Source: Asher Moses, The Age
Straight men are as aroused by penises as homosexuals and have fantasies of their wives sleeping with other men, but any fears about the negative or corrupting influence of pornography are misguided, neuroscientists have found in one of the largest studies of internet porn habits.
The study also gathered some revealing insights into women’s porn searches finding that, unlike men, they generally prefer erotic stories to visuals. They were also turned on by stories about masculine men sharing their tender side and being intimate with each other.
For their new book A Billion Wicked Thoughts, neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam say they analysed as much data on internet pornography habits as they could find including more than a billion web searches, a million erotic stories, a half-million erotic videos, paid porn site subscription statistics, millions of personals ads, ten thousand digital romance novels, online data responses, the world’s most popular free porn sites and other data.
One of the largest studies on internet porn habits has revealed some
surprising insights. Photo: Phil Carrick
The study – which they dubbed the “world’s largest experiment” – found a group of about 20 sexual interests that accounted for 80 per cent of all the porn people watched and spent money on. The top five categories, in their words, are: youth, gays, MILFs (mothers), breasts and cheating wives.
Ogas said some of the interesting findings from his research included that men “prefer overweight women to underweight women” and while men generally prefer younger women, there was significant sexual interest in older women including those in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
“There’s even an internationally popular genre of erotica known as granny porn,” said Ogas.
“The four body parts that both straight and gay men are wired to find sexually interesting are: chests, butts, feet and penises. Heterosexual men are very interested in looking at penises, especially large penises.”
Orgas said heterosexual men searched for penises almost as often as they search for vaginas and out of the top 35,000 most popular adult sites, roughly 1000 were devoted to large penises.
“This interest is perhaps inherited from our primate ancestry: chimpanzees, monkeys, and bonobos use their penis as a prominent and versatile social instrument, to signal aggression, to indicate dominance, to mark territory, and to indicate sexual interest,” he said.
The study found that the largest audience for “shemale” – male-to-female transexual – porn was heterosexual men. Orgas described this as an “erotical illusion”.
“These are erotic stimuli that trick the perceptual machinery of the sexual brain by combining different sexual cues in novel combinations,” he said.
“A shemale has the body of a woman and a penis. The female body consists of female anatomical parts that trigger arousal (breasts and curves, for example)… but also has the cue of a penis, which is another sexual cue for men.”
The researchers have dismissed moral panic that argues pornography is encouraging men to pursue degrading and perverse sexual habits. Ogas said porn was a reflection of male desires rather than a creator of male desires and erotica generally functioned to liberate and satisfy male sexual interests.
“There is an inverse correlation between the availability of pornography and rape: the more porn that’s available, the less rape,” said Ogas, adding extreme pornography was a rare indulgence and did not spill over into the viewer’s real life.
“Almost all fears about the negative or corrupting influence of pornography are misguided, and usually applied to other people’s sexual interests.”
Ogas said the easy, inexpensive availability of online erotica had been a boon to women and “sexual minorities”.
He said previously women lacked a way to safely and conveniently explore their sexuality, and being able to explore their desires in the security, anonymity and comfort of their own homes was preferable to travelling to a red light district or going into the back room of a video rental store.
“Similar, for homosexuals, bisexuals and transexuals living outside of urban areas, it was very difficult to access erotica with the result that many sexual minorities felt isolated, alienated and ashamed,” said Ogas.
“Now, the internet allows these groups to explore their sexuality in safety and privacy and discover that many others share the same sexual interests that they do. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to sex.”
As other researchers have found previously, Ogas said sexual cues that triggered arousal in women were mainly psychological while for men it was overwhelmingly visual. Straight man were aroused by sexual dominance while most women, and gay men, were wired to be aroused by sexual submission.
One unusual result from the research was that erotica featuring cheating wives was very popular among straight men.
Ogas explained that he believed men were attracted to cheating wives due to a function biologists call a “sperm competition cue”.
“All across the animal kingdom, when a male sees another male mate with a female, this often triggers greater sexual arousal in the viewing male so that he might pursue sex more vigorously – and produce more sperm – than his competitor in order to increase his chances of impregnating the female,” he said.
“The sperm competition cue also explains why men are aroused by cuckold porn, also called cheating wife porn or cheating girlfriend porn, or about fantasies of their own wife or girlfriend cheating on them.
“Though men are most definitely designed to get jealous and furious at the thought of their partner cheating on them, they can also become simultaneously aroused.”
This reporter is on Twitter: @ashermoses