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217 Responses

  1. Attackfish
    Attackfish November 7, 2012 at 11:30 am |

    Excuse me while I repeatedly bang my head into a wall.

    Moat of the halfway credible research I’ve found on the causes of endo say that some endo is probably auto-immune based or exacerbated. But that’s not all look based and sexy, so…

    1. Attackfish
      Attackfish November 7, 2012 at 11:31 am |

      most, not moat. oops

    2. Rhoanna
      Rhoanna November 7, 2012 at 11:35 am |

      It’s ok, the study isn’t actually claiming that attractiveness causes endometriosis. There’s some speculation by the researchers that they might both be caused by the same thing (such as estrogen levels), but the study is just showing correlation.

      1. Attackfish
        Attackfish November 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |

        Four people’s opinions on attractiveness is not sufficient to even judge correlation, especially since attractiveness and diseases are both ethnically linked, which is to say, Western beauty norms are not the only ones.

      2. matlun
        matlun November 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm |

        Seriously. From the article the closest they get to a conclusion seem to be

        “It is tempting to speculate” that genes that interact with hormones to produce a more feminine appearance may also predispose women to severe endometriosis, Vercellini said. However, the findings are preliminary and need to be verified in further studies, he said.

        I honestly do not get what the OP finds problematic about this study.

        1. Combray
          Combray November 7, 2012 at 4:33 pm |

          I honestly do not get what the OP finds problematic about this study.

          You don’t see what’s problematic about four researchers subjectively evaluating the physical appearance of 300 women, treating those evaluations as objective and universal, then uncritically treating “femininity” (whatever that’s taken to be), low BMI and large breasts as straightforward indicators of what constitutes an attractive woman and then coming up with a conclusion like this:

          “It is tempting to speculate” that genes that interact with hormones to produce a more feminine appearance may also predispose women to severe endometriosis, Vercellini said. However, the findings are preliminary and need to be verified in further studies, he said.

          If you deconstruct that, it essentially says: “It’s tempting to speculate that x may be the case, but further verification is needed.” How scientific.

          And so is is this:

          The women also completed a questionnaire about their sexual history, and the results showed that women with severe endometriosis were more likely to have had sexual intercourse before age 18. This could be a result of these women being more attractive, even during adolescence, the researchers said.

          Or it could not, seeing as the last bit is pure conjecture that’s unsupported by any facts, even if the self-reported information about sexual behaviour is taken at face value.

          Who came up with the idea to study this shit?

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

          You don’t see what’s problematic about four researchers subjectively evaluating the physical appearance of 300 women, treating those evaluations as objective and universal, then uncritically treating “femininity” (whatever that’s taken to be), low BMI and large breasts as straightforward indicators of what constitutes an attractive woman and then coming up with a conclusion like this:

          You seriously don’t understand why the observation that, regardless with the problems of how they defined terms, four doctors can visually identify traits which are statistically linked to endometriosis?

          If you deconstruct that, it essentially says: “It’s tempting to speculate that x may be the case, but further verification is needed.” How scientific.

          Are you joking? You’re seriously claiming that the statement “people may want to believe explanation X, but it would be premature without more data” is unscientific? Christ.

          Who came up with the idea to study this shit?

          You could have found that out by looking at the study. Surely you didn’t just read, and judge, based on the NBC article?

        3. Combray
          Combray November 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |

          You seriously don’t understand why the observation that, regardless with the problems of how they defined terms, four doctors can visually identify traits which are statistically linked to endometriosis?

          Yeah, I seriously don’t understand how four scientists can visually identify an entirely subjective trait, such as attractiveness, in a way that’s relevant in this context. Also, I don’t see how the problems in how they defined the terms can be separated from this particular issue.

          Are you joking? You’re seriously claiming that the statement “people may want to believe explanation X, but it would be premature without more data” is unscientific? Christ.

          I’m claiming that it’s pointless to even make the statement above, since it contributes nothing aside from the fact that the researchers conducting the study are, for whatever reason, tempted to believe that pretty girls are more likely to develop endometriosis. You seriously think that “we really want to think x, but so far it’s unsupported by actual evidence” should be interesting to someone?

          You could have found that out by looking at the study. Surely you didn’t just read, and judge, based on the NBC article?

          It was a rhetorical question. As in, what kind of a turd originally came up with the idea to look for a connection between attractiveness and endometriosis? I’ve read the outline of the study, but as far as I can see, the full study isn’t available free of charge. And based on the sample, it’s not something that I’m willing to pay for.

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 9, 2012 at 9:05 pm |

          Yeah, I seriously don’t understand how four scientists can visually identify an entirely subjective trait, such as attractiveness, in a way that’s relevant in this context.

          That’s not what I asked. Read more carefully.

        5. Combray
          Combray November 10, 2012 at 9:00 am |

          That’s not what I asked. Read more carefully.

          I agree that it’s useful to study any potential correlation between visually detectable traits and endometriosis. What isn’t useful is attaching the term “attractiveness” to those traits, instead of analysing the actual objective physical traits that the doctors subjectively deem attractive.

          English isn’t my first language, so if that’s not what you were asking, I have to ask you to rephrase your question.

        6. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm |

          I agree that it’s useful to study any potential correlation between visually detectable traits and endometriosis. What isn’t useful is attaching the term “attractiveness” to those traits, instead of analysing the actual objective physical traits that the doctors subjectively deem attractive.

          Then we’re in agreement.

          And your English is excellent- I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  2. Rhoanna
    Rhoanna November 7, 2012 at 11:34 am |

    BMI, height and prostate cancer mortality. People will conduct studies on just about anything (they can get funding for).

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm |

      You seriously don’t understand why that correlation, and ones like it, might be useful to know?

  3. SamLL
    SamLL November 7, 2012 at 11:34 am |

    I’m confused, you seem to be implying that academic researchers who make a factual or statistical discovery are automatically in favor of that finding as a morally normative positive good.

    1. Jadey
      Jadey November 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

      As an academic researcher I can tell you that “factual and statistical discoveries” are in fact often morally- and normatively-charged interpretations and inferences to constructs not directly measured by the data, very much deserving of critique on both ethical *AND* empirical grounds.

      1. matlun
        matlun November 7, 2012 at 12:49 pm |

        SamLL were talking about “factual and statistical discoveries” while you were talking about “interpretations and inferences” which is something very different.

        Discovering a statistical correlation and creating a theory to explain it are very different types of activities.

        1. EG
          EG November 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm |

          No, Jadey is saying that what gets touted as “factual and statistical discoveries” are often, in reality, interpretations and inferences. Such as, for example, the idea that four random people of the same background are objective measures of “attractiveness.”

        2. ACM
          ACM November 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm |

          Firstly, ‘factual and statistical discoveries’ are hugely influenced by the prior beliefs and interpretations of the researchers, so there’s no finite distinction between the two, and secondly this study both discovers a statistical correlation and attempts to explain it.

        3. matlun
          matlun November 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

          Firstly, ‘factual and statistical discoveries’ are hugely influenced by the prior beliefs and interpretations

          I suspect we are getting caught up in semantics here, but I would say this is incorrect. I read that expression as meaning a direct observation. For example, the observation that in a blind evaluation by a specific group, the women in one group is – statistically speaking – evaluated as more attractive than another group.

          Observing a statistical correlation is objective. You need to be a bit careful with your measurements and experimental setups, but is really just pretty straightforward mathematical number crunching.

          Trying to explain an observed correlation is much more fraught and vulnerable to bias, but to me that would not be included under “statistical discovery”.

          Also, in this case, that step appears to not have been taken, since they seem to have voiced only very tentative theories and not drawn any firm conclusions based on the observations.

        4. Jadey
          Jadey November 7, 2012 at 1:47 pm |

          Matlun, it’s really not.

          Scientists (yes, including “hard” sciences) are more often than not studying theoretical constructs we can’t empirically observe or measure, so instead we operationalize these concepts (i.e., identify measureable substitutes), design studies to measure these, and then, based on the data we generate within the logical framework of our study as well as the larger context of research and the theoretical governing our work (if there is one – some fields are more atheoretical than others, for various reasons), we make interpretations and inferences, which we report. Our inferences are governed by all manner of assumptions, which is why scientific reporting is often so dry: we are compelled to provide a “neutral” sounding justification for all of these assumptions and inferences so that our scientific peers may make their own judgements about the credibility of our methods and interpretations.

          This is what science is and has always been. The things that are easy to see and measure are pretty boring. There are no “statistical discoveries” – that’s an absurd concept. Any given statistic is boring and meaningless outside of an interpretive framework. The problem is that many people chose to see their interpretive frameworks as “given realities” and do not recognize the importance of critiquing these as well. Some of the most revolutionary scientific “discoveries” (the heliocentric model, gravity) came not from the collecting of new interesting data, but the re-interpretation of existing data in a new framework. (New data was subsequently collected within this framework to provide even more support, but the hypotheses came first, which is how they knew what kind of new data to collect to verify them.)

          Science /= number-crunching. You are confusing a mechanism for a function.

        5. matlun
          matlun November 7, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

          Perhaps we are not that much in disagreement. If we are talking about the actual scientific theory building – the “interpretations and inferences” – then obviously we can get bias. I do not dispute that.

          However, I would dispute this

          There are no “statistical discoveries” – that’s an absurd concept.

          What about medical research? It is very common to be able to detect a statistical correlation that behavior X or measure Y is associated with medical condition Z, but not being able to explain why this would be the case.

          It is normally much more difficult to understand why we have the correlation than to observe that it is there.

          It can be the same in the softer sciences. We can often observe surprising and interesting patterns of human behavior without necessarily being able to explain why people behave in that way. The “why” may be a very interesting discussion, but the “what” can also be quite fascinating in its own right.

        6. Jadey
          Jadey November 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm |

          Only if you make the very common mistake of reifying your operationalizations. That is, assuming that what you measure is a direct representation of what you are actually interested in studying, which, as I said, is usually not the case, especially when dealing with a construct as abstract as “attractiveness”. The data are not the construct. Any given correlation (or other statistic) can be partly or entirely an artefact of the data collection, analysis, context, or other unknown quantities, which is why we make probabilistic inferences based on evidence and not statements of “proof”.

          One may find a correlation and merely report it with confidence. One can never interpret it with the same confidence.

        7. matlun
          matlun November 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm |

          One may find a correlation and merely report it with confidence. One can never interpret it with the same confidence.

          Exactly the point I have been trying to make. Perhaps badly?

        8. bleh
          bleh November 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

          To build on Jadey and respond to your medical fetishization, Clinical trials for efficacy must pick what disease or condition the drug being studied should have efficacy upon. That choice is affected by bias and culture and non-statistical issues. For example, the clinical trial of efficacy for Gardasil picked CIN as the condition for which they wanted to see results. They could have picked a number of other HPV related diseases and their results would have showed a different statistical reality. It was culturally inflected from before the study began.

        9. matlun
          matlun November 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm |

          @bleh: I am definitely not fetishizing medicine. I am actually more based in the hard sciences and mathematics.

          Consider strange correlations such as between ear creases and heart disease. Or the positive correlation between height and IQ. We can measure the correlations but only speculate about the reasons. (NB: I am not interested in whether these specific correlations are true. These were just randomly chosen examples)

          The question about which correlations you choose to measure is irrelevant to the fact that a (correctly) measured correlation is just an objective fact. Whether you can explain it or not.

        10. EG
          EG November 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm |

          If you are measuring correlations between anything and IQ, you need to be sure about what you think somebody’s IQ score actually measures.

        11. matlun
          matlun November 8, 2012 at 2:40 am |

          If you are measuring correlations between anything and IQ, you need to be sure about what you think somebody’s IQ score actually measures.

          Not really. If you want to draw any conclusions from the correlation or interpret it, then you need to address that, but for just measuring the correlation it is not necessary.

          Anyway, even though it is not relevant here, I do have a fairly good idea of what IQ is. It is part of what normally goes under the heading of “intelligence”. A part chosen because it is easy to measure on tests. While there is a strong correlation between IQ and what I would call intelligence, they are not quite the same thing.

        12. Jadey
          Jadey November 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

          Pursuing this conversation with matlun is pointless – he does not understand what an operational definition is or its significance within scientific investigation. His faulty assumptions stem from this and it is apparently impossible to suggest an alternative to him.

          I can only hope he does not actually conduct scientific research. There are enough incompetent researchers as it is – we certainly don’t need another.

        13. matlun
          matlun November 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

          @Jadey: You may very well be right that this debate is pointless. However, your latest comment honestly confuses me, so perhaps you could elaborate?

          Are you criticizing me for defining IQ as separate from the concept of “intelligence”? Or is this in some way tied into the longer debate we have had above?

          You are perhaps right in that I do not understand the usefulness of the concept of “operational definition”. IMO it is typically more useful to consider the core concept and the measure used in a specific experiment as separate (which is opposed to the philosophical view of “operational definition” where the measure actually stands as a definition of the concept)

          We seem to be drifting quite a way OT here…

        14. lambda
          lambda November 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |

          Jadey:

          Hard scientist here. Although I think there’s actually substantial evidence in favor of pretty general agreement in intercultural ratings of physical attractiveness, let’s just assume you’re correct in all of your criticisms about the authors’ methods for measuring attractiveness. In fact, let’s just assume that there is no such thing as attractiveness.

          Where does that leave us, then? Isn’t it kind of miraculous that four observers are able to pick out severe endometriosis patients just by looking at them? (As I point out below, the probability of observing an effect at least as strong by chance is less than 1 in 5000.) Aren’t you at least curious how that could have happened if the property they claim to be subjectively measuring is unreal?

  4. Jadey
    Jadey November 7, 2012 at 11:59 am |

    Just waiting for someone to make some kind of BS evo theory bastardization about how women’s suffering is adaptive.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L November 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm |

      How about: women’s suffering (of all kinds) is adaptive because it triggered the otherwise inactive “empathy gene” in men, making it more likely that those men would stick around to help those women and their children, as opposed to wandering off to bang the chick in the next cave. Women who didn’t suffer were more likely to be abandoned, and died out. Sounds good to me!

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune November 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

        ooh, good one, Donna!

        Sadly my list of four theories went into mod D:

      2. ACM
        ACM November 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

        And unfortunately there are many people scientifically illiterate enough for this kind of theory to make sense.

      3. umami
        umami November 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm |

        I think I’ve actually seen a version of this theory for real…
        It wasn’t far off your parody, anyway.

