The Neuroscience Behind Sexual Desire: Bring Your Questions for Authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts

The first researcher to systematically investigate human sexual desire was the Indiana University sociologist Alfred Kinsey, more than 60 years ago. Kinsey spent years surveying people’s sexual habits, interviewing thousands of middle-class Americans in the 1940s and ’50s. But what if all that information had been publicly available? What if you could access the secret sexual behaviors of more than 100 million men and women from around the world?

Today, thanks to the internet, you can.

In what is claimed to be the largest experiment ever, two neuroscience PhDs from Boston University, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, analyzed a billion web searches, a million web sites, a million erotic videos, millions of personal ads, thousands of digital romance novels, and combined it all with cutting-edge neuroscience. The result is the most complete study of the human brain and sexuality ever, which they’ve compiled into a new book called A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire. Among other things, their research reveals profound differences between the sexual brains of men and women, even though they are both hardwired to respond to the same sexual cues. For instance: male brains form sexual interests during adolescence and rarely change, while female brains change frequently throughout their lives. For men, physical and psychological arousal are united, while they’re completely separate for women.

Ogas and Gaddam have agreed to answer your questions about their research, so fire away in the comments section. As with all our Q&A’s, we’ll post their answers in short course. In fact, you can read them right here.


fred quimby

What was the negative multiplier you had to use to get an accurate time, when you asked men: how long they "last" for when having sex?

rubayeet

No doubt an interesting work.

However, in my honest opinion, the two 'revelations' noted in this article are more of a common knowledge.

Nicolas

Common knowledge isn't scientific knowledge.

Ryan

When people are sad or depressed, I imagine that impacts their sexual behavior. For instance, the current recession. Did that reduce sexual behavior amongst those most impacted? How did it impact men vs. women? How does the amount of time someone is able to return to normal sexual behavior differ between men and women?

Linka

How do you say things like "the largest experiment ever" with a straight face when all you did was "analyze" millions of pieces of media on whatever shallow, facile level you were able to analyze them?

How can you manage to show your face on the internet after your last "experiment"?

Has your methodology improved from your last "experiment", where you gathered no data about neuroscience at all but took your preconceived notions of how men and women were wired sexually, made assumptions about what was happening in their brains when they engaged with certain materials, and called the results "science"? It doesn't seem like it, since it's not like you have any brain scans to go with the media you "analyzed".

What exactly did you do besides look at a lot of internet porn that other people had looked at and then figure out how to stretch it to fit your preconceived models?

What institution or institutions are you falsely claiming affiliation with this time?

How do you manage to call yourself a scientist without the very laws of causality coming to life as an indignant anthropomorphic force and kicking you squarely in the nuts?

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Adam Lipkin

I'd like to know how you respond to N. Pepperell's and Alison Macleod's critiques of your methodology, as none of the articles or interviews I've read so far have addressed what seem to be some very legitimate points.

Brandon Rice

Do you have a link to these critiques, or at least to a summary?

unholysonnet

N. Pepperell's critique. I don't know McLeod's, but look forward to reading it.

don juan

what's the most effective way to approach a woman you don't know in a bar or other social setting?

Eric M. Jones

In my salad days I dated at least two women, who were very attractive and were compatible in most important ways...but their sexual thermostats were turned way down to "energy saving". I expected that this would never change and abandoned the relationships with regret. Was I right? or should I have held out hope that this dead-in-bed feature would improve?

maurizio de franciscis

Sexy piece of knowledge to go after guys! ...no pun intended. The problem with very large studies is generally that you cannot control for external factors. How did you structure yours? Did you assume that at that scale special factors will cancel out?

Alexandra Erin

Wasn't this book supposed to be called Rule 34: What Netporm Teaches Us About The Human Brain? And wasn't the research being backed by Boston University? Whatever happened with all that?

I hope you didn't take out your thoughtful conclusions about how women who like male pairings parallels male fetishization of trans women (you used some more technical tetms there - what were they again?) but bears no relationship to men liking female pairings. As I recall you had some interesting methods of backing that up.

Doctor Science

Well, well. Which of the points I outlined in a post at Obsidian Wings should I ask you about?

- Why do you call data-mining improperly-released search data "the world's biggest experiment"?

- Why do you call fanfiction.net "the most popular 'erotic' site for women", when it (a) is mostly used by under-18s, and (b) does not accept explicit material?

- How can you possibly talk about "hard-wired" human universals when you don't, at a bare minimum, compare Anglophones to people using other languages? Not to mention cultures?

