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Lessons from Casey Anthony not guilty verdict

1.  Feelings of the public are at an all-time high giving people an opportunity to express themselves about many issues raised by the case, like justice, truth, parenting, lying, sex and drugs in youth, family dysfunction, and the law.  It is causative that people can use this case and this verdict as a chance to talk about these major issues but then they need to not just discuss Casey Anthony case, but also how these issues apply in their own lives.  In other words after discussing what a bad parent Casey is, and talk about parenting in your own experience and children.
2.  Casey Anthony being proven innocent feels like a farce and an outrage just like the O. J. case who lose confidence in the justice system and the law.  From a psychological point pf view, even though the law was carried out to the letter and there was obviously reasonable doubt, most people know and feel in their guts, that she is guilty and that Casey got away with murder.  The problem is that the letter of the law is often at odds with what could be the truth. The facts of a case can be totally opposite to the feelings about it but the legal system is hand-strung and people can lose confidence.
3. The outrage over Casey's acquittal offers warnings:
   A. to families and schools to teach good parenting
   B. to families and schools to teach family life skills and sex education
   C. to young girls not to get pregnant
   D. to programs that communities and the government need to institute about sex and drug use in young people
   E. to all levels of society not to tolerate "bad girl" behavior that is being promoted with wild behavior in the media and on TV shows giving extremely dangerous role models including shows like "Teen Mom" and Internet postings that perpetuate stories about teens, sex, drugs, partying and aggression.
   F. social service programs for family therapy need to be funded since the Anthony family are such a perfect example of a dysfunctional family with the daughter's acting out, the mothers lying and the fathers depression and suicidal behavior.
4.  All of these issues should be discussed in every household that has been obsessed with this case instead of just arguing  about the verdict.


CAUGHT IN WOMEN’S CLOTHES: Truths about Transvestism Spurred by Former Congressman Weiner expose

     In the latest exposé of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexual behavior, photos surfaced of his donning a bra and women’s hose in college. The pictures were reportedly taken by a college friend in 1982 when the now 46-year old Weiner was a sophomore student at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh. 

     Teenage behavior aimed at shock value – including such cross-dressing – is not uncommon, as I know from years of hearing teens report about their activities on my radio call-in advice show. 

     Some might be inclined to be further disgusted by the ex-pol’s behavior, but the desire to wear women’s clothes deserves more detailed analysis. 

     Dressing in underwear of the opposite sex can be a prank, advanced creative sex play between consenting partners, or part of a problem.

     The behavior, like any other sexual activity, becomes a problem if the person cannot have a loving intimate relationship with a partner, make wise judgments about how and when to engage in the behavior, or gets into trouble with his relationship, career or the law. 

     A major myth needs to be corrected. While some cross dressers – called transvestites -- are gay and a few are stage performers, the majority are heterosexual, married with children and working in respectable jobs.

     The behavior ranges from secretly trying on their wife’s clothing, to hiding female panties under their business suit, to full dress-up with make-up and wigs for outings in public hoping to “pass” as a woman.  Some cross-dressers adopt names for their “femme” persona, so Michael wants to be called Michelle and John renames himself Joan. 

     For thousands of cross dressers in this country (and also worldwide), the behavior allows relief from demands of masculinity, affords permission to feel beautiful, adored and taken care of, and offers a chance to experience both masculine and feminine sides of himself.

     As one man explains, "I like my male organ, but I also love knowing what it feels like to be a woman."

     Powerful men may engage in this behavior as a way to symbolically escape pressures to be in control or aggressive by assuming the role of a more passive and submissive female.  For this reason, the behavior is often accompanied by sexual activity characterized by dominance-submission or sado-masochism. Such men may want their partner to play a “male” or dominant role, or may frequent a professional dominatrix.

     Of course, unlike regular Joes, Weiner’s added status as a political figure affords him the opportunity and sense of entitlement to indulge his sexual fantasies and attract willing partners.

