Posts Tagged ‘mtv’

Let’s not hit each other, ok?

March 5, 2013

What’s far more troubling than admitting I watched the Vanderpump Rules reunion special yesterday? That the show so quickly glazed over domestic violence. Though in this case, it was female-on-male.

Now, now, now — I’m well aware that 85 percent of domestic violence is perpetrated against women, and oftentimes those violent acts happen in the midst of a relationship. One-third of homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner — that shit isn’t to be taken lightly, and it isn’t to be overshadowed by what I’m about to say.

But, lately I’ve seen a lot of double-standard acceptance of female-on-male violence. In Vanderpump‘s case, Stassi admitted to physically hitting ex-boyfriend Jax during an argument — to the point where she bloodied his nose. If you’ve seen the muscle-bound Jax and the small Stassi, you probably shrugged off her admission as harmless — along with his agreement that he deserved it, a statement far too many women confess sans Jax’s confident, self-assured demeanor.

But I kind of hate that. Self defense aside, I don’t like the public acceptance of this kind of violence. Or maybe I don’t get the public acceptance that a woman isn’t dangerous and can’t inflict actual emotional and physical harm on a man. Or maybe I hate how these interactions trivialize assault and violence — after all, many victims don’t have Jax’s confidence and strength when faced with abuse.

I’ve blogged many a time about male-focused abuse regarding Amber Portwood from Teen Mom and her violent behavior — and yes, once regarding Tool Academy but it’s important to remember. We should label domestic violence as a seriously offensive act, but we can’t be selectively outraged about who the recipient is.

It’s counter productive, even to those who recognize that women are far more disproportionately the victim.

P.S. I still think men should be able to march in Take Back the Night, too.

Teen Mom 2: Coal mining, child support, and self-doubt

January 20, 2012

Where to begin this week with Teen Mom — coal mining? Child support? Jenelle’s ability to somehow convince everyone in her life that her often delusional perspective makes total sense? Let’s take these topics on, inverted pyramid-style.

Teen pregnancy, class, and coal mining 

I never thought I’d see the day when two of the topics that really interest me — teen pregnancy and coal mining — would intersect, but this episode made subtle mention of them. Leah briefly mentions that her husband, Corey, is taking a coal mining certification test. Later, Corey makes a quick remark about spending his days working in a coal mine.

Leah and Corey live in Elkview, West Virginia, a city surrounded by coal mines that sit just an hour and a half from Raleigh, West Virginia, where the Upper Big Branch mine disaster killed 29 coal miners in 2010. When mining companies are lax about following — or in some cases blatantly ignore — safety regulations because they want to maximize profit, coal miners are put in extreme danger.

The job already puts coal miners at increased risk for health problems such as black lung, not to mention the higher rates of heart, lung, and kidney disease found in those who live in mining communities.

I wonder how much of Corey’s decision was based on his own socioeconomic standing. The Charleston area’s unemployment rate has steadily been decreasing, dropping from 7.6 percent in June 2011 to 6.4 percent in November 2011, but Corey is also limited in his job search because he has a high school education and needs a full-time, decent-paying job because he has a family to support — and coal mining jobs have an average starting salary of $60,000 per year. That’s quite a luring paycheck for someone with a family and no college education.

With 17.8 percent of West Virginians living below the poverty level — higher than the national average of 14.3 percent — residents are already at a disadvantage class-wise. The percentage of people with a high school diploma is 3 percent below the national average, with the percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree 10.4 percent lower than the national average. Born into this socioeconomic scenario, teens like Corey and Leah would have to work harder than many to move above these statistics. Add two children into the mix, and Corey likely sees coal mining as one of his only options — which is an unfortunate predicament considering how dangerous it is.

It’s this cycle that keeps low-income people in coal mines, putting their health and safety at higher risk than higher income people who can afford a college education that won’t leave them in the coal mines (they’ll have equally or more lucrative career options with less danger to their health and safety). I know Leah gets some type of compensation for the show, so I’d be interested to know how that all works and to hear his motivation for choosing this job.

Jo and child support

This argument is a he-said, she-said battle. Kailyn says that Jo isn’t around when Isaac visits him, and that Jo wants to split Isaac’s expenses right down the middle — something she thinks is unfair given their unequal incomes and the fact that Jo still lives at home with his parents. Jo thinks that Kailyn is trying to get Jo to support her — claiming that she wants to live off him and the government, refusing to get a better job because she wants to work with her boyfriend.

