Thursday, April 28, 2011
Secrets of Online Sex
by Jessica Bennett , The Daily Beast
Using a trove of data from porn sites and erotic ads, a new book reveals some surprising facts about what turns us on—and what separates men and women’s desires.
Pilot study No. 1 took place in the summer of 2009, over a bowl of spaghetti. Ogi Ogas, a Boston Ph.D. student, had run into a neighbor couple in the lobby of his apartment complex. He didn't know them well, but figured it was worth a shot: Ogas asked if they might "help" with a study he was conducting—a massive survey about sex.
The couple laughed, nervously. But they were intrigued. Forty-eight hours later, the three men sat sandwiched on a red vinyl couch, sharing pasta, red wine, and a marathon session of gay porn. A giant silk-screen of Sophia Loren hung in the background; the couple's pug nuzzled at the trio's feet. They would remain in this position for five hours.
It wasn't an orgy, nor was it typical entertainment for Ogas, a 40-year-old computational neuroscientist (who has a girlfriend). But while Ogas's fellow doctoral students were busy writing intricate computer code, he and his buddy Sai Gaddam simply couldn't stop talking about sex. Specifically, how the brain decides what turns us on. "Nobody in our field had taken a shot at sexual desire—and most of our colleagues thought we were insane to do it," Ogas says. "But the same neural principles that apply to our higher cognitive functions apply to sexual behavior, too."
And so began the "world's largest experiment" in human sexuality, as the first-time authors call it in their new book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts.
Analyzing the results of a billion anonymous Web searches, a million websites, erotic videos, stories, personal ads, and digitized romance novels, Ogas and Gaddam claim to have determined the sexual behavior of more than 100 million people, invoking neuroscience to help explain what makes us desire (and surf for) the things we do. Their findings span kinks too risque to republish here (look up "formicophilia" if you must), as well as basic truths about the difference between male and female sexual psychology (men prefer images while women prefer words).Info