Proof that Americans are lying about their sexual desires
July 2, 2017 8:07 PM   Subscribe

"Many people don’t try to date the people they’re most attracted to. They try to date the people they think would impress their friends."
An interview with Everybody Lies author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz regarding what google searches for porn tell us about ourselves(Vox)

(Related: Previous Vox interview with Stephens-Davidowitz about how Google search results show Americans to be rather racist and selfish)
posted by The Gooch (104 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite


 
Oh Seth, king of correlation.
posted by honest knave at 8:17 PM on July 2, 2017 [13 favorites]


Dan Savage talks to the author about this book on the latest Lovecast: http://www.savagelovecast.com/episodes/557 about 30 minutes in.

One interesting/predictable bit: in more repressed areas, rates of gay porn viewing seem to be higher than would be expected given the rates of declared homosexuality.
posted by fartknocker at 8:22 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I have always wondered how homosexuality made it through evolution. Like, isn't evolution supposed to make people desire heterosexual sex with fertile people? But after studying porn, I realized homosexuality is hardly the only desire that doesn't make sense from an evolutionary perspective.

Less than 20 percent of porn watched these days features vaginal sex to completion among two people who can conceivably have a healthy baby. Cartoons, anal sex to completion, oral sex to completion, foot sex to completion, incest, elderly porn, tickling, animal porn, sex with objects, etc.
The second paragraph evinces a shockingly poor understanding of human, or really, any animal desire and behavior; the first paragraph evinces an embarrassingly bad understanding of evolution in social animals.
posted by pykrete jungle at 8:23 PM on July 2, 2017 [81 favorites]


I read these articles in vain searching for evidence to support this claim:

People are really, really honest on Google
posted by straight at 8:26 PM on July 2, 2017 [25 favorites]


Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: "I'm always predicting horrible things are going to happen, with or without data."
posted by Phssthpok at 8:27 PM on July 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm left wondering if maybe their is a bit of a link between this being non-incognito Google searches for porn and the surprise elder porn result.
posted by Artw at 8:30 PM on July 2, 2017 [11 favorites]


Don't have to read the article. The quote proves he is full of shit. I have, in my life, dated many people that had friends and acquaintances questioning why. My answer? "We have a good time together. Got a problem with that?"
posted by Samizdata at 8:32 PM on July 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


Somebody hasn't read his Bataille...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:33 PM on July 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


Halfway through the article, what I am seeing is he is a p-hacking alarmist out to sell books.

Go ahead.

Prove me wrong.
posted by Samizdata at 8:34 PM on July 2, 2017 [23 favorites]


But he also says some blatantly obvious stuff!
posted by Artw at 8:35 PM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Still haven't proved he's not a p-hacking alarmist out to sell books there, Art.

I love ya and all, but I am drawing a line in the sand here.
posted by Samizdata at 8:36 PM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am not, TBH, convinced that he isn't pulling results out of thin air if it lays your mind to rest on that count.
posted by Artw at 8:40 PM on July 2, 2017


" Hunter-gatherer kids didn't watch The Simpsons. And hunter-gatherer adults didn't watch Simpsons porn. I think we are evolved so that if we grew up in hunter-gatherer conditions, just about all people would have an overwhelming desire for vaginal sex."

hahahaha yeah this guy's an idiot
posted by drinkyclown at 8:43 PM on July 2, 2017 [47 favorites]


Funny how he didn’t mention how puzzling he finds gay sex to Dan.
posted by fartknocker at 8:49 PM on July 2, 2017 [9 favorites]


By "Americans", doesn't he mean "the white male Americans who set the standards for behavior (and misbehavior) for the country"? Because from my anecdotal experience, those are the only people I've observed doing anything like this...
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:52 PM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


I sent some of my results to some of the most famous sociologists and sex researchers in the world. Many of them had no interest.

SHOCK!
posted by ckape at 8:57 PM on July 2, 2017 [43 favorites]


May be of interest: his paper on racist search terms and Obama vote share.
posted by brendano at 8:59 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


For example, I am certain a large number of men are more attracted to overweight women than skinny women but try to date skinny women to impress their friends and family members.

Porn featuring overweight women is surprisingly common among men. But the data from dating sites tells us that just about all men try to date skinny women. Many people don’t try to date the people they’re most attracted to. They try to date the people they think would impress their friends.


I'm not 100 percent on board with all of the logic and conclusions in the article, but oh my gosh, this is so true. I'm a stripper, and I know this in my soul.

There is an ongoing debate among the staff at my club (at all clubs?) about What Kind of Girls We Should Be Hiring. As if we could sculpt women out of thin air instead of being limited by who walks in the door; as if we could ever make everybody happy; as if, as if, as if.

The answer, of course, is ALL KINDS. This is obvious to me. This is the sex industry. Have you seen the PornHub data from 2016? (MetaFilter post.)

Sure, we should have younger, thin women, and younger, Kardashian-curvy women. The stereotypical "beauty" standards. But we should also have a wide variety. We should have a range of ages, ethnicities, body types, hair colors and styles, education levels. It's what people want.

And yes, I get that it's hard because it's not like searching the Internet for porn, where you can target your interests. We have a stage rotation; girls walk the floor. So if we are catering to what everyone wants, it's not like you're just seeing your own favorite porn; you're seeing everyone else's favorite porn too. And you're picking out your favorite porn for the room to see.

But I still think it's worth it — financially for the club, and socially for our culture — to cater to that wider audience.

I'l never forget my coworker telling me about how a customer called her fat — not even during conversation, but as an offhand comment while she was nearby.

She spun as fast as a girl can spin in those heels and said, "I'm not fat, I'm thick, and don't pretend like you don't love it." She went off a quick but assertive tirade about how men like him might be nasty but they always secretly want girls like her.

He asked her how much for a handjob. She told him $1,000. He said that he had only $600. She said, "Done."

And he was, in about five minutes. Fat? He loved it. She was positively gleeful. I'm sure not all interactions in her life that begin in that way finish with such a happy ending. (Pun only sort-of intended, I promise.) But she knew that this was A Thing, and she was able to demonstrate it.