        The theory was that women suffer from depression at greater rates than men because depression is adaptive for women.

        The guts of the theory was that women have no bargaining power in a relationship once they’ve had kids (this is probably true in the evo-psych reality where the Flintstones is basically a documentary and nuclear family structures were how our Stone Age ancestors organised themselves.) But if you’re too mean to your used-up helpless wife once she’s a mother, she might get depressed! And then she’d suck at raising your kids.
        Therefore a tendency towards depression in women is adaptive because it stops men being mean to them.

        You just can’t parody these fuckers.

        (The authors then went on to conclusively prove that patriarchy is not the cause of women being depressed at greater rates than men, by regressing the ratio of female depression: male depression in different countries on the gender equality index of those countries and finding no correlation. I still remember that because it was so ridiculous. Like, thank god you’ve resolved that issue, guys. What would all the people researching it do without you?)

        1. lambda
          lambda November 7, 2012 at 8:47 pm |

          (The authors then went on to conclusively prove that patriarchy is not the cause of women being depressed at greater rates than men, by regressing the ratio of female depression: male depression in different countries on the gender equality index of those countries and finding no correlation. I still remember that because it was so ridiculous. Like, thank god you’ve resolved that issue, guys. What would all the people researching it do without you?)

          If you wanted show that female depression is explained by the patriarchy, wouldn’t you want to run exactly that regression, expecting a negative correlation between (some admittedly imperfect but not completely ridiculous measure of) equality and depression? It’s possible that there might be a higher rate of female clinical depression for purely biological reasons; plenty of diseases, after all, differ in prevalence between sexes. If you would accept the existence of a correlation as evidence for the depression-patriarchy connection, why would you not accept its absence as evidence against it?

        2. umami
          umami November 9, 2012 at 7:12 am |

          Response to lambda is further down the thread because long comments this far down in the nesting look weird to me.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune November 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm |

      Ooh, I’ll give that a try!

      1) Attractive women suffer from more endo because they’re in a constant state of being excited by male arousal hormones secreted in their presence, confusing their silly ladybits.

      2) Attractive women suffer from more endo because unattractive women have to be more fertile in order to compete for male sperm, and thus will themselves into health in a way that beautiful women don’t have to.

      3) Attractive women are less interested in mothering because they don’t have to be fertile to keep a mate. Thus endometriosis makes it harder for them to have babies, which means they’ll bond more with the ones they do have! Because science.

      4) Gotta keep them pretty bitches down somehow, amirite gaiz?

      1. Partial Human
        Partial Human November 8, 2012 at 10:54 am |

        Best theory Dr Mac!

        It’s certainly better than this Italian nonsense.

    3. matlun
      matlun November 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm |

      How about the trivial evo psych model that suffering, like simple pain, is often adaptive since it will drive us to try to avoid the situation causing the suffering?

      (Or are we still talking about endometriosis here?)

      1. EG
        EG November 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm |

        Like childbirth?

        1. matlun
          matlun November 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

          Sure – there are exceptions. Like endometriosis. It would be very difficult to find some kind of evo psych positive spin on a condition associated with infertility.

          If you want an attempt at something truly general I guess Donna wins.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm |

          Like childbirth?

          The reason humans have such a tough time with childbirth is really an accident of evolution, specifically the development of preferential bipedality. But whatever- science is boring, lets just be snarky instead.

        3. EG
          EG November 7, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

          Since we’re talking specifically about female suffering here, can you explain why bringing up childbirth is snarky as opposed to, you know, relevant?

      2. Jadey
        Jadey November 7, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

        Why on earth wouldn’t we be talking about endo?

        Also, suffering is not the same as pain.

        1. matlun
          matlun November 7, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

          I thought your comment was just a general tongue in cheek snark against evo psych, and that my not very relevant response would fit this part of the conversation.

          My apologies if you were actually looking for some more seriously meant response to that comment.

        2. Jadey
          Jadey November 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm |

          I actually didn’t realize you were attempting to be snarky, given the rest of your comments.

        3. matlun
          matlun November 8, 2012 at 2:48 am |

          Well, I do think it was a valid evo psych viewpoint addressing the literal meaning of your post. A pretty trivial and pointless one, and also not applicable to the context of the OP, but an attempt to address the implicit challenge in your post.

          While I would not call it “snarky”, it was a bit of a failed attempt at humor.

      3. Lindsay Beyerstein
        Lindsay Beyerstein November 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm |

        Childbirth shows that pain isn’t always adaptive.

        On the whole, our capacity to feel pain is adaptive, because pain usually steers us away from danger, but that doesn’t mean that every kind of pain or every instance of pain is adaptive.

        A common pitfall of evolutionary theorizing is to assume that every trait is an adaptation. Some traits, like the propensity to feel pain during childbirth were never selected for.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:02 pm |

          A common pitfall of evolutionary theorizing is to assume that every trait is an adaptation. Some traits, like the propensity to feel pain during childbirth were never selected for.

          Thank you.

  5. Lamech
    Lamech November 7, 2012 at 1:31 pm |

    That is not how you rate attractiveness people. First off, attractiveness is subjective, so all you can rate is “attractiveness to a specific population.” So what you rated was “attractiveness to doctors”. Or possibly “attractiveness to four specific doctors”, I’m not quite sure from the MSNBC article.

    Also I question if the doctors where rating what they found attractive or what they thought society would find attractive. The first is okay (if your population of interest is doctors), the second leads to all sorts of trouble.

  6. tomek
    tomek November 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm |

    this seems article is pretty silly. the scientist just trying to help you all out with discoverys. maybe not convienient to u but its fact. science doesnt care about how nice it is discoverys is. its neutral

    1. EG
      EG November 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm |

      You know what, I was going to comment, but I don’t even know where to begin. So I’m just going to refer Tomek to Jadey’s comments above regarding how science works and once again point out that the opinions of four Italian scientists are not neutral scientific facts regarding attractiveness.

      I like the idea that the study is trying to help us out, though. “Ladies, quick! Be uglier so you don’t develop endometriosis!”

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:07 pm |

        and once again point out that the opinions of four Italian scientists are not neutral scientific facts regarding attractiveness.

        You’re missing the point. I agree that the way the NBC article framed the research is problematic, and the way the study defined terms is potentially problematic as well. It doesn’t matter that much, because there’s still a statistically significant connection between the metric ‘these four doctor’s assessments of attractiveness’ and ‘likelihood of endometriosis.’ Those four doctors were receiving some set of visual cues that provided information about the likelihood of a disease, and even if you don’t want to call those cues ‘attractiveness,’ they objectively existed, which is useful information.

        I like the idea that the study is trying to help us out, though. “Ladies, quick! Be uglier so you don’t develop endometriosis!”

        Don’t do this, EG. You’re too smart to believe that’s how scientific discovery works.

        1. EG
          EG November 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

          Why on earth do you suppose I don’t get what’s important about this study? I am not criticizing the existence of a correlation. I am criticizing scientsists, who, though supposedly making objective judgments, choose to call what they are judging “attractiveness,” yet again framing women’s existence in terms of a hierarchy of beauty. Interesting, isn’t it, that medical science hasn’t come up with any studies correlating men’s “attractiveness” to anything. Is that because men don’t have attractiveness? Or is it because supposedly objective researchers are not framing their metrics along that particular hierarchy?

          What message do you think it sends women about what attributes of theirs are innate and essential when supposedly objective medical researchers call the opinions of four Italian scientists a measure of “attractiveness”?

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 12, 2012 at 2:20 am |

          Don’t do this, EG. You’re too smart to believe that’s how scientific discovery works.

          Hey, not sure if you’ve moved on from the thread yet, but I was re-reading and the above comment came across as super condescending. Sorry.

        3. EG
          EG November 12, 2012 at 3:01 am |

          Don’t sweat it. I can take it as well as dish it out.

    2. lambda
      lambda November 8, 2012 at 8:15 pm |

      Interesting, isn’t it, that medical science hasn’t come up with any studies correlating men’s “attractiveness” to anything.

      Did you even try to check?

      1. EG
        EG November 9, 2012 at 9:06 pm |

        That’s interesting. I’m always intrigued, though, by studies’ easy assumption that visual assessment of a photograph is an accurate measure of a person’s general attractiveness.

        It’s nice to know, though, that measures of a person’s attractiveness remain absurd across gender. Five women who don’t know the men–why wouldn’t evolution be dealing with the fact that women and men assessing each other’s attractiveness usually know each other? How were these women chosen? Is five really a large enough size? What the fuck?

        1. lambda
          lambda November 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |

          “General attractiveness” is not the question. The question is the relationship between oxidative stress and physical attractiveness. If human beings did not signal their mating potential through their phenotype, they would be practically the only sexually reproducing species on earth not to do so, and it would constitute a total mystery for evolutionary biology. The fact that humans can signal in other ways besides morphology does not imply that the absence of that signal would not be selected against, no matter whether a potential mate is novel or familiar.

          Further, everyone understands the relationship between a photograph and the thing photographed, and witnesses strong agreement between physical appearance in photographs and and physical appearance in person. The experimental setup was obviously designed to minimize logistical difficulties. C’mon.

          How were the evaluators selected? I dunno, through standard techniques for recruiting participants for psychology experiments?

          Is five women enough? The authors on that point:

          (Although our number of raters was modest, the reliabilities of their ratings, averaging over 0.8, indicated that they agreed with each other so strongly that increasing the number of raters would not have made a substantial difference.)

          We can go into either of those points in greater detail, but I can’t help but get the sense that you’re not really asking about any of these points out of concern for a specific methodological flaw that might invalidate the conclusion, rather than just generating flak. If I convinced you that a small evaluator pool didn’t matter, would you accept the findings of the paper, or would you think of another point? Whatever the real isue is, here, let’s talk about that.

        2. tomek
          tomek November 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm |

          lamda i think for feminist they accept not want attrativenes be biological because it disprove feminit argument about body image problem for girl and woman

        3. EG
          EG November 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm |

          The question is the relationship between oxidative stress and physical attractiveness. If human beings did not signal their mating potential through their phenotype, they would be practically the only sexually reproducing species on earth not to do so, and it would constitute a total mystery for evolutionary biology.

          See, I disagree with this. I disagree with the easy division you make between general attractiveness and physical attractiveness. All the qualities I cite are part of the experience of physical attractiveness, and none of them are captured in a photograph. Similarly, you are kidding me if you claim you have not noticed that photographs rarely capture the way a person actually looks when they’re in motion. The first man I was deeply attracted to photographed terribly. I never saw a photograph of him that was at all appealing, despite the fact that he was physically attractive enough to get around quite a lot. So you can say that “everyone” agrees that a photograph is a good-enough stand-in, but I don’t agree. Physical attractiveness is not interchangeable with visual appeal (if it were, blind people would never experience physical attraction, and that seems highly unlikely to me), and visual appeal is not reliably captured in a photograph.

          (Although our number of raters was modest, the reliabilities of their ratings, averaging over 0.8, indicated that they agreed with each other so strongly that increasing the number of raters would not have made a substantial difference.)

          All that means is that all five were often in agreement. If all five of these women shared a number of traits, such as race, class, cultural origin, age, nationality, etc., than that is hardly surprising to me, and I have the same problems with it that I have with any other supposed measure of an attractiveness based on biology when the measuring is so strongly culturally inflected.

          I can’t help but get the sense that you’re not really asking about any of these points out of concern for a specific methodological flaw that might invalidate the conclusion, rather than just generating flak. If I convinced you that a small evaluator pool didn’t matter, would you accept the findings of the paper, or would you think of another point? Whatever the real isue is, here, let’s talk about that.

          Well, this is charmingly condescending, but I’m going to have to disappoint you. I strongly believe that these points are not adequately addressed. If you would like to raise another issue, though, please feel free.

        4. lambda
          lambda November 12, 2012 at 1:13 am |

          I address the primary points in another reply to you in the thread.

          Moreover, I think we’re getting rather far afield; you originally claimed that men’s physical attractiveness was never studied for associations with disease phenotypes. That’s not the case.

          Even if you suppose that these five women have a totally idiosyncratic metric of physical attractiveness, their standard still happens to correlate negatively with oxidative stress markers. Why would that be, if everything is socially constructed? If you throw in skepticism about the connection between photographic and in-person ratings, the correlation becomes even more mysterious. Photographs have nothing to do with how attractive people look, and how attractive people look has nothing to do with oxidative stress, and yet there’s the correlation between photographs and oxidative stress. Eppur si muove.

        5. EG
          EG November 12, 2012 at 1:47 am |

          Why would that be, if everything is socially constructed?

          Since I never argued that “everything” was socially constructed, I feel no need to answer this question.

          What does the correlation mean? It means that the panel is, in its measure of attractiveness, assessing a trait that has to do oxidative stress markers. Duh. That does not mean that said trait is part of “attractiveness” as it exists in real life for most people. Surely it would only be more helpful if researchers actually figured out what that trait is? I have never heard of scholars in any area arguing for less specificity.

  7. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm |

    What is the value of this study? I mean seriously. So what if more so called conventionally attractive women suffer from X. Is that going to lead to treatment options? Shall we study whether people with food poisoning are more likely to enjoy smooth jazz? Whether people who get a flu shoot tend to prefer carpet over tile? This is fucking ridiculous. If they want to study sexual behavior then they should study it. Instead this sounds like a sophomoric outrank pulled on women who are suffering. (har har…let’s rank these girls based on Notes from my Boner.)

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong November 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm |

      What is the value of this study? I mean seriously.

      To expand scientific knowledge?

      The idea that any piece of knowledge has to immediately lead to practical results, or it isn’t worth knowing/will never be important is incredibly silly. That’s not how we advance. We don’t know what piece of data will be important to future breakthroughs, and by the very definition of ‘breakthrough,’ we probably can’t. Criticize the study for being poorly conceived if you want, but not for this.

      In addition, reading news pieces about scientific studies is an incredibly bad way of trying to understand the results of said study. The track record of journalists accurately reporting on these things is pretty damn poor.

      1. Kristen J.
        Kristen J. November 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

        No. Bullshit. Just because you can learn something from an observation does not make studying it valuable. Learning is fun…but concentrating medical research dollars on whether prettiness is correlated to a disease is bad study design, bad science, and sexist as hell.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm |

          No. Bullshit. Just because you can learn something from an observation does not make studying it valuable. Learning is fun…but concentrating medical research dollars on whether prettiness is correlated to a disease is bad study design, bad science, and sexist as hell.

