware of the dysfunction inherent in the relationship they are building.

This is in large part why it feels unconscionable to me that Gafni be allowed to continue in his current role, especially taking private students. He is acting from childish needs and presenting a supposed "integral" explanation - it's an individual example of the classic pre/trans fallacy that Ken Wilber has been teaching about for two decades or so.

More importantly, since Gafni is teaching about his own version of "sacred sexuality," the temptation for teacher and student to act out the teachings is considerable. We already know that Gafni will do this and that he feels justified in doing so because of his self-professed spiritual development.  Likewise, we also know that he lacks discernment in picking women who are capable of "holding the container." Generally, these women would have nothing to do with a (pre?)conventional teacher such as himself, unless they also have some form of wounding.

But the women he targets DO have some wounding or vulnerability that he can sense, and goes to great lengths to feel the situation out before making his move. He feels he is above such conventional ethics codes that might prohibit his behavior. Yet they were designed specifically for people like him.

Are we really willing to believe that this man who has been involved in sex scandals his whole life as a spiritual man (thirty years or more now) is capable of having healthy relationships of any kind? After three divorces and the rumored imminent end to a relationship with the mother of his youngest child? Are we really to believe that he is going to check in with Ken Wilber and whoever else is supposed to monitor him when he wants to bed a student? Not likely.

Betrayal bonds and trauma bonds

Patrick Carnes has written a lot about sex addiction and the women who get involved with and stay involved with these men (and again, the majority of offenders are men, although women seem to be working hard to catch up). The same material applies to men who exploit their positions of power in relationships.

In fact, most men who are exploitive also engage in other forms of dysfunctional sexuality - porn addiction is the most common comorbid behavior.

Carnes tends to refer to the relational bonding between a predator and prey as trauma bonds or as betrayal bonds (The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships). These are some of the qualifiers for the trauma bond, or betrayal bond.
With denial and repression in place, all the trauma solutions are available in the service of the trauma bond. Reactivity, arousal, blocking, splitting, abstinence, shame and trauma repetition can be accomplished in the context of the relationship. 
  • Reactivity comes with constant chaos, involvement and betrayal. There is always something to induce the cycles of old to activate the victim, victimizer and rescuer scenarios. 
  • Arousal surges in the relationship with high risk, intensity and sometimes violent sex. Anger, fear and anxiety create a neurochemical cascade that makes sane relationships boring. 
  • Blocking occurs when there is the honeymoon or “I have pushed you too far” phase. Seductive and pleasing efforts to “make up for it” are calming and provide temporary relief. 
  • Splitting happens when the victim dissociates from the chaos or from obsessing about the partner. Internal dialogues with your partner would be an example. 
  • Abstinence manifests in many ways, including the obvious: staying in the relationship without needs being met, or worse, living in deprivation because the chaos prevents you from taking care of yourself, so martyrdom seems functional. 
  • Shame appears in the form of despair about yourself, in feeling defective because the victim has absorbed the shame of the perpetrator (carried shame), and in believing in your unworthiness. 
  • Repetition cycles the “working model” of how relationships should work over and over again. Each recycle repeats the victimization of the past. 
In short, you have an addictive relationship that results in compulsive involvement and compulsive relationship patterns. For Tom, being with Barbara put in place all the paths that people use addictively. (Carnes, 2010, Kindle Locations 2011-2029).
In an article simply titled Trauma Bonds, Carnes identifies the signs to look for in identifying the presence of a trauma bond:
Exploitive relationships create trauma bonds. These occur when a victim bonds with someone who is destructive to them. Similarly, adult survivors of abusive and dysfunctional families struggle with bonds that are rooted in their own trauma experiences. To be loyal to that which does not work - or worse, to a person who is toxic, exploitive, or destructive to the client, is a form of insanity.

