Wednesday, October 20, 2010


It's not a scientific article, but its based on one. Once again, hinting at the existence the social processing mechanism in female cognition.

The important take home message is that the media influence isn't just "cognitive", but that it seems to affect the physiology of the female brain. Note; men seem far less influenced by images.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Programmable Sex.

I thought I would list Baumeister's articles in order to provide some academic legitimacy to my concept of "the social processor" in female thought. As I mentioned in my social processor post, in women, the "social processor" has greater weighting over the generalised thought processes and can, in many instances, override their cognitive and primitive processes i.e reason and mating drives.

This conceptulisation does however lend some support to the left wing view that the female sexual identity is a social construct. The problem with the left wing view is that it is an all or nothing model whereas in reality women are a combination of their biological drives and social conditioning. Men are the same, except that in women the social conditioning has a greater control of their being, they are in effect more "programmable" than men. Women are "hard wired" to follow group norms.

I'm not a big fan of evo-biological explanations. If however, one were an evo-biologist, one could argue that this "hard wiring" is a result of evolutionary selection. Women, being physically smaller and weaker than men, would have gained a survival advantage by sticking together as a group rather than being solo. Women who could naturally follow the group would have been most likely to survive. Personally, being Catholic in my beliefs, I feel that God designed women this way. Whatever His reasons, God made women more "social" than men.

I deal with a lot of female anxiety and depression, a lot of it stemming from dysfunctional interpersonal reactions. When it comes to relationships with other women, one of the most distressing things that can happen to a women is for her to be on the outer, or outside the predominant clique. Women who are outside the group generally either try to associate with others or seek entry back into the clique. This isn't rocket science, anyone with a modicum of life experience and female friends will have observed the phenomenon. Behavioural alignment with the group brings some type of psychic benefit, exclusion, psychic pain. This is why "shaming" is such a powerful motivant in female behaviour, group ostracism brings the psychic hurt.

The question is, how do women determine what are group norms?

Clearly direct perception is the mechanism, but perception may be first hand or second hand. Let me give you an example of this second hand effect.

As a family physician I do a fair amount of gynaecological examinations. The trend for "less hair down there" was already evident in the early 90's. With Sex In the City and the popularisation of the "Brazilian", "hair" virtually disappeared down there. The early adopters being the more "trendier" type of girls. It is highly unlikely that women directly observed other women with hairless genitals, rather the knowledge of this behaviour was spread by the media and adopted by the women. The media were setting the standard for group norms subconsciously. No one in on the show, set out to convince women to have Brazilians, rather their positive portrayal of the practice, their association of it with the "alpha females" of the show, led to other women adopting the behaviour.

The Western cultural taboo of directly inquiring about other peoples sex lives means that a lot of information with regard to sexuality is gleaned second hand through the media. A media, which time and time again has shown itself to be unobjective. What the media choose to report and how they portray it will then determine how women will respond to it. If admirable women are presented as being promiscuous, then women will feel influenced to be promiscuous, no matter how "illogical" or "disagreeable" they find the practice. Their brains are wired to pull them into line. If chaste women are presented as "frigid, dysfunctional and asexual", a woman will be strongly influenced not to be chaste. The media then is the "invisible hand" of morality. It is not simply a source of information, but a powerful active shaper of behaviour, operating at a subconscious level. Men on the other hand, being more anti-social and solitary, would be more resistant to this type of influence.

Numerous articles have been written on the danger of porn consumption on men, but the more I've thought about female "behavioural plasticity" the more I'm convinced that porn is more likely to indirectly influence female behaviour more than male. Recently Roissy posted on the increasing incidence of anal sex, a behaviour whose acceptance I believe has been strongly facilitated by the consumption of pornography and its positive depictions of it.

