Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Rule 34 is Unsupported
June 2, 2011 5:39 PM   Subscribe

Mind Reading: The Researchers Who Analyzed All the Porn on the Internet. "Searching all the porn on the Internet might not seem like the most scientifically productive activity, but computational neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam did it anyway. For their new book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire, Ogas and Gaddam analyzed the results of 400 million online searches for porn and uncovered some startling insights into what men and women may really want from each other — at least sexually." posted by bwg (85 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dammit, they beat me to publishing.
posted by Mooski at 5:41 PM on June 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


ALL the porn?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


In before Rule 34 stats freaks....
posted by digitalprimate at 5:44 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ogi Ogas is Ceiling Cat? I'm not sure how I feel about that after getting used to him as the expert on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:44 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was going to read the whole thing, but I found the first few paragraphs interesting, interesting, quite interesting, extremely interesting, and then I lost interest.

(More seriously: a question about Rule 34, evolutionary pseudopsych and the tired old saw about porn making men violent, all that above the fold? Not an auspicious start...)
posted by mhoye at 5:46 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is a very interesting paper. I would be interested in seeing if LGBT sexual brains differ from the male/female dichotomy they propose.
posted by rebent at 5:46 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm just wondering what got redacted.

The top five are youth, gays, [sexy mothers], breasts and cheating wives.

Okay, that's easy.

But these people who search for notably more porn tend to search for [many different things].

What in the world could this be?

posted by infinitewindow at 5:48 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Analyzed? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yep, mhoye , lots of evolutionary pseudopsych in that interview, and not a single cheerleader in sight. I give it a 6 out of 10.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:51 PM on June 2, 2011


Oh my god, the term granny porn just is a huge turn off. Call it mature, or something, anything, but Granny is the woman from Beverly Hillbillies.
posted by Xoebe at 5:51 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, right, Survey Fail.

Check the five-page list of tags for the book at Amazon. Examples: men explaining women; did not pass the ethics review board; you fail science forever; and, of course, Wrong On the Internet.

Boston University disclaimed all of their so-called research, but the authors' (and publishers') response was to publish anyway, naturally, because anything about Teh Porn on Teh Internet is gonna sell a million copies. What a joke.
posted by tzikeh at 5:53 PM on June 2, 2011 [26 favorites]


They weren't allowed to say "milf".
posted by fleetmouse at 5:53 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is it me, or does that interview mostly consist of the guy making major and probably still-controversial assertions about human sexuality that are far outside the scope of his research?
posted by invitapriore at 5:54 PM on June 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


"Searching all the porn on the Internet might not seem like the most scientifically productive activity"

It took 900 researchers, a beowolf cluster of every computer in the continental US, and $28 billion dollars in funding.

Some of the researchers had just cured cancer, but they deleted the files because they needed the harddrive space. For, um, 'reference material'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:55 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: "It took 900 researchers, a beowolf cluster of every computer in the continental US, and $28 billion dollars in funding."

Not to mention an undisclosed number of cases of Kleenex.
posted by pjern at 5:57 PM on June 2, 2011


Right, these are the same dipshits responsible for this drama (previously), who refuse to learn proper research ethics because it's too hard.
posted by xthlc at 6:01 PM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Argh, sorry, that was supposed to be a link to the fanlore wiki entry for Survey Fail.

It's an exhaustive history of how and why Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam were both wrong and offensive all over the place for a few years, including links to screencaps of journal entries and surveys the two of them put up and then took back down when it became clear that people were going to question their methodology (including that they weren't arguing from first principles), not just get in line to be "analyzed."

Even if the book's subject holds no interest for you, the wiki page is quite the fascinating read.
posted by tzikeh at 6:05 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oops, missed that related link in the OP. Every time I read about these pseudoscientists my blood boils.

In recompense, here's a great summary of how not to fuck up online research and show proper respect for your participants.
posted by xthlc at 6:07 PM on June 2, 2011


Oh lord.

There's just something so amazing about people who don't understand the internet, or online communities, etc, deciding that they understand them so well as to teach the rest of us about them.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:08 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably bigger problems with this research than this, but I this list on the top five porn searches:

The top five are youth, gays, [sexy mothers], breasts and cheating wives.


