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Pain is so close to pleasure

Woman featured in Times story about sexual disorder commits suicide

By Leonora LaPeter Anton,

Persistent genital arousal disorder brings woman agony, not ecstasy

A woman who was featured in a Tampa Bay Times story that dealt with a rare sexual disorder was found dead of suicide late Saturday at her home in Spring Hill, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s officials did not provide details about how or when Gretchen Molannen died, but she was last seen alive Thursday at 11:30 p.m. Records show deputies responded to a suicide call about midnight Saturday night. The Times received emails from two of her friends confirming her death and lamenting that she wasn’t able to get the help she needed.

Molannen, 39, suffered from persistent genital arousal disorder, a debilitating condition marked by continuous sexual arousal. Women who have the disorder are physically but not psychologically aroused. Many must masturbate for hours for just a few minutes of relief. Some doctors believe the condition is caused by a nerve malfunction.

Molannen struggled with the disorder for 16 years. For the first 10 years, she had no idea what she had and suffered in silence. She tried to work, but the condition affected her job performance and she was unable to keep steady employment after 1999. She lived in Spring Hill with her parents — both now dead — and never told them what she was going through. In 2007, she saw a woman talk about the condition on the TV program 20/20 and finally realized what she had.

Molannen sought help from numerous medical professionals, but many had never heard of the condition. She couldn’t afford the tests or treatments that have worked for some sufferers.

She said the condition was so debilitating that she attempted suicide at least three times during the past year.

“I know that God wants more out of my life than having me testing out suicide methods, constantly crying and abusing myself,” she said in the story that was published on Tampabay.com on Friday and in the Times’ Floridian magazine on Sunday.

The Times found Molannen on Craigslist in early 2012; she was seeking help from medical professionals. She had no income and had filed for Social Security disability benefits. Her request had been rejected. She wanted someone to give her a free MRI so she could prove her condition to a judge.

Molannen agreed to tell her story last July. The Times interviewed her for a total of 10 hours, about half in person and half on the phone. In August, she went before a disability judge for a second time. He later rejected Molannen’s disability claim and she gave that rejection letter to the Times.

Last week, after the story had been written and edited but before it was published, it was read to Molannen word for word. Several small details were removed at her request.

Before publication, the Times thanked her over the phone and in an email for her help. She replied by email on Nov. 28:

“Thank YOU for taking an interest in doing a story for me! I am flattered that you cared so much to want to help. I just hope this will educate people that this is serious and really exists, and that other women who are suffering in silence will now have the courage to talk to a doctor about it. If men have suffered with the shame of impotence or even priapism, now it’s time for women to get help as well. Thank you for your patience with me and for devoting so much time to this. I’m sure your editor is very proud of your work and I’m excited to see my own story online.”

The Times tried to reach Molannen over the weekend by text, phone and email to see how she was doing. She did not respond.

On Monday, her boyfriend sent the Times an email, saying she had committed suicide and the story “won’t help her now.”

After publication, the Times received several offers to help Molannen, from both legal and medical professionals. Two women called, saying they had a similar problem and hoped to talk to Molannen about it. The story was also shared on a support group for women with persistent genital arousal disorder and many of the women responded. (For more information on the support group go to www.psas-support.com.)

“Wow, you are awesome, Gretchen,” a woman named Jill wrote. “You have suffered so, may God bless you for sharing your story that was difficult to read let alone live.”

SOURCE

A shock tactic gone too far? New ad features senior citizens simulating sex positions to promote use of condoms

A shock tactic gone too far? New ad features senior citizens simulating sex positions to promote use of condoms
By Kristie Lau

An advertisement featuring senior citizens simulating sexual acts has sparked shock from consumers.

Too much? An ad campaign showing senior citizens in a series of different sexual positions has sparked shock among consumers


Visual impact: Though the seniors featured in the video are fully-clothed, the sexual nature of the positions is impossible to ignore

The video campaign, released by U.S. organisation SaferSex4Seniors.org, is designed to promote safe sex through use of condoms following news that STDs among sexually-active seniors in Florida had risen by 71per cent over the past five years.

But many believe the group, while promoting a worthy cause, has taken shock tactics too far.

