Sexist men?

Salon's Rebecca Traister has a great takedown of some new research that shows, astoundingly, that men objectify women in bikinis!.  The horror.  Traister:

Researchers performed brain scans on 21 heterosexual men and found that
such sexy images light up the part of their brains associated with
tools or other things that "you manipulate with your hands" (like,
boobs!). Lead researcher Susan Fiske of Princeton University said
"it's as if they immediately thought to act on theses bodies" and
observed, "They're reacting to these women as if they're not fully

The study doesn't suggest that men philosophically determine all
scantily clad women to be "things," treat bikini-wearing women like
objects or are incapable of seeing women as both sexual and
animate. It simply found that a barely there get-up meant to display
the female body tends to trigger in men a simplistic sexual response…

Another of the study's the-sky-is-blue findings is that of the array of
images shown to the men — including shots of fully clothed men and
women — they most remembered the photos of the half-naked women. Also
unsurprising, although interesting nonetheless, is that men who were
deemed to be "hostile sexists" based on their answers to a
questionnaire showed no activity in the region of the brain associated
with "social cognition" when viewing snapshots of the beach-ready
women. In other words: Men with loads of anger toward the opposite sex
"are not thinking about [the women's] minds," said Fiske. Sadly, much
of the media coverage I've seen has generalized that finding to suggest
that it was generally true for the male subjects.

There's been lots of really interesting research on the brain and sex and differences in response between men and women (see Bonk by Mary Roach), but this particular research, seems to tell us little other than the authors' political agenda. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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