Cognition & Reality

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

“Alcoholism”

As I read a history of the disease theory of alcoholism, there is much about how describing addiction to alcohol as a disease de-stigmatizes those deemed to drink too much. For example, Bill W. thought that portraying excessive drinking as a “disease” was a useful metaphor, rather than a medically accurate description of the syndrome, because it removed blame from users. The problem with such metaphors, as the history of the “computer metaphor” in cognitive psychology shows, is that they are inevitably taken too seriously, leading to massive confusion and misunderstanding. In the case of alcoholism, it is widely assumed that it is, indeed, a disease of the brain, subject to treatment by medical professionals, although the the evidence that it represents an actual disease entity is thin, at best.

There are many reasons why the disease concept of alcoholism persists, among them that the confusion caused by applying the disease metaphor to the excessive use of alcohol benefits the makers of alcoholic beverages. If those who ruin their lives with alcohol are suffering from a “disease,” that takes the onus off alcoholic beverages and those who make them. It’s a perfect out. Temperance advocates at the turn of the previous century did blame the makers of alcoholic beverages for the “scourge” of drunkenness, as well as the moral weakness of those who drink. For that reason, the sellers of beer, wine and spirits have to be extremely happy that the approach of the rehabilitation movement blames neither them nor the users of alcohol. Instead, the problem is caused by a disease entity.

By taking the blame away from the substance and from the the user, the treatment of alcoholism as a disease resembles the date rape drugs phantom.

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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Marijuana: The Point-Shaving Drug

Filed under: Cannabis,Date Rape Drugs,Sports — drtone @ 12:00 pm

They’re not just date rape drugs any more.

In an interview I’m watching about a point-shaving scandal involving players for the University of San Diego and UC, Riverside, once attended by yours truly, the NCAA’s point person for enforcement answered a question about how they investigate such allegations with a nod toward “our contacts with Vegas.” In other words, she does not have any problem consorting with gamblers. The real problem with point shaving is not that it changes who wins basketball games, which it need not. The real problem is that it fucks up the point spread, which hurts gamblers. Consequently, this scandal is not about “the integrity of the game,” as the NCAA rep calls it. It’s about damage to the NCAA’s Vegas contacts.

The scandal indicates the power of gambling and the so-called “gaming industry” in American life. That the fixing of a basketball game (not across state lines) should occasion a federal indictment demonstrates the control gambling interests exercise over our government. Think about it: The point spread is sufficiently sacred that to trespass against it in a game between teams from two obscure schools (sorry UCR!) is deemed a crime against the American people.

A discussion of the scandal on ESPN’s supposedly hard-hitting “Outside the Lines” omitted any serious discussion of the hypocritical partnership between the NCAA and the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, a partnership that appears to be a matter of pride to both parties. One question about the “irony” of talking about the integrity of sport and gambling in the same sentence was directed at the representative of the Las Vegas sports betting association, who of course did not answer it. Much more interest was directed at the question of whether players “need” for money motivates point shaving, and also at the involvement of those indicted with the use and distribution of marijuana. For the interested parties, it would be nice if the public blamed smoking pot for point shaving by college athletes.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Selling Drunken Sex IV

Filed under: Date Rape,Date Rape Drugs,Propaganda,Sex & Love,Television — drtone @ 2:59 pm

I knew yesterday that there was more I wanted to say about the Bud Light commercials. So I beg your indulgence as I continue to pursue this topic.

As the persistence of the belief in a widespread threat of “date rape drugs” shows, the marketing of beer as a sexual intoxicant by Anheuser-Busch does not exist in isolation. Post-industrial society is struggling with the effects of having freed women from most of the traditional constraints on their behavior. The process of integrating men and women into a culture that recognizes their inherent equality is not finished, if “finishing” is a possibility for social change. In fact, change is continuous and almost always appears to be more predictable than it actually is. The hypocrisy regarding women and alcohol with which I have recently been obsessed represents an unanticipated consequence of what, for want of a better term, we call “women’s liberation.”

