Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 137–147

Do American States with More Religious or Conservative Populations Search More for Sexual Content on Google?

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10508-014-0361-8

Cite this article as:
MacInnis, C.C. & Hodson, G. Arch Sex Behav (2015) 44: 137. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0361-8


In America, religiosity and conservatism are generally associated with opposition to non-traditional sexual behavior, but prominent political scandals and recent research suggest a paradoxical private attraction to sexual content on the political and religious right. We examined associations between state-level religiosity/conservatism and anonymized interest in searching for sexual content online using Google Trends (which calculates within-state search volumes for search terms). Across two separate years, and controlling for demographic variables, we observed moderate-to-large positive associations between: (1) greater proportions of state-level religiosity and general web searching for sexual content and (2) greater proportions of state-level conservatism and image-specific searching for sex. These findings were interpreted in terms of the paradoxical hypothesis that a greater preponderance of right-leaning ideologies is associated with greater preoccupation with sexual content in private internet activity. Alternative explanations (e.g., that opposition to non-traditional sex in right-leaning states leads liberals to rely on private internet sexual activity) are discussed, as are limitations to inference posed by aggregate data more generally.


ReligiosityConservatismInternet searchingSexSexual imagery

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada