Pornhub Is the Kinsey Report of Our Time

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Waking up on a Sunday morning, I received a text about what happened after I left the previous night’s party. “Everyone got high and we played truth or dare. Ted and Ivan docked.”

“Are you serious?” I replied. “I thought that only happened in porn.” Defined by Urban Dictionary as “the act of placing the head of one’s penis inside the foreskin of another’s penis,” docking is an act that, until that fateful night, nobody at the party had attempted or witnessed firsthand. (Or so they claimed.) But once you know a thing is a thing, sometimes you can’t get it out of your mind. And in a fit of libidinous boredom, or idle curiosity, or lust, or who even knows why anyone does anything anyway — you do that thing. Because that thing exists, and so do you. At some point, someone had to.

On the internet, there is a maxim known as Rule 34, which states: If you can imagine it, there is porn of it. No exceptions. And now that we are solidly into the age of internet pornography, I believe we are ready for another maxim: If there is porn of it, people will try it. (Maybe we can call it Rule 35.) And if people are trying that thing, then inevitably some of them will make videos of that thing and upload those to the internet. The result: an infinitely iterating feedback loop of sexual trial and error. Once upon a time, someone would try something new on film and it would take years to circulate on VHS or DVD through a relatively small community of porn watchers. But today, even the mainstream is porn-literate, porn-saturated, and porn-conversant. For a sexual butterfly effect to take place, you don’t even need to try that thing with your body — you can watch it, text about it, post jokes about it on Tumblr, chat about it on Grindr, masturbate while thinking about it, and type its name into so many search engines as to alter the sexual universe. There is such a thing, now, as a sexual meme — erotic acts and fantasies that replicate and spread like wildfire.

For we are living in a golden age of sexual creativity — an erotic renaissance that is, I believe, unprecedented in human history. Today you can, in a matter of minutes, see more boners than the most orgiastic member of Caligula’s court would see in a lifetime. This is, in itself, enough to revolutionize sexual culture at every level. But seeing isn’t even the whole story — because each of us also has the ability to replicate, share, and reinvent everything we see. Taken as a whole, this vast trove of smut is the Kinsey Report of our time, shedding light on the multiplicity of erotic desires and sexual behaviors in our midst.

Some of these memes can jump into the real-world sex lives of the people watching them. In recent years, a number of sexual memes, ranging from the slightly risqué (spanking) to the more outré (docking) to the simply rude (motorboating), have even landed in the real-world sex lives of people I know. “Is learning to squirt a feminist thing now?” asked a female friend who read a how-to article on a blog. When another friend voiced frustration with hookups who kept “slapping” her vulva during sex, I reacted with horror. “I think they get it from porn,” she said. “But where do the porn people get it?” I asked, arriving at the chicken-or-egg question of our time: Do we fuck this way because of porn, or does porn look like this because it’s how we fuck — or would fuck, if our asses were that firm, our penises that priapic, and we knew how to tie such elaborate knots?

As long as there has been porn, there have been people worrying that porn is damaging sex. I’m not here to join that debate. The deeper we go down the internet-porn wormhole, the more it seems narrow-minded to understand porn exclusively in terms of what kind of sex it “teaches” us to have. Because in the streaming era, the amount and diversity of porn we watch exponentially outpaces that of the sex we have. Porn is bigger than its real-sex analog, and the difference isn’t just volume: The porn we see is weirder, wilder, and more particular than what most of us will ever have — or want — in our own lives. An expansive erotic landscape unto itself, pornography exists adjacent to and in constant conversation with real sex — but is much more capricious and capacious and creative. Pornography is more than a mere causal agent in the way we screw. It has also become a laboratory of the sexual imagination — and as such, it offers insight into a collective sexual consciousness that is in a state of high-speed evolution.

The speed of that evolution may be best observed in the deluge of sexual memes that depart from traditional real-world sexual behavior. In addition to acts like pussy-slapping and ball-squeezing — which could theoretically be included in some crazily updated version of The Joy of Sex — the new generation of sexual memes includes a new set of narrative memes. Pornographic scene-setting, erotic situations, and role-playing are being reinvented, and imaginations have expanded to accommodate a never-ending supply of novel stimuli. Some of these memes seem to live almost entirely within the realm of porn. (Does anybody enjoy being searched by the TSA?) Some may have real-world origins, but have undergone so much reimagining as to approach derivative art. (When homemade-porn versions of the video game Overwatch spiked last year, had there been a preceding spike in dirty talk in the headsets of Overwatch players?) And others are only acceptable when they don’t have real-world analogs. “Is it me or is there way too much stepdaughter porn lately?” a straight man recently asked. He was right, and it doesn’t stop there: In the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, the most popular search term on Pornhub was “stepmom.” Though he said he was “immensely insulted” by the genre, that didn’t prevent him from watching. “If I ignore the title and the girl looks hot, I open it.” And no, “stepsister” porn has not made him feel any different about his sisters, and I can go to hell for asking.

“The internet is for porn,” the rude puppets of Avenue Q sang in 2003. But acquiring and watching internet porn was actually kind of hard back then — images loaded slowly, videos took hours to download, and everything had to be saved in secret folders on your hard drive. On-demand video-streaming platforms were invented only in 2005, when a man named Jawed Karim was searching for videos of Janet Jackson baring her breast at the previous year’s Super Bowl. Frustrated with his findings, Karim joined forces with two colleagues from PayPal and founded YouTube. The site grew rapidly, but just as Janet Jackson teased — but never quite showed — her nipple, YouTube refrained from giving the internet what it really wanted: porn. And so a series of hard-core imitators did their best to replicate YouTube’s model: Xtube, YouPorn, RedTube, and the site that would eventually rule them all, Pornhub. (Literally. Pornhub’s umbrella company, MindGeek, owns all of those sites, now known as the “Pornhub network.”)

The biggest adult website on the planet, Pornhub celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The site serves 75 million visitors each day and is the 40th-most-trafficked website in the world (bigger than Google Canada). In the U.S., it’s the 20th-most-trafficked website. (Bigger than the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, and BuzzFeed.) More than 10 million videos have been uploaded to Pornhub. Watching them all, back to back, would take 173 years. Which means every single person with access to the internet has access to more hard-core porn than she will have time to consume in her mortal life — and more is added every day.

Most porn viewers do not pay for the experience. Their visits are supported by the ads they see (for webcams, paid porn, hookup websites, penis pumps, escorts, boner pills, video games, food delivery, and the occasional clothing brand or Hollywood movie) and by the handful of visitors who, enticed by the free content, end up paying for premium material, either on one of MindGeek’s sites or on sites run by other studios. When streaming sites first launched, they lived largely off amateur and pirated content. But they quickly became so dominant that the studios had to get onboard — albeit with varying levels of enthusiasm — by posting their material in partnership with the tubes, or as preview clips designed to send traffic to their own websites. Today, the massive trove of free smut includes amateur clips uploaded by exhibitionists; semi-professional videos from people who might dabble in webcams or collect occasional royalty-like paychecks from the tubes, and whom Pornhub pays per page view; and those good old-fashioned, studio-produced pornos. (Not that today’s studio-produced pornography looks like the porn of yore, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) And a lot of the old stuff is online, too, categorized as “vintage” and “retro” porn.

How users navigate that material in private — what they choose to watch, in what sequence and for how long — is a sexual-sociological gold mine. MindGeek’s understanding of its users’ autoerotic habits is almost terrifyingly precise. Like Facebook, Google, Netflix, and every other major player online, Pornhub collects and analyzes a staggering amount of user data — some of which it uses, like those other companies, to help curate content and determine what a user sees. Pornhub also publicizes some of its anonymized findings on the company’s data-analytics blog, Pornhub Insights. (Which means the X-rated version of Netflix is actually more casual with its data than the real Netflix. Knowledge of the human condition, in the age of big data, is idiosyncratic and subject to corporate marketing strategies.) To celebrate the website’s tenth anniversary, Pornhub Insights analyzed a decade’s worth of data — and provided access to that data, granting us an unusual peek into the internet’s collective id. And it’s an id that is constantly shape-shifting — sometimes very rapidly. New sexual memes are invented daily, and when they explode in popularity, they can spawn thousands of spinoffs and imitators. And sometimes they fade away just as quickly — another porn fad that came, conquered, and vanished. Overnight.

A large number of the women I know who watch porn watch female massage porn. That is, porn in which a woman receives a massage from a masseuse of any gender, and at some point the masseuse switches from kneading her sore muscles to kneading something else. Few of us want to actually receive an erotic massage — the thought actually makes my skin crawl. Ever since massage porn became ubiquitous in my porn, I have been unable to endure professional, nonerotic massages: The porno version has worn a groove in my psyche that is too deep to ignore. In my mind, massage tables have become sexual apparatuses, and I cannot be near one in the presence of a stranger.

“Massage” enjoyed its first surge in popularity in 2010, and in the course of two years it skyrocketed from the abyss of little-known niche smut to become one of Pornhub’s top-ten search terms in the U.S. Though many studios and amateurs now contribute to the genre, Pornhub’s “Massage Rooms” channel is consistently among the most popular on the site. (On the day I wrote this, it was No. 16, but the rankings change from day to day.) Operated by a paid partner, the channel provides hundreds of 10- to 15-minute videos, free of charge, as recruiting material for their higher-quality pay-per-view services at MassageRooms.com.

Why massage? The appeal, for the women I spoke to, was not narrative but practical. Massage recipients look comfortable, which, for women in porn, is not always a given. (There’s nothing like a horrifyingly contorted hip flexor to distract you with questions like: Does that hurt? Does she do yoga? If I did yoga, could I do that? In 2015, a yoga-themed orgy video drove a massive spike in yoga-themed searches on Pornhub. The appeal, it seems, is the wardrobe: “yoga pants,” “ripped yoga pants,” and “tight yoga pants” were all more popular than “naked yoga.”) Female erotic-massage recipients are relaxed, enjoying themselves, and receiving pleasure from what amounts, ideally, to a pair of disembodied hands. There aren’t really story lines. You don’t have to search reams of videos to find a suitable set of partners. The genre’s conventions simplify the viewing experience. All that remains is the dedicated depiction of successful female arousal and pleasure. (A similar effect could contribute to lesbian pornography’s popularity with all women. “Lesbian” is the most-viewed category for women in most of the Americas, and Pornhub reports that North American women are 186 percent more likely to search for lesbian porn than men.) Of course, the genre has been reinvented in a thousand different ways, but there’s a principle here worth exploring: As we are consumers of pornography, our viewing patterns are undeniably part of our erotic lives, but that doesn’t mean our porn lives are part of our sex lives — at least, not directly.

Instead, pornography trains us to redirect sexual desire as mimetic desire. That is, the sociological theory — and marketers’ dream — that humans learn to want what they see. In porn terms: If you build it, they will come. Women who want to see images of female sexual pleasure learn to use “massage” as a shortcut to find it, triggering a feedback loop that brings them more massage porn and encourages pornographers to make more of it. “We license content from studios based on our users’ viewing habits,” Pornhub vice-president Corey Price said, explaining how the company uses its data. “We regularly send reports to our content partners featuring top searches in various regions so they can better cater to users.” What may look like a pure marketplace of desire that rewards the most popular erotic content is, of course, also a corporate environment shaped by investment decisions, marketing strategies, and studio leverage. And even the data that informs executives like Price doesn’t necessarily contain answers to why a genre is popular, just that it is. Many of these trends seem to be self-contained. Whether massage porn had shown up in 2008, 2010, or 2012, it would have been equally appealing.

Other memes don’t stick — but are still nostalgic reminders of pornography’s power to unleash our sexual imaginations. Remember “Big Sausage Pizza”? In the early days of online porn, Big Sausage Pizza was a studio that showed a giggling pizza deliveryman conspiring with a friend who, viewers were led to believe, was holding the camera to record a prank. The deliveryman would contrive a reason to sit down and put the pizza on his lap — and open the top to reveal his own tumescent penis, popping up through a hole cut in the pizza. Fellatio in proximity to melted cheese would ensue.

Big Sausage Pizza did not last. Though pizza-delivery guys are still a staple in the autoerotic landscape (in a blog post last year, Pornhub reported that “pizza” was searched about 500,000 times each month), other gimmicks have taken over. Take, for instance, Pornhub’s most popular studio of 2014, Fake Taxi. This studio shoots what amounts to fairly conventional heterosexual sex scenes — a man and a woman meet for the first time and end up engaging in a variety of acts. Sometimes commerce comes into play — maybe the woman ran out of money and pays with sexual favors instead. The narratives end up similar to those in Big Sausage Pizza, as well as other porno tropes designed to manufacture a reason for a strange man to show up at a mansion to fuck someone else’s wife — because she ordered food, or had a leaky faucet, or needed the pool cleaned. (And maybe she ran out of cash, or couldn’t flee, or was just horny.) But today’s porn studios are rarely working with budgets that allow decadent settings and sweeping camera angles. Stranger-sex in the tube-porn era takes place in the back seat of a car on the side of an empty road, with fixed dashboard and point-of-view cameras. Similar moods appear in videos where women are pulled over by big-dicked cops who join them in the back seats of their cars; are selected for additional screening at the airport; and get into sexual situations during job interviews in tiny offices with no windows. (Think of all the overhead you save by filming in a neon-lit cubicle instead of a sunlit mansion.) An efficient sexual meme can use one narrative (say, traffic cop) to satisfy a multiplicity of desires (strangers, authority figures, uniforms, power dynamic, female desperation, and other categories you never knew existed, much less would have tried to find). The new setups look different from the old ones, but ultimately they’re designed to stimulate a not-dissimilar set of tastes.

Another exemplar of the fixed-space stranger-sex genre comes from a studio called Backroom Casting Couch, which blew up in 2010. All of the videos were filmed on a black leather sofa in a nondescript room, and were structured to sound like an interview for an erotic-modeling job. The male interviewer instructs the model to strip, then cajoles her into a variety of sex acts. Usually, the fact that she’s “never done this before” gets played up — she gets to be both the virgin and the whore, a naïf who has never been bad before but can be persuaded to do so now. (It’s “Blurred Lines” for people who think sexual harassment can be hot.) Or, more accurately, tricked into doing so. The company’s slogan articulates the story’s central conceit: “There is no modeling job.” In reality, of course, there is a job — the job is the porn. A handful of performers have gone on the record after the fact to confirm that they signed up for porn (and got paid for it, too). But the Backroom Casting fantasy is about the acquisition of undeserved sexual capital, paired with the amateur feel of a “real man” documenting those conquests. After Backroom Casting made it big, the Pornhub Network expanded to include the studio Reality Kings, which was one of the first to use the shaky-camera porn vérité that characterizes so many of these “Blurred Lines” subgenres. The network also distributes content from Fakehub, which produces Fake Taxi as well as Fake Cop, Fake Driving School, and Fake Agent. Ten years into the streaming era, and we are many generations of porn evolution beyond basic generic categories like “orgy,” “milf,” and “teen.” Not that the classics don’t persist — just that the categories have gotten much more detailed and sophisticated.

In fact, the variations can seem infinite. By putting “fake” in its title, Fake Agent probably grabs up viewers who have the same basic tastes as Backroom Casting Couch fans but don’t like the cognitive dissonance created by the vérité marketing. Acknowledging the artifice excuses viewers who might feel uneasy with the fantasy or need reassurance that no real coercion is taking place. (Some videos even feature before-and-after interviews with the performers, explaining what’s real and what isn’t. Of course, sometimes those interviews can turn into performances in their own right. Pornography is a very self-aware medium.) Fakehub’s narratives also provide an excuse for tapping into the moods found in amateur pornography. “Amateur” is Pornhub’s third-most-popular category of all time, and in 2009, the company launched the Pornhub Community to encourage the DIY set. Though piracy may have taken a bite out of the porn industry’s profits, the rise of amateur pornography both cut into the market and revealed the market’s appetite for tastes that had long been ignored. Turns out a lot of people weren’t as excited about watching improbably perfect bodies engaging in unbelievably acrobatic acts in impossibly decadent settings as the porn industry had led us to think; they often really wanted the lo-fi realism of normal people in their messy bedrooms. In 2013, a data scientist named Jon Millward analyzed 10,000 performer bios on the Internet Adult Film Database and found that the “typical” female porn star was not the fake-boobed blonde of stereotypes but a five-foot-five-inch brunette with a B-cup. (She was, however, 48 pounds lighter than the average American woman. Similarly, the average male performer was of average height but less-than-average weight.)

Sometimes a sexual meme’s rise can have as much to do with curiosity as with libido — but will end up with real staying power. Such may be the case with cuckolding, a fetish genre in which a man watches his wife have sex with another man as a means of emasculation. (Or to manufacture a “homosexual alibi,” as Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men author Jane Ward argues in an analysis of the video series “Cum-Eating Cuckolds.” After watching his wife have sex with a rival, the cuck “must submit to both of them in order to keep his wife,” ultimately by swooping in once the sex is done and ingesting the other man’s semen. It’s called “cleanup,” and it’s the third-most-common search term to be paired with “cuckold,” after “humiliation” and “amateur.”) “Every month, 1.75 million people search some variation of ‘cuckold,’ ‘cuck,’ or ‘cucked’ on Pornhub,” the Pornhub Insights blog observed last year, when “cuck” crossed into politics as an alt-right insult designed to emasculate right-wing moderates. But whereas other news-driven search terms will spike in popularity when the public first finds out about them, then drop back to their previous baseline, cuck porn hasn’t dropped all the way back down. Sometimes you don’t know you’re into that thing until you stumble across it after listening to The Rush Limbaugh Show — and then you can’t let go.

Cuck videos frequently have racial dynamics — white men eroticize their anxiety about black-male sexuality by creating humiliation fantasies that involve sexually superior black rivals. Porn has always been a place for indulging irrational, secret, and socially unacceptable desires — which makes it a place where people feel free to let their racial prejudices and fantasies run wild, too. Porn is a theater of the id, and America’s id is racist. To browse pornography is to stroll through a library of stereotypes that can be viscerally and unshakably disturbing. For the past decade, seeing women who look like me — Asian women — in sexual contexts has meant seeing women who look like me being abused, dominated, and defiled. Is this how people see me? I used to wonder, but perhaps the most disturbing realization is that I don’t ask that question anymore. I was in college when the first tube sites launched, and I remember telling a friend that I had been browsing the “Asian” section of a free porn site looking for women who looked like me. The color drained from his face. “Don’t do that,” he said. “It’s masochistic in a way that’s really disturbing. You need to stop.” When did Asian-fetish porn stop bothering me? Did I get better at compartmentalizing? Did the porn get gentler? Have I become jaded? Or have I settled into a bleak form of sexual pragmatism — just as I have learned to set aside ethical and aesthetic irritations in the name of having fun on the dance floor even when “Blurred Lines” is playing, I have learned to look past racially dubious imagery. (Literally, I move my eyes past it as quickly as possible.) That’s just how this dance floor is, and apparently I don’t care enough to quit or find a new one.

Of course, politically incorrect racial fantasia aren’t the only eroticized taboo. For several years, culture writers have been trying to figure out why incest porn is so unstoppable. Some argue that in the game of ever-escalating taboo-busting, incest is the last and most intractable taboo — it always titillates. The fact that the genre has, in the past decade, included lightning-rod performances from actual sets of twins (and other possible blood relations) seems to bolster that theory. But in its most popular incarnations, I’d argue that “stepdaughter,” “stepmom,” and “stepsibling” porn has less in common with incest than it does with Fakehub. Since everyone knows the performers aren’t actually family members, words like “stepdaughter” function as a dysphemism — that is, the opposite of a euphemism. (In other words: a way to have your taboo-flavored creampie and eat it, too.) It’s a more offensive way to announce a number of stepdaughter-adjacent qualities, like youth and innocence. My friend who complained about “stepdaughter” porn might not like the imaginary leaps that stepdaughter porn invites him to take, but if he’s already watching young-looking actresses feigning innocence with older men, can he really blame Pornhub for offering, as his next video, a girl with pigtails cooing “daddy”?

As technology has breathed life into fantasies ranging from familiar to recognizable-but-iterated-into-weirdness to utterly strange, it has also helped create a few outright. Take the tenth-most-popular Pornhub category of all time: hentai, a Japanese term that literally means “transformation” and refers to perversion. But for English-speaking porn consumers, it’s the catchall term for anime and manga porn. The “transformations” depicted in hentai are sometimes anatomical — eyes bigger than feet, breasts the size of heads, penises thicker than waists. Cartoon imaginations can go places that special effects cannot — including fantastical paranormal pairings and supernatural beings that combine the sexy human shapes with candy-colored fur and animal horns, ears, and tails. Meanwhile, the mind’s eye is free to go where cameras cannot — like a cutaway rendering of a woman’s uterus as a Godzilla-like monster fills it with semen. Body parts can morph mid-sex, swelling and shrinking and shape-shifting in ways that make the most fantastical works of Western literature, like Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver’s Travels, seem quite basic. But the bigger change is in audience. Literary erotica — from the Marquis de Sade to Nicholson Baker — was similarly playful but reached a fraction of the audience that a video that winds up on Pornhub’s front page will in, like, minutes.

The legacy of Sade is certainly visible on Pornhub — even though, for all its abundance, it’s a site defined primarily by mainstream taste. The free-porn model relies not only on a large quantity of low-cost and amateur porn but on preview-length clips provided by studios serving a number of smaller niches. Since the vast majority of people don’t pay to watch porn, the content they consume is essentially being paid for by the slim minority whose spending is lucrative enough to keep the enterprise afloat — and that group skews to the niche, fringe, and extreme. For those people, all 10 million videos on Pornhub are just a preview, and I mean that quite literally: Most professional studios provide teaser content to tube sites willingly, which means if the porn looks elaborate and expensive, it probably is, which means that the handful of people who are into that type of porn are probably really into it. Which brings us to Kink.com.

Asked how he discovered bondage, Kink.com founder Peter Acworth cites the ropes and lassos in Western movies from his youth. Every time the cowboys and Indians tied each other up, Peter would get excited. His first foray into adult entertainment was a series of bondage videos he uploaded to the web from his Columbia University dorm room in 1997, which he posted to a site called Hogtied. (The models were nude, but bondage and sex were kept strictly separate. Back then, hard-core bondage was verboten.) Today, Hogtied is one of the 34 channels packaged together on Kink.com; a month’s access costs $50. Other offerings include Foot Worship; Men in Pain; Whipped Ass; Struggling Babes; Electrosluts (which involves tasers, cattle prods, and electric shocks); TS Pussy Hunters (transwomen dominating ciswomen); TS Seduction (transwomen dominating cismen); Naked Kombat (male wrestling where the winner tops the loser); and Ultimate Surrender (female wrestling where the winner tops the loser with a strap-on).

Whereas Backroom Casting Couch and Fake Taxi stay in business in the age of free porn by keeping production costs low, companies like Kink do it by catering to highly specific tastes, which viewers are often more willing to spend on. If your thing is skinny girls having vanilla sex with strangers, you don’t need to pay for porn. Designing specific experiences for fans, though, like private webcam shows and personalized clips, can be highly lucrative. In 2014, Kink auctioned a one-hour cam session with Maitresse Madeline, a dominatrix. The winning bid was $42,000. Niche audiences have a harder time finding their thing at volumes great enough to titillate and surprise on a regular basis, or maybe they’re just more dedicated — it’s hard to say. Either way, the business works much as Pornhub does: by giving the audience a taste for things they didn’t know they wanted until they saw them.

Consider the fucking machine. It’s a mechanized device for, well, fucking a person, usually by pumping a dildo in and out of one or more orifices. (Chain-saw-like machines lined with tongues are also popular.) Sometimes the setup involves gynecological stirrups, a specially designed seat, and straps or cuffs binding the performer to the machine — these machines can be very elaborate. Kink’s first piston-powered machine was made by an engineer Acworth found on Craigslist. But such machines have a tendency to multiply: Immediately after the first machine’s debut, fans started building their own and shipping them to the company’s old office in the San Francisco Armory. The machines ranged from an X-rated and fully operational replica of Short Circuit’s Johnny 5, to a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dildo, to a Pilates reformer with phallic accessories, to a rotary-operated ass-tapper that resembles a pump-jack oil rig.

Were people fantasizing about fucking machines before Kink prompted them to? Sure, probably. Several of the machines in Kink’s two mechanized porn channels — Fucking Machines and Butt Machine Boys — resemble images from “The Fornicon,” a suite of erotic drawings Tomi Ungerer published in the 1960s. (Ungerer is also famous for illustrating fairy tales.) But some portion of the audience are people who never imagined a fucking machine until they saw one on the internet. These machines provide novel stimulus for fans of solo sex, dildos, extreme penetration, and uncontrollable orgasms. (Not to mention fans of Short Circuit, baking, and Pilates.)

I do not like fucking machines. Initially, I attributed this to my gender. Surely this is a straight-male fantasy, I thought. It’s about performance anxiety, or the male desire to make women orgasm without exerting oneself or risking failure. Many of the machines advertised on Kink would seem to require poses involving the aforementioned hip-flexor issue. But Fucking Machines is the second-most-popular channel among Kink’s female audience. A spin through Kink’s message boards reveals that the appeal can be quite similar to massage porn — minimum plot, maximum pleasure — but for women who are more sexually intense (and perhaps more flexible) than I. One woman’s extreme-penetration fucking machine is another woman’s gentle massage.

And one man’s fetish is another man’s party trick. Reached for comment, the men who docked that Saturday night maintain that they did it merely for the LOLs. “The whole thing started because we had a vacation rental with an actual dock,” Ted said. “Ever since someone made a dock-on-dock pun, we’ve had dock on the brain.” Neither man had a boner. There was no foreplay. (Recognizing that the public may struggle to accept their penis-in-penis innocence, Ted and Ivan requested pseudonyms, which I have granted.) Just two men inserting the heads of their penises into one another’s foreskins. They were in a weird mood. They’d seen it on the internet. Why not?

*This article appears in the June 12, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.

Pornhub Is the Kinsey Report of Our Time