Best of the Week
of April 12, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of April 12, 1998, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

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THE QUESTION:
R95: Is claustrophobia more prevalent in Western cultures as opposed to the more closely knit Eastern cultures?
POSTED MARCH 25, 1998
Michael M., MI

ANSWER 1:
I'm a Westerner living in Japan, and while I can't speak to the clinical "claustrophobia" aspect of your question, I can say that Japanese people in general seem more tolerant of close quarters than the average American. The concept of personal privacy differs here, an outgrowth of the close-knit features of the society you spoke of. Homes are closer together, people sit closer in restaurants, stand closer in line or on the subway. Many homes and apartments are half the average U.S. size or smaller, and people just take this as a matter of course - it's normal here. My own apartment is rather old, but it's of comparable size to many units Japanese families with small children live in. To be honest, I haven't a clue how they manage - I just need more personal space, a little more privacy. Whether this tolerance for proximity and smaller living quarters would affect the incidence of claustrophobia, I don't know. It might be more accurate to ask if the social conditions in the West (or United States) result in an increased incidence of claustrophobia compared with Asian cultures.
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
Geoff C. <
boston@eolas-net.ne.jp>
Asahikawa, Japan

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THE QUESTION:
RE25: Director's Paraphrase: W.O.C. of Dearborn, Mich., asks why it seems that (what he terms) many Catholic priests have been found to sexually abuse young boys who are parishioners at their churches. Y? would prefer someone who has investigated and/or studied this situation to answer the question.
POSTED MARCH 29, 1998

ANSWER 1:
As a psychotherapist, I've worked with a few members of the Catholic clergy, and I've thought a lot about human sexuality. These factors occur to me: 1) Priests are expected to live as though they have no sexuality. No one can achieve this, though some people can adjust to the expectation better than others. 2) The anti-sexual bias in Christianity (and many other religions) tends to produce shame. When the person's sexuality bursts through that wall, it is usually distorted into something that conforms to the expectation: That is, it's shameful. Shamefulness comes to have its own sexual thrill. Priests often carry a heavy load of this burden. 3) Another factor: Men who, for whatever personal reason, can't deal with their sexuality, may try the priesthood as an attempt to escape it. These men are even less able to deal with celibacy. Many of the child-molestation cases involve girls or both girls and boys. The issue here is pedophilia - sexual attraction to children - more than homosexuality. Gay priests who act on sexual impulses have sex with men, not children. This brings us to 4) Pedophiles are unable to cope with the complexities of relating sexually to an equal. The pedophile needs to feel powerful, needs to have a sexual "partner" who cannot challenge him (or more rarely, her) or threaten his/her sense of being in control. Therefore, if a man has entered the priesthood because he needs to have his sense of authority shored up by being "the voice of God," (and if he has serious problems of personal development) he may pose a greater risk to children.
POSTED APRIL 16, 1998
Will H., gay, white, 48, Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Be careful not to confuse perception with reality. In the '80s, certain changes in child protection laws made molestation cases a big political boost for successful prosecutors. Accusations of molestation are also difficult to defend against and are extremely devastating, whether true or not. These factors created a huge boom in molestation accusations and prosecutions into a least the early '90s. Then you started to hear about the gross miscarriages of justice that resulted. Priests are particularly vulnerable to these kinds of things because the accusations are particularly sensational, their jobs require them to give counsel privately and they live alone on church property. That's not to say it doesn't happen, it just isn't unusually out of proportion with the general population. With the backlash that arose against some of these flagrant abuses, you don't see nearly as many of them any more and the accusations against priests are also down. Also, to say a person is denying their sexuality by not acting on it and that this can someday explode into pedophilia is a scary thought. For instance, to say that if some lurid billboard catches my eye and my sexuality is temporarily awakened but I do not act on it, that I may then go on to molest children, is an absurdity too frightening to think about.
Peter P., Roman Catholic <
PPROUT20@aol.com>
Redford, MI

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THE QUESTION: 
GE16: To married women: How many times per week do you think is an adequate frequency of sex?
POSTED APRIL 16, 1998
T.M., Detroit, MI

ANSWER 1:
That depends on the woman. It also depends on how she is feeling about her partner at the time. Personally, I am happy with once or twice a week. When we are getting along really well and turned on by each, other we can have sex several times a day. When we are in a slump, it can be a month before we give in. I think anytime she feels close to you and good about herself - you know, when she can't keep her hands off you and laughs at your silly jokes, gives you a lot of friendly eye contact - she might be available for sex with you. It makes me feel sexy when I catch my husband looking at me or sneaks me off to a passionate kiss. If she feels comfortable and good about herself with , your wife should be responsive.
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
Married for 10 years, female
Dallas, Texas

