Posts Tagged ‘sexuality’


Saturday, December 19th, 2015 | Books

Christian Rudder is a founder and head of data trends at the dating site OkCupid. For years he ran the blog OkTrends which looked at what data you could mine from their site. This book is a continuation of this work as well as bringing in other data sets, mostly to talk about human sexuality.

The full title is Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking).

The anonymised data of OkCupid in aggregate provide some surprising facts, and some expected ones. Take gender differences, for example. Women rate men of a similar age to themselves as the most attract. Up until 30 women will rate men a year or two older than them as the most attractive; after 30 they find men a year or two younger than them most attractive. A drop off starts at 40. That is a good innings though. Compare this to the way men rate women. They rate 21 year olds the most attractive and it goes down hill from there.

He looks at the use of English on Twitter. Many people suppose the internet is degrading the quality of language used. Not so. The average length of a word used on Twitter is actually longer than that in professional publications, and historically. It turns out that when you limit people to 140 characters, they write concisely using a wide lexicon.

He quotes Steve Jobs: “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. This always reminds me of the Henry Ford quote “if I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”. Whether Ford actually said that is unknown, but it makes a good point. When asking for feedback you really need to find out what they think the problem is that you want to solve, rather than asking them what they think the solution is. In Ford’s case a faster way to get from A to B and in Job’s case an easier way to play and listen to music.

Back on OkCupid, it turns out that everyone is a racist. Rudder breaks the data down into how four groups: white, asian, latino, black, rate each other’s photos. It turns out that people generally rate their own race as the most attractive, but the real drop off is for black women by any other group, who consistently rate them lower. This has geographic differences however. There is a big gap in the US for example, while almost no gap in the UK.

He also looks at the differences between the heterosexual and LGBT communities. Is sexuality a spectrum, for example. Only 19% self-identifying bisexuals regularly message both males and females. This could imply a number of things. It could be that there is a spectrum and many bisexuals fall at either end of it. It could also be that some gay people identify as bisexual for cultural or social reasons. Especially given it correlates with their state’s tolerance of homosexuality. The answer is probably a number of different factors.

Rudder also mentions that Justine Sacco, the woman who made the “hope I don’t get aids” tweet, worked for OkCupid’s parent company. Sacco was discussed in Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve been Publicly Shamed. The hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet is a classic example of how quickly things can travel world the world these days.

In summary, it’s not too clear what Dataclysm was actually about. It seemed to be mostly “here is some interesting data about people”. From that respect, it was genuinely interesting. It also had a lot of crossover with A Billion Wicked Thoughts in using anonymous internet data, a source that has only come around in the last few decades, to reveal fascinating insights into human thoughts and behaviour.


Self-Made Man

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 | Books

In Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man, Norah Vincent disguises herself as man to experience what it is like living as a different gender. Throughout the book she discusses her experiences, joining a bowling team, dating, having a job, going on a men’s retreat and even spending time in a monastery.

I would say that what she found was fairly predictable. However, I am aware that I probably think that because I am a man and thus have been in the male-culture she wanted to experience all my life. Of course, there is a degree of stereotype to what she finds, but there is probably a lot of truth that men are more emotionally distant from each other, and while women feel their rights and responsibilities are oppressed, men feel oppressed by the responsibilities of having those rights and responsibilities.

I struggled to fully identify with many of the characters in the book however. I do not think I have it has bad as those. If I have an emotional problem, I can talk about it with Elina, my parents or my friends. To an a limited extend perhaps, but a limit that far exceeds the emotionally-bottled-up characters that Norah’s alter ego Ned encounters during his research.

At the end of the book, Norah concludes that she is glad to be a woman. However, it is probably impossible to separate the strain of living in a man’s world from the strain of masking her own identity with that of Ned’s, so drawing much conclusion from that is difficult.

In the end, it comes down to what most sensible people know already. Both genders have problems. Both genders suffer inequality in different areas, some more than others. Working to reduce inequality across everyone will be mutually beneficial for everyone – fighting for women’s issues makes the world better for me, and fighting for men’s issues makes the world better for women. We can all win together.

