Monday, September 19, 2011

Political preferences play different role in dating, mating

New research suggests that individuals attempting to attract a mate often avoid advertising their political leanings. The findings, co-authored by political scientists Rose McDermott of Brown University, Casey A. Klofstad of the University of Miami, and Peter K. Hatemi, a genetic epidemiologist at Pennsylvania State University, are published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

“Because we know that long-term mates are more politically similar than random attachment might predict, we were interested to see how people seeking a mate end up with people who share their political values,” said McDermott. “This is particularly important because political ideology appears to be in part heritable, and so mates pass their ideology on to their children.”

For their study, titled “Do bedroom eyes wear political glasses? The role of politics in human mate attraction,” the research team randomly sampled 2,944 profiles from a popular Internet dating site and examined whether people indicated an interest in politics or selected a specific political view. They found that only 14 percent of online daters included “political interests” in their profile, which ranked 23rd out of 27 interest categories — just below “video games” and above “business networking” and “book club.”

To put this in perspective, the authors write, “When asked to describe their body type, a larger proportion of our sample voluntarily described themselves as either ‘heavy set,’ having ‘a few extra pounds,’ or ‘stocky’ (17%) than listed ‘politics’ as one of their interests.

Other findings:

- Few individuals were willing to express a definitive political preference. Of those that listed politics as an interest, the majority — 57 percent — reported that their politics were “middle of the road.”
- Women were 8 percent less likely to report being interested in politics.
- A higher income, education, and degree of civil engagement (i.e., volunteerism) increased the likelihood of listing politics as an interest.
- Older daters and those with higher education levels were more willing to express a definitive political preference, such as “very liberal” or “ultra conservative.”

Politics in dating vs. mating

The researchers note that the apparent reluctance to reveal political preferences is interesting because previous studies have shown that spouses share political views more than almost any other trait, with religious affiliation being the exception. They ask, “What steps between mate selection and actual mating occur that drive politically similar people to long-term partnership?”

They point to two possible explanations. First, that humans desire compatibility in their long-term relationships, which, from an evolutionary perspective, should increase the likelihood of being able to raise offspring successfully. Perhaps individuals are not choosy about politics at the outset of the relationship, but are likely to pursue long-term commitments with individuals who share political attitudes. Second, people could be making long-term choices based on nonpolitical characteristics that correlate with political leanings, such as religion, thus unintentionally sorting on politics.

“At some point in the dating process we somehow filter out people who do not share our political preferences,” said Klofstad. “Our best guess is that in the short-run most people want to cast as wide a net as possible when dating. However, in the long-run shared political preferences become a critical foundation of lasting relationships, despite the fact that many Americans are not even interested in politics.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adolescent Girls and Unwanted Unprotected Sex

Partner abuse leads to HIV infection, and black women are most at risk. A new study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has found that 46 percent of African-American adolescent girls report that their partner did not use a condom the last time they had sex -- often because of partner abuse. The girls described physical and sexual abuse and threats as preventing them from having their partner use condoms. The relationship between HIV and partner abuse is significant: In the U.S., at least 12 percent of HIV infections among women are a result of partner abuse.

Getting out of an abusive relationship should be considered an HIV prevention strategy, according to Anne M. Teitelman, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, who published the study in the journal “Advances in Nursing Science.” Dr. Teitelman and her co-authors advocate the need for novel strategies to increase condom use among adolescents. The co-authors are Julie Tennille, MSW, LSW; Julia M. Bobinski, BSN, MS; Loretta S. Jemmott, PhD, RN, FAAN; and John B. Jemmott III, PhD.

“Promoting healthy relationships among youth and preventing partner abuse in adolescent relationships should become a public health priority,” writes Dr. Teitelman. “This is necessary for primary prevention of the intersecting epidemics of partner abuse and HIV/STIs [sexually transmitted infections].”

The study of 64 African-American adolescent girls, aged 14 to 17, illuminates the pressure a male partner may exercise to encourage girls to forgo condom use.
Understanding the practice, which the authors term “condom coercion,” can inform more tailored prevention methods and interventions for adolescent girls at high risk for HIV and STIs, the authors report. Forms of condom coercion include physical and sexual abuse and threats, emotional manipulation, and condom sabotage, as when a male partner surreptitiously removes a condom.

Of the sample, 59 percent of girls experienced partner abuse that was physical, verbal, or threatening. Nearly 30 percent reported having unwanted vaginal sex and about 9 percent reported having unwanted anal sex. More than half the girls indicated they had experienced vaginal sex without a condom when they wanted their partner to use one.

When faced with partners trying to dissuade them from using condoms, girls may also feel pressures that silence them from even raising the topic of condom use. In the study, 25 percent of participants responded affirmatively to the question: “Have you ever wanted to talk with your sexual partner about using a condom during vaginal sex, but were not able to?”

This comment addresses the issue of “silencing condom negotiation,” which the authors define as girls’ reluctance to voice an interest in condom use at the risk of losing the relationship or facing other negative consequences.

As one study participant reported: “If we talk about just STIs and HIV, we’re not addressing the whole picture. . . . I’m easily pressured into doing things that I don’t want to do and it’s hard to sit back at the time and ask myself, ‘Is this something that I really want to do?’ . . . oftentimes it’s what he wants, but what I want . . . you don’t want a baby, you don’t want a STD, you don’t want HIV. . . . do you want him to beat you up? . . . Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not about what you want, and he’s going to be telling you that. There’s always a way out of things, always.”

The impact of sexualized lyrics on adolescent behaviors and attitudes

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Do sexualized lyrics in popular music have an impact on the sexual behavior and attitudes of adolescents? Researchers Cougar Hall, Joshua H. West, and Shane Hill from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, take a look at the trend of increasing use of sexually explicit lyrics in music. Their findings, published online in Springer’s journal Sexuality & Culture, provide food for thought for educators whose focus is to promote healthy sexual development.

Cougar Hall explained, “Considering previous research establishing an association between sexualized music lyrics and adolescent sexual behavior, our findings unfortunately offer sexuality educators a stormy forecast.”

The amount of music that 8-18 year olds listen to has increased by 45 percent in recent years, rising dramatically with the popularity of MP3 players, such as iPods. Previous research has indicated that there is a strong link between exposure to sexual media (on screen and in music) and sexual activity. Teens tend to overestimate the sexual activity of their peers and one source of this misperception is the entertainment media.

In this study, the researchers analyzed the lyrics from the top 100 songs in the Billboard Hot 100 year-end most popular songs every decade from 1959 to 2009. They found that male and non-White artists were more likely to write songs with sexual lyrics in the past two decades and that there were more sexual references overall in 2009 than in 1959.

The authors point out that not all sexual references are equal, and degrading and sexualized music can have a deleterious effect on teens. For girls in particular, this can lead them to judge their personal worth on a sexual level only, leading to poor body image, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

The authors advise that their findings raise serious concerns related to the promotion of unhealthy sexual messages in music. They conclude: “Popular music can teach young men to be sexually aggressive and treat women as objects while often teaching young women that their value to society is to provide sexual pleasure for others. It is essential for society that sex education providers are aware of these issues and their impact on adolescent sexual behavior.”