A research paper published in January 2013 has resurfaced on Twitter and gone viral for all the wrong reasons. The study titled “Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case-control study” has been called “sexist” and “masochist” on Twitter and many in the scientific community have expressed anger over the nature of the study.
Carried out by researchers from the University of Milan, Italy, the study evaluated over 300 women who suffered from endometriosis and compared their physical “attractiveness.”
Endometriosis is a disorder in which the endometrium, or the tissue lining the inside of the uterus, grows outside the uterus. “It can be a very painful debilitating disorder crippling women with painful periods, pain during sex, infertility, recurring ovarian cysts and severe chronic pelvic pain affecting the quality of life,” says Dr. Priyanka Mehta, Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Apollo Women's Hospital, Chennai.
The researchers assessed the physical appearance -- weight, height, body measurements, and eye and hair color. The women were made to sit alone in a quiet room and fill out a questionnaire about their personal habits and sexual history.
The paper published in the journal Fertility and Sterility concluded that “women with rectovaginal endometriosis were judged to be more attractive than those in the two control groups. Moreover, they had a leaner silhouette, larger breasts, and an earlier coitarche [age at first sexual intercourse].”
Following an outrage when the paper was released, the researchers said that attractiveness could be linked to higher oestrogen levels which lead to aggressive endometriotic lesions. “By no means did we trivialise or disregard all the major problems associated with endometriosis. We understand very well the suffering of women... For this reason, we are eager to investigate new ideas that might help shed light on the still unclear causes of endometriosis,” Dr. Paolo Vercellini, the lead author had said in the clarification.
Several researchers have asked for the retraction of the paper.
“Many women unable to bear pain opt for surgical removal of uterus and ovaries even at a very young age. So linking the disorder in this way only degrades their immense suffering and makes no sense,” adds Dr. Mehta. “It is advisable to seek professional support to deal with this condition rather than suffering in silence.”