PornHarmony: Is It Okay for People to Just Want to F*** Themselves?

The folks over at SexMD have just released a terrific infographic that lists the top ten most common terms used by people when searching for porn, broken down by country. Being a sex-data geek, I eagerly dug into the results, fully expecting to be shocked by people’s sick, twisted predilections and preparing to launch into wild, unfounded speculation about what they reveal about our various national characters. As it happened, I was shocked, but not in the way I expected. Okay, I did learn about some new sex things. (Can someone from the Ukraine explain to me what a gay raincoat is? It’s your top search!) But mostly what I learned is that people are really, really into themselves.

I started my analysis with Brazil because – well, it’s Brazil, and we all want to know what it takes to turn on a Brazilian. And the best way to do it, it turns out, is to be a Brazilian.

As you see, six of the ten top Brazilian search terms make some reference to Brazil. And it turns out that the Brazilians are not unusual. In just about every country for which data was given, national or ethnic self-references — Norwegians searching for Norwegians, Brits for Brits, et cetera – dominated the list. At the bottom of this post, I have compiled an overview of the countries for which data is provided, with the place of national (or in certain cases ethnic) self-references in their top tens. For another dramatic example, let’s take China. Every single item on its list made some reference to an Asian nationality (with Japan actually the most popular). For the Chinese, apparently, nothing turns them on except Asian nationality and ethnicity.

Ghana, Kenya and South Africa are the only countries outside North America where racial or national self-references don’t rank at all (though “ebony” ranks first in Ghana). There are no self-references in the lists for the US and Canada. I can see two possible explanations for this. One is that we really are the sort of multicultural societies most of want us to be. The other is that white North Americans are what you get when you search a porn site for anything, unless you specify otherwise. Self-references are unnecessary. Both explanations may be partly correct, though I suspect the second factor is the more salient.

Okay, so people are into themselves. So what? I have tried to make the case elsewhere that our desires can be morally significant. They reveal attitudes that we may have reason to reflect on, and possibly correct. Whenever I try to make this case, people always react very negatively. They insist that it’s nobody’s business whom we are attracted to, and we cannot control it anyway. I still think it is, and we can. But, suggestive as this porn data is, I am not going to make the case that people are actually racist or evil for being so damn into their own kind. Discriminating in porn searches is not like discriminating for jobs or invading other countries. However, I do think at the very least we may have stumbled upon a teachable moment.

In the interest of promoting greater fellowship among all humankind, I want to make a suggestion: today sometime, let’s all try watching porn featuring people different from ourselves. Search for a Brazilian, or a Kazakh, or a Finn. You might just like what you see.

THE RANKINGS (Numbers refer to place of national or ethnic self-references in the top ten most searched terms)

Argentina: 1-3
Australia: 1
Belgium: 1 (French) and 9 (Dutch)
Cambodia: 2, 3 and 6
Chile: 2, 5
China: 2, 3, and 9
Columbia: 1-4, and 7
Egypt: 1 and 2 (Arab), 4 and 7 (Egypt)
Finland: 5 and 6
France: 1, 3 and 5
Germany: 1, 2 and 5
Greece: 1-3
India: 1, 3, 4, 6 and 9
Indonesia: 1 and 2
Iran: 7
Iraq: 1, 2 and 8 (Arab)
Israel: 2 and 4
Italy: 1, 4 and 8
Japan: 1-5, 8 and 10
Kazakhstan: 1 (Russian — a near-majority of Kazakhs are ethnically Russian), 6 (Kazakh)
Libya: 2 (Arab)
Morocco: 1 and 6 (Arab)
Nigeria: 1
Norway: 1, 2 and 5 (Swedish is 8 )
Pakistan: 2 and 3 (Pakistan), 1 and 4 (India)
Palestine: 2, 5 and 10 (Arab)
Peru: 1, 9
Philippines: 1-4, 7 and 8
Poland: 1-3
Russia: 1, 4, 9 and 10
Spain: 2
Sweden: 1 and 5
Thailand: 1, 3 and 7
Turkey: 1,4 and 9
UK: 1
Ukraine: Ukraine isn’t mentioned, though Russia ranks 2 (many Ukrainians are ethnic Russians)
Vietnam: 1

[This post was amended on March 13 after Daniel Schipper explained to me how to actually use the infographic and thereby get the data for North America.]

Image: John William Waterhouse, “Echo and Narcissus” (1903)

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