10 Charts About Sex

April 19th, 2011 by Christian Rudder

This was one of the first infographics ever made:

Later remembered as "the map that made a nation cry", it depicts Napoleon's failed invasion of Russia in 1812. The wide tan swath shows his Grande Armée, almost half a million strong, marching East to Moscow; the black trickle shows the few who straggled back. It's an elegant fusion of geography, time, and temperature into a single statement of military disaster.

Of course, using modern tools of analysis, like circles and the color blue, we can get an even clearer picture of history:

It is our goal today to create graphics of similar concision and power, but about something more useful than war—sex.

All the data below, even the most personal stuff, has been gleaned from real user activity on OkCupid. Some of it our users have told us outright by answering match questions; some of it we've had to learn from observation.

Other than the unifying theme, sex, there's no big point or thesis to this post: just comparisons, correlations, and quirky trends.

Chart #1

We found this by crossing the match questions Do you like to exercise? and Is it difficult for you to have an orgasm?, and, as you can see, women who don't like working out report twice the orgasm problems of women who do.

Chart #2

Here, we took a single question—Is your ideal sex rough or gentle?—and scraped people's profile text for the words that most correlated to each answer. Here are word clouds for women and men in their 20s.

The text is basically Hot Topic versus, I dunno, Burberry. But beyond the words the interesting thing is how men's and women's preferences change with age:

This dataset only includes single people, of course, but I was still very surprised at how many old men like it rough. Looks like I'm going to have to rethink a cherished part of my worldview.

Chart #3

The odds shown in this chart, and the others like it later in the post, are odds "in favor"—in this case, odds in favor of being into giving oral sex. The higher a group's odds, the more into it they are.

Since so much sexual slang involves meat—"hot dog," "sausage," "burger," "beef injection," "another beef injection," and so on—I thought this would be a fine occasion to point out that there are plenty of veggie alternatives:

Vegetarian-Friendly Sex Slang
Peeling the banana.
Tossing the salad.
Squeezing the melons.
Zeroing in on a grown man's nuts and nutsack.
Putting Monsanto in yoursanto.
Ordering the split pea soup.
Sorry, that's got ham.

Cornholing others.

Charts #4 & #5

Frequent tweeters have shorter real-life relationships than everyone else, probably via some bit.ly hack. Unfortunately, we have no way to tell who's dumping who here; whether the twitterati are more annoying or just more flighty than everyone else. There is also this:

If someone tweets every day, it's 2-to-1 that they're #ingthemselves just as often. Like the "shorter relationships" thing, this is true across all age and gender groups.

Chart #6:

In the Bible, in between the part where Reuben kills a he-goat so he can dip some clothes in the blood of the he-goat and where Judah tries to give Tamar a goat but decides maybe she should be burned to death instead, God kills a man named Onan because Onan intentionally spills his seed on the ground.

(1) Thou shalt not whack off. (2) Mo goats mo problems.

Life lessons! From the Iron Age!

Charts #7 & #8

This bubble chart, plotting body type, sex drive, and self-confidence, is dynamic—you can use the slider at the bottom change it. As you can see as you move the control from left to right, a woman's sexuality peaks in her twenties, holds more or less steady for twenty years, and then falls to the floor. And while sex drive waxes and wanes, self-confidence steadily grows.

Remember, the women themselves select their body-descriptions; the bubbles show the size of each group. Though many of the words are just a shade of meaning apart, there are dramatic differences in the traits of the people who choose them. Go through the animation and compare full-figured to curvy or skinny to thin.

It's particularly interesting to isolate skinny—a deprecating way to say something generally considered positive (being thin)—and curvy—an empowering way to say something generally considered negative (being heavy). Here are those bubbles' complete paths across the graph:

Curvy women pass skinny ones in self-confidence at age 29 and never look back. They also consistently have the highest sex drive among the groups. Curvy, as a word, has the strongest sensual overtones of all our self-descriptions. So we're getting a little insight into the real-world implications of a label.

