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Hot Buys Sex Studies May Explain Why Shopping Can Be Done In A Daze

Tue., Aug. 12, 1997

A story in The Sunday Times of London reported that a recent British study of buying habits has led research psychologists to conclude that sex and shopping are, as the story puts it, “inexorably linked.”

Two days later another story, also out of London, brought news of a study that found that people who forget what they’re doing during and immediately following sex are suffering from “a genuine medical condition” known as transient global amnesia.

What do these two stories, taken together, suggest?

That some British researchers may have too much time on their hands, for one thing.

They also suggest, to me at least, that if there is a connection between sex and shopping, and another connection between sex and forgetting, it stands to reason there must be a connection between shopping and forgetting. How else can I explain the contents of my closet?

According to The Sunday Times story, researchers found that women with “disappointing” sex lives “get a buzz” from shopping.

“There is a sense of it being an illicit thrill, and the thing about forbidden fruit is that, if you can’t afford it, it is even more exciting,” said researcher Helen Woodruffe, described as “a lecturer in consumer behavior at Lancaster University.”

It gets even more exciting when the bill collectors start hounding you, although this aspect of sex-linked shopping doesn’t seem to have been a part of Woodruffe’s research. However she did find that men and women have very different approaches to shopping, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one.

Women like to linger over shopping and savor the experience. Men, on the other hand, like to get it over with. Read what you will into that.

Woodruffe certainly does, because she reports that “the biggest turnoff” for women shoppers is having to take men along, which she likens to taking your husband on a date with your lover. What would we do without science to put these difficult concepts into language we can understand?

The results of the study of sex-related amnesia appeared in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Dr. Russell Lane wrote about the case of a 64-year-old man who, after making love, would repeatedly ask questions such as, “What are we doing?” and, “What time of year is it?”

The victim’s bouts of amnesia would last for half an hour to an hour, leaving him with no memory of having had sex and “only a very hazy recollection of foreplay,” according to Lane.

We should be grateful that at last someone has identified this affliction and given it a name, since it’s reaching epidemic proportions, especially, or so it seems, among public figures. Perhaps someone will find a cure, although there may be more money to be made in devising a way to induce it at will.

But back to my point, at last, which is that I often experience something remarkably similar to transient global amnesia during and after shopping. I find myself wandering around some store, carrying a shopping bag, asking, “Where am I? What am I doing here?”

On these occasions I vaguely recall having had an overwhelming need to buy something, but no memory of actually doing so. Hours later I “come to” in front of my closet holding something I have no recollection of purchasing and no intention of wearing.

All of which may or may not have something to do with sex, or lack of it; it’s not for me to say. But it seems as though it might be a potentially fruitful area for Woodruffe and Lane to explore together.

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