The opposite of rape culture is nurturance culture
February 12, 2016 1:51 PM   Subscribe

"Violence and nurturance are two sides of the same coin. I struggle to understand this even as I write it." From Nora Samaran, author of Dating Tips for the Feminist Man (previously).
posted by Catchfire (16 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Forward: This is going to sound more critical than I really feel about the piece, it's just stuff that stuck out to me as I read it: While I think this is one useful way to look at relationship difficulties and patriarchal culture, I'm not so sure about how generalizable an explanation it is as you go deeper into the details.

She added the caveat in front, I think, because of this. There's a kernel of truth here, but when we expand it further it ends up being kind of fuzzy.

From my own experience, women don't have anywhere near a monopoly on secure attachment styles, and there seems to be a bias in this piece towards finding the one great explanation for all relationship problems with men -- which is natural if you're a woman writing the piece, but doesn't ring very definitive to me no matter what theory you come up with for whatever problem...

There is also a stress on non-verbal cues, and I have to say that this is very much in the fuzzy category. There is a lot to be gained by realizing lots of people rely on dropping non-verbal cues, but also a lot to be gained by dropping the fantasy of magic super-accurate mind-reading in relationships. That is, I don't think , in general, "secure" attachment people are any better than anyone else at figuring out what people are feeling using powers of observation alone -- they are probably just less offended by whatever interpretation they choose to assign to it -- or being wrong about that interpretation eventually.

This is from the same person who wrote "Emotion and intuition, when finely honed, serve clear thinking" in the [previously], which is *also* a very useful thought to keep in mind, but only when both logic *and* emotion is applied. In the same way, this piece is assuming that non-verbal cues are really loud and clear to everyone who has a normally adjusted (e.g. "secure") attachment style, and everyone else who can't mind read or figure out how to make someone feel better in all cases is slightly fucked up.
posted by smidgen at 2:56 PM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I skimmed it, is the tl;dr suggestion that men (on the whole) are biased towards an avoidant attachment style, because of their parents' internalized social norms? I could maybe buy that a little. OTOH, I overheard things like "What, are you going cry, you wuss?" etc. too many times growing up to not think peer socialization might play a biggish role in the apparent (to some, sometimes) disconnect described. Seems like emotional postures other than anger, cockiness, or loyalty get beaten or teased out of many boys, at a certain age. (At least for a while. For some. Or did, back then.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:30 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I read Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep - Love a few months back, and it made many points similar to the article.

And, like the article, it left me mildly depressed. There didn't seem to be much understanding in either that book or this article for people who are somewhat avoidant, like myself, and so the ideas presented to "cure" oneself of one's avoidance fell flat. (You'll see more scathing reviews along the same lines on Amazon.) There's little in it that I find motivating or sympathetic, beyond, "Trust us! You'll feel better if you learn how to be securely attached!"

My (clearly avoidant) response was to criticize the evo-psych basis of attachment theory, which argues that attachment was critical for not dying in the EEA. Avoidance is clearly a sub-optimal evolutionary response, according to these popularizations of attachment theory. But you can ask a question of theories which make evolutionary claims like that: If it's so sub-optimal, why are there so many avoidants? Almost two billion of them on this planet, if their 25% number is to be believed. That's a resounding evolutionary success, not a failure. (There is a similar response to the "Nice Guy vs. Alpha Male" evo-psych argument: If being a Nice Guy is so evolutionarily sub-optimal, why are there so many of them?)

"Hold Me Tight" made me cry multiple times, but I didn't really know what to do with that, either.
posted by clawsoon at 3:46 PM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


The funny part is that I learned my avoidant attachment style from my mother; my father stuck out in the self-reliant, stiff-lipped prairie culture I grew up in because he was a man who was never afraid to cry, or rejoice, or ask for help, or make new friends.
posted by clawsoon at 3:51 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also: Is there any statistical proof for the article's claim that anxiously attached men are more likely to be rapists than avoidantly attached men?
They may be the least likely to rape or assault, but also the least likely to create deep, honest, nurturing relationships in which women they sleep with or get close to can feel emotionally safe with them.
I'm willing to believe it, both because it soothes my avoidant ego and because all the "man murders ex and children before committing suicide" stories seem to fit the extreme anxiously attached profile. (Obviously a tiny, tiny proportion of anxiously attached men doing this. And, I'm sure, there are more avoidantly attached rapists than the article suggests.)
posted by clawsoon at 4:16 PM on February 12, 2016


From my own experience, women don't have anywhere near a monopoly on secure attachment styles,

I think an anxious attachment style is common in non-secure women, probably also at least partly because of socialization after early childhood. (Can't remember who said it, but I've come across the suggestion that BPD, a label that doesn't get applied to men that often, reflects responses to post-traumatic insecurity that are organized in culturally feminine ways, given a misogynist culture...)

The tragedy is that anxious women and avoidant men often turn each other on :/ (Probably the case for anxious & avoidant types in general, but I don't know.)

