Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Lesson from London v1.0

The Fray never fail to force introspection.

I was asked again today what my favorite part of being in London was. 

Honestly, I think that my answer to the question changes every time I am asked.  Sometimes I say, “The people, hands-down.”  Other times I offer, “the culture” or “the food” or “living in a city.”

Most often, though, I simply say it’s impossible to tell, the whole experience was just too relevant, too present all of the time.

Driving home from Duluth, I was thinking about what London meant to me, and I tried to sum it up in as few words as I could.  Turns out, that’s just not easy to do.  So I started thinking, deeply, reflectively, about what my answer to that inevitable question really is.

I came up with this:

The most spectacular thing about being abroad was learning to love myself.

I’m resisting the urge to qualify my selfishness here in typing that.  But, it’s the truth.  Learning to love the inner you, the being you can never escape, is a lesson in patience, health, honesty, and—predictably—love.

I haven’t quite managed to perfect the message here, but I’m trying.  Like most things in life, this is a process, a challenge.  Luckily, it’s one worth rising to.

Tonight, love yourself, because you’re adored, embraced, and loved by one lonely blogger in Northern, MN:

That’s enough for now, I would never have left you broken,
I would have held you: things your father never told you.

Monday, March 28, 2011


It’s not that kids are irritating, or even that I don’t understand them.  It’s mostly that kids, regardless of how delightfully cute or endearingly funny they can be, serve as an ever-present reminder of how painfully awkward being a child was in Walker, Minnesota.  Home towns are silly that way, too, at least in this neck of the woods.  Every time I return to the City on the Bay—the water tower’s words, not mine—I feel so oddly adolescent.  I feel like I’m going through puberty all over again.  I get sweaty, struggle to speak, and frequently find myself saying “wow, that wasn’t there before!”  In many ways, entering this little city is just a stream of flashbacks, of repressed memories, of secrets and lies woven into the fabric of growing up.  Dairy Queen is still around, but they have touch screen computers now; The Village Square still serves the best pizza, but the menu looks different every year; and the casino is still loud and colorful as ever, but the parking lot is fuller and fuller each time the stoplight changes from red to green.

But that’s sort of the nature of life, right?  Places change, people change; friends move on, tourists become locals.  Change is inevitable, in same way that love and sorrow and grief and joy are inevitable.  You accept that everything is capable of happening, and that everything, indeed, does happen.

So it’s not surprising that being home this time around is full of little changes, of alterations barely noticed.  Zona’s is closed on Mondays for now.  This is neither awesome nor helpful.  How am I supposed to marathon drink over spring break without my favorite bar open twice a week?  I swear things have never been worse!  My mom and dad have their own new homes, both of which are superb and absolutely fitting for each of them.  Scout is a little grayer in the face and her shoulder rarely fails to bother her.  Mambo still has one eye, but at least her leg is back to functional.  Lucee is whiter, a little slower, but thinner than I remember her being.  The speech team has lost anyone I recognize, I’ve grown too old to know any of the young blood that’s tearing up the circuit in the northland.

But, if there is one change that seems to be prevalent in my own life, as of recent, it is this: Josh Plattner is a newly minted asshole!

I know, I know.  Pish-posh, right?!  Me, an asshole?  Pardon?!  At the risk of sounding like the very word I am trying to deny, I am nothing if not positively wonderful to be around and in demeanor.  Asshole? Ha!  I couldn’t be one if I tried. 

(That last statement probably throws up a red flag for most of you.  Yes, I can be an asshole, and I have been one before, but I really don’t think that if I tried to be one that I could pull it off.  Whenever asshole-mode-Josh comes out, it’s not because I’m trying.  It just sort of happens.  Ugh…that totally sounds like I AM an asshole, but I promise I’m not.  Not completely.  But, hey, we all have our moments, yeah?)

Right.  Explanation. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been seriously called an asshole in all of my 21 years of life—not seriously, anyway; friends can joke, people tease, etc. But within ten days of each other, I have been called an asshole with the intention of actually labeling me as, you guessed it(!), an asshole.  So being the smartass that I often am, I just had to look up what qualifies being an asshole on the Internet’s most trusted website for realistic definitions: UrbanDictionary.

Here are a few of those definitions:
1)      Your current boss.
2)      Someone being rude, arrogant, obnoxious, or just a total dickhead…
3)      An inconsiderate, arrogant, uncaring, selfish, borderline sadistic, apathetic, mean, spiteful, dishonorable, bastard of a man who could tempt the Pope into a fight.

Now, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but really?  Really? 

I am no one’s boss, let alone the person in charge of the two gentlemen who think I’m an asshole.  Though, currently, I cannot help but think how wonderful it would be to actually be in charge of their employment.  Oh, the maliciousness!

