Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bad body image a better predictor of diminished sex drive then menopausal status

Via Twisty comes this newspaper writeup of a study which hinted that poor body image was the primary cause of diminished sex drive in older women, and not hormonal shifts. The write up is sloppy, but the best I could glean from it is that the correlation between diminished sex drive and body image is stronger than any correlation involving hormones.

If I'm right about the study, it is exactly what Twisty says it is: another piece of evidence that patriarchal conceptions of female beauty cause a lot of misery. Still, I am also irritated at the way people are misinterpreting the science here. First, there's the Reuters Headline "Body image, not menopause, causes lack of desire." This overstates things at least two ways. First, menopause was not shown to be completely irrelevant. It was merely shown not to be as important as body image. Second, the study doesn't offer us much reason to move from correlation to causation. We don't, for instance know that being horny doesn't actually improve body image, either because people primp more, or because horny people don't have quite as many negative ideas floating around about sex in general.

I'm also irritated at this remark in the comments at twisty: "And if the shocking finding is that women don't like their bodies, then I just have to sit, mouth agape, astounded that someone actually funded this study." I am bothered, in part, because this was simply not the point of the study. I am also bothered that sociological studies can't win. If they confirm common sense, they are accused of not being worthwhile. If they go against common sense, they are accused of being the product of a demented, overanalytic scientific mind. what it really speaks to is a kind of epistemic arrogance. Nothing anyone else says could be more compelling than what I already believe.

I am, though, not so irritated that I am going to track down the original article and actually develop an informed opinion.

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