People who tend to recognize similarities between people they know and people depicted in the media are more likely to believe common myths about sexual assault, according to a new study co-led by a Cornell researcher.
The data, culled from more than 280 interviews with students at eight community colleges in the southeastern United States, suggests that media literacy education could help raise awareness about sexual violence, and improve sexual violence prevention programs on college campuses.
“There is work establishing connections between media that people consume and their beliefs about rape, but less is known about how people make sense of those media messages,” said Kristen Elmore, assistant director of the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement in the College of Human Ecology’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. “And what we found is that there’s a positive relationship between ‘seeing other people I know in media,’ and beliefs that endorse the myths that women who are raped are ‘asking for it,’ or that men never really intended to do it.”
Elmore is first author of “Rape Myth Acceptance Reflects Perceptions of Media Portrayals as Similar to Others, But Not the Self,” published in the journal Violence Against Women. It was co-authored with researchers at Innovation Research and Training, an independent social sciences research firm in Durham, North Carolina, who conducted the survey in 2015.
“In that dataset was an opportunity to explore these questions about beliefs in rape myths and how they might be related to representations of rape in the media,” Elmore said. “It helps us try to answer a question that many of us have been thinking about since the #MeToo movement began, which is: Where do these myths about rape come from?”
The researchers asked participants to rate their agreement with 13 statements associated with rape. They then asked them whether people portrayed in various types of media, including music, movies and television, were similar to them, similar to people they knew, or realistic portrayals, and whether they aspired to be like the people depicted in media. The survey also asked about religious background and past experience with dating violence.
They found men were more likely than women to believe three rape myths – that women who are raped were “asking for it”; that men “didn’t mean to rape” but couldn’t help themselves; and that “it wasn’t really rape” unless it was by a stranger. For two of the three rape myths, they found that both men and women were more likely to believe them if they reported seeing similarities between people they knew and people they saw in the media.
The fact that there was no correlation between belief in rape myths and seeing themselves in media could reflect what’s known as “optimism bias,” Elmore said – people’s belief that good things are more likely to happen to them and bad things are more likely to happen to others.
Elmore said that although the study doesn’t show that perceptions of the media cause belief in rape myths, it suggests that depictions of rape in media could shape people’s views.
“If I know something about how people interpret media,” Elmore said, “I can at least predict something about their beliefs about rape, though there may be some third variable influencing both of those things.”
Because the survey was conducted before most of the recent revelations arising from the #MeToo movement, future work will assess whether portrayals of sexual violence in the media – as well as people’s perceptions of rape myths – have changed for the better, Elmore said.
“We’re at this interesting time where media narratives about sexual assault may be changing in really important ways,” she said, “and there seems to be more space for discussion that challenges common rape myths.”
The study’s co-authors are Tracy Scull, Christina Malik and Janis Kupersmidt of Innovation Research and Training. The work was supported in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Rape is, of course, a big issue in the LGBTQIA community.
In 2018, for instance, a study found that found that 50% of bisexual women experienced rape at one point of their lifetime, and – at least in the US – approximately 75% reported experiencing sexual violence.
Male members of the LGBTQIA community also reported – even anecdotally – being sexually abused.
In 2017, for instance, Outrage Magazine chatted with a male survivor of sexual assault who was not only violated, but had to contend with “secondary victimization” – i.e. from getting blamed for what happened to him, to his experience being belittled if not actually denied supposedly because only women can be raped.
LGB online daters report positive experiences… plus harassment
LGB online daters are also more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms, varying from name-calling to physical threats. Among those who have ever used an online dating site or app, they reported experiencing at least one of the forms of harassment measured in this survey on those sites and apps (69%, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts).
Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults who use online dating sites and apps generally report that their experiences with online dating have been positive – even more than straight online daters (65% said their experience was very or somewhat positive, versus 56% of straight online daters).
This is according to a Pew Research Center survey, which found that a majority of LGB adults (55%) report that they have used an online dating site or app at some point, roughly twice the share of straight adults (28%) who say the same.
Among LGB adults who are married, living with a partner, or in a committed relationship, 28% say they met their current partner online. This is more than double when compared with 11% of partnered straight adults.
Also, among LGB people who are now single and looking for a relationship or dates, 37% are currently online dating (versus 24% of straight people who are single and looking).
However – and this is worth highlighting – LGB online daters are also more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms, varying from name-calling to physical threats. Among those who have ever used an online dating site or app, they reported experiencing at least one of the forms of harassment measured in this survey on those sites and apps (69%, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts).
More than half of LGB online daters (56%) say they have received a sexually explicit message or image they did not ask for, compared with 32% of straight online daters who say the same.