- How does it feel to have been called a live-action, (supposedly) scientific version of the Dunning-Kruger Effect? Or to be called phrenologists?

So many possible questions!

Matthew, I would be more than willing to do a text or video debate with Mr. Ogas about his book. Contact me at the email address I left for this comment.

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ThorSley

Have you even read the book? This is exactly the kind of response we who are practiced in recognizing the dark arts of the paleo-feminists were predicting. http://glpiggy.net/2011/05/05/a-billion-wicked-wasps/
Take your completely irrational anger elsewhere. Or at least keep it away and inside while you actually read the damn book.

adora

How can a reader use the information to her advantage?

RobbRedFord

Hmm, so the Jezebel article about your book says that plenty of guys watch Granny porn. I am not all convinced that these are people actually interested in this. This might be more of a 2girls1cup (do google that girls:)) sort of a thing where I might look at something out of sheer fascination. How can you tell? Also, how do you know that the people watching this (still not convinced) are not grandpas themselves?

RobbRedFord

Swallowed the link http://jezebel.com/5793986/fascinating-facts-about-internet-sex

XTricks

You're not taking these two 'scientists' seriously are you? Not only were they requested to stop using the Boston University email system as their official email – and BU has firmly denied any involvement in the whole thing -- they never received a shred of ethical overview – something that is required for all decent experiments on or with human beings – and when they contacted their supposed subjects, they were rightfully and roundly shot down for everything from poor survey construction (did you know it was not, actually, anonymous at first and there was no way to filter out under 18 year olds from questions that were decidedly adult)? Did you know they insisted on calling trans folks 'trannys' despite being told, repeatedly, that it was an offensive term. Their explanation was, basically, it was used in porn so it must be okay. I guess that means I can start calling my boss a MILF.

There is nothing scientific, rigorous or even vaguely reasoned about this book. Multiple other neuroscientists, psychologists, survey designers and people who work with humans subjects called them out on their awful process – only to be dismissed and ignored.

This isn't the largest experiment in the world, it's a couple of poorly socialized, kinda misogynistic guys with absolutely no background in human sexuality studies doing some poorly thought out data mining of easily available information – then mis-interpreting it freely to support their favorite theory.

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Isagel

Having witnessed the quite frankly appalling excuse for an online research survey that you distributed among writers and readers of fanfiction last year...

Having seen the clearly biased multiple-choice questions (many of them with explicit adult content despite the fact that you had set up no system to make sure that the people accessing the survey weren't minors, many of them asking for deeply personal information when you had set up no system for guaranteeing the anonymity of the respondents and did not warn the respondents that their anonymity was not safeguarded - both these things clear breaches of ethics)...

Having seen you edit the ongoing survey on the fly when you were confronted with the basic short-comings of your questions...

Having seen you respond with increasing aggression and defensiveness to any and all suggestions that perhaps you refrain from using language offensive to the people you were trying to interview...

Having witnessed your utter inability to listen to even the most polite, well-reasoned and well-phrased criticism of your deeply flawed methodology...

Having seen the complete contempt with which you treat your research subjects and the disturbing condescension with which you dismiss all viewpoints and input and statements of fact that don't neatly slot into your pre-conceived theories...

Having come to understand that you had no experience or training in conducting these kinds of interviews...

Having learnt that you had no Internal Revenue Board approval from any scientific institution for conducting your research and would most likely never have been able to obtain any...

Having seen Boston University - with whom you claimed affiliation when you first approached your research subjects - denounce you and your research and any connection with you beyond once having issued your degree as soon as they were asked about you...

Having realized that you had no interest whatsoever in conducting any actual scientific research that could possibly yield reliable result...

Having seen real scientists hold you up as examples of how not to conduct research and going so far as saying that they intend to use your attempts to do research for this book as an object lesson to their students on how horribly wrong a project can turn out when you don't make sure to know what you're doing...

...I have to ask: How do you have the temerity to try and pass this book off as science?

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robinreid

The PR of a general (not a university or academic press) is that your book is the "largest" experiment ever. However, your own background and training seems to be in datamining.

Could you explain, by using terminology from this site, how what you did was an experiment rather than datamining?

http://www.stat.yale.edu/Courses/1997-98/101/expdes.htm

The essence of the experimental method (as far as this humanities trained person) understands it it repeatability: could others repeat your experiment and be likely to come up with the same conclusions?

Is it true that you had the contract for this book, under the original title, before you even began doing your research?

Did you or your publisher demand that the user-generated tag functions at amazon.com be shut down because of negative commentary by users?