Thought-provoking news coming out of the New York Times' Economix blog today--apparently women are far more likely to describe being around their parents or their children as "unpleasant" than men are. But wait! Don't all women want families and babies? Are we not all marriage-crazed balls of impregnate-me-now-and-settle-down?
Let us try to make our little ladybrains understand this bizarre finding. A study from Princeton establishes something called the "U-index," which is the amount of time people say they're in an unpleasant state (stressed, unhappy, etc.). Per the NYT:
For science has made great advances today. We have learned something of such a magnitude, approached with such daring chutzpah, that truly, the world may never be the same: Women feel bad about their bodies because society pressures them to be thin. It's science!
I gotta give the folks at Brigham Young University props on this one.
Last week I linked to the coverage of a women-and-shopping story that demonstrated just how easy and common it is to perpetuate gendered stereotypes about consumer behavior based on absolutely nothing but the willful ignorance of people who can't even fathom a man who would like to shop, therefore women are shopping obsessed. This is what passes for scientific evidence these days, people: women must be a certain way, because we think they are a certain way, so we asked them if they were a certain way, and we found out they are a certain way! Therefore men are so totally not that way! Because men and women are different!
The same "logic" was recently applied to a University of Delaware study that sought to find out if women are crazy jealous bitches, and the conclusion was clear: women are crazy jealous bitches!
Women love shopping! They like, LOVE it. It's like, inborn in them since they are little tiny babies, just like it's inborn in little baby boys that they like trucks and being emotionally stunted assholes who only think about televisions and sports. In fact, we totally have proof that women love shopping! An online poll reports that women spend 3 whole years of their lives shopping!
Behold, a culturally constructed gender stereotype is maintained: women love shopping because nobody even thought to ask men about shopping!
HAYYYYY LADIES! Rainbows and unicorns and babies and weddings! Shoes and chocolate! Fashion! The color pink! Romantic comedies! AND GUILT! That's right, guilt is now a ladything, along with all of these other listed things that we all know women are hard-wired to have affinities for. It's science, according to some people in Spain. (For the record, I am a cultural anthropologist and have to have my arm pretty much twisted entirely off before I will attribute any social or emotional behavior to human biology, because I believe the generalized attribution of behavior to biology is one of the best ways to oppress people and make them appear less-than. So you know.)
If you, like me, want to stab yourself in the eyes every time you read the words "evolutionary psychology," you should take this opportunity to find your favorite sharp object. I like to use an ancient Native American arrowhead, because it's ironic. Something to do with early man and tools, I guess.
Okay. Got your ice pick/switchblade/shard of glass ready? Awesome. In Why Women Have Sex, a new book from evolutionary psychologist David Buss and clinical psychologist Cindy Meston, all your burning questions about why you have sex are answered. The Guardian sums up the survey of a whopping 1,006 women (I mean, that's a pretty good sample out of 3 or so billion, right?) from "all over the world" (I'm sure they totally covered most of it) thusly:
Meston and Buss have interviewed 1,006 women from all over the world about their sexual motivation, and in doing so they have identified 237 different reasons why women have sex. Not 235. Not 236. But 237. And what are they? From the reams of confessions, it emerges that women have sex for physical, emotional and material reasons; to boost their self-esteem, to keep their lovers, or because they are raped or coerced. Love? That's just a song. We are among the bad apes now.
Raise your hand if "love" seemed to you like the obvious and only reason women have sex. Yeah. How "physical, emotional and material reasons" are surprising sex motivators, I don't know--after all, women have been having sex (and been forced to have sex) with people they didn't love for, oh, thousands of years now. But lo, the evolutionary psychologists were verily shocked by the complicated brains of these little ladies surveyed:
In addition to being more likely to heckle the president during a national address, conservatives also appear to consume more pornography than liberals. You lie!, you say. I do not, sir. It's science, according to the Harvard Business School. The study was led by Benjamin Edelman, who consults with companies like AOL, Microsoft and "dozens of adult websites" on detecting advertising fraud. One might argue that porn itself is mostly fraudulent advertising, but that's neither here nor there at the moment. Let's get down to those dirty-ass Republicans and their dirty-ass taste in dirty things!