I’m not sure what the arrangement was, but Kailyn isn’t in the wrong to formally ask for child support. They’ve had trouble in the past coming to verbal agreements when it comes to custody and had to go to court for that, and Kailyn seems to be struggling even with nonprofit assistance with her housing. Jo isn’t supporting Kailyn, but providing her with money to feed, clothe, shelter, and provide for Isaac — costs they should be splitting down the middle anyway.

And does anyone else take issue with Jo just devolving to call Kailyn a bitch whenever he isn’t getting his way? She’s a bitch, a piece of shit, etc., always being called these things in front of their son — it just makes me cringe.

Jenelle’s running mouth

As an aside, does anyone else notice that Jenelle speaks so assuredly that everyone around her just nods their head, agreeing that her logic makes sense, when really she is just spouting bullshit? I think I’ve heard her say that she needs to “get established” and “establish herself” about 974 times ever since her episode of 16 and Pregnant, and I still have no idea what it means.

It’s very peculiar, literally watching someone deceive themselves on camera — watching a teenager talk pretty maturely as if she knows everything about the world but then lives as that immature, still-learning young person who only seems like she actually knows what she’s talking about. Having the knowledge — yes, I need to go to school and get a job and stay away from my deadbeat boyfriend — to create a formula for success, but completely not listening to her own advice.

I think I find it fascinating because I have a tendency to try and find assurance in my own decisions by talking to other people, explaining my thought process and the reasons why I did something in an effort to really convince myself — rather than them  — that my decisions were the right ones. I think people especially do this when they know deep down they’re making poor decisions, but they want to display a confident exterior so people won’t question or challenge these poor decisions.

Teen Mom: Maturity = talking about sex, not just having it

December 28, 2011

New Year’s resolution: Start blogging again! It’s not January yet, but I did just watch an episode of Teen Mom 2 that caught my attention. Nothing like getting a head-start on my resolution!

So, this week Kailyn decided to get an IUD, an intrauterine device, which is T-shaped and can stay in the uterus for as long as five years. It works to prevent egg fertilization, and it’s something Kailyn decided to try because she had trouble remembering to take her pill every day. Though she is using protection when having sex with her boyfriend, Jordan, she makes the decision to further prevent any possibility of pregnancy with the Mirena IUD.

What gets me is that Jordan was extremely squeamish when Kailyn told him about the IUD. She admitted beforehand that they never really talk about sex — they just have sex — and her prediction that Jordan would be awkward was right. She wanted to let him know about her decision, and he looked uncomfortable, remarked that it was embarrassing, and later apologized for his awkward reaction.

My theory is that if you’re mature enough to have sex, then you need to be mature enough to talk about it. Talking about sex can be awkward, especially when you haven’t brought up the topic with a partner before. But this lack of communication has a significant affect on the lack of contraceptive use, whether it’s people feeling awkward about mentioning using protection during the act or one partner assuming the other has the birth control covered without any verbal confirmation.

So you have to weigh — is this awkward moment more difficult to deal with than an unplanned pregnancy? And if you’re afraid of what your partner will say, is that a red flag regarding your relationship? If you take contraception seriously but you’re afraid your partner won’t agree to use any, is that really something to compromise about? But all these questions assume a certain outcome — you won’t actually know your partner’s response until you talk about it.

According to one study, kids whose parents talked to them about sex as a teenager were more likely to delay sex and practice safe sex than kids whose parents did not talk to them about sex. And it’s important to start those conversations early, for the air of shame and humiliation to be taken away from sex — because yeah, it’s awkward as a parent to talk to your kid about sex. But if you set the example that talking about sex is taboo, then an unhealthy cycle of silence begins — then young people think it’s unacceptable to talk about sex, and they feel uneasy about voicing concerns and asking questions.

It’s obvious I haven’t blogged in a while, as I’m just being long-winded here for the sake of hearing myself type. Anyway, it was an interesting scene — two adults who have no qualms about having sex with each other, having difficulty actually talking about something they do regularly. This communication problem is something adults of all ages experience, and addressing it begins with removing the stigma about admitting out loud that, yes, you’re having sex and there’s nothing to be ashamed about.