Our society is drenched in porn. It is only a mouse click away. The internet, the perfect media for its distribution, allowing curiosity( or lust) to be satiated in anonymity. Most women do not seek porn like men do, yet they do note what goes on. Mrs Smith may initially be reluctant to engage in anal sex, but several porn videos that she has seen have shown the actress writhing in delight, and Mrs smith thinks, gee that's interesting but not for me. Then an article in Slate magazine reports that the behaviour is increasing in prevalence especially amongst the young (i.e attractive) and is very pleasurable.(Porn also operates on other levels, by using attractive participants, and psychologically linking pleasure to practice) Then it may be mentioned a bit more in the daily newspapers. Suddenly Mrs Smith feels that it is a more common practice than she imagined and she is on the outer. Finally, in a discussion with some close friends, she hears how some of her other friends have tried it with variable results. Finally, even though she is not that keen, she gives into her husband, who has been pestering her, to try it. Whereas previously she would not even have considered it, the idea of being outside the group influenced her to try it. If the experience is positive, it becomes powerfully reinforced, if neutral tolerable, if negative, she may feel guilty because she can't give her partner something other women can give theirs.

Years earlier, there was no porn for her to see, the media would not have mentioned it at all out of considerations for "public morality" and socially she would have been ostracised if anyone found out she practiced it. Mr Smith may have wanted to try it, but there was no way in hell that she was going to do it, all her friends were backing her up.

On a meta level, the question of how much of female behaviour is "endogenous" and how much is "external" is of more than academic interest. How "independent" is a woman in the uninfluenced choice her actions? How free can a woman be if she is endogenously biased against rebelling against the crowd? If women are strongly influenced by their peers, and their peers strongly influenced by the media, how independent of the media are they(NSFW)? The political ramifications are enormous.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Female Erotic Programmability, Reading Material.

A while ago I put up a few posts outlining my thoughts on how womens cognitive processing differs from that of men, based upon my experiences with patients suffering from Post Natal Depression.

See here, here and here.

Well it appears that someone else has been thinking on the same lines.

Dr Roy Baumeister is apparently a doyen of evolutionary psychology and has pretty much come to same type of mental model with regard to female sexual response.

BAUMEISTER, R.F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347 – 374.


BAUMEISTER, R.F. (2004)Gender and Erotic plasticity: Sociocultural Influences on the Sex Drive. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19, 133-139.

I plan to comment on these papers in the next post.

Fundamentals of Conservatism. Update.

I got several positive (and some negative) comments with regards to my Fundamentals of Conservatism posts. For those who are interested, I plan to continue these in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Trends that Will End Badly.

Today, Roissy put up an interesting post on the subject of anal sex. The practice seems to be entering the mainstream. It's my personal belief that it is due to the ubiquity of porn and its influence on modern Western Culture. Coincidentally, the local medical press recently reported an increase in the rate of anal/rectal cancer amongst the under 40's. Note, the rate seems to have commenced it rise from about 1984, about the time of the home video revolution. Video, it appears, did more than just kill the radio star.

Perhaps there is a link?

Here is a table reproduced from the same study.
(Click to enlarge.)

Once again, numbers matter.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Infidelity, Part 3.

I'd though I'd list a few studies which, though flawed, still show a link between sexual partner count and infidelity.

Sexual Infidelity among Married and Cohabiting Americans. Author(s): Judith Treas and Deirdre Giesen, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 48-60.

This was one of the first big studies looking into the the phenomena and controlled for an extensive list of variables including education, sexual values, sexual interest, religious values, marital duration and cohabitation. The study involved 2598 women between the ages of 18-59.

Some of the statistically significant positive predictors of infidelity were:


Sexual interest, defined as how often the subject thought about sex, (1.30).
Non permissiveness, defined as how negatively infidelity was viewed, (0.53).
Number of partners, (1.01). (N.B partners= partners after the age of 18 and before first marriage.)
Living in the central city, (1.47).
Male, (1.47).
Marital duration, (1.03).
Sharing a mate's social network, (0.74).

Each year of marriage increased the odds of infidelity by 3% whilst each additional sexual partner (after 18 years of age) increased the odds of infidelity by 1%.

This study also looked into attitudes and 99% of respondents expected sexual exclusivity. The polyamory crowd are freaks.