I am rarely rude or arrogant, and never a total dickhead.  Obnoxious?  Yeah, probably, I’m loud and weird all the time, but, contextually, I think we can agree that I slip passed this one too.

If anything, I am too caring, too willing to invest in others.  I’m not spiteful, dishonorable, or sadistic, and I certainly would never attempt to fight the pope.  (Although…that’s a funny image right?  I would totally take that hat thing after I broke his feeble, feeble knees and wear it around my house.)

If anything, the closest definition of “asshole” I came across, the one that gets closest to yours truly is this little gem:
An obnoxious, arrogant, self-centered male who women can't seem to get enough of.

If you get rid of two of those adjectives, I am, indeed, an asshole!  Most of me believes that this definition was just poorly sorted.  It probably just belongs under the heading:

Gay Man.
Don’t even pretend I’m wrong.

Tangents aside, I have been called an asshole twice in ten days!  More importantly, both of the people saying it meant it!  To be fair, the first instance was in a fit of rage from my ex that quickly subsided when he checked himself.  (Sometimes we need to be read, need to hold up that mirror!)

The second instance happened just this afternoon.  With that said, I’d like to tell you a little story.  I think it’s a good’n.

I finished my book just in time for a family of five to walk in, order some ice cream, and talk quietly amongst themselves about what a quaint, comfortable little town Walker is.  (For those not in the know, ‘quaint’ and ‘comfortable,’ when used by tourists or passingthroughs, mean ‘boring’ and ‘uneventful.’)  I was on the verge of tears when they came through the door—my book was that good—and when I set Beatrice and Virgil down, I accidently knocked the book off of my table.  When the book flopped onto the tile, and because I often forget that I am in public where people can hear, view, and respond to my insanity, I loudly said: “Yann Martel!  What are you doing on the floor?  You get back up here.”

I realized the family was watching me.  The two youngest children, around 6 and 10, giggled because I was a) using an odd voice, and b) taking to myself.  I smiled and picked up my book, and then started the second novel I had brought to the coffee shop.  As I siftedged through the slippery pages of Skippy Dies, the children that had been laughing earlier decided that asking me an enormous amount of questions would be a better use of their time than mowing down there chocolate shakes. 

“How old are you?”
“What are you doing?
“Can I trade my drink for your computer?”
“Are you reading?”
“Is your favorite color blue?”
“What’s your name?”

Instead of humoring them with answers, I would shake or nod my head, keeping my eyes glued to the pages of my freshly started novel.  When they asked for my name, I looked up and said, “Josh.”

And they laughed!  Is that really all it takes to make children laugh?  Speaking?  Maybe my name sounds funny to young ears.  I guess I never thought of Josh as chuckle-worthy.  Mostly it’s commonplace, a little boring.  I even tried to switch what people called me my freshman year by introducing myself with my middle name.  Alas, Leo never stuck.  Wah wah.

Anyway, they were loudly commenting on the rainbow sticker I have on the back of my laptop and its “JUST WEAR IT” counterpart in the shape of a condom—do kids really know what those are at that age?  Seriously, I would have been like, “look, it’s a wand!” or “wow, that’s an odd hat!”  But these boys knew what a condom was, which sort of impressed me.  But then the oldest one said:

“I use condoms ‘cuz I’m gay and weird and gross.”

Here’s a look at what went through my mind:


But then I realized, his dad and mom are both listening, surely they will say something.  And, they did.

“Hey, boys, leave him alone.  He’s working.  Mind your language.”

I was impressed.  Good work, dad! I thought. 

The kids continued to pummel me with questions as I pecked away at my keyboard, editing some short pieces of writing I had done earlier over the weekend.

“Where are you from?”
“Do you have friends?”
“What are you typing?”
“Are you a writer?”
“Who is your favorite pokemon?”

Oddly, I only responded to two of them. 

“I am typing some stories, and my favorite pokemon is Starmie.”

They giggle again. 

As their father is getting up, I step away from my table and take out my earbuds so that I can scamper off to the bathroom.  As the dad passes me he says: “Sorry that my kids are bothering you, they can be a bit much.”

“Not at all,” I say with too much Minnesota Nice.  “They’re not bothering me.”

“Well they should be.  They’re annoying and can be a bit obnoxious.”

“Nah, they’re just being creative,” and I mean it.  I think it’s important that kids ask questions and act silly.  But, then, I say: “No reason to squash their creative energy.”

At this point he turns and looks at me sternly, and I get sweaty and lose the ability to speak and suddenly I think I am pubescent all over again.  (There really is something about this town, I think…)  He is clearly upset.  “Are you saying that I’m doing something wrong?”

I laugh to ease the tension, “Haha!  Oh, no, not at all.  I just would hate for them to feel punished for being creative and inquisitive.” 