Teen Mom: Only women wear engagement rings

August 22, 2011

On this week’s episode of Teen Mom,  Catelynn and Tyler discussed how things would be different for them now that Tyler has officially graduated high school and will start college classes while Catelynn continues to finish her high school classes. One of Catelynn’s concerns was the ladies who Tyler might meet at college, and she half-joked but half-seriously suggested that he wear an engagement ring to let them know he was taken. His response? He doesn’t have to wear an engagement ring, but Catelynn does because she’s a woman.

Engagements and weddings are littered with patriarchal undertones, and Catelynn was right to question why Tyler didn’t wear an engagement ring. Catelynn wears a ring around her finger 24/7 that lets any passerby know that someone else has staked his claim, yet Tyler isn’t expected to — and doesn’t see a purpose — in doing the same for Catelynn. She is merely asking for equality, but Tyler shuts her down with the old standby of “that’s just tradition.”

Just because something is tradition, though, doesn’t mean it’s logical or the best way to do something. Is the best way to show a mutual commitment to each other that only the woman wears an engagement ring? Not really, especially when the woman is vocal about not wanting to be the only one in the relationship doing so. But Tyler completely disregarded her arguments anyway, unwilling to entertain them because it’s easier to keep with tradition than break the mold.

And it might be easier to keep with tradition than field questions about why he’s wearing an engagement ring even though he’s a dude, but they plan on getting married — shouldn’t he be most concerned with his partner’s feelings as opposed to society’s feelings? It’s times like these when we really need to think critically about our actions. When your response to a question is, “Because that’s just how it’s done,” then you need to step back and ponder, “But why is it always done this way? Is that motivation something I believe in?”

Though Catelynn’s motivation — so that girls will know you’re engaged and won’t talk to you — doesn’t exactly exemplify trustworthiness, the bigger problem in this argument was that Tyler so quickly aimed to end it with, “You’re a woman, so deal with the inequality.” It’s times like these that couples could and should think critically about a solution or compromise that satisfies them both, rather than rely on a tradition that will leave someone — likely the woman if we’re talking heterosexual relationships — feeling unheard and unfulfilled.

16&P: Pregnancy, anorexia, and lacking support from mom

May 27, 2011

I haven’t blogged about 16 and Pregnant in a while because the themes have tended to overlap, but this week’s episode proved much different than any previous episode in this or any other season. This week we met Kayla, who not only has an unsupportive mom to deal with, but also an eating disorder that makes her pregnancy very tumultuous.

“Don’t get fat, don’t get fat, you’re gross”

These are the words that Kayla said run through her mind whenever she thinks about eating. Kayla was hospitalized and then diagnosed with anorexia when she was 13 years old, and her pregnancy proved challenging because of the weight she gained. Although doctors were continuously telling her throughout her pregnancy that she was not gaining the appropriate amount of weight, Kayla skipped meals constantly and at one point was hospitalized for pre-term labor relating to dehydration.

Kayla explained to her friends that even though they saw a baby bump when they looked at her, she saw flab and would stand in front of the mirror crying. “Only fat people get stretch marks,” she said, concerned that the stretch marks she was getting were a sign that she was overeating or overweight (stretch marks are a very common side effect of pregnancy and are often even hereditary). She knew that she had to feed the baby, but her eating disorder was always in the back of her mind.

Not only was Kayla struggling with the judgment many teens receive for being pregnant, but she was also concerned about the judgment people would give her because of her weight. She went to the beach with her friends but didn’t want to wear a bikini because she was afraid people would assume she was overweight — and if they did think she was pregnant, then she might receive dirty looks for being a pregnant teen.

Being pregnant changes a woman’s body substantially — hips widen, breasts get larger, and there’s significant weight gain. Average size women should gain about 25 to 35 pounds, underweight women should gain about 28 to 40 pounds, and overweight women should gain about 15 to 25 pounds. For someone who has an eating disorder and has body image issues already, it’s difficult to deal with a rapid, dramatic, and most importantly uncontrollable physical transformation like that. There’s a constant fight between knowing the growing baby needs nourishment and the desire to control the weight gain, and that’s something that is rarely seen on TV but something many women struggle with during pregnancy.

A mom who’s MIA 

And though her friends were supportive and reminded her she obviously had a baby bump and not flab, that she didn’t look fat, and that she needed to feed her baby, she lacked the support system that she yearned for and that would’ve helped her the most: from her mom.

