by Doctor Science
Since my last post here about Ogi Ogas & Sai Gaddam's A Billion Wicked Thoughts we've had more Fun Times together. Some of the ensuing discussions have been very helpful for me in clarifying things I "just know", and in spotting the problems with some of other people's conventional wisdom: for instance, that men are "sexually more visual" than women.
The Freakonomics blog enthused about the book:
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.They then called for questions for a Q&A.
*Note: This is hard-wired:
If you're not talking about electric guitars, computers, or other devices containing actual wires, "hard-wired" is a red flag telling me that you're using metaphors without a license.
I asked, among other things:
- 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?When Ogi replied, he said:
A. The modal demographic for fanfiction.net is age 18-24, according to Experian Hitwise, Alexa, and Quantcast (before they made demographic data unavailable for the site). This same age range, 18-24, is also the modal male demographic for the major adult video sites, such as PornHub, XNXX, and YouPorn. But sexuality does not begin at 18: a couple of peer-reviewed surveys have found that about 40 percent of males age 16-17 intentionally visit porn sites, and there is evidence from fanfiction.net profiles that a substantial number of users of the site are under 18.I answered:
Though fanfiction.net stopped accepting NC-17 content in 2002, giving birth to the more explicit AdultFanFiction.net, it’s still easy to find sexual content on FanFiction.net, such as this Harry Potter story.
One thing that’s clear from both online erotica and clinical research is that male and female sexuality are quite different, raising questions about whether we should apply male standards of “erotic” to women....
Thank you, I guess, for choosing one of my questions to answer. Or “answer”. I find the style and substance of your reply most characteristic of your efforts overall."Cassandra" posted a reply to me which she later cross-posted over here:
I said that FFN “is mostly used by under-18s”. You countered that the modal demographic for fanfiction.net is age 18-24 — citing (a) an article talking about a different site, adultfanfiction.net, and (b) Alexa, which does not include under-18s in its demographics.
In other words, the sources you cite do not support your statement. Your use of Alexa makes me wonder whether you are out-and-lying, or just extremely sloppy.
You then take this unsupported statement — that FFN’s typical user is 18-24, and say that This same age range, 18-24, is also the modal male demographic for the major adult video sites, such as PornHub, . So we’ve gone from an unsupported statement to a false comparison.
When I said that FFN “does not accept explicit material”, you provided a counter-example. Scattered instances that are outside the site’s TOS do not make FFN an “erotic site”, any more than some sad-looking apples and oranges make Wal-Mart a farmers’ market.
Thank you for pointing out this error.Now, my gut reaction to being asked how I know fanfiction.net is the kiddie pool is "everybody knows *that*!" -- but one of the core functions of science is to make "common knowledge" justify itself, to ask what it is about water that makes it wet.
I was hoping to see you offer evidence of your own, but I am disappointed --and even a bit frustrstated-- to see the rest of your comment fit the same pattern or snark, outrage, and vitriol that makes a genuine scientific debate very difficult.
I read your post and see assert that the website is a "kiddie pool" , but provide no supporting evidence for it.
"it is *not* an "erotic" site, and it is *not* "for women" Ok, I am somewhat inclined to believe you, but will not until I see some supporting facts. Please point me to facts if you want to argue against assertions.
You attempt to refute a statistical statement by providing a single counterfactual: "existence of stripper parties" and yet here point out similar reasoning as equivalent to pointing to sad-looking apples and oranges and calling Wal-Mart a farmers' market. Aren't you doing worse?
I understand this is a blog post, but if you want to be taken seriously, you can't make statements like "fractally wrong" and not show why. A particularly toxic and detestable debating strategy is to laugh at the opponent and ridicule them for what is an unpopular opinion, without marshaling any evidence or logical argument.
What is your theory then? If the theory is that sexuality is malleable and there is "overwhelming evidence" for it, please do point to it. And do try to explain, without empty and evasive ridicule, why women and teenage girls are writing fanfiction and boys, straight and gay, are watching porn (statistically of course, no one's saying these are the sole and exclusive province of either sex). Otherwise your post and comment are just other rants in the garbage heap that vast swathes of the internet has become.
Most online references to the age distribution at FFN point back to me, but I have no demographic data about the site that is newer than 2000. The best approximately current data seems to be that collected by Charles Sendlor. For FFN accounts created in 2010, he found that: 78% of the account- holders identified themselves as female, and the mode age they gave was 14 -- 80% claimed to be under 18. In short, our common knowledge that FFN is mostly used by teenage girls is in fact correct.
As to Cassandra's question: why women and teenage girls are writing fanfiction and boys, straight and gay, are watching porn, here are a few approaches:
1. Women aren't watching porn because the porn that is out there is not made for them and does not turn them on. To say it's "because visual porn does not turn women on" is what we technically call begging the question.
2. Note that in your formulation (and Ogi's) females are hypothesized to be more active than males, statistically speaking, in their choice of erotica. The vast majority of male porn-watchers do nothing to produce or create porn, but a comparatively large percentage of (female) fanfiction readers are also writers. Women are, by this hypothesis, doing and creating, while men are passive recipients.
My favored explanation is that the culture as a whole generally gives men what they want, or at least gives them stories that they can identify with and porn that is adequately arousing. Women have to modify what we get from the culture or build our own to get satisfying stories *or* porn.
It reminds me of Rachel Maines' groundbreaking The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction. Maines shows that "genital massage" for the treatment of "hysteria" (= handjobs) was a significant part of Western medical practice for centuries, and that it was "The Job Nobody Wanted." Vibrators were invented to let women take that job into their own hands.
At Youtube. Sometimes you just gotta ring your own bell.
Crucially, Maines shows that doctors didn't want to do "genital massage" even though such hysteria treatments were a major and reliable source of their income. Vibrators *should* have been seen as cutting into their market, but doctors did *not* react as though market forces were the most important consideration. Similarly, the absense of visual porn aimed at women in our present porn marketplace doesn't necessarily mean that there's no demand: it could easily be that, once again, this is a job nobody (male) wants.
3. It's a cliche that "men are aroused by visual stimuli, women more by text". One way of explaining this involves the male gaze, and how difficult it is for a woman to be given cultural permission to get behind a camera, point it at a naked man and tell him how to be sexy. But the simpler tack is to say: you have to start with a cross-cultural comparison.
In Japan comics (manga) are more popular fan or amateur products than text-only stories. Comiket, the twice-yearly amateur manga (doujinshi) con and market, is attended by half a million people or more. The majority Comiket attendees and the large majority of doujinshi sellers are female, and a great deal of what they put out is sexually-explicit. I know of no evidence that Japanese girls and women are averse to "visual stimuli", though I wouldn't blame them if they don't like the ultra-violent porn often favored by Japanese men.
So, when the cost of visual porn production is lowered, women will create and use it, apparently just as much as men will. Note that in Japan text-only stories (or porn) are more "costly" than for Western languages, because the extreme complexity of the Japanese writing system means that many people never become truly functionally literate, or lose the ability once they leave school.
The reason I say Ogas & Gaddam are "fractally wrong" is that so many statements of theirs are like this: the big picture is wrong, the paragraphs are wrong, the sentences and individual facts are wrong. Untangling even one of their paragraphs is exhausting, and it's both frustrating and useless to think of doing it for their whole book. I admit it, I tend to devolve into snark and invective when I think about them, because I don't know where to start critiquing them -- or how to stop, because I'd never be done.