Category Archives: Sex and Gender

Sure, women cannot get pregnant from rape. Also, all mean people are ugly and puppies are immortal.

[Potential trigger warning: Discussion of rape and sexual assault in this post.]

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear:

If you have vaginal sex without protection, you can get pregnant.

For some reason, this concept can be remarkably difficult for people to grasp. It toes the line between “sad” and “kind of funny” when this ignorance simply leads people to wonder if they can successfully avoid pregnancy by having sex while standing up, in a hot tub, or without climaxing.

But when a Senate nominee like Representative Todd Akin tries to claim that a woman’s body can somehow “know” when she is being raped and avoid pregnancy as a result? That’s an entirely new, scary level of ignorance.

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USA! USA!

I hope that everyone is excited for the Olympics to begin tonight! Over the next two weeks, I will be posting several pieces on the Olympics and psychology, ranging from the ways that athletes feel/express emotions to the different ways that athletes from various cultures tend to construe their successes (and failures). I’m really excited to be blogging about the Olympics – there’s so much psychology to delve into here, and I hope you’ll all tune in over the next couple of weeks to learn all about it!

In the meantime, here are links to some cool posts from across the blogosphere on psychology and the Olympics. Enjoy!

The 2012 Olympic Games: What is the Role of Psychology? by Chris Carr at Psychology Today

Hosting a Major Sporting Event – Economic Gains Are Unlikely, But Will It Bring Happiness? by Christian Jarrett at BPS Research Digest

What It Takes To Be An Olympic Athlete Q&A with sports psychologist Shane Murphy at APA

The Psychology of Dressing for Olympic Success by Richard Wiseman at The Guardian

Olympics and Gender Empowerment through Sport by Elizabeth Meyer at Psychology Today

How Do Women and Girls Feel When They See Sexualized or Sporty Images Of Female Athletes? by Christian Jarrett at BPS Research Digest

How to Raise an Olympic Athlete by Christine L. Carter at Psychology Today

Twin Olympics! by Nancy L. Segal at Psychology Today

Lessons Worth Learning from the 2010 Winter Olympics by Marie Hartwell-Walker at PsychCentral

Could The Olympics Be A Catalyst For Inter-Cultural Discord? by Christian Jarrett at BPS Research Digest (note: The paper that this post is based on was authored by some of my former UIUC colleagues!)

Do World-Class Sprinters Really Move Their Legs No Faster Than Ordinary Runners? by Dave at Science-Based Running (note: OK, this is not psychology, but I’m including it because I find this post incredibly cool.)

And of course, in the spirit of the Games …

Image by Joshua Nathanson via Wikipedia

USA! USA!

Having it All, Happily.

Image by Robert Whitehead via Flickr

When The Atlantic published a controversial article by Anne-Marie Slaughter about how difficult it truly is for women to ‘have it all,’ it added more fuel to the raging fire of the work-life-balance debate, which has likely been going on in some form since humankind first realized that there are ways to make other people feel bad about their life choices. Apparently, the stereotype of the harried, working mom who has a high-level career and still tries her damnedest not to disappoint the other mothers at her daughter’s bake sale has become somewhat of a cultural icon — if you don’t believe me, just read the book I Don’t Know How She Does It (or watch the recent movie, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Greg Kinnear).

Whether people choose to view self-identification as a complicated juggling act or opt instead to focus on a limited number of areas is the important distinction underlying Patricia Linville’s self-complexity theory. Someone who is high in self-complexity would define herself in terms of many different possible domains (e.g. I’m a mother, a wife, a marathoner, a tenured professor, and a singer), while someone who is low in self-complexity would use fewer. And although self-complexity theory doesn’t necessarily stake any claims about particular sides in the work-life-balance-debate being “right” or “wrong,” research in this area has shown — perhaps surprisingly to some — that people who define themselves using multiple domains may actually, at least in some ways, be happier and healthier.

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Zombies and Volleyball: The Benefits of the Bystander Effect

Image by Dominik Deobald, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s summer. You’re playing a relaxing game of beach volleyball with your friends, and it’s the opposing team’s turn to serve the ball. As the player calls out the score and sends up a graceful serve, it soars over the net in a slow, arching motion. You watch as it glides down slowly towards your side, falling, falling…

And then smacks down into the sand.

Right between you and three of your teammates, as you all stand in place staring at it.

So why exactly didn’t any of you go for the ball?

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If it looks like a compliment, and sounds like a compliment…is it really a compliment? [at Scientific American]

Today, I have a guest post at the Scientific American guest blog inspired by the Blogging Science While Female session at Science Online. The post is about benevolent sexism, those comments that may seem to be nice and flattering, but are actually insidious little gender equality ravagers.

Here’s an excerpt:

In 1996, Peter Glick and Susan Fiske wrote a paper on the concept of ambivalent sexism, noting that despite common beliefs, there are actually two different kinds of sexist attitudes and behavior. Hostile sexism is what most people think of when they picture “sexism” – angry, explicitly negative attitudes towards women. However, the authors note, there is also something called benevolent sexism:

We define benevolent sexism as a set of interrelated attitudes toward women that are sexist in terms of viewing women stereotypically and in restricted roles but that are subjectively positive in feeling tone (for the perceiver) and also tend to elicit behaviors typically categorized as prosocial (e.g., helping) or intimacy-seeking (e.g., self-disclosure) (Glick & Fiske, 1996, p. 491).

[Benevolent sexism is] a subjectively positive orientation of protection, idealization, and affection directed toward women that, like hostile sexism, serves to justify women’s subordinate status to men (Glick et al., 2000, p. 763).

Essentially, there’s now a formal name for all of those comments and stereotypes that can somehow feel both nice and wrong at the same time, such as the belief that women are “delicate flowers” that need to be protected by men, or the notion that women have the special gift of being “more kind and caring” than their male counterparts. And yes, it might sound complimentary, but it still counts as sexism.

To read the entire post, click here!

Sex, lies, and power = lies about power and sex.

Can we please stop sounding the depressing alarm claiming that all powerful men are destined to be cheating husbands?

Yes, in recent history we’ve had Anthony Weiner and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But we’ve also had Barack Obama and Mark Wahlberg. However you choose to feel about the debt ceiling or The Fighter, these are recently-newsworthy examples of powerful men who have stayed happily married without getting caught up in a sex scandal. And they’re far from being the only ones.1

The problem with proclaiming that there’s an inextricable link between power, maleness, and cheating is that it implicates both power and masculinity as unavoidable evils. Fact is, that’s not really fair – or accurate.

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Who runs the world? Not girls.

This week, pop superstar Beyonce launched the music video for her newest single: Run The World (Girls).


The song itself practically screams Female Empowerment Anthem with its repeating chorus of “Who runs the world? Girls!

Empowering? Absolutely! Fun song to add to your workout playlist? Definitely!

But the message isn’t exactly accurate – and this poses a problem.

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