Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An orgy of studies

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

An alternative title for this post could be "Slutty feminists, chapter III: In which my chair at the adult table is permanently revoked." For background information, there was my first response to John Bambenek's letter in the Daily Illini, and then a look at the data he used to support his statement that "99% of abortions are for sexual convenience."

Last time I showed why Bambenek's claim in his recent Daily Illini silliness that "99% of all abortions are for 'convenience'" wasn't supported by the very Institute he cites. Now, I'll take a look at the three studies he finally cited on his blog that (he says) show sex causes depression in women. He cites three studies:

The first of these, the Heritage study, I just don't find credible. This study was never anything other than vanity published and was never peer-reviewed. Furthermore, the Heritage Institute is a conservative think tank. Their very mission statement says that they "formulate and promote conservative public policies." Of course, this study is going to reflect bad on sex; it's the job of Heritage employees to produce such studies. If the study had shown otherwise, it probably wouldn't have seen the light of day.

Because this study is so useful to conservatives, even if it is unscientific, it has been cited often in the conservative media, including World Net Daily and TownHall.com. More importantly, it caused fellow conservative Joseph Sabia to publish an actual peer-reviewed study examining their results: "Does Early Adolescent Sex Cause Depressive Symptoms?" J. of Policy Analysis and Management. 25. 803 (2006). It's a long study and I won't bore you with the details. Here are the juicy bits from the conclusion:

[Recent] claims about the causes and consequences of early teen sex have been overstated... This study presents consistent evidence that early entrance into sexual intercourse is not the cause of depression, but rather is an observable indicator of depression... it is inappropriate to infer a causal link between early teen sex and depressive symptoms.

Turning to Bambenek's second study, actually it's a news article on the actual study, which I assume is Hallfors, et al. "Adolescent Depression and Suicide Risk." American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 27. 224 (2004). This study looked at the incidence of depression and suicidal ideation in boys and girls 16 ± 5 years old. This study did show an increase in the rates of depression and suicidal ideation in boys and girls having sex. "Ah ha," you say? "Bambenek was right, you say?" Well no. From the study's abstract:

Although causal direction has not been established, involvement in any sex or drug use is cause for concern, and should be a clinical indication for mental health screening for girls;

And from the study's conclusion:

There was some indication that substance use ... led to depression rather than the reverse, but there are other studies indicating that adolescents may become involved in risk taking in response to preexisting depression.

In other words, these fact that these teens were having sex may well have been a symptom of their depression, not the cause of it.

Furthermore, this was a study on teenagers, not the slutty college-age-and-up feminists Bambenek was berating. The study included girls and boys down to age eleven, which I don't think tend to be avid readers of Gloria Steinem.

(Also, the study showed that having highly educated parents led to a slight decrease in depression, but a large increase in suicidal ideation. Go figure.)

On to the third study. This is the most relevant study to Bambenek's assertion, in that it studies casual sex among college students and a possible link to depressive symptoms. At first glance, it seems to support what Bambenek is saying, that sex causes depression. Except that's only true for the women studied. In the case of men, casual sex actually correlated with a decrease in depressive symptoms. But the authors of this study specifically do not draw the conclusion Bambenek claims:

Perhaps depressed females may be seeking external validation from sex. They may be maintaining a vicious depressive cycle by unconsciously engaging in sex in doomed relationships. Possibly, these females' negative feelings of self-worth or isolation may increase their desire to be wanted by or intimate with another... Furthermore, the more depressive symptoms females reported, the more partners they had. We speculate this may be associated with either little sexual satisfaction or increased efforts to fill an internal void.

So, again, we see speculation from the researchers involved that sex may be a symptom of existing emotional problems, rather than being the cause of the problems themselves. The Grello study was done at a "university located within the Southern Bible Belt with a fairly conservative student population." If this university had attitudes like Bambenek's, referring to women as sluts and harlots, I don't think it's a big leap to suspect engaging in sex could lead to feelings of guilt and shame which could lead, in turn, to depression.

I wonder why Bambenek didn't find this in these studies, if he was using them to support his position. After all, the Hallfors study says that they did not find a casual link between sex and depression right in the abstract. Perhaps it's unfair of me, but I suspect it's because Bambenek started out with his conclusion, and cherry-picked studies that supported it. For an intellectual study of any subject -- and a scientist should know this -- that's exactly the bass-ackwards way to go about it.

Of course, all this analysis on my part was pretty much a waste of time, because Bambenek's main assumption, that feminists think women should be slutty, is ridiculous. Just to check that my belief was correct, I went looking. At the website for the National Organization of Women (and what bigger group of man-hating, inner-slut-mentality-having feminists could there be?). I couldn't find anything relevant when searching on "sexuality," "casual sex," or "hooking up." Unable to think of any more search terms, I went to their "Issues" page, where there really isn't any information about sex. Economic equality, women's health, rights for mothers, sure, but nothing about living in slut-dom. The closest thing I found was in their Health section, on how to prevent STDs. What's the first method they suggest for not contracting an STD? "Do not have sex."

Obviously, they're not very good harlots.

(Wow, you read to the end. I'm impressed. Hope you're not too bored.)

Update (2007-10-30): Added BPR3.org icon.

3 comments:

Lisa said...

Nope, that wasn't boring at all. Good job!

Narc said...

Glad to have entertained. Thank you.

Fig said...

I 2nd what lisa said, good post. Well researched, well written. Fig