          Good thing that’s not what they did. Did you read the study? It was a survey of a ton of different factors linked to endo, of which attractiveness was one. Objectively, those four doctor’s perceptions of attractiveness was linked to the likelihood of endometriosis, so even if you don’t like the term they used (not that you know what terms they used, since you just read the NBC article) it still is telling us something interesting and, potentially, useful.

        2. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. November 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm |

          Right. And in college my stats professor once correlated shoe size with the color of car purchased. Statistics are only as valuable as the assumptions and the analysis used.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 9:16 pm |

          Right. And in college my stats professor once correlated shoe size with the color of car purchased. Statistics are only as valuable as the assumptions and the analysis used.

          Really? With a rigorous methodology and a high confidence level?

        4. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. November 8, 2012 at 11:09 pm |

          Yes. Because there is an underlying causative factor.

        5. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 9, 2012 at 6:56 am |

          Yes. Because there is an underlying causative factor.

          ]

          Exactly- I can think of a couple. For example, there are small but consistently demonstrable differences in color preference between sexes, and men have, on average, a larger shoe size than women.

          So your professor demonstrated that properly utilized statistics can reveal the truth. Your point?

        6. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. November 9, 2012 at 7:27 am |

          What? Shoe size does not cause people to buy a red car. Gendered norms causes people to buy a red car. Looking at the data you come to the wrong conclusion, not the correct one. The is the exact same sort of error that underlies most of the sexist, racist bullshit studies that come out. Perspective matters and the lens through which we view the data impacts the results of our statistical analysis.

        7. matlun
          matlun November 9, 2012 at 7:43 am |

          Shoe size does not cause people to buy a red car … Looking at the data you come to the wrong conclusion, not the correct one.

          Why?
          That would only be the case if you were foolish enough to assume that correlation was the same thing as causation.

        8. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date November 9, 2012 at 9:09 am |

          Objectively, those four doctor’s perceptions of attractiveness was linked to the likelihood of endometriosis, so even if you don’t like the term they used (not that you know what terms they used, since you just read the NBC article) it still is telling us something interesting and, potentially, useful.

          No. If your model is wrong, the statistics (sample size, correlation, confidence, etc.) are irrelevant.

        9. lambda
          lambda November 9, 2012 at 11:01 am |

          PMED,

          No. If your model is wrong, the statistics (sample size, correlation, confidence, etc.) are irrelevant.

          I’m not sure I understand what you mean here. What is the model in this case, and why is the model wrong? And if the model is wrong, how do we explain the strength of the association?

          Do you have a background in statistics? I’m not trying to argue from authority here, I just want to get on the same page with you.

        10. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date November 9, 2012 at 11:21 am |

          Yes, I have a background in statistics.

          The presumed model in this case (I’m going from the summary; I haven’t read the paper) is that one of the factors affecting endometriosis is attractiveness.

          This model assumes:

          1. “attractiveness” is a characteristic that can be measured.
          2. the level of “attractiveness” is stable over a time period long enough to develop endometriosis.
          3. the method they used to measure “attractiveness” actually does measure “attractiveness”.

          All three of these assumptions are wrong.

          I suppose, alternatively, you could have a model that says that one of the factors affecting attractiveness is endometriosis, in which case you wouldn’t have to make assumption #2, but you would still have to make assumptions #1 and #3.

        11. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm |

          What? Shoe size does not cause people to buy a red car. Gendered norms causes people to buy a red car. Looking at the data you come to the wrong conclusion, not the correct one.

          Wow, this is such a pure, perfect example of someone not understanding how math works. The fact that there’s a meaningful correlation between two things doesn’t mean that one is causative.

          The only way someone could have come to the wrong conclusion is if they assumed finding the correlation implied causation, which I didn’t, your professor (presumably) didn’t, and you evidently typically do.

        12. lambda
          lambda November 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

          PMED,

          You need not assume that attractiveness endometriosis, nor that endometriosis causes attractiveness. A much more plausible assumption is that a third factor, say hormonal levels (and specifically estrogen) during development, cause both. Women with high estrogen levels are rated as more attractive by both men and women, and endometriosis is associated with high estrogen, so it is hardly surprising that you should observe an association between endometriosis and attractiveness as operationally defined.

          If it is impossible to measure attractiveness, you need to explain why there is such broad inter-cultural agreement about who is attractive and who is not. From a recent review:

          Buss (1989) surveyed people from 37 cul-
          tures around the world about mate prefer-
          ences. The U.S. samples rated the importance
          of physical attractiveness only slightly above
          average for the cultures. In traditional groups
          as well, e.g., the Ache of Paraguay ( Jones &
          Hill 1993), the Shiwiar of Equador (Sugiyama
          2004), the Machigenka of Peru (Yu & Shepard
          1998), and the Hadza of Tanzania (Wetsman
          & Marlowe 1999), individuals have reliable
          standards of attractiveness. Indeed, a recent
          meta-analysis concluded that people in dif-
          ferent cultures generally agree on who is
          attractive (Langlois et al. 2000).

          Even if you deny this (and note that you’re just contradicting the finding, not offering any argument that purports to show why the finding should be false), you still need to explain the association between subjective measures of attractiveness and estrogen: if you ask evaluators to rate physical attractiveness and they give you ratings that correlate very strongly with estrogen levels, how can that happen unless the evaluators are evaluating something that correlates with estrogen?

        13. EG
          EG November 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

          If it is impossible to measure attractiveness, you need to explain why there is such broad inter-cultural agreement about who is attractive and who is not.

          No. Actually, those two things have nothing to do with each other. Agreement that something exists and agreement where or in whom in exists does not mean that the thing in question can be measured hierarchically or numerically.

          Many, many cultures agree that an emotion called “love” in English exists between mothers and children. Some people can even discuss loving one person more or less than another. That doesn’t actually mean that love is susceptible to being accurately measured on a hierarchical, numerical scale.

          And as long as these assessments of attractiveness are being done via photographs, which leave out the effects of motion, dynamic facial movement, responsiveness, sound, smell, and personality, all of which contribute to somebody’s physical attractiveness, and I can’t tell how many do because I’m not paying for the full text of that review, I continue to find what they’re measuring to be an inadequate stand-in for how attractiveness works in real life.

        14. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date November 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

          @amblingalong, actually, I kind of agree with Daniel Engber in Slate about the overuse of “correlation does not equal causation”: “No, correlation does not imply causation, but it sure as hell provides a hint.”

        15. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date November 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

          @lambda

          If it is impossible to measure attractiveness, you need to explain why there is such broad inter-cultural agreement about who is attractive and who is not.

          As EG said, no, I don’t. Agreeing that there is such a thing as attractiveness, and actually measuring it, are two different things.

          Also, since the article you cite is behind a paywall, I can’t tell whether there is broad agreement within each culture (at a particular period of time) about who from that culture (and time) is attractive, or broad agreement from all humans everywhere always about who is attractive. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the former; I find the latter very hard to believe.

        16. lambda
          lambda November 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

          EG and PMED,

          Sorry, I didn’t realize that copy was behind a paywall. I think this should work. Let me know if not and I’ll host it.

          Obviously a photograph is not the entire story about physical attractiveness, but it is quite another thing to claim that photographs of a given person do not correlate at all with physical attractiveness as evaluated in person. Isn’t it an astonishing coincidence, then, that photographs are the norm in online dating sites, which are effectively massive natural experiment in evaluations of attractiveness?

          And PMED, the agreement is not intra-cultural but inter-cultural, as the excerpt plainly states. Why is that so hard to believe?

        17. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm |

          I kind of agree with Daniel Engber in Slate about the overuse of “correlation does not equal causation”: “No, correlation does not imply causation, but it sure as hell provides a hint.”

          You realize you’re now directly contradicting the point your ‘shoe size and car color’ anecdote made?

        18. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date November 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |

          @amblingalong, it wasn’t my shoe size and car color anecdote.

        19. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date November 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm |

          And PMED, the agreement is not intra-cultural but inter-cultural, as the excerpt plainly states. Why is that so hard to believe?

          Because even the most superficial examination of standards of attractiveness in different times and different places shows that culture influences people’s perceptions of attractiveness.

          Why is that so hard to believe?

        20. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. November 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm |

          Wow, this is such a pure, perfect example of someone not understanding how math works. The fact that there’s a meaningful correlation between two things doesn’t mean that one is causative.

          The only way someone could have come to the wrong conclusion is if they assumed finding the correlation implied causation, which I didn’t, your professor (presumably) didn’t, and you evidently typically do.

          Umm…what the hell do you think medical research is for? We’re not just random looking for things that CORRELATE you’re looking at correlations to identify possible causes. So you can, you know…help people.

        21. lambda
          lambda November 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm |

          Because even the most superficial examination of standards of attractiveness in different times and different places shows that culture influences people’s perceptions of attractiveness.

          Well, so I don’t I need to deny that in order to make the claim I made: the influence of culture is probably not zero. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to conclude from the observation of differences in ornamentation that attractiveness is totally arbitrary: superficial differences often suggest underlying unity. What “high status” looks like is obviously highly culturally plastic, but evidence of high status is pretty universally desirable. We also shouldn’t conclude that all bodily modification is done for the purpose of enhancing physical attractiveness rather than, say, signalling in-group status or toughness.

          But the fact that the correlation isn’t 1 doesn’t imply that the correlation is 0. What I claimed is that there is generally strong agreement between highly separated cultures on who is attractive. I’ve pointed you towards the literature on this: Buss 1989 has literally thousands of citations, and the basic experiment has been replicated many times. That’s why I think that physical attractiveness is not totally culturally arbitrary. In response, I’m afraid, you’ve just said “nuh-uh” repeatedly. If you have an argument, I’m all ears, but I can’t say that I’ve seen it yet.

        22. lambda
          lambda November 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm |

          Because even the most superficial examination of standards of attractiveness in different times and different places shows that culture influences people’s perceptions of attractiveness.

          Well, so I don’t I need to deny that in order to make the claim I made: the influence of culture is probably not zero. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to conclude from the observation of differences in ornamentation that attractiveness is totally arbitrary: superficial differences often suggest underlying unity. What “high status” looks like is obviously highly culturally plastic, but evidence of high status is pretty universally desirable. We also shouldn’t conclude that all bodily modification is done for the purpose of enhancing physical attractiveness rather than, say, signalling in-group status or toughness.

          But the fact that the correlation isn’t 1 doesn’t imply that the correlation is 0. What I claimed is that there is generally strong agreement between highly separated cultures on who is attractive. I’ve pointed you towards the literature on this: Buss 1989 has literally thousands of citations, and the basic experiment has been replicated many times. That’s why I think that physical attractiveness is not totally culturally arbitrary. In response, I’m afraid, you’ve just said “nuh-uh” repeatedly. If you have an argument, I’m all ears, but I can’t say that I’ve seen it yet.

        23. lambda
          lambda November 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm |

          KristenJ:

          Umm…what the hell do you think medical research is for? We’re not just random looking for things that CORRELATE you’re looking at correlations to identify possible causes. So you can, you know…help people.

          Checkmate, scientists!

          Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if the lead author had released a statement explaining this obvious point which you apparently take to be a self-evident, slam-dunk refutation of the paper…

          For this reason we are eager to investigate new ideas that might help shed light on the still unclear causes of endometriosis. This is why we did this study and we hope our research can become another building block in our quest to understand why some women develop endometriosis – or even different types of endometriosis – and others don’t.

        24. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. November 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm |

          Except if you continue to study things when you know there ae underlying causal factors that you *can* identify then you are designing a shit study. And when you do so in a way continues to support attractiveness as central to womanhood then you are designing a shit, sexist study.

        25. EG
          EG November 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm |

          Isn’t it an astonishing coincidence, then, that photographs are the norm in online dating sites, which are effectively massive natural experiment in evaluations of attractiveness?

          Speaking as someone who’s done a lot of internet dating on a variety of sites, I laughed so hard at this that I almost fell out of my chair.

          Nothing teaches you that a photograph does a piss-poor job of accurately representing physical attractiveness like doing internet dating.

        26. lambda
          lambda November 12, 2012 at 1:07 am |

          EG,

          The fact that signals can be manipulated isn’t an argument that the signal is not a signal at all. Yes, everyone has a friend who got mislead by an online profile portrait, or once had a goofy driver’s license photo, but notice where we’ve come: in order to deny the (negative) correlation between physical attractiveness and certain disease phenotypes, you’re reduced to claiming that photographs of people bear no relation to their physical attractiveness. Again, I’m not claiming that the correlation must be 1.0, but it’s certainly north of 0.

          Do you really believe that it is impossible to predict ratings of attractiveness in person from ratings of attractiveness via photographs? Do you think that this belief is particularly widespread? Such a proposition seems so obvious to me that I wouldn’t bother testing it, but perhaps I’m wrong! Your position implies that if we were to ask two groups to evaluate the attractiveness of participants, one in person and one via photographs, then we should not be able to distinguish the correlation in the two groups’ mean ratings from zero. To me, it seems practically self-evident that we would observe non-zero correlation, and that if I proposed that someone in the psych department test this, I would get laughed out of the room for wasting their time. But if you seriously believe that photographs are totally uncorrelated with in person judgments, let me know the experimental design you would accept as conclusive. Maybe some psych undergrad needs a senior thesis topic.

          Anyway, main reference here seems to be Patzer (1985). I can’t send you a pdf of the book, but here’s the main point from a review of it:

          Both test-retest [one rater, different times –lambda] and interjudge [different raters, one time] reliabilities are astonishingly high… Despite interjudge variability in age, sex, geographic origin, education and socioeconomic status, studies yield respectable reliabilities of no less than .49 and more frequently in the range .80 to .90

          [Link.

          Before I go digging through the literature (of which there is much, much more) on this again, could you state in advance at what point you would consider yourself convinced that physical attractiveness can indeed be assessed by panel consensus?

        27. EG
          EG November 12, 2012 at 1:44 am |

          The fact that signals can be manipulated isn’t an argument that the signal is not a signal at all. Yes, everyone has a friend who got mislead by an online profile portrait, or once had a goofy driver’s license photo, but notice where we’ve come: in order to deny the (negative) correlation between physical attractiveness and certain disease phenotypes, you’re reduced to claiming that photographs of people bear no relation to their physical attractiveness.

          No, that’s your caricature of my argument. My argument is that photographs do not reliably accurately represent a person’s physical attractiveness.

