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Analysing Rape Porn’s Popularity And How Indian Men Love Belly Buttons

Analysing Rape Porn’s Popularity And How Indian Men Love Belly Buttons

Computational neuroscientist Sai Gaddam and Ogi Ogas studied data on the online sexual behavior of over a 100 million people.

The duo’s research involved looking through millions of websites and advertisements, a billion web searches, erotic stories and videos and digitised romance novels to reveal some of our deepest, darkest sexual desires. From analysing rape porn’s popularity to learning how Indian men love belly buttons, their groundbreaking research, compiled in the book A Billion Wicked Thoughts, tells us more about sexuality than we’ve ever known. Gaddam, who is founder and CEO of Kernel Insights, gave us the low-down on what makes us tick and tock in bed.

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1. Your massive study of human sexuality looks at sexual cues that turn men and women on, and finds that these cues are different for different sexes.

What's great about porn and erotica (from a research viewpoint) is how you can see these differences crystallize into wildly different forms. Men watch two-minute porn videos featuring random actresses, and women read 50,000-word fan-fiction that revolves around real or fictitious men they find alluring. Men and women are so startlingly, fundamentally different when it comes to their sexual brains, they are likely to find the other gender's cues a bit alien. Men are visual and respond to very visual cues. Women respond to psychological cues. Sexuality needs to be anchored in context for women. Men can keep the physical and psychological independent.

So you would say both genders tend to respond to different cues?

As with every generalization, there are men who are more like women, and women who fit the male template. That's obvious, but one thing we also discovered was that reasoning goes out of the window when it comes to understanding other people's sexual desire, and they need to be reminded of this every once in a while.

I'll also add that after having seen all the data, it is hard to not come to the conclusion that female sexuality and the cues they respond to are more enlightened. Male sexual brains are still in the backbenches of the evolutionary classroom scribbling penises and breasts on desks.

2. You found that gay men have bigger penises than heterosexual men, and that women's breasts are getting bigger over time. What might explain these findings?

We don't know for sure yet, but with bigger penises in gay men the cause might be higher levels of testosterone in the womb. With women’s breasts, the answer is most likely better nutrition. Sexual selection may also be a factor in widely desired women passing the right gene on, but as with most evolutionary tales it is very hard to find evidence for this idea. On the other hand, with gay men's penises you can be absolutely sure evolutionary selection did not have a role!

3. Does evolutionary psychology always have an answer for why a particular sexual cue exists? Can it explain, for example, some of the sexual cues you found that were so popular among men – MILF porn, plump women and cheating wives?

Not always, but it makes for a very compelling explanation for the cues you mention. Any sexual cue that can be tied to a specific fertility-advantage is a very good candidate. For instance, being plump gave women a very good chance of nurturing their progeny. Men who are turned on by cuckoldry – cheating women – may be tapping into a sperm-competition impulse that was passed on to us by our free-loving chimpanzee cousins. The sperm competition idea, to simplify it a lot, is that apes and many other primate and non-primate animals evolved to generate more sperm and show heightened sexual arousal when viewing another male get busy with a female. This is to give himself a greater chance of having kids even if he wasn't the only one to have the sex with the female partner. This is actually demonstrably true in other animals, but for obvious reasons is tough to pin down in humans.

What makes us very interesting and unique as sexual beings is that we have complicated brains that combine base emotions and higher cognition in magically jumbled ways. I mean, it is so easy for other animals to determine a member of the opposite sex: you just have to get a whiff of the right pheromones. But we humans are a few million years removed from being able to rely on our noses. As helpful as gender specific perfumes are, our brains have to rely on all sorts of complicated visual cues to figure out if someone is a desirable member of the opposite species. And for all the progress that has been made in understanding our bodies and sexuality, I find it fascinating and deeply humbling that we have not a clue how we are able to size up and be attracted to someone in about three hundred milliseconds.

4. One of the things your study showed was that people are deeply turned on by the paranormal. Why is this so?

Paranormal superheroes are every sexual cue dialed up to eleven and squished into the muscular body of a hundred-year-old vampire or werewolf. Immense power? Check. Wisdom of a literal hundred year old? Check. Crazed yet tender lusting and longing for just one person despite all that power and access? Check. This guy waited three hundred years before finding you, the secretary with bookish glasses, to be his true love! What more do you want?

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5. Considering how little we understand female sexual desire, what's the most important thing you found out about it?

We have been the first to put together data on a massive and global scale to back up ideas that were earlier just that – ideas. Many have theorized that men and women are different, but no one mapped exactly how. We did that, even if it was through the limiting worldview of porn and erotica. The most important aspect is how much more fluid and psychological female sexuality is. I still cannot fully wrap my head around how women can suddenly find a highly competent guy attractive, but I now see why that makes sense.

6. Why is rape porn so popular, and do men and women react to it differently?

We'll need a bit of a detour before we get to rape porn. As different as men and women are, the one place where their sexual cues do line up is with the psychological cues of domination and submission. This is deeply fascinating and obviously controversial. If we are so different, why do we have this one thing in common? The answer lies in the mechanics of sex.

The sexual act is at the core an act of submission by the female. Outraged? Let's just limit it to all non-human mammals then. Almost all sexual encounters involves the female being still for long enough for the male to do his job. That's just the inescapable mechanical reality of it. Before sex must come the stillness, the voluntary letting go of control. And we humans share the exact same biochemistry that allows all mammals to make this sexual pact. But we also have so much else going on in the psychological realm. Control is not just mechanical but psychological. For humans, to be in control is to dominate, and to give up control is to submit. We are tapping into the same biochemistry that lets mice have sex, but our wonderfully imaginative brains are able to wrap that up in a thousand different notions of control, dominance, and submission.

7. All right, but what does this have to do with rape porn?

Rape porn is a fantasy about being in control (for a man) and giving up control (for a woman). This is men being mice, in a way. So rape porn actually checks off boxes for both men and women, but it's a lot harder for women to come to terms with. This is also why so many women object to it. But how do we know that men watching rape porn aren't closet misogynists enjoying the subjugation and debasement of womankind? Rape porn is hugely popular with gay men too. The themes and fantasies here are exactly the same as in straight rape porn, with the only difference being that the actors involved are both men. Interestingly, rape fan-fiction featuring two men is a very popular genre and many women say it is easier for them to enjoy this fantasy as no fictitious women were hurt in the making.

The problem is that we are only just beginning to understand how central and pervasive dominance and submission is in sex. We don't know yet that submitting in the bedroom has absolutely no impact on what you do in the boardroom. We don't yet know that we are able to enjoy fantasies that we wouldn't dream of acting out in real life.

8. Of all your findings from the study, which did people find the hardest to digest?

The bit about dominance and submission, especially women. In general if there is a sexual cue that [certain] men or women don't respond to, they find it hard to believe as being common and shared by hundreds of millions around the world.

9. What's the craziest thing you learned about Indians in the course of your research?

We are sexually very naïve and love belly buttons (the men, that is). Our data didn't have enough on Indian women, but my guess is they don't have the same affection for hirsute male navels.

10. What is the hardest part of being a scientist trying to research stuff about sex?

Getting funding for your research. We went in thinking we would uncover interesting tidbits about sex and porn, and came away fascinated by how interesting and layered sexuality is. Freud was right after all! Our sexual brains have shaped so much of our evolution and behavior. But sex and morality are so steamily coupled together, it's hard to convince funding agencies to part with their money.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com

By Naveen Mallik