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Selling Drunken Sex III

Filed under: Date Rape,Television — drtone @ 2:01 pm

I’ve never had anything like the response to a post that I have had to my initial post about Bud Light TV commercials. As I said in the follow-up, I’m not sure to what to attribute the number of hits, a hot topic, a hot product, or something else. It surprises me that, as I Googled around, I did not find any commentary about the form of beer commercials, the portrayal of drunkenness as a strategy. Everyone is familiar with the pairing of beer and breasts, but you might think that both the drunken behavior of those in beer spots and the direct selling of beer as an aphrodisiac would have drawn more attention. I’m not talking about the our-beer-will-make-you-look-cool appeal of, for example, “The Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials for Dos Equis. I’m talking about showing how to use the beer bottle to “hook up” with a drunk female, or demonstrating that beer will render a woman numb and suggestible. These are the very factors implicated in warnings about date rape.

 

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Katie Roiphe & Date Rape

Filed under: Date Rape,Propaganda,Sex & Love — drtone @ 10:18 am

It seems that I have reinvented yet another wheel. Not surprisingly, the arguments I have made about the standards against which “date rape” is measured were put forward before. They were presented, in the face of angry criticism, a little less than twenty years ago by Katie Roiphe. In an article, and later a book, The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus, both published in 1993, she raised the same questions I have in recent posts on this subject, and in much the same way. For example, she suggested that the typical characterization of “date rape” casts young women–at least those from the higher social strata–as “chaste objects,” much as they were portrayed in pre-feminist times. Of course, Roiphe also raised questions about the definition of rape and date rape with particular emphasis on problem of differentiating date rape from bad sex. Predictably, she was denounced by an army of feminist writers, who may have felt an extra sting of betrayal because Roiphe’s mother, Anne, is a prominent feminist.

There is much that could be said about the content of both Katie Roiphe’s article and the comments of various critics. For now, however, I wish to point out that Roiphe pushed a hot button about the status of women. The button is “hot” at least partly because it is connected to rape, but I do not believe that what is at issue here is confined to questions about what does or does not constitute rape.

The date rape “debate” is encrusted with a brand of social commentary that I have criticized elsewhere, which involves placing an issue of importance on the Procrustean bed of left-right politics. Unfortunately for someone like me who identifies with the left, it is a ploy used by those on the left more than by those on the right. This anti-Roiphe article, for example, addresses much of  its criticism of Roiphe to the resemblance between her stand and that of some of those on the right. It need hardly be said that this form of special pleading would count as frivolous were it not also widespread.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Bud Light: Selling Drunken Sex II

Filed under: Date Rape,Date Rape Drugs,Propaganda,Television,Urban Myths — drtone @ 11:51 am

For whatever reason, my post yesterday about the current Bud Light commercials garnered the highest number of hits of any entry I have ever made on this blog. Maybe it was just that it said “Bud Light,” and everyone is so excited about the product because of those commercials. Maybe it’s that people are sick and tired of the pervasive hypocrisy surrounding the relationship of alcohol to sex. I’d love to hear from readers about why they tuned in here.

In case it wasn’t perfectly obvious, the point I was making about the commercial featuring the write-on labels is that they facilitate the classic “date rape” scenario: An incapacitated young woman gets together with a young man she does not know well… The entire purpose of the ad in question, as with the other Bud Light ads, is the selling of beer as an aid to getting laid. The message to young men is clear: DRUNK WOMEN ARE EASY. BUY OUR PRODUCT AND SEE FOR YOURSELF. I have singled out the Bud Light spots because they appear to me to push this envelope more than similar ads by Miller, Coors, and others.

