Disclaimer: The following blog is written by an uncensored therapist.
Abused, homeless, sickly dogs set to the tune of Sarah McLaughlin. Starving African kids with flies on their faces. Former smokers with stomas giving you tips on how to cover your new orifice with a scarf and how to block it in the shower to prevent water from flooding your insides. These apparently are all commercials that have been deemed acceptable to be on television and have aired within the past two years.
Apparently a PSA from Beat, an eating disorders non-profit in England, was released on YouTube last week about guys with eating disorders (ED) and was more disturbing than all of the above. I would let you judge for yourself but the commercial was taken down. It was deemed too disturbing and confusing for the public to understand, so it was never aired on TV and was even deleted from YouTube. But doesn’t shock factor in media make people ask questions and spread answers and awareness?
The controversy centered around a young male vomiting his gentiles onto a bar table after his friends ask him to join in on their night of drinking and eating nachos. (Yes, you read that right.) Although he looked nauseous at first, he immediately regained composure and cheerfully accepted his friends’ offer after he coughed up his “balls.” His friends appeared to be oblivious as to what happened and text at the end of the ad stated that this was to draw attention towards the plight of men suffering from eating disorders.
Here are some reasons why this commercial should not have been pulled, as well as some facts about men with eating disorders. (I’ll do my best to also explain why the guy is vomiting his testicles.)
- A vast majority of the public view eating disorders as being something that only women experience. The vomiting symbolizes how this stereotyped view of eating disorders strips away men’s masculinity and builds shame and secrecy. Over 30 percent of people with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are male, and over 40 percent of binge eating disorder cases are male.
- Until 2013 with the publishing of the DSM-5*, one of the original criteria for Anorexia Nervosa was amenorrhea (i.e. the absence of a woman’s menstrual period). For women, this was removed because it didn’t account for prepubescent girls, post-menopausal women, those using hormone replacements, or transgendered women. If a woman didn’t lose her period, she’d be diagnosed as eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS), which was the “other” category for eating disorders. And dudes? It meant nothing. Men didn’t have gender specific criteria for AN. Instead, this criterion reinforced the idea that eating disorders are for women.
- ED can cause low levels of testosterone, which cause irritability, depression, low self-esteem, and loss of sex drive. You know that condom commercial? Trojan Man! Not with ED, you’re not. Testosterone helps men function and stay calm. High hormone levels do notcause rage.
- Although a high percentage of men with eating disorders are gay or bisexual (estimated at 25 percent of those diagnosed), allmen with an eating disorder are faced with the pressures of coming out and letting others know about their secret being a guy with an eating disorder. Apparently, America wants men to stay in hiding about their body issues, so that Lena Dunham can hog the soapbox.
- Men are invisible.Stereotypes about what someone with ED looks like leads their illness to be overlooked and delegitimized.
So to the ad execs and censors, I have to ask: Got balls? Do you have the stones to air a PSA designed to spread awareness of a deadly mental illness minimized by society? Do you honestly think grapes are that gross? The character that puked his nuggets has more cherries than that. Granted, it would take a lot of commercial cojones to air something like this, but whatever controversy stirred up would generate more money than what is taken out of your coin purse. It may not be worth as much as the value of your family jewels, but to the guys with eating disorders it is.
*The handbook therapists and other healthcare providers use to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. It creates the diagnostic labels and defines what symptoms and criteria must be met in order to receive a diagnosis.