Uncovering sexual preferences by data-mining sex-toy sales [NSFW]

UK sex-toy retailer Lovehoney allowed researcher Jon Millward to data-mine its huge database of over 1,000,000 sex-toy purchases and 45,000 reviews, in order to see what he could infer about Britons' sexual proclivities from the things they bought.

Millward worked with a supposedly de-identified data-set, though this is an extremely controversial subject in privacy research — he got first names and order-details, which seem to be difficult to re-identify. In any event, the conclusions he drew, which only work with aggregated numbers and stats, are definitely de-identified. Millward was able to compare the overall data to a smaller set from 60,000 of Lovehoney's reviewer community, which includes gender, marital status, sexual orientation.

Millward focuses on the anal toy category at some length, as it's both a taboo subject and a hot retail category, suggesting that there's a lot behind bedroom doors that we don't talk about.

Men do in fact buy larger dildos at a higher rate than women. The graph on the left shows that dildos under 7.5 inches long are bought at a higher rate by women than men, whereas those over 7.5 are more popular with guys. This isn't a function of sexual orientation, either.

35% of single straight men buy a realistic dildo that is 8 or more inches long (as do 35% of single gay men), compared to 30% of attached straight men, 25% of single straight women and 20% of attached straight women.

Men also buy large butt plugs at a much higher rate than women. Single straight guys are almost five times more likely than single straight women to buy a large butt plug and 76% more likely than attached straight men. Butt plugs with girths of 8 or more inches (which is as thick as a coke can) are bought by 1.8% of women who buy butt plugs, compared to 6.6% of men.

It seems that men like bigger dildos and butt plugs than women, regardless of their relationship status or sexual orientation. But if we're talking about big, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Down the Rabbit Hole: An Analysis of One Million Sex Toy Sales [Jon Millward]

(Thanks, Alice!)