Respectful Insolence

i-c0f030748b91eb5edbfeaf625a521227-Greenfield.jpgI’d like to thank Buckeye Surgeon for reminding me of something I had seen and wanted to blog about but totally forgot about. Maybe it was so forgettable that I should just skip it, but as a surgeon I actually don’t think so. Basically, it’s a story of a surgeon making a fool of himself. I know, I know, that’s such an impossibility that it’s well nigh inconceivable, but it actually did happen. Perhaps what brought my attention to this sordid tale is that there is a connection to the University of Michigan, where I went to both undergraduate and medical school.

The surgeon in question is Dr. Lazar Greenfield. Dr. Greenfield can rightly be called one of the giants of surgery. Ever hear of the Greenfield filter? Yes, it’s that Dr. Greenfield, who in 1968 invented a metal filter that could be placed in the inferior vena cava and stop clots from traveling to the lower extremities and into the lungs in the form of often fatal pulmonary emboli. Who knows how many lives were saved by Greenfield’s invention, deceptively simple in concept but difficult in engineering? Greenfield’s contributions to vascular surgery didn’t stop with the invention of the inferior vena cava filter, either. An utterly brilliant man, Dr. Greenfield has authored nearly 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, 55 book chapters, and 8 books. His textbook of surgery is one of the major surgical texts used by many medical schools and residencies.

The Michigan connection is that Dr. Greenfield became Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1988, the year I graduated from medical school. Indeed, I remember distinctly a party he held in his condo as incoming chair of surgery for the medical students applying for surgery residencies. Truly, it was a giddy experience for a young medical student like myself at the time to be in the presence of someone who was at the time a veritable god of surgery. After a long and successful tenure as chair, in 2004 Dr. Greenfield stepped down to become Emeritus Professor of Surgery, a role in which he continues to teach and do research to this day. This year, he reached one of the ultimate professional pinnacles in surgery, being elected to be the incoming president of the American College of Surgeons, the largest and most influential surgical organization. Given that Dr. Greenfield is 78, it appeared that he was finishing his career on a high note.

Then, as editor, he decided to write a truly bizarre Valentine’s Day-themed editorial for Surgery News. So offensive was the editorial considered among women that the entire issue of GSN was pulled from the web and Dr. Greenfield was forced to resign as editor. What caused such a ruckus? Dr. Greenfield apparently thinks that semen is a mood-enhancing antidepressant, as this text from the retracted article posted at Retraction Watch, demonstrates. Under the heading, “Gut Feelings,” Dr. Greenfield wrote:

As far as humans are concerned, you may think you know all about sexual signals, but you’d be surprised by new findings. It’s been known since the 1990s that heterosexual women living together synchronize their menstrual cycles because of pheromones, but when a study of lesbians showed that they do not synchronize, the researchers suspected that semen played a role. In fact, they found ingredients in semen that include mood enhancers like estrone, cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, and serotonin; a sleep enhancer, melatonin; and of course, sperm, which makes up only 1%-5%. Delivering these compounds into the richly vascularized vagina also turns out to have major salutary effects for the recipient. Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms (Arch. Sex. Behav. 2002;31:289-93). Their better moods were not just a feature of promiscuity, because women using condoms were just as depressed as those practicing total abstinence. The benefits of semen contact also were seen in fewer suicide attempts and better performance on cognition tests.

So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.

That’s right. Forget chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Give your woman a heapin’ helpin’ of man juice, and your “little lady” will perk right up. And, according to ol’ Lazar, it’s all biology, maaan; as in evolutionary biology. For example, as a result of his apparently exhaustive research that man sauce is the cure for female depression, Dr. Greenfield invokes the example of Drosophila:

It has long been known that Drosophila raised on starch media are more likely to mate with other starch-raised flies, whereas those fed maltose have similar preferences. In a study published online in the November issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators explored the mechanism for this preference by treating flies with antibiotics to sterilize the gut and saw the preferences disappear (Proc. Nad. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2010 Nov. 1).

In cultures of untreated flies, the bacterium L. plantarum was more common in those on starch, and sure enough, when L. plantarum was returned to the sterile groups, the mating preference returned. The best explanation for this is revealed in the significant differences in their sex pheromones. These experiments also support the hologenome theory of evolution wherein the unit of natural selection is the “holobiont,” or combination of organism and its microorganisms, that determines mating preferences.

All of which is rather cool science, but I fail to see how it supports Dr. Greenfield’s joke. But it does all sound really science-y, doesn’t it? Either that, or Dr. Greenfield is a real cut-up. (I know, I know, it’s an old and bad joke about surgeons who think they are a lot funnier than they really are.) Unfortunately, the examples he chose from biology to bolster his case are, even under the most charitable interpretation imaginable, only tenuously related to humans. Worse, the “semen” study is about as lame a study as can be imagined. Not only is it a study in which causation is implied by correlation, but to me the evidence of correlation is not even that compelling. The scatter in the data is simply enormous, with most of the standard deviations in Beck Depression Inventory scores being on the order of 75% of the actual score itself. Indeed, this is the sort of study where the scatter is so huge that, even if statistically significance is found it’s hard to know what the significance is. In fact, given that there were four groups based on frequency of condom use plus the no intercourse group, I strongly suspect that the investigators neglected to control for multiple comparisons.

In other words, in order to make a joke (apparently), Dr. Greenfield picked what is at best a dubious study upon which to base it. Worse, he didn’t simply say that sex makes women happier (which probably wouldn’t have caused much of a stir; after all there’s little doubt it makes men happier, too) or taken a Barry White-like position that it’s time to get it on. Rather, he said that it is the semen makes women happy, that getting it on isn’t enough by itself. In other words, the implication of Dr. Greenfield’s wildly inappropriate little joke, published in the official news magazine of the ACS, is that a woman needs a man to inject his seed into her in order to be truly happy. Therein, I suspect, lies the subtext that elevated the outrage over Dr. Greenfield’s remarks to the level they’ve reached. If he had simply tried to argue, even based on biology, that a little nookie on Valentine’s Day can make a man and woman grow closer based on biology, no one would have complained–or likely even argued. Of course, he would have had to leave out out that final study as his justification and in particular left out the bit of its having nothing to do with “promiscuity”–what is this, the 1950s?–but if he had done those things he might have crafted a mildly amusing paean to physical love on Valentine’s Day. I’m sure that was probably his intent, but instead he ended up implying that unmarried college age women should have unprotected sex on Valentine’s Day because it would make them happier.

In response, Dr. Pauline Chen, who is a surgeon blogging under the headline Sexism Charges Divide Surgeons’ Group, was sharply critical of Dr. Greenfield and the culture at the ACS. In her post, she points out that only roughly 10% of the membership of the ACS is comprised of women, and of that only five of twenty-two members of the ACS governing board are women. Chen’s article also does a good job of pointing out how this incident puts the differences in culture between younger surgeons and the “old guard” (the “gods of surgery,” as I put it). Society has changed. Surgery has changed, but not enough. Many surgeons were afraid of criticizing Dr. Greenfield for fear of professional repercussions; some were simply puzzled; some were quite critical. Ultimately, the firestorm of controversy that engulfed Dr. Greenfield would not be denied.

He was forced to resign as President-Elect of the ACS.

If you look at the comments after Buckeye Surgeon’s post, Dr. Chen’s post, and the Retraction Watch post, you’ll see that the discussion is fairly heated. Basically, the commenters divide into two camps (well, three, actually). First, there is the camp that finds Dr. Greenfield’s article offensive enough to justify retracting the article and Dr. Greenfield’s forced resignation as President-Elect of the ACS. Then, there’s the camp that finds Dr. Greenfield’s article inappropriate and/or offensive but thinks the penalty is too harsh. Then there’s the camp that is truly sycophantic. For example, there is this nauseating letter to Dr. Greenfield from Dr. Randall Cook:

Dr. Greenfield,

This morning I read with tremendous regret about the action by the College Board of Regents which occurred over the weekend. Evidently I had not been paying attention and had no idea such a tempest was brewing. I had missed the now infamous editorial in the News and requested a copy through Dr. Pellegrini but was refused. In order to learn what the fuss was about, I had to resort to the internet and was eventually successful in my search for the document. Actually, it didn’t take long but I had hoped for more help from those whom I thought to be my colleagues.

Let me first say what many others are afraid to admit. The essay was quite humorous and I had no problem getting the joke. That said, I also understand that the climate of political correctness that currently surrounds us simply will not tolerate any humor that even approaches the fringe of offensiveness. Because of that reality, I understand that you had no choice but to resign in order to put the better interest of the College above your own. You are to be admired for not allowing (or helping) the insanity to grow any larger than it has already.

The thought that I’d like to offer you today is simply that the College will be a lesser institution in your absence. And those who attacked you and even those who failed to defend you missed a great opportunity to elevate their own stature. Though I have never met you, I have read many of your publications, heard you speak on numerous occasions and been acquainted with a number surgeons who were proud to have learned under your mentorship. In the end, these, among others will be the accomplishments by which you are ultimately judged.

I can’t help but think that a society paralyzed by correctness is a society in deep trouble. Who will the censors silence next? John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemmingway, J.D. Salinger, D.H. Lawrence, Jack London…and now Lazar Greenfield…you, sir, are in good company.

Sincerely,
Randall G. Cook, MD, FACS

All of which goes to show that sexism and sycophancy are alive and well in the ACS. Truly, Dr. Cook has his nose inserted firmly up Dr. Greenfield’s posterior.

Although I did not know Dr. Greenfield, from what I’ve been able to gather, he actually has a a very good, perhaps even exemplary, record recruiting and mentoring women as surgeons. There is also not doubt that he really is a brilliant man and that his contributions to the field of surgery are far more than I could ever hope to match, even if I keep working until I’m his age and beyond. That makes it a shame that Dr. Greenfield decided to write such a breathtakingly inappropriate and embarrassing article for Surgery News. It’s also depressing to see a pall cast over his career because he’s so out of touch that he didn’t see how massively inappropriate his article was or how offensive they would be to so many women. However, I’m not in the camp that says Dr. Greenfield’s apology should be enough and that he didn’t have to resign from his position as President-Elect of the ACS. Words have consequences, and the consequences of Dr. Greenfield’s words were to remind female surgeons, who make up an increasing percentage of younger surgeons as more and more women enter the field, of the bad old days, when good old boys excluded and devalued them. Once that had happened, Dr. Greenfield’s ability to be effective as President of the ACS was destroyed, and he finally realized he had to resign. To do otherwise would have guaranteed that this issue would have dogged the organization until his one year stint as President ended–and likely beyond. It would have sucked the oxygen out of his presidency.

Although one mistake shouldn’t negate a 40+-year career full of amazing accomplishments, one can only wonder what possessed such a brilliant man to write something so utterly clueless and tone deaf. Maybe there really is a generation gap between the “old guard” and the new generations of surgeons coming up through the ranks.

Comments

  1. #1 IanW
    April 19, 2011

    “Although one mistake shouldn’t negate a 40+-year career…”

    If this guy has held this attitude for 40 straight years, how can we be sure it’s only one mistake? For all we know he could have been derailing women for that entire time one way or another.