The 30-second video, released on YouTube today, shows a group of elderly men and women mocking the performance of fellatio as well as other challenging sexual positions.

In one scene, a particularly strong man is holding a woman who is standing upside down on her elbows. Deadpan expressions are shown on their faces.

But Akila Gibbs, the executive director of the Pasadena Senior Center told Wsbt.com that he believes the ad detracts attention from the campaign’s cause.

He said: ‘I think it looks like they’re making fun of seniors, more than they’re educating them.’

Safer Sex For Seniors, aims to provide ‘accurate, up-to-date information from experts in the field’.

It is formed of an independent collective of professional sexuality educators, researchers, authors, trainers, counselors, and therapists and provides fact sheets and advice via its website

Gothamist.com added: ‘Nobody wants to think about – let alone picture – their Grandma doing it.’

Randy Matheson, a Canadian media blogger, was shocked by the footage.
He wrote on his blog: ‘While I can only hope that no hips were ‘dislodged’ in the making of this PSA featuring spry senior couples acting out positions from the Kama Sutra, I cramped up just watching the video.’
Twitter has drawn the comments of further shocked consumers.


High risk: The ad highlights the fact that the rate of STDs among sexually active seniors has risen by over 70per cent in the last five years

DDB, the New York-based advertising agency which produced the video has defended its campaign, describing it as a ‘strategic choice to use humor and shock value’.
A spokesman told Gothamist.com: ‘Rather than taking a negative approach that uses scare tactics and piles on statistics to deter unsafe sex, DDB made the strategic choice to use humor and shock value.

Powerful message: The payoff reads, ‘While there are many ways to do it… There’s only one way to do it safely

Safety firstThe makers of the ad want seniors to enjoy their sex lives responsibly

‘Whether the younger generation likes it or not, our grandparents are having sex.

‘We wanted to make a sexy ad that maintains a level of tastefulness and encourages seniors to enjoy their sex lives – safely.’

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Read more:SOURCE

Ex-Porn Star Shares Love Of Literacy With Elementary Class


Sasha Grey Reading: Ex-Porn Star’s California Elementary School Appearance Prompts Review

COMPTON, Calif. — Officials of a California school system plan to meet with the agent who schedules celebrity guests to read to children after some parents complained that having a former adult film star as a participant was inappropriate.

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A Compton Unified School District statement says the outside talent coordinator listed Sasha Grey as an actress who had appeared in the HBO show “Entourage” when she was proposed as a participant in the Guest Reading Program at Emerson Elementary School this month. Grey’s previous experience in adult films wasn’t mentioned.

The district says it will review the selection process with the coordinator to avoid any potentially controversial readers in the future.

The district clarified that the Guest Reading Program is not associated with the National Education Association’s annual March event Read Across America.


SOURCE

The Narrow Definition Of Rape

Rape Definition Too Narrow in Federal Statistics, Critics Say

By ERICA GOODE

— Thousands of sexual assaults that occur in the United States every year are not reflected in the federal government’s yearly crime report because the report uses an archaic definition of rape that is far narrower than the definitions used by most police departments.

Carol Tracy said at a meeting in Washington that federal figures failed to portray the extent of sexual assaults accurately.

Many law enforcement officials and advocates for women say that this underreporting misleads the public about the prevalence of rape and results in fewer federal, state and local resources being devoted to catching rapists and helping rape victims. Rape crisis centers are among groups that cite the federal figures in applying for private and public financing.

“The public has the right to know about the prevalence of crime and violent crime in our communities, and we know that data drives practices, resources, policies and programs,” said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, whose office has campaigned to get the F.B.I. to change its definition of sexual assault. “It’s critical that we strive to have accurate information about this.”

Ms. Tracy spoke Friday at a meeting in Washington, organized by the Police Executive Research Forum, that brought together police chiefs, sex-crime investigators, federal officials and advocates to discuss the limitations of the federal definition and the wider issue of local police departments’ not adequately investigating rape.

According to the 2010 Uniform Crime Report, released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week, there were 84,767 sexual assaults in the United States last year, a 5 percent drop from 2009.

