Author: Margie Nichols, Ph.D.

How Same-Sex Relationships Can Inform The ‘Opting Out For Motherhood’ Discourse

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. On August 11 2013, The New York Times published an article by Judith Warner in its Sunday Magazine, entitled “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In,” a revisiting of the women interviewed in Lisa Belkin’s 2003 Times article “The Opt-Out Revolution.”  The women, who had all given up high-powered jobs to be full-time mothers, now were working – or wanted to be.  Sixty percent had returned to work, and some others were trying unsuccessfully.  Not surprisingly, given that Warner’s sample is upper middle class, some had re-entered the work force with ease.  But others could not find paying jobs and still others had to take whatever they could find because they had to bring in money after divorce or because husbands lost jobs.  After the publication of the article, some reporters focused on the clear class bias and how working class and many middle class families cannot afford the choice to ‘opt-out.’   Some commentary focused on another problem highlighted by the account:  none of the women wanted to return to the 50-70 hour work week  they left, but there are still few employers who take part-time workers seriously. As a feminist, I resonate with this second critique. … Read more »

What Same Sex Couples Teach Us All

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Starting in the 1980’s a small handful of social science researchers began to study same sex couples, mostly to see their relationships lasted as long as straight folk and whether kids raised in gay households grew up to be ‘normal.’  Along the way, the studies have revealed a lot more about similarities and differences of heterosexual versus gay and lesbian relationships. Read the blog article I wrote for GoodTherapy.org: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/what-same-sex-couples-can-teach-heterosexuals-about-marriage-0812135

‘What Do Women Want?’: Maybe Not Monogamy

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. – From this feminist’s perspective, Dan Bergner’s new book, What Do Women Want? is an intriguing and important look at female sexuality.  Read my blog about it, and why it validates a theory proposed by Dr. Mary Jane Sherfey in the 1970’s. http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/feminist-sexologist-review-of-dan-bergners-what-do-women-want-0627134

The Controversy Over The Pill For Female Libido: How Much Desire Is Enough But Not Too Much?

by Margie Nichols    Daniel Bergner’s new book, ‘What Do Women Want?’, is getting a lot of attention, with glowing reviews on Salon.com and the cover of a recent  New York Times  Sunday Book Review section.  Not all reviews have been positive, but it’s pretty clear his book has shaken up some people.  One take-home message from the book that has been discussed at length is Bergner’s suggestion that women are less suited for monogamy than men. But perhaps the aspect of the book most blogged about is the attempts to develop a drug that will increase a woman’s desire – but not too much.   Bergner writes that the pharmaceutical companies   are afraid of a drug that is ‘too good,’ one that would presumably  turn women into crazed sex maniacs.  It should not come as a surprise to anyone either that this is most newsworthy – it was the section of Bergner’s book made into a Sunday Times  article at the beginning of June,2013,  and it does smack of social manipulation through science.  And it certainly shouldn’t surprise anyone that Big Pharma, ever eager to spin their efforts as serious, addressing a ‘medical problem,’ fears the bad publicity that would… Read more »

The ‘Other’ Gay Rights Issue

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Marriage equality laws continue to make change, but in the therapy world, people are still fighting Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.  Also called ‘conversion therapy’ ‘reparative counseling’ or simply ‘ex-gay’ therapy, SOCE is considered unethical by all major professional counseling or therapy organizations worldwide.  Yet in the United States, it is still practiced, mostly by Christian Right groups. Read about the efforts to make it illegal to force this therapy on children in my first blog for Goodtherapy.org: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/other-gay-rights-movement-0611136

The DSM And NIMH: Why Insel Got It Right And What It Means For Sexology

By Margie Nichols, Ph. D. In a move that is causing consternation among psychiatrists, Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institutes of Mental Health, announced that NIMH will be ‘re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.’ Insel called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the Bible of psychiatry, nothing more than a dictionary at best.  He made it clear that it is founded on symptom-based categories, and that this method of classifying disease has become outmoded in every other area of medicine. He says NIMH will replace the DSM with what he is calling RDoC, or ‘Research Domain Criteria.’  In this new system, mental illnesses will be categorized not by symptoms but by genetic, neural, and cognitive data.  Only problem – the system doesn’t exist yet – because the data doesn’t exist. In other words, Insel is saying having no category system at all for mental disorders is better than the current DSM.  He did acknowledge that the DSM will still be useful for mental health treatment (although that is questionable) and will certainly be in place for insurance purposes for quite some time.  But he was emphatic in stating that it would be a disaster to base scientific research on… Read more »