  2. #2 sharon
    April 19, 2011

    Ha ha, putting aside all the risks of unprotected sex.
    This story reminds me of a book I read many moons ago. The Women’s History Of The World by Rosalind Miles. In which she describes how ancient cultures revered women as they were the clear bearers of the species. Then eventually men worked out they played a fundamental role in the reproductive process, thereby redefining the whole idea of procreation to the point where sperm was the baby implanted into the woman. This rendered women as nothing more than an incubator for man babies. The psychology being that men could not stand to be a lesser or even equal participant, but had to be superior. Once again we see the ‘sperm’s where it’s at baby’ ideology coming to the fore. Poor old bastard probably hasn’t had a root in years.
    Can’t wait to see Augustines defence of this.

  3. #3 Elf Eye
    April 19, 2011

    Classic example of a notpology reported by The New York Times:

    [The American College of Surgery…] put a comment on The Times’s Web site stating that it “deeply regrets the offense taken to Dr. Greenfield’s editorial about Valentine’s Day.”

    Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/health/18surgeon.html

  4. #4 Elf Eye
    April 19, 2011

    Correction: The statement was posted on behalf of the American College of Surgeons, not Surgery.

  5. #5 Neuro Nerd
    April 19, 2011

    Some neurodegenerative disorders are accompanied by hypersexuality and/or disinhibition. I don’t know whether to hope this is the explanation (which would be awful for him and his family) or hope that he’s just an ignorant creep.

  6. #6 Forbidden Snowflake
    April 19, 2011

    It’s been known since the 1990s that heterosexual women living together synchronize their menstrual cycles because of pheromones, but when a study of lesbians showed that they do not synchronize, the researchers suspected that semen played a role.

    whut

    I was under the impression that the McClintock effect hasn’t been proven statistically significant.
    Also, just how did the researchers skip from heterosexual women to sperm? Were all the hetero women unprotectedly sexually active? Did the studies control for roomates who hardly see each other?

    Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms (Arch. Sex. Behav. 2002;31:289-93). Their better moods were not just a feature of promiscuity, because women using condoms were just as depressed as those practicing total abstinence.

    Well, this looks like a safe conclusion. It’s not like there’s some phenomenon out there that correlates with both mood stability and condom-free sex, like, say, committed relationships or what have you.

  7. #7 dt
    April 19, 2011

    So if this Valentine’s Day editorial had been written by a woman who implied that unprotected sex with a female might make men happy or less depressed (because of absorbtion of possible mood-enhancing chemicals found in vaginal secretions), you would all be calling for her head on a plate, right?

  8. #8 Pablo
    April 19, 2011

    Wow, I’m almost surprised that he didn’t throw in a comment abvout how size matters. It is almost as lame.

    I guess it is a generational thing, but I’ve never found lame sex jokes all that clever or funny.

  9. #9 Agent Smith
    April 19, 2011

    oh give him a break. At that age, you likely shouldn’t put him in positions to write major articles for surgery news outlet. My grandfather is an intelligent and educated guy- but at this same age has completely lost his filters. Not knowing or caring about contemporary mores, he still refers to his ww2 enemies in pretty racist terms.

    It’s likely similar for someone like greenfield that grew up a different time and place- combined with neurological declines that come with advanced age.

  10. #10 T. Bruce McNeely
    April 19, 2011

    dt:

    Go back, start at the beginning, and read the ENTIRE post, especially the second-to-last paragraph. You will have your answer.

  11. #11 Jojo
    April 19, 2011

    I keep getting hung up on this sentence from his article.

    It’s been known since the 1990s that heterosexual women living together synchronize their menstrual cycles because of pheromones, but when a study of lesbians showed that they do not synchronize, the researchers suspected that semen played a role.

    First, wasn’t the theory that women living together synchronize their cycle debunked? And second, if semen is supposed to play a role in that, wouldn’t that require that all the women in the house would have to be receiving that precious semen for this to happen?

    I better not keep reading this thing if I intend to get any work done today. What an unfortunate* thing for someone in his position to write.

    *Unfortunate is clearly an understatement here.

  12. #12 Zippy
    April 19, 2011

    I didn’t think his article was particularly funny, but come on. The guy told a not-funny joke. He is (or was) apparently an amazing surgeon who saved a lot of lives.

    People are being hypersensitive, and the punishment is absurd. It also proves that groveling apologies don’t do squat, so the best option is to keep your dignity.

  13. #13 jojo
    April 19, 2011

    @Zippy. How was his punishment too harsh? All he lost was the leadership position of an organization that exists to improve the care of surgical patients. He wasn’t put in jail, he wasn’t stripped of his medical license. All that happened was that he demonstrated that while an excellent surgeon, he does not have the appropriate skills to lead an organization, therefore he had to step down from that leadership position.

  14. #14 ΤΤ
    April 19, 2011

    First, wasn’t the theory that women living together synchronize their cycle debunked?

    I remember reading something about this i.e. that there is no synchronisation as in everyone having their period at the same time but there is some influence on the timing of each other’s period which funnily enough can result in cycles that were sychronised to begin with (a chance event) falling out of sync (…ehm which makes evolutionary sense because the harem owner would not have been able to impregnate all his women at the same time if their cycles were synchronised…?? Just kidding – hope you get it…) Still, I think the punishment fit the crime but that someone should have shielded him from all this, I mean, doesn’t anyone copyedit or approve this stuff?

  15. #15 Dangerous Bacon
    April 19, 2011

    From the protest letter cited in Orac’s article:

    “I can’t help but think that a society paralyzed by correctness is a society in deep trouble. Who will the censors silence next? John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemmingway, J.D. Salinger, D.H. Lawrence, Jack London…and now Lazar Greenfield…you, sir, are in good company.

    Sincerely,

    Randall G. Cook, MD, FACS”

    I think that ludicrous hyperbole (not to mention inability to spell the name “Hemingway”) pose more of a threat to our society than “correctness”.

    Sadly, being so out of touch as not to realize how offensive that editorial “joke” was, disqualifies Dr. Greenfield to lead a prestigious surgeons’ organization.

    *Harmless little surgeon “jokes” have a way of backfiring (in that case, it’s noteworthy that the excuse given bears no relationship to the reality I’ve seen in many years of pathology practice).

  16. #16 Vicki
    April 19, 2011

    Agent Smith’s position seems to be “he’s old and incompetent and can’t help it, so we shouldn’t mind.”

    If he is old and unable to prevent himself from saying offensive things, he shouldn’t be given an unedited page to say them on. (And if the editorial board are also old and lacking filters, they should be replaced: an editor’s job includes knowing what is and is not appropriate to publish where.)

    This isn’t a prison sentence: it’s more analogous to “this person’s vision is no longer good enough for her to drive safely, so she shouldn’t have a driver’s license anymore.”

  17. #17 Jay-El
    April 19, 2011

    I don’t get how everyone on staff at General Surgery News let this happen. Either they’re all sycophants who are too afraid to say when their boss is about to make a huge mistake, or he’s an asshole who intimidates them into silence.

  18. #18 CD
    April 19, 2011

    My goodness. You are all so highly evolved here that you are above a crass joke. You should be more concerned about the study and it’s validity. If the guy said something inappropriate, call him out. You don’t need to bring the pitchforks and torches out unless he was caught specifically keeping the women down or behaving in a way that compromises his position. Maybe have a rebuttal by a woman surgeon about those “good ol days” to put him in his place?

    Don’t speculate on how anti-woman he is and assume that all women are going to be offended to the core. I am a woman, and, while I did not laugh-out-loud, the joke made me smirk. (And I thought of something dirtier than simple intercourse.)

    You can have a little testosterone, guys. It’s okay.

  19. #19 Luna_the_cat
    April 19, 2011

    @IanW — What makes this tragic, rather than just sad, is that actually he has a reputation as one who has mentored many women in surgery, and he has in the past implemented some very good supportive policies. Even in interpersonal relations, it seems he has had an excellent reputation for dealing with women fairly and decently. If he has been derailing women for years, it is so well hidden that nobody seems to have spotted it.

    Which makes me wonder — a lot — what was going on here, and worry about whether some event has been affecting his mental filters.

  20. #20 Luna_the_cat
    April 19, 2011

    @CD — the “joke” makes a number of implicitly sexist assumptions, as well as having been based on dodgy/inapplicable research. Focusing on the research alone kind of misses an important part of the point.

  21. #21 Improbable Joe
    April 19, 2011

    Yeah, it was just a joke. Just a bad joke in incredibly bad taste. Get over it. Why should he not be allowed to cut into people, to use his gift to save lives and improve the lives of his patients, to practice medi-… what?

    What’s that? He lost a leadership position in a surgeon’s organization, where his judgment and ability to lead women and men equally has been called into question? And this is over a “joke” that was published as part of his professional duty as editor of Surgery News. Why is there any question that he should be removed?

    I think it would be oversensitive to take someone’s private bad taste in humor and use it to destroy their career in surgery. If that same person insists on displaying that bad taste as part of their professional behavior, it makes them a bad choice for leadership positions. Being able to STFU about your private thoughts and obviously offensive sense of humor for the sake of the larger group is part of the skill-set required to lead, and this guy doesn’t have it.

    I mean, I think dead baby jokes are hilarious. If I insisted on telling them in professional situations, it precludes me from being in charge of any pediatrics group.

  22. #22 Jojo
    April 19, 2011

    @CD. What pitchforks? What torches? Once again, the man hasn’t been thrown in jail. He hasn’t lost his ability to practice medicine. He used his position of power to print an offensive and not very funny joke. It clearly demonstrated that he does not have the appropriate communication skills for that position, therefore he was forced to resign. Simply put, the guy isn’t qualified for the job so he was forced to step down. If he wants to be in a leadership roll, he needs to act like a leader.

    I also don’t understand why you, as a woman, would be telling me to lighten up about his poor taste and not funny joke. I don’t really appreciate having my feelings dismissed and being belittled because I’m “so highly evolved” that I take offense to an offensive joke. I work in a male dominated field and deal with this crap everyday. It’s my hope that future generations of women don’t have to deal with what I have to deal with, and the only way to do that is call out this kind of crap and call it what it is, sexist bullshit.

  23. #23 Vicki
    April 19, 2011

    CD:

    Here we go again. A number of women did find it offensive, but since you didn’t, you’re dismissing them by saying “don’t assume that all women are going to be offended to the core”. Why is your reaction more valid than theirs?

    And why is your reaction to someone being called out for making offensive remarks to say that it’s okay to call him out, except that it isn’t, apparently because the tone of the complaints is too harsh? He still gets to practice surgery. He’s still famous for his inventions.

  24. #24 Denice Walter
    April 19, 2011

    I wouldn’t be so quick to write it _all_ off as being a function of aging: he may have held these same attitudes since the 1960’s ( when many people would agree) *and* now, from his current position, feels freer about *saying* them aloud. I’m sure than many younger dudes have a similar attitude but may have learned- growing up post-feminism- to be more careful about what they say.

    Am I offended? Yes and no. I’ve heard worse. Only thing that bothers me that it might sneakily encourage more un-protected sex.