Self-Made Man

Would you trust a heterosexual?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 | Video

Makes sense, eliminating heterosexuals would be the most effective thing we can do to prevent further climate change…

Dr Brooke Magnanti – The Sex Myth

Monday, May 6th, 2013 | Foundation, Humanism

At April, Dr Brooke Magnanti presented a talk on her book, The Sex Myth.

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Feminist guilt culture

Friday, July 6th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

One of the days that religions very effectively control their followers is through guilt culture. The idea is that just living your life, having natural thoughts and urges like who you want to go to bed with, is “sinful.” Of course we’re genetically wired to want to go to bed with people we find attractive and so just being a normal, well adjusted human being leads up to having thoughts, that The Church then tells you is as evil as having done the act itself and that you must repent in a financial way (and as luck would have it, they’re God’s official debt collectors).

It’s a fantastic way of keeping people under your control for making them feel guilty when they haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, it’s impossible not to think like that, so everyone feels the guilt and therefore stays under control.

As with many of religion’s best ideas (and it is one of their best from the stance of their insidious motives), people see how well it works and attempt to emulate it. Make a customer out of them while they’re young for example, has been a marketing technique that has proved hugely successful for McDonald’s – they’re the largest toy distributor in the world. In 2009, I blogged about how the green movement had also adopted a lot of Best Practice from religious institutions.

As an equal rights campaigner, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of cool people who are also interested in equality. As with any field though there are some people with good ideas and some people with not so good ideas. Indeed, most people probably have a mix of both, I’m sure many of my ideas would be classified by some people as being in the not so good pile.

So called Lads Mags are a good example of this. Some of my friends would frown on me buying a copy of FHM It objectifies women and is therefore degrading – even though they’re professional models who voluntarily choose to have photos of themselves in exchange of large amounts of cash. This view is entirely at odds with equality – everyone should be free to choose what they want to do, and imposing Feminist Ideals to prevent them from doing so no less oppressive than the Patriarchal Culture we’re trying to escape from. Rachel Barker sums the debate up very nicely on her blog. As she points out, there are instances where people are exploited – and we need to work together to stop such cases! But Katie Price’s £45,000,000 fortune does not fall under that banner.

More widely, I resent the attack on men who consume such content (I use the term men, because it’s mostly men who are attacked for it). If I buy an FHM, it is indeed for the sexually alluring content. But you know what – I like looking at tits. That is a perfectly healthy, natural, biological urge that most people have. Human beings, and indeed all reproductive animals, are wired to find others attractive. And I do.

So given I was born this way, I’m not going to apologise for enjoying such content any more than I’m going to apologise for the way I look or the colour of my skin. I shouldn’t feel any more guilty about it than a homosexual should feel guilty about their feelings when a conservative tells them that their feels are wrong or unnatural.

I mean, what I am supposed to do? Should I lie and pretend that I don’t enjoy looking at scantily clad women? Should I go to my GP, or perhaps a mental health provider, and tell them I appear to be suffering from attraction to other human beings? Or is it a case that “it’s fine to have these feelings, we understand you are born this way – as long as you don’t act on them.” Where have we heard that before?

Furthermore, I resent the idea that my entire gender is so simple-minded that just because one of us may look at such pictures, he is then unable to treat anyone with respect. I see my girlfriend as a sex object because I find her very attractive and enjoy having sex with her. I also deeply value her personality, her opinions and her kindness. I see her as a whole human being, sexuality included. Such suggestions of viewing women in a single dimension hold no more weight than the idea that someone who plays violent video games must be a violent criminal.

Attacks against such magazines, freely bought by consumers, featuring models who freely chose to appear in them, are not only an assault on freedom of expression and the right for women to choose their own career in life, but also an attempt to control the population through guilt culture, convincing them that just being who they are is somehow a violation of morality. Such action is bigoted, morally wrong and intellectually bankrupt. It also creates a diving line between Feminist Politics and those interested in equality.