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[personal profile] genie22

Determined, intoxicating, resourceful and stereotypically middle-class – you only need to spend a matter of minutes at medical school before you meet an ‘Ana’ or a ‘Mia’. Romantic and feminine these names may be, but things aren’t what they seem – a significant minority of ladies who appear successful and talented amidst our incestuous fishbowl are keeping a very dirty secret. Their secret commands and compels out of choice; the choice to equate weightlessness with godliness. 

Welcome to the darkly exclusive web called pro-active anorexia. Preferring to be seen as a social movement which serves to define anorexia as a lifestyle choice, the movement concentrates on self-control and discipline in order to better the self. Providing a sharp contrast to the professional view of the condition as a disease or a disorder, ‘Pro-Ana’ defines itself as a proactive ‘choice’, differing from the reactionary behaviour of eating disorder anorectics. Followers are inspired to initiate from within themselves, without needing to maintain ‘internal control’ as a psychological coping device in response to some external event or stimulus. They thrive on the challenge of getting the human body to respond to will; a task they feel must be completed before turning their iron will to better the rest of the world. Pro-Ana’s see themselves as a power to be reckoned with. ‘Victim’ is a dirty word.  

Websites such as the Grotto, provide invaluable support to Pro-Ana’s battling against victimisation. Inspirationally grotesque pictures of celebrity skinnies, such as Nicole Richie and Calista Flockhart are categorised as ‘thinspiration’ nestled amongst quotes from luminaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Catherine de Medici. These writings are used liberally to battle against the ‘victim’ mentality despised by the movement. After all, ‘no one can make you feel inferior without your consent’. Practical support is also offered, delineating foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, whilst teaching the reader how to deceive outsiders into thinking they’ve not ‘avoided that plate’. What is especially striking is the perceived thought of society as the ‘enemy’.  

Viewed as a victim culture, society and its peons are out to inspire conformity to pre-determined biological standards. The conspiracy of conformity is an interesting one – are the people who ‘give in’ to natural hunger impulses weakened by their desire to satiate nature? Are the very same people eager to silence ‘pro-Ana’ voices in order to hide their insecurities about the way the Ana lifestyle exposes their weakness? What about the perceived selfishness where the masses aren’t allowed to ‘throw off the chains of nature and exist self-directed’? These are well worth considering in an increasingly individualistic world where the principles of deontology are fighting against decisions taken for the ‘greater good’.

Whilst individualism may attempt to provide a theoretical basis for getting the body one wishes for, the libertarian argument to have the right to create said body falls flat when the attitude of pro-Ana’s towards their opposition are concerned. Unsurprisingly, feedees, feeders, sumo wrestlers and squashers are castigated for being weak in spite of their single-mindedness to look and feel as they please. Their pictures make a presence in the ‘reverse trigger’ section, amidst sensationalist articles on ‘fat acceptance’ and the perils of obesity. 

It is evident that the desire to be thin stems from a more expansive area of the psyche. Historically speaking, anorexic behaviour was relatively confined to ascetic types. Greek philosophers observed the body, to be part of the material world, considering it evil in contrast to the ‘holy’ soul imprisoned within.  This depreciation of the body was not confined to male recluses, with wealthy Roman ladies and princesses taking part in self-imposed fasting in order to prove altruistic enough to survive on their faith alone. ‘St Jerome’ was the first of many young ladies canonised for trying to beat the biological block, the second being a princess who fasted when her father promised her in marriage to a Saracen king of Sicily. The princess, who wished to serve only Christ, managed to make her sufficiently unattractive for her suitor to call off the wedding. Her father had her crucified, resulting in her canonisation for her alleged ability to communicate with Christ.  

Consequently, the ‘martyr’ complex has placed a psychological premium on female physical stamina and procreative capability. Renaissance anorexics were praised for their ethereal devotion to helping the sick and the poor at the expense of their own health and appearance. Sex was seen as the end to all dreams and desires by a significant minority of women with the implications of motherhood and an adult life being intimidating enough to instigate fasting in those who felt threatened by this.  

