Study of Online Sex Searches Yields Few Surprises ... for Porners

CYBERSPACE—Despite the wide-eyed wonder by the New York Post in reaction to the findings contained in a new book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, by researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, for those of us who spend an immoderate amount of time writing about online sexual proclivities, while the statistics culled from a billion web searched from around the world are important in terms of pure data, the results are not as surprising for us. Still, the mainstreaming of reality that should come as a result of what the Post calls “the first massive undertaking in the field since the Kinsey Reports in the mid-20th century” is valuable in and of itself.

In short, as the Post headline reads, “You’re not as kinky as you think.” The billion search results reveal that if people do indeed search for what turns them on, then the definition of what is normally considered sexually normal is not nearly as normal as normally considered. And that’s putting it mildly.

“Among their more surprising findings,” writes the Post’s Marueen Callahan, “Straight men enjoy a wider variety of erotica than imagined, including sites devoted to elderly women and transsexuals. Foot fetishes aren’t a deviance; men are evolutionarily wired to look for small feet, which are a sign of high estrogen production, which itself is a sign of fertility. Gay men and straight men have nearly identical brains, and their favorite body parts, in order of preference, line up exactly: chests, buttocks, feet. Straight men prefer heavy women to thin ones. Straight women enjoy reading about and watching romances between two men—it’s not about the sex, which is downplayed, but the emotion, which is the focus.”

The top ten sex-related searches as compiled through search engine Dogpile were reported to be:

1. Youth (13.5 percent)

2. Gay (4.7 percent)

3. MILFs (4.3 percent)

4. Breasts (4 percent)

5. Cheating wives (3.4 percent)

6. Vaginas (2.8 percent)

7. Penises (2.4 percent)

8. (Blocked out in the book — too dirty even for the authors?)

9. Butts (.9 percent)

10. Cheerleaders (.1 percent)

Needless to say, we are very curious to know what number 8 might be—perhaps ass-to-mouth, double-penetration or anal cream pies. Run of the mill for us, but would they be too dirty for the authors? Impossible to know.

The problem with the research, however, is that, even though it is reported to be sound in its methodology, it does not prove a causal connection between the search result data and, as the article puts it, “human desire.”

“One of the first things I asked Ogi about was curiosity versus arousal,” Donald Symons, a pioneer in the field of human sexuality, is quoted as saying. “Ogi is convinced that when people are searching for things, it’s primarily for sexual arousal. I’m not so sure about that. If there was a porn star with three breasts—I bet there would be a zillion hits. Would that be a sign men were suddenly aroused by that? I think not.”

The authors believe that searches are indicative of desire, and not just curiosity, and believe the repetitive nature of individuals’ searches proves as much.

“We studied AOL search histories over a period of months,” said Ogas. “If someone’s just curious, they’re not going to spend money for a subscription to a site, or search for something over and over again.”

That may be, but in lieu of a methodological element that makes that assumption a fact, it remains a theory that has a little more meat on it than a pure guess. The authors also believe that the more important underlying theory one can take away from A Billion Wicked Thoughts is that there is no such thing as a sexual deviance, and that “people who are attracted to mirrors, or to beards, or get turned on by ants in their pants—these are cases that, until now, have been diagnosed by clinicians who’ve seen patients.”

The internet, on the other hand, for the first time in history, provides researchers such as Ogas and Gaddam with the ability to asses a vast amount of actual and verifiable data that shows that previously thought of sexual anomalies are actually very popular online destinations.

“We discovered things even Kinsey didn’t know,” said Ogas. “Foot fetishes, for example, are common across all cultures.”

For the authors, the conclusion that there is something (or someone) for everyone on the internet, sexually speaking, is reassuring and not threatening. If there are thousands if not millions just like you, the thinking goes, how can you be abnormal?

For others, to be sure, the results of this research will not lead to such a conclusion, but will instead reinforce what they already believe, which is that the internet, rather than revealing pre-existing desires, is itself creating a vast population of perverts. No amount of data, research or historical context will convince them that sex outside of the “norm” is anything but dirty.

From the perspective of someone who doesn’t have to worry about watching any type of porn at work as long as it’s not contraband, to see a headline in the Post that reinforces the message that you’re not as kinky as you think is useful in and of itself, even if it isn’t a surprise.