In this episode, we will discover sex in the online world in time of Coronavirus. Is sex reinvented with all the technology and data science?
I’m Yudan and this is Unexpected Data, the podcast that explores Data Science world without any taboos.
In this time of Coronavirus, we are asked to stay at home and keep social distance. Some joke about it by predicting a corona baby boom. This only illustrates that the need for physical intimacy or sexual activity is certainly impacted.
In this time of uncertainty, can we reinvent our sex life?
People with stable partner(s) could wish to spice it up or singles are looking for hook-up opportunities without risking their lives.
As we are distancing and can’t interact closely, one alternative is to digitalize our sexlife, to use the internet for it.
But what is sex in the online world? According to the researcher Dr. Justin J. Lehmiller (1), it covers a large scale of activities from sexting, trading photo, video or online performance to dating over digital channels. In his book ‘The Psychology of Human Sexuality’, he writes that “when we are reminded of our own mortality, we subconsciously alter our attitudes and behaviors in order to help us cope with the ‘terrifying’ prospect of our eventual death.”
So baby boom fact or fake. Let’s take the bets and follow up.
In today’s episode, we will talk about sex and how the industry surrounding it is adapting to our changing needs while distancing from each other.
Warning: There will be obviously some content about sex, which may not be suitable for all listeners.
There is no agreed upon number about how much the porn industry is worth. The problem in quantifying it already starts by defining what falls into the pornography industry. Since Porn is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. You find it on Twitter, social media and even in GIFs that we share around.
Another Problem is, that there aren’t many researches done, since Porn is still a taboo. But one thing is sure, it is a money-making business.
By encouraging us to stay at home, many companies try to take this crisis as a business opportunity.
PornHub for example offers a free premium account to users worldwide and announced it proudly on March 24th.
In 2019, so last year, over 42 Billion visits were declared by this world’s largest porn site. This means there was an average of 115 million visits per day. So think about it, this is the equivalent of the populations of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands all visiting in one day (2).
On the same day of the announcement, their traffic increased worldwide by 24%. Some may even highlight that the Italians were the first in Europe on March 12th with an increase of 57% (3). It seems that it was well received.
As you already know, when it is for free, you are the product.
Your searches, your views and navigation behaviors will be recorded in data. These data are analyzed and some results are released.
From the company insights of 2019, the average user of PornHub was a men around 36 years old and watched porn on an Iphone for 10 minutes and 28 seconds on a Sunday between 11pm and 1am. On the contrary to what you may believe, women are increasingly watching porn and represented 32% of PornHub wordwide visitors. Even if the searches were very related to big event like the release of Joker or Fortnite, the average user looked for Japanese and lesbian content with a top gaining category for amature content.
Do you find yourself in these numbers?
On top of this profiling, your communication is also tracked: over 70 million messages were sent between users and over 11 million comments were left on videos. The content is not exempted of analysis as there is even a list of most commented words.
To make your own or more objective explorative data analysis, there is unfortunately no interactive dashboard available and even less the anonymized database. As a European citizen, put your data rights in application and ask PornHub to provide you with your data and see what they have on you. It may be more extensive than you think and they may know more about your sexual behavior than you may like.
To transform those newly generated pornhub users to customers, the next challenge will be Engagement.
Other Techgiants already started to work on it. Facebook has created Facebook Dating (4).
It seems that it is a normal next step for Facebook. After feeding you with personalized content and keeping you connected to your friends, now you don’t even need to leave this social network to find new dates.
In real life, a friend usually meets a friend of a friend and sometimes they become a couple.
Now, Facebook wants to become this matchmaker friend that promises you ‘meaningful [love] relationship through things you have in common […] via extensive Facebook friend list and Instagram followers.’ And no direct friend will know about it without you telling them.
The magic happens with the matching algorithm that proposes you potential lover(s) based on your common data points. You can make your decision by viewing your suitors Facebook and Instagram stories on top of the typical photo and text of any dating app. After the match, you will share and know even more data.
With the health situation, the messenger feature is now also powered with virtual video dates.
But all of this comes with a price.
Facebook has a pretty long records of your personal data coupled with another long list of data breaches. One of them resulted in 419 million phone numbers and Facebook usernames being stored in an unsecured database (5). If you still wonder why this privacy mention is so important, take a look at Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook data were shared with this company without user consent and analyzed to suggest content that support their clients’ interests. All of this occurred during the US presidential election campaign. So make your own opinion by taping these 2 words in your search engine.
In Europe, Facebook Dating is not yet available. Apparently Coronavirus has ‘delayed’ its release on Valentine’s Day. But in reality, they just didn’t comply with GDPR, our EU data privacy law (6).
Don’t worry, Europeans can still benefit from video dates as many dating platforms have released this function (7). It is as simple as any messenger including video call. Be aware that here also it exists a data business and your data may be monetized.
This said, you will maybe change your seduction strategy and think twice before to sending sex pictures.
Only historical data will tell us if this kept us fit and ready for contact.
If you would like to simply enjoy yourself, sex toy companies claim to provide you orgasm and even the best one of your life. The secret: masturbating personalization from your sex life data. The principle is as simple as in any fitness application that tracks you for better physical condition. But here, the sensors are in the vibrator and measure pelvic floor movements (e.g. contractions). You can then identify what triggers your sex drive and use the app as your orgasm diary (8).
But are those physiological data being handle with the precaution that is due to medical data? They claimed that it is secured. But one thing is for sure: we don’t know everything that those companies are doing with our data.
And vibrators are not the only smart products.
A robotic oral sex simulator seems to provide realistic movement sequences using deep learning (9). The company claimed that over 100 hours of oral sex video were analyzed to create manually a normalized 16 frames per second database of the position of the mouth. The anonymous authors of this study claimed having discovered 16 distinct motions to create 10 different modus.
The missing data exploration analysis is not allowing us to assume any representativity of oral sex practices. The source of those studied video could be already biased with the predominance of certain oral sex methods.
So improvements towards more transparency, diversity and recognization of our data ownership are more than welcome.
The whole domain of robotic massagers is entirely perfecting as the technology and data science go. And it is undeniable that those actors, as sex tech companies, have their place at CES, the world largest consumer tech show.
Sex life is clearly reinvented with all the technology and data science. CES finally opens the way by including sex in health and wellness topic (10). By exposing them more to the consumer, their products are better known; not only for their use but also to challenge those sextechs on how they securely and legally handle our data.
Congratulations! By listening to this entire episode, you are actively breaking the long-lasting taboo in knowing your body and owning your pleasure. In the same time, you are helping giving awareness about the application of Data Science in your daily life.
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Want to know more :
(4) Facebook Dating
Unexpected Data Podcast is a creation and production of Yudan Lin.
Image: Alexander Krivitskiy
Music: Focus by A. A. Aalto is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License