     What about Weiner’s wife, then?  Why doesn’t he just do those things with her? The answer lies in the "Madonna-prostitute" syndrome, whereby such men act out their erotic wild sex fantasies with a woman they can treat as a "slut" in order to keep his public partner, a wife or mother to his children, pure and pristine. With Weiner’s wife Huma being pregnant, this split is even more pronounced.  Also, while in principle Huma’s status as a powerful Alpha female in her public life (as the Secretary of States’ aide, traveling around the world meeting world leaders) would qualify her to dominate a man, her character precludes her from being likely to be receptive to these of her husband’s sexual fantasies.

     Wives of cross-dressing men have been given ratings according to their acceptance of their partner’s behavior.  In one survey, one in five wives demanded divorce and were given an "F," while one in four who got an "A" welcomed a "female" friend to go shopping with. 

     These “A” female partners may even request that he trade his pants for her panties where the role reversal gives her a sense of power and that he appreciates women.

      "When he's dressed like a girl, he really knows, like another woman would, how to please me sexually,” one woman enthusiastically told me.

      In the privacy of love chambers, a man can don his lover’s lingerie to give them both a thrill over role-playing the opposite sex, or trading traditional roles of power and control. 

     One man explained his cross-dressing as an outgrowth of homework given to him in couples’ therapy to learn how to please his wife by “walking a mile in her shoes.”  He took it literally, and squeezed not only into her shoes but her underwear too. Getting in her garb was a way to get inside her head.

     Cross-dressing has a social context.  Men are stigmatized by dressing or acting like the opposite gender, while the opposite does not apply. Women are allowed to display traditionally masculine behavior and to dress like men, like actor Diane Keaton so often seen in suits.

     As a psychologist, I must point out the difference between sex play and cross dressing urges and behavior that can lead to the man’s suffering guilt and depression in private. 

     One source offering support for these men is Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys who want to be Girls. Groups provide a safe place for these men to explore their identity and classes offer training about clothing, voice inflection, and gait.      

     Academy founder and sexologist Veronica Vera, whose philosophy is “Venus Envy,” says, “For every woman who burned her bra, there is a man eager to wear one.”

     The name of Miss Vera’s school is somewhat misleading, though, because men who really want to be a woman are not transvestites, but “transgender,” who feel born in the wrong body and seek sex reassignment.  

     Psychological explanations of cross-dressing range from envy of the opposite sex, frustration with male roles and restrictiveness of male fashion, to genetic predispositions, in-utero hormonal imbalances, and childhood searches for mother’s approval.       

     Cross- dressing can start when a teenage boy in a bathroom casually grabs his mother's undergarments to masturbate into, or, on a deeper level, when a little boy puts on mother’s clothes to feel close to an absent or adored female figure.

     It is one thing to reveal such behavior to a grown-up partner, but coming out to children is far more complicated.  For one family I worked with, the father chose to tell his children on Halloween, when dressed up as a woman, he explained that he enjoys doing this in his life on other occasions. At first, the children were confused and embarrassed (especially that peers would find out and tease them) but they eventually accepted the behavior once the family did not fall apart.

     Cross dressers challenge us to question what it means to be a man or a woman and the advantages of each gender.



Sex scandalized Congressman Weiner goes into therapy: will it work?

Congressman Weiner was forced to go into therapy as “damage control” given the timing of colleagues calling for his stepping down from office he insisted he would not leave.  He had no choice. 

But he really needs treatment.  While he hasn't said what that rehab will be, it undoubtedly will address his sexual behavior.

Like similar bad boys caught in reviling sex scandals -- Arnold, Tiger Woods, Spitzer -- going to rehab for a short time for “sex addiction” is just a band aid, giving in to public pressure demanding some responsibility and response, garnering sympathy.  In reality, the problems underlying these lewd and inappropriate acts are deep and require much more intensive therapy.