  25. #25 turnipseed
    April 19, 2011

    I’m with CD and I even thought it was funny. Get over yourselves. I grew up in a time when there was extremely blatant sexism all around me and you girls and women have very little, in comparison, to whine about.

    If the doctor has become a bit of a dirty old man in his dotage, then it’s fine to relieve him of his duties, but once the thing was published, why publicly hand it all on him? Fire all the editors as well or else defend it as a joke and let it stand.

    Much ado about nothing.

  26. #26 Rory
    April 19, 2011

    Turnipseed, thanks for your enlightened opinion. Clearly because women in the past had it so much worse than women today, modern women shouldn’t object to sexist nonsense. I’ll also let my black friends know they shouldn’t get bent out of shape about racism, because, shucks, 200 years ago they’d have been picking my cotton!

  27. #27 Jojo
    April 19, 2011

    @turnipseed

    I’m wondering, did you read the comments at 21 and 22? If not, maybe you want to go back and reconsider the point Vicki and I are trying to make about people dismissing other’s feelings as not valid because they are different from your own.

    As far as:

    I grew up in a time when there was extremely blatant sexism all around me and you girls and women have very little, in comparison, to whine about.

    I’m not sure how you can claim that I have very little to whine about considering you have no idea what kind of blatant sexism I’ve actually had to deal with in both my personal and professional life. You are making an assumption even though you know nothing about me.

    And, so what if it’s not as bad today as it was when you were young? I don’t think the endpoint in the fight for equality should be “not as bad”.

  28. #28 Scott Cunningham
    April 19, 2011

    Jay-El

    I don’t get how everyone on staff at General Surgery News let this happen. Either they’re all sycophants who are too afraid to say when their boss is about to make a huge mistake, or he’s an asshole who intimidates them into silence.

    I’d offer he submitted his article last-minute without any oversight. Submission deadlines can be abused by editors to sneak things in unquestioned. I’ve seen it done. At my previous university we had a student newspaper article many leagues more sexist than this snuck in by a couple student union members with editorial priveledge in this way. There was rightfully hell to pay.

    TT

    I think the punishment fit the crime but that someone should have shielded him from all this, I mean, doesn’t anyone copyedit or approve this stuff?

    It would have been prudent of him to run the article past a few female colleagues for responses before submitting it. Which is to say, y’know what, maybe as President he should’ve been responsible enough to take steps to shield himself from sticking his foot in his mouth.

  29. #29 M.
    April 19, 2011

    Um…I’m a bit confused.

    Whatever we say about appropriateness of Greenfield’s editorial, those things about mood of women who have protected vs. unprotected sex? and the composition of semen?

    It’s all true. Not a joke at all. There is a large if obscure set of literature that strongly supports the conclusion.

    It is also very much rooted in evolutionary biology, as similar effects are seen in many species (making sex more pleasurable for the female increases the mating chance; unfortunately, strategy less commonly taken than force).

    A long and detailed summary can be found here:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=an-ode-to-the-many-evolved-virtues-2010-09-22

    So…is it now sexist to mention this research? These are biological facts, not some sort of judgement on the worthiness of one gender or another.

    Again: it may be inappropriate to mention this in context of “For Valentine’s day, try semen,” (although I would put it more in “poor taste” than in “raging misogynism” category) but the facts are as stated.

  30. #30 Composer99
    April 19, 2011

    The claims of ‘political correctness’ stifling ‘honest’ opinion have often struck me as something of a bogeyman intended not just to enable trafficking of offensive views (which is, I grant, protected in the US by the First Amendment) but to disable criticism of offensive views (even though such criticism is also, obviously, protected speech).

    Being President of the ACS, I would suggest, entails being not merely a superlative surgeon, but also sensitivity to the realities of the profession (including past and present issues with sexism, male privilege, and the like) and dedication to fairly representing and advocating for the interests of all the members of the College.

    If in publishing this editorial, Greenfield displayed that he did not possess such sensitivity and dedication, then it is well within the ACS’ purview to request that he step down, and in my opinion in no way is the result of political correctness making the world a worse place by stifling a joke.

  31. #31 dt
    April 19, 2011

    If Greenfield posted his editorial on Scienceblogs as a bit of “not so respectful insolence”, how would we have reacted?

    Would we have called for him to lose his job/forfeit his professional status because of it?

  32. #32 Composer99
    April 19, 2011

    dt, I think that Greenfield is free to have, and indeed, to express, any opinion he wishes on any topic (although I certainly expect he will form his opinions based on empirical evidence where available).

    However I do not think he is free to express any opinion he has when he is expressing it in his former official capacity of President of the ACS, which is, I dare say, implied when creating editorial content for Surgery News.

    On a pseudonymous blog à la Respectful Insolence or even using his real name? IMO, he can go nuts if he wants, as long as he is not acting within the purview of his (erstwhile) executive position.

  33. #33 The Panic Man
    April 19, 2011

    The claims of ‘political correctness’ stifling ‘honest’ opinion have often struck me as something of a bogeyman intended not just to enable trafficking of offensive views (which is, I grant, protected in the US by the First Amendment) but to disable criticism of offensive views (even though such criticism is also, obviously, protected speech).

    This. This. A thousand times this.

  34. #34 Sarah
    April 19, 2011

    What a lot of people seem to be forgetting is that, when a person holds a position of power (a presidency of an organization, for example), actions they perform are seen as being from that position, regardless of whether the person intends it as such.

    By writing this article and making these jokes in a public forum, this surgeon has sent the message that his organization views these jokes as perfectly acceptable and not off-color. The organization is probably left with no choice but to remove him in order to save face. I bet you, if it had been some lower-ranking person who wrote something similar, at worst the offending person would have recieved a reprimand. It’s politics.

    On a personal note: I didn’t find it funny, and I agree that some of the jokes (“You can draw your own inference about males not being needed until there’s trouble in the environment.” for example) are definitely offensive. I don’t find it a dire insult in comparison to some stuff I’ve experienced first-hand, but that said, I think the response is on the harsher end of the “appropriate reaction” window. I’d be satisfied with a reprimand and sanctions, but I won’t jump to his defense and claim they over-reacted, either.

    For the record since a lot of people at Retraction Watch seem to assume it’s the sex everyone finds offensive: It’s not the discussion of omgsex that irritated me, it was the sexist jokes. Sex is fine. Heck, even sex jokes (assuming they aren’t made at the expense of one gender or another) would have been fine, too, as far as I’m concerned. Sexism out of the mouth (or keyboard, as the case may be) of an organization’s president, even in jest, is not be fine. And if the genders had been reversed, I would have been every bit as irritated.

  35. #35 Renee
    April 19, 2011

    Oh whatever. It’s a common joke. So what?

  36. #36 Calli Arcale
    April 19, 2011

    Since in his (former) position he represents a prestigious organization, it was appropriate (IMHO) for them to strip him of that position after this fiasco. I’m not massively offended by the “joke” (well, humorous opinion piece — I’m not sure it quite meets the definition of a joke), but it *is* inappropriate, and when you are in a leadership position, you do have to be more careful about what you say because your words will be taken as representing your employer.

    CD — would this be inappropriate if the roles were reversed, if it were a woman in the same leadership role claiming that men need unprotected sex with females to be happy? Absolutely. Especially since the science that he’s based the claim on is so poor. Truthfully, I’m actually more offended at the “ladies who live together will synchronize (unless they’re lesbian)” claim because it’s an old wives tale that somebody managed to make look slightly plausible in a study. It’s never been proven, and the “unless they’re lesbian” thing gives it a nasty anti-homosexual undertone. He’s giving unwarranted validation to a bad study, and linking it to another bad study that his little “joke” leads into very dangerous ground.

    sharon:

    Ha ha, putting aside all the risks of unprotected sex. This story reminds me of a book I read many moons ago. The Women’s History Of The World by Rosalind Miles. In which she describes how ancient cultures revered women as they were the clear bearers of the species. Then eventually men worked out they played a fundamental role in the reproductive process, thereby redefining the whole idea of procreation to the point where sperm was the baby implanted into the woman.

    Be wary of monolithic views of human civilization; this was the path taken by our culture (going back to the Mideast; it wiped out a number of other beliefs in Europe that had different views), but not all cultures followed it. In general, this is the belief of male-dominated cultures, and it is tied for fairly obvious reasons with restrictions on women’s dress or movements, all centered around the need to know who the father was.

    Though comparatively rare, there are some female-dominated societies today. There’s one in the Amazon that believes that although men are required to produce life, their contribution is much smaller than the woman’s — so much smaller that it takes several of them to make a baby. They aren’t actually polyandrous — they’re just not sexually exclusive (though they do form pairbonds). The resulting children are regarded as belonging to the entire community.

  37. #37 Blasphemous_Kansan
    April 19, 2011

    CD said: “If the guy said something inappropriate, call him out.”

    Dr. Greenfield said: “Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms ”

    Calling him out. Or is the implicit statement that having lots of unprotected college-sex will make you a happier person just part of the joke?

  38. #38 chgo_liz
    April 19, 2011

    CD wrote: “And I thought of something dirtier than simple intercourse.”

    Are you talking about oral sex? If so, exactly what is “dirtier” about oral sex?

    You’ve said more than you realize with that comment. Kind of like how the good doctor did with his editorial. After all, he’s a surgeon who represents surgeons at the national level writing in a surgery magazine about…evolutionary biology. Why even bring it up? It tells us something about his prejudices on the subject.

  39. #39 Hercules Grytpype-Thynne
    April 19, 2011

    Basically, it’s a story of a surgeon making a fool of himself. I know, I know, that’s such an impossibility that it’s well nigh inconceivable, but it actually did happen.

    Michael Egnor? On a daily basis?

  40. #40 Matt G
    April 19, 2011

    Also implicit in Greenfield’s article (specifically the final sentence) is the assumption that the person reading the article is a man.

  41. #41 Beamup
    April 19, 2011

    @ chgo_liz:

    There are other interpretations. And if you think about third alternatives that are particularly rich in blood vessels, AND “dirtier” in some very objective senses, well…

    I think I’ll stop there.

  42. #42 Pablo
    April 19, 2011

    Also implicit in Greenfield’s article (specifically the final sentence) is the assumption that the person reading the article is a man.

    Indeed, Matt, I think the last sentence most clearly highlights the sexist attitude that is implicit in the rest of the article.

    He’s writing to the old boys club of surgeons. No, nothing sexist about that…

  43. #43 James
    April 19, 2011

    The fact that sperm contains oxytocin which alleviates feelings of depression and suicide in women is not something this surgeon made up. It’s how the human body reacts to the hormone.

    This blog post is an exercise in ignorant, intolerant arrogance.

    Is it blatant sexism that women react well to the hormones that semen contains? No. It’s biology. Is it blatant sexism that women and men have sex with eachother on Valentine’s Day? Obviously not, because men have sex with the women as much as they have sex with the men. Isn’t it supposed to be misogynistic to say women CAN’T enjoy sex?

    In any case, I found your blog post grossly offensive to any woman who had unprotected sex with her spouse on Valentine’s Day. You seem to claim that she is a cheap, mindless whore — controlled by a patriarchal society. I suspect my offense should be enough to see you never blog again — because a random person taking offense to something should provoke resignations all around!

