Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Or It's Who We're Drinking With...

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  • Tim Michie,

    Add the self-medication for ones mental health from social exclusion and drinking as a social norm to fit in and the damage from frequent use and, well, it's not alcohol tolerance we need but the other kind...

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 561 posts Report Reply

  • Eric Crampton,

    Nice post, Emma.

    Note that most of this lit calls binge drinking 5+ standard drinks in a single session. Or about two pints of decent beer.

    The problems you note here are everywhere in the alcohol literature - it isn't just a failing around reporting around bisexual drinkers. Comorbidity between depression and alcoholism is pretty high, for example: a lot of those already clinically depressed take up alcohol as a form of self-medication, though not a particularly good form of self-medication. Some of the social ills tallied up for alcohol use often come down to the kinds of things that lead people to become heavy drinkers in the first place.

    University of Canterbury • Since Nov 2009 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Eric Crampton,

    Note that most of this lit calls binge drinking 5+ standard drinks in a single session. Or about two pints of decent beer.

    Yeah, as a friend put it on Twitter yesterday, their 'binge' is our 'dinner'. Which can be hugely problematic as far as drawing meaningful conclusions goes. But when you look at the quotes, the subjects themselves are clearly talking about 'drinking to excess', getting completely trashed.

    And yes:

    The mental health theme identified co-morbid mental health conditions, prominently anxiety, depression, and self-harming behaviours, as interacting and potentially increasing binge-drinking in more-than-one-gender attracted young people.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • Eric Crampton,

    The 5+ standard is a nice way of getting really big numbers on problem drinking. Sometimes they'll use a 7+ standard for adults, which feels more like binging.

    The $4.8 billion "social cost of alcohol" figure that gets bandied about for New Zealand relies on an assumption that anybody who drinks more than 4 standard drinks on average per day gets zero benefit from any part of their consumption - that lets them count $700m in individual expenditure on alcohol as a social cost.

    As a good rule of thumb, most stuff on alcohol is just nuts.

    University of Canterbury • Since Nov 2009 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Eric Crampton,

    You have a point here. Binge drinking is a symptom of underlying factors, rather than a problem in itself. Factors like peer pressure (‘whaddarya?’), depression, mental illness and hopelessness play a big part. In Britain, you can add the desperate need to find a replacement for Imperial dominance.

    Even wealthy & uptight Singapore has its binge issues. And a couple of months ago, some tourists from teetotalling Saudi Arabia had far more than they could handle in Queenstown.

    Prohibition in 1920s America is perhaps history’s costliest exercise in attacking the symptom – tussling for pole position with the War on Drugs.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4264 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to DeepRed,

    Binge drinking is a symptom of underlying factors, rather than a problem in itself.

    Yeah, which is the focus of the research. I wonder (and this is a terribly cynical thing to say) if there was funding for alcohol research, but not sexuality research...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to DeepRed,

    ...desperate need to find a replacement for Imperial dominance

    I wondered why I had this occasionally craving to get off my face. Now I know. It's a substitute for mustard-gassing Kurdish tribesman, or other baby-bayonetting type activities.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I wonder (and this is a terribly cynical thing to say) if there was funding for alcohol research, but not sexuality research...

    I read the report when you linked to it off Twitter, and I had the same question...
    Thanks for the post, Emma, and for once again reminding people that being bisexual is valid and real and sometimes you end up quite excluded. I never would've gone to something that said "lesbian" at their age, because I knew I would be told I wasn't gay enough, or was hiding, or was just doing it to be 'cool' (cos, yeah, there are so many benefits to being bi/pansexual... oh no wait...) </endrant>
    As for the binge-drinking -- I thought it was anything over 3 drinks a day, so this 5+ news makes me feel a lot healthier ;)
    Anyway. Thanks again Emma.

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Eric Crampton,

    Some of the social ills tallied up for alcohol use often come down to the kinds of things that lead people to become heavy drinkers in the first place.

    Eric, without getting into any form of implied or stated insult to you, I wish to express how totally I disagree with your theories on alcohol abuse. Those social ills are the symptoms, not the causes, of alcohol abuse.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Yeah, as a friend put it on Twitter yesterday, their 'binge' is our 'dinner'. Which can be hugely problematic as far as drawing meaningful conclusions goes. But when you look at the quotes, the subjects themselves are clearly talking about 'drinking to excess', getting completely trashed.

    That's the thing: while you wouldn't know it from the articles, this research isn't trying to establish a statistical correlation between sexuality and "binge drinking" as it's defined by ALAC and the like: there are already studies that do that, and they take that as a starting place. The behaviours and motivations described by the subjects are clearly what even I, a noted proponent of recreational drunkenness, would describe as hugely fucked up.