  •  Therapy should address multiple levels: 

Therapy for Weiner himself: (1) Sexual problems and sex addiction evidenced in his inability to control sexting to multiple women who are strangers and the latest scandal about one of these women being 17 years old; (2) deeper psychological problems, evidenced in his personality traits of narcissism and arrogance; exhibitionism, (exposing his naked body parts and bringing attention to his genitalia); poor judgment and low self-esteem underlying his arrogance; character flaws (evidenced in sexting on his personal couch with cats and family photos behind him); chronic infidelity and inability to maintain healthy intimacy in his relationship (reaching out to women on ‘lower’ levels than his Alpha female wife). To become a better father (as his statement said), he needs to explore his fears of fatherhood and “growing up” since his teenage-like behavior reveals immaturity (evidenced in his sexting to a teen who was a fan following him on twiiter and in using an adolescent and derogatory word for female private parts when referring to his cats). All this will require exploring the patterns while he was growing up and his relationship with his own father.

Therapy for Huma: She needs to address a likely conflict in her roles as a wife (marrying a man even after he told her about his cybersex behavior, as he admitted) distinct from her career role as an Alpha woman (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s right hand aide). This can involve soul-searching about how she could be so close to Hillary and repeat Clinton’s own marital trials (given that Clinton has referred to her as her second daughter). Therapy should explore influences on her choice of partner including her cultural background and family dynamics, for example, her father died when she was a teen, and had established an interfaith institute (which coincides with her interfaith marriage).    

Marriage counseling and sex therapy for Weiner and his wife. Huma needs to express her anger towards her husband for this scandal in their marriage and also for tainting her reputation and career, as well as her fears about motherhood and their future.  He needs to make new promises to her and new commitments.  They need to explore what was missing in their intimate life that allowed his behavior to go on, unchecked. Then they need to make new agreements and set up monitoring to insure commitment.

  • Prognosis for therapy:  Short-term therapy – the typical 30 day rehab center treatment -- will not work.  As his problems are deep, his urges will not easily be erased, and may only intensify now that Huma is pregnant. He will be forced to control his behavior under such intense scrutiny, but once the limelight goes off him, he will be tortured by his impulses and needs.  Also, his Madonna-Prostitute syndrome will intensify as her pregnancy advances.  This means the man splits women into the pure mother figure (Madonna mother of Christ) whom he cannot defile with his wild sex fantasies and instead acts them out in affairs with sexpot women with whom he does not have any responsibility or commitment. To address all thses issues and to insure his fidelity, he needs longer-term treatment and they need couples therapy throughout her pregnancy and when the baby is born.


Weiner’s Wife’s Pregnancy triggers Madonna-Prostitute Syndrome 

Shamed Congressman Weiner's sex urges might get worse when baby comes.

Huma Abedin was one wife caught up in her political husband’s sex scandal who surprisingly did not “stand by her man” – at least at his press conference where her Congressman-hubby admitted to techno-sex with numerous women even when newly wed. But with news of her pregnancy, it appears she really will stand with her man. 


Described by colleagues as an Alpha woman, and a powerful political figure herself (as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s close aide called her “secret weapon” during Clinton’s Presidential run), Huma does not theoretically have to stick with a techno-cheater.  Especially when he carried on under her nose, pictured on their couch, with their cats (he crudely called “pussies”), in front of the family photos.  (Weiner doesn’t get a pass for not having physical contact, as he tried to rationalize).   


But even Alpha women have reasons to stick with a misbehaving man. They may be emotionally dependent, have cultural or familial pressures, convince themselves they “love” him, or hope he’ll change.     


More often, they stay for the children. Now Huma has their baby on the way.


Should she still stay with her baby daddy?  Odds are, she will, for now.  Being a mother for the first time alone is not easy.  There’s also the child to consider; it’s better to have a repenting father than none at all.  


