Examining the structure of male sexual interests

Sexuality keeps coming up in this Blanchardian sphere of gender research, and so it would be nice to have an overview of how it works. Fortunately, Pasha, the creator of the /r/AskAGP subreddit, recently did a HUGE survey on /r/SampleSize, where ~1000 people responded to 84 different sexual fantasy items2. Since the structure of male and female sexuality seems to differ, in this post I will focus on the responses from the 494 cisgender men who responded.

A good starting point for understanding a domain of variables is factor analysis1. Factor analysis tries to model the data using a lower number of “factors” which group together the variables that are highly correlated, thereby abstracting the data and revealing large-scale structures. I can then inspect the fantasies that it lumps together, and name the factors to summarize the results in a readable way. Here are the results for applying factor analysis using 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8 factors:

Bass-ackwards factor analysis applied to the male sexuality data. Each level represents a factor analysis. At the first level, I extracted one factor; at the second level, I extracted two, and so on. The boxes at the bottom show some of the items that were assigned to each factor. The arrows between the levels show how the factors correlate between the different factor analyses.

At the final level, there were eight factors; which I tend to think of in two groups, four “broad” factors that I assume shape everything else, and four “narrow” factors that I assume are less important for sexuality in general (though they may be very important in specific contexts). I picked names for the broad factors using the following reasoning:

  • One very consistent factor was characterized by a very large number of generic partnered sex acts. This seems core to the definition of allosexuality (sexual attraction to other people), so therefore I labelled it Allosexuality.
  • The second most consistent factor was primarily characterized by androgynous men. This made it seem like it denoted attraction to feminine men. However, it was also heavily characterized by masculine men, and it was negatively characterized by women (i.e. those who scored higher in this factor were less attracted to women). The feminine men were also secondarily placed on a different factor relating to androgyny, so therefore I decided to label this factor Homosexuality.
  • A third very stable factor contained a variety of items relating to wild sex with many strangers. This seemed reminiscent of what social scientists call sociosexuality (essentially meaning promiscuity or “sluttiness”), so therefore I labelled the factor Sociosexuality.
  • Fourth, all the way there appeared to be a factor that contained a variety of peculiar sexual interests that did not seem to be particularly defined or characterized by any common theme. My assumption is that this factor reflects the General Factor Of Paraphilia, so therefore I labelled it Paraphilia.

I picked names for the narrow factors using the following reasoning:

  • One factor involved oneself being the opposite sex, often combined with various sex acts. On this blog, it is well-known that this represents Autogynephilia, a sexual interest in being a woman.
  • A related factor involved attraction to masculine women. It also to an extent involved attraction to feminine women, but my suspicion is that this is due to the factor analysis getting confused by bisexuals. Furthermore, androgynous men seemed to have a secondary loading on this factor. Therefore I emphasized the Androgyny part more than for the Homosexuality factor, and named it Androgyny/Gynephilia.
  • A well-known factor that popped up involved bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism. Therefore I named it BDSM.
  • Finally, another factor that came up involved things with zoophilic and pedophilic themes, as well as themes involving bodily waste. Furthermore, my experience with looking at other survey data on sexuality makes me have some suspicions about what would also have been included if the items had been there, and that makes me label the factor Disgust/Taboo.

These generally seem like some reasonably interpretable factors. Furthermore, while it was difficult to fit into a diagram, it appeared I could coherently continue the factor analysis further, to 15 factors. An image can be seen here, but to summarize it split as follows:

  • Allosexuality remained as it was before
  • Homosexuality remained as it was before
  • The Disgust/Taboo factor split into three parts; a relatively pure Pedophilia/Ageplay factor, a Bodily Waste factor, and a Nonhuman Anthropomorphic factor.
  • The BDSM factor split into four parts; two relatively pure factors involving Submission/Masochism and Dominance/Sadism, plus the Bodily Waste factor, plus something that appeared to be a Fetishism factor (involving latex and leather)
  • The Paraphilia factor continued with a difficult to interpret generic Paraphilia factor, but it also spun off three other factors, namely a Fetishism factor, a Roleplay factor, and a Transvestism factor.
  • The Sociosexuality factor continued with a general Sociosexuality factor, but seemed to spin off a Roleplay factor as well as a factor that appeared to involve bimbos or body modifications.
  • The Androgyny/Gynephilia factor continued into an Androgyny/Gynephilia factor in the final layer, but it also appeared to reduce interest in a factor seemingly related to Transvestism.
  • The Autogynephilia seemed to split into an anatomic Autogynephilia factor and a Transvestism factor.