Edelmen collected anonymous credit card data with purchase dates and zip codes, and controlling for population density and bandwidth-hogging, found that eight of the ten top porno consuming states went to John McCain in the '08 election. And congratulations, Utah! You're the country's biggest consumer of pornography. So that's what Joseph Smith's magic glasses were for. Still, it looks like they might be laying off on Sundays:
Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays - a 1% increase in a postal code's religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds. Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage.
Across the board, however, the difference between porn consumption in various states didn't vary too much ...
If that boy chatting you up at the bar seems like a complete doofus, it may not be his fault. It may be yours--that is, if you're a hot babe. Discover.com reports today on a study from the Netherlands that conducted memory tests on men who'd just spoken to a woman they found attractive:
Each one performed a standard memory test where they
had to observe a stream of letters and say, as fast as possible, if
each one was the same as the one before last. The volunteers then spent seven minutes chatting to male or female members of the research team before repeating the test. The results showed men were slower and less accurate after trying to
impress the women. The more they fancied them, the worse their score.
Ladies, on the other hand, showed no decrease in "cognitive resources" after talking to a sexypants dude. Which I'm disappointed about, because maybe that would explain the Bella-Edward relationship in Twilight. He's so hot that she's too stupid to leave the creepy prick. Alas!
And while we're at it, why pass up this opportunity to essentialize gender roles by injecting a little evolutionary psychology into the activity? The Telegraph, which also ran a story on the study, interviewed Some Dude to see what he thought:
Psychologist Dr George Fieldman, a member of the British Psychological Society, said the findings reflect the fact that men are programmed to think about ways to pass on their genes. 'When a man meets a pretty woman, he is what we call 'reproductively focused'. 'But a woman also looks for signs of other attributes, such as wealth, youth and kindness. Just the look of the man would be unlikely to have the same effect.'
Whew. That explains everything. I'm going to go find a man with wealth, youth and kindness who will impregnate me with the healthiest possible babies pour myself a stiff drink.
In a press release sent out today, three dating sites have conducted a survey that says guys like fat girls, too. Clever, Date.com, Amor.com and Matchmaker.com! Obviously the fat girls out there are stupid enough not to notice your playing on mass insecurity and shame to get them to sign up for your sites. Online date away, you porkers, because love is possible, even though you're "heavy."
Ugh. The press release claims that fat women are missing a lot of "dating opportunities," apparently to date men who pity them:
"A whopping 85% of single men professed their love for heavier women with more than 80% of men feeling that overweight women are less bitchy than thin women. These single men thought that overweight women appreciate the attention that men give them and are more loving because of it."
You know, those statistics and explanations are telling, but not because they give hope to overweight women. They're telling because they show the ridiculous way overweight people are treated and perceived in society. Obviously if you're fat, you must hate yourself and be infinitely grateful for any scrap of attention you can get. Nevermind the fact that the words "overweight" and "heavy" and even "fat" are never defined in the study. Nevermind the fact that Jessica Simpson and Kelly Clarkson--two "fat" women cited as sexy role models--are about as fat as watching paint dry is fun. Nevermind the fact that you can be fat and confident (and bitchy! and nice! and silly! and smart!) and not, as this survey seems to want us to believe, merely sad and desperate for the love you will never have. Most telling of all is that the survey is about what men of any size want in women of a specific size, and not the other way around.
