People take to Google to search any number of random things about their bodies (“Why does left armpit smell weird at night”), but a new book by former Google data analyst Seth Stephens-Davidowitz called Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are assures us we’re not alone. Turns out we are all anxious, self-scrutinizing navel-gazers who live in fear that nobody wants to have sex with us because we’re hideously inadequate monster people. His book traverses race, sex, parenting and even stock-market gaming, but some of the more interesting results were basic gendered searches around sex and body issues. Here are a few of the standouts.
We like fucking more than talking. People search Google 16 times more with complaints about their spouse not wanting to fuck them than they do about that same spouse not being willing to talk. (Even though talking leads to more fucking.) They search five and half more times about an unmarried partner not wanting sex than not texting back. (Even though texting back would, arguably, also lead to more fucking.)
While such concerns are universal, there are gendered differences. There are twice as many searches by women saying that their boyfriend won’t have sex than searches by men that girlfriends won’t. As Stephens-Davidowitz notes, this data doesn’t prove that men are putting out less than women; it’s probably that women are simply more likely to search for this concern, probably because it’s less expected.
We also have a ton of anxiety around sex in general. “Men Google more questions about their sexual organ than any other body part,” he writes. “More than about their lungs, liver, feet, ears, nose, throat and brain combined.” When men search other things, they are often still really searching about their dicks. For instance, steroids searches are largely to find out if it really makes your dick shrink or not. Similarly, with aging, what men want to know about getting older is mostly if it fucks with their dicks.
Speaking of dicks, “How big is my penis” is a perennial fave on Google searches by dudes. Stephens-Davidowitz says men make 170 searches about their penis for every single search a woman makes about a man’s penis. When women do query their man’s member, it’s not to complain about it being too small — roughly 40 percent of those searches involve that penis being too big and causing them pain.
After asking Google to tell them how big their dicks are, men want to know how to make those dicks work better. Their second biggest search is finding out how to last longer. Women’s concern with the male orgasm is mostly concern when he hasn’t had one at all. Otherwise, they wonder how to make a man either go longer or go shorter in equal measure. (Are men bad at hitting that sweet spot of not too long, not too short in the sack?)
We don’t need a data analyst to tell us men like big boobs, but Stephens-Davidowitz confirmed that they do anyway. Men search a lot for big breasts; likewise, women search a lot for how to get bigger breasts. But it’s not anxiety-free: When men search about their wife’s breasts it’s either how to make her get bigger ones, or frantically trying to figure out why she wants bigger ones. There is also a kind of sweet purity in some of men’s searches about boobs: One of the most common queries is “I love my girlfriend’s boobs” — like asking Google if your dick is big, it’s also unclear what sort of answer men are looking for here, but it’s endearing nonetheless.
Men may be surprised to learn that women live in mortal fear that their vaginas smell weird (Stephens-Davidowitz admits he was in fact surprised). Women search a lot about vaginal odor and wondering if it’s normal to smell like vinegar, onions, cheese, bleach, bread, or feet, among others. They will not be reassured to learn that the most common related search by men about their vagina (though nowhere near as often as women search) is wondering why their girlfriend’s vagina smells bad. One exception: Sometimes they also want to know if they can smell when a girlfriend cheated.
A disappointing finding: Women search more about being good at oral sex than men do. Women look for far more info about how to give a good blowjob than men look for info about how to be good at going down (which likely contributes to the orgasm gap). When men do look for oral tips, it’s actually how to perform oral sex on themselves. (We recently explained why, and how, this happens.)
While the data here is not blowing the lid off perceptions of sex and anxiety, it’s nonetheless reassuring to learn that if we’re all sweating this stuff, we’re all in the same Google search boat. Stephens-Davidowitz concludes that if nothing else, these sex searches demonstrate that most of our “deepest fears about how our sexual partners perceive us are unjustified. Alone, at their computers, with no incentive to lie, partners reveal themselves to be fairly nonsuperficial and forgiving. In fact, we are all so busy judging our own bodies that there is little energy left over to judge other people’s.”
Perhaps next time we’re inclined to worry about whether we’re sexually up to speed, we could talk to our partners about it, which then might lead to more sex, which then would mean we’d have less free time to feel insecure on the internet. Alternatively, we could do these searches together to find out what the hell is going on with each other’s bodies. That won’t help Google’s search data too much, but it will help us.