A number of signs exist for the presence of a betrayal bond:

1. When everyone around the client is having negative reactions so strong the client is covering up, defending, or explaining a relationship.
2. When there is a constant pattern of non-performance and the client continues to expect them to follow through anyway.
3. When there are repetitive, destructive fights that are no win for anybody.
4. When others are horrified by something that has happened to the client and the client isn’t.
5. When the client obsesses about showing someone that they are wrong about the abuse, their relationship, or their treatment of the client.
6. When the client feels loyal to someone even though the client harbors secrets that are damaging to others.
7. When the client moves closer to someone who is destructive with the desire of converting them to a non-abuser.
8. When someone’s talents, charisma, or contributions causes the client to overlook destructive, exploitive, or degrading acts.
9. When the client cannot detach from someone even though the client does not trust, like or care for the person.
10. When the client misses a relationship even to the point of nostalgia and longing that was so awful it almost destroyed the client.
11. When extraordinary demands are placed on the client to measure up as a way to cover up exploitation of the client.
12. When the client keeps secret someone’s destructive behavior because of all of the good they have done or the importance of their position or career.
13. When the history of their relationship is about contracts or promises that have been broken, which the client are asked to overlook.

They all involve exploitation of trust or power or both. They all can result in a bond with a person who is dangerous and exploitive. Signs of betrayal bonding include misplaced loyalty, inability to detach, and self-destructive denial. Professional therapists can be so focused on their client’s woundedness, they will overlook the trauma bonds that may remain. 
There are also a variety of self-tests or inventories one can take to identify whether one is involved in an abusive and/or exploitive relationship. Here is one from Carnes, presented by Insideout Living, Inc.:
Traumatic Bonding Self Test 

By Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.

The following are a series of statements which describe traumatic bonding in which a person bonds on the basis of betrayal. The result is what we call a "betrayal bond". Check each "Yes" response as appropriate.

1) Do you obsess about people who have hurt you even through they are long gone?

2) Do you continue to seek contact with people whom you know will cause you further pain?

3) Do you go "overboard" to help people who have been destructive to you?

4) Do you continue to be a "team" member when obviously things are becoming destructive?

5) Do you continue attempts to get people to like you who are clearly using you?

6) Do you trust people again and again who are proven to be unreliable?

7) Are you unable to retreat from unhealthy relationships?

8) Do you try to be understood by those who clearly do not care?

9) Do you choose to stay in conflict with others when it would cost you nothing to walk away?

10) Do you persist in trying to convince people that there is a problem and they are not willing to listen?

11) Are you loyal to people who have betrayed you?

12) Do you attract untrustworthy people?

13) Have you kept damaging secrets about exploitation or abuse?

14) Do you continue contact with an abuser who acknowledges no responsibility?

15) Do you find yourself covering up, defending, or explaining a relationship?

16) When there is a constant pattern of non-performance in a relationship, do you continue to expect them to follow through anyway?

17) Do you have repetitive, destructive fights that are no win for anybody?

18) Do you find that others are horrified by something that has happened to you and you are not?

19) Do you obsess about showing someone that they are wrong about you, your relationship, or their treatment of you?

20) Do you feel stuck because you know what the other is doing is destructive, but you believe you cannot do anything about it?

21) Do you feel loyal to someone even though you harbor secrets that are damaging to others?

22) Do you move closer to someone you know is destructive to you even though you do not trust, like or care for the person?

23) Does someone's talents, charisma, or contributions cause you to overlook destructive, exploitive, or degrading acts?

24) Do you find you cannot detach from someone even though you do not trust, like or care for the person?

25) Do you find yourself missing a relationship, even to the point of nostalgia and longing, that was so awful it almost destroyed you?

26) Are extraordinary demands placed on you to measure up as a way to cover up exploitation?

27) Do you keep secret someone's destructive behavior because of all of the good they have done or the importance of their position or career?

28) Does your relationship have contacts or promises that have been broken which you are asked to overlook?

29) Are you attracted to "dangerous" people?

30) Do you stay in a relationship longer than you should?
If you can answer yes to several of these questions, you may want to reconsider the relationship you are in and begin to talk to someone who understands what may be happening to you.

