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The Internet and Human Sexuality
Posted on Oct 14, 2011
To a human male searching the Internet, this translates into pornography, where exaggerated and tumescent sex organs can be ordered up at whim, often devoid of any distracting context. And these disembodied images are just as popular with gay men as with their straight brothers. In fact, the researchers discovered, for every female body part that heterosexual men fancied (breasts, vaginas), there was an analogous male body part (chests, penises) sought after by homosexuals.
According to Ogas and Gaddam, the male brain’s desire software can best be compared to Elmer Fudd. Bugs Bunny’s perennial antagonist, Fudd is a solitary, trigger-happy hunter with a single goal in mind: rabbit. Just as the human male can be aroused by artificial breasts, the cartoon Fudd will point his gun at anything remotely resembling his target—Daffy Duck dressed up as a rabbit, for instance, or a pair of bunny ears set up by Bugs to trick him. But even when he’s been fooled, he’s undeterred. He reloads and gets back out there. Every new day is a chance to bag a rabbit.
For female arousal, however, context is everything. It’s why Big Pharma and biotech companies have yet to develop a Viagra for women. It takes more than increased blood flow to the vagina to make a female want to have sex; she also needs to be mentally stimulated. This is a far more daunting and complicated process, one that can’t be kick-started by disembodied images of male genitalia, no matter how attractive.
So when women are looking for online stimulation, their aphrodisiac of choice is the written word. Literotica, for example, is the most popular erotic story site on the Web, with more than 200,000 sexy stories—the vast majority of them written by women—and 5 million visitors per month—the vast majority of them women. These stories pique female desire in a way that is all about context. By the time the heroine beds down with the man (or men, or woman, or whatever) the reader knows what she needs to know to engage her unique circuitry. She knows who’s having sex, why and—just as in real life—where this relationship is going.
A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire
By Ogi Ogas (Author), Sai Gaddam (Author)
Dutton Adult, 416 pages
According to Ogas and Gaddam, this need is an evolutionary imperative. “When contemplating sex with a man, a woman has to consider the long term,” they write. “This consideration may not even be conscious, but rather is part of unconscious software that has evolved to protect women over hundreds of thousands of years. Sex could commit a woman to a substantial, life-altering investment: pregnancy, nursing and more than a decade of child raising. These commitments require enormous time, resources and energy. Sex with the wrong guy could lead to many unpleasant outcomes. If a man abandons her, she would face the challenges of single motherhood. If the man turns out to be cruel, he might injure her or her children. If the man turns out to be weak or incompetent, he might fail to protect her from threats.”
Because of these risks, the female brain has developed a highly sophisticated kind of vetting software. A man must pass the test in order to be considered arousal-worthy. According to the authors, if a man is Elmer Fudd, a woman is Miss Marple. Agatha Christie’s fictional detective is a shrewd judge of character with a deep knowledge of the darker side of human nature. The detective skills of the female brain were developed over generations, as amateur female sleuths investigated the characters of potential mates in a wide variety of situations. “Like the fictional Miss Marple,” Ogas and Gaddam conclude, “a woman’s Detective Agency mulls over a variety of evidence concerning a potential partner’s character, weighs clues from the physical and social environment, and examines her own experiences and feelings before permitting—or pursuing—sex.”
When so much of modern life is lived online, Ogas and Gaddam’s data collection methods may make some people uncomfortable. Granted, there is a technical and ethical difference between analyzing Internet traffic patterns of personal proclivities and collecting personal information. But how difficult would it be for a motivated computer tech to connect the dots between a fetish for rubber dresses and the fetishist’s home address? His credit card numbers? His employer’s phone number? In 2006, AOL released the search histories of more than half a million users; this data set contained all the Internet searches of certain AOL users over the course of three months. Typically, many of the searches contained sexual terms. Although the users’ names were not included, this incident was considered a public relations disaster for AOL; CNN Money named it one of the “101 Dumbest Moments in Business.” It was also considered a treasure trove for researchers, with some of the data being used for Ogas’ and Gaddam’s research.
More recently, Facebook has come under fire for transmitting users’ identifying information to advertising and Internet tracking companies through many of its popular applications, and yet Facebook’s membership continues to grow. Have we become used to trading a little bit of personal privacy for social convenience? Is this a case where the ends justify the means?
For people looking for a long-term relationship where they are not only loved but desired, that answer may be yes. Ultimately, Ogas and Gaddam’s ambitious and thought-provoking book delivers a message of hope. If there’s one thing their exhaustive research reveals, it is this: No matter who you are, slender or obese, young or old, there is a group of people out there who will find you attractive. All you have to do is go online. And for a person who is looking for instant gratification—no matter how exotic or debased—the news is just as good. For this, the authors cite what has become known as Internet Rule No. 34: If you can imagine it, it exists as Internet porn.
Robin Shamburg is the author of “Mistress Ruby Ties It Together: A Dominatrix Takes on Sex, Power, and the Secret Lives of Upstanding Citizens.” She is finishing her second book, “Dungeon Confidential.”
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