It's a festivus of dubiously sourced studies!"Women Think of Shopping as Much as Men Think of Sex!" screams a headline in yesterday's Daily Mail.
Hoo, boy. This is just about the most dubiously sourced piece of journalism
An online study -- or shall we say "study" -- at cosmopolitan.co.uk says that women think about buying a new outfit once every minute -- or put another way, 60 times each waking hour. This data comes from the responses of 74% of 778 women aged 19 to 45 at this 'online fashion bible' web site. In other words, that's 575 self-selected women. Hardly a representative group!
Now let's take a look at the study about men, who supposedly think about sex as much as we think about shopping. Oh wait, there is no study -- just an anecodotal-bogus-statistic kind of thing! The Daily Mail piece describes it:
"Other studies have previously claimed to uphold the commonly-held belief that young men have only one thing on their minds - sex...They are said to think about it every 52 seconds, while the subject crosses some women's minds only once a day."
I did some half-assed Googling to find this "men think about sex this much, women think about sex that much" study and didn't come up with much -- but fight shoddy research with shoddy research, I say! The best we could do was to find data on the web site of the reputable Kinsey Institute, which says, according to a 14-year-old study, 19% of ladies think about sex everyday or several times a day, 67% think of it a few times per week or month, and 14% think of it less than once a month. That same study found that 54% of men think of sex everyday, while 43% of men think of it a few times per week or month and only 4% think of it less than once a month.
The best part of the Daily Mail piece is when a psychologist debunks the whole silly argument:
Discussing the cosmopolitan survey, psychologist Dr Jane Prince, of the University of Glamorgan, said: 'People think about things which bring them pleasurable feelings. The pleasure is usually in the anticipating and planning.
'But so many women displaying this level of preoccupation, thinking about something once a minute, would indicate widespread addictive behaviour with regard to shopping which really
does not seem to be evidenced in any academic literature I have ever seen."
I don't know who is more at fault: web sites that do polls and pass them off as studies, or journalists who utilize polls like studies, but they both have to stop. These tired old paradigms -- that men are sex-crazed beasts, that women are shallow and superficial -- do no one any good and only perpetuate a consumer culture that thrives on fostering women's insecurities and men's sexual prowess. The problem isn't that women think about shopping "too much," or men think about sex "too much" -- the problem is that there's an appetite to both read and write stories that hinge on unproven stereotypes.
To those 575 women who think about shopping every 60 seconds, I hope one of the purchases that crosses their minds is a gosh darn vibrator. Now I'm gonna go think about fucking once a minute for the rest of the day, you silly newspaper.