Stalking was also raised as an issue, with roughly half of LGB online daters (48%) saying that someone continued to contact them after they said they weren’t interested, compared with 35% of their straight counterparts.
About four in 10 LGB online daters (41%) say someone called them an offensive name on one of these sites or apps – 16 percentage points higher than the share of straight online daters (25%) who say the same.
Lastly, 17% of LGB online daters said that someone on a dating site or app threatened to physically harm them. This is more than twice the share of straight online daters (7%).
Perhaps not surprisingly, according to the Pew Research Center survey, LGB adults who have ever online dated are more likely than straight online daters to think harassment and bullying is a “common problem” on dating sites and apps (70%, compared to 61% of non-LGBs).
No matter the drawbacks, don’t expect online daters – LGBT or straight – to just dump it.
As per the Pew Research Center survey, even among those who experienced at least one of the asked-about forms of harassment on dating sites and apps, they still said that online dating is safe for the most part. Three-quarters of LGB people who have experienced at least one of the harassing behaviors saying it’s a very or somewhat safe way to meet someone, with 64% of straight online daters who have been harassed agreeing.
And with 78% of LGBT online daters (and 69% of their straight counterparts) still believing that dating sites and apps are a very or somewhat safe way to meet people, this trend isn’t going anywhere soon…
56% are horny, but 70% of gay & bi men, and trans people are abstaining from sex due to Covid-19 – study
Under Covid-19 lockdown, 40% of respondents are feeling hot and bothered in lockdown. This increases to 55% in 18-24’s. But 70% are not meeting for dates or sex.
To better understand the unprecedented, global impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on gay, bi men and trans people, ROMEO (PlanetRomeo) released the results from its international COVID-19 outlook survey. The Europe-based dating platform shows a snapshot of how the pandemic is affecting LGBT+ life.
75,840 ROMEO users responded to 11 questions about health, economy, sex, travel, and how they are coping with the lockdown, and the results are… interesting.
57% ARE FEELING POSITIVE
Overall people are positive, 57% state they are feeling good to very good. France is leading the world positive mood with 65% placing themselves in this category, a stark contrast to their UK neighbors who are coming in at just 44%. India’s spirits are the hardest hit with only 23% feeling good.
40% ARE VERY HORNY
40% of respondents are feeling hot and bothered in lockdown. This increases to 55% in 18-24’s. When it comes to the horniest countries, Spain is topping the charts in Europe at 49% and India leading the rest of the world at 56%.
70% ABSTAINING FROM MEETING FOR SEX
70% of ROMEO users are not meeting for dates or sex. This number increases in countries with stricter rules, Italy and Spain (86%). Germany and Sweden rank lowest at 61% and 62% respectively. 48% of respondents are dating online only during the lockdown.
ECONOMY IS MORE WORRYING THAN HEALTH
On the subject of health and financial future, users are more worried about the economic impact of Covid-19 then health. 43% state they are worried about their health, while 50% fear for their financial future. This spikes in India, 73% worry about what is to come financially. Only 32% of Spain’s respondents are worried about their health. Younger respondents (18-25) fear more for their financial future than the over 65’’s (45% are not worried at all).
57% FEAR FOR GAY COMMUNITY
With the real economic impact still to be realized, we asked if people feared for the future of their local LGBT+ community. Small businesses and community organizations can be a lifeline for many. Globally 35% said they were concerned. The UK is the least concerned at 20% and Germany the most at 46%. The 45-65 age group are the most worried. 45% of 18-35 are not worried at all.
40% AGREE WITH LOCKDOWN MEASURES
40% of the respondents think their country’s measures were just right. 32% felt they could be stricter or were not strict enough. France and the UK are the least satisfied with Government measures, 53% of French and 49% of UK users think their country should have stricter rules. In Sweden, where there was a different approach to lockdown, 56% claim their government got things right.
1 in 5 HAVE LOST THEIR MOJO
COVID-19 is proving to be a mood killer, 21% of respondents stated they have no interest in dating during this period. 35-54 age range accounts for nearly half of this figure. Spanish users are experiencing a dampening of desire the most at 40%.
SUMMER VACATIONS WILL BE CLOSE TO HOME
Overseas travel is on hold for 2020. 73% of people do not have plans to travel outside their country. Spain leads this at 85%. Some UK respondents still are hoping for a vacation this year with 29% planning overseas holidays, and 31% undecided.
COUPLES ARE THRIVING
Of the 31,899 people with partners, 17% claim that they are getting on better than usual. USA and India top this at 29%, and the UK is just behind at 27%. Italy which has experienced one of the longest periods of lockdown is unsurprisingly behind the global average at 14%.
