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Every month, I share in the blessing that is my roommate’s subscription to Psychology Today. Just like the popular undergraduate major, the magazine is a potent mixture of pseudo-science:

and hot girls:

This month’s psychological musings include a handy guide to figuring out which girls are slutty. Great. I love psychology.

“Is a short skirt just a welcome mat with a belt?” asks writer Matthew Hutson, to which I reply, “Do skirts have belts?” and also, “No.” No, it is not.

Hutson cites a Florida State University study where researchers “recorded 24 women working on a Rubik’s Cube with a male partner for a few minutes and played the soundless tapes to other students.” They then, naturally, asked the viewers to rate how slutty they think each of the girls are! And it worked. “The viewers showed surprising ability to guess the women’s proclivity to sleep around,” Hutson writes.

Let’s take a look at what Rubiks Cube solving behaviors “tag a tart,” according to the study:

Yes, fellas, it’s true unclear! If she looks at you or lifts her brows, she’s down to fuck. If she dresses provocatively, tilts her head, laughs, or smiles, you just think she’s down to fuck. No surprise there: A girl labeled as a “sluts” doesn’t have to actually want to have sex for observers to think she wants it. Sometimes, all she has to do is wear a “welcome mat with a belt” and then reject the guy—-those girls are called both “sluts” and “teases.”

Strangely, these indications that you think a girl totally wants to fuck you are also the characteristics that make her more desirable to bed—-call it wishful thinking. They’re happy, attractive, and expressive. I’m sure they have a lot of sexual prospects to choose from. A lot of them probably have significant others, too, who will probably kick your ass when you approach her in a bar, indicate her smile, and assume she wants to fuck you because you find her attractive.


UPDATE: Okay you guys are totally right, I can’t believe I overlooked that. I’VE READ MY AGATHA CHRISTIE. But I’m confused! What does “red herrings” mean in this case then? Are they signs that viewers reported as being linked to sexual activity, but that actually are not? Or just cultural misconceptions about what sluts do?

UPDATE 2: I’m keeping the post up in the interest of transparency, because taking down a post that makes me look dumb is kind of a dick move, right? Also, if the “Red Herrings” were suggested by study participants, are then I think the critique is still valid—-that people’s ideas of “slutty” women are invented from their own perceptions, and off-base. I have an e-mail out to Hutson asking him is that’s the case, and will update when I hear back.

Also, creative writing majors are dumb! Sorry!

UPDATE 3: Here’s the word from Huston on the “Red Herrings” category:

The red herrings are a combination of two sets of cues:

– The researchers listed “misleading cues” as those performed a lot by women who were perceived by others to be open to casual sex but who in fact were not. Presumably observers were using those cues to inform their judgments.

– The researchers listed “poor cues” as those performed no more or less by women open to casual sex, and no more or less by women people perceived to be open to casual sex. These cues didn’t mean anything, and people didn’t use them anyway.

Some of the other editors here were confused by the distinction between “poor” and “misleading” cues, and it can be argued that in the real world some people’s perceptions probably are influenced by those poor cues (even though in the study, on average, subjects were not), so I combined poor and misleading cues into one category and called it red herrings.

Okay—-so there are three categories of women at issue here:

a) Women that are perceived to be sluts, and are.

b) women who are perceived to be sluts, and aren’t.

c) women who are not perceived to be sluts.

The Red Herrings include gestures that observers popularly linked to sluttiness, but which weren’t actual indicators of openness to casual sex. So, if she looks at you or lifts her eyebrows, she’s down. If she looks pretty or dresses provocatively, you only think she’s down. Sorry for the confusion—-I’ve edited my post to reflect the changes.