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Rachel Resnick on America's Culture of Sex
Rachel Resnick is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller Go West Young F*cked-Up Chick and Love Junkie. She has published articles, essays, and celebrity-profile cover stories in the Los Angeles Times, Women's Health, and BlackBook, The Time of My Life, Damage Control, The Dictionary of Failed Relationships, The Best American Erotica 2004, Women on the Edge, L.A. Shorts, and Absolute Disaster. She is also a contributing editor at Tin House magazine. Resnick is the founder and CEO of Writers on Fire, provider of luxury writing retreats both in the United States and abroad.
Question: Is the U.S. a uniquely addictive culture?
Rachel Resnick: It seems to me that it’s pretty clear that America is an addictive culture and there’s a distinction between process addictions and substance addictions, and we’re much more comfortable and versed with substance addictions. Someone shooting up, someone’s, you know, knocking back booze, popping pills. But this kind of stuff where it’s about a distorted relationship or bonding with handling of money, with love, with sex, relationships with shopping frankly that they can be use by people to serve the same functions that substance addictions do which is about not really relating with people where you have a more intense bond with these activities, and that you’re using them to avoid things about your life whether it’s feelings. With addiction, it seems that there’s a desire to get quick fixes, to have a passive kind of experience whether it’s transcendental, whatever that may mean or transformational, but without doing any of the rigorous work, ‘cause we as a capitalist society, as consumers, we’re kind of the just buying, buying and watching TV and online where how much activities that actually are going on or action that’s not a passive kind of response to stimuli. So, if you already have a propensity to be addictive, and by the way, there are tons of cross addictions. It’s almost like you have a bag full of seed or something, you push it one direction and it starts pushing out the seams of the other. So, for example, If I’m working, since I’m a love junkie and that’s my primary, that’s my drug of choice, and for me the love addiction is braided in with sex. There’s no question. But I need the emotional and romantic component for my particular cocktail to flourish the chemicals that will drop down. If I’m handling that though and I’m not really vigilant, I will notice, “Oh! I’m drinking a lot. Wow! Didn’t even know I had an issue with that.” Because if you’re not getting at the actual root of whatever the problem is, so I think I kind of tossed out a lot of other things, but I think there’s no question that the society is also in love with “love” and I say “love” in quotation marks, because the presentations we get in film and TV and shows frankly a distorted picture of love. It’s not true, mature love, my issue in these years of acting out, oh, my God, years of indulging in a love addiction had to do with confusing sex for love, confusing intensity for intimacy and confusing passion, you know, and it was all about drama and distraction.
Question: Do Americans have anything healthy to contribute to sex?
Rachel Resnick: Well, luckily, I have lived abroad and I lived in Italy for awhile and I had first-hand experience of this much more free and easy sense of bodies and expressiveness too, because if you go back to this idea that addiction is a way of avoiding feeling your feelings and that can be sexual as well as just emotional, just a wide range of emotions, and I think there’s no question that there’s this puritanical… hasn’t worked with [sinkholes]. It’s kind of like burbling underneath and it really does continue to affect us. I mean, look at the blue-red divide of this country. I mean, there’s a very strange schizophrenic split that seems to be happening on political level as well as a psychic level, the struggle between can we separate church and state and all the claptrap that goes along with religion. I think there’s a cultural double bind specifically for women concerning sex. I think that a lot of women are love and sex relationship romance addicts without having realizing it because there’s this confusion about I’m supposed to be a good girl and that’s how I’ll meet someone and have love that we all think it’s our right as American citizens and happiness, but no one will be attracted to me if I’m not sexy and open about my sexuality, but that’s an evil thing or that’s out of control or that’s, you know, associate with prostitutes or… So, they’re not really integrated. They’re really is that Madonna-whore complex more alive and well here it seems even though we have those origins in Italy and other places as well. In the United States, I think there’s no question that women are kind of have absorbed culturally this split within themselves and the self hatred, frankly, and this self hatred can manifest in this kind of addiction where you’re trying to connect with other people in a way that’s not really revealing who you are.
Recorded on: September 30, 2008.
Rachel Resnick explores America's culture of addiction
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Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
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A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
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- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".