          This is not about a being misled by an online photo or a goofy driver’s license photo; this is about, over and over, doing online dating, and having friends doing online dating, and noting that whether or not we thought somebody was hot in their photo was no guide at all to whether or not we were attracted to them in real life. Sometimes the photo was significantly hotter, sometimes the photo was significantly less hot. But it was not a reliable guide. Over and over again I have found this to be true.

          And I haven’t even touched on the fact that such studies assume that people accurately report their feelings regarding attractiveness, as opposed to reporting what they think they’re supposed to find attractive.

          It is not my job to design an experiment to account for these things; if I had any interest in doing so, I would have continued in sociology. Nor is it my problem if you get laughed at in a psych department. The assumptions that physical attraction is primarily visual and that said visual attraction can be accurately estimated via a photograph are just that–assumptions. Laugh it up, but your condescending amusement isn’t actually evidence.

          As long as your panel is judging photographs and your data is self-reporting, these problems will remain. Fortunately, they’re not mine.

      2. Jadey
        Jadey November 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

        In addition, reading news pieces about scientific studies is an incredibly bad way of trying to understand the results of said study. The track record of journalists accurately reporting on these things is pretty damn poor.

        That I will agree with wholeheartedly. Making a sow’s ear out of a sow’s ear too much of the time, and screwing up decent research the rest of the time. Scientific illiteracy is terrifying to me, given how much we rely on scientific and technological advancements.

        For the other, I’m certainly not opposed to research for research’s sake because in an ideal world that is exactly how we should approach things, but given the enormous institutional problems with how we fund research, I also sympathize with anyone frustrated by what becomes a zero-sum game with a lot of potentially fruitful research programs losing out and some very irritating and harmful paradigms being supported long after it becomes clear that they are garbage.

        But the most basic problem in my estimation is the institutional reward system which encourages superficial, lazy research in high volume, and discourages complex critical analysis with an emphasis on falsification and theory development and not exciting new “statistically significant” results that are often not replicated or even replicable. If we all did *better* research, I would be substantially less cheesed-off when people got funded to do things that don’t interest me or strike me as relevant. (Of course, I’m even more irritated when people do bad research on things that I DO think are really important.)

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm |

          If we all did *better* research, I would be substantially less cheesed-off when people got funded to do things that don’t interest me or strike me as relevant.

          That’s fair. But please, let’s not forget this.

          I’m sure you already know this, but it’s worth repeating- a massive, massive chunk of scientific advances build of research that wasn’t immediately applicable when it was done.

        2. Jadey
          Jadey November 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm |

          Absolutely.

          The best science occurs when people aren’t afraid of the consequences of failing. When failures are in fact recognized as being a vital part of the process, because we often learn best when we’re screwing things up. It’s the emphasis on a very superficial type of ‘successful’ research that I think is leading to a lot of problems in the institution of academic research, partly (mostly?) because science is fundamentally unsuited to being paired with capitalism.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 9:15 pm |

          Jadey- not disagreeing with you there. There’s been a very interesting set of recent articles in PNAS about shockingly improbable number of studies which manage to find p-values of just under .05.

    2. matlun
      matlun November 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm |

      What is the value of this study?

      From the article: “This line of research may shed light on the hormones or genes linked with women’s risk of developing the uterine condition, the researchers said.”

      They basically seem to have been applying a barrage of different measures on these women to try to find any type of interesting correlations. They also looked at (at least) BMI, breast size, waist to hip ratio and investigated sexual history.

      As to why the popular press (or at least MSNBC) chose to focus on the specific measure of attractiveness from the study, that might be an interesting question for critical analysis.

      1. Kristen J.
        Kristen J. November 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

        Okay…so as long as smooth jazz and flooring preferences are mixed in with other relevant facts we should not criticize the fact they actually decided to waste time AND reify kyriarchal norms? No thanks. Scientists adding attractiveness to the list of factors is not made better by the fact that they also studied hormones.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm |

          Except, guess what? The perception of attractiveness turned out to actually be one statistically significant predictor of likelihood of endometriosis! So, again, while I agree completely that it would be a mistake to call this ‘objective attractiveness,’ there still is some important and potentially useful data that studying ‘attractiveness’ turned up.

    3. tomek
      tomek November 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm |

      it might be usefull because if we figure out what cause attractivenes then we can figure out what cause endochromitus . positive effect from gender study is very common . for example in my country we find that boy learn bad in feminine enviroment like sitting at desk learning from book so we improve education for boy by making it more challenging and masucline.

      1. librarygoose
        librarygoose November 7, 2012 at 3:34 pm |

        All of this is stupid. All of your words.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune November 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

        for example in my country we find that boy learn bad in feminine enviroment like sitting at desk learning from book so we improve education for boy by making it more challenging and masucline.

        Tomek, I’m so glad to see that your country’s ahead of the game in providing the proper learning environment for little boys! I personally have been trying to persuade Canadian educational authorities for years to suspend little boys over viper-filled pits and jab them with sharp phallic objects to get them to learn, as that is the most masculine environment imaginable, but the resistance among these over-cultured feminised wussies is just horrible. Horrible, I tell you! And recently they told me that they won’t consider bathing them in ball sweat either. I find this all very tragic.

      3. EG
        EG November 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm |

        It’s true, there’s nothing so feminine as sitting at a desk studying. That has been thought true ever since such an activity was developed, across cultures and time, and it explains why scholarship and knowledge have been such female-dominated activities and professions; clearly this is the result of the way that education was developed by female authorities for female children.

        Tomek’s parallel universe sounds really awesome.

        1. tomek
          tomek November 7, 2012 at 4:15 pm |

          in past when class room had only boy teacher was strict and very macuslin used stick used belt for punishing and had competiveness amonsgt boys like old days of hunting. now boys and girl is mixed and boys spend all time looking at girl or trying to be persona in order to impress girl and cannot be true learning self.

          if u separat girl and boys everything go better. even girl learn better when separated from boy which u notice in USA because u have universty for girls only.

        2. bleh
          bleh November 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm |

          I guess those CEOs sitting at desks are just the most feminine type men since they excel in feminine environments.

        3. EG
          EG November 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm |

          So…hunting involved sitting still at a desk and being hit with a ruler if one did something wrong? That seems unlikely to me.

          Get your argument straight. Are you saying that sitting at a desk studying is feminine, or are you saying that boys are too distracted by girls to study? Those are two different propositions. They are both stupid, but they are different.

          As to your fantasy that better education involves violence against the students, I suggest you consult some of the many, many studies on pedagogy done that indicate that positive reinforcement is far more effective for mammals than negative.

          Most higher education in the US is mixed sex. There are a few women’s colleges left (I went to one), but they are very few indeed.

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:15 pm |

          in past when class room had only boy teacher was strict and very macuslin used stick used belt for punishing and had competiveness amonsgt boys like old days of hunting.

          I don’t have anything to add, I just really like this quote.

      4. umami
        umami November 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm |

        it might be usefull because if we figure out what cause attractivenes then we can figure out what cause endochromitus

        FUCK FUCK FUCK

        brb just throwing all my makeup onto a big bonfire. I don’t want to catch endochromitus from it.
        Should I also burn my bra? You can’t be too careful. Maybe just the really cleavagey one?

        seriously though why do these asshats never notice or acknowledge the extent to which attractiveness is caused by women working to be attractive? There can’t be any kind of cultural component to attractiveness for them, and there can’t be any kind of effect from an individual woman’s will or actions. They wilfully ignore this stuff to a pathological degree. It’s not just simplifying their models. There is something else going on, there’s some kind of emotional satisfaction they get out of conceptualising the world this way.

  8. Tami
    Tami November 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

    If you read the actual study and not the news article, it shows they were researching more than just attractiveness. Even so, that is the part that was very uplifting to me. As soon as I saw it a couple months ago, I e-mailed it to my other friends with Endo and said at least something positive comes out of this disease we’ve been afflicted with. Apparently we’re gorgeous! Laughter is always good medicine and we got a bunch that day!

  9. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date November 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm |

    I wonder if, unlike sitting at a desk learning from a book, sitting at a desk typing into a computer is a masculine environment? Maybe as long as there’s no learning going on? Because there doesn’t seem to be any learning going on.

    1. Past my expiration date
      Past my expiration date November 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm |

      Drat, I messed up. This was supposed to be a reply to Tomek’s comment about endochromitus.

      1. Partial Human
        Partial Human November 8, 2012 at 11:10 am |

        I’d love him to explain WTF “endochromitis” is.

        In my case it provoked sudden explosive laughter, and a splattering of coke on my phone’s screen.

    2. EG
      EG November 7, 2012 at 3:57 pm |

      Learning is very feminine. We shouldn’t put men at a disadvantage by privileging “learning” and “knowing things” over chest-thumping.

  10. alex
    alex November 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm |

    “That’s the next problem. Any woman knows … that conventional attractiveness is completely unrelated to when a woman first has sex.”

    Wow, a genuine, unironic, argument from internal revelation. Women ‘know’ this, who are do these scientists think they are trying to draw conclusions by making measurements? The posters are stupid. Commenters supporting them should be ashamed of themselves. Things are not going to turn out too well for feminism if it joins the same camp as the geocentrists and anti-vaxers.

    1. EG
      EG November 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm |

      Remind me what the scientific basis of judging a woman’s attractiveness based on the opinions of four Italian scientists is? Is it as firmly established, would you say, as the efficacy of vaccination?

    2. speedbudget
      speedbudget November 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

      Well, gee, my nickname in high school was Ralph and Horseface and I still managed to have sex by the time I was 16. Hmmmm….

      But what do I know. I’m just a lady with lived experience.

    3. Henry
      Henry November 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm |

      Most everyone here seems to know conventionally attractive women in a society cannot have any health problems ever, even though they may all share a particular range of traits. People hate science when it does not support their viewpoint. What I would like to see is a larger study to see if this cuts across various cultural perceptions of attractiveness, I bet it does not. It may be limited to a particular set of body factors that happen to be considered attractive in some part of the world but not others. It would be far better to conclude the correlation more dryly – e.g. females with BMI X and ratio Y or whatever show a correlation to condition 1. Seems to me from the comments they used the BMI range etc. their culture found on average attractive which is really an aside – it does not matter that the numbers they used are considered “attractive” in their culture unless you can also show some natural selective benefit to being considered “attractive” and you cannot.

      1. EG
        EG November 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm |

        Well, that is precisely the point, Henry. If what they have found is that endometriosis correlates with BMI or breast size or whatever, then that is what they should say, rather than throwing nonsense about “attractiveness,” as if that were a universal and measurable and biological quality. It is precisely that conflation that is anti-feminist and objectionable.

  11. Victoria
    Victoria November 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm |

    I… I don’t have endometriosis… does this mean I’m not attractive to these four Italian physicians?!

    Woe is me! If I don’t have a horrendous pelvic pain and an outgrowth of endometrial cells in my abdominal cavity how can I ever be pretty!?

    -snark-

    Bad science and bad reporting.

    1. lambda
      lambda November 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm |

      I think your point would be strengthened if you actually criticized the point the authors of the study made, rather than another point of your own invention. No one ever claimed that subjective ratings of attractiveness were necessary and sufficient for a diagnosis of endometriosis, just as smoking is neither necessary nor sufficient for lung cancer.

      Statistical relationships (as opposed to essential ones) are the norm in medicinal research, and you probably want to get your head straight about the difference if you want to be able to criticize a study.

      1. lambda
        lambda November 8, 2012 at 12:19 am |

        Oops, that should be “medical research”.

        Er, I mean “medical” as opposed to “medicinal”, not scare-quoted as opposed to not.

    2. amblingalong
      amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:18 pm |

      Bad science and bad reporting.

      I’m curious, did you read both the news article and the actual study, then?

      I… I don’t have endometriosis… does this mean I’m not attractive to these four Italian physicians?! Woe is me! If I don’t have a horrendous pelvic pain and an outgrowth of endometrial cells in my abdominal cavity how can I ever be pretty!?

      See, the reason this snark is ineffective is that it’s so silly. Do you understand the difference between “people who skydive are more likely to break their legs than non-skydivers” and “yay, I don’t skydive, I can never break my leg?”

  12. alex
    alex November 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

    Sure, you might not have encounted it, but we get doctors to make subjective judgements about people’s physical or mental properties all the time – it’s called diagnosis.

    Imagine asking a doctor in their opinion if someone has Condition X and then comparing with the real answer found out physically through a post-mortem. There’s no difference between that and asking if they find if someone’s attractive and comparing with the presence of severe endometriosis. The process is the same, asking someone to judge attractiveness is just operationalism – no different from an instruction to judge if someone is agitated or pale or clammy.

    However ideologically offensive you find the concept of attractiveness, the fact remains it is still correlated with severe endometriosis. Eppur si muove.

    1. Past my expiration date
      Past my expiration date November 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

      Imagine asking a doctor in their opinion if someone has Condition X and then comparing with the real answer found out physically through a post-mortem. There’s no difference between that and asking if they find if someone’s attractive and comparing with the presence of severe endometriosis.

      I am not a doctor. But, as I understand it, a diagnosis involves set medical criteria or characteristics. For example, in the US, one of the criteria for diagnosing diabetes is a fasting blood sugar greater than or equal to 126 mg/dL.

      What would be the comparable criteria for diagnosing attractiveness?

      1. tomek
        tomek November 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm |

        attractivenes in the female is based on feminineness which comes from hormone estrogen. u put estrogen in someone and they have more feminine apearance. even boys. (this is why u get a problem when factories put fake eostrogen hormone in the water because then boys in nearby places get breasts). therefore when they say attrativnes wat they mean is the amount of femininness which is what the amount of eostrogne is. so its measurabll and meangful.

        mayb u can disagree that they ssay ‘attractivnes’ because some men find differnt thng sattractivne so ntins not universl. so just imagine it says ‘wat most men find attractive in 21st century’ is linked to endochronis. then its still a valid discovery.

        1. EG
          EG November 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm |

          Define “feminineness,” please.

          imagine it says ‘wat most men find attractive in 21st century’

          And how would you know what this is? Are you surveying men cross-culturally? Or are you just asking four Italian scientists, which is an entirely different matter?

        2. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom November 8, 2012 at 7:12 am |

          Well, that explains why post-menopausal women are completely uninteresting to men and never have sex. My seventy-year-old mother will be immensely surprised by this, I assure you.