And it's a funny story. I laugh recalling it. And then I almost choke with tears when I read Roxane Gay's Guardian column (MetaFilter post) in which she recounts how horribly cruel people are to her because of her weight. I'll bet that some of those assholes are attracted to her — but instead of making her feel beautiful, they instinctively make her feel horrible. WHAT THE FUCK.
posted by Peppermint Snowflake at 9:00 PM on July 2, 2017 [156 favorites]


pearl clutching grannies gone wild

Shit, wrong window.
posted by Behemoth at 9:04 PM on July 2, 2017 [32 favorites]


The first criticism is the assumption that porn preferences match non-porn preferences. I'm really low on the Kinsey Scale, and as expected I'm only a very occasional consumer of MM porn, but it's pretty efficient at getting me off, since key aspects of the content remain unchanged, and a bit of novelty never hurt a spank session.

The second criticism is than an expectation that search terms accurately reflect the results returned is unfounded. My experience with searching for porn suggests that all but the most elemental and immutable search terms are suspect. My experience searching for non-porn supports this conclusion, though not as strongly.

The third criticism is the conflation of lying with accurately reporting ones preferences when asked. Lying implies the intent to deceive others. Instead I suspect that the majority of incorrect results are either due to an absence of self knowledge or brute search engine gaming.
posted by wotsac at 9:04 PM on July 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


I can tell that Americans are lying about their sexual desires by reading M4M or Casual Encounters ads on Craigslist.

I mean, they aren't lying in the ads, but they are obviously lying in the rest of their lives.

Sometimes they ARE lying in the ads.

Mostly I don't do CL stuff anymore.
posted by hippybear at 9:17 PM on July 2, 2017 [14 favorites]


Some sexual preferences I first learned about on The Jerry Springer Show

Next from Seth: the threat of the midget Klan.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:18 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


brute search engine gaming

OMG you won't believe what pornhub returns when you search for this sorry will be gone for several hours jeebus do I have crisco this lube is going to run out

posted by hippybear at 9:20 PM on July 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


"Vox: Let’s talk about what married people are up to online.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: The number one question that women have about their husbands is whether he is gay."


I doubt that very much.
posted by oddman at 9:24 PM on July 2, 2017 [8 favorites]




It’s a book about human nature. Sex is a big part of human nature. Some reviews of Everybody Lies have criticized me for being obsessed with sex. Everybody is obsessed with sex. If they say they're not, they're lying.

my asexual ass: lmao
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 10:08 PM on July 2, 2017 [29 favorites]


human nature

Human nature?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:22 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am absolutely flabbergasted that not only was ONE particular word not mentioned in the interview, but doesn't seem to have been mentioned here -- BISEXUAL.

Hello? No wonder Bi people feel so invisible. Jeez. It's not either Gay OR straight. Bi people -- they exist, they're real. Human sexuality is a spectrum and is even fluid to some extent.

Why are we still having to explain this in 2017?
posted by PigAlien at 11:00 PM on July 2, 2017 [67 favorites]


"Many people don’t try to date the people they’re most attracted to. They try to date the people they think would impress their friends."
...
She spun as fast as a girl can spin in those heels and said, "I'm not fat, I'm thick, and don't pretend like you don't love it." She went off a quick but assertive tirade about how men like him might be nasty but they always secretly want girls like her.

He asked her how much for a handjob. She told him $1,000. He said that he had only $600. She said, "Done."


This. Seriously. This is true. There is no hierarchy of attractiveness except the one groups agree to cohere around.

Individually, that's incredibly empowering, because it means that, um, no, you're not unlovable. Shelve that insecurity, it's pure dead weight, except where your interactions with specific people are concerned.

Generalized to groups, it's incredibly frustrating, because it's like
1) many people, most, in fact, have varying and unpredictable insecurity/boundary/attraction parameters, and if you're a decent human being, you treat that with all the love, regard, and respect you can muster
2) The frustration of unavailability encapsulated in "Nah bro you can't turn a lesbian straight/all the cute guys are gay" refracted through a crystal of infinite faces, forget queer/asexual/committed varieties of unavailable, there are as many kinds of "doesn't/does want to have sex with you" as there are grains of sand on the beach
3) Boundaries and preferences move moment to moment, or don't
4) Your OWN preferences are mutable
5) It's all stupidly wired in to non-sexual things like power and chemical state and mood and bonding and what the fuck do these things even have to do with each other WHY IS THERE A PATRIARCHY THIS IS STUPID AND NOT AT ALL SEXY? MUST THE TENOR OF THE ERA BE RAGE AT THE INTOLERANCE OR KINKS OF OTHERS? CAN WE JUST TAKE THE DAMN THING APART ALREADY?

And there are all these theories on how to Get Sex...I mean...yeah, because the more you try to game it, the more you gaze into the abyss...it's like that puppet scene from the Solaris remake, and then when you finally stop trying and accept that all you can do is be a decent person and try to create happiness because Others Are Not Yours To Decide, it's like the scene in Solaris where everything is forgiven. Our pathetic human minds are inadequate. As a species we're barely making progress in the direction of "if others want something different, that's fine and shouldn't be linked to power". By god I hope we keep moving that way.
posted by saysthis at 11:02 PM on July 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


LOL "human nature."
posted by rhizome at 11:02 PM on July 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


The first criticism is the assumption that porn preferences match non-porn preferences.

That's what jumped out at me. My porn preferences have fairly little to do with my non-porn preferences - the main thing in common is that I'm *not* attracted to "conventionally attractive" white women, either in porn or in real life. Other than that I don't think porn says anything about who I'm attracted to in reality. Also porn sucks, and I'd trade porn for cuddles, but {single, sober, porn-free}, choose two.

People should be free to like whatever they want, but the pressures to conform are overwhelming

Yes. I usually do this thing after the end of a significant relationship where I take a long time to think things through, process what worked and what went wrong, and think about where I'm going in life generally. That's not the societal norm in the west - best way to get over someone is to get under someone else, right? Doesn't work for me.

Also, I think the author is correct about people dating people that impress their social circle. Doing that leads to cheating and is a bad idea. I find it strange that people behave in ways where their internal desires and external behaviour are so misaligned (that might mean I'm on the autistic spectrum, I'm not sure?).

Most of the other already-written criticisms are correct too, but when the author says if everyone's porn searches were published it would cause drama for 30 seconds then everyone would get over it and it would be helpful - that's probably true, modulo cases like searching for gay porn in Saudi Arabia. I'd publish my porn search history I think - unless it would mess with my SO's head, in which case I'd stop watching it, because real people are better than poorly scripted fantasies.
posted by iffthen at 11:09 PM on July 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


Unless the author has better demographic characterization of his study population than the article implies, I do not understand why he doesn't consider that the "excess" M/M porn searches are performed by (mostly straight) women. Women are probably the greatest consumers of M/M text erotica, and they are a demo known to be attracted to the male form. Indeed, without the inclusion of textual and artistic erotica (Tumblr, fanfiction, DeviantArt, fanwork in general), I can't see how these results would have much interpretive validity for women.
posted by Svejk at 11:46 PM on July 2, 2017 [27 favorites]


I do not understand why he doesn't consider $OBVIOUS_FACTOR

Because he's a hack?
posted by flabdablet at 12:46 AM on July 3, 2017 [19 favorites]


Proof that Americans are lying
posted by philip-random at 1:04 AM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


This is based on a flawed assumption that people only google things they like.

