Apr 24, 2021 - Technology

Google searches on sex reveal what people care about during the pandemic

Exploding heart on a computer screen
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Data on the most Googled questions about sex last year provide an ... interesting window into what some of us have been doing during the pandemic.

Why it matters: For better or for worse — and based on some of the results, it's looking like the latter — search engines like Google remain our go-to source for questions we're too nervous to ask elsewhere.

By the numbers: Data from the online health clinic From Mars released this week indicates the most Googled sex question in 2020, with more than 2 million searches, was: "What are the symptoms of chlamydia?"

  • It's a rather timely question — new data from the CDC indicates that rates of STDs hit an all-time high in 2019, with nearly 2.5 million Americans contracting chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis.
  • It's the sixth-straight year STD rates hit a record high, with cases of the three diseases rising almost 30% between 2015 and 2019.
  • Data for 2020 isn't in yet, but Google queries for "STD testing near me" nearly quadrupled between April 2020 and the end of the year, so draw your own conclusions (and definitely be safe out there).

What's next: Early data on search queries in 2021 indicate that some pandemic-based relationships may be crumbling.

  • Searches for "What is ghosting?" — the process of suddenly cutting off all contact with a partner — more than doubled between November 2020 and this February.

The bottom line: Search queries are an X-ray into the public psyche, and when it comes to sex and relationships, we may have some issues.

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