  44. #44 Scott Cunningham
    April 19, 2011

    I find you can usually judge whether something is sexist by the kind of rationalization that follows. If a horde of smug men wade in to tell women not to worry their little heads about it, the grown-ups are talking, and nothing they could possibly have to say matters or is anything but over-emotional hysterics, there’s a pretty good statistical chance what they’re defending was sexist.

  45. #45 Orac
    April 19, 2011

    In any case, I found your blog post grossly offensive to any woman who had unprotected sex with her spouse on Valentine’s Day. You seem to claim that she is a cheap, mindless whore — controlled by a patriarchal society.

    Apparently James can’t read too well. Straw men that massive are usually only seen in movies like The Wicker Man.

  46. #46 James
    April 19, 2011

    Pablo, when his readership is known to be more 90% male, it’s not. Inconsiderate, perhaps, but not sexist.

  47. #47 Composer99
    April 19, 2011

    I detect a reading comprehension fail.

    Dr Greenfield refers to a study in fruit flies, a study in bacterial flora found on fruit flies, and, as Orac notes, a sketchy study on semen. I quote from the OP:

    Worse, the “semen” study is about as lame a study as can be imagined. Not only is it a study in which causation is implied by correlation, but to me the evidence of correlation is not even that compelling. The scatter in the data is simply enormous, with most of the standard deviations in Beck Depression Inventory scores being on the order of 75% of the actual score itself. Indeed, this is the sort of study where the scatter is so huge that, even if statistically significance is found it’s hard to know what the significance is. In fact, given that there were four groups based on frequency of condom use plus the no intercourse group, I strongly suspect that the investigators neglected to control for multiple comparisons.

    Do you have a better cite than the one offered by Dr Greenfield, James?

    Do you think there is a difference between saying something that is both weakly-supported and potentially (or definitively) offensive on your own time/dime and saying the same thing in a more-or-less official capacity as President of a major medical college?

  48. #48 Gray Flaonc
    April 19, 2011

    @Scott Cunningham: I’ve seen that before. It’s called “mansplaining”. Further details at http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2010/01/you_may_be_a_mansplainer_if.php

  49. #49 Composer99
    April 19, 2011

    A comment I had posted in response to James appears not to have appeared (I didn’t even get the moderated notice), so I’ll paraphrase it (don’t want to double post).

    James, the original post linked to the specific human study cited by Dr Greenfield, and suggested it had a number of large flaws.

    Dr Greenfield also supported his joke/editorial with studies on fruit flies and their assorted microbiota.

    So, my questions to you are:

    (1) Do you have a better cite than Greenfield’s?

    (2) Do you really think there is no difference between someone writing/saying something that is both weakly-supported and potentially/definitively offensive to historically-debased demographics on their own time & dime, and writing/saying the same thing within an official/leadership capacity of a major medical college?

    (3) Do you actually presume to speak for women who have unprotected sex with spouses (why limit it to just spouses, anyway?) on one day of the year?

    (4) If I were to call President Obama an uppity Negro* among a collection of Tea Partiers, am I just being inconsiderate since my audience is almost certainly a bunch of old white people, or am I being racist? That would seem to be a logical extension of your reply to Pablo.

    —–
    * Substitute another word, starting with ‘n’, commonly used in reference to people with recent African ancestry (recent in ethnographical terms) as you wish.

  50. #50 Composer99
    April 19, 2011

    Apologies for double post (at least I added content in the second try so it’s not a complete duplicate).

  51. #51 Art
    April 19, 2011

    Comedy is hard.

    The sexism implicit in such a ‘joke’ is pretty common for men his age even as most have adjusted to modern times by curbing the expression of this bias.

    There is welder’s joke about being so good you can weld anything to anything. Even having a stick (welding rod) that will mend a broken heart. The punch line is often accompanied with a grab of the crotch.

    It is a far less sophisticated joke and it is crude in that it involves the joke teller but it comes from the same time period and it expresses the same basic idea that women can be cheered up with the use of a penis. Both jokes would have gotten big laughs with the guys in 1959.

    It seems part of the human condition that people, particularly men, tend to retain something of the atmosphere and attitudes common in their early adulthood. It usually gets smoothed over and mellowed in its expression but you never know when in some unguarded moment it will pop out in its unvarnished form. This is where having a wife or trusted secretary or editor helps. They can give you a swift kick in the shin in mid-joke, a dope slap, or whatever else it takes to remind the man it is 2011 and not 1959.

    My question is where where the proofreaders and editors? This sort of return to earlier attitudes isn’t even on the same scale as this man’s accomplishments and work. As long as this is not a pattern of behavior, that he is not pushing this sort of attitude on fellow surgeons, and it is more or less a singular error I thing there should be no penalty. At most he should be required to have an editor read the submissions so they don’t read like an episode of Mad Men.

    Other than that you just admit that people get a little eccentric and odd when they age. Happens a lot. If it was someone less famous it would just be a rude joke that was soon forgotten. Get his a secretary/editor and call it even.

  52. #52 James
    April 19, 2011

    Composer99

    1. Google “Oxytocin study” and help yourself to the plethora of evidence available that explain my earlier point. You may as well ask me what study I can cite that will show you what adrenaline does.

    2. Are you familiar with editorials? He’s allowed to make a joke. If you think it was a bad joke, it was a bad joke. The person who turns it into a sexist issue is either a sexist person or simply a victim of misunderstanding.

    3. Did Dr. Pauline Chen presume to speak for the 3.6 billion women in the world when she said it’s unfair/offensive to women that ACS is made up of 10% women, women hold over 20% of the governing board’s chairs? Does the blog author assume to speak for all women when she says that women don’t want sex on Valentine’s Day, they want chocolate? Of course not. Offense is a personal choice.

    4. In practice, yes, it would be racist, but only due to the slur. It wouldn’t be racist if you were just telling the Tea Party that Obama is an uppity president. It’s a false analogy, I’m afraid.

  53. #53 James
    April 19, 2011

    Orac, isn’t the reaction to Dr.Greenfield’s editorial based on such a strawman?

    When you break it down, the man posted an editorial saying “have fun on Valentine’s Day” with a little bit of [pseudo]scientific data telling them it’d be good for em.

  54. #54 JayK
    April 19, 2011

    Wow, James, you could have just said “I don’t get your point” and then gone away instead of wasting everyone’s time. You don’t believe that using the word “uppity” in regards to a black man is racist, you don’t believe that using a poor study to justify misogynistic comments is in bad taste and you clearly don’t have a clue about the mean of “strawman”.

  55. #55 Scott Cunningham
    April 19, 2011

    Gray Flaonc,
    Oh my goodness, the irony. Your link links to men trying to mansplain away the existence of mansplaining!

  56. #56 Gray Falcon
    April 19, 2011

    It’s a rather bizarre comment thread. And I’m not sure how I misspelled my own handle.

  57. #57 JayK
    April 19, 2011

    1) Oxycontin isn’t semen. Dosages might vary slightly, duh.
    2) Misogyny isn’t best detected by misogynists.
    3) Trying to claim some sort of reverse-misogyny isn’t going to work, at least I think that’s what James was trying to do, it was such a blathering of ignorance it was a bit difficult to determine what this section was really trying to get at.
    4) The majority is not in the best position to detect its own racism. How many psych studies would you like me to cite to prove this point?

  58. #58 RMD
    April 19, 2011

    Agent Smith says her grandfather is Greenfield’s age (78). If her grandIIfather was in WWII he would have been 15 when the war ended.

  59. #59 Calli Arcale
    April 19, 2011

    James:

    1. Google “Oxytocin study” and help yourself to the plethora of evidence available that explain my earlier point. You may as well ask me what study I can cite that will show you what adrenaline does.

    Oxytocin does a *lot* of things, not all of them mood related, and finding it in semen is quite different from saying that vaginal administration of it (at the levels found in semen) will treat depression in women or even improve their mood. (Remember, he didn’t just say it’ll make them happy. He actually used the word “depressed”, which has a real clinical meaning which you’d expect a doctor to know about.) And even that is a very long ways from suggesting that women who don’t have frequent unprotected sex with men are chronically depressed, which is kind of the implication he’s getting at here.

    Incidentally, if oxytocin always improves mood, why is that women in labor or breastfeeding after birth aren’t always in great moods, and in fact in some rather well-publicized cases may be downright homicidal? Clearly the connection is not as simple as that. What’s more, we know oxytocin is released by the body during orgasm in both sexes. Could that be the whole reason there’s oxytocin in semen — the same reason it’s in other body fluids, along with other stuff the body’s ready to toss overboard? And does its presence even matter to the woman’s body, given she’s already making her own? As far as I know, this hasn’t even been explored. All we’ve got is a poorly controlled survey of college females that didn’t even look to see if there was a correlation with the nature of their relationships. (Maybe the ones having unprotected sex tended to be in more stable, supportive relationships.)

  60. #60 JayK
    April 19, 2011

    Hmm, duh at myself, it wasn’t Oxycontin, I misread and extended too far. I may have pulled something.

  61. #61 RMD
    April 19, 2011

    Agent Smith says her grandfather is Greenfield’s age. If her grandfather was in WWII (she talks about his WWII enemies) he would have been 15 in 1945.

  62. #62 Scott Cunningham
    April 19, 2011

    Gray Falcon
    Yes, it did seem a strangely familiar but odd handle. The comments on Zuska’s mansplain post are so incredibly ironic, it’s simultaneously cringeworthy and a comedy gold mine. Thanks!

    James demonstrates many of the mansplaining strategies described and practiced there.

  63. #63 Narad
    April 19, 2011

    I don’t get how everyone on staff at General Surgery News let this happen. Either they’re all sycophants who are too afraid to say when their boss is about to make a huge mistake, or he’s an asshole who intimidates them into silence.

    Or McMahon is a tiny house that doesn’t really do that stuff.

  64. #64 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 19, 2011

    I grew up in a time when there was extremely blatant sexism all around me, and you girls and women have very little, in comparison, to whine about

    Yes, well, so did I. And a big part of the reason that the next generation has less to “whine about” is that we took a stand and “whined about” that blatant sexism. The next generation won’t see any further improvements if the current generation just sits down and shuts up.

    (Not that I actually see “whining” as a valid synonym for conscientious feminist protesting. And “comparatively little” is a very diminishing of putting it. Sure, younger women don’t have to deal with blatant, open discrimination as the social norm, but I still would not call it a little problem.)

  65. #65 Craig
    April 19, 2011

    There were two studies done which showed the same effects. The second controlled for the effects that this blog entry and many commenters said could cause the change.

    “He added that other factors such as how often the women had sex, the strength of their relationships, their personalities or the use of oral contraceptives did not affect the overall conclusions.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2067223.stm

    Maybe the studies are wrong.

    But then again, maybe they are right.

    Silly ad hominem attacks are as baseless as they allege the doctor’s article to be. Calling his supporters “sycophantic” was a classy touch, clearly using logic and reason to eviscerate your opponents.

    Oh wait, I meant a crass attempt to debase your opponents’ point of view without really addressing its validity. That’s the ticket.

