Why do we have studies? To learn what we think, who thinks it, who's in the wrong, and if we are in the right?
I remember when I was at Florida International University about 3 years ago the School of Architecture was voted as the fifth best in the Southeast. This was a great honor that was praised by the dean and the school and the university. Me, being a numbers guy wondered where we were slacking, how could we do better, so I looked into the vote or survey as it were. Come to find out, this amazing survey and its results had been finalized with just three students from our school taking part. If I remember correctly, the number one school only had one student completing the survey. What was FIU slacking in or where did they need to be better? The lowest scores for the school were the question that dealt with transportation. If the students did not mind the Miami traffic, the school would have bettered its score and moved into third place. The results basically meant nothing to me since I saw how many participated and what the scores were based on.
At the end of last month, we as well as other LGBT outlets, covered survey results in our post Study Says Open Relationships Might Be Going Away Thanks To Gay Marriage.
The study (or rather, survey) was run by researchers and couple Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears. The two asked 832 gay men between the ages of 18 and 39-years old a series of questions involving monogamy.
"Probably the most striking finding of this study is that younger gay men seem to be more inclined toward monogamy than their elders," the pair wrote in their reflection from the study’s results.
The results found that 86% of respondents that were in a relationship were monogamous and the remaining 14% were not. As for those who were single, 90% said that they were looking for a monogamous relationship. – Instinct
Sounds good, right? use it to support your stance on monogamy. Or maybe the results are not what they seem?
Many read the post and agreed, disagreed, or didn't read it at all since they are secure in their belief that monogamy is/isn't a thing. That Viral Study Claiming Most Young Gay Men Want Monogamy Shouldn’t Be Trusted, Salfas elaborated:
The study, titled “Choices: Perspectives of Younger Gay Men on Monogamy, Non-monogamy, and Marriage,” is riddled with methodological problems to such an extent that it’s essentially worthless—in 2016 and now. And when discussing gay relationships, what is at stake is not only a question of scientific accuracy but of the accurate communication of community norms and values both externally and among ourselves.
Some basic features of the study, conducted by couple Blake Spears and Lanz Lowen, raise serious questions about the validity of any findings. For one thing, it was not published in a peer-reviewed academic journal nor was it conducted by investigators with advanced research training (i.e., a doctoral degree). Further, the authors do not mention any review process in which procedures were approved by an accredited private institution or federal agency prior to data collection. This means that unlike with most studies, in this case, procedures such as recruiting respondents, selecting and phrasing study questions, and statistical and analytical techniques for interpreting these responses need not be justified or rigorously grounded in previous research. Without being held to these basic standards, the authors were free to make whatever claims they saw fit about the significance of the survey responses they collected. – Slate.com
It gets a little nerdy, wordy, and well, true. Head over to Slate.com to read the whole thing, but it basically says, no publication, no scientist, no methodology involved, no results should be believed.
We actually received a jab from a reader on Facebook messenger stating:
Hey Gays With Kids, I feel this post has misleading information. I don't think it should be on Facebook. Could you please take it down? There is no information about how the study was conducted, and the little information it does have is misleading in nature.
We aren't "Gays With Kids," but I read he message anyway. Apparently the reader was seeking out everyone that posted the Blake Spears and Lanz Lowen survey results as truth and was cutting and pasting the same message to all. He had read the Slate piece and proceeded to cut and paste from the Slate article as well as adding:
Poor surveys are not respected by those true to academic research and should not be shared.
You’re as bad as the right wing sites that share skeptic false news stories.
as well as
Take the story down and print a retraction.
He was right about the survey. Well his cutting and pasting from Slate.com was correct. The survey did not pass all of the channels of academic research.
More from Slate.com
In essence, the authors have constructed a flimsy argument for the inevitable triumph of assimilation to traditional relationship values as a product of improved civil rights for gay people, in the drag of objectivity offered by citing numbers. Beyond just adding noise to the larger set of findings from better studies on monogamy trends among gay men, the study lends itself, whether intentionally or not, to supporting an agenda of respectability politics—and the same goes for the sloppy reporting on it. Ultimately, this situation illustrates the importance of good research underlying larger political and social conversations. – Slate.com
So apparently the Spears & Lowen study was not done well and should not have been published anywhere. Is that a retraction? Not fully.
What I like about the Spears and Lowen survey is that it did get people chatting, may it be about adequate research or the "inevitable triumph of assimilation to traditional relationship values."
But which way are we leaning when it comes to "mono v. open"?
I have friends that are a fan of the open relationship. I myself, at this time am a fan of the monogamous example of interaction. There are so many "proven and educationally sound" studies out there that state the males of the species are not meant to be monogamous since they have an underlying need to mate and increase the species or something to that effect. You can as well find studies stating the females are the ones that actually mate with more than one male in order to help guarantee the safety of their offspring. Do we stick with primates or do we look at all animals when talking about mating and dating patterns? Depending on what species you study, when and where, and how you stack "it," you can "prove" just about anything in the debate about "mono v. open".
For those that say we practice monogamy because it is heteronormative and we are confining ourselves to a heterosexual world if we believe monogamy to be the mating law of the land, I say lay off the big words to try to win an argument. Most people that have used the word heteronormative in a discussion, that's all they have. Heteronormative – denoting or relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation. Believing in monogamy doesn't make me want to be heterosexual or prefer sex with a woman. Believing in monogamy means I want to have a relationship with one person.
To my friends that want and practice an open relationship, I hope that works for you, just as much as I hope that my relationship works for the two people that are in it.
You can quote this, cite that, call others names, but what it comes down to is … do what you need to do. But if 100% of your survey takers say that traffic is the worst thing about going to your school, maybe you should look at the traffic issue, And as for Spears & Lowen, you guys did get us talking about good studies, good reporting, and what people believe are good relationships. Some good things came out of it. If we always believed what people told us, I'd still be in that closet and dating, maybe married to a sullen girl.
This is the opinion of one of the Contributing Writers of Instinct Magazine and does not reflect the opinion of other writers or the magazine.