The definition of rape used by the F.B.I. — “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” — was written more than 80 years ago. The yearly report on violent crime, which uses data provided voluntarily by the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, is widely cited as an indicator of national crime trends.

But that definition, critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting.

“The data that are reported to the public come from this definition, and sadly, it portrays a very, very distorted picture,” said Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women, part of the Department of Justice. “It’s the message that we’re sending to victims, and if you don’t fit that very narrow definition, you weren’t a victim and your rape didn’t count.”

Steve Anderson, chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, said that the F.B.I.’s definition created a double standard for police departments.

“We prosecute by one criteria, but we report by another criteria,” Chief Anderson said. “The only people who have a true picture of what’s going on are the people in the sex-crimes unit.”

In Chicago, the Police Department recorded close to 1,400 sexual assaults in 2010, according to the department’s Web site. But none of these appeared in the federal crime report because Chicago’s broader definition of rape is not accepted by the F.B.I.

The New York Police Department reported 1,369 rapes, but only 1,036 — the ones that fit the federal definition — were entered in the federal figures. And in Elizabeth Township, Pa., the sexual assault of a woman last year was widely discussed by residents. Yet according to the F.B.I.’s report, no rapes were reported in Elizabeth in 2010.

In a recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, almost 80 percent of the 306 police departments that responded said that the federal definition of rape used by the Uniform Crime Report was inadequate and should be changed.

Greg Scarbro, the F.B.I.’s unit chief for the Uniformed Crime Report, said that the agency agreed that the definition should be revised and that an F.B.I. subcommittee would take up the issue at a meeting on Oct. 18.

“Our goal will be to leave that meeting with a definition and a mechanism,” Mr. Scarbro said. But he noted that law enforcement agencies would have to support any change.

A more comprehensive definition of rape is used by the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, started in 1988 to address deficiencies in the Uniform Crime Report. But that system covers 28 percent of the population and has not gained wide traction as a reporting method. If the F.B.I. does adopt a broader definition, law enforcement agencies — especially those that use the federal standard in their own counts — may find themselves explaining a sudden increase in reported rapes.

“You can’t ignore the politics of crime,” said Charles H. Ramsey, commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department and the president of the police research forum, who backs changing the federal definition.

“With the new definition, it’s going to dramatically change the numbers,” Commissioner Ramsey said. Police chiefs will then need to explain to the public that the increase represents an improvement in reporting, rather than a jump in actual numbers of sexual assaults.

The Chicago Police Department uses a definition of sexual assault laid out by Illinois statute. Currently, the Uniform Crime Report does not include any rape statistics from Chicago; a footnote in the report says that the city’s methodology “does not comply with the Uniform Crime Reporting Program guidelines.” The Chicago department plans to start reporting the subset of rapes that meet the federal definition to the F.B.I., said Robert Tracy, chief of crime control strategies.

Tom Byrne, chief of detectives in Chicago, said at the meeting earlier in the day on Friday, “If we conformed to the U.C.R. definition, technically we’re going to be taking rapes off the books.”

The gap between the federal counts and the real numbers reported to the police may be most apparent in small towns, said Robert W. McNeilly, police chief in Elizabeth Township, just outside Pittsburgh.

“When we have a sexual assault in a small town, people know about it, people talk about it,” he said. “But when the U.C.R. report comes out at the end of the year and we report zero rapes, I think we lose credibility.”

In some cases, however, police departments contribute to the problem. The Baltimore Police Department made sweeping changes in the way it dealt with sexual assault after The Baltimore Sun revealed last year that the department had been labeling reports of rape as “unfounded” at a rate five times the national average.

The problem, Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said, was rooted in the attitudes and lack of understanding of officers toward rape and rape victims.

“We didn’t just suddenly veer off the road and strike a tree — this was a very long process that led to this problem,” Commissioner Bealefeld said.

After making changes, the department saw an 80 percent reduction in “unfounded” classifications. But because they had been misclassified, Commissioner Bealefeld said, those cases never appeared in the Uniform Crime Report.

“When you unfound those cases, you take it off your U.C.R. numbers, as though they never occurred,” he said.