    It's getting to the root of the reasons behind it that's important, so that young people can be helped. And again and again they mention the damage done by prejudice and exclusion that comes from both ends of the Kinsey scale.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Gee,

    As for the binge-drinking -- I thought it was anything over 3 drinks a day, so this 5+ news makes me feel a lot healthier ;)

    IIRC, for adult men a "binge" is described as over 7 standard drinks in a sitting: lower for women and young people. But a standard drink is usually > "a drink", and most normal* glasses of wine would contain about 2 standard drinks. It still means that having a bottle of wine with a meal counts as binge drinking, which doesn't seem right to me.

    (*my normal my not be your normal)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Hebe,

    Those social ills are the symptoms, not the causes, of alcohol abuse.

    I read Emma's post completely the other way. I'm interested in how you conclude that (eg) social exclusion apparently due to bisexuality is actually caused by alcohol abuse rather than resulting from it. Do you think people only become biphobic as a result of drinking?

    My experience was very much the opposite. I've been and seen way more people develop drinking problems as a result of other problems than the converse. Despite having alcoholic family members who seem to have few problems not directly resulting from that addiction, I still see far more people with nasty drug addictions that are best described as self-medication.

    For crying out loud, I live in a country where alcohol is still being used by a significant marginalised group to cover the results of systematic abuse by authorities. Whose response, not so long ago, was to send in the military. Because that does wonders for people's ability to trust the powers that be...

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 463 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    Onya, Emma, for another insightful post. Covering both the bisexuality issue and the binge drinking brings things together nicely. And while bi's might be drinking because of social exclusion (and I am firmly of the "binge drinking is generally a symptom, not a malady itself" persuasion) so many of the ways that 'society' marginalises young people of all stripes means that most everyone is self-medicating in much the same way.
    All but the most assured young people will feel excluded for varying proportions of their lives and alcohol has traditionally been society's go-to drug for the self-medicating that we all learn from 'the grown ups'.

    I drank way more than I should have for about 20 years as a result of low self-esteem and the examples provided by adults as I grew up - but I still managed to become (eventually) a fully-employed tax-paying property-owning hyphenating member of society. I really enjoyed drinking - and still do - but I rarely get more than a little pissed these days. No more of that alcoholic blackness for me.
    So it can be done - it would just be a whole bunch easier for people if everyone else was as tolerant and accepting (and wise) as Emma.

    {apologies, on re-reading this sounds like I'm pissed now, but I'm not. Maybe all those years of boozing have finally caught up with me? Difficult to put out a well-reasoned argument on the fly...}

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Thanks for the post, Emma, and for once again reminding people that being bisexual is valid and real and sometimes you end up quite excluded. I never would've gone to something that said "lesbian" at their age, because I knew I would be told I wasn't gay enough, or was hiding, or was just doing it to be 'cool'

    Truth. This worthwhile research, but we know that these are just the bisexuals who are willing to self-identify. The need for many gay and lesbian people to shore up their own identities by excluding those who form attraction towards more than one sex means there will be plenty whose [public/private/other] identity is gay/lesbian or straight, and use alcohol in much the same way. Because we've replaced a monochrome with a binary we've successfully excluded anyone who falls outside those categories.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2134 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Too right with what George says about so many more people out there who won't/can out themselves as bi because they can get along ok (for how long, I wonder) with expressing one side of that binary. It really frigging is depressing. It was depressing 26 years ago when I came out - while I'm at (not exclusively) the dyke end of the spectrum, most of my partners have been bi or have had huge heterosexual experience - and to know attitudes from within our community haven't changed that much is just sad.

    Is it an improvement that Katy Perry has given permission for (straight?) chicks to snog each other at parties? I think it is, to a limited degree, but the hell that that it's not just one or two drinks for inhibition-lowering, but "get snotted for plausible deniability".

    As for those in the queer community who still treat bis like second-class citizens, it's embarrassing. And kind of about that syndrome - as George observes - where some individuals feel the need to oppress others to bolster their pathetic egos.

    I went to the Lesbian (-only) Ball in Auckland a few times in the 80s, and ended up boycotting it, because taking my bi girlfriend ended up feeling like we were both propping up the attitude (not that we ever got "challenged" - I mean, she was somehow missing the scarlet bi-whore mark on her forehead).

    The Lesbian Ball stopped being supposedly-exclusive after a while (and has rebranded itself recently as "La Balle"), but, meh, I'm really over events that label themselves as "Gay and Les" only. Screw that noise, it's not for me. And I'm appalled that people organising these events seemingly feel they can get away with it. Still.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 477 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to TracyMac,

    Is it an improvement that Katy Perry has given permission for (straight?) chicks to snog each other at parties?