        3. tomek
          tomek November 8, 2012 at 7:23 am |

          femininness is like being more round and smooth and less angular than masucline. also having breast. and having wider hip but less wider waste. generally looking more softer and less of having body hair

          but not imoprnant because since agreed studiers on attractiveness, it sitll shows colleration between some trates which they call attracnvines and endochronisis. so still it is discovery.

        4. tomek
          tomek November 8, 2012 at 7:28 am |

          ledasmon after having whole life of having eostrogen they will keep trates after the menpause.

        5. EG
          EG November 8, 2012 at 8:39 am |

          femininness is like being more round and smooth and less angular than masucline. also having breast. and having wider hip but less wider waste. generally looking more softer and less of having body hair

          So a hairless American 1950s hourglass body-type is the definition of biological femininity? That is a socially constructed ideal that certainly does not transcend time and space in the way you would expect something based on a biological mechanism like estrogen to do.

          It’s also silly. Female bodies occupy a vast range of types and hairiness. Male bodies are not angular; as somebody who is attracted to men, I can assure you that roundness is attractive to us as well. Preference regarding hairiness varies dramatically.

          since agreed studiers on attractiveness, it sitll shows colleration between some trates which they call attracnvines and endochronisis. so still it is discovery.

          Agreement among four people of the cultural background, similar professional memberships, and most likely class background is hardly conclusive. The fact that they are calling these traits attractiveness is the problem that we are critiquing.

        6. tomek
          tomek November 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm |

          eg, i write reponse in detail to you but it has been moderate. do not worry i have ot admited defeat

          peace and respect to all.

        7. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune November 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm |

          do not worry i have ot admited defeat

          Worried? I was ANGUISHED!

    2. Debbie Notkin
      Debbie Notkin November 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm |

      Alex, as one of the OPs, I’ve mostly stayed out of this discussion, but I’m having trouble with the statement that “attractive” is an observation comparable to “agitated,” “pale,” or “clammy.”

      There is a subjective component to “agitated,” “pale” (especially if the doctor doesn’t know much about how paleness presents in the patient’s skin color) and “clammy.” But there is no objective component to “attractive.”

      Also, I believe there’s a huge difference between diagnostic observations (this particular patient is agitated) and research observations (this person in a study is attractive), both in how they are originally drawn, and how they are used. As a doctor in a study, if I’m asked to look at a few dozen people and decide if each of them is attractive or not, I’m going to compare them to each other in real time. As a doctor in an examining room, I’m going to compare a patient to my past experience of that patient (if any) and my experience of other patients who may have similar conditions or circumstances. I’m not looking at a parade of patients to see which of them I would name as agitated.

      1. alex
        alex November 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm |

        Alex, as one of the OPs, I’ve mostly stayed out of this discussion, but I’m having trouble with the statement that “attractive” is an observation comparable to “agitated,” “pale,” or “clammy.”

        Does this make any practical difference to you? In Procedure A doctors labelled 9 out of 10 people as having the disease using “paleness”, in Procedure B they labelled 9 out of 10 people using “attractiveness”.

        Are you saying you’d be happy if you read the write up of Procedure A, but think Procedure B was suspect? Whatever the theoretical implications, surely the operational performance of the procedures are identical and our judgment should not change if someone find/replaced for a different procedure.

        1. EG
          EG November 7, 2012 at 6:06 pm |

          “Attractiveness” is nowhere near as specific a concept as “paleness,” and far, far more subjective, to say nothing of based on characteristics that have nothing to do with health.

          Your comparison makes no sense. Characteristics are not interchangeable. Having the qualifications to assess somebody’s paleness is not the same as having the qualifications to assess their, say, charming-ness.

        2. alex
          alex November 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm |

          But there is no objective component to “attractive.”

          If attractiveness doesn’t have an objective component how come it is correlated with endometriosis? I assume you think endometriosis is objective.

        3. Jadey
          Jadey November 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm |

          If attractiveness doesn’t have an objective component how come it is correlated with endometriosis? I assume you think endometriosis is objective.

          Spoken as someone who clearly has no knowledge of how statistical inference functions. Stats have plenty of random and systematic noise (error) that frequently results in spurious (meaningless) results. That is why there are standards for reporting results (which are often overlooked anyway by careless researchers and journal editors) and why any individual study is fairly meaningless without replication (replication statistically reduces the likelihood of error-artefacts, although it does nothing to improve a faulty interpretation).

          Yeesh. This is literally Stats 101.

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

          Uh, Jadey? I realize we come at stats from different angles (if I understand correctly you do social science, while my work involved a lot of polling and econometrics) but random error, at least, is a pretty unlikely explanation for why a sample of N=300 comes up with something that passes a 5% significance test.

        5. Jadey
          Jadey November 8, 2012 at 7:41 pm |

          @ amblingalong

          Oh, yes, I wasn’t thinking N = 300 in that case. Sorry, I’ve seen cases where researchers with samples of 10,000 (from census or other national survey data) have reported very small correlations and mean differences as significant (based on post hoc analyses even) with not a hint of irony or abashment. That’s what I had in mind when I said very large samples. You are right for clarifying that that is unlikely in a sample of this study’s size. I was going off on a tangent in this case.

        6. Jadey
          Jadey November 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

          I mentioned it because one of the unfortunate consequences of people being nominally aware that small samples can be problematic is that they tend to assume that bigger is always better and that biggest is best – it’s a bit of a peeve of mine.

        7. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm |

          Oh, gotcha- I misunderstood. I’ve run into the same set of beliefs with lots of clients; I really am starting to feel strongly that colleges should make an introductory stats class a requirement for graduation regardless of major.

    3. EG
      EG November 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm |

      no different from an instruction to judge if someone is agitated or pale or clammy.

      Don’t be absurd. Attractiveness is a composite quality that varies individually and culturally. Clamminess, agitation, and paleness are not only far more specific, but what is being judged is whether the person is clammmier, more agitated, or paler than is normal/healthy for them, not being placed on some supposedly objective absolute scale of clamminess.

    4. lambda
      lambda November 12, 2012 at 1:15 am |

      Eppur si muove

      Oops, I totally didn’t see that before writing it myself. Serendipitous.

  13. Hannah
    Hannah November 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

    Not to be a jerk, but…I’m not at ALL surprised that this was conducted by Italian men.

  14. umami
    umami November 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |

    If attractiveness doesn’t have an objective component how come it is correlated with endometriosis? I assume you think endometriosis is objective.

    First off, if you measure enough variables and fuck around with the model you’re using, you’re likely to find a correlation at a 5% probability that you can publish.
    Then, you have to remember that positive results get published, and positive results about female attractiveness get published in newspapers. So the fact that you’re reading about this study at all should give you some context for that 5% probability (or whatever threshold they actually used); you know about this study and you don’t know about whatever other number of studies measured the correlation between attractiveness and a disease and found nothing.
    So pure chance is a perfectly plausible explanation here.

    However, say it’s not pure chance. Attractiveness is not objective but qualities that people from the same culture usually agree to be attractive can be objective… being thin for example.
    So attractiveness might be a very poor proxy variable for something that actually is objective, here.

    Plus in this case the people rating for attractiveness almost certainly already knew that the researchers were measuring breast size and waist to hip ratio and all the rest of it. So they’re highly likely to have been influenced by thoughts about breast size and body measurements and the other objective criteria when rating attractiveness, even more than they might have been otherwise.

    1. lambda
      lambda November 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

      So pure chance is a perfectly plausible explanation here.

      It’s not. The p-value is way, way less than 0.05, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere in this thread. Furthermore, all the information you would need to compute it yourself is right there in the abstract. I don’t know what to make about the fact that you’re knowledgeable enough to raise this point, but not interested enough to do a simple chi^2 test and find out whether it’s actually true.

      Do you really think that multiple hypothesis testing is the real problem here? Ir do you start with the conclusion that this study must be methodologically flawed because the authors estimated women’s physical attractiveness, and work backwards from there?

      1. umami
        umami November 9, 2012 at 6:16 am |

        I saw where you’d raised that point elsewhere on the thread, but I’m pretty sure it was after I posted. You are correct, pure chance isn’t a plausible explanation.

        I wasn’t interested enough to check the p value, no. I did assume the worst from the intrinsic stupidity of using “attractiveness” as a variable and the whiff of evo-pysch hovering over the study– evo-psych studies are prone to that kind of abuse of statistics. Mea culpa.

        They obviously had a hypothesis about a certain type of appearance being related to endemetriosis. But I am quite certain that the phenotype they have a hypothesis about could be visually described in much more specific and less subjective terms than “attractive” and it would have been a lot more sensible and logical to test for that.

        1. umami
          umami November 9, 2012 at 6:45 am |

          shorter me: I didn’t have to assume the study was methodologically flawed. It is. I did assume that methodological flaws were likely to extend beyond the study design to the analysis of the results, which may have been unwarranted.

        2. lambda
          lambda November 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

          I don’t understand why it follows that the study is methodologically flawed. Obviously there’s nothing mystically irreducible about attractiveness: it’s just facial geometry. Replacing evaluators’ ratings with comparison to a model of attractive facial geometry would require you to determine (1) which parameters are relevant and (2) what point in that reduced parameter space maximizes attractiveness. All you’d be doing is fitting a model to… subjective ratings. Ideally you’d end up with a model that predicts subjective estimates of attractiveness well, and perhaps that model would tell you something interesting. It probably would!

          But that model is going to capture some certain proportion of the variance in subjective ratings, whereas the ratings themselves capture, well, all of it. So I don’t see why it’s obviously worse to use the actual data (i.e. reported by the evaluators) than a model fit to that data.

        3. lambda
          lambda November 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |

          And that criticism still doesn’t offer any explanation for the correlation if the evaluators, when asked to rate attractiveness, were not evaluating something correlated with endometriosis.

        4. umami
          umami November 12, 2012 at 6:19 am |

          Lambda, I’m not sure why you think the term “attractive” is about “facial geometry.” It’s much more general than that even if you think that facial attractiveness is reducible to geometric formulae (for example, body type and hair are also included in many people’s ideas of what attractive is. Makeup makes a huge difference.)

          Their hypothesis is about a certain phenotype being associated with endemetriosis.

          “Attractive” isn’t in fact a phenotype. There are a lot of different ways to be attractive.

          Let’s take a specific example since this is a very general discussion.

          “Slim with fine bones and long slender limbs” is an example of a phenotype that is associated both with attractiveness in women and with a disease (hypermobility.)

          You could run an experiment similar to this with a bunch of Western white people as assessors and find a strong correlation between attractiveness and hypermobility.
          My not particularly well informed guess is that if the assessors were black the correlation would be less strong (apologies if I’m way off here.)

          But if you had the assessors looking for “slim with fine bones and long limbs” instead of looking for “atttractive” the correlation would be much stronger (no petite curvy hot women getting mixed in with your group of hypermobility-afflicted model types) and also independent of the race and culture of the assessors.

          So there you have a concrete and easily visualisable example of how assessing for the actual phenotype your hypothesis is about instead of assessing for “attractive” is always going to be preferable.

          I think about a dozen people have made that point now in different ways, so I’m going to give up after this comment. I guess you’re free to remain convinced that we’re all just irrationally opposed to this study because we don’t like the conclusions or whatever motivation you’re attributing.

  15. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune November 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm |

    Okay, seriously.
    Seriously.
    “Endochromitus”.
    What is this thing?
    I cannot find it on google.
    I cannot find it with a noodle.
    I cannot find endochromitus.
    I find tomek seriously vomitous.
    I am led by my baff.

    1. Partial Human
      Partial Human November 8, 2012 at 11:26 am |

      Mac mac mac, he’s had special manly masculine educations! Your silly, fluffywuffy ickle ladybrainz can’t comprehend his superior mantalk and manthinks.

      Don’t fret about endochronisis (he’s renamed it now), go and pet a little kitten, or have a baby, or wrap yourself in pink organza. There’s a good girl!

      Tomek has spoken.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune November 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm |

        endochronisis (he’s renamed it now),

        Jesus, he’s a troll of trolls, I’m now convinced.

        How about if I had a kitten, petted some pink organza and wrapped myself in a baby instead? It seems an acceptable compromise to me.

        1. Partial Human
          Partial Human November 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm |

          You could make a hat out of the baby, gloves out of the kitten, and use the organza as your ladycape.

          That will fight off all the nasty knowledge that will masculinify you. Ladies need nice empty brains, otherwise we grow beards.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune November 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm |

        Or maybe endochronisis is when your uterus turns into a TARDIS.

        THEY’RE BIGGER ON THE INSIDE AFTER ALL

        1. Partial Human
          Partial Human November 8, 2012 at 5:30 pm |

          Ooh that would be amazing. There’s a lot of stuff in this house, so if me and the missus could store stuff in our uteruseses it would solve our storage problem!

          Imagine how cheap our car insurance would be if she could store our little Suzuki in her Chronisisted womb.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm |

          Love love love.

    2. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl November 8, 2012 at 11:32 am |

      Seriously.
      “Endochromitus”.
      What is this thing?

      Hmm, maybe it’s to make our endos nice and shiny?

      Otherwise, I dunno, I got nothing…

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune November 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

        Ladies, line up for your free endochroming! Give your uteri that nice glossy finish! It’s like vajazzling, but on the inside!

        For an even more enhanced baby-having experience, try Hysterior’s Endochrome Treatment. It’ll leave your uterus so shiny, your child can develop its vanity before even leaving the womb by staring at its reflection for hours!

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl November 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm |

          Maybe that’s the trick to permanent birth control, a shiny, nonstick coating on the interior of the uterus?

          And it looks so pretty and shiny too!!!

  16. shfree
    shfree November 8, 2012 at 2:29 am |

    So if someone falls down a flight of stairs and breaks her nose, is she less likely to get endometriosis? Should I have not gotten braces for my daughter, so her risk level would stay lower? I mean, what the fuck?

    But really, I think it is the size of the study that chaps my ass the most. A study with a sample of three hundred isn’t going to produce data of any significance, so the fact that it was even given any attention by the media is insulting. The rampant sexism is just the icing on the poor science/statistics cake.

    1. lambda
      lambda November 8, 2012 at 2:52 am |

      Why is 300 an insufficient sample size?

    2. Katniss
      Katniss November 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

      I agree with you that the conclusions we are being shown from this study are ridiculous, but 300 is actually a pretty good sample size for a study, if it’s a representative sample. People seem to have the idea that sample sizes must be huge in order to be useful, but the point is that if the sample is representative you can extrapolate to a larger conclusion from there.

