Guest poster and historian Bridgette Sheridan from Framingham State University weighs in on the magic of science. She posted at GWP last fall about dirty sex.

There’s another new book out about – you guessed it – sex.  A Billion Wicked Thoughts, according to an article in the Daily Beast, “reveals some surprising facts about what turns us on—and what separates men and women’s desires.”

According to the Daily Beast, the authors used web searches, websites, personal ads, and porn, among other data, to discover that:

  • If you can imagine it, it exists (though most people desire a lot of the same stuff when it comes to sex)
  • Men are wired to objectify (though every so often they surprise us)
  • Women aren’t easy to figure out (though we do know that “Women need to feel comfortable and safe and desired as well as physically attracted.”)

All that research and these are the highlights? Perhaps this goes to show that we like to have “data” back up what we already believe to be true. Let me give you an example: in the 16th and 17th centuries, as scientists began to question ancient medical theory by experimentation and “seeing for themselves,” many of them found, in the body, what they’d known all along: that women were inherently inferior to men. They found it IN THE BODY. And it was scientific so it had to be true.

Do I think that scientific exploration has led to discoveries that have improved our lives? Yes. I benefit from them daily. Do I think that scientific outcomes can sometimes be shaped by cultural norms? Yes. Do I think the Daily Beast’s breathless reporting on this book is a case of that? Yes.

But what do I know? I’m just a historian. Maybe I should collect some data before I tell you what I think.

-Bridgette Sheridan