SOURCE

NEW $5 ATM FEE JUST THE LATEST CHECKING TRAP

CT by Bob Sullivan

“Total Checking.” “Value Checking.” “MyAccess Checking.” What do they all have in common? The word “free” is missing from the name.

You are likely painfully aware that big banks like Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America have ended no-strings-attached free checking accounts. But if you had any questions about how restrictive — or expensive — those strings can be, consider Chase bank. Scarcely two years ago, we marveled at banks’ efforts to inch fees up to $3 per withdrawal. Chase bank is now test-piloting $5-per-withdrawal fees for non-customers in Illinois. That’s in addition to fees the consumers’ bank charges. Soon it may cost $10 to grab $20 in a pinch.

Once upon a time, consumers could expect to earn money by leaving their cash sitting in a bank. Today, consumers must worry about their bank slowly bleeding money out of the account. The change is happening swiftly. Chase says it’s converted around 8 million free accounts — many former customers of Washington Mutual — into “follow-our-rules-or-pay-up-to-$144-annually” accounts.

It costs banks about $300 apiece annually to offer checking accounts, according to a recent study by Bretton-Woods. They used to recoup these costs by helping themselves to some $30 billion worth of overdraft fees from consumers. But now that the cash cow has been largely eliminated by new consumer regulations, banks are trying out new techniques to recoup this lost revenue.

Just how far will banks be able to push fee-weary consumers? That’s unclear. Earlier this month, Bankrate.com released a survey showing 75 percent of consumers earning $75,000 or more would rather switch banks than pay higher fees. Overall, 64 percent of customers said they’d bolt.

That ire may not translate into action, however, and banks know it. A J.D. Power study released on March 1 found that, while consumers are switching banks at a slightly higher rate than in the past (8.7 percent last year, compared to 7.7 percent a year earlier), fees and interest rates have almost nothing to do with their choices. “Pricing” impacted only 4 percent of consumers, the study found.

This would not be a surprise to behavioral economists. Consumers almost never consider fees — particularly punitive fees like overdrafts or “your balance fell below $1,000” charges — when making purchase decisions. Nearly everyone suffers from what’s sometimes called “magical thinking” — as in, “I’ll never misbehave and get hit by that fee.”

It’s the shallow things that matter
So what do people consider when switching banks? Big, impressive buildings and billboards seemed to matter most, the survey found. Here’s the depressing quote from the JD Power press release:

“For customers evaluating and ultimately selecting a new bank, the most important factors driving their decision are advertising; branch convenience; products and services; promotional offers; and direct and indirect customer experience,” it said.

That means you can expect higher fees, more buildings and more kooky ads from banks.

There was one positive note in the J.D. Power research. There is evidence consumers do have their limits. About 17 percent of consumers who switched banks said high fees or low interest motivated the breakup.

Banks argue that it’s not fair to say free checking has disappeared. OK. Let’s just say NSA relationships with big banks are dead, replaced It’s by accounts wrapped in red tape. And remember, many of these rules can change at any time. So here’s five Red Tape Traps you’ll find along the way to a free checking account.


1) Soaring ATM fees
We’ve already mentioned Chase’s $5 experiment. Plenty of folks now pay $6 or $7 per withdrawal, when the ATM machine fee is added to their own bank’s fee. These fees are perhaps the best example of magical thinking at work. Most folks think they’ll be good about walking the extra block to access cash at their bank’s ATM. But when there’s a screaming kid in a stroller or an impatient date on the arm, you’re likely to just pay the fee. Even one so-called “foreign” ATM transaction with a $5 hit every month costs $60 annually. Be realistic: If your bank charges for such transactions, you should just budget $100 annually for ATM service. But a much better choice is to find a bank that doesn’t charge you. For those ATM emergencies, you’ll at least cut your ATM fees in half, and some banks — USAA Federal Savings Bank, for example — refund the ATM bank’s fees. There’s no law preventing you from getting a secondary checking account with a new institution that you use primarily for accessing cash on the fly. I recommend this kind of “allowance” account structure in Stop Getting Ripped Off.

