Thursday, January 31, 2013

Today's Funniest Study Popularization

OK.  Now I'm getting worried about my mental health.  I've just finished quickly skimming  a study which concluded that based on data from the early 1990s those married couples with the most gender-traditional division of labor at home (she does cooking, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, he does bills and the yard and driving) had the most sex.  Those married couples who had a less gender-traditional division of labor at home had a lower frequency of sex.  Or rather, the larger the share of the husband in traditionally female chores, the lower the frequency.

More about the study itself in a later post, after I have read it more carefully.  But after finishing skimming  it I murmured to myself (as us goddesses do):  "I bet your ass that almost all the popularizations are going to be about men and sex, not about couples and sex, or about women and sex, and I also bet your donkey that many of them hint that men should do fewer of those female chores because that way they will get more sex!"

And then I Google the study and start reading the popularizations and I laugh and I laugh and I laugh and then I wonder how I can find it so very funny that my predictions are 100% correct.  Whatever.

First, there are 116 separate popularizations of this study, the Google machine tells me.  Wow!  Even important health studies rarely get to those numbers.

Second, many of them indeed seem to think that the study is about men-and-sex, not about couples-and-sex.  Examples:
Fox News:
Listen up, men.
Before you listen to your wife tell you doing more chores around the house will lead to more sex, read this.

PolicyMic headline:

Valentine's Day Tip For Men: Sex More Likely For Those Who Avoid House Chores

The Australian headline:

For men, doing housework means less sex, say sociologists

The UK Telegraph headline:

Husbands who only do 'manly' chores have more sex - study

Digital Journal headline:

Study: More housework equals less sex for married men

And so on and so on.  Can you see why I was laughing?  Humans really ARE hilarious.  And not the English speaking ones only: 
Hombres: más tareas del hogar, menos relaciones sexuales

Studie: Ehemänner verlieren durch Hausarbeit Lust auf Sex

Tutkimus: Tiskaava mies saa vähemmän seksiä

Mmm.  So the study was about how men could get more sex and its message was that they should stop helping with the dishes or childcare or the vacuuming.  Except that the study was NOT about men but about couples and it did NOT find that men who did fewer chores overall got more sex.

I'd also be a little bit wary about generalizing the results to today, given that the data was collected in the early 1990s, even though the authors hope that this can be done.  They have a vested interest in the current applicability of the findings, of course, but there's no data to tell us whether things are the same or different twenty years later.

I can't stop laughing at those popularizations.  They are so very obvious.

But they are also political, in the sense of sexual politics, and that's why they get popularized so much.  Here is a weapon to use when the wife nags again about the laundry or the dishes or the vacuuming!  Here is a way to goof off AND get rewarded for it by more sex.  A 2010 study which found that the total hours of household work by both men and women correlated with more sex (using the same data or something very close to it, I think), didn't get much attention at all.  That's because those findings didn't have that political significance. 

Poor study authors.  They sorta tried to go against the flow:
One of the study’s authors warned that husbands should not take the findings as an excuse for not helping with the cleaning and cooking.
Sabino Kornrich said: "Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives' marital satisfaction."
Mmm.  "Help around the house" indeed.  Even the phrasing assumes that those tasks are hers to do.

Third, and most hilariously,  not a single popularization I saw suggested this:  Women!  Do more traditional female chores and you get more sex!  But that's also the implied conclusion of the study.