After being hospitalized for dehydration, Kayla saw a nutritionist about her eating habits (this is just one important recommendation for pregnant women who have been diagnosed with eating disorders). The doctor told her not to eat alone because it creates an air of secrecy around eating and because having people eat with you makes it more difficult to avoid meals, and also that they should have family dinners. Kayla reiterated this to her mom, who made one home-cooked meal — and that was it.

Kayla’s mom was constantly spending time with her boyfriend instead of Kayla, and she was constantly avoiding having to play the mother role when it came to helping Kayla through her pregnancy. With an eating disorder alone Kayla needs a solid support system, and adding her pregnancy makes a support system essential.

But Kayla’s mom resists being that support system; she makes lots of promises and then breaks them. Or, like when Kayla asks her mom for advice about her pregnancy, what she should expect, what she needs to buy for the baby, and says she is really overwhelmed, her mom suggests that she visit a support group. Kayla practically begs her mom throughout the episode to help her and offer guidance, but her mom doesn’t want to get involved. “I think it’s all going to fall into place,” her mom replied.

I suspect this is because her mom was a teen mom, and she doesn’t want to be sucked into raising another child. I think she stays with her boyfriend so she can avoid dealing with reality (I’d say she was relieving the glory days she missed out on, but Kayla says her evasive behavior only started after Kayla got pregnant), and I think she wants Kayla to deal with everything without any help because she doesn’t want Kayla to rely on her too much.

This is evident when she says she will take a week off work to help Kayla with newborn Preston — keep in mind Kayla’s boyfriend Mike works and Kayla had a c-section so is initially going to be limited in what she can do — and then decides not to take any time off work and tells Kayla and Mike they’ll figure it out. But part of me also wonders if Kayla’s mom didn’t have it so easy as a teen mom, and she for some morbid reason wants Kayla to suffer, too. Her mom even forces Mike to pay $300 rent even though they pay for everything themselves; are literally left with no money after they buy diapers, wipes, and formula; and Mike living there and working there is the only reason Kayla can take care of the baby all day.

Kayla’s mom isn’t required to do anything, but most of the parents on the show who were also teen parents are sympathetic to their kids’ struggles because they’ve been there before. Kayla expected her mom to be supportive, and her mom even said her “biggest fear is that [Kayla] wouldn’t keep it.” Kayla’s mom plays into a common anti-choice theme here: She doesn’t want Kayla to have an abortion, but she doesn’t offer Kayla much support once she decides to keep the baby. Kayla does live in her mom’s house, but she lacks any other financial, physical, or emotional support from her.

Stepping up as parents

I was wildly impressed with both Kayla’s and Mike’s attitude toward this pregnancy. Unlike some teen moms we’ve seen in past episodes who felt their pregnancies and babies shouldn’t impede on their ability to have a normal teenage life (Farrah and Jenelle come to mind), Kayla was more realistic. “I don’t think I should be able to be a regular teenager. I’m not a regular teenager,” she told her mom. On the aftershow, Kayla said that it’s weird to go out with friends now, saying, “I feel guilty about it, like I shouldn’t even get to have that fun.”

Being a parent doesn’t mean your social life is over or that you don’t deserve to have fun, but Kayla realized early on what some teen parents don’t: Parenting involves some sacrifice. And usually it’s the teen mom always making the sacrifices (dropping out of school, falling behind in school, not going to college), but Mike made a lot of sacrifices and to his credit was one of the most involved and dedicated teen dads I’ve seen on the show. He moved an hour away from home to be with Kayla, skipped college, and was the support system she needed throughout her pregnancy. They aren’t together anymore, but Kayla says he remains very involved with Preston.

The importance of support

Kayla’s episode really highlighted how important a solid support system is. She had a close-knit group of friends who were concerned about her health, and she had a boyfriend who was committed and dedicated to her and their baby. It’s unfortunate that her mom — an important piece to the puzzle — chose to let Kayla fend for herself while she struggled with both pregnancy and anorexia.

And how Kayla’s mom doesn’t see this is beyond me. In fact, at one point, her mom suggests they go on a diet together. Even Kayla looked at her with confusion — her mother, knowing she’s been diagnosed with anorexia, a disease that leaves you starving yourself and not eating enough food, wants to encourage Kayla to focus on losing weight and “portion control”?