Huma should, however, insist that her wanderlust Weiner go into therapy. The cheating Congressman needs to delve deep into the reasons why he sacrificed everything to satisfy sexual and psychological urges. His explanation that his actions were simply “frivolous” and “dumb” is frivolous itself.


It’s more like narcissism and exhibitionism, with an added sense of entitlement, poor impulse control and exceptional poor judgment. 


While the condition of sex addiction has of late been grossly misused as an excuse in celebrated cases (infamously by lotharios like Tiger Woods), the criteria fits Weiner in three ways:  inability to control (stop) the behavior; acting out that causes trouble with  relationships and career; and getting in trouble with the law. 


Controlling the urges, as all 12-step programs for addiction direct, is a “one day at a time”trial. 


Very interestingly, men like Weiner suffer from what’s called the “Madonna-prostitute” syndrome (not Madonna the rock star, but Madonna the mother of Jesus) -- which only gets worse as the pregnancy progresses and when the child arrives.  The man splits women into two distinct roles – the pure mother figure who nurtures his child and takes care of him, and the sexpot who indulges his every sex fantasy and behavior.  He feels compelled to keep the wife/mother figure “pure”, so he finds other women for “wild” sex or whom he can defile. 


To cure this syndrome, the man has to admit he’s splitting, and allow his partner to be warm (nurturing) and also hot.


Such men also have to explore fears of intimacy. Their “approach-avoidance” towards women “equal” to them, and choice of younger prey, porn stars or prostitutes, usually betrays low self esteem and intimidation underlying bravado and false confidence. Inside he feels the gorgeous, successful woman couldn’t possibly go for the “nerd” he remembers he once was in high school.  Now he recaptures teenagehood nad raging hormones, making up for missed opportunity, acting like a stud, cashing in on his power position that women would fall for. Consequently, the man is only comfortable with women “beneath” them or over whom they can exert power without fear of competition or criticism.     


The couple also needs marriage counseling.  Since Weiner said his wife knew about his internet antics before they tied the knot and since his behavior continued, she needs to explore what in her judgment or self-esteem allowed her to put up with it or to be blind to the signs or his lies (no matter how good a pathological liar he is). 


Such couples also need sex therapy, with homework like setting aside time to be lovers and not just parents, and how to satisfy sexual needs not currently being met in the union (Weiner even said certain women would not engage in certain sexual acts).


Can Weiner be reformed?  Tough case, in my opinion. Strong fantasies and needs as those revealed in the sextexts and phone sex can be suppressed but persist, especially when the need is so strong to have his body parts, and his self, adored by many women.  Those needs do not go away without intense therapy and a strong desire to change.  


My advice: Go to acting classes, to get attention (he’s good at acting anyway). Throw himself into extreme sports to get his thrills, take risks and drain sexual energy. Hitting the wall in running releases the highs from the rush of pleasure-chemicals (endorphins) that are as pleasurable as orgasm.


Write a book about your life. Get a TV show like disgraced former NY governor Spitzer.


Other dangers foretell that their sex life could get worse.  As a new mother spends more time and attention on the baby, the man feels more deprived, frustrated and resentful, and seeks satisfaction elsewhere.        


The new mother is also too tired for sex, or hates her fuller or flabbier body. 


If the baby was not planned, the working mother may also resent that she cannot pursue her career.


Some couples gamble that having a child will cement their commitment and stave off a man’s urge to stray. This last ditch effort often does not work.   


Other betrayed political spouses provide opposing role models.  Elizabeth Edwards stuck it out until the end (her sad death from cancer) despite Presidential hopeful John Edward’s long-time affair and love child with a former employee. On the other hand, Edwards’ lover, Rielle Hunter, now raising that love child, is now dumping him (as he faces indictment), willing to go it alone. 


Maria Shriver knew about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s behavior – the press exposed his groping and harassing other women years ago, even during Maria’s pregnancy with four children.  She stayed, long suffering – until finally he was out of office and her father and her uncle Teddy Kennedy - who reportedly suggested she stay since Kennedy women stand by their men -- was dead. 


