Question #1

1.   What is a sampling bias?  How do you avoid getting sampling bias, and what are the typical biases sex researchers have to watch out for?

A sample is a small portion of a population that is selected for the purpose of studying. For the purpose of accuracy in research, the selected sample should well represent the population. However, sometimes, for the purpose of convenience or due to bias, the sample is not a representative of the population, but is biased in terms of education, age, race, etc. depending on the area the sample is selected from, sample taker’sconvenience, etc. Sampling bias can be avoided by taking a random sample, a stratified sample (a proportionate random sample from each strata) or a time-lapse sample, where a second sample is taken after a significant time gap.

In case of the sex-related research, the sample selected is typically more educated and aware about the sex-related topics, like contraception, STDs, etc. and are usually comprised of white people, with a heterosexual orientation. Rarely are the samples quantitatively represented by the existing ratio between the different sexual orientation groups.

Question #2

2.  What do the elderly report about their sex lives concerning frequency and satisfaction.  Second, we have trouble talking about sexual topics with the elderly because there are many barriers that make it more difficult.  List some of those barriers.

While age and physical changes in the body did not prevent the elderly people from giving and receiving the sexual pleasure, there was some reported decline in the sexual interest with age and the frequency seemed to decrease in older couples. However, the quality of sexual intimacy and the sexual satisfaction level of both partners increased with age. Elderly women who had sex less frequently reported experiencing pain during sex, which could be eliminated by use of lubricants and hormone replacement therapy (estrogen). Some men reported low sex drive and difficulty in sustaining erection, due to reduced testosterone level (remedied by medicines like Viagra, Levitra, etc.).

The barriers of communicating with elderly people regarding sex-related topics are mostly psychological, as older people are perceived to be unattractive, sick and lonely, and physically incapable of having or wanting to have sex. (Local World News) Also, older people are often uncomfortable discussing sexual health or sex related issues for the fear of embarrassing themselves, as during their youth sex was a taboo topic to discuss. (Clark and Edler)

Question #3

3.  In the Barbara Walters interview with transgender children she talked with a few parents who had allowed their children to transition earlier rather than later in life, in order to be the gender they felt they were.  Many scientists who believe in “traditional” gender roles think that children should be encouraged to behave as the gender they were born, and that otherwise children are subject to psychological harm.  Based on your viewing of interviews with several families of transgender children, does the evidence support or refute the claims of “traditional” gender role scientists and how?

Each one of us is born different, and this difference makes us who we are. It is imperative that we respect and accept those who are different, rather than being judgmental and force them to conform to the “rules” in order to fit in. While the “traditional” gender-role scientists advocate and encourage behaving as the gender one is born with, one’s gender and sexual orientation is the one’s choice. However, to make a choice, one must be well informed and knowledgeable about the pros and cons of their decision. A complete understanding about sex related matters, the meaning of intimacy and relationships – both emotional and sexual – can only be understood when an individual is at a certain stage of maturity. While some of these videos and interviews showed children of 6 years old “choosing” to be brought up as the other sex, their actual understanding of their position was limited to thinking that being a girl meant wearing “pink and sparkly” girls’ clothes. (Real Life Trans Kids – YouTube) Perhaps, it could have been the environment in the household that clearly demarcated between macho and feminine things, putting too much pressure on the children and forcing them to believe they were not fit to be a particular gender.

The “Hermaphrodites speak” video was an eye-opener and conveyed the frustration the transgenders or intersexuals feel to have had their decision made for them by their parents.(ABC Television) It would be better for the parents to let their kids grow up, mature and then decide what is best for them, rather than forcing them to get stuck in an image they wanted when they were six. Even in cases where there is physical deformity of the genitals, the parents should leave the decision for the children to make when they are old enough to.(Gender Unknown – YouTube)

Question #4

4. What things do Erik Erikson believe are perquisites for love and intimacy, regardless of gender?

According to Erik Erikson, before one reaches the stage of romantic relationships, regardless of gender, an individual must accept his own strengths and shortcomings and learn to love himself. A positive and confident outlook and a good self-esteem is a prerequisite for love and intimate relationships. When one has loving and caring parents, the person has a higher self worth and assesses himself based on the fact that someone (his parents) has loved him, so surely someone else can too. In any emotionally intimate relationship, it is essential for the partners to reveal their needs, feelings, emotions and values to each other. This is known as “exchange of vulnerability” or “self-disclosure”.

Question #5

5. What is the two-factor theory of emotion, and can you give me an example of the theory in action that meets the gender expectations of our society.

According to Schachter’s and Singer’s two-factor theory of emotion, emotion is a function of two factors – cognitive factors and physiological arousal. Physiological arousal implies sensory stimulation, where stimulation may be intrinsic or biochemical, or extrinsic or environmental. Cognition refersto mental processing, including bringing to attention, remembering, problem solving and decision-making, and in this case, implies the active or passive “thinking” response of the body to attribute the arousal to a stimulus or cause. This means that when people experience unexplained physiological arousal, they look for emotionally relevant cues in their immediate environment to label and interpret their arousal. So, experiencing an emotion requires not just the physiological response (arousal) to it, but also the understanding (cognitive reasoning) about why that emotion is being experienced.

In a romantic or sexual context, physiological arousal of any kind, even pain, can be interpreted as a romantic or passionate one, if one is in such a situation. For example, men who were already physiologically aroused mistakenly attributed their arousal to a woman they were faced with. Dutton and Aron, in their study, showed that men who were approached by women on a higher bridge were more likely to call her than men who were approached on comparatively lower bridges. So, men misinterpreted their fear/adrenaline increase due to the altitude, as a romantic or passionate response and reacted accordingly.(Feldmann)

Similarly, if a couple watches a horror movie on a date, they will tend to attribute their elevated heartbeat and physiological response to fear of sexual or romantic attraction to each other.

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