“Don’t tell me how to raise my kids, buddy.”  I’ve never been called buddy by an angry adult.  It really is the strangest thing to be called when someone is becoming argumentative.  I can’t help but laugh.

“Yeah, because that’s what I’m doing, I’m attacking your parenting.”  I roll my eyes and then suddenly remember that not everyone knows me well enough to wade through the sarcasm that I feel flooding out of my mouth.

“And what would you know about parenting?  How would you know how to take care of kids?” He is asking these questions in a series of quiet yells.  It’s that way of speaking that sounds really loud to you and the other person, but no one else has any idea that there’s even a problem. Not that there is anyone around anyway…we’re the only six people in the non-restaurant portion of the shop.  “How would you know anything about setting an example for your children?”

And, because I am me, I reply: “I know you’re setting quite the example right now.”

I don’t think he liked that. 

“Listen, asshole…” but I cut him off.

“Asshole? This from the guy who thinks creativity is bad for kids and yells at strangers in public.”

Well that seemed to hit a nerve or something because the gentleman got rather huffy and puffy and blew out a significant amount of hot air and turned to his wife and children to say: “We’re heading out.  Let’s go.”

The bells above the door eventually stop jingling and I stare through my computer screen into the blustery outdoors where snow and ice have built up around the window panes. I am flabbergasted for about a year as I sit there thinking about what just happened, replaying the conversation over and over in my head.  I can’t decide if I was wrong or not in snipping away at his comments, but I debate the situation for some time. 

I ask myself: What just happened?!

Eventually, I come to the same conclusion as the children, the ones that were so full of questions just moments earlier:

I laugh.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Barista Am I

We had a work meeting Monday night and we were asked the question: “Do you truly believe in River Rock Coffee and in our goals?  Why?”

I am fairly certain that I am the only employee that answered: no. 

I wrote: I feel like we sometimes lack humility, like we are not humble.  Perhaps we take ourselves too seriously?  There is a reason that we cannot obtain perfection; it’s boring.  When our single aim is to be perfect at all times, we miss out on the experiences that get us closer to being excellent.

There is a moment every Monday and Wednesday morning when I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have the job that I do, to have a job that rewards me for being…well, me.  This morning was no different.

Admittedly, the moment came long after the three times I hit my snooze button, eventually deciding that 6:52 a.m. was a more reasonable time to throw some clothes on—bandana too necessary—and brush my teeth than the forty minutes previous.  The eight minute window I allotted myself turned out to be a poor decision when I discovered that MN had been blanketed in snow and ice for yet another time this March.  Mother Nature: you’re a silly bitch sometimes.  I had walked home in a torrent of rain the night before and met my morning with a window scraper and a pair of gloves. 

So I was late.  I don’t think that’s shocking or even unheard of as far as the History of Josh is concerned.  Chronically late—rarely fashionably so—and unenthused to be at a mandatory event like work: nothing new.  Luckily, being surrounded by caffeine has plenty of benefits. 

As my co-workers can attest, I have a pretty typical routine when I arrive at River Rock Coffee, and it goes a little something like this:  (p.s. did anyone else want to follow that last statement up with the opening of “Aaron’s Party”?  No?  Just me?)

Throw open the back door while whistling loudly and, more importantly, obnoxiously.  Stomp over to the coat rack in the back and disrobe—well, not entirely, just the coat and a shoe change if necessary.  The shoe change becomes more frequent when flip-flop weather is permanent and not completely destroyed by freak icestorms that happen in the MIDDLE OF MARCH.  Walk to the staff lounge and step inside. (Spoiler Alert!: The staff lounge is actually just a glorified closet where we keep cleaning supplies, staff boxes, and the shreds of dignity we discard when we play dress-up at work.) Grab my marker and grab my nametag, the one that looks like it was designed and developed by a four-year-old, and thrown on a red apron while stuffing my left pocket with an espresso rag. Outfitted for a day behind the counter, walk to the punch machine and clock in.  After washing my hands, there are few possibilities, depending on the co-worker:  Loudly comment on something Dani is wearing; smile at Ber and say how pretty she is; tell Ash how badly I want to feel her up; yell at Annie like she’s from Jersey; pleasantly greet Katie because she’s adorable; comment on Jess’s height and make her feel stellar; ask Montana how she’s doing; say hey to Alli in an awkward voice; shout Whitney’s name at her; or tell B-Town I haven’t seen her in far too long.  I could always run into Tamika first, too, in which case I actually have a conversation with her.  Weird how interacting with your boss warps your social skills, yea?

