Entries Tagged as 'Sex and Relationships'

A Man’s Rights

7.27.2017

By Logan Gossett

 

After losing a house, two jobs and $16,000 in court expenses, Phil – whose name has been changed to protect his anonymity – humbly received his ambitious reward: his son, for five hours, once a month.

        Five days ago he paid a monthly fee of $600 still owed from the home’s mortgage, a fee he will continue to pay until 2027 when his son will be 15 years old. Phil now pays more in child support than he earns from unemployment checks.

“My son was about four inches taller when I finally got to see him,” Phil said. “His mom told him not to tell me what his favorite color is, but I think it’s green. She also told him not to tell me his favorite superhero, but he let that one slip: Batman,” he said. He just hopes to be a close second one day.

Men’s rights advocacy was partly catalyzed by stories like Phil’s. Through forums like MensActivism, A Voice for Men and Reddit’s Men’s Rights board, men’s rights advocacy attempts to provide support and resources for fathers with similar struggles. However, their outreach is inhibited by their designation as misogynist hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC describes the men’s rights movement as “savaging feminists,” and cites the website manboobz.com as a useful watchdog of the men’s rights movement.

Male mortality rates paint the grisly picture that illustrates the story behind the men’s rights movement.

Advocates see that men are five times more likely to commit suicide than women; that men are twenty times more likely to die in the workplace; that men are four times more likely to be the victims of homicide. Men’s rights advocates see disproportionate workplace deaths and question the existence of disproportionate privilege.

Annie McBride, Assistant Director for the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity, suggests that male privilege is not an easily measurable commodity.

“Privileges are things that [men] were born into, not that they’ve had to earn,” she said. “The ability to, as a white person, walk around department stores and not feel people’s eyes on you and be followed. I didn’t do anything to earn that privilege. It was just something I was born into.”

McBride agreed that male mortality and men’s mental well-being is concerning. She argued that toxic masculinity stigmatizes the male pursuit of mental health treatment, something feminism seeks to rectify.

Many scholars believe that the men’s rights movement is simply a backlash to feminism and the progress it has attained for women. Megan Williams, Program Coordinator for the Emily Taylor Center, agreed.

“[Men’s rights advocates] use the language of civil rights to undercut actual inequity,” she said. “It’s really just a reflection of men who are seeing their privilege challenged; seeing the entitlement that they’ve had challenged and thinking that that is oppression or discrimination.”

Men and indebted fathers struggle to reconcile their alarmingly higher rates of experiencing homelessness and being victims of homicide as challenged privileges. Men posting on MensActivism and A Voice for Men often resist the implication that the right to a home and life are privileges to be challenged.

Like McBride, Williams viewed feminism as a solution for the issues central to men’s rights advocates.

“If we’re talking about liberation of men, then that is a feminist project. If we’re talking about a real men’s rights movement, it’s feminism,” Williams said. 

The most urgent men’s rights topic for fathers, however, is the low likelihood of fathers being granted primary guardian custody of their child after a divorce. Custody is six times more likely to be obtained by the mother.

Phil doesn’t identify as an advocate for men’s rights or women’s rights: just a father, if only for five hours a month.

Phil was deployed to work on oil rigs for nine months per year. After four months of working rigs in Saudi Arabian waters, he returned to his home in the deep south to find it empty.

“Everything was gone. Furniture, TVs, kitchen stuff — you name it, it was gone,” Phil said. But, while furniture is replaceable, family is not.

“My heart sank when I knew what she did. All I thought of for months was seeing my wife and kid; maybe watching a movie or something,” Nease said. “Now I don’t even have a TV.”

Phil was the sole working parent while married. While he was on oil rigs, his wife was at home serving as their son’s primary caregiver. According to KU Law Associate Professor Melanie DeRousse, parental roles like those held by Phil and his ex-wife while married limit the outcomes of custody battles.

“Most of the time moms are doing that primary caregiving. The judge wants to maintain that stability for the kids so the kid has access to that attached parent. They’re going to maintain some of that gender disparity that was existing in the relationship into their orders. They’re looking at what will not disrupt the kid’s lives, not some parent’s rights,” DeRousse said.