      1. Jadey
        Jadey November 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm |

        Yes, this. The sample selection process (random and representative) has a greater impact than the actual sample size, as long as it is sufficiently large enough to meet the assumptions for statistical inference (usually >30, or >20 per cell for comparisons, but some more complex analyses might require a larger number). In fact, samples that are too large have the problem of having a greater likelihood of identifying small and trivial effects (like a correlation of .01) as *statistically* significant, although wise judgement would suggest any effect that small is unlikely to be practically significant (depending on the circumstances – sometimes small effects are quite useful, but that’s another discussion altogether).

      2. shfree
        shfree November 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm |

        For a study, sure, provided it covers a diverse sample. But I don’t agree that it is a good size for this particular study, unless they made a concerted effort to make a diverse sample, which I highly doubt they did.

        1. lambda
          lambda November 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

          Could you sketch the argument for requiring an unusually large sample size in this particular study?

          Look, you have three groups: basically, “high”,”low” and “none”, each containing 100 women. You have some criterion. It doesn’t matter what the criterion is.* All you know about the criterion is that 31 of the “high” group have it, but only 8 and 9 of the “low” and “none” groups, respectively. That effect is embarrassingly statistically significant: the p-value is 0.0001797.

          So what exactly is your argument about a “diverse sample”? How does the current sample (whatever you presume it to be: just state it clearly) invalidate the effect?

          *I know we’re all supposed to be really upset that researchers would dare subjectively rate physical attractiveness, but the point remains even if you think their measure of physical attractiveness is complete bullshit. How is it, then, that they can identify severe endometriosis patients as well as they can just by looking at them?

        2. Lamech
          Lamech November 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |

          @lambda: The criterion is the probable problem here. If four specific doctors were doing the subjective measure of attractiveness the criteria is not “attractiveness” its “how four specific doctors viewed the attractiveness”. You need a good sample size for measuring attractiveness as well since that isn’t a objective measure.

        3. Lamech
          Lamech November 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm |

          @lambda: The criterion is the probable problem here. If four specific doctors were doing the subjective measure of attractiveness the criteria is not “attractiveness” its “how four specific doctors viewed the attractiveness”.

          So either the MSNBC article did a crap job of reporting, or the study screwed up. (And probably the former, since scientific studies are almost never reported on well.)

        4. lambda
          lambda November 9, 2012 at 12:53 am |

          Lamech,

          I agree that a larger evaluator pool would have told us more (and it also would have been instructive to see the correlation between evaluators’ ratings), but even if you just treat the evaluation process as a black box, the effect the authors observe is real and needs to be explained. A small evaluator pool does not make it more likely that an association at least as strong as observed could have occurred by chance. Even if you had a single evaluator, or a dowsing rod for that matter, the p-value would be the same. The probability that any evaluator or group of evaluators could classify endometriosis patients by visual inspection at least as well just by chance is literally less than the lifetime probability that you or a loved one will be struck by lightning: < 1/5000.

    3. amblingalong
      amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm |

      But really, I think it is the size of the study that chaps my ass the most. A study with a sample of three hundred isn’t going to produce data of any significance

      Oh, for God’s sakes, can we please leave the innumeracy and scientific illiteracy to the GOP?

      I know we’re all supposed to be really upset that researchers would dare subjectively rate physical attractiveness, but the point remains even if you think their measure of physical attractiveness is complete bullshit. How is it, then, that they can identify severe endometriosis patients as well as they can just by looking at them?

      YES. This is the key point, and in fact the studies authors make the same point, but the MSNBC article doesn’t cover it well. It means something significant that whatever standard of attractiveness the judges used, there was a statistically meaningful correlation between that standard and the likelihood of endometriosis.

      1. EG
        EG November 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm |

        YES. This is the key point, and in fact the studies authors make the same point, but the MSNBC article doesn’t cover it well. It means something significant that whatever standard of attractiveness the judges used, there was a statistically meaningful correlation between that standard and the likelihood of endometriosis.

        Nobody is arguing with that. We are arguing with the positioning of this metric as some kind of measure of actual attractiveness. If they didn’t want to be called on this bullshit, they needed to identify the criteria they were measuring rather than calling it “attractiveness.”

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong November 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm |

          Uh, yeah, a lot of people are arguing with that, Shfree among them.

          If they didn’t want to be called on this bullshit, they needed to identify the criteria they were measuring rather than calling it “attractiveness.”

          Yeah, and I’m not arguing with that, though for what its worth I think NBC bears a lot of the blame for the way it was framed.

        2. EG
          EG November 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |

          Shfree doesn’t seem to be arguing with that to me. She’s pointing out that without a diverse sample, there’s no reason to assume that these results are generally applicable.

        3. alex
          alex November 8, 2012 at 7:00 pm |

          If they didn’t want to be called on this bullshit, they needed to identify the criteria they were measuring rather than calling it attractiveness.”

          How do they do that? The actual instruction given was along the lines of can you rate how attractive this person is? It’s clearly drawing on whatever cultural concept of attractiveness the doctors have. How you you rephrase that without stopping using attractiveness as the criteria people are asked to measure?

          Maybe in 20 years they’ll have IDed some measure of facial geometry which will do better. Like how we can now run objective blood tests, rather than relying on subjective judgments of physical health. But until we’re there, rating whatever people think attractiveness is the best we can do. And what is ‘actual attractiveness’, other than what people think attractiveness is?

        4. EG
          EG November 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm |

          They’re fucking researchers. It’s their job to know what they’re measuring, just like it’s my job to provide textual evidence, rather than just saying that a book “feels sad” or something.

          “Attractiveness” is vague and useless as a metric–it involves culturally conditioned decisions about hair, about make-up, about clothing, as well as culturally variable ideas about body-type, cleanliness, etc. Any researcher in any field knows that you have to define your terms. If all they can go on is “attractiveness,” then they’re not actually coming up with any useful information, because it’s nothing that can be applied outside of the situation of Italian researchers assessing Italian women.

        5. shfree
          shfree November 8, 2012 at 11:45 pm |

          EG is correct about one of my beefs with the study, the idea that somehow you can extrapolate a correlation between endometriosis and attractiveness by virtue of taking a gander at three hundred Italian women who are either being treated for the condition or are part of the control group. And I’m pretty sure that Italians aren’t the most ethnically diverse people on the planet. If you are going to use a small sample size, your science better be solid, and I don’t think that any study that uses a “five point attractiveness scale” speaks well of it. If it was commissioned by Men’s Health, I would expect it. But not of something I would lend any credence to, or wouldn’t find demeaning if it WAS given credence by a reputable authority.

        6. shfree
          shfree November 8, 2012 at 11:48 pm |

          Maybe in 20 years they’ll have IDed some measure of facial geometry which will do better. Like how we can now run objective blood tests, rather than relying on subjective judgments of physical health. But until we’re there, rating whatever people think attractiveness is the best we can do. And what is ‘actual attractiveness’, other than what people think attractiveness is?

          They can measure facial geometry right now, that is how sketch artists work. If you can’t tell someone whether or not a face is more or less round, a nose is less stubby or more pointy, eyes are wider set, etc., etc., how could you describe anyone? “Attractive” is absurdly vague.

        7. lambda
          lambda November 9, 2012 at 12:37 am |

          EG is correct about one of my beefs with the study, the idea that somehow you can extrapolate a correlation between endometriosis and attractiveness by virtue of taking a gander at three hundred Italian women who are either being treated for the condition or are part of the control group

          Shfree, that’s not “a beef with the study”, that’s just saying “nuh-uh” to the authors’ conclusion, which is that the correlation between severe endometriosis and subjective evaluations of attractiveness in the sample is extremely statistically significant.

          You continue to complain about the “small sample size” without giving any explanation for why you think n=300 is insufficient. I’ve explained to you why n=300 is plenty sufficient to demonstrate the effect claimed– do you have any response to that?

          If you don’t think the results generalize beyond the sample group, be ready to explain why. You haven’t read the paper, so you don’t know how the authors controlled or failed to control for ethnic composition. (Putting aside, for the moment, the fact that ethnic groups vary in susceptibility to endometriosis, so that a representative sample of the world’s population will not give you a representative sample of women with endometriosis…) Ultimately, this is an Italian research group working in an Italian hospital, so most of their patients will turn out to be… Italian. Every medical study ever performed was performed with some particular patient group, not with humanity at large. Sometimes that’s scientifically relevant and sometimes it’s not, but it seems like special pleading to invoke that argument just for this paper, after your other complaints about it were addressed. Especially when you don’t even know what patient selection criteria were imposed in the first place.

          And even if the result only held for ethnically Italian women, it’s still quite a remarkable finding (barring, again, some other unknown methodological flaw). Certainly you’d like to see it replicated, but why is it “bad science”?

          PS: you might be interested to read the statement the authors gave about the paper here.

  17. Natalia
    Natalia November 8, 2012 at 5:44 am |

    The women also completed a questionnaire about their sexual history, and the results showed that women with severe endometriosis were more likely to have had sexual intercourse before age 18. This could be a result of these women being more attractive, even during adolescence, the researchers said.

    OOOOOOOOOOOOKAY.

  18. ballgame
    ballgame November 8, 2012 at 7:37 am |

    Any woman knows, and anyone who has ever paid attention to women’s sexuality should know, that conventional attractiveness is completely unrelated to when a woman first has sex. Some conventionally beautiful women have sex young; some don’t. Some conventionally unattractive women have sex young; some don’t. Some of the vast group of women in the middle have sex young; some don’t.

    It’s entirely possible that all of the statements about when “some” conventionally attractive or unattractive women start having sex are true, and yet there could still be a correlation between conventional attractiveness and the average age of one’s first sexual encounter.

    The flat statement that there is NO correlation is either a) a statement based on scientific evidence (i.e. a compilation of statistical data), or b) political dogma.

    If it’s “a,” Laurie and Debbie, then you’ve apparently seen a study that incorporates a measurement of “conventional attractiveness” that you think is scientifically acceptable. Could you provide a citation? I’m interested both because I think the result of this purported study is strongly counterintuitive, and because I’m genuinely curious as to what kind of measurement of a woman’s attractiveness feminists such as yourselves would deem to be scientifically acceptable.

    If there is, in fact, no scientifically acceptable approach to determining women’s attractiveness (in your view), it would of course be impossible to know whether or not there was a correlation between that attractiveness and the average age that particular sets of women first have sex. Your assertion that there is “no” correlation would be without foundation.

    My money is on “b”: you were pretending a statement of political dogma was a statement of scientific fact … which, given the tenor of your post, is a tad ironic, no? But I’ll be happy to be shown to be wrong.

    1. EG
      EG November 8, 2012 at 8:44 am |

      Nah. It just means that they’re proceeding with the null hypothesis: in the absence of reliable, replicated evidence to the contrary, we assume no relation. That’s how scientists are supposed to proceed.

      These researchers are also assuming that attractiveness is a stable quantity over life, that those women whom four Italian scientists agree are attractive now were similarly attractive at the age of their first sexual experiences.

      1. ballgame
        ballgame November 8, 2012 at 9:17 am |

        You would be right, EG, if Laurie and Debbie were claiming that the correlation between attractiveness and onset of sexual activity among women was unproven or unknown. But that wasn’t their claim. They were positively asserting that when women start having sex and how attractive they are is “completely unrelated.” That’s no more a “null hypothesis” than the notion that ‘the core of the moon is green cheese’ is a “null hypothesis” … it’s a positive assertion which they should either provide evidence for or withdraw.

        1. EG
          EG November 8, 2012 at 9:22 am |

          It is null, because you assume no correlation until proven otherwise. It is not a positive assertion; it is a negative assertion. You don’t prove a negative; you prove a positive. Their statement is like saying “Vampires do not exist.”

        2. ballgame
          ballgame November 8, 2012 at 10:32 am |

          There’s a big difference between ‘provisionally assuming there’s no correlation until someone shows that there is’ and positively asserting that there is definitely no correlation, EG. Laurie and Debbie were doing the latter.

        3. EG
          EG November 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm |

          Do you feel the same way about the statement “there are no vampires”?

        4. ballgame
          ballgame November 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm |

          I think your example is strongly prejudicial for obvious reasons which I’m only spelling out here because you repeated it, EG: ‘vampires’ as popularly conceived violate a number of known laws of physics and would require biological functioning that — as far as we know — would be impossible.

          By raising this as a comparable example to what the post’s authors have done, you’re implying that it’s scientifically impossible (or at least completely implausible) that more attractive females (however defined) become sexually active earlier on average than other females. In fact, I think it’s completely plausible — if not highly likely — that there is some relationship between how attractive a group of women are and the average age when they start being sexually active.

          So I think your ‘vampires’ example obscures rather than highlights the essential issues here. Let me give you a much more relevant analogy: Laura and Debbie’s claim that the start of being sexually active is “completely unrelated” to the attractiveness of the person is like a 19th century scientist flatly claiming fungi can’t help fight infections. Such a claim would have been unscientific (indeed, as we now know, it’s false); though it would have been completely reasonable and scientifically appropriate for such a scientist to have stated that the infection-fighting potential of fungi was unknown or unproven.

          Of course, even this analogy cedes too much to authors’ position, because (AFAIK) 19th century (Euro-American) scientists didn’t have much reason to think that fungi would contribute to fighting disease. Whereas, not only is it plausible that becoming sexually active is at least partially connected to the attractiveness of the person in question, I think it’s likely that this is so. I base this on the following suppositions:

          1. On average, ‘homely’ women and attractive women want to begin having sex at the same age. That is, ‘homely’ women as a group aren’t hornier at an earlier age than ‘attractive’ women, and vice versa.

          2. It’s easier for attractive women as a group to find a partner they want to have sex with than it is for unattractive women.

          I don’t know that either of these propositions are true, but they’re certainly reasonable, and combined they would support the notion that attractive women as a group would be able to start having sex earlier than unattractive women. Laura and Debbie are certainly free to have a different opinion, but it’s unscientific of them to claim that we know otherwise in the absence of scientific data supporting their position. They were doing the very thing they were claiming to criticize.

        5. EG
          EG November 13, 2012 at 9:17 am |

          1. On average, ‘homely’ women and attractive women want to begin having sex at the same age. That is, ‘homely’ women as a group aren’t hornier at an earlier age than ‘attractive’ women, and vice versa.

