In a psychological study commissioned by Marissa Cooper and the ghost of Sylvia Plath, researchers at Texas Christian University have found that dwelling on reminders of daddy's psychological or physical absence makes women more likely to have depraved harlot thoughts.
Specifically, doing so reportedly "increases women's sexual thoughts, sexual permissiveness, and negativity towards condom use." Ah, yes, the eternal female mantra of "I just remembered that dad didn't come to my championship softball game in fourth grade. RIP THE CONDOM OFF, SIR, I'M FEELING SEXUALLY PERMISSIVE ALL OF A SUDDEN."
The researchers tested a group of 64 mostly white heterosexual female undergraduates at TCU, all of whom were told that their psych professors were interested in evaluating their writing style. This was the prompt given to the first half:
Take a few seconds to think back to a time when your biological father was absent for an important life event when you really needed him .... Describe in detail how your father’s lack of support—or his physical or psychological absence—made you feel.
Each of the remaining 32 women was asked to reflect upon a time that her biological father had been physically or psychologically present at an important life event.
After composing these little tomes, the subjects were asked to fill in the blanks of 14 word stems (i.e., S_X, _AK_D) to see if they'd been primed to respond in a more sexual way (SIX and BAKED are the responses of a clean-minded woman, and SEX and NAKED are the thoughts of a lust-drunk witch. SUX is what you would say if you were responding to the concept of the study). They were also asked to answer a series of questions meant to detect their sexual permissiveness, on a scale of 1 to 9. Questions included:
- Sex without love is okay.
- For me, sex with someone does not necessarily imply that I am committed to that person.
- I dislike using condoms due to reduced sexual pleasure.
- I adore a Fascist, the boot to the face. (ok not really)
Unsurprisingly (?), those who had been thinking bad thoughts about their fathers were more likely to answer in all the slutty ways. According the Danielle DelPriore, the lead researcher, "There is an abundance of research that shows when a father is absent that their daughters have accelerated sexual development, promiscuity and sexual risk taking."
But what do we make of this? It's pretty patently obvious that these findings are a huge stretch: as L.V. Anderson at Slate points out, there are a variety of logical reasons for these results. Perhaps reflecting fondly on your father makes you less likely to switch gears right away to thoughts of S_X and NO C_NDO_S, because that feels gross. It's also likely that a Texas Christian University student would have a religious — or at least a fairly traditional — biological father, so thinking kindly of him may make one subconsciously less likely to go against his values. Also maybe the researchers literally just asked 64 white girls to think about whether their dads are mean or not and play word games, which sounds more like a suburban sleepover party than a rigorous psychological study to me.
The biggest flaw with this study, though, is the way in which it lumps together "sexual risk taking" with "sexual permissiveness" and "sexual thoughts." To attempt to prove that a woman who is comfortable having and/or thinking about casual sex is the byproduct of paternal neglect is to imply that a woman in possession of a sex drive is a bad thing. In the end, the way in which this study was framed says far more about the researchers than the test subjects.
"Study Says You're A Slut Because Daddy Wasn't There for You. Study Has No Clue." [Slate]