Sunday, October 17, 2010

This conclusion was pulled straight out of this guy's ass...

I blame this people like this butthead for the fact that whenever I say that I am a statistician, people  ask if that means I can make the data say whatever I want. That's why I usually say that I am an astronaut-- fewer questions and way more street cred. Sure, you can make the data say whatever you want if you are (1) delusional like the author of this article or (2) dishonest.

A week or so ago, my friend, Sarah, sent me this article about a survey on sexual behavior in America with the advice to "read all the way through because their conclusion is somewhat amusing." Reproduced below is the best part:

Here's my guess. Look carefully at Table 4, Pages 355-6. Only 6 percent of women who had anal sex in their last encounter did so in isolation. Eighty-six percent also had vaginal sex. Seventy-two percent also received oral sex. Thirty-one percent also had partnered masturbation. And the more sex acts a woman engaged in during the encounter, the more likely she was to report orgasm. These other activities are what gave the women their orgasms. The anal sex just came along for the ride.

So why did the inclusion of anal sex bump the orgasm figure up to 94 percent? It didn't. The causality runs the other way. Women who were getting what they wanted were more likely to indulge their partners' wishes. It wasn't the anal sex that caused the orgasms. It was the orgasms that caused the anal sex.
It would probably be good to mention that the relevant stats about anal sex were based on 31 people, and further sub-grouping obviously results in even smaller groups.

So, in conclusion, this guy is a complete (anal) douche both for his conclusions regarding the direction of causation here and for providing another example of data being manipulated to say whatever you want.

p.s. Because I'm turning my homework in late, this post comes after some alternate explanations for the data were posted here.

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