Facing the Spartan invasion, from an actuarial perspective

A statistician I am not. Nor do I believe in predicting (much less judging) what individual will do based on which statistical group an individual is said to belong. One of the things I hate about the insurance industry is the way they translate statistical correlations into individual judgments, and a perfect example is the way an occupation or credit credit score will be used in determining the cost of something seemingly unrelated to credit -- like insurance, which ought to be based on a person's driving or health records. But because the companies are worried about the likelihood of a claim, the more marginal a person appears, the more likely he is to make a claim. I'm not denying that people with worse credit are more likely to need money and thus more likely to make ungrounded or frivolous claims, but there ought to be some other way of taking that into account. Perhaps they could penalize actual claim making with higher deductibles. OTOH, perhaps someone with financial problems actually is more likely to get into an accident. It always seems unfair when I read stories like this:

Eric Poe, chief executive officer for CURE Auto Insurance, a not-for-profit reciprocal exchange based in Princeton, N.J., that fights for fair insurance practices, says a credit score is just one of eight factors used to determine rates.

"Age, how long you've been licensed, gender, where you live, how you use your car (how many miles you drive to work or annual mileage), the car's cost, and your driving record used to be the seven things that determined rates," he says. "Unfortunately in the past decade, the largest auto insurance companies have introduced many income proxies such as credit score, your highest level of education completed, and your occupation to determine whether you are eligible to receive the lowest rates."

Poe says even if a driving record is spotless, a less than perfect credit score could lead to excessively high premiums.

"It's unfair," says Joe Goodwin. When Goodwin's job became a victim of the recession, his credit score dropped nearly 100 points. "I got behind on bills for the first time in my life." When renewal time rolled around on his home and auto insurance policies, Goodwin says his premiums jumped 27%. "I had never filed a claim and was a 20-plus year customer."

Goodwin says when he asked his insurance agent what prompted the spike in rates, he was stonewalled. "I got the runaround. It wasn't until I started shopping around and learned [from agents] that my credit score is factored into premiums that I connected the dots and realized I was being punished for my credit dropping."

For whatever reason, my auto insurance rates dropped dramatically when I moved to Michigan. Yet the drivers don't seem any safer around here; they seem more dangerous. Perhaps it's the fact that Michigan is a no-fault state, and perhaps it's the fact that I'm older and haven't had so much as a speeding ticket in ages. The only accident I had in Pennsylvania was because I made the mistake of stopping at a red light, and was rear-ended by an inattentive driver. (I wrote a post about it, which is probably not a wise thing to do.) So I'm probably in one of the lowest statistical risk categories you can get. Plus, I don't drive here as much as I did in PA; I generally walk to the store and everything is nearby. But if I got behind on bill-paying, I really don't see how that would make me personally more likely to have an accident or make a claim, yet statistically it would. Actuarial assessments are not personal, and whether they can be called "judgmental" in the true sense of that word is debatable.

Bottom line is that I see both sides here, and even though I hate being seen as a statistic, that's the name of the game in insurance.

With that in mind, I thought I would be an actuary for a day, and conduct an experiment which may seem wildly implausible to some, but which I will base on real, tangible data.

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds (who can always be relied on to keep readers abreast of the latest developments in both academia and sexuality) linked a fascinating post by the TaxProf about Sexual Health College Rankings, based on a study by the Trojan Condom Company. Along with Glenn, I recognize that while there may be no holes in the company's products, there are definitely holes in the methodology of the study, for the simple reason that the company is in the business of marketing sex-accessories, and predictably introduced its own biases into the study. I think it's fair to conclude that the following factors (Four and Five respectively) reflect the company's own financial interests:

4. Contraceptive availability and cost

5. Condom availability and cost

How closely such availability correlates with the actual sexual "health" of the students is highly debatable. It seems to me that there is nowhere in the United States where people who want condoms cannot get them; as we all know, condom shortages only occur in sexually backward places like Canada.

So like most people who saw it, I wasn't taking the study very seriously until something very serious dawned on me.

