Hawking says watch out for aliens

Stephen Hawking warns that if we go looking for aliens, we could end up like the Native Americans after they were discovered by Christopher Columbus.
Professor Hawking said: ‘We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.

‘I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet.
‘Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.’
It would be ‘too risky’ to attempt to make contact with alien races, he concluded.
 ‘If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.’

Go to our post in November of 2009 and read more and read more at

Captain Paul Watson Japanese Whaling Kraken Pete bethune Psychoanalysis psychoanalytic theory Sea Shepherds Sea Whale Wars Shepherd Conservation Society Southpark Whales

Whale Wars: A Somewhat Psychoanalytic Review

It is the Antarctic Ocean, one of the most desolate places on earth, yet there are penises everywhere. Phallic shaped whales swim in the vast sea; spurting water cannons festoon the Japanese whaling fleet; And the Ady Gil (a black futuristic speedboat looking like a hi-tech phallus with two testicles) powers menacingly through the water. This is the setting for Animal Planet’s television show Whale Wars, which follows the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as they try to thwart the Japanese whaling fleet and prevent the killing of whales. This is a show about men and the drama is mostly male-oriented. There are some women around to be sure, but they mostly play supporting roles as cook, nurse, doctor, and sometimes love interests for the menfolk.*

Why are these men and phalli in the Antarctic? Because of whales. Either because they are the Japanese hunting them for ‘research’ – a flimsy cover story at best – or trying to protect them from the Japanese. This is the job of the Sea Shepherds who are not content to lobby governments and argue policies while whales are being slaughtered. Instead they choose action on the high seas, seeking to directly impede the Japanese whaling fleet.

In Whale Wars we learn very little about the Japanese whalers and it would be interesting to hear the reasons they hunt whales. In the show they remain a mysterious ‘other’, a dark and often out of focus foil for our unconscious projections. The Japanese are portrayed as an evil enemy; the murderers of intelligent, majestic, peaceful, and utterly helpless whales. Not since Allied propaganda films of WWII have we seen such a negative and a one-sided depiction of the Japanese. Unfortunately for them this makes for good television.

Still, the Japanese seem to have it in for sea mammals such as whales and dolphins. This has made for some great parody such as the episode of the animated series Southpark where whales and dolphins are shown to have been responsible for the atomic bombing of Japan**. Even though these cetaceans are traditional menu items at some Japanese restaurants, most modern Japanese do not eat them. Whaling is a small industry, hardly worth the ruin of the international reputation of a progressive modern country. As one article indicates, much of the whale meat intended to be sold as a delicacy for humans ends up as cheap school lunches and dog food.

Japanese traditions are vanishing and perhaps this compels them to passionately retain to those few traditions they have left. To be sure, there is  money to be made by whaling, but not much. Due in large part, to the activities of the Sea Shepherds, the Japanese only took about half their quota of whales (around 500) this season. Supposedly they need to kill 700 whales to break even. The expense of hunting whales has also increased (again in part because of the interference of the Sea Shepherds). It supposedly costs $2.5 million just to fuel the whaling ships for the hunting season. (For a more detailed examination of why the Japanese support whaling see Hirata, 2005).

The primary antagonist of the Japanese whalers is the extraordinary founder of the Sea Shepherds, Captain Paul Watson. He was one of the founders of Greenpeace who left that organization when he felt they had compromised their core beliefs. His story is inspirational and impressive, yet on the show he comes across as laconic and calculating. He has been an activist for a long time and is well aware of the political consequences of his actions as well as the public’s perception of his efforts. Equal parts, senex (wise old man) and puer aeternus (peter pan), he serves both as controlling father (and hence THE target for the oedipal projections of the other Sea Shepherd men) and originator of rather sketchy, possibly dangerous command decisions that demonstrate a certain degree of impulsiveness. It quickly becomes clear when watching Whale Wars that Watson takes chances – calculated chances, but chances just the same. Surprisingly, Watson is not shown having much in depth to say about the whales he is protecting. The impression is that Watson and his crew are primarily motivated by their unconscious feelings about whales, suggesting that the whales carry a deeper symbolic meaning for the Sea Shepherds.

Whales, by and large, are gentle, majestic creatures, highly intelligent, with impressive linguistic capabilities. They form tight knit families and social groups, and perhaps even ‘cultures’ (Morisaka, 2007; Simmonds, 2006; “Zeroing in on Whale Culture: Language is the Key,” n.d.). To harm them seems absurd. Yet many other animals are in the same boat – pigs come to mind as intelligent, social creatures (Angier, 2009). Many other food animals fare poorly, raised in terrifying and painful conditions in order to be killed and consumed by humans. So why so much emotion about whales? What do whales represent in our unconscious that inspires so many people to care about them while the plight of other deserving animals is ignored?

Not much has been written specifically about whales from a psychodynamic point of view. However, it is possible to extrapolate from the symbolic meaning of other sea creatures. In psychoanalytic theory the ocean can represent the unconscious mind; a vast repository of images and feelings that are unacceptable to the conscious. Within the unconscious, animals can be symbolic images of our deepest fears and anxieties (Akhtar & Volkan, 2004).

Sea creatures often appear in dreams and myths as dreaded monsters or as peaceful mermaids. In these guises these sea creatures represent mother or father, both as gentle and loving like the manatee, or as angry and devouring like the shark. Yet both types of parental images threaten to envelope and swallow us whole, submerging our identity into theirs, our conscious drowned into the ocean of the infinite unconscious. We are either devoured by the monsters from the deep or taken back into the uroboric womb. In either case we cease being individuated humans, returning instead to a helpless, undifferentiated state.