If the mother serves as the child’s primary caregiver while the father is only parenting during the weekends, the judge will grant joint custody with the father having the kid for the weekend, while the mother maintains the child during the week. Extended periods away from his son while working hurt Phil’s chances of attaining equal joint custody.

Melanie DeRousse said that, while some judges may assume that the kid is better off with his/her mother, “more often than not you have the parties trying to figure out what form of joint custody is going to work for the kid.” DeRousse added that, “Most psychologists would agree with the legislature: joint custody is preferred for the kid.”

As traditional gender roles continue to undergo egalitarian permutations, fathers will begin to attain equal joint custody more frequently. Male mortality rates and mental health still present an issue, however, and men’s rights advocates and feminists view their respective movements as the optimal solution.

A Voice for Men founder Paul Elam argues that feminists preach equality while pursuing favoritism. Annie McBride, Megan Williams and most self-identified feminists disagree, instead viewing feminism as a potential solution for men’s rights issues and equity for all genders.

Both men’s rights advocates and feminists will continue to pursue their ideal of gender equity. Both men’s rights advocates and feminists will continue to provide assistance to men or women suffering through mental illnesses or unforgiving workplaces.

Meanwhile, Phil will be eagerly anticipating his next visitation with his son.

“[My son] likes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so I bought him some action figures and Ninja Turtle shirts — stuff like that. Hopefully he likes them; I just wanna see him happy.”

 

Dating on A Dime

3.31.2016

By Cale Johnson

It’s Friday afternoon and Dustin Patterson has had a long week. He’s spent the last five days working on his capstone geography project, but his week of thinking isn’t over yet. Now he has to figure out where he’s going to take his girlfriend, Tati out this weekend.

Dustin and Tati are both students at the University of Kansas and both cry a little on the inside whenever they look at their bank accounts. They do, however, love each other and commit to going out for a date at least every couple weeks.

Whether it’s a first date with somebody you’re getting to know or a date with a partner you’ve been with for years, having quality together time is essential in a relationship. For college students who generally lack money and resources, that can certainly be a challenge.

“I think there’s a perspective that in order to have a good time you have to be willing to spend a lot of money,” says Elizabeth McWhorter, a relationship therapist in Olathe, Kansas.

Kids that have grown up through the digital age have probably learned a lot about dating from things like reality tv, which aren’t realistic, especially financially, she added.

If you’re willing to be creative there’s absolutely nothing wrong with dating inexpensively. In reality, efforts made this way will be more charming, genuine and likely to go a lot further on the thoughtfulness scale than throwing down a large amount of dough.

Creativity doesn’t come easy to everyone, so here is a list of date ideas at different price levels from KU students.

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Double date with dogsFree – Alexa Barton  
On this date you and your partner simply head down to the local humane society and spend some time together playing with dogs that could use some love too. All you need to do is ask to volunteer and the staff will let you take the dogs out to walk or play fetch.

“Whenever my boyfriend and I do this together it’s good one-on-one time and we’re always in a good mood because of the dogs,” Barton says.

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Spin the compass$30 – Adam Long  
You and your date hop in the car and start driving, when you get to an intersection or exit you spin a needle and depending on where it points that’s where you have to go. To limit gas money, four to five spins is usually enough to get you somewhere interesting. Once you get to your random location go to dinner at the nearest place you see.

dating on a dime3
Baking/cooking contest$30-40 – Ben Larmer  
Go out and buy ingredients for something you’ve never made before. Thenboth you and your partner make the same dish. When you each get done making it, mark the bottom of the plates and then mix them up so you don’t know whose is whose and decide which was better, then check afterward and eat them together.

dating on a dime

Arcade Olympics$40-50 – Marc DeJesus  
Head down to the nearest arcade and choose 10-15 different games. You and your date then compete against each other and come up with a prize for whoever wins the majority of them. The prize can be anything, like who gets to decide what movie to go to that night. If there isn’t an arcade nearby, you can do that date by playing various board games.

“It’s a good time if you’re a competitive couple,” says DeJesus.

