Thursday, August 19, 2010

Defining Slut. 2

Several commentators have raised objections to the study mentioned in the previous post claiming that it was methodologically flawed due to the inability to control for confounding variables, bias and so on. I will admit that the study does have some flaws but basically the conclusions are valid.

Firstly, the study involved 10,000 women and the data was collected by the CDC, good sample size and a non-partisan credible collection agency. Tick.

Secondly, the study didn't control for socio-economic and demographic variables. This would be a legitimate criticism is a particular community chosen for study was non representative of the group. However the sample group was meant to be representative of the entire U.S. age cohort. Therefore, many of the biases, would in reality cancel each other out to produce a picture of the "average". Whilst this does not give us an absolute guide to a particular persons behaviour it give us practical rules of thumb by which we understand the real world and navigate society and base our expectations. The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the brave but its the way to bet. The "pure" risk of promiscuity is of academic interest only. We marry real people.

What we have here is statistical purists objecting to the application of the average to the particular. A complaint of limited relevance.

Thirdly, objections centered around the definition of stable marriage:
A stable marriage was defined as a woman over 30, who had been married for five or more years at the time of marriage. Basically who was excluded from the study was any woman less than 30 and any woman over 30 with less than 5 years of marriage. As their marriages were of indeterminate stability. Their data was excluded from the statistical analysis. This definition is reasonable as:

1) Most women want to be in a stable marriage by their 30's. The mean age of marriage in the U.S. when the study was done was 25, so this seems a reasonable end point.
2) A woman divorced before 30 was by this definition not in a stable marriage, I agree.
3) A 5 year definition of stability seems pretty lax, but I'd hate to see the figures if the standards were raised. Even with these lax standards the promiscuous can't make the grade.

However the study has a systemic bias. If a woman had multiple short flings in her youth but then entered a stable marriage she was included in the study. It's important to realise just how important this definition is. By keeping the age of stable marriage above thirty, the study gave the woman a chance to be wild whilst young and then monogamous. Example: A woman who had 12 partners prior to 24 and then found the "one" would still be considered as being in a stable relationship when she was thirty. It appears that there was systemic bias to minimise the effect of youth promiscuity in this study. The systemic bias of the study would have supported the common trope of the promiscuous college student settling down to be a good mother, yet even in a study that is designed in their favour they fail.

It appears that the Heritage Foundation wanted to give the promiscuous every chance to succeed in their relationships.

Also keep in mind that there are two aspects to being in a stable marriage, they are forming a stable marriage and then keeping a marriage. This is why the "sexually active but in not in a relationship" group were included. The presumption here being that women between 30-45 wants to enter a stable relationship. It appears a common sense assumption and it appears from the study that the promiscuous have problems with both. Whilst the relatively chaste seem to have better prospects.

Of course there are some women who don't want to get married and who are sexually active and these are likely to skew the stats. However, despite the "Girrrl Power" idolisation of Kim Catrall, nearly all women want a "Mr Big". The number wanting otherwise is likely to be small and insignificant. The methodology of the study is sound.

Finally, on speculative note, these two graphs raise important questions:

1) Whats going on in young girls between 12 and 18?


It appears that the turnover rate seems to stabilise 19-20 age group. Does pre-marital sex before 18 cause some problem with bonding? I'm not saying it does but it would be something worth further investigating. Does a permissive adolescence impair their ability to form long term mates? I'm not making a statement here, just wondering.

20 comments:

THOMAS AMUNDSEN said...

Why is the y-axis labeled "Percent of Sexually Active Women Over 30" in this and the previous chart?

Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life said...

I think the more sexual partners a woman has the less stable her marriage is. It's not so much that she "can't bond", but that she has "already bonded", just not to her husband.

That's why the old boyfriend hunting her up on Facebook is such a threat to marriages. It's some guy she has already bonded to, and perhaps better bonded to, pulling on her heart/pussy strings.

Every other body system can blow out from overuse, why not the endocrine/neuro system related to pair-bonding?

The Social Pathologist said...

