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The strange new science behind "A Billion Wicked Thoughts"

Women with erections, and other strange gifts from the web

A shocking discovery

It's not so unusual these days for a woman to discover pornographic pictures on her husband's computer. But the images that one wife found recently were especially shocking. Her first thought when she found them was, "This is the end of our marriage."

Her next thought was, "This is the end of civilization."

The pictures were of nude women, ordinary looking women, except with big erect penises where their female genitals should be. Some were clearly computer-manipulated photographs. Others seemed to be some kind of Japanese cartoon. She'd wasted no time in calling her therapist.

Was he gay? No. On the internet, there are enough images of real men with erections, in all possible guises and permutations, to satisfy even the most novelty-crazed gay man.

Was his nature in some way secretly feminine? Absolutely not. Women don't go looking for pictures of erect penises. A woman may appreciate it when a living, breathing male partner has become erect out of desire for her. But only after he's proven his worth in other ways.

So what was the husband's problem?

When I polled colleagues, their response varied from "Never heard of it, but it sounds pretty sick," to "Steve, you don't get out enough. This kind of stuff has been around forever."

Some light on the subject

Last month I received an advance copy of a new book of sexual research, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, that explores the matter of women with erections and many other sexual subjects using an interesting new method.

In the space of a single year, using publicly available data, authors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam collected the records of 400 million internet searches in the US and elsewhere, and analyzed whatever sexual content they found.

After reading the book, I was convinced I had my answer to the question of what was wrong with the husband who liked to look at women with big erections.

The answer: Nothing was wrong with him at all.

According to the authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, he was the target of a sophisticated internet marketing trick, offering men a novel combination of two ordinary things that many ordinary heterosexual men like to look at: women's naked bodies . . and erect penises.

Are you saying what I think you're saying?

You mean straight men like to look at other men's erections?

Indeed many straight men do, according to A Billion Wicked Thoughts. And the authors have the data to prove it.

Of the 400 million internet searches done by Ogas and Gaddam, 55 million (about 13%) were judged to be sexual in nature. Most of these sexual searches appeared to have been done by men. No surprise there.

But here's where it gets interesting. The authors then organized all the sexual searches by category - "butts," "breasts," "cheerleaders," "massage," etc. And they ranked the categories by popularity.

Of the 55 million sexual searches studied, where do you think "penises" ranked? Number seven. Pretty impressive. Just behind "vaginas," and just ahead of "amateurs."

Sure, many of the penis searches studied by Ogas and Gaddam were by gay men. But the authors present additional information to suggest that a great many of the searchers were straight men.

Heterosexual men generally suppress the impulse to stare at other men's penises. But on the internet - where no one but Google is watching - penises get looked at.

So why is this important?

The urge to scrutinize another man's penis is one that many heterosexual men in my office find upsetting and confusing. Many worry they're secretly gay. The vast majority aren't. According to A Billion Wicked Thoughts, these men are simply responding to an ordinary male desire - to check out and admire the sexual anatomy of a man who is perceived as dominant or powerful.

But who knew the impulse to do so was so prevalent? Well, now we all know.

A Billion Wicked Thoughts is an ambitious book. In many ways too ambitious. Both the project and its presentation in the book have some problems, as we'll discuss in subsequent articles. The book is certain to irritate a lot of people.

Nevertheless, the authors' work has important implications for the field of sex therapy. Particularly in our current era - which might without too much exaggeration be called "The Age of Porn."

The married man who liked to look at images of women with erections is just one example of the book's relevance. We'll discuss some others in the days ahead.

Stay tuned, and we'll do the trip together. It's a bit of a wild ride.

Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD 2011 New York City

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