I've read some of the contemporary research on attachment theory, but I haven't read that book, clawsoon. There isn't a suggestion for people with avoidant styles other than "don't be avoidant", or maybe "date someone secure"? I wonder whether some of the therapeutic approaches geared towards emotional literacy - i.e. recognizing and naming emotions, and trying to stay present with them - might be helpful to people who feel they're avoidant and want to change that. Like maybe acceptance and commitment therapy. (Which I have only read about.)

(Last thing - this post reminded me of a few responses from [I think] men in this Ask. Some men are genuinely unsettled or irritated by the sight of a woman crying, and suspicious of the motivations behind the tears. That kind of response makes sense to me, if avoidant attachment informs it.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:47 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


My problem with attachment theory is that it ruins a lot of great country and folk songs.

"Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be ...avoidant attachers?" They may never stay home and they're always alone, even with someone they love, but that still has horrible meter.
posted by salvia at 5:55 PM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


That is, I don't think , in general, "secure" attachment people are any better than anyone else at figuring out what people are feeling using powers of observation alone

Victims of abuse are both better at picking up anger from others and less likely to be securely attached. The more you know ♒★
posted by Jpfed at 6:38 PM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is a compelling piece and I find all the stuff on attachment theory really interesting, but I admit I'm really put off when people theorize about the causes of rape and assault without substantial support. I wouldn't be surprised if shame is deeply tied up in it, but I'm not convinced yet that "normal intimacy needs" that have been distorted are the cause of rape. I'm struggling to articulate why this idea makes me feel so angry, but I do like the thoughts on nurturance and wish she hadn't chosen that framing.
posted by thetortoise at 12:11 AM on February 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


What are these "true selves" that the author keeps referring to? Is there any evidence that such a strange thing exists?

...men grow up learning not to love their true selves...
....nurturance and recuperation of their true selves,...

What is woman's relation to her "true self"? Is she also disconnected in some way?

But why then would you need a role model to discover a true self? If it was really your "true self" then shouldn't it be self evident? It's hard to take such essentialist mysticism at all seroiusly.
posted by mary8nne at 3:35 AM on February 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's referenced in the first mention: "If a lot of men grow up learning not to love their true selves, learning that their own healthy attachment needs (emotional safety, nurturance, connection, love, trust) are weak and wrong – that anyone’s attachment, or emotional safety, needs are weak and wrong – this can lead to two things."

So I read it as the author saying that the natural or "true" self typically has attachment needs (such as emotional safety, nurturance, connection, etc.), but a lot of men are taught that these are weaknesses, so may suppress their natural inclinations (their "true selves").
posted by taz at 5:29 AM on February 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, attachment theory is a normative model that presumes the needs outlined by taz are biologically based and universal to humans and other close species (e.g. monkeys). The secure attachment style would be considered optimal.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:48 AM on February 13, 2016


But why then would you need a role model to discover a true self? If it was really your "true self" then shouldn't it be self evident? It's hard to take such essentialist mysticism at all seroiusly.

I guess the idea is that anxious and avoidant attachment styles developed as adaptive strategies that worked in one context (regulating emotions given an unavailable or inconsistent parent) but don't work so well in others (adult relationships). So you can't trust your compass.

What is woman's relation to her "true self"? Is she also disconnected in some way?

I think one argument (not necessarily limited to attachment theory) is that yeah, thanks to patriarchal norms working through parents early on, and the big world and internalization of those norms later, etc., many women are anxious and other-oriented, and alienated from a natural (normative again) need for security, competence, and mastery, so struggle to realize a capacious self free to easily move between being with someone and being alone, and especially to explore (from a "secure base").
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:59 AM on February 13, 2016


Attachment Theory was the creation of controversial psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s, challenging an establishment who all but ignored the real world happenings in childhood to focus on intra-psychic conflict. Probably the most interesting current research is that of Beatrice Beebe who does frame by frame microanalysis of mother child interaction. I was hoping I could find some of her videos to link to but she seems to have kept them off line.

The true self/false self dichotomy originated with D. W. Winnicott and was later popularized by R. D. Laing. It's not meant to refer to some reified distinction but to illustrate the dilemma of children who learn to please parents by becoming inauthentic.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:11 AM on February 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Homophobia, both violent and nonviolent.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:10 AM on February 13, 2016


Is the author using True / False self in the sense of Winnicott? which seems to be a distinction between "spontaneous" and "non-spontaneous"? Its not clear for the first part of the article.

This did jump out at me though:
This is all happening below the conscious level, not in Freud’s imagined ‘subconscious’ but in a recognizable region of the brain: the limbic brain, which does not have language.

- given that you would think that someone in psychology or a reader of Freud would not be so careless to refer to "Freud's imagined 'subconscious'", for Freud it was always the "unconscious" not the "subconscious" - which is certain fields is s significant distinction.
posted by mary8nne at 12:05 PM on February 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


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