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Are Men Who Are Ashamed of Their Bodies More Prone to Rape?
UPDATE 5/26/14: I wrote this post before Elliot Rodger's killing spree. The study I describe is, strictly speaking, about rape, but its notion of a connection between male shame and hostility toward women strike me as worth discussing in trying to understand that crime and its underlying causes. I recognize that we should not be reasoning about vast populations with evidence from the case of one very troubled man. But I also recognize that when it comes to gender relations, no one "acts alone." What even the weirdest of us feels entitled to think and do is shaped in part by the way gender is experienced by all—and by the fact that male advantages (and male advantage-taking) are everywhere. We'd all do well to think about our own participation in the larger patterns, as many of the people using #yesallwomen on Twitter are pointing out.
Feeling shame about part or all of one's body is a source of misery for millions of women (and a source of profit for industries that live off these feelings). More recently it has become apparent that a lot of men feel ashamed of their bodies too. But hold off on the schadenfreude, ladies. Unfortunately, this paper, out recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggests this male unease creates its own burdens for female humanity. Men who felt more ashamed of their bodies, the authors found, were more hostile to women. And when a sample of men were rejected as a partner by a woman in a lab experiment, those who scored higher on body shame were also more willing to force sexual acts on another person.
In the course of other research, Kris Mescher and Laurie A. Rudman noticed that men who scored higher on a measure of body shame also scored higher on measures of hostile sexism and "proclivity to rape" women. (I put the latter in quotes because it's not some sort of Minority Report predictor of future crimes. But it's a survey that asks questions about whether the responder is aroused by, attracted to or even willing to commit sexual violence if he could get away with it. Surprisingly, men apparently answer such questions honestly, and Mescher and Rudman write, the answers have been shown to correlate with the degree to which a responder is aroused by pictures of rape.)
Why might men who feel shame about their bodies be more open to the notion of sexually assaulting a woman? According to a set of ideas memorably named "precarious manhood theory," when straight men experience a threat to their masculine identity, they become aggressive. Perhaps, Mescher and Rudman thought, men who feel ashamed of their bodies feel their masculinity threatened constantly. If that were true, they thought, it could mean that body-shamed men pose a particular threat to women. This is because any particular acute threat (like being rejected by a woman) would get a stronger aggressive response from these men, as they are already at a higher set point of aggression before they're insulted.
To test this, the researchers devised a college freshman's nightmare of an experiment. They told 121 male undergrads (working for Intro Psych credit) that they were taking part in a study on "the factors that built effective teamwork." Step 1, the men learned, was to sit at a computer and be paired with a partner elsewhere, via a network connection. Each man had his picture taken, then sat in a cubicle where he filled out a bogus personality profile. Then he learned he had been assigned to a young woman as a partner and shown her photo (which, in reality, was a picture of a fairly hot woman that the researchers had taken from a photo archive). But there was a hitch: His partner had to approve the choice.
While he sat, waiting to hear if he'd been accepted as a partner, the young man filled out some bogus questionnaires and one real measure, which asked him to describe whether he felt hurt, insulted, offended, ashamed, angry, disgusted, sad, or hostile "right now." Then, if he happened to be in the control group, he was told that the computer network had gone down and couldn't relay the partner's decision. If he happened to be in the experiment's other group, though, he was told that she had rejected him. The supposed reason? "Looking at this photo, I'm not really attracted to this guy." Oh, well, the experimenter then said. We'll put you on a different study, about relationships and technology.
Thinking they were now doing that, each man once again filled out a report about just how hurt, insulted, offended, ashamed, angry, disgusted, sad, or hostile he felt "right now." (20 guesses how that turned out, compared to the first one.) Each man also completed a survey aimed at eliciting how easily he felt ashamed in general. Then there was a specific measure of sexual shame (with questions like "I sometimes feel ashamed of my own sexual inclinations"). Then there were questions about the likelihood that feeling shame would make him withdraw from contact with others ("You take office supplies home for personal use and are caught by your boss. What is the likelihood that this would lead you to quit your job?").
We are now well past the point where we can imagine some of these guys wishing they had taken Physics for Poets that semester instead of Psych 101. But there was one more survey: The same Attraction to Sexual Aggression (rape proclivity) survey that I've mentioned above.