Following the routine greeting of my friends and co-workers, I just start being a barista.  It’s odd, trying to describe what it feels like to be doing my job at River Rock Coffee.  It’s impossible to explain, I think, because I don’t really know how to put what I do into words.  Most of the time I’m on autopilot.  I don’t want to imply that I’m responseless, some automaton that just pours drinks all day long and robotically greets customers with all the feigned delight of a phone-sex-operator, but there’s just something so innate, so automatic about what I do at River Rock.  It’s difficult to explain the way you do something when you feel like it’s been planted inside of you, growing for years, and manifesting itself in your actions, words, and habits day in and day out.

I’m far from being a perfect barista, but I do like to think I have something special, something like an x-factor.  You know how musicians or models or artists just have that something special that separates them from everyone in their respective field—or at least the tried and failed?  I feel like I have a little of that when it comes to being a barista.  I sort of just get it. 

Oh, hey ego.  Didn’t see you there!

Anyway: today one of my regular customers came in and started talking to me about the photography that’s currently hanging on our walls. 
He said to me: “This girl, she’s got something in her, she’s got that special eye for light and people and commentary.”
 I said: “Yes, she’s quite good when it comes to people, she captures emotion well, especially with parent and child.” 
He said: “Parent and child?  How could you know what it means to be have that relationship, to comment on what it means to be a father?”
 I said: “Well, I am only a child so far, but I imagine I will show some of that happiness when I am a dad.” 
He said: “Oh, you’re going to raise children?  With who?” 
I said: “My partner, or by myself, I guess.  I hope with someone else, but if not, I suppose that’s fine.

And then he leaned over the counter, and, for a moment, I remembered how old he was.  He was crooked, wrinkled, and frowning.  I thought maybe I had said something out of line.

He said: “You’re going to be so good at that.”
I said: “Ha, I don’t know.”
He said: “I do.  And you know how?”
I said: “How.”
He said: “Because you take care of me two mornings a week.  And you do it very well.” 

And he smiled and sat down and sipped at his coffee, looking out at the snow and ice whirling through the air.

Today was far worse than the day before.

But this morning? 

This morning I felt humbled.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


So I went to this workshop tonight called "I Heart Female Orgasm;" it was exactly what it sounds like.  It reminded me of this paper I wrote and I thought I would post it... Yep, pretty boring!  Still, I wanted to put it up because it represents something I used to be pretty interested in.  Also, there are some important things to learn here!  Most importantly: sex and orgasms have very functional, very beneficial roles in our lives.  So take some time to enjoy yourself tonight, today, or whenever you read this. 

You won't regret it!

(Yes, that was me encouraging you to masturbate.)