Finally, a little more from Carnes on trauma bonds and disrupting trauma bonds:

1. trauma cycles are repeated
2. the victim believes in his or her uniqueness
3. the victim mistakes intensity for intimacy
4. the trauma endures over time
5. there are increasing amounts of fear
6. the fear-induced neurochemical reactions occur earlier in life and affect the organic development of the brain
7. the trauma is preceded by earlier victimization
8. the victim is surrounded by reactivity and extreme responses
9. the betrayal of power relationships is greater
10. the betrayal of trusted relationships is greater


1. healthy bonds are available
2. a group or community can debrief or re-role the victim
3. the victim can identify
   (a) cycles of abuse
   (b) roles of victim, victimizer, and rescuer
4. the victim learns
   (a) how to psychologically distance from intensity
   (b) boundary-setting strategies
5. metaphors (images) exist for the victim to use in the moment
6. the victim can reframe interactions of trauma
7. the victim understands the role of carried shame
8. the victim accepts trauma bond’s systematic nature (avoiding blame)

~ Adapted from Patrick J. Carnes
These bonds can be disrupted - and the best way to do so is to break the silence - seek support and counseling - or just simply walk away.

Most predators will shame you and blame you and make it all your fault - don't listen. That is how he tries to control the situation.

Sometimes, the predator will erupt into a narcissistic rage, fully convinced that it is his right to be sexual with whomever he desires, and direct that rage at you for violating his "trust." He will remain convinced that he has done nothing wrong and is being betrayed by the woman/women involved.

But this is his wounding - and it is from his wounding that these behaviors develop. More on that in the next installment.

The Dalai Lama - There is a definite, commensurate relationship between cause and effect

The Power of Patience
from a Buddhist Perspective

by the Dalai Lama,
translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa


Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

Question: Your Holiness and other teachers tell us to be sincerely joyful about others' worldly achievements, happiness, and acquisitions. But if we know with certainty that a person has acquired or achieved something through unskillful or non-virtuous means, such as lying, stealing, cheating, harming, in what manner should that happiness for them be experienced and expressed?

Dalai Lama: One's attitude toward superficial successes that are achieved through wrong means of livelihood such as lying, stealing, cheating, and so on, should not be the same as for achievements and happiness which are genuine. However, here you must bear in mind that if you examine this carefully, you will find that although the immediate circumstances that gave rise to a person's joy and happiness may be a wrong means of livelihood, that is merely the immediate circumstance: the actual cause of that happiness is the individual's merit in the past.

So one has to see the difference between immediate circumstances and long-term causes. One of the characteristics of karmic theory is that there is a definite, commensurate relationship between cause and effect. There is no way that negative actions or unwholesome deeds can result in joy and happiness. Joy and happiness, by definition, are the results or fruits of wholesome actions. So, from that point of view, it is possible for us to admire not so much the immediate action, but the real causes of joy. (p.119)

--from Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective by the Dalai Lama, translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa, published by Snow Lion Publications

Healing Anger • Now at 5O% off
(Good until September 23rd).

NPR - Jane Lynch: A Life Of 'Happy Accidents'

I wonder if Jami would mind me having a crush on a lesbian? Every since Best in Show, and especially with her guest appearances on Two and a Half Men as Charlie's psychotherapist (above), I have seriously liked this woman and her talent.

This is a fun interview from NPR on the occasion of her new memoir, Happy Accidents. You can read an excerpt by following the link at the bottom of the article.

