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Jewish World ReviewMay 3, 1999 / 17 Iyar 5759

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Cybersex survey a
travesty of science

(JWR) ---- (
"NOW PSYCHOLOGY AS A DISCIPLINE must step up to the table and accept responsibility for the extent to which it has been propagating an amoral ethos," Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a renowned psychiatrist, is quoted as saying in a recent interview.

That psychology has presented itself as a science at all, much less a hard science, is somewhere between a joke and a travesty. Personal and group biases and agendas (liberating sexuality for adults and children), political positions ("normalizing" homosexuality), pet causes (anger over perceived patriarchal oppression of women, excessive focus of self-esteem, unrestrained narcissism as healthy), and downright stupid or bad research and methodology leading to dangerous conclusions that the media run with as truth (such as the media blitz telling women that they should no longer feel guilt for farming their kids out to day care) have seriously damaged individuals, families and our civilization.

A recent, seemingly benign, example of this nonsense is a "survey" of cybersex -- another addition to the wealth of amoral, self-destructive psychobabble presented by the American Psychological Association in the April issue of Professional Psychology.

The study was accomplished by utilizing the MSNBC Web site (gee, isn't that random sampling of the population?). Users who had at least one cybersex encounter were asked to answer questions about what kind of sex site they visited, how long they spent in such pursuits, and what they got out of it.

The first thing that ought to come to mind is the ridiculousness of self-reporting. What ever happened to the psychology craze about "denial"? It used to be an "in" joke in the profession (by the way, I am licensed as a marriage and family therapist) that if a patient did not admit to what the therapist "knew" to be true, he or she was in denial. Now, self-reporting is taken as gospel. Fascinating. What piece of hard science determined that switch?

As evidence of this denial of denial, "three out of four respondents said they kept secret from others how much time they spend online for sexual pursuits, although 87 percent reported that they did not feel guilty or ashamed about the time they spent online."

Huh? They weren't ashamed, but they wouldn't admit they did it? Oh, please.

The study's author states that younger females who use the cybersex sites do so because the Internet offers "access, affordability and anonymity ... allowing young adult women to be more comfortable experimenting with their sexuality online than almost anywhere else. They can engage in new relationships without fear."

What is this psychologist talking about? Granted, a woman cannot get physically raped by a computer screen, but what about psychological and spiritual rape? Can we not consider sexually relating anonymously to disengaged strangers a disgusting, superficial, false and pathetic nonrendition of healthy, committed love? Does anyone really think that letting go of all inhibitions, making oneself vacantly vulnerable, displaying one's evolving sexuality in a circus ring, and extracting the self from one's sexuality are healthy things?

Evidently a large number of psychologists think so. Their only caution is the amount of time spent degrading oneself. Since "the majority (92 percent) said they spent under 11 hours a week visiting sex sites," the rest need their services. They note that "about 5 percent of the general population suffers from sexual compulsivity." What science backs up that arbitrary point? None. Ten and a half hours a week having sexual experiences out of the context of love, affection and bonding is perfectly normal and healthy, according to these shrinks. So, I guess, successful treatment would take the 12-hour-per-week cybersex user down to 10 hours.

The biggest chuckle in all of this is that this survey was done on MSNBC as a promotion -- not a scientific study. The network used it to attract viewers, and notes that "... by their very nature, surveys posted on its Web site are NONSCIENTIFIC."

So why is the APA publishing it in a scientific journal?


04/19/99: Legal abortion not the salvation that feminists claim
04/12/99: Moral parents struggle against upside-down value system
03/31/99: Children need attention before they cry out for it
03/29/99: Family values fall victim to advertising whims
03/19/99: Snooping can be healthy if it saves a child in trouble
03/05/99: Traditional religions offer optimism to adherents
03/05/99: Tearing down foundations, brick by brick
02/26/99: With power comes obligation to lead by example
02/19/99: National Prayer Breakfast inspires public servants
02/12/99: Overcoming selfishness leads us closer to human potential
02/09/99: Youth's difficult lessons make us better adults
02/02/99: Rituals, icons remind us of our obligation to G-d
01/22/99: 'Consenting adults' don't always examine consequences
01/18/99: Day care no substitute for love of mom and dad
01/08/99: Don't use others' misfortunes to build your self-image
12/31/98: Tracking HIV-infected people makes good sense
12/24/98: How can we teach ethics without defining morals?
12/18/98: Parents afraid of firm values leave their children adrift
12/11/98: Spread righteousness by refusing to accept the 'code'

©1999, Universal Press Syndicate