Searching for 'sex': In the midst of war, how often do these Arab countries Google it?

Published April 12th, 2015 - 08:31 GMT

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Sex is a universal interest, and porn a guilty pleasure. Those who search "sex" on Google are most often seeking access to something in the privacy of their own homes, something they would feel ashamed to access by other means.

So we asked the question, as conflict has unraveled throughout the Middle East — during the Arab Spring, US invasions, government crackdowns — how has the interest in sex evolved?

Online searches can stem from curiosity, unanswered questions, or even health concerns. But often those who google “sex” are looking for porn; the top searches include “free sex,” “hot sex,” or “sex video.” Continue reading below »

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The insurgency of the Taliban and the US war in Afghanistan have created years of instability that’s difficult to track. In times when interest in sex dipped down, there also tended to be casualties in NATO forces. Maybe most of those with Internet access in the country were also foreign troops.
Reduce

Image 1 of 13:  1 / 13The insurgency of the Taliban and the US war in Afghanistan have created years of instability that’s difficult to track. In times when interest in sex dipped down, there also tended to be casualties in NATO forces. Maybe most of those with Internet access in the country were also foreign troops.

Enlarge
Bahrain’s interest in sex suddenly dipped down in January 2009, the same time reports of massive human rights abuses by the government. The Sunni leadership cracked down on protests, allegedly detaining and torturing opposers. Since then, though, the interest in sex has skyrocketed.
Reduce

Image 2 of 13:  2 / 13Bahrain’s interest in sex suddenly dipped down in January 2009, the same time reports of massive human rights abuses by the government. The Sunni leadership cracked down on protests, allegedly detaining and torturing opposers. Since then, though, the interest in sex has skyrocketed.

Enlarge
There’s been a steep decline in “sex” searches since 2004. That trend has been especially consistent with Egypt's revolution in 2011, when government attempted to crack down on Internet access during the uprising. Sudden dips down also tend to coincide with events that caused public outcries.
Reduce

Image 3 of 13:  3 / 13There’s been a steep decline in “sex” searches since 2004. That trend has been especially consistent with Egypt's revolution in 2011, when government attempted to crack down on Internet access during the uprising. Sudden dips down also tend to coincide with events that caused public outcries.

Enlarge
Reporters Without Borders has labeled Iran as one of the top countries that are “enemies of the Internet,” and here’s the proof. The numbers have been consistently near an all-time low for the country since November 2006, around the same time the government began blocking popular sites.
Reduce

Image 4 of 13:  4 / 13Reporters Without Borders has labeled Iran as one of the top countries that are “enemies of the Internet,” and here’s the proof. The numbers have been consistently near an all-time low for the country since November 2006, around the same time the government began blocking popular sites.

Enlarge
Despite the conflict, Iraq has maintained a code that includes freedom of expression since 2003 and doesn’t seem to censor websites (though there is a widely held belief the government monitors online activity). Iraq’s Arab Spring protests coincided with a huge surge in “sex” searches, maybe because more Iraqis began using the Internet.
Reduce

Image 5 of 13:  5 / 13Despite the conflict, Iraq has maintained a code that includes freedom of expression since 2003 and doesn’t seem to censor websites (though there is a widely held belief the government monitors online activity). Iraq’s Arab Spring protests coincided with a huge surge in “sex” searches, maybe because more Iraqis began using the Internet.

Enlarge
Israel has consistently been ranked high for its online capabilities, with a large majority of its population having Internet access since 2008. This graph may be one of the few that show how the interest in sex has changed without the distractions of conflict zones or censorship.
Reduce

Image 6 of 13:  6 / 13Israel has consistently been ranked high for its online capabilities, with a large majority of its population having Internet access since 2008. This graph may be one of the few that show how the interest in sex has changed without the distractions of conflict zones or censorship.

Enlarge
A stark contrast from Israel, Palestine “sex” searches have been generally decreasing since 2004, with the interest looking inconsistent. The big dips tend to coincide with large casualties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Reduce

Image 7 of 13:  7 / 13A stark contrast from Israel, Palestine “sex” searches have been generally decreasing since 2004, with the interest looking inconsistent. The big dips tend to coincide with large casualties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Enlarge
Conflict-free, Jordan has an infrastructure that provides most of its residents good connectivity. Sex searches have been steadily decreasing for several years, however, and some of that may be due to censorship in the kingdom.
Reduce

Image 8 of 13:  8 / 13Conflict-free, Jordan has an infrastructure that provides most of its residents good connectivity. Sex searches have been steadily decreasing for several years, however, and some of that may be due to censorship in the kingdom.

