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In which Lindsey talks about having a big mouth and why that's sometimes really, really important.

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Host: Dr. Lindsey Doe

Directing/Filming/Editing: Nicholas Jenkins

Titles: Michael Aranda

Executive Producer: Hank Green
Dr. Tatiana's Sex Guide to All Creation is a book I think you’ll enjoy.  In the preface the author writes that she is asked many questions; one of which is why she became a sex expert.

“Quite simply, I decided to dedicated myself to sex when I realized that nothing in life is more important, more interesting- or more troublesome.”  

I second that.


Sex can be incredible, and yes, troublesome. I’m going to catalog some of my books while I tell you a story that illustrates this.

In the summer of 2006 I taught “Child and Adolescent Health Issues,” a course for teachers in training to pack in credits over the summer when they weren’t also student teaching.  This class was a three hour block every day, for a month.  So we would take a break midway to move around, get a snack, and go to the bathroom.  The classroom was organized in rows of tables with an aisle through the center that would allow me to walk to the front of the classroom on my way in and out of the room.  

One day I went to the bathroom like I usually did, but came back to the room and walked in front of the class, with toilet paper in my pants.  Did you notice the toilet paper?  Were you wishing you could say something or wondering, “What’s up?”  I put the toilet paper there on purpose, just like I did for my students in class.  I wandered around, my heart pounding, wondering in anticipation of what their responses were going to be.  They were silent.

Nobody said, “Lindsey, there’s toilet paper in your pants.”  This is an example of The Bystander Effect, where in a situation where there is someone in need, the more people present, the less likely someone is to help.  This is also referred to as Diffusion of Responsibility: the belief that somebody else will take care of it, that somebody else is going to let her know that she has food in her teeth, a booger hanging out, or a toilet paper tail.  

Here’s what I want you to do.  Write or type your answers to these questions.  Just pause me, be honest with yourself, and then resume.  

1.  When did you notice the toilet paper?

2.  What was your first thought?

3.What would you do if you detected someone needing help?

4.  What gets in the way of you offering this help?

And the cool thing is that you can leave your responses in the comments, and we can learn from each other.  I’ve repeated this pseudo-experiment multiple times, and from my experience I’ve learned that some people don’t even see the toilet paper.  Those who do notice think that it’s some sort of Lindsey shenanigans, or they don’t even know what to think at all.   

Their first thought is, “What is going on?”  You might be thinking, “Why didn’t Nick edit this out?” and then there’s of course, there’s the “Does that have feces on it?”  When they think about how they want to respond, the list usually includes walking up to me in front of the class and covertly removing the toilet paper without me knowing, or sending me a paper airplane note that alerts me to the toilet paper situation.  They’ll also want to signal non-verbally.  Or ask a brave friend to let me know.  Sometimes they just leave it alone because it’s not a big deal.

For people who think about the question more broadly, someone needing help might be someone being abused, and in this case, they want to intervene.  Most often, people don’t.  They step over the bleeding man on the sidewalk. They close their windows to the screaming woman.  True life examples of bystander effect.  

These are huge barriers.  Fear of interfering. Fear that I’m overreacting or that I’ll embarrass myself or someone else.  Fear of getting involved.   Fear of being ill-equipped to handle such situations.  Fear of retaliation. Fear of the perpetrator.  This is your call to be awesome.  Don’t be an idle bystander.  Risk being embarrassing and obnoxious.  Resist the sense that you’re bothering the police or making a scene.  

Shout, “Hey you, get your damn hands off her!”  Intervene, cautiously of course.  In the words of Dr. Carrie Keating, “The harm of saying something is really quite small when you stop to think about it, but we’re so sensitive to embarrassment, to stepping out of line, to one another's privacy, that sometimes we don’t step up when real action is called for.”

The real action can be anything that shows that you’re WITH the victim. Anything. To the person you’re concerned for, “Wanna use my phone?  Let’s get outta here. It really concerns me how you’re being treated.  Do you know anyone else here?  My name’s Lindsey.  I’m worried about you. You have toilet paper in your pants.”  

Make a habit of busting the human tendency to be complacent.   Simple formula: feel it. That scrunch in your gut that tells you something is wrong?  Then stay with it. The bystander effect is going to try to swindle you out of this instinct. Think of three or more solutions and then pick the best one. Bystander intervention muscles.  

In the comments, I’ve left you some scenarios for you to try out as practice.  Decide if you want to respond and how, then upvote the comments you really like. Intervene and stay curious.