    I've been thinking about this overnight, and I have mixed thinkings. Yes, it's more acceptable than it was for two women to kiss, and certainly more acceptable than for two men. But for me it contributes to that feeling that that side of my sexuality is faked, performative, done mostly for the benefit of others. It reinforces the idea that bi women are just straight attention-seekers.

    And do not get me started on men who pressure straight women into snogging each other when they're drunk. What better way to tell someone, "You exist solely for my entertainment"?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • Eric Crampton, in reply to Hebe,

    Both can be going on at the same time, Hebe. In some cases, it's entirely the underlying stuff that's driving demand for intoxication; in others, drinking problems cause the other problems. Where alcohol or other intoxicants are used as self-medication for other pre-existing problems, sometimes it makes things better and sometimes it makes things worse. What is clear though is that counting all of the resulting problems as though they're solely due to alcohol rather overstates alcohol's relative contribution.

    University of Canterbury • Since Nov 2009 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Eric Crampton,

    In some cases, it’s entirely the underlying stuff that’s driving demand for intoxication; in others, drinking problems cause the other problems.

    Agreed. Recognition of that duality is important.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Stewart,

    ... a fully-employed tax-paying property-owning hyphenating member of society

    Lol.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 413 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Emma Hart,

    But for me it contributes to that feeling that that side of my sexuality is faked, performative, done mostly for the benefit of others. It reinforces the idea that bi women are just straight attention-seekers.

    And not only is it performative, but that your sexuality exists for the male gaze. Because we all know that all men are turned on by the idea of two women. (/sarcasm)

    There’s a question on (internet dating site) OK Cupid, that asks “straight girls who kiss each other in bars are…”. I’ve never been able to bring myself to look at the possible answers, but imma go ahead and assume that one of them isn’t “often playing into the patriarchal narrative that faux-same-sex-attraction will get a guy to think you are hot.”

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Is it an improvement that Katy Perry has given permission for (straight?) chicks to snog each other at parties?

    I’ve been thinking about this overnight, and I have mixed thinkings. Yes, it’s more acceptable than it was for two women to kiss, and certainly more acceptable than for two men. But for me it contributes to that feeling that that side of my sexuality is faked, performative, done mostly for the benefit of others. It reinforces the idea that bi women are just straight attention-seekers.

    But isn’t this just a part of the problem. If two girls straight or gay or bi enjoy holding hands is that OK? If I enjoy the sight of them enjoying holding hands is that OK? Now where is the line that defines the difference between holding hands and snogging? Is there a line?

    A huge part of this is the social conditioning we have that we are unaware of. Snogging is part of sex, holding hands is not, but why?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3349 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    My own social conditioning was rammed home really forcefully in the middle east when I saw men walking holding hands - because that is just normal there.

    Why did I react at a gut level as if it wasn't?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3349 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    There’s a question on (internet dating site) OK Cupid, that asks “straight girls who kiss each other in bars are…”. I’ve never been able to bring myself to look at the possible answers, but imma go ahead and assume that one of them isn’t “often playing into the patriarchal narrative that faux-same-sex-attraction will get a guy to think you are hot.”

    One of the answers is something like "profoundly annoying", which might suit you.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Tom Beard,

    Well, no, because I don't find it annoying. Well, much. I find the cultural biases behind it frustrating (if indeed it is two drunk girls pashing because someone told them to), but mostly, I don't give a shit who is kissing.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Well, no, because I don't find it annoying.

    Unless you find that "playing into the patriarchal narrative that faux-same-sex-attraction will get a guy to think you are hot" is annoying in itself.

    Well, much

    Yes, I suppose there are always ... exceptions.

    if indeed it is two drunk girls pashing because someone told them to

    And that would be annoying, with the blame lying not so much with the girls as with the people who told them to. Though "told" can get a bit blurry: told, encouraged, suggested, guided, dared, implied, expected...

    There's also the assumption inherent in the wording "straight girls who kiss each other in bars" that kissing each other isn't something that real straight girls would do for its own sake, so they're faking it. It turns the Kinsey scale into two monoliths labelled "straight" and "gay", with a vast amorphous blob in between labelled "bisexual". As soon as anyone willingly, genuinely does anything more than holding hands, bang! They're no longer "straight".

    There are many other phrases that might apply to the "straight girls kissing in bars": heteroflexible, bicurious, bisexual but heteroromantic, bisexual but mostly closeted. Or they may indeed be what most of us would call heterosexual, in that they never experience same-sex attraction, desire or love, but they still enjoy kissing girls in a way that they consider sensual but not sexual, just as an extension of friendship.

    Of course, in a sense this finessing of the labels is or should be meaningless. But people will get labelled whether or not they want to, and at the very least the words provide a way to start conversations that can tease out the subtleties of experience and identity.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

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