Can heterosexual porn be enormously varied, with all kinds of sub-fetishes that can be ranked in order of popularity, but gay porn is indivisible? Just generic "gayness"?
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 6:08 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Navelgazer, this is textbook Dunning–Kruger effect.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:12 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"It took 900 researchers, a beowolf cluster of every computer in the continental US, and $28 billion dollars in funding."

Not to mention an undisclosed number of cases of Kleenex.


That's why they needed the funding.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:12 PM on June 2, 2011


So is "Rule 34" true — that if you can imagine it, there's porn of it?

It's still weird seeing mainstream "journalists" in a major publication like Time asking a serious question that originated in a pornography meme from 4chan.

I mean, we're living in the future. That's awesome, I love it. Rick Rolling The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, cat macros building a million-dollar business like Pet Holdings, Inc.

But it's still kinda weird.
posted by formless at 6:13 PM on June 2, 2011


MetaFilter: Ogas and Gaddam.
posted by Splunge at 6:15 PM on June 2, 2011


Sounds like another totally bogus study, probably funded by the makers if Viagra ("if the top 5 porn categories don't get you up, you need Viagra").

But if they had just waited an extra week before publishing, they could've increased their potential audience significantly (and gotten invited onto all the FoxNooz shows) by adding "Anthony Weiner's weiner" to the search terms (I hear he just overtook [sexy mothers] for third place)
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:19 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh god, not these jackasses again.
posted by elizardbits at 6:25 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


From the wikipedia entry:
Prior to publication, the book and its authors received criticism for their non-standard research methodology, aspects of their core premise, and lack of institutional review.

Sorry, I just find everything I read about this person hilarious. Why is anyone taking him seriously?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:26 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


ALL the porn?

"Hello, China? I've got something that you want, but it's going to cost you... That's right, all of the tea."
posted by indubitable at 6:29 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Splunge: "MetaFilter: Ogas and Gaddam."

At Tanagra.
posted by tzikeh at 6:31 PM on June 2, 2011 [23 favorites]


Such an interesting take on human subject research ethics!

The authors addressed this after publication, saying, "IRB oversight applies to human subjects research with federal funding, or that takes place at an institution with federal funding. We intentionally conducted our research outside of academia, without federal funding, in order to remain independent from the fierce tempest of ideological, social, and political pressures that besets the contemporary study of sexuality."
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:31 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Seriously, it is a failure of the system that someone with such a lack of regard for research ethics was granted a doctorate.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:35 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


On further review, I'm going to drop the tentative-lack-of-judgment stance and just come out and say that these people are full of shit and their research is dumb and they're dumb too.
posted by invitapriore at 6:35 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


There's porn on the internet? How long has this been going on?
posted by shothotbot at 6:35 PM on June 2, 2011


Alright, here's the new rule. The next cognitive biologist neuroscientist who tries to explain complex cultural behavior with simple "person engages in uber complex cultural-societal behavior because previously in 'NATURE'..." gets a knife in the face.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:40 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Seriously, these dudes should look into comedy:

Fan fiction also reveals another fundamental difference between male and female sexuality. Men almost always consume pornography alone. But in the fan-fiction community, the online discussion of a story is as important as the story itself. This reflects one of the primary investigative techniques of Miss Marple: soliciting information from other detectives.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:44 PM on June 2, 2011


I was going to say a lot of what he said sounded like psudo-science. Then I come to the thread and find out i was right! Yay-me!

Also, isn't this the guy who caused a lot of controversy in the fanfic community because he had a survey posted that apparently didn't have any privacy controls, and didn't meet ethical requirements? I think there was an FPP about it.

My guess is he didn't really data analysis properly. He might be right about what kind of themes are most popular, but he's drawing a lot of inferences that don't seem reasonable.
Seriously, it is a failure of the system that someone with such a lack of regard for research ethics was granted a doctorate.
I don't understand, if someone follows the rules how would people know he is 'unethical'? I'm pretty sure he decided to do this stuff after getting his doctorate.
posted by delmoi at 6:46 PM on June 2, 2011


Welp, it turns out his doctorate is in AI, so I retract my statement. The idea that someone with a PhD in some sort of neuroscience related field was saying, hey no IRB no need to worry about ethics, was concerning. It's very evident he has no training in research ethics. Or research methods for that matter.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:05 PM on June 2, 2011


Researchers Watch All the Porn on the Internet, Come Up with Hackneyed Reasons for Its Existence & Content. [Story continues on page A12]
posted by Panjandrum at 7:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


No wait, I misread, he is trained in neuroscience. WTF.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:06 PM on June 2, 2011


"But we were surprised to find that even though men prefer youth mostly, there's also a very significant interest in porn with women in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. That's called granny porn."

