April 22, 2012 Michael Kaufman

Locked-in syndrome is a nightmarish condition where you are awake but you have no voluntary control over your muscles. You are totally conscious but also completely paralyzed, unable to move or communicate in any way except, in some cases, by blinking your eyes.  Fortunately, locked-in syndrome is extremely rare.

My research has uncovered a far-more common and, in its own insidious way, as devastating a condition: locked-out syndrome.

Locked-out syndrome occurs when you have full control over your body, but your mind is not aware that your body exists. Or, if aware, you obsessively pretend that it doesn’t. You are locked out of your body.

Tens of millions of people have been stricken by locked-out syndrome, particularly in countries with high levels of conservative religiosity.

Watch for These Symptoms!

Symptoms do vary by country and culture, but they can include:

  • Intense shame associated with our bodies.
  • A particular obsession with women’s bodies. For the most extremely locked out, a belief that women should cover their hair, arms, legs. For the somewhat less locked out, severe psychological reaction to anything that confirms that women have nipples. Pubic hair: forget it.
  • Prohibiting displays of public indecency, such as breastfeeding.
  • Hysterical reactions to the thought of children and young adults learning age-appropriate things about physical pleasure, sexuality, birth control, and sexual decision-making and communication. (And subsequently not noticing when you end up with high rates of sexually-transmitted infections, sexual assault, unwanted pregnancies, or people stuck in sexually unsatisfying relationships.)
  • Refusal to freely provide safe and effective means of birth control.
  • A belief that those same women to whom you’ve denied sex education or birth control should not have the right to obtain an abortion when many of them become pregnant against their wishes.
  • Taking as more important the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country than its GSP (Gross Sexual Pleasure) or misunderstanding that term and thinking sexual pleasure is gross.
  • Castigating masturbation as shameful and sinful.
  • Slicing off or sewing up the genitals of girls in the name of tradition.
  • A pathological refusal to imagine that being physically attracted to someone of your same sex is as healthy as attraction to someone of the other sex.
  • Blaming sexual assault on the victims.
  • Oh, and for men, wonderful escape clauses from all of the above particularly if you are in a position of economic, political, or religious power.

Join Those Who Are Working to Prevent Locked-Out Syndrome

Luckily for us all, there are women and men who are working hard to prevent locked-out syndrome. The incredible thing is that to support them you don’t even have to wear a ribbon!

But you do need to:

  • speak out against (and vote out of office!) politicians who suffer from this syndrome or act as insipid mouthpieces for those who spread this filthy disease;
  • encourage healthy and positive sexuality education in schools;
  • support the accessibility of safe and effective means of birth control and abortion with the costs covered under public health care;
  • guarantee that everyone has the same legal rights – to marriage, property, adoption, inheritance – regardless of who their body and mind are attracted to (assuming, of course, there is mutual consent);
  • support legal reforms, public education campaigns, and training of police, judges, teachers, health-care providers, and religious authorities to end sexual and physical violence, child marriages, and harmful traditional practices such as female genital cutting;
  • financially and verbally support organizations in your community that are working to prevent locked-out syndrome.


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