I wish to place it on the record that I do not like, and never have liked, Donald Trump.
posted by Gwendoline Mary at 1:47 AM on July 3, 2017 [10 favorites]


I am absolutely flabbergasted that not only was ONE particular word not mentioned in the interview, but doesn't seem to have been mentioned here -- BISEXUAL.

Hello? No wonder Bi people feel so invisible. Jeez. It's not either Gay OR straight. Bi people -- they exist, they're real. Human sexuality is a spectrum and is even fluid to some extent.

Why are we still having to explain this in 2017?


Meh. So used to it it isn't even funny.

Besides, I, at least don't identify or feel comfortable being labelled as bi. I like being labelled as someone, who, if they dig someone, they will have sexyfuntimes with that person, regardless of plumbing. I describe myself as "non-judgemental".
posted by Samizdata at 2:35 AM on July 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


I will contribute immediately and generously to whatever Kickstarter will result in us getting the book that Peppermint Snowflake would write about this topic (and any others she chooses to expound upon). Her comments are more interesting (and to me, have far more basis in reality/fact) than this idiot's article and findings.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:18 AM on July 3, 2017 [33 favorites]


He made a statement about the percentage of searches for elderly porn and then assumes that it's all young men using the site. Is Pornhub secretly scraping the age of it's users? Sounds like he's full of shit.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:53 AM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


A friend told me that there's an age field in your profile. You need a profile to favorite videos, upload, contact others, etc. I'm sure no one lies about their age.
posted by AFABulous at 5:37 AM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


I like to hope that the cross section of people who make a Pornhub profile so they can comment on videos is not representative of America as a whole, but I'd probably be disappointed.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:40 AM on July 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


This guy's been flogging his book on nearly half the podcasts I listen to. AND he did a talk at Secret Science Club. AND he's been linked on MeFi. Either he's got one hell of an agent, or his work is being very narrowly targeted to People Who Are Me. Ironically, I've been so overexposed to his work at this point, I have neither the need nor the desire to actually buy his book.

Also, the arrogance.
posted by panama joe at 5:56 AM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


I know it's already been said, but only a special kind of idiot doesn't allow for the possibility of big differences between porn viewing habits and interests and real life sexual appetites and proclivities. Maybe that's not true for everybody, but it's absolutely true for many.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:00 AM on July 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


Playing along with this stuff being a real study for the moment,

Unless the author has better demographic characterization of his study population than the article implies, I do not understand why he doesn't consider that the "excess" M/M porn searches are performed by (mostly straight) women.

That wouldn't explain the covariance with an at least rough and reputational sense of how anti-gay the state is. If it were women, you'd expect DC, DE, MD, RI, AL to have the most "excess" gay porn searches, because that is where the ladies are, and NV, HI, WY, ND, AK to have the fewest.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:48 AM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


am absolutely flabbergasted that not only was ONE particular word not mentioned in the interview, but doesn't seem to have been mentioned here -- BISEXUAL.

He also does some curious pigeonholing to avoid mentioning it.

About 20 percent of the porn women watch is lesbian porn. A lot of straight women watch lesbian porn.

So women watching lesbian porn are straight, while men watching gay porn are closeted. Neither is bisexual. Because?

And as for straight men watching lesbian porn, given the logic he consistently expresses regarding the connection between the porn you watch and who you actually would date, absent social pressure, I guess there's a significant number of straight men who would prefer to date lesbians.
posted by layceepee at 6:50 AM on July 3, 2017 [26 favorites]


A friend told me that there's an age field in your profile. You need a profile to favorite videos, upload, contact others, etc. I'm sure no one lies about their age.

I spent a long time trying to figure out why I kept getting male incontinence protection adverts on Facebook. I didn't twig for ages that when I signed up, many years ago, I put my date of birth as January 1904.
posted by knapah at 6:52 AM on July 3, 2017 [10 favorites]


This:
I think women are too obsessed with their husbands' sexuality. Women are eight times more likely to ask
Google if their husband is gay than if he is an alcoholic and 10 times more likely to ask Google if their husband is gay than if he is depressed. It is far more likely that a woman is married to a man who is secretly an alcoholic or secretly depressed than secretly gay.


Followed immediately by this:
What should husbands be asking Google? What would they ask if they knew what their wives were Googling?

Whether their wives are more physically attracted to women than men.


What the actual fuck? Not only does he suck at science, he is a sexist piece of shit.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 6:57 AM on July 3, 2017 [10 favorites]


Its really just astounding the extent to which Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reduces the domain of sexualised activity to a dichtomy of

attraction = dating = sexual desire / vs / non-attraction which must mean impressing friends.

as though there is:
- no transgressive aspect to many peoples masturbation habits
- no reason to date someone other than pure sexual attraction or trophy-husband/wives

For me at least there is often a bit of distance between masturbation motivation and relationship goals.
posted by mary8nne at 7:15 AM on July 3, 2017 [7 favorites]


I spent a long time trying to figure out why I kept getting male incontinence protection adverts on Facebook. I didn't twig for ages that when I signed up, many years ago, I put my date of birth as January 1904.

Those ads are on during M*A*S*H and All in the Family reruns on Me-TV. They're tying to age us too fast.
posted by jonmc at 8:01 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


The idea that people aren't always straightforward about their sexuality has been around ever since it became common knowledge that 95% of all men masturbate and the other 5% are liars.

I might have missed it in the article or maybe it's in the book somewhere, but how does he know the gender of the people searching for these things? The implications of the searches can be quite different depending on who is doing the asking.
posted by TedW at 8:04 AM on July 3, 2017


I was put off initially by the title "Everybody Lies".

As suggested upthread:
"The third criticism is the conflation of lying with accurately reporting ones preferences when asked. Lying implies the intent to deceive others."