Interestingly, the complex is swept aside in economically poor times, such as the Dark Ages, where populations had more pressing concerns of recurrent famines, plagues, and attack by marauding armies – similar to modern day trends in the developed world and the middle classes of the developing world.  

The recent history of anorexia stems from the 1960’s. Increasingly skeletal societal notions of beauty, in addition to the equation of ‘thin’ as powerful are arguably more responsible for the all-pervasive ‘fear of fatness’ versus altruism or insecurity regarding responsibility.  

Surveys have shown that present day beauty standards are 23% lighter than the average UK female of reproductive age, in comparison to just 8% lighter in the 1960’s. Thin women are portrayed as paragons of virtue and femininity, acting as muses for the most sought-after clothes and products. Without doubt, they capture the most successful men. The media glamourise this, equating the thin girlfriend to masculinity and success. Ordinary men alter their expectations, since a bought pair of breasts and buttocks looks just as good as a natural one. Add a new obesity scare-story at will and it’s unsurprising that sixty percent of UK females are on a diet at any one time.  

Even the clothing industry is in on the act – witness the fuss Kookai made over resizing their UK lines to be larger than their French equivalents and the success of books such as ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’. By downsizing the amount of material required to cover a diminished female body, the companies can keep their prices static and increase profit margins. Whoever said insecurity didn’t pay?  

As medical professionals, it is our responsibility to be empathetic whilst working in a patient’s best interests. A mentally competent patient is within their rights to refuse treatment, with advanced informed consent directives issued in the state of mental competence standing firm if the patient is presently incapacitated to do so. The legal and political implications which make failing to deliver care equivalent to negligence mean the murky world of ‘Pro-Ana’ is one that must be seen and heard.

Date: 2006-06-05 10:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Some of the pictures on that site are pretty disturbing. I came across a website that was formed of a collection of anoerexia porn recently, and that's worse. It's very hard to understand how peope can find these rather death-like figuires attractive.

I understand acetisim, I understand using your body as a way to have control over yourself, but convincing yourself that it's beautiful?

Date: 2006-06-05 11:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think there are deeper reasons to finding such a body beautiful. I personally like looking like an adult female is biologically expected to, in addition to liking the responsibilities expected of one. It's fair to assume someone else mightn't?

Anorexia porn is more worrying than feeder porn. Although both extremes are unhealthy, it's slightly perverse to fantasise over seeing a female as something helpless/innocent due to a perceived 'lack' of adult features. Perhaps it's a control thing, like paedophilia?

Date: 2006-06-05 11:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Pro-ana communitys kept me sane for about eight months. They stop you feeling alone, they allow you to justify actions you know are logically incorrect, and that alone makes you feel less like shit. And when you feel less like shit, you're a step further away from your illness and a step further towards recovery.

If you've not had the illness, don't judge.

hello there...

Date: 2006-06-20 11:07 am (UTC)
ext_3073: moi (Default)
From: [identity profile]
remeber me. Friend os Exedra.s?

I forgot to include you int eh friends corral when I went F-list only. Is it okay if I add you now.

You make fascinating reading.

As for Pro-ana it's not ap henomenon i'd heard of untill now, and it shocks and worries me.

I totally take on baord silent dave's "if you've not had the illness don't judge" but having watched someone die from it at an eary age, I think that although he found the 'pro-ana' helpful, it was a unintemded side effect. The entire purpose of the movement seems to be deep deep denial that making a choice, is not the same as being compelled.

No addiction is a Choice.

and all forms of body dysmorphia (sp?), are rooted in addictions.

Re: hello there...

Date: 2006-06-20 11:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sure, go ahead and add :)

Was going to add you soon anyway (we've got Chris and Jo in common too)!


Date: 2006-06-23 11:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hi there,

Could you drop me an email please at natasha.morabito (at) ?

There's some quotes of yours that we'd like to use in the Ladies Loos book and I wondered if I could send them to you so you can look them over and hopefully give your permission to use them.