Part of combatting an eating disorder is learning to eat in a healthy way, but her mom suggesting that she (1) needs to lose weight and that (2) Kayla could teach her something because she knows how to avoid food leaves me speechless. This doesn’t support Kayla at all, but merely asks Kayla to focus on losing weight and eating less.

I wish her mom would be more of an all-around support system for her, because her friends are leaving for college soon and she isn’t with Mike anymore. That is, if she can figure out how to properly support her daughter.

For more information on eating disorders, including treatment and support groups, visit the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders or the National Eating Disorders Association.

‘Real World’ tidbits: Idealizing a partner, forgiving family

May 26, 2011

This week on Real World, there were two interesting themes (surprisingly neither has to do with Dustin doing porn): idealizing someone you have romantic feelings for and mending fraught relationships. The former is all about trying to make a relationship work based on a skewed image of the person, and the latter is all about trying to make a relationship work based on a real image of the person, with it being difficult in either case to look objectively at the person in the present.

Ideal vs. real

It boggles my mind that anyone could actually idealize Adam, considering he has zero redeeming qualities, but Nany had idealized Adam and their relationship until he returned for a final visit with Nany. He came back, got belligerently drunk, and tried to get into the Hard Rock Hotel (which he is banned from). Nany didn’t stay the night with him and proceeded to ignore him for the next two days, obviously annoyed that his visit was not going as she’d imagined.

I was actually quite surprised that she so quickly turned against him, since he was constantly belligerently drunk when he was still living in Vegas. His behavior was classic Adam — everything you’d think Nany would expect. But I’m sure that Nany had a skewed and idealized memory of Adam. He wasn’t around to remind her that he is manipulative, out of control, and violent, so she could remember him exactly as she decided — and I’m sure that idealized memory disintegrated as she watched him drink vodka straight from the bottle.

We often and unknowingly stay in unhealthy relationships because we rely on these idealized images of people, suppressing the bad stuff and remembering the good stuff. It’s why people stay in and return to bad relationships, because they either forget or ignore the bad stuff in hopes it’ll play out differently. Nany was willing to ignore a lot of the bad, but eventually she reached a point where she couldn’t ignore how skewed her memory of Adam was and came back into reality.

So I say kudos to Nany, who didn’t try to keep “reforming” another bad boy, something she admitted in episode one that she likes to do. I disagree with her assessment that Adam is fine sober, but I do hope that she meant it when she said she was going to stop going after guys like Adam. Part of that will mean identifying manipulative, violent behavior and not brushing it off or excusing it.

Forgiving someone vs. forgetting someone

This week Mike’s mom and her boyfriend came to visit, and he hadn’t seen her in two years and didn’t know what to expect from the visit. He has detailed in past episodes that she wasn’t around during his childhood, frequently got arrested, and had substance abuse problems throughout his life. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and Mike confessed that he didn’t know if he wanted to rekindle a relationship with her because she might just be taken away from him once again.

Mike’s dilemma was extremely difficult, and it was juxtaposed with Nany’s quest to find her birth father. Whereas Mike had known his mother all his life (though at one point did refer to her as his “birth mother,” implying his relationship with her is very minimal in scope), Nany never knew her father at all. She hired a private investigator to find him, who eventually revealed that her father had died in 2002.

Nany was desperate to form a connection with a father she never knew, and Mike was unsure if he wanted to form a connection with a mother he always knew (though not in a way that he wanted). Nany’s learning that she could never build relationship with her father led her to warn Mike not to take his mother for granted, and this seemed to resonate with him. It would be easier in the short-term to forget about her, but likely much more difficult in the long-term if she passes away and building a relationship with her is impossible.

‘Real World’: Porn star ≠ sexual predator

May 19, 2011

So this week on Real World, I actually felt bad for Dustin. Usually I find him to be egotistical, manipulative, and judgmental, but he definitely didn’t deserve to be equated with a child molester because of his porn past.

Mike, who doesn’t like Dustin and gave him a letter post-porn-discovery basically saying that he hated Dustin for what he did, had an idea for their internship to raise money for local schools’ music departments. After a meeting about the idea, Mike warned Dustin that he might not be allowed near the school or the students because of his porn star past. They’d do a background check, Mike insisted, and Dustin wouldn’t be allowed near the children.

