You Can't Make a Whore a Housewife

Nothing gets me hotter than a properly cited argument. I've had many a dream about a well thought out, thoroughly fact checked, calm and clear debate partner. I wish I could share some of that with you. Instead, here's the stupidest slut-shaming I found this week.

"You can't make a whore a housewife. Girls who are sluts make terrible wives. "

The "whore/housewife" alliteration has a pretty nice ring to it, and actually has some sort of citation. This report is from the National Marriage Project, and claims that women who have had more sexual partners report lower levels of marital happiness. Other sources have criticized the confusion between correlation and causation already, but I'm just going to tear the whole thing apart.

It starts by talking about Bradgelina (I'm serious) and makes no subtle hints about their main point: "[F]or women, having had fewer sexual partners before marriage was also related to higher marital quality... [S]ex with many different partners may be risky if you’re looking for a high-quality marriage." (For the record, at no point throughout their study do they acknowledge or compare differences found between men and women).

Let's look at the actual data. They defined "high quality marriage" as a marriage that scored in the top 40% of their sample, which is weirdly arbitrary. They used a four-item version of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. That scale usually has 32 items, but this study asked four questions. On a one to five (sometimes six) scale, they asked participants to rate relationship happiness, thoughts about dissolution, frequency of confiding in one another, and in general, how well things are going between the partners (which added to a total of 21 points). By their cutoff, scoring 19 or above was "happy" and any less was "unhappy". Their sample included 418 marriages and used telephone surveying though targeted sampling by a private company.  TD;LR: the reliability is sketchy at best.

The study states, "Many in Generation YOLO (you only live once) believe that what happens while you’re young won’t affect your future. But our research paints a different picture. " It briefly mentions a study from the 90s that said women who were abstinent were less likely to divorce, and then claims, "We further found that the more sexual partners a woman had had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be," but at no point in the study do they report their actual findings. Seriously, not a percentage, not even the raw data. They just say that and move on.

As for that old study? The conclusion was "These results suggest that neither premarital sex nor premarital cohabitation by itself indicate either preexisting characteristics or subsequent relationship environments that weaken marriages." The data they're using to back up their claims doesn't support their point. 

Anyway, let's look at data they did find. They talk a lot about people that have cohabited before marriage and couples that "slid" into living together instead of having a "defined talk" about it, but there's no reported gender difference.  Let's be very clear, their focus is on living with different partners prior to marriage, not sex.

You might have already asked yourself, "Well doesn't that make sense? Wouldn't someone with more experience be better at identifying issues in their relationship, especially compared to someone who's never known anything else?" The study acknowledges that irony but shuts it down, claiming that happy marriages come from not being aware of other options and "[a] history of multiple breakups may make people take a more jaundiced view of love and relationships." Damn, bet you didn't think all that teenage angst was going to ruin your adult love life, huh?

The study also asks if a good marriage can come from a hookup. Out of the couples who had reached marital bliss, 36% began as a hookup, while 42% did not. Firstly, what happened to the remaining 22%? Secondly, the study did not give a definition of hooking up. They literally just asked, "Did you two start by hooking up?" Thirdly, what does this have to do with having multiple partners?

Weirdly, when analyzing their data, they coded "previous sexual partners" as either 0 (sex with more than one person) or 1 (only had sex with their spouse). So, for this study, there's no difference between someone who had sex with 50 people or 2. There's also no difference between someone who had sex with their future spouse before or after marriage, so long as they didn't have any other partners.

When you look at all their findings together, after controlling for race and religion, the most influential factors on marital quality (in order of decreasing importance) are the following:
  • having kids from a prior relationship
  • feeling like you're more committed than your partner
  • getting pregnant with your spouse before marriage
  • having a wedding (the more traditional and the bigger, the happier)
  • having prior marriages
  • having an education
  • having moved in with previous partners
And THEN, after ALL THAT, with a p-value of GREATER THAN 0.5 (which anyone who knows anything about statistics can tell you is statistically insignificant) comes premarital relations with someone other than your spouse.