New report documents amplified impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQIA people
While Covid-19 leaves no country and no individual unaffected, the pandemic imposes specific challenges among LGBTQIA people.
Covid-19 shatters the rainbow.
While Covid-19 leaves no country and no individual unaffected, the pandemic imposes specific challenges among LGBTQIA people. This is according to OutRight Action International’s “Vulnerability Amplified: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on LGBTIQ people”, which documents the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on LGBTQIA people.
Drawing on almost 60 rapid research interviews conducted with LGBTQIA people in all regions of the world, some of the specific challenges faced by LGBTQIA people identified in the report are:
- Devastation of livelihoods – rising food and shelter insecurity resulting from job loss, and economic fall out as a result of over-representation of LGBTQIA people in the informal sector and broad employment discrimination;
- Disruptions in accessing health care, including crucial HIV medication and gender affirming treatments, and reluctance to seek health care due to discrimination, stigma and refusal of services experienced by LGBTQIA people even outside a pandemic;
- Elevated risk of domestic and family violence – the most prevalent form of violence faced by LGBTQIA people on a day-to-day basis is heightened in circumstances of lockdowns, curfews and lack of access to support services and community resources;
- Social isolation and increased anxiety which are further heightened by being cut off from chosen families and the LGBTQIA community;
- Scapegoating, societal discrimination and stigma – there is an unfortunate history of LGBTQIA people being blamed for emergency situations, leading to further stigmatization, marginalization, violence and danger;
- Abuse of state power – repression, exclusion, and criminalization are all on the rise in countries prone to authoritarianism and regressive gender ideologies, with some states using the emergency situation to clamp down specifically on LGBTQIA people;
- Concerns about organizational survival – amplifying the effects even further are the impacts on LGBTQIA community organizations and spaces, which are a lifeline to countless LGBTQIA people. Organizations now face an uncertain future with funding cuts, lockdowns, and having to shift activities on line while calls for direct, practical support are on the rise.
According to the executive director of OutRight Action International, Jessica Stern: “COVID-19 and the surrounding containment measures affect everyone, everywhere. But those most marginalized feel it more. Even in the absence of a pandemic, LGBTQIA people experience higher levels of discrimination, violence and deprivation around the world. Now we are at a heightened risk of domestic and family abuse, we lack access to crucial HIV and gender affirming medication, get scapegoated for the pandemic, and excluded from relief efforts, while being cut off from LGBTQIA organizations and support networks. For us the situation is dire. I fear how many LGBTQIA people will lose their lives because of the amplified vulnerability we face. We need immediate action from governments, the UN, and the philanthropic sector to prevent an LGBTQIA humanitarian crisis.”
The results of the research report are reinforced by initial data from applications to OutRight’s COVID-19 Global LGBTIQ Emergency Fund. Within a month of opening for applications, OutRight received over 1,500 requests for help from LGBTIQ organizations across the world, the vast majority requesting resources to alleviate food and shelter insecurity. As ever, LGBTIQ organizations are being called on to step in where other institutions fail to safeguard LGBTIQ people’s health, safety and wellness.
‘Remember. And continue acting.’ – BC marks IACM 2020
There are issues that continue to make the lives of PLHIVs, particularly in resource-limited location like the Philippines, difficult. This is stressed by the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, marked to remember lives lost to AIDS.
In September 2015, Stephen Christian Quilacio asked Michael David dela Cruz Tan, editor in chief of Outrage Magazine and concurrent executive director of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) if he wanted to join a hospital visit to a person “suspected” to have HIV. At that time, Tan was visiting Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao, documenting HIV-related efforts of faith-based organizations (FBOs) for the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
Lor’s case was “suspected” because, while he kept saying he already had himself tested and that he’s HIV-negative, the attending physicians may have known otherwise but were still waiting for the patient’s confirmatory test result (from Metro Manila).
“Lor (not his real name) was having a hard time doing just about everything,” recalled Quilacio, who is also Bahaghari Center’s northern Mindanao coordinator. But “through it all, he was adamant in denying the probability that he may have HIV.”
Two weeks after that hospital visit, Lor passed away; this time, from confirmed AIDS-related complications.
Lor’s case is actually still not rare.
From October to December 2019 in the Philippines, for instance, 116 people died from AIDS-related complications. From January 1984 to end-December 2019, 3,730 Filipinos with HIV already died. And – this is worth stressing – this is only the reported cases, which may be lower than the real figures because of under- or non-reporting.