Fuck yeah it is, and the Germans make the best Granny porn of all.
posted by symbioid at 7:08 PM on June 2, 2011


Two problems I think of with this:

One: Who goes to their search bar and types, "GRANDMOTHER PORNOGRAPHY," or, "CHEERLEADER LESBIAN?" I'd have guessed most people get their porn (visual anyway, maybe) from portals and forums.

Two: AOL? Is this data from 1995, or might they just as well have used data from people who try to double click hyperlinks?
posted by cmoj at 7:13 PM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


The main thing that sets off my bullshit detector is this: How do they know what sex the searchers were?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:23 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


...and how do they know they were searching for porn?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:24 PM on June 2, 2011


A serious article about all the porn on the web...this should end well.
posted by Meatafoecure at 7:35 PM on June 2, 2011


I believe Maia is a member here (no pun intended). Maybe she'll chime in and offer some insight.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:45 PM on June 2, 2011


Whoa, I posted my earlier snarky comment thinking this was some Time interview with your typically "TELL ME YOUR PREFERRED DEVIANCE, FOR SCIENCE!" researcher. Looking at the links from the wikipedia article mandywasregistered supplied though, provides me with some serious squick.

OK, first, I work on an IRB -- a pretty good one, if I say so myself, and I do -- so I can validate that his comment "IRB oversight applies to human subjects research with federal funding, or that takes place at an institution with federal funding." is true. The federal code creating the whole human subjects research oversight is 45 CFR 46, whose very first words are:

§46.101 To what does this policy apply?

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, this policy applies to all research involving human subjects conducted, supported or otherwise subject to regulation by any federal department or agency which takes appropriate administrative action to make the policy applicable to such research.


So yeah, on that point, he's free to conduct -- without federal funding -- whatever research he wants, on who he wants, how he wants, and, as long as he doesn't break any other laws, he's fine. This is part of the reason jounalists don't have to abide by some of the same rules as academics when working, they have their own ethical guidelines and don't get NIH grants. [side note: Drug companies funding their own research are governed by the FDA's 21 CFR 50, which is essentially 45 CFR 46 with some tweaks; there's a reason it's called the "Common Rule."]

Now, on the subject of data mining internet searches: as far as human research goes, that's fine as long as they aren't catching any information that could "identify" the person making the search. I put identify in scare-quotes because we all know there's probably a dozen and a half ways to track someone down from a search, but the federal regs don't. "Identifiable information," in federal terms, means things like name, birthday, address, etc.. Bottom line, they can collect as many search terms as they want without having to consider the ramifications of IRB oversight.

Problem is, these guys apparently got some of their data by asking LiveJournal users to fill out a questionnaire about their sexual habits, preferences, fanfic reading habits, etc., all while presenting themselves as researchers from Boston University. I don't know if they conducted this research while at BU (they both graduated from there), but I do know, if they did, they made some serious ethical mistakes. Basically, any institution that wants to get federal funding for research has to obtain whats called a Federalwide Assurance, which is basically an agreement that all human subjects research at that institution will comply with federal regs (such as the ones linked above). This includes student research.

If they did conduct the LJ research while at BU, these guys aren't just guilty of coming up with really stupid and shallow answers to questions about human sexuality, but they also engaged in some serious research misconduct, and they might even be liable for fraud.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:45 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


As Raj said, "it's better to have loved and lost than to stay home every night and download increasingly shameful pornography."
posted by vidur at 7:50 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


... article mandywasregistered and the link from tizkeh....

No disrespect.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:51 PM on June 2, 2011


Im pretty sure if this jackass can publish his bs...i should be given a phd by metafilter for my writtenjackassery.