A few other creative efforts can cut your ATM fees. Get cash back when you shop at grocery stores with your debit card, although that’s not my favorite way to use debit. Better yet: Find fee-free ATMs. They’re out there. The WaWa convenience store chain offers them, and it recently performed its one billionth fee-free cash withdrawal.

What it costs: Two “foreign” withdrawals per month — $120

2) Keeping your minimum balance
Most account holders are familiar with the idea that they might have to do something — maintain a minimum balance or direct deposit their paychecks — in order to keep some level of service.

But now, a single slip-up, such as a flurry of cashed checks that sink your balance to $998.43 for one afternoon, can be costly. With fees of $12 or more, the experience is not unlike getting hit with an overdraft. The same advice you followed to prevent overdrafts applies here. Some banks let you link your savings and checking accounts to make sure you don’t dip below that minimum. Sign up for text message alerts so you can get early notification of a dangerously low balance, and log on to online banking to check your balance often. Stagger your regular payments so they hit after your paychecks.

The biggest Red Tape Trap of all, however, is the dreaded movable minimum balance. Consumers who once enjoyed fee waivers for keeping $500 in an account can see that minimum raised to $750 or $1,000. It’s easy to miss a warning letter from the bank, and end up with one or two months of $12 fees. The clearest hint a balance change is coming is an account name change (see below).

What it costs: Two slip-ups — $24

3) Overdraft fee marketing
The voracious overdraft fee animal isn’t gone, it’s just been put back in its cage. Until recently, consumers could incur $35 overdraft fees by making small purchases with their debit cards. Today, those transactions are simply declined by the bank, or approved without the fee — unless the bank has received explicit opt-in permission from the account holder. Banks have driven hard to trick consumers into giving up this permission, which is inappropriate for the vast amount of consumers. They’ve given it pleasing sounding names like “courtesy pay,” “Buffer Zone,” or “debit card advance,” and plastered bank windows with pictures of smiling, attractive men and women who say they are relieved to have this peace of mind. If you’ve been tricked into signing up for overdraft protection, un-sign up immediately.

What it costs: Two overdrafts — $70

4) The name has changed
The surest sign a new fee or restriction is coming is a name change — either the name of your bank has changed because of an acquisition (like Washington Mutual becoming Chase) or the name of your account has been changed. Former Washington Mutual customers have seen their account names changed from “WaMu Free Checking” to “Chase Free Extra Checking” to “Chase Total Checking,” which is totally more expensive than free. Ironically, a Google search for Washington Mutual still sends consumers to a Web page at Chase.com with the title “WaMu.com, home of WaMu Free Checking, is now Chase.”

Chase customers can avoid checking fees through a variety of methods — maintaining a minimum daily balance, a high average balance, making at least one large direct deposit, or by paying a bunch of other fees.

The amounts required — at least one $500 deposit — aren’t Draconian, but the rules mean consumers have a lot of new things to keep track of. They will slip up, and pay. And of course, the rules can and will change. Beware the notice that you’ve just been upgraded to “Complete Awesome Checking” or “Value Asset Acquisition Checking.” You almost certainly are about to be hit with a new fee or rule.

What it costs: Two mistakes — $24

5) The hidden cost of no interest
Of course, requiring a minimum balance of $1,500 or so is itself a fee. That’s money you could park in a high-yielding money market account earning interest. Even a 1 percent interest rate would get you a smidge more than $15 on your $1,500, so that kind of minimum requirement amounts to a $15 annual fee.

What it costs: Missed interest — $15

TOTAL TRAP COST: $253 annually.

This entire column has been a not-so-subtle suggestion that you consider banking alternatives. Online banks like ING Direct offer higher interest and fewer fees. Credit unions and small banks still offer really free checking. In fact, BankRate.com just released a survey showing 38 of the 50 largest credit unions have free checking with no strings attached, and about half of them don’t even require a minimum balance. Their ATM fees are, on average, half of traditional bank fees and one-quarter of the large credit unions charge no ATM fees at all.

That means there’s no reason not to open a credit union account, even if it merely serves as a secondary checking account.

http://redtape.msnbc.com/2011/03/total-checking-value-checking-myaccess-checking-what-do-they-all-have-in-common-the-word-free-is-decidedly-missing-from-t.html?GT1=43001