For Tan, the saddest part of this is that “we’re at a time when we’re often told that HIV is no longer a death sentence.” He added that “for many, it still is.”
And exactly because many lives continue to be lost to HIV and/or AIDS that the world marks the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) every 17th of May, as a time for everyone to remember these lives lost. Started in 1983, IACM has since evolved to also honor those who dedicate their lives to helping people living with and affected by HIV.
Themed “We remember – We take action – We live beyond HIV“, this year’s IACM is said to be “much more than just a memorial” as “it serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. With almost 38 million people living with HIV today, (it) serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and giving hope to new generations.”
“This is apt,” said Quilacio, “because even now, we still need to act to really make an impact on HIV.”
STILL AN ONGOING STRUGGLE
There are issues that continue to make the lives of PLHIVs, particularly in resource-limited location like the Philippines, difficult/challenging.
In the Philippines, at least, the HIV situation continues to worsen.
To start, the rate of infection keeps getting higher – i.e. 35 Filipinos now get infected with HIV every day. And from October to December 2019, there were 3,029 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals reported to the HIV/ AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP). Sixteen percent (474) had clinical manifestations of advanced HIV infection at the time of testing.
Younger people also continue to be infected with HIV. In HARP’s report, almost half of the October-December 2019 cases (49%, 1,475) were 25-34 years old, and 31% (926) were 15-24 years old at the time of diagnosis.
Then there’s the stigma that leads to discrimination, said Quilacio. “It remains common to hear stories about PLHIVs kicked out of their homes, or from work because of their HIV status.”
Close to Quilacio’s heart is the “disconnect” in the services offered in metropolitan areas versus those in provinces/rural areas. “As a Mindanawon activist, we know that there are supposedly ‘must-have’ services that are not provided to us – e.g. viral load, and even regular/steady supply of anti-retroviral medicines.”
And then there, too, is the profiteering that happens in the HIV community – e.g. organizations supposed to render life-saving services not doing so unless they profit from PLHIVs.
According to Ico Rodulfo Johnson, who helms The Red Ribbon Project, other issues have been emerging, seeming to steal attention away from HIV – e.g. Covid-19.
However, “despite (these), we continue to fight for our rights to improved health care, for awareness and education and against stigma and discrimination related to HIV,” he said. “The challenge is greater but our passion for the HIV advocacy is stronger.”
And this – the stronger passion that pushes people and/or organizations to act – is what’s needed.
CONTINUING THE STRUGGLE
Tan urges more action.
“From HIV testing to linking those who test positive to treatment/care/support services to holding non-performing treatment facilities responsible for their failure to do their mandates… a lot still needs to be done,” he said.
For its part, and among its HIV-related efforts, Bahaghari Center – with Outrage Magazine, The Project Red Ribbon, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow and TransDeaf Philippines – trained Deaf Filipinos on community-based HIV screening. This was because of the lack of readily available HIV counselors who know of Filipino Sign Language (FSL). This way, “we empower Deaf Filipinos to start testing among themselves, instead of relying on Hearing people who may not always be there for them.”
And then backed by Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center) – which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific – Bahaghari Center released PSAs on HIV for Deaf Filipinos.
For Fritzie Caybot Estoque, past president of MOCAN – an organization providing support to HIV-infected and -affected Filipinos in Mindanao: “We can’t afford to be complacent. We need to do more.”
Estoque – like Johnson – noted how the Covid-19 pandemic “has taught us one good lesson – that stigma and discrimination can do harm more than the disease itself.” And so she calls for people to “end it.”
“To make us more compassionate, extensive and effective, education is still a must both for HIV… and (in this case, also) Covid-19. We can’t afford to be complacent. Still. All the more,” Estoque said.
And so for Tan, “yes, let’s remember – the people whose lives were cut short by HIV, the advocates who paved the way and those who continue working to curb HIV, etc. But let this also be a call for us not to stop now.”
From Voldemort to Vader, science says we prefer fictional villains who remind us of ourselves
“Perhaps fiction provides a way to engage with the dark aspects of your personality without making you question whether you are a good person in general.”
As people binge watch TV shows and movies during this period of physical distancing, they may find themselves eerily drawn to fictional villains, from Voldemort and Vader to Maleficent and Moriarty. Rather than being seduced by the so-called dark side, the allure of evil characters has a reassuringly scientific explanation.
According to new research published in the journal Psychological Science, people may find fictional villains surprisingly likeable when they share similarities with the viewer or reader.
This attraction to potentially darker versions of ourselves in stories occurs even though we would be repulsed by real-world individuals who have similarly immoral or unstable behaviors. One reason for this shift, the research indicates, is that fiction acts like a cognitive safety net, allowing us to identify with villainous characters without tainting our self-image.
