Stephens-Davidowitz: Yeah, it's about twice as common. That doesn't mean that twice as many boyfriends are refusing sex, relative to girlfriends. It may be that when a boyfriend doesn't want sex, women are more likely to turn to Google, because it's more surprising. Because men in popular culture are supposed to want sex all the time. But, I think this data does show that men avoiding sex is probably more common than is traditionally thought.
Khazan: Why are they so reluctant to have sex? What are men's biggest insecurities about their bodies?
Stephens-Davidowitz: Men tend to be insecure about the size of their penises. It definitely wasn't too surprising. It was surprising the degree of it. I estimate that men ask more questions about their penis than any other body part. Men's top concern about the aging process is not their blood pressure, cholesterol, or potential memory problems. It's whether their penis is getting smaller.
Women don't usually search about their partner's penis. When they do, they're about as likely to complain that it's too big and hurts as that it's too small.
Khazan: Do men start worrying about actual health issues as they get older, or is that pretty consistent?
Stephens-Davidowitz: We don't know exactly. You don't know the age of a searcher for sure.
Khazan: Okay, what about women? What are they concerned about?
Stephens-Davidowitz: I think the main insecurity, and this did surprise me, I didn’t know about it at all, was vaginal odor. That takes up a good percentage of women's questions about their genitals. I think there's a lot of value in knowing this information because this isn't really talked about in most sex ed classes, but there clearly is a fairly widespread paranoia among many women, particularly younger women, around odors.
So it clearly is something that should be talked about. What's normal and what’s maybe a cause for concern? It's a big issue that we didn't know about, because it's a little hush hush because it's embarrassing to a lot of people. But because people tell Google everything, now we know how widespread this insecurity is.
Khazan: And do men search for, "I don't like the way my girlfriend's vagina smells"?
Stephens-Davidowitz: Yeah, they do. This is kind of humorous, they're concerned that it smells like condoms or another man’s semen. Because [that, in their minds, means] she may be cheating on them.
Khazan: Despite all this insecurity and worries about smells, how often do people actually have sex? What's the disparity between how much they say they have sex and how much they actually do?
Stephens-Davidowitz: They have a lot less sex than they say they do. The way I studied this is I looked at condom data. The General Social Survey asks people how frequently they have sex, whether it's heterosexual or homosexual sex, and whether they use a condom. You do the math. Heterosexual women say they use 1.1 billion condoms every year in heterosexual sex. Men say they use 1.6 billion condoms in heterosexual sex, but you know that someone's lying. So who’s lying?