    Odds are, men’s semen makes women happy. It would biologically make sense, and I and the various friends who I discussed it with today have seen its effects and generally agree. But of course, that’s just anecdotal evidence which must bow before the almighty God of science.
    Who you ignore when you don’t like it.

    It’s okay though, no one remembers Pope Urban VIII.

  66. #66 Composer99
    April 19, 2011

    James, now that I’m back from rehearsal, allow me to add my own answers (and thanks to JayK and Calli Arcade for pitching in, especially on item #1).

    1. Google “Oxytocin study” and help yourself to the plethora of evidence available that explain my earlier point. You may as well ask me what study I can cite that will show you what adrenaline does.

    Um, no. Which of the 1,060,000 results that came up with I entered those search terms matches the study or studies you had in mind?

    Dr Greenfield made specific claims and supported them with what appears to be rather weak evidence. You made the claim that he was right after all and there was loads of other evidence. You have the burden of proof to demonstrate it.

    2. Are you familiar with editorials? He’s allowed to make a joke. If you think it was a bad joke, it was a bad joke. The person who turns it into a sexist issue is either a sexist person or simply a victim of misunderstanding.

    You did not explicitly answer my question at all, although I will take your answer as an evasive ‘no’.

    Personally, I wouldn’t think the worse of Dr Greenfield, given his age, if he had wrote something like that on a personal blog, or as a guest blogger at some evo-bio blog. However, in this case he was writing an editorial letter in his capacity as President of the ACS.

    My understanding of an editorial, as compared to a mere opinion column/article, is that it is meant to reflect the opinion of the publication – in this case of Surgery News, and because the writer was President of the ACS, writing in the official ACS publication, it can be said to reflect upon the ACS.

    3. Did Dr. Pauline Chen presume to speak for the 3.6 billion women in the world when she said it’s unfair/offensive to women that ACS is made up of 10% women, women hold over 20% of the governing board’s chairs? Does the blog author assume to speak for all women when she says that women don’t want sex on Valentine’s Day, they want chocolate? Of course not. Offense is a personal choice.

    And again, you evade answering. And you introduce a falsehood. Dr Chen does not, in fact, claim that it is unfair or offensive that 10% of the ACS membership is women (she does not even use the word ‘only’, which I would expect to see if she thought it was a problem) or that 5 out of 22 of the board members are women. I quote:

    The organization has more than 75,000 members (I am one). Roughly 10 percent are women. There are five women on the organization’s 22-member governing board; this month, they issued a letter requesting that Dr. Greenfield step down as president-elect. The entire board is set to vote on the issue on Sunday.

    I perceive her as treating Dr Greenfield quite fairly (pointing out, for example, his longstanding support of women in the profession of surgeon). At any rate, she certainly does not seem to presume to speak for any women other than herself.

    As far as Orac goes (I assume that is who you mean by “the blog author”, I’m quite certain Orac does not presume to speak for any women whatsoever in their capacities as women.

    So the only person who appears to be presuming to speak for any women at all is you.

    4. In practice, yes, it would be racist, but only due to the slur. It wouldn’t be racist if you were just telling the Tea Party that Obama is an uppity president. It’s a false analogy, I’m afraid.

    My point was that it doesn’t matter if the 90% of the audience shares the crucial demographic factor with the speaker. The fact that 90% of ACS members are men does not make Dr Greenfield’s comments miraculously inert, nor would the fact that a large majority of Tea Partiers are of ‘white’ ethnicity make calling Obama ‘uppity’ anything other than racist. Greenfield’s editorial stands or falls as offensive on its content, not on its audience.

  67. #67 Composer99
    April 19, 2011

    Craig:

    Got a PMID for the study? BBC News is all well and good, but it’s just not the same as a Pubmed reference – or a link to the abstract.

    Besides, it seems to me that the article discussed in the BBC and the article cited by Dr Greenfield are the same.

    Greenfield cites his source as being:

    Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms (Arch. Sex. Behav. 2002;31:289-93)

    And the BBC article you cite (dated June 26, 2002, how about that?) mentions that the Gallup article would be published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour.

    Having thought of this, I checked the PubMed link provided by Orac as the link to Greenfield’s source and looked up articles by Gallup in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour (as indicated by the BBC), and lo and behold, what do I find?

    They are the same study.

  68. #68 Bruce Pevens
    April 19, 2011

    Interesting. A chap who presumably is partially responsible for the fact that the ACS governing board contains more than twice the proportion of women that might be expected by looking at the membership, is criticized for sexism. Too bad.

  69. #69 Calli Arcale
    April 19, 2011

    Craig, as noted, a BBC article discussing the same study does not count as a different study. It also does not address the statistical problem that Orac pointed out.

    And then there’s this:

    Odds are, men’s semen makes women happy. It would biologically make sense, and I and the various friends who I discussed it with today have seen its effects and generally agree. But of course, that’s just anecdotal evidence which must bow before the almighty God of science.
    Who you ignore when you don’t like it.

    You criticize us for ignoring science in the very same paragraph where you make an unsupported statement that “odds are, men’s semen makes women happy”, assert without support or even explanation that this makes biological sense, and that you and various friends believe you have seen its effects. (You must have a very low opinion of your own sexual prowess if you think it is only your semen making your partners happy.)

    Well, if you feel anecdotal evidence is better than actually discussing the study, I’ll give you my own anecdotal evidence. Good sex is better than bad sex, right? That seems self-evident. And painful sex is unlikely to make ladies very happy, right, with the possible exception of masochists? While good condoms used properly can result in a very enjoyable lovemaking experience, cheaper condoms can delay the man’s orgasm (which yes, can actually be a problem if he’s still trying to reach orgasm while the woman tires and goes dry), novelty condoms can be downright uncomfortable, the lubricants are often smelly, you have to pause to put the thing on (which can interrupt the mood), insufficient lubrication hurts, and some women are allergic to latex. Although it is quite possible to have good sex with a condom, maybe it’s just a little easier to have good sex without one.

    And by the way, this is not an ad hominem. I and others are attacking the man’s *argument*. Yes, Orac used some less than gentle words to describe the situation, but overall, he is attacking the argument, it’s content, it’s presentation, and how it reflects upon the character of the man who delivered it. This is all fair game. An argument is not ad hominem merely because it uses unkind words or concludes that a person is not behaving himself in the best of manners.

  70. #70 herr doktor bimler
    April 19, 2011

    articles by Gallup in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour

    Ah, so it’s that Gallup.
    PZ Myers has not been kind to his particularly content-free form of junk science.

  71. #71 chgo_liz
    April 19, 2011

    @ Beamup #41:

    Considering the editorial was claiming that unprotected heterosexual sex makes women happy – I mean, semen is beneficial for women to receive directly into their bodies – I think oral rather than anal sex was implied.

  72. #72 Elaine Schattner, MD
    April 20, 2011

    Orac, You taught me something, I didn’t realize it was that Greenfield. Wow.

  73. #73 daedalus2u
    April 20, 2011

    In reading the study, I was struck by how shallow it was.

    One of the major factors in depression and suicidality in women is a history of sexual trauma. But there were no questions about this.

    The question about suicide attempts was about suicide attempts ever, not suicide attempts in the time frame engaging in sex with or without condoms.

    Sexual trauma could explain both the sexual practices and the suicidality. Without data on sexual trauma, this study is not compelling.

  74. #74 Rory
    April 20, 2011

    Bruce, perhaps you want to try reading for comprehension next time, as Orac’s post states that it was only this year that Dr. Greenfield took leadership of the ACS. So unless he made some major hiring changes immediately upon taking office (feel free to present evidence if this is the case) then it is unlikely that he has anything to do with the number of women on the governing board.

    Furthermore, it has been fairly well established that in most respects Greenfield has dealt quite fairly with women in his professional capacity. However, clearly a lot of women were offended by what he wrote, and if they no longer respect him as a leader because of that, then it seems wholly appropriate that he be asked to step down. A woman president who similarly alienated a significant portion of the male members would be equally deserving of dismissal.

    Is it REASONABLE for some women to be offended by what Greenfield wrote? I’m not a woman, so I don’t presume to have any insight. As a male, however, and knowing how hostile the field has traditionally been to women, I feel it’s reasonable to allow the benefit of the doubt.

  75. #75 Orac
    April 20, 2011

    Actually, Dr. Greenfield was the President-Elect. That means he wasn’t President yet. He was scheduled to take over the organization at the annual ACS Clinical Congress in October, to be held in San Francisco this year.

  76. #76 herr doktor bimler
    April 20, 2011

    Odds are, men’s semen makes women happy. It would biologically make sense, and I and the various friends who I discussed it with today have seen its effects and generally agree.

    You know what contains a lot more oxytocin than semen? Brainzzz.
    It is tempting to construct an equally plausible Just-So story to explain the behaviour of zombies.

  77. #77 herr doktor bimler
    April 20, 2011

    Looking it up, I see that oxytocin does not cross the blood-brain barrier (and has a half-life of only 3 minutes in the bloodstream), and for behavioural effects it must be taken intra-nasally or injected into the brain.
    SO the entire just-so story about “ladies have evolved a need for oxytocin in semen to keep them happy” is unmitigated shite.

  78. #78 Militant Agnostic
    April 20, 2011

    @77 – So this oxytocin in semen is jike like the typical herbal med BS science.

    Substance A causes effect B in Organ/System C

    Therefore Substance D containing a bit of A will cause effect B in Organ/System C regardless of the amount of A and how it is administered. There is no attempt to find out if taking D will actually get a significant substance A within hailing distance of the target.

    Finally – Profit!

  79. #79 Ken
    April 20, 2011

    For me the aftermath will be more interesting. In that regard I find his statement in the letter of resignation, “Therefore, rather than have this remain a disruptive issue, I resigned as president-elect.” encouraging. After all, he could have parleyed this into a regular slot on Fox News, or used it to solicit donations, or built a TRUTH!! website, or any of a number of other lucrative gigs.

  80. #80 Jack of All Tirades
    April 20, 2011

    Sorry, but the verbiage ‘man sauce’ really goes beyond the pale. ‘Baby batter’ is the correct medical term.

  81. #81 Jack
    April 21, 2011

    “the implication of Dr. Greenfield’s wildly inappropriate little joke, published in the official news magazine of the ACS, is that a woman needs a man to inject his seed into her in order to be truly happy.”

    He did nothing of the sort! You people depress me. In fact, I’m going to write a letter to Dr. Greenfield right this moment. I suppose that will be me “sticking my nose up his posterior” I’m aware of 3 other feminist controversies in skepticism/science and all of them contain a hysterical element. I’m happy to see that in those cases, where the accused isn’t the head of an institution, they are holding their ground and the hysterical people are drowning from the froth from their mouths. This world is full of people who objectively mistreat women and you are accusing him of this! The nerve. You made me sick to my stomach, my sandwich isn’t digesting properly. The nerve.

  82. #82 Luna_the_cat
    April 21, 2011

    Oh, dear, Jack. Sit down, you poor little thing, before you are positively overcome by your fit of the vapours.

    …More seriously, yes, we are all very well aware that women in many places are “objectively mistreated.” But this is a classic act “Why are you concentrating on X when Y is so much more important?”