“Our research suggests that stories and fictional worlds can offer a ‘safe haven’ for comparison to a villainous character that reminds us of ourselves,” [RK1] says Rebecca Krause, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University and lead author on the paper. “When people feel protected by the veil of fiction, they may show greater interest in learning about dark and sinister characters who resemble them.”
Academics have long suggested people recoil from others who are in many ways similar to themselves yet possess negative features such as obnoxiousness, instability, and treachery. Antisocial features in someone with otherwise similar qualities, the thinking goes, may be a threat to a person’s image of themselves.
“People want to see themselves in a positive light,” notes Krause. “Finding similarities between oneself and a bad person can be uncomfortable.” In contrast, Krause and her coauthor and advisor Derek Rucker find that putting the bad person in a fictional context can remove that discomfort and even reverse this preference. In essence, this separation from reality attenuates undesirable and uncomfortable feelings.
“When you are no longer uncomfortable with the comparison, there seems to be something alluring and enticing about having similarities with a villain,” explains Rucker.
“For example, people who see themselves as tricky and chaotic may feel especially drawn to the character of The Joker in the Batman movies, while a person who shares Lord Voldemort’s intellect and ambition may feel more drawn to that character in the Harry Potter series,” said Krause.
To test this idea, the researchers analyzed data from the website CharacTour, an online, character-focused entertainment platform that had approximately 232,500 registered users at the time of analysis. One of the site’s features allows users to take a personality quiz and see their similarity to different characters who had been coded as either villainous or not. Villains included characters such as Maleficent, The Joker, and Darth Vader. Nonvillains included Sherlock Holmes, Joey Tribbiani, and Yoda.
The anonymous data from these quizzes allowed the researchers to test whether people were attracted toward or repulsed by similar villains, using nonvillains as a baseline. Not surprisingly, people were drawn to nonvillains as their similarity increased. However, the results further suggested that users were most drawn to villains who share similarities with them.
The researchers believe that similarities to story villains do not threaten the self in the way real-life villains would.
“Given the common finding that people are uncomfortable with and tend to avoid people who are similar to them and bad in some way, the fact that people actually prefer similar villains over dissimilar villains was surprising to us,” notes Rucker. “Honestly, going into the research, we both were aware of the possibility that we might find the opposite.”
The current data do not identify which behaviors or characteristics the participants found attractive. Further research is needed to explore the psychological pull of villains and whether people are drawn toward similar villains in fiction because people look for chances to explore their own personal dark side.
“Perhaps fiction provides a way to engage with the dark aspects of your personality without making you question whether you are a good person in general,” concludes Krause.
Gender-based violence in the COVID-19 pandemic
Gender-based violence has been shown to increase during global emergencies. And according to early evidence, it is the same for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gender-based violence has been shown to increase during global emergencies. And in a paper published by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, researchers report that according to early evidence it is the same for the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings are online in the journal Bioethics.
Early results from China suggest that domestic violence has dramatically increased. For example, a police station in China’s Hubei Province recorded a tripling of domestic violence reports in February 2020 during the COVID-19 quarantine. Other reports suggest that police have been reluctant to intervene and detain perpetrators due to COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons.
“Gender norms and roles relegating women to the realm of care work puts them on the frontlines in times of crisis, resulting in greater risk of exposure while excluding them from developing the response,” said Terry McGovern, chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia Mailman School, director of the Program on Global Health Justice and Governance, and senior author of the study.
- Globally women perform three-quarters of unpaid care work, including household disease prevention and care for sick relatives, and there is not a country in the world where men provide an equal share of unpaid care work.
- In China’s Hubei province, 90% of frontline healthcare workers are women as in many other parts of the world.
However, the researchers make the point that it is not too late to include the voices of women in tackling COVID-19:
- Governments can incorporate gender considerations into their response.
- Technology can be leveraged to ensure women continue to receive essential services when they need them most. For example, emergency services and victim support can be maintained via text, phone, and online services.
- Telemedicine should be considered an alternative and secure way to provide women and girls access to contraceptives and abortion medication.
“Recognizing, valuing, supporting women’s roles and giving them a voice in global health governance can go a long way in avoiding unintended consequences, building resilient healthcare systems, and reducing intersectional inequalities and vulnerabilities across gender, race, class and geography,” noted Neetu John, first author and assistant professor in Columbia Mailman School’s Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, and the co-authors.
Co-authors of the study include: Sara Casey, Columbia Mailman School; and Giselle Carino, International Planned Parenthood Federation.
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