@Thomas Amundsen

What the authors did was divide the women over 30 who were sexually active into cohorts, dependent on their age of first sexual activity.

Then they looked at the cohort to try to determine the percentage of sexually active women in stable relationships.

For example,in the bottom chart, of all the girls who were over 30 and sexually active and commenced sexual activity at 12 or less years of age only 18.47% were in a stable marriage. As opposed to the women over 30 who were sexually active and commenced sexual activity between 19-20 years of age, where 63.05% of that cohort of women were in a stable marriage.

Hope that helps.

The Social Pathologist said...

Athol:

It's not so much that she "can't bond", but that she has "already bonded", just not to her husband.

It's quite possible. I'm open to alternative explanations as I think there's something going on here that warrants further study.

Still, the effect seems less prevalent amongst women who commence sexual activity later, which leads me to think that exposure to multiple sexual partners particularly during adolescence may cause long-term bonding dysfunction. Perhaps there are neuro-endocrine changes as a result.

It's some guy she has already bonded to, and perhaps better bonded to, pulling on her heart/pussy strings.

I think there is some validity to that as well. The pleasant memories of someone else will always be a refuge when personal relationships are bad or boring therefore a source of temptation during such times.

Thursday said...

There is relevant question about whether having sex with someone before your husband causes you to be more likely to divorce him or whether the kind of people who are more accepting of premarital sex also tend to make poorer marriage partners. Causal link vs. selection effect.

I suspect both are true, but it remains to be seen which is more important.

Thursday said...

However the sample group was meant to be representative of the entire U.S. age cohort. Therefore, many of the biases, would in reality cancel each other out to produce a picture of the "average".

Irrelevant. The argument is that women who don't have sex before marriage are more likely to be of higher socio-economic status (or more intelligent) than women who don't and that it is their higher socioeconomic status (or intelligence) that makes them more able to form stable relationships. Women of the same socioeconomic status (or intelligence) should not be much different in their ability to form stable relationships regardless of how many people they have slept with before.

I mostly don't buy the above, but the study doesn't control for that possibility.

**** ***** said...

the definitions were as lenient as was humanly possible. seriously.

Tom said...

I have to find the entire methodology suspect based on personal observation. Among my friends (middle class, university, liberal, but personally socially conservative) there is a 0% divorce rate, most marriages are looking at 15-20 year anniversaries, # of lifetime sexual partners would be be between 1-3, and *every* single one would have been classified as *not* in a stable marriage if surveyed between 18-33.

Simply put, the age of marriage for urban, educated, middle-class skews close to 30, which precludes the possibility of a "stable marriage" by the parameters of the survey.

Tom said...

The argument is that women who don't have sex before marriage are more likely to be of higher socio-economic status (or more intelligent) than women who don't and that it is their higher socioeconomic status (or intelligence) that makes them more able to form stable relationships.

I'd argue that given today's social context, a women who has had *no* sexual partners before marriage is more likely to have *strong* religious leanings (as opposed to lighter, cultural-based religious leanings) which tends to have a somewhat negative correlation with education and socio-economic status.

I don't think comments on relationships between very high religiosity and intelligence are likely to be productive.

The Social Pathologist said...

I mostly don't buy the above, but the study doesn't control for that possibility.

I'm not having a go at you Thursday, just discussing the topic.

The study doesn't control for a whole bunch of other variables as well. What about cultural beliefs, pill usage, porn consumption, wife's BMI? Remember, the purpose of the study was to study the effect of promiscuity on the "average woman". It's a "rule of thumb finding". To diss the study just because it can't predict the statistical probability of divorce in say, a bunch of ex-hookers who are "born again" is to a subtle attempt to deny any epistemological validity to the concept of average.

Btw, it's the same type of argument pushed by the tobacco companies in refusing to accept liability for the health effects of their products, despite the overwhelming evidence that smoking causes cancer. They have escaped liability in many cases by arguing that there is always "some other effect" in a particular individual which may be responsible for the disease.

The Social Pathologist said...

...."born again" is to a subtle attempt to deny any.......

should be

....."born again" is a subtle attempt to deny any........

