Simplistic sex studies are faking it

February 16, 1999|By Susan Reimer

TWO IMPORTANT lifestyle reports concluded last week that almost half of this country has trouble with sex, and there is too much of it on television.

A report in the current Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that sex is often disappointing in the bedroom, while a survey of shows by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that things are getting hotter in the TV room all the time.

Once again, science states the obvious. This time, about sex. I am now waiting for a think tank to report that this is where babies come from.

The first study is supposed to be the most comprehensive look at Americans' sex lives since the Kinsey Report of the late 1940s, which has been trashed because Alfred Kinsey was thought to have surveyed only people having great sex.

This new project, produced at the University of Chicago, balances the Kinsey Report because apparently the researchers only interviewed people who were having really crummy sex, or none at all. And all the interviews took place in 1992, before we knew the president was busy setting the national pace. (Not to mention, as JAMA didn't, that the researchers had worked previously for Pfizer Inc., makers of Viagra.)

Anyway, when you add up all the women who aren't interested in having sex, who don't have orgasms, or for whom sex is painful, the researchers said, you have 40 percent of the female population.

My guess is, those women are sleeping with someone from the 70 percent of the men who say sex is not a problem, all of whom are rolling over after three minutes and snoring.

The scientists also reported that alcohol consumption caused increased rates of premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and low desire in men. On the other hand, women were more likely to have sex, and like it, after a couple of drinks.

Where did these guys find their subjects, at a frat party?

The report also states that sex is more likely to be a problem for women if the household income has dropped 20 percent or more in the last three years.

Let me guess. He's out of work and she's frantic about the bills and he wants to make it all go away with a little tumble and she tells him to forget it and they have a fight and they are more likely to commit successful murder than successful sex.

And finally, the report says that highly educated women are more likely to have orgasms. Apparently that's because educated women can read and they are reading magazines like Cosmopolitan, which is where they report getting most of their information about sex -- a fact that appalled one of the researchers.

"As a scientist, it makes my hair stand on end," said study co-author Raymond C. Rosen said. "It's terrible."

Do I understand correctly that if you are smart enough to look for sexual instruction in magazines that broadcast their expertise in blunt, bold cover headlines -- "Be the Best Sex of His Life" -- and it works, you are committing a crime against science?

Where are we supposed to learn how to do it? From our parents? In a doctor's office? In a private chat room on the Internet? In a JAMA report?

Meanwhile, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 56 percent of all TV programs -- and 67 percent of all prime-time shows -- monitored over the course of a week contained sexual content in word or deed.

I'm not sure what they thought we were watching. I mean, how much impeachment testimony can you watch before you decide that even problematic sex is better than television?

Anyway, the researchers narrowed their focus to 88 scenes in which sexual intercourse was either depicted or strongly implied and -- guess what? -- not one program made even a passing reference to safe sex.

As if we would find it entertaining to watch some girl break off a kiss and demand to know if her hunk of burning love was carrying a condom. As if we would all tune in to watch some guy fumbling with cellophane packaging.

Don't they get it? They can't get enough people to use condoms for exactly those reasons. What makes the folks at the Kaiser Family Foundation think that the same population too stupid to protect itself against pregnancy, disease or death would tune in like mad to watch somebody else do it?

I wish these people would talk to me before they design these studies.

Don't waste our time asking us about how bad our sex lives are. Ask us what would make it better, and mail off the answers to our partners.

Otherwise, we're all just gonna watch TV.

Pub Date: 2/16/99

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