Sex and the American Voter

Academic writing has a long and proud tradition of being painfully dull and slow to get to the point, but perhaps that’s simply because no one was able to research whether there was a link between how people vote and their sex lives. Until now.

Finally, three researchers from three U.S. universities have successfully navigated the academic minefields of obtaining time and money and overcoming ethical objections to answer such questions we’ve all been dying to know the answer to, such as whether U.S. conservatives or liberals are more likely to make love in the missionary position.

The answer to that question, according to these researchers is: conservatives are more likely to prefer the missionary position. Their article, which appeared online in full-text earlier this week before being pulled behind a paywall, also found that social conservatives tend to have sex for the first time at a later age and to have fewer partners, yet are also more likely to be satisfied with the state of their sex lives.

U.S. liberals, meanwhile are said to be more likely to take part in “adventurous sexual behaviors (e.g., sex toys)”, and in risky behaviours, such as sex with a total stranger.

Fortunately, I was able to screenshot a particularly colourful paragraph from their findings this past week and post it to Twitter for a laugh before the paywall was imposed. Among the more salient bits:

“Those who gave more oral sex or received more oral sex are more conservative on out-group/punishment attitudes (anti-immigration, pro-death penalty, etc.), but more socially liberal (support gay rights, pro-choice, etc.)”

 

“Those who have more sex with a woman on top are also more conservative on out-group/punishment attitudes, more likely to [have voted] for Romney, but more socially liberal. Those who have more ‘doggy style’ sex are more conservative on out-group/punishment attitudes, but more socially liberal.”

 

“People who masturbate more are more liberal on all attitude dimension, self-report as liberal, Democrats and [as having voted for] Obama.”

 

“Those who engage in more S & M [were] more likely to vote for Obama, self-report as liberal and have more liberal social attitudes. People who engage in more hand-to-breast contact [were] more likely to vote for Romney, self-report as conservative, and be more conservative on out-group/punishment and economic attitudes.”

 

“People who kiss on the mouth more [were] more likely to vote for Romney, self-report as conservative and Republican, and be more conservative on out-group/punishment and economic attitudes.”

After Americans go to the polls Nov. 8 to elect a new president, after what has undeniably been the most wretched and embarrassing presidential race in modern history, a desire to have less politics and more cuddling would be entirely understandable. But let’s just hope those couples where one voted for Trump and the other voted for Clinton can patch up their differences.

“The relationship between sexual preferences and political orientations: Do positions in the bedroom affect positions in the ballot box?” by Peter Hatemi, Charles Crabtree and Rose McDermott will be published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal in Jan. 2017.

 

 

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Cruising altitude cuddling has long, colourful history

It was a case that had many people chuckling, at least for a day.

The news broke late on a Sunday afternoon, normally a quiet news day. Fighter jets had been dispatched to follow Frontier Airlines Flight 623, en route from Denver to Detroit, following reports that a couple of passengers were acting suspiciously aboard the Airbus A318 jetliner.

After landing safely in Detroit, a SWAT team boarded the aircraft and ordered passengers to put their hands on the seat in front. Passengers then watched as three people were handcuffed and hauled off for questioning.

Then came reports that the “suspicious activity” on Flight 623 wasn’t terrorism at all, but rather a couple “making out” in the lavatory.

Then came the truth. It had all been a big, stupid mix-up. One passenger was sick and had to make frequent trips to the restroom — and had gone in there alone.

On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the whole matter had been blown ridiculously out of proportion.

But even if this had been a case of a couple making love on board a commercial jetliner, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

“Prior to arrival Captain Thompson radioed operations advising that he wanted a British Airways senior official to meet his aircraft on arrival at Honolulu. He stated he had two passengers on board the aircraft who were creating problems,” read an undated telex sent back to British Airways headquarters in London sometime during the ’70s.

“We were advised that a man in seat 25A and a married woman seated 19A got together during flight and were using profane language and molesting one another,” the telex continued.