Firstly, the type of porn Dustin did isn’t illegal, so it wouldn’t come up in an actual background check — maybe in a Google check, though. Mike seems to equate porn with other devious sex acts such as child molestation — acts that actually are illegal and would prevent you from getting near children. Dustin was right to be upset, because being a porn star is not the same as being a sexual predator.

Obviously this speaks to Mike’s own values — that porn is on the same level of “immoral” or “wrong” as sexual assault. And though Mike can have his own beliefs about pornography, I’m not sure if his insinuating that Dustin’s porn history (with consenting, of-age adults) is trying to rile Dustin up or if Mike really thinks that being in pornography means you are a danger to young children. They were going to the school to listen to the kids play music, not to give a sex ed demonstration.

I also think there’s an element of homophobia here, and that the combination of gay sex and pornography is too much indecency for Mike to handle. He’s projected his own morality (“I wouldn’t want my kids around someone who does gay porn”) onto society at large, but it’s important to remember that Dustin didn’t break any laws or abuse any children. Therefore, he doesn’t deserve to be treated like a criminal or a sex offender.

I admit, I’d have felt a little sympathy for Mike if Dustin had actually put that birdcage on his head, though.

‘Real World’: Double standards when it comes to hooking up

May 5, 2011

‘Tis the season for double standards this week on Real World: specifically, (1) that gal-on-gal sexual relations are awesome but guy-on-guy sexual relations are gross, and (2) gals who have one-night stands are sluts but guys who have one-night stands are ballers.

The same-sex relations double standard came up this week when Heather and Nany had some ambiguous sexual relations. They did more than make out, but Heather wasn’t clear on the details when she told Dustin about it. Anyway, Nany wasn’t fazed by it, but Heather was particularly distraught about what had happened. She was upset after the fact, saying her confusion about Dustin manifested itself in a hookup with Nany.

This is a double standard because Heather initially had said she wouldn’t get with a guy who had been with another guy before — even just kissing. When Heather found out about Dustin’s past (living his life on a webcam with other guys, participating in a guy-on-guy porn where he admitted to giving another guy oral sex), she was very distraught — not only because he lied about it, but because she had established that guy-on-guy interactions made her uncomfortable.

Now, I don’t think this is a true double standard because Heather was upset after the fact, not claiming that it was OK for her and Nany to hook up but not two guys. It does, however, speak to how our own personal experiences can change our judgment calls. There’s something to be said about how we view something we’ve never experienced  versus how our opinion changes once we do experience it. (Other things in the it’ll-never-happen-to-me category — aside from being attracted to a member of the same sex — include unplanned pregnancy, being unemployed, needing government assistance, etc.) It could give her a fresh perspective on how she views Dustin’s past interactions with guys.

Now the other male roommates’ reaction was definitely pure double standard. Mike, who wrote a letter to Dustin basically saying he didn’t like him anymore because he had sexual relations with other guys, and LeRoy, who tried to have a religious intervention with Dustin and encouraged him to ask God for help, both thought the Heather-Nany hookup was arousing and awesome. No intervention with Jesus for girl-on-girl action, eh?

The second double standard was courtesy of Dustin, who was surprised that Cooke hooked up with his friend who was visiting from out of town (later Dustin himself made out with Cooke in the backseat of a taxi). He said he was shocked that Cooke had a one-night stand, saying, “I’m from the South where ladies don’t do that.” I might sound like a broken record, but seriously? You don’t say a word when LeRoy brings home different women, but Cooke does and suddenly you need to imply that she is a slut? Groooooooooan.

Also, for crying out loud, USE PROTECTION. Naomi got a vaginal infection (and a pregnancy scare) likely courtesy of unprotected sex with LeRoy, who admitted to having unprotected sex with some other women in Vegas too (though initially he was not honest with Naomi about it). I did appreciate their mature talk about it, and that LeRoy apologized for putting Naomi and himself in that position by not only having unprotected sex with multiple women, but not being up front with Naomi about it. Pull-and-pray not only is a terrible birth control method, but it protects against ZERO sexually transmitted infections.

Real World-er’s relationship argument tactics are misguided

April 28, 2011

I find the characters of this season’s Real World fascinating. Different upbringings, different religions, different personalities — and this week we learned that Dustin once was paid to live in a house with a bunch of straight men, which was streamed online through a webcam, and sometimes had sexual relations with other guys while living in said house. I don’t judge Dustin for doing this — I do, however, judge him for how he handled telling his current romantic interest, Heather, and the aftermath that ensued.

