Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: Science And Sexuality

Before we start a debate about the way we "should" behave sexually, we need to take a look at how we actually live. We make a plethora of assumptions when it comes to human sexuality, but unfortunately there haven't been a wealth of studies to help us determine which of these assumptions, if any, are true. Two neurologists studying human sexuality found a novel way to get the data they needed to start figuring out what really turns us on. They no longer had to rely on such awkward surveys that Alfred Kinsey used in the 40's. Ask ten people about what makes them hard and you're likely to get ten different answers, seven of which will be lies. The internet has an elegant way of getting to the truth.

Just consult the Oracle. Search engines are what power the Internet. For them to run efficiently, they have to collect a lot of data from its users . They don't share this information liberally. The legal and public relations nightmares are enough to ensure an individual's privacy. In the aggregate, we're fair game. In order to protect our privacy, the data is stripped of any identifiers. After combing through the data, two neurologists, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, found a non-intrusive way to study human sexuality. What they found is often very obvious, but there are some pleasant surprises as well.

How many of us are gay?

This is one of the questions of human sexuality which is often debated. Many people have tried to find various ways to figure this out, but the more interesting one to date is found in this book. If you define someone who consistently looks at gay porn as gay, then the internet has the answers. The key is to finding this out is found in the statistical data collected on those who use the internet. So you think there may actually be gay men who don't look at porn? Well, there's also a way to figure out the rates of mens' porn viewing habits and control for these divergences as well. You might just be surprised at how many of us look at porn to see how little a problem this is for statistics to measure. The fact is we know more about sexuality today than we ever have. And the numbers are quite consistent.

How many bottoms, tops, or versatile men are there? 

This is one of those questions I've had friends speculate on, but now with the data collected by these scientist, there are some actual answers to the question that are very accurate. Certainly, there's plenty of anecdotal data out there, but this book has some real numbers and they are eye-opening. Did you know that there are actual physical differences between men who are gay and those who are straight? And there are even physical differences in body types and physical proportions between tops and bottoms? All of this can be found in analyzing the data gleaned from different databases around the Internet.

How many of us are into big guys? 

There might be a lot more chubby chasers than you think. It may be a media stereotype to have the muscled hunk be the star, but when the science looks at who we turn to in our desires, you might be surprised to find it's not who we aspire to be, but who we actually are. What we perceive as normal is far more attractive to us than we are led to believe. I'm not saying you should let yourself go, but be a little more kind to yourself. Read the book if you want your eyes to be opened about the exact numbers and what they might say about our media culture.

What's the deal with rape fantasies? 

Why do so many of us fantasize about being hurt in ways we'd never really want to happen in real life? Well, the "why" is intriguing enough, but to find answers we need the "what" and the "who". What are we fantasizing about? And who among us is doing it? These are the perquisite question to the "why" and ultimately far more important in the long run. The answer may actually help a lot of us stop feeling like freaks. When we come to realize that we're a lot more normal than we first thought, we may finally be able to reconcile our desires with our values. It's not that rape fantasies and getting slapped around won't still seem a little wrong and weird, but knowing that so many of us are there with you might be of some comfort.

I hope to get into the more philosophical questions about sex and human nature, as we have a lot of interest in the topic. There are plenty of books on the subject that I like, but there's one in particular I would like to talk about in the future. For now, take some time and put this book in your ears. It will deeply expose you to what science can teach us about ourselves. If you would like it, buy a copy for a friend and check out their blog at Physiology Today

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