Pictures Of Cute Naked Women Looking Sad

Posted: September 3, 2012 in bisexuality, Blogging, Identity, internet, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

I read two blogposts this week which deal with the subject of depression and seeking help for mental health problems. They probably struck a particular chord with me as I am currently seeing a (very good) counsellor/therapist.

The first piece is by Reese Rants where she encouraged her readers to ‘turn off the negative soundtrack’ that often accompanies us when we are beset by anxiety and unhappiness. The second is by Sue George at her blog, Bisexuality and Beyond. She discusses recent research which suggests bisexual people suffer mental health problems in greater numbers than others, and don’t seek help enough.

Whilst I have substantive comments about both articles, there was one ‘superficial’ thing I couldn’t help but notice and explore first. Both bloggers illustrate their work with a photo of a young (white), naked, woman, sitting in a  crouching position looking sad!

This reminds me of that meme that went round the internet recently, where someone had found a set of stock photos of women laughing alone with salad.

There are a number of possible reasons why Lucy Reese and Sue George chose the images they did. They are both women and so probably identify more closely with pictures of women looking depressed. But in relation to Sue’s piece, I would argue that bisexual men suffer more prejudice and biphobia than women (because it is less acceptable for men to experiment with same sex sex than for women. They immediately get labelled as ‘gay’).  So some photos of (cute, naked?) men looking sad would be appropriate here.

But as a blogger myself, sometimes we just go for pictures we like. Pictures that we instinctively feel will enhance our words in an aesthetically pleasing way. And cute naked women certainly do that, I think the whole internetz would agree! Even when dealing with the most serious subjects, we have blog hits at the back of our minds. One woman even wrote a whole book based on this concept, called ‘Marketable Depression’!

I am also reminded here of Chumbawamba’s album, ‘Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records’. It was a stark reference to what I have since termed concern porn. When covering sensitive, difficult issues such as poverty or depression, the western media often can’t help but relish in the ‘voyeurism’ involved in looking at vulnerable people. There may be a tad of that in Sue and Lucy’s choice of imagery.

As something of an ‘aesthete’ and a ‘voyeur’ myself, whilst I do have a lot of problems with concern porn, I can’t help but wish people would choose better pictures to ‘concern’ over! How about this painting by Egon Schiele entitled ‘Kneeling Woman With Head Bent Forward’?

Or Van Gogh’s evocatively named ‘Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity)’?

You never know, paintings by accomplished artists might actually cheer some of us depressed readers up!

Maybe one of my ‘problems’ is that sometimes I treat mental health issues – my own and those of other people – in a flippant manner. I suspect my counsellor might call that a ‘coping mechanism’.

So this post is probably a window on my soul more than a proper criticism of the blogposts above.

However, beneath my facetious surface there lies some deep thought and struggle with issues of mental health and sexual identity.

When it came out earlier this year I criticised the Bisexuality Report that Sue refers to in her post. I was actually shocked that in 2012 bisexual people and academics were presenting bisexuality as somehow linked to mental illness! So under Sue’s post I made the following points:

‘I am not questioning the findings of the reports. But I am very unhappy with bi organisations promoting the idea that bisexual people suffer worse mental health than others.This is becausea) it falls into the ‘pathologising’ approach to sexuality that was so big in the 19th century when the ‘homosexual’ was presented as mentally ill.

b) it ignores how many people have same sex sex without ever recognising themselves as ‘bisexual’. What is their mental health like?

c) it makes out bisexuals to be a separate category distinct from gay, straight, trans, msms etc.
The thing I love most about bisexuality is it challenges the whole notion of fixed sexual identities

d) it is ‘depressing’! I am happy to campaign for better mental health services and access to services for bisexual people. But I am not happy to present bi people as prone to mental illness.

I myself do not identify as bi and I have had plenty of mental health problems in my life. But I dont have a ‘community’ to talk to. Not based on my sexual identity anyway.’

But please, if you think of me as providing a ‘negative soundtrack’ to the discussions on bisexuality and mental health, and if you want to respond to my points, don’t illustrate your response with a picture of a cute naked woman looking sad!

