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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Sex amid the spreadsheets
By Gene Weingarten, Washington Post
Published October 7, 2007
WASHINGTON - Smart people such as you and I have a duty to support science, which is why I bristled recently when I received a terse, judgmental correspondence from a young journalist of my acquaintance. Her e-mail consisted of a link to a scientific study published this year in a reputable scientific journal, along with the comment: "This is so dumb."
Do not think too harshly of her. You, too, were once young and callow and inclined to intellectual arrogance.
After thoroughly reading thereport, I immediately telephoned professor Charles Mueller of the University of Hawaii psychology department. Mueller had helped supervise the study, which was conducted primarily by Skyler Hawk,a graduate student who was traveling in Europe and unavailable to discuss the report with me.
Me: Let's talk about "The Effects of Target Attractiveness on Men's Sexual Arousal in Response to Erotic Auditory Stimuli."
Me: Scientifically speaking, "Skyler Hawk" is a fabulous name.
Me: Now, if I may summarize this report, which had impressive spreadsheets and charts and graphs, and employed such things as standard deviations and whatnot: After an exhaustive study involving about 60 young male volunteers, you discovered scientifically thatheterosexual men who are listening to an audiotape of a woman talking dirty become more sexually aroused if they've been led to believe that the woman who is talking dirty is really good-looking, as opposed to thinking that she is really ugly.
Me: Okay, but there's more to it than that, yes?
Mueller: Sure. Part of our interest was how people maintain visual imagery as they go through the process of sexual arousal through another sensory channel. They were given a picture of the woman supposedly doing the reading, but then they put it away. So, does the picture remain in their head?
Me: And it did.
Mueller: There was a slower rate of self-reported arousal in the unattractive-woman group, but toward the end, it started to even out.
Me: But through most of it, the thought of a hot woman got men more sexually excited than the thought of an ugly woman.
Me: And a control group, which was not told whether the speaker was hot or not, apparently tended to fantasize that she was hot?
Mueller: Right. Their responses looked similar to the men in the attractive-woman group.
Mueller: Evidence of the active human mind at work. Sort of interesting, don't you think?
Me: Dude . . .
Me: I don't mean to depress you or anything, but you could have saved yourself some time and trouble. You could have just asked me. 'Cause I coulda told you all that.
Mueller: Well, thanks.
Me: Can I suggest another area of study?
Me: Check out whether, when people are pursued by a guy in a leather mask with a chain saw, they tend to run away.
Mueller: That's good.
Me: Or how about this: Given a choice, would a man prefer to have a pretty woman on his lap, or a bag of peat moss?
Mueller: You know, this is a little bit of a straw man attack. "Science is silly."
Me: Not all science! Hey, did you get a grant for this?
Mueller: No. There was no appreciable cost.
Me: Okay, you're off the hook. Listen, I liked the part where you specify in some detail how the woman talked dirty.