This week the news has been full of the furor ignited by radio show host Rush Limbaugh’s characterization of a young woman – a Georgetown University law student – who publicly spoke in support of the Obama administration’s policy on insurance coverage of birth control. While this issue is a hot button in social and political discourse, my concern is what Limbaugh’s language means from the mental health perspective.

He characterized the young woman, Sandra Fluke, as, “a slut and prostitute,” equating her interest in birth control being covered by insurance as, “wanting to be paid to have sex.” He went even further, stating that if she’s to be “paid for sex, then she should reciprocate by posting videos of her sexual encounters online for all to see.”

This over-the-top and un-factual condemnation brought disgust from many quarters on both sides of the political fence and cost Limbaugh’s show six or more advertisers, prompting an apology that excused his behavior as an inappropriate attempt at ‘humor’.

Here’s my take:

Behavior such as Limbaugh’s is symbolic of profound immaturity and personal insecurity; a massive cover-up of a fear-based character. Whether in childhood, or in chronological adulthood, this behavior is the stuff of bullies and sexists.

In my opinion and that of the mainstream mental health community, it is NEVER ok to be personally disrespectful to others. It is abusive and a sign of psychological dysfunction – whether it happens behind closed doors or on the public/paid airwaves.

As a society, it is far more important than politics and social causes that we recognize this type of behavior for what it is: Emotionally unhealthy at its core.

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Jeff Levine

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