  1. Matthew says:

    Hi QRG, you have actually been a part of my journey of recovering from depression directly linked to my bisexual identity and the biphobia that I have experienced over 23 years. The big issue that you have pointed out is that for bisexual men our homosexuality immediately erases our heterosexuality, by even uttering the word “bisexual”. Some bi men I have met lean gay and primarily pursue men and occasionally slip into an opposite sex relationship. For me it has been the opposite. My relationships with women are deeply felt emotional romantic experiences, my same sex relationships can be called “brotherly” for lack of a better word. Two different experiences of love that are important to me. I think the reason do many bi men are not out is because they will loose the very thing they love most if they were out. And navigating this world of desire has been a daunting task even for someone like myself who is smart urbane connected and have a myriad of supportive friends. I am actually beginning to feel better – but it is rather horrible that still today the very existence of bisexual men is put into question. A lot of bad things can happen to non-existent people. It is devastating to be ridiculed in one of the most progressive circles in the country, the art world. I am now more confident and look in retrospect the amazing life that I have lived and feel grateful for being who I am. A while ago you questioned my desire for a “bisexual community”. But that is exactly what I have been building for myself meeting both bi and trans people and slowly finding a sense of greater belonging which is actually transforming my life. The fact is I have experienced ridiculous discrimination over the years and most of it has come from the gay men (I have supportive gay friends too.) And I hardly ever participate in that community. Some of the discrimination I have experienced has been in institutional settings and is indeed illegal in my state. This is a cultural and social issue that has long been ignored as there are almost no services what-so-ever for bisexual men at all (there are services for bi women though). I have recently finally found a therapist who is bisexual and he caters to the needs of bisexual men. So things are getting better. Thank you for your support.

    • Dean Esmay says:

      I owe you an apology. No, you don’t know me, probably never will, and I’ve never said anything to you before, but, I apologize anyway: for years I’ve rather flippantly believed that bisexual men were extremely, extremely rare, and mostly-unconsciously or thoughtlessly believed the whole “they’re lying to themselves” thing. I can honestly say I know only one man who is genuinely bisexual–and yet, how many are closeted and marginalized, or have been because I’ve been flippant?

      I have a belief that may be too shallow that bisexual men are rarer than bisexual women. That may be true but it may not be and regardless it shouldn’t matter. I’m sorry if my thoughtless attitudes have hurt you or others. Genuinely.

      • That s a very honest comment Dean.

        I can’t speak for anyone but myself. And I am not a bisexual man so I havent borne the brunt of that kind of biphobia. But I do think ‘straight’ men have it hard as well. Because, as I say in the post, as soon as they show any interest in same sex attraction they can get labelled ‘gay’. So I can see why you would have down-played the existence of bisexuality in men.

      • concerned cynic says:

        I have heard whispered anecdotes of male bisexuality since high school. I never took part in a circle jerk (and was never invited to do so). Bisexuality was rampant in the boy scout camping trips I experienced (I was never asked to participate).

        My father was demented during the last decade of his life. And in the worst of his dementia, he said and did things that convinced me that he had bisexual inclinations, despite having had three children with my mother.

        I believe that quite a few men turn bisexual in settings where women are scarce, and where worries about one’s reputation are not too severe. In Latin America, only receptive males are deemed gay. I would not be surprised if many men rationalise away their bisexuality in this fashion.

        You say that gay men have treated you badly for being bi. I was warned about this in the 1980s; gay men despise bi men as hypocrites. This hatred can be worse than anything most str8 people direct at bi men. Because I like performing arts and fashion, I meet gay men. They can be the most brutally dismissive, belittling, and scornful people I have ever met. I am not bi at all, but gay men feel free to project hatred at me.

        • Matthew says:

          Coming to a big city at 19 I had no idea. I had a girlfriend who was bi and wanted a girlfriend and set me up with her gay friend because I told her I was too. What happened immediately was a huge scandle in undergrad. Most guys I met who I met later are and are still closeted. The problem for me is the “high art” world in America is actually small in some ways. So I have had to confront many people’s misunderstandings even in very progressive circles. I have and still have a few highly supportive gay friends. But unfortunately I have encountered actual and real disturbing hatred from some gay men whom I considered my peers. What is bizaare about this is how gay art academics read queer art history, they continue to dismiss bisexual artists as “gay” at every turn. I have had personal conversations with a woman who knew Rauschenberg who so deeply loved his wife he held onto her his entire life. Or Cy Twombly who had to flee the country to live a closeted bisexual life while married. Basquiat is a closeted gay, Mapplethorpe could never have loved Patti Smith, all of this erasure is deeply disturbing to me.

          • paul says:

            I think it might be largely explained by a sense of vulnerability in the gay identity: bisexuality is not as great a threat to a straight identity, because about 97-98% identify as straight–and due to the reality of procreation of course. If 5, 10, even 20% of the population eventually were to adopt a more-or-less consciously bisexual life, the remainder would still constitute a huge majority and would have no cause to feel beleaguered. The more homophobic amongst them will, it’s true, feel increasingly anxious, but the rest might well experience the trend as the movement towards greater personal freedom that it is, and would benefit–as has been the case all along.

            However, the gay identity can be seen as “competing” in a certain sense with bisexuality: every person in the latter camp is seen by many in the former as a loss, as someone who could be in *their* column, upping the (relatively tiny) numbers. The process of coming out for most gay-identified people is still difficult enough and often horrendous, and the daily experience of being surrounded by heteroness and hetero-expectations unsurprisingly reinforces a ghetto mentality.

