Sunday, November 08, 2009

Releasing Frustration (by Phila)

Japan has one of the lowest teen birth rates in the world. One reason for this, I'd assume, is that Japanese teens tend to delay having sex longer than teens in many other countries.

All the same, the Japanese health ministry hopes to go further and fare better, and so they've commissioned a research study that apparently ties loss of virginity to skipping breakfast.
In a study of 3000 people, those who did not regularly eat breakfast in their early teens said they lost their virginity at an average age of 17.5, versus an overall average age of 19 for all Japanese.

Those who had a morning meal when they were younger had their first sexual experience at 19.4 years.

The study...concluded that a stable home life discouraged early sex.

"Those unhappy with their parents - such as for not preparing breakfast - may tend to find a way to release their frustration by having sex," said Kunio Kitamura, head of the Japan Family Planning Association who led the research.
Putting aside the issue of correlation vs. causation, the number of bizarre assumptions here makes my head swim. First, of course, there's the definition of "a stable home life" as one in which teens are waited on (by an otherwise unoccupied parent of unspecified gender), instead of being provided with food and taught to prepare it. Second, it's assumed that these teens became unhappy with their parents as a result of missing breakfast, though they might just as easily be refusing to eat because they're already unhappy with their parents (or for some other reason entirely, like scholastic stress). Third, sex is portrayed as some idle pastime like playing with matches, to be indulged in when one is bored or frustrated or resentful. Give teens something better to do, and sexual thoughts will scarcely cross their minds.
"If children don't feel comfortable in their family environment, they tend to go out."
To be fair, I haven't seen the study itself, and this article probably doesn't paraphrase it very well, especially given the language and cultural issues.

But taken simply as a layperson's description of research that may or may not be ludicrous, it's a good example of what I see as the ideological flipside of pop-science writing about Evolutionary Psychology. In the popular press, mating and parenting instincts tend to be all-compelling urges against which progressives and feminists struggle in vain, while sexuality tends to be a sort of pathology that's imposed on innocent teens from outside...often by an alleged breakdown in precisely those traditional family roles that EP has made holy. You must transcend biological urges as a teen, and you can't transcend them as an adult.

You wouldn't think we could have it both ways. But somehow, we manage.