Thursday, April 20, 2006

Science, Society, and Lingerie

Two very interesting studies out to show that the naive version of the nature/nurture distinction has no place whatsoever in discussions of human sexuality:

Echidne of the Snakes discusses a University of Chicago study comparing the relative happiness in one's sex life with the relative status of women in one's culture. They found -- surprise, surprise --

Sex is more satisfying in countries where women and men are considered equal, according to an international study of people between the ages of 40 and 80 by researchers at the University of Chicago. Austria topped the list of 29 nations studied with 71% of those surveyed reported being satisfied with their sex lives. Spain, Canada, Belgium and the United States also reported high rates of satisfaction. The lowest satisfaction rate - 25.7% - was reported in Japan. The study was led by sociologist Edward Laumann, considered a top authority on the sociology of sex, who believes the findings show that relationships based on equality lead to more satisfaction for both genders.
As an entrant in the "obvious truth of the year" contest, we have Professor Laumann who summed up his findings with the old chestnut, "When mama's not happy, nobody's happy." Social structures influencing satisfaction with that part of life that ought to be the source of joy, passion, and intimacy...who would have thought?

The other study, blogged over at Goldbricker in her usual insightful and snarky fashion, was recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. This study demonstrates that men shown images of attractive women and lingerie are more likely to act irrationally. Subjects who were exposed to the images while engaged in a financial game were more likely to enter into unfair deals than those in the control group. Challenging Professor Laumann for "obvious truth of the year," are the researchers of the University of Leuvan with,

The suggestion is that the sexual cues distract the men's thoughts, preventing them from focusing on their task - particularly among those with high natural testosterone levels.
At the press conference, the lead researcher was quoted as saying,
These finding are preliminary, but certainly suggest a statistically significant relat... hey, who is she? I wonder if she's Austrian...
And in response to the obvious next question,
The researchers are conducting similar tests with women. But so far, they have failed to find a visual stimulus which will affect their behaviour."