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Feb 22 2014

Gamifying and scientifying your sex life, badly

There’s a new app called Spreadsheets. This is not new; there are millions of apps, and 95% of them are crap. Spreadsheets purports to use the accelerometer and microphone in your smartphone to measure your sexual performance — a kind of fitbit for sex (do not tell my wife, she’s already slightly obsessed with her fitbit stats).

I find the whole idea a little weird, and have zero interest in the thing, but whatever floats your boat, ‘k? But here’s what I find offensive and stupid: calling the noise from these smartphone stats a study of sex duration in America. It’s basically a sex toy that will be used sporadically and idiosyncratically, and you’re not going to get anything that could be called “information” out of it. Case in point: look at the data on intercourse duration.

sexduration

That makes no sense. Why would you even expect variation to fall in the arbitrary boundary lines of the states? For instance, the part of Minnesota where I live is, culturally and geographically, very similar to the Dakotas, yet somehow I’m supposed to believe that there’s some kind of remarkable transition in sexual behavior over there? Why? Show me the variance in the data. Give me a somewhat finer grained breakdown. What these data show is that what they’re measuring is patternless and random.

The one message I take from that figure is this: dudes, your app doesn’t work.

58 comments

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  1. 1
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought


    I don’t get it.

    Why? I mean, yeah, people do all kinds of shit, but….. WTF?!

    I just… don’t get it. But then again, I don’t get most apps. We’re probably about a year away from having to get an app so that we could make calls from the mobile.

  2. 2
    ShowMetheData

    I’ll google the Cheat codes for this. WINNER!!!

  3. 3
    carlie

    How and where exactly are you supposed to stash the phone on your person so that it can use the accelerometer to measure movement?

    O.o

  4. 4
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    carlie,

    Dunno.
    How does it work for men/women? What if you like your sex really quiet… then the sound input would totally screw with the data? Um, I’m not exactly knowledgeable in this, but the movement measuring (however it’s done) would significantly differ depending on the position and again, the kind of intercourse people like.
    Etc.

    We’re expecting too much from a silly app, I think.

  5. 5
    Menyambal

    I have trouble with the time divisions. I think they may have taken a bell curve and divided it up, maybe, but they have used bar lengths for their legend that don’t relate to the number spans.

  6. 6
    jefrir

    The numbers also seem distinctly on the low side, though I guess they might make sense if you only count “rapid thrusting” as “real” sex.

  7. 7
    Alan Boyle

    I had many questions, so I visited their website, and now I have only more questions. For one, they quote Woody Allen as an authority on sex and love. Not the person I’d choose to promote a sex-aid. Then they try and compare using their app to the process of science:

    Feedback loop completion is essential for growth, satisfaction as well as the SCIENTIFIC PROCESS [ Hypothesis -> Test -> Conclude -> Report ] . Most intimate sessions end in a loose version of the Conclusion stage “Was it good?.. Yes.” If this loop is broken, new Hypotheses will never have a need to be tested, you’re stuck in a rut. Complete your scientific process loops and grow!

    Also, they recommend consulting a physician before use if you’re over 25, because we all know that sex becomes medically dangerous at around age 26. Then there’s all sorts of left brain/right brain chatter. Enhancing your sex life with electronics is a fine idea, but goodness me are there better ways to do it.

  8. 8
    doublereed

    At first I thought that map was a demonstration of how you can color any map with four colors, no adjacent boundaries the same color.

    So yea, they obviously just used a bunch of random numbers.

  9. 9
    sqlrob

    @Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought, #1

    I just… don’t get it. But then again, I don’t get most apps. We’re probably about a year away from having to get an app so that we could make calls from the mobile.

    The dialer and stuff is just an app, there’s nothing inherently special about it. It can actually be replaced. What you meant as a joke is really how smart phones work. It just happens to be a bundled app, no different from the other stuff your carrier may throw on it.

  10. 10
    ledasmom

    I don’t understand why dark blue is in between light blue and light red. I mean, if increasing red equals longer duration, increasing blue should equal shorter duration, but it doesn’t. Even if the data made any sense, representing it visually in a misleading way is poor form. The two-color representation also implies a hard division between short sex and long sex that has no reality that I am aware of. Especially for a population primed to red/blue maps that indicate a position on a political conservative-to-liberal line, this is confusing.

  11. 11
    Al Dente

    The shortest sex is 1.21 minutes? What are the starting and stopping points for this duration?

  12. 12
    David Marjanović

    Why? I mean, yeah, people do all kinds of shit, but….. WTF?!

    Because everything can be turned into a competition.

  13. 13
    ludicrous

    We always use a stopwatch, takes the guesswork out of it.

  14. 14
    Cuttlefish

    What, do you wear this thing on your wrist?

  15. 15
    rturpin

    I don’t know, PZ. Are you worried your trophy wife might not like the stats for Minnesota?

    Now, let’s see what it says for Texas…. sounds about right.

    ;-)

  16. 16
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Ee, but when I were young, we made do with an egg-timer. An’ we were grateful to have even that.

