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Three Rivers, Michigan: Sexual Violence in India’s Headlines

Horace M. Watts 1977 Goff Avenue Three Rivers, MI 49093

IN RECENT YEARS, news coverage of sexual violence in India has increased, but the Indian press’s coverage has serious flaws—including a tendency to ignore victims from underprivileged backgrounds and to print sensationalistic depictions of rape—according to a Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) paper published this month. The paper, by Joanna Jolly, former South Asia editor for the BBC and a spring 2016 fellow at the school’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, combined statistical analysis of rape coverage in some of India’s most prominent newspapers with information gleaned from her interviews with Indian journalists.

Jolly, who covered sexual violence in India herself during her time at the BBC, said her interest in the topic was sparked after a gang rape in Delhi in December 2012 made headlines in India and abroad. In that case, a woman—code-named Nirbhaya, or “fearless” in Hindi, by the press, given legal restrictions on printing her name—was raped and killed aboard a bus. The Nirbhaya case led to protests across India and eventually to changes to the Indian law on rape; as she covered incidents of sexual violence thereafter, Jolly said, she would often be asked questions ranging from “Did we not see protests a few years ago, and did we not see changes in the law?” to “Why haven’t there been any changes?” (For background on violence against women in South Asia, see Rohini Pande’s “Keeping Women Safe,” from the January-February 2015 issue.)

Seeking to answer the question of what changed in the society after the 2012 attack (or did not), Jolly began researching coverage of rape in India’s prominent English-language print media, including newspapers and magazines. (She said she would have liked to examine the Hindi-language press as well, but was limited by practical considerations.) She and her research assistant, Uzra Khan, M.P.P. ’16, determined quantitatively that coverage of sexual assault rose significantly in the press after the Nirbhaya case. They also determined that coverage of rape was more widespread in the media after December 2012 even during periods when the Nirbhaya case was out of the headlines. “I applaud the Indian print media for covering sexual violence,” Jolly said. “I think there have been huge strides ahead, in that it is now an issue that does hit the front pages a lot.”

But despite that progress, Jolly’s qualitative research—interviews with Indian reporters and editors—revealed what she saw as serious problems with press coverage of rape. The media outlets she researched were “very selective in the coverage that they gave sexual violence,” she said. Some journalists used the term PLU—short for “people like us”—to describe the kind of women whose attacks would be deemed worthy of coverage: middle- and upper-class residents of India’s cities—demographics that correlate strongly with the readership of English-language newspapers. Rape victims from rural areas, or of lower castes, such as the so-called untouchables, would rarely be the subjects of significant coverage in the English-language press.

Indian journalists also tend to select a certain type of case to cover. “Attacks were highlighted if they had an extreme form of violence in them,” Jolly said. “In a way, it was almost as if the violence sold the coverage.” Perhaps encouraged by the widespread public attention to the Nirbhaya case—in which especially gory details were reported—journalists strongly emphasized what she called “salacious” stories of attacks fueled by lust. She said that one newspaper even published an article that imagined how one of Nirbhaya’s attackers “would have felt while he was in the middle of the attack.”

Jolly also criticized some newspapers’ decision to accompany stories about sex crimes with “pictures of scantily clad women with these sort of unknown hands or shadows of men looming over them, and these women looking very helpless and victim-like.” By publishing such images, the media promotes “an almost Victorian idea of rape, of stranger danger” and takes rape “out of context and says it’s only ever done by kind of madmen, who attack women at night.” In reality, Jolly explained, rape in India is more likely to occur at home, at school, or in the workplace—and the perpetrator is more likely than not to be known to the victim.

Armed with this evidence, Jolly made a series of recommendations for what the Indian media can do to improve coverage of sexual violence. She called for “proper regulation” and “greater sensitivity,” to prevent excessively sensational coverage of rape. She urged newspapers and magazines to report on sexual violence “not just incident-to-incident, but instead as a social and economic and political phenomenon,” with a much broader scope than its current focus on affluent victims. And she said newsrooms should hire more women reporters and editors, “because studies show that when women are employed by newsrooms, they’re more likely to cover issues that relate to women.”

Jolly noted, however, that it is possible that no amount of increased sensitivity on the part of the media will totally resolve the issues she observed. Some journalists, she said, “felt they could do so much more on this issue, but they were being held back by the way sexual violence is viewed in the traditionally patriarchal society that is India. And they felt that the changes that they wanted to see were too slow in coming.”

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Miami, Florida: Operation Julie - LSD could still be undiscovered

Bill M. McKinney 4676 Poplar Lane Miami, FL 33128

Powys was at the centre of one of the world's biggest ever drugs busts in 1977.

Operation Julie smashed two LSD production and distribution networks thought to have been supplying up to 90% of the UK's market in the drug.

Forty years on, there are claims a small batch of the drug was left undiscovered close to the main manufacturing base in Carno near Llanidloes.

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Newcomb, New York: Silicone Sally - Japan men find true love with sex dolls

Kevin W. Jeffries 2893 Oak Drive Newcomb, NY 12852

WHEN the spark went out of Masayuki Ozaki's marriage, he found an unusual outlet to plug the romantic void – a silicone sex doll he swears is the love of his life.