“Per Captain Thompson and the chief steward both passengers had sexual intercourse right in the plain sight of all other passengers. Captain Thompson stated once this was completed they both settled down and went to sleep and were of no bother from that point on. As a result Captain Thompson did not feel they should be offloaded.”*

While this couple faced no serious consequences from the airline for their conduct, others didn’t find airline employees to be as forgiving as Captain Thompson.

One of the most bizarre cases took place in March 1988, when four passengers were arrested on arrival in Chicago after a “fracas” aboard American Airlines Flight 37 from Zurich, Switzerland.

The trouble started when a woman traveling with her 13-year-old daughter complained to the flight attendant about the behaviour of the California-bound married couple across the aisle.

“It came to the attention of a mother who determined that kind of recreational pursuit was not the kind she wanted her daughter to see,” American spokesman Ed Martelle said in an interview.

Two other male passengers, however, had no objections to this unexpected form of in-flight entertainment. In fact, when a flight attendant tried to intervene, the two male passengers — described later by police as voyeurs — “began pelting her with food and drink.”

The couple were arrested for public indecency and possession of a controlled substance, while the two onlookers were arrested for disorderly conduct.

Ten years later, a couple found themselves in trouble aboard a South African Airways flight after they “disrobed from the waist down and got busy in full view of other passengers“.

The crew tried without luck to stop the couple, who only put their clothes back on after the Captain paid them a personal visit to deliver a message: “This is not a shag house!”

In July 1984, it was an off-duty Air New Zealand flight attendant who found herself in trouble after consuming both sleeping tablets and champagne while deadheading from Auckland to Honolulu.

The unnamed flight attendant lost her job after she had sex with a passenger in a lavatory, sat on a sleeping First Class passenger’s face, kneed the chief purser in the groin and tried to grab his private parts, and finally tried to take off her clothing.

She later said that she could not recall any of those events.

The passengers, however, likely found their flight to Honolulu to be very memorable indeed.

* – Brian Moynahan, Airport International (London: Pan Books, 1978), pp. 118-119.

Weekend Update: The latest insights from the world of research

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seems like Monday morning and Friday night were just 48 hours apart because you had so much on the go? That’s what the previous week was like for this blogger.

Suddenly it’s the weekend and I notice that it’s been an unusually long time since I’ve posted anything new. Indeed, I do have something good in the works: a historical piece on Transair, Winnipeg’s former hometown airline, which has become a labour of love for me. I’m hoping to have that ready to post next weekend.

Other people have been working away at their own endeavours, too — researchers and scientists all over the world trying to figure out what makes our world what it is. They continue to come up with some interesting findings that are worth sharing here.

Using shame and guilt to try to get young people to change their ways can backfire. In a joint effort, researchers at Indiana University and Northwestern University looked at the effectiveness of ads that tried to steer young people away from drinking, smoking and other vices by trying to induce shame or guilt. They found that, far from steering young people away from these vices, these ads actually steered young people toward them by putting them on the defensive and leading them to underestimate their own vulnerabilities. “These ads may ultimately do more harm than good,” concluded Prof. Adam Duhachek of Indiana University.

When is sex not sex? Researchers at Indiana University presented 204 men and 282 women in that state with a list of 14 sexual behaviours and asked if each behaviour constituted “having sex” with someone. Some people might be surprised to hear that three-in-ten respondents (30%) denied that oral sex constituted “having sex”, and that one-in-five (20%) said that anal sex didn’t count.  No word on whether or not they’d feel the same way if they caught their mates at it with someone else.

Languages tend to simplify as they become more widespread. Two researchers, one from the University of Pennsylvania and the other from the University of Memphis, found that languages tend to evolve and simplify as they spread throughout the world so as to become more easily learned.

Gary Lupyan, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, noted in a recent paper published in the Public Library of Science that “as a language becomes more popular, as it spreads beyond its original place, different types of people with different backgrounds and cultures need to learn it,” and that the language’s grammatical rules begin to simplify. Thus, the most complicated languages tend to be those restricted to fairly limited areas, such as the Icelandic language and the multitudes of Native American and Australian Aborigine languages.