  17. 17
    michaelvieths

    Wait, it maxes out at 7 minutes? Is it a race?

  18. 18
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Now, let’s see what it says for Texas…. sounds about right.

    ;-)

    Yeah, the cows aren’t as tight as they used to be.

    *eyeroll*

    Anyway.

    Anyone else notice how they’ve got like eight divisions worth lumped into that top number?

  19. 19
    Travis

    Even if this was meaningful data, it would make me sad. Maxing out at 7 minutes? That still counts as a quickie in my books. If it could be taken seriously it just says the average sex life in the US is pretty horrible.

  20. 20
    Holms

    The one message I take from that figure is this: dudes, your app doesn’t work.

    Actually, it does work, but that’s because you have the wrong idea about the purpose of this program. You’re looking at this in terms of ‘does this provide scientifically valid findings’, which is understandable because that’s what the makers are pretending is the case.

    The true function however is to generate sales by convincing people that they can glean some insight into their Super Sexy Time Prowess, and perhaps improve it though practice; also, to provide a pretext for more sex.

    “It’s an app about sex so let’s have sex lollllzzzzz ;p” I think sums up their target audience.

  21. 21
    PZ Myers

    we made do with an egg-timer.

    You had an egg-timer? We had to use use a giant ring of monolithic standing stones.

  22. 22
    Athywren

    Statistics and I are not exactly what you’d call friends, but am I right in assuming that the numbers they’ve given implies a maximum duration of 7:01 minutes?
    I think we can draw another conclusion, beyond the app not working – it makes your sex really short. Either that, or…. Americans, you have my sympathies.

  23. 23
    microraptor

    I think we can draw another conclusion, beyond the app not working – it makes your sex really short. Either that, or…. Americans, you have my sympathies.

    I thought it was saying less about Americans and more about the people who made that app.

  24. 24
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Daz:

    Ee, but when I were young, we made do with an egg-timer. An’ we were grateful to have even that.

    We just had to watch the stars for timing.

    And, before I could post it, PZed already topped me.

  25. 25
    ledasmom

    We just had a look at what species of megafauna predominated when we started, and which predominated when we were done, and we estimated.

  26. 26
    disabledtoiletcubicle
  27. 27
    ledasmom

    disabledtoiletcubicle:
    Yes, we know that, actually. Explain why the colors were chosen in such a way as to imply a hard boundary between long and short sex where no such hard boundary exists, as opposed to using shading along a spectrum; in particular, explain why the colors run, short to long, light blue-dark blue-light pink-dark pink-red.
    A map divided in this manner only makes sense when the boundaries have some sort of actual meaning – for instance, in politics, where allocation of electoral votes is generally (not always) by state – and, even then, it gives relatively little information about the people contained within that state. There is no sexual electoral college that I am aware of. We of Massachusetts do not vote on a statewide sexual duration.
    In other words, if your method of collecting data is crap, what you do with the data is also crap.

  28. 28
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @disabled toilet cubicle:

    Yeah. PZ actually said that. Did you read for comprehension? There are reasons to group a state’s residents for things like voting. What is the reason for thinking that sexual practices vary according to state lines?

    In other words: yes, you’re right that there aren’t necessarily discontinuities at the boundaries, but the question is more like “what makes the app designers think that there’s even possibility of a discontinuity along state lines or that sexual practices will correlate with state government?”

    The question is there to point out the stupidity in making the map in the first place. You’re coming along and saying:

    there’s real data, but that doesn’t mean its presentation in this form means anything or provides any real predictive understanding, dumbass

    when the original post already did you about 3 better. I’d be very careful where you put your dumbass in the future.

  29. 29
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    ledasmom@25 is awesome.

    ALSO…
    Too many people have already commented somewhere along these lines for this to be amusing anymore, but my first thought was that the really interesting information was in the data in the map’s legend combined with the null hypothesis of this app being marketed to and used by a group dominated by straight people.

    I mean, wow, when they talk about how many sexually active female adults don’t orgasm during sexual intercourse with a male partner…could the map’s legend shed any light on that at all?

  30. 30
    ledasmom

    Actually, now I’m kind of upset that I didn’t take the opportunity in my #27 to use “double dumbass on you”.

  31. 31
    chuckonpiggott

    I think PZ ain’t gettin any and he’s jealous.

  32. 32
    Rey Fox

    #31: Believe whatever you want to believe to get you through the night.

  33. 33
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Thank you, chuckonpiggott, for that insightful comment. May I give a small suggestion towards improving your performance?

    Methinks someone’s just jealous cuz he ain’t gettin any.
    would balance the eau de troll and stupid obnoxiousness just right.

  34. 34
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    ledasmom, #30:

    And now I have to double the love….

  35. 35
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    ledasmom
    I’d give you an internet, but the mastodon ate it.

    +++
    7:01 min? How is that meassured.
    I remember an annecdote from my study abroad. One of my American friends complained that one of her housemates would have loud sex every night from 8 o’clock to 8:15 point and that she was angry at her housemate. I said that she should rather pity her…

  36. 36
    Travis

    One of my American friends complained that one of her housemates would have loud sex every night from 8 o’clock to 8:15 point and that she was angry at her housemate. I said that she should rather pity her…

    I had a similar roommate situation, though I never complained or was annoyed by it. It just made me laugh at this bro-tacular engineer was so utterly inadequate.

