“There are 15 references, but they’re all about sex, not cancer.”
The paper makes the case that sexual frustration can result in genetic mutation but fails to provide any evidence to support the claim. The paper is a perfect case study of how not to do science. There are of course references, they just fail to be present for any of the fundamental arguments the paper makes, instead appearing to support those sentences that state the bleeding-obvious and the barely relavent.
I’ll wager a bet that this completely speculative research will be reported uncritically, as dramatic “findings” and of course, without a proper reference when the story is covered by the tabloids. It will be interesting (perhaps interesting is the wrong word) to see how the Daily Mail covers this story, in their ongoing quest to “classify inanimate objects in to two types: those that cause cancer, and those that cure it”, the Daily Mail have claimed cancer is caused by (amongst hundreds of other things): blowjobs, sex and of course.. teenage sex. I’m fairly sure they won’t turn down the opportunity to report a “shocking new finding” that turns the story around and throws breasts and nuns in to the mix!
Apologies to those of you who read my blog at work… this article is sooo never going to get through your web filter. Oh and I should probably add that there is certainly no conflict of interest here, I believe sex is great, cancer is terrible, and sexual frustration is, erm, most definitely best avoided. I wish I could write a piece championing this research, I really do. The science is just too, damn, bad.
Stuger, J. (2011). An Essay on Sexual Frustration as the Cause of Breast Cancer in Women: How Correlations and Cultural Blind Spots Conceal Causal Effects The Breast Journal DOI: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2011.01206.xFollow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
So before we continue our theme this week of lampooning fleet street’s utter failure to understand the basic principles of Science I’ll give you a break with this little gem of neanderthal level fire and brimstone I came across in the Washington Times this week. According to the article 1 in 6 women are addicted to porn. The headline should set off alarm bells right away. Who decided they were addicted? Women in general? American women? Or just women who read a particular crackpot website perhaps?
NB: in many crackpot reports the working definition of “addiction” is just “use of X”. Thich explains in one sentence a lot of strange stats you may have seen refering to every type of addiction. (The case for this haphazard use of the word is supposedly that when you just go up and ask someone who uses “x” whether they are addicted to porn, alcohol cannabis or whatever, the standard response is “f*** off”.) The academically accepted definition however, requires distress of the individual sooner or later.
So after a brief look in to the referencing of this study we can see that this earth shattering finding was found by… no, not a study but a survey by “Today’s Christian Woman” presumably of Christian women (we are left to guess however because none of these crucial facts are included in this three page long abomination, oh and it was conducted erm 7 years ago (What the hell, thats not even news!) Not only that but outside of this news paper article I can’t find any evidence anywhere on the internet that this study ever existed. It certainly doesn’t seem to have been cited by any other reputable media in the erm 7 years since it was published. There are a couple of mags and blogs with similar titles but they don’t seem to have any evidence of this survey. Which is a real pity because I was really looking forward to hypothesising why responders to a survery on a website for Christian mothers had such a massively higher level of pent up sexual angst than the average woman. (Put the pitch forks away that’s called a joke, if you didn’t get that you might as well sod off right now).
OK, well I could go on all day about the methodological and statistical catastrophes in this article but that would be missing the wood for the trees. (Why don’t you try it for yourself, this ones a text book case. TIP: Find who conducted the other study in this article and check what they actually found?)
The article goes on to cite a Mary-Anne-Laydon, a professor (please god no) of women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston as saying (as if it were definitive fact):
“The more pornography women use, the more likely they are to be victims of non-consensual sex”
The article then continues on to chat about some other random bullshit without even attempting to address this second earth shattering statement in this story. Seriously, did she just say that? Yes. This illustrates superbly an extraordinarily basic principle that newspapers in general don’t seem to get….
Correlation ≠ Causation
Obviously to any rational being there are most probably dozens of uncontrolled factors at work. Without some earth shattering evidence to the contrary, the fact that one bullshit study from a source too obscure to bother citing in a three page text that found that some women who were raped watched porn and some other women who said they didn’t watch porn didn’t get raped tells you absolutely, categorically, sweet, f*** all. It’s absolutely irrelevant to anything and everything ever.
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Continuing the sexual theme (we’ll get to the drugs and rock and roll soon I promise), in this piece I’ll be reviewing a rather ridiculus paper that I first came across (doing believe-it-or-not actual legitimate research on sexuality) as part of my psych course (yes really, if Freud taught us anything it’s that psychology professors tend to be obsessed with sex)… The title of the paper is A Woman’s History of Vaginal Orgasm is Discernible from Her Walk (no I’m not kidding). This paper, published in Belgium, is a couple of years old now, but here goes. The paper opens (read, let’s us know exactly where the authors stand) by bigging up all the benefits of penetration over, well all the stuff in between (involving the clitoris). The authors explain how clitoral sensory information is transmitted down the spinal cord directly in to the brain whilst feeling from inside the vajayjay is transmitted up a separate pathway (one of the cranial nerves). Therefore, even women who have a fully severed spinal cord can still experience vaginal orgasm but not the clit kind.
The authors go on to argue on that basis that essentially sex with a willy makes women feel better than just clitoral stimulation because it results in a substancially greater release in prolactin (Gold award for geekiest chat up line ever, right there). According to the authors, inability to orgasm vaginally makes women everything from more psychologically immature to less happy with life in general. No comment.
Next we get to the weird stuff, the study goes on to cite a pretty morbid study I’ll just quote…
In older persons, slower walking speed and lesser stride length were both associated with increased risk of dependency, mortality, and institutionalization in a three-year follow up period
Seriously? A study was needed to find that old people that walk slow are probably going to pop their clogs before their peers that are still merrily bouncing along. The answer is yes, that actually happened. For the record, (something the current study neglects to mention) the sample in this study was “chinese men over 70 years of age”.
I wouldn’t dispute this study on old chinese men (and cardiovascular discorder), just question why it was cited in relation to… er… dutch university age women and their sex lives. I could have cited a study about Granny Smith apples harvested in melbourne and it would have been more relevant. The only thing that connects that study to this one is that it’s to do with walking.
So far so good, next the study cites possibly the weirdest piece of academic research I’ve ever seen, as definitive fact, brace youselves for the least politically correct thing you’ve heard all year…
Relative movement of hips and shoulders provide fairly accurate indicators to differentiate (in different directions) male and female homosexual and heterosexual walkers.
The researcher went up to 20 (a pretty tiny sample for such a broad claim) dutch female psychology students and persuaded them to fill in a questionairre about how often they did it, and in which ways. Of those 20, 4 dropped out (only four??). The researcher then filmed the women walking up and down the street in either two conditions, imagining they were on a beach and imagining they were with a man they liked. “Participants were blind to the hypothesis”, read participants were very, very confused.
The videos were then rated by two “professors of sexology” and two research assistants. The rating was based on…
“free, fluid, energetic, sensual manner of walking (with an emphasis on energy flow through the rotation of the pelvisand the spine)”
(stride length + vertebral rotation) is greater for vaginally orgasmic women
Bizzarely, this paper isn’t a rare occurance, theres whole volumes of this stuff (add the word psychology for the truely nutty ones), presumerable because sex sells and the fact that this paper is being reproduced two years later, in this blog only goes to prove that rule. (Oh dear, have I broken rule #1 already?).
As I am (thank god) no-longer studying this area of psychology as part of my course I’m not going to be coming across as much of this from now on so if you find a particularly ridiculus or earth shattering piece you come across that you’d like to see reviewed just drop it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy walking!
A big thank you to Ben Goldacre for bringing this back to our attention on his twitter.Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
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