When it comes to arguing with a significant other, everybody has specific inclinations/style/habits/quirks. For instance, I tend to repeat and drill into my sig other’s head why whatever he did was so hurtful/annoying/douchey, which I’ve been told can be excessive. I tend to stew about things, even after the fight is over, and then feel the need to reopen the fight so I can include, for the record, whatever other point I forgot to mention. I focus a lot on the language and wording people use and sometimes read into it too much.

Dustin has his own set of inclinations. You see, Heather and him have sex, so it was pretty important that he disclose his sexual history with her. When she discovers that he had been lying/withholding some parts of that sexual history, she has a right to be upset; but Dustin deflects this anger and then tries to make Heather the bad guy in the following ways:

1. Before they begin to fight, he immediately implies that whatever she has heard is not the truth; he immediately tries to discredit her argument and invalidate her reasons for being mad by insinuating that they are baseless or not “the real story.”

2. He belittles her being upset, asking, “You’re really that mad?” as if he is really surprised that learning your sexual partner has an entire sexual history he hasn’t shared with you isn’t reason to be concerned. He’s doing this in hopes that it’ll convince her that it really isn’t a big deal; considering all her roommates support her being mad, this tactic didn’t work very well.

3. She actually tries to comfort him after he discovers everyone in the house knows his secret, and he tells her to get away from him; he says that her being there is making him mad and pushes her away, which seemingly only makes her more persistent not to leave.

4. The most outlandish thing is when they are out to dinner and he turns the tables and says that he can’t believe she is the type of person who would judge him for this. Heather seems partly mad because she has said before she’d be uncomfortable being with a guy who has been with another guy, but she is partly mad because he lied about his sexual history. She is rightfully concerned that she should be tested, and he shrugs it off and tries to focus the attention on her being an intolerant person rather than him being a liar.

Dustin’s tactics are ones I’ve seen before, but I really couldn’t believe that he was so blatantly saying to Heather, “Oh, you’re mad at me, well I’m mad at YOU!” regarding something as serious as him lying/withholding information about his sexual history. In relationships, this tactic most surely will not solve any problems. Just trying to make your sig other feel crazy will probably postpone having to deal with the problem, but inevitably they will talk to other people, be reaffirmed in their anger, and the problems will surface once more.

And I don’t know if they discussed their sexual histories with each other or not — but everyone should do this. Dustin claimed the porn industry was the cleanest business out there when it comes to sexual health (I’d search for statistics but I’m work and the search results might be NSFW), but regardless, he — as well as any other sexually active person — should get tested regularly for STIs. And he shouldn’t direct Heather away from getting tested, either.

Instead of being manipulative, Dustin should have done the following:

1. Been upfront when Heather asked if he was hiding anything about his past. He knew what she was talking about, and instead of running away, he should’ve suggested they talk about it somewhere private (as private as you can be while filming a reality TV show).

2. Let Heather talk and get out her feelings and frustrations. You might not agree that it’s a big deal, or you might be thinking downplaying it will get you out of trouble, but it’s still a big deal to the other person. Heather has said that she has very limited sexual history, so while Dustin’s life experiences lead him to believe it’s no big deal, he should still appreciate that to her, it is a big deal, and her feelings should be respected and taken into consideration.

3. After listening and respecting Heather’s concerns, Dustin should’ve then told his side of the story. And he should’ve said everything that he knew needed to be on the table. He was still withholding even when Heather was asking about the sexual things he did with other men, trying to skate by without divulging further information. Sorry Dustin but they have Internet access — anything you say can and will be Googled. Heather only found out he had performed oral sex on another guy because she asked a specific question, and that’s what sparked her concern about STIs. When your sig other finds out you’ve been lying and you want forgiveness, continuing to lie or omit the truth is not going to help your case — that’s when you need to just be completely honest.

4. When Heather asked if she should get tested, instead of getting defensive, Dustin should’ve told her his history of being tested for STIs to calm her fears, and suggested that it would be a good idea for her to get tested if it would make her feel better and more relieved.

5. Dustin should have apologized for not disclosing this aspect of his sexual history sooner, instead of trying to frame the fight as a manifestation of Heather’s prejudice and judgmental personality. Your sexual partner has a right to know your sexual history, and when you’re continuously trying to avoid discussing it, that’s unacceptable.