What the press release buries is that the question "thousands of male online daters nationwide" were asked was whether or not they'd date a woman with "a few extra pounds." 85% said they would. Ah, so scientific! And specific! Obviously this means that guys love fat women, who should sign up for online dating, did I mention that? There's a big, fat difference between asking a guy if he'd date a girl with a few extra pounds and if he'd date one who's "heavy" or "fat" or "overweight" or "obese." But ah, semantics, right? Really, the headline of this article should read "85% of Single Men Who Signed Up For Our Online Dating Sites That We Surveyed Don't Mind If You Have A Few Extra Pounds, Meaning They'd Really Mainly Like You To Be Average, Probably On The Thin Side Of Average, Thanks."
But 80% of the guys said that even if a woman was obese, they could still love her! How this reconciles with the rest of the survey, I don't know: 64% of men said that if a love interest was a "couple of pounds overweight" they would only like her if she were trying to lose it, and 42.5% of men said that they could not date someone who was more than 20 pounds overweight.
So, most men don't mind if you're a little fat, but a majority of those men want you to be trying to lose it, and most of those men are going to leave you if you're 20 pounds overweight, anyway. I think we can learn something very important from this survey: don't try to understand stupid, pandering bullshit.
Today in asinine surveys: ladies are money-grubbing whores! Er, actually, according to an AOL online survey, we're just money-grubbing. Whew. I always forget which days I'm supposed to be a frigid, cash-obsessed bitch and which days I'm slated to act as a layabout strumpet with homewreckin' on her mind. Today, it's frigid bitch! The New York Daily News has the story:
For love or money; we'll take money.
And that's the final answer to a question about what women say they would rather do when given a choice between saving $50 a week or having more sex.
Sorry, boys. It's the economy.
A national survey conducted by AOL's Shortcuts.com and AllYou.com found that, in these hard times, most women were happy to have more spending money than spending more time in bed.
I know it's a bad idea to give air time to this kind of hokey publicity tomfoolery. But just because I know better doesn't mean I'm about to refrain from calling out said tomfoolery. (In fact, while we're on the subject of great bad ideas, hold on a sec ... this whiskey isn't going to refill itself.) Apart from highlighting the fact that $50 does buy an awful lot in this crappy economy (grocery bill, when did you become $100/week?), this survey says close to nothing about anything.
While I wouldn't argue that sex and money aren't sometimes interchangeable or that they don't have corresponding values ($20, loving-you-long-time and whatnot), I would argue that handing me a fistful of cash and asking me if I'd like to gamble on some sex that may or may not be satisfying are not the same thing. 'Cause this survey didn't ask about good sex, it asked about more sex. Surely even the Men'sFitnessAskMenZooMaxim crowd has gotten the memo about quality over quantity by now, right?
It's also hard to get $50 in cash. I mean, you've got to work for it, unless you're willing to commit a criminal act--which, when executed correctly, does actually take work. It is sure not hard to get sex. It may be hard to get good sex, and it may be hard to get ridiculous amounts of any sex, but as a rule, if you just really needed to have it and weren't much bothered about where it came from, sex is a lot easier to get than $50.
Money-grubbing? No. Practical? Yes. Give me $50, and I can guarantee you that the chances of me having good sex--either because I paid my rent and I don't have to screw in an alleyway or because I bought a sweetass dress or because I'm just generally a happy, bangable person with $50--go way, way up.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: single women are stop-at-nothing whores whose every goal is to steal happily married men away from their poor, beleaguered wives. No, it's not the theme of yet another single-shaming article from Caitlin Flanagan or woebegone Gosselin tale, it's science! Er, science-ish. Er, okay, it's a survey of 184 male and female undergraduates at Oklahoma State University that proves claims that single women are practically unable to stop themselves from "mate poaching."
According to the New York Times, when shown photos of some dude, 59 percent of single women surveyed said they might want to go out with him. When told the dude was in a committed relationship, 90 percent of single women said they were interested in him. There was no change in interest level among committed women or single or committed men when told about their potential match's relationship status.