Analyzing all these answers, Mescher and Rudman found that higher scores on body shame predicted higher scores on the rape-proclivity measure—for the men told that a woman had rejected them. For those who had been told the problem was a computer glitch, there was no relationship between the two measures. Another interesting connection: Men who reported themselves feeling more hurt, distressed or otherwise bad after rejection scored higher on the rape-proclivity measure only if they also scored higher on the body shame measure. Men who were upset by the rejection but low on body shame tended to score lower on the sexual-aggression measure. In other words, it was body shame, not the sting of rejection alone, that seemed to predict sexual hostility.
Now, you could argue that the use of photos in this experiment might have primed the men to think in terms of appearance, and made them more prone to think about their bodies than they normally would. Moreover, since every one thought he'd been rejected by a woman, the anti-female aggressiveness of some of the men might have been triggered by the experimental set-up itself. To address these caveats, the researchers did a second experiment in which no photos were used, and in which some men were told they'd been rejected by other men.
This time, 214 straight men went through a procedure much like the first study's, except without photos. Once again, one group of men was told a network outage prevented them from knowing what their partners had decided. Once again, the other group was told they had been rejected. This time, though, some were told the rejector was a man, and others that it had been a woman. And the reason, this time, was this: ""Looking at his profile, I get the impression he is gay. We won’t work well together if he likes men."
Once again, men with a higher score on the body-shame measure, who were more upset about the rejection, showed a higher degree of sexual aggression. (The measure this time was a process where men selected pictures they thought would then be shown to women in another experiment. The men had 17 different choices, each of which pitted a picture of male-on-male violence against a picture of male-on-female sexual assault. Those who chose the latter are assumed to be more sexually hostile to women.) But there is an important caveat: This effect, linking body shame and emotional turmoil over rejection, turned up only in the men who thought they had been rejected by a woman. Those who thought they'd been turned away by a man showed no such link. That suggests, Mescher and Rudman write, that "body-ashamed men may be particularly vulnerable to masculinity threats from women, which promotes sexual aggression."
At first glance, it's not obvious what might connect body shame and intensity of feeling about rejection. But Mescher and Rudman think there might indeed by a link. A man who is ashamed of his body might reasonably be expected to pay less attention to it. Perhaps, the authors speculate, that lack of connection to their own bodies makes these man unable to accept and manage the bad feelings that come with rejection.
In any event, the connection, if it holds up, opens up some new avenues in thinking about male-on-female sexual assault. While a lot of research has looked at the dangers posed to women by larger, more aggressive, more stereotypically "masculine" men, these experiments suggest that another type of man may also pose a higher risk of sexual violence.
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Scientists discovered footprints made by some of the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth.
- Paleontologists published a paper on the discovery of dinosaur footprints on the roof of a French cave.
- The prints are deep underground and were made during the Middle Jurassic period.
- The footprints belonged to titanosaurs, the largest land animals ever.
French scientists found gigantic dinosaur footprints on the roof of the Castelbouc cave the Lozère region of southern France. A new paper outlines the discovery approximately 1640 feet under ground by the paleontologist Jean-David Moreau from the University of Burgundy–Franche-Comté and his colleagues.
The footprints likely belonged to an unknown species of titanosaur and were made 166 to 168 million years ago, in the Middle Jurassic Period. Titanosaurs, a group of long-necked, lizard-like sauropods, could be found all over the world in present day Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Australia. Among titanosaurs were the largest land animals to have ever existed, like the Patagotitan, which stretched 121 feet long and weighed 138,000 pounds.
The titanosaur Alamosaurus.
Credit: Bogdanov, 2006. Creative Commons.
Some of the 38 tracks found in France were as large as 4 feet long. They were likely made by three dinosaurs at the time when the area was on the surface, making up a muddy shoreline along which the giant creatures traveled. Over time, the site was buried by geological processes, with the tracks becoming moldings in the roof of a cave that's half a kilometer underground.
They were spotted as part of a caving expedition in December 2015 by the paper's authors. To find them, the scientists had to go down a narrow labyrinth of crawl spaces that often get flooded. The tracks were in a space about 260 feet long, 66 feet wide and 33 feet high.
Dinosaur tracks in the ceiling of Castelbouc Cave in France.
Credit: Jean-David Moreau et al./J. Vertebr. Paleontol.
Speaking to the French science magazine Sciences et Avenir, Jean-David Moreau explained that a caver "who was ahead of me turned to me and with the lamp of his helmet projected a grazing lighting on the ceiling which allowed to bring out the marks."