Ever wonder why backpackers tend to be happy-go-lucky types? A joint study by the University of California at San Diego and The Netherlands’ Leiden University found that people who are happy tend to feel less need for the comfort of the familiar and are more likely to seek out adventures and new experiences. Unhappy people, however, tend to value things that are familiar and comforting. “Familiarity signals safety, which is pleasant in an unsafe or stressful context but might actually get boring when all is going fine,” said researcher Marieke de Vries of Leiden University.

Weekend Update: Thomas the Repressive Tank Engine and other tidbits from the world of research

Thousands of scientists and social scientists around the world are working day and night to understand more about why our world is the way it is. They’ve been busy releasing more studies recently, which means it’s time for another Weekend Update.

Thomas the Repressive Tank Engine. A political science professor at the University of Alberta received 30 angry e-mails from fans of “Thomas the Tank Engine” after producing a study concluding that the popular children’s TV show features a “conservative political ideology that punishes individual initiative, opposes critique and change, and relegates females to supportive roles”. Professor Shauna Wilton said that her daughter is a fan of the program, but that “the show comes out of a particularly historical time period when society was hierarchical and there was a blind following of authority. I want my daughter to think for herself.”

It seemed like a good idea at the time. A Université de Montréal study that was supposed to examine the effects of pornography on young men went off the rails after researchers couldn’t find enough participants. The problem, however, wasn’t in finding young men who admitted to looking at pornography — which was a fairly easy task. The problem was in finding young men who had never looked at pornography. “We started our research seeking men who had never consumed pornography. We couldn’t find any,” said Prof. Simon Louis Lajeunesse.

Coffee won’t make you sober up. If you’re trying to sober up after having a little too much to drink, don’t bother ordering coffee. A study in the Behavioral Neuroscience journal found that coffee only decreases alcohol’s sedative effect – it does not improve brain function, which is the key to sobering up. Worse yet, the combination of caffeine and alcohol could cause people to underestimate how impaired they really are.

Casual sex not necessarily emotionally or psychologically damaging. A study by University of Minnesota researchers found that young Minnesotans whose most recent sexual encounter was “casual” had about the same levels of self-esteem and emotional well-being as those whose latest encounter was within the scope of a more serious relationship. The researchers warned, however, that this was not necessarily a licence to engage in casual sex, which they warned increased the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unexpected pregnancies.

Justice is a woman. Two researchers at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth in Britain found that women are more likely than men to fight for justice in that country’s judicial system. It was noted that women and men react to injustices differently: women by fighting to reverse the injustice, men by seeking to move on with their lives.

Is e-mail making us less productive? That could be one conclusion of a Cardiff University study that showed that participants who were disrupted by pop-up messages while doing a simple, seven-step computer task took longer to complete the process than those who were not interrupted. The researchers suggested that e-mail alerts and other on-screen distractions should be either disabled or be made as unobtrusive as possible.

Extramarital Sex Quiz: How many Tigers are there out there?

Back in the more puritanical ’50s, executives at CBS Television were faced with a situation they had never faced before. Lucille Ball, the star of the wildly popular “I Love Lucy” sitcom about the misadventures of a scatterbrained New York City housewife, had become pregnant.

Network standards were so strict at the time that she and co-star Desi Arnaz, her on-air and real-life husband,  had to be shown occupying separate beds. So strict that even the word pregnant was forbidden on air.

Instead of shutting down production for months, it was decided that the show would do something unheard of at the time: Lucille Ball and her on-air alter ego, Lucy Ricardo, would become the first obviously pregnant woman to appear in a TV show or movie.

It was still such a sensitive topic that “the p-word” remained forbidden, with CBS executives insisting that the word “expecting” be used instead. A priest, a minister and a rabbi were each made available to vet each episode before it went on the air to ensure that nothing controversial went out over the network.