FURTHER NOTICE:
I feel that two to three times a week is the way to go.
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
Amy, Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I think at least once a week is good.
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
Jan M., Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
There is no "adequate number" set in stone. The frequency with which my husband and I have sex depends on so many things: Time, stress, schedule conflicts, arguments, etc. We have definitely experienced problems, though - he always wants sex more than I do. So we both have to give and take - sometimes I let myself be talked into it, and sometimes he goes to sleep dissatisfied. We probably average three times a week, which even I think is low. (I get stressed easily.) If you're having problems, talk about it. And don't be afraid to schedule time for sex - may seem silly but it'll be worth it in the end. You might also broaden your definition of sex - would it help if your wife helped you masturbate, for example?
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
Ellie, married, 25, Washington, D.C.

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I think three times a week is an adequate number, but when I say this I am thinking of "adequate" as the minimum number of times with which I would be pleased.
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
K.S., 30, married female, Tennessee

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I would like to engage in sex at least three times a month, which basically adds up to once a week for three weeks and one week off. When I was younger, I enjoyed twice a week; I'm 49 and holding!
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
Margaret, Washington

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THE QUESTION:
SO21: Why do some gays and lesbians assume that if a person doesn't accept a homosexual lifestyle that they are a hateful homophobe? Isn't it possible to accept that while we may not agree with the lifestyle, we can still accept and get along with the person?
POSTED APRIL 13, 1998
Jayce M., 24, straight male, Royal Oak, MI

RELATED QUESTION:
Why is it that many gay people get upset when straight people say they are proud of being straight, even though gays say they are gay and proud?
POSTED APRIL 15, 1998
Tim, 21, straight white male <
Inflicted1@aol.com>
Canton, MI
 

ANSWER 1:
Your (Jayce's) question indicates a heterosexist bias in assuming there is something less than acceptable about being gay or lesbian in the first place. If I were to substitute the words "black," "Muslim," "female," "Christian," "Hispanic," etc., for the word "homosexual," the bias in your question becomes much more apparent. If you do not accept "the black lifestyle" and can get along with a black co-worker, can you still deny you are racist? There is a difference between embracing (taking onto oneself) a difference and accepting (acknowledging that the difference exists and is an equally legitimate and valuable alternative). I can accept that a person is male, or heterosexual, or Hindu, or Native American and honor that as being just as central to their sense of self, as being a good, positive and necessary part of their life, as not requiring any kind of value judgement on my part, without my embracing that difference in my own life (as indeed many differences cannot be changed even if a person wanted to, sexual orientation being one of these).
POSTED APRIL 14, 1998
DykeOnByke, lesbian engineer and corporate diversity council member,<
DykeOnByke@aol.com>
Southfield, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
To Jayce: Racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., are all most dangerous when they are applied to groups. By accepting a gay individual but not the gay "lifestyle" (and what does that mean, anyway?), you are saying that most likely you would vote against equal rights for gays, and perhaps be vocal about preventing gays from being teachers, getting married, etc. It is this oppression of gays as a group that is most harmful. I have straight friends who treat me fine, but when it comes to asking their support in the voting booth, etc., they get nervous. This is the kind of discrimination that the civil rights, feminist and gay rights movements have fought for years - the feeling that members of a group are OK one-on-one, but that they must be oppressed as a group. It won't work, and we won't stand for it. We ask for nothing more than the same rights as everyone else, and someone who finds us "unacceptable" as a group is unlikely to agree with that. In the end, if you're not our friend, you're against us.
POSTED APRIL 14, 1998
Mark M., gay male, 41 <
marknyc@hotmail.com>
New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Jayce responds:

Perhaps I should clarify myself. The example I had in mind was that of my younger brother, Paul. He is a gay male. I love my brother with all of my heart and would die for him if it were necessary, but I don't condone his sexual preference. As a Christian, I don't feel I can. Paul knows this and understands it. I am in support of the right for gays to vote, hold whatever job they desire, etc. I just have a moral problem with the sexual aspect of it. Call me a prude, and you're probably right. I believe in the concept of "hate the sin, love the sinner." (I know, calling it a "sin" is inflammatory, I just don't know how else to put it). But when Paul's friends hear of my position, they tell him I am a bigot who hates all gays and wants to shove them back into the closet for good. That's not the case. I guess my question is, Am I a bigot? Is this a fair assumption by my brother's friends?
POSTED APRIL 15, 1998
Jayce M., 24, straight white male, Royal Oak, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
To Jayce: You asked whether you were a bigot. As a gay male, I don't think so. However, you are in the unique position of having only your understanding brother for a friend. In a polemical society such as ours, you can't justify your position to either side. To those who agree with you morally, you promote the sin by empowering the sinners. To those who are gay, you fall into the "with friends like this, who needs enemies" category. In reality, you're the easiest target for both sides and will be called all manner of names.
POSTED APRIL 16, 1998
Michael, gay male <
TheMartian@juno.com>
Houston , TX

