The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research: When Is Sexuality Too Risky To Study?

The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research: When Is Sexuality Too Risky To Study?

A new paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggesting that computers have better “gaydar” than humans made quite a media splash this week. Specifically, this study found that a machine algorithm correctly classified 81% of men and 74% of women as either gay or straight; by contrast, human judges correctly classified just 61% of men and 54% of women in terms of their sexual orientation.

These findings have raised a lot of ethical concerns, with many gay rights groups expressing worry about how such findings could potentially be used for nefarious purposes.

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College Students Don’t Need To Be Protected From Sex Studies

College Students Don’t Need To Be Protected From Sex Studies

Before a scientific study is carried out, researchers usually need to receive approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB), a body of fellow scientists who evaluate a given study’s potential risks and rewards. In the name of protecting research participants, IRBs often given studies focusing on “sensitive topics” heightened scrutiny.

Sex is often considered to be a sensitive topic, and many researchers (myself included) have encountered difficulties at one time or another in getting certain studies approved because their IRBs are concerned that students might be traumatized by certain kinds of sex questions (e.g., how would students who have been sexually victimized feel if they were asked questions about prior experiences with rape and sexual assault?).

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Sex Surrogacy: The “Hands-On” Approach to Sex Therapy

“The best therapy for a man suffering impotence…may be a therapist-supplied ‘other woman’ who embodies patience. Actual patience with a willing woman is crucial.” – Quote from the November 1, 1969 San Francisco Chronicle

Some within the sexual health community have argued that the best way to resolve a sexual difficulty is to “practice” with a substitute partner who is very knowledgeable and experienced. Although this idea has garnered a lot of recent attention with the release of the provocative film The Sessions starring Helen Hunt, sex surrogacy first catapulted into the public spotlight in the 1970s when Masters and Johnson publicly advocated for at least some usage of so-called “surrogate” partners in the practice of sex therapy. As part of their pioneering research, Masters and Johnson actually recruited female volunteers to serve as sex surrogates for single men who were experiencing sexual difficulties and achieved a very high rate of success in treating erectile dysfunction. However, this approach was greeted with a great deal of skepticism and concern by both the broader community of sex therapists and the general public alike. So what is the status of sex surrogate therapy today?

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Tearoom Trade And The Study Of Sex In Public Places

In the not too distant past, scientists could get away with almost anything because ethics boards did not yet exist and it was up to the researchers themselves to determine what types of risks were acceptable. This resulted in the publication of a number of studies that we look back on today as being ethically dubious.

For example, a 1938 study published in the Journal of Social Psychology involved two psychologists surreptitiously hiding under college students’ dorm room beds in order to eavesdrop on their conversations [1]. I’m quite sure that if a similar study were attempted today, the researchers would be thrown in jail. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of questionable research ethics. In this article, I’m going to share one of the most fascinating and ethically ambiguous studies ever conducted in the history of sex research.

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Sex Surveys Pose No Harm To Student Participants

Sex Surveys Pose No Harm To Student Participants
Sex surveys have been controversial ever since the pioneering work of Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s and 50s. There has been a persistent concern that asking people questions about sex is simply too personal and is likely to make them feel distressed and uncomfortable. Although there may have been some validity to this concern several decades ago, times have changed. We now live in a world where people talk about sex more freely than ever before and sex is represented everywhere in the media. So should ethics review boards continue to scrutinize sex studies more than other types of research? A new study suggests not.
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How Should We Deal With Scientific Fraud in Psychology?

How Should We Deal With Scientific Fraud in Psychology?
It was recently reported that a Dutch social psychologist, Diederik Stapel, published at least 30 papers in reputable scientific journals based on data he had completely faked. The full scope of Stapel’s academic misconduct is still being investigated and could possibly extend much further than this. How such widespread fraud went undetected for so many years has vexed the entire scientific community. As if that weren't enough cause for concern, a journal article just came out showing how easy it is for psychologists to manipulate real data in order to show almost any result they want [1]. Consequently, many people are rightly questioning what we can do to get a better handle on unethical research practices. In this article, I offer my own take on what we should do about this issue.
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Can A Woman Be “Revirginized” Through Surgery?

Can A Woman Be “Revirginized” Through Surgery?

The hymen is a membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening and is thought be break during a woman’s first attempt at intercourse. An intact hymen is therefore often presumed to indicate virginity. Given that it may be possible to physically detect virginity status by noting the presence or absence of the hymen, this small piece of tissue has come to take on great social meaning in some parts of the world. In fact, in some African and Middle Eastern cultures, a woman may be considered unmarriageable if her hymen is not intact, even if it was broken through non-sexual activity or as a result of rape. Because there is such great social pressure for these women to demonstrate virginity on their wedding night, “revirginization” surgery has become an increasingly popular medical procedure in some parts of the world. So how does it work, and are women satisfied with the outcomes?

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