If there is one thing the University of Michigan is deadly serious about, it's football. I realize that not all of my commenters like the Wolverines, but I have become a huge fan, especially this year as I have witnessed the emergence of a super athlete -- Denard Robinson -- who has skyrocketed to college football superstardom in just these past few weeks. I have never been much of a football fan, but there is something about seeing a superstar emerge out of seemingly nowhere that's both exciting and inspiring. He outclasses everyone else on the field, and maybe I haven't watched enough football, but I have never seen anything quite like it.

A number of sports commentators have observed that he's carrying the team, and I could go on and on with my thoughts, but they're incidental to the very serious subject at hand, which is the correlation I noticed from looking at the Trojan Sexual Health Rankings.

As many commentators have noted, Michigan has won every game so far this season. They always haggle over which college is ranked higher and for which reason. But I don't know of a single sports commentator who has bothered to check the Sexual Health rankings of the colleges, and see how they compare to football rankings. In the case of Michigan, I did just that, and I was astonished to find a 100% correlation staring me right in the face.

In terms of Sexual Health, Michigan outranks every college the Wolverines have beaten. Michigan is the fourth sexually healthiest college on the list, and if you look at every team it has beaten (UConn, Notre Dame, Massachusetts, Bowling Green, and Indiana) and then go to the Trojan's Sexual Health rankings, you will see that (except for the University of Massachusetts, which is not listed, probably because it's too uptight) Michigan outperforms them all in sexual terms.

Hey don't laugh. This is serious actuarialism!

But here's what worries me. There are two schools on this year's game roster that outrank Michigan. One is their notorious and deadly enemy Ohio State (a name which can only be spoken here in association with filthy epithets), and the other is Michigan State. Michigan State is ranked second with Ohio State ranked third.

I find this worrisome, because today is game day against Michigan State. I very much hope that the Wolverines kick the asses of the Spartans and that by so doing, they will prove my actuarial theory wrong. Because if they do, then that evil Ohio State will not be able to hide behind its Sexual Health rankings!

I'm also hopeful because I suspect there might be another element of bias which may have crept into the study, which has nothing to do with the sexual health of students, but has more to do with a similarity of logos.

If we juxtapose the Trojan logo which TaxProf displays with that of the Michigan State Spartans, the similarity simply cannot be ignored:


For a number of reasons, these logos could be used interchangeably to promote either athletics or sexual accessories. And while most of us have heard stories (often conflicting) about the sexual practices of the Spartans, the Trojans seem to have largely escaped scrutiny. A pity, really. Because according to at least one analyst, the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans was "the world's first morality war." And the result was the imposition of marriage onto Western culture! I kid you not:

Western patriarchal authoritarian culture began with the Trojan War about 1200 BCE. Yes, that's right, the world's first morality war. Before the Trojan war marriage was not a mandatory condition. Females were free to live a life according to their own sexuality and were not the property of a man.

Then Helen of Sparta ran off with a young lover to live a life of sexual abandon in Troy. King Agamemnon of Micea (Mycenae) was Helen's brother-in-law, and he gathered a coalition together and roused their passions with speech of submission, adultery and war. This was an affront to marriage and therefore male authority, the Greeks would have nothing of the rebellious Amazon sexuality of the Trojans (Troy-ans). The armies boarded ships and waited for the wind to blow.

But the wind did not blow. Alarmed, King Agamemnon consulted the oracle of Apollo. The oracle said the king would need to sacrifice his daughter to the gods. After all, she was only a female and certainly many males would die in the Trojan war so the gods expected females to die too. King Agamemnon's wife Clytmenestra was horrified, as the practice of human sacrifice had been unknown. Despite this, Agamemnon's daughter Iphegenia obediently allowed her throat to be cut by her father. She died and the wind blew toward Troy. God had given his blessing to the morality war.

The goddess worshipping matriarchal Trojans were not a warlike people. The war in Troy went in favor of the marriage enforcers, forever altering the course of history. The legend of the sacrificed female and the victorious warriors grew and sacrificing virgins became as commonplace as a civic duty. God had given favor to the pro-marriage soldiers, and marriage was now a mandatory enforceable contract. Unmarried females were called bad names like Fates, Sirens, Amazons, Witches or Medusas.