  37. 37
    Al Dente

    Is this app called “Is it in yet?”

  38. 38
    octopod

    Seven minutes? Maximum? WTFFFF. The stories from Giliell and Travis above could at least be explained by people being loud when only they’re doing particular things. For the OP data, I’ve got nothing.

    On the other hand, I do think I’ve got a suggestion for why they divided it on state lines: If they used any finer resolution, it would expose how sparse their data points are…

  39. 39
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    All these comments and nothing about “If your erection lasts for more than four hours, consult a physician”?

    Sigh. Guess it’s up to me.

    Imagine how small those times would be without the users of erectile dysfunction medications.

  40. 40
    anuran

    Here’s everything you need to know:

    The app costs $1.99
    Every bit of publicity – such as this blog post – makes them money

  41. 41
    opposablethumbs

    Egg timer? Egg timer?!?!? Luxury!!! We ‘ad nowt but drippin’ tap an’ ‘ad t’count t’drops, and you ‘ad to keep one ‘and free to tally ‘em up in scratches on t’wall. And that were t’honeymoon suite and all; most folk only dreamed of ‘avin a tap wi’ actual water in it. Countin’ drips from hole in t’roof, more like!

  42. 42
    opposablethumbs

    … aaaand way too little too late. Should have refreshed before posting … but hey, at least we had a roof. Luxury.

  43. 43
    Hershele Ostropoler

    @35: Can’t decide which is worse, the duration or the rigidly precise scheduling.

  44. 44
    PZ Myers

    Drips from the roof? You had a roof? We had to do it in an open field, and afterwards, they killed me. Said it would make the crops grow, they said.

  45. 45
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    But PZ – Killing males after sex is **natural**! Look at the Praying Mantis! Thus we have established the morality of a female human having a one night stand with a male human and decapitating him immediately after she’s satisfied with his living contributions b/c, y’know, once they’ve come males are worth more dead. Aileen Wuornos’ is a martyr to the oppression of Americans who simply want their children to grow up with positive models of natural sexuality!

    QED!

    I’ve learned so much from NOM. Thank you, Mary Gallagher.

  46. 46
    imthegenieicandoanything

    It’s newspaper cat box filler, to give people who have nothing to talk about the chance to imitate witty banter around whatever their equivalent of Dagwood Bumstead’s water cooler is.

  47. 47
    vaiyt

    For one, they quote Woody Allen as an authority on sex and love.

    That does explain something about the mindset of people who’d make this app…

  48. 48
    knowknot

    - This is more depressing than, I don’t know… Ken Ham or something.
    - That there’s an app that equates noise and thrusting with “sex,” and that there’s anything beyond that fact other than embarrassment and sadness (and maybe therapy) is just… whatever.
    - Noise and thrusting. Grave digging in a war zone.

  49. 49
    chuckonpiggott

    31 & 32: You guys need to fucking chill. I’m sorry I don’t put the snark identifier on that comment.

  50. 50
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    31 & 32: You guys need to fucking chill. I’m sorry I don’t put the snark identifier on that comment

    A snark identifier wouldn’t make you less tedious and unfunny, nor less anticontributing.

  51. 51
    ledasmom

    31 & 32: You guys need to fucking chill. I’m sorry I don’t put the snark identifier on that comment.

    Perhaps, next time, you ought instead to consider putting in some snark.

  52. 52
    randay

    PZ, are you just jealous that Wisconsinites go longer than Minnesotans, like the Packers(good name)go longer than the Vikings? You have an excuse because you are not from either of the states. I am outraged though that Michiganians are alleged to go longer. That’s not possible. The Lions started strong, but were left wanting towards the end. The opposite of the Packers.

    When I was a teenager I probably was really quick, but then I learned about foreplay and oral sex so 7 minutes seems very short to me.

  53. 53
    steffp

    My dear Americans, my heart-felt condolences. A maximum sex duration of 3:38 to 7:01 Minutes?
    That pretty much explains everything…

  54. 54
    feralboy12

    How and where exactly are you supposed to stash the phone on your person so that it can use the accelerometer to measure movement?

    I’ve been wearing mine strapped to my forehead, but for some reason I haven’t had sex recently.

  55. 55
    ledasmom

    Strapped to your forehead? That is miles better than where I had mine.

  56. 56
    David Marjanović

    Thus we have established the morality of a female human having a one night stand with a male human and decapitating him immediately after she’s satisfied

    Only if she eats him. All of him.

    - Noise and thrusting. Grave digging in a war zone.

    *steal*

  57. 57
    ck

    Maybe this is just the maximum duration before the sexual partner of the person using this app either demands that they put the damn phone down, or walks out in disgust?

  58. 58
    Rey Fox

    31 & 32: You guys need to fucking chill.

    #31 is your comment. And I’m calmer than you, dude.

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