Things would’ve gone much more smoothly if Dustin, when confronted, would’ve been open and honest instead of defensive and deflective. I think Heather wouldn’t have felt compelled to tell everyone in the house about his past if Dustin hadn’t tried to quash the fight by making Heather feel like she was overreacting. She sought the opinions of the roommates specifically because Dustin refused to validate her being upset — Dustin was mad she spread the word, but considering it was already all over the Internet, I’m not that sympathetic.

‘Real World’ brings up myth that women like to be mistreated

April 14, 2011

A myth that floats around is that women date assholes because they enjoy being mistreated. Some argue that’s the message that songs like “Love the Way You Lie” send, with Rihanna singing lyrics like, “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / but that’s all right because I like the way it hurts.” This myth reared its ugly head last night on Real World, when self-proclaimed lover of bad boys Nany continued pursuing volatile douchebag Adam, and many of their roommates watched in confusion.

First, some background for you non-Real-World watchers: Nany came to Real World: Las Vegas with a boyfriend of six years. She met Adam and was instantly attracted to him, telling the other girls in the house that she was addicted to reforming bad boys and that Adam fit the bill. Adam had been hiding that he had a girlfriend back home, telling the girlfriend not to call him because it would be “annoying.” Eventually he started talking to her via webcam in front of his roommates, making public that he had a girlfriend back home. He also had been hooking up with girls while in Las Vegas.

Nany and Adam both admitted early on that they were attracted to each other, and as viewers we unfortunately saw Adam laying the same lines on Nany that he did to girls at the bars and clubs that he was trying to take home with him. Eventually, Nany and Adam made out, and Nany admitted to her boyfriend that she had cheated on him. They broke up, and Nany tried to keep things with Adam casual. At one point, Adam got belligerently drunk, and he punched a wall — and was only inches from hitting Nany in the face. They were pulled apart, and Nany admitted that she had been hit by a guy before, so she wasn’t afraid of being around a drunken, violent Adam. Adam eventually was kicked off the show, and Nany and Adam went on one last date together before vowing it wouldn’t be the end of their “relationship.”

Obviously, this is a problematic story, and their roommates have different takes on it. Naomi seems supportive, Heather is disapproving, but Dustin — while discussing it with Leroy — introduces the myth that the only explanation of why Nany would want to be with Adam is that “she likes to be treated bad.”

Nany’s infatuation with Adam doesn’t stem from her enjoying the mistreatment — I think it stems from thinking that she doesn’t deserve to be treated any better. She admitted to being physically abused by a guy before, and she admitted that she has only been in one relationship — her six-year relationship with Jordy. She’s 21, so she has been dating this guy since she was 15. If she bases “normal” on her relationship with him and if Jordy is a douche and possibly abusive (this is speculation, as she never admits it was Jordy who hit her), then Adam’s behavior will seem normal in the context of a relationship.

It’s frustrating to watch. I cringed when she said, “I don’t know if Adam’s relationship material, I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out,” wanting to scream at the TV, “He’s in a relationship right now, and he’s cheating on her with a cornucopia of other women! Including you!” As an outsider, it’s easy to see that it’s a bad idea — but when you’re an insider, you convince yourself that it’ll get better, that naysayers just don’t understand because they don’t see every aspect of the person or the relationship, and you re-imagine things as much rosier than they actually are.

Though I wanted to throw something at the TV, I also could empathize with her creating such a distorted reality — I’m sure a lot of people can. I hope her roommates don’t write her off as liking to be mistreated because it’s not that simple. None of them can convince her out of trying to be with Adam, and they shouldn’t see their failure to break them up as a reason to give up on her. She probably isn’t going to listen to them, with both Adam in her ear and Nany convincing herself they just don’t understand.

I hope she meets other guys in Las Vegas who treat her well so that she can see guys are capable of being nice and respectful, and I hope she takes time for herself and learns to be OK on her own, without needing a man to feel safe or complete. But if that doesn’t happen, and it takes some terrible event to make Nany realize that Adam is a dangerous, unstable, mean, non-relationship-ready person, then her roommates need to be there to support her — not to tell her they told her so, or to bludgeon her over the head with reminders that all the tell-tale signs were there. They shouldn’t shun her because she didn’t take their advice, but should be supportive and encouraging that she took the steps to end an unhealthy relationship.