Yeah...works out.

They call me dr. Tibbs.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:57 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


But these people who search for notably more porn tend to search for [many different things].

What in the world could this be?


Hardcore taters.
posted by sanko at 8:13 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Navelgazer, this is textbook Dunning–Kruger effect.

I don't deny that's part of it, but it's like they imagine themselves as 19th century British explorers, bringing back anthropological reports on their dealings with the Savages, completely missing the point that they are reporting one the general everyone of which, apparently, they are the few ignorant outsiders.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:18 PM on June 2, 2011


Sounds like another totally bogus study, probably funded by the makers if Viagra ("if the top 5 porn categories don't get you up, you need Viagra").

I'm not totally entranced by the top five. But there are a dozen or so near the middle that totally obviate the need for Viagra for me.
posted by Splunge at 8:41 PM on June 2, 2011


You lose me immediately any time you publish reaserch on human sexuality but are too squeamish to allow the word 'fuck".

I mean really, you're doing sex here. "Fuck" will come up. Weirder, woollier and wilder terms will come up. "Milf"? You redacted "Milf", for fuck's sake?? Does this mean you turn your head coyly to the side any time something like, oh, "bukkake face fuck" comes up? Any time something a bit outre pops into your radar? Don't you see how this demostrates a complete contempt for your material? How can you expect anyone to take you seriously as a researcher if you can't engage with in in a professional way?

Honestly.
posted by Jilder at 9:01 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The top five are docking, golden showers, dvda, bukkake, and furries

wait what?
posted by nathancaswell at 9:11 PM on June 2, 2011


"Oh my god, the term granny porn just is a huge turn off. Call it mature, or something, anything, but Granny is the woman from Beverly Hillbillies."

Cue theme song!
posted by Kevin Street at 9:25 PM on June 2, 2011


How can you expect anyone to take you seriously as a researcher if you can't engage with in in a professional way?

Wasn't the redaction was done by magazine editors who published the interview, not the researchers in their actual publication?
posted by vidur at 9:28 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wasn't the redaction was done by ...
posted by vidur at 9:28 PM on June 2, 2011


Yep, the magazine edited the quotes. Vidur hits it on the head. I would have thought that was obvious.
posted by asnider at 9:33 PM on June 2, 2011


SurveyFail belongs in the tags for this one.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:39 PM on June 2, 2011


Is there a fetish for redactions?
posted by homunculus at 9:42 PM on June 2, 2011


Docking? Oh dear...

"Open the foreskin, HAL."
posted by symbioid at 10:05 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


posted by homunculus Is there a fetish for redactions?

Q: You like [redacted]? You are a person who likes the [redacted] in which we are currently engaged?
A: Yes! I am! I like [redacted]!
Q: You like [redacted]! In fact, you are a person who likes [redacted] as much as a [redacted] likes [redacted]!
A: YES I LIKE [EXPLETIVE DELETED][REDACTED] AS IF IT WERE MY PROFESSION!! TELL ME MORE ABOUT IT
Q: YOU ENJOY THIS ACT YOU [EXPLETIVE DELETED][REDACTED] PERSON etc.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:09 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Does this mean you turn your head coyly to the side any time something like, oh, "bukkake face fuck" comes up?

Well, I certainly do.

That stuff burns if you get it in your eyes.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:09 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


But will they be on The Daily Show?
posted by warbaby at 10:12 PM on June 2, 2011


Cue theme song!

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed
Then one day he was usin' Firefox
And up came a site called "Granny Likes Cocks".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:15 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Goddam am I [redacted] now.
posted by homunculus at 10:28 PM on June 2, 2011


Banjos and porn go together like Jethro and grits.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:33 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


QUIET, PLEASE! I AM ANALYZING.
posted by loquacious at 11:09 PM on June 2, 2011


...huge turn off. Call it mature, or something, anything, but Granny is the woman from Beverly Hillbillies.

I dunno, Xoebes, Granny definitely had her day.

Witness Granny (Irene Ryan) in the 1920's.
posted by rokusan at 11:09 PM on June 2, 2011


some startling insights into what men and women may really want from each other — at least sexually.
posted by bwg at 5:39 PM -
69 comments +
posted by eeeeeez at 11:17 PM on June 2, 2011


Mr. Bad Example: "Does this mean you turn your head coyly to the side any time something like, oh, "bukkake face fuck" comes up?