Sorry

The Social Pathologist said...

......and *every* single one would have been classified as *not* in a stable marriage if surveyed between 18-33....

Nope. It only excluded those groups if they were married less than five years at at the time of the survey.Were you married in your early 30's in 1988 you were included.

The only bias here was toward the promiscuous.

The college whore who slept with 100 guys but was married with three kids at 35 would of been included as being stable marriage material. If a woman had three divorces before she was thirty, then remarried, and had been in that marriage for five years at the time of the study, she was included as stable marriage material. In both instances these women were accorded the same status as the woman who had slept with and married one man only. Now most normal people would recognize that there is something not fair about this methodology. Even with the bar set so low the promiscuous still fail miserably.

With regard to religion and intelligence its been my experience that the religious fall into two groups. The majority are below the average and a lot of their religion is superstitious and fine as long as it doesn't tax them too hard and a minority that are super smart and usually very devout. In my experience the Non-believers tend to more fall in the middle of the intelligence spectrum. The problem with a lot of the middle level thinkers is that many of them think a bit(a lot more than the prole class), but they don't think too thoroughly.

Thursday said...

If the relevant factor were the woman's intelligence or SES, it would be foolish to look at a woman's number of sexual partners as having any independent predictive power. It would be just guilt by association.

The Social Pathologist said...

At least in adolescents it appears that socioeconomic status does not matter.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with SP on the subject of religion versus promiscuity and income. My daughter and her friends are all at least upper middle class, graduated from an elite, religion based academy and are all in Ivy League colleges. 7 of the 9 of her closest friends took the virginity pledge with one another. My daughter informed me of this when I cautioned her about the things young men may say to get her to drop her guard. 5 of them, including my daughter, are quite beautiful young women.

The girls at my daughter's all female IVY League college tease her that the boys from the two neighboring schools are all infatuated with her because of the clothing she wears--modest yet feminine. What I know, as a grown man, is that they see her innocence (at 19, sophomore year)and are instinctively attracted to it. I cannot speak to the other girls in her group, but my daughter was not raised to be a prude, only admonished (as I was by my mother)to try to make the first time special by being with someone who you love and who loves you.

For those of you lost on this topic, I would suggest you read Tom Wolf's book "I Am Charlotte Simmons". It is about just this topic.

Anonymous said...

As a last aside on this, having grown up in a dual urban/rural world, and being in the age group that this study covered as well as being married at the time it was covered, I can honestly say that, if anything, rural girls age 14 to 18 were in the mid 70's--far more willing to drop their drawers than urban girls of the same age.

Can't say why, many theories abound on that, but I can say it's true.

dragnet said...

"The girls at my daughter's all female IVY League college tease her that the boys from the two neighboring schools are all infatuated with her because of the clothing she wears--modest yet feminine."
Gonna call bullshit on your story---all Ivy League schools are coed.

Todd said...

I know this is late, but I'd guess the women in the early sex activity were either sex abuse victims or girls who lived in otherwise unstable households (e.g. physical abuse, neglect, substance issues, mental illness, etc.). That would explain both the high partner turnover and the future marital instability, if only for lack of childhood models. Also, the feminists might try to use info like this as "see! You're blaming the victim!" Interesting information still.

Todd said...

I know this is late, but I'd guess the women in the early sex activity were either sex abuse victims or girls who lived in otherwise unstable households (e.g. physical abuse, neglect, substance issues, mental illness, etc.). That would explain both the high partner turnover and the future marital instability, if only for lack of childhood models. Also, the feminists might try to use info like this as "see! You're blaming the victim!" Interesting information still.

Antoinette Hughes A+++ said...

I am very intelligent. I tested high in giftedness in elementary, been in honor classes, got accepted to a university while in high school still. But I started having sex at 16. So haha to your preconceived notions that only less intelligent women have sex before 18!
P.S. I can spell very well, got A's on all my spelling tests in school. People just hate me because they are jealous of me...The one and only Antoinette Demetria Theresa Hughes!