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Wet With Fear? Perhaps.

This little medical tidbit of insight flipped my stomach. Apparently, women have developed a biological response to protect us from sexual assault. A biological response. That means we've learned to anticipate rape at the level of our genome.

Researchers at Cornell University have been conducting research to determine what pupil dilation can reveal about sexual arousal. Apparently the most common research methods to analyze sexual arousal are invasive - instruments to measure changes in penis size and vaginal probes to measure lubrication - and understandably most people aren't willing to subject themselves to that sort of research study. Newspapers around the country have been reporting on the success of this study and how using eyes for sexual behavior research will help advance this area of science.

But in the last paragraph or two of the reports is a tid-bit that has disturbed me ever since I read it, and I wonder that nobody else is gnashing their teeth with me on this.

The findings support the idea that sexual response has different biological functions in men and women. For men, an important function is to facilitate erection and penetration. For women, the function is to stimulate lubrication and prevent genital injury in case of penetration -- a response that may have developed early in evolutionary history in response to rape by males.

Apparently it's this little detail more than the discomfort mentioned above that makes vaginal probes an unreliable method of testing arousal in females. A woman is likely to become lubricated even at the site of something repugnant and/or terrifying to her. I mentioned this to a friend, who pointed out that the response was likely developed "early in evolutionary history," suggesting that this was more like an appendix or wisdom teeth than a current social concern.

But if, as the Department of Justice statistics suggest, over 300,000 women in the U.S. are raped each year (and worldwide the numbers go up dramatically), then that little evolutionary detail remains a modern-day requirement.

So are you gnashing now?

Christine Media wrote an amazing article on The War on Women in the cultureist. Read it here.

26 August 2012

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