The full factor analysis can be seen here.

Towards a new general factor of paraphilia (GFP) measure

I have an idea for how to empirically prove that autogynephilia causes gender issues, but in order for the idea to work, I need some variable that influences autogynephilia. This study of paraphilias gives a good candidate for it. To see why, let’s recap some principles.

Almost all paraphilias are positively correlated with each other. This indicates that they have some sort of common underlying causes. If we lump all of these causes together into a single variable, then this variable is usually labelled the General Factor of Paraphilia. Of course, this is not very useful unless we can actually measure the variable. But fortunately, there’s an easy way of measuring it: simply measure a broad variety of the narrower paraphilias, and average them together. Causes that are specific to individual paraphilias will then disappear in the averaging, while causes that are common to all paraphilias will add up.

Because of the rich factor structure discovered in the previous section, it is important to sample paraphilias from a broad variety of factors, so that we don’t just end up measuring the narrower factors. Studies I’ve seen of the topic often fail to do this, and instead seem to sample mainly from the BDSM and Disgust/Taboo factors. In theory, this reduces the accuracy of their general factor measure.

To attempt to do better, I sampled paraphilias from a broad variety of factors. The correlation matrix can be seen here:

Correlation matrix between a broad range of paraphilic interests.

As described in previous posts, I then extracted the general factor of paraphilia, and looked at the correlations that remained after controlling for it. This yielded the following matrix:

Correlations after controlling for the general factor of paraphilia.

To shorten the list and obtain a purer measure, I then removed a number of items due to them being too correlated with other items on the list:

  • Anal penetration was too correlated with bondage, and so I removed anal penetration.
  • Attraction to women wearing men’s clothes was too correlated with autogynephilia. If I was optimizing purely for a measure of GFP, I would remove autogynephilia, but since the idea is to use this in conjunction with autogynephilia measures, I instead removed attraction to women wearing men’s clothes to avoid getting at anything too specific to this.
  • Having a cigarette-smoking partner was not very correlated with the GFP, but was relatively correlated with humiliation masochism, and so therefore I removed it.
  • Nyotaimori was too correlated with doctor roleplay, and therefore I removed it.
  • Flashing was not very correlated with the GFP, but was a bit too correlated with other variables for my liking, especially since it is a courtship disorder and therefore might be controversial to ask about in a survey. Therefore I removed it.
  • Bearded women were not very correlated with the GFP, but they were correlated with attraction to nippleless partners and to statues, so therefore to avoid introducing extra noise, I removed them from the list.
  • Similarly, balloons were mostly uncorrelated with the general factor of paraphilia, but were too correlated with latex and were therefore removed.
  • Getting peed on was correlated with humiliation masochism and therefore removed.
  • Making your partner adhere to a diet was mostly independent of the GFP, and was vaguely correlated to a variety of other things, and so was removed.
  • It might be worthwhile to investigate having sex with a religious figure. I removed it at this step because it was correlated with interest in sex with older partners, but as you will see, that item got removed at a later step in this test construction, and therefore this could be revisited.
  • Cat ears were removed due to it correlating with a variety of other items.

This yielded the following items:

New selection of GFP items.

To further evaluate the items, it seemed appropriate to analyze them together with Allosexuality and Sociosexuality items, to ensure that they interact well. Upon doing so, some problems popped up:

Correlations between paraphilia items, sociosexuality items, and allosexuality items.