An example of the devouring mother would be the Kraken. This creature is a giant squid that rises from the depths, enveloping ships in its tentacles, and dragging them down into the sea. The Kraken is decidedly female in shape. It reminds us of female genitalia – the vagina dentata, only with a sharp castrating beak. Sailors feared the Kraken and wove stories of it, perhaps based on sightings of real giant squid that would sometimes be seen dead on the surface of the ocean (in life these creatures dwell exclusively in the depths). Psychoanalytically speaking, the Kraken is the image of the internalized bad parent (or object), the frustrating, angry, devouring, all-powerful mother of our infancy.

The whale is the opposite, a good mother to the Kraken’s bad. Like the Kraken, the whale is devouring, but this results is a blissful return to the womb, to the loving mother of our babyhood that had been lost forever. For those who have perhaps lost their mother in real life, or never experienced motherly love as infants, the whale can be an alluring creature.

This gentle devouring also relates to the journey of the hero. In the biblical story of Jonah, the whale is a creature of God, who consumes Jonah to protect him. Being consumed in this way is akin to dying in order to be reborn. As the Bible says “… just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40, King James Version). By being devoured and then spit out again into the world we become fully individuated and changed for the better. The belly of the whale is the crucible for our enlightenment.

The popular conception, therefore, of whales is as a kind, life-giving, mother whose love transforms us and the television show does nothing to dissuade the viewer of this idea. Whale Wars typically shows whales and other cetaceans as peaceful creatures, living in pods and playing together in families. When the Sea Shepherds come across them they experience a few moments of blissful satori. (The hostile, aggressive side of whales was not shown until near the end of the 2010 season when the Sea Shepherds witness a pod of Orcas ambushing a Sea Lion. Cetaceans, like many intelligent, social, creatures have a dark side to their nature. Orcas, or Killer Whales, have been known to devour seals and porpoises for fun, while male Bottlenose Dolphins have been observed gang raping females of their species – c.f. Ford, Ellis, & Balcomb, 2000; Conner, Wells, Mann, & Read, 2000; Mann, 2006).

Nevertheless, the whale is an androgynous symbol, also having a phallic meaning. This is a state of male innocence and freedom that precedes the Oedipal conflict. While we might long to return to the womb, we also desire the state of relative freedom when our genitals were a source of pleasure without guilt. The whales represent this, and the irony of so many Sea Shepard men in the thralls of Oedipal strife on the Antarctic seas does not go unnoticed. One gets the sense that while these guys are in the midst of their Oedipal struggles they would sometimes like to give up and return to a more blissful pre-conflictual psychic existence. Of course they can’t do this and so instead idolize the whale as representative of this state while continuing to act out their Oedipal dramas.

On the 2010 season of Whale Wars one of the most interesting of these dramas involved the Ady Gil, a futuristic hi-tech black trimaran (imagine Batman’s penis). The crew of the Ady Gil, led by Captain Pete Bethune, shave their heads before embarking on the ship, looking like human-sized homunculi. They challenge the Japanese whaling fleet with a phallic arsenal of air-powered spud guns and bottles of butyric acid (the same chemical that gives rancid butter its intense smell) and bows and arrows. Like an enraged father, the Japanese ship the Shonan Maru 2 responds, as might be expected, by ramming the Ady Gil, cutting the ship in two and essentially castrating it. The desire for the whale-mother has led to the greatest fear of these ‘little boys’, the loss of the penis. The traumatized crew of the Ady Gil deal with this in their own ways. One crew member challenges the less imposing father figure of Chuck Swift, Captain of the Bob Barker (the other new Sea Shepherd ship), while Pete Bethune devises a number of methods of gaining revenge which include a flaming high powered cutting torch that almost starts the Bob Barker on fire. After considering many (somewhat hair-brained) schemes Bethune eventually takes a jetski over to the Shonan Maru in the dark, jumps aboard, penetrates the ship’s defenses (literally using a knife), and confronts the crew. He is arrested and taken back to Japan to stand trial***.

Given the repetitive nature of the Oedipal drama on Whale Wars, it is not surprising that we do not see other approaches to reducing the slaughter of whales. For instance, no one on the Sea Shepherds seems to have any expertise in whale behavior. A rather obvious thought I had while watching recently was that the Sea Shepherds should teach the whales to be afraid of humans. The ship often comes across whales and dolphins that frolic nearby while the Sea Shepherds watch them in a state of near bliss. I might suggest to Captain Watson that he include some whale behavioral experts (biologist/ethologist/psychologist) on-board (they could even be women!) and the Sea Shepherds stage a campaign to teach whales to be frightened of humans and their ships.

While watching the episode where the Ady Gil is rammed I got caught up in the drama of the crew (helpless little boys) frustrated to impotent anger by the Shonan Maru 2 (all powerful father). My thought (maybe it was counter-transference?) was why did they spend three million dollars on the Ady Gil? For much less money, the Sea Shepherds could have bought a World War II era submarine. These submarines are very fast on the surface of the water and would easily be able to keep up with the Japanese whaling fleet. Add in the stealth capabilities of being able to travel under water, the prop fouling possibilities (one of the Sea Shepherds favorite methods of stopping the Japanese ships), the safety of being able to submerge when a ship tries to run you down, and of course, the pure visual (phallic) potency of being confronted by a submarine and this really starts to seem like a good idea – at least in my fantasy! It would certainly be interesting to watch on television.

It is hard not to root for the Sea Shepherds. And even though I don’t think the Japanese are evil, I find myself wishing they wouldn’t kill whales. For all their psychological conflicts, the Sea Shepherds are actively standing up for something they deeply believe in. They are willing to walk the walk and put themselves in harm’s way to save whales. For this they have my support and respect. The television show documents the efforts of the Sea Shepherds in a brilliant and compelling way. It is well worth watching, both to see the ships in action and for the human drama.

*Someone at Animal Planet must have noticed this because the Sea Shepherd women are more prominently featured in the 3rd season of the show. Still, the women generally are supporting characters while the men are prominently featured.

