My Inspirational Person: Cara Santa Maria

If you watch The Young Turks, you’ve probably heard of her. If not, well, you have now.

She is my favorite scientist-turned-writer-turned-TV-personality.

Cara Santa Maria.

I’m going to put the phrase “Cara Santa Maria hot” in here just because I know that’s a phrase people are going to be Googling to find this page.

CSM was the senior science correspondent for the “Talk Nerdy to Me” series for The Huffington Post until April 2013.

According to wiki, she has a Masters in neuroscience and dated Bill Maher (Ugh, well, I don’t envy her taste in pretentious men.) for two years. She has done a lot of neuropsychology research including, “clinical psychological assessment, the neuropsychology of blindness, neuronal cell culture techniques, and computational neurophysiology.”

She is now pretty much a full-fledged member of the TYT cast.

So, she gives me inspiration for science jobs beyond research monkey.

Another one of my favorite scientists that became a writer is Dr. Robert Sapolsky over at Stanford. He wrote Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping. Sapolsky did not trasnsition out of academia, but you can see in his Ted Talk that he is awesome at breaking complex topics down into highly accessible language.

I’ve blogged about him before.

He is arguably much less adorable than Cara Santa Maria.

Man, “senior science correspondent.” That’s a nice title.

A blogger can dream.


Men are NOT Raped More than Women in the US

[2013 edit: I realize that this post isn’t as clear in re: statistical analysis as I would like it to be. I doubt the premise will change, but I will do a more thorough data combing in a later post and link to it here in a edit when I do.]

[2016 edit: Here you go. “Men are NOT Raped More than Women in the US pt 2“]

Since I’ve been criticizing people that shit-talk men in my Cosmo post and my defense of DSK. I feel like I have to prove my gender egalitarianism now.

Progressive Current TV newscasters The Young Turks were straight up wrong about something last week. They called it a “fact.” I sent them an e-mail, but they never responded, so in my truth-crusading the need to bitch on my blog kicked in.

Dear Young Turks,

I’m writing in regards to your video “Men Raped More Than Women in US?” To your eponymous question, Cenk answered “yes” to men are raped more than women. This notion is simply wrong.

Cenk didn’t cite a statistic in the video, (which he should, if only to pass off blame in case the source is wrong) but the video comments cites Justice Department guidelines (but has no link).

You need to learn how to read and interpret primary sources before passing them off to your anchors as facts. Just because there are more men in prison than women, and there are prison rape epidemics, it does not immediately statistically necessitate that men are raped more than women.

Here is an excellent blog post from Feministe, which cites the Justice Dept. survey about prison sexual assault released in 2012:

The Justice Department survey is linked here. And… yeah. Those numbers are not quite correct, but they are nonetheless horrifying. First of all, “sexual assault” is not always the same as “rape,” and includes a variety of behavior that wouldn’t meet the legal standard for rape. So it’s not clear that there are actually more rapes of men than women, or more rapes of prisoners than non-prisoners…

According to RAINN, there are 213,000 victims of sexual assault in the United States every year.More than 9/10ths of those victims are women and girls. The numbers RAINN uses come from the Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS, though, is clear that its methodology for gathering sexual assault stats is pretty limited, and probably doesn’t present a 100% accurate picture of what victims experience. The NCVS also doesn’t seem to include prisoners (at least as far as I can tell), but would include people who were sexually assaulted in prison within the past year, but were out of prison at the time the NCVS was taken.

You had better be careful in the future with your fact-checking or risk alienating your women viewers.

People on youtube tried to be all snarky and present other studies with incompatible sampling techniques to prove the amount of men that underreport rape make up the difference. They failed and then I got downvoted for simply citing statistics from the same studies they were supposedly getting their information from.

One such study is the The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey on the CDC website, which still says, “Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives.”

Including stalking and other forms of violence bring the stats up to “More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States.” I still think it’s a good idea to include different forms of sexual violence, but if they broaden the definition too wide, example “stalking,” the statistics are going to include a bunch of unrelated experiences.

Prison rape is still a problem. Male and female rape are still problems. But we need to have honest conversations about the data and where it’s coming from if we’re going to fix it.

For more information on modern masculinity check out The Good Men Project.

Planned Parenthood is a Pussy about Litigation

The Young Turks discuss a pro-life group’s “sting” operation at Planned Parenthood:

Sex-selective abortions are legal in Austin, Texas. The counselor explained to the woman her options available under the law. Live Action reportedly edited out the part of the video where she talked about adoption as an option.

Planned Parenthood fired the woman anyway, because it is against their policy to advocate sex-selective abortion. They then said they were “retraining” their employees. That’s what really bothers me about this story; if they failed to train their employees properly to begin with, then that is on them, not her. This woman, who seems like a thoroughly decent person, shouldn’t have her career ruined because of this stupid video. As TYT points out, it legitimizes the effectiveness of what is essentially propaganda.


I went to Planned Parenthood today. I’ve been going there for years for my pills, and this was the first time I ever actually saw a protestor with a fetus poster. He looked very lonely.

Anyway, I was on Yaz a few years ago and in addition to the lack of baby, it made my skin pregnancy-glow awesome. I quit due to costs. (It’s a relatively new drug and I’m sure has a long patent life ahead.) But today I mentioned possibly switching my pill back. The doctor said it is now Planned Parenthood’s policy to no longer prescribe Yaz due to the increased risk of embolism.

It’s time for another edition of “Candice Reads Primary Source Articles So You Don’t Have To.”

Here’s the Yaz (drospirenone) study from BMJ:

Conclusion: After adjustment for length of use, users of oral contraceptives with desogestrel, gestodene, or drospirenone were at least at twice the risk of venous thromboembolism [outlink mine] compared with users of oral contraceptives with levonorgestrel.

The study methodology looks pretty solid to me. It had a good sample size and controlled for a lot of variables. The important part to take away is the interpretation of the conclusion.

What’s the baseline risk for venous thromboembolism?

The risk, like everything, depends on your genes. The incidence of VTE* is about 1 in 1,000 each year, which, if you think about in terms of percentage, is a 0.001% rate. Men are at higher risk than women. Asian and Hisapnic women are at lower risk than Caucasian or African. High BMI is also a risk factor.

Those stats not only include men, but whatever women were on birth control. So even if you multiply that risk by seven (6-7 times more at risk than women not on birth control is what the BMJ study suggests), I still don’t think it’s clinically significant. If it was, the drug would have been pulled from pharmacy shelves a long time ago.

As a skinny, half-Asian, with no family history of VTE, I want my Yaz back.

*American Heart Association