Sunday, November 29, 2009

Patriarchy does not equal Pleasure: Sexism Makes for Bad Sex (Pt. 1)

Courtesy of

I'm in the midst of preparing for my upcoming Psychology Brown Bag discussion this Wednesday at Montgomery College, and I thought I would put some of the research together for those of you who can't attend. I'm starting with the claim that patriarchy (cultural systems that give men greater power than women) is likely to result in decreased sexual satisfaction, as compared to cultures in which men and women have greater equality. A bold claim? Perhaps so, but I've got the data to back it up.

In a survey of older men and women (40-80 years of age) from twenty-nine different nations, Laumann et al. (2006) found that men and women in countries with more gender equality (such as Western countries) reported greater sexual satisfaction than those in male-dominant countries (such as those in East Asia and the Middle East). In the Western nations, two-thirds of men and women reported that their sexual relationships were satisfying. In Middle Eastern countries, fifty percent of men and thirty-eight percent of women stated that they were satisfied with their sex lives (although there was some variability among the nations in this cluster), and in East Asian nations, approximately one-quarter of men and women reported positive sexual satisfaction. In other words, older adults living in more patriarchal nations reported lower sexual satisfaction than those in countries with greater gender equality, and this was true for both women and men. In other words, patriarchy doesn't just diminish women's sexual satisfaction, it makes sex worse for men, as well.

It is also worth noting that in all three of the cultural clusters, men reported greater sexual satisfaction than women, although the survey found greater gender differences in the male-dominant countries than in those with greater gender equality. "This pattern suggests that the type of gender regime is important for gender differences in sexual well-being, but true parity remains an ideal even in countries where beliefs about gender equality are more widespread." (Laumann et al., 2006, p. 158). Western nations may be more egalitarian, but they haven't reached true sexual equity yet. (We already knew that, right?)

Within any one country, some hold more patriarchal beliefs than others. If male dominance is bad for sex, then we would predict that feminists would have better sex lives. Of course, this flies in the face of widely held stereotypes that feminists are ugly, undesirable, and anti-sex. To the extent that feminism is viewed as anti-male, some might believe that feminists would have trouble in heterosexual relationships (Rudman & Phelan, 2007). However, Schick, Zucker, and Bay-Cheng (2008) found that female college students who more strongly endorsed feminist beliefs had a greater sense of their own sexual feelings (sexual subjectivity) and enhanced sexual motivation, both of which produced increased sexual satisfaction. In both college students and a non-student sample, Rudman and Phelan (2007) found that heterosexual women reported greater relationship health and sexual satisfaction when they perceived their male partner to be feminist, and men reported greater sexual satisfaction to the extent that they perceived their female partner to be feminist. Rather than impeding sexual satisfaction, these studies indicate that feminism enhances sexual satisfaction. (Of course, we need to replicate these studies and have more diverse samples and measures to be sure of their results, but still, the data are encouraging.)

So there you have it. Patriarchy is bad for sex and gender equality is good for sex. Now, to the interesting question -- why? I have my own ideas, which I'll be discussing on Wednesday, 1-2pm at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD. I'd love to hear your thoughts, though, so feel free to post a comment.


Laumann, E. O., Paik, A., Glasser, D. B., Kang, J-H., Wang, T., Levinson, B., Moreira, E. D., Nicolosi, A., Gingell, C. (2006). A cross-national study of subjective sexual well-being among older women and men: Findings from the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, p.145-161.

Rudman, L. A., Phelan, J. E. (2007). The interpersonal power of feminism: Is feminism good for romantic relationships? Sex Roles, 57, 787-799.

Schick, V. R., Zucker, A. N., Bay-Cheng, L. Y. (2008). Safer, better sex through feminism: The role of feminist ideology in women’s sexual well-being. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 225-232.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why are these slides a funny color?

I've been scanning in old slides that I got from my maternal grandparents. It's been fun to have more family photos from long ago, as I have very few photos from that era. But I've also learned the importance of color correcting these slides. When they are scanned in, they have a colored cast that is quite distinctive and makes them look dated. I have been using the color correction tool in Photoshop (I use AutoCorrect so I don't have to set the levels myself), and the difference can be quite dramatic. Here's the original scan of my mother and her parents (Christmas, 1962?):

Here's the color corrected version:

Here's the original scan of my brother and me (note my anxious look -- this shows up a lot in my childhood pictures):

Here's the color corrected version:

Here's the original scan of my brother (whose own son looks *exactly* like him at this age). I love this picture -- just look at that big grin!

Here's the color corrected version:

I'm curious about why there is this colored cast, though. It could be a function of the film developing techniques at the time (movies from the 1960s and 70s have a very different color cast because of changing film techniques, for example). Or it might have been done intentionally for slides, as a way of compensating for the effects of the warm light being cast by the slide projector (which would have been yellowish). Or is it just a function of these slides being old, and that the colors have changed as they aged? If anyone knows why these slides might be off-color, I'd love to know the answer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Momix Dance Company

What was I doing on Halloween? I was out with a zombie (Q), my father, and his wife. We all went to dinner at a new-ish restaurant in Clifton that serves nouvelle cuisine. The restaurant has been remodeled and looks spacious and elegant (although quite different from the previous establishment), and the food was very good. Plus, several of the wait staff complimented Q's zombie costume, so that was a good sign. (He did a great job with the makeup -- it was very creepy.) Then we went to see the Momix Dance Company perform the Best of Momix. I hadn't ever seen them perform, and it was truly magical. I've only seen a few dance performances that got me to say "wow" more than once during the show. They used props inventively, including what looked like a rolling jungle gym that the dancers climbed upon and spun around, a set of big bouncy balls for an adorable faerie-like dance number, and two dancers who performed in full skis. Even the traditional ribbon prop used in Chinese dance got new life, as it appeared almost as a neon tube, flowing in cursive shapes and spirals around the dancer. The whole show was mesmerizing -- the lighting, the costumes, and of course, the performers were just flawless. As with much of modern dance, I'm not sure if the music was as tightly integral to the dance performances -- in some cases, the choreography clearly coordinated with the music, and in most cases, the music cast a reasonably appropriate mood, but the dances weren't so uniquely tied to the music as in folk dance. The dancers were really amazing, though -- strong, flexible, and completely spot-on for each number. The performers got two standing ovations, and completely deserved them. You can see clips from another version of the touring show here. If you have a chance, go see Momix perform.