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THE QUESTION:
O4: Why do nurses seem to gravitate toward police and firemen in terms of relationships?
POSTED APRIL 15, 1998
T.M., Detroit

ANSWER 1:
It's funny this question was asked. My husband accused me of asking the question and putting someone else's initials. I believe it's true because nurses, firemen and police officers all deal with the same types of situations - death, birth, child abuse, shootings, accident victims and so forth. We all deal with these things and find it difficult to discuss with our families because many don't understand; or, we find it gruesome to discuss. I feel it's a comfort zone, within the sick society we live in and deal with at any given moment.
Tina, 27, RN, MI
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THE QUESTION:
RE26: The Christian church sends out many missionaries each year to different countries. Do other religions (such as Hinduism or Islam) send out missionaries? If so, do they send them here?
POSTED APRIL 1, 1998
Rick A. <
ricka@efn.org>
Ottawa, KS

FURTHER NOTICE:
The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam is established in more than 160 countries and has missionaries in most of them. Their web site in the United States is at http://www.alislam.org and can provide you with information/contacts on each of the countries.
Farhan <
khokhar@interlog.com>
Mississauga, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
In case of Hindus, being a Hindu is determined usually by birth. Traditionally, that also defines your caste. Plus, Hinduism is an ancient religon closely tied to the Indian culture and way of life. Newer religions usually have a need to popularize their religions through missionaries. I have never encountered or heard of someone trying to convert others to Hinduism in a formal way. There is the Hare-Krishna movement in the West, but I am not sure if that is really strong and has buy-in from the rest of the Hindu Temples. There has also been no cenral authority for a long period (like the Pope) in Hinduism to give direction to the religon and its spread in a formal way.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1998
Amit <
amit@well.com>
Austin, Texas
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THE QUESTION:
R168: Director's Paraphrase: Jas of Pensacola, FL, asks a question for whites: He, as a black male, often finds himself in a situation many blacks face: Being the only person of their race in a room (at a party, school function, on the job, etc.) He would like to know how often white people find themselves the only person of their race in a room full of people, and how they react to it and feel in that situation. If not, how would they honestly feel and act if they were in that situation?
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998

ANSWER 1:
In a military officer training situation I once shared a dorm room for two weeks with three black women. I felt like I was on an alien planet! They all read Ebony magazine, listened to rap music and talked together in a city slang I could barely understand. Everything was perfectly friendly and polite on both sides, but I pretty much kept to myself. There just didn't seem to be any common ground, and I was afraid of pushing in where I might not be wanted.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1998
Colette, 32, white <
inkwolf@earthlink.net>
Seymour, WI

FURTHER NOTICE:
As a white woman who considers herself "purposely bicultural," I find myself in that situation very often, and I am extremely comfortable with it. However, while facilitating a workshop on erasing racism ("Eracism"), we found that most white people's comfort level is dependent on how much free-floating guilt they carry with respect to racism. If they have a lot, they feel uncomfortable in any situation in which they are not in the large majority. If they have a little or none, they don't. So the solution for white folks who feel uncomfortable (or think they would) is to look inside themselves and determine what steps they need to take to heal themselves in the area of prejudice and racism. One step would be to do research; there are many good books written on this subject. Another would be to purposely seek out people of other cultures and get to know them and understand the differences in our circumstances and perspectives. I believe the end to racism will come one person at a time.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1998
Joan, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
It's not comfortable to feel conspicuous in a group. As an extremely shy person, I can tell you that the "Only One" feeling is not limited to race. It happens to the only one of a gender, the only one in formal clothing, the only one of a religion and anyone who feels out of place for reasons of personal insecurity. I feel this almost every time I walk into a room where there are people. I used to feel that black people would want to reject me as an interloper when I was one of the few white people in the room. I no longer do because, now, I have so many diverse friends. Last weekend, I spent a day at a conference with about 150 black people and maybe three or four whites. I never felt conspicuous. I had a wonderful day because so many people there were friends, and they introduced me to their friends. However, I did feel out of place during the praying and preaching because I am not a Christian.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1998
Molly, Ohio <
jbfails@aol.com>

