Baggy vaginas are Out for 2008: stiletto-therapy agenda science

stilettoxray.jpg

[image via Feminist Law Profs]

We really need some new and stronger synonyms for “festering bilge”.

Today’s media fashion tips are all about how we need to rectify our baggy vaginas with fashion therapy.

From the Courier Mail comes the revelation that “Heels boost sex life”:

Stilettos can be good for a woman’s sex life, says a study which claims wearing them “directly works the pleasure muscles linked to orgasm”.

Experts found the high heels toned women’s legs and strengthened pelvic muscles.

In tests, Dr Maria Cerruto, of the University of Verona, Italy, discovered that wearing a pair of ‘‘moderately high heeled shoes’’ had beneficial effects for a woman’s sex life.

“Heels work the pelvic muscles and reduce the need to exercise them. Wearing heels during daily activity may reduce the need for the pelvic floor exercises necessary to keep that part of a woman’s anatomy toned and elastic,” Cerruto said.

I’m guessing the malformed feet, stress fractures, and abnormally contracted leg muscles enhance a woman’s sexual value, too. Incapacitating pain and the inability to stand comfortably = Hawt Chix On Their Backs and Unable To Run!!1!

The article is linked to a gallery titled “We like legs long and lovely”. Amongst the 26 shots of female swimsuit models, Hollywood movie-stars, and headless soft-porn underwear models are five male athletes in action. See, they’re equal opportunity gawkers! So it’s all ok!

Impartial psychologist and spectacularly successful marriage counsellor, Manolo Blahnik, welcomed Cerruto’s magnum opus as fabulous news for the “male species” with this little pearl:

“I have men who tell me that heels have saved their marriage.”

The breathless newspaper reports around the globe would have you believe that this is a full-blown peer-reviewed study in press with the journal European Urology.

However.

A quick search, which appears to be beyond MSM-employed science journalists, shows that it is merely a three-paragraph letter to the editor, titled “Women Pay Attention to Shoe Heels: Besides Causing Schizophrenia They Might Affect Your Pelvic Floor Muscle Activity!!” Yes, with the two exclamation points, always a reliable marker for earnest, thoughtful science.

A literature search reveals Cerruto’s primary area of expertise to be in penis-sparing treatment for squamous cell carcinoma.

The Courier Mail report continues:

In tests, their pelvic muscles were more relaxed in higher heels, increasing their strength and ability to contract.

So which is it? Walking in high heels works the muscles, or relaxes them?

What Cerruto actually did was wire up womens’ pelvic muscles to detect electrical activity. Whether she did this with the women walking, standing, sitting, or lying down is not stated. She measured resting pelvic floor activity, then asked the women to produce a maximal contraction, and measured that activity.

She claims to have found that women holding their feet at an angle consistent with the angle in high heels had more relaxed pelvic muscles. No statistical significance analyses were performed on the data.

Furthermore, it is clear from the raw data that resting pelvic floor muscle activity was completely unaffected by heel height in both the incontinent and the continent groups of women.

Looking at her data on continent women and maximal contractions, a higher heel height seems to be associated with a trend to a lower maximal pelvic floor muscle contraction, though the interquartile ranges have a huge amount of overlap. The maximum maximal activity was achieved at an angle equivalent to a heel height of 2-2.4 cm (just under an inch).

What this means is that women in heels higher than an inch were unable to produce a maximal contraction of their pelvic floor. If the results were statistically significant, they would be showing that womens’ pelvic floor muscles became dysfunctional when their feet were being held at a stiletto angle.

The incontinent women in the subject group showed a trend to slightly increased maximal activity in high heel angles. However, the difference is so small, and the range overlap so huge, that I can’t imagine the results reach anything like statistical significance. If there are any statisticians present, the data is at the bottom of this post.

And yet, Cerruto postulates, in a single-sentence conclusion, that high heels “might affect pelvic floor muscle activity, reducing myofascial pelvic pain relaxing the pelvic floor and improving pelvic organ well-being!”

Yes, with the exclamation point.

And the mainstream media took this, and ran with a completely different conclusion: “Stiletto heels give you a tighter vajayjay!”

Reading the full article also allows us to dig a little deeper into Cerruto’s motivation for this research. Had she identified a scientific unknown? Was she, a urologist, concerned for her female patients and their problems? Had she spotted a medical problem she was trying to solve? Was she seeing an epidemic of myofascial pelvic pain in moccasin-wearing hippies?

