Venus and Adonis // Noontide Sun and Christopher Hunter

Incidents of women forcing men to have sex is are perhaps rarely discussed, and yet Shakespeare wrote about it back in 1593 in his poem Venus and Adonis. The poem tells the story of Venus, the goddess of love, and her unrequited passion for Adonis, an extremely handsome young man who would rather go hunting than give in to her seduction. The poem concludes that because Venus’s attack on Adonis ended in his death, love from then on would involve pain and suffering.

Some say it isn’t love that hurts but the expectations that go with it. It is certainly true that all love does not hurt, but forced sex is not love. It is aggression. Although Venus believed her lust for Adonis was love, it was not. Anger, frustration, money worries…all can lead to physical abuse of a partner. report that one in six men have been targets of rape or sexual abuse today. That’s 5 million men in the UK. It can happen to any man, of any age, race, class or sexual identity. Men can feel trapped and isolated by misinformation about male sexual abuse and rape, such as the false view that men can’t be raped and fears that sexual abuse can make you into an abuser.

The psychological harm caused by this sense of humiliation can be very harmful. In Adonis’s case, it led to death. For most men however, the effects, though severe, are not that extreme. In our culture, boys are socialized not to be victims. 'If I am a victim, can I then also be a man?' Tradition tells us big boys fight back.  They don’t call the police to report that they have been victimized, especially by a woman. It doesn’t fit the male tough guy stereotype. And so they minimize or deny what has happened.

That is why sexual assault against men is often not reported. An article in the Telegraph last March reported that female sex offences against men are viewed as a rare and peculiar phenomenon, but this is far from the truth. Determining how common female-perpetrated sexual offending is a very difficult task, but an international study last year found that although it constituted 2.2 per cent of sexual offences officially reported to the police, the rates discovered in victimizations studies were six times that amount. That means more than one in nine sexual offences are committed by women. Venus was not alone in her determination to force Adonis to make love to her. Indeed, it speaks to a long and troublesome tradition. 

- Lynn Ruth Miller


Links relevant to this diagnosis:


Venus and Adonis - Noontide Sun

Venus and Adonis - Folger Shakespeare Library


Survivors UK

Why Boys Do Not Tell About Sexual Abuse - Psychology Today

Does Love Always Hurt? - Quora Topic

Female Sex Offenders - Telegraph

The Science of Cringe // Maria Peters

As a child, Maria Peters went to school early every day to conduct a secret science project (investigating the effects of shampoo on hair strength). But she stopped when she could no longer keep it a secret from her friends, fearing social rejection. This is just one of many personal 'cringe-cidents' revealed during the course of her show, which uses comedy and science to explain what cringe is, why we feel it, and whether sharing the most cringeworthy experiences of her life will help her control her fear of rejection.

The audience, too, is invited to share, albeit anonymously. Everyone has the chance to write down an embarrassing memory that Peters will later use as the basis for an improvised reenactment or song. We get to cringe for each person's remembered experience as well as for them having it replayed in front of all of us. How much we cringe or laugh depends on our level of empathy - people's capacity to feel each other's emotions, including social and emotional pain, is a strong part of human culture. Cringe, it seems, helps bind us together and exclude anyone who doesn't quite fit. Peters pulls in arguments from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology to support this idea.

Research into modern-day emotions can be complicated and sophisticated, but can it help us cope when excessive cringe interferes with our lives? 'Shame attacks' form part of some types of behavioural therapy designed to ease social anxiety. Participants are tasked with going out and committing small acts of social disorder (loudly calling out every floor in a crowded lift, for example) in order to learn that cringing is not the end of the world. Peters seems to be trying something similar with this show, and her conclusion is that while cringe may sometimes save us from social embarrassment, it also sometimes stops us being who we truly are. Her suggestion is to embrace the cringe, and when everyone in the audience joins her in a most cringeworthy dance at the end of the show, it is hard to argue.

- Michael Regnier 


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

The Science of Cringe

Reputation is the Modern Purgatory - The History of Emotions Blog (2012)

The Centre for the History of Emotions - Queen Mary, University of London

Cells That Read MindsNew York Times

Evolutionary Psychology - Science Daily

Shame Attacks - The Albert Ellis Institute