Jane Lynch: A Life Of 'Happy Accidents'

It's a big week for Jane Lynch. Her memoir, Happy Accidents, was released on Tuesday, and this Sunday night, she'll be hosting the Primetime Emmy Awards. And she's a reasonably good bet to pick one up, too: her second in a row for playing the scheming cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Fox'sGlee. On Friday's Morning Edition, she talks to David Greene about her career, her book, and the difficult process of telling her parents she was gay.
Lynch learned perseverance early after she quit a school play in which she'd been cast because she was afraid of making mistakes. Despite the fact that wanting to be an actress was her "first conscious memory," she became so afraid of failing that she walked away from the project. "That is the last time I walked away from anything," she says. "I've been a yes person now for a long time."
Jane Lynch plays the nasty Sue Sylvester on Fox's Glee, for which she won an Emmy Award in 2010.
Adam Rose/Fox
Jane Lynch plays the nasty Sue Sylvester on Fox's Glee, for which she won an Emmy Award in 2010.
One person to whom she eagerly said yes was director Christopher Guest, whose work on so-called "mockumentaries" like This Is Spinal Tap andWaiting For Guffman she already admired when she met him when he directed her in a commercial for Frosted Flakes. Lynch and Guest ran into each other again later, and he cast her in his 2000 film Best In Show, where she played one-half of a dog-showing couple opposite Jennifer Coolidge. She went on to appear in Guest's A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration, as well as Judd Apatow's wildly popular The 40 Year Old Virgin, where she played Steve Carell's sexually accommodating boss who sings him what she says is a Guatemalan love song. As Lynch explains, though, the words come from a Spanish textbook and in fact vow to blame her mother for cleaning her room.
Jane Lynch and her wife Lara Embry were married in 2010.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Jane Lynch and her wife Lara Embry were married in 2010.
But in spite of her many successes, Lynch says it wasn't easy for her when she told her parents she was gay. "I went to see a therapist," she says, "because I was just suffering so much over this alienation I felt from my family." The therapist convinced her to try writing her parents a letter, with the understanding that, of course, she didn't have to send it. But when she wrote it and the words came easily, she sent it after all — which, she says, was undoubtedly the point of the exercise.
As she cruises into her high-profile hosting gig this weekend, Lynch says she's learned a lot about how to approach her own limitations: "I think the most important thing is that it's not like I'm done growing and evolving, but I certainly have so much more compassion and kindness for myself, and I have cut myself some slack."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Authors@Google: Ogi Ogas (A revolution in the scientific study of sexual attraction)

Interesting stuff . . . . From Google Talks. Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam are the authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire.
Two bold young neuroscientists have initiated a revolution in the scientific study of sexual attraction. Before Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, the only researcher to systematically investigate sexual desires was Alfred Kinsey, who surveyed 18,000 middle-class Caucasians in the 1950s. But Ogas and Gaddam have studied the secret sexual behavior of more than a hundred million men and women around the world. Their method? They observed what people do within the anonymity of the Internet.

Here is the publisher's description of the book (via Amazon):
Two maverick neuroscientists use the world's largest psychology experiment-the Internet-to study the private activities of millions of men and women around the world, unveiling a revolutionary and shocking new vision of human desire that overturns conventional thinking. 

For his groundbreaking sexual research, Alfred Kinsey and his team interviewed 18,000 people, relying on them to honestly report their most intimate experiences. Using the Internet, the neuroscientists Ogas and Gaddam quietly observed the raw sexual behaviors of half a billion people. By combining their observations with neuroscience and animal research, these two young neuroscientists finally answer the long-disputed question: what do people really like? Ogas and Gaddam's findings are transforming the way scientists and therapists think about sexual desire.

In their startling book, Ogas and Gaddam analyze a "billion wicked thoughts" on the Internet: a billion Web searches, a million individual search histories, a million erotic stories, a half-million erotic videos, a million Web sites, millions of online personal ads, and many other enormous sources of sexual data in order to understand the true differences between male and female desires, including:

•Men and women have hardwired sexual cues analogous to our hardwired tastes-there are sexual versions of sweet, sour, salty, savory, and bitter. But men and women are wired with different sets of cues.

•The male sexual brain resembles a reckless hunter, while the female sexual brain resembles a cautious detective agency.

•Men form their sexual interests during adolescence and rarely change. Women's sexual interests are plastic and change frequently.