Photography by Cale Johnson

It Never Goes Away: Sexting Outlets Lack Security

10.21.2015

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By Logan Schlossberg

Ashlee, a student at the University of Kansas, was sending a nude photo of her entire body via Snapchat to her boyfriend while he was out of town. She accidentally put the photo on her “Snapchat Story” which is a public photo and video collage that disappears in 24 hours. The photo was up for about 15 minutes until she realized her mistake and deleted it.

“I was mortified to say the least,” she says.

According to a study by the University of Rhode Island, almost all college students are sexting.

“I don’t think sending nude photos is a new phenomena but the technology we have today makes this ability easier and unfortunately some of the technology can give you a delusion of safety,” says Jonathan Peters, journalism professor at KU. “You just aren’t as safe as you think you are.”

When a nude photo is sent through Snapchat or even an iMessage/SMS text message, that photo is archived somewhere. According to Peters, with Snapchat it is saved on a server, and through text messages it is saved somewhere within your phone carrier. So when you think your photo disappears on Snapchat, it really does not.

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“I think it’s really common for a college kid to think their risqué picture is actually disappearing when they send it to someone on Snapchat,” says Theresa Murphy, a senior from Kansas City. “This is why I don’t send nude pictures. It seems too risky.”

Cell phones are not the only technological devices to worry about when it comes to nude pictures. Cyber security is not as secure as one might think. Now that we have things like iCloud and Dropbox, nude photos can be saved into hard drives on computers that people do not even know about.

“Say you took a nude video or photo on your MacBookPro and you want to delete it off of your computer,” Peters says. “That video still exists on your hard drive even when you drag it to ‘trash’ and then click ‘clear trash’. When you delete, the file itself doesn’t go away until you overwrite that same file up to 30 to 40 times with a different file.”

With safety issues in the technological aspect of sexting, experts find that, in terms of sexual health, there is no correlation between risky sexual behavior and sexting. It can, however, become a problem if your nude photos are leaked. This is where getting a job could become harder if potential employers see or find out about the photos.

Even issues with mental health can come into play.

Taking a photo for yourself or for your partner is done intentionally, with you setting the parameters for how that photo or photos are going to be used,” Jenny McKee, health educator at the University of Kansas, says.  “When those photos are in the wrong hands, it can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.  It can also cause a great deal of shame and self-blame.”

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Bottom line: college students probably aren’t going to stop sexting. If you choose to do so, consider the following:
-Do not put your face in the photo
-Omit added features on your body like tattoos or piercings
-Do not take the photo with a background that is recognizable
-Make sure you are sending the photo to the correct person

Photos by Abby Liudahl

Married before graduation: trends, fears, and successes

4.21.2015

By Katie Gilbaugh

Wedding 2

Two 15-year-olds sneak out of their homes at midnight to meet at a park in Derby, Kansas. They talk until 3 a.m., but the boy can only replay his script over and over in his head until he finally blurts it out. “Do you want to go out with me?” She smiles and says, “yes.”

Four years later, the couple, now college students, decides to spend their Christmas gift money on a trip to Houston, Texas. They are wandering in a nature center and notice a wide, open clearing. The boy asks to take a picture, and once again nervously plays his script over and over in his head. As the camera shutter snaps, he gets down on his knee and finally blurts it out. “Will you marry me?” Again, she smiles and says, “yes.”

Seniors Trevor Prater and Aurora Yager have been married for eight months, but have been together for nearly six years. They don’t give off the vibe of a young married couple. They don’t hold hands and touch each other incessantly. The only sign that they are married are the rings on their hands and their eye contact. It seems as if every time either one of them spoke or told a story, they looked lovingly at each other.

“I think that maybe some people want to get married young, but I think with us that wasn’t the case,” Prater said. “It’s just because we happened to meet each other so early that we ended up getting married.”

Saying “yes” to dating as a 15-year-old isn’t unusual, but sending out wedding invitations before senior year of college is something of a rarity. Prater and Yager, both 21 years old, are unusual, especially when compared to the average marrying age in the US. In 2013, the average age that a man married was 29, for a woman, 26.

According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, just 26 percent of people ages 18-32 are married. This statistic follows the declining trend of young people choosing marriage. In 1997, 36 percent of 18–32-year-olds were married; in 1980, it was 48 percent.

