The truth about human sexuality? Google's search data is pretty revealing
What people self-report about their sex lives can bear little relation to the truth. So how can the social status clinging to our conversations about sex be stripped away? Anonymous Google searches!
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has used data from the internet, particularly Google searches, to get new insights into the human psyche. A book summarizing his research, Everybody Lies, was published in May 2017 by HarperCollins.
Seth has used Google searches to measure racism, self-induced abortion, depression, child abuse, hateful mobs, the science of humor, sexual preference, anxiety, son preference, and sexual insecurity, among many other topics.
He worked for one-and-a-half years as a data scientist at Google and is currently a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times. He is designing and teaching a course about his research at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he will be a visiting lecturer.
Seth received his BA in philosophy, Phi Beta Kappa, from Stanford, and his PhD in economics from Harvard. In high school, he wrote obituaries for the local newspaper, the Bergen Record, and was a juggler in theatrical shows. He now lives in Brooklyn and is a passionate fan of the Mets, Knicks, Jets, Stanford football, and Leonard Cohen. For more info, head to sethsd.com.
SETH STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ: There are a couple of things that Google search has revealed about sex. One is the lack of sex. So the number one complaint in a marriage is that it’s a sexless marriage. A much more common search than “loveless marriage” or “unhappy marriage.” The number one complaint that everybody has about their partner whether it’s a husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend is that “the partner won’t have sex with me”. That beats the second complaint that “the partner won’t text me back.” And some of the searches go a little against conventional wisdom. There are twice as many complaints that “my boyfriend won’t have sex with me” than that “my girlfriend won’t have sex with me.” And I think we usually think, you know, the conventional wisdom is that men want sex all the time and women are more withholding or prudish. But I think the data from Google goes against that.
I think the other thing that is revealed in Google search is widespread insecurity about one’s body.
And with men it tends to focus on one particular area which may not be so surprising. Maybe you can guess like where men might be most insecure. It is their genital region. So men ask more questions about their penis than any other body part on Google. And it’s basically always how to make it longer.
And one of the top questions men ask about their penis is how big is my penis, which is not clear why they’re asking Google that, right? Like that’s not really the way to find out.
But some of it seems needless because women rarely search about a partner’s penis. For every 170 searches that a man makes about his own penis a woman makes one about a partner’s penis. And women when they’re complaining about a partner’s genitals they’re about as likely to complain that it’s too big as too small—even though like men never search on Google for ways to make it smaller.
And then women, not surprisingly, also have a lot of insecurity around their bodies, and they make about seven million searches every year for breast implants. Only about 300,000 women actually get breast implants. So a lot more women look into it than go through with it.
And women make almost as many searches insecure around their genitals as men do insecure around their genitals. And with women the big insecurity, which I did not know but I learned from this data, is odor. That’s kind of like a big theme.
Yes, like men and women are kind of in their own little world, in their own heads I think.
So men their second biggest insecurity after their size is the length of their sexual encounters, and premature ejaculation and how to make it last longer.
And then women when they search are frequently looking how to make it go quicker.
So it’s kind of an interesting contrast. Again I think you do see that a lot of people are kind of stuck in their own heads and very insecure and anxious.
Sex is a touchy subject. What people say about their sex lives—what they "self-report"—can bear little relation to the truth of the matter. Men famously inflate their number of sexual encounters while women, in a telling double standard, reduce their number of partners. So how can we strip away the social status that clings to our conversations about sex? Anonymous Google searches! Here, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reveals what people tell Google in the privacy and anonymity of their online searches. Many of the truisms we hold about sex are seemingly overturned in revealing and humorous style. Stephens-Davidowitz is the author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now
To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.
- A group of mathematicians from the University of Vermont used Twitter to examine how young people intentionally stretch out words in text for digital communication.
- Analyzing the language in roughly 100 billion tweets generated over eight years, the team developed two measurements to assess patterns in the tweets: balance and stretch.
- The words people stretch are not arbitrary but rather have patterned distributions such as what part of the word is stretched or how much it stretches out.