5 Things Americans’ Google Searches Have Taught Us About Sex

5 Things Americans’ Google Searches Have Taught Us About Sex

In the last few years, Google Trends has become a favored research tools of sex scientists. Because not everyone is willing to participate in sex studies for various reasons, Google searches offer a handy means of looking at what a broader swath of the population thinks about sex. The appeal doesn’t stop there, though.

We also know that people don’t always answer survey questions honestly (even when they’re guaranteed anonymity) due to fear, shame, and embarrassment. For instance, some people may not honestly report their turn-ons because they’re embarrassed, while others might lie about how many people they’ve had sex with in order to look good to the researcher (some might overreport, while others might underreport). When people go to Google, however, they have a powerful incentive to tell the truth: if they don’t, they won’t find what they’re looking for.

Google searches are therefore thought to be very revealing because they can give us a glimpse into the things that people might not otherwise be willing to share. Several research papers have been published recently that explore the contents of Americans’ Google search histories. Here are five of the most fascinating things we’ve learned so far from this unique research tool.

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How Many Americans Have Paid For Sex Before?

How Many Americans Have Paid For Sex Before?

Purchasing sex used to be a very common behavior among American men. For example, Alfred Kinsey’s famous studies of human sexual behavior from the 1940s and 50s found that 69% of the men he surveyed had paid for sex at least once! However, more recent studies suggest that the number has dropped significantly as attitudes toward sex outside of marriage have liberalized. In fact, in the 1990s, a nationally representative survey of Americans found that just 16% of men said they had paid for sex before.

So what do the numbers look like today? And how do they compare for men and women? 

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Why Do So Many Conservative Men Wind Up In Sex Scandals With Other Men?

Why Do So Many Conservative Men Wind Up In Sex Scandals With Other Men?

If you follow the news closely, you've probably noticed that, month after month, reports emerge about politically or religiously conservative men who find themselves embroiled in scandals in which they were caught having sex with other men. These events routinely make the news because the men involved tend to be outspoken opponents of LGBT+ rights who are caught engaging in hypocrisy.

So why does this keep happening? Why do so many conservative leaders wind up in these situations? Social psychological research offers a few potential explanations. 

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From Friends With Benefits To Threesomes, How Single Americans Feel About Sex (Infographic)

From Friends With Benefits To Threesomes, How Single Americans Feel About Sex (Infographic)

How many single adults in the United States have had a friends with benefits relationship? How many are open to the idea of having a threesome? And what do they think the characteristics of both good and bad sex are? For a look at the answers to these questions, check out the infographic below, which reviews selected results from Match.com's eighth annual Singles in America survey. This survey featured a large, demographically representative sample of single people living in the US who were surveyed about their sexual attitudes. 

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The Trump Administration Doubles Down On Abstinence-Only Sex Education

The Trump Administration Doubles Down On Abstinence-Only Sex Education

The Trump administration recently released its proposed budget for 2019 and, just like last year, it seeks to ensure that sex education in the United States remains focused on abstinence. Specifically, this administration seeks to fund abstinence-only programs to the tune of $150 million. I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating: focusing sex education primarily on abstinence just doesn’t work.

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5 Fascinating Things Americans’ Google Searches Have Taught Us About Sex

5 Fascinating Things Americans’ Google Searches Have Taught Us About Sex

Google Trends has quickly become one of the favorite research tools of sex scientists. Why? In part, because not everyone is willing to participate in sex studies and, among those who are, we know they don’t always answer survey questions honestly. For instance, some people won’t report what actually turns them on because they’re embarrassed by it. Likewise, others lie about how many people they’ve had sex with in order to make themselves look better in the eyes of others. When people go to Google, though, they have a powerful incentive to tell the truth because, otherwise, they won’t find what they’re looking for. As a result, Google searches are thought to be very revealing because they can give us a glimpse into the things that people might not be willing to share with scientists, or anyone else for that matter.

In the last few years, several research papers have been published exploring the contents of Americans’ Google search histories. In this post, we’ll take a look at five of the most fascinating things we’ve learned so far from this unique research tool.

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Abortion: Fact vs. Fiction (Video)

Abortion: Fact vs. Fiction (Video)

Abortion is one of the most controversial and hotly debated political topics in the United States today--and that debate is about to hit a fever pitch, given the double whammy of a looming nomination to the Supreme Court and threats by the Republican party to cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. As such, now might be a good time to step back and take a look at some of the most common claims about abortion and evaluate them in terms of how they match up with data.

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How This Sex Scientist is Putting His Post-Election Emotions to Work

How This Sex Scientist is Putting His Post-Election Emotions to Work

The morning after this week’s U.S. Presidential election, I awoke feeling a range of emotions—none of them positive. I was sad. I was angry. I was scared.