Enlarge
According to Reporters Without Borders, Saudi Arabia has been a big perpetrator of censorship. While the country’s sex searches were extremely high near the Internet boom, the popularity has had steep declines since. Residents say it’s almost impossible to access porn online, and proxy servers don’t fool the government.
Reduce

Image 9 of 13:  9 / 13According to Reporters Without Borders, Saudi Arabia has been a big perpetrator of censorship. While the country’s sex searches were extremely high near the Internet boom, the popularity has had steep declines since. Residents say it’s almost impossible to access porn online, and proxy servers don’t fool the government.

Enlarge
This regime bans and blocks websites extensively. But unlike other conflict zones, Syria surprisingly hasn’t had any major changes despite its civil war. The country has seen steady decreases in sex interest for several years now, almost consistent enough for a linear line.
Reduce

Image 10 of 13:  10 / 13This regime bans and blocks websites extensively. But unlike other conflict zones, Syria surprisingly hasn’t had any major changes despite its civil war. The country has seen steady decreases in sex interest for several years now, almost consistent enough for a linear line.

Enlarge
The birth of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has seen a huge surge in sex searches since the time the revolution started in 2011. This might be because the country’s presence online and use of social media in general saw an uptick during the uprising.
Reduce

Image 11 of 13:  11 / 13The birth of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has seen a huge surge in sex searches since the time the revolution started in 2011. This might be because the country’s presence online and use of social media in general saw an uptick during the uprising.

Enlarge
Yemen’s sex interest has been steadily decreasing for several years. The few sudden drops in sex searches tend to coincide with incidents of violence, but there haven’t been any drastic changes yet. We’ll see how the country’s current political instability will affect things in the next few months.
Reduce

Image 12 of 13:  12 / 13Yemen’s sex interest has been steadily decreasing for several years. The few sudden drops in sex searches tend to coincide with incidents of violence, but there haven’t been any drastic changes yet. We’ll see how the country’s current political instability will affect things in the next few months.

Enlarge
Government hacks and censorship have most likely interfered with Libya’s access over the years, explaining the inconsistencies in data. Sex searches began decreasing about the same time factional violence began escalating, though it’s unclear whether that comes from a lack of interest or site blocks.
Reduce

Image 13 of 13:  13 / 13Government hacks and censorship have most likely interfered with Libya’s access over the years, explaining the inconsistencies in data. Sex searches began decreasing about the same time factional violence began escalating, though it’s unclear whether that comes from a lack of interest or site blocks.

Enlarge

1

The insurgency of the Taliban and the US war in Afghanistan have created years of instability that’s difficult to track. In times when interest in sex dipped down, there also tended to be casualties in NATO forces. Maybe most of those with Internet access in the country were also foreign troops.

Image 1 of 13The insurgency of the Taliban and the US war in Afghanistan have created years of instability that’s difficult to track. In times when interest in sex dipped down, there also tended to be casualties in NATO forces. Maybe most of those with Internet access in the country were also foreign troops.

2

Bahrain’s interest in sex suddenly dipped down in January 2009, the same time reports of massive human rights abuses by the government. The Sunni leadership cracked down on protests, allegedly detaining and torturing opposers. Since then, though, the interest in sex has skyrocketed.

Image 2 of 13Bahrain’s interest in sex suddenly dipped down in January 2009, the same time reports of massive human rights abuses by the government. The Sunni leadership cracked down on protests, allegedly detaining and torturing opposers. Since then, though, the interest in sex has skyrocketed.

3

There’s been a steep decline in “sex” searches since 2004. That trend has been especially consistent with Egypt's revolution in 2011, when government attempted to crack down on Internet access during the uprising. Sudden dips down also tend to coincide with events that caused public outcries.

Image 3 of 13There’s been a steep decline in “sex” searches since 2004. That trend has been especially consistent with Egypt's revolution in 2011, when government attempted to crack down on Internet access during the uprising. Sudden dips down also tend to coincide with events that caused public outcries.

4

Reporters Without Borders has labeled Iran as one of the top countries that are “enemies of the Internet,” and here’s the proof. The numbers have been consistently near an all-time low for the country since November 2006, around the same time the government began blocking popular sites.

Image 4 of 13Reporters Without Borders has labeled Iran as one of the top countries that are “enemies of the Internet,” and here’s the proof. The numbers have been consistently near an all-time low for the country since November 2006, around the same time the government began blocking popular sites.

5

Despite the conflict, Iraq has maintained a code that includes freedom of expression since 2003 and doesn’t seem to censor websites (though there is a widely held belief the government monitors online activity). Iraq’s Arab Spring protests coincided with a huge surge in “sex” searches, maybe because more Iraqis began using the Internet.