            I’m certainly not defending this, heaven knows! I just think there are some understandable reasons for the phenomenon. I’ve always thought gay identity to be a transitional phenomenon leading to a paradigm shift in gender and sexuality–if we let it… My issue with gay politics is that I think the time has clearly come to loosen our grip on these categories; instead, people are clamping down all the harder.

    • paul says:

      “A lot of bad things can happen to non-existent people.” This resonates a lot with me. As a non-straight but also non-gay guy, I’ve yet to find a community as such that I could be at home in, for exactly this reason. I definitely have never connected with the gay world and so have basically just lived in the wider straight world, in which however I tend to feel almost as much an alien… Especially as now the majority of people I know are married, raising families, so that it’s like a heavy door shutting in one’s face on all sides–the nucleation and exclusivity of close relationship… I am very much aware that the married couples I know are much closer to their married friends, with whom they (not necessarily surprisingly) spend most of their time discussing children… Meanwhile I simply don’t wish to, and can’t, divide people into The One with whom all is shared, and a deeply anemic conception of “friendship” which is to say “dudeship.” Ah well.

      As for these labels, again, they make no sense to me in multiple ways. I recently came across a link to the following: (Did I post this before? Apologies if so! I know I sent it somewhere but can’t remember where…) Anyway, it’s not new information but just a reminder of how dogmatic and culturally imperialistic our Gay/Straight mentality really is. When you speak of the coexistence of the “romantic” and “brotherly,” different aspects or registers of love, neither of which claims the physical or sexual at the expense of the other–it seems to me from all I have studied cross-culturally that some variant or other of this is very much the norm, the human. Yet our culture so desperately needs to smother this fact that we simply ignore or explain away (mostly ignore) everything that can’t support Black/White. Gah!

      (The alternative to Black/White being not “the grey areas” but rather … living colour!)

      Anyway, I’m glad to hear you are relating better to the whole thing… (I’m relating worse, ha ha!) And yes thanks QRG for helping to keep it open and calling people on the endless erasure…

      • are you going to do a video for the ‘It Gets Worse’ campaign then Paul? 😀

      • Matthew says:

        I of course am not saying that bisexual is in anyway better than gay. Most of the bi guys I know have married and are monogomous in those marriages. Because of my trauma/depression issues long term relationships have been difficult to maintain, which has given me plenty of opportunities to switch back and fourth. I remain open to who life brings for a long term relationship. I am FWB with a biwoman who does not want an LTR. By Alternating it has given me an opportunity to understand what a bisexual orientation is. And almost every bisexual guy I know who has been in both relationships reports similar experiences. But I must say I think bisexuality is sometimes more of a threat to some straight people because my outness challenges their straightness. But also think that my being open challenges the gayness of some gay men. The gay men who are immediately accepting are either men who are totally completely gay or gay men who have a bisexual past and have chosen the gay lifestyle. Bisexual guys ten years younger than me are in the poly community and very open about who they are – so it is changing in small microcosms.

    • Thanks Matthew that means a lot.

  2. redpesto says:

    QRG, as an occasional poster at Liberal Conspiracy, I’m sure you’d be familiar with the image of ‘sad-woman-clutching-a-pillow’ that has been so over-used on posts about feminism (especially anything on porn, sex work, and sexual violence) that it’s become a running gag on the site (which might stop Sunny Hundal from using it in future).

  3. Hi QRG,

    sorry to hear your feeling blue….

    anyways as far as white women-call me a bigot but they are the most privileged on earth. Look at all this controversy of gamers saying horrible things-they do about all kinds of people but when a white woman is offended-stop the f8cking world. Just look how a bigot like Marcotte hasn’t been told to shut up already. Look at how her lap dogs Futrelle and Schwyzer eat up everything she says. Anyways, as to why they might show picture of white women crying-first it is okay for them to be vunerable and second they are seen as more human than the rest of us so the fact they are crying, even over something insignificant-it is supposed to be REALLY IMPORTANT.

    If a man is crying, it better be over some serious sh*t-he’s in a military uniform, he just killed three people and saw his best friend get blown up…. Anything less and he is a pussy, sissy-worse than gay cuz at least a gay is tough enough to take it up the @$$-he isn’t a man anymore because he is crying…..

    Anyways, that’s one of the reasons that male depression is less understood-women tend to show it in conventional ways-ie sadness and it is okay for them to get help. Men may show it in less conventional ways-irratibility, risk taking, drinking to excess….

    That is why you will see the stat that men suffer less depression but are more likely to be successful in their suicide attempts-If anyone *cough* *cough* psychologists *cough* *cough* put any thought into this, they’d of figured that out by now. But I guess an advanced degree doesn’t really buy you sharper critical thinking skills these days-just student debt and the right to pretend to be better than everyone else…..