          2. It’s easier for attractive women as a group to find a partner they want to have sex with than it is for unattractive women.

          I don’t consider either of these propositions plausible, actually. First of all, they presuppose that attractiveness is hierarchical and stable over one’s lifetime, which I see no reason to believe. Second, they presuppose that self-assessment of one’s desirability does not impact one’s desire to have sex, which, in my opinion, is actively incorrect. Third, they presuppose that ability to find a partner is based mainly upon one’s physical attractiveness, which I don’t really believe either. So…no, I don’t find them reasonable or plausible.

        6. ballgame
          ballgame November 13, 2012 at 10:02 am |

          EG, you are wrong on all three counts.

          I’m not entirely sure by what you mean that they assume that attractiveness is “hierarchichal,” but the suppositions I list emphatically do not suppose that attractiveness is stable over a lifetime. As a reminder, let me point out that I’m neither defending nor critiquing the researchers’ speculations about endometriosis, I’m pointing out that Laura and Debbie’s assertion that ‘women’s sexual attractiveness is COMPLETELY UNRELATED to when they start having sex’ is political dogma, not scientific fact.

          As far as one’s self-assessment affecting one’s desire to have sex? Sure, that’s plausible … but that would, if anything, support the notion that women’s attractiveness is, in fact, correlated in one way or another to when they start having sex. (Unless you’re claiming that women’s self-assessments in this area are completely unrelated to other people’s assessments of them, which I think is silly.)

          And finally, the suppositions I list don’t “presuppose that ability to find a partner is based mainly upon one’s physical attractiveness,” only that one’s physical attractiveness is a significant part of one’s overall perceived attractiveness. If you don’t agree with that rather uncontroversial notion, then I’ll happily let your opinion stand for itself.

        7. EG
          EG November 13, 2012 at 10:21 am |

          If you are correlating grown women’s attractiveness with their first age of sexual experience, of course you’re assuming that attractiveness is stable; otherwise, what on earth would attractiveness at age 30 (or whatever) have to do with whether or not one had sex at 15 (or whatever)?

          If you don’t know what “hierarchical” means, feel free to look it up. I’m not a dictionary. Encoded in the idea that people’s attractiveness can be ranked on a scale from none to very is the idea that attractiveness is hierarchical. It’s one that I don’t buy.

          Unless you’re claiming that women’s self-assessments in this area are completely unrelated to other people’s assessments of them, which I think is silly.)

          I’m claiming that young women’s–i.e. teenagers’–self-assessments in this area are indeed often radically at odds with other people’s assessments of them. Go ahead and think it to be silly, if you like, but given the many, many conversations I have had with teenage girls and grown women on this very topic, I stand by it.

          And finally, the suppositions I list don’t “presuppose that ability to find a partner is based mainly upon one’s physical attractiveness,” only that one’s physical attractiveness is a significant part of one’s overall perceived attractiveness. If you don’t agree with that rather uncontroversial notion, then I’ll happily let your opinion stand for itself.

          And what you’re doing is presupposing that attractiveness is what determines if one is able to desire and find a partner. What if being conventionally physically attractive increases one’s risk of being regularly sexually harassed, and so makes one not want to have sex? What if being conventionally physically attractive makes one want to be appreciated for non-physical things, and so makes one avoid sex? And what about sexual desire on the part of the physically attractive girl/woman? You seem to be assuming that if she doesn’t have a problem finding someone who wants to bone her, she’ll be fine. What if being physically attractive is related to having higher standards of physical attractiveness for a partner? All of these are plausible, even if I buy the idea of hierarchical, stable qualities of attractiveness.

          Desire, attractiveness, and sexual activity are all much, much more complicated and nuanced than you are assuming.

    2. Kristen J.
      Kristen J. November 8, 2012 at 9:13 am |

      (c) is completely irrelevant when studying a disease and in any event is not demonstrated by the opinion of four dudes.

      Sure conventional beauty may be correlated with all manner of things and if these researchers were sociologists studying beauty norms, then I at least would be limiting my criticism to how this study was designed. But these aren’t sociologists. They are medical researchers who posed the question: Is there something intrinsic about women I find attractive, that can’t otherwise be described by hard data, that makes them more likely to experience a painful disease.

    3. Emily
      Emily November 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

      I think the result of this purported study is strongly counterintuitive

      Really? Cos I can think of a number of explanations. Like: age of first sexual experience could be related to level of self-confidence as a young person (which may tie into perceived attractiveness). Or linked to religious beliefs about sex. Or linked to sexual orientation – there’s more straight people than gay people, and gay people tend to be less open about our sexuality when we’re young. Or linked to household dynamics – like believing that having a partner will get someone out of an abusive household, or feeling like they have to have sex with their partner because women should do what men want. Or peer pressure. Or future goals and aspirations. Or level of interest in sex and romance versus other hobbies. Or lack of options.

      Plus, as we counting consensual sexual experience or non-consensual as well? Is the study clear about which it’s asking for? Are the people being asked all using the same definition of consensual? Because if not, I think we pretty much all agree that attractiveness has nothing to do with whether someone is sexually assaulted or not, so that an skew the results.

      And yet – no reasons for age of first sexual experience relating to attractiveness. How about that?

  19. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll November 8, 2012 at 11:17 am |

    Well, if I ever get divorced and find myself on an online dating site, now I can just add ” has horrible endometriosis” and everyone will know how hawt I am.

    Joe- Hey, my wife has a friend you should meet!

    Bob- Really? What’s she look like?

    Joe- Well, she has endometriosis.

    Bob- Sweeeet. Give me her number.

    -.-

    1. Partial Human
      Partial Human November 8, 2012 at 11:34 am |

      Me too. I must be superfuckinghot because I’m riddled with endometriosis.

      Their “excess oestrogen” hypothesis is hilarious, cos my ovaries are, to use the medical term, absolutely fucked. Consequently, I am hairy like a mofo.

      But hey, who cares, I’m hot! Gotta dump my girlfriend and find another hottie with bleeding innards.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl November 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |

        Me too. I must be superfuckinghot because I’m riddled with endometriosis.

        Weeelll, infertility eventually made the sexy times a lot better between the Spouse and I, once we were done with the baby having. Because we thought we could fuck with impunity and not have to worry about making said babies any more and it was actually quite freeing.

        And then we ended up with the urban legend oops baby after umpteen rounds of IVF.

        But that’s my useless and sidetracky personal anecdata. This study and the article about it are utterly useless, so all I have is snark where they’re concerned.

  20. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune November 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm |

    Unrelated, but interesting:
    1) Trans men can and do have endometriosis
    2) I doubt these “scientists” would find trans men appealing
    3) Theory disproved?

  21. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll November 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

    Next there will be tips in Cosmo on how to glamorize your endo troubles and maximize internal scar tissue.

  22. umami
    umami November 9, 2012 at 7:03 am |

    If you wanted show that female depression is explained by the patriarchy, wouldn’t you want to run exactly that regression, expecting a negative correlation between (some admittedly imperfect but not completely ridiculous measure of) equality and depression? It’s possible that there might be a higher rate of female clinical depression for purely biological reasons; plenty of diseases, after all, differ in prevalence between sexes. If you would accept the existence of a correlation as evidence for the depression-patriarchy connection, why would you not accept its absence as evidence against it?

    I think you may have misunderstood what I wrote: the regression wasn’t on rates of female depression but on the ratio of male: female depression.

    The authors made one connection. That rates of diagnosis of depression are heavily influenced by country-specific factors (let’s call this culture), so doing a cross-country regression on female depression rates would prove sod all about the relationship between depression in women and equality. (x-country regressions are generally not particularly useful for this kind of reason.)

    But they then went on to assume that “culture” has to impact diagnosis in exactly the same ways for both genders. For example, there couldn’t be a situation in a heavily patriarchal society where it’s easier for men to get medical treatment than for women.

    So that’s why what they were doing was frankly laughable. Hope this longwinded explanation makes it clearer.

    1. umami
      umami November 9, 2012 at 7:23 am |

      Also, I don’t disagree that higher female depression rates might be biological.
      Though you’re then left wondering why men had higher diagnosed depression rates than women in some countries, and why the authors of the paper didn’t think that this factoid– which I learned from their paper– was evidence against their biological Just So Story.
      All I’m disagreeing with is that the regression in that paper was in any way a significant contribution to the discussion.

      Said paper IIRC solely consisted of the Just So Story plus abovementioned ridiculous regression; they may have included a game theory model of their “depression as bargaining power” theory for extra scienciness but I can’t swear to it, I might just have imagined that because the idea amuses me, and it would have been easy to do.

      1. lambda
        lambda November 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm |

        Well, without the paper I’m afraid I can’t really discuss the paper. But if the conclusion that the authors’ conclusions are preposterous depends on the premise that the authors’ controls are preposterous, then I guess we really need to see how the authors actually controlled: i.e., how if at all did they take into account disparities in treatment when measuring the ratio of male:female depression?

        I guess I’m just wary about assuming that the authors, editor and reviewers of this peer-reviewed paper didn’t, over the course of months or years, think of all the potential issues you could think of in five minutes. Not ‘checking whether they did or not’, but just ‘assuming that they didn’t’. I am certainly not suggesting that peer-reviewed means true with a capital T, but it’s unproductive and inconsistent to apply selective “methodological mire” attacks to papers whose conclusions you find unpalatable.

        If you have specific qualms, raise them by all means, but I can’t really evaluate criticisms of a paper I haven’t read.

        1. umami
          umami November 12, 2012 at 5:58 am |

          how if at all did they take into account disparities in treatment when measuring the ratio of male:female depression?

          They didn’t. They simply did what I have twice described them as doing.

          I can’t really evaluate criticisms of a paper I haven’t read.

          Quite. What a shame that didn’t occur to you earlier, when I threw in a little aside about methodology that should have been self evidently preposterous to anyone who was able to understand the terminology.

        2. Alara Rogers
          Alara Rogers November 13, 2012 at 10:33 am |

          It’s actually very, very hard to control for certain cultural constructs. You could separate out male and female rates of treatment for a disease, but how could you begin to get at whether or not women are even seeking treatment? In a culture where women are severely oppressed, does anyone think it matters enough that a woman is devastatingly sad that they consider it a mental illness? Or is it just considered normal? How do you tell the difference, statistically, between an Afghani woman killing herself because she is depressed and an Afghani woman killing herself because her husband and his family are torturing her and it’s her only escape?

          Also, how do you control for culturally acceptable self-medication? My professor of abnormal psychology (the guy who discovered learned helplessness, Martin Seligman), told us that the ratio of female : male depression was the same as the ratio of male : female alcoholism, and his theory was that men don’t admit to being depressed, they just drink. If your culture allows women to admit that they are sad, and does not allow men to do so, but it allows men to drink alcohol, wouldn’t you expect to see that men would be less willing to admit to depression and more willing to become alcoholics?

          I am troubled by any finding which impacts on the mind and brain which tries to establish that there is a biological difference between men and women, because the confound of culture is so powerful and so hard to factor out, it’s almost always irresponsible to speculate that a correlation between a gender and a behavior is caused biologically. We *know* that learned helplessness causes depression; we know that in pretty much all cultures on the planet, women suffer from more enforced helplessness than men do, and more control of their lives taken from them and placed in the hands of others. Why would we not expect that on that basis, women will more often be depressed than men? I mean, when you know that X condition causes Y disease, and you know that Z population exists with higher numbers of X condition than W population does, then would you not logically expect that Z population would suffer more Y disease than W population does, based on their higher rate of X condition? To even begin to draw the conclusion that female depression is biological, let alone *selected* for, you’d have to assume that there is no cultural correlative factor that could be causing what you’re seeing… but when you look outside gender studies and at psychology, you see a condition that is known to cause depression, and then when you look at gender studies you see that that condition exists in higher numbers in women, across the whole world. How is it, then, that your first conclusion is that the higher rates of female depression are most likely to be biological? Yeah, you can try to control for gender equality… but you need a certain degree of gender equality to even begin to see women in treatment for an illness like depression. When the numbers of a negative trait seem to rise, it’s always a question, are they actually rising or are they just being reported more often?

          And even if it were proven that female depression *was* biological, there is a much more obvious reason than “it’s adaptive”… severely depressed women can be raped and forced to bear children, severely depressed men cannot generally be forced to be fathers. And men have historically have had access to easier, quicker means of suicide than women. So depression would be a trait that would be selected against in men more strongly than in women. Women can reproduce while suffering from conditions that should inhibit their reproduction, because they can be forced into it, and historically, they have been, in such high numbers that any theory that assumes that human evolution is powerfully influenced by female mate choice is probably flawed. Most human women throughout history had much more limited mate choice than the men did.

          The fallacy of evopsych is that every trait that exists is biologically based *and* every biologically based trait is somehow adaptive. Many traits are not adaptive at all, but were not selected against for some reason.

          So it’s an amazingly poor study. It seeks to study an effect that has an obvious cultural component as “biological”, when it is actually impossible to design a study that factors out the cultural components properly, given that depression in particular is an illness that is ignored in people who are not considered important enough for their sadness to matter. And then, it draws wholly unsupportable conclusions as to why this biological difference (that they haven’t adequately proven) might exist, and those conclusions display remarkable ignorance about the disease (depression does not lead to people treating you better. It leads to you being less able to escape bad situations, it leads to you being treated worse by people much of the time, and if you are an oppressed person who must survive by sucking up to a more powerful person, it is likely to kill you or destroy your life, because you won’t have the ability to make your masters think you’re happy being their slave if you are depressed. And if the general concept “you should treat the mother of your child well, otherwise your kids won’t come out right” was something men historically believed in sufficient ratios that it could influence evolution, we would live in a very, very different world.)

  23. Society for Menstrual Cycle Research : » Women Voters Shut That Whole Thing Down, Women’s Health & Humor, and More Weekend Links

    […] A guest post at Feministe offers a critical take on this report of a study that claims “women with the most severe form of endometriosis happen to be unusually attractive.” 0   Share this:FacebookRedditDiggTwitterPinterestStumbleUponTumblr […]

  24. Anne
    Anne November 11, 2012 at 6:43 am |

    Perhaps more attractive women are more feminine and as such need to urinate more frequently, predisposing them to infections.

