William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Casual Sex Is Good for You, Says New Biased Study

She didn't actually say that, did she?

She didn’t actually say that, did she?

In a ridiculously biased “study”, a researcher has shown that some college students who self-select to participate in a study of “causal” sex and who say they like having “casual” sex, like having “causal” sex.

Time, at one time a news magazine, opened their article on the study with the words, “Turns out that no-strings-attached sexy times are good for you, so don’t let the haters stop you from doin’ your thang.”

What’s notable about is not the purposely poor grammar, but the curious and false idea that any who uphold traditional morality is a “hater”. Who are we to judge? Thank you, Justice Kennedy!

The “research” appears in the peer-reviewedWho Benefits From Casual Sex? The Moderating Role of Sociosexuality” in Social Psychology and Personality Science.

Zhana Vrangalova, who compiled the wee p-values which were the bulk of her “proof”, runs a website which boasts the banner “Proud to be a Beacon of Permission”, and who has started the “Casual Sex Project” where readers are invited to submit their “hookup stories”, led the study.

Incidentally, and amusingly, in the comments to her front page one mystified reader asked “I want to know what kind of diseases can be occur by sex?” promoting the response by another reader “Not that kind of doctor”.

And of the sexually transmitted diseases caught when engaging in “causal” sex? Vrangalova said—wait for it—nothing. And of the “slip-ups” which result in biology having its way? Vrangalova repeated that same nothing.

So when Time said “good for you”, they didn’t mean good for you, but something else.

At Cornell (I weep), Vrangalova was allowed to email all 6,500 incoming freshman and juniors. Some 872 responded to the request to join a long study of causal sexuality. “A combination of monetary compensation, lottery prizes, and research credits was used as participation incentives.” Never mind about what combination, you hater, because Vrangalova remained mute.

Who volunteers to ‘fess up about their sexual conquests? Those who claim they enjoy “hookin’ up”, or, in Vrangalova’s word, are “restrictive”?

Only 560 of the 872 made it to the end. Those who didn’t fill out her questionnaire completely were also tossed.

Here comes the best part. I promise this is a direct quote.

“After excluding those…in a serious romantic relationship at both time points (to limit cases of infidelity; 155 cases), the final 9-month sample consisted of 371 students”.

So. “Casual” sex is good for you as long as you don’t consider it infidelity.

But wait, there’s less. Only a “subsample” of the remaining 371 were used. Yep. Those “in a long-term committed relationship, engaged, or married” were also dumped. How these folks differed from those in a “serious romantic relationship” was not said.

Anyway, the final sample, out of the 6,500 was 230, a 0.3% response rate; 65% females. Hey. This is research.

Then came the questions (e.g. “In everyday life, how often do you have spontaneous fantasies about having sex with someone you have just met?”). Somehow men and women answered differently, “therefore, scores were centered within sex prior to analyses.” Dude?

Participants were instructed to keep a diary of “f*** buddies” (asterisks added). The kiddies were also asked “to think of their most memorable sexual encounter that week and report how much they experienced ‘feeling genuine/true to myself’ and ‘being in control of what was happening’ during this encounter”. On a scale of 1 to 7, of course. The numbers are what make it science. Finally, questions about self-esteem and the like were asked and, of course, numerically scored.

I think—Vrangalova’s paper reads a lot like the Time article—only 80 (35%) had any “causal” sex. Over the period, the “Average proportion of weeks with casual sex was .09 (SD =.18) per participant”. Not a lot of “gettin’ you thang on”, then1.

How many lied, either by inclusion or exclusion? Well, you already know what Vrangalova said about that.

Then came the wee p-values, garnered through “Hierarchical linear models”, with the result “higher sociosexuality was linked to a significantly higher likelihood of engaging in weekly casual sex”. That means those who said they wanted to have “causal” sex were more likely to have it.

That’s the main finding, dear readers.

Vrangalova also split participants into two groups, whether they scored high or low on the sexual desire questions. Inside the high and low sexuality were those who had and not have “causal” sex. For example, take those in the low sexuality group. Those with did not have “causal” sex had a mean 3.5 “self-esteem” score; those who had “causal” sex had a mean “self-esteem” score of 3.4. The difference did not give a wee p-value.

But in the high sexuality group, those with no sex had a mean score of 3.9, and those who had sex had a score of 4. This difference gave a wee p-value.

The same sort of thing was repeated for “life satisfaction”. The conclusion is not that narcissists answer questions consistently, but that “causal” sex boosts self-esteem and life satisfaction.

But only in those who are not in a long-term relationship, not married, not engaged, not living together, not worried about infidelity, are not likely to be males, not lazy, and who would sign up for a study of “causal” sex for a combination of monetary compensation, lottery prizes, and research credit.

Just in case you’re too sanguine, let’s end as we began, with Time.