**This episode also mercilessly makes fun of the Sea Shepherds as well.

***After five months in Japanese prison Bethune was convicted of crime of trespassing, vandalism, carrying a knife, obstructing commercial activities, and assault. He received a two year suspended sentence, was banned from Japan for five years, and promptly deported back to New Zealand where he is a citizen.


Akhtar, S., & Volkan, V. D. (2004). Mental Zoo: Animals in the Human Mind and Its Pathology. International Universities Press.

Angier, N. (2009, November 10). Pigs Prove to Be Smart, if Not Vain. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Connor, R.; Wells, R.; Mann, J.; Read, A. (2000). “The Bottlenose Dolphin”. in Mann, J.; Connor, R.; Tyack, P.; Whitehead, H.. Cetacean Societies. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. pp. 102.
Ford, John K.B.; Ellis, Graeme M.; Balcomb, Kenneth C. (2000). Killer Whales, Second Edition. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Hirata, K. (2005). Why Japan supports whaling. Journal of international Wildlife Law & Policy, 8, p. 129-149. 

Japan’s Whaling Fleet Returns Home in ShameActivists ‘paralyzed’ their activities for 31 days – Softpedia. (n.d.).  Retrieved August 19, 2010, from

Mann, J. (2006). Establishing Trust: Sociosexual behaviour and the development of male-male bonds among Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin calves. In P. Vasey and V. Sommer (Eds.) Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective. Cambridge University Press
Morisaka, T. (2007). Current cognitive studies on cetaceans. Japanese Journal of Animal Psychology, 57(1), 41-51.

Oosedo, H. (n.d.). Whale meat used for dog food | The Australian. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from

Sea Shepherd. (n.d.). . Retrieved August 19, 2010, from

South Park’ Takes On Japanese Dolphin Slaughter (VIDEO). (n.d.). . Retrieved August 19, 2010, from

Simmonds, M. P. (2006). Into the brains of whales. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 100(1-2), 103-116. 

The Institute of Cetacean Research. (n.d.). . Retrieved August 19, 2010, from

Whale Wars : Animal Planet. (n.d.). . Retrieved August 19, 2010, from

Zeroing in on Whale Culture: Language is the Key. (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2010, from

genetic sexcual attraction gsa incest intergenerational romance Pearl Carter

Genetic Sexual Attration Part 2: Intergenerational Love

Given the recent news of Phil Bailey and Pearl Carter we thought we would do a follow up to our September post on Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA).

As recently reported the 26 year old Phil Baily is romantically and sexually involved with his 72 year old grandmother Pearl Carter. This relationship follows almost exactly the characteristics we previously reports for GSA. Pearl had a daughter at a young age who was put up for adoption and who never had a relationship with her mother. This daughter had a son, Phil who was told by his mother on her deathbed that she had been adopted and that he had biological grandparents. After his mother died Phil began to search for his grandparents and eventually found Pearl. As in many cases of GSA both Phil and Pearl immediately experienced strong feelings for each other that quickly evolved into a sexually active relationship. Apparently their relationship is stable as they have now been together as a couple for four years. They recently decided to have a child using a surrogate – the child will be Phil and Pearl’s son or daughter, but will be also be Pearl’s great grandchild.

Besides the general features of GSA Phil and Pearl’s relationship also has two unique features. The first is that the couple was fully aware of the GSA phenomena. However, unlike Barbara Gonyo, who used her awareness of GSA to understand her feelings for her son so she could have a normal relationship with him, Pearl and Phil cite GSA as something that makes their relationship legitimate! As Pearl said, “I could now understand my feelings and realize they weren’t wrong…”.

A number of research studies have made it increasingly clear that the Westermark Effect exists and the strength of incest avoidance and moral sentiments around incest are related to the amount of time close relatives (most of the studies looked at siblings and even unrelated children), live with each other, regardless of genetic relationship (Lieberman, Tooby, & Cosmides, 2003).

For instance, a recent study (Lieberman, 2009) of the Westermark effect in Taiwan indicates that cues for incest avoidance may be different for younger and older siblings. This study found that younger siblings are cued for incest avoidance by the amount of time they live with their older siblings, while the cue for older siblings is the experience of their mother caring for a newborn infant.

Given these studies of the Westermark Effect, it is not much of a stretch to see how the lack of time Phil spent living with, or even knowing his grandmother as a child, might contribute to his attraction. However, the Westermark Effect doesn’t explain the unique intergenerational nature of this relationship – the couple are 46 years apart in age. Phil claims he has always been into ‘older women’, and it may be he has some sort fetish for older partners. However, the vast age difference seems to go beyond the typical ‘May-December’ romance and it might be a stretch of the imagination to label Pearl as a ‘Cougar’ – her attraction to Phil seems baffling.

Intergenerational romantic relationships are not well-studied. One study from Africa has shown that some men prefer older female partners because they are less likely to be infected with HIV than younger women (Leclerc-Madlala, S., 2008). It is also known that sexually abusive grandparents are mostly male (Margolin, 1992). And Goldstein (1992) describes a case where a grandmother was found to be sexually abusing her six year old granddaughter. None of these studies begin to explain the dynamics of the relationship  between Phil and Pearl. 

Predictably enough, when I describe this case to my students their collective reaction is “that’s digusting!”. Until more research is done on intergenerational incestuous romance our understanding will be limited to this understandable sentiment.


Goldstein, E. (1992). Sexual abuse in families: The mother-daughter relationship. Issues in Ego Psychology, 15(1), 63-64. 

Leclerc-Madlala, S. (2008). Age-disparate and intergenerational sex in southern Africa: The dynamics of hypervulnerability. AIDS, 22(Suppl4), S17-S25.

Lieberman, D.,  Tooby, J., and Cosmides, L. (2003). Does morality have a biological basis? An empirical test of the factors governing moral sentiments relating to incest. Proceedings of the Royal Society London, 270, 819–826.