Date: 2006-07-07 01:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

well its two fold thing really isn't it - my prejudices say it comes down to class in great measure [Though I couldn't back that up empirically]:

- on the one hand the working class are eating themselves to death [spose I could lose some weight too] because of cheap shit food, and shit low paid jobs and cheap shit lives where they get fucked with 24/7. Its a culture of pleasure, albeit an escapist one.

- at the same time middle class life - even supposedly in it's 'healthy' aspects [Organic food, the endless joggers you see in London Parks] is increasingly about control, risk avoidance and ensuring optimun posture is our winner takes all experience: Which finds its logical conclusion in self-harming behaviors. I wouldn't see anorexia as particularly deviant behaviour - its a natural corrollary of a fundamentally sick culture.

As regards the surveys, we ought to be careful - though beauty standards may have got thinner, the increase in obesity since the 1960s means that the average in of itself may not be a 'healthy weight' whatever that may be.

Anorexia porn is pretty disgusting, but then matters of taste often are. Given that people will fantasize over animals, shoes, plants, and a plethora of kinky situations it is not to odd, in and of itself. I'm curious as to what you mean by perversion- it is a curious topic.

From an simplistic darwinist perspective behaviours such as homosexuality, masturbation and so on could appear as 'affectations' - since they do not obviously foster reproduction - though clearly one can create reasonable hypotheses which draw on Humanity as a cultural species with a clear social peer bonding function to recreational sex.

Like so many things the biological and environmental aspects interact don't they - clearly there is an evolutionary draw to younger healthy females, but also away from those of a non-reproductive age/status. Theseare informed by and consolidated through taboos and cultural norms, and these tend to be adopted in varying measure by those in the society.

Equally, there is a genetic compulsion to mate with partners from a different gene pool, as inbreeding is negative. This has to be balanced by a draw towards available females - if all Japanese men were programmed to only desiire busty dark skinned women, then the Japanese race would have died out. So there is a tendency, mediated by culture, to pick from what is available. Though we might find the West African female obsessed Japanese male certainly fetishistic, but would we suggest that he is perverted? In the past almost certainly, but today we are more comospolitan in our sensibilities.

One question which is interesting *is* the status of pornogaphy; one slant from a feminist perspective would suggest that pornography is exploitative of those who are employed in it. With adult performers our views on this would depend on our undestanding of freedom of choice, and whether be find sex work uniquely exploitative. In the case of children this is uncontroversial as we agree as a society that children [alongside certain adults] do not have the capacity for making such reasoned choice.

The really curious question is whether digital pornography - i.e. created out of photoshop, or animation is to be considered disgusting - as there is not an obvious abusive relationship involved. I would argue that it is still impermissable, on two grounds:
1. It may encourage action on such fantasies, which we cannot condone.
2. The morality of the acts implied are actually disgusting a depraved in of themselves. Though difficult given the relativisim of our times, wwith whic I have considerable personal sympathy, I would suggest that there *are* certain norms and limits to taste which can be defended a priori as it were. This woulld also rule out rape and torture porn.

Policing this in action is of course another matter. But once we establish that these things and the people that partake in them - as with sadists who fox hunt - then this in itself is a positive force - we deny them a fair hearing to which they have no real claim.

As a teacher I encounter anorexia and self-harm a lot, it is a difficult area.


Date: 2006-08-10 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm actually a therapist and after many years in practice am tying up the loose ends by researching the most challenging mental illnesses treatable by therapy. Self harm is one of them, and I hope to first analyse the motivation behind it (overlaps with addictions and many other negative image problems such as body dysmorphic syndrome) and then try and undo it using cognitive methods. The current treatments almost seem to rely on medication and therapy barely touches the edges of it.
It seems partly a desperate scream for attention and basically a drawn out fake suicide attempt. It also appears to be used as a false route to self esteem as sufferers pretend their 'power' in damaging themselves somehow makes them important. I'm surprised how little is known about these problems which drove me to do something about it.

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