  25. Donna L
    Donna L November 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm |

    I’m surprised nobody’s brought up that people have been trying to demonstrate for years — with plenty of accompanying stories in the media — that facial attractiveness can be measured “scientifically” by certain standards that apply generally across all or most cultures. Just google “golden ratio” and physical attractiveness, and you’ll see what I mean. Fibonacci and all that kind of thing.

    It’s a little off topic, but the so-called golden ratio comes up a lot in the context of facial feminization surgery for trans women. Something that really does help a lot of trans women (or those who can afford it; it’s more expensive than GRS, I believe) to be able to blend in and be perceived as female. But I have always been made uncomfortable by the fact that certain FFS surgeons who shall remain nameless strongly push the whole “golden ratio” standard of female beauty — “it’s scientific!!” — on a population that’s notorious for being extraordinarily insecure about their appearance (for obvious reasons); as a result, their patients rather notoriously tend to have a very recognizable “look” after surgery, no matter what they looked like before. And those same surgeons sometimes seem to have a habit of telling trans women who consult them, whose faces don’t conform to that ratio, that they “need” FFS in order to be perceived as women, and certainly to be seen as remotely attractive.

    Knowing how insecure I am about my own appearance, and the fact that my facial proportion ratio is far from golden, I always resisted the temptation I had early on to write to one of those surgeons and send him my photo, because I knew perfectly well he’d tell me that there were a dozen different procedures I should have done on my face. (And because I knew that keeping my face, the one he’d known his whole life, was way more important to my son than keeping my gender.) In fact, if 50 women assigned female at birth wrote to this particular surgeon and said they were trans, I think he’d probably tell 40 of them that they “needed” FFS to “pass.” As it happens, my deficient “attractiveness” ratio notwithstanding, I’ve managed fine in terms of being generally perceived as a woman.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L November 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm |

      This is a follow-up to a comment in moderation, which is about the so-called “golden ratio” which some claim to be a “scientific” standard for measuring facial attractiveness across many or all different cultures, as well as what I consider its overuse by certain service providers to the trans-female community. (Perhaps needless to say, my facial ratios are far from golden.)

      Here is an example of the kind of rhetoric one typically sees (unfortunately, I can no longer find the link to it):


      Who is the Fairest of them All?

      In November 2001 the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) revealed the results of a poll of its membership.

      According to the Academy, Catherine Zeta-Jones is the “ideal face of femininity”. Nicole Kidman came in close second with 22 percent of the votes, while Jennifer Aniston, Penelope Cruz and Gwyneth Paltrow tied for third place with 11% of the votes.

      Although transsexuals, former model Caroline Finch and beauty queen Mimi Marks have a exceptionally feminine faces that comply with Dr Baker’s standards.

      In an effort to help better understand the dynamics of perceived beauty, the AAFPRS surveyed its membership – facial plastic surgeons, true face specialists – to rate the facial features of several celebrities. “While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, there is a real mathematical equation for measuring a person’s attractiveness. In fact, the skeletal proportions are the true determining factors,” says AAFPRS President Dr. Shan Baker. “Not only should the face have high check bones and a clean complexion, but a well proportioned face will be divided into equal thirds when horizontal lines are drawn through the forehead hairline, the brow, the base of the nose and the edge of the chin. And when analysing the face vertically, the length of the nose should occupy one-third of the total vertical height of the face.”

      So, why was Catherine Zeta-Jones chosen as the ideal face of femininity by 27% of the facial plastic surgeons? “The face of Catherine Zeta-Jones displays many features of the ideal face of femininity,” says Baker. “She has a short delicate jaw with small chin and nose, all of which are desirable for an attractive female face. Her lavish lips, well-developed cheek bones and prominent eyes give her the face of the new decade.”

      Nicole Kidman was tied for second with Gwyneth Paltrow (with 18 percent of votes each) for having the ideal female nose. Once again Catherine Zeta-Jones came away as the winner for the females. According to Dr. Baker, her “small, straight and symmetrical” nose gave her 22% of the surgeons’ votes. However, it was Nicole Kidman’s lips that are most kissable, she came out on top for having the ideal mouth with 33% of the vote. Angelina Jolie’s bee-stung, pouty lips followed very close behind.

      And as for Academy Award winner Julia Roberts … her eyes have it! Twenty-three percent of the AAFPRS surgeons believe that Julia Roberts has the ideal set of eyes. “Large eyes with ample space between upper eyelashes and brow are attractive features,” says Baker. “This combined with expressive animation and framed with strong arched brows gives Julia Roberts the perfect set of female eyes.”

      1. EG
        EG November 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm |

        “She has a short delicate jaw with small chin and nose, all of which are desirable for an attractive female face.

        Are you Jewish/Roman/other ethnicity associated with large noses? Sucks for you, ladies! It’s mathematically proven that your features couldn’t possibly be ideal, even in your home culture, because small noses are desirable for an attractive female face because MATH.

        Also, are you black? Too bad! You have no chance at all of being an Avatar of Beauty! It’s MATH.

        Are you an admirer of the ladies and thinking to yourself “But…but…I don’t think any of those women are particularly attractive, even with the massive make-up/lighting/marketing/airbrushing teams they have on their side! I like majestic noses on women and thick eyebrows!”? Too bad on you! You’re doing it wrong, because MATH.

        Do you remember reading books written before the 20th century in which the ideal “aristocratic” nose is “aquiline,” and ladies who have such noses are highly desirable? Olden times are mistaken! History is doing it wrong, because MATH.

        (Donna, I don’t mean to imply I think you’re supporting the above rhetoric; I’m mocking the idea, not you.)

        It strikes me that with respect to trans women’s facial surgeries, part of what’s being done is a whitewashing of trans women’s ethnic heritages, telling them that they can’t “be” women unless they give up a bodily connection to their ethnicity and culture, as if only WASP women are “real” women.

      2. EG
        EG November 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm |

        Long, long comment in mod. Let me summarize: isn’t it a fascinating coincidence that the “ideal” feminine face is white and Northern European? Poor unfortunate black women, Jewish women, Roman women, Inuit women, all the other women; we are just scientifically unable to be beautiful.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L November 12, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

          I love your takedown of this. With respect to cis and trans women alike. Of course the surgeons’ response would be that it’s just sour grapes on your part (and mine), because, after all, you can’t argue with MATH. It’s objective!

          Fortunately, some of the current generation of FFS surgeons seem actually to believe that one should look something like oneself afterwards, rather than someone who was shoehorned into the same template as everyone else, regardless of individual characteristics or ethnicity.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L November 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm |

          And I finally found something quoting the surgeon in question (I’ll omit his name, because he still practices) about the geometry of female beauty, in a way that I think really does tend to erase ethnic differences and impose Northern European standards in the guise of mathematical objectivity, which can be very seductive to those who are as desperate as many of his patients, and in a way that I think is fundamentally different from the way that GRS surgeons approach their patients:

          According to the likeable Dr. __, humans tend to perceive physical beauty as a function of a mathematical ratio (1.618 : 1) that was identified by the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, among others. This number is known as the “Golden Mean.” Pythagoras discovered that this ratio occurs throughout nature, and is ingrained into the fabric of all life on earth. In the case of human beings, as the size of our digits, limbs, features, and other body parts increase, they tend to do so proportionally at a 1.6 : 1 ratio. The less that ratio varies, the more attractive we perceive the face or body in question to be. Also, we see beauty in symmetry, so a lopsided face looks less pleasing than a well-balanced one. Women are often characterized as being more aesthetically attractive than men for a very good reason: the absence of testosterone in development prevents their features from straying much from the “correct” proportion. Meanwhile, men tend to have exaggerated noses, chins, brows, ears, etc., which we instinctively perceive as less beautiful. Dr. ___’s goal, then, is to bring the face more into conjunction with that “Golden Mean,” which will leave it looking more feminine and more attractive.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L November 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm |

          I guess the good doctor I just quoted never met a few people I know who actually happen to find men just as aesthetically attractive as women (and not necessarily on the basis of perfect facial symmetry)!

          Leaving that aside, it’s rhetoric like this and what I quoted above — along with a lifetime of internalization of the kind of Northern European beauty standards that have kept cosmetic surgeons in the New York City area fully employed for at least the last 70 years or so — that convinced me for a very long time (making me utterly miserable in the process) that I could never transition and be perceived as a woman (let alone a woman who was non-hideous) without major cosmetic surgery. And although I’ve hardly rid myself entirely of those kinds of prejudices (at least with respect to myself), at least I now realize that having a so-called Jewish nose doesn’t necessarily mean I’m horrifyingly ugly and look like a man and need to find $40,000 for FFS; it means I look Jewish.

          Certainly I no longer see that as something that affects attractiveness in other people. What made me think about this was that earlier today I looked up the Wikipedia article about Very Caspary (the 1940’s noirish mystery writer; she wrote the book Laura). I knew nothing about her background, but the first two thoughts I had on seeing her photo were (1) this woman was Jewish, and (2) she was beautiful. Whatever this surgeon, or the other proponents of the golden ratio or golden mean, may have thought of her.

        4. EG
          EG November 12, 2012 at 7:55 pm |

          I know that there are plastic surgeons who actually specialize in recreating ethnic features–my sister sought one out when she had to have surgery on her nose, so that her reconstructed nose would be in harmony with her face and family, and found a wonderful woman who specializes in semitic/middle eastern features. (And who, when not doing that kind of surgery for westerners, does hare lip/cleft palate reconstructive surgery for children and adults in the developing world for free. Because she’s awesome.) I’m glad to know that that kind of understanding is getting around–particularly with respect to trans people, it smacks so much of the whole “you must cut off your past and everybody who knew you and everything you were” rhetoric that used to be inflicted on people transitioning, only applied to the body as well as the life, if that makes sense–a kind of forced assimilation.

        5. DonnaL
          DonnaL November 13, 2012 at 1:19 am |

          I hadn’t thought of that parallel, but I think it does make sense. (There was even a time when part of the required, or at least strongly-encouraged, assimilation to womanhood was giving up one’s previous occupation if it wasn’t generally considered women’s work, and becoming something both inconspicuous and stereotypically feminine — ideally, working behind the counter in a shop somewhere or being a seamstress. I pity anyone wearing any clothing I would have had to sew, given my fine motor skills or absence thereof.)

          PS: It was “Vera” Caspary, not “Very.”

  26. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers November 13, 2012 at 10:05 am |

    I actually don’t have a big problem with this study.

    I have some small problems with this study. Were all the pictures comparable styles? If all the pictures were head shots taken for dating sites, we can assume that all of the women were making equal attempts to look “attractive”, and therefore any differences in perceived “attractiveness” are likely to reflect some biological difference rather than people wearing makeup versus people who don’t. Without that information, it’s hard to say if they were really comparing apples to apples.

    Also, like many posters here, I have an issue with the whole idea that “attractiveness” is what is being rated here, and not something more scientifically and clearly defined, such as specific facial ratio or symmetry or what-have-you.

    But the basic idea that there could be a correlation between physical appearance and the presence of a hormonal disease seems pretty uncontroversial. A lot of people’s spin on this seems to be assuming that the researchers concluded that attractiveness causes endometriosis, which isn’t the case; a correlation never establishes causation, and it is more likely to assume that potentially endo causes attractiveness, or that some underlying factor causes both. And endo produces highly elevated hormone levels in many cases (being hairy is actually a signifier of elevated hormone levels too; testosterone and estrogen are very, very closely related hormones, not each other’s polar opposites as is often assumed.)

    As for the age of sexual activity… I would want to see an actual study that looks for a correlation between “attractiveness” as defined similarly to this study, and age of sexual activity, before I’d draw that conclusion. So many factors go into age of sexual activity. Girls who feel themselves to be unattractive may engage in sex early, in cultures (like most of ours) that have negative opinions of early onset of sexual activity in girls, because they feel that they don’t have a choice if they want a boyfriend. Girls with elevated hormone levels may desire sex more or may go through puberty and desire sex sooner. Girls who were placed on birth control pills as young teens because they had endo might have felt safe in engaging in sexual activity, because they had protection and had a socially sanctioned excuse for getting that protection on a regular basis (if your mom is buying your BC pills as medicine for your condition, you’re in a much more secure place than if you want BC for yourself so you can have sex, when you’re 15 or 16.) Many of my friends with endo were put on BC as teenagers because of severe period pain, even before they were diagnosed with endo. So I think the conclusion that maybe it’s because attractive girls get laid sooner is deeply problematic and probably sexist; it prioritizes the trait that leads men to want to have sex with the person above the things that are going on in her life. Sex, for a teenage girl, is not an uncomplicatedly positive thing; early sex may mean early opportunity, early desire, or early vulnerability to exploitation.

    I’m not really bothered by the idea that there might be a correlation between “attractiveness”, as defined by at least four people who are ethnically and culturally similar, and a disease that affects hormone levels. I do think it’s silly to spend so much time looking at “attractiveness” as a risk factor for endo; how about risk factors like “extremely painful periods”? There are already really well understood diagnostic indicators for endo, and if what you’re trying to do is predict which pre-pubescent or teenage girls might develop endo, you need to be looking at pictures of teens and young girls and rating *them*, where all are adults now and some are controls and some have endo. Looking at adult women, some of whom have endo, and making a correlation between their attractiveness now and the disease they have, isn’t predictive in any way; to identify women who *might* get endo, or to identify an actual risk factor that contributes to endo, you should be developing a predictive model, but adults generally either have endo or they don’t; it’s not a late-onset illness like diabetes and cancer are usually. Women get it in teens and twenties for the most part.

    I also think it’s interesting from the perspective of a person who studies the evo-psych community, and has a passing interest in their actual science when it vaguely resembles science and not fantasyland. Endo makes women infertile, more often than not, or makes pregnancy life-threatening for them. It is not consistent with the ideas behind evo-psych to suggest that a disease that makes women infertile is related positively to their attractiveness, so I think it’s wrong to accuse these guys of having an evo-psych perspective; yes, studies that correlate attractiveness with anything are often evo-psych, but this particular result would tend to argue against one of the most deeply held beliefs behind evo-psych, which is that evolution operates on pretty much everything and that if you find a trait that makes people more attractive, it exists to make them have more babies.

    And finally… seriously, is tomek a performance troll?

    1. EG
      EG November 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

      So I think the conclusion that maybe it’s because attractive girls get laid sooner is deeply problematic and probably sexist; it prioritizes the trait that leads men to want to have sex with the person above the things that are going on in her life.

      Exactly.

      Whether or not men have wanted to fuck me has never been the determining factor in whether or not I am sexually active.

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