It seems not. Her Letter opens:

A few months ago, when I read the article in Daily Mail (29 October 2007) concerning the hypothesis that heeled footwear might cause schizophrenia, I jumped in my chair terrified. Why? Because as many other women, I like heeled shoes and although they are sometimes uncomfortable, I continue to wearthem in an effort to appear more slender and taller. […]

As paladin of all women who love heeled shoes, I tried to find something healthy in them, and at the end I reached my goal.

Good science is always knowing in advance what results you’re looking for. I predict a long and prosperous career in evolutionary psychology for Dr Cerruto.

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Categories: gender & feminism, Science

Tags: ,

15 replies

  1. The same sentence leaped out at me as a WTF, I’m glad you checked it out:

    In tests, their pelvic muscles were more relaxed in higher heels, increasing their strength and ability to contract

    Y’know, as a physio who worked with incontinent women, I can tell you the clinical name for “more relaxed” pelvic floor muscles is much more likely to be “flaccid” rather than “conserving their energy ready to leap into action”.
    We weren’t giving the patients electrotherapy to relax their pelvic floor muscles, the idea was to make the myofibres bloody twitch a damn sight more than they generally were.

  2. I don’t think she gives enough data to calculate stats — there’s no “n” (number of women tested), as far as I can see, and the bracketed numbers are 25th and 75th percentile, not something useful like standard error. I can’t imagine that the numbers even approach statistical significance.
    The letter contains this truly awesome gem of hypocrisy:

    I remain astonished in the face of “bizarre medical theories” published in nonscientific journals in the absence of any scientific filter or key reading, because they might be misunderstood.

    It’s not absolutely clear to me whether this is peer-reviewed or not (I hope not, because then at least one peer reviewer would have passed on this stupidity); although it’s a letter to the editor, there are some journals — most prominently Nature — that still call peer-reviewed research papers “letters”.
    Ian’s last blog post..Autoimmune hypotheses

  3. Stilettos can be good for a woman’s sex life, says a study which claims wearing them “directly works the pleasure muscles linked to orgasm”.
    Yup, and vibrators can have the same effect, WITHOUT causing pain and damage to the feet. And, you know, there’s actual real evidence to back that up, rather than something completely fabricated.

  4. Meh, there was supposed to be an end italics tag after the quoted paragraph.

  5. Fixed that for you, Beppie. Plus, agreed.
    Lauredhel’s last blog post..Baggy vaginas are Out for 2008: stiletto-therapy agenda science

  6. That X-ray photo should be attached to all high heels sold, in the manner of cancerous organs now appear on cig. packs.

  7. “Women Pay Attention to Shoe Heels: Besides Causing Schizophrenia They Might Affect Your Pelvic Floor Muscle Activity!!”
    Isn’t schizophrenia ahem, a somewhat high price to pay? wouldn’t pelvic floor exercises, as taught to you by those friendly antenatal class people, be a better way to go?
    Helen’s last blog post..OMG I FKN LUV IT

  8. Wow, thank you for taking this piece of crap and having a closer look, for having the time and energy to give it some critical thoughr for us.
    blue milk’s last blog post..25,000 couples still waiting and.. waiting

  9. I agree with blue milk. Thanks for taking the trouble of debunking this for us.
    Mary Tracy9’s last blog post..The Return of the Gray Myth

  10. How the hell do stories like this get published? I’m beginning to think that journalistic standards are automatically suspended for anything ev psych-flavored, and of course for any story about vaginas.

  11. Thanks! I saw this on the BBC and knew it was goatshit, but couldn’t be bothered to look it up to find out why.

  12. Thankyou!
    It’s not just scientific illiteracy, either. The Daily Telegraph today reports:

    Following her study of 66 women, she found that those who held their foot at a 15 degree angle to the ground – the equivalent of a two inch heel – had as gooder posture as those who wore flats.

    Now that’s just special.
    Screenshot here, in case they change it and no one believes me.

  13. Wow, even the Huffington Post has regurgitated the crap straight from the MSM, pretty much word for word. The article, ”High Heels And Your Sex Drive”, talks about high heels as a “very ancient acceptable fetish”, and comes complete with this sniggering little signoff:

    All in all, a very happy circumstance for men and women. Just what the doctor ordered, and not unpalatable medicine at that.

    I thought the journalistic standards were a little higher at HuffPo? The journalist, “Dr Rock Positano”, says he has a graduate degree in medicine from Yale. Guess it didn’t include a unit in critical thinking.
    Lauredhel’s last blog post..OBGYN Obstetrics Gynecology Baby Labor OB Handles

  14. I agree with many… You have to have more data to make a good comparison. Love your blog!

  15. Thanks! I saw this on the BBC and knew it was goatshit, but couldn’t be bothered to look it up to find out why.

    I would have thought that the source being The Curious Snail was sufficient warning.

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