The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, October 30
October 30th, 2013
Hawaii Senate To Vote on Marriage Equality Bill: Honolulu, HI. There’s been a lot of activity in the Hawaii Legislature’s special session which convened this week to take up the marriage equality bill. After a grueling twelve-hour hearing before the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on Monday in which more than 400 people address the lawmakers, the committee approved the bill in a 5-2 vote. The bill now goes goes to the full Senate, which will debate and vote on it today beginning at 11:30 a.m.
If the bill passes the Senate, it then goes on to the House Judiciary and Finance Committees for a hearing tomorrow morning. Already, there is some infighting breaking out in the House’s tiny Republican caucus. (Democrats enjoy a 44-7 majority in the House.) Rep. Bob McDermott introduced a resolution to oust Rep. Cynthia Thielen from the Judiciary committee. Rep. Thielen just happens to be the only Republican who supports marriage equality. To further the retaliation, McDermott also wanted Thielen removed as vice Chair of the House’s Energy and Environmental Committee and Rep. Aaron Johanson replaced by Rep. Gene Ward as House Minority Leader. Rep. Theilen responded that she had been a Republican since the 1950s. “I support marriage equality. I may be the only Republican in the House Minority Party who does, but I’m not the sole Republican in our community,” she said, as she vowed to “fight to return Republicans to the mainstream.” The resolution failed.
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
The Treatment of Homosexuality by Aversion Therapy: 1966. Doctors had been using painful jolts of electricity to try to torture homosexuality out of people since 1935 (see Mar 11 and Sep 6), and so the report that appeared in the October 1966 edition of Medicine, Science and the Law (remember, homosexuality was still against the law in most states, Canada and the UK) is depressingly similar to so many other cases that have been published in the medical literature. In this report, “The Treatment of Homosexuality by Aversion Therapy,” Dr. Northage Mather, a consultant psychiatrist at Crumpsall Hospital in Manchester, England, described “a particular technique in behaviour therapy for homosexuality, developed over the past three and a half years”:
The patient, to whom the treatment is carefully explained, is then shown a large series of slides and a number of films of both males and females, clothed and unclothed, from which he selects a number of both sexes in varying degrees of attractiveness to him. Each patient thus draws up his own particular hierarchies for both sexes. He then lies on a bed in a darkened room, watching a screen upon which these slides are thrown. The slide first used is that of a male which is only mildly attractive, and the patient has in his hand a switch by means of which he can remove the slide from the screen. If after eight seconds he has not removed it, he receives an electric shock which has previously been determined as unpleasant to himself. The shock continues until he presses the switch. During the eight seconds anxiety and tension are created and relief is obtained by an active movement on his part. Once the patient is regularly performing avoidance responses to a male slide in this way he is placed on a schedule of reinforcement so that one-third of his attempts to avoid are successful (reinforced), one-third are delayed for varying intervals of time (delayed), and onethird are held up for so long that he does receive a shock (non-reinforced). These three types of trial are randomly alternated. The purpose of this schedule is to reduce the likelibood of relapse.
In an endeavour to make females less unattractive, especially as many homosexuals also experience anxiety with females, or with the thought of sexual contact with females, relief from anxiety is associated with the immediate presentation of a picture of the female as soon as the patient himself removes the male slide by means of the switch. In two-fifths of the trials the pressing of the switch therefore by the patient not only removes the male slide but replaces it with the female slide which is the most attractive one in the hierarchy which he has previously drawn up. The female slide is removed by the therapist after approximately ten seconds, and before the request of the patient, so that eventually the patient is motivated to request the return of the female slide. This is granted in a random manner to prevent the patient predicting the consequences of removing the male slide.
Each treatment session lasts about twenty minutes, twenty-five presentations being given. Inpatients receive two sessions of trealment per day, outpatients according to patients’ own convenience.
Of the thirty-six subjects in these experiments, fourteen were directly or indirectly referred by a court, and six more were patients at the psychiatric hospital. Only sixteen appeared to be there of their own accord. Eight more beyond the thirty-six had dropped out. One of the dropouts was “of hysterical personality (and) was so frightened of the treatment that he only attended twice.” Another insisted that he receive electric shock therapy under an anesthetic, which of course would have negated the aversive effects of the treatment. Mather attributed three other dropouts to their “gross personality disorders with histories of antisocial and psychopathic behaviour.” What that is supposed to mean is unclear, particularly considering that Mather described homosexuality as “giv(ing) rise to a considerable amount of individual suffering, as well as being responsible for many anti-social acts such as larceny, blackmail, robbery with violence and murder.”