Image 5 of 13Despite the conflict, Iraq has maintained a code that includes freedom of expression since 2003 and doesn’t seem to censor websites (though there is a widely held belief the government monitors online activity). Iraq’s Arab Spring protests coincided with a huge surge in “sex” searches, maybe because more Iraqis began using the Internet.

6

Israel has consistently been ranked high for its online capabilities, with a large majority of its population having Internet access since 2008. This graph may be one of the few that show how the interest in sex has changed without the distractions of conflict zones or censorship.

Image 6 of 13Israel has consistently been ranked high for its online capabilities, with a large majority of its population having Internet access since 2008. This graph may be one of the few that show how the interest in sex has changed without the distractions of conflict zones or censorship.

7

A stark contrast from Israel, Palestine “sex” searches have been generally decreasing since 2004, with the interest looking inconsistent. The big dips tend to coincide with large casualties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Image 7 of 13A stark contrast from Israel, Palestine “sex” searches have been generally decreasing since 2004, with the interest looking inconsistent. The big dips tend to coincide with large casualties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

8

Conflict-free, Jordan has an infrastructure that provides most of its residents good connectivity. Sex searches have been steadily decreasing for several years, however, and some of that may be due to censorship in the kingdom.

Image 8 of 13Conflict-free, Jordan has an infrastructure that provides most of its residents good connectivity. Sex searches have been steadily decreasing for several years, however, and some of that may be due to censorship in the kingdom.

9

According to Reporters Without Borders, Saudi Arabia has been a big perpetrator of censorship. While the country’s sex searches were extremely high near the Internet boom, the popularity has had steep declines since. Residents say it’s almost impossible to access porn online, and proxy servers don’t fool the government.

Image 9 of 13According to Reporters Without Borders, Saudi Arabia has been a big perpetrator of censorship. While the country’s sex searches were extremely high near the Internet boom, the popularity has had steep declines since. Residents say it’s almost impossible to access porn online, and proxy servers don’t fool the government.

10

This regime bans and blocks websites extensively. But unlike other conflict zones, Syria surprisingly hasn’t had any major changes despite its civil war. The country has seen steady decreases in sex interest for several years now, almost consistent enough for a linear line.

Image 10 of 13This regime bans and blocks websites extensively. But unlike other conflict zones, Syria surprisingly hasn’t had any major changes despite its civil war. The country has seen steady decreases in sex interest for several years now, almost consistent enough for a linear line.

11

The birth of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has seen a huge surge in sex searches since the time the revolution started in 2011. This might be because the country’s presence online and use of social media in general saw an uptick during the uprising.

Image 11 of 13The birth of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has seen a huge surge in sex searches since the time the revolution started in 2011. This might be because the country’s presence online and use of social media in general saw an uptick during the uprising.

12

Yemen’s sex interest has been steadily decreasing for several years. The few sudden drops in sex searches tend to coincide with incidents of violence, but there haven’t been any drastic changes yet. We’ll see how the country’s current political instability will affect things in the next few months.

Image 12 of 13Yemen’s sex interest has been steadily decreasing for several years. The few sudden drops in sex searches tend to coincide with incidents of violence, but there haven’t been any drastic changes yet. We’ll see how the country’s current political instability will affect things in the next few months.

13

Government hacks and censorship have most likely interfered with Libya’s access over the years, explaining the inconsistencies in data. Sex searches began decreasing about the same time factional violence began escalating, though it’s unclear whether that comes from a lack of interest or site blocks.

Image 13 of 13Government hacks and censorship have most likely interfered with Libya’s access over the years, explaining the inconsistencies in data. Sex searches began decreasing about the same time factional violence began escalating, though it’s unclear whether that comes from a lack of interest or site blocks.

Reduce

By tracking the word “sex” as an English word, in countries where English is not the primary language, chances are that the searchers are not looking for information to read. Porn is illegal in most countries in the MENA region, so residents would realistically seek it from a foreign source.

In a sense, having access to porn, and time to pursue it, is a type of luxury. Internet access without censorship is a crucial part of a citizen’s right to freedom of information. Interest in sex is also an important aspect of emotional health — it’s normal to be curious about it, and to want it.

But when revolutions begin, priorities change.

It’s important to note, historical events pointed out on the maps have no direct relationship with the data. There are countless other factors that could be contributing to the changes in sex’s Google popularity. But the stark declines or increases in these countries often come around the same time, so we wanted to explore it.

(Note: The data from Google Trends do not represent the number of total Google searches. The graphs show “100” as the most popular time for the country, with all other numbers adjusted accordingly. Every country’s data is relative and not comparable among each other. All illustrations by Hayat Norimine)

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