Making Neurons Sexy: A Review of Sexual Activity and the Brain
Living in the United States, we are constantly bombarded by the hyper-sexualized media of the current generation.  From radio to television to film, we are consistently reminded of just how salient sexual activity is in our lives.  Radio hosts have become progressively open, no longer hesitant to utilize sexual innuendo as a form of humor and television shows have presented increasingly sexual content.  Try as you might, it’s nearly impossible to escape the sexual content we are subjected to on a daily basis.  Perhaps this overexposure begs the most basic question: why?  Why is sex so fascinating that we have been able to capitalize on its existence in all outlets of mass-media?
The answer to this question could appear in many forms.  One such assertion maintains that sex is healthy.  Take migraines, for example.  Research by James Couch in women experiencing migraine symptoms (ie. fatigue, moodiness, neck pain) found that sex at the onset of the migraine led to a reduction in symptoms (Harzog 2007).  A separate position suggests that sex is beneficial for stem cell research.  Prolactin, a hormone released following sexual intercourse, has been used in laboratory settings to stimulate the production of neurons in the olfactory bulb (Wood 2003).  Furthermore, prolactin has been used to generate new brain tissue following stoke damage (2003).  However we interpret our fascination with sexual conduct, it still remains that sex is an integral part of human life.  The ideas that sex is healthy and scientifically beneficial are perhaps adequate.  Yet, looking across the many layers of sexual function, there seems to be an underlying, biological reason for our obsession.  It may be that a survey of neurobiological research is necessary to understand the many facets that compose this important aspect of our lives.  
The following will examine how sex looks in the brain as function of the major implicated pathways, what deviates from normal sexual function in sexual addiction, and how various treatment methods work in standardizing sexual compulsivity on the neural level.  Risks and benefits of sexual activity will also be observed.   By exploring such aspects, loopholes or shortcomings may be identified for further research in the field of sexual activity.
 To grasp the subsequent material, it is important to understand the most imperative areas of the brain that are implicated during sexual arousal and intercourse.  Normal sexual functioning, though vastly different across all individuals based on social and environmental experience, requires the functional processing of both central erotic arousal- taking place in the human brain- and the arousal of the genito-pelvic region (Levin & Wagner 1986).  When aroused in unison, these two areas of the body work in a mutual positive feedback loop which eventually leads to orgasmic discharge in the genito-pelvic region (1986).  These areas are mediated through interpersonal experience and subjectivity, as well as the limbic brain; by integrating these regions, sex can be described as both a peripheral function and a brain response (Hiller 2004).
The most relevant of these imperative areas may be the interaction between the prefrontal cortices and the hypothalamus.  The prefrontal cortices, the portions of the brain that are related to every motor response and chemical response in the body (Hiller 2004), are responsible for compartmentalizing every unique experience in the life span, one of which is sex.  The hypothalamus then is responsible for the integration of hormone release during sexual behavior and arousal.  Particularly, the hypothalamus is responsible for the synthesis of the peptide hormones vasopressin and oxytocin (Hiller 2004), both of which have been extensively researched in the neurophysiology of sexual bonding- especially the latter.  Oxytocin has been shown to regulate noradrenaline, dopamine, and prolactin, in the brain (Hiller 2004; Insel 1997; Panskepp 1998); all three have been associated with brain reward.
Oxytocin appears to have quite an influence throughout the primary areas of the brain involved in sexual functioning.  Though originally thought to be present only in the pituitary gland, oxytocin has also been shown as present along neurons in the spinal cord and the brain stem (Herbert 1994).  This peptide hormone, most pertinent to the current survey, has also been shown to play a critical role in orgasmic stimulation.  Across all male subjects in Murphy et al. (1990), oxytocin levels raised an average of 30% at the point of ejaculatory emission.  Similarly, Carmichael et al. (1987) found an increase of nearly 60% (2.5pg/ml to 4.4pg/ml) in oxytocin levels in female participants at the point of orgasm (Hiller 2004).
Research that focuses on positive symptoms of sexual behavior, such as increased levels of oxytocin and other peptide hormones, is not the only methodology relevant to the survey of sexual functioning.  It is just as beneficial to this examination of research to look at the functional differences in subjects with abnormalities in the primary areas of neural sexual functioning. 
Sexual function can vary greatly after serious brain trauma or damage to the cells relevant to normal sexual functioning; a great deal of literature has looked at the differences in sexual functioning in subjects with traumatic levels of brain injury (Kreuter et al. 1998; Levin and Wagner 1986; Ponsford 2003).  Most succinctly stated, “human sexuality encompasses biological, physical, cultural, and psychosocial dimensions of personality and [behavior]. [Traumatic Brain Injury] TBI may disturb any or all of these dimensions (Ponsford 2003).”  Results have been consistent with Ponsford’s speculation that TBI affects multiple dimensions of the individual.  In her 2003 research, over 50% of participants having experienced TBI reported significant sexual changes in the 5 years following the traumatic incident; sexual performance, sexual satisfaction, and sexual desire all saw significant decreases across subjects (2003).        
Similar results were presented in Kreuter et al. (1998) with regard to satisfaction.  Half of the participants reported being dissatisfied with their current sexual activity after the traumatic brain injury.  Research suggests that this may be a function of a lesion on the prefrontal cortices or the hippocampus; both suggestions fall well in-line with the research highlighted above.  Furthermore, nearly a quarter of all those having experienced traumatic brain injury reported a decreased sexual desire, erectile function, orgasmic activity, ejaculation, and intercourse frequency (1998).  It should be noted that the participants who experienced brain trauma could have lesions on the prefrontal cortices, hypothalamus, or slight lesions on the brainstem; two of these areas are relevant to the synthesis or production of oxytocin, the peptide hormone that appears to be linked in many of the critical regions for sexual function.
Another crucial area of the brain that is necessary for normal sexual functioning is the medial amygdala.  Heaton and Adams (2003) posit that the amygdala works as an organizer of sorts to help the individual determine a suitable, sexual mate.  The amygdala also plays an important part in releasing neuropeptides, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, during sexual activity (Heaton and Adams 2003). 
The medial preoptic area (MPOA) is also an implicated region of the brain used in sexual functioning (Heaton and Adams 2003).  Research implies that the MPOA is the area of the brain that is responsible for the regulation of sexual activity in both males and females (2003).  The MPOA is linked to the nucleus paragigantocellularis (nPGi) through periaqueductal gray and, in recent research, has been linked to the neural pathway responsible for sex hormone regulation. 
Specific neurotransmitters concentrated in the MPOA also play a big role in sexual functioning.  Cells in the MPOA have very high concentrations of dopamine receptors that are likely facilitated by “the activation of alpha2 and alpha1 adrenoreceptors (Heaton and Adams 2003).  The activation of these receptors has been shown to act parallel with the stimulation of the penis and erectile function.  Moreover, dopamine has been attributed as an award for sexual activity by being released in the brain following male ejaculation (2003).  
Oxytocin and the implicated pathways in the brain may be responsible for the neural functioning of sexual behavior; but, there are other factors that play a role in such actions.  Of the concepts used to understand sexual functioning and why we strive to engage in such behavior, the idea that motivation may influence our desire for sexual activity is perhaps the most intuitive.  
