On the whole, American men like to project sexual confidence, but an analysis of Internet searches tells another story entirely — that they are gravely concerned about the size of their penises.
“Men Google more questions about their sexual organ than any other body part: more than about their lungs, liver, feet, ears, nose, throat and brain combined,” writes Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in his new book, “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Re- ally Are” (Dey St.).
“Men conduct more searches for how to make their penises bigger than how to tune a guitar, make an omelette or change a tire,” he writes. Even men curious about the aging process have one question first and foremost in mind: “Will my penis get smaller?”
Stephens-Davidowitz, a former data scientist at Google, has spent the last four years poring over Internet search data. In addition to anonymous information about Google searches, he has “downloaded all of Wikipedia, pored through Facebook profiles,” and even received the complete (though anonymous) search and video view data from the popular porn site PornHub.
What he found is that Internet search data might be the Holy Grail when it comes to understanding the true nature of humanity.
“I am now convinced,” he writes, “that Google searches are the most important data set ever collected on the human psyche.”
Here are some of his fascinating findings:
Google searches indicate that penis size is far more important to men than it is to women.
“For every search women make about a partner’s phallus,” Stephens-Davidowitz writes, “men make roughly 170 searches about their own.”
In addition, women’s concerns about penis size are often the opposite of what men fear, as “more than 40 percent of complaints about a partner’s penis size say that it’s too big.”
The second-most common search by men, Stephens-Davidowitz found, is “how to make their sexual encounters longer.” But here too, their concerns conflict with women’s, as “there are roughly the same number of searches asking how to make a boyfriend climax more quickly as climax more slowly.”
Of course, Google searches reveal that women too have their own body hang-ups — but their concerns have changed over time.
In 2004, “the most common search regarding changing one’s butt was how to make it smaller,” Stephens-Davidowitz writes. But thanks to J.Lo, Kim Kardashian and other large-bottomed beauties taking center stage, this desire did a 180 over a decade.
“In 2014, there were more searches asking how to make your butt bigger than smaller in every state,” Stephens-Davidowitz writes. “These days, for every five searches looking into breast implants in the United States, there is one looking into butt implants.”
One finding that “will disturb many readers,” according to Stephens-Davidowitz, concerns the sort of porn women want, based on search terms typed into PornHub.
“Fully 25 percent of female searches for straight porn emphasize the pain and/or humiliation of the woman,” he writes, citing search terms inappropriate to reiterate here, but featuring words like “painful,” “extreme” and “brutal,” and often focused on nonconsensual sex (depictions of which, he emphasizes, are not permitted on that site).
“Search rates for all these terms are at least twice as common among women as among men.”
The PornHub data revealed another disconcerting fact about American sexuality — that we seem to be going through a disturbing incest phase.
“A shocking number of people visiting mainstream porn sites are looking for portrayals of incest,” Stephens-Davidowitz writes, noting that 16 of the top 100 searches from men seek “incest-themed videos.” The number is fewer for women but still an unnerving nine out of every 100.
According to official surveys, married men and women each report having sex about once a week.
Google, however, paints a bleak picture of American sex lives.
“On Google, a top complaint about a marriage is not having sex,” Stephens-Davidowitz writes.
“There are 16 times more complaints about a spouse not wanting sex than about a married partner not being willing to talk,” he writes.
“Searches for ‘sexless marriage’ are three and a half times more common than ‘unhappy marriage’ and eight times more common than ‘loveless marriage.’ Even unmarried couples complain somewhat frequently about not having sex. Google searches for ‘sexless relationship’ are second only to searches for ‘abusive relationship.’”
These searches also show that men may be the ones holding back, as “there are twice as many complaints that a boyfriend won’t have sex than that a girlfriend won’t have sex.”
Connected or not are the findings that women often question their partner’s sexual orientation; “Is my husband gay?” is a “surprisingly common search.”
“‘Gay’ is 10 percent more likely to complete searches that begin with ‘Is my husband . . . ’ than the second-place word, ‘cheating.’ It is eight times more common than ‘an alcoholic’ and 10 times more common than ‘depressed.’”
Google searches not only help us see another side of relationships but also help cut through the lies we tell on social media, as they starkly undermine the rosy pictures we paint on Facebook.
Stephens-Davidowitz notes that the top five terms women use to describe their husbands on social media are “the best,” “my best friend,” “amazing,” “the greatest” and “so cute.” When they search anonymously, however, typing “my husband is . . .” into a search box, the top five results are “gay,” “a jerk,” “amazing,” “annoying” and “mean.”
And if searches reveal the depressing reality of how people feel about their mates, their attitudes toward their children are no better.
When people contemplate reproducing, they worry about possible regret if they don’t, as “people are seven times more likely to ask Google whether they will regret not having children than whether they will regret having children.”
Once those kids are born, however, the sentiment undergoes a rapid reversal, as “adults with children are 3.6 times more likely to tell Google they regret their decision than are adults without children.”
Google also reveals the inherit sexism among parents toward their kids.
“Parents are two and a half times more likely to ask ‘Is my son gifted?’ than ‘Is my daughter gifted?’” Stephens-Davidowitz writes, noting that this carries through for all intelligence-related queries, such as, “Is my son a genius?”
(Stephens-Davidowitz notes that in reality, young girls are more likely to be in gifted programs than young boys.)
Parents’ concerns for their daughters remain appearance-based, Googling “Is my daughter overweight” twice as often as posting the same query for their sons. In reality, he notes, “about 28 percent of girls are overweight, while 35 percent of boys are.”
The elections of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016 generated much discussion about just how racist our country really is.
Stephens-Davidowitz writes that Google searches help provide the answer — and it’s not pretty.
He notes that the first time he typed the N-word into Google Trends, he expected it to be “a low volume search.”
“Boy, was I wrong,” he writes, noting that there were “millions of these searches every year.”
“In the United States, [the N-word] was included in roughly the same number of searches as the word ‘migraine(s),’ ‘economist,’ and ‘Lakers.’”
Digging deeper (and eliminating the version of the word often used in hip-hop lyrics, which he thought would skew the findings), Stephens-Davidowitz found that “20 percent of searches with the word . . . also include the word ‘jokes.’” The word was also commonly paired with the phrases “stupid . . .” and “I hate . . .”
Examining search results from the night of Obama’s 2008 election, he found that “roughly one in every hundred Google searches that included the word ‘Obama’ also included ‘kkk” or ‘n—-r(s)’ . . .
In some states, there were more searches for ‘n—-r president’ than ‘first black president.’”
If the sheer volume of the racism was surprising, so was its location. “Surveys and conventional wisdom,” would have us believe racism was coming more from the South than the North and more from Republicans than Democrats.
Online searches, he writes, show otherwise. “The places with the highest racist search rates included upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, industrial Michigan and rural Illinois, along with West Virginia, southern Louisiana and Mississippi,” he writes. “The true divide, the data suggested, was not South versus North; it was East versus West. You don’t get this sort of thing much west of the Mississippi.”
As for party affiliation, “racist searches were no higher in places with a high percentage of Republicans than in places with a high percentage of Democrats.”
This data was borne out by voting patterns. Crunching the numbers, the author estimates “Obama lost roughly 4 percentage points nationwide just from explicit racism.”