Lying is a reductive, innaccurate, and worst of all BORING description of this behaviour.
Fully understanding yourself as an individual, as a part of a group as expressed desires to someone else, as a series of faces presented to the world, vs as a search on a porn site is a deep and fascinating conundrum.
Everyone is so many people. Not just the face that you put on to the world, but what you tell yourself.
Put that through the wringer of the hyper judged realm of sexuality and things get complicated.

A sense of desire shaped by need, by who you've spent time with recently, byhormonal balance, mood, by executive function reaching into the big file titled "what society has told me is right or wrong" and saying that "no, that's the wrong thing to like!", whilst the hedonist part of the brain just wants to carry on, and then get's even more entertained by being told to stop by the executive function. You've had a bad day, you're angry or a great day and you're happy. Someone tturned you down or you turned someone else down.

But yeah, sure.... you watched two hot dudes just go to town on each other whilst your wife was asleep.
What a liar!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:09 AM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


"A mirror on your bedroom ceiling is the only honest pornography." - This chucklehead it sounds like
posted by ikea_femme at 8:43 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


I read these articles in vain searching for evidence to support this claim:

People are really, really honest on Google


Maybe the relevant question here is not "are people really honest on Google?" but "are people more honest on Google searches than they are in responses to surveys about their sexual practices and beliefs about race?" And a book based on the assumption that the answer to the second question is "yeah, they probably are, let's see what shakes out by having a look at this new data set" is one I'm interested in reading.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


This article popped up for me elsewhere and I dismissed it the second he went on about men not being honest about being attracted to heavier-set women. It was just like, wait, so Kim Kardashian didn't become a celebrity icon because she is thick in the right places and had a porno tape that men went wild for? That all those comments I have seen for the last several years going "T H I C C" every time they see a hot thick girl are just non-existent? The thick revolution has been on for a long time.

Also, the same point bothered me because he must assume that men love thicker women no matter where they carry their weight. But to be fair, the women who are "heavy-set" and get attention tend to still have the hourglass figure of old, with big wide hips and ass, narrow waist, and big tits up top. In my experience, women who carry their weight in their bellies are not experiencing the same levels of desire from these men.

Anyway, it just seems like he's pulling assumptions out of his ass and that he must be out of touch with plenty of young men who are quite vocal about their love of thick women.

I wonder if he's just internally jealous that everyone else in the country is getting off in fun ways and he isn't.

Finally, I would argue that the internet, and its access to a litany of fetishes of every sort, simply have put this stuff more out in the open, and instead of it being "everybody lies" you have more and more people being not just honest with themselves about their desires, but honest with their partners as well, realizing things tend to work out better with honesty about such issues. I mean, I'm mid-thirties and I see this. I see it even more strongly in people younger than me, a whole generation of people who are extremely open about their sexuality and sexual preferences and have no desire to hide who they are or what gets them off.

This dude looks like he's my age or younger. I originally wrote this comment thinking he must be mid-50's, with how out of touch with all of this he seemed, stating the obvious like it's some new crazy idea he's discovered. No, he's some young skinny nerd who apparently needs to pull himself out of a data set once in a while.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:15 AM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


a book based on the assumption that the answer to the second question is "yeah, they probably are, let's see what shakes out by having a look at this new data set" is one I'm interested in reading.

But talking like a dataset of Google searches differs mainly from a dataset from survey research primarily in the presumed greater candor of the search terms is so egregiously dumb I would presume his book is so full of basic errors (like what are the chances he labled the axes on his graphs correctly?) as to be almost useless.
posted by straight at 9:34 AM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Why is it dumb? Lying is a well known threat to the validity of surveys. Presumably people search for items on google for self interested reasons under the assumption of anonimity.

Maybe there are threats to the validity of conclusions drawn from this type of data - there most definetly are - but that is true of all types of data. It's still interesting. You just have to consider it in context like everything else.

I really don't understand the rage this seems to evoke.
posted by eagles123 at 10:00 AM on July 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


It’s a book about human nature. Sex is a big part of human nature. Some reviews of Everybody Lies have criticized me for being obsessed with sex. Everybody is obsessed with sex. If they say they're not, they're lying.

> my asexual ass: lmao

my own asexual ass: "aw balls, does this make me a point in favor of his hypothesis, or an even stronger counterargument?"

Because I'm pretty sure that my delighted interest in sex--utterly impersonal, cheerfully baffled, delighted by variation, intensely curious and utterly repulsed the instant anyone tries to involve my personal rather than my intellectual self--is probably not what he's envisioning here when he says "obsessed with sex."

I got some pretty great trivia pieces about marsupial vaginas out of it, though.
posted by sciatrix at 10:19 AM on July 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


Why is it dumb? Lying is a well known threat to the validity of surveys. Presumably people search for items on google for self interested reasons under the assumption of anonimity.

Maybe there are threats to the validity of conclusions drawn from this type of data - there most definetly are - but that is true of all types of data. It's still interesting. You just have to consider it in context like everything else.

I really don't understand the rage this seems to evoke.


No rage, but, when an author decides only HE knows the truth, and mumbles on about their elaborate data mining, all without releasing any protocols for said analysis, stopping every few minutes to hawk their latest book, then, well, it can be frustrating. Especially when you factor in things like the p-hacking I mentioned above. Give someone enough data and they can draw any conclusions they want.
posted by Samizdata at 10:22 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


deadaluspark: "No, he's some young skinny nerd who apparently needs to pull himself out of a data set once in a while."

"How to Pleasure Yourself with Statistics"
posted by chavenet at 10:39 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


Why is it dumb?

Because he has no idea how his sample relates to the general population (it's not actually true that everyone watches porn--or uses Google--and definitely not the case that everyone uses that one porn site) and little or no demographic information other than location. Even with data provided by registered users, anonymity works the opposite way, as people are certainly more likely to lie to a pornsite than to an interviewer about their age, gender, and marital status.

And it's very dubious how (if at all) we should compare peoples unprompted search terms to answers people provide to specific questions about their desires and behaviors.
posted by straight at 10:42 AM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]



But talking like a dataset of Google searches differs mainly from a dataset from survey research primarily in the presumed greater candor of the search terms is so egregiously dumb I would presume his book is so full of basic errors (like what are the chances he labled the axes on his graphs correctly?) as to be almost useless.


This guys research may be shit but what's shittier is much of the criticism in the comments here about his methodology. There's much less likely to be preference falsification and much less social desireability bias in google searches than there is in standard surveys when the question is on sensitive topics. Google searches have been shown to be a pretty robust predictor of a number of things--racial animus, flu outbreaks, etc. Simply saying 'nut uh' or 'I google search things that I don't like sometimes' doesn't really undermine his research--how big of a threat to inference are they?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:58 AM on July 3, 2017 [7 favorites]


Can't be p-hacking, if you never calculate p. *taps forehead*
posted by ckape at 11:05 AM on July 3, 2017 [15 favorites]


He asked her how much for a handjob. She told him $1,000. He said that he had only $600. She said, "Done."

