Agony Aunts And Bogus Ph.Ds “ A Critical Look At Sexperts “ Part 3
Would you trust any relationship advice given by Ellen Fein, who co-wrote the pop culture relationship manual “The Rules”, who couldn’t follow her own advice in her book, and ended up divorced?
Sexuality expert Dr. Petra Boynton’s paper “Abiding By ‘The Rules’: Instructing Women In Relationships”, shows how the advice in ‘The Rules’ actually harms women and ignores the reality of their lives. Boynton says that “[t]he basic idea behind ‘The Rules’ is ‘playing hard to get’, with the aim for all readers being engaged and married.” She points out that one of the authors, Ellen Fein, divorced shortly after the book was published. The divorce came on the heels of the publication of the follow-up book, “The Rules for Marriage: Time-Tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work”.
The Rules’ made millions of dollars for Fein and her co-writer, Sherrie Schneider. The women were featured in interviews and on television as if they were experts, but they were really only selling a product “ their book. Boynton points out how problematic this is: “Features are often full of quotes from people who may have written a sex book but are not qualified in sexology and often give incorrect or outdated advice. We’ve seen a shift to quoting people who only have a product to plug – who’ll say what a journalist wants to hear rather than what’s really going on.” The public is often left to ascertain whether or not a web site has timely and accurate information about sex, or whether it’s merely a web site that is, according to Boynton, “just playing on their fears and encouraging them just to buy sham sex products.”
Fein and Schneider do just that with ‘The Rules’ “ they play on fears and outmoded biases, all while selling a book and an idea that is ultimately harmful for women. The book repeatedly encourages a misbegotten belief that biology is destiny, and that men, being natural aggressors, must take the lead in relationships, and that includes sexual matters. Boynton wrote that ‘The Rules’ claimed that “women can be feminists, although this does not extend to romantic relationships. As with other sections of the book, mixed messages are given. Liberal views about female sexual equality are counteracted by ‘biological evidence’ of female inferiority, resulting in an ultimately non-feminist account.”
“Instructions also encourage women to isolate themselves, limiting places to turn for help. Don’t discuss the book with a therapist because the authors don’t want to risk a third party talking her out of using ‘The Rules’,” Boynton says, and continues: ‘The Rules’ also demands that women not read books that go counter to the philosophy or ‘preach another method’. The only people a woman should discuss her issues with are other ‘Rules’ women, so there is no criticism or questioning of the advice given in the book. This is preaching to the choir.”
The state of sex coverage isn’t completely hopeless. Boynton sees groundbreaking sex coverage on sex blogs, and the coverage is full of “diversity, discussion and people giving everything from practical advice to critical thinking.” However, these novel approaches are not taken on by mainstream online magazines, in particular those run by large mainstream publishing houses. Boynton says that those magazines “regurgitate the tired old inaccurate sex features they previously ran in their print magazines – which cheats readers and also means that poor sex coverage continues to prevail within media.” Many people get their information directly from the Internet, and they can get good information about sex from blogs and smaller press e-zines. All they have to do is take the time to look.
NEXT – PART FOUR: Conclusion And What To Look For In A Good Sexpert