The Man Ray photo of a woman with thick mascara and tear drops scattered on her face caught my attention. The headline in the New York Times ("In Women’s Tears, a Chemical That Says, ‘Not Tonight, Dear’") made me roll my eyes. Before I endeavored to read about this most important scientific finding, I wondered, "Who paid for this?" At a time when budgets are being cut around the world, and human needs for basic amenities are rising, someone thought it was a good idea to study if women's tears turn men off? The waste of resources makes me want to cry.
Maybe, I hoped, it was a study to find more cheap effective means of birth control.
No such luck, though. The study, paid for by the Minerva Stiftung Foundation, an organization that supports Israeli and German scientific co-research efforts (many times with money from the German government), set out to learn why humans cry emotional tears. This is something that no other species does, so perhaps it is worth studying. (I'm not entirely convinced, though.)
The researchers gathered up a group of Israelis who cry a lot and easily. The volunteer ladies (and one dude) were shown sad movies like "Terms of Endearment." The goal was to get lots and lots of tears. (I swear this could be the plot of a blockbuster movie in which the villain takes over the world by turning tears into a potent weapon against humanity. No one has sex any more because it rains tears or something like that. Who can stop it?) Researchers collected the tears - which had to be fresh (I picture mad scientists running around and wringing their hands over gathering the freshest tears possible and women cried and cried at sad movies. "More sad tears! Fresher!" they yell in my head with German and Israeli accents. "We must justify this study's expense to German taxpayers! Next we will take over the world!" Then maybe they start crying a little too as they laugh evilly, but I digress...) - dabbed them on pads, and gave them to guys to sniff.
The idea was that the tears would have chemicals that send men a message. (A secret message! This is so crucial to my movie plot!) Why they were super surprised to find that the areas of men's brains that control arousal went dark as a result is a mystery to me. This seems like a set up. Especially for the punchline that women are all emotional and sobby during their periods, which is when it makes no sense to have sex from an evolutionary stand point. (Yeah, you know that one of the researchers threw that in there. Can't leave out all those menstrual women and our irrational emotions. In my movie, menstruating women are especially valuable to the villain.)
Two caveats: I am not sure that gathering tears from women who specifically cry a lot is representative of all women. Second, I am not sure that collecting tears from people only watching sentimental movies is a representative sample if you are testing the chemicals in tears. Perhaps the chemicals the body produces while watching those movies are different from those produced while watching, say, the ending of Schindler's List where all the real-life survivors and their offspring approach Schindler's grave and put a rock on it in the Jewish tradition. That scene makes me bawl, but in a far different way than the scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (SPOILER ALERT) in which Chow Yun Fat dies from a poison dart just as he and Michelle Yeoh are finally getting to start their lives together. When I see a movie like Schindler's List, I don't want to be touched. I want to curl up in a ball and howl about loss. But the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon situation is different. I kind of want to cuddle with my sweetie because I'm so grateful to have him. Unfortunately, my tears are turning him off, if this study is accurate. What to do? (My movie would make no one cry.)
Gabrielle Renarde at Donuts and Desires is also skeptical of the study's findings. She writes:
...I think the result of this study might have been a little different if the subjects actually got to SEE these women while they were crying. Call me a sick freak if you want to, but I think a woman in tears is incredibly alluring. Woman are gorgeous when they're crying... But, hey, I don't have a man's body chemistry and I won't pretend I do. I'm just one more freaky queer chick with a crying fetish. Though, I must admit, I love seeing men cry too.
Interesting, especially because the researchers intend to collect male tears to have other men smell. The article mentioned no plans to see how sniffing men's tears impacts the ladies. I guess, as usual, it is not important to understand how men affect women, only what women drive men to do. Harumph. Vanessa at Feministing is not optimistic about this, either. (Now I think a crucial plot twist of my blockbuster movie could be that the heroine realizes that men's tears cause people to act in ways that counter the tear poisoning inflicted on society and maybe a worldwide orgy ensues. Men's tears turn women on, yo!)
I'm getting my period next week, so maybe that's why J. Goodrich's analysis on Ms. blog of the various media takes on this study brings a little -- little! -- tear to my eye. Perhaps if someone collected my fresh tear and gave it to a guy (or gal) to sniff they'd detect my frustration and annoyance at meaningless studies that generate lots of good ol' fashion binary gender headlines. Then they would not want to have sex with me. Goodness, my lack of sex appeal just makes me want to cry. What a conundrum indeed! (Until my action movie comes out. Then I'll be rich and famous and everyone will want me whether I cry or not.)
Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski.<?p>
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