Googling America's Brain

Below the Beltway
By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, May 21, 2006

I spend a lot of time at a computer trying to avoid writing, which means that I make extensive recreational use of Google. For me, Google is a toy with which to tap into the written word of the American people -- and thus to plumb the psyche of the nation. Google turns out to be a septic cesspool in which deviant idiots splash around.

If you are using the Google search engine and your subject is sex, it is virtually impossible to come up with a phrase so banal or absurd that no one has written it before. I keep trying, and failing. I will, for example, type in the word "breasts" preceded by an adjective that no normal person would ever use (say, "rambunctious"), and someone always has. (In the case of "rambunctious breasts," three morons have used it; it will be four after this column gets archived.)

In searching for proof of national sleaze, Google seldom disappoints. There are three times as many hits for the phrase "she moaned" as for the phrase "she imagined."

It's not just sleaze. It's sleaze seasoned by immaturity, and that can be really entertaining if you approach it with a sense of adventure. If you type in the gerund form of the verb "to come" as it is commonly misspelled by vulgarians when used in a sexual context, you get, unsurprisingly, 12 million hits. But if you add a second m -- for emphasis, presumably -- you still get 20,000. Keep trying. It is not until you enter the word with thirty-two consecutive m's that you fail to elicit a single hit.

The reason for this, I think, is that so much of the Web is anonymous. That removes a civilizing filter and exposes the central processing center that often takes over when men's thoughts turn to romance: the iguana brain. The iguana brain is a particularly seedy subset of the lizard brain -- lumpier, scalier and less attractive. This aspect of male psychology is otherwise largely hidden from the other and far more civilized half of the populace.

While participating in an online forum recently, I was asked to estimate how many times during a typical workday the average male might have sexual thoughts when looking at a woman. My estimate, drawn from the personal experience of a happily married, perpetually exhausted 54-year-old man, was "50 to 65." Women thought I was exaggerating for comedic effect; men seemed to understand this was simple journalism. But later that day I received a communication from a guy friend. I'll call him "Randy." Randy contended that I had slandered my gender -- that my estimate was vastly inflated. He argued that the real number of sexual thoughts per typical workday was 12, max.

Now, Randy is a professional colleague. I have known him socially for many, many years. Specifically, I have sat beside him at fancy parties featuring both white wine and ladies in cocktail dresses. So I accused my old friend of lying. (Afterward, I checked Google for "lying breasts." There were 383 hits.)

Anyway, Randy and I continued our discussion as friends and professionals, in true journalistic fashion, seeking only Truth. It turns out that the two of us weren't that far apart, really. It's just that we were employing different definitions of "sexual thoughts."

To me, this qualifies as a sexual thought: "Whoa . . . niiice!"

Not to Randy. To Randy, "Whoa . . . niiice" is no more worthy of note than an eye blink or a hiccup -- to him, "Whoa . . . niiice" is so much a part of the male mental lexicon that it does not actually qualify as a "thought." His definition of a sexual thought apparently requires tactile, auditory and olfactory imagings, stress vectors, angles of inclination, costuming, role-playing, restraints, parasympathetic nerve activity, reverse-angle cinematography and fruit.

Under that particular criterion, we agreed that the estimate of "a dozen" is, in a word, accurate.

I just checked "accurate breasts." There were 170 Google hits.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com.

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