•The male sexual brain is an "or gate": A single stimulus can arouse it. The female sexual brain is an "and gate": It requires many simultaneous stimuli to arouse it.

•When it comes to sexual arousal, men prefer overweight women to underweight women, and a significant number of men seek out erotic images of women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.

•Women enjoy writing and sharing erotic stories with other women. The fastest growing genre of erotic stories for women are stories about two heterosexual men having sex.

•Though the male sexual brain is much more different from the female sexual brain than is commonly believed, the sexual brain of gay men is virtually identical to that of straight men.

Featuring cutting-edge, jaw-dropping science, this wildly entertaining and controversial book helps readers understand their partner's sexual desires with a depth of knowledge unavailable from any other source. Its fascinating and occasionally disturbing findings will rock our modern understanding of sexuality, just as Kinsey's reports did sixty years ago.
You can read an excerpt from Chapter One here.

Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice - Make your life and practice one

WISDOM NECTAR: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice
trans. by Ron Garry
A Tsadra Foundation Series book

Dharma Quote of the Week

At all times, do not lose courage in your inner awareness; uplift yourself, while assuming a humble position in your outer demeanor. Follow the example of the life and complete liberation of previous accomplished masters (siddha). Do not blame your past karma; instead, be someone who purely and flawlessly practices the Dharma. Do not blame temporary negative circumstances; instead, be someone who remains steadfast in the face of whatever circumstances may arise.

In brief, taking your own mind as witness, make your life and practice one, and at the time of death, with no thought of anything left undone, do not be ashamed of yourself. This itself is the pith instruction of all practices.

Eventually, when the time of death arrives, completely give up whatever wealth you possess, and do not cling to even one needle. Moreover, at death, practitioners of highest faculty will be joyful; practitioners of middling faculty will be without apprehension; and practitioners of the lowest faculty will have no regrets. When realization's clear light becomes continuous day and night, there is no intermediate state (bardo): death is just breaking the enclosure of the body.

If this is not the case, but if you have confidence that you will be liberated in the intermediate state, whatever you have done in preparation for death will suffice. Without such confidence, when death arrives, you can send your consciousness to whichever pure land you wish and there traverse the remaining paths and stages to become enlightened. (p.58)

--from Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice trans. by Ron Garry, a Tsadra Foundation Series book, published by Snow Lion Publications

Wisdom Nectar • Now at 5O% off
(Good until September 23rd).

William Egginton - How Religions Become Fundamentalist

William Egginton's "How Religions Become Fundamentalist" originally appeared at Religion in American History, but he has kindly reposted it at Arcade (out of Stanford University), where it is sure to receive a wider audience.
William Egginton is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and Chair of the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures at the John Hopkins University, where he teaches on Spanish and Latin American literature, literary theory, and the relation between literature and philosophy. He is the author of How the World Became a Stage (2003), Perversity and Ethics (2006), A Wrinkle in History (2007), The Philosopher's Desire (2007), and The Theater of Truth (2010). He is also co-editor with Mike Sandbothe of The Pragmatic Turn in Philosophy (2004), translator of Lisa Block de Behar's Borges, the Passion of an Endless Quotation (2003), and co-editor with David E. Johnson of Thinking With Borges (2009). His next book, In Defense of Religious Moderation, is due out with Columbia University Press on June 8, 2011.
I'm not sure I fully agree with his conclusions here, but he is on the right track - religious fundamentalism is a response to perceived attacks by rational science and secular morality - it happens in every religion and every culture. However, fundamentalism infects all disciplines that feel their belief system to be challenged in some way.

For example, scientism is a reaction against pre- and post-rational ways of making sense of the world. It's adherents tend to argue that only objective forms of science are useful - everything is irrational and superstitious.

