Sunday, March 18, 2007

Exotic dancing is dancing (letter to the editor of *Phactum*)

WARNING: Attempting to sing without actual talent may result in hair loss.

Seen on a bumper sticker the other day, next to the face of Our Glorious Leader: "I fixed Iraq, now I'll fix Social Security."

I just sent the following to Phactum, newsletter of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking:

I was disappointed by the condescending tone in the opening sentence of your article on "No Touch" chiropractic, "'No Touching' might well be a sign in a strip joint or an art museum to protect the 'dancers' in one case, the collection in the other."

The scare quotes around "dancers" are quite unwarranted. While it may be a cinch to simply take off one's clothes, doing so in a way that is sexy and creates excitement for a prolonged period requires actual skill. That's why people pay good money to learn how to do so, as you can see here [NSFW] for instance.

In a publication devoted to critical thinking, let's remember to apply skepticism to social stereotypes too.

I also had to comment on Dr. Dan Gottlieb's show "Voices in the Family":

Having awakened partway through your program this morning, I just gave a cursory examination of the APA report on which you based the discussion. It appears to me that the reasoning on which it's based is highly tendentious. For instance, an experiment is cited in which young adults were asked to do a math test alone in a room while trying on either a sweater or a swimsuit. It was found performance was poorer while wearing the swimsuit, but only for women. The conclusion, presented as if it were plain and direct, was that media sexualization of women's bodies made them more self-conscious while scantily dressed. But this is hardly obvious. It may be that the self-consciousness was caused by the way girls are socialized to be more hesitant to expose their bodies than boys, which is less rather than more true today than in the past. (This hypothesis could be tested by using subjects brought up in a more conservative culture.)

The other studies cited all seem to have similar flaws. Often "helper" verbs like may are employed, reflecting the fact that what we have here is interpretation rather than evidence for the specific causal claims being made.

Consider an alternative interpretation: most psychologists are convinced "sexualization" of girls is bad for them because that's our culture's traditional view, and it's confirmed by clinical experience because it's parents who believe this who bring their "trashy" daughters in for treatment, with the latter's emotional problems arising from their parents' reaction to their choices. If this sounds implausible, recall that that's exactly how most psychologists were convinced that homosexuality was a mental disorder before gay activists forced them to look at Evelyn Hooker's research proving otherwise.

Eric Hamell

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