Another day, another dodgy study

// 8 January 2007

Penetrative sex cuts your stress levels, according to the scientists hard at work in Britain’s labs. And by penetrative sex, Dr Stuart Brody, the report’s author, only means straight sex. Because only straight people do that.

For a fortnight, 24 women and 22 men kept diaries of how often they engaged in various forms of sex.

Then they underwent a stress test involving public speaking and performing mental arithmetic out loud.

Problem number one: this is a tiny sample size. Now consider how this statement can be justified:

He told the BBC News website it was possible the calming effect was linked to the stimulation of a wide variety of nerves which takes place during heterosexual intercourse, but not other forms of sex.

Problem number two: how many of these 46 volunteers were likely to be gay? The story gives no indication. Assuming that the group was weighted according to the general population, roughly 9%, or 4 out of 46 would identify as gay.

So, Dr Stuart Brody has to all intents and purposes decided that non-straight sex is not as good as straight, penetrative sex on the basis of 4 people. If all of those 4 people happened to be in a sexual relationship during the period of the study.

Of course, I am just guessing here because there is no evidence that the volunteers were more evenly weighted. Which is something you think you’d want to put some emphasis on if you’re going to be making a pronouncement of this type.

And that’s without getting into the minefield of Brody assuming straight sex is penetrative sex and gay sex isn’t. If you’re going to do research in this area, you’d think that this is the kind of thing you’d want to bone up on.

Where did Brody get his funding? The council for hetronormative studies?

[Edit – ok, so this study isn’t new; apparently it was reported on the BBC site in January 2006, which Jess and I missed in our hysterical laughter. But, it was apparently the “most emailed article” on the BBC news site today, which is what brought it to our attention. – Catherine R]

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