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Bad LGBT Parents? Bad UT study, audit finds

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Mark Regnerus

While mildly critical of SSR editor James D. Wright, who's endured his own steady barrage of angry emails from colleagues and an irate public, Sherkat rips apart Regnerus' work in the audit, citing serious flaws in the paper, particularly with the misidentification of parents labeled “gay” and “lesbian” — only two of those people lumped into that category in the study were in long-term same-sex relationships. “I mean, this is a top, top journal,” Sherkat said in an interview this week. “You don't publish shit in a top journal. And this is shit.”

Charges of “scholarly misconduct” by “The New Civil Rights Movement” writer and activist Scott Rose has sparked a UT inquiry panel scheduled for this Friday (Sherkat, for his part, calls the threat of any administrative reprimand “ridiculous” and says Regnerus has already been well spanked by both his colleagues and in the court of public opinion).

The whole mess has also caused others to look back at Regnerus' body of work. He's been a regular on the op-ed circuit whenever topics of sexuality, the family, and children surface. In 2011, he co-authored the book Premarital Sex in America, notable for touting the “sexual economics” theory that contends all sex between unmarried people, all the way from one-night-stands to long-term relationships, is transactional — oh, and that it's only really satisfying for the men involved. Sherkat said he's known Regnerus since he was a graduate student. He contended Regnerus made a conscious decision to take a right-wing partisan line with his research once he got tenure. He summed up Regnerus' “sexual economics” theory this way: “Women hate sex, and the only reason why women have sex is to get things from men. And so when women have non-marital sex, or have sex with lots of partners, that devalues sex. I guess that's a nice supply-and-demand argument, if you start from the premise that women are whores.”

Ultimately, Sherkat writes in his audit, the peer-review process failed this time around. Regnerus got a “lucky roll of the dice” on reviewers, he writes, “in large part because the SSR die are loaded in favor of conservatives in the area of family, and because scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process.”

Flaws and distortions in the paper were “not simply ignored, but lauded in the reviews.”

Additionally, “There should be reflection about a conservative scholar garnering a very large grant from exceptionally conservative foundations to make incendiary arguments about the worthiness of LGBT parents — and putting this out in time to politicize it before the 2012 United States Presidential Election.”

But Sherkat also hits on a larger, more alarming point. Regardless of what happens to Regnerus and this particular study, he says, the episode has forced social scientists to focus on the elephant in the room. Big, conservative money, he said, has flooded the field. As evidenced by Regnerus' paper, he said, that cash will increasingly shape social science research. “What I've been saying for a very long time now is that we're really in a crisis in the social sciences,” he said.

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