As a sex researcher, I’ve read a lot of studies on the subject of pornography. One thing that’s been pretty consistent across most of them is that what counts as “porn” is usually left undefined. In other words, when people are asked about their porn usage habits, it’s generally up to them to determine what counts and what doesn’t.Read More
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.Read More
Let’s say you have a sexual fantasy about something—or someone—you’re not “supposed” to do, perhaps because it conflicts with the teachings of your religion. When a thought about this pops into your head, what do you do?
One of the most common responses people have to unwanted thoughts is to actively suppress them. While this may work in the short term as a means of reducing these thoughts, unfortunately, it’s not a very effective strategy for clearing your mind of them. As it turns out, suppressing a given thought just makes us think about it more in the long run.Read More
In the United States today, 37 states mandate that information on abstinence be provided in sex education courses. As you might imagine, it’s not uncommon for students to be asked to take “purity” or virginity pledges as part of the sex ed. curriculum in these states.
Students are encouraged to take these pledges in order to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, but also to prevent unwanted pregnancies. As it turns out, however, abstinence pledges don’t necessarily accomplish either of these goals. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that they might do just the opposite!Read More
What “counts” as cheating on a romantic partner? It depends who you ask. Research finds that people define infidelity in very different ways. However, there are some things that people seem to agree on more than others.
For example, people largely agree that having sexual intercourse with someone who isn’t your partner is a form of cheating (assuming, of course, that you agreed to be monogamous with that partner). The same goes for taking a shower with another person or sending them naked photos. But what about just watching porn by yourself? Do people typically categorize that as a form of infidelity? A recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers some insight into this question.Read More
Several studies have found that pornography use is associated with lower levels of sexual satisfaction (see here and here and here for a few examples). On the basis of this pretty consistent finding, many have concluded that porn necessarily has negative implications for people’s sex lives. As it turns out, however, porn per se probably isn’t the problem here.Read More
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.Read More
In the U.S. today, 37 states mandate that information on abstinence be provided in sex education courses. In those states, it is not uncommon for students to be asked to take “purity” or virginity pledges as part of the curriculum.
Students are often encouraged to take these pledges in order to both reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections and to prevent unintended pregnancies. As it turns out, however, abstinence pledges don’t necessarily accomplish either one of these things. In fact, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that they may do just the opposite!Read More
History is full of examples of governmental and religious authorities going to great lengths to regulate people’s sex lives. Of course, these efforts continue in the modern world--however, sex today isn't regulated to quite the same extent as it was in the past, at least in the Western world.
By today’s standards, many of the older laws—and their corresponding punishments—seem, well, downright absurd. Below are five such examples drawn from the book, Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire by Eric Berkowitz.Read More
Millennials are often portrayed in the popular media as an extremely liberal bunch when it comes to sex. The impression given is that, among other things, millennials are totally cool with homosexuality, they love their casual sex, and they're shunning the notion of marriage. However, this doesn't quite match up with the data. Believe it or not, millennials' sexual attitudes may be a little more conservative on average than you've been led to think.Read More
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.Read More
Historically and even today, many religious groups and organizations have promoted the view that any sexual activity outside the context of heterosexual marriage is immoral and harmful. One of the most vocal such groups in recent years has been the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as LDS or Mormon). Not only have they spoken out against masturbation (e.g., consider this recent PSA likening a guy who doesn’t stop his college roommate from masturbating to leaving a wounded soldier on the battlefield), but they have also repeatedly communicated their belief that homosexuality is wrong (e.g., consider that they were one of the biggest financial backers of California’s 2008 same-sex marriage ban, Prop 8). In light of their views, it is perhaps not surprising that the LDS church has also been a big proponent of the idea that sexual orientation change is possible, and they have encouraged gay, lesbian, and bisexual members to seek treatment designed to alter their sexuality. So what happens to LDS church members who follow these directives to “convert” their sexual orientation? Are religiously motivated individuals able to successfully eliminate their feelings of attraction to members of the same sex?Read More