From here, on the release of yet another book about evolutionary psychology and sex, A Billion Wicked Thoughts by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam.
The study – which they dubbed the “world’s largest experiment” – found a group of about 20 sexual interests that accounted for 80 per cent of all the porn people watched and spent money on. The top five categories, in their words, are: youth, gays, MILFs (mothers), breasts and cheating wives.
So yay for us, mothers made it into the top five porn searches. Look at us go. Also, what would an evo-psych book be without bonobos and heterosexual men as the main subjects?
Orgas said heterosexual men searched for penises almost as often as they search for vaginas and out of the top 35,000 most popular adult sites, roughly 1000 were devoted to large penises.
“This interest is perhaps inherited from our primate ancestry: chimpanzees, monkeys, and bonobos use their penis as a prominent and versatile social instrument, to signal aggression, to indicate dominance, to mark territory, and to indicate sexual interest,” he said.
For a little more analysis of the book you can look to The Good Men Project and Andrew Ladd’s (is that the perfect surname for a writer on men’s issues or what?) review of A Billion Wicked Thoughts.
This is a valuable source of data, say the authors, because the internet is anonymous, and when given anonymity people are more likely to go after what they really want—so porn searches must provide an unusually honest glimpse into what turns people on. That’s fair enough, up to a point.
But it’s also worth remembering that, technically, it’s only an honest glimpse into what turns on internet porn users who use search engines. Obviously these searches won’t reflect the desires of the 70 percent of the world who don’t have internet access, and even among the 30 percent who do, this study self-defeatingly selects for porn users’ desires; if you’re not turned on by web porn you won’t necessarily search for “a date with my wife” instead—and even if you do, Gaddam and Ogas’ methodology excludes non-sexual turn-ons from the results. (They try to compensate for that bias by looking at romance novels and female fan fiction, but this only creates further problems: of course women appear to value emotion more than men when you compare male porn users to female romance readers.)
Despite all that, however, Gaddam and Ogas still claim that their data can teach us about basic human desire, because its two million subjects represent people from all over the world. Never mind that two thirds of them still come from within the United States. (Would you accept the results of a presidential election where Texas accounted for two thirds of the total vote?) Never mind that the people with internet access still represent a fairly homogenous slice of the population. No, these two million porn searchers, most of them from the U.S., are a stand-in for all humanity.
Oh the sweet relief of sensible thought.