I don't want to derail or anything, but: never having been to a strip club, I was under the impression that this kind of thing is generally considered very inappropriate?
posted by clockzero at 11:17 AM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


A friend told me that there's an age field in your profile. You need a profile to favorite videos, upload, contact others, etc. I'm sure no one lies about their age.

Age fields are why Steam's user base is almost entirely born on January 1, 1900.
posted by graventy at 11:34 AM on July 3, 2017


Simply saying 'nut uh' or 'I google search things that I don't like sometimes' doesn't really undermine his research--how big of a threat to inference are they?

I mean, that's kinda the point. We don't know how much of an interference they are because there was no attempt to investigate or control for this factor.
posted by chainsofreedom at 11:36 AM on July 3, 2017


There is a pretty strict dividing line between watching something and wanting to do that something in real life. A lot of porn is based on scenarios (incest, teacher/student, etc.) where the idea is taboo and hot, but in reality you don't actually want to fuck your teacher.
posted by graventy at 11:40 AM on July 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


No, he's some young skinny nerd

Can we not though
posted by en forme de poire at 11:42 AM on July 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


Google searches have been shown to be a pretty robust predictor of a number of things--racial animus, flu outbreaks, etc.

Google Flu Trends actually turned out to be a pretty poor predictor of flu outbreaks, to the extent that it is used as an example of Big Data failure modes. And one of Google's consistent disadvantages in the advertising space is the ability to predict intent (generally in terms of purchase intent vis-a-vis Amazon). Google predicts some things well, but not others, and it is up to the researcher to demonstrate the he has found one of the robust categories.

Pop-sci interviews often fail to do a book justice (I am very curious as to how the author correlated gender and search data, and the effect of incognito mode), but this author's interview quotes are especially flippant (and in the case of hunter-gatherer sexual imagination, inaccurate). The focus on pornography is headline-grabbing but raises questions of sampling bias, since the sexes are known to differ in their preferred vehicles for erotica consumption.
I'm not surprised MetaFilter is taking a skeptical stance.
posted by Svejk at 12:02 PM on July 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


I feel very strongly that there are SO many examples in the past where we assumed..... X philosopher, x sociologist, x economist, x realist.... x sexologist...x anatomist.....x



was validating OUR experiences...

just goes to show the enormous diversity of our experiences
posted by Wilder at 12:13 PM on July 3, 2017


Women are eight times more likely to ask Google if their husband is gay than if he is an alcoholic and 10 times more likely to ask Google if their husband is gay than if he is depressed.

Perhaps because they believe they can tell if he's an alcoholic or depressed. Perhaps because they search for "signs of alcoholism" or "symptoms of depression" instead of "is my husband..." in those cases, because they're not looking for signs of "is he hiding something from me" but "do his actions, which I can damn well perceive, match this diagnosis?" (There are plenty of secret alcoholics, but they're not usually pretending to be teetotalers.)

This guy needs to join Ogas and Gaddam on the list of guys who've decided they understand How Sex Works based on data they've massaged into supporting their pet theories.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:13 PM on July 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


I know it's already been said, but only a special kind of idiot doesn't allow for the possibility of big differences between porn viewing habits and interests and real life sexual appetites and proclivities. Maybe that's not true for everybody, but it's absolutely true for many.

Yes. I suspect that lots of heterosexual people are experiencing a fair amount of penis-in-vagina sex and really super enjoy it and consider it their favorite thing, but then use their porn watching to vicariously experience other things they are interested in but either don't have a willing partner for or wouldn't actually feel comfortable doing in real life. If you gave them the choice between only having PIV sex or only having the kind of sex they watch on the internet for the rest of their lives, most of them would happily sign up for PIV.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:37 PM on July 3, 2017 [11 favorites]


vicariously experience other things hey are interested in but either don't have a willing partner for or wouldn't actually feel comfortable doing in real life

Not to mention that a lot of preferences in porn reflect interests more metaphorically than literally. I feel like this is really obvious - I mean, it's kind of Intro to Fandom Meta 101 - but apparently it's not obvious enough.

I think I've voiced this frustration here before, but it seems like a lot of thinkpieces on sex and erotic preferences are written by dudes with really narrow experiences who assume that their experiences, and ways of understanding desire, are universal.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:49 PM on July 3, 2017 [9 favorites]


If you gave them the choice between only having PIV sex or only having the kind of sex they watch on the internet for the rest of their lives, most of them would happily sign up for PIV.

.....

I never thought about it this way, but holy SHIT would I sign up so fast for PIV forever.
posted by chainsofreedom at 12:52 PM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think I've voiced this frustration here before, but it seems like a lot of thinkpieces on sex and erotic preferences are written by dudes with really narrow experiences who assume that their experiences, and ways of understanding desire, are universal.

FTFY
posted by chavenet at 1:54 PM on July 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


TIL p-hacking is not a sexual term.
posted by mmb5 at 2:39 PM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


I don't know, I think the rush of "smarter than thou" comments aimed at rejecting this guy's research and conclusions dismiss with too broad of a brush. Sure, not every porn search is indicative of the searcher's one true desire. It is rather telling, though, that there is such a broad discrepancy between what people claim they desire in the data pulled from dating sites compared to what they search for when looking for something to masturbate to.

I mean, I suppose it is possible that the guys who claim on dating sites that they are looking to date skinny woman but whose porn searches would indicate otherwise are being 100% honest, and that the desire for larger woman is something they have no interest in actually experiencing in real life, only behind a keyboard, but it at least seems rather unlikely. Not doubting that this guy may have made some dubious conclusions here or there, but his key point to my mind seems like it has some validity.
posted by The Gooch at 2:39 PM on July 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


furiously searches for "Judge Daniel Paul Schreber solar anus."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:16 PM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Maybe people shouldn't be so hasty to judge a scholar's entire body of work based on one Vox interview.