Lieberman, D. (2009). Rethinking the Taiwanese minor marriage data: evidence the mind uses multiple kinship cues to regulate inbreeding avoidance. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30(3), p. 153-160.

Margolin, L. (1992). Sexual abuse by grandparents. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16(5), 735-741.

archetype celebrity Collective unconscious Hero hubris James Hillman Joseph Campbell mythology Old Testament sheldon kopp Tiger Woods

21st Century Idol Worship

Many of you are familiar with the Old Testament description of the ancient Hebrews who, even after being delivered from Egyptian bondage, who observed the ten plagues visiting the house of the Egyptians, who with G-d’s help crossed the Red Sea, still built and worshiped the Golden Calf while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments from Yahweh. Most of us recall the scene from the Cecil B. DeMille’s movie, The Ten Commandments, during which Charlton Heston as Moses becomes so angered that he drops the tablets on the idol worshiping, dancing Hebrews. Those tablets and the Old Testament in both Exodus and Deuteronomy prohibit the worship of idols, but just like the Hebrews, we persist in elevating mere mortals to the status of idols and expecting more from them than just being human.

There are many examples of our idol worship – sports figures, politicians, musicians, and actors, etc. Many in these fields achieve a saint-like status, perhaps receiving more adoration than more established religious deities. However, in actuality, these people remain mortal human beings. While many of these celebrities have accomplished great things,why do we consider their accomplishments as super-human? What is it about our psyche that causes us to worship and and then sometimes hate celebrities?

Carl Jung wrote that the deepest and least accessible level of the psyche is the Collective Unconscious. It is the repository for the experiences of the human and pre-human species and passed from one generation to the other, or as Jung puts it. “…the residues of ancestral life” (Jung, 1953, p. 77) Among the recurring themes of the Collective Unconscious, common to all human cultures, is the archetype of the Hero. As Joseph Campbell writes in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, our concept of the hero derives from two ancient myths, sacrifice from hunter-gatherer societies, and the eternal return which arose with the development of agriculture. The hero then, makes a great sacrifice, descending into the underworld to battle dark unconscious forces, fulfilling his quest, but then returning the to the world, transformed in some way. We are all attuned to the hero’s journey, projecting ourselves into the this role. In our celebrities, sports figures, rock stars, film actors, we see our own hero myth played out. Our worship of those deified in our society is in actuality more akin to projective identification.

There is an important danger that comes with the worship of our heroes. They may become inflated, too elevated with success, the heroic transformation going awry. This can lead to enantiodromia where the hero is rendered into his or her opposite, from god into demon. This is all too common for the heroes of our time, from the suicide of Kurt Cobain to the destructive lifestyle of Lindsay Lohan, the psychological pressure of the hero worship of adoring fans can force our idols over to the dark side (BTW, the Star Wars saga is a good example of what we are talking about here). The most recent example of this phenomena is the discovery of Tiger Woods’ sexual hedonism and his subsequent demonization. When those we worship fall from grace, they fall hard. Suffering from the sin of hubris, our heroes fall like Icarus from Greek mythology when they fly too close to the sun. The inevitable result is destruction in the cold and lonely sea.

Being trapped in the hero myth is not only dangerous to celebrities, but to each of us. As psychologist James Hillman says in the book Inter Views we can become trapped into the heroic view point, leading to a sort of psychological fundementalism;

Fundamentalism serves the hero myth. It gives you fundamental principles – words, truths, directions. It builds a strong ego. It is American psychology. No Hermes, no Dionysus, no Aphrodite in it at all. Utterly monotheistic because there is only one meaning, one reading of the text…whatever else…you have lost the fact that you are a bundle of many levels, people, noises, impulses, trends, personalities, possibilities…” p. 82

We can become trapped in our own hubris, regardless of what we project on to our celebrity heroes. Our own heroism can cause us to become mono-dimensional, losing the creativity associated with the natural dimensionality of our personalities. Rather than projecting our disappointment and rage outward to celebrities, we sometimes need to kill our own heroic tendencies. This is perhaps the meaning in the image of Moses smashing the tablets over the Golden Calf – we must destroy our own heroism before we can properly worship. This is also the message of Sheldon Kopps book, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!. We need to beware of the hero. There is no need to split into Luke Sky Walker and Darth Vader – we can accept both the light and dark side of the force within ourselves and in doing so perhaps have more realistic expectations of those we admire.


Apollodorus, (Hard R., Translator). (2008). The Library of Greek Mythology (Oxford World’s Classics). New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA.

Campbell, J. (2008). The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Bollingen Series). Novato, CA: New World Library.

DeMille, C.B.

Hillman, J. (1991). Inter Views: Conversations With Laura Pozzo on Psychotherapy, Biography, Love, Soul, Dreams, Work, Imagination, and the State of the Culture. New York, NY: Spring Publications.

Jewish Publication Society of America. (2000). Hebrew-English Tanakh Student Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society of America.

Jung, C.G., (1953).  Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.7). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kopp, S.B. (1976). If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! The Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy Patients. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

education faculty nazi germnay universities

Education in Nazi Germany

Kevin recently went returned from Davos, Switzerland where he presented at the World University Forum on education in Nazi Germany. His conference presentation is here. Click for provocative and scholarly insights you have yet to consider.

Certainly there are many good examples of bizarre behavior in this subject!