How Religions Become Fundamentalist

I just posted an excerpt from chapter three of In Defense of Religious Moderation on the blog Religion in American History( As the editor, Paul Harvey, notes, the "post is particularly timely here after the events in Norway and yesterday's commemoration of 9/11, both of which suggest that the ancient ideal of moderation still has an awful lot going for it." I had a similar thought this weekend when reading the coverage of the 9/11 commemorations. In particular, Ashmed Rashid, in his beautiful cover article to the Times Sunday Review, "And Hate Begat Hate," writes, "Perhaps the greatest promise made after Sept. 11 by President George W. Bush and the British prime minister, Tony Blair, was that the West would no longer tolerate failed and failing states or extremism. Today there are more failed states than ever; Al Qaeda's message has spread to Europe, Africa and the American mainland;  and every religion and culture is producing its own extremists, whether in sympathy with Islamism or in reaction to it."
Here's the excerpted material:
How Religions Become Fundamentalist
by William Egginton
A conclusion from what I have argued so far would seem to be that fundamentalist thinking, whether religious or otherwise, has always existed, even while it has been accompanied by ways of thinking that undermine it or criticize it from within. This conclusion, however, contradicts some recent work in the history of religions that suggests that fundamentalism, contrary to how it is often perceived in popular culture and the media, is a profoundly modern phenomenon. Karen Armstrong has made this argument by distinguishing between two kinds of knowledge, which she expresses with the Greek terms mythosand logos.
Whereas mythos refers to a holistic knowledge that is metaphoric at heart, logos designates a focused, pragmatic kind of knowledge best exemplified by specific problem solving. Whereas mythos forms the basis of our cultures and their self-understandings, their sense of right and wrong, of what is heroic or abhorrent, what to be admired and what to be ashamed of, it makes no pretension of describing physical objects and their functioning. Logos, in contrast, is the kind of knowledge that tells us a lot about the physical world we inhabit; it comes from observation and experimentation and permits us to intervene in highly successful ways in our environments.
For Armstrong, both kinds of knowledge have their respective places in any society. A society that tries to solve practical problems through the application of mythos, however, is bound to run into serious problems. Likewise, the use of logos to regulate every aspect of human cultural, spiritual, or psychic life has the potential to do great harm. In this light, she goes on to claim, modernity can be seen in some ways as the ascendancy of logos over mythos; where Western and other cultures had traditionally valued both forms of knowledge, the creative, metaphoric, all-encompassing weltanschauung of mythos and the pragmatic, problem-oriented, representational thinking of logos, modernity and the success of the scientific revolution led to an almost total suppression of mythos from the realm of “serious” intellectual endeavor. Rather than valued as another realm and way of articulating beliefs, mythos came to signify a childlike and obsolete attempt to explain the world, an endeavor now pursued to far greater effect by the scientific method.
As the Western logocentric worldview grew in power and influence during the scientific revolution, areas of social and personal life that used to be approached under the aegis of mythos were dealt with as if they were objects to be manipulated. The assumption began to dominate intellectual circles that every aspect of existence, including cultural practices and human desires and beliefs, could be explained through objectively discoverable physical laws. While this assumption did indeed lead to some breakthroughs in medicine, psychology, and economics, it also produced its own excesses. As I point out in the next chapter, a society that denies that humans have a cultural and psychical existence that is not reducible to physical causes risks alienating aspects of existence that humans cling most desperately to. Arguably some of the worst political atrocities of the last century, specifically those stemming from certain interpretations of Marxist “scientific materialism,” were direct results of this kind of thinking.
The other effect of an excess of logocentric thinking has to do with what happens to the sorts of beliefs usually contained in mythos when mythos is denied as a valid category of experience. This, according to Armstrong, is the origin of the specifically modern phenomenon of religious fundamentalism. Faced with a uniformly logocentric standard for truth claims, defenders of religious faith begin to interpret religious texts and teachings in a way that had never been normal practice before, namely, literally. Already in the seventeenth century Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientific mind before Einstein but also a religious fanatic, had become obsessed with purging Christianity of mythical doctrines. Since Newton could understand doctrines like that of the Holy Trinity only in literal terms, he could make no sense whatsoever of them, unlike the earlier Gregory of Nyssa, who found in the Trinity an image he could use to express “the unnameable and unspeakable.”
Such a backlash, in fact, is at the origin of the term fundamentalism, which was coined by U.S. Protestants in the early years of the twentieth century as a rallying call against mainstream theological tendencies such as the so-called higher criticism, which had been emphasizing a return to more nuanced and metaphorical interpretations of the liturgies since the late nineteenth century. Already in the 1880s, Dwight Moody had founded the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in an effort to defend against the higher criticism. And between 1910 and 1915, the oil millionaires Lyman and Milton Stewart funded the publication of twelve paperbacks called The Fundamentals, which sold some 3 million copies. Fundamentalism was born.
Whether Christian or of other faiths, the movements we call religious fundamentalism are always the result of a perceived attack on a given community of faith. This is one reason why the attempt to regulate or restrict religious practice, what the new atheists are in essence calling for, has always resulted in and can only result in more fervently held beliefs, often in the form of fundamentalist backlash. In other words, when secularists criticize all religion, the unintended consequence of their actions is strengthening exactly that aspect of religious belief and practice that is ultimately at odds with modern, democratic values.
