Define your terms: What is sex?

The article, “Sex Makes You Smarter — Can ‘Virtual Sex’ Do The Same?” was a great example of either knowing your audience too well or over-using jargon. The most prevalent problem in it was the lack of defined terms. The author assumed that the reader knew terms like: neurogenesis, glucocorticoid levels, and dendritic architecture (a case of cognitive blindness). But the biggest failure was the author’s negligence to define the most basic term about which the article was written: sex. What is sex? Who is having it? How are they having it? These questions were unanswered.

The research on which the article was based indicated that male rats were the subject of the study and were “exposed” to sexually-receptive female rats. That was it. That was the only definition of sex in the entire article, and it was a very vague definition, especially if one extrapolated it to the realm of human sex, which is known to be complicated and varied. Is the author talking about the sexual gratification of males only? If sex was a form of exercise, as the author explained it was, how much caloric effort should the male engage in to achieve it or what heart rate should be reached? Does it include stimulation of the genitals and how? And in the case of virtual sex, what happens during that? Is there any stimulation of the body or is it all in the head?

None of these questions were answered. This author was not only over-excited about the use of research jargon but was also ill equipped to discuss and describe the most basic act of human behavior. (A faulty mental model of human sexuality or an outmoded p-prim on sex, perhaps?)

Article: Kuszewski, A, (2010). “Sex Makes You Smarter — Can ‘Virtual Sex’ Do The Same?” Science 2.0. Retrieved October 9, 2012 from