Archive for March, 2012


The Forgetting Pill

According to Wired magazine’s latest cover story, scientists are in the process of designing a series of drugs which will erase specific memories, dull emotional responses associated to memories, and dull physical pain associated with memories.  However futuristic these claims seem, neuroscientists have long known that the key to easing suffering related to painful or traumatic memories lies in reconsolidation.  Every time you “remember” a memory, your brain must restore that memory.  That means reprocessing it.  It also means that every time you recall a memory, that memory is forever altered. Your present emotional state, physical state, and knowledge will change the way you remember the memory.  Using chemicals and molecules which inhibit this reconsolidation process, scientists can erase memories.

 

Before the Big Brother warnings begin, we need to consider the ethical implications of such chemicals.  For people who have experience horrendous events or traumatic situations, erasing these memories may help them survive and actually live life.  These memories are a cancer to survivors of such events.  They spread throughout the body, affecting every system.  Just like cancer or any other medical disease, shouldn’t these people have the opportunity to attempt pushing their “virus” from their body?  As Dr. Karim Nader points out in the article, “If you’re in a car accident and you break your leg, everyone agrees we need to give you treatment and painkillers, but if something terrible happens and your mind breaks, people conclude that treatment is a dangerous idea.” Shouldn’t we allow people who are disabled from their memories to rise up again in triumph?  Some may argue that talk therapy is the treatment for these memories.  However, although psychiatrists and psychologists try their best to aid those with mental health difficulties, their results will never be anywhere near where the drugs results are.  Dr. Alain Brunet, a clinical psychologist, states regarding the field of psychiatry, “We never cure anything. All we do is try to treat the worst symptoms.”

 

Obviously the ways in which we treat mental health today are not as efficient as they should be.  Every day thousands of Americans walk around and try to live their lives as only part of themselves.  Whether it is a diagnosed disorder or a memory to painful to deal with, people with these difficulties cannot live fully.  They are stunted and forced to fold under the pressures of their mind.  For example, survivors of sexual assault often experience a wide array of emotional, physical, and mental problems as a result of the constant bombardment of recollections from the event (s).  Their minds never let them forget or move on.  They are trapped in one moment, reliving the terrible act over and over.  Every thought and every behavior is analyzed in the context of this memory and scripted.  Even with therapy, survivors still deal with the invisible scars from their assault.  With these new medications, however, survivors of events such as sexual assault can find relief.  Their memory of the event can be dulled, or even erased, as well as their emotions toward the event.  In these drugs may live the power to free so many of the world’s most tortured souls; people who are not tormented by others, but by their own body and mind.

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Jay, the armchair rapist, on the outside appears to be just a run of the mill file clerk.  Most likely, by looking at Jay you would never spare an extra thought on him.  He is not someone who sticks out in a crowd, especially the crowd of the city financial district.  However, if you really ask Jay what he’s thinking, a terrible picture begins to unfold.  In Jay’s thoughts, women are more than lusted after, while feelings of rage and revenge swirl together to make ideas and images which only appear in women’s nightmares. But what made Jay this way? 

According to the psychopathology theory, Jay is diseased.  To the people who support this theory, Jay must have some underlying personality disorder that makes him this way.  He is not normal.  If we believe this theory, we may think he had some kind of childhood trauma which stunted his emotional and social development.  Short or long term abuse can set up a minefield of issues a person must navigate through to reach normalcy, especially as a child.  Jay may have witnessed his father treating his mother in aggressive and demeaning ways.  Or, he may have been the victim himself, always being told he is lousy, a failure, and not manly enough.  Women throughout his life may have reinforced these ideas without even knowing it.  Jay’s urges to assert power onto a woman are extreme and dangerous.  As long as they remain in his head, they are controllable. Once unleashed, however, he may be unable to help himself.

According to the feminist social theory, Jay is the creation of the socialization of men and the patriarchal rule over our country.  We as a society made Jay this way through our media, through our hierarchical system of power, and through the very way we talk, look, and act around him.  We socialized Jay to be a man, and men have a certain power in this country.  This power is obtained and retained by the oppression of women.  Men are socialized to see women as the weaker sex and to feel as though they have power.  The problem is Jay does not feel he has power with women.  He feels threatened by them.  He seeks to annihilate those whom he feels dehumanize him.  The easiest way to do this is sexual assault.  It shows the victims who is really in power and who has the upper hand, while allowing Jay to take out his aggression on the nameless, faceless population that is women.

Finally, according to the male peer support theory, Jay is naturally the way he is, but his social group reinforces his behaviors and ideas, thus making them more powerful.  In this theory, abusive men attach to other abusive men and these support systems offer verbal and emotional support for abuse against women.  If considering this theory, one must also consider Jay’s friends.  At work, Jay is a minion.  He is a bottom dweller who can only look to those in power above him with envy and hate.  Most likely, Jay would interact and socialize with those in similar roles.  Jay may also attract those people who are antisocial or emotionally awkward.  Both types of friends would only feed Jay’s desire to do something, and unfortunately, that something is women.  Jay feels like women are the key to success.  He must have them (and lots of them) to have power.  Power is what Jay really wants, women, rape, and sexual assault are just a few ways to get it.

Playing the Game

In the movie Playing the Game 2, college students contemplate the legal and societal definitions of rape.  The film begins as Jen stumbles to her room after having sex with Chris.  The scenes that follow show Jen and Chris describing the event and their friends’ reactions.

In the girls’ room, Jen sets the scene by admitting that she was drunk and has liked Chris for a while now.  She tells how she went to his room, not looking for sex, but just to talk and make out.  She then describes how Chris became aggressive and forced himself on her.  She believes she was raped. Jen’s roommate agrees with Jen and attempts to convince her to report Chris. Jen’s friends have mixed opinions on the story.  One believes Chris raped Jen, while one believes that Jen is telling lies.

In the boys’ room, Chris begins his story by also admitting that he and Jen were both drunk and that he knew Jen had liked him for a while.  He goes on to tell how they went to his room and began to fool around.  He portrays her protests as “playing hard to get.”  He believes the sex was consensual. Chris’s friends also have mixed opinions on the story.  One believes Chris may have sexually assaulted Jen, while one believes that Chris didn’t do anything wrong.

So who is right and why are there two different stories?

As a society, we have scripts which men and women are supposed to follow for successful interactions.  One such script is for the woman to play hard to get.  This little script causes so many problems.  Men are given the responsibility of differentiating between a playful “no” and a forceful “NO.”  This difference is often difficult to distinguish, especially in the heat of the moment.  For Jen, her protests were real and genuine, while Chris interpreted them as playful.  In addition, the two had different expectations for what would happen once they arrived in Chris’s room.  Jen wanted and expected an innocent interaction, whereas Chris expected a more sexual interaction.  Jen and Chris were on two completely different wavelengths the night in question.

In society’s eyes, Jen messed up.  Chris is also at fault, but Jen’s moves are under a far greater microscope than Chris’s.  In this acquaintance rape situation, society typically sides with the man, assuming the woman knew what she was getting herself into, didn’t protest enough, and must have wanted it on some level.  Add in the fact that Jen was not a virgin prior to this night, and Jen’s chances of convicting Chris on sexual assault charges plummet.  This case may be looked into, especially by college officials, however there is little to no chance of legal prosecution or of academic repercussions.  The law and society’s perceptions of rape and sexual assault just simply are not on Jen’s side.