This dynamic can be seen in Europe today as modern, secular states like France grapple with the Islamic practice of veiling women. Far from successfully inculcating a sense of equality between men and women of all faiths, attempts to restrict public demonstrations of religious affiliation like the veil have led to backlashes, such that many women who wear it today in Western countries like France are doing so as a sign of cultural identity and anticolonial sentiment. Likewise, we tend to view the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial,” which was eternalized in the 1955 play and 1960 film Inherit the Wind, as having revealed the depths of belief in creation science already present in fundamentalist communities. But as Armstrong has argued, before the Scopes trial few fundamentalists actually believed in creation science or thought it particularly important to do so. Creation science became a hot-button item for the fundamentalist movement only after William Jennings Bryan’s defeat in court by Clarence Darrow was ridiculed by the journalist and essayist H. L Mencken, who wrote in an obituary for Bryan that he “lived too long, and descended too deeply into the mud, to be taken seriously hereafter by fully literate men, even of the kind who write school-books.” In the face of such humiliating condescension, groups tend to close ranks around tenets and practices that define them as different from the outside world. . . As with the Christian case, Islamic fundamentalist movements have emerged largely as a backlash against enforced modernization and perceived humiliation, with the added aspect of violent political repression not present in the Christian case. . . .
For Karen Armstrong, the fundamentalist backlash in religions since the dawn of modernity has constituted a kind of perversion of the original essence of these faiths. She claims that most if not all the faiths that are widely practiced today originated in what she calls, following Karl Jaspers the axial age, the time between more or less 900 and 200 b.c.e. when the major tenets of all the world’s principal systems of thought emerged, albeit in different parts of the world. She includes in this list Confucianism and Taoism in China; Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism in India; monotheism in Israel; and philosophical rationalism in Greece. Many of the ethical insights of these different traditions are the same. They all, for example, produced some version of the golden rule, which was designed to eradicate the egotism that had brought societies at the time into crisis and which is still at the heart of just about every religious and ethical system in existence today. In their religious manifestation, axial faiths therefore all require kenosis, or the self-emptying essential to some theological interpretations of Christian love.
Another axial principle is that of the ultimate transcendence of the universe, whether conceived of in material or spiritual terms. In other words, the axial traditions agreed that, however we conceive of the world, no human can ever be understood as having the last word; knowledge is an infinite process. At their core, then, the world’s religions were never about doctrine or the literal interpretation of the divine will but about generosity and tolerance for others. When they have degenerated into dogma, they have betrayed that original purpose.
As religions have developed and evolved they have also stagnated and grown sedimented layers of dogma. In the face of social conflict they have become fortresses of group identity and been deployed to measure purity of commitment and foster intolerance for others. But despite these changes religions carry with them the core of their original purpose. I have mentioned how the Judaic and Christian theological traditions emphasize the ineffability of God’s ultimate knowledge, but the Koran too insists that God communicates through symbols because thought cannot contain him, and no revelation can be definitive. Furthermore, the Koran also holds other faiths to be authentic, and Muhammad told his followers to pray toward Jerusalem because the God they prayed to was also the Jewish and Christian God.. . .
As mentioned, popular culture and the media tend to think of religious fundamentalism as a kind of embarrassing leftover from a less-informed, less-educated past. As Nicholas Kristof, a columnist whom I deeply admire, wrote in a recent column about the increase of troops in Afghanistan, “It breaks my heart that we don’t invest in schools as much as medieval, misogynist extremists.” I certainly understand Kristof’s point, but while the Taliban are indeed misogynist extremists, there is nothing medieval about them. Prior to the onset of modernity in the sixteenth century, and especially prior to the expulsion of the Jews and later the Moors from Christian Spain, European thought benefited immeasurably from the intermingling of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian intellectual and theological traditions. While religious intolerance was no doubt also an issue during the Middle Ages, it is a gross mistake to associate religious fundamentalism with bygone times.
. . . At the core of all fundamentalist thought is the belief that the world exists as a kind of knowledge, that it can be known as it is in itself if only we learn to read the code. While this belief has existed in many cultures at many times, one of the functions of the axial religions was to undermine that conviction, to teach people that the transcendent nature of ultimate reality was such that no human could ever, in principle, come to know the ultimate truth. What is crucial to grasp is that this core principle simultaneously sustains the existence of mythos and logos as two separate but equal domains of knowledge; for if the ultimate, all-encompassing questions are by nature infinite, if human knowledge in principle cannot grasp everything, then practical, objectifying logos is simply not relevant to such discussions, and the holistic, metaphoric standards of mythos have their place. Likewise, to the extent that modernity has allowed mythos to be pushed aside by the practical successes of the scientific method, the axial principle of the transcendence of ultimate knowledge has been weakened. But it is this principle that more than any other works to defend humanity from the dangers of its own certainty. It is for this reason that modernity’s privileging of logos over mythos, in Armstrong’s terminology, has paved the road for a specifically religious fundamentalism, namely, by weakening that aspect of religious traditions that have been the most effective critical weapon they have against the fundamentalist impulse: moderate belief.
William Egginton's Blog