I first learned about Seth Stevens-Davidowitz based on his paper about how Google searches for the N-word predicted where Obama in 2008 was most likely to lose Democratic vote share compared to John Kerry in 2004. I thought his use of Google search data to get around the social desirability bias and preference falsification that plagues survey data (especially survey data from political polling that has anything to do with race) was extremely clever. It also had an important contribution to make in the ongoing popular and scholarly debates about whether Obama attracted so much vehement opposition from Republicans and the Tea Party because he was black or because Obama got the same treatment any other Democrat would get. The research eventually got published in a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Public Economics, The Cost of Racial Animus on a Black Candidate: Evidence Using Google Search Data, and it's a contribution to the "they oppose Obama because he's black" side of the debate that's just as valuable as Michael Tesler's work on racial spillover effects.

Other research papers that Stevens-Davidowitz has done show that Google search data is similarly useful when applied to many other topics, not just the "sex stuff" that's attracting most of the snickering and snarking in this thread. Here's just a few papers you could find if you bothered to do a search on Google Scholar:

Association Between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality (This paper with multiple co-authors appeared in the Internet-only peer-reviewed journal PLOS. It strengthens the case for using Google search data to measure hidden racial prejudice, because it shows that the same search data that can be used to predict decreases in Obama vote share vs. John Kerry in 2008 can also be used to predict which areas will have higher rates of black mortality.)

Unreported Victims of an Economic Downturn (This is an unpublished paper AFAIK, but it was based on a chapter in the dissertation that got him his Ph.D. It uses Google search data to show how the Great Recession led to increases in child abuse.)

Estimating the Closeted Gay Male Population (This is from a presentation that Stevens-Davidowitz was invited to give at the Centers for Disease Control. It is not limited to Google search data, but also incorporates data from Facebook profiles and Craigslist ads. His estimate is that 50-80% of gay men in the least tolerant states in the United States are in the closet.)

Who Will Vote? Ask Google (It's an unpublished paper but it shows that Google search data proved better than political polling in predicting elevated black turnout in both 2008 and 2012 or in predicting elevated Mormon turnout in 2012.)

I think some people in this thread need to STFU and RTFAs.
posted by jonp72 at 4:35 PM on July 3, 2017 [9 favorites]


Maybe people shouldn't be so hasty to judge a scholar's entire body of work based on one Vox interview.

I think, like me, many of the people here are judging the Vox interview, in which Stevens-Davidowitz made several questionable assertions, rather than judging his entire body of work.
posted by layceepee at 5:17 PM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


This has gotta be the best eponysterical:

"A mirror on your bedroom ceiling is the only honest pornography."
posted by ikea_femme
posted by selfmedicating at 5:25 PM on July 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


I had to do boring tasks the other day and saw he was interviewed on a podcast I had never heard called 'Smart People Podcast' or something similar. It was a terrible podcast, the interviewer was a dope and Stevens-Davidowitz came off as a jerk. I bailed after a few minutes, fast forwarded to the middle to see if it got interesting which it didn't and then actually looked for a way to give it a bad review. I never review podcasts but it was that bad.
Too much trouble and I am too lazy to review, so this will suffice.
posted by readery at 5:29 PM on July 3, 2017


Yeah, the bad evo-psych isn't even good bad evo-psych, which would actually require effort to debunk (if your point is just "the environment shapes the expression of sexuality," which is obviously true, why do we even need to bring hunter-gatherers into it, particularly with nothing about their sex lives except conjecture entered into evidence?), and he doesn't seem to know what "bisexual" means. The farther he gets away from the raw data, the less believable his insights are.

But the idea of using searches and social media to gain insight into areas of behavior where people tend to either lack self-insight or not respond honestly, like closeted men who are interested in sex with men, seems like a good one to me. The conclusion he reaches about the "flatness" of the distribution probably matches the intuition of most gay/bi men, but it is an important contribution to show that the differences across the USA in "out"-ness are not actually primarily caused by migration/self-sorting, to show that gay rights is not actually a "blue state" issue, and to show the depth of the problem that persists (even liberal states have many fewer out gay/bi men than expected, and in more conservative states, as many as 80% of gay/bi men may be closeted).

Of course, it is very difficult to tell for a specific observational study whether p-hacking and missing "researcher degrees of freedom" influenced the results, and there's no paper so a detailed evaluation of the methods is tough. But to me, that specific conclusion seems unlikely to be spurious: there wasn't a lot of dividing things up into subsets, which is a typical red flag, and he brings in multiple sources of data that corroborate the overall picture.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:06 PM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


Can't be p-hacking, if you never calculate p. *taps forehead*

Of course p was calculated. For certain values of p.

TIL p-hacking is not a sexual term.

Erm, glad to discover an odd term isn't an euphemism for anything scary?
posted by Samizdata at 6:30 PM on July 3, 2017


Also its kind of telling that one of the criticisms is that he's p-hacking, when no evidence is introduced in support of this proposition, there's no actual models being reported (since its an interview), and there's no actual p values being reported (again since its an interview).

Also really enjoyed that someone called him sexist as well. What's missing, of course, is correlation != causation.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:36 PM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


It is rather telling, though, that there is such a broad discrepancy between what people claim they desire in the data pulled from dating sites compared to what they search for when looking for something to masturbate to.

What you can conclude from that is: What people say they want from a partner, is not what they want to look at while they masturbate.

That doesn't mean they'd actually want RL actions that match what they want to look at. What people like in media is not always what they want in their lives - Agatha Christie fans are not all wannabe serial killers. They're not even all wannabe detectives. And nobody says, "you can't really want to go to med school - I've seen what you read! You want to be a detective!"

There is the potential of a claim that "people would enjoy their sex lives more if they were willing to admit they really wanted something more like the porn they watch" - but we don't have the data to back up that claim, and search engine and porn watching histories can't provide it. All they can say is, this is what people want to watch.

I like to watch a lot of movies with content I don't want to happen. I read a lot of sexually explicit fanfic with content I would never, ever want to happen in real life. Someone who had full access to my erotica habits would not be able to put together a picture of What I Want In Bed from that.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:48 PM on July 3, 2017 [13 favorites]


AFABulous: "A friend told me that there's an age field in your profile. You need a profile to favorite videos, upload, contact others, etc. I'm sure no one lies about their age."

This got me curious about what information pornhub collects on their members so I made an account and not only could people lie about their age, pornhub doesn't even require you to fill out that field. Showing once again that pornhub is less creepy than facebook.
posted by Mitheral at 8:11 PM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also its kind of telling that one of the criticisms is that he's p-hacking, when no evidence is introduced in support of this proposition, there's no actual models being reported (since its an interview), and there's no actual p values being reported (again since its an interview).