This is where so-called “date rape drugs” come into the picture for Anheuser-Busch and other companies that sell alcohol. While the public and the duly constituted authorities, both inside and outside law enforcement, chase after the “date rape drug” phantom, the corporate sellers of alcohol can continue unabated in their campaigns to market their legal products for use as stimulants to sex. I am not the only person to see the sad humor in the furor over these other drugs, and the hypocrisy involved. Nor is it out of the question that A-B and other alcohol distributors are involved, sub rosa, in creating an atmosphere of concern about “date rape drugs,” as part of a PR strategy, which they did in connection with the related issue of marketing beer to underage drinkers.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Bud Light: Selling Drunken Sex

Filed under: Date Rape,Date Rape Drugs,Propaganda,Television,Urban Myths — drtone @ 11:54 am

In discussing the urban myth of “date rape drugs,” I suggested that the corporate sellers of alcohol have an interest in distracting attention from their own business, selling the most potent and widely used date rape drug of all time. Throughout human history, the consumption of alcohol has been connected with the reduction of sexual inhibitions in both men and women, although with different effects on each. It is not as if the makers and sellers of alcoholic beverages are ignorant of its use as a sexual lubricant. Far from it.

For many years now, partly in response to legal restrictions on showing the actual drinking of alcohol, the major purveyors of alcohol have advertised the effects of their product. One need only look at almost any beer commercial to know that what it is selling is drunkenness itself. I don’t know if they began the trend, but the famous “Tastes great…Less filling” Miller Lite commercials of the late 70s and early 80s typify this approach. These spots told the viewer about the characteristics of light beer, then a new product, in the context of raucous fun that featured famous athletes, several of them notorious drunks. The selling of drunkenness is not confined to beer commercials, as the sales campaign for Captain Morgan Rum demonstrates.

Although some commercials sell beer, wine or spirits as “cool,” mostly they depict consumers having fun in bizarre situations that resemble drunken fantasies. Many suggest that, in the context of the drunken fun, it’s a useful ploy for young men to supply alcohol to young women. Recent commercials for Bud Light, an Anheuser-Busch product, exemplify this sales approach, unabashedly exploiting women and drunkenness to sell beer.

“3D Test”, a spot that has aired for some time on sporting events, which disproportionately attract young men, can be interpreted as doing nothing but selling inebriation, with special emphasis on the ability of beer to render a woman confused and suggestible. The premise is that the company refrained from airing a 3D beer commercial, because it was too effective and therefore dangerous. The rest of the spot depicts the “dangers” of the commercial discovered during market testing: A young man dives into a television set in order to obtain a virtual beer; a young woman, mouth open and tongue out, abandons herself to a giant holographic glass of beer. At the end of the commercial, the same young woman runs headlong from a bowl of frosty Bud Light bottles into what appears to be the one-way mirror in the “test” room. The “host” of the commercial does not need to say that a woman who, manifestly numb after a few beers, will run into her own reflection (or an imaginary beer) is going to be “easy.”

Another spot illustrates the capacity of beer to make a young man appear attractive to young woman. Two young men are throwing a party on what could be a large pleasure craft. When one of them discovers that they are out of beer, the other demonstrates the Bud Light “app” on his smart phone. The “app” features a video of a Bud Light bottle that opens and from which real beer can be poured. Several scenes follow that show the young man who owns the app entertaining young women with his antics and conversation. In case we were wondering whether the important ingredient in his success with women is the beer or something special about the young man, the spot ends with his friend complaining that he wants a Bud Light app, too.

I can’t find the video for the most recent Bud Light spot, one that comes close to shocking me with its frank suggestion that young men entice young women into sex with the help of beer. The new spot introduces Bud Light bottles with labels you can write on with “a coin or a car key.” One of two young male roommates distributes bottles of Bud Light to the young women in their building, each inscribed with the time and location of a party. In one scene, he literally “lures” a young woman with a bottle lowered to her apartment window on a string. In another scene, when he leaves a bottled invitation with a young woman in the laundry room, she looks back with a welcoming, sexy look. At the subsequent party, young men and women are using the bottles to share names and phone numbers. Not only the beer, but also the package it comes in, help drunk couples to get together.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Women & Drinkin’

Filed under: Date Rape,Sex & Love — drtone @ 12:31 pm

Despite the many changes that have occurred in the role of women, men are still expected to initiate “romantic” interactions. That can mean asking a woman for a date, or it can mean approaching a woman in a social situation. Of course, there are exceptions to the normal rule, but the more things have changed the more they’ve stayed the same in this department. For that reason alone, alcohol cannot have the same valence for men and women. A couple of drinks gives a man a little “liquid courage,” to ask a woman out or ask her to come home with him. The same two drinks, as has been well known literally forever, will lower a woman’s “sales resistance,” making it easier to get her into bed–and also easier to rape her.

