A Billion Wicked Thoughts

The world's largest experiment on human desire.

The World's Largest Experiment in Human Behavior

An unprecedented new landscape of data documents our sexual interests

How men like slender women endowed with gigantic penises, and women like reading about rugged men having sex with other men.

Homo sapiens' sexual predilections have always been tough to nail down. Most people don't make merry love in shopping malls and public squares. We are loathe to share our intimate desires with neighbors or scientists. Our brains recoil in disgust or ignite in anger when confronted with sexual ideas different from our own. Alfred Kinsey was the first and only scientist to systematically document the sexual interests of a large sample of Homo sapiens--and rarely has a scientist encountered such hostility and outrage. More than enough social outrage to prevent any subsequent researcher from extending his survey.

As a result, it hasn't been possible to "see what's on the end of everyone's fork," to steal an expression from William Burroughs. What do men and women truly like? Scientists just haven't been able to get accurate data.

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Until now.

For the first time in human history, we have access to millions of fragments of an unprecedented new landscape of data documenting humankind's private interests. Each one of us now has the ability to instantly request ANY kind of erotica imaginable by making a wish to the genie of a million squicks: the internet.

As the internet has matured and evolved, it has become an ever-growing cross-cultural repository of all of our fantasies and a reflection of our aggregate psyche. By examining the content, frequency, and distribution of these fantasies we can obtain a clear picture of what men and women really like.

In our research, we have done exactly that. We analyzed a billion web searches, a million Web sites, a million erotic stories, a half-million erotic videos, millions of personal ads, millions of online dating responses, millions of paid subscriptions to adult sites, tens of thousands of comments on erotic sites, tens of thousands of digitized romance novels, and much more.

We now know, for example, that men seek out penises almost as often as they seek out vaginas. We know that women virtually never pay for online porn. We know that men search for overweight women three times as often as they search for underweight women. We know that women around the world enjoy romantic and erotic stories about two men. We know that virtually all of clinical psychology's ideas about the prevalence of various fetishes (paraphilias in the literature) are completely and embarrassingly wrong.

In other words, we can finally see what's on the end of everyone's fork. And uncovering what we really like is the first, essential step in explaining why.

 

 

 

Sai Gaddam, Ph.D., studies biologically inspired models of machine learning. He is co-author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts.

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