Psy 473: Bizarre Behavior and Culture Bound Syndrome

We want to share a link to Kevin’s class, Psy 473: Bizarre Behavior and Culture Bound Syndromes. You can watch and listen to Kevin’s lectures as he teaches this class through the semester and then think, bizarre or not. Just click on the class title above and be taken to a list of his lectures. Click on a lecture and watch the magic. More blogs to follow.

group Marriage Kerista monogamy Oneida Community polyandry Polyfidelity polygamy Polygyny Tiger Woods


We have received a lot of comments about the Tiger Woods polygamy post, so I thought it might be interesting to explore the idea of non-traditional sexual partnerships a little more. There is a long  history of groups of people, who are usually bound together by common religious beliefs, creating communities that have sexual/romantic relationship practices that differ from the monogamy that is seen in the majority of human societies. Some, like the homosexuality of the ancient Greeks, just expand the standard practice of monogamy. Others, like the early Mormons, and the Maasai people in Africa, had group marriage practices such as polygyny and polyandry. Another type of non-standard sexual/romantic relationship that has been seen in recent American history is polyamory. In polyamory groups of people form sexual/romantic relationships. Polyamory may refer to a couple who allow one of both partners to engage in intimate relationships with other people, or it may refer to a group of people who have exclusive intimate relationships among themselves (polyfidelity).

One of the best known groups to have practiced polyamory was the Oneida Community in New Harmony Indiana which lasted from 1848 to 1881, and at its zenith had around 300 members. Members of the Oneida community (not be mistaken with the native American Oneida tribe) practied a form of group marriage whereby every male was married to every female in the community. The Oneidians believed that Christ had already returned to earth and that they were perfect and free from sin. Theoretically men and women were equal, though in practice labor was divided into stereotypical gender roles, with the women doing most of the domestic work. Exclusive intimate relationships were not allowed and group members were supposed to circulate through different partners. Married couples joining the community were supposed to expand their sexual relationships to include the other group members. Female group members reported that the had an average of three sexual encounters per week. Sexual relationships were encouraged between the more spiritual members and the less devout with the idea that the less devout would become more spiritually-minded through association. Teen-aged males were paired with older post-menopausal women who not only were able to initiate the males into sex, but also provide spiritual instruction. Males were encouraged to learn to control their ejaculation both for health reasons (it was thought that too much ejaculation could damage a man’s health) and for birth control. As a result birth rates in the community were low, but sexual encounters could last an hour or more which supposedly made the women happy. Positive eugenics was practiced and members had to apply to become parents. Prospective parents were matched by the group leaders in order to produce the healthiest children. After weaning, children were raised communally. Like many such utopian sexual experiments, the community disintegrated after the death of its charismatic leader John Humphrey Noyes.

Another more recent experiment in polyamory was the Kerista Village in San Francisco which existed from 1971 until 1991. The Keristas practiced what they called ‘polyfidelity’. Each person belonged to a B-FIC (best friend identity cluster) where every person slept with everyone else of the opposite sex on a strict schedule. Children were raised with all adults in a B-FIC taking on equal parenting roles. The community supported itself by doing computer support for Macs (what else?!)
When I was in college at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1970s and early 1980s the Keristas came by trying to recruit people (mostly young women including my girlfriend at the time) into the community. As one of my friends from that time says:
Yeah… I hung around with the Keristas for a while. They were really hot to have us… and I guess we kind of strung them along by pretending to be seriously interested. Exploring their world was like doing anthropology field work or something – we should have asked the UCSC Anthro Dept. if we could write a paper for credit.

The best part was that, once they’d gotten comfortable with us, they let down their guard and started gossiping about one another and openly discussing the tensions in the community in front of us – particularly speculation as to who might or might not be a “romantic couple” (a thing looked upon with scorn in the Kerista world).

We did indeed find the Kerista efforts to regiment human sexuality by enforcing strict “sleeping schedules” and proscribing some of the world’s most popular sex acts hilariously ridiculous – but looking back on it with 30 years additional life experience under my belt, I now wonder whether our own culture’s similar but more familiar efforts to regiment human sexuality aren’t equally ridiculous.

The Keristas ran into trouble however when people in the B-FICs started falling in love with another person exclusively. They would still sleep with everyone but would only have sex with the person they were in love with. They also had some problems because the leaders supposedly banned oral sex from being performed on the women – that got them into a lot of trouble! The Keristas were also reported to be very messy since no one would enforce rules about cleaning up.
To my mind the life cycle of these experiments in polyamory says a lot about the evolution of the monogamous family structure. There was (and perhaps is) great survival value in monogamy for humans. It is a system that kept both parents around for child-rearing, and for obtaining resources like food and shelter necessary to live. It also helped keep males for competing with each other for harems, allowing them to cooperate in hunting and protecting the social group.
In both the Oneida Community and Kerista Village many if not most of the community members ended up in monogamous relationships when the groups dissolved. Monogamy and the nuclear family structure are likely to some degree hardwired within us. We may go to an orgy, exchange one partner for another for another, or live in a a group marriage, or have a harem of mistresses, but at the end of the day most of us revert back to monogamy. Even though Tiger Wood’s wife is leaving him, I would be willing to bet that he will be in another monogamous relationship in the near future. Hopefully his new wife will be comforted by the fact that although he may cheat (which I also think is likely and which I hope she understands up front), he will likely return to her.


Foster, L. (1998). Sex and prophetic power: A comparison of John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community, with Joseph Smith, Jr., The Mormon Prophet. Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought, 31(4) pg:65-83.

Kerista Village Website

Margulis, L., Sagan, D. (1991). Mystery Dance: On the Evolution of Human Sexuality. New York, NY: Summit Books.

Wikipedia Entry for the Oneida Community

Wikipedia Entry for Polygyny

alpha males Cheaters droit de seigneur Indonesia infidelity Lord of the Rings Oedipal Complex Plato polyandry polygamy Ring of Gyges Tiger Woods

The Solution to Tiger Wood’s Problems: Polygamy!

Like most of you we have been inundated with news of Tiger Woods’ multiple infidelities over the past week or so. Most commentators have been expressing various forms and levels of shock and outrage over his sexual escapades as if his situation was somehow unique, strange, and bizarre. It is of course none of these things and, in fact, for a person of Tiger Woods’ vast resources, quite common.

