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the Complete Review
the complete review - sex

     

A Billion Wicked Thoughts

by
Ogi Ogas
and
Sai Gaddam


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the authors

To purchase A Billion Wicked Thoughts



Title: A Billion Wicked Thoughts
Authors: Ogi Ogas, Sai Gaddam
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2011
Length: 249 pages
Availability: A Billion Wicked Thoughts - US
A Billion Wicked Thoughts - US (Kindle)
A Billion Wicked Thoughts - UK
A Billion Wicked Thoughts - Canada
A Billion Wicked Thoughts - India
  • What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire
  • Foreword by Catherine Salmon

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining survey of Internet-use (and sex)

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Nation . 30/5/2011 JoAnn Wypijewski
The NY Times Book Rev. . 31/7/2011 Wesley Yang
Publishers Weekly . 28/3/2011 .
The Washington Post . 14/7/2011 Diana McLellan


  From the Reviews:
  • "It’s a racier, pretentious Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus -- and nonsense. There is no map of the brain that traces the complexity of thought to gender-specific neurological bundles, and no way to unravel the complex processes by which the brain conjures curiosities that may or may not slide into sexual fantasies; fantasies that are pure mind games; imaginative play that corresponds to actual desires; desires that propel people to actual behavior; behavior that may have myriad shades of meaning to those involved." - JoAnn Wypijewski, The Nation

  • "But there is no sense in scrutinizing for consistency a farrago like this book. Its value lies elsewhere -- not as a scientific tract, but as a cultural document. (...) The authors implicitly assert pornog­raphy has become so ubiquitous that we can now treat it as if it were simply a natural part of human behavior, with no outside perspective from which to criticize or condemn it. Their easy confidence with this assertion is a new thing in the world, their book a fully realized projection of what it would mean to inhabit that world without regret." - The New York Times Book Review

  • "Although striving to titillate and be cute (using Elmer Fudd and Miss Marple as male and female metaphors, for example), this study can be maddeningly vague ("many men," "very popular") as it offers some insights amid mostly familiar observations." - Publishers Weekly

  • "The book’s tone is slightly strained, bobbling awkwardly between blokey-jokey and teachy-preachy. That’s understandable. The authors perforce use all the very rude words the online questers do, and so feel compelled to boomerang back to an almost comical gentility." - Diana McLellan, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A Billion Wicked Thoughts offers a look at human sexual desire and interests that's based on what the authors see as a wealth of new, revealing material. One problem in doing sex-research is that it's difficult to get people -- especially a representative selection of test subjects -- to participate, and to get them to be honest about their predilections and perversions. Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam think they've found a way around much of this, basing their research on Internet-trails:

     We sifted through a billion different Web searches, including half a million personal search histories. We analyzed hundreds of thousands of online erotic stories and thousands of romance e-novels. We looked at the forty thousand most trafficked adult Web sites. We examined more than 5 million sexual solicitations posted on online classifieds. We listened to thousands of people discussing their desires on online message boards.
       As the order of magnitude of these numbers suggests, there was clearly a lot of number- and data-crunching going on, rather than closer examination. Indeed, a lot of this boils down to keywords and the like -- fair (and interesting) enough, but well worth remembering before one begins to take these results too seriously (i.e., obviously a lot of nuances get lost in the number/data-crunching).
       Limited to Internet users and, apparently, English-language searches, the demographics obviously also fall far short of universal. What demographics there are also surely aren't entirely clear-cut: on the Internet, after all, no one knows you're a dog, so it's hard to determine whether a user is male or female, too. (Ogas and Gaddam do address many of these issues -- noting, for example, that porn-site membership is so rarely paid for by credit cards with female names on them that it raises a red flag for companies when one is -- but there are far too many to really adequately account for them.)
       Ogas and Gaddam see their findings as very revealing; that they are -- but equating what people look for on the Internet to their sexual desires surely isn't quite so straightforward. If nothing else, A Billion Wicked Thoughts is a fascinating compendium of what people do seek out on the Internet, as the lists of most popular searches, as well as selected individual search histories, make for amusing reading. As to actual insights that can be drawn from them about sex -- well, even Ogas and Gaddam largely stick to generalizations.
       That men prefer visual and instant stimuli and women prefer stories is one thing they harp on -- and obviously also affects the entire study: male searches for images that excite them are much easier to pick up on (and number-crunch) than anything narrative. It's not surprising that they are able to read into the statistics that men prefer women with a bit more heft to them, and that men are more attracted to women in certain age ranges -- with older women rating right after teens. Other findings are a bit odder and require more explanation, such as heterosexual men's fascination with penises (not just their own) and homosexual men being attracted to men who are perceived as straight engaging in homosexual acts.
       Ogas and Gaddam gamely do offer explanations for all their different findings -- though the efforts to present this all in an amusing and approachable way frequently gets the better of them ("We've dubbed this female neural system the Miss Marple Detective Agency"). Combining their findings with other, more tangible sex-research they focus on the familiar, simple picture: men are hound-dogs who are aroused by and willing to mount pretty much anything (and, in fact, can apparently be trained to be aroused by literally anything, at least for a while), while women are much more careful and hesitant about spreading it around. (They note that women have a "dissociation between mind and body", as even when they are physically aroused, women often are not psychologically aroused.)
       There are other conclusions and observations, but the male/female difference in sex-drive and -interest is the one that it repeatedly boils down to. All well and good, but inevitably there's a lot of generalization here, as Ogas and Gaddam really throw a lot into this mix. More significantly, there's fairly little emphasis on the particular nature of the Internet and how it is used -- as well as the fact that one has to be careful in equating fantasy and real-life. And social, cultural, and legal forces and circumstances are pretty much entirely ignored -- despite how much these shape how desire can manifest itself (and, arguably, shape desire itself (though Ogas and Gaddam seem generally very dismissive of that idea)) --, as the focus is almost entirely on the biological.
       A light, approachable read (though also well-annotated -- there are over fifty pages of endnotes -- and with an extensive bibliography (eighty pages !) for those who want to pursue the subjects in greater depth), A Billion Wicked Thoughts gives some insight into 'human desire' but should also be handled with care. Ultimately, there's more insight into web-surfing habits than sex alone here; still, it makes for decent entertainment value.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 May 2011

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Links:

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: Reviews: Ogi Ogas: Sai Gaddam: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       Ogi Ogas lives in Boston.

       Sai Gaddam divides his time between Boston and Hyderabad.

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© 2011 the complete review

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