The censorship was only relaxed in the early ’70s when CBS’s All in the Family and Maude became the first TV shows to talk about sex on prime-time television. It was in the same decade that Ball began talking openly in TV interviews about the bitterness and anger caused by now ex-husband Desi’s compulsive philandering.

Those old enough to remember how things were in the ’50s must marvel at how much things have changed. The medium that once forbade the word pregnant now features ads for Viagra, scripts that deal with newer trends like “starter marriages” and “friends with benefits”, and even shows with gay, lesbian and bisexual characters or hosts.

But a couple of things have not changed. Re-runs of I Love Lucy are still on the air, nearly 60 years after its first broadcast; and philandering still tends to lead to angry and even violent outbursts.

Witness the details we’ve learned this week about golfer Tiger Woods and his panic-stricken attempted escape from his Florida mansion, with wife Elin Nordegren in hot pursuit, undoubtedly screaming obscenities and swinging a golf club wildly.

His evasive explanations of the incident and the surfacing of information suggesting that Woods was having an extramarital affair caused much fascination with the story.

Is it fascinating because such incidents are rare, or because they’re common?

Take the following Extramarital Sex Quiz and get a better idea of just how many Tigers (and tigresses) there are out there.

1. The American Sexual Behavior Survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, involved interviews with 10,000 Americans over two decades. It found that…

a.) 22 percent of married men and 15 percent of married women have cheated at least once

b.) 7 percent of married men and 1 percent of married women have cheated at least once

c.) 39 percent of married men and 32 percent of married women have cheated at least once

2. A 2007 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concluded that…

a.) about 14 percent of U.S. men had “concurrent” sexual partnerships or partnerships that overlap in time during a one-year period

b.) about 16 percent of U.S. men had “concurrent” sexual partnerships or partnerships that overlap in time during a one-year period

c.) about 11 percent of U.S. men had “concurrent” sexual partnerships or partnerships that overlap in time during a one-year period

3. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1998 found that…

a.) A total of 19 percent of American men reported having had only one sex partner during their lifetimes, as compared with 21 percent of Britons

b.) A total of 48 percent of American men reported having had only one sex partner during their lifetimes, as compared with 58 percent of Britons

c.) A total of 34 percent of American men reported having had only one sex partner during their lifetimes, as compared with 47 percent of Britons

4. The same study found that in their lifetimes…

a.) 48 percent of American women reported having only one sex partner, while 37 percent of British women reported having had only one sex partner

b.) 32 percent of American women reported having only one sex partner, while 40 percent of British women reported having had only one sex partner

c.) 24 percent of American women reported having only one sex partner, while 14 percent of British women reported having had only one sex partner

5. A study published in the Journal of Sex Research in 1998 found that extramarital sex was considered to be “always wrong” by a majority of the population in each of 24 current (or former) countries, with the exception of the Czech Republic and:

a.) Russia

b.) Canada

c.) The Netherlands

THE ANSWERS:

1. The American Sexual Behavior Survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, involved interviews with 10,000 Americans over two decades. It found that… a.) 22 percent of married men and 15 percent of married women have cheated at least once

2. A 2007 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concluded that… c.) about 11 percent of U.S. men had “concurrent” sexual partnerships or partnerships that overlap in time during a one-year period. (No data available for women.)

3. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1998 found that… a.) A total of 19 percent of American men reported having had only one sex partner during their lifetimes, as compared with 21 percent of Britons

4. The same study found that in their lifetimes… b.) 32 percent of American women reported having only one sex partner, while 40 percent of British women reported having had only one sex partner

5. A study published in the Journal of Sex Research in 1998 found that extramarital sex was considered to be “always wrong” by a majority of the population in each of 24 current (or former) countries, with the exception of the Czech Republic (43%) and: a.) Russia, where only 36 percent said that extramarital sex was always wrong, compared to 63 percent in the Netherlands, 68 percent in Canada and 80 percent in the U.S.  (Responses to this and other questions showed the U.S. to be considerably more conservative in its  sexual attitudes than relatively liberal Canada.)