This is the "complete path" plot for men:

Things to notice: (1) almost no men choose curvy or full-figured as self-descriptions, so those words aren't plotted here; (2) men of all body types have roughly the same peak sex drive; (3) and the thing that matters most for guys is simply to not be overweight. The other four body types are clustered relatively together at most ages.

Chart #9

For this chart, we took our own data and mixed it with a little outside stuff: college tuitions from U.S. News & World Report.

Generally speaking, the more your parents are paying for your education, the more horny you are. If only Freud were still around to help us understand; instead we have psychology majors, those Adidas shower sandals, and darkness.

You can think of the dotted best-fit line as dividing the good sex-ed values (above the line) from the bad ones (below). The line also gives us a handy sliding scale: given a 36-week school year and the average partner, every $2,000 spent on your college tuition is an extra time you could be having sex that year.

Chart #10

The correlation between sex and money is robust for colleges, but it gets even stronger when extended to entire nations.

We were amazed at this result—money seems to be a more powerful influence on sex drive than culture or even religion.

You have, for example, Portugal, Oman, Slovenia, and Taiwan within a few pixels of each other on the right side of the graph, and Syria, Sri Lanka, and Guatemala almost stacked on the left, and all of them sit along the trend line.

Speaking of Guatemala, you should Facebook-like this article. The end.

298 Responses to “10 Charts About Sex”

  1. Jacob says:

    ^I was totally going to say what BA said. It not only gives more friction and sensation, but it also provides more creative horny imagination. I’m a younger guy whose medication also decreases my sensation and sex drive – kink definitely helps me get off.

  2. Marla says:

    Data-crunching OKCupid guys, I think I love you :)

  3. m says:

    edward tufte would be proud.

    and… finally an okc blog that doesn’t accuse their own customers of racism (which was always incredibly hypocritical given the racial distribution of the “teaser” public search interface. have you seen how many WHITE and THIN people are on there!?)

    the “rough sex” plot doesn’t fit the sample i’ve observed. it seems like every woman i’ve met or whose answers i’ve viewed prefers rough sex.

  4. Pcnyc says:

    Life’s good for those who hang with active, assertive, vegetarian shiksas who also happen to be non-RT’ing curvy voluptuaries.
    p.s. Good bit with the goats too, heh.

  5. Evan says:

    Thank you, OK, for giving me insight as to what words to clue in to regarding rougher sex. Saves an awkward encounter or two.

  6. Tom says:

    At first I thought it really seemed strange that Japan was so high on the GDP/Casual sex chart. But then I realized, you’re working with a weird dataset. The vast majority of people in Japan that use OK Cupid are going to be foreigners or Japanese who’ve lived abroad long enough to lean towards using non-Japanese websites. I would assume that the data for other countries would be similarly tainted.

  7. Deb says:

    I’d like to see where the data to measure things shown above, such as confidence, were found. If they were all from activity on OKC, like responses to questions, which sample of questions was used? How was the sample of OKC users for this study selected? I agree that it might be skewed. I guess that’s the sex-loving nerd in me. ;)

  8. Carol says:

    I love being vegetarian. And I love giving blow jobs. Vegetarian women also taste better.

  9. jamie says:

    sex what the hell is that? sounds like fun

  10. JM says:

    What we have to remember is that we’re looking at a dating website population. When looking at the older men/rough sex correlation, remember that these are older men who generally still haven’t managed to settle down with a partner and who have elected to use a dating website that features primarily younger women to try to find one(s). With this demographic, the trend becomes less surprising. I’d encourage the OKC statisticians to please consider and report on the systemic bias of a dating website population in their blog interpretations, since failing to do so is pretty intellectually irresponsible.

  11. Emily says:

    i absolutely love chart #9. my undergrad school is the top for tuition AND number of times to have sex per week. love it.

  12. anonymous says:

    Rough vs. gentle sex? Why does OKCupid break so many traits into black and white exclusive pairs? Most people probably lie on a bell curve, meaning the majority likes something in the middle, or both.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree. . . more about the geeky/kinky correlation, please!!