Dr. Randy Moredock says there’s a consistent trend of couples reaching their senior year and struggling to make a decision about whether to continue in the committed relationship. Moredock has experience with college students, having worked as a counselor at Brockport State College of New York for 25 years. He is now working as a therapist in Lawrence. He is a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and has counseled couples of every age.

“I think a lot of people don’t think about it in terms of a focused activity—a ‘love will conquer all’ type of thing,” Moredock said. “I’m a die-hard romantic myself, I’ll be honest, but love does not conquer all. It gets pretty lonely if you haven’t seen your significant other in a month or something like that.”

So what’s causing the decline in marriage rates since the 1960s? Moredock has a few theories—first that the high divorce rate is instilling a fear of marriage in younger generations.

“They may come from a family history of multiple divorces so there are a lot of factors impeding on them to get married,” Moredock said.

Maybe it’s not a lack of desire to be married, but rather a lack of finances. Sixty-nine percent of unmarried milennials said they’d like to get married; they’re just waiting for economic stability before making the leap to lifelong monogamy.

Moredock’s second theory is focused on how the function of marriage has changed.

“I think it comes down to, that the role expectation has changed so much over the years,” Dr. Moredock said. “There is no longer an expectation that the wife will move for the husband’s career and so there’s a lot of great stuff going on. I see it as ultimately a positive but it can be a real stressor.”

In 2013, an economist and MIT grad student published a report that says the economic value of marriage for women has been reduced. Because more women are getting an education, making money and exercising control over fertility choices, they simply don’t need the economic support of a husband.

Yager’s only mention of difficulty in marrying young was when she discussed their careers. Yager, a social welfare major, is applying for grad schools while Prater, a chemical engineer, begins working in Kansas City.

“That is something hard when you’re in a serious relationship with someone, because it’s like, how do we make this work?” Yager said. “How do we support ourselves while getting our immediate goals done? It’s a little more complicated in planning, but it works out.”

Kathy and Mark Schulte faced a similar complication when they got married in 1986. Kathy had just finished her junior year at the University of Kansas and Mark was three years older, already graduated, and working in Kansas City.

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“It just made sense for us,” Kathy Schulte said. “I never doubted the decision for a minute. It’s not like we were rushed into it; for our situation it made a lot of sense. A lot of it was plain: we wanted to be together, and if we weren’t married then we weren’t together.”

In August they celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary.

She remembers having to switch colleges for a semester her senior year because of her husband’s job. She then transferred back to KU, then moved to Wichita and finished her degree in personnel administration as a guest student at WSU. For any couple wanting to get married while in college, Schulte strongly believes in the importance of finishing school.

“Marriage should be a partnership and I want my kids to feel like an equal partner in the marriage,” she said. “If they would choose to get married in college, I want them to feel confident in themselves and feel confident in their ability to provide for themselves and their families.”

Whether getting married in 2014 or 1986, both couples and Moredock emphasized the importance of communication. However, Kathy Schulte put it best.

“I think the best gift you can give your kids is a successful marriage so you have to make sure you’re still talking, still communicating and that you don’t grow apart,” Schulte said. “If you’re expecting every day, every year to be wonderful that’s just not realistic. There will be times when your spouse annoys the hell out of you, but you have to have that staying power, remember that you’re not perfect either, and have that gumption.”

For myself and for many unmarried college seniors, the thought of marriage is one that can instill annoyance and even fear. However, couples like Mark and Kathy or Aurora and Trevor might just be the examples the pessimistic Gen-X needs when approaching marriage.

“You’re rolling the dice at this point,” Dr. Moredock said. “You like this person and fit well with this person, do you want to change the course of your life to be with this person? It’s pretty spooky.”

Dark Ages: Dealing with Depression as a Millennial

3.29.2015

By Austin Fisher

On a cold January night during my sophomore year at the University of Kansas, I’m lying awake in the pitch black of my bedroom at my father’s house in Lawrence. I should be asleep but I can’t stop worrying about school, money and family issues. After hours of thinking about how hopeless life seems, my legs tangled in my sheets and my mind as active as the moment I had lain down, a thought passes through me.

“Do I have enough money in my bank account to buy a gun?”

I was disturbed by the thought because I didn’t need to articulate those that would follow. I immediately knew what I was doing; I was considering suicide. Feeling trapped alone in the darkness, I woke up my dad, told him what was happening, and we agreed that I needed to seek help.

For a year and a half leading up to that night, I had been feeling what I now understand to be symptoms of depression. I am one of over 30 percent of college students who have felt so depressed in the last year that it was difficult to function. I can tell you this story because depression no longer has a stigma attached to it, which was an obstacle to me in seeking help.

Feeling sad or alone and need help? There are many resources available to you.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255
suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Headquarters Douglas County Crisis Line:
785-841-2345
headquarterscounselingcenter.org

KU Counseling and Psychological Services (for students):
785-864-2277
caps.ku.edu

“It’s no more anybody’s fault that they have depression than if they had diabetes or other physiological issues,” says Sara Barnes, who has been practicing family counseling for 17 years. “I think that there’s been a big change in the last 10 years.” She says people—especially younger generations—are more open to talk about depression. Studies show that while most college students try deal with stress themselves, 90 percent don’t see anything wrong with seeking help. Most delay seeking clinical treatment because they feel the stress they’re experiencing is normal, they feel they could handle it on their own or with help from friends and family.

However, sometimes depression itself can prevent one from sharing their feelings. “I consider my academics to be a really big part of my identity,” says Calvert Pfannenstiel, who was diagnosed with dysthymia, a mild but chronic form of depression, along with seasonal affective disorder in June. In 2012, returning to the U.S. from a liberating summer internship in Switzerland, Pfannenstiel’s grades were floundering as he had difficulty readjusting to normal life and “the disheartening dynamics of my family,” referring to his parents’ divorce. That winter he became more reclusive, stopped going to class, slept too much and was hiding it all from professors, friends and family because he felt embarrassed about not succeeding in school. Depressive feelings that were present before the internship became amplified by a return to reality. After he opened up to his girlfriend Kayla DuBois and others close to him, he briefly entered the KU Counseling and Psychological Services program before switching to a private therapist, from whom he learned about lifestyle changes like exercise, disciplined sleep and exposure to sunlight. He also started taking 150 mg of bupropion and krill oil supplements, which contain fatty acids that help regulate his mood and prevent him from slipping into a depressive mind set.

“The difference is surprisingly noticeable when I don’t take it for a day,” he says.

Pfannenstiel admits that at one point DuBois was his sole source of happiness and pride. They have helped each other through rough patches since they met two years ago. “Calvert is one of the only people that’s never made me feel like I’m broken,” she says. Since childhood DuBois has felt depressive symptoms, but she assumed her problems weren’t worth bringing up. Her family didn’t validate her feelings and told her not to share her depression. She started seeing a therapist in November 2012, but stopped after ten months. Talk therapy isn’t for her. “Sometimes they’ll grab something that you say and go off on this tangent that wasn’t what you were getting at.” In January she moved to Austin, Texas, where her brother Ryan gave her a room of her own and got her into yoga and group anxiety therapy where she learned that it’s okay to ask for help. Caring for her infant nephew, Archer, was deeply therapeutic. “I would look at him and he had all this faith in me that I didn’t have in myself.”

There are many types of depression, and they can increase a person’s risk of having other disorders. “A physician could look at someone recently diagnosed with diabetes and say it was caused by their earlier depression, but it could also be that both were caused by something in the background,” says Dr. William Eaton, a professor of mental health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Background causes of co-occurring disorders could include genes or childhood trauma. Eaton says the risk for depressive disorder peaks between 25 and 30 years of age for women, and 30 to 35 years for men. “Anxiety and depressive disorders are very much comorbid,” he says, meaning they tend to occur together. Pfannenstiel still experiences dysthymia and seasonal affective disorder, DuBois also suffers from fibromyalgia and panic attacks, while I have major depressive disorder and social anxiety disorder. Major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, is typically a period of intense sadness and lack of motivation that lasts at least two weeks. Either way, talk or group therapy can help. Drugs can too, like with Pfannenstiel, but I chose to avoid them.

My introverted personality led me to stigmatize my own mental illness. Like DuBois, in the depths of my depression, I felt like my internal problems didn’t deserve to be expressed to the outside world, and sharing them would just burden others. This contributed to a mental isolation. I would be sitting next to an old friend but feel a nonexistent tension, like the space between us was filled with heat and static. At parties I would sit alone or never join conversations. But my friends and family were supportive when I started opening up. Many were surprised to hear that I was depressed; they told me I hadn’t shown any signs. I still struggle with why I stayed silent for so long. In 2007 only a quarter of adults with symptoms of mental illness believed that people were supportive while over half of all adults believed that people were supportive. Perhaps the stigma felt worse to me than it actually was.

Unable to tell anyone but my dad about my feelings, I went to the KU Psychological Clinic and started seeing a therapist, Katie. Initially I reported feelings of depression, loneliness, and infrequent, passive thoughts of suicide. Through therapy I would begin to understand why I was feeling this way.

SorryISpilledYourCoffee

Kayla DuBois made the above piece of art, called “Sorry I Spilled Your Coffee,” during her junior year of high school in 2009. There are about 200 different paintings underneath what you can see on the surface. While the original intent of the piece was different, DuBois says the process of making it was therapeutic for working through the events of an abusive relationship. The piece won a silver medal at the National Scholastic Arts Competition.

Part of the problem was I was still reflecting on the end of a three-month long relationship, over a year later. Ruminating on that and subsequent rejections led me to question my self-worth. Paradoxically I was both afraid of being close to someone again and of being alone forever. I wanted to forget the relationship, but I couldn’t move on. I also felt guilty for being so far away from my mother in Boston, who was unhappy with her job and begging me to come help her. I started questioning my worth as a son. By talking with Katie once a week, I would learn that I was obsessed with the past, unable to deal with the present, and unconcerned about the future. She found that I had increased emotional sensitivity, self-doubt, feelings of worthlessness, indecisiveness and a tendency to lose pleasure in things I once enjoyed. I had a general feeling of emptiness and lack of purpose. My grades had fallen, and I was questioning the entire prospect of being a writer. Before that hopeless night in my bedroom, my family dynamics, grades and sex life made me hate myself.

My therapy focused on changing my thoughts, attitudes and habits. I learned to recognize feelings of sadness or anger and to question these feelings, which forced me to consider how much control I have over them. Now I can recognize when I’m thinking in a depressive pattern, and try to get myself out of it. Getting enough sleep and exercising are now central to my well-being. Studies show that physical exercise does have an antidepressant effect for people suffering from mild to moderate depression. At Katie’s suggestion, I started running once a week, which became four times a week. This new habit, along with my own experiments with mindfulness meditation, made me healthier and improved my self-esteem.

For others, formal therapy just doesn’t work. Elliot Yochim has had clinical depression and bipolar disorder since the summer before he started college in 2011, when he also experienced a breakup. After having an emotional breakdown last year and losing interest in school, Elliot entered therapy for about a half a year until he felt like he wasn’t getting anything out of it anymore. “It was like talking to a wall. I didn’t get anything back except my own voice,” he says. For two months he was on antidepressants but they didn’t really help. Instead, he runs, writes, plays music and applies himself to his new major in theater design. “Having your life consumed by something you love is way better than just doing it on the weekends and between bathroom breaks.”

For anyone considering suicide, the causes are numerous and complicated. Unfortunately, people assume those considering suicide have reached that point because of character flaws. “The stigma about suicide is that this person is deeply troubled individually, and we often accredit all of that to their individual character rather than considering what’s going on around them,” says Jared Auten, a volunteer counselor for Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence. Auten works on a crisis line for Headquarters, where people can call if they feel depressed or are considering suicide. He gives callers a safe space to talk through problems and have their feelings validated and not judged. He joined Headquarters in the spring of 2013 both for the counseling experience and as a form of therapy and personal understanding. He lost his dad to suicide in 2006. He says he did experience grief, but not depression.

Like anyone else I have good days and bad, but now I know how to deal with the bad and appreciate the good. I no longer blame myself for everything that I don’t like about my life, and I see that people will support me. Overcoming depression is different for everyone, but the first step is the same: telling someone how you feel.

 

Edited by Erika Reals

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