How this means that single women are prone to "mate poaching," which is the actual act of going and stealing someone's partner--because men don't have a choice, as they are powerless to defend themselves against horny Jezebels--I don't know. I'll buy that knowing a man is capable of and interested in being in a relationship might make him more interesting as a potential mate--to someone looking for a relationship. But I don't buy that finding a man attractive, partly because you know he is capable of having a relationship, necessarily leads to "mate poaching," which is what the OSU study seems to want us to believe. (Also, what are we, fish?)
One potential problem with the survey comes to mind: the research was done on 97 undergrad women, who I'm guessing are perhaps not as romantically mature as they might be in a few years. Their concepts of commitment, long-term relationships, etc., are likely to be limited, if nothing else, by their age and relative inexperience. Thus, their perception of the value of a committed relationship--and the harm in breaking one up--may be different from a 30- or 50-year-old woman's. It's a lot bigger deal to steal someone's husband than her college boyfriend.
The whole skew of this study is off, of course, because it places mate poaching responsibility on the slutty single girls
who connived and cajoled saint-like men into their beds. I mean, those guys just wanted to stay home and play XBox! Oh, wait. No they didn't: the men in the survey were just about universally interested the potential mate, regardless of attachment on either end.
Our results showed an interesting mate poaching pattern. Although men were more interested in the target than women, this was because men were more interested in the target in general, regardless of whether she was attached or single.
So, to review: single women want to take your husband, and your husband wants to screw single women, and he ain't picky about it. Oh, happy day! Thanks, narrowly-and-just-barely-not-anecdotal-scientific-generalizations-about-gender!
Pardon the racism, but why are black people so black?
Can you imagine a mainstream news outlet opening a story with that line? Of course not. But sexism! Sexism is totes cool. Time's John Cloud got away with this sweet cherry of a lead for an article on female friendships: "Pardon the sexism, but why are girls so girly?"
Blatant idiocy aside, the article covers an interesting research study that seems to show teen girls are more interested in one-on-one interaction than group activities, whereas boys experience the reverse. They showed teens photos of other kids, asking them to rate which ones they'd like to chat with online. Then, they conducted MRI scans when the teens were anticipating talking to their potential chat partners:
The results suggest that as girls progress from early puberty to late
adolescence, certain regions of their brains become more active when
they face a potential social interaction. Specifically, when an older
girl anticipates meeting someone new -- someone whom she believes will
be interested in her -- her nucleus accumbens (which is associated with
reward and motivation), hypothalamus (which is associated with hormone
secretion), hippocampus (which is associated with social learning) and
insula (which is associated with subjective feelings) all become more
active. By contrast, boys in the same situation show no such increase
in these areas. In fact, the activity in their insula actually
Cloud takes it upon himself to explain to us exactly what this means:
Perhaps it's evidence that evolution has programmed boys to compete
within large groups, so they can learn to eliminate rivals for women --
and that girls have been programmed to judge, one-on-one, who would be
the most protective father for offspring.
'Cept that the scientists who conducted the study say that overly simplistic, generalizing conclusions are bad: "The authors of the study are reluctant to draw such broad conclusions about the gender disparities." Lame-o! Pardon my sexism, but who doesn't love drawing broad conclusions about broads?
If you walk by a hot dude on the street and your ladyparts don't immediately begin to burn with a thousand fires of desire, you're not alone: a new study suggests that women may feel sexual desire as a result of having sex, not before. (And if your ladyparts really are burning with a thousand fires, maybe call up the gyno before reading the rest of this article.)
Time was, scientists figured women's libidos to be the same as men's and reckoned that if a woman wasn't walking around with a girlie hard-on, there must be something wrong with her. It's all centered around desire and arousal, with scientists assuming that desire preceeded arousal. Women who lacked "desire" were thought to have a "low libido." Now, scientists have decided that maybe there's nothing "low" about lady libido--it's just different--and that desire may come after a woman is aroused, not before.