Well, I certainly do.

That stuff burns if you get it in your eyes.
"

And a cock could put your eye out.
posted by bwg at 1:08 AM on June 3, 2011


Why is all of this happening in the last three years or so? Why is there so, so much mainstream content and so many people getting involved in human sexuality research these days?
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:47 AM on June 3, 2011


Porn is interesting to people, for reasons to do with genital engorgement.

When things are interesting to people, people try to read meaning into said things.

It would not be very satisfying to admit that everyone's fetishes, and thereby porn, is selected from a Random Encounter Table.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:49 AM on June 3, 2011


It would not be very satisfying to admit that everyone's fetishes, and thereby porn, is selected from a Random Encounter Table.

Could you say that again, but with a French accent?
posted by pompomtom at 4:55 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Go 'way. Batin' Analyzin'.

Also: MetaFilter: evinces a clear distinction between men and women.

Say it with me. Evinces.
posted by ostranenie at 7:42 AM on June 3, 2011


This seems like it would be excruciatingly hard to control for. It would be really easy to assume that pornography represents what we want, but that's not necessarily how it works. Other options include:

1) That our desires are shaped by advertising, culture, and media.
2) That pornography searches are based on available media, not necessarily all imagined media.
3) That pornography searches are not representative of human desires, and could be an outlet for certain 'unsavory' desires, or engaged in by a non-representative subset of humanity.

And so on. It seems more like they're jumping to conclusions following extensive observation. They also seem really dismissive of talk about misogyny or coercion. Whether or not they truly believe those things are non-issues, they require a slightly more respectful handling.

Maybe it's just a crappy article (it is), but the research seems dubious at best.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:07 AM on June 3, 2011


Towards the end of the article the researchers say "We looked at individual search histories for half a million people using an AOL data set". I presume they mean the 2006 AOL data. Is that really their only data set? Because 2006 AOL porn users are not 2011 porn users. There's free video, for one thing.

(Between the redactions, restatements, and inlined advertisements for other Time web pages this article is nearly impossible to read.)
posted by Nelson at 8:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Gaddam!" he exclaimed, "Look at the Ogi Ogas on that one!"
posted by banshee at 9:51 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Darn, of all the interviews I did to get a FPP, why did it have to be this one? I had Oliver Sacks, V.S. Ramanchandran, Antonio Damasio, Martin Seligman, Maryn McKenna, Ben Goldacre, Simon Baron-Cohen and just today, Jon Ronson (Men Who Stare at Goats, Psychopath Test)

And you guys pick the one about porn?
posted by Maias at 1:43 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops, why did my Oliver Sacks, Antonio Damasio and Martin Seligman links fail to work?

Whole series link is here.
posted by Maias at 1:46 PM on June 3, 2011


(Anyway, I hope you like the series. I don't always agree with the people I interview, but I try to choose the most interesting and important books on health, neuroscience psychology. If people have suggestions for overlooked books—especially by women—please memail me).
posted by Maias at 1:48 PM on June 3, 2011


I love your interviews, Maias. We chose this one because it was about porn and the internets.

Team, which of these conclusions from the article are unlikely to be true?

+rape fantasies are extremely prevalent in women
+more access to porn is associated with less rape ... it satisfies the urge
+Women prefer stories to visual porn by a long shot
+Female desire requires multiple stimuli simultaneously or in quick succession
+With women, physical arousal and mental arousal are separate
+there isn't overwhelming evidence that porn addiction exists
posted by psyche7 at 4:56 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm 12 and what is this?
posted by Raqin at 9:38 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welp, time to go rate comments about their book at Amazon...
posted by Theta States at 9:12 AM on June 8, 2011


(More seriously: a question about Rule 34, evolutionary pseudopsych and the tired old saw about porn making men violent, all that above the fold? Not an auspicious start...)

mhoye, either something has been edited in the FPP, or you're reading Metafilter on a different planet than I am.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:11 PM on June 8, 2011


« Older The City's Most Beautiful Band is a brazilian musi...   |   "Everything you've heard about... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments