Sex, science and statistics

Discuss

57 Responses to “Sex, science and statistics”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ban ALL LIQUIDS/ GEL in carry-on. No 3 ounce.

    Airports should be FORCED to carry liquids/ gels that passengers use in flight. PRICES should be govt controlled – no free market airport prices.

  2. sbthrowaway says:

    typo: “affected”, not “effected”.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well the problem with asking “What do you normally do?” is that it is very susceptable to people convincing themselves about what they “normally” do. “I don’t normaly do this,” is a lie told firstly to oneself, then others.

    • dculberson says:

      [blockquote]“I don’t normaly do this,” is a lie told firstly to oneself, then others. [/blockquote]

      This person speaks truth!!

    • Maggie Koerth-Baker says:

      On “normal” behavior:

      Best way to gauge that would be a study that asked the same people, maybe once or twice a year, “Who was the last person you had sex with?”

      I’m just saying that a one-time “who was the last person” doesn’t necessarily tell you what their normal life is like…thought it does get MUCH closer than “have you ever”.

    • bkad says:

      Well the problem with asking “What do you normally do?” is that it is very susceptable to people convincing themselves about what they “normally” do. “I don’t normaly do this,” is a lie told firstly to oneself, then others.

      Very true, which is why you never see surveys asking people that. Instead it is something like, “in the last week, how many times did you do X”? (I think I’ve taken some surveys which are explicit about not wanting to know ‘typical’, only ‘this last week’.

      A similar principal applies to budgeting. When people start writing down what they spend (or put into their mouths) all kinds of revelations follow.

  4. Karl Jones says:

    People don’t generally “lose” their virginity.

    They trade it in for a newer model.

    • technogeek says:

      “People don’t generally “lose” their virginity.
      They trade it in for a newer model.”

      I like. Reminds me of a friend who carried a card certifying that they were a born-again virgin. (With small print at the bottom saying “(warning: this may be an old card)”.

  5. sabik says:

    And neither “Have you ever?” nor “What are you doing right now?” is really a great stand-in for the far more important, “What do you normally do?”

    Actually, the latter is a pretty good stand-in, provided the sample group is big enough, homogeneous and not otherwise correlated. The biggest problem is that it won’t distinguish between a mixed group of 80% steadies and 20% swingers on the one hand and on the other hand a uniform group where everyone goes steady 80% of the time and swings 20% of the time. To do that, I suspect you’d have to follow them over time. Possibly you could ask questions concerning a span of time, but that would be less reliable because memory tends to be fallible.

  6. JoneenM says:

    As an individual who highly respects Dr Santelli and Dr Kirby, I must state the actual wording of the abstinence legislation does not say that non marital sex “will have” harmful consequences, it states that “it is likely to” have harmful consequences. There is a huge difference in that wording. This wording is also addressed to school aged children, not the young adult college population you speak about in this article.
    Secondly, the abstinence legislation was started under President Bill Clinton in the 1996 Welfare Reform and Social Responsibility Act which is intended to reduce poverty, suffering, dysfunction, drama and misery (that is likely to be related to living in poverty. The goal is not to just reduce teen pregnancy and disease but also to reduce non marital births and to increase the number of children who live in a safe and stable two parent home. The research on healthy family formation and marriage is stellar and robust regarding its impact on the well being of children and adults alike as well as the impact on self sufficiency and financial health.
    The comment of Dr Santelli regarding cohabitation does not come close to aligning with the data that supports the positive effects of a healthy marriage over cohabitation. Heck, marriage must have its merits as our gay frineds are fighting for it!

    Our agency teaches the life an love skills necessary for the development of a healthy relationship. Many of our highest risk children do not see healthy, committed loving romantic relationships or do not experience daddy love. If we do not show them what this looks like and equip them with skills, how are they going to receive the love and affection we all long for in the human experience?

    Respectfully submitted
    Joneen Mackenzie RN
    Founder / President of WAIT Training and the Center for Relationship Education

  7. hungryjoe says:

    Someone ought to do a study on how many times Americans have freaked out about a new trend in adolescent sexual habits. It could start at the Salem Witch Trials and run right up through this so-called “sexting.”

    My wife and I met at age 17, began cohabiting at age 20, got married at age 22. Have been in the same monogamous relationship from then until now (14 years). The funny thing is that while we find ourselves in the 80% monogamous majority, we both initially planned to be in the 20% casual encounter minority. If we took this survey in Sept/Oct 1995, we would have skewed the numbers in the wrong direction. We are still surprised to find ourselves here. Our mental health is about as sound as can be expected.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Here’s something else that fits your “Sex, Science and Statistics” theme. Everyone knows that teenagers are “sexting” and using the internet for sexual communication. And there’s a lot of talk about teens being addicted to the internet. (Count yourself lucky if you’re not living in China, where they’re sending kids off to rehabilitation camps for internet-addition, beating them and killing them.)

    Recent research,reported by Ethic Soup blog, found “Internet Addicted Teens More Likely To Hurt Themselves” than non-addicted teens. Some 1,618 teens in Southeast China were the subjects in a study where collaborative researchers were from Australia and China.

    How bad is it that the way the world now communicates correlates with self-injury? Ethic Soup says the hurt is physical, that internet-addicted teens are — hitting themselves, pulling their hair out, burning and cutting themselves.

  9. Anonymous says:

    It is important that parents tell their daughters they believe they are pretty and smart, from an early age. This way some young punk Lothario-wannabe can’t get all up inside their pretty little heads and tell them how much prettier they could be if only they would give it up. Also, be sure to tell your daughters the smooth-talking young man will never become pregnant, that they will have to say “no” firmly and loudly if they want his life to be similarly messed-up after coerced sex.

  10. das memsen says:

    Why on Earth we give these studies any time and energy is truly puzzling. If we’ve learned anything from these so-called “scientific studies” it’s that the opposite conclusions will be drawn in a similar study 20 years from now.

    How does one scientifically arrive at the causes of bad mental health, or even defining such a thing? Jesus- how naive are we to fool ourselves into thinking we have a clue about this? Teenagers have no clue why they feel what they feel at any given time- hell, most adults still haven’t figured it out. Bad relationships have a lot more to do with how well the couple communicates with each other and how honest they are about things than whether or not penis’ and vaginas are finding new friends.

    Monogamy has its benefits, polygamy has its benefits. They’re both human inventions with flaws; better stick to values that rise above the individual, like honesty, if you’re trying to come up with some kind of useful conclusion.

  11. BetterBombshell says:

    bkad, it has been brought up in California. Time.com wrote about it earlier this year: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1885190,00.html

  12. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    Everyone knows that teenagers are “sexting”..

    That’d be 15% passive (have received) and 4% active (have sent), of 12-17 yerar olds. Up to 8% active for 17-18 year olds. Not exactly a landslide of nekkid teen photos..

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1440/teens-sexting-text-messages

  13. Anonymous says:

    Something is wrong with your mice. One mouse is humping the back of the other ones head. That is not an effective reproduction strategy.

  14. Gloria says:

    I still don’t get the obsession of whether kids are dating or not. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of myself as dating or not dating.

    I just meet a person, be their friend, like them, start seeing them more frequently, and eventually we look at each other one day and say, “So, do you want to call this a relationship?” The more formalized process of courtship is completely alien to me.

    • das memsen says:

      That’s been my experience, too, but I’d say we’re in the minority. People want to be in relationships, they hate being alone, so they go about every which way of making them happen. Waiting until someone comes along that you naturally click with is too much to wait for to most people, and hey, when do you see that model on tv? If everything around them is about the date and the sex that comes after it, why would they bother trying a different method, unless they had a good model (e.g. parents) for it? I’m not against “dating” per se, it just seems like an awkward, contrived way to go about it. The odds that you’ll find someone you click with based on meeting them at a bar, party, or online just seem pretty small… but hey, sometimes it works. I’m not knocking it, I just think falling in love with someone you’ve been friends with makes more sense…

      …though the bottom line is still the same- people are complicated creatures, no matter how they hook up…

  15. JoshP says:

    @Karl minnesota is below sweden and above, i don’t know, antarctica on the caucasian scale(go bears) sorry, man

    first, as a weird aside i just started listening to open yales ‘global problems of population’ class series, and it starts with some of these problems.

    i back threaded one of the articles citation…found girlology(r) umm… this kinda creeped me out, but sex positivism and information are better than cloisters. (pimp scarleteen <–)

    i don’t know, too many variables. if someone punches you in the face, thats bad. if you ask someone nice to pull your hair, ehh?

  16. hubs says:

    You might find this study interesting: 238 Reasons Humans Have Sex

  17. bcsizemo says:

    Well when I was a teenage 10+ years ago or so I perceived the “adults” reaction to teen dating more along the lines of pregnancy…

    Yeah safe sex, and all that. But get the girl pregnant and you’re dead.

    Not that I had sex, or a girlfriend in high school. Yeah I was more the social outcast that didn’t like the “norm”…or following the herd.

    And I found my wife in college by one of those hallmark movie do you believe in destiny kind of moments. Married for 6 years and going…

  18. mdh says:

    GOD HATES “long-term, non-married monogamy”

  19. tim says:

    Hmm, this brings to mind a somewhat relevant post from comp.lang.smalltalk of some years past -
    “Java programming is like teenage sex ….

    Everyone talks about it all of the time (but they don’t really know what they’re talking about);

    • Everyone claims to be doing it;
    • Everyone thinks everyone else is doing it;
    • Those few who are actually doing it:
      • Are not practicing it safely;
      • Are doing it poorly, and
      • Are sure it will be better next time.

  20. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    technogeek,

    I think I was more surprised at the fact that it is officially sanctioned (federally funded), rather than its mere existence.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Why is sex as a general conception being tied to mental health? The article reads as if all sex is the same, not taking into consideration of the reality that some sex is satisfying (healthy) and some sex is not as much so.

  22. warreno says:

    “Far more thorny is the question of whether casual sex, or any sex outside marriage, is emotionally harmful.”

    There’s no question, and it’s not thorny. The only reason sex outside of marriage is “harmful” is because nosy, judgmental nitwits decide it is.

  23. Chris Spurgeon says:

    “diverse group of Minnesotans”

    Now, THERE’S an oxymoron.

    • Karl Jones says:

      “diverse group of Minnesotans” … Now, THERE’S an oxymoron.

      As a Minnesotan born and bred, I got a chuckle from this observation.

      But while it’s true that Minnesota was largely settled by Northern Europeans pioneers, this is a surprisingly diverse state.

      For starters, there’s the Native Americans population. I don’t have a percentage figure at hand; but although it’s not a large percentage, Minneapolis/Saint Paul has the highest concentration of Native peoples of any American city (from what I’ve heard, anyway; again, no figures at hand).

      African-Americans make up something like 10% of the population — we’re no Chicago, but neither is this Whitebreadsville, at least not in the major metro areas.

      We’ve also got a fair number of Somalis and other East Africans — something like 50,000 out of a metropolitan population of 2.9 million.

      The Hmong migrated here in considerable numbers, and have a thriving community.

      And then there are the Tibetans, who found the area to their liking; we now have the second-highest concentration of Tibetans in the country.

      And let’s not forget the Mexican-Americans, who have founded a thriving community — East Lake Street is practically Little Mexico City, and you can get some darned good tamales, amigos!

      On the other hand — yeah, it’s mostly white folks running politics and business, so I guess the “diverse as Minnesota” jokes are deserved.

  24. Nadreck says:

    Sex studies are usually only funded or reported on if they are sensational enough to justify interfering in other people’s sex lives. This is a very popular activity since the less sex other people are having the more is available for you plus being a gatekeeper on a basic human need gives you a lot of personal power.

    Studies, like the one that found there are more American males that NEVER have sex with anyone else ever are a bigger group than practising homosexuals are quickly buried. After all, there couldn’t be any mental health issues there could there? Anyone hinting at any form of male sexual dysfunction is immediately shouted down from the twin towers of the Left and the Right: from the Left because it suggests that all males’ lives aren’t perfect or that current society confers any advantages to females; from the Right because it suggests that you might actually have to do something to encourage the SATANIC EVIL of sex.

    Suggestions that some women might actually enjoy heterosexual sex and even that they might do things to get some are greeted with cries of horror for much the same reasons.

    Any form of nuanced analysis is always ignored because it doesn’;t fit into a sound-bite nor does it play to extremist viewpoints. For example, on the question of rape there are two main camps: one is that only pre-arranged, scheduled hookups with signed and witnessed contracts* are legitimate – everything else is rape (Dworkin’s famous “All sex is rape”); the other is that a masked maniac battering down a door with an axe to assault a grandmother knitting the American flag is rape – everything else is just bad sex. Anything in-between? Anything ambiguous in sexual situations? Nah, couldn’t be.

    * Eg. “Party of the First Part hereby affirms that she is horny and wants it as bad as he does.” Some of these are available on some campuses as a response to various Morality Militias.

  25. Anonymous says:

    i can’t pull specific numbers here, however, I have heard research on multiple occassions stating that the chances of divorce are much higher if two people have co-habitated prior to marriage, if it ever leads to that in the first place.

    • technogeek says:

      Again, I think that’s correlation rather than causation. Those who are most uncomfortable co-habiting are also likely to be those who see marriage as a solution and a sacrament, and divorce as a failure and a sin.

      The question is whether a properly controlled study shows anything of the sort. I’d bet not, and that you’re comparing incomparables.

  26. Anonymous says:

    “Not only were the majority of these people having sex within a relationship, but whether they were or not had no bearing on their mental health. The casual-sex havers were every bit as happy and healthy as the kids who were only doing it with a committed partner.”

    That seems rather poor methodology.

    The argument would be that having casual sex could create long-term mental health or relational problems. Measuring how they feel now would hardly be of any use in measuring long term effects.

  27. urbanspaceman says:

    First the culture needs to change, then the law will follow. It’s never the other way around.

    How right you are! Why else would the “religious right” be prosecuting their “culture war” so vociferously?

    “Java programming is like teenage sex ….Everyone talks about it all of the time (but they don’t really know what they’re talking about)”…

    (lol!)

  28. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like the monogamy police are at it again.

  29. Anonymous says:

    You will never see the enormous numbers of married people voluntarily give up their advantages in order for us to have a sane legal and social structure that makes useful distinctions between legal partnership (which society has a vested interest in sponsoring when children are involved) and religious marriage (which society should not legally recognise in any way).

    Do you expect the rich folks to line up and demand that we tax the shit out of them? No? Then why do you expect that married folks will ever give up their legal advantages?

    The reality is, legal partnership should be only limited by mental capacity (you have to be able to understand what you are doing) and not by age or gender. Marriage should be completely separate and restricted to religious groups. It’ll never happen, because Jesus would like it so Christians therefore will hate it like they hate everthing else Jesus stood for (you know, like forgiveness, communal ownership, equal rights for the sexes, etc.).

    • Caroline says:

      Why would married folk have to give up legal advantages, if the legal advantages of marriage would be part of domestic partnership? Unless you’re proposing a two-tiered system, I don’t see what there would be to give up, legally.

      Socially — if your society is a religious one — sure. Atheists who got married at the courthouse and Catholics who got married at the cathedral both call themselves married. If the atheists could no longer call themselves married, the Catholics might be able to discriminate against them. So splitting them would…encourage more discrimination against people who already face discrimination.

      If you’re hoping to quiet opposition from religious types by extending legal marriage to same-sex couples and poly households without calling it by the name “marriage,” I can tell you it’s not going to work.

      I just don’t see the advantage in removing the name “marriage” from legal marriage, and reserving it for religiously blessed marriages. To me it just seems to perpetuate the idea that people who can’t get religiously blessed marriages aren’t “really married.”

      Now, asking everybody to go to the courthouse to get legally married, and not letting religious marriage ceremonies themselves have any legal standing — sure, I like that idea. You can pray to whoever or whatever you want to bless your partnership, but that shouldn’t be involved in the state recognizing your partnership. And that might shut up some of the stupider arguments about how conservative churches would be legally forced to marry gay people if same-sex couples could legally marry.

  30. AirPillo says:

    I can’t either, but that’s just because those mice are dirty. That textured grip gets filthy! D:

  31. abstract_reg says:

    Sex should be fun. That’s all kids really need to know. If it is not fun and doesn’t feel right, then you’re either not ready, or you are doing it wrong. Maybe this is too dismissive, but I think it would help a lot of kids.

  32. ADavies says:

    Obligatory XKCD strip link…

    http://xkcd.com/552/

  33. Marshall says:

    Great, now I can’t look at my Logitech MX518 without feeling slightly dirty.

  34. Day Vexx says:

    “The median age for when Americans lose their virginity is 17. After that, Dr. Santelli and Kirby told me, studies show there’s no longer any real correlation between poor mental health and sex. Whether you have it or not, your psychology isn’t effected.”

    Until you hit 40, and promptly go bats**t crazy.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I remember reading an article during last spring semester’s Sociology of the Family that was actually titled something along the lines of “The Hookup”. While it wasn’t necessarily focused on the mental health of the teens/college agers, it did purport that they both have less relationships and more “friends con benefits”. I think I’ll pass this along to my professor :) thanks!

  36. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    Far more thorny is the question of whether casual sex, or any sex outside marriage, is emotionally harmful. That basic idea is stated as a fact in federally funded abstinence education programs, Dr. Santelli told me. But most scientists don’t think it’s so clear-cut.

    Wait. There is official literature stating that sex (natural) outside of marriage (invented) is emotionally harmful? And “..most scientists don’t think it’s so clear cut?”
    WTF? I’m frankly stunned that there is any scientific basis to support that notion at all, let alone for it to be “thorny” or not so “clear cut”.

    What does it mean in light of our evolution, before marriage was invented?

    I’m so confused.

    • technogeek says:

      Yes, there is official literature stating that sex outside of marriage is actively harmful. There’s also literature stating that masturbation is actively harmful. Publication does not prove correctness, and people have been trying to use science to defend their personal beliefs for a very long time.

  37. technogeek says:

    Long-term non-married monogamy isn’t a bad choice for many older people either. My mother entered her second marriage for tax reasons, after several decades of living with the guy. I’ve been in a stable (though not completely standard) relationship for a quarter century myself.

    Marriage, as practiced in the US, is often contract law rather than sacrament. It’s an agreement about shared resources and shared obligations, specifically obligations for care of kids.

    (I’m a firm believer in breaking this off and *only* having the law recognize the Domestic Partner contract aspect, leaving anything beyond that for individuals and/or their religious communities to deal with — but that makes too much sense ans will never happen.)

    The degree to which monogamy is exclusive varies with the individuals and the situation. Some folks find sex outside the relationship threatening, since it may imply/encourage a weakening of the pair bond. Some can deal with it as an occasional practice if the other party is someone known/liked/trusted.

    Reality is fractal. Life doesn’t have many simple yes/no answers, and trying to force it into that model will always require adding exceptions, or excuses, or apologies. Better to recognize that up front and get consensus on which rules you’re *really* playing with.

    • Jerril says:

      Marriage, as practiced in the US, is often contract law rather than sacrament. It’s an agreement about shared resources and shared obligations, specifically obligations for care of kids.

      Marriage, as practiced throughout history, has often been contract law rather than sacrament, or at least as much about contract law as about religious obligations. The long history of arranged marriages (in Christian Europe as much as the rest of the planet) speaks to this.

