In Psychology Today, Dr. Leonard Sax complains that people avoid talking about gender differences in people who cut themselves. He writes:
I’m bothered that so few people want to address the gender differences in NSSI* – which I think are absolutely central to understanding why these young people are hurting themselves, and essential to intervening effectively with them. Marilyn Manson is not Megan Fox. Marilyn Manson’s issues are not Megan Fox’s issues. Interventions which might have helped Marilyn Manson stop cutting would be unlikely to benefit Megan Fox, and vice versa. Nevertheless — even people who really care about NSSI tend to overlook or deliberately understate gender issues here. The leading non-profit organization concerned with NSSI, “To Write Love On Her Arms,” asserts on their web site that self-injury “. . .has the same occurrence between males and females.” Not true.
Gender matters. Why are people so afraid to talk about it?
But really, Dr. Sax, it’s not so bad. There is no taboo against discussing gender differences, at least when the victims are disproportionately female. It does appear to be true, however, that not enough people distinguish between different types of self-destructive behavior. Cutting is not attempted suicide and it is certainly not the same as smashing one’s fist against a wall.
There does appear to be a taboo against serious discussion of racial disparities in cutting in the U.S. I strongly suspect that white people are much more likely to cut themselves than blacks. Asians are also probably more likely to do so. It is claimed that South Asian women in the U.K. are at higher risk than white women. Apparently, there is no taboo against addressing this. Others have brought up the black/white disparity in cutting, here and here for example, but with no statistics or studies to support their claims.
But are there actual studies and statistics that deal with racial disparities in cutting in the United States? It is doubtful, and I suspect the reason is that anecdotal evidence implies that whites are at higher risk than “people of color”. Establishment people love to think they are iconoclasts and breakers of taboos. If Dr. Sax were a true iconoclast, he would tackle the racial angle of cutting. But pointing out that a problem disproportionately affects whites is a real taboo, not a make-believe one. So we must either create our own studies or rely on guesswork for the time being.
*Non-Suicidal Self Injury