The study seems to be flawed in its methodology. The women were divided into two groups, those who were married once and those who were married more than once. The once married were allowed to answer sensitive questions anonymously whilst those who were married more than once were interviewed. Of those married more than once, the data excluded sexual relations that had happened after separation but before divorce and infidelity was only measured for the most current or recent marriage. In other words, if a woman had been unfaithful in her previous marriage it wasn't included. (I don't know who dreams up the methodologies of some of these studies, they almost seem to want to artificially lower the rates of infidelity)

Another study to look at infidelity, available online, is;

Cherkas et al. (2004). Genetic Influences on Female Infidelity and Number of Sexual Partners in Humans: A Linkage and Association Study on the Role of the Vasopressin Receptor Gene (AVPR1A). Twin Research, 7, 649–658.

This study was flawed in that it sent out a questionnaire to 3654 pairs of female twins aged between 19 and 83, of which only 46% bothered to complete and return it. Personally, I feel that this biases the study towards "conscientious" types, introducing another confounding variable into the analysis. However even with this bias toward the "goodie-goodies" a link between promiscuity and infidelity was statistically established. The mean number of lifetime partners was 4.67. The unfaithful had a mean of 7.73 whilst the faithful had a mean of 3.78. (p<0.001) all have their faults. But with regard to promiscuity, all studies show an increase in the risk of divorce and infidelity correlated with cumulative partner count. People may legitimately argue about the degree of the effect but no study shows a protective or indifferent effect.

A good review article, available on line, is;

Infidelity in Committed Relationships II: A Substantive Review. AJ Blow, K Hartnett, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. April 2005, Vol. 31, No. 2, 217-233.

Perceptive readers will note that I have mentioned nearly all the major studies looking at promiscuity and infidelity. I have not been selective in the studies that I've presented. What's really interesting in how little research has actually been done on the matter despite such a strong correlation. Now, I'm fully aware that correlation is not causation, but the whole raison d'etre of statistics is to establish correlations which may be causally linked.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Infidelity, Part 2.

A far better study looking at the correlates of infidelity is,

Sexual infidelity in a national survey of American women: Differences in prevalence and correlates as a function of method of assessment. MA Whisman, DK Snyder, Journal of Family Psychology,Vol. 21, No. 2, 147–154.

This was an interesting study based on the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth and involved 4884 women.

It was a study with a twist.

The authors recognised, from previous research, that the response people give at an interview may be influenced by by the method of data acquisition. Namely, people are less likely to give accurate answers with regard to socially questionable activity in a face to face interview compared to an anonymous technique.

For "sensitive" data, the National Survey of Family Growth employs two techniques:
a) A traditional face to face interview.
b) A-CASI method, where the person listens to questions on headphones privately and enters the data into a computer, eliminating any "interviewer" effect.

What the authors did was compare data from the two responses and measured the difference.

Respondents were asked if they had a "secondary" sex partner over the previous 12 months. The study controlled for race, age, education, previous sexual abuse, religiosity, cohabitation and divorce.

Face to face interview revealed an incidence of infidelity of 1.08%
A-CASI interview yielded an incidence of 6.13%, nearly a six times greater increase in infidelity.

In fact, the authors found that when comparing the two techniques, significant differences in response were found with regard to:

1) Educational achievement.
2) Lifetime sexual partners.
3) Premarital cohabitation.
4) Ethnicity.

No differences were observed with regard to:

1) Religion.
2) Remarriage
3) Race.
4) Age
5) Childhood sexual abuse.

To quote the authors;
Thus, the fact that infidelity has been assessed using different methods across different studies may help to explain the inconsistent findings across existing studies. For example, if the current data obtained from the two modes of interview had been reported in two separate studies, three predictors would have been significant in one study but not the other, and the magnitude of the effects for four of the predictors would have been significantly different between the two studies. As such, the present findings regarding significant differences in the magnitude of the association between predictors and infidelity underscore the importance of consistent use of assessment methods across studies if a replicable set of predictors of infidelity is to be identified
And what were the correlates?
(Based on the A-CASI method of data acquisition, table has been modified and data omitted per copyright compliance, any breach is unintentional.)

Religion was scored on a 5 point scale, from never going to church to going to church more than once a week. Education was scored in years with the mean being 13.2 years.

Each additional sexual partner increased the odds of infidelity by 7% while increasing years of education seem to decrease the risk by 10%. Very roughly speaking each addition partner negates the benefit of a year of education with regard to infidelity risk. Yet another study demonstrating the effect of promiscuity on relationship exclusivity/stability.