You can read the paper "Middle Jurassic tracks of sauropod dinosaurs in a deep karst cave in France," published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Humans may have evolved to be tribalistic. Is that a bad thing?
- From politics to every day life, humans have a tendency to form social groups that are defined in part by how they differ from other groups.
- Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, author Dan Shapiro, and others explore the ways that tribalism functions in society, and discuss how—as social creatures—humans have evolved for bias.
- But bias is not inherently bad. The key to seeing things differently, according to Beau Lotto, is to "embody the fact" that everything is grounded in assumptions, to identify those assumptions, and then to question them.
Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.
- People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
- They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
- Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
Ancient mining areas below Paris for limestone (red) and gypsum (green).Credit: Émile Gérards (1859–1920) / Public domain
"If you're brave enough to try, you might be able to catch a train from UnLondon to Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Francisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless."
China Miéville's fantasy novel Un Lun Dun is set in an eerie mirror version of London. In it, he hints that other cities have similar doubles. On the list that he offhandedly rattles off, Paris stands out. Because the City of Light really does have a twisted sister. Below Paris Overground is Paris Underground, the City of Darkness.
Most people will have heard of the Catacombs of Paris: subterranean charnel houses for the bones of around six million dead Parisians. They are one of the French capital's most famous tourist attractions – and undoubtedly its grisliest.
But they constitute only a small fragment of what the locals themselves call les carrières de Paris ("the mines of Paris"), a collection of tunnels and galleries up to 300 km (185 miles) long, most of which are off-limits to the public, yet eagerly explored by so-called cataphiles.
The Grand Réseau Sud ("Great Southern Network") takes up around 200 km beneath the 5th, 6th, 14th, and 15th arrondissements (administrative districts), all south of the river Seine. Smaller networks run beneath the 12th, 13th, and 16th arrondissements. How did they get there?
Paris stone and plaster of Paris
It all starts with geology. Sediments left behind by ancient seas created large deposits of limestone in the south of the city, mostly south of the Seine; and gypsum in the north, particularly in the hills of Montmartre and Ménilmontant. Highly sought after as building materials, both have been mined since Roman times.
The limestone is also known as Lutetian limestone (Lutetia is the Latin name for ancient Paris) or simply "Paris stone." It has been used for many famous Paris landmarks, including the Louvre and the grand buildings erected during Georges-Eugène Haussmann's large-scale remodelling of the city in the mid-19th century. The stone's warm, yellowish color provides visual unity and a bright elegance to the city.
The fine-powdered gypsum of northern Paris, used for making quick-setting plaster, was so famed for its quality that "plaster of Paris" is still used as a term of distinction. However, as gypsum is very soluble in water, the underground cavities left by its extraction were extremely vulnerable to collapse.
Like living on top of a rotting tooth: subsidence starts far below the surface, but it can destroy your house.Credit : Delavanne Avocats
In previous centuries, a road would occasionally open up to swallow a chariot, or even a whole house would disappear down a sinkhole. In 1778, a catastrophic subsidence in Ménilmontant killed seven. That's why the Montmartre gypsum quarries were dynamited rather than just left as they were. The remaining gypsum caves were to be filled up with concrete.
The official body governing Paris down below is the Inspection Générale des Carrières (IGC), founded in the late 1770s by King Louis XVI. The IGC was tasked with mapping and, where needed, propping up the current and ancient (and sometimes forgotten) mining corridors and galleries hiding beneath Paris.
A delightful hiding place
Also around that time, the dead of Paris were getting in the way of the living. At the end of the 18th century, their final destination consisted of about 200 small cemeteries, scattered throughout the city — all bursting at the seams, so to speak. There was no room to bury the newly dead, and the previously departed were fouling up both the water and air around their respective churchyards.
Something radical had to happen. And it did. From 1785 until 1814, the smaller cemeteries were emptied of their bones, which were transported with full funerary pomp to their final resting place in the ancient limestone quarries at Tombe-Issoire. Three large and modern cemeteries were opened to receive the remains of subsequent generations of Parisians: Montparnasse, Père-Lachaise, and Passy.
The six million dead Parisians in the Catacombs, from all corners of the capital and across many centuries, together form the world's largest necropolis — their now anonymized skulls and bones methodically stacked, occasionally into whimsical patterns. The Catacombs are fashioned into a memorial to the brevity of life. The message above the entrance reads: Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort. ("Halt! This is the empire of Death.")
That has not stopped the Catacombs, accessible via a side door to a classicist building on the Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, making just about every Top 20 list of things to see in Paris.