  14. molly says:

    did you use nominal or PPP adjusted GDP for chart 10? also, was there a reason not to use median income? my understanding is that that eliminates outliers more effectively.

    i write a blog partly devoted to development issues (self-promotion warning: http://nepalimolly.blogspot.com/), thus my interest in the otherwise apparently less popular chart 10 haha….would it be possible to get your country-by-country data for okcupid users? it might be fun to play with.

  15. solarpysche says:

    Why isn’t strictly vagitarian a diet option :P

  16. Sean C. says:

    Rough! That’s how your mother likes it, Trebek.

  17. Electric Lady says:

    …or maybe the statistical significance of older men wanting rough sex is down to the OKCupid data set: it’s a free dating site, so maybe the older sadomasochist is increasingly less likely to be in a relationship, and thus (unsuccessfully) scouring the interwebs for young women to have rough sex with…

  18. Sarah says:

    Agree with Jessica – I use curvy to mean “not flat,” pretty much. I might have chosen average instead if I was worried about potential connotations, but with a couple pictures up for correlation I figure I might as well be accurate.

  19. Common Sense says:

    there is no way that less than 10% of early-20s men prefer rough sex. absolutely no way.

  20. dysamoria says:

    i’m surprised that people are aware enough of the issues with circumcision that it was mentioned here in comments, and more than once. good on you

  21. Joe says:

    Chart 10 is interesting, but I think has the most sample bias out of all of them.

    For example, given that (online) dating is not acceptable in many Muslim countries, the people that sign up for OKC are less representative of their populations than those in Sweden, who are more accustomed to it. You literally cannot have lunch with a member of the opposite sex who isn’t your wife in Saudi Arabia; my guess is that 14% of the population is not looking for casual sex.

  22. Drk says:

    Rougher sex in older age is due to circumcision status. Circumcised men grow caloused and insensitive, and have to try harder (a LOT harder) for pleasure.

    Plot it by country, I bet you’d have a wholly different layout.

  23. Wezza says:

    Re. older men and rough sex.

    What was the definition of ‘rough sex’, and was it consistent between older/younger men/women?

    That is, could it be that older men define rough sex as ‘doggy style and slapping the wife’s bum a bit’, but younger men don’t see that as ‘rough’ per se?

    W.

  24. Chad says:

    lol – hey some of the stats are skewed I think.

  25. DefeatSenility says:

    Yay for nerdy girls.

  26. Ty says:

    I bet some depends on what their goals are vs. there likelyness to get it’s

    Cougars older women are very common, but they find sex off okc?

    Old men know they can find vanilla where they have in the past?
    They have just had the kids move out, and just like those that stayed married there are those that stayed vanilla, and now they can try it rough?

  27. Ty says:

    Oops wasn’t done

    Stayed together ‘for the kids’

    Granted there are generally more older men looking, but to some extent that is true across the board…. At least for sex. After all women can get it anywhere, and thus picky. (men have.to search harder… Especially for off thwart wall stuff. ) hence laies nights….. Bring the women, and thwart men wish come …

    Oh amd one thing is women vs. men rough /= the big thing in many bdsm groups is bdsm /= sex, but I’ve seen many women orgasim from it’s (at least those into it)

  28. Fitzroyalty says:

    Can you do chart #3 again with it broken down for both genders by sexual orientation? Please!

  29. dimwitdoc says:

    Jessica (april 19th at 10:45am), what are you doing later tonight?

  30. american-cockfro says:

    i am going to go love me some dirty curvy girls from iowa st..

    woooooo chubbies.

    another veggie phrase.

    i am going to hide my non fat dairy soy processed tofu in your woo hoo.

  31. Jann Poppinga says:

    The top pie chart misrepresents the Grande Armée. Frenchmen were actually in a minority. While it is not strictly wrong, it still does injustice to the Belgians, Dutch, Germans, Italians, Poles, Spaniards, Turks, etc who had to fight for Napoleon.

  32. Jaybee says:

    I agree with Jessica. I chose curvy as my body description for the same reasons. I’m not fat, I’m an hourglass. I really don’t like that curvy is understood to be a euphemism for fat.

