Speaker warns women against casual sex

by Ann Baum | 11/11/08 5:00am

Female students almost always pay a higher emotional and physical price for casual hook-ups than male students do because of women's hormonal and anatomical biology, according to Miriam Grossman, senior fellow at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and former staff psychiatrist at University of California, Los Angeles. Grossman spoke to an audience of students and community members in the Rockefeller Center Monday for the third annual Dr. Tzvi Yehuda Saks Memorial Lecture sponsored by Dartmouth Chabad.

Grossman is known for her controversial opinions about gender differences in sexual relations and published the first edition of her book "Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals how Political Correctness in her Profession Endangers Every Student" anonymously.

"We are bombarded with the message that experimenting and exploring our sexuality is safe and good for us," she said. "Don't fall for it."

Grossman views the average college woman as naive, misinformed and vulnerable, she said in her speech.

"You heard me right, I called women vulnerable," she said. "No food's being thrown at me, I'm relieved."

In Grossman's "Sense & Sexuality" pamphlet, available at the lecture, Grossman cites statistics from a Princeton University-conducted study, which shows that females expect emotional involvement with an intimate partner twice as often as males, and 34 percent of women wish for the encounter to develop into a relationship. Ninety-one percent of women admit to having feelings of regret, and 80 percent say they wish the sexual encounter had not occurred, according to the pamphlet. The Dartmouth was unable to independently locate a copy of the study.

The pamphlet also links the number of a woman's casual sex partners to signs of depression, and warns women that, due to females' higher levels of oxytocin, they might have unreciprocated responses to sex.

"Because of it, you could develop feelings for a guy whose last intention is to bond with you," the pamphlet says. "You might think of him all day, but he can't remember your name."

According to Grossman, oxytocin, which is released during an intimate situation, prevents the brain from being as cautious and critical as it normally would be.

"Oxytocin is a politically incorrect hormone," Grossman said.

While men have hormones that promote attachment, they also have testosterone, Grossman said.

"[Testosterone] has the effect of making them want to distribute DNA as far and as wide as possible," she said.

Grossman used examples from television shows such as "Sex and the City" and "Grey's Anatomy" to illustrate the media's unrealistic messages.

"In real life, Carrie Bradshaw [from "Sex and the City"] would have herpes," Grossman said. "In real life, Meredith [from "Grey's Anatomy] would be worried about cervical cancer."

According to Grossman, the layer of protective cells in women's cervixes thickens as the body matures, making younger women more vulnerable to sexually-transmitted infections such as the human papillomavirus, which can lead to cervical cancer. Men do not have a similarly susceptible area, she said.

"This biological discrepancy and vulnerability is unlikely to change ... even if the [American Civil Liberties Union] threatens legal action," Grossman joked.

Women face greater obstacles in their pregnancies after the age of 35, Grossman said. When choosing careers, women must be conscious of their options, she explained.

"You need to know that your fertility is a window of opportunity that will close," Grossman said.

Questions from the audience were mostly factual, focusing on different aspects of HPV and its vaccine, although audience member Sheli Chabon '10, a member of Chabad, described Grossman's examples as "a little extreme" in an interview with The Dartmouth.

"I personally think Dr. Grossman alienated the audience by advocating that the only way for us to stay safe is to be with one person who we are absolutely positive has never been with anyone else," Chabon said. "This just doesn't fly on college campuses, however true it may be. But it was definitely interesting how she advocated abstinence using both modern medical knowledge and age-old scare tactics ... I do, however, think it's important to hear different perspectives."

Rabbi Moshe Gray, the director of Dartmouth's Chabad chapter, invited Grossman to speak at the College. Gray said he had read Grossman's book and believed it to be eye-opening, and added that he did not find Grossman's lecture very controversial.

"[Grossman] just wants to empower women to make good choices," he said.