Empty Calories Science

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’ve been struck by two seemingly unrelated pieces this week. The inimitable Twisty eviscerates a study on sex and foreplay.

Meanwhile, Rachel posting on Alas a Blog, links to a study on women, hormones, and clothes that disturbs her more than she can fully explain.

In both cases, what is being called science is junk science. The “foreplay study” consisted of 58 people total. The “ovulation study” was 30 women subjects and 42 judges! The researchers in that study say their results are “well beyond chance.” Perhaps they mean that they had better results than the lottery?

Who knew that ovulation increases your fashion sense? Is the fashion industry missing a bet? Do female fashion designers do better work when they are ovulating? Who wants to fund that study?

Just to pick a choice bit from each one: the foreplay researchers “established a baseline” by using pictures of the Canadian countryside. It’s well known, of course, that everyone of all genders, ages, and backgrounds reacts the same way to pictures of the country, so their baseline was completely reliable in every respect. The ovulation researchers seem to believe that 60% of their 42 judges have some kind of magical handle on what is “more fashionable.” For example, they can tell compare two very similar outfits and decide that one is more fashionable because the tank top is prettier and she has a little more jewelry on. Maybe she was going out to dinner with her mother?

We think we know at least part of what’s bothering Rachel: the ovulation “scientists” are objectifying women’s sexuality, and giving themselves and their judges the right to evaluate it, in the false name of science. In the foreplay study, the issue is more extreme, and no one could describe it better than Twisty: “I remain unconvinced that anyone conducts a sex study for any reason other than to gratify some pervy urge to stick electrodes on other people’s naughty bits and watch porn.”

We can only close with this perfect short poem from Bay Area poet Daphne Gottlieb, which she wrote in a related context:

is mine
and you
have it.

science junk science, sexuality, gender, ovulation, fashion, Daphne+Gottlieb, Body Impolitic

1 thought on “Empty Calories Science

  1. Oh, too amusing! I just had to read the related article … now I can’t wait to explain to the love of my life that foreplay is out. I’m sure she’ll explain that such an action (or lack of action) works both ways. Long live foreplay!

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