  33. Michaely2k says:

    I just hope that respondent were just as honest as I am when answered any of those questions. Because, according to ALLEN in TWO AND A HALF MAN , “Everyone exaggerates in their profiles”, lol.

  34. 911 says:

    Yeah – the rough sex/older men thing — sex is less emotional for men. We get jaded and bored very easily. Also, American parents have this nasty habit of chopping off little pieces of their baby boys penises so the aging and sensitivity thing makes sense too.

    Vegetarians like to give head. That’s cool. Tell me this though: what percentage of vegans enjoy swallowing?

  35. rachelle_04 says:

    Awesome! LOVE it!

    I especially like that old men like it rough, heh.

  36. Kitty says:

    why don’t we see any significance bars on these graphs? I demand!!

  37. Warren Lambert says:

    Question for C Rudder

    This is a virtuoso graphic display. I wonder what software you use. I’m using SAS, R, and Sigma Plot (occasionally STATA) for statistical graphics in academic research.

    Warren

  38. Meryl says:

    Great stats! I’ve always been baffled by OKC’s body type options for women. I could never understand the difference between ‘thin’ and ‘skinny’. I think both are pejorative. I wish there were an option for ‘slim’ – much more positive.

    I leave my body type blank because of this and figure people will work it out from the pics.

  39. Kevin says:

    If someone asked you how likely you were to masturbate today and you said 2:1 and then your friend said 1.6:1, wouldn’t that mean your friend is MORE LIKELY to masturbate today since a 1:1 ratio means it’s definitely going to happen?

    MATH IS HARD.

  40. Didi says:

    I think in the chart #10 A lot of people could not be looking for casual sex because their married, they could still have high sex drives. In some of those countries that are at the bottom of the chart, people get married at a much younger age and in the ones at the top people stay unmarried longer

  41. Paula says:

    An older man, who has a lower sex drive and takes longer to reach orgasm, will need it to be rougher than a young guy who can come at the drop of a hat. And to the extent that older men have older female partners, where aging and childbirth conspire to create less vaginal friction, the guy may need things to be rougher as well.

  42. Lisa says:

    How about women learn fast that asking online for rough sex is not a good idea? I might like it rough, but that’s not the same as I’m consenting to rough sex _with_you_. And I’m not selecting primarily for men who get off on bruising me.

  43. Jereth says:

    The first chart is amusing to me because if a woman doesn’t enjoy exercise, I too have greater difficulty having an orgasm.

  44. Yenia says:

    I find it remarkable that women have the lowest chance of orgasm difficulties from age 40 onward. I mean, with 18 to early 20ies I’m not surprised, the body of girls/women that age is hideously bad.

    Also, I utterly love the two starting graphics.

    And “england” is one of the signature words of women who prefer gentle sex? Yet another one for my “perfectly useless facts” collection.

  45. MTP says:

    Personally, I thought this article was a little less polished in comparison to past articles. That, paired with the fact that it took them over a month to come up with this kind of makes me feel disappointed in their quality control.

    … But that’s just me.

  46. Rick says:

    This is the ONLY blog I follow. ‘Nuff said.

  47. Sean says:

    I think you need to use a Purchasing Power Parity measure on per capita GDP – it’s significantly skewed if you don’t do this.

  48. Stexe says:

    Wow, very interesting article. Although, I find the connotation of “Curvy” to be misleading, since some people take it to be a lesser form of “fat,” while others mean it to be that they have large bust and hips but skinny waist.

    I’m also surprised at some of the school statistics, but it is a very interesting article and read nonetheless.

  49. TheDudeAbides says:

    What’s so surprising about a large percentage of old dudes preferring rough sex? All you have to remember is that these are the old dudes who are ALSO on OKCupid. I bet that this is not exactly a random sample. Although, who knows…

  50. Emily says:

    YEAAAH It’s about time someone did that study on veggies and oral sex! I’ve been saying that for YEARS and no one believes. When you’re veggie, there’s really only one kind of red meat you enjoy ;)