  4. and, oh yeah, the crying white woman is a white knights wet dream–he can presumably console her with a few sage words of advice, get her to stop crying and be worthy of sticking his penis into her vagina.

    When will people wake up that Schwyzer and the 3rd wavers aren’t advocating equality but more dependency of women and more demonization of men such as myself who are on the wrong side of the tracks…..

  5. “There really was a time when younger women tried to imitate the sophistication and worldiness of older women. There really was a time when grown women were ashamed to cry except maybe when a kid had died. Or at the opera. That was allowed. There really was a time when women didn’t chatter and giggle in public like high school girls. There really was a time when young American didn’t chirp when they talked. And somehow all that got cut out of femininity in our culture, the female gender role evolved away from adulthood.”

  6. Sorry to hear you’re suffering but goof that you’re following up on quality help. I do agree that men who like both sexes have it tougher but I think women who don’t identify as “lesbian” CAN be very alienated. It’s even harder I think, for those who are open about feelings for other women but don’t identify with the bi identity.

    When I think about it, I’ve at least 3 friends who are in long term hetero relationships after anything from a couple of years to a couple of decades in mixed gender or same sex relationships. It’s really hard for them to talk about it because is kind of been erased by their married/long term relationship statuses. But very occasionally they do. On the other hand, for what I realise now as no real reason, I abandoned a decade of bisexual identity myself about 15 years ago. As I’ve never felt anything but alienation for the realities of lesbian culture that I’ve found in Ireland (though not in the UK, US or Spain) I can’t for the life of me explain why I did that. I suppose it was easier to describe myself as a “gay woman” than bisexual. Since then I’ve come to realise that bi identity to some extent isn’t an identity because it’s usually taken to mean all of the grey areas in between hetero and homo-normativity. Identity matters most, by the way, not on what you do, or whom you sleep with, but during those sexually fallow periods of life when partners are either hard to find or don’t match up to what you are looking for. Then it does matter, because it to some extent measures an aspiration.

    So I think it can be helpful if You do have some kind of sexual “Weltanschaung” (=worldview, but the German is richer in meaning). The trouble is, if you don’t pick a ready made identity off the shelf, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time knitting your own identity. But it can suit your needs, you feelings and you aspirations. I’d strongly recommend a read of Kate Bornstein’s “Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to suicide for teens, freaks and other outlaws”. It DOES actually, for a modest book, really help in forging out personal identity, especially in the face of hate, opposition and silencing. I think it actually does achieve things it wasn’t intended to do (which can only be a good thing). Sometimes you find a lot of help in unexpected territories.

    Wishing you well and hopefully a recovery.

  7. Thanks everyone for kind and perceptive comments.

    I guess one ‘solution’ to my difficulties with sexual identity that I have come to in various periods in my life is avoiding sex altogether. would I recommend that to anyone else though? No.

    • Matthew says:

      I don’t know how you identify but when we talked about bisexual community I am now convinced it is very important. Bi people are marginalized like gays and lesbians are, but gays and lesbians actually have communities. Identity can bring like minded people together to support each other even if those like minded individuals are incredibly diverse. My bi girlfriend at 19 likes masculine men and femme women, I like the mix of femme and masculine in women and always only femme guys. Another bi man I know is attracted to butch lesbians and masculine men. Etc. etc. What I am pointing to is the fact that for so called “bisexual people” we are often going off a different dichotomy than a gendered dichotomy. A “bisexual” can be attracted to “nerds only” male or female – which makes them really nerd-sexual. Androgeny only etc etc etc. What is often lived out unconsciously can become conscious and a very personal sexual identity can be forged.

      But at any rate love is very important and we are more often love/affection deprived than sex deprived. So I am sending a very big cuddly hug from across the ocean.

    • Celibacy isn’t all that bad really. Intimacy comes at a price, and a lot of the time it’s crap value for money.

      It is time to clear your head, and unlearn all of what a friend wisely calls the taken for granted “demands and expectations” of relationships. It’s also a chance to love you, get things done and develop for your life for yourself.

      I’ve been celibate, largely by choice, for almost 3 and a half years now, and although sometims it’s a little lonely, on the whole it’s good. I call it “sanifying.” we live so much in a world where others tell us how we should think and behave, and paint us as sad and pathetic for not confirming, it’s great to discover how wrong they all are!

      You’ve spent the last 2 years evolving into a whole new view of life, it is has no doubt been a big upheaval, you’ve challenged the status quo and those who are playing an emperors new clothes game in the media. They don’t like being challenged. Meanwhile, finding your own identity when it doesn’t quite conform is like knitting for yourself, it’s difficult, painstaking and without a pattern you can make a mistake you need to unrip and restart.

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