The bondage item appeared to be strongly associated with sociosexuality and allosexuality. The item about sex with older partners appeared to be strongly associated with sociosexuality. And the item about sucking on your partner’s tongue was strongly associated with allosexuality. Therefore, to achieve a cleaner paraphilia measure, these items were removed. I fit a confirmatory factor model to a reduced set of items, and it seemed to achieve a not-too-terrible fit. Thus the final set of items are:

  • Imagining being a member of the opposite sex
  • Having your partner call you slurs or insults
  • Imagining having sex with a vampire
  • Having your partner wear latex
  • Having a sexual partner with no nipples (blank skin where the nipples would be)
  • Rubbing your genitals on a piece of furniture
  • Having surgery to modify your body to be more erotic to your partner
  • Touching a naked statue
  • Pretending that you are a patient and your partner is your doctor as sexual role play

These are my current best attempt to make a brief general factor of paraphilia measure. For the psychometrically inclined, it has an alpha of 0.67, which is not so good, and indicates that the measure could use improvement. However, to me it seems like a reasonable starting point to work from.

Who are the paraphiles?

It might be nice to get some idea of how paraphilias relate to other variables. Let’s start with other sexual interests. It is commonly claimed by Blanchardians that different sexual interests compete, so that if one is more into one thing, then one becomes less into other things. I found no trace of this in the sexuality survey, with the general factor of paraphilia instead being highly correlated with allosexuality all across the spectrum:

Essentially it was rare for participants to be paraphilic without being allosexual. The only form of paraphilia that I found evidence for being negatively associated with allosexuality was the disgust/taboo cluster of paraphilias.

Most likely, the correlation here is underestimated due to sampling effects; since this was a survey with a huge number of sexual fantasies, there wasn’t much reason for asexual or low-libido people to participate, and so they may end up undersampled. On the other hand, reddit has much higher rates of paraphilias than the general population, and this may lead to a higher correlation, due to there being more variance to examine.

I also found paraphilias to be even more correlated with sociosexuality. It might be entertaining to think about whether sociosexuality should be considered to be a paraphilia; it seemed like there were some paraphilias that it ended up closer to than it did to allosexuality.

I also decided to look at some group membership. I’ve heard some anecdotes and seen some studies to suggest that autism might be associated with paraphilias. However, when looking into it, I didn’t find much effect:

Shifts in paraphilic and other sexual interests for autistic men. The left three variables are the general factor of paraphilia, allosexuality, and sociosexuality (measured in standard deviation units), while the variables on the right are the specific paraphilias used to estimate the GFP (measured in absolute units). Black bars represent standard errors in the estimate. The numbers in the title refer to the sample size for autistic vs non-autistic men.

If anything, the main thing characterizing autistic men is that they were much less allosexual than non-autistic men. My hunch is that this is the key; being less allosexual, the proportion of paraphilic to normophilic activities they engage in will be paraphilic-skewed.

Another group of interest would be polyamorous men:

Shift in paraphilic and other sexual interests for polyamorous men.

As can be seen, they are much more sociosexual, but also much more paraphilic, than monogamous men. This matches previous observations that I have seen about polyamorous people having a kink for their partner having sex with someone else.

I’ve seen some people suppose that homosexuality is a paraphilia. However, this doesn’t really seem to be so; or at least, gay men don’t seem all that particularly paraphilic:

Shift in paraphilic and other sexual interests for gay men.

Bisexual men, on the other hand, seem to be more paraphilic:

Shift in paraphilic and other sexual intersts for bisexual men.

This matches a hunch I’ve had for a while that bisexuality and homosexuality are more orthogonally related than continuously related. That is, I suspect that bisexuality results from a great level of sexual flexibility, or something like that.

