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Mind

Search Trends Reveal Sexual Seasons

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticJuly 24, 2012 4:31 AM

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Americans are most likely to search for sex online during the early summer and the winter, according to research just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The authors looked at the Google Trends for a selection of naughty words and phrases, and this revealed a pretty marked 6 month cycle for searches originating from the USA, with two yearly peaks in the search volumes. There was no such pattern for some non-sexual control words.

Here's the graph for pornography searches, with an idealized 6 month cycle also shown for comparison. The data were similar for two other categories of sexual words: prostitution and dating websites. Overall the results seem solid, although in studies like this, I always worry a bit about how the included search terms were chosen; there is a potential for cherry picking (no pun intended).

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Those words in full:

The pornography keyword set included 10 keywords used in previous research that individuals tend to use when searching for pornography (‘‘porn,’’ ‘‘boobs,’’ ‘‘xvideos,’’ ‘‘tits,’’‘‘sex,’’ ‘‘pussy,’’ ‘‘hentai,’’ ‘‘xxx,’’ ‘‘nude,’’ and ‘‘milf’’).

In a similar manner, the prostitution keyword set included five keywords that individuals might use to engage in sexual activities that are often illegal (‘‘call girl,’’ ‘‘escort,’’ ‘‘massage parlor,’’ ‘‘brothel,’’ and ‘‘prostitute’’).

Finally, the mate-seeking keyword set included the names of 10 popular websites that individuals often use to find potential mates (‘‘eHarmony,’’ ‘‘Yahoo Personals’’, ‘‘AOL Personals,’’ ‘‘Plenty of Fish,’’ ‘‘Zoosk,’’ ‘‘Singles Net’’ ‘‘Friend Finder,’’ ‘‘JDate,’’ ‘‘Match.com,’’ and ‘‘Okcupid’’).

Heh. I'm not sure I should be quoting those, it might attract some weird traffic to the blog. But oh well.

The authors note that a six-month sexual cycle has been reported before. It crops up in everything from abortion rates, to condom sales, and diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections. But why?

One possibility is that it's purely a social construction driven by the fact that in Western cultures, Christmas and summer are the main holiday seasons; but it could reflect a more primitive biological cycle. Google ought to offer a way to find that out, actually; find a country with a similar climate to the USA, but with different major holidays. China, maybe?

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Markey PM, and Markey CN (2012). Seasonal Variation in Internet Keyword Searches: A Proxy Assessment of Sex Mating Behaviors. Archives of sexual behavior PMID: 22810997

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