Huma could suffer a similar long-suffering fate, if Weiner does not get rehabilitated.   

When newly married and childless, it would have been easier to kick a louse to the curb. For now, Huma needs to give Weiner a second chance.  But if bad behavior rears its ugly head at any point, she should not fall victim again, and instead of standing by her man, she should stand up for herself.      


More of Dr. Judy on Anthony Weiner's Sext Scandal 




Lights Go Out as Songwriter Commits Suicide at time when Father and Son both Face Serious Assault Charges

     73-year old Oscar-wining songwriter James Brooks and his musician son Nicolas, 25, both faced assault charges – until the father trumped the law by ending his life.  On HLN’s Issues show, Jane Velez Mitchell asked me, “Is it coincidence or bad blood?”

    My answer:

     There is a genetic predisposition to violence, aggression and even suicide. The father was luring Hollywood hopefuls to his apartment and forcing them to have sex, and the son was charged with murdering his designer girlfriend in a fancy New York hotel.

     Psychologically, behaviors are usually a mix of “nature-nurture.” Some determinants are in the genes and a proportion is learned by experience or example.

    Brooks, the “You Light Up my Life” songwriter, won an Academy Award in 1977 for his cheery tune but his life hardly matched his lyrics. His horrific demise is worse than the story lines of the cancelled ABC-TV soaps. The skeletal elderly man  (looking like death warmed over, likely from years of drug abuse) died from a crude home-made “suicide kit” (also called an “exit bag”) that causes asphyxiation by wrapping a plastic dry-cleaning bag around his head, with a tube attached to a helium gas tank.

     My suspicion:

     Though it was officially called a suicide, could someone else have been involved? Brooks was feeble from two strokes and reportedly couldn’t even open a juice bottle he purchased that morning, so how could he wrap a towel tightly around his neck, which was part of the “helium hood” contraption to insure he got gassed?  Besides, the gruesome technique is described in online euthanasia how-to’s – and euthanasia usually means “assisted suicide.” On top of that, a woman had supposedly been helping him lure the women into his sordid lair.

     Committing suicide in that manner is rare; people do asphyxiate themselves in cars but it is far more common, and less elaborate, to overdose. Psychologically the method of suicide always has some significance; for example, it matters how violent the action was (a self-inflicted gunshot obviously reflects more anger than quietly going to sleep after taking pills). Also, the asphyxiation method has a sexual component -- considering that helium gets people high, which was consistent with Brooks’ sexual perversion.  

     Clearly this sad rapist had nothing to live for.  There are plenty of examples of people who are facing legal charges they clearly will not beat, who take their own life rather than face conviction and consequences.   

     My good friend Jane Velez Mitchell likes to call such stories “cautionary tales” and  indeed this is one. Women need to stop falling prey to bad men (even Brooks’ daughter called him a bully, scary and intimidating) Hollywood hopefuls need to stop falling falling into the casting couch.


Raped 11 year old Girl Gives Birth


     In another example of how real life can be more drastic than the soaps (recently cancelled by ABC-TV), a 12-year old girl, with special ed needs, gave birth to a baby boy after being raped and infected with a sexually transmitted disease  That means she was impregnated when she was 11 years old!  Sad. Shocking.  

     How astounding is it that one report has estimated that up to one in four 6 graders in Philadelphia have reportedly been sexually active.

     Girls are maturing at younger and younger ages, due to hormonal changes.  Just in our lifetime, baby boomers were getting their period at 15 or 16; then the next generation of girls were menstruating by 13, and now the age of sexual maturation has plunged as low as 8  -- even more reason to support comprehensive sexuality education as a solution instead of blaming such sex ed, as some do.

     The rape happened in a YMCA camp, by a 17 year old boy -- even more reason to have life skills education in schools, for boys to learn how to keep their hormones in check, how to treat young girls, what sex is and what constitutes rape.

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