    From the link, just in case you cannot be bothered clicking:

    1. It assumes that X and Y are mutually exclusive
    2. It assumes that there is an objective determinant for what is “important” and what is not
    3. It creates a hierarchy of issues, which in turn creates a supposed “correct” order/path that must be followed

    Just because a person decides that they want to address one specific topic does not mean that they don’t care about, or address, other topics. Most people have more than one area of interest, and therefore will have more than one topic that they discuss.

    Furthermore, just because someone decides to spend an article, or a series of posts, or even an entire blog entry to one specific topic does not mean that they think that said topic is the only important — or even the most important — issue to discuss. Nor can we assume that the discussion of Special Interest X is the only thing that the person is doing; for all we know they could have a gaggle of other posts devoted to Important Issue™ Y, or be involved with activism related to Y, or even be active in discussing not only Y by Important Issue™ Z and W as well. What their discussion of X does mean is that they have something to say on that topic and that they think it’s worth spending the time and the effort on talking about it.

    Subtle sexism is pervasive. Subtle, institutionalised sexism makes life unpleasant for a large number of women in a multitude of little ways, like being pecked to death by ducks. Calling it out when it is seen, and sending the message that it is not apppropriate for the prestigious head of a large organisation to be perpetuating it himself, however unknowingly or sans malice it was done, is a perfectly appropriate action.

  83. #83 Luna_the_cat
    April 21, 2011

    There was a blockquote fail, above. The two paragraphs under the numbered list were also from the link.

    But, seriously, Jack. Accusing women (and men) who found the “women need semen to be happy” editorial to be offensive, of hysteria? Dude. Way to be part of the problem.

  84. #84 Orac
    April 21, 2011

    I’m aware of 3 other feminist controversies in skepticism/science and all of them contain a hysterical element.

    Really? Do tell. What are they? (I think I know what one of them is, but whatever Jack comes up with it ought to be good for some laughs.)

  85. #85 LW
    April 21, 2011

    Completely putting aside the offensive “humor”, I don’t see how this supposed study could possibly make sense.

    They supposedly controlled for oral contraceptive use, but …  Doesn’t it seem like a woman who isn’t on the Pill but has unprotected sex anyway is a bit different from one who isn’t on the Pill and insists on condom use? Or that a woman who is on the Pill and has sex without a barrier is different in some sense from a woman who is on the Pill and relies on a condom anyway?  It seems to me that if you’re considering a psychological difference between different groups, the fact that their personalities are probably somewhat different to start with makes a difference.  

    And indeed, who is deciding on condom use in these cases anyway? Doesn’t it make a difference whether the man or the woman, or both, decides whether a condom should be used?  It seems to me that, especially in the case where the Pill and condoms are both used, the man might be more in favor of the condom than in some of the other cases, and that difference too might affect the results.

  86. #86 Calli Arcale
    April 21, 2011

    Well said, LW. The “study” is badly designed it cannot achieve any goal other than possible fodder for titillating fluff pieces.

    Am I alone in being more offended by the fact that this is a fluff piece containing science as bad as what you see in the “lifestyle” section of the newspaper than by the sexist implications of the humor? Truly. I detest bad science reporting in the news, and to see the incoming president of the American College of Surgeons stooping to it is very frustrating. I mean, he should be better than Dr Oz. Really.

    Yeah, the humor falls flat on me. But the bad science is what really bothers me. Science should not be reduced to misunderstood sound bites for vapid fluff pieces — and prestigious medical and science professionals should be above writing vapid fluff pieces anyway. However, unless the fluff happens to be a bit misogynistic or racist or otherwise undiplomatic, writers won’t get called on it, and that’s unfortunate.

  87. #87 herr doktor bimler
    April 21, 2011

    Completely putting aside the offensive “humor”, I don’t see how this supposed study could possibly make sense.

    It was real fractal wrongness. The closer you look at it, the weirder it gets. Here’s Greenfield:

    It’s been known since the 1990s that heterosexual women living together synchronize their menstrual cycles because of pheromones, but when a study of lesbians showed that they do not synchronize, the researchers suspected that semen played a role.

    The McClintock Effect of menstrual synchrony (reported in 1971, and if anything disproved in “the 1990s”) had nothing about heterosexuality — most of the subject groups were purportedly celibate (nuns, prisoners and college girls). One study of lesbian couples found synchrony but another didn’t. So for Gallup and co. to leap to the conclusion that semen is a crucial variable… well, it says more about them than anything.

    In passing, I note that this supposed womanly need for regular doses of semen to maintain proper cognitive function was a feature of fin-de-siecle reasoning about female inferiority. It’s strange to see it popping up a century later.

    Anyway, if Greenfield wants to write that lesbians and single women are cognitively different from heterosexual women, he really shouldn’t be surprised by a hostile response.

  88. #88 Dana Thomas
    April 21, 2011

    So, when I google: “Does semen make women happy” I see tons of scientific studies that have been actually conducted to prove this. One major stuy shows why lesbians are so grumpy… I’m just saying.. try it.. google that phrase.. there is tons of evidential material referenced.

  89. #89 JayK
    April 21, 2011

    Dana, you couldn’t be bothered to link to any of it? Perhaps some of those stories you found discussed how female hysteria can be cured?

  90. #90 herr doktor bimler
    April 21, 2011

    The less I know about Dana Thomas’ choices of google search terms, the happier I am.

  91. #91 elburto
    April 21, 2011

    Thank you herr doktor. This weird underlying implication that women who sleep with women are somehow fundamentally different from straight women is creepy enough, but then there’s the further implication that if gay women are depressed (cos misogyny isn’t bad enough, homophobia has to be heaped on too) that all they need to fix that is a bit of cock. I thought that particular nasty trope had finally died out. I guess not.

    Jack – “hysteria” Wow. So it’s just our wandering wombs making us angry?

    James – mansplaining, whitesplaining and misogyny? Well done, you’ve got the trifecta of fail there sunshine.

  92. #92 Jacke
    April 21, 2011

    I talked to Lazar today, dude is pretty sad. Sure appreciated my support. He deserved better than this guys, that’s all I’m saying.

    Orac I was talking about my personal circle in the last 5 years, problems that are ongong. I realize that came out wrong. If you want a public example, the recent Dunnings nude fake album cover thing is patently ridiculous. I mean seriously, voice your displeasure, I can see why some people would take it the wrong way, but to the level where people are freaking out… that’s sad and a lot of people feel the same.

    Luna, I was anticipating a post like yours awaiting me when I arrived home. Seriously, the weight of your activism doesn’t have the right to come down on a guy like this. You’re just twisting it into your own meaning. You have no respect. You didn’t try and look at it from his perspective at all! Sure he might be an old man, and he might be out of his element, but he meant no harm. A lot of personal harm and bad feeling has come to him now, plus, people think it’s ok to gang up on someone just because of mass injustice! That’s crazy talk. That’s not fair. Moral outrage increases when we have no chance of feeling any threat from speaking out. People have it too good, they think they have a right to ruin anyone who so much as offends them or has a bad day.

    I love you Orac and I can learn from this too and I’m trying. But this just smacks of hysterical moral outrage. Have fun with that.

  93. #93 Jack
    April 21, 2011

    Sorry I don’t mean to take up your time and your mind. I probably agree with you all on most things. I just find it ridiculous that there are all of these landmines laid out for people, and somehow because certain people can manage to never be offensive, these people are held to an unjust standard, especially when a case can be made that they expected no harm, and it’s barely even a free will issue. So I don’t argue with none’s of your ideals, I just don’t think that this kind of reaction can be sustained as a society and I don’t think compliance will improve because of moral outrage, I just don’t think it’s going to happen that way. Granted, I don’t seem to be contributing to the process very well either, so I suppose I should say carry on my friends, let the will of the people be done.

  94. #94 herr doktor bimler
    April 21, 2011

    I’m also sad for Gallup (author of the semen-as-antidepressant paper). He did some interesting work in the 1970s, before evo-psych led him from the path of righteousness and he started publishing these “titillating fluff pieces”… seduced by the knowledge that their lack of content was no barrier to Sci.Am. and New Scientist promoting them.

  95. #95 Another Halocene Human
    April 22, 2011

    Oxytocin does a *lot* of things, not all of them mood related, and finding it in semen is quite different from saying that vaginal administration of it (at the levels found in semen) will treat depression in women or even improve their mood.

    Honestly, I thought it was a setup for extolling the virtues of oral sex–! Which just shows the generation gap there. As for somehow absorbing these hormones, I’ll grant that the vagina has mucous membranes but–show me the beef. Er, no pun intended.

    The little quoted by Orac above was sickening sexist (and heterosexist), and I have a hard time finding anything so enmeshed in inaccurate assertions to be funny. Too much cognitive dissonance.

    I’m also disgusted at the implicit endorsement of unprotected sex between non-committed partners from an MD. WTFBBQ.

    (Remember, he didn’t just say it’ll make them happy. He actually used the word “depressed”, which has a real clinical meaning which you’d expect a doctor to know about.) And even that is a very long ways from suggesting that women who don’t have frequent unprotected sex with men are chronically depressed, which is kind of the implication he’s getting at here.

    There are plenty of women who have unprotected sex with men because they don’t have enough power in the relationship to demand a condom. How happy are they? Especially when they have another unwanted pregnancy they can’t afford?

    Now, mind you, I would have laughed if he had argued that teh gheys are happy because they get their RDA of manjuice. :D

    (**tis a joke, not 4 srs, kthx**)

  96. #96 Luna_the_cat
    April 22, 2011

    Jack, if you can’t be bothered reading the actual things that people have written here, as opposed to listening only to your own perceptions of what you think is happening echoing in your head…well, I just wonder why you bother coming back and telling us about it.

    Seriously: what part of saying “this is unacceptable” to a person in an administrative position of great power who puts out something (a) essentially insulting to women on a number of levels, and (b) based on very poor “science”, do you think is absolutely the wrong thing to do, and why?

    Do you understand that a person who is in a position of power over others also has more responsibility than the average Joe Bloggs when he (or she) expresses his opinions?

    Why do you think that calling the people who were insulted by this “hysterical” is acceptable, given the historical use of this insult to reinforce the assumption that women’s opinions are based on emotion rather than reason, and not worth valuing in a greater debate? Do you understand what a “silencing tactic” is, in this context?

    Do you have any clue as to how “hysterical” and vapour-ish “This world is full of people who objectively mistreat women and you are accusing him of this! The nerve. You made me sick to my stomach, my sandwich isn’t digesting properly. The nerve.” comes across, and the utter irony of this?

    Are you able to acknowledge the fallacy of “why are you paying attention to X when Y is so much more important”?

    Are you able to engage in any good-faith consideration of these points, or any of the points about why someone in a prominent scientific position shouldn’t be playing around with junk science like this anyway?

    Are you capable of understanding how tragic several people (me included, if you have any ability or inclination at all to read) consider this whole episode, in light of the fact that Greenfiled has a history of helping women in the field, but that doesn’t mean that the rest is invalid or worth ignoring?

    Are you able to overcome your fondness for the individual to evaluate logic at any level? Or would you rather just stick with insulting the people who you disagree with?

