The headline of the day, apparently: Sniffing women’s tears dampens sexual desire in men, study suggests.
That was from the Guardian. But in case you are wondering if news agencies and other interweb sites think this is a big time study that deserves coverage, it is: CBS News, Dallas Morning News, Slate Magazine, Times of India, Business Week, WebMD, TIME, New York Times, National Geographic, Bloomberg, NPR, Jerusalem Post, and Scientific American. It’s obviously all over the world and across many different types of websites, including lots of popular science sites.
What is the study exactly? If you want to read the exact study, go here. But I’m not a scientist and I’m not actually concerned with the study (on SA, someone offers a very good reason for a study like this in comments: “the possibility of finding a way to suppress sexual arousal in men and controlling the libido could have some pretty positive ramifications. Millions of men who have an overly active libido may benifit from this type of research.”).
I’m interested in how the media is reporting this, though, and even more, I am interested in WHY this has gotten so much publicity. So…. according to the Guardian:
Women’s tears contain a chemical signal that lowers testosterone levels and dampens sexual desire in men, according to a team of scientists in Israel. They studied the effect on men of sniffing fresh tears, which the researchers collected in vials as they rolled down the faces of women watching weepy movies. The surprise discovery may help scientists solve the mystery of why humans shed tears when they’re distressed or sad.
The researchers measured a small but persistent fall in men’s sexual feelings when they sniffed women’s tears, but the chemical or chemicals responsible may work primarily by suppressing aggression, which then has the effect of reducing sexual arousal.
There’s also this:
In one experiment, a group of 24 male volunteers sniffed either fresh tears, or drops of saline as a control, before being asked to rate the sadness or sexual appeal of women’s faces that appeared on a computer screen. The men’s sadness ratings were the same regardless of whether they sniffed tears or saline, but 17 men ranked women as less sexually appealing after sniffing tears.
To explain why the tears are women’s, it says:
The scientists enrolled people for the study by posting adverts around the institute’s campus asking for volunteers who were easily moved to tears. They didn’t specify whether they were looking for men or women, but out of more than 60 people who responded, only one was a man. After an initial test that involved watching a sad film of their choosing, Sobel’s team picked the most tearful, all of whom were women.
But despite the fact that only women participated in this study, the scientists made sure to say (and of course this was at the very end of the article):
Sobel said his lab is now trying to identify what chemical in tears might be responsible for the effect and whether it is also present in men’s and children’s tears. “We don’t think there is something special about women’s tears,” he said. “We definitely predict chemical signals in men’s tears and children’s tears too.”
So, I don’t have a problem with this article or this study. I HATE how this is being reported. Because in these days of Twitter and sound bites, the title of an article is supposed to encapsulate what one thinks is most important and most sell-able about this story. So, what does this story mean to our society:
- Women’s tears are a real turn off for men, new research claims
- Women’s tears tank men’s libido
- In Women’s Tears, a Chemical That Says, ‘Not Tonight, Dear’
- Tears in Her Eyes: A Turnoff for Guys?
- A woman’s tears can cripple the male libido, new study finds
Perhaps the best one is from MSNBC (of course!): “Stop the waterworks, ladies. Crying Chicks aren’t sexy“.
Because this is the point, right? Instead of it being that scientists have isolated a chemical (or set of chemicals) that can reduce testosterone and/or aggression (which some articles did choose to highlight, I might add), the articles I listed above, and especially this one from MSNBC, want to drive home the point that it’s all about how ladies crying make it so men don’t want to have sex with them. And that men should not be turned off. So women should stop crying. Because men should never be denied their arousal, right? And women cry too much anyhow, right? I love studies. Actually, I hate them.
OR as Jezebel titled their article about this: “Lady-Tears are Total Bonerkillers“. Amen.