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 Men Admit To Sexual Assault When Hooked Up To A Lie Detector?

How Many Men Admit To Sexual Assault When Hooked Up To A Lie Detector?

When comparing the number of women who say they’ve been sexually assaulted to the number of men who admit to perpetrating sexual assault, the numbers are highly discrepant. In fact, the number of self-identified female victims is about three times higher than the number of admitted male perpetrators. So why is that? Is it because a small number of men are committing a large number of sexual assaults? Or is it because men are underreporting their sexually aggressive behaviors? A recent study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence offers some support for the latter explanation. 

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Who Has a Higher Sex Drive: Women or Men?

Who Has a Higher Sex Drive: Women or Men?

My social media feed has been blowing up lately with links to article headlines like this one from HuffPost, “Women Want More Sex Than Their Partner Does, According To New Study.” Naturally, as a sex researcher, I was intrigued--I wanted to read the paper and learn more. However, I was disappointed to learn that this wasn’t actually a scientific study and that numerous media outlets were reporting on it like it was legit science. Let's take a closer look at this "study" and what it does and doesn't tell us. 

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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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Genital Arousal and Sexual Desire Aren’t Necessarily the Same Thing

Genital Arousal and Sexual Desire Aren’t Necessarily the Same Thing

Scientists who study sexual desire have long been wary of over-relying on self-report data because people don’t always tell the truth on surveys. Some people answer questions about what turns them on and what their sex lives are like in whatever way makes them look best. For example, someone might underreport their sexual desires and experiences in order to appear wholesome, or perhaps because they don't want to own up to something. To get around this issue, many sex scientists utilize devices that can measure genital arousal under the assumption that “genitals don’t lie.” Among researchers who subscribe to this belief, they have a tendency to let genital data trump self-report data whenever they seem to be saying different things.

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Participate In The Largest Study Of Sexual Fantasies Ever

Participate In The Largest Study Of Sexual Fantasies Ever

I recently launched an online survey of sexual fantasies that is designed to be the largest and most comprehensive investigation of the nature and origin of sexual fantasies ever undertaken. This study will help us to better understand what it is that people today are fantasizing about, how sexual fantasies vary across different segments of the population, as well as what our fantasies mean and where they come from.

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Between The Sheets In Britain (Infographic)

Between The Sheets In Britain (Infographic)

Results from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) were just released and they give a fascinating glimpse into the sex lives of the British population. Also, by comparing these results to previous surveys, we can get some sense of how sexual practices have changed across time. Check out the infographic below for selected findings and click here to read more about this important sex survey.

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Make Your Mark On Science By Participating In A Sex Study

Make Your Mark On Science By Participating In A Sex Study

Looking for a much-needed distraction from work? Or just trying to find a fun way to kill a few minutes online? Consider putting this time to good use by making an important contribution to the science of sex. Below are links to a series of sex studies conducted by me or one of my esteemed research collaborators. Each study has a different focus and you are eligible to participate in as many or as few as you would like, assuming that you meet the relevant selection criteria (please note that you must be age 18 or older to participate in any of these studies). Any help you can provide by participating or spreading the word is greatly appreciated and will help to advance our scientific understanding of human sexuality.

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      What Percentage Of The Population Is LGBT?

      How many people in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT)? A recent Gallup poll that received a lot of media attention put the overall number at 3.4% of the population and reported that women were slightly more likely than men to identify as LGBT (3.6% vs. 3.3%). How much stock should we put in the results of this poll? In light of other published sex surveys, I would be cautious about drawing too many conclusions from it.   
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      Contribute To The Science Of Sex By Participating In A Sex Study

      If you’re anything like me, you probably think there’s nothing more fun or interesting than learning about the latest sex research. But have you ever wanted to go beyond just reading about it and actually contribute to sexual science by participating in a sex study or two (or three or four)? If so, today is your lucky day. Below are links to a series of sexuality studies that are either run by me or some of my esteemed research collaborators. Each study addresses a distinct aspect of sex and you are eligible to participate in as many or as few of the studies as you would like, depending upon whether you meet the selection criteria. Any help you can provide by participating or spreading the word is greatly appreciated and will help to advance our understanding of human sexuality.

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      Sex Surveys Pose No Harm To Student Participants

      Sex Surveys Pose No Harm To Student Participants
      Sex surveys have been controversial ever since the pioneering work of Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s and 50s. There has been a persistent concern that asking people questions about sex is simply too personal and is likely to make them feel distressed and uncomfortable. Although there may have been some validity to this concern several decades ago, times have changed. We now live in a world where people talk about sex more freely than ever before and sex is represented everywhere in the media. So should ethics review boards continue to scrutinize sex studies more than other types of research? A new study suggests not.
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      Sex Question Friday: What’s Your Number?

      Sex Question Friday: What’s Your Number?

      Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a college student who wanted to know more about how many sex partners people have during their lives. This is actually one of the most common questions I hear in my Human Sexuality course, so I definitely have an answer!

      How many sexual partners do men and women typically have in their lifetime?

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