I spent the entire day feeling helpless and pessimistic about the future, which I documented in an early morning blog post about seeing this election through the eyes of a sex researcher and educator.

A few days have passed now and I certainly don’t feel any better about the election results, but I’m no longer despondent. I know that the next four years will pose immense challenges, both personal and professional, but I also know that I don’t just have to sit by idly while so many things that I care about are threatened. I can do something—and I’m starting today.

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Why Was There So Much Gay Sex At The RNC? A Social Psychologist Explains

Why Was There So Much Gay Sex At The RNC? A Social Psychologist Explains

At last week’s Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, reports are that a lot of sex was going on behind the scenes—a lot of gay sex to be precise. For example, during the convention, usage of the all-male hookup app Grindr was more than twice as high as usual in the Cleveland area. But it wasn’t just that—male escorts in the Cleveland area also reported booming business for the week.

Media outlets were quick to point out the irony, considering that this year’s Republican party platform is unabashedly anti-gay, with the Log Cabin Republicans (the gay branch of the party) going as far as to call it the “most anti-LGBT…in the Party’s 162-year history.”

While all of this is certainly interesting, what I found to be missing in all the media reports coming out was a look at why—why would so many gay and bisexual people attend a political convention for a party that formally opposes so many LGBT causes?

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Featured Book Series: Galileo’s Middle Finger

Featured Book Series: Galileo’s Middle Finger

I recently had the pleasure of reading Dr. Alice Dreger’s latest book, Galileo’s Middle Finger. This book had actually been on my reading list for over a year, but it took me a while to get around to it because I essentially work two full-time jobs between my academic position and all of the blogging/writing I do.

Oh, and I try to have a personal life on top of that—try being the operative word there.

Given that I have precious little time for pleasure reading these days, I select the books I want to read very carefully. Dreger’s book was a natural choice for me, though, because it had come highly recommended from several colleagues and also because I developed a bit of a Twitter crush on her after she live-tweeted her high school son’s sex education class last year.

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How Indiana Politicians Are Ignoring Science And Harming Hoosiers’ Sexual Health

How Indiana Politicians Are Ignoring Science And Harming Hoosiers’ Sexual Health

My home state of Indiana has been in the news a lot lately, and most of the news coverage has portrayed it in a pretty unflattering light. This is due almost entirely to the actions of our elected officials, who appear to be out of touch with the views of everyday Hoosiers and with the scientific community on matters of sexuality and sexual health.  Much has been said and written in recent weeks about passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the concern that its original wording was intended to license discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons. This is a prime example of how the State government’s actions are out of step with the public, who overwhelmingly oppose discrimination against sexual minorities. Our elected officials’ disregard for science has not generated quite the same level of national attention as the RFRA law, but it is nonetheless just as concerning. In this article, I would like to take a look at the disconnect between our State government’s actions and the science, and consider its potential impact on the sexual health of Indiana residents.

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People In Conservative States Google The Most Online Sexual Content

People In Conservative States Google The Most Online Sexual Content

It is no great secret that political and religious conservatives in the United States have a tendency to disapprove of any kind of sexual activity that is inconsistent with “traditional values” (i.e., anything other than vaginal intercourse within a heterosexual, monogamous marriage). Likewise, they tend to be more supportive of abstinence-only education and many of them discourage any kind open discussion about sexual matters. However, as we have seen time and again, conservative leaders (both political and religious) are often caught engaging in the activities that they themselves have so strongly protested, from having same-sex affairs to paying for sex (or both). Research provides additional support for the idea that there is sometimes a disconnect between what conservatives say publicly and what they do privately by revealing that the most online sexual content is actually sought in the most conservative of states.

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What Is A “Legitimate” Rape Anyway?

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” – Todd Akin, Republican Senate Candidate from Missouri

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen a ton of headlines over the past few days referencing Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments about rape. Akin’s remarks were asinine on multiple levels because not only is it patently offensive to suggest that some rapes are “legitimate” while others are not, but there is absolutely nothing to back up his provocative claim that women’s bodies have mechanisms in place to prevent rape-related pregnancies from occurring. In fact, research has actually found the opposite of what Akin suggested: specifically, the per-incident pregnancy rate is higher for rapes than it is for consensual sex.1

Although the Akin controversy has stoked a lot of public anger, the silver lining is that his remarks have prompted a public dialogue about sexual assault that we desperately need to have. I have read so many excellent articles this week that are providing some much-needed attention to this important issue. If I may add one small bit to this, I would like to talk briefly about the definition of rape and how the wide variability in legal definitions of this crime may be contributing to confusion about what rape is and distracting us from the bigger issues at stake here.

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