I think it's probable for sufficiently large values of p that some of the people talking about p-hacking in this thread have no idea what p-hacking really is.
posted by jonp72 at 8:37 PM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Eponysterical!
posted by en forme de poire at 8:43 PM on July 3, 2017


I_Love_Bananas (and everyone who favorited the comment): Thank you! I've thought sometimes about writing a blog or an article or a book, but I didn't know if there would be much of an interest. Maybe I'll consider it more seriously.

I'm glad that people seem to appreciate the anecdote about my coworker's experience. It was a real moment of triumph — and there aren't enough of them. Fat-shaming succeeds a lot more than it fails.

But the next time you see someone engage in fat-shaming, maybe you'll think of this interview and the data and the anecdote about my coworker's experience, and you'll be wondering if that person secretly wants a $600 handjob from their victim. I get some satisfaction from that.
posted by Peppermint Snowflake at 9:27 PM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't want to derail or anything, but: never having been to a strip club, I was under the impression that this kind of thing is generally considered very inappropriate?

I, for one, am shocked. SHOCKED.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:08 PM on July 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think some people in this thread need to STFU and RTFAs.
I make no apologies for not being inspired to read the author's work by his series of unusually poor interviews. Compare to Cathy O'Neill's tour for weapons of math destruction for interviews that inspire confidence on a similar topic prone to oversimplification and whattaboutism.
posted by Svejk at 12:18 AM on July 4, 2017 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's derailing to criticise the things Stephens-Davidowitz says in the interview, but I do think it's bad for the discussion to proudly declare that you haven't and won't consider the actual analyses he performed.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:22 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


The author has been an occasional NYT op-ed contributor for several years and does paid public speaking. He used to work at Google (hence the forefronting of Google data). He's not the only person in the popular-but-contrarian-application-and-explication-of-Big-Data space, but he is the one pushing a book with some big-name blurbers. I don't think it's too much to expect that he not give flip and uninformative interviews to the popular press.

Part of the enormous value of the big data/surveillance firms rests in the perceived enormous asymmetrical power of their data. This isn't just an ad for a book, but for an industry. It may be unfair of me (probably is, guy just wants to sell a book), but I have high expectations of professional communicators in this area.
posted by Svejk at 1:14 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's derailing to criticise the things Stephens-Davidowitz says in the interview, but I do think it's bad for the discussion to proudly declare that you haven't and won't consider the actual analyses he performed.

Nobody here is obliged to give him our time or attention, however, and if his presentation in interviews isn't good enough to make people want to read his book, that's on him.

My queue of things I actively want to read, watch, and listen to would crush me in the next quake if it were physical. Unless somebody I respect tells me it's worth getting past my negative assessment of something, I'm unlikely to waste my time digging trying to find the pony.
posted by Lexica at 1:15 PM on July 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


Great, but if you're not interested in engaging with the material, then maybe just don't participate in the thread, instead of making comments talking about how much you aren't interested. I thought that was pretty standard practice here.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:42 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


The material is an interview where he comes across very poorly and we are all talking about how he comes across very poorly.
posted by ckape at 6:09 PM on July 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm going to drop it after this comment but if you look at my commenting history in this thread, you can see that I have also criticized things Stephens-Davidowitz said during that interview, so that is not my problem. My problem is with the comment that I was responding to, which argued that the actual analyses underlying the book/interview are actually irrelevant to this discussion because Stephens-Davidowitz came off so poorly in the interview. I continue to think that this point of view is counterproductive.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:20 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


To get back to the subject of the thread, I also agree with The Gooch that while I'm sure there are some methodological problems with what he's doing (I'm not sure how much is even peer-reviewed, for a start), there also seems to be a whole lot of dubious special pleading going on in this thread. Like, of course plenty of straight women watch M/M porn. But which seems more likely: that the total number of such women is not only between 50% and 500% of the total number of men who watch M/M porn, and that there are actually more such women in conservative states where there are fewer out gay/bi men, such that the total number of people watching M/M porn remains constant? Or that societal repression correlates with being in the closet (or otherwise avoiding an LGBTQ identity)? I gotta say, possibility 2 sounds a lot more parsimonious to me. (Particularly because search data from an entirely different data set shows that married women appear to be much more concerned about their husband's possible homosexuality in those same red states.)

I think the concern about "intent" is also a total red herring in this case; how many people do you really think are just window-shopping for gay porn on a free porn site without any interest in ever consuming it? And while just knowing about fantasy is enough to show that people's attractions and behavior are probably out of sync in some respects, the fact that the proportion of Craigslist casual encounters ads that are m4m also tracks with repressiveness suggests that some amount of this spills over into behavior. (My possibly-inaccurate understanding is that it's well-known that many MSM identify as straight but for obvious reasons it's very difficult to study this population, so even having any estimate of what proportion of MSM are non-LGBTQ-identified is kind of a big deal.)

There is certainly plenty of legitimate room to interpret these results: I think Pater Alethias's point about preferences in fetish porn should not necessarily be expected to translate into preferences in IRL behavior, since some fetishes are hotter fantasies than either reality or simulated reality. And I think the difference in his interpretation of women's vs. men's sexuality is weird and possibly kind of misogynistic. But I think this analysis still represents good evidence that, for example, a lot of men really do seem to find heavier women sexier than thin women (and I can guarantee you that Kim K, for f's sake, is not what people mean when they search for porn featuring heavier women, no matter how many people are calling the Kardashians "thicc"), and that the popular discourse around weight and women's bodies does not really reflect the strength of this preference, probably because of patriarchy. I think that conclusion, as well as the overall conclusion about male sexuality, requires a lot of contortions in order to discount.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:13 PM on July 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


"Intent" here does not mean "intent to consume gay porn", but "intent to consume gay porn as a reflection of real-life desires because one is a closeted homosexual" vs "intent to consume gay porn because it is taboo and/or titillating". The comparison with search intent is "intent to purchase" v "just browsing".

When pornhub investigates search v consumption behaviour, the site finds a significant disparity between the most searched terms and the most watched videos for both sexes. For example the 2nd most-viewed category for women is "gay male" but it does not even appear in the top 20 search categories for women. The site claims that women worldwide watch more gay male porn than men, which I find surprising-verging-on-dubious since they also claim women are around 25% of their viewership, but certainly indicates consumption is significant. Men's search v view categories are slightly more consistent, but still quite different. This suggests to me that people have regular consumption habits and search for something special occasionally (perhaps at the grand finale? I remember a comic doing a bit about the immense wave of revulsion at the last porn browser window open in the refractory period). MMF visual erotica is a good example of this phenomenon: it is extremely arousing for males - possibly because it incites a response to sperm competition - but rarely requested of partners and sex workers relative to its visual consumption.