On the neural level, serotonin and dopamine work in an inhibitory – excitatory loop to produce motivation for sexual behavior.  Dopamine works to excite motivation toward sexual activity while serotonin works as an inhibitory response (Heaton and Adams 2003).   
It is pertinent then to understand where sexual motivation comes from on a symbolic level and we how we understand it to function.  Barry Singer and Frederick Toates (1987) posit that sexual motivation follows common incentive models of behavior.  These models, as described by the authors, typically follow several generalizations.  First, “incentives trigger motivated behavior (1987).”  In sex, this could pertain to something as such as an orgasm.  The incentive is the orgasm itself, while the stimulation of the clitoris or penis is the motivated behavior.  Second, “incentives inflame motivation by producing affect, an interaction with an internal depravation-satiation state (1987),” and such incentives will be guided through motivation by available cognitive maps.  To exemplify, the incentive of achieving an orgasm would be guided by both satisfaction of desire and cognitive processes.  Singer and Frederick further explore this model by comparing it to hunger, or drive and appetite, and use these terms as metaphorical language to explain sexual motivation.  One primary allusion they make is to abstinence.  Men and women both note increased sex drive with abstinent behaviors (1987), much like the increased desire for nourishment when experiencing hunger.  While the model presented by Singer and Toates certainly reflects the motivations behind satiating our desired states, it does so without regard to the positive or negative aspects of motivation.
Though no term currently defines impulsive, addictive, hyper, or any other negative sexual activity, research has been conducted to look at the motivation of such behavior (Kalichman & Rompa 1995; McBride, Reese, & Sanders 2008).  Compulsivity can be regarded as a negative motivation behind most deviant sexual activity.  Sexual compulsivity refers to an individual’s lack of control over their own sexual behavior.  In most cases, the behavior of compulsive persons impairs functioning by promoting sexual acts that surpass the judgment of the individual.  Scales like the Sexual Compulsivity Scale have been used demonstrate that hypersexualized behavior and sexual preoccupation positively correlate with negative outcomes of sexual activity (Mcbride, Reese, & Sanders 2008).  Also, high scores of sexual compulsivity correlated positively with negative cognitive outcomes (2008).  These outcomes, deriving from sexually compulsive behavior, can range from pessimistic thoughts to self loathing.  In one particular case study, Wagner (2009) discovered that her sexually deviant patient reported high levels of maladaptivity across a few categories.  Abandonment/instability, defectiveness/shame, and emotional inhibition had the highest ratings across the dimension of dysfunctional symptoms.  The defectiveness/shame category seems especially relative in comparison to the withdrawn, unavailable nature that accompanies many of the other symptoms of sexual addiction (2009).
Like sexual compulsivity, sexual addiction is a negatively maintained behavior that an individual has little to no control over.  According to Patrick Carnes, the executive director of Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addictive Services in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, sexual addiction is perfectly comparable any other addiction (Untreated Sexual Addiction 2008); addiction to drugs and alcohol are especially similar.  In his words, “addictions don’t just co-exist, they interact with each other (2008).”
Barbieri (2008), asserts that addiction utilizes three different brain pathways to function.  The first is the arousal neuropathway that concerns stimulation and intensity; the second is the numbing neuropathway that concerns calming, sedative processes; the third is referred to as the fantasy neuropathway which allows addicts to “escape reality through a trance like state (2008).” 
Carnes (2008) highlights that many researchers may attribute addiction to certain dispositional characteristics, commonly cited as ‘addictive personalities;’ there is evidence, though, that there is much more to the issue than personality type.  In his defense of this assertion, Carnes states, “It’s a matter of what happens in the brain when you access the pleasure centers.”  In his citation, he notes that the same areas of the brain that see increased activity under MRI scanning also light up in other addicts; the same area for a cocaine or gambling addict when they are high or engaging in risky activity will see similar increased activity when a sex addict is seeking to act on their compulsive behavior (2008).  Though the subjects of Carnes’ research are drawn from the same program he directs, there are other ways in which sexual addiction is observed outside of treatment facilities.  The Internet is also providing researchers with a new topic to explore.
The World Wide Web has certainly changed the way we communicate over the past decade, and Mark Griffiths (2001) suggests that this may be truer for sexual communication than any other form of social communication.  He posits that “Internet sex is a new medium of expression where factors such as perceived anonymity and disinhibition may increase participation (2001);” the availability of sexual content on the Internet does not discount this assertion either.  Internet sexual addiction has even become a commonplace term, often alluding to individuals who have committed Internet sex crimes such as harassment and cyberstalking (2001). 
While some Internet sex addiction can come in more serious forms, such as those previously listed, others are rather harmless such as masturbatory addiction or orgasmic addiction.  Many of these addictions have been listed beneath three defined Internet Addiction typologies (Griffiths 2001).  First, the recreational user, is the individual who is not typically seen as at risk for Internet Addiction, but rather as a person who accesses online sexual material for entertainment purposes or curiosity.  Second, the at-risk user, is the individual who may not have developed a sexual addiction without the introduction of the Internet. And third, the sexually compulsive user, is the individual that uses the Internet “as a forum for the sexual activities (Griffiths 2001).”
As these typologies increase from recreation to compulsivity, the self-image and sexual dysfunction of the individual are negatively affected (Griffiths 2001).  These feelings of increased sexual dysfunction, decreased self-image, and lowered self-esteem are also characteristic of traumatic brain injury patients as listed above.  This is of curious mention as there may be an opening here for research to expand the literature on any correlations between sexual addiction and individuals suffering traumatic brain injury.
For as many ways a person can experience sexual addiction, there appears to be an equal amount of ways for an individual to seek help or assistance with recovery.  Ranging from drug treatment to therapeutic practices, there does not seem to be any shortage of programs or methods to be used in the normalization of sexual functioning.
One method described by Barbieri (2008) involves what she refers to as the URGES approach, or Urge Reduction by Growing Ego Strength.  The URGES approach attempts to create a dissociated identity state of the ego by fragmenting the addict’s ego state into a stored experience and a dissociated experience (2008).  By treating the ego as two separate entities, the therapist can then treat the addict’s fragmented ego as individuals that are looking for a fixed connection.  In an addict’s case, the connection appears to be severed because of their severe compulsive behavior (2008).
Another external treatment is discussed at length in Tays et al. (1999) research on the sexual addiction model in the treatment of sex offenders.  This treatment essentially falls back on one goal: the prevention of relapse at all cost.  Furthermore, the treatment builds off the idea that recovery from sexual addiction can only begin when the addict acknowledges their own powerlessness (1999), a premise that is characteristic of many addiction programs across the world. 
As the current review comes to a close, it’s of great importance to reiterate the information presented.  Hopefully, the examination of how sex looks in the brain as a function of the major regions involved, the deviations made from normal sexual functioning in sexual addiction, and the various treatment methods available will provide some light for why sex has become such an integral part of our culture.  Perhaps even further investigation will benefit from the aspects of the field of sexual activity identified here today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Letters To You

I was thinking back on this weekend and had this moment of realization: I haven’t narrated my life through a blog in a very long time.  I don’t think I’ve done it once since I’ve been back!  Sure, my blog is incredibly autobiographical—borderline too revealing—but I don’t think I’ve really used it as this summarizing diary or journal since my return to the United States.  When I was in the UK, I spent so much time reflecting on the day to day and just writing down what happened from point A to point B.  I guess I feel like life in Minnesota is just a little too mundane to write in the same way?  So what is that a reflection of then?  Is it my own unhappiness or boredom or busyness or laziness?  Maybe it’s none of these things(?)

Maybe the lack of narrative stems from the inability to write about my life.  I like to think I’m, at the very least, an interesting, rounded person that has a whole load of experiences to share and converse about.  I open dialogues and create moments, but, on the whole, I think that Josh Plattner’s life—in this present moment—is just a little storyless.  I think my existence is lacking character, lacking plot, lacking intrigue and passion and flow.

It never feels like that in the moment though…

It always feels like something grander is happening, like the world is just so lucid and unimaginably present.  I sometimes feel like I’m walking through frosting, like the air is made up of a tasty film of experience.  But when I sit down to think about what’s happened, what’s made everything so incredibly awesome over the last three months, last three weeks, last three days: I am at a loss.  I am bummed out; I am overworked and undermotivated.

Still, I have this idea.  I have this crazy, strange notion that if I experience everything like it is in the present, I will somehow recount how important every fiber of my life has been lately.  So I’d like to do this exercise that I’ve created.  Bare with me people, it’s a bit of a stretch.  I am going to write letters to friends, to professors, to acquaintances as if what’s being discussed in the letter is happening in the present.  The following letters are all about events that have recently taken place, but by writing about them as if it’s a present conversation, maybe I can find some of that life that so eludes me in personal reflection.

I might use names.  For that, I am sorry.  I don’t think it’s really fair to write public letters to people, and I will try my hardest to avoid over personalizing out of respect for anyone who does not wish to be mentioned in this most beautiful space.  Still, no promises, shit happens.