And in Mather’s view, if someone was homosexual, then it was obvious that there was something wrong with them. Of each of the patients he evaluated, he was determined to find some kind of problem, even if it was an undefined “self-insecure obsessional personality trait.” Being sent to a shock doctor at a psych ward can have that effect on people.
The treatments continued until the patient managed to show “a change of interest occurs or it becomes clear that no change is likely.” That usually happened after about fifteen to twenty “treatments,” although some were subjected for up to thirty. If a patient was found to have slipped up during a years’ worth of follow-ups, more “booster” treatments were administered. It’s no surprise then that Mather reported that twenty-five showed some “improvement.” The extent of that change however is hard to judge, given the skimpy details he provided, almost all of which were self-reports from patients who were being subjected to torture. “Honest, Doc, I love women now!”, you can easily imagine the conversation going. As for the eleven who stubbornly refused to “improve,” well, it wasn’t the doctor’s fault. They were the ones with “weak-willed personality disorders” or “hysterical or attention-seeking personality disorders.” Naturally.
Mather would go on to become a well-respected leader in Britain’s psychiatric profession. In 1981, he was elected president of the Manchester Medical Society. His 2003 obituary in the British Medical Journal states that during his thirty years at Crumpsall Hospital (now North Manchester General Hospital), he had “(built) up a well known department.” He also was involved in criminal investigations and prosecutions, and served on the parole board.
By the way, forty-three years later, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) cited this very study among a host of other obsolete aversion therapy studies to claim that people can change their sexual orientation.
[Source: Northage John de Ville Mather. “The treatment of homosexuality by aversion therapy.” Medicine, Science and the Law 6, no. 4 (October 1966): 200-205.]
160 YEARS AGO: Louise Abbéma: 1853-1927. Most accounts have her birth date as 1858, but this registry from her home town of Etampes, France suggests that she shaved five years off of her age. Her aristocratic background gave her access to a fine education in art, which she began while still in her early teens. On 1873, she went to Paris to study with the painters Charles Chaplin and Carolus-Duran. In 1875, she painted a portrait of actress Sarah Bernhardt, which was an immediate success when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon des Artistes Français. Abbéma’s painting became Bernhardt’s official portrait, and they remained lifelong friends and possibly lovers. In 1878, Abbéma made a bronze medallion of Bernhardt, and Bernardt, who dabbled in sculpture, returned the favor with a marble bust of Abbéma.
Abbéma’s specialty was in oil and watercolor impressionism, and she exhibited regularly at the Salon through 1926. She also exhibited in the Women’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Her large decorative panels and murals graced the Paris Town Hall, the Paris Opera House, and, naturally, Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. The French National Horticultural Society also boasts some of her large panels, which is fitting given that flowers figure prominently in many of Abbéma’s paintings. Abbéma was also an accomplished writer for the journals Gazette des Beaux-Arts and L’Art. In 1900, she was awarded a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and she was named an “Official Painter of the Third Republic.” In 1906, Abbéma was made a Chevalier of the Order of the Légion d’honneur. She died in Paris in 1927.
Néstor Almendros: 1930-1992. Born in Barcelona, Almendros followed his anti-Franco father to Cuba in 1958. After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Almendros signed on to make several documentarise for the Castro regine, but he quickly became disillusioned with when Castro openly embraced communism and Almendros found two of his independent films, Gente en La Playa and La Tumba Francesa, banned. Almendros moved to France, where he made a dozen documentaries for French television between 1965 and 1967. In 1966, he was made director of photography for La Collectionneuse, which was the first of more than fifty films. In 1977, he won the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festicval for his photography for La Marquise d’O (The Marquis of O).
By the mid-seventies, Almendros began working as director of photography for several Hollywood films. Credits include Days of Heaven (1976, for which he won an Oscar), Kramer vs. Kramer (1978), The Blue Lagoon (1979), Sophie’s Choice (1982) and Places in the Heart (1984). Almendros’s signature style was characterized by his careful use of natural daylight and his commitment to using as little studio lighting as possible. In 1984, he returned to his roots in documentary filmmaking with two films which portrayed human rights abuses in Cuba. Mauvaise Conduite (Improper Conduct) featured filmed interviews with twenty-eight Cuban exiles who had been interred in forced-labor concentration camps for their homosexuality, political dissidence or for being Jehovah’s Witnesses. A second documentary, Nadie Escuchaba (Nobody Listened) delved further into the arrests, imprisonment and torture of several of Fidel Castro’s former comrades. Almendros died at the age of 61 of AIDS-related lymphoma.
If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?