Friday, August 28, 2009
"Treasure or target?" Quiz
Feministe blog has the review of an abstinence-only curriculum that includes a quiz called "are you a treasure or a target?" They have 6 questions that are interesting situations. For instance, one question asks what to wear now that micro minis are fashionable: a micro mini, cargo shorts, or a skirt a few inches above the knee. And they label the options in that order of preference, which seems pretty arbitrary to me.
Social scientists conduct large long time frame studies to find the optimal answers, so I can't say that I know what the "right" answer is to any of these questions. Amusing to think about conducting a study where some women are randomized to wear different clothing styles to see what the outcome is. Actually that would be a fantastic trial. Five conditions:
1. Covering everything except hands and feet, though maybe not hair?, a la Little Mosque on the Prairie character Rayyan Hamoudi whose style is so admired there are blogs that try to figure out where to find her clothes.
2. Covering knee to elbow, more or less, a la Mayim Biyalik or the Hot Chani style. As far as I can tell, this is roughly the Mormon guidelines as well as the guidelines for those who consider themselves to practice "Authentic Judaism".
3. Regular tomboy style: jeans, cargo shorts, loose t-shirt.
4. Mainstream Evangelical Christian style, so a bit more conservative than normal: no cleavage, no midriff, small number of inches above knee.
5. Standard US fashion style. Whatever is featured by H&M, Zara, etc.
I'd love to see the experiment that would randomize people to different styles to see whether they acted in a way that fit their clothing. Separately, I wonder if you randomized people to dress straight out like a member of a religion (e.g., non-Muslims actually wearing a hijab or non-Mormons actually wearing the secret undergarment), some people would end converting to the religion. Such an experiment would answer a really fundamental question in social science about to what extent behavior is determined by internal cues or social cues. It would also be enormously un-PC.
But that's neither here nor there. Quizzes are arbitrary and we have no way of knowing what the "right" answer in these circumstances.
The general idea of choosing dates who are interested in long-term relationships seems like a valid concern, as shown by Bogle's Hooking Up book and Laura Sessions Stepp's book that late adolescent women who choose dates without knowing (or in denial of) their dates' relationship objectives often end up disappointed and frustrated by a lack of long-term relationships.
Of course asking about claimed objectives isn't enough. I went on a date with a gentleman who professed serious interest in a long-term relationship and eventually marriage, and he seemed considerate and sensitive. On our third date, I asked him about his sexual history (one of the privileges of my profession). He told me that in addition to his 5 relationships that lasted more than a year (in some cases much longer), he had gone out on 3-5 dates with 20-35 women whom he had sex with and he stressed earnestly that at the time he had sex with them he had intended to go out with them again. He trailed off.
I have no idea what gives him only a 12.5-20.0% chance of deciding to initiate a year-long relationship with a woman he has sex with, and perhaps he doesn't either. Going purely on the statistics, this guy seems like an unlikely bet, which honestly didn't surprise me: something about him had led me to keep my distance. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I'm guessing this is what the quiz is trying to get women to be aware of, and that seems reasonable also from a third wave feminist perspective: knowing the prior probabilities can't hurt; if a woman doesn't care for a long-term relationship and just wants a sexual relationship, that's her choice as well.