Taboo and novelty is an important driver of sexual behaviour, and I see no reason why it should be geographically consistent.
As for the 'gay husband' searches, one could hypothesize that places with a stronger taboo against a behaviour have more anxiety about potential taboo-violations.
Of course assuming even proportions of gay males across the states is more parsimonious, but there is little evidence that porn searching vs. viewing habits are regionally similar within any category of orientation. Pornhub's data, for instance, shows that gay porn consumption is inconsistent between the states, with relatively more viewership in the south, CA, and mid-atlantic and less in the mountain west. Pornhub is of course not the entire online sexual universe, but neither does porn encompass all erotica consumption. As a non-porn-related proxy, the only studies of written fanfiction (in which m/m erotica is common) of which I am aware that have regional data find that women in the south and midwest are (or were) extremely over-represented in its production and (in the early days) consumption.

I looked at the author's online data set for the porn-search-by-state question (commendably available online) and noticed that it does not have a column for percent female. The states with the lowest Google search rate for gay terms are ND, AK, ID, IA, MT, SD, NE, and WY. The states with the highest rates are NY, FL, CA, PA, MA, DC, GA, NC, NJ. At a glance, this suggests that invoking women as a possible confounder is not inappropriate (in a simple regression, it appears to be a better predictor). It would be great if the author had sketched his model of how variation in M/M casual encounters should be interpreted as representing unreported closeted males rather than differences in matching systems in different social regimes or population sizes (the connection with SSM support or porn searches does not appear striking under a simple model).

It's probably unproductive to try to relitigate this issue in a Mteafilter thread, and I strongly suspect the author of a top book has better data and complete arguments for punters who purchase that answer my under-informed cavils. I am inclined to believe that closeted males indeed account for a significant proportion of the 'excess searches', and that the gay male population is more evenly distributed than assumed. But my point was that the author's several interviews were so un-enlightening that many non-experts in this thread were reflexively unreceptive to his premises. Anticipating common objections to provocative data is part of the contrarian's arsenal. The author of Weapons of Math Destruction, for example, goes on pretty speculative threads in the book, but gave fairly even-handed interviews on her promotional tour.
posted by Svejk at 2:01 AM on July 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm having a hard time understanding the knee-jerk negative response to the interview. What exactly is the problem with what he's saying?

"I think anal sex will pass vaginal sex in porn within three years. That's what my data models suggest."

uh, hasn't it already?
posted by flashback at 5:11 PM on July 5, 2017


There is a pretty strict dividing line between watching something and wanting to do that something in real life. A lot of porn is based on scenarios (incest, teacher/student, etc.) where the idea is taboo and hot, but in reality you don't actually want to fuck your teacher.

uh, really? You never had a teacher you wanted to bang? From my own anecdotal experience and from talking to others, I find that statement dubious regardless of gender, and I would also disagree with your overall thesis.

Just because many people may not actually do these things in real life, it doesn't mean they don't want to, or would under the right circumstances. I mean, these aren't "kill my enemy" type fantasies that you would only dream about doing if you could somehow be magically free from all repercussions. Outside of the few things that go beyond taboo to outright illegal or flat-out WRONG, there are usually no real life side-effects (well ok, outside of STD's or pregnancy, both of which can be mitigated) that would prevent you from engaging in a fetish or sexual act, beyond just shame or guilt. In fact I'd argue that many people are simply too afraid to ask a sexual partner to engage in an act, and that fear is what keeps them from ever doing the thing in real life. That is why for the most part, I think you can bank on the fact that if someone is searching for something in porn, at the very least it is something they WANT to watch. And while it's true that some may want to watch for a reason other than sexual stimulation, isn't it safe to assume that is the motivation of the majority of viewers?
posted by flashback at 5:36 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


I looked at the author's online data set for the porn-search-by-state question (commendably available online) and noticed that it does not have a column for percent female. The states with the lowest Google search rate for gay terms are ND, AK, ID, IA, MT, SD, NE, and WY. The states with the highest rates are NY, FL, CA, PA, MA, DC, GA, NC, NJ. At a glance, this suggests that invoking women as a possible confounder is not inappropriate (in a simple regression, it appears to be a better predictor).

I can see this as a valid criticism, but isn't the ratio of men-to-women higher in the Western states in the first set, whereas women are closer to parity in ratio with men in the second set of states? Or are you saying that the demand for gay porn search is actually driven by women looking for male-on-male porn? I suppose that's possible, but either way, if either (1) women are driving most of the web traffic for gay porn OR (2) desire for gay porn among men is constant across states regardless of the percent of openly gay men, I think we've learned something about American sexuality (as expressed on the Internet) that we didn't know before.
posted by jonp72 at 8:09 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


uh, really? You never had a teacher you wanted to bang?

Uh, yeah? When I think back, tallying year by year from college as far back as I can remember, there hasn't been a teacher I've wanted to bang.

Please don't make the mistake of thinking that your experiences and desires are universal.

And maybe you're aware of this, but starting a comment with "um" or "uh" generally comes across as "I intend to be dismissive and snarky". FYI, in case that's not what you mean to be conveying.
posted by Lexica at 8:21 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Or are you saying that the demand for gay porn search is actually driven by women looking for male-on-male porn?

Pornhub's data scientists claim that women consume more gay porn on its site than men do (as well as a lot of lesbian porn). It is among their top-viewed categories (#2). Although women are only at most 25% of Pornhub's audience, they could easily be 2-3X the size of the gay and bi male audience. Gay porn searches are higher in states with more women. I'm suggesting that the influence of %female on the search rate for gay terms is a factor to consider. This factor was not included in the author's online dataset or mentioned in interviews. It may be easily dismissed in the book, but it is surprising that it was not one of the columns in the dataset, or a quick caveat in the interviews.

The author is not the only person doing this kind of research - OKCupid, Match.com, Facebook, and many academic researchers are investigating these topics. Criticising this author's presentation does not mean that one is reflexively antagonistic to the potential of the field.
posted by Svejk at 2:06 AM on July 6, 2017


It'd be interesting to quantify what percentage of Craigslist M4M ads specify that the looker is a "first timer" or "bi-curious" (anecdotally, these are almost always married men). Again anecdotally, I've run into a lot of "curious" guys in their 40s who have never done anything at all with a man out of shame/fear and they would definitely not ID as gay.
posted by AFABulous at 9:05 AM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


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