An underground economy
However, while the Catacombs certainly are the most famous part of the centuries-old network beneath Paris, and in non-pandemic times draw thousands of tourists each day, they constitute just 1.7 km (1 mile) of the 300-km (185-mile) tunneling total.
Subterranean Paris wasn't just used for mining and storing dead people. In the 17th century, Carthusian monks converted the ancient quarries under their monastery into distilleries for the green or yellow liqueur that still carries their name, chartreuse.
Because the mines generally keep a constant cool temperature of around 15° C (60° F), they were also ideal for brewing beer, as happened on a large scale from the end of the 17th century until well into the 20th century. Several caves were dug especially for establishing breweries, and not just because of the ambient temperature: going underground allowed brewers to remain close to their customers without having to pay a premium for real estate up top.
Overview of the Paris Catacombs.Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain.
At the end of the 19th century, the underground breweries of the 14th arrondissement alone produced more than a million hectoliters (22 million gallons) per year. One of the most famous of Paris' underground breweries, Dumesnil, stayed in operation until the late 1960s.
In that decade, the network of corridors and galleries south of the Seine, long since abandoned by miners, became the unofficial playground for the young people of Paris. They explored the fantastical world beneath their feet, in some cases via entry points located in their very schools. Fascinated, these cataphiles ("catacomb lovers") read up on old books, explored the subterranean labyrinth, and drew up schematics that were passed around among fellow initiates as reverently as treasure maps.
As Robert Macfarlane writes in Underland, Paris-beneath-their-feet became "a place where people might slip into different identities, assume new ways of being and relating, become fluid and wild in ways that are constrained on the surface."
Some larger caves turned into notorious party zones: a 7-meter-tall gallery below the Val-de-Grâce hospital is widely known as "Salle Z." Over the last few decades, various other locations in subterranean Paris have hosted jazz and rock concerts and rave parties — like no other city, Paris really has an "underground music scene."
Hokusai's Great Wave as the backdrop to the "beach" under Paris.Credit: Reddit
Cataphiles vs. cataphobes
With popularity came increased reports of nuisance and crime — the tunnels provided easy access to telephone cables, which were stolen for the resale value of their copper.
The general public's "discovery" of the underground network led the city of Paris to officially interdict all access by non-authorized persons. That decree dates back to 1955, but the "underground police" have an understanding with seasoned cataphiles. Their main targets are so-called tourists, who by their lack of knowledge expose themselves to risk of injuries or worse, and degrade their surroundings, often leaving loads of litter in their wake.
The understanding does not extend to the IGC. Unlike in the 19th century, when weak cavities were shored up by purpose-built pillars, the policy now is to inject concrete to fill up endangered spaces — thus progressively blocking off parts of the network. That procedure has also been used to separate the Catacombs to prevent "infiltration" of the site by cataphiles.
Many subterranean streets have their own names, signs and all. This is the Rue des Bourguignons (Street of the Burgundians) below the Champs des Capucins (Capuchin Field), neither of which exists on the surface.Credit: Jean-François Gornet via Wikimedia and licensed under
The cataphiles, however, are fighting back. In a game of cat and mouse with the authorities, they are reopening blocked passages and creating chatières ("cat flaps") through which they can squeeze into chambers no longer accessible via other underground corridors.
Catacomb climate control
Alone against the unstoppable tide of concrete, the amateurs of Underground Paris would be helpless. But the fight against climate change may turn the subterranean labyrinths from a liability into an asset — and the City of Paris into an ally.
The UN's 2015 Climate Plan — concluded in Paris, by the way — requires the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. And Paris itself wants to be Europe's greenest city by 2030. More sustainable climate control of our living spaces would be a great help toward both targets. A lot of energy is spent heating houses in winter and cooling them in summer.
This is where the constant temperature of the Parisian tunnels comes in. It's not just good for brewing beer; it's a source of geothermal energy, says Fieldwork, an architectural firm based in Paris. It can be used to temper temperatures, helping to cool houses in summer and warming them in winter.
One catch for the cataphiles: it also works when the underground cavities are filled up with concrete. So perhaps one day, Paris Underground, fully filled up with concrete, will completely fall off the map, reducing the city's formerly real doppelgänger into an air conditioning unit.
Cool in summer, warm in winter: Paris Underground could become Paris A/C.Credit: Fieldwork
Strange Maps #1083
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.