The study’s authors explained that “the effects of casual sex depend on the extent to which this behavior is congruent with one’s general personality tendencies.” So, in other words: if you want to have casual sex, you definitely should. If you do not want to have casual sex, you shouldn’t. The main takeaway of this study? You do you.

So long, Western culture! It was good to know ya.

————————————————————-

1There is no typo here.

Hat tip Hot Air.

23 Comments

  1. Sander van der Wal

    June 26, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Wish I knew this when I went to university 🙁

    O wait, I did 🙂 And everybody else knew it too.

  2. Funny how scientists hold their breathe and turn blue if you don’t follow the “science” of global warming, but be rude enough to ask about pregnancy, abortion, side effects of the pill, STD’s including AIDS, etc, and suddenly you are a moralizing hater. How can we take anything that blantantly stupid seriously? On either subject.

  3. I suppose they won’t do a study on smokers, at least not tobacco smokers, since they would then find that they enjoy smoking and that it raises self esteem. The p-values would be even wee-er and that won’t do because they would be forced to conclude that smoking was good for you. Likewise they will not do a study on people who like to cut themselves with razor blades and well, the list is endless.

    One more: It would definitely make me feel better and be a tremendous boast to my self esteem if I didn’t have to attend classes given by either of these two, so that must certainly be a good thing. This would have the lowest of all possible p-values. One of their students should submit a parody of the study as an assignment. That might set the cat among the pigeons (also good for the cat, the pigeons not so much) but the right parody has to be chosen, otherwise it will go unnoticed.

  4. Sander van der Wal

    June 26, 2014 at 10:18 am

    @Sheri

    Why would a physicist be responsible for the daft questions of a sociologist?

  5. Ye Olde Statisician

    June 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Why would a physicist be responsible for the daft questions of a sociologist?

    Because they lack free will?

  6. Hey YOS and Sander…is this anti-physicist day? I represent those remarks!
    PS–I am in favor of causal sex (i.e. that which leads to procreation), but I am not in favor of casual sex.

  7. “But wait, there’s less.” That’s a classic and I’m stealin’ and usin’ it! (To help in ‘gettin’ me thang on!)

  8. Steve, I especially liked that line, too, but your comment made me laugh out loud.

  9. I’m not sure why you assumed exactly who the “haters” were, but I think it gets to being “hung up.”

    I’m not a fan of these sorts of sociological studies, but it has always seemed to me that some people need to explore, and some people would rather stay at home, if you catch my drift. I find it hard to believe that casual sex is “good” for everyone, that they just need to let go of their hang-ups, just as I find it hard to believe that say Christian Sexual Morality would be “good” for everyone. The science of sex just hasn’t shown me any definitive answers to these questions. And this study is indeed dubious.

    JMJ

  10. ‘Anyway, the final sample, out of the 6,500 was 230, a 0.3% response rate’
    0.3% ?

  11. 1-There is no typo science here.

  12. Hey Bob K, news for you. We don’t care what you do in the bedroom.

  13. All sex is “causal” if we have “free will”. If we don’t have “free will” then I guess it is “casual”.

  14. Ad, we don’t have free will any more than not having free will would make all sex casual, though it would be really funny if it was deterministic instead, a grand cosmic joke. But it’s not. It’s a fundamental characteristic of most all living things. Like eating and pooping. It can only be restrained. It is not a self-creation. It was there before you could create. There is no free will there, and there is no free will anyway.

    JMJ

  15. Sander van der Wal

    June 27, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Lack of Free Will as the Cure for all Ailments 😀

  16. I’m disappointed there were no chi-square tests for the independence of casual and causal sex. I’m always on the lookout for interesting lecture examples, especially for the ever-popular badness of fit test.

  17. Ye Olde Statisician

    June 27, 2014 at 10:36 am

    we don’t have free will

    Sorry to hear that about you. But if you did not willfully compose and write that comment, why should those of us who do have a will pay it any more heed than the “voices” made by the wind rushing through the trees?

    Like eating and pooping.

    As we thought. Another one who does not understand what free will actually addresses.

  18. The Casual Sex Project?

    Ain’t that the same thang as “Penthouse Forum”?

  19. Time Magazine?

    Didn’t they have a cover story in the 80s saying cocaine wasn’t bad for you?

    And then there was that Global Cooling thang in the 70s….

  20. The correct response rate is ==> 0.03538……

    or 3.5%

    Pitiful.

    The “magic number” is ==> 80 The number of students who had casual sex… thus this is a study of 1.2% of the original group of invitees.

  21. Brandon Gates

    June 27, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Raise of hands: who here does not like having sex?

    [crickets]

    Not scientific but illustrative.

  22. THANK YOU for this. I am an experimental psychologist and I have been stewing about this “study” since I became aware that it somehow slipped through the cracks and into a peer-reviewed journal. It is my plan to attack this work and take its author to task per standard academic channels as soon as I can find the time.

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