What We All Can Learn From Gay Couples

By now most people have heard about John Gottman’s research comparing gay and straight couples, publicized a few years back. Gottman, a respected psychologist and researcher, did a study of gay relationships that revealed that for the most part same and mixed sex couples had similar similar levels of relationship satisfaction, similar problems, and coped with the ups and downs of relationship life in the same ways.  There were differences however: same sex couples were more upbeat in the face of conflict, used more affection and humor during fights, and employed fewer hostile, controlling emotional tactics.  (Ouch. To begin with, who sounds like the more mature, responsible type of couple?) And usually, when people write about the Gottman study, that’s where the narrative about this research ends.  Too bad, because if you look carefully there’s way more here.  I’d like to expand on Gottman’s findings and interpret them, and then add some observations of my own.                         In addition to these widely reported findings, Gottman also discovered that “gay and lesbian partners displayed less belligerence, domineering, and fear tactics with each other than straight couples do……fairness and power-sharing between the partners is more important and more common in gay and lesbian relationships than… Read more »

When It’s Positive to be Negative: The Power of Negative Thinking

by Margie Nichols Lately I’ve been excited by this book I’m reading, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.  And then last week I had an experience that highlights one particular aspect of ‘the power of negative thinking.’ First, let’s spend a brief moment on what’s negative about positive thinking.  I acknowledge that for many endeavors, having a positive and confident attitude increases the odds of your success. But as a total life strategy – it’s got some major flaws.  For starters,  unless you’re unusually lucky, as you go through life you will encounter numerous situations where good is NOT rewarded, evil goes unpunished, and bad shit happens to you that you can’t control,  and it happens for no particular reason, let alone a good one. And positive thinking can get you in trouble here.  For the entire ‘positive thinking’ philosophy rests on two flawed assumptions:  That most of our life is under our control, if only we approach it correctly;  and that things that we can’t control are at least governed by laws  that are fair and just.  In short, the principles of “visualize and you will attain it” and “what goes around comes around.”    So if… Read more »

GSD: Not Just Another Queer Alphabet Soup

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. A couple of weeks ago, the Pink Therapy group in the UK made news by proclaiming ‘GSD’ – Gender and Sexual Diversities – as the new umbrella term for a community that seems to add letters by the season. Seriously, I’ve seen: LGBTQQIAA- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allies. And lots of groups –  nonmonogamous people, kinky people, those who identify as pansexual, for example, aren’t included in that mouthful of letters. At first I thought it was just the brilliant Brits.  And then I did a little research and discovered that the term is already in use in some academic and educational circles here in the U.S.  Pink Therapy is publicizing a growing cultural shift. I’m jumping for joy! I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime for this trend. Because this isn’t just a new alphabet soup. This is a different paradigm, a reversal of the pattern of making finer and finer distinctions of sex and gender that prevails in all areas from identity politics to scientific discourse. They say in scientific thinking there are ‘splitters’ and ‘lumpers; ’different issues at different times require both approaches. LGBT activism started in the 1970’s with organizations that just… Read more »

Post Valentine Realism Part 2: How To Know Your Own Sexual Preferences – And Your Partner’s

by Margie Nichols In Part 1 I maintain that sexual compatibility is way more important in making a (monogamous) relationship satisfying than we realize.  And the more I wrote, the more I realized that the vestigial Puritan fear/distaste of sex our culture carries not only makes it hard to admit that you really, really, really like sex a lot (or really, really don’t) makes it hard for people to know their own sexual selves, much less a partner’s. So let’s go back to basics.  You can’t know if someone is compatible until you know your own sexual likes, dislikes, habitual behaviors. Let’s start with sexual orientation, arguably the most obvious area where mismatch is disastrous.  Kinsey used to envision same/opposite sex attraction along a continuum – only at the extremes are people ‘purely’ heterosexual or homosexual.  If your orientation is someplace in the range between determining your orientation is not so simple. Say you have had some opposite sex ‘crushes’ and a smattering of heterosexual sex, but mostly you fall in love and have sex with people of the same sex.  Is your bit of bisexuality unimportant, or is it sure to re-surface someday.  You need to figure out your… Read more »