We were also interested in the relationship between paraphilias and intelligence. Anecdotally, there seems to be a correlation between the two, with many of the communities that are highly paraphilic being known to also be highly intelligent. We had two measures of intelligence; first, we had asked people if they had ever taken an IQ test, and if so, what their score was; and secondly, we asked if they had taken the SAT, and if so, what their score was. The score was asked in broad buckets, with IQ being scored in buckets of 10 and SAT being scored in buckets of 100. Of the people who reported scores, most reported far above average, so YMMV if you believe that reddit is full of geniuses. But if you do believe the data, then I can say that there was moderate correlation between the two cognitive scores, at r~0.36. To get an overall cognitive score, I averaged them together.

Scatterplot containing intelligence and paraphilias. To reduce the degree to which points overlap due to low measurement fidelity, I did some slight reweighting before taking the averages so they would be more noisy, but there is probably still overlap.

There was no correlation between intelligence and paraphilias, r~-0.02. So there goes that theory.

Attraction to androgyny

A final thing to investigate is the structure of attraction to androgyny. In surveys I often find I want to ask about attraction to androgynous people, but I don’t know what dimensions exactly to include. On my request, this survey included a bunch of androgynous archetypes, and so I can factor-analyze them:

  • a woman who has a full beard and a lot of body hair
  • an otherwise feminine woman who is mainly into penetrating you using a strapon
  • an assertive, muscular woman with masculine interests (a tomboy)
  • an ambitious career-focused woman who has a high position in a business job
  • an “Amazonian” woman; a woman who is taller and stronger than you are
  • a woman who exclusively wears masculine clothes, has short hair, is socially dominant, coarse, and has masculine interests
  • a nerdy woman who is awkward and not very interested in people
  • a woman who has small breasts and narrow hips
  • a man who has very effeminate, “campy” mannerisms and speech (but who still presents masculine)
  • a physically androgynous man who often wears women’s clothes (a femboy)
  • a very short, narrow-shouldered man with a soft face
  • a sweet/caring unambitious man who wants to be a househusband and start a family
  • an otherwise masculine man who is mainly into being anally penetrated by you
  • a sensitive/emotional artistic man, who is physically slender and tends to daydream
  • a physically masculine man who finds it hot to wear women’s clothes during sex
  • a pre-operative passing trans woman (MtF, a feminine-looking woman with a penis)
  • a pre-operative passing trans man (FtM, a masculine-looking man with a vagina)
  • a passing trans woman who has had surgery to get a vagina (MtF)
  • a passing trans man who has had surgery to get a penis (FtM)
  • a very androgynous person who you can’t tell whether is male or female

For most of the above, the question asked was how arousing the participants would find it to have sex with the archetype. However, for the final archetype the question was how arousing they would find to make out with those of the archetype.

I also included a number of nonandrogynous controls:

  • a physically fit man who likes to engage in sports
  • an ambitious career-focused man who has a high position in a business job
  • a nerdy man who is awkward and not very interested in people
  • a sweet/caring motherly woman, who wants to be a housewife and start a family
  • a female cheerleader
  • an artistic, feminine woman

Overall, I found I could squeeze four factors out of it: attraction to men, to women, to masculine women, and to trans/androgynous people.

Bass-ackwards analysis of the archetype items for men. The factor analysis can be seen here.

When looking at the data, I got the impression that there was some nonlinear structure that couldn’t be accounted for by the factor analysis. Perhaps it’s just bisexuals being more into androgyny, but it might be worth looking into in the future.

Conclusion

This is a rich dataset, and I’ve probably only scratched the surface. If there’s anything specific you want me to investigate, consider contacting me on discord via tailcalled#7006. I’m likely to also make further blog posts in the future on the basis of this dataset. This is a pretty big and aimless blogpost, so I have to find some way to end it, and I’m deciding to do so here.


1. Strictly speaking I used principal component analysis rather than factor analysis. PCA tends to yield nearly identical results to FA, but is computationally more readily available.

2. The items originate from a variety of sources. Some were included due to having been used with success in previous surveys. I suggested some because I wanted to study attraction to androgyny. Pasha included some to study “pairs” of self-related and other-related items (e.g. attraction to bimbos vs to being a bimbo). In order to get a broad sample, I also used GPT-3 to brainstorm items, with me picking the most plausibly relevant ones out of a big set.

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