Women: Guilt Will Kill You


“Even watching a television soap could undermine your defences against disease,” warns the Daily Fail — but only if you feel bad about it.

According to the Fail‘s Fiona MacRae, A new study of 300 people found that women were more likely than men to feel guilty in a variety of situations — especially those in which they had hurt others. Contrary to basically every diet ad ever, men are actually more likely to feel guilty for overeating, and other behaviors that affect only them. MacRae writes, “The problem, say the study’s authors, is not that women feel too much guilt – but that men feel too little,” and awesomely-named scientist Itziar Etxebarria says, “Educational practices and a whole range of socialising agents must be used to reduce the trend towards anxious-aggressive guilt among women and to strengthen interpersonal sensitivity among men.” Because whereas men are apparently insensitive cads, women are slowly killing themselves with regret: “A separate Hull University study found that people who felt guilty about partaking of pleasures like a lie-in or eating chocolate had lower levels of key antibodies in their saliva than those who simply enjoyed what life had to offer.” So maybe Glamour‘s ridiculous “Hey, it’s OK” section has some purpose after all?

In other Mars/Venus news, women and men may not be so different when it comes to jealousy. Some research has shown that women are more upset by emotional infidelity, while men are more bothered by sexual transgressions. The popular evolutionary psychology explanation, according to EurekAlert, is that men want to ensure their own paternity, while women need to keep a man close for support during pregnancy and childrearing (a related study found that whenever I read the phrase “popular evolutionary psychology explanation,” my blood pressure rises 32%). But psychologists at Penn State have found that jealousy may have less to do with gender than with a person’s view of relationships. The press release for their research reads, in part,

[T]hose with a dismissing attachment style- who prize their autonomy in relationships over commitment-were much more upset about sexual infidelity than emotional infidelity. And conversely, those securely attached in relationships-including securely attached men-were much more likely to find emotional betrayal more upsetting.

The release also advocates “promoting secure attachment” as a way of reducing jealousy-motivated domestic violence — but both this recommendation and Etxebarria’s strengthening-male-sensitivity plan seem like only part of the solution. While teaching “attachment” might help, we also need to combat the cultural messages that make violence seem to some people like an acceptable response to jealousy. And rather than telling women to feel less guilty and men more so, maybe we should examine the forces that give rise to these feelings in the first place. The reason Glamour has “Hey, it’s OK” is because the rest of the magazine, and American society, is telling women that food, age, body hair, and countless other flaws and transgressions are not okay — while men are encouraged to bury their feelings for other people under a layer of bellowing and bravado. Tucker Max, ladymags, and overeager pop psychologists with their all-too-easy hormonal theories — they’re the ones who should be feeling guilty.

From Cheating Golfers To MPs On The Fiddle: Why Men Really Do Feel Less Guilt Than Women [Daily Mail]
His Or Hers Jealousy? Study Offers New Explanation For Sex Differences In Jealousy [EurekAlert]

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