  97. #97 typical commenter
    April 22, 2011

    ew, semen. pervert! slut!

  98. #98 Anne
    April 23, 2011

    @Dana Thomas, #88: I can’t tell if you’re serious. You really think googling search terms and getting lots of results means those results are “evidential” (is that a word?)? Really? Google? And “One major stuy shows why lesbians are so grumpy.” From what period of history did you unearth this meme of “lesbians are grumpy”? Uh, you’ll just have to show the study that “shows” this.

  99. #99 sharon
    April 24, 2011

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but someone explain to me why this is misogynist. Random, yes. Bad science, granted. Dumb and in poor taste, possibly. But I’m a woman, and I’m not ashamed to say that penis (when attached to a suitable member of the male sex) does make me happy. And I would have loved to get some on Valentine’s Day except I’d just delivered our second child and the logistics were torturous. Although I will still accept flowers, chocolate, and assorted pricey trinkets.

  100. #100 Jack
    April 24, 2011

    It’s only “insulting to women on a number of levels” because they have interpreted it in that way. If it wasn’t meant in that way, you should not treat the man as if he did mean it that way. Right? To do otherwise would be selfish, vindictive and ideological.

    Whether or not it is poor science is another issue. We attack each other for poor science all the time. Especially when it comes to evolution. The idea is not implausible, the research merely iffy.

    I understand that his position means that he should be aware of possible offenses, and I see no problem with protesting and asking for someone better suited to run it. But they used this to say “ACS is anti-woman” and attacked him as a person. Sorry, this does not show that.

    But to the point where you try and hurt him, where he is made out to be a bad person, someone who disrespects women, that is untrue, and beyond the pale.

    You’ve gone and done the same thing to me. Hysterical is just a word, I mean the dictionary definition, not your interpretation and personal context. The very accusion that I’m anti-woman for calling you hysterical illustrates my problems with this situation.

    My point was that no one can make a case that he objectively meant to hurt anyone. In fact, I know him and I know he didn’t dream of it. To put your anger and hatred onto him, to accuse him of all that, that hurt him! So all of the hurt was imagined in the offended, and then created in the person who said it! All pointless, all extremely unhelpful. I’m calling for a more rational, humanistic vision of dealing with these problems. Seems like women would rather spit in his face than have a dialouge with him about the issues.

    You have called it junk science, others have questioned it, but it was corroborated elsewhere, and it’s something that a lot of people are interested to know. If the science sucks, than it should be redone better! I really do want to know about this! No one is really going to say that this research should not be continued are they? Of course not, that would be hysterical. I cannot wait to see the results of the future studies that are done. And I cannot wait to discuss them openly, intelligently and forcefully with everyone.

    Not all of the comments on this article are nice. Right? Some of them are pretty bad. And I’d been reading a lot of stupid comments elsewhere before I came here. Accusing me of being in my own, ignorant little world won’t fly. I know that ya’ll feel a little bad for the situation, Orac too.

    Orac’s comment “the implication of Dr. Greenfield’s wildly inappropriate little joke, published in the official news magazine of the ACS, is that a woman needs a man to inject his seed into her in order to be truly happy”
    was not accurate. The implication was that evolution shaped our biology in a specific way. Orac took that offence all on his own. That’s putting landmines in the field of open dialogue. And my stomach is getting upset again just thinking about it. cheers.

  101. #101 Vicki
    April 24, 2011

    Jack: The point is that good intentions are not enough. If the results are harmful, at the least the person who causes harm should reconsider his actions.

    Recently, a friend of mine was shoved on a bus, lost his balance, and hit his head on a pole, painfully. It wasn’t an accident. The person who shoved him did so as part of telling him, loudly, that it wasn’t safe to stand without holding on. Arguably, her intentions were good (though if she’d been paying attention, she would have seen that he was trying to reach a handhold). Good intentions or no, she hurt someone. Do the good intentions mean that his head didn’t hurt?

    Would you argue that the well-intentioned stranger should keep shoving young men in order to lecture them that not holding on is dangerous?

  102. #102 daedalus2u
    April 24, 2011

    I posted this comment elsewhere, someone (yes a man) objected to the possibility that sexual abuse could have been a confounding factor that was not investigated. Prior sexual abuse explains all of it better than magical antidepressant properties of semen.

    If you look at this paper

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894717/?tool=pubmed

    There is a very clear association between sexual abuse and depression and suicide attempts with an odds ratio of 4.14.

    Abuse is also associated with female sexual dysfunction.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2583323/?tool=pubmed

    “Of the six FSD domains (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain), the pain and satisfaction domains were most closely associated with abuse histories.”

    If you look at this paper

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448448/

    Condom use among women with pelvic pain is associated with reduced pelvic pain.

    In this paper there is a very clear association of chronic pelvic pain with prior sexual abuse, odds ration ~3.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19654389

    Presumably women who have pelvic pain would tend to use condoms when condoms reduce that pain.

    So the idea that women who were sexually abused would have more suicide attempts and would have greater use of condoms during sex is pretty well supported in the literature. I think there is greater support for a sexual abuse explanation than there is for a magic antidepressant in semen explanation.

    If a random pseudonymous person on the internet can find this stuff in less than a day a medical professional writing about it should have had a few clues about it.

    Women who have been victims of sexual abuse and who are trying to mitigate those effects as best they can, don’t need someone to mansplain them about what they need is more sex without condoms.

  103. #103 Peapoh
    April 24, 2011

    Jack, you’re trying so hard and if anyone is hysterical here it’s you and your long walls of rationalizing text.

    I know it sucks that the rest of the world doesn’t process things just the way you’d like it, but uh…welcome to variation.

    Invest in some seltzer too.

  104. #104 Amfortas
    April 25, 2011

    daedalus2u, I don’t know why you feel the need to call the potential anti-depressant properties of semen “magical.” It’s a perfectly legitimate scientific hypothesis. Why are you so sexist against men and semen? Or are you just trying to “womansplain” it to us with your comment?

  105. #105 herr doktor bimler
    April 25, 2011

    It’s a perfectly legitimate scientific hypothesis.

    A hypothesis that involves chemicals from semen entering the bloodstream and then crossing the blood-brain barrier — and specifically mentions chemicals like oxytocin that are known not to cross the blood-brain barrier — is magical thinking.

  106. #106 daedalus2u
    April 26, 2011

    Amfortas, it would not be possible for me to womansplain anything, being that I am male.

  107. #107 Adam C.
    April 26, 2011

    I think we’re missing the key problem here.

    He’s writing a humourous article in an academic journal.

    Even with the best of intent, and even without the study, it’d still be rather crude to be encouraging sex in said issue, and rather unseemly. The further problems and implications spring out of his decision to use an academic journal for a joke in the first place.

    If a humourist wrote something like this, it might be considered a bit sexist, but it wouldn’t be speaking for an entire organisation of professional surgeons, and the controversy would be limited by that. However, to be giving dangerous advice (unprotected sex) and promoting probable pseudoscience in an academic journal are, in themselves, problematic behaviour.

    Even if we accept that the “Penis cures everything” and heteronormativism (lesbian sex doesn’t help, eh?) were accidental, this was inappropriate long before those come into play.

  108. #108 Calli Arcale
    April 26, 2011

    Another Halocene Human:

    Honestly, I thought it was a setup for extolling the virtues of oral sex–! Which just shows the generation gap there. As for somehow absorbing these hormones, I’ll grant that the vagina has mucous membranes but–show me the beef. Er, no pun intended.

    Well, the packet insert that comes with vaginal antifungal creams does discuss the serum level of the drug, so clearly some things can be absorbed into the blood by this route. Oxytocin may be (though to my knowledge, this has never been demonstrated), but it wouldn’t matter since it is known not to cross the blood-brain barrier. (Oxytocin which *does* affect the brain is produced in the brain itself.)

    Jack:

    But to the point where you try and hurt him, where he is made out to be a bad person, someone who disrespects women, that is untrue, and beyond the pale.

    You are complaining about people going overboard but here you are going overboard yourself. There have actually been a number of comments praising Greenfield’s earlier work, and in general the comments have been sorrow for him having written something so ridiculous. It’s not a case of reviling him as a bad person; it’s a case of being disappointed by someone we respect. You may think we’re spewing hatred, but honestly, you haven’t seen hatred if that’s what you think it looks like.

    You have called it junk science, others have questioned it, but it was corroborated elsewhere, and it’s something that a lot of people are interested to know. If the science sucks, than it should be redone better!

    There’s more to it than that, Jack. If the science sucks, it should be redone, and until then, nobody should be relying on it. In science, hypotheses are not innocent until proven guilty. Hypotheses have to be assumed wrong until proven otherwise. And this one is a very long ways away from being proven right. They made major leaps unsupported by the evidence, failed to control properly, and even then found very little in the way of a meaningful correlation. It *is* junk science. It could, entirely by chance, prove to be right. Sometimes that happens. Usually it doesn’t, though, so I’m not going to go around acting as if it’s true just because it appeals to me in some way.

    And I cannot wait to discuss them openly, intelligently and forcefully with everyone.

    Well, don’t hold your breath. Check out Orac’s more recent post on the subject; the researchers came back to say “oh, we replicated it!” only they never published that replication, and then they go on to say “some women tell us it’s true” as if that’s going to lend scientific credence to their claims. By that logic, homeopathy’s real.

  109. #109 Jack
    April 27, 2011

    Vicki,

    Pushing someone contains a risk. Talking about sex doesn’t carry a risk, and you don’t have a right to be offended in this country. You have a right not to be pushed or touched by others. If I talk honestly about religion some people will be offended. Does that mean I shouldn’t talk about religion honestly or does it mean that the people who are offended need to mind their own business?

    This is a political issue.

  110. #110 natron3030
    April 27, 2011

    Jack is spot on.

    This is a classic example of politics injecting itself where it should not. And frankly not dissimilar to all the inexcusable changes made to Texas grade school text books based on right wing politics.

    Very disappointing.

  111. #111 Composer99
    April 27, 2011

    Jack, your statement:

    and you don’t have a right to be offended in this country

    is categorically false, due to constitutional guarantees to free speech.

    The only restriction imposed upon those who find others’ speech offensive is that they may not use government power to quash such speech.

  112. #112 Vicki
    April 27, 2011

    No, I don’t have a right not to be offended. By the same token, you don’t have a right not to be told that something you say is offensive. Free speech applies to everyone, not just to powerful people or to members of dominant groups. The Bill of Rights that says the government can’t and shouldn’t stop Dr. Greenfield from making stupid or offensive jokes says that it can’t and shouldn’t stop other people from complaining.

  113. #113 Jack
    April 27, 2011

    Composer99,

    I missed the “not” in that sentence. I should have said, “You don’t have a right to not be offended” which is why we don’t have blasphemy laws (despite the best efforts of the hysterical religious lobby)

    Vicki,

    I agree with you, of course. Can’t you see that people abuse moral outrage in order to steamroll their agenda through? For example, this didn’t show abuse or sexism but it was portrayed as the final outrage that meant this old sexist creep needed to be destroyed so that radical changes could take place in the ACS *Cough, hysteria, cough*

    I agree, this is democracy, the people in charge of the ACS have the right to do whatever they want. According to comments on retraction watch, and almost every other comment section on any article regarding this issue, the people support Lazar. If anyone wants to go up against that, all the power to them.