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I've encountered that situation a number of times. My wife is black, and when we were dating in college, I would go down with her to visit her grandmom on the south side of Chicago. Being poor college students, we mostly rode the bus, and virtually every time, I was the only white person on the bus or in her grandmom's neighborhood. It was a truly eye-opening experience - very, very weird. (Nobody ever bothered me - I suspect they could've cared less. The weirdness was in my own head, because it was so different from what I was used to.
POSTED APRIL 14, 1998
Alex, 39, white <
aleavens@mindspring.com>
Lawrenceville, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
A few years ago I checked into a hotel near a conference I was attending. I started getting mildly anxious and couldn't understand why. It suddenly hit me that all of the people around me were black - guests and employees. I realized I was worrying about my safety, and that worry was purely based on the skin color around me. This experience was a real eye opener for me. Since then, I have deliberately placed myself in situations where I am in the minority. The more I do, this the more comfortable I am. Sometimes it is uncomfortable - being one of two whites in a class on the African-American family, I often felt compelled to keep my comments to myself. I considered this a taste of what it must be like for many African-American students on white campuses.
POSTED APRIL 15, 1998
Pat, white <
hultsp@cobleskill.edu>
Cobleskill, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I'm gay, Jewish and the only male of four siblings. Through travels, I've been the only white, only American, only English speaker. It's an odd experience, that over time, I guess I've just learned to get used to. Here's what I do: A lot of smiling, nodding, trying to get along, trying to be involved no matter how out of place, being at ease with the fact that some people just plain don't agree with me and, most importantly, always assuming the best of people. In high school I had a Hebrew teacher who gave me the clearest understanding of the problem. He could barely speak English except for his subject, and he was very uncomfortable with the class. So every time someone cracked a joke and the students laughed, he would get angry. He always thought we were making fun of him, and that was rarely the case. Assuming the worst kept him tense, out of place and ultimately unhappy. And even if his assumptions had been true, they didn't help him reach the class.
POSTED APRIL 15, 1998
Michael, 30, white <
TheMartian@juno.com>
Houston, Texas

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I grew up in a decent-size city (100,000). I moved to Toronto to go to school and got a job at a local community center working with kids. I remember looking around one day at work and realizing I was the only white person there, kids and all. Even now, there's only one white kid who ever shows up for the program. At first it was odd, but now I don't even notice it. I got used to it quick. Now, when I'm with a lot of white people, it catches me off guard.
POSTED APRIL 15, 1998
Kelly C., 20, white <
crok9497@hotmail.com>
Toronto, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
I live in Hamtramck, Mich., a smaller version of the "Melting Pot." There are all races within this city. I used to go to a dollar store on the main street here to get my nails done but I quit going. The reason was that the place was full of black women who looked at me like they were going to spit on my shoes. But, the last time I was there I went with a different attitude. I went in and sat down feeling I belonged just like everyone else. Without showing my own feelings of discomfort, I seemed to disarm their aggression toward me, and I actually had a very informative conversation with a black woman sitting in the seat beside me. It just makes you see the similarities in animal behavior in comparison to human behavior. Animals keep their status in a group by pure intimidation. Humans are not too different.
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
N.Barrett <
elton98@excitemail.com>
Hamtramck, MI

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THE QUESTION:
R164: I see Asian women dating more white men than Asian men. I would like to know why.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Victor, male, Secaucus, NJ

ANSWER 1:
Many Asian women probably think white men are more romantic, and (maybe the most important for those women who are highly educated and have careers of their own), many of them are not very strict about the so-called traditional gender roles (where husband works and wife stays at home). This is what I heard from many of my female friends who dated and married white men.
POSTED APRIL 14, 1998
Chi Yu, Chinese female, Indonesia
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THE QUESTION: 
GE13: Why is it that men seem to have a tendency to take advantage of a woman's nurturing and affectionate nature?
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
C.H. <
Wisdom47@aol.com>
Dallas, TX

ANSWER 1:
I don't feel men necessarily take advantage. I think we all suffer from the misfortune of meeting the opposite sex at vulnerable moments. To claim "men take advantage of women's tender moments" stereotypes all men.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1998
Perry, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
The short answer is the competitive male instinct and peer pressure. Men have a tendency to look out rather than in and put their goals and energy into doing things rather than strengthening bridges to the people who care for them. In exceedingly driven males, there might even be a belief it is their right to receive with no obligation to give back. We feel measured by our external success rather than by emotional equilibrium. I had to survive a serious two-year depression at 25 to be able to understand family was the most important thing for me. I was lucky to experience losing it all when I was still single. But you constantly have to fight the feeling of being left behind in the race to succeed as you make decisions in favor of your loved ones and away from money and external success. And the media reinforces the stereotype of the selfish, cool dude with all the toys as the ideal of the successful male.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1998
J.P. Paz-Soldan <
bbv-jp@blockbuster.com.pe>
Lima, Peru
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