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

NPR - Diana Reiss: "Dolphin in the Mirror"

This segment is scheduled for the 11 am hour on today's Diane Rehm Show (like, NOW, on the east coast) - sounds good. The intelligence of dolphins has always been interesting to scientists, especially since Dolphins can learn a version of sign language to communicate with us, but we have understood very little of their language.


Diana Reiss: "Dolphin in the Mirror"

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 11:06 a.m.
In this photo provided by Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, pacific white-sided dolphin Tique swims with her calf that she gave birth to Friday, June 3, 2011.  - (AP Photo/Shedd Aquarium, Brenda Hernandez)
In this photo provided by Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, pacific white-sided dolphin Tique swims with her calf that she gave birth to Friday, June 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Shedd Aquarium, Brenda Hernandez)

Dolphins have fascinated humans for centuries. Some ancient cultures even worshipped dolphins and condemned anyone who harmed them. Despite that historic connection, dolphins around the globe are often mistreated and even slaughtered. It’s long been known that dolphins possess keen intelligence and self awareness – a trait once thought to be uniquely human. One pioneer of dolphin research has joined a crusade to save them from being butchered by Japanese fisherman. The National Aquarium’s director of dolphin research talks with Diane about understanding and protecting dolphins.

Diana Reiss - Director of the Dolphin Research Program at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Professor in the Psychology Department at Hunter College and in the Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience Program of the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Related Links
Link to Dr. Weiss' dolphin research on National Aquarium website
Link to Dr. Reiss' page at Hunter College

Related Items

The Dolphin in the Mirror: Exploring Dolphin Minds and Saving Dolphin Lives

The Dolphin in the Mirror: Exploring Dolphin Minds and Saving Dolphin Lives