Religious, Conservative States Search More for Sex

Religious, Conservative States Search More for Sex
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States with higher levels of religiosity and conservatism seek out more sexual content on the Internet, according to a new study.

Psychologists Cara MacInnis and Gordon Hodson of Brock University analyzed Internet use data in 2011 and 2012 with Google Trends, specifically measuring the search volume of the terms "sex," "gay sex," "porn," "xxx," "free porn," gay porn," and the Google Image search term "sex." They then examined how the data was associated with state level religiosity and conservatism. An immense 2011 Gallup survey of 350,000 people supplied those values. Religiosity was gauged by the percentage of "very religious" individuals within each state and the percentage of individuals considering religion "an important part of their daily lives." Conservatism was determined by the proportion of self-identified conservatives.

Initially, MacInnis and Hodson found a strong link between a state's level of religiosity and the search volume for "gay sex," "gay porn," and "sex." But after controlling for demographic variables like GDP and the rate of individuals below the poverty line, the associations for "gay sex" and "gay porn" evaporated. However, the link with the search term "sex" remained. Overall, the strongest and most persistent link was between conservatism and a Google Image search for "sex."

The results, published last Friday in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, seem to support a 2009 study, which found that religious and conservative states tend to have higher adult content subscriptions per capita. Both studies beg the question: Do conservatives and religious people nurture a veiled, paradoxical fascination with sex?

It is possible. Since conservatives and religious people outwardly display more restrained views toward sex, curiosities might be more likely to manifest in private. The authors also note previous research which found that teens in more religious states engage in more premarital unprotected sex.

MacInnis and Hodson also offer an alternative explanation for the data, one that exonerates conservatives: The associations could be liberals' fault.

"It is possible that liberal citizens living in states higher in religiosity or conservatism search more for sexual content due to living in a more sexually-restricted environment."

In contrast to the partisan squabbling and heckling their study is sure to incite, the authors attempt to render a somewhat bipartisan conclusion.

"At minimum, these internet-search data clearly demonstrate that those living in states with greater proportions of very religious or conservative citizenry nonetheless seek out and experience the forbidden fruit of sexuality in private settings."

Souce: Cara C. MacInnis, Gordon Hodson "Do American States with More Religious or Conservative Populations Search More for Sexual Content on Google?" 03 Oct 2014. Archives of Sexual Behavior DOI: 10.1007/s10508-014-0361-8

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