Archive for July, 2010

The data entry phase

July 29, 2010

This blog is aptly titled: It labels the present phase of my book project. Yes, as tedious as it sounds, I’m entering data—painstakingly—into a spread sheet.

Surprise, surprise! I’m actually enjoying it tremendously. My book partner (a sex specialist and gynecologist) is using her practice as our survey group, and we agreed that when we collected 1,300 surveys, we could call our sample complete. Well, we hit 1,300 two weeks ago!

That’s the number of respondents (ages 15 to 97) who answered our six questions on sexual desire. We’re collecting data on the ephemeral nature of sexual desire in women and how it fluctuates throughout their lifetime. Women’s desire is influenced by many factors—environment, hormones, stress, children, financial circumstances, etc. Whereas testosterone tends to keep a man’s desire fairly steady throughout the years, women are up and down on the libido meter. And no one’s done a study like this!

So as I’m entering all this data from their surveys, I’m becoming acquainted with  ‘my women,’ as I call them. You could say they’re the characters in my book—and I find I’m enjoying our time together. I started with midlife women (my faves, natch). First I did the 40 to 44-year-olds, then 45 to 49, 50 to 54, etc. Now I’m spending my days with the 70-something respondents to our survey, and naturally the answers are very different from women in their 40s. When I get to the end, I’ll go back and start forward with the teenagers. I’m sure I’ll find some interesting things there, but my initial examination of the 21-and-under responses left me a little bored. For instance, in answer to “What stimulates your desire?” they’ll write, “Seeing my boyfriend.” OK, then. Good to know. Next.

In the older age groups, questions such as “What’s in your head during sex, i.e. What are you thinking about?” and “What is the one thing you wish your partner would NOT do in regards to sex?” draw fascinating responses from our survey takers. We also ask women to describe their best sexual encounter ever, which brings out their storytelling abilities. I find as I’m typing their responses I’m alternately identifying with their answers (I’m with YOU, girl), shocked (Really??), puzzled (Wonder why she doesn’t like French kissing?), sad (you don’t know what you’re missing), mad (your spouse must be brain dead), and any other number of emotions. And I love seeing the trends emerge, because I know they’ll make the book that much more interesting.

So. You can see I’m making progress. I’m about halfway done with entering the surveys and will likely spend another month on this phase. Then it’s back to interviews and chapter writing, based on the outline I drafted before my previous post. I wish I was doing all this faster, but after a lifetime of deadlines, it’s pretty great to not have anyone breathing over my shoulder. No publisher is standing by with a whip, and since I’m living pretty frugally, I can continue on this path for a while.

I’m sure soon enough the day will come that I’ll be back in deadline mode. Meanwhile, it’s a sweet summer I’m having here in Florida.

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