Dr. Jen Gunter

A study rating female attractiveness: the journal Fertility and Sterility publishes misogyny

I believe in science.

I believe in the scientific method.

I do not believe in medical studies that have doctors rate a woman’s attractiveness. The title, so obscene I can barely type it, is:

Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case-control study (Fertility Sterility, September 2012).

The main outcome measure? A graded attractiveness scale.

I will absolutely concede that studying attractiveness is important from a psychological standpoint and so I believe in studies that try to contribute to our understanding of what we like and why, what turns us on, and why we make the choices we do with our sexual partners etc. These studies should be done, but by psychologists, not by OB/GYNs. And so I fail to understand how a small group of Italian doctors rating attractiveness of women with different stages of endometriosis contributes anything to medical science.

In this *cough* study, women with more advanced endometriosis were thinner (by BMI), had larger breasts (by a breast to under breast ratio), and were “judged” (I’m quoting here) by a group of doctors who viewed their pictures to be overall more attractive than their counter parts with less advanced endometriosis. Honestly, it makes me sick to type that. If some researcher asked me to participate in that study my first response would be, “Fuck off.” My second would be to report them to the institutional ethics board.

Now it is quite possible that there are some valid points about BMI, body habitus, and endometriosis. The lead researcher, Dr. Paolo Dr. Paolo Vercellini, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Universita degli Studi in MilanPerhaps, feels this greater degree of attractiveness, bigger breasts, and thinner body type could be related to estrogen levels. Estrogen does promote the growth of endometriosis, I’ll give him that. While that might give bigger breasts, estrogen isn’t exactly known as the weight-regulating hormone, if you know what I mean.

Dr. Vercellini is quoted as saying, “Several researchers believe that a general phenotype exists which is associated with the disease.” While I am not an endometriosis researcher, as I only treat women with pelvic pain I see many women every single day with endometriosis and I have yet to identify a severe-endometriosis phenotype. But, then again, I don’t ever consider my patients’ attractiveness, just, you know, their medical and social history, their physical findings, and response to treatments. And this quote about the “hot babe phenotype” with advanced endometriosis tells me that there was nothing pure about this study to begin with. If the goal were to look at BMI, or some other validated measurement of body habitus, the title of the article and main outcome measure wouldn’t be attractiveness.

If women with severe endometriosis truly do have a lower BMI there could be a multitude of reasons, some of which may actually be important, but this hypothesis is not answered by this study. In fact, this study of 31 women contributes nothing to the medical literature and Fertility Sterility should be ashamed they accepted it for publication. If they included it in their press release then they were just gunning for attention, which is even worse.

Objectifying women has no place in medicine. It is even more horrifying that such a publication comes from a department on OB/GYN.

What do you think? Is grading attractiveness a valid outcome measure in this kind of study?