  114. #114 TBruce (new sig for an old guy)
    April 27, 2011

    Whether or not it is poor science is another issue. We attack each other for poor science all the time. Especially when it comes to evolution. The idea is not implausible, the research merely iffy.

    This too makes it hard for me to take you seriously.

  115. #115 Jack
    April 28, 2011

    Well TBruce, welcome to the modern evolutionary debates, where anyone who accepts anything to do with evolutionary psychology is labeled a quack (Even though that would include Richard Dawkins) for philosophical reasons.

    Why TBruce, why is it hard for you to take me seriously? Please take the time to make a comment that contributes the conversation, indeed, to my own education.

  116. #116 Jarred C
    April 28, 2011

    @Jack: I think what he is saying, is that the post he is quoting sounds like you are claiming that the idea of and evidence for evolution is iffy. Hence, it’s difficult to take you seriously.

    If you’re trying to make the claim that some people believe the evidence for evolution is iffy, the you have a valid point; there are people out there who believe the evidence is iffy. But if you’re actually claiming that the evidence for evolution is iffy.. well, then it really is hard to take you seriously.

  117. #117 Jarred C
    April 28, 2011

    @Jack:

    As an update, in your post at 115, you changed the criteria from “evolution” to “evolutionary psychology,” which are two different things. Judging from PZ Myers take on many research papers in evolutionary psychology, it’s not that the field itself is quackery, it’s that those who are writing the papers are making claims without testing the claims. That’s the problem with it. Dr. Myers says that he wouldn’t have any problem with many of the papers at all, if they actually tested for what they were claiming.

    Here’s an example: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/01/the_evolution_of_rape.php

  118. #118 Jack
    April 28, 2011

    o.O

    In the context of the original quote I was clearly implying that the conclusions of the sperm paper are iffy, but it’s plausible because of what we do know about evolution. Biologists are territorial towards evo psych because they see it as threatening their “hard science” prestige. Dawkins is apparently immune from this form of hysteria. Myers is a blowhard, a smart, lovable blowhard but still, not someone who has contributed much to the evo psych debate. His posts were all countered by Robert Kurzban at epjoural.net during that rape study controversy. Just because there have been a few problems, just because it’s harder to make solid science out of than evo biology, doesn’t make it pseudoscience.

  119. #119 herr doktor bimler
    April 28, 2011

    Myers is a blowhard
    Feel free to invite him to a debate.

    Myers has slagged off a couple of papers from the Gallup stable because they presented particular aspects of human behaviour (e.g. homophobia) as driven by evolution without bothering to determine whether those aspects were actually heritable, or whether they even contributed to genetic fitness. This struck me at the time as a reasonable critique; the popular phrase of “just-so stories” seems to apply. The criticism does not rule out the possibility that decent Evo-Psych research can be conducted. That’s another issue.

    Nor does it apply to the 2002 paper in question, by Gallup, Burch & Platek, because the authors do not claim that the phenomenon they think they observed is driven by evolution. Instead, I for one am describing the paper as ‘junk science’ because

    (1) the authors are apparently unaware that many of the hormonal contents of semen can have no effect on mood (even if they enter the recipient’s bloodstream) because of a little-known phenomenon called the ‘blood-brain barrier’. For instance, they mention prolactin. They themselves don’t mention oxytocin… that was Greenfield’s contribution to the failstorm.

    (2) they blithely assume that the direction of causality runs from “having sex without a condom” to “improved mood”, rather than vice versa, or from some third variable affecting both (see daedalus2u above at #73 and #102).

    (3) their general uninterest in controlling or even assessing psychological factors as potential third variables.

    (4) they make a big fuss about a small effect (R2 = 0.076) while downplaying more substantial findings, such as the 2-fold difference in frequency of sex between condom-users and non-condom-users, which suggest that the groups may differ in important ways that they’re not bothering to look at.

    (5) From a cultural-history perspective, the paper was reminiscent of a particularly vile strand of fin de siècle misogyny that viewed women as lacking in brain and spirit, making them sexually-insatiable vampires, compelled to suck seminal essence from men to compensate their incompleteness.

    (6) It is not even clear what instrument they are using to measure depression. They talk about the BDI a lot. I hope they mean the BDI-II, the 1996 revision. But then they cite a 1999 paper co-written by Beck about the BDI-PC, the Beck Depression Inventory for Primary Care — a radically different instrument.

    If I’d been reviewing the manuscript, I would have recommended the authors to direct it at Medical Hypotheses instead of a serious journal.

  120. #120 Jack
    April 28, 2011

    You misunderstand me. I would not want to debate PZ Myers, he’d probably win even if he was wrong. I like him, but he is a blowhard. Case in point, a critique of his criticism entitled “Myers’ Critique of EP: Strong Language But Weak Tea” By Robert Kurzban, someone who actually knows what he’s talking about when it comes to EP.

    I only mentioned evo psych as an analogy of how stuid and useless debates are in modern evolutionary theory sometimes. I still have people arguing against me using gross misunderstandings of the selfish gene. It’s frustrating and sad.

    I agree that there are lot of questions around the study. I appreciate you outlining your concerns. I think your point number 5 crosses a line though and I’m sad you think this way. Basically you think that culture or history should influence science and that it’s ok to take offense at things that aren’t meant to be offensive? More research will be done on this anyway.

    I am growing tired of this blogging science phenomenon. Instead of cranking out a post, get together with Gallup and have a debate, back and forth online, THAT would be interesting. As it stands I’m going to pass out from all of the hot air being blown around.

  121. #121 herr doktor bimler
    April 28, 2011

    Basically you think that culture or history should influence science and that it’s ok to take offense at things that aren’t meant to be offensive?

    No, it’s more of a poisoning-the-well fallacy… if the initial hypothesis for research evolved from magical-thinking misogyny of a previous century then I tend to look at that research with more suspicion.

    I think my point #6 is weaker. It does not make a great deal of difference whether Gallup &c used the revised BDI or an earlier version; there was nothing especially wrong with the earlier version. And clearly they didn’t use the BDI-PC (because it only provides a dichotomous result rather than a scale), and their inclusion of a citation to it is not a major failing… if a poor choice of citations were a crime, then who would escape punishment? So I’m being pedantic about minor sloppiness.

    But pedantry is what one can expect from a teutonically-named Herr Doktor.

  122. #122 gupi_cal
    April 29, 2011

    If Dr. Greenfield, a giant in the surgical world, were in California his license would be revoked for “moral turpitude.” Our medical system is a mess.

    Reading the original articles (which are really statistically “pseudo-scientific” and therefore nonsense) and Dr. Geenfield’s editorial, I am struck that his is a very subtle and sartorial satire of the original article, which is possibly why he published it on Valentine’s Day.

    The problem is that the average American (many in the medical community included) do not understand satire and do not espouse it in commentary.

    The descent of American medicine from a police state to a “thought-police”-state is accelerating.

  123. #123 Paul
    April 30, 2011

    “In other words, the implication of Dr. Greenfield’s wildly inappropriate little joke, published in the official news magazine of the ACS, is that a woman needs a man to inject his seed into her in order to be truly happy.”

    Interesting. After a thorough analysis of why the semen study could not possibly be correct, ORAC now understands what Dr. Greenfield is really trying to say. Why then did Dr. Greenfield not just spell it out like ORAC has done for us here? Maybe Dr. Greenfield has already done so elsewhere? If so, where? Can a man that is really this hateful toward women truly keep it a secret for all of these years?

    All of this, of course, proves that Dr. Greenfield feels that men are somehow superior to women (sexism). Or, at least, he asserts that women need men to make the truly happy.

    Let me see if I follow the thread — Dr. Greenfield made a huge leap of logic in employing “pseudo-science” to suggest semen makes women happier than chocolates. BTW, has there been a study on this? But ORAC, based on this article by Dr. Greenfield, knows what he really thinks. Is there any difference between analyzing statistical data and rightly identifying what a man (or woman) really thinks?

    Women do not need men to be fulfilled in life. However, to listen to popular and country music from the last 30 years one may well conclude that heterosexual males do, in fact, need women to be happy and fulfilled. This suggests to me that, by and large, women are held in pretty high regard in our society. Has anyone ever heard of a deadbeat mom? I hardly think that men have a leg to stand on in claiming superiority over women. There is certainly no empirical evidence to suggest one sex’s superiority over the other but again, judging from pop-culture, anecdotal evidence gives the nod to women.

    But this entire fiasco is not about how highly men value women. Rather, it seems to be about a number of women who appear to be pretty insecure about their gender. If it is true that a person reaps what they sow, what goes around comes around, then these offended, activist women may consider hiring their own spin guru for the day of their Waterloo. Waterloo’s don’t care about gender.

  124. #124 Paul
    April 30, 2011

    “In other words, the implication of Dr. Greenfield’s wildly inappropriate little joke, published in the official news magazine of the ACS, is that a woman needs a man to inject his seed into her in order to be truly happy.”

    Interesting. After a thorough analysis of why the semen study could not possibly be correct, ORAC now understands what Dr. Greenfield is really trying to say. Why then did Dr. Greenfield not just spell it out like ORAC has done for us here? Maybe Dr. Greenfield has already done so elsewhere? If so, where? Can a man that is really this hateful toward women truly keep it a secret for all of these years?

    All of this, of course, proves that Dr. Greenfield feels that men are somehow superior to women (sexism). Or, at least, he asserts that women need men to make the truly happy.

    Let me see if I follow the thread — Dr. Greenfield made a huge leap of logic in employing “pseudo-science” to suggest semen makes women happier than chocolates. BTW, has there been a study on this? But ORAC, based on this article by Dr. Greenfield, knows what he really thinks. Is there any difference between analyzing statistical data and rightly identifying what a man (or woman) really thinks?

    Women do not need men to be fulfilled in life. However, to listen to popular and country music from the last 30 years one may well conclude that heterosexual males do, in fact, need women to be happy and fulfilled. This suggests to me that, by and large, women are held in pretty high regard in our society. Has anyone ever heard of a deadbeat mom? I hardly think that men have a leg to stand on in claiming superiority over women. There is certainly no empirical evidence to suggest one sex’s superiority over the other but again, judging from pop-culture, anecdotal evidence gives the nod to women.

    But this entire fiasco is not about how highly men value women. Rather, it seems to be about a number of women who appear to be pretty insecure about their gender. If it is true that a person reaps what they sow, what goes around comes around, then these offended, activist women may consider hiring their own spin guru for the day of their Waterloo. Waterloo’s don’t care about gender.

  125. #125 Gwen
    May 4, 2011

    Well put Paul.

  126. #126 Robert Finney PhD
    May 6, 2011

    Original investigation, “Kaiser Permanente’s Sex Crimes Cover Up,” is posted on http://www.hmohardball.com/jekyll.html , http://www.hmohardball.com/Paul%20Bernstein-%20Medical%20Director.pdf and http://www.hmohardball.com.
    Robert Finney, Ph.D.

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