The life-size dummy, called Mayu, shares his bed under the same roof as Ozaki's wife and teenage daughter in Tokyo, an arrangement that triggered angry rows before a delicate truce was finally declared.

"After my wife gave birth we stopped having sex and I felt a deep sense of loneliness," the 45-year-old physiotherapist told AFP in an interview.

"But the moment I saw Mayu in the showroom, it was love at first sight," blushed Ozaki, who takes his doll on dates in a wheelchair and dresses her in wigs, sexy clothes and jewellery.

"My wife was furious when I first brought Mayu home. These days she puts up with it, reluctantly," he added.

"When my daughter realised it wasn't a giant Barbie doll, she freaked out and said it was gross – but now she's old enough to share Mayu's clothes."

Ozaki is one of an increasing number of Japanese men turning to rubber romance in a country that's lost its mojo.

He also admits to being turned off by human relationships.

"Japanese women are cold-hearted," he said while on a seaside stroll with his silicone squeeze.

"They're very selfish. Men want someone to listen to them without grumbling when they get home from work," Ozaki added.

"Whatever problems I have, Mayu is always there waiting for me. I love her to bits and want to be with her forever.

"I can't imagine going back to a human being. I want to be buried with her and take her to heaven."

Removable head

Around 2,000 of the life-like dolls – which cost from $6,000 and come with adjustable fingers, removable head and genitals – are sold each year in Japan, according to industry insiders.

"Technology has come a long way since those nasty inflatable dolls in the 1970s," noted Hideo Tsuchiya, managing director of doll maker Orient Industry.

"They look incredibly real now and it feels like you're touching human skin. More men are buying them because they feel they can actually communicate with the dolls," he explained.

Popular with disabled customers and widowers, as well as mannequin fetishists, some men use dolls to avoid heartache.

"Human beings are so demanding," insisted 62-year-old Senji Nakajima, who tenderly bathes his rubber girlfriend Saori, has framed photos of her on his wall and even takes her skiing and surfing.

"People always want something from you – like money or commitment," he complained.

"My heart flutters when I come home to Saori," added the married father-of-two as he picnicked with his plastic partner.

"She never betrays me, she makes my worries melt away."

Nakajima's relationship with Saori has divided his family, but the Tokyo-born businessman refuses to give her up.

"My son accepts it, my daughter can't," said Nakajima, whose wife has banned Saori from the family home.

"I'll never date a real woman again – they're heartless," he insisted back at his cluttered Tokyo apartment, sandwiched between two dolls from previous dalliances and a headless rubber torso.

Reconciliation with his estranged wife is unlikely, admits Nakajima.

"I wouldn't be able to take a bath with Saori, or snuggle up with her and watch TV," he said, slipping the doll into some racy purple lingerie.

"I don't want to destroy what I have with her."

'To me, she's human'

While the pillow talk is decidedly one-way, Nakajima believes he has discovered true love, saying: "I'd never cheat on her, even with a prostitute, because to me she's human."

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As Japan struggles with a plummeting birthrate, a growing number of men – known as 'herbivores' – are turning their backs on love and traditional masculine values for a quiet, uncompetitive life.

"In the future I think more and more guys will choose relationships with dolls," said Yoshitaka Hyodo, whose home is an Aladdin's Cave of dolls, kitsch toys and Japanese erotica.

"It's less stress and they complain a lot less than women," he added.

Hyodo, a military buff who lives alone but has an understanding girlfriend, owns more than 10 life-size dummies – many of which he dresses in combat uniform to play out wartime fantasies.

But he claims to have cut down on doll sex.

"It's more about connecting on an emotional level for me now," said the 43-year-old blogger, whose curiosity was piqued at a young age when he found a charred mannequin in the street.

"People might think I'm weird, but it's no different than collecting sports cars. I don't know how much I've spent but it's cheaper than a Lamborghini," he said.

Future doll users can expect more bang for their buck as researchers work to develop next-generation sexbots able to talk, laugh and even simulate an orgasm.

But for now, Ozaki's long-suffering wife Riho tries hard to ignore the rubber temptress silently taunting her from her husband's bedroom.

"I just get on with the housework," she sniffed.

"I make the dinner, I clean, I do the washing. I choose sleep over sex."

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West Des Moines, Iowa: Can female preferences shape male behavior? In scientific terms, probably.

Charles S. Thomas 3559 Jenna Lane West Des Moines, IA 50266

Can female preferences shape the behavior and appearance of males? This is a scientific question with a long, controversial history.

Shortly after the 1871 publication of Charles Darwin’s “The Descent of Man,” a biologist named St. George Mivart wrote a review criticizing its proposed theory of sexual selection: Mivart refused to believe that the preferences and choices of females could constitute a selective pressure that shaped the behavior and physiology of male animals. Relying more on Victorian male prejudice than scientific reasoning, Mivart concluded that “the instability of vicious feminine caprice” could never shape the evolution of males.