Shocker! Viewing women's sexuality in terms of women rather than in terms of men! Who'dathunkit?! PsychologyToday takes on the issue:
"... what if desire does not precede arousal? That's what
University of British Columbia psychiatrist Rosemary Basson, M.D.,
discovered in interviews with hundreds of women. Contrary to the
conventional model, for many women, desire is not the cause of lovemaking, but rather, its result.
"Women," Basson explains, "often begin sexual experiences feeling
sexually neutral." But as things heat up, so do they, and they
eventually experience desire.
This presents a number of interesting questions, of course, with numero uno being: if some women don't experience desire before having sex, why do they do it?
Finally, a survey that makes a bit more sense than that crap earlier this week about ugly babies. A Wake Forest/Queens College tag team survey has found that men are more likely to agree on what is empirically attractive than women are. From (half the) horse's mouth:
"Men agree a lot more about who they find attractive and unattractive
than women agree about who they find attractive and unattractive," says
Wood, assistant professor of psychology. "This study shows we can
quantify the extent to which men agree about which women are attractive
and vice versa."
The study of about 4,000 people shown photographs of presumably attractive and unattractive folks probably isn't surprising to anyone who's ever walked outside, seen an advertisement, witnessed a television show, oh, I dunno, been alive over the past fifty or so years. In our mass media culture, idealized women--and one specific, white-ish, busty, small-waisted, ideal--have been sexualized, coveted objects in advertisements, entertainment, even politics.
Is it any surprise, then, that heterosexual men can agree on what's "attractive" while women have more varied opinions on what they find visually appealing? For better or for worse, hetero ladies have been allowed to lust after a variety of ages, weights, sizes and shapes of men. From Sean Connery to Zac Efron to Denzel Washington, male sex symbols are a far more diverse bunch than the femmebot cookie cutter that's been used to sell everything from hamburgers to soap.
The characteristics men said they felt that "attractive" women were
"thin and seductive. Most of the men in the study also rated
photographs of women who looked confident as more attractive." (But
wait, I thought men hated confident women? AHHHBRAINBARF.)
It's all very, very tied up in the physical body:
"The study helps explain why women experience stronger norms than men
to obtain or maintain certain physical characteristics," he says.
"Women who are trying to impress men are likely to be found much more
attractive if they meet certain physical standards, and much less if
they don't. Although men are rated as more attractive by women when
they meet these physical appearance standards too, their overall judged
attractiveness isn't as tightly linked to their physical features."
So alas--even if Daniel Radcliffe does love his older (twentysomething, eep) ladies, he might still want them to be of a certain physical ilk ...
I'd suggest we alert the presses, but news of "scientific research" that supposedly shows women don't like, let alone love, ugly babies has taken off faster than Speidi searching out a photo op. Like the Jezebel ladies, I am calling bullshit. Unlike the Jezebel ladies, I'm not sure this ridiculous bullshittery actually warrants several hundred words explaining why and how. Anyway, here's the AP nut:
"Puzzling new research suggests women have a harder time than men
looking at babies with facial birth defects. It's a surprise finding.
Psychiatrists from the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, who were
studying perceptions of beauty, had expected women to spend more time
than men cooing over pictures of extra-cute babies. Nope."
Get it, it's puzzling because women LOVE babies! Something is weird about women who don't LOVE all babies! Nobody wonders why dudes might not want to look at a kid with a wonky eye, but man, there sure must be something wrong if a lady doesn't.
This very scientific study was done on 27 people who were shown pictures of ugly/abnormal (because apparently Down Syndrome is "ugly") babies. The time they spent looking at each picture was measured.
Waitwaitwaitwaitgobackforasecond. Twenty-seven-people. Did I read that right?
Sure did. A survey of 27 people says nothing. No-thing. Nothing about men, nothing about women, nothing other than somebody's really good at getting grants for crappy projects. How this thing came out of a Harvard-affiliated hospital, I don't know, but Jesus H., even I know better than to call a study of 27 people "science."