Plato wrote in the Republic of the Ring of Gyges, which renders its wearer invisible and hence capable of any kind of behavior without consequence. Anyone with the Ring will be succumb to temptation to use it and act immorally. In Plato’s view, morality is a social construction in that we adhere to its conventions only because we fear our immorality could be discovered. If we cannot be caught, this fear is removed and we will behave immorally. By the way, it is interesting to note that Plato’s Ring of Gyges likely provided J.R.R. Tolkien with inspiration for Lord of The Rings.

For men like Tiger Woods, their vast wealth and fame must excerpt a temptation similar to the Ring. When your net worth is around 1 billion dollars it is inevitable that you might feel you can get away with anything. How many of us men (and women too) if given a billion dollars, would be able to withstand the temptation?

Of course, wealth and fame are only an approximation of the power of the Ring, and as we know Tiger has been caught cheating. So what, in biological terms did Tiger do? He committed the act of reproduction (i.e. sex) with multiple females (at least one of whom wanted to have his actual baby) as alpha males have done throughout human history and throughout time in the animal kingdom. Tiger is no different than past Turkish Sultans, Chinese Emperors, or European medieval lords with their droit de seigneur. He also behaved no differently than alpha male gorillas and chimpanzees, or even the elephant seals which are currently congregating at Ano Nuevo Island on the California coast, north of Santa Cruz.

A recent study by Knox, Vail-Smith, and Zusman (2008) found that about 1 in 5 college-aged men of typical social status report cheating on their partners. Furthermore, these men did not always disclose their cheating. Sexual infidelity is not that uncommon, so why such a big negative reaction to Tiger? It may be that the alpha male is always a target for subordinate males who would like (at least unconsciously) to usurp his position. The Tiger Woods of the world bring out the Oedipal Complex in us men – if we can’t get rid of him, we want to be him. The overblown response to Tiger’s cheating (as with Bill Clinton or Elliot Spitzer) may be an example of our inability to identify with Tiger anymore and a reversion back to our unresolved Oedipal crises. If we can’t be Tiger at least we can bring him down a notch. (We don’t have space to go into Tiger’s own Oedipal issues including his identification with an adulterous father. Supposedly he was in bed at his home with one of his mistresses when he received news of his father’s death.)

It is likely that the number of cheaters among the rarefied social ranks is higher and perhaps like our primate ancestors we worry in some deep, hidden parts of our brain that these alpha cheaters are capable of ravishing our women as well. If Tiger has put on the Ring of Gyges what is to prevent him from seducing our wives or girlfriends?

The solution to this seems in some way obvious to me, and is something practiced in many cultures: Polygamy. In other words why not adopt a practice which allows alpha males to have sex with multiple partners within a moral, not to mention legal, framework?

I am not talking here of forcing young girls to marry partners chosen for them as has been found in some fundamentalist Mormon sects and in some Muslim countries. This is tantamount to child rape. I am speaking of polygamy with the fully informed consent of all adults involved. While controversial, this could be at least an option for SOME individuals.

One model for the institution of polygamy might come from Indonesia, a progressive Muslim nation where the practice is legal under tight constraints. Most importantly, the first wife must give consent (The need for the first wife’s consent can be withdrawn if it is proved that she is infertile, terminally ill, or “not performing her wifely duties”). Another condition is that it is necessary to get the permission of a religious adviser. Polygamy in Indonesia is controversial with some women’s groups trying to have the practice forbidden. However, some women, such as Dr. Gina Puspita are supportive of the practice, starting ‘Polygamy Clubs’ to educate men and women who may be considering adopting the practice.

And of course all of the arguments in favor of polygamy could also apply to the practice of having multiple husbands or polyandry. This was traditionally practiced in some parts of Tibet where a woman might marry two or more brothers, one of whom would be off on long trading treks for months or years. One could easily imagine powerful women like Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiona having multiple husbands. And there would likely be many men wishing to be added to Sarah Palin’s harem.

What if Tiger Woods’ had married a women who understood that he would likely take on more wives in the future instead of a wife who unfortunately assumed he would be monogamous? How many of Tiger’s mistresses would even today opt into a polygamous marriage? We most likely will never know. What is certain is that the vein of suffering in Tiger’s current situation has not dried up. The Ring has been ripped from his finger, and like Gollum, he is falling into a fiery abyss.


Badenhausen, K. (2009). Sports’ First Billion-Dollar Man., Sept. 29.

Bennett, C., and Burke, C. (2009). Tiger’s mistress romp as father died. New York Post, Dec. 17.

Childs, G. Polyandry And Population Growth in a Historical Tibetan Society, The History of the Family Vol. 8: 423-444, 2003.

Entry for Droit de Seigneur. Encyclopædia Britannica.

Knox, D., Vail-Smith, K., and Zusman, M. (2008). Men are dogs’: Is the stereotype justified? Data on the cheating college male. College Student Journal, Vol 42(4), Dec, 2008. pp. 1015-1022.

Plato (360 BCE). The Republic. (Trans. Benjamin Jowett). The Internet Classic Archives. MIT

Van Wagner, K. What Is an Oedipal Complex?, downloaded Dec 17, 2009.

Vaswani, K. (2009). Club promotes polygamy in Indonesia. BBC Jakarta, Dec. 17.

Wikipedia Entry on Plato’s Ring of Gyges 

bystander apathy Ft. Hood Shooting Nidal Hasan normalization of deviance post traumatic stress production of culture psychiatry traumatized soldiers warning signs of violence

Preventing the Murders at Fort Hood

Nidal Malik Hasan entered a processing center at Fort Hood and in a tragic act used a 5.7 millimeter pistol to kill fourteen people, 13 of whom were soldiers. These horrific murders of innocent people were committed by a medical doctor, a major, and a psychiatrist. In our opinion these murders were predictable and consequently preventable. Understanding the psychology of this event and overcoming the reasons people failed to act could save lives and insure that tragedies like this never happen again.