Sometimes: shit happens to you.  *Big Grin*

Dear Ladyfingers-

Please stop talking about my receding hairline.  I’m sensitive and I worry, now that my beautiful curly locks are all chopped and gone, I am going to realize just how much I relied on my hair for any amount of confidence.  Seriously, stop talking about it.  I am going shit my pants in fear.  There’s this mole I have on the left side of my forehead that is barely—and I mean barely—hidden by my fauxhawk curls.  Every once and a while, it peeks out and all I can think is: tell your parents you think it’s potentially cancerous and get that thing removed.  But then I realize that I would lose the hair in that area to get rid of it.  I think I would rather keep it hidden than face the idea of losing all of my buffer zone.  Oh, there’s another mole that is actually on the plane of my forehead, but I am slowly realizing that it’s not as ugly as I tend to think.  Still, stop.  When I ask you: DO I REALLY HAVE A RECEDING HAIRLINE?!, answer “no.”  Lie to me.  Tell me the falsehood.  Treat me with the respect of a white lie.  Just do it for my sanity.  You’ve already called me a mess four times tonight (ignoring your own drunkenness…) and I certainly don’t need to compound my lack of mental stability.

Also: child-of-mercy, you have brought me to tears four times tonight and I am done with the crying game.  You’ve awakened my spirit and spilt its guts onto this pillowcase.  And, shit(!), the pillow isn’t even mine.  I will ask you to remind me it needs to be washed—teardrops stain, right?—but you will shoot that idea down because you’ve been wearing the same underwear for four days and the notion of doing one’s laundry is about as foreign as it gets when you’re on spring break

The tears have been worth every pitiful moment though.  What I’ve realized tonight is this: I fell out of love because there was nothing left to fix.  And that was a moment of Aristotelian discovery, the best of all possible revelations.  It’s funny that you opened my eyes up without actually trying.  You said: at the end of the day, we’re here for you.  We’re here for you to do you and to show you that you are worth it.  And you are.  You are worth every goddamn cent.

So, dear friend, I will stop fixing what’s not broken, because that is no way to find what one is looking for.  I will stop patching the perfectly mended.  I will do me, because, at the end of the day, I’m only guaranteed this moment, this perfect second.

With all the love I can possibly offer,
Josh “Three-Dollar-Bill” Plattner

I think this is actually working!  I feel like the moment is happening all over again, like the day is frozen over in this spectacular moment of “I am alive.”

Dear 12-Year-Old,

I bought these P-Ball tickets an hour and a half before I got the text saying—more or less—“you’re too late.”  They sat in my lap for an hour until my legs fell asleep and my feet fell off beneath my desk.  I am not afraid to admit that I was angry and sad and cried like a small child because sometimes you feel utterly helpless in situations that you feel like you really screwed up.  But I want you to know that I don’t think that I screwed up by buying the tickets.  Really, I screwed up by not telling you right then and there that you were making the wrong decision, that you would be let down because there is no way that he could have ever been as fun as I am, or would have been.  Even now, when you’re showing off those dance moves in my room—if you can call them that—I cannot help but think, why didn’t I speak up?  But that’s neither here nor there because I took the path of least resistance; I sat back and let my tickets burn a hole in the denim of my back pocket. 

You should know that I bought those tickets because I thought (think) that there’s always room for possibility, for a smile, for Magic.  I would have toasted the night to new friendships and relationships, to a chance at getting rid of the fear of happiness.

I would have shown up.

I wish I knew the difference between St Paul and Minneapolis.

You were delightful tonight.  You were happy and full of energy.  You were the person I see all the time when I see you strutting around campus like you own the place—which you don’t, by the way!  But you were so smiley and it was nice to see because I sometimes forget that I am quite enjoyable to be around.  So thank you for awakening that it me this evening, for convincing me that I can be the person I am, even when he’s somewhat stifled by uncertainty.

You may not have had a great weekend, but Sunday’s been pretty great, yea?

Here’s to 3-0ing next time too,

Freedom is my favorite thing about writing.  You can type whatever you want, to whoever you want, whenever you want.  It’s just so non-demanding!

Dear Little Girl,

I don’t like it when you cry because you still look pretty and that, to me, is infuriating.  If only there were some part of you that lacked the charm and charisma that oozes from you all the time, maybe there’d be some redemption to those big, sad eyes that still shine so bright.  Alas, there is not.  You just don’t ever look poorly!

And fuck him, baby.  He’s a damn drunk fool and everything is going to work out for the best because it always has.  I know it doesn’t seem like it now, and that you can barely see straight enough to put the vacuum away in the right spot, but you’ll move on and get the hell out of here and find so much success.  It’s inevitable.  It’s a promise from this world to a deserving citizen.

I love you like a crazy person loves their hallucinations,
Rachel Dratch

 And for one last time, in a very quick, very personal letter:

Dear Batshit-Bonkers-Crazy,

My sentiments exactly.
Thank you for the utterly beautiful freedom I feel beneath these wings of mine.

Joshua Leo Plattner

For those of you who read along for the ride, but received nothing in the mail:

I Love You.

Sometimes, it’s just that simple.