The authoritarian propaganda machine has been so effective the Trojan war is today blamed on a beautiful woman named Helen of Troy who intentionally fomented a war for her own selfishness. Ever since the Trojan war females have been made into evil monsters, greedy, selfish and maliciously ruining men's lives. Civilization can only continue if we allow males to dictate female's sexual behavior.

As to precisely how the Trojan company's logo choice fits into the "authoritarian propaganda machine," I don't know. However, the ancient struggle between these cultures may have had sexual dimensions which are still unresolved.

And in any case, it is undeniable that the logos are as similar as they are ancient in nature. I am willing to stick my neck out here and hypothesize that the high ranking of Michigan State may reflect company bias grounded in (dare I say it?) sexual cultural hegemony!

Whether I am right can only be determined by the final results of today's game. I live very close to the Michigan Stadium complex, and as I write this, the neighborhood is alive with pregame activity. There are parties everywhere, even though it is only eleven in the morning and the game doesn't start until 3:30 p.m.

Of course, the correlation I have discovered may be no more than simple coincidence. The extent that football performance correlates with sex never seems to have been seriously studied, although there are a lot of football sex humor jokes.

However, I did find one intriguing study from 2004, which appears to show that men who participate in fantasy football leagues are more likely to think about football than sex:

The online survey of men age 22 and over showed that more than 40% of respondents rate Fantasy Football as their number one thought during the day, as compared to only 30% who say that thinking about sex still remains as their top daily thought. In terms of how much time during the day men are actually thinking about Fantasy Football, 58% of respondents say they spend from one to three hours each day thinking about it, as opposed to 48% of respondents who are thinking about sex from one to three hours a day. Even more surprising, a full 25% of respondents claim to spend from four to eight hours a day thinking about Fantasy Football; in comparison, only 12% of respondents think about sex for that amount of time during the football season.
Of course, that's a biased sampling, because of the focus on men who participate in fantasy football leagues.

While most people would not think of football in sexual terms, it is undeniable that there is a correlation between sex and balls. I think it's fair to say that it might be more than just a correlation, too, but a direct connection.

And the connection may be more basic and more primal than we humans realize.

During a much-too-serious comment debate over human sexuality, Veeshir left a link to a video showing some very humorous animal behavior. Of course, the poor turtle (tortoise, more specifically) didn't think it was funny at all, which is what makes it so funny from a human perspective.

Laugh all you want, but I think that provides graphic evidence -- from one of the lowest representatives of the animal kingdom -- of a connection between sex and balls. True, the object of the tortoise's sexual attention happened to be a soccer ball. But would anyone deny that he (or she) might have been just as interested if not more interested in a football? If you watch the whole video, you will surely notice the rivalry and competition that occurs once the other tortoise sees the "action." Is their behavior really all that unlike humans?

And now that I have finally plodded through to the end of my post, I can only say that I wish I had more time for more scientific rigor.

I just hope the Wolverines prove my theory wrong on the playing field!

It's time to get serious about the game.

MORE: (5:55 p.m.) If there's one thing I hate, it's being proved right when I wanted to be wrong. The score is now 31-10 in favor of Michigan State, and I don't like what the Spartans are doing.

So I thought it might be time to issue a public service message.


I still want to be wrong, and I hope the game somehow turns itself around.

AND MORE: I was right.

Oh, the pain!

posted by Eric on 10.09.10 at 11:28 AM


As for Spartans vs. Trojans and marriage, I shouldn't (and probably don't) have to remind you that overarching, all-loose-ends-tucked explanations tend to be spectacularly wrong.

Human beings pairing off into male+female subunits goes back a long way.


Ric Locke   ·  October 9, 2010 2:16 PM

Not only are you right, but I strongly suspect that there may be some male+female subunits in my past!

Eric Scheie   ·  October 9, 2010 3:08 PM

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