Monday, January 19, 2009

Today's Funny Post

The gift that keeps on giving is a certain kind of evolutionary psychology, the kind I usually call Evolutionary Psychology, to distinguish it from more legitimate attempts.

The most recent installment tells us that women have more orgasms with rich men! At least in China:

Scientists have found that the pleasure women get from making love is directly linked to the size of their partner's bank balance.

They found that the wealthier a man is, the more frequently his partner has orgasms.

"Women's orgasm frequency increases with the income of their partner," said Dr Thomas Pollet, the Newcastle University psychologist behind the research.

He believes the phenomenon is an "evolutionary adaptation" that is hard-wired into women, driving them to select men on the basis of their perceived quality.

The study is certain to prove controversial, suggesting that women are inherently programmed to be gold-diggers.

Yah. Hard-wired gold-diggers we all are! (Somehow I see the seven dwarves going out to work while singing merrily.)

The actual study is based on data from China:

Pollet, and Professor Daniel Nettle, his co-author, believed, however, that the female orgasm is an evolutionary adaptation that drives women to choose and retain high-quality partners.

He and Nettle tested that idea using data gathered in one of the world's biggest lifestyle studies. The Chinese Health and Family Life Survey targeted 5,000 people across China for in-depth interviews about their personal lives, including questions about their sex lives, income and other factors. Among these were 1,534 women with male partners whose data was the basis for the study.

They found that 121 of these women always had orgasms during sex, while 408 more had them "often". Another 762 "sometimes" orgasmed while 243 had them rarely or never. Such figures are similar to those for western countries.

There were of course, several factors involved in such differences but, said Pollet, money was one of the main ones.

He said: "Increasing partner income had a highly positive effect on women's self-reported frequency of orgasm. More desirable mates cause women to experience more orgasms."

I haven't seen the actual study, so I can't vouch for the correctness of any of these conclusions. But just off the top of my head I'd guess that people with higher family incomes (especially in a country with large income differences and lots of poverty) would be more likely to feel good enough to enjoy sex. It's hard to feel sexy if you spend all your time worrying about where to find the food for the next day.

Now, this type of an income effect might be found whether the income was earned by the woman or her partner or both. This writeup doesn't tell us if the study controlled for the woman's own income or whether a similar effect was found between her orgasms and her earned income. But even if it did so, the incomes of partners are often highly correlated with each other, and this can cause statistical problems in the interpretation of the findings. In any case, the proximal explanation that having more money means less economic worries and that makes a girl horny appears to be totally ignored here. Yet it looks a pretty reasonable one to me.

The funniest part of the article is this:

David Buss, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, who raised this question in his book The Evolution of Desire believes female orgasms have several possible purposes.

"They could promote emotional bonding with a high-quality male or they could serve as a signal that women are highly sexually satisfied, and hence unlikely to seek sex with other men," he said. "What those orgasms are saying is 'I'm extremely loyal, so you should invest in me and my children'."

Why wouldn't orgasms promote emotional bonding with low-quality males as well? Unless we define high-quality males as those who are good in bed (rather than affluent) the statement makes no sense. Neither does the next one about orgasms speaking to the affluent man about loyalty. Those orgasms are every bit as likely to scream: "Hey! This was fun. Let me run out and find more men to do that to me."*

Do you know what's funniest of all? That this wonderful piece of popularization is published in the U.K. Times. Imagine that! The Times suggests that all women are gold-diggers and it's perfectly fine.

*The people who do female genital mutilation to their daughters seem to go for the second explanation.