Darwin, however, believed that female preferences could in fact shape the evolution of ornamental traits in males (deer antlers, peacock feathers and the like). He even described sexual selection occurring through the mechanism of female agency: “The male Argus Pheasant acquired his beauty gradually through the preference of the females during many generations for the more highly ornamented males,” he wrote in “Descent.”

Darwin’s was a minority opinion, and it remains one to this day. Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection, first articulated what has become a dominant view — that female animals simply prefer traits that are proxies for health and fitness. Beauty, in short, is just a sign of good genes, and females select mates on this basis alone.

A new book by Yale University ornithologist Richard O. Prum revives and expands Darwin’s provocative notion that beauty and genetic fitness are not always entwined. In “The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us,” Prum develops a theory of aesthetic evolution that shows how the females of many species select male traits not for their fitness value but simply because they are pleasing.

This might sound like an esoteric distinction within evolutionary biology, but its consequences are far-reaching. If animals prefer mates based on criteria that are not simply proxies for genetic fitness, then evolution is a far more expansive process than generally imagined. It can even accommodate some maladaptive features and behaviors, so long as they have sufficient aesthetic appeal.

Darwin and Prum present evolution as more than an engine that selects organisms with adaptive advantages. They claim that sexual selection operates in part through individual aesthetic preferences for songs, dances, displays, ornaments and even behaviors. Animals are not only shaped by the natural world, they also shape their own evolution through their preferences.

It makes sense that an ornithologist would be a champion of the aesthetic dimensions of evolution. Prum has observed more than a third of the roughly 10,000 species of birds in the world. The vast variety of distinctive avian colorations and song patterns is difficult to explain solely in terms of adaptive fitness. The club-winged manakin, for instance, is a species from the Ecuadorian Andes that “sings” by rubbing its wings together at high frequencies. These wing songs require evolutionary changes that are actually maladaptive. While other species of birds have hollow bones, the club-winged manakins have solid ulnas that help enhance the sound production of their wing songs. This decreases their flight capacity and efficiency, but these disadvantages seem to be offset by the mating opportunities that the songs create.

This is just one of many examples. Spotted bowerbirds from Australia have precise preferences for the types and colors of materials they use to build bowers, the ornamental structures they use to attract mates. One species favors a particular shade of royal blue, while another uses an optical illusion known as forced perspective that makes objects appear to be a different size than they actually are. The birds are not simply advertising their physical strength by collecting bower construction materials that are more difficult to find. They use very common materials — the skill is in the arrangement. “There is no compelling evidence that bower decorations are costly, honest signals of male quality,” Prum writes. “Rather, they appear to vary like any other aesthetic styles among species.” Males with better-constructed and more elaborately decorated bowers are rewarded with more mating opportunities.

The particulars of avian architecture, courtship dances and songs are thus somewhat contingent and arbitrary. Rather than functioning as signals of health or genetic quality, these complex behaviors develop over generations through the selective pressure of countless individual choices by avian females. Prum argues convincingly that the subjective experience of animals — the pleasure they take in aesthetic display — is a major evolutionary force. What is less clear and never really considered is whether animals are conscious of this pleasure and what it means when we say they experience beauty.

Prum opens his argument with avian examples, but he closes it by considering how the same principles might have shaped human evolution. He speculates that a broad range of features and behaviors — such as deweaponized canine teeth, eyebrows and pubic hair — may have originated through aesthetic evolution. Perhaps human females preferred some of these traits in males on purely aesthetic grounds: It’s hard to account for eyebrows as a highly functional indicator of genetic quality.

Prum is particularly eager to emphasize the role that female mating preferences may have played in human evolution, as if feminist arguments were simply waiting for the imprimatur of a biologist. While some of these conjectures are more plausible than others, the book is a major intellectual achievement that should hasten the adoption of a more expansive style of evolutionary explanation that Darwin himself would have appreciated.

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Eugene, Oregon: Gemma Collins boasts about designer vagina - 'I'm like a virgin again'

Fredrick C. Murray 2805 Haymond Rocks Road Eugene, OR 97402

The TOWIE star first had the £2,000 procedure back in March 2015 – and she isn't regretting it.

Gemma, 36, said her privates now "look like something you'd see in a movie".

Umm, what films have you been watching Gem?

The blonde is just one of the celebrities who've recently admitted to having the laser treatment, which tightens down below.

Others include DanNiella Westbrook and Real Housewives of Cheshire star Tanya Bardsley.

Talking about her experience, Gem said the treatment has helped her "rebrand herself" and that she feels like a "virgin again".

She said: "I actually pride myself – I’m mega confident, because I know I’ve got a designer vagina.

“It looks like something you’d see in a movie.”

The ITVBe star continued telling Closer magazine: “Designer vaginas are all the rage in Essex and it’s an important part of my rebranding. I’ve become a virgin again."

Gemma now keeps up her appearance of her vagina with "facials" on her privates. This includes scrubbing, steaming and exfoliation.

She apparently hopes her treatments will help her bag a new man.

Well who doesn't love a designer vagina?

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