As I have discussed here and here, there is a disconnect between the formal and informal rules our society has adopted regarding the freedom of a woman to go anywhere she wishes, including into a bar, and the relationship of alcohol and sexual behavior. That disconnect goes deep into the structure of modern society: The moral strictures that protected women when women literally belonged to men hang around like ghosts in a culture that has liberated women. One reason for this is certainly that, in a wide range of circumstances, women are in more danger than are men. Beyond that practical concern, however, there remain open questions about the role of women in the modern world, one that nobody wants to look at because of the forementioned ghosts, which are pretty darn scary.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Date Rape Drugs And The “Good Girl”

Filed under: Date Rape,Propaganda,Sex & Love,Urban Myths — drtone @ 12:10 pm

I promise that I will soon get off the topic of date rape, but not quite yet. When I wrote my first entry on “date rape drugs” after watching a stupid movie, I discovered the depth of the topic, how it drills down to some core values in our society. Now that I’m there, it’s hard to stop.

A fascinating aspect of the prevailing fantasy about date rape drugs is that it makes contact with a societal trope one would have thought had died in the sexual revolution. The “good girl” no longer must abstain from sex before marriage. Instead, she does have sex with her boyfriend in a committed relationship, but  she doesn’t have sex with a random Joe she happened to meet at a bar or party. At least, she doesn’t do so regularly. A magic substance that can be slipped into an alcoholic drink, transforming it into something that render a person unconscious, as if alcohol couldn’t already do that, obviously taps into deep hypocrisy about the consumption of alcohol by women. It not only “explains” the effect of alcohol on a woman’s inhibitions, but also “explains” the non-virtuous behavior of a supposedly virtuous woman.

A “good girl” doesn’t get hammered and end up in bed with an ill-mannered stranger. Maybe she entertains the notion that there’s someone like that deep inside her, but does not contemplate letting her out. Therefore, if she wakes up in a strange place, certain that she behaved recklessly, ashamed of herself, it must have been the result of a “date rape drug,” and not the result of a chain of bad judgments that began when she went to a a party the night before. Clearly, the scenario of a drunken woman leaving a party with a stranger could be a prelude to sex that is truly forced and qualifies as rape. But just as clearly, an alcohol-fueled sexual liaison can simply be confusing, uncomfortable, and something for which one would like not to take responsibility. A “good girl” doesn’t, by definition, act like a slut…unless she’s been drugged.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

At The Game

Filed under: Date Rape,Sex & Love — drtone @ 3:31 pm

Years ago, I was at an afternoon Padres game in what was then called Jack Murphy Stadium. The Padres had invited some Marines to the game, as they probably still do. The guys were sitting in the upper left field stands. It was a normal day in San Diego, which means that the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm (but not hot). About the third inning or so, at a volume that distracted from whatever was happening on the field, the section of the stands where the Marines were sitting erupted in cheers. Everybody in the stadium turned their eyes up in that direction, where a gorgeous blonde in a revealing one-piece bathing suit was parading in front of the troops, who were beside themselves. She strutted her stuff along the walkway in front of the Marines’ section, and then exited through one of the tunnels to the stadium concourse. It was an amazing moment.

After it was over, I thought, “Why is it that I don’t know a woman who would do that?” Then I realized that I had no way of knowing whether I knew a woman who would do that or not, and that I was simply in the habit of thinking of women as more inhibited than that blonde had been. My reaction demonstrated that I have as much trouble accepting women’s sexuality as the next guy, maybe as much as the guy who co-authored the date rape study I’ve been pillorying the last couple of daze.

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