      • technogeek says:

        Also re marriage being contract law: The traditional wedding ring is a plain gold band because that way its value can be precisely assayed.

    • Anonymous says:

      I totally share your argument. I’m convinced that if we just called it “marrriage” under law and left “marriage” to the religious folks, much silliness would be resolved.

      Anyone see the profile of Robert George in the nytimes? I find his rhetoric a bit scary, he manages to present Catholic dogma as “natural law,” for example, he thinks that he can prove that gay marriage is harmful based on arguments that don’t involve invoking god, or bible, or whatever. I really prefer when bigoted arguments are less obfuscated. But from the summary, the guy sounds like he’s never read JS Mills, but you know he has.

    • bkad says:

      Marriage, as practiced in the US, is often contract law rather than sacrament. It’s an agreement about shared resources and shared obligations, specifically obligations for care of kids.
      (I’m a firm believer in breaking this off and *only* having the law recognize the Domestic Partner contract aspect, leaving anything beyond that for individuals and/or their religious communities to deal with — but that makes too much sense ans will never happen.)

      I agree with this too. Why don’t I hear anyone suggesting this in public debate? Seriously, I’m asking, because I don’t know.

      • das memsen says:

        Because we’ve got bigger problems taking up our public debating time, like discussing dead celebrities and the drugs they may have overdosed on.

        I’m not being sarcastic about this. This is clearly what we, as a society, care about.

        • bkad says:

          Because we’ve got bigger problems taking up our public debating time, like discussing dead celebrities and the drugs they may have overdosed on.
          I’m not being sarcastic about this. This is clearly what we, as a society, care about.

          That’s true… but people (in America at least) spend tons of time talking about what is and isn’t marriage and should and shouldn’t be legal. Why hasn’t anyone stood up and said, “hey, here’s an idea… let’s not have any government recognize ANY marriage!”

          I’m assuming this hasn’t been done because people who know more than me think it would be an even less popular than what people have proposed. But is that really true?

          • das memsen says:

            I think it’s true, yeah, I mean, that’s pulling the rug out of a lot of concepts people have lived with their entire lives. Even if you sat each one of them down and logically argued that monogamy might not be the answer, even if they eventually acknowledged the strength of the argument, changing laws like that is way too unsettling.

            More realistic is simply that our culture is slowly questioning monogamy through it’s art; think of shows like BIG LOVE, even, which isn’t exactly quality work, but just the fact that people are being shown a different way of cohabitation is a crack in the door. I think it’s slowly going in that direction, though it is clearly a long ways away… but seriously, most of human history includes a very different concept of relationships than ours today, and I’m sure most of humanity’s figure will as well.

            First the culture needs to change, then the law will follow. It’s never the other way around.

      • technogeek says:

        As others have said: The reason marriage and domestic partnership have not been broken apart is a combination of people being afraid they will lose their privileges, and of people afraid it will weaken their efforts to dictate morality, and of people who are afraid of any change.

        There are also, unfortunately, some practical barriers. The term “marriage” is engraved pretty deeply into the law, unfortunately — both written and case-law — and into contracts such as insurance policies, who don’t want to accept more people as dependents/family.

        I understand where the resistance is coming from. It’s wrong-headed, and ultimately pointless and doomed to failure, but finding a way to surmount those barriers is probably going to take a while even after the majority has agreed that they’re unacceptable.

  38. Hawley says:

    being an expert on teen sex sounds like a fun job

    • RevelryByNight says:

      I dunno, Hawley. Based on the koo-koo-crazy average (read: loudest) Americans’ reactions to teenage sexuality, I’d wager it’s a pretty difficult and frustrating job.

  39. dejaffa says:

    Anonymous@22: “Something is wrong with your mice. One mouse is humping the back of the other ones head. That is not an effective reproduction strategy.”

    Not all of us agree with the heteronormative assumption there. :-)

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