So why does this study even exist? Their main point isn't proven, and they gloss right over the part of their findings where by their definition, 35% of happy marriages have some physical violence. Well, let's look at the organization it's from.  This study wasn't peer-reveiwed or published in a journal. Furthermore, the president of the National Marriage Project came came under criticism over a 2012 study about gay parenting when he anonymously reviewed his own study and it was found to be influenced by conservative organizations that had funded it.

Is it possible this study was subject to the same bias? It was funded by the William E. Simon Foundation, a foundation that is based on "moral and spiritual values," including "thrift, self-discipline, and faith in God." Which may explain why they've forced a conclusion that they can't defend.

Please cite your sources. And please make sure your sources are reliable, because this is bullshit. Go ahead and marry a whore, there's no reason they wouldn't make a great partner.

Regulating Sex: The New York Times and Consent

Judith Schulevitz knows what's best for your sex life. At least, she claims she does. She wrote a mind-boggling opinion piece criticizing the regulation of sex in the New York Times. (Want some context? Read the article here.)

Can we talk first about the image that accompanied the full page article? I can't tell you the amount of times a partner of mine has gotten confused because my pink and index finger were saying "no" while the twitch of my palm was screaming "yes." Oh wait, yes I can, zero. Zero times. Consent is not nearly that complicated.

Shulevitz sums up the article in the last sentence, and that's where I'll start. "Sex may become safer for some, but it will be a whole lot more anxiety-producing for others." And hell, what's "safe sex" to a few people when others might face anxiety? Heaven forbid we make anyone anxious, even at the cost of rape. Getting consent, being comfortable talking to your partner, should not be a conversation marked by nerves and anxiety. If you're not comfortable talking to your partner about sex, you probably aren't comfortable enough with them to have sex.

Let's give Judith the benefit of the doubt for a second, and assume that the anxiety she's referring to isn't coming from talking to a partner about consent, but rather, the fear of what might happen if that partner changes their mind later. After all, with the "yes means yes" rule (if you don't get a clear, freely given 'yes', sex can be considered rape) it would be theoretically easy for someone to regret sex and claim something like, "Well, I never actually said 'yes'," right?

Wrong. False reports happen, they do, I'm not denying that. But not often. First of all, it's HARD to prove someone guilty of sexual assault. Very few rapists ever serve jail time, and most people (in my experience) will dismiss and scoff at a case of "he said, she said" without any definitive evidence. And if there is any evidence (a rape kit was done, emails/texts/messages are found admitting what happened, etc), well then odds are it's more than just regret at play. Even when people do lie, the estimated rate of false or unsupported reports is only around 2%. Which, compared to other statistics, isn't unexpected at all, that's about the same number of people falsely claiming they were robbed or carjacked or something.

The redefinition of consent (if you can even call it that) won't change anything within your relationship, as Judith seems to think it will. If you and your partner normally kiss each other hello, for instance, neither one of you is going to suddenly decide that's assault. Asking for consent doesn't have to be clinical and awkward. Hell, that'd be awful. Just check in with your partner. Make sure they want what you want. Seriously. Discuss things before hand, and check in every now and then; you can ever work it into your dirty talk. Things like, "Do you like that?" or "How's this feel?" or "Is it ok if I do this?" or "Wanna try this again?" Things will vary from relationship to relationship, from person to person. Some people might LOVE waking up to head in the morning, while others might feel violated by it. So just ask your partner if thats a thing they'd like. That's all.

Obviously, it's a little harder to establish general rules like that if you're in a one-night stand situation. I've heard dozens of stories from guys terrified that the girl they take home might wake up and cry rape. Firstly, nobody just "cries rape". Secondly, don't have sex with someone who's too drunk to consent. Thirdly, if you're initiating or escalating any sort of sexual interaction or contact, just ask if it's ok. Even if you feel like you're both contributing, check in and make sure.

Consent isn't difficult. It's not a million different signals that you have to sift through, it's not a minefield that could go off when you least expect it. It's just a yes. So get that "yes", or "oh yeah" or "abso-fuckin-lutely", or "I'd love to", or "let's!". 

You might be hard, but consent isn't.