According to an Associated Press report “Doctors and staff overseeing Hasan’s training viewed him at times as belligerent, defensive and argumentative in his frequent discussions of his Muslim faith”. He was sent to Fort Hood because “this was the best assignment for Hasan  because doctors could handle the workload if he continued to perform poorly.” At times, Hasan complained about harassment, once describing how someone had put a diaper in his car, saying, “That’s your headdress.” In another case reported in the New York Times, someone had drawn a camel on his car and written under it, “Camel jockey, get out!”.

While neighbors described Major Hasan as gentle and kind, they reported that he virulently complained about the oppression of Muslims in the Army. His behavior was described as intense and combative. “Around 2004, Major Hasan started feeling disgruntled about the Army, relatives said. He sought legal advice, possibly from an Army lawyer, about getting a discharge…He wanted to leave the Army…But because the Army had paid for his education, and probably because the Army was in great need of mental health professionals and was in need of Arab-Americans he was advised that his chances of getting out were minuscule…” Not only would Hasan be unable to leave the military, his transfer to Fort Hood extended his military service by a year. He had few friends, was never fully accepted by the men at his Mosque, and lived frugally in a run-down apartment despite making a good salary. Immediately prior to his violent rampage, Major Hasan said goodbye to his friends and asked forgiveness from one man for any past offenses.  “I’m going traveling,” he told a fellow worshiper, giving him a hug. “I won’t be here tomorrow.”

As clinical psychologists we believe that Hasan’s delusional perceptions and aggressive actions sent clear warning signals that he was capable of violence. His voicing “I won’t be here tomorrow” is a statement that would have alerted mental health professionals that Major Hasan was a potential danger to himself or others. (However, in the context of a military staging area it is possible that those around Hasan may have took this statement to mean he was about to be deployed.)

Many traumatized soldiers internalize their aggressive feelings and self-inflict wounds, sometimes resulting in their death. This usually occurs after the experience of being in a war. In this case, Major Hasan’s trauma was second-hand, something internal, and not the result of being in a combat zone himself. His psychology is not the post traumatic stress of the soldier, but the narcissistic self-righteous delusion of the school shooter. Like a school shooter it was Hasan’s feelings of isolation, hopelessness, despair, and delusional feelings of moral injustice that precipitated his aggression. Army health professionals at Ft. Hood, overworked, understaffed, and with their focus of post traumatic stress should be forgiven for not seeing the warning signs. After all, on the surface, who would expect a psychiatrist to follow in the footsteps of Klybold, Harris, or Cho?

In general, humans in groups tend to minimize the warning signs of violence. We recently have seen examples of this in the Jaycee Lee Dugan kidnapping, where parole officers failed to see the signs of her rape and imprisonment.  Likewise in the case of the Cleveland rapist-serial killer Anthony Sowell, police did not pick up the warning signs of his crimes despite being alerted to his violent behavior numerous times by people in the area. In a classic study Darley and Latane (1969) found that subjects remained in a dangerous situation when others in the room seemed unconcerned. Likewise subjects failed to come to the aid of a hurt “victim” when others failed to act. These results show the tendency of people to ignore an impending crisis because; there is no reward, they are unprepared, they don’t know how to respond, and they are inhibited in highly stressful situation. In a stressful environment  it is all too easy for us to see the inaction of others and do nothing ourselves.

It is also known that people under pressure in organizations will ‘normalize deviance’. In his book The Knowing Organization: How Organizations Use Information to Construct Meaning, Create Knowledge, and Make Decisions, Chun Wei Choo (1998) discusses what he calls the “production of culture”. This is where a group repeatedly uses a decision-making sequence to develop norms, values and procedures that support their central beliefs even in the face of deviant information. This involves five steps: 1. Perceiving a potential danger; 2. acknowledging escalated risk; 3. reviewing evidence; 4. normalization of deviance and accepting the risk; and finally 5. a decision to act or not act that reinforces the core beliefs of the group. While there is no way to know for sure whether the production of culture allowed military and medical professional to overlook Hasan’s aggressive, deviant, and delusional behavior over the years, we think this is likely given the relatively closed nature of both medical and military organizations. The production of culture is less likely to occur when there is regular unconstrained input from others outside the group.

Military health professionals are educated to identify the behaviors that represent psychological conflicts that would promote violent acts to self and others. In Hasan’s case investigators are asking how did this man get through medical school and the military without any intervention by medical or mental health professionals. Another recent article stated that Hasan was offered psychotherapy as part of his psychiatric training but he turned it down. We have to ask why this was allowed when personal psychotherapy is a strict requirement in most mental health professions? Given his argumentativeness, stressful work with soldiers returning from battle, and his inability to connect with others, it is not surprising that he could become “self-radicalized’ under the influence of an Islamic extremist. What is surprising is that Hasan could be allowed to train and work as a psychiatrist for a number of years without anyone realizing his serious emotional serious issues put him at risk for becoming unhinged. A professional evaluation of the well understood and identifiable precursors to violent behavior would have likely prevented Major Hasan from murdering thirteen sodiers at the Fort Hood processing center.


Blackledge, B.J., & Lardner, R. (2009). Fort Hood suspect’s superiors questioned behavior. Associated Press. November, 12th.

Choo, CW. (1998). The Knowing Organization: How Organizations Use Information to Construct Meaning, Create Knowledge, and Make Decisions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Latane, B., & Darley, J. Bystander “Apathy”, American Scientist, 1969, 57, 244-268.

Shane, S. & Dao, J. (2009). Investigators Study Tangle of Clues on Fort Hood Suspect. New York Times, November 14th.

animal cruelty crush videos Gallegly H.R. 1887 Susan Creede

Stomp and Crush – Part 2

In our previous post on stomping and crushing fetishes we mentioned federal law  H.R. 1887, championed by Congressman Elton Gallegly, which makes the creation and selling of ‘crush’ videos involving cruelty to animals illegal. After the Ventura County California District Attorney’s Office was frustrated in their attempts to prosecute a known producer of ‘crush’ videos from Thousand Oaks, CA, they joined together with the Doris Day Animal League to convince Gallegly to put forward a bill making the creation and sale of these videos illegal. As part of the bill’s passage through Congress the House Subcommittee on Crime solicited testimony on ‘crush’ videos. I was able to dig up the extremely cogent and interesting testimony given by Susan Creede, a Ventura County police investigator, to the subcommittee on September 30, 1999.  It makes for interesting reading,  gives a great deal of insight into the ‘crush’ phenomenon, and shows how important a psychological perspective can be for investigative police work:

“My name is Susan Creede. I am an investigator with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. I have been a police officer for nearly twenty years, but I only became familiar with animal crush videos in September 1998, when this case was first assigned to me. The investigation began after we received a video from the United States Humane Society in Washington D.C. They purchased the video on the Internet from an individual using the name “Steponit,” a resident of Thousand Oaks, a city in Ventura County.

During my investigation, I ran searches for animal crushing on the INTERNET. I found different websites and chat rooms announcing crushing activities. I also located bulletin boards involving animal crushing activities. While in the different chat rooms involving foot fetishes, I communicated on line with people and told them that I was interested in animal crushing. I was eventually directed to a chat room called “Crushcentral,” where people with foot fetishes and different sexual deviances meet to talk with people of similar interests. I spent the majority of my time in “Crushcentral,” but I was able to locate two other chatrooms that were similar in nature, “Crush 101” and “Feet.”
People from all over the world meet in these chatrooms. They use stage names such as “Under Her Feet”, “Squished,” etc. I met these people on a daily basis, using the name Minnie. I talked to and “made friends with” people from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Mexico, and the United States. Each day I chatted with these individuals during the day and evening, depending on where in the world they lived. We shared crush experiences as well as everyday life experiences. The fact that people do not use their real names makes investigating these crimes difficult. One never knows with who they are actually corresponding, which makes it very difficult to prove who is actually producing the videos.

Through my conversations, I learned that the common denominator was the “foot fetish.” They spoke about their fetishes and how they developed. For many of them the fetish developed as a result of something they saw at a very early age, and it usually occurred before the age of five. Most of these men saw a woman step on something. She was usually someone who was significantly in their lives. They were excited by the experience and somehow attached their sexuality to it.
As these men grew older, the woman’s foot became a part of their sexuality. The power and dominance of the woman using her foot was significant to them. They began to fantasize about the thought of being the subject under the woman’s foot. They fantasized about the power of the woman, and how she would be able to crush the life out of them if she chose to do so. Many of these men love to be trampled by women. Some like to be trampled by a woman wearing shoes or high heels. Others like to be trampled by women who are barefoot. They prefer to be hurt and the more indifferent the woman is to their pain, the more exciting it is for them.

I have learned that the extreme fantasy for these men is to be trampled or crushed to death under the foot of a powerful woman. Because they would only be able to experience this one time, these men have found a way to transfer their fantasy and excitement. They have learned that if they watch a woman crush an animal or live creature to his death, they can fantasize that they are that animal experiencing death at the foot of this woman. 

Many videos are produced wherein defenseless animals are tortured and crushed to death, for the sole purpose of sexually exciting men. The animals are tortured in a slow, cruel and deliberate way. The women torturing the animals talk to them as if they are human. The women play the part of the dominitrix. 

These videos are usually sold for fifty to two hundred dollars a piece. Special orders are made at the request of the buyer. He merely E-mails his request in detail to the producer. The fantasy is then acted out by the actress while being filmed by the producer. 

During my chats, I have learned that many of these videos are being produced in the United States. Several of the producers live in California. However, I have learned that there are producers living in Texas and Ohio as well.

The animals being crushed include, but are not limited to, mice, pinkies (baby mice), guinea pigs, rats, squirrels, rabbits, birds, chickens, cats, dogs and monkeys. I have been personally asked to make a video of a dog being crushed. I was also approached on the INTERNET by an individual that asked how big an animal I was willing to crush. I was once instructed on how to torture a dog on video, step by step. I was told to purchase the dog at a place that would not check on the animal at a later date. I was told to make the video immediately after purchasing the animal to avoid the risk of becoming attached. I was told to make the crushing incident last ninety minutes before the animal actually died.
In May 1999, I was contacted through the INTERNET by Gary Thomason, known to the crush community as “Getsmart.” Thomason sent me a clip of a mouse and rat crush video he filmed with “Diane.” Thomason told me he would much rather produce a video with me, and he asked me to consider making a video with him. I agreed and we made arrangements to meet at his apartment on June 19, 1999. 

With the assistance of Long Beach Police and investigators from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, I went under cover with a second police officer from Long Beach. After we arrived at Thomason’s residence, he went to the local pet store and purchased five large rats. Thomason arranged for a second camerman to video tape the crushing event from a different angle. After Thomason taped one of the rats to a table and both camera men had the cameras running and ready to film, the arrests were made. At that point the Long Beach Police Department took over the investigation. Mr. Thomason awaits trial on Felony Animal Cruelty charges.

During my conversations in the different chat rooms, individuals have sent me samples or clips of these videos to add to my collection. Many photos of animal crush and trampling have also been sent to me over the INTERNET through the chat rooms similar to the ones you have seen today. Tom and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.”


Testimony to the United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Crime, September 30, 1999

History of animal-cruelty law at issue in Stevens poses incongruity
By Adam Ezra Schulman, First Amendment Center legal intern