Not since the appointment of Dr. W. David Hager to the FDA’s reproductive health drugs advisory committee have Americans been so abuzz about an anti-family planning zealot appointed by the Bush administration to a federal body responsible for providing family planning information and services. Just over two months into his tenure as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (where he administers $283 million annual budget of federal family planning grants), we are still uncovering evidence of “Doctor” Eric Keroack’s staggering lack of credentials. The latest exhibit is “OXYTOCIN: Is this NANO-PEPTIDE a chemical type of HUMAN ‘SUPER-GLUE’?” (emphasis most definitely NOT mine), the PowerPoint presentation that sealed his infamy in the eyes of self-respecting scientists, physicians, and non-crazy people everywhere.
In short, the presentation compiles “evidence” that engaging in pre-marital sex compromises people’s (or more specifically, women’s) ability to form healthy and lasting relationships. Why? Because, as Keroack argues (or rather, extrapolates from a bunch of studies on mice, voles, and the occasional human female), the more we engage in pre-marital sex, the more failed relationships we have, and the more failed relationships we have, the more we interfere with our body’s ability to release and process the “love” hormone oxytocin, and the more we interfere with that process, the more we lose our ability to form healthy, lasting, loving relationships, and as a result, the more miserable and unfulfilled we are. The antidote? Abstinence before marriage, of course.
Or at least that’s what I think he’s arguing. Truth be told, between the flying leaps of logic, the dense and circuitous argumentation, the distracting reliance on cartoonish graphics and Thomas-Friedman-on-crack mixed metaphors, and the blinding use of caps, italics, “gratuitous quotation marks,” multi-colored fonts, and multiple exclamation points and questions marks more worthy of a ransom note than a scientific presentation, I had a hard time even understanding the argument well enough to critique it. However, the following refutations are pretty convincing:
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- Dr. Rebecca Turner issued a statement condemning Keroack’s use of her research on Oxytocin for pseudo-scientific purposes.
- Behavioral scientist Jill Schneider calls out Keroack’s extrapolation, “loose anthropomorphism,” and substitution of causation with correlation in this interview.
- This blogger points out that Keroack’s theory neglects to address the fact that women also release major amounts of Oxytocin during breastfeeding.
- Stacy Schiff takes the presentation down in her NYT article “Sex and the Single-Minded.”
- Amanda Schaffer pokes holes in Keroack’s various theories in “The Family Un-Planner” on Slate.
All 68 slides of the nutty PowerPoint presentation are available here. But for those who wish to cut to the chase, here are the top ten moments when my insane-o-meter spiked:
- Slide 1: “SOME PEOPLE WITHOUT BRAINS DO AN AWFUL LOT OF TALKING. -THE SCARECROW.” As the epigraph for a 68-slide PowerPoint presentation.
- Slide 7: “In my clinical experience as an OB/GYN, the concept of “SELECTIVE AMNESIA” needs absolutely no formal studying in order for it to be believed …THE FACT THAT WOMEN EVEN CONSIDER GOING THROUGH CHILD-BIRTH MORE THAN ONCE…IS “ROCK-SOLID” EVIDENCE of “SELECTIVE AMNESIA” caused by OXYTOCIN !!!“. Because people making “scientific presentations” really shouldn’t throw around the term “rock-solid evidence.”
- Slide 12: “I have often wondered IF this unique interaction between OXYTOCIN and DIRECT HUMAN TOUCH underlies THE UNUSUAL LEVEL of “BONDING” that is often seen between — WOMEN & Their LABOR + DELIVERY NURSING TEAM ??? WOMEN & Their OB/GYN ??? The seeds of a new study???” Because it’s a huge medical mystery why a woman would bond with the people who accompany her through a major life event and help her deliver her baby.
- Slide 27: Spookily gratuitous Tina Turner reference.
- Slide 37: Inexplicable graphic of mice enjoying a post-coital smoke.
- Slide 38: Ragingly inappropriate “bar-hopping” metaphor.
- Slide 38-40: Total absence of any “research” or even “ridiculous speculations” on how premarital sex emotionally impacts men, since everyone knows that “abstinence-only-until-marriage” really means “women should abstain from sex before marriage unless they are resigned to a life of slutty misery.”
- Slide 52: This graphic speaks for itself.
- Aggravated metaphor usage: Oxytocin is variously compared to Super glue (slide 1), Krazy glue (also slide 1), baseballs (slide 29), the Energizer Bunny (slide 33), and the sticky side of duct tape (slides 53-55).
- Throughout: The assumption that women